The Woes of Mistletoe
Puck ran up the front steps of WHMS, pushing freshmen out of his way as he went. A few of the younger kids took the shove in stride while one or two yelled feeble protests. Normally, Puck would have turned around and put them back in place with a look (or a fist).
Today Puck let their obvious lack of fear slide, because he was freezing. (And really, getting out of the cold was much more important at that point.)
It was the last day before winter break of senior year, and a miniature snowstorm had swept Lima overnight. The roads were slick with a nasty, sloshy mixture of ice and snow. And everything was covered in a thick, sparkling blanket of white. But despite all of that, and despite the ridiculously low temperature, Figgins hadn't cancelled classes. Instead, he'd decided that a late start of ten a.m., instead of their normal time of eight a.m., would make up for the hazardous driving conditions.
Then to make matters worse, because things just weren't bad enough already… he'd left his letterman jacket at Kurt's house the night before. And, of course, the next heaviest thing he had was a hooded sweatshirt. Which, of course, wasn't really heavy at all. In fact, it was pretty flimsy.
So there he was, rushing into school in a wimpy sweatshirt, trying not to freeze to death.
When he finally crossed the threshold, half of his body outside and half in, Puck could feel the school's heat engulfing him. But before he could get his other foot in the door, Puck ran smack into a wall of green slushie, courtesy of Karofsky.
The icy drink quickly soaked into his hair, sweatshirt, and the t-shirt he was wearing underneath (not to mention his freezing muscles). The goo slipping down his cheeks, Puck couldn't help but think that now he knew what it must feel like to be run over by a glacier.
"Dude!" Puck's voice was a mixture of frigid shock and anger. He knew that he and Karofsky were no longer bros, but that was cold (pardon the pun), even for him. Because in all of their years of bullying together, they'd never slushied anyone on the coldest day of the year. They did have some standards after all. Or… Puck thought that they had anyway. "What the -"
"Merry Christmas, Puckerman." Karofsky laughed obnoxiously. As Puck wiped the sticky green mess out of his eyes, he saw his ex-friend looking around for approval.
"I'm Jewish!" Puck flicked his hand at the ground, sending splatters of sugary ice on anyone near him.
In response, Karofsky stared at him, a confused expression on his face.
"I celebrate Chanukah." He took a couple of steps towards Karofsky, trying to repress a shiver as the slushie slid farther down his back, "Not Christmas." It wasn't that Puck had anything against Christmas. But he was one proud Jew, and he wasn't about to let anyone forget that. (Plus? Eight days of presents versus one? Yeah, that one spoke for itself.)
As Puck moved forward, so did Karofsky, his chest puffing up in anger. "Oh yeah?"
Karofsky was now about a foot away from Puck, and Puck could practically feel the anger rolling off of him. For a second, Puck was totally, completely confused. After all, Karofsky had slushied him. Not the other was around. If anyone got to throw around the righteous anger, it should have been Puck. Not Karofsky.
Then, just as Karofsky stepped into his personal space, Puck remembered something.
Ever since coming out as bi a couple of months ago, ever since walking down the hallway holding Kurt's hand… Karofsky's bullying had gotten worse.
For both of them.
Not only was Kurt being shoved into lockers more, but now the jock had taken to slushie-ing him afterward as well. There had been many ruined scarves and needless dry cleaner bills to deal with over the past two months. And that was to say nothing of Kurt's stress level or how Puck himself was handling it.
For the most part, Puck could and was dealing with it. Sure, he had his moments (like right now). But generally, he was fine. But the thought of how Kurt was handling things… that caused the anger in Puck to magnify tenfold. Because as hard as Kurt tried, Puck knew he wasn't handling Karofsky's tormenting as well.
Puck also knew that his boyfriend tried to brush the bullying off, to act like it didn't matter, but there were cracks in Kurt's façade, and Puck could see right through them. And what he saw beneath Kurt's surface… wasn't pretty. He was constantly stressed, almost fraying at the edges like he might just fall apart one day.
It was a horrifying thought, and Puck had wondered more than once why Kurt had chosen to leave the safe haven of Dalton for McKinley. Puck had even asked him that question a few times, but Kurt would never give him more than, "I missed my friends and freedom of fashion."
Stepping forward once more, Puck threw his weight into pushing Karofsky forward. His sticky fingers left wet spots on Karofsky's jacket. "Yeah."
When he finally regained his balance, Karofsky looked down at his letterman jacket and then at the crowd that was quickly gathering around them. Puck followed his gaze, wondering what he was looking for. But when he turned back, Karofsky was smirking at him. "What? Your little boyfriend not around to protect you?" Karofsky chuckled as if he'd just said the wittiest thing in the world.
Puck pressed his lips together, exhaling a deep breath through his nose. Kurt didn't protect him. Granted, when Kurt was around, he would generally try to stop Puck and Karofsky from fighting by getting between them. And yeah, ok, that would generally cause both of them to back off. But still. That was not Kurt protecting him. Like, at all.
But this time, Karofsky was right. Kurt was nowhere to be seen. Which Puck was grateful for, because he was about to do something that Kurt definitely wouldn't approve of.
Puck smirked wickedly as he stepped so close to Karofsky that their heaving chests were pressed together. When he spoke, his voice was low and amused. "What? You jealous that I -"
Puck didn't even get to finish before Karofsky shoved him back, effectively knocking the air out of Puck's lungs. Puck stumbled into the gasping crowd, rallying himself and preparing to throw a wicked punch.
But before he had a chance to move, an angry voice echoed down the hall. "Hey! What is -" Coach Bieste pushed her way through the crowd, coming to stand between Puck and Karofsky. "Going on here?"
"He threw a slushie at me!" Puck finished disentangling himself from the throngs of gathered students. The green goo was beginning to dry on his face, but his soaked clothes were still freezing.
"You pushed me!" Karofsky adjusted his shoulders, as if that somehow made him feel better.
"Yeah, because you slushied me!" Puck didn't take his eyes off of Karofsky even though he could see Bieste watching him out of the corner of his eye.
Karofsky's face flushed red as he tried to come up with something to say… something other than the truth that was. "Cause you -"
"Enough!" Coach Bieste's voice echoed down the hall, sending a few of the onlookers on their way. "Karofsky, my office. Now." When Karofsky moved, she took another step forward. "Puckerman, go clean up. Then I want you in my office."
At the same time, Puck and Karofsky murmured something under their breaths. "What was that?" Bieste eyed them both pointedly.
Again, they both spoke at the same time, but this time it was louder. And with their own variations of, "Yes, ma'am," both boys headed off in the directions they were told.
When Coach Bieste had told Puck to go clean up, he'd figured that he would just stop by his locker and grab the extra t-shirt he kept there for emergencies. But as he went to spin the dial on his locker, Puck remembered that he'd worn that shirt the last time Karofsky had slushied him. He thought about asking the other guys from glee, but that was just too embarrassing. And he certainly couldn't ask Kurt if he had anything he could borrow.
Well, he could.
After all, they were practically the same size anymore. Granted, Kurt was still smaller through the chest and shoulders. But Puck could still fit into Kurt's clothes. Sure, they were a little snug but not much.
But all of that aside, Puck still wouldn't ask Kurt if he had anything he could borrow. Sure, Puck would don some of Kurt's more outrageous pieces when they were in private. In fact, he kind of liked throwing on one of Kurt's scarves or vests and parading around his boyfriend's room. It was sort of sexy. Puck, however, wasn't about to do that in public.
Also? Puck didn't really want Kurt to see him post-slushie. For one, he had his pride. For two, he didn't want to see Kurt's face when he realized that Karofsky was to blame.
So rather than try to find Kurt before the first bell rang, Puck headed towards one of the most disgusting places in the entire school. (Besides the cafeteria kitchen that is.)
The lost and found box.
Located in the office, the lost and found box was an extra-large, blue Rubbermaid tub piled high with a random assortment of clothing and other various odds and ends. Puck was pretty sure that most of the items had been in it for a few years, because no one in the office seemed to care if things were taken by people other than their rightful owners.
Also? The box kind of smelled. Of what, Puck wasn't sure. But it stunk nonetheless.
As he turned into the office, he was greeted by Mrs. Carrigan. "Ah, Mr. Puckerman." The middle-aged receptionist smiled warmly as she took in his sticky appearance. "The cafeteria is serving green apple today, I see."
Not really sure what Karofsky had nailed him with; Puck flicked out his tongue and licked his lower lip. "Yep. Green apple." As the sour mixture settled into his taste buds, Puck grimaced. "It's pretty nasty actually."
The receptionist smiled a little, sadly. Puck knew she'd seen many slushied kids come to the office to rifle through the lost and found. And Puck also knew Mrs. Carrigan had even tried to talk to Figgins about it. It had been useless, however, because Coach Sylvester had blackmailed him into believing that being slushied was a rite of passage. (Or so he'd overheard anyway.) "Well, you know where to go."
Puck pressed his lips together and groaned inwardly when they stuck a little. Pulling his lips apart, Puck said, "Yep. I know." And walking past her, Puck headed towards the nurse's office. Personally, he thought that the nurse's office was a stupid place to keep the lost and found. But that was where it was.
When he walked into the room, it was, thankfully, empty. The nurse was probably off doing… whatever it was she did when she had free time. What that was exactly, Puck didn't know (or care). He was just happy to have the office to himself, because he hated going through that nasty box with people staring at him. It was bad enough when he was alone.
Pulling the box out from under the desk, Puck plopped down on the cot and began to rifle through it. There was a pair of tiny red shorts with pink hearts on them that Puck was sure he'd seen at Santana's ages ago. And there was what seemed like five hundred different pairs of flannel pants in various colors and prints. (His favorite being a light blue pair with little whipped cream topped waffles on them.)
However, there was hardly anything by way of tops or shirts. Oh, there were a couple of girl's tank tops and what he thought was a guy's hoodie. But Puck didn't see anything that would fit him (or his guns).
Not on the top layer of the box anyway.
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Puck plunged his hand into the depths of the great unknown. As he pushed past what felt like a microscope and a pair of glasses, the pit of forgotten items seemed to go on and on as his hand sunk past who knew what else. When his fingers finally scraped the bottom, Puck began to feel around.
His hand passed over a lone sneaker and what felt like a retainer case. There were also a bunch of things he couldn't identify by touch alone. (Which was probably a good thing.) But that didn't matter, because the second his hand landed on something large, obviously hand-knit, and lumpy, he yanked it out.
The thing (because it really was a thing) that he pulled out of the box was awful.
But unlike everything else, it was his size.
Sighing deeply to himself, Puck pushed the lost and found box back into its place before heading towards the washroom to clean up.
"Puckerman. There you -" Coach Bieste stopped mid-sentence as her eyes locked on the sweater Puck was wearing. "Are."
"Uh, yeah." He took a couple of steps into the coach's office, wishing he had his letterman jacket. (Or really, anything to cover up what he was wearing.) "You wanted to see me?"
"Right." Bieste continued to eye the sweater, as if she couldn't quite believe what she was seeing. "Take a seat."
Puck plopped down on the chair in front of Coach Bieste's desk. For some odd reason, he really liked the Bieste. He didn't quite know what it was, but that first time he'd seen her crying in the locker room, he'd felt really bad and wanted to comfort her. Which was strange in and of itself. Because usually, when he saw girls crying, he wanted to run in the opposite direction.
Now though, as she went on about how fighting in the halls wasn't acceptable, Puck wished that he was someone else. Because as she talked, he could tell that she was trying not to look at what he was wearing. Which, of course, just made him feel more self-conscious about the sweater.
As she continued to go on about animosity between teammates, Puck felt himself begin to sweat. It was almost as if the bulky mint green knit had begun to shrink around him in an effort to hold him captive. The sleeves began to compress on his arms while the sweater's collar began to strangle him.
And that was to say nothing of what was on the front of it.
Attached to the front of the sweater were dark green leaves that sort of resembled mistletoe but also sort of looked like miniature Christmas trees. Then, dotting the material were small hand knit balls in white and red. They kind of looked like berries, but then again, they didn't. And with each breath he took, the little leaves seemed to flutter in the breeze.
"So, do I make myself clear, Puckerman?" The second Puck heard his name, he felt himself snap back to reality. The hideous sweater was no longer strangling him. Now it was just… awful again.
Also? He hadn't heard a single word Bieste had said.
"Yep." Puck hopped out of the seat, desperate to get out of the office. "Can I go?"
Bieste stared at him for a minute before shaking her head. "Yeah, you can go."
Puck spent the rest of the morning trying to act as if everyone and their cat (yeah, that included the teachers) weren't staring at the hideous thing he was wearing. The only thing that kept him from going home, ripping the sweater off and burning it, was Kurt. They didn't have any classes together in the morning or even the same lunch period. But they had glee together in the afternoon.
So, with glee to look forward to, Puck stuck it out, ignoring the not-so-subtle pointing and whispering.
But when Puck walked into the choir room, he didn't get quite the reaction he'd expected….
"No."Kurt was slouched down in one of the choir room chairs. His arms were crossed protectively over his chest. And the dangling foot of his (also) crossed leg was bouncing around furiously. His face was a mask of utter disdain as he said, once again, "No."
"What?" Puck stood in front of Kurt, feeling completely confused, not to mention… irritated. He'd had an awful morning, and he'd been looking forward to seeing Kurt, to seeing his boyfriend. And that was the reaction he got?
Yeah, Puck was not a happy camper.
"What do you mean, no?" Puck shifted his weight on his feet as his temper rose.
"What I mean is -" Kurt's jiggling foot quit moving abruptly. "I will not be seen within ten feet of that monstrosity."
"Excuse me?" Puck wasn't really sure why he'd said that. But he had. And the only explanation he could come up with was that he hoped he'd heard Kurt wrong.
"You heard me." Kurt glared at Puck, irritation all over his face. "I'm not sitting next to you while you're wearing that. I have standards."
"You have got to be kidding me." He knew Kurt wasn't kidding. After all, Kurt was more fashion conscious than ninety-five percent of the girls at William McKinley. Puck also knew that Kurt could be cruel about how others chose to dress. But he'd never expected anything like this.
Not toward himself anyway.
And that (not to mention how Kurt was sitting) made Puck wonder if maybe something else wasn't bothering him as well.
"Nope. Not kidding." Kurt looked Puck directly in the eyes. "You're not sitting within…." He paused to look around the room as if sizing it up. "Ten feet of me in that."
Puck felt himself become even more irritated, but he still couldn't shake off the idea that Kurt was upset about something. (Other than the hideous sweater that was.) "Kurt…."
"All right, everyone…." Puck whipped his head around to find Mr. Schuester walking into the room, a stack of sheet music in his arms. "Let's get started." Schu handed the stack to Rachel, who, in turn, began to pass them out.
As Rachel began to make her way around the room, Puck turned back to Kurt.
Kurt was standing now, but he still had his arms crossed over his chest. "You heard Mr. Schuester." Kurt lifted his head a little. "It's time to get to work." He looked pointedly at the other side of the room.
In response, Puck stood there, staring at Kurt until Rachel shoved a piece of paper into his hands. But even though he took it from her, she didn't leave. Instead, Rachel looked at his sweater, her face a mixture of shock and horror.
"Noah…." Rachel tore her eyes away from the green, white, and red monstrosity. "As a fellow member of the Jewish faith, I must -"
Without a word, Puck turned and walked to the other side of the room, not caring about what she must. All he cared about was Kurt and what his realproblem was. (Because it certainly wasn't just the sweater.) Of course, he was still mad about Karofsky and the slushie, but he was more concerned about Kurt.
Plopping his bag down by the wall, Puck looked over at Kurt once more before turning his attention to the front of the room.
For the next forty-five minutes, Puck pivoted and turned, jumped and sang, as Schu called out instructions and Brad played. But even though he was following along with everything, Puck's mind was stuck on Kurt. The way he was acting… there was just something wrong about it.
Sure, Kurt had his moments. But this was different.
And as soon as the bell rang, Puck rushed over to Kurt, hoping that, just maybe, he could find out what was going on. "Hey, Kurt..."
Kurt turned to look at him, and from the set of his shoulders, it was obvious that he was still upset.
"What?" Kurt bent over and grabbed his bag, but he didn't take his eyes off of Puck. "The bell rang. I don't want to be late for my next class." He still sounded angry but not as angry as before, which gave Puck a fleeting sense of hope.
"Look, I know this thing…." Puck pulled at one of the felt leaves of the sweater. "Is awful." Kurt snorted as he rolled his eyes. "But can we -"
"Nice sweater, Puckerman." Santana's voice was gleefully snide as she walked up next to him. "Did your little sister make it for you in art class?" She stepped between Puck and Kurt, crossing her arms over her (now) ample chest. But when Brittany came to stand next to her, Santana dropped her hands so they could link their pinkies together. "What's it supposed to be, anyway?"
"It looks like a magical tree with sparkling…" Brittany's voice trailed off as if she'd become hypnotized by the tree.
"It's mistletoe." Puck's voice came out as a strong growl. And even though he was answering Santana's question, Puck's eyes were locked on Kurt, who was standing there looking put-out.
"Oooooh…." Brittany's coo was long and breathy. "Doesn't that mean I get to kiss you underneath it?" She looked excited at the thought of kissing him.
Before Puck had a chance to respond, however, she stepped forward and placed her hand on his chest. Puck was just about to push her hand away when Kurt adjusted the strap of the bag on his shoulder. It was obvious that the bag was heavy, and normally, Puck would have offered to take it for him but not now. Now, Kurt looked liked he'd rather wear something from Wal-mart than accept his help.
"Well…." Brittany tugged at another one of the leaves. "Do I get to -"
"No, Brittany, you do not." Kurt angled himself between the blonde and Puck, effectively pushing her hand away. "And by the way Puck, that isn't even mistletoe. It's holly." He stepped out from in between Puck, Brittany, and Santana.
Still looking Puck directly in the eye, Kurt pulled out his cell phone, dialed a number and held it up to his ear. "Hello, Blaine. It's been too long…."
When Puck heard the word Blaine, Puck felt his face fall and his stomach drop.
And as Kurt walked out of the room, a terrible fake laugh following in his wake, Puck felt his blood run cold.
The second Kurt stepped into the hallway, he regretted what he'd just done. Of all the possible ways to hurt his boyfriend, he'd gone for the worst by playing the Blaine Card.
Because he was upset about Karofsky's most recent attack in the form of stuffing a Santa g-string in his pocket that morning. Which, as far as Kurt was concerned, was worse than all of the shoving he'd endured at Karofsky's massive hands. Not because it was tacky or disgusting, but because Kurt knew what Karofsky really meant by the gesture.
Over the past year, Kurt had tried to put Karofsky's advances (for lack of a better word) behind him. And because of that, he'd never really been sure if Karofsky had a thing for him or if he was just desperate for human contact. Either way, the underwear was too overt, too sexual, and it made him feel… dirty in a way he never had before.
And yes, there was the horrible sweater that Puck was wearing (for whatever reason). But as bad as it was, it wasn't worth losing his boyfriend over.
Stuffing his phone back into his pocket, Kurt thought of how upset Puck had looked at the mention of Blaine.
Kurt and Blaine had broken up (mutually) right before the beginning of senior year. And despite the fact that they were no longer a couple, they'd remained close. Their relationship had started as friends, and Kurt was really happy that that had survived their spilt. Because even though they were no longer in love, they still cared for one another deeply.
Much to Puck's consternation.
But even though Puck loathed Blaine and the place he still held in Kurt's life… he'd promised to try and be cool about it. He'd promised, more specifically, to not get angry or fly into a jealous, insecurity filled rage when Kurt wanted to hang out with his ex.
For the most part, he'd managed to stay true to that. Sure… there were moments, times when Puck let his fears get the best of him. But those were pretty rare and generally only came about when Puck was already upset about something.
Which Kurt knew.
He knew that bringing up Blaine was the quickest way to wound his boyfriend.
But Kurt had only done that, purposely brought up his ex, three or four times before. And each and every time, he'd felt awful for it afterward. But somehow, this time, it felt worse. Why that was, Kurt wasn't really sure. But he couldn't help but remember how upset Puck had looked when he'd walked into the choir room. And rather than try to comfort him, Kurt had all but told Puck to get lost.
Irritated with himself, Kurt stalked off to his second-to-last class of the day. But the closer he got, the worse he felt about what had happened with Puck.
Halfway there, Kurt stopped dead in his tracks. The class he was heading towards was English, and since they'd taken their final the day before, they were going to watch Dead Poet's Society today. And after that he had Bio II, which just like English, they'd already taken their final for. What they were watching in that class, Kurt didn't know. Nor did he really care.
At that moment, the only thing he cared about was fixing things with Puck.
So, turning on his heel, Kurt walked toward his locker. And after gathering up all of the books he'd need over break, Kurt slipped out the front door and ran towards his car.
"Kurt! What's wrong?" At the sight of his son, Burt rushed out from behind the ancient VW Bus he was working on. "What happened?"
"No, Dad!" Kurt raised his hands, hoping to calm his father. "I'm fine! Everything's fine." Watching his dad's face relax, Kurt lowered his hands. "Really, everything is fine."
"Then…." Burt reached up and adjusted his hat before squeezing the brim. "What are you doing here?"
"I… I need your help." Kurt's voice was hesitant, and he dropped his eyes to the floor in embarrassment.
"But I thought…." Walking closer towards his son, Burt pulled a rag out of his back pocket. "You just said that nothing was wrong." Burt scrubbed at the oil on his hands as he studied his son.
"No… I mean…." Kurt looked at his dad, trying to figure out what to say. Because even though his dad tried, there were still some things he wasn't totally comfortable with. And one of those things was boys.
Oh, Kurt knew that his dad was happy he'd found someone. But Kurt also knew that his dad still had a hard time talking with him about dating and things like that. "I think I screwed up. With Noah."
For a moment, Burt didn't say anything. Instead, he kept wiping the grease off of his hands. When he finally spoke, all he said was, "Oh."
Kurt didn't respond. Truthfully, he didn't know what to say.
When he'd decided to talk to his dad about Puck, Kurt had known it wouldn't be easy. But he also knew that his dad always came through for him no matter what. So rather than try to come up with some response, Kurt just waited.
"Isn't this something that Carol might be better with?" Burt's voice was tentative and slightly hopeful, like maybe he wouldn't have to have this conversation.
"Dad, Carol's great." And she really was. In the past year and a half, Kurt had gone to her with more than a few of his problems. It wasn't that he didn't feel comfortable talking to his dad about those things. It was just that they were more… mom like problems. And it had been so long since he'd been able to talk to someone who was Mom.
That wasn't to say that Carol could ever replace his own mother, but it was nice to have someone there. "But she's not you. She's not my dad. And I… I need my dad right now."
Across from him, Burt nodded. And even though he still looked uncomfortable, he also looked a little pleased. "So…." Burt's voice was unsure. "What happened?"
Before launching into the story, Kurt placed his bag on the countertop where the phone and register were. There was a lot to tell, and he didn't quite know where to start. "Well, this morning, Karofsky -"
"Wait, Karofsky?" Burt's face was getting red, a sure sign that he was angry. "The punk who was giving you all those problems last year? I thought we agreed that, if you transferred back, things would be different. That you'd come to me if there was a problem."
"Yes, but please…." Kurt placed his hand on his dad's arm. "Calm down. Your heart."
"I am -" Burt took one of the deep, meditative breaths Kurt had taught him. And even though his face was still red, it was beginning to fade. "Calm."
"Ok." Kurt nodded his head even though he wasn't totally convinced. "Anyway, Karofsky. He's a little better, but he's still just… Karofsky." When Burt's eyes widened in anger, Kurt hastily added, "He hasn't threatened me again or anything like that," Kurt sighed a little and walked around the counter to sit on the stool behind the register. "But he's still him, you know?"
Burt nodded his head in understanding as he leaned on the counter across from Kurt.
"But since Noah and I came out… as a couple, he's gotten worse. To both of us." Kurt smiled sadly as he thought back to the night before he and Puck had gone public. They'd talked about it for hours, and in the end, they'd both known that Karofsky was going to be a problem.
They just hadn't known how much of a problem.
"And he…." Kurt didn't want to say it. He really didn't.
"He what, Kurt?" Burt looked him directly in the eye, waiting for an answer.
"He stuck a pair of underwear in my pocket today." Kurt's face flushed with embarrassment. They weren't so much underwear but a barely there men's thong. "With a Santa suit on them." With (some of) the truth out there, Kurt quickly tried to move on. "So I was -"
Burt, however, wasn't about to let the subject go that easily.
"And what did you do? Did you tell anyone?" His face was beginning to flood with red again.
"Dad, no." As upset as Kurt was about Puck, right now, he was more worried about his father. "Please, don't get angry."
Burt took another (this time, not so) calming breath. "I'm not -"
"Yes, you are." Kurt's voice was gentle but insistent.
"But why?" Burt looked at Kurt, his face a mask of confusion. "I thought, after everything last year, that you weren't going to let this stuff slide. I thought -"
"Dad, there are some things that I don't want to try to explain to Coach Sylvester or Principal Figgins." He tried to smile reassuringly. "And it's not like he put his hands on me or anything."
Burt still looked confused. But now he also looked dissatisfied as well. "But Kurt -"
"Dad." Kurt knew that he'd said 'dad' more times than was really necessary. But he'd hoped that maybe, if he called him by name, that he would take him seriously. "Please. That's not why I'm here."
Across from him, Burt looked like he had more that he wanted to say. But rather than say anything, he just pressed his lips together and nodded. "You're right. I'm sorry. Tell me what happened."
"Ok. Like I was trying to say…." For a second, Kurt eyed his father, waiting to see if he really was done interrupting. When Burt kept his mouth shut, Kurt nodded a little. "I was really upset and then Noah showed up for glee club in this awful Christmas sweater, and I…."
"But aren't the Puckermans Jewish?" Burt's face was scrunched up in confusion. "Why was he wearing -"
"So not the point." Feeling his irritation rising, Kurt crossed his arms over his chest.
"Right. Sorry." Burt nodded at his son and made a show of being ready to listen. "Go on."
Taking a deep breath, Kurt dropped his hands back down to his lap. "Anyway… I… I was really mean to him about it. And he seemed really upset, even before that. Then he got really mad. So I purposely mentioned Blaine. And…." Kurt's voice faded out as his rambling confession came to an end. And now that the story was out there, Kurt felt oddly empty.
"Your mother would do the same thing, you know." Burt smiled at his son sadly.
"What?" Confused, Kurt stared at his dad. He'd heard a lot of stories about his mom but not this one.
"Yeah, before we got married." Before going on, Burt adjusted the brim of his hat once again. "Sometimes, when we got into a fight, she'd bring up her one of her exes. Dean." Burt shook his head a little. "Man, I hated that guy. And she knew it."
"Are you saying that I'm acting like a girl?" Kurt stared at his dad, not quite understanding what he was saying. He loved hearing about his mom, but he didn't really see how this was supposed to help.
"No." Burt's eyebrows drew together in concern. "What I'm saying is that you really are your mother." He smiled a little at his son who smiled in return. "Strong like her. Stubborn like her."
When Burt said that Kurt was stubborn, Kurt felt his face fall. Which, of course, only made his dad laugh.
"You have got all of her best qualities, Kurt." Burt's face became more serious. "I see more and more of her in you every day."
For second, they both just looked at one another. The back of Kurt's throat had begun to sting, and he was desperate to keep himself from crying. So, after clearing his throat, Kurt said, in a very soft voice, "How did she make it better?"
"Umh," Burt's voice was thick, and he took a second to clear his throat. "She would always try and come up with some small thing. A 'Peace Offering' she called it."
"Like, like what?" Kurt bit down on the inside of his cheek as he thought about what exactly it would take to make things right with Puck. Because nothing he could think of was small.
"Well, one time she baked me a plate of double chocolate chunk cookies." Burt smiled fondly at the memory. "And another time she made this little book of coupons for things like a kiss or a massage."
Kurt had always known that his mother was crafty. He still had a blanket she'd crocheted and a few old hand-made Christmas ornaments that were covered in sequins. But to hear about how she'd used that talent was another thing altogether. To him, it made her feel more alive than she had in a long time.
Burt shrugged a little, like he couldn't come up with any other examples. "So, just something small. To let him know that you feel bad. You know what I mean?"
Kurt's thoughts quickly moved from his mother and back to Puck. And as he thought about his boyfriend, all Kurt could think about was the awful sweater and Puck's face when he'd pretended to call Blaine. "Yeah. I think I do."
A few hours later, Kurt stood in the middle of his room and looked around at his handiwork.
After the wedding last year, Burt and Carol had stayed true to their word and bought a larger house. It had been difficult for Kurt to leave the home he'd grown up in, but he had. (After being told that he could totally redecorate his room that was.)
At first, Burt had wanted Kurt and Finn to have rooms that were the same size, so that they'd feel more equal. But Kurt had insisted that, after having a basement to himself, he couldn't go smaller. And Finn just wanted a normal-sized bedroom like he was used to.
In the end, Burt and Carol had caved, and the boys had both gotten what they'd wanted.
And now Kurt was looking around at his new(-ish) basement, making sure that everything was just right.
Much like his old room, it was decorated in shades of white and grey. Sleek and sophisticated, it was a mixture of his old furniture and some new pieces.
And now… it was glowing.
After hanging a few sets of tiny white lights around the room, Kurt had dimmed the normal lights. In one corner of the room, there was a four-foot-tall, silver tinsel tree. Then sitting on a table next to it was a small Menorah that was filled with blue and white candles. But even though the room looked perfect, the most important thing was the tiny red gift bag with its silver tag. Sitting on the couch next to Puck's letterman jacket, the gift looked perfect as it reflected the twinkling Christmas lights.
Satisfied with what he saw, Kurt pulled out his phone and opened a new text. Unsure of what to say, Kurt simply typed, "Come over?" before sending it to Puck. But just as the message sent, Kurt decided to follow it up with another one. All this one said was, "Please?"
About twenty minutes later, Kurt heard the doorbell ring upstairs.
But rather than run to get it, Kurt waited for someone upstairs to answer the door. He'd heard the front door open earlier so he knew that, at least, one person (most likely Carol) was home.
Normally, Kurt would have gotten it himself, but after texting Puck, he'd begun to feel more and more nervous. So nervous in fact that he'd spent the next twenty minutes pacing back and forth as he'd waited to see if Puck would show. And as he'd paced, Kurt felt himself fill with a bevy of "what if's". The worst of which was, "What if he comes over just to break up with me?"
It was that very question that was making its way through Kurt's mind (for the fiftieth time) when Puck came walking down the steps. The second Kurt's eyes fell on Puck, he stopped in his tracks.
Puck, however, kept moving down the staircase. He kept his eyes on Kurt, completely ignoring the decorations.
"Noah, hi." Kurt took a couple of quick steps towards his boyfriend, but when Puck didn't move past the bottom step, Kurt stopped moving. "You came."
"Well…." Puck shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and shrugged a little. "You asked me to."
"But I wasn't sure if…." Kurt felt the words stick in his throat. "If you would."
Across from him, Puck shrugged again, but this time, Kurt wondered if maybe, instead of a shrug, it was a shiver. The hideous sweater from earlier was gone. But instead of wearing his jacket (which, of course, Kurt had) he was wearing a flimsy WMHS hooded sweatshirt. And on top of that, his nose, cheeks, and ears were tinged pink with cold.
"Yeah, well…." Puck stumbled over the words, like he didn't really know what to say.
For a few seconds, an awkward silence filled the basement. Kurt had hoped Puck would say something else. But when it became apparent that he wasn't going to, Kurt took a deep breath. "I have something for you." He turned and walked towards the couch to retrieve the small gift bag.
When he turned back around, Kurt found that Puck had moved farther into room. It was only a couple of feet, but it was something.
"I thought we weren't exchanging gifts until after Christmas?" Puck sounded confused, and Kurt couldn't blame him. This was their first winter as a couple, and they'd decided to wait until the twenty-sixth to have their official gift exchange. At first, they'd planned on doing it half-way between the last day of Chanukah and Christmas, but with glee and studying for exams, it had gotten lost in the shuffle.
"I know." Kurt smiled tentatively. "But this isn't your Chanukah present." He looked down at the small bag in his hands and back up at Puck. "It's just a little something. A peace offering… after today." Kurt held out the small red bag, its glittering peace sign shaped gift tag towards Puck.
Tentatively, Puck reached out and took the shining bag. For a minute, he just held it, almost like he didn't know what to do with it. And even though Kurt wanted to tell him to open it, he waited patiently, his heart pounding painfully in his throat.
Then finally, after what seemed like forever, Puck pulled out the sheet of silver tissue paper that was sticking out of the top. Kurt rushed forward and took the tissue, balling it up in his hands. The soft rustling of the paper seemed to fill the entire room.
Before sticking his hand into the bag, Puck looked inside. And watching Puck in anticipation, Kurt waited with baited breath for Puck's reaction. As Puck reached into the gift bag, he said, "Your phone?" Puck held up the device, confusion on his face.
"Yes." Kurt pressed his lips together before launching into his explanation. "I never called Blaine today. And I haven't talked to him in a few weeks. Not even texts." Kurt gestured towards the phone, the tissue still in his hands. "I wanted you to be able to see that."
Kurt watched Puck's eyebrows drew together as he studied the phone in his hand. It was almost like he thought the thing might attack him if he moved the wrong way or said the wrong thing. "I… Umh…." Puck closed his hands over the phone and opened it again. "I don't need to see…."
As Kurt watched Puck, he felt his stomach drop to his knees. He'd hoped, he'd really hoped that this would make things right. "Oh. But I…."
"I believe you." Puck's voice was low, and he was still staring at the phone in his hands.
"You do?" Kurt's heart was beating furiously in his chest as he stared at his boyfriend. Puck said that he believed him. And Kurt believed that he believed him. But things still felt… off.
"Yeah." Puck held out the phone for Kurt, and Kurt took it.
"Umh…." Unsure of what to say, Kurt pushed his phone into his pocket and tossed the wadded up tissue onto the couch. "There's…."
As Puck looked at him, Kurt felt his nerves begin to slip away. The next part of his gift required Puck to respond in a certain way. And as he stood there staring at Kurt, Puck didn't seem like he would. "There's something else in the bag."
Puck peered into the bag as if he didn't really believe Kurt. But after giving the bag a little shake, he reached into its (very shallow) depths again. When he pulled it back out, one eyebrow raised in question, Kurt tried to smile.
"It's mistletoe." Kurt bit down on his lower lip as Puck held up the green sprig of foliage with its fake plastic berries. And before Puck could do anything, Kurt stepped forward.
"I know what mistletoe looks like, Kurt." Puck's face darkened.
"No… I know you do." Kurt pulled the tiny branch from Puck's hand. This was not how things were supposed to go.
By now, in Kurt's mind anyway, Puck was supposed to have flipped through Kurt's phone to find that most of the calls (and texts) were to (or from) himself, Mercedes, or Burt. And he was supposed to have looked relieved or reassured or something.
But instead, Puck looked unsure and upset.
"I just…." Kurt looked down at the mistletoe in his hand, thinking about how silly his plan seemed now. "I wanted to do something nice, and I'm sorry about this -" He lifted the mistletoe. "And about today." Kurt turned away, but before he could move towards the couch, Puck spoke.
"What was your problem today?" Kurt couldn't see the look on his boyfriend's face. But he could tell, by the sound of his voice, that he was still mad. (Or, at the least, hurt.)
Rather than turn around right away, Kurt stared at the mistletoe in his hands. If he wanted to make things right with Puck, he needed to tell him something. But how much could Kurt really tell him? After all, he'd promised Karofsky that he'd never tell his secret, and he wouldn't. But that was the main thing that had bothered Kurt about the underwear – Karofsky's (not so subtle) suggestion. That was why he was so upset.
Turning back towards Puck, Kurt decided to tell him as much of the truth as he possibly could. Even if it wasn't much. "I'm just really stressed over school and Karofsky -"
"Karofsky?" As Puck's eyebrows drew together, Kurt really wished that people would stop interrupting him when he mentioned Karofsky. "What did he do?"
" He just…." Kurt's voice trailed off as he thought about the bright red g-string. "The same thing as usual." Ok, so that wasn't entirely true, but it was close enough. "I really am sorry."
Puck's eyes still looked angry, and even though he nodded, Kurt could tell that there was still something bothering him. And staring at Puck, Kurt was pretty sure that he knew what it was.
"Noah." Kurt walked back over to Puck and placed his hand on his chest. "You know that I don't like Blaine anymore, right?" Kurt watched as Puck dropped his eyes to the floor. "That I love you, right?"
Very softly, Puck said, "Yes." But even though he'd said it, Kurt didn't totally believe him. And all of a sudden, Kurt's original plan didn't seem too silly after all.
"Can I show you what I got the mistletoe for?" Kurt kept his voice purposely light. And when Puck nodded his head, Kurt stepped close enough to him that he could whisper in his ear. "Close your eyes."
Instantly, Puck's head snapped up, his eyes as wide and round as saucers. The sight made Kurt chuckle softly as he said, "It's ok. Just close them."
Without a word, Puck did as he was told.
Kurt pressed his lips together as he looked at Puck, his eyes tightly closed. Very carefully he moved the hand that was on Puck's chest to place it lightly on his waist. Slowly, he raised his right hand, the sprig of mistletoe between his fingers. And very gently, Kurt swept it over Puck's forehead before pressing a tender kiss there. He let his lips linger for a moment before pulling away just enough to whisper, "I'm sorry" against Puck's skin.
Puck didn't move or say anything, and surprisingly enough, he didn't even try to peek. And while the lack of response wasn't exactly encouraging, Kurt wasn't about to give up.
Not that easily anyway.
Once again Kurt raised the mistletoe, but this time he brushed it over the tip of Puck's nose before pressing a tiny kiss to the spot. And just like before, Kurt whispered a reverent apology before moving to Puck's cheek.
Slowly and softly, Kurt moved from Puck's cheek to his jaw without any reaction from his boyfriend. But when Kurt swiped the tiny leaves over the tender spot on the underside of Puck's chin, Kurt was finally rewarded with a response.
Very tentatively, Puck reached out and wound his arms around Kurt's back. The embrace felt fragile, like it could break at any second, but it encouraged Kurt nonetheless. And this time, when Kurt pressed his lips against Puck's warm flesh, he heard Puck sigh softly. The sound caused a small smile to tug at the corners of Kurt's lips as he said, once again, "I'm sorry."
Next, Kurt moved the mistletoe to the exposed skin of Puck's neck but before he could begin his ritual, Puck opened his eyes. In the dim light, Kurt could see the tiny white lights he'd hung sparkling in Puck's brown eyes. The sight was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. And too frightened to say anything, Kurt smiled a little, afraid of what was to come.
"Kurt…." Puck's voice was low, raspy. "I'm sorry about today."
Kurt reached up and placed his hand on Puck's cheek, the mistletoe still stuck between his fingers. "What happened?" He dropped his eyes sheepishly before looking back up. "You were upset when you came into the choir room. I… I could tell."
Puck tightened his grip around Kurt's waist as he studied his boyfriend. For the longest time, he didn't say anything, and Kurt felt himself begin to hold his breath. When Puck leaned forward and pressed his lips into Kurt's forehead, Kurt forced himself to exhale. "Nothing. It was stupid, and it doesn't matter anymore."
"Are you sure?" Kurt tried to sound light, but he was still worried. "I'm here for you."
"Yes." Puck smiled a little. "And I know you are."
"So… we're ok then?" Still worried, Kurt bit down on his lower lip.
"Depends." At Puck's response, Kurt felt his eyes widen in worry even as Puck smiled wickedly. "What else you got planned for that mistletoe?"
Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- This fic was written for "foobacoligist" as part of "puckurt"'s Chrismukkah Fest.
- Happy Holidays, foobacoligist! I tried to include as much as I could from your list of wants and likes. I really hope you like it. :D
- Quack: Thank you for always being an amazing beta and friend.
- Reviews are love.