Chapter 18: House #3

After they sing to Mr. Schue, the club disperses. Rachel heads up a gathering to go out for dinner but while she says everybody, she means her group, Mercedes, Kurt, Tina, Artie, maybe Finn.

Brittany, Santana, Matt, and Mike are going to Breadstix. They invite her but Quinn opts out, and then Puck does too. They are the last to leave.

Puck walks her through the empty hallways, people used to part for her when she strutted down them, full of self importance.

At one point he reaches for her hand and she lets him take it. His hand engulfs hers, rough from working outside. Hers is perfectly smooth, long slender fingers perfect for showing off rings, soft from the hand cream her mom insisted on each night. Yet they fit together, it feels right in a way it hadn't with Finn.

He pushes open the door and holds it for her, something she had to train Finn to do. He follows her to her car too, maybe it isn't fair to compare them this way. Maybe it's about who is here, now, even after everything has fallen apart. He drops her hand and her fingers start to grasp for it in its absence.

"You good?" he asks nonchalantly resting again the hood of her car.

She wants to shove him off, stop him from scratching the cherry red paint.

He catches her eye and stands up straight, "Sorry".

Quinn bites her lip, "I'm sorry".

Puck laughs dryly, "How did those words taster coming out of your mouth?"

Quinn, in a perfect Leigh Anne Touhy southern drawl replies, "Like vinegar".

A small smile tugs at his lips, they both loved that movie.

"Really, you okay Quinn?" he says studying her face seriously.

"Yeah," she starts to lie, "I'm fine".

He catches it immediately and opens his arms, "Come'ere baby mama".

She settles in, her head against the wool of his letterman jacket.

"What's wrong Q?" he whispers, drawing her close.

"I've been living with Finn," she says flatly, stating the obvious.

"And now," he continues her thought, "you'll live with me".

She tenses in his arms. Maybe baby, but that doesn't mean she's happy about it.

"Really?" she says uncertainty lacing her voice.

He nods confidently. His mom knows the baby is his, he can't keep any secrets from her. She promised to keep it to herself as long as Puck stepped up and wasn't a deadbeat. Part of that was respecting what Quinn wanted, even if she wanted to pretend it was Finn's.

"Yes, if that's what you want," he tells her, his voice rumbling.

Quinn stays there for a moment, taking in the beat of his heart.

"I guess I'd like that," she finally says tipping her head to look up at him.

He gives her a fleeting smile, one that warms her up, "Good," he whispers gently squeezing her shoulders.

Quinn steps back, "This doesn't mean we are together".

Puck nods and opens her car door, "I'll follow you to my house".

Quinn gets in and rolls down her window, beckoning him closer, "It doesn't mean we won't be together someday".

He takes a second to work through the double negative, then brightens, "You're the boss Q".

On the ride to his house she tries to think about anything else but it repeats in her head, your third house in less than that many months, nobody really wants you around, you won't be staying long, don't get too comfortable, they'll find your faults soon and toss you out too.

She pulls into the driveway and tries to reset back to her typically inscrutable face. It's easier to pretend when other people are around.

Puck opens her door, leads her in, and takes charge. He informs his mother of the new development and introduces them. Then he takes her up to his room, hastily shoving dirty clothes off the floor as they enter.

"It's okay," she laughs, "You didn't know I was coming".

That's true but he wants her to stay.

"You can um, sleep in here and borrow clothes. We can get the rest of your stuff tomorrow," he explains nervously, "I'll clean up more first, change the sheets and stuff".

All she has are the clothes she's wearing and her outfit from sectionals. She surveys the room, purses her lips, and nods.

"Puck!" Quinn hears a little voice call.

"Incoming," he warns her.

"Puck!" Ari shrieks launching herself into his arms, "Did you win?"

He picks her up and swing her around, "We did!"

She whoops with joy and hugs him tight.

"Ari, do you remember Quinn?" he asks turning so they face her.

Ariella nods proudly, "She is on the Cheerios with San and Brittany".

"I was," Quinn allows, taking in the little girl who looks so much like Puck.

"She's gonna stay here awhile. Ok squirt?" he says setting her down.

Ari looks up at her big brother and nods.

"Where is she going to sleep though?" she whispers loudly.

"Here," Puck nods at the bed.

Ariella makes a face, "You better make him clean up good," she instructs Quinn.

"Where will you sleep?" Ari follows up.

Puck shrugs, "The couch, or your room if you'll share El".

Ari grins, "Sure, if I can have the top bunk and you don't snore".

"I don't snore," he says pretending to look affronted.

"Yes you do," she insists, giggling as he tickles her out of the room.

Puck swings his eyes back to Quinn, "You hungry?"

She's still trying to get over seeing him so domestic.

"We could fix the room first," he says after getting no response.

Quinn nods. They make quick work of it. Puck putting the dirty clothes in the basket and Quinn pulling on the clean sheets.

The dinner table is full of chatter from Ari. It's louder than at Finn's house. Their moms are different too. Mrs. Hudson was welcoming but always took Finn's side. He was her baby boy and could do no wrong. Mrs. Puckerman was more withdrawn, but she put Puck in his place. It was funny to watch him give in to his mom. She seemed to accept Quinn was here to stay, asking for her favorite foods, denying her bacon.

Listening to Ariella was surprisingly enlightening. She babbled about friends, school, soccer, and swim team, but in an attempt to include Quinn she has also brought up Santana and Brittany.

"Brittany has the greatest cat. Tubbs is so fat. Have you met him?" Ari asks at one point.

Yes, he's the biggest cat she's ever seen, a product of Britt's enormous capacity to love. Did Ari know how Brittany talked to him as if he really understood? But she also included Santana's problems, to scold her without really saying it, stop smoking cigars Lord Tubbington, stop reading my diary.

"Brittany is teaching me the single ladies dance. It's really long. She taught the whole football team. Maybe Puck could teach you," Ariella giggles.

Brittany taught them two days after it came out. They had insisted B play Beyoncé as she was the best dancer. Plus then she only had to show them how to do the same moves. It had been a sleepover project. Britt had watched the video, they had watched her, and it had taken until 3am, because someone kept getting distracted.

Someone who was not Brittany, she could concentrate intensely if it was dance related. This someone refused to stop getting snacks, telling bad jokes, and insisting that they didn't really need sleep before practice tomorrow, Santana la diabla.

And Santana, Santana, Santana, you would think she hung the stars. It was clear Ari idolized her. Normally it would be good ammunition, right now it makes her feel left out.

"Santana and Puck made pudding last summer and we got to put it on the slip and slide and slide in it. Mom was so mad when she came home. It was even in my hair, but then Santana set up the sprinkler so we could wash off," she says, like Santana invented sliced bread.

It reminders her of four year old Santana full of bravado, "Your mom won't care". Brittany nodding eagerly, as it had been her idea. Santana had wanted a mud wrestling pit like her cousins watched on tv, so B suggested pudding. They had emptied dozens of pudding cups into a plastic baby pool. Santana was the winner beating them both, though Lucy thought she cheated by resorting to hair pulling. Mrs. Fabray had discovered 3 very messy, chocolate covered children, and a sleeping babysitter. The babysitter was fired, the girls sent home, Lucy scolded and stuck paying for the used pudding with her savings. Not that they were going to eat them anyway, too processed, the cups had been for a Halloween party for Rosalie's class. Rose had been horrified even as her dad assured her they would buy new ones, Lucy had been punished, and to be nicer to her baby sister.

"Santana was my very second baby sitter. She says I was a cute baby. Even though Puck says I looked like a squish face," she frowns and Puck reached over to pinch her cheek affectionately, "You're just so squishy El".

"You're squishy," Rose said poking her ten year old sister with distain. "You can't come with me to the mall, people will stare". "Why?" she asks full of innocence. "Because you don't look like me," Rose scoffs flipping her hair. Lucy swallows hard, she knows that, she does. She just sometimes wishes it doesn't matter, at least not to her sister.

"Santana did my hair for crazy hair day and I won best in my grade. I had one long braid and one pigtail. Half my hair was red and half was white, then we put sparkly stars in too, rainbow colors" she says her fingers flying to illustrate what went where.

"The Fabrays do not do crazy hair day," her mother states authoritatively, "Look at Rosie's pretty hair, why would we mess that up". "I'll do yours," Rose offers reaching for the 5 year old. Her fingers fly, putting two French braids into golden hair. "I know it's no fun, but it's only one day," she whispers, hesitating before grabbing a few white flower bobby pins and pushing them in, "You look cute Lucy". The little girl's face brightens, I look like you.

"Santana and Puck are best friends. So are her and Brittany. Santana says you can have as many best friends as you want. I have 5," she says splaying out five fingers, "Santana, Brittany, Bailey, Annie, and Stephanie".

"Ari, what about me?" Puck says offended.

"You're my brother," Ari says like the matter is settled.

"Who's your best friend?" she asks Quinn.

Mrs. Puckerman is in the kitchen doing the dishes, having waved off offers of help.

Puck watches her closely.

"Santana and Brittany," she finally offers honestly. Even though they only sometimes seem to fall into that category.

"Good choice," Ari nods approvingly, "I'm going to do my homework upstairs".

"Finally, El" Puck teases tapping her lightly on the back as she heads upstairs.

"Tell San to come over soon. I miss her," Ariella yells down the stairs.

Puck waves her up the stairs, "Yeah, yeah squirt".

Where are you? her phone pings.

She settles on the couch and Puck sits beside her.

I mean it, Preggers.

Quinn frowns and sets her iPhone facedown on the table, "No way, no horror and I mean it".

Puck laughs and shifts genres.

Quinn!? Brittany texts hoping she'll get a response.

"A comedy, but not a stupid one," she suggests.

"Those are the best ones!" he insists, "Action?"

"Without excessive violence," she allows.

Q, Britt's getting worried. If you don't answer soon I'm gonna dump all your stuff on the side of the road.

"Ooo, that one!" she points eagerly.

"Iron Man?" he says incredulously.

She arches her eyebrow, "We could watch Twilight or Mamma Mia".

He gives it back quickly, "We could watch The Dark Knight or Slumdog Millionaire".

"Or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," they both say at the same time, making ick faces.

"Iron Man it is," he says scrolling back up as she smiles smugly.

All your clothes, in the mud, in 5 minutes.

"Your phone," Puck says tipping his head toward it.

It's been vibrating like crazy, so she reluctantly picks it up, flipping the sound on.

"What's wrong?" he asks watching her face.

Don't you dare, she types back furiously.

The phone starts blaring Party in the USA.

Her face flushes, clearly someone has been messing with her ringtone.

"Santana," she answers with a hiss, standing up to walk out of the room.

She ends up in the bathroom, lacking privacy anywhere else in the small house.

"Santana, I swear if you touch," Quinn begins to threaten before pausing, "Why do you have my things?"

She can hear S whispering to Brittany, deciding what to say.

"The truth," she demands bossily.

"Where are you?" Santana asks instead of answering.

"Puck's" her voice clips out, don't you dare judge me.

Santana figures she'll be alright then.

"Um Finn," San starts, before responding to Brittany, "Oh yeah right".

"We were at Breadstix for dinner, with Matt and Mike and when we were leaving, Finn was standing by our car," she continues, "We convinced the boys to leave before we talked to him".

Santana had been ready to tear him apart and hadn't wanted witnesses.

"He had piled boxes around the car. Filled with stuff, your stuff," she clarifies, "Finn said he couldn't find you and he wasn't keeping it another day. We could take it or leave it".

Finn hadn't been as polite, there had been swearing and yelling, he looked like he had been crying. His eyes were rimmed red and slowly his face had turned the same shade.

"We took it, of course," she continues, ignoring the part of her that wanted to leave it, to tell Q her stuff was in the parking lot behind Breadstix and that she could go get it with Puck.

It was all piled in the trunk and the back seats of her little BMW, she looked homeless. Finn had stood there, watching them shove things this way and that without offering to help.

"Are you living with, oof," Brittany had elbowed her sharply.

"Do you want your stuff at Puck's or..." she trails off uncertainly, Quinn doesn't have many options.

"Fine," Quinn replies, she can't believe Finn really did it, defied her, skipped out on Rachel's dinner, didn't care anymore.

"We'll be there in 5," Santana says already partway there.

Brittany tugged the phone away, "See you soon Q. We'll figure it out together".

She holds onto that word in her mind after they disconnect, together. Lightly scrubbing her face, taking time until she could have been talking to S about anything.

When she reenters the family room Puck stands up to greet her.

"Ready to start?" he asks searching her face.

"We have company," she says dryly.

A few seconds later the doorbell starts to ring, repeatedly, to the rhythm of Boom Boom Pow.

"Brittany," Pucks says shaking his head, "and where she is so is San. That your company?"

Brittany tackles her in a hug when she opens the door while Santana immediately sprawls on the couch. Puck shoves her feet over and sits beside her. San gives him an open smile then sees Quinn and nods, her face shutting down.

Brittany doesn't get why she does that, starts to pretend to be tough. It's just the four of them. This is the same girl who learned the Parent Trap dance for Britt and greeted her that way each time during the summer before 4th grade because it made her smile.

"Santana!" Ari yells flying down the stairs and into her arms.

San sits up reluctantly and wraps the girl up in her arms.

"I've missed you," Ariella coos, kissing her cheek noisily.

Santana blushes, glancing at Quinn, before shrugging it off, "Missed you too, tiny girl."

"Ari it's time for bed," Mrs. Puckerman calls from upstairs.

Ariella reluctantly pulls herself away from Santana.

"Good night Britt," she smiles, hugging the blonde.

"Night El. I love your pajamas," Brittany answers.

Ella twirls around in her rainbow striped pjs.

Then she runs back up the stairs calling out her good nights.

Quinn breaks the silence reluctantly, "My stuff?"

"Puck," Santana commands nodding toward the front door.

Puck rises, looking slightly confused.

Santana follows him outside and soon Quinn hears yelling.

"You were watching a movie?" Brittany redirects.

Quinn nods, "We were about to start".

"A proper movie needs popcorn," Britt smiles pulling her up and away from the noise.

Q follows casting a look over her shoulder.

Brittany misreads it and tells her, "Don't worry. He's mad at Finn, not Santana. But he'll yell and get over that too, Finn's his best friend".

She nods because it's easier than admitting her jealousy. Puck had hopped up to do what Santana asked without questions. She's the only competition Quinn has ever had at McKinley.

The popcorn's popping and Brittany is pulling out glasses.

"Is Iron Man good?" she asks pouring Coke into the glass, "San saw it without me. Her and Puck are into all those superhero action-y movies".

"I liked it," Quinn says fiddling with her straw.

Brittany grabs two beers from the fridge and pours a shot of Jack into her glass.

Quinn picks up her alcohol free Coke, the perils of being pregnant, and the popcorn bowl.

When they enter the family room, boxes are piled up by the door. Quinn swallows hard.

"Last box," Puck proclaims hauling it in while Santana holds the door.

Puck looks at her face and starts to move them behind the couch, "Outta sight, outta mind. We can deal with them tomorrow Q".

Santana takes a pull from her beer and kicks her feet up on the coffee table.

"Slob," Puck teases affectionately, shoving her feet out of the way and sitting beside her.

"C'mere Babe," Puck says patting the spot beside him.

She sits as Brittany slides in next to Santana and curls up.

Britt passes his beer over and Puck starts the movie.

When the credits are playing Santana is sleeping against Puck and Brittany is curled against Santana. They look like they do this every week, maybe they do. She knows they have lives separate from hers, she didn't know seeing it in person would feel like this.

Puck shuts off the TV and nudges her.

"Time for bed," he whispers easing out from under Santana.

Quinn stretches, "What about those two?"

"Leave'em," Puck shrugs, grabbing a box of Quinn's things. She's got a ton, so might as well start bringing them up.

"They'll split in the morning. San's got church and she'll drop Brittany off," he explains, starting up the stairs.

Quinn follows, parting outside his door.

She changes into yoga pants that are in the box he carried up. Packed alongside school books, socks, a jacket, crumpled old homework, a pair of flip flops, clearly Finn had just tossed stuff in. Quinn tries to flatten the papers, irritation on her face.

She pulls on an old t-shirt of Puck's and goes into the hall to reach the bathroom. He exits it at the same time and she bites her lip.

Puck turns and looks at her. Sometimes he's a jokester, sometimes he's an ass, and sometimes she think he can see the depths of her soul.

She nods toward his bedroom door, then follows her bedtime routine.

He's sitting on the edge of the bed when she comes in, giving her sad puppy dog eyes. Tonight she needs him to chase her fears away.

She breaks the silence, "Hold me?"

He nods and moves so she can lay down. His arms wrap around her snugly.

After this, how can she not try with him? It's the fourth house she's ever lived in, but in less than 12 hours, it's the only one that's ever felt like a home.