Title: It's An Art (And We're Artists)
Warning: Some swearing, absolute lack of ethics, sexualisation of teens, possible OOCness. Also Sandy.
Disclaimer: I don't own it and I'm not making any money from it, this is pure entertainment and not intended to offend.
Author Notes: Inspired by a prompt on the puckurt meme and dedicated to the fiendishly awesome duohatesrelena. This story will include infrequent illustrations, which you folk at ff. net don't get the links to because of how ff. net dislikes anything even remotely resembling a url.
Things you need to know:
-In this world babygate never happened because Puck wasn't there in Lima.
-Burt is Kurt's brother, not his father.
"This is a stupid idea."
"We're going to get caught and then you'll only have yourself to blame for another two years in state."
"Noah. Shut your trap."
"I'm just saying."
Kurt Hummel rolled his eyes. He pushed his Dior sunglasses further up his nose and readjusted his hands on the steering wheel of the big white van that at present contained his entire life in the back. One big, muscular, mohawked part of which was really beginning to shit him off. "Don't say," Kurt replied, glancing in the rearview at the man in the back, sprawled out across the seat with his feet up and his back against the window. "Don't talk to me right now. I'm not in the mood."
"You're in shit, that's what you're in."
"In case you hadn't noticed," Kurt said, knuckles turning white against the wheel, "we're both in shit. That's why we're currently driving to this shithole cow town in the first place. This, darling, is a last ditch effort to hide out long enough to get that money that you owe – and so help me don't think I've forgiven you yet – to get us out of this shit."
The man in the back moved. His feet slid down from the seat and into the foot well so he could lean forward over the back seat to wrap his forearms around Kurt's neck and kiss the back of the smaller man's ear. "We'll get the money, babe. " The arms squeezed, then released and Noah Puckerman slumped back against the back seat again. "Anyway, you know I did it for you. Unless you'd rather I let ol' Daddy Camden bash your pretty face in."
Trouble is, Kurt knew Puck was right. There hadn't been a better choice at the time and there wasn't a better choice now. If they could afford to leave the country then that would be another story, but was Puck on the no-fly list (for reasons best left undisclosed) and they hardly had enough cash to get from one side of the country to the other. Lima was a last resort, a last ditch effort at somehow scraping together enough money to satisfy MacGrady and his less than friendly debt collectors. Kurt would have preferred somewhere larger, somewhere with more potential targets, but they needed to lay low long enough to at least come up with a good faith payment.
They weren't going to be able to lay low anywhere other than a small town. Lucky for them, Kurt just so happened to have an older brother who lived in sleepy little Lima, Ohio. A town big enough to present a few promising targets while small enough to let them fall beneath the radar.
Burt Hummel was 37, thoroughly middle-class, and the majority share owner of a tyre store. He also had a tendency to believe the best in people, especially of family, something that Kurt was counting on. He lived in a one story house in a nice neighbourhood and, when Kurt had called him two days ago, he'd been thrilled by the idea of his little brother coming to stay.
Kurt hadn't given more than a passing mention to his partner. Puck generally wasn't the kind of man who inspired feelings of warmth and hospitality. In any case he wouldn't be staying at the house with Kurt. That wasn't part of their (very hastily put together, still working out the details thereof) plan.
Jolted out of his musings, Kurt frowned. "What?"
"Pull over," Puck repeated, leaning forward in his seat again. "There's a rest area up ahead."
"We're an hour away from Lima."
"And it's a fucking rest stop, Kurt. Do I have a better chance of getting picked up at a stop or in the middle of the highway?"
Kurt sighed and flicked on the indicator. He pulled to a stop in the rest stop and shut off the engine. He turned to look over into the back of the van, where Puck was already digging around for his backpack. It was a big hiker's pack, picked for the look rather than the functionality – though that was a bonus. Puck slung one of the straps over his shoulder and leaned into the front again, this time to peck Kurt's lips with his own.
"Thanks for the ride, babe. I'll see you in town."
"Don't get arrested," Kurt advised, a parting as fond and as normal as 'goodbye'.
Puck opened the van's side door and hopped out. He looked around, gave Kurt a wave, then headed towards the tourist shop to see if he couldn't track down a lift from some helpful traveller. From here until Lima Puck was a backpacker hitch-hiking across the country. Kurt watched him go for a moment, drinking in the sight he presented. Then he started the van again and pulled out onto the highway. For the moment he was alone; Kurt Hummel, lone operative. Driving into sleepy suburbia to crash on his brother's couch for the next month or so.
He had no idea how the hell they were going to pull off the usual con right under Burt's nose. This time, Kurt thought, they might have to try something different. In fact, they may need to try running several scams at once to make sure they'd be able to come up with enough money.
An hour and twenty minutes later and the van pulled to a stop outside number 26 Grant St, the house belonging to his brother. Kurt put the van in park, he reached for the sun visor to take down his driver's licence. He put it on top of the one already in his wallet, just in case Burt had developed a curious streak in the time since their last holiday get-together.
Normally the licence that Kurt kept in his wallet put his age at only 16. His real licence marked him as just having turned 30. Dressed right he could look either age, and any range in between the two. It was part of why he was normally so good at what he did.
Five-six, slender, and baby-faced. That was Kurt Hummel. He looked as innocent as snow and just as fragile. It was a look that worked to his advantage.
He got out of the van just as his brother was opening up the front door. "Kurt!" Burt called, his voice booming in the midday quiet.
Kurt turned, grinning. "Burt!" he replied, and greeted his brother mid-way between house and van with a hug. "It's good to see you again."
"Jesus H. Christ you haven't changed a bit," Burt announced, which was something he'd been saying since he'd gone off to college while Kurt was still in middle school. "Come on inside, you can grab your gear later."
"I know I said this before," Kurt said as he followed his brother inside, "but I hope I'm not imposing. I know this is short notice and a lot to ask and, well, I just want to thank you for putting me up like this."
"It's no problem," Burt assured him, leading him into a living room that hadn't changed since the early nineties, "what else is family for but helping out? I'm your big brother, I couldn't leave you homeless. What sort of a big brother would that make me?"
Kurt smiled. "A smart one."
"Ah, I'm not smart." Burt shrugged, and went into the kitchen. "Beer?"
"You can stay down in the basement," Burt said, retrieving two beers from the fridge. "I converted the whole thing into a guest room a couple of months ago – pet project for when Muriel finally gets off her ass and comes up for a visit like she keeps promising every year – it's not much, but it's got a bed and a working bathroom. You're lucky I finally got around to putting carpet down last week or you'd be walking around on bare wood floors down there."
"The basement's fine," Kurt said, accepting the beer (Heineken). He sat down on the couch and opened the bottle with his hands. He was going to need to start moisturising again. "Actually I'm just glad you don't mind me crashing here for a couple of months. I don't know what I'd do otherwise."
"You'd have landed on your feet one way or another. You've always had a knack for that."
Kurt nodded. He sipped his beer thoughtfully. Burt was a good guy and a better man than most, a better brother than most too. He was the kind of man a family could be proud of, the kind of man who'd make a good father – though he'd yet to have any kids. He also had no idea what his little brother did for a living, or that Kurt had been in prison for any amount of time. That one year Kurt hadn't made it to Christmas with their parents in Florida he'd managed to convince everyone that it was because he was in Hawaii on a 'mend my broken heart with sunshine and daiquiris' trip. In actual fact he'd been in a medium security prison. He'd only been off probation for two years.
"I'm not going to disrupt running the tyre shop, am I?" Kurt asked, mainly because he really needed to know what hours his brother would be out of the house.
Burt shook his head. "If you don't mind, I've got a hell of a lot of work to get through this time of year. Heck, most nights I'll probably be working late. I'll give you the spare key to the house and you'll be right, wont you?"
"I'll be fine," Kurt agreed, secretly relieved. "I just wanted to know whether I should cook for two. I might as well," he said, before Burt could protest. "I'm not paying rent, cooking is the least I can do."
"Just remember not everyone likes vegetables they can't identify without looking on the internet."
"I promise I'll keep it simple for you."
The basement turned out to be a large and simply furnished, very spacious living area. There was a bed beneath the tiny little window, a chest of drawers, a vanity with a dusty mirror, and a couch sitting in front of a coffee table that seemed to act like a separator between the rest of the room and the laundry. Kurt looked around, peeked into the tiny bathroom with its square shower stall and squashed-in sink, and decided it would do. It was certainly a lot better than some of the places he'd lived in before.
He unpacked his two suitcases, carefully unfolding the expensive clothes and smoothing them down. Moisturisers and makeup were laid out on the vanity, the mirror wiped clean with a damp cloth. He hid the folder with his two fake identities in a small stack of GQ and Vogue magazines in the drawer of the bedside table.
Only after everything was laid out the way he wanted it to be did he take out his phone and dial Puck's number.
The phone rang for so long that for a moment Kurt thought the other man wouldn't answer, but finally the line picked up and Puck's voice rumbled a distracted hello into his ear.
"Did you make it in to town alright?" Kurt asked, taking a seat on the edge of the bed and smoothing his hand along the top of the comforter. "Or are you still walking?"
"I made it in," Puck replied. "I'm at a motel now, figured I'd pick up a car tonight so I'm ready when you are." There was a pause and Kurt could hear something that sounded like bedsprings squeaking. "How's the family?"
Kurt could hear the other question hidden underneath the one that had actually been asked and rolled his eyes. "Busy as a bee and going to be out of the house from eight in the morning til seven at night every weekday. He doesn't seem to have developed any odd suspicions since the last family gathering either."
"I'll be ready for Monday," Kurt added, glancing across the room to the vanity mirror. He straightened his posture and widened his eyes a little, trying for youthful innocence. A sixteen year old boy dressed in suit pants and a pinstripe shirt looked back at him, looking thoroughly out of place. "How much money do we have left?"
There was some rustling, then a sigh. "We're going to need more. Listen, don't worry. I'll work on that, babe. You just do your thing, I'll do mine, and we'll meet in the middle like always."
"Move fast," Kurt reminded him, "we don't have much time."
"I'll move so fast I'll be a goddamn speeding bullet. Love you, baby. Take care of yourself and I'll meet you after school on Monday."
"I'm not forgiving you that easily," Kurt informed his partner, despite the smile on his lips. "You're still in the doghouse."
Puck hung up and tossed his phone onto the mattress. The motel was small, beige, and utilitarian. It was the location and the anonymity of cash-per-night that made it perfect. He didn't give a crap about the decor, as long as it had a bed, a bathroom and a TV he was at home. And frankly he didn't care much about being in the doghouse either. Kurt would come around, he always did, and in the meantime Puck had work to do.
His job was fairly easy compared to Kurt's – he was usually just the muscle, the background player who got all of the bits and pieces they needed to run a successful scam. Petty cash, cars, IDs and papers if they needed them. He was the grounding wire, the one that got them out if things started going south. Kurt was the one who did all of the dangerous stuff, the acting and the sleuthing, Puck was just there to lend a helping hand and the dirty work that the blue-eyed, baby faced Kurt couldn't do on his own.
He liked to think it was equal partnership. A symbiotic blend of two different skill sets and two different styles of thinking.
Kurt thought long term. Puck was a short-range kind of guy.
The hiker's backpack he'd carried with him to look like an honest backpacker was dumped on the bed next to Puck's phone. He opened up the main pocket and pulled out another, smaller bag that housed all the tools he was going to need tonight in a dozen handy little pockets. Screwdrivers, a wire hook, a set of Ohio licence plates, a torch. He had stealing a car down to an expert art and could change a set of plates in under five minutes.
The trick was not getting caught.
Considering the only thing Puck had ever been busted for was drug possession (and an assault charge or two) he figured he was pretty damn good at not getting caught.
He shouldered the smaller bag and shoved the keys to the motel room in his pocket. What he needed to get tonight was a plain, serviceable car with no identifying marks. Something that wouldn't be alarmed, but that had a good chance of being insured. People with insurance were less likely to keep bugging the police and usually gave up on the idea of finding their car quicker than those who didn't. He was thinking a nineties model. Neutral colour. Something that wouldn't make people cock their head if they saw a guy with tattoos and a mohawk behind the wheel.
It took him an hour of walking around the streets surrounding the motel before he found his mark outside a homey little pub. That was perfect, he thought. Drunk people might forget where they parked their car and give him more time to get rid of any personal possessions left behind.
The tan '97 Corolla parked just out of view from the pub windows would do nicely. Puck opened his bag and drew out the wire hook. Thirty seconds of jimmying and the lock on the driver's side popped neatly open. The lack of alarm made him smirk. Puck opened the door and slid into the driver's seat, hit by a sudden wall of stale-cigarette smell. He ignored it and reached under the dash to find the right wires to give the engine a kick start. He had his hands on the wires when he felt something fall to the ground in the foot well and discovered that he'd made a better choice than he'd imagined. A spare key, a piece of electrical tape still stuck to one side, lay between his feet.
"Score," he grinned.
The engine came to life with a healthy rumble and Puck exited the parking lot at a casual speed. He stopped briefly in an alley to change the plates and get rid of most of what was in the boot and the glove box, then drove off.
He now had a car and one less thing to worry about. There were enough tan corollas on the streets to make the car almost impossible to place.