Was originally titled "Sometimes I break stuff."
It wasn't even that Kurt had said anything all that snarky. Just the usual snide comeback about Puck's understanding of fashion stopping at the doors of Target - exaggerated, ironic French pronunciation and all. It had actually been funny. (Never mind that Puck had started it. Maybe "What the hell is that on your head, and is it dead yet?" wasn't a great conversation opener either. And he had known as he said it that Kurt would have to make a snarky reply, it was what Kurt did, after all.) But Puck just wasn't in the mood.
He really wasn't. He'd already gotten one detention for today for fighting, he'd fought with his mother and his sister that morning, and Quinn had yelled at him at lunch time. By the time school had ended, he was just angry. Freakin' Hummel might have the luxury of flaunting the fact that he spent more on clothes in a month than Puck's whole family spent in a year, and Puck really usually didn't care, but for some had reason it had really, really, bugged him today.
And, sometimes, when he got angry, stuff happened. His body reacted before his brain (and honestly, it hadn't been that long ago that he'd decided that he wasn't gonna harass Hummel any more - well, not as much. He had certainly decided that he wasn't gonna throw Hummel around). But, there was that rage, reacting before he could think... and there were his hands, grabbing at Kurt's arm, yanking free the hand clutching the strap of his bag, and spinning him around (harder than he had meant to). And Hummel had started to move away anyway. And then Puck was slamming him with a two-handed shove into the wall of lockers that set all the locks rattling.
It wasn't like he had never done this before. It wasn't like Kurt had never had this happen before. Puck was expecting the startled widening of Kurt's eyes, the starting shimmer of tears (very quickly controlled -usually). He was also expecting Hummel's bitch-face and a sharp response, but he didn't get that.
What he got - what he was not expecting - was for the flush of anger that had given Kurt's pale skin a little color to drain away instantly, and for Kurt to go paler than he'd ever seen him, gray to the lips. For Kurt to slide bonelessly down the lockers to sit sprawled on the floor, that arm cradled against his chest, looking up at him with an expression of dizzy, bewildered pain. Or the faint "ow..." that seemed to be all that Kurt could manage before he leaned over and vomited on the floor.
Puck stood in the empty corridor over Kurt's sprawled legs, as the other boy began to tremble in reaction to the sudden pain, leaning his head back against the lockers, eyes closed. Puck knew it was way more than just hitting the lockers; Kurt was probably shoved into the lockers pretty much on a daily basis, and he just brushed it off, kept going. His mouth went dry, his mind just now catching up, processing what he'd felt happen - the grating pop under his hands as he'd twisted Kurt's arm - his wrist - to throw him against the wall.
The feeling of Kurt's wrist breaking in his hands.
Nausea welled up in his own gut, along with terror. And guilt. This was bad, so bad. He dropped to his knees beside Hummel, and reached out. "Dude, I-"
He shouldn't have been surprised, he realized, when Hummel flinched away from his hands when he reached out to take hold of the injured arm. Or by the cold tone when Hummel spoke. Or the malevolent glare Hummel turned on him. (How did he manage that, that glare, and still look so scared and shaken, with his cheekbones standing out in even sharper lines than usual? He looked twelve. And hurt. And furious. And he wasn't crying, just shaking like a leaf.) "Get lost, Puckerman."
Puck tried again. "Kurt, c'mon, you know I didn't mean to-" His own voice sounded so strange to his ears, higher than normal and breathy with panic.
But Kurt drew in on himself even more, pulling his knees up close, a protective barrier between Puck and that wrist, and huddling into a ball. "Go away, Noah. Leave me alone."
Puck took a deep breath, trying to fight down the anger that threatened to return. Part of him wanted to run, leave Hummel here to fend for himself. Part of him wanted to haul the kid to his feet and drag him to the nurse or the locker room for Coach to check on - he knew he was strong enough to overpower Kurt easily enough right now. (And a more primitive part of him was urging him to go ahead and let the anger go... but he shoved it back, kept control.) He knelt beside Kurt, moving with exaggerated care, both for his benefit and Kurt's. "Dude... please. Let me give you a hand."
Kurt gave a hollow little laugh. "I don't think I can handle any more of your...help... Noah." Bracing himself with his good hand, he pushed himself to his feet against the lockers, leaned there for a moment as a wave of dizziness overwhelmed him briefly. Puck scrambled to his feet again, just in time to catch Kurt when his foot slipped in the puddle on the floor.
Kurt had just pulled angrily away from him again when they heard footsteps rushing towards them and Will Schuester all but ran around the corner, with Finn and Rachel in tow. He was so dead, Puck thought, as Finn took in the scene and a scowl began to replace his concerned expression. "What the hell-" Finn started, fist clenched as he pushed past the teacher towards Puck, but Schue cut him off with a hand on his arm.
"What happened, Kurt?" he asked, moving in and gently taking Kurt's injured arm, drawing it out from where it had been tucked in tightly against Kurt's side. The wrist was rapidly swelling, and already turning purple, and Will drew in a sharp hissing breath in sympathy with Kurt's choked gasp of pain. Puck wanted to step away, but the way Kurt was swaying, he was afraid that the kid would fall, so he moved to brace him again... but Finn pushed him aside with a glare and put an arm around Kurt's shoulders.
"I - I just tripped," Kurt managed through clenched teeth. "I guess I just landed badly." Puck, circling around behind Schuester, met his defiant glance over the teacher's shoulder with an incredulous look of his own. Why the hell was Hummel lying?
"We heard you hit the lockers!" Rachel protested, looking from Kurt to Puck and back again.
"Yes, Rachel," Kurt hissed, "I fell, into the lockers. I was running so I wouldn't be late for practice, and I tripped, and Puck helped me up, and this hurts like hell, so can we stop the interrogation, please, and get some ice?"
And now it was two hours later, and Puck had found himself walking past Hummel's Tire and Lube, hands dug deep into his pockets, not really sure why he was even there.
The rest of the glee geeks had showed up within minutes, descending on Kurt in a swirl of worry and bearing him off toward the nurse's office. Mr. Schue had canceled the rest of rehearsal for the night, sending them all home. Finn had offered Puck a sort-of-apologetic half-shrug as he put an arm around Rachel, who'd been stung by Kurt's words and was kinda freaking out over it. Within ten minutes Kurt's father had arrived to take Kurt to the hospital for x-rays. No one gave Puck a second glance, all of them easily accepting Kurt's version of what had happened. So Puck had eventually left the school and started walking.
Ten minutes out from the school, he remembered that he was supposed to be in detention. He didn't much care.
He just let his feet carry him on, as afternoon became evening, until they had brought him here. He looked up at the sign for a long time, then sighed and crossed the street to lean on the neighbor's stone wall.
He didn't want to think about it, how it had felt, that moment that Hummel's wrist had just twisted wrong in his hands... the moment he had wrenched Kurt's arm so hard that he'd broken it. The look in Kurt's eyes as he'd slipped to the floor - a look of betrayal. Because Puck realized, he'd had stopped tossing Kurt into the dumpster weeks ago, and had not let anyone else do it either. Because Puck had started acting... not like a friend, really, but different, and he knew it. He knew that Kurt had started to think that maybe Puck had changed. That maybe he didn't need to be afraid of Puck so much anymore. That even if Puck didn't like him, exactly, he wasn't going to hurt him anymore.
That maybe even if Puck didn't accept him, he would tolerate him.
And then Puck had casually broken his arm.
He knew it was really a fluke, that it had just been a bad combination of his strength and Kurt's momentum. He also knew that when he was angry, he was reckless, and that he didn't know his own strength. It was one of the things he and his mom fought about. He'd never hurt her, or his sister... but sometimes he broke stuff. His bedroom walls were riddled with holes from his fists, and there was a lamp from the living room that would never bother anyone again after this morning's argument.
Puck had been in plenty of fights, and had done (and taken) his share of damage. He'd threatened and intimidated and dumpster-tossed plenty of kids weaker than him, too. He'd locker-slammed Kurt, too, with great relish, not too many weeks ago. But this - it was different. He'd never hurt someone so badly before.
Puck felt terrible.
He didn't like this feeling at all.
Part of it, he figured out, watching the Hummel's sign light flicker (one of the bulbs was burning out) was that he'd never had Kurt look at him like that. He'd seen disdain, disgust, contempt and cold fury, even fear and loathing... but never that wounded look. He kept going back to one word... betrayed. On some level, Kurt had started to trust him.
It wasn't like Puck wanted that trust. Really. He didn't care that much about Hummel - he didn't. They weren't friends. He didn't even like the little...
He slumped against the wall. Then why was he here, feeling guilt burning a hole in his guts, staring at the sign over Hummel's father's business? He hunched deeper into his jacket, his head hanging, and scowled at his crossed sneakers. Ok, he had hurt Kurt. Bad. And he felt...bad. Punch-someone-in-the-head-bad.
Well, he knew where he could find that. He dug out his fake id, and headed down the street again towards the sleaziest bar he knew of.
It had taken nearly twice as long to do, but Kurt had finally finished his nightly routine, his only concession to the cast the choice of one of his father's t-shirts (with the Hummel's Tire logo) instead of his usual button-down PJs. Finally, he tugged off the sweatband he wore to keep his hair out of the way and dropped it onto the vanity, allowing himself to slump back against the chair, looking at his face in the mirror, and sighed.
The weight of the (purple) cast dragged at his arm as he lifted it to rest on the vanity's polished surface, studying it for a moment. It still ached a little despite the painkillers he'd been given at the ER, and his hand was an unattractively mottled black-and-blue, but the doctors had been reassuring. He was young, and it wasn't a bad break. Six weeks, and he'd be as good as new. Six weeks. He sighed again.
His father had already called him out of school for tomorrow; he was going to sleep in, and then join Dad for lunch and hang out at the shop for the afternoon. He'd already called Mercedes, and reassured her that he was fine, really. He'd promised that she could be the first (besides his father, anyway) to sign the cast. She, in turn, would get his homework for him, and make sure the glee grapevine was up-to-date.
He was really very tired; he suspected that some of it was the pills, but it had also been a long day, and he was more than ready to just curl up with his iPod and drift away. He'd just gotten to his feet, a little clumsily, when a sharp tapping on the basement window startled him so badly he nearly fell over, only barely catching himself with his good hand on the vanity. He really couldn't deal with this tonight, he thought wearily, looking up at the window. A pale shape was pressed against the glass… a face, looking in at him. He recoiled, stumbling back a few steps toward the stairs, ready to call for his dad.
He heard the door open, and his father's voice, as if he'd been summoned. "Kurt? You ok?"
Just as he was about to say no, that something was wrong, the face resolved itself into a shape he knew. Sort of.
Noah Puckerman was lying on the grass outside his window , staring in at him. As the other boy raised his hand to tap on the glass again, Kurt raised a finger to his lips in a shushing gesture. "I'm fine, Dad," he called back. "Just about to go to bed."
"Ok, I'm turning in, too. If you need me…"
"No, I'm… fine, Dad. Just really tired. Good night."
He glared up at Puck until the door closed softly, then crossed the room to open the window, shivering as cold night air swirled in around his shoulders.
"What do you want, Puckerman?" he asked, going for haughty and disdainful, but only managing flat and tired. Puck moved in closer, pushing his face in through the open window, and Kurt's eyes widened in horror.
Puck was sporting a black eye, and a swollen lip, and he reeked of alcohol. When he spoke, his voice was hoarse, and his words slurred. "Wanna talk to you. " He tried to wriggle in through the window, but his shoulders were just too broad.
"Stop that!" Kurt hissed at him. "You won't fit. Go home, Puck."
"No. Need to… " He swallowed hard. "I'mma be sick…"
"Not here. Not now. I can't… God… Go away, Puck! Call me in the morning when you've sobered up." Kurt tried to shove the bigger boy's arm back through the window with his left hand, but Puck just grabbed at his arm and Kurt stepped back out of reach. Kurt looked around the room desperately. Maybe he should get his father after all.
Puck rolled away from the window to be violently and noisily sick on the lawn. When he turned back, he muttered, "I can stay here all night, Hummel."
"No, you really can't. For one thing, my dad will kill you if he finds you here. And it's freezing, Puck. Go home. Sleep it off. Call me in the morning. Or… early afternoon." Please, he thought, just go away, Puck. I can't deal with you now….
"Like you'll answer the phone, Hummel. Nope, just gonna stay right here."
"This is so unfair, Puck. " Kurt could hear his voice rising, growing shrill with fatigue and desperation, and lowered it with an effort. "Go home. I can't. What am I supposed to do with you? I can't take care of you tonight, you drunken idiot!" Kurt dropped onto his bed. Why did I even open the window, he asked himself. I should have just called the cops.
"Oh, for Gucchi's sake," Kurt groaned, dragging himself to his feet. "Go around to the garage, then. If you can walk." He made his way to the stairs as quietly as he could. He really didn't want to explain this to his father tonight. Or, really, ever. He looked back over his shoulder to see that Puck had at least left the window, and started up the stairs. At the top, he glanced longingly back at the bed. Was it really too much to ask? He just wanted to sleep.
Grabbing his father's coat off the peg inside the door, he slung it over his shoulders and stepped out into the cool dark garage – then stepped back into the house to shove his bare feet into the tennis shoes he'd left by the door when he'd come in. The floor was icy. His fingers found the light switch, and he went back out, skirting the dark shape of the Navigator to shut down the alarm and open the outside door that led to the back yard. Puck leaned against the side of the house, and when the door opened, he stumbled towards the light. Kurt stepped back and let him fall into the garage. There was no way he was even going to try to catch him.
Puck didn't – quite – fall. Instead, he sort of… folded to the floor at Kurt's feet, leaving the other boy staring down at him, bewildered. He pulled himself together a little bit, starting to sober up now that he was face-to-face with … his victim. "Sorry," he muttered. "I shouldn't have come."
Kurt sighed… ok, maybe a little dramatically. He figured he was entitled, tonight. "Why did you, Puck?"
"Because…" Puck gathered his legs together, wrapped his arms around them, and rested his chin on his knees, looking up at Kurt, who looked far too tall from the floor. He didn't even know what to say.
"Wait here, then," Kurt finally said and vanished back into the house.
Puck stared after him. Was he gonna leave him out here all night? He got himself unsteadily to his feet and started to follow Kurt. By the time he had negotiated the around the big SUV, though, Kurt was back, with a mug he carried carefully down the stairs. He pointed to the steps. "Sit," he ordered, and Puck found himself settling on the bottom step and taking the mug from him. "Coffee," Kurt told him. "It's reheated from this morning, but it's more than you deserve."
Puck sipped at the hot bitter liquid. "You're right," he muttered into the cup.
Kurt stood over him for a moment, then opened the door of the Navigator and perched on the floor in front of the driver's seat. "So, why are you here, and what in the name of Tom Ford did you do to your face?"
Puck looked over at him, and rolled his eyes. He frowned. That hurt, he should not do that again when he was this drunk. "I. Came. To. Talk. To. You," he said slowly. "And I got into a fight."
Oh, Kurt thought, this conversation was going to be very strange, between his painkiller-loopiness, and Puck being drunk. "What did you want to say, then, Puck. Spit it out, so I can go to bed and you can go home. I can't even believe I let you in."
Puck took a gulp of coffee, and set the cup aside. The effects of the alcohol and adrenaline were fading fast - it had been a long walk here from the bar, and that had gone a long way toward sobering him up already. He'd only gotten sick because … well, because the sight of the heavy cast on Kurt's wrist and the way he'd struggled to manage just getting ready for bed one-handed had made Puck's stomach rebel.
This was his fault. And he'd have to look at the cast every day, and feel that way… and realize every time he watched Kurt cradle it against him like he was doing now, or that pained expression made his face grow pinched and drawn… and he just felt so awful. And whatever he felt, it was selfish. Because Kurt had to deal with a broken wrist for however long.
He really hadn't meant to hurt him like this. Not for real. Just knocking him into the lockers.
And he couldn't fix it.
"Sorry," he mumbled, climbing to his feet. "I shouldn't have come. You need to rest. To get better. Sorry." He looked up to see Kurt rolling his eyes at him. He lurched towards the other boy, half-expecting him to flinch away from him again. "Aren't you scared of me?" he asked, surprised.
Kurt looked up at him, a little surprised himself. "Um… not really? No more than usual?" he finally answered.
"But you were."
"You mean today? Or before?" There had been a time, before glee, when Puck's mere appearance in the hallway would have made Hummel freeze into ice-prince mode: auto-bitchface, stiff spine, arms crossed protectively over his body, sharp comment at the ready.
Kurt was beginning to look a little wary again, unsure what a tipsy Puck might do next. He really preferred predictable, even if "predictable" meant "I can predict that today Puck will throw me in the dumpster, and later this week he will trip me in the hallway." He might not admit to being scared of Puck, and maybe it wasn't the kind of "duck, there's an angry gorilla loose" thing it used to be, but he was certainly cautious.
Then again… Puck's eyes fell on the cast again half-hidden under the jacket that was threatening to swallow Kurt whole. He was right to be cautious. Puck took a step back to lean on the wall, crossing his arms. Watching Kurt.
"Well, of course I was scared today. It really hurt, Puck." Kurt's tone was quiet, just barely accusatory, but that betrayed look had crept back into his eyes when he looked up. "I didn't… expect it." And now he was doing again, Puck thought, both arms tight across his gut, his good hand reaching to draw the jacket (so unlike anything Hummel would wear except maybe during that weird week he went butch, must belong to his dad) tighter around himself. And he looked, to Puck, like he was thinking, I should have.
Puck nodded. He couldn't look at Kurt's face, dropping his gaze to the pale narrow fingers clenched around the edge of the jacket to hold it closed. His buzz had all but faded now; he was gonna have to do this more sober than he'd wanted to. But it was time to man up, and then get gone. "I… I know. That's why I came. I wanted to say… I'm really sorry I did that," indicating the cast with a flick of his fingers.
"You're just saying that because you've been drinking." Kurt tried to keep his tone light.
"No, "Puck said seriously, finally dragging his gaze back up to Kurt's pale face. "I was drinking, so I could say it." The other boy opened his mouth to say something, but Puck raised a hand to stop him. "I'm not good at this, so just let me do it, and I'll get out. Won't bug you again. I mean it. I was having a bad day. I was… really angry. And that's no excuse for… what I did. "
"Seems like you're… angry… a lot," Kurt commented hesitantly.
"Maybe. Kinda. " Puck shrugged. "You're not? You never punch anyone, but you can rip a guy up with three words, Kurt." Kurt looked down, catching his lower lip between his teeth. "Hey… no. I don't blame you, it's all you got. And… it's still no excuse for what I did to you today. Really, you didn't say anything you haven't said to me before, and I laugh it off. "
He straightened up. "I came to say I was sorry, and I have, so I'll go, let you get some sleep." He headed for the door, his steps more steady than before. He knew Kurt hadn't forgiven him—he didn't expect that he would-he wasn't even sure what he'd accomplished here tonight. But he had really felt that he needed to do this. It was the right thing, like everybody talked about. It hadn't really lifted the weight in his gut, though. Wasn't he supposed to feel better?
At least Kurt hadn't called the cops, or set his dad on him.
"And the fight?" Humel's voice stopped him in his tracks. "You're a mess, Noah. What was the fight about?"
He looked back over his shoulder. "Huh?" Yeah, that was good, Puckerman, he thought. But Kurt had surprised him.
"Why did you get into a fight?" Kurt persisted. "You got drunk to apologize. Why, tonight, did you go out and get into a fight? "
He'd gotten out of the car and followed Puck, leaning against the hood of the big vehicle, waiting for an answer. Puck turned back reluctantly. This was really something he didn't know how to put into words. Especially to Kurt. But Hummel just kept looking at him and Puck figured he still owed him something. ""I… I just wanted to… get it out, you know? Hit someone. Get hit." And tonight, the "getting hit: part had been more important. Because he'd deserved it.
He must have muttered that last bit out loud, because Hummel was looking at him incredulously. "You were punishing yourself," he said flatly.
Punishing himself. It was true. And it occurred to Puck why it hadn't worked tonight, the fighting. And what just might. Something that might make the swirling mass of bad feelings that was choking him start to fade. He took two steps toward Kurt, and this time there must have been something scary on his face, because Kurt did shrink back a little bit. "That's what it is…" he said earnestly. "C'mere. Hit me. " Kurt backed up another step, shaking his head, a puzzled expression furrowing his brow. "No, seriously. Hit me. You'll feel better." I'll feel better.
A guy hit you, you hit back, it settled things. Maybe you got a beer together, maybe you went your separate ways. But you didn't have to talk about it. And it was over.
But Kurt just shook his head harder, looking at Puck like he'd finally lost his mind. "That's … insane. I'm not gonna hit you, Puck."
"Because. Because first, I'm right-handed, and my right hand is out of commission," and Puck's guilt-stricken look almost stopped him there, and almost convinced him to go ahead and do it anyway. "And second, because tomorrow, all you'll remember is that I hit you, and you'll kill me." And now Puck just looked wounded, which, what gave him the right to do that? "Joke, Puck. Really. I don't want to. It won't fix anything. It really won't make me feel any better."
Puck stood silent for a long time. Finally, he shrugged. "Suit yourself." He'd tried. He still didn't feel any better, and he'd really hoped this would let him off the hook, but he'd have to figure out something else later. Hummel really looked about ready to drop.
Something else occurred to him then. "So… why'd you lie to everyone about what happened? " he asked, genuinely curious. " I mean, you probably could have gotten me expelled. And Finn would have been happy to have an excuse to pulverize me, and the rest of glee would have been glad to help. So…Why didn't you tell them?"
"Oh…" Kurt shrugged, turning his back to the car and leaning on its nose. "Glee needs you," he offered first.
Puck shook his head, and Kurt sighed. "I know you didn't mean to. I... accept your apology, because I know it was an accident. If you promise me not to even mention it, I won't either. That doesn't mean it's ok to… well…just lash out at anyone like that, though. Especially me," he tried for flippancy.
His little smile was short-lived. "And it's really not ok, the stuff you and your pals have done to me, you know. " He looked over at Puck (and the mask was gone, and Puck had never seen Hummel –Kurt—so open, so unguarded ), and his next words were a whisper, edged with fear. "It was gonna happen one of these days…" He stopped, shook himself. "Damn drugs. Make me talk too much." And far too honestly, which he couldn't afford even if Puck had changed. " I think… you'd better go, Puck. I can't do this any more tonight."
Puck came to stand in front of Kurt, studying the other boy for a long moment until Kurt looked up, his deep weariness plainly visible, making him too vulnerable. Puck wasn't comfortable with Kurt being that defenseless with him. And the fact that Kurt went to school every morning knowing that someday he'd get really hurt?... well, wasn't that just a kick in the gut, too. Especially since he'd just proved him right. "Tell you what, Hu- Kurt. I'm going to… do better. Get the anger thing under control. "
Not least because, it had occurred to him, if he could hurt Kurt this bad, accidentally, next time it could be his little sister, or his mom… and he couldn't live with that if he could hardly live with this. "I'm not gonna start, like, carrying your books or hanging at your lunch table, and I'm never gonna sing to you, but…"
Kurt chuckled. "That would be too weird. "
"I just want you to know. This… " He gestured at the cast. "This kind of thing isn't gonna happen again. You'll be…safe… around me. And I'll try to be a better… friend."
"Wait… we're not… are we?"
Kurt Hummel, master of the witty comeback, at a loss for words, was kinda funny, Puck mused. "Yeah, we are. Now, we are. " Puck made a wry face. "Lots has changed this year Hummel." He headed for the door. "I'll let myself out. See ya around."
And he sauntered out. Tomorrow he'd have to talk to his mom, apologize to her for how hair-trigger he'd been lately. And his sister. And really try to get a handle on the rage that made him want to break things.
Kurt watched him go, then reset the alarm and headed for bed, bemused. It was all a lot to process. It really had been a long day.