Pairing: Puck/Kurt (Finn/Kurt) [other pairings implied/scattered]
Word Count: 10,000
Copyright: Title taken from Popular from Wicked.
Summary: “The man she’s in love with is in love with her best friend,” Kurt explains, and doesn’t notice the way Puck’s head snaps up when he says this.
Author’s Notes: I slipped in a tribute to The Madonna Episode here, despite Puck’s canon dislike of singing Madonna. Don’t judge me ;) Also love to everyone on twitter who helped me with the throwaway line about fitting/changing/dressing rooms (being a Brit writing in American is so hard...) Other than that... I just need to format the next 10,000 words and add some stuff in, and then it will arrive soon :D Thank you so much for the amazing response to the first part!
Kurt is really, really faily at confrontation so he tracks Finn down at lunch to try and apologise for what was quite clearly some sort of aneurism or a side effect of ingesting nothing but cranberry juice for the last twenty-four hours or something (apparently it’s going to make him fabulously slender just in time for the new Marc Jacobs line; Mercedes is less than impressed with him, but that’s a whole other thing).
“Don’t worry about it,” Finn cuts him off before Kurt can get into a long explanation of how his latest moisturiser must have seeped into his brain and poisoned him. “Really, Kurt, I... I needed to hear that.”
Kurt decides it wouldn’t be tactful or conducive to his apology so say well, yeah, this is true, and then wonders when he decided to become Team Puck in this whole ridiculous glee club Babygate split thing. He shouldn’t be Team Puck (and, by extension, Team Quinn, although she seems to be trying to keep her head down and not get too involved in all this, and Kurt can’t blame her), especially considering how that’s completely the opposite side to Team Finn. Huh. It’s all rather worrying and he’s going to have to properly examine his feelings when he gets home and find out exactly what they think they’re doing, because he’s gotten away thus far without identifying with Puck in the slightest and he was kind of completely and absolutely fine with not sympathising with Puck and his inherent manwhore ways.
“I could’ve been more tactful,” he says instead, carefully avoiding agreeing with Finn. Finn probably won’t notice anyway.
Finn shrugs. “Hell, my whole life seems to be playing out in public at the moment,” he says. “I guess I should just be grateful Jacob wasn’t there with a tape recorder.”
For the millionth time, Kurt is fervently grateful that the rest of the school has no interest in his personal life whatsoever, apart from the gay thing, and even then the interest only really exists in the form of hypothetical mockery and casual homophobia, and the student body has no interest in him at all except to occasionally discuss his more outlandish clothing choices with looks of confusion and disdain. Sure, Rachel might have issues with being a nobody and Kurt frequently hates being such a non-entity that he’s not even unpopular (though everyone in the school knows his name; maybe infamy really is the answer), but right now it’s sort of nice that he isn’t the subject of all gossip ever.
“I could wear a dress to school tomorrow,” he offers. “Generate some new gossip for the day.”
Finn looks startled and then laughs. “Thanks, man, but I’m pretty sure I couldn’t stop the guys from ripping you limb from limb if you did.”
This is sadly true. Kurt has no idea if Puck would leap to his defence or not, and he doesn’t want to bet on it, but even with Puck and Finn beating up half the jocks in the school Kurt would probably still find himself needing a hospital by the end of the day.
Besides, contrary to what he’s given to understand is popular belief, he doesn’t actually own a dress.
“Well, you know, the offer’s there if you want it,” he says, and hears the flirtatious overlay in his voice without consciously being aware of putting it there. Maybe spending protracted periods of time around Puck makes you automatically hit on people, whether you intend to or not. Maybe there is something about Puck that is contagious (and not just the various kinds of STDs he’s rumoured to have contracted as a result of fucking everything that moves in Lima, though Kurt is pretty sure Santana just started that rumour because it was a wet Tuesday and there was nothing better going on).
Finn doesn’t seem to notice that Kurt is flirting, which is depressing but nothing new. “Sure,” he says vaguely. Kurt follows his eyeline and sees that Finn is staring at Quinn, sitting looking mistreated and defensively alone, winding a lock of hair absently around one finger. Kurt simultaneously admires and hates her for laying it on as thick as she is; he’s coming to realise that, scared, freaked and angry as she is, she doesn’t feel nearly as martyred as she’s pretending she is to the rest of the world. It kind of gives him hope that the real Quinn Fabray is still safe somewhere in there, beneath the pastel cardigans and the betrayed eyes, because she was too perfect a specimen of self-preservation and social determination to just fade away.
“You could go and talk to her, you know,” Kurt tells Finn, even though he can hear Puck in his head telling him that if he gets Finn and Quinn back together then he’s really fucking blown it.
Finn’s expression softens a little. “Not today,” he says, but his voice is gentle, and hey, they seem to actually be getting somewhere. Painstakingly slowly, but it’s a start, in any case.
Kurt lets Finn return to the jock table and goes to join Mercedes, Tina and Artie, wondering if everyone’s high school experience involves illegitimate teen pregnancies and all the lies that come hand in hand with that, inappropriate gay crushes, (mostly) unintentional drug abuse, being hit in the face with iced drinks, and staggering amounts of show tunes, or if they’re all just really, really lucky.
“Why’s this chick bitching so much?” Puck asks.
Trust Puck to ruin the Wicked soundtrack for him. Kurt’s ipod is on shuffle and the rain is streaking down the windows of his car. He and Puck are supposed to be having a strategy meeting, but it’s turned into a silence that’s weirdly not as uncomfortable as it should be while they both watch the semi-apocalyptic weather. Puck occasionally makes disparaging remarks about Kurt’s taste in music but without any real venom in his voice, and he got his phone out about ten minutes ago anyway.
Kurt sighs in a long-suffering sort of way. “The man she’s in love with is in love with her best friend,” he explains, and doesn’t notice the way Puck’s head snaps up when he says this because his attention is caught by a tree which is bending in a disconcerting fashion in the driving wind. The glee club will probably end up with no budget whatsoever if the tree falls over and crushes school property and something has to be replaced. “So she isn’t bitching, she’s explaining that whatever she does, she isn’t going to be the girl that he wants.”
“Huh,” Puck says quietly, almost to himself, and then is quiet for a disconcertingly long time. When Kurt stops filing his nails long enough to actually look at him, Puck smirks lopsidedly at him and adds: “sounds like bitching to me.”
Kurt rolls his eyes. “You have no soul,” he says. “And anyway, you can’t be listening that hard, whoever you’re texting-”
“Sexting,” Puck corrects him.
Kurt resists the urge to say ‘ew’, because it’s actually not ew, it’s just weird that Puck is sitting next to him in his car and sort of semi getting off with some random stranger. Well, hopefully they’re not a stranger to Puck, but Kurt wouldn’t exactly be surprised if it turned out they were. Before he can stop himself he leans sideways to get a look at the screen of Puck’s phone.
When he’s silent for a moment, Puck laughs sharply and says: “too hot for you, Hummel?”
“Your grammar is lamentable,” Kurt informs him. “Also, I’m pretty certain that ‘teabagging’ has three ‘g’s in it.”
He sits back and thinks he’s probably blushing, though he refuses to crack. Puck arches a confrontational eyebrow at him, and then hands him his phone.
“You actually want me to write your sexts for you?” Kurt enquires.
Puck shrugs. “You seem to think you can do a better job...”
The unspoken challenge in his voice is so ridiculous it’s almost laughable, and Kurt shouldn’t give in. However, the rain is still pouring down and they’re still sitting here and Kurt knows that he should kick Puck out into the storm and drive home, but he isn’t moving. He’s just sitting here, trapped in a small enclosed space with Noah Puckerman under what are basically false pretences, and the worst part is that he doesn’t even really mind.
“I can do a better job,” Kurt tells him, evoking a bark of laughter, and carefully corrects the spelling and grammar on the phone screen until it looks like it was typed by a human being and not by a confused monkey bashing hopelessly at the keys. Then, because he’s proving a point and Puck is still looking at him with a mixture of confusion and condescending amusement and Kurt wants to wipe that look off his face, he thinks for a moment and then keys in another sentence.
He hands the phone back to Puck, who reads the new message with a little smirk sliding across his mouth, and then he chokes.
“Fucking hell, Hummel!”
“Did you not want to do that to her?” Kurt asks, keeping his tone as innocent as he can without bursting out laughing. “Apparently it’s quite stimulating.”
“Jesus,” Puck mutters, even as he hits ‘send’. “You sure you’re gay?”
“I’ve been underwear shopping with pretty much all the female members of glee club,” Kurt shrugs, “including both ones you have and haven’t slept with and the one you impregnated. I’d probably know if tits did anything for me by now.” Puck says nothing for a long moment. “Please stop picturing all the girls having orgies in the dressing rooms,” Kurt says.
“Like I’d even-”
“I used to picture the same thing about the football locker room, until I actually got in there and found out what a bunch of pigs you all are,” Kurt shrugs, turning his attention back to his fingernails.
“We’re not that bad,” Puck protests. “And seriously, you’re gonna tell me you didn’t sneak a peek while we were all changing, not once?”
Kurt files one nail to perfection and moves onto the next. “You do realise you’re practically begging me to have been eyeraping you in the locker rooms and that that is not really typical footballer behaviour? You’re supposed to be punching my face in just for the implication that I might have done that.”
Puck shrugs. “I think I’ve beaten up enough people for now,” he says, “ask me next week.”
Kurt finds himself a little bit tongue-tied when reminded that Puck beat the shit out of Karofsky for him. It’s just something too big and too confusing and too unlikely and too stupid to have actually happened, and when he recalls that it did it makes him feel a bewildering mix of emotions that he can’t define and doesn’t particularly want to.
“I might have maybe snuck a glance at Finn getting out of the shower a couple of times,” he provides after a moment, watching rain drops streak down the windshield. “Maybe. Possibly. Hypothetically.”
Puck makes a sound that might be a grunt or a laugh or something along those lines. Kurt still can’t read him and that thought doesn’t disturb him as much as it probably should do.
“Finn is crap at Spanish,” he says, after a moment.
“Yeah, that wasn’t really what I was thinking about when Finn was naked and dripping wet,” Kurt says without thinking.
Puck’s smirk is twistedly amused. “I meant, this is your opportunity to get your hands on that instead of watching like some creeper,” he says slowly, like Kurt is particularly dense. “Finn is flunking Spanish. Help him not be flunking Spanish and it’ll be your chance to get close to him outside of showtunes and mascara.”
“Is that what you’re calling glee club now?” Kurt asks lightly. “Upgraded us from ‘Homo Explosion’?” It’s sort of amusing and sort of disconcerting the way Puck looks momentarily uncomfortable about this. Kurt decides to spare him from answering. “Do you think it’ll work?”
“It’s how I got Santana,” Puck shrugs.
Kurt frowns. “I thought you ‘got’ Santana that time she jumped you by your locker and then informed you that you were her bitch now.”
Puck looks awkward, like Kurt is emasculating him just by saying that and he doesn’t like it. “I laid the groundwork first,” he protests.
“Sure you did,” Kurt says, mock-soothing. “So, what, you’re suggesting I offer to tutor Finn in Spanish?”
Puck shrugs. “Well, don’t do it in a creepy, hitting-on-him way, be casual. But... yeah. That.”
Kurt debates with himself over whether to take offence at being called ‘creepy’, and decides not to. “You know,” he says slowly, hearing surprise in his tone, “that might actually work.”
Puck glares at him. “Are you questioning my awesome dating skills?”
Kurt laughs. “Oh, no, I have absolute faith in your slutty powers.”
“You calling me a slut?” Puck raises his eyebrows.
“You’ve slept with half of Lima,” Kurt can’t help saying.
“Like, a quarter,” Puck corrects him, with something almost smug in his tone.
“Your modesty really is an attractive quality,” Kurt informs him dryly, and wonders when it became ok to say things like this to Puck without fear of being punched.
“You know it,” Puck informs him, shifting in his seat. “I gotta be going,” he adds, nodding his head like some kind of vague parting, and before Kurt can say anything he’s sliding out of the car, slamming the door, and running through the wet parking lot to his car.
Kurt sits still for a long moment, bemused, before he slides his keys into the ignition.
Quinn is busy looking small and lost and isolated, ignored by the student body and looking doubtfully at her lunch tray. Kurt looks up from today’s unappetising offering – he misses the Inadvisable Cranberry Juice Diet, but Mercedes put her foot down; not even “but it worked for Selma Hayek!” would get her to cave – and sighs. He gets up, leaving his friends staring after him in confusion, and crosses the cafeteria to grab Quinn’s wrist and drag her over to their table, ignoring her confused questioning.
“Hi guys,” he says to the table at large, “this is Quinn Fabray, she’s just transferred here to Loserville from the dizzying heights of Popularity. Since she’s new, let’s all try and be nice to her, ok?”
Quinn shakes her head. “You are so weird,” she says quietly, but her smile is fond and just a little grateful. Kurt pushes her into a chair between himself and Artie, and then sits down. Mercedes has arched an eyebrow and Tina looks apprehensive, like Quinn is going to lash out at all of them, and Kurt isn’t entirely sure what Rachel is going to say when she finally joins their table, but he’s sick of Quinn looking all drifting and sad all the time, and she at least deserves to have people to eat lunch with.
Later, after a lunch period that was awkward but which could have been more awkward, all things considered, Kurt and Quinn walk to Chemistry together.
“You and Puck seem to be spending a lot of time together lately,” she says carefully.
“What-” Kurt swallows to let the note of panic out of his voice. “No, we’re not.”
Quinn arches an eyebrow, all bitch, please. “You notice things when no one actually talks to you,” she tells him, and it’s so jarringly similar to what Puck said to him a couple of weeks ago that Kurt can’t think of anything to reply with for an embarrassingly long moment.
“Are you going to tell me he’s dangerous and I shouldn’t be around him?” he asks. “‘Cause kind of a lot of people have beaten you to that already.”
Quinn rolls her eyes. “At least this can’t happen to you,” she says, gesturing at where the bump of her stomach is just visible beneath the loose lavender top. Kurt itches to take her maternity clothes shopping, but suspects she’d refuse, which is a pity, because he could do amazing things before she gets too big for his efforts to be worth it. “I win.”
“You do win,” Kurt agrees. “I’m not sure what you win...”
“If you figure it out, let me know.” Quinn smiles, though it doesn’t reach her eyes. “Anyway, I’m not about to tell you that Puck is the devil in disguise – though he kind of is – I’m just telling you that if Finn figures it out you’re going to have no chance with him at all.”
Kurt wants to say Finn believed you got pregnant from a hot tub, I’m pretty sure I’ll be fine, but thinks it might be a bit too soon for that. He likes to bruise with his words after all, not draw blood, and Quinn’s got enough crap in her life at the moment as it is. Instead, he says: “does everyone know about my crush on Finn?”
Quinn nods, something that’s nearly sympathy on her face. “Yes. Well, everyone but Finn.”
Kurt sighs. “Story of my life.”
It’s depressing, really, that Finn just doesn’t notice these things. After they won Sectionals, they had a party to celebrate, and someone who definitely wasn’t Kurt or Mercedes or Tina, honestly, might have sort of spiked everyone’s drinks. A little bit. Maybe. Anyway, if it had been Kurt, he’d certainly paid for it when he was stuck on the bathroom floor with Rachel, holding her hair back and listening to her complain about her miserable, totally-not-happening relationship with Finn in between bouts of retching (and, well, if he’d accidentally-on-purpose let her be sick all over one of her hideous sweaters, no one could prove a thing). And, ok, yes, she might have threatened his balls with a pair of scissors in the morning if he told anyone, but that didn’t mean that Kurt didn’t know that Rachel basically had to tell Finn to kiss her.
And Kurt in no way at all spent a week wondering if he could get that method to work for him.
Quinn laughs. “Anyway,” she says, “I think you might actually be good for Puck. Just try and keep him from finding out until it’s too late, ok?”
“Ok,” Kurt replies, and is almost relieved when they get to class. He slides into the desk beside Quinn’s anyway, ignoring the mutters from the rest of the students – really? They’re going to hate Quinn now because she’s having a kid? Clearly the entire school is insane – and tries to get through the lesson without hearing her words echoing in his head.
He’s not particularly successful.
Puck spent half an hour drilling casual, Hummel, casual, not with that creepy infatuated expression that you wear around Finn because that will just make him back away and he’ll probably wind up crushing a freshman and, you know, ew into his head. Once Kurt has managed to get the mental image of Finn crushing a freshman out of his brain – which takes a while – and spent half an hour in the ladies’ bathroom helping Rachel wash grape slushie out of Tina’s hair – “didn’t duck in time”, Tina mumbles miserably, ice sliding through her coloured highlights – he decides it’s probably time to go and waylay Finn on the way to Spanish. He’s pretty sure he can do it; if nothing else, he’s picked up tips from Miss Pillsbury on How To Run Into Someone And Pretend You Were On Your Way Somewhere Else, since she does it to Mr Schuester so often. He can’t work out if Mr Schuester hasn’t noticed this, or if he kind of likes it, but either way, Kurt can so make this work for him.
It’s actually pretty easy, catching Finn in the hall like they’re just passing each other by, and Kurt thinks that this whole nonchalance thing is actually pretty cool. Not that he will tell Puck this. Ever.
“Are you on your way to Spanish?” he asks.
“Yeah,” Finn agrees, and they fall into step.
Casual, Hummel, casual, says Puck’s voice in the back of his head, looking all threatening like he’ll stuff Kurt into a locker if he screws this up. Hell, if he screws this up, Kurt just might shove himself into a locker.
“You don’t sound enthusiastic,” Kurt remarks lightly, letting a smile flicker over his mouth.
Finn shrugs. “It’s all this subjunctive stuff Mr Schue keeps going on about at the moment, I don’t really get it.”
Kurt knows. He sits near enough to Finn in Spanish to be able to both appreciate the aesthetic qualities of Finn sitting in the sunlight streaming through the classroom windows and also that Finn is really not getting the subjunctive at all. Or pretty much any other Spanish tense, for that matter. It doesn’t help that Finn sits next to Brittany, who genuinely answers all questions she’s confused about with a drawing of sombrero. Which is most questions, although her sombrero drawing skills are getting better, and it could be worse; Kurt tried to help her with her biology homework after movie night the other week, and learned that all biology questions she’s confused about get a little tree in response. Sometimes the tree has apples on it, if she’s especially confused.
Finn needs someone to rescue him, and that someone can so be Kurt.
“I could help you out with that sometime,” he offers, not looking at Finn, doing his best not to make it sound like he’s flirting. Or that he’s offering to help Finn out with something else entirely, and oh crap, it’s just as well he put his foundation on a little bit too thick today, because he thinks he might now be blushing.
“Would you?” Finn sounds a little wary.
Kurt shrugs. “I mean, if you wanted it. I could tutor you a little.”
Finn’s face breaks into a smile that Kurt can’t look at because it makes his stomach do helpless little things. “Sure, man, that would be great.”
Kurt doesn’t hear a word Mr Schue says for the entirety of Spanish.
“Now,” Puck says, looking all intense and earnest, and Kurt reflects that if he put a tenth of the effort he’s putting into getting Kurt and Finn together into his schoolwork then he wouldn’t be flunking everything. Not that he points this out. “Let’s talk about that sexuality-confusing first kiss.”
Something akin to panic unfolds in Kurt’s stomach. In order to distract himself, he reflects that they’ve really come a long way if Puck is using phrases like “sexuality-confusing” as opposed to “make him feel like a giant homo”. It’s a little disconcerting but on the whole it’s a positive.
“Um,” Kurt says slightly helplessly, “how do I know if Finn even wants to kiss me?”
Puck rolls his eyes. “One thing I’ve learned: if there’s no market for something, create the damn market. I mean, really, how many people around here do you think actually want their pools cleaned, and look how successful my business is.”
“Your business is only successful because you sleep with your clients,” Kurt can’t help but point out.
Puck waves a hand dismissively and Kurt gets the feeling he’d be saying semantics but for the fact he has no idea what that means.
“Anyway,” Puck says, “remember, when you’re in there conjugating with Finn-” the way he says it is much too filthy and Kurt flushes “-crank up the sexual tension. Don’t look at him all cow-eyed and infatuated, break out that ‘come hither’ look.”
“I don’t have a come-hither look,” Kurt protests, and it only comes out a little bit squeaky.
Puck mutters something that sounds like rewatch that damn mattress commercial but he clears his throat and says: “well, work on one,” before Kurt can ask for clarification. “Also, you might wanna get rid of the whole blushing thing.”
“It’s an unconscious physical reaction,” Kurt says blankly. “How can I make it not happen?”
Puck shrugs, like this bit isn’t his problem. “You want Finn to look at you and think something other than wow, he looks like a tomato, then figure it out.”
“I do not look like a tomato!” Kurt protests.
“Yeah, you do,” Puck says, like that settles it. He leans back in his seat, smirking like he’s won something. “So, are you a good kisser?”
Kurt has far too much dignity to splutter, though he’s sorely tempted to. He curls his toes inside today’s fabulous knee-high boots instead and keeps a calm facade on. “How am I supposed to know?”
Puck frowns slightly. “Well, has anyone ever mentioned it to you? Or told you that you suck?”
Kurt forces himself to keep looking calmly at Puck and does his damndest not to blush. “And these ‘anyones’ would be part of the long line of gay guys in Lima lining up to kiss me, would they?” He arches a sarcastic eyebrow.
The expression on Puck’s face is entirely unreadable. “So you’ve never been kissed?” he asks slowly.
“It’s really only been the last few months I’ve stopped ending up in the dumpster every morning,” Kurt points out. “Unless you know someone with a trash fetish...”
Puck smirks slightly. Kurt can see the decision forming perfectly clearly in Puck’s mind and so he’s quick enough to turn his head so that Puck’s mouth merely brushes against his cheek.
“I’ve seen Cruel Intentions,” Kurt replies calmly as Puck sits back, and he is not feeling the place where Puck’s lips touched his skin at all, “I’ve seen John Tucker Must Die, I know how this goes and I kind of appreciate it in a very weird way because I know how much the mere idea of kissing me would mess with your personal conceptions of masculinity, but while I do know my first kiss isn’t going to take place surrounded by fireworks and balloons and tumbling rose petals, I do sort of want it to happen not in my car in the school parking lot. Ok?”
Puck is smiling but the edges of his mouth are too tight. “Dude, you lost me at ‘conceptions’. But yeah, I get it.”
Kurt doesn’t thank him because that would be weird, but he realises that he really appreciates Puck not mocking him mercilessly for being the never-been-kissed gay glee kid. He slides his keys into the ignition because he really should be getting home, and doesn’t miss the look Puck shoots him as he does so, though he thinks he’s probably meant to.
“Do you... want to hang out?” he asks slowly, managing to sound more puzzled than invitational.
“Ok,” Puck says, like this is a normal thing and not a huge, earth-shattering occurrence. Like Kurt was actually offering, and he’s not even sure that he was.
“I may file my nails,” he warns, “and we’ll probably end up watching a movie that has singing in it.”
“Ok,” Puck says again.
Well, Kurt is always up for new experiences. He curls his hands tight around the steering wheel so they won’t shake, and wonders what the hell they’re doing. If they’re friends now or if Puck just really doesn’t want to go home, and what that even means, and he’s almost relieved when Puck starts scrolling through his ipod and fills the car with music because Kurt can’t stand the sound of his own confused thoughts any longer.
They actually wind up watching 27 Dresses because “that chick from Grey’s Anatomy is kind of hot” (when Kurt asks how Puck knows anything about that show, he shrugs uncomfortably and mutters something about his mom) and it doesn’t actually have any show tunes in it. They eat microwave popcorn and, after far too much silence, Puck starts commenting on how hot the girls are so Kurt retaliates with how adorable James Marsden is and it’s kind of ok. Very, very weird and a little disturbing but, nonetheless, ok.
As the credits are rolling, Puck looks at his knees and explains, very quietly, that his mom found out about Quinn and the baby and all that shit and he is currently not exactly her favourite person.
“Do you want to stay for dinner?” Kurt blurts without even thinking about it, and then reflects that even if he’d had time to consider it he would still have made the offer.
Puck’s smile is almost surprised. “Nah, I should get back. Don’t want to give her more reasons to yell at me, you know?”
“Yeah,” Kurt says, and is trying to come up with something sensible to say when Puck gets up off his couch and heads for the stairs.
“See you tomorrow, Kurt.”
And then he’s gone. Kurt wonders if he should’ve offered him a ride but it’s too late now, in any case. After a while, he finally realises that Puck actually called him Kurt.
His dad quizzes him later about the boy he saw leaving Kurt’s room. “Please, dad,” Kurt says, laughing in a way that is really not even slightly bitter at all, “he’s like the straightest guy in school. He’s the one who got Quinn Fabray pregnant. We were just hanging out.”
Yeah, his mind provides helpfully, he’s the straightest guy in school who tried to kiss me this afternoon. Kurt pushes that thought away, though, because he really has no idea what to do with it.
It’s just as well that Kurt has a good memory for details – song lyrics and dance routines and that sort of thing – because the list of instructions Puck has given him is complicated and bewildering and Kurt decides to reassess the whole thinking Puck is kind of stupid thing. He clearly doesn’t have the mental space to focus on schoolwork because his brain is so crammed full of all this social interaction stuff. Puck didn’t look Kurt in the eye once while he was relaying all this stuff, but Kurt assumes that’s because Puck is embarrassed about last night. It’s completely understandable. The whole thing was probably more gay than Puck could handle, even with his newfound apparent tolerance.
Finn’s room has cowboys on the walls which Kurt finds oddly endearing, even as his inner interior designer flinches, cowers, and then hides itself in a corner, weeping. There’s a reason his basement room is decorated all in clean whites, after all. Still, Finn’s room is homely and oddly safe-feeling and he can live with it. One good thing about the room is that it is full of sunlight and far too warm, enabling Kurt to peel off the sweater he’s been wearing today. Underneath, today’s shirt is just the right side of too-tight, not enough to look desperate but enough to imply that there’s a body underneath, an expanse of skin. As he folds his sweater neatly and straightens his hair, Kurt can feel Finn looking at him, gaze lingering just a little bit too long. Kurt swallows and then can hear Puck’s voice in his head, saying loud and clear: if you goddamn blush – and believe me, Hummel, if you do, I will know – I’m putting you in the fucking dumpster tomorrow morning. Ok?
He drags his gaze up to Finn’s, slow and careful, and offers him a small smile. “Shall we get started?”
Finn blinks twice before he says: “uh, sure.”
Kurt debates telling Puck that he should write a book. It would probably make more than his pool-cleaning/prostitution business, after all.
The main problem is that Finn is adorable; he’s terrible at Spanish but he tries – oh God, how he tries – and his sheepish little smile makes Kurt go a little bit weak-kneed. Still, staring at Finn in a rabbit-in-the-headlights way has never worked for Kurt in the past, and while being all wide-eyed and wanting has sort of paid off for Rachel, she does at least have tits on her side. Kurt doesn’t; he has disdain and sarcasm and a sharp fashion sense and so he has to work that little bit harder. So he squashes down the part of him that wants to stammer and flutter and be all awkward and is instead as calm and confident as he can manage. Finn seems a little surprised but also a lot more comfortable than he usually is, which Kurt decides to take as a good sign.
He blushes once he’s in the safety of his own car, driving home, flushed beet red with his hands shaking a little on the steering wheel, but it’s fine, because no one can see.
Puck manages to casually walk beside him in the parking lot in the morning. “Am I putting you in the dumpster today, Hummel?”
Kurt suspects the smirk he throws in Puck’s direction is just a little smug, but he’s kind of earned it. “No,” he replies.
A couple of members of the football team call Puck over and Kurt sweeps into school to find Mercedes and see the gorgeous new scarf she was gushing about last night on the phone. He doesn’t see Puck at any point during the rest of the day, but their schedules don’t really overlap much and Puck’s attendance isn’t exactly stellar, so it’s not entirely unexpected.
Kurt shivers and unconsciously grabs onto today’s delicious trilby as Azimio passes him, vivid blue slushie in hand. However, it’s not for him, and it isn’t for Quinn either, walking beside him, knuckles white around her books. They both turn to see who Azimio’s target is today, and Kurt has a horrible sinking feeling in his stomach as he sees Mercedes by her locker, talking to Tina and utterly oblivious.
He’s just opening his mouth to shout a warning at Mercedes – because if she gets slushie in her weave then they will not ever hear the end of it – when Puck walks out of nowhere, managing to make it look casual but walking in front of Mercedes just as the blue raspberry slushie leaves the cup. Kurt hates today’s flannel shirt but still, he can’t get his thoughts to process what just happened.
He turns to Quinn to find her eyes have gone very wide and she’s speechless, which is never a good sign. All Kurt can think, dazedly, is: Puck just took a slushie for Mercedes. WTF?
Mercedes and Tina seem to be stuck in frozen, stunned hazes as Azimio shoves forcibly past Puck, muttering fuck you, Puckerman.
Rachel appears out of nowhere, fisting her small hand in the sleeve of his wrecked shirt. “Can I help, Noah?”
Puck looks about as stunned as they all feel, but he mutters: “what the hell, sure, Berry.”
Tina and Mercedes perk up enough to accompany Rachel as they forcibly drag Puck towards the nearest bathrooms, and Kurt turns to Quinn to find she’s staring at him.
“What did you do to Puck?” she asks, hushed.
“That’s ridiculous,” Kurt splutters, “I didn’t do anything.”
Quinn raises an eyebrow, clearly telling him she isn’t buying a word. “I couldn’t even get him to take a night out to drive me to the clinic,” she informs him, “and I’m carrying his devil-spawn.”
“She’s not devil-spawn,” Kurt protests, unconsciously reaching a hand to cover Quinn’s stomach.
She smiles slightly. “No, she’s not.” She looks down at Kurt’s hand and then back up. “You’re not off the hook, Hummel.”
“I didn’t do anything!” Kurt repeats a little desperately this time.
“Hmmm.” Quinn doesn’t elaborate, then flicks her hair. “We’re going to be late for class.”
Kurt has difficulty concentrating for the entirety of math. When he finally looks down at his work, half the answers simply say: “rainbows”.
“Hey,” Puck says two days later after glee practice, “you got five minutes?”
Puck has his guitar strapped to his back and his smile is oddly tight. Normally, he just comes up and corners Kurt so this asking thing is new and confusing.
“I might,” he says, keeping his voice careless and calm.
It’s so sunny that Kurt whips his sunglasses out of his bag the minute they step outside. He likes his sunglasses; they keep the world at a safe distance while simultaneously making him look awesome. They have also protected his eyes from corn syrup on more than one occasion, which is never a bad thing.
“I had this idea for a song,” Puck explains, “but I wanted to run it by you first, you know? Get a second opinion?”
From what they managed to get out of Rachel when she and Puck were doing that totally inadvisable dating thing – the one where Puck pretended Rachel was Quinn and Rachel pretended Puck was Finn and everyone else in the school sat back with popcorn to await the inevitable entertaining implosion – this was totally how Puck got into Rachel’s pants, or heart, or brain, or whatever he managed to get into. Only he let her do the singing. Still, Kurt reasons, they’re sort of friends now, and he’s fairly sure his virtue is safe. Or as safe as anyone’s virtue can be around Noah Puckerman, anyway.
“Ok,” Kurt says slowly.
Most of the extracurricular clubs have finished by now and the school grounds are surprisingly quiet. Puck picks a bench underneath a tree, the ground around them dappled with sunlight, and slings his guitar off his back. Kurt sits down beside him, maintaining a careful distance, and arches an expectant eyebrow. He’s grateful for the sunglasses, because he suspects his eyes must look terrified.
He knows what Puck’s about to sing the minute his fingers pluck out the first bar on the guitar strings, and his surprise must register on his face because Puck smirks just a little. It’s unexpected; Kurt wouldn’t expect Puck to willingly sing Madonna on any occasion at all ever, especially Madonna just before she seriously lost her musical direction and became sort of fail, or at least as fail as you can be when you’re still freaking Madonna. It’s also one of Kurt’s favourite Madonna songs, but he’s pretty sure he hasn’t told anyone this so he blames that one on coincidence. Weird, random coincidence.
It doesn’t really help that Puck still manages to sound all smoky and serious and manly and not gay at all while singing Madonna. Which really shouldn’t be possible and Kurt has to mentally repeat he will put you in the dumpster, he really will to stop himself from flushing and being ridiculous.
“Tell me love isn’t true, it’s just something that we do...” Puck isn’t looking at Kurt, his eyes fixed on a point in the distance, and Kurt watches Puck’s fingers on the strings because it’s safe. “Tell me everything I’m not but don’t ever tell me to stop...”
Puck’s gaze finally slides back to Kurt for the final chorus, and Kurt swallows hard because it’s one thing when someone is talented and just happens to be singing and another thing entirely when someone is singing to you. Kurt has a horrible flashback to the whole Sweet Caroline thing and then tells himself he’s being stupid and then he’s paralysed because Puck is reaching across to take Kurt’s sunglasses off.
He can’t breathe, which is ridiculous, and he should say something constructive but he can’t because Puck is leaning forward, keeping the guitar as a barrier between them, and Kurt has time to think Oh my God this is actually happening just before Puck’s mouth touches his.
Kurt sits frozen for one long moment and then Puck tilts his head slightly and his lips shift against Kurt’s and Kurt’s eyes flutter shut of their own accord. His stomach feels like it’s full of sparks, restless and terrified and thrilled, and Puck opens his mouth a little so Kurt copies the movement. Puck’s hand comes to rest on his cheek, warm and weirdly gentle and they’re kissing now, soft and slow and Kurt’s mind stops screaming about how surreal and wrong this situation is and all he can think about is the sunlight against his eyelids and the way Puck’s mouth feels against his. Puck’s tongue runs across his lower lip and Kurt opens his mouth a little more, an unconscious invitation, and Puck abruptly sits back. He hands Kurt his sunglasses and scrapes together a smile.
“You’re gonna be fine, Ku- Hummel. Absolutely fine.” His face scrunches. “Also, are you wearing lipgloss?”
Kurt arches an eyebrow in a duh, of course sort of way. It occurs to him that this was Puck catching him off-guard for the Clichéd Movie Kissing Training Session. Annoyance and amusement battle within him as he puts his sunnies back on.
“You have no intention of singing that song at glee club,” he says, and it sounds far less accusing than he meant it to. It sounds almost affectionate, which was not the plan at all. “You learned that song for me.”
Puck shrugs and doesn’t look at him. “I didn’t wanna shortchange you out of your first kiss,” he mumbles.
“Wow,” Kurt says blankly, “you’re actually capable of being considerate.”
It occurs to him that maybe he shouldn’t have said it out loud; it sounds kind of bitchy. Puck half-laughs.
“Sometimes.” He glances at Kurt. “Anyway, now you won’t sit there all frozen and terrified when you’re meant to be laying one on Finn.”
Finn, right. Kurt belatedly realises that he hasn’t thought of Finn in about ten minutes and his stomach clenches. Puck’s training him up to get Finn so he can get his best friend back. That’s all this is. It doesn’t explain why his heart is beating so hard it’s a wonder Puck can’t hear it, but then Kurt has just been kissed for the first time. It’s to be expected. He looks around at the greenery, the sunlight, the tree, the guitar, and reflects that Puck set this up pretty awesomely, actually.
Saying ‘thank you’ still isn’t appropriate and they both know it so Kurt doesn’t let himself blurt it out. Instead, they sit there shoulder to shoulder for a long time, saying nothing at all.
Kurt ends up in the dumpster the next morning, though the football team does at least divest him of his jacket and bag first. He isn’t surprised; it’s why he’s wearing black today, after all. He came prepared.
When they’ve all definitely disappeared, Kurt stays lying on his back on the garbage bags – which don’t smell great but at least none of them have split, for once – and stares up at the blue sky and laughs and laughs and laughs.
It itches under his skin for the next week. Kurt wants to tell Mercedes, wants to give her horrible excruciating details about the softness of Puck’s lips, wants to discuss the whole finally kissing someone thing at great, great length. But he can’t, because to tell her would mean having to admit to the fact he’s letting Puck tell him what to do so he can get Finn, and he can just picture Mercedes’ expression. She’s his best friend and he feels guilty about lying to her, but on the other hand she’s his best friend and therefore he might actually listen to her when she tells him he’s being an idiot. It’s just safer to let her believe he’s struck up some kind of messed-up friendship with Puck that makes no sense to anyone, least of all them. After all, it’s not exactly a lie.
Puck acts entirely normal around him, like nothing happened between them, and Kurt supposes that to Puck, nothing has. After all, Puck must be kissing people left, right and centre and Kurt is just the next at the bottom of a very, very long list. In fact, he’s probably not even the one at the bottom because Puck has almost certainly kissed at least two people after kissing him, and really, Kurt doesn’t even know why he’s still thinking about all this. Anyway, whatever, it doesn’t matter in the slightest and he is not distracted at all. And he is not at all disturbed and unsettled by that dream he had about Finn where they were making out and halfway through he realised that Finn had, of all things, a fucking mohawk.
Whatever else is or is not going on in Kurt’s screwed-up, treacherous subconscious, Finn is actually getting genuinely better at Spanish and, against all the odds, Kurt has managed to make sexual tension happen. He’s not even sure how, but there are silences that aren’t awkward and long lingering looks that aren’t uncomfortable. He is creating the damn market, somehow, and a nervous sort of anticipation wriggles in his stomach as he determinedly doesn’t look at Finn’s cowboy wallpaper and attempts to ignore the fact that Spanish is a randomly really sexy language. Sooner or later he’s going to have to push it, going to have to stop being all internally flaily and outwardly as desperately cool as he can be.
“Seriously, Hummel, seal the fucking deal before Finn has time to talk himself out of it,” Puck tells him as they’re walking towards math class – but not in a together way, and in any case Puck is about to peel off and head for the nurse’s office under the pretext of being sick, like he always does – a couple of days later.
“And when exactly am I supposed to ‘seal the fucking deal’?” Kurt asks, tone dripping with sarcasm. Puck shoots him a quick surprised look at the obscenity and then smirks.
“Tomorrow,” he says. “Tomorrow, you need to stop freaking the hell out and just go for it.”
Before Kurt can protest properly or ask for advice or whatever it is he’s thinking about doing, Puck adds out of the corner of his mouth: “I’m gonna shove you into the lockers now, ‘cause a load of people are staring at me. But I’m not gonna do it hard, so try and hit them in a way that won’t break your puny spine or whatever.”
Kurt sighs and takes the admittedly-gentler-than-usual elbow to his sternum with all the good grace he can muster, falling back against the lockers with a satisfyingly loud bang that doesn’t really hurt, which makes a nice change.
It takes half of math class for his hands to stop trembling.
“Tonight?” Kurt says doubtfully.
“Tonight,” Puck confirms, with an intense look that sort of promises that if Kurt doesn’t do this, he’s going to find himself suffering actual physical bodily harm. “Man up, Hummel.”
Kurt exhales slowly. “Ok,” he says.
Puck raises a fist and after a doubtful second, Kurt tentatively bumps it with his own. He has never done this before in his life and it’s kind of stupid but they grin at each other anyway.
As he walks away, Kurt tries not to think about the fact Puck’s smile didn’t even come close to meeting his eyes.
Finn’s gaze has been fixed on the shape Kurt’s mouth is making as they slowly go through conjugations of the pluperfect tense, and not just in a confused-about-the-language way. It’s possible his new ultra-shiny lipgloss – no, he wasn’t born with it, it’s all Maybelline – is just dazzling Finn with its blinding shimmer, but he thinks it’s more than that.
Man up, Hummel, Puck’s voice says sharply in his head, and Kurt swallows, looking at Finn. Oh God, he’s so pretty his brain moans a little helplessly. That doesn’t help, so Kurt girds everything inside him he can possibly gird, and says: “Finn.” Soft, quiet, careful. But it’s a warning of sorts, and though Finn’s not exactly quick on the uptake ever, he should be able to work this out.
“Kurt,” Finn says, and he doesn’t sound scared at all.
Taking a breath, Kurt leans over the space between them, just slow enough for Finn to be able to back away and tell him this is all a huge, huge mistake. Finn doesn’t. In fact, Finn actually leans towards him, meeting him halfway. Kurt closes his eyes because he’s thought about this for too long, pined over Finn for an embarrassing amount of time, and that it’s finally actually happening is enough to make him sort of want to take a moment to step back and hide in the bathroom and pant: “ohmyGodohmyGodohmyGodohmyGod” at the mirror. But that isn’t an option because he’s kissing Finn, actually fucking kissing Finn Hudson, and he can’t stop now.
One of Finn’s hands curls into Kurt’s hair, which kind of bothers him because he spent over an hour fixing it this morning, but right now he decides he’ll let it slide. Heat of the moment and all that. Finn’s tongue slides across his lower lip and unlike when Puck did that he doesn’t pull away, just keeps on going, kissing Kurt harder and deeper and messier. It feels good and Kurt moans into it, Finn pulling him even closer. And as his first French kiss, Kurt supposes, this isn’t the most romantic of environments – Finn’s damn wallpaper and his mom downstairs and verb tables lying forgotten on the desk before them – but it’s ok, it’ll do. And Finn smells good and feels good and his mouth is warm and wet and inviting and-
No, Kurt thinks desperately, oh no. No. No. No.
His brain is still whirring away, taking the situation in in a detached sort of way and it shouldn’t be doing that. He shouldn’t still be thinking. He catches Finn’s bottom lip between his teeth and kisses him harder, desperate for this to take him over and distract him, desperate to feel some sort of spark because this should feel magical, him getting what he’s wanted for so long, and in reality it’s all kind of impersonal. Finn pulls him closer and Kurt shifts and somehow finds himself straddling Finn’s lap, kissing him like his life depends on it and in a way it kind of does. Because this was supposed to be everything and yet it isn’t working, it isn’t working, it isn’t working.
They part for breath and stare at each other, panting, for a long time. Finn’s mouth is all shiny and red and his hair is a mess and Kurt imagines he can’t look much better. He also suspects the look of complete and utter shock must be mirrored across his own features.
“Um,” Finn begins uncertainly.
“It’s ok,” Kurt says, smiling slightly. “Sometimes, this is what you do when your life falls apart. Sometimes you make out with your male gay friend and that’s all it is and then you both move on.”
Finn carefully removes his hands from Kurt’s waist and Kurt shifts backwards until he’s back on his chair again.
“Ok,” Finn says.
“Ok.” Kurt’s smile widens until it actually feels real. “I should probably get going, but we’ll pick up the whole different uses of estar thing in a couple of days, all right?”
“All right,” Finn replies, still looking kind of stunned.
“Oh,” Kurt adds, deciding that someone should still get something out of this, “and it really isn’t my place, but I think you need someone, and whatever else you feel about him, I think you need Puck right now.” Finn’s face shuts down but there’s something in his eyes, something Kurt can work with. “Promise me you’ll at least think about calling him later?”
Finn thinks through his answer for what feels like forever before he finally supplies: “yeah, I will. Think about it, I mean.”
Kurt picks up his bag and decides he’ll sort out his hair in his rearview mirror and then it’ll all be fine. “Hang on,” Finn says when he gets to the door; Kurt turns back.
“We are ok, aren’t we?” Finn looks kind of worried now. “‘Cause, like, for a while there I kind of thought you had a thing for me, and-”
“Please, Finn,” Kurt says, with a smile that hurts a little bit, “that crush on you? So two months ago. See you around.”
On the way home, he reflects that this is basically what Puck orchestrated; Finn is vulnerable right now, lost and reeling, and Kurt, under Puck’s guidance, abused that and took complete advantage of it. Finn isn’t making good life choices right now and all Kurt had to do was flutter his eyelashes and be nice to him in order to push Finn into something he ordinarily wouldn’t even consider. Finn is sweet and kind and so confused about the whole Quinn thing and one little tip in the right direction was all it took. It’s such a fucking Puck plan that it makes Kurt grimace a little, but if nothing else he’s learned something about himself along the way, and hey, at least he’ll have more time now he isn’t pining with every spare second.
Kurt shuts himself in his room when he gets back and lies on his bed and cries for a while anyway, because sometimes letting go of things you’ve been holding onto for years requires a few tears before you can sweep them under the carpet and stride on, sparklier than ever.
He isn’t put in a dumpster the next morning, which is always a nice start to his day, and Kurt strides into school with his head held high and fully aware that this is the start of, if not a new chapter, then at least a new paragraph of his life. He’s dressed extra fabulous today in order to celebrate this and he has little excited butterflies jiving in his stomach for reasons he’s not even sure of.
“Damn, boy,” Mercedes observes, “you’re glowing.”
“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” Kurt asks airily.
Tina and Artie look concerned, but smile anyway. “It’s drizzling,” Artie observes.
“Is it?” Kurt frowns.
Finn and Puck are walking down the corridor side by side; not quite as close as they used to be and their body language speaks volumes, even from a distance. Still, they’re trying and that’s the important part, their smiles tentative but just about real. The scar will be ugly, but at least they’re trying to heal.
“Hey, Kurt,” Finn greets him, clapping a warm hand against his shoulder.
“Hey, Finn,” Kurt says, with a replying smile that, for once, doesn’t have a dozen desperate messages behind it.
Puck doesn’t acknowledge him at all, doesn’t even look at him.
Kurt watches the two of them walk away down the corridor, and realises that every last happy, excited butterfly in his stomach has died a swift death and left him feeling like his insides are made of lead. Finn glances back over his shoulder and smiles at them all, but Puck doesn’t. Kurt blinks and looks away from the two of them, and reminds himself that he didn’t expect any different.
There’s a reason Mercedes is his best friend apart from her fabulous fashion skills and her wonderful bitchiness that so compliments his own; she’s also incredibly observant.
After school, she comes up to him, slipping her arm through his. “Spill,” she orders.
“Damn you’re good,” Kurt sighs.
“Of course I am,” Mercedes responds cheerfully. “Now, do I have to start threatening your hair or are you going to tell me on your own?”
Kurt considers this. “I’ll give you a ride home,” he says, “we can talk on the way.”
Mercedes grins in a self-satisfied sort of way and together they head out to the parking lot and Kurt’s baby.
“This is a secret,” Kurt tells her when they’re finally driving. “And when I say secret I mean that you can’t tell anyone at all. And I mean that genuinely, not in a ‘oh I promise not to tell anyone, whoops, I told everyone in glee’ way.”
Mercedes rolls her eyes. “One time,” she says, “and anyway, don’t tell me it didn’t make your week when you found out the baby wasn’t Finn’s.”
“It did make my week,” Kurt concedes, “but I thought about feeling bad about it afterwards.”
“Sure you did, honey,” Mercedes agrees without a shred of sincerity. “Now talk or I’ll tell your dad that you didn’t put all those sweaters he hates in the trash.”
Kurt grips the steering wheel and keeps his gaze on the road and says: “so, uh, Finn and I kind of made out yesterday.”
Mercedes’ OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK is nothing short of deafening. Kurt looks appealingly at her and waits for her hyperventilating to stop so she can talk about this without resorting to verbal capslock. She fixes him with a look. “I cannot believe that you held out on me all damn day.”
Kurt reminds himself that helplessly flailing will just lead to crashing and wrecking the car and then his dad will probably go in his Hope Chest and stamp on all his tiaras and then his life will be empty and bereft and stuff. He’s about to apologise for not dishing the dirt quick enough but he did sort of have dignity and everything when Mercedes finishes huffing and asks:
“So are you guys, like, what? Hooking up? Dating? Some other arrangement?”
“No,” Kurt replies, and before she can chime in with a dozen other things, he adds: “it didn’t feel right.”
He loves Mercedes for not shrieking at this moment. Instead she frowns, and says: “kissing the prettiest guy in school who you’ve been in love with for forever didn’t feel right?”
“I’m not in love with him,” Kurt says softly, and even though this is a good thing and he’s, like, growing as a person and so forth, it still sort of stings when it comes out loud. “And it... it just didn’t feel right.”
Mercedes has apparently picked this moment to be all analytical because what she next comes out with is: “if you’ve never kissed anyone before, how did you know it didn’t feel right?”
It’s genuine curiosity in her voice – she’s as never-been-kissed as he was up until just over a week ago – but, unfortunately, she has asked the question Kurt has been avoiding asking himself for the last twenty-four hours. As the words spill from her – immaculately glossed – lips, Kurt realises exactly why he hasn’t been letting himself think about it. It’s like getting a slushie in the face, like getting ten slushies in the face with ice dripping from his hairline down through his underwear and into his shoes. Cold realisation runs through him because, for one insane moment, Kurt was genuinely about to reply with: I know it didn’t feel right because it didn’t feel like it did with Puck.
He is fucked. He is so very, very, horribly fucked. And also oblivious. And also crashing.
Mercedes yanks the steering wheel at the right moment to stop them careening into a tree and screams: “brake, bitch, fucking brake!” loud enough to break through Kurt’s horrified reverie and actually cause him to slam his foot down. They stare at each other for a moment.
“I’m driving you to my house,” Mercedes informs him, “and we are going to do face masks and eat a lot of ice cream and watch Top Model and say mean things about all the contestants and then we are going to break into my parents’ liquor cabinet because you are clearly going through a lot of emotional trauma right now and you need it.”
Kurt tries to make a noise of assent but it comes out as a whimper instead. He obediently gets out of the car and they switch sides. When she’s sat behind the wheel, Mercedes leans over to deposit a kiss on his forehead. “Ok, my little hot damn mess?”
I’m in love with Puck, Kurt thinks miserably, and this is totally going to be even worse than the hopelessly pining after Finn thing, I can tell.
“Ok,” he replies, and scrapes together a smile.