A/N: Oh my God. I cannot even BEGIN to put into words how badly I feel for not updating this. First of all, I hit one of the worst walls of writer's block I've EVER experienced, and then when it finally lifted, my cat chewed up my computer's power cord, so I haven't had access to what I had written for a VERY long time. Anyways, I really hope that some of you are still with me on this.
Mercedes waited quietly for Sarah to wander off before speaking to Puck again. He was sitting on the edge of his bed, his head cradled in his hands. "Look, Puck…" she began. "I don't like where this is going any more than you do. But you need to help me. I can't stay like this forever."
Puck inhaled and exhaled very, very slowly, giving no sign that he'd heard her.
"Puck," she started again. "Whatever you did…don't you think you'd feel better if you helped me? You could clear your conscience."
"I'd go to jail," he said softly.
Mercedes pursed her lips and circled around so that she was standing in front of him, her hands on her hips. Her pose was useless, since he couldn't see her, but it made her feel a tiny bit better. "Listen, white boy," she snapped. "I've had just about enough of your wallowing in guilt and self-pity. You ran me over with your truck, and now you're going to fix it. At the very least, I deserve to know where the hell my body is. And if you decide to stay in your room and keep wallowing, then so help me I will haunt you for the rest of your life."
Puck let out a hollow chuckle at that.
"Come on, Mohawk. Let's go."
Puck sighed, shaking his head. "I can't."
Mercedes stared at him, at a loss for what to do.
"You are such a coward," she finally said.
She left Puck's house in a huff of frustration and despair, feeling more helpless than she'd ever felt. She wasn't used to being out of control – she was a leader, even if Rachel and Finn would never let her be. She'd always taken the bull by the horns and solved her own problems. She was independent and she didn't like asking for help, so now, when she'd finally bucked up and asked because she needed help more than anything in the world right now and she didn't have a choice, she'd been rejected.
Clenching her jaw and sending a quick prayer skyward, she began to march quickly down the street, heading for the only other place she could think of to go. Even if she weren't able to receive help or even ask for it there, at least it would provide some solace.
Or so she thought.
The door to the house was unlocked when she got there. Inside, even though she'd spent countless hours here in the past, the house felt unfamiliar and inexplicably different. She passed by the kitchen and the living room and found the door leading down to the basement, descending the stairs slowly and quietly despite the fact that she knew no one would see or hear her.
Kurt was sitting at his vanity table, his back uncharacteristically slumped and his hair still slightly mussed from sleep, though it was well into the afternoon. He'd clearly put some effort into making it presentable, but it looked like he'd just given up on it halfway through the process. Mercedes heart twisted as she edged up behind him and saw that he was holding his cell phone, the small screen showing a photo from just last week. The picture showed her and Kurt making goofy faces at the camera, the angle crooked since Kurt had taken the shot himself.
She swallowed, taking a deep breath as she leaned against the vanity table next to him. "Kurt?" she said. "Can you hear me?" She knew that the odds that he could hear her were astronomical at best, but if Puck had heard her, then there had to be a chance that Kurt could too. Her lip trembled when Kurt didn't look away from the phone or notice that she'd spoken. His eyes weren't red or blotchy, but there were dried tear tracks on his cheeks from several hours before and his face was slightly contorted, as if he was trying not to breathe.
Though she knew very well that he wouldn't notice, Mercedes could not stop herself from reaching forward and wrapping her arms around him in a tight and desperate hug. A few tears worked their way out of the corners of her eyes against her will, and she choked out, "I miss you so much."
Mercedes let go of him and stepped back to see Burt Hummel descending the stairs.
Kurt didn't turn around. "What?" he said. God, he sounded exhausted.
"You want something to eat?" Burt asked, his hands deep in his pockets.
"No, thanks," Kurt sighed. Mercedes' heart skipped again. She'd never heard his voice that… dead.
"Hey," Burt said softly, coming around to Kurt's side and putting a hand on his shoulder. "They'll find her. Don't worry."
Kurt let out a half-growl of frustration and stood up. "Everyone keeps telling me not to worry, but you know what? I haven't been this worried since right before Mom died, and telling me not to freak out only makes me freak out more." He sighed again, rubbing a hand over his forehead. "I know Mercedes. She wouldn't run away. Something's happened to her, and I don't know what and it's driving me insane."
Mercedes had to fight the overpowering urge to scream I'm right here, Kurt! I'm right here! as she knew it would only serve to make her feel even more powerless and alone, but she remained frozen to the spot, unable to tear her eyes away from Kurt's pained expression.
It was a mistake to come here, she thought.
Burt pressed his mouth into a tight line, his shoulders slouching. "I understand what you're feeling, Kurt—"
"No, you don't, Dad. Sitting by your dying wife's bedside is not the same thing as not knowing if she's alive or dead."
Burt remained calm, knowing that being unflustered was the only way to act around his son when Kurt was working himself into a stress fit. "Okay, maybe I don't really understand," he admitted after a moment. Kurt wasn't meeting his eye and instead was staring at a spot in the wall behind him, his arms crossed. "You need to know that I'm here for you, and I'll do whatever you want right now. You want me to go out and join the search party or picket in front of the police station? I'll do it. But you also need to know that worrying yourself sick in your room is not doing Mercedes any good, and it's not doing you any good."
Kurt's Adam's apple bobbed up and down, and his face contorted even further. Mercedes could see that in the next few seconds, he would break down into violent sobs, but that would be more than she could handle.
She turned on her heel and ran up the stairs.
The biggest problem with this entire situation, Mercedes thought, was the fact that she really only had a handful of places where she could go and feel somewhat productive, so once she left Kurt's house, she headed straight back to Puck's.
She couldn't help but roll her eyes when she found Puck still in his room, now lying on his side on the bed with his back to her and the door. A faint snore sounded from the bed, and Mercedes sighed, wondering how long it would be until he'd wake up and would be able to help her, or at least be able to listen to her yelling at him.
She walked around the edge of the bed and sank into the desk chair where she'd sat only a couple hours before, and did a double-take when she realized that Puck wasn't alone in the bed. His arm was draped over Sarah's scrawny frame, and she was wide awake and toying with the bracelet on his wrist as she hummed a tuneless melody under her breath.
Mercedes' jaw almost dropped – despite the fact that she'd clearly seen Puck's love for his sister, she could never have pictured him simply falling asleep with his arm protectively around her. It was so… fitting and unfitting at the same time. It reminded her of the amazingly genuine expression on his face when Beth had been first cleaned off and handed to him, and the expression on his face now was more calm and relaxed than she'd ever seen.
The strange spell was broken when he abruptly snorted awake and squinted in the late afternoon sunlight, rubbing his eyes with a light groan.
"Bad dreams again?" Sarah asked.
Mercedes' eyebrows shot up. Puck had never seemed like the type who had nightmares.
"None of your business," he said quickly, but his tone held no trace of irritation. He glanced at the clock on the wall and pushed Sarah gently. "Okay, get up. You want mac'n'cheese for dinner?"
Sarah gave a wide, gap-toothed grin and an enthusiastic "Yeah!" before streaking out of the room and thumping downstairs.
Mercedes shook herself back into reality and seized the opportunity. "Puck, I'm back."
Puck jumped, reflexively looking around the room.
"Look, I'm sorry for calling you a coward," she said. "But I'm getting desperate here. Will you please help me?"
He rubbed a hand over his face and through his mohawk. "I have to make dinner for Sarah."
"You can do that first."
Puck sighed, then heaved himself to his feet. "Okay, Aretha. But only because I don't want you stalking me for the rest of my life."
She smacked him. He didn't notice.
A/N: So, the few of you who are still reading and can somehow forgive me for not updating in such a long time, I would be ever grateful to you if you could leave a review :)