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The Lions in Winter

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Puck likes to think of himself as an itinerant worker, but that mostly means that he stays in New York with Finn as long as he can before Kurt gets too impatient. After Kurt and Blaine had broken up for the second time, Burt and Carole had pressured Finn for long enough that eventually he’d given in and moved to New York as requested, to ‘support’ Kurt. There isn’t room for Puck to move in permanently, or at least that’s what Kurt says in his impatient tone.

Somehow, Puck isn’t surprised when he gets a phone call that Kurt’s gotten even more impatient, and now he wants Finn out too. Nearly two years after the breakup, Kurt is suddenly back together with Blaine, which of course means he no longer wants Finn in the loft. It’s close enough to winter that Puck’s job was only going to last a few more weeks, which makes it easier to walk out the door and point his bike towards Brooklyn again.

Wisconsin Dells to Brooklyn is still fifteen hours of driving, which makes it close to thirty-six hours later when Puck parks illegally down the street from the loft and pulls out his phone to call Finn, blowing on his hand as he listens to it ring.

“Hello?” Finn answers.

“I’m here. Let’s go grab some dinner and figure out what’s next,” Puck says. “Or at least what’s tonight.”

“Okay. I’ll be down in a second,” Finn says.

Puck ends the call and pockets his phone, blowing on his other hand while he waits. “Barely even fall,” he says to himself, then whistles to get Finn’s attention as soon as he sees him come out of the building.

“Yeah, it’s cold this year,” Finn says. “Bad time to have to find a new place.”

“Nice way of him to say ‘thanks for your support’,” Puck says with a snort. “Climb on. That coffee shop with the good sandwiches still open?”

“Yeah, should be. And yeah, nothing says brotherly love like kicking your brother out, right?” Finn says.

“Yeah, what’d Burt and your mom have to say about that?”

“They wanted to know why I even moved to New York.”

“Revisionist history!” Puck says. “That’s almost impressive, considering how much they begged you to move out here.” He starts the bike again. “Hang on.”

Finn wraps both arms around Puck’s waist and leans close to Puck’s ear. “Ready when you are.”

Puck nods once and pulls out, heading towards the coffee shop he’s thinking of and managing to find a place to park not too far away from it. When they stop, he pulls off his helmet and picks up his bag, deciding to carry them in and not leave them on the bike.

“Just in case,” he says to Finn. “So they really acted like they didn’t know why you were in New York to begin with?”

“Yeah, like I didn’t get three months of ‘go support your brother’ before I moved out here,” Finn says.

“That’s bullshit. So how many more nights do you have? As if you weren’t helping with the bills,” Puck says as they walk into the coffee shop and up to the counter.

“He told me a week, but he’s giving me the look already,” Finn says, shaking his head sadly. “So I think it’s more like a whatchacallit. Businessweek.”

“Can we block his number on our phones once all your stuff is out?”

Finn shrugs, making a noncommittal ‘eh’ noise. “He’s not the first person to get stupid because of a relationship.”

“His brand is particularly bad, though,” Puck says, pausing to order before continuing. “And just because he’s only into dudes doesn’t mean the spirit of ‘bros before hos’ shouldn’t apply. Even if it’s crude and all of that. No other wording rhymes.”

“I just wonder if he’s gonna want me to move back in when it doesn’t work… again,” Finn says.

“That’s why I want to block his number. You know you can’t do that again,” Puck says as they sit down. “How late will we have to wait so you can sneak me in at least for tonight?”

“They, uh.” Finn’s face turns bright read. “They go to bed pretty early. They probably won’t hear you come in.”

“Oh, God,” Puck says with a groan. “Okay. I can pull decent money busking here, but not enough for us to manage first and last.”

“Is that a solo thing?” Finn asks.

“Is what solo?”

“The busking,” Finn says. “I bet two can busk better than one. My kit’s really small.”

“We’ll have to mainly do parks and larger intersections, but yeah, that’d work!” Puck says. “And if Kurt has any last-season hats or scarves that are wool, you should steal ‘em.”

“And I probably need some gloves with actual fingers,” Finn says, holding up his fingerless-gloved hands.

“If they’ll fit you, we can trade, ‘cause I have to have that kind to play,” Puck says. “That’ll save us a little.”

“They might be a little loose on you. My hands are kinda bigger.”

“Yeah, yeah, I think I can manage for a few weeks at least,” Puck says. “You need to go anywhere else before we sneak back into the loft?”

“Nah. Wouldn’t really have the money to spend even if I wanted to go somewhere else. Already paid my share of the bills for the month,” Finn says.

“We can start tomorrow, see how much we get, and go from there.”

Their very first day of busking as a duo goes well, which Puck figured it would, but it ends up being even better than he’d hoped, and he tries to make sure no one passing by notices how much they’re tucking away as they pack up and then walk towards the nearest deli to grab a sandwich each and warm up.

“If we get that corner table, we’ll count up here,” Puck says to Finn as they walk in.

“You get the table. I’ll get the sandwiches,” Finn says. “Then we can figure out what we can actually afford.”

“Extra turkey,” Puck says over his shoulder as he heads towards the table.

“Duh,” Finn says.

Puck is pretty sure he’s never had a day of busking that brought in even a third of what they have shoved in their inner coat pockets, which suggests that they could possibly make a little bit of a nest egg for first month’s rent, at least. He’s not sure they can sustain that level of income, but it’s promising.

He grins as Finn approaches with their sandwiches, grabbing his as Finn sits down. Finn also shoves a bag of chips across the table to him before unwrapping his own sandwich.

“So, how did we do?” Finn asks.

“Maybe we really can get enough for first and last,” Puck says as he opens the chips. “Novelty of a duo’ll wear off, so I’m worried it’s not sustainable long-term, but it’s a really good start.”

“Can we get a place?”

“I say we get a place and figure out how to keep it later,” Puck admits. “It’s worked for me before.”

“Okay,” Finn says. “We’ll find a place tomorrow. I can sneak us back into Kurt’s for one more night. You can have the extra pillow tonight so you don’t have to hear them.”

“We could celebrate our excellent day and splurge on earplugs for both of us?”

“Or we can buy an extra extra pillow.”

“That’d probably be more useful in the future,” Puck says. “Pillow it is.”

After they grab another pillow, Finn sneaks them back into the loft and Puck puts down a few blankets next to the sofa. Finn’s been sleeping on the sofa the entire time he’s been in New York, which Puck also has thoughts about, but luckily it seems to be beside the point now. Despite the enthusiastic noise from Kurt and Blaine, Finn falls asleep before Puck, and after the loft is quiet, Finn clearly relaxes enough for his arm to flop off the edge. Puck jumps and rolls over, then quietly laughs at himself.

“Maybe we can find a bigger mattress for you,” Puck says. “Or a bigger sofa at least, since it’s easier to find cheap sofas.” He shakes his head and puts his head back down, not far from Finn’s fingers. “We’ll find a decent place tomorrow. Or at least one with four walls, a clean floor, and a roof that doesn’t leak.”

What they find instead is a place with four walls, a water-stained ceiling, and a floor with stains from God-knows-what. The roof isn’t actively leaking, though, and the price is right: cheap and requiring only first month’s rent, not first and last. They sign the lease, pay the first month’s rent, and move their limited possessions in.

They get ten days of good income busking before it starts to fall off, and after a few more days of optimism, Finn starts picking up shifts again at the bodega where he’d been stocking nights. It means that sometimes Puck’s busking alone and sometimes with Finn, and by the time the next month’s rent is due, Puck can admit it’s a good thing Finn went back to the bodega.

“It’s too bad you can’t clone yourself,” Puck says to Finn. “Even with numbers going down, we make a lot more busking together than either of us alone.”

“We can sleep when we’re dead, right?” Finn asks. He does look tired, which makes sense, since he’s been sleeping about four hours a night.

“Yeah, exactly,” Puck says, more optimistically than he feels. After the way Burt and Carole have acted towards Finn for years—really since they graduated from high school—making a go of it in New York seems like the only real option. “I hate to cut back on busking, though.”

“Well, the bodega likes having me at night, ever since they got robbed a couple months ago. I could pick up more shifts at night and we can busk during the day,” Finn says.

“Yeah, I was trying to think of something more profitable that would let you sleep in more, you know?”

Finn shrugs. “I’m okay. I don’t really need much sleep. We’ve gotta eat, you know? Eating isn’t optional.”

“Sleep’s not supposed to be. It’s the wrong time of year for most stuff I do, though,” Puck says. “And it’s going to get too cold to busk much.”

“Then I’ll sleep more when it’s cold.”

“That doesn’t work so well, though.” Puck frowns and goes back to poking at the budget spreadsheet, which doesn’t actually change any of the numbers. “Too bad we can’t busk inside.”

“We’ll figure something out. I’ll pick up some more shifts until we do,” Finn says, in the don’t-argue-with-me tone.

“Hmph,” Puck says, wrinkling his nose and frowning at Finn. “Maybe you should go back to school or something. That covers room and board at least.”

“I don’t know,” Finn says. “I think I’m happier not doing school right now.”

“Okay. Probably I’m not going to,” Puck says, then clicks to a different tab. Five or ten minutes pass before he looks up. “Finn. Busking inside!”

“In a store or something?”

“In a bar or something!” Puck says. “We could give ourselves a name and get paid!”

“But we’re just a guy with a guitar and a bigger guy with small drums,” Finn says.

“So that’s not a good name for us to go by. We have to sell it better.”

“It’s just not much of a band,” Finn says. “If you were just a guy with a guitar, you’d probably be able to get bar gigs. I think the drums sorta mess that up.”

“There are plenty of bands that started out as just two guys, though,” Puck says.

“We can try, at least,” Finn says.

“I’ll find us something for later this week,” Puck says optimistically. “Maybe opening for someone else.”

“Cool. That’ll be fun, probably. Better than stocking shelves, at least, if it pays.”

“And you can sleep more, dummy,” Puck says, shaking his head. “Sleep’s as important as eating.”

Finn makes a face, scrunching up his eyes. “Says you.”

“Says me,” Puck agrees. “Now to find us a venue.”