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This Is the Story of a Boy, Part V: The Future's Open Wide

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Puck takes a few minutes during the afternoon to look at the papers that are slowly starting to decorate the bulletin board, Kurt seemingly starting a new trend. Mercedes' area has a rectangle reading 'peach pie' in Sam's chicken scratch that Puck saw on Tuesday, and by Wednesday at lunch, Sam had one reading 'apple dumplin'' in what Puck is pretty sure is Mercedes' handwriting. At the beginning of fourth period today, Puck had noticed Tina writing something, and sure enough, Mike now has a note admonishing '10,000 crunches.' Puck grins when he sees a small little note tacked under his own name, the handwriting carefully disguised. Left-handed, Puck thinks.

"Always one foot on the ground."

Puck grins and traces the words for a second, then wonders how in the world Kurt found time to add that, unobserved.

 

Kurt looks just as immaculate when he re-enters the choir room after school, arm tucked in Rachel's, deep in conversation. Kurt catches Puck's eye and winks, making Puck wonder what exactly is going on.

Sure enough, Kurt seems to be leading the conversation in a specific direction, talking about various stereotypes and realities of living in New York City, and really, what would it be like to be a child living in the City, or even just visiting for extended periods of time.

"I mean," Kurt says carefully, just as Finn enters the room, "it's not like you can just go hop in the water off Riverside Park."

"No, exactly!" Rachel's overly enthusiastic, as she nearly always is when the subject of New York comes up.

Kurt crosses his legs and shoots a brilliant smile at Finn for half a second, then turns his attention back to Rachel, his voice just a touch louder. "Really, a good run through the fire hydrants before heading home would just have to suffice."

Finn’s face flushes and he looks away from Kurt, mouth set in a small, hard line.

Rachel makes a strange face at the mention of fire hydrants and shakes her head. “Followed by a proper bath, of course!” and Kurt quickly nods his agreement, shooting Finn another glance, this one less gleeful and more inquiring, but Finn keeps facing the other way as Schue enters the room.

He immediately has them stand up and run through the choreography for 'Human,' then turns to the top of the piano and comes up short. "Hang on, guys. I forgot something!"

Everyone is chattering quietly, waiting for Mr. Schue to return with his supposed "wonderful, amazing piece for Invitationals" when Tina speaks up more loudly, addressing the room at large.

"I've been noticing that some of us are a lot peppier in the mornings than others. We really should all be as happy as they are, and I think I figured it out."

"Yeah?" Finn asks, looking interested, and Rachel's nodding beside him.

"It's got to be those huge cups of coffee they both have every morning!" Tina finishes with a flourish, turning to grin at Kurt and then Puck. Finn makes his strangled noise, and Puck's sure his eyes are bugging out just a little. Kurt recovers first.

"Coffee is an important part of one's morning routine," he says, nodding.

"So I thought, maybe on Friday mornings, we could all meet at Starbucks before school! I know it's a little hard to park compared to the Lima Bean, but it's a lot closer and a sixth of us are already there." She shrugs, still smiling brightly.

"Yeah, that's a great idea," Finn immediately backs her up, shooting Kurt a slightly triumphant look. Puck groans inwardly as the rest of the group starts nodding, thinking that Tina's come up with a terrific idea. Kurt looks over at him and shrugs, rolling his eyes slightly.

"Let's meet at 7:40, then."

Noises of agreement are made, a few people pulling out phones to add it to their calendars, and Puck's phone vibrates with a text after just a moment.

So I'll be there at 7:30

Puck looks over at Kurt with a grin.

Schue returns then, brandishing a stack of sheet music with a large grin plastered on his face. "I thought of this last week during the 'fall' assignment, and it's something a little slower; a good complement to the dancing number, I think." He beams. "Now, we technically have time for a third number at Invitationals, so I thought for that, we could reprise one of our original songs. Since none of the schools at Invitationals heard our songs at Nationals, we could use either 'Pretending'–without the unstaged parts, please–or 'Light Up the World.' Let's see what you think after we put this one together."

Puck isn't sure if he hopes they use "Pretending" or not, but he presses his lips together when he reads the title on the sheet music Schue passes out.

"November Rain? Really?"

"How will this translate into a show choir performance?"

"We could alter the arrangement, I guess," Puck mutters, half to himself.

"Yes, exactly, Puck!" Mr. Schuester heard him anyway. "Something a little more upbeat, and sing most of it in harmonies rather than as solos."

"If we do this as a group number, plus 'Human,' we probably should use 'Pretending' rather than 'Light Up the World,'" Mercedes points out. "If those two can control themselves, I mean," she adds with a laugh.

"Is today pick on Finn day?" Finn mutters.

"Yes," half the room choruses.

"Oh," he shrugs, glum, and the rest of the conversation swirls on, debating how best to use 'November Rain' since Schue is clearly invested in the selection. They finally settle on a slightly faster version of the song, cutting out most of the instrumental introduction, and agree to use minimal choreography. They do a couple of run-throughs, everyone singing every part for now, before Schue ends the rehearsal with a beaming smile.

Puck slides to the back of the room, gathering his music theory stuff, which he'd just piled in the back of the room, and jumps a little when he feels a hat placed on his head. Then he shakes his head a little and turns to grin at Kurt. "Thought I needed sprucing up?"

"Just seeing if a fedora is your thing. I'm thinking more of a newsboy style, though." Kurt has his head tilted, considering. "Maybe a tweed." The room's empty, and as Puck turns to walk towards the door, Kurt threads his arm through Puck's. "Ooh, you know, you could rock a nice tweed coat with the leather elbow patches. Over a t-shirt, I think."

Puck's still trying to remember what a newsboy is, since he figures a fedora is the hat that's still perched on his head. "Like a professor?" he finally offers.

"Yes, exactly. In the winter… well, you're just not really going to rock a turtleneck, are you? Maybe a v-neck sweater under it when it's colder."

"Okay," Puck shrugs, because yeah, he doesn't see himself wearing a turtleneck, in Lima or New York, either one. "Hey, what time is it?"

"Only 4:30. Schue must have a hot date."

Puck makes a face but pulls out his phone. "Can we go get Hannah before we head to my place?"

"Sure." Puck calls his mom to let her know as they head out to the parking lot. "Which school?"

"Independence."

Kurt nods. "The names of the elementary schools in this town are ridiculous."

"Which one'd you go to?"

"Freedom. Then Lima South. They're so creative," Kurt snorts, and Puck laughs.

"Yeah, and uneven. I've always wondered… what happened to Lima East?"

"I looked it up once. There was 'East School' that a tornado took out back in 1898."

"Really? You think that's why?"

Kurt shrugs. "Who knows. Stranger things have happened in this town." He parks and turns to Puck. "Want me to wait here?"

"Nah, c'mon."

Puck leads the way, nodding at the janitor as they enter the gym. "Noah Puckerman," the woman inside the gym shakes her head. "I can't believe you're so old."

"Senior this year," Puck says with a grin. "It's good to see you, Miss Scaggs."

"You're making me feel even older," the teacher shakes her head. "Here to get Hannah, I assume?"

"Yeah, rehearsal got out early today. Oh, hey, this is Kurt. Kurt, Miss Scaggs, my second grade teacher. And Hannah's."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Kurt says, offering his hand, and Miss Scaggs returns the gesture.

"Hannah!" she calls after a moment, and Puck watches her break away from Rebecca and Stevie.

"Dang, I'm still gonna be saddled with Sam as a brother-in-law, aren't I?" he says with a shake of his head, and Kurt laughs.

"Noah!" Hannah flings herself onto him, grabbing his legs tight before letting go to repeat the process with Kurt. "Time to go home?"

"Time to go home," Puck agrees. "Go get your bag, squirt." Hannah complies and leads them out of the gym.

"Are you cooking dinner again? Kurt, are you staying for dinner? Can we have Frank Fiesta?"

"Yes, yes, and I guess so," Puck tries to keep up with her questions.

"Frank Fiesta?" Kurt raises an eyebrow and slips the keys into Puck's hand as they approach the Navigator.

"Uh, yeah," Puck shrugs through his surprise. "It's like, hot dogs and corn and beans and noodles. Super-easy."

"Ah." Kurt looks like he's trying to remember something as Puck takes Hannah's bag and helps her climb in. "I think my dad may have made that once."

"Probably. It's not as bad as it sounds, really."

"I'll take your word for it, I guess," Kurt sighs but grins as they pull out of the lot.

"It's really good!" Hannah offers.

The three of them work together in the kitchen, Hannah in charge of opening cans while Kurt chops hot dogs and a green pepper. Puck pours it all into the pot and turns on the eye. "There. Hannah, homework."

"No-ah!"

"Homework. I have to go make sure Kurt can do math." He grins at Kurt, who just sticks his tongue out in response.

Hannah makes a face but sits down at the table and pulls out her AR book, so Puck leads Kurt into his bedroom. "I found something almost as cool as the pink monkey thing."

"Oh?"

"Yeah, hang on." Puck opens his browser and navigates to the site. "Ta-da. Stats videos."

"Really?" Kurt moves closer and sits down on Puck's lap.

"Here, this one is on standard deviation." Puck hits play and wraps his arms around Kurt's waist, resting his head between Kurt's shoulder blades while Kurt watches the video.

"This actually makes a little more sense," Kurt offers after awhile.

"Good." Puck lifts his head up and kisses the back of Kurt's neck.

"Stop trying to distract me."

"You're the one that sat in my lap, K."

Kurt hmmms but wriggles a little, leaning on Puck and seemingly getting more comfortable. When the video ends, he stands up, offering Puck a hand. "Check on the food?"

"Yeah. Mom should be home soon."

They dish up the frank fiesta, Kurt still looking at it suspiciously, and Rina gets home just after the food hits the table.

"Oh, good. Frank fiesta." She smiles, giving Hannah a large hug and a hiss. "Thanks for cooking, Noah."

"Hannah and Kurt both helped," Puck shrugs. "C'mon, let's eat."

Puck watches Kurt carefully as they start to eat, hiding a grin when Kurt ends up getting seconds. Rina shoos them out of the kitchen when they offer to help clean up, and Puck tugs Kurt back to his bedroom.

"So," he says with a grin.

"So?"

"So here's the deal. You work a problem right, you get…"

"Kisses?"

"Mmmhmm."

"What if I watch an entire video?"

"What do you think?"

"I think I should get lots of kisses." Kurt steps closer and puts his arms around Puck's neck. "Also lots of touching."

"Oh, you think so?"

"Yes." Kurt presses a quick kiss to Puck's lips. "And you think so, too."

"Guilty," Puck whispers, lips still just a hair's breadth from Kurt's.

"Do I have to study first?" Kurt responds just as quietly.

Puck smirks. "Is today role reversal day?"

"Apparently so," Kurt sighs, kissing Puck one more time before pulling away dramatically and sitting at the computer. "All right. I'll do problems and watch a video and then. Then you belong to me, mister."

Puck laughs and gestures for Kurt to get to work, pulling out his music theory textbook.

Puck's reward system works well, or at least as well as it can given that the door is open, Hannah's awake, and Rina is in the living room watching Wheel of Fortune. By the time Rina walks by casually for the fifth time, Puck and Kurt look at each other and grimace. "I believe that's a hint," Kurt says wryly.

"Yeah, probably," Puck has to concede, following Kurt to the door. "Be good."

"I'm always good!"

 

When Kurt gets home, he says hello to his dad and Carole, who are watching television together, and heads upstairs to change. Finn’s door is closed, soft music playing, and Kurt frowns. He continues onward to his room, changing into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt before heading back down the stairs to rummage in the freezer and refrigerator.

Two spoons and two containers of Ben & Jerry’s later, he heads back up the stairs and knocks on Finn’s door.

“Come in,” Finn calls, and as Kurt opens the door, he can hear Death Cab for Cutie playing quietly in Finn’s room.

Kurt walks over and sits heavily on the end of Finn’s bed, tossing him a spoon and then handing over one of the pints of ice cream. “Your turn, little brother,” he says softly.

Finn catches the spoon and takes the ice cream without answering, his body still sort of folded up on itself in a protective way. He pops the lid off and starts eating.

Kurt opens his own container and takes a bite, not sure if he should wait Finn out or continue talking. He takes a second bite, eyes focused on Finn’s body language, and then cautiously puts a hand on Finn’s shoulder.

Finn tenses for a second, almost but not quite flinching away from Kurt’s touch. Kurt sighs minutely but leaves his hand there, waiting. Finn doesn’t pull away and finally relaxes a little, then a lot, and then slumps under Kurt’s hand.

Kurt starts speaking, choosing his words carefully. “It’s a little difficult, isn’t it? Neither of us knowing exactly where the line is.”

Finn’s brows knit together, like he hadn’t considered it that way, but he nods in agreement. “Hard to know all the rules sometimes,” he says.

“Exactly,” Kurt agrees, nodding. “It’s different for everyone.”

“I’m sorry?” Finn offers, tentatively. “I didn’t mean to cross the line.”

“I know,” Kurt replies soothingly. “And neither did I. But.” He sighs heavily. “We both did. And... not at home.”

Finn sighs, too. “The world is dumb,” he says. “You should get to wear your shirt just like all the girlfriends do. I shouldn’t have made a thing about it, but it’s still dumb.”

Kurt smiles ruefully. “It is,” he agrees, then his voice drops a little. “You want to explain it all to me? Because I’ve been turning it over in my head and...” he shrugs.

“Explain about the shirt?” Finn asks. “Not a whole lot to it. Just trying to razz you a little bit, but also, I thought it was kind of true. I feel sad for Puck. I feel mad for you guys, both of you.”

“That’s very sweet, and a nice deflection, too.”

Finn just looks at Kurt blankly, blinking slowly like maybe if he stares at Kurt long enough, Kurt will fill in the dots for him.

“Oh, Finn,” Kurt shakes his head. “Not that. You.” He shifts a little, poking Finn’s side lightly.

“Oh. Me.” Finn glaces away. “Yeah.”

“Yeah,” Kurt echoes. “You got some ‘plaining to do.” He smiles at the end of the sentence.

Finn shifts uncomfortably on the bed and his arms press back against his side again, closing off.

“Finn?” Kurt asks softly.

“It’s just,” Finn says, and heaves a great sigh. “I know I shouldn’t have teased you about the shirts, but...you and Puck? Once all this high school crap is over, you’re in New York together and it’s all gonna be cool for you. You can wear whatever shirt you want. You guys are gonna get the happily ever after.”

Kurt wrinkles his forehead, studying Finn’s downcast face. A few moments pass and Kurt shakes his head from side to side slowly. “And you don’t think you will?”

“Honestly? No. I don’t.”

Kurt sucks in his breath a little. “Why ever not?” he asks, tone a little incredulous.

“I just don’t have what you have. You know where you’re going. You know what you want to do with your life. You have...somebody. Somebody who you know is going there with you,” Finn says, his voice catching on “somebody.”

Kurt sighs a little and wonders what on earth Rachel has been saying to his brother to leave him so morose, but doesn’t ask, just wraps both arms around Finn silently. After a minute, Finn drops his head over on Kurt’s shoulder.

“What am I gonna do when all of you go away?” Finn whispers into Kurt’s shirt collar.

“Oh, little brother,” Kurt replies. “You’re going to go away too, you know. And you’re going to make your big brother proud.”

“You guys are all going off to New York. You’re gonna be big stars,” Finn says, sounding a little snuffly. “What am I gonna do? If I even make it out of Ohio, it’ll be a miracle.”

“Stop that,” Kurt scolds him lightly.

“It’s true, Kurt,” Finn argues, sounding increasingly snuffly. “I don’t have the kind of grades you have, I don’t have the kind of dreams you have, and I can’t even dance.”

“They tell me that you can throw a football,” Kurt says lightly, “and, well, you have that elusive thing all those college books talk about.” He lowers his voice and whispers dramatically. “Leadership skills.”

Finn sniffles loudly. “Yeah?”

“Yes.” Kurt’s voice is firm. “Also, while your dancing may in fact be... less polished than some, you can sing. So, no, I don’t know what you’re going to do, but really, shouldn’t you figure that out, instead of trying to dance?” He grins, inserting a little humor into his voice.

“Will you promise me something?” Finn asks, not sounding particularly less snuffly.

“As long as it doesn’t involve purchasing clothing at Wal-Mart.”

“Will you...look out for Rachel? In New York?” Finn sniffles loudly. “She needs somebody she knows to, you know, make sure she doesn’t get in over her head.”

“Finn.” Kurt sighs a little. “Yes, of course we will.”

“And maybe you can give me updates on how she’s doing...sometimes. Every once in a while.”

Kurt nods. “Sometimes,” he repeats, and if his arms tighten around Finn a little more, well, Finn’s not complaining.

“Thanks, big brother,” Finn chokes out, his voice cracking. “Thank you.”

“Anytime,” Kurt murmurs.

 

Puck's in the back, pulling out more caramel syrup, when his manager pokes her head around the doorframe. "Your boy's here early." Puck just looks up her and blinks before nodding. "Told him you'd be out in a second."

Puck wrestles the caramel out of the shelf and heads back towards the front, studying Kurt's profile with a smile. Red sunglasses, Glock t-shirt with the sleeves rolled a bit tucked into tight red and black plaid pants fastened with a shiny black belt. Puck's guessing the red boots from last week's game are on Kurt's feet. "Hey," he breathes out, and Kurt turns towards him, grinning.

"Good morning. Thought I'd make sure to beat the hordes."

"Good plan." Puck smirks and raises his eyebrows. "I have the hottest cheering section."

"Oh, you like what you see?" Kurt pivots in place.

"You know I do." Puck holds Kurt's gaze for a long minute before the door chimes and the clatter of some of their fellow glee club members penetrates the shop.

"Oh, very nice," Mercedes says to Kurt. "Those pants are amazing."

"They are, aren't they," Kurt agrees. "How are you ladies this morning?"

"Uncaffeinated," Tina grumbles, and Santana nods beside her.

"Puckerman! Get us some caffeine," she shouts, and Puck makes a mock bow in her direction. The next ten minutes are a flurry of orders, from the basic (Finn's coffee with room for milk) to the strange (Rachel's double-strength tea, one bag each of decaffeinated black tea and herbal tea) to the complex (nonfat decaff no whip caramel macchiato for Brittany, adding extra whip to Santana after she claims Brittany's). He makes Kurt's iced white chocolate mocha last, sliding it across with the lid off and a grin.

"Go ahead and change," his manager says with a nod. "You work hard, ten minutes isn't going to hurt me."

"Thanks," Puck nods and heads to the bathroom, changing quickly and grabbing his venti americano as he walks past the counter, then snagging the two bags he left behind the pastry case. The others are taking up most of the store, Santana, Brittany, and Quinn all shoved into one of the larger chairs, and Rachel perched on Finn's knee. Puck comes up behind Kurt and dangles one of the bags in front of Kurt's chest.

"Oooh." Kurt clutches the bag to his chest. "Mine!"

"Don't get between Kurt and his whoopie pies," Finn laughs. "That's actually one of the secrets to a happy Kurt."

"Yes, yes it is," Kurt says with a sniff, biting into one of the little pies, and the others laugh. Puck squeezes his shoulder lightly and drops into the open chair next to him. Puck pulls out his own scone and takes a bite.

"This blueberry muffin's really good," Finn mumbles around a mouthful, and Sam nods his agreement.

"Great idea, Tina," Artie grins.

"Yeah, my manager really thinks so," Puck smirks, and there's more laughter.

"Let's do this every Friday," Quinn suggests, and there's a lot of nods and chattering.

Mike notices the time before anyone else. "We're going to be late if we don't get going!" Everyone gets up in a rush, though Kurt just rolls his eyes.

"We have at least four more minutes," Kurt whispers. "I should know." Puck chuckles and swipes Kurt's bag from his whoopie pies, tossing it in the trash. The others head out the door, in pairs and threes and fours, until it's just Puck and Kurt left inside the door, watching everyone disperse to their cars down the block or around the corner. Puck shifts his coffee cup to his left hand and snags Kurt's with his right as they push through the door.