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Pick up the phone (cause I need to get more alone)

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Sam is stretched out on his bed in his new room the first night after the move when his phone starts to vibrate on the bed next to him, and it’s Puck’s name on the Caller ID.  It’s probably a mistake; Puck has accidentally called Sam instead of Santana a couple times, since they’re right next to each other in his contacts.  Sam answers anyway, because what the hell, he’s bored.

“Hey,” he says, and sure enough Puck sounds surprised to hear him.

“Sam?”

Sam can’t help laughing. “You were expecting Santana, I assume.”

“Yeah.”

“Dude, you do realise she’s, like, full-on lesbian now, right?  She’s not gonna hook up with you.”

“Hey, just cuz she wouldn’t hook up with you doesn’t mean she’s into chicks.  Ladies can’t resist El Puckerone.”

Sam rolls his eyes. “You’re so full of shit.”

Puck snorts. “You’re just jealous.  Besides, that’s not why I was calling her anyway.  Rachel’s dads apparently didn’t learn their lesson the first time and are leaving her alone for a couple days.  She’s having a party tomorrow.  I’m just spreading the word.  So, you know, consider yourself invited.”

“Well, that would be cool except I’m in Nashville.”

“Fuck.  That’s right.  Today was the day.”

“Yesterday, technically.  We finished moving in today though.”

“How’re things?” Puck asks, and Sam is a little surprised he’s not rushing off the phone to call Santana.

“All right.  It’s totally awesome to have my own room again.  But it kinda sucks too.  I didn’t really want to move.”

“No?”

“No.  McKinley totally blows, but I’m gonna miss it.”

“It does suck that you had to leave,” Puck agrees. “I’m gonna be the only guitar player in glee now.  Well, besides Artie, but I’m pretty sure he’d rather be a white rapper.”

Sam is struck suddenly with the memory of singing ‘Billionaire’ his second day at McKinley.  He’s amazed at the jolt of nostalgia he feels.  He shouldn’t be so attached to a school he only attended for two semesters, but he figures that’s what he gets for joining glee and becoming part of that crazy, fucked-up family.

“You know what else sucks about you moving?” Puck asks, and Sam recognises the tone of his voice immediately. “We never did figure out how many balls you could get in your mouth.”

“Oh, fuck you, Puck.” Sam says, but he’s grinning and he’s pretty sure Puck can tell. “You had an unhealthy obsession with my mouth anyway.”

Puck laughs at the other end of the line. “Whatever, dude.”

For a second there’s nothing but silence between them, and before Sam can come up with something to say, his mom is calling up the stairs, asking him to come down and help put together their new Ikea furniture.

“I gotta go,” Sam sighs. “Have fun at Rachel’s party.”

“Okay.  Cool.  Take care, man.”

Sam hangs up, and can’t explain the sudden loss   he feels.

*       *       *

He honestly doesn’t expect to hear from Puck again.  But his phone rings again two nights later, just before nine. 

“Dude, I am not Santana.”

Sam can practically hear Puck rolling his eyes. “I know.  Called you on purpose this time.”

“That’s a surprise.”

“Whatever, I was bored.”

“How was Rachel’s party?”

“It totally blew.  Like, nobody showed up.  Artie’s on vacation with his parents and Chang-squared are at that camp again and apparently Quinn’s been AWOL all summer and you were right about Santana, by the way.  She spent the whole party making out with Brittany.”

“I told you so.”

“Santana threatened to cut me when I asked them if I could watch.  Or join.”

Sam snorts, “Do you have a death wish or something?  I’m shocked she didn’t kill you just for asking.”

“Mercedes has a new boyfriend.” Puck says abruptly, and Sam wonders if he should feel more hurt than he does.

“Oh.  Good for her, I guess.”

“You’re not, like, pissed?”

“Nah.  We dated for like, three seconds.”

“I just figured you might want to know.”

“Thanks.  But it’s not a big deal.”

“Okay.  Cool.”

“How’s Lauren?”

For a second, Puck doesn’t say anything. Then, “We broke up.  She doesn’t want to be tied down for her senior year, or whatever.”

Sam didn’t get Puck and Lauren’s relationship at all, since it mostly seemed like a lot of her trash-talking him and him just taking it, but he does feel bad about the bitter tone to Puck’s words.

“Sorry, man.  That sucks.”

“Whatever.  I can get my mack on with all the Cheerios again.” Puck’s words sound forced, but Sam doesn’t think they have the sort of friendship where he can call Puck out on it.

“I gotta go, dude.  My sister’s whining about something and technically I’m babysitting her.”

“All right.” Sam says, and Puck hangs up before he can say anything else.

*       *       *

Sam doesn’t answer his phone the next time Puck calls, a few nights later. He’s downstairs doing his homework (which, for once, is totally easy because he already read Of Mice and Men at McKinley) and when he gets back to his room, he has a voicemail from the other boy. 

 “FYI, dude, you could call me once and awhile.  Because I’m starting to feel like a stalker.”

Sam laughs and deletes the message before calling Puck back.

“I was right.  Glee club is totally lame without you.” Puck says, skipping a greeting.

“Yeah?”

“Yup.  You’ve been replaced by Hummel’s boyfriend, which, let’s be honest, is like having another chick around.  But I guess it sorta balances out, because Quinn’s gone too.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah.  She cut her hair and dyed it pink and started smoking and hangs out with the Skanks under the bleachers.  There’s a tramp stamp and clothes from, like, the Salvation Army too.”

“What the fuck?”

“Pretty much what everybody else is thinking.”

“Wouldn’t have made more sense for all of this to happen last year?  You know, after…”

“Beth,” Puck supplies. “Yeah.  But I gave up trying to figure out how her brain works back when she was knocked up.”

“So weird.”

“You know what else totally blows?  Schue’s making us all dance.  Like, everyday.  Or, not all of us, just the ones who need practice. It’s intense.”

“So, what, he’s finally figuring out y’all need more than a can-do spirit to win Nationals?”

Puck snorts, “Y’all?”

“Oh, shut up.”

“Hey, does your new school have a glee club?  Rachel will kill me if she thinks I’m feeding info to the enemy.”

“If there is a glee club, I’m not joining it.  Won’t be the same.”

“Aw, how touching.” Puck says, and Sam can picture the smirk on his face.

“I gotta focus on football anyway.  The only way I’m going to college is if I get a scholarship.”

“I hear that.”

You want to go to college?”

“Don’t sound so shocked.  It’s a town full of losers and I’m pulling out of here to win.”

“Thanks for that, Springsteen.” 

“Caught that, did you?” Puck laughs.

“All right, then spill.  What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Sam expects Puck to say something like rockstar or songwriter or even music teacher, but instead Puck says, “I wanna be a guidance counsellor or a social worker or something.  Help keep kids from fucking up the way I did, you know? What about you?”

“I don’t know.” Sam says.

“Sure you do.  Even if you don’t tell anybody, you have an idea.” Puck wheedles. “Besides, you owe me. I’ve never told anybody about what I want to do until now.”

“I really haven’t thought about anything beyond playing college ball.”

“See, you’re saying you don’t know, but what I’m hearing is that you sorta want to go pro.”

“Maybe when I was a kid,” Sam admits. “But there’s no way in hell it’s gonna happen.”

“Why not?”

“Uh, because nobody actually winds up playing in the NFL.” 

“Except for the people that do.  I don’t see why you can’t.  You just need to want it bad enough, and make it happen.”

“You’re serious?”

“Yeah. It’s like my new motto, or whatever.”

“Speaking of football, we have two-a-days now, so I gotta get some sleep.”

“All right. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Cool.”

*       *       *

Sam is on the bus with the rest of his football team, headed to their first away game when his phone rings.  He’s talked to Puck a couple times since their conversation about their future plans, but Puck doesn’t usually call him this early in the afternoon.  Normally they talk later in the evening, after their respective practices and rehearsals and homework.

“I gotta answer this,” Sam says to the guys he’s sitting with, feeling vaguely guilty about abandoning his new friends.  But, he rationalizes as he moves towards the front of the bus where it’s quieter, Puck is a creature of habit.  It means something if he’s calling now instead of at their usual time.

“Hey, what’s up?” Sam asks, pressing the phone tight against his ear to block out as much of the rowdy bus noise as he can.

“I need you to tell me that Quinn’s idea to try to take Beth away from Shelby is a bad one.” Puck says, his voice desperate and more scared than Sam has ever heard.

“What?  Of course that’s a bad idea.  Since when are you guys even in contact with Beth and Shelby?”

“Since, like, two days ago.  Shelby’s teaching at McKinley now.  And she told Quinn and me she wants us to be part of Beth’s life, but Quinn’s decided she wants to try to get custody back.  I’m actually afraid of what she’s going to do. And that she might convince me to help her.”

“Just…calm down, Puck.  Quinn can’t make you help her.”

“I’ve seen her.” Puck blurts. “Beth.  She’s beautiful.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Puck says. “I’m just…I love her so much, like more than I thought I would.  I don’t know what to do about Quinn, because Shelby’s a good mom, but I totally get where Quinn’s coming from.  Knowing Beth is so close, but not being with her, not really being a parent to her, it kills me.”

“Puck.  What you and Quinn did, giving Beth up, it’s, like, the bravest thing you could have ever done.  You gave your daughter the best life you could.  If that’s not being a parent, I don’t know what is.”

Puck is just breathing on the other end of the line, and Sam takes that as an indication he should keep talking.

“I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through or what you’re still going through, but I honestly believe that taking Beth away from Shelby is the worst thing you could do.  I’m not saying you guys couldn’t raise her, because you’re capable.  But you’re eighteen, and you have college ahead of you, and Beth is old enough to know who her mom is now.  I just think it would end badly for everyone.”

These are things Sam would never have been able to say to Puck’s face.  The other boy is just intimidating enough that Sam had never felt totally comfortable around him.  But now, with so much distance between them, he feels like he can be honest.  He’s not afraid of Puck’s retaliation, because the worst Puck can do is stop calling.  (Which, from the way his stomach twists at the thought, feels like it would be bad enough.)

For a long moment, Puck is quiet.  Then he says, more calmly than before, “Yeah.  Yeah.  You’re right.  I just have a hard time with all the Beth stuff.”

“‘s okay.  I mean, it would be kinda weird if you didn’t, you know?  Like Quinn last year.  Sort of zombified.”

“Yeah.  I get why she did it though.  Sometimes not feeling anything is better than feeling like this.”

Sam knows Puck wouldn’t be so truthful if this conversation were face-to-face.

“Are you gonna be okay?” Sam asks.

“Yeah.  Thanks for talking me down.”

“Anytime.” Sam says, surprised by how much he means it.

“Where are you?” Puck asks. “Sounds loud.”

“It is. I’m on the bus to my first football game.”

“Awesome.  Good luck.  Don’t mess up your shoulder again.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“I’m just saying,” Puck says, and Sam might be annoyed except he can hear the smile behind Puck’s words, and it’s reassuring considering the panic he’d been in five minutes ago. “I’ve decided you’re going to go pro, so you can’t fuck up on me now.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

“You should get back to the team, or you’re gonna be that asshole QB who never talks to anybody.”

“Okay.  I’ll talk to you later, man.”

*       *       *

“Puck, it’s three in the morning, this better be good.”

“Fuck.  Were you asleep?  Because I didn’t want to wake you up, Sammy.  I was just gonna leave a message.”

“Are you drunk?”

“Only a little.  Langenthal…the shitty kicker, you don’t know him, Kurt replaced him sophomore year and we all had to dance like Beyonce.  Whatever.  Langenthal had a party.  I just didn’t want to think anymore.  Except it didn’t work.  I’m still thinking.”

“About what?”

“This is weird.  I told you, I just wanted to leave a thingy.  Message.  Can I tell you a secret?”

“Sure.” Sam says, feeling a little bit like laughing at Puck, who is definitely much drunker than he claims.

“It wasn’t tennis balls.  You know, that I wanted to put in your mouth.  Remember?”

Sam does laugh then. “Funnily enough, Puck, I sort of already knew that.”

“You did?” Puck sounds both disappointed and relieved. “Good.  Well not good, because it wasn’t a secret.  Can I tell you another secret?”

“Yeah.” Sam says, although he feels a little bit like he’s taking advantage of Puck’s drunken honesty.

“I like dudes.  The way Santana likes chicks.  You know?”

“I didn’t know that.”

“Dude, yeah you did, you were the one that told me about Santana.”

“No, I mean I didn’t know about you.  Liking dudes.”

“Well, not all dudes. Just one.”

Sam can hear his own heart pounding in his ears. “Puck, I think you should hang up the phone, drink some water, and go to sleep.  If you really wanna talk about this, it can wait until you’re sober.”

“’m not that drunk,” Puck protests.

“Good.  Then it means you’ll remember we have something to talk about later.”

“But I don’t think I can talk about it then.  Even with you.  And I can talk about anything with you.” There’s something so earnest about Puck’s voice that Sam almost relents.

“If you can’t talk about it sober, then you’re probably not ready to talk about it at all.  Go to sleep.”

“Fine,” Puck pouts, “but I’m only doing it ‘cause I feel bad about waking you up.”

Sam disconnects the call and sets his phone back down on his nightstand, but even though it’s after three in the morning, he can’t sleep.  His thoughts are racing and he can’t help wondering if Puck is ever actually going to bring this up again.

*       *       *

Puck doesn’t call him for three days and Sam eventually gets annoyed with the other boy avoiding him.

“Oh, so you are alive then.” Sam says as soon as Puck answers. “I had my doubts.”

“Uh.  Yeah.  Sorry.”

“C’mon, Puck.  Don’t make this awkward.”

“I’m not trying to.” Puck sighs, and Sam can picture him running a hand over his mohawk. “But seriously, what do you want me to say?  Because I drunk dialled you and I said a lot of shit I wouldn’t have said under normal circumstances.”

“Okay,” Sam shrugs. “So that’s what happened.  You drunk dialled, said some stuff, and we can move past it.”

“Sam, I pretty much told you I want you to suck my cock and you just want to forget about it?”

“Yeah.  If you’re not ready to talk about it, I’m not going to force you.”

Puck huffs out a sigh and Sam can’t tell if it’s annoyed or relieved without seeing the expression on Puck’s face.

“Why are you letting me off the hook so easy?”

“Because sometimes I think these phone calls are the only thing getting me through.” Sam admits. “I don’t want to push you away, because I’m not sure what would happen to me if I did.  And, honestly, I don’t know if I’m ready to hear the things you’re not ready to say.”

“Okay.”

Sam only then hears chatter in the background. “Where are you?”

“Bus on the way back from Sectionals.  Everybody’s celebrating.”

“You guys won?”

“Yeah.  Regionals here we come.”

“That’s awesome.”

“I dunno.” Puck sighs. “It’s not the same as it used to be.  Schue’s still being kind of a dick—I swear I think he almost made Santana cry the other day—and everybody’s always fighting and storming out and threatening to quit.  I really don’t know if we’re going to make it to Nationals without killing each other.”

“So basically what you’re saying is I was the glue that held glee together and without me the club is falling to pieces.”

Puck laughs, “That’s exactly what I’m saying.”

“How’s Beth?”

It seemed crisis had been averted regarding Quinn and the custody battle, at least temporarily.  Quinn’s back to her zombie uber-bitch ways and Puck is the only birth parent spending time with Beth.

“She’s awesome.  I was over there for a little bit last night, actually.  She’s totally cool around me now.  Not like how it was in the beginning.”

“That’s great.”

“We just got back to McKinley and Tina’s having everybody over to her house for a party.  Talk to you tomorrow?”

“Yeah.  Okay.”

*       *       *

Between Sectionals and Regionals, they don’t discuss any of the things Puck said while he was drunk.  Puck calls him after Regionals to tell him New Directions were the runners up.  Sam isn’t that surprised, considering the things Puck’s been telling him about the club.  It’s been falling apart at the seams since the beginning of the year, thanks to all the drama that’s been going down. 

The day Sam’s acceptance letter to Ohio State arrives, complete with his financial aid packet outlining the details of his full scholarship, the first person he wants to tell is Puck.  Puck’s already been accepted to OSU and UC, with decent financial aid at each.

“I got in!” Sam cheers as soon as Puck answers.

“Ohio State?”

“Yeah.  Got my scholarship too.”

“Told you so.  Although, seriously, I can’t believe you’re choosing to come back to Ohio.”

Sam doesn’t say what he knows they’re both thinking.  Instead, he laughs and reminds Puck that OSU is the only school offering him a full ride.

“Do you know where you’re going yet?”

“Probably OSU.” Puck says. “They’re giving me more money.  And it means I’m an hour closer to Beth and my mom.”

Sam takes a deep breath, “And we’ll be in the same place.”

“We will.” Puck agrees. “Which is good, because my cell phone bill is getting ridiculous.”

Sam snorts a laugh, “That’s because you’re getting ripped off paying for that stupid Blackberry.  You’re such a follower, joining the smart phone cult.”

“Hey, step off my Crackberry.  You’re just jealous because you’ve got a shitty flip phone from like, 2007.”

Sam waits for the conversation to turn into the one they’ve been avoiding for months.  But it doesn’t and he doesn’t know how to bring it up.

*       *       *

Later that same night, his phone buzzes on his nightstand.  Puck rarely texts him, ever since Sam explained that his dyslexia makes texting way harder than it needs to be.

U awake?

Rather than texting back, Sam hits Puck’s speed dial number.

“Hi,” Puck says, his voice soft. 

“Hey.”

“D’you think maybe you could be ready to hear some stuff?  Because I think if I don’t say it now, I might go crazy.  You don’t have to say anything, I just need you to listen.”

“Okay.”

“I spent all of last year afraid of what it might mean if I got too close to you, so I didn’t let myself. That first time I called you…it wasn’t an accident.  I knew you were in Nashville by then, so I felt okay calling.  I told myself it was a one-time thing, that I was just making sure you’d be okay, but then I couldn’t stop.  It was just so easy, talking to you.  I told you things I never told anybody.  You know?”

“Yeah.  I do.” Sam says softly.

“And the more we talked, the more I couldn’t ignore…how I feel.  I sort of thought it would get better once you were gone, but it really only got worse, because it’s not like you just dropped off the face of the earth.  I’ve talked to you like, every other day since you moved, and I probably know you better than anybody does at this point.”

Sam doesn’t argue with that, because he knows it’s true.

“I want you so much I can barely see straight some days.  You really are the only guy I think about like that, and I don’t know what that makes me, but I really don’t care. And I can’t help thinking how much it sucks that I’m such a coward, that I couldn’t say any of this to your face.”

“You’re not a coward.” Sam says quickly. “Besides, I don’t know if I would have been ready to hear any of that last year.”

“Maybe not, but I’m so tired of dicking around with cheerleaders and letting Lauren break my heart when the only person I really want to be with is you.”

“But why?” Sam blurts out. “We barely knew each other last year.”

“Have you looked in a mirror, like, ever?  You’re so fucking hot.  And then this year happened, and I know that you’re funny and a total geek and the only person I can talk to who isn’t gonna judge the stupid shit that comes out of my mouth.  I trust you.”

Something about the way Puck says it makes it feel more important than an I love you.  Puck isn’t the kind of guy who puts his trust in anyone, and Sam doesn’t blame him, considering the things he knows now about Puck’s childhood.  So it means a lot that Puck trusts him, maybe more than Sam even realises.

“So where do we go from here?” Sam asks.

“Well, I’m gonna start calling you babe.  I haven’t really thought past that point.”

Sam laughs, “I think I can handle that.”

He doesn’t know how to say the things he’s feeling out loud yet, and as much as he wishes he could, because obviously Puck has managed it, he just can’t yet.  The other boy doesn’t press him though, or maybe he already understands the stuff Sam doesn’t know how to say.

*       *       *

From that point forward, Sam starts falling asleep with his phone pressed against his ear and Puck talking softly to him.

“Want you so bad,” Puck murmurs. “Wish I were there.  Or you were here.”

“Yeah.” Sam agrees.

“Wish we didn’t suck so bad at phone sex.” Puck says, and Sam laughs, because their attempts really have been horrible.  Puck gets serious cases of the giggles (which he denies vehemently when Sam teases him about it later) and Sam can never stop worrying that some member of his family is going to walk in.  It’s a feeling mostly leftover from the motel days, where privacy was pretty much impossible to get. 

“Don’t worry, roomie, we’re so gonna make up for it.” Sam reminds him.  Sam had just gotten an email the other day from OSU, telling him his roommate request had been approved.  He doesn’t doubt for a second that getting to pick his roommate in May instead of July is a perk of being a recruited football player.

“Good,” Puck says around a yawn.

“Go to sleep,” Sam tells him. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”

“’kay. Night.”

*       *       *

 “Did you know, like, ninety percent of communication isn’t verbal?”

“Did someone get you a fact-of-the-day calendar for Hanukkah?”

“Kurt and Blaine were having an argument.  Apparently Blaine’s body language speaks louder than his words.”

“I’m still not sure where you’re going with this.”

“Well, I was just thinking we’ve totally got verbal communication down.  Body language and facial expressions and shit should be next, right?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Okay.  So what are you doing two Saturdays from now?”

“Nothing, as far as I know.”

“D’you think your parents would let you drive up here?”

“Depends what I tell them.”                                                         

“You can tell them whatever you want.”

“Okay. I’ll think of something.”

“Good, because your super hot boyfriend needs a prom date.”

“Does he?” Sam asks, doing his best to keep the shock out of his voice.

“Yeah.” Puck says. “Bought the tickets yesterday.  Everybody’s trying to unravel the big mystery.”

“Which is?”

“Why would Puck buy two tickets to prom when everybody knows he’s been single for the whole year?”

“Ah.  Well, they’re all in for a surprise then.”

“Yeah.  They are.” Puck sounds a little like he’s frowning.

“Something wrong?”

“I was just thinking I probably should have asked you before I got the tickets.  I don’t want you to feel like you have to do this, you know?  If you’re not cool with people knowing yet, we can just hang out that weekend.”

“How bout I rent a tux and we’ll see how it goes when I get there?”

“I’m cool with that.  I just really wanna see you.”

“Me too.”

*       *       *

The whole drive up to Lima, Sam can’t believe his parents actually agreed to this.  He’d lied and said Mercedes and her boyfriend broke up, and that she’d called to ask if he wouldn’t mind filling in, since they’d had so much fun last year.  Sam feels guilty for lying to his parents, but telling the truth would have meant getting into a conversation he doesn’t even know how to start yet.

Five minutes from Puck’s house, Sam starts to worry.  He’s afraid it will be awkward, despite how well they know each other.  When he pulls into Puck’s driveway, and sees Puck sitting on the front steps, looking as nervous as Sam feels, he tells himself he’s being an idiot.  He gets out of the car and forces himself to walk normally even though he wants to run.  Puck gets to his feet and comes to meet him halfway.

“Hi,” Puck says, looking shy and sheepish and Sam can’t help rolling his eyes.

“Come here,” Sam reaches out and pulls Puck in closer.  He’s taller than Puck now, only by a little bit, but enough that Puck has to look up to meet his eyes. 

Sam thinks that every conversation they’ve had over the past year has brought them to this exact moment.  He could say something, except that they’ve done enough talking for now, and all he really wants to do is kiss his boyfriend.

So he does.  It’s tentative at first, and then Puck is kissing him back eagerly, clinging tighter and for the first time Sam doesn’t need words to know exactly what Puck is trying to say.