(Author's note: The motif for the second day of Pinn Week is Family. Ever since I saw the scene in season 4 with Jake Puckerman telling Ryder he studied ballet, I knew I was going to need to write a follow-up to Road Trip. Here's Noah, later that summer after returning to Lima after that transformative weekend. Obviously spoilers for that story, so you might want to read it first if you have not yet done so. -amy)
"Noah?" He felt a hand on his shoulder. "Do you want to stay for dinner?"
"Sure," he said, yawning. He hadn't even figured out who was talking yet, but they'd called him Noah, so he wasn't in Dayton. And if they were offering him food, that was a question he always answered with a yes. He blinked, withdrawing slowly from sleep, and saw it was Mrs. Hudson. "Uh... sorry, did I...?" He looked over at the television, which had made its way to a commercial, and the clock, which told him the game had been over for half an hour.
"It's fine," she said gently. "You don't have rehearsal today, do you?"
"Not on Sunday, no." He cracked his neck and unfolded from the recliner.
She smiled. "Well, then, getting a little extra sleep is a good thing, isn't it?"
Mrs. Hudson was in the running for World's Best Mom, as far as Noah was concerned. She'd basically let him move in when his own Ma had expressed extreme displeasure about his job at Masque. Okay, maybe pole dancing wasn't super glamorous, and maybe he'd lied about his age, but they'd hired him, hadn't they? And Brett and Graham knew, and he knew they knew, and even though nobody was saying anything about it, he was sure they'd find a way to keep him around until his eighteenth birthday next summer. After that... well, nobody expected him to stick around after school was over. Not since Finn.
Noah switched off the television and moved to the floor, beginning his stretches. He could blame Finn for the rehearsals, too, kind of. Noah was pretty sure he wouldn't have decided to audition for Sleeping Beauty without his encouragement. He was kind of amazed he'd gotten the Blue Bird solo without having a teacher to help him prepare his audition. At least that was temporary. Miss Ankundinov wasn't currently in the country, but she would be again starting in October, and he'd been putting a little money aside every paycheck to cover studio time with her.
But Finn had been the one to smile at him when he'd mentioned the audition, and had said excitedly, You're gonna do it, right? He didn't even care that Noah would basically disappear into rehearsals for almost a month, driving down to Dayton every other day and crashing with Graham and Brett the other nights. And weekend rehearsals plus working at the club on Saturdays meant he was pretty much dead to the world on Sunday.
Finn had driven with him to the audition and sat in the auditorium watching, grinning like an idiot the whole time. When Noah had come down from the stage, drenched in sweat, he'd taken him into the hallway and kissed him up against the wall, drawing catcalls and several propositions.
"You were amazing," Finn said, his eyes roving over Noah's face, like it was a buffet of all of his favorite foods. Noah just grinned.
"You would have said that even if I had sucked."
"You wouldn't have sucked," Finn pointed out. Then he kissed him again for a while before running out to pick up sandwiches. He stayed with him while Noah waited for callbacks, without one word about the sweat all over his shirt, and when Noah was chosen to do the pas de deux with one of the girls, he took a video of it on his phone to bring home to Kurt and Mr. Hummel and Mrs. Hudson.
Things had still been new enough between him and Finn at that point that he was a little embarrassed to be shown off in front of Finn's mom like that, even if she apparently had been aware of what was going on between them all along. It was weeks before he'd screwed up the courage to approach her alone. She'd been gardening, but when she saw the expression on her face, she'd put down her trowel and sat down on the lawn.
"Noah," she said, gravely. Of all people, Mrs. Hudson had never questioned his decision to change his name back. He smiled, feeling ridiculously exposed, but he steeled himself, knowing she'd never be upset about what he had to say, either.
"Um..." He crouched down beside her, gazing at the flowers. "This thing... with me and Finn."
She smiled. "Your relationship's changed a little. Burt and I noticed."
They hadn't changed the way they were in front of Finn's family, not at that point, but no one could have failed to pick up on how much time they spent behind closed doors.
"A little," he agreed weakly. "I guess you knew, though?"
"I've known for a long time." She didn't sound upset or annoyed by this, which was a relief. "I know my son. It was clear to me Quinn and Rachel weren't the ones making him feel safe and happy, but I wasn't going to say anything until he figured it out for himself." She reached out with one gloved hand and touched his knee. "You've always been part of the family, Noah. It's not any different, now."
"Cool." He picked at the hem of his cutoffs. "I've been trying to figure out what to do about fall. About... everybody, and school."
"Are you considering dropping out?" She sounded concerned, but not like she was judging him. "It's going to be hard in the fall, with you playing that part in Dayton."
"I was thinking about that, yeah. If I could study for the GED, there's a chance to take it in November."
"Rather than going back and facing everyone, you mean?"
"It's not so much that," he protested. "If I did the GED instead of waiting for spring, I could be done early enough to... um." He ducked his head, uncertain about how much to say regarding the plans he'd dreamed with Finn about college. "It'd give me more flexible time to rehearse, see what other parts I could get in the winter besides the usual Nutcracker. My director says this role should open up some bigger doors for me."
"That's reassuring. I'm glad you're thinking about your future." She smiled. "If there's anything Burt or I can do to help, please don't hesitate to ask."
"Yeah, that's kind of the thing. I'm... my Ma, she's not so happy about the dancing I'm doing at Masque. I haven't even told her about Finn and she's freaking out anyway."
"Because it's a gay club?"
"I don't even know," he admitted. "Maybe?"
She nodded. "Do you want me to talk to her?"
"I don't think that's going to help." He grimaced. "When she's working, I can get away with sneaking in and out, but when she's home, it's just... bad. I could use a place to crash, sometimes."
"Noah Puckerman," Carole said, sounding amused. "Are you asking for permission to sleep over?"
Before he could even stammer out a denial, she was climbing to her feet, dusting off her jeans. "You're always welcome, honey. We have a guest room if Finn decides he'd rather have some privacy. And no matter what Burt says, everyone will respect a closed door around here."
Noah was pretty sure he'd hugged her and said something ridiculously grateful after that, after which he'd hurried back into the house to find Finn and try out their new closed door policy.
It was hard for Noah to stay away from the Hudson-Hummel's after getting that kind of permission, and aside from some good-natured eye-rolling from Kurt, nobody said one word about him being there in Finn's room most nights. He showed up at his own house occasionally, long enough to make sure his sister was still eating okay and nobody had sold his stuff, and figured that was good enough. It would have to be, for now.
In the middle of his hamstring stretch, Noah's phone rang. It wasn't a number he recognized, but it was a Dayton area code, so he figured it had to be someone with the club or the theater. "This is Jason."
"Oh - I was looking for someone else. I think?" The voice sounded vaguely familiar.
"Who are you looking for?"
"I need to talk to... um, Noah? Although I hear he's going by Puck these days."
Noah leaned into the other leg. "Depends. But you've got the right number. Who is this?"
"Noah?" The voice quieted, then resumed, a little gruffer. "It's your dad."
He knew better than to pop up out of a stretch like that, but it took him by surprise, and he winced as he felt a twinge. "Uh - hi."
"Before you go getting all uptight about me calling you, I should mention I'm here asking for a favor. Not for me, but for someone else who could use your special brand of expertise."
Noah had a million questions, but few of them were kind and none of them were simple. "I'm not really an expert at anything."
"That's not what this article in the Dayton Daily says." He heard the rustling of paper, and then his dad again, laboriously reading: "Featuring in the role of the Blue Bird, Jason Walker makes his Dayton ballet debut. And a huge color picture of my kid, doing some kind of flying dance move thing. What, is that your stage name?"
"Something like that. Dad, what -?" He took a helpless breath. "I haven't heard from you in years, and now...?"
"I told you, it's not for me. Your mom's not so keen on the idea of me being around, but I'm feeling a little desperate." Noah heard him sigh. "It's about my son."
At first, Noah wanted to say, who, me? before realizing what that implied. His dad was talking about some other kid. It made sense, he guessed, but it still felt like a double blow. "You got married again?"
"No, they don't live with me, Jake and his mom. But Tanisha called me when Jake started having problems, thinking about quitting. She knew you used to dance."
Used to. Noah gazed down the length of his legs, imagined what his dad would say if he mentioned the tights he'd worn at the theater on Friday, or the super-short briefs he always sported when he danced on the pole at Masque. "Still do."
"Apparently. And that's why I need you, Noah. Jake... he's good. Like, really good. Like you were."
Noah gritted his teeth. "If he's really good, he doesn't need some guy he's never met getting in his face about it. Figure it out yourself, dad. And don't bother calling back."
He thumbed off his phone and tossed it on the couch before going to find Finn, who was outside in the garage with Kurt. They were crouched beside a lawn mower which had been dismantled into components too small for Noah to recognize. Kurt looked more than a little irritated, but he was still using his patient voice with Finn, which told Noah it was time to intervene.
"Hey," he said, tugging on Finn's arm. "I need your advice."
"Is that what they're calling it these days," Kurt muttered, but he didn't prevent Noah from directing Finn back into the house.
Finn was grinning as he leaned against the counter in the kitchen. "Since when do you need my advice on anything?"
"Since my freaking dad called," moaned Noah.
Finn immediately moved in close, apparently not caring who might walk in on them, and put enough pressure on his arms to calm him down. Noah rested his forehead against Finn's collarbone and rolled it from side to side.
"What did he want?" Finn asked quietly.
"Well, apparently I have a brother, and he's a better fucking dancer than, like, God, and my dad's all invested in keeping him dancing even though they don't -"
"Hold on, hold on. You have a brother?" Finn didn't sound upset about this. He sounded kind of excited and pleased. Noah tipped his face up far enough to glare at him.
"This is so not about that. Are you on my side or what?"
"You don't even have to ask that question, ever. And he's a dancer? I mean, what were the odds? Where does he live?"
Noah just kept shaking his head, until finally Finn gave up and hugged him.
"He gave up on me," Noah said, when he'd regained control of his breathing. "He took off and fucking gave up on me, and my Ma, and Sarah, and now he wants me to help this kid I've never even heard of before because he's my relative? Dude, the fuck?"
"You don't have to," said Finn. "Really, you don't. Especially not for that reason."
Noah tucked his arms in tighter and huddled in against Finn's chest, knowing it was pointless to try to wait him out. Finn wasn't going to give up until Noah said everything. Perversely, this made him hang onto his silence even longer, because he knew it would be okay. Eventually, he sighed.
"Remember when I told your mom I was thinking about dropping out of school and taking the GED instead?"
"It would make sense, right? School sucks, get it over with, keep my job, do more auditions. All logical and reasonable." He breathed through the shame. "Except. It's not about any of that shit. I just don't want to have to deal with people looking at us and saying we're - anything other than awesome. Because we are."
Finn held on tighter. "I know."
"I don't know if I can handle it. All that shit Kurt went through... I'm not strong like that."
"Yeah, you are."
"I'm telling you, man," he said, the anger bursting out in a rolling wave, "I'm not. There's a fucking reason I hid behind Jason for so long."
"I'm the one who was the idiot, who couldn't see what you were dealing with alone all through junior year." Finn held him at arm's length, just far enough to let Noah see the curiosity in his eyes. "You really think because you hid like that somehow means you're not strong? I think it's the other way around."
Noah shook his head. "You've got to be kidding me. Lying to everybody about who I am and what I'm doing? That's, like, the most cowardly thing I can think of."
"I don't know. I guess we do what we have to, in order to get by. You got a job to help your mom and your sister." Finn smiled. "I don't know if I can be anything but kind of impressed with you for that."
Noah resisted the smile, but it found him anyway. "Fuck, Hudson. You're such a dork."
"Maybe," he said easily. "But I think you can give your family a hand without feeling obligated to your deadbeat dad. He doesn't automatically get to be family just because you're related to him."
"I guess not. He can still just be the asshole who took off."
"Sure." Finn nudged his shoulder. "So I'm just going to point out that you're still giving your mom your checks, even though she's being kind of awful about your job."
"Yeah, but that's..." Noah trailed off. "Okay, I guess that's kind of the same. I just can't hate my Ma? She's being awful about my job because she thinks it's bad for me. I mean, she's not wrong. I'm not getting much sleep, it's a lot of fucking driving, there's guys groping me every weekend..."
Finn gave him a look. "You're not really helping your case, here, man."
"No, but..." He placed a hand flat on Finn's chest. "Those things don't matter so much, right? Because Brett and Graham, and everybody at Masque, that's kind of like part of my family now, too. Even if it's a little fucked up." He looked up at Finn. "Okay, I think I know what you've been trying to tell me now."
"Oh, yeah?" Finn grinned quizzically. "You want to share it with me? Because I'm the one who's clueless, remember?"
"Whoever this kid is, my... brother... if he's anything of a dancer like I was, I know what he's going through. It sounds like he's freaking out about people judging him."
His grin widened. "And...?"
"And I guess he could use somebody to talk to." Noah huffed at Finn's triumphant expression. "And, before you go getting all full of your fucking self, I'm gonna head over to my house."
He almost felt bad about the way Finn's grin slipped away. "Why?"
"Because before I tell anybody else about us, I'm gonna have to tell my Ma." He leaned in and planted a firm kiss on Finn's stunned face. "Wish me luck."
Finn seized his head in both hands and kissed him back, hard enough to make Noah lose some of his momentum. He wasn't complaining, though, and he let his hands stray to Finn's ass for a few moments, cupping it through his jeans.
"You know how goddamn proud I am of you?" Finn whispered against his cheek.
You make me want to be the person you see me to be, Noah wanted to tell him, but he figured he'd better go earn some of that respect before he spent any time reveling in it. "Hold that thought, babe. And then you and me, we'll take a trip down to Dayton to meet this Jake, and see what kind of a dancer he is."