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Portraits: Holiday Advent 2017

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After nearly two full seasons, Noah has carefully evaluated all the different days of the week against his and Kurt’s schedule, Finn’s schedule, and the overall obligations of life. The consensus in his mind is pretty clear: Thursday nights are the worst night. Almost every week, there are projects due on Friday morning. Finn always flies out on Wednesdays, assuming he doesn’t have to fly out on Tuesday late. It’s not that he and Kurt don’t have a full life without Finn there, but the sense of something missing and not by choice is present.

The first Thursday night in December, then, is a perfectly valid time to be a little morose as he walks home after finishing an assignment, Noah thinks. Hanukkah starts in less than a week, and all he can think about is how much things have changed since a year earlier, not to mention two years before. There had been part of Noah in 2015 that thought Finn might not go into the NFL, Heisman win mid-Hanukkah be damned. In 2016, Noah’d at least felt like maybe they were creating a new normal.

Noah laughs bitterly out loud as he rounds the corner a few blocks from home. A new apartment, Hannah in one bedroom, Noah’s pretty sure Finn’s drinking most nights in Chicago, and the hell of it is he can’t even really tell himself they’re almost halfway through the contract.

“The fucking contract, the almighty millions, the bane of my existence,” Noah mutters to himself. He wants to look around at the dark city, to think about latkes and blintzes and candlelit menorahs. He’d like to pretend about a lot of things, and he feels like sometimes he mostly manages. His life is good, and he knows that, most of the time. Nothing about their life is permanent, there are multiple lights at the ends of multiple tunnels, and he can say that he genuinely loves the stuff they’re doing in grad school. “I just don’t feel very Hanukkah-y,” Noah says when he reaches their building.

Noah stops outside their door and listens. He can’t hear anything, which is a good sign. He loves his sister, and he’s beyond glad they didn’t leave Hannah in Lima to finish high school under the auspices of Burt and Carole, but music or laughter would have meant she wasn’t in her room, doing homework. Considering the amount of homework Noah did as a freshman in high school, sometimes he feels more than a little hypocritical telling Hannah to do her homework. Sometimes, too, it’s easier to pretend when he gets home. Pretend that the reason they have a bigger apartment isn’t because his mother’s dead, because whatever else Rina was, she was still the parent that stayed. Pretend that he and Kurt don’t have to figure out how to parent a high schooler when they can remember their own high school experience so vividly. Pretend to Hannah that despite what she knows about the two of them and Finn, he’s fine, really.

When Noah thinks of it that way, he spends a lot of time pretending, when he’s not got enough other things to think about.

He opens the door and drops his backpack under the coat rack, dumping his hat and gloves onto the small table in the entryway before draping his coat and scarf on the hooks on the wall. He rubs his hands together briefly before leaning down to pull off his boots, and Kurt appears as he’s getting the first boot off.

“Thursday night?” Kurt says sympathetically. Kurt’s contention is that Monday night is actually the worst night of the week, but neither of them tries to bring the other around to their way of thinking. It’s better that they’re each able to sympathize, not empathize.

“Last time I checked the calendar,” Noah says wryly.

“Wallow or distract?”

“Oh, I think I’m already mid-wallow,” Noah says, and they both laugh for a moment before Kurt nods. By the time Noah gets his second boot off and walks into the living room, Kurt has music going and the overhead light off.

“Seemed like time for our new favorite album,” Kurt says, nodding at the speaker playing The Killers’ latest as he takes Noah’s hand.

We’re just in a rut?” Noah says, then nods as Kurt shrugs. “Close enough.”

“We’ll climb, and we’ll climb, and we’ll climb,” Kurt says. “No one ever said this was going to go perfectly smoothly.” They sit down on the futon, and Noah briefly laughs in his head about how it directly contradicts the idea of climbing.

“Three people is already a whole extra person than most people figure in,” Noah agrees. “I wish I felt more in the holiday spirit. Hanukkah’s supposed to be celebratory, you know?”

“And yet there seems like very little to celebrate?”

“Well, yeah.” Noah gestures in the direction of Hannah’s room. “I think I’d gotten used to a lot of things. Actually seeing Beth during Hanukkah most years. FaceTiming with Hannah and Mom and Nana. Finn even usually had more flexibility in December than the rest of the fall, back at Wisconsin.”

“You’re allowed to grieve any and all of those, you know.”

Noah snorts. “Maybe. After finals, maybe. After Hanukkah.”

“You’re giving yourself a raincheck on grief?”

“None of it’s going to change,” Noah says. “The earliest date of change is still two years out. I can probably put it off and get through Hanukkah and the rest of the holidays.”

“You’ve done your best pretending,” Kurt says, sliding his arm around Noah and pulling him closer.

“Don’t give up?”

“Don’t you give up on me,” Kurt agrees. “Maybe slightly differently than the meaning in the song.”

“None of us are giving up,” Noah says firmly. “That’s one thing I can promise.”