Author's Note: This is a bit of a sidebar to An Accident of Paradise that's been nagging at me for a while. It picks up in chapter ten or so, so if you're ever going to read that story and don't want a gigantic spoiler biting you in the ass...uh, don't read it?
It starts with a siren.
He's in the chorus room for glee rehearsal—five minutes early, as is he always is now that he's no longer a father-to-be or Quinn's boyfriend or Puck's friend or Rachel's whatever-the-hell he was before she chose Quinn over him at Christmas—when everyone pauses at the sound of a siren piercing through the air. They're all already back to their paper shuffling or conversations or Angry Birds before they pause again with the realization that it isn't passing through, passing by, going around. It's growing louder and suddenly there's the sound of skidding tires in the parking lot outside, and he's the first—as desperate to get away from the pity of the others as he is curious to find out what's going on—to hop off the risers and peer out into the hallway. He frowns, the sound of panicked voices coming from down the hall, near the stairs.
It isn't until he recognizes Rachel's voice—high and pitchy and as off-key as he's ever heard her—that he sprints down the hallway. Puck is right on his heels, Mike and Matt matching their pace as the rest of them—not a one of them athletic, he thinks wildly—struggling to catch up. He skids to a halt and Puck slams into his back when he reaches the stairwell and sees Brittany and Santana and Rachel, covered in purple slushie remnants and huddling around a hidden form on the floor of the landing.
"Oh, God," he hears Puck groan out from somewhere behind him, but he's numb and stumbling as his best friend shoves him out of the way and skids down the stairs, sliding to a stop in the puddle of slushie and—oh, God, that looks like blood—that's spreading out slowly from under Quinn.
He stands, panicked and frozen and disbelieving, at the top of the stairs and watches as Puck, terrified and crying, hands hovering uncertainly over Quinn, looks up and finds his eyes desperately, pleadingly, as if he wants nothing more than for Finn to use his good guy charm and smile to make it all okay. He can't move, his shoes glued to the slushie stains beneath them, and his stomach is clenching even tighter than it did the day he found out Quinn was pregnant, the day he found out that he wasn't the father, the moments when everything had felt like it was crashing down around him because he was unhappy and humiliated and lied to and terrified of having to be an adult.
As Mercedes yanks him out of the way so the paramedics can get by with a stretcher, he feels a sob struggling to blow out of his chest, but it catches somewhere in his throat as he hears a strangled cry escaping Quinn and an equally pained groan coming from Puck. Mercedes' fingers are still around his wrist, vice-like and shaking as hard as his entire body is. Mr. Scheu has to put his entire body weight into levering Puck out of the way of the paramedics.
They trail after the stretcher, and suddenly half of the club is trying to cram into the ambulance with Quinn while he stands in the background, hands hovering in the air helplessly and mouth gaping open with confusion, staring through the crowd to where Quinn is strapped into a stretcher, pale and sweaty and crying, her clothes stained with purple and crimson, her entire shaking visibly even under the straps holding her to the stretcher. He stares and she opens her eyes briefly, her gaze landing on him for a split second, eyes wide and bright and hazy with pain. He wills himself to smile, to nod, to tell her it'll be okay, to tell everyone who's yelling to shut the hell up and let the ambulance go, but the moment passes all too quickly as the stretcher is jostled when one of the paramedics climbs in and another weak sob pushes out of her. His body jerks towards the ambulance reflexively, fists clenching on instinct as he feels an overpowering bout of rage welling up inside, and he wants nothing more than to rip the paramedic limb from limb.
But that moment passes, too, as Puck makes his way into the ambulance and the doors shut and it speeds off. They're all left standing helplessly, stupidly, in the parking lot, three of them drenched in slushies and the rest dumbfounded, watching and listening and crying as the ambulance disappears into the road.
Santana snaps first. She yanks Rachel and Brittany by the wrist and the three of them sprint to Santana's car; it's squealing out of its parking spot before the back doors are shut. Finn watches them go, fists still clenched, helpless.
"Mr. Scheu," Tina asks shakily. The teacher shakes his head, as if to clear it, and nods curtly.
"I can take four in my car," he says grimly.
"I've got everyone else," Kurt says. His voice is trembling. "Artie, you're with me."
Finn, Mike, Matt, and Tina cram into Mr. Scheu's tiny car while Mercedes and Kurt hurriedly load Artie into Kurt's SUV. No one says a word as they hurry to the closest hospital. Finn sits in the front seat of Mr. Scheu's car, knees folded up almost to his chest, his shoulders shaking with the effort of controlling his panic. Distantly, he hears Mr. Scheu saying something to him, but it doesn't register, and he's out of the car before it stops and sprinting into the hospital through the ambulance bay. He shoves his way past nurses and doctors, ignoring disgruntled cries, and follows a trail of purple slushie remnants to where he sees Brittany and Santana standing half-inside the doorway to a trauma room. Brittany is shaking visibly, Santana clinging to her tightly, her forehead buried in the taller girl's shoulder, and Finn slams to a halt because Santana is Santana and she's powerful and terrifying and the strongest of all of them and—
Puck's voice floats out of the room, question after question for the doctors, and Finn feels like he might throw up when he hears his friend start shouting desperately for them to say that his daughter will be okay.
Mr. Scheu appears from nowhere when Finn starts to collapse, terror and confusion washing over him at the sound of Puck's desperation and making his knees buckle. His best friend is in there, crying, because his daughter might be hurt, might die, and for the first time since he was eight years old and Puck told him about how abusive Mr. Puckerman was, he wants to grab onto his friend and hug him tightly and never let go.
"Oh, God," he groans out, his legs finally giving out, his weight slumping down onto Mr. Scheu's smaller frame. His teacher's words still can't reach through the haze of fear in his head.
Two hours later, he's pacing up and down the surgical waiting area, hands slapping at his pockets nervously. Ever since Rachel guided a slumped, small-looking Puck out of the ER and informed them all that Quinn had been taken into surgery, Finn's been full of uncontrollable energy. He wants to barrel into the operating room and take over the surgery and fix everything. He wants to shake Quinn until she wakes up so he can apologize to her, forgive her, explain that he really had loved her, tell her that he's sorry he kissed Rachel while he was still dating her, beg for her to be okay.
Somehow, Puck is calmer than he is. He's sitting silently in the chair closest to the hallway the doctor will come from, elbows on his knees and hands clenched together and gaze locked stoically onto the floor five feet in front of him. Rachel's at his side, changed into clean clothes and a small hand on his shoulder, her parents sitting next to her and looking as petrified as she is. Santana is curled around herself, arms wrapped around her shins and chin pressed to her knees as she glares blankly at the wall across from her; Brittany is on the floor in front of her, one hand up and wrapped around Santana's ankle. Mr. Scheu is moving between everyone else—Tina's and Kurt's and Mercedes' tears, Matt and Mike's uncertainty, Artie's explicit concern.
A shrill ringing sound cuts through the tense silence, and he skids to a halt in his pacing in annoyance until he realizes it's coming from his own pocket. A nurse glares at him as he fumbles with the phone, and he realizes that it's well past when he normally gets home and his mom doesn't know where he is.
He stumbles around a corner and flips the phone open. "Mom," he chokes out.
"What happened?" she asks immediately.
"I—it's Quinn," he says. He's long since given up on trying to pretend he isn't crying, and he swipes futilely at the tears, his nose, his face. "There was an accident, she fell, she's—the baby is—"
"Where are you, sweetie?" she asks. Her voice is soothing if he ignores the sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line, the waver, how it's immediately thicker in that way that always means she's trying not to cry.
"The hospital," he mumbles. "Can you—can you come here?" His voice is small, childlike, and he gives up on standing, sliding down the wall behind him as his legs fail once more. "Please?"
"Ten minutes, sweetie," she says. He can hear her car keys rattling in the background. "I'll be right there."
The line disconnects abruptly, and he drops the phone into his lap, staring blankly across the hall. There's sound all around him—they're in a hospital, after all, and there's always something happening—and he tries halfheartedly to focus on it. The beeping of a heart monitor sounds like one of those metronomes Rachel uses so obsessively, the whine of the vending machine around the corner like a broken pitch pipe. The low murmur of Mr. Scheu's voice feels like an accompanying bass line, rolling through his chest. He drops his head back to the wall and closes his eyes, taking slow breaths and willing himself to focus on it.
He's almost halfway to calm when he almost jumps out of his skin at the feeling of someone sliding down the wall beside him. He jerks to the side, eyes slamming open and widening at the sight of Santana, still in a purple-stained cheerleading uniform, sitting next to him. He stare at her as she stares at her dirtied white sneakers, and wonders if he's ever seen her cry sober. The skin over her cheeks looks raw and stretched, as if the more she cried the tighter it became.
She doesn't move, but a choked sob half-sounds out of her lips, and his throat clenches at the sound. "She'll be okay," he mutters. "She will."
Santana's shaking her head, not looking at him, her hands winding tighter and tighter around each other in her lap. "You don't know that," she croaks out, and now he's shaking his head.
"No," he says forcefully. The sound of his voice makes them both flinch. "She'll be okay. She has to be okay."
Without meaning to, he's reaching out and putting an arm around her shoulders. It surprises them both, but not as much as how she curves into his side, one hand clutching at the denim over his knee. Her fingernails are digging in even through his jeans, but he welcomes the pain. It gives him something to focus on.
A few minutes later, Brittany appears on Santana's other side, and silently wraps herself around the smaller girl, her hand coming to rest over Santana's where it's still gripping at his knee. A few minutes after that, his mother is sitting down on the hallway floor to his left. Careful not to jostle Brittany and Santana, he grips her hand deathly tight and turns his face into her shoulder and wills himself not to cry again.
Sometime after Brittany and Santana had walked down the hall to call Quinn's parents, after Mike had been ordered home by his mother, after Puck's mom and sister had come sprinting into the waiting area, Finn is still sitting in the hallway with his head buried unashamedly into his mother's shoulder when he hears Puck scrambling out of his chair and throwing questions at someone who can only be a doctor.
Finn rips himself away from his mother and rounds the corner abruptly, his momentum halting abruptly when he sees Puck standing anxiously in front of a doctor in green scrubs stained red.
"Ms. Fabray will be okay," the doctor is saying, and Finn feels his body sagging with relief for a brief moment before the doctor continues on. "But… there were some complications with the fetus. We had to induce labor in an effort to save them both, but there was nothing we could do."
The doctor is still talking, but a tuneless, echoing ring is all Finn can hear. His eyes are locked on Puck and the way he stumbles back, shaking his head, and trips over the edge of a chair, falling to the ground. His mother drops to her knees beside him, wrapping her arms around him and saying something in his ear and she cries and somehow rocks him back and forth, but Puck is silent and expressionless, staring blankly into space. Rachel is crying, her sobs shaking her entire frame, as one father holds her tightly and the other is cursing furiously and throwing his fist into a wall. Santana is as broken as Rachel, crying and horribly separate from Brittany, who's backed herself into a corner and has her hands over her ears. Mr. Scheu is standing with his hands on Mercedes' and Kurt's shoulders, looking lost as the two of them start to cry again as well.
Finn feels his mother behind him, her hand on his elbow, but an uncontrollable energy he hasn't felt for hours is coursing through him. He throws her hand away and leaps forward, grabbing the startled doctor by the shirt and shaking him. He towers over the other man by almost six inches, his huge hands almost ripping the surgical scrubs as he words he can't remember thinking are ripping out of him.
"Take it back," he shouts. He shakes the doctor violently, barely noticing when the man's glasses go flying off of his face. "She's okay, they're both okay, they have to be. Take it back!"
Meaningless apologies drift out of the doctor's mouth, but they do nothing to curb his anger. Before anyone can reach him, he's thrown the doctor against a wall and has a fist cocked back to hit him. It takes his mother's voice and Rachel's hand on his shoulder to ground him, to pull him out of his rage, to loosen his grip on the doctor's shirt.
He stumbles again, his legs weakening at the realization that the little girl he'd thought was his would never be born. Rachel is talking, low and insistent and angry, and it's all he can do to focus on the sound of her voice. He can feel her trembling and it grounds him like nothing had since he first heard the siren that afternoon.
"Oh, God," he whispers. "Oh, God." He wobbles and slumps into the wall he'd just thrown the doctor into, his feet skidding out from under him as he sinks to the floor once more. "Oh, God." His head aches, as if someone is pressing at his temples with a vice grip, and he presses the heels of his hands into his eyes in some wayward attempt to relieve the pressure.
He doesn't know how long he's been sitting there, Rachel at his side and the both of them crying, when the sound of Puck's voice jerks them all out of their silence. Finn jerks his hands away from his eyes, his vision blurry, and he stares across the room where Puck is slowly climbing to his feet and turning to face Brittany and Santana.
"What happened?" he says lowly. His voice is hollow and his face neutral, and for the first time in his life, Finn finds himself wishing for any of the emotions Puck had shown the number of times he'd shown up at the Hudson's doorstep after one of his father's rampages. Fear, pain, loathing, anger…anything, anything would be better than this calm that is so distant from who Puck normally is.
Brittany glances over at Santana, who is slumped in a chair and staring dully at the floor. Beside him, Finn feels Rachel stirring slowly, sitting up to stare at Puck.
"Brittany," Puck says. His voice is laced with warning, impatience, the promise of intimidation and violence that they had all somehow forgotten he always carried. "Tell me what happened."
Santana is still lifeless and catatonic when Brittany looks over at her for answers, and Puck steps forward, taking Brittany by the shoulders and gripping tightly. "Tell me," he grinds out.
The moment he's moved, Puck is surrounded by Mr. Scheu and Mike and Matt, all hovering warningly in the background.
"Just tell me!" he shouts. His voice is raw, catching and hitching and cracking over the words, and it seems to jostle Brittany out of her confusion long enough for her to mutter something about Karofsky and Azimio.
The moment the words are out of her mouth, Puck's released his hold on her and is shoving past Mr. Scheu and Mike and Matt—none of them had the size to stop him; only Finn had ever managed to take Puck down in tackling practices, and he was currently sitting in a daze on the floor—and sprinting away and around the corner before anyone can stop him.
Finn stares at the confusion before him, lost and uncertain and feeling far more solid sitting on the floor than he has all afternoon. He can't even imagine moving until he hears his name echoing through his head, Rachel's voice shrill and piercing and cutting through his confusion.
"Finn, go!" she's yelling at him. He looks over at her momentarily, eyes unfocused and confused, before she's hitting him on the arm and it's just enough to shake him back to the present. He scrambles awkwardly to his feet and takes off down the hallway after Puck. He can hear Mr. Scheu chasing after him, calling for both of them, but pays no heed until he bursts out into the parking lot and Puck is already out of sight.
"God damn it," Finn bellows. His kicks viscously at a trash can, knocking it loose from the base bolted into the ground. Mr. Scheu slows to a halt beside him, panting, hands on his knees from the run through the hospital.
"Where'd he go?" he gasps out.
"After Karofsky," Finn says darkly. He kicks at the trash can again. "Too slow," he mumbles under his breath.
"Come on," Mr. Scheu says. "I'll drive." He runs after Mr. Scheu to his car and crams himself into the passenger seat again, tense and tight and terrified that Puck will murder Karofsky and go to prison for the rest of his life.
"Do you know where—"
"Near my house," Finn says shortly. "Two blocks past it."
It feels like it takes forever to get there. They hit every red light possible, get caught behind school buses and little old ladies in Cadillacs and minivans plastered with bumper stickers and soccer magnets. Finn chews on his thumbnail anxiously, until it starts to bleed, eyes glued on the clock as minutes tick past. Puck was a fast runner, faster than everyone on the football team except for Mike, and Finn knew that he would have cut through alleys and back yards and made it to Karofsky's house in record time.
They skid to a halt in the street outside of Karofsky's house. Puck is in the driveway, kneeling over Karofsky and slamming a fist into his face repeatedly. Mrs. Karofsky is screaming, trying to grab at Puck's fist when he brings it back, but she's no match for his strength and he shrugs her off.
"Puck!" Mr. Scheu is shouting, out of the car before Finn can fumble his way out of his seatbelt. "Puck, stop!"
Another siren is echoing behind them as Finn finally makes it out of the car, and he curses the sound as he dodges around Mr. Scheu and tackles Puck to the ground, long arms wrapping around him and pinning his fists to his side. They land beside Karfosky, who's bleeding and groaning on the concrete, but Finn ignores him—he wants to get in a hit of his own, the break whatever isn't yet broken in his face, to kick him in the stomach until he feels like he's lost a child, too—and focuses on keeping his hold on Puck.
"It's not worth it," he mutters. He's closer to Puck than he has been in what feels like years, pressing him down into the concrete to restrain him, and it's horrifying to realize that Puck has been sobbing the entire time, tears dripping down off his chin and his shoulders shaking uncontrollably. "He isn't worth it, you can't go to jail," Finn continues. He's crying again as well—he doesn't know why, he shouldn't be, it wasn't his daughter and Quinn isn't his girlfriend, but he just can't stop—and tightens his arms around Puck, holding him almost intimately as he cries.
Behind them, he can hear Karofksy moaning and Mrs. Karofsky shrieking, Mr. Scheu talking to the cops. He stays where he is, gripping onto his best friend, and waits for it to all calm down.
It all slows and quiets and stops with Karofsky needing an ambulance of his own and a cop handcuffing him to the stretcher and riding with him to the hospital. Puck is issued a stern warning from a sympathetic-looking cop, and then allowed into Mr. Scheu's car to ride back to the hospital and get treated. Finn sits in the back next to Puck, unable to tear his eyes away from the bruises forming on Puck's face or the way his broken hands rest numbly in his lap.
When they get there, Rachel and her parents and his mom remain in the waiting room with Puck's mother and sister. Mrs. Puckerman thrusts the sleepy ten year old at Finn and his mother and rushes after the doctors who are whisking Puck away, and Finn collapses onto a bench between Rachel and Brittany. He stares numbly at the wall across from him until his mother guides him out to the car, and falls into a fitful sleep atop the blankets on his unmade bed.
The next morning, he sleeps through his alarm clock and wakes shortly before noon. Panic momentarily rises in his throat—if he missed too many more classes for the semester he could fail—before he rolls over with a groan, not caring a whit about school after yesterday. He stares at the ceiling for an hour, moving only when the empty feeling in his stomach drives him upstairs to find food.
His phone is full of messages—from Rachel, from Santana, from Kurt, from almost everyone but Puck and Quinn, and he fights the urge to throw it against the wall. He spends two hours halfheartedly slaughtering people in video games before he finds the courage to get in the car and drive to the hospital.
The instructions in the text messages Rachel sent him lead him to the ICU waiting room, and he shuffles up quietly to see Rachel's parents and Puck's mom and—it grinds him to a halt, his shoes squeaking loudly on the floor—Mrs. Fabray sitting alone on a bench and curled in on herself just like Quinn so often did.
Silent and uncertain, he takes a seat in the corner, away from the parents of his former best friend and ex-girlfriend and ex-whatever, and wonders how long he can last before the tension makes him snap. He knows that Quinn is in the room just down the hall—he can see the numbers by the door, clear as day and mirroring the direction from Rachel—and he fights the need swelling in his chest to barge in and fix her.
The sound of shoes scuffing around the corner into the waiting room draws him away from the game of Tetris on his phone that he's losing, and he almost leaps out of his chair to see Puck standing there. The bruise over his eye is barely visible, but dried drops of blood stand out in sharp contrast on his white t-shirt, and clunky black braces immobilize both wrists, bloodstained bandages peeking from underneath them. Finn jerks awkwardly, long legs twitching with the automatic need to move, to stand, to grab his friend and hold him tightly and make everything better.
Puck doesn't look at him. He stops in front of Mrs. Fabray and mutters something at her before spinning on his heel and striding off, not waiting to see that she's hurrying after him. Finn stares, halfway out of his chair, as Mrs. Fabray stumbles to a stop in the doorway to Quinn's room for almost a full minute before she makes her way inside. A sniffle from Mrs. Puckerman breaks the silence once more, and he falls back into his chair, chin drooping towards his chest, and waits.
No one says anything to him, and it's hours later that his mother texts him and pleads with him to come home. He leaves as silently as he arrived, unsure if what he's feeling is anger or depression or the burning ache of self-loathing for how he's most angry that he'll never meet the girl who was never even his daughter to begin with.
Sunday morning, he wakes groggily to his mom shaking his shoulder gently. He yawns, blinking up at her blurry form, as she says that there's someone upstairs waiting to see him. She pauses before standing from her position on the edge of his bed, her hand brushing over his hair like it had so often when he was younger, before she presses a kiss to his forehead and tells him to get dressed and come upstairs.
Rachel is standing uncomfortably on the front porch, hovering by the door with her hands clasped tightly together in front of her.
"Hey," he says stupidly. He eases out and shuts the door behind him, standing an uncomfortable distance away from her.
"Hi," she whispers. They stare at each other for long seconds before the mid-morning sunlight wakes him up enough to make the tear tracks on her cheeks visible.
"How are you?" he asks, hating how awkward he sounds. He's never really wished that he was as smart as Rachel or Quinn before—it never seemed to make either of them happy, so it probably couldn't be that great— but suddenly he wishes that he could speak as eloquently and intelligently as they could.
Her breath catches, her whole body jerking visibly at her attempt to swallow a sob, and he takes half a step forward, hands coming out between them before he skids to a halt uncertainly.
"She was—she was going to keep her," Rachel says softly, and it lances through him painfully. He thinks back to the very first ultrasound, how tightly Quinn had grasped his hand, the absolute terror etched across her face as the technician sneered judgmentally at them both and how he'd wanted to punch the woman in the face for it. Back to when he thought the child growing inside of her had been his, back when he'd thought he could be a father, when he'd thought that for all of their mistakes they could still be happy as a family. He remembers singing to a sonogram image on his laptop, and it burns inside his chest as he feels tears springing to his eyes once more.
He swallows, sick and tired of crying like a girl, clenching his jaw and forcing himself to focus on Rachel. "Are you okay?" he asks again. She looks up at him, her arms wrapped around her stomach tightly, and her entire face tightens as she shakes her head once, fresh tears slipping free.
"No," she grinds out, and before he can process it, she's swaying tiredly and he all but leaps across the porch, grabbing onto her and sliding to the floor with her in his arms. She turns into his shoulder, tears soaking into his t-shirt. He gives up on caring about crying and holds onto her tighter, as much for her sake as his own.
It feels like he should be saying something, speaking quietly and quickly and reassuringly, but he's never known where to find the right words. Instead, he just holds onto her tighter and lets the weight of her crying into his shoulder anchor him.
The day Quinn is released from the hospital, he joins the rest of the glee club to meet her outside. He hovers in the background, a bouquet of tiny blue flowers clenched in his hand. They were Mr. Scheu's idea, something about flowers and meanings and moving on, so he tries not to crush them in his gigantic hands and stands behind Mercedes and Kurt as they all watch solemnly while Mrs. Fabray slowly pushes Quinn's wheelchair out of the building.
He watches while Artie speaks for all of them and Rachel doesn't move more than a foot away from Quinn until she's helped into her mother's car and Puck stares angrily at the ground. He thinks about speaking to Quinn, about going up and elbowing Puck in the ribs like they always had when they were friends, about collapsing onto the sidewalk and crying about how unfair it all was once more. He grimaces at the sight of Mrs. Fabray flitting around Quinn's fragile form, like she has any right to it anymore, like she hadn't stood by and let her husband throw their daughter out on to the street, and wonders what would happen if he punched her.
Instead, he stays quiet and watches from the back of the crowd as the girl he'd loved—he couldn't really deny anymore that he'd loved her, as best as his teenage self knew how, and even when he thinks of how she'd betrayed him and lied to him, all he can think of is the fact that at one point not so long ago he'd wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of his life with her at his side—is comforted by everyone but him. He stays back and watches silently, and wonders if he's always been such a coward.
It ends with a bottle breaking.
He's playing Halo after giving up on his math homework when Rachel calls him – she talks to him more now than she ever had, now that she and Quinn are together and she never knows what to expect from dating Quinn Fabray and he's the only person who ever lasted more than two dates with her—and he rolls over tiredly to answer the phone. He doesn't expect her to sound scared, and he certainly doesn't expect her to start rambling quietly about Quinn and Puck and Puck's father.
It takes him fifteen seconds to shove his feet into his shoes and scrawl down the address she gives him, and another thirty to type it into the GPS on his phone as he stumbles up the stairs, and just under ten minutes of purposefully forgotten memories of his best friend's abusive bastard of a father flashing through his mind for him to make it to the apartment complex.
Rachel and Quinn are out of their car before he makes it out of his, and Rachel looks overwhelmed while Quinn looks on the edge of panic, and his chest tightens when he realizes that even now, after all this time, he doesn't know which one he wants to comfort first. If he were more insightful, it might mean something, he supposes; instead, he orders them back and the car and takes the stairs two at a time.
He hates that Puck is here, hates how broken they've all become, but as he pounds on the door to apartment eighteen and shoulders his way in past a drunk Mr. Puckerman, he feels like something of a man for the first time in months.
"Go away," is all that Puck mumbles from his spot in the living room. His father is picking himself up from where he'd stumbled over his own shoes and yelling something slurred and incoherent at Finn.
"Shut up!" he shouts, whirling around and towering over the older man. He had been terrified of Puck's father when they were kids, but now he has a good six inches on him and when he sees a fist flying towards him in slow-motion, it feels nothing but perfect to block the punch and send one of his own flying back into the face of the man who'd beaten his best friend.
The sound of his fist impacting against Mr. Puckerman's face pulls Puck out of his sulk just enough for him to sit up and stare at Finn blandly. His eyes slide back and forth between Finn's anger and the cursing form of his father on the floor, and he finally shrugs, slumping back on the couch.
Finn growls out a curse of his own and grabs Puck by the shirt, hauling him up. "We're leaving," he says, shaking Puck. "I don't care how busted up you are about any of this right now, but you're sure as hell not staying here. You can get drunk and bitch about your life at my house if you want to, but you're not staying here."
"Whatever," Puck says. He rolls his eyes and shoves Finn away halfheartedly.
"I'm not kidding," Finn says. He hesitates, not wanting to hit below the belt, but he know Puck, and he knows how stubborn Puck can be, how spiteful his best friend can be when he's hurt. He knows Puck better than he knows himself, and sometimes the only way to win is to fight dirty.
"Quinn is terrified for you," he says quietly. A small thrill of satisfaction pulses through him when Puck's head whips around almost too quickly to be human at the sound of her name, his eyes wider and more awake than they had been even when Finn punched his father. "Rachel figured out where you were and brought Quinn here to talk to you. They're outside right now waiting for you and Quinn looks like she did when she left the hospital, so get your shit together and let's go."
"How does she—"
"Because I told her, you idiot," Finn shouts. "We were together for two years, I loved her, you're my best friend. You think she doesn't know? I told her everything." His voice chokes on the last word, and it takes everything he has to remember that this isn't about him. "She fucking knows, dude. She's always known, and she cares about you, so get over it and get out of here."
Mr. Puckerman has made his way to his feet once more, groaning and holding a hand to his jaw where Finn hit him. They both ignore him until he finds his balance and tries to throw another punch at Finn.
Finn is caught off guard, his attention too centered on Puck to see the fist coming at him until it glances off of his cheekbone. He stumbles back, more from surprise than pain, and before he knows it Puck has launched himself at his father, slamming his fist into him before pinning him to the wall with his hands around his throat.
"Puck!" Finn shouts, scrambling over to them and grabbing at Puck's arms. "Don't, don't, you don't want to—"
"He's a piece of shit," Puck says, voice tight and restrained and dangerous, and for the first time since he barged in, Finn is scared. "He had a family and he was a piece of shit to us. He had children and he treated them like shit." He slammed his father against the wall, hard enough to make the bottles in the kitchen rattle.
"Why did he get to have everything to throw away and we lost everything?" He's crying again, the tears a terrifying counterpoint to the rage in his voice, and Finn feels sick to his stomach when he thinks that maybe it would be okay to let Puck take his rage out on Mr. Puckerman.
A voice that sounds suspiciously like Rachel's tells him no and it's all that keeps him from just letting Puck go. He levers his height and weight into it and manages to break Puck's hold. Mr. Puckerman slumps to the floor, spluttering and cursing, and Finn shakes Puck, forcing him to look at him.
"It's not fair," Puck grinds out. His hands are clenching at Finn's arms now, and Finn fights the urge to cry himself.
"I know," is all he can think of to say. "I know."
Mr. Puckerman stars cursing again, and Finn shoots a glare down at him. "Shut up," he snaps. He looks back to Puck, shaking him once more.
"Come on, man," he says, his voice quieter. "Let's get out of here." He grips Puck's shoulder tightly, pulling him towards the door.
"Get out!" he hears from Mr. Puckerman, shouted hoarsely from the floor.
"Shut up," he tosses over his shoulder once more as he follows Puck towards the door.
"Get out of here," Mr. Puckerman sneers. "Dumb little piece of crap, beating up on me after I gave you a place to stay. Don't you fucking come back if you're dumb enough to knock up some other tramp—"
They're both turned around and lunging at him at the same time, but Finn's the one who lands the first hit, sending the older man tumbling over a table and an empty vodka bottle falling to the floor. They both stop short when Mr. Puckerman latches onto the bottle and struggles to his feet.
"Shit," Finn mutters. He turns back around and shoves Puck towards the door. "Go, go, go."
He's dragging Puck out the door as the bottle comes flying out after them and hits the railing. It shatters and rains glass down into the parking lot, pieces falling loudly onto the cars below, and he pushes Puck towards the stairs. He knows Mr. Puckerman won't follow them. He never had cared enough one way or the other to follow when people ran away.
Twenty minutes later, he drags Puck down to his room and deposits him on the bed before disappearing upstairs to take the case of Coors out of the fridge and bring it back down.
It started with a siren and a slushie and ended with a broken vodka bottle and a half dozen messages on his phone.
He wakes up on the floor of his bedroom the next day, mouth cottony and eyes gummy and four hours past the math quiz he was supposed to take, and Puck is sprawled across his bed and snoring loudly. He rolls over with a groan and fumbles for his phone, squinting as he makes his way through the texts from Rachel and Quinn and Puck's little sister thanking him for getting Puck out and wincing as he listens to a teary thank-you voicemail from Mrs. Puckerman, he figures that maybe everything will work itself out.
He sits up long enough to steal one of his pillows out from under Puck's gigantic head and drops back to the floor, wrapping the pillow around his head to dull the sound of Puck's snores and sliding back into sleep peacefully.