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How I Spent My Summer Vacation (And Other Myths)

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The bus smelled like ass.

Puck sighed and slunk further into his seat, resting his forehead against the window. The sun was on the other side of the bus, so at least the glass was cooler than the air. A full Greyhound bus, no matter how high the air conditioning was turned, would always be too hot. Puck wished he had his sweatshirt; he could pull the hood down over his eyes so, at least, he wouldn’t have to see the old lady staring at him suspiciously from across the aisle.

They passed a sign that read “You Are Now Leaving Ohio! Come Back Real Soon!” and Puck snorted. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to run and never come back, or not leave at all. He certainly wasn’t going to “come back real soon.” His mother had made sure of that.

To say Rina Puckerman had not taken his trip to Juvie with grace would be a massive understatement. After the yelling and the crying and the thrown glassware, while he was locked away, she had called her cousin, Jody Mills, about how to deal with Puck’s “downward spiral.”

Aunt Jody had, apparently, told Rina that his behavior was a symptom of something deeper. Rina had heard “search his room.” So, when Puck returned after his two weeks away, sore and reeling, he had walked into another round of screaming about how he was “shaming the family with your whoring about. I raised a better boy than that, Noah Puckerman.” Stunned, he could only watch as Rina tore through his pool business’s accounts, crying about how her son was “the pool boy slut” she overheard the housewives of Lima talk about every summer.

“That’s it!” She had finally said. “You’re spending the summer with your Aunt Jody. If anyone could straighten you out, it’s her!”

Puck had started to fight back, to say that he had learned his lesson, that Juvie had honestly scared him and that he wanted to be different; he’d gotten as far as opening his mouth before his mother had stormed out and locked him in his room.

Fuck it, he had thought. She thinks I’m bad, I’ll give her bad.

His resolve had crumbled as the school year continued, through his relationship with Lauren (not that she’d have anything to do with him, now. She had dumped him when she learned he wouldn’t be around in the summer, telling him to look her up when he got back. He wasn’t sure if he would, yet.), the thing that was prom, and their loss at Nationals. He ended the summer still trying to prove his badassness, and, to be honest, he was tired of it.

Puck shifted in his seat, biting back a curse as he knocked his knee against his guitar case. There wasn’t really much room for it between his legs and the seat in front of him, but there was no way he was going to put it under the bus; it was the easiest way to get a broken guitar, and now that his pool business was over, (which, in hindsight, was kinda whore-ish in the escort-service-but-really-hookers-kinda-way), he didn’t have the funds to get a new one. And fuck Glee club for making him care, but he was pretty sure losing his guitar would be the last straw.

Thinking of Glee club made Puck shift in his seat. It was hard to admit, (okay, it wasn’t that hard to admit to himself. Out loud, however...), that the gleeks were the closest things to friends he had. Finn and he were finally cool again, which was a relief even though he shouldn’t have expected less from the boy who would share even his most favorite toys and would still play with you if you accidentally ran over them with your skateboard and broke them. Quinn was warmer than she had been, but that ship had sailed even before Beth was born, let alone adopted. Sam and Mike were closer to each other than to him, though they were good to sit with. Artie was cool, even when their community service had ended. Boy could play a mean bass. Rachel was annoying, but in less of a scratch-out-your-eyes way and in more of a why-do-I-have-to-wear-a-tie way. Mercedes and he had an understanding; they were cool, but not friends. Santana would sext him, but not sleep with him, and was even less likely to talk to him in public, and Brittany was sweet but he was never sure what she was talking about, and he was used to Finn. And Kurt--

Kurt was cool, a lot cooler than anyone gave him credit for. The guy had gone through so much shit, from Puck and Finn and most of the jocks, and that shithead Karofsky, and he had not only not bowed to them, but had come back with his head held higher than ever, wearing even the Prom Queen crown like real royalty (and how fucked up was that? Dude might be flaming, but he was still a dude). He was snarky as shit, and when he was in the right mood, kept a scathing running commentary under his breath in the back of glee that would have Puck fighting not to laugh. Not to mention he had really grown in the last year, and tended to wear pants that made his ass look fine.

Not that Puck was gay, or anything. He could just appreciate a great ass. And Kurt had an ass that wouldn’t quit. Just like him. It was, like, a metaphor or some shit.

And if that ass, displayed with Kurt’s new-found confidence, had featured in some of Puck’s more private thoughts, well, that was Puck’s business.

The bus hit a pothole and Puck’s forehead smacked against the window. He swore, holding a hand to his head, and heard the old lady across the way gasp. He sighed internally. He was going from looser Lima, to Podunk South Dakota; he wasn’t even going to see the few friends he had left. He was only an hour into a 16 hour bus ride, and that wasn’t counting the two hour layover in Chicago. And at the end was Sheriff Jody Mills, his Aunt Jody, whose only idea of him came from his mother’s ranting, and was probably going to hate him on sight.

It was official. This summer was going to suck.

***

This summer was going to be amazing.

Kurt Hummel smiled at the screen of his phone as he walked down the steps of the Lima Public Library, mentally drafting his next text to Blaine. His boyfriend was stuck at home for most of the summer, working as a lifeguard at the pool club his parents belonged to, and while it sucked that he wouldn’t be seeing Blaine as much, Kurt was more than happy to think about Lifeguard Blaine, with his tanned skin, and strong arms, and short red shorts.

Kurt tripped on the sidewalk, and could feel his face flushing, weather it was from nearly falling in public, or from thinking of Blaine he wasn’t really sure. It wasn’t his fault he liked muscles and, while he loved Blaine’s fashion sense, he couldn’t help but wish he would show off his body just a bit more. He was his boyfriend, after all. He was allowed to lust after him. Kurt bit his lip. It was just the novelty of it that made it seem a little, well, awkward. Like he was trying too hard.

Paying more attention to the sidewalk, Kurt walked down the dark street. The library was conveniently close to Hummel Tire and Lube, so he had parked at his father’s shop rather than fight with the other cars to get one of the few parking spaces. It says something about this town, Kurt thought, that there are more parking spaces at the Dairy Queen than at the Library. Normally, he wouldn’t bother with the small building, preferring to buy his books for his iPhone, or Kindle Cloud, but Finn was home moping about Rachel going to Switzerland for two weeks with her dads and therefore leaving him alone, and with Mercedes suddenly busy, the mall held little appeal until the mid-season sales. So, he had gone to the library looking for something to read, carefully avoiding the newspapers and books of mythology and lore. There was nothing new for him to learn there, and only trouble to find, besides.

He was halfway to the shop when he heard the first rustle behind him. He paused, mentally cursing himself for giving into fashion instead of practicality when he was going to be out alone at night. In difference to the weather, he had worn shorts, stylishly tight, and a thin V-neck shirt that would do little in way of protection. True, he had his big knife in his bag, and his backup in his boot, and there was a pouch of salt in the little side pocket, but it wasn’t enough. Thank God he could actually run in these boots if he had to.

He started walking again, hoping that it was just his imagination, but there it was again. A rustling behind him, like--like cloth. A person, then. Or something person-shaped. Kurt stopped, dropped to his knee pretending he had to adjust the tassels on his boots, and palmed his knife. He stood, and looked behind him.

The good news was that it wasn’t a werewolf, or a vampire, or even a skinwalker.

The bad news was that it was the hockey team, duffel bags over their shoulders and sticks in hand. They must have been practicing at the sports complex across the courtyard from the library; they kept it open all year.

“Shit,” Kurt muttered. It wasn’t the numbers, though that was daunting in and of itself. It was the fact that they were human. Monsters were predictable. Humans weren’t. And they couldn’t be hurt in the same ways, not and get away with it, anyway. Still, Kurt wouldn’t be surprised if he was excused for using his knife, considering the menacing way they were approaching.

“All alone, Homo? That doesn’t seem to smart,” Puckhead number 1 said. It was as unoriginal as his mullet, and Kurt would have said as much if he didn’t see Puckhead number 2 behind him, rhythmically tapping his stick against his hand. Kurt backed up a step.

“Aww, don’t run,” said Puckhead number 3. Kurt didn’t know what he was going to say next. But he did know he was outnumbered, outgunned, yet close to safety.

He ran.

He heard one of them cry “get him,” and he rolled his eyes, but put on a burst of speed. With his growth spurt came longer legs, and he pressed them to his advantage now. Between his training with Coach Sylvester for the Cheerios, and the training he still did with his father, he was strong, and fast, and had the endurance.

But the hockey team was used to fast targets, and while they were faster on ice than on foot, they knew how to use their sticks. One caught Kurt around the ankle and he fell, hard, phone skittering out of his hand. Luckily, none of the players noticed it dialing.

Kurt tried to get his feet under him, but another stick--maybe it was the same one, he didn’t know, couldn’t see--came down across his spine and he went down, knowing it was going to bruise at the very least. He tried again, and this time the stick caught his shoulder, and his boot knife clattered to the ground. One of the players laughed, and flicked it away with the stick. Kurt went down, arms coming up to protect his head, and screamed, hoping that someone heard before it was too late. They weren’t going to let him up; he wasn’t going to be able to run. He was out of practice and they were going to kill him. They were laughing, taunting, and egging one of their number on, when Kurt heard it; the cocking of a shotgun.

The blast was loud on the mostly empty street, and so welcome to Kurt’s ears, he nearly cried with relief. His head came up, as the hockey team spun to see Burt Hummel standing in the light cast by the open door to the garage, holding a twelve gauge shotgun. He pumped the barrel again, and pointed it in their direction.

“Next person to raise their stick gets it in the face,” Burt growled.

The team scattered, disappearing into the night, and Burt ran forward to help Kurt to his feet.

“Kurt,” he said, his voice shaking, the cold anger from before gone, replaced by a frantic father. “Are you hurt? They hit you!”

“I’m fine,” Kurt said, his voice cracking. Burt stopped fussing and looked at his son. Kurt’s face crumpled, and he fell forward into his father’s arms. “They were going to kill me,” Kurt said, voice small. “I know they hate me, but kill me. I expect it from monsters,” Kurt said. “I mean, they’re monsters, but--”

“Those assholes are monsters, too. Just a different kind,” But said. “Did they break anything?”

Kurt shook his head. “I’ve gotten worse training.”

Burt raised an eyebrow. “And it’s that attitude that let the bullying go on for so long, you know.”

Kurt rolled his eyes, and pulled away to pick up his bag. “Oh wonderful,” Kurt growled. “They scratched the leather.”

Burt snorted a laugh, raising an arm around Kurt’s shoulders and steered them into the shop. “We’re going to press charges,” Burt said, once inside. Kurt settled into the desk chair, and started to inspect his phone for damage. He raised a hand against Kurt’s protests. “No argument. They were going to kill you just now.” Kurt looked away with a shiver. Burt looked at his son. He took a deep breath.

“I want you to go to your Uncle Bobby’s for the summer.”

“What?” Kurt sat up straight, and powered through the wince when it pulled at his back. “But I can’t go to South Dakota! I have a life here!”

“Generations of teenagers have survived spending summers away,” Burt said, rolling his eyes. “I was going to bring this up to you, anyway. You’re getting older. Bobby still hunts. He can train you better than I can, if you still want training.” Kurt looked away. Before Burt had met Carole, they had talked about Kurt’s hunting.

Kurt’s mother had been a hunter. They told everyone it had been a car accident, but it had been a werewolf that had killed her, and turned her partner (not Burt. Burt had his own hunting buddies, and they had decided when Kurt was born that only one of them would hunt at a time). It had been killed the following moon by Burt and John Winchester, and his two young sons. It had been Sam’s first hunt. Burt had seen how John had talked to his boys, saw the loss of his wife fresh in his eyes though it had been years, and had vowed to continue Kurt’s training only as much as it would help protect his boy, and had retired from hunting himself. When Kurt’s bullying had begun in earnest in High School, Kurt had approached him, asking him to up his skills. Burt had refused then, saying Kurt’s job was to be a teenager, and that he could make the decision on hunting as an adult--that they would redress the issue when Kurt turned eighteen. Kurt had pouted, but accepted the logic. Kurt would be eighteen this summer.

But now they had Carole and Finn in the house. They didn’t know about hunting. How would they explain Kurt disappearing for the summer?

Well, the hockey team had just provided them with a good excuse. Kurt felt himself opening up to the idea despite himself.

“What am I going to say to Blaine?” He asked, instead.

Burt raised an eyebrow. Kurt knew Burt liked Blaine well enough, but things had never really been easy between them, so much as civil. He knew Burt couldn’t care what Blaine would say about it.

“You’re my son,” Burt said. “And that means I’m going to put you first, no matter what anyone says. If he loves you as much as you say he does, he’ll understand and want your safety first.”

Kurt chewed his lip and looked at the floor. A summer of training.

“Does Uncle Bobby still have the salvage yard?” He asked. “Because if he does, I’ll have to start packing now to accessorize with rusted metal.” Kurt smirked at his father. Burt grinned, coming over to hug his son.

“That’s my boy,” he said. “I’ll call Bobby now, and then drive you home.”

“Dad,” Kurt protested. “I can drive.”

“Humor an old man,” Burt said, picking up the phone and pulling out an old and stained leather journal, flipping through the pages. “I’ll drive you back in the morning.”

“Fine,” Kurt said, standing gingerly. His father was probably right, but it galled. “I’ll get my toolkit together, anyway. Might as well start packing for the trip. I don’t want to have to rely on anybody else’s tools.” Kurt waved at his father with his fingers and entered the main garage as he heard his father, behind him.

“Hello, Bobby? It’s Burt. Burt Hummel.”

***

“All right,” Bobby said into the phone. “I’ll expect him day after tomorrow. Take care, Burt.” He hung up the phone, and surveyed the kitchen. If Burt’s son was coming, that meant a house guest, hunter or not. He should probably clean a bit. He took a swig of his beer. It would be a good break when the research made his back act up. He’d tackle it tomorrow; for the moment, he had a visitor.

Sheriff Jody Mills raised her eyebrow at Bobby. “Company?” She asked, and took a sip of her own beer. It was something Bobby appreciated in her; that candid quality that was so typical of good police officers. Fake that, and your work was half done.

“An old hunting buddy. His son is eighteen this summer and Burt wants me to whip him into Hunting shape.” Bobby thought back to what he knew of Burt. Nice guy. Not sure how he got into the business; wasn’t a family death, guy was too cheerful by half. Had met Elizabeth while on a hunt and hit it off. They had brought Kurt around a few times before she had died; Burt had given it up after, one of the few who did, to raise his son. Though, apparently, he wasn’t as out of the life as Bobby had thought.

“And the rest of it?” Jody asked. Bobby scowled. That was something he didn’t appreciate so much; her damned intuition.

“I know the kid. His mom was a Hunter too, and a damned good one. She died ten years back, and that was the last time I saw him, but...” He paused. Took a deep breath. “There are some things you can just tell at an early age. Hell, take one look at the kid, and you can tell he’s gayer than a basketful of Liberaces, and just as flamboyant, from what I remember.” He held up a hand at Jody’s look. “And don’t give me that look, Sheriff. I couldn’t give two shits if that kid were gay or just wants to be a pretty, pretty princess. But this is a hard life, full of small minded bigots, and if he’s gonna be Hunting, he’s gonna face a lot more shit than he has to.” He sighed. “Though from what Burt just told be, he already does.”

“Bullies?” Jody asked.

“A hockey team-full. Burt had to chase ‘em off with his shotgun.”

Jody whistled. “And he wants to come here? We have a good town, but Sioux Falls isn’t exactly progressive.

Bobby shrugged and sat back in his chair. “He’s not coming for the Sadie Hawkins Dance; he’s coming to learn to fight. How to Hunt. Burt thinks getting out of Dodge might be a good idea; out of sight out of mind.” Bobby drained his beer. “And I wouldn’t encourage anybody to enter the life, but that kid was born into it, and if he’s going to be fighting anyway, he might as well learn it right.” He thunked his beer on the table, and Jody passed him a fresh one.

“And what was that saying about your--what? Nephew?”

“Noah, yeah. My cousin’s kid.” Jody picked at the label of her beer. “For years, I only heard from Rina on the High Holy Days,” at Burt’s raised eyebrows, she said. “Yes, she’s Jewish. So is Noah. It’s part of the reason why we don’t really talk. My parents raised me protestant, and she’s never really forgiven that.”

Bobby grunted. He tried not to get involved with people’s religions; which made the last few years more than a little ironic. He felt, as a Hunter, that he knew too much about the things people believed in, or used to believe in, or refused to believe in, to have much stock in religion. Priests were useful, though. For holy water.

“Yeah,” Jody laughed. It sounded a bit bitter to Bobby’s ears. “Rina can be a trip. Anyway, a little over a year ago, she starts calling more often.” Her voice shifted, becoming a bit more nasal. “Noah is acting out. He’s gotten a Mohawk. She’s never seen them, but she’s sure he’s been pierced. She thinks he’s sleeping around.” She took a sip, her voice going back to normal. “That one’s true. He knocked up his best friend’s girl his sophomore year. Then she calls because he’s landed in Juvie, and she doesn’t know what to do. I tell her that there’s some deeper issue and to talk to him. Next thing I know, she asking if Noah can stay for the summer, so I can straighten him out, and something about a Mrs. Robinson, but she was pretty hysterical by that point. I said yes, of course. Family, you know. But now, on top of keeping the town in order, and dealing with all your shit--” Here Bobby snorted, but Jody kept on, “I’ve got to deal with a snotty teen who thinks he’s a badass.”

“Welcome to hell,” Bobby saluted her with his beer, and Jody smirked at him. “Teenagers. I thought I’d finished with that when Sam went off to college.”

“No rest for the wicked, Bobby.” She paused. “I was thinking--”

“No.” Bobby shook his head. He knew that tone. That was the I’m going to make a request that you would give your left nut to not do, but you’re going to do it anyway tone. He hated that tone.

“Bobby, you don’t know what I was going to ask.”

“I don’t need to,” Bobby said, standing. He didn’t wobble; he was too much as old hat for that. Too old, anyway. “The answer’s no.” Ain’t no way he was going to take on another teenager. It was bad enough when both his boys were in town, and they were adults, supposedly.

“Don’t make me remind you of how much you owe me, Bobby. Really.”

Bobby sipped his beer. It was nice having the Sheriff on his side and damn useful now that Leviathan was out there, but Mills knew too much to be let loose. Besides, Jody reminded him just a bit of Ellen, and he always knew better than to piss Ellen off. He wasn’t always successful, but he always tried.

“I’m not asking if he could stay here. Just--a job. Something to keep him occupied during the day. You do still run a salvage yard. He can help with that.”

“Jody,” Bobby sighed. “I’m gonna be full up teaching Kurt how to be a Hunter. You really think I can do that with some kid, no offense, running around?”

“Hunting is about discipline, isn’t it?” Jody said, sipping her beer like she had already won. How the hell do women do that? “Noah sounds like the kind of kid who can use a little discipline.”

Bobby scowled. “Not a good idea, Jody.”

“Just try it,” Jody asked. And damn him if he couldn’t say no when Jody talked like that. “And if it fails horribly, I’ll leave him cuffed in my car while I’m at work.”

Bobby snorted. She would, too. For an hour or so, just to scare the kid.

“And who knows,” Jody continued. “Maybe fighting monsters will keep him from fighting everything else in his life.”

Jody stood and Bobby watched as she dumped the empty bottled in the trash and put on her hat. “I’ve got to go. He’ll be at the bus stop in an hour, and I should be there.” She hesitated in the doorway.

Damn it to hell, woman. “Give Kurt time to settle in here. Send Noah around in a couple days, and I’ll find something for him to do.”

“Thanks, Bobby,” She said, and ducked back in to kiss his cheek before leaving in a swirl of khaki and Dove soap.

“And if that kid goes by Noah, ” Bobby said to the empty kitchen. “I’ll eat my bibles. All twenty-nine translations.”

***

It was dark when the Greyhound finally arrived in Sioux Falls. Puck waited until the bus stopped, and the people around him stood and shifted and start to file out before he moved, uncurling himself from around his guitar. He lost the suspicious old lady in Chicago, but picked up--get this--a nun , who started and crossed herself when Puck stretched his arms up. Puck didn’t flinch away from her, but it was a near thing. He wasn’t bad, certainly not anything to be warded against. True, Puck’s pretty sure he went against everything the nun stands for, like, he’s the anti-nun. He wondered, idly, while waiting for her to make her way off the bus, how she would react to him being Jewish, as well. Maybe a black hole would form, right here at the bus depot. At least then he wouldn’t have to worry about his summer sucking so hard.

Puck was one of the last people off the bus, moving stiffly as he carried his guitar in front of him, and his backpack was heavy over his left shoulder. Somebody had unloaded the undercarriage, and there are a few unclaimed bags lying on the ground, including Puck’s. Which is good, he thought as he picked it up. It would suck to have to get all new stuff.

The depot was mostly empty. Which, you know, makes sense for ass o’clock at night. He headed towards the depot building, wondering how he’s going to find his Aunt Judy. Last time he saw her, he was, like, 4, and he didn’t quite remember what she looked like. And, unless his mom sent a picture, she wouldn’t recognize him.

“Noah?” he heard. He looked and felt his heart stutter, just a bit, with knee-jerk fear. The speaker was a woman, a Sheriff, still in uniform, though her hat was missing. Her hair was brown, like his mother’s, and pulled back from her face. She was looking at him expectantly, the same way his arresting officer had; I know I’m asking a question, but we both know the answer to this, kid. Puck felt his stomach sink. This summer was going to suck.

“Yeah,” Puck said. He cleared his throat; his voice was a little rough. “Aunt Jody?”

“One and only,” Jody said. She looked him up and down, and Puck tried not to squirm. He could imagine all the things his mother had said, and bit back the questions that would let him know just how much she had poisoned the well. It was too late--too early?--to deal with Rina Puckerman’s paranoia.

Jody smiled suddenly, and Puck blinked. It changed her entire face, and Puck felt the knot of tension in his back ease, just a smidgen. “Well,” She said. “You’ve certainly grown.”

Puck snorted out a laugh, shifting his backpack on his shoulder. “Had to happen sometime, right?”

Jody narrowed her eyes at him, but Puck didn’t sense the same wariness as before. Still, he sifted under her scrutiny before Jody gestured for him to give her a bag to carry, and follow him to her car.

“I got it,” Puck said, shifting his grip. “Really.” Jody gave him that look again, but opened the trunk of her--Puck stopped. Jody looked at him and laughed. She took his bags and put them in the back of the Sheriff’s car.

“It’s the only car I got,” she said. “So relax. You’re family. I promise to only make you ride in the back if you really piss me off.” She slammed the trunk and Puck sank into the front passenger seat. The console was bigger than any car he had been in, covered with bits of tech from knobs and speakers to what looked to be a laptop. Jody climbed in behind the wheel. “Don’t touch anything,” she said. Puck just nodded.

Jody started the car, and started to talk as they drive away from the depot. “It’s about a twenty minute drive to my house,” she said. “We’ll get you settled in for the night, and can talk more about what to expect while you’re here, tomorrow.”

Puck nodded again and Jody arched an eyebrow. “You know,” she started. “From what your mother told me, I thought you’d be louder.”

“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear,” Puck muttered. He mentally slapped himself for mouthing back; you don’t mouth back to a uniform, but he had been on a bus for way too long getting stared at by old women and nuns and it was too early or too late or both, and Puck just couldn’t bring himself to really care.

But Jody just nodded. “Aint’ that the truth.”

They rode in silence back to her house. Once they were inside, Jody let Puck to the guest room. The walls were painted blue, a shade like a little kid would like, though the furniture was adult-sized and obviously from IKEA. He placed his bags on his bed, and leaned his guitar against the wall.

“I’ll let you settle in for the night,” Jody said. “Bathroom’s down the hall. Things happen pretty early around here, generally, but I got the late shift tomorrow, so I’ll be here when you wake up.”

Puck nodded, his mind already blanking for sleep, as he pulled his things from his pockets.

“Goodnight, Noah,” Jody said, and Puck’s mouth made his decision for him.

“‘s Puck,” he said. Jody paused.

“What was that?”

“My friends call me Puck,” he said, the words coming in a rush. They had called him Noah at Juvie, too, and all he could think was they don’t have the right. “Mom and Nana call me Noah. But I hate that name.”

Jody nodded, slowly. “Alright. Goodnight, Puck.”

“Goodnight,” Puck said. “And Aunt Jody?” She turned around again, looking, to Puck, a bit annoyed. He shifted awkwardly. “Thanks.”

“You’re family,” She said, and left. Puck looked around the strange room, thought about unpacking his bags, but instead decided to shower and dug into one for fresh boxers. He had to get the stink of bus off of him.

After his shower, Puck fell face first onto the bed, and slept until he was awoken by the sun shining in the window. He winced away from the light where it dazzled his eyes, even though they were closed. Pulling back into shadow, he opened his eyes and looked at the clock. 8 a.m. Puck groaned and covered his face with his hands. He never slept late at someone else’s house. He never could. Even when he really wanted to. He sat up. Might as well get this over with.

He might be turning over a new leaf, and everything, but he was still a badass. And badasses never backed down from anything; especially not slightly scary aunts.

Once dressed, Puck made his way down stairs and into the kitchen, where Jody was sitting, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper, dressed in an old men’s t-shirt and jeans. It hit Puck hard that his Uncle was dead; he remembered his mother telling him about it when it happened, that they had a closed casket funeral, but had never expected to see the evidence in front of him. He paused in the doorway. Jody looked up.

“Morning, Puck.” She said. “There’s coffee, there. Eggs and cereal if you want breakfast.”

“Thanks,” he said, and fixed himself a mug of coffee, and a bowl of cereal, not quite ready to cook.

“You’re up earlier than I expected,” Jody said once Puck sat. Puck shrugged, shoveling the cereal into his mouth.

Jody sighed. “I’ll be honest with you, Puck,” Jody said. “I’ve heard a lot about you, and a lot of it wasn’t very good.”

Puck stopped eating, swallowing hard and putting the spoon down, his cereal half-eaten. Here it comes.

“But if there’s one thing I’ve learned doing this job, in this town, is that sometimes you can’t listen to what other people say. Sometimes, you have to experience it for yourself. So far,” Jody went on, “I’ve seen nothing that matches what your mother has told me, except for that hair,” she said. Puck smiled ruefully and ran a hand over his head.

“What this comes down to, is that I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. You’ve fucked up.” Puck’s head jerked up in surprise. It wasn’t that he wasn’t used to adults cursing, his mother did it all the time, but it seemed strange coming from Aunt Jody, who was a sheriff and kept such a nice house and wasn’t judging him. “But that’s what being a teenager is about. Learning lessons.” She gave him that narrow look again. “And you have learned them, haven’t you.”

“Yeah,” Puck said. Juvie--he was never putting himself in a position to back there, to be locked away at all. And nothing hurt worse than Beth. “Not that anybody in Lima really notices.” Not even everyone in Glee had noticed. Finn had. And Santana. And he was almost sure Brittany had. Kurt had even said that he was impressed by Puck’s maturity--by which he meant acceptance of his social downfall, but still.

Jody hummed. “Well, then maybe it’s a good thing you’re not in Lima.”

“Yeah,” Puck said. “Maybe.”

“Now, business,” Jody said, putting down her coffee mug. “As Sheriff, I get some leeway with my schedule, but I still have to be there. I’m not going to be around all that often.”

Puck nodded, feeling his heart sink a little. Well, maybe he’d get a chance to really commune with his guitar.

“So, I’ve a job for you.”

Puck blinked. “What kind of job?”

Jody smiled. “I think you’ll like it. It’s with Singer Salvage, on the edge of town. Bobby’s a friend of mine, for all that he’s a real son-of-a-bitch sometimes. It’ll get you outside, and keep you moving, and put some money in your pocket.”

Puck frowned. He was pretty sure he’s seen horror movies that start in places called things like “Singer Salvage.” “And he’s not gonna mind having some ‘punk kid’ hanging around all summer?” At Jody’s look, Puck said. “I know what I look like, you know.”

Jody smiled. There was something devious about that smile. “He’ll deal. And so will you. Besides,” Jody says. “He’s putting up another boy about your age this summer. Who knows, maybe you’ll make friends.”

“Yeah,” Puck said. Not a chance, Puck thought.

“Good.” Jody said. “You start Friday.”

***

It was a fourteen hour drive from Lima, Ohio to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Kurt made it in thirteen, and he hoped that thirteen wasn’t one of the bad luck charms that would count as some kind of omen for the summer. That was the worst thing about being half-trained; enough knowledge to know that some superstitions were true, but not enough to know which.

Kurt turned down the driveway, past the sign that said Singer Salvage in large, uneven letters. The house was at the end of the lane, next to the garage that held the sign aloft. Kurt parked the Nav and looked at the building; it was old and worn, but well patched. He was suddenly very glad that he had left most of his designer clothes at home, packing mostly inexpensive (yet still well-fitting) jeans and t-shirts. And Kurt wasn’t an idiot; he knew that hunting and fashion didn’t mix, and knew the importance of dressing the part, no matter what the part was. And this far from Lima, it wasn’t like anyone would know if his part wasn’t a walking fashion show.

It was freeing, in a way. It wasn’t that Kurt didn’t love fashion as much as he said he did, but life in Lima was all about appearances and keeping up his fashionista persona was hard work. It would be nice to let his hair down, so to speak, without having to worry about anyone asking him if he was okay, or telling him to just be himself.

Realizing he had been staring at the house for longer than he probably should have been Kurt shook himself and got stiffly out of the car; thirteen hours was a long time in the car for anyone. He was just getting one of his bags out of the car, he had three, when the front door opened and an older, bearded man walked onto the porch.

Kurt smiled. The man looked just the same. “Uncle Bobby!” He grinned, and walked over to say hello.

Bobby smiled back, looking a little like he hadn’t had a lot to smile about recently, and opened his arms for a hug. Bobby was warm, and distantly familiar like most things from his childhood, but he still smelled of gun oil, books, and whiskey, and Kurt felt himself relaxing. “Good to see ya, Kurt,” Bobby said, and took a step back, holding Kurt at arm’s length. “You must hear it a lot, but damn, you look like your mom.”

Kurt smiled, but it wasn’t as sad as it would have been a few years ago. After all, he loved his mother, he always will, but his dad and he had Carole, now, and the hole in his family was mending. “I get “sound like” more than “hear like,” but yeah, Dad’s mentioned.”

Bobby nodded like he had heard what Kurt didn’t say, and started down the porch steps. “Let’s get your stuff inside, and I’ll tell you about your training, and you can tell me about those bullies your father mentioned.”

Kurt groaned. “I’m sick of talking about insignificant assholes that aren’t worth the breath they breathe,” he grumbled.

“And yet, you’re here,” Bobby said, raising an eyebrow at Kurt. “And not there.”

Kurt sniffed. “I am here to learn to hunt. Like my mother. They just happened at just the right time to make it seem like I’m running.”

Bobby snorted and lifted the two other bags. “Ain’t nothing wrong with running, kid,” he said.

Kurt closed up the Nav and followed Bobby into the house. He was led up the stairs to the second floor, around a winding hallway and into what was obviously a guest bedroom. It had a twin bed that had seen better days, a scarred desk, and a wardrobe that looked older than the house--and not in an antique kind of way. However, it was clean, the linens freshly washed and the floor swept, and it was enough to keep Kurt from wincing when he put his bag on the bed and the mattress squeaked. Bobby put the other two bags by the wardrobe, and looked Kurt over.

“Come on to the kitchen,” Bobby said. “I know a bit about teenage boys, and you must be hungry.”

Kurt’s stomach growled and he covered it with a hand. He laughed, a bit sheepish, but Bobby just led the way back downstairs and into the large avocado-green kitchen. Kurt paused in the doorway, looking at the walls in horror, before shaking himself. He was a guest in this home, and it wasn’t his place to criticize. He cast another glance and wondered how just how long he’d hold out.

“You’re not one of those vegetarians, are you?” Bobby asked, his head in his fridge.

“No,” Kurt said. “Everyone seems to think I am, though.” Bobby looked at him, and Kurt smiled his best earnest smile. “Oh, well I’m gay, you know. So that must mean that I’m like a girl, and everyone knows girls live on air and diet soda. A-ha!” He finished with a fake titter, and held the face for a moment, before his resolve broke and he laughed at the look of horror on Bobby’s face. “Lima,” Kurt enunciated through a smirk, “Is full. Of idiots.”

“We live in a world of idjits,” Bobby said, and pulled a Tupperware container out of the freezer. He popped the lid to show Kurt the lasagna, and put it in the microwave.

“Truer words,” Kurt said softly.

Bobby fished in the refrigerator again. “I got beer, more beer, or milk.”

Kurt raised an eyebrow. “You’d really give me beer?”

Bobby shrugged. “You’re going to be Hunting. A man can Hunt, a man can drink. But only,” Bobby pointed his finger, “in my house.”

“Milk’s fine,” Kurt said. “I’ve done the drinking-for-emotional-fortitude thing. I’m not keen to repeat the experience.”

“Oh?” Bobby asked, pulling out the milk. Kurt waved a hand.

“I went to school dressed like a wino, and puked on my guidance councilor's shoes.” He paused. “Granted, they were ugly shoes, and I thought she was Bambi at the time, but still.”

Bobby put Kurt’s drink on the table. “And school was that terrifying?”

Kurt looked at his hands. “Sometimes. Before Glee, I was tossed in dumpsters every day. I’ve had swirlies and atomic wedgies. I once spent half the day locked in a locker. I’ve been hit by every flavor of slushie. I’ve been pushed, kicked, shoved, and threatened. They’ve called me pansy, and queer, and homo, and faggot. And when they don’t, especially when they don’t because I don’t see it coming, I’m treated as lesser. Or invisible. Or as a girl. Even the teachers, one calls me Ladyface, and another--my Glee advisor, by the way--tells me that I’m imagining things. Or he’ll let Rachel yell at him over nothing, but if I have a legitimate issue, I get sent to the principal.” Kurt drank his milk and the microwave beeped. Bobby didn’t move, just looked at Kurt with old eyes. “So yeah. School can be terrifying.”

“And you wanna Hunt?”

“Monsters you can fight, and win.” Bobby nodded after a long moment, and put the lasagna on a plate for Kurt. He handed it over, and sat down with a beer for himself.

“Your Dad told me you’ve been keeping up with the physical training.”

Kurt nodded. “It’s been easy. When I was on the Cheerios, we had mandatory mixed martial arts lessons. I kept the lessons when I left the squad. And Dad and I still have our “boy’s night” at the range, just to keep my accuracy up.” He shrugs. “If anyone asks, I tell them I was busy with gay stuff. They don’t ask any farther than that.”

Bobby snorted. “Well, I’m gonna wanna see where you are. We can do that tomorrow. But we’ll be focusing on book-learning at first, either way. A Hunter’s greatest asset is information. And the ability to bullshit convincingly,” Bobby paused with the beer in his hand. “I’m pretty sure you’ve got that covered.”

Kurt smiled a “who? me?” smile and polished off the pasta. With his father’s heart healthy diet, it had been too long since he’s had meat sauce on anything.

“But you’ll get some practice at Hunting around people who don’t know.” Bobby scowled. “Sheriff Mills has her cousin’s kid in town, and she blackmailed me into giving him a job. I give him a week before I scare him off, but until then, you’ll hit the books and learn your double-talk.”

Kurt repressed a sigh. More hiding. Wonderful. But he nodded, and stood to put his plate in the sink. It didn’t take long to wash a plate, a fork, and a cup, and when he was done, he excused himself to call his father, to let him know he’d arrived safe.

“Try and get some sleep, if you can,” Bobby said. “We’ll be starting early tomorrow.”

As he walked up the stairs he felt vaguely guilty for not calling as soon as he got there, but really, he had arrived early and his father wasn’t going to be expecting the call yet. So he was fine.

He texted Blaine before calling his father, letting him know he was safe, and that if Blaine wanted to talk, to text Kurt back and he’d call when he was off the phone with his father. He hung up, placing the phone on the nightstand next to the bed, so he could hear the chime. He went to the bathroom for his evening skin care routine. He changed into his pajamas. He crawled into bed, suddenly exhausted. He woke up as the sun rose into his window.

Blaine had never texted.

***

Dean wasn’t okay, and Sam didn’t know how to fix it. Sam rested leaned his head back and closed his eyes, letting the familiar rumble and sway of the Impala lull him. Dean was driving them home from another hunt, a routine haunting that had quickly become nasty when it turned out to be three ghosts instead of one, and they were both sore from digging, not to mention the aching bruises from being thrown around by the spirits. After everything that happened, they were working more like a team than ever, but--this job shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. Those spirits wouldn’t have caused them half that trouble even two years ago.

True, they were getting old. Dean was over thirty, and Sam would be there in only a couple more years, (if they lived that long) and they had taken more physical abuse than anyone he had known, Hunter or not. But--this was something more. This was something-- broken.

When Castiel had died, and boy did he know what kinda shit Dean would give him if he knew Sam thought that, that it was a death, even if Dean talked that way himself (and Sam knew, knew, that Dean didn’t believe it, and was trying, in his own way, to make things easier to bear)--when Castiel had died, Dean had shut down. Bottled it up the way he did all big emotions, until they nearly died and something cracked and then Dean was crying in the middle of a field, covered in blood and ichor, clutching a tan trench-coat.

But then again, Sam wasn’t okay, either. He shifted in his seat, trying to get a better angle to relieve the pressure on his lower back, or ease the ache in his legs; he was used to the confines of the Impala, had grown into and around the car like a tree grows around a fence, but there was no substitute for a bed long enough for his limbs.

Sam had patched and pulled his mind together as much as he could after the walls came crumbling down, but it was like trying to walk a line with holographic goggles; he knew reality was there, but could only hope he hit it when he put his foot down. Dean knew--he had helped Sam learn how to cope--but Dean was acting like he couldn’t tell Sam was cracking further every day, so Sam tried harder, hid it deeper, and wondered how things could get so fucked so quickly, skittering away from thoughts of destiny and the notion that these events couldn’t be avoided.

It was getting harder to hide the crazy. Sam rubbed his palm absently. Something had to give.

Dean hadn’t said a word since they drove away from the Hunt, turning up the radio. Thunderstruck growled from the radio, but Dean didn’t bob his head, didn’t tap along on the wheel, and didn’t sing under his breath like he did when he thought Sam was asleep.

Castiel was dead, Sam was crazy, and Dean just stopped. Sam didn’t know how to restart his brother, and was just idly wondering if it wouldn’t take some divine intervention, and how weird was their lives that that wasn’t entirely outside the realm of possibility, when Dean swore and sat up straighter behind the wheel. Sam gave up on pretending to sleep, and looked through the front window.

They had been squatting in an old farmhouse, dilapidated and infested, but it had a working water pump and a mostly intact roof. Now, however, the roof was mostly gone, a large hole had punched its way through, leaving the edges charred. What little glass was left in the windows was gone and, as Dean brought the car to a stop, a dangling piece of shingle finally gave up and fell.

“The hell?” Sam asked, and squeezed his eyes shut, pressing hard against his palm. The pain shot through him like ice in his veins, and he felt the world settle. He looked and felt his heart skip. No way--it couldn’t--his lifeline couldn’t fail now. There’s no way he could be seeing this, he--

Dean made a broken sound next to him and Sam realized Dean saw it, too. Sam wasn’t crazy, or, hadn’t turned that final corner. Then the full meaning of what he saw settled in, and Sam scrambled for the door. He had to get out; he had to see before Dean did, because if Sam was right--if Sam was right, it could kill him.

But Dean was faster, and Sam tried to push himself, but still ran into the house after Dean, nearly running him over when Dean stopped still.

Lying on the floor, sprawled at almost inhuman angles and covered with soot and nothing else, was Castiel.

Sam looked him over, ignoring the squiggles at the edges of his vision; Castiel looked better than the last time Sam had seen him, which wasn’t saying much. He no longer had black veins crawling up his neck and across his face, and he was, well, in one piece.

He looked strangely--human.

Sam found himself fascinated by the dark, tender skin around Castiel’s eyes; had he always had that? Did it always look so--

Dean turned and pushed past Sam, out the door. Sam almost followed, but he knew Dean wouldn’t stray far. Not with Castiel here. He would yell and break things and threaten, but never leave. Sam made his way over to Castiel, treading carefully around traps he was sure weren’t there, but he figured he’d better be safe than sorry.

Carefully, Sam started to move him, relieved to find that Castiel was living-warm, and tried to arrange him more comfortably, rolling him as best he could onto the closest sleeping bag. There were no obvious wounds, but Castiel was unconscious, and had been for how long Sam didn’t know, and Sam wanted Dean to come back.

And Dean did, faster than Sam had anticipated. He paused for a moment when he saw Sam touching Castiel, but walked over quickly enough, and draped something over Castiel. When Dean backed away, Sam saw what it was.

“You kept his coat?” Sam said. His voice croaked and cracked in the middle. He wondered how long it had been since he last talked. A while.

“Knew he’d need it,” Dean said. And that was that.

Except not quite. Dean had a wild look in his eye, a kind Sam hadn’t seen since Alistair, and he had a muscle in his jaw twitching. His hand shifted restlessly, like he was trying to grasp something, and Sam was pretty sure it was a drink. Dean’s eyes never left Cas’s face.

“I’m going to get some clean water,” Sam said quietly, and left the house for the water pump by the barn, pausing only to pick up the sauce pot they had been using for a wash bowl. It was a warm summer night, cool enough to keep them from sweating, but warm enough to set off the buzz and chirp of mosquitoes and crickets.

Sam placed the pot next to him, and pumped the handle a few times to warm up the pump, and wash out any stagnant water. The water pumped clean after a few spurts, and Sam put the pot under the spout and had it filled in two pumps. He caught a little water on his hands and splashed his face, wiping over his hair, and down his neck. It felt better than it had any right to, and Sam wished they had found a place with a working shower.

So Cas is back, Sam thought, leaning against the pump for a moment.

You’ll believe he’s real, and you won’t believe me? Sam closed his eyes, tensing. Closing your eyes won’t make the monsters go away, Sammy.

Sam looked and Lucifer waggled his fingers at him, smug little grin firmly in place. You can’t get rid of me so easily, he said. You’re too smart to believe that.

“Smart has nothing to do with it,” Sam muttered. He grabbed the pot and fairly ran back into the farmhouse. He wasn’t followed.

At first, it didn’t look like Dean had moved. But when Sam looked, he saw Dean had reached out, and was holding Castiel’s hand, rubbing his thumb over his knuckles. Castiel shifted, the first movement Sam had seen, and blinked his eyes. His mouth moved, forming words without sound. Dean, he said, and tightened his fingers around Dean’s.

“Cas,” Dean said, and didn’t move.

This is it, Sam realized, suddenly. The breaking point.

Castiel closed his eyes and the tension left his body. Asleep, again. Sam couldn’t help but think they were living on borrowed time as of this moment.

“We can’t leave him here,” Sam said.

“I know,” Dean said.

“We need to go someplace to regroup and heal. Figure out what happened.”

“There’s nothing to figure out,” Dean said. He stood.

“Dean--”

“We’ll head to Bobby’s in the morning,” Dean said. Sam watched Dean, but Dean never looked away from Castiel. Sam bit his lip and watched Dean. Dean glanced at him and rolled his eyes. The move was so normal Sam almost smiled. “All of us.”

“Good,” Sam said.

“Bitch.” Dean said over his shoulder, and splashed water over his own face. “Get some fucking sleep.”

“Night, Jerk.” Sam said. He stretched out on his sleeping bag. He was too tall, still, but at least when he hung over the edges, his limbs weren’t actually hanging. He closed his eyes, and tried to sleep, already impatient to leave behind the old farmhouse with the hole in its roof and the iron dust shaped like Angel’s Wings.

***

When Puck awoke on Friday, he found a missed call and a voice message from Jody, telling him that she was caught up at work and couldn’t drive him over to the salvage yard. There was a bike in the garage he could use, just don’t forget his key. He groaned and flopped back onto his bed. Great.

He dressed and made his way to the kitchen, drinking a cup of coffee while he waited for his bagel to toast. He ate standing up against the counter, his mind playing out scenarios of how it could go, including one that he was pretty sure was actually the plot of The Sandlot.

Unable to put it off any longer, Puck rinsed his mug, grabbed his wallet, phone, and keys, and dug the bike out of the garage. It was a men’s mountain bike, at least ten years old and covered in dust. It had probably belonged to Jody’s husband. Feeling only a little weird about using a dead man’s bike, Puck rode off down the road Jody had told him would take him over the bridge and out to Singer Salvage.

Puck pulled up in front of the gates to the yard. He was breathing heavy, shirt damp in the growing morning heat. Wiping the sweat from his face, he looked over the property.

It looked--like a salvage yard; like someplace the fight club would have met. Puck shifted; the thought left an odd taste in his mouth, something half-wistful, half-shame. He got off the bike. There was no reason to stand there. Badasses didn’t hover in doorways. Badasses didn’t hesitate.

Puck ignored the voice that said that attitude might be the cause of his problems. It sounded too much like his mother for him to listen to.

As he passed through the gates, something glinted on the fence, the flash catching his eye. Puck stopped, and looked closer.

The fence was twofold, metal chain-link in front of tall wood planks. There were bits and pieces of metal woven through the chain-link, forming patterns. Symbols. They looked old, too, worn by weather. Puck had seen pictures of things like this before, found object art made by hippies to make things like abandoned buildings look pretty ’n’ shit. The part that caught Puck’s eye was part of a pattern that looked a hellova lot like Hebrew. So much so, that as Puck walked the bike up the drive, he wondered what kind of salvage yard would need a Hebrew blessing of protection hidden in found object art on its front gate.

Puck rounded the corner and saw the house ahead. There was music playing on an old stereo on the front porch, a song Puck recognized as one Carole would play when he was younger and over at Finn’s house; Blue Collar Man by Styx. Movement drew his eye, and he saw a slender man dressed in mechanics blues, moving his hips to the beat as he was bent over the engine of a car. His face was hidden from Puck, and Puck took a moment to --ahem-- appreciate--the way the blues stretched tight, emphasizing the way the muscles moved as the man danced. Puck smirked. It was a nice ass; tight, and firm, and familiar--

Wait.

Puck knew that ass.

“Kurt?”

The ass froze, and Kurt Hummel pulled his head out of the car’s engine. His hair was wilder than Puck had ever seen it, he had a streak of grease across one cheek, and his eyes were wide with surprise. His mouth fell open and Puck had to swallow. He looked like one of Puck’s favorite fantasies.

“Puck? Kurt’s voice was high, and a bit strangled. He coughed and turned away, hitting the power button on the stereo with enough force to knock it backwards. “Shit,” he muttered, and Puck raised an eyebrow, feeling his smirk return. He would never get tired of seeing Kurt caught unawares. Kurt dropped the wrench he held on the porch, and turned back to Puck, nervously smoothing his hair. Puck considered telling Kurt that he had just smeared more grease into the style, but decided against it. If he played his cards right, he would get to see Kurt freak about it later.

“What are you--” Kurt started, and then stopped closing his eyes. “You’re the Sheriff’s nephew, aren’t you?”

“Cousin, technically,” Puck said, “but yeah. And you’re the boy Aunt Jody was hoping I’d make friends with.” He leaned the bike against a dusty old Ford, and saw a smile start on Kurt’s face.
“I dunno,” Kurt teased. “We have so little in common.”

Puck snorted. “Yeah. It’s not like we share any hobbies. Or interests. Or friends.”

Kurt laughed. “Well,” he said. “I was ready to face this summer alone, but it’ll be nice to have a friend around, after all.”

“Fuck, yeah,” Puck said, and leaned on the Ford himself. “So what brings you here?”

Kurt shrugged. “Bobby’s my uncle. Dad suggested staying for the summer, and I agreed.

Puck raised an eyebrow. “I thought you’d want to say in Lima, closer to your boy.”

Kurt’s face fell, and he turned away, rubbing his arm. The motion pushed up the short sleeve of the jumper and revealed a dark purple bruise. Puck was at Kurt’s side before he knew he was moving, pushing up the sleeve himself to see the injury. It was long, and had obviously been made with a stick of some kind.

“Who?” he asked.

“Cooper,” Kurt said.

“Cooper came after you?”

Kurt pulled his arm away. “No. The hockey team came after me. Cooper was just the one who left that.

Puck let his arm fall. He felt disconnected with his body, his fury rushing in his ears like his pulse, and he felt the need to lash out, to hit something. There was a sound like metal buckling, then pain in his toe. It was enough to break the haze. He looked at the dented car door in front of him. He had kicked it, in his anger. There were hands on his shoulders, pulling, and he let them walk him back. Someone was speaking, and--Kurt. Kurt was talking to him, pulling him away.

“...don’t need to break something, damn it, Puck.”

“Sorry,” Puck said. His voice shook. “It just--I thought it was getting better. We put the fear of Puckasaurus into those fucks.”

“They don’t learn,” Kurt said. “Especially not when they travel in packs. And flying off like this is why you’re here, isn’t it?”

Puck scowled. Yeah, but-- “You’re my boy, Kurt. Nobody hurts you.”

Kurt snorted and let Puck go. “I’m a big boy, Puck. I can take care of myself.”

“Not saying you can’t,” Puck said, rolling his shoulders and trying to settle. He could still feel where Kurt has his hands. His boy was stronger than he looked. “I’m saying I should have been there to have your back. You don’t have to fight alone.” He shrugged with one shoulder. “Not anymore.”

Kurt looked away, and Puck was pretty sure the pink in his cheeks wasn’t from the sun. “Thank you, Puck.”

Puck shrugged again, but stood a little taller. Kurt had gone from being the only one fighting to having other people fighting his battles. This was probably the first time somebody offered to stand with him, and not for him.

A screen door slammed, and Puck turned back to the house. And older man, younger than Puck expected but still grey, stood on the porch scowling from underneath a trucker hat. Puck tried not to shift. There was something about the guy that reminded him of Burt Hummel--and especially after everything that happened with Kurt’s bullying, everybody knew not to piss off Burt.

Singer spoke. “You must be Mills’s nephew.” His voice was exactly what Puck expected, rough and tough and slightly pissed. Puck guessed he wasn’t too keen on having two teenage boys underfoot, even if Kurt was his nephew.

“Yes, sir.” Puck said, and stuck out a hand trying to remember everything about polite behavior he had ever heard from Coach Beiste. “Noah Puckerman. Everybody calls me Puck.”

Bobby looked at the hand, not taking it. Puck refused to take it back, refused to fidget. Badasses didn’t fidget. Especially not when channeling his best Rachel-Berry-if-she-wasn’t-crazy-oh-and-also-a-dude. He heard Kurt behind him.

“Puck is from Lima, too. He goes to school with me,” Kurt said. “We’re in Glee together.”

“And football, for a hot minute.” Puck said. “The dancing was kinda lame, but my boy can kick.”

“Didn’t hurt that I won your only game that season,” Kurt said, and Puck could hear the smirk in Kurt’s voice.

“Puck, huh?” Singer said, finally taking Puck’s hand. Singer’s hand was calloused and strong, but he didn’t try to crush Puck’s hand like some guys did; like they had something to prove. Singer didn’t need to. Mentally, Puck bowed low. He was in the presence of an original badass. “Interesting name.”

“Football,” Puck said. Shrugged.

“And mischief, from what I hear,” Singer said.

Puck swallowed. He had been anticipating this question. He spent a long time thinking about what to say. He hoped Singer believed him. “Teenagers can be stupid, sir,” he said. “But sometimes, it’s the only way to learn. I’m not proud of what I did, or who I was, but I am trying to do better.”

“And he is,” Kurt said. Puck looked over his shoulder, and Kurt shrugged. It was an elegant move, despite the grease and blues. “I’ve noticed,” Kurt said.

“The only one,” Puck muttered under his breath. He looked back at Singer.

Singer’s expression hadn’t changed. Puck doubted it ever did, but there was something lighter there.

“What do you know about cars?” Singer asked.

“Two years of auto shop,” Puck said. “B both times.”

Singer nodded. “I just got a new batch of Junkers in. You can help Kurt process them. He’ll show you what to look for. Start with that, and we’ll go from there.” He turned to go, stopped, turned back. “I’ll be in my office,” he said to Kurt.

“Okay, Uncle Bobby,” Kurt said.

“Thank you, sir,” Puck called. Singer raised an eyebrow at him, and Puck raised one back. What? he thought. I have manners, even If I pick and choose when to use them.

But Singer smirked at him. “Call me Bobby, kid,” he said, turning back to the house. He called back over his shoulder. “I ain’t ever been a ‘sir.’”

The screen door slammed again, and Puck looked over at Kurt, who was watching with a bemused expression.

“He likes you,” Kurt said. “I can tell.”

Puck snorted. “Yeah, well, tell me how you can tell, and I’ll be happy.”

Kurt just laughed, and briefly pressed a hand to Puck’s arm as he passed. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s get you a pair of overalls.”

Puck watched Kurt’s ass as he walked away for as long as he dared before following. The summer was starting to look up.