Title: Always Shout Fire
Warnings: Adult themes and set in season 2
Spoilers: Spoilers for up to Duets
Summary: Kurt decides further investigation is needed regarding the Puckerman situation. He is both surprised and shocked to find his former nemesis brought low and how it changes them from team mates, to friends and perhaps...
"Puckerman's in juvie."
Kurt schooled his features and said nothing – sure it was believable and certainly the rest of Glee club did not question it but he was almost positive that was not the truth. He could ask Finn, the guys had patched up their friendship and surely he would know but looking at Rachel latched on to his arm Kurt thought maybe Finn had little time for anyone else these days.
Then the new kid walked in and all thoughts of Puck went out the window.
The next few days flew by, rehearsal – first his plans with Sam, then just himself and then with Rachel (by Gucci, who would have thought?) – but after all that when Kurt was at home, his Dad asleep – the lingering doubt crept in.
No-one had heard from Puck and as far he knew no-one had checked out the juvie story.
Going on-line it was a matter of only a few keystrokes to check if there had been a Puckerman sized crime spree.
Grabbing keys and a jacket, not wasting time to put on the normal attire of several layers Kurt softly locked the door behind him and checked his phone for the address. This could be a really bad idea but he had to know.
Talking his way though the front door was more difficult than he thought, the little girl – Mary (of course thought Kurt) asked him about twenty questions before letting him through. He had only lied a little bit.
"He's on the couch," she pointed into the darkened lounge. "Leave the light off, it hurts his eyes."
Kurt obeyed, tentatively standing just inside the door and peering at the slumped form in front of him. He was awake, that much he could tell.
What the hell was he doing here?
"You shouldn't be here." The voice that echoed his thoughts was raw and filled with fatigue and missing the normal attitude. He had not emphasised any one word so Kurt couldn't tell if he was pissed at his presence or not.
"Huh," he went with nonchalance on his part, figured it was best. "An ATM... really Puckerman, that was the best you could come up with?"
"Almost everyone believed it though."
Again his voice was level, too even so Kurt had to decide if Puck was angry that they believed him a criminal or hurt nobody had checked. Normally he would just assume anger but this Puck laying down in the dark... maybe he was a little more human.
"I think they had other things to worry about." Kurt had meant it to be kind but he immediately realised the words could just emphasise Puck's worth to Glee, or the lack of it.
Puck huffed loudly and the room sprang into view as he turned on a lamp; it was dull but at least Kurt was no longer talking to a shadow – although now he could see the other boy he wasn't sure what was better.
His eyes, usually so powerful, were sunken and had dark rings underneath. They were red from fatigue or pain; Kurt couldn't tell. His skin was very pale, even in the low light – and his cheeks were hollow with those beautiful lips now cracked and dry.
Kurt paused as he considered if he had just thought of Puck and beautiful in the same sentence.
"You just gonna stand there staring or come sit." It was a command not a question so Kurt obeyed. Puck had been laying down but moved his legs around to make room; he had dark sweatpants on and a white T, surprisingly clean given his sickly appearance. Kurt concluded Mary was keeping him suitably presentable or maybe his Mom, wherever she was.
Careful to keep some distance between them Kurt leaned on the arm-rest, trying to make it seem he was trying to get a better look at Puck, which he kind of was.
"Like what you see Hummel?" The lecherous smile was there but it didn't reach his eyes.
Kurt rolled his own eyes and sighed dramatically. "Let me count the ways?"
"Ooh," Puck chuckled lightly. "To the depth and breadth and height your soul can reach."
Kurt's eyebrows lifted in amazement and he chuckled in return. "Should have figured Puck would know the Bard."
The boy in question leaned forward, almost invading Kurt's pre-determined zone of protection.
"That's not Shakespeare." He stated it flatly and made it clear there was no argument on the matter. Kurt was even more surprised, he had thought it was but now he thought about it could not think of any play it would come from.
Deciding to leave it be Kurt fingered the hem of his jacket nervously then cleared his throat. "You want to tell me what's going on?"
"First tell me why of everyone at school, in fact of everyone not family – you're here." Puck's voice held a little more emotion, it wasn't quite anger but he was definitely shaken.
"Okay," Kurt answered simply. "Shue said you were in Juvie."
"But you didn't believe it?"
"No, I think it is entirely likely you will end up there, kind of surprised you haven't already... just not for trying to steal an ATM."
"Don't think I could?"
Kurt smiled and refused to look Puck in the eye as he spoke. "You are an idiot most of the time but not stupid – no way are you going to do something that's sure to get you caught."
He felt more than saw Puck drop his jaw in mild shock. "Did the great Kurt Hummel just pay me a compliment?"
"I did no such thing Puckerman," Kurt quickly retaliated. "I didn't say you are smart, just not entirely," he floundered for the right words and noticed Puck was smiling cheekily, and this time it reached his eyes. "Fine," Kurt acknowledged. "Perhaps there is a brain lurking in that Neanderthal head that understands more than eat, kill, screw... probably in that order."
"Don't give me too much credit Hummel, just cause I couldn't manage any of the three right now don't mean I'm not thinking about it."
Kurt was almost certain that was meant to be sleazy but given Puck's poor condition it just came out sad. He decided it was only fair he answer the original question properly.
"I figured you weren't in trouble, not about that anyway," explained Kurt. "Then I wondered why Puck would want everyone thinking he was in jail – I figured you had to have something major going down and something to explain you being away for so long."
"And here I am, checking up on you because while you may not want anyone knowing that even the biggest bad-ass in school can get the flu I can tell you from personal experience that unwanted concern is better than none at all."
"Yeah," sighed Puck. "How is your old man anyway?"
Kurt narrowed his eyes at Puck, tyring to decide if he was genuine or just trying to change the subject. Probably a little of both. "He's good, I just have to hide the salt and convince the local burger bar that if they serve him there will be a lawsuit."
"Bet you'd do it too," Puck said softly. Kurt nodded then thought carefully about this strange boy sitting across from him and why exactly he was here. He had never been this close to Puck before voluntarily and instead of their normal bickering they were actually talking like normal people. Puck was sick but Kurt wondered what his own excuse was. He'd come around because he was legitimately concerned for a team mate and thought if Puck had needed help he'd then be able to call Finn then leave it alone.
Its not like he owed Puck anything.
"Does anyone else know, I mean that I'm not in Juvie?"
"Um," Kurt thought about it but figured someone would have said something by now. "Guess not – I would have been here sooner but, well things sort of happened, without you to make our numbers the new guy joined Glee, and Shue said we could do duets and I thought with that bad dye job he maybe played for team gay so what better way than to sing together, so naturally I wasted no time approaching him and admittedly I may not have given him much choice, but hey, if he couldn't say no to me then Berry would eat him alive." Kurt knew he was rambling but since Puck had not interrupted he just continued and he'd been dying to tell someone all that had happened. "I had a whole list of possible 'non-gay' duets, just in case you know – I mean contrary to popular opinion I have learnt my lesson from the Finngate scandal-."
"Yes... well it sounds better than Faggygate." At Puck's continued look of confusion Kurt prepared to give a brief explanation, summarised as best as possible so as to continue the story.
"I was crushing on Finn."
"Ha, lusting more likely."
"Shut it Puckerman! My story so my words."
Puck held up his hands in mock surrender.
"My 'crush' may have been a little more 'Single White Female' than 'the Notebook' so when pushed to share a room with me, and maybe finding my unique style overwhelming Finn maybe sort of kind of called a few of my things faggy." Kurt looked away, no matter how many times he told it the pain was there and he had to compose himself; besides he just assumed Puck would mock him for being so precious about a stupid little word. "In front of my father, so Finn was kicked out and the whole 'merge households' was put on hiatus. Finn was in the wrong but I guess it was kind of my fault." Kurt stopped as he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up at Puck with surprise.
"He could have just told you no Kurt – he shouldn't have used that word."
"Really?" Kurt laughed a little nervously. "I seem to recall you having no problem throwing it around."
"I know," Puck shrugged and removed his hand. "I was a dick – and now I'm sorry." He held eye contact and Kurt couldn't help but believe him and question why Finn had found it so hard to say those few words and mean it.
"So moving past Finngate," Kurt decided he had to finish the story now because even though Puck had given no indication he wanted Kurt to stop, or leave for that matter, he was looking pretty damned tired and had yawned several times behind his hand. "Apparently singing a duet with another guy would be even greater social suicide than joining Glee, especially with someone as fabulous as me – so Finn convinced me to let the new guy go-."
"Yes, Sam... how did you know?"
"Right, kind of obvious I guess. Sam was actually quite a gentleman about it – I think he would have gone ahead with the duet regardless of what people might have done."
"Because of how fabulous you are."
Kurt pointed a finger at Puck. "You are so lucky that sounded more statement than question mister!"
Puck shrugged with what seemed a pleased smile on his face. "Neither, I was going more for sass."
"Maybe you should just continue your story."
Kurt tried to give Puck a 'glare of doom' but just could not manage it. "Fine, basically for the good of the club I split with Sam and decided to rock it for myself."
"Good, you went with your strength."
It was said with such a straight face Kurt found no way to properly respond and said nothing. He could have explained how absolutely awesome his performance was and how he was robbed of victory by Finn and Rachel taking a dive and giving their points to Sam and Quinn (who the hell were they kidding?) but Kurt felt it was unnecessary. He'd just send Puck the youtube link later... because of course he had it filmed.
"So," sighed Puck and moved about, seemingly unable to get comfortable and ending up putting his legs back up – resting his feet on Kurt's thighs. "How is Sam not singing with you better for the club?"
"Um," Kurt hesitated as he considered the feet suddenly in his lap. Puck didn't seem concerned so he let it go – he was so not giving him a foot-rub no matter how much he begged. "I will not destroy your brain by repeating Finn's logic-."
"Hell no! Nobody should ever endure that more than once."
"Right, we agree on something then... good. Um, well as I understand it we need Sam to win Nationals; especially now that someone is in 'juvie' – and apparently Sam would quit if he had to endure the shit from singing with me."
Puck said nothing but he pursed his lips and stared hard at Kurt, making the smaller boy shift uncomfortably. Suddenly a phone was in Puck's hand and he dialled without looking away.
"Finn," Puck announced when it was obviously answered. "You're an ass-hat." He hung up without breaking eye contact.
Kurt could not speak, had Puck actually just done that?
"So after all that you decided to come and check on your old buddy the Puckosaurus?"
"Urm," Kurt felt himself staring hard at the feet in front of him. For someone of Puck's bad-ass reputation and somewhat questionable hygiene (although Kurt had to rethink that having seen Puck in his home environment, clean and neat and non-smelling of funk) his feet were kind of cute. If feet could be cute. They were in proportion with the rest of the boy, not large but far from diminutive. The nails were clipped and the toes just slightly elongated with tiny tufts of dark hair on the upper sides. They were quite pale, but then Puck was very much paler now than his normal tanned appearance. The toes wriggled and Kurt realised he'd been caught. What had been the question? Oh yeah.
"Like I said Puckerman, I figured you needed someone to check up on you... even if you'd never admit it."
"Actually I'm really happy you did."
"You are?" Kurt looked sideways at the other boy – he seemed genuine but then he hadn't been like the Puck he knew all night.
Just like Puck though to expect that explained everything.
"So the whole stealing an ATM wasn't a ruse to keep everyone away?"
"Oh no, that's exactly what it was for."
"I doubt that," muttered Puck and shifted up, his feet disappearing from Kurt's lap but resting next to him on the couch, heels digging in under his thigh. Kurt felt himself missing their weight. "Look Kurt, I went into this thinking I wanted absolutely no-one looking in on me, I mean as if being surrounded by sympathetic do-gooders would make me feel better."
He looked at Kurt for a moment and winced. "Sorry, but I mean come on – when your Dad was first in the hospital you kind of told everyone to lay off."
"Yeah, I did." Kurt looked around the room and noticed a few more things. There were fresh towels folded neatly on the ottoman, a bucket, clean and empty he hoped, was tucked next to the couch. On the table was, and this was most out of place for Puck, a tea-pot with two mugs placed innocently next to it. In the dim light Kurt could just see the label from a tea-bag hanging from the pot – peppermint tea. On the second level of the table were half-a-dozen prescription canisters – the names too small to read.
"Well I thought I would be fine too, I mean I'm a stud and nothing should scare me."
Turning to Puck the blood drained from Kurt's face as he took in the other's appearance. He didn't just look sick, he looked really... sick.
"I finally stopped puking today but then could barely move from this couch, I'm so weak and so bored." He whined on the last word only which Kurt thought spoke highly of how he was coping. "And I was really regretting telling no-one... then you walked in."
Kurt dropped his eyes. "Its not just some flu is it."
A shaking hand took his and Kurt realised what a front was Puck was putting on. All throughout their talk and ever since he had arrived Puck had been different but Kurt figured it for just being sick – but now he realised Puck wasn't just feeling off. He was hurting, and he was scared and he was lonely.
Kurt knew that feeling all too well; he had seen it in his mother's eyes all those years ago.
"Its okay," he whispered, clasping Puck's hand and leaning in to the other boy. "You don't have to say it."
Puck shook his head, the tears just simmering in his soft brown eyes. "Its cancer," his voice broke on the last syllable and the tears fell.
"I think I'm going to die."