Title: "Holding Out for a Hero"
Rating: PG-13/Light R for language
Summary: When the truth comes out, Puck becomes the man he's always wanted to be
Disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowing them for a few paragraphs
Author's Note: This fic was conceived, no pun intended, after "Ballads" but due to real life time constraints I didn't have to chance to work on it until now. I guess that's what school breaks are for – giving me the time to do things I like, like write fanfic! Anyway, I'm glad I waited because this week's closing number put the finishing touches on what I already had in mind. Also, I know I promised my next fic would be Finn-centric, but I couldn't step away from this idea. That fic will probably make an appearance during the endless break after the fall finale. Title and cut courtesy of Bonnie Tyler. Sure, she's not my usual indie taste, but one thing I love about this show is that I'm able to incorporate my love of music into my fics without it taking away from the overall story, and I find inspiration in a lot of odd places. Enjoy.
The morning after they sing "Lean On Me" to Finn and Quinn and his heart feels like it's being ripped out of his chest to the tune of show choir, Puck's about to close his locker before first period just as Kurt's palm connects with his left cheek.
It doesn't hurt but it kind of stings and he's mostly glad he's still gripping his locker or his fist might connect with Kurt's jaw, and two months ago that would have felt really damn good, but it's two months later and he's trying really hard not to be that person anymore. He has a kid on the way; he doesn't remember much about his dad but he knows he didn't spend his spare time beating the crap out of people smaller than him.
"What the hell, Hummel?" he asks but refuses to raise his hand to his cheek, because it would mean acknowledging that Kurt just beat him in a fight and he's not ready for that.
Kurt glares at him (and that death stare is scary) and crosses his arms. "How could you!" he says and he sounds like one of those girls with too much makeup and really big hair on the soap operas his mom loves.
He slams the locker and shoulders his backpack. "How could I do what?"
Kurt's eyes narrow. "Finn is your best friend. How could you knock up his girlfriend?"
For a moment the world goes black and he can't hear what Kurt's saying over the roar in his ears. Finn knows, Finn knows, Finn knows…repeats in his head like one of his father's records skipping (but his mom still plays them, memories and all). He doesn't even know what day it is (he thinks it's a Thursday) and ten years of friendship is about to go down the tubes. He asks the first thing to come to mind, even though he already knows the answer. "Dude, how did you find out?"
Kurt rolls his eyes so wide they practically disappear into the back of his head. "Please. You told Mercedes. She's like the gossip girl of the red states. You really thought she wouldn't tell me?"
He had thought she'd keep her mouth shut. She'd seemed pretty focused on making Quinn feel better; telling the entire school her secret didn't seem a part of the plan. Like everything else in his life these days, he called the play wrong. "What do you want, Hummel?" he asks and he's embarrassed at how defeated he sounds. Two months ago he was throwing the kid in a dumpster and today he's begging him for help; to say the mighty have fallen would be an understatement.
"I want you to tell Finn the truth."
Puck laughs, even if there's no humor in it, because it's what he's wanted since day one and it's the only thing he knows is never going to happen. "It's Quinn's call. She says no."
Kurt takes a step forward and it takes everything in him not to take a step back. He might be at the kid's mercy when it comes to truth telling but he's not going to so obviously let him win. "Look. I like your baby mama as much as the next person, even though I should hate her because her hair is prettier than mine, but what you're doing is cruel. You, not her." Something changes in his face and the death stare crumples and his eyes get soft and Puck feels really, really uncomfortable because he thinks the kid is going to start crying into his t-shirt and he's really, really not ready for that. "Finn is a really good guy," Kurt says. "He already loves this baby. If you care about him at all, you need to stop lying."
Thing is, while Puck might know the most about lying and crime, he really does care about Finn. He remembers when they met in first grade and became friends because his dad was a deadbeat and Finn's was just dead. They'd had a lot in common then, shared a lot since. He thinks of Quinn and the baby girl they both love with everything inside them. They still have a lot in common; they still want the same things.
He's not a good person, he knows that, but he's trying. He might never know his daughter but he wants to be someone she could be proud of. "How much time do I have?"
"You have a week and then I tell Finn the truth." Kurt huffs and tosses his head back even though his hair doesn't move an inch. "You know, I thought girls were the problem." He does that death stare thing again and Puck again has to resist the urge to flinch. "Turns out, it's best friends that cause all the heartache."
He stomps off and Puck finally leans against the locker, grateful for the support. He's been dealing with this alone all these weeks; it feels good to have something holding him up.
Out of the corner of his eye he sees Finn and Quinn together, hands clasped tightly as they make their way down the hall. Finn nods as they pass by and Quinn looks everywhere but at him and his heart does that flip-flop thing again.
Except this time, he doesn't know if it's the guilt or the want making him feel like his heart is being ripped out of his chest.
Santana Lopez is hot. She'll never be anything but hot and when she sends him a text telling him she's not wearing underwear he can't help but respond.
He's tied up with Quinn – tied to Quinn – and for a moment it feels like his world is caving in on him. He can feel the weight of the bills piling up and the sleepless nights and Finn staring at him like he pulled the trigger rather than some random haji in Iraq, and his shoulders actually hurt from everything piled on top of them (he ignores that it could also be his arms tied tightly behind him). He wants this, Quinn and their baby girl, but he's not sure he can do it. It's too much and it's too hard and he's only seventeen. He wants this, he really does, but sometimes he wants his old life back.
He knows he's not getting together with Santana. She dumped him once and there's no way in hell he's going to let her do it again, but it doesn't make her less hot. Or a good distraction from what could be his life if Quinn finally chooses the right team. He thinks she's coming around but he's not sure and either way it's scaring him half to death, more than "Paranormal Activity" and he had trouble sleeping for a week after that. Because he likes Quinn, more than any other girl, and if he finally gets her and can't give her what she needs his heart might finally give out when she walks out of his life for good.
Santana is easy (in every way that counts) and when she tells him she's not wearing underwear it's easy to slip into what he knows. She's hot and he's hot and they had a good thing for a while. He liked that part of his life. He misses that part of his life. He misses something being a sure thing.
When she marches up to his locker before first period the following Monday, the last thing he expects is her open palm connecting with his right cheek. This time, he knows it will leave a mark.
"You are such an asshole, Puck," she says and moves in for the left side.
He grabs her wrist before she can follow through and tightens his grip when she tries to twist away. "Santana, what the fuck?"
"Don't deny it, Povich. You're the father of Quinn's baby."
He's getting used to people knowing his secrets so he can see and hear fine but it's still a shock to hear that Santana knows. It's more shocking that the entire school doesn't know too; after all, she does have Jacob Ben Israel on speed dial.
"Whatever, Lopez. Don't be a bitch just because I didn't get you off on Friday night."
He's still gripping her wrist but she gives him that stank eye and it's kind of the same thing. She's pretty scary when she wants to be. "You think I wouldn't figure it out? It only means one thing when a girl invites a guy to babysit with her." She smirks and twists out of his grip and this time he lets her go. "I just didn't think Quinn had the balls to hit it with you under Finn's nose."
He knows he was just as much a part of it as Santana, but he feels protective: of Quinn, of his baby girl, of the family that's slipping out of his grasp. "Nothing happened."
"Doesn't change the truth. You got Quinn pregnant. Way to be a friend."
"This is so none of your business – "
"You cheated on me."
"You broke up with me." He hates the words, but they're true. He still has the credit score report at home and he still doesn't understand it. He doesn't have a credit card and even if he did, what does it have to do with hooking up in the back of his jeep?
"Facts are facts, Puckerman. We were together when you knocked her up."
It's his turn to smirk. "We were never together, Lopez. We hooked up when the Natty Light ran out and you didn't feel like looking for someone else."
"Doesn't make you less of an asshole."
"Yeah, well you're still a bitch." He's also tired of this conversation. She can call him a jerk until the cows come home (which actually isn't that long in bumblefuck Ohio) but she still hasn't told him what she wants. "What's the point of all this, Santana?" he asks and he knows his voice sounds tired but he doesn't really care anymore. He knows this isn't going to end well and he just wants it over with.
Her eyes soften for a second, just a second, and she's Santana Lopez so he knows she's not going to break down in his arms or anything like that, but it doesn't make him any less worried because he's never seen her like this. "I'm not going to say anything," she says softly. "I really like Glee. I like singing and I like the dancing and when they're not talking I don't mind most of those weirdos. I'm not going to ruin this. But what you're doing? It's not cool."
It's probably the most honest she's ever been with him but still completely hypocritical. "You're the one who leaked the truth about Quinn's pregnancy to Jewfro."
She has her Santana face back on and crosses her arms and raises one eyebrow like Quinn. Suddenly, it all makes sense. "Quinn betrayed me. She slept with my man." She stares at him and even with her bitchface the sting of the guilt makes his chest ache a little. "You did the same thing to Finn. You owe him the truth."
When she stomps off, he keeps his eyes glued to her butt and the way her hips sway under the short skirt of her Cheerios uniform. Quinn wore the same outfit the night they made their baby girl, the night he betrayed the only true friend he's ever had.
He made a promise to himself to stop hitting things that breathe but it doesn't include inanimate objects and before he realizes what's happening his fist slams into his locker like it's Kurt's face six months in the past.
He doesn't owe Santana a thing and he kind of hates her for leaking the truth about his baby and ruining Quinn's life (more than he already did) but he mostly hates himself because she's right.
He owes Finn the truth and he's not man enough to follow through.
A day goes by and he's no closer to telling Finn about the baby that's not his than he was the moment he learned it existed at all.
He knows he should tell, "bros before hos" and all that, but every time he comes close he sees one of those big fists slamming into his face and he's not really in the mood for a beatdown from his best friend. More than that, whenever he brings Finn's face to mind, he sees smiles and laughter and complete trust in his friend's eyes.
Finn's had his back since he was six-years-old. He's not ready to let that go. He's not ready to be alone.
He's starting to feel what it's like though, what Quinn went through when the baby bomb dropped and she took a tumble down the social ladder. Mercedes and Kurt glare at him every time he passes them in the hallway and Santana mostly looks like she wants to hit him again, and glee is super tense between staying away from them and avoiding looking at Finn and that dopey, trusting grin on his face.
It makes his head hurt and it doesn't even involve Rachel Berry speaking in complete sentences.
Still, he doesn't say a word, and three days before Kurt's deadline runs out he's at his locker again, before first period, when something hard and heavy slams into his shin.
It hurts more than the constant ache behind his eyes and throb in his temples and he actually yelps like a little girl (or Kurt when he takes his helmet off after practice and sees his hair in the mirror for the first time).
He looks left and he looks right and it's only when he looks down that he sees Artie wearing the guiltiest expression he's ever seen. It's a bit like a punch in the gut because he has a feeling he looks the exact same every time he looks at Finn.
"Seriously, dude?" he says because he and Artie might not be friends, but they are guitar partners and doesn't the guy remember all those cupcakes he baked to pay for his short bus?
"I'm so sorry!" Artie says. "It's just…it's not like I can get out of this chair and get in your face. Are you okay?"
He rubs his shin, because it really does hurt and it's not like he's losing face with Artie apologizing like it's his job. "I'm fine but what was that for?" This time, Artie looks less guilty and more disappointed and Puck sighs because the kid doesn't have to open his mouth for him to know what this is all about. "Let me guess. You know about Quinn."
Artie still looks disappointed but he doesn't look angry. He mostly looks sad and a little embarrassed to be talking about this at all. "Finn is your friend," he says softly. "Take it from someone who's spent most of his life alone: friends, especially good friends, don't come easily. You can't keep something like this from him."
He's annoyed, because his shin hurts and Artie still doesn't know he tried to steal the bake sale money for his baby mama and baby girl, and he doesn't deserve to lay this guilt trip on him. He's tired of taking all the blame too. First Mercedes, then Kurt, now Artie; it's not fair that everyone is rallying around Quinn but trying to beat the crap out of him. "You know, Quinn cheated on Finn too," he says and kind of hates himself for selling her out, but it's the truth. They both betrayed Finn; he shouldn't have to bear the burden alone.
Artie nods. "She doesn't get a free pass, but you're his best friend. You're always supposed to make the right choice."
The bell rings before he can defend himself and Artie turns to wheel himself to class, but that disappointed expression remains on his face. Puck tries to ignore it, but every time he attempts to focus in math class (he's trying to pass on his own merit, be the dad his daughter needs), all he can see is that guilt staring back at him.
Thing is, Artie's right. Santana made it clear enough herself: at the end of the day, it's always the friend's betrayal that hurts the most.
Halfway through class he falls back on old habits and tells his teacher he has a headache.
He naps away the rest of the day, math and history and Spanish, but heads to his locker after school to get his stuff together for glee. He's just straightening up when a shadow falls over him and Tina appears with a cherry slushie gripped in one hand. After the week he's had he just closes his eyes and is thankful he has an extra shirt in his gym bag.
A second passes and then another and after like ten seconds he opens his eyes and Tina's still there holding the cup so tightly it's starting to change shapes and her mouth is trembling in a way that means she's probably going to cry and he sighs inwardly because he doesn't like her much (correction – he doesn't know her much) but he's still going to be stuck with a crying girl.
She surprises him when she doesn't throw the slushie at him. "I can't," she whispers. "I can't do to you what people did to me, but I want to. You should hurt for what you did to Finn."
This time, he can't help but laugh (and there's humor in it). "Wow. Finn must really be the last to know."
Tina doesn't smile but she does look relieved that he didn't grab the cup from her hand and upend it over her head. "You need to tell him. It's not fair what you're doing."
The slushie trembles in her hand but she doesn't throw it in his face. Instead, she holds it out, like some sort of peace offering even though Finn's the one he's wronged.
His fingers start to go numb from gripping the cup but he doesn't really notice. He mostly watches Tina walk down the hall and hopes Finn will give him the same forgiveness.
Quinn has a panic attack during second period the morning after they fight about the sexting with Santana.
He's not there to see it but he hears about it during lunch: how Quinn fell, how she couldn't breathe, how Rachel Berry was with her in the bathroom when it happened and rode with her to the hospital, how she might have lost the baby he already loves more than anything else in the world. He waits to call, because he remembers the hate in her eyes during their fight and the sadness in her smile during "True Colors," and he doesn't want to hurt her more. He doesn't think he can hear any more disappointment in someone's voice.
Thing is, he loves his baby girl and when the moment is right he thinks he loves his baby mama too. They're kind of his world and he can't pretend he isn't worried. He can't pretend he doesn't care. He can't pretend he doesn't feel guilty about the Santana mess and everything he said afterwards. It just kind of came pouring out. Everyone seemed to know and it was only a matter of time before Finn figured out the truth and he knew he'd take the fall himself. Finn had always been good at following the leader. Everyone had already painted him as the bad guy; he knows Finn will follow suit. He'd rather cut Quinn loose than make her life worse than it already is.
He knows these things about himself. He knows he lies and he knows he cheats and he knows he manages to make the absolute worst choice every single time, but he still doesn't think he's a bad person. Not fucked up bad like Sandy Ryerson or crazy bad like Mr. Schue's nutjob of a wife, just kind of bad when he's all out of options. Like with Santana. The world was about to implode. He had to make Quinn hate him; he had to make her hate him so Finn wouldn't hate her.
He knows he shouldn't call her, because it's probably his fault she freaked out in the first place, but this week has been all about face time with the ugliest parts of himself; if he could get through that, he can find the balls to make sure his girls are okay.
Quinn doesn't pick up the phone. It rings once and it rings twice and in the back of his mind he wonders if Finn has seen the incoming number and put it all together, so he gets the true shock of his life (more than the morning he woke up and his dad was gone and never coming back) when it's Rachel Berry's voice that answers.
"Noah," she says sharply and he double checks his phonebook to make sure he didn't screw up and dig his own grave. "It's after 10:00. You shouldn't be calling this late."
"Where's Quinn, Berry?" he asks just as sharply because it's late and he's worried and kind of terrified the world has ended. Quinn spending time with Rachel? It's just not possible.
"She's sleeping. Which is what I'd like to be doing if you weren't making inappropriate phone calls. You know, it's recommended that the average teenager get ten hours of sleep a night and while that's just not possible, there's no reason I shouldn't get a least eight if you – "
"Why are you answering Quinn's phone?" he cuts through because all these words are making his head hurt, ache more than it already does from the guilt pounding around inside it.
"She's staying with me from now on," Rachel says and something pinches his chest because this is kind of his worst nightmare. He'll never be able to work things out with Quinn with Rachel playing gatekeeper. She pauses, for a couple seconds too long, and he knows it can't mean anything good. "Quinn told me the truth," Rachel says. "Get some sleep, Noah. We have a lot to discuss tomorrow."
He doesn't sleep that night because every time he closes his eyes he sees the worst possible scenario: he sees himself breaking Finn's heart.
The next morning, he avoids Rachel like she has swine flu. He ducks into the bathroom when he sees her in the hallway and fakes another headache during Spanish and skips lunch rather than face her down with the entire school to see.
Unfortunately, he can't avoid Mercedes, which sucks, because he's never hit a girl before in his life but he's really tempted to lay one right between her eyes because she can't keep her big mouth shut and it's making him so tense he feels like he could explode if anyone else tells him what a terrible person he is.
"Puck," she says and stops right in front of him so he can't move, can't get around her without knocking over Artie or Tina. Artie's kind of his friend; he's better than shoving a kid in a wheelchair. "We're putting together a cd for Quinn to cheer her up and we could really use your help."
Her words are fresh in his mind, back off and don't make things worse, but he did the group sing thing during "Keep Holding On" *and* "Lean On Me" and he's really sick and tired of everyone rallying around Quinn and acting like this isn't happening to him too. They all know now; he might not need help but he wouldn't mind if they stopped treating him like dirt beneath their shoes.
"I'm fresh out of support," he says. "You told me to back off and I am. I'm done with group sings."
He moves to get away from them but Artie is too fast and his wheelchair skids to a halt right in front of his shins. He knows from experience not to try again. "It's just one song, Puck," Artie says softly. "You owe her."
"I owe her nothing," he bites out and doesn't bother masking the anger in his voice. He's tired, so tired, of everyone saying this is all on him.
"We know about Santana," Tina says and he feels his cheeks flush. He looks at the ground rather than the knowing looks on their faces. "Quinn's pregnant and scared and you let her down."
"She won't even let me tell people the truth," he defends himself but the words sound weak, pathetic, like this entire crew before glee made them a part of something – made him a part of something.
It's Mercedes who makes the best case. "I know I told you to back off, but I was wrong." He keeps listening, mostly because he likes her admitting she's wrong, but also because he knows these people are still right. "Finn is going crazy dealing with something that's not his problem. It doesn't matter what she wants." She looks sad for a second, just a second, before that proud, black woman look reappears on her face and he, again, has to resist the urge to take a step back. "When you care about someone, really care about someone, you do what's right instead of what you want. If you won't man up and make Finn's life worth living again, sing the damn song. It's the least you can do."
He weighs his options as they disappear: tell the truth or keep up the lie.
Lying has always been one of his specialties. He's always taken the easy route. There's no reason to change things now.
He has trouble choosing a song. Nothing on his iPod sounds right and he can't decide if it's because Radiohead isn't pick-me-up music or he just hates this so much. He's all about taking care of his girls and putting his family first, but he's tired of the lies.
He's used to being on the short end of the stick – he is Finn's best friend and always in the QB's shadow – but he deserved it then. It took two to tango and make his baby girl. He's tired of Quinn getting all the love while he gets all the hate.
He flips through sheet music Mr. Schue left behind and "True Colors" is right on top. He wanted to do something new for this care package from hell but he's all out of options.
The arrangement is easy enough and he picks up the chords after a few tries. He even sings along to the first verse, his voice rough where Tina's was smooth, but he thinks it sounds okay.
"You, with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh, I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world, full of people, you can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you can make you feel so small"
He swallows hard at the end of the first verse and concentrates on just the guitar. All week people have been pushing him to do the right thing and he's run as fast as his feet can carry him. He's not a bad person, but sometimes he's not a brave person. It takes someone bigger, better than him to always make the right choice.
He keeps going, repeating chords to make sure he has everything right, when a voice breaks through, loud and clear and so beautiful it kind of makes his chest ache.
"If this world makes you crazy and you've taken all you can bear
You call me up because you know I'll be there."
His hands still on the guitar and he keeps his eyes staring straight ahead because he knows without seeing that there will be disappointment in her eyes and he can't take it, not today, especially not right now. "What do you want, Rachel?" he asks and hope she picks up on the annoyance in his voice and disappears.
She's Rachel Berry, so the last thing she does is run, and she sits down beside him on the riser and turns to face him. "I told you we need to talk."
He keeps his eyes anywhere but her face. "Nothing to talk about. Me and Quinn are none of your business."
She sighs but she doesn't leave. She's Rachel Berry; giving up isn't something she understands. "Your relationship with Quinn is your business, but the lying to Finn is mine. He's my friend. I can't in good conscience keep a secret like this from him."
"Then don't. Tell him. See if I care."
She pauses but doesn't stop, and even reaches over to lay a hand on his. Her skin is soft and warm and it feels good, so good he almost lets go of his guitar pick and laces his fingers through hers. He doesn't like her, not that way at least, but he likes that someone is on his side. "You can't lie to me, Noah. I know you want Quinn. I'm guessing you want your baby too. The only thing holding you back is Finn but you won't cross that bridge. I know you care because if you didn't you'd have told Finn the truth the moment you found out Quinn was pregnant."
It's close enough to the truth so that he doesn't have to say much to confirm it. "He's my best friend." He leaves it unsaid that he's also his only friend.
"I know, and if he's a true friend, he'll forgive you. Maybe not immediately, but eventually he'll realize that you're human and we all make mistakes."
He finally looks at her because she's totally lying to him. Rachel Berry doesn't make mistakes. She always knows exactly what she's doing (and probably has the next ten moves planned out too). "Bullshit."
She pauses again and takes a deep breath, like he did before he confronted Quinn that day after football practice. "I kissed Finn. Twice. It was before I found out about Quinn and the baby but I did it all the same." She lets the words hang in the air for a moment or two and he's grateful when she keeps talking because it's kind of making his head spin. "I made a mistake and I made it more than once, but I'm not a bad person. We all do bad things sometimes but they don't define who we are." She's the one to lace her fingers through his and squeeze tight. "You made a mistake but you can fix it. Finn is your best friend. You need to be the one to tell him."
"I can't," he whispers and kind of wants to kill himself because he can feel tears pricking his eyes with Rachel Berry as a witness, but he doesn't think she'll tell anyone, not after the confession she just laid on him.
He thinks of promise to Quinn – My dad might be a deadbeat but I don't roll that way – he knows she'll never let him near his baby girl if he blows her plan to hell. "I can't be my dad," he confesses and looks at the ground again because he knows she'll keep his secret but there's no way in hell he's letting Rachel Berry see him cry. "It's more than Finn hating me. Quinn will ice me out. I promised to be there for her and I need to keep that promise."
"What about your promise to Finn?"
She's not computing. He can remember, clear as day, when he told Quinn he'd keep her and his baby safe. He never said anything like that to Finn. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
Her hand is still gripping his and it squeezes tighter, so tight his fingers kind of hurt, but he doesn't pull away. His entire life has been all about him; he can let someone else come first for once. "He's your friend, Noah. It's not a bond to be taken lightly. When you made that pledge to be his friend, his best friend, you promised to have his best interests at heart. How can you do that when you're keeping this lie?"
He doesn't have an answer for her, not the one she wants to hear anyway, because he's known, known all along, the answer to her question. He knows how this story has to end. He just doesn't know if he'll ever find the balls to do it.
She clears her throat and pulls her hand from his, smoothes down her skirt and shakes out her hair and releases that glorious voice.
"I see your true colors and what's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show…"
She bends and presses a kiss to his forehead. "I dated you, Noah," she reminds him. "It didn't work out, but I have standards. I saw something in you then and it's still there. Don't let me down."
Her footsteps echo all the way to the door.
His fingers shake on the guitar as he finishes the song and his voice kind of breaks on the last verse.
"Your true colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow."
He thinks, finally, that he gets it. He's no hero but he's not the villain either. There's only one person he's hated his entire life, only one person he refuses to ever be. His dad walked out because he wasn't man enough to do the right thing but he's better than that.
There's still only one ending to this story and he needs to be the one to write the final chapter.
The next day, he asks Finn to meet him in the choral room during lunch. He makes up an excuse about practicing a new arrangement for "True Colors" with drums and guitar and Finn bites without question because that's the kind of person he is. It's the kind of person Puck knows he should be and sometimes wants to be, but he won't let it get him down. Today he's being the person he needs to be.
He doesn't eat breakfast and spends most of the day with his stomach in his throat. He wonders if it's how Quinn's felt every day since she learned about the baby; it feels awful but he suffers through the way she did.
His feet feel heavier with every step he takes down the hallway and his shoulders ache he doesn't stop moving. He keeps going the way his dad couldn't.
He gets there a little late and Finn's already seated, his face bright and eager. He winces inwardly because he knows he'll be the one to wipe that smile from his face. He stops in the doorway and takes a deep breath, grips the door jamb for a second but forces himself to let go. He's not going to run.
He closes the door and becomes the man his father wasn't but the man he wants to be.
"Finn, we need to talk."
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