Title: "I'll Have to Say I Love You in a Song (Or Four Songs Puck Doesn't Sing for Quinn Fabray But One She Sings for Him)"
Rating: PG-13/Light R
Character/Pairing: Puck, assorted members of Glee Club
Length: Part I of V
Summary: It takes a glee club to create a man.
Disclaimer: Not mine, just borrowing them for a few paragraphs.
Author's Note: Couple things: one, this fic was intended as a one-shot but per usual, got ridiculously long, and I didn't have a way of breaking it down and putting sections together so it turned into a multi-part fic by default. Two, this will probably be my last fic for a while. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month and need to work on that project before fic. Expect more fic in December because I cannot stop writing for this fandom. Three, I hope this chapter make sense. I think when it's read with chapter two it will make a ton of sense but I'm curious how it works as a stand alone. Title and cut courtesy of Jim Croce (who I LOVE). Enjoy.
I. Black Dog
The morning after the Nelly sing-along Artie rolls up to Puck and asks if he wants to jam in the choral room after school.
Puck stares him down (literally stares him down) and crosses his arms across his chest. He might have joined that freak show (and secretly really likes it) but he's not sure he wants to spend time with one of them beyond practice. Except Artie's really good at guitar, even better than he is, and he wants to get better. Finn might be able to pound the hell out of a drum kit, but he sucks on guitar. Finn already has football and Glee and Quinn. There needs to be one thing in his life where he can do better.
He ignores the stares around them, glares especially hard at Dave Karofsky, and kind of shrugs his shoulders. "Yeah, okay," he says.
It begins there.
They start with the basics – Nirvana, Pearl Jam – until Puck reminds him that he actually knows how to play a guitar and Artie replaces "Come As You Are" with "On a Plain" and exchanges "Alive" for "Estranged."
Puck usually takes rhythm while Artie tackles the solos but every now and then he's allowed to channel his inner Slash and sometimes it doesn't totally sound like ass.
In truth, it never really matters how it sounds. He likes losing himself in the music, his fingers sliding across the strings, wearing calluses into the pads of his fingers. Finn has the same grooves carved into his hands, the football roughing the skin of his palms. Puck likes having his own scars to show for his effort. It means what he's doing is real when nothing else in his life (football, Quinn, Glee) feels the same.
A few days into their (friendship? Partnership? Puck isn't really sure what to call it), they move into the classics. Santana (the real one, not the one whose pants he tried to get into for three months), Clapton, Zeppelin too. Artie's patient while he stumbles over Jimmy Page's chord progressions, waits for him while he plucks his way through "Kashmir" at a pace slower than Mercedes guessing Kurt's sexuality.
He's a cool kid, Artie, even with those glasses and shirts and one-liners Puck doesn't understand, and he feels kind of bad that he used to torture him. He feels bad about a lot of things these days (Quinn + Finn + baby that's really his) but he still has room to regret dumping the kid's gym clothes in the toilet and sneaking closed the brakes on his chair and locking him in a port-o-potty to reel in Finn (always Finn, every single time). He feels bad about it, he really does, and he doesn't understand why Artie wants to play with him when he kind of sucks (at least compared to Artie's mad skills) and there's an entire jazz band the kid can bounce ideas off.
Still, he's getting better with each day so he doesn't complain even if he doesn't understand. There's a lot in his life he doesn't understand (his dad walking out and Quinn pushing him away); he ignores this the way he tries to ignore those things.
Artie has a good voice, although not better than Puck's, and they sometimes sing along to the chords when they're playing the guitars. Zeppelin is his favorite and they quickly wear their way through "Kashmir" and "Over the Hills and Far Away" and "Immigrant Song" which might have been written by the mighty Page and Plant but is the stupidest song in their entire catalogue.
"It's a metaphor," Artie says with a shake of his head when Pucks mumbles something under his breath. "It's all about Zeppelin conquering the music scene by force because they rock that hard." Puck nods and pretends he understands even though he still thinks all the talk about Vikings and Valhalla is the dumbest thing he's ever heard.
Artie sees the look on his face and flips the sheet music. He stares Puck down. "You're going to take the solo."
Puck shakes his head. "No way, dude. This is all you."
Artie's seen what arguing with him can do, urine soaked gym clothes and afternoons locked in port-o-potties, and he doesn't fight back. Instead, his fingers stroke out the first rough notes before belting out the opening line.
"Hey, hey mama, said the way you move. Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove."
He starts on the solo, brows knotted in concentration beneath the thick frame of his glasses, his hair falling messily over his brow. Puck's grateful for his mohawk. He has enough trouble remembering all the chords in order and putting his fingers in the right place on the frets without having to see through a blindfold of his own hair.
It's even harder when he sings along for the second line.
"Ah, ah, child way you shake that thing. Gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting."
He watches Artie, waiting for his turn to jump in on rhythm (even if the original song doesn't call for it), when Artie's fingers still on the strings.
"Forget the next note?" Puck asks and reaches for the sheet music, double checks the notes. Artie's gotten every one right.
Artie shakes his head and a red flush creeps up his cheeks. Puck swallows hard. He's already seen the way Kurt acts around Finn. He doesn't think Artie swings that way but he can't figure out what else would make him act like this. "It's this song…" he trails off and stares at the floor, like he's embarrassed about something.
Puck knows the feeling, except he's Noah Puckerman and would never do something as pathetic as letting his feelings show, and he doesn't know how to react. "Do you need a minute?" he asks and hopes Artie will wheel himself out of the room until whatever this is passes. The only person he's ever let open up to him is Finn and he remembers how well that went. "You make it a habit of sleeping with your friends' girlfriends?" He pushes away the memory of one betrayal and focuses on the wrong he's working to right. "Dude? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"So, what's it like?" Artie says out of nowhere, so suddenly that Puck has no idea what he's taking about.
Artie's eyes widen behind the glasses and his eyebrows practically disappear into his hairline and he gulps so loudly the noise actually echoes through the empty room but he doesn't look away. "You know, sex."
It takes Puck a full thirty seconds to respond and when he does it takes everything in him not to burst into hysterical laughter. "For real, man? Do a google search."
"Shared computer. If my mom ever caught me it would be even more embarrassing than this conversation. So tell…"
Puck doesn't really understand. He and Artie might make halfway decent music together but they're not friends. They don't sit together at lunch and they don't hang out after school and just three months ago he tried to flip the kid over in a port-o-potty. He doesn't get why Artie's pushing this. "You're a stud," Artie offers before he can flat out ignore him. "I'm never going to be able to do it myself. If anyone can tell me about it, it's you."
Puck pauses, because he likes the guy, he really does, but he's not about to lay out the birds and the bees for him. "Dude, even Jason Street managed to knock up some chick. Give it time."
Artie's eyes soften and remind him of his mom's the morning his dad walked out for good. "It's all fun and games until you can't get it up. Ever. TV isn't real life."
Puck swallows hard, harder than before, because his life has been nothing but weird for the last three months but this might top the list. He wants to say no. He wants to pack up his gear and run for the door like Finn's discovered the truth and is coming at him with those massive fists flying. He wants to do anything and everything to get away from this moment because it's the kind of things friends do, fill in the missing pieces for each other, and if he does this he's saying Artie matters to him and means something beyond a human punching bag turned guitar hero.
He doesn't want to make this change. He needs something constant in his life when nothing will stay the same.
He avoids Artie's eyes and concentrates on the way his fingers are gripping the neck of the guitar in his lap. He wouldn't be this good, this improved, without Artie's help. The kid didn't have to do this; he knows the least he can do is provide a basic sketch of sex ed.
"It's…" he starts and stops because he doesn't know how to have this conversation without it sounding like he's hitting on Artie (and he's still not completely convinced the kid isn't hitting on him).
He wants to explain what it's like for a girl's bare skin to slide against his, soft and silky and hot to the touch. He wants to explain how it feels when she moans his name just from the feel of his fingers against her skin. He wants to explain how he loses himself when he slides into hot, wet heat and buries his face in the curve of her neck and he thinks he could die from how good it feels.
All he sees is Quinn, arching against him, legs wrapped tight around his hips, his face buried in the curtain of her hair as his name hisses between her lips and he's pretty sure he has actually died and gone to heaven. All he knows is that he's done this probably a hundred times before but it never made his hands shake or his mouth tremble the way it did when he was buried deep inside Quinn Fabray.
He doesn't tell Artie any of it. Instead his hands fall to his lap and it's his turn to stare at the floor. "Sex never means nothing," is all he says and when he's ready (he waits too long and he knows it and prays Artie isn't going to tell a soul) he raises his eyes to Artie's and lets him see (even if the kid doesn't understand it) the regret lurking there.
Artie doesn't say anything in return and breaks their gaze only to turn to his guitar and pluck the hell out of the first solo. Puck joins in, following Artie's lead, and together they find the right rhythm.
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