In which Disney continues to invade the Glee verse, and I try out something different: Puck. God help me.
Warnings: Some bad swearing. Also, sexual references.
Disclaimer: I don't own Glee, or any material you may recognise within.
Somewhere along the line, busking had replaced pool cleaning as Puck's main source of income. He's not entirely sure how this happened, but has a feeling it started with geometry sessions and ended with a drunken confession to Artie about why he feels like a forty year old deadbeat at the age of seventeen. So he could probably blame Artie and his stupid 'I'm a good influence on you' thing as the reason why he gets like no sex anymore, especially now that Santana has put their regular hookups on hiatus (thanks a lot, Brittany).
But really, it's not like he actively resisted getting his life made over. He'd complained when Artie had prioritized studying over double-dating, but more often than not had gone along with it. Only 'cause he wanted to stay the hell out of juvie. And really, they made a sweet busking team; that old combination of fear and talent worked wonders on the rest of Lima's population, and the wheelchair seemed to increase their profits by at least 20%, according to Wheels himself. What Artie lacked in badassness, which was Puck's territory, he totally made up for by being some kind of evil genius.
Together, they were, like, supervillains. That was pretty awesome.
So, even though Artie was to blame for the fact that Puck was now eighteen, about to actually finish high school (with some really vague aspirations towards working in a hospital, maybe, oh God what was wrong with him), could use big words casually in conversation, was no longer using steroids, got laid maybe twice a month if he was lucky, and made a moderately honest income with busking and not prostitu-pool cleaning, Puck might not kill him. Maybe.
Whatever, he was still totally a badass.
On this particular Saturday morning, the two of them were in the mall outside Target, drawing in the cash by way of Bob Dylan. Sometimes you just couldn't beat the classics, and the cougars were getting real appreciative. He lathered on the charm for them, for the little old ladies waddling by, for the teenagers and the little girls. He was an equal opportunity charmer.
"I think your groupies have multiplied," Artie observed when they reached the end of their song and took a short water break.
Puck shot a smouldering glance at a nearby gaggle of preteen girls. "Like moths to a flame," he bragged.
"Yeah, you might wanna cool off a bit, Hot Stuff. Flame any brighter and that mall cop will kick us to the curb."
"Jealous douche," Puck muttered. "Just 'cause his life never went anywhere and he gets off on shaking his love handles at poor young studs who just want to make a living . . ." his gaze fell on a little girl who was standing off to the side. She couldn't be more than two, and didn't seem to belong to any of the nearby shoppers. She was clutching at a stuffed doll and staring unblinkingly at Puck, which sort of unnerved him for reasons he could fathom.
". . . so I was thinking we should finish up with some Lennon, and then call it a day. Thoughts?" Artie's words brought Puck out of his staring contest with the mini-groupie.
"Huh? Oh, sure. Whatever." He took another swig of water, then pulled his guitar back into position. As he bad to pluck away at the familiar chords, his gaze was drawn back to the little girl, who had inched closer and was now craning her neck to look up at him. Well, she wanted a show, he'd give her one. Besides, the shoppers love it when he bestows kindness and attention upon a small child. Smiling down at her, he launched into the first line of lyrics. "Imagine all the people . . ."
Suddenly, he stopped. The girl gazed up at him, guileless and silent, with big green eyes. He'd know those eyes anywhere. And that nose. And her pout. Even her hair, dark and pulled back into two strict braids, was familiar because he saw it in the mirror every morning.
The world seemed to tilt slightly, everything falling into a muted haze of black and grey. Puck couldn't breathe. He wondered if this was one of those weird, fucked-up dreams he sometimes got, when it had been a shitty day and he'd eaten something that wasn't kosher – the kind of dream where his subconscious decided to put on a show to remind him of exactly how many mistakes he'd made, and send him on a huge acid-reflux guilt trip. He never told anyone about those dreams, not even Artie. They kind of sucked a lot.
But this couldn't be a dream, because in his dreams Beth always had blonde hair. She always looked like a mini-Quinn, with the same judging, disappointed look in her eyes. But this kid, while unmistakably Beth, was not totally Quinn; she was a little bit of him too, and that revelation fucked with his brain in ways that he couldn't quite describe.
"Puck? Dude, you're scaring me, what's up?" Artie's voice surfaced through the fog of disbelief. Puck, who had some point dropped to his knees in order to be more level with the child, didn't bother to look around. If he took his eyes off her for a second, she might disappear.
"Change of plans," he said quietly. Then, without any kind of explanation, he began to pluck at some more familiar chords. This was another crowd-pleaser, though he didn't do it too often because, dude, gay. Seriously, even the guy who'd adapted most of these into an acoustic format and then taught them to Puck (in secret, on pain of getting his face busted) was gay. But just this once, Puck was grateful to Kurt's stupid boyfriend and his stupid Disney covers, because his daughter was wearing a Disney Princess t-shirt and damn if Puck wasn't going to give her the only thing he possibly had to offer.
"Tale as old as time; true as it can be," he crooned softly. "Barely even friends, then somebody bends unexpectedly."
Artie was making noises of what-the-fuckery in the background, but he was thankfully enough of a pussy to recognize the song and pick up an impromptu harmony. Puck knew they sounded good, and distantly realized that they were drawing an even bigger crowd, but he only had eyes for the little girl in front of him.
"Ever just the same
Ever a surprise
Ever as before
Ever just as sure
As the sun will rise."
As the song picked up pace, Beth began to smile in recognition. She gave a high-pitched giggle of delight, and Puck felt a huge smile break out irresistibly on his own face. "Tale as old as time; tune as old as song. Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong," he sang, grinning through the lyrics, fueling them with volume and emotion which rang out clearly across the sea of spectators.
"Certain as the sun, rising in the East; tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Beauty and the Beast." The song dwindled to a soft finish. "Tale as old a time . . . song as old as rhyme . . . Beauty and the Beast."
Applause ran out across the gathered crowd, and Beth bounced up and down in excitement. Belatedly, he realized that he should probably go find her mom – Shelby Corcoran – but he couldn't give her up yet. Not yet.
"Any requests?" he asked a nearby group of children. They began to shriek out their favourite Disney songs, and he and Artie grinned at each other before launching into the single most kickass song in the history of ever. "Let's get down to business! To defeat the Huns!" It wasn't as cool with only two guitars and no pounding drum beat, but they made it into a huge production, singling out members of the audience, doing funny voices, and getting everyone into it. Still, all Puck could look at was Beth, making sure she was still smiling, that she hadn't run off somewhere and gotten lost (well, more lost).
At the end of Mulan, there were more requests. But before Puck could decide what to go with next, someone shrieked out, "Beth!" A woman pushed her way through the crowds and swooped suddenly into Puck's field of vision. She scooped the little girl off the floor, muttering about how she was so worried and how dare you scare me like that and Puck's Disney smile was long gone. Suddenly she caught sight of him, and recognition flashed in her eyes.
There was an awkward moment as both father and adopted mother stood there, appraising each other silently. Then Shelby cleared her throat and said, "I just looked away for a second and she was gone," as if expecting him to suddenly start criticizing her parenting abilities. "She's such a little athlete, always running around – I can barely keep up with her!"
Puck wanted to say something, anything, like maybe she shouldn't take her Goddamn kid to a crowded mall in freaking Lima if she couldn't keep up with her, or ask her if Beth was singing yet, or beg her to let him visit and bring every single one of his sister's old princess Barbies. But nothing came out, just stony silence, and Shelby nodded to herself slightly, as if acknowledging his complete fail as a father and as a human being.
"I'm glad you were singing Disney songs. She loves them, I just knew she'd flock towards the music. You guys sound good, by the way," she said, a little desperately. Puck still couldn't say anything, but he managed to nod, his eyes still on Beth. She was still looking at him. Then Shelby shifted the toddler's weight to her other hip and said, "Well I'd better get going, this one's had enough excitement for one day I think."
She took a step in the direction of away, and two things happened at once; Puck jerked forward involuntarily, a plea for her not to leave on the tip of his tongue; and Beth began screaming. He was surprised, both that she apparently didn't want to leave, and at the volume of her cries. Girl's got a hella set of pipes, he thought proudly. Awesome.
But Shelby was looking uncomfortable and maybe like she might bolt at any minute. Before she could, Artie suddenly wheeled up and reminded Puck that he was the most awesome person ever by suggesting calmly, "Maybe she'd like to hear one more song? I know Puck has a few more in his repertoire."
There was a tense pause, and he thought she might leave anyway. But Beth was still wailing into her shoulder, and Puck must have the most pathetic look on his face because she relaxed and smiled. "Ok. One more song."
"Awesome," Artie grinned, glancing at Puck. "Floor's yours, dude."
One more. He had a brief moment of horrible blankness. One more song, and it had to be a tribute, a gift, and a goodbye all in one. C'mon Mickey, give me something good here . . .
Oh. Right. Puck took a deep breath, managing to get his shaky fingers under control, and sent a silent thanks to Rachel, Kurt, and one of their many stupid diva-offs.
"Look at this stuff, isn't it neat? Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?
Wouldn't you think I'm a boy; a boy who has everything?"
Shelby looked mildly uncomfortable again, but Puck didn't care. Once again, he had eyes only for Beth, who was back to watching him with rapt attention as he sang. He didn't think he'd ever sung with as much passion for anybody before. Not at Sectionals, or Regionals, or Nationals. Not for Rachel. Not to God. Not even for Quinn.
"I wanna be where the people are, I wanna see
Wanna see them dancing, walking around on those . . .what do you call them?"
He shared a brief, quizzical look with Artie, who shrugged comically, prompting a few giggles from the children still gathered round. Then he clicked his fingers and reached over to tweak Beth's foot. "Oh, feet!"
She shrieked again, but it was a happy shriek. Grinning, he launched back into the song, and wondered if she would like dancing. Given her mom, it was a definite possibility. But Shelby might teach her to dance like a soulless automaton, with no real joy or feeling. Mike and Brittany could have taught her to dance properly. Puck could have stood her on his own feet and guided her in a waltz around the choir room, while Quinn laughed in the background and . . .
"Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wandering free, wish I could be
Part of your world."
They could have done it. He could have been a good dad. Quinn would have made a great mom, even if he couldn't blame her for wanting her old life back. But he could have done it; he could have gotten a decent job, cut all the shit in his life out early, brought Beth up surrounded by people who loved her. He knew the Finn would jump at the chance to be a co-parent, even if the kid wasn't his. Kurt had set aside a small bank account for the baby months before she'd been born, he knew, and most of the club had contributed to it at some point. Artie would have given her rides in his chair, and taught her how to spell and count. Mercedes would have made damn sure she was the best-dressed baby around. Kurt and Rachel would have fought over what songs to teach her. Hell, even Sam would have made a good babysitter, with his weird, nerdy obsessions. So would Blaine. They could have done it. They could have . . .
He skipped to the reprise early, and his voice became soft, wistful as he looked at Beth, and all the things he could have done, but didn't.
"What would I give to live where you are
What would I pay to stay here beside you
What would I do to see you, smiling at me
Where would we walk
Where would we run
If we could stay all day in the sun
Just you and me
And I could be
Part of your world . . ."
His voice cracked, and the song doesn't finish on the high note he wanted to give her. Silence invaded, and it seeped into his stupid, idealistic thoughts, shadowing them in cold reality.
God, who was he kidding? He couldn't give her anything. She had a mom who loved her, and who was going to bring her up right, with money and security and everything he could never provide. He'd been sixteen, completely fucked up, who'd prostituted himself for spare cash and took drugs out of boredom and stole shit and went to fucking juvie. He couldn't be a dad then, and he couldn't do it now.
Swallowing, he looked away. "So long, Beth."
Shelby didn't move for a long moment, her lips pursed in deliberation. Finally, she fished a pen out of her handbag, grabbed Puck's hand, and scrawls something down on it. Surprised, he frowned at the writing – it was a number, and an address.
"I'd like you to come visit sometime," Shelby said, capping the pen. "When you get a chance, and if you feel like it. I think . . . I think Beth would like that a lot." She smiled down at the little girl, and Puck smiled too, a huge, helpless expression of disbelief that felt more like he was about to burst into tears.
Shelby nodded at him once more, then began to walk away. Beth waved at him vaguely over her shoulder, and Puck raised his hand to wave back, acutely feeling the ink that was scrawled into his palm. It felt like a brand – like a commitment. The kind that he hadn't been ready for two years ago, but could totally leap into right now.
Artie rolled up beside him. "Wow," he said. "Imagine that."
"Yeah," he croaked.
"You ok, dude?" he looked up at Puck, concern visible behind his glasses.
Puck nodded slowly. "I'm good. I'm great, I . . ." his gaze fell on the guitar case, stuffed to the brim with cash. "I got some shopping to do."
Artie grinned crookedly, and gave him a manly punch on the arm. "Let's get going then."
"Yeah . . . hey dude?"
"I kinda love you, dude."
Artie snorted. "Duh."
I don't know when
I don't know how
But I know something's starting right now
Watch and you'll see, someday I'll be
Part of your world.
"Hey Blaine, guess what?"
"We're totally gonna convince Mr Schue to go Disney for Nationals this year."
". . . OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU GUYS SO MUCH!"
"Thanks Puckerman. Now he'll be completely spastic until graduation."
"Deal with it, Hummel."
Thanks for reading :)