His dad s footsteps echoed as each of his boots hit every stair. Heavy. Burdened. He sank slowly down to the couch, not trusting his legs to keep him standing. Kurt had thought Finn was his friend, at the very least. He d been telling himself for quite a while now that Prince Charming Finn Hudson could never-and would never-be his. But he d thought his crush on Finn was safe. That Finn cared just enough about Kurt to not beat him to a pulp and leave him in a dumpster if the jock were to ever realize Kurt s feelings. Apparently he thought wrong. He was starting to think that maybe the beating and the dumpster toss would have been better than the verbal warfare that just went down in the Hummel House.

Fag was not a new word to Kurt. He d been hearing it directed towards him since he could remember. Used countless times by moronic neanderthals who had the vocabulary range of a toddler. He d gotten seemingly endless amounts of phone calls using the word again and again and again. But never he the barbs been thrown by someone Kurt thought was a friend. And he really never expected it to be Finn. Hell, even Noah Puckerman didn't use the word around Kurt anymore.

Kurt felt his chest tighten and had to force himself to swallow a sob. He d only been trying to make things better. If Finn could never be his boyfriend, couldn't he at least be a really, really good friend? But they d just fought. Stupid arguments over one stupid thing after another and he just wanted to make it better. He changed his room-his immaculate Dior Gray room-for Finn. But it wasn t enough. He would always be the creepy gay kid. Better watch out or you ll catch his gay! Don t change in front of him, he won t take no for an answer!

Kurt let out a shuddering sob and squeezed his eyes shut. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be something good for everyone. He was always messing up things. He hadn't even been the one to suggest Finn and Carole move in. But Finn was acting like it was all some crazy plan Kurt had come up with to get into Finn's pants. And, okay, maybe it had started out as something kind of like that, but he d more or less given up on all that. He just thought maybe... maybe Finn would even help keep him from getting pushed around by jocks all the time. But when he d asked Finn, he d basically just told Kurt it was all his own damn fault. Everyone thought it was his fault.

Kurt stared around the room. He d worked so damn hard on it, and he was so proud of it. He thought Finn would at least appreciate the gesture. But who was he kidding? It was a stupid idea. It was a stupid waste. He scowled at the room as if it were to blame. He didn't want to be here anymore. He wanted his mom.

Burt Hummel was not perfect. He knew this. He d known it most of his life, but really felt it after his wife passed away, leaving him alone with their little boy who was already so much like his mother. She was always better at helping Kurt, always knew exactly what he needed. She would have known exactly what to Kurt needed to hear after what just happened.

It wasn't just the word that bothered Burt so much as his son s reaction. Kurt had looked sick. Standing there, shaking like a leaf, face pale and all alone. Just letting Finn rail on him, saying that word. Burt had a feeling if he hadn t of come down, Kurt would have let Finn scream at him until he was blue in the face. Burt couldn t let his son sit there and take that abuse. He loved Carole, she made him really happy, but he couldn t take away the one safe haven Kurt had. Burt wasn t stupid. He knew school wasn t always good for Kurt, at best it was probably livable. His son was definitely the stronger out of the two of them. Unfortunately, he was also the more naive.

A knock at the door that pulled Burt from glaring at the blank TV. With a sigh, he pulled himself up, tugging open the door with a scowl on his face before he even knew who it was. Carole stood on the doorstep looking upset and cautious.

"Burt... I am so sorry... I had no idea... I... He knows better than that!" Burt shook his head, holding up his hands.

"Carole... don't worry. You don t need to apologize. You didn't do anything wrong. It wasn't you." Carole clasped her hands tightly in front of herself, chancing a glance back up at Burt.

"How is he doing?" Burt didn't have to ask who it was that she was talking about. He leaned against the doorframe, rubbing a hand over his face.

"Not... not that good. I think maybe he s a little in shock or something? I don t know... he s up with his mom now."

The light smell of perfume curled around him and he had to bite down on his wrist to keep from sobbing too loudly. He pressed himself closer against the dresser, wishing so badly his mom was there with her arms around him.

He loved his dad, and he loved his dad even more for what he d just done for Kurt. But his dad wasn't big on holding him while he cried, or singing Judy Garland and Bette Midler until his sobbing died down like his mom used to. And that s what he wanted right now. To be held close and sung to and told that everything would be alright.

School the next day was just as horrible as Kurt had imagined. Finn wouldn't even glance at him and avoided him completely. Mercedes wouldn't stop talking about how fine Matt s ass had looked during the boy's musical number, and Brittany had asked him in English how to spell orange ...twice. He hadn't slept well, had skipped his moisturizing routine, and he looked like a hot mess. Not even in a good way.

He slammed his locker shut, wishing desperately that his bag matched his Gaga outfit better, just before his day took a turn for the worst.

"Hey, homo"! Korofsky. Of course. Kurt spun to face the jock, flanked by Azimio.

"Wow, clever name. Did you come up with it all on your own?" He drawled, a snarl on his face. They backed him up into the end of the hall, both of them crowding in on Kurt.

"Watch your mouth, faggot." Azimio growled. Kurt narrowed his eyes.

"Or what? You re going to hit me? Like you wouldn't do it anyways. Might as well say whatever the hell I want." Korofsky glanced over at his friend, motioning with his head towards Kurt.

"Fancy's got a mouth on him."

"Yeah, he's acting like a little bitch. Bitches need a beating to learn how to behave." Had the day started-or progressed-any better than it had, Kurt might have had even a sliver of self-preservation. Unfortunately, something in Kurt snapped and all he could hear was Finn s voice circling through his mind.

Faggy lamp... faggy blanket

Kurt grinned a sickening sweet smile, reveling in the confusion on the jocks faces. He leaned in, head tilting slightly to the side.

"There are other ways to teach a lesson, boys. Maybe put such a mouth to better use" he cooed, brushing his fingertips over Korofsky's cheek. The jock smacked his hand hard, a look of repulsion on his face.

"Get the fuck off of me, faggot! What the fuck do you think you re doing?" Kurt couldn't help the small laugh that escaped him. Korofsky's eyes flashed and he kneed Kurt so hard in the stomach the smaller boy was seeing stars.

Puck had never been a big fan of school to begin with, but after the baby drama went down, school got even more unbearable. His reputation was shot, he was considered the biggest douchebag at the school-hell, in all of Lima-which was really just not fair considering some of the dicks that went to Mckinley.

Speaking of dicks at the school. He spotted Korofskey and Azimio standing around Hummel at the end of the hall. He could only tell it was Hummel because of those ridiculous-and painful looking-shoes he d been wearing. Puck pressed his lips together, slowing his pace. All that shit Mercedes had said to him really kind of made him think, damn her. And while he wasn't planning on becoming BFF's with that Israel kid, Hummel was kind of his teammate. At the very least, he could keep the kid out of the dumpster. Korofsky was even more stupid than Finn, but he was a violent bastard and Azimio liked to watch victims suffer.

Puck couldn't tell exactly what was going on but he had a bad feeling. A lot of people weren't taking too kindly to Gaga week especially the jocks. His feelings of unease was proven right when Korofsky kneed Hummel hard in the stomach.

"Hey!" he shouted, hurrying over towards where the jocks had left the smaller boy. He's gonna puke. He s gonna totally puke. Or scream. Puck thought as he slid to a stop beside where Kurt had fallen. But he wasn t puking or screaming.

He was laughing. Hysterically.

"Did... did you see that!" He choked out, pointing off in the direction his tormentors had gone. "They re afraid! Afraid of me even touching them! Of me!" He barely got the words through the laughter. Puck hesitated, not really sure how to react to Kurt's crazy.

"Hummel...?"

"Of me! Just some filthy faggot with a pair of heels and a big mouth and they re afraid of me! Afraid because I'm gay! Afraid to catch it! Oh~ scary! His glitter will infect me!" He broke off into giggles again, but the laughter died out into big, hiccuping sobs. Kurt's whole body shook and he curled up into himself. Puck sank down to the linoleum next to him, not even hesitating as he gathered the younger boy into his arms and hugged him tightly against his chest.

People probably didn't know this about Puck, but comforting a sobbing mess was one of his strong points. He'd grown up with an overemotional mother and a little sister. He couldn't even count the number of times he'd been in a situation like this. The night his dad left and his mom just screamed and screamed and screamed before breaking down sobbing by the back door, begging her absent husband to come back. Nights after his mom made them watch "Schindler's List" and Becca would crawl into his bed because of a nightmare. So he did what he always does. He pulls Kurt right against his chest, arms tight around the smaller body. He rocked Kurt gently and hummed a song. He hugged him tighter when Kurt s shuddering increased. Puck pressed his cheek against the top of his head, moving to sing softly instead.

Cause nothin last forever

And we both know hearts can change

And it s hard to hold a candle

In the cold November rain

The whole thing was pretty unreal. For one thing, Kurt had made it a goal to never cry in school. But he gave himself a mental health pass and blamed it on a mental break. The fact that Noah Puckerman was hugging-no, holding-him added to that conclusion. Why else would Puck be there singing to him, as if he could read his mind, knowing exactly what Kurt needed. It made him cry harder, choking on the heavy sobs. Here he was, the asshole who'd made most of his high school life unbearable, holding him in the middle of the empty hallway while he cried.

I know it s hard to keep an open heart

When even friends seem out to harm you

But if you could heal a broken heart

Wouldn t time be out to charm you?

Eventually, he calmed down to slight hiccups, but Puck still didn't push him away and Kurt didn't want to move. He felt exhausted. Completely drained. And he still had to go home and pull down all the things in their-his?-room. He didn t want the reminder.

Faggy lamp...

"What'd you say?" Shit. He hadn't realized he'd said that out loud.

"What? I... I didn't say anything?"

"Don t lie, Kurt. You said faggy lamp . Why? Doesn't make much sense to come outta no where..." Kurt sat up a bit, his eyes red and wide. Puck shifted, slightly uncomfortable.

"What?"

"You... you called me Kurt."

"So?"

"You... you've never called me that before..." Puck shrugged a little, arms still around Kurt.

"So... are you going to tell me what just happened?" Kurt opened his mouth to tell Puck he didn't owe him anything, didn't need to tell Puck something he hadn't even told his best friend, but instead his resistance failed. He slumped a little, cheek resting against Puck's shoulder and spilled everything. Everything from the first time Azimio and Korofsky shoved him and Tina to what had just happened. Including all the gorey details. Finn slapping his hand away when he was just trying to help, the bitchy sales lady at the fabric store, Finn's comment about putting his underwear on in the shower, curling up next to his mother's dresser just wishing she was there. And Puck listened though it all, not saying a word. He tensed as the story went on and his hand had started lightly rubbing Kurt s back.

When he was done, there was a heavy silence before Puck broke it, his voice low and hard.

"That... was a really, really shitty thing for Finn to do. All of it. But your dad sounds like a total bad ass." Kurt choked out a tiny laugh, getting the feeling Puck wanted to say something more, but silenced himself.

"Hey, Puck? What... what that song were you... uhm... singing?"

"November Rain by Guns n Roses. It s one of my mom's favorites. Makes her cry almost every time." Kurt nodded a little, making a mental note to look the song up when he got home. Speaking of home... he needed to get going.

"It's getting kind of late. My dad will probably get worried." He whispered, not really wanting to leave. Puck nodded, pulling away and pushing himself up, holding out a hand for Kurt. Kurt gratefully took it getting up in ten inch heels was a bitch. It was then he realized how badly that knee to the stomach hurt now, hissing out the pain. Puck took notice, frowning.

"You're going to have one hell of a bruise. You need to get an ice pack on that right when you get home. Fifteen to twenty minutes at a time and it ll help it a lot." Puck muttered while rubbing the back of his head. Kurt raised an eyebrow and smiled a little, nodding.

"Thanks... walk me to my car?" Puck shoved his hands in his pockets and nodded, following Kurt out to his navigator.

When they reached his car, Puck waited near by as Kurt slid into the drivers seat. Kurt raised an eyebrow, leaning down to slip off his shoes. He let out a little cry as the bruise sent pain all through his chest. Puck hurried over, taking Kurt s foot in his hand.

"Here... you re going to hurt yourself more. Just... let me do it." Kurt could only stare in awe as Puck gently eased both the shoes off his aching feet. Even pausing slightly to momentarily rub the arch of his left foot, but maybe Kurt imagined it. Puck placed the shoes in Kurt's lap, standing again and shoving his hands in his pockets.

"I don t know how you keep walking in those things without falling all over the place and killing yourself." He muttered, rocking on his heels. Kurt bit his bottom lip, pulling one leg up.

"Lots of practice? My mom... used to let me play in her closet." He looked down at the floor, a sad smile pulling at his lips. "Pretty gay, huh?"

"No." Puck said with such assurance, Kurt looked up. "No, I think that's nice. And it s good you have those kind of memories of her, you know." Kurt smiled at him, looking around the parking lot. He realized there weren't any cars in the parking lot anymore and wondered if that s why Puck was hanging around.

"Do you... ah... need a ride home?" Puck hesitated just a minute before nodding, walking around to the other side of the car and slipping into the passengers seat.

"You'll have to tell me how to get there and... you can pick the music if you want." He said motioning to the ipod and slipping on his seat belt, before pulling out of the parking lot.

The drive was quiet. Puck picked the playlist Kurt had made for Glee songs, but the volume was on low. It wasn't really uncomfortable, but not completely comfortable either. Neither of them spoke, but Puck was drumming beats on his knees and Kurt mouthed the words silently. It was kind of... nice. So when they came to Puck s house, Kurt was almost sad about it, not minding the time spent with the older boy. Puck paused after unbuckling his seat belt, turning to face Kurt.

"Listen... I know I haven't... I've been a dick to you and to a lot of people. And... I don't even know if you'll believe me, but... don't listen to the shit that Finn or Korofsky or anyone says. You're... you're kind of an incredible person, even when you are acting a little stuck up, and I think it's awesome that you... know yourself so well and aren't afraid to be different. Because that's what s gonna get you out of this stupid town and... what makes you the opposite of a Lima Loser. You're something special... something more. And if Finn can t see that... he doesn't deserve for you to feel like that about him." His voice got quiet towards the end and he turned to face Kurt in the car.

Kurt was kind of in shock. Trying to digest everything that Noah Puckerman had just said to him. So he was a little caught off guard when Puck leaned forward, a hand coming up to lightly cup his cheek, before a pair of soft lips were pressed against his own. He gasped softly his eyes fluttering shut on their own accord as he leaned in against the kiss. As soon as it started, Puck pulled away, holding Kurt's gaze for just a second before climbing quickly out of the car and shuffling into his house. Kurt stayed parked outside for a moment, staring in shock. Noah Puckerman was not who he thought would be his first kiss. But then again, he thought as he pulled away to start driving home, he never thought Finn would be the one to hurt him like that.

"Hey, Hudson!" Finn turned around to see Puck stalking towards him, glaring. The two hadn't spoken since sectionals, had avoided each other at all costs, until now.

"What do you want, Puckerman?"

"I want to know when you decided to become total dickhead to people you consider your friends." Finn scowled, slamming his locker shut.

"Guess I took a page from your book. Puck s eyes narrowed. But I don't know what you re talking about. And honestly, I'd rather if you just left me alone all together." He tried to turn and storm away but Puck grabbed his arm slamming him back against the lockers.

"Don't play stupid with me, Finn. No matter how good you are at it. This isn't about you and me. This is about Kurt." Finn's expression went from anger to confusion in a matter of seconds.

"About... about Kurt? What the hell does Kurt have to do with anything?"

"That stuff you said to him? All that shit you've pulled over the past few days?" Finn made a face, trying to push Puck off of him.

"Dude! How is it any of your business anyways? Like you haven't done worse to him."

"Not since... not in a long time. You were supposed to be his friend. You were always sticking up for him and everything. What the hell happened?" Finn finally shoved Puck away, glaring down at him.

"Don't you play dumb with me, either. You know how Kurt looks at me. You were the one who asked if I was gay when he sang that... that dumb song back with his dad and my mom started dating. And... and after we moved in together, I wasn't just hearing shit from you anymore! It was... it was all the guys. Saying that we were boyfriends, saying that... that I was gay and all this other... whatever! I didn't want things to be weird and... and to have to worry about him watching me in my room."

"But it wasn't your room, Finn! It was his! You were in his house. And who the fuck cares what idiots like Korofsky are saying? You want to see a Lima Loser, he s the perfect fucking example of it. So you want to hurt people because of something that dumbass said, fine. But don t be surprised when you have nothing left." He glared at Finn before turning on his heel, sneering slightly.

"I've got more important things to worry about." And with that, he stormed away.

When Puck walked into Glee that afternoon, everyone had to take a double take. His left eye was swollen nearly shut and his lip was split. He had a cut above his eye and his knuckles were wrapped in gauze. But he was smirking, smirking as if to say You should see the other guy . And Kurt had a feeling the other guy was way worse off. He kept sneaking glances at Puck and every time he did, Puck was looking at him. He didn't know what that look meant, he was still wondering what that kiss last night meant.

Thinking about it made his stomach feel all fluttery and his head hurt, so he tried not to. Because thinking about it made his over active imagination feel like it had a right to start coming up with ridiculous scenarios of Puck being his knight in shining armor or something equally as ridiculous. And he didn't want to get his hopes up. Plus, he wasn't sure if Puck would take a gay crush on him better or worse than Finn had. And really, he didn't want to down that road again.

"I hear he picked a fight with Korofsky and Azimio. Took them both on like it was nothing. They re pissed about it, but he won the fight." Kurt over heard Artie saying. The words made his heart do this silly little flip flop thing and he thought maybe he was about to have a stroke because it was entirely possible that he d just stopped breathing. Why in the world would Puck pick a fight with two guys who were supposed to be at least kind of his friend? Unless... unless he was doing it for him, or because of him or... whatever. Kurt buried his face in his hands. He really couldn't deal with any more drama.

After Glee, Kurt had darted from the room so fast, he hadn't even realized that his ipod had fallen out of his bag. So, being the gentleman that he was, Puck grabbed it and chased Kurt down.

"Kurt! Hey! You dropped this!" Kurt spun around so quickly, he slipped on his Gaga shoes and was pretty positive he was going to hit his face against the floor or the lockers, neither of which seemed like a fun idea. But, surprisingly, his face did not hit anything hard. Or at least nothing unpleasantly hard. No, no. He fell very ungracefully into a very nice chest. Puck s chest. He d probably weep for joy if he wasn't so surprised.

"You okay?" Kurt swallowed hard, blinked a few times, and nodded. Puck smiled a little, helping Kurt stand up right.

"Y-yeah... I'm totally fine. Thanks for... uhm... not letting me ruin my face. Or you know... I d have to pay for a nose job. Did... you... you called my name?" Puck seemed to be confused for a minute before remembering.

"Oh, yeah. You... you dropped your ipod. Back in the room. You didn't notice." Kurt took the device in his hands, giving Puck a smile.

"Thanks. I would have just been devastated if I got home and didn't have it. I really have to have my right playlist while I'm going through my nightly moisturizing ritual. So...so thanks." Puck nodded, shrugging a little. Kurt rocked a little from side to side, biting his lip in thought before seemingly coming to a decision.

"You... want a ride home again? I mean... you're really kind of on the way and it's way better than the bus?" Puck nodded, smiling a little.

"Better than beating up some kid for the seat I want."

"Yeah, looks like you've had enough of that for one day." Kurt said, raising an eyebrow. Puck rolled his eyes.

"Yeah, well... they deserved it. Fuckers had it coming." Kurt didn't say another word about it, just rolled his eyes and led the way to his car.

And if Puck noticed November Rain playing on Kurt s ipod well... he didn't say a thing.