Title: (You're My) Crack of Sunlight
Word Count: 2925
Warning: Partial nudity, but it's very tame.
Disclaimer: The show is by Ryan Murphy, the lyrics are by Pink, and symbolism was helped by this website:
Characters/Pairings: Puck-Kurt, Mercedes, Quinn, mentions of Kurt's mom and Rachel
Summary: Kurt gets a tattoo, and Puck is fascinated.
Author's Note: In my head, the song that Puck doesn't get to hear is the same one that supplies the title and the lyrics at the end. If anyone feels the urge to draw something inspired by this, please feel free! I would absolutely love to see something, even if I can't draw for squat.
Kurt claims that he got sunburned, but Puck isn't stupid. His mom had skin cancer years ago, before he was born, so he knows the way it works, the different kinds of rays and the effects they have, and he knows that you don't sit down every ten minutes in Glee to ice a sunburn. If anyone else notices, they don't say anything, but Quinn and Mercedes hang back to talk to Kurt in the chorus room, alone, after everyone leaves.
It's kind of surprising, how inseparable the three of them are now. Yeah, Puck saw them all hanging out before summer break, but Quinn is not in the same category as Mercedes, she's quiet and cutting where Mercedes is loud and bold, and he didn't expect it to last. Quinn and Kurt, he had always known they would get along, but he didn't expect the other boy to have anything to do with someone who didn't like his best friend.
Anyway, Puck knows that they won't be fooled by him waiting to follow them, but he does leave slowly, just barely ahead of them so that he can hear their conversation. Quinn and Mercedes think that the football team must have resumed the dumpster thing, and that Kurt has dislocated his shoulder.
"No, ladies, really I'm fine," he says. His eyes are probably rolling.
"Don't lie to me," Mercedes says, and her voice is like a brick wall.
"Seriously, I'm fine. My dad and I had a little… agreement, that's all, about my seventeenth birthday, so last weekend, after you left… I sort of got a tattoo."
Two pairs of shoes squeak against the linoleum as the girls stop abruptly. The sound cuts into Puck's brain, and at the very last second he stops himself from whirling around to face Kurt and make him repeat that. He turns the whirl into a duck into the nearest water fountain, so that he can stay just ahead of them.
His eyes slide over to look. Kurt is standing there, in the midst of a shrug, as if it is perfectly normal for someone as pristine and untouchable as him to get a tattoo. Still, there's a little bit of delight in his face, the kind of delight that people get when they see the reaction of surprise that all of their actions have been carefully cultivated to provoke. He repeats himself, smugly.
"I got a tattoo. I've been wanting to get one for ages, but my dad flat-out told me I couldn't. I found a good place that didn't require parental consent, but he begged me to think it over until I was seventeen, and then he wouldn't give me any grief about it."
The group starts walking again. Puck straightens when they've passed him, stunned, and wondering why he cares what the tattoo is.
"Did it hurt?" Quinn asks. Since giving birth, she's had a morbid interest in what people consider to be painful.
"Like hell. I still need to ice it for a while, and I've put some medical tape over it so my shirt doesn't scratch the skin every damn time I move. Don't tell anyone else in Glee, okay? Tattoos are against the Jewish faith, I think, so I shudder to imagine what Rachel would say if…"
They're in the parking lot now and there is no physical way for Puck to continue to listen to their conversation without looking like a creeper, so he goes to his car and sits in the driver's seat. For a long time he sits there with his hand on the shift stick, thinking. What kind of tattoo would Kurt Hummel be interested in?
To his infinite surprise, he can come up with a whole range of ideas. It could be some sort of gay symbol, like a little flag, but Kurt doesn't look like a rainbow kind of guy. Puck did some research, over the summer when he began to realize that some of the guys in porn videos are just as hot as the women-sometimes hotter, and he knows that lesbians used to get purple stars tattooed on their arms. Kurt looks like a lesbian sometimes, in his less stupid clothes.
It's just as likely, he concedes, that Kurt got something stupid. The kind of tattoo that an honor-roll girl got as a small act of rebellion to her parents-a little flower, maybe, or a butterfly. As much as Kurt wants to run away from Lima, he might not. There are thousands of kids in suburbs across America who desperately want to get out, but will ultimately return because they like safety and the feeling of home. Lima isn't a homophobic place, really-Rachel's dads have never complained-and he might just stay. A tattoo like that is an "I'm going to stay" tattoo, and Puck finds himself hoping that Kurt got something better.
He shrugs his shoulders and pulls out of the parking space. It's really none of his business. He has no reason to care.
But he does care. And he waits a week before he approaches Kurt in the auditorium after school, because after this long it must have stopped hurting so Kurt won't have tape on it. Puck knows he'll be there, because the soprano has made it abundantly clear that, come hell or high water, he's getting a solo this year-in a group number that will be performed for people at some point-and the acoustics are better in here than the chorus room.
Kurt is sitting at the piano. Puck had heard him singing through the stage door, but he arrives just in time to hear a final soft "yeah" and the tinkling piano keys. He waits in the wings.
"I heard you," Kurt calls. He turns around. "Puck?"
"Hey," Puck says, stepping out of the wings with his hands in his pockets. He and Kurt have never actually had a conversation before, especially not one-on-one. He realizes only now that that was a mistake.
Kurt is looking at him, eyes wide and curious in his white face, and he realizes how incredibly awkward this is. He knows Kurt's favorite brand of sunglasses, his whole family situation, all of his former crushes, his talents and his weaknesses. He knows that Glee is what convinced him to come out to Mercedes, and football was what gave him the courage to come out to everyone else. He knows that he kept his eyes focused on a growing spot of mold in his gym locker all football season, and that he never got so much as a peak of naked flesh his entire time on the team.
He knows that Kurt loved making friends in Glee, that even though he may complain he really loves it when Rachel acts like the president of everything and Mr. Schue's complete devotion and he even sort of misses the stupid mohawk, that he doesn't know what he would do without everyone in the room, that he would honestly hate himself if he lost the respect and affection of a single person who was there in Mr. Schue's nasty pea-colored living room. Puck knows what he looks like when tears streak down his red-rash face. He's seen him with Mercedes' head resting on his shoulder and his arm around Quinn, one or both of their hands clasped tightly in his like the world was spinning off of its axis and he was too terrified to let go and grab onto something more stable.
He can't remember once looking at Kurt from the corner of his eye and saying "Hey." Still, he thinks as Kurt raises an eyebrow, at least they're even. Kurt joined in the group hug when Puck lost his daughter. No one has ever been more vulnerable than that.
Stepping forward, Puck clears his throat and launches into his not pre-prepared but at least pre-thought out speech.
"So I heard you got a tattoo."
It was a short speech.
Kurt looks unsurprised. Mercedes does love to gossip. He swings around so he is facing Puck instead of the piano.
"Yes, I did. Why?"
"Can I see it? Jews aren't allowed to get tattoos but I think they're really cool."
Kurt looks at him for a long moment. Then he shrugs and says sure. He slides off of the bench to sit cross-legged in the center of the stage. For a moment, he fiddles with his buttons, but then his white collared shirt-his purple jacket is on the piano, abandoned in the not air-conditioned auditorium-falls off of his left shoulder like a waterfall. Puck swallows his gasp. His feet feel like they're asleep as he walks over and sits down behind Kurt.
Three roses spread across his shoulder. The vine begins somewhere on his chest, where Puck can't see, and curls over, where it splits into three slim branches. He leans closer-the vines are green, but very dark, and spindly like a network of splinters. They get thicker as they trace farther, and the first one ends in a rose on the back of Kurt's neck. It is in full bloom, and pure white with the lightest of shadows on the petals. He admires the skill it took to make it. He bites his lip to stop the smile that wants to form when he realizes that the rose would barely stand out against the boy's pale skin if it weren't for the shadowy outlines.
The second rose doesn't reach as far as the first. It rests comfortably below it and to the left. At first glance, he thinks that the color is purple. He leans closer so he's practically breathing on it. It's more of a maroon color, actually, very purple, but where the white rose had grey shadows, these are faint pink. It's not as big as the other, only partially opened.
The third rose stands out starkly. It's pure black, and closed, to the left and lower than the other two. Puck reaches out and rubs his finger against it gently. Kurt shivers.
"Sorry-did that hurt?"
"No." Kurt laughs softly. "Your hands are cold."
He almost expects the ink to rub off on his fingers, but it doesn't. He runs his fingers down the bloom and the vine. He traces each curve, the purple flower, and then back up to the white.
"It's bigger than I expected. At least, you know, from you. What does it mean?"
Kurt hesitates. Puck's fingers, which had been swirling softly over the petals, froze.
"What makes you think it means something?"
"I don't know."
He traces back along the vine, until it trails over Kurt's shoulder. Kurt's hand snaps up and touches his knuckles. He gently pushes the hand back up, and Puck obediently goes back to the white rose.
"It does. A white rose-innocence, purity, spirituality. It's in full bloom as a reminder that those things can always exist. The largest bundle of nerves outside of the brain is here. Innocence really isn't a physical thing, but it is a state of mind."
Puck's palm covers the whole purple rose, and his fingertips brush the white petals.
"Is this one purple?" he asks. "I see pink."
"Good eye," Kurt admires. "Three pink shadows, forming a triangle. Quinn says your mom is a Holocaust history buff, I'm assuming you know what that means."
He swallows. "Yes."
"Purple rose," he says. He's whispering now. "Enchantment. Pink, elegance and grace. Partially opened, because I don't think it's possible to ever have enough, and at this point in my life I haven't even begun. Over the heart, the center of… well, everything. The ancient Egyptians used to throw out the brain when they embalmed mummies, because they believed that the heart did all of the thinking."
It suddenly occurs to Puck that he is sitting in the mostly-dark auditorium with his hands on Kurt's bare back. His skin is warm and soft, and he is amused by the freckles dotted here and there. This is a scene that could be easily misinterpreted, which doesn't bother him, but he is surprised at himself. He didn't think that the birth of his child and her sudden absence could have changed him this much.
When his hand reaches the black rose, it curls into a fist.
"A black rose," Kurt says.
"Yes." There is a long silence, easily a minute. Puck remembers how silently Kurt cried, and wonders if he's crying now, but he doesn't feel back muscles flexing, or Kurt's lungs fluttering. When he speaks, there is no quiver in his voice. "My mother. Theresa May Hummel, née Rose. She died when I was eight."
"Closed flower?" he asks.
"On my lungs," Kurt nods. "Because even though death can fill every cell at some times, and my mother is a part of everything, I don't have to be overcome with it."
Puck slides closer so he can feel the heat of Kurt's body. He peers over Kurt's shoulder-he's taller, but barely-to see where the vine begins. It traces over his left collarbone, and stops in the center of the two bones. Kurt swallows nervously.
"That's as close to my throat as I was willing to go," he says, speaking quickly in the way he does when he is either very sure of what he is saying, or very certain that it's something stupid. "You know, expression and all that."
"It's awesome," Puck says. "The whole thing."
His shoulders swell with breath and touch Puck's neck. He moves closer. He leans down so his torso is pressed to Kurt's back, and lays his head against his neck. The other boy freezes. Puck turns his face and kisses the underside of Kurt's chin.
"What are you doing?" he exclaims. His arms are still pushed through his shirt sleeves, and he whips the fabric up to cover himself. It doesn't work entirely, bunching up where Puck is pressed against him. Kurt scrambles away. His face is flushed.
Puck stands quickly, before he can think of what to say, but all he knows is that Kurt is going to get his things and walk away, and he doesn't want that to happen.
"Wait!" he says. He reaches out and grasps Kurt's other shoulder, and it's odd to be touching fabric instead of skin. "Wait. I think- I think you're really cool, Kurt."
Kurt turns around. There's a bit of a wry smile on his face.
"I suppose, coming from an average teenage male, that is the epitome of eloquence I can expect."
Puck only half-knows what those words mean, but he steps closer, makes eye contact and holds it. Kurt only bothered to turn on the backstage lights, and the curtain is blocking the entire stage right, so it's too dark for him to see what color his eyes are. Blue, maybe, or grey. It sort of bothers him, the way Kurt is looking at him, filled with both expectations and fear. He reaches up to touch Kurt's cheeks, and whispers, "Close your eyes."
To his surprise, Kurt does it. The shadows create dramatic lines on his face. With his thumbs, Puck tilts Kurt's head back a bit and kisses him gently on the lips. Kurt let out his breath.
This is not the first time he's taken someone's first kiss, so he knows exactly what to do to make sure Kurt remembers it fondly. For a moment, he stays perfectly still, then he tilts his head and parts his lips, just a little bit. Kurt moves with him, setting a rhythm like the ebb and flow of tides, and Puck realizes that he may not be Kurt's first kiss-but that's okay, pressure's off and he can focus on how soft Kurt's mouth is. He always imagined boys' lips would be harder, chapped maybe. He knows his aren't because he's as obsessive about chapstick as Kurt is about hair crap, but for some reason he never imagined that Kurt would taste like peppermint ice cream, sweet and molding against his lips.
He almost jumps when he feels Kurt's fingers slipping through his and gently pulling his hands away, but he lets them. Kurt doesn't let go at first, just holds their hands between their bodies. His thumb slides against Puck's. Then he pulls out of the kiss, and both of them let out a sharp breath of air. They look at each other sheepishly and laugh.
"So, um, I'll see you at Glee tomorrow?" Puck says hopefully.
"Yes," Kurt nods.
"Okay." Before he can question whether or not this is a good idea, he gives Kurt a peck on the cheek. "See you."
He turns to leave the auditorium.
"Hey, Puckerman!" Kurt calls from behind him. He half turns to see Kurt grinning, with his jacket over his arm and his bag on his shoulder. "If you're not busy Friday… I'm not busy."
"I'll keep that in mind," he says with a grin. He goes to leave… but he can't. he turns around and jogs back to where Kurt is leaving through the opposite door. He breathes into Kurt's ear and murmurs softly, feeling Kurt shiver deliciously beneath him. "Just so you know… you're really beautiful."
He knows his hand is pressing against the purple rose as he gently pushes Kurt towards the exit, and he knows that Kurt is refusing to look back just as Puck is trying not to. He knows a lot about Kurt Hummel. He's going to know more.
I'm not dead just yet
I'm not dead, I'm just floating
Doesn't matter where I'm going
I'll find you
I'm not scared at all
Underneath the cuts and bruises
Finally gained what no one loses
I'll find you
I will find you
-Pink, I'm Not Dead