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.
Things you need to know:
This is the last chapter. As yet I do not plan on writing a sequel.
They stopped just long enough to do a rough count at the motel anyway. At least, Kurt counted while Puck rinsed his knuckles under cold water and then went about throwing his things back into the backpack they'd come out of. By the time he was done Kurt was most of the way through and Puck sat down on the edge of the bed to wait for him to finish up.
"I may have miscounted," Kurt announced finally, voice cool, "but I believe that's at least nine thousand five hundred, which is close enough."
"Good. So now we can get the hell out of here."
"I still need to get my things," Kurt replied, putting the bundles of cash neatly back into the paper bag they'd come from. "And I still need to speak to Burt. You're not allowed to come," he announced. "I'm mad at you."
"You'll get over it," Puck shrugged and shouldered his backpack. "I'm going to check out of here. See you at the car."
"And don't think you can distract me with sex, asshole."
Puck rolled his eyes as he left the room. Kurt would cool off soon enough, he was certain of it. But in the meantime he'd have to deal with this prissiness for at least another day. At least until they were out of Lima and Puck wasn't likely to add another count of assault to his criminal history. He made small talk with the motel clerk as he signed out and paid the last of what he owed for his stay, dredging up the old backpacker story and claiming it was time to move on now that he'd made a few bucks from casual work in town.
By the time he got out of the office Kurt was already waiting in the car, stubbornly sitting in the driver's seat.
"Want to ditch this piece of shit before we get to your brother's?" Puck asked as he slid into the passenger seat, "or should I follow you out in it while you take the van?"
"You can take the plates off while I pack," Kurt replied coolly, looking out the front window instead of at him. "And ditch the car in town. I'll pick you up in the van at the Cafe on main street."
Puck let the rest of the drive fall into silence and swapped over into the driver's seat when Kurt got out of the car. He'd leave his partner to do all of the fussy work he needed to do to satisfy family and find a quiet place to take the plates from the car. He remembered just before dumping it to take the money order from the glove box and stuffed the piece of paper into his pocket. The walk to the main street cafe took him half an hour, and it was another hour after that before Kurt texted him to say that he was on his way.
When the van pulled up outside the cafe Puck already had two takeaway cups in a cardboard carrier. One was a plain house blend, the other one of Kurt's fancy-pants too good for anything less than a latte and marked with two Xs on the cup. He opened the van door one handed and got into the front passenger seat next to his partner.
"Medium non-fat with a shot of hazelnut," Puck announced, putting Kurt's coffee into the cup holder between the two front seats. He tossed his backpack over the seat and into the back, where it landed with a thump next to one of Kurt's neatly packed suitcases.
"Coffee is not going to make me feel better about you right now."
"Twelve thousand dollars," Puck added, pulling the money order from his pocket and dropping it on Kurt's lap.
Kurt fumbled for it one handed without taking his eyes off the road, brought the paper up to eye-level and glanced at it to make sure it was legit. "We're going to have to cash this tonight," he says finally, and hands it back. "Before your darling betrothed realises she's been jilted."
"Still," Puck answered, leaning back against the seat. "Twelve thousand bucks." He sipped his coffee, letting his bruised hand lie still on his lap. "We can call the debt settled, neither of us got arrested. I'd say that means you can't be mad at me but you'd just find something else to bitch about."
"Like the aggravated assault you just pulled in the parking lot of a public school?"
"They had it coming, Kurt." Puck looked at his partner and smirked. "Tell me you didn't totally want to see them get their heads bashed in."
Kurt was silent for a full minute, glaring out at the road. Finally he glanced at Puck and cracked a smile. "Well," he said finally, "we did manage to scrounge up enough money to settle your ridiculous debt. Without getting arrested or harassed by less than lawful debt collectors... I suppose I can't be too mad at you for rescuing me from a couple of high school bullies."
"What about your brother?" Puck asked when they passed the sign that said 'You are now leaving Lima'. "You didn't take as long as I thought you would."
"He wasn't home. I left him a note," Kurt said, and if Puck didn't know him so well he'd think the other man sounded sort of wistful. "And my phone number. He'll probably call later."
"And you'll tell him...?"
"That I went to go pay my debt."
The van falls into momentary silence. Puck sips his coffee and thinks about all the shit they'll have to go through next. Paying back MacGrady, finding a new place to set up and a new game to run. For a moment he even thinks about Sue, the lonely old spinster bitch who'll probably wind up even more lonely and bitter after tomorrow. He reaches forward and turns on the radio, settles in to a soundtrack of country rock while Kurt rolls his eyes and pretends not to know any of the lyrics. His knuckles throb and he smirks to himself.
This right here? He wouldn't trade this for the world.
Will Schuester spent the better part of Friday afternoon staring at his phone. He glanced at it between sentences as he spoke to his classes, kept it on top of his desk or in his pocket where he'd know if it rang. Eventually school ended, he went home, and he had to concede that he wouldn't be getting a call.
He breathed a small sigh of relief, forgetting to listen to Terri as she rattled on about some customer or other at Sheets'n'Things. She didn't seem to notice anything different or unusual about his behaviour. At least not until after they were in bed, tangled in the sheets, sticky with sweat after making love for the first time in a month.
"What's gotten into you?" Terri asked, still a little out of breath. "You've been acting so different these past couple of weeks. Especially this week. Has something been going on at work? Something I should know about?"
"Terri..." Will stopped, letting a long and pregnant pause overtake the room. He didn't know what to say. He couldn't tell her about Kurt, about falling into a trap set by a sixteen year old and then giving away a quarter of his annual earnings to keep the boy's mouth shut. Just telling her about kissing one of his students would be too much, without even mentioning the 'boy' part or the money. "No," he said finally. "No, there's nothing."
He spent the weekend in a state of nervousness, half convinced that he'd be receiving some kind of mysterious correspondence asking for more money. That was what blackmailers did on TV, right? He couldn't help remembering some of the crime shows he'd watched and thinking about how the blackmailers on those shows never just went away.
The strange feeling in the pit of his stomach persisted until Monday morning when he arrived at McKinley High. He was expecting to see Kurt, he realised. Waiting for the boy to show even after the implication that he wouldn't be around on Monday. Will hid in his classroom before school began, fearful that if he set foot in the staff room Emma would know something was wrong. He went through his first few classes in a blur until finally he was faced with the attendance sheet with the name Kurt Hummel printed neatly in plain Arial typeface. He called the names without looking up and was relieved beyond measure when Kurt didn't answer.
The sense of relief was almost overwhelming, but Will reminded himself that just because Kurt wasn't in today that didn't mean he'd left the school. Further investigation was required.
Will took his lunch in the teacher's lounge only because he knew it would be ridiculous to eat his sandwich and cookies at his desk. He took a seat at his usual table, flanked by Coach Tanaka and opposite Emma. It took him a minute after sitting down to realise why the lounge seemed so quiet.
"Hey, where's Sue?" Will asked, looking around to see if he could spot a tracksuit lurking in the corners somewhere for a sneak attack on some unsuspecting victim. "Isn't she normally breathing fire at someone this time of day?"
"Mm, Sue's not in today," Emma replies, carefully polishing her seedless green grapes before eating them one by one. "It must be serious, it's her first day off in over two years. Mr. Ryerson isn't in today either."
"He got fired," Coach Tanaka stated, nodding because they'd all known very well it was only a matter of time.
Will could tell from the way Emma was pursing her lips that she clearly thought it should have been sooner. "Fired?" Will repeated.
"For inappropriateness with a student," the coach confirmed, eyebrows raised.
Will didn't know what made him do it, or why in the world he thought it was a good idea, but for some reason he just blurted out; "With Kurt Hummel?"
"No," Emma replied, her unsettlingly wide-eyed gaze on Will's face. "With Hank Saunders, who has now switched to a private school with a very qualified psychologist on staff. Why? Will, is there something you know about Sandy and Kurt?"
"No." Will shook his head, physically leaning away from the table as if it would put distance between himself and the past few weeks. "No. I just assumed, you know, since you asked me to step in..."
"Oh. Well. No. I don't believe Kurt was ever, um, touched inappropriately by Mr. Ryerson."
"Uh, that's good." Will looked down at his sandwich. The atmosphere suddenly felt awkward but he didn't know how to break the tension. The truth was that now he was thinking about it he couldn't help but wonder if Kurt had done something like this to Ryerson as well. Or started to. It's possible he'd been forced to switch targets when Will had stepped into the picture.
And now he was thinking of a high school student like he was a criminal mastermind. God. He needed to get this off his mind. He needed some kind of reassurance that Kurt was gone for good.
The only way he could think of to make absolutely certain was to check with the school administration. That was how Will found himself at the office looking up Kurt Hummel's file on the school's system. According to school records Kurt was still enrolled. His emergency contact was listed as Burt Hummel, with no relationship specified. Will scribbled down the number before he left and waited until he was alone to call.
The line rang until a voicemail service picked up, announcing that he'd reached Burt Hummel's home line. Will hung up.
He called again after school with the same result and hung up again without leaving a message.
He'd given up, thinking that he was being paranoid, when an hour later his phone rang, Burt Hummel's number flashing up on the screen. Will cleared his throat and answered with his most polite hello.
"Hey," the man on the other end of the line said, "I got a couple of blank messages from this number so I figured I'd call and see if it was something important. If you're a telemarketer you'd better tell me now so I can just hang up."
"My name is Will Schuester," Will replied, surreptitiously checking that nobody was around to hear him despite the fact that he was alone at his apartment and Terri had yet to come home from work. "I'm your son's Spanish teacher. He wasn't in school today so I thought I'd call to make sure everything was alright."
It sounded weak to him, a stupid excuse that was probably more than a little suspicious.
Burt Hummel's reply sounded sarcastic; "My son?"
"Kurt Hummel isn't my son," Burt replied dryly, "and he left for California on Saturday. I'm sorry to be the one to tell you but he's not going to be around for that language scholarship thing."
Belatedly Will remembered that he'd sent a letter about that a couple of weeks ago. Back when he'd thought Kurt was just an innocent boy who needed a good male role model. But that wasn't the important part there. "Kurt's not your son?"
"No," Burt said, and by now he was starting to sound annoyed. "He's definitely not my son. Kurt Hummel is thirty years old and has a gambling addiction which he only just revealed to me last week. He also told me he's been hiding out at your school pretending to be sixteen so his bookie doesn't find him and break his legs."
"He's thirty years old," Will repeated, a sinking feeling in his stomach as he realised that if he'd known then he wouldn't have had to pay him anything at all. A pause. "He's gone?"
"Ok. Uh, sorry to bother you at home."
"Don't mention it. Just make sure the school stops sending me mail. I'm getting sick of finding the McKinley gazette in my letterbox."
"I'll get on that," Will assured him. He hung up without saying goodbye, still feeling that sense of disbelief. He'd been played. Right from the beginning. There was a sense of shame to it, like he should have known, should have guessed that something was wrong. He shouldn't have let himself be drawn into the situation at all.
The only good thing, he thought to himself, was that Kurt was gone and Terri would never find out.
He could forget about it and move on.
Just like it had never happened.