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Interlude: Carole

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Carole smiles to herself, closing the bedroom door behind her. The laughter from the living room carries down the hall, and she knows it won’t be the last Friday night for it, not by far. Football games and even Friday night sleepovers, Carole had expected once Finn started at McKinley. She had been surprised somewhat by Kurt and even more by Mercedes, but she couldn’t deny that the four of them clearly enjoyed each other’s company.

Getting used to Finn and Noah, “is going to take some time,” she tells her reflection, barely whispering the words. Finn being gay somehow doesn’t startle her, but Noah does, and the two of them being affectionate in front of her—she isn’t proud of the sudden unease that had invaded her mind, and she’s sure she didn’t let on. That she is proud of.

The one thing she had not asked, which she wishes she had, is how long. Definitely by the time the bruises—bites—had started appearing on Finn. And perhaps she had been naive, not accepting the truth literally staring her in the face. Another gale of laughter sounds, and Carole shakes her head. She’ll get used to it.

Nothing particularly changes, in fact, except that she has extra knowledge in the back of her head, and she can acknowledge she listens a little differently to Finn’s mentions of Noah through the week. She doesn’t know if it’s the right thing to do or not, but she makes sure Finn knows how long she’ll be gone on Wednesday evening, when she meets Burt Hummel for dinner, and Carole doesn’t say a word about the smile on Finn’s face when she gets home.

Better for the two of them to see each other before midnight and after six am, she thinks. But then, she also thinks she’s allowed a few missteps. For her, it was as if Finn went from a child, probably straight, uninterested in things romantic or sexual, to a teenager, gay, at least somewhat sexually active with a boyfriend, in the space of a few minutes.

So Carole collects her observations for two weeks before she sits Finn down at lunch on the last Saturday in September. “Finn, I think we’ve both been putting this off, but there’s a conversation we need to have.”

“I didn’t drink out of your milk carton,” Finn says.

“That’s why I buy the skim milk,” Carole says, almost automatically.

“Okay, I might have drunk out of your milk carton.”

“I need a lock for it,” Carole says with a sigh. “No, Finn, I meant that we need to set a few... ground rules, I suppose you should say. I know we should have talked about this two weeks ago.”

“Oh. I was hoping maybe we had already talked about that enough already,” Finn says, giving her an overly-toothy smile that indicates he’s eager to not have the conversation.

“I’m sure you were,” Carole says wryly. “On the one hand, I don’t want the two of you to think I’m encouraging specific behaviors. However, I am aware that you face some issues that others don’t.” She pauses. “I’m not going to say Noah can’t spend the night here any more. But I don’t want to hear or see things.”

“We’ll be quiet, Mom, I swear,” Finn says, still smiling too widely. “Are we done?”

“No. When the two of you reach a point of... doing certain things, of course you’ll need to be safe.”

“Puck’s already all over that, Mom. Don’t worry. He’s making sure we’re safe,” Finn says.

“I found a support group of sorts in Toledo,” Carole says, wincing a little at the amount of information Finn’s inadvertently sharing. “For teenagers. I can drive the two of you to it one week if you’re interested.”

Finn shrugs. “We’ve sorta got our own support group.”

“I thought adult perspective might be nice to have,” Carole points out. “But it meets every week, so you can always change your mind.”

“Well, I’ll tell Puck, but probably he’ll say the same thing as me.”

“If there’s anything the two of you need...” Carole trails off. “Just put it on the shopping list.”

Finn narrows his eyes. “For real?”

“Within reason, Finn!” Carole says, shaking her head slightly.

“Are we done talking now?”

“Fine, go,” Carole says. “I reserve the right to reopen the conversation at a later date, Finn.”

Finn stands and bolts away from the table, calling over his shoulder, “Much later!”

“Well, that went... okay, I guess,” Carole says to the now empty kitchen. Maybe, she thinks as she fold laundry a bit later, she should have been more explicit about being safe, or maybe she should even make the two of them go to one of the support group meetings in Toledo. So far, though, it does seem as if she needs a support group more than they do.

They stick to their word, Noah spending the night but without any more times that she’s disturbed by anything they’re doing. The word ‘lube’ shows up on her shopping list, in Noah’s handwriting, and she can feel herself making a face at the list in the middle of the store, probably blushing. Still, she had told Finn that they could add thing to her list. She’d been thinking more of condoms, but she finds what she hopes is the appropriate thing, buys it, and waits until Finn isn’t home to leave it in his room.

Apart from his initial request that she not tell Noah’s mother, Finn hasn’t specifically requested that Carole not mention it to anyone, and while it’s apparent that neither Finn nor Noah are being very open at school, Finn doesn’t appear to be that concerned, either, which is why her conscience is mostly clear when she decides to broach the subject with Burt Hummel.

The two of them are at ArtSpace Lima for some kind of show, which Carole suspects Burt learned about from Kurt. After only about ten minutes, though, Carole is thoroughly bored, and Burt doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself very much, either.

“I’m not even sure how these are supposed to be art,” Carole confesses in a whisper.

“Me and my late wife used to have a cat, back before Kurt was born,” Burt whispers back. “It used to cough stuff up that looked like that.”

Carole tries to stifle a laugh, nodding. “I know exactly what you mean! Should we leave soon?”

“As soon as politely possible,” Burt agrees.

“We could go to the restaurant next door,” Carole suggests. “The one with the red and white awnings, not Joey’s.”

“Sounds like a swell idea,” Burt says, offering Carole his arm. “Let’s act like we’re taking a look at those statues over there and sneak out the door.”

“Exactly.” Carole takes his arm and tries to look interested in the statues. “We’ll tell anyone who asks that it was a phenomenal show.”

“I’ll try to look up some reviews or something. We’ll just quote ‘em.”

Carole shivers briefly as they leave the gallery and walk over to the restaurant. Once they’re seated, she turns to Burt with a wry look. “I think I discovered a bit, perhaps, of why the boys all bonded so quickly.”

“Oh yeah?” A worried expression briefly crosses Burt’s face.

“A few weeks ago, I woke up after midnight and discovered Noah had snuck into the house.” Carole raises her eyebrows meaningfully. “Until I pushed open Finn’s door, though, I admit I wasn’t exactly expecting to find Noah there. A girl, perhaps.”

Burt’s mouth drops open, and he seems to try and speak a few times before successfully getting out, “You’re kidding me!”

“Not at all,” Carole says, shaking her head. “I thought, well, that perhaps they were experimenting, but no, they weren’t uncertain.”

“I’ve known about Kurt a long time, and I still haven’t caught him sneaking around with a boy,” Burt says. “So, the both of ‘em are like Kurt?” He shakes his head in wonder at the idea. “Never would’ve guessed it.”

“No, I wouldn’t’ve either,” Carole agrees. “Not for either of them. Finn insists they don’t want to talk to anyone and that they have plenty of support.”

“Well, I guess... I guess there’s the three of ‘em. Mercedes probably knows, too, I’d imagine?”

“I think it’s the reason her parents were so calm about the sleepovers,” Carole admits. “I suppose it’s why they were so adamant about Kurt joining the football team.”

“Safety in numbers, I guess. They’re looking out for each other.” Burt sighs and shakes his head. “I think I owe the Puckerman kid an apology, even if he doesn’t realize it.”

Carole laughs. “I’ve seen Noah sizing you up as well. But they treat Kurt like a little brother, don’t they? It’s sweet.”

“Yeah, I guess it is,” Burt agrees.

“Kurt’s still not said anything to you?” Carole asks. “Who knows how long Finn would have waited to tell me.”

“No, he hasn’t,” Burt says. “I don’t know what the holdup is, but I’m trying not to push, you know? It’s all I can do.”

“Well, next month, the first Tuesday, we’ll go to P-F-L-A-G,” Carole spells out. “Maybe someone there will have some insight for both of us.”

“I can probably do that,” Burt says. “Maybe we’ll get a little dinner after.”

Carole smiles. “I think I’d like that.”