Author's Note: Yay for me completing another oneshot before my spring break is over. Thanks for the love—I'm glad someone other than me is enjoying these haha. I'm trying to work on a Tartie drabble as I work on my Pina future!fic, but I swear Pina and their plot bunnies have taken over. I'm hopeless. I got the idea for this from listening to 'Better' by Regina Spektor one too many times. This one is set a little bit after THWBIA, maybe after DOLC in my series. Yeah. I don't even know.
"Your smile is the sun. And fallen men like me—we need the sun."
—The Brothers Bloom
What You Didn't Know You Needed
Puck finds it almost funny how one phone call can make your entire day do a 180.
They had started out the afternoon normally enough, with Tina kicking his butt at video games—he swears he's letting her win, she swears he just sucks. He tried to tell her that screaming 'why won't you die already!?' proves that she's getting a little too into it, but she glared at him and he might've mumbled something about her spending too much friggin' time with Mike Chang when she wasn't paying attention.
When he had enough of watching her verbally spar with the animated character onscreen, he tackled her, causing them to topple onto the bed behind them.
And there wasn't much talking after that.
They were still lying there when the phone rang, his arm around her and their legs entangled, ignoring the rings as well as the constant drip of the faucet he's been neglecting to fix in the next room over. The phone rang once more and before he could pick it up to hurl it across the room, his mother's voice is heard calling him from the kitchen.
He tries to ignore her as well, but after a few warning glares and nudges from Tina, he groans and mumbles a 'be right back' against her lips before heading downstairs. She sits up with a smile on her face and tries to remind herself that she usually rolls her eyes at girls who swoon and squeal and generally go googley-eyed over their boyfriends (no matter how charming or cute they may be) so she can stop smiling like a doofus now, but it doesn't seem to be working all that well.
In an attempt to distract herself, she looks around the room like she's done a million times now. The only problem is that what she finds on his familiar walls only makes her smile grow. There's a picture from Regionals and one from Sara's 8th birthday party tucked into the corner of his mirror. They had placed 2nd, but by the looks of the photograph, you couldn't tell they had lost anything at all. Thirteen identical grins shine back at her, including a so-proud-to-the-point-of-tears look from Mr. Schue. All of them seemed to be looking at the camera except for a certain boy with a Mohawk and a girl with purple streaks, his arm around her as her smile beams directly at him. In the second, she's sitting at the picnic table in his backyard, Sara sitting in her lap, their cheeks covered in cake and both their grins threatening to split their faces. As much as they make her smile, she knows better than to say anything about the existence of the photos. He's not into anything remotely sentimental. And neither is she. Supposedly.
When one minute turns into ten, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she finds herself descending the stairs. She can't help but still laugh at the pictures of 10 year-old Puck with his Jew fro and bright red baseball uniform. All it takes is one step into the kitchen and her smile immediately drops.
She stands there, one foot on the tiles, one hand against the doorframe as she looks at the sight before her. He's straight-arming the counter, his fingers gripping the edge tightly as he bows his head, his jaw set. Tina doesn't think she's ever seen such an unreadable look on his face before. He seemed to have been arguing about something serious with his mother before he came in, because hisses of conversation had halted right as she entered, his mother's expression just as cloudy as his.
His eyes glance across hers for a fraction of a second before he strides past her and out of the room. Her eyebrows knit together in confusion as she watches him trudge up the stairs before turning back to his mother. She's sitting at the counter, her hands clasped together and her vision glued to the phone still sitting on the countertop. Something was definitely wrong here.
She nervously nibbles on her bottom lip, warily approaching the counter. "Who was that on the phone?"
His mother takes a deep breathe, wiping a tired hand across her face.
"It was a hospital in Cleveland," she murmurs, her voice hollow, and Tina racks her brain, trying to figure out what she can assume from that information. "Noah's father was in a car accident last night. He…he passed just this morning."
At that, she pauses. Something heavy just fell to the pit of her stomach. She takes in the vacant withered look on Puck's mother's face and Tina finds that she doesn't really know what to say to that—what were you supposed to say to that? 'I'm sorry the guy who left you and your children just got pulverized by a piece of scrap metal?' Yeah. That'd work.
So instead she puts her hand on her arm, her expression and voice both as soft as ever.
"Are you alright?"
"Don't worry about me," she says evenly, looking up for the first time. The smallest of smiles graces her face as she gently pats a hand over Tina's and fixes her with a steady look. "I was done dealing with that man a long time ago…but I don't think Noah ever has."
She finds herself walking up the stairs and the halls back towards his bedroom. She feels like she's done this a million times now, except this time the trek includes this uncertainty—she's never seen him deal with anything like this before. Death. Especially the death of someone like his distant father he barely mentioned. It seemed so new to her. Plus the Soundgarden song he had turned on didn't exactly help.
'Times are gone for honest men
and sometimes far too long for snakes…
Black hole sun,
won't you come
and wash away the rain?'
Puck trudges around that bathroom, taking out his aggression on the sink, like anything and everything that could've ever held any potential to annoy him has chosen that very moment to join forces and swarm around him.
Leaky faucets? Stupid. College apps? Lame. Dead dads who never cared in the first place? What a fucking joke.
He thinks of Rock & Roll blaring from a beat-up El Camino and all the trivial shit like baseball gloves and attending guitar recitals and fixing stuff when it breaks—crap that fathers were supposed to be there to do.
His hadn't been there for any of that.
What frustrates him the most is that yesterday, his father was out of his head; it didn't matter that he was out of his life. But now…now that he's off the planet, there's something so hollow and definite about it that makes his head spin.
"Piece of shit…"
He moves to lie underneath the sink, the tiles cool against his back and his wrist twisting along with the wrench. He's busy wishing the world would just fucking fix itself already when he feels Tina enter the room.
"What are you doing?" she asks, her voice this timid tone he hasn't heard in what feels like forever. He has the fleeting thought that that's not really what she wants to know since his current actions are self-explanatory.
"Trying to get this stupid drip to stop."
She nods quietly and he knows that she's trying to gauge how to react to him, but there's something about her presence, her arms crossed and leaning against the doorframe behind him that's both comforting and unnerving as hell. It's as if he can feel her eyes burning a hole in the back of his head. Something about it made him feel…he would say vulnerable, but this is Puck—he had long decided he wouldn't feel that way. Ever.
"Are you okay?"
He spares her a glance and she's still standing there patiently. She's beautiful as ever but she's standing in the world filled with everything he currently hates. So it's like some default setting that tells him he has to try and hate her too.
"Do you wanna talk about it?"
"Does it look like it?"
She frowns, she sighs.
"I know this can't be easy for you—"
"Like hell you know," he murmurs.
She blinks and sucks in her breath as if he had yelled it.
"No matter which way you spin it," he says, propping himself up on an elbow. "You still have both parents. So you can stand there and stare at me," he sneers, pointing the wrench at her, "Or you can back the hell off, and give me some breathing room."
The world stills for a moment as he takes in a breath, takes in the way she flinches. And now he hates that he can't hate her, hates that look of hurt tainting her features, hates the fact that he's the one who put it there.
Great. Just the thing he needed.
"Look, I didn't mean to—"
"Yeah," she cuts him off in a low voice, staring at the floor in something that could be quiet anger before meeting his eyes. "You kinda did."
She looks like she's ready to leave—not that he blames her, not that he didn't do it on purpose, not that he doesn't know not to throw her parents in her face; to say it's a sore subject would be an understatement. Her voice is deep and clipped and cold and he can't shake this guilty, sinking feeling that if he doesn't fix this he'll lose his only anchor.
"It's just that bastard left us, Tina. A long time ago," he tries to explain, his furrowed eyebrows and gruff voice reflecting his frustration, and a reluctantly softer look crosses her face. As he takes a deep breath, she finds herself moving from the door to get closer to him. He leans back under the sink as if his fruitless efforts are a good enough distraction. "And seriously, that's probably the best thing he ever did. So no matter how many graveyard shifts my mom works or how many pity-party phone calls we're gonna get from the same assholes who judge her even though he left us, nothing's gonna change—"
With a twist, a nick, and a clang, his wrench slips and suddenly they're both getting sprayed.
With his arms over his face and his mouth gagging on water, he leaps back from the sink, sputtering and soaking wet.
He feels himself being pulled backwards and the wrench swiped from his fingertips as his vision is obstructed by a blur of purple and black. Apparently Tina had managed to find where he'd tugged the pipe in the wrong place and tightened it before clamping a washcloth over it.
He takes a good look at Tina, her purple waves sticking to her and that black gunk dripping down her cheeks. She coughs a little before pushing a wet clump of hair from her eyes and spitting a good amount of water into the toilet before looking up at him. He feels the water droplets drip along his body and watches as she bites her bottom lip; he can only imagine how he looks right now—angry and drenched and fucking stupid.
And suddenly, she's laughing.
Her giggles only get worse when she attempts to talk and the only sounds being emitted are strangled words and incoherent babbles.
"You re—" she pauses, gasping for air, a hand idly gripping his shoulder. "Really should've seen your face. It was the greatest thing ever."
And just like that, she's smiling instead of glaring and he's a little bit thankful for that.
They lean their backs against the tiled wall and slide down in silence to sit side by side against the tub, feeling the cool acrylic against their backs. As the scent of her shampoo wafts past him, he feels himself sober a little.
"I really didn't mean—"
Her smile is small and before long his expression changes and his eyes seem to be scanning her body. She narrows her eyes.
"So…bad day to wear a white shirt or what?"
Tina's eyes widen and she looks down to see what he's smirking at; her shirt is clearly soaked through, not exactly hiding the dark purple bra she's wearing underneath.
She immediately feels the heat rise to her cheeks and she scrunches her nose and shoves him away from her. He clambers up to stand, shaking the water from his eyes and casting one more smirk in her direction before moving slowly to the door.
"Where are you going?"
He pauses and looks at her like she's being slow.
"To get you some dry clothes. C'mon."
She gives him a look.
"Would I stoop that low?"
No hesitation: "Yes."
He opens his mouth to automatically protest, and instead shrugs and nods his agreement "Yeah, probably…"
She rolls her eyes and allows him to pull her up by her hand. She watches as he leaves the room before turning towards the mirror above the sink. She tries not to cringe at the mascara making a horrid raccoon-esque trail down her face, before quickly grabbing a towel to hastily blot her hair.
When she enters his bedroom, her hair still damp and her face rinsed of any traces of makeup, he's sitting at the foot of his bed, his hands by his sides and his eyebrows furrowed as he studies the patch of carpet in front of him. He looks up for a moment, noting her change in appearance but doesn't comment on it (the last time he told her she looks better without all her 'face paint' he got kicked). She picks up the band t-shirt and basketball shorts he's put out on top of his dresser for her.
"It doesn't make any fucking sense," he murmurs, his gaze back to the ground while she inspects herself in the mirror.
She turns to him, trying to figure out if he was even speaking to her.
"I just…I don't get it," he mutters, shaking his head. "He walked out on us. I always swore if I ever saw him again the only thing I'd do was punch his face off. And now that he's gone, like really gone…I can't even hate him." He let's out this humorless laugh that makes her frown deepen. "How lame is that?"
She sets down the clothes and the towel and moves towards him.
"Hey," she whispers, and it takes him a moment to realize she scooted next to him, facing his side while she sits on her feet tucked beneath her, both ignoring or forgetting that they're drenched and freezing. Her hand reaches under his chin to get him to look at her. "It's not wrong to…"
She bites her bottom lip, trying to figure out how to word this.
"You're human, Puck. When it comes down to it, he was your father," she says, her voice steadier than she feels. His eyes, clear as ever, connect with hers. "It's okay to care even after what he did…or didn't do, doesn't mean it's wrong to feel that way."
He tries to listen to her words, to let the logic and the comfort of them seep through and absorb but his expression remains tense. She studies him a moment longer, his frown contagious and her own eyebrows furrowing with uncertainty of what to do.
And suddenly her lips are on him.
Her hands grasp his shoulders as she leans in and begins peppering soft kisses from the outskirts of his frown, across his cheekbones to his forehead. She revels in the way he closes his eyes and his whole body seems to relax on reflex as she moves to his eyelids, before pausing an inch away from his mouth.
Instead of kissing his lips, she brings a hand up to cup his jaw, stroking the stubble there and calmly keeping his gaze once he opens his eyes.
"So will you kiss me like that every time bad shit happens?"
Her mouth opens without a response and she's not even all that sure if she wants to answer that.
"Or maybe just when I get into pansy-emo mode or whatever."
She smirks now, grabbing the towel she'd deposited behind her and bringing it up to his face to dab at the water still trickling there.
"If not being heartless makes you a little less macho, I think it's a reasonable sacrifice," she says, a gentle half-smile forming at the corner of her mouth. She's rewarded with a small laugh from him.
He pulls her into his lap as she wraps her arms around his shoulders and leans forward to envelop him in a hug.
"Mm-hmm," she replies, mumbling into his neck. "It doesn't matter."
"Doesn't matter," he repeats in a low voice.
He holds her close as his fingers splay out across her back and his head dips down to rest against her shoulder. He breathes in her scent, repeating her words in his head like a song and some tension in his head clears. He suddenly feels a lot less like punching a wall and cursing all the failed fathers of the universe. Feels a lot less like that fatherless 10 year-old boy all over again, and more like the 17 year-old one, feeling like no matter how many times he's played over that scene of his father leaving behind a slamming door in his head, the recollection of that night is illuminated by this. By her.
His hands move to her hips as he pulls back for a moment, simply taking in her presence. The way her hair falls over her shoulders. The way her reassuring smile lights up her entire face. The way everything about her makes him feel everything he never thought he really needed to feel. Never thought he really could. It's a trip that no matter how many girls, how many women, he's been with; this is still as new to him as it is to her. It's never been this—never been a relationship where he can honestly call the girl he's with a friend, can honestly say she'd both call him out on his crap and be the first person to support him in anything. He tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear, wishing there was a way to say all that without it ringing false or cheesy or stupid or wording it in a way he's pretty sure would piss her off.
Without thinking, his hands reach forward to pull her towards him, his lips capturing hers in a searing kiss. He feels more than hears her breath catch in her throat and her hands come up to rest against his chest. He deepens the kiss and before long his hands are everywhere—cupping her face, snaking down her back, tangling in her hair, toying with the hem of her shirt.
They're not sure if he pulls or she pushes, but soon they're falling onto the bed, her hair a dangling damp curtain around them. His lips make contact with her neck and a little moan releases from the back of her throat. He smiles as he moves to kiss her again; he likes making her make that noise, he likes knowing that he can.
And suddenly he's rolling them over, pinning her beneath him.
He pauses for a moment, hovering above her as she smiles up at him, flushed and breathless. There's something in that smile that's different from any he's ever seen. Something in that smile that tells him that it means more to him to keep it there than it ever has with anyone else. Something that tells him she feels the same.
Her smile only widens as she reaches for the collar of his shirt and pulls him back over her, covering his smile with hers.
When he settles on his side, she turns to face him, her hands finding his collar once more. Her eyes soften as she studies his face.
He thinks of a father he never really knew and the way it feels having her in his arms and means it when he nods. That gentle smile crosses her face again before she buries her head against his neck and closes her eyes.
He feels safe.
And maybe that's all he really needed.
Reviews are love.