When We Touch
Kurt & Mercedes

In his very short high school career, Kurt Hummel had gotten used to being thrown in the dumpster every day before school.

And he'd even learned a few important lessons that made the horrible ordeal slightly more bearable.

For instance, he'd learned to brace himself for the moment when he'd hit the heap of black plastic garbage bags. It wasn't that they were particularly hard, but sometimes there'd be sharp edges, usually from cans of what they tried to pass off as food in the cafeteria. And landing on those was about as pleasant as trying to eat the sludge that came out of them in the first place.

Another thing Kurt had learned was the importance of body spray. Because the stench of garbage in the morning was never attractive. Not even on him, believe it or not.

And in a very short amount of time, the routine of arrive at school, get dumped in the trash can, crawl out, and de-odorize had become so routine, so much a part of Kurt's life, that he'd even quit fighting the jocks. He'd even gotten to the point of handing over his bag and firing snarky comments at them, comments that they either ignored, or more likely didn't get. And even though they didn't get what he was saying, Kurt always felt as if he were taking charge of the situation with his wit. It made him feel like less of a victim knowing that he could fight back.

Even if it was just with words.

So when Kurt arrived at school the morning after the already infamous "Push It" assembly, he expected the same old (pardon the pun) song and dance. Nothing more. Nothing less. And Puck and his football buddies didn't disappoint.

When he walked up to school, they were standing by the same dumpster as always. Puck, letterman jacket hanging open and faux-hawk freshly shaven, had his arm resting on the edge and was watching Kurt walk up, a hungry and expectant look on Puck's face.

The closer he got to the jock and his friends, the more resigned Kurt felt. Sure, there were other ways to get into the school, but he knew, as sure as he knew that he was Judy Garland in a past life, that Puck, as stupid as he was, would find him no matter which entrance he used. So it just wasn't worth the energy to go out of his way when the end result would be the same no matter what.

"There you are!" Puck's voice was deep and taunting. "We thought you might not show up after yesterday." He pushed himself away from the trash can, moving to stand directly in front of Kurt.

Kurt wanted to respond, wanted to come up with a biting and witty retort, but Puck was less than a few inches away from him. If Kurt were taller, they'd have been almost nose to nose. And he couldn't shake the feeling that the very large, very muscular football player wanted to do something worse than throw him in the garbage can. Worse than pee balloons and lawn furniture nailed to the roof even. And as he looked up at Puck, Kurt knew his eyes were wide and huge, just like a scared bunny rabbit, and his jaw was clamped painfully shut.

Kurt was about to step back, to turn and run away when he felt something brush against his elbow.

When the gentle pressure lingered, Kurt wanted to turn and see who was standing by his side. But he couldn't tear his eyes away from Puck, who had crossed his arms over his wide chest. And as the hulking jock looked over him, Kurt felt himself tense up more and more. So much so that when he heard the fierce voice belonging to the person next to him, Kurt let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding

"Hey! There you are." Mercedes sounded confident, as if she could care less about the hyena-esque circle of jocks. "I thought we were gonna meet in the auditorium before first period to talk fashion?"

They hadn't made any such plans. In fact, Mercedes hated it when he critiqued her clothing. It had been a bone of contention between then since they'd started New Directions. And because of that, Kurt knew she'd come up with that excuse on purpose. And because of that and what she was doing, he could have kissed her.

On the lips.

Or not…

"Speaking of which, honey, that jacket is awful." That broke the spell Puck had over him because…

It was his new Mark Jacobs. And therefore, not awful in any way, shape or form. Period.

Kurt's eyes snapped from the jock to Mercedes as his mouth fell open in shock. If he were in a Warner Brothers cartoon, his eyes would have been bugging out, and his temper would have been flying out of the top of his head. Which Mercedes must have known because she just winked one twinkling eye at him as if she'd been wanting to say that for a while.

"Now, if you'll excuse us…" Mercedes gave Puck a brilliant smile as if everything were just peachy.

But things weren't anywhere near peachy, and Kurt was torn between jock-induced fear, annoyance at Mercedes' lack of fashion sense, and thankfulness that she was there. But it wasn't until he felt Puck's strong hand on his chest that he settled on one of the options. Unfortunately, it was jock-induced fear. His body tightened up slightly, and he clutched his bag tightly to his chest.

"Uh uh. Kurt and I have… an appointment." Puck's voice was light with a slight undertone of menace. Kurt felt himself clench up immediately. And he could tell that Mercedes had felt his involuntary reaction whether he liked it or not.

He wasn't sure how she'd managed to pry his arms away from his side, but Mercedes slipped her arm protectively through his. "I don't think so. But if you really want to talk to someone, I think I just heard Mr. Schuester's car."

Sure enough, Kurt could hear the clanking and rattling of Schu's busted up automobile.

And from the look on Puck's and the rest of the football team's faces, so could they.

When Mr. Schuester parked only a couple of feet from where they were standing, Kurt felt his body relax slightly.

"That's what I thought." Not waiting for a response, Mercedes pulled Kurt towards the school.

But she wasn't fast enough to keep Puck from shoving him in the chest and whispering in his ear. "We're not finished here…" As an involuntary shiver rushed through his body, Kurt fled forward, practically pulling Mercedes behind him.

"My jacket is not awful. It's designer. Unlike yours. I see you're still wearing that zebra print thing." Kurt haughtily picked at a non-existent thread on Mercedes' rainbow, zebra-print hoodie.

As they walked on together, Kurt tried to thank her. But he couldn't.

Not speaking, Kurt thought about the other times people had tired to help him, because Mercedes wasn't the first. Mr. Schuester always thought he was helping by asking if he'd made friends with Puck whenever he saw them by the dumpster. A few other teachers had made similar gestures, but nothing ever helped. He'd always ended up in the trash anyways.

But what Mercedes had just done, well, it woke something up in him. It was like there was a rose bud, as cliché as that sounded (and it sounded cliché), in his stomach, and it was beginning to open up ever so slightly. And Kurt knew that that was because of her.

As they walked through the throngs of jocks, Cheerios and nobodies (i.e. everyone else), Kurt felt, for the first time in his life, like he had a friend. A real friend and not just someone who wanted to copy the notes he'd taken during a lecture they'd slept through.

Part of him felt ashamed for feeling that way now. After all, they'd been in New Directions together for a couple of weeks, and they'd formed a bond because of that. But this was different. This was outside of rehearsal, and it wasn't related to glee club at all. This felt real in a way that an after-school function-based relationship hadn't.

Once again, Mercedes seemed to understand his non-thank you. Giving him a wide smile, she shrugged and said, "You're just jealous you can't pull it off." Kurt's response was swallowed by the chatter of the rest of the student body as they were swept into the entrance. But what he said didn't matter. It was clearly an argument that they were never going to see eye to eye on. And really, as much as he complained at her, he couldn't care less. Having her next to him was so much more important.

The next day, when Mercedes wasn't around, Puck threw Kurt into the dumpster before and after school.

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- "When We Touch" is a series on one shots focusing on simple touches between different characters. I haven't posted anything in a while and my beta (Quack) pointed out the LJ community "story_lottery" to me. I decided to undertake the challenge and use each prompt to center a (very) short story around. I hope you like it!
- The prompt I chose for "Kurt & Mercedes" was "a bud".
- Quack: Thank you so much for pointing out the lottery to me. With any luck, it'll help me beat you at HF. :D Thanks for all of your help.
- Disclaimer: Not mine.
- Reviews are love.