Actions

Work Header

Tooth & Nail

Work Text:

Puck wakes up first on the last day of their vacation. That was something else The West Wing had taught them, even if none of them had realized it for a few years. The best time, and possibly the only time, to take a vacation is the week or so immediately following Election Day. Puck guesses if they ever have a really unlucky year, they could take some time following the primary, but even in their first year up and running they managed better than that.

Puck starts to reach over Kurt for the remote to the hotel television, intent on turning on at least some of the Sunday morning shows. Finn and Kurt are still sleeping, though, and they do have a few hours left of their vacation. Season Pass will save all the shows for them at home in DC, anyway, and Puck lets the remote drop back down.

“Three hundred sixty days until our next vacation,” he says loudly. “We should enjoy the last part of this one.” When neither of them responds, Puck puts a hand on each of their sides, stroking too gently, trying to tickle them. “Last day of vacation for three hundred sixty days,” he repeats just as loudly as before.

“Then shush and let me sleep,” Finn grumbles.

“We should enjoy it,” Puck says, trying to tickle Finn a little more. “C’mon, help me wake Kurt up.”

“Kurt wants you to let me sleep, too,” Finn says, squirming to escape Puck.

“Nah,” Puck insists. He shakes his head and starts tickling Finn in earnest, his fingers moving over Kurt’s skin a little faster too. Finn lets out a noise reminiscent of a dying whale before surrendering to the inevitable awakeness, rolling onto his side and spooning around Kurt like a human shield.

“Don’t worry, Kurt,” Finn says. “I’m protecting you from irrational people and their irrational wake-up times.”

“We can sleep when we’re dead. Or lose an election,” Puck says. “If I can get up early for Lawson from Iowa’s 4th, I can get up early for vacation.”

“Yeah, but Lawson’s a Binder page,” Finn says, moving to cover more of Kurt with his body. Kurt makes a noise of protest.

“Why is this happening?” Kurt asks from underneath Finn.

“Because Puck is irrational,” Finn says. “He doesn’t think we should sleep on our very last day of vacation.”

“We can sleep on the plane. I even left the TV off,” Puck says as he keeps moving his fingers over Finn and as much of Kurt as he can reach. Kurt’s arms and legs flail, which just makes Finn try to wrap even more of his body around Kurt’s.

“Finn, having a hard time breathing,” Kurt says.

“Blame Puck!”

“I’m just waking up my two favorite people on the last day of vacation before we enter another election season. I don’t know why that would be something to blame me for!”

“With tickling,” Kurt says. “I might have to—oh god, not my ribs—side with Finn on that part!”

“Tickling is the best way to wake you up. You like it best,” Puck insists.

“But I’m awake now!” Kurt says, managing to work one arm out from under Finn to swat at Puck’s hand. I’m very awake.”

Puck grins. “What about you, Finn? Very awake?”

“Does the tickling stop if I say yes?” Finn asks.

“Only if you stay awake.”

“Do you replace the tickling with something else?” Finn asks.

“Something more enjoyable,” Puck promises.

“Finn, I’m genuinely being smothered by you at the moment,” Kurt says, his voice slightly muffled. Finn rolls off of him with an “oops, sorry!” and Kurt sits up. “You’re a harsh taskmaster,” he says to Puck.

“Would you have rather not had an extra hour or two for loud, naked ‘tasks’?” Puck says with a grin. “On the last day of vacation and everything?”

“He has a very sound point there, Finn,” Kurt says. Puck turns to Finn and nods, still grinning.

Finn flops back onto a pillow, rolling his eyes and huffing. “Fiiiiine. I see how it is, the both of you ganging up on me. Nothing I can do against a two-thirds majority.”

“Veto proof!” Puck says triumphantly. “And now we don’t have to ask the question until we’re back in DC.”

“God bless America,” Finn says reaching for Puck and pulling him down into a kiss, while simultaneously rolling them both partially on top of Kurt again.

“Why am I the one being repeatedly squooshed?” Kurt asks. He wiggles until he’s less trapped under them, and more just pleasantly under them. “Mmm. Okay. Better. Carry on, gentlemen.”

 

Three days later, Puck nudges the door to the office open with his knee, carefully balancing the three trenta-sized lattes. As soon as the door closes and Puck confirms no one’s on the phone, he sets down the coffee on the table.

“Okay,” he says. “Time to ask the question.”

“Lay it on us,” Finn says.

Who’s next for T&N?” Puck says.

“What are you thinking?” Kurt asks. “Senate race? Gubernatorial?”

“None of us really enjoyed driving up to Delaware, and that’s pretty close for a state race,” Puck says. “At least with Senatorial races, it’s not purely internal state politics.” He frowns. “We need something big. A big race, a big come-from-behind, something.”

“We could find a schoolboard candidate with great potential,” Finn teases.

“We always talked about overthrowing the mayor of DC with our hand-picked favorite,” Kurt says.

“You two are the worst,” Puck says. “Are we overthrowing the mayor with the schoolboard member?”

“Maybe we could find an ex-president,” Finn says.

“Ooh, and former president who then ran for schoolboard, and now is tackling the mayoral race,” Kurt says. “Intriguing.”

“You two are the worst. Anyway, one living ex-president is already seated on the Supreme Court, remember?”

“He has a point, Kurt,” Finn says. “We don’t want to throw the universe out of balance.”

“So Senate it is, then,” Kurt says.

“It’s possible I have a list,” Finn says. “You know how I feel about Senate races.”

“Anything really fun?” Puck asks.

“Let me get the list,” Finn says. He darts into his office and quickly returns with a notebook. He flips it open and dramatically drops it on the table in front of Puck.

“I’ve told you, not Maine,” Puck says immediately. “I don’t look good in LL Bean, and you know too well that you do.”

“You know I’m partial to the Californian candidate,” Kurt says.

“Because you like the weather, yeah,” Finn says. He points to a name on the list.

“Kevin de León?” Puck reads. “What do we like about him?”

“Great record on gun control, the environmental lobby loves him, plus he’s under 60, in good shape, and photogenic,” Finn says.

“Does he want a promotion, or are we going to have to talk him into it?” Puck asks.

“I figured by the time we were done talking to him about it, he’d want a promotion whether he wanted it or not,” Finn says. “How many people tell us no?”

Kurt’s attention had been focused on his phone while Finn was talking, but now he looks up from it. “I’m liking what I see,” he says, sliding the phone over to Puck, de León’s voting record pulled up on the screen.

“Immigration, green space, protection for workers,” Puck says, nodding as he scrolls down. “If we can get him a sit-down with the teachers, that’d be good.”

“I picked a good one,” Finn says, sounding pleased with himself. “You love my candidate. You want to have his cute little campaign babies.”

“I want his campaign to birth many more campaigns, at least,” Puck says. “So we’ll set up a meeting with him, the DSCC, maybe find a couple of Virginia and Maryland Congressional slam-dunks for fun, anything else? Did we figure out Thanksgiving yet?”

“Mom and Burt are hosting it, which means it’ll probably be bigger than when it’s our turn,” Finn says.

Kurt nods. “On the plus side, it’ll be catered. No offense to your cooking, Finn, but turkey isn’t a bird you’ve mastered.”

“No offense taken. Turkeys are hard,” Finn says.

“You haven’t really mastered any birds,” Puck points out. “At least we should have some news about California to share by then.”

“Fine. Birds are hard,” Finn says. “Jesus. You two sure are critical for a couple of men who have literally no cooking repertoire.”

“Untrue. I can make a soufflé,” Kurt says.

“Yeah, a soufflé. Singular. One recipe,” Finn points out. Kurt feigns an offended sniff.

“I’m the best at ordering takeout and bringing coffee, so I don’t have to have a cooking repertoire. We should find a candidate who bakes one of these days, though,” Puck says.

“Oh that would be great,” Finn says, nodding his head in agreement. “We could put them on the cooking shows. That would hit a nice demographic.”

“College and seniors,” Puck says. “What else do we have to do this month? Anything?”

“Grip ’n’ grin with the Communication Workers,” Finn says. “Kennedy Center Honors.”

“Not until December, but both of you need new tuxes,” Kurt says.

Finn nods. “Especially Puck. He probably needs you to take him somewhere to be fitted properly. Could take hours, but I know he’s willing to do it to make you happy.”

“I revise my earlier statement, only you are the worst,” Puck says, pointing at Finn. “When are you going to wear a pretty gown instead of a tux?”

“All I hear is you telling me that I’m the best. I’m better than Kurt,” Finn says smugly.

“At being the worst,” Kurt says. “Hardly a prize.”

“Best,” Finn repeats. “The best. I am the best, and the best is me.”

“We never should have told him we thought he had the best legs,” Puck says to Kurt.

“But we also established that the extra fabric to cover him makes a gown a little cost prohibitive,” Kurt says. “The tux is expensive enough.”

“You should buy me some jewels,” Finn says.

“You got a watch just this year!” Puck says.

Finn shakes his head. “A watch isn’t jewels. I need bangles. Maybe a tiara.”

“So you’re me, sophomore year?” Kurt says. “I’m not sure you can pull off a tiara, Finn. A coronet, maybe, in the right stones.”

“Diamonds or bust, baby,” Finn says.

“Maybe Tiffany & Co. will loan you something for the Kennedy Center,” Kurt suggests.

“We could ask them to loan a set,” Puck says dryly. “You take the pin, Finn can wear the bracelet, and I’ll take the necklace or ring.”

“Hey. Focus!” Finn says, snapping in Kurt’s direction. “Tiara. Head. Me.”

“Yes, Finn. If the set comes with a tiara, you can wear it,” Kurt says.

Puck shakes his head. “It’s a good thing we don’t run campaigns in the UK, or the Queen might be worried about Finn trying to usurp the crown.”

 

Puck tries not to tally up the number of hours that they spend, between the three of them, researching the best airline to fly nonstop from Dulles to LAX and then where to stay in downtown LA. The consensus online is the ‘main cabin select’ option from Virgin Airlines, and Puck’s pretty sure Finn will appreciate the extra legroom, and after looking around online even longer, they’d settled on Hotel Normandie in the heart of the Senator’s district. By four-thirty on Sunday afternoon, they’re through security at Dulles, ready to board.

The direction they’re heading means that they eat dinner on the plane and land before eight, Los Angeles time, and they force themselves to stay up long enough that they won’t be awake before five local time. Their meeting with the Senator, at his district offices, is at 9:30 the next morning, and there’s a café just down the street where they can get breakfast and large cups of coffee.

“If this goes well over the next eleven and a half months,” Puck says the next morning as they walk a few blocks to the café, “we could get a phone with a California area code and claim bicoastal offices.”

“Wouldn’t we need a physical West Coast office space?” Finn asks.

Kurt makes a dismissive noise and waves his hand. “A technicality!”

“Uh…” Finn says. “Technicalities is kinda what we do, babe.”

“We could rent a very cheap apartment and leave an old computer in it,” Puck says. “Voila! Office.”

“And a mattress,” Finn adds.

Puck shakes his head. “I wasn’t going to make us sleep in the very cheap apartment.”

“Yeah, but our actual office has desks,” Finn says. “If we don’t have desks, we need some kind of workable surface.”

“Hmm. He might have a point there,” Kurt says.

“Maybe we’ll just advertise bicoastal service and expertise,” Puck says, holding the door open as they reach the café. Finn walks through, then Kurt, and Puck lets the door close before heading to the counter. Unfortunately, the café does not make coffees as large as Puck would have liked, but the three of them still have a small breakfast and to-go cups of coffee as they hail a cab to Senator de León’s office.

The first good sign is the Senator’s staff is all working, not gossiping, and the second good sign is that the meeting starts just five minutes after the scheduled time. The meeting goes slightly longer than Puck anticipated, and the three of them are mostly quiet as they hail another cab and go back to the hotel, waiting until they’re back in the room to speak.

“That went very very well,” Puck says, loosening his tie a little as he sits down.

Finn flops backwards onto the bed, arms outstretched and knocking into Puck as he lands. “Told you I picked a good one.”

“I think he was genuinely surprised, too,” Puck adds. “You think he thought we were looking for him to endorse someone else?”

“Oh, definitely,” Kurt says. “His personal assistant was visibly shocked when we asked.”

“There are the rumors that Feinstein wants Framwell to run in the primary. There may be more to that than de León knows or than we know. We’ll have to see what happens when we get back to DC. Warner’s still chair of the DSCC, right? No one kicked him out while we were on vacation?” Puck asks, feeling hopeful for a few seconds. Of course it’s good that Warner’s still holding his seat for the Democrats, but Puck wouldn’t mind at all if he were replaced by a different Democrat, both as chair of the DSCC and as senator from Virginia.

“Nah. I checked. He’s still keeping the candle burning,” Finn says.

“Why do we have a venture capitalist doing this?” Puck says for what feels like at least the five hundredth time. “Okay, we’ll sit down with Warner or one of his people when we get back. Should we nose around out here and see if there’s any truth to the Framwell thing?”

Finn huffs a little, rolling his eyes. “Like we’d get you back on that plane without doing some nosing first.”

“I am known for my stealthy qualities,” Puck says, nudging Finn’s arm. “What did you two already think up?”

“Since we’re in town, we should meet up with Gloria Gonzalez,” Finn says. “I hear she’s thinking about making a presidential run.”

Kurt nods. “Her candidate’s definitely a dark horse. Adam Smith from the Washington 9th.”

“The same one who is always worried about nuclear terrorism and keeps voting for the NSA to tap everyone just in case we have secret briefcase nukes?” Puck says, making a face.

“I was thinking lunch, so you could tell her why she made a poor choice,” Finn suggests.

“If I thought of it that quickly, that’s where everyone else will attack from,” Puck says with a shrug. “Anyone else we should touch base with? I know we already called Theresa Robinson to make sure we weren’t stepping on her toes with de León.”

“Does she want to join us at lunch to help us give Gloria a stern talking-to?” Kurt asks.

Puck laughs. “I’d pay money to see that. No one wants Theresa to be mad at them or disappointed, and I think Smith’d qualify as both.”

“So I’ll make a few calls then?” Kurt asks.

“Yeah. Let’s go to that Peruvian place that Finn was drooling over online.”

Finn responds with two thumbs up. “Sounds good to me.”

“We should ask both of them if there’s a California-specific polling group they like to use. And probably if there’s any dinosaur consultants lumbering around that need a courtesy call,” Puck says. “Help me remember that.”

“It’s all up here,” Finn says, tapping his temple with one finger.

Puck waits until Kurt’s off the phone, then turns towards him. “So you like the weather so far?”

“I could get used to the sunshine,” Kurt says.

“Kurt’s going to think we’re going on vacation more often, now,” Puck says to Finn. “Bringing him out here in the sunshine.”

“Sunshine’s overrated. Give me DC weather any day,” Finn says.

Puck laughs. “You just like when it gets slushy and we all have to change clothes as soon we get home every night.”

“Well, yeah. Wet clothes off, naked time in between, dry clothes on,” Finn says. “That’s a perfect night for me.”

 

The three of them can’t get a sit-down with Warner until December, which probably works out well, Puck concedes. They’ll have a much more complete timeline and highlighted issues worked out by the time they talk to anyone at the DSCC. The tux fitting takes about four times longer than Puck would have preferred, but Kurt tells him that considering his tolerance for fittings is too short, that it’s not surprising he felt it was too long.

Like Puck should have expected from previous years, the three of them are supposed to bring two sides or desserts for Thanksgiving—one from Puck and Finn, and one from Kurt. Since most of it’s catered, Puck and Finn take green bean casserole and Kurt makes a pie. Unlike most gatherings at Burt and Carole’s in DC, it’s just the five of them, which means much less glossing over issues with other attendees and pretending to toe whatever the current party line is.

It also means there isn’t anyone sniffing around for free advice or rumors, which is handy, since Puck didn’t think they really wanted an influx of people the week after Thanksgiving as it was. Once they all sit down, Carole keeps the conversation off politics for approximately five minutes, but when she asks what they’ve been up to, there’s really nowhere else for the conversation to go.

“Well, we have some good news,” Puck says. “Or progress towards it, anyway.”

“Good news like wedding-related news?” Carole asks, sounding hopeful.

It takes Puck a few seconds to realize that Carole does not mean a candidate that they’ve worked with or a candidate’s family, and he knows he probably looks startled as he blinks. “Well, no,” he says slowly.

“That’d sure be nice,” Burt says enthusiastically. “And Kurt, you still haven’t come by to let me introduce you to that staffer I told you about.”

“Thank you, but no thank you. I’m very happy with the current climate of my personal life,” Kurt says.

“Surely you don’t intend to stay single long-term, son,” Burt says. “If you don’t want your dad introducing you, maybe you should look into one of those websites.”

“Just because I don’t discuss the intimacies of my private life, doesn’t mean they don’t exist,” Kurt says.

Burt turns to Puck and Finn. “You live with him. Surely you can reassure his old dad.”

Finn glances over and makes meaningful eye-contact with Puck, before saying, “Yeah, I think he does okay, Burt.”

“Some choices better than others,” Puck says as blandly as he can manage.

“And no, I’m still not giving you details,” Kurt says primly. “Unless you’d like this conversation to become very uncomfortable for several parties very quickly.”

“But now would be a good time to plan a wedding,” Carole says, looking primarily at Finn. “Before the new year.”

Finn just looks at Carole blank-faced. “But we’d have to get all the business cards reprinted.”

“I’m sure you could afford that, Finn!”

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Finn says. “How could we face our eco-friendly clients if we’d just dumped several pounds of paper business cards? I mean, those things do come from trees, Mom.”

Carole stares at Finn for long enough that Puck decides to attempt to steer the conversation back to his original topic. “That was our actual news. We’ve got a candidate aiming to take over Feinstein’s seat when she retires.”

“Oh?” Burt asks. “That’s interesting, too.”

“Kevin de León, currently in the state Senate. He’s got a long-standing progressive record,” Puck says. “It wouldn’t hurt for California’s Senate delegation to swing a little further from the center.”

Burt frowns slightly. “In the House, yeah, but the Senate’s all about compromise. You can’t expect to—”

“I swear to god, Burt, do not bust out the ‘Compromise is the Table We All Sit At’ stump speech. Puck wrote that speech,” Finn interrupts. “And it’s tacky to argue with a man using his own speech.”

“He does have a valid point, Dad,” Kurt says, taking a sip from his glass of wine without really looking in Burt’s direction.

“‘A big enough table for everyone in Ohio to have a seat’,” Finn quotes.

“That was one of your best speeches,” Kurt says, addressing Puck, not Burt.

“The 12th likes things big. Tables, their houses, their cars…” Puck says with a shrug.

Finn bumps his leg against Puck’s. “Yeah, you’re sexy when you’re straddling that aisle.”

Burt clears his throat loudly. “I just mean that it’s kind of a big leap, state senate to California Senator. That’s a huge constituency.”

“And de León’s up to the challenge,” Finn counters. One of his hands drops from the table to rest high on Puck’s thigh, Finn keeping a straight face throughout.

“You know how we feel about candidate versus candidacy, Burt,” Puck says, shifting his weight slightly towards Finn. “Any candidate’s only going to have knowledge of a small portion of the state before they get out there campaigning.”

“I thought I heard the party was looking at Framwell for that seat,” Burt says. “He’s one of Feinstein’s boys, came up through her office as an intern. You’re going to have your work cut out for you with that one.”

Finn’s hand slides higher up Puck’s thigh. “Yeah, well, you know us, Burt. If it’s not a fight, it’s not worth our time.”

“Exactly,” Kurt says, dabbing at his lips with a napkin. “Just look at your first campaign, Dad. We developed too much of a taste for blood to pick the easy candidate.”

“Now, boys, you know how I feel about discussing blood at the dinner table,” Carole says. “All of this political talk is bad enough!”

“Being one of Feinstein’s boys smacks a little of nepotism, doesn’t it?” Puck says casually. He spreads his legs slightly farther apart and takes a bite of the green bean casserole. Finn’s hand slides all the way up.

“If they’re banking on him being California’s chosen son, they’re just asking for us find somebody better, as far as I’m concerned,” Finn says.

“Plus, Feinstein, Boxer, Framwell, all from around the same area of California, and California is not just well-off people in and around San Francisco,” Puck adds.

“de León isn’t exactly new on the scene, either,” Kurt says. “He’s well-respected by his constituency and the party. And yes, Dad, he has the ability to compromise, but he also knows when not to.”

“Okay, okay,” Burt says, putting his hands up in surrender. “I give. Let’s change the subject. I’m going to give that staffer your number after the holidays. His name is Billy.”

Kurt huffs slightly. “If you must, but I’m not promising I’ll pick up when he calls.”

“You could let Finn or I talk to him,” Puck says innocently. “I want to know why he goes by Billy.”

“Yeah, Billy’s a weird choice for a grown-ass man, don’t you think?” Finn says, stroking Puck through the front of his pants without moving his upper arm or giving anything away with his face.

“Oh, that’s a good idea, Puck!” Kurt says.

“Vetting people’s kind of what we do, Burt,” Finn says.

Burt sighs. “I’ll give him the number, and we’ll just see how it goes.”

Billy,” Puck says under his breath, snorting as he picks up his wine glass. He raises an eyebrow at Finn, shifting his weight again. The corner of Finn’s mouth lifts in a smile, though Finn still doesn’t look at Puck. He does move his hand a little more firmly.

“Are we all ready for dessert?” Carole asks. “I know I want to dig into that pie Kurt brought. What kind did you say it was, again?”

“Maple-glazed pecan-topped apple,” Kurt says.

“Well, it sounds busy, at least,” Burt says. “I’ll go get the knife.”

“He made the glaze from scratch,” Puck adds. “We know.” They know because it took Kurt longer than they would have liked, and they know because he tasted pretty maple syrupy afterwards, but he doesn’t have to explicitly tell Burt and Carole why they know.

“Yeah,” Finn says, his smile widening. “I sure do love maple syrup.”

“Maybe Kurt should make another one just like it, for our sit-down with Warner’s office next week,” Puck says, matching Finn’s smile. “Right, Kurt?”

“I don’t know. It’s a lot of work,” Kurt says. “And really, is that the kind of message we want to send in a professional sit-down?”

“Can’t bring a pie. Shows weakness,” Finn says.

“Pie is deferential now?” Puck asks. “Let’s take some cheese, then.”

“And wine. Wine’s a power-food,” Finn says. “Power-drink.”

“A display of power,” Kurt says agreeable. Puck feels Kurt’s hand on his other leg, high on his thigh near Finn’s. Finn’s hand shifts slightly, the back of his knuckles brushing against Kurt’s fingers.

Puck barely hides his grin, mostly because he’s had practice in strategy meetings, because he does like it when the two of them start managing him. “We can put a silver ribbon around the bottle and cross the DSCC off the gift list, too,” he says, letting himself almost smirk as Burt returns with a knife and focuses on the pie.

“Good luck, I guess,” Burt says. He’s clearly being conciliatory, but like Puck wrote, it’s a big table.

 

The odds of Billy the staffer being the same staffer that handles DSCC business for Warner should, Puck thinks, be pretty small, but instead, when they call to confirm the meeting, they realize Billy is the DSCC staffer. Puck does not stew about it, regardless of what Kurt and Finn say, but he does intercept Kurt immediately after his shower on the morning of the meeting. Since Kurt isn’t dressed yet, it’s a lot harder for him to complain about Puck messing up his clothes or his hair.

It isn’t that Puck’s worried, exactly, but he figures if he were Kurt, he might miss being able to be open about his relationships. They hadn’t planned on Puck and Finn being the two that everyone knew about, but since most of the western Ohio Democratic political establishment had seen them kissing the night Burt won his first campaign, that had been how it’d all shaken out. Better to give Kurt something to think about all day long, is all Puck figures, especially since Finn had said that Billy actually sounded less whiny and weak on the phone than they’d guessed, given the nickname.

All of that had gone through Puck’s head as he’d grabbed Kurt and pushed the two of them up against the sink counter, and as they walk into the small rowhouse behind the Supreme Court that serves as the DSCC offices, Puck’s pretty sure that Kurt’s thinking about it. Just to make sure, Puck taps on a marble counter and grins at Kurt while they wait for the receptionist to inform Billy that they’ve arrived.

“Looking a little smug,” Kurt says, returning Puck’s smile. “Going for the full-on power body language?”

“Everyone in this town already thinks I look smug. I might as well exceed expectations,” Puck says. “Neither of you ever object.”

“Why would we ever want you to be anyone but who you are?” Kurt asks. He bats his eyes at Puck, then glances over his shoulder at the admittedly-attractive man walking up from the back of the office.

“Kurt Hummel?” the man says, offering his hand to Kurt first. “Billy Bostwick. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Both of you.”

Kurt shakes Billy’s hand. “Very nice to meet you as well. This is one of my partners, Noah Puckerman.”

“Nice to meet you,” Puck says. “Finn, our other partner, had trash to tend to. You know how it is.” Puck is already cursing the fact that Finn couldn’t make it, because he has no idea now if he’s being arbitrarily and unnecessarily concerned about the unfortunately attractive Billy Bostwick, or if there’s even a slight bit of a legitimate concern.

“Of course,” Billy says. “Why don’t the two of you come on back?” Billy leads the way to a small conference room, and Puck narrows his eyes at how closely he seems to be walking to Kurt. “Take a seat. I assume the three of you are looking at next year’s open seats already?”

“It’s rarely too early,” Puck says, then nods at Kurt. If Billy wants to fawn over Kurt a little, they can use it to their advantage.

“We like to make our move before our move gets made for us,” Kurt says, a little too flirtatiously for Puck’s liking.

“So which race were you looking at? Arkansas or Florida? We’ve heard some talk about some interested parties wanting to put Chad Griffin in for Arkansas,” Billy says.

“Hmm, good guess, but not exactly,” Kurt says. He raises his eyebrow at Puck, “Noah?”

“California,” Puck says with a smile that he knows is at least a little smug. “Kevin de León. He’s got a long progressive record in the state Senate, he’s from Los Angeles, and he’s a good representative of where the party’s heading.”

“California?” Billy says, looking slightly perturbed. “I don’t really think de León was the direction that the DSCC was looking to go in.”

“Framwell?” Puck asks, not waiting for a response before continuing. “The state of California frankly deserves a Senator who isn’t from the San Francisco area, Billy. Senator Feinstein has done an excellent job, of course, but since she is retiring, it’s a good opportunity for a change.”

“de León has a great record with the environment, he’s always been right on the party’s forefront with immigration, excellent history with workers’ rights,” Kurt lists.

“Framwell has some cutting-edge ideas,” Billy insists.

“With all due respect, advocating for mobile voting and encouraging Congress to work even fewer hours? That’s not really cutting-edge,” Puck says. “He’s tended to be a follower on positions, like with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, not the first or even the fifth to stand up and advocate a new direction.”

“We think the DSCC should take a look at the broader demographics of the state before making their decision,” Kurt adds.

“That’s an interesting point,” Billy says, and he smiles too warmly at Kurt. “I’m sure you understand why we have to consider Senator Feinstein’s wishes and who’s been making connections in Washington, especially as the son of a Senator yourself.”

“The son of a Senator who doesn’t rely on nepotism or virtual nepotism in his work,” Puck says, and Billy looks irritated as he glances towards Puck. “Senator Feinstein is ninety years old, Billy, and California isn’t her kingdom.”

“Of course we want to both honor and build upon her legacy with the party, Billy,” Kurt says, angling his body towards Billy. “We also have to look beyond the old guard. I’m sure you can respect that.”

“I’m sure Framwell would have it locked up almost immediately if you decided to work with him,” Billy says to Kurt, the irritated look fading. “He’s young for a new Senator, in his early 40s. You wouldn’t have to do much with his image, but I’m sure you could help him elevate a few things, Kurt.”

“Billy, I’m going to be very clear with you here, because I feel like you’re someone with a similar understanding of this business. We’re not here to elevate or polish. We’re here to build,” Kurt says, smiling widely.

“Maybe you’d be willing to meet with Framwell before you commit to de León? I can set up a meeting for you very easily. He’s not going back to his district for another couple of weeks,” Billy offers.

“We’d have to take it back to our partner,” Kurt says. “Noah? Your thoughts?”

“We’d be wasted on Framwell. He’s exactly who the DSCC would have picked fifteen, twenty years ago, but he’s not the kind of candidate we work with,” Puck says, glaring a little at Billy. “It’d be nice to have the DSCC’s support of de León during the primaries, but if we have to wait for the general, I suppose we can.”

“Well, there you go,” Kurt says. “If Noah isn’t on board, I’m afraid you’d be wasting Framwell’s time to set up a meeting.”

“I see,” Billy says, his smile tight and unfriendly as he nods at Puck. “I suppose I should thank you for your time, gentlemen.” He stands and offers Puck his hand, holding the door open with his foot. Puck walks slowly through, but he can hear Billy’s voice saying something to Kurt.

“I’ve heard you have my number,” Kurt says in response, really ramping up the flirtatious tone. Puck doesn’t turn around, but he does clear his throat.

“I’ll be in touch, then,” Billy says.

“You do that,” Kurt says. When he turns towards Puck, his back to Billy, he rolls his eyes.

Puck doesn’t alter his facial expression or say a word until they’re back on Maryland Avenue, walking towards the Metro. “Really? You had to encourage him?”

“It got the job done, more or less,” Kurt says with a shrug. “Why? You didn’t like him?”

“You did like him?”

“He wasn’t hideous.”

“That’s not a no,” Puck notes, feeling more grumpy than smug.

“Uh oh,” Kurt says. “So, you don’t want me flirting with Billy?”

“In what world would I? We’re not even going to be able to work with him on this.”

“Hmm,” Kurt hums to himself, without following it up with any other response.

“He’s not even going to mention it to Warner,” Puck says. “You know that. So why flirt with him?”

Kurt hums to himself again, this time following it up with, “Oh, is it not fun for you when people don’t acknowledge you’re in a relationship?”

Puck sighs. “Are we really going to have this argument right here on Constitution? You know it’s not like we all planned it this way.”

“Who’s arguing? I’m not arguing. I’m just asking a question,” Kurt says.

“You know it’s not fun. I know it’s not fun. Finn isn’t here, but he knows it’s not fun. That doesn’t mean any of us need to compound the un-fun part of it.”

“So you get to live your life openly, with your relationship acknowledged by everyone, but I’m not even allowed a little harmless flirting to grease the wheels of the Democratic machine?” Kurt asks. “Hmm.”

“Any chance of greasing was over before you pretty much told him you were waiting for him to call, is all I’m saying,” Puck says. “The best we can hope for right now is that he didn’t immediately call up Framwell’s friends to start opposition research.”

“Clearly you underestimate my flirting prowess,” Kurt says.

“You really think I underestimate anything about you?”

“Maybe you’re overestimating me,” Kurt replies. “My patience. My willingness to pretend I’m just your business partner and roommate.”

“And the best way to tell me about it is by flirting with Billy in front of me? Maybe I’m overestimating your straightforwardness, then,” Puck says, scowling as they head into the Metro station. “We’ve always actually talked about this stuff before.”

“Well, I felt a little tired of talking about it today,” Kurt says.

“So you decided to be underhanded. Nice,” Puck says. He crosses his arms in front of his chest as they wait for the train. “What were you hoping I’d do, then?”

“Perhaps I just thought it would be nice if you expressed a little jealousy,” Kurt says. “Maybe I just wanted some positive attention. It’s even possible it was really, as initially stated, to manipulate our way into the type of meeting we want. I don’t think it really matters at this point.”

Puck frowns. “Wait. Why doesn’t it matter now?”

“Oh look. There’s our train.”

“That’s not an answer!”

“It’s the answer you’re getting,” Kurt snaps.

“I don’t understand!” Puck says, feeling bewildered. “Come on, you know I don’t.” Kurt doesn’t say anything else, not as they get on the train or as they ride. He doesn’t say anything after they get off the train and walk back home, either, heading through the foyer into their offices.

“Back,” Puck calls to Finn.

“How’d it go?” Finn calls back. “Was he somebody we can work with?”

“Ask Kurt,” Puck says, “and hope he gives you an actual answer.” Puck stops at the coffee pot, pouring a mug before walking towards his own office.

“Kurt?” Finn asks, popping his head out of his office. “What happened?”

“I don’t really feel like discussing this right now,” Kurt says, walking into his office and shutting the door behind him.

“Puck? What’s going on?” Finn says. He follows Puck into his office and sits in one of the chairs as Puck collapses into the chair behind his desk.

“Apparently a great way to let me know that Kurt’s tired of hiding is to flirt with Billy in front of me. I think. Then he stopped answering my questions, and then he stopped talking altogether.”

“Was Billy really hot?” Finn asks.

“He wasn’t as ugly as I was hoping for,” Puck admits.

“Damn,” Finn says. “And Kurt’s upset, so he was flirting with him? That kind of sucks.”

“He didn’t even seem upset until after. Billy made it pretty clear DSCC’s backing Framwell, even tried to talk us into a sit-down with Framwell before the end of the year, so there wasn’t any point in, you know, basically telling Billy he was waiting for him to call, once we were leaving.”

“Ouch,” Finn says.

“I said something about, you know, the three of us talking about it. He said he was tired of talking about it today. But we hadn’t talked about it at all today. I don’t get it,” Puck says, sighing and drinking more coffee. “I don’t know what he wanted me to do.” Puck doesn’t bother to finish the second half of the sentence: that in all likelihood, if he’d known what Kurt wanted, he would have done it. Finn knows that.

“Maybe he’s just having a bad day,” Finn says. “Everybody has those. Give him a little space, and I’ll talk to him later today, okay?”

Puck sighs again. “Okay. I’m going to work on de León’s announcement since we’ll probably go back and forth a few times with his staff.”

“I’ll see if I can find out a little more about what’s up with Kurt,” Finn says.

Puck nods. “Okay.”

Since Puck’s impression is that Kurt’s holed up for the duration of the day, at least, Puck spends the rest of his day on the announcement speech and making a few phone calls about some Virginia and Maryland congressional races. By the time the end of the day is approaching, Puck decides to leave the office and go upstairs a little early, so he can change clothes and sit on the sofa and do something that approximates sulking. Suit off and a pair of jeans on, that’s exactly what he does, turning on the TV for background noise.

Thirty minutes or so later, about the time they usually stop officially working for the day, Puck can hear Finn and Kurt coming up the stairs, and he can’t quite tell if he’s relaxing or tensing. Only Finn comes into the living room, though, sitting next to Puck on the sofa, still in his suit pants, shirt, and tie.

“Hey,” Finn says.

Puck mutes the TV and turns his head. “Hey.”

“I talked to him.”

“I’m guessing it’s not what I want to hear. Whatever that would be,” Puck says.

“He’s just having a hard time right now with the way things have shaken out for us,” Finn says. “He really does think the flirting helped at the meeting, though. Apparently Billy already called him.”

“Oh, great,” Puck says. “To talk about California, I’m sure.”

“They’re going to talk about California… over dinner.”

“And you’re just A-okay with this?” Puck asks. “I can’t even get actual words about it, I’m just supposed to accept dinner?”

“Dinner was my idea,” Finn says. “He wasn’t going to go. I told him he should. I trust him, and so should you. Let Billy Bostwick of the DSCC buy him dinner and give him some attention. Kurt’s going to do some recon. It’s functionally a working dinner, even if Billy doesn’t realize it.”

“You told him to go to dinner with someone else on the same day he told me he was tired of pretending to not be in a relationship? That makes zero sense, Finn!” Puck says. “He practically was trying to get me to argue on Constitution Avenue, and now you’re just telling me to let him go?”

“Yeah. That’s what I’m telling you. He needs to be the center of somebody’s attention for a night. You and I get that sometimes. He doesn’t get it enough. He’s not going to do anything to cross the line. It’s dinner, not a weekend in the Hamptons.”

“What if what he meant earlier was that he wants to cross the line? And I was just too stupid to figure it out?” Puck asks. “Years of writing speeches has not helped me decipher everything.”

“I know it’s hard for him, not getting to be the boyfriend-in-public,” Finn says.

“Yeah. I know that, too. That’s why I’m asking what I’m asking.”

“Either we trust him or we don’t,” Finn says. “I trust him. It’s up to you to decide if you trust him.”

“I don’t feel like this is about trust at all. I trust him not to cross the line if we’re all three in a relationship. I don’t know right now that that’s what he wants.”

“Then we have to let him have the space to figure it out. We can’t force him.”

“You’re really calm about that possibility,” Puck says. “Did he tell you something? Give you the afternoon to get used to it?”

“I’m calm because I believe in the three of us. I also think it would do Kurt good to get out in public with somebody, shut down the Burt and Carole show a little. Maybe it’ll actually give us all some space to figure out how to balance things a little better for all three of us,” Finn says.

“Well, I’m so glad the two of you decided all of this without me,” Puck says, standing up. “I won’t even ask how Kurt’s date goes, since I guess you and he can figure out everything from there, too.”

“Hey. Don’t do that,” Finn says. “Don’t act like that.”

“Don’t decide things behind my back!”

“I didn’t decide anything! I’m just trying to help everybody get their heads on straight.”

“You and Kurt decided he was going out on a date. That’s a decision.” Puck shrugs. “I’ll be back later.”

“Puck,” Finn says.

“What? Did you two decide something else you hadn’t gotten a chance to tell me yet?”

“Dammit, Puck. Don’t leave. Don’t walk away in the middle of a discussion,” Finn says.

“What is there to discuss? You didn’t ask me if I wanted space or what I thought about this stupid dinner or any of it. I woke up this morning and thought we were all fine, and now everything’s shit, and no one will even tell me why!”

“Nothing’s shit,” Finn says. “He’s just tired of the nagging from Burt.”

“Which explains why I got snapped at and frozen out? No,” Puck says. “It doesn’t. Like I said, I’ll be back later.”

“Puck,” Finn calls after Puck as he grabs his wallet and goes down the stairs. He still doesn’t know why the nagging from Burt is supposed to explain the day he’s had, but he’ll go down the street and eat something there.

After he’s wasted as much time as he can over a sandwich and soup, Puck wastes more time at the Safeway and then walks home, opening the door quietly. After a few hours to think, all Puck can figure is that he did something wrong, bad enough that Kurt doesn’t want to talk about it and Finn doesn’t know how to, so the least he can do is avoid them. He stays in his office for a couple more hours, then goes upstairs and lies down on the couch, listening to the very faint sounds of Kurt and Finn breathing.

Puck manages to wake up before either of them, and a combination of luck and knowing where exactly everything is means that he makes it downstairs with a fresh suit without waking them up. He goes up the street to get coffee and bagels, leaving most of them out in the main room of the office before taking his bagels and coffee into his office and shutting the door. They don’t have to go anywhere until the Kennedy Center, and Puck doesn’t really want to hear about Billy Bostwick and dinner, anyway.

After a little while, Puck can hear Finn in the main room, and then a tapping on the door. Puck sighs; he still isn’t sure he’s ready to know whatever it is he did wrong, but maybe it’s just business.

“Come in,” he says just loudly enough to carry through the door.

The door opens slightly and Finn’s face appears. “Hey. You don’t mind?”

“Haven’t really gotten started yet,” Puck says.

“Okay. Good,” Finn says, coming into the office and shutting the door behind him. He has his own coffee in his hand. “You didn’t come to bed.”

“Didn’t feel like being told to sleep on the sofa, so I just put myself there,” Puck says with a shrug.

“Nobody wanted you to sleep on the sofa, Puck,” Finn says softly. He sits in a chair across from Puck, looking at him.

“I don’t know what I did, but it isn’t just the being public thing, or Kurt’d be mad at you, too. So I’ll just stay out of the way until one of you tells me or I get forgiven.”

“He isn’t mad at you. It’s not about that,” Finn says. “And he’ll talk to me because I don’t get defensive and then preemptively put myself on the couch to prove a point about how mad everybody is at me.”

“He stopped talking to me before I did any of that, so don’t pull that shit,” Puck says. “I need to work, not be lectured.”

“No, I think what you need is a sex-break,” Finn says.

“So you can tell me what I’m doing wrong?” Puck says more sadly than he intends, shaking his head.

Finn snorts and rolls his eyes. “Yeah, ’cause we’ve always had so many complaints in that department.”

“There’s a first time for everything.” Puck frowns. “I hope this isn’t some kind of omen for 2024.”

“Come upstairs with me,” Finn says. “You’re not locking yourself away in here all day, feeling sorry for yourself. Come up and let me make you feel better.”

“I really don’t understand you right now, either,” Puck points out. “You won’t tell me what I did wrong, but you want me upstairs.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong, or I wouldn’t be trying to get you upstairs. I don’t try to solve my problems with sex, Puck.”

“But clearly I did.” Puck sighs. “I guess you don’t think it was wrong but Kurt does.” He pauses and looks at Finn. “If I told you no, you’d follow me upstairs when I tried to sneak a shower later, wouldn’t you?”

“You know it. If I can’t touch, you know I’m gonna look, babe,” Finn says, grinning at him.

Puck snorts. “You’ve never not touched.”

“I know that’s probably a joke about my mental state, but I’m going to pretend it’s a promise about what’s happening when we get upstairs,” Finn says, standing and holding his hand out to Puck. “Come on. I’ll so make it worth your while.”

“Worth leaving my bagel behind?” Puck asks as he takes Finn’s hand and lets Finn tug him up out of his seat. “That’s quite a promise.”

“I’ll make you say ‘what bagel?’,” Finn says.

Puck smiles a little. “Holding you to that.”

 

Puck decides that until either Kurt or Finn tells him exactly what’s going on, he’ll more or less ignore what’s happening. He very determinedly ignores the night Kurt goes to dinner with Billy, heading out before Kurt returns. Like he explains to Finn, the fact that he didn’t crash the dinner is probably about the best that they could all hope for. There’s a bit of quiet speculation about various Senate races, but nothing in any major media, and that gets them through to mid-month and the Kennedy Center Honors. With any luck, one of them will get a chance to mention de León to Warner at some point during the evening.

That said, it’s definitely an event where people arrive in pairs, and Puck waits until relatively late on Friday afternoon before he goes into Finn’s office, shutting the door behind him. “Is there anything I need a heads up for, about tonight?”

“What kind of anything?” Finn asks. “Candidates we’ve snubbed?”

Puck waves his hand dismissively. “There’s always candidates we’ve snubbed. At least ten percent of them switched parties later as it is. No, you know. Kurt.”

“You’re worried about Kurt? It’s his kind of scene. He’s probably worried about you shucking part of your tux before the night is over.”

“Also always something that happens. No, you keep telling me that it’s only about who gets to be public, so if that’s really what it is, then why shouldn’t I be worried about tonight?” Puck says.

“What, you’re afraid Kurt’s going to make a public scene? With Billy Bostwick?” Finn shakes his head. “Kurt’s not going to do anything like that.”

“So good ol’ Billy is going to be there?”

“It’s entirely possible. A lot of people are going to be there.”

Puck sighs. “Is this another one of these things you just don’t tell me?”

“I don’t know if he’s going to be there. If you’re asking is he going with Kurt, the answer is not as far as I’m aware,” Finn says. “Will you stop acting like I’m out to get you? Have I ever not been on your side?”

“Within the last month you told Kurt to go on a date with Billy, so yeah, I’m going to count that,” Puck says. “I’m trying to be good and give people ‘space’ even though I wasn’t consulted. I just wanted a little warning in case I had to look at Billy’s smug face.”

“If you’d take your head out of your ass, you’d notice that Kurt wasn’t entirely wrong about Billy being helpful,” Finn points out.

“I’m not talking about work,” Puck says, slightly petulantly. “And you know that, because no one ever needs space when it’s just work.”

“Fine. Choose to be miserable. Just acknowledge it’s a choice you’re making, not something I’m forcing on you.”

“I didn’t make any choices in this entire situation. One day one of you’s going to tell me what’s actually going on in words that I can make sense of, hopefully,” Puck says. “I’m going to go upstairs and get ready so I’m out of the way.”

“I love you, even when you’re being a moody dick,” Finn says.

Puck very carefully sticks his tongue out at Finn before doing exactly as he said, getting ready and then waiting for Finn and Kurt to be dressed. The trip over, via cab, doesn’t take very long, and as they walk inside, Puck abruptly realizes that he’d been so focused on the DSCC and Billy, both personally and professionally, that he hadn’t really considered the impact of seeing Burt and Carole again, especially if Finn was telling the truth about Burt being part of the entire mess.

That’s too bad, Puck decides, especially since Burt is one of the very first people they see. Burt, of course, immediately navigates Carole in their direction.

“Hello, boys,” Burt says. “Enjoying the night so far?”

“We’ve only just arrived,” Kurt says.

“Always a nice night,” Puck says. “You?”

“Not bad so far,” Burt says. “So, Kurt, did you bring anyone with you tonight?”

“He brought the two of us,” Finn says.

“Oh, Finn,” Carole says with a laugh. “I think Burt was talking about Billy. I heard he might make an appearance?”

“Well, it wouldn’t be unheard of for someone who works for the DSCC to be at this event,” Kurt says.

“How wonderful,” Puck says very quietly under his breath, then more loudly, “Hopefully Senator Warner himself will be here.”

“Now, that I’m fairly certain will happen,” Kurt says.

“See? I’m sure it’ll be a productive night for everyone,” Finn says. “Speaking of, I see Senator Duckworth over there, and I think Puck, Kurt, and I should go say hello to her.”

“Definitely,” Puck agrees. “Always good to see the senior Senator from Illinois.”

“If we don’t see you later tonight, we’ll see you in a few weeks,” Carole says. “Kurt, honey, if you see Billy, try to introduce us!”

“Definitely,” Kurt says, at least not sounding too enthusiastic about it.

After a quick conversation with Senator Duckworth and a few other Senators nearby, Puck quietly nods his head to his left. “Isn’t that Senator Warner whose back is to us?”

“Sure looks like it,” Finn says pointedly, raising his eyebrows at Puck.

“Time for a quick talk, I think,” Puck says, walking towards Senator Warner and waiting for his conversation to conclude before stepping into his line of sight. “Senator Warner. Noah Puckerman. We met last year, I think it was.”

“Of course. It’s good to see you again,” Senator Warner says, shaking Puck’s hand.

“And my partners, Finn Hudson and Kurt Hummel.”

“Always a pleasure,” Kurt says, shaking Senator Warner’s hand after Puck. Finn follows after Kurt with his own handshake.

“So, you know about our candidate?” Finn asks before he’s even unclasped the Senator’s hand.

“I admit, I was a little surprised. We didn’t have de León’s name on our radar two weeks ago,” Senator Warner says. “You’ve got some forward-thinking ideas, though.”

“Always the goal, sir,” Finn says. “In fact, we were wondering when we could schedule a sit-down with the two of you. I think you’ll like what he’s got to say.”

“Is he available to head east? I can make it happen faster if it’s here in the district, or maybe Fredericksburg or Richmond. I doubt he wants to trek all the way out to the farm,” the Senator says.

“I’m sure we can work something out for here,” Puck says. “It’s a trip he’ll hopefully be making quite frequently.”

Senator Warner laughs, but it’s not the fake laugh so many senators use, so Puck chalks that, at least, up into the win column for the evening. “Exactly. If he can get out here before the twenty-first, I’ll make sure he gets worked into my schedule.”

“I’m sure we can make that happen,” Finn says.

“Excellent. Now, who are the three of you most looking forward to seeing honored tonight?” Senator Warner asks.

“Lin-Manuel Miranda,” Kurt says quickly, looking more relaxed than he had earlier.

“Me too,” Senator Warner says. “We’ll be in touch.” With that, he turns to someone else, and Puck looks at Kurt and Finn.

“We’ll get him out here Monday. Sunday night flight?” Puck says.

“I’ll go call now,” Finn says. “If you’ll excuse me, Senator.”

“Sneaky,” Puck says quietly when it quickly becomes just he and Kurt standing slightly apart from everyone else milling around. “We never do give him quite enough credit for that.”

“He constantly surprises me,” Kurt says.

“Somehow I missed the memo that life was going to get more surprising and irritating,” Puck says, shrugging. “Guess someone didn’t write it out.”

“If only it were as easy as that.”

“If only people actually tried using words,” Puck says. Kurt huffs loudly and walks away towards a server with a tray full of wine glasses. Puck scowls at Kurt’s back and turns in the other direction, walking towards a cluster of freshmen Congressional representatives and shaking each of their hands, which doesn’t make him feel much better, considering the state of his hand afterward.

He finds a server of his own and considers how tacky it’d be to chug the wine like a beer, then decides it’s probably not worth it. He’s still staring at the wine glass when he sees Finn out of the corner of his eye.

“Hey,” Finn says. “We misplace Kurt?”

“He stalked off when I suggested that words were good things,” Puck says.

“Ah,” Finn says.

“Ah, what?” Puck asks.

“You got into it with him?”

“‘If only it were as easy as that’,” Puck quotes. “All I said was some people didn’t write their memos out.”

“Well, people writing things out would definitely make things easier,” Finn says.

“But obviously not happening. I think I have it figured out, though. If it’s really just about who’s public, I can solve that.”

“Okay,” Finn says tentatively.

“We can start arguing, and I can storm off, and Kurt can comfort you. There. All fixed,” Puck says.

“Or we could, you know, not do that,” Finn says.

“So it’s not about who’s publicly together, then.”

“I think it’s about all three of us being together, Puck.”

“Then maybe when Kurt figures out I’m worth more than a convoluted sentence, and you know what it’s about, we can figure it out, but apparently until then, I’m not allowed to know,” Puck says, turning and scanning the room. “Until then, I’m supposed to be just fine with Billy Bostwick because flirting with him was preferable to talking to me!”

“Looks like it got the job done, at least,” Finn says. “Senator Warner seems to be at least marginally on board.”

“Great. We’ll be professionally successful and personally unhappy like everyone else in town,” Puck says, drinking more of the wine. “Did you book a flight?”

“Yeah, it’s all set up. Now can you relax a little?” Finn asks.

“I’m relaxed. I’m relaxed as I have been. Or is this one of those things where you’re telling me to relax because when I turn around to head to our seat I’m going to see Kurt with Billy Bostwick?”

“Well,” Finn says. “He’s alone with what looks like a third glass of wine at the moment.”

“We’re all delightful when we’ve had too much,” Puck says dryly. “I suppose we should sit down.”

“Oh, yeah, let’s.”

The three of them sit down as the program begins, which means there’s no additional conversation, and during intermission, Kurt leaves for the bathroom, returning as the lights flicker. Puck feels mostly empty by the end of the performance, and even though they have an invitation to the reception at the White House, what he says after the lights come up is “Home?”

“I was thinking we could hit a bar or something,” Finn says.

“I’m fine either way,” Kurt says. “No preference.”

Puck snorts. “Sure, let’s get drunk. That’ll probably go well.”

“Fine, we’ll go home,” Kurt says, more tersely.

“Dammit, you two,” Finn sighs.

“I told you the only solution I could come up with,” Puck says. “Not my fault you didn’t like it.”

“Then yeah, we’ll go home,” Finn says. “We’ll do it your way.”

“Oh, yes, something going my way,” Puck says as he stands and starts walking out of the row. Finn and Kurt follow behind him without speaking. Puck nods at a few people as they leave, stopping to shake hands twice, and then they wait for a cab. Part of him wants to ask Kurt if Finn’s right about what he thinks the issue is, but the rest of him thinks that if Finn could say it in a sentence, why couldn’t Kurt have managed at least a paragraph or two over the course of days?

Once they’re in the cab, Puck closes his eyes and leans his head against the window. “What else do any of us have this weekend?”

“I was gonna watch a game,” Finn says. “Other than that, nothing firm.”

“Nothing specific,” Kurt says.

“That’s something, then,” Puck says with a sigh, then tries to hold back a laugh. For once, he didn’t take off any part of his tux, and probably Kurt didn’t even notice.

“Want to bet on the Big Ten championship like we used to?” Finn asks. “We haven’t had escalating football betting in a while. Could be fun.”

“Who’s playing?” Puck asks. “You know I don’t like it when you trick me into rooting for Michigan.”

“Once. That was once,” Finn says. “Iowa and Rutgers.”

“Rutgers? Really?” Puck shakes his head. “Anyone’s better than Iowa, though, I guess.”

“You’re still butthurt about Iowa, huh?” Finn asks.

“You’d be more surprised if I wasn’t!”

“Maybe someday soon,” Finn says. “We’ll get us there.”

“I’m still picking Rutgers, though,” Puck says.

“What’s the first quarter bet?” Finn asks.

“No ties, has to be an actual lead, for starters.”

“Fine. And only per touchdown, no extra points.”

“There’s a two point conversion joke somewhere in there,” Puck says. “What were you thinking?”

“Strip touchdown,” Finn says, grinning.

“Socks count as one item, not two.”

“No shoes, though.”

Puck nods. “Shoes would be cheating.”

“And personally, I’m hoping for somebody’s dick in somebody’s mouth by the half,” Finn says. “Just personal preference, though.”

There’s that two point conversion,” Puck says.

“I could show you a two point conversion right now,” Finn offers. “Unless you’re too tired and cranky.”

“I’m always a little tired and cranky. That’s just my job,” Puck says. “But a preview’s a good thing.”

“Well, you are our Josh, after all,” Finn says. He slides a hand high up on Puck’s thigh.

“Conveniently,” Puck says as the cab stops, “we’re home now.” He leans forward to pay the cabbie, then waits as Kurt and Finn slide out before climbing out himself.

“That is convenient,” Finn agrees.

“Straight upstairs, then?” Puck asks.

“Oh hell yeah!”

Puck notices Kurt stays just a step or two ahead of them, and he doesn’t walk toward the bedroom with them, but Finn doesn’t say anything, and Puck decides that, at least for this evening, he’s going to let Finn win.

“We don’t have to get a touchdown ahead of this conversion, right? It’s more like a safety?” Puck asks as he starts taking off the tux.

“Oh there’s gonna be a touchdown, alright,” Finn says. “Eventually, there’s gonna be a touchdown.”

 

Monday turns into a whirlwind of meeting Senator de León at his hotel, accompanying him to Senator Warner’s office, and then having a lunch followed by an afternoon meeting with Senator de León and his staff, and by the time they’ve made sure Senator de León and his staff are checked in at Dulles, Puck can feel the familiar combination of campaign trail adrenaline and exhaustion creeping in.

“We’ve got deadlines again,” Puck says as they head back toward home. “Two weeks from Wednesday.”

“I love deadlines!” Finn says. “Deadline season’s the best.”

“You like the media that come with the deadlines,” Puck points out.

“I don’t not like the media,” Finn concedes.

“You could call some of your media friends in another week and give them a tip, probably,” Puck says, thinking for a moment.

“I love leaking tips to the media,” Finn says.

“What about holiday gift shopping? Do you love that?” Puck asks.

“Ah, I, uh.” Finn shakes his head. “Not so much the shopping part. But hey, that’s why we have a Kurt, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Puck says, frowning a little.

“We give him the list of names, and then we only have to worry about each other’s gifts.”

“Yeah,” Puck says quietly. “Simple.”

“Exactly!” Finn says.

“You really think so?” Puck asks. “I feel like I could give Kurt a Starbuck gift card and he’d scream at me about why hadn’t I noticed he stopped drinking coffee six months ago.”

“Stop,” Finn says. “Not today, okay? Campaign’s ramping up, everybody’s going to be in a good mood again soon.”

“Because we’ll all be doing our own thing in different places?” Puck asks, shaking his head. “Fine. I’ll shut up.”

“Yeah. That’s great,” Finn says under his breath.

Puck crosses his arms over his chest and breathes out heavily. He’s not exaggerating; he really does feel like he’s flying blind about what it is Kurt wants and what exactly Puck did to make him so mad. As long as Puck is quiet, they can pretend for a day or two at a time, and probably if not for that, Puck’d be making more noise.

“Are we doing dinner with those Congressional staffers or just drinks?” Puck asks as they get close to home.

“Just drinks, last I heard,” Finn says.

“How many more races do we need to pick up, you think? Two more, wide margin races?”

“Yeah, maybe a third, if we like the odds?”

“Maybe we should expand into a Philly district. Pennsylvania’s a swing state most years,” Puck muses. “That’d give us Ohio, Virginia, California, and Pennsylvania.”

“Yeah, that wouldn’t be a bad balance right there,” Finn says.

“Could be another eight years, but groundwork, right?”

“Exactly,” Finn says. “What’s another eight years, right? We’ll have it all ready to go for when we find the One.”

“That’s the dream,” Puck agrees. “So after we find the One and get them in the Oval, are you going to pull a Rahm?”

“Move back to Chicago and become mayor?”

“Maybe not Chicago, but run for office, yeah,” Puck says.

“Me? A candidate?” Finn waves his hand dismissively. “Sure. That could happen.”

“Sooner you than me, is all I’m saying.”

“Yeah, because you’re completely politically inept and you’re awful in front of a crowd. So unphotogenic, too,” Finn says.

“Angry candidates don’t get very far. That’s part of the reason we try to rile ours up, remember?” Puck says.

“I think you’d be a mellow candidate. You’re just busy being the Josh right now.”

“It was Sam who ran for office, not Josh,” Puck points out. “Even Will ran.”

“Sam kept his hair,” Finn counters.

“Are you implying something about my hair?”

“No, I’m just saying, if you kept your hair, you could break the Josh streak.”

“I’m not losing my hair!” Puck insists.

“I know!” Finn says. “I’m saying you’re not! Full head. It’s fantastic. I’d love to run my hands through it right now!”

Puck eyes Finn suspiciously. “You’re not just placating me because I’m about to turn thirty, right?”

“I like you turning thirty. It’s hot.”

“That wasn’t actually an answer.”

“I’m not placating you. I know better than to try to manage you, babe. Come on,” Finn says.

Puck laughs despite his best effort. “You manage me all the time!”

“But not about your hair. Never about your hair.”

“And you try to act like you shouldn’t be a candidate.”

“No, I act like I don’t want to be a candidate,” Finn says, “because I don’t want to be.”

“I suppose you would have trouble leaking to the media as the actual candidate,” Puck concedes.

“Exactly. You know how I love the media. I manage the media.”

Puck smiles. “And you do an exceptional job.”

“Then don’t push me into the spotlight. Let me keep doing my thing. I’m not your Bartlet or your Santos. I’m your Donna, remember,” Finn says.

“So we’re going to co-Chief of Staff?” Puck asks. “Told you I’m just the Josh.”

“Or I could work under you. Directly under you.”

“Did you want to give me an example of that before drinks?”

“Uh, yes please!”

 

By the Friday after Christmas, which is also the Friday before de León’s announcement, the campaign adrenaline-exhaustion combination is running, for Puck, alongside the current of either pretending things are fine with the three of them or snapping at Kurt. When Puck sends out the latest versions of the announcement and the speeches for the first two campaign events to California, and the clock says it’s not quite lunch time, he goes into the main room.

“Order in?” he asks.

“God, yes,” Kurt says. “Nothing can make me cook right now.”

“I figured we weren’t really fit to sit in a restaurant, either,” Puck says, pulling out his phone. “What do we want?”

“Thai,” Finn says.

“Mmm, no, Indian,” Kurt says. “I want Indian food.”

“At least we’re already discussing the same continent?” Puck says. “Technically we could order from two different places.”

“Yeah, but where’s the fun in that?” Finn asks.

“Arguing about what to order is the fun,” Kurt adds.

“I just wanted a salad,” Puck says, shrugging.

“A Thai salad?” Finn asks.

“You know, now that I’m thinking about it, maybe Mediterranean,” Kurt says. “Puck could have his salad, Finn could have his gyro.”

“You could have your baklava,” Finn says.

“Mediterranean, then?” Puck asks, flipping through his contacts.

“I can pour us some wine, or maybe pop the top on some beers for us?” Finn asks.

“Beer. Deadlines always feel more like beer,” Puck says as he finds the number and presses it.

“Be right back, then,” Finn says. “Order me some extra tzatziki.”

“I know!” Puck says. He orders the same things they usually do, including Finn’s extra tzatziki, then puts his phone down. “Twenty to twenty-five minutes,” he says to Kurt.

“Good. I’m starving,” Kurt says.

“If we’re lucky, it’ll be quicker.” Puck sits down and watches Kurt out of the corner of his eye. “How’s your end going?”

“I’ve got a lock on those venues we were looking at,” Kurt says. “I’ll have all the paperwork ready in two days, maybe three if it takes longer than expected for the signatures.”

“Everyone in and out around the holidays, yeah, makes sense,” Puck says.

Kurt nods. “But that’s why email exists.”

“I almost wish it didn’t right now, because I’d have fewer suggested edits.” Puck can hear Finn walking around upstairs, and he sighs a little. “Is it the hair?”

“Excuse me?” Kurt says, tilting his head to the side.

“Billy. Is his hair just that much better?”

“Better than whose?” Kurt asks. “I mean, he has nice enough hair, I suppose.”

“Uh, mine?” Puck says.

“What’s wrong with your hair? It’s very nice styled like that.”

Puck makes a face. “‘Very nice’? Really?”

“What?” Kurt asks. “It’s getting a little long in front, to be honest, but we’ll get you in for a trim this weekend.” He reaches for Puck’s hair, brushing it to the side, away from Puck’s forehead.

“Then what is it?” Puck frowns at Kurt. “You spent maybe five minutes around him and stopped talking to me.”

“Only because you instantly became hostile,” Kurt says.

“He was flirting in the middle of a work meeting, and you kept encouraging him,” Puck says. “I wasn’t hostile, I was unhappy.”

“I can’t even count the number of times you and Finn have batted your eyes at congresswomen, or candidates’ wives, or that pharmaceuticals lobbyist three years ago. A federal judge slapped Finn on the ass once! All of that’s fine, though, but I flirt a little in a meeting about our current candidate—which, I’m sorry, you did notice the DSCC is on board now, right?—and you lose your mind,” Kurt says. “Why is it okay for the two of you to use it, and not me?”

“Last I checked, Carole didn’t give Finn’s number to the federal judge, and Burt didn’t ask when Finn was going to make introductions,” Puck says. “And we would have been fine fighting the DSCC.”

“Oh gosh, I wonder why it is that Carole and Dad don’t try to get you and Finn to date, but they bother me about it?” Kurt asks.

“Got the beer!” Finn’s voice carries down the stairs.

“Fine, I’ll tell you what I told Finn. Finn and I can stage a public argument and you can swoop in. Happy?” Puck asks quickly.

“No! That wouldn’t make me happy!” Kurt says.

“Is everything okay down there?” Finn asks. He thumps loudly down the stairs, appearing in the doorway with three bottles of beer between his hands. “Are you two arguing?”

“No,” Kurt says, shaking his head. “It’s fine.”

“I still think I should just clear out,” Puck says.

“No way. I opened a beer for you, and we’ve got food coming,” Finn says. “Knock it off.”

“In general, not immediately,” Puck says.

“Absolutely not,” Finn says.

“Maybe you should let Kurt answer,” Puck says. “He’s the one who’s mad at me, not you.”

“I’m not mad. You’re the one who can’t let it go,” Kurt says.

“You won’t talk to me. I don’t even know what I did, so how am I supposed to let it go?”

“You didn’t do anything!” Kurt says. “It’s not you! It’s just the situation.”

“Puck, let’s eat first, at least,” Finn says. “Have you beer. We can talk after we eat.”

“Why would eating first change anything? No one’s told me anything for weeks. Either of you,” Puck says, taking one of the beers and drinking half of it. “If it were the situation, you’d be pissed at Finn, so it’s just me, so I should leave.”

“Finn at least understands why I’m upset, and doesn’t constantly act like I’m on the verge of ruining everything because of it!” Kurt shouts.

“Well maybe you should have told me you were upset instead of just snapping at me and going to dinner with someone else,” Puck yells back. “I’m not a fucking mindreader like Finn!”

“Oh my god, we went out all of three times! I didn’t kiss him! I haven’t seen him in weeks!”

Three times?”

“Once for dinner, twice for drinks. He’s a lightweight,” Kurt says.

“Did you talk to him? Use words instead of snapping at him and flirting with other men? Then Billy’s already got the advantage over me,” Puck says. He drains the rest of his beer. “I don’t honestly know what the two of you want me to do.”

“A network show about a polyamorous family won an Emmy this year, Puck! Think about it. What could I possibly want?” Kurt asks.

Puck looks at Kurt and blinks. “What?”

“I’m tired of being your third wheel!” Kurt says. “I’m tired of being the person everyone assumes needs a date!”

“Kurt, Puck, let’s eat some dinner before we get into this, please?” Finn asks.

“No, Finn,” Kurt says. “You can’t keep playing peacemaker all the time. You have to pick a side.”

“There aren’t any sides here, Kurt. I love you both,” Finn says.

“Then you do want the three of us to publicly be involved romantically?” Kurt asks.

Finn sighs loudly. “We’re just starting a new campaign. It wouldn’t be fair to the candidate to let that little personal story drop right now.”

“Wait, I didn’t know there was a side,” Puck says. “What side am I supposedly on? Why didn’t you just say that was what you were talking about?”

“‘Burt’s staffers saw me and Finn kissing, so it makes the most sense to just go with that’,” Kurt says, in a tone of voice obviously meant to be impersonating Puck.

“You’re mad at me now for something I said when I was seventeen?” Puck asks incredulously. “Without telling me anything else about what you were thinking or asking me what I thought now?”

“You’ve never once corrected anyone. Not once. You let them assume you and Finn are involved and I’m your single, pathetic business partner,” Kurt says.

“Because that would have meant I was making a decision for all three of us without talking to either of you,” Puck says, looking between Kurt and Finn. “And, silly me, I thought that was the kind of thing we talked about. Not clammed up and assumed the other two of us knew what was going on.”

“You seemed fine with the current public understanding of our relationship,” Kurt says.

“No, okay, I’m stepping in here,” Finn says. “We were all fine with it at first. We were fine in college. It kept Burt off our backs. It’s all our faults for not discussing it since. That’s absolutely fair.”

“You know, Finn told me this was about trust,” Puck says, looking at Kurt. “But you didn’t trust me enough to bring it up directly even once in twelve years?”

“I’ve tried!” Kurt says.

“When?” Puck asks, bewildered. “When did you once mention it to me directly? Flirting with Billy Bostwick and then snapping at me in the Metro station doesn’t count!”

“I’ve attempted to bring it up, but you never gave me a chance to really broach the topic,” Kurt says.

“Again, when?” Puck says. “Finn? Help me out here.”

“I know you think you tried, Kurt, but you aren’t always good about really being clear about what you’re thinking,” Fin says judiciously. “I think it’s possible you passive-aggressived him.”

“You know I don’t really grasp that stuff,” Puck says.

“Well, I thought I tried!” Kurt says.

“I even asked you to tell me what it was!” Puck says. “I’m not a mindreader. I write speeches about big tables.”

“Believe me, I know! Everybody knows!” Kurt says.

“I’m saying, I’m not going to understand metaphors and snapped remarks when it comes to us!”

“Then maybe you don’t understand me!” Kurt says, bursting into tears.

“Kurt, hey,” Finn says, looking helplessly between Kurt and Puck. “Puck, don’t. Both of you just…”

“I’ve been the same way for twelve years,” Puck says, feeling stung. “If that’s not enough, I don’t know what else to do.”

“I don’t know what to do,” Finn says softly. “And I don’t know how to not know how to do stuff.”

“I have tried to be a good partner to both of you. If I’m not good enough, I’m not,” Puck says, trying not to cry himself. “I didn’t know I was failing so badly.”

“It’s the time of year,” Finn says. “Everything gets crazy before the candidate announces. We’re always a little messed up.” He puts one hand on Puck’s back and the other on Kurt’s. “Let’s just make it through the announcement and then we can fix this, okay? I swear we can fix this.”

“This is more than a little messed up, Finn,” Puck says softly.

“Everything just seems worse than it is right now, that’s all,” Finn insists.

Kurt shakes his head, still crying. “No, Puck’s right. This is more than just a little.”

“At least we agree on one thing,” Puck says, not sure if he’s about to laugh, cry, or both. “That’s something, right?”

“I’ll go get the Binder!” Finn says. “We always feel better when we look through the Binder of Wins!”

“Finn. Babe.” Puck shakes his head. “It’s not that easy, either.”

“It could be, though. We could just stop whatever it is we’re doing right now and look at the Binder of Wins. We just need a win, that’s all,” Finn insists stubbornly.

“It’d feel fake. I thought we were happy,” Puck says. “For every single one of them.”

“We were,” Finn says.

“I was. I don’t know if Kurt was,” Puck says. “Kurt. Please. I always wanted you to be happy.”

“It’s fine, it’s fine,” Kurt says, though the fact that he’s still crying negates what he’s saying. “I’m sorry. This is my mistake.”

The doorbell interrupts before Puck can respond, and he goes to the door on autopilot, taking the food and handing the delivery person what is probably too large of a tip. He unpacks the food the same way, handing it out before sitting down and starting on his salad.

“Which part?” Puck asks quietly after a few bites.

“I should have said something sooner. I should have been more clear,” Kurt says. He picks at his food without really eating, though the crying seems to have tapered off, at least.

“I’m having a hard time with the idea of you thinking I wanted you miserable,” Puck admits. “That you thought I was understanding completely and just ignoring it.”

“I wasn’t miserable,” Kurt says. “Not always. Not usually.”

“I thought I’d done something, this past month, you know? But now you’re saying it’s just who I am. I can’t— I thought you liked who I am.”

“I like who you are. I love you, Puck,” Kurt says.

“Then you’re going to have to talk to me,” Puck says softly. “I kept asking.”

Kurt shakes his. “I supposed it always seemed like too big a conversation to have all at once.”

“Well, we’re having it now, plus some,” Puck points out a little dryly.

“I’m just tired of everyone thinking I’m the third wheel,” Kurt says. “I want our relationship to be as validated as yours and Finn’s.”

“Okay. I never thought about trying it that way,” Puck admits. “It wasn’t a rejection of the idea so much as not really putting together we could do that.”

“I feel like I’m not important enough for you to put the idea together,” Kurt says.

“Hey, we’re not going to do that,” Finn says. “Don’t do the passive-aggressive thing.”

Kurt sniffles quietly. “Fine. I apologize. I feel like the idea of our relationship being fit for public consumption wasn’t something you wanted to consider. How’s that?”

“Confusing, actually,” Puck says. “I just ordered the same salad I’ve been getting from this place since we got to DC, so as long as everyone seemed happy, I guess I wasn’t as far along as thinking about wanting to consider anything.”

Kurt sighs. “That is so very Josh of you.”

“Yeah, but we both know he’s the Josh,” Finn points out. “So it’s not fair to be mad at him for being what he is, just like it wasn’t fair for us to be mad at you for wanting somebody’s undivided attention. The thing we all did wrong was not talk about it.”

“I think you’re both a little right and a little wrong about being public, though,” Puck says.

“How so?” Kurt asks.

“It could be a distraction, sure,” Puck says. “And I think it’d probably be more of a distraction personally than you think, Kurt, because of your dad and Carole. But I think Finn forgot not everything needs a full press release.”

“But I love a press release,” Finn says.

“You could write it and only give it to Burt and Carole?” Puck offers.

“Yeah, you bet I could write a press release,” Finn grumbles. “I’ll write every press release.”

“But just telling Dad and Carole won’t change public perception about my status as the pathetic brother who lives for work and is always the third wheel on your dates,” Kurt says.

“No, what I mean is, we explicitly tell them, maybe some other people here in DC, and other than that, we just act like we assume everyone else knows,” Puck says. “It’ll get around but it won’t be the story or impact clients.”

“Still gonna write that press release,” Finn says, continuing to grumble to himself.

“That would be… it would really mean a lot to me,” Kurt says.

“Okay. Then we do that.” Puck frowns. “Do people really think you’re pathetic?”

Kurt nods. “I hear things sometimes.”

“They’re stupid, then,” Puck says. “Anyone specific? We can run someone against them.”

“It’s not important. I’m not going to have you picking fights with someone’s staffers,” Kurt says.

“That’s a little bit what I do for a living. You’d just be steering me in the right direction, is all,” Puck says.

“And you’ve managed to avoid any actual fistfights on the Hill thus far, and I prefer that not change on my behalf,” Kurt says. “Finn, please back me up here.”

“No, I’m with Puck. I want names. I’ll put them in my press release.”

“I don’t need to use my fists on the Hill. I’m not above inviting them to a kickboxing class, though. Are there still kickboxing classes?” Puck asks. “It’s harder to accidentally kick someone in some classes.”

“I don’t know, babe,” Finn says. “Kickboxing’s really 2008. I think the thing now is hip-hop Krav Maga.”

“I don’t know what you just said,” Puck admits. “We’re getting distracted. Names, Kurt.”

Kurt sighs. “It’s not like it was just the one time or the one place, Puck. Most recently? Joe Conrad and some of his staff. A few of Donnelly’s people.”

“I’m so naming names in that press release. I’m going to eviscerate them in one page or less,” Finn says.

“Donnelly’s up for reelection. I don’t know if he could handle a primary fight. He might be willing to throw a few people under the bus to avoid one,” Puck muses.

Finn nods. “They’re going to rue the day they opened their big stupid mouths.”

“With eloquence like that, I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong with this plan,” Kurt says.

“We don’t have to be eloquent around you,” Puck says brightly. “You already know we can do exactly what we just said, regardless of how we phrase it.”

“You must still love me after all,” Kurt says, and while his tone suggests he’s trying to be flippant, his voice cracks a little.

“Of course we do,” Finn says, moving closer to Kurt. “I didn’t think that was ever the question.”

Puck shakes his head. “Wasn’t for me.”

Kurt exhales loudly. “The timing of this couldn’t be worse. We shouldn’t make any moves until after the candidate has announced, and probably we should wait until at least after the primaries.”

“Uh uh. Nope,” Finn says. “I need to draft a press release, Kurt. I need to. It’s what I do.”

 

“It is what he does,” Puck agrees. “He can do that today and we’ll go to the New Year’s Eve party on Sunday night, but it won’t get highlighted on Monday because of the holiday, just quietly passed around.”

“You’re sure?” Kurt asks.

“Of course he’s sure. We’re both sure,” Finn says. “We need you. You’re part of this, and we don’t work without you.”

“You can’t tell me you’re not picturing people’s faces,” Puck says to Kurt, one eyebrow raised. “Right?”

“Maybe just a little,” Kurt says. He smiles a little as he looks down into his container of takeout.

“See? Added benefit of being fun. I’ll call Donnelly’s chief of staff while Finn writes that press release.”

“Okay,” Kurt says. “Thank you. Both of you.”

“Can we look at the Binder of Wins now?” Finn asks. “I mean, this should go into the Binder if anything should.”

“You’ve been dying to look in it all day, haven’t you?” Puck says.

“Well, yeah. I always like to look in the Binder.”

“I’m not certain this merits an entry unto itself, but we can look in the Binder,” Kurt says.

“Finn’s hoping we somehow missed that we already found the One, I bet,” Puck says.

“Ah yes,” Kurt says, nodding sagely. “The One True Presidential Candidate. One candidate to rule them all.”

“The One is out there, Kurt. You just have to believe,” Finn says.

“I feel like we’re making a mash-up of a baseball movie and West Wing, now,” Puck says.

 

“The best part about waking up on New Year’s is knowing there’s a bacon upgrade in my future,” Puck says as they leave home, heading towards Founding Farmers to meet Burt and Carole for brunch.

“Damn, I do love a bacon upgrade,” Finn says.

“I’m looking forward to poached eggs with goat cheese and beets,” Kurt says.

“And none of us need a hangover hash, which is nice,” Puck says. “It’s not as cold as some years, we could just walk.”

“That would be nice,” Kurt says. He links his arms in Puck’s and Finn’s.

“Anticipating this?” Puck asks after a couple of blocks.

“A little,” Kurt says, then sighs. “More than a little.”

“It was a nice press release,” Puck says with a nod towards Finn. “No one last night seemed that surprised, though.”

“Maybe we aren’t as subtle as we thought we were,” Finn says.

“‘Subtle’ probably isn’t a word people associate with me, no,” Puck admits.

“Hmm. No, not really,” Kurt says. “You are many things, but subtle isn’t one of them.”

“But you like that about me.”

“Yes, that’s very true.”

The walk is less than a mile, but by the time Puck holds the door open, he’s glad they’ve gotten back inside a heated building. “Are they here yet?” Puck asks Finn, since Finn can most easily scan the restaurant.

“Yeah, I see them in the back,” Finn says.

“Maybe they already ordered coffee, at least,” Puck suggests as the three of them wind through the tables towards Burt and Carole.

“One can only hope,” Kurt says.

“Boys,” Burt says as a greeting as they reach the table. “Take a seat.”

“I didn’t know we were attending a Congressional committee hearing,” Puck says under his breath as he pulls out a chair.

“I’m sure you anticipated some questions, at least,” Burt says. “And you, Finn. A press release? Really? That’s how you let your parents know?”

Finn shrugs. “I do love a press release.”

“They’re what he does,” Puck adds. “At least you didn’t have to fire anyone.”

“No one on his staff would have made the mistake of saying something within earshot at least,” Kurt says.

“I’m very confused,” Carole says. “About the press release and about this discussion of firing people.”

“As the press release said, Kurt, Puck, and I have all been romantically involved with each other for quite some time,” Finn says in a slightly grandiose fashion.

“And before this was slightly more public knowledge, I’ve been on the receiving end of several snide remarks about riding on Finn and Puck’s coattails in more than one way,” Kurt says.

“We convinced him to give us names, though, so I took care of some of those people,” Puck says. “Donnelly saw the wisdom of not having to invest in a primary fight.”

“You did all of that because you three are dating?” Burt asks.

“That makes it sound a little casual, don’t you think?” Puck counters. “I did that because a United States Senator shouldn’t have high-level staffers who engage in mean-spirited, loud commentary when they’re supposed to be working to move policy forward.”

“But going after their jobs. It’s a little petty, don’t you think?” Burt says.

“If you think people going after your son is fine, you’re welcome to hire them,” Puck says, nodding at the server as he pours coffee. “Donnelly, however, didn’t think it was okay.”

“Of course I don’t think it’s okay!” Burt says. “I just don’t want you getting a reputation for pettiness.”

“Hey, Finn,” Puck says casually. “Did anyone last night seem to think I was petty?”

“I think the actual phrase being used was ‘a little less uptight than usual’,” Finn says.

“You let loose,” Kurt says. “Everyone was amused.”

“Even political consultants have principles,” Puck says with a shrug.

“So you wouldn’t use the term dating? What would you use?” Carole asks, still looking confused.

“We’ve always been comfortable with ‘partners’ in both a professional and personal sense,” Kurt says.

“I suppose that makes sense, and dating would seem casual,” Carole says. “It’s really been all this time?”

“Yeah, this whole time,” Finn says. “We’re a team.”

“But you don’t think this is going to have a negative impact on your consulting firm?” Burt asks.

“Dad, I really think the romantic lives of political consultants isn’t very high on the priority list for most people, even in DC,” Kurt says.

“It might even give us a certain panache,” Puck says. “You never can quite guess with DC.”

“T&N, the firm that has it all, including hot poly romance,” Finn says.

“Finn!” Carole says with a little gasp that Puck thinks might be entirely genuine and not put on. “You can’t just say things like that in public!”

“Can’t help what’s true, Mom. I just tell it like it is,” Finn says. “Sometimes with a press release.”

“How does de León feel about this?” Burt asks.

“That he agreed to work with us based on our professional skills and not how many beds are in our hotel room when we fly out to California,” Puck says. “Most of the voters in California will never register who we are or what it is we do for de León.”

“Besides, one hotel room is cheaper than two, right?” Finn says.

“Finn!” Carole says again. “That’s surely not an appropriate detail to discuss.”

“It’s not a detail, it’s a fact, and it’s very heavily implied by the fact of our relationship, anyway,” Puck says.

“Yeah, it’s not like we’re talking about specific stuff any of us like to do in that one hotel room,” Finn says.

That wouldn’t be appropriate at all, at least over brunch,” Kurt says.

“Drinks, though, maybe,” Puck says with a slight smile.

“Oh definitely,” Finn says. “Possibly even dinner.”

Carole exchanges a glance with Burt, then clears her throat. “What?” Burt asks.

“Is this…” She gives Puck, Finn, and Kurt an uncomfortable look, then leans in and whispers something to Burt.

“Oh. Yeah, okay,” Burt says, then turns towards Puck. “Is this going to be how it is from now on?”

“Continuing to be open about our relationship? Yes,” Puck says. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

So open, I suppose is the question,” Burt asks.

“This was important to me. To all of us,” Kurt says. “I have no motivation to pretend it isn’t.”

“If it’s important to you, then of course, it’s important to us,” Burt says.

Kurt smiles. “Thank you, Dad.”

“And, you know, Finn was being completely honest at the Kennedy Center,” Puck says. “Kurt did bring us.”

“This isn’t just an elaborate ploy to keep me from setting you up with people, is it?” Burt asks. “I mean, I thought you liked that Bostwick kid I gave your number to.”

“Oh, he was very nice, but that was really more of a business situation than anything else,” Kurt says. “Me already being in a relationship—several relationships, technically—aside, there wasn’t any spark.”

“I don’t like Billy,” Puck mutters.

“We know,” Finn says, patting Puck’s leg.

“So no more dates. Got it,” Burt says.

“It’s a little frightening that it takes either a relationship or an elaborate ploy for you to stop, and not just Kurt asking you to, but sure,” Puck says. “As long as it stops.”

“It stops. I swear,” Burt says.

“And all three of you are happy with this?” Carole says. “I just want to be sure.”

“Extremely,” Kurt says.

“We are,” Puck says, nodding.

“That’s the important thing,” Burt says. “Now, can we order? I’m starving.”

 

Two days later, they’re in Los Angeles, standing in the parking lot of the Bellevue Recreation Center and getting ready for Senator de León’s announcement. Puck shifts his weight impatiently as the sound and light crews go through their checklist. There’s nothing else to be done until after the speech is given, and even then, the immediate aftermath is a little more Finn’s thing.

“Did anyone warn Framwell?” Puck asks Kurt quietly.

“I handled it,” Kurt says. “He wasn’t happy, but he’ll smile when the camera pans.”

“Warner handled Feinstein already, right?”

“He did his part,” Kurt says, nodding along with his words.

“We’ll make sure she can be happy when she retires. Deservedly,” Puck adds. “I think I found us a district in Philly, too.”

“Have you talked about it to Finn yet? I know he was excited about the possibility,” Kurt says.

“Just got the message a few minutes ago. We’ll tell him tonight when he’s already riding his media high,” Puck says. “He’ll never go to sleep tonight.”

“He never does after these events,” Kurt says, smiling fondly.

“It’s definitely a nice bonus for us,” Puck says, then stops talking as de León’s PA nods at them, then the media and de León himself.

“Here we go,” Kurt whispers.

Puck grabs Kurt’s hand and squeezes it. “This’ll be fun.”

The announcement goes as perfectly as they could have hoped for, including a few questions that give de León an opportunity to expand even more on the remarks in his announcement speech. He looks confident and relaxed as he answers them, and Puck makes a quick note on his phone to make sure most of his events leave time for Q&A.

“You think Hunter’s going to announce soon for the GOP?” Puck asks Kurt as the Senator takes a last question. “Or do you think we’ll get a full week ahead of him?”

“At least a week,” Kurt says. “I heard he’s stalling. Nobody’s quite sure why.”

“Hopefully not an affair. That’s so decades ago,” Puck says, watching de León leave the staging area and Finn taking over the Q&A. There are a few questions that Finn deftly turns aside, leaving them to later in the campaign, but mostly Finn calmly answers the questions and directs the media to where they can find further information. “We should take on someone with an affair, so Finn could handle the questions.”

“God, he’s so good at that,” Kurt says. “I would want him on my staff permanently if I were a candidate. I’d never let him go after the election was over. You, too, you know.”

“You do realize that ‘bedwarmer’ isn’t a staff position, right?” Puck says with a grin. Kurt probably would be the best candidate, out of the three of them.

“A man can dream, though,” Kurt says wistfully.

“For now, we should probably collect our bedwarmer, though, before that woman from MSNBC tries to take him home. He’s at least half her age,” Puck says.

“Those nails are frightening,” Kurt says.

“Too bad you can’t give her some advice,” Puck says, walking towards Finn and nudging his shoulder when they reach him. “We’ve got that two o’clock,” he lies.

“That’s right. Don’t want to be late for that,” Finn says, and when the woman from MSNBC turns away, Finn mouths ‘thank you’ at Puck.

Puck keeps his laugh quiet. “Didn’t want to go home with her?” he whispers.

“Oh god, get me out of here,” Finn says, looking like he’s barely resisting the urge to laugh. Kurt comes up on his other side, looping an arm through one of Finn’s.

“It went well,” Kurt says.

“You think so? I was afraid I over-answered one of those at the end,” Finn says. “I accepted the premise. I know better!”

“You’re allowed to get excited about your candidate, Finn,” Kurt says.

“More importantly, were there any odd questions that might give us a clue about why Hunter is stalling?” Puck asks.

“There were,” Finn says. “How did you know?”

“I heard it from one of de León’s junior aides. Nobody’s entirely sure why, but at least one of the whispers has something to do with the military,” Kurt says.

“Hunter’s military record itself is pretty rock solid,” Puck admits. “So maybe the military after he was elected?”

“I’ll look into it further and let you know,” Kurt says.

“The Senator likes the Q&A. We should make his stump speeches a little shorter, leave more time for questions when we can,” Puck says. “Finn, you’ll have to coach him about the different questions he’ll get at this level.”

“I think he’s up for the challenge,” Finn says. “I’ll work up some two to three sentence answers for the major questions, then get him to help me develop his responses. He’s got a strong voice. I think it’s important that the answers sound like they come from him.”

“We picked a good one. You want more good news?” Puck asks.

“Yes, please. I always love good news,” Finn says.

“Pennsylvania’s Thirteenth.”

“For real?” Finn asks, bouncing in place a little excitedly. “You’re giving me a district?”

“Better than a diamond, right?” Kurt asks.

“You know it!”

“Boyle’s ready to move on. We get to keep it in the family, so to speak,” Puck says. “A couple of good potential candidates to look at.”

“We’ll get started as soon as we get back to DC?” Finn asks.

Puck laughs. “Can you contain yourself until then?”

“I’m sure I’ll have a little extra nervous energy,” Finn says. “Think you can keep me occupied?”

“Oh, I think that’s a challenge we’re up to. Don’t you, Kurt?”

“Hmm. I can probably find it in me to help just a bit.”

“We’re so considerate,” Puck says brightly. “I have to say, four days in, 2024 seems pretty good.”

Finn grins. “And the day ain’t over yet.”

 

By two weeks into the year, the temperature difference between DC and California is something Puck’s remembering to anticipate, even if none of them are used to it. This time, they’re in Feinstein’s stomping grounds, so they fly directly to San Francisco for what even Puck admits is something of a whirlwind of events. The last one is at a festival in Golden Gate Park, kicking off something about magnolias or sea lions—Puck keeps forgetting.

“Maybe we need to hire an intern,” Puck admits as they drive between venues. “Someone to do the nitty-gritty research.”

“I wouldn’t say no,” Finn says.

“Kurt? What do you think? Get a junior who isn’t studying abroad?”

“That would work. A girl,” Kurt says. “Sometimes I’m actually offended by the fact that our staff is entirely male, and I love you both.”

“Our entire staff is just us, though,” Finn says.

“Yes, I realize that. I just think we need to keep it in mind when we hire,” Kurt says.

“Maybe we just won’t put it in the advertisement, is all,” Puck says. “I won’t mind handing off the geographic research. What’s this festival for again?”

“Sea Lions,” Finn says. “They’re not the same as seals, apparently.”

“Sounds like a sports team. The Alameda Sea Lions. Alcatraz Sea Lions,” Puck says.

“I’d watch that,” Finn says.

“What sport, though?” Kurt asks. “Basketball?”

“Hockey,” Finn suggests. “Volleyball.”

“If we ever retire, let’s get Finn elected IOC commissioner,” Puck says. “He’s forward-thinking.”

“Now I’m imagining actual sea lions playing volleyball,” Finn says.

“Maybe a little too forward-thinking,” Kurt says.

“Fair enough,” Puck says as the car stops. “Animal IOC.”

“They’d be so cute with their little ears,” Finn says. “That’s one way you can tell them apart from the seals, apparently.”

“This is quality information that an intern could put into a briefing for us,” Puck says, climbing out of the car. “Who else is at this one? Congressional candidates from the Bay area?”

Finn nods. “Plus the commissioner of something. Not the IOC. Something with solar panels.”

“Gail Lipton from the California Energy Commission,” Kurt says.

“Good.” Puck stops and checks his phone. “More good news.”

“She and the senator go way back,” Finn says. “I can’t ever remember her name.”

“Probably because you’re expecting to have a glass of iced tea,” Puck says. “Divya Nair’s on board for sure in Philly, full backing of the DCCC.”

“Awesome! She’s such a good pick,” Finn says.

“I think she’ll be excellent,” Kurt says. “She has a tremendous stage presence.”

“Philly needed a change. It’s good of Boyle to move on,” Puck says. “Not that we can say that about Boyle or Feinstein either one.”

“Not everyone leaves gracefully or gladly, and it’s good when they do, I suppose,” Kurt says.

“Always have to look to the future of the party,” Puck says. “Finn, did you get those handouts from de León’s staff for the local media?”

“I did,” Finn says. “They’re somewhere. With my something.”

“We at T&N pride ourselves on the technical precision of our language,” Puck says.

“I’m saving my technically precise language for when it counts,” Finn says.

“Like managing questions for the Senator’s Q&A with the winners of the Sea Lion Lottery?” Puck asks.

“Yes, like that,” Finn says. “I’m doing it for the sea lions, Puck.”

“Let’s change our motto. ‘Doing it for the sea lions’.”

“Is that not already our motto?” Kurt asks.

“I thought it was still ‘pandas’,” Puck admits.

“‘Doing it for the non-human mammals’,” Kurt suggests.

“Let’s tell the Senator to change his campaign slogan to ‘Doing it for California’,” Puck says as Senator de León takes the stage.

Kurt tilts his head to the side. “I like it.”

“You can’t really put ‘doing it’ in the slogan,” Finn says. “Everybody’s mind goes straight to sex.”

“There’s always synonyms, or so you two tell me,” Puck says. “Perform? Produce?”

“Getting it on for California,” Finn says.

“There are worse attitudes towards life. It’s very San Francisco of us,” Puck says.

“Hmm,” Kurt says.

“Don’t worry, I know you don’t like the San Francisco weather as well as you do southern California,” Puck says quietly as de León starts to speak.

“I was just thinking about what you said the other day, about Finn running for office,” Kurt says, equally quietly. “Maybe we don’t let him come up with his own slogans if he does that.”

Puck stifles a laugh. “Only works in a limited number of districts,” he agrees.

When the Senator finishes his remarks, Finn goes with him to do a smaller Q&A with people who really did win some kind of raffle or lottery, and Puck talks to de León’s chief of staff, Marissa Escobar, while Kurt heads towards the media. Puck keeps his attention divided as much as he can until he finishes going over the next day’s schedule with Marissa, then tunes in more closely to what the media is asking Kurt.

“… and consequently, the Senator said, ‘infrastructure represents both a major expenditure and a major concern.’ Can you go into more depth about that?” one reporter says.

“When President Eisenhower first spoke of the need for an interstate system of roads, seventy years ago this July, he cited five major reasons the citizens needed it. Safety, congestion, a clogged court system, the economy, and defense. Today, we need a comprehensive infrastructure plan for California and the nation that incorporates not just automobiles and buses but light rail, trains, and aircraft, and we need this plan for nearly the same reasons. Safety of individual drivers and passengers is at risk when they drive on inadequately maintained roads and bridges, and through structurally unsound tunnels. Congestion is a problem for automobiles, for users of public transit, and for everyone flying as well, taking time away from families, friends, work, and recreation. Our court system is still clogged with civil suits related to poorly maintained infrastructure. Our economy needs skilled workers to be employed. And instead of defense, I offer as a fifth reason the environmental impact. While strides have been made to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change, a comprehensive national infrastructure plan will make an even larger impact. The framework of America starts with infrastructure.”

Finn wanders back over from the Senator’s direction to stand next to Puck. “Did you write that?”

Puck shakes his head. “No, that’s all him.”

“Hmm,” Finn says, watching Kurt.

“You’re thinking about something,” Puck says. “I know that look and that hum.”

“He’s just kind of being the Sam right now, is all.”

“Well, Sam did have the nicest hair, I have to admit,” Puck says, taking Finn’s hand as Kurt answers another question. “And he’s never been grumpy enough to be the Toby.”

“Am I ever grumpy enough to be the Toby?” Finn asks.

“No. You really are the Donna,” Puck says. “You’re not even the C.J.”

“Sometimes I’m the C.J.”

“Usually you’re too good-natured to be the C.J. Also you put up with me,” Puck points out.

“Yeah, okay, that’s all true,” Finn says. “You’re definitely the Josh all the time, though.”

Puck grins, watching Kurt wave off the media. “We knew that.”

 

The upside to having their fingers in multiple races is the income and building a network in multiple states across the country. The downside is that on any given day of the week at the end of January, one of them might not be in the same town as the other two, and on this particular Thursday, Kurt’s in Philadelphia scouting out venues, and Puck is frustrated with almost everything he’s working on.

“Is it too early to take another break?” Puck asks Finn as he walks into the main room of the office.

“Yes, but we should take one anyway,” Finn says. “Coffee is always acceptable to break for.”

“I can’t believe we’re having to defend some of our candidates from the left, and this early,” Puck says. “We need an even better disclosure form.”

“Or we could get out of politics entirely. We could retire early, go to the Caymans or wherever. Ooh, I bet it’s not too late to start embezzling something!” Finn says.

“You’re probably going to have to pick between diamonds and retirement,” Puck says, pouring each of them a full mug. “Why can’t we find a perfect candidate?”

“Maybe the perfect candidate doesn’t exist,” Finn says. “Maybe The West Wing led us astray.”

“I’m going to sue Aaron Sorkin for false promises. Also Jimmy Smits, on principle,” Puck says.

“Not Jimmy! What’d Jimmy Smits ever do to you?”

Puck takes a drink of his coffee. “If I sue him, he has to show up at court.”

“We could look at him in person, which would be nice,” Finn says. “Okay, acceptable.”

“Seriously, I’m going to go after Sorkin, though. There has to be a law about misleading young impressionable teenagers and causing them to plan for the One.”

“The One,” Finn whines.

“We’re never going to find them. There’s always going to be something,” Puck says mournfully. “A lovechild or thousands of dollars in debt on a Sephora credit card or a nasty note written about a child’s teacher or something.”

“They hit a dog with a car and didn’t stop. They shoplifted a hundred packs of bubble gum.”

“I don’t want the dog-hitter to hire me anyway,” Puck says. “Maybe we’ll find someone seemingly great, and they’ll turn out to be a real-life Satanist.”

“With a full-on altar with blood sacrifice,” Finn says.

“You think we could spin that as ‘not that different from transubstantiation’?” Puck asks.

“You coach the candidate, I’ll handle the press, end of the day, it’s practically Catholicism!”

“I can see the attack ads already,” Puck says. “It’ll be like that Louisiana attack ad that was on when we were in college. Instead of ‘prostitutes’ it’ll be something about about ‘animal sacrifices are not patriotic’. Which, fair enough, they probably aren’t.”

“See, I take issue with that, because I think animal sacrifices can be patriotic if you do them right,” Finn says. “Obviously not a bald eagle sacrifice or something like that, but maybe a goat. I could spin a goat.”

“Insects are animals,” Puck says. “But still, I think Satanism rules a candidate out as the One.”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll give you that one.”

“We can make that our November and December project this year. Get a big posterboard and write down all the things we’re looking for and all the things that rule someone out,” Puck says. “Illusion of productivity and progress towards the One, at least.”

“The One True Candidate, Puck. They’re out there somewhere!” Finn says.

“I hope so. I really hope so.” Puck raises his coffee mug. “To our One, wherever they may be.”

Finn clinks his mug with Puck’s. “To the One.”

 

Puck tilts his head towards Finn’s office, one eyebrow raised. “You know, he could be on the phone for awhile,” he says to Kurt, running his hand down Kurt’s back. “We could take a quick break of our own.”

Kurt smiles and leans back into the touch. “We could, could we?”

“We might even be almost obligated to. Only a week or so before we have an intern in and out of the office, after all,” Puck says. He kisses the side of Kurt’s neck, pressing his hand more firmly against Kurt’s back.

“That will cut down on the impromptu fooling around, I suppose,” Kurt says, closing his eyes as he tilts his head to the side.

“Mmmhmm,” Puck says, kissing up Kurt’s neck and down his jaw. “Probably.”

“Or we’ll have to keep it in the offices, doors shut,” Kurt says.

“Then we can tell people we make a lot of sacrifices for professional success,” Puck jokes. He puts his other hand on the back of Kurt’s neck, pulling him into a kiss. Kurt puts his arms around Puck, moving closer. Puck kisses Kurt a little harder and uses the hand resting on Kurt’s back to pull Kurt against him.

Finn’s office door swings open. “Hey. Finished faster than I thought!”

“Are you sure you don’t need to make any more calls?” Puck asks, turning his head slightly to speak.

“Am I interrupting you or something?”

“We were just making good use of time,” Puck says with a grin. “What’s the story?”

“That was Langley from the Post,” Finn says. “Remember the rumors about Hunter?”

“The maybe-military stuff we couldn’t figure out?” Puck asks.

“Yep. The story’s about to break. Langley was just giving us a heads-up.”

“Is it enough to make him drop out of the race, or just something he’ll have to defend repeatedly?” Puck asks. “Come on, don’t hold out on us.”

“It’s probably not going to be enough to make him drop, but we’re talking a big cover-up. Bribes, possibly blackmail, all related to trying to keep the military from shutting down an expansion of some private information tracking program,” Finn says.

“Well, well, well,” Puck says. “That’s just not very patriotic of him, now is it?”

“Yeah. It’s funny how people really don’t like having their credit data downloaded into some kind of predictive tracking matrix,” Finn says. “God bless America.”

“Does the Senator have a statement ready in case it comes up in the next Q&A?” Kurt asks.

Finn nods. “I might’ve already drafted a few variations on the response.”

“While Hunter’s distracted defending himself, and on the military no less, we can push some of de León’s more centrist positions to the forefront, start emphasizing his long track record of honesty, how he didn’t get his position thanks to nepotism and connections,” Puck says. “Never mentioning Hunter specifically, of course.”

“Naturally. Never give the opposition free advertising,” Finn says.

“What do you think makes a good marquee issue for the rest of February?” Puck asks.

Finn makes his thinking face for a moment. “Education. Nothing too radical there.”

“Good, so it’s all planned, and we can carry on with what we were doing?” Kurt asks.

“By ‘what we were doing’, you mean what we were doing when Finn opened his office door, right?” Puck says.

“Unless we have something else to do, now that he’s free.”

“Finn?” Puck asks, one eyebrow raised.

“Oh, yeah, continue,” Finn says, waving his hand at them. “I want to get a jump on the education stuff.”

“Okay.” Puck grins at Kurt. “You know, we could practice sneaking upstairs, like we’re going to have to do after the intern starts. We also need to start quizzing me on her name.”

“Here’s a hint: it’s purple,” Kurt says.

“Violet was the girl in the lobbying class senior year, so… Amethyst?” Puck guesses.

Kurt smiles. “See? It only took one hint.”

“Gems, not flowers,” Puck says. “That’s easy, since we both know Finn wants gems.” Puck leans in and kisses Kurt again. “Are you going to take me upstairs, then?”

“He wants jewels, and yes,” Kurt says. “Upstairs.”

Puck grins. “Let’s go.”

 

The end of February is almost a lull in the presidential primary season ahead of Super Tuesday, which means that events in DC center for a few days around the down-ticket races. The DSCC has a limited-access event at the DC headquarters for Clear Air Work, which means there’s a lot of high-level donors, a lot of Senatorial candidates, a lot of political consultants, and a very limited number of people there primarily to discuss climate change and other environmental legislation.

“The other candidates ought to be talking to de León on this one,” Puck says as he takes two glasses of wine from a tray and hands one to Finn. “Considering he’s got the longest track record of anyone here.”

“The other candidates like to hear themselves talk,” Finn says. He takes a sip of his wine. “I guess I kind of like to hear myself talk, too, though, so I probably shouldn’t complain.”

“Yeah, but you’re fun to listen to, and most of the candidates, not so much,” Puck says. “I like to hear you talk.”

“That makes two us, then.”

“I know there’s at least three of us, and I have it on good authority that at least several of our usual media contacts prefer you over the guy Joe Conrad uses,” Puck says.

“Well, I’ve got a way nicer voice than that guy, plus I’m taller,” Finn says.

“You’re taller than everyone,” Puck feels obligated to point out. “Can you see if Kurt found those donors he was looking for?”

Finn cranes his neck as he looks in Kurt’s direction. “He’s talking to a woman in an expensive suit, so I’m guessing yes.” He smiles fondly as he continues watching. “Pretty sure she’s eating out of his hand. He’s so good with donors.”

“As opposed to how you have to almost muzzle me?” Puck says wryly. “She probably had no idea she had so much interest in ad buys in California.”

Finn laughs at that. “Yeah, probably.”

“She may have never even been to any part of California, but Kurt probably has her completely convinced that not only is California the most important race right now, but that the fate of the Senate rests on her decision. A little bit like Bill,” Puck says with his own laugh.

“Yeah. Sometimes I think he should be on the other side of the campa—” Finn breaks off abruptly, turning his head to look at Puck, eyes widening.

“What?” Puck asks. “What is it?”

“He’s good with the donors. He’s good on the issues. He looks amazing in a suit.”

“And out of a suit. What’s your point?”

Finn nods like he’s not paying attention, pulling his phone out of his pocket and starting to furiously type something, muttering to himself more than actually talking to Puck. “We’ll have to relocate over the Maryland border, but once we’ve established residency, taking the 8th really won’t be much of a battle. Van Hollen would roll over. Figure, what, two terms, then the gubernatorial race? Small enough state.”

“Takoma Park or Chevy Chase,” Puck says firmly as he starts to follow Finn’s train of thought. “You don’t want to aim for the gubernatorial in ’26?”

“Takoma Park. You don’t think ’26 is too soon? It seems kind of soon.”

“Ideally, Maryland would have a special gubernatorial election in ’28, but that’s highly unlikely, so we’ll have to weigh ’26 versus ’30 carefully,” Puck says.

“Yeah, but if we’re even going to talk ’26, we need to start working on establishing gravitas now,” Finn says. “He’s good for a grip ’n’ grin, but we need to build a portfolio of him looking introspective. Can we get him in a naval shipyard?”

“When are we going to let him in on this plan?” Puck asks. “I mean, he might realize by the time we get him to the shipyard that something’s up. Or when we bring home moving boxes.”

“Maybe we ease him into.”

“I don’t think you can really ease someone into being the One,” Puck says.

Finn shrugs. “Then we’ll groom him into it. He likes to be groomed. It might take him till the gubernatorial to figure it out.”

Puck laughs and briefly kisses Finn. “And we are good at the grooming.”

“Yeah,” Finn agrees, then also starts laughing. “Well, shit. Can you believe we had the One True Presidential Candidate in our bed the whole time?”

“We were just keeping him safe for us,” Puck says. “And he would have been so unprepared if we’d realized much sooner.”

“We’ve kind of been getting him ready since senior year, though.”

“He has come along nicely, hasn’t he?” Puck says with a wide grin. “We’ll start shoring up his weak areas, too.”

“You know what this means, though?” Finn asks.

“What?”

“We’re probably going to have to get a bigger Binder.”