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It happens pretty suddenly. It's not one of those lame movie moments or anything. Not really. They're just sitting around while Hummel does this weird performance thing -he has outfits and props and all sorts- and honestly, Puck's zoning in and out of it anyway. At least until it happens.
It's a crack -not like a crack in the wall, of the crunch of a cracking knuckle. It's a full blown, air snapping crack. Puck isn't even sure what the fuck happened -Kurt has this whip though and it's a safe bet to assume he just cracked it on the piano, but Puck isn't paying attention.
Puck's heart just slammed into his throat and his chest tightened and he can't fucking breathe. It's fucking scary. There's no sound, everything is just gone and he doesn't have a clue how to tell anyone that something isn't right, he's just stuck there, struggling to get a breath and not even able to move. He is literally frozen in place and scared out of his mind.
He knows what it is. He's figured that out in the three minutes it's been since he hasn't been able to inhale properly. This is a flashback. Only, weirdly, there's no flashing back. He doesn't see it happening, the memory is still neatly tucked away and he only knows that he's thinking about it because his back is tingling like a mother fucker like the welts are rising up again. But they aren't and Puck isn't seeing that sneering face, or smelling the alcohol, or hearing the taunting, mocking insults. All he's hearing is his name. Puck, Puck, Puck, Puck. And that's weird too, because he only started going by Puck when he was eleven and his soft ball coach didn't feel like yelling 'Puckerman' all the time, so it was shortened to Puck and it stuck.
And that's when he realises that he is actually on the floor in the choir room shaking like a little girl with tears streaming down his face and the whole Glee club surrounding him.
Fuck his life.
Mr Schue tries to get them to back up a little. No one moves. Finn tries to get Puck to answer him. Puck doesn't say a word. Santana actually smacks the back of his head and he swears he seriously fucking growls at her. He still can't breathe right, and it's freaking him out more than the tears. He hasn't cried since he gave up Beth. Before that it was when his Dad walked out. He didn't even cry when that good for nothing piece of shit was beating him.
This might be an issue.
It takes him a while to come back to himself. When he does it's awkward. Because he's still on the floor and he's not shaking anymore but Mercedes has him in this hug and is petting his mohawk and he's not sure how it happened. "What are you doing?" It feels like a pretty decent question, because she wasn't all mothering when they dated -she wasn't even all that nice when they dated and that seems to be a pattern when he looks at it but whatever. Mercedes just shushes him though, continuing her petting and sort of rocking him a little. He thinks she might do this with those kids in her church or something. "Can you let go of me?"
It takes a few minutes, but she does, even though she's still far too close to be comfortable. Everyone is hovering around and fuck, he can't deal with this. He pushes himself off the floor without a second thought and walks from the room, actually having to push past Sam and Finn.
Everything is autopilot, he knows that much because he's not even thinking about where to go or what to do. His stuff is all still in the choir room, so he'll be going back for that later, but right then, he just needs to clear his head. That is exactly how he ends up in the locker room, under a shower, fully dressed and just standing in the spray with his eyes shut.
They send Finn to talk to him, which is weird, because they haven't actually spoken in weeks. Whatever their reasons, Finn stands there and Puck knows he's there because the goofball bumps into three lockers trying to get to the showers and then kicks the bench. Stealth is not Finn's strong point. But Puck stays under the spray, for another few minutes at least. He doesn't want to come out, doesn't want to have this conversation because he just doesn't want to think about it.
Eventually, the water gets cold and Puck isn't stupid enough to give himself hypothermia just to avoid Finn and his big innocent eyes and stupid kicked puppy pleading. He shuts off the water, leans against the wall and just tries to get his brain to shut the hell up for him to get through all this now. Finn doesn't say anything, not as Puck strips out of his wet clothes and pulls his gym gear from his locker to change, he's going to have to explain his sodden boots to his mother but whatever.
"That was, um, pretty intense." Finn finally speaks, when Puck's lacing up his sneakers, trying to figure if he could actually run himself into exhaustion tonight or not. When Puck doesn't say anything, Finn forges ahead. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"Do I look like I want to talk about it?" Puck definitely doesn't want to talk about it, he doesn't even want to think about it. He does want to figure out why his whole body rebelled against him and his brain went into overdrive over one stupid crack of a whip though.
"It's just," Finn is still doing his awkward turtle routine and frankly, Puck doesn't really care, "we're here for you man."
"Great, be here for me by never mentioning it again." And then Puck is gone, he's just so gone. He runs the track so hard his legs feel like lead and his lungs burn and he can't actually form a thought he's so fucking tired. It's Beiste that shouts him off the track, it's dark out and he hadn't even noticed. Coach gives him one of these looks as he finally gets inside, shuts up his locker and bails, letting her lock up and then it's to the choir room. No one is there anymore, but his stuff is all sitting on the piano and there's a note from Schue. Puck doesn't even bother reading it as he shoves it in his backpack and grabs everything.
He just hopes that they'll let it all go. It's not likely though.
Tina can't look him in the eye.
Artie is being overly friendly -even if they are bros now, the conversation is bordering on uncomfortable.
Kurt just avoids him more than usual.
Mercedes keeps trying to talk to him, petting at his arms and back and neck.
Rachel actually gives him self-help leaflets from Miss Pillsbury's office.
Mike just looks at him like he's got an extra head.
Quinn asks him how he's feeling, like seriously and stuff.
Sam tries to talk about 'Arrested Development' until he figures out that Puck isn't about to answer him.
Santana treats him like he's got the plague.
Brittany makes him a 'Get Well Soon' card with ducks and unicorns on the front. Mr Tubbington signs it too.
Mr Schue tells him that 'he's there for Puck' in any capacity he needs.
Finn follows him around like a puppy, asking stupid questions, trying to talk about it, wanting to help.
Puck bails after third period to sit in front of 7-11 for the rest of the day.
Finn sends him seventeen text messages and calls him four times. Puck doesn't read them or answer.
They tip-toe around him the next day, but no one actually approaches him about anything. Artie is mostly normal again, offering Puck the notes from Geometry that he missed from bailing. They don't mention what happened in Glee, they don't mention why he bailed yesterday and they don't talk about 'feelings'. It's all nice and normal. Puck starts to relax a little.
Except by third, things are getting annoying again. Santana turns and walks the other way from him in the hallway. Brittany comes up and hugs him -like full on hugs him for no reason- but he gets a grope of her ass before Artie glares at him a little, so it's not too bad. But then there's Finn again.
Finn who finds him between third and forth, Finn who stands awkwardly against the locker next to Puck's and tries to strike up conversation about a football game that they'd already talked about three days ago, Finn who keeps watching Puck for some sort of sign. A locker slams down the hall and Puck flinches just a little -he can feel that burn again but it's not like in Glee, because he isn't suffocating again and he's not shaking and he isn't zoning out. It's just that cloying feeling of needles along his neck and a burn on his back before he's glaring at Finn who just brought up 'feelings' again.
Puck slams his own locker before walking to English.
Only he's in class with Rachel, and she actually saved a seat for him next to her and he actually wants to beat himself. He can't avoid it now though, he has to sit beside her, has to deal with her talking away in his ear -and she never talks in class, she's always so focused and tells him to shush whenever he asks her anything if they sit near one another. Usually he takes the seat behind her, because he can still make out her notes and just copy them.
He's so grateful at lunch, because he doesn't need to deal with her.
Mike is still mostly ignoring him, and Sam's stopped trying to engage in 'casual' conversation -it's not that Puck doesn't like the guy, it's just that he's not in the mood to do that lame as shit 'bonding' crap. Puck can mostly ignore people and issues and all the stares that he can feel from the Glee table.
Really, he's fine. There's nothing to talk about. He doesn't have feelings on the matter because he's over it. His dad walked out on him years ago, his mom had one shit boyfriend after another and one of them was just a little too fond of punishing her kids for anything they did. Sarah was barely a toddler and Puck, Noah, he just dealt with what he had to. So he had a back that was laced with welts for a few months, so he dealt with a drunk, abusive almost step-father for five months, so he didn't have a nice, suburbia home like Rachel or Quinn or Brittany, so he didn't have a loving family -no matter how many of them there were- like Kurt or Finn or Mercedes. Noah Puckerman didn't need that shit because he dealt with it, he put it behind him, and he moved the fuck on.
It wasn't a problem.
His 'friends' seemed to think it was.
FRIENDSHIP was written on that pathetic little white board when they all sat in the choir room later. Puck avoided the seat he'd been in two days before, and everyone else seemed to avoid him. Except Finn.
"Now, does anyone have anything they'd like to sing?" Surprisingly, it was Brittany that raised her hand. Puck thinks he should be worried when Brad starts the piano, but really, he can't stop the small smile. It's just so Britt.
"Rubber Duckie," there are looks all around the room, frowns from the losers and a shake of the head from Santana -Santana is the only one that understands it, the only one that will actually get what Britt's trying to say in her own ditzy sort of way. Just Santana and Puck. Because in Freshman year, when Santana and Brittany were just 'friends' and Puck was the one taking Brittany out to Breadstix and walking her home and making out with her under the bleachers, he bought her a stupid little yellow rubber duck when she'd seen it in the mall. It cost him two fucking dollars and she treated it like a fucking Tiffany diamond ring or something. "I'm awfully fond of you." She finishes up by drawing him a heart in the air, and really, Puck doesn't mind it so much.
"Okay, that was, thank you Brittany." Puck can already tell where this is all going -he's almost sorry that he missed Glee yesterday, because that must've been when they'd planned it. "Anyone else?" Rachel's hand is in the air and Puck's head falls back as he breathes out a breath to try and calm the hell down and not just walk out.
"While I am aware that I could've chose from a multitude of fabulously written songs for just this occasion, I felt that this one suited my intended message perfectly." Puck's not even trying to listen, because knowing Berry, she's going to fire off into some show tune that Puck doesn't even know and he's back to ignoring the room again. "And I am all alone, there is no one here beside me. And my problems have all gone, there is no one to deride me." Okay, so he doesn't even know what the song is, so it could be a fucking country hit for all he knows.
The thing is, these people aren't his friends. Finn, sure -sometimes, when Puck isn't sleeping with his girlfriends and getting them pregnant, but that did only happen that once. Artie now, yeah. Maybe Santana when they aren't bitching at each other and Brittany when she remembers that he is Noah and Puck and they aren't freaky twins because sometimes Brittany is under the impression that he's two different people. So why the hell are they even trying this.
He doesn't want to know what Quinn is going to sing -some hippy number from the seventies about love and acceptance probably- or what Kurt would try -because there is no way that kid should even attempt to sing anything for Puck because he started the whole mess and Puck would still throw him in a dumpster if it weren't for Glee- and Mercedes would get all black soul chick on him again and really, Puck's just so tired of it all.
"I gotta see all of my friends, friends. Friends, friends, friends." Puck is actually contemplating stabbing himself in the eye.
"Dude?" Did he actually say that out loud? Looking around, it's pretty clear he did. "Seriously, you should, like, talk to us." Finn and his stupid kicked puppy routine again. "You just have to open up, you'll feel better."
Puck would feel better if he was buried in a damn hole, he's sure of it.
"Fuck that. Where the hell are you getting off on this? It doesn't matter. I freaked, I don't even know why, so step the fuck off and leave it." The fact that Schue doesn't even call him on his language just spurns him on. "Yeah, shit happened, I had a fucking shit childhood, it's not a fucking secret. I'm still the same douchebag I was last week, I'm still the same guy that slushied all of you geeks and I'm still the asshole that knocked up your girl." Wow, his mouth is just going for it. "I am not your friend, don't start singing to me about fucking friendship when no one cared before I went all Lifetime movie in front of you." He's actually surprised that no one has said anything, he'd expect something, even just if Santana would call him a fucking pussy.
"We just want to help." Quinn actually makes him laugh.
"You know what would help? Satan not turning and leaving when she sees me, Berry not talking non-stop about counselling, Aretha not fucking mothering me, Mike actually acting like a fucking person. Treating me like a leper is not helping. Acting all nice and cutesty when you can't stand to look at my face is not helping. It's just fucking annoying. The only one of you who is helping is Brittany."
It's all he can take. He's out of there, he doesn't need this shit. Fuck them if they think he's some poor little victim, fuck them if he thinks they need shit from him, fuck them if they think he's going to break.
He's dropped the f-bomb in front of a teacher before, but probably not as much as he just did with Mr Schue still in the room -if it had been Sylvester or Beiste he'd have been out of there faster than Miss P. could get out the hand sanitizer. It just pisses him off more, because they're just such assholes.
He doesn't go home, doesn't even leave school, but he does head to the bleachers, sitting out and just staring across the field. He can't believe this is where he's at. His body is just thrumming with all this pent up rage and anger and fucking frustration. He doesn't feel anything, maybe that's the problem. He's not some simpering little boy, he's not lonely or scared, he's not feeling any of those stupid post-traumatic panic things that he should be.
Beyond that one day, that one panic attack. It doesn't make sense.
"I just want to understand." For once, Puck didn't hear Finn follow him, but he's not surprised. "I just don't get how I didn't know this, how you didn't tell me."
"There's lots of things I don't tell you, dude." Like how jealous he was when Finn hooked up with Quinn, because Puck reallydid like her. Like how Puck really liked when Finn used to bring extra lunch to middle school for Puck when they were kids, because sometimes Puck's Ma forgot. Like how Puck envied Finn his great fucking Mom, because Puck's wasn't exactly winning any awards. Like how, really, Puck missed Finn like a limb sometimes. Like how Puck only played football because Finn wanted to join the team in Freshman year. Like how Puck really did like Glee but he was terrified he'd end up like his Dad because of it.
"I wish you would."
He's not sure why he does it. Why he finally just relents and does it. But it's pouring out before he can stop himself. How Martin was his Ma's first boyfriend after his Dad left. How she'd leave him with Noah and Sarah sometimes because she needed to work. How Noah would make too much noise sometimes and Martin would hit him. It was nothing at first, just a slap to the face and a yell to shut up. But Martin started drinking more, and Noah couldn't walk to the bathroom without making too much noise.
"It was that stupid whip of Hummel's. The ass had this belt, fucking wide piece of leather with this lame as shit eagle buckle -you know that eagles are pretty fucking stupid? Yeah, they're awesome and stuff, but they're fucking dumb birds." The words just tumble out and Puck's not even sure if Finn's still listening. "It was always my back, right up at my shoulders, it's fucking hard to see that when you're nine. There's no reason for me taking off my shirt in front of people, right?" Puck never went swimming with the other kids, he never got changed in front of anyone, he always had his shirt on for those five months. Always. "Ma kicked him out when he stole money from her for booze." Not because he'd been beating her kid with a belt. "Just never talked about it. I don't know if she even knew."
And Puck's never really looked at those memories. Never bothered to assess just what it means, if he's repressing shit or if he's really past it. The panic attack would indicate that he's not, but he's not really sure if a single isolated incident could determine it all one way or another.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Finn's moved from behind Puck to sitting beside him, so he can almost feel it when Puck shrugs his shoulders.
"I just put it behind me," the next time anyone hit him, Noah fought back. He never just lay there and took it again. "I'm not about to break down over this, okay? It happened, it's done, it's over. Just leave it. I don't need to talk about how I feel about it because I don't feel anything. It's just done."
Maybe he'll ask Hummel to snap that whip again, in private of course. Maybe in the auditorium, away from everyone, just to see if it'll happen twice or if he's just some sort of freak that decided it was a good idea to have a meltdown in front of those gleeks one day.
"I," Finn sighs, and Puck can't help but look down to his feet. Because he's seen more of Finn in the last two days than he has since Sectionals last year, and that really sucks. Because now, with everything just out there, he's pretty sure Finn could just go back to ignoring Puck's existence again, and that fucking stings. "I want you to be able to talk to me." Or maybe he won't.
"Dude, I don't do talking."
"If this happens again," and Puck is pretty sure that Finn means the panic attack, because Puck doesn't intend on ever letting anyone push him around like he's a kid again, "you can talk to me." And Finn bumps his shoulder against Puck's lightly, and maybe, just maybe, they can work past the whole Beth thing.
"Did you have a song?"
"Crash and Burn? That Savage Garden one?" Puck just smirks and shakes his head.
Beiste tells them to get their asses inside ten minutes later, and if she watches them a little cautiously, she doesn't say anything.
Coach Beiste is pretty fucking awesome like that.
Everything is normal the next day.
Santana actually propositions him in the hallway and he just shakes his head and slings his arm over her shoulder to walk her to Glee. He's pretty sure she's trying to win Brittany back from Artie but whatever.
Quinn doesn't talk to him at all, but she does give him this little smile and a nod. It's somewhat usual for them -they aren't friends, but there is history and he's not sure either of them can just ignore it. He loved her once, and he's pretty sure she loved him -just a little maybe.
Mike and Sam ask him if he wants to do a video game weekend with Finn and Artie. He agrees, but only if they don't do it at Mike's house, because his mother is just a little bit weird at times.
Artie tells him later that it's at his house, but Puck needs to come early because he missed the tutor session they had originally planned for his test in Geometry.
When Mr Schue tries, awkwardly and stutteringly, to offer him a solo at Sectionals -and Mercedes needs to clamp a hand over Rachel's mouth to stop her going off, Puck just raises an eyebrow and politely -if rather bluntly- tells Schue he'd rather pour surgical spirit in his eyes and let Hummel give him a make over than sing 'He Ain't Heavy' at Sectionals.
Finn asks him later who isn't heavy and Puck figures the worst of it is over.