All previous disclaimers apply.
Author's Note: After a year of being absent, my health finally seems to be on an upswing! Thank you to everyone who wrote and asked me to continue this story. Sorry for this short, not great, chapter. I'm still trying to get back into things. I'm just going to power through and maybe someday come back and re-write this.
Updated Author's Note: Decided to fix it up some. Hope it's a little more satisfying.
Damn it all to hell. Noah Puckerman, better known as Puck, slammed his hand against the steering wheel of the old truck that was one of the only things that had come with him when he left his home, unable to keep his mutation a secret from his mother and younger sister any longer. He had left to keep them safe. If they didn't know about his powers then they couldn't be blamed and punished for him having them. Where he was from, a little nowhere town in the middle of Iowa, population less than a thousand, they didn't treat mutants kindly and they treated those who harbored them even less kindly. Puck had watched a woman hung by a group of masked men when he was just ten years old, before his own powers had developed. They'd made the woman's mutant husband watch as she strangled to death, then shot him in the head. Puck's own father had taken him to see it, had wanted him to see it. He'd wanted him to understand what "good people" did to "freaks of nature." He'd pushed him to the front of the group and held his head between strong hands when he tried to turn away, threatening to hurt Miriam, his own daughter and Puck's tiny little sister, if he closed his eyes.
Eli Puckerman had never been a good man. His cruelty had been mistaken for sharp wit when he was younger, but it had come to light as he got older and drank more and more. Puck had often thought, when he was younger, that there must be something twisted wrong in his father's insides. He couldn't be like everyone else. Because Noah knew none of his friend's fathers would offer a hug and then smack them across the face so hard they felt like their eyes were going to explode as they fell to the ground if they actually moved in for it. He knew none of his friend's fathers refused their sons food until they were starving and then ate a sandwich in front of them. He just tried to ignore it when his father was drunk and yelling. He knew he wasn't the one who ruined his father's life. His mother told him so when she hugged him close after cleaning him up again after his father hit him and made his nose or his lip bleed. Rebecka Puckerman had never been a bad woman. She just hadn't been a strong woman. She'd never thought enough of herself or her chances at survival to get herself and her children away from her abusive husband. She'd always done everything she could to help both her children, as long as she wasn't directly disobeying Eli. She would keep them in the bedroom so he didn't see them while he was getting drunk and push them behind her so that her husband went for her first even though Eli's favorite target was by far his son. She did the best she could for him, but if it came down to protecting Noah or protecting Miriam she always went for Miriam. He'd never resented her for it. Miriam had been so tiny and she was a girl, like his mother. It had been his job to protect them, no matter what his father did to him, and no matter how young he was.
Noah had never been more relieved or grateful for anything than the day his father had left him and his mother and sister in peace. He couldn't imagine what the man would have done if he'd ever found out about his own son's mutant power. He would have killed him instead of just beating him to within an inch of his life. And now Noah, who had become Puck the day his father left and it became his job to take care of his mother and his younger sister, had let something he had sworn he would stop at all costs happen right in front of him. The night he had been forced to watch the man whose name he had never known watch his wife die right before his eyes, he had sworn to himself that he would never let something like that happen again if he could help it. He would never watch someone die ever again if he could prevent it at all. And now…now he might have put another mutant, a kid no older than him who looked pale and so very fragile, in danger of being killed.
Killed by another mutant. Another mutant who was supposed to be on the same team as he was. Damn. Damn. Damn! He slammed his hand against the steering wheel again, bit back a frustrated shout, and ran the same hand over the strip of hair on his head. What the hell had Blaine been thinking, attacking the new Xavier kid like that? They'd heard the X-freaks talking about him while they were in school, but none of them had ever given away what his power might be. How had Blaine known that a psychic attack would take him down so easily? And how had Blaine even done it? They were all trained in psychic defense, but most of them didn't have the psychic capability to actually attack. How the hell had Blaine learned to do that? And why the hell did he do it? He'd almost killed the kid in a crowded food court. Killed him. Fuck. Puck hadn't signed up with The Brotherhood to kill anyone. Especially someone who seemed so small and had the most beautiful eyes he had ever seen. Sure he enjoyed fighting with them. It was fun. They were nearly as tough as he was and getting more skilled any challenging every time they went up against each other. They pushed him to be better, stronger, faster than he had ever thought he could be, but he would never even consider hurting one of them seriously, let alone kill them. And he would never even think about setting a finger on the boy he had watched Blaine nearly kill.
He'd seen the kid from across the food court with the Xavier girls the moment they'd sat down. It was hard not to see him. There was such an air of joy and relief around him. He smiled all the time. A wide smile when he was talking and laughing with the girls. A small, private smile, not meant for anyone else, when he was sitting by himself. Puck wondered just how long the kid had been wherever had locked him up. It was common practice for humans to lock young mutants up when they didn't understand them and the boy he had seen sitting at the table had all of the signs of it. He was bright and delicate and pale like he'd been out of the sun for too long. He shied away from human contact when it wasn't one of the X girls, flinching when a big, burly type came within a foot of the table. He seemed, somehow, fragile and that had an affect on Puck that he hadn't felt in a long time when it didn't come to one of the girls he had taken in as his own. There was just something about the kid that made Puck want to wrap him up in his arms and keep him safe. He couldn't help but think that maybe that was why Blaine had attacked him. Blaine's low-level psychic ability allowed him to get vague impressions on all their thoughts. If he thought there was something that Puck might want for himself his first reaction would always be to take it out. It was Blaine's first reaction to everything that wasn't playing out exactly the way he thought it should..
"Let's go, Puckerman."
Think of the devil and he shall appear.
"What crawled up your ass and died?" Puck asked as he turned the key in the ignition and Blaine slammed his door shut.
"Charming as always," Blaine sneered, "Just get us back to the house."
"Yeah, fine. Whatever," Puck scoffed. He didn't even bother to turn on the radio. He and Blaine could never agree on what to listen to and Puck's head was starting to pound. He was already feeling sick to his stomach from what had happened at the mall. Add the migraine he could feel coming on and it just wasn't worth it to start a fight with Blaine over something as stupid as what music to listen to in the car. He jerked the wheel just a little in surprise when a black hole appeared over his shoulder and Brittany Pierce, one of the two girls he lived with and by far the sweeter one, dropped into the middle of the bench seat, a vacant kind of smile on her face.
"Brit," Puck said gently when his heart had stopped racing, "What have I told you about porting into a moving car?"
"It's not safe. Cars are going too fast and I might misjudge the speed and distance," Brittany intoned obediently, "And that I should never do it. But…" she trailed off for a moment, and then seemed to get her train of thought back, "I've been getting so much better at it. And Coach asked me to find you and Blaine."
Puck couldn't help the smile that pulled up a corner of his mouth. It was hard to be angry with Brittany over anything. She was spacey and easily distracted, but in her own way was the most genuine person Puck had ever met. She only ever said what she meant and always said what was on her mind. Puck had felt the same urge to protect her that he'd felt for the new Xavier kid in the mall since the first time he'd met her when Sue Sylvester had recruited him to The Brotherhood and asked him to come live with other mutants his own age. It wasn't as if he'd had any better offers. In a way both Santana and Brittany reminded him of his little sister. He had a feeling Miri would grow up to have the best parts of both of them. Santana's strength, Brittany's joy…at least she had a chance to grow into that now that he was gone from her life. He only wished he could see it. He pushed the thought away as quickly as it'd come into his head. There was no use in wishing or regretting what couldn't be.
"Tell her we're on our way back to the house." Puck shot her a wink over his shoulder before turning back to the road.
"Or you could just port the whole truck with us inside it," Blaine drawled.
Brittany looked confused for a moment and then smiled, "I could try that!"
"No!" Puck's denial was harsher than he meant it to be and he knew that Brittany would take it as meaning that he was mad at her, but he would have to apologize later, "Brit, just go home. We'll be there in five minutes. That'll have to do for Coach, okay?"
"Okay, Puck," Her voice held concealed tears and he could see that her eyes were wet as she opened another black whole in the floor boards and dropped through it.
"What the hell is your problem, Anderson?" He tried to keep his voice under control, "You know that she would have tried it and it probably would have killed her."
"Someone's got to teach her that she can't be so naïve. If she died, The Brotherhood would be well rid of her. If she didn't die she would learn quickly that she can't always trust people, even her own kind."
Puck couldn't contain his anger as he pulled into the dirt drive of the rundown, once beautiful house that was home to all of them. The truck screeched as he slammed on the brakes, as if it would fall apart with too much rough treatment.
"We don't harm our own kind, Blaine." He bit out the words as he jumped out of the truck, then leaned back in to make sure that Blaine could see the anger in his eyes, "Even you should be able to hold to that."
"Our own kind…" Blaine laughed lowly, not a trace of mirth in it, "Are you talking about others in The Brotherhood, Puckerman? Or mutants in general? Or do you mean all of humanity? Really, you should be more specific."
Puck pulled back when an image of the new mutant at Xavier's popped into his head as he had been when he first saw him, sitting at the table in the mall before Blaine had attacked him. Calm and peaceful, looking as free as any person Puck had ever seen. He didn't know how long he stood in the open car door, but when he came back to himself Blaine was at his elbow, his mouth close to Puck's ear. His words made Puck go cold.
"I saw how you looked at him, Noah. You may want to watch yourself and remember who was your first wilting flower. If I can make you believe that, just imagine what I can make him believe."
It took Puck a couple of breaths to be able to follow Blaine into the house. But, when he did it automatically made him feel just a little bit lighter, loosening the knot in his chest despite the fear still in the back of his mind for the Xavier boy. There were only certain things that someone could depend on in life. Walking into the house he shared with his friends was one of them. No matter how far he travelled or how long he was gone he could always count on walking into the living room and seeing Santana and Brittany curled up on the couch, their pinkies linked and lost in their own little world. Dave and Azimio could always be counted upon to be wrestling in the middle of the floor. When they got too excited Dave could make the foundation shake and Azimio could accidently forget himself and release a concussive blast of energy that might shatter a window or crack the walls down to the sheetrock. Even Blaine, slouched down in the armchair in the corner, was such a common sight that he was almost welcome, despite all of the things that he'd said and done during the day.
"Enough, all of you!" Coach's voice was as expected as the rest of it and still as grating as Puck had anticipated, "Lesbitrons, separate. Tubby One and Tubby Two, get off the floor. The scent of your sweat offends me. Mohawk, sit your ass down. Where the hell is…oh, you are here, Hobbit. Fine. Good."
The first time Puck had seen Coach Sue Sylvester of The Brotherhood he'd thought that she was the most stunning woman he had ever seen. He wasn't attracted to her in any way, but her utter confidence in herself, the way she had torn into the stolen car he had wrapped around a tree with her bare hands, had called to him. The fact that anyone had cared enough to pull him out of that car had amazed him. It was the first time anyone had ever told him that he was worth anything, even if Coach had never actually said the words. She was stunning to him even now, but he had come to realize that a lot of her power came from keeping other people down. That was something he couldn't quite get behind, but, at the same time, where else was he supposed to go? What else was he supposed to do? He couldn't leave the others here at Blaine's mercy and sometimes he was the only thing that kept Brit, Tana, and Dave from going insane when he played his little mind games with them to amuse himself. Azimio wasn't smart enough to be hurt by the things Blaine and Coach said and did, but it didn't mean that he didn't need Puck to stay around any less than the others.
"There's a new kid at Xavier's." Coach started in without preamble.
"Yes, Puckerman and I met him at the mall this afternoon," Blaine drawled, "Or Puckerman did, at least."
"Don't really care about that," Coach looked past all of them as if she couldn't actually see them, as if she was looking right through them, then her concentration came back, "He's a telepath. My sources say probably one of the most powerful in the world. Our benefactor wants him. Any way we can get him," She looked at Blaine for a moment and they seemed to share something that none of the others could understand, not that any of them but Puck was actually paying attention, "He'll probably be attending the hell you call school as soon enough. Learn about him. Be…nice to him…or whatever. Do whatever you have to do to get him away from Xavier. Now, get out of my sight. Sick of looking at all of you. Hobbit, stay behind."
Santana and Brittney left without a glance. Nothing about the meeting had been strange to them at all. Sue only really stopped by the house when she had something to tell them, orders for them. They linked pinkies and giggled quietly with each other as they made their way out of the room. Azimio lumbered after them without a word, heading toward the kitchen, which reminded Puck. He headed over to Sue just as Dave passed him. They shared a look, just Dave's eyebrow up as he paused for a moment. Puck shook his head and Dave nodded. They would talk later.
"Mohawk, thought I told you to get out of my sight." Sue fixed a glare on him that had him wanting to shrink down, but he held his ground and straightened further.
"We need food, Sue. We haven't gone to the grocery store in nearly a month."
"Ugh." Sue pulled her wallet out of the jacket of her suit and handed him over a few bills like giving them to him physically caused her pain.
"Thanks." Puck tucked the bills into his pocket. He would have to head to store before Blaine was finished talking with Sue if he wanted all of the money to go to the food and general maintenance of the house they all shared. Blaine was the only one of the them who had come from a family that had money and the adjustment to not getting everything he wanted on a whim was hard for him, not that he was even trying to adjust. Most of the time he just took whatever he wanted out of their monthly allowance from Sue and let the rest of them fend for themselves. But, Puck had taken care of his family for long enough as a kid. There was no way he was going to let his new family go without, if he could help it at all.
"Close the door behind you," Blaine drawled as he headed out. Puck rolled his eyes. If he didn't know that Sue would tell him to do the same thing he would have just left the door open, but as it was it wasn't worth the dressing down not closing the door would get him treated to.
"What did you find out, Hobbit?" Sue snapped out, turning back to Blaine, who sat up straighter in the chair.
"You sure he's a telepath?" Blaine asked.
Puck closed the door before he heard anything else. He sighed as he walked through the halls of the house. He was pretty sure that if the entire city didn't fear Sue Sylvester their home would have been labeled condemned property years ago. The foundation was cracking which in turn was sending cracks up the walls and toward the ceiling. The roof leaked when in rained in so many places it might as well not have been there. The refrigerator was on it's last legs. The stove might as well have been wood burning. But, it was a lot better than what Santana had when she was sleeping on the streets and no one tried to put a knife in Dave's gut here like they had when his powers had come to light in his home town. Like it or not, this was home and this mixed up bunch of freaks was his new family. He closed his eyes, sighed against the sudden exhaustion that overtook him and leaned against the wall for a moment.
"Adams, you so much as…"
He pushed himself off of the wall as soon as he heard the argument between Santana and Azimio begin. Might as well cut it off before it escalated.
"Food run," He said as he opened the door to the kitchen, "Anyone in?"
The next couple of days went by in a flash of training in the backyard, keeping his housemates from killing each other or destroying their dilapidated house, fixing up what he could of said house, and avoiding Blaine. It wasn't all that hard. Blaine was keeping himself locked in his room unless it was mealtime, and then he disappeared as soon as he had eaten. Puck was grateful because there was something getting to Dave that he wasn't telling anyone and he had been much more angry and violent than usual. It was all Puck could do to calm him down enough not to shake the house apart when he and Azimio got into a fight. A fight Azimio, apparently, didn't understand. He was just as surprised that Dave had gone after him without warning or seeming provocation as the others were. Before Puck knew it he was back in school, trying his damnedest to look like he wasn't exhausted down to what felt like his soul and like he didn't care about anything. It was easy to be what other people thought you were when no one wanted to give you a chance to be anything else. His teachers saw a dumbass punk, so it was easy to let them believe that that was what he was. A dumbass punk with no future. But, he wasn't dumb. He understood everything they discussed in class. He could do the homework if he wanted to and do well on it. He just…
The anger overtook him and made him see red for a moment He slammed his locker, not even sure why he bothered to bring his book to class (It wasn't like he was even going to open it.) and turned just in time to see the Xavier kids heading down the hall. Did they ever walk in anything but a pack? He ran a hand through his mohawk. He didn't think he'd ever seen them in a group of less than four. It always made it fun when he wanted to fight, but harder when he just wanted to talk to one of them. He cooled his hand almost enough to form ice crystals on it and ran it over his face before he made his attempt.
"Hudson!" He called out just as most of the group was past him. The tall mutant turned around, a look on his face angrier than Puck had ever seen it. Generally, the big guy had a kind of dopey, affable expression on his face. Now he was just looking like he wanted to kill Puck as he stalked toward him. If Puck had been less of a badass he would stepped back when the kid got in his face and flinched when he slammed his fist into the locker just next to his head.
"What the hell do you want, Puckerman? Didn't do enough damage on Saturday at the mall? Dude, I should beat your ass right now for even…"
"Is he okay?" Puck asked quietly, looking down at his shoes. It was a calculated move. It made him seem more vulnerable than he actually was. Most of the Xavier kids would fall for it when it came to him and most of the others in the house. And that was the main difference between the Xavier kids and The Brotherhood. The Brotherhood didn't let emotion and possibility rule when they fought. The Xavier kids were too…good to do anything but. The move and the question did their job and seemed to trip Finn up. He cut off his rant, obviously carefully planned and looked confused for a moment.
"Why do you even care?" He asked after a bit, dropping his fist, taking a step back, and sounding much younger than he was.
Puck looked up at him and opened his mouth to answer, but couldn't think of anything to say, and closed it again before running a hand through his hair uncomfortably. Why did he care? It felt like eternity had gone by before he was able to answer, "I don't know."
Hudson blinked a couple of times and began to speak slowly, "He's…okay. He had a nasty headache the past couple of days and stayed on the couch so that the girls could play nurse. He slept a lot. Complained about the blood from his nose and his ears staining his new clothes. That's how we knew he was feeling better. Jean and Prof. X aren't letting him out again until his defenses are stronger, but…he's gonna be okay." For a minute Hudson got the kind of constipated look he always got when he was thinking too hard, "You…you didn't have anything to do with the attack…did you? You really did just try to help him out. Mercedes said that's what it looked like."
Puck thought Hudson's head might explode from thinking so hard, the way he was so focused on Puck, he eyebrows furrowed and a small frown turning down the corners of his mouth.
"Fuck off, man," Puck muttered and stalked away. The last thing he needed was one of the X freaks to think that he was a nice guy. That sort of thing only led to disappointment.
But, somehow, he wasn't as lucky as he hoped he would be. When he got out of school that day there was someone leaning against the car. Santana and Brit were staying behind for cheerleading, Dave and Azimio were staying for football, and Blaine was going with his trick of the week to find someplace more private, like he did most Mondays. His Monday afternoon car ride, the music he loved blasting as loud as he wanted it to, going as fast or as slow as he pleased, was always his favorite time of the week and he could tell that even that was going to be ruined for him now. The man leaning against his driver's side door was the curly haired teacher from the Xavier Institute. The one Puck had seen at the park with the rest of the Xavier freaks one Saturday in the summer. They'd all had a picnic. The man in front of him had brought along a guitar and a lot of them were singing. Puck had had to pretend that it didn't affect him in anyway as he passed them, hiding behind a tree for a bit just to listen. And he'd pretended he hadn't been imagining being a part of them when he'd gotten home and played the matching harmonies to the song he'd heard on his own beat up six string, one of the only things he'd taken from his house when he'd left.
"What do you want, man?" He asked. The man leaning against his car straightened and took off his sunglasses.
"We know you didn't attack Kurt, Noah."
Puck resisted the urge to close his eyes and let his name coming so easily from an adult's lips affect him, "My name's Puck, man. Only my mother calls me Noah."
"Okay," the man smiled as if he understood. Puck scoffed internally. Like he ever could, "My name's William, but no one calls me that but my mother, either. You can call me Will if you'd like."
"Alright then, Will." He tried to infuse it with as much sarcasm as he could, "Why the hell are you leaning against my car and what the hell do you want?"
"We've heard a lot about you, Puck," Will said quietly, "A lot from our kids. You're different from some of Sue's other kids. Why are you still with them?"
"Hey," Puck shrugged, "It's a roof over my head and permission to be as bad as I want. What else does a guy need?" It sounded lame even in his head, but now that he'd said it he had to own it. He bare managed to keep from wincing.
"Maybe someone to tell you that you don't have to be bad at all?" Will asked sincerely, "Maybe someone to tell you you're not?"
Puck felt like he'd been doused in icy water. For a moment, his whole body felt frozen in time. In that instant he let himself imagine that the man in front of him was offering him a place at Xavier's instead of just pretending to get him so that he would give them information on the attack on one of their own. In that one minute he felt…but, no it wasn't worth it. His father's voice was in his head again. Worthless…Rotten…Not good enough…Better if he was dead…All words and phrases he'd gotten used to years ago. He wouldn't allow himself to think otherwise. It just wasn't worth it when they sent him away again, laughing as he walked. Better to be the one to walk before they had the chance to laugh.
"Look…whatever, man. Maybe I attacked your kid, maybe I didn't. Don't really care enough to remember either way."
"You held him when you could have just left him on the ground, Puck." Will sighed, "Mercedes told us you looked like you were trying to care for him. Maybe you don't need to be as bad as you think you do." Will sighed and stood straight from his relaxed position against the car, "Look, you know where to find us if…If you need us for any reason…I…Maybe you ought to think about whether you're where you should be or not."
"Real eloquent, man," Puck said quietly, pushing down the pain threatening to stop up his throat, "But, we both know I'm not good for anything but The Brotherhood."
"Noah, I don't think that…" Will sighed and cut himself off before starting again, looking directly at Puck this time, "The invitation is always open. You decide you need anything you know where to find us."
Will moved away from the car and toward a motorcycle three spaces down, clasping Puck's shoulder for a second as he passed. Puck felt the hand on his shoulder, the first time a man had touched him without the intention to hurt that he could remember, and felt it on his shoulder for a long time after it had been removed.