Disclaimer: I do not own Glee, make no claims to own it, and make no money off this fanfic.
Written for the glee_angst_meme. Warning for discussion of child abuse.
Finn didn't say anything on the ride home. He slouched low in his seat, sulking, and Burt let him be. He wasn't going to try to talk to the kid until he could do it without shouting. Even with Kurt safe at Dalton, Burt's knee-jerk reaction to a phone call from McKinley was anger and fear. It wasn't fair to take that out on Finn. Burt would be glad once both the boys had graduated and he no longer had to worry about that hell hole of a school.
By the time they arrived at the house, Burt's temper had cooled. He waited until they were inside to speak. "Finn, what were you thinking? You know better than to start a fight at school."
Finn scowled. "That guy was being a total douche! He deserved to get punched."
"In front of a teacher?" The faculty at McKinley might be too willing to look the other way, but even they couldn't ignore a fistfight occurring right in front of them. "Go to your room. I'll be up once I've decided on a punishment."
"Yes sir," Finn mumbled, and he quickly left the room. Normally it sounded like a stampede whenever the kid went up or down the stairs, but for once Finn took the stairs quietly.
It just figured that the first time Finn got in trouble would be when Carole was out of town. He left a message on her cell phone, but the conference she was at was important, and it was the better part of an hour before she was able to call him back. Burt filled her in on what had happened and after a few minute's conversation they agreed that, on top of the suspension from school, a week's grounding was more than enough.
With that settled, Burt went upstairs to have a talk with Finn. If it had been Kurt up there, he would have been banging things around and singing, but Burt hadn't heard anything since he'd sent Finn upstairs. Burt knocked on the door and opened it to see Finn scrambling to his feet.
"Listen, I'm really sorry," Finn blurted.
"I'm sure you are, now that you've had time to cool off, but it doesn't change what you did." Burt stepped into the room.
Finn backed away until he was up against the far wall. "I'm sorry," he said, sounding desperate. "I won't do it again, I promise."
The kid was scared, Burt realized. He hadn't looked up from the floor since Burt had come in. "Finn? You ok?"
Finn squeezed his eyes shut. His arms were folded in front of him like he was trying to protect his stomach.
Discipline could wait. Whatever had Finn so upset was more important. "Hey, it's all right," Burt said, keeping his voice even and calm. He wasn't good at this. Even before Kurt had officially come out, he'd never been this scared of Burt.
"I'm really sorry," Finn mumbled again.
"Don't worry about that right now. Look at me, Finn." He put his hand on Finn's shoulder. "What's wrong?"
Finn opened his eyes, glanced at Burt, and quickly looked at the floor again. "Aren't you going to hit me?"
"No," Burt said, stunned. "Why would you think that?"
Finn's legs folded under him, and he sank to the floor. Burt only hesitated for a moment before sitting down next to him. His knees would hate him for it later, but Finn needed him.
Finn didn't say anything. He sat there with his shoulders hunched, as if he was trying to make himself smaller and less noticeable.
"Start talking. Why did you think I was going to hurt you?"
Finn took a shaky breath. "Mom's last boyfriend used to hit me a lot. That's how he'd punish me when I screwed up. And I couldn't stop screwing up. I was too noisy when he wanted to watch TV. I missed the bus and made him waste time picking me up. I'm clumsy and stupid and I couldn't do anything right, so he had to keep punishing me."
Burt remembered the way Finn had practically fled the room when he said the word punishment. He'd been so unusually quiet. Finn had thought Burt was going to beat him, and he'd had an hour alone to dwell on it. No wonder he'd been terrified.
"Your mother never knew about this." It wasn't a question. If Carole had known she would have dumped the bastard faster than he'd kicked out Finn after the fight in the basement.
"She liked him," Finn said in a small voice, sounding younger than he was. "He made her happy, and I didn't want to ruin it for her. But I was really glad when they broke up."
Burt knew that getting angry wouldn't help the situation, but it took a lot of effort to stay calm. "Let me make a few things clear for you. When Kurt makes a mistake, there are consequences. I ground him or give him more chores. Maybe I cut the amount of money he can spend on clothes that month." He glanced over at Finn, who was still curled in on himself. "Listen up, this next part is important. I've never raised my hand to Kurt, and I'm not going to start with you."
Finn sniffled and rubbed his hand across his face. Burt clapped a hand on Finn's shoulder, and this time Finn leaned into his touch. Finn kept wiping away tears as soon as they formed, so Burt pretended not to notice and continued talking.
"I don't care what your mom's ex said. You didn't do anything to deserve a beating. You were a kid, he was a liar and a rotten person, and you didn't deserve any of it. We clear?"
Finn nodded, still sniffling.
"Good." Burt waited until Finn had stopped crying before he spoke again. "None of which gets you off the hook for fighting. You're grounded for a week."
"It's worth it," Finn said. "He was being a dick about Kurt."
If the kid had been trying to find a way to make Burt feel even worse about this, he couldn't have chosen any better.
"Usually I just remind people that he's my brother and they shut up, but he wouldn't stop saying stuff about McKinley being better off without him. Except he wouldn't even say Kurt's name, he just kept calling him, um, a word I've gotten in trouble for using, and worse things."
Burt hadn't even considered the reasons behind the fight. "I'm not going to tell you to stop defending Kurt. But if you're going to get into fights over it, at least pick your timing better. What your teachers don't see, your mom and I don't find out about, and you don't get in trouble over it."
Finn grinned shakily. "Got it."
"And don't tell your mom I said that."
Finn nodded and shifted away from Burt, putting a few inches between them. He seemed much calmer, and Burt had said everything that needed to be said for the time being.
"I hate to admit it, but you're going to have to help me get up."
"Uh, ok." Finn stood and held out a hand, hauling Burt to his feet. One of his knees popped loudly.
"I'm too old to be sitting on the floor," Burt said with a wince. That knee was going to be bothering him for days, but he didn't regret it. "Get started on your homework. You've got a boring week ahead of you."
And when Carole came home on Sunday, Burt would take her aside for a long talk. Finn might have thought he was protecting her, but this was something a parent needed to know.