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Nights of Noise

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Lauren adjusts the camera on the tripod and gives Artie a thumbs up.

“Okay, Kurt. We’re ready to go now. How would you say this school board meeting went, compared to last month’s meeting?” Artie asks.

Kurt does that head wobbling thing of his before speaking. “Obviously, I’m disappointed that the school board didn’t pass the proposal this month, but I’m also encouraged that the opposition wasn’t strong enough to force defeat of the proposal immediately. Tina did an excellent job again in terms of selecting speakers. We had a lot of visible support and no cause to be vilified by the media.”

“How do you feel about the media response to the meeting this time?”

“It’s gratifying to have supportive journalists, of course, so having non-mainstream media represented was huge, even if those stories haven’t yet been published. There was one story—ABC, I believe—that definitely attempted to cast our proposal and actions in a negative light, but the other coverage was either even-handed or overtly positive.” Kurt looks thoughtful for a moment. “Of course, along with increased media coverage comes increased scrutiny and—” He pauses. “No one’s going to see this for a month or two, right?”

“Right, at least a month, possibly longer,” Artie says. “We’re not even getting into the edits until after the final decision.”

Kurt nods. “Right. Along with the increased media coverage comes increased scrutiny and, frankly, increased risk. I don’t doubt that there are individuals who will view the next month as a sort of ‘last stand’ or ‘last opportunity’.”

“Are you concerned for your safety or the safety of other students at this school?”

“Candidly, yes, I’m concerned. As long as any incidents are crafted to appear strictly about LGBTQI issues, there isn’t much that can be done, no matter how much a teacher or the administration might want to do something. I don’t think it’s just the LGBTQI students, either; any of us that attend PFLAG are at risk.”

Artie nods at Kurt, looking down at his list of questions again before deciding on the appropriate follow up. “How bad do you anticipate things getting in the next month?”

Kurt looks off to the side before responding. “There are several factors at work. How much interest does the media continue to take? Further stories will keep it in the forefront of everyone’s mind. How good or bad McKinley’s sports and other teams do.” Kurt pauses and smiles wryly. “The response that some students have to this is going to be ‘retreat further into the closet’ and others are going to want to come out in response. How many decide on the latter option will affect the climate at school as well.” He exhales. “We could get through it smoothly. Or we could have a perfect storm.”

 

“Miles. What have you done to your car?” Alicia demands.

Miles takes in the crêpe–papered monstrosity in front of him. “Oh, what the actual hell is this?”

“I think it looks real nice, Brown,” Rick says. “Not so sure about your color choice, but I dunno, you know more about that sort of stuff than me.”

“Oh. Ohhh. I am going to kill somebody. Foots, Alicia, neither of you two had anything to do with this nonsense, did you?” Miles glares at Rick, because there’s no point in even trying to glare at Alicia, because she really doesn’t care like she ought to.

“Isn’t that your crêpe paper box, Miles?” Alicia says sweetly, pointing to the box sitting behind Miles’ car. “I remember that particularly lurid shade of green, too.”

“Now, why on earth would I crêpe paper my own car?” Miles asks. “I swear, the two of you just lower the collective IQ of the parking lot. Mostly you, Foots.” He shakes his head and exhales hard through his nose. “I left this box out in the stadium for decorating the field.”

“Nobody decorated the field with anything except that huge rainbow flag. I wonder where they got that?” Alicia shrugs. “I guess they didn’t want your crêpe paper.”

“Then how on earth did it get all over my car? This is some kind of conspiracy, some kind of big queer conspiracy,” Miles says. “Brass is involved in this somehow, I just know it.”

“Uh, who’s Brass?” Rick asks.

“You know, Big Brass Balls Hummel,” Miles answers. “Him and his doofy brother and Puckerman, probably. I’d bet you anything that’s who was behind this. They were the ones down at the stadium with the box.”

“I really can’t picture Kurt Hummel crêpe–papering a car,” Alicia says doubtfully. “Even if a couple of his friends tried to convince him.”

“Convince him? Alicia, that just shows how much you don’t know about Kurt Hummel,” Miles says, shaking his head at the poor, naive girl. “I’m telling you, Kurt Hummel doesn’t get convinced. He just tells those big ol’ boys what to do and they do it.”

Miles ignores the incredulous looks on Alicia and Rick’s faces and starts tearing the crêpe paper off his car, starting with the stupid big bow at the back. Worst bow–tying job he’s ever seen, so obviously it wasn’t Kurt who did that. Probably Hudson. When he gets back around to the driver’s side, he sees the note taped to the window and unfolds it.

“Yeah, you wanna tell me it wasn’t Brass and his boys?” Miles says, holding the note up in front of Alicia’s face.

“‘Snap, Crackle, and Pop’?” Alicia reads. “What does that even mean, Miles?”

“Well, it means them, obviously,” Miles snorts. “There’s three of them. I swear, Alicia, don’t you even pay attention. Crêpe paper vandalism, this is. Bunch of hoodlums.”

“It’s a real sweet note, Miles,” Alicia says. “They even left you some hugs n’ kisses!”

“I don’t think any of them like you enough to leave you a note like that, Brown,” Rick says. “Maybe it was some of the Cheerios. You make any of them mad at you lately?”

“No, they aren’t allowed near Miles anymore.” Alicia shakes her head. “Besides. They would have had me help.”

“I know exactly who it was did this to my car,” Miles says. “I know it. Got my eye on the two of you, though, and if I find out either of you had anything to do with this, I’m telling Ma.”

“Oooh, I’m scared,” Alicia scoffs. “You always were a tattle-tale, Miles.”

Chapter Text

“Help!” Finn announces, holding his tie out to Kurt. Despite Kurt’s insistence that Finn has to learn to tie his own ties eventually, Finn manages to keep not having to learn, so why mess with a good thing? Besides, Kurt can do those fancy knots.

Kurt shakes his head and takes the tie. “You really are going to make me tie them all for you before you leave for Madison, aren’t you?”

“That’s the plan,” Finn says. “Will you do that one knot that I like? The skinny looking one?”

“No, I’m going to be horrible and tie a really fat knot.”

Puck laughs. “Dude, you should, like, at least learn the names or something.”

“Wait,” Taylor says from behind them. “You have to get Kurt to tie your tie?” he says incredulously.

Apparently Taylor thinks that’s something to be embarrassed about, but whatever, nobody ties a tie as nice as Kurt, so why not take advantage of his tie skills? Finn shrugs at Taylor, “I don’t have to. He just does it better. They actually look like ties when he’s done with them.”

“Huh?” Taylor has a strange expression on his face. “What else would they look like?”

“Wadded up knots of fabric,” Finn says. “My hands are too big for ties.”

“Well, regardless, here’s your tie.” Kurt hands the now–tied tie back to Finn. “Complete with the skinny looking knot.”

Finn puts the tie over his head and tightens it. “Awesome. Thanks, Kurt!”

“You’re welcome. You’re well–attired now.”

“I should just let you pick out all my clothes,” Finn says. “It would make life so much easier.”

“I told you.” Puck shakes his head. “Garanimals.”

“But for men. Manimals,” Finn says.

Taylor shakes his head, muttering. “Guess maybe that rumor wasn’t totally untrue.”

Finn looks at Taylor for a minute and shrugs. Who even knows what freshmen are thinking, anyway? Freshman year was so four years ago.

 

Dave isn’t really entirely sure why all of them have to dress up, even the people that aren’t speaking, and he’s a little exasperated with Tina’s insistence until he notices some of the teenagers with one of those big conservative churches wearing jeans and polo shirts, and yeah, Dave has to admit that those people don’t look like they’re taking it very seriously.

Dave stands in front of the mirror after changing and scowls at his tie, but knots it anyway, sighing. “I always feel like I’m being strangled.”

“Uh-huh,” Casey says, absently. He’s standing in front of the other mirror, wrapping the ends of his tie around each other in a way that isn’t remotely like how a tie is supposed to be tied, then undoing the knot and trying again.

“No, I think that end goes under?” Dave suggests, frown at himself in the mirror.

“Does it?” Casey scowls at his reflection. “I tried it under and it didn’t look right.”

“Maybe the other end should go under first.”

Casey pokes the other end through some sort of loop, and it actually looks less like a tie than it did the previous time. “I hate ties,” he mutters to himself.

“Start out with the right hand going under, and then the left over.”

“My right or my reflection’s right?”

“Yours?” Dave frowns. “Or try it both ways.”

Casey tries it both ways and neither of them result in a tied tie. Casey huffs and stomps one foot a little. “I can’t do it! I’m the worse tie–tier who has ever lived, ever.”

Dave laughs and shakes his head. “I’m pretty sure Hudson’s worse. He makes Kurt tie all of his ties.” He thinks for a minute. “I can’t tell you how to do it, but I can do it myself, so, I could tie it around my neck and then loosen it and you could put it on?”

Casey beams at him. “Yes, that is a great plan!” He untangles the tie from his neck and carefully places it across Dave’s hand. Dave wraps it around his neck, over his own shirt, and ties it quickly, then loosens it and slips it off his head.

“Now, why I can’t explain that, I dunno,” Dave shrugs.

“Maybe we can find a chart with step–by–step instructions when we get home,” Casey says, putting the tie over his neck and tightening the knot. It’s not quite tight enough, and Dave realizes that maybe Casey just using one of his ties wasn’t the best idea, because it’s too long, but it doesn’t look bad or anything. “Okay, is Tina going to say this looks right?”

“Oh, yeah, I think so,” Dave reassures him. “Did you see those guys with that other church group? They looked like they rolled out of bed. I think Tina just wanted to make sure we were looking a step above everyone else.”

“Well, I look like one of those nursery kids playing dress-up,” Casey says. “I don’t think that’s much better.”

“No, you don’t.” Dave shakes his head. “Though probably we should get you a tie that’s closer to the right length.”

Casey shakes his head. “No! I think ties are like goldfish, with the whole thing where if you keep getting a bigger bowl, the goldfish keeps getting bigger. I think when you have ties, more tie–requiring situations start showing up.”

“Do goldfish really do that?” Dave knows he probably looks ridiculously puzzled. “They keep getting bigger?”

“That’s what I hear,” Casey says, his face serious, “but I’ve never tried to grow one myself, so I can’t say for sure.”

“Well. Still. One tie won’t hurt.”

“It might if you tied it tight enough.”

Dave snorts. “Try to stay away from serial stranglers, then?”

“I thought you said you didn’t stay up and watch that movie!” Casey says. “I knew you were lying about that one.”

“Wait, wait, there’s a movie?” Dave sighs and grins. “That’s even worse somehow, Case. C’mon, let’s go back in there.”

Chapter Text

Somewhere along the way, not thinking about it at all morphs into occasionally thinking about it and quickly stopping thinking about it, which finally morphs into thinking about it under specific sets of circumstances, preferably with some kind of time limit on them. So, like, showers are cool for thinking about it (time limit), hanging out alone in his room at night before bed is not cool for thinking about it (no time limit). Also, showers are one of those once a day type things, so it’s not like Finn can be sneaking off to the shower and thinking about it too often. It’s self-limiting or whatever. But in that few minutes that Finn is in the shower, he is thinking about it.

At first it’s kind of weird, because, well, they’re them and all the stuff that goes along with that, but Finn gets it figured out pretty quickly and then it doesn’t seem so weird. He just doesn’t have that much material to pull from, is what it is, so of course his brain’s gonna go to that. It doesn’t have any kind of larger meaning, just that it was hot, which it was, and it’s easier to get off thinking about something hot that he’s actually experienced than to get off to stuff he makes up in his own head or sees in a video. Hell, the videos barely do anything anymore.

What else is he supposed to think about, anyway? Sex with Santana was about as hot and personal as a handshake, which actually makes a lot more sense now than it did at the time. What little happened between him and Rachel always left him feeling sorta guilty, like he’d done something he wasn’t supposed to, and without even that awesome feeling of having gotten away with it. Unless he includes a little making out with Quinn in there, which didn’t even involve any actual touching, that’s all he’s got in his personal mental catalogue.

Except for them.

It’s only a few minutes in the shower, but it’s a hot few minutes in the shower, and worth whatever lingering guilty feelings he might have after. He can get hard just thinking about the way Puck’s mouth tasted, or way the skin on Kurt’s stomach felt, and that’s probably not entirely normal, but it’s only a few minutes, and considering the context or whatever, probably not the weirdest thing going on in that shower.

Tonight, he really needs the shower. He might have been a little too rough with that poor A/V kid, but Puck was so stressed and there’s just not much Finn can do for him usually, not for either of them, but that he could do. Even after family dessert night and watching a movie, with Puck still a little out of it and sprawled across both Kurt and Finn on the sofa, Finn’s still so damn keyed up. He turns up the hot water on the shower, leans forward and presses one hand against the shower wall to hold himself up.

Finn closes his eyes and wraps his hand around himself, thinking about Puck and Kurt’s hands on him, their fingers all intertwined and moving on his cock, their mouths on his neck, the way Kurt’s waist felt under his hands when Finn held him, the sounds that came out of both of them when they kissed him and touched him. Finn’s hand speeds up, remembering how Puck’s fingers felt inside him, that intense look in Kurt’s eyes while he talked Finn through it all, the curve of Puck’s back underneath him, the burning stretching turning into incredibly good of Kurt pushing inside of him.

Finn is breathing hard, leaning heavily against the wall, and when he thinks of Kurt’s voice whispering, telling Finn to come for them, that’s when he loses it. He comes in his own hand, hard and sudden, and lets the hot water wash him clean. When he turns off the shower, he won’t think about it again. Time’s up, and it’s just better that way. A few minutes doesn’t change anything, but it’s better than nothing.

Chapter Text

“I’m just tired. I’m already getting shit, why not get the good side of it?” Puck sighs and drops onto one of the benches in front of his apartment building. “It’s pretty hard for me to separate out what was the anxiety and what’s a legitimate concern, even now.”

“Baby.” Kurt sounds incredibly frustrated on the other end of the phone. “I hear what you’re saying. But now? With everything going on? Today it was Casey’s car, who knows what it’ll be tomorrow.”

“Kurt, I’m running for fucking prom queen. I have some random guy calling me ‘faggot’ in the hallway.” Puck swallows back the bile. “Why shouldn’t I be able to fucking touch you without looking around like I’m about to violate federal law?”

“Puck, of course, you should do what you feel comfortable with doing.” Kurt sighs. “But it seems like incredibly poor timing. And for what? We’re almost done, Puck. We’ll get a few days of maybe holding hands, in exchange for slushies and slurs and god, who knows what? Taking a stand is great, and there’s no way I could have stayed in the closet the last three years, but right now I’d just like us to survive.”

“Yeah, I’d like that too,” Puck counters, “but fuck, K. This sucks. All I’m doing is letting all the idiots and the douchebags think there’s one less of us around here.”

“Sometimes I wish I could fucking pass, you know?” Kurt says. “It would be nice to walk down the hall and not get called ‘fag’ at least once a day. I know it’s different away from here, and I like who I am, but dammit, Puck, why would you volunteer for it?”

“I’m not volunteering to get called anything,” Puck argues. “I just am sick of feeling like some kind of stupid criminal or secret agent, either one.”

Kurt exhales loudly. “I know. I get it. But the trade-off, Puck. Maybe it’d be different if we didn’t have the school board stuff going on. Things had tapered off a bit before last month. But we do have the school board stuff going on. I don’t want us to spend the last month of school changing clothes three times a day and looking over our shoulders constantly.”

“We already do look over our shoulders constantly, just for a different reason.” Puck shakes his head as he scans the street. “I’m out everywhere except school, K. I do notice the looks we get even away from Lima, you know.”

“I know you do,” Kurt says quietly. “I guess it just seems like if we don’t acknowledge them—”

“—they somehow aren’t as real? Yeah.” Puck snorts. “Just, it’s not like I’m clueless, Kurt. I know, okay? I just don’t fucking care. I’m just so fucking sick of hiding.”

“I’m just— I know I downplay it, baby, but god. We have no clue what tomorrow’s really going to be like. This feels like adding gasoline to a lit fire.”

Puck snorts. “Am I the gasoline or the fire?”

“Well,” Kurt giggles. “I was thinking gasoline, but.”

“Right.” Puck sighs. “I just hate the way I’ve been feeling, K.”

“I know.” Kurt’s voice is quiet. “I’m just not sure that the cure is what you think it is.”

“Doing nothing feels pretty bad, too.”

“Nothing feels right,” Kurt admits. “Not here, not right now.”

 

Finn taps quietly on Kurt’s doorframe, but whatever Kurt’s working on, he’s pretty in to it and doesn’t seem to hear, so Finn says, “Hey, Kurt?”

Kurt looks up from his laptop, startled. “Oh, hi, Finn.”

“You ok?” Finn asks. Kurt looks tired and stressed, and if that little bit of conversation Finn overheard was part of something much longer, he can understand why Kurt might feel upset.

“Mmm. Yes. Just working on tomorrow night.” Kurt shrugs.

“Yeah? You know what you’re gonna talk about?” Finn sits down on the edge of Kurt’s bed.

“Somewhat. I’m aiming for a call to arms, a la Cleve Jones.”

“Like a slogan or something?”

“A slogan would be good,” Kurt nods. “I just want to give more of a rousing action–inducing speech this time, rather than something more personal.”

“You want some help? I mean, I only ever give speeches to you guys, so I probably can’t help with the writing part, but I can sit here and you can practice on me and see if I feel roused to action or whatever,” Finn offers.

Kurt smiles slightly. “Thanks, but I’m not sure it’s quite ready even for that yet. Glad not to be speaking tomorrow?”

“Yes, definitely,” Finn says. “Once was probably enough for everybody. I think everybody would leave if I tried a second time.” He lies back on one of Kurt’s pillows. “I think it’s gonna get, like, super emotional or something in there. Maybe I should see if Puck’ll give me one of his Xanax so I don’t turn into an asshole again?”

“I don’t think there are many,” Kurt admits. “You’ll have to keep yourself un-assholish all on your own.”

“Damn, I was afraid of that,” Finn sighs. “Well, if I start being an asshole, just, I dunno. Smack me or something.”

“I think we’ve had enough violence, don’t you?”

“Does it count as violence if I ask you to smack me?” Finn asks.

“I think so, yes.” Kurt smirks slightly. “Especially if there are witnesses.”

“I guess you could just smack me when we get home.”

“The families that smack each other…” Kurt shakes his head. “I have no idea, actually.”

“Yeah, me either,” Finn says, shrugging. “I don’t think that’s the slogan you’re looking for.”

“No, I have to agree. Another one for the reject pile.” Kurt sighs. “I just feel like I’m the only one speaking who’s going to be summarizing. I appreciate all the allies, don’t get me wrong, but.”

“Somebody’s gotta be that Cleve guy,” Finn finishes. “Yeah. That’s a hard job, dude. Seems like you always get stuck with the hard jobs.”

“Oh, I’d rather be Cleve than a lot of jobs,” Kurt concedes. “But yes. Someone does have to be Cleve. It’s just that ‘out of the bars and into the streets’ doesn’t work as well in Lima, 2012, as it did in San Francisco in the late ‘70s.”

“Out of the bowling alleys and into the Pat’s?”

Kurt laughs. “I don’t know that Pat’s wants to be thought of as a queer haven, but sure.”

“Uh, isn’t it?”

“Hmm. Maybe it is. Still, not sure about them using it as a marketing campaign.”

“Well, their loss,” Finn says. “They could sell rainbow doughnuts or something. We could move the PFLAG meetings there. I mean, last lunch was mostly dessert anyway, and at least you could order real food at Pat’s, too.”

“You have a point. Speaking of rainbows, we have a huge flag for Friday afternoon.”

“Where’d we get a huge flag?”

“Puck,” Kurt answers, looking amused. “Something about gay Iwo Jima. Really, of all the things to stick in his head.”

“Yeah, that’s… uh. Special.”

“It’s something. Though the flag isn’t a bad idea. Sans the recreation of a famous tableau.” Kurt looks affectionately annoyed at the thought.

“We should bring it to the meeting tomorrow,” Finn says. “Do that parachute thing with it like everybody used to do in P.E. in elementary school.”

“Suddenly gay Iwo Jima seems strangely more reasonable.”

Finn shrugs. “So, speaking of Puck…”

“Yesss?” Kurt draws out the last sound.

“Is he, you know. Ok? Are you guys ok?”

“We’re fine.” Kurt huffs slightly, the affectionately annoyed expression back on his face. “We’re having an ironic disagreement.”

“Uh. Yeah, I have no idea what that means,” Finn says. “I kinda heard a little bit of you on the phone with him earlier, though, when I was going to my room. You sounded, I dunno. Upset, I guess. Or worried?”

“Despite the past week or so appearing to testify to the contrary, his anxiety is under much better control. As it turns out, many of his concerns about coming out were tied up in that.” Kurt shrugs. “So.”

“So, he wants to come out now?”

“Yes? No? Maybe less with the grand announcement and more with the not giving a fuck?” Kurt sighs. “And I just— want to get through this.”

Finn nods. “There’s been a lot of shit lately. Like, a lot of shit. I can totally get why he wouldn’t want to have to keep hiding stuff. I can’t even imagine having to try and do that, you know? But, then there’s all that stuff we talked about at PFLAG.” He shrugs. “Can I just call it a fuck shit stack and somehow that’ll make it all make sense?”

“It seems like a fairly accurate descriptor, actually. So, yes, somewhat ironic argument. And he has a point— he’s out everywhere except school, really.”

“That’s got to feel weird.”

“Some days, there is nothing about this year that doesn’t seem weird.”

 

Puck wakes up with his stomach churning on Thursday morning, and he puts in a call to Dr. V’s answering service, because he should’ve figured this day was going to be, as Finn would put it, a fuck shit stack. He’s probably the only person calling at 5:25 am because he’s genuinely awake and not because anxiety or whatever woke him up.

Kurt’s wearing his ‘Born This Way’ shirt, which at least provides a little smile, but Puck just squeezes his hand as they sit in the Nav. “We should go to school.”

“We’ve never fooled around on an air mattress,” Puck points out.

Kurt laughs. “Are you suggesting we skip first period?”

“Hmm. No.”

“No?”

“I’m suggesting we just skip.”

“All day?” Kurt raises one eyebrow, then purses his lips. “Finn might not appreciate if we skipped rehearsal.”

“Okay, we can show up for fourth period. And then leave again.” Puck shrugs.

“This is insane.”

“And yet, you’re considering it.”

“Not really.”

“You’re not?” Puck furrows his brow. “I’m confused.”

“I’m finished with considering it. I think it’s actually an excellent idea. You should text Finn so he doesn’t send out the cavalry.”

“True.” Puck pulls out his phone and taps out a short text.

K & I skipping. C u 4th

Better be there!

Puck laughs. “As we suspected, Finn doesn’t care about our education any more than we do.”

“As long as we’re at rehearsal?” Kurt smirks. “So what do you want to do, baby?”

“Hmm. I think we should drag the air mattress into the living room and eat breakfast on it while watching bad daytime tv. And then get naked.”

“And go to rehearsal,” Kurt concedes.

“And go to rehearsal. And then we should eat lunch at one of the buffet places, and just go to the building for the school board meeting after that.”

“I like it,” Kurt agrees. “Maybe naked a little quicker,” he adds as they park.

“Still no cooking naked.”

“Good point.”

 

Rachel rambles through rehearsal, though everyone else is speaking less than usual, and Finn has that dark look he gets when something’s really bothering him. Puck manages not to bolt for the door as soon as the bell rings, but it’s a near thing, and he and Kurt head towards the mall and settle on Ruby Tuesday’s instead of Golden Corral, stopping by the Dairy Queen for Blizzards before they head to the school board meeting site. It’s only 1:30, but the board is prepared; there’s a queue set up in front of the building with posted signs. Single-file; each person in line can reserve no more than three other spots in line.

They are the first people there, though, which means they have the first eight places in line, and they both pull out their phones, starting to text. “You have the rest of glee club?” Kurt asks.

Puck nods, and fires off a text to Finn first.

School board line set up each person can hold 3 more spots. Skip?

there in 10

Puck laughs and moves on to Tina.

School board has it set up for one person holding three additional spots in the line. K & I are here, Finn on his way.

Got it. We’ll be there soon.

“Finn’s on his way, and apparently so are Mike & Tina.”

“I let Dad and Carole know, though I doubt either of them can make it here that early. I let David, Casey, Alicia, and Rick know as well. I’m sure one of them will tell Brown.”

“Mass exodus of queers.”

“Yes.” Kurt sends off another text as Puck figures out what to tell the rest of New Directions. “How about you?”

“I’ll be fine until 6:30 or so. I think. Dr. V reminded me of some stuff.” Puck shrugs. “Nothing to be done.”

“No,” Kurt agrees, sitting down on the sidewalk where the chalk says ‘1’. He tugs Puck down next to him, on top of ‘2’. “No way out but through.” Kurt leans over, his hand on Puck’s jaw, and kisses him softly, slowly deepening the kiss.

“What about you?” Puck says softly as they pull apart. “Are you ready?”

“I think so. I did my best to channel my inner Cleve.”

Puck grins. “I can’t wait.”

“Hey, guys!” Finn calls out from across the parking lot. He looks excited to be there, or at least excited to be out of school.

“You’re number nine!” Puck jokes.

“Awesome! Number nine for what?”

“In line.” Kurt shrugs. “Since we can each hold three spots, that makes you number number nine.” He points to the chalked numbers, which end at 35. “Speakers have reserved seating, plus the press, so there’s only room for thirty-five people to make it into the room.”

“Good thing I got here early then,” Finn says. “’Cause I’m making it into the room.”

“Mike and Tina are on their way,” Puck adds. “So that’ll take us up to twenty.”

“Yeah, I saw Karofsky in the parking lot on my way out,” Finn says. “He was just, like, loitering around or something. I guess he skipped dual enrollment today. He said he was bringing a group of people over and was waiting for them to get out to the truck. Not sure who all is coming with him, other than Casey, obviously.”

“And not Brown,” Puck snorts. “So that’s something.”

“That’s probably true,” Finn agrees. “So what are we doing while we sit here? Did anybody bring any snacks?”

“There’s chocolate in my backpack,” Puck shrugs. “We ate lunch at Ruby Tuesday and then had Blizzards, so we’re not hungry yet. We should get Sam or someone to stop and get pizza.”

“I’ll eat your chocolate, but yeah, I can text Sam about pizza.”

“As for things to do, we have three iPhones, two iPads, and a guitar.” Kurt shrugs very slightly. “Surely we can figure out something to do.”

“Angry Birds?” Finn suggests. “Very, very angry birds.”

“Sure,” Puck agrees. “And we’re supposed to rehearse after school actually gets out.”

“Yeah, but that’s then, dude. Angry Birds now. Or we could watch a movie!” Finn pulls out his iPad. “We can watch White Collar!”

“No,” Puck and Kurt chorus together.

“You have no appreciation for the awesomeness of Neal Caffrey,” Finn says, shaking his head.

“Dude, I’m dating Neal Caffrey,” Puck retorts.

“Isn’t Kurt jealous?”

“You weren’t supposed to tell him about my secret identity, Puck.”

“Oh, ha ha, you guys,” Finn says, rolling his eyes. “Unless Kurt’s suddenly started stealing priceless art, I think we’re probably good.”

“But I could if I wanted to.”

“I guess you do sorta have the suits for it,” Finn muses. “The hats, too. You should work on those art skills.”

Tina pulls up at that point, and she and Mike climb out of her car with a wave. “What number are we?” she calls.

“You’re thirteen! And Mike, you’re seventeen.”

“Awesome,” Tina laughs. “I actually swiped a piece of chalk as I left. So we can scrawl something across our numbers.”

“We could play tick-tack-toe or write swear words,” Finn suggests.

“Maybe not,” Kurt says. “Slogans?”

“You ever come up with a good one?” Puck asks.

Kurt grins. “Maayybe. But we could go with something classic for the sidewalks.”

“'We’re here, we’re queer, take a number’,” Finn says. “We should put that on all the squares.”

“That works,” Puck nods. “You get more than one piece, Tina?”

Tina digs in her pockets and produces two long pieces, which she breaks in half and then hands all four of the boys a piece. “Get to work!” she jokes.

“How about ‘inequality is so gay’?” Finn says.

“How are you not working for HRC?” Puck asks.

“The commute,” Finn answers.

“Of course,” Kurt shakes his head. “How silly of us.”

“Man, we’re going to get hungry,” Mike points out.

“Did you text Sam?” Puck asks Finn.

“Yup. I said ‘bring pizza so we don’t starve to death omg’ and he texted back ‘cool’.”

“Sweet,” Mike nods. “So we have, what, two hours until Schue shows up and we all rehearse?”

“And until then, we have a guitar, two iPads, two Android phones, and three iPhones.”

“And we have our speaker thing from rehearsal!” Tina says. “It’s in the backseat. We can blast some music when—” She stops abruptly as an unfamiliar vehicle pulls in and some dowdy–looking middle-aged women climb out. “When someone from the other side gets here,” Tina finishes.

“It’s nice that some students are already out here to show their support of the school system’s current policies,” a woman in a long floral dress says to an overweight woman in a sweater set.

Puck rolls his eyes and Kurt giggles. “Right,” he says under his breath, and he leans back onto his elbows, his shirt easily readable.

The overweight woman points at Kurt’s shirt in a way she seems to think is subtle, and the floral dress woman blanches. “Oh. Well. I suppose that explains the truancy.”

Kurt brings his hand up to his mouth and blows the woman a kiss, smirking. Both women make horrified faces and the one in the sweater set actually clutches at her pearls. “I wonder if they’d have a cardiac episode if I leaned over and kissed you,” Kurt murmurs to Puck.

Puck laughs and does just that, pulling Kurt towards him into a relatively chaste kiss. When they break apart, the middle-aged women’s mouths are gaping open in an unflattering fashion. Tina giggles. “That’s really hot!”

“Tina!” Mike protests.

“What?” She shrugs. “It is.”

“What was that you were saying about blasting music?” Mike asks.

“Well, that’s twenty-one through twenty-eight,” Finn says, as the middle aged women arrange themselves on their numbers. “I should have chalked them some slogans. Think it’s too late?”

“There’s always twenty-nine through thirty-five?” Puck says.

“Can I go chalk those?”

“Go,” Kurt nods. “Maybe some God slogans.”

“Jesus is a friend of queers?” Finn suggests.

“Hey, April’s coming,” Puck laughs. “Maybe she could give an encore performance.”

“I could practice throwing her in the air, too!” Finn says. “That would rock.”

“She’ll get a preview of our Nationals set, too.” Kurt shrugs. “Ooh, I see more cars. Hurry, Finn!”

“Ok!” Finn rushes over to the remaining squares and starts scribbling out phrases. When he gets to the last square, he reads “Out of the bars and into the streets” aloud as he writes, then looks over at Kurt. “That one’s just for you, Kurt!”

Kurt smirks. “I found a way to include it, after all.”

“Awesome!” Finn says, returning to his square. “I figured you’d come up with something good.”

The two cars Kurt saw approaching pull into the lot, disgorging more dowdy–looking individuals, this time including two officious looking men. “More Jesus freaks,” Kurt sighs.

“Hope they enjoy their squares!” Finn says.

The fatter of the two men hmphs loudly as they approach the queue. “Vandalism,” he sighs loudly. “The wayward youth.”

“Hey, he must be the church dude,” Puck points out. “'Wayward youth’ and all.”

“I’m gonna start a band and call it Wayward Youth,” Finn announces, loudly. “'Vandalism’ will be our first album. We’ll have naked dudes on the cover, like, go-go dancing or whatever.”

“Puck could dance in his shorts,” Kurt offers.

“Sure, dude.” Puck nods.

“Those shorts.”

“What shorts?” Mike asks. “Or do I want to know?”

Those shorts,” Finn says. “Seriously. Those shorts.”

“They’re just part of my Halloween costume,” Puck protests.

Barely a part,” Finn mutters under his breath.

More vehicles arrive, Karofsky’s truck holding Casey, Taylor, Alicia, and Rick all, and Artie gets himself out of his car after claiming the lone handicapped spot.

They all walk—or roll—over to where they’re sitting. “All the seats already claimed?” Karofsky asks. “It’s not even 2:30 yet!”

“You want to stand on ‘hey hey, ho ho, homophobia’s got to go’ or ‘we’re here, we’re queer, take a number’?” Finn says. “Casey doesn’t get a square, though. Sorry, Casey!”

“Oh, that’s right!” Tina digs in her bag for a moment. “I have badges for our speakers.” She pulls out the same plastic numbers, this time on lanyards. “Artie, I think you have to go inside to get your press badge.”

“I was told five o’clock for the press passes,” Artie says.

“Cool!” Casey says, accepting his lanyard with the number two on it. “And I’ll just share David’s square. I like the ‘take a number’ square, personally.”

“Daniel and I are going to start the line for the overflow,” Alicia says. She takes Rick’s hand and smiles at him. “Oh, did we forget to tell my brother?”

“It’s a goddamn tragedy,” Karofsky deadpans.

“I’m not speaking to Miles at the moment,” Casey says, loftily. “He needs some time to think about his behavior.”

Rick and Alicia wander to the end of the line, and Alicia beams a bright, fake smile at the church people. “Let’s start irritating people,” Puck suggests. “We’ve got a speaker, my guitar, and plenty of music.”

“Awesome!” Finn says. “Let’s do that. Way better than Angry Birds.”

Tina runs to get the speaker thing out of the back of her car, and they agree by some kind of mostly–silent consensus to use Finn’s iPhone first. Coldplay comes up first and the fundies all look annoyed.

“Who’s taking the rest of the slots?” Artie asks. “And do you know if the line order directly impacts where you’ll be sitting in the room?”

“Two of mine are going to Dad and Carole,” Kurt answers. “I think we’ll manage to get all of the club in without any trouble. Tina, do you know about the seating?”

“I’d think we file in in this order, so we get first pick the closer to the front we are,” Tina answers with a slight shrug. “Is it easier for you if we take up rows, or should we cluster in the middle and take up more rows?”

“Taking up a row is fine,” Artie says. “We’ll be getting closeups of the speakers, so panning across the audience will be a nice visual.”

“Okay,” Tina nods. “We’ll try to get the first two or three rows filled, then.”

“The badge clashes with my clothes,” Kurt grumbles. “Can we take them off once we’re inside?”

“Can we keep them when we’re done?” Casey asks.

“Yes, and no,” Tina answers, laughing slightly. “How does red clash with green, though, Kurt?”

“Not these clothes. The clothes I’ll change into.”

“Oh, right.” Tina shakes her head. “Yeah, ours are in the trunk. I guess we’ll all take turns changing once we’re seated.”

“We could all change right here and freak those guys out,” Finn says, gesturing at the people on squares twenty-one through thirty-five.

One of the men starts talking loudly about the music ‘invoking the Lord’s name’, which makes them all stop and listen to what’s playing, which does in fact say ‘he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus’.

“We should play more music that will annoy them,” Kurt snorts.

“Bust out the Gaga,” Artie says.

“Yeah, we’ll have to switch phones for that,” Finn says. “Not so much with the Gaga.

“Here,” Kurt unlocks his phone and tosses it towards Tina. “Only the Gaga playlist, please.”

“Sure,” Tina nods, swapping out the phones and handing Finn’s back to him. “Shuffle?”

Kurt nods, and soon, ‘Judas’ is blaring out. “Well, it’s possibly the most offensive song to them,” Kurt laughs.

“I think we might fail at being gay,” Puck overhears Casey whisper to Karofsky.

“Yeah, I don’t get the Mama Monster or whatever thing,” Karofsky whispers back.

“Do you think they’ll take away our membership?” Casey asks.

Puck turns around and nods. “Yep. They take back your rainbow crayons too.”

“Oh no!” Casey exclaims. “Quick, David! Let’s go find some girls and kiss them! We’re cured!”

“I think those two upstanding ladies are unattached,” Kurt says. “I can’t imagine why.”

Casey makes a disgusted face and flails around dramatically. “Nooooooo!”

They realize it’s near the end of school or whatever, because suddenly a lot more cars start appearing. Santana, Brittany, and Quinn all arrive together, then Mr. Schue and Ms. Pillsbury, and then Brown, looking put out.

Tina hands Ms. Pillsbury her number. “Mr. Schue, did you want one of these slots?”

“No, I thought I’d stay in the overflow room,” Schue responds. “We’re going to rehearse here in a bit?”

“Once everybody gets here, yeah,” Finn says. “Still missing a few people. I guess some of them stayed for the rest of school. Sam’s bringing pizza.”

“Oh, okay,” Schue nods, then ambles towards the end of the line, Ms. Pillsbury walking with him, her red ‘1’ around her neck.

“So we’re all Lady Gaga up in this joint?” Santana says by way of greeting. “Kurt, you even at school today?”

“Of course I was. I was at rehearsal, remember?”

“Was your school day over before ours started?” Brittany asks.

“Actually… yes,” Kurt agrees. “It was.”

Quinn takes her number from Tina and then she, Brittany, and Santana settle themselves on the grass next to the sidewalk.

“You should pick a square,” Finn says. “We still have the ‘hey hey, ho ho’ square right over here next to Karofsky, or you could go with the more dramatical ‘silence equals death’ square next to Puck.”

Santana rolls her eyes, but she and Brittany relocate onto two of the squares. “I can’t believe this many people are here this early,” she says, shaking her head as more fundies join the line.

“Oh, great, Mrs. Strandberg,” Puck groans, recognizing one of the new arrivals.

“Our favorite physics substitute,” Kurt snorts.

“You mean psycho substitute,” Finn says, glaring in her direction.

The talk turns to various substitutes they’ve had over the years, while ‘Teeth’ plays in the background. Quinn slowly makes her way over to Puck, almost like she’s trying not to attract anyone else’s attention in the process. Puck tilts his head and raises one eyebrow inquisitively.

“So, are you… doing okay?” Quinn asks.

Puck frowns a little. “Um. Yeah?” he answers. She doesn’t seem to be sarcastic or anything, but he’s not sure where this is coming from or what she’s referring to.

“I just wanted you to know, I’m sorry,” she says. “About what I did at Regionals.”

“Okay,” Puck nods slowly.

“You’ve been acting weird all year, and when I saw you taking those pills…” Quinn looks around, like she’s making sure nobody is listening. “I jumped to conclusions. I… I’m angry at you. It’s not your fault that I’m angry and I’m working on it.”

“This town,” Puck shrugs.

“Can’t wait to put it in my rearview mirror,” Quinn agrees. “But I am sorry. I know that doesn’t mean much, but it’s true, at least.”

“Yeah. Well. Luckily no one’s seemed to care after that.”

“I’m sorry about more than that.”

“I think we both have plenty to be sorry for,” Puck says after a moment. “But, like I said— this town. It’s forty-five days until graduation, by the way.”

“We’re under fifty now? Sounds so nice when I think about it that way.”

“Only one hundred and four until August first.”

Quinn smiles and then turns back to take her seat in the grass.

Sam appears with Mercedes and pizza then, which officially makes him the most popular person to arrive all afternoon. “Hey!” Sam greets them. “Someone wanted pizza?”

“I do!” Finn says. “I was starving to death!”

“Yes, we were in danger of dragging his corpse into the meeting,” Kurt says with a roll of his eyes.

“Shoving my dead self into my suit would have been the hard part for you guys,” Finn says. “I’m a little heavier than you guys.”

“Burying you in that suit,” Kurt mutters. “Took long enough to find it.”

“Yeah, but it looks so good, and you know it,” Finn says.

“Outstanding,” Artie says, shaking his head. “More outstanding by the moment.”

Puck mentally groans when he sees that the newest arrival is the old grey van owned by the synagogue, complete with Nana at the wheel. “Oh, look. Jews.”

“Nana!” Finn exclaims, throwing his arms into the air. “I love Nana!”

“You love Nana because she used to buy you an entire bag of marshmallows,” Puck retorts.

“She’s so much awesomer than my grandparents, dude,” Finn says. “I love marshmallows.”

“Noah!” Nana calls as she walks across the parking lot, leaving the others to get themselves out of the van. “Look at you, Finn Hudson!” she adds. “You’re a giant. Why don’t you spend the night at my house anymore?”

“Me and Puck are too big to share the fold-out!” Finn says, hugging Nana and picking her up off the ground in the process.

“Of course you are!” Nana agrees. “I think you’re twice the size of it. What were you thinking?” She moves from Finn to grab Puck and plant a kiss on Puck’s forehead. “Still no curls, Noah?”

“Nana,” Puck groans.

“I brought my phone with your fifth grade pictures,” she cackles. “What will you do to keep me from passing it around?”

“Pizza?” Kurt breaks in. “There’s at least three different kinds.”

“Oh, thank you, Kurt!” Nana answers, grabbing a slice from the closest box. “So our rabbi and our president and a few others are here. Of course the Berrys will be here later.”

“Of course,” Puck echoes, nodding. “Uh, let me guess, you want to be in the main room?”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy to offer me one of the slots,” Nana says.

“You should stand on ‘gay is ok’,” Finn suggests. “It’s right over there next to Kurt!”

“Wonderful!” She settles her stuff on the number and then walks back to the others from the van.

“So that’s your grandmother?” Mike asks. At Puck’s nod, he laughs. “So now we know where you get the badassery.”

“Nana is the original badass,” Finn says. “She used to let us eat pudding for dinner.”

“And bake a cake for dessert.” Puck shrugs.

“Yeah, I remember she used to show up at school,” Santana nods. “Usually with something sugary and a complicated story about why you had to leave school.”

“They always believed her.”

“I don’t know how she managed to sign me out sometimes,” Finn says, “because I know mom didn’t put her on the list.”

“Nana’s a force of nature,” Puck concludes. “There’s really no other explanation.”

Rachel and her dads walk up after that, Rachel beaming. “Look at all of our supporters! Though I suppose of course we did have to expect some opposition.”

“No square for you,” Finn says. “You’ll have to come up with your own slogan.”

“What?” Rachel looks confused. Everyone steps to the side of their numbers to reveal the various chalked slogans, and Rachel laughs. “Oh! That’s very creative, Finn.”

“Mine’s the best slogan, though,” Finn says, stepping back to show off ‘Powered by Soup!’

“Me, too!” Brittany says. “Powered by soup!”

Schue walks over then and claps his hand. “So are we going to give everyone a little preview of our set?” he asks.

“Not yet!” a voice calls from across the lot, and Puck laughs as April runs over to them. “I want to see!”

“Hello, April,” Kurt says somewhat fondly.

“Kurt!” April grins at Puck and then bows to Finn. “I hear we have a plan, sir.”

“Yup. I was told you’d be willing to be thrown in the air and wear some old dress that Kurt picks out for you,” Finn says. “So I don’t know if you’re really smart or really dumb. Could go either way with that combo.”

“Wait,” Artie says. “That’s your mystery date?”

“Ooh, I’m a mystery date!” April exclaims. “That’s great. I always wanted to be a mystery date.”

“Now they’ve seen you, though,” Finn says. “You should wear a mask next time.”

“Good idea,” April agrees, then steps backward. “All right, director–guy,” she says, addressing Schue, “now we can watch them.”

“Uh, thanks.” Schue looks mystified. “All right, guys. We have the music?”

“We’ve got this, Mr. Schue,” Finn says. “You should go sit with Ms. Pillsbury and you two can let us know how it looks!”

“Oh, well, okay,” Schue says. He steps back farther and stands with Ms. P, who looks startled for some reason. Maybe Schue stepped on her foot.

They run through their set twice, much to the chagrin of the Jesus freaks. Once they’re done, Kurt’s Lady Gaga playlist gets put back on, going from ‘Hair’ to ‘Poker Face’ before starting the very familiar strains of ‘Born This Way'.

“You should have brought your shirt,” Brittany says to Santana. “It would look nice on tv.”

“I think it would confuse them a little,” Santana says gently.

“Ooh, what shirt?” Tina asks.

“Your Lebanese shirt I made you!”

“Lebanese?” Kurt tilts his head. “But— oh.” It takes Puck a minute longer, but they’ve all gotten pretty good at decoding Britt–isms by now. “Last year.”

Santana snorts. “Yeah. How things change, right?”

“Wonder what everybody’s shirts would say now,” Finn says. “Could be interesting.”

“'Born This Way, Revisited’?” Puck jokes.

“We could invite the rest of PFLAG to participate!” Rachel suggests. “'Born This Way’ is practically anthemic for many—”

“Yes, yes,” Kurt cuts her off. “But it’s not the worst idea.”

“We should do it as a celebration!” Tina suggests. “Next week, maybe, to give everyone a chance to get a shirt!”

“We could offer our shirts from last year to some people,” Kurt suggests.

“Yeah, Brown can have mine,” Puck snorts.

“You guys are awful,” Finn says. “Maybe I’ll just wear my same shirt. It’s still mostly true.”

“Not really,” Mike counters. “And I discovered I can sing a limited range of songs.”

Finn shrugs, but looks pleased. “Well, then I’ll come up with something else. I guess ‘badger’ isn’t, you know, controversial enough, right?”

“Probably not,” Kurt agrees, then smirks. “I think I know exactly what I’m going to put on mine.”

 

At five, Artie, Lauren, and the assembled press people all go into the building, being given green cards on lanyards, and Puck absently plays a few songs on his guitar while they wait until their turn to go inside. One by one, people go back to their cars to retrieve their changes of clothes, and at 5:30 exactly, a school system employee comes to beckon them inside.

The front row has the middle sixteen seats each marked with a sign reading ‘Reserved for Speakers’, but since they’re at the front of the line, Puck and Kurt rearrange the signs before too many more people get inside, shoving eight of the signs to the far right and interspersing the remainder amongst some other seats, so that all of their speakers have at least one non-speaker between them.

It doesn’t take long for the room to fill, though, at which point they start the process of changing clothes. Santana, Brittany, and Quinn all disappear first, and after they get back, Rachel, Tina, and Mercedes leave to change their clothes. Once the girls are done, Puck and Kurt stand up, Mike muttering something about how he thought the guys should draw the line at pairs.

“Very nice,” Kurt says as Puck starts to change. “You clean up nice, baby.”

“So I’ve been told,” Puck grins. “You look impressive yourself.”

“I need a little help, though.”

“Oh?” Puck steps closer and grins. “Tell me.”

“I was hoping I could persuade you to tie this for me,” Kurt says, voice low, and he places his tie in Puck’s hand before wrapping both arms around Puck’s neck, pulling him into a deep kiss.

“Mmm, that’s either very persuasive or very distracting,” Puck laughs, threading the silk through Kurt’s collar despite his words.

“Nothing wrong with being both,” Kurt grins.

“That’s also true,” Puck concedes. He completes the knot and then tightens it, smoothing the silk with the back of his hand. “Hottest one here, blue eyes.”

“I think you give me a little competition, baby.”

“Just a little?” Puck pretends to be offended.

“Maybe a little more than that.”

They put their other clothes back in the Nav and Puck downs a Xanax, putting in his earbuds with the volume low before they return to the meeting room.

Eventually, everyone’s changed clothes and they’re all back in the meeting room with more than enough time to spare. Santana leaves for about five minutes and comes back to report on the rest of the building.

“There’s two overflow rooms, official attendance is close to three hundred and we’re five minutes out,” she announces. “I’d guess we have about forty percent of the people, the other sixty percent…” She shakes her head and glares across the room at a few of the other speakers, three of them McKinley students.

“That’s… a lot,” Kurt says after a second, nodding. “Well. We have all of our speakers, at least,” he adds, pressing his lips together in amusement. There are still two unclaimed speaker seats on the other side, and Puck wonders how they decided on their speakers. There’s not been any kind of organization specifically stating their objections or anything. Probably that one church just spearheaded everything.

“Let’s get a picture!” Rachel says, turning to Ms. Pillsbury. “Could you take a picture of the glee club? And then Taylor, maybe you could take a picture of all the speakers? We all look so nice!”

After the twelve of them squash together into one picture, Kurt and the other speakers stand together, and Taylor snaps several shots for Rachel. When the pictures are done, they reclaim their seats, and Finn leans over and speaks to Kurt quietly, but loud enough for Puck to hear.

“I think we’ve got this,” Finn says, sounding a little surprised.

“I hope so,” Kurt answers. “At least, if the best they have to offer is Strandberg, we’re already ahead.” Puck snorts his agreement.

The president of the board starts the meeting, and they go through about thirty minutes of stuff that none of them pay particularly close attention to, before it’s time for the public speaking portion of the meeting.

“We’ll hear four proponents of the new wording, followed by four opponents, and then have a short recess before returning to hear four more proponents and four more opponents. One speaker from each side will have four minutes to answer questions and rebut, beginning with the opponents. First speaker?” the president intones.

Ms. Pillsbury walks up to the podium and introduces herself, then starts talking about how other schools have implemented comprehensive anti-bullying policies and how it’s the only effective way to truly put an end to the kind of student–on–student harassment that McKinley has been dealing with. She reads off some statistics from before and after the policies were enacted, and the numbers make a pretty strong statement, even if Ms. P isn’t the most forceful speaker.

“What matters most,” she says, in closing, “is that these comprehensive anti-bullying policies work, and that they make a significant difference to the safety and security of all of our students. I can’t imagine anyone with the students’ best interests at hearts could turn down the opportunity to improve the situation for all the children in Lima’s public schools.”

There’s a few nods amongst the school board members, some of them taking notes and finishing them as Ms. P sits down, though the one guy just looks disgruntled still. There’s a short pause as the second speaker is called, and Casey comes up to the podium. He’s dressed in nice clothes, but his tie is too long for him. Apparently, it’s a good thing that Ms. P went right before him, because he has a hard enough time adjusting the microphone the tiny amount he needs, and it takes three attempts of introducing himself before he manages to make any noise come out of the microphone. Once he does start speaking, however, he seems calm and determined, even if his words are rushed.

“My name is Casey. I’m sixteen, I’m gay, I go to McKinley, and two months ago I tried to kill myself.

“Every day before two months ago, I’d go to school, and these two guys in my grade—Luke Johannson and Micah Fordham—would call me a queer or hit me or push me into things, and then I'd go home and my dad would call me a queer or hit me or push me into things, and then the next day I'd go back to school and it would start all over again. I just thought, you know, this is normal. This is my life. This is just what it's like for somebody like me. There isn’t any place where it’s safe for somebody like me. Not having anywhere safe, it wears you down to where you feel like there’s no point in even hoping it’ll get any better, because you know it won’t. Every day’s just one day closer to the day you give up.

“On February 18th, Micah Fordham beat me up on the playground at Robb Park. He called me a queer, and then he pushed my face into the slide twice, and then he told me not to bleed on him because it might give him AIDS.

“On February 19th, my dad found out I was gay. He broke one of my ribs and one of the bones in my face, and he told me it would be better for me to be dead than to be a faggot.

“On February 20th, I took a full bottle of my mom’s prescription pain pills and then drank most of a bottle of my dad’s Jack Daniels. I don’t remember calling my best friend or riding in an ambulance or getting my stomach pumped, but that’s what happened next.”

Puck wonders if Karofsky’s still sitting in the room, listening to this, and he looks over his shoulder barely, enough to see Karofsky standing near the back of the room. Casey may not remember what happened next, but Puck would bet a lot of money that Karofsky’s never going to forget it.

“On February 23rd, they let me out of the hospital and instead of going home, I got to move in with my best friend. From the time I went into the hospital until the time I went back to school is the longest time I can remember where nobody called me a name or hit me or pushed me or threw something at me.

“On February 29th, I went back to school and that’s when it all started again.

“Micah Fordham told everybody that he’s the reason I was in the hospital and Luke Johannson sits behind me in English class. Every day, he tells me that I’m going to go to hell, or that I’m going catch AIDS and die, or that it’s too bad Fordham didn’t hit me a little bit harder and knock the queer out of me. Yesterday somebody spraypainted ‘FAG’ on my car.

“Nobody’s hit me or pushed me into a locker again yet, but I know that it really is yet — it’s a when, not an if. The bullies are still there and the bullying doesn’t stop, and because I’m gay, there’s nothing the school can even do about it. I’m so lucky to even be standing here today, but maybe the next kid who gets worn down and gives up like I did won’t be so lucky. I’m not safe at McKinley and neither are a lot of other kids,” Casey finishes, rather abruptly. He takes a huge breath, like he ran out of oxygen somewhere in the middle of his speech, then he gives a little nod and goes back to his chair.

The room is still for a few moments after he finishes, and then the third speaker is called. Sam goes up and introduces himself and rambles for a bit about why he volunteered to speak and the different things he’s witnessed at McKinley.

"The thing is, they're my friends,” Sam says. “They don't deserve to have their books knocked out of their hands or have their lockers written on any more than I do, or anyone else. I don't know what the future holds, but I know it bothers me to think about my younger brother and sister going to McKinley and witnessing that level of bullying. Maybe they're straight and no one will ever think they're gay, but they could still see it. I don't like to think about the possibility of them being the target of bullying, and no one being able to help them. Each of you may not be 'have a letter' as we joke sometimes. But you probably know and love someone who does." Sam stops and flashes a grin at the school board members. “Thank you.”

Sam sits down and they call for the fourth speaker, which means Kurt takes a deep breath and squares his shoulders before starting to stand up. “Go Cleve,” Puck whispers under his breath, and Kurt turns to smile briefly before approaching the podium.

“My name is Kurt Hummel,” he begins. “And I don’t want to tell you a personal story.

“Last night, I was talking to my brother about this speech, and I said that ‘out of the bars and into the streets’ wouldn’t work as well for me in Lima in 2012 as it did for Cleve Jones in the late 1970s in San Francisco.”

Finn grins in Kurt’s direction like he’s thrilled to have been mentioned.

“Maybe, though, I was wrong. We’re not in bars. We’re in classrooms. Out of the classrooms and into the hallways. Out of the classrooms and into the board meetings. That’s where we are.” Kurt’s voice is steady and sure, his tone even and measured.

“What do we want? Equal protection. When do we want it? Now.” They aren’t at a march or a parade, but Kurt wouldn’t sound out of place there, either.

“Ms. Pillsbury talked about the problems with bullying in general. She talked about how it can affect learning, not to mention how it can follow a student home. She also spoke about how comprehensive anti-bullying and harassment policies work.

“The question before you, ladies and gentlemen, is not whether or not a policy is necessary. The question is not about tolerance or religious freedom. The question before you is whether or not you feel that I, and the other LGBTQI students in this district, deserve equal rights and equal protection.

“The current bullying policy in this district reads, ‘The Board of Education is committed to providing a safe, positive, productive, and nurturing educational environment for all of its students'. All of its students. Despite these words, all of the students are not protected. We don’t go to school in a safe environment. We look over our shoulders, we fear escalation, but despite it all, we endure.”

Puck can see the breath Kurt takes, the slight tension in his shoulders, and he can feel his own muscles tighten in response.

“We endure the taunts, the slurs, and the threats. We endure the notes and the hatred. We endure the looks, the locker slams, the destruction of property. We endure throughout the promise of violence. We endure physical attacks.

“We endure.”

There’s dead silence for a long beat before Kurt continues.

“I don’t want the children who come after us to endure. I don’t want my younger brother or sister to be taunted because of who I am, long after I’ve left this town. I don’t want being LGBTQI or an ally to make any more students targets.

“I want it to stop. I want a safe environment for all students.

“What do we want? Equal protection. When do we want it? Now.”

This time, Kurt’s voice is a bit more forceful, a bit more like he’s just waiting for the other voices to join the response.

“We’re not sitting by waiting for it to get better. I’ve been in other cities in the past five months, and I can tell you, yes, it gets better. But only one grade level graduates in a year. To those who are not graduating, this makes a difference. It makes all the difference. This isn’t about special rights. This is about human rights. We’re students and we’re human, regardless of who we love.”

Kurt’s head is held high, and Puck can’t help but grin, watching him and listening to him. Kurt wanted a call to arms, and it is definitely, magnificently that.

“Out of the classrooms and into the hallways. This is our time for action. This is our time to make this corner a little better for the kids who aren’t graduating, for the kids who come after us. For the Caseys and the Taylors, the Alicias, the Ricks, the Hannahs, the Stevies, the Stacys, the Pretzels, the Rebeccas, the Jonahs, the Isaacs, the Abigails, and the Mandys. Harvey Milk said, ‘You’ve got to give the people hope'. We have to give the students hope.

“Out of the classrooms and into the hallways.”

Kurt stands at the podium for just a few seconds before turning around and walking back to his seat. There’s another moment of silence before the sound of a few hands clapping begins to echo, their side of the room slowly joining in, and even a few of the people sitting in the press area. Puck’s pretty sure they can’t hear if people in other rooms are clapping or not, but he’s willing to bet money they are. Kurt takes his seat, cheeks just barely pink, and after a moment, Puck reaches over and takes his hand, squeezing it gently.

“Damn, blue eyes.” Puck grins.

“That was awesome,” Finn says, from the other side of Kurt. “So awesome.” He pats Kurt on the shoulder a few times before draping his arm across the back of Kurt’s chair.

Kurt lets out a shuddering breath before the applause slows, and Puck squeezes Kurt’s hand again as they call for the next speaker.

The older, more overweight guy from outside, the one who said ‘wayward youth’ like it was a normal thing for people to say, gets up and shuffles to the podium.

“I am Pastor Phillips of Open Grove Independent Baptist Church here in Lima. Before I say anything further, I’d like to extend an invitation to any of the people here today to visit us one Sunday.” Puck can’t see the guy’s face, but he can imagine a grotesque sort of smile as he speaks.

“Let's begin by clarifying why we are here. That misguided young man claims this is about equal protection and equal rights, but it's not. It's about sin. It's about sinful young men and women who want to not repent of their sin, but be applauded for their immoral and unnatural ways.

“The Bible teaches against homosexuality throughout both Testaments. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their immoral citizenry. Leviticus tells us, 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination'.

“Abomination! Do we here in Lima, Ohio, good Christians, want to condone an abomination? I don't believe we do.

“The militant homosexual activist cadre has an agenda, to be sure. One of the points on their agenda is to make people of faith look like homophobes and bigots! They have infiltrated so-called liberal churches and these churches have betrayed their Christian heritage by proclaiming tolerance and even support for this sinful lifestyle choice.”

Puck decides he’s heard enough at that point, especially if he wants to make it through the entire meeting, and he puts his earbuds back in, sliding his hand inside his blazer pocket just long enough to start the music playing softly. It doesn’t really matter what it is, just as long as it’s enough to keep him from focusing on the utter shit pouring out of this guy’s mouth.

Pastor Phillips goes over his allotted time, judging by the frown on the official’s face as he tries to get the guy to sit down so the next speaker can go. Puck wonders if that counts against them somehow; it’d be nice if it did.

The next speaker turns out to be Mrs. Strandberg, and after a minute, Puck pauses the music, deciding to see what has everyone looking more amused than upset.

“The core argument of these students' agenda is that children are being disproportionately bullied for what I will call gender–based reasons. Of course bullying is a horrible problem, but children are bullied about their size, their clothing, their race, or their socioeconomic class. Curriculum and policies focus on gender–based bullying, when it is one of the least common causes behind bullying!

“In short, bullying is being used as a wedge issue in their attempts to get homosexual teaching and the homosexual agenda into our schools. I have no doubt that a state or national homosexual organization is behind these students' actions. Homosexuals must recruit, and they are using their existing recruits in Lima in an attempt to drag even more of our youth into their dangerous lifestyle.”

“You totally recruited me, K,” Puck whispers, nodding. “Question is, who recruited you?”

“It was me,” Finn whispers.

Puck has to fight not to laugh out loud as Strandberg finishes and the next speaker is called up. The man who walks up to the podium reminds Puck a little bit of Burt, or maybe the anti-Burt, the kind of typical Lima guy uncomfortable in his suit. He introduces himself at the father of a McKinley baseball player, and Finn groans and rolls his eyes as the guy talks about how anti-bullying policies would actually hurt the ‘regular’ kids at McKinley.

“Because the gays are so oversensitive, everything’s an insult, everything’s some kind of slur, even if it’s not aimed at them and it’s not even meant with any kind of malicious intent. What’s going to end up happening is reverse discrimination, where the regular kids are being punished for being regular kids, and this tiny minority of students is allowed to behave in any way they want, making any kind of accusation they want against kids like my boy and his friends. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my son being put in a situation where the slightest little thing he says can be treated like some sort of hate crime.”

Puck narrows his eyes. Regular? Really? Poor baseball players. He shakes his head and glances to the side to see Santana attempting to eviscerate the guy with her eyes. There’s a slight murmur on their side of the room, but nothing loud enough for anyone official to call them out on it as the next speaker walks up. The guy is a McKinley student, and Puck vaguely recalls seeing him once or twice, but he’s not even sure what class the dude’s in. He’s not even wearing a tie, Puck thinks, then has to laugh mentally at himself.

“And I don’t think there really is that much of a bullying problem at McKinley,” the guy says, after rambling for a while about how students have a right to be comfortable and not be forced to watch guys making out in the halls just because a couple of people think that’s okay. “If I were making out with my girlfriend in the hall, I’d get in trouble, and I don’t see how this is any different, just because they say they’re being oppressed or something. Nobody’s bullying anybody for that. We just don’t think people need to be doing it in the hallways. Why can’t they keep it at home?”

Puck leans over to whisper in Kurt’s ear. “Hey, we only made out in the hallways once, and only Coach Beiste saw us!”

Kurt’s shoulders shake a little, his lips pressed together, and Puck misses the rest of the guy’s rambling ‘speech'. The ten minute recess is announced, and there’s a collective exhale followed by people starting to stand and stretch. Santana gets up and walks over to Artie immediately, gesturing about something. Artie nods, which leaves Santana looking satisified as she pulls out her phone and starts texting away.

Burt walks over to where Puck, Kurt, and Finn are sitting. “I’ve gotta say, kid, that was a hell of a speech,” Burt says to Kurt. “I’m impressed.”

“Thanks,” Kurt responds quietly. “I just wanted— we need something more than just our stories.”

Burt nods. “It’s bigger than any one kid. Not that the individuals aren’t important or anything. They are. Just, I get that this is bigger than that.”

“At least those last two speakers should be particularly easy to rebut,” Kurt snorts. “There’s no bullying. Right.”

“I guess it’s not something you notice if you’ve never been bullied,” Finn says. “Or if you want to act like what you’re doing isn’t bullying.”

“Willful ignorance.” Puck shrugs.

“Definitely ignorant,” Kurt agrees.

“Or a douchebag,” Finn says. “Could go either way.”

Further conversation is cut off by the arrival of the moderator guy, who announces that they’ll begin again immediately with the next speaker. Brown’s mom ends up being the next speaker, and she talks about how much she likes Lima City Schools for a bit, and how she and her husband are both small business owners in Lima, before she moves on to the main topic.

"My Alicia and Miles have such a large group of friends, some shared and some not, and it's a wide assortment." She laughs. "McKinley's a diverse school, and it's good to see. Isn't it a shame that some of those lovely children are safe there and others aren't?"

There’s actually a few nods from the board when she says that line, which Puck figures is a good sign. She finishes with a few more comments and then they call the next number and Quinn stands up.

Quinn starts by introducing herself and talking about her church, and how she feels like her strong religious background is one of the things that makes her more accepting of differences, not less. Puck does his best not to chuckle out loud at that. Quinn continues by describing how she and some of the other cheerleaders spend most of high school bullying students on the ‘lower social rungs’ and how the only time she ever got in trouble for it was when she and another student were harassing one of the varsity football players.

“We got detention for that, but if it had been our friends Santana or Brittany or Kurt, we wouldn’t have even gotten a slap on the wrist,” Quinn says. “It’s such a double standard. I mean, I served a detention for off-campus cyberbullying, which wasn’t a nice thing to do but definitely isn’t the worst thing that happens at McKinley, but my gay friends get slushies thrown in their faces and shoved into lockers and called names all year long, and nothing gets done about it. What’s happening to them is more than hurt feelings, and it’s not right that they aren’t guaranteed the same protection as the football players and cheerleaders and the straight kids at the school.”

Puck has to give Quinn a little credit for owning up to her own actions, though it’s pretty ironic that said ‘football players and cheerleaders’ have their own share of not–so–straight members. After Quinn speaks, Rachel gets up and talks about her two dads, which is honestly a rehash of things Puck’s heard her say a million times. The only part that stands out is a rare moment of self-reflection. "Perhaps my dads have been guilty of overindulging me, but those are the hazards of being an only child. It's not a reflection on the fact that I have two wonderful fathers."

After Rachel finishes, there’s only one more speaker for their side, one of the pastors from one of the churches that Nana apparently mobilized. He introduces himself and what church he’s from and talks about the church members there, supporting action by the board.

"I am called by the policies of my denomination, with which I agree wholeheartedly, to advocate for the legal protection of those who enter into same–gender relationships. While you have heard from those who purport to represent a single 'Christian' position, I speak for other Christians. We, as Christians, oppose physical and verbal harassment or assault based on sexual orientation, and support legislation and policies that protect civil rights, prohibiting discrimination in public services. That, as Lutherans, is our heritage. The ELCA statement on sexuality states that this church, this denomination, will seek out equal protection and equal opportunities under the law, with just treatment for all of God's children.

“In short, it is my belief that God loves all of the students of Lima, not just the straight ones, and He would not wish to see any of His children harmed, emotionally, mentally, or physically. We are called to do God's work on this earth. Changing this policy is God's work."

After he sits down, though, a horribly familiar figure stands up, and Puck hisses. “That’s the psychiatrist.”

“Wait, that’s her?” Finn asks, and he glares in her direction. “Help me find her car after. I will fuck it up.”

“Let me know what kind it is,” Kurt says offhandedly. “You could drain her radiator or her oil pan, maybe.”

“Pee in her gas tank,” Finn says.

Despite himself, Puck decides to listen to at least part of her speech as she drones on about her ‘professional experience'.

"There is no scientific proof of any kind that homosexuality is, in fact, innate. It is a choice. As a choice, these students can choose to reject their previous affairs and enter into healthy, loving heterosexual relationships. As a medical professional, I often see students who feel they need psychiatric help when they merely could have an appropriate support system and turn from their lifestyles, they would find their purported psychiatric problems would disappear. A girl growing up with a distant and detached mother, who works for hours all days of the week will often find herself depressed and looking for female companionship of any kind. Similar scenarios often arise with boys and their fathers, especially if the father is absent. These children don't need psychiatric treatment for their supposed ‘ailments’, nor this version of tolerance. They need gentle love to lead them from their mistakes and into regular society."

“She really wouldn’t be able to figure me out,” Kurt snorts.

“Your dad is awesome,” Finn says. “Someone should take away her license or whatever it is shrinks have.”

“No argument from me,” Kurt murmurs as the woman finishes and takes her seat. The next person to step forward is a girl that also appears to be a McKinley student.

This girl apparently feels very sad that changing the wording of the anti-bullying policies could limit her ability to spread the news about Jesus. “We might not even be allowed to pray before we eat! Some people think all Christians are bigots, but really, we’re the most loving and open-minded people you’ll ever meet, at my church. It’s not fair that someone like me can’t share Jesus’s love without having to worry that somebody’s going to try to twist it around and call it hate!”

“How about I twist it around and call it insensitive to the rest of us who aren’t Christian?” Puck mutters.

She takes her seat almost primly and another girl stands up to speak after her, similarly attired.

When she starts to speak, Puck frowns, and it takes until she’s about halfway done before he places the voice: one of Mandi’s so-called friends, from outside the choir room, the one not called Naomi. Her speech is mostly a repeat of the girl who went before her, though she’s clearly been given some talking points to use, a bunch of ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ crap.

“And I think that people can change, with enough love and support. If one of your friends were smoking or drinking or doing drugs, you’d still love them, but you wouldn’t try to get special rules passed to protect them! You want your friends to be healthy and happy, but sometimes that means you can’t just accept that what they’re doing is right because they say it makes them feel good. Teenagers do all kinds of things that seem like a good idea at the time, but turn out to be a disaster later on! Wouldn’t it be terrible if you sat by and let one of your close friends make a mistake like that?”

“Yeah, Finn,” Puck mutters. “How could you let us make a mistake like being gay? Better feed us more fruits and vegetables so we’ll be healthier.”

“You’re, like, a dealer dude,” Finn says. “They need a ‘Just Say No to Puck’ banner.”

“Pretty sure Sylvester had one of those,” Puck admits with a snort.

“Now she has one that says ‘Just Say No to Miles Brown’,” Kurt offers.

“I heard she passed out little business card things with his picture on them,” Finn says. “They said, ‘Do Not Have Sex With’ on them. Poor Brown.”

“Do you think Santana has a few extra?” Kurt asks. “I could take them down to the center with us!”

“So mean,” Finn whispers.

The next, and final, guy comes up, carrying a Bible to go with his awful–looking suit. Kurt makes a face and whispers, “Someone that young and with so little style!”

He introduces himself as a pastor at some church or another, and talks about how important it is to meet sinners where they are, whether that’s shopping at the mall or attending classes at McKinley High.

“What we ware witnessing here in Lima is, sadly, the manipulation of young people in service of the militant homosexual agenda. Activists are working hard to put in place indoctrination programs in the public schools, aggressive bids at recruitment that fly in the face of our country's moral code.

“Codified anti-bullying language that includes specific protection for homosexual students is, I believe, the first step on a slippery slope towards pro-homosexual curriculum. There are groups that want to promote homosexuality to children! The Bible calls on us to love our neighbor, yes, but the words of the Old Testament strongly condemn homosexual behavior. We ignore God's Word and God's Will at our peril.

“Children, of course you want to be safe at school, but the answer is not to enshrine immorality. The answer can be found at the foot of the Cross, in the pages of the Good Book.”

The worst part of the entire thing is that he seems to genuinely think he’s a nice, affable guy, there to offer help to the poor, misguided gays.

During their rebuttal and question period, the school board asks the first preacher how, exactly, anti-bullying policies impact Christians’ abilities to pray and read the Bible, and he blusters through an answer before the most sympathetic member of the school board asks if children should really be the ones spreading the Gospel, anyway. Weren’t they still young?

The preacher sits down and then the school board president asks for someone from the proponent side to take questions and rebut. No one moves for a moment, so Puck puts his hand on Kurt’s back and pushes him gently, with additional assistance from Finn, who also says, “go!”

Kurt looks a little startled, but steps up to the podium. “I’d like to rebut first, if I may?” At the president’s nod, Kurt begins to speak. “First of all, the issue of whether or not homosexuality is a choice or innate is beyond the scope of this hearing. I would direct you to reputable scientific journals and publications, including those produced by the publishers of the DSM, for further information regarding that.

“You’ve also heard that bullying is not an issue. I think the testimony you’ve heard tonight and last month provides a rebuttal to that claim. Additionally, I’m certain a faculty or staff member at McKinley, of whom we have several here tonight, would be happy to discuss the issue with you.

“None of us are making out in the halls, and none of us are objecting to private religious teachings. What we object to is hate speech and hateful actions. What we object to is an attempt by one small group of Christians to claim to speak for all of Lima’s Christians and, further, to claim that all of Lima is in fact Christian.”

Kurt takes a deep breath. “I will now answer any questions.”

The disgruntled ‘special rights’ guy from the last meeting speaks first. “What’s the line between normal teasing and bullying? Or between expressing an opinion and bullying?”

“Most of that is covered in the existing anti-bullying policy,” Kurt answers. “Bullying occurs when the pervasive act causes mental or physical harm, creating an educational environment that is intimidating, abusive, or threatening, rather than safe.”

“What about public displays of affection? Straight couples aren’t supposed to make out in the hall, why should same-sex couples have that privilege?” another board member asks.

“This language, and the bullying policy in general, do not create an exception to the rules currently in place regarding public display of affection for all students. This is about bullying. Not about specific behaviors by LGBTQI students.”

“We don’t want to infringe upon a student’s right to free speech,” a third board member says. “What about constitutional rights?”

“The courts have consistently upheld hate crimes legislation,” Kurt points out. “Additionally, courts have found that students do not have a right to create substantial disruption in the name of free speech. Bullying, especially on the scale many of us have experienced, is a substantial disruption.”

“Dude, I think he might be the smart one and the pretty one,” Finn whispers to Puck.

“Don’t let him start lifting weights or you’ll be out of a job, too.” Puck shrugs.

“Damn, you’re right. Hide the weights!”

Kurt answers one more question, this one even stupider than the others, and then sits back down, sighing.

“Thank you for all of your input and interest,” the board president says. “This is the highest attendance we have had for a school board meeting in many years, with the official number set at three hundred fourteen, not counting the members of the press. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, due to the high number of attendees, we ask that you conduct interviews and make your reports from the outside of the building this month.

“Motion to table the vote to the first item on the agenda next month?”

There’s a loud collective groan from all parts of the room at that, nearly drowning out the “Seconded.”

“In favor?”

Three members of the board raise their hand, the other two frowning, and Puck shakes his head. “What the actual fuck?”

“Bastards,” Kurt hisses. “What’s the point of that?”

“We will vote at the beginning of May’s meeting, without hearing public comments. This meeting is adjourned.”

Santana leaps out of her seat, glaring at Artie for a second, and after he nods, she cups her hands around her mouth. “What do we want?”

There’s a split-second pause before half the room responds with “Equal protection!” and Puck can hear the echo from the other two rooms.

“When do we want it?”

“Now!” The response is a little louder, and Santana steps forward, grabbing Kurt by the wrist and hauling him out of his seat. She tucks her arm through his and starts again, elbowing him to speak with her.

“What do we want?”

“Equal protection!”

“When do we want it?”

“Now!”

When they start again, Santana steps forward, heading towards the door and motioning for the rest of them to follow. Puck has to give her props – ’Tana knows how to make good street theatre. The cameras are still rolling, following them all out into the hall, where the other two rooms join the stream.

“Santana should think about doing that professionally,” Finn says. “Wow.”

“She who shouts the loudest?” Puck jokes as they push out into the parking lot. “Wow is right.”

They assemble in a group on the sidewalk, Santana and Kurt still leading the call and response, and Puck grabs Finn’s wrist, pulling him along as they wind through the crowd, coming up behind Kurt.

“We don’t give up!” Santana shouts just as the last bit of ‘now’ is fading away. “We keep up the pressure. We don’t back down.” She shoots a grin at Kurt. “Out of the classrooms and into the hallways!”

“Out of the meeting and into the Pat’s!” Finn shouts back at her.

Kurt starts laughing at that, and there’s a few enthusiastic responses as the clump slowly starts to break apart, and the press gang pushes towards them.

Somehow they manage to sort of herd the people that spoke together, and then there’s another group behind them that Puck finds himself standing in. Karofsky, Finn, the Berrys, Sam’s parents, Schue, Burt, Carole, and some guy that is probably Brown’s dad are all there as well, and Puck snorts in amusement. The speakers and the family section, or something like it.

Most of them are clustered around Casey first, one woman speaking to Ms. Pillsbury, and Puck jumps when Hannah appears between he and Finn. “Noah!”

“Hey, squirt.”

“We were in overflow room two!” Hannah informs him, then turns to Finn. “You’re uglier than a scarred Viking!”

“Is that your face or are you already trying out Halloween masks?” Finn shoots right back at her.

“Hello, Finn, Noah,” Rina says. “That was a very emotional meeting.”

“Hey, Mrs. P!” Finn says. “Wasn’t Kurt great? I mean, they were all great, but Kurt was great!”

“He was,” Rina nods.

“Magnificent!” Nana crows. “Such good speeches we had.” She glares towards the other side of the parking lot. “As for them. Pah!”

 

Kurt finds himself between Casey on his left and Rachel on his right as the press approach. The first reporter to snag Kurt is from the CBS affiliate out of either Toledo or Dayton, and she asks some fairly stock questions before moving on to Rachel. Before Kurt has time to look around, Connie Dean is approaching him.

“Mr. Hummel! Always a pleasure,” she says, putting out her hand.

“Ms. Dean,” Kurt smiles, taking her hand and shaking it briefly.

“That was quite a speech tonight. What inspired you to approach this issue from this perspective, rather than share another more personal story?”

“Well, as you know, I spoke about my personal experience last month. And while our personal experiences are important, this is so much more than just about those of us currently enrolled or currently in high school. I’ll be graduating in forty-seven days.” He can’t help smiling a bit wider. “But there are so many students who aren’t graduating, and children who aren’t even school-age yet. This is our legacy, yes, but it’s their lives.”

“How would you respond to the statements from the opposing side tonight, that bullying is either not actually taking place at all at McKinley or that it’s not happening to the extent being presented here?” Connie asks.

“Charitably, I’d say that they are lucky and are always in the right place at the right time. I think the more likely answer is that it’s willful ignorance. Frankly, however, I think in some cases it’s outright lies. Every morning when I walk to my first period class, I’m greeted with the word ‘fag’. If it were a pejorative term for any other group, that would not be allowed.”

Connie nods. “Since the introduction of this new language to the school board, has the situation at McKinley improved at all?”

“Hardly.” Kurt exhales. “In fact, it’s gotten considerably worse. The few of us that are completely out are dealing with unprecedented levels of harassment, and the situation is no better for our allies or those who are perceived as LBGTQI.”

“Well, thank you for your time, Mr. Hummel. Best of luck at the meeting in May,” Connie says. “I’ll be in touch before then,” she adds quietly.

Kurt nods. “Thank you, Ms. Dean.” She moves to interview someone else, and a familiar hand presses a water bottle into his from behind.

“Drink, blue eyes,” Puck murmurs, then steps back. Kurt smiles and does that as another reporter approaches. He looks like he stepped out of an American Apparel ad, from the glasses to the shoes, and he’s carrying an iPad.

“You’re Kurt Hummel, right?” the reporter asks, holding out his hand. “Benji Whitman with the Gay People’s Chronicle.”

“I am.” Kurt takes his hand and shakes it.

“I’m just jumping right in here, I hope you don’t mind,” Benji says, switching hands with his iPad. “So, why now? Why take on this fight your senior year?”

“It’s taken many of us all four years of high school to realize just how intolerable the situation at McKinley is,” Kurt answers. “And yes, we’re leaving, but there are so many that will come after us. Not just other LGBTQI kids, but our own younger siblings and family members, as well.”

“Was there a triggering incident for this? Or more of a gradual awareness that something needed to be done?”

“Yes and no. Certainly, when statistics play out – it’s sobering.” Kurt fights not to glance over at Casey. “But beyond specific incidents, I think the realization for so many of us that we weren’t alone, that there are many of us.” He shrugs very slightly. “You have to understand, at the beginning of this school year, I was the only out student at McKinley.”

“And now that’s changed?”

“It has. Of course, Santana was outed.” Kurt does tilt his head towards Santana. “No one was punished for the blog post nor what happened to many of us afterwards.”

“All the more reason for the policy change,” Benji says, shaking his head. “Thank you for your time. That was a great speech tonight.”

“Thank you.”

Benji Whitman moves away and is replaced by a woman in a horribly unflattering suit and a pinched expression. “Mr. Hummel? Linda Ellison from WKEF Dayton. Do you have time for a few more questions?”

“Of course, Ms. Ellison,” Kurt nods.

“At the beginning of your speech, you mention a,” Ms. Ellison glances down at her notes, “Cleve Jones. He seemed to be an inspiration for your speech tonight. Would you tell me a little about that?”

“Cleve Jones is a well-known activist in the gay community, who began his career of activism in his early twenties in San Francisco, working to get Harvey Milk elected.” Kurt would bet a lot of money that she has no clue who Harvey Milk is, either, but if she wants to continue to look ignorant, that’s her business.

“Do you consider yourself to be a gay activist?”

Kurt fights hard not to laugh or roll his eyes. “Well, yes, I am gay, and this is activism, is it not? Do I consider it to be the beginning of a career in activism? No, but there are all kinds of activists, and most of them have other professions as well.”

This is obviously not the answer Ms. Ellison expected, so she seems to be considering how to change her tactics. “We heard quite an interesting and enlightening array of stories tonight, wouldn’t you say?”

“Yes, we did,” Kurt agrees. “I know for those of us on this side of the issue, we had many people willing to speak.”

“How did the proponents of this policy change decide who would speak on its behalf tonight?”

“First of all, it’s not a policy change, but an addition to the currently existing policy. As far as how the speakers were chosen, both last month and tonight, our efforts have been coordinated by a three–person committee. The chair of that committee made the official determination based on what she felt was optimal.”

“Do you feel the decision on some of tonight’s speakers was made with the intent of playing on the board’s emotions?” Ms. Ellison asks. “Mr. O’Brien’s story is certainly tragic, but the proponents can’t really be claiming that it’s in any way typical.”

“It’s an emotional topic on both sides,” Kurt says flatly. “If you were to do any investigative research, however, you would learn that Casey’s story is far too typical. Some of us have supportive families, a safe place to go to at the end of the school day. That’s really the only difference between Casey and many of us.”

“So the primary difference between someone like yourself and someone like Casey is actually the impact of family, then, and not the school climate?”

“The impact of the school climate permeates. I just have the good fortune to stop flinching at the end of the day,” Kurt says, voice clipped. “If you had the experience of graduating high school without being a target of daily, systemic bullying, then I wouldn’t expect you to understand the impact of it, regardless of home life.” He raises his hand with the water bottle and takes a short sip. “I think we’re done,” he says shortly, half–turning to look to see who is still there. He holds the position until he hears her finally move on, and he endures another three interviews before the press is satisfied and Kurt can let himself retreat into the circle formed by Hummels, Hudsons, and Puckermans all.

 

It’s been at least an hour since the meeting ended before Puck finally finds himself walking with Kurt towards the Nav, and even if there’ll be a crowd at Pat’s, at least there will be food to slightly make up for it. Kurt follows Puck to the passenger side, away from the building and in the shadows, and Puck tugs Kurt towards him by the tie.

He slides his hand into Kurt’s hair, resting his other hand on Kurt’s hip, and brings their foreheads together. “You were incredible, K,” he whispers softly. “So fucking proud of you.”

“I just wish we could go fall into bed,” Kurt admits.

Puck laughs and presses his lips to Kurt’s. As he runs his tongue over Kurt’s lips, Kurt wraps both arms around Puck’s neck, cradling Puck’s head in one hand. Kurt’s mouth slowly falls open and Puck slips into Kurt’s mouth, Kurt’s tongue probing outward.

“Hey, Kurt, do you want to set up a time to look over the video from— oh, so sorry!”

Puck turns his head as Kurt pulls back and they watch Artie rapidly wheeling backwards, which is sort of an absurd thing on a lot of levels. “Artie?” Kurt responds. “Um. Sure?”

“We can talk about later. Tomorrow. Whenever. You call me when it’s convenient for you!”

Puck snorts and then starts laughing, because Artie sounds so damn panicked over the whole thing. “I think we can definitely say Brittany’s won,” he finally says.

Kurt giggles. “Yes, I think so.” He looks back at Artie, still wheeling backward. “Seriously, you don’t have to backwheel.”

“It’s ’cause of how we’re those scary gays,” Puck deadpans.

“I just felt like I was intruding,” Artie says, halting his backwards rolling. “Also, a little confused, though that’s rapidly turning into a lot of ‘now it all makes so much sense’.”

“Just please don’t take up with Finn and insist on June. Really, that’s all I ask,” Kurt says.

“Wait? June? Really?”

“August,” they say together, shaking their heads. “Finn has this idea that it’s about pot nachos,” Puck continues.

“Are you intentionally making this more confusing?” Artie asks. “Is this some kind of Jedi mind trick? These are not the gays I’m looking for?”

Puck laughs. “Ask Finn. But we say August.”

“This explains so much,” Artie says. “Really, how did we not all notice? Am I the only one who didn’t know?”

“Working theory is self-absorbed teenagers, and no,” Kurt answers. “Mercedes, Sam, and Quinn don’t know.”

“This is fascinating!”

“Yes, we thought that we needed a little more excitement.”

“Okay, Puck, that’s a little disturbing. How did we not notice that you’re talking like Kurt now?” Artie asks. “Seriously, this is weirding me out a little. Not you two. More us and our complete failure to notice.”

“I told you,” Puck shrugs, looking at Kurt. “Gay ninjas.”

“Yes, yes. And well, it has probably helped that the first two people to figure it out were Finn and Brittany.”

“That’s… interesting.” Artie adjusts his glasses on his face. “I’m still mentally integrating this.”

“To be fair,” Kurt continues, “it is somewhat true that Finn figured it out before we did.”

“Finn figured it out before you?” Artie looks confused. “So, he’s right about June then?”

“Yes? But not really?” Puck shrugs. “I’m not sure he can be right if neither of us had figured it out.”

“Outstanding,” Artie says. “Really. That’s just, it’s outstanding.”

Kurt laughs. “Well, we try.”

 

Puck can’t help but laugh again as they drive towards Pat’s. “We’re so bad at keeping a secret, K.”

“I know.” Kurt shakes his head ruefully. “To be fair, it did seem like almost everyone was gone.”

“Wheelchair ninja?”

“Something like that,” Kurt laughs. “But – it went well?”

“Are you kidding?” Puck looks over at Kurt incredulously. “Kurt, you were— I don’t have words. Fucking amazing. That speech was incredible, and you delivered it, just.”

“It wasn’t too presumptuous? I didn’t try to speak for people too much?”

“Uh, yeah, you were speaking for us, in a good way.” Puck shakes his head. “K, that was exactly what needed to be said, and exactly the way it needed to be said. Even if every one of us in the school wanted to stand up and talk, there wouldn’t be time, and it still wouldn’t have the same impact or coherency as what you pulled off.”

“Oh.” Kurt exhales. “I really didn’t set off to be the mouthpiece of a movement.”

“Somehow I doubt Cleve did either, K,” Puck laughs. “I mean, I know I suck at history class, but what I remember about social studies, back in elementary school, is that the famous people didn’t try to be famous. They were just doing what they thought needed to be done, or had to be done, or however you want to put it. It wasn’t about anything except, like. Instead of waiting for someone else to do it, they did it.”

“No, I wasn’t going to wait for someone else to do it,” Kurt agrees.

“And, hey, you look good for a mouthpiece,” Puck smirks.

“Oh, god, those reporters.” Kurt shakes his head. “The one guy was almost too friendly. The woman from ABC was awful. That was worse than the meeting by far.”

“Too friendly?” Puck raises an eyebrow.

“Stoppit.”

“I’m just asking.”

“Yes, well. You know you have no reason to worry.”

“I wasn’t worried. Just thought about kicking his ass anyway. Pretty sure I could take him.”

“You know, in New York, you just thought it was amusing.”

“That was because it was me getting hit on.” Puck snorts. “Why would they hit on me when you’re around? I don’t get it.”

“Oh, baby.” Kurt sighs. “Not everyone watches Queer as Folk and decides his favorite character is Emmett.”

“Why not?”

“Believe it or not, most people do love Brian Kinney.”

“But he’s such a douchebag about Gus!”

“Most people don’t focus on that aspect of the character, Puck.”

“Hmph.” Puck groans when they pull past Pat’s in search of a parking space.

“What is it?”

“Nana. Aren’t old people supposed to go to bed early?”

“Isn’t Nana related to you?”

“I bet she’s passing around her iPhone right now, with pictures of me in fourth and fifth grades.”

“Ooh, we should hurry then,” Kurt smirks, pulling into the car wash a block down from Pat’s, which is nearly full. “I need to see those!”

“Not so fast,” Puck warns. “By the time we get back to Pat’s, it should definitely be time for her to go. I hope,” he adds in a mutter.

“Such a thing to say about such a nice lady,” Kurt shakes his head mock–disdainfully as they walk down the sidewalk. “Also, I can finally walk around at night without a jacket!” Kurt shrugs out of his suit jacket and drapes it over one arm. “I’m impressed, baby. Your tie is still on.”

“I had to stand out somehow?” Puck offers. “Nah, I did actually forget about it.”

“Well, leave it. You can help me set a good example.”

“A good example?”

“Of not discarding the tie as soon as humanly possible.” Kurt shrugs. “I suspect that 80% of them will already be off before we set foot in that building, if not more.”

“Like your dad?”

“Oh, definitely like my dad.” Kurt pulls the door open and makes a grandiose sweeping gesture, smirking slightly. “After you.”

“I see how it is,” Puck jokes he steps inside, Kurt right behind him. “Holy shit,” he adds, stopping just inside the door. Pat’s is unbelievably crowded, people sitting on laps and leaning against walls, tables shoved together in strange configurations.

“Out of the door and into a seat!” Finn shouts in their direction.

“Are you offering yours?” Puck calls back.

Finn looks like he’s thinking about it. “You can share it with me or you two can share it,” he says, in a closer–to–normal volume as Puck and Kurt approach. “Wouldn’t be fair to let just the one of you have it.”

“Gives a whole new meaning to ‘take a knee’?” Kurt suggests, smirking and dropping onto one of Finn’s knees. Puck laughs and drops onto the other one because the expressions on everyone else’s faces are worth however cramped that’s going to be.

“Oof. You two are heavy,” Finn complains.

“Boys!” Carole exclaims. “I’m sure we can find two more chairs somewhere.”

“Hey, lots of people have lap–people!” Finn says. “Look!” He gestures around the room. “It’s a trend. We’re trendy.”

Carole sighs. “Well. Kurt, Noah, did you two want something to eat?”

“Pizza?” Kurt asks hopefully. “Cheezy garlic bread? Buffet?”

“Are you starving?” Finn asks. “Poor big brother, starving to death right here in my lap. Mom, if he dies, can I have the Nav?”

“I will haunt you,” Kurt sniffs. “I will haunt you and you will experience supernatural events and no one will believe you when you tell them it was really the ghost of your big brother.”

“People already don’t believe me about lots of stuff,” Finn says, not sounding at all bothered by the prospect of being haunted. “Anyway, it might be nice if your ghost haunts me. I’d miss you and if you were a ghost, we could at least hang out.”

“Luckily, the prospect of starving to death is easily remedied when one is in an establishment that serves food.” Kurt looks to the side. “Tina, darling, can you slide me that menu?”

“Sure!” Tina pushes it down the table and grins before turning back to her conversation with Mercedes.

“So, how’d the interviews go?” Burt acts. “They all ask about the same questions?”

“One of them was more interested in PFLAG itself, how long we’ve been meeting, how many attendees we have, that sort of thing.” Kurt shrugs. “I think he was from outlook: columbus. Get this, his last name? Wazowski.”

“Mike Wazowski!” Finn chirps. “Was he green?”

“Sadly, no.”

“Was he the hipster?” Puck asks.

“No,” Kurt laughs. “That was a different one.” Kurt looks over at Puck. “Regular pizza or breakfast pizza?”

“Oh, hmm, yeah, breakfast pizza sounds good,” Puck agrees.

“I need a bite. I’m your chair,” Finn says. “That should at least get me a bite.”

“Maybe we’ll let you have a whole slice,” Puck jokes. “And I think you’ve got a real head start on that furniture major.”

“Sofa, ottoman, and chair,” Finn says, nodding in agreement. “I think that’s all the, uh. Whatever they are. Specialization–thingies.”

All three of their phones notify them about an incoming text at the same time, and Puck reaches into his pocket with a frown, because almost everyone that texts him is at Pat’s, except for Hannah, who should be asleep.

“I don’t know who this is,” Finn says, showing his phone to Kurt. “Who is this?”

“Same as ours,” Puck answers. “April.”

“Why did she send me a link to something?”

“Click it and see?” Puck shrugs, as a second text comes through. “Um. Hey, Lopez!” he raises his voice.

“Yeah?” Santana looks up from where she’s sitting – on Artie’s lap. Huh.

“You know anything about a couple of videos going viral on YouTube?”

“I might,” Santana smirks. “It’s not hard to upload video, you know.”

“Oh, god,” Kurt shakes his head. “It’s everywhere.”

Finn pokes at his phone for a few moments, then announces, “Hey! Everybody! Kurt and Casey are famous on the Internet!”

“Oh, god,” Kurt repeats. “How in the world did it go viral like that?”

“There’s a lot of comments on here already!” Finn says.

“Hey!” Tina speaks up. “Lima Schools is trending!”

Puck nods slowly, still looking at his phone. “Things are stirred up, K.”

“Why are all these people tweeting me? How do they know who I am?”

“I said you were famous on the Internet,” Finn says.

“But it’s not like it’s obvious who I am from my Twitter!” Kurt protests. “Why would they connect it to Kurt Hummel?”

“LOPEZ!” Puck calls again.

“Puckerman!” she retorts.

“Satan!” Kurt shouts. “Did you link my Twitter account?”

“So what if I did?”

Kurt brandishes his phone in her direction. “One hundred forty-seven tweets in the last hour?”

“Hey, work the social media. We’re seniors, you’re not doing actual homework.”

“I don’t have time to respond to all of these!”

“Me and Puck can help,” Finn says. “Just give us a list of appropriate responses.”

“The answer to any friendly sorts is no,” Puck asserts.

“How friendly is friendly?”

“Emoticons might be suspicious.”

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Kurt insists. “Honestly.”

Finn snorts. “Uh, Kurt. You’ve met you, right?”

“Yesss,” Kurt draws out. “It’s just a speech on the Internet, Finn.”

Puck looks at Finn, who shrugs. “Hasn’t met himself, I guess,” Finn says. “That’s ok, Kurt. We’ll keep an eye out for dangerous boys on the Internet.”

“Thanks. I think.” Kurt shakes his head. “At least the next few days shouldn’t be boring?”

 

Puck tightens his arms around Kurt and buries his face in Kurt’s neck. It’s still dark enough outside that Puck knows they don’t have to get up yet. Even after everyone finally left Pat’s, he and Kurt stayed up for longer than they’d planned, Kurt responding to a few of the comments and tweets from organizations and media outlets. The ones from individuals, they had decided, would wait.

Puck moves his head enough to lick at Kurt’s ear and then the spot behind it before running a finger down Kurt’s nose. “Wake up, blue eyes.”

“Already?” Kurt whines after a moment. “Wanna sleep.”

“You have to make a triumphant entrance,” Puck counters.

“Wanna stay home and fuck you,” Kurt murmurs, eyes still closed, and Puck laughs.

“Well, you can do that right now if you want, K.”

“But I’m tired, too.” Kurt opens his eyes and frowns. “Hard decisions.”

“It’s a hard life,” Puck agrees, smirking a little and pressing his lips to Kurt’s. “But there are ways.” He rolls them so he’s hovering over Kurt, grabbing the lube out of the bedside table and quickly putting some on his hand before running his hand over Kurt’s cock. “Like this,” he adds somewhat unnecessarily, slowly lowering himself onto Kurt.

“Ohh. Yes.” Kurt shifts slightly underneath Puck. “That’s true. Oh, that’s, that’s good.”

Puck keeps moving slowly, letting Kurt stretch him out, until he’s sitting down, Kurt fully inside him. “Yeah, it is,” he agrees, as Kurt wraps his hand around Puck’s cock. “Fuck, K. You wanna just stay like this all day?”

“That’s what I was telling you,” Kurt smirks, sliding his hand slowly along Puck’s erection. “You have to do most of the work though.”

“Such a hardship,” Puck snorts, lifting himself and focusing on the feel of Kurt sliding out of him. “Oh, fuck,” he murmurs, dropping back down onto Kurt’s cock. “Want you so deep, Kurt, just, fuck.”

“Yes.” Kurt moves his hips upwards, just barely, and tightens his hand around Puck. “You feel so good, baby, so good, so tight and hot and mine.”

“Fuck, yes,” Puck agrees, moving slowly up and down. “Yours, K, just yours.” He leans over awkwardly, pulling Kurt’s torso towards him. “And you’re mine, blue eyes.”

“Yes,” Kurt nods. “God, Puck. Faster, baby.”

Puck sets a quicker pace, Kurt’s hand moving faster on him, and they shift position slowly until Kurt’s more or less sitting up, Puck’s legs wrapped around him. Kurt hums a little and Puck squeezes around Kurt. Kurt’s hand speeds up in response and they come together, Puck covering Kurt’s mouth with his as they swallow each other’s cries.

They collapse back onto the mattress, tangled in each other, and Puck buries his face in Kurt’s neck again. The sun’s starting to peek in, and Puck knows that now, they do have to get out of bed. “At least it’s Friday,” he sighs.

“Sing for me,” Kurt giggles.

“K,” Puck groans, rolling onto his back.

“Come on,” Kurt wheedles. “I’m famous on the Internet! You should sing an Internet–famous song for me!”

“You’re so awful,” Puck complains, pulling Kurt down into a kiss. “Fine. ‘Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday’,” he sings.

“That’s it?”

“I know you have a recording of it,” Puck points out. “You can force us to listen to it in the Nav on the way to rehearsal.”

“Oooh, good idea!” Kurt grins and then rolls out of bed. “So, Santana and I—”

“Hold up,” Puck interrupts. “That sounds like a dangerous pairing.”

“I know,” Kurt says sweetly. “But we thought perhaps at least a small united front for today wouldn’t go amiss, so we ordered a few T-shirts from HRC.”

“Oh?” Puck props up on his elbows. “Okay.”

“I got one for you and me and Finn, and I think ’Tana got ones for her, Britt, and Quinn.” Kurt shrugs. “Other people could order them too, if they wanted, but for today, at least there’s six of us.”

“Cool.” Puck pulls on the shirt Kurt tosses him, then fastens his jeans and picks up the remaining shirt. “Want me to take it down the hall?”

“Please,” Kurt nods, still in the process of threading his belt, and Puck ambles down the hall, knocking on Finn’s door twice.

The door opens slowly to reveal a bleary–eyed Finn, wearing just a pair of jeans, his hair sticking up in the back. “Hey,” he says. “Is it time to go already?”

“Hey, good,” Puck says. “I’m delivering your shirt.”

“Oh. Ok. What shirt?”

“Kurt got them. Apparently it was a plot between he and Santana, so we might need to be worried about, I don’t know, end times or whatever?” Puck laughs and drops the shirt into Finn’s hands. “I’m guessing about ten minutes before we leave.”

Finn pulls the shirt on over his head without even looking at it. “Cool. I’ll make myself, like, presentable or whatever and see you downstairs in a few.”

“Yeah, okay,” Puck agrees, heading back to Kurt’s room and grabbing his backpack before thudding down the stairs and sticking a box of Hot Pockets in the microwave, though not all at once. Finn’s actually downstairs only a few minutes later, leaning over to look at the microwave.

“Hot Pockets. Excellent.”

“With bacon.”

“Kurt likes those ones best,” Finn says, nodding. “We just stopped getting the other kind, ’cause I was the only one who ate them, anyway.”

“Does anyone not like bacon?” Puck asks. “Seems like a wasted life. Oh, man, like that thing Hannah was talking about last night. Making the chocolate–covered bacon. I thought Mom was going to freak out.”

“Chocolate–covered bacon? Do they just call it ‘Puck crack’?”

“I call it a balanced diet.”

“My mind just went to a really weird place right now,” Finn announces. “I think I need coffee.”

“Your mind is already in a really weird place,” Kurt says from the doorway. “And don’t we all? I think I managed to respond to what, fifty of those tweets?” He shakes his head and crosses the room, pouring three cups of coffee.

“Me and Puck were talking last night about it, remember? You should really let us respond to some of those for you,” Finn says. “Just give us a script or something. We can handle all the inappropriate ones ourselves, though.”

“Generic thanks to most people, people who want to donate money should look at PFLAG or Trevor, and make a list of the people or organizations I should take a look at?” Kurt suggests, shrugging. He leans against the counter and accepts one of the already–cooked Hot Pockets with a nod. Puck can’t help thinking that there will be more inappropriate tweets and comments if anyone posts pictures today, because between the tight T-shirt and the jeans that are molded to Kurt’s ass, Puck’s pretty sure he can’t exactly blame anyone who sends one. He’ll blame them anyway, but maybe he shouldn’t.

“Yeah, we could do that!” Finn says. “Oh, and hey, thanks for the shirt! It’s pretty awesome, and we’re all matching.”

Kurt nods around a bite of Hot Pocket, and when the microwave dings, the three of them grab their food and coffee and head towards the Nav. “Do you think they’ll show up at school?” Puck asks.

“Who?” Kurt frowns.

“The reporters. The ones from last night, or different ones.”

“Oh. Maybe?” Kurt shrugs. “Not this early, anyway. I hope. And none of us are going to be talking until after school.”

“Hey, did anybody say they were gonna be one of those, uh, talking allies?” Finn asks.

“Schue,” Kurt answers. “Also Taylor, which I understand.”

“Taylor could answer most questions,” Puck nods. “Obviously nothing about past years, but.”

“Exactly.” When they pull into the lot, there are a couple of out of town news vans parked, though nothing visibly happening.

“Looks like we might be on tv!” Finn says. “My hair look ok? My butt look normal in these jeans?”

Kurt tilts his head to the side and exchanges a look with Puck. “Did we step into an alternate universe, by any chance?”

Puck snorts. “Maybe. Dude, you look like you always look. Except with an awesomer T-shirt. Anyway, they aren’t filming anything right now.”

“Well, they could be later, and the camera adds, like, ten pounds or something,” Finn says. “I should walk around with some uglier people today, just in case.”

“Just find some of your old football teammates,” Kurt suggests brightly, but the slight edge to his smile leaves no doubt who he’s talking about. “Some of them are quite unattractive, if that’s what you’re looking for.” He shrugs. “For now, however, we should rehearse, while we can still sing.”

“I think a day off from talking might be nice,” Finn says. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Rehearsal is almost boring now, but Puck doesn’t say anything about it, because it might jinx it or something, who knows, and then all of PFLAG plus some other people show up in the PFLAG room to get their Day of Silence stickers and cards. Puck pulls out a notebook and flips to a fresh page.

Skip history and answer tweets? he writes, then puts it in front of Finn.

Finn grins and gives Puck two thumbs up and an enthusiastic nod, then pantomimes something that looks like punching someone. Puck suppresses a laugh and instead of turning towards history, he and Finn walk towards the choir room. When they sit down and pull out their laptops, Puck opens up iChat and then points to it. Finn thumbs up again and also opens up iChat.

Start with the ‘thanks’ and then the weirdos? Puck sends.

Sounds like a plan

Start at top, I’ll start at the bottom, write down names of the complicated ones

Finn seems to be barely containing a snicker, but types Ok I’m on it

Puck rolls his eyes just a little and they start reading through the tweets, and more pop up as they work. About half of them are just some variation on ‘great speech’, which makes them easy to dispense with. He can tell when Finn gets one of the inappropriate ones, because Finn scowls and then quickly types something that clearly isn’t a response.

Retweet anything? pops up in Puck’s iChat after a few more minutes.

No, why?

No I mean should we, some of this stuff is cool

Oh dunno. Sure? K may want to lock it down after a week or two but for now

Cool. How long until we can start punching people?

That depends on what they say

I started a list so we can make sure they dont keep tweeting him

is it better to let them keep trying or should we just block them?

U might wanna block this guy that keeps talking about Kurt’s mouth

Puck frowns and looks over at Finn and nods. do it

DONE

good Puck sends before going back to scrolling through. He grimaces at the first inappropriate one he finds, firing back a quick response before noting the name and blocking them.

Trevor project sent a dm, leave it for Kurt?

Yeah. What’d they say?

Finn turns his laptop towards Puck so he can read it. It’s more or less an invitation to apply to join ‘YAC’ or something like it, with a link. Puck shrugs. cool I guess? no idea what it is really tho

When in doubt leave it for bossofus Finn types.

Puck fights not to laugh and shakes his head. I just have the applauders and a couple of admirers so far

They work for another five or so minutes before Finn’s face contorts and he makes what is probably the silent version of his strangled noise.

I… do not think what this guys tweeted is physically possible Finn writes, his face bright red.

then I probably don’t want to see it

Is there a way to get peoples addresses on twitter cause I am gonna find this guy and kill him twice dude

if he’s dumb enough to give his full name could probably find an address

Just a screen name but dammit I will hunt him down and fuck him up Finn types, banging the keys a little harder than necessary.

probably going to be more than one, dude Puck responds, shaking his head. oh, get a load of this

He tilts the screen towards Finn, pulling up the specific tweet, which reads Your former fellow Warblers are wishing you the best!

Holy shit is that FatWarbler? Finn types.

Puck nods, laughing silently. Yep. TreyWarbler, he should get commended for originality y?

He should get commended for my fist not commending his face dude

Tana shouldn’t have linked his twitter name with the video

Tana might get commended in her face if I see another one of those creeper perv tweets

I only have people wanting to take him on dates so far. Puck rolls his eyes.

Finn frowns. Why do I get the pervy ones

Took longer to go viral enough to get to them? Puck shrugs as he types. You get any of the haters yet?

One or two about Jesus but mostly its the pervs that bother me

this dude wants K to know that ‘homo sx is so gros’, whatever ‘gros’ means

I think its spanish for bird

pretty sure there’s nothing birdlike about it so i guess this guy is sadly misinformed. too bad K wouldn’t tell him to give it a try before dissing it

Finn doesn’t type anything back. Puck glances over after a few seconds, and Finn is bright red, not looking up from his laptop. Puck nods a little to himself and turns back to his own screen, scrolling through another group of tweets.

Should we look at the comments on the video? he sends after a few minutes. And maybe tell Tana to remove his twitter from the description

yes to both Finn finally types back.

 

Their actual physics teacher is back during second period, and she just accepts one of the cards about the Day of Silence and says it’s all fine. Puck thinks that neither he nor Kurt will particularly complain about physics for the rest of the year. There’s a few odd looks on the way to English, and their English teacher looks put out when she sees that both Puck and Rachel are participating in the Day of Silence. Rachel starts to write out a paragraph or two on the importance of the day, though, and the teacher waves them to their seats and asks them to please at least listen to the discussion.

Right. Puck is pretty sure that is not going to happen. He pulls out one of his notebooks and starts writing while Rachel still scribbles down notes. The notes crack him up; Juilliard’s probably not going to tell her not to come after all just because she gets a B– in senior English.

He pulls out his phone as the bell rings, ending English, and shoots a text to Kurt.

Since no rehearsal, show you the stuff you need to answer?

Makes sense. Any comments on not speaking?

Not really. Weird looks. Want to silently communicate instead of running before class this afternoon?

That was terrible and I nearly laughed out loud, but yes xx

Good me too xx

Puck sits down and pulls out his laptop and leaves his phone out, and as everyone enters the room, they at least have their text screens pulled up, and a few other laptops get brought out as well.

nice laptop! new? Sam texts after a few minutes.

yep. early graduation present sort of Puck responds.

cool. hey i talked to mom dad stevie about the magnet thing, seems like a good plan maybe so that’s cool. mom knows rebecca’s mom said she would talk to her if u like?

sweet! thanks dude

NP

Puck pulls up the video of Kurt that Santana uploaded next, then beckons Santana over and points to the twitter information in the description.

what? she types in an empty text document.

take it out Puck types back. no one needs to send him propositions, messages about how ‘gros’ gay sex is, or anything else

Santana rolls her eyes but sits down behind Puck and takes the laptop for long enough to edit the description. happy? she types in the document again.

ecstatic

Kurt opens up his own laptop, and Finn sits on Kurt’s other side, the three of them working on responding to comments and tweets, blocking obnoxious idiots and writing down contact information for other people. The flow of tweets at least slows down after Santana makes her edits, but enough people have the twitter account information than it doesn’t stop entirely.

When the bell rings, they all silently pack up and leave the classroom, making it officially the quietest glee rehearsal ever. Their afternoon professor doesn’t mind their silence at all, and in fact seems disappointed to not have heard about it ahead of the actual day. When class is over, they head back to McKinley and the football stadium.

Brown’s ridiculous amounts of crêpe paper are sitting in a box on one of the benches on the home side of the stadium, and Kurt looks at it disdainfully.

Can we please hide this until after everyone leaves? he texts quickly.

We could go decorate his car?

Kurt brightens a little and nods, smirking. Puck wants to laugh and pulls up a new screen, texting Finn.

skip the last few minutes and help us paper Brown’s car

pooooor Brown, first his face and now his car :(

does this mean you won’t participate? his car’s tiny, if you help we’ll be done as soon as you stretch your arms

Didn’t say I wouldn’t help, just poor Brown doesnt win at anything

So sad for him!

doesn’t win at cars, doesn’t win at fistfights, doesn’t win at boys, the paper might cheer him up!

Puck shows the screen to Kurt, who grins and hoists the box, walking towards the parking lot. Finn meets them by Brown’s car, and holds up a fist for first Puck and then Kurt to bump it, big grin on his face. Kurt sets down the box and hands a particularly vivid shade of yellow to Finn, then a lime green to Puck, picking up hot pink for himself.

Finn walks around the Versa, looking at it critically, then starts systematically wrapping the crêpe paper around the sideview mirrors, weaving it through the windshield wipers, and then wrapping it around to the back of the car, where he ties it in a large, if ugly, bow. Brown has helpfully left some blue painters’ tape in the box with the crêpe paper, so Puck starts taping strips of crêpe paper along the roof, letting them flutter down the side. Kurt spends some time weaving the paper around the wheels and then decorates the front grill.

Done? Kurt types out on his phone.

Puck nods and tosses his crêpe paper back in the box, positioning the box behind Brown’s car, and Kurt’s pink lands beside it.

Finn pulls out his phone and types Feel like we should leave a note.

Love, Snap, Crackle, and Pop? Puck types as a suggestion.

festive! Finn types back. He pulls a piece of notebook paper out of his bag and scribbles the note, taping it to Brown’s window. He looks at it for a moment and then leans back over and draws a big heart on it, then looks at it for another moment and adds a string of Xs and Os. He then turns back to Puck and Kurt and gives them a big double thumbs up.

Puck has to fight really hard not to laugh loudly, and Kurt looks like he’s having a similar issue. They walk back to the stadium and arrive at the same time as Lauren and a few of the A/V club members, who are setting up the sound system. Lauren walks over to Kurt with a notepad and scribbles something quickly, holding it up for them all to see.

Is there music or what? Lame party w/o music.

Puck rolls his eyes and pulls out his phone, pulling up the long–ass playlist they put together. It’s passcode protected he types in a note but it shouldn’t matter once you start it

Coolio, princess, Lauren writes back.

Puck rolls his eyes but hands her the phone, and Lauren carries it over and hooks up to one of the wires. It’s a really strange gathering, everyone silent as they walk over from the school. Some people are still texting furiously, obviously in conversation with the people next to them. The scoreboard has a countdown slowly proceeding and there’s a couple of microphones set up, for which Schue and Taylor are enlisted to do the soundcheck. Behind the microphones is the big–ass rainbow flag, which is where Kurt decided it should go. Puck still thinks planting in the middle of the field would have been awesome, and Finn was all for it, too, but Kurt objected for some reason or another.

When the clock gets to about thirty seconds, everyone gets still and the remaining texters put their phones away, watching the numbers get smaller. There’s a hoarse cry as the buzzer sounds and the volume of the music goes up considerably.

“Let’s make some noise!” someone yells. A few people start dancing, albeit most of it is very awkward.

The microphone gets picked up and someone else yells into it before it gets passed around, a few random statements shouted before Kurt walks up and wrestles it out of the hands of one of the babydykes.

“Last night, we spoke out. Today, we were silent for the same cause!” Kurt says after a moment, and it’s clear to Puck that Kurt’s trying to figure out what to say. “And tonight, we make some noise!”

There’s some cheering and Kurt switches the microphone off before hopping back down off the bench he’d been standing on.

“Media’s here again,” Puck mutters to Finn.

“How’s my hair look?”

Puck snorts and reaches over, messing up Finn’s hair as much as he can. “Fabulous.”

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s a real improvement, thanks,” Finn says. He digs his elbow into Puck’s side. “Asshole.”

Puck just laughs. “It is!”

Kurt makes his way over then and sighs. “Santana said she wanted to start a PFLAG cheering section, but I told her slogans needed to wait for the next school board meeting. The music’s enough.”

“Too bad we never got more of the PFLAG people out to our football games,” Finn says, sadly. “We could have had them shout at the other side.”

“Well, either way.” Kurt shakes his head. “Tina wants to talk about Born This Way, Round Two in a bit. Did you bring your shirts so she could show them as an example?”

“It’s in my backpack,” Finn says. “I put it in there as soon as we talked about it, just like you told me to do.”

“I tried to convince Tina during English that we should tell the others they each had to claim one of ours from last year. Alas, Tina pointed out that some of them were a little personalized.”

“I was willing to give my old one to Brown.”

“Yeah, but he’d need arrows in both directions,” Finn says.

“Good point,” Puck concedes. “You think people will get into it?”

“Well, I’m already thinking about my shirt, and I have some ideas,” Finn says, gloating a little bit.

“Oh, I know what mine will be,” Kurt smirks. “Much to a few people’s chagrin, I’m sure.” He cuts his eyes towards where the teachers are congregating.

Puck laughs. “Yeah, they’ll love it.”

“You know what it is?” Finn asks. “What is it? I wanna know!”

“Dude, if you thought about it, you’d already know,” Puck smirks.

“'The pretty one’?”

Kurt shakes his head.

“'Good at Motorsport’? ‘Fixes cars’?”

“The first one is hardly a secret at this point. I did consider ‘Grease Monkey’ but abandoned it.”

“'Secret disc golf champion’?” Finn makes his thinking face. “Am I close? Can you give me a hint?”

“We should go disc golfing soon,” Puck shrugs.

“Yes. And no, not really. Wrong direction of guesses, darling.”

“Uh. ‘Puck’s boyfriend’?”

“Mmm. Closer, but not quite.” Kurt laughs.

“What about next Saturday?”

“I can’t guess,” Finn whines. “Just tell me. I’ll tell you.”

“It’s a three–letter word?” Kurt offers.

Finn starts quietly rattling off a list of three letter words. “Boy, bad, sad, hat, hmm, cop, pop, oh!” Finn turns red. “Got it!”

Kurt laughs again. “Yes.”

“Mine is not that risky,” Finn says. “But it is also true.”

Before they can respond, Tina starts speaking into the microphone. “Hi! So yesterday while we were waiting for the school board meeting, some of us were listening to music—I know, it’s a huge surprise—and we were reminded of something really fun we did in glee club last year!” She shoots a grin at Mr. Schue. “Each of us made a shirt describing something about ourselves that we weren’t always as comfortable with. Some of them were more personal, some a little more light–hearted, but the point was to celebrate who we are.

“And we’d really like to do it again, except with all of PFLAG! Could those of you who have your shirts from last year come up here and hold them up?”

Everyone walks up to stand on a bench near Tina, except for Mike, who looks rather sheepish. They hold up their shirts as instructed and Puck can’t help but yell out, “Hey, Brown, you can have my old one!”

“Arrow’s pointing in the wrong direction, man,” Brown calls back. “Maybe mine’s smarter than yours!”

“You can have mine!” Brittany offers. “Ours matched!”

Brown looks at Brittany’s shirt and laughs. “You know, that one might be a little truer.”

“So next week, on Thursday afternoon, we’d like to invite you to join the glee club in the auditorium. Wear your shirt with some kind of jacket or overshirt over it!”

“Do you have to be able to sing or dance?” Rick asks.

“Well, last year my shirt said ‘can’t dance’ and Mike’s said ‘can’t sing’, so probably you’re good,” Finn answers.

The party goes on for quite awhile longer, and food arrives after a bit, which of course makes people stay even longer. People start trickling away as the sun gets lower in the sky, and at least half the crowd is gone by the time they start cleaning up.

Puck shoves his hands in his pockets, which has been his default position most of the party, since crossing his arms when he’s not in a chair sitting down looks a little too defensive. He walks over to the sound system and stops in front of the board. “Phone?”

“Yeah, you got that, right?” Lauren says, not looking up at him from whatever it is she’s working on.

“Uh, no,” Puck responds, shaking his head.

“Oh, then it probably got knocked off the thing,” Lauren says. “Check the ground.”

“Right,” Puck says, a little dubiously, and he spends a few minutes looking for it. “Um, Lauren?”

“Can’t find it still?” This time, Lauren actually comes over and start looking around on the ground near the equipment. “Maybe it got wedged between something.”

“Yeah, I fucking hope so,” Puck mutters. “No one broke my passcode, did they?”

“Nobody even touched it after the music went on.”

Someone touched it, or it’d be here.”

“Okay, Puckerman, chill,” Lauren says. “Maybe somebody picked it up by mistake. Let me go ask my guys if they’ve seen it.” She walks over to the remaining cluster of A/V kids and talks to them for a few minutes before returning. “Nobody’s seen it. Couple of our guys already left, though. I’ll call them.”

“Fuck,” Puck mutters, plopping down on the grass. “Fuck.”

“How bad is it?” Lauren asks, sitting down next to him. “'Fuck, I’ve got to replace my phone’ bad, or ‘Fuck, I’m going to prison if they find those secret launch codes’ bad?”

“No launch codes, but… yeah.”

Lauren winces. “Ouch. So, pretty screwed if someone gets into that phone, is what you’re telling me?”

Puck nods, closing his eyes and thumping his head back against whatever A/V equipment is sitting there. “It’s the pictures, really.”

“Uh. Am I supposed to ask you about the pictures or is this one of those conversations where I just nod sympathetically until you’re done talking,” Lauren says. “You know I pretty much suck at those, right?”

Puck snorts. “Yeah, I remember that. I didn’t go through some kind of Eternal Sunshine thing.”

“So if these pictures fall into the wrong hands, are we talking ben Israel’s blog bad? Or nightly news bad? Or just bad in the sense you don’t have those pictures any more bad?”

“Oh, I’m sure Jewfro would love them,” Puck admits, eyes still closed. “There’s, uh. Pictures. Of Beth.”

“Ah. Gotcha.” She sits there quietly for a little while. “You want me to set up a checkpoint and pat people down?”

“Only if you video it. And are extra–invasive with some people.” Puck lets his head fall forward. “Where’s K?”

“Kurt? I think I saw him with Finn by the bleachers. They looked like they were going to talk to the news people. I could send someone to grab ’em.”

“Yeah.” Puck sighs. “Probably need my backpack. They’ll know what that means.”

“Right. I’ll send Toby over there,” Lauren says, hauling herself to her feet and heading back to the remaining group of A/V kids. One of them goes running off in the direction of the news vans and comes back with Kurt.

“What’s up?” Kurt says softly, sitting down beside Puck.

“Phone’s gone.”

“Oh.” Kurt’s quiet for a moment. “Well, fuck.”

Puck snorts. “Yeah, pretty much.”

“Well,” Kurt says after another few minutes. “At least there’s your passcode.”

“Yeah. Still.” Puck shrugs.

After another couple of minutes, Finn comes jogging up with Puck’s backpack over his shoulder. “Here, brought the whole thing.” He flings himself onto the grass next to Puck, breathing hard. Puck can feel Kurt’s arm reach across him and then hears the zipper opening.

“You still have water or a pop or something, Finn?” Kurt asks.

“Yeah, hang on a sec.” Finn rifles through his own backpack and comes up with a bottle of Pepsi. “This ok?”

“No,” Puck says. “I reject your pop.” He swipes it from Finn’s hand and takes a drink before holding his hand out towards Kurt for a Xanax. “Fucking idiots, not looking at what they’re picking up.”

“What’d the idiots pick up?” Finn asks.

“My phone.”

“Oh, shit! Somebody took it?”

Puck just nods. “Passcode’s on,” Kurt answers, “but.”

“Yeah. I hear you,” Finn says. “Have you tried calling it?”

“Yeah, with what phone?” Puck snorts. “Asshole. Why don’t you call it?”

“I wasn’t talking to you, asshole. I was talking to Kurt,” Finn says, even as he’s pulling out his own phone to call. It must ring several times, because Finn’s looking irritated by the time he finally says, “Yeah, who the hell is this?” There’s a short pause before Finn says, “Ok, Roger. You want to explain why you have my friend’s phone? Uh huh. No, Roger, it’s not yours.” Finn puts his hand over the phone and looks at Puck, “Roger here says it was just a mix-up.”

“Roger thinks he provided the music?” Kurt says, raising an eyebrow.

Finn puts the phone back to his ear. “Well, that’s great and everything, Rog, but what I really need for you to do is carry your ass back over to McKinley and put that phone into my hand.” He makes a snort of frustration. “Yeah, now. No, not tomorrow. Rog, no, seriously. Bring the phone now.” Finn rolls his eyes. “Yeah, well, should have thought about that before you pocketed a phone that wasn’t yours. I’ll meet you in the parking lot in five minutes. Oh, you’ll know who I am. I’m the huge, pissed off one.”

Finn shoves his phone back into his pocket and stands up. “I’ll be back with your phone in about four minutes. I have a feeling that Roger’s gonna speed to get here.”

“Thought you were the one that got stuff off the high shelves,” Puck says, amused. “Have to get you a new T-shirt.”

“Yeah, and it’ll say that I’m the huge, pissed off one that gets the stuff off the high shelves,” Finn says. “And does all your heavy lifting. Back in a few.” He sprints off in the direction of the parking lot. Puck just watches until he disappears, and then turns towards Kurt as he turns from watching Finn as well.

“This place is ridiculously dramatic.” Puck shakes his head.

Kurt snorts. “It is. So Roger took two phones home and just… didn’t realize it?”

“Guess so.”

“Home after this?”

“Fuck, yes.”

In what seems like no time at all, Finn sprints back and places Puck’s phone into his hand. “I called it to make sure it was really yours,” Finn says. “I also think Roger might have peed a little.”

“Poor Roger?” Puck offers, opening his phone to make sure it’s actually his, no matter what Finn says.

“Did you take a picture? Blackmail’s so motivating,” Kurt remarks.

“Oh, he’ll be at the next PFLAG meeting,” Finn says. “I told him I was gonna keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t get all light-fingered with anybody else’s stuff.”

“Finn Hudson: Enforcer?”

“You know it, dude,” Finn says, nodding. “Can we go home now?”

“Definitely,” Kurt answers.

“Let’s blow this joint.”

 

“Where are you going?” Puck mumbles sleepily as Kurt starts to slide out of bed. “Come back.”

“It’s late,” Kurt says, but he sounds regretful. “I promised the girls we’d go shopping today, remember? For prom dresses. We’re meeting April in a few hours in Dayton.”

“April and ’Tana in the same space.” Puck frowns. “I definitely wanna go back to sleep.”

“You should,” Kurt agrees, slipping out of bed and then leaning over to kiss Puck. “Wish me luck.”

“Luck,” Puck repeats. “You’ll be back by dinner?”

“I will.”

“Kay. Be good,” Puck murmurs, burying his face against Kurt’s pillow.

“I’m always good, baby.”

The next thing Puck is aware of is an even brighter room and the bed shaking as Finn flops onto it next to him.

“Dude, are you awake yet?”

“Am now,” Puck grunts.

“It’s like eleven,” Finn says. “You should get up and come play Call of Duty with me. I’m so booooored.”

“Eleven? Fuck.” Puck rolls onto his back and rubs at his eyes. “I haven’t slept this late in years, dude.”

“Well, now you have, and now you can wake up and entertain me. We could go get some lunch.”

“Lunch is good,” Puck agrees, then frowns. “Is it still lunch if I didn’t eat breakfast?”

“We could go to, I dunno, IHOP or something. You could have pancakes for lunch and split the difference, I guess,” Finn says.

“Bacon.” Puck nods. “All right.”

“I’m just gonna, uh. Let you put on clothes or something, dude,” Finn says. “Meet me downstairs and we’ll bacon it up.”

“Clothes keep us from getting arrested.” Puck shrugs.

“They also keep you from seriously upsetting my mom and Burt.”

“Yeah, probably.”

Finn leaves, presumably to go downstairs, and Puck rolls out of bed and finds a clean pair of jeans and a T-shirt, stuffing his wallet in his pocket as he heads down the stairs. “Is it still warm today like yesterday?” he asks as he walks towards the mass of shoes near the garage door.

“Yeah, pretty warm,” Finn answers.

“Cool.” Puck rummages through the pile and pulls out a pair of Kurt’s sandals. “I have no fucking clue where any of my shoes are,” he admits. “Just my Cons.”

“Yeah, mine are kind of hard to lose,” Finn says.

“I think they’re in a box. Somewhere. Maybe a pair in the back of the Nav?” Puck shrugs. “At this point, if I have clothes, I’m doing pretty good.”

“I’m pretty sure the people at the IHOP will agree with you.”

Puck snorts and rolls his eyes before following Finn out to Finn’s truck. “Yeah, well. As long as they bring me bacon and warm maple syrup, they can think what they want.”

At IHOP, they have the slight misfortune of seeing the Brown family plus Rickenbacker, complete with the most obnoxious Brown, and after they finish eating, they go back to the Hudmel house for Finn’s previously mentioned Call of Duty.

“I think we’re officially infected with extreme senioritis,” Puck pronounces. “Will they still pass us if we stop showing up entirely?”

“We could try it and see,” Finn says.

“Hmm. I was hoping more for someone else to tell us ahead of time.”

“Can’t help you there, bro,” Finn says. “I’m more the trial and error kind of guy, I guess.”

“Yeah, it’s the ‘error’ part that might come back to haunt us.” Puck snorts and grabs one of the controllers.

“If you never try, you’ll never know,” Finn says.

Puck suppresses a laugh. “Yeah, that too.” He shrugs. “We should all place bets.”

“On how many days we can go before they, I dunno, call our parents or send whoever they send after us?”

“Nah, more like how Schue will try to fuck things up at the last minute,” Puck snorts. “Besides, they’d probably only send Ms. P after us.”

“No way, we aren’t betting on Schue messing things up,” Finn insists. “You’ll jinx us or something. Everything is going to go fine and I’m gonna knock on some wood now.” Finn leans over and dramatically knocks on the side table.

“You want me to get you some salt to toss over your shoulder or whatever, too?” Puck asks. “And I said try. I don’t think he could manage at this point.”

“Does he actually have to come to New York with us? Like, if he were to get stuck in a bathroom stall at the airport and miss the plane?”

“Hmm. We could hire an out of work actor to pose as our sponsor? In case they want to talk to an adult?”

“I was just gonna wear a fake mustache, dude. It’s cheaper,” Finn says.

“I’m trying to be community–minded!”

“Your community, not mine,” Finn shrugs. “I just want to wear the mustache.”

“You could do that anyway. Tour the city incognito.”

“Might be good practice for when I’m a secret agent or an art thief,” Finn says. “Which, I’m seriously considering those as potential post-college careers.”

“Do either of them involve imitating furniture? If so, you’ve got a head start.”

“Being able to imitate furniture could be really useful for a spy.”

“There you go.” Puck shrugs, and then his phone beeps. “That’s weird.”

“You got an appointment or something?” Finn asks.

“No,” Puck replies, puzzled, pulling his phone out. He blinks when he sees the reminder on the screen.

Shopping for second birthday present.

“Oh.” He grins and laughs. “Remember how you keep saying June?”

“Yeah? Why, did you put it in your phone so one day you’d remember the one time I was right and you were wrong?”

Puck laughs again. “No. Just, if you go with your theory, you’re still totally wrong. It’d be April.”

“June, April,” Finn shrugs. “I just know it wasn’t August.” He gets the thinking look on his face. “What’s in April?”

“Next Saturday.” Puck shrugs. “Beth’s birthday.”

Finn doesn’t answer for a while. “Wow. Already, huh?”

“Yeah. So I had no clue what to buy, and…” He trails off and shrugs.

“What did Hannah like? When she was that age?”

“Yeah, well, that was part of the problem,” Puck admits. “I can’t give her anything until summer at least, so I had to buy something for a one year old that she wouldn’t get until she was two.”

“That’s… yeah, probably hard to find,” Finn says. “Oh, so. April. You and Kurt.”

“Yeah. And he took my phone and put this in it,” Puck tosses his phone at Finn, “and told me I could tell him to take a hike but otherwise he’d help me again.”

“Hmm. Yeah, you might be right about April, dude.”

“Told you you were wrong about June.”

“Told you you were wrong about August,” Finn says. “I still figured it out before you guys.”

“You’re going to hold that over us for years, aren’t you?”

“Yup. It’s pretty much all I’ve got, dude.”

 

“Why are we stopping here again?” Rachel asks.

“To pick up April,” Kurt explains. “Then we’ll shop.”

“So this is the ‘center’ I’ve heard about.” Santana looks out the window critically. “Huh.”

“I thought it would be more in the middle,” Brittany says.

“Well, we take what we can afford,” Kurt says sardonically. “There she is. Rachel, scoot over?”

“Of course!” Rachel moves into the center middle seat that Kurt tries not make people sit in most of the time, and April climbs in.

“You look strangely alone, Kurt,” April smirks.

“What does she mean?” Mercedes asks. “This car is stuffed!”

Kurt rolls his eyes. “April thinks she’s clever.”

“I know I’m clever! Are we going to the big vintage store?”

“Yes, we are,” Kurt sighs. “I told you that three times.”

“I was distracted.”

“What was her name this time?”

“Hmph.” April looks around the Nav. “I think I remember all of you.”

“You do? You should tell us what we were doing!” Brittany says.

“Singing!” April says brightly.

“Seeing you twice in a week might be my limit,” Kurt says.

“You know you love me, Kurt.”

“Hey.” Santana smirks. “Awesome. We’re tied at the moment.”

“Tied?” Rachel asks. “What do you mean?”

“This car is full of soup!” Brittany announces.

Tina laughs. “I guess that’s true!”

Kurt parks at the store and sighs. “All right, girls. Don’t make me wish I had stayed in bed.”

“We’ll give you final say over all the dresses,” Quinn says. “Would that help?”

“And coffee. Coffee after we’re done.”

“Not dinner?” Mercedes asks.

“I have other dinner plans.” Kurt shrugs. “I have to be back in Lima by about 5:30, in fact, so.”

“Hot date?” April smirks.

“Mmmhmm,” Kurt returns the smirk.

“In Lima?” Mercedes says, shaking her head. “You have told her she’s delusional, right?”

“I have told April many things,” Kurt nods, avoiding answering the question directly.

“Am I delusional, too?” Brittany asks.

“No. But I think you’re probably going to win,” Kurt acknowledges.

“I’m a winner like that,” Brittany agrees.

It takes less time than Kurt had feared, but more time than he had hoped, to find an appropriate dress for each of the girls. They even manage to find shoes for a few of them, but the store doesn’t have a huge selection.

“What about your outfit?” Rachel asks as they’re leaving the store. “If all the guys are dressing alike…”

“I still won’t be wearing anything rental,” Kurt assures her. “Trust me on that.”

“I didn’t think you would!” Mercedes asserts.

“But you’ll still all have to wait and see.”

 

Puck and Finn don’t stop playing until Kurt gets back, flopping onto the sofa on the other side of Puck with a sigh. “Seven girls. Seven.”

“Were you successful?”

“Somewhat surprisingly, yes,” Kurt admits, leaning his head onto Puck’s shoulder. “Are we still expected for dinner?”

“Are you kidding?” Puck snorts. “This is huge for Mom. I don’t get it, but whatever. She was already pissy about moving it from Thursday.”

“What did you move?” Finn asks.

“Remembrance Day,” Puck shakes his head. “Mom hates to miss her yearly showing of Schindler’s List.”

“Uh, yeah, you guys have fun with that. Once was plenty for me.”

“I think her goal was for me to have it memorized or something. Oh well.”

Rina already has the Chinese food when Puck and Kurt arrive, and Kurt gives Puck an odd look as the four of them sit down in front of the television. “Hannah watches it?” Kurt whispers.

Puck shrugs. “Yeah. I mean. Mom.”

“Hmm.” Kurt purses his lips. “Well, it’s been a long time since I watched it.”

By the end of the movie, Kurt’s face is almost hard, and he tugs Puck towards his bedroom, closing the door. “Puck!” he hisses. “Your mother makes Hannah watch that? Every year?”

“Yeah,” Puck winces a little as he nods. “I kinda forget between years just how…”

“Violent? Disturbing? Rated R?” Kurt shakes his head. “She’s eight, Puck. And it’s rated R.”

“I watched R-rated stuff at her age,” Puck points out, then winces again. “Okay, so probably wasn’t always the best plan. And that was stuff like The Matrix and Gladiator. Oh, and Erin Brockovich.”

Kurt nods slowly. “A little less immediate. A little less close to home.”

Puck leans his head against the wall. “Fuck. It’s not— I mean, Mom’s—”

“I know.”

“I hate to ask—”

“I know.”

Chapter Text

Casey is swapping out books at his locker between second and third period on Monday morning when Miles leans on the lockers next to him, looking awfully pleased with himself for somebody with a black eye.

“Morning, Cherry. You have a good weekend?”

Casey can’t help but look at Miles incredulously, because what kind of question is that? “Well, Sunday was fine.”

“Yeah, my Sunday was pretty fine, too,” Miles says, in that no-big-deal way he has, the kind of casual way of saying things that Casey could probably never manage. “I called you, you know.”

“Yes, I saw,” Casey says. “Church and things on Sunday, though.”

“Mmhmm. I went out to the center. Was gonna see if you wanted to come with, but,” Miles shrugs, “‘church and things’ I guess.”

“I don’t really think David wants to go anywhere with you right now, Miles,” Casey points out.

“Did I say you and Shep? I meant you-you, not you-and-Shep-you.”

“Miles.” Casey sighs. “That’s really not very nice.”

“Cherry, on the long list of things I am or wanna be, I’m pretty sure I don’t even try for nice,” Miles laughs.

“You should think about trying,” Casey says. “You’ve always been nice to me. You could try it with other people, too, you know.”

“Nice, huh? That why you like me, Cherry? ’Cause I’m so nice?”

Casey shuts his locker a little harder than necessary. “Not right now, I don’t,” he says, firmly. “You should apologize to David for what you said to him.” He pauses for a moment and then adds, “Also, your face looks terrible. You should stop getting punched. Nice might help.”

Cherry—”

“No. I don’t want to talk about it any more. You should apologize to David.” Casey turns his back on a rather startled Miles and storms off down the hallway, because really, if Miles can’t even figure out that apologizing is a good start, there’s just nothing for Casey to say to him about any of this.

 

“How long for the… pasta?” Dave asks, looking dubiously at the bunny shapes. Bunnies.

“Four and a half more minutes,” Casey says. “I’m still not sure about this ‘yummy cheese’. That’s not even a real type of cheese.”

“It’s reduced sodium, too. I didn’t realize there was salt in cheese.”

“I thought cheese was just milk and whatever that stuff is that goes in the milk to make it turn into cheese,” Casey says, giving the pot of boiling bunny pasta a pitiful glare. “This macaroni and cheese is suspect.”

“We should have had a column for ‘strange marketing’ on the chart.”

“We should have had a column for ‘gave up before even trying it’ on the chart!”

Dave laughs. “I think that’s when we just cross through that row, Case.”

“We could go ahead and do that for these bunnies,” Casey suggests. “Just, zoop, right through it!”

“They’re almost done,” Dave points out. “I mean, how bad can it be? Right?”

Bad, David. It can be sooo bad!” Casey’s phone rings and he pulls it out of his pocket, narrowing his eyes at whatever he sees on the caller ID.

“Case?” Dave says tentatively.

Casey sighs and then makes a small noise of frustration. “It’s just Miles,” he says. “I’m going to tell him to go away now.”

Dave snorts and tries not to grin, instead double-checking the measuring cups.

Casey answers the phone with an annoyed, “What, Miles?” Whatever Miles says doesn’t seem to make Casey any less annoyed, because he says, “No, Miles, I already told you what I think you should do.”

Casey sighs again. “No, I don’t want to talk about that.”

An angry huff. “No, Miles. I’m not.”

An actual honest-to-god angry foot stomp. “Miles Brown, I already told you I’m not talking about this any more. If you don’t want me to be mad, then you’d better think about apologizing.”

Another huff. “Well, nobody’s impressed. I’m hanging up now, Miles.”

Casey ends the call and shoves his phone back in his pocket, still glaring. “Miles Brown is having a hard time acting like a person.”

Dave just puts his hands up. “You’re not going to get any argument from me.”

I might punch him in the nose next time,” Casey says. “I am very not happy with him at the moment.”

 

“I never pictured Reverend Hunter as someone who’d speak out like this, but it’s nice that he’s willing,” David says with a slight shrug.

“It is nice,” Casey says. “And see? I’ll be in good company, so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s all going to be just fine.”

“Who said anything about being worried?” David protests, like he’s really fooling anybody. Casey knows David’s worried face and he keeps making it any time the school board meeting—and especially Casey talking at the meeting—comes up.

“Nobody. Nobody said anything,” Casey says. “I’m just a mind-reader, is all. I’m developing my psychic powers.”

“Watching too many of those B-movies, you mean.”

“Nope! I’ve been reading your comic books when you weren’t paying attention,” Casey says. “I sneaked some of them and now I have ideas.”

David pretends to groan and makes a ridiculous face, when they get close enough to David’s truck to see Miles leaning against the front like it’s perfectly fine to go around leaning on people’s trucks. David makes a low noise in his throat, like he’s not even aware that he’s making it, and his eyes are fixed on the points of contact between Miles and the truck.

Casey takes David’s hand. “No punching.”

“Kicking?” David suggests, sounding hopeful. “Letting all the air out of his tires?”

“Can we see what he wants first?” Casey says. “Then if we don’t like it, I’ll kick him and you can do the tires thing. But no punching still.”

“You drive a hard bargain,” David finally concedes.

“Yes, because I’m awesome like that,” Casey says. “I’ve been practicing my bargaining.”

Miles doesn’t even have the sense to stop leaning on the truck when Casey and David get closer. “Hey, Cherry, Shep.”

David just keeps glaring at the places where Miles is touching the truck. Casey squeezes David’s hand, and says, “Miles, you shouldn’t lean on David’s truck.”

“Didn’t realize I was doing any damage,” Miles shrugs, but he does at least stand up and stop leaning on the truck.

“It’s bad manners,” Casey says. “What do you want, Miles? I already told you—”

“I know, you did tell me,” Miles says, putting up his hands like he’s surrendering or at least making a show of looking like he’s surrendering. “That’s why I waited out here. So I could do like you told me.”

Casey glares at Miles, waiting for him to actually apologize, while David continues to look unimpressed. At least there’s no punching. “Miles, you know you have to actually say it out loud for it to count.”

Miles sighs and starts to roll his eyes, then possibly thinks better of it. “I know that, Cherry. You gotta give a man a chance to work up to it. There’s not a magic button,” he says, and he winks at Casey, because Miles Brown is apparently an idiot.

Miles!” Casey says. “I am going to kick you again. Knock it off and do it right, or just go away.”

“Alright, alright!” Miles says, putting his hands up again. “You’re right! I’m bad at this, okay? Shep, I’m sorry I was a dick to you on Saturday.” He looks at Casey, possibly for approval. Casey frowns back at Miles and shakes his head a little.

David just snorts and looks skeptical, not responding to Miles’ statement. Casey sighs and says, “Good first try. When you can behave better, we’ll try this again.” He cuts his eyes over to David before looking back at Miles and making a shooing motion just like he’s seen Alicia make at Miles. “Go on. Practice at home or something.”

Miles looks a little crestfallen, like maybe he thought his apology was good enough, but that’s not really Casey’s problem. Miles has an unrealistic perception of the world sometimes.

“Alright, Cherry,” he sighs. “I’ll do that. You take care, okay? Shep, I guess I’ll see you around.” With that Miles sort of moseys away from the truck, with Casey scowling after him and David looking slightly amused, if still annoyed.

“Well, that was the worst apology I’ve ever heard,” Casey says, finally. “I should have kicked him.”

David laughs for a second. “I’d pay good money to see that, actually,” he admits. “What about the tires?”

“We might still have time for you to do that now.”

 

“What exactly is this again?” Dave asks, trying to figure out the sound that’s streaming through the earbud.

“Something Swedish,” Casey says. “I don’t remember what they’re called.”

“Huh.” Dave shrugs. “I don’t know what to think about it.”

“I think it’s very, um. Peppy. It’s peppy and upbeat.”

“Yeah, it’s upbeat, definitely.” Dave nods. It’s not really his usual music, but then, his usual music isn’t exactly full of variety.

“I can’t actually tell if I like it or not,” Casey says, shifting a little on the bed so he’s leaning against Dave’s arm. “I think it goes pretty well with this book, though.” He props his book back up on his stomach and turns the page.

“I’m leaning towards ‘not’,” Dave admits. “Though I guess it works okay with the books.”

“We’ll try something not Swedish next time. Ooh, maybe Finlandish!”

“Maybe something not Scandinavian at all?”

“Korean. Maybe Chilean,” Casey suggests. “Hungarian?”

“Let’s go for South America,” Dave agrees. “Can’t hurt.”

“I’m so bad at Spanish,” Casey says. “So very bad.”

“It’s not difficult to be bad at it, given the teaching at McKinley.” Dave smiles wryly. “I’m not sorry to be done with a second language, though.”

“I want to learn something really unusual. Maybe Arabic or, hmm. What’s the Chinese that not as many people speak? That one,” Casey says. “Or maybe I’ll stick with English, since I can mostly manage that one, most of the time.”

Dave laughs. “Yeah, I’m happy to stick with English, definitely!”

“So, um.” Casey lays the book down.

“So,” Dave nods.

“Tomorrow night, huh?”

“Yeah. It’s going to be something different,” Dave agrees.

“Do you think it’s okay? If I’m nervous, I mean?” Casey looks up at Dave from the corner of his eyes.

“I’d probably be a little concerned if you weren’t nervous.”

“It’s just… don’t be mad, okay?”

“Don’t be mad?” Dave frowns, confused. “What do you mean?”

“I just. Um.” Casey sighs and twists at his hair a little. “I don’t want you to hear my speech.”

“Hmm.” Dave wasn’t exactly expecting that, but he’s not really surprised, either.

“It’s not because of you,” Casey says, his words rushed. “I mean, it is because of you, but not, you know. I don’t want you to hear all of that. The stuff. In my speech. All of that stuff.” He takes a deep breath. “The Monday stuff.”

Dave nods, not sure what to say. He’s not going to promise to leave the room or otherwise not listen, because then he’d just end up breaking that promise. Finally, he nods again. “I think I understand.”

“Okay. Okay, that’s good. I’m probably gonna do a terrible job, anyway.”

“I think the only way you do a terrible job is if they can’t hear you at all,” Dave points out.

“Remember the karaoke?” Casey asks. “I’m bad at microphones!”

“At all,” Dave emphasizes. “It’s not a big room and I bet the board at least will be able to hear you without the microphone.”

“What if I freeze and can’t talk? Doesn’t that happen sometimes? It happens on tv.”

“Then I bet Tina will let someone else take your number, and you can take theirs later on.” Dave shrugs. “I’m sure Tina’s thought of a bunch of scenarios.”

Casey nods, then tips his head sideways to rest it against Dave’s chest. “I don’t want to mess it all up.”

“You won’t.”

“And I don’t want you to listen to my speech.”

Dave nods again. “I understand.”

“Also, when did the music stop?” Casey asks.

Dave laughs. “I have no clue.”

Casey looks over at the clock and startles. “Oh! When did it get late?”

“Again…” Dave shrugs. “No clue,” he finishes with a grin.

“We’re bad at time, I think,” Casey says, with a soft sigh. “I guess I’ll go to bed.”

“All right,” Dave removes the now somewhat-pointless earbud. “Couldn’t hurt. Long day tomorrow.”

“I’m going to pretend tomorrow is Friday and that actual tomorrow is already over.”

“It has potential.”

“Good night, David,” Casey says, hopping off the bed and heading towards the door. “See you in the morning.”

“’Night, Case,” Dave responds. He hopes Casey won’t bring up him not listening at the meeting again, because three repetitions of ‘I understand’ might clue Casey in that Dave has no intention of actually missing it. He didn’t seem to be alerted by the first two, at least, and they won’t talk about it again, Dave figures, until just before the meeting, if they do at all.

Dave brushes his teeth and changes into pajamas before turning out the light and lying back on his pillow. Since Saturday night, Dave hasn’t had to go across the hall to Casey’s room, but that’s not because Casey’s magically sleeping better; Casey’s been coming into Dave’s room, which, admittedly, is much more comfortable in terms of Dave and sleep.

Dave’s not sure how much time has passed, just that he’s drifting pleasantly in that not-awake but not-asleep place, when he hears the quiet creak of one of his floorboards, and then the mattress dips slightly as Casey climbs underneath the blankets.

“Hey, Case,” Dave mumbles.

“Hi,” Casey whispers. After a moment, Dave feels Casey take his hand, lacing their fingers together. They lie there silently for a moment, and Dave breathes slowly. He’s not sure what these nighttime visits are – or maybe he is, and it’s easier not to think about it. Either way, he’s not going to think about it too deeply, just go with the flow and the not–thinking about it and the not–talking about it, because it’s worked for the past four days.

Casey moves a little closer, his toes just touching Dave’s leg. Dave doesn’t move himself, just letting his eyes close again as Casey’s other hand comes to rest on Dave’s wrist, fingertips moving in slow circles. If the touch were just a little lighter, it would tickle. Casey runs his fingers up the underside of Dave’s forearm to the crook of his elbow, and this time it does tickle, just enough that Dave has to bite at the side of his cheek so he doesn’t respond to that. Casey rests his hand on Dave’s upper arm, and there’s some pressure from his fingertips across the muscle. Dave exhales a little louder than he means to as his body relaxes a little more. Casey moves just a little closer to Dave, his face against Dave’s shoulder, and lets out a little sigh of his own.

“Night,” Dave whispers, feeling himself about to fall asleep.

“HmmDavid,” Casey mumbles against Dave’s shoulder.

 

While the glee club does their rehearsals on the lawn in front of the Lima School District building, Casey and David decide the whole experience would be greatly improved with a little American Idol–type commentary. Of course, neither one of them has actually seen American Idol, so they mostly have to make it up as they go.

“I think the dancing on this is sort of weird,” Casey says. “No, wait, it’s, um. Dynamic! It’s weirdly dynamic, don’t you think?”

“It has, uh. A modern flair?” David suggests.

Fusion. It has some kind of fusion,” Casey says. “Or is that food. Is it food that’s fusion?”

“I think everything has fusion. It’s a buzzword.”

“Maybe it has fission, instead. That could be the new fusion,” Casey says. “Oh, I think it’s over now. How many are they doing?”

“I have no idea,” David admits. “I guess at least two,” he adds as the music continues and changes slightly. Finn and Rachel step forward and start singing some song that Casey’s never heard before, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything, except that Casey knows the glee club writes its own songs sometimes.

It’s definitely a love song, Casey realizes quickly, and he wonders if it’s weird for Finn and Rachel to have to sing that song together now that they’re broken up. They don’t look too bothered by it. The song is a little, well, close to home, honestly.

“I think I’m going to go check on Rick and Alicia,” Casey announces, when they’ve finished the first set of verses.

“Yeah, okay, good idea,” David nods. “Tell ’em I said hey.”

“I’ll bring you back something. Like an end of the line souvenir or something!”

David chuckles and nods. “Sure!”

Casey casts a glance back in David’s direction as he walks down the line of creepy church people to where Rick and Alicia are sitting on the sidewalk. Casey sits down with them.

“Hello, Rick and Alicia!”

“Hi Casey,” Alicia says with a smile. “How’s the front of the line?”

“Musically inclined,” Casey says, nodding. “We were American Idol-ing them, but we haven’t ever seen that show, so probably we weren’t doing it right.”

“Oh, it’s fun!” Alicia exclaims. “Were you snarky or sweet?”

“We made up terms and used them like we knew what they meant,” Casey says.

Alicia laughs. “So basically, like Randy Jackson,” she says, and Casey just shrugs, because she’d probably know more about that than somebody who’s never seen the show.

“Yeah, I don’t really get that show,” Rick says. “It’s like you’re signing up for people to make fun of you on national television. I just don’t think I could do that, even if I were any kind of singer.”

“Well, it could be fun, getting to go to Hollywood,” Alicia points out.

“I think I’m just fine right here. Hollywood isn’t for people like me,” Rick says. “Too many teeth and fake tans.”

“That sounds… kind of weird. And horrible,” Casey says. “So, um. So, Rick. I have a really big favor to ask. It’s kind of very super important.”

Rick looks dubious, but then, with that kind of set up, who wouldn’t? “Yeah? What kind of favor?”

“Don’t let David watch my speech.”

Alicia snorts and then looks at Casey, clearly amused. “Casey, did I just hear you ask Daniel to keep Dave Karofsky from doing anything?”

“Well, we already talked about it, and I told him I really didn’t want him to watch my speech, and he said he understands, so I think probably if Rick just reminded him?”

“I don’t know about that, Casey,” Rick says. “I saw what he did to Brown. Other Brown. The bad one.”

“Miles isn’t bad,” Casey says. “He’s just, um. He is very… Miles. He is very Miles, and someday he’s going to figure out how to apologize properly and then he can be my friend again. But not today.”

“Some days he is bad,” Alicia says, agreeing with Rick. “Some days.”

“Saturdays,” Casey says. “Definitely on Saturdays.” He looks back at Rick. “But you’ll try, at least? To keep David from going in until after the break? If you just, you know, ask him really nicely, probably it’ll go just fine.”

“Yeah, I bet it’ll go just great,” Rick says. “Juuust great.”

 

Dave and Casey are standing in the hall, close to the open door, which is something of a relief in Dave’s mind; the building clearly didn’t anticipate so many bodies in it. Casey’s acting something like a fox, if foxes were anthropomorphic and everything. “I’m gonna get a drink of water,” Dave says, gesturing at the water fountains nearby.

“Oh! Okay, that’s, um. I’ll be right back, okay?” Casey says, then darts into the main room.

“Okay,” Dave repeats, though Casey’s long gone by the time he finishes speaking. He takes a drink of water, and when he straightens, Rick and Alicia are standing by the water fountain. Rick looks nervous about something and Alicia just looks amused.

“So, uh,” Rick begins. “So. Uh. So Casey says…”

Dave sighs and shakes his head. “I know what Casey says.”

“He really thinks you should, uh. Stay out here,” Rick says. “Don’t punch me, alright? I’m just the messenger.”

“Not punching you,” Dave says mildly. “But I’m not listening to you either.”

“Casey seemed pretty serious about it, is all,” Rick explains. “He said he really didn’t want you to hear his speech, and, I dunno. You sure you want to hear his speech? I’m not sure I even want to hear his speech.”

“I’m sure. I know he did, but I’m sure.”

“He might get real upset if I let you in there,” Rick says, though he flinches a little as he says it. “You sure you can’t just stay out here? Watch him on the tv?”

“Well, you can have Alicia tell him you tried to hold me back or whatever.”

“But what if you go in and he, I dunno, cries or something. Stuff makes him cry sometimes, I’ve seen it. That would be, uh, bad. If that happened.” Rick scratches the back of his head and turns to Alicia. “Shoot. I am real bad at this, Alicia.”

“You are a bit, Daniel,” Alicia agrees. “But I’m not sure why Casey thought anybody’d be able to pull this one off.”

“Well, I’ll take that risk, I guess,” Dave says firmly.

“Everything all right?” Coach Beiste asks suddenly from a little ways down the hall.

“Coach!” Rick says. “Karofsky listens to you. Maybe you can keep him out here and then Casey won’t be all upset at me about it!”

“What now?” Beiste looks confused. “I’m missing something.”

“Casey doesn’t want me to hear his speech,” Dave explains. “He sent Rick here to enforce that, for some reason. I was explaining to Rick why staying here in the hall wasn’t going to happen.”

“I tried. I really did. I’m just a kicker, man,” Rick says, looking a little panicked. “It’s not my job to stop the big guys.”

“Well, I guess I can see a little bit of everyone’s perspective here,” Beiste says slowly. “Rickenbacker, Miss Brown, why don’t you head on back to your seats.”

Rick mouths ‘thank you’ as Alicia steers him down the hallway to the first overflow room.

Dave looks at Beiste questioningly. “Well,” Coach says, “You could stand in the very back of the room. Since you have a seat, they’re not going to stop you standing up. If someone official asks, tell them your football coach suggested it to avoid muscle cramps.”

Dave laughs a little. “Yeah, okay. Good idea. Thanks, Coach.”

“No problem, kid.” Beiste claps him on the shoulder. “Real proud of all you kids,” she adds as she heads back towards the overflow rooms.

“Thanks,” Dave manages, startled, and he does just as she suggested, slipping into the meeting room and standing along the back wall.

Thankfully, Casey doesn’t look around during the first part of the meeting, nor during Ms. Pillsbury’s remarks, and then it’s Casey’s turn to speak anyway.

Dave understands almost immediately why Casey thought it’d be better if Dave didn’t hear the speech, but as he listens, Dave is glad he’s hearing it. Having it all listed and laid out, almost logically, is chilling and awful, but it’s going to be that way anytime he thinks about that day. Casey’s exact recounting of the events leading up to it, though, reminds him that Casey’s situation is different now.

Casey’s obviously nervous, and he’s not the best public speaker–he really does have a little trouble with the microphone. His ending is abrupt, almost lacking a conclusion, but Dave knows that Casey’s story made an impact, and maybe one on Casey himself, too. They don’t talk about it, but maybe Casey needed to, at least this time.

 

By the time Santana has everyone on their feet and is starting the second round of their chant, Casey reaches for David’s hand and does his best to pull David up to stand with him.

“Come on! We’ve gotta go shout!” Casey says.

David just chuckles and stands up, and by the time they reach the door, David is shouting along with the others. Casey’s head is swimming, and even though he’s so mad they didn’t even vote on anything this time, he also feels a little bit invincible and like he’s part of something so huge and amazing that the vote will just work itself out the way it’s supposed to.

As the mass of people moves outside, there’s a lot of bumping and jostling, and Casey loses hold of David’s hand at one point. He ends up with a group of other speakers from the meeting, and then they all get sort of a little mobbed by people with microphones and cameras. Kurt is standing right next to him, so Casey looks over at him for some sort of instructions.

Kurt only has time to nod somewhat encouragingly before one of the people steps right in front of Casey. “Hi, Jared Wazowski, yep, just like the movie, with outlook: columbus. Casey, right?” Casey nods. “Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

Casey nods again, and then wonders if interviews are like telephones and it’s important to say all the yes and no answers out loud, so he also says, “Yes, that’s okay.”

“Great!” Jared smiles at him in a way that’s probably meant to be reassuring, but is actually kind of creepy because it shows too many teeth. “That was a moving story, Casey. Of course I’m sure you’re aware of all the national media about problems with bullying and suicide, but your story hits close to home, being here in Ohio and all. Can you talk a bit more about the situation at McKinley for you personally?”

Casey blinks at Jared a few times, trying to figure out which of that was actually the question. “Um. Yes, I can talk about that.”

“You specifically named two fellow students, are they the only students who have participated in bullying you, or merely the foremost?”

“They’re the only ones that know my name,” Casey says. “Anybody else, I think it’s just that I’m one kid out of a lot of kids. There’s always names and pushing and stuff, it’s just not. Um. Always personal, I guess?”

“Right, right,” Jared nods. “What about support systems at McKinley?”

That’s an easy one, at least. “PFLAG. We’ve got a big group and everybody looks out for each other. It’s really nice.”

“And when did that group start? Is it a long-standing group? I know I read the transcript of last month’s meeting and it mentioned this effort was an outgrowth of a PFLAG meeting.”

“I think, I mean, I am pretty sure it started this year,” Casey says, glancing over at Kurt, who is involved in his own interview. “There wasn’t anything like that my freshman year or I would have been there.”

“So a new group this year?” Jared nods, looking impressed. “That’s really good to hear. So many schools are without a group, or it’s a small group with little power. You guys have a lot of people at the meetings?”

“A lot!” Casey answers, and he finally feels relaxed enough to smile a little. “It’s gotten so much bigger from the first couple of meetings, and all kinds of people come from all the grades. There’s glee kids and A/V people, oh, and some cheerleaders and football players, come, too. Even some of the straight ones!”

“You have openly gay football players?” Jared asks, looking very impressed. “Wow, I’m surprised no one’s picked up on that.”

Casey’s eyes widen and he feels like he’s fumbling for words. “Oh. No. No, they aren’t. We don’t have that. Don’t, um.” He winces. “Oh, no. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Oh, oh, okay,” Jared reassures him. “No big deal. Just make sure to be careful with the mainstream media, okay?”

“Thanks,” Casey says. “I mean, people mostly know who comes to the meetings, but, I mean, that doesn’t mean anything about anybody.”

“Right, right, allies are important,” Jared nods. “Anything else you’d like to add?”

“Um. Just… PFLAG changed everything for me. It’s the first place I ever felt safe. I just hope that maybe when this is done, it can be like that for everybody at McKinley.”

“Great! Thanks for your time, Casey.” Jared hands him a business card and shakes his hand. “If you think of anything else you’d like to add, my email address is right there.”

“Okay, I will,” Casey says. “Thank you!”

As soon as Jared moves away, a woman in a business suit with a kind of scary collar on it steps closer to Casey. “Hello,” she says brusquely. “I’m Linda Ellison with the ABC affiliate in Dayton. You introduced yourself as Casey, yes? May I have your last name?”

“O’Brien. I’m Casey O’Brien.” Something about this woman’s tone makes Casey wish he could just melt back into the crowd a little bit, or maybe go do more interviews with Jared instead.

“Mr. O’Brien, you told a very dramatic story during the meeting tonight. Bullying, an abusive parent, a suicide attempt – all a lot for a young man your age to have endured. May I ask where your mother was throughout this time? It’s quite unusual for a teenager to be placed with his or her best friend when removed from an abusive parent.”

Of all the questions Casey thought he might be asked, this really wasn’t one of them. At all. “Oh. She, um.” He takes a deep breath. “She, my mom, was there. She— there wasn’t anything she could do, really. He, um. My dad, I mean. He hit her, too. I um, don’t really know, now. Where she is, I mean.” That was probably a terrible answer. Accurate, but terrible. That’ll probably be what ends up on tv, too. He twists at a piece of his hair while he waits for the reporter to respond.

“Interesting.” The reporter seems to be making a mental note of some kind. “Let’s move on to another topic. Do you truly believe that a change in the school’s bullying policy would have made a difference as to your state of mind back in February?”

“For me? If it had been like that all along, maybe,” Casey says. “It wouldn’t have fixed everything, but I think it would have helped.”

“I see, I see.” The reporter nods repeatedly, pursing her lips. “Well, thank you for your time, Mr. O’Brien.” With that, she shifts to the side, ready to ambush Kurt. He, at least, seems to be doing a much better job with the interviews. He looks so calm and Casey just feels like he looked like one of those dogs that they teach to bark in ways that sound like words.

“Hello, I’m Frank Carrison, with the Lima News. Casey, correct?” an older looking gentlemen says.

“Yes,” Casey says, and it’s funny how all these reporters keep asking him if that’s his name. Maybe he didn’t say it loud enough at the beginning of his speech.

“That was a moving story, son. Real tragic, glad you’re here with us. Now, I’ve been covering the news a long time, and I just didn’t know bullying was such an issue here in our city. Would you say it’s gotten worse over time? “

“It’s gotten worse lately, for sure,” Casey says. “I don’t know if it’s gotten worse for everybody over time, but I think it has for a lot of us.”

“Do you think the national media coverage of bullying has actually made bullies more bold?”

Casey thinks about that for a minute before answering, “I think getting away with it is what makes them more bold.”

“Ah, yeah,” the man nods, like Casey’s said something very wise. “Well, Casey, thank you for your time.” He sticks out his hand and Casey takes it and shakes it.

“Thank you,” he says. The man nods and moves sideways, and when Casey sees that nobody else is headed in his direction, he takes advantage of his window of opportunity and slips through the group of people behind him to look for David.

 

“This is going to be a little weird,” Dave says as they walk towards the PFLAG classroom.

Casey nods his head slowly. “Yes. I think you’ll have a very hard time being quiet all day, David.”

Dave snorts, laughing. “Yeah, I’m worried about all those conversations I usually have during class.”

“This will be good practice for not being so talkative all the time,” Casey says. “If you get too bored, you can write me letters during class.”

“I could text you, you know.”

“I’ll turn the noise off on my phone. Letters are still nice, though.”

“Yeah, I guess I’m not usually big on correspondence.”

“You’ll have to learn or else I’ll be sad when I don’t get letters on your fancy Georgia Tech stationery,” Casey says, sighing.

“What fancy stationery?” Dave shakes his head. “And what’s wrong with email,” he continues as they walk into the PFLAG room and take their stickers.

“I like your handwriting,” Casey says. “It’s nice.”

“Can you go back in time and tell my third grade teacher?” Dave asks. “She hated my handwriting. Marked me down every grading period.” He glances around the room and then up at the clock. “Almost time.”

“Well, I guess I can’t go back in time today, then,” Casey says. “Maybe tomorrow after I sell lots of coffee to people.”

Dave nods as the bell rings and the assembled crowd goes silent. There’s a few phones and notebooks brought out, but Dave just shrugs and tilts his head towards the door questioningly. Casey nods and Dave walks down the hallway towards his locker. There’s a few people that take a closer look at their stickers, but no one really expects Dave, or Casey, to be conversing loudly. After Dave grabs a book, they both head towards class.

Dave hands one of the cards to his teacher, who rolls his eyes but otherwise doesn’t comment, and Dave takes his usual seat. Halfway through class, his phone vibrates in his pocket and he props it on his leg under the desk to see what Casey’s sent.

Miles txtd me. Wants to know when he can apologize again. How many hoops and how high?

Dave bites down on the inside of his cheek and quickly sends a text back.

Twelve labors of Hercules?

Hard to find hydras in lima

So much the better!

We should make him clean your truck for leaning on it

Full detailing. He can do it in another month just to make sure no sneaky snow

I told him groveling would help and also maybe he should buy you breakfast

A McGriddle doesn’t count

We could use him as a test subject for macaroni & cheese

No he’d probably talk about how when he makes macaroni & cheese from a box, it has rainbows and glitter and music. Nightclub in a box

If you make me laugh in class she’s gonna take my phone away

Sorry. Maybe.

You want my phone taken away? Mean

I’m very mean.

The bell rings before Casey responds, and Dave ambles to his next class. None of his teachers give him a particularly hard time about the Day of Silence, and he’s not sure any of his classmates really notice. In English, there’s four of them being silent, which means they stick out as a group, but Dave himself doesn’t really stand out at all. He tries to follow the discussion, but it’s a little anemic without Tina or Kurt contributing, and his phone vibrates ten or so minutes into class.

We should go somewhere

Somewhere in Lima, somewhere in Ohio, or somewhere on the planet?

So limiting!

Karofskys are known for their belief in not travelling beyond the solar system

I should return the rocket then?

Sadly, yes. But keep the astronaut food, I like astronaut ice cream

Too bad for you I already ate it. But saturday when I’m done smelling like coffee we should go somewhere. Not space.

Not space. Narrows it down. Let’s not go to walmart either

Someplace not Lima, not the center

Huh. You ever been fishing?

No. Scared of crickets.

Cricket free fishing sound okay?

Im going to look like an idiot aren’t I?

I won’t make you wear the fishing hat

I’m not cleaning any fish just so you know, they need to be selfcleaning fish

Probably won’t find too many worth keeping, usually throw back most of em

You ARE mean. I knew it. Poor fish. We should just sit there and look at the fish instead

You have to catch them to be able to see them water is pretty murky!

We can imagine the fish. You have a good imagination right?

This is what would have happened if John Lennon had loved fish

You and John just feel more strongly about fish than me I guess

There’s ducks around too

Are we fishing for them too?

They prefer bread

Me too

Nah, fresh fried fish is way better

Pie is better, we should fish for pie

No, pie is what the frozen food section is for

Catch me some fish and I’ll catch you a pie and we’ll call it dinner

Good plan

The bell startles Dave after that, and he goes through the rest of the day more or less as usual, except everyone at lunch is silent, so Dave can hear everyone chewing. The sound of chewing, he decides, is disconcerting, especially when he can hear the differences between Rick and Santana, say.

It’d probably help if Rick kept his mouth closed every time, and not just ninety percent of the time.

Casey chews very precisely and quietly, even the red fruit roll-up at the end. He nibbles at it, probably to make it last longer, and Dave has to leave for dual enrollment before the fruit roll-up has completely disappeared.

Neither of his dual enrollment professors give him any grief about the Day of Silence, which is not really surprising but still good. He does have to work not to laugh out loud when Casey texts him to say Stop talking, you. That’s cheating.

When Dave gets back to McKinley, he walks towards the stadium with Casey and Rick. There’s some music playing and a lot of people texting, but everyone looks relaxed compared to after the meeting.

It doesn’t feel like as much of a relief as Dave expected, being able to talk again. He can’t think of anything particularly pressing to say, though, so he’s still silent, laughing a little at some other people’s enthusiasm.

“Girls are so weird,” Casey finally says.

“This is new?” Dave asks, puzzled.

“Not really. Always weird.”

“Oh, okay.” Dave nods. “I agree.”

 

Casey’s really only said about a dozen or so words since they’ve been allowed to talk again, but he doesn’t have much to say. Maybe he used up all his words texting David today, which was way more fun than it probably had any right to be. It kept him feeling pretty upbeat all day, and that was good, because it felt like a too-serious day, otherwise.

David drives them home from the Night of Noise. They don’t talk, but it’s nice to just sit in the truck with him. David takes them through the McDonald’s drive-through and gets them each a chocolate sundae, and one for Paul, too.

“How was it, boys?” Paul asks.

“Quiet,” David says, grinning a little. Casey nods in agreement and hands Paul his sundae.

“Very funny, David.” Paul shakes his head. “How about a movie?”

“Sure.”

Casey nods and settles into his spot on the sofa, eating his sundae and watching David scrolling through the instant watch on Netflix.

“Oh, hey, we haven’t watched The Godfather in months!” David turns and grins at Paul. “ ‘Leave the gun, take the cannoli’.”

Paul laughs. “Sounds good.”

Casey finds the movie confusing, but that’s probably because he’s not really paying attention for at least half of it. He’s thinking about a lot of different things, like how much fun it was to text with David all day, and how weird lesbians are, and mostly about how two months ago today he almost died and now, here he is, sitting on a sofa with David and watching a bunch of Italian guys mumble threats at each other.

When the movie’s over, Paul yawns and says good night, reminding David to check all the doors, and David nods like he always does, even though the doors are already all locked and David would check on them anyway, even without being reminded.

“Is it really still Friday?” David remarks as they throw out their ice cream trash. “Long day.”

“Yep,” Casey says, because that’s an accurate response to both of those statements.

Casey and David both go to their rooms to get ready for bed. Casey hears David start the shower, and Casey decides that maybe he really will stay in his own bed all night tonight, and he won’t even make any noise and wake David up. Really, tonight he’ll manage, because it’s a serious-feeling sort of night anyway, and he does have to be up early to sell coffee to people.

He hasn’t fallen asleep yet when he hears David’s shower turn off or when he hears David clicking off the lamp in his bedroom. Casey lies there for a while, staring at the ceiling and trying very hard to go on and fall asleep. It’s weird how much it’s hitting him, that it’s been two months since that Monday. Casey barely even paid attention to one month having passed, but with writing the speech for the school board thing, he’s had to think about it a lot more this month.

Casey spends the next half an hour telling himself that he’s going to sleep in his own bed all night, and he continues to tell himself this even while he’s tiptoeing across the hall and climbing into David’s bed. He’ll just stay for a little while and then he’ll definitely go right back to his own bed to sleep. He just wants to check in or touch base or something.

David rolls onto his side, facing towards Casey, still asleep. Casey can barely make out David’s features, the room is so dark, and he listens to David breathe and tries to will himself to either go back to his own bed or do something, anything other than just lying here in David’s bed and wishing he could kiss him or touch him. Probably he should go right back to his own bed now, before he does something stupid, but he can’t make himself work up the will power to go. Two months ago, he never thought he’d have anything like this, he almost lost this, and it’s kind of overwhelming.

Casey takes David’s hand in his, gently so as not to wake him, and strokes the back of his fingers, the skin on his wrist, and then, because he can’t help it, he pulls David’s arm against him, pressing David’s palm into the middle of his chest and clinging to his arm like he might fly away if Casey let go.

Two or three minutes pass before David’s breathing changes, and his eyes are still closed when he speaks. “Case? Hey, calm down,” he mumbles, and that’s when Casey realizes that his heart is pounding and David’s hand is right there over it.

Casey cups David’s cheek in his hand and moves his thumb across David’s face, still holding tight to David’s arm with his other hand. David throws his other arm over Casey’s shoulder and pulls Casey a little closer, his palm resting on Casey’s shoulder blade. Casey curls up against David’s chest, letting his fingers trace down David’s neck and over his collarbone, until Casey’s hand is also resting right over David’s heart. He buries his face in David’s shirt and closes his eyes, relaxing into David’s arms, and before he falls asleep he murmurs, “I love you, David.”

David’s arm tightens, pinning Casey against his chest, and David’s fingers curl into the fabric of Casey’s shirt almost imperceptibly.