This is it. Oh my god I'm freaking out. I don't want to post it anymore; I'm not ready to be done. Go away. Shoo. I'm keeping it. It's mine. XP
Somehow New York City was more massive than Kurt remembered. He had been so lost in his own mind when he came here last that maybe he literally hadn't seen most of the city. Now countless buildings towered over him, covered in lights and surrounded by people. So many people. They scurried through the city like ants over a piece of dropped fruit at a picnic. Kurt thought of ants over the corpse of a half-eaten bird too but decided the fruit was more comfortable.
"People will think we're tourists with you gawking like that," Meg said as she elbowed Kurt's side. "I won't let you stay with me if you make me look like I'm from small-town whoknowsville."
"That doesn't make any sense." Kurt rolled his eyes. He had expected Meg to turn him away when he called asking if she still had a room he could stay in, but she had seemed excited to have a roommate again. Judging by the stories she told of people she'd housed over the years since Kurt stayed with her as Alex Hood, she was probably just grateful to have someone who had already dedicated some time to dealing with his issues. Then again, she loved bringing home what she called lost puppies, so maybe Kurt wasn't her ideal roommate anymore.
"I always make perfect sense. Not my fault you don't understand." She shook her head and gave her best obviously fake sigh. "Whatever, I'll meet you back at my—our place later, okay. Don't want to intrude on your first big city lunch date, which, by the way, is right over there." She motioned at a cafe across the street that she had recommended to Kurt as she turned to walk back the way they had come.
Kurt rolled his eyes at her back and called, "It's not a date." He could have found the cafe on his own; his phone had GPS even if his own sense of direction had failed him. A man in a business suit shouldered Kurt aside with a shout to watch where he was going even though Kurt had been standing still. Kurt's hand stayed well away from the new knife in his pocket, but he had to resist punching the guy. Instead he just shouted back something about having wanted to tap that ass until he realized how loose it was. If nothing else, he got a good laugh out of the guy's face when he heard that.
Once he was fairly certain no one was staring at him anymore, Kurt made his way to the crosswalk. Lima had smaller streets and less traffic, as well as lower gas prices, so Kurt still wasn't quite used to walking down city blocks or waiting at crossing lights. Still, he hadn't been here long yet, and he remembered adjusting quickly before. When the light changed, Kurt moved with the mass of strangers across the street. He might have caught one woman staring at his scars, but he tried to ignore it and refused to pull his sleeves down over his forearms. It was hot. He needed to dress for the weather. Still, Kurt's wrists itched in the way they always did when he imagined someone staring at them.
He entered the cafe and paused for a moment, giving his eyes time to adjust to the dim interior. As soon as he could see, he knew his table was the one by the window with the metal grating and a hanging basket of flowers over it instead of a lamp. He started walking over with a greeting on his lips before he stopped short.
"Oh my God," he sputtered when nothing more meaningful came to mind. "Your hair!"
"More like lack-of," Puck said with a grin, rubbing his hand over the smooth scalp where he'd had a mohawk only days before when they spoke over Skype. He pulled Kurt into a hug before retaking his seat with a grin. As they separated, Kurt chanced a look at Puck's forearms out of habit. He hadn't seen a new mark there for a long time, but he still checked when he could.
"I can't believe Christine let you shave it. I'm pretty sure she was as interesting in dating your hair as the rest of you." Kurt made himself grin. He always made himself be happy for Puck when he got a new girlfriend. It wasn't all that hard, he told himself. Not like Puck was dating a guy this time; something about Puck having a boyfriend only reminded Kurt of how much he could have been Puck's boyfriend if he stopped pushing his friend away.
"We, uh, broke up." Puck winced and grinned sheepishly at Kurt.
"It wasn't the hair, was it?" Even though Kurt knew it wasn't, he thought it better to joke than to... well, to ask Puck if he had dumped another perfectly good person just because they couldn't be Kurt.
"No," Puck answered with a chuckle. "We just weren't right for each other." His eyes drifted to the window, but he didn't seem to focus on anything outside it.
Kurt was saved from thinking of something else to say when Puck left the table to pick up drinks he must have ordered before Kurt arrived. He set a non-fat mocha in front of Kurt and kept something horribly sweet and disgustingly fattening for himself. Kurt made Puck share some of it and almost gagged before returning gratefully to his mocha.
"I was thinking of moving," Puck said after they had quietly sipped their drinks for a few moments.
"Where to?" It never surprised Kurt anymore when Puck said he wanted a change of scenery. As soon as his and Kurt's therapists both started mentioning the word "codependency," he had run away to California intent on expanding his pool-cleaning business only to keep moving around like the word chased him off no matter where he lived. Regardless of distance, he and Kurt had always talked over the phone or on Skype, and he flew in to visit regularly, especially during the winter when no one was using their pools and he couldn't find a job.
Puck fidgeted, poking and scratching at his forearms. Kurt raised an eyebrow because Puck moved all the time, and he had only ever been nervous telling Kurt about it the first time.
"Spill it before you spill your drink instead, Puck."
Puck let out a low laugh, and it seemed to calm him. "New York."
"Are you sure that's..." Kurt trailed off, unsure what he thought it wasn't.
"If you don't want me here, I won't. I mean I miss seeing you as often as I used to, in person I mean. And anytime I wanted to go home before, you were there because you were going to school near Lima, but now you're pretty much the opposite of near Lima, and it's not like I'm doing anything important in Tampa anyway. I mean, to be honest, except for being close to a bunch of amusement parks I can't afford to go to and having some awesome beaches, Florida sucks."
"Puck, you're rambling. And possibly not breathing." Kurt paused, not sure if he should say more. "And scratching at the scars again."
"I know. You just sort of stared at me instead of answering though, so I'm pretending it's your fault in this case." Puck grinned and jabbed a finger in Kurt's direction. Maybe it had been normal nervousness; he had pulled himself together quickly.
"I... if you wouldn't mind it, then I'd like to have you nearby again." To be honest, 'like' wasn't quite the right word. 'Fuck you for taking so damn long,' was more along the lines of what Kurt felt. He missed Puck. They talked every day still, but it wasn't the same with all that distance between them.
"Really?" Puck grinned widely. All signs of his earlier unease had vanished.
"Really." Kurt nodded, returning Puck's smile. He reached across the table to take Puck's hand in his. "I've missed you."
Puck stared down at their hands, and Kurt reminded himself firmly that Puck was not staring at his scars. His wrist itched anyway.
"Is staying with Meg again pretty cool?" Puck straightened his shoulders as he spoke, obviously changing topic to avoid one he and Kurt had been avoiding for years.
"If only she'd stop nagging." Kurt was practiced at letting the topic change too. Maybe this time though... He tapped a finger against his lip, thinking. It had been so long, and even if he and Puck had been far apart, they had still been through so much. And they were still close. Distance couldn't change that. "Hey, Puck," he said at last, still not sure if he should.
"Yes, that'd be me." The cocky smirk slipped a little when he realized Kurt was about to say something serious.
"Do you still... feel the way you used to? About me, I mean." By reflex Kurt tried to still his hands, but he realized then that they weren't trembling. He remembered how terrified he had been in high school that he would never be able to be with anyone without flashing straight back to being with Robin Banks. That was why his hands used to tremble, but he wasn't afraid anymore.
Puck nodded. "I'll always feel that way about you, Kurt." He cocked his head. "Maybe somewhat less with the adolescent confusion though because, thank God, I'm not a teenager anymore."
A laugh slipped past Kurt's lips, catching him by surprise. "I was always so busy telling you we weren't ready that I'm not sure I ever got around to... to telling you I felt the same way. Feel. Do feel now the same way. God, what is English, and how is it spoken. Please deport me before I make this worse."
Puck laughed a little too loudly for the small cafe. He squeezed Kurt's hand as a grin split his face. "If you're saying that now, or trying to—and don't worry I'll get you into an English Second Language program or something—does that mean..." He paused, clearly afraid to say it. "You might be ready?" The final part came out as barely more than a whisper.
Kurt nodded, not trusting his voice just yet. The only time Kurt had seen a man as happy as Puck looked now was when he stood by his father as Carole walked down the aisle to make the joining of the Hummel and Hudson families official.
"God, I love you, Kurt." Puck poured years of stifled emotion into the outburst of words. Kurt had to wonder how many times Puck had held himself back from saying them.
"I love you too, Puck." Kurt had been afraid to say it for so long, afraid even to admit it to himself because he was afraid of what it meant. He had mixed Puck in his mind with Robin, or maybe he had mixed himself with Robin and Puck with him. Or both, or something even more confusing, if that was possible. But right now, in this little cafe with a metal chair digging into his butt and the sun moving into position to shine in his eye, Kurt wasn't afraid. He knew he loved Puck a long time ago, and now he knew he was in love with Puck. For years, Kurt had worked at learning to be okay. Now that Kurt was ready to learn to be happy too, he wanted to walk that road with Puck beside him.
And we're done. I love you all. No, really, I have no idea how I wound up with such fantastic readers or why you put up with my ridiculously inconsistent posting schedule and chapter after chapter of nothing but conversations. I like to think I've come a long way in writing this fic, and you all have come along with me, and even pushed me there.
So if you've reviewed every chapter or never reviewed at all, if you've been here from the day I posted the first chapter or if you stumbled in here by accident years after I finished, if you've enjoyed my story or just suffered through because ah crap now you need to know what happens, thank you.
...sorry for making you shippers wait until the last moment. I need to go back and fix the line in the first chapter saying it's not a Puckurt story because boy was I wrong.
Unrelated: Robin's middle name is Oliver. His initials are ROB. His parents were clearly evil.