Disclaimer: I don't own Glee.
A/N: So I wrote a super depressing fic about Santana being the other woman and never having her way with Puck, so then my sappier half said NO DON'T DO IT GO BACK AND FIX THEM, so this is my penance for fictionally breaking Santana's heart before. Enjoyyy?
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They're tangled in the sheets in her apartment. The curtains are drawn and the lights are low and she's feeling every tantalizing, familiar inch of him, gasping as they rock together, when the words just slip out of her mouth like a leaky pipe:
"I love you."
It takes Puck a moment to register what she said, and when he does he stares straight at her, taken aback. He never looks at her when they make love and for a moment she feels so ridiculously naked—she is naked, of course, but it's different, the way he's looking at her, like he's seeing her for the very first time.
"What?" he manages.
She just stares back at him, feeling the blush in her cheeks reach her ears, hot with humiliation. She will never admit that a part of her has always wondered what his reaction to that declaration would be, but now that the are living this incredibly awkward moment she is thrown off by how his gaze searches hers, looking worried and unsettled.
It looks like pity. It feels like pity. In an instant of white hot shame she slams her palms on his shoulders and pushes him off with a graceless thud.
"I didn't mean it," she says petulantly, lashing it at him like a whip.
He just lays there next to her as if he didn't hear and stares up at the ceiling. "Oh, God," he says, still breathing hard. "Santana."
She rolls her eyes. "Stop it. I didn't mean it like that. You know I didn't."
It's a lie but it's easy. Everything with Puck has always been easy. They're twenty-five years old now, past the age of scandals and drama and pushing open the envelope of adult responsibility, and while it seems that everything in her life has evolved and shifted and complicated in every direction, the one thing that remains just as simple as always was Puck.
Until this. Until the unconscious "I love you" after years of pent up denial. Her moment of weakness sickens her and she rolls over, away from him, facing the wall.
She was fourteen when Puck smacked her on the ass at a football game and whispered "I see the way to look at me" in her ear. She really hadn't been looking, and in the grand spectrum of pick-up lines his was pathetic at best, but it still thrilled her unimaginably. For years she had been waiting for a boy to notice her, to sweep her off her feet like some Notebook worthy-love affair, and instead of waiting for it she had sex with him at the sound of one worthless, fleeting word.
He didn't even ask if she was a virgin. He figured it out, a few years later when they were both drunk at some party after yet another lost game and she spat it in his face like a bullet. They never talked about it again, as if they had been too drunk to remember.
Lying here next to him she remembers that this it isn't the first time they've shared a moment like this. Other times they met eyes and the world around them froze, as if they were swimming in a sea of unspoken tension. Tonight is the first time she's ever said "I love you" but they both know that they've danced around this truth for ages.
It was only ever real and pivotal in those brief moments of eye contact: the day of high school graduation, when she passed him on the bleachers; at a bar the summer she interned in New York; at the grocery store when she was reaching for a can of soup. Sometimes the circumstances were crucial, but for the most part they were meaningless. The idea of love seemed to be slowly chewing at them for years and it isn't until now that it has swallowed them.
"You didn't mean it?"
She finally stirs and opens her eyes. Time has passed and she doesn't know how much of it, but somehow in her musings of the past she must have fallen asleep beside him.
"Mean what," she says blearily, even though she knows exactly what he's talking about. Even in this half-awake state she is testing him, playing games. She won't say it again. Not until he acknowledges it with some sort of answer of his own.
He sets a warm hand on her shoulder and rolls her onto her back. She stares up at the ceiling, feeling his gaze compelling her to meet his, and slowly, reluctantly, she does.
"Hey," he says. "Don't be like that."
She stiffens. "Oh, now you want to talk?"
It is evident how well he knows her by the way he doesn't even flinch. "Why are you so angry?"
The way he doesn't even raise his voice a bit to match her scathing tone is somewhat infuriating and oddly calming. "I'm not," she grumbles.
"You've been angry for awhile."
Has she? It's been bothering her. It's true. All through college and ever since they both wound up in New York together she has wondered what on earth it all means, their magnetism and the way they seem to keep getting tangled in each other's lives no matter where they go. She has never been one to label or define a relationship. But this has been happening for so long that it feels uneasy not to.
"I don't know what I am to you," she finally says.
It takes him a long time to respond. Too long. She tears her gazes away, ready to throw on a robe and sulk in the other room, when he grabs her forearm and holds her there.
"Forget I said anything."
"I don't want to."
"Just—" She starts to cut him off but then she registers what he said, and all of the sincerity behind it. "Wait, what?"
He's staring straight at her. Not her butt or her chest or her legs, but straight at into her eyes, and it sucks the breath out of her lungs. Her heart is hammering, anticipating his next move, bracing herself for whatever this means.
He sits up on the bed and cups his hands around her face, and kisses her. It's never been this gentle or this sweet. It's how she might have imagined her first kiss, if it hadn't been in the back of some loser's car in junior high. She leans into him, thinking he must want something more than this, that he's only kissed her to shut her up, but he's the one that pulls back.
"I love you," he says, and he looks so ridiculously romantic and suave like the culmination of every sappy Lifetime movie she's ever seen that she cannot contain her barking laugh, sharp and short.
Her eyes widen like moons before she can throw up a decent defense. "You don't have to say that," she says.
He smirks at her, seeing how he's thrown her off guard, seeing how difficult it is for her to hide her thrill. "But I do," he says, grabbing her hips and leaning in closer.
"Puck." She's laughing. She doesn't know why but she's laughing because she can't believe he actually said it. She can't believe this moment is real. As he pulls her toward him she says again, "You don't have to—you shouldn't say it unless you mean it—"
He picks her up easily and tosses her on the pillows, teasing her. She squeals out loud and wonders vaguely about the neighbors. "I love you," Puck chants with obnoxious enthusiasm. "I loooove you. I love you, I love you, I—"
"Puck, stop!" she cackles. She swats at him half-heartedly because she's not really putting up a fight, and he tickles her until she screams and they both fall back on the bed, panting and giggling in some sort of daydream-like haze.
After they lay there a few moments and catch their breath they fall silent, and he puts an arm around her, pulling her in so that the weight of her head is on his chest and listening to his heartbeat.
"I mean it," he says lowly, and she feels his voice rumble reassuringly. "I really do."
She closes her eyes and relishes this perfect moment. There have been so many trials leading up to this and they all seem so insignificant now that they're here together, really together for the first time.
When she's finished imprinting this feeling into her heart she tilts her head to look up at him and says, "So do I."