Pairing: Puck/Kurt (Finn/Kurt) [other pairings implied/scattered]
Word Count: 10,000
Copyright: Title taken from Popular from Wicked.
Summary: “Let me get this straight,” Kurt begins, resisting the urge to laugh, “you knocked up Finn’s girlfriend and you want to apologise to him by trying to make him gay?”
Author’s Notes: Set in a post-sectionals AU because although I’ve seen up to date I still want this to happen. Also ‘cause once the idea hit me I really couldn’t not write it (it ate my brain), and 20,000 words of this was written before Hello aired. Clichéd romcom ideas are always enjoyable to play out in fandoms that will let me get away with it ;) Getting the hang of all these characters so bear with me. I’ve written most of the rest of it (well, another 16,000 words, anyway), so it should be up pretty promptly...
“So, you want to bang Finn, right?”
This is not really what Kurt wants to hear first thing on a Monday morning (or, you know, ever), particularly not from a cheerful-looking Noah Puckerman. He glances around but Rachel is nowhere in sight, kind of implying that Puck is speaking to him. Which cannot be a good thing.
“Um,” Kurt manages, “what?”
“Or be banged by Finn, whatever, I don’t know what gets you off,” Puck shrugs, “I mean, you look like you bottom, but-”
“Oh my God,” Kurt says helplessly and it sort of comes out as a whimper. He must still be asleep, this cannot possibly actually be happening. Puck cornering him by his locker and discussing his sexual preferences is just too unlikely and ridiculous, even after all the other weird shit that’s gone down recently.
“Hey,” Puck says, “for all I know you get all animalistic and bossy in bed and that’s cool too, you know, if you want to top the shit out of Finn. I kind of doubt it ‘cause you’re carrying a girl’s purse and also you make that chick in Legally Blonde look manly, but whatever works for you, I guess.”
Kurt prides himself on having a response for any given situation, but this is not a situation he thought would ever come up. Like, ever. He stares at Puck for a moment, mouth open in shock.
“This is not a girl’s purse,” he manages at last.
“It looks it,” Puck tells him, shrugging. “Anyway, whatever, you totally want in Finn’s pants.”
He still isn’t waking up, so Kurt mans up and pulls himself together and says: “what makes you say that?” in a way that sounds nearly calm, even if his voice cracks a little in the middle.
“Please,” Puck scoffs, “you make hopeless little moon eyes at him all the damn time. You make Berry look disinterested.” Kurt just blinks at him. Puck folds his arms. “What? You kind of start noticing stuff when nobody actually talks to you.” He sounds defensive.
“Right,” Kurt says a little blankly. “Well, this conversation has been very disturbing, but the bell’s about to go-”
“Look,” Puck begins, catching his arm. Reflexively, Kurt flinches; Puck looks a little surprised and immediately lets go. “Hummel, you wanna fuck Finn, I can make that happen.”
Kurt would be shocked by this but he’s already been beaten into horrified submission by the rest of the conversation, so he just says: “really?”
“Yeah.” Puck smirks. “I know Finn better than anyone, I’ll tell you what you need to do to get him ripping off those girl jeans you’re wearing.”
They’re not girl jeans, Kurt wants to say, but there’s really no point. Instead, he just says: “um, why?”
“‘Cause if I can get him laid maybe he’ll forgive me,” Puck says, like this is a perfectly normal thing to suggest, though his gaze is fixed on his sneakers.
“You couldn’t just bake him some slightly misshapen cupcakes?” Kurt can’t help asking. The bell goes and he doesn’t even hear it.
Puck rolls his eyes. “You in or you out?”
“Let me get this straight,” Kurt begins, resisting the urge to laugh, “you knocked up Finn’s girlfriend and you want to apologise to him by trying to make him gay?”
“Being a fag is a totally valid lifestyle choice,” Puck informs him like this is something Kurt doesn’t know, “I got a pamphlet from Miss Pillsbury and everything. So don’t talk like a hater.”
“Oh dear God,” Kurt says quietly. If Puck put actual research into this crazed idea than it kind of implies he’s genuinely serious. “Also, I’m pretty sure the pamphlet wasn’t called ‘So You Want To Be A Fag?’” Puck doesn’t reply, just stares at him, waiting for a reply. Kurt wants to say ‘no’ but he’s a desperately virginal glee club member hopelessly in love with a fellow member and the pining is really sort of killing him. “Ok,” he sighs, feeling kind of like he’s selling his soul, “ok. I’m in.”
Huh. He’ll have to add curious to the point of masochism to his list of personality traits.
“Great,” Puck says, flinging a terrifyingly manly arm around Kurt’s shoulders and dragging him off towards his class. “I’ll tell you what to do and you guys can have loads of hot gay sex and it’ll all work out great.”
Kurt pinches himself and it hurts, so no matter how surreal this is it is actually happening. This knowledge does not reassure him. “You’re not going to start singing Popular, are you?”
Puck looks down at him. “Dude, what the fuck?”
Kurt no longer has any idea what’s going on anymore. “Nothing,” he mumbles, and wonders what the hell he’s let himself in for.
Shortly after sectionals Kurt decided he might as well officially come out to glee club, despite the fact that Mercedes knew and Rachel knew and everybody else had made fairly safe assumptions. Hell, Puck had apparently known since the first week of high school, when he’d started shoving Kurt against the lockers, and then continued in that vein by next shoving Kurt inside lockers and following that up by putting him in dumpsters, spitting fag at him at every available opportunity, and throwing various food products all over his beautiful, beautiful clothing. Still, he decided that he might as well put it out in the open, clear and truthful, in the spirit of all the other honesty that was flying around at the time.
In the end, he’d wound up coming out twice; once for the bemused and amused members of glee club, and again for Brittany a week later, since she spent far too much time dancing with him and hugging him and so on and he needed to make sure that she actually understood what ‘gay’ meant. Just in case. He didn’t need another rock through his baby’s window, after all.
The conversation had been somewhat confusing and Kurt had spent chunks of it trying not to laugh, but then most conversations with Brittany are like that and Kurt finds it oddly endearing.
“So...” he’d said eventually, “you remember me ‘coming out’ last week, right?”
Brittany scrunched up her brow in beautiful concentration. “Wasn’t that when Puck made you that ‘Congratulations On Being A Fag’ card?”
Actually, yes. Kurt had been kind of non-plussed at the time, unsure whether it was an insensitive but nonetheless genuine attempt at a peace offering, or a new form of psychological bullying. One look at Puck had told him that Puck didn’t actually know either, and maybe that was why he’d kept it, hidden in a pile of back editions of Vogue.
“Yes,” he’d replied, after a moment of once again freaking out over what the hell Puck thought he was doing, and after being privately impressed that Brittany had remembered that, given that she seemed to have problems remembering most other things in her life, up to and including how to spell her own name. “And you know what ‘gay’ means, right?”
“It means you’re like a girl,” Brittany informed him after a long, careful period of deliberation.
Kurt ended the conversation by admitting defeat, deciding Brittany was at no point going to try and go to a Sing-A-Long Sound Of Music with him convinced it was a date, and somehow agreeing to go shoe shopping with her.
Admitting he was gay didn’t make a bit of difference – disturbing and unlikely greetings cards aside – but it had felt kind of good to get it out there anyway. And, well, maybe a very small part of him had thought that maybe Finn would corner him after glee one day and be all I didn’t know you were gay, I just thought you were, like, really effeminate – oh, wait, Finn would never use effeminate, better replace that with – girly, but now I know that you really are gay, I can tell you that I’m madly in love with you, go to prom with me. The rest of him laughed cruelly at that little part of him and threw blue slushies in its face for its naiveté, but still, the thought had been there. But all Finn had done was nod and smile vaguely and focus on his own traumatised stress because he wasn’t a father after all and everyone in his life had fucked him over.
Well, Kurt hadn’t, but it didn’t really seem like the time to point it out.
So, Kurt reasons, not paying any attention to the words spilling across the chalkboard at the front of the classroom, maybe that’s why he’s reached the desperate, rock-bottom point of allowing Noah Puckerman, he of the casual homophobic slurs and the reason why Kurt keeps two changes of outfit and shampoo in his locker, to help him get a boyfriend. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Puck is finding a new way to humiliate him, since his social standing is at an all time low, but Kurt doesn’t think that he would bother to go to all that effort when putting Kurt in a dumpster would be so much quicker and would achieve pretty much the same end. In any case, most of the school seems to assume that everyone in glee is some degree of gay; even Quinn, pregnant and all, and Puck, who got her pregnant in the first place, so really, Kurt can’t think of anything Puck could do to him with this stupid plan other than not get him Finn which, really, Kurt is already doing pretty well at so at least it won’t be anything new.
“You haven’t been taking that fake vitamin stuff again?” Mercedes asks him after class, looking concerned. “Because Mrs Schuester really wasn’t a qualified nurse and that shit’s probably really dangerous.”
“Please,” Kurt scoffs, “I know that.”
Mercedes arches a perfectly-waxed eyebrow, and Kurt takes a moment to admire his handiwork before she says: “didn’t stop you from buying that box of them.”
“There was a sample sale,” Kurt defends himself. “I had to do something to get my hands on those boots, and anyway, I got you that scarf out of it so you have no right to complain. And I never took them again.”
“You sure?” Mercedes asks. “‘cause you didn’t move a muscle at all during English Lit and just stared at the board with that crazy intense look you had when you were stoned on vitamins.”
“They’re not vitamins,” Kurt points out. “And I’m not stoned. And I don’t get a crazy intense look either!”
It’s been a very distressing morning, all in all. Mercedes looks at him thoughtfully, seems to see some of this in his helpless expression, and links her arm through his. “I’ll give you a manicure at lunch,” she offers.
Kurt leans his aching head against her shoulder and wonders if today is McKinley-wide Confuse The Hell Out Of Kurt day and he didn’t get the memo.
It wouldn’t be the first time.
Glee club is... interesting.
Quinn is looking miserably martyred, hands folded over her barely-curving stomach, mouth set in a miserable pout. Kurt offers her a smile which she doesn’t seem to notice, hunched in on herself and depressingly alone in the world since Finn turned his back and she kicked Puck to the kerb. Personally, Kurt feels he’d keep someone around who can make drugged cupcakes to earn money, but perhaps he’s setting his sights a little low. He has expensive tastes, after all. Still, he kind of hopes that Quinn has a vague idea of what she’s doing, though he suspects that she doesn’t.
Finn is also looking martyred, in a different way, and Kurt does honestly feel sympathetic because it’s been a pretty shitty school year for him thus far, although he does feel for Quinn because Finn, at least, has not been kicked out of his home or lost everything that apparently meant anything to do him and it not getting increasingly fat (thank God, he mentally adds). Quinn probably does have more reason to be looking martyred.
Puck is not looking at all martyred. In fact, he is looking at Kurt looking at Finn with a semi-calculating sort of expression that is, at best, disconcerting, and, at worse, downright terrifying. He catches Kurt looking and smirks, just a little, and Kurt re-evaluates the idea that this is some kind of elaborate plan that’s going to end in either humiliation or physical pain. Still, as long as it doesn’t end in buckets of pig blood – his dry-cleaning bills are already higher than his dad is really happy with – he figures he’ll just let it run its course.
“Puck is looking at you like he kind of wants to eat you,” Mercedes informs him quietly. Kurt raises an eyebrow at her and she sighs. “And not in a fun sort of way.”
“Maybe he’s lusting after my new jacket,” Kurt suggests.
“It is a nice jacket,” Mercedes agrees, and by the time they’ve finished discussing shopping, Puck has gone back to trying to impregnate Santana with his eyes. Unfortunately for him – or fortunately, depending on whether it’s his goal to have knocked up half the glee club by Easter or not – she’s too busy giggling over something with Brittany, the two of them sat suspiciously close together. Not for the first time, Kurt wonders if he really is correct in his assumption that he really is the Lone Gay in the glee club, but asking would probably get him attacked by Santana, and her fingernails look sharp.
“So, the pining is doing a real good job, huh?” Puck says, catching him by his car in the parking lot after practice.
Kurt glares at him until Puck cracks up laughing. It’s on the tip of his tongue to politely but firmly tell Puck to go away somewhere and die, but that probably wouldn’t help this whole exercise. Whatever this whole exercise is.
“Are you making a point or did you come here just to laugh at me?” Kurt asks. “Because if it’s the latter, you can do that anytime, and some of us actually have things to do with our evenings.”
Puck scowls. “I have things to do with my evening.”
“Oh, yes, of course, how could I forget your busy schedule of vandalism and destruction?” Kurt asks before he can think twice about it.
Puck looks angry, but Kurt doesn’t back down. It’s been a very weird, very long day and he’s already got a migraine so if Puck actually does punch him in the face it’s not like he won’t be taking Tylenol anyway. Well, there might be problems if he gets his nose broken, but he’ll deal with that when it comes to it.
“You think that’s all I do?” he asks in a soft, unreadable voice.
“You nailed all my lawn furniture to my roof,” Kurt reminds him.
Puck’s mouth softens a little. “Maybe we wanted to give you a roof garden?” he suggests.
Kurt wrenches his car door open. “I assume I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says, fighting to keep his voice light rather than irritated, because of course Puck didn’t have to deal with his dad’s misery and confusion and anger at having his property screwed up like that. “If you could refrain from throwing slushies at me, I’d be grateful; my dry-cleaning bills for the week are already far too high.”
“Paranoid much, Hummel?” Puck smirks, leaning one hip against the hood of Kurt’s car. Kurt wonders vaguely if he’s going to have to drive through Puck in order to extricate himself from this, and weighs the pros and cons of this before deciding that cleaning bits of squashed jock off his baby would probably be time consuming and also no good at all for his nail beds.
“I’m not paranoid,” Kurt corrects him, “I’m just not optimistic.”
He glares at Puck until the other boy straightens up, moving away from the car a little. “You might wanna remember I’ve never actually thrown a slushie at you,” Puck informs him quietly, a weird tilt of a smile over his lips. “Catch you later, Hummel.”
It isn’t until he’s halfway home that Kurt realises that, weirdly enough, Puck is right.
“What did Puck want yesterday?” Mercedes demands almost the minute Kurt sets foot inside the building the next morning. He sighs and pushes his tinted sunglasses further up his nose, wondering if the rest of his life is going to be trying or if it’s just this week in particular.
“What?” he asks, opening up his locker to check his hair with the best would-be casual act he can put on.
“I saw him corner you in the parking lot yesterday,” Mercedes explains. “Do I need to give you my mace? I can give you my mace if you think he’s going to do it again.”
Tempting as the thought of mace-ing Puck is – and it really, really is – Kurt decides he shouldn’t take her up on the offer. At least, not yet. Maybe next week, if things don’t get any less stupid and confusing.
“It’s fine,” he says. And, because although he can tell Mercedes anything he really can’t tell her the truth about this because she will point out all the ways that getting Puck to help him date Finn is stupid and dangerous and not a good idea at all, and then Kurt will be forced to give it all up and pine for ever and ever and ever. Or something like that. “Um... I think he might want to be friends.”
Mercedes’ expression is sort of wonderful. “Friends?” she repeats incredulously.
Kurt shrugs. “I kind of have to go along with it now. It can be a social experiment!” he adds brightly, struck with a brainwave.
Mercedes looks vaguely concerned. “Do you think this is a good idea?” she asks. “Because I don’t.”
“I don’t either,” Kurt sighs. “But look on the bright side; at least I can’t get pregnant.”
“You need to get Finn to see you outside of the whole glee club thing,” Puck tells him a couple of days later, hands in the pockets of his jeans.
Kurt looks down at the floor, flinches at the general hideousness of Puck’s sneakers, and decides that maybe he should stop judging people’s shoes before he talks to them because it generally results in him not wanting to talk to anyone at all.
“I let him see me in a football setting,” he points out, raising his eyes back to Puck’s face. The way Puck is semi-hovering over him implies that he’s threatening Kurt, at least to anyone not listening to the conversation, and Kurt almost wants to laugh but reflects that that would ruin the illusion and if Puck is so desperate to still look like he’s an untouchable bad-ass then who is Kurt to ruin that for him? He doesn’t have a whole lot else, after all.
“Yeah, and then you turned us all into singing, dancing fags,” Puck points out lightly, no malice in his tone. Kurt frowns, and Puck adds swiftly: “well, not literally.”
“It’s really ok to admit if the sight of me in my uniform got you hot under the collar,” Kurt responds, smirking just a little.
“Yeah, ‘cause you didn’t look like an idiot prancing about on the field at all,” Puck says.
Kurt briefly wonders if they’re flirting and then decides that that thought is too disturbing to even be entertained. They’re just not spitting insults at each other and it’s weird, that’s all there is going on here.
“If you’re implying that Finn needs to see me in a more heterosexual sort of way then isn’t that sort of going to defeat the object of this exercise?” Kurt asks, determined to derail the conversation or at least shove it into a slightly different direction.
“I mean you should be around him somewhere where he isn’t surrounded by the wreckage of his previous relationships,” Puck replies.
Kurt considers this. “Wow,” he says, “that’s actually sensible. Maybe there is a brain underneath that mohawk after all.”
Puck rolls his eyes, says “think about it, Hummel,” in an undertone, and elbows him in the chest in a way that doesn’t really hurt and is therefore probably more for show than anything else before he walks off.
“Is he bullying you again?” Finn asks, popping out of nowhere, and Kurt spares a moment to pray to anyone and anything that might be out there for Finn not to have heard any of their conversation. Then again, prior experience has shown him that Finn is not exactly ever quick on the uptake, so he might just get away with it. In any case, Puck is supposedly only helping Kurt out in order to get Finn talking to him again, so Kurt reasons that making Puck look bad in front of Finn is not going to help either of them.
“He wanted fashion advice,” Kurt lies calmly, just because the startled look on Finn’s face is nothing short of pretty.
“He didn’t take it well when I suggested he ditch the mohawk,” Kurt sighs. “It’s tragic, really, but I guess he’s just set in his ways.”
It’s the first time Finn has looked vaguely amused when Puck’s name has been mentioned since the truth of Babygate first broke, as opposed to kind of homicidal and flushed. ‘Amused’ is definitely a better look on him, Kurt can’t help but reflect; he was starting to get kind of tired of ‘homicidal and flushed’.
“Are you on your way to Spanish?” he asks, needing to get Puck out of the conversation before Finn decides to go back to moping again. Not Moping Finn is always a novelty.
“Uh, yeah,” Finn says, sounding almost surprised about this, and Kurt swallows a smile because he doesn’t need to look condescending.
Kurt mentally scrabbles for something to say that isn’t about music or moisturiser. He can’t exactly talk gossip with Finn, either, seeing as how Finn is caught in the middle of one the school’s current favourite scandal. Something exciting and new needs to happen, because Kurt’s caught sight of Jacob’s blog a few times over the last couple of weeks – completely by accident, of course – and the same repetition of Quinn being pregnant, Puck being the father, Finn not being the father, and Rachel hovering around looking all miserable and guilty is starting to get old. It’s also making Kurt start pitying everyone involved, and he doesn’t like pity; it clashes too much with everything he wears, and in any case it’s not like any has ever been shown to him.
“I like Spanish,” he says, after a moment; not too long, and sure, it’s kind of a non-sequitur, but it could be worse. “It’s a beautiful language.”
Finn looks thoughtful. “It is, I guess,” he shrugs. “It’s just really confusing.”
Kurt is about to reply with... something, anyway, when Finn catches sight of something at the end of the hall and his mouth thins. Kurt follows his gaze and sees Quinn, lost in the sea of humanity, head bowed and books clutched to her chest like a shield. She looks sad, lost, and Kurt smiles at her because it’s all he can do, offer her a little piece of support. After all, they’re similar enough in height that they’re frequently paired together in glee routines; Kurt held her quivering hand during Keep Holding On, has watched her cry more times than he’s seen anyone cry except perhaps himself. Quinn can be a bitch, has been ignoring Kurt for as many years as Puck has been chucking him into dumpsters, but no one deserves what she’s going through and no one deserves to go through it alone either.
Quinn smiles back, looking almost surprised, and when he glances up at him, Kurt can see Finn is looking determinedly the other way. Surrounded by the wreckage of his previous relationships indeed, Kurt reflects, and is actually relieved when they get to Spanish and he can slink into his seat and listen to Mr Schuester trying to make them care about the pluperfect.
“So, how’s this new friendship going with Puck?” Mercedes asks him a few days later. “I mean, you aren’t walking in with blue raspberry slushie on your face every morning-”
“Puck has never actually slushied me,” Kurt points out absently, adding an extra spritz of hairspray to a lock on top that will not go right before slamming his locker door closed.
When he turns, he finds Mercedes is staring at him, looking a mixture of stunned and concerned.
“You don’t like him, do you?” she asks in an urgent whisper, looking a little horrified.
“What? No!” Kurt protests. “Puck doesn’t have a single redeeming feature. At all.”
Mercedes’ expression turns to one of relief. “Good. ‘Cause, you know, you’ve already got one stupid crush on a straight boy we’ve got to snap you out of, you don’t need another one.”
“I don’t need snapping out of it,” Kurt protests, “and I’m offended that you’d think I would have such poor taste as to fall for a man whose idea of high-end fashion is Target.”
Mercedes laughs. “Well, as long as you know what you’re doing...”
“I do,” Kurt assures her, because maybe if he can convince Mercedes he can convince himself.
It’s not working so far, but if he keeps it up it just might work out.
“So,” Puck says, after glee practice has let out and the choir room is empty, “I don’t have any redeeming features.”
All of Kurt’s instincts are screaming at him to get underneath the piano, curl into a small ball to provide as small a target as possible, and beg for forgiveness.
Instead, because apparently he has no idea of self-preservation whatsoever, he shrugs, meets Puck’s gaze, and says: “well, you haven’t done anything so far to prove me wrong.”
Puck considers this. “I stopped putting you in the dumpster,” he offers, shrugging, like this is the epitome of kindness. Kurt supposes that, in Puck’s world, it probably is.
“Because Finn told you to,” Kurt reminds him. “And, fine, you’ve never slushied me, and I am grateful for that, but you have made Rachel’s life a living hell of ice and syrup since we got here, and, ok, I kind of want to ruin all her clothes with slushies too, but I at least have fashion as my excuse.”
Puck looks kind of amused and not like he wants to punch Kurt in the face, which is always a plus.
“And my idea of high fashion is Target?”
“You shouldn’t eavesdrop on people’s private conversations if you don’t want to hear things you won’t like,” Kurt tells him. “And: yes. You make me want to poke out my own eyes whenever I look at you. Your taste in clothing offends me.”
Puck smirks. “You’re kind of bitchy, you know?”
“You hadn’t noticed?” Kurt asks, because, really, that’s all anyone knows about him at this school. Ask any random kid, and you’d get a combination of fag, bitch and occasionally wears corsets, wtf.
He gets a shrug in reply. “Until glee, I pretty much just thought of you as that fairy kid.” Puck’s mouth twists. “I pretty much continued thinking of you as that after glee, as well.”
“That’s all right,” Kurt says, “I still think of you as that Neanderthal with a lamentable haircut.” He shrugs easily. “I suppose people you torment don’t get to have personalities?”
“Miss Pillsbury asked me that last week,” Puck tells him. He’s avoiding the answer, and avoiding it badly, but Kurt doesn’t particularly care, so he lets him get away with it.
“What did you tell her?”
“I faked a sneeze all over her desk,” Puck replies. “By the time she’d finished weeping and spraying disinfectant everywhere she didn’t really want a response.”
It’s cruel, but Kurt catches himself laughing anyway. “I puked on her shoes once,” he says before he can stop himself.
Puck actually looks impressed, which is weird. Kurt has never impressed him before, not even when he was kicking field goals like it’d be going out of fashion faster than last season’s Versace. “When was this?” he asks.
“I was drunk,” Kurt mutters, not really wanting to get into it. It was a valid life experience, and he tries not to think about it, because ew. Also, there’s something about calling your teacher Bambi that’s kind of humiliating and dumb.
“You were drunk around Miss P?” Puck echoes, amusement flickering on his face. “Damn, Hummel, I underestimated you.”
Kurt sniffs disdainfully. “Of course you have.” He looks between the two of them, sitting comfortably on chairs in the empty choir room, and hastily adds: “we’re not bonding, by the way.”
Puck snickers. “Relax, we can have a conversation without it suddenly becoming some huge queer lovefest. I don’t bite.” He seems to rethink this. “Well, I do, but only if they turn up at my place with their panties in their purse and a bottle of cheap wine and ask me really nicely.”
“Is that what you did to Quinn?” Kurt asks. He knows he shouldn’t have said it, it slips out without him even thinking, and Puck’s entire face winces.
“Nice,” he says softly. “I guess I deserved that.”
Kurt doesn’t want to feel bad for hurting Puck’s feelings, considering how many times Puck has hurt his feelings over the years, how many nights Kurt has spent crying in his room and furiously moisturising afterwards, angry for not being able to fit in and not wanting to fit in and wanting to walk down a hall just once without having someone shove him or spit fag in his direction.
“You didn’t,” he says. “I might be a bitch, but I do try to avoid being cruel.”
“What do you call ho-ing up Rachel and then letting her loose on Finn?” Puck asks, expression softening a little, back to its usual look of sternness and invulnerability. Kurt doesn’t bother asking how Puck knows that; it’s probably gotten out by now to some degree or another.
“Divine justice,” he replies.
Puck actually laughs, genuine and warm. After a moment, he says: “have you actually had a conversation with Finn that wasn’t about skin products or glee club? ‘Cause you’ve got to give me something to work with here.”
Kurt sighs, and turns his attention to his cuticles. “He hates Spanish,” he provides.
“I know,” Puck says, and then his expression becomes almost thoughtful. Kurt waits for him to elaborate, but he doesn’t.
“Well,” Kurt says, “nice as it is to be in here without Rachel correcting all of us on our singing, I promised my dad I’d help out at the garage after school, so-”
“Your dad owns a garage?” Puck asks, looking interested. His gaze sweeps over Kurt, over today’s delicious outfit with its skintight jeans and Armani jacket, and his expression switches to incredulity. “I’m not really seeing you as a greasemonkey.”
“I have layers,” Kurt protests. “And also overalls. Which I accessorised. With rhinestones.”
“Of course you did,” Puck replies, something almost fond in his tone. It catches them both by surprise, and Puck swiftly adds: “so, you know, tomorrow you should actually try talking to Finn instead of hovering about like a freshman girl with a crush.”
Kurt gets to his feet and picks up his bag. It’s been a weird afternoon. “Fuck you, Puckerman,” he says, without venom.
“Really?” Puck asks, leaning lazily back in his chair. “I still think it would be the other way around. You might wanna man up a little if you want to be a plausible top, you know.”
“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response,” Kurt says, and does his best at sweeping out with dignity.
Puck’s amused laughter behind him sort of ruins it, but it could be worse.
Mostly just to spite Puck, Kurt spends half of the next glee club having an in depth conversation with Finn about baseball – which he may or may not have carefully researched on google the night before – and he’s so busy concentrating on remembering all the names and teams in the right order he sort of forgets to be uncomfortable and blushy around him. Kurt sort of has to give himself snaps for that, and when he glances at Puck later, the boy looks grudgingly impressed. Finn, for his part, is looking slightly happier – as opposed to martyred and miserable and likely-to-start-chucking-furniture, like he usually does during rehearsals, and, frankly, at most other times – and not at all uncomfortable.
Kurt is never, ever, at any point going to tell Puck that maybe he was right. He doesn’t need his ego feeding any more.
His efforts, unfortunately, do not go unnoticed by his friends.
“Can’t we just hire you a male prostitute and get you laid?” Mercedes asks when they’re over at hers later, watching movies with Brittany and Tina.
“It would probably have more future than your crush on Finn,” Tina adds in what is possibly meant to be a supportive voice. It isn’t particularly supportive, and at some point Kurt is going to point this out to her. Right now, he’s focusing on looking at her and Mercedes like they have lost their minds. Maybe there’s something in the microwave popcorn other than salt and fat and little flakes that are going to be stuck in his teeth for the rest of the night.
Also, when did his crush on Finn become common knowledge?
“You could hire Puck,” Brittany offers into the silence. There’s a moment where they all just stare at each other, stunned, before Tina and Mercedes start laughing, hysterical, sprawled across the sofa.
“I hate my life,” Kurt says to no one in particular.
“Santana called him a male prostitute,” Brittany adds thoughtfully, eyes on the screen as the credits roll, words dripping out of her as though she isn’t really thinking about them. Kurt supposes that this is Brittany, after all; she probably isn’t.
Tina and Mercedes are still giggling, looking at Kurt as though expecting him to say something like let’s invite Puck over and slip roofies in his diet coke, which, by the way, no. He will not ever at any point say that, and not just because he has no idea how to get hold of roofies.
“The movie’s over,” he says, voice brittle, “what shall we watch next?”
Tina and Mercedes exchange looks. “Pretty Woman!” they burst out.
Kurt flings a pillow at them.
The choir room is quiet and for once it’s just nice to get the space to himself. Kurt plays random strings of notes on the piano, letting each one soak through him until he’s calm, breathing easily. Before he really knows what he’s doing, the tune is spilling out from under his fingers.
“Something has changed within me, something is not the same…”
Hell, this is the room where he threw the diva-off, he may as well demonstrate to the uncaring chairs and light fittings that he knows what he’s doing, that he can do it perfectly. That he deserves it all just as much as Rachel does and one day, when he’s out of here, he’ll demonstrate that.
“And you won’t bring me down…”
He nails the high F, freaking nails it like he does every time, and even though there is no one there to see it and no one even cares about it anymore, another one of Rachel’s vocal victories tucked away and forgotten, Kurt can’t help feeling the flush of some kind of misplaced triumph.
The slow clapping from the doorway makes him turn around, immediately blushing. Puck is leaning against the doorframe, an unreadable smile flickering across his mouth.
“You can do it,” he observes.
“Well, yes,” Kurt replies, folding his arms just a little defensively across his chest. “Of course I can.”
“You couldn’t do it at the diva off,” Puck points out on the smallest of smirks, coming inside and letting the door bang shut behind him.
Kurt knows he doesn’t have to defend himself here but his pride is stung so before he really thinks it through he says: “I could do it, I just chose not to.”
Puck looks confused, leaning on the piano lid a careful distance from him. “Dude, why?”
“I didn’t want the solo,” Kurt replies calmly, shrugging, as though this should be obvious.
Puck’s frown deeps. “Again, why?”
Kurt is not having this conversation, certainly not with Puck who has, so far this week, called him a fag on at least six occasions, and that was easily the most flattering word to come out of his mouth.
“It doesn’t matter,” he says quietly, hitching his bag onto his shoulder and deciding to go and find Mercedes so they can mercilessly mock the outfits of the freshmen girls who think they’re so cool but really have no idea how to actually use make-up without shovelling it on in an amusing fashion. He’d try to correct them, but then where would he get his daily entertainment from? He tries to push past Puck to get to the door, but then he makes his mistake, because he can’t resist muttering: “you wouldn’t understand anyway.”
Puck grabs his shoulder and Kurt manfully manages not to flinch. Puck turns him around, fingers digging in a little too hard, and says in a voice that is low and just a little dangerous: “try me.”
Kurt pulls himself free and tries to compose himself; irrational anger is flooding through him but he can’t be angry when he says this. He can be disdainful and haughty and patronising but he can’t be angry.
“My dad got an anonymous phonecall at work,” Kurt says, quiet and low because he’s never told anyone this before, not even Mercedes, keeping his gaze on his shoes. “Telling him his son was a fag.”
He can practically hear the wheels turning in Puck’s head, but he doesn’t look at him because he doesn’t want to see the confusion there, the blatant lack of comprehension. It’ll hurt and it’ll annoy him and he doesn’t want either of those things.
“…he didn’t know?” Puck asks, and his tone is careful and thoughtful. Kurt looks up, surprised; it was more than he was expecting. He was sort of preparing himself for a well, duh.
“Of course he knows,” Kurt says dismissively, swallows, and forces himself to explain. He’ll say this, and then he’ll leave, and he’ll be extra bitchy to some freshmen and maybe he won’t get a slushie in the face before he goes home and then his day won’t be a total loss after all. “But… there’s a difference between knowing it and hearing it.” Kurt manages a smile that feels ugly and adds: “He was so cut up and I couldn’t do that to him again. I figured anything else that was going to draw attention to how much of a fag I am-” he spits the word and Puck blinks, as though surprised at just how much venom Kurt can put into one little three-letter word “-wasn’t a good idea. So I blew the note, ok?”
He shoulders past Puck once more, reasoning that he can manage a pretty decent flounce-out if he works at it, but he can’t leave when Puck says, sounding almost surprised: “it bothers you, doesn’t it?”
Kurt spins around, warm anger spreading through him again and this time he makes no effort to quash it. Because, really, of all the fucking things to say.
“No,” he says, voice utterly steady, “no, it doesn’t. Because I won’t let it.” Puck frowns, but there’s something uneasy in his expression. “I can clean my clothes and I can wash my hair and I can put ice on the bruises and I can throw away my slushie-covered notes and I can talk to the janitor when obscenities are markered onto my locker.” He smiles slightly, cold and nasty. “But if I let those words get under my skin then they’ll get comfortable and then they’ll still be there when I get out of here and no one puts me in dumpsters or throws food at me just because I know how to accessorise. And I won’t let that happen to me.” He clears his throat, hitches his bag up a little more onto his shoulder, and finishes with: “so no, it doesn’t bother me, it never bothers me when even people who loosely claim to be my friends or my teammates use ugly, hurtful, prejudiced words without even thinking. Why would it?”
And he manages a dignified walk out that even Rachel would be proud of; he doesn’t look back and Puck doesn’t call after him and beneath the queasy feeling in his stomach Kurt sort of suspects that, this time, he might have won.
He just sort of assumed that winning would feel better than this.
Kurt doesn’t want their little not-quite-argument to always be there, an issue between them; in fact he pretty much wants to pretend that it never happened at all, so he says ‘hey’ to Puck the next morning like nothing’s wrong and, after a moment, Puck manages a slightly uncertain ‘hey’ in reply.
It takes him a little over a week to realise that Puck hasn’t used the word fag – or any other word commenting on homosexuality – again.
Quinn corners him after math one afternoon, looking particularly doe-eyed and vulnerable, though her mascara and slightly-too-hippy-to-really-work braids are immaculate.
“Can I ask you for a favour?” she says softly. Her expression of pleading would put Meredith Grey to shame so Kurt suspects that whatever she asks for he’s going to attempt to try and provide her with it. In any case, he gets on pretty well with Quinn; much as he adores Mercedes, he suspects that Quinn is really the only person in glee club who is just as bitchy as he is. Mercedes has a line; he firmly suspects Quinn doesn’t. Really, they could probably rule the world if they weren’t getting distracted by things like Teen Pregnancy and Finn Hudson and Sporadically Despising Each Other.
“Sure,” he replies, a little wary. “What do you need?”
Quinn catches her lower lip between her teeth for a moment and then practically whispers: “can you drive me to the clinic?” She grimaces delicately. “I don’t have a ride and I don’t really want to ask Mr Schue after...” she trails off.
Kurt has nothing better to do and Quinn really is looking at her most breakable, so he smiles and says: “of course I can.”
They’re quiet in the car; Quinn scrolls listlessly through his ipod, filling the car with snatches of music, her free hand flattened almost unconsciously over her stomach. Kurt can’t think of anything to say that won’t be endlessly awkward but the silence is peaceful rather than uncomfortable so he doesn’t try and break it.
Quinn hesitates when they reach the clinic. “You could, um, come with me if you wanted,” she offers, not looking at him, and Kurt might be relentlessly self-centred but he can still hear the plea she’ll never, never voice. It scares him a little; Quinn Fabray, laid vulnerable.
“Ok,” he says, careful to sound light. “Beats waiting around in my car overstyling my hair, anyway.”
Quinn manages a smile and they walk in together, sit in the waiting room in a silence that’s kind of tense now; Quinn’s fingers have curled up into her palms and she’s staring fixedly at a point on the wall. Kurt looks around; there are a few other couples in here, some talking to the bump or holding hands or arguing good-naturedly over nursery paint schemes. The receptionist is eyeing Kurt’s new babies – his indigo skinny jeans that were a bitch to get into but which look so damn fabulous on – and clearly trying to work out if he was the one who impregnated Quinn. He looks away.
“Have you thought of a name yet?” he asks, when Quinn’s knuckles have gone so white that he’s sort of scared she’s going to end up drawing blood.
She shakes her head. “Finn, um,” her lips quiver, but she pulls herself together and continues: “Finn wanted to call her ‘Drizzle’.”
Kurt swallows down a laugh because, well, it’s kind of endearing in a very messed-up way.
“She’ll end up in dumpsters if you call her that,” he tells Quinn quietly, and she shoots him a quick, almost guilty look before she smiles.
“Do you have any suggestions?” she asks, adding: “if you say ‘Elphaba’ I’ll slushie you myself.”
Kurt opens his mouth to spill out the name of every last woman he’s ever admired, from Mercedes to Vivienne to Gaga to Quinn herself, when the door opens and a nurse says: “Quinn Fabray?”
The expression on Quinn’s face is nothing short of pure terror but she gets up and walks over, Kurt following. Her apprehension is contagious but he’s curious too; he’s not sure he’ll ever be in this situation unless he does what Rachel’s infamous Two Gay Dads did with the turkey baster and the surrogate and stuff – and if he did something like that he might end up with a mini Rachel and God, no one wants that – and at least it’s a life experience.
The doctor looks doubtfully at Kurt. “Is he-”
“He’s a friend,” Quinn replies firmly, getting up on the table. Kurt reflects that Quinn has been to this clinic with Finn, Puck and now Kurt in quick succession and it must look kind of, well, slutty.
The doctor looks Kurt up and down, gaze lingering on his perfectly tied scarf and manicured fingernails, and says: “I can see that.”
Quinn’s eyes widen slightly and Kurt swallows because, you know, he is just sick of all of this. And he’s not even sure what ‘this’ is, he just knows he wants less of it. Still, he’s here to support his accidentally-pregnant maybe sort of friend/enemy so he merely sniffs in disdain and moves to sit on a stool beside her as Quinn pulls up her loose white top. She flinches when the cold gel is squeezed onto her stomach and her fingers twitch reflexively. Without even thinking about it, Kurt slips his hand into hers and squeezes. Quinn squeezes back, and a little smile curves across her mouth.
There’s a wobbly black and white image on the screen, something which kind of looks like a misshapen blob if you squint, but the doctor points out the girl’s head and her developing limbs. Quinn is crushing Kurt’s hand by now, nails digging in so hard he knows he’s going to have to get his moisturising gloves out tonight, and he doesn’t even care. He stares at the little shape on the screen that’s going to become a person one day, heart beating too hard in his chest, and a little voice in the back of his head breathes with something approaching awe: that’s Puck’s baby.
Kurt can’t adequately explain what the voice is going on about or why his stomach turns right over, but he decides not to try and work it out. He looks at Quinn and then has to look away; the mixture of love and terror on her features is too private, something he doesn’t want to observe, something he shouldn’t observe. Instead, he looks at the baby – who, he realises, he’s already thinking of as Drizzle, despite the fact it’s a ridiculous name that no one should call their kid – until Quinn’s grip loosens a little and he gain regain some of the circulation in his fingers.
Quinn doesn’t let go of Kurt’s hand even when the machine is switched off and she’s handed a paper towel to clean the goo off with. She wipes herself off using her free hand, talks a little to the doctor while Kurt feels the oxygen seep back into the room, and they eventually leave the room still hand in hand. Quinn says nothing and she’s walking without leaning on him, very nearly steady, but Kurt takes one look at her face and the way her mouth is shivering and hustles them into the nearest bathroom.
He locks them into a stall and Quinn buries her face in his shoulder and sobs and sobs and sobs. Kurt rests his cheek against her hair and strokes his hands up and down the soft wool of her cardigan and hums Here Comes The Sun until she quietens down. Then he helps her repair her make-up and smooth her hair until she’s collected again.
“I’ve made your life hell for years,” she whispers eventually.
Kurt pulls the door open, startling a woman about to come in, her eyes darting anxiously to the ladies’ sign, and grins over his shoulder at Quinn. “Yes, but I’m a saint,” he tells her, and is a little relieved when Quinn cracks a smile.
On the way home, she cheers up enough to sing along to the Wicked soundtrack with him. Kurt hits every note in Defying Gravity and Quinn raises a surprised eyebrow, but she doesn’t ask, which Kurt is eternally grateful for.
“I think ‘Glinda’ is a valid name choice,” Kurt suggests brightly after a while.
She laughs. “I suppose it’s better than ‘Drizzle’.”
Kurt glances at her. “Much as it pains me to say anything less than derogatory about anyone; you’re going to be fine, Quinn. More than fine.”
Her teeth flash white. “Thank you.” She sounds like she means it.
“You vanished kind of fast after practice yesterday,” Puck observes the next morning, catching up with Kurt in the corridor.
It occurs to Kurt that he should find this weird and that a couple of months ago he would’ve been terrified that Puck was sort of keeping tabs on his movements. Now that they’re kind of weird messed up friends, though, he finds it far too normal.
“Are you stalking me, Puckerman?” he enquires lightly. “I’ll think about being flattered.”
Puck rolls his eyes and shoves his shoulder. “Busy making eyes at Finn? He caught on yet? Or are we going to have to move onto phase two?”
For a strange moment, Kurt desperately doesn’t want to be having this conversation. “I gave Quinn a ride to the clinic,” he says instead.
A look Kurt has never seen before crosses Puck’s face; it reminds him of the nakedly vulnerable expression Quinn wore yesterday and he swiftly fixes his attention on the hall floor.
“She ok?” Puck asks quietly, and Kurt immediately knows that Puck isn’t asking about Quinn.
“Yeah,” he says, looking up and offering Puck a smile. “Yeah, she’s doing fine.”
“That’s good,” Puck says, nodding.
This is fast becoming a moment here and Kurt isn’t entirely sure what to do about that, so it’s very nearly a relief when he gets a faceful of cherry slushie, cold and sharp.
“Stupid little fag,” Karofsky spits on his way past.
A frown creases Puck’s forehead but Mercedes and Tina sweep out of nowhere to bear Kurt off to the girls’ bathroom and he doesn’t look back. They help him wash syrup off his face and out of his hair and they harmonise on Chiquitita – which, enjoyable as this whole Mamma Mia! thing is, Kurt really doesn’t want to be Meryl Streep in this scenario, he just doesn’t – and he’s all scrubbed and pretty by the time math class comes around, so he lets it go as he always does.
Later that afternoon, Puck is late for glee.
Ordinarily this wouldn’t be much of a problem, but he’s taking the male solo with Rachel in their latest number – which has really, really pissed Finn off, but Kurt gets the feeling Mr Schue has some kind of really complicated reconciliation plan going on so pretty much trusts him – and they can’t practice properly without Puck.
After about five minutes, Finn starts kicking chairs. “This is so like him,” he grits. “He just keeps screwing up and screwing up, no matter how many chances you give him.”
“What chances have you given him?” a voice asks.
When the room falls silent and everyone turns to look at Kurt, he belatedly realises that it was him.
Finn looks confused and not a little angry. “What?”
“I said, what chances have you given Puck?” Kurt repeats. “I mean, you haven’t even given him a chance to explain-”
“What is there to explain?” Finn spits. “He got my girlfriend drunk and screwed her.”
“And don’t you think he’s paying for that now?” Kurt demands. He glances at Quinn, who has gone very white, but she manages a tiny smile for Kurt. “He screwed up. Quinn screwed up. But they’ve been punished enough by themselves without you adding to it.”
“Oh, so I’m meant to sit by and be happy for them?” Finn is all but shouting now and even Mr Schuester is staring on in horrified silence. “I should be supportive of my best friend and my ex because they’re having a baby together that for kind of a while I thought was mine?”
Kurt hasn’t felt like this since he was drugged up to the eyeballs on that vitamin stuff Mr Schue’s wife was handing out like candy. He feels weirdly detached from the whole situation, dizzy and disembodied.
“No,” he says, and manages not to bring up all that stuff he learned in confidence from Finn while they were working on their ballads, “no, but you can’t be bitter for the rest of your life about it.”
“What the fuck would you know about any of it?” Finn demands with uncharacteristic venom, taking two steps towards Kurt. Kurt does not back down, though God, he’d love to. “Really, what the fuck would you know?”
Mr Schue opens his mouth and Mercedes’ voice drifts towards them: “oh no he did not.”
“I don’t,” Kurt says simply, “but Quinn is falling apart and Puck is more screwed up than usual and yeah, yeah it’s tough, Finn, but you’ve got to be the better man here because you’re the only one who can be.”
Finn looks confused and still far too angry and the tension in the room could be cut with a knife. Kurt risks a glance at his fellow members, most of whom have their mouths wide open in shock because Kurt doesn’t do this, he doesn’t.
The door opens. “Sorry, Mr Schue,” Puck says breathlessly, “I was helping...” he trails off, taking in Kurt backed up against the piano, Finn barely a foot from him looking simultaneously murderous and wretched, Mr Schuester standing sort of near them utterly speechless, and the rest of the group watching from the chairs in stunned silence.
Kurt doesn’t want to look at Puck. He doesn’t. When he does risk a glance, though, he can see Puck is flushed and sweating and there’s a smudge of dried blood under his nose and the collar has been mostly torn off his shirt, hanging pathetically. This whole situation is so ugly and such a mess that Kurt just wants to hide his face in his hands and weep. Instead, he straightens himself up to his full height and manages: “Mr Schuester, I promised my dad I’d help with some stuff this afternoon, I’ve got to leave practice early.”
Mr Schue visibly pulls himself together and says: “right, Kurt, of course.”
Kurt picks his bag up and leaves, aware everyone is watching him intently as he does so.
Mercedes calls him barely an hour later, her voice rich in sympathy and also in confusion. “Do you have any idea what you’re doing?” she asks eventually, sounding genuinely curious.
“No,” Kurt replies, and it comes out as a wail as he lies on his bed and stares at his ceiling and tries to work out at which point confronting Finn about his Inner Pain And Angst And Anger And Stuff became a viable idea. “No, I have no idea.”
Mercedes sighs, all calm and collected and awesome and this is why he loves her. “I’ll be right behind you,” she tells him. “Right behind you with tissues and candy and a shotgun, if it comes to that. ‘k, honey?”
“I love you,” Kurt says fervently.
“Of course you do,” Mercedes says.
Later, he gets a text from Puck: u ok man?
Kurt groans and turns his phone off.
Dave Karofsky is wandering the corridors the next day with a split lip and two black eyes and a white bandage across his nose. He’s not talking about it and the school is thick with rumours.
Kurt catches sight of him at the end of a hall, all battered and scowling, and in that moment, he knows. The realisation leaves him a little light-headed and he spins on his heel, abruptly leaving Mercedes and Tina behind as he goes looking for the one person he thought he was actually going to try and avoid today.
Puck is skulking by his locker, casually checking out two nearby Cheerios. The knuckles of his right hand are swollen and bruised purple.
Kurt walks up to him, says nothing, and waits. Puck glances around at the mostly-empty hallway and then goes over to the two Cheerios. Kurt doesn’t catch what he says, but the tone is insinuating and downright filthy. The girls give Puck disgusted looks and hurry off, leaving them basically alone.
“Please,” Kurt says quietly, “please tell me you didn’t beat up Karofsky because he threw a slushie at me.”
“I didn’t,” Puck replies, and Kurt can see he’s telling the truth, though he shifts uncomfortably.
“Fine,” he sighs. “Then please tell me you didn’t beat him up because he called me a fag.”
Puck smiles crookedly. “Only if you can tell me you didn’t whale on Finn in front of the entire glee club because of me.”
Kurt would bury his head in his hands but his foundation is perfect this morning and he’s not smudging it for anybody. He settles for not looking directly at Puck, staring instead at his damaged knuckles. Kurt can actually picture Puck beating up Karofsky, shouting, calling him God-knows-what. He’s man enough to admit that the image is kind of hot, in a fucked-up sort of way.
He slumps against the lockers in a way that’s probably a little melodramatic. “Oh God,” he groans, “oh God, I need so much therapy.”
“It was about time someone told Finn to grow the fuck up,” Puck observes lightly. “Of course, we’re now going to have to overcome that little obstacle to get him into your pants, but it’s doable.”
Kurt isn’t listening. “You broke Karofsky’s nose,” he says helplessly.
“He tore the collar off my shirt,” Puck protests, like it’s a valid excuse.
“It was an ugly shirt that needed burning anyway,” Kurt mutters dismissively. He looks up at Puck to find the other boy looks mostly amused and a little awkward. “But, Puck, you broke his nose because he called me a fag! I mean...” He trails off, aware he has no idea what he wants to say.
“Don’t make such a big deal out of it,” Puck shrugs. “Also, you’re going to be late for class.”
They shoulder through groups of students in silence; after a moment Kurt realises that Puck is walking him to Spanish, despite the fact Puck isn’t in his class and doesn’t even take the subject. He thinks about arguing, but doesn’t.
“It didn’t even bother me,” he says when they get to his classroom.
Puck shrugs. “Yeah, it did.” The corner of his mouth lifts. “Catch you later, Hummel.”
Kurt watches him go and realises that he genuinely has no idea what’s going on anymore.