AN: Hi, this is my first Glee fic! It takes place sometime after "Mash-Up." Be warned that this story deals with mature themes like rape, rape recovery, and explicit slash (Puck/Kurt). I'm kind of laboring under the assumption that the jocks rejoined the football team, whoops...hope that's actually true. Also, I try to avoid using original characters if I can, so I chose Dave Karofsky for this fic. Knowing my luck, he'll probably get some airtime as a nice guy in a few episodes, in which case I'll switch him out with some other random hockey player—please watch out for that, if it happens. Thank you so much for your time.
Everything That Counts
Kurt Hummel's slushie suicide—or so Mercedes had since dubbed it—must've built up his social karma or something, because by the end of the week, he was the only Glee Club member who remained unslushied at the hands of Dave Karofsky. Of all the drink-bearing bullies in McKinley, Karofsky was the one to watch out for: not only did he always catch you with your mouth open, but he also possessed a sadistic penchant for picking the flavors that clashed worst with his victims' outfits. Kurt hugged the lockers the whole day he wore his yellow Hermès silk twill scarf, knowing Karofsky could be lurking around any corner with a grape Big Quench.
It was Friday afternoon now, hours after the final bells and nearing the end of an impromptu rehearsal in the auditorium, and Kurt couldn't believe his good luck. It looked like his wardrobe would live to see another Monday. The Cheerios and football players were off at practice in their old non-conflicting timeslot, so maybe the war was finally over—unfortunate timing for poor Artie, who was still scrubbing syrup off of his suspenders.
"I just don't get this change of priority in the school pecking order," he grumbled, polishing his glasses on one of his shirt's few remaining clean patches. "Quinn and Finn took their lumps, so I figured things were going to change, but since when is the handicapped kid a more attractive target than the guy wearing Valentino?"
Kurt gave him a sympathetic pat on the knee. "He probably only had one slushie left, and knew I would be harder to catch if I ran."
Artie sighed. "Fair enough."
"We all survived," said Tina, lifting one of Artie's sneakers into her lap to wipe with a paper towel. "That's what c-counts."
"Sing it, girl," said Mercedes.
In the silence that followed, they glanced unconsciously over at Rachel, who was paging through a stack of sheet music across the stage. She'd been unusually quiet all afternoon. Like the others, Kurt had noticed the distinct droop in her shoulders, but he didn't quite have the words to ask her what was going on. He looked questioningly at Mercedes. Mercedes gestured him closer, waiting until Artie and Tina had leaned in before speaking.
"It's Puck," she whispered. "I think they broke up."
"Good riddance," said Artie, unimpressed. "She deserves better. Puck's an ass."
"Artie," Tina scolded.
"He is an ass," said Rachel, startling them all. She replaced the music and let the piano bench lid fall with a bang, crossing the room to take a vacant seat by Tina. "Artie, you've got slushie in your ears or something. You're talking way louder than you think you are."
Artie wiped at his ears. "Sorry!" he yelled, earning a smile from Rachel. Then, quieter: "I am, you know. Really."
She cupped her chin in her hand and chewed her lower lip. "Don't be," she said finally. "I don't know why I even agreed to go out with him in the first place. My heart wasn't in it, and neither was his. The worst part is I always knew it, too, but lately everything has become so…complicated. Is it wrong to blame it on this bizarre social meshing? Did Glee have this much drama before it was full of football players and Cheerios?"
"Oh, we had drama," Kurt assured her. "Mind you, it was of the banal 'shut-up-Rachel-twelve-solos-are-enough' variety. Or the 'Mercedes-is-refusing-to-wear-her-costume' variety."
"Or the 'Kurt's-refusing-to-wear-his-costume' variety," said Mercedes, grinning.
"See?" said Kurt. "Banal."
"Then again, I'm of the opinion that you could trace basically everything wrong with the world back to football players and Cheerios," said Artie.
Rachel finally looked up, beaming. Her eyes were distant as she gave all of them a good once-over, as if seeing them for the first time in several months. "The old gang," she mused. "The Sandy Ryerson survivors, no less! Even if we didn't know each other very well before this year, we were the originators, and that's going to count for so much when we win nationals. I'm grateful to have you guys."
Kurt felt both of his eyebrows shoot up, and Tina accidentally dropped Artie's foot. As always, Mercedes could be counted upon to voice their shock: "Um, wow, Britney. That's a first. I guess it just takes a little heartbreak for you to show us a little heart, huh?"
"I've always felt this way," said Rachel. "After all, someone has to sing backup for me."
They stared at her.
Her face fell. "Um…that was a joke."
Artie clapped her on the shoulder. "Ah. Well. Non-musical timing has never been your strong suit. And that wasn't a joke, by the way."
Rachel laughed easily, and this time, the others joined her. This was probably just another Rachel Berry phase, some passing whim of camaraderie that would die the next time someone wanted one of "her" solos, but Kurt wanted to believe her. Especially when she reached out and took Tina's hand in her right and Kurt's in her left, squeezed, and said, "Let's try this new thing where we're there for each other when it matters. We don't have to get along all the time. But…if we ever need someone, we'll know we've got friends for everything that counts."
"F-for sure," Tina agreed.
"I'm game," said Artie, smiling.
"I thought that's how it's always been," said Mercedes, with a shrug.
Friends. Kurt tried the word out silently and was surprised by how natural it felt. Wasn't Mercedes right? Hadn't they always been around to pick each other up when it really mattered? No one could change that dynamic. Not that chiseled gift from God, Finn Hudson, or Quinn Fabray with her perfect beauty-shop curls, or even a dick like Noah Puckerman who was apparently in the business of crushing both skulls and hearts. They'd survived stool choir, after all. It would take more than a few new recruits and a slushie war to keep them from confiding in each other.
"Kurt?" Rachel prompted, sounding a little troubled by his silence.
He shook himself from his reverie and smiled at her. "I was just thinking if we're going to take BFF vows, I've got these killer silver filigree ankle bracelets tucked away in a jewelry box somewhere."
"Oh, hey, look at the time!" said Artie, rolling himself back so fast he nearly toppled Tina's chair. "I was supposed to be home an hour ago. To polish my other silver filigree ankle bracelets."
"Hater," said Kurt. "I'm not oblivious to this shameless retreat."
"It is getting late," Mercedes agreed, giving him a hug. "See you on Monday, right? Hit me up if you want to hang out before then."
Mercedes winked. "Bye, Rachel."
Rachel lit up like a Christmas tree. "Bye!"
They dispersed on a wave of laughter and conversation, Tina and Mercedes helping Artie up the stairs in the chair. Tina hit some of the lights on her way out. Only the ambient lighting lingered, the surreal blues and greens of the spotlights. Their cheerful voices disappeared down the hall. When it was quiet again, Kurt cast Rachel a sideways glance. She was looking back at him with both hands folded in her lap, hair on her shoulders, her face tense and contemplative.
"You know I mean it, right?" she asked. "I want—I want us to like each other."
He stared at the tiny wrinkles where she'd been twisting her skirt, heard all of the words she didn't say: I want you to like me. It made his heart ache for her. So what if this sentimentalism was coming from a place of self-doubt? This was as genuine as it got. Rachel may have been vocally untouchable, but romantically, she was floundering just as much as the rest of them were. Kurt reached for her hand again. She took it immediately and held on hard, her eyes growing soft and sad under the stage lights.
"Just forget Puck," Kurt said. "The man's a pig, and the rest of us are here for you. You call us up for a Celine Dion karaoke night anytime you want."
Rachel nodded. "I will," she said. "Just as long as you let us be there for you, too?"
"Honey, my life is fantastic," said Kurt, almost believing it himself. "But I'll let you know if I need a hand. Promise."
"That's all I ask," she said.
They said their goodbyes, and he lingered to pack up his things, watching her silhouette as she left the auditorium. She was already holding her head up again, her posture proud—with any luck, it would be back to the banal by Monday, all diva rage and bad outfits and arguing over songs with Schuester. Just how Kurt liked it.
He sighed as he stood up to leave. A whole five days with only one self-inflicted slushie. An actual moment with Rachel Berry. Life could be worse.
He was twenty feet from the front doors when Dave Karofsky yanked him backwards into the men's restroom and hip-checked him into the wall. The gesture was more startling than it was painful, and Kurt caught his balance, looking up at him with weary resignation. So much for his perfect week. Had the asshole really been lying in wait for him this whole time? He didn't even have a slushie handy. Strange.
"Look, things are going well for me for once," said Kurt. "I'm really not in the mood for this."
Karofsky rested his elbow against the wall and smiled at him, slow and dangerous. "Well, I am, fag. Take off your pants."
Kurt blinked. Fag certainly wasn't a new one, but the only times he'd been told to remove clothing were in a pre-dumpster-driving context, and only after sufficient pleading on his part. He glanced down at his jeans. Dark denim designers—getting a little worn out, not worth fighting too hard over. "Why?" asked Kurt, suspicious. "What are you going to do with them?"
"Not a thing," said Karofsky. "It's what I'm going to do to you that you should be worried about."
"I doubt it's something that hasn't been done to me before," said Kurt.
That made him grin, for some reason. "I guess we'll see about that, won't we?"
He bridged the distance between them in one easy step, reached forward, and hoisted Kurt's satchel off his shoulder. Kurt grabbed for it, but Karofsky held him at bay with one hand and set the bag against the wall near the trash can. Muscle rippled in his arms as he moved. Kurt inched away until he bumped into the porcelain edge of a sink. He'd never realized how huge Karofsky was before now. Then again, he'd never been cornered by him in a bathroom, either. He sidestepped to the left, trying to get closer to the exit. Karofsky stayed right in front of him, his breathing uneven.
"Okay," said Kurt, leaning away. "Not that violating my personal space isn't a new and admittedly innovative form of torture, but--"
"Take off your fucking pants," Karofsky ordered.
Kurt began to comply out of sheer reflex, then paused, his fingers hesitating on the clasp. Karofsky was waiting, his eyes fixed somewhere below the belt. Kurt's belt. A premonitory sliver of discomfort churned in his stomach, making him nauseous. This wasn't right. Kurt let go of his pants and dropped his arms back to his sides, drawing himself up straight with as much dignity as he could muster.
"No," he said, confused.
The back of Karofsky's hand flashed out. Kurt felt a sudden, blinding pain in his cheek. He staggered, barely caught himself on the edge of the sink. Karofsky grabbed him by the collar and hauled him off balance again, backwards past the urinals, into the first toilet stall. The walls rattled as Karofsky wrenched the door shut and thumbed the lock into place. The telltale click was too loud in the room; it seemed to echo.
"What's wrong with you?" Kurt shouted when he had regained his equilibrium, cupping his stinging face.
"Shut your mouth, homo, unless you plan to use it," said Karofsky.
Kurt grabbed for the door. Karofsky drove him back with both hands, keeping one fist knotted in the front of his shirt.
"You're so fuckin' easy to push around, Hummel," said Karofsky, grinning lazily. "You think you'd try harder to make yourself less of a target."
"Whatever I am, I want to be it," said Kurt.
"Ah, so you want to be a queer. You want to take it up the ass."
Kurt tried one more time to push past him. Karofsky shoved him backwards again, this time with enough force to make him stumble against the toilet. Kurt sat down heavily, legs sprawling.
It all happened in a second: Karofsky was suddenly on top of him, pinning him to the tank, hands inside his jacket and his lips working sloppily against Kurt's neck. Shocked, Kurt detached himself and thrashed away. His shoes slid against the slick floor. He had to seize the back of Karofsky's shirt to keep himself from falling, and Karofsky took the opportunity to grind against him, moaning. His arousal pressed urgently into Kurt's thigh. Kurt barely managed to dodge his mouth as he leaned in for a kiss.
"Get the hell off me!" Kurt yelled.
Karofsky struck him across the face twice. The second blow came just as Kurt was straightening from the first, closed-fist this time, hard enough to rock his head against the stall wall. Kurt sank to the tile, dazed, both ears ringing. His vision had gone pure white from the bathroom's fluorescents.
"Listen to me, Hummel," said Karofsky, towering over him. He grabbed Kurt's chin and squeezed, waiting until Kurt had met his gaze before speaking. "There are two possible ways this'll happen. One, you be a good boy and do exactly what I say, and I fuck you. Two, you keep fighting me, and I beat you until you're hemorrhaging too hard to move, and then I fuck you."
Kurt felt his eyes begin to sting with furious tears. He felt numb, sick to his stomach. "I'd rather die than do either!"
Karofsky raised an eyebrow. "Careful what you wish for."
He released Kurt's face and stroked the backs of his fingers over the already-forming bruise, frighteningly tender. Then he placed his hand around Kurt's throat, smiled, and pressed down hard with his thumb.
It was exactly the reaction he was going for, but Kurt couldn't help it: the panic set in immediately. The pressure of Karofsky's callused fingertips. The terrifying way that weight choked off all of his words, stopped everything but the tiniest stream of air from reaching his lungs. Kurt grabbed Karofsky's wrist with both hands, already lightheaded with terror. Stop, he mouthed, trying not to move in any way that might increase the damage. Tears coursed down his cheeks; he was afraid to let go to wipe them away.
"That pretty little voice of yours," Karofsky mused, tightening his grip. "The pathetic lynchpin upon which your entire purpose as a human being rests. I wonder…how well would you do without it?"
A drop of blood beaded at the perforation of Karofsky's ragged nail and trickled down Kurt's neck, tickling his collarbone. Kurt tried to draw in a breath and only managed to choke. He could fight his respiration into steadiness for a while longer—years of vocal training had assured that—but there was no way to stop his body from trembling, no way to stop Karofsky's free hand from slipping up the back of his shirt. Karofsky toyed with the elastic waistband of his briefs. His fingers dipped down, explored, retreated to the gentle curve of his spine. The touch made Kurt's skin crawl.
"So, what's it going to be, bitch?" Karofsky asked. "I rip out your throat, or you get down on your hands and knees?"
Shame coursed through Kurt in giant waves. More tears slipped from his eyes as he squeezed them shut. Without looking at Karofsky, he nodded.
"I expect full cooperation," said Karofsky, shaking him.
He nodded again, infinitesimally.
Karofsky let him go.
Kurt collapsed to his elbows, gasping, his whole body aching from oxygen deprivation and fear reflex. His hands flew to his throat. For a long minute, music was the only thing he knew—music, a thousand times more precious than his virtue, a million years longer lived than anything he could lose to some hockey bastard in a school bathroom. Kurt was desperate to sing. Even running scales would do. He had to know if he still had it.
But he couldn't even catch his breath.
Karofsky watched him choke for a long time before kneeling down beside him. He rolled Kurt onto his back and straddled him, squeezing his ass, kissing slow trails across his cheeks. Kurt felt like he was being crushed. Karofsky undid the clasp on his pants and purred his approval, his mouth hot on the tender skin below Kurt's ear. Kurt stared past Karofsky's head at the ceiling. The tiles blurred softly together under a veil of his tears.
"None of that now, fag," Karofsky said, slapping him lightly to get his attention. "You should be enjoying yourself. I'm just giving you what you want."
Kurt's throat ached as he spoke.
"What was that?"
His voice was raspy, almost inaudible. God, it hurt. "Not from you."
Karofsky laughed. He was unfastening his own pants now; Kurt looked away. "I'm the best you'll ever get," he said, forcing him onto his stomach, and lowered himself on top of Kurt.
There were no footsteps outside the door, no voices through the air ducts. Even the plumbing was silent. Rachel and the others were long gone. As if from a great distance, Kurt could hear the sound of tearing fabric, the scrape of his own fingernails across the tiled floor, Karofsky's grunts as he positioned himself. The world was melting away in front of him and he was helpless to hold onto it, didn't know if he would, even if he could.
Pretend it's a dream, he told himself. Don't make it real.
Karofsky pushing against him. Pressure between his legs.
Kurt closed his eyes.
"Hey, Puckerman, I think your boyfriend from Homo Explosion is waiting for you outside."
Puck looked up sharply at the gibe, but his teammate was just loitering by the door with his towel slung over one shoulder, no aggression in his posture. Just playing messenger. For once. Puck felt a familiar swell of anger as he stooped to tie his shoes, the laces still stiff with corn syrup from that week's Slushie Apocalypse. "Oh yeah?" he said. "Has anyone splattered him across the field yet, or is he still miraculously in one piece?"
"Actually, everyone's pretty much steering clear."
"How generous," said Puck, dripping sarcasm.
The guy shifted nervously. His arms were still swarthy from practice, toned, but he wasn't in Puck's shape. No one really was. The dick who'd creamed him with the slushie either had a death wish or was counting on momentarily blinding him—which he had, luckily enough. "Look, Puckerman," said the guy, awkward. "The thing with Finn and Quinn—"
Puck swung his bag over his shoulder and stood up, making the bench screech against the tile. "Too little, too late," he said, shoving past him. "And I better not hear a single word from you or the peanut gallery when I'm talking to Clark."
"Whatever. Why do you know that?"
"Well, um, some of the guys needed a caption for a…pornographic caricature. I had nothing to do with it, swear."
Oh yeah, that.
Puck exited the locker room and headed outside. Of course he actually knew Kurt's name. It was hard not to when they'd shared two time-consuming extracurricular activities, not to mention English, a lunch period, and a rigorous pre-class bullying schedule. But pretending not to know or care was part of keeping up appearances—not that Puck was too worried about his reputation these days. He'd dared to date Rachel Berry, for Christ's sake. What no one knew was that it was a vanity thing, both on his half and on hers…for not-so-different reasons. And while Berry was undoubtedly off somewhere feeling wronged, Puck was secure in the knowledge that at least he'd never pretended it was anything else.
He could see Kurt now, sitting on one of the benches by the field. Puck waited until he was within earshot before calling out to him.
Kurt glanced up a little too fast. Puck paused in mid-step. No wonder the other guys had left him alone—he looked terrible. His hair was mussed for the first time in the history of aerosol, his shoes were untied, and the entire left side of his face was purple with bruising. He recoiled when Puck approached him. Puck stopped again and held both hands up in peace.
"Whoa, Nancy, it's cool. I'm just coming to get a better look. What the hell happened to you?"
"What does it look like?" said Kurt. His voice was so weak Puck could barely hear it; he sounded like he had a cold. "I got fucked up."
The language startled Puck. He couldn't remember ever hearing Kurt swear before. "By who?"
"Don't pretend to care. Just don't. Where's Finn?"
The question of the year. For all he knew, Finn could be off brainstorming baby names like "Loops" and "Stormwater," seeking guidance from Ms. Pillsbury with Quinn, rehearsing some dopey duet with Berry… pick a number. Even the resident homo was vying for his best friend's attention now. Puck tried to keep the annoyance off his face. "What am I, his bodyguard? I don't know. He didn't show up for practice today, and I didn't stick around to ask the coach why."
"Oh," said Kurt, faint.
"Yeah," said Puck shortly. "Catch you on the flipside." He readjusted his gym bag on his shoulder and strode on by, heading towards the parking lot.
He'd only made it about four steps off the field before Kurt cleared his throat, too clearly trying to mask a sob. Puck made the mistake of glancing back over his shoulder. Had to stop. Kurt's posture was uncharacteristically hunched. He looked so pathetic sitting on a bench built for linemen, so ridiculously…small. Puck hesitated, then swore and walked back over to him. Only because he'd had his own taste of Glee Club status that week. Goddamn it.
"So why do you need Finn, anyway? Is it something I could help with?"
Kurt wiped his face fast and lifted his chin away, trying to look nonchalant. "Doubt it."
"If it's a Glee thing--"
"No, it's not for Glee Club. I was just…I'm not feeling too great right now. I have a stomachache. And a headache. I was hoping to get a ride home."
Puck scratched his ear. "You know, I do own a vehicle."
Kurt finally looked at him. There were bruises on his lips, what the hell. "You do?"
"Yeah," said Puck.
And Kurt just waited. Puck felt a strange pang, something like guilt. Sure, there were a couple of pee balloon incidents, and the tri-weekly dumpster baths, and the whole lawn furniture thing…but Puck hadn't realized he'd actually done enough to the kid to merit that desolate look of distrust and shy hope. He tried to smile at him. It felt too weird, so he stopped.
"So, uh, do you want a ride?"
"Yes," said Kurt, choking up. "Yes, very much. Please."
Puck was torn between being embarrassed or simply feeling like the world's biggest piece of shit. Instead, he twirled his keys around one finger. "Well, c'mon, then."
"Oh, god, thank you. You don't know how grateful I am." Kurt gathered his satchel, clutching it to his chest instead of using the shoulder strap, and tensed his body to stand up—then stopped short and sat down again. He made no noise, but the pain that flickered across his face was unmistakable. His cheeks were draining quickly of what little color they had left. Contusions stood out like exclamation points all along his throat and jaw line.
"What? What's wrong?" demanded Puck, reaching for his shoulder.
Kurt flinched away from him. "Don't touch me!"
He backed off at once, badly startled. "Jesus! Sorry! What's your deal?"
Kurt took a long time to catch his breath again. Tears filled his eyes, and he swiped them away with his sleeve before they could fall. More than anything, that's when it hit home for Puck: under normal circumstances, Kurt would never dream of using his clothing in lieu of a tissue. In fact, his whole getup was off somehow. He'd looked sharp and styled that morning, but now his neat designer-whatever jacket was crooked on his shoulders and his checkered blue shirt was a button or two lower in the front than he usually deemed decorous. Kurt had quit football that week. What other reason would he have to get undressed at school? And why hadn't he put himself back in order?
"Dude," said Puck. There was a sick, sinking feeling in his stomach. He dropped his bag at his feet and sat down on the bench beside Kurt, trying not to take it personally when Kurt scooted away a little. "Um…listen to me. I know we're not real cool with each other usually, but if you need to, uh, talk about anything…"
"I can't stand up," Kurt said, his voice low.
"The pain. I…I can't stand up."
The last few stragglers had left the locker room and were crossing the field. They glanced over at Puck and Kurt as they passed. Puck scowled at them, daring them to say anything, but they wisely kept their mouths shut and continued walking without incident. Puck waited until they were far out of earshot before turning back to Kurt, who had crossed both arms over his abdomen and was trembling hard.
"You can't fucking walk?" he demanded quietly. "What did this guy do to you?"
"I…nothing. Nothing." Kurt leaned forward so his bangs would obscure his eyes. A tremor seemed to move through him, and he shuddered, clutching himself close.
"Hummel," said Puck, raising a hand to place on his arm.
Kurt cringed back from the touch and scooted away again. His collar had slipped a little, revealing a massive bruise just under the shelf of his chin. Puck followed the seams of his jacket down the indistinct shape of his body: discolorations around his wrists, ragged fingernails, shirt untucked. And his jeans—god, his jeans. Puck paled.
The two inches of bench Kurt had just vacated were stained with something dark and red.
"Fuck," Puck whispered.
They were both quiet for a long time. Kurt sat very still beside him. The sunset caught a tear on his face, but he made no move to wipe it away—the swelling looked even worse in the failing light, shining across a cut on his left cheek that would likely scar. Kurt Hummel with a visible disfigurement: the mere possibility made Puck's throat tighten with panic and fury. He clenched his hands into fists, trying to keep them from shaking.
Who the fuck could do something like that to someone? To Kurt? Just a kid, really, a kid whose only offense was individuality in a town that demanded orthodoxy. The slushies were different; that was something that happened to everyone in Glee. The dumpsters were more specific to Kurt, but it wasn't like that was a felony. Puck wasn't stupid about this shit. He'd been to frat parties, keggers, the rough side of town. Everything about Kurt's condition pointed toward a crime that went far beyond the high school hazing league…something that would never even cross Puck's mind on his very worst days. Ever.
Puck forced himself to speak: "Who did it?"
Mechanically, Kurt shook his head.
"Who the fuck did it?" Puck shouted.
His voice echoed impotently across the empty field. Kurt's eyes merely drifted shut in response, and he lolled to one side before Puck caught him by the sleeve and jerked him upright again. Kurt looked up at him, his gaze drugged and out of focus. He was shivering.
"I think my life is over," he whispered, his voice completely devoid of emotion. "I can't move. I had to drag myself out here, and now I can't even walk to your car… this is going to be all over the school…the way people are going to look at me…"
His eyelashes fluttered again.
Puck shook him, unable to contain his panic. "Kurt. Kurt!"
Slowly, Kurt opened his eyes again. This time there was a terrifying lucidity in them, desperate and ashamed. "Please leave me alone, Puck."
"No," said Puck, through clenched teeth. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Neither am I," said Kurt. "I can't. I hurt everywhere…no way I can make it to the parking lot." He sucked in a sharp breath as he shifted his legs and tried to sit up. Then, shockingly, he laughed, freeing a few tears with the motion. "It had to be you, of all people. I couldn't have had a chance encounter with Finn or Mike or even Mercedes. Thank God I'm too numb to feel humiliated right now, or else I'd be throwing myself off a cliff. Just…go, Puck. Go home. There's nothing you can do for me."
His words cut Puck like glass. Kurt had been attacked, and he still wasn't willing to accept Puck's assistance. Puck squeezed his eyes shut and forced himself to think. I am not that guy. Please, please tell me I'm not that guy.
Then Kurt leaned into him on accident as he straightened, the tension momentarily lifting from his expression, and Puck got it.
"I'll carry you," he blurted.
Kurt looked at him like he was crazy. "What?"
"I'll carry you," Puck repeated. Then, seeing that Kurt was entirely unconvinced, he allowed himself the most honest of admissions: "Just let me do this. It doesn't make up for anything, but I have to try. I won't be able to forgive myself if I don't."
For several long moments, Kurt only looked at him, his cheeks battered and damp. Then he gave a tiny nod and made a sound that was half a sigh, half a sob. "Okay."
Puck's breath whooshed out of him in relief. "Thank you."
"No," said Kurt. "Thank you."
It took them a few seconds to figure it out. The logistics were weird. Puck pulled his gym bag over his head and drew the strap across his chest, then did the same with Kurt's satchel. When both were secure, he took a knee and gestured Kurt forward. Kurt placed his arms tentatively around Puck's neck, light as a spell.
After a few false starts—Puck couldn't quite bring himself to touch the small of his back; Kurt panicked when Puck's shoulder brushed his neck—Puck found a comfortable way to raise him off the bench. One arm around his knees and one arm around his shoulders. He lifted in one strong, steady motion. Kurt's breath hitched and he hissed in pain, clinging hard to Puck. He was trembling hard beneath the bulk of his clothing.
"Okay?" asked Puck, his voice hoarse.
"Peachy keen," Kurt mumbled back, muffled by Puck's letter jacket.
"Good. Hold on—I'll get you there."
Keeping his grip firm, Puck began to carry Kurt toward the track. The field was growing dark. Streetlamps glared in the distance, casting long, soft shadows across the Astroturf. Puck looked around, already knowing everything would look different on Monday. The whole school had lost its innocence. Fuck this place. Fuck Lima.
As he walked, Kurt's arms grew limp, his hands drifting down across Puck's shoulders to rest against his chest. Falling asleep. It was a form of contact that Puck could not have allowed under any other circumstances: Kurt was too light now, not even putting a strain on Puck's arms, so barely there. With each step Puck took, he felt the weight of every insult he'd ever thrown at Kurt. His conscience felt so heavy that it threatened to drag them both down. But he just kept putting one foot in front of the other, waiting to see the light of that distant parking lot.
He promised himself things were going to change.
Thank you for reading! Please drop me a review if you have time; I would love to hear from you.