(Author's note: This takes place during Mash-Up; some of these scenes actually happened in the show, and I've included some dialogue from the script for continuity, but most of the words are mine. Also, I know the show calls them "slushees," but the double ee makes my skin crawl, so. Also also, the third football player in Mashup who bullied Finn was never identified by name, but there's a guy in the credits named Lipoff, so I stole his name for him. If someone knows his real name, let me know so I can fix it. Thanks!)
Slushie #1: Karofsky
They had never before been hit by a slushie, until that day Finn and Quinn walked down the hallway together, the day after she was outed for being pregnant. It hit him, no pun intended, that the worst thing wasn't the corn syrup in his eye – although that was pretty awful. It was the look of disappointment on Quinn's face when she realized that they were perceived as losers.
"What is the point of working so hard at being popular if we're going to have to deal with this crap?" Quinn complained, wiping her face with a gym towel. "I really don't know if I can handle bringing an extra Cheerios uniform to school every day."
It also didn't help that Puck had been avoiding Finn after the events of the past weekend. He'd said we were cool. What's the problem? Finn felt confused, but every time he tried to corner Puck, Puck would find some excuse to vanish.
He needed to talk to Kurt. Kurt would help him sort it out. But Quinn didn't approve of Finn hanging out with Kurt. "He's the reason we're getting slushied, you know," she said. "I just know it." Finn thought this was particularly mean of Quinn, but he couldn't deny being friends with Kurt was going to change his social standing. If Quinn wanted them to be the "it couple," he was going to have to avoid Kurt, too. Which left Finn with exactly no one to talk to about the confusing state of his life.
Glee was still fun, though, and singing always made him feel better – even if the song was "Bust A Move." He had to admit, Mr. Schue looked pretty hot in his t-shirt, and he was an amazing dancer for an old guy. Finn caught Puck looking, too, but he quickly switched his gaze to Quinn walking across the room when he noticed he was being observed.
Kurt managed to corner him for a few minutes after rehearsal. "I heard about the slushie this morning," he said, looking sympathetic. "I have some great product I keep in my locker that takes the residue right out of your hair, even in cold water. Let me know if you want to borrow it."
"Uh, thanks, man," said Finn. "I'm sorry I've been—"
"Busy? Don't sweat it." Kurt shrugged. "You've got a lot going on. Take some time to figure out what's important to you. Remember, Mr. Schue said that sometimes, two things that don't seem to go together do. The big difference between them is what makes them great, right?"
"I get that," Finn said. He did. "I just don't know… Quinn wants one thing – to be popular – and it doesn't always go along with the other things I… want."
"Nobody can make that choice for you, Finn," said Kurt. "I don't envy you your situation. If you need someone to talk to, though, give me a call."
Slushie #2: Azimio
Football practice felt weird with Puck avoiding him. The guys sensed it. Azimio even went so far as to question Finn's leadership ability.
"Yeah, like maybe you're having trouble making good choices," said Lipoff, "as in, for instance, choosing to join Homo Explosion."
Finn bristled, but couldn't in good conscience deny it. Yeah, so what if I'm a… shit, I can't even think it.
Lipoff went on. "Yeah, we're taking a bunch of heat, because you like kissing dudes all of a sudden."
The blood drained from Finn's face. Had Puck – talked about what had happened last weekend? He barely heard Azimio's crack about him not being "man enough" to knock up Quinn, but he was already wound up, and went for Azimio as the closest possible target.
The coach made them all take a knee. "Where's Puckerman?" he barked.
"Uh, he had to miss practice today… said he was working on something for Glee," Finn lied. Puck didn't say anything to me today, or yesterday, or the day before.
"Is he working on his coming-out-of-the-closet speech or something?" Azimio smirked. Finn clobbered him one before the coach could stop him. Maybe it wasn't Puck. Who else knew? Kurt wouldn't say anything, would he?
He was so lost in his thoughts he almost missed Coach Tanaka's announcement about the mandatory Thursday 3:30 practice. "But that's when Glee rehearses," he said, and the coach totally lost it, unloading on Finn. Apparently, he was going to have to choose between football and Glee.
He got hit with the slushie (blue raspberry) on his way out of the showers. "Sorry, Hudson," smirked Azimio. "Looks like you might need to spend some more time in the shower. I hear you faggots like to hang out in there."
"Dude," shouted Finn. "What is your problem?"
"My problem is that you and your fairy kicker buddy are creating a bad name for football players everywhere, prancing around with your little homo choir," Azimio shot back. "My reputation is critical, and you're not going to mess it up."
Finn shook blue ice out of his hair and flung it angrily to the floor. "Why are you so hung up on Kurt? He wasn't even at practice today. He doesn't do anything but help us win. What's wrong with that?"
"He's fucking disgusting, that's what's wrong!" yelled Lipoff. "Kurt takes it up the ass like every other faggot, and who needs that kind of sick fucker around? Not me, no matter how good a kicker he is."
Finn stared at him. "Why are you so threatened by how someone else loves? What does that have to do with you?"
Lipoff pushed Finn, just a tap to the chest, but it kicked up Finn's rage another notch. "Why are you standing up for him, huh, Hudson? Are you the faggot giving it to him? Are you his butt-buddy?"
Finn knocked Lipoff up against the wall and held him there with one arm before he heard Puck say, "Nah, he's too busy doing your sister." He let go and looked at Puck, leaning against the lockers, arms crossed, looking amused. "We had a great four-way with your mother when I cleaned your pool."
Lipoff snarled, "Can it, Puckerman," but he stalked away and left Finn alone in the locker room with Puck.
Finn tried to catch Puck's eye, but he was avoiding looking at Finn, who was admittedly not at his best, dressed in only a towel and covered with blue Slushie. So he just said, "Thanks, man," and went back into the shower to wash off.
He didn't realize Puck had followed him until he heard Puck say softly, "You left your Babylon 5 t-shirt at my house."
Finn looked up. "You do know that's probably not the kind of thing you should be saying in the locker room," he said.
Puck shrugged. "The difference between you and me, Finn, is that I never cared what anyone else thought of me. Popularity was never important to me. You care, and it makes you weak."
"You care what I think of you," said Finn. "Why else would you be here, otherwise?"
He heard Puck's last comment as he walked away. "I care, but not about what you think."
Slushies 3-13: The Whole Fricking Team
Coach Tanaka wanted the football team to hang out together more, but Finn didn't think he included giving slushie facials in the category of "hanging out." It was a threat – to keep Finn, Puck, Mike and Matt from choosing Glee over football.
Finn wasn't sure which one he was going to choose, but the look on Quinn's face when she got hit with those ten slushies made him think twice about automatically deciding to stay with Glee.
"We have to do something to fix our image, Finn!" she hissed. "These stupid sunglasses aren't cutting it. We need something drastic."
"What?" he said.
"Figure it out," she seethed, and stalked away to the girls' bathroom. Finn headed to the locker room instead, deciding a shower was easier than trying to wash off grape slushie in the sink by himself. He sighed.
"This sucks," he said to himself, stripping off his t-shirt.
"Try it with $400 boots on," Kurt said, emerging from the locker room with a long-suffering smile. He helped wipe off some of the purple goo from Finn's hair. "Don't worry, we're alone. I locked the door to the hallway."
"Where'd you get a key?" Finn asked, impressed at Kurt's resourcefulness.
"Stole it from the office sophomore year. I got real familiar with visiting Figgins after I broke my wrist getting thrown in the dumpster. You know, he has the most abysmally organized desk drawers."
Finn paused and grabbed Kurt's arm. "You broke your wrist? When did that happen? Who did it? It wasn't Puck… or me, was it?"
"Ancient history," Kurt waved it off, reclaiming his arm. "I don't even remember who it was that time."
"Kurt, that's not right." Finn was angry for Kurt, ashamed of his past actions, and sick to death of the bullying. He looked Kurt in the face. "I want to tell you, I feel terrible about the things we… I did to you. It was awful. I know how it feels and it's awful. God, I hope you can forgive me."
Kurt smiled a little. "I'm over it. You won't do it again."
But he was wrong.
Slushie #14: Lipoff
Finn didn't even see it coming because he was too busy watching Puck and Rachel flirting in the hallway. Puck was handing Rachel her very own slushie just as Finn got his in the face.
Lipoff whispered into his ear as he walked by, "Faggot."
Finn felt dirty, hearing that word spoken so close, so intimately. It was a word he'd never cared for and hardly ever used, suddenly applied to him. And he hadn't even said anything to anyone. Could they tell? Did I have some kind of brand on my forehead? Was I being that obvious?
And of course, the answer was: no. He hadn't done anything. He was just an easy target. People who stuck their necks out for others made it easy to get them chopped off.
He glared at Puckerman as he walked by with Rachel, but Puck didn't even notice Finn.
Slushie #15: Lipoff (by way of Finn)
Finn cornered Lipoff later that day. "Dude, I want you to do something for me," he said.
"Sorry, already got a date for homecoming," Lipoff quipped.
"Take this-" Finn shoved a couple bucks into his hand "-and buy a grape slushie. Then I want you to hit Puckerman."
Lipoff looked at me strangely. "What did Puckerman do to you?"
Finn said the first thing he thought of. "He… he's flirting with Rachel." He's singing to her, singing her Neil Diamond songs. Those aren't her songs. They're not for her. Finn gritted his teeth.
"Berry? Huh. I would have thought you'd have been mad about the thing with Quinn."
"What… thing with Quinn?" Finn said slowly.
Lipoff gave him a wicked grin. "Hey, you're not going to hear it from me. I'll do the deed, but you'll have to go elsewhere for your juicy gossip."
Finn wasn't there to see the slushie hit its mark, but he heard Rachel was present to help Puck clean it up. There was some justice in that, Finn thought. With any luck, Puck would get a dose of the shame he'd felt himself when Kurt told Finn about his broken wrist.
But he couldn't shake what Lipoff had said: That thing with Quinn… that thing with Quinn. What had Puck done with Quinn?
Slushie #16: Lipoff
It was not the best place for Kurt to make his grand announcement, but Finn admitted there probably wasn't a good place to do it. It was going to be bad, no matter what, and Finn couldn't help admiring Kurt for his daring.
Kurt flounced into the locker room, bearing an enormous pink and gold shoulder bag. He proceeded to empty the contents of his locker into the bag – what looked to be eighty pounds of hair, face and other product – and handed his lock to Coach Tanaka.
"Hummel, what's this?" the coach grunted.
Kurt put his hands on his hips and tossed his head. "I think it's appalling the way you're forcing us to choose sides between football and Glee. I thought we'd come to some kind of agreement, but I see I was wrong. I for one will not play such games. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to choose Glee. You're out your star kicker." He shoved his tiny uniform – neatly folded – into the coach's hands. "Have a good season," were the last words he said before he was hit by the red slushie.
"Ohh, sorry, Hummel, I didn't realize I was on my period," simpered Lipoff. "Don't worry, I hear cold water takes out blood."
"Lipoff, you're out of line!" shouted the coach over the roar of the rest of the team. "Hummel, hit the showers."
"If you think I'm taking one more shower with these Neanderthals, you clearly have to work on your perception," Kurt huffed, and stalked out of the locker room with his bag, slushie dripping from his shoulders.
Puck threw his bag over his shoulder and followed Kurt out the door. "Where do you think you're going, Puckerman?" the coach hollered. "Are you choosing Glee, too?"
"Too much bullshit in one room, Coach – sorry, I've gotta bail," said Puck, and let the door swing shut behind him.
Finn wasn't really surprised to see Mike and Matt heading out the door, too, but Puck was an anomaly. Watching him walk away made his chest feel tight.
Now Finn looked at the coach. The coach stared back. "Well, Finn, now we really need you," he said. "This is your chance to solidify your position on the team and get your status back at McKinley. What's your decision going to be?"
"I'll stay," Finn said. Six guys cheered his decision. Lipoff and Azimio were not among them. Neither was Finn.
Puck followed Kurt into the bathroom and silently handed him a towel. Kurt looked at Puck suspiciously, but Puck just stood there, holding out the towel, until finally Puck dropped it on the sink and turned around to leave.
"I could… use a hand with the initial comb-through," said Kurt, and Puck pulled the chair up to the sink. He cushioned Kurt's neck with the towel and began to knock bits of red slushie off Kurt's hair, which was softer than Puck had expected it to be.
"You've got balls, I'll give you that, Hummel," said Puck, rinsing the red goo down the drain.
"You just noticed this?" Kurt smiled. "Why, Noah, I'm flattered."
"You heading to Glee rehearsal?" Puck asked.
"Of course." He looked at Puck. "Will you be there?"
"Maybe," Puck allowed. "Unless I get hit by a slushie on the way."
"We're none of us safe now, pardner," Kurt drawled in a deep and frighteningly accurate imitation of John Wayne.
Puck shrugged, grinning. "We just have to fight sneakier," he said, and ducked out.
Slushie #17: Finn
Finn knew he would need to do some remedial work to get back on the football players' good sides. His first assignment after choosing football was to give Kurt Hummel a slushie facial. Immediately he felt miserable about it, but it was too late to back out now.
He approached Kurt in the hallway and hunched his shoulders, holding the slushie in front of him like a dead fish.
Kurt took one look at the slushie, then back at Finn, and the expression of betrayal was clear. "Do it," he ordered.
"I don't really want to," Finn admitted. "I mean, I know how picky you are about the products you use on your face."
"But you've been under so much pressure from the gorillas on the football team." Kurt rolled his eyes.
Finn sighed. "If I don't do it, the guys on the team are going to kick the crap out of me."
"Well, we can't have that, can we?" Kurt grabbed the cup and steeled himself.
"What are you doing?" said Finn, panicking.
"It's called taking one for the team." He took a deep breath and doused himself with the grape slushie. The assembled observers all gasped. Kurt opened his eyes, wiped the worst of the goo out and gave Finn a look so thick with hatred and disgust that Finn felt more ashamed than he had when he'd been called faggot.
"Now get out of here…" Kurt hissed, "and take some time to think whether or not any of your friends on the football team would have done that for you." Finn stumbled away. The girls rushed Kurt into the bathroom, and in a few seconds he was gone.
Mercedes propped Kurt's head up on the sink and produced a wide-toothed comb from her bag, which she used to get the worst out of his hair.
"I have got to stop inciting this," Kurt wailed. "It's hell on my skin, but worse on my wallet. Look at the collar of this shirt. That's a $10 drycleaning bill right there."
Tina rinsed off his raincoat and patted it dry with wads of paper towel. "You are standing up for the rights of oppressed people everywhere," she declared. "It's not just about you."
Rachel picked bits of ice off Kurt's shirt. "It's not even about you," she said, glaring at Kurt. "It's about Finn. Jerk."
"He made his choice – football over Glee," Kurt snapped. "Now he can live with it."
"Why did you take the slushie for him? Why did you do it?"
Kurt was silent. Mercedes gasped and slapped Kurt's hand. "Girlfriend, do not tell me you are still carrying a torch for that boy?"
The look he gave her was pure agony. "Oh, right, please," he said, looking pointedly at Rachel, who was turned away. "Him? I was over him months ago."
"Um, Rachel, would you go to the gym and get Kurt a towel to dry his hair?" Mercedes asked sweetly. Rachel went right away, and he wheeled on Mercedes.
"Do not say anything to her. She's terrible at keeping a secret. She cannot tell him." Tina took one look at his distraught face and zipped her lips. He smiled gratefully at her.
"Kurt," Mercedes moaned, "we've been over this. That boy is straight as a chopstick."
Kurt didn't reply, but instead just gave her puppy-dog eyes. She waved a finger at him. "You ain't playing fair, Kurt. You know I can't resist the puppy-dog." He upped the wide eye factor a notch and she groaned. "Fine. I won't tell. I won't refuse to say I didn't warn you, though."
"I am entirely responsible for any difficulty I get myself into with Finn," Kurt said primly, reapplying moisturizer. "And it doesn't matter, anyway… he's in love with somebody else."
Finn stumbled down the stairs and into the alcove under the stairwell. No one else was in the hallway, but he still felt like he needed to be under cover, as though slushies could come raining from the sky at any moment. He ran his fingers through his hair and locked his hands behind his head, walking back and forth, his stomach squirming with shame at what he'd done to Kurt.
He sat on the only chair and put his face in his hands and let himself emit one, quiet sob. Then he heard footsteps approaching. Finn dried his eyes on the hem of his shirt and looked up to see Puck leaning over the stairwell.
"This is a good place to hide," Puck said. "It's where I go when there's a storm. You can't hear the thunder down here."
That little confession seemed to open a channel of understanding between them. Puck sat down right next to Finn's chair, on the floor, close enough to lean his head on Finn's knee (he didn't). He looked up at Finn. "Now you say something to me. That's how conversations work."
Finn didn't smile.
"I messed up, Puck. I made the wrong choice."
"You think?" Puck said.
"I couldn't do what needed to be done. I felt… stuck. I didn't want to do what the football players wanted me to do, and I didn't want to do what Glee wanted me to do. So I didn't do anything." He shuffled his feet. "That's when things got messed up: when I didn't do anything."
"That's because being a leader means doing something, even when you're not sure about what the right thing is," Puck said. "Even when you're scared."
"Especially when you're scared," Finn nodded.
"I'm no leader, Finn," said Puck, "but you are. You're a natural."
"I don't feel much like one right now," Finn admitted. "I feel like a douchebag."
"Yeah," Puck agreed. "You pretty much are."
Finn shook his head, laughing. "I can always count on you to tell me the truth, dude." He put an arm around Puck and squeezed his shoulder. Now Puck did put his head on Finn's knee, just for a second, and smiled.
"I came down here looking for you to yell at you about Kurt," Puck admitted.
Finn stared at him. "You – wanted to yell at me about – Kurt?"
"I thought that was really unfair what you did. He stood up for all of us when he chose Glee over football, and you threw a slushie on him?"
"Okay, first, technically, he threw the slushie on himself," Finn said. "And second, he was going to get his ass kicked. I was protecting him by being the bad guy."
"Um, no," Puck shot back. "First, he only threw the slushie because you got stuck and couldn't make a decision. Whose fault was that? And second, you were protecting yourself by pretending to be just another jockhead when you're really more than that. You're Kurt's friend. He deserves a lot better than your half-assed lies."
Finn blew out a breath. "What about me? What do I deserve? Everybody expects me to be perfect, but I'm only human. I make mistakes, too!" He was shouting now.
"So that was a mistake, huh?" Puck looked at him and shook his head. "I don't think so. I think you knew what the right thing was, but you chose the easy way out because being popular is easier than being yourself."
"And so what if it is? Maybe I don't always want to do the hard thing. Maybe I just want to fit in sometimes!"
"You're afraid of what people would do if they found out who you really are."
Finn slammed the chair down and thrust an accusing finger in Puck's face. "You think you know me, but you have no idea!" Puck blanched, but stood his ground. "You have no idea," Finn repeated, panting.
Then he swore and darted up the stairs, two at a time, thinking desperately, we were cool. But now we're not. I have to make it okay again. I have to make it cool.
Slushie #18: Puck
It was only an hour later when Rachel carefully climbed down the bleachers to sit behind Puck, watching the football players practice.
"Do you miss it?" she asked softly.
"Hell no," he said. He did and he didn't.
"I hope you didn't choose Glee over football because of me," she said.
"Because I don't think this relationship is going to work out."
He shrugged. "It's cool… I was going to break up with you, anyway."
"No, you weren't."
He gazed out onto the field, watching Finn not looking at him. "It's Finn, right?" She didn't answer. "He's never gonna leave Quinn, not with that baby in her belly."
She followed his gaze. "You like her, don't you? I can see you staring at her when I'm staring at Finn."
I'm not staring at Quinn. "Like I said, they're never breaking up." He wasn't going to admit who he was staring at. Not even in his own head. He flinched. "God, what's the matter with me? I'm a stud, and I can't even hold onto a chick like you? No offense… Why don't girls like me?"
"Because you're kind of a jerk. No offense," she said, nastily. "I just think you want it too much."
Ain't that the truth.
"We can still be friends, right?"
"We weren't friends before," he said, equally nastily. But he handed her a grape slushie before climbing down the bleachers and heading for his truck.
Throwing a football with Mr. Schue and listening to his advice was about as close to having a dad as Finn had ever had. It felt really good, even through his anger and frustration.
Mr. Schue caught the ball and tossed it back, looking thoughtful. "These are the moments… the crossroads… the ones you look back on when you get old and think: what if?"
Finn shook his head. "I don't buy that. I don't think any one moment defines your life."
"No, you're right," said Mr. Schue. "Life's a series of choices, big combinations of moments that add up to create who you are. You're letting other people make those choices for you, Finn… letting them define who you're going to be."
Finn closed his eyes as Mr. Schue approached him. "You don't understand the kind of pressure I'm under." Who am I going to be? The football player or the singer? Quinn's straight boyfriend or…?
Mr. Schue squeezed his shoulder sympathetically. "Come back to Glee, Finn. It's where you belong."
Finn looked up at the bleachers, but Puck was gone.
Slushie #19: Ma
Puck arrived home from school to find his mother laying on the couch with a warm washcloth over her face. "Ma? What are you doing home in the middle of your shift?" He bent down and felt her cheek. She was warm, though not feverish.
"Another migrane," she said quietly. "It's been a few hours now. It's almost gone. I'll go back to work in a little while."
"Can I get you something to eat?" Puck offered, rummaging in the fridge. He brought her a glass of iced tea. She took it gratefully and kissed his head.
"You're such a good boy, Noah," she said. "I'm not hungry now, but save me some of whatever you make for dinner. I'll eat it when I get home."
"I always do," he said, sitting on the other end of the couch and putting her feet in his lap. She smiled appreciatively as he started to rub the heels and instep.
"So what's going on with you? We don't get much of a chance to talk anymore. Are you still seeing that girl, what was her name? Quinn?"
"Um, no, Quinn is dating Finn, Ma. I was dating a girl, Rachel, but we… she dumped me."
"My Noah? How could she." His mother clucked sympathetically. "Well, you can do better. You need someone who appreciates you for who you are."
"Rachel said I'm kind of a jerk," he muttered. "I just told her the truth." Well, some of it, anyway.
"Mmmmm. Well, girls don't always like it when boys are honest. Sometimes they want to hear some sweet words, a little romance. You've never been interested in that. "
"No," he agreed.
"So what kind of a girl do you want, Noah?"
"I don't know," he said, shrugging.
"Why don't you make a list. All the things you want in your dream girl. And, Noah—" she paused, cleared her throat, and then said, painfully, "—don't make the list for me. Make it for yourself. What you really want, not what you think your old Ma wants."
He knew what she meant. You don't just have to look at the Jewish girls. He figured his mom was getting desperate to hook him up with somebody if she was willing to let him bypass that part. He got a pad of paper from the drawer in the kitchen, and a pen, and sat down to make his list.
Fifteen minutes later, he had:
not a prude
lets me do what I want
likes to eat
likes stuff I like to do
likes my friends
has a good heart
treats people with respect
not a wimp, but not as badass as me
He looked it over, then added:
Quinn had been a prude. Rachel, too, if it came to that. And both of them were definitely a little on the crazy side. If he used this list, to be honest, there hadn't ever been any girls in his life who measured up to what he wanted. He sighed and handed the list to his mom. "I don't know, Ma. What's the point in making a list when there's nobody out there who is really that cool?"
"Because it means you won't settle for something less than what you deserve, Noah." His mom nodded approvingly at the list. "This is good. It's more mature than I expected."
"Gosh, thanks," he grinned.
"It just means we haven't been spending enough time together," she said. "You've gone and grown up on me. You even look like your father."
His grin vanished. "Don't say that."
She put a hand on his. "Noah, he wasn't all bad. Oh, he was definitely a controlling bastard, but there were a lot of good things about him, too. They just got buried in garbage along the way." She caught his eye. "You are not going to end up like your father, Noah."
He gave her a sad smile. "That's just what Finn said."
"Well, you should listen to him. You've been friends a long time. I'd guess Finn understands you better than you understand yourself."
Puck was on the way to the kitchen with his mother's empty iced tea glass, and when he heard her say that, the glass slipped out of his hand and shattered in the ceramic sink.
"Noah!" she called out. "Are you okay? What was that?"
"I'm okay, ma," he croaked. He felt like he'd just been hit by a slushie. A big one. God.
Automatically he got out the broom and dustpan and cleaned up the shattered glass. Then he went back to the family room and picked up the list. With trepidation, he read it. And read it again. And again.
I do know someone like this.
His eyes were drawn back to the first word on the list:
Very carefully, he folded the list in half, then again, and again. Then he stuffed it into his back pocket.
Finn walked into the locker room. "Hey, Coach. Can I talk to you about something?"
"You got an itch down there or something?" said Coach Tanaka.
"What? No. Uh..." He took a breath. "I'm the quarterback, right? The leader."
"Well, all this stuff about having to choose between Glee and football... is making it hard for me to lead. Leaders are supposed to see things that other guys don't. Right? Like they can imagine a future where things are better."
Finn sat down and faced the coach. "I see a future where it's cool to be in Glee Club. Where you can play football and sing and dance and no one gets down on you for it. Where the more different you are the better. I guess what I'm trying to say is... I don't want to have to choose between them anymore. It's… not cool."
Coach Tanaka got up and walked over to the table. "Hey… about that Thursday practice. It's, uh, canceled indefinitely. I got... stuff I got to do that time. Laundry, things like that."
Finn stood up, smiling. "Oh. Sweet."
"Finn. Tell Puckerman and the other guys too, will you?
He nodded. "Sure. Thanks, Coach."
Slushie #20: Finn
Puck wasn't sure what to say when he opened the door and found Finn standing on his front porch, holding a blue raspberry slushie.
"Can I come in?" asked Finn. He looked calm, not angry. Puck opened the screen door. Finn handed him the slushie. "A peace offering," he said.
"Who's there, Noah?"
"It's me, Mrs. Puckerman," called Finn, and came into the family room, like he'd done a zillion times before.
Puck's mom was sitting on the couch, but she stood up and hugged Finn when she saw him. "Finn! How many times do I have to ask you to call me Ma? We were just talking about you."
"Uh… okay," Finn said, looking uncertainly at Puck. She laughed.
"Nothing bad, I assure you. Just that I think Puck is lucky to have you for a friend."
"Thanks… Ma," he grinned. Puck quirked an embarrassed eyebrow. "I feel the same way about Puck." His expression softened, and he looked at Puck, who was frozen, caught in the headlights of Finn's honesty. He took a breath. "I was actually coming over here to apologize to Puck for how I'd treated him."
"That is so nice of you, Finn," she said, smiling. "Here, why don't you boys sit and talk. I need to get ready to go back to work." She headed up the stairs.
"Yeah, you're such a nice boy, Finn," Puck said. Finn laughed and elbowed Puck in the ribs, and Puck snickered.
"So… something happened between three hours ago and now," Puck said. "What was it?"
"I talked to Mr. Schue, and the coach," said Finn. "And I did some thinking."
"Always dangerous," Puck grinned.
"Quinn – she's always judging other people based on how much she thinks they're worth, their status, you know?" Finn said. "I think she had me convinced that that was how things should be. Like, how popular someone is has something to do with what kind of person they are." He shook his head. "You'd have thought I would have figured this out on my own."
Puck scooted back on the couch and crossed his legs. "So, if being popular isn't important to you, what is?"
"Character," Finn said. "Honesty. Courage. Friendship."
"And the rest of the Care Bears?"
"Puck," Finn gritted his teeth, "shut up and listen. I'm trying to say something here."
Puck shut up.
"I didn't want the guys on the team judging me based on who they thought I… was friends with, like they judged Kurt. But in the end, it's exactly like you said. It doesn't matter what people think of me. People matter, not what they think." Finn cleared his throat. "You matter, okay?"
Puck swallowed and watched Finn with big eyes, but he didn't say anything.
"You said I'm afraid of what people would do if they found out who I am," Finn said. "That… may be true. But I would rather just be myself, and let people decide if they like me, then. I can do that in Glee."
"You're not giving up football for m… for Glee, are you?"
Finn shook his head, smiling. "No, and neither are you. I got Coach Tanaka to cancel Thursday football practice. We… don't have to choose."
"Dude," Puck said, impressed. "How did you do that?"
"I did what you said, about being a leader – I did something, even though I wasn't sure it would work, even though I was scared. I did it for Kurt, and for you, and Mike and Matt, and me, and everyone in Glee – and in football – who want to be themselves." He took a breath. "Everyone needs someone who appreciates him for who he is… and a place where he belongs."
Puck's eyes never left Finn's, and he answered the unspoken question by nodding slowly. Finn exhaled shakily, and relaxed.
"Finn?" Puck said quietly.
"Yeah?" Finn caught his breath.
"Do you… want some dinner? I made chicken piccata."
"I thought you'd never ask," Finn said, and they both cracked up.
Slushie #21: Finn
Quinn was still up finishing homework when Finn made it to her house with a red slushie. She opened the door for him, but she didn't look happy about it. "My parents are watching TV upstairs," she said testily. "I'm about to run out of steam and I need to finish my chemistry notes."
"I won't be long," he said, handing her the slushie. She took it and set it on the counter.
"I wanted to let you know I'm rejoining Glee club," he said. Her eyes widened. "And I'll also be playing football." She opened her mouth. "And," he cut her off, "I don't care about being popular anymore. I want to be myself, and screw what other people think."
"Finn," she interrupted. "You really need to think this through. What's going to happen to our chances of being prom king and queen if you start… being yourself? It's a crazy idea. Look, we just need to –"
"No," he said loudly. She stopped, shocked. "I'm sick of caring what other people think they know about me! The only people who really matter are my friends, because I care about them."
"What about me?" she said, narrowing her eyes. "Don't you care about me? What about what I want?"
"I do care about you," he said honestly. "I care what you want. But I'm not going to compromise me anymore. I'm trying to figure out who I am. I need friends to help with that. Friends want me to be true to myself." He paused. "Are you my friend, or not?"
Quinn stared at him, and huffed, but in the end she had to say, "Yes. Of course, Finn."
He hugged her and gave her a quick kiss. "Thank you." Then he paused. "One more thing."
"Yes?" she said, looking impatient.
"Lipoff said something about you and Puck, and I wanted to hear it from you, not from the gossip mill. Tell me: what did you and Puck do?"
Quinn's face went white and she sat down abruptly. "Oh… Finn. It was a long time ago and I – I don't think I can talk about it tonight."
"So – when?"
That was all Finn could get out of her, so he just gave her another kiss and closed the door.
Slushies #22-35: Finn
Finn met Glee club the next day with a tray full of Slushies, one for everyone, even Mr. Schue. "I was a real jerk," said Finn. "Glee is supposed to be about showing who you are inside, right? Here's me, showing I'm sorry."
"Thanks for the Slushies, Finn," Mr. Schue smiled.
"They're delicious," Rachel said, sipping her grape one.
Kurt took one sip and put his aside. "And loaded with empty calories. You know why they call them Slushies? Because your butt looks like one if you have too many of them."
Finn smiled. "I'd like to propose a toast: to Mr. Schue. You were right about Glee club and football being a killer combination."
The toast took a rather messier form than he'd expected, but it made for an interesting rehearsal, and Mr. Schue was in good spirits about the whole thing. Later, when they'd cleaned up all the slushies they'd thrown on Mr. Schue and everyone else had gone home, Puck and Finn found themselves alone in the choir room.
Finn's pulse raced a little faster at Puck's expression. "Uh, thanks for dinner last night," Finn said.
"Anytime," Puck said easily. "Thanks for… what you said, about… having a home. And for fixing things with Coach Tanaka. I really didn't want to have to choose between Glee and football."
"You don't have to," Finn said. "I think it's OK to… have both. They're different, but they're both important to you."
"Yeah?" Puck said. He looked sideways at Finn. "Uh, you don't think that folks in football might get… jealous, of the time I'm going to spend with the folks in Glee?"
"They might," Finn allowed. "But it's still OK."
"Cool," Puck nodded, smiling a little.
They headed out the door. "Where are you going?" Puck asked.
"Well, as funny as it was, Mr. Schue didn't deserve that slushie facial. But I can think of one person who really does deserve one." Finn grimaced. "I'm going to take care of that right now."
Double-Nonfat Latte, No Whip: Finn
Slushie #36: Kurt
Burt met Finn at the door, looking perplexedly at the grape Slushie in one hand and the coffee drink in the other. "Is this going to be a regular pattern, Finn? You bringing my son food? 'Cause you know he's pretty picky about what he eats."
Finn blushed and grinned. "Hi, Mr. Hummel. Um, yeah. I mean, no, I'm just – I think this will be the last of the food."
"Hmmm." Burt let him in. "Well, you seem like a nice kid, Finn, and I'm glad you two are getting along so well. Kurt needs more guy friends."
"Kurt's awesome," said Finn. "But I… haven't been so nice to him recently, and I'm here to apologize."
"Oh, yeah?" said Burt. Finn nodded sheepishly. "Can you tell me about any of it?"
Finn thought that was about the nicest way any grownup had ever pumped him for information. He told Burt the Cliff's Notes version of the story about having to choose between Glee and football, making sure to include details about Kurt's bravery when he quit the football team, and the part where Kurt had slushied himself. Burt was laughing when Kurt came upstairs to investigate.
"Well, it looks like you two are having a grand old time," said Kurt, crossing his arms and pressing his lips together. "I'll just be downstairs in my room if anyone feels like inviting me to the party."
"C'mon, Kurt, Finn came over to apologize to you," Burt said easily, putting a pacifying arm around his son. "He was just telling me about what happened at school with the football team. You told me you quit football, but you didn't tell me how you quit." He grinned at Finn. "I never thought I'd have to resort to getting details from Kurt's friends about his courageous acts. That was truly impressive, son."
Kurt looked from Burt to Finn with tolerant annoyance. "Hello, oversharing? So much for teenage boundaries, Finn?"
"You were amazing, Kurt," said Finn, making Kurt blush.
"All right, I think it's time for me to make myself scarce." Burt shook Finn's hand. "Nice to see you again, Finn. Kurt – "
"Yeah, I know. Door stays open, yadda yadda." Kurt's eye roll was affectionate, and the look he gave Finn held no hostility. They headed down the stairs.
Finn handed Kurt the coffee drink first. "Double nonfat latte, no whip," he said.
Kurt's eyes widened. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"Because I treated you like crap. Again," he said. "The guys on the football team were saying… mean things about you, and I stood up for you. Then they started picking on me, saying I was… like you."
"Oh," said Kurt. "And that made you mad, why, exactly? Because you kind of are. Like me."
"It made me mad that they were picking on me, not because they were saying I was… gay." Then he shook his head. "No, that's not exactly true. I want to get this right." He sighed. "I was ashamed that they were calling me… a faggot. I'm ashamed even to say that word."
"It's a shameful word," said Kurt. "Finn, I'm proud of who I am, but I didn't start out proud. It took time for me to overcome the hateful messages the world sends us about being gay. You need to take some time to figure things out, and get comfortable with yourself."
Finn sighed. "Yeah, but in the meantime, you're getting bullied every day. I don't want you to have to be alone in this, not if I can help."
Kurt's smile was brilliant. "Well, I've been alone in this my whole life. But now, I know you understand how it is for me, and you're standing up for me." He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. "You have no idea how good that feels, Finn." He opened them again, and his gaze was clear and warm.
"Oh, and here's this," said Finn, handing him the slushie. Kurt weighed both drinks in his hands and looked quizzically at Finn. "Well, you said you didn't like drinking the slushies because they made your, um, butt big. Not that it is. I mean, your butt looks great." He blushed as Kurt's eyebrows continued to rise. "I mean… never mind."
"So… what's the slushie for, then?"
"I owe you one," said Finn. And he took the slushie in both hands and doused himself, full in the face. Kurt gasped, mouth gaping open, eyes wide. Then he started to laugh.
"I can't believe you just did that!" Kurt spluttered.
"Well, I knew you wouldn't," Finn said, wiping grape Slushie out of his eyes. "And I deserved it." He looked at Kurt. "I'll do it again at school if you want."
Kurt put a hand to his mouth. His lips trembled. "Oh, Finn… no. No, I think you've learned your lesson." He guided Finn to the guest bathroom and gave him a towel. "Here, there's a shower in here. I'll get you a clean shirt. Take your time."
Then Kurt hesitated, and quickly brought his face up next to Finn's, close enough that his nose could touch his ear. Finn felt Kurt's breath, and then Kurt opened his mouth and took a long, firm lick along Finn's cheek.
All the air left Finn's chest in one moment. Finn could feel the path Kurt's tongue had made on his cheek, a stripe of fire, tingling, burning into his flesh. He turned to look into Kurt's eyes, then down at Kurt's lips, and back up again.
"I thought you said slushies were bad for you," Finn said, his voice sounding strangled.
Kurt touched Finn's sticky cheek. "I'm notorious for wanting things that are bad for me," he said, and licked his lips. "Thanks for the latte."
Finn watched the space where Kurt had been for a long time before stripping off his sticky t-shirt and stepping into the shower. He did not know how he felt about being naked in Kurt's house, though he was nervous enough to lock the bathroom door.
He washed his cheek off last.
When he came back out of the bathroom, clean, with his sticky shirt balled up in his hands, Kurt was working on his math homework at the coffee table, sipping his latte. Kurt nodded to a folded, plain white t-shirt on the chair, then returned to his homework, pointedly not looking while Finn put on the shirt. It was a little small on him, but fit okay.
"So that was unexpected," said Kurt, still not looking at Finn.
"The slushie?" Finn asked.
Kurt rolled his eyes. "Yeah, Finn. The slushie."
"Yeah, about that. Um…" Finn sat down on the couch next to Kurt, not too close. Kurt watched Finn out of the corner of his eye as he finished his math problem. "You know I have feelings for… someone else."
"We already had this conversation," Kurt said. "I told you it was fine. My invitation stands." He tapped the table with his pencil. "Unlike you, I'm not afraid to mess things up by pushing the envelope. But I'm a big boy. I won't be hurt if you tell me to back off."
"What if I don't want you to?" Finn said softly. Kurt looked up at him. Finn touched the place on his cheek where Kurt had licked him.
"How was it?" Kurt asked, a ghost of a smile on his lips.
"Hot," Finn admitted.
The smile bloomed, and Finn couldn't help but smile back. "I guess you're not just him-sexual, then," Kurt said.
"I guess not," Finn said, leaning in and placing his lips gently on Kurt's. They were so, so soft. Finn breathed in, and it was Kurt's breath he was breathing as he leaned in to deepen the kiss, and it was Kurt's tongue he felt along his tongue, and Kurt's voice moaning into his mouth.
Finn dared to reach up and slide a hand around the back of Kurt's neck and held him in place while he kissed him. Kurt did not object; he made another little moan as Finn touched him. Finn tasted the latte, and this was oddly erotic, knowing that a flavor Finn had given Kurt was there on his tongue.
Kurt broke the kiss first, looking at Finn with heat and something like respect. "Damn."
"Definitely not just… him-sexual," Finn agreed.
"You know how to kiss," Kurt said.
Finn looked bashfully at Kurt. "I think it comes from dating the president of the chastity club. It was just about all we did."
"I did not need to hear that," Kurt said, throwing up his hands to cover both ears, laughing.
"Does it gross you out, to think of me kissing girls?" Finn asked, curious.
Kurt looked perplexed. "No. Yes. No."
"Well, that's clear."
Kurt laughed again. "No, I've seen you kiss girls before. It's fine." He took a breath, with a hand on his chest. "Now, thinking about you kissing… him… that's hot."
Finn felt a different wave of shock pass over him. "You know who…?"
"I've seen the way you look at him," Kurt said. "And the way he looks back. I don't know if anyone else would notice, though. I mean, I've…" and he blushed, "I've watched you pretty closely, you know."
"Uh. Yeah." Finn looked at Kurt with a new curiosity. He could touch… that. He could kiss… that. He reached out and stroked his cheek. Kurt closed his eyes and leaned into the touch. Finn noted the difference in the way Kurt's soft stubble and rougher texture felt different from a girl's. He wondered how Puck's face would feel under his hand, and he shuddered.
"Are you sure this is really okay?" he said in wonder.
Kurt, eyes still closed, let out his breath in a laugh. "Yeah, Finn, this is really, really okay." He opened his eyes and twisted a smile at Finn. "But my dad is going to come downstairs in a minute and wonder what we're up to, and I don't think he's ready to see this. We might want to stop… for now."
"Are we going to tell anybody?" Finn was momentarily scared of this thought, but the fear was swept away in a new set of sensations as Kurt climbed onto his lap, straddling him, stroking his hands down the front of the white t-shirt Finn had just put on, and kissed him quite thoroughly.
"No," Kurt breathed into his ear, and Finn whimpered. "It'll be our secret. Until you say otherwise."
"Okay," said Finn, because that's about all he could manage. Kurt continued climbing over Finn to the other side. He picked up Finn's slushie-stained t-shirt and tossed it into the hamper at the end of the hall. Finn watched him walk up the stairs, suddenly quite aware that Kurt Hummel had a very nice butt indeed.
Finn stood and adjusted his jeans before following Kurt up the stairs. Burt was sitting reading the paper at the table. He looked up. "Do you want to stay for dinner, Finn?" Burt offered. "It's just spaghetti, but you'd be welcome."
"I think I'd better get home," Finn said, "but thanks for the offer. Another time."
"You're welcome any time," Burt said, shaking his hand. He looked over at Kurt, and grinned. "It's nice to see Kurt's friends."
"Well," Finn said, taking a deep breath, "it's nice to be seen." He smiled at Kurt, and turned to go.
"Wait a second," said Burt. Finn turned back. "Weren't you wearing a blue shirt when you came in?"
"Um," Finn said.
"It's a funny story, dad," said Kurt, "and I'll tell you all about it after Finn leaves." He pushed Finn toward the door, ignoring his father's scowl, and grabbed Finn's hand briefly, giving it a tight squeeze, as Finn closed the door behind him.