He's been back in Lima for a few days now - they did the whole menorah thing on the first night of Hanukkah, and his sister burned the latkes on accident, as she tends to do; later, he still kicked her ass at the dreidel game, as much as he had been reluctant to play. Somehow, spinning the dreidel and thinking of the miracle of Hanukkah relaxes him, in a strange way.

It's good to be home.

It's strange to be there without Quinn lurking around every corner, though, but she's still off at Yale for another week or two. If she even comes back, now that she's seen how good she can have it outside of Ohio.

He and Sam are kicked back in his living room one day; Sarah's upstairs in her bedroom with her friends Jenna and Tessa. They're working on some weird project for their English class involving construction paper monster posters, and so he can have Sam down here playing video games. Which is considerably more awesome than their lame project, he thinks. Even if they are making monsters.

He throws his controller down onto the coffee table and sinks back against the soft throw pillows his mother likes to litter the couch with. It's not the same as when he could sink back against his own bed, but it's a weird form of comfort nevertheless. "Dude, you're so dead right now. I win. Again."

"Says you. I'll be back," Sam says, doing his best Terminator impression, complete with perfect inflection. "Right about -" He looks up at the screen and counts down on his fingers until his avatar pops back up, with full health this time. "Now." He runs toward where Puck's avatar is standing, and aims his shot toward him, as Puck scoops up his controller and fires a shot or two at Sam. The battle begins again. "Have you heard from Quinn lately?"

"No. Have you?" He pops off a round or two in Sam's direction and ducks behind a pile of rubble and debris, to hide from Sam's retaliation.

"She called me over Thanksgiving to ask what Stevie and Stacey's shirt sizes are. I think she wants to buy them some sort of Yale shirt for Christmas." A barrage of bullets from Sam's gun rains down all around him.

He feels his jealousy rising to the surface again; although, if it's more aimed at Sam for hearing from her or Stevie and Stacey for getting what would surely be awesome gifts, he's not sure. Even if they were just really boring blue and gray t-shirts or sweatshirts. They would still be picked out by Quinn, and that made them more awesome than average by default. "Oh."

"You two still cool?"

"Shit. I don't know."

"Look, man, if there's one thing I know about Quinn - she's not good at hiding her feelings. She tries, you can tell she does, but she fails at it more often than not."

"Yeah." Sam has a point - Sam always manages to have a point when it came to things, which was unnerving and a little awkward. But it's a good thing to have, especially in the absence of his usual companion.

He fires another shot, and another, and finally lands one through Sam's torso. "So, uh, dude, you're fucking dead again. For good this time. No more zombies."

"Whatever." Sam says, setting the controller down. "So, you got any chips or anything? I'm starving, and you never know what Carole's going to make for dinner."

"My mother's on this nutty health food craze now. Something about cutting back on calories or saving the world or something. I don't even fucking know, man. I leave for a few months and my mother's buying kale chips and lentils and weird shit like that. This whole town's gone to shit without me. Next thing I know, you're going to tell me that Finn and Rachel broke up. Again."

"Uh," Sam started to say, before changing the topic. "Maybe you should come back, then. Make it un-shit again."

"Or maybe I should never come back." He balls up a sheet of scrap paper that rested on the coffee table and throws it against the wall. "It all seemed so much easier when we were all in high school."

"Speaking as someone who is still in high school -"

"Shut up."

"- it's not."

"Yeah, you say that now. But, wait a year until you're out and in New York, and you'll be crying to me, 'Oh, Puck, I should have listened to you that day you kicked my ass at X-Box,' and I'll just smirk in silence."

Sam nods. "So, about those chips."

"I have Doritos and Lays in my room. Next to the bed. Go get 'em." As Sam runs to his room, Puck sits back on the couch and reflects. Yeah, so, he just owned Evans at video games - again. It was getting to be too easy to beat him; he may have to move on and find someone else - someone new- to play against.

Or maybe it was just that he wanted to avoid any discussion of Quinn, until he could talk to the girl herself.

Maybe that was it, after all.

Puck: hey q when u gettin to town
Quinn: late on saturday.
Puck: r u stayin w ur mom
Quinn: yeah. but i do want to see you while i'm here :)
Quinn: ...you are still here, right? i know hanukkah ended like a week ago
Quinn: you didn't go back to california already did you?
Puck: chill im still here

He sits there, poised with his fingers over the keys, trying to think of how to phrase the next thing that he wants to say. He wants to say that he wants to see her too, without sounding like he's needy and needs to see her. But yet - she's the one who remembers when Hanukkah ended, even though she's not Jewish - hell, he had to look that one up himself, and he had the bar mitzvah and everything. Finally, after a moment's hesitation, he types in a reply to his reply:

Puck: come by any time

Shit. It's worked before.

Quinn: ;)

What is a damn winking face supposed to mean? Hell, it could mean that she got sand stuck in her eye. Or snow. They don't have much sand in Connecticut in December, he doesn't think, but they do have snow. Or maybe she has some brilliant plan up her sleeve. He wouldn't doubt her. Not that he ever did, but certainly not anymore.

Ring. Ring. Knock.

He almost flies off the couch, before sauntering over to the door. She remembers their code from the summer: two rings, followed immediately by a knock. It's a way to know that it's them, and not the pizza guy or some pimply-faced middle school kid trying to sell magazine subscriptions to go to band camp next summer in order to learn the alternate - and vastly superior - uses for a flute.

He peeks out the window. She's wearing some matching blue-green scarf and hat and gloves combination that only serves to make her look hotter. It looks like she's wearing the ocean on her body, knit waves pouring down her features like a cascade of water.

"Hey," she says, with practiced ease, peeling off her winter clothes, leaving her with just her dress and tiny brown boots on.

The motions of it all drives him wild with desire. He wants to pin her against the wall, have her kick off those ridiculous boots and shed the dress and warm her up in other ways than that shell of blue-green - is that maybe what they call turquoise? - knit fuckery. But he refrains. From most of it, anyway. "Hey," he says in reply, "take your shoes off."

She obliges, leaving them tucked underneath the end table that his mother left by the front door, before turning back to him. "It's been a while," she says, licking nervously at her lips. "I don't think we've really talked since - October?"

"When I had you try the Puck-lette." He sits back down on the couch, and has her sit next to him, patting a cushion to show her that there is a spot for her there.

"Yeah. That." She smiles, almost as though she has a secret that she's dying to tell him. "I made Puck-lettes for my exam review sessions."


"Between the six of us, I think we ate about thirty - so, yeah. Three of the girls asked for the recipe. And Jackie's Macadamia nut brownies remained untouched until the very end. Probably because she overcooked them and Katie's allergic to nuts, but I felt vindicated."

"Were they surprised when you said it wasn't made with champagne and caviar?" He feels somewhat vindicated too. Partially for the success of his Puck-lette, but partially because normal people apparently did go to Yale, if Jackie and Katie were any indication.

She shrugs. "Not really? They seemed to like it. Even with whatever random things I had laying around."

"Once you have a Puck-lette, it ruins you for all the other eggs."

"Is that supposed to be about more than just some omelette recipe you gave me over the phone?" She arches an eyebrow and tilts her head forward toward him. "Because I thought the saying was, if you go black, you don't go back."

"You're looking at the wrong Puckerman if that's what you want, babe."

"No, I'm pretty sure I'm looking at the right one." She glides her fingers along the seam of the blanket that rests on the back of the couch. "I'm not interested in your brother, or anyone else for that matter."

"So -"

"So, I've been wanting to see you for the past four months. Not Finn, nor Sam, nor your younger half-brother whom I've never met, nor anyone else here. You. While everyone else is talking about how to fundraise for Syria and what we can do for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, I want to talk to you. You're easy. You're not complicated like everyone else. You're easy, but there are layers, and that's what I lo-" She stops. "-like about you."

"There aren't 'layers' to me," he says in vain protest, but he's instead focusing on the word she cut short. Locate? Look? Dare he think it - love?

"You're pretty much a jerk to just about everyone I've ever seen you interact with. But you're somehow softer when you're around me." She pauses, allowing her eyes to mist over, however slightly. "Or Beth. Those are called layers."

He smirks. "Babe, that's because you're not like everyone else. You don't piss me off regularly, which makes you instantly better than - well, yeah, everyone. And that's what I lo - like - about you too."

She furrows her brow. "Are you imitating me, Puckerman? Because that's -" And he kisses her, pulling her close to him, enclosing her cheeks in the fold of his palms; he kisses her, feeling the enticing warmth of her mouth beneath him, feeling her lips open against his and her lower lip drop in that enticing manner that he knew all too well. He continues to kiss her, breathing her in, because - fuck if this doesn't feel good, because it does, in so many different ways. It's not longing or wistful or any of those sentimental words that he could have used to describe their last one - she's looking at him with what he can only describe as lust in her eyes.

"Quinn -" he whispers against her lips, and she swallows her name with a flick of her tongue and a nearly-imperceptible gulp. The arch of her eyebrow shows to him that she isn't questioning what she's doing - not that he would want her to. He wants her to want him as much as he wants her. Anything less wouldn't be very fun for either of them.

"Yeah?" She reaches behind her and flicks at her hair, shorn short at the ends in what appears to be a popular style. At least, if girls on both coasts were wearing it. It looks like Emily's. "What -"

"You are too goddamn perfect," he says, before crushing his mouth against hers again, and he swears that he can feel her lips move into a smile at his words.

Her dress is pooled at her feet, and his hands are hovering over the precipice of her waist; her bra is unhooked and laying askew, crossed over her arms. "Puck, get this thing off me!" she exclaims, shaking her arms at him. He moves his hands up to palm the side of her breasts as he moves it down her arms and throws it somewhere behind him; he kisses a spot on the underside of her breast, before taking her nipple inside his mouth and sucking on it, feeling the pert tip under his tongue. And she throws her head back, her hair covering the back of his pillow, and he is somehow glad they found it within themselves to make it to his room without spontaneously combusting in the middle of the hallway. May have been the sex ed class he never wanted to give Sarah. He takes his hand that isn't supporting her waist and moves it back behind her head, feeling the silken strands of hair beneath his grasp; he weaves it between his fingers and holds on for dear life.

She has him already only in his boxers, and the only thing left on her is a flimsy pair of panties that seems to match the bra he so callously discarded - off-white, with tiny pink bows. Princess panties, he thinks. He hooks his finger inside the hip line of her underwear and slides them down her legs, and kicks the dress off her feet; she tugs down his boxers and grasps his cock between her delicate little fingers. "Damn it, Quinn," he says, between gritted teeth, "can't you warn a guy before you do something like that? Could give me a heart attack here."

She smiles an impish little smile and loosens her grasp, but only just enough to say she did so. "Like that?" she says, her voice a seductive lilt. Damn this girl. Damn what she does to him, because her grasp only serves to make him harder. Damn this girl and her perfectly matched everything, even down to her bra and panties, and her way of knowing everything - including how to turn him on without even trying, and - and, everything about her. She's the exception to every rule he's set up in his life, and he's not even sure how she managed to do that in the first place.

"You were doing it right before," he says, arching forward to brush his nose against hers, capturing her lips between hers. "You on the pill?" She nods silently; she moves her fingers to tangle in his chest hair. There would be no pregnancy scandal part two to plague them now. Yet. And with that assurance, he plunges into her, and she moans slightly, her mouth forming a perfectly rounded 'o' against his lips as he does so. He couldn't make her give up her hopes and Yale, and he isn't going to make her choose now. Especially not when he doesn't even know if there's a future for them. He cups her breast in one hand, as he feels her massage the small of his back with the back of her hand.

She bucks her hips upward, at an incline, trying to pull him deeper inside her, and he can't help but try to bury himself in her. Every part of him burns and aches to be inside her, and he slips his tongue inside her mouth and tangles his tongue with hers as he courses in and out, thrusting back and forth. Her eyes are glazed over and dilated with pure, undeniable lust; they're a shade that he has never seen before. And yet, he wants to see it over and over again; he locks his gaze on hers and memorizes it.

Quinn is all he can see.

They go like this for a while, her taking him in as he gives to her what he can. "Puck," she says, at last, almost on a whine, "I -" And she doesn't even have to say anything, because he can feel it before she can say anything, the tightening and clenching - the fucking awesome tightening and clenching, at that, followed by first tentative waves of her orgasm rushing over his cock. She presses her forehead against his, her face slick with sweat. And her grin is the most natural, beautiful thing he has ever seen. Which is saying something, when it comes to Quinn.

It's enough to make him come as well, crying out into her mouth as he does so. It feels so good - it feels so right.

Him and Quinn. Nothing else. No one else. Ever.

"Puck?" She whispers his name, almost on a breath, almost as if she can't believe that she's actually here with him. It does feel like it's been an awful long way in coming - more than three years, if not close to a lifetime. They're laying there tangled in each other's limbs; she's buried into his chest, and he has his arms wrapped around her. It feels kind of familiar, in a way, except that instead of layers of summertime clothing, there's nothing between them but air. It's the closest he's ever really been to her - that one other time, she had shoved him out of bed after it was all over, clasping her Cheerios uniform to her chest, without so much as a goodbye.

He turns to face her. "Quinn?"

She sighs. "I don't want to go back to Connecticut. Not without you."

"I thought you had all your world-saving, future-bathroom-scandals of America friends up there to make you forget about me." Her sighs, little known to her, of course, could break his heart without even trying.

"Didn't we already establish before that I could never forget about you?" She places a hand over his chest and buries her face into his side; her lips brush along the side of his ribs, and he strokes her hair with absent-minded abandon.

"I like hearing it," he says, and it's true - he doesn't want to be forgotten, because there would be nothing that would suck more than to be forgotten. And that's how he's felt for most of his life, at least until she came around and showed him that there was an otherwise. "What do you say - you, and me? In Connecticut?"

"In Connecticut?"

"There's nothing wrong with Connecticut," he says, "except that I'm not there."

"That's true," she says, almost without thinking about it, "but I thought you liked California."

"But you're not there. And without you, it kinda really sucks there, and I'm not going to make you give up Yale just to chase me all around the country." He flexes his bicep and grins down at her. "So - what do you say? You, me, the big state of Connecticut?"

"It's a big step to move in together," she says, "but - you know, we can make it work, and you'd like it there once you got adjusted, even if there's not a lot of sun this time of year -" She pauses for a moment. "And Connecticut's not really big, you know."

"I know," he says, "but it's big enough for the two of us."

"That it is." She curls up into his arm and clutches onto him, "it's going to be nice to have you there."

He could only kiss the top of her head and agree - she smells like that same flower she did way back when they were last like this, in her room, but it seems different somehow this time. Instead of smelling like she's saying goodbye, it feels like they have their entire future laid out in front of them, ready for the taking.

As the calendar shifts from December over to January, he drives away from Lima, back to California, back to the crappy apartment with Emily the awesome pepper-gifting neighbor, he knows that he's not alone this time. And won't be alone again for a long, long time.

Because, curled up in the passenger seat next to him, is a half-asleep Quinn; her arm is propped up on the doorframe, her hair is pooling over one shoulder and masking her hand from his sight. Her other hand rests on top of the middle console, and he reaches over with one hand to stroke it absent-mindedly.

It's a long way to California. And it's an even longer way back to Connecticut.

But with her by his side, he thinks - hell, maybe I can be the first President who cleaned pools and had a child while still in high school. He could dream higher. And get a fresh start, with the one thing from his old life he still wants to hold onto more than anything.

He can get out of the crappy apartments of the world any day now.


Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who read, reviewed, favorited or alerted this! It was interesting to see how my idea of what ended up being early season four interacted with what it actually was. This story would not have been possible without the help of my dear friend C., who listened to all of my Quick ramblings for the entire summer and fall and helped make this story into what it became. Hope you all enjoyed it.