Chapter 1: Promises/Seven Years
In which a promise is made…
Puck stuck the cap of the black Sharpie pen in his mouth and gave it a small tug. With a soft pop, the top of the marker came free. And without a second thought, he pressed the tip of it into a sleeping Kurt's shoulder. A small smile crossing his face, Puck began to drawn.
With Kurt spread out on top of him, his head resting on Puck's chest, Puck wasn't able to reach very far. But he was content with the bare shoulder that Kurt had unknowingly offered up to him in his sleep. Gently placing his hand on Kurt's shoulder, Puck started off with a few loopy spirals, nothing fancy or involved. However, he soon grew bored with the repetitious movements and switched to drawing little music notes. In the dim light he hoped that they would be somewhat in line. He highly doubted that though.
Once again however, the novelty of the designs quickly wore off. This time though, instead of picking some meaningless symbol, Puck hastily scrawled a few lyrics across Kurt's shoulder. The words were from the song that Puck had sung to Kurt on their first day as seniors at WHMS, not to mention Kurt's first day back from Dalton.
At first, he'd chosen the song for two reasons. The first reason was that he'd thought it would make Kurt want to kiss him again. And more than that, it had been the first song that had come to mind. Both explanations were ridiculous, but the meaning the song held for them wasn't. And seeing those words on Kurt's skin, even if it was only Sharpie, gave Puck the chills.
Deep down, Puck knew that coming morning, Kurt would scrub the words away, washing them down the drain, but for now it was there. For now, Kurt's flesh bore the truth of Puck's love.
That was good enough for him.
The pale moonlight that filtered in through the small windows bathed Kurt's pale skin in a soft bluish light. Carefully looking over his boyfriend's shoulder, Puck tried to figure out just how far he could reach without waking Kurt up. Unfortunately though, it seemed like Puck wouldn't be able to reach more than Kurt's shoulder; which wasn't nearly enough to create a masterpiece on. For that, Puck would need access to the entire expanse of Kurt's naked back, as well as a few hours.
In a short time, Puck could create a sweeping design of music notes and trees, swirling designs and song lyrics that would lovingly caress Kurt's bare skin like a lover.
And Kurt would let him.
He would lie there on his stomach, his pristine flesh exposed to none but Puck. With each stroke of the Sharpie, Kurt would sigh in contentment or giggle softly. Sometimes he would laugh so much that he'd cause Puck to make a mistake. At other times, he would drift off into a peaceful slumber as Puck worked away.
Tonight though, none of that would happen. Because Kurt was asleep on Puck's chest, and it was their last night together before stepping out into the "real world" for the first time. Once the morning came, college and separate states would come with it. So, for tonight Puck was content to hold his boyfriend close, enjoying the feel of skin against skin.
Earlier that afternoon, Kurt, Finn, Quinn, Mike and he had graduated on the William McKinley football field. For Puck, it had felt like nothing short of a miracle to walk across the stage and accept his diploma from Figgins. There had been quite a few times over the past few years when he'd been convinced that he'd either be held back, expelled, or sent back to juvie for good. But he'd changed so much over the past year, and he was positive that that had everything to do with Kurt (and some tutoring from Artie). And amazingly enough, none of that had happened, and he'd even managed get to get into an art school in California.
Granted, California wasn't exactly ideal with Kurt going to New York, but they'd promised, more than once, to make it work.
After throwing their caps in the air earlier that afternoon, Kurt and Puck had posed for pictures with what seemed like everyone. Quinn and Mike had insisted on a picture of them along with Finn. Rachel and Mercedes, who'd come to see their friends graduate, had insisted on ten pictures each. That was to say nothing of all the pictures that his mom and Kurt's dad and step-mom had wanted.
Once the clicking of cameras had finally died away, Puck and Kurt had gone to lunch with both of their families in tow.
That evening they'd headed over to Mike's for a party. It had taken Mike months to convince his mom to let him throw the shindig, and it had been guaranteed to be low key. But Puck, Kurt, and Mike had been friends for years, and there had been no way Puck would miss it.
As predicted, the party had turned out to be pretty lifeless. Mrs. Chang had monitored the group like she was watching first graders with macaroni and paste. So even though Puck and Kurt had known it was their last real night with these people, they'd left early.
The drive from Mike's house to Kurt's had been silent, and they'd held hands as Puck drove. The quiet had been comfortable, the type that only developed between two people who had come to love, accept, and trust one another completely.
By the time they'd pulled into Kurt's driveway, it had been one thirty in the morning, and the Hummel house had been completely dark. And that had suited Puck just fine, because it had meant that they wouldn't have to try and sneak past Mr. Hummel. Still holding hands, they'd climbed the two flights of stairs to Kurt's spacious room. Together they'd made love, softly and tenderly, not caring about what the morning would surely bring. Because once the sun rose and the spell of night was broken, Kurt would be gone, off to school for summer workshops before class started in the fall. Puck had hoped they would have the summer together, but Kurt wanted out of Lima, and the singing and acting workshops would give him a leg up come fall.
Afterwards, Kurt had curled into Puck's side and had fallen asleep almost instantly. Puck had managed to stay awake, stroking Kurt's hair and the lines of his face, hoping to commit that picture to his memory forever.
But after a while, Puck had reached over to the top drawer of Kurt's bedside table and pulled out one of the markers that Kurt kept there for him. And now, his shoulder was covered in an array of music notes and swirls, not to mention the song lyrics.
Satisfied with his work, Puck pulled the marker back and sighed. The moon still shined through the windows by Kurt's bed, and Puck could feel the gentle rise and fall of Kurt's chest against his own. He was pretty sure that the moment was as close to perfection as he could even hope to get.
With room left on Kurt's shoulder, Puck popped the cap back on the Sharpie and tossed onto the bedside table. He thought that he'd been smooth and kept from moving too much. But as Kurt stirred on his chest, Puck realized that he was wrong.
"Mmmm…" Kurt's murmur was thick with sleep. "Wha's goin' on? Wha' time is it?" He adjusted his cheek on Puck's bare chest, sighing deeply.
"Nothing, babe." Puck smiled as Kurt groaned sleepily at the nickname. He knew Kurt hated it, but Puck also suspected that he secretly loved it. "It's -" He grabbed the cell phone off the bedside table and lit up the screen. "Three fifty seven."
"Already?" Kurt wrapped his arm more tightly around Puck's waist, as if he was afraid he might slip away in the night.
"Yep. Already." The words came out sounding much heavier than he'd intended. But their time was quickly running out.
"I never…" Still hazy with sleep, Kurt nuzzled his face gently against Puck's chest. "Want this to end." Before settling down again he pressed a tender kiss into Puck's skin.
"Me either." Puck ran his fingertips over the designs he'd just finished on Kurt's shoulder, eliciting a small sigh from the other boy.
"Noah?" Kurt's voice sounded slightly more alert than before, but he still sounded groggy.
Puck's hand moved from Kurt's shoulder to the soft strands of his hair. "Yeah?"
Using the hand on Puck's ribs, Kurt pushed himself up to look at Puck. Kurt's beautiful blue eyes were bright and oddly serious, which shocked Puck. "Will you promise me something?"
Even though Kurt's expression worried him, Puck answered without hesitation. "Yeah, totally."
"Ten years from now…." Kurt pressed his lips together like he wasn't sure if he wanted to continue. "No matter where we are, we'll meet each other."
Confused, Puck leaned back into the plush pillow so he could see Kurt's face better. "But I thought that we -"
"I know." Kurt smiled softly and squeezed Puck's side a little. "I know. But just…." The words trailed off ominously. "Please? Will you promise me?"
"I… uh…." Puck eyed his boyfriend. Even though he was lying in bed with someone who was pressing him further into the mattress, he felt off balance.
They'd promised they'd make the distance work. They'd even discussed when they'd be able to visit each other already. So… why? Why did Kurt was him to make that promise?
"Noah?" Kurt sounded uncertain, and there was worry seeping into his eyes.
"I…." Puck wanted to say no, that he didn't like how the sound of that made him feel. But Kurt's eyes, so unsure, so worried, wouldn't let him. "Ok. Fine." Kurt smiled in relief, but Puck felt far from reassured. "But does it have to be ten years? That's like… a really long way away."
Kurt laughed softly, and the sound seemed to fill the whole room. "Fine. How about…." He screwed up his face in mock concentration. "Seven?"
"Five?" Puck's tone was hopeful. He was determined to bargain the time down as much as possible.
"Nope." Kurt smirked." "Seven years is the lowest I'll go." There was finality to Kurt's words that crushed Puck's hopes.
"Fine. Where do you want to meet?" Puck sounded sullen, and he knew it. But he didn't care.
"How about…." Kurt pouted as he tried to think of the perfect location. "The football field. At… seven fifteen?"
"What?" Puck couldn't help but laugh. He'd expected something romantic like BreadstiX or some park. Not the WMHS football field. "Why there?"
"Just because. It seems appropriate for some reason." Kurt smiled mischievously as he brought himself within an inch of kissing Puck. "But really, it doesn't matter…."
"You're right. It doesn't. 'Cause we'll still be together." Puck wanted nothing more than to close the space between Kurt's lips and his, but he managed to hold his ground.
For a moment, Kurt didn't say anything. Instead, he just smiled, almost sadly. When he finally spoke, his voice was as gentle as a caress. "I know…." Without another word, he pressed his mouth against Puck's.
At first, the kiss was gentle, but as he parted his lips for Puck, it became bittersweet.
This was it.
And neither of them wanted to let go….
When Puck woke up in Kurt's bed the next morning, Kurt had already left for New York.
In which time has passed…
Around seven o'clock, Puck pulled into the parking lot of the McKinley High football field. Shutting off the motor of his sister's Bug, he sat back in the seat and looked out over the field. A long time ago, he'd played football on that field, and exactly seven years ago, he'd graduated on it. And despite the years that had gone by, it looked, oddly enough, exactly the same.
Puck didn't really know why, but he was prepared for it to look different. A few years ago his sister, Abbey, had said that Figgins had finally gotten rid of the slushie machines. So when Puck had come back, he'd expected to see more changes to his old school. Like maybe a new gym or even permanent restrooms instead of the Port-A-Potties at the edge of the field.
Everything looked just as it had the last time he'd walked off that field.
It was familiar yet foreign at the same time, and Puck wished that he could leave. He didn't like being back. As odd as it seemed, being there made his flesh crawl. It was so full of memories and reminders that Puck felt as if he was staring at the ghost of an ex-lover he'd once cared for deeply but had come to despise.
For the past month, Puck had dreaded returning to his old school. He'd been so worried that he'd be overwhelmed with nostalgia for his teenage years and the time he'd spent within those walls. But as Puck stared out across the green field, he realized that he felt nothing at all.
That wasn't to say that he wasn't filled with conflicting emotions.
But they had nothing to do with longing to be sixteen again.
Puck was twenty-five and happy with his life. Things hadn't been perfect since he'd graduated from high school, but they'd been pretty good.
In his third year of school, Puck had walked into a small tattoo shop off of campus and gotten his first tattoo. It was simple, just a few lines from a song on the inside of his right forearm. But it had woken up something inside of Puck that he'd thought he'd lost. It had been years since he'd pressed the tip of a pen or a marker to Kurt's skin or anyone's for that matter, and he'd forgotten how much he loved it.
The next year, Puck had put together a portfolio of the work he'd done at school. And almost immediately he'd gotten an apprenticeship at Skin Deep, a local tattoo parlor. Four years later he was still there, working his way up the food chain. And a few months ago Sully, his teacher and boss, had allowed him to start tattooing without being monitored. Which he was loving every minute of it.
Other than having an awesome job, he had his own apartment and an English bulldog named Max.
The only thing he didn't have was Kurt.
Or anyone for that matter.
In retrospect, Puck realized just how naïve he'd been about his and Kurt's chances of staying together. They'd been nothing more than kids when they'd promised they'd make it work. And their relationship, once so strong, hadn't even made it to their first winter break.
At first, they'd called, texted, tweeted, and emailed one another constantly. It would start in the morning with a "good morning" call or text and end with long accounts of their days before bed. But a few months into school they'd slowly stopped emailing and tweeting. Then they'd quit texting and calling as much. Until one day, they'd stopped talking altogether.
There was no official breakup, but Puck had known it was over when Kurt hadn't come home for Thanksgiving. And though it had hurt and still did, Puck didn't blame Kurt or even himself.
They'd just fallen apart naturally.
Looking back, he knew that it had been inevitable.
After going back to California after winter break, Puck had vowed to move on with his life. He'd decided to finally go out with the cute blonde in his still life class who'd kept hitting on him. And he also decided that he would never write on a lover's skin again.
Both promises he'd kept.
He and Bella (the blonde girl) had stayed together for a pretty great six months. But a pregnancy scare, far too reminiscent of Quinn, had broken them up. That reminder of his sophomore year and all the drama the pregnancy had caused had scared him off of girls for the next three years.
Over the years, he'd had a few other important relationships but nothing really special. The closest he'd come to that was Scott.
Scott was a sweet guy who'd accidentally run smack into Puck on his way to class one day. He had dark hair, fair skin, and bright blue eyes. He loved singing and dancing and going out shopping and to a club every once in a while.
Puck hadn't realized just how similar Scott was to Kurt until their one year anniversary rolled around. Scott had planned out a romantic evening complete with dinner and candles. His gift to Puck, among other things, had been a rendition of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" that had made Puck's blood run cold.
They'd broken up a week later.
Taking a deep breath, Puck pulled himself out of his thoughts. He'd never really been one for introspection, and being back in Lima had caused him to become just that. It wasn't that he had anything against Lima per se. It was much more about the reason he'd come back than anything else.
It seemed like a lifetime ago that Kurt had made him promise to come back here. Honestly, at the time, Puck had thought that he'd forget by now. But he hadn't. That night, those words, were seared into his memory.
Seven fifteen pm.
The McKinley High football field.
Looking down at the car's digital clock, Puck felt his chest tighten. It was seven fifteen on the button. With anxiety filling him, he looked out over the field and then at the parking lot around him. There was nothing. Not even a squirrel scampering up a nearby tree.
Worried but not ready to give up hope, Puck waited. After all, Kurt had never been exactly punctual. His grasp on time was much more fluid than most people's. And with that thought in mind, Puck began to wait.
Seven fifteen became seven thirty, and seven thirty quickly became eight. When the clock flashed nine pm, Puck drove back to his mom's, feeling disappointed and stupid.
He flew back to California the next day.
Puck sprayed the vinyl chair in front of him with a powerful disinfectant before giving it a thorough wipe down. Before the streaks of cleaner had a chance to dry, he did it again.
The client he'd just finished tattooing (two anchors with a chain wrapped around them in a heart shape) had smelled like he hadn't taken a shower in a few years. In fact, he had reeked so bad that Puck had to concentrate on not gagging as he'd worked. Now that he was gone, Puck was giving his station an even more thorough cleaning than his boss, Sully, insisted upon.
"Welcome to Skin Deep." Even though Puck was set up towards the back of the shop, he could hear Sully's voice loud and clear. He could never hear the tinkling entrance bell over the din of music and conversation, but he could always hear his boss.
Which Puck found oddly comforting.
Smiling to himself, Puck wiped down his stool with the same disinfectant he'd just used on the chair. Puck knew that he was clean, but Sully had had taught him to never take any chances. In fact, that had been the first thing he'd taught Puck.
"So… what do you have in mind?" Puck tuned his boss out and went back to his work and his own thoughts.
It had been a little over a week since Puck had returned from Lima. And in an effort to get his mind off of the past and Kurt and the fact that he'd never shown up, Puck had thrown himself even more whole-heartedly into his work. He'd been apprenticing there for four years, and even though Sully let him tattoo unsupervised and he was getting paid, he wanted to be considered a full-fledged tattoo artist. So, despite the fact that Sully had thought he was nuts, Puck had picked up a few more hours at the shop doing everything from making coffee to taking out the trash.
And for the most part, his thoughts had stayed relatively Kurt free. Granted, Max didn't seem happy about seeing less of him, but the dog could deal with it. After all, Meena was there to help look after him.
"Here, let me set you up with our most promising up and comer." Puck smiled softly to himself at the pride he'd heard in Sully's voice. As he was currently the only apprentice, Puck knew that he was talking about him. "Noah! You got a client!"
All but hopping off of the stool, Puck walked to the front of the shop, wondering what his next tattoo would be and who it would be on.
But as he got to the front and saw who was there, Puck had to force himself to keeping moving forward. Because standing at the counter, eyes shining and cheeks flushed with excitement, was Kurt.
And standing next to him, an arm thrown carelessly around Kurt's shoulders was a pompous-looking blonde man Puck had never seen before.
Squeeka Cuomo's Notes
- The beautiful banner I'm using was made by my beta, Duckie Nicks. Thank you so much.
- Quack: Thanks for being such an awesome friend and beta. I couldn't do this without you.
- Disclaimer: Not mine.
- Reviews are love.