The Pitfalls of Grace

Puck turned the dial to adjust the lights in the small living of the apartment that he and Kurt shared. He didn't want it to be dark but just dim enough that the lights of the city would seem like they were glowing through the window. They'd been living in New York City together for a couple of years, and though they'd moved a few times, one thing always remained the same: Kurt loved to see the lights at night. And though Puck could have cared less, he always made sure that Kurt got the view he loved so much. (It was worth it even if it stretched their pocketbooks a little more than he liked.)

With the brightly colored glow warming the living room, Puck walked over to the small CD player that sat on their book shelf. Sure, CDs were obsolete, but Puck refused to get rid of the CD player. Not only because he owned a lot of music on disc, but because of all the mixed tapes that they'd made for one another over the years.

Once or twice they'd tried making playlists for their iPods, but it just wasn't the same. Because when it came down to it, according to Kurt, mix tapes were love. No matter what. There was just no way a playlist could replace that for either of them. And because of that, they now had stacks of tangible evidence of the past four years they'd spent together lying around. Some were apologies, and others were I love you's, but no matter the purpose, each and every single disc meant something to them.

Turning on the small machine, Puck picked up one of the more worn-looking cases. It was made of clear blue plastic and had a small sticky label on it that read, "For Hummel. From Puck." As he popped it out of the case, he thought about how he'd been so nervous when he'd first made that particular mix. It was the first (of many), and he had had absolutely no idea what to put on it. In the end, he'd scanned iTunes for anything that had seemed even remotely romantic, adding random songs here and there. (Half of them he'd never even heard of before.)

Some of the songs Kurt hated, but others, others he loved….

Puck flicked past the first three songs until he got to the fourth one. It was some song from the 60s that was about having a hold on someone. It was slow and romantic without being sappy, which mirrored Kurt's own personality. It was the prefect amount of romance and reality for Kurt to be happy with it. In the past, Puck had tried grand romantic gestures for his boyfriend, but the bigger they were, the more Kurt would roll his eyes.

So rather than buy him a hundred and one roses (or even one for that matter), every once in a while Puck would turn down the lights and turn up the music. Because even though Kurt wasn't big on romance, he did love to dance and be held close.

When the music started playing, Puck began to hum softly to himself as he waited for Kurt to come and find him. It wouldn't take long, of that Puck was absolutely certain. So he walked over by the small living room window and just waited…

As the streetlights below flickered from yellow to red, Puck felt Kurt's hands slide around his waist. And as they found Puck's stomach, Kurt laid his cheek on Puck's back. For a moment they just stood there together, content to feel and be felt. And as Kurt held him, the music swirled gently around them, mingling with the sounds of the city below.

When he felt Kurt sigh deeply against his back, Puck took that as his cue to turn around and pull Kurt into his chest. But when he turned, Kurt was staring up at him intently. But before Puck could pull him close, Kurt slid his arms around his neck. And in a soft voice he whispered into Puck's ear, "Dance with me…"

Puck didn't refuse. Honestly, he couldn't have if he wanted to, because if Kurt were to ask for the moon, Puck would have given it to him. And without another word, he wound his arms around Kurt's back and began to sway a little to the music. As they danced, Kurt looked at him as if he was the luckiest guy in the world. But every once in a while Kurt's gaze would drop to his feet for a second before looking back up; it was almost as if he was watching his steps. And deep down, Puck was pretty sure that Kurt was counting each beat, because he always strived for perfection. Be it the tiniest pivot in glee club rehearsals to practicing for the revival of Chicago that he was in, Kurt was meticulous about his movements.

But as Puck watched Kurt slowly and methodically place one foot next to the other, he couldn't help but think that grace was overrated…

Chairs and shins don't mix…

"Mr. Schuester…" Puck grabbed a couple of the choir room chairs by the backs and pushed them aside. "Dude. We're like… celebrities now. Why can't we have some of the freshman come in and move the chairs for us?"

In their junior year, New Directions had finally beaten Vocal Adrenaline and made it all the way to Nationals. Sure, they'd only come in second place there, but it was enough to raise the hotness quota of McKinley High's glee club significantly. So now, at their first glee rehearsal as seniors, everyone was feeling pretty good about themselves and their accomplishments.

And from the sounds of agreement coming from around the room, everyone else seemed to agree with him. (Or mostly everyone, but really? Berry's opinion so didn't count. Even if she had sung the solo that had locked them into second place.)

Then, of course, there was Mr. Schuester. (Because really, wasn't Schuester always there to try and ruin the fun?)

Schu placed his hands on the back of the chair he was about to move and looked over at Puck. "Because we are better than that. We don't need to prove ourselves by passing off the things we don't want to do."

"Uh… Mr. Schuester?" Brittany tried to take a step forward but stopped when the chair in front of her didn't move.

Schu didn't respond; instead he just looked at her with mild curiosity on his face. They'd all learned long ago that when Brittany spoke, it was best to just smile and nod. "Coach Sylvester lets the Chess club wipe our sweat off the gym floor after practice. And they love it, because we're like… hot and stuff." She smiled a little, looking as if she'd just proved some major point.

Everyone else looked at Schuester, waiting for some kind of reaction. Personally, Puck kinda agreed with the ditzy blonde. It wasn't that he wanted the Chess club to mop up his sweat or anything. Or, well… he could totally deal with, say, the girls' gymnastics team wiping the perspiration from his brow.

But the Chess club, of which Jacob Ben Israel was the president? Not so much.

"That's umh…" Schu's eyebrows were furrowed, bunching the wrinkles in his forehead together. "Let's just keep moving the chairs." He shook his head a little before sliding the one he'd been leaning on towards the wall.

Puck snorted in disapproval but grabbed another chair anyway. As he moved it aside, he began to imagine the gymnasts in their shiny red and black leotards. In his mind, they were twisting and contorting their bodies into impossible shapes as they wiped at his brow.

It was a wonderful fantasy, even better than the ones featuring the Cheerios. But before the gymnasts were about to start shimmying and flipping out of their outfits, Puck sucked in a sharp hiss of pain as something very hard collided with his shins.

Puck's attention quickly vacated the dream world he was King (with a capital k) of and searched out the culprit as his shin bone began to throb. When his eyes landed on an apologetic-looking Kurt Hummel, his shin gave a particularly angry stab of pain.

"Are you…" Kurt sounded a little put out, like he didn't really want to be asking Puck anything. And that only irritated Puck more, because it was his shin that was going to be bruised tomorrow. Not Hummel's.

"Dude, watch it." Puck snapped at the other boy. As Hummel's eyes flashed angrily, Puck felt a surge of triumph course through himself.

But before Hummel said a word, he took a few steps closer to Puck.

The other boy had grown another inch over the summer, and now there was only a half an inch difference between them. So when Hummel stood in front of him, looking confident and sure, he was able to look Puck directly in the eye. "It was you who ran into my chair." Hummel's eyes sparkled with a new found sense of self that shocked Puck. "So it's you who needs to watch out. Not me."

Before Puck could get out a response, Kurt had turned on his heel and walked away, leaving the chair he'd been moving where it was.

And as Hummel stomped towards Mercedes, Puck couldn't help but watch him go. Puck told himself that it was because he was angry, that he was plotting some kind of brilliant revenge. But even as he thought that, Puck's mind slipped back into fantasy land. However, instead of being surrounded by the gymnastics team, Puck was on the WMHS football field, and Hummel was on the sidelines with all of the other Cheerios. He was spinning around and twisting about just as much as the girls, occasionally throwing up a high kick that could rival Santana's. (And that was saying something.)

But unlike at real games, Kurt was showing off for Puck. He was winking and twirling, spinning flirtatiously and throwing little kisses that were all for Puck.

And very much not for Kurt's longtime boyfriend, Sam.

But as Puck's mind slipped deeper into this fantasy, an alarm began to sound in the background.

It was the same alarm that had told him to keep quiet about knocking up Quinn. But now it was screaming out things like, "Where did this come from?" and "Why do you know that Kurt always looks back over his shoulder and winks when he's supposed to be facing the crowd?"

But the more he thought about it, Puck wasn't so sure he wanted to know the answers to any of those questions. And in hopes of wiping away the images dancing through his mind, he gave his head a vigorous shake.

With his thoughts cleared, Puck said, "Dude, what is your problem?" By now, Kurt was all the way across the room, but Puck didn't care. Because after that fantasy, he needed to have the last word.

Unfortunately though, Santana wasn't about to let him have it.

"Lighten up, Puckerman. Sam broke up with him yesterday." She spat out the words as if she didn't care. Which really, she probably didn't. But the fact that she'd defended Hummel at all spoke volumes. The only explanation that Puck could come up with was that, after being Cheerios together for two and a half years, there was some sort of camaraderie. Even if they still hated each other.

Puck didn't respond. Instead he picked up the chair Hummel had left behind and put it with the others. After Santana's little proclamation, he had a lot to think about.

New choreography sucks…

Puck was a pretty good dancer.

Not like… Mike Chang good or anything like that. But he was better than Matt, and he could dance circles around Finn. Though, to be honest, a banana could dance circles around Finn (who couldn't dance his way out of a paper bag if his life depended on it). But despite that fact, Puck was secure in his dance skills.

Except when it came to new choreography that is.

Because when it came time to learn a new routine for the glee club, Puck always had issues with whatever steps Schuester decided to throw at them for the first few minutes. Puck didn't know why, but new steps, no matter how simple, always threw him off. After the initial introductions of the steps, he was fine. But those first few minutes were always murder.

And today was certainly no exception to that rule.

After clearing away all of the chairs (an activity that still irritated Puck), Schu had everyone move to the center of the room, saying that he would put them in a formation once they learned the steps. Puck quickly made his way to the back of the group, having no desire to make a fool out of himself as he tried to pick up the new moves.

On his way to the back of the classroom, Puck passed Quinn and Matt, but other than that, he didn't pay any attention to where anyone else was. Ok, so he knew that Rachel was in front and that Finn was next to her. But he only knew that because Rachel refused to stand anywhere but in the front and Finn followed her around like a puppy dog.

What he didn't expect was to find Kurt at the back looking kinda upset. And the moment Puck saw him, the vision of Kurt in his Cheerios uniform instantly filled his mind.

Since the run in with Kurt last week, that image, along with a whole lot of others, had made its way into Puck's thoughts. At first, Puck had tried to resist them. But the more he did, the more Kurt would appear in his mind, winking and posing, his bright blue eyes sparkling mischievously.

And standing right next to Kurt only seemed to make that worse….

Dream Kurt was just about to show off his flexibility when his real, live, flesh and blood counterpart looked up at Puck.

His eyes were red around the rims, and though Puck didn't really know how to respond to that, he found that he wanted to say something. But before he even had a chance to open his mouth, Hummel looked away and took a few steps to the side. Whether or not it was so that Puck had room or so that Hummel could get as far away from him as possible, Puck wasn't sure. And as he thought about it, Puck realized that he didn't really want to know.

But no matter what the reason, Puck stepped into the spot Hummel had just vacated, sneaking a small glance at the boy when he thought he wasn't looking.

"Alright, everyone…" Mr. Schuester spun around so that his back was to the group. "Follow me." Slowly, Schu took two steps to the left before taking a step forward with his right foot to pivot.

Puck followed along or tried to follow along anyway…. But when he went to do the pivot, he lost track of whatever Schuester did next. And by the time Puck was facing front again, Schu was spinning around. In an effort to catch up, Puck spun quickly to the left, unaware of the fact that Schuster's next move was to the side.

And just as Puck finished his turn, he felt himself colliding with someone. Instinctively, he reached out and grabbed onto what felt like a pair of tense but toned shoulder. The shape of the muscles, obviously male, felt odd under his fingertips. But not in a weird way (which was strange in and of itself.) And despite the fact that the danger of falling was gone, Puck couldn't bring himself to let go. Because even though his brain was trying to sort out what had just happened, he knew without question that he was holding onto Hummel. How Puck knew it was him, and not whoever was on the other side of him was beyond him (And honestly, he didn't care just how he knew.).

Puck continued to hold on, curious about the feel on Hummel in his grasp. And when Hummel's shoulders flinched a little, but Puck didn't let go. "Puck, what are you doing?" Hummel's voice was a low hiss in Puck's ear. And it was then that Puck realized that he was looking at the floor, his forehead resting on Hummel's shoulder.

At the front of the room, Mr. Schuester was still calling out steps. Puck, however, was lost in a world that was only supposed to be real in his fantasies. But now that he'd felt Hummel's skin under his hands, Puck couldn't deny that he wanted less fantasy and more reality. And that realization caused him to clench Hummel's shoulder a little more.

"Puck..." Hummel's voice was still low, but now there was a trace of worry in it.

"I… Uh…" Puck's hands flew off of Hummel's shoulders as if he'd been burned. "Sorry."

Hummel looked as if he was going to ask why he was sorry but quickly changed his mind. And Puck was glad he had, because he didn't quite know how say that he was sorry for pretty much everything. Cause at that moment, he kinda was.

So, before Hummel could say anything, Puck turned around and tried to follow along with whatever Schuester was going.

But as he tried to pivot and step like with everyone else, Hummel stood there staring at him.

Being as smooth as clumsy can be…

"Yeah, hey… I really appreciate this." Puck pulled on his jacket, quickly finding the thin case of the mix tape he'd made for Kurt in his pocket. (Yes, Kurt. Because, since Puck realized that he wanted to get up close and personal with the other boy, he could no longer think of him as "Hummel.")

"It's fine." Kurt looked over at him as he pulled on his own jacket. "I know you were having trouble with Mr. Schuester's choreography yesterday."

Instantly, Puck wanted to defend himself, to tell Kurt that he was a good dancer. But if he did that, he'd have to explain about his issues with new choreography. And somehow, that seemed even more embarrassing than Kurt thinking he had issues with Schu's brilliant pivot-spin combos.

So he kept his mouth shut.

As it was, they'd just spent a half an hour together after school, Kurt explaining the steps to him. And yeah… Puck had picked the moves up in ten minutes, but he'd managed to drag the lesson out for another twenty before Kurt said that he needed to get home.

"Uh, well…" Puck's eyes flickered towards Kurt's bag on the chair between them. It was obvious that Kurt was about to reach for it, and if Puck wanted to put his plan into action, he needed to make his move now. "Let me grab that…."

Before Kurt could object, Puck leaned forward like he was going to pick up the other boy's bag for him. But instead of grabbing it, he pushed it to the floor as accidentally as he possibly could. And just like he hoped, the top flap came open, spilling notebooks, pens, and who knew what else all over the linoleum.
"Oh, no…" Puck tried to sound shocked as he dropped to the floor while Kurt half gasped, half groaned in horror.

And before Kurt could see what he was doing, Puck slipped the mixed tape into his bag.

Ok, that wasn't supposed to hurt…

Ever since Puck had slipped the CD full of romance songs into Kurt's bag a few days ago, Kurt had been avoiding him. And that was very much not how he was supposed to react. Not in Puck's mind anyway.

In Puck's now… very elaborate fantasy world, Kurt was supposed to throw himself into Puck's arms and give it up then and there.

But instead, Puck was getting the cold shoulder.

He'd tried to confront Kurt and ask him what was going on. But anytime he got within five feet of him, Kurt would turn and run the other way. Which, truth be told, was not something that Puck was used to.

And to make matters worse, if that was really possible, Puck had overheard Santana and Brittany talking about Sam attempting to win Kurt back. (And, ok… his attempts sounded way lame. Flowers? Candy? A stuffed duck? Hello! Kurt was a guy. Not a girl.) But still, the fact that Sam was trying at all….

After walking away from the two gossiping girls, Puck had decided that the time to hesitate was through.

He was going to make his move, and it was going to happen today.

Unfortunately, he wasn't exactly able to gather up the courage to do anything about it until after school let out for the day. And then, he found himself running through the halls wondering what Kurt's last class was or where his locker was located. Because as it turned out, he didn't have a clue. Which really, was ridiculous, considering the amount of time he spent thinking about the other boy nowadays.

Exhausted and out of breath, Puck was just about to give up and go home when he rounded the corner and walked down the main hall again. By now, it was totally deserted (because no one wanted to hang around when they didn't have to). But, amazingly, Kurt was standing at his locker, pulling out a book.

And before Puck could stop himself or think twice, he took off down the hall towards Kurt. His footsteps echoed off the walls, filling the space around him. "Kurt!" His call mingled with his hurried foot falls.

At the sound of his name, Kurt's head snapped up in search of the caller. But when he caught sight of Puck, his eyes widened in what looked like shock and then fear. And Puck couldn't help but think that he looked like a deer caught in headlights.

Puck came to a sudden stop in front of Kurt, clutching at a stitch in his side. He wanted to take a minute to try and catch his breath, but Kurt looked like he was trying to plan an escape. So rather than lose his chance, Puck threw caution to the wind and, grabbing Kurt's shoulders, kissed him.

In retrospect, it wasn't romantic. At all. In fact, it kind of hurt. Rather than being the soft yet passionate embrace he'd envisioned in his mind, it was awkward and uncomfortable. Puck's lips pressed into Kurt's stunned mouth, crushing teeth and skin together.

And for his part, Kurt just stood there, completely unresponsive. But he didn't try to fight Puck off, which, oddly enough, was encouraging.

When Puck pulled away, he kept a hold of Kurt's shoulders. And rather than say anything, he searched the other boy's face for some sign or clue about what he was feeling.

"Ok… ow." Kurt's tone was filled with sarcasm, but he still didn't try to escape. "What is with you? First that thing in rehearsal and then the CD and now…" He gestured helplessly with his hands between them. "This?"

For a moment, Puck stared at Kurt, his mind reeling. He was still clutching Kurt's shoulders, and from the tension in his fingers, he was surprised that he wasn't hurting Kurt. But then again, Puck realized that even if he was hurting him, Kurt probably wouldn't admit it. He was too proud and stubborn to do that. But either way, Puck knew that his grip was probably too tight.

Still staring at Kurt, Puck purposely loosened his fingers, but didn't let go. It was now or never, and if he were to let go of Kurt now, he knew he might not get another chance. So, taking a deep breath, Puck blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Go out with me."

Kurt's clear blue eyes darkened, and Puck could feel the other boy's muscles tensing under his hands. "You can't even ask me properly?" Kurt paused for a second, a look of confusion quickly flitting over his soft features. "And since when do you -"

"Go out with me." Puck quickly cut off Kurt's question. He had no desire to try and explain how his brain (and hormones) had gone from the girls' gymnastics team to Kurt. Not now anyway. (Especially when he hadn't totally figured it out himself.) But what he did know was that regardless of the current state of his sexuality, he wanted to go on a date with Kurt.

Still clutched in Puck's grip, Kurt didn't respond to Puck's pseudo-request. Instead, he just stood there staring at Puck, uncertainty in his blue eyes.

It was a cold and snowy night…

Puck was no stranger to first dates.

And he'd had more than his fair share of awkward ones.

But he was pretty sure that his date with Kurt took the awkward-first-date cake.

Their dinner conversation ran from stilted to painful to non-existent. It was filled with sharp jabs and snarky remarks, and Puck couldn't help but wonder (more than once) if Kurt was purposely trying to sabotage the night. After all, wouldn't hurting Puck in the romance department be the best way to get back at him for the years of bullying he'd inflicted on Kurt?

But even though Kurt had been an even a bigger diva than Rachel (if that was possible), Puck had gone with the flow, trying to keep things going smoothly.

And when they'd arrived at the theatre, Puck had even told Kurt to choose the movie he'd wanted to see. It wasn't that Puck wanted to sit through the latest low budget, independent film about who knew what. No, he'd just figured that if Kurt were to pick the movie himself, he wouldn't be able to complain about it.

Yeah, well… Puck was totally wrong about that.

Because as it turned out? That four-star, supposed-to-be-visionary, low budget film? It sucked. Like… a lot.

And before the credits even had a chance to think about rolling, they were outside and walking towards Puck's truck in the cold. Since going into the theatre, it had begun to snow, thick slushy gobs, that in the space of a couple hours had started turning to ice.

Next to him, Kurt was taking careful, measured steps in what looked like expensive designer boots. And as Puck's feet skidded a little under him, he wondered how Kurt's prissy shoes had more traction than his sneakers. His thoughts, however, were interrupted by Kurt's soft voice.

"Umh, Puck… I mean, Noah?" Kurt's voice cut through the cold night. "I think I owe you an apology."

Shocked by Kurt's words, Puck struggled to focus on his steps. His mind reeling, he picked up his foot and set it down, conscious of the slick ground beneath it. "Uh, what for?"

"Well, for tonight." Kurt sounded hesitant, and Puck couldn't help but look over at him. Unfortunately, the lack of attention on his feet made each step more perilous than the last. "For me."

"Huh?" Ok… Honestly? Puck thought Kurt owed him an apology as well. Puck had gone out of his way to make things nice. But all night it had seemed like… the harder Puck tried, the nastier Kurt was. But despite all of that, Puck still wanted to try and spend time with the other. Why, he didn't know, but he still wanted to hang out with Kurt.

"The way I've been acting tonight." Kurt sounded slightly embarrassed. "I just thought this was some kind of elaborate joke." Out of the corner of Puck's eye he could see Kurt staring off in the distance, his pale cheeks tinged with pink. "And I… I just…" Kurt stammered, and Puck was pretty sure that this was the first time he'd ever seen Kurt Hummel as a loss for words. "I'm sorry if I made it a miserable night for you." The apology in his voice was so thick that Puck couldn't help but search Kurt's face, the icy street now completely forgotten.

"Oh." The response was lame, but Puck didn't really know how else to respond. It wasn't exactly a secret that Kurt had some major attitude, but Puck wasn't expecting it to be some kind of front. And he also hadn't considered their history when he'd asked out the other boy. But now, Kurt's reservations and worries were painfully obvious. "I, uh… no. I hadn't even thought of that. Sorry that's what you thought."

Kurt laughed softly in response. "I know that… now."

"Wait…" Puck's foot hit a slippery spot, but he managed to keep his balance. "How?"

"The movie." Kurt looked over at him, his eyes sparkling mischievously. "I'd already seen it. I figured that if you were willing to sit -"

"You mean that you knew it was terrible and you…" Puck's voice, part outraged, part amused, trailed off as Kurt began to laugh in earnest. "Dude, you tota-" Puck stopped speaking the moment his foot hit another ice patch and slid forward dangerously.

For a second, he was caught in a moment of suspension where he was either going to get both feet back under control or go crashing to the icy ground. And as he fought for control, he imagined the moment of pain that was sure to come. But the next moment he felt Kurt's hand quickly grasp his own. And before Puck knew it, he was standing with his feet securely underneath him and Kurt's hand holding onto his protectively.

He was just about to say thanks when Kurt laughed at him again, rendering him speechless.

Kurt gave Puck's hand a firm squeeze, his bright blue eyes twinkling in the overhead lights. "Go out with me again."

It wasn't a question, and Puck knew that that wasn't by accident. He thought about calling Kurt on it but changed his mind. Instead, he just shrugged and said, "Ok. But next time, I'm picking the movie. And it's gonna be gory."

Really shoulda locked that door…

The first time was an accident. No matter what anyone believed, it was an accident.

The second time? Not so much.

He and Kurt had been together for just a little over five months. It had been a rocky, bizarre, stressful yet somehow wonderful few months. They'd quickly gone from feeling one another out to feeling one another up, and while it hadn't all been sunshine and daisies… they'd fallen in love.

And surprisingly enough, Puck found that he was really happy with Kurt.

But he also found out, one day after school with Quinn, that he wasn't above cheating. And given the right circumstances, he'd very easily slip back into his old ways. Because the second Quinn grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him into the storage… Puck was stuck in sophomore year again. Finn was still his best friend, and Puck was in love with Quinn.

And he was pretty sure that she knew what he was feeling. Because before he had a chance to object, she'd slid her bare thigh up his hip and whispered hotly into his ear. "I know you remember…" And that was all it had taken for him to succumb to the blonde.

After they'd both stumbled out of the closet a while later, their clothes hastily readjusted, Puck promised himself that that was it. That it was just a onetime deal and wouldn't happen again.

But when Quinn texted (ok… more like sexted) him during history about meeting after school in the choir room… he hadn't been able to say no.

So he'd made his way into the glee club's rehearsal room as soon as the last bell had rung, hurrying inside at the sight of Quinn's bright blonde ponytail. She looked a little different now. The sweetness that he remembered was gone from her eyes. But the mere sight of her waiting for him was enough to bring back just how much he'd loved her. And without a word, they picked up right where they'd left off. And for the next few minutes, there was silence, save for a few girlish giggles and sighs.

The bubble of lust and hormones that had quickly surrounded them burst when Kurt's voice met Puck's ears. "I should have known." The words were ice cold, and they froze Puck to the core. And before he had a chance to recover, Kurt turned and walked out the door.

His heart pounding painfully in his chest, Puck disentangled himself from Quinn as quickly as he possibly could. Through his frenzy, he could hear Quinn chuckling deviously. It was an awful, haunting sound that Puck didn't think he'd ever forget.

Puck wanted to turn around and see the confirmation that, yes, she had done this on purpose. But Kurt was more important. So Puck took off out of the room, his sneakers screeching as he rounded the door frame.

Surprisingly, Kurt was only halfway down the hall, and Puck sprinted forward to catch up with him. The second he was behind Kurt, Puck reached out and spun the other boy around to face him.

Kurt's face was a mask of anger and betrayal that twisted his normally soft features into something a gargoyle would be envious of. "Let. Go. Of. Me." Each word was clear and distinct, its own sentence full of revulsion.

But Puck didn't let go. Instead, he held on tighter that before. "Kurt, no. Let me -"

"I said, let go of me." Kurt's eyes flashed dangerously for a second. And when Puck still didn't release him, Kurt reached out and shoved on Puck's chest with all of the strength he possessed.

Which, surprisingly, was quite a lot.

Puck stumbled backwards, crashing into the row of lockers behind him. The collision stung his back and sent a harsh metallic ringing echoing through the halls. He wanted to try and defend himself, but Kurt had crossed his arms over his chest and was walking towards him.

The righteous anger that was brewing in Kurt's eyes and the lines of his body lasted for only a few seconds before it drained away. And in its place was a defeated, heartbroken looking boy. "You know… if it had been Brittany or even Santana, I could have dealt with it. I mean, I wouldn't have been happy about it, but we could have talked about it. Gotten past it."

Slowly, Puck pushed himself up a little, placing the palms of his hands against the cool metal lockers behind him. There was nothing he could say, no appropriate defense or offense. So he just watched Kurt deflate more and more with each passing heartbeat.

"But Quinn…" Kurt let his arms fall to his sides as he blinked once, twice as if it hurt. "That I can't handle."

Without waiting for a response, Kurt turned and walked away, leaving Puck there to stare after him.

Catch you when you fall…

Two weeks.

Two full, long weeks.

That was how long it was before Kurt would look at him again.

In that time, Puck had gone far out of his way to try and get Kurt to acknowledge him again. He'd tried everything from hanging out near Kurt's locker whenever he could to getting a detention for disrupting several of Kurt's classes.

And in the end, Puck had realized why Sam had resorted to flowers and candy and all of that other girly stuff in order to win Kurt back. Because if that is what it would take, Puck would happily do it, no questions asked. Quinn might have been a good few minutes, but she wasn't Kurt. And she never would be.

But after two weeks of busting his butt for nothing, (Ok, not nothing. He had gotten that detention, some strange looks and a lot of guff from the rest of the glee club.) Puck was ready to admit defeat.

Never in his life had he worked so hard to win someone over. Oh, he'd tried and tried with Quinn. But even then he hadn't totally been able to resist the allure of Santana and her sexts. However, Puck hadn't been tempted to randomly hook up with anyone over the past fourteen days. Which really, had to be a record for him.

And while he knew that meant he was totally whipped, Puck couldn't, scratch that… he wouldn't keep going on like that. Not anymore. He needed to reclaim his title as McKinley High's sex shark.

So, figuring that he could just grab one of the gymnasts for a quickie in the closet (After all, who would refuse him?), Puck headed towards the gym after school let out on Wednesday.

On the way there, he would pass by Kurt's locker one last time. (Yeah, he knew he'd go by there again. But this was the last time it would mean anything.) It was stupid and pointless, but he would do it just the same. And everyone (except himself, the gymnastics team, and a few other random people) was gone for the day so it was not like anyone would see him.

Shoving his hands into his pockets, Puck turned down, the main hallway where Kurt's locker was located. But, unlike the one he'd just left, this one wasn't empty. And about halfway down, there was one person. Instantly, Puck knew that it was Kurt. Even though Puck was far away, Kurt's body, his stance, was unmistakable.

And just as unmistakable was the way he was hunched forward with his head pressed against the metal door. From his position, it was obvious that he was upset about something, and even though Puck knew it was going against his newfound sense of resolve, he ran towards the other boy.

As his steps brought him closer to Kurt, he thought about how this was going against everything he'd just decided for himself. But deep down, Puck didn't care because this was Kurt and he still loved him. Even if Kurt wouldn't acknowledge him anymore.

"Kurt!" As the words left Puck's mouth, he couldn't help but think about the fact that he'd been down this road many times before. The first had resulted in a painful kiss, the last their break up. Both of those times he'd reached out and grabbed Kurt. But this time, he wouldn't. Puck didn't exactly know why, but he couldn't allow himself to reach out and touch Kurt.

Just as Puck stepped next to him, Kurt looked up with bright blue eyes that were sparkling with tears.

The sight caused Puck's breath to hitch in his throat for a second. He'd never been good with tears. In fact, whenever his girlfriends, mom, sister, or even one of his pool moms got weepy, he'd turn and run the other way. Not in fear, but… ok, fine, in fear. He just couldn't handle it when people cried. (Ok… So there was that time with Coach Beiste. But for some reason, when she cried, Puck couldn't help but try and comfort her. It was weird, and he didn't understand it himself, but that was beside the point.)

But with Kurt standing there, tears sliding down his cheeks. Puck didn't want to run. He wanted to be there, to make the tears stop, because seeing Kurt crying like that… well, not to sound melodramatic, but it hurt him. He guessed that that was part of being in love - smiling when Kurt smiled, hurting when Kurt hurt. It was just something that had come along with making Kurt such an important part of his life. And because of that, Puck was desperate to make the pain go away.

Kurt was still staring at him, and he looked like he wanted to say something, but the words just weren't coming. Instead, he opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before giving into a choked sob.

"What… I…" Puck wanted to reach out and pull Kurt to him more than before, but he didn't know what would happen if he did. So he ended up standing in front of Kurt, his arms outstretched and unsure. "Kurt?"

The sound of his name seemed to break something inside of Kurt, because he slowly turned around and pressed his back into the wall as if he could no longer support himself. And unsure of what to do, Puck just watched him, looking for any sign of, well… anything.

For Puck, seconds seemed to tick by like hours, and a worried tension began to crawl up the back of his neck. Kurt was still standing against the lockers, tears falling softly down his cheeks. And when another sob wracked through Kurt's chest, Puck could no longer stand it. "Kurt, what's…"

Puck's voice trailed off as Kurt began to slide down to the floor. He wasn't fainting or anything like that. It was almost as if his legs just wouldn't hold him up anymore and he had to sit. (Even if it meant that his fancy pants would come in contact with the dirty linoleum.)

The sight was so pitiful, so heartbreaking that Puck threw himself down to the ground wishing that he could catch Kurt before he fell. But Kurt was on the ground, hugging his knees to his chest before Puck was even halfway there.

The second Puck was on the floor though, he reached out and pulled Kurt as close to him as he possibly could. Kurt didn't fight it, but he didn't try to help either. Instead, he stayed tucked into his little ball as Puck wrapped his arms around him.

It was awkward and sort of uncomfortable. Puck had had to let his leg fall to the side in an effort to hold Kurt against his chest. And Kurt's arms were still wrapped around his legs, causing his elbows to jut into Puck's stomach. Puck, however, wasn't about to complain or try to adjust Kurt's position. Instead, he just dropped his head, burying it in Kurt's shoulder.

They sat together like that for what could have been seconds or even days. Kurt wept silently as Puck held him tightly. If his grip was painful, Kurt didn't say. He just continued to sit in his little ball until, out of nowhere, Puck could hear words mixed in with the sobbing. "My dad…" Puck strained his head to the side a little so he could hear Kurt's soft whispering better. "Heart attack… Just now…" Kurt's voice broke off as another sob ripped through his body.

Puck felt his own chest tighten up at the thought of something being wrong with Mr. Hummel. In the months that he and Kurt were together, Puck had ended up spending quite a bit of time with the man. And surprisingly enough, they got along pretty well. So Puck hated the thought that something was wrong with him.

But as much as it bothered Puck though, he could only imagine how badly it was hurting Kurt. Puck decided then and there that he would do whatever he could to help out. If that meant leaving Kurt alone, he would. If that meant staying at the hospital all night with Kurt, he would. Whatever Kurt wanted, Puck would do it.

Without question or hesitation.

But right at that moment though, all he could do was hold on for as long as Kurt would let him…

Tripping over your own tongue…

"Bye, Noah. It was good to see your face around here again." Mr. Hummel gave a little wave from his place on the sofa. He looked tired and pale, but he was alive and kicking. And that was the important thing. "Don't be a stranger now." He gave a little nod and a wink, as if encouraging him to try and win Kurt back.

Which, of course, Puck was totally trying to do. But having Mr. Hummel's encouragement gave Puck some much needed encouragement.

Puck had been trying to come up with a way to win Kurt back since the moment they set off for the hospital. But the past three days had been so full of hospitals and blood tests and all kinds of other medical tests that Puck could barely think straight. And on top of that, there just hadn't been a good time.

More than once, Kurt had told him that he could leave. Not in a "go away now" kind of way, but in a "you're tired and you really don't need to put yourself through this" kind of a way. Puck, however, wasn't about to leave unless he was ordered.

And because of that, he'd spent the past three days (and nights) all but living at Lima Memorial Hospital. The only times he'd left were to go home, take a shower, and change clothes. Puck had even stopped by Kurt's house to grab a few things for him. At first, Kurt had objected, on the grounds that Puck had no fashion sense. (Because as it turned out, even in an emergency, Kurt was still image conscious.) But after promising to call once he got there, Kurt had relented.

Other than that though, Puck had stayed at the hospital with Kurt, making sure he'd eaten whatever the cafeteria had been serving up and balling up his letterman jacket for Kurt to use as a pillow. All the while Puck had tried to come up with something to say, some way to let Kurt know he wanted to get back together. But everything he'd come up with had sounded lame. And in retrospect, Puck figured that he could have dealt with some stupid comment if the time had been right.

But with Mr. Hummel hooked up to a bunch of blinking and beeping machines and Kurt a mess… Puck just hadn't been able to bring himself to broach the topic.

Even he had enough sense to know that that was not the time to ask someone out.

Now though, Mr. Hummel was home with a clean bill of health and strict diet/exercise instructions. And Puck had to try. Try what, he wasn't really sure. But something needed to happen. And it needed to happen now.

"Thanks, Mr. Hummel." Puck nodded at Kurt's dad and then Kurt. Kurt had his arms crossed over his chest, and he looked worn out. "I'm glad you're feeling better." Not bothering to wait for a response, Puck walked towards the front door, Kurt following behind him.

Once outside, Puck turned around just in time to see Kurt closing the door behind them. And despite the fact that it was a warm spring day, he still had his arms wrapped around himself like he was cold. Puck's first instinct was give the other boy his jacket, but since it was so warm out, he hadn't worn one. So he had to watch helplessly as Kurt rubbed at his arms, the stress crystal clear on his pale face.

"Look, Noah… I really want to thank you for…" Kurt sighed a little. And as he pressed his lips together, Puck felt something well up in the pit of his stomach. "You've been so great these past few days."

Before Kurt had said "you've," Puck spoke. "I miss you." The words seemed to trip out of his mouth, fighting to get out before they could be swallowed down. Puck didn't know when he'd decided when absolute honesty was the way to go, but now that the words were out… he wouldn't take them back for the world.

Kurt's eyes dropped to the porch, almost if he couldn't handle what Puck said. And rather than acknowledge him, Kurt continued to ramble on. "I really don't know what…"

Not wanting to lose any momentum, Puck spoke again, not caring that Kurt was still talking. "Do… Do you miss me too?" As he waited for an answer, Puck's heart began to beat painfully in his chest.

"What I'd have done…" Kurt was still staring at the ground, but now he was shaking his head from side to side. Puck was desperate to see his face, to try and get some sort or recognition out of him.

"Do you?" Puck stepped forward and put his hand under Kurt's chin. It only took the slightest encouragement to get him to lift his head. And when he did, Kurt's eyes, bright blue and shining with unshed tears, broke Puck's heart. But the answer was there, and Puck was desperate to hear it.

For a moment, they just stared at each other, both aware of what weighed on Kurt's answer.

And just when it seemed like he couldn't wait any longer, Kurt spoke.

His voice was barely above a whisper, but Puck heard him loud and clear. "Yes. I do."

Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- This fic was written for jacklemmon who won me in the help_pakistan auction on LJ. I know it was only supposed to be 1,000 words, but it sort of took on a life of its own. I hope you like it! :)
- I'm a spoilerphobe and wrote this before seeing the promo for 2x03. Anything that might seem spoiler-y is unintentional.
- In case you're wondering, the song Puck puts on at the beginning of this is You Really Got a Hold on Me by Smokey Robison.
- Quack: You dedication never fails to amaze me. Thank you so much. For everything.
- Disclaimer: Not mine.
- Reviews are love.