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After the Layover

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Finn expects, somehow, that things in Boston will look different when he lands than they did when he left. Logan International is the same, though, and his car is parked right where he left it. He pays for his long-term parking, throws his luggage in the back, and drives towards home. Everything feels jumbled in his head, because what he really wants to do is call Puck and talk this all through with him again, but that’s the whole point of this time, to get his own head on straight and figure out his own life before he tries to pull Puck any further into it. Fuck. What a mess.

Christopher is in the front yard with Hammer when Finn pulls into the driveway. It’s like a knife—a dull one, a butter knife—in Finn’s gut to watch them. How can he do this to Christopher? To Josie? How can he disrupt their perfect little lives? Christ, he’s so selfish. How can he even be thinking about this? How can he be considering this?

When he turns off the car, Christopher and Hammer are already both at his door, crowding him. Hammer jumps up on him excitedly, a habit Finn’s never been able to break him of, and Christopher looks startled to see him.

“Dad! Your beard!”

Finn rubs his face with one hand. Part of him feels ashamed by what the smooth face means. Part of him feels excited, lit up by the possibility of something good and new happening.

“Yeah, needed a change, I guess,” Finn tells Christopher, and god, he’s a good kid, such a good kid, already has the back hatch open and Finn’s bags out of the car. Finn rushes to grab the big suitcase from him. “Whoa! I got it!”

“Did you bring us anything good?” Christopher asks. He and Hammer both walk a little too closely, tripping Finn up as they approach the front door.

“I have awesome Indianapolis souvenirs,” Finn promises. “Everything has race cars on it.”

“Awesome!” Christopher says.

As the front door closes behind them, Caroline appears in the foyer. When she sees Finn, she starts, putting one hand up to her mouth.

“You shaved,” she says.

“Yeah,” Finn says.

“Why would— what happened?” Caroline asks. She’s right to be suspicious, obviously. She’s known Finn long enough to know that he doesn’t make sudden changes. The butter knife twists.

“We’ll talk about it later,” Finn promises. Caroline’s face suggests she doesn’t hear it as a promise, but a threat. She nods faintly, her mouth in a thin line.

“Dad!” Josie comes flying down the stairs from her room, shrieking as she goes. She still has on her grass-stained soccer jersey, though her cleats are off, at least, and her uniform shorts have been swapped out for a pair of pug-print jeggings. She grabs Finn around the waist in a tight hug. He hugs her back, feeling at least a half-dozen things at once: happy, proud, relieved, ashamed, hopeful, weird mixes of all of them. Caroline sees it; Finn can tell by the set of her mouth and the way the corners of her eyes turn up, like she’s forcing herself to stay calm.

“Hey, Jo-Jo,” Finn says to Josie.

“You shaved off your beard,” Josie says into Finn’s chest. “I don’t like it. Your face looks weeeeeiiird.”

“I’ll keep that in mind next time,” he tells her.

“What’d you bring us?” Christopher asks. Hammer sits patiently, wagging his tail. He doesn’t really care if he gets souvenirs, he’s just excited the kids are excited.

“Hang on, hang on!” Finn says, laughing, dislodging Josie from his middle so he can lay the suitcase down flat. He’s glad he remembered the souvenirs in Indianapolis, second guesses himself on the Dallas t-shirts he bought at DFW. They were an impulse buy after the flight was canceled, but before Puck, but now they feel… weird. Inappropriate, in a way. He had bought them to commemorate his first tropical storm–related flight cancellation, nothing else, but then everything that happened with Puck happened. Now the shirts feel like a slap in Caroline’s face, and in the kids’, too, like a souvenir from that time their dad cheated on their mom.

“Did you go to the American Girl store?” Josie asks. She has ten of those dolls lined up on a shelf in her room. He doesn’t travel much, but when he does, he always tries to bring her back a city t-shirt from the American Girl store in that city.

“Well, I don’t know,” Finn says, rummaging through the suitcase until he finds a highly recognizable red bag. “Does this look like an American Girl bag?”

Josie shrieks and grabs the bag from him, chanting, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” as she reaches into it and pulls out the city t-shirt, the Indianapolis necklace charm, and the plush golden retriever toy that had been an impulse buy from the markdown table. “I love it, I love it, I love it!”

While Josie shrieks and twirls, Christopher waits patiently for his gift. Finn hands him the plastic shopping bag, and Christopher smiles as he peers in at the model car kit and the little set of tools Finn bought him to go with it.

“It’s cool, Dad,” Christopher says.

“We can work on it this weekend,” Finn tells him.

“I’m gonna go put this shirt on Ella!” Josie says, giving Finn a quick hug-and-kiss combo before tearing up the stairs. Ella, the American Girl doll that looks just like Josie, had been a seventh birthday present, right in the middle of Josie’s Eleanor Roosevelt phase. She’s usually the model for the latest city shirt.

“You go put that kit up on your desk, and I’ll come up in a little while so we can make a plan for it,” Finn says to Christopher. Christopher, short though he may be, is Finn’s son through and through; he senses something is off, and looks between Finn and Caroline a few times. Finn pats his back. “Go on. I’m just going to talk to Mom about the trip first. Then I’ll be up.”

Christopher nods and heads up the stairs, patting his leg so Hammer will bound up after him. The foyer is suddenly quiet, just Finn and Caroline starting at each other uncomfortably as the silence stretches longer and longer.

“I’ve got the laundry sorted already, so come toss your dirties in,” Caroline says, breaking the stalemate.

“Yeah, okay, thanks,” Finn says. He scoops up his suitcase and carries it into the bedroom, unpacking and tossing dirty clothes around while Caroline watches him, waiting and wary. After he’s unpacked, she clears her throat. He looks at her.

“So,” she says softly.

Finn exhales, a long breath that seems to take every last bit of fight out of him. He shakes his head in apology. “I slept with someone. I’m sorry. It was a man. It meant something.”

Caroline lets out a sharp breath, like she’d been holding it, and sits down on the edge of the bed. “I thought— I didn’t think that was something you wanted to do anymore,” she says finally.

“I’m sorry,” Finn repeats. “I didn’t know. I didn’t think I did. I didn’t plan it.”

“You met him in Indianapolis?” Caroline asks. She won’t look at him. Finn isn’t sure if that’s a curse or a blessing. He can’t read her face, but it means he doesn’t have to read hate or disappointment in it.

“No,” Finn says, honestly.

“Dallas, then?”

Finn shakes his head. “No. I mean, I ran into him in Dallas, but I didn’t meet him there. I already knew him.”

“From work?” Caroline asks. Finn shakes his head again. “College?”

“No. From before. From Lima,” Finn says.

Caroline’s face—the part he can see, at least—turns a little pink. “It was him, wasn’t it? The one from before college.”

“Yeah,” Finn admits. “I’m sorry, Carrie. I really am. I didn’t plan it.”

“I didn’t think you planned an unexpected layover due to a tropical storm,” Caroline says.

“You’re not happy,” Finn says.

Caroline turns to look at him. Her face is pale now, with bright pink points on her cheeks. “Why would I be happy about this?” she asks.

“I don’t mean about this,” Finn says. “I mean in general. You’re not happy. I’m not happy. We’re not happy together.”

“I didn’t go screw my high school boyfriend at the airport because I’m not happy, Finn!” Caroline says sharply.

“No. I know. That’s not an excuse. That’s not what I’m saying,” Finn says. “I’m not trying to make it better. I’m just trying to explain.”

“We have kids, Finn,” Caroline says. “Didn’t you think about them while you were fuck—”

“Hey,” Finn says. “I did, okay? I did. I screwed up. I know I screwed up! It shouldn’t have happened like this.”

“It shouldn’t have happened at all!” Caroline says. She starts to cry, just a little, the tears clinging to her eyelashes. She put on mascara today, Finn notices. It’s already starting to run. He wonders if she put it on for Josie’s game, or because he was coming home, or for some other reason.

“I know,” Finn says.

“You shouldn’t have done this,” Caroline says.

“I know,” Finn repeats. “I know. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Caroline wipes at her eyes with the back of her hands. “We’ll go see the therapist that Jake and Laurie saw,” she says. “I don’t want to talk about it any more until then.”

Finn sighs, forcing himself to shake his head. “No. No, I don’t think that’s going to work. I think we need to talk about this.”

“I don’t want to hear any details about your gay affair!” Caroline says. “I don’t want to hear about any of that.”

“I don’t want to tell you about any of that,” Finn promises her, “but we can’t just not talk about it. It meant something. It wasn’t just screwing around.”

“I don’t want to hear about it!” Caroline yells.

“Okay,” Finn says. “Okay. We won’t talk about it now. We have to talk about it, though. It’s not just going away, Carrie. We can’t just ignore this until it goes away.”

Caroline shakes her head, refusing to look at him, so Finn puts his dirty clothes into the sorted piles and goes up to Christopher’s room to look at the model car. Christopher is seated at his desk, his arms crossed on the desktop and his chin resting on his arms, looking at the car.

“Hey, Monte Cristo,” Finn says to him. Christopher frowns, but not as much as usual.

“Hey,” Christopher says.

“You want to get out the instructions for the car?” Finn asks.

Christopher shakes his head, still on his arms. “What’d you do to make Mom mad?”

Finn sighs. “That’s between me and Mom. We’ll work it out. You don’t have to worry about anything right now, okay?”

Christopher frowns. “It’s why you shaved, though.”

Finn picks up the box for the model car. “This is just like the cars they race in the Indianapolis 500,” he says.

“You did something bad,” Christopher says. Of course he won’t let it go. Finn wouldn’t have let it go.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Finn says. “You know I love you and Josie. That’s what’s important. I’m here, and you don’t have to worry.”

“Did you get arrested?”

“No, Christopher, nothing like that,” Finn says.

“Then why’s Mom so upset?” Christopher asks.

Finn shakes his head. “It’s not something I can explain to you. It’s just about me and Mom.”

Christopher’s frown turns into a glower. “I don’t want to talk about the car right now,” he says, looking away from Finn, out the window.

“Okay, kiddo,” Finn says, setting the model car box back down on the desk. “Whenever you’re ready, you let me know.”

Christopher nods his head a little to indicate agreement, but doesn’t really acknowledge Finn otherwise, so Finn leaves him alone, shutting the door behind him. He passes by Josie’s room; Ella has on her new Indianapolis shirt along with her riding pants and boots, and she and her trusty horse Goldenrod seem to be preparing for an encounter with a small army of Flower STEM dolls. Finn smiles to himself as he heads back downstairs.

The bedroom door is shut. He isn’t surprised. It doesn’t feel good—feels like shit stirred up with that same, blunt butterknife, actually—but it isn’t a shock. Finn doesn’t particularly want to talk about Puck to Caroline right now, anyway, despite what he told her about the necessity of them talking. What he wants is to try to hang on to the small spark of peace and joy he carried with him from Dallas, the one that conjures up the smell of Puck’s skin, the feel of his mouth on Finn’s. Finn can sit alone in the livingroom and remember the previous night and that morning. Everything is about to get really hard, and maybe really ugly, but for just a few moments, he has this stillness, and the quiet, and the taste of Puck’s lips before the world falls apart.

***

The plane lands in Oklahoma City, on time. Puck finds himself checking the status of Finn’s flight to Boston, feeling a little absurd. He doesn’t know what to do with the information, but he wants to have it. He can picture Finn landing in Boston, sans beard, and imagining the reactions to be had from faceless people in Boston—yeah, it makes Puck feel smug.

It’s his third time in Oklahoma City for Peters & McNeal, all within the last five years, so he knows already where he wants to stay, where he wants to eat, and where he, for lack of a better word, wants to pray.

What he told Finn was true. They both needed at least a week or two to think, and the length of Puck’s job in Oklahoma City—around three weeks, give or take—is a decent amount of time. They have each other’s contact information, for the first time in a long time. They have promises not to not contact each other, and Puck knows as he rides in the taxi that he’ll uphold that, no matter what he decides after he thinks.

Because there’s no way that Finn could be happy with the nomadic life Puck’s built for himself, and to get anywhere close to being in their five percent window, there’s going to have to be compromises on both sides. Puck at least knows, more or less, what his biggest compromise will have to be. He only needs to make sure his head agrees with his heart.

After two days of work, Puck spends Saturday walking around Oklahoma City, Saturday night watching a movie, and Sunday getting more than a full day’s work done. The week passes with numbers, spreadsheets, and more progress than Puck would have expected; he wonders if he’s deliberately working faster, knowing he’ll contact Finn once the job is complete. On Friday night, he goes to the synagogue, and then loiters at the synagogue after the Saturday morning service, and eventually he finds himself talking to the cantor. A small part of his brain finds it more appropriate than a rabbi.

“How do you decide to do something for—” Puck stops and shakes his head. “Not for someone else. For what the two of you could be. How do you decide what to do if you aren’t sure it’s what they want?”

The cantor shrugs. “What happens if you don’t do it?”

Puck starts to reply, then freezes with his mouth open before he answers. “Nothing changes,” he says. “Yeah. Okay. I don’t know what happens if I do it, but I know what happens if I don’t.”

That thought keeps running through his mind all week, including the requisite end-of-the-job-is-near video call he has with his boss just after lunch on Thursday.

“I think I’ll be done on-site today,” Puck says, “and I can get them the final report by end of business tomorrow.”

“Going somewhere tomorrow?” his boss asks, looking and sounding amused more than put-out.

“Hopefully, yeah,” Puck says. “Week off like usual?” After his boss nods, Puck continues. “Is there anything in Boston or nearby that I could land on? Even a longer project.”

“That’s different for you,” his boss remarks. “We do have a three-person job starting two weeks from yesterday with a big car dealership conglomerate, Herb Chambers.”

“I’ll take it,” Puck says quickly. Puck’s boss nods, still looking surprised. “Thanks,” Puck says, feeling relieved and almost light-headed at the same time. “I’ll touch base a week from Monday?”

“Thanks, Noah,” his boss says with a nod, and the call ends.

Puck exhales a few times, and before he returns to work, he calls his hotel to say he’ll be checking out the next morning. He spends another ten minutes booking a flight, then gets back to work, finishing up just after six that evening. He spends the rest of Thursday doing laundry and packing, and part of him is tempted to call Finn then, but he makes himself hold off. There’s time.

His first flight leaves Oklahoma City at 5 am, with only a thirty minute layover in Dallas. Puck feels more fond of Dallas than he’d really ever expected, and by 11:30 am, Puck’s on the T heading towards Brookline and a deli he found online, Zaftig’s.

The burger he eats at Zaftig’s gives him a chance to regroup, and a brief walk afterwards helps him find a hotel that will let him check in at 1 pm. When the clock reads 1:15, Puck thinks he’s probably waited long enough, and he takes a deep breath before calling the Town Administrator’s office. A receptionist answers, and Puck grins.

“Finn Hudson, please.” There’s a pause, and the receptionist asks whom she should say is calling. “Let him know it’s Peters & McNeal, about the data input two weeks ago.”

“Hello?” Finn’s voice says after a brief hold. “Is this… Puck?”

“Hey,” Puck says. “Bad time?”

“No, I just wasn’t sure if ‘Peters & McNeal’ meant you or actual Peters & McNeal,” Finn says.

“Figured it was better to tell the receptionist,” Puck says. “So, uh, I finished up faster than I thought.”

“Yeah? Did you find the criminal?” Finn asks. His voice sounds forced-casual, like he’s not quite ready to let any real emotion into it.

“Yeah, two of them,” Puck says. “So I’m free until a week from Wednesday, and then I’ve got a new job with some car dealership. Chambers.”

“Oh. Yeah? Like Herb Chambers?”

“Yeah, that’s the one,” Puck says lightly. “It might take awhile, my boss said.”

“So… you’re going to be in Boston in a week?” Finn asks, sounding now like he’s repressing either excitement or fear or both.

“No. I mean, yeah, I will be, but I’m also, you know. Already here,” Puck admits.

“Oh!” Finn says, then exhales loudly. “Wow. Okay. You’re here.” He exhales again. “So, where are you staying?”

Puck looks over at the notepad and reads off the name of the hotel. “Don’t tell me it’s known for bedbugs.”

“Oh,” Finn says.

“It is known for bedbugs?” Puck guesses.

“No, no, it’s just… that’s where I’m staying right now, too,” Finn says. “Been there about a week now. The sofa thing wasn’t working out for anybody, so… yeah. That’s where I’m staying.”

“Oh, well, that’s uh…” Puck trails off, because he’s not sure if it’s convenient or handy or not. “That’s weird,” he says eventually. “I hope it’s okay I’m early.”

“Yeah, it’s good, I think. I mean, I know it’s good. I want to see you. It’s just also, you know? Everything’s been pretty messed up since I got back,” Finn says.

“Yeah, I can’t imagine,” Puck says. “Are… are you free tonight?”

“I’m going by the house after work to see Josie. Christopher won’t talk to me. I’ll be free after that, though,” Finn says. “Late dinner, maybe?”

“I’d like that,” Puck says. “I, uh, could meet you down in the lobby, I guess.”

“Sure. Anything specific you want to eat?”

“Not a burger, I had one for lunch, but other than that, whatever’s good,” Puck says, then pauses. “Or wherever’s private, maybe.”

“Okay. Yeah,” Finn says. “See you at around 7:30?”

“Perfect,” Puck says. “I’ll be waiting.”

“Good. Yeah. Me, too,” Finn says. After a few beats of silence on the line, Finn adds, “Missed you,” then ends the call.

Puck exhales, running his hand through his hair. There was no way it wasn’t going to be a little awkward, and now the first post-thinking-period contact is done. The fact that Finn’s not staying at home makes Puck feel conflicted—bad for the kids, definitely bad for the pre-existing marriage, definitely good for Puck.

“Okay, I have six hours to kill,” Puck tells the empty room. Emailing the final report takes all of ten minutes, and even with his plan to be thirty minutes early and take a full hour to get ready, he still has hours left. He walks around Brookline for a few hours, ducking in the occasional shop and purposely avoiding the entire two blocks near the town hall. Despite all of his best efforts, it’s only five ‘til seven when he settles down in a chair in the lobby with a paperback he picked up at a used bookstore.

Puck doesn’t worry about Finn not being there before 7:30, but 7:30 comes and goes, and at 7:35, Puck stands up, stretches, and asks the guy at the front desk if there’s a back entrance. There isn’t, and Puck isn’t sure what that would have meant, anyway, but the longer it goes past 7:30, the more he worries. The clock hits 7:40, and Finn still isn’t there, so Puck sits back down in the same chair, now only pretending to read the book. Two minutes later, Finn finally walks into the lobby, wearing a suit that does fit a lot better than the one in Dallas.

“Hey,” Finn says, as soon as he spots Puck, heading straight to him. He looks scattered and agitated. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry I’m late, Josie started crying, I didn’t want to leave her.”

“It’s okay,” Puck says as he stands up, putting his book down on the table beside the chair. “She has… what did you say? Soccer? This weekend?”

“Yeah, soccer,” Finn says. There’s an awkward moment when he gets close to Puck, neither one of them sure how to proceed, then Finn grabs Puck with both arms and gives him a long, hard hug.

“Hey,” Puck says into Finn’s ear while they’re still hugging. “You want me to wait down here while you change?”

Finn shakes his head, not releasing Puck yet. “Nah. You can come up.”

“Okay,” Puck says, resting his head on Finn’s shoulder briefly. The hug continues and Puck grins to himself. “We should probably do that.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Finn releases Puck, giving him an actual genuine-looking smile, finally. “I’m on the third floor.”

“Oh,” Puck says, swallowing a little. “That’s, um. Convenient?”

Finn laughs. “You, too?”

“Yeah. I guess they put all the guys who tell them they don’t know how long they’ll stay up there?”

“The ambiguity floor.”

Puck laughs. “Exactly. Come on, let’s get to dinner.” He pulls away a little more, but keeps Finn’s hand in his as they walk to the elevator. “Tell me how work’s been.”

“Busy. I’ve been a little distracted, but I’m trying to not show it too much at the office,” Finn says. He pushes the elevator button and the doors open almost immediately. Once they’re in the elevator, Finn stands a little closer to Puck and squeezes his hand once.

“I worked faster,” Puck admits.

“Yeah?” Finn asks. “So you could come here?”

“Yeah. I mean, at first it was just because I knew I’d call, but then I decided if I have a week off, it’d be dumb not to come on out.”

“I’m glad you did. I’m glad to see you. I was really wanting to see you.”

“Yeah, me too,” Puck says, and he almost starts to kiss Finn, elevator cameras and all, when the door dings open.

“Our stop,” Finn says. They step out of the elevator. “Your room to the left or right?”

“Left, three doors on the left,” Puck says. “You?”

“Left, end of the hall on the right,” Finn says.

“Okay, I amend the earlier statement,” Puck says. “Very convenient.”

“How did we not run into each other?”

“‘Cause I only got here today, I guess. But no way I could have waited and surprised you, huh?”

“Probably not,” Finn says. He pulls out his key card and taps it a few times before the light turns green. “Why do these things always take like three taps to work?”

“Make you work for it,” Puck says, following Finn into the room and leaning against the wall. The room feels settled into, like Finn knows he’ll be there awhile, and Puck glances into the kitchenette and work areas while Finn starts changing clothes. The dishes drying on a cloth and the uncapped pens add to the overall feel of it, not to mention the various pairs of shoes.

“So where are we eating?” Puck asks after a few minutes pass.

“Do you like tapas?” Finn asks as he hangs his suit up, standing there in just an undershirt and boxers. “There’s this tapas bar, it’s really nice.”

“Sure. Cozy?”

“I think ‘cozy’ is in the actual description online, even.”

“Sounds good to me, then,” Puck says.

“Or…”

“Or?” Puck asks.

Finn shrugs. “We could get room service.”

“Yeah?” Puck grins and moves closer to Finn. “Is that what you want to do?”

“We should probably eat out somewhere so we can talk,” Finn says.

“I’ll be here for a long time, for talking,” Puck says.

“Yeah?” Finn asks. “How long’s ‘a long time’?” He steps closer to Puck and puts a hand on Puck’s left arm.

“I guess the final answer to that is determined by the talking,” Puck says wryly.

“Maybe if we just go ahead and let ourselves have this, it’ll be easier to talk after,” Finn says.

“You don’t have anywhere you have to be super-early tomorrow morning, right?” Puck asks. “We could stay in and still go out and talk after.”

“Josie’s soccer game is at 11 tomorrow. I have to pick her and the equipment up at 10,” Finn says. “Not sure what you consider super-early these days.”

“Before 6 or 7. Six for a weekday, seven for weekend,” Puck says. “But okay, good.” He leans in, pushing himself up just enough to kiss Finn solidly. Both of Finn’s arms wrap around Puck as they kiss. Puck slides his hand under Finn’s undershirt, fingers spread, and he presses closer to Finn.

“Want to move to the bed?” Finn murmurs against Puck’s lips.

“Want to move to my bed?” Puck says. “I bet I’m more set up than you are.”

“Your room probably has less clutter,” Finn says.

“If you discount my shopping this afternoon, yeah,” Puck says. “Put on a pair of pants for the walk down the hall, though. We don’t want to give the security cameras too much of a show.”

Finn nods and opens one of the dresser drawers to find a pair of jeans, which he puts on. He grabs his toothbrush from the bathroom and then follows Puck out of the room and across the hallway to Puck’s room. “Bet you can get the card to work in two taps.”

“You forget I have practice,” Puck says, carefully paying attention so that the card works with only one tap. “See?” He holds the door open for Finn and then follows him in.

“Impressive,” Finn says. He waits for the door to close—just barely—before he has a hand in Puck’s hair, pulling close to kiss him again.

Now I want to move to the bed,” Puck says when they separate.

“Yeah, that sounds like a good plan,” Finn says.

“I’ve maybe been thinking about this for the last two weeks,” Puck admits as they step towards the bed and the nightstand where Puck had, during his six free hours, moved tissues and hand towels to go with the lube stashed in the drawer.

“Yeah?” Finn asks. “I wanted to call you so many times.”

“Not talking was probably a good thing, but it wasn’t fun,” Puck says, sitting down on the edge of the bed and then scooting backwards. “I didn’t want to talk to anyone else.”

“I kind of had no choice but to talk to someone else, but I wish I’d been able to talk to you after,” Finn says. He puts his knee on the edge of the bed and then crawls forward onto it, on top of Puck, pushing his back against the pillows.

Puck wiggles a little, grinning at Finn. “We can talk all the time now, if you want.”

“You’re going to get soooo tired of talking to me,” Finn says. “So tired.”

“Yeah? Try me,” Puck says. He puts his hands on Finn’s sides, running them down to the waistband of Finn’s jeans.

“You want me to talk now?” Finn asks.

“Yeah, I want you to tell me what you like best.”

“You,” Finn says. “I like you best.”

“Yeah? You like me better like this or with fewer clothes?”

“Oh I definitely like you better with fewer clothes,” Finn says, kneeling up enough to start pulling Puck’s shirt up and off.

Puck waits until his shirt hits the ground before he continues. “Better with my mouth on yours, or on your neck?”

“Hmm. Neck,” Finn says, putting his hands on the front of Puck’s jeans and undoing the button. Despite his statement, he kisses Puck on the mouth as he starts unzipping Puck’s jeans. Puck laughs into the kiss and lifts his hips, hands holding tightly to Finn’s undershirt. Finn laughs, too, as he starts wiggling Puck’s jeans down his hips, pausing to hook his thumbs in the waistband of Puck’s underwear to work them down, too.

“You work fast,” Puck says approvingly, kicking off jeans and underwear one leg at a time.

Finn shakes his head. “No, it’s slow. Took two whole weeks to get to this point.”

“Weren’t in the same room, though,” Puck says, tugging up on Finn’s undershirt.

“I know. Why was that? That was stupid,” Finn says. He lifts his arms so Puck can pull the shirt over his head.

Puck shrugs. “Probably the old Spider-Man thing. Great privilege, great responsibility, all that. And clearly this is a great privilege.”

“Yeah?” Finn flushes pink and it spreads down his chest. “I think so, too.”

“Yeah,” Puck says, tracing his fingers across the pink on Finn’s chest. “God, let’s get you naked.”

Finn laughs softly as they both reach for his fly at the same time, and somehow between four hands, they manage to unbutton and unzip his jeans.

“Go us,” Puck says wryly.

“Yeah, team effort,” Finn says. “We can skip the high fives, though.”

“Different kind of congratulatory display,” Puck says, pulling on the back of Finn’s neck to kiss him again. He rolls his hips up, pushing his cock up next to Finn’s. Finn makes a low sound into Puck’s mouth and rocks his hips forward. Puck hooks one leg around Finn’s, bringing them even closer, and he moves his hips again.

“Oh fuck,” Finn breathes. “Oh, god, Puck. You feel so good.”

We feel good,” Puck says.

“Do you want to— I mean, can we—”

“We can do everything,” Puck says. “Tell me.” He puts his hand on Finn’s hip and squeezes. Finn shakes his head slightly.

“I’ll show you,” he says, and then he’s kissing Puck’s neck and down his chest, all across it. He flicks his tongue against Puck’s right nipple a few times before moving downward again, rubbing his face against the line of hair below Puck’s navel.

“Oh yeah,” Puck says, coming out more like a statement than the question he first intended. “That’s good.”

Finn nods, his face still pressed to Puck’s stomach. “Good,” he says. He kisses a line down Puck’s stomach, diverting to Puck’s left hipbone.

“You studying anatomy?” Puck asks. Finn bites him on the hip. “Oh, am I naughty?”

Finn nods. “Complainers get bites.”

“You know, that could backfire,” Puck points out, running his hands through Finn’s hair. “What if you teach me to complain?”

Finn shrugs and moves his mouth from Puck’s hip over to his cock, taking the tip in his mouth. Puck grins and squirms a little, his fingers pulling at Finn’s hair. Finn raises his eyebrows and glances up at Puck, one corner of his mouth turning up as he takes more of Puck into his mouth.

“Yeah, that’s good,” Puck says, nodding and trying to keep himself from rolling his hips up again. Finn helps by grabbing both of Puck’s hips, pinning them down against the mattress. Puck focuses on watching Finn’s face as time telescopes, and he isn’t sure how long they’ve been lying on his bed together when he realizes he’s about to come. “Finn,” he warns. Finn nods and squeezes Puck’s hips, moving his mouth faster. Puck lets out a low moan as he starts to come, his hips jerking up and out of Finn’s hands as he does. Finn swallows around him, a little messily. When Puck is still, Finn sits up, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Okay?” Finn asks.

“Not just okay,” Puck says. “Good.” He props himself up on his elbows, kissing around Finn’s mouth and then kissing Finn firmly. Finn’s face turns pink again.

“It’s been like sixteen years since the last time I did that,” he admits.

“So it’s like riding a bicycle?” Puck says. “Roll over, let me take care of that.”

Finn’s face turns darker pink, but he rolls off of Puck and onto his back. “You were always better at this than me.”

“‘Cause why? I make you come faster?”

“You always looked way better doing it than I could ever look.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Puck says, kneeling between Finn’s legs. He takes Finn’s cock in his hands and strokes it gently. “Maybe your cock just looked better.”

“No way. It was you. It was always you,” Finn insists. “Just watching you could be enough, if it had to be.”

“Like this?” Puck asks, then leans over and takes Finn’s cock into his mouth.

“Yeah, oh, yes, like that,” Finn says, putting a hand on the back of Puck’s head and gently grabbing at his hair. Puck grins to himself, sliding lower on Finn, and he strokes at the base of Finn’s cock with his hand. Finn’s hand tightens in Puck’s hair as he thrusts slightly upward. Puck loses himself in the rhythm of sliding up and down on Finn’s cock and the way Finn’s hand pulls at Puck’s hair. That part is new, a good new, and despite telling himself to anticipate, Puck is a little surprised when Finn comes.

Finn cries out, “Puck!” then repeats it over and over, gripping and releasing Puck’s hair. Puck slowly lets Finn’s cock slide out of his mouth afterwards, resting his cheek against Finn’s leg.

“I love you,” Puck says softly.

“Yeah,” Finn says. “I love you. That was so good.”

“We’re good, maybe,” Puck says, slowly crawling up to lie next to Finn. Finn wraps his arms around Puck to hold him close.

“Yeah. I’m so happy you’re here,” Finn says.

“Good,” Puck says. “I wanted to be here, but I didn’t want to force anything.”

“You’re here right on time,” Finn says. “This is exactly when you needed to be here.”

“We have to talk, though.”

“Yeah,” Finn agrees, nodding. “We can lie here for a little while first, though.”

***

An hour-and-a-half later, Finn and Puck are seated in a booth, tucked along the back wall of Barcelona Wine Bar, with an assortment of tapas on the table. Finn nudges Puck’s foot with his under the table, smiling at him over the various cheeses, meats, and little servings of eggplant caponata.

“It is cozy,” Puck says, returning the smile.

“As promised,” Finn says.

“We probably could have made even a McDonald’s work, but this is much better.”

“Oh yeah, much better,” Finn says. “McDonald’s doesn’t have manchego or anything involving figs.”

“Or the dim lighting,” Puck says, his hand brushing against Finn’s knee.

“Or the kinda-sexy Spanish guitar music,” Finn says.

“Nah, that’s mostly cheesy,” Puck says. “I’ll play you some actually-sexy guitar music after we talk.”

“You brought your guitar?”

“It’s usually my second piece of carry-on luggage.”

“Then you definitely have to play me some actually-sexy guitar music after we talk,” Finn says, then he sighs. “I guess that means we do have to actually talk, though, right?”

“Yeah, it does,” Puck says with an answering sigh. “As much as part of me wants to say we should just play it by ear as we go along, that didn’t work great before.”

“Helps we aren’t terrified to be seen in public together now,” Finn points out.

“Are we totally okay with it, though? What if someone who knows you sees you here? Is that okay?” Puck asks. “I’m not— I really am asking. I don’t know.”

Finn shrugs. “I’m not living at the house. I don’t have any plans to move back in. If someone who knows me see me, they see me,” he says. “Yeah, it could get a little weird, but I’d rather it be weird with you than easy with somebody else.”

“Okay. Yeah,” Puck says, nodding a little. “That’s true.”

“Like I told you in Dallas, things were going off the rails a long time before I saw you again,” Finn says.

“I guess it’s just my big question, you know? How much… am I present or am I someone who flies in and out and you like it that way?”

“I won’t ask you to change a major part of your life for me,” Finn says. “Of course I want you to be here, I want to see you every day, but you’ve been doing things the way you’re doing them for the last fifteen years. I don’t get to show up in your life and ask you to do it differently.”

“Don’t we have to do things differently? I don’t see any way to that five percent without compromise on both sides,” Puck says.

“Well, then what do you need me to do? How do I meet you in the middle?” Finn asks.

“You have a life as much as I do. I have things I can change, that I’m willing to change, but—I’m not stupid, I realize you have more going on here. More at stake. It’s not really about what I need you to do as much as need you to know? Before…” Puck trails off. “As much as I wasn’t able to commit, you weren’t able to be open. And now you need me to commit, I think, and I need you to be able to be open.”

Finn mulls it over without rushing to respond. It’s a lot to think about, to look at a bigger picture involving him and Puck when he’d only moved out of the house a week ago, and he does have things he can’t give up, or more accurately, that he isn’t willing to give up. He has the kids to think about, a 15-year relationship to dismantle, a career track that ties him down to Brookline, even if he didn’t have kids, house, and dog to consider.

“My kids come first,” Finn finally says. “That’s the thing I need you to know. I can’t uproot them and I can’t move away from them, not right now.”

“I assumed they came first. But I don’t know what that means to you besides what you just said,” Puck says. “What if that means, to you, I never meet them? What if it means—”

“No,” Finn interrupts, shaking his head hard. “You’ll meet them. Sooner rather than later, if possible. I’m not going back to how things were in Lima, not even for them. If I’m with you, I’m with you. Maybe we’ll need to give it a little time for them to adjust, and yeah, maybe I need to get things moving with the divorce before I introduce you into their lives, but you’re not going to just be my friend, or my roommate, or whatever it is you think I’d be okay with. If I’m with you, I’m with you, and my kids are part of the package.”

“Yeah, maybe don’t introduce me the same week as lawyers,” Puck says with a wince. “Okay. Yeah.”

“Shit,” Finn says, as it dawns on him. “Do you even like kids? Beth doesn’t count, since you’re functionally the same age.”

“Oh my god we are not,” Puck says. “She’s in college.”

“Same generation.”

“Still my kid!”

“Answer the question!” Finn says. “We can both agree Beth is an above-average kid, and isn’t what I’m talking about here.”

Puck shrugs. “No clue. I mean, theoretically, yes, kids are good. I haven’t spent any time around anyone younger than Beth in a long time, though.”

“I don’t think you’ll have a problem with Josie. She kind of reminds me of you as a kid. Non-stop, doesn’t know what ‘no’ means,” Finn says.

“I sometimes listened when you told me no,” Puck points out.

“Christopher, though.” Finn sighs. Honesty. “I think that’s going to be a little rough. He’s smart enough to put two and two together, when he meets you, and if he says something—I mean, kids say things, they can be mean.”

“God knows I said things,” Puck agrees. “I don’t think it’d bother me as much as it’d bother you, though.”

“It’ll bother me,” Finn admits.

“Can I give you some unsolicited advice?” Puck says. “As the kid whose dad left the state, not as—” he gestures between them. Finn nods. “Get ‘em in therapy. Even if their mom says they don’t need it. Mom thought we’d be fine, because we knew what had happened, all of that. But both of us, we needed someone to talk to who wasn’t her, and wasn’t him when he called.”

Finn nods again. “Yeah, I don’t think Caroline would have a problem with that,” he says. It’s uncomfortable, but they’re talking, so he puts it out there. “The first thing she said, when I told her about—well, when I told her I’d slept with someone—was that we should go see the therapist a couple we know went to. I think she still thinks if we went to therapy for long enough, it would fix everything. And it might’ve if we’d tried it seven or eight years ago.”

“Therapy only works if everyone in the room is willing to talk, and is gunning for the same things, so yeah, that makes sense,” Puck says. “I mean, that’s sort of what we’re doing, just without anyone facilitating things.”

“Yeah. I don’t think she really wants to save the marriage, you know? Just the family,” Finn says.

“At the same time, the best thing that ever happened to me was probably my dad and my mom not staying together,” Puck says. “Life just fucks people up. She can’t change that.” He shrugs. “I had a boss that had had this amazing life, right? And when shit happened, because it inevitably does, he didn’t know how to handle it. It still fucked him up.”

Finn nods. “I think this will be better for everyone in the long run, but the short run is going to be a clusterfuck. That’s the really hard part for me. I’m going to want you here for that, because it’s going to suck, but at the same time, maybe it’s better if you’re not here in the middle of the clusterfuck. Maybe I need to sort some of my shit out before you start changing your life up for me.” He reaches across the table for Puck’s hand. “I do want you here, though. If you’re only here on weekends, or only here a few days a month, it’s still better than sixteen years without you. I just don’t want you to have to wade through the deep shit of all of it.”

Puck is quiet for a long time, holding Finn’s hand and studying him. “I think in the long run, if I’m not here for you when there’s deep shit, and I get to swoop in after the clusterfuck—whenever that is, if the end doesn’t move—then you’re going to resent it.”

“I don’t want you in the center of it, though. I don’t want you starring as the villain in my divorce story, not for the kids and not for anybody else in Brookline,” Finn says.

Puck waves his free hand to the side. “I don’t have to be in the middle of it to be there for you, and you know that.”

“I don’t want you to feel like it’s your fault, or like I think it’s your fault, either,” Finn says. “I know I’m going to have days where I wish I could do the easy thing for everybody, and just move back into the house. I wouldn’t be happy. Caroline wouldn’t be happy. It’d be easy, though, and sometimes I’m going to want easy, and you’re going to hate me.” He can’t look directly at Puck, because maybe Puck wouldn’t hate him, but he knows he’ll hate himself when he inevitably considers taking the easy-but-miserable route.

“What’s easy is you could use me as a reason to get out of an unhappy marriage, but never let me in,” Puck says factually. “And that’s what this sounds like, right now.”

Finn’s eyes sting, but it’s still too early into the tapas for him to start crying. He puts his other hand on top of their clasped hands resting on the table. “I don’t mean for it to sound like that. I’m just— I’m afraid for you to see me that ugly and weak.”

“Then— God, Finn,” Puck says. “You’re going to tell me Caroline never saw you weak? That’s how relationships fucking work.”

“I don’t want you to be ashamed of me.”

“I’m the one you’re—” Puck breaks off. “I thought I was supposed to be the one with the commitment issues, but even I know a few days a month doesn’t make a lasting relationship.”

“I just mean… not forever. I don’t want you to be on the road forever. If you need to transition, though, you don’t have to go all or nothing,” Finn says. “I don’t want you to change your whole life for me, and then you’re stuck in Brookline watching me flounder through a divorce with at least one kid that hates me, and you’re wishing you were anywhere but here.”

“I have flexibility. I know what I can do,” Puck says. “That’s details. But you’re not giving me any room, here. I don’t want to be an excuse, or a projection. I’m just getting the distinct sense you don’t want me here. Not now, not for awhile. Maybe some nebulous future.”

“I have all this baggage, and you don’t, and I’m afraid you’re going to get tired of it being that way,” Finn admits.

“I have different baggage,” Puck says. “Less immediate. But I know life. Even if I agreed to stay away until you felt like it was less complicated, there’d always be something new coming up.”

“That’s true,” Finn says, “but where do we even go? We can’t stay in the hotel forever. Do I move into an apartment? Do you? Do we move in together? Do I stay in the hotel and you get a place? Do you want to get a place in Brookline, or do you want to be farther into the city? Is this the kind of stuff you want to figure out right now? Because if you want to be here in the mess, I’ve got a list of this stuff.”

“Yeah, we kind of do have to figure out that part of the mess, but I have to know you even want me here!”

“I do! I do want you here, I just wish I could magically gloss over the divorce and splitting up the belongings and just go straight to everything being cool and happy.”

“Maybe I should get a place, then. So you know there’s somewhere to land after the splitting up belongings.” Puck smiles a little. “The thing is, I don’t care if I’m the villain in the play in some people’s minds. You and I know I’m not, and I don’t want to be here for the denouement if you didn’t let me stick around for the rest of Act I and the first part of Act II.”

“It matters to me that you’re not the villain,” Finn says. “Because you’re not the villain. You didn’t do anything wrong. I love you, and you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“That’s why I don’t care,” Puck says. “But really. Would it help if you knew you had some place you were heading?”

Finn nods. “It might.”

“Okay. I can do that,” Puck says. “Wait, if I’m the villain to some people, it follows I’d have to be the sexy villain, right?”

“Well, yeah, obviously,” Finn says. “You’re sexy, so if you were the villain, clearly you’d be the sexy villain.”

“At least we’ve cleared that part up. And I have no idea about Brookline versus the city, or why I’d even notice,” Puck admits. “You’re on the T, so I didn’t realize there was a big difference.”

“Maybe there isn’t,” Finn says.

“You’re the one that’s lived here for awhile,” Puck says.

“It’s a little townier. People know each other a little more. That can be bad or good,” Finn says.

“Would you rather be a little more anonymous?” Puck asks. “I mean, it might cut down on the villainy thing, I guess.”

Finn nods, starting to run his foot up and down one of Puck’s calves under the table. “Yeah. A little more anonymity might help. Keep things quiet, let it just be us, without anybody else’s baggage.” He laughs once, softly. “God knows we’ve got enough of our own, right?”

Puck shakes his head and presses his leg against Finn’s foot. “If we’re lucky, it’s just the right amount.”

“We could finish up with these tapas, you know,” Finn suggests.

“Oh yeah? You have some Brookline sights to show me?”

“One sight.”

“A very limited tour, huh?” Puck says, grinning at Finn. “Lead the way.”

***

Puck wakes up before the sun peeks into his room, and he lifts his head enough to check the time—6:30 am on the nose. Finn doesn’t have to be anywhere until 10, which Puck assumes means that they have until at least 9 before they have to worry about Finn getting dressed and ready. That gives Puck plenty of time to look at Finn and then wake him up.

Waking up and looking at Finn isn’t technically new, but it feels new. The room gets a little lighter, working towards sunrise, and Puck keeps watching Finn sleep. This, he guesses, is what commitment feels like: knowing he’ll see the same thing, the same person, morning after morning. It’s not the scary thought it was at twenty, or even at twenty-six. Puck sighs and traces Finn’s jaw with his finger. It’s more than a little bit comforting, something Puck never thought he’d find, and he doesn’t know if it’s maturity, Finn, or the combination of the two.

Finn doesn’t stir, and Puck runs his finger down Finn’s nose. He has a few questions to ask Finn before he makes the final decision about the exact requests he wants to make of his boss, but he knows what he wants, and he has a good handle on the way he’d prefer things to shake out. That seems like a pretty good amount of progress, considering that twenty-four hours earlier, he was still on a plane to Boston.

“We’re doing pretty good considering it’s not even been twelve hours,” Puck says, pressing his lips against Finn’s forehead and running his hand down Finn’s back. “Come on, wake up for me.” He rests his hand on Finn’s bare ass and gently squeezes. “We have so much time this morning if you wake up now.”

Finn makes a grumpy noise and mumbles, “But coffee.”

“But blowjobs.”

“Yeah, okay,” Finn concedes, opening his eyes. “Hi.”

Puck smiles, and he figures it might even look pretty goofy. “Hi. Awake now?”

“I guess so,” Finn says, smiling back at Puck in a probably-equally-goofy way.

“Or anything else you want, it doesn’t have to be blowjobs.”

“Hey, I woke up for blowjobs,” Finn says. “I’m all about blowjobs.”

“In that case,” Puck says, sliding his hand around to Finn’s hip, then more to the front, “would you like one right now?”

“Are you taking back your offer?”

“There are a lot of things we could do right now,” Puck points out. “Blowjobs are fast. We can have blowjobs all the time.”

Finn looks like he’s trying to suppress a laugh. “So what is it you want to do?”

“Preferably something that takes some time, is at least a little bit messy, and uses that bottle in the bedside table drawer, but that still leaves us a couple of different options,” Puck says.

Finn’s face turns a bright pink that slowly spread down his chest. “We could do some of that, too.”

“Yeah, I’m full of excellent ideas today,” Puck says, pushing himself up to a sitting position. “Sink first?”

“Yeah. Pretty sure you don’t love me for my morning breath.”

Puck stands and heads into the bathroom, appreciating that the hotel is one with a separate vanity. “In spite of, for both of us, probably.”

The sink turns on and Finn starts brushing his teeth in the particularly loud way that has always seemed unique to Finn. Puck’s never been sure how Finn manages it, or how he didn’t get quieter as he got older, but it’s remarkably consistent. Puck flushes as he hears Finn gargle, and he jokingly elbows Finn at the sink.

“Switch.”

Finn wipes his mouth on the back of his hand and then grins at Puck before walking into the bathroom. Puck brushes his teeth and then leans against the vanity.

“You want the little more talking I have before or after?”

“You sure we’ve got time for both?” Finn asks over the sound of the toilet flushing.

“Maybe you’ll like the words so much it’ll make bed even better.”

“Hmm,” Finn says. He leans against the door frame between the vanity and the bathroom. “You think?”

Puck shrugs exaggeratedly. “Maybe. I have a question for you, though. How many vacation days you get, working for the town?”

“I get four weeks a year, but I can accrue more if I don’t use them. I’ve still got about two weeks left.”

“Okay,” Puck says, nodding, doing some mental math. “So if I take on some longer jobs and do most of it remotely, and flew to be on-site at the start and end of jobs only, you could fly out with me and take a day or two, three or four times a year?”

“Oh yeah. That wouldn’t be a problem at all,” Finn says. “Still leaves me plenty of time to do breaks with the kids. I mean, Caroline and I’ll have to work out all of that kind of stuff, but we usually split time off for spring break, anyway.”

“Does that sound good?” Puck asks.

“That sounds fun,” Finn says, “and I haven’t done a lot of travel for fun.”

“Oh yeah, we have to get you out more,” Puck says, grinning a little. “And then, you know. I could work from here the rest of the time. Not here specifically. Here the area.”

“You really want to do that? Stay in one place for so long?”

“I want to stay with you.” Puck shrugs. “If you said you wanted to move to Greenland, I’d go. I mean, I’d get you to a psychiatrist first, but if your mental health checked out, then sure. New adventure. So Brookline and Boston are a new adventure to me, you know?”

“No Greenland,” Finn says, smiling. “And you’re sure you’ll be okay here and won’t get bored after a few months?”

“Come here,” Puck says, straightening and holding out his hand, then pulling Finn close when Finn takes it. “I was really happy when I woke up this morning. You know why?”

“Why?”

“‘Cause that’s what I get to see, now.”

Finn smiles widely. “Yeah?”

“I’ve done a lot of traveling. I always told myself I’d know when to stop. And I was right.”

“Well, I’m glad,” Finn says. “Even if everything’s complicated right now, I’m really happy you decided to stop here with me.”

“Complicated’s okay. Complicated’s not even close to a dealbreaker. We can even make it fun, maybe.”

“I think parts of it aren’t going to be fun, no matter how hard we try,” Finn says.

“Okay, make part of it fun. And don’t get upset if I get impatient on weird things.”

“What kind of weird things are we talking about here?”

Puck smiles wryly. “Like the fact that I know it’s way, way too early but part of me’d love to go to Josie’s soccer game this morning.”

Finn’s smile falters, enough that he looks almost sad, and then he smiles again. “Yeah, it’s probably too early for that,” he concedes.

“We’ll get there,” Puck says. “We’ll go back to bed right now, and we’ll keep going forward, and we’ll get there.”

***

Even though Puck was right that it's too soon to come to Josie’s soccer game, Finn can't help but wish he had Puck there with him to watch Josie running and kicking her little heart out. Puck’s presence might ease, if only a little, the sick feeling Finn still has from going to the house—the family house, the house that's still half in his name, the house he’ll likely never live in again—to pick up Josie and her equipment. Christopher still won't speak to him, and while Caroline will, the short conversations they have now are only about kid-related logistics. She seems to have almost accepted that Finn's move out is permanent, at least. That stings a little, since it highlights the depths of Finn’s personal failures, but it does mean they might be able to move on to a hopefully-civil discussion about custody and other legal matters.

Josie kicks the ball hard and gets it into the goal just before the referee blows her whistle to signal halftime. The girls on Finn's team flock him to receive their mid-game orange slices, then flop down into sweaty girl-piles on the grass to eat their oranges and drink some water. As Finn goes back over the list on his clipboard to make sure each girl is getting a fair amount of field time, he overhears Tamaria and Caitlin C.’s mother talking to each other from the two camp chairs they’re seated in.

“You know he’s not staying at the house right now,” Caitlin C.’s mom says in a low voice.

“I heard that,” Tamaria’s mom says. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. Nobody does!”

Finn frowns. On the one hand, he’s glad that all the details of his personal life haven’t gotten around yet, but on the other hand, this does leave people open to making their own assumptions about what happened with Finn and Caroline’s marriage. Rumors might hurt the children more than the truth.

“Tamaria’s birthday party’s coming up in a few weeks. Maybe I should call Carrie to make sure that’s a good day for her, and if I just happen to ask a few questions while I have her on the phone, well…” Tamaria’s mom bobbles her head a little as if to indicate ‘whatever happens, happens’.

“Oh, that’s a good idea!” Caitlin C.'s mom says, forgetting to be quite so quiet, which must draw the attention of Caitlin R.'s mom, because suddenly she’s scooting her camp chair closer to the other women’s and leaning in. Finn pretends to be absorbed with his clip board.

“Are we talking about Josie and Christopher’s parents?” Caitlin R.'s mom says, her voice not particularly quiet. “Denver’s mentioned it!”

“Ooh, what did he say?” Caitlin C.'s mom asks.

“Denver said that Christopher told him he heard his parents arguing.” Caitlin R.'s mom pauses for effect before continuing. “About a man from Iowa!” Caitlin C. and Tamaria’s moms both gasp appropriately.

“I don’t believe it,” Tamaria’s mom insists. “Carrie would never cheat. It’s just not in her nature. She won’t even use a box mix as a base for the PTSA bake sale because she says it’s cheating.”

“Sometimes things happen,” Caitlin C.'s mom says. “Isn’t Finn from Iowa?”

“No, he’s from Ohio,” Tamaria’s mom says.

“So, I decided to ask Caitlin what Josie’s said,” Caitlin R.'s mom continues. “Caitlin said that Finn’s staying at a hotel because, Josie said, he’s too long for a couch.”

Finn cringes, both at the fact they’re gossiping about his family and at the specific details—both correct and incorrect—they’re including in their gossip. Luckily, the referee blows the whistle to indicate the start of the next half, so Finn can tear his attention away from the chatty moms and back to his team, sending both Caitlins and Mabel in. He watches Josie and Tamaria playing a hand-slapping game as they wait for their next turn in. Josie doesn’t seem upset today, but then again, he hasn’t had to drop her off at the house yet.

He’s able to focus solely on the game until the very end, after the girls have lined up to high five the other team and Finn has shaken hands with the opposing team’s coach. As he’s directing the girls back to their parents, however, he hears Caitlin C.'s mom say to Caitlin R.’s mom, “What could someone from Iowa give her that she doesn’t already have?”

Finn immediately turns to Caitlin C.’s mom, whose face reddens when she realizes he heard her, and says, “For the record, Carrie didn’t cheat on me. She didn’t do anything wrong.” Both Caitlins’ moms look uncomfortable, neither of them making eye contact with Finn. “And I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t gossip about my family, especially where my kids might overhear it.”

“We’re just trying to make sense of things so we can help our own kids!” Caitlin R.’s mom says.

“You can help them by telling them it’s none of their business, and none of your business, either,” Finn says firmly. The women both have the decency to look at least somewhat ashamed of themselves, which leaves Finn free to double check that all of his players have found their parents.

Josie comes running up to Finn, the ponytail that Caroline had fixed her hair into askew. “Did you see my goal, Dad? It was such a good goal!”

“I saw it, Jo-Jo,” Finn says, taking her hand. He slings her bag of gear onto his shoulder with his other hand, and they start walking to the car. Josie continues recapping the game for him as he loads the gear and they take their seats and buckle in. As Finn pulls out of the parking lot, though, Josie gets really quiet. After a few miles, Finn asks, “Whatcha thinking about, Jo-Jo?”

Josie doesn’t answer at first, and when she does, she doesn’t sound completely sincere. “I was thinking can we get ice cream?”

Finn looks in the rearview mirror. Josie’s jaw is set the way it gets when she’s on the verge of tears, but doesn’t want anyone to know. Finn sighs. “Sure. We can get a quick bite of ice cream.”

“Okay, Dad. Thank you,” Josie says. She props her arm on the top of the car door, against the window, and rests her head on her arm, forehead and nose pressed against the glass. Finn can’t see her face in the rearview, so he turns his attention back to the road.

“What flavor do you think you’ll get this time? Do you want to wait and check out the flavor of the week?” Finn asks, just trying to encourage her to talk.

“Dunno,” Josie says.

“Maybe they’ll have that banana split flavor again,” Finn says. “That one was good, remember?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Josie says.

Finn sighs again and stops trying to engage Josie in conversation. He has to circle the ice cream place a few times to find a spot, because apparently a lot of the other kids from soccer asked their parents for ice cream, too, but eventually he finds a spot to park. Josie looks sad and withdrawn as they walk into the ice cream place together, and Finn is none too pleased to see Caitlin R. and her mother in the line. Josie seems happy to see her, though, even though they only just saw each other, and perks up enough to start having a conversation with Caitlin. Caitlin R.’s mom looks at him sympathetically; Finn gives her a polite, if somewhat cold, smile in return.

Once he and Josie have ordered their ice cream and found a seat at one of the small tables, Josie falls right back into her quiet mood from the car. She eats her ice cream slowly, picking at it more than anything else, and Finn finds that he doesn’t have much stomach for his cup of mint fudge ripple, either. They sit there without talking while their ice cream gradually melts. After twenty minutes of silence, Finn finally calls it.

“Alright, it’s time to go home,” he says to Josie. She sits up straight and looks at him, her eyebrows raised and a real smile on her face, like she’s excited.

“You’re coming home, too?” she asks him. Finn can’t have this conversation in the middle of the ice cream place, so he picks up their cups of melted ice cream and throws them in the trash, then takes Josie’s hand and walks her out of the store.

“I’m taking you to the house, and then I’m going to the hotel,” Finn clarifies, as they walk to the car. Josie immediately bursts into tears. A couple and their two children getting out of an SUV in the spot next to them all look in Finn and Josie’s direction. The parents give Finn a judgmental look as he buckles a sobbing Josie into the back seat.

“Why won’t you come home?” Josie demands, while Finn starts the car and begins to back out of the parking space. “Don’t you love me?”

“Of course I love you, Jo-Jo,” Finn says, “but I can’t live at the house anymore. Mom and Christopher and you still live there, but not me.”

“Why don’t you want to live with us anymore?”

“I do want to live with you, Jo-Jo. I really, really do. I just can’t right now. Everything will start getting better soon, though,” Finn says. He’s not sure if it really will feel much better soon for Josie and Christopher, but at least things will start to find their new balance, which will, eventually, make the kids feel better.

Josie continues to cry quietly for the rest of the drive to the house, and when Finn walks her inside, she wraps her arms around his waist and hugs him tightly.

“Don’t go, Dad. Don’t go,” Josie pleads with him. Finn hugs her back for a long time, long enough for Christopher to come into the room. He glares at Finn without saying anything, then turns around and walks back in the direction he came from. Eventually, Caroline comes into the living room and helps dislodge Josie from Finn. Josie starts crying again, clinging to Caroline this time.

“I’m sorry,” Finn says to Caroline. “I never wanted this to happen. This wasn’t what I wanted.”

Caroline presses her lips together for a moment, like she’s biting down on her first response. What she finally says is, “You got what you wanted. Now all of us have to deal with this fallout, whether we wanted it or not.”

Finn nods, because she’s not wrong. He does have what he wants—Puck—and he made that choice knowing it would cause his family pain. His decision was fundamentally selfish, even if his and Caroline’s marriage was already unstable. He could have made a choice to ride things out, both of them at least moderately unhappy, for the sake of the kids. That isn’t the choice he made, though, so he just says, “I love you, kids,” and leaves.

***

Puck nods to himself as he reads the latest message from San Diego. It makes sense that he can’t do everything remotely, from Boston, but he’ll still talk to Finn before he buys plane tickets or decides how long he’ll be gone. If he plans well, it should only be a day or two. He responds to the message, then looks at the clock. Finn goes by the house to see the kids for at least an hour every day after work, but Puck expects a knock on his hotel room door soon.

About twenty-five minutes later, the knock comes. Puck grins and stands, going to the door and opening it. “Hey.”

“Hey,” Finn says. He looks weary, his smile warm but strained. He kisses Puck as soon as he’s inside the room, letting the door swing shut behind them, both hands in Puck’s hair.

Puck is used to Finn’s enthusiastic kissing, but this kiss feels particularly frantic, and Puck pulls back slowly. “Hey. Hey, what’s up?”

“Can we just do this for a few minutes first?” Finn asks. His eyes are red-rimmed and slightly glassy; he’s obviously been crying.

“Yeah, okay,” Puck says, pulling them towards the bed to sit. Finn’s mouth is immediately on Puck’s again, the same frantic kissing, his hands in Puck’s hair tugging slightly. Puck leans into the kiss, returning it with almost as much enthusiasm. After a few minutes of kissing, Finn starts to push Puck back against the bed, running one hand down Puck’s chest to the front of his jeans.

“Uh-uh,” Puck says, stopping Finn and rolling to one side. “No avoiding talking by getting naked.”

Finn huffs, but doesn’t argue. “Yeah. You’re right. Sorry.”

“Want me to talk first?” Puck offers.

Finn nods, sighing a little. “Yeah, if that’s okay.”

“Nothing serious, but I do have to go out to San Diego for a day or two to finish up out there.”

“Oh,” Finn says, nodding, “yeah, that makes sense. We knew you’d still have to travel some.”

“It’s more like they can’t pack everything, so I have to throw it out, and sign a few papers,” Puck says.

“That makes sense, too,” Finn says.

“I didn’t buy tickets yet. Thought I’d see when you thought was good for me to be gone for twenty-four hours or so,” Puck says. “Oh, and you need to tell me if there’s a storage place around here to avoid.”

Finn nods. “Yeah, there’s the Simply Self Storage over on Beacon. We put the main floor furniture in storage there for a couple of weeks when we had the floors redone two or three years ago.” He looks weary and sad again.

“Okay, on Beacon,” Puck repeats. “What day? A weekday’s better, right?”

“Yeah. If you go on a soccer night, I’ll plan to stay out later with Josie, take the kids to dinner maybe,” Finn says. “Tuesday or Thursday.”

Puck nods. “Okay, yeah, I can fly out Tuesday midday and end up with most of the afternoon out there, plus Wednesday morning. I’d probably be back late Wednesday, flying against the sun and all.”

“Home in time for dinner Wednesday?”

“Late dinner okay?” Puck says, grinning.

“Okay,” Finn agrees. “So, my turn, I guess.”

Puck nods. “Yeah. Your turn.”

“I told Caroline I was moving ahead with filing for divorce,” Finn says.

“You found a good lawyer, right?”

“I’ve got a couple of names. I thought maybe you could help me decide which one I should go with,” Finn says, “since you wanted to be in it with me. You don’t have to go with me to talk to them or anything, but maybe look at their sites or sit in on the calls?”

“Okay,” Puck says as he nods. “I think in general you’re going to be happiest with someone who isn’t too adversarial. And I’m going to tell you to get someone who won’t let you be taken advantage of.”

“She was really upset. She cried. A lot.”

“Yeah?” Puck wants to ask questions, but Finn telling him what he thinks of may answer more questions, in the long run.

“I thought she was coming to terms with it. I didn’t think she’d get so upset,” Finn says. “She said… things.”

“Do you want to tell me about that?” Puck asks softly, threading his fingers with Finn’s and squeezing gently.

“She said she thought I did it before. She said she didn’t think you were the only one.” Finn shrugs, like he’s trying to be dismissive, but it obviously hurts.

Puck snorts as quietly as he can. “I didn’t see you for years, and I know that’s not true. How can she think you’d lie like that?”

“She says if I’d cheat once, what’s to say I haven’t done it a dozen times? She asked me if she needed to get tested.”

“Like I said, because you’re you.” Puck squeezes Finn’s hand again. “I’m sorry she lashed out like that.”

Finn nods. “She thinks I’ve been lying to her the whole time. About you. About me. She says she has no reason to trust anything I tell her. I guess she’s right, a little.”

“Is she?” Puck frowns. “I’m arguing this because of what you just said, not because of anything… else.” He waves his hand dismissively. “Did you lie to her at all, about me?”

Finn shakes his head. “No, but… I downplayed you. Us. What we had. Why it ended. She knew about you, but she thought it was a, I don’t know. Phase? A one-time thing. When we first started dating, she kept asking me if I’d rather be with a guy. She made me promise I wouldn’t, and it was true, I wouldn’t rather be with a guy. Not just some random guy.”

“If you didn’t lie, she’s saying stuff to hurt you, or because she’s hurting,” Puck says. “It’s understandable but it’s not fun.”

“It makes me feel stupid and ashamed of myself. I tried to make what you and I had back in Ohio sound like it wasn’t a big deal. I needed it to not feel like a big deal, after.”

“Lying to yourself isn’t really the same thing as lying to other people,” Puck says. “At least that’s what I told myself if I were tempted to be honest from time to time.”

“And maybe it’s true that I wouldn’t have left her if I hadn’t seen you in the hotel. Maybe we would have kept going on like we were for years, me unhappy, her unhappy. If I hadn’t found you again, that might have been enough,” Finn says. “Even if it wasn’t enough.”

“Maybe. Or maybe six months from now, I would have seen something that reminded me of you, again, and I would have actually followed through and sent it. Or maybe two years from now, she would have gone to her high school reunion and seen an old boyfriend, and she would have come home and said she wanted the two of you to separate. Or maybe next Christmas, you would have gone shopping and realized you didn’t know what to buy her, and it would have triggered you leaving. We don’t know,” Puck says. “That’s the scary part and the cool part, at the same time.”

“I guess to me it doesn’t matter what maybe could have happened. I did find you. I did sleep with you. I do love you. I know it’s selfish, walking out on the kids, only seeing them an hour or two any given day, but I love you,” Finn says.

“I love you, too,” Puck says, “but you didn’t walk out on the kids. Maybe it feels that way right now because of living arrangements, but come on, you know deep down that’s not permanent and not how it is.”

“I can’t even bring them to stay with me for the night, because I’m in a damn hotel!”

“That’ll change,” Puck points out. “You did the stand-up thing and let her stay in the house, but that’s not the same as walking out on the kids. I’ve seen walking out, remember?”

“I know,” Finn says. “I just feel like a piece of shit tonight. I’m trying not to internalize everything she said, but it’s hard when I already feel like some of it’s at least partially true.”

“You’re a good dad. You’re trying to balance everyone’s needs. Tomorrow it’ll feel better. A lawyer’ll feel better, too.”

Finn nods. “Yeah. We’ll call tomorrow. Maybe I’ll go in a little late. We’ll take the morning, you and me.”

“Sounds good.” Puck squeezes Finn’s hand. “Dinner?”

“Yeah. We can talk about something that isn’t this, like where the hell I’m going to put the Firebird. I don’t want to have to sell it, but we won’t have a place to put it if we’re in an apartment,” Finn says with a deep sigh. “I hate that. It’s just a car, not even one that runs, but it bothers me more than losing the house.”

“I don’t know about long-term, but short-term, I could get one of the storage units that has garage space?” Puck says.

“Yeah, or else I’ll get a separate one in the same storage place, if it just doesn’t work logistically,” Finn says.

That at least was easy,” Puck says. “What do you want for dinner?”

“Burger and fries.”

“Going for the classics, huh?” Puck asks as he stands.

“Keeping it simple,” Finn says. “That’s about all my brain can handle tonight.”

“I walked past a place called Lee’s this morning. Is it any good?”

Finn nods. “Yeah, and it’s pretty low-key, too, which I’m in favor of.”

“I can even lead the way,” Puck says, feeling amused. They head out of the hotel and down the street, and Puck leaves his hand in Finn’s as they walk. Finn occasionally glances over at Puck and smiles at him. Lee’s is a block or two farther than Puck had remembered, but it’s a relatively nice night, and he opens the door when they get there with an over the top flourish. “After you.”

Finn’s smile looks a little more amused as he lets go of Puck’s hand to walk through the door and stand in the short line, looking at the menu. After about thirty seconds of perusing the menu, Finn glances around the restaurant. He tenses briefly, a slight frown on his face, then squares his shoulders and reaches deliberately for Puck’s hand again, giving it a small squeeze.

“You okay?” Puck whispers.

Finn nods, looking back down at the menu in his other hand. “Remember how I mentioned the moms gossiping about what was going on with my family during the soccer match?” Puck nods. Finn tips his head faintly in the direction of a table. “That’s Caitlin C.’s mom and dad.”

“Do you want them to not notice us, or did you want to go say hi?”

“Not interested in saying hi, but I don’t have a problem if they notice us.”

Puck nods. “So what’s the best here?”

“I like the teriyaki burger and the Bean Town burger,” Finn says. “I usually alternate.”

“We could each get one and half ‘em,” Puck suggests.

“And get a half of sweet potato fries and a half of jalapeño cheese fries?”

“Sounds good.” The line moves relatively quickly, and Puck surveys the room after they get their food. “Your soccer, uh, friends are still here.”

Finn shrugs. “Guess they’ll have more to gossip about, then,” he says, cutting his burger in half and placing half on Puck’s tray.

“I’m going to start a chart,” Puck says. “It’s going to be color-coded, with all the names you mention.”

“Half of them have kids named Caitlin,” Finn says. He picks up a sweet potato fry and holds it out for Puck. “Here, try one. They’re really good here.”

Puck leans over the table to eat the fry. “Was there a special on monogrammed blankets but only if you got the pre-made Caitlin ones?” he asks after he chews.

“I guess it was just the trendy name that year and we didn’t get the memo,” Finn says. He picks up his burger and takes a bite, cutting his eyes towards Caitlin C.’s parents for just a second before looking back at Puck and winking.

“Bet it was on a tv show,” Puck says, grinning back at Finn. “One of those Rhimes-knock offs.”

“Oh yeah, I bet it was,” Finn says.

“Maybe on the CW,” Puck adds, and as he takes a bite of the teriyaki burger half, he can see Caitlin C’s parents looking over at them. The woman leans in to whisper something to her husband, then apparently realizes Puck is looking at them, because she hastily looks away, face flushed in embarrassment. Puck forces himself not to laugh, instead putting down his burger and picking up a napkin and leaning across the table. “Sauce on your cheek,” Puck says, winking at Finn as he dabs at his face.

Finn smiles widely, the corners of his eyes crinkling in amusement. “I’m a mess, huh?”

“Huge, huge mess,” Puck agrees, letting himself smile in response. “Good thing I’m here from Iowa, huh?”

“Yeah, good thing,” Finn says.

“We’re doing great,” Puck says, still smiling.

Finn nods. “Are they watching us? Is it weird?”

“She was whispering something, then she realized I saw her,” Puck says, allowing the laugh he hadn’t initially let out. “Maybe it’s weird for you. I feel a little giddy.”

Finn shakes his head, smiling even wider now. “No, it’s not weird, really. It’s kind of… freeing, I guess? We’ve been seen now. That’s it. It’s already happened. Now we just move forward.”

“Send out a bulletin,” Puck says jokingly. “Or wait for Caitlin’s parents to do it.”

“I’m sure everybody will know by the next soccer game,” Finn says.

“I hope they at least describe us accurately,” Puck says. “Two good-looking men sharing burgers and a laugh, or something like that.”

“It’s impossible to predict how the soccer mom gossip will paint anybody,” Finn says. “It’s all a mystery to me.”

“Whatever sounds the best in the moment, I’d guess.”

“Yeah, I guess it’s possib— shit.” Finn’s smile abruptly falls. “Caroline doesn’t know you’re in town. I didn’t want to say anything to her until the paperwork was filed.”

“You think it’ll be an issue?” Puck asks.

“I don’t know. I was trying to avoid this looking like ‘I’m leaving you for a man’ and have it be more about the relationship being irreparable, with the part where I love you isn’t the main reason,” Finn says.

Puck nods, because what Finn’s saying is mostly true, and the part that’s not quite true—Finn is, in a way, leaving Caroline for a man—isn’t worth going into at the moment. “We can look at those sites for the names you have tonight, if you think we need to. Call first thing in the morning.”

“Yeah, I think we should,” Finn says. “I’m trying to avoid this getting any uglier than it has to.”

“In a way, she might prefer thinking it’s about gender than thinking it’s about her, though,” Puck says, feeling almost obligated to point it out. “You and I both know you’re not gay, but that may be what she decides. And if she thinks you are, well, she couldn’t help that.”

“It might help her in the gossip mill if that’s what other people think, too,” Finn says with a sigh.

Puck shrugs. “More or less, yes. I guess the real question is how you feel about that.”

“I don’t know. I want to be honest, but I also don’t want to cause anyone any more pain than I already am,” Finn says. “I do love her. She’s the mother of my children, and we had some really good years together. If it’s easier for her to understand this by telling herself it’s because you’re a man and I’m actually gay, maybe being completely honest isn’t the right choice. I don’t know.” He sighs again. “I’m not gay, though. I was in love with her in the beginning. I was attracted to her. I don’t want people to think I didn’t, or that she was a beard or the relationship wasn’t real.”

“I think what I’m really asking is… what’s your social circle? Are there people you want to continue to be friends with who are going to ask? Or is the truth going to be buried in Brookline anyway?”

“I’m probably going to lose some of my friends in this divorce, if I’m being realistic. Some of the others, I think it would be easier for them to understand it if they just think I’m gay. Maybe a few would get that it’s actually about me and Carrie’s marriage in general, and that the way I feel about you is because it’s you, not because you’re a man.” Finn shrugs. “If it’s going to be just you and me from here on out, I don’t know that it really matters what people’s interpretation is.”

“Maybe this is too heavy for Lee’s Burgers,” Puck says, but he smiles. “But I guess I also mean, if I’m looking somewhere that’s not in Brookline, theoretically, we’re going to meet some neighbors, I’d think.”

“I don’t make a habit of asking my neighbors if they’re gay, straight, or otherwise when I meet their significant others,” Finn says. “I never figure it’s my business.”

“Yeah, but you’re you,” Puck points out. “Hey, speaking of things more fun to discuss, though, I did look around the real estate listings, just to get a feel for what was around Boston.”

“Yeah? Find anything good?”

“Is Back Bay good?” Puck asks. “It looked like a nice area.”

Finn makes a whistling noise. “That’s an expensive area.”

“Is that bad?” Puck picks up one of the jalapeno cheese fries and eats it. “I’m not exactly hurting.”

“I figured you did pretty well, but I didn’t realize you did Back Bay well,” Finn says. “We’re going to need to sit down together and talk through the financial stuff, too, as the divorce moves forward. Carrie makes a lot more than I do, but depending on the custody situation, I’m still expecting to pay some amount of child support, and you’ll need to know my full financial situation.”

“If custody’s fifty-fifty, you won’t have child support to pay. Alimony, maybe, but not if she makes that much more than you,” Puck says. “I assumed they’d each need a bedroom.”

“Especially if the custody is split evenly, which is what I’d want, of course,” Finn says.

“Talk to anyone you know who’s had a divorce, or their adult kids,” Puck suggests. “Get their opinion on the best way to split time. And as far as finances, since I’ll be buying on my own at first, we can worry about it after that.”

“That’s a lot more space to buy on your own than you otherwise would,” Finn says. “That doesn’t feel right, you putting so much money into a place.”

“My place in San Diego has two bedrooms,” Puck says. “I bought it cheap in an up and coming area. Real estate’s technically an investment, if that makes you feel better.”

“Not a lot better, but you’re an adult and you know more about your income and savings than I do, so other than making sure you know I don’t expect you to shoulder an unfair amount of the financial burden, it’s not my place to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do with your money right now,” Finn says.

“Just let me do this for you,” Puck says. “Both so you know you have a place to land, and so you know I’m not running off anywhere.”

“Okay,” Finn says, placing his hand on the table palm up for Puck to take it. Puck smiles and takes Finn’s hand, squeezing it. “I love you. Thank you for being here with me for all of this.”

“I know it sounds weird, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

“Being judgmentally stared at in a burger joint with a guy who’s about to embark on a divorce is your idea of a good time, huh?” Finn asks. Under the table, he runs his foot along Puck’s ankle.

“Everyone’s got their thing,” Puck says, then laughs. He presses his ankle towards Finn’s foot. “After I get my tickets bought, maybe you can make a late dinner reservation for us on Wednesday night?”

“Maybe we can go somewhere nice. Dress up a little.”

“I can clean up nice,” Puck says.

“We should come up with a reason to go somewhere with tuxedos,” Finn suggests. “I bet you really look good in one of those.”

“Do you own a tuxedo?” Puck asks.

“I do, actually. We do an annual fundraising gala.”

“I like a gala,” Puck admits. “They like to send me to schmooze at them.”

“I bet you’re great at that,” Finn says. “I can see you being a great schmoozer, all dressed up in a tux.”

“I do alright,” Puck agrees. “Next time there’s one relatively close, I’ll take you.”

Finn raises his eyebrows. “How close is ‘relatively close’?”

Puck shrugs. “North Jersey through Maine?”

“I guess that is relatively close,” Finn agrees. “And yes, I’d love to go with you.”

“The food’s usually good, if you get tired of the company,” Puck says with a grin. “Are we almost finished here?”

“I think so, unless you’d like to slowly feed me the last of the sweet potato fries and let me lick the salt off your fingers, really give them a titillating show,” Finn says, though he sounds like he’s teasing.

“Hold on to that thought about licking until we get back,” Puck says.

“I’m going to hold onto that thought very tightly, I promise,” Finn says.

***

Finn’s waiting at the airport at 7:30 when Puck’s return flight from San Diego arrives. Puck texts “back on solid ground” within a few minutes of Finn parking, so he walks towards the arrivals area to wait for Puck to walk from his gate. They have eight o’clock reservations at Sambal, the trendy new Balinese place in Back Bay, so Finn has on a suit and tie.

After only a few minutes of waiting, Finn spots Puck before Puck see him. Puck is wearing a charcoal grey suit with what appears to be a fine-gauge navy sweater on underneath instead of a shirt and tie. He looks good enough that Finn considers skipping the reservations and taking Puck straight back to the hotel.

“Hey,” Finn calls out to catch Puck’s attention. Puck turns his head and grins, angling towards Finn with his carry-on rolling behind him.

“Hey yourself,” Puck says when he gets a little closer.

When Puck gets within grabbing range, Finn catches him by the waist and pulls him in for a sincere-but-still-fit-for-the-airport kiss. Puck leans into the kiss, his free hand on Finn’s upper arm. After they’ve kissed for a while, Finn pulls just far enough to speak.

“You sure you want dinner? We could just go back to the hotel,” he offers.

“And waste our efforts dressing up?” Puck says, catching Finn’s hand in his. “We’ll still go back to the hotel after.”

“Alright,” Finn agrees, making sure to sound as reluctant as possible to not be returning straight to the hotel. “I’ve heard great things about Sambal, so it’ll be a good night.”

“It will be. I did miss you,” Puck says.

“Missed you, too,” Finn says. “My lawyer filed the paperwork.”

“How does that feel?”

“It’ll feel better when we have a temporary agreement,” Finn says.

“Hopefully that part won’t take that long,” Puck says, leaning his head towards Finn’s shoulder as they walk.

“We have a date for meeting with the family service officer, too, so the judge will enter it into record. A week from tomorrow. I think we’re supposed to work out a temporary agreement then.” He puts his arm around Puck’s waist.

“From what you say, the two of you don’t really have differing priorities, at least in terms of the kids, so that’ll help, I’d guess.”

“I hope she’ll agree to a full fifty-fifty split of their time. The therapist they’ve started seeing says one week on, one week off usually works better than splitting each week in half. Even better if we make the hand-off between weeks a family meeting or activity that involves both me and Caroline.”

“That makes sense,” Puck says with a nod. “Splitting a week in half sounds tiring to me as an adult.”

“And hey, Christopher actually spoke to me when I picked Josie up for soccer practice yesterday!” Finn says.

“Yeah? That’s great,” Puck says, sounding almost relieved. “Time helped, I guess?”

“Well, it was ‘Are you going to bother to show up to my science fair or not?’, like I’ve ever missed one of his school events,” Finn says, “so it’s not like it was exactly warm or friendly.”

“Okay, well, it’s progress?”

Finn laughs, a little bitterly. “It’s something, at least. I’m worried about how he’s going to act when he meets you.”

“You do remember I was a complete little shit, right? I can handle it.”

“Yeah, but you’re going to be in his life forever, and I’d rather him not be a little shit. I know he’s angry. I get that. I just don’t want him to take it out on you. He can take it out on me all he wants.”

“It’ll bother you more than anyone, but eventually, when he gets over it, it’ll bother him,” Puck says. “You know what I mean. But I do have experience in this case, sort of.”

“Yeah. Just one more reason I’m lucky to have you,” Finn says, pulling Puck in close to kiss him.

“I promise we’re going straight to the hotel after dinner,” Puck says when they separate.

“Yeah?” Finn asks. “What are we doing when we get there?”

“Getting slowly but thoroughly naked.”

“I have some ideas for after that, if you’re amenable.”

Puck laughs. “Oh, I’m definitely amenable. So tell me more about dinner, or I can tell you about my slightly-more-than-three hour tour.”

“I can’t really tell you that much about dinner. I’ve never had Balinese food before, but apparently it’s the new hot thing,” Finn says. “So tell me all about San Diego.”

“Would you believe that I sold the place while I was there?”

“That fast?” Finn asks, shocked.

“It was wild. Professional packers can’t pack some stuff, and there’s other stuff you can’t pay people to move, so I was in there going through all that when the realtor calls, all, I know we were going to list it tomorrow but can I bring someone through in an hour.” Puck stops and shakes his head. “So I finished hauling out the trash and tagging boxes and furniture, and went down the road for about forty-five minutes, and then she calls again and says they want to make an offer.” Puck shrugs. “Yeah, I could have held out for a bidding war, but it was so much easier this way, you know?”

“Wow. You got a good price for it?”

“List price, or what was going to be list, yeah,” Puck says. “Luckily I can do my part of closing from wherever. They have a network of closing attorneys, apparently.”

“That’s fantastic, Puck!” Finn says, reeling Puck in to kiss him again. “So you’re going to start looking for places here now? More seriously, I mean.”

“Yeah, I’ll probably look at a place or two this weekend,” Puck says. “Of course, I have to actually start working again tomorrow, too.”

“I can help you look at places,” Finn says.

“You don’t want to be surprised?” Puck says teasingly.

“By the place we’re possibly moving my kids into half the time?” Finn asks. “Probably not so much with the surprise.”

“I was thinking, it should have room for a piano,” Puck says.

“A piano? Are you trying to move a piano here from San Diego?”

“No, I just always thought kids should have a piano in the house,” Puck says with a shrug.

“But neither of my kids play piano,” Finn says. “Should we enroll them in lessons?”

Puck shrugs again. “Maybe see if either of them are intrigued by it. I know it sounds weird.”

“It doesn’t sound weird,” Finn says.

“Now you sound like you’re lying,” Puck says. “It’s weird.”

“Okay, so it’s a little weird, but it’s also sweet and thoughtful,” Finn says.

“And a fireplace,” Puck says. “Room for a piano, a fireplace, and enough bedrooms. And some patio or backyard space for Hammer?”

“I don’t know if I should try to take Hammer or not,” Finn says. “I’m the one who got him, but he’s really Christopher’s dog.”

“Shouldn’t he stay with Christopher at either house, then?”

“Is that good for dogs? I’d be fine with it if Caroline agrees to that.”

“I think dogs like to stay with their people, even if that means moving around,” Puck says. “It’d have to be better than missing Christopher for days on end?”

“You feel okay about part-time dog ownership, though?” Finn asks.

Puck looks almost puzzled. “You think it’d be part-time dog ownership that’d make me throw in the towel?”

Finn shrugs. “Everybody’s got that line they won’t cross, and who’s to say yours isn’t a yellow Lab?”

Puck stops walking and grabs Finn’s other hand. “I can’t promise you that we won’t bump up near any lines, but I’m not going to offer something like yard space and then tell you I’m not actually okay with a dog. Okay?”

“Okay,” Finn says. He smiles at Puck, too happy to come up with something else to say other than, “I love you,” which he does say.

“I love you, too,” Puck says, kissing Finn lightly. “Let’s go eat dinner.”

Over dinner, they talk more about Puck’s packing, about when his boxes will arrive and making plans for meeting the movers at the storage unit, and about what they’re both looking for in terms of real estate. To Finn, any place that isn’t the hotel would be great, but he does have some lingering sadness over letting go of the house he’s lived in for so many years, where his kids have grown up. He’ll still have the kids, though, as long as everything goes well with the divorce, and a new place with Puck outweighs Finn’s regrets about the old house. Puck has a strong preference for a place with a front stoop rather than a building with a doorman, but since they’ve already both agreed that Hammer will be joining them half the time, a condo wasn’t going to be a particularly valid option, anyway.

As the server clears their dessert plates, Finn asks, “So are we ready to go back to the hotel now?”

“I know you’ve been ready,” Puck says with a smile. “But yeah.”

“Yeah, I’ve been ready,” Finn says. He signs the receipt for their dinner, adding a large tip because the server was attentive, but didn’t hover around the table or interrupt conversation. As he stands, he reaches for Puck’s hand, even though they only have to walk as far as the car. Puck keeps smiling and squeezes Finn’s hand in return.

Finn keeps his hands to himself, other than resting one on Puck’s leg, as he drives them to the hotel. He keeps his hands to himself, other than an arm around Puck’s waist, walking through the hotel and riding up in the elevator. As soon as they’re through Puck’s hotel room door, however, Finn’s hands slide up Puck’s chest, shuck off his jacket in the process. Puck laughs, leaning his head back.

“You’re so ready, huh?” Puck says.

“Yeah,” Finn murmurs against Puck’s throat as he kisses him there, unbuttoning his own shirt at the same time, forgetting he’s wearing a tie. Puck laughs again as he reaches up, loosening Finn’s tie and then undoing it. Finn shrugs his jacket off, then unfastens the front of Puck’s dress slacks. They go back and forth, pulling off or pushing down clothing, until both of them are down to just their underwear. Finn kisses Puck again, walking him backwards to the bed. When the back of Puck’s thighs hit the mattress, Finn gently pushes him back, so Puck is lying with his legs still off the bed, Finn between them. Finn hooks his fingers in the waistband of Puck’s boxer briefs and slides them slowly down Puck’s thighs.

“I can tell. I like it,” Puck says.

“Good,” Finn says, sinking to his knees in front of Puck, between his legs. Puck is already half-hard, so Finn takes Puck’s cock in his mouth, using his lips and tongue until Puck is fully hard. Finn moves slowly and deliberately, not trying to push Puck to the brink quickly, just taking his time. Puck wiggles a little in place, running his hands through Finn’s hair and tugging gently. Finn’s mouth slides up and down Puck’s cock, using only light suction and carefully-timed tongue flicks, one hand gently cupping Puck’s balls and pressing the pads of fingers behind them.

“You look good,” Puck says softly. He runs his hands through Finn’s hair repeatedly, playing with the ends and gasping intermittently. Finn doesn’t move any faster, still licking and sucking slowly. When he can feel that Puck is getting close, can taste it, he stops, sitting back on his heels.

“Move up on the bed,” Finn prompts, breathing hard. Just looking at Puck, tasting him, has Finn so hard, too.

Puck nods and slowly scoots backward on the bed, trailing his fingers over Finn’s scalp again. Finn climbs onto the bed after him, pressing the whole length of his body on top of Puck’s as they kiss. Puck drags his fingertips down Finn’s back, his body arching up against Finn’s. After kissing for a few minutes, Finn lets his mouth slide along Puck’s jawline, tonguing the spot on Puck’s neck just over his pulse before moving up, his lips just barely against Puck’s ear.

“I want to fuck you,” Finn says softly.

Puck shudders a little as he nods. “Yeah. Yes.”

“I thought about it the whole time you were gone,” Finn says, running the tip of his tongue around the outer edge of Puck’s ear. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it once I started.”

“Yeah?” Puck shudders again, his fingers grabbing at Finn’s back. “Good thing I wasn’t gone longer, it would have tortured you.”

Finn nods, catches Puck’s earlobe between his teeth and nips lightly. “I kept thinking about how I missed you, and how much I wanted you. How I wanted more of you. I thought about being inside you, having you all around me.”

“You should have called me,” Puck says. “Told me what you were thinking.”

“Wasn’t sure I could say it until I actually saw you,” Finn confesses. He runs a hand down Puck’s chest, grazing his fingertips over Puck’s cock.

“Next time I have to travel for a day or two?” Puck says, sounding hopeful.

Finn laughs softly. “Yeah, maybe next time.” His hand moves to Puck’s right hip, squeezing it. “I can tell you how I pictured you under me.”

Puck nods, shifting his weight a little and moving his left leg up. “Yeah. Tell me about that.”

Finn’s face feels hot, and he knows he’s blushing at least a little, but he doesn’t care. “Thought about how I’d roll you over onto your stomach, then pull you up onto your hands and knees. I thought I’d use my tongue on you and in you.”

“Oh,” Puck says with a short audible exhale. “Yeah. Yeah, you would. Will.”

“Then when you’re relaxed and open for me, I’d use my fingers. I’d get you as close as I can like that.” Finn kisses Puck again, and then pushes Puck, urging him to roll onto his side, and then his stomach. Puck grins at Finn as he shifts and rolls over, turning his head to the side to look at Finn. Finn kisses the corner of Puck’s mouth, then his neck, then moves so his stomach is pressed to Puck’s back, so Finn can kiss and suck at a spot on the back of Puck’s neck. Puck wiggles a little underneath Finn.

“I’ll be so open,” Puck promises.

“I know,” Finn says into Puck’s ear. “I want you so much. When you’re ready for me, I’ll push inside you. Do you want that?’

Puck’s entire body shudders as he nods. “Yes.”

Finn doesn’t say anything else, but he smiles as he kisses the back of Puck’s neck again. He starts sliding down Puck’s body, kissing each vertebra of Puck’s spine as he goes. When he gets down to Puck’s ass, Finn kneels up between Puck’s legs, spreading them apart, and puts his hands on Puck’s hips, lifting them off the bed. Puck obligingly moves up onto his hands and knees, Puck’s ass right there in front of Finn. Finn leans down and flicks just the tip of his tongue against Puck’s asshole.

“Mmm, hi,” Puck says, sounding almost out of it. “Yeah.”

“More?” Finn asks.

“Mmmhmm,” Puck says, wiggling a little.

Finn puts a hand on each side of Puck’s ass, spreading him open as Finn’s tongue flickers over Puck’s hole again, then pushes inside slightly. Puck sighs, his body relaxing under Finn’s hands. Finn’s tongue dips in again, deeper, as he holds Puck open, pushing into Puck and sliding out again as he slowly picks up a rhythm. Puck’s breathing gets louder and more shallow, and he shifts his weight again.

“That’s so good,” Puck murmurs. “You’re so hot.”

Finn hums a sound of agreement. He presses in again and again, fucking Puck’s asshole with his tongue. He can feel Puck relaxing under him with each stroke of his tongue. Puck makes breathy gasping noises, his head dropping down towards the bed. He gets more open, wet from Finn’s saliva, as Finn keeps tonguing at his hole. Finn is so hard just from hearing Puck, tasting him, that he moans, a low, deep sound. Puck lets out a lower-register gasp in response, his body sagging a little.

Finn thinks to himself that he could keep doing this, just this, all night, but Puck is so open and wet now, what Finn really wants is to be inside him, finally. He flicks his tongue against Puck’s hole one more time before sitting back, hands still on Puck’s ass.

“Tell me what you want,” Finn says, voice rough.

Puck turns his head, making a small noise of protest. “You stopped.”

“You want me to keep going?” Finn asks. “We can do this, just this, if that’s what you want.” Even as he’s saying it, though, he’s reaching for the drawer in the bedside table, pulling out the bottle of lube Puck keeps there. They’ve made good use of it for other purposes.

“No,” Puck says. “You said you were going to fuck me. You should do that.”

Finn smiles at Puck’s words. He pours lube onto two fingers, touching them to Puck’s asshole, circling it. “You don’t want me to do this first?” Puck whines and pushes his ass towards Finn. Finn lets his fingertips slide into Puck, not very deep. “We can do this, too, if you want.”

“I want to do everything.”

“I know you like my fingers,” Finn says, pushing them in a little more, to the second knuckle. “We don’t have to do anything but that.”

Everything,” Puck repeats.

Finn slides his fingers all the way inside Puck, his breath catching a little at how tight Puck still is, even after Finn’s tongue. He slowly fucks Puck with two fingers, feeling him relax incrementally around them. They’ve done this before, usually with Finn’s mouth on Puck’s cock, or vise versa, with Puck’s fingers and mouth in and on Finn, but tonight it doesn’t feel like enough for Finn.

“Tell me what you want,” Finn says. “Tell me.”

“I want you,” Puck says. “I want you to fuck me.”

Finn slides his fingers out of Puck, pouring more lube into his hand and using it to slick up his cock. He presses the head to Puck’s hole, waiting and breathing. “Tell me again.”

“Didn’t you believe me?” Puck says. “I want you inside me.”

Finn exhales hard and pushes into Puck. He’s so tight and hot, wet from Finn’s tongue and the lube, that Finn can’t keep himself from moaning out loud as he slides in. Puck makes a noise that’s almost a squeak, lifting his head slightly.

“Not too much?” Finn asks. He holds Puck by the hips, mostly to keep himself from pushing in too fast, but also pulling Puck towards him. Puck shakes his head. Finn’s fingers dig into Puck’s hips as he pushes in deep, then out, moving in slow, short strokes.

“More,” Puck says, shaking his head again. He arches his back, his head tilting almost back. Finn moves a little faster, rocking back and snapping his hips forward. They find a rhythm between them quickly, Puck shifting position under Finn, Finn fucking him harder and faster.

“This is so good, Puck, it’s so perfect,” Finn says.

“Yeah,” Puck says, nodding and gasping. “Yeah, it is.”

“We can do this again, right?” Finn asks, still moving. “We should do this again, okay?”

“We’ll do it a lot,” Puck says. “Lots.”

“Yeah, good, that’s good, that’s— fuck, you’re amazing, this feels so fucking good,” Finn says. He pulls on Puck’s hips, pulling him back onto Finn’s cock, lost in how tight Puck is, but how open he is, too. “Touch yourself, I want you to come, I need you to come all around me.”

“Yeah,” Puck says, shifting his weight to free one hand. “Yeah, I will.”

“That’s so hot, Puck. Fuck, I’m so close, as soon as I feel you come, that’s all I need.” Finn knows he’s more or less babbling at this point, but he can’t think clearly, let alone put together a clear sentence. He can feel Puck jerking himself off under him, and Finn has to bite down on his lower lip to keep himself from coming just from that.

“Yeah, we’re hot,” Puck echoes, still moving back with each stroke of his hand.

“I want to make you come. I want you to come for me, Puck. Fuck, I love you so much.”

“Love you too,” Puck says, then moans loudly as he starts to come.

“Oh fuck,” Finn cries out, and after a few more hard thrusts, he comes, too, pushing deep inside Puck. He drops his upper body onto Puck’s back, his forehead pressed to Puck’s skin, both of them panting. “God, you’re incredible, I love you so fucking much,” he murmurs against Puck’s back.

Puck trembles for a few moments, breathing deeply, then twists and drops to the bed, pulling Finn with him. Finn wraps himself around Puck, skin touching everywhere he can manage it, holding Puck close to him. Puck takes a few deep breaths, his nose pressed against Finn’s body.

“Want to go to sleep with you,” Puck says softly.

“Yeah,” Finn agrees, closing his eyes. “Tonight and every night.”

“It’s a good plan.”

“Yeah.”

***

The first day of any job Puck’s sent to always involves one important question: how much do any of the employees know about why there’s a team from Peters & McNeal there? Sometimes employers like to be open about it, and sometimes they prefer to euphemistically call it an audit. Puck’s contact for Herb Chambers tells Puck and the other two on the team to be as open as they’d like, which Puck finds easier. If someone left a trail, having a few days or even weeks warning usually isn’t enough to get rid of the trail, and then Puck doesn’t have to remember what the current lie is.

The three of them are given a nice conference room in the main corporate office, a tour of where to find the bathrooms and the break rooms, and extensive printed maps and directions telling them how to get to each of the Herb Chambers dealerships, should they need to. Puck doesn’t have the heart to tell the very earnest VP of sales that he doesn’t even own a car.

Puck spends both of his breaks and most of his lunch on Thursday taking care of details for the shipment of all of his stuff from San Diego, and on the way back to the hotel, he stops at the storage place to make sure they’ll give the truck access whenever it arrives. He and Finn have dinner in Puck’s room, using a lot of refrigerated food from Trader Joe’s, and when they sit on the loveseat to watch TV and then go to bed, the routine feels like it’s longer-standing than it is. It feels, Puck decides, good in a way he didn’t know it could.

Puck makes plans early on Friday to touch base with the realtor during his afternoon break, to set up showings for the next day, so when the morning break comes around, he walks down to one of the break rooms with his coffee mug in hand. Because they’re in the corporate office, the break room looks more like a small cafe, to Puck’s way of thinking, but he knows it’s also where they direct visitors and vendors, from what the VP said the day before.

No one else is in the room when he enters, so he goes straight to the high-end coffee machine, humming a little to himself. His cup is almost done when he hears the click of heels on the floor, and he turns, prepared to smile and introduce himself to whomever is approaching.

The blonde woman that enters the room looks slightly harried but confident, and Puck sidesteps when he sees the mug she’s carrying in one hand. “I’ll be finished in just a minute,” Puck offers.

“No rush,” she says, giving him a polite smile.

“What department are you in?” Puck asks. Sometimes the schmoozing helps on the actual job, too.

She shakes her head. “I don’t actually work here. Herb Chambers is one of our ad clients. I’m with Connelly.”

“Oh, one of the visitors,” Puck says. “Me too. Forensic accounting, Peters & McNeal.”

“Oh yes, I’ve heard of you. You handled the situation in Brookline.”

Puck blinks, a little startled. “Oh, yeah, that was us,” he agrees. He picks up his mug and steps further from the coffee machine, and she places her mug in front of the machine to start brewing her own coffee.

“So what brings you to Herb Chambers? Corporate espionage?” she asks, sounding conspiratorial.

“That’d be so much more fun than standard embezzling,” Puck says. “It’s only day two, so there’s still a chance.”

“It seems unethical to wish you good luck with that, but I can at least say I hope you find what you’re looking for,” she says. As her coffee finishes brewing, she’s already picking up her mug.

“Let me get your contact information?” Puck says. “Sometimes outside perspectives come in handy down the line.” It’s true; it’s part of how his LinkedIn has grown so large, too.

“Sure. I think I’ve got a business card on me.” She rifles through an inner pocket in her suit jacket, then hands a card to Puck. It’s on a heavy-duty cream cardstock with gold-embossed type. It says ‘Caroline Hudson’.

Puck freezes with the card in his hand, and he tells himself mentally that he needs to stop staring at it, because she’s going to realize any moment now that he’s not reacting normally, but he keeps staring at the card anyway.

“Are you okay?” Caroline asks, after a few beats.

“Um,” Puck says, setting his coffee mug down while he tries to stall. Most of him says that fair is fair, and he should introduce himself, but part of him thinks that it’s not fair to her, considering she’s working. Another part of his brain reminds him that eventually she’ll encounter him in some way or another, and it could look like he was withholding information. “Sorry. Um.” He holds out his hand, grimacing slightly. “Noah. Noah Puckerman.”

Caroline is halfway to shaking his hand when her face freezes and goes pale. She lets her hand drop. “Noah. Puckerman.” Her eyes widen slightly. “As in Noah Puckerman from Lima.”

Puck winces. “Yeah. That Noah Puckerman.”

“You slept with my husband.”

“Uh. Yes.”

“He left me. For you.”

“That’s not quite how he sees it.”

Caroline inhales sharply and then exhales through her nose. “I have a meeting,” she says, then abruptly turns away and heads towards the exit. She pauses with her hand on the door handle, looking back at Puck, really looking at him, a sweeping head-to-toe look. She doesn’t say anything, though, just opens the door and walks out.

Puck sighs, shaking his head a little. He picks his coffee up again and takes a long sip. He has another eight or nine minutes before he should go back to work, and knowing Finn’s heading to see the kids right after work, Puck feels like he should warn him in some way. He sits down in one of the plush chairs and pulls out his phone, typing a quick message out.

As a heads up, Caroline had a meeting at Herb Chambers today.

Finn doesn’t respond for about fifteen minutes, which isn’t unusual when he’s at work, as he takes meetings frequently through the day. When the text does come, it says Did you talk to her?

I didn’t know who she was at first, Puck says, wishing there were a good way to communicate utter ruefulness.

Did she realize who you were?

Only after she gave me her card, and I felt like fair was fair, so I introduced myself. Puck sighs and sends it, quickly followed by Different conversation after that.

Yeah, I bet. A few seconds later, Finn sends a second text, What did you think?

Puck frowns at his phone for a few moments, then responds. My first impression was she was harried but confident. And I didn’t want to get off on a really bad foot by not telling her who I was.

Probably the right call. Thank you.

You’re welcome, Puck sends, then considers adding that part of him figures that he and Caroline can’t be horribly different, given their shared association with Finn. That’s probably better said in person, though, so he lets it go. As he finishes his coffee, he sends another message. Want me to make some dinner reservations for us for tonight?

I probably need to talk to Caroline tonight first after I see the kids.

Puck nods at the phone. Let me know when you’re heading out from there and I’ll grab us takeout, then.

Thanks for understanding. I love you.

I love you too. Puck rinses his mug and heads back down the hall. Neither of the two others notice anything amiss, which Puck takes to mean that either he’s not that bothered by the encounter or they’re not very observant.

By the time that Puck leaves Herb Chambers, he’s decided that it’s the latter, because he definitely feels a little jumpy. Finn hasn’t texted again, and the truth of it is that they don’t have enough of a routine established for Puck to decide if that’s normal or abnormal. Half of Puck figures that the biggest issue is that he and Caroline meeting could make things more complicated for Finn, either at the mediation for the temporary agreement or in general when dealing with Caroline. The other half of him is—well, he’s not really sure what the name for it is. Uncertain, maybe. Technically there was nothing wrong with Puck accidentally meeting Caroline—how could he have known?—and his and Finn’s conversation seemed fine, too, but there’s still the little voice in his head, and worst of all, it’s his own voice, saying they have maybe a five percent chance. If he hadn’t realized who she was, he probably would have told Finn about the perfectly pleasant ad exec that he met in the breakroom.

Puck takes a long route back to the hotel, walking the last half-mile or so. He distracts himself from waiting by looking at too many real estate listings, including ones that he knows he can’t afford to even step foot in. Eventually, that doesn’t work, and he turns on the TV for mindless background noise. If he’s going to imagine horrible scenarios of Finn being berated or Finn deciding to stay at the house, either one, he might as well have Jeopardy! going in the background. As it gets later and later, Puck starts to worry more, and he considers texting Finn. If Finn is still with the kids or still talking to Caroline, though, that could make a potentially bad situation even worse, so Puck instead sits and frets, picking at his guitar aimlessly.

He never does get a text, but eventually, he hears Finn at the door, and he stands up hurriedly to open it.

“Hey, I’m sorry I forgot to text,” Finn says. He looks wiped. “It’s not too late to order something is it?”

Puck shakes his head. “You okay?” He pulls Finn through the door and shuts it.

“Yeah. It’s fine. It was just…” Finn shrugs, somehow looking even more wiped out. “But I’m here, finally.”

“You want to change clothes while I order something?” Puck offers.

“Yeah, I might take a quick shower while I’m across the hall, too.”

“Okay.” Puck squeezes Finn’s hand and steps back from the door. “Don’t take too long, I have them all trained to come fast because I tip well.”

Finn smiles, but it doesn’t quite reach his eyes, though he does look like he’s trying. “I’ll only be a few minutes.” He leans in and gives Puck a brief kiss before exiting the room.

Puck frowns to himself as he orders Chinese from the place just around the corner who will, in fact, get the food there in about ten minutes’ time. He putters around the room after that, clearing a place for them to both eat and getting out two glasses of water. When there’s a knock on the door, Puck isn’t sure if it’s Finn or the Chinese food, and he snorts when he opens the door to find Finn, holding the Chinese food.

“Good timing,” Puck says.

“I made sure to maintain your reputation as a great tipper,” Finn says, entering the room and carrying the food into the kitchenette, where he sets out two plates next to the cartons.

“They and I appreciate it,” Puck says. “Good shower?”

“Did the job,” Finn says. He starts putting food onto both plates, splitting it up the way they always do, with Puck getting a little more kung pao chicken, Finn getting a little more orange beef, and the dumplings split evenly between the two of them. He brings the plates out to the coffee table in front of the loveseat and hands Puck a pair of chopsticks.

“Thanks,” Puck says, feeling torn between asking questions and waiting for Finn to talk on his own. “Still got time to watch that horrible show on MTV at nine, if we want to.”

“Yeah, I could go for some horrible TV,” Finn says. “Nice and mindless.”

The two of them are mostly silent as they eat, though Puck decides it doesn’t feel like a particularly awkward silence, and when it gets close to nine, Puck turns on the TV and leans against Finn’s shoulder. Finn sighs quietly and tilts his head to rest on top of Puck’s, resting a hand on Puck’s thigh. Occasionally they comment on the show or one of the ads, and it’s nearly ten when Puck straightens a little.

“Did you still want to go with me tomorrow?” Puck asks.

“Hmm?” Finn says. “Why wouldn’t I want to go?”

Puck shrugs. “I just wanted to be sure. Make sure I have the times right.”

“Game should be over by noon. We have the ten o’clock game this weekend. We’ll probably get some lunch after,” Finn says. He seems to hesitate for a moment or two, then asks, “Did you maybe want to meet us for lunch?”

“Yeah?” Puck says, a little surprised. “I mean, yeah, okay, sure. Just tell me where.”

“Okay. I can already tell you where, though. She always picks Eagle’s Deli.”

“Okay. Eagle’s Deli,” Puck repeats. “And I’ll tell the agent around 2:30, then.”

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Finn says. He sighs softly. “Ready to go to bed?”

“Yeah. That sounds good, too,” Puck says. He stands up, holding onto Finn’s hand lightly, leading them into the bedroom.

Finn leaves around nine in the morning to get Josie for soccer, and he seems less weary and more upbeat from the time they wake up and eat breakfast through leaving. Puck shrugs and touches base with the agent, figuring out which address they’ll meet at first, and then decides it’s worth paying a cab to take him around to see the front of each address. If any of them are less row house and more condo, easier to rule them out ahead of time.

After that, Puck has the cab take him to Eagle’s Deli, even though it’s still ten til noon, and he leans against the fire hydrant to wait. Finn’s car pulls up just after 12:15, and after he parks, he feeds the parking meter while Josie gets out of the back. She’s in her soccer uniform, which is heavily grass-stained, as though she took multiple tumbles during the game. Puck straightens, shoving his hands into his jean pockets.

When Finn sees Puck, he waves and starts walking towards him, Josie taking his hand as they walk. “Hey,” Puck says as they approach.

“Hi,” Finn says. He doesn’t immediately lean in to kiss Puck like he normally would, but he does give him a one-armed hug. Josie looks a little wary, but not openly hostile, which is something, at least. Once Finn releases Puck, he says, “Puck, this is Josie. Josie, this is Puck.”

Josie sticks her hand out, looking very formal. Puck smiles and crouches down slightly, taking her hand. “It’s good to meet you,” he says.

“Is my dad moving in with you?” Josie asks. Puck glances up at Finn, who nods.

“Yes,” Puck says. “Did you win your soccer game?”

Josie nods. “By two goals. We would’ve won by three goals, but Caitlin R. missed.”

“Well, it sounds like a good game,” Puck says, releasing Josie’s hand and straightening.

“You have to practice a lot if you want to be good at soccer,” Josie says, pulling Finn with her as she starts to head into Eagle’s Deli. “I practice every day. Caitlin R. only practices during soccer practice.”

“That’ll do it,” Puck agrees. “You have to practice a lot to be good at most things.”

“My dad played football. Not football like soccer. Regular football,” Josie says.

“Puck was actually on the same football team as me,” Finn tells Josie. Josie looks at Puck with an unreadable expression, then nods.

“I wanted to play football, but my mom and dad told me I couldn’t because of the brain trauma,” Josie says. “I said that Dad doesn’t have brain trauma, but Mom said it was too early to tell.”

“Hopefully neither of us are susceptible,” Puck says. “But it sounds like a good decision that your mom and dad made.”

“I guess. You don’t tackle people in soccer, though, and I wanted to tackle people,” Josie says.

“Yeah, the tackling is what we wanted to avoid,” Finn says, in a tone that suggests they’ve had this conversation before.

“Can you put my bow in my hair?” Josie asks Puck suddenly, pulling a clip on hair bow out of her pocket. She hands it to Puck. “My dad can’t ever put it on straight, but I thought maybe you could.”

“His hands are probably too big for hair bows,” Puck says. “I guess I can try.” He examines the clip for a few seconds and then does his best to get it straight, just at the top of her ponytail. “Like that?”

“Dad, I need your phone.” Finn hands Josie the phone, and she turns on the camera, flipping it to selfie mode and looking at her hair critically. “Yeah, that’s good. Thanks.” She hands the phone back to Finn.

“You’ve got hair bow skills. Who knew?” Finn says to Puck.

Puck shrugs. “Maybe it’s all the guitar-tuning.”

“Do you play the guitar?” Josie asks, as they get into the line to order.

“Yeah, I do,” Puck answers her.

“My brother wants to learn now to play the guitar. His name is Christopher.”

“I didn’t know Christopher wanted to learn to play guitar,” Finn says, looking sad.

“That’s because Christopher doesn’t like to talk to you because you moved out of our house,” Josie says. Her tone suggests that it’s reasonable for Christopher to not talk to Finn, but that she doesn’t share the same feelings about talking to Finn. She looks at Puck with her eyebrows knit together, an expression very similar to one Finn makes. “Hmm. Maybe you could teach Christopher how to play guitar, and then he’ll talk to Dad again.”

“Probably that’d need to go in the opposite order,” Puck says lightly. “So what’s good to eat here, Josie?”

“Oreo milkshakes.”

“You have to order real food, too,” Finn says. He still looks sad, but like he’s trying not to look sad for Josie’s sake.

“The hamburgers are pretty good,” Josie says.

“I guess I’d better order real food, too,” Puck says with a mock-sigh.

“If I was a grown-up, I would just order milkshakes,” Josie says, with a sad shake of her head. “I’d also wear one of my dresses for soccer games.”

“There’s probably a group of women who do just that,” Puck says. The three of them do in fact order hamburgers to go with their milkshakes, and no more mention is made of Christopher or guitars. When they finish, Puck looks over at Finn. “I’ll send you the address of where to meet me?”

“Okay. Hopefully dropoff will go smoothly today,” Finn says in a low voice, so Josie, who is slurping her milkshake loudly, can’t hear him.

“She seems cheerful?” Puck says quietly. “Compared to what you’ve said about a few other times. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.”

“Can we get a milkshake for Christopher?” Josie asks, oblivious to the conversation Finn and Puck are having.

“Sure. Do you want to go order it?” Finn asks. When Josie nods, Finn gives her a ten dollar bill, and she runs up to the counter to order. Finn slumps back in his seat a little, looking tired. “I’m buying my son’s love with milkshakes now. That’s what it’s come to.”

Puck shakes his head. “No. You’d be buying it if you told him he could only have it after you had a conversation or whatever. You’re just letting Josie be thoughtful and considerate of her brother.”

“She seems to like you, though,” Finn says.

“She’s younger than Beth was when we reconnected, but she reminds me a little bit of Beth,” Puck says with a shrug. “Which I guess makes sense.”

“Yeah?”

“They’re still both our kids?” Puck says.

“So you’re saying it’s nature, not nurture, huh?” Finn asks, smiling.

“Who’d have thought that’d be my argument, huh?” Puck says.

“But you like her?” Finn asks.

“Yeah, she’s a good kid. Smart, too,” Puck says.

“You think you’ll be okay spending half your time with her?” Finn asks. He’s obviously trying to sound like he’s teasing, but his facial expression looks slightly worried.

“I’m not backing out, and I’m especially not backing out because I met your kid,” Puck says firmly. Finn visibly relaxes, reaching across the table to take Puck’s hand in his.

“I just want everybody to be happy, you know?” Finn says.

“I want you to be happy,” Puck says. Finn smiles and squeezes Puck’s hand.

“You’re holding hands,” Josie announces loudly, from where she’s walked back to the table with apparently ninja-like stealth.

“Uh. Yes. Yes, we are,” Finn says.

Josie holds up a milkshake cup. “I have Christopher’s milkshake.”

“Then I guess we should go before it melts,” Finn says. He stands, letting go of Puck’s hand. “Send me the address and I’ll meet you there,” he says to Puck.

“Okay,” Puck says, then turns to Josie. “Bye, Josie. It was nice to meet you.”

“Bye. Thanks for putting my hair bow in,” Josie says.

“You’re welcome,” Puck says, waving at both of them as they leave. He takes a minute to make sure their table is clear, then walks over to the T, taking it towards Back Bay. He texts Finn while he’s on the T, and spends about thirty minutes walking around Back Bay, trying to get a feel for the area. It’s true that it’s relatively expensive, but he doesn’t think they’d feel out of place, which is good.

The agent arrives before Finn, and Puck wonders briefly how much they should explain to the agent, or if they should just let her make assumptions. He does tell her that for the afternoon, at least, they’re less concerned about prices and more concerned about finding something that works for both of them.

Once Finn arrives, the agent takes them into the first place, and Puck glances at Finn. He looks sad, still, but he doesn’t mention any particular difficulty with dropoff.

“What do you think?” Puck asks Finn quietly after they’ve gone through more than half of the house.

“It’s a little pricey, don’t you think?” Finn says. “For the size.”

Puck shrugs. “We can compare it to a few others, size and price wise,” he says. “What do you think aside from the price?”

“Is there a good area you can use for office space?” Finn asks.

“There’s that butler’s pantry that seems excessive,” Puck says. “It’d be in a good location.”

“The bedrooms are all a nice size.”

“But you don’t love it,” Puck says.

“I don’t dislike it,” Finn says. “What do you think about it? That’s the most important thing to me.”

“I don’t think it’s quite the right place,” Puck admits. “But it could also work, if everywhere else were ruled out.”

Finn nods. “We’ll look at the next place, then.”

“Keep on keeping on,” Puck agrees.

By the time they get to the fifth and last place, Puck is beginning to doubt the plan to look at five places in one day, but then he remembers that this one had the best curb appeal. “I liked this one from the outside,” Puck admits to Finn as they go up the steps. “I think it’s really modern inside.”

“Yeah, it’s nice looking,” Finn agrees.

“We could put out two carved pumpkins,” Puck says, gesturing at the neighbor’s stoop.

“You did say a stoop was important.”

“I’m old-fashioned,” Puck says, deadpan, as they walk through the door.

Finn inhales sharply, what could almost be described as a gasp. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Puck says, stopping just inside the door and taking it in. “The pictures didn’t really do it justice.”

“There’s no way we can afford this,” Finn says. “It has to be out of price range.”

“If I hadn’t sold the place in San Diego, yeah, that’d be true,” Puck admits. “But with a larger down payment, we can.”

Finn shakes his head. “This is too much. You would never even look at something this big if it weren’t for me and the kids.”

“I’d probably look for one fewer bedroom, yeah,” Puck admits. “But that’s about the only difference.”

“We should probably look at the whole thing first, just in case,” Finn says.

“There’s three bedrooms on the same floor,” Puck says. “And two garage spaces.”

“Room for the Firebird,” Finn says.

Puck nods. “I thought that was a plus.” He leads Finn towards the long, relatively narrow kitchen. “Big enough to fix stuff, but we’re not chefs.”

“Everything looks like it’s been updated recently, too.”

“Yeah, I’m not a big fan of renovations,” Puck admits.

“Me either. We had to do so many on the house when Carrie and I—” Finn cuts himself off abruptly. “Anyway, it’ll be nice to not have to remodel anything.”

Puck nods and doesn’t say anything else until they get to the room that’s the master, and Puck whistles in spite of himself. “That’s a view.”

“Yeah, that’s really nice. Wow. I wasn’t expecting anything like that!”

Puck slips his arm around Finn’s waist and leans against him. “Little bit of unexpected green space.”

“But it’s so expensive,” Finn says quietly.

“Let’s look at all of it,” Puck says, steering Finn towards the two bedrooms on the same floor as the master. “See, they’re similarly sized. And there’s another room downstairs.”

“The downstairs room would be good for an office, probably,” Finn says. “These are really nice bedrooms.”

The agent has mostly left them alone, but she smiles at Finn’s comment. “The downstairs bedroom would make a perfect nursery, too, if you wanted to expand the family!” she offers in a chipper voice.

Finn’s eyes widen in near-panic, and Puck takes his hand and squeezes it. “I mostly work from home,” Puck tells the agent, without addressing the substance of her remark. “Come on, Finn, you can tell me if you think I’d be too distracted by the windows.” Finn nods wordlessly and lets himself be guided towards the downstairs bedroom.

The room is considerably smaller than the rest of the bedrooms, but it’s more than large enough for a desk and a laptop stand, which is all Puck really needs. He turns to the agent and tries to indicate with his head that the two of them need some privacy, and he can hear her return to the entryway before he turns to Finn.

“So what’s your first impression?” he asks, as if the agent had said nothing about babies.

“This place is amazing,” Finn says. “It’s really beautiful.”

“Can you see yourself here? The kids?”

“I could see us anywhere, as long as you’re there. You know that, right?”

“I think there are places you’d rather not be, still,” Puck says with a slight smile. “Really, what do you think?”

“I think it’s the best one we saw all day,” Finn says. “Would you be happy here? That’s what’s most important to me.”

“If you would be.”

“I’m afraid if I say yes, that you’d be buying this crazy expensive place for my sake,” Finn says.

Puck laughs. “Okay, I’ll play along. If I were only buying it for you—which I wouldn’t be—would that be the worst thing?”

“I’d feel guilty?”

“Why?” Puck asks, in what he hopes is a reasonable tone.

“What if you change your mind?” Finn asks quietly. “What if you change your mind about all of this, and you’ve sunk so much money into a house in Boston? You haven’t even met Christopher yet. I don’t even have a temporary order yet. What if you spend all your money on this place and you end up regretting it?”

Puck squeezes Finn’s hand and leans toward him. “If I change my mind, that’s on me, you know? I know you don’t want to feel responsible if I regret it, and I get that. But let me turn this around. What if neither one of us regret it? What if six months from now we’re eating dinner here, and no one’s changed their mind about anything?”

Finn sighs, smiling at Puck. “Then I guess we’d be pretty happy.”

“Do you trust me that I’m not just buying a place for your sake?”

Finn nods. “Of course I trust you. If you tell me you’re not, I believe you, because you always tell me the truth.”

“Sometimes brutally,” Puck says ruefully.

“Yeah, sometimes,” Finn says. He looks almost distant, like his mind is trying to be in two places at once. Puck squeezes his hand again.

“We can leave here, get some dinner, and see how we both feel in a few hours. This place has been on the market for more than a week or two, so we’re not going to miss out on it. And if we do, we’ll know it wasn’t meant to happen.”

“Okay,” Finn says.

“Want to get some pizza on the way back to the hotel?”

“Sounds great.”

Finn is subdued on the way back to the hotel and while they eat dinner, but Puck knows him well enough to know Finn’s not mad, or if he is, it’s definitely not with Puck. Puck turns on the TV as they finish eating, putting the volume low. “Do you have any concerns you’ve thought of since we left the house?” Puck asks.

“Hmm?”

“Any reason we shouldn’t put an offer on it?”

“Maybe we should wait until Thursday,” Finn says.

“I get what you’re saying, but a temporary agreement is just that, temporary,” Puck points out.

“Yeah, but what if there’s stuff she won’t back off on?” Finn asks. “She might— what if I have to move into my own place for a while? What if she drags her feet and it takes a long time to get a final decision?”

“Then you’d still have a place to land.”

“Even if it’s months? Or a year?”

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Puck admits. “I have no idea how long it could take or why you’d have to move into your own place. I don’t—” He cuts himself off, sighing. “I don’t know. Okay?”

“It’s just something Caroline said. It might not end up being an issue,” Finn says.

Puck runs his hand through his hair. “Okay?”

“That she didn’t want the kids living with me if I was living with my—and this is just her terminology, okay—gay lover,” Finn says. “And apparently that’s something that can be stipulated in a custody agreement, no meretricious relationships. I would have to get my own place, and I couldn’t live with you unless we got married.”

“I think you have to be profiting or something for it to count as that,” Puck says slowly. “And would she really want that in there? It’d apply to her, too.”

“I don’t know. Maybe she just said it because she was upset. I’m sure it was really weird for both of you, running into each other like that.”

“And I think it’s something you could fight, to be honest, but none of that really tells me—I don’t really understand what you think I’d be doing, if she succeeded in getting that into the agreement.”

“Living in a huge, beautiful townhouse all alone,” Finn says.

“Or, more realistically, alone every other week,” Puck says. “And none of that tells me why we should wait until Thursday, to be honest.”

“You’re right. You’re right, and I’m overreacting,” Finn says. “I just keep thinking about the way she said it. The other stuff she said.”

Puck frowns at the coffee table in front of them, mentally arguing with himself about what to say. Part of him wants to follow up with more question, to point out that he’s reacting half-blind, but part of him also wants to let it drop and move on, because it’s a Saturday night and they’re both clearly tired.

“Okay,” he finally says.

“So you should make an offer on the townhouse,” Finn says. “And I should stop looking at the worst case scenarios.”

“Okay,” Puck repeats. “We had a long day. Ready for bed?”

“Yeah. That would be really great.”

“We’ll be crazy and not set an alarm.”

“That sounds amazing.”

They don’t get out of bed until almost noon the next day, even though they’re awake for more than an hour before that, and Puck realizes around mid-afternoon that Finn hasn’t mentioned when he’s going to see the kids. Puck decides not to bring it up, assuming there’s a good reason. Maybe Caroline already had all day plans with the kids. Puck’s pretty sure there’s at least one festival going on somewhere in or near Boston.

By evening, Puck’s offer has been sent to the sellers of the townhouse, and his agent’s let him know there aren’t any other offers being considered, but that it could still be later in the week before they get an answer. Puck tells her that’s fine, because it’s not like they could close before his shipped stuff arrived, anyway.

Puck does not see Caroline while he’s working on Monday, which he decides is probably far more likely than the improbability of them having met in the first place. He stays for twenty or thirty minutes longer at the end of the day before heading back to the hotel, reasoning that he’d still have time before Finn would be back from seeing the kids, which means he does a double-take when he sees Finn approaching the hotel from the other direction.

Puck stops just outside the lobby doors to wait for Finn. “Hey,” he says as Finn draws closer.

“Hey,” Finn says. “Work kept you late?”

“Just a little bit,” Puck says. “You?”

“Not really, no,” Finn says. Something about him seems off, like he’s trying very hard to seem like everything is normal and fine.

“Any requests for dinner?” Puck asks as they walk inside. Maybe Finn’s schedule is just off, and Puck doesn’t mind waiting for a later dinner. “We have an amazing array of refrigerated Trader Joe’s foods.”

“No strong preference. Whatever you want is fine,” Finn says, with no indication he has plans to leave the hotel again.

“Or we could just thaw that pumpkin pie and eat it,” Puck says, half-joking.

“Pumpkins are healthy, therefore pumpkin pie is a legitimate dinner choice,” Finn says.

“It’s a vegetable, no less. It’s like a… vegetable pot pie without a top crust.”

“Pie for dinner it is.”

Finn continues to sound just a little too okay with the world while they eat dinner and talk about their respective work days, not mentioning the kids or his early arrival back at the hotel. They end up straightening their respective hotel rooms instead of watching TV, and Puck tentatively suggests they should pool their laundry soon.

“We could do it after soccer practice tomorrow night?” Puck suggests.

“Yeah, that’ll work,” Finn says. “If you have anything that needs to go to the dry cleaners, I can drop that off on my lunch break tomorrow, too.”

“Just the suit I had on last Wednesday,” Puck says.

“Mmm, that’s a nice suit.”

Puck grins. “I noticed you seemed to appreciate it.”

“I’m willing to appreciate it again any time you want to wear it, too,” Finn says.

“We’ll have to find another trendy restaurant,” Puck says. “What a pity. Good food, good company, well-fitting attire.”

“Maybe we’ll do that on Saturday night. You can pick the restaurant this time.”

“I’m just going to save Ethiopian for a night we’re not in nice suits, though,” Puck says. “I don’t trust my own hands that much.”

“Something lighter,” Finn says, “because you know I’ve got a Pavlovian response to that suit now, and I’m probably going to want the same thing you gave me last time.”

Puck laughs. “So you’re saying I’ve already got you well-trained?”

“If you’re wearing the ‘fuck me’ suit, I have to obey the ‘fuck me’ suit, Puck,” Finn says.

“We’re in trouble when we’re both really dressed up, I guess,” Puck says, crossing the room to Finn. “Surely there’ll be one of those galas in the next month or two.”

“What? You think I won’t take turns?” Finn asks. “If I’m wearing a ‘fuck me’ suit, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”

Puck grins and kisses the side of Finn’s neck. “What if I told you that I have to use my mouth on you right now?”

“I’d say ‘no, stop’,” Finn says, sounding exactly as deadpan and insincere as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

“Come on. We can clean more tomorrow. Let’s go to bed.”

“Yes, let’s.”

The rest of Monday night and most of Tuesday feel more normal to Puck, or at least as normal as close to three weeks of a routine can be considered normal. While Finn’s at Josie’s soccer practice, the agent calls about the seller making a counteroffer, which means Puck spends the next hour signing everything for a counter-counteroffer. He gets the last confirmation message just as Finn comes through the door, and Puck leans his head on the back of the loveseat before turning it to look at Finn.

“Hey,” Puck calls.

“Hi,” Finn says. “How was your day?”

“Work was good,” Puck says. “I like finding evidence, and we found some today. Sellers made a counteroffer this evening.”

“Reasonable or unreasonable?”

“Reasonable, but still went with a counter-counteroffer,” Puck says.

“I’m sure that was a good call,” Finn says. He sits down on the loveseat next to Puck. “Does it throw off your timeline?”

“Nah. It’s actually a little faster than I expected, since I figured there’d be some negotiating.”

“Great!”

“What about your day?” Puck asks.

 

“Pretty normal. Had to break up a hair-pulling fight between Caitlin C. and Lucy during practice, but even that isn’t too unusual,” Finn says. “Lucy’s a hair-puller.”

“What was it they used to say? If a boy pulls a girl’s hair, he likes her?” Puck shrugs. “Maybe Lucy really likes them.”

Finn shakes his head. “Lucy’s about a head shorter than the next shortest girl on the team. She pulls hair because that’s what she can reach.”

“I feel Lucy’s pain,” Puck says, “though at least I could still throw a decent punch.”

“She’s got a temper. You were mad for a good reason,” Finn says. “There’s a difference.”

“Oh yeah? What was my good reason?” Puck asks, grinning.

“You parents were assholes, and you had to be responsible for too much for a kid your age. Plus, you were way shorter than your best friend, and that had to be really infuriating.”

“Maybe being short just makes people angry,” Puck says, leaning his head on Finn’s shoulder. “And then I got taller, so I was okay.”

“Oh yeah, you were never angry again after your growth spurt,” Finn says, pressing his lips together like he’s holding back a laugh.

“Shut up,” Puck says with a snort. “Did you bring us dinner?”

“I brought dinner for myself and one other person,” Finn teases. “Is that one other person you, or are you too short and angry to eat it?”

“I’m like Baby Bear. I’m just right.”

“Yeah, you are,” Finn says, leaning in to kiss Puck.

Puck continues the kiss for a long moment before pulling away. “I’m thinking both of us might be too impatient to eat it, if we don’t make ourselves eat now.”

“Or, consider that it’s Chinese food, which is still good reheated.”

“I like how you think.”

The Chinese food doesn’t get reheated until after ten, and more of it gets eaten in bed than Puck should probably admit to, considering their age. They both wake up with their alarms on Wednesday, which Puck takes as a good sign, and he heads off to work in a relatively good mood. If the timing works out, he figures, he can touch base with the agent again while Finn’s with the kids, and warm some food up for when Finn gets back.

The three of them working at Herb Chambers reach a good stopping point about ten minutes earlier than usual, so they disperse, and Puck takes the faster way back to the hotel, suddenly eager to kick his shoes off and be something of a hermit for the evening. He changes and barely has time to sit down on the loveseat to look at the messages from the agent when he hears Finn tap the key card, and he frowns a little as Finn comes in.

“Hey,” Puck says, feeling confused.

“Hey,” Finn says, with the false cheerful tone he’d had Monday. “Good day?”

“Uh-huh,” Puck says. “You’re back early.”

“No, I got out on time.”

“Kids busy?” Puck asks.

Finn shakes his head. “It’s not a big deal.”

Puck raises his eyebrows. “I didn’t say it was, so now I’m thinking maybe it a little bit is.”

“It’s really not,” Finn says. “We’ll have the meeting with the family service officer Thursday, and it won’t matter at that point. It’s really not a big deal.”

“What, exactly, is this ‘it’ that isn’t a big deal?” Puck asks.

Finn sighs. “I don’t want you to have to worry about it.”

“So you’d rather pretend everything’s fine with me?” Puck says evenly.

“It’s just something Caroline said last week,” Finn says. “I didn’t want you to think it had anything to do with you.”

Puck sighs and drops his head into one hand. “I really don’t know what to address first here,” he says. “That it clearly does have something to do with me, that it happened last week, that you’ve been functionally lying… I don’t know where to start.”

“I haven’t been lying. I’m not pretending to go anywhere else. I’m just coming back to the hotel,” Finn says.

“Good for you. No lies of commission. Just omission.”

“What do you want, Puck? For me to say that after she met you at Herb Chambers, Caroline told me not to come by the house anymore?” Finn asks. “That she told me it just confuses and upsets the kids, and unless it’s a soccer night, not to come to the house and try to see them?”

“Yeah, actually, you telling me that would have been nice,” Puck says, looking up and glaring at Finn. “I knew something was up.”

“But it’s not your fault. She’s just using it as an excuse to try to hurt me. I didn’t want you to think it was really your fault!”

“Because you do,” Puck says quietly. “If you didn’t, you would have just told me. It makes sense. She would have gotten all the paperwork for the filing on Thursday, and she probably did want an excuse to hurt you. But you decided it probably was about me. Didn’t you?”

“It was in the same conversation where she told me the kids can’t stay with me and my gay lover, so yeah, I did think it was about you, fine,” Finn says. “It shouldn’t be about you, but she said a lot of really mean shit.”

“So you were just, what? Not going to tell me?” Puck asks. “Fuck.”

“I knew we’d have a temporary agreement by Thursday. It was less than a week. I thought I’d just get through it, and it wouldn’t be an issue,” Finn says.

“Jesus, no wonder you didn’t want me to put an offer on anything,” Puck says almost bitterly. “I thought I was the one with commitment issues.”

“This isn’t about commitment issues!”

“You fucking lied to me!”

“I’m sorry!”

“I don’t—I don’t know what to do with this,” Puck admits.

“Christ, Puck, I’m sorry,” Finn says. “I didn’t want to tell you what she said, because I thought it wouldn’t matter in just a few more days, okay? You didn’t have to know about it or think it was really about you, when it’s really about me, and what she thinks about me.”

“I told you I understood that the kids came first. I told you that I wouldn’t ask you to walk away from your kids. And I wouldn’t. And then I end up being the cause of it anyway? That’s fucking great.”

“Hey, I didn’t walk away from them!” Finn says, his voice raised and face reddening. “She told me I couldn’t see them. That’s not me walking away.”

“Isn’t the result the fucking same? That’s the point,” Puck says. “And you could have fought her on it! You just went along with it.”

“The meeting is Thursday. It was less than a week. I didn’t want to fight with her, not in the house with the kids. It’s better to fight about it at the meeting.”

“And then you were upset, and didn’t say a word,” Puck says. “I didn’t really believe the fakey attitude.”

“I just wanted to feel normal when I was with you, okay?” Finn says. “I just wanted to be with you without having to think about it.”

“You weren’t acting normal,” Puck says, standing up and walking to the window.

“I was trying.”

“Well, here’s one of those lines,” Puck says bitterly. “I can’t handle hiding things.”

“I was embarrassed, Puck. I was ashamed of myself for not fighting and for letting the shit she said hurt me,” Finn says.

“That’s supposed to be part of the point of being with someone,” Puck says as he turns around. “Or at least that’s what I’ve heard.”

“Well, I’m not good at that, because I’m not used to it,” Finn says.

“Oh, well, great, we solved the entire issue now,” Puck says sarcastically. “Clearly I’m completely in the wrong here.”

“I didn’t say that, and I didn’t mean that, either,” Finn says, “but I’m allowed to have a fucking learning curve, Puck. I’m going to screw up sometimes.”

Puck sighs. “The library is open until nine on Wednesdays.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Finn says, and he turns and storms out of the hotel room, slamming the door behind him.

“What the fuck just happened?” Puck says, feeling bewildered as he stares at the slammed door. He stands there for a good fifteen minutes, trying to make sense of how that was Finn’s straw, before deciding to send a message.

If making suggestions of places you could go with the kids that aren’t your old house is too much for you, I really don’t know what else to say. Puck sighs as he sends it, staring at the screen. No response comes in the first five minutes, so Puck chucks the phone onto the bed and sits back on the loveseat, replaying everything in his mind and still not figuring out where it went wrong so badly.

After about twenty minutes, Puck’s phone chirps, and Puck makes himself count to ten before getting up and picking the phone up off the bed.

It sounded like you were calling me stupid.

Puck is flummoxed enough it takes him five minutes to type his response. I have no idea how you got that, and I’ve been trying to figure it out for the last five minutes. Would you please just come back over here.

Another few minutes pass, and then Puck hears a tentative knock on the door. Puck sighs and opens the door. Finn looks both freshly showered and red-eyed, which makes Puck sigh again.

“I said I was allowed to have a learning curve, and you told me to go to the library,” Finn says. He sounds slightly stuffy, which confirms he was crying in the shower like he usually does when he’s upset, a habit that Puck knows was firmly in place by middle school.

Puck sighs. “The library has a kids’ section, and it’s open late on Wednesdays. There are stores and events all over Boston in the evenings that aren’t at your old place. That’s all I meant. Not going to the house didn’t have to mean not seeing the kids.”

Finn nods his head faintly. “I didn’t think it was really about the house, though. That’s the thing. It was just her excuse.”

“You could have tried.” Puck shrugs and drops back onto the loveseat. “I don’t know what to think about all of this, because if the kids come first, and you avoid fighting with her about them, I don’t see any fighting for us happening.”

“I didn’t see the point in fighting when we had a meeting scheduled where we’d be ironing out this exact stuff,” Finn says. “It would’ve upset the kids, and I couldn’t have forced her to do anything, and it’s not like I would take them from the house by force while she yelled at me. I knew it was less than a week. That’s the only reason why. I swear to god, that’s the only reason why I didn’t fight.”

“And then you didn’t tell me about any of it, either,” Puck says. “And I guess I don’t have a right to know, and that’s… that is what it is.”

“You do have a right to know. That’s why I want you to come to the meeting tomorrow.”

“The fuck, Finn?” Puck says. “I have whiplash at this point.”

“I was going to ask you to come with me tonight, but then we started having this argument,” Finn says. “I was going to phrase it in a less whiplash-y kind of way.”

“It’s still…” Puck blinks and shakes his head. “You didn’t tell me anything from last week, you were going to wait until the night before to ask me, and it’s stupid and petty but I’m still frustrated about how out of it you were since Friday.”

“I know. I’m sorry. That’s part of what I was going to say,” Finn says. “Not about what happened on Friday, but that I wanted everybody to know that you weren’t going anywhere. I wanted you to be part of my united front. I should have said something sooner. I should have told you everything that happened, and if not telling you has fucked this up… I guess you need to let me know.”

“I’m not the one that slammed a door tonight,” Puck says as calmly as he can. “I’m not the one that was hiding things, or frankly, wasn’t part of a united front. I think it’d be more fair for me to ask if you were trying to get me to leave, than for you to ask if I’m leaving.”

“No! I wasn’t trying to get you to leave! I don’t want you to go anywhere!” Finn says, plaintively and sort of gut-wrenchingly.

“Okay. And I know things happen, but don’t push me away on purpose,” Puck says. “I’m trying here, too.”

“I know you are. I love you.”

“I love you too.” Puck sighs again. “I hate to ask but… what time tomorrow?”

“Two,” Finn says.

“Okay. That should work, but I may have to do a little bit of work tomorrow night here.”

“I still have soccer practice tomorrow evening, anyway, so that’ll be fine,” Finn says. “And thank you. I’m sorry for all of the shit I’m putting you through.”

“Just tell me about the shit, so we can plug our noses and pretend it’s not shit together,” Puck says.

“Okay. I’ll do better.”

“Come on. Let’s eat something,” Puck says, taking Finn’s hand.

***

The meeting lasts longer than Finn originally expected, though ultimately he isn’t surprised by how long it takes. After two children and that many years of marriage, he and Caroline have a lot to hash out. He can tell she’s stung by Puck being there, but Finn knows he made the right decision to include him. Not only does Puck’s presence help keep Finn calm and centered, but Puck brings up good points several times during the meeting.

After a little back and forth, both lawyers agree that an equal split of custody, every other week, was the best for the children. The temporary agreement has major holidays on alternating years, Christmas Eve with Finn and Christmas with Caroline one year, Christmas with Finn and Christmas Eve with Caroline the next, but things like that might change before the final. Caroline keeps the house, Finn keeps the Firebird and his other personal belongings, they each hold onto the car in their name, and Hammer travels back and forth with the children.

Finn, whose insurance through the town government is excellent, agrees to keep insurance on the children, and to continue paying for all of the activities they do together, as well as half of any school activities or out-of-pocket medical expenses. Due to the even split of time, neither party provides child support, and while Puck did remind Finn’s lawyer—who pointed it out to Caroline’s lawyer—that due to the income disparity, Finn was actually entitled to alimony, Finn doesn’t want it.

It serves as a point of leverage for the whole ‘meretricious relationship’ issue, however. Finn’s lawyer argues that it doesn’t benefit the children to spend their time with Finn in one location prior to the finalization of the divorce just to avoid Finn cohabitating with Puck, only to have Finn move in with Puck immediately after the divorce is finalized. Caroline concedes that point without too much additional argument, which Finn appreciates. In exchange, Finn agrees to hold off on his first week of custody until Puck has closed on the townhouse and they’re moved in, and to pick the children up and return them home in the evening during the days prior to the move.

Finn can foresee several possible areas where one or both of them might insist on a change before the final custody agreement, but for now, it feels fair to Finn, and it doesn’t exclude Puck or negate the way Finn feels about him. As he and Puck walk out of the meeting, he feels lighter.

“Do you have to head back to work, or are you going pretty much straight to soccer practice?” Puck asks Finn as they head out of the building where the meeting was.

“I took the rest of the day,” Finn says. “If you want to eat something or… if you wanted to come to practice?”

“We could do both,” Puck says. “Pick up some food and eat it before practice.”

“You sure you’re ready to face the soccer moms?” Finn asks, putting his arm around Puck’s waist.

Puck laughs. “Don’t you remember high school? I was born to gossip with soccer moms. You’re just giving me an opportunity at last.”

“So you’re finally living the soccer mom life you were meant to live?”

“I like gossip, I don’t understand soccer, I’m pretty,” Puck ticks off, then shrugs. “Pretty much.”

“I could teach you soccer,” Finn says. “You’re smart. You’d pick it up fast.” He looks over at Puck and grins at him. “Hey, you could be my assistant coach next season!”

“You just want us in matching jerseys.”

“Would that be so bad?”

“I guess that’d depend on the color,” Puck says. He takes Finn’s hand as they walk down the sidewalk. “Feeling good?”

“Relieved, mostly, that the first step is done,” Finn says. “I know we still have a long way to go. I mean, you haven’t even met Christopher yet, and I’m not sure how I’m going to get him to start talking to me again, and this is just temporary—”

“Hey, hey,” Puck interrupts. “We’ve got time. I promise, we’ve got time.”

Finn exhales slowly. “Yeah. Sorry. I know.”

“Also, luckily for all of us, I have experience with suspicious ten year olds.”

“I guess I am pretty lucky,” Finn agrees.

“And I can’t predict the future, but if I had to judge, I think things will get easier with Caroline, not harder.”

“I hope so.”

Puck shrugs. “Hurt fades. Anger fades. In some other world, she and I would probably get along pretty well.”

“Possibly,” Finn says. “That’s hard to picture right now, but I guess the person she is right now isn’t the person she was before. She’ll find her own way to deal with it, I hope, and then maybe things can be easier for all of us.”

“That’s my unscientific prediction,” Puck says.

“Well, I trust your unscientific predictions over somebody else’s scientific ones any day,” Finn says.

They get in the car and decide to get burgers from Lee’s, so Finn circles the block a few times while Puck runs in to get the food. He comes out with the food with plenty of time for them to go pick up Josie so they can eat at the field at a picnic table before practice.

When Finn goes up to the front door of his former house, he doesn’t feel the same crushing guilt and bitter disappointment in himself that he’s felt every other day he’s come to see the kids. It’s still uncomfortable, and probably will be for a while, but he knows he has every right to be there.

“Dad!” Josie says, when she opens the door. She immediately hugs him. She has on a blue sundress over her soccer shorts.

“Ready for soccer Jo-Jo?” Finn asks her, and she nods. Caroline appears near the door, and she and Finn exchange their own cursory nods as Finn escorts Josie out the front door to the car.

“Puck’s in the car?” Josie asks. “Why?”

“Because he’s coming to soccer practice today. We have burgers from Lee’s.”

Josie shrugs. “Okay. I guess that makes sense.” She gets into the car. “Hi, Puck.”

“Hi, Josie,” Puck says.

“What kind of burger did you get me?”

“Teriyaki and a milkshake,” Puck says.

“Yeah, okay,” Josie says. “Dad, we can keep him.”

Finn laughs. “Good thing, since we’re going to be living together and all of that.”

“But not at the hotel, right?”

“Right. We’re looking for a real place to live,” Finn says. “You’ll have your own room there, too. You can decide how to decorate it.”

Josie hums to herself for a second as she mulls it over. “Can I build a giant bird nest to sleep in?”

“Yeah, let me rephrase that: you can decide how to decorate it within reason and not in a way that involves nests,” Finn says.

“Yeah, okay,” Josie says. “Can we go now? My food smells good and I want to eat it before it gets cold and gross.”

Finn laughs again as he backs out of the driveway. “She could put a hammock up outside, instead of a nest,” Puck suggests.

“Don’t encourage her!” Finn says.

“Like we didn’t try to build a treehouse at around her age?”

“I want a treehouse!” Josie says.

“See?” Finn says. “You’re encouraging her.”

“It could be the start of an architectural career,” Puck says. “You never know.”

“I can build it myself. You just have to buy me a saw,” Josie says.

“Ohhhh no. That is not happening,” Finn says. “You don’t get your first saw until you’re at least, what do you think, Puck? Twelve?”

“It’s probably fourteen in Massachusetts. Stricter child safety laws than Ohio,” Puck says.

“See, Josie? Fourteen to own a saw,” Finn says.

“I know! You could do the sawing for me, and I can just use the hammer,” Josie says.

“Hammers are subject to a twelve year old minimum,” Puck says. “Hang in there.”

“Screwdriver, then. You can’t say no to a screwdriver. Christopher has four screwdrivers.”

“Christopher builds models. His screwdrivers are small,” Finn says.

“Yeah, that means they’re sharper,” Josie says. “I just need one normal-sized screwdriver. You can use the saw and the hammer, and I’ll do all the screwdrivering. Maybe Christopher can help with that part.”

“Since we don’t have a yard for a treehouse yet, I can’t make any promises,” Finn says. “I’ll think about the screwdriver though, okay? Promise.”

“Okay, but if you tell me no, I’m just going to have to get a drill for Christmas,” Josie says.

“Now she’s got you,” Puck says.

“Putting a drill on your Christmas list to get around a screwdriver rule is just cold, Jo-Jo,” Finn says.

“You brought it on yourself, Dad.”

Puck snorts, then says “Which field do you practice on, Josie?”

“Field B,” Josie says. “It’s the best field, because it’s closest to the bathrooms, so you can refill your water bottle. Or pee, I guess.”

“The actual practice part of soccer isn’t too exciting,” Finn explains. “It’s mostly drills.”

Finn pulls into the soccer field parking lot and parks down near field B. They get out of the car, Josie running ahead to claim one of the picnic tables. Finn takes Puck’s hand in his as they walk after her.

“So practice is the soccer equivalent of scales and chord progressions?” Puck asks.

“With kicking,” Finn says.

They take a seat at the picnic table, Puck distributing burgers all around, and Josie starts telling them about the new television show she’s watching, which is a girl with an invisible—and debatably imaginary—pegasus. Finn has to remind her several times not to talk with her mouth full, more because he’s afraid she’ll choke than for the sake of manners, because she’s also eating her burger as fast as humanly possible.

Before Finn and Puck have finished eating, but after Josie is done, the rest of the team starts to arrive. Finn looks longingly at his last few fries, but pushes them across the table to Puck as he stands with Josie.

“I’ve got to go take their children off their hands,” Finn says. He leans down to give Puck a kiss. When he straightens up, Josie is making a disgusted face.

“He still has hamburger in his mouth!” Josie says.

“His lips were closed,” Finn points out.

“Still. Burger kiss. Gross,” Josie says, then runs ahead to Caitlin R. to grab her in what is either a headlock or an aggressive neck hug.

“Have fun,” Puck says, looking amused.

“There’s a camp chair in my trunk, whenever you’re done and want to come join the soccer moms,” Finn says. He fishes his keys out of his pocket and tosses them to Puck, then trots after Josie to their field. He notices several of the soccer moms looking at Puck, but it’s bound to happen eventually, so it may as well happen now.

When the girls finish arriving, Finn starts drills. After a few minutes, he notices that Puck has gotten the camp chair and has joined the moms on the sidelines. The two Caitlins’ moms and Tamaria’s mom seem beside themselves with excitement to get to have the subject of their gossip right there with them, and Finn is sure he’ll hear all about it later.

At the end of the hour, practice is over, and Finn starts directing the girls to their parents. Josie, her sundress suitably filthy, jogs alongside him as he makes his way over to Puck. Puck has packed up the camp chair and is not-quite pacing in a circle.

“Hey,” Finn says. “Everything okay?”

Puck nods and glances at Josie. “Agent called.”

“Bad news? Good news? Medium news?”

“Like a secret agent?” Josie asks.

Puck looks at Josie and nods. “Real estate spy,” he says, then looks at Finn and grins suddenly. “Good news.”

“They accepted the counter-counter-offer?” Finn asks.

“Yep,” Puck says, still grinning.

“Do we have a closing date?” Finn asks, smiling back at Puck.

“Yeah,” Puck says, falling into step with Finn and taking Finn’s hand. “Two weeks from Tuesday.”

“So we could start my first week of custody that weekend?”

“We’ll probably need to order some furniture before closing to schedule delivery, but yeah,” Puck says, nodding.

“That’s awesome!” Finn says. He pulls Puck around and kisses him before they continue to walk.

“Why are you so happy?” Josie asks.

“Because we’re moving in to the new place sooner than I hoped!” Finn says.

“No one’s going to miss the hotel very much,” Puck says.

Josie jumps up and down. “I can pick out my hammock!”

“I never agreed to a hammock!” Finn says. “Furniture. You can pick out furniture.”

“Hammocks are outdoor things that you don’t sleep in overnight,” Puck says. “Still even want to ask for one, Josie?”

“Is there a yard at the new place?” Josie asks.

“There’s a patio and a tiny patch of grass,” Puck says, “and there’s a sort of park across the street.”

“Oh,” Josie says, looking a little crestfallen. “Hammer probably needs the grass, huh?”

“Probably he does,” Finn agrees.

“The agent says there’s a playground on the other side of the road, too,” Puck says.

“Well, if the secret agent says it’s a good playground, it must be pretty good,” Josie says, perking up again. “Can I paint my room two colors? I want to do one at the top and one at the bottom.”

“Like with a chair rail separating the two?” Puck says, looking over at Finn and shrugging.

“With the line around the middle,” Josie says.

“Yeah, sounds like a chair rail,” Finn says. “Or you could find a wallpaper border, or we could do a pattern.”

“Like checkerboard!” Josie says.

“I’m imagining the flat wall version of Harry Potter chess,” Puck admits.

“I haven’t read those books yet. I’m going to, though. Christopher read them all.”

“We’ll need to talk to Christopher about what he wants his room to look like,” Finn says.

“You can just paint it black like a hole in the ground so he can sulk in it like he does at home,” Josie says.

“Did he like the Harry Potter books?” Puck asks.

“He likes being mad all the time and complaining and slapping me on my arms when Mom isn’t watching.”

Puck raises his eyebrows and looks at Finn.

“Carrie has not mentioned that, but I will make sure his therapist knows, and Carrie and I will have a conversation about it,” Finn says.

“Hey Josie, can you show us how fast you can run to that bench?” Puck says, pointing.

“Say ‘one, two, three, go’,” Josie says.

“One, two, three, go!” Puck recites dutifully, and after Josie takes off, he turns to Finn. “Maybe you need to force the issue a little with Christopher,” Puck says quietly.

“First I’m going to force the issue with Carrie. She’s the one who’s been letting him get away with this behavior,” Finn says. “Then it’ll be Christopher.”

“I think it’s good you gave him time,” Puck says. “And kids process things differently. But Josie seems a little upset with him?”

“If he’s slapping her, I don’t blame her,” Finn says.

“I didn’t grow up with a sibling that close in age, so I have no idea what’s the norm there.”

“Yeah, sometimes kids will hit each other, but the way she said it, it sounds like it’s happening a lot,” Finn says. “And he holds a grudge. He always has. I can believe what she says about him sitting around in his room being angry.”

Puck nods. “Want to pick up some dessert after we drop Josie off, go back to the hotel and relax?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Maybe one weekend after closing and after soccer season, we should hole up and try to relax,” Puck says. “Not get dressed for two days.”

“That sounds amazing. I’m on board,” Finn says. Josie runs back to them, breathing heavily.

“How fast was I?” she pants.

“The fastest girl I’ve seen tonight,” Puck says, offering her a high five. Josie smacks his hand in a vigorous five.

“Okay, Jo-Jo, time to take you back to the house,” Finn says.

“Can I tell Christopher about the new place?” Josie asks.

Finn shakes his head. “No, I’m going to tell him.” Josie makes a grumbling noise but doesn’t argue. “Come on, you. Let’s get in the car.”

Finn loads the soccer equipment into the trunk while Puck and Josie buckle up, then gets into the car himself. He isn’t looking forward to the conversation he’s going to have to have with Caroline when they get to the house, especially considering the temporary order has only been in place for about five hours. Still, it’s better to lay down some boundaries for Christopher now before they’re in the new place.

“I have a new title,” Puck says blandly as they leave the parking lot.

“Oh yeah?” Finn asks.

“Soccer boyfriend.”

“Who gave you that?”

Puck laughs. “The soccer moms.”

“Oh my god, they’ve already made you one of them?” Finn says. “You’ve been accepted into the pack that quickly?”

“I told you, I’m pretty and I like gossip,” Puck says.

“Soccer boyfriend,” Finn says, shaking his head. “That’s something, alright.”

“They really do all think I’m from Iowa, though.”

“Maybe that’s for the best.”

When they get to the house—and Finn really should start making himself think of it as Caroline’s house—Josie helps Finn get the soccer gear out of the trunk. Finn sends Josie into the house, and walks around to Puck’s side of the car to talk to him.

“I’m going to go in and tell Caroline about the townhouse, and tell Christopher he’s going to come hang out with me for a while after soccer Saturday,” Finn says. “Does that sound good to you?”

“Yeah, that works,” Puck says. He nods and puts his hand on top of Finn’s on the car door, squeezing it.

Finn follows Josie into the house, since she left the door wide open like she’s planning to invite the whole neighborhood in. He stops just inside the door, where Caroline waits, shutting the door behind him. Hammer comes bounding into the room and jumps up on Finn, who pets him.

“Practice went well,” Finn says.

“That’s good,” Caroline says. She looks as uncomfortable as Finn feels, but there’s no other way through this than to just plot right ahead.

“I wanted to let you know that Puck heard from his real estate agent while we were at practice,” Finn says. Caroline frowns slightly, maybe because Puck was at soccer practice, but possibly just at the mention of his name. “His offer on the townhouse was accepted. He closes two weeks from Tuesday, and I’d like to start my first week of custody that weekend. When I get the kids during the day over the next two weeks, we’ll pick out paint and furniture to get the place ready as fast as possible.”

Caroline nods stiffly. “That is the agreement we made today,” she concedes.

“Also, I want to take Christopher on Saturday for a while. I know he’s mad at me and doesn’t want to see me, but he’s ten. He got some time to cool off, and now he has to learn to deal with me again. I’ll drop Josie off after her game and pick him up, and bring him back after dinner.”

“He isn’t going to be thrilled about that,” Caroline says.

“He can get over it,” Finn says. “He’s my kid. I’m his dad. This is the way things are, and he can get over it.”

“You can be the one to tell him that, then,” Caroline says. “He’s been in a mood all day. He knows we had the meeting and reached a temporary agreement, and he doesn’t like it.”

“Call him down?”

Caroline nods. “Christopher. Come downstairs please.”

Christopher comes thumping down the stairs, making twice the amount of noise he normally would. Finn’s first thought is that he’s grown a few inches since the last time he saw him. His second thought is how unhappy Christopher looks.

“Hey, Monte Cristo,” Finn says.

“Don’t call me that,” Christopher says, and even though his tone is mean, Finn can’t help but smile, because it’s the first time Christopher has really spoken to him since he moved out.

“I wanted to let you know that we’re closing on the new place in a couple of weeks, and that I’m going to be taking you and Josie to shop for paint and furniture and anything else you need for your rooms there,” Finn says. Christopher scowls and doesn’t say anything in response, so Finn continues, “and you’re going to hang out with me for a few hours on Saturday. We have some stuff we need to talk about. I’ll get you after Josie’s game.”

Christopher looks at Caroline like he’s expecting her to jump in and tell him he doesn’t have to go, but Caroline just nods her head in agreement. Christopher crosses his arms over his chest. “Fine,” he says begrudgingly.

“And until we’re moved into the townhouse, I’ll be getting you and Josie after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your mom and I agreed on that.”

“Fine,” Christopher repeats.

Finn sighs, but says, “Okay. That was all I wanted to say. I love you.”

Christopher doesn’t say it back, but instead storms upstairs again, Hammer following behind him as he goes. Finn shakes his head.

“Does he know we have joint custody of Hammer, too?” Finn asks Caroline, who actually cracks a small smile.

“I did mention it, yes,” she says. “He said it didn’t matter, but we both know it will, once they start going back and forth.”

“Yeah,” Finn says. He gestures for Josie to come over, and gives her a big hug. “I love you, Jo-Jo, and I’m going to see you really soon.”

“I love you, too, Dad,” Josie says, and for once, there’s no prying her off of him to get out the door. She looks a little sad, but doesn’t put up a fuss. Finn nods his head at Caroline, she nods back, and then he leaves the house and goes back to the car where Puck is waiting for him.

Once Finn is in the car, he rests his forehead against the steering wheel. “He definitely hates me,” he says to Puck with a sigh at the end. “Like full-stop hates.”

“Huh,” Puck says. “Why? I’m not being flippant. Like what thing do you think he latched onto?”

“I think he’s mad at me for cheating on his mom, to whatever extent he understands it,” Finn says. “And he thinks I just walked out on them. And he’s ten, and you know how kids are.”

“Oddly cynical and generally suspicious?” Puck says. “Yeah. I know.”

“Yeah, I know you know,” Finn says.

“Come on. Let’s get that dessert. Maybe some wine,” Puck says. “We’ve been through the wringer.”

“What an incredibly long goddamn day,” Finn says. He starts the car and backs out of the driveway. “Where to?”

“What about that place that has the tagline ‘A Buzzy Bakery’?” Puck says. “Ettan’s?”

“Sounds good to me. Wine and pastries and a little bit of quiet.”

***

Puck likes roller coasters, which he knows is good, since the week up until Thursday night definitely felt like some kind of roller coaster. By contrast, Thursday night and Friday feel like a smooth boat ride, or ice skating.

“Ah, there’s my bad poetry,” Puck says outloud, but mostly to himself, on Saturday morning. Finn is stirring a little beside him, and Puck gently pokes Finn’s shoulder. “Hey,” he whispers.

“Oh god, it’s already morning?” Finn grumbles.

“What’s your stance on poetry?” Puck asks instead of answering.

“Never before coffee and breakfast.”

“Bad poetry?”

“Not even after coffee and breakfast.”

“What if I wrote it?”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll listen to bad poetry if it’s yours, if…”

“If?” Puck prompts.

“If you recite it naked,” Finn says, rolling towards Puck. “I’ll listen to your naked poetry any day.”

“I can definitely do naked,” Puck says. He grins at Finn and pecks his cheek. “Breakfast in?”

“Naked breakfast?”

“Best part of waking up,” Puck agrees. “I’ll start the coffee.”

“I love you!” Finn says.

Puck laughs as he gets out of bed. “Some people might say you’re easy,” he says, grinning over his shoulder at Finn. “Luckily I know I make good coffee.”

“So good,” Finn agrees, looking back at Puck and running his eyes up and down Puck’s body. “Especially when you’re naked.”

“Sometimes I think you taste with your eyes,” Puck says.

“Yeah, and you taste so good.”

“Flattery gets you everywhere,” Puck admits as he gets out the mugs and sets one under the machine. “First cup of coffee, naked breakfast, cute soccer boyfriend on the sidelines…”

“Yeah, my life is pretty fantastic, isn’t it,” Finn says.

“Considering your coffee’s ready, probably, yes,” Puck says, swapping the mugs and taking the full mug back to Finn in bed.

“Mmm, thank you.” Finn sits up and takes the mugs, taking a deep breath over the coffee to smell it.

“We never did decide on dinner tonight,” Puck says, then laughs. “Want me to ask around later?”

“Going to get some recommendations from your soccer mom bros?”

“Who knew they’d be so ready for the advent of the soccer boyfriend?” Puck says, shaking his head. He goes back to get his coffee and sits down in the bed next to Finn again. “They’re going to be disappointed when my store of random knowledge and gossip runs out.”

“Just start making shit up. It’s what they do,” Finn says.

“I’ll talk you up,” Puck says.

“Not too much,” Finn says. “If you make me sound too good, they’ll stop believing you about everything.”

“I can’t help how awesome you are,” Puck says with a shrug. He takes a sip of his coffee and does his best to look unconcerned.

“Hmph,” Finn says, drinking his coffee.

“Love you,” Puck says. “We’re getting a king size bed, right?”

“I have to have a king size bed, being a king size man,” Finn says. “We’ll need deep sofas, too.”

“Oh my god, I’m using that,” Puck says. “I’m going to tell everyone you’re a king size man.”

“Nooo, don’t tell them that! They’ll think you mean something else!”

Puck grins and scoots up next to Finn’s side. “I know. I’ll make sure to have a very content and satisfied look on my face when I say it.”

“I’m so glad this season is almost over,” Finn says.

“King size man,” Puck repeats. “I think we need a coffeemaker in the bedroom at the new place, though.”

“We can’t wait for the long trip to the kitchen to get our coffee?” Finn asks. “We could get the kind with a timer.”

“I can’t make coffee naked half of the time if the machine’s all the way downstairs in the kitchen,” Puck points out.

“Okay, a small one for the bedroom.”

“Thought that might change your mind.” Puck drinks a little more of his coffee before running his hand down Finn’s thigh. “We have time before we have to get dressed, you know.”

“Time for what, exactly?” Finn asks. “Did you have something specific in mind?”

“Hmm,” Puck says casually. “We’re already naked.” He slides his hand back up Finn’s leg. “And we’re creative people.”

“But I’ve only had this one cup of coffee. What if I can only lie here?” Finn asks, lying back against the pillows as if to indicate his lack of fortitude.

“I can think of at least three things that wouldn’t require you to move,” Puck says. “If you were interested.”

“Hmm. You should probably list them. Spare no details.”

“Well, I could do this,” Puck says, loosely wrapping his hand around Finn’s dick. “That’s one.” He opens his hand and moves so he’s between Finn’s legs, nudging them open. He leans over and kisses the tip of Finn’s dick, then smirks up at him. “That’s two.”

“Those are both pretty great. You’re really going to have to sell me on three,” Finn says.

Puck can feel his face heat up slightly. “Well,” he says slowly, shifting his weight so he’s straddling Finn’s body. “I could, you know. Settle down around right here.” He walks his knees forward and then lowers his body slightly.

“Oh yeah? And I’d just lie here?”

“Mmmhmm. That’s how it’s supposed to work.”

“Is that what you want? Option three?” Finn asks.

“I’m, uh, open to it,” Puck says, snorting once, “if you are.”

“Hey, I’m just lying here,” Finn says. “You’re the one running this show.”

“Yeah? You like that part, huh?” Puck says. He leans over Finn to reach for the lube bottle, which is sitting beside Finn’s coffee mug. “Better not get these two mixed up.”

“That could be either painful or really gross, depending on which way you mixed it up.”

“I’ll just stay focused, keep my eyes on the prize and all that,” Puck says, flipping the lid open on the lube.

“Me and my king size bed?” Finn asks.

“King size man, that’s the prize,” Puck says, squeezing the bottle and then slicking up Finn’s dick. “Didn’t you know?”

“Mmm, yeah, prize,” Finn says, thrusting up a little into Puck’s hand.

Puck leans over and kisses Finn, releasing Finn’s dick as they kiss. “I’m a winner,” Puck says to Finn as he straightens slightly. Finn nods his agreement. Puck contorts himself for just long enough to slide two of his fingers inside his hole, moving them shallowly before removing them altogether. “Okay, you have to help me out a little here at the beginning,” Puck says.

“Thought you said I didn’t have to work,” Finn says, wrapping one hand around the base of his own cock to hold it in place for Puck to slowly slide down.

“Is it really work?” Puck asks, shifting his weight as he lowers himself further. Finn shakes his head, moving both his hands to Puck’s hips.

“Definitely not work,” Finn says.

“Didn’t think so.” Puck slides the rest of the way onto Finn’s dick and grins at him. “Now you can just lie back.” Puck sits still for a long moment, then adjusts his legs before starting to rise up slowly. He closes his eyes for a few moments, concentrating on how he feels and how Finn feels. Sliding back down, he can feel himself almost relaxing. “Want to know something?”

“Sure,” Finn says, breathing heavily.

Puck lifts himself up again, a little faster. “I’ve never done this before.”

“This?” Finn asks. “Or this-this, because we’ve definitely done this.”

“This-this,” Puck says, nodding as he moves.

“No prior cowboy experience?” Finn says. “But you’re so good at it.” He bucks his hips up off the mattress, squeezing Puck’s hips.

Puck shrugs. “Always seemed too personal.”

“Just like this? With you on top?”

Puck nods, moving a little faster and letting himself pause at the lowest point each time. “‘Cause, you know. It’s not even-steven.”

“Because you’re doing most of the work, huh?” Finn says. He closes his eyes as Puck keeps riding him. “We can even-steven it up later, I promise. God, you’re good at this.”

“I’m good,” Puck assures him. He squeezes around Finn’s dick and wraps one hand around his own dick. “You get to watch me jerk off, too.”

Finn opens his eyes again, his gaze moving to Puck’s hand. His breath catches slightly and he bucks his hips again, fingertips digging into Puck’s skin hard enough for Puck to feel Finn’s nails. “I’m so lucky, Puck. I’m so lucky to have you,” Finn says.

“We make our own luck,” Puck says as he starts to stroke his dick, timing it with his thrusts downward.

“Faster,” Finn says, lifting his hips up off the bed to thrust into Puck. “God, Puck, I love watching you.”

“Yeah, I can feel you watching,” Puck says, and he does move faster, squeezing around Finn again.

“I’m watching,” Finn says. “I’m going to watch you make yourself come all over both of us.”

“Yeah,” Puck says, and he can feel his breathing get more shallow. “Yeah, you like that?”

“Yeah. Yeah, you should do that, you should let me watch you come.” Finn bites down on his bottom lip, like he’s having to hold himself back from coming.

“You too,” Puck says, changing the angle of his body and stroking faster. He watches Finn’s face, focusing on Finn’s lip and then Finn’s neck, and Puck feels himself getting closer and closer. He strokes himself another time, tight and hard, and then comes, moaning a little as he does. Finn isn’t far behind him, thrusting up a few more times before coming inside Puck with a loud, hoarse yell.

Puck holds himself up for a few more seconds, then slumps forward, his body bent a little oddly. Finn wraps his arms around Puck and holds him closer, laughing at the admittedly kind of gross squishing noise. Puck snorts against Finn’s neck.

“Keeper, though?” Puck says after another moment.

“You? Oh yeah,” Finn says. “Can’t return you now.”

Puck laughs. “The position.”

“Uh, yeah. I think it’s going in the rotation, for sure,” Finn says. “Maybe we’ll try it with me on top next time, though. You shouldn’t have to do all the work all the time.”

“You were technically doing the heavy lifting,” Puck says. “I didn’t mind.”

“So you don’t want me to ride you?” Finn asks.

“Oh, you can ride me,” Puck says, kissing Finn’s neck. “But it wasn’t exactly a hardship.”

“Good. Glad it didn’t put you out too much.”

“Woe is me, I had to be fucked this morning,” Puck says, laughing. “For the record, I’m never going to complain about that.”

“Though I guess half the time we’ll have to be a little quieter. I’ve never actually had to worry about that before,” Finn says.

“We’re role models,” Puck says. “It’ll work out fine.”

“There are some things I don’t want to model for my kids right now, and my loud sex noises are top of the list.”

“Healthy relationship, dork.”

“Well, yeah, that is high on the list.”

“We’ll be punctual role models, too,” Puck says, slowly rolling off Finn. “Almost time to go, now.”

“Yeah, got to take a shower. I definitely can’t go like this,” Finn says. “No matter how much the soccer moms approve of you.”

“They only approve of us if we’re clean and prompt, I suspect,” Puck says. He sits up and nods to the bathroom. “You can go first, though.”

Finn leans up and kisses Puck before standing. “Such a giver.”

Josie is as exuberant as Puck expects when they pick her up, and this time, Puck gets the camp chair out from the start. The soccer moms are just as pleased he’s joining them as they were on Thursday evening, though Puck’s not totally sure why. There seems to be a little gossip on the other end that involves Finn and him, but Puck decides to ignore it. Whatever they’re saying, they wouldn’t believe him if he corrected them. The women around him do spend most of the game watching the girls, and the subject of gossip otherwise is a teacher at the school most of the girls go to. Puck suggests ludicrous explanations to redirect them as much as possible, including, near the end of the game, WITSEC participation by the teacher.

Josie’s team wins again, and Puck waits until most of the girls have dispersed to fold up the camp chair. “Good game, Coach,” Puck says jokingly as Finn walks over.

“Thanks, soccer boyfriend,” Finn says. “We’ve got some dedicated girls.”

“Today’s gossip was not about us,” Puck says smugly.

“Wow, they moved on already?” Finn asks.

“Admittedly, I didn’t get a chance to use the ‘king size man’ line,” Puck says.

Finn shakes his head. “Damn. That’s just a shame.”

Josie comes sprinting up with her soccer gear in her hands. “Can we get ice cream before we go home?”

“Sorry, Jo-Jo,” Finn says. “It’s Christopher’s turn today.”

Josie sticks out her tongue and makes a fart noise to indicate her displeasure. “But we can get it on Tuesday after practice, right?”

“Sure. After practice,” Finn agrees.

“Did you teach her that noise?” Puck asks.

“She was born knowing that noise.”

“Told you some things were genetic,” Puck says.

Josie makes the fart noise again. “Let’s go! We’ve got popsicles in the freezer at my house!”

Puck puts his hand on Finn’s leg on the drive to drop off Josie and pick up Christopher, and does his best not to let on that he’s a little nervous, too. When they pull in, Puck squeezes Finn’s leg once before moving his hand. Like last time, Josie springs from the car and runs in, shedding bits of soccer uniform behind her. Finn gives Puck a wry smile before following her in.

Roughly six minutes later, Finn emerges from the house with Christopher in tow. Puck thinks that Christopher looks more or less like Finn did at the same age, with a different haircut and definitely not as tall. He looks more sullen than Finn usually did at age ten, too, but less sullen than Puck did around the same age.

Finn opens the back driver’s side door, and Christopher slides into the seat, glaring at Puck. Finn gets back into the driver’s seat. “Christopher, this is Puck. Puck, this is Christopher.”

“Hi,” Puck says, turning in his seat. Christopher doesn’t say anything.

“Christopher,” Finn says. “You have to be civil.”

“Hi,” Christopher says begrudgingly. In fact, the grudge drips off the ‘hi’.

“I’m not going to ask you any stupid questions,” Puck tells Christopher. “So you don’t have to prepare any trite answers.”

Christopher hmphs.

“Yeah, okay,” Finn says. “Where are we eating lunch?”

“Where are good tacos?” Puck asks.

“Los Amigos is good,” Finn says, backing out of the driveway and driving towards tacos, presumably. Puck spends most of the drive trying to come up with questions that fall far outside the category of ‘stupid questions’, and finally remembers the question he asked Josie about Christopher.

“Did you like the Harry Potter books?” Puck says, turning to look at Christopher. “Josie said you’d read them.”

“Yeah,” Christopher says, refusing to make eye contact with Puck.

“What house do you think you’d be in, if you got a letter?”

Christopher shrugs. “Dunno.”

“You definitely know,” Finn says. “Come on. What house?”

Christopher huffs loudly. “Ravenclaw.”

Puck nods. “I’d be Slytherin,” he says matter-of-factly. “But not like Snape.”

“I’d be in Hufflepuff,” Finn says.

“You’d be in Gryffindor,” Christopher says.

“No way, I’d be Hufflepuff,” Finn says. “I’m pretty normal. Not super brave or anything. Definitely no swords.”

Puck snorts. “I think you’re underestimating yourself.”

“I’m way more of a badger than a lion,” Finn insists.

“No, Dad. You’re in Gryffindor for sure,” Christopher says.

“Definitely a lion,” Puck says, nodding.

Finn laughs. “I see how it is. Maybe you’re both in Slytherin, the way you’re ganging up on me.”

“No, I’m in Ravenclaw,” Christopher says.

“Ganging up on you knows no house boundaries,” Puck says. Finn finds a parking spot near Los Amigos, and Puck feeds the meter after they get out of the car. Christopher seems a little more chill after the Hogwarts house discussion, at least. Los Amigos seats them immediately, which means now they’re all awkwardly looking at each other, instead of turning around in their seats.

“So how did that project for social studies turn out?” Finn asks Christopher.

“It was just a shoebox diorama,” Christopher says. “You can’t do those wrong.”

“Oh, yes, you can,” Puck says. “I had to do one for Hebrew school one year, and I think the rabbi almost quit when he saw mine.”

“What’s Hebrew school?” Christopher asks.

“Oh, uh, Jewish kids go to it, to get ready for their bar or bat mitzvah,” Puck says, then looks at Finn. “I thought you had Jews in Boston!” Finn shrugs.

“Do you go after regular school?” Christopher asks.

“Once or twice a week. I think in bigger cities, it’s on Sundays and Wednesdays, or Saturdays and Wednesdays, but we just had it every Monday in Lima,” Puck says.

“It would’ve been better if you could do it instead of regular school,” Christopher says. “You could do it instead of foreign language, maybe.”

“I think some Jewish schools, they do that,” Puck admits. “But I horrified the rabbi with my depiction of the plagues.”

“I saw them. They were really gross. I think he used Jell-O for the blood rivers,” Finn says.

“The plagues were not a great time for the Egyptians,” Puck says with a shrug. “Anyway, did your diorama have any blood?”

Christopher shakes his head. “No, it was about the Incans.”

“I don’t know anything about them,” Puck says. “Mayans, I took an elective on them.”

“They built pyramids, too. My diorama was of Machu Picchu, though,” Christopher says.

“You took a whole elective on Mayans?” Finn asks.

“They have a really cool calendar system!” Puck says. “All of their math and astronomical stuff.”

“You took a class because of a calendar?” Finn says, shaking his head. “What a dork.”

“A really cool calendar,” Puck says. “Accuracy is important.”

“How many months do they have?” Christopher asks.

“Oh no, not you, too!” Finn says. “How many months do you need it to have?”

“Eighteen months of twenty days, and one month of five days,” Puck says to Christopher.

“That’s so cool!” Christopher says, obviously forgetting he hates Puck on general principle.

“You’re outnumbered by dorks,” Puck says to Finn. Finn smiles at Puck.

“If I buy you both a Mayan calendar for the holidays, will you stop talking about it now?” Finn asks.

“Sure,” Puck says. “I don’t celebrate Christmas,” he explains to Christopher.

“Hanukkah, right?” Christopher says.

“Yeah, so you and Josie get to do two sets of holidays, if you want,” Finn quickly interjects. “Right, Puck?”

“You want the latkes,” Puck says to Christopher as he nods. “Jelly doughnuts, too.”

Christopher seems to remember he had decided not to like Puck, because he suddenly frowns and looks sullen again. “I don’t like jelly very much. It’s too sticky.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of a texture thing for him,” Finn explains.

“There’s always blintzes. No jelly,” Puck says. “There’s plenty of counter space in there for whatever we want.”

Christopher looks at Finn with a confused expression, and Finn says, “They’re kind of like crepes with a cream cheese filling.”

“Yeah, okay,” Christopher says.

Puck realizes in the course of the conversation that he doesn’t remember anyone explicitly saying what the Thanksgiving arrangement for this year was, even though it’s coming up fast, and he mentally adds that to the list of topics to discuss later with Finn, which is relatively short at least.

“Any other textures you don’t like?” Puck says. “Food you hate the smell of?”

“I don’t like anything sticky, like jelly or the stuff in lemon bars.”

“He doesn’t like the smell of pretzels, either,” Finn says. “Not the hard kind or the soft ones. He hates going to the mall.”

“The pretzel place smells so bad,” Christopher says.

“Makes sense,” Puck says. “But tacos are fine, right?”

Christopher nods. “I don’t want to like you, but I think I’m going to anyway,” he says. “But I wasn’t planning to.”

“Okay,” Puck says. “I do a lot of things I don’t plan, so it’ll probably work out.”

“I think it’s bad you took my dad,” Christopher says. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Christopher,” Finn says.

“It’s okay,” Puck says. “I get why he thinks that.” He looks at Christopher. “He’s still your dad. I’d be mad at him if he did something to hurt you or Josie.”

Christopher frowns, but nods. “Me, too.”

“I hope you’ll like living with us, though,” Puck says. “And that no one’s mad very much.”

“Okay,” Christopher says.

“Think we can order now?” Finn asks.

Puck nods. “Mayan tacos, right?”

“Sure, as long as you don’t break out the calendar,” Finn says.

By the time they drop Christopher off, Puck feels like he’s significantly less sullen, even if occasionally he looks at Finn and Puck and then frowns. Puck grabs Finn’s hand and squeezes once Finn’s back in the car. “That actually went well,” Puck says.

“It did. I’m suspicious now,” Finn says. “I feel like it has to be a trick.”

“He doesn’t seem like a very tricky kid, though,” Puck says.

Finn shakes his head. “No, what you see is pretty much what you get with Christopher.”

“It was probably the magic of the Mayan calendar.”

“Nerds.”

“Did you miss the part where I’m an accountant?” Puck says wryly.

“Yeah, but you’re a forensic accountant,” Finn says. “That sounds way less nerdy on the surface.”

“I’m the Joan Watson of accounting.”

“We need to get you moved out of that hotel and into a real place as soon as possible, before you devolve into a sack full of ones and zeroes,” Finn says.

Puck sighs dramatically. “Math is cool, Finn.”

“You sound like the world’s worst public service announcement, and this is from a guy who does actually have to do math as part of his job,” Finn says. “Seriously.”

“It’s ‘cause I don’t actually want more people to become forensic accountants. I want my pick of the interesting jobs.”

“But you like my kids?”

“Yeah, I like your kids, and now who’s the dork?”

“I’m not a dork!” Finn says. “I just want everybody to get along.”

“You’re definitely a dork, but that’s okay. I like it.”

“Good, because I like you.”

Puck grins. “Early dinner, maybe some window shopping?”

“Oh my god, we have to pick out enough furniture for that entire townhouse,” Finn says.

“We probably can wait on some of it, but we need beds and at least one sofa.”

The next sixteen days are something of a blur to Puck. He and Finn each go to work, Finn sees the kids either with or without Puck, Puck talks to the agent and the mortgage company a lot, and they go to a lot of paint and furniture stores, making decisions and scheduling deliveries for after closing. They also tell the hotel when their last night will finally be: the Wednesday night after closing. They buy sheets for the bed and mattress scheduled to be delivered that Thursday morning to the new place, and after they do the laundry on Sunday evening before closing, they pack most of their things, leaving out enough for the week ahead.

Still, they’re done with time to spare, so Puck sits down on the loveseat next to Finn. “If there’s a few things I think we need to discuss, do we want to deal with them here, so they’re finished before the move, or wait until after the move, so we don’t feel as scattered?”

“Well, that doesn’t sound ominous at all,” Finn says. He scoots overs a little to give Puck room, then promptly scoots back and puts an arm around him.

“Nothing ominous,” Puck promises, leaning against Finn. “Just bits and pieces.”

“How many bits and pieces?”

“Three.”

“Let’s do two out of three,” Finn says.

“You want the softball one first?”

“Lob it at me.”

“Usually Beth and I make plans for one night during Hanukkah. It spreads out over a weekend this year, so I need to know if you want me to tell her the part of Hanukkah where Christopher and Josie will be with us, or the part where they won’t,” Puck says.

Finn shifts at little as he turns his head to look at Puck. “I didn’t even think about Beth. I should have, I guess.”

“It’s a little non-traditional,” Puck says.

“Yeah,” Finn says. “Still, I should have thought about her. We’ve all been a little too focused on me these last few weeks, I think.” He nods his head a little, like he’s thinking it over carefully. “If you want to be able to focus on spending time with Beth, that’s fine, but I’m good with either plan. Maybe we could do a little of both, even. Have a few days with just her, a few with her and the kids, if you think you’d both like that.”

“Okay. I’ll check and be sure how long she’s got, but at a minimum we could probably do a Thursday night and a Friday night,” Puck says. “You want the more complicated or the less complicated one, of the other two?”

Finn appears to give it that same careful consideration before he says, “We’ll do the more complicated, and then, if we’re not too tired, we can go ahead and deal with number three. Fair?”

“Fair,” Puck agrees. “And I guess I don’t know if it’s more complicated, it just seems more future-oriented and complex.”

“Okay.”

Puck frowns a little, second-guessing himself, then decides to plow ahead. “It’s not that we have to decide, but the one time it was even roundaboutly mentioned, you sort of froze up, and probably people will ask again in the future and I feel like we should have at least mentioned it to one another,” he says in what feels more or less like one breath. “Which is that we’re not that old and well, yeah, we could have another kid. Or kids.”

“Oh.” Finn exhales loudly. “Wow. Okay.” He tightens his arm around Puck a little, squeezing him in a reassuring way. “That’s definitely complex. I guess… let’s start with what you want. Do you want to have another kid? Kids plural?”

“I wouldn’t have brought it up if I weren’t willing to consider it,” Puck admits. “Though it’s more like, I’d consider one, and the plural’d have to be a combination of you really wanting more and one being really awesome.”

“Yeah, plural would bring me up to a minimum of four kids, which sounds a lot like it ought to be more of a maximum, especially for guys our age,” Finn says.

Puck laughs. “How old do you feel?”

“Like the father of a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old,” Finn says, “and I’m not sure I want to be the father of a twenty-year-old, an eighteen-year-old, and a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old. I think plural might be off the table for me, unless it’s really, strongly on the table for you.”

“It doesn’t have to be on the table,” Puck says, nodding. “Plural could be a little overwhelming in a lot of ways.”

“But one? I could maybe do one,” Finn says.

“Maybe we should plan on discussing that ‘maybe’ in another four to six months,” Puck says. “And when someone asks us, we can tell them it’s none of their business without worrying about what we’re thinking.”

Finn nods. “I can sit on a ‘maybe’ for six months. Not like we won’t stay busy.”

“I think we can find a few things to keep us busy, yeah,” Puck agrees. “Not just a few, even.”

“Definitely more than a few,” Finn says.

“We can always make up some things,” Puck says, grinning at Finn and putting his hand on Finn’s leg. “You want the other one or not?”

“If it’s less complicated than this one it’ll be a snap,” Finn says.

Puck squeezes Finn’s leg. “I promise it is. It’s something you’ve brought up a couple of times.” Finn looks at him expectantly, eyebrows raised. “And I would’ve been fine with it if it’d been necessary to do it that way, but I have to admit…” Puck trails off and shrugs. “I’d rather do it a more traditional way.”

“A more traditional way of what?” Finn asks.

“Of—” Puck stops and thinks back over what he just said. “Oh, shit. Oops,” he says, shaking his head and then leaning it on Finn’s shoulder. “Sorry. Getting married.”

Finn starts to laugh. “Came at this one a little ass-backward. First the babies talk, then the marriage talk.”

“Hey, babies turn into people, that’s probably more important,” Puck says.

“Both involve a lot of paperwork, though,” Finn points out. “I mean, obviously I’m not averse to the idea. Is the question a timeline? Or is the question, you know.”

“A you know what?”

“A proposal,” Finn says, grinning at him.

“Oh, I expect one of those,” Puck says, grinning back.

“Aw man, I’ve always got to be the one who proposes,” Finn complains, though he gives Puck another reassuring squeeze.

“So you should be really good at it,” Puck says. “Practice makes perfect and all that.”

“Yeahhhh, I’m pretty sure recycling proposals is grounds for termination.”

“Of… your job?”

“Of my life,” Finn says. “You really think you’d let me get away with a used proposal?”

Puck snorts. “I meant you were familiar with the overall concept.”

“Anybody who’s ever watched a movie is familiar with the concept, Puck. You just want to get proposed to.”

“I’m not Meg Ryan or Emma Stone, just to be clear here,” Puck says.

“Which is good, since one is older than my mother and the other looks kind of uncomfortably like my almost-ex-wife, now that I think about it,” Finn says, “but sure. Now we’ve established whose job it is, do you want to discuss timeline?”

Puck shrugs. “Surprise me. And if we’re making a movie, we can pretend Ezra Miller’s playing me, right?”

“I meant, do you think we should maybe wait until my divorce is finalized? Or does that not matter to you?” Finn says.

Puck shrugs again. “Obviously we can’t really get married until it’s finalized. And obviously we don’t know for sure what the timeline for the divorce is. I don’t need it to be finalized before a proposal, but I don’t need a proposal before it’s finalized, either.”

“Okay. Now I’ve got my parameters, so I can focus on the surprising you part,” Finn says.

“I think if you’d asked me last year, I would have said I didn’t like surprises, but I’m a fan now,” Puck admits.

“Good. And, hey! Look at us!” Finn says. “All three bits and pieces covered.”

“We’ve already gotten a lot better at the whole communicating thing,” Puck says. “Which is a damn good thing.”

“I bet we’ve upgraded to a whole ten percent potential success rate.”

“I bet we could thread the needle even if it were just one percent.”

“We’d make it the best damn one percent in the history of relationships,” Finn agrees.

“I might actually miss this hotel a little bit,” Puck says. “We lived a lot here.”

“Still. Full-sized kitchen?”

“I didn’t say I wanted to stay here!”

“Hmm,” Finn says, putting his free hand on Puck’s face and angling it up to kiss him. “Lots of good living in a short period of time.”

Puck slides his hand up Finn’s leg as their faces get closer together. “One more night before the rest of our lives.”

“Yeah. I like it,” Finn says.

“Which it?” Puck asks.

“All of it. One night, our lives. All of it.”

“Me too,” Puck says. “Even that tropical storm. Best weather system.”

“I kind of feel like the tropical storm is a metaphor for my life now or something. Big mess, a lot of chaos, some really inconvenienced and unhappy people, but everybody eventually ended up where they belonged,” Finn says.

Puck laughs and kisses Finn. “Hey, so that first night I got here, we talked about commitment and being open. How do you think we’re doing?”

“I don’t think I’ve talked to another human being as much in my life as we’ve talked since you got here,” Finn says. “Got to be a good sign.”

“And next time I get on a plane, I’m scheduling it so you can go with me. Deal?”

“Deal.”