"You made fun of me for being in Glee," Finn has said, when Puck first joined. "You kept calling me gay. And suddenly you want to join too? Why?"
For Quinn, Puck wanted to say. To get close to her, to stay close to her, to win her back. Because she deserved better than Finn. Because Puck deserved her.
"It's different," Puck shrugged him off. "I told you, man. If I do it, it's cool. I'm doing you a favor."
Finn frowned at him. "You said if you wore a dress people would think it was cool."
"Yeah, well, I still don't see you going around in a dress."
"Doesn't mean I won't do it."
Puck was a man of his word. His words weren't usually very nice, but he stuck by them. And if Finn was going to doubt him, Puck was going to prove him wrong.
He swung sideways on the driver's seat of his car, making sure to get his legs out of the car first without flashing any innocent souls in the parking lot. He stood up carefully, smoothed down his dress – borrowed from Santana, thank you very much, not some frumpy piece of shit out of his mom's wardrobe – and hoisted his backpack over his shoulder. He took a quick look in the side mirror to straighten his shoulder straps, then turned and strutted into William McKinley High like he owned the place.
He smirked at the jocks hanging by the door and threw them a thumbs-up before they had a chance to mock him. They laughed, of course, and then laughed harder when Puck turned his strut into an exaggerated masculine gait. One of them slapped him on the back, laughing too hard to talk, and he walked into school feeling like he was on top of the world.
He was positively swaggering when he walked up to Finn and leaned up against his locker. "So who's a loser, dude?"
Finn didn't seem to know whether to look at Puck or not. "Yeah, nice work," he said, with a small smile. "You gonna go around like that all day?"
"Well, I could. This is a pretty hot look. But I think I'll get back into some pants before lunch."
"Yeah?" Finn finally looked up at him, a half smile on his face. "Can't hack it?"
"No way, dude," Puck snorted. "I could wear this all day. It's the chicks. Not like they aren't going crazy for me in this getup, 'cause I look smoking in anything, but I can tell McKinley girls want a real man, you know?"
He caught sight of Quinn coming down the hall towards them and smirked at her, too. She smiled at him, but it wasn't a flirty smile. It wasn't even an amused smile. Her smile was just polite, and when she turned to talk to Finn, and he turned to her with that stupid innocent happy look on his face, Puck might have well not have been there at all. Which was just stupid. He was standing there in a goddamn dress. He was a stud. They should pay more attention.
Not that Puck cared. He rolled his eyes and made gagging noises and even got the two of them to look up, kind of embarrassed, before he walked on by and continued his strut down the corridor in his dress. He was a stud, and his dress was damn sexy. Maybe the preggo power couple couldn't see it, but Puck knew what he was strutting was power. He was turning every head in the school, and although some of the guys looked worried or even disgusted at his outfit, every girl he walked past was checking him out. There was something to be said for dresses, Puck realized. They were even better than shorts for showing off his legs.
It was almost time for the bell to ring when he turned a corner and bumped into Kurt Hummel. This was just perfect. Not only did he have everyone's attention and phone numbers from all the hottest girls in school, but dressed today, he knew, there were even guys who wouldn't be able to resist him. He was just that smoking.
"Hey," he said, with a confident jut of his chin.
Kurt took a step back and eyed him warily.
"Check me out. Hot stuff, huh? You want a piece of this, Hummel?"
He turned on the spot and struck a pose. Any moment now Kurt was going to blush or stammer or fall all over him, and then Puck would push him into a locker and laugh his way to class.
But instead Kurt looked him up and down and said, with a look of faint superiority, "Normally I would suggest someone be shot for wearing a skirt that length with high-tops, but since we need you to make up the numbers in Glee Club I suppose I'll have to let you live."
Then he gave Puck a look of withering disdain and turned to leave with a prance in his step.
"The shoes? Seriously? That's all you cared about?"
There were several moments of silence. It was Tina who finally spoke up.
"Why are you eating lunch at our table?"
"I'm not, said Puck, as he leaned back in his seat and took a bite out of his sandwich. "I just want to know what Kurt's problem is. My legs were hot in that dress."
Kurt sniffed. "It's hard to take any notice of them when your outfits are so badly coordinated and your hair… well…" he trailed off with a look so insulting that Puck had to fight off the urge to smush his half-eaten sandwich in Kurt's hair.
"Okay, so the dress wasn't the greatest ever, but come on. Admit it! You're into dudes, so you totally want me."
Kurt just rolled his eyes. "Why do straight guys always assume that because I like guys, I'm attracted to all men?"
"I didn't say I thought that. I just think you should be into me."
"Puck, do you hit on every girl in this school?"
He snorted. "No. Duh. Just the hot ones."
"Exactly," said Kurt, smugly.
Puck stared at him. "Are you insulting my studliness?"
"I dare say there's nobody in this school I want less than you. I wouldn't even touch you if football weren't a contact sport."
"Okay, fuck you," said Puck, pushing away from the table with such force that Mercedes, Artie and Tina all jumped. "I'm gonna get you to make out with me, Hummel, and you're gonna want it."
Kurt just kept smiling. "Not in a million years."
"Seriously, what's his problem?" Puck hissed to Finn during football practice that afternoon. "I know my ass looks great in these shorts and he never looks at me!"
Finn glanced over at Kurt, who had ditched actual practice fifteen minutes ago and was standing on the sidelines, talking on his phone while apparently practicing dance moves with his free hand.
"Isn't that a good thing?" Finn asked, uncertainly.
"No, it's fucked up. I'm a hot dude. He's into dudes. Why doesn't he think I'm hot?"
"What, you're into Kurt now?" One of their other teammates punched Puck in the arm. "Going queer on us, huh?"
"Hell no. But hey, I may as well since I've had every girl in school already."
"Dude, burn. If you can't get a kid who's that gay to check you out, you ain't half the stud you think you are."
"That's not what your mom said last night!" Puck shouted as he jogged away. The guy didn't even turn around.
Puck turned back to watch Kurt again. He'd hung up his phone but he was tapping his feet and humming something, totally oblivious to football practice.
"Maybe he's actually straight."
Finn looked at him sympathetically. "Maybe you're just not his type."
The next day, Puck came to school wearing a novelty police hat, a construction worker's vest over his bare chest, and a pair of chaps.
When he strode confidently up to Kurt and did a little twirl on the spot, Kurt just rolled his eyes and walked away.
Santana managed to grab his ass before Coach Sylvester chased him down and forced him to change, though, so it wasn't a total loss.
When he came to school dressed entirely in lycra, with an oversized wig and makeup, Kurt gaped in horror, tried to speak and was then apparently so overcome with disgust that he had to lean on Mercedes for support as he staggered away.
When Puck minced up to Kurt in the hallway singing to him in falsetto, Kurt slammed his locker door and actually ran.
Then Mercedes pushed Puck into a wall.
"Shut it. What the hell do you think you're doing?"
He pushed her away, but gently. "What does it look like?"
Her mouth was set in a firm, angry line. "It looks like you're a bigger jerk than I thought you were, though I shouldn't even be surprised anymore."
Puck frowned at her, confused. "What did I do?"
"It wasn't enough to throw him in the dumpster every morning? You're gonna mock him in the hallway every day as well?"
"Doesn't being this much of an asshole wear you out?"
"I'm not trying to make fun of Kurt."
"Like hell you aren't."
"I'm not!" he insisted. "I'm trying to get him to like me!"
Mercedes' eyes narrowed. "What?"
Puck shrugged. "I don't get why he doesn't think I'm hot. I thought if I acted more gay he'd…. what is it now?"
Mercedes rolled her eyes with an exaggerated groan. "You have no idea what he likes." Puck tried to reply again but she cut him off. "No. You don't. You think that just because he cares about his hair and can sing like a girl, he's into drag queens. It doesn't work that way."
"Look, I know it's a difficult concept to get into your thick, jock, asshole head, but gay guys aren't all the same."
"At least I'm trying!"
"You're just hurting him!"
"I didn't mean to."
She sighed. "Just leave him alone, Puck. Stop trying to make him like you. Kurt does not exist to make you feel good about yourself, and unless you're gonna try to understand what he likes instead of treating him like what you think gay guys are like, all you're gonna do is insult him."
Mercedes fixed him with a final furious glare and turned to walk away. She only got a few paces away, though, when Puck called out "What does he like?"
She turned around to stare.
"Look, I didn't want to hurt him. I want to do this right. What does Kurt like?"
For a moment Mercedes was completely thrown by the idea of Puck trying to think about somebody else.
"Uh, fashion's the main thing, I guess, and musicals."
Puck gestured to himself. "This isn't fashion?"
She rolled her eyes. "He likes good fashion. Clothes with actual designers instead of $10 slave labor polyester T-shirts."
"What designers? Can you make me a list?"
When Puck got to school the morning after that, he wasn't just wearing clothes, he was wearing an outfit
"So what do you think?" he asked, trying to get Kurt's attention while he checked his hair.
"You've been on quite a shopping spree."
"Pretty sweet, huh?"
"Yes, it does appear that you have more fashion sense than I thought." He wrestled with himself for a moment before he blurted out "I love that sweater, I've always liked a cable knit in charcoal but that design doesn't come in my size."
"It's awesome," Puck agreed. "I totally get why you always wanted to take your jacket off before we threw you in the dumpster."
Kurt rolled his eyes and went back to fixing his hair.
"So do you want to make out with me yet? Because I don't even go to this much effort with girls, and it's about time I got something back, you know what I'm saying?"
Kurt slammed his locker shut so hard that it almost made Puck jump.
Finn sat uncomfortably through two periods of Puck's complaints before he finally said "Maybe you should listen to him."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, doing things your way isn't working. I think you should talk to Kurt. Find out what he feels, you know?"
"Dude, that's way too gay."
Any other guy would have told Puck that trying to show off to a guy to get into his pants was kind of gay already. Puck kind of wished that Finn were that kind of guy. Puck could handle the embarrassment, Finn would look like a jerk and Puck could get away without having to think about Kurt's feelings. But this was the great Finn Hudson, their fearless leader, so of course he had to try to make Puck do the right thing.
"Look, he's not a girl."
"Wow, really? I never noticed that."
"It's harder for him to trust people. Like, he can't tell a guy he likes him without worrying he's gonna get beaten up. He thinks everything you're doing is a setup to humiliate him."
"Dude, do you think I would drop five hundred dollars on a new wardrobe just to make fun of him? I only started dumping him in the trash because the slushies went up twenty cents and I couldn't afford to keep buying so many."
"Don't look at me, I think this whole thing is crazy. I just think if you're not going to cut it out you should listen to what he has to say. He just can't trust you yet."
Puck looked shrewdly at his friend and Finn shifted uncomfortably, keeping his eyes fixed on his notes. "You've been talking to him."
"It's hard for him, okay? He's rattled. He needed someone to talk to, someone who knows you."
Finn braced himself for more mocking.
"So does he think I'm hot?"
He groaned. "Just talk to him!"
"Okay, fine, fine! God, I thought this kid would be desperate to make out with a hot dude, but he's more work than…"
"… than a girl."
Puck waited after football practice, until all the other guys had left the locker room.
Kurt sighed. "I've told you before, Puck, if you have to throw my bag in the shower, could you at least do it before I start my skincare routine?"
"I'm not going to do anything," Puck said. Kurt watched him warily as he sat down next to him on the bench. "Finn said I was being a jerk and I should listen to you. So talk."
Puck hadn't really thought about what he was going to say. It was supposed to be something like an apology, except not quite, because Puck didn't do apologies. He definitely didn't mean to say "Why are you gay?"
"Because it's so much fun and it makes me so popular."
"Hey, I'm trying to act like I care about you. Seriously. What's it like being a fag? Like, how'd you know?"
Kurt sighed like he'd been asked that question too many times already, but he still answered. "I like men."
"I like to look at guys. I have crushes on guys. I want to kiss guys and hopefully at some time in the future I'll get to find out whether I like having sex with guys. Does that answer your question?"
"But what about the fashion thing?"
"You think that I'm gay because I like fashion? Are you really that dull?" he said, scathingly. When Puck tried to snap back at him Kurt just held up a hand. "Normally I would consider this a waste of time, but since apparently nothing can make you go away, I'll explain. I like fashion because I like fashion. I'm gay because I like men. You don't have to be into musicals to want to kiss a guy."
"So if it doesn't matter that I don't like fashion and musicals, why don't you want me?"
Kurt made a frustrated noise.
"But come on! I'm a hot guy! You know that."
"I'll admit you have a good physique," Kurt said, tersely, crossing his arms. "And your cheekbones are…" He seemed to struggle with himself for a minute. "Exquisite."
Puck literally puffed out his chest.
"But I could never be attracted to you because you're a jerk," Kurt said, and took no small satisfaction from seeing Puck deflate again. "You would be gorgeous if it weren't for your personality, but because of that, you're the last guy on earth I'd ever want to kiss."
The next day, for the first time in years, Kurt went through a whole school day without being insulted, put in a dumpster or attacked with food.
Strangely, this just made him nervous.
Being a nice guy wasn't easy. Puck realized that it wouldn't make much of a difference if he just stopped bullying Kurt himself. He might be the worst delinquent at school, but he was far from the only one, and the rest weren't going to leave Kurt alone just because Puck had decided to. So he did more. On one day, Puck warned off a guy who was planning to hoist Kurt up a flag pole. On another, he completely stopped a plan by several guys to vandalise Kurt's car. He turned in the guy who liked to make threatening calls to Kurt's house, which Puck had known about for years. The problem, though, was making Kurt notice.
His finest moment came on Friday afternoon when Kurt closed his locker and turned around to see a hockey player walking towards him with an open slushie cup in his hand. Kurt panicked. He was wearing his Alexander McQueen jacket, of all the things, and there was no time to get rid of it or protect it before he was going to get drenched in ice cold sugar syrup. All he could do was close his eyes and pray that he could get to the dry cleaner in time.
"Dude! Watch where you're going!"
Kurt opened his eyes to find that he was completely unscathed by the slushie attack, the hockey player looked horrified and Puck was wiping corn syrup out of his eyes.
"I'm sorry, man," said the hockey guy, and bolted away.
"You did that on purpose," Kurt muttered, as Puck wiped his face clean on a spare shirt.
"Yeah, well, I know how much you care about those clothes and stuff."
"I don't know what to say." Kurt just kept staring, mouth hanging open. He was about to say 'thank you' when Puck smirked at him and said "You could just make out with me instead."
Kurt frowned and stormed away, but he was starting to realize that like Rachel, every time he did that it had a bit less impact.
Kurt knew he was really in trouble when his friends started to talk about how nice Puck had been lately. He sat through twenty minutes of lunch with Artie, Tina and Mercedes all trading stories about how great Puck had been lately before he couldn't stand it any more.
"How can you forget that he's been an asshole for years just because he decides to be nice for a while?"
Tin and Artie glanced at each other. "It's not like we love him or anything, it's just…"
"It's a nice change. It would be good if he stayed this way."
"I don't trust him," said Kurt, stubbornly. "He's up to something. People like Puck don't just change unless they want something from you. But whatever he wants, I'm not going to give it to him."
"He's still trying to get you to like him, isn't he?" Mercedes asked, and Kurt groaned at Artie and Tina's shocked faces.
"'Sup, losers?" Puck had suddenly appeared behind Kurt, making him jump and sparing him from further questioning, for now. "Hummel, the guys treating you right after football the other day?"
Kurt muttered under his breath and finally nodded.
"Cool." Puck slapped him on the back. "They give you any more shit, you come straight to me." He turned to walk away, but Kurt barely had time for a sigh of relief before he was back. "By the way, I'm working on a new idea for Glee club and I could really use your input. Can you come by my place on Saturday?"
Kurt stared at him and took several breaths before he finally squeaked out "I'll think about it."
"Awesome." Puck clapped him on the shoulder again. "See you Saturday then."
Kurt stared down at his plate.
"So are you going to go?"
"Of course not," he snapped. "I'm not going to kiss a guy who tortured me for years just because he does a few good deeds."
"He wants you to kiss him?"
Kurt glared and Tina stopped talking. Mercedes patted his hand.
"I hear you, Kurt. Whatever the hell that jerk wants, you don't owe him anything."
"Thank you," said Kurt, relieved. "Exactly. I have far more self-respect than that."
"So what did he say to the football guys?"
"He told them to stop calling me a fag."
"And to stop putting me in the dumpster. And hitting me with slushies. And accidentally knocking me over all the time."
"How'd they take that?"
"Really?" Artie seemed puzzled. "I would have thought that they'd respond to a command like that by subjecting Puck to the same kind of treatment. He definitely occupies a powerful position in the social hierarchy, but I didn't think it was enough for him to stick up for a gay kid and come away unscathed."
Kurt gave him a tight smile. "He said they could call him a fag too if they wanted, but if they did, they'd all found out which of their mothers he'd slept with."
Mercedes and Tina were horrified, but Artie just looked thoughtful.
"That's an even more significant step. He can't get away with using a threat like that twice."
"So maybe you should consider hitting that after all."
"No," said Kurt, firmly. "Never."
Puck wasn't stupid. He knew – by now – that he wouldn't get anywhere with Kurt if he tried to hit on the guy as soon as he walked through the door. He had to be considerate. So they spent half an hour sitting on Puck's bed and singing – which was actually pretty fun, Puck should try this more often – until Kurt complimented him on his increased musical versatility. This was obviously the golden opportunity for Puck to say "So are you ready to get it on with me yet?"
Kurt glared at him. That was okay, Puck was pretty used to that. He was also getting sick of it, though.
"What's with you? You already said you think I'm hot."
Kurt watched him warily. Puck smirked and shifted his position slightly to show off his arms. Kurt rolled his eyes and shuffled a few inches further away from him.
"Yes, I think you're attractive. Please leave your shirt on."
"And I know high school's a long time for someone to be an ass, but I've been all nice and shit lately. To your friends as well."
Kurt nodded again, begrudgingly.
"So what's the problem? I'm hot and I'm not an asshole –"
"You're less of an asshole."
"Whatever, you love ass."
Kurt huffed and stood up to leave but Puck grabbed his wrist. "No, sit down, come on. It can't be that easy finding gay guys in high school. Don't you want to at least kiss a guy before you get all old?"
"Of course I do," he said, quietly. "And yes, you're very attractive. Stop smirking like that, you know you are."
"I just like hearing you say it."
Kurt rolled his eyes. "Well that's all you're going to get from me. It's not just about you, you know. I don't just want to kiss any guy. I want Finn."
Kurt wasn't sure why he said the name. He didn't have to. 'I'm in love with someone else' would have done the same job. Now Puck was going to mock him even more, or worse, tell Finn, which would be so hideously embarrassing that Kurt would simply have to die.
He didn't expect Puck to let go of him with a bitter "Of course you do."
"Of course you love Finn," he spat, "Everybody loves Finn. Why him? What the fuck is wrong with me?"
Kurt stood up and took a step backwards, watching Puck warily. "It does help that he's not a jerk, you know."
"Oh, don't give me that shit." Puck kicked the wall. "I've been a saint for the last two weeks. What do you want from me?"
"Puck, I really appreciate not being bullied," said Kurt, gently. "And so do all my friends. But not being a jerk isn't something you get rewarded for. That's the minimum expectation for being a decent person. I can't fall in love with you just for…"
Puck snorted. "I don't want you to."
"Fine. But I can't just be attracted to you just because you stop hurting me."
"It's not like you have guys lining up to date you."
"You want to date me now?"
"Hell no." Puck looked at him like he was crazy. "I just want to get into your pants so I can tell people I'm so hot that guys want to do me."
"At least you're honest," Kurt snapped. "But that's just too bad for you, because even though I don't have much of a chance of finding a boyfriend in high school, I have too much self-respect to compromise myself just for someone's ego." He took a breath. "I'm not a cheerleader you can prey on because she needs to sleep with you to feel pretty."
Puck suddenly stopped sulking and fixed him with a dangerous glare. Kurt had stepped backwards towards the door before he even realized what he was doing.
"You think Finn's any better?" he hissed. "You think he's better than me because he tells the guys not to hurt you as much? Did he ever tell them to stop insulting you?"
"I didn't mean…"
"And hell, why do they pick Finn when they can have me? Why am I the guy they just sleep with when they feel fat today? Finn's just me but dumber and uglier."
"And your best friend." Kurt watched him for a moment before he opened the door and walked out. "I don't think this is about me anymore."
Kurt had expected to return to the old dumpster routine again on Monday, but when he arrived at school, Puck was nowhere to be seen. It took until lunch break to find him, on the pavement at the back of the locker room, crouching over a small fire.
"You've given up on the nice guy act?"
"I never said I was going to stop being a delinquent. I quit pushing you around, sure, but if I can't drink beer and set things on fire, I got nothing."
"What is that, anyway?"
"The sweater Rachel wore to first period. It was so ugly I couldn't let it live."
Kurt's heart might have melted a little bit right then. Just for a moment.
"So here's the deal," said Puck, standing up. "I want Quinn. You want Finn."
"You have a plan to break them up and then make them like us instead?"
"Hell no. That's never gonna work. Sorry man, but Finn's too straight, and if getting her pregnant didn't make Quinn want to date me, nothing will." He paused to give Kurt time to react to the shocking news of Quinn's infidelity and Puck's fatherhood, but Kurt just raised an eyebrow. "No, what I'm saying is neither of us is getting any action with the people we want, but anything's better than nothing."
"Right. Because you don't get enough sex from Santana. Or, oh, the whole of the rest of the cheerleading team."
"I told you dude, that's not the point. The point is to make out with you and then brag about it. Plus, I've slept with Quinn, who's kissed Finn, so it's like you're only two degrees away from the guy you actually want." He sighed. "I know you never liked me, and you had no reason to. I get that. I've really been bugging you the last couple of weeks and I get how I was a major pain in the ass. But I promise, whatever you say right now, I'll back off and never try to get into your pants again."
"Okay." Kurt crossed his arms, with a challenge in his eyes and a tiny smile on his lips. "Let's do it."
Kurt had spent a lot of time imagining what his first kiss would be like.
He hadn't actually expected it to be this good.
It wasn't perfect. He had his back pressed against a cold, rough, rendered concrete wall and Puck was tall enough to make craning his neck upwards a little uncomfortable. He wouldn't remember those things afterwards. He'd remember one of Puck's hands firm on the back of his neck, the other braced against the wall right next to his head. He'd remember soft and warm and wet, and the noise Puck made when Kurt reached up to run his fingers down the line of his jaw. He'd remember exactly how Puck's tongue had grazed his with lazy strokes that made him gasp. He'd remember that when Puck pulled away, Kurt had looked up at him with an embarrassingly happy smile and a breathless "That was fantastic."
And that Puck responded with "Thanks. You kind of suck at this."
Kurt bit back the urge to hit him. "I thought you were here for bragging rights, not a quality experience."
"Oh, totally." Puck patted his shoulder reassuringly. "No offence, dude, nobody's awesome at things the first time."
"Of course," said Kurt, in exactly the same tone. "I mean, I'm sure you're absolutely awful at blowjobs."
Puck narrowed his eyes. "Is that a challenge?"
"Only if you're going to prove me wrong. I don't have all day to waste on a bad performance."
"Okay, that's it. Nobody insults my studliness and gets away with it."
"If you say so," Kurt said with a smirk, as Puck unbuckled his belt. "Careful with that, I just got it from France by mail order."