Author's Note: I started writing this after Hairography, so it doesn't take any of the events from Mattress or Sectionals into consideration.


He closed the curtain and let out a sigh. The apartment he had found last-minute, near the school but not so near that it felt like he was living there, was small and overlooked a row of dumpsters from the Chinese restaurant next door. The smell of rotting duck wafted up from below. A part of him missed the smells of home, the simple smell of home-cooked food, or perfume - perfume belonging to the person who had betrayed the implicit trust they had shared, he mentally added - maybe the duck wasn't so bad after all.

Easing down onto his bed, which doubled as a couch for the time being - until they could work out who got what and whether this was a temporary thing or more permanent - he buried his head in his hands. The worst part of this was that he realized how much Terri, for better or for worse, had been a major stabilizing force in his life, and to remove the stabilizing force spun him out of control. Sure, he had thrown himself head-first into glee, and creating lesson plans for the next two school years, and thinking of songs they could learn for the future, after sectionals were over. But he was so used to climbing into bed at the end of the night and having her there next to him, that it felt...empty without her.

Plus he was fairly certain that Rachel either knew that his mind was elsewhere, or would know soon. She was scary like that sometimes.

He reached over to the upturned box that served as his coffee table and pulled the stack of ungraded Spanish tests toward him. At least if he had to be alone, he could lose himself in a world of verb conjugations, where once everything was set forward, change was slow and gradual and you could trust that the conjugations of jugar would be the same today as it was five years ago and would be five years from now. Not that verbs would lie to him, anyway...

A while later, he was unsure if it was a few minutes or a few hours, he looked up from the last of the tests, red ink smeared against his palm. He blinked rapidly, readjusting to not staring at student tests. From somewhere near his door, he heard a faint scratching sound. Or what he was thinking was a scratching sound. Maybe it was the dog that his neighbor kept even though part of their lease stipulated that pets were not allowed in the apartments. Ever. Though, if it was supposed to be some sort of secret, it was the worst kept secret in all of Lima.

Was this what he had been reduced to? Eavesdropping on his neighbors and their ongoing struggles for cheap entertainment? As he switched off the lamp light and eased under the covers, casting the apartment into darkness, he hoped that sleep would come fast tonight and steal him away into the land of dreams. Away from this life he had been forced into.


The next night, he drove around for hours until he was nearly out of gas. He thought it was nearly, anyway, since he was almost delirious from fatigue by the time he pulled into his parking spot. For all he knew, it could have been a full tank.

As he made his way up to his apartment, he spotted something – or perhaps a very small someone – crouched by his door. "Hello?" he asked, moving into the light.

"You're home." The voice was all too familiar to him, and as the figure stood up and walked into the light next to him, he could see that it was Emma.

"You were waiting for me?"

She nodded. "I didn't want to sit on the ground, not knowing what has been along here recently. So I hovered."

Of course she'd hover. He was nearly surprised that she hadn't been like Little Miss Muffet and had a portable tuffet that she carried around with her – if they even sold tuffets these days, that is. But he presumed that if anyone he knew would not only know how to procure a tuffet but would have one on them, it would be Emma. But barring that, she'd hover, or crouch, or whatever word one wanted to use to describe her position.

He unlocked his door and turned to her. "Come on in."


A few moments later, as she sat on the one chair in the apartment and he sat on his mattress, she asked the question that had been prodding at her mind for quite some time. "What's going on with you and Terri?" There was clearly a reason why he wasn't living at home, and even though she knew well enough that he wasn't living at home – otherwise she wouldn't have known where to find him in the first place, if he hadn't mentioned his new living arrangements that day on their lunch break – she didn't know anything about it.

"She was lying about being pregnant." He buried his head in his hands.

"Oh?"

"So I'm working things out while living in the cheapest apartment in this entire town, and we'll see where it goes from there."

She was taken aback. "So, you and Terri…"

"Damn it, Emma, I loved my wife, and I was willing to make it work. And then she throws it all away on this lie. Five years of marriage, down the drain."

"I should probably go," she said, getting up from the chair and making her way over to the door.

"Emma," he said, looking up at her, his eyes watering over with unfallen tears. "I don't want to be alone."

"What do you want me to do then?" she asked, sitting down on the mattress next to him, rubbing her palm along the contours of his back in a comforting manner.

"Stay with me," he whispered, leaning on her shoulder and looking up at her. His eyes pleaded with her silently, nearly begging for her to abide by his simple request.

"I will." She couldn't leave him there, and as the tears fell from his eyes and she whispered comforting turns of phrase in his ear as she held him close, allowing the tears to fall onto her sweater – she'd deal with the inevitable tear stains later, there were more important things to tend to at the moment - she knew that although she wasn't the one he was in love with, she was providing what he needed right now. And for now, that was all that mattered.

-fini-