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Mitigating Circumstances

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After Joel falls asleep, Puck distracts himself by deleting more people from his Facebook. Most of the football team is gone by the time he finishes, plus all of the basketball team and anyone that he couldn’t quite place. He still has the entirety of New Directions on Facebook, even Quinn, though he figures she’s not exactly using Facebook a whole lot. Puck hasn’t hidden anything about Joel, and he’s posted pictures of him most of the summer off and on. If anyone Puck has on Facebook doesn’t realize he’s got a kid, then they’re just not paying attention.

Facebook-cleaning only takes about ninety minutes, though, and even after he plays with Joel and feeds him, followed by Puck getting a snack upstairs, there’s still way too much of the evening left for Puck to consider what he has to do the next day. He has to talk to Finn, not just because he told Rachel he would, though that’s definitely part of it, but also because he knows it’s the only chance of salvaging anything with Finn. Once would have done it for a lot of friendships. Puck’s hopeful they can survive twice, but he’s not counting on it, and he knows they won’t if he doesn’t talk to Finn.

Puck wastes another hour on various social media sites, cleaning up who he has friended and what they look like, and then moves on to the computer itself and the few files he has stored on it. The end result is that Puck actually stays up later than he means to, which is good. He’s so exhausted that he doesn’t think about Finn or Rachel as he closes his eyes.

He thinks about both of them the next morning, though, and then remembers he needs to either actually apologize to Kurt, out loud, or at least be so nice that Kurt can read it like an apology, because he’s pretty sure he took his annoyance at himself out on Kurt, instead.

Puck goes for the latter option, but Kurt seems to receive the message, and their morning is pretty pleasant. Then Puck has to start packing up Joel’s stuff so they can go to the park and meet Rachel, and he internally cringes. It’s not so odd that they’d go to the park that it sets off any alarm bells for Kurt, which is handy, but Puck knows why he is, which makes him frustrated and angry with himself all over again. Maybe he could have Rachel come over, because Kurt says he isn’t going anywhere that afternoon, but maybe Kurt would notice, or maybe Kurt would change his mind and leave, or maybe even Kurt’s presence wouldn’t be enough of a deterrent to prevent Puck and Rachel from either repeating their mistake or referencing it in some way. All of those are potentially bad options.

Instead, Puck packs multiple bottles in the cooler, a stack of diapers and travel wipes in the diaper bag, and then a bunch of burp cloths along with a spare outfit and a spare onesie just in case. He can’t decide if he’ll be glad to add solid foods to Joel’s diet and need fewer bottles, or sad because it means a different set of equipment. He throws in two blankets and several toys, then grabs the tarp-backed “picnic blanket” that Burt and Kurt have, along with the stroller.

“Think we have enough stuff for one afternoon, little guy?” Puck asks Joel as he straps him into the carseat, and Joel grins. “No answer, huh?”

They beat Rachel to the park, which tells Puck that Rachel’s probably a little bit freaked out over the previous day too, not to mention Puck’s impending discussion with Finn. Otherwise, there’s no way she’d be anything but ten to fifteen minutes early.

Instead, she arrives right at 12:30, the time they agreed on, looking a little frazzled. “I decided to bring separate lunches for us today,” she says as she approaches. “I don’t think you’re quite ready for a quinoa-tofu salad with Daiya cheese.”

Puck makes a face and shakes his head. “No, probably not ever going to be ready for that.”

“You might be. One day,” Rachel says. “I brought you chicken salad, though.”

 

“Awesome,” Puck says, feeling relieved when he sees a relatively-normal looking chicken salad emerging from Rachel’s cooler, along with some bread from her bag. “Chips?”

“Veggie crisps again.”

“You’re using my weakness for the orange ones against me!”

“It’s not how I’d recommend getting your vegetables, Noah, but it’s still healthier than the chips you’d buy,” Rachel says. Despite their banter being relatively normal, there’s still a tension underneath the surface that Puck can’t quite put a finger on, much less alleviate.

Everything in the afternoon at the park feels rote, even their jokes and their laughter at the way Joel is blowing what are definitely the biggest spit bubbles that Puck has ever seen. Puck thinks about bringing up the previous day a few times, or what he’s planning to say to Finn, but he decides that this is probably one time that continuing to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room—or in this case, the park—is actually a better course of action.

Puck leaves the park a little earlier than usual, and Rachel doesn’t ask why. Kurt isn’t home when Puck gets there, which suits Puck well. He unpacks the dirty bottles and clothes, repacks the cooler and the diaper bag, and takes a quick shower and changes. He gets himself and Joel back out the door before Kurt or Burt are there, and Puck takes them to the McDonald’s, where he grabs a Big Mac for himself and then kills time reading the free USA Today until he thinks that Finn and Carole are probably almost done with dinner. If he times it exactly right, he’ll get there just as Finn is finishing loading the dishwasher, and Carole’ll let Finn skip the handwashing and taking the trash out, meaning Finn’ll already be in a better mood before the conversation even starts.

“Then he can hold you,” Puck says to Joel as he fastens the straps on the car seat. “And I’ll remind him of the conversation he and I had about being bi, and two people. That’ll help, right?”

Joel doesn’t look dubious, at least. Instead he squeals and gums at his giraffe. Puck decides to take that as a good sign, and he heads to the Hudson house. He lets his truck coast to a stop, the engine already off, and gets out Joel and his diaper bag as quietly as possible. He’s not sure why he feels the need for stealth, but he does, and he can tell he succeeded when he knocks. There’s a metallic crash from the kitchen that almost covers up Carole’s startled “oh!” from the living room, and Puck barely gets his smile covered before Carole opens the door.

Puck’s timing is almost perfect—the first of the handwashed dishes was the metallic clang Puck heard—and Carole does send Puck and Joel upstairs to Finn’s room with a promise that Finn will be there as soon as he dries his hands.

“Score, little guy,” Puck says as they arrive in Finn’s room. Puck puts down his bag and sits on the edge of the bed, preparing to hand Joel over as soon as Finn sees him.

Finn’s hands still look a little wet when he gets upstairs, but he says “Hey!” and reaches for Joel. Puck lifts Joel up and grins to himself.

“Did we set you free from dishes?” Puck asks.

“Yeah, this was great timing,” Finn says. “How’re you guys doing today?”

“Oh, you know, four poopy diapers before dinner.”

“Oh man, that’s a busy day, huh Jonah?” Finn asks Joel.

“He has to get his kicks somewhere.” Puck waits for Finn to sit down, then continues. “I gotta talk to you about something.”

“Okay, sure,” Finn says.

“Remember that conversation we had a couple of weeks ago?”

Finn starts to nod, then pauses. “Which conversation?”

“About…” Puck pauses, trying to decide how to word it. “Bisexuality?”

“Ohhh yeah. I remember that one, for sure,” Finn says.

“Okay, and remember what I said, about two?”

Finn nods. “Yeaaaahhh,” he says slowly.

“You know how my brain works, sometimes it decides things without me really saying it’s okay,” Puck says carefully.

“Yeah, that’s true,” Finn says. “Your brain goes faster than the rest of you sometimes.”

“Yeah, so, uh, it’s not super-surprising that it’d just decide on two, right?”

“Right.”

“Or that my brain’d act on it?”

“Yeah, that’s—wait.” Finn frowns. Joel fusses a little until Finn bounces him. “What did your brain do?”

“Uh.” Puck scratches the top of his head. “I’m pretty sure it settled on you and Rachel, actually.”

Finn frowns more deeply, still bouncing Joel. “Settled on us how?”

“Like… I sort of kissed her,” Puck says in a rush, then goes for broke and says just as fast, “I could make it even and kiss you too, I guess.”

“Dude, you kissed my—wait, what?”

“I could make it even,” Puck repeats, because maybe that’s the best technique for keeping Finn from getting too mad about the kissing-Rachel thing.

“You could make it—what?” Finn says, definitely looking more confused than angry. “You’re, you’re just, you’re what? How?”

“I mean, it’s not that surprising! My brain makes some sense! It’s, you know, you, and her.”

“So you’re just planning to kiss me? To make it even?”

“No? I was offering,” Puck says.

“To kiss me,” Finn says.

“Well, yeah, I mean, but…” Puck trails off. “If that’s what you want. All you want.”

“For you to kiss me,” Finn repeats. “Is that—are you saying you’ll kiss me if I want you to?”

“That’s part of what I’m saying, yeah,” Puck says. “We can focus on that part for now.”

“And… you want to? Kiss me? Not just because you kissed Rachel?”

“Yeah. I know it’s a little weird, but it’s not too weird.”

Finn looks skeptical. “It’s pretty weird. But yeah, okay.”

“Okay, as in you want me to?”

“Okay, as in yeah.”

Puck scoots over, closer to Finn, and smiles a little at Joel, who is staring and looking happy. “Don’t tense up, okay?” Puck says to Finn.

“Okay,” Finn says, and promptly tenses up a little. Puck snorts and puts his hand on Finn’s shoulder.

“No, really. Relax.”

“I’m relaxed!” Finn insists.

“You’re not, but look at Joel for a few seconds.”

Finn looks down at Joel. “Aw. He’s happy.”

“Yeah, he likes you a lot,” Puck says, which is true, but also makes Finn relax even more than he already had by looking at Joel. Puck leans in before Finn has a chance to tense back up, pressing their lips together. Finn, who doesn’t seem to be overthinking it—or thinking directly about it at all—goes with it and adds a little pressure to the kiss. Puck slides the hand on Finn’s shoulder to the back of Finn’s neck, continuing to kiss him, since neither of them seems to want to stop, and Joel is so far letting them.

They keep kissing, in fact, and Puck doesn’t try to slip Finn any tongue or anything, because he doesn’t want to scare Finn, and Finn is holding Joel. When Puck’s side starts to cramp up a little, he pulls back, leaving his hand on the back of Finn’s neck.

“Yeah?” Puck says softly.

“Yeah,” Finn says. “Still kinda weird, though.”

“We could try it again and see if that makes it less weird.”

“How many times did you kiss Rachel?” Finn asks.

“Once,” Puck admits. “But okay, I mean, that was because I hadn't talked to you.”

“So it’s even now?”

“Yeah,” Puck says as slowly as he can, and he knows he probably sounds sad.

“So… probably the right thing to do is to all of us talk together, me, you, and Rachel, before we kiss some more,” Finn says. “Right?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea,” Puck says. “Yeah. You’re right. Okay. Call her?”

Finn nods. “Take Jonah?”

“C’mon, Joel,” Puck says, taking him back from Finn. “It’s phone call time!” He lifts Joel up over his head, making a funny face at him.

Finn calls Rachel and puts the phone up to his ear. After a few seconds, he says, “Hi Rachel. I’m with Puck.”

Puck can barely hear her quiet “Oh?” in response.

“He told me what happened,” Finn says into the phone, looking at Puck while he speaks.

“I kissed your boyfriend,” Puck says loudly in the direction of the phone.

“What?” Rachel’s voice says.

“He says he kissed your boyfriend. Who is me. He kissed me,” Finn tells Rachel. “But only one time, so it’s still even, so nobody can be upset and everybody gets a chance for us to all talk about it first.”

“Wait,” Rachel says more loudly. “Ask him if that’s what he meant by mitigating circumstance!”

Finn tells Puck, “Rachel wants to know if you meant something about circumstances. Mighty circumstances.”

“I heard her. Yeah, basically.” Puck blows a raspberry on Joel’s belly. “Maybe have her come over, actually.”

“Can you come over?” Finn asks Rachel.

“Your house or Noah’s?” Rachel’s voice asks.

“Mine,” Finn says.

“Very well, I’ll be there momentarily,” Rachel’s voice says, sounding a little stunned. “Perhaps you two can make sure Joel is changed before I get there.”

“Yeah, we can do that,” Finn says. “See you soon!”

“I’m shocked that she wants us to change you before she gets here,” Puck says to Joel.

“I think she’s handling this really well,” Finn says.

“Especially considering I didn’t tell her about the bisexual thing,” Puck says. “Want to change him?”

“Sure.” Finn takes Joel and goes into the diaper-changing routine like a professional, which he pretty much is at this point.

“I can’t decide if I’m looking forward to solids or dreading them,” Puck says. “Maybe I can put them off another month or so longer than the books say.”

“If he eats solids, he might make the yucky face, and we could take pictures,” Finn says, fastening the velcro tabs on the front of Joel’s new diaper.

“Well, yeah, but we can do that even if he’s like, seven months.”

“I heard that the diapers get a lot worse after you start solids.”

“Exactly,” Puck says. “Fewer bottles but worse diapers.”

“Maybe you should wait, then,” Finn says. He picks a happy Joel up again. “So, what are we saying to Rachel when she gets here? Should we talk about it before she’s here? Maybe that’s not fair. Let’s not talk about it.”

“I was just going to bring her up to speed, same things I told you,” Puck says.

“But what then? No, wait, don’t tell me. Wait for her to get here. Or maybe tell me a little.”

Puck laughs. “I guess it’s up to both of you. I like two. I don’t know yet for sure if either of you do.”

“Yeah,” Finn sighs. “I guess I’ll think about all of it until she gets here.”

It doesn’t take that long for Rachel to get there, but it feels like a long time to Puck, and probably to Finn, too. Finally Puck hears Carole opening the door downstairs, and he snorts.

“I think your mom’s wondering about all the unexpected visiting.”

“I’m not telling her if you aren’t.”

“Oh, yeah, top of my list was telling your mom about this,” Puck says, shaking his head as Rachel knocks on the door.

“Come in!” Finn says.

Rachel opens the door and walks in, looking a little stunned. “Hello, boys,” she says, closing the door and standing in front of it. “Now what exactly is happening?”

“I kissed both of you,” Puck says. “And it’s even now, unless you two like two.”

“We didn’t talk about it, because we were waiting for you, to keep it fair,” Finn adds.

“You…” Rachel shakes her head a little. “Noah, why on earth did you think that was a good idea?”

Puck shrugs. “Like I told Finn a few weeks ago, I’m bi.”

“And he did tell me that dating two people, if they were also dating each other, seemed like a good idea,” Finn says. “And yeah, maybe kissing the both of us behind the other’s back wasn't the best plan, but mostly because when he said he'd maybe want to date two people, I didn't realize he might mean you and me.” He shrugs. “It was a pretty nice kiss, too. Was yours?”

“Was mine?” Rachel parrots, looking a little stunned. “And Noah, couldn’t you have warned me a little bit?”

“No, ‘cause a little bit would have turned into the whole thing, and that wouldn’t have been fair to Finn, either,” Puck says, raising his eyebrows a little pointedly. “The question for both of you is, do you want to date two people?”

“This is kind of a lot all at once,” Finn says.

“Okay, do you want to go out on a date with two people?” Puck says. “That’s less.”

“That’s still two things, though,” Finn says.

Puck looks questioningly at Rachel, who shrugs. “What do you mean, Finn?” Rachel asks.

“Well, there’s the dating two people thing, which yeah, is only one thing, but there’s also the Puck is a dude thing, which is also its own thing,” Finn says. “So that’s two things, at least.”

“Oh, yeah, guess maybe the dude thing first?” Puck says. “I don’t know what you need, there.”

Rachel shakes her head when Puck looks at her. “I don’t either!”

“Duh, you two already knew you both like dudes,” Finn says. “This is, you know, new for me.”

“Yes, but I think what Noah means is, do you need to talk about it? Think alone about it?” Rachel asks.

“I don’t know. The kissing was pretty good,” Finn admits.

“We could all just kiss more,” Puck offers.

“Kissing doesn’t count as dating, right?” Finn asks.

“Nope,” Puck says, shaking his head, and after a few more seconds, Rachel shakes hers as well.

“So that would straighten out the dude issue, for sure,” Finn says.

“Let Rachel hold Joel, then,” Puck says, and Rachel starts to giggle. Finn shrugs and hands Joel off to Rachel. Puck scoots next to Finn and puts his hand on his shoulder again. “Just like before?”

“Sure, I guess?” Finn says.

Puck grins, winks at Rachel once, and then leans in to kiss Finn firmly. Finn yields easily, almost falling towards Puck, and after they’ve kissed for a few moments, Puck decides to go for it, opening his mouth slightly and flicking his tongue against Finn’s lips. Finn’s lips part, and Puck mentally pumps his fist as he pushes his tongue forward. Finn might inhale a little sharply, but he doesn’t try to get away or anything, and after a couple minutes of one-sided tongue from Puck, Finn moves his tongue a little.

Puck wants to laugh a little, or maybe yell, but instead he keeps kissing Finn for a little longer and then pulls back. He grins at Finn, then kisses his cheek impulsively. “Yeah?”

Finn’s face turns red, and he shrugs. “Yeah. Okay.”

“I assume that’s good, but I don’t speak boy?” Rachel says. “Oh, no, I’m outnumbered, Joel.” Joel squeals and laughs.

“I mean, that’s the one thing settled,” Finn says, glancing at Puck. “Right?”

“It seemed pretty settled to me, yeah,” Puck says, still grinning. “You still good, Rachel?”

Rachel nods. “A little confused, still, but good.”

“So now I guess we’ve got to figure out the dating two thing,” Finn says.

“Do you both want to?” Puck asks bluntly. Finn cuts his eyes over to Rachel, then looks back at Puck, doing something weird with his eyebrows. “Okay, uh, each of you write down ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and I only tell you what they said if they both say ‘yes’?”

Finn nods his head vigorously. “Oh, yeah, that sounds like a really smart idea, right, Rachel? Isn’t Puck’s idea good?”

Rachel nods. “That’s actually very well thought-out! I have a memo pad in my bag, we can use that.” Puck hadn’t noticed Rachel even had a purse with her, but less than a minute later, Finn and Rachel each have a piece of paper and a pen.

“Well, go for it, I guess,” Puck says, “and then put your paper in the bottle pocket on the diaper bag.”

“This seems very sciencey,” Finn says as he scribbles his answer on his slip of paper.

“No hanging chads here,” Puck agrees, and Rachel gives him an odd look and shakes her head before folding her paper and putting it in the diaper bag pocket.

Finn whispers, “Who’s Chad?” to Rachel, who shakes her head.

“A what, not a who,” she explains.

“What does that have to do with this?” Finn asks.

“Ballots,” Puck says. “Like the one you need to fold and put in the pocket.” Finn just shakes his head. “No? You’re not putting in the pocket?”

“It wasn’t a ballot. It was an answer,” Finn says. “Ballots have bubbles you fill out.”

“Either way, pocket!” Puck says. “And you two, I don’t know. Look the other way while I dig them back out.”

“Okay, geez!” Finn says, shoving his paper into the diaper bag pocket before dramatically looking away. Rachel pats his hand as she also looks away.

Puck figures Rachel’s the dicey one, because she doesn’t have a greedy bisexuality argument to both make fun of and fall back on, but the first paper he unfolds has a ‘Yes’ in her overly round handwriting. The second paper’s handwriting, which could use to borrow some roundness from Rachel’s, also says yes, and Puck leans back a little with a grin.

“Give me five,” Puck whispers to Joel, who is now lying on his chest, and Joel chews on his fist with a grin as Puck raises his voice. “Well, the ayes have it.”