(Author's note: this part of the story follows Kiss Me I'm Drunk Don't Worry It's True, which takes place the summer after So Nothing's Left Unturned. If you don't want spoilers, you might consider reading that story first before reading this epilogue. Final notes at the end.)
the Thanksgiving cruise, about a year later
The deck was still nearly empty by the time Dave finished his morning workout, but Kurt was there, seated comfortably in a lounge chair and gazing out over the placid water. He smiled at Dave as he approached and indicated the empty chair beside him with a gracious wave.
"Too sweaty to sit," Dave said, smiling back, but he did lean over for a kiss. "Vincent won't be here until we reach port at ten o'clock. You're not going to sit up here waiting for him the whole time, are you?"
Kurt shrugged elegantly. "We'll see. It beats fighting the crowds in the pool. Who would have thought a gay cruise would attract so many families with children?"
"More gay guys having kids." He carefully directed his gaze away from Kurt, at something on the prow or the stern or whatever the hell you called the edge of the boat. "Maybe next year we'll bring Beth."
"Really." Kurt gave him an appraising look. "Awfully domestic of you, David. A far cry from karaoke and late night drinking and... most of the other activities we've been up to on this cruise?"
"I'm not the one who likes the karaoke." He gave in to Kurt's pointed glance at the chair again, and sat, wiping the sweat from his face with the hem of his shirt. "And it's not like I don't enjoy the other activities, but - yeah, maybe I could stand a little more family time." He hesitated, eyeing Kurt's left hand, which bore the handsome titanium band Vincent had given him that summer. "For Puck. You know, if we're going to do this family thing for real."
Kurt nodded, a curious smile playing around his lips. "The two of you certainly seem to be heading in that direction. Two point four kids and a dog and everything. Whatever happened to I'm not ready for that?"
Dave guessed Beth could be the point four, considering she was only with them part time. The other two, well... "I don't know if I am ready for all of that. But I know who I want, and he's already got a kid. I can't do much other than roll with it." He shook his head, grinning. "And we're cat people."
Kurt crossed one leg over the other, surveying the bright sky. "So, what, am I looking at a late spring wedding, or are we going more traditional in June? Because, really, David, I can't plan anything worthwhile with less than six months in which to do it."
"Hey," Dave laughed, touching his thigh. "Slow down. I haven't even given him a ring." He paused, then added, "Although... well. I did have something. Not a wedding ring." He glared at Kurt's excited expression. "It's for... just because. Or maybe Hanukkah, or Christmas, I'm not sure yet. Or I guess our 'making it official because I can't get fired over this anymore' anniversary, but I think I'd rather go with just because."
Kurt nodded again, looking thoughtful. "I think that's a good choice. I told you about Vincent's anniversary drunk email from Barcelona? I don't think he meant for it to happen, and it was ultimately more charming than the original one, but...yes."
The mutual attraction between them overcame any aversion either one had to sweaty bodies touching, or maybe the air had dried Dave's skin sufficiently enough for Kurt not to care. Regardless, Dave spent the next five minutes explaining the mathematical meaning of the ring he'd chosen while Kurt leaned against him, his head resting on Dave's shoulder. Dave had another of those how the hell did I get this lucky moments before attempting to just relax and enjoy it.
"I'm happy for the two of you," Kurt said softly. "Really. The more time we spend together, the easier it is for me to see how much you compliment one another. He's just what you need."
"Tell me about it." Dave sighed. "But... this ring. What if he thinks it's stupid? Or really cheesy, or too geeky, or..."
Kurt laughed. "David, it is geeky. And cheesy. And this is Puck. The guy who got you mathematical flowers after you'd been dating for, what, two weeks?"
Dave let out a breath. "Yeah, you're right. I just... I love him, you know? And I want to do it right."
"David." Kurt kissed his cheek. "Even I know Puck well enough by now to believe that however you do it will be right for him." He leaned back, smiling, and took Dave's hand. "Come on. We still have a couple hours before my fiancé arrives. If you shower now, we can wake up Puck and still get to the restaurant before they stop serving those pancakes he likes so much."
It snowed enough to keep Dave from bothering to get the morning paper on Sunday. He was mildly irritated not to have his Sunday crossword with breakfast, but it wasn't the end of the world, partly because of Puck's Christmas gift of access to the Times puzzles online. Instead of hanging out on the couch with Pascal with a pen and a clipboard, he sat at the table with his laptop, filling in the boxes on his screen.
When Puck came downstairs later that morning, Dave had finished about half of it. Puck grinned, putting a hand on the frost-streaked window. "Holy shit, that's a lot of snow."
"Sure is," Dave agreed. Pascal wound around his legs, probably confused about where his usual Sunday morning lap had gone. Dave put a hand down and scratched him behind his ear.
Puck poured himself a glass of juice. "I'll go out and shovel the driveway after breakfast."
Dave started to say Hey, no, I'll take care of that, you don't have to worry about it. But then he stopped, because this was Puck - and Puck really wanted to do stuff like that. For him. He hesitated only a moment before replying, "That would be great, babe. Thank you."
He could see Puck's smile out of the corner of his eye, watched him relax, and felt a flush of satisfaction. With one hand, he felt in the pocket of his robe, turning the little box over and over.
Puck nodded at the laptop, finishing his swallow of juice. "How is it doing the crosswords on the screen instead of by hand? You hating it?"
"No," Dave protested. He didn't, actually, even though he hadn't been at all sure before. "It's not bad at all. The interface is smooth." He rolled his eyes at Puck's smirk. "See, I can adapt."
Puck bent down and kissed his forehead. Dave could smell the orange juice. "You're fricking awesome."
He'd only just turned to walk away, probably to get dressed or something, when Dave reached up and grabbed his hand. "Hang on."
Puck turned back obligingly. His expression held nothing but curiosity and trust. Dave closed his laptop and took his hand out of his pocket. He set the little box on the table, and let the words stumble out of his mouth.
"I've had this for a couple weeks, and I wasn't sure when I should give it to you. Like, if it should be for Hanukkah, and if it was, if I should wait until the last day - only then I realized the last day had already happened, and I didn't want to wait another year, so..." He paused, seeing Puck's slack-mouthed stare.
"You got me a ring?"
It was hard to deny it, with the evidence right in front of them like that. Dave swallowed. "Yeah."
For once, he had no idea what Puck was thinking. Puck reached out and touched the box, jerking back a little as it moved, like it might just be lurking in there, waiting for an unsuspecting victim to open the box so it could leap onto his finger.
"It was the only algebraic structure they had. No groups or fields left, I guess." Puck just looked confused, and Dave couldn't blame him. "Sorry. That was the worst math joke ever. Anyway, yeah. It's a ring. I was going to get you one of those infinity things, like, shaped as an infinity symbol? But then I thought that's silly, it's just a circle. Or torus, or loop or - whatever it is a ring is. Topologically the same, anyway. And, uh."
Dave picked the hammered silver ring out of the box and held it between two fingers. "This kind of...looks like it's taken a few hits. But remember how we talked about continuity, and how there's always two points right across from each other on the circle that are exactly the same height? And, this... it's got a lot of random bumps, but it has all those points, you know? Infinite circles. Infinite pairs of...matching opposites."
Puck hadn't taken his eyes off the ring. "Infinite pairs, yeah. That's... that's awesome."
"So I thought this was all the infinity we needed, really." He took Puck's hand. "It doesn't have to, you know, mean any more than what we want it to. It just means that...things don't have to be big to have infinities in them."
Dave looked from his own hands, one holding a ring and the other holding Puck's warm hand, and up into Puck's eyes, searching for a sign that he got it, that he knew what Dave was talking about, asking for permission.
Puck opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out, so he shut it again. Finally he gave a little embarrassed laugh, glanced at his feet, and managed, "Well... I'm pretty much yours already. What's one more way?" Then he smiled, his face red, and added, "Yes. That was a yes."
"Yes?" Dave grinned back. It didn't even matter that he didn't know what Puck had said yes to, exactly, because he'd said yes. He'd said yours. Dave felt like he was burning up, his face must be as red as Puck's, and he wasn't sure if he could speak at all, but he had to ask. He swallowed. "So...uh, which finger?" The ring was sized to fit a ring finger, but it was just a guess anyway, and there were two hands, and he didn't want to assume anything.
Puck hesitated, then pointed to the fourth finger on his left hand. Maybe just because it was the one Dave was holding, and he didn't really know what it would mean, anyway, but then he didn't think Puck would, either.
His hands were a little shaky, but Dave managed to slide the ring on. Puck clutched at Dave's fingers, grasping him tight. His voice, when he spoke, came out hoarse.
"You can make all the jokes you want; you can say this isn't big. But it is. Nobody's taken a chance on me before, Dave. I've always been the one who's wasn't worth it, but... you make me feel like I'm worth something." He took a deep breath, meeting Dave's eyes with his clear hazel ones. "I want you to know it's worth everything to me, and... I'm telling you now, I'm gonna spend my whole life, making you happy. It's all I want to do."
Dave couldn't stand it anymore. He pulled Puck close to his chest. "You're worth it," he said, holding him tight. "Babe, you have no idea. I'm so lucky to have you." How could Puck not know that? But this was not the time to be mad at the world for not knowing how awesome his boyfriend was. He knew they'd find out soon enough, and for now, Dave had that amazing guy right here in his arms. He moved his hand up to the back of Puck's head and kissed him, hard.
"I love you," he whispered, a little breathless. "You make me happy just by...existing." He reached down to hold Puck's hand, and couldn't resist finding the edge of the ring - his ring - and following it with his finger. He smiled. "But, you know, thank you for wanting to do it with me. That's so much better."
"God, Dave," Puck said, laughing. He gripped his shoulder with his free hand, and squeezed their hands together. "Yeah, I want to do it with you. And that's totally not a come-on." His forehead leaned against Dave's. "What about Kurt?"
Dave paused, trying not to stiffen. "This isn't about him. It's about us."
"I know. I'm not trying to make it about anything else. I just want to make sure that I wouldn't be... I don't know. In the way, I guess." He gazed at the floor. "I want you to have everything you want."
"Yeah, I know." Dave took a deep breath. He knew Puck didn't mean to hurt him, and most of the time that was enough, and he could swallow down the way things kept right on hurting anyway. "I talked to Kurt, okay? He knows. He was really excited about it."
He leaned on Puck and sighed, trying to relax. Puck was just concerned, wanting everybody to be happy. It wasn't that this - that Dave wasn't important to him. It wasn't that he thought Dave was wrong to ask. Dave knew that, but the knot of doubt still wouldn't loosen.
Puck shrugged. "I'm glad to hear it. I guess I shouldn't be worried about him; he's married to Vincent, after all, and I don't feel bad about that." He glanced up anxiously. "You don't think this..." He held up the hand, wearing Dave's ring. "... that it's going to stand in the way of you being happy? Of getting what you want?"
"No. No, what... it's... Puck, I gave you that ring because that was what I wanted. And if you..." He took another deep breath, and blinked hard. "Kurt really says it's okay. And if you still..." Puck was starting to look a little blurry, and this was stupid, and he wasn't going to cry. "If you still mean it, if it's still a yes, then that's what I want. But if you're not sure..." He couldn't finish that, so he just stood very still, waiting. Just a few minutes ago, all Puck wanted was to make Dave happy - and really, what kind of selfish asshole had he been for thinking that was good, anyway.
"What the hell do you mean, if it's still a yes?" Puck shook his head, incredulous. "I said yes, didn't I? What, I'm going to suddenly decide wait, no, I don't want you? I'm not going to do that."
Dave wrapped his arms tightly around him, and this time he couldn't hold back the tears. "I thought you didn't mean it anymore," he managed to choke out. "When you asked about Kurt, I know it's really stupid, but I thought you - you might want to take it back. Because of him. And it's not fair, because he's got Vincent, and he's happy, and...he's not even really your boyfriend. And I want to be fair to everybody. But I want you so much." He shouldn't be clinging to Puck like this, when Puck was the one who had been unsure. He tried to pull himself together, but it didn't really work, so he just held on.
"Babe..." Puck kissed him on the cheek, gently, and held his head close to his chest. "Hey. It's okay. I'm usually the one freaking out, and I guess everybody does that sometimes, huh?" He kissed the other cheek. "You want me. That's all I care about. You got me this ring. You want me to... well, you're going to let me spend my life with you. Sorry, but if that makes Kurt unhappy, I think he's going to have to deal." He kissed Dave's lips, ducking his head to catch Dave's eyes. "Because this is what I want. And if it's what you want, too - that's pretty lucky, then, huh?"
"Yeah." Dave leaned in for another kiss. "That's really lucky." He stood there for a while, just holding Puck, feeling his warm solid body in his arms. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to freak out. That was...I don't know. I think sometimes I worry that I'm being a selfish asshole and you just don't notice, or something."
Puck was still holding on tight, and Dave felt the puff of breath on his skin more than he heard it. "Babe, I know more than I'd like about selfish assholes, okay?" Puck said. "You're not one of them."
"I hope you're right," Dave said. He loosened his grip enough to find Puck's hand and lift it up between them. He looked down at the ring. "Because you're way too special to marry some stupid jerk. I wouldn't let you."
Puck's mouth turned up into a small, crooked smile, and he leaned against Dave's chest again. "It's okay," he said. "This guy who asked me...you can trust him. He'll take good care of me."
Final author's note: This story was nine months in the making, from the day we generated plot ideas about a possible future Puck and Dave, to the last word we wrote this afternoon. We wrote much of it feverishly in the first few weeks, after which life got complicated, and the story with it. But even when it got hard to write, and it felt like more work than we could have possibly imagined it could be, my cowriter never gave up on these two boys. She stuck with it, because the words had to be right. The story wasn't always pleasant for Dave, but neither of us were going to stop until Dave had his happy ending - because he deserved it. Dave needs Puck, as much as Puck needs Dave. Thank you, Penthea, for the math, and the Cantor book, and for picking out a bike for Beth, and most of all for not giving up on Puck's impossible dream.
Thanks, also, to several people: Knittycat99, for convincing me I could write Dave, and without whom neither Gold Mine nor this story would have ever happened. Jason, for detailed reviews and unflagging loyal readership, even when the math got too complicated. Supergreak, likewise. Flinchflower, for patience (ahem) while the Dave/Puck plotbunnies grabbed me in the middle of other stories, and for giving me a model for Penumbra. And all of you readers, for sticking with us, even when Kurt horned in on their action, and when Dave and Puck took us to those dark, complicated places where fanfiction touches us in unexpected ways. I hope you have been changed by the experience. I know I have.