Author's Notes: For becca_radcgg, who demanded a Puck/Finn bromance and instead got Finn/toothbrush.
all these roads, but they all point home
Two days after Sectionals, Finn finds a pink toothbrush crammed into the back corner of his locker. Which is weird, because Finn doesn't usually bring a toothbrush with him to school, and definitely not a pink one. At least, he doesn't think he has a pink one, but then again, his mom buys all that stuff, so maybe she bought it?
But that doesn't explain how it got there, because why would his Mom buy him a toothbrush only to bring it to school and leave it in his locker? And why wouldn't she tell him about it? And why would she buy him a pink toothbrush when she knows he likes purple?
Finn puts the toothbrush back in his locker. Maybe he put it there himself, to remind him of something. He doesn't want to take the toothbrush out now and then forget to do whatever he's forgotten he was reminding himself of.
When he goes back to his locker to drop off his books and grab his car keys, the toothbrush is still where. And, well, duh, he knew it would be, but for some reason the little pink thing just sitting in the bottom of his locker, it like, bugs him, because he just can't figure out why he would have put a toothbrush in his locker. It's such a weird place to put a toothbrush.
And, seriously. It's pink.
He's just sort of standing there staring at it, wondering what kind of devious plans that toothbrush might have if it was sentient, because who knows. Maybe it is sentient. Finn's not prejudiced against stuff that doesn't move — inanimate objects, a voice in his head that sounds sort of like Rachel and sort of like Quinn and sort of like Ponch from CHiPs, which is weird — so, hey. Maybe toothbrushes have feelings, too.
But that gets him to thinking about how sad a toothbrush's life would be, you know? Not doing anything but having gross, sticky gel put on you and then having to scratch at peoples' gross teeth. And maybe he's still kind of unstable about the whole not my baby thing because of the Quinn cheated on me thing and the WITH PUCK thing, but still, suddenly he just really feels bad for this particular toothbrush, because it's probably done nothing but faithfully brush people's teeth its whole life and try to love its toothpaste girlfriend and take care of some teeth together and then someone just decides that all that hard work isn't good enough and drops it off in some stranger's locker so its toothpaste girlfriend has to find comfort in the arms of the floss.
Since his primary suspect is his mother, Finn goes to her first. His mom's pretty sneaky, though, and if this toothbrush is supposed to represent some greater lesson, she's not just going to come out and tell him. She'll wait until he proves that he understands what this toothbrush means, you know, what it represents.
Like, the mailman he hit when he was first learning to drive, that represents his anger at his father for leaving. So the lesson is Don't Drive When Angry.
He leaves the toothbrush on the kitchen table and waits for her to say something, even just casually. He can always tell when his mother is subtly trying to tell him stuff, because she's not that great at it.
But when he comes down for breakfast, she's holding the toothbrush with this quizzical look on her face and asks, "Finn? Why was this on the kitchen table? Did you have Quinn over last night?"
And he tries to tell her that no, of course he didn't, because Quinn lied to him and cheated on him and is having Puck's baby, but she has that weird, sad look that she got the night he told her the baby wasn't his, that Quinn had lied, that Puck had lied. Finn's never been good at lying, so he guesses that's why he was so attracted to the biggest liars in the state. Anyway, he just says, "No. I found it in my locker."
She raises an eyebrow at him and hands him some pancakes on a napkin. "Why'd you put a toothbrush in your locker? Is this a rebellion thing? Are you lashing out? Because now's not a great time to lash out, honey, I am just so booked with work. Maybe we can do it later?"
"I'm not lashing out," Finn promises. "It's just a toothbrush. I just found it. Maybe it was Quinn's and she forgot it or something."
His Mom gets that sad look again, so he changes the subject and asks for the butter. Spreads and sugary things always make his Mom smile.
He takes to carrying about the toothbrush in his backpack, because he doesn't know what else to do with it. Putting it in the bathroom seems like a really big commitment, and Finn's … kind of out commitment lately.
It strikes him on the way to glee that putting random toothbrushes in peoples' lockers seems like the weird sort of mating ritual kind of thing that Rachel would do, so he catches up with her afterward and hands it over.
Rachel's big eyes blink at him, slow and bewildered, and Finn remembers a time when that look made his insides warm and his downstairs twitchy but now all he can think of is that time that he and Puck accidentally (well, on Finn's part) burned down the lower school playground and Puck somehow managed to convince the police that some kids from McArthur had done it. "I don't think that I understand exactly what you're offering, Finn," Rachel says after a beat. "Is this some kind of ritual that escaped my admittedly limited knowledge of social networking? Because I've researched extensively on gender relations in adolescents and while the exchange of possessions, such as a ring or a jacket of some kind, is quite common, I've never heard of a toothbrush." Then she pauses thoughtfully. "Oh. Are you making fun of me?"
He can tell she's about to get upset and launch into another one of her long it's-not-my-fault-Quinn-lied-to-you-don't-get-mad-just-because-I-gave-you-the-message tangents, so he hastily shakes his head. "What? No. No, I'm not making fun of you. I thought … um … I mean, I found this in my locker and … I don't know, you do weird stuff all the time so I thought maybe you had, like, put it there."
"You thought I'd put a toothbrush in your locker? But why?"
"I don't know! Why would I know?"
"Why would I know?"
Finn can tell that his conversation's going downhill fast, like most of his conversations with Rachel. Puck had said that Rachel's problem was that she had too many thoughts. That was why she talked so much. Puck said that he tried to think as little as possible, so that when he did think he knew it was important. But Rachel thought all the time, so she could never tell the difference and just told people everything.
Finn had told Puck that he was just retarded, and then Puck had said that his face was retarded, which was Puck's standard comeback for everything.
Rachel shakes her head at him and sighs. "Relationships are hard," she says, and turns to go.
"Hey, wait!" Finn grabs her wrist and then hesitates. "Um. You still have … you know. The toothbrush."
Rachel frowns down at it. "Oh. Do you want it back?"
"I mean. I guess so. It's mine, technically, right?"
"But what are you going to do with it? Do you not have a toothbrush at home? Finn, need I remind you that personal hygiene is one of the most important human functions? Particularly dental, and if you're even thinking about becoming a performer, well — "
Finn hastily grabs the toothbrush and flees. Rachel's still hot, but she also scares him sometimes, and he doesn't want to have to explain why it's of utmost important that this toothbrush gets back to where it belongs. She probably wouldn't understand the thing about the floss.
For a while, Finn gets kind of caught up in glee and school. After Sectionals, Mr. Schue has them working overtime on their songs for Regionals, and Finn's the lead on one of them so he has to stay after every second practice. Not much time for a toothbrush in the face of that.
Lately Mr. Schue has been really nice to him, even more than usual. Finn figures it's probably because of the baby thing, and also probably, as Puck would put it, he was sticking it to Miss Pillsbury. Finn wouldn't know personally, but Puck always said that nothing put a smile on a man's face like good sex.
Finn isn't sure that is true, though, because Puck has a lot of sex but doesn't smile that often. He doesn't even laugh much, except when he's with Finn, and mostly Finn thinks that's because Puck doesn't think that laughing is, like, cool.
Whatever. It doesn't matter. They aren't friends anymore so Puck can be a pouty jerk for the rest of his life and Finn wouldn't care.
Anyway, it's at one of these little after-parties that Finn shows Mr. Schue the toothbrush. "It's weird," he says, "but I just, like. I really want to find out where it came from, you know? It's been driving me crazy."
Mr. Schue didn't say anything for a long time, and when he finally looked at Finn he had this really pained expression on his face. "You know, Finn… after I left Terri, I'd wake up sometimes in the middle of the night feeling like I'd lost something. And I'd start looking, during the day, trying to figure out what it was that I'd lost. But… it wasn't something that could just be found, do you understand?"
And Finn's like … no? But Mr. Schue looks really serious about this, and Finn knows how intensely Mr. Schue wants him to understand, so he nods a couple of times and swallows once. "Yeah, Mr. Schue. Yeah. Thanks."
He hurries out, and tucks the toothbrush into his pocket.
He hasn't really felt up to talking to Quinn since the whole … lying thing, and he can't decide if he likes that she's been respecting that or if it just makes him more sad because she obviously doesn't care enough to bother fighting him on it. (But she'd been crying when he found out, and that meant something, didn't it? Right?) Even Puck's been, like … weirdly mature, nodding at him instead of trying to bully him into just being best friends again.
Usually when they fight, Puck shows up at his house after his Mom's gone to sleep and he's got a bag of weed in one hand and a six pack of beer in the other, and Finn doesn't really smoke because Quinn says it makes him "even more stupid" and drinking makes him dizzy, so Puck gets them all to himself. Then Puck'll say, "Wanna hit me?"
And Finn always sighs and shakes his head and says no. Come on in. Then they play Xbox for four hours until he destroys Puck in Halo because the weed and the alcohol makes his hand-eye coordination really bad. And that's that.
But, like, Halo and beer can't fix this sort of thing, you know?
Still. He keeps waiting, sort of, for one of them to break down and be like, "Finn, we messed up, we need you, you're our best friend, we love you" but without the we and instead with an I. He knows Puck won't say any of those things out loud, but he does this thing where he shrugs and says, "Man, you're such a fucking girl," and Finn knows that's basically the same thing.
But they don't. They just look at him and stay away.
Anyway. Since he doesn't want to talk to Quinn, he does the next best, if not slightly more terrifying, thing.
Santana's always fifteen minutes early to the Cheerio practice ever since she got promoted to captain. She's even scarier now, and every day one of the girls ends up crying. It's usually Emily, the new freshman. Santana doesn't like freshman (or puppies or people in general).
He sits on the bleacher in front of her so that she can't miss him but he doesn't have to look at her, either. Instead, he just holds the toothbrush up and waits for her to say something like oh yeah, Quinn was asking me to get that for her, whoops.
But instead she makes him wait five minutes and then snaps, "What, you showed me yours, now you want to see mine?"
Finn kind of fumbles in his haste to put the toothbrush away and turn around. "What?! No! No, I — I found this in my locker. I thought maybe it was Quinn's. Has she … has she said anything to you about it? Like maybe she left it at my house or something? It's pink, and she likes pink, so. It could be. You know. Her pink toothbrush."
Santana looks at him with that flat gaze that Puck used to call her Bitch Stare. "You're so fucking stupid, Finn," she says, rolling her eyes. "A girl never leaves her toothbrush somewhere accidentally. If she left it in your locker, it was for a very specific purpose, and no way am I getting my shit mixed up with her crazy bitch ass drama."
He'd argue that he's not stupid, but arguing with Santana's never a good idea. "So you won't ask her for me," he translates.
"What do I look like, a fucking Blackberry? BBM on your own damn time. Now leave me alone, can't you see I'm busy? Jesus Christ. You people with your problems all the time, it's like a CW drama without the fucking vampires."
Finn's … really not clear on what that means, but he knows a dismissal when he sees one, so he bolts.
Brittany's way nicer and less scary, but all she does is blink at him when he asks about the toothbrush. She has this pen that her Dad bought for her birthday that's weighted at the end and spins in circles. She's been making designs on her notebooks all day. "Do I have something in my teeth?" she asks, and then, adds thoughtfully, "I wonder what the shelf life of sweet potatoes would be if they came in a can. Unless … do they come in a can? Finn, how do you grow cans?"
"I don't know," Finn says thoughtfully. "I don't think you grow cans. I think you grow the sweet potatoes and then put them in cans."
They both sit for a while and think about it.
They do a show just for the parents as a pre-run for Regionals. Finn's mom is there, but Quinn's parents aren't, so afterwards Quinn goes to stand by herself at the refreshment table and knocks back lemonade like it's been spiked.
His Mom has to leave early, and she touches Quinn's shoulder as she passes, which makes Quinn's eyes get bright and her hands shake. And Finn's just, not good at watching girls cry, you know? So he walks over and takes a deep breath and totally means to say something like, you sang good or whatever, but what comes out is, "Um, did you leave a pink toothbrush in my locker?"
Quinn gapes at him. "I … what?"
"A pink toothbrush. I found one in my locker and I'm sort of trying to figure out where it came from."
There's a long pause, and then she takes a sharp breath. "No. Kurt's Dad sort of freaked out the first day that I was staying there and bought me all that stuff."
Finn's eyebrows go way up and he forgets to be mad when he asks, "Wait, you're staying with Kurt?"
She shrugs, not looking at him and playing with the rim on her cup. "Yeah. I didn't … I mean, it wasn't like there were a whole lot of places for me to go."
"But — Puck!"
He tries not to let himself get mad, but really, this was why Puck could never be a responsible father, he did stuff like not let his pregnant girlfriend stay with him. Finn just didn't understand why anybody wouldn't ... Quinn was frowning at him. Wait, when had he messed up? "We didn't … I mean, we thought it might … you know. Give the wrong impression."
"The impression that you were carrying his baby?"
It still sort of hurts to say, and Quinn winces when he does it, but Finn's finally got a weapon against her, and … and he had never wanted one before, but maybe everyone needs something to defend themselves with. "You know that's not what I mean," she snaps at him, and there's the Quinn he knows and —just, there's the Quinn he knows. "And if you're too stupid to figure out that I chose between the two of you months ago then I don't know why I waste any time on you at all, you big idiot."
She spins on her heel and waddles away, and even though she looks sort of absurd trying to walk quickly when her stomach is weighing her down and her feet are swollen, Finn still thinks she's beautiful, in this weird, fat sort of way.
He kind of gives up on the toothbrush thing after that. He guesses it was just some weird fluke. Maybe his locker had been unlocked and someone shoved it in for a joke. Maybe he'd won it in a Happy Meal and just forgot. Maybe he'd bought it as a gift for, like, a homeless person or something. Homeless people could definitely use toothbrushes. Although, he guesses that he didn't think it through very far, because they'd also need toothpaste and some sinks. Or water. Or maybe a bathroom.
Though if they had a bathroom, then they'd probably have a house, which would mean they weren't homeless, and could buy their own toothbrushes.
So … to solve homelessness, you just needed to … make sure everyone had bathrooms.
He keeps the toothbrush in his backpack, just in case, and takes it out to play with sometimes. He doesn't really know why.
Anyway, he's got it in his hands while the McKinley Lower School performs their version of Little Red Riding Hood, and Puck's always been a crappy big brother so he doesn't say anything to his little sister Sarah afterward. But Finn guesses she's pretty used to his tough love tactics, because she marches up to him after the show and demands, "Tell me if it was good and don't lie or I will punch you."
Puck shakes his head at her. "Your stupid play didn't make me want to kill myself, I guess. Now go away, noodle head."
Sarah beams and even Finn cracks a smile, because that's Puck's way of saying you were good and I'm proud of you.
Then she comes over to Finn and climbs onto him for a hug and asks, "So, whadya think?"
"It was great," he says. "You were the scariest wolf ever."
"Noah liked it," Sarah informs him. "So it must have been amazing." Then she pauses and frowns at him and asks, "Hey, what are you doing with my toothbrush?"
Finn startles and looks down. "This is yours?" he asks, jaw dropping.
"Yeah. I forgot it at a sleepover so Noah was going to bring it back to me. Why do you have it?"
Finn opens his mouth but he doesn't know what he's going to say, because really, he has no idea. Then Puck comes up behind him and says, "I put it in your locker a while ago. I guess I forgot to get it back."
Sarah shrugs and scrambles down, going to bask in the glory of her classmates' adoration, and Finn awkwardly holds the toothbrush out to Puck. "Oh. Well. Here you go."
Puck takes it and nods once, sharply. "Thanks. I, uh. I remember that Santana said it had been bugging you. Sorry. I would have said something, I just…" He brings a hand up to scratch the back of his neck.
"Yeah," Finn says.
There's a long pause and then Puck turns abruptly and starts to walk away. Finn kind of wants to punch him and kind of wants to cry, so he just sits on the bleachers and thinks about how he's really got to stop getting so invested in things that don't stick around, like girls and best friends and toothbrushes.
Then suddenly Puck is walking toward him with this really angry look on his face, and Finn is pretty sure that he's going to get punched.
But instead, Puck grips his shoulders and hisses, "Listen, you stupid fuck, you can be mad at me all you want but don't look so Goddamn sad about it!"
Finn's like, what?
"Jesus, Finn, you retard. When someone does something wrong, you have to be angry about it, not all wounded like a kicked puppy! How do you think you're going to fucking survive if you let people hurt you all the damn time?" He shakes his head in disgust. "Between you and Berry it's like a float in the fucking Hurt Parade."
He lets go roughly and mutters, "Jesus, you're such a fucking girl," before he walks away again, this time stiff and angry and Finn realizes that the toothbrush is still sitting on the bleachers and suddenly he's like: ohh.
He'd always understood Puck before, and he's not really sure why it took him so long to get it this time, but he grabs the toothbrush and runs outside. Puck's kicking his tires because, in his own words, "it's better than kicking babies". Finn was never really sure what that meant, because, um, most things are better than kicking babies, but… whatever.
"I'm sorry," Finn says.
Puck stops kicking things and turns to look at him. "What?"
"I'm sorry," Finn says again. "I didn't… I mean… I know that it sucked for you too. Not that … you were still wrong, dude. You really messed up."
Puck doesn't look at him. "I know," he says. "Look, man, it was just — things were all fucked up, you know?"
Finn nods. He figures he can still be angry, but Finn's not all that good at being angry and it mostly just makes him sad. He guesses Puck's rules just don't apply, to him. "Your face is fucked up," he says.
Puck looks up, and meets his eyes, and grins. "I've got some weed in my truck," he tells him.
"Weed makes me act like even more of an idiot," Finn answers, but Puck's already tossing him the keys and getting in.
"More for me," Puck says, cheerfully. "You coming?" When Finn hesitates, Puck says again, "Come on, Hudson. Don't be such a girl all the time."
He should probably get back inside and go to his fifth period English class, but Finn gets in the truck.
He sets the toothbrush on the dash and forgets it there.