A/N: This is what happens when I start attempting to work on things that have been in my 'never actually going to finish it' folder for ages and I beg a friend to save my sanity by prompting me, and my dear friend Jann (JannP) was nice enough to do that (though I'm not sure she wants to be associated with this piece). Occasionally I write better from prompts. I personally don't find that this is one of those occasions but it did save my sanity. So the title comes from the song prompt Needle and Thread by Matt Duke. I'm not exactly sure how I got this from that but I did. Love it, hate it, don't read it, it's not going to ruin my life. Though I will be thrilled with anyone who reads and enjoys this and lets me know. Or even if you read it and hate it. Whatev.
It happens so fast. Well not really fast because bullet wounds don't just heal over night so he had to spend like two weeks in the infirmary, and then there was the discharge process. But it all seems like it happens really fast because as soon as he's signed the last paper he's standing outside the base with a bus ticket home wondering what the hell he's supposed to do now.
The Army was supposed to be his answer to the future. He glances down at the bus ticket in his hand and proceeds to rip it up.
He can't admit failure. He just can't. If he does that then all his mother's tears over it, putting Rachel on that train to New York, the hours Kurt spent trying to convince him it was a bad idea, all of that is in vain. So he can't admit to defeat. And he didn't really have a backup plan, so he doesn't really want to face any of them. Because he knows what they're going to say. They're going to say he was better than the Army anyway, except obviously he wasn't. So he's not going home. But he can't just stand outside the base, he's pretty sure eventually someone is going to tell him he's not in the Army anymore so he needs to leave.
He's got no plan, no car, and no desire to go home. Basically all he has is a few hundred dollars from his only Army pay check, a duffle bag full of mostly PT clothes, a handful of toiletries and himself. So he pulls the bag up high on his shoulder and starts walking because walking is at least a start to going somewhere even if he doesn't know where he's going because his only knowledge of the area comes from riding on the bus to the base.
He's barely half a mile down the road when one of the Sergeants pulls off to the side of the road and flags him over.
"Where ya headed son?"
He shrugs and grips the strap of his bag. "Not sure, but it's not home"
"I'm headed to Columbus if you want to ride along."
Columbus. Wasn't his plan but then again he doesn't really have a plan right now. And it's not Columbus, Ohio or anywhere near Lima, so yeah Columbus will work for now.
The ride there is silent except for the sounds of the 80s rock station on the radio. It's the first music he's heard in months and it soothes him the same way it always did. He even has to fight the urges to sing along because he even though he's not in the Army anymore he's still not keen on the idea of embarrassing himself in front of a senior officer. The Sergeant drops him off at the bus station in Columbus and tells him to use his ticket home. He responses with "Yes sir," and thanks him for the ride. He neglects to tell him he ripped up his ticket home or that even if he hadn't he wouldn't be going home.
He figures Columbus is big enough he'll figure something out and it doesn't take long. He's eating a cheap greasy meal in a dinner when he over hears a man telling the waitress he just lost two helpers over at his farm just outside town.
Finn politely introduces himself and explains how he's nearly discharged from the Army and looking for work. The old man being a veteran offers him a job on the spot and for Finn it's a start. He's never worked on a farm but how hard could it be?
Turns out works on a farm is really hard. And he has no clue what he's doing. And he hates it. There's some pretty gross stuff he had to do involving cows that he's never telling anyone about ever.
The saving grace is that apparently bars in the South are really relaxed on their carding and there's one within walking distance. He's not really sure it's technically considered a bar because it's actually an old trailer with Christmas lights on the porch that plays nothing but country music. But he can over look all of that because they serve him alcohol, and with working on a farm he needs to be served alcohol. And the other guys from the farm go there to after work so he has like people to talk to, even if he really doesn't talk much.
The guys he works with convince him to try moonshine one night. He's not entirely sure that drinking something that's served from a glass jar and smells flammable is a good idea. But the pattern of his life shows he's no authority on what's a good idea anyway, so he tries it.
He wakes up the next morning on a tractor in his boss' front yard, and that's the end of his stint as a farmer.
He bounces around for a while before he manages to hitch hike his way to Atlanta and is there all of about eight hours before he's totally over it. If he wanted a big city full of people and traffic he'd go to New York. He makes friends with a trucker in a bar on the outskirts of Atlanta and agrees to accompany him down to Jacksonville, Florida. He just hopes the trucker isn't like expecting anything from him, like sexual. He's heard stories and as he's climbing into the cab he's really hoping they're just stories.
"So are you going to blow me now or do you want to wait until the first stop?"
Finn has his hand on the door fully ready to jump out of a moving 18 wheeler when he hears the laughter that followed the pause.
"You should have seen your face. I thought you were going to shit yourself kid. Relax."
After the brief scare Finn decides this guy isn't so bad. He lets him run the CB radio, which he knows it seems lame and childish but it was super cool, and the guy honks his horn for every little kid that makes the horn motion at him. They eat a ton of fast food and listen to all kinds of music; the guy really has a thing for classic rock. In a way he kind of reminds Finn of his mom's ex Darren, except less of douche. When Don't Stop Believing comes on the radio Finn quickly changes the station.
"Not a Journey fan?"
"No I am. I just... Just not that song. Not right now."
Travis, the trucker takes him to a truck stop bar just outside of Nunez, Georgia. He tells Finn their going to drink and get some tail. Finn wants to tell him he has no interest in getting tail because he's not going to cheat on Rachel. But he hasn't exactly told Travis about Rachel. He kind of has this plan to talk about home and Rachel, and all his personal stuff as little as possible. And so far it's working. But he will drink with him.
Drinking with Travis leads to Finn getting in his first fight. Some random girl is talking to him. And all he's doing is being polite and entertaining the conversation because his buddy is off dancing with some girl that has no teeth. But apparently talking to this girl means he's trying to pick her up, or at least that has to be what her boyfriend thinks because he takes a swing at him. Finn's not exactly sure what to do but he's half drunk and not going to let someone hit him, so he knocks the guys face into the bar and from there all hell break loose.
Like he's fought with Puck and like high school fight but this it's like a real bar brawl. There's people smashing beer bottles, and he hits someone so hard their teeth actually cut his hand before the guy hits the floor. Finn holds his bloody hand up in the air in victory for a moment before Travis grabs him and they run like hell out of the bar.
They jump in the truck and start driving until they're just outside of Savannah. Travis pulls into a truck stop that has a diner, hotel, and bar all attached.
"Here," Travis hands him a couple of twenties. "Why don't you go get us a room so you can have a decent bed to sleep in."
By the time he comes back outside with a room key Travis' truck is gone.
It's the end of his travels with Travis, the trucker. He guesses the guy couldn't have someone who might have a warrant out for their arrest riding along in the truck with him. He's pretty sure the guy's got a family to feed and stuff so he can't really blame him.
Turns out the truck stop in Savannah isn't all that bad. The hotel rents rooms by the week and he's still got a little bit of money. He knows that he should be trying to figure out where he's going in general, and that the money he has isn't going to last forever and eventually he's going to have to like pick a direction. But for now he'll settle for trying to figure out where he's going next. And while he's doing that he can spring for a week or two at the hotel. And the diner's food is cheap and half decent. It's no worse than mess hall food.
His favorite part though is the bar. He knows he's probably been spending too much time in bars, and he's not even twenty one yet so that shouldn't be the case. But he really likes the bar. It's quite for the most part, except for the jukebox in the corner. That's why he really likes the bar, that jukebox probably hasn't been updated since the early 90s so it seems to always being playing these great songs. A lot of them songs he sung in Glee club. And he thinks that maybe if he spends enough time in that bar listening to that jukebox then maybe all those old songs, maybe somehow they'll help him figure out like the future, instead of just where he's going next.
His hotel room gets broken into and they take everything he owns. Which isn't much. And isn't really worth anything so he's not sure why anyone would want it, but it still sucks. Inspecting the room he notices they left his toothpaste but not his toothbrush. That really grosses him out, why would anyone want a used toothbrush. But it's not a thought he can dwell on very long because now all he has to his name is the eighty bucks in his pocket and some toothpaste and that's kind of a sick feeling. Not really because the only space he has to himself has been violated, it more because that means he's going to have to call, or even worse go home, sooner rather than later. But he's paid for his room through the week and he'd rather just stay there than make than phone call any sooner.
He goes to the bar attached to the hotel to drown his sorrows or whatever he's supposed to call the drinking binge he's been on for a couple of months now. There's a piece of him that say it's not a good idea to waste some of what little money he has left on alcohol. But he doesn't listen to it. He wants a pitcher of beer and to listen to the old jukebox until he can't keep his eyes open anymore. He kind of loves that jukebox.
And his plan for the evening is all on track until some bartender he's never seen before (he's been coming there every night for a week and a half, he thought he knew them all by now) asks for his ID.
"Umm it got stolen." And it's not even a lie because it was in the duffle bag that is now in someone else's possession. He should probably report that for like identity theft reasons and stuff, even though he's not sure why anyone would want his identity. Most days he doesn't even want his own identity.
"Annemarie, he's with me," the man standing next to him assures the bartender and he's really grateful because she doesn't even bat an eye as she moves to pour his pitcher.
"Thanks, my room got broken into today." He explains and then he's even more grateful because when he tries to pay the bartender waves away his money. "This isn't like going on your tab or anything because I can pay you for it something."
The man puts his beer down and laughs as he claps his hand against Finn's shoulder, "No worries, kid. I've seen you in here a couple of nights, always by yourself. Name's Logan. Why don't you come sit with me and my guys?"
He really just wants to sit at the bar and listen to the jukebox, but this guy just got him beer and free beer at that so it's not like he can say no. And he seems like an alright guy and it's been a while since he's had anyone other than himself to talk to so, why not. It's not like he's got anything better to do.
Over a game of Golden Tee, some bar video golf game he's never played before, he finds out Logan's a contractor in the area and he brings his crew her twice a week just to blow off some steam. And he comes here once a week with his wife for karaoke. Meaning they've been in this room at the same time at least three times and Finn's never noticed him. But apparently he's noticed Finn, he even makes a joke about how he's positive Finn's nowhere near twenty one but he won't tell if Finn won't. But other than that and asking if his story about his ID being stolen is true, he doesn't ask any questions about who he is or what he's doing sleeping at a pay by the week motel. And that makes Finn really like this guy. So he goes and sits with them and he learns that Logan was an athlete too, he played baseball which only sort of counts, but they bound over sports and Logan buys his beer all night which is totally awesome because otherwise he'd be completely broke by now. And by the time the bartender is telling them it's time to shut down for the night Logan offers him a job working construction and a place to stay. Like in a real house with a bed and no neighbors in next room screaming at each other. He's hesitant to take the offer, he's not sure how long he's going to stick around and really doesn't want to put anyone out.
"You just got robbed right? Room broken into? That isn't the first time that's happened here. My wife would kill me if she knew I was letting you stay at this place. Besides she's got a thing for taking in lost souls."
They go get his stuff from the hotel and get to Logan's house at like one in the morning; his wife is still up and doesn't even make a face at some random stranger showing up to her house with a duffle bag in the middle of the night.
"First room to your left at the top of the stairs. It's got clean sheets, and there's an extra toothbrush in the bathroom drawer. Make yourself at home." Logan must have given his wife a head's up, but she still didn't have to be so nice about it. Maybe what was said about her taking in lost souls was true. If that's the case he definitely falls into that category.
He barely knows these people but he's pretty sure he likes them already.
He finds out even though they're like way older than him (they're like in the same age range as Mr. Schue which he considers way older than him) he has stuff in common with both of them. Like Logan plays the same videos games he played before he left for the Army, and he's got all the ones that came out while he was in the Army and busy bouncing around Georgia. So they spend a lot of nights staying up too late playing video games. And Logan's wife Sarah, she's really into music and even has all these old records from the 70s and 80s. Music he loved before, music he would listen to with some of the truckers that helped him get across the state, and sometimes he'll mention an old song and she'll give him a lecture about how he needs to hear it on vinyl then put it on with some long winded explanation about how his generation is all about clarity but nothing compares to the pop and crackle of a needle on a record. And he listens. He listens to her and he plays video games with Logan and they don't ask a whole lot of questions about his life. Which he still really likes. He knows he can't live with them forever but he really really likes them.
So his life starts to take on a normal appearance once he moves in with Logan and Sarah. He stops drinking all the time the way he did when he was on the road and only has a beer or two on the occasions when Logan takes the crew out for drinks. Basically he works, which isn't that bad. They're building a vacation home for some super rich dude from Atlanta so he's learning a lot of building a house and framing and basic construction, and he's starting to think that being a blue collar might just be his destiny. He didn't hate the tire shop and he doesn't hate what he's doing now. It's an honest living, and there's no real expectations of him here, maybe he could even settle here and make a life for himself without the expectations. The only problem is the more settled he starts to get the more he starts to miss Rachel. Like really miss Rachel. And living with a married couple, it's like they're what he wants for him and Rachel one day and there's no way for that to happen if he settles here.
It takes a couple of weeks but one Friday night he finally agrees to go out to the bar with Logan and Sarah. He always turned down the offer because going out with a married couple just seemed weird to him, like he's be hanging out with his parents. Which is a fine thought to have when they're just hanging around the house but out at bar just seemed weird.
But he finally gives in and he learns that Sarah likes to talk a lot when she's drunk. Like talk A LOT. Like Rachel talk a lot. And he's not sure how it happens but somewhere between beer pitchers three and seven he starts talking too. But he knows it all started with one question.
"So Finn, what's your story, you may be young but everyone's got a story?"
It's like that simple question opens up a flood gate, well that question and the alcohol, but his story start pouring out. He starts talking about high school, and glee club, about how he once thought he'd gotten a girl pregnant from making out in a hot tub, how he got discharged from the Army and then he starts talking about Rachel. Then he starts talking a lot about Rachel. Like he can't stop talking about Rachel. It's the first time in months he's talked to anyone about her. It's the first time he's let on to anyone how much he still thinks about Rachel, not that anyone would ask but no one knew about her, but he just drunkenly pours it all out. And even though he's pretty sure in the morning he's going to wish he hadn't said everything he's saying it doesn't matter because it feels good to get some of it off his chest.
"Like I can't go back to her now because I'm supposed to be doing something worthy. I needed to do the Hudson name proud, and do her proud, then we could be together and I wouldn't just be some loser riding her coat tails. I can't go back to her or go home as some loser screw up that shot himself in the leg and still doesn't know how to make something of himself."
"It sounds to me like your here because you're hiding out. And you can only hide for so long before someone finds you. You should go to New York. You should go see about your girl, and you should figure out your future. Not hide from it."
The words hit him pretty hard and he sits in silence drinking as he lets them digest. Then he's pretty sure he starts talking after that but things and words they all start to get hazy and he stops talking when he thinks he stops making sense, which coincidentally is the exact same time Faithfully starts to play on the old jukebox.
He wakes up the next morning with a raging hangover to find an envelope with his name on it sitting on the kitchen table. Inside there's four hundred dollars cash, his pay for the last week, and a train ticket to New York City that leaves the next morning. It takes a moment for the haze to clear and him to figure out why it's there. At first he thinks he's being fired and kicked out. And he guesses in a sense he is because he can't keep hiding out in Georgia forever and they know that's exactly what he's been doing. And maybe the words for the night before were right, he needs go figure out his future and go see about his girl.
"After that if you decide this is where you want to be, you'll always have a home here. But I don't think it is."
The words didn't seem so hard to swallow the night before when he was under the influence but now... Now they are. Because it's like he's finally being forced to face what he's been avoiding. It's like the push he's needed all along.
Logan and Sarah are in Athens for the UGA game all weekend, so before he leaves them a note thanking them for everything they've done for him. He's never been really graceful with words and there really aren't enough of them to thank them anyway. But he hopes it suffices.
As he walks outside of Penn Station, he kinda gets that same feeling he got standing outside of Fort Benning months ago. Like he has no clue what he's going to do. The only difference this time is he knows exactly where he's supposed to go. He glances down at the letter in his hand and as he hails a cab.
"Where to?" The driver asks as Finn climbs in.
He recites the address from the envelope to the cabbie. He's going exactly where he should have gone four months ago, back to his girl.