Mrs. Hummel, as she still delighted in being called, had everything planned out for her baby boy. The little baby's room had been decorated, the baby books read and reread, the house baby-proofed, and every imaginable plan drawn up to accommodate her baby boy's future wishes.
Mr. Hummel, who was okay with just being called Burt as he'd been Hummel his entire life, accommodated his wife's wishes gladly. To see her happy, glowing with true happiness and not just the pregnancy, was worth the ridiculousness of some of her plans. Though he could not pretend that it was Mrs. Hummel alone who planned, as Burt had already bought a baseball glove and a baseball, along with a small football, in the hopes that his son would grow up to love sports as he did.
So it is safe to say that both newlyweds had plans. It was just too bad that there was no plan, or room in their other plans, for Mrs. Hummel dying from a blood clot forming in her brain shortly after child birth, leaving Burt with a small screaming baby, a baby-proofed house and plans for every eventuality except facing those plans without his wife.
Still, broken though his heart may be, he promised to himself that in her memory, he'd make sure their son, little Kurt Hummel, was happy. No matter which of the plans he chose to follow.
Now, we fast-forward from Burt and his newly born son, to the introduction of this story's bad guy. Because every story must have a bad guy, and Kurt's story can be no exception. Keep in mind, however, as the story continues, that there are two types of bad guys in stories; those who are wolves in sheep's clothing and those who are sheep in wolves' clothing.
Kurt meets Noah Puckerman for the first time on his last day of preschool.
Noah's parents had just moved to town and his mother, who has been newly hired by the preschool to start working the next fall, thinks it would be fun to bring her son along as she visits her soon-to-be work place. While she's talking to her future co-workers, Noah runs around and plays with the other kids.
Kurt is in the sandbox, making his best sand castle of his life yet. He has his back to it for a moment, trying to locate the rake, and when he turns around, the sand castle is flattened under Noah. When the adults are around them, Noah claims it was an accident as he'd been too busy keeping an eye on the dragon coming after him to take much notice to where he was placing his feet. The adults tell him to be more careful next time, what if he'd run into Kurt, and manage to quiet Kurt down by having Noah apologize before one of the adults helps him build a new sand castle.
But as accidents are hard to understand for children and therefore mean very little to them, Kurt retaliates during nap time by adding glue and glitter to Noah's favorite jacket.
It's the first time they meet and the last for several years. In fact, they won't meet again until middle school. As it turns out, Noah Puckerman has a long memory.
By the time Kurt Hummel starts middle school, one could say that he is starting to find himself, more than most of the teenagers he'll spend the next couple of years with. His hair is usually immaculate, his clothes will grow more and more designer and body-conscious as the years pass, and his iPod is full of show tunes, the swing classics, amongst a bunch of other stuff.
One could also say that he is in denial about what exactly this appearance seems to mean to his fellow students, and it is his appearance which makes him a target. But over the years he will learn to adapt and take most of the things they throw at him in stride.
That is in the future, however, so it does come as a surprise when the first thing Noah Puckerman does when they meet for the second time, is put Kurt in a dumpster.
It's the beginning of several years of similar torment. Kurt becomes acquainted with dumpsters, lockers, toilets and trash cans. He sees his locker broken into, his stuff vandalized and his friends subjected to the same treatment. He hears every insult imaginable to Puck and his gang, and is thankful for the fact that they aren't too smart, so the names aren't really that good.
Kurt's way of fighting back is to ignore them, let it happen and right himself up afterwards. He is, after all, intelligent enough to know that he doesn't stand a chance of fighting back, but he can clean his clothes, wash his hair, buy new stuff and support the few friends he has.
In Biology, the teachers talk of Darwin and survival of the fittest. Puck and his friends whoop and cheer, flexing muscles, while Kurt tries his best not to say they've got it wrong; that it is those who use their brains who survive, while those with brawn die fighting.
All this, however, is not the beginning of the real story.
The real story begins at McKinley High School, where the Cheerios and the Jocks rule supreme. It begins with a spotlight suddenly shining on a club that has for years been largely ignored, to no real protests from anyone, namely Glee.
The reason for the sudden spotlight is Mr. Schuester, Spanish teacher and extreme optimist. He changes the name, makes everyone re-audition, and unbeknownst to everyone but him, blackmails the school's most popular jock, Finn Hudson, to join.
With Finn in Glee, his cohorts slowly trickle in. His cheerleading girlfriend, Quinn Fabray, joins along with two Cheerios, and soon there are football players in Glee too -- among them, one Noah Puckerman, or as he has been known since eight grade, Puck.
It is here, with the school in an uproar about whether Glee Club is cool or not now, with Kurt's sanctuary threatened by a bully he's felt himself unjustly targeted by for years, and with an invitation to a party about to be extended his way, that the real story starts, and the real story is all about how love sneaks up on you when you least expect it.
"If you ask me," Rachel whispers, which nobody had, "they must have some sort of nefarious purpose for joining."
"Better access to their victims?" Kurt suggests, not looking up from inspecting his nails. It's better than having to look across the room, at the rather alarming number of jocks and cheerleaders. They are most definitely outnumbered.
"I don't know," Artie says, "That's a lot of effort and we all leave with Mr. Schue. They've been in Glee for a couple of weeks now, and I'd say if anything, the times I find myself being laughed at are starting to lessen."
"They're biding their time," Kurt answers and looks up, because his nails can't get any cleaner without a professional manicure. He frowns as he catches the tail-end of Puck's head turning to the side, away from Kurt and the others. "Lulling us into a false sense of security."
"I don't think they're intelligent enough for that," Rachel says, "and Finn would never come up with a plan like that or support it for that matter."
None of them point out that Finn isn't really the brightest crayon in the box. On Rachel, a realistic comment like that is wasted. "Maybe he doesn't know," Tina stammers, "maybe they haven't told him."
"You all are depressing," Mercedes says and Kurt smiles at her slightly in agreement. "We're getting good. In my opinion, we might have a chance of winning Nationals, but if you'd rather want to talk about how you think the big, bad mean jocks are out to get you, then count me out."
"Mercedes is right," Rachel says, "We should be focusing on the choreography for the next song."
"Or," Brittany says, suddenly standing in front of them, "you could all start discussing what to wear to my party on Saturday. I would love to see you all there."
Kurt has known Brittany his entire life. They grew up across the street from each other, and spent most of their free time together. Once they reached middle school however, the school hierarchy, with Brittany on one end and Kurt on the other, made them realize the friendship would never last if it became public knowledge, and so now takes place for the most part over phone calls, e-mails and at Kurt's house.
Brittany is the reason the gleeks, as Kurt and the others are called, know of Sue Sylvester's plans to bring down Glee -- not that they'd been that hard to guess at, but the confirmation had been nice.
"Really?" Tina stammers, "You want us there? Why?"
"I'm not setting you up, if that's what you think," Brittany says, "I just...we're all part of Glee now. It's stupid to hate each other when we have to work together, so a party is the perfect way to get to know each other. You can bring friends, if you want."
Kurt chances a glance at the other side of the room. They all look vaguely irritated, except for Finn who's smiling encouragingly at them. None of the jocks or cheerleaders are good enough actors to pull off the facial expression they're currently sporting, and Kurt doesn't doubt this is all Brittany's doing. He looks away from them, back towards his friends, and smiles. "Well, let me be the first one to say, I'm in."
The party itself passes in a blur of bad music, dancing, alcohol and the surprising lack of bloodshed. It's around 2 AM when Kurt decides to take his leave, while his feet are still stable under him and he can walk without bumping into things.
He's carefully putting his shoes on, one hand against the wall so as not to upset his balance, when a voice behind him goes, "Truth or dare."
Kurt twists to look behind him and is surprised to find Puck standing there, leaning against the doorframe in a way which makes Kurt doubt his ability to stand up without help. "Excuse me?"
"Truth or dare," Puck repeats, and he's smirking now, like he expects Kurt to say he isn't playing, to just leave.
"Truth," Kurt says, determined not to let Puck win, but also not stupid enough to put himself at the jock's mercy, and goes back to putting on the other shoe. He's only going across the street; they don't have to be perfectly laced.
"Why are you still on the football team?"
"Because I don't give up," Kurt says, "and because you guys need me. I'm afraid if I try to quit, Coach Ken might cry." He's expecting more of a reaction to that last statement than just Puck nodding like it makes sense, but that's all he gets. "Truth or dare?"
Puck stares at him for a long moment, surprised and then says, "Truth."
"Why me?" Kurt asks, "Out of all the kids in middle school, why was I the only one to end up in the dumpster on the first day?"
Puck's face twists with something Kurt would be able to identify if he was sober. As it is, all he can do is register the flicker of emotion, but fail to discern the meaning of it. "Because you ruined my jacket," Puck says, "I only ran into your sand castle because I thought it'd get your attention, and I apologized, but you still ruined my jacket." He pauses, eyes drifting down and up Kurt's body, before with a smirk adding, "Plus, you kind of made it really easy, dude."
"Well, I'm sorry," Kurt says, puts his grey and black checkered jacket in Puck's hands and leaves. He takes slow, deliberate steps across the road until he's at his house, in his room, and then he very deliberately doesn't look at the shake in his fingers. He hopes neither of them remembers it once they've sobered up.
Kurt is never that lucky though. On Sunday he wakes up in the afternoon, the memory of Puck's voice (I thought it'd get your attention) and the way he'd looked as his gaze had traveled over Kurt's body so perfect it's like Puck is in the room with him. He's just glad the jacket he'd handed over wasn't one of his favorites and that it had, for that matter, been a little too big. It isn't a great loss.
He spends the entire day doing what he can to stop himself from obsessing over it, even going so far as showing up at Brittany's house to help her clean up, which he leaves feeling in even more desperate need of a real manicure. Luckily, he has all the equipment he needs at his house, and he invites the girls over for some pampering.
He isn't that surprised when the facial and manicure is ruined the next day by being thrown in the dumpster before first period.
What does surprise him though, is Puck walking into the bathroom while he's cleaning his outfit (he's gotten good at it by now, and usually only needs ten minutes before the smell of trash is gone along with the worst stains, and if not, then there's always the spare change of clothes in his locker to fall back on). He meets Puck's gaze in the mirror, one eyebrow raised and says, "Really? Twice in fifteen minutes? You better be careful or I might think you're pulling my pigtails."
Something that looks a lot like amusement flashes across Puck's face, but is gone before Kurt can turn around and verify. "Truth or dare."
That does make Kurt turn around. "Are you drunk?"
And that expression right there is most definitely amused. Also annoyed, but Kurt thinks that's just Puck's default facial expression. "We're at school, Hummel. Do you think I'm drunk?"
It hadn't stopped Kurt, but then again, he'd been led astray by his elders, and no one but Mr. Schue and Miss Pillsbury know. "No," he says, "Just, why?"
Puck shrugs, his entire posture saying why not?, and repeats, "Truth or dare?"
Kurt sighs and turns back around, rubbing at a stubborn stain on his scarf. He thinks it must've landed in some ketchup. "Truth."
"Why did you start singing?"
"My mom used to be a singer," Kurt says, after debating with himself, but it's not like it's something Puck can use against him. "Singing makes me feel...closer to her, in a way."
Puck's face is confused, but he doesn't ask for more details. Instead the silence stretches between them for a minute before he says, "Aren't you going to ask me?"
"No," Kurt says, done with his scarf, throwing one end over his left shoulder and picking up his bag. "Not yet."
He pushes past Puck out the door and into the hall, only three minutes late to History. Puck doesn't try to stop him.
Kurt doesn't see Puck until lunch, when he finds himself standing behind him in the lunch line. He studies the nutritional label on a carton of tropic juice as he pitches his voice low enough so that only Puck can hear, "Truth or dare."
Puck doesn't look at him, just a small twitch of surprise -- either that or he just stopped himself from punching Kurt in the face in front of the lunch lady. Kurt's feeling weirdly optimistic though, and settles for the former. There's a smirk in his voice as he says, "Dare."
"I dare you to do something nice to Rachel," Kurt says, "In front of witnesses."
Puck gives him a look. It's not as annoyed as Kurt imagined it would be, just...calculating. He doesn't protest or say anything else for that matter, and Kurt's just turned around from paying for his food when he sees Puck place a newly bought Slushie in front of Rachel, his eyes locked on Kurt. There's a small smile on his face as he heads over to his own table.
"Do you think it's poisoned?" Rachel asks when Kurt sits down, staring at the Slushie with wide, suspicious eyes. "I mean, he must've spit in it or something."
For Rachel, a Slushie from Puck is really more like a threat of things to come than a gift, which Kurt thinks Puck knew all to well when he gave it to her. Still, Kurt shakes his head as he opens a packet of chips. "I think it's safe. I was behind him in line when he bought it, I don't think he'd have time to do anything to it."
"Maybe he likes you," Tina suggests and Rachel makes a hilarious disgusted face, while Kurt can't help but laugh.
Still, he doesn't feel like telling the others about the game of truth or dare, not until he's figured out what Puck's game is. "Yeah, that must be it," he says, the dry sarcasm in his voice being read loud and clear.
"You're right. There is no way Puck would be interested in me. I am way out of his league. I bet Finn just told him to be nicer to me. Finn's sweet like that." Everyone at the table very carefully doesn't roll their eyes. Rachel wrinkles her nose and pushes the Slushie at Kurt. "You can have it. I don't like Slushies anyway."
Kurt shrugs and accepts it. From across the lunch room, Puck raises an eyebrow, the small smile still present as Kurt takes the first sip. It's blueberry. Kurt considers the smile and thinks that if it had been anyone else, he'd almost think Puck planned the whole thing.
The ball, so to speak, is in Puck's court now, and Kurt keeps waiting for the question whenever they're next to each other or find themselves alone. For over two weeks though, Puck doesn't ask, even though they do manage to carry out actual conversations without their sarcasm becoming too aggressive.
"I was wondering," Kurt says, once he manages to find Finn alone -- something which is becoming increasingly difficult, with both Quinn and Rachel doing some sort of weird mating ritual with him, while remaining weirdly friendly with each other. "I don't suppose you know anything about some new torture plans by the jocks, do you? Something a little more psychological, maybe?"
Finn looks up from his Spanish book and squints at him. "What?"
"No, I guess that'd be too much to ask for," Kurt sighs and drops down next to him in the empty chair.
"What are you talking about? Are the guys still picking on you, because I can ask them to stop and --"
"No," Kurt says, "They're mostly okay now. I think they're doing a slow detox, but it's fine. I've survived through middle school and high school so far. The fact that I only have to crawl out of the dumpster once a week now is like a very suspicious holiday."
Finn frowns. "I'm really sorry about all the stuff we put you through, man. I mean, joining Glee has really made me realize --"
"Yeah, let's not talk about this," Kurt says, "The important thing is that you haven't heard of any new psychological torture methods, and I can breathe easy once again."
"I still don't get why you're asking about psychological torture methods," Finn says, "Is this because Puck is trying to get to know you? Because, he's actually being sincere about it. I think."
"Wait, Puck's trying to get to know me? Since when?"
"Like, last week?" Finn shrugs. "He kept asking me if I knew what happened to your mom, and like, what I knew about you and stuff. I think he just wants to get to know if you have stuff in common so it'll be easier for him to be nice to you, y'know?"
Kurt can honestly say he has no idea what Finn is talking about. "What did you tell him?"
"I told him to talk to you," Finn says, "I mean, that is what he's going to do anyway, right? And it's less creepy if he talks to you. Oh wait, is that why you're freaked out? Did he like, say anything?"
"No," Kurt says, "he hasn't said anything. Well, I have Biology. See you at rehearsal."
"Yeah," Finn says, already distracted by Spanish again, "See you."
Kurt's only just rounded the corner when suddenly Puck is walking next to him. "Finn turn you down for the Christmas Ball?"
"That's not what we were talking about," Kurt says, "In fact, we were discussing the rather perturbing fact you seem to be developing some stalker tendencies."
"You're asking questions about me around the school," Kurt clarifies, and Puck actually looks slightly embarrassed. Interesting. "You can just ask me, you know. Though it'll have to wait until after Biology."
"Hey wait," Puck says, holding Kurt back from the door with a hand splayed across his chest. Kurt looks at it with some disbelief until Puck removes it, and then he looks up to meet Puck's eyes. "Truth or dare?"
Kurt can't help but smile a little. "Truth."
"You're not going to choose dare? Even though I totally took the first step?"
"I'm biding my time," Kurt replies and raises an eyebrow. "I have a class to get to."
"What happened to your mom?"
"She died after child birth. Cerebral thromboembolism." At Puck's clueless look, he clarifies, "A blood clot formed in her brain. No one noticed it in time."
"I'm sorry," Puck says, sincere, and pats Kurt's shoulder.
Kurt shrugs as he moves towards the door to the class, "It's fine. There are people at this school with bigger sob stories than me," and with that, he lets the door close behind him and takes his seat.
They keep the game up for another three turns without anything really exciting happening -- Puck has to add a splash of turquoise to his mohawk (Kurt had just dared him to 'spice up' his appearance), Kurt says that his dream is to start his own fashion magazine, and Puck admits that one of his favorite songs to play on his guitar is by Michael Buble.
It's on the fourth turn, when Kurt's suddenly forcibly stopped in the hall by Puck and asked truth or dare in a low voice. To their fellow students walking by, it probably looks like Kurt's being threatened, which is why they all suddenly seem to have other places to be, and Kurt has to admire the fact that Puck knows this would happen and is using it to his advantage. "Dare," Kurt says, because he figures it's probably time. He can't coast along on truths forever.
Puck raises an eyebrow, looking honestly surprised, and it sends a small thrill of accomplishment through Kurt's body. "Alright, I dare you to dress like you're rock and roll for a week."
"Three days," Kurt says immediately, and Puck nods before moving off down the hall. Really, Kurt thinks as he heads into his next class, he's kind of shocked he wasn't dared to do something mortifying, because 'dressing rock and roll' is hardly a proper dare at all.
He goes easy the first day, with only some black and turquoise striped skinny ripped up jeans, a Rancid t-shirt, turquoise suspenders and a leather jacket. The next day, however, he decides to go with a pair of black bondage pants, a dark green t-shirt and leather studded wristbands. Final day, because he's still Kurt, he decides to go for a black and red corset, with red ripped up pants and black Converse.
"Happy?" Kurt asks Puck on the third day, during a break in rehearsal. He's feeling pretty good with himself, actually.
"Are you -- are you wearing eyeliner?" Puck asks and Kurt nods. "I don't know what to say to that."
"You could say you won't insult me with such an easy dare again," Kurt says, crossing his arms. "I hardly had to get creative." Though he had agonized for ages over the fact that he had to leave his hair messed up.
Puck laughs and nods. "Noted, Hummel."
Kurt sniffs. "Make sure it is," he says and goes back to Rachel and Tina.
"Seriously," Rachel says, "What is going on?"
"Nothing," Kurt says, "He's in my English class and wasn't there for class today. I wanted to let him know about the homework."
Rachel clearly doesn't believe a word he says, but that's her problem. She opens her mouth to say something more, but then Mr. Schue is back and there's no room for talking. By the end of rehearsal, she seems to have forgotten all about it, to Kurt's relief.
"Truth or dare," Kurt whispers, while they're watching Mr. Schue go through the girls' choreography.
"Truth," Puck whispers back.
"Is the nipple ring real or just a clip on so you can get more sex?"
Puck starts to laugh, shoulders shaking with it and not a sound passing by his lips, and Kurt makes sure to maintain an expression devoid of interest, as the other guys glance over.
It's while they're rehearsing their steps, under Mr. Schue's criticizing eye, that Puck growls low as they're walking past each other, "It's real, Hummel. I don't do fake."
"Is it just me or is Noah Puckerman wearing the exact same jacket you bought while you were trying to make it up to me for being a jackass?" Mercedes asks and gestures towards where Puck is indeed wearing the jacket Kurt had handed to him at Brittany's party.
"No," Kurt says.
Artie goes, "It really does look like it."
"I think it is," Rachel says, "I mean, obviously not the same one, but he must've bought it at the same store."
"What happened to the jacket?" Tina asks, "I can't remember seeing it since Brittany's party."
"Well, I wouldn't know anything about where Puck buys his clothes," Kurt says, "and as for the jacket, I returned it. I thought I could live with it being a little too big, but no. I like my clothes to be form fitting."
"It's weird though," Mercedes says, "I never would've thought Puck as the kind of guy who'd go for a jacket like that."
"Just goes to show," Kurt says as he gathers together his things, he has French next and it's at the other side of school, "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover."
Kurt thinks that if Rachel wasn't so put together, she'd have flipped him off. Still, he knows that since it's all four of them, they won't just let it go, and isn't all that surprised when the first thing Rachel says when Puck walks into Glee rehearsal is, "Nice jacket."
Puck glances at her, the disdain he had at the beginning, nearly two months ago now, barely showing. "Thanks."
"Where did you get it?"
"It was a gift," Puck shrugs, "I didn't ask."
Rachel hmphs, clearly unsatisfied, but once again Mr. Schuester comes to the rescue. Puck catches Kurt's eye and grins.
"It is a nice jacket though," Kurt says, after both Glee rehearsal and football practice are done. "I was wondering if you'd thrown my drunken olive branch out or not."
"Nah," Puck says, "I like it. Just didn't really need it until now."
"Does this mean my days of dumpster diving are over?" Kurt asks, "Since you are wearing my jacket and everything."
Puck gives him a look and stops walking. "I haven't thrown you in a dumpster in weeks. You mean that's still happening?"
Kurt thinks back and realizes that while he has indeed had to fish himself out of the dumpster several times over the past few weeks, none of those times was Puck actually present. "Oh, well, I just assumed you were behind it."
"I don't --" Puck huffs out a breath and puts his hands on his head. "I don't get why you'd continue talking to me if you really thought I was still having you thrown in dumpsters. I mean, I did a lot of shit you should hate me for before we started bonding or whatever, but even I'm not that kind of asshole."
Kurt shrugs. "It's high school," he says, "Glee can only help with busting out of traditions and comfort zones so much."
"You're not real," Puck laughs and shakes his head, continues walking to the parking lot. "I noticed your dad still hasn't given you your car back. You want a ride?"
"Yes, please, that'd be lovely," he says, and they end up arguing whether or not it's time to change the warm-up song ("There are only so many times I can hear Beyonce before I want to permanently puncture my own eardrums.")
The next day, Brittany finds him during the first break, eyes wide and fingers digging into Kurt's arm. "Have you heard?"
"You'll have to be more specific."
"Puck can't come to rehearsals for two weeks," Brittany whispers, practically bouncing. She takes unnatural pleasure from gossip, which Kurt usually finds endearing. Not so much today. "Apparently he beat up a bunch of dudes and refuses to say why."
"Who did he beat up?"
"Some of the baseball guys, I think they're the guys who're always out torturing everyone," Brittany says, and the very carefully not said 'you' is heard loud and clear.
"You have got to be kidding me." Kurt doesn't wait around to hear what else she has to say, instead he heads for the nurse's office. Puck is, as predicted since third period is Math, on the bed and he looks up as Kurt enters. There's what promises to be a real shiner on his left eye and his lip is split. "Please tell me you did not get two weeks detention while we have Glee club rehearsals, three weeks before Regionals, because of the guys who've been throwing me in dumpsters."
"Uh," Puck says, looking cornered and guilty. "I totally didn't?"
"You do realize," Kurt says, hands on his hips and too angry to care how ridiculous he must look, "that I have been thrown in dumpsters for years, because of you, and that violence is not the solution to all the world's problems? I can handle my clothes being dirty and smelling like trash, what I can't handle is losing Regionals because you're suddenly overcome with guilt for something you can't do anything about. This is high school, where nerds and geeks and gleeks especially will always get Slushies thrown in our faces, will always end up in a dumpster at least once a week and will always have insults thrown at us. You were part of it, you should know that you can't change it, no matter how popular the once ridiculed Glee club is becoming or how you feel like maybe what you did was wrong. It doesn't change overnight, and you can't force it along with your fist."
"Uh," Puck says again, "Why do I feel like I should be apologizing to you and not the guy whose nose I broke?"
"Because he isn't here about to kick you in the nuts?" Kurt suggests sweetly and Puck manages to hide the flinch really well. "Did Miss Pillsbury say anything about other options that don't involve ruining Glee's chances?"
"Well," Miss Pillsbury says, from right behind Kurt, "We haven't had a chance to discuss anything yet."
Kurt turns around, his hip still cocked to the side and arms crossed, but still too upset at the possibility Glee is going down to correct it. "He doesn't have to have detention for two weeks, right?"
"I can speak for myself, Kurt," Puck says, sounding annoyed. Well, good. Now he knows how Kurt's feeling. "But yeah, what he said, Miss P."
Kurt makes Puck lift up his feet so that he can sit down on the mattress, and is expecting it when Puck's feet land right back down, stretched warm across his lap. He rolls his eyes, but doesn't protest, and they wait in silence until Miss Pillsbury has cleaned the chair enough for her to sit on.
Eventually she sits down and blinks at Kurt, as though she wasn't expecting him to still be there. "You okay with Kurt listening in, Puck?" She asks, which is one of the nice things about Miss Pillsbury: she never asks the difficult questions about why.
"Yeah," Puck shrugs, like it's no big deal. Kurt can read the look on Miss Pillsbury's face easily. Unlike Mr. Schuester, she knows that in normal high school situations, Kurt should be getting shoved around by Puck, even with New Directions and football. Someone sticks out like Kurt does, they're not supposed to be getting buddy-buddy with the school's biggest tormenter. Kurt thinks, maybe I should go, but Puck's fingers are suddenly like a vice on Kurt's arm, hidden from Miss Pillsbury's gaze, and huh, Kurt hadn't even noticed Puck's hand resting by his elbow.
"Alright then," Miss Pillsbury says, looks down at her lap and then up again. "Why did you beat up those boys, Puck?"
Kurt decides two can play Puck's game and digs his thumb into Puck's calf muscle. The leg twitches and Puck's scowling, but he says, "Noth -- it was personal, okay? They were bullying a friend of mine; I wanted them to understand I wouldn't stand for it."
"I see," Miss Pillsbury says, and by the way her eyes flicker to Kurt, she sees all too well. Kurt tries to look like he's only there because he's worried about Glee's chances at Regionals. "That's really kind of you, sticking up for a friend like that, but you must realize that violence isn't the answer. If you see them bullying your friend, or anyone else, you need to tell the teachers or me. Inform an adult and let the school handle it, okay, Puck?"
Puck nods, says, "Yeah, Miss P."
"Okay, good. Well, Puck, because of Glee and because of football, I know that two weeks of detention is something you really want to avoid. I suppose I can talk to the teacher who broke the fight up and Principal Figgins, ask them to agree that if you go and apologize to the other boys, you'll only have to do detention for a week. I'm sure Kurt and the others will help make sure you can stay afloat with Glee and football."
"No way am I going to --" Puck says, looking angry, and Kurt digs his thumb extra hard into Puck's calf muscle. Puck jerks his leg away, stops and breathes for a moment, then finishes, "-- say no to that, Miss P. I'll go apologize to them as soon as my headache's gone."
"Okay," Miss Pillsbury says, smiling, "I'm glad we could work it out, and I hope your headache improves, Puck. Kurt, shouldn't you be in class?"
"Yes, Miss Pillsbury," Kurt says, shoves Puck's legs off him and straightens out his clothes as he trails after her out the room. "I just wanted to make sure Puck could still perform for Regionals."
"Of course," Miss Pillsbury says, "Tell your teacher to talk to me if you get in trouble."
Kurt smiles, doesn't bother to point out that most of the teachers around here don't really care, certainly not the way Mr. Schue and Miss Pillsbury do, just says, "Thank you."
"So," Puck says during AP English the next day, currently ignoring all the rules of McKinley High and leaning against Kurt's desk, not even pretending to look threatening, "Are you going to be my private Glee tutor?"
He's leering as he says it, and Kurt fights hard to keep the amusement off his face. "I suppose me and Brittany can sacrifice some of our pre-So You Think You Can dance ritual to teach your stupid nearly-could've-lost-us-Regionals ass the steps you're missing."
"You forgot hot," Puck grins, which is a surprising twist of events that Kurt's still marveling over when Puck goes, "Wait, you and Brittany have a ritual?"
"Yes, for several years now," Kurt says, "We tried other shows before it, but none worked as well as So You Think You Can Dance. It provided us with the perfect mix of opportunity to bitch, laugh and be amazed at professional dancers. It's also never had an episode that was all disappointment."
"I never actually thought of the show that way before," Puck says and Kurt smiles, amused.
"That doesn't surprise me."
"So how long have you and Brittany been friends?"
"Since we were little." Kurt says, "The future social status doesn't mean much when you're three."
Before Puck can say anything else, the teacher walks into the classroom along with the rest of the class, and he has to hurry to his seat at the back where the teacher rarely notices him sleeping.
Kurt decides to extend an invitation for the extra practice to Finn as well, because to be quite honest, he really does need all the extra practice he can get. "What are you doing here, dude?" Puck asks, doing the weird jock handshake that never fails to set Kurt's eyes rolling.
"He's here because any chance for improvement should be utilized, and because with four people, two of us can demonstrate while two of us dance." Kurt explains, "Now, help me move this table out of the way."
"There's only one girl, though," Finn says, sounding confused.
Brittany grins. "It's fine. Kurt's a fast learner, I'm sure he probably already knows the steps to the girls' choreography too."
"We only have a few hours," Kurt says, "Are we going to spend them dancing, or talking?"
"Bossy," Puck comments, "Alright, show me the moves."
It feels weird to be dancing with a male partner, to have a broad, calloused hand where he's used to small, soft ones. Some of the weirdness he's feeling he thinks he can easily blame on the fact he's dancing the girl's part, on the fact that he's used to being the person being leaned on, not the person leaning against the warm chest behind him. He's hyperaware of where exactly Puck's hands are on his body, even though he keeps his eyes very firmly glued on Finn and Brittany.
After an hour, they decide on a break. Brittany follows Kurt upstairs to help bring down drinks and snacks, but on the way back down the stairs she pauses, head tilted to the side as she listens.
"So not to steal your jokes or anything," Finn's voice carries up the stairs, completely failing to sound nonchalant, "but are you and Kurt an item now?"
"Dude, no," Puck's laughter sends a chill down Kurt's spine. Not that Kurt thinks he knows everything there is to know about Noah Puckerman, but it sounds slightly wrong, even to his ears. "It's like Mr. Schue says, right? We Glee kids all got to get along. Man, I am not ever going to be a fucking fag like Kurt."
Finn's uneasy chuckling follows him as he turns around and heads back upstairs. The hand holding onto the pitcher is shaking. "We don't mention this ever again," he tells Brittany. "Ever, okay?"
"Kurt," Brittany says, "You have to --"
"I don't have to do anything," Kurt snaps, "This never happened and if you say anything to them about it, I have years worth of homemade videos that might just find their way onto YouTube."
"Fine, I won't say anything."
"You swear on Mia Michael's skills as an awesome choreographer?"
"I swear, and if I lie, may Mia Michaels never win another Emmy," Brittany doesn't look to happy about it, but then Kurt doesn't need her to. "But Kurt, what are you going to do?"
"What I should've done since the beginning," Kurt says simply, headed back to the basement, "Protect my interests. I'm sorry guys, my dad needs my help with something. You'll have to leave, but I think we were about done for the day anyway."
"Anything we can help with?" Puck asks.
Kurt hasn't looked at him since walking downstairs, and he doesn't now as he replies, "No. We're fine. I trust you remember the way out."
Brittany stays behind to make sure they do actually leave. "I'll be back in an hour for our ritual," Brittany whispers, giving him a quick hug and proving why she makes a good friend.
"Bye," Kurt says, directed mostly at Finn, but he's good enough of an actor to make it appear like Puck is included as well. He goes back downstairs, fully intending to move everything back to its original place, but he ends up just sitting in the middle of the room staring at his hands.
See, the real kicker, the unexpected twist of the plot, is that after nearly two months of friendly interaction, Puck has gone from being Kurt's daily tormenter to, well, a friend. After all, that was the word Puck had used with Miss Pillsbury (a friend of mine, a friend of mine echoing in Kurt's head). See, Puck's a nice guy when you get to know him. Kurt knows this. Puck just plays into what is expected of him as a jock, as a 'rebel', as the bad guy to Finn's clueless good guy. Kurt had started to think Puck was loyal, was a good friend and a nice person, and dancing with him had made him feel...different. Untouchable. Like there really was nothing that could hurt him.
He considers what to do for the upcoming weeks, how to best protect himself without things going back to the way they were before. He gets lost in thinking up new ideas and discarding them, doesn't notice an hour has passed until Brittany settles down next to him without a word, placing the DVDs with the collection of their absolute favorite dancers and dances on the floor in front of him. "I was thinking," she says, "that Adam Lambert should totally make a music video where Mark Kanemura is one of the dancers."
"It would be fantastic," Kurt agrees and gets to his feet, because sitting on the floor is not acceptable when there's company and tradition to think of, "But the question is, do we start with Mark or with Travis?"
"Travis," Brittany says, predictably. "But first, we have to watch some of his choreography and then Tyce Diorio's."
"You're right, of course," Kurt agrees, "It's more of a choreography kind of day."
If there are tears in his eyes after If It Kills Me, then Brittany is kind enough not to mention it and no one needs to know. Still, the evening spent watching amazing dancers helps, and he shows up at school the next day with head held high. He talks with Puck, but only when Puck asks him a direct question.
It's strange, really, how quickly Puck seems to have become a big part of Kurt's day. He hadn't noticed just how much they've started to talk to each other until he's actively trying to avoid most of them. No wonder the others had started taking notice, he thinks as he sees Puck coming down the hall and decides he'll take the long way to the rehearsal room.
It continues like that for a long time, this awkward frosty silence between them. Puck keeps trying to corner him, but Kurt hasn't spent the past six years being tortured nearly daily without learning anything. He knows how to hide and slip away. Brittany doesn't have the same skills as Kurt though, and he sees her get cornered by Puck several times. She never says anything though, there just seems to be a lot of eye rolling before she shoves him out of the way and continues down the hall.
Of course, it couldn't last forever. Kurt spends the entire weekend skittish, because even though he'd helped Mr. Schue set up the room assignments for the hotel, it's remarkably hard to avoid someone when you're living in the same hall, and even harder when you're rooming with a good friend of the person you're trying to avoid.
Still, Kurt manages until the last night, after their final performance -- which they seriously aced, Kurt will set fire to his new tiara collection if they don't make it to the next round. After the night out, an evening with the alcohol very carefully hidden due to Mr. Schue, Miss Pillsbury and Sylvester, Kurt stumbles into the room a little late because Rachel managed to lose her earrings and just wouldn't let any of the gleeks go until she's found them.
"Oh," he says, freezing as he sees Puck propped up on one of the beds. "I must've gone to the wrong room." Except he can see his bag on the floor and he used his keycard to get in, and well, fuck.
"I switched with Mike," Puck says, "because you've been avoiding me and we need to talk."
"We should totally talk in the morning," Kurt agrees, picking up his pajamas from his bag and glancing towards the bathroom door. When he looks back, Puck is suddenly right there and crowding him up against the wall.
"We're talking now," Puck says, "Because I am not giving you another chance to slip away. Whatever you need to say, say it to my face, because I don't know what I did to make you suddenly hate me again and it's driving me nuts."
"I don't hate you," Kurt says, because he's never actually hated Puck. It's something he's come to realize over the past few weeks, that while he's spent years thinking he had a thing for Finn, he's only ever liked Finn because Finn was safe. Finn had always been less likely to put Kurt in the hospital if ever he should find out that Kurt had a crush on him. But wherever Finn goes, Puck's usually not far behind and it was just an excuse. An excuse that crumbled helplessly when Puck started to actually be nice to him, completely ruining the defenses he'd set up. "I just figured I'd save you the hardship of being friends with a fag like me."
Puck flinches from him, which Kurt finds some cold amusement in, and he uses it to his advantage. The bathroom door closes with a satisfying slam. There's no lock, because Kurt's never that lucky, but he just hopes Puck doesn't notice. "I didn't mean it like that," Puck says, his voice muffled through the door. He doesn't try the handle, which is a small victory.
"Really?" Kurt sneers. "There's not a lot of ways to misinterpret it. You were only being nice because of Glee, that's fine, but someone who says stuff like that behind my back after we've supposedly become friends isn't worth my time."
There's a long stretch of silence from the other side. Kurt stalks over to the sink, intending to start brushing his teeth, but all he can do is stare at his reflection in the mirror. Anger on this level isn't something he's used to. "You're right," Puck says eventually, "I did think of us as friends though. I mean, hell, I talked to you more than I talked to Finn most days, but then he made that joke and I... I got scared."
"It must be terrifying," Kurt says, "being friends with a homosexual. What if it rubs off? You might get AIDS or something."
The door bursts open, and from the way Puck stumbles once he's in the room it looks like he shouldered it unnecessarily open. They're lucky it didn't break. "Don't," Puck growls, looking wrecked, "Don't talk about yourself like that."
"No?" Kurt raises an eyebrow at him. "Why? Are you the only one who's allowed to make gay jokes at my expense? Is it only supposed to happen when you think I'm not around to hear it?"
"I freaked out," Puck practically shouts. "I've been friends with Finn for years. He's my best friend and even then he's only got this one real view of me. I didn't know how to tell him I had a crush on the guy I'd spent the past six years making life hell for."
Kurt stares at him. "This isn't funny."
"I am not laughing," Puck says, takes a step forward and looks broken when Kurt takes a step back. "I wanted your attention in preschool and I wanted your attention in middle school for a completely different reason. I just have a really fucked up way of showing it, because in my world, being gay isn't okay. I freaked then and put you in a dumpster, and I freaked now because my best friend said what I'd been going around hoping would happen. I'm not like you, okay, I'm brave when it comes to physical confrontations. Not so much when it comes to stuff like this."
"I'm not brave," Kurt says, because seriously, he was practically forced into his first coming out confession, and because he can't think of anything else to say. His mind is racing, evaluating whether or not what Puck says can be trusted. His entire body seems to ache with the wish to believe him, but he doesn't want a repeat of three weeks ago.
"I like you," Puck says, "In a very queer way, and the cold shoulder treatment the past three weeks have made me realize that I don't care about what everyone says. I'm a jock who's in Glee and I'm gay. Anyone at school who has a problem with it can settle it with me personally. I don't care. I realize that after everything I've done to you, you have every right to hate me and I'll totally respect it if you just tell me, but I was kind of hoping we could go the Christmas Ball. Together."
"I don't hate you," Kurt repeats, has to take a deep breath, "I like you too much to ever really hate you. I've wanted to, believe me, but I just can't. And I heard you just last week tell Matt that the Christmas Ball is a stupid waste of time."
"I don't care," Puck says, "The movies are all about big gestures, right? I figured, you'd probably enjoy a chance like that, to get all dressed up and lord your superior taste in clothes over the others, and I wouldn't mind so much if I knew you were dressed up for me."
"I don't need a grand gesture," Kurt says, "especially not one that's going to get us both beaten up."
"That's the thing about grand gestures, they're mostly about the person making them wanting to make them," Puck smiles at him, hopeful, "and they can try, but they'd really have to do a number on me before getting close to you."
Kurt studies him for a long moment, before he says, "This is your absolute last chance, and I am not committing to anything until I am certain you're serious about this. I'll let you take me to the Christmas Ball, but as a friend, because while you might be all gung-ho about coming out to the entire school, I am not so keen on the idea. For now, anyway, you're free to try and convince me otherwise."
Puck smiles at him, this truly goofy grin Kurt almost wishes he had a picture of. No one will ever believe him. However when Puck leans in, Kurt turns his head so Puck's lips end up on his cheek instead of his lips. "Friends don't kiss," he says, "I am serious about this. You're going to have to earn it."
"Seriously? Not even one little peck?"
"No." Kurt starts shoving him out the door. "Now, get out. It's extremely late and we're getting up absurdly early for the results. I need my beauty sleep."
"You look just fine to me," Puck says, and Kurt slams the door in his face. But a lot more gently this time.
In the morning, they win Regionals and Puck pays for his lunch. Kurt doesn't want this feeling to go away.
"Okay, seriously, Kurt," Mercedes says, as Puck goes back to the jocks after handing Kurt a bag of gummy worms. It had been opened, which Kurt assumed was more for the sake of lessening suspicions than Puck actually having eaten any of them. "What is going on between you two? Today it's the gummy worms, before that it was the Slushies, the car rides, the extra dance-slash-football practices."
"Puck is trying to woo me," Kurt tries to play it cool, even though he's secretly delighted someone finally asked, because Puck's small gestures are totally working and he's been kind of hoping for someone to talk him into taking a step back, to make sure his heart is protected.
"Yeah, right," Tina stammers, "Like that'll ever happen."
It gets echoed by the others and Kurt understands why -- had it happened to one of the others, he would be on the floor laughing right now. Brittany, however, gives him a Look. It's the look that says 'oh my god, you're not kidding'.
"It's probably Mr. Schue's talks about Glee cooperation, about really getting along with those we've disliked before," Rachel says, who should know all about that since she's actually going shopping with Quinn Fabray these days. Kurt's starting to wonder if Rachel and Quinn are going to start dating, or if Finn is going to end up with both of them.
The subject gets changed again, because they've never actually been too good at the attention span thing, but Brittany is still staring at Kurt all wide-eyed with realization. After school, she shows up in his little basement apartment, sitting down on the couch and watching as he brings out the History assignment due in two days. Kurt's determined not to be the first to say anything, and so it takes an hour of him singing along to the iPod stereo before she goes, "Noah Puckerman is trying to woo you."
Kurt looks up and smiles. "Who'd have ever thought, right?"
"Noah Puckerman, who called you the f-word, who I thought you wanted to die only last week, is wooing you and you're letting him?"
"We had a heart-to-heart at Regionals," Kurt says, and now that he finally has someone to truly confess to, he tells Brittany everything.
"Wow," Brittany says when he's done, "So, Puck's like, trying to win your heart in time for the ball or something?"
"Something like that," Kurt agrees, "I agreed to the ball already, but as friends. I'm not -- I just want him to prove he's really serious about this."
"I've heard the jocks talking about him," she says, "Or well, teasing. They keep saying he's got some hot girl stashed away somewhere, that the great Puck is finally being tamed and they keep talking about good her assets must be, and it turns out the great Puck-tamer is you."
"High school never stops changing the final verse on you," Kurt says and he's probably smiling ridiculously big, but he can't help it. Brittany is smiling back at him.
"I really hope this works out for you, Kurt," she says, "And if he does anything else to break your heart, I'm breaking his penis. My Beyonce heels will do the job nicely."
"You scare me sometimes," Kurt says, "It must be why I like you."
Puck doesn't press the issue about getting together, not even when he shows up at Kurt's door to pick him up for the Christmas Ball. Kurt's dad is luckily working and not around to make awkward comments, though Kurt thinks the day must eventually come when his father will realize that Kurt's homosexuality isn't so much theoretical as it is real.
They meet up with the other members of New Directions for dinner, and it passes in a blur of jokes and conversations about the dream song to do at Nationals, whether or not the band at the ball is going to be any good (Acafellas is going to be performing at one point, so there's at least something good promised), and the various Christmas episodes of their favorite TV shows.
Once they reach the Christmas Ball, the conversation continues at one of the tables, only in increased volume.
"Do you want to dance?" Puck asks, holding his hands out for Kurt to take, and Kurt thinks he's been a saint for not letting Puck know over a week ago that he's proven himself, so he agrees. The whispers are easy to ignore, eyes closed and his forehead resting on Puck's shoulder for two dances. The safe feeling is back.
"Truth or dare," Kurt asks while they're starting the third dance, eyes opening and leaning his head back a little.
"Truth," Puck says, turning his head slightly so that he can meet Kurt's eyes.
"If you hadn't had a grudge against me from preschool, would you even have noticed me?" Kurt asks and Puck laughs, long enough to almost be insulting, if he didn't look so fond.
"You're kind of hard to miss, dude."
Kurt smiles, weird fluttery feeling in his stomach stronger than ever, but before he can say anything, Puck goes, "Acafellas is on next, but first, truth or dare?"
"I really want to kiss you," Puck says, "and I'm really hoping you'll let me."
"That's not how truth or dare works," Kurt says, but he draws Puck close and fits their lips together. It's awkward at first, the angle all wrong, but then Puck licks into his mouth, hands forcing Kurt's head to tilt slightly and it's suddenly perfect. Kurt's glad he didn't let Puck kiss him in the hotel bathroom, because this -- this is like the perfect first kiss.
It would've continued to be, if only Matt hadn't suddenly tapped Puck on the shoulder with an awkward, "Dude, we're waiting for you. Acafellas can't go on without their fourth member."
"Thanks, man," Puck gives Kurt a last peck before he heads off towards the stage, through the crowd of teenagers trying very hard to pretend like they weren't all watching, and failing very hard at it.
When he gets to the Glee table, everyone is staring in complete and utter shock. An entire group of people utterly speechless.
Kurt smiles and basks in the moment.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the story ends. The real story's ending, anyway. Mayhap some of you are curious about Acafellas performance, about how New Directions did at Nationals, about what happens to Kurt and Puck.
Acafellas dedicated their performance to love and absolutely rocked the house. If a real music critic had been present, words such as 'fantastic', 'explosive' and the most important word of all, 'passionate' would have been used. Will Schuester proved that a white man singing Spanish can be unexpectedly sexy, Ken Tanaka's voice continued to send emotional chills down the spines of those truly listening, Finn Hudson managed to charm his way into everyone's hearts, and Noah Puckerman seemed to be on fire -- performing like no one's ever seen him perform before.
New Directions don't win Nationals that year, because this is the real world and not a feel good film about the loveable underdog coming out of nowhere to beat the favorites. But they do win it the next year, though you didn't hear it from this narrator.
As for the final story of Kurt and Puck, that story is still in the works and is as unknown as yours is. After all, this story was about how they got together, and you just can't rush a good finish.