A/N: Based on a prompt at glee_angst_meme by kirke_novak: "There's a reason Kurt so often sits next to puck – it's fear. Of all the bullies, Puck had always been the most cruel, vicious, relentless and systematic in the abuse, so Kurt tests his character by being clsoe to him because he knows – if he can stand being close to Puck, he can stand anything. It's basically an equivalent of someone with arachnophobia keeping a pet spider. I'd love if somewhere along the way puck noticed that and started to publicly tease Kurt about it, maybe even thinking that Kurt has a crush on him, until Kurt explodes and tells him the truth."

Puck didn't notice it was happening until Kurt leaned over and muttered something to him during Rachel's latest speech about dedication.

"If you hold her down, I can grab that ridiculous fuzzy top and burn it."

Puck snorted, smirking at Rachel and maybe picturing her topless and trapped under him.

But in the next instant he realized that Kurt made a similar comment last week about Artie's bowtie, and has randomly leaned in to assert his opinion to Puck several times over the last few weeks. In fact, Puck found it hard to recall the last time that he wasn't sitting next to Kurt during Glee practice.

He glanced around the room. There were the usual cliques like Rachel and Santana, but most of the gleeks moved around and sat somewhere different every week; they were basically all friends. And, Puck figured, he and Kurt were sorta friends too. He'd stopped the dumpster dives and slushie facials anyway, that's got to mean something. He and Kurt still bitched at each other regularly in the hallways (Kurt would say something complicated and biting about Puck's hygiene or clothes and Puck would mention Kurt's everlasting virginity and negative social status), so if those exchanged insults and sharing in their hatred of Rachel Berry's energetic speeches made them friends, then sitting together so often wasn't so weird.

Still, the unusual situation stuck in Puck's head as Rachel sang a ballad that she'd been practicing since she started teething, and when the guys approached the piano to practice their part in the next song and Kurt stayed close to Puck's side, even squeezing a little between him and Matt in order to keep his spot, Puck's line of thought suddenly changed direction.

The little fucker had a crush on him!

The idea both alarmed and amused Puck, and he wondered that, instead of talking to him or trying to seduce him like a girl would, Kurt just stuck to his side like a puppy. Maybe it's a gay thing, he wondered, but shrugged it off and smirked at Kurt whenever the little guy looked his way. He received only glares in return.

If there's one thing Puck didn't like, it was feeling uncomfortable in his own skin, and knowing that Kurt had a crush on him made him admittedly pretty uncomfortable. So he pushed away the uneasy feeling he had when he found Kurt once again sitting near him the next day at lunch and cornered him in the hallway. He smirked his 'you know you wanna visit my backseat' smirk and pretended to eye Kurt up-and-down (just pretended, of course, cuz there's nothing to check out anyway, no hips, no breasts, no fun), and then almost laughed out loud at the wide-eyed, open-mouthed alarm on Kurt's face when he checked out his expression. Yeah, Puck could handle this; he could fuck with Kurt about it until it doesn't mean anything anymore, just another joke, another thing to get Finn shooting beer out of his nose while they're playing Halo 3.

Puck spent the next couple of weeks flirting with Kurt in the same way he would flirt with an elderly woman; slowly, mocking, embarrassing Kurt every chance he got with his offhand comments about his hour-glass figure, lovely manicure and precious handbag. He called him cupcake and sweetums and dahling. But nothing he did seems to get a rise out of the soprano. Kurt kept sitting next to him, the only sign of change was that his face becomes harder and harder and he didn't make even the little comments about how annoying Berry was anymore. He just sat, straight as a board, face forward pale and cold. Puck didn't get it.

Because Kurt should have either tried to flirt back or backed off completely and stopped following him around by now, but instead things just stayed the same, and Puck just didn't get it. So he did something he'd never done before; he followed Kurt when the little guy left Glee practice early (as he'd been doing lately) into the parking lot while everyone was still inside chatting and gathering their things, and confronted him next to his car.

Kurt heard his footstep approach just as he pulled his keys out of his bag and swung around, obviously surprised.

"Puck! What are you doing?" He eyed Puck warily.

After glancing around to check that the lot is empty, Puck leaned in and asked quietly but firmly, "So are you crushing on me or what?"

The car keys dropped out of Kurt's limp hand and he started at the sound of them hitting the pavement. Grabbing his keys quickly and smoothing out his hair, Kurt managed to scoff. "What? I'm not attracted to people who think smear the queer should be an Olympic sport, Puck. Why would you think that?" He obviously wasn't expecting an answer because he hit the unlock button on the keyring and opened the door.

Puck was even more confused; Kurt seemed genuinely offended. So Puck went with his default reaction: anger.

"I dunno, maybe cuz you've been sitting next to me like everyday in Glee? Standing next to me at the piano? Sitting at my table during lunch, even when your little band of losers is across the room? Explain all that, Hummel, then I'll believe you aren't hot for this."

Realization clicked in Kurt's eyes as he slammed his door shut again, looking slightly uncomfortable. "Ew, Puck, I don't do that because I like your jock musk or anything! That's disgusting!"

"Then why do you do it?"

Kurt rolled his eyes, fidgeting slightly. "I think maybe you've been paying too much attention to me, huh Puckerman? Got a few questions for yourself?" he deflected.

Puck saw red, cuz he did not need this right now; he was 100% womanizer and he wanted to know what the fuck was going on, so he slammed his fist into the side of Kurt's truck, just next to the driver's side window and Kurt Hummel's left ear. Kurt jumped. Puck saw it and took a deep breath. "I'm not moving until you tell me you fucking faggot."

Kurt's eyes widened as he clutched his bag to his chest and snuck glances at Puck's (probably bruised) fist and straining forearm, and maybe Puck felt a little guilty at his lack of impulse control...and he hadn't called Kurt a fag in ages...

Then Kurt's face hardened, like it did lately in Glee when he sat next to Puck, and his eyes went back to their normal ice cold blue as he stared back at Puck and said, only stumbling a little over his words, "Just getting some practice in."

Puck was taken aback; it wasn't exactly the answer he expected. "Practice? Practice what? Stalking beefy straight guys?"

"Practice," Kurt repeated, seemingly unable to quite stop himself stealing another glance at Puck's arm. "Dealing with...you know..." he looked pointedly at Puck's arm, "guys like you who..." Puck felt another fist form with his left hand, ready to take Hummel out if he said another word about Puck being closeted.

"Guys who hate me," Kurt continued, breathing a little weird on the word 'hate' before regaining his composure. "For that reason, you know?"

Puck felt all of the adrenaline and anger rush through him and settle like a rock into the bottom of his stomach. "What?"

Kurt wasn't looking at him in the eyes anymore, but his face was still stone, his line of sight lowered to somewhere just over Puck's shoulder as he took deep breaths and continued, "Practice for when I finally get out and have to...face stuff like that, you know?" His eyes caught Puck's before he looked away, seeming ashamed.

"What?" Puck said again, because he can't quite figure out what Kurt meant; he just knew that it was making him feel sick.

"You're just-"Kurt started again, "You're about the biggest homophobe in school besides Azimio and Karofsky, but if I go near them, they'd...well, they'd probably kill me." His lips formed what could be a fond smile or a grimace and Puck felt his first uncurl and his hand lay flat on the side of Kurt's SUV. "I mean, you do some pretty shitty things, and you say things..." he trailed off, swallowed thickly. "But that's most of it, you know? That's what most of it will be when I get out, just people saying and doing shitty things and making me feel worthless and evil. I just figured...if I can get used to it now, then maybe it won't be so bad later. You know?" He looked at Puck then, his mask slipping, eyes pinched and imploring, begging for Puck to understand and...not hurt him?

Puck removed his hand from the car like it's burned him and backed off a couple of steps. Kurt winced, maybe expecting a blow, and watched Puck's feet move back. Puck could hear voices behind him but he didn't realize that the rest of Glee has exited the building until Mercedes, Brittany and Quinn came into view in front of him and walked up to Kurt. They asked him what's wrong and he gave them a ridiculous fake smile and a hollow laugh and then they moved on like nothing was out of the ordinary, laughing about practice and shopping as Kurt gave Puck another wary look and turned to open his car door with a shaky hand.