There was something about Kurt Hummel that just set Noah Puckerman's teeth on edge, even on that very first day of high school. He didn't look all that different from any other fifteen year old boy, hadn't yet acquired the fashion-sense that would become a trademark by sophomore year, but there was a strut to his walk, an indefinable something, that drove Puck crazy. He didn't (want to) think about why, he was more of an action guy, so he moved on impulse, shoving into the smaller boy, careful never to make eye contact. When Finn stopped him, he shrugged, played cool, but he was fairly certain that the skin of his shoulder was on fire. Touching Kurt had been…electric. He had to make sure he (never. always.) touched Hummel again.
His determination to avoid Hummel like the fucking plague lasted a whole two weeks before he started the dumpster diving. Getting knocked into lockers or called names hadn't stopped that better-than-you swagger, but Kurt's face had begun to close up whenever anyone larger or sweatier appeared on his radar, his dancer's muscles tightening. Not that Puck was paying any attention to his face. Or his muscles. Or any part of him.
It didn't help any that, although Kurt looked like a cornered rabbit when surrounded by half the football team, he still kept his chin up and his smart comments coming. When he turned 16, and some of the trust funds from his mother's accident kicked in (or so the rumors went, not that Puck paid any attention), Kurt started to demand that they not toss him until he'd had a chance to remove whatever fancy investment piece he'd recently purchased. By sophomore year, you could set your watch by the routine: at 7.45 am Kurt arrives on campus, is escorted to the dumpster by at least six guys, insults fly, Puck gets to touch Kurt, and by the 8.05 bell everyone is in class. Except Kurt, who is always about 20 minutes late.
What the hell was Finn doing with that fag on the field? Wasn't it bad enough he'd joined Homo Explosion? And why was Hummel wearing a helmet? As he approached, Puck heard frustration in Finn's voice, but Kurt's was all fierce determination.
"…do it your way, they're going to kill you."
"My body is like a rum chocolate soufflé. If I don't warm it up right, it doesn't rise. If I'm doing this, I'm doing it my way."
Kurt stomped off, and Puck moved in to take his place.
"So are you two an item now, or…? He doesn't belong here."
Finn's explanation was cut short by the coach's whistle, but once Kurt had kicked the ball straight and true through the uprights, with an ease that shocked them all, it was pretty clear Puck wasn't going to be able to avoid him. So…maybe he could scare him away.
It was easy enough to corner the new kicker on his own in the locker room – he was reluctant to shower and change until everyone was gone, which made him an easy target. Puck waited until Kurt was dressed, then moved quickly into his space, backing him into the lockers. Kurt's eyes were wide, and Puck expected a snarky comment like he got out before a toss in the dumpers. What he wasn't expecting was for Kurt - Kurt fucking Hummel – to take a swing at him. But that's exactly what happened.
"There's only one of you here, this time, Puckerman," Kurt spit out, as Puck stumbled back. He was going to have a black eye for sure. "Without nine other goons to back you up, you might need to fight a little harder to get me into a dumpster, or whatever fun you've got planned."
"Dude! What the hell! You shouldn't be-" Puck started, moving in again, putting a hand on Kurt's chest (and there was that fucking electric shock), but Kurt wasn't done.
"I am not invading your precious football team because I am dying to spend more time with the guys who torture me. I am doing this for my father, and no other reason. And that means," he continued, poking his finger into Puck's face with each word, "that you will have to get your boys to put me in the hospital before I'll quit."
Puck was shocked, not by the attitude, because Kurt had always had that, but about how…how gutsy he was being. "Wow, where did all this testosterone come from?"
"You couldn't take a week of being me, Puckerman, don't kid yourself. Now if you'll excuse me, I have other places to be."
"Are you questioning my badassedness?"
But Kurt was already gone.
Who knew Kurt Hummel had a kicking leg and balls of fucking steel? And that's kind of how the dumpsters became a much smaller part of Kurt's routine, and Puck ended up walking in to glee club. Because no one questioned his badassedness.
Kurt woke the morning of Sectionals with a sick foreboding that rapidly turned into a pounding headache, just behind his left eye. Even snarking on Rachel didn't help his mood much, and by the time they were sitting in the seats at Buckeye Civic Auditorium, watching the "girls" of Jane Addams completely rip them off, he thought his eye might actually explode if he didn't keep a hand on his temple.
Back in the lobby, while Rachel and Artie beat out a syncopated rhythm using various body parts against the walls, and Tina and Mercedes went catatonic on the couch, he tried to find a quiet spot where he could just hold his head in peace. No such luck.
"Noah. Knock it off."
*flick* "Make me."
"I am so not kidding."
*flick* "Neither am I."
"Why are you doing this?"
"I'm trying to get you to smile."
"Oh. Well...thank you."
Suddenly, his head didn't hurt quite so much.
Puck found Kurt, as he knew he would, sitting on the edge of the stage in the empty auditorium, singing Defying Gravity.
"I knew you could hit that note, dude."
"Well, of course you did."
"No, I mean I knew it even before you told us all why you blew it. It was the look on your face while you were singing that gave you away. Are you sorry you didn't get it?"
"Non, je ne regrette rien," Kurt laughed softly. "Well, that's not true, really. I regret that I felt I had to throw the solo. Which is entirely different from regretting doing it, you know."
"Yeah, I can see that. Sucks that people can be such assholes."
"You were one of those assholes just a few short months ago, Mr. Puckerman. Don't think I haven't forgotten. You've changed, though." A pause. "What about you, what do you regret? Other than babygate, obviously."
"I never cared enough to have regrets."
"That's kind of sad, you know."
"Yeah, well, maybe I have changed." He paused, taking a deep breath. "Actually, I do have one other thing I regret," Puck said, pushing off the stage he had been leaning against and walking over so that he was standing in front of Kurt. Kurt's body seemed to shut down a little – his heart felt like it was going to pound out of his chest, but his breathing stopped almost entirely. "I've spent a year and a half treating you like shit, when really, this is all I've wanted to do."
He brushed the back of his hand over Kurt's cheek, and then cupped his face. Slowly, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Kurt's. All of the electricity he had ever felt when they touched seemed focused on this one moment. He felt Kurt's muscles tense under him, and started to pull away a little, expecting a well-deserved slap – physical, verbal, maybe both. To Puck's surprise, though, Kurt wrapped his arms around his neck, and Puck felt a tentative tongue touching his lips. The kiss deepened, and Puck stepped forward and (finally) closed the distance between them.