Hello readers! Another round of sincere thanks for all the reviews on my last couple of stories. A number of people have requested more stories featuring Artie and Tina, and I am more than happy to do that. I'm going to hold off until after next week's episode, though, because my TV Guide indicates that "Theatricality" is vaguely focused on Tina, so I want to wait and make sure whatever I write isn't a direct contradiction to whatever happens on the show.
This story was a labor of love/hate to write: some of it flowed really easily, and some of it was almost painful to get through, I had so much trouble. It does feature some rather sensitive material treated in a not particularly sensitive manner (Finn's narrating) so I'd suggest skipping the 4th section, if you're so disinclined.
I would really like to borrow Glee for a bit, but my letter writing campaign is so far unsuccessful.
When Finn reflected on the events leading up to Saturday night, he was convinced that there was no way he could have predicted the whole affair in advance. He'd definitely noticed that everybody had been acting kinda weird lately, sure. Even now that Puck had told him the whole story, though, each situation still seemed pretty unrelated to him. And for once, it wasn't just him being an idiot—Finn was pretty sure that even Kurt and Artie would have been surprised at the events of Saturday evening, and they were definitely smarter than him. Nah, he would have to be one of those super-smart detectives who could solve mysteries from the tiniest clue in order to have seen this one coming.
Like Sherlock Holmes, or Fox Mulder without the aliens and government conspiracy.
The point was, Finn didn't feel too stupid for not knowing ahead of time that he was going to become an accomplice to an underground crime ring. It was one of those things that just kind of happened.
The first indicator that something was up had happened about two weeks ago, but Finn didn't really pay much attention to it at the time.
Glee rehearsal was nearly over, and he wasn't really concentrating on what Mr. Schue was saying anymore. He was pretty hungry, and was having trouble deciding if it felt more like a pizza or burrito day. Besides, nothing really ever happened in the last ten minutes anyway, right? Except Rachel was yelling, and her voice was making that high, sort of screechy sound that meant he should probably figure out what she was talking about, just in case she was quitting or there was a dragon or something.
"…irresponsible and reckless and, quite frankly, dangerously hazardous in an environment where we are all performing such a fast paced routine. Any one of us could have pierced the sole of our foot and been put out of commission for weeks at a time with a severe nerve injury, absolutely ruining our chances for Regionals. Mr. Schuester, I would hope that after such potential for catastrophic devastation, you will be more vigilant about our working conditions."
Yeah, Finn had no idea what she was talking about. But it didn't sound like there was a dragon involved, so that was good at least.
When Mr. Schue said that they could go, Finn tossed his bag over his shoulder and walked out with Rachel, who was muttering under her breath about "negligence" and "suing for medical expenses" and "my gay dads". "Finn," she said suddenly, turning to him. "I know we don't know where the broken glass on the floor came from, but I do hope you'll be extra vigilant about checking your shoes when entering and exiting the choir room, just in case. You're a very talented singer, but your dancing is mediocre at best, and it would be terrible if an injury were to affect the amount of productive rehearsal time you were able to carry out between now and the weekend of the competition."
Finn was pretty sure he'd been insulted somewhere in there, but wasn't able to quite figure out which phrase was the offensive part. But then again, it was Rachel. She was always a little biting, but she was usually right, and did have his best interests at heart. And besides, she probably couldn't help that she was so crazy. Finn had long since come to the conclusion that she had just kind of come out that way. So he agreed to whatever it was she said, and went back to deciding what to eat. It was starting to feel like a burger kind of day.
In all fairness, 9:30 in the morning is way too early for any sort of logical thought. So it really wasn't Finn's fault that stumbling down the stairs at Kurt's house on Sunday morning didn't lead to any major epiphanies.
Finn and him mom had been spending a night or two each week at the Hummel's house. Originally he'd argued in favor of being able to stay home alone, but after setting off the smoke detector trying to microwave pizza the first night on his own, his mom decided he wasn't ready for that amount of responsibility yet. So when she stayed over, he did too. Kurt and his dad often came over to his house to eat dinner and watch TV in the evenings, but Kurt rarely stayed the night. It could have been because there was no place for him to sleep but the couch, or maybe it was because there was no way all of his beauty products could fit in the Hudson's sole bathroom. Finn didn't know. And as much as he wanted his mom to be happy, he certainly wasn't going to inquire about any aspect of their living situation—what if she took his interest as a sign that he'd be cool with spending even more time at the Hummel's? Because he wasn't.
Although to be fair, they did have a pretty sweet flat screen TV. And their guest room (which had mysteriously been redecorated and outfitted with new bedding Finn's third night there) was a lot bigger than Finn's closet bedroom.
Coffee. Finn's thinking was even more muddled than usual without coffee. Finn could never remember where the coffee mugs were in Kurt's kitchen, even after a month of sporadic sleepovers, and so began hunting through the overhead cabinets with a sigh. It was kind of weird: if he were awake, he knew he'd have no trouble remembering where the mugs were. But in order to be awake, he needed to find the mugs first.
Finn sighed again. He imagined this was King Arthur must have felt like when he was arguing about the swallows in that Monty Python movie.
"They're in the cupboard to the right of the sink." Kurt was sitting at the kitchen table, fully dressed and surrounded by paperwork. Finn nodded gratefully at him before retrieving a mug and pouring himself a coffee with like, a million sugars. Not that it mattered, but Kurt's coffee was way better than the stuff at his house. So good, in fact, that Finn had actually looked for it on the shelf the last time he was at the convenience store buying chips. He didn't find it, but he wasn't really surprised. He couldn't really picture Kurt in a 7-11 buying anything.
Kurt shifted some of the papers on the table to make room for Finn's coffee cup and bowl of cereal. Finn watched him punch numbers into a calculator, stopping only to switch papers and take notes on a yellow legal pad. He was wearing a pair of thin, silver framed glasses—"Calvin Klein, reading only. I never wear them to school; they do absolutely nothing for my face"—and his hair was more undone than Finn had ever seen it.
Now that Finn thought about it—must be the coffee kicking in, if he was capable of actual thought—there was something about Kurt this morning that just looked…off. He couldn't figure out what it was, exactly. He didn't look too happy, but neither would Finn if he were doing math homework on a Sunday morning. His clothes weren't quite as pressed and sharp as usual, but they looked like the kind of stuff Kurt would normally wear. In fact, it was exactly the stuff that Kurt would normally wear—Finn had seen him in that glossy grey vest last week. That was it.
Kurt Hummel was repeating an outfit. Kurt Hummel never repeated an outfit.
Finn didn't realize how long he'd been staring at Kurt until he felt his spoon scrape the bottom of his cereal bowl. And that was another thing—he was the one staring at Kurt. Usually Kurt had this slightly unnerving way of staring at him, like he thought Finn was a plate of nachos with extra crispy bacon on top or something. It used to make him a little uncomfortable, but he'd gotten used to it. So used to it, actually, that it was kind of uncomfortable for him now that Kurt wasn't looking at him at all. Hadn't looked up, in fact, since Finn had walked into the kitchen. Was Kurt mad at him? Finn mentally kicked himself for being such a girl, before recounting all of the stupid things he'd done in the last two days, even the ones he was sure Kurt couldn't possibly know about.
He'd only made it as far as yesterday afternoon—it was a really long list—when Kurt finally looked up from his papers. "You're awfully quite this morning, Finn Hudson. Is anything wrong?"
Finn froze. Well, not like, literally froze, because he was wearing sweatpants and it was pretty warm in the kitchen, and...whatever. He just wasn't quite sure how to answer the question. If he said that nothing was wrong, Kurt would know he was lying. But it wasn't like he could say something like, Well actually, Kurt, I kind of noticed you haven't looked at me once this morning. Which I only noticed because I've been staring at you not-staring at me for the past twenty minutes.
Yeah, nope. That wouldn't be awkward at all.
So instead, Finn seized on his observation from before. "Your vest," he said stupidly. This time, Kurt was the one who froze. Panicking a little at Kurt's expression, Finn immediately started backpedaling. "Not that I don't like it," he blundered, "I do. I've just never seen you wear the same clothes over again, and I remembered you wearing that vest because I remember thinking that it was cooler looking than Artie's, and that maybe you should take him shopping or something wherever you got it so that he could get cooler vests too. But then I thought maybe you'd already tried but Artie didn't want to go because there wasn't a ramp or maybe Tina liked the ones he already had or something, and I didn't want to say anything because I thought it might be rude." He paused. "Except I just did. Say something about it. Sorry."
Kurt's cheeks were tinged with red. "I'm…flattered that you noticed," he said delicately, then swallowed. "And, slightly mortified." Finn was pretty sure there wasn't a whole lot he could do to make Kurt feel better. Except, he wasn't entirely sure he knew what was bothering Kurt about wearing the same clothes twice anyway, and he kind of had the feeling that maybe Kurt thought he did.
So Finn did what he did best: He played the Big Dumb Idiot card.
"I didn't mean to upset you, I'm sorry," he said, his voice a lot more chipper than he actually felt. "It's a great vest; you should wear it more often. More coffee?" Kurt smiled gratefully and passed Finn his coffee mug. "Sorry," he apologized, as Finn poured him another cup. "It's the monthly finances. They tend to make me a bit snippy, so I try not to do them when anyone else is around. You got up earlier than usual." Finn tried to mold his confused look into something more apologetic. He must have done at least a passable job, because Kurt gave him a gentle smile as he took the coffee from Finn. He smiled back. "I thought that was math homework," he confessed, gesturing to the stack of papers on the table between them. Kurt grimaced. "I wish," he said wryly. "Math homework doesn't usually hit quite so close to home, if you catch my drift."
Finn wasn't sure what a drift was, but since nothing was flying at his face, he figured it was probably one of those metaphors that he wasn't actually expected to answer. So he didn't.
Kurt went back to his work, and Finn decided it was time to get dressed and head out for the day. He rinsed out his dishes and put them in the dishwasher—at home he would have just left them in the sink, but he wasn't really comfortable doing that here. "Finn," Kurt called out softly, as Finn headed toward the doorway. "Would you mind tossing me a red pen? There should be one in the drawer right next to you." Finn opened the closest drawer and, sure enough, there were about half a dozen pens mixed in with all the other junk. He fished out a red one and tossed it to Kurt, who caught it and gave him a weak smile. "Thanks."
"No problem," Finn assured him, before heading upstairs to change. He wasn't sure why Kurt felt the need to color coordinate his notes, but if it made him feel less unhappy about having to do math, then he'd be glad to toss him every pen in the drawer.
The third piece of the puzzle was a little more concerning to Finn—it was kind of hard not to notice that something was up when half the Glee club showed up to rehearsal on Tuesday looking like they'd gotten pummeled by the Hulk.
First it was Mike, who walked in a minute or so after Finn, sporting a giant purple bruise on his cheek and bandages on his hands. That was definitely unusual, because Finn couldn't think of a single person who would want to punch Mike in the face: he was one of those really nice guys that you just couldn't help but like. Even Santana, who could probably take over the school in five minutes with nothing but a butter knife and pure fear if she wanted to, had never really singled Mike out for abuse.
When Kurt asked him what happened, Mike stammered for a minute before launching into a story about how his little sister had opened the basement door right as he was walking past, decking him right in the face and knocking him flat on his ass. He gamely demonstrated how he'd flailed through the air and narrowly missed a table, making everyone in the room laugh.
Finn didn't think much about it again until Matt walked in. He wasn't bruised or anything, but one of his palms was bandaged just like Matt's, and Finn couldn't help but notice that he was walking a little slower than usual. He eased himself into the chair next to Mike, who gave him a friendly punch in the shoulder.
Finn kept an eye on him during rehearsal. Matt's dancing was definitely sloppier than normal, and every once in a while he would stop and wince before jumping back into the choreography. When Mr. Schue finally announced a five minute break, he dropped back down into a chair, sweating. Weird. "Hey man, you okay?" Finn asked him, genuinely concerned. "You don't look too good."
Matt looked at him, eyes wide and slightly panicked. Finn imagined this was how he himself looked every time he got called on in English class. He frowned—it was not a good look. Kurt had told him that he looked like an adorable dumb puppy, but Finn didn't really see it as Matt stumbled over an explanation. "Well, uh, see…what happened was…"
"He was at my house." Mercedes plunked herself down in the seat next to Matt, laying a protective hand on his shoulder. "We were baking, trying to recreate Puck's grandma's cupcake recipe." She snorted. "Turns out, we suck at baking." Matt looked relieved. "Yeah, I can't bake at all." He grinned sheepishly. "Microwaves are really complicated, too many buttons." Finn was about to agree, until a thought hit him. "I don't think you can make cupcakes in a microwave," he said slowly.
Mercedes tightened her grip on Matt's shoulder. "Yeah, we get that now," she explained. "Hey Matt, Puck wanted to talk to you. Later, White Boy." And with that, Mercedes hauled Matt over to the other side of the room.
Finn sat there, utterly confused. (He briefly considered finding a mirror to see if his expression was more puppy- or Matt-like, but managed to suppress the urge.) Something was off. Both Mike and Matt having weird injuries on the same day was a little suspicious, and Finn wasn't buying either of their explanations. Finn might be a little stupid, but even he had never actually injured himself using a microwave. And that didn't explain why he was limping, or why Mercedes seemed to know more about his microwave encounter than he did. Mike could be telling the truth about the door thing, but that wouldn't explain the bandages on his hands. And really? Finn had watched enough Lifetime movies with his mom over the years to know that 'walking into a door' was the lie that girls always told when someone was secretly hitting them.
Finn tried to dismiss the thought, but it kept coming back to him for the rest of the day, like one of those weird shaped stick-Frisbee things that comes back when you throw it. Were Mike and Matt being wife-beaten? That didn't even make sense—unless they'd had some major surgery since football season, there was no way either of them could even be wives. And besides that, who would even be doing it? Finn had met both Mike and Matt's parents several times, and they were all totally cool. And if anyone on any of the sports teams had done it, Finn would have known about it already—the guys weren't exactly stealth masters. And the idea of any of the Glee kids hitting anyone was just ridiculous.
Sure, Artie kind of looked like he wanted to strangle Mike a few times after he had danced with Tina during his solo, and Santana and Mercedes had gotten into a chick-fight that one time right in front of Mr. Schue, and Quinn was doing a lot of throwing things lately because the baby was making her a part-time psycho, and Tina had gotten in trouble for punching the jock who had yanked her back by the chains on her belt last month, and Brittany spent an awful lot of time with Santana and Finn knew for a fact she could kick her leg higher than most people's heads, and…
Okay, maybe it wasn't that ridiculous.
Finn lay awake that night, thinking. Maybe he was wrong, but if someone was hurting his friends and they were lying to him about it for some reason, he couldn't just ignore it. After several useless ideas—the last one was kind of sweet, but he didn't know where he could get nunchucks on such short notice—he had a brainwave. He could ask Ms. Pillsbury! She always gave him mediocre advice; she might know what to do. Finn finally went to sleep, feeling much better about the day's events.
If Matt and Mike found the pamphlets Finn had slipped into their lockers a couple days later—"Domestic Violence: When Push Comes to Love"—they never mentioned it. But Finn was sure they appreciated the support, deep down.
The Saturday night when everything went all crazy, Finn wasn't even supposed to be out. He'd been playing video games and texting with Brittany, who was asking him questions about pirates for some history paper she was writing, when his mom came in and asked him to run to the store for some milk. He didn't really want to go, but she gave him that look that always made him feel like he was being a shitty son or something, so he'd taken her car keys and driven the ten minutes to the all-night Mini Mart. He grabbed the milk and some beef jerky—he was hungry, ok?—and paid the guy behind the counter, who was watching one of those courtroom shows where everyone was yelling at each other. Bag in hand, he exited the store—stopping abruptly when he heard the hushed voices coming from the other side of the car.
"It's a shitty car anyway, let's just do it and get out of here."
"But if it's already a piece of crap, whoever owns it might not even bother getting it fixed."
"Guys, you can't touch this one—this is FINN's car."
Finn knew that last voice almost as well as he knew his own. He ran over to his car and, sure enough, he was right: Puck was standing there shielding his car from Mike and Matt, who were holding wrenches and a crowbar. Finn was stunned. "What the hell?" he yelled, more out of shock than actual anger. "Get away from my car, what are you doing?" Puck glared at him. "Shut up," he hissed, "someone's gonna hear you." He started toward Finn, but froze as they heard a shout. The owner of the Mini Mart was standing in the doorway, shotgun in hand. "What's going on?" he called out, squinting at Finn. "Everything all right?"
Finn looked at Puck. Puck was giving him that look, the one that seemed to say Finn Hudson if you don't back me up on this I swear to God they'll never find the body. Finn gulped. "N-nothing, everything's fine," he called back, trying to keep his voice from cracking like a little kid's. "I thought I lost my keys, but, uh…here they are," he finished lamely. The guy was still staring at him, so Finn held up his bag. "Uh, thanks for the milk!" The guy gave him one last stare, then turned around and went back inside.
Puck snorted. "Thanks for the milk? That was the best you could do?" He rolled his eyes. Finn glared at him. "You wanna tell me what the hell you guys are doing with a crowbar?" he asked, a little more angry this time. Mike and Puck made eye contact, and after a second, Mike shrugged. "Tell him if you want," he said. "We should get going, though. Mercedes needs to get home by midnight." He nodded to Finn, and he and Matt jogged over to a station wagon a few rows over. Finn hadn't noticed the car running, but as it drove by, he could clearly see Mercedes chattering a mile a minute behind the wheel.
Finn was left with Puck, more confused and upset than ever. Now Mercedes was in on this? What the hell was even going on? Puck shook his head and opened the passenger door. "Give me a ride home," he demanded. "I'll fill you in if you promise not to go all Girl Scout on me and tell anyone." He climbed into Finn's car and slammed the door. Not seeing any other option, Finn followed.
Ten minutes later, Finn and Puck were still sitting in the car, parked in Puck's driveway. "I just don't get it," Finn was saying. "I mean, I can see you smashing up cars in your spare time. No offense," he added. Puck shrugged amicably. "But how did you get everyone else in on it? And why are you even doing it in the first place, you don't even know who owns these cars."
Puck stared at Finn intently as he talked. "First of all, these people are dicks," he stated. Finn looked at him. "No really, it's true," Puck insisted. "I slashed a guy's tires last week who kicks his puppy. Like, in front of his kids. While drunk." Finn softened. He couldn't argue against Puck there; Puck knew exactly how he felt about drunk guys kicking puppies in front of their children. Finn had once told him when they were kinda drunk themselves that he thought it would be, like, the meanest thing ever. He wasn't really sure how Puck knew that the guy was doing that in the first place, but Finn no longer felt bad for him.
"Second, we're in a recession," Puck continued. "When people aren't making bank, they aren't going out and spending it. So who's suffering?" Finn wasn't sure if he was supposed to answer or not, so he gave it a shot. "The…children?" he guessed lamely. Puck snorted. "You really are a moron, aren't you? Small business owners," he stressed. "Can't you think of anyone we know, say, our Fairy Kicker—whose dad is totally boning your mom, by the way—whose family business might be slowing down lately because people aren't taking their cars in to get taken care of unless something major happens? We're just helping him out a bit."
Finn ignored the slur on his mom—he really, really didn't want to think about that—as everything crashed into place. The broken glass on the floor, probably from someone's windshield and danced out of the treads of someone's shoes. Kurt, pale and sad, looking at the bills. Matt and Mike, scuffed up from late nights destroying property. Mercedes, providing an alibi when Matt got flustered.
It was like a slightly less awesome Ocean's Eleven.
Puck shook his head. "Watching you try to think is like watching my dog try to do calculus," he told Finn. "I'm out of here. You're not gonna tell anyone." It was a statement, not a question, but his gaze was still leveled at Finn until Finn shook his head. "No, I'm not. In some weird, disturbing way, it's actually kind of cool that you guys are trying to help."
And it was. Finn knew Puck would never admit it, but they'd both grown fond of Kurt, with his diva-like antics and dry sense of humor. He was still kind of intense sometimes, but between Glee and football, it was like he was theirs now, and Finn knew Puck felt the same urge to protect Kurt that he did.
Puck rolled his eyes. "Who's trying to help?" he argued. "If Santana gets wind of this—and you know she will—I'm in the zone for at least a month." He hopped out of the car and slammed the door, looking back through the open window. "Gayboy doesn't know," he warned, and Finn nodded. Puck grinned back. "Welcome to your life of crime, getaway driver."
And he was gone.
Finn found himself fighting a smile as he drove home, nearly half an hour late with the milk. He was a getaway driver—an actual criminal helping out a friend in need. He was kind of like Robin Hood or Luke Skywalker, fighting the man for the betterment of society or something like that. It was really too bad he couldn't tell Rachel. Sure, she'd tell him off using lots of big words Finn didn't understand for getting involved in a criminal conspiracy, but in the end, he was pretty sure she'd be into it.
And if not, he could always say that Puck made him do it. That would probably work.