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"Sarah, c'mon, we're gonna be late." What Puck hates more than Monday mornings is Wednesday mornings. Wednesday follows Tuesday and on Tuesday's Sarah has her girl scouts and she's always up late getting her homework finished. Which means getting her up on Wednesday morning is hell on earth. She drags her feet, usually falls asleep in the shower so he needs to bang on the door every five minutes until she gets out, she takes forever to get dressed, mulls around the kitchen deciding what breakfast is and then loses her homework between the stairs and the front door.

His little sister is not a morning person.

"Okay, so you remember that Mrs Riley is picking you up, you're going to Jenna's until five then to dance and I will get you after dance class at seven." Sarah nods her head, pushing her books back into her Lizzie McGuire back pack, kicking her feet back and forth against the bench of Puck's truck.

"Mrs Riley always makes me eat broccoli." Sarah likes to change her mind on what vegetables she likes on a week to week basis. It's a pain in the ass, but he's figured it's easier to just go with it than to fight her on it.

"When you are at someone's house and they are feeding you, you do not complain. Besides, it's good for you. It has calcium and helps fight cancer cells." See, he did learn stuff at school. "Okay, be good, and remember,"

"I know, Noah, I'm nine now. I got this." He's a little bit proud of her right there, until she slams the door and flips him the bird as she runs across the playground and into her school. Yeah, he probably shouldn't teach her all his habits.

School isn't exactly riveting, that doesn't change, but he makes himself focus enough to learn shit and keep up his grades, because now he's got shit he needs to take care of that is far more important than just keeping his ass out of juvie and being eligible for after school activities. Not that he's been able to actually concentrate too much on those either.

And Wednesday is glee day, so he's working through a step sequence with Santana when his cell phone goes off. Finn is shocked by the noise enough to miss his step and almost stomp on Rachel's toe, the small diva in question decides this is Puck's fault. "You know the rule, Noah. No cell phones in glee." Puck ignores her as he hops up the risers to pull his phone from his bag and answer the phone.

"Squirt, what's up?" Rachel's still glaring at him and Puck just ignores it, listening to his sister cry down the phone at him. "Okay, chill kiddo, I'm coming okay? Gimme ten minutes. Okay." Puck just grabs his letter jacket and back pack, shaking his head at Rachel. "My little sister is more important than your stupid show choir Berry." He leaves before she can pitch a fit about this.

So Sarah and Jenna got into a fight, which resulted in Sarah getting a skinned knee. It also resulted in Mrs Riley apologising but she couldn't take Sarah while her daughter was upset. Puck understood, he did, but it seriously threw their routine out of whack. "'m sorry, Noe. But she said mean stuff that wasn't true." It is impossible to actually stay mad at her, she does this really annoying but totally adorable thing with her face that means Puck just totally lets it go with a ruffle of her hair.

"Okay, but it means you need to come shopping and not bitch at me."

It's things like that; grocery shopping, paying the rent, paying the bills, budgeting for Sarah's growth spurts and her 'Noah, I broke the strap on my backpack scaling the fence at school' moments. These are all things that Puck knows how to do, stresses over and then punches a wall because it's not shit he's supposed to know how to do. But appearances need to be kept up and he can't let shit slip and it's important that Sarah doesn't look like a homeless little kitten when she goes to school. And they had a routine, and it worked.

Monday's were fairly average, because Puck hated Monday's and things just didn't get done. After school he'd come home, Sarah would walk home and get in just after him, they'd watch stupid shit on television -which was fast approaching a luxury they almost couldn't afford- he'd make dinner, they'd do homework, the end. Tuesday's were awkward, because after school he had football and she had dance, so Puck had to get across town to her school, take her to dance class, get back to McKinley for football and then get back to her dance class to pick her up before getting food, taking her to girl scouts and then going to work for three hours and then picking up Sarah. Homework was done late, Sarah went to bed exhausted and Puck spent the night cleaning and doing the household shit. Wednesdays were glee, so that usually worked for Sarah to go to Mrs Riley's after school who would take her to her other dance class and then Puck would pick her up after getting the weeks shopping done. And while Sarah and Jenna weren't talking, Puck didn't know what he was meant to do because no one could take Sarah after school.

Nana Connie watched her on Thursdays, which gave Puck a nine hour shift after school before he picked up Sarah and took her home. Friday was 'don't do too much' day, Saturday was softball in the morning for her, work for him followed by community service and then Temple with Nana before getting the weekends homework done so that they could just mess around on Sunday.

It had worked for the last three weeks, and it was working pretty well all told. The only person unhappy was Nana Connie and that was more to do with the fact that she wanted to do more but couldn't. But the woman was like eighty or something and Puck couldn't blame her with getting too tired. So they muddled through, paying the bills and keeping up appearances and Puck just sort of gave up sleeping somewhere in there. Which was fine, because the school nurse still took pity on him although only during his free periods now.

By Sunday, Puck's desperate for some shut eye and Sarah's being a total brat. It's her own little way of acting out, and he gets it, because sometimes he just wants to act out, but he can't because he has an eight year old to take care of and she's just pissing him off. "I don't want to go for a bath, it's only nine, I can stay up later."

"No, you can't. It's nine, you have school tomorrow, go for your damn bath and wash the dirt off your cheek and get ready for bed."

"You're not the boss of me. You're just my brother, you're not my dad or my mom, you can't make me." These things should be true, they should be utterly true and Puck shouldn't need to worry when Sarah goes to bed or about getting her up in the morning or if she's done her homework or brushed her teeth or tied her fucking shoelaces right. Those are all things that a parent is meant to do and he is not her parent -he has his little girl out there somewhere, but he's not getting a chance to raise her.

"No, I'm not. But right now I am all you have and I swear to God Sarah, if you don't get upstairs and get in the that bath you will regret it. There will be no dance class, there will be no girl scouts, there will be no soft ball. Just you and your homework for weeks." She screams at him, throws a vase at the wall and stomps up the stairs shouting about how much she hates him and he's an ass and why couldn't she have left too.

Puck waits until she's slammed the bathroom door before he sinks down into the sofa, trying to focus on breathing and dropping his head between his legs. It was bad enough that their dad walked out on them eight years ago, it was bad enough that he walked back in three weeks ago only to turn around and walk out again. But the worst of it was that their Ma went with him. The woman that cursed her husband to the ends of the earth and back, who bitched about him and his deadbeat, loser ways. She just packed up and left with him and didn't even think about her kids. Apparently, they weren't worth a second thought, apparently they were disposable, apparently life was better without the waste of space son and little girl that she had.

Puck's still sitting there when Sarah comes flying down the stairs in her terry-towelling robe and her sopping wet hair to climb up on the sofa and hug his back. "I'm sorry Noah, I didn't mean it. I love you and I don't ever want to go away. I'm so, so, sorry, Noe. Please don't hate me, please, please." Sarah refuses to sleep in her own bed that night so he lets her sleep in his room.

The biggest thing is not letting anyone find out. He's still waiting for the day his mother's work calls to find out where she is, they haven't yet so he's almost convinced she told them she was leaving -maybe they just assumed that she, like any responsible mother, was taking her kids with her. It would probably reduce his stress levels a fraction. Nana Connie's worried about it too, because if someone finds out, Puck's not eighteen yet, they'll both be put in foster care, probably split up and Puck's not sure he can take losing what's left of his family, as annoying as she gets at times.

When Jenna and Sarah don't look to be making up ever, he needs to bite a bullet.

He tried to talk to Mr Schue before the end of class, tried to do it with just him and the teacher so that he didn't need to deal with everyone and their own bullshit. But fate totally hates his guts because he was like Pilate or some shit like that in another life, and he didn't get one chance at all.

"Okay, guys, we've got three weeks until Nationals, we've got to nail this down. Puckerman, come on, let's get going."

"I'm pulling out of glee." He can't even look at any of them. They still have twelve people, he's not screwing them over in the biggest way, he's just fucking things up a little. "I'm sorry, but I don't have the time." He gives a shrug, genuinely sorry for once in his pathetic life.

"Puck, dude, come on." Finn makes to stand up, and he's not going to let this turn into a 'we can help you' gig, because they can't.

"No, okay. It's not like I haven't done everything else, but shit is shit and I can't make that much time." He just shakes his head and leaves the room, because Sarah will be waiting for him and they need to go shopping before her dance class and he needs to shower before work.

Frankly, things are made harder when he quits glee. Because Finn stops talking to him -he's like Judas all over again, Rachel blanks him in the halls, Lauren pitches this huge big fit in the middle of the halls because he's 'neglecting' her and she can't be with someone who doesn't put her first. So he gets dumped, loses his best friend all over again, is blanked by his friends and Artie politely tells him that he'll be unable to tutor Puck in geometry now, but glee has to stick together. Not that Puck knows what that's like. Three weeks of being ignored and pretty much only having his little sister and his elderly Nana talking to him? Total fucking head trip.

It's three weeks after he's quit glee, seven weeks after his mom and dad collectively walked out on him and Sarah, and Puck is officially freaking the hell out. Sarah's been throwing up for almost three hours, the little squirt has nothing left to give but just keeps heaving this disgusting green bile into the toilet. She's burning up, sobbing and shaking and Puck has no idea what to do. He can't form a thought beyond the fact that his little sister is hurting and he has no idea what to do.

He resorts to the fall back he's almost always had when things go this horrifically wrong. He bundles her up in the duvet from his bed, pulls on a pair of sweat pants and a football jersey and straps her into the truck to drive to the only person he can think of. He doesn't stop to consider that it's five past three in the morning, doesn't consider going to the ER, doesn't stop to think to call ahead. He's standing on the front porch at twenty past three, his little sister cuddled in his arms wrapped up and still shaking and he's practically leaning on the doorbell.

"What the fuck-" Burt Hummel is a scary man, it's just fact. Yeah, he's like the most epic dad on the planet if Finn's gushing is anything to go by, but the dude is scary.

"Is Carole home? Please? I know it's late, and I'm sorry, but I-"

"Noah? What's, is that Sarah? Oh get in, come in." He's pulled inside by a sleepy and concerned Carole and Puck doesn't even stop to acknowledge Kurt and Finn standing on the stairs as Burt tells them to get back to bed. "Honey, what's wrong?"

"I don't know, she's been throwing up, she's shaking, she's fevered. She says her side hurts but I can't see anything wrong. I don't know what to do." Carole takes Sarah from him, lowering her onto the couch and half unwrapping the still shaking girl from the duvet. "Right under her rib cage, she says it hurts whenever something touches it."

"Noah, sweetie, she needs a doctor." He was seriously hoping that wasn't the case, he just rubs his hands over his face, because fuck, this is really going to screw them over in the biggest way, but shit, Sarah's more important right. "Let me get dressed, is your mom working? We can call her on the way."

"Mom's not around." He knows he has to tell her, because they'll ask for her at the hospital to deal with Sarah's paper work. "Dad came back and they just-" he shrugs again. "We don't have insurance, Mrs H." He didn't have health insurance, she didn't have health insurance, they didn't have a phone line, didn't have heat half of the month. It just wasn't working all that well anymore.

"Noah, baby, why-" Sarah whines a little and Carole shakes her head, "We'll discuss this at the hospital."

Sarah's appendix burst. She took a kidney infection at the same time, which was why she was puking apparently, but her appendix burst during the night and he's damn lucky that he got her to the hospital when he did, because any later and she might've died. Holy fucking shit, she could have died.

"Why didn't you say something?" Carole sits with him in the waiting area while Sarah's taken to a recovery room. His head is swimming, because this is going to cost literally hundreds and he doesn't have that kind of cash lying around. He doesn't have that kind of cash period.

"What was there to say? Ma just walked out. She just packed a bag and left. She didn't say shit to us. One day, he comes back after eight years, for one day and that's it? It's like those years just never happened, like we haven't had to drag ourselves through all that debt he left us with, like she never hated him at all." He just doesn't know what's so useless about him that neither of his parents wanted to stick around. It had to be him, right? Because his dad left before Sarah was born, and his Ma had always told him how worthless he was. He never figured she'd do it to Sarah.

"You could have come to me for help, Noah."

"You just got married, Carole. You don't need our shit fucking up your life." Carole never reprimands him for swearing, she just sighs like he should know better or something. "You've got your own family to take care of."

"Noah Puckerman, when have you not been family?" Carole is adamant that she's going to help, although he honestly doesn't see how she possibly can, because by now, the hospital will have alerted child services and they're probably a day away from taking Sarah from him too. They still let him into her room, because she's weeping without him and clutching his duvet and Carole just tells them both to get some sleep. Even cramped on a hospital bed with his little sister clinging to him, he hasn't slept as good since his Ma left them.

Child services don't show up the next day, or the day after that. The following day, Sarah's released from the hospital with medication that Puck can't afford and her very first scar. "Look, it's pretty cool, isn't it." It sort of is, in this scary 'almost lost her' kind of way. He's standing at the front doors of the hospital when he remembers that his truck is still at the Hudson-Hummel home because Carole drove them to the emergency room while he tried to comfort his sobbing sister. "Are we going to have to walk home?"

He's about to tell her yes, but it's okay, because he'll carry her, when Mr Hummel pulls up and Carole steps out. "Oh, you've been discharged already? Well, okay then, come on." There really isn't any arguing with her. "Do you two want breakfast?" Sarah answers an affirmative before Puck can say it's okay, and they have stuff for eating at the house, so Burt drives them to Denny's and Sarah starts telling Carole all about her scar and how she's going to be badass just like Noah. He's quiet the whole way through breakfast, which is okay, because Sarah makes up for it all by talking a million miles a minute, and Burt and Carole just look amused.

"I'm going to the bathroom, okay." Puck gives a nod and watches her cross the diner until she steps through into the girl's restroom.

"So," it makes sense that Carole would wait for Sarah to excuse herself, "we've been talking, and we don't want you doing this anymore."


"Neglecting yourself, pushing yourself, Noah, honey, when was the last time you had a full night's sleep? Before Sarah was in hospital." He just shrugs, because there's a lot to do, between school, and football and Sarah and all her activities, and the bills and work and food. He just had to give up something and cutting down to a few hours' sleep was the easiest. "Finn and Kurt said you quit glee." They went to Nationals without him yesterday. He felt like shit, but even if he hadn't quit, it wasn't like he could leave Sarah for the weekend.

"I gotta take care of her. We're all we've got left." Carole just shakes her head and reaches over to take his hand.

"You have us now too."

Apparently, child services were informed that Carole Hudson-Hummel and her husband Burt Hummel were taking over guardianship of Sarah and Noah Puckerman, Puck doesn't know how it works, legally and everything. He's got another nine months before he's eighteen and then he'll be responsible for himself, and he'll probably need to like, take back guardianship or something like that, he really has no idea. Burt paid for Sarah's hospital bill ("I will pay you back, I swear, it'll just take a while." "Don't even think about it kid, I don't want it.") they planned on moving Sarah and Noah into their house and the school were informed of the change in things.

"Kid, where's your stuff?" He's standing with Burt in his bedroom, packing his clothes into a bag.


"You have a desk, a bed and a wardrobe in here. I have two teenage boys at home, I know about the mountains of computer games, the musical instruments, the magazines, the DVDS, the television, the gadgets. Where's yours?" Puck sighs, turning back to his bag.

"Sold it." His Xbox went, his laptop, his guitar, his games, his TV, all of it. "Kinda needed the food more." Puck has a bag of clothes and four pair of shoes to his name. Everything else went on sale. Burt just claps a hand on his shoulder, squeezing slightly and it doesn't feel remotely threatening like he's used to from adult males.

"Kid, you did one hell of a job with that little girl. Don't let anyone tell you differently." Burt and Carole move him and Sarah into their spare room. They take the double bed and furniture out, put Sarah's bed against one wall and his against the opposite wall and two bedside tables go in between. There's only space for one wardrobe, but Puck's clothes only take up the drawers down the bottom and Sarah can use the rest. Sarah, because she's a weird kid, seems strangely excited about sharing a room with him.

"Now, you need to go to bed when I do, cause you can't come in later and wake me up." She sounds all smug about it and Puck just ruffles her hair, cause the kid has logic. Kurt and Finn are in New York with the rest of New Directions and Noah constantly wonders how they're doing and what songs they went with and what their costumes were like. He's a fucking pussy, sure, but he'd kind of been excited about Nationals in New York. But it was such a stupid dream to ever really think he'd get out of this place, even for a weekend.

Puck has to call Sarah's school on Monday to explain why she was absent Thursday and Friday, then he needs to get Carole to explain things to Figgins and his probation officer not to mention the drama that'll be stirred up when they learn that Puck's pretty much been taking care of shit on his own for the last seven weeks. Burt's already said he'll look into what they need to do with his mother's house, since his Ma isn't exactly round to tell him about shit like the mortgage or whatever, Noah doesn't have a clue what it will all entail, he'd just been keeping up with the monthly bills and payments so that they didn't get kicked out.

"Noah, how've you been doing this?" His Ma worked the night shift at the hospital five nights a week, it paid better than an average job because it was the night shift. Puck took a small time file keeping job at the only car dealership in town on Saturday mornings and worked a nine hour shift on Thursday for a construction crew just outside Lima. Tuesdays he spent three hours at Print and Press, pressing the t-shirt designs onto shirts and doing posters for clients. Really, they were only just making ends meet. Puck had already sold everything they could possibly sell, including anything his mother left behind.

"Just, stuff." Carole knows why he quit glee, even though he didn't really want to, knows that he's been blowing off football practice and is pretty close to losing his place on the team because Tuesday's are just hell and it's hard to keep the motivation going.

"What're these?" Sarah's holding up a bag of, what look like, curlers. Which is how Noah finds himself on the floor in the family room, with Sarah between his knees, winding her hair into the curlers so that she can go to school on Monday morning with 'pretty curls' and a 'badass scar'. Although the wound hasn't scarred yet, it's just this ugly looking line on her side with stitches holding it together. He thinks that Sarah considers that to be more badass than the scar she'll have. It's where he's sitting, with half of Sarah's hair wound around the little tubes, when the door opens to Finn and Kurt, who halt in the doorway to just stare. Sarah and Noah both turn their heads to stare back as Carole and Burt come out from the kitchen.

"Boys, you're home. How was New York? How was the competition?" Carole just breezes on through, as if everything is totally normal. Sarah loses interest in staring at Finn and Kurt, elbowing Noah's knee to get him to keep going with her hair.

"What is he doing here?" Apparently Finn is still mad at him, and really, Noah can deal with that. He's been dealing with it since Sectionals last year, so it's not like it's anything new to him. "We lost, we came in twelfth." If they want to place the blame on him, when he wasn't there to fuck anything up and they had three fucking weeks of Berry and her crazy to deal with working whatever they did around him, that is fine. When he quit they hadn't even picked their damn songs or written them or whatever.

"Is there a reason why Puckerman is sitting in our home?" Kurt has his ice bitch down, it's not hard to tell that the boy-diva has his arms crossed over his chest and his hip jutted out to the side and his bitch face on. It's all in the tone when you come down to Kurt. Noah had been a little bit worried about this moment right here, because it probably meant explaining things to Finn and Kurt and sort of hoping it didn't get around school -but with Kurt being Mercedes and Rachel's friend well, that was highly unlikely.

"He's living here. Him and his sister. There a problem with that?" Sarah, the awesome little replica that she's turning out to be, makes a soft whistling sound followed by the noise of an explosion while sitting there in front of Noah and he has to fight to contain the chuckle. "This isn't up for discussion, boys. Carole and I made the decision, you two will have to ask Noah about things, but in the meantime, he and Sarah are staying in the guest room." Burt, scary guy that he is, really is the most epic dude on the planet. And Carole is just as awesome. Noah wonders if the house sometimes gets a little overloaded with the sheer level of their awesome or something.

"Alright, done. Say good night to Mr and Mrs H and get your teeth brushed." Sarah's pulls herself up by leaning on his hands as he pushes out his arms, mostly just to stop her from straining her side where it's wrapped with a bandage. Darting around the couch she hugs Carole's waist and tugs Burt to crouch and she wraps her arms around his neck for a hug before throwing the 'good night' over her shoulder and darting into the guest room that's just beside the kitchen. "Teeth!"

"Fine!" It's another five minutes in the bathroom over the sink and then back into the bedroom. "What are you, a dentist?" Yeah, she's far too much like him.

Problem is, with Sarah gone to bed, Noah's left with a glaring Finn and bitchy looking Kurt and fucking hell this is awkward. He sort of preferred it when they were ignoring him if he's honest. But as much of a pussy as he's been this weekend, he's not about to avoid this with the likes of Hudson and Hummel, so he pulls himself off the floor and moves to walk around the couch. Burt gives him a quick pat on the shoulder and Carole pets the back of his head as they both head into the kitchen to let the teenagers talk.

"What the hell was that?" Finn still asks stupid questions. "Has this got to do with Wednesday night?" Technically it was Thursday morning, but Puck just nods.

"Sarah's appendix burst. She had it removed." He shrugged slightly, having practically forgotten that Kurt and Finn saw him come over with Sarah that night.

"Okay, that explains Wednesday. What are you doing here?" In all the years he's known Finn, Puck tended to never let the other boy know just how strained things were for his family. He didn't let anyone know that his mother was hardly ever around, didn't let anyone know that when she was around she was verbally demeaning, other times she was just drunk. It was pretty easy, all things considered, because Finn's a cool guy and all, but he's dense as a fucking brick some times.

"Ma ditched us." This talking bullshit is going to happen once, and only once, and they had better listen. "Dad showed back up almost two months ago. Stuck around for a day and she just took off with him. So, I stepped up. Sarah wasn't going into foster care. So yeah, I pulled out of glee, but she's always going to come first. Even before football. Sarah comes first." Because he's not his Dad and he's not his Ma and he's not turning his back on her like they did. If he has to drop out of school and get a dead end job in this cow town so that she can get anything she wants, he'll fucking do it, because she's his responsibility now and he's going to fucking prove that he can do this shit.

Finn just snorts and walks away, heading up the stairs while Kurt stays where he is, mostly pensive. "How is she? After the appendix."

"She's okay, thanks. She's weirdly happy about the scar." Kurt actually cracks a smile.

"Guess we know she really is your sister." It's not like he expected Finn to suddenly change his mind, for Finn to stop being pissed at him for yet another thing. It takes Finn a while to get over shit like anger, the hurt feelings and all that. So Puck knows that things aren't going to be good overnight or anything. The fact that Kurt isn't being a bitch? That's just a touch surprising.

"How was New York?" Kurt literally lights up, it's kind of weird and Puck just raises an eyebrow at him. "That good?" He sits in the family room, on the couch, listening to Kurt talk and talk and talk about New York and how amazing it was, just standing on a street and eating breakfast, sneaking into a theatre, being in the city and just living it for a day being the most fantastic thing on the planet by the way he talks about it. It kills him a little that he didn't get to go, because he had been totally stoked for it, and yeah, he had considered the glee club to be 'friends' but shit, that went right out the window though, didn't it.

Burt clears his throat some time later and Noah notices the time. It's a quiet 'night' to Kurt and he's heading towards the guest room (he's not calling it 'his', not yet) when Kurt calls out and stops him. "It's too bad you didn't get to come. Maybe we would've placed higher if we had our badass there." It doesn't sound like Kurt's blaming him, it's not the same tone as Finn used, "Glee isn't the same without you." It gives him something to think about, lying in the still strange bedroom with his sister wheezing to his right. Finn barely even listened to him, Kurt practically drew him a picture about the trip. Kurt actually asked after Sarah.

Yeah, Finn would get over it. Puck had done enough shit over the years and Finn always got over it -although that whole Quinn thing was the biggest and the worst, Finn still got over it eventually. Even if they weren't like they had been, they were talking, sometimes. And Finn took the apology at the football game. So they'd started to get back to at least being friends. Until that day and frankly, Puck's a little pissed that Finn would seriously be mad about Puck picking his sister over glee, when Finn choose football over glee last year. And they weren't even winning shit back then.

He spends too much time thinking about it, to the point where when he does fall asleep, he's woken by his alarm just a few minutes later. He lets Sarah sleep for a while, going for his own shower in the downstairs wash room before waking her up half an hour after. They have more time now, because the Hudson-Hummel house is closer to Sarah's school, so they aren't dragging themselves around but she still needs to get all the curlers out of her hair. She's sitting on the floor in the family room again, eating her toast and staring at the news on the television while Burt is over to the left, drinking a mug of coffee and Noah is taking the curlers out of her hair.

"Sarah, honey, I'm making you a packed lunch, do you like apples?"

"Noah always puts in yoghurt too. I like apples and yoghurt and Oreos." She doesn't even look away from the screen, even as Noah clips in her little clasps to hold her hair away from her face. "Thanks Noe!" It's like she wasn't in agony on Thursday morning with a burst appendix and he's more than a little grateful that she can just brush it all off. For the first time ever, she's the one pulling him out the door, just as Finn descends the stairs with a glare on his face. "C'mon, Noah, you gotta come in and talk to Mrs Grady, cause she had a test on Friday and you gotta make her let me sit it today so I don't fall behind."

He doesn't get to say anything to Finn (although Sarah convinces Mrs Grady to let her sit the test during recess by flashing her bandaged side and pouting), he doesn't even see Kurt, since he arrives late to school which means he gets his own glare from Schue when he walks into Spanish (is it professional for a teacher to glare at a student all because of show choir? Puck doesn't think it is). But he sits through the rest of class, answers the questions that he's asked -because Schue seems to ask him for answers even when he's not raising his hand, and just getting on with it. Finn doesn't even look at him. Realistically, it makes sense that things wouldn't change. It doesn't exactly matter why he quit, all they see is that he did quit. Glee might be a family, but that's only when you're part of glee.

It's not until after lunch that Berry appears beside his locker, looking at him with this really unnerving expression. "You know, when Ruth stopped attending Temple on Saturday nights with you and your sister and Nana, I probably should've noticed that something was wrong." He totally called Hummel not keeping his mouth shut. "What I don't understand is why you never said anything." He can't actually figure out what honestly makes her think he'd share this, why she seriously believes that he'd turn around and start talking about his shit all of a sudden. He never talked about it when his dad first walked out, never talked about his Ma, never talked about giving up Beth, never opened up about juvie. So why would that all suddenly change?

"Seriously?" But Rachel is honest to God serious, she wants to know why he never did the sharing is caring shit with all the little glee kids. "Why the hell would I tell any of you?" Even when he was tight with Finn, he still would've kept it to himself. He's just not the type to share his issues, whatever they are. "What difference would it have made? None, she'd still have walked out and we'd still be pulling it together."

He's not entirely sure, but if Sarah hadn't taken the infection and her appendix hadn't rebelled against them, he's not sure how long he could've gone on without telling anyone. If he had his way, until he was eighteen at least. Then he'd drop out of school, get a full time job and take care of Sarah. He wouldn't walk out on her when things got tough, or make her think any of his mistakes were her fault, she'd get a fucking chance to grow up and move on and not have to deal with this stupid dead end town. He gets that Carole and Burt want to help, the fact that they picked up the bill for Sarah's hospital treatment is more than Puck could've asked for, but they have Finn and Kurt and while Kurt seems to have accepted that Sarah and Noah need somewhere that isn't their mom's debt ridden house to live, Finn hasn't. Puck doesn't expect to be at the Hudson-Hummel house too long, since even he wouldn't force Finn to live with that.

"We're your friends, Noah."

"Yeah? You did a really good job of showing that for the last three weeks." He really can't deal with Berry and her hypocrite dress right then. They go on about being 'friends' and 'family', but Berry spilled the beans about Quinn's baby just to get Finn, knowing that it would screw up the dynamics, then she lied about dating Jesse, then there was the Sam thing with Kurt that caused tension, then there was Quinn and Finn running around behind Sam's back and Santana's scheming. If they were friends then God help their enemies, and glee had to be the most dysfunctional family known to man.

Kurt catches him before the end of the school day, "Hey, um, my car is getting its service done, would you drive me home?" Puck is suitably shocked at Kurt talking to him at school -because Mercedes and Tina are still in the car park and Puck is still scum or something- that he just nods and Kurt climbs up into the passenger side of his truck. He's half way to Sarah's school before he remembers that Kurt is there.

"I need to pick up Sarah first." Kurt just nods, as if he expected it and carries on nodding his head to whatever song in playing on the radio -he's such a pussy that his little sister reprogramed his station since he was always driving her around and she needed to know more than old rock and roll bands and songs, because she was a kid, Noah, and she needed to know things like Beyoncé and Shakira and Avril fucking Lavinge.

"You're in my seat." Sarah stands on the sidewalk, the door open as she stares at Kurt, who is actually sitting in her seat.

"Stop being a brat, Sarah."

"You have to move up." She doesn't give Kurt the option of climbing out and swapping, she just tosses her backpack to the cab floor under the bench and starts climbing in. Kurt has no choice but to shuffle up and sit in the middle. "I passed my test, Mrs Grady said I did really good. No one believed me when I told them about my scar so I had to take my bandage off to show them. It's in my backpack."

"Sarah, the point of the bandage is to keep from getting an infection. Show and tell is not a reason to take it the fuck off." Yeah, he saw a lot of him in her, but God, could she not give him an ulcer before he's twenty? "You can ditch that bandage, but when we get to Carole and Burt's house, into the kitchen for a fresh one, and don't take it off unless you're going for a shower."

"You're so boring."

"And you're such a brat, but I'm bigger than you and you'll need to deal." Noah can see Kurt sitting there, head swinging back and forth like he's watching a tennis game. "You might have to sit out of dance this week kiddo, if you pop those stitches it'll make the vomit fest last week look like a fair ground ride."

"But Noah,"

"Your brother's right, Sarah. If your stitches pop it can cause infection. If that happens you might be stuck in bed for weeks." Sarah hates being sick, cause she's weird and likes going to school. So Kurt's comment makes her shut up for a minute and think about things. Which is good, because usually she'd just argue with Puck until they get in a mood with each other then she'd go do what she wanted until he was proved right and she'd end up with burst stitches and he'd be dealing with a pouting, sore brat.

"Okay, so if I promise to just watch, can I still go? Cause I don't want to miss a new step or something."

"Yeah, you can still go. But no rough housing at Scouts, okay?" So they reach a deal and Noah gives Kurt a nod of thanks.

"I would say it feels wrong, bartering with a child, but she sort of makes it necessary, doesn't she?" Kurt asks, just as Sarah skips into the house and through to the back room to put her school bag away and saying hello to Carole on the way. Finn is sitting in the family room, frowning.

"Why're you in so late?" Puck knows that Finn isn't talking to him, from the fact that Finn is treating Puck like he's invisible or something, Puck gets the message.

"Dad has my car in the garage for its service," as Kurt starts to explain, Noah slips by to see Carole in the kitchen and offers help with whatever she's doing. "I asked Noah for a lift." Puck doesn't miss the way Kurt's started using his name rather than nickname. It's not like he really minds, he stopped caring about that when he started worrying about things like affording water for the month.

"You didn't have to, I would've driven you home."

"I know that Finn, but I asked Noah." Noah stands at the sink, well within earshot of Finn and Kurt's conversation in the family room, while still listening to his sister in what is currently 'their' room, singing along with Miley Cyrus like she always does when she's doing her maths homework, peeling potatoes for Carole while she does whatever with a casserole.

"I'm just saying, you don't need to talk to him, okay? Just ask me and I'll drive you home." Sometimes, Puck wonders why the hell he actually tries to repair his friendship with Finn all the time. Sure he's the one that usually does the stupid shit to muff things up, but things like this? Finn's obliviousness to everything bar himself? Totally sucked ass. Carole just gave his shoulders a squeeze, like she knew her son was being a total douche but not wanting to get in the middle of the boys -he couldn't blame her, because they did this fairly regularly anyway.

"I don't need to do anything, I asked Noah because I wanted to, Finn. Did it ever occur to that not everyone holds a grudge like you?"

"We lost Nationals because of him."

"We lost Nationals because we wrote our songs and choreographed everything the night before our performance." They did what? Seriously? How was Rachel not throwing a fit all week before Nationals? She was near psychotic about preparation for Sectionals and Regionals, Noah couldn't imagine Rachel not being off the wall nuts about Nationals. "And let's not start on you and Rachel making kissy faces on stage." They what? He shares a bit of a surprised look with Carole, apparently she didn't know her son was seeing Rachel again either. "So just stop blaming Noah for something he had no control over."

It's kind of nice having someone stick up for him. He never would've thought it'd be Hummel doing it, but still. Out of anyone he would've thought Santana. People often misjudged their relationship as nothing more than meaningless sex between other partners, but it was a little more complicated than that. Santana would be the only one he'd have figured to back him up eventually because that was just what they did; once she got through the annoyance at him, she'd be in his corner and have his back over all the glee bullshit. But Kurt defending him or sticking up for him or whatever, with Finn? Yeah, he never really saw that coming at all.

Sarah comes out of their room after screeching the end of 'Party in the USA' much to Carole's amusement, she sets the table while telling Noah and Carole all about the test she had and why it was super easy and she's going to be top of the class this year -because when you're top of the class you get to pick what one of the animals your group in class take care of, and Sarah is determined that she will be top of the class in August and she'll be picking the animal and damnit that bunny rabbit is as good as hers. Twenty minutes later and Burt walks in the door just as the casserole comes out of the oven and really, Carole's got this down to a fine art or something, hasn't she.

"Noah," it feels a little weird, sitting at family dinner with the Hudmels, but Carole insisted and Burt just nodded. Sarah is on Puck's right, doing some weird stage whisper that is very bad since no one is actually talking so she is heard perfectly. He still leans over so she can share whatever it is she wants to share, "This is better than yours, so don't be upset okay. I still love you, but Carole should cook and not you." Carole smiles tightly at Sarah, hiding a blush behind a sip of water.

"Okay, I guess I can live with that."

"It's just, you always burn the bottom of it." Which is true, but seriously, the book totally says to put it in for forty-five minutes, and how the hell is he meant to see the bottom of the dish when there's sauce all around it? It's the books fault, the book lies.

"In my defence, Carole has done this longer than me."

"Well, you can practice when I'm not home for dinner." The others are eating quietly, pretending they can't hear the conversation for Sarah's sake, since she seems to think it's some private thing.

"Where are you going that you won't be home for dinner?"

"I'm getting a job, Noah."

"You are, are you?"

"Yes, I've decided that it's not fair to make you be our bread winner, because I don't always want bread. I like it, but it's not my favourite." She spears a carrot to nibble while Noah watches her and wonders where the hell she's been that she's decided this. Burt's averted look and Carole's sheepish expression gives him a clue that maybe they've been talking and not realised that Sarah is around. "So, I'm going to start my career early and we'll have more money and get more than just bread, okay? I'll treat you to waffles."

"That's really thoughtful of you, but I have to ask, what kind of job are you planning on getting?" Kurt and Finn are now trying to be covert in listening in and frankly, Noah's more focused on Sarah and her wild ideas.

"Well, I was thinking that I'd be a doctor, because they get lots of money."

"You need college for that. It'll be a while. The bread might go stale."

"What about a vet? A lawyer? An accountant. Jonah Rosenberg has an accountant father and he's like always got cookies with his lunch. Sometimes, he shares them with me if I ask him nice." Jonah Rosenberg also has a huge crush on Sarah that only a nine year old can really have.

"Yeah, college for all of those kiddo. Tell you what, why don't I keep earning the dough, you go to college and then we'll get waffles?"

"Well, what job can I get now?"

"You can work seasonal stuff."

"What's that mean?"

"You work in December as an elf for Santa."

"Ew, I'm not working for that old perv. You're just going to have to wait for your waffles." Sarah closes the conversation by jamming her fork into a piece of lamb and spraying the sauce from the dish over herself, Puck and the table. "Oops." But at least it gets Carole and Burt talking to Kurt and Finn about school and Puck can just quietly poke Sarah until she eats all her vegetables.

"Mr Hummel, can I please watch The Avengers on the television?" Burt gives her a nod and pats her head while Noah clears the table. "Thank you for dinner Mrs Hummel, it was super yummy." She actually cleared her plate.

"You know," Carole lingers in the kitchen with him, "I don't remember her being so polite."

"Yeah, I dunno where she gets it from." He wasn't overly polite as a child either, mostly because he didn't know Finn until he was five and by that time neither his mother or his father had really taught him manners. They were too busy working or arguing or yelling at him to instil any of that in him. He learned stuff like 'please' and 'thank you' and not sticking out his tongue from Mrs H after he met Finn. The last couple of years, while his Ma had been working more and drinking more and ignoring them more, well, he tried to keep Sarah from being another punk brat like him.

"I know," Carole puts a hand on his elbow, giving a small squeeze in support. "You're doing really well, Noah. She adores you, you are trying so very hard and I can see it. She's doing so well and it's down to you. But you don't have to do it on your own, okay? We want to help." Noah nods although he's not sure if he'll be able to depend on that. Because what if he does start to rely on the Hudmels? What if he lets himself get complacent with Sarah and then she resents him and then they kick him out like the inevitably will and he's trying to work forward from even further back. No, he can't let that happen. It's a forge forward job this parenting thing so he'll just keep going and be grateful to Carole and Burt for as long as they put up with him.

Him and Sarah just carry on with things; Tuesday is met with the usual rushing around even with Sarah not participating with dance, Puck is late back to practice thanks to having to explain to Sarah's dance teacher about the surgery last week and what happened and how it affects Sarah. She's mostly understanding and Puck has to rush back to at least have a point in being at practice -Beiste isn't impressed at all. Finn just carries on glaring at him. They drag themselves into the Hudmel home late that night and Sarah goes straight to the kitchen to find left over dinner waiting. She's practically starving so Noah gives her half of his as well before she goes to do her homework and he cleans up the mess.

"Where've you two been?" Burt doesn't make it sound like an accusation, it's just a question.

"Sarah was at girl scouts, I had work." He gives a shrug, because it's not the best job, but it's a partial wage, if he could work more hours at Print and Press he would. "Oh, Sarah usually goes to our Nana's on Thursday, so she won't need fed and I'll be working so, we won't need dinner or anything." Burt watches him clean up the dishes, sipping on a beer and just standing there. "I um, I'll be kind of late coming in." It was usually midnight that snuck Sarah out of Nana Connie's nursing home and drove home with her already sleeping. But half three through to half eleven putting up dry wall and installing windows was better than nothing since that was what mostly paid their bills.

"Kid, where do you work?"

"When?" Because there are the three different jobs. Burt just raises an eyebrow. "Tuesday's it's Print and Press, Thursday's it's with Porter Construction and Saturday is down at the dealership in the filing." Every now and then, if Sarah had a friend she could stay with, he'd pick something up with the construction crew on Friday or Monday, but most of the time he was a little limited. He sort of owes Mr Porter a huge favour since the guy didn't complain at all when Puck called to tell him that his little sister was in hospital and that he'd miss work last week.

"Damn kid, you're gonna end up working yourself into an early grave." Puck can't answer back because Sarah comes in, tired and sullen and stuck on a homework question. So Noah helps her out then gets her bundled up for bed and looks over her homework before starting on his own. He's collapsing in his own bed an hour and a half later, dreading the next morning and getting Sarah to move.

Wednesday is as difficult as always, having to practically push Sarah into her shower and routinely go back to get her moving, Noah gets her lunch packed and her back pack sorted for her. She's still a little asleep when Noah sits her on the kitchen table, her shirt pulled up so he can wrap the bandage around her side to keep the gauze over her wound clean. "Noah, I don't wanna go to dance today."

"Why not?"

"Cause my side hurts too much. Can we just come home?" It's not like Noah has glee or anything anyway. So he just nods and tells her he'll pick her up after school. They get all the way through the week, with soft ball for Sarah and Noah flitting between work and community service on Saturday before meeting Nana for Temple. When Sunday hits and the Hudmel clan go off to do something together, Noah and Sarah end up sprawled along one of the sofas in their PJ's, watching Two and a Half Men reruns from before Charlie Sheen got crazy. Noah doesn't really know when it happens, but he and Sarah end up falling asleep; him stretched out with her in front of him, both of them using his arm for a pillow. He starts to wake up when the front door closes.

"Shh, let them sleep."

"But mom, they're taking up a whole sofa."

"Finn, don't start."


"Shut up, they're sleeping. Jeez, not everyone gets a full night sleep every night like you. In case you didn't notice Noah's been run ragged this week."


He's half coherent, can half tell that Finn and Kurt are over by the bottom of the stairs and hear the quiet murmur of Carole and Burt in the kitchen. He does sort of want to get up, but he's comfortable, and drained, and Sarah is resting on him anyway so he doesn't want to wake her.

"Are you that blind? Have you not noticed how often he's running around after Sarah? He cleans up after dinner when we never do. He works until midnight on Thursday, he drives all over town every day. You seriously don't notice?"

"I've, no. I sort of just,"

"Ignore him. Yeah. Probably not helping either Finn." Kurt shuffles up the stairs, almost quietly and Noah can hear Finn standing around, moving from foot to foot before sighing and heading up the stairs himself. It makes him stop and wonder a little, with Kurt. Just how much Kurt sees or just how closely Kurt is watching. And if Kurt's seen it, so has Carole. Tomorrow will mark nine weeks since he's seen or heard from his mother, since he's been solely responsible for his nine year old sister, since he's been slowly but surely falling the fuck apart. He ends up falling asleep again and doesn't wake up until Burt lifts Sarah out of his arms and he's startled by how sudden it is.

"It's okay, Burt's just putting her to bed." He sits up, running a hand through his mohawk and popping the tension out of his back with a yawn. He shouldn't really be tired, but he's just so exhausted that he is. Carole sits down beside him, placing a mug of tea in his hands as she does and Noah doesn't refuse it.

"Burt and I have been talking, we're concerned about you, sweetie." Even when Carole calls him that, or honey, he doesn't exactly feel babied. It's weird. His mother never used those kind of names, nothing but their names or something a little more derogatory. But Carole throws them around, with feeling behind them too. It's not like she just calls everyone 'sweetie' it's just that she means it. "All this running around, all this working. It's not good for you Noah." Burt comes back in, sitting on the edge of the seat across from him and Carole.

"There's a place at the garage, if you want it. Nothing heavy, just a few shifts a week, working on the weekend, that kind of thing. It'll be the same as any other employee. And you'll be able to come in at a decent time." It would mean not driving all the way from Ada every Thursday night, save him some money on gas. It would be a big help all things considered.

"And on Tuesday's, I'll take Sarah to her dance class, you don't have to miss out of football practice." Noah frowns at Carole, because he didn't realise she was on to him there. "Finn told me. He said you've got weird habits, leaving school just to come back ten minutes later. Sarah talks rather feverently about her dancing." She freaking loves it. He sold his Xbox and his guitar just so that she could keep her place for the year. She's determined to be the next Brittany Pierce, which is kind of okay with him so long as she keeps her brains about her.

"We want to help, kid. This isn't just another place where you can run yourself into the dirt. We're trying to help you deal with this." He stares at his tea for a while, letting it sink in. Carole has always been this amazing woman, she's put up with a lot of stuff, from Finn, from him, from both of them being idiots. And Burt is pretty much the most epic guy to ever walk the planet or something. Seriously, how the house still stands around their awesome is still a mystery to Noah (even Kurt is a little awesome but Noah's nowhere near admitting that out loud).

"Yeah," he nods his head, sighing a little, "thanks. I'm just, I'm kinda used to just doing it myself now, you know?"

"I sort of guessed that when the groceries just appeared on Wednesday." Carole runs her hand down the back of his 'hawk, "And you don't need to do that, okay?"

"No, I mean, Sarah eats like a lot, and you're already putting us up. I'll help out." He doesn't want to feel like a burden, or like he's taking charity, because it doesn't sit right with him. It's not an ego thing or a pride thing, it just never really feels right. "Besides, working at Mr H's place means less money on gas, so it's just food, okay." He refuses to not put something in when they're both giving him and Sarah so much.

He honestly isn't surprised at how much Sarah loves staying with the Hudmel's. He's not even surprised when it turns out to be pretty easy going either. Burt starts teaching him about cars, he ends up showing Carole some kosher recipes that Kurt happens to approve of for Burt's heart condition and health, Kurt starts teaching Sarah about make-up and fashion and stuff. Noah's surprised when she actually goes to school in a dress one day. "What're you turning my sister into?"

"A fashion conscious nine year old."

"Could you stop? I like my mini-badass the way she is." But she's still this mini-badass in a dress, because she comes home that day with her chucks all muddy, one sock around her ankle and the other up her knee and her dress with a big round muddy print on it.

"Alex Wilson sucks at soccer."

It takes Finn a further two weeks to get his head around everything. Noah's sitting in what he's starting to really consider his room -shared with Sarah, working on his essay for English, because school finishes up in a week and a half, when Finn knocks hesitantly to come in. Noah just looks up from the desk, pen falling from his grip as he turns in the chair to watch Finn stand by the door, shifting from foot to foot. Puck thinks that raising his eyebrows in question is enough to prompt Finn to go on, but it doesn't seem to be, since he scratches the back of his head, opens his mouth and then shuts it again and Noah just sighs before turning back to his paper.

Normally, he'd give Finn a pass. Whenever this shit came up in the past he'd just give Finn a pat on the back and tell him it was no big deal. But their junior year ends next week and Finn barely even acknowledges Puck's presence in the halls. For six weeks, nothing. So it's a bit of a big deal because Finn wasn't even this bad when Puck knocked up Quinn. Noah just goes back to writing and Finn still stands there.

"Okay, you're getting on my nerves, what?" He doesn't turn around, just sits there waiting for Finn to finally work up the steam to say his piece.

"I'm kind of annoyed at you." Puck actually snorts on a laugh, because no shit. "You just left glee and I didn't know why and everyone was asking me what it was you were doing and I had no clue. You never tell me stuff anymore." Is it really that big a surprise? "And this was huge, I mean, your mom. It's like, huge and you never came to me or anything."

"Dude, you can't keep your mouth shut. I came to you, you'd tell Rachel or Quinn, they'd tell everyone else, Schue would expect me to go talk to Miss P, Sarah'd be in some foster home somewhere and I'd be drinking myself stupid just like them. So yeah, I kept it quiet because I wanted to keep my shit as mine." He didn't need the entire school knowing about this bullshit.

"I wouldn't tell them that. That's like, bro stuff."

"Finn, how did Quinn find out about Mrs Campbell?" Puck had known Finn long enough to know that he forgot stuff pretty easy. It wasn't that he didn't listen or didn't care, it was just that he had a really shit memory and his attention span was almost as short as Britt's. So playing 'clue by four' was sometimes the only way to get the point across. That and being really fucking blunt.

"Um, wasn't she the first married woman you slept with?"

"Yup, first cougar, just after we started Freshman year. How'd Quinn find out about me banging her after cleaning her pool?" Mrs Campbell was one of those bored and lonely trophy wives that sat around her big house all day while her husband was out at his law firm or accountants firm or whatever. He'd been cleaning pools since he was thirteen, and two months after he turned fifteen Mrs Campbell became his first 'pool client'. Naturally he'd told Finn, during one of their PlayStation gaming sessions.

"Um, I told her?" Puck just nodded, because by the Monday following the Thursday he told Finn, everyone knew that Puck was banging cougars, Jack Campbell had given Puck a black eye and Quinn was trying to get Finn to stop hanging around Puck -Quinn got over that when Puck made a deal with Santana that meant every cheerleader was hitting on Finn because Puck wasn't around. "Oh."

"Yeah. You hook up with chicks that are firm believers in 'sharing everything makes our relationship work' which basically translates to them being nosy little bitches."

"Hey, it's not like that."

"Really, so you telling them what you're thinking makes the relationship better?" Puck knew it didn't, because any time Lauren had asked him that and he had answered she got in a huff because his answer wasn't the right one or something. Puck knew Quinn was worse, because there were answers she wanted to hear and anything other than that was wrong. "Why the hell should they care what the fuck we talk about? Or what you did after school?" What Puck hated was the double standards the girls preached. They wanted to know everything; there were no secrets, share your feelings, listen to them talk, give them all the compliments they needed. But if you asked just once 'what was that about' when they stand giggling with their girlfriends, you're being possessive and over bearing and they need space.

Seriously, this was why he didn't do relationships.

"Well, I won't. I mean, I won't tell Quinn. We're sort of not talking just now, because I broke up with her, but I promise not to tell Rachel either. I'm sort of seeing her again, but just until next summer. She says our relationship has to have the expiration date." Puck knew for a fact that he was staring, mouth half open, because -well, what?

"You broke up with Quinn?" Finn nodded. "And hooked up with Rach again?" He nodded again. "But you both know you're going to break up again?" Puck had found out that Finn had kissed Rachel at Nationals, but that was all. He didn't know they'd hooked up again.

"Yeah, you kind of missed a lot."

"Whose fault was that?" It was the sheepish duck of his head and the way he ran a hand over the back of his neck with the quiet 'Yeah', Puck didn't care enough to draw it out to make Finn feel bad or whatever. So they sat in the room, catching up on everything that happened in glee and what the hell was going on with Finn's relationships.

"You can just do that?" Kurt asks him the following day, after dinner and both Puck and Finn have been acting like the last five weeks hadn't happened the way they had. "You can just pretend he didn't shut you out?" Puck just shrugs.

"Well, I have done some fucked up shit to him too." Like getting his girlfriend pregnant, making out with the next one, pretty much their whole Freshman year being a cockblock. It's not like Puck really has the room to be an ass about this. "It's like when you and Mercedes bitch about clothes, you take a break and then brush it off."

"Yes, but when we do that we don't take a break for three weeks and pretty much tell every one of our friends that they have to choose one or the other."

"What?" Noah wasn't sure what that meant, really. He knew that Finn did some really weird stuff when they had their 'spats' as his mother used to call them, but his stuff was always way less attention grabbing than Puck's so it had never really been brought up. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Look, Finn is my step-brother, and he's a great guy and everything. But when you quit glee he pretty much delivered the ultimatum that we were either in glee and his friends, or your friend and not part of glee." Suddenly there was a whole lot more behind Artie's 'glee sticks together' comment -although Puck was pretty sure that was still a dig at him.

"Wait so, I was actually phased out?" He wasn't about to admit it to anyone really, but it had sort of stung at the time that not one of them had even tried to talk to him. He had sort of expected the anger from Santana at first, and then she'd cool down and call him a pussy after climbing into his room one night and totally commandeering his television to watch Jersey Shore even though she hated it. Or Quinn to do that annoying but somewhat endearing in a really underhanded kind of way comforting thing she tried to do; like when she tried to find out the problem and fix it, even if she was part of the problem herself. Not even Rachel got her nose in there. Mike and Sam just rolling with it was just a little brutal, because he not only got stone walled in the hallway but in football too, which sucked.

"Yeah, sorry, but at that point-"

"Nationals, I know."

"You should let us tell them."

"You've already told Aretha and Berry. Are you telling me they haven't told the rest of glee yet?"

"We are capable of keeping a secret for a few weeks, you know. But really, if they knew, well, you'd be surprised as how many of us were irritated with Finn's little power play." So, Puck just says whatever and tells Kurt to tell whoever. It can't be that bad, right? What was the worst that could happen?

The answer to that came first thing in the morning when Santana slapped him, called him an idiot and then hugged him in front of the entire student body -or just the ones in the hall at the time. Her change in moods were horrifyingly sudden these days. "God, you are such an idiot, what the fuck is wrong with you?" Out of everyone, Santana knows the most about his home life. She was the only person he never worried about because she understood it all just as well. Lime Heights Adjacent was just as bad as Lima Heights. "Why the fuck wouldn't you come to me? No, never mind, you wouldn't go to anyone you're so thick skulled. How's the kid doing? She need her Auntie San?"

The first time Santana had met Sarah, it surprised Puck just how well San got on with the girl -who had been six at the time. But Santana was around so much that first year that Sarah just took to calling her Auntie San. It was a little weird, but totally better than Sarah adopting San as a surrogate sister. And that's sort of okay, because Santana is just as badass as him and Sarah isn't learning all that chick flick stuff like if she was spending time around Rachel all the time. Santana promises to take Sarah out at the weekend, just them girls and Puck's pretty sure that Sarah will flip when she finds out. Sarah particularly idolises Santana's style, so Puck gives San a hundred bucks he's got and tells her not to go crazy on one thing and try spread it out. It means Sarah will have her summer shit and he won't need to go shopping with her for a while.

The rest of the day makes him hate Finn a little if he's honest. Because after Santana's little display (and apparently she didn't ignore him because of Finn's ultimatum, but because he was a douche and just left her with those losers -the ones she secretly likes) the rest of the club just sort of breaks formation. Mike and Sam ask him if he wants to come over for a video game night, Quinn offers him babysitting services, because Sarah sort of likes Quinn from when she lived with them, Lauren tries to apologise but Puck's just a little over that whole shit and he doesn't really care when she tells him she's quitting glee anyway.

Artie makes him realise just what kind of position Finn put these guys in, when he wheels up with Tina, looking just a little like he did when Puck heard about him and Brittany splitting up. "Hey, um, I know that we've missed a lot, but I was just, I mean, if you want, I'll help you with geometry." Now, Puck might not be the sharpest tool in the box, or y'know, all that good at reading people and how they feel and being sensitive or whatever. But it's plain to see that Artie feels like shit about ditching Puck and his academic studies when he knew how serious they were.

"That's cool, but I've sat all my geometry tests. I scrapped a pass grade." Artie just nods and Tina glares at him a little but hardly with any feeling behind it. "But you're good at the computer shit, right?" It's an olive branch. Yeah, Artie left him up a creak without a paddle when all he had to say was 'Finn doesn't want us hanging out with you' and Puck could've worked the study shit around that. He's fucking Puck for Christ sake, he could make it work. But the final computing exam for the year is coming up and even though Puck's dropping the class next year, he still needs to get a passing grade or he's fucked. Cramming sessions with Artie for two days? Totally might be the only way to save his ass.

"See, not as alone as you think." Kurt's being all smug in the kitchen, and Puck knows that it's not Kurt's fault, but ever since Sam and Mike sort of insinuated that he was welcome to their weekly game night again, Puck's been sort of holding back the anger.

"Yeah, you know what would've been great though? Knowing that five weeks ago." He grabs an apple and just leaves the room, going into his and Sarah's room and sprawling out over his bed. He's seriously pissed at Finn, and a little pissed at them too. Sure, they needed to not lose anyone else before Nationals, but the fact that they all seriously just cut him the hell out based on Finn's little diva moment. It fucking sucks. It was easier just believing that not one of them cared enough rather than knowing, once again, he came second to Finn fucking Hudson. And yeah, sometimes he's a complete asshole, but seriously, it's not like Finn's a fucking saint. There's a reason why they've been friends since they were kids.

"Okay, I'm sorry to just barge in," the fact that Kurt did just barge in sort of means he's not sorry at all, "but what the hell?"

Puck doesn't like having these moments, not at all. When he was nine and still getting through not having a dad, dealing with a baby sister and his mom calling him stupid names all the time, he had one break down in front of Finn that didn't really go all that well. He hates showing weakness for the sole reason that people don't expect it of him. It's like they believe he's just this hollow shell, that he doesn't care about anything, that things don't chip away, like rejection after rejection after rejection doesn't hurt. And Finn's constant echoing of 'I thought you didn't care' just always cemented that. Because if his best friend thought that, at age nine, then the whole world just sort of followed, didn't they.

"You think it's easy raising a fucking kid? All that bullshit people spewed about Beth, and why giving her up was for the best, and how I couldn't give her the life she deserved. Did any single one of you even think that I've already been raising a fucking kid? The support and the friendship and all that stupid 'lean on me' crap that was out there for Finn and Quinn, when we're trying to help make things easier for you, when everyone is in everyone else's business and trying to help each other and not one of you notice that I'm fucking raising my little sister and working myself to exhaustion and trying not to fuck up at school and keeping up the God damn pretence that everything is okay when it isn't?" Kurt's just staring at him, like he's some other person or whatever. "Everyone constantly asks you if you're okay. They bent over backwards for Quinn, even when the truth came out. But," seriously, if Kurt tells anyone about this, Puck will have to kill himself. "I'd just really like to know if it's some stupid sense of duty, if I'm really that invisible that no one fucking noticed or if I should be the one going after Rachel's insane Broadway dream."

It's stupid, he sort of gets that. Because he's always put up the front that he can deal with these things, that he doesn't need help. Once in a while, Santana calls him on his bullshit and tries to help -but even that usually just leads them to bed, or a wall, or his truck, or the locker rooms. Finn's just oblivious to everything but his own world, he doesn't notice anything if it's not connected back to him so it's not really as if Noah ever really expected Finn to figure out that anything was wrong. But honestly, he'd been willing to answer the question, if one of them had just asked, just once, 'What's wrong?'. It just never came.

He doesn't hear anything out of Kurt and Puck just can't take it. He gets up, uses both hands on Kurt's shoulders to push him out of the room and then closes the door. He's got an hour before Carole comes home with Sarah so he can wallow for a while and not have to pretend that it doesn't hurt. Eventually it won't, that's what he's aiming for.

By the time dinner comes around, he's back to usual, the façade in place and his usual banter with Sarah blending everything until he forgets that he cares, because he doesn't need anyone and that's fine. Sarah does flip when he tells her that Santana's picking her up on Saturday morning if she's okay with missing soft ball this week. "Are you kidding? I'd give up soft ball. Well, maybe not give it up, but I'd totally move it to another day if San wanted to do it every weekend. Do you think she'll want to do it every weekend? Can I just always go shopping with Santana?"

"No, I don't have that much money."

"How do you have money? I mean, you're not still doing the 'pool cleaning' thing, right?" Finn and his big mouth, strike again. Sarah looks at him weird before turning in her seat as he continues eating, ignoring Finn's question and Kurt's elbow that just jammed into Finn's ribs.

"You know how when you're talking about Rachel and you do those finger quote things, that's when you're saying one thing but meaning another thing? And how Finn just did the finger quote thing. Is pool cleaning not really pool cleaning, cause you used to clean our pool and it looked exactly like pool cleaning." Thank God his sister isn't that savvy yet.

"Pool cleaning is just pool cleaning and Finn is just an idiot." Sarah completely accepts that, even though Noah definitely feels Carole and Burt watching him. He wonders if he's under estimated Finn or something, if somehow Finn is actually some manipulative genius who works hard to portray this dense, douche of an idiot when really he's just plotting the slow and painful demise of everyone around him. It's scary how much it could make sense and just how plausible it is, especially when he pulls these moves. But honestly, Noah would hope that he would've noticed that shit years ago if it were the case.

Sarah darts off when she finishes, her new routine being to sit on the sofa with her glass of milk and watch the cartoon Avengers kick ass until Noah takes her next weekend to see the new Avengers movies (his sister being a comic book geek only makes him decide that she's not allow to meet Sam, just in case she decides to crush on him more than she crushes on Brittany). His routine is simply to wash the dishes and clear up after dinner, something that Kurt once tried to muscle in on and was promptly kicked out of the kitchen, because Noah needsit, to feel like he's at least giving something back. Except everyone doesn't leave after dinner like they usually do. Kurt and Finn do, although Kurt sends this look over his shoulder to Noah as he starts filling the sink with hot water and washing up liquid. He can feel the trepidation building at the back of his neck, the way his shoulders slowly start to tense, like he's just waiting for a fight to break out.

"Noah, sweetie, what did Finn mean by the pool cleaning comment?" He wonders again if Finn really is some kind of genius douche or not, even as he sighs and lowers the dishes into the water.

"It's nothing, Mrs H. Just some bullshit from last year." And the year before that.

"Don't you lie to me," Carole stands up and moves to stand beside him, her hand resting on his elbow while he stops what he's doing. "What did it mean?" It's impossible to really lie to them, because they fucking care and he doesn't want to have to lie at all, but Sarah's in the other room and he can hear Kurt and Finn on the stairs, even if they're trying to be quiet or whatever.

"I used to clean pools during the season. Sometimes it was more than cleaning the pool." For every five pools that he cleaned he probably 'serviced' three clients. Of course, people found out when Finn told Quinn and then Quinn told everyone, but the cougars were fairly discrete -they had to be, since most of them were married and all of them were aware that he was underage.

"Noah," Carole has this way of saying his name -kind of like Berry does, it just conveys everything in that one word.

"I slept with them for money, sometimes, occasionally. It was just to pay some bills and it wasn't like we could afford not to. It stopped after juvie though, I don't do that anymore. I don't." He literally hated the way Carole looked at him, the way it actually made him feel like dirt, like he was just the prostitute he'd basically let himself be for two years, all under the pretence of banging sex with hot ass older women.

"But, you, sweetie, you're too young." It was a relief that she didn't honestly mean to look at him like that, that it was probably the situation or whatever, but Puck just shrugged. "Mrs Wright? Mrs Oldman? Oh, do not tell me that Mrs Jones ever-"

"No, no. And no." There were a certain breed of cougars that paid him for sex, Carole's close knit group weren't like that. "It was, it was the- God, it was the well-off ones, you know? Trophy wives and stuff? The ones that had the big houses and the big money and the fake smiles? Oh, and Mr Campbell." He's actually feeling so low that he just fires it out like it'll make any difference. What does it matter anyway? When Burt and Carole find out all the shit he's done, all the shit that makes him the total ass that he is, they'll throw him out anyway, hopefully they'll keep Sarah so he doesn't fuck her up like he's fucked himself up and that'll be better for everyone.

But even while he's thinking it, Carole's wrapping her arms around his shoulders and pulling him to rest his head on her shoulder while she clung to him tightly. He needs to stop letting his past cloud his judgements of these two amazing people, because Carole has been nothing but great to him, for years, even when he was being a little jerk-off. It didn't matter if she was offering this attempt at solace, Puck wasn't about to break and cry, not over the choices he'd made, not over the decisions he'd come to in order to make things work. The first time, with Mrs Campbell, it had simply been getting off. It'd been pretty cool and everything because she was pretty hot, and kind of young, and just bored. It was a rush. But when Mrs O'Neal came onto him, she slipped him an extra hundred, for 'services rendered' she said. Sure, it hadn't exactly been what he'd expected, but when Mrs O'Neal told him she'd recommended him to some of her friends, it was more work, right? And then they'd came onto him, and that was an extra hundred each time. So what, he banged cougars and got money, and yeah, it was prostitution but they didn't need to pick between water or heating, they could get a full grocery run, so he just kept doing it.

"No more of that, okay? None." Noah just nods against Carole's shoulder, and he wasn't really doing it anyway. Mr Campbell -the other half of Mrs Campbell, had freaked him right the hell out, and shortly after that he'd gotten drunk, drove into the store wall, had the ATM stuck in his windshield and then decked what he later found out was an off-duty cop. After that, he didn't really need 'underage prostitution' added onto his rap sheet.

"I promise." Besides, he'd sort of started being decent friends with Berry after juvie, and she was all about that 'respecting himself' bullshit when he started dating Lauren and Rachel totally didn't approve of that somewhat masochistic relationship. Burt gives him this nod, telling him he starts in the garage on Monday, to come over after school and then they both let him get on with the dishes and think things through. He's just finishing up with Kurt sneaks back into the kitchen to sit at the table and watch him. Noah knows that he's there, but neither of them say anything at first. It's weird that he feels pretty much at ease with Kurt now, there's no tension or thick awkwardness over their history. It's just completely easy.

"Do you think he does it on purpose?" Noah leans against the sink, turning to look at Kurt, just sitting at the table quietly. "Like, does he think about the shit he says before he says it, or is it just some kind of word vomit?" It had been playing over in his mind, if Finn really understood what the hell he was saying. There were plenty of times when people Puck counted as friends called him a whore; Finn, Santana, Quinn, Mike, Rachel did it once when she was pissed off at him. Most people just seemed to attach those terms to him. Loser, whore, idiot, fuck-up. That was what he was, no one saw anything else.

"I think that sometimes Finn doesn't think before he speaks, he doesn't realise that what he's saying will hurt someone." Puck had heard about the things Finn had said the first time Burt and Carole tried to move in together, when they had their Gaga and Kiss week in glee. Really, if anyone understood just how bad Finn could be with his brain to mouth filter, it would probably be Berry and Hummel. "But every now and then, I wonder." Oh good, it wasn't just him. "He seems to, maybe subconsciously, just fixate on things." Noah wasn't sure what that meant, not really, beyond the fact that Kurt suggested that it wasn't purposely done, but like, some knee jerk reaction.

"What're you saying?" Kurt got up from the table, grabbing Noah's wrist and pulling him into the bedroom. A year ago, Noah would've kicked up a fuss about being dragged anywhere, two years ago, he wouldn't have been in the same area code as Hummel if he could avoid it. Weird how things changed.

"Here's the thing," Noah realised that they were doing this in here because Kurt was about to let the bitch out and Finn was going to get trashed. Usually, since Finn was his bro and all, he wouldn't be down with that. But there was some weird curiosity going on where he really wanted to know what Kurt honestly thought, now that his crush was like, dead and gone. "You living here? It cramps with Finn's style. Finn isn't used to sharing the space -with me, it's not so bad, I'm a glorified girl."

"Dude, don't-"

"No, really, it's true. In Finn's mind, I'm not competition for whatever. I'm effeminate, I like shopping and fashion, I dance and sing, I talk about hair with Carole and gossip with Mercedes. I'm not a guy's guy." Noah was half frowning at this, because sure, it made some kind of sense, but he didn't really get why that made Kurt some sort of non-competition. "But you, well, you play football, just like Finn. You date girls, just like Finn. You play video games, just like Finn. You can talk sports with my dad, you butter up Carole just by listening to her talk about 'boring' stuff Finn doesn't care about. The fact that you want to work, that you struggle with Sarah but never complain, that you just have this whole other side that no one really saw." Noah starts to feel a little awkward, sitting on his bed listening to Kurt rhyme this all off. "Finn's threatened, he's like the alpha male getting bumped out of the pride by this new, better alpha, and he's feeling hostile. So he tries to cut you down without realising it."

And that, right there, that doesn't make sense. Because everyone likes Finn, he's Finn. He's the nice boy that helps little old ladies across the street, he's the dopey kid that tries to bake cupcakes in Home Ec and makes the microwave explode. He's the guy girls want to take home, the one they want to date, the one that even gay kids crush on. When it came down to it, everyone picked Finn, so what the hell was he worried about? Especially when it was his mom and step-dad. Did he seriously think he had to make Puck feel like shit in front of his little sister just to know that Carole and Burt were never going to like Puck more than Finn?

"This is so messed up." And he wasn't sure he understood it either; yeah, Puck had slept with Quinn and knocked her up, but he'd been trying to make up for that whole thing since it happened. He was willing to let Quinn lie about his daughter, he went weeks, months even, without seeing the sonogram that Finn fucking sang to. It was total bullshit, but he'd been willing if that was what they wanted, if Finn really wanted the little girl. It killed him a little at the time. "I can't even be a douche about this."

"Why not?"

"Because it's his family. Fucking hell. If it was a girl it'd be easy, but his mom and your dad, he's seriously threatened by that shit?" He sort of wonders what Finn would do if Burt or Carole weren't as great as they were, if he was kicked out because of Finn's little dig. He'd be homeless and jobless and really fucked over and did Finn even think about that? It was just as well that the combined forces of Hudson and Hummel made for world class epic or some shit like that.

"Can I ask you something?" Noah is a little busy staring at his ceiling and trying to figure out where this aspect of Finn came from and why he was only just noticing it and if every little thing he'd ever done was going to be aired in front of Burt and Carole just to make Finn feel better about himself. So he just grunted in response to Kurt, giving him the go ahead for whatever question. "Mr Campbell?"

"You heard that, huh?" He totally knew that they were sitting listening, which meant it might be a few days before everyone at school knew if this little vindictive streak in Finn spread over to school. "There's not a lot to tell. Dude offered me three hundred to suck his cock, Ma had drunk her entire pay check that month so it wasn't like I could pass up three hundred." Kurt just stares at him, and yeah, Puck knows that he's scum, thanks very much. "Got four when he fucked me." He figures the ground will open up and swallow him some time soon.

He feels the bed dip as Kurt kneels beside him, hand reaching out somewhat cautiously before running over his mohawk. Noah just sighs, because he's not supposed to want comfort for the shit he's done, he's not meant to even care. But he does; he wants someone, anyone, to know that he doesn't do this shit for love of it, he doesn't constantly screw up because it's who he is, he just needs someone to look at him and see more than just his mistakes. He never imagined Kurt Hummel would be that person.

"When did you break without us noticing?" Kurt whispers it, not really a question and Puck snorts slightly, turning his head towards Kurt.

"When I was nine," before any of them really knew him, "when my dad stopped trying and my mom blamed me." Kurt just keeps stroking his hand over Noah's hair, not really talking, but comforting all the same.

For a few weeks, it feels like that's it, that's all his secrets out. School finishes for the summer, Finn spends a lot of his time with Rachel, Kurt divides time between Blaine, Mercedes and him, Sarah spends a lot of time with Jenna at the park -because they made up after the stupid boy said he liked both of them, but couldn't pick, so Jenna and Sarah picked for him. She goes out with Santana and Brittany sometimes too, which he thinks keeps her from feeling too much like a prisoner or something.

When Sam and Mercedes break up during the summer, Kurt and Puck are on ice cream duty with her in the Hudmel kitchen. When Quinn's dad shows up, Puck's the one at her house with her and her mom, boarding up the broken door while Quinn sobs into his back. When Rachel and Finn break up for the first time during the summer, Finn goes to Mike's, Rachel comes to Kurt's and Puck has his first ever 'girls night' -it doesn't suck. So when Blaine breaks it off with Kurt, Noah just happens to be the shoulder that Kurt sobs on while Mercedes and Rachel sit at the end of Kurt's bed and pretty much trash the guy. Noah's whole contribution to the night is to sit there and let Kurt sob on him, running his hand over Kurt's back all the while.

It takes Kurt a week to actually smile, it took him three days to care about his hair. And by the time Brittany throws a party in the middle of summer, Kurt's bounced back quite well. "What do you mean, you're not coming, you have to come. Even Rachel is going." Puck hasn't done the 'party' stuff since Juvie, and even though he's finished his community service and is officially off probation, he's still a little underwhelmed by the whole thing. Kurt doesn't take no for an answer -Finn did, and almost drags Puck out. They get to Brittany's and Puck takes Kurt's keys to the navigator, he's planning on not drinking, because Sarah needs picked up from Mrs Riley's tomorrow and Noah always does it, he's not going to miss it.

He takes the beer from Santana and passes it over to Mike in the kitchen, getting himself a soda from the fridge while he's there. It's Britt's party, so it's automatically an awesome one; she's got the big house, the pool in the yard, the booze around the kitchen, the social standing that means every kid in Lima is there. Glee sort of hangs around the kitchen and patio, drinking slowly and chatting quietly while the music blasts inside and Britt flounces from inside to out and back again to make sure none of her mother's paintings get trashed. Puck loses track of most people, he sits by the pool, illuminated with the patio lights, and plays thumb wars with a semi-sober Artie just for something to do. When Artie's dad picks him up an hour later, Puck wheels him out and helps him into the car before going back to the party. He's designated driver for Finn, Rachel, Kurt and Mercedes, they're all staying at the Hudmel house, so they need to leave as a pack, and Puck's not worried, because he already has the keys so they aren't going anywhere without him.

He doesn't expect them all to get completely wasted.

Mercedes is just as loud and happy as ever, Rachel is slightly less mopey and clingy, mostly because Finn is just as clingy and dopey when he's drunk. Kurt, however, is a cuddly drunk. Puck finds them all out at the pool, Mike and Tina are making out, Quinn and Sam are dancing, Britt and Santana are holding court in the kitchen doing body shots. Puck just sits himself down on the steps of the decking to watch and wait for someone to puke or declare that they need to leave. He doesn't expect Kurt to crawl into his lap, wrap his arms around Puck's neck and nuzzle in like a sleepy cat. It's not that Puck even minds, he just wraps an arm around Kurt's waist to keep him steady and lets him doze slightly. It'll probably be good for the hang over later.

It's when Kurt starts kissing at Puck's neck that he thinks they should start to get home. "Hey, drunk, quit it."

"Hmm, you're so warm," Kurt leans up, lips leaving Puck's neck, and nuzzles his nose against Puck's jaw. "So warm and so hard. It's nice." It's the first time that Puck's seen Kurt drunk, slightly amusing and not at the same time. Because Kurt's like open and shit, just right there and Puck hasn't ever seen Kurt as anything but composed and controlled -except when he was getting snot on Puck's shirt after getting dumped but Puck can understand that. "You know, you've gone further than me." He whispers it against Puck's ear, causing a slight shiver to run down Puck's spine at the cool breath against his skin. "I've only ever kissed another boy." Puck just sighs, because he doesn't exactly count whoring to Mr Campbell as 'experience' and more just a professional transaction. "I like kissing boys."

"I wouldn't know."

"He didn't kiss you?" Kurt asks it like he's surprised, like Puck's just told him that his mother never got him a puppy when he was a kid -which she didn't, but Puck never wanted one anyway. Puck just shakes his head, "But why wouldn't he?" A soft finger runs over Puck's lips, Kurt staring at them with drink addled focus and sighing, breath ghosting over Puck's face. "Your lips are so pretty. They're all soft and perfect," Puck has no idea why he doesn't push Kurt off his lap, doesn't untangle them and gather everyone up to get home so they can all sleep it off. But he doesn't, he just stares back at Kurt, even when he sees the boy move forward and connect their lips.

It's soft in this careful way, like Kurt's still a little hesitant, and Puck doesn't bother pulling away. He mostly lets Kurt kiss him; soft lips, careful pressure, gentle movement, until it gets to the point where Puck figures out that he wants to kiss Kurt, and then he presses back. It changes a little, still soft, still hesitant, but Puck licks at Kurt's top lip, deepening the kiss with an added pressure, pulling Kurt into it more until they're making out. Both of Puck's arms wrap around Kurt's waist, one hand spread over his pert ass, while Kurt's fingers dig into the back of Puck's head, tugging at the short strands of hair, gripping to his neck. He has no idea how long they stay there, exchanging kisses, coming up for air before going back for more. By the time Puck noticed the party was winding down, Kurt was nuzzled against his throat and Noah's lips were tingling in the best possible way while his pants were uncomfortable in one of the worst ways.

Kurt refused to stand on his own, so Puck was forced to drag the little princess to the navigator, strap him in, haul Mercedes and get Santana to lure Rachel and Finn out to the car. It was only slightly easier to get them into the house because they'd all mostly fallen asleep. Mercedes was wrapped up in Sarah's bed, Rachel in his bed while Finn sort of sleep walked to his own bed and Puck led Kurt up to his. "You should stay with me," Kurt whispered the far too enticing words against Noah's lips, his tongue just teasing slightly. "I gave you your first boy kiss, you should help me." Puck just shook his head, kissing Kurt softly before pushing him into his bed and under his covers. Kurt could bitch about sleeping in his clothes later.

Noah spent the night on the couch, staring at the blank television screen and thinking. In the last six months, Kurt had turned into one of his closest friends, not like Finn was, better than Finn maybe. Because Kurt actually saw things, Kurt talked shit out with him. It wasn't like Finn because Kurt was like Finn's opposite or something. And let's face it, Puck never wanted to nail Finn, ever. With Kurt, he's not sure when it came on, but he's openly admitted that Kurt and Brittany are tied for best ass in glee, and the kid is pretty hot, in a girly way, and kissing him definitely did things to Noah's body. So he's accepting that he's a little hot for Kurt, maybe more than a little because he actually likes the kid, and it's not weird or anything. Mr Campbell totally left him feeling sick and just a little sore, but making out with Kurt was nothing like that, and yeah, if Kurt wasn't drunk and likely to forget absolutely everything that happened, Puck would've happily shown Kurt a little extra. But he's done the drunken sex thing more times than he can count, and it's never nice being something that someone regrets. Least of all when it's someone you actually like. Case in point, Quinn.

So when Carole comes downstairs at seven, Noah's already in the kitchen with pancakes made, orange juice squeezed and a pot of coffee brewing. Finn starts to stir around about ten, there's no sign of life from the girls or Kurt and Puck leaves at the same time as Burt, going to pick up Sarah and visiting their Nana. It kept him busy for the whole day, even when Santana text him to ask if he had any clue how she ended up sandwiched between Mike and Tina and if anything had gone down between them. He just laughed at her confusion, because the idea that Chang squared had a threesome with Santana is amusing, disturbing and hot in equal measures.

He figured that the day would be a good start, wouldn't it? Giving Kurt that time to get his head around things or to work out what he remembered. And it wasn't like Noah was doing a spur of the moment ignoring him trick, everyone knew about his and Sarah's plans to see Nana Connie that day, even Finn had remembered. If anything, Noah was just giving Kurt the chance to figure out how to pretend it didn't happen and they could just ignore it all. Noah wasn't stupid enough to actually believe that anything would happen; Puck spent years tormenting Kurt, Kurt crushed on Finn and then dated Blaine, Puck was not Kurt's type, so there was no point in even entertaining the idea at all. Yeah, he's pretty sure that if Kurt had been interested, he'd be willing to try it, he wasn't put off by Kurt being a guy, because Kurt was, well, Kurt. Yes, the sexuality issue may be a bit of a thing, but Puck was comfortable enough to attest that he liked girls, sure, but there wasn't anything to say that he couldn't like boys just as much or whatever. Attraction was just chemicals firing in the brain, right? So that was just how he was wired.

It's not until half way through the day, in the middle of a trip through the mall with his sister and his Nana that he's doing a piss poor job of not thinking about Kurt. He's giving thought to relationships and sexual identity and he shouldn't be, because Kurt isn't going to suddenly want that from him. Last night was a booze fuelled almost rebound, that was all. So he focuses on his Nana and Sarah; listening to Nana Connie tell him that he'd better we saving up from this job of his, that he'd better be working hard at school, telling him that she's so proud and so grateful and so ashamed of her son and his stupid girl of a wife for leaving them. Sarah begs for a new backpack to go into the new school year with, since she did finish top of her class he can't exactly say no, then she wants to buy this weirdly shaped but oddly pleasant looking wind chime with little crystals hanging from the ends for the light to catch. Noah remembers Carole having them at her old house, so he gives in to that as well and Sarah's dancing around for the rest of the day. They get ice cream, take Nana back to her care home with hugs and kisses and her attempting to slip money into Noah's pocket without him noticing, but he does and she still forces it on him. For Sarah's school, she says, for his truck, just to help out. Puck may not think much of his parents at this point, but his grandmother is fucking awesome.

They arrive at the Hudmel home just as dinner is being cleared away and Sarah doesn't bother trying to hide any excitement. "Carole, look, look what we got for you!" She's bouncing on the spot as she hands over the carefully wrapped box, waiting for the woman that's turned into a surrogate mother to open the gift. Noah goes to the fridge for a soda and leans there to watch Carole. She tears up a little when she opens it. "D'ya like it? Is it good? I picked it all by myself, so you like it, right?"

"Oh, I love it honey, thank you." She holds it up for the boys to see and Burt gives Sarah a high five while she just beams with pride.

"I got a new backpack too, it's awesome. It's got Iron Man and Thor and Captain America on it." He's totally glad she's growing out of this Miley Cyrus and Hilary Duff and Selena Gomez phase. "Nana's going on a trip this week, so she won't be coming to Temple on Saturday, but I'm going to ask Rachel because she's really great like Nana and she's going to be my friend and Noah's friend too." Clearly, the ice cream was too much for Sarah.

"How do you know Rachel? Oh, right, your niece was adopted by Rachel's mom, so she's like sisters with her. Does that make you Rachel's aunt? Cause, that's weird." Sarah stares at Finn like he's just grown another head, and frankly, he's not the only person. Puck really wants to punch Finn for mentioning Beth in such a blasé way, especially as some kind of put down.

"Um, no. Just because Shelby is like, Rachel's real mom doesn't mean I'm Rachel's aunt. I'm Beth's aunt. Just Beth's aunt. D'uh." Sarah just walks away, because clearly Finn is stupid, and Deadliest Catch is on, which Sarah loves to watch with Burt. Usually she'll break out a fishing hat too. Carole gives Noah a tight smile, heading into the family room while Finn glares from beside the door frame and Puck promises himself he's not going to punch Finn.

"Dude, whatever lessons you've been taking from Santana, just stop." He knows that Kurt is just standing there watching them. "Get the sand out of your vagina and stop. Because if you bring up Beth like that again, I will break your teeth. I don't care if your mother is in the room." There are a lot of things he'll take from Finn, most of them he deserves, but using his daughter like that just isn't going to be one of them. He walks from the room, eyes meeting Kurt's briefly before he just locks himself away in his bedroom.

It's times like these he half wishes he still had his guitar, or his Xbox, or just some books. He can't even do school work because there is none, aside from annoying and useless textbooks to cover the work to follow this year. And Puck's not interested in getting that far ahead. So he just lies there, on his bed, like he's been doing on and off for the last three weeks. He has to seriously consider investing in a book at least. He doesn't bother looking up when the door clicks shut, because he already knows that it's Kurt.

"You called him on it."

"He was being a douche." Noah didn't know it if was because Finn was under the impression that Sarah wasn't smart enough to work out where and how Puck and Rachel started to become friends (before juvie, before his mom left, Rachel understood in ways that Quinn wouldn't open up enough to express; they bonded over the fact that her birth mother adopted his daughter and how Ricky Lake it all was) or if he thought Puck would have to sit down and explain it to Sarah and thus make him feel like shit. Most of the time, people just had to mention Beth and Puck felt like shit.

"He was." Noah didn't know if this would mean Finn would lay off, since Puck clearly knew what was going on and partially on the why, but he wasn't about to hold his breath to find out. "I um, I've sort of been hoping to talk to you today." That right there tells Puck that Kurt remembers what went on last night, or at least some of it. "I wanted to thank you. What I said, last night, after, you know. Well, just, thank you for not," Kurt's blushing. It runs from his high, feminine cheekbones down his jaw, over his neck and into his shirt. Noah wonders if it spreads over his chest too.

"For not being a complete asshole and taking advantage of you in your highly intoxicated state? Yeah, you're welcome." His annoyance at the insinuation must come across fairly clearly, since Kurt crosses the room, shaking his head.

"No, I don't mean it like," the smaller boy sighs, sitting down on the bed. "Mercedes says it's my own fault, that I laid it on too thick and I probably did." Noah is officially lost at this point, because he thinks they've skipped a whole conversation or something. "I realised after you manhandled me into bed that I might've played the drunk card a little too well. But I wasn't really sure if there was any other way to do it."

"Do what? Seriously, what the hell are you talking about?"

"I wasn't drunk last night," Noah just raises an eyebrow and Kurt waves his hand off, "okay, so I was drunk but I wasn't that drunk. I just, I thought it was the best way, I don't know, I just. I don't think I'd,"

"You wanted to kiss me but thought I'd punch you if you tried?" He's pretty sure he's reading this right, the way Kurt's blush only intensifies while he's trying to explain, the little fidget of his hands and the way he can't even look at Noah. Kurt just nods, taking a breath to start another ramble likely enough, so Noah scoots forward on the bed, one leg extended behind Kurt, the other crossed under him as he sits next to Kurt, facing the boy while he stares at the floor. "You know I was sober, right? Not a single drop of alcohol."

"Yeah, and I'm glad you didn't punch me, because I bruise easily, and my face is too perfect to bruise."

"Got that right," Noah sees the surprise register just as he runs his hand along Kurt's jaw. It's still soft and smooth, and seriously does the kid shave five times a day or something? Most girls don't even have skin as soft as Hummel's, so that moisturising routine he goes on about it's all smoke and shit. He has a point. "You're far too pretty to bruise." He's slow in leaning in, so that Kurt knows what he's about to do, with them both sober. Kurt gets it just as Noah tips his head up, leaning over and tilting his own head. It's just as careful as last night, just as soft, but Kurt sighs against Noah's mouth this time before pressing for more. There's no taste of alcohol from either of them, just cherry ice cream from Noah and mint from Kurt.

Even as Kurt shifts in place, turning and moving so that he's straddling Noah's thighs, they keep it from getting too hot and heavy. Noah's hands find Kurt's hips again, even as he's running them up the slighter boys back, pulling their chests together. It's a slow exploration now that both know the other is completely on board with the progression.

"You remember I used to make your life hell, right?" Eventually, they break off, lying long ways on the bed, side by side and facing each other.

"You remember I used to tell you you'd amount to nothing." Noah just smirks, because Kurt's probably right, but it's nice that he doesn't necessarily think that any more.

"Yeah," Noah runs his hand over Kurt's messy hair, trying to smooth it down so there's no hissy fit, "at least we've seen the worst of each other, right."

"Are you sure about this? I mean, you don't do relationships. I just, I just don't want us to start something if we're not both in it." Like with Blaine, who thought he loved Kurt but really didn't.

"I don't do relationships with needy, clingy girls who are going to panic if I don't call them every hour or who want me to walk, talk and act a certain way. You, Kurt Hummel, are not a needy, clingy girl." Although the make-up and hair product sometimes suggested otherwise. "You're smart, and self-sufficient, and I think if I called you every hour you'd stab me in the face with your Gaga platforms." That gets a laugh out of Kurt at least. "I might screw up, I might say the wrong thing, but I won't cheat, and I won't lie, and I really do like you a lot."

"I'm not sure if I'm really ready for sex. Despite what I said last night, I just,"

"Kurt, I'm not ready for sex either. I turned off that time, it was money, I needed it. I'm into you and stuff, that was fairly obvious," Kurt blushed at the mention their shared erections from the kissing. "But this is new to both of us."

"I get that, I do, and I think it's great that you're being honest about this with me. But, come on, you're Puck. When was the last time you went without sex?" That look, that embarrassed and unsure look, Noah officially hates it.

"Kurt I dated Zizes for three months without hooking up. I've been practically celibate since Sectionals." Sex just wasn't on his mind. "I'm doing this thing, where I actually have sex because there are feelings involved, not just for the sake of it, or for money. It's kinda new for me, but totally working out." Kurt just laughed, that embarrassed flush back, pressing his face into Noah's chest. "So, any more worries about dating me? Or was that really the big one."

"Will we be, like, hiding?" Closeted, that's probably what Kurt wanted to say, and sure this conversation was seriously awkward for him because he didn't do that talking about shit thing -although Rachel totally forced him into it one time and that was not fun, but might've helped a little on the whole Beth issue.

"I don't really do advertising." As seen in the nine week personal hell he put himself through just to keep up appearances, "But I'm not saying we'll be all secret and shit. Like, telling our friends, your dad and Carole should know since we live in the same house. Mercedes and Rach and the guys, sure."

"If we make it through the rest of summer, if you're my boyfriend when we go back to McKinley," Noah cut him off with a quick kiss.

"When we go back, and we're still together, you will not be hidden or ignored or picked on at all, because everyone will get the message that you're my boy and I will end them if they even try it."

"I don't need public make outs like you and Santana had."

"How about holding hands, and waking to class and sneaking into deserted classrooms then?"

"I'd definitely be okay with that."

Out of everyone, it's not surprising that Finn takes it the hardest. Mercedes and Rachel actually squeal with some girly hand thing towards each other and Noah makes the mental note to keep Sarah away from them. Sarah takes it well, she's mostly just happy that she a, approves of his boyfriend and b, that he's happy. His little sister is growing up way too fast and he needs to take her to the paintball course stat. For a brief moment, he wonders if Burt is honestly okay with things, the way he looks between Kurt and Noah for a few moments before clapping Noah on the shoulder and saying, "I don't know who to tell not to hurt the other, so you boys just be careful." It's about as much blessing as he thinks he needs, but it's just as much an acceptance into this twisted kind of family. That Burt actually cares enough whether he's hurt by a relationship with Kurt or not.

And Finn said he was cool with it, he smiled his stupid smile and pretended to listen while Rachel said how great it was and everything. They actually survived two double dates with Rachel and Finn before both Kurt and Puck declared never again, because it was just horrible. "Do they realise how terrible they are for each other?" Kurt wondered out loud one time and Noah just fell off Kurt's bed laughing.

It wasn't until the week before senior year, when Burt and Carole went out for a date night, Noah took Sarah to the movies one last time to see the Avengers before she went back to school -she was super excited to be starting middle school, which he thought was weird, but Carole told him it was 'normal' for a girl to look forward to a fresh start. She still wanted the bunny to be her class pet and she still hoped to be best friends with Jenna so there wasn't too much changing for his tastes. They were just about to get back in the house when Sarah stopped him from opening the door, hearing yelling inside. Sarah had been witness to a few of his screaming matches with their mom, he'd had to listen to their mom and dad back when he was around, Sarah hated loud shouting arguments.

So they sat on the front step, hearing the muffled yells but not sure what it was about. Frankly, Kurt and Finn very rarely got to the yelling at each other type of fights; the snipped at each other, passed remarks and bitched, but Noah had never heard them all out scream at one another. And Puck had been on the receiving end of more than one of Finn's screaming moments. He gives Sarah his phone after a few minutes, letting her play the word game on it and wrapping an arm around her to help her keep warm while the shouts got a little more discernible. After that, it took him two seconds to figure out what they were fighting about.

"I can't believe you're falling for this! You know him, he's just having fun until school and then he'll dump you."

"You don't know anything, you're just making assumptions."

"I know Puck, okay. He doesn't do relationships. He does sex and dumping. That's it."

"Well, it's different for us. It's not about sex, okay."

"So what, you've not fucked yet?"


"Then there you go, that's the only reason he hasn't dumped you yet. Once he gets into your pants, that's all he wants. It'll be over the next day."

"God, you are such a moron sometimes."

"I'm telling you, you should dump him first, save yourself the heartache Kurt. I've seen him do this with so many girls."

Sarah stopped playing the game when she figured out what they were shouting about as well. "Can we go to Santana's?" He's pretty sure that's the best idea ever, so they head across town, show up on Satan's floor and get chatted up by two hookers before Santana's mom answers the door. There's a lot of Spanish thrown at them but Noah barely listens to Schue and he only knows when San is insulting him, she uses puta a lot. Sarah falls asleep on Santana's bed somewhere around about midnight and Puck fires a text to Mrs H. to let her know they're staying at Santana's place and not to worry.

"What happened?" Puck knows that as comfortable as Santana is with her roots, with where her mother and her are living, she's not exactly open to house guests. Sarah stayed with Santana a few nights while he was in juvie, which he was grateful for, because sometimes their mom just drank herself comatose and forgot that Sarah was still a kid and shouldn't have to feed herself. But when he shows up out of the blue, it's for a reason.

"Finn and Kurt were having a screaming match when Sarah and I got home from the movies," they're sitting on her bedroom floor, Sarah curled up sleeping, both of them just leaning against the wall and chatting. "We heard most of it, Sarah asked to come here. Felt it was a little better."

"What was the fight about?" Puck only needed to give her a look and she got it, because Santana just knew all that shit. "Right, cause Finn has any right to talk about anyone's relationship. Let me guess, you're not good enough, you're just using him, it's just sex?" Puck nodded, and maybe this time last year, he'd be right. But this time last year Puck probably wouldn't have considered Hummel at all, because he wasn't interested in getting to know people before sleeping with them. Two months into things and both Noah and Kurt were perfectly happy with the progression of things; sure they fooled around, but there hadn't been actual sex. Neither were taking that step lightly, and Kurt wasn't ready for his first time, so Puck wasn't pushing him.

"Pretty much."

"He is such a two faced little shit." Whatever Santana had planned before, with sleeping with Finn and apparently attempting to ensnare him, that was long gone and done. Thankfully. "Him and Rachel are totally only together until the end of the year, that's their deal. They have no hope of going anywhere, he's with her for appearances. He only hooked up with me for sex. God, that cabrón." Yeah, Puck knew that word too.

"It's whatever right." He figured that Finn's whole 'we should be bros again' thing was pretty much bullshit, considering what he was playing with the club and what he was doing with Carole and Burt, it was like he had to point out how often Puck screwed things up. He'd never mentioned Beth again, but things like Vocal Adrenaline's tires and juvie and shit from middle school somehow worked into conversations. He even went to the point of mentioning the slushies and dumpster tosses to the glee kids, during a barbecue at Artie's place. Puck was surprised that it was Quinn that smacked him down that time, 'We've all done things to the first five, even you. We stopped after joining, but you still slushied Kurt afterwards, remember?' Quinn Fabray, defending Noah Puckerman, who would've seen it coming?

"I seriously am going to punch him in his stupid face." Noah just laughs, tugging Santana to the floor and wrapping himself around her back. "You and Kurt are gonna be like, out right? At school."

"Yeah, fuck everyone." Puck mumbles it against her neck, arms around her waist as she twines their fingers.

"I'm going to ask Brittany to be my girlfriend. I wanna be with her for real. I told my mom I think I'm bi. She was cool with it." He gives her a supportive squeeze, because they're two badasses and they can date whoever the fuck they want, and Santana is head over heels for Brittany, and Noah's not far behind with Kurt. So long as Finn hasn't convinced Kurt that it's just sex. Some part of him is just that little bit insecure -because everyone believes Finn, they always pick Finn. But another part, this Noah part that Rachel believes in, that Kurt cares about, it's sure that Kurt knows better than whatever bullshit Finn is spinning now.

When they get back to the Hudmel's, Sarah goes for a shower, because she feels a little gross and demands that Noah make her breakfast. It's almost noon, but she still demands breakfast. Kurt comes into the kitchen looking a little wary but still relieved, Noah gives him a smile, but drops it when Finn walks in. He's frying up turkey bacon for Sarah while she sings loudly in the shower, and Kurt just hovers around the sink while Finn sits down.

"Where've you been dude?" Finn still acts like they're friends, and Noah catches Kurt rolling his eyes. It's like Finn doesn't see that Noah can tell what the hell he's playing at. Like Noah's that stupid or something.

"Crashed at Satan's last night."

"Dude, what?" Finn's out of his seat again and Puck just raises an eyebrow. "You're seriously just saying that? No denying it or anything? You're dating my brother and you slept with Santana?" Kurt's eyes are on the floor and are you serious?

"Okay, one, I crashed at Satan's, as in, with my sister, dude. San and I slept on the floor but we're not fucking, Christ. You think I'm seriously going to cheat on my boyfriend with my sister right there, less than a foot away?" It's good to know what people think of him.

"Yeah right, why'd you even go there? You said it was just you and Sarah going to the movies."

"It was. But Sarah hates listening to arguments, so we weren't walking in on that last night. Santana let us crash at hers." Sarah comes running from the bathroom, hair wet down her back and soaking her t-shirt but taking her seat at the table demanding food. Puck plates up her turkey bacon, eggs and toast and pops it down for her before tying her hair in a bun at the back of her head to keep from letting her get sopping wet. He spares one look at Finn before he leaves the room, falling back onto the sofa in the family room.

Finn doesn't follow, but Kurt does.

"You heard our fight?"

"Some of it. We kind of got enough of that at home, so, walking into it wasn't high on our priority list." He didn't want to ask Kurt if he believed Finn; Puck's record didn't exactly speak volumes for him. The most stable relationship he'd ever had was with Santana, and that was far from stable. But Kurt was all kinds of different. Because yeah, he liked going out, and sure he liked getting stuff, but he didn't cling or whine, there were no 'am I fat' conversations and Kurt never called him on looking at a girl's ass or whatever. And Noah didn't feel like he was just an interlude, like he was runner up or just something to kill time with. There was something there and it was good. He didn't want Finn's opinion to influence Kurt, but if it did, Noah wasn't going to be a pussy about it. If Kurt didn't believe there was more, what was the point in trying to convince him?

"I don't believe a word he said. Well, okay, I know that some of it is true, I know that's who you used to be. But he doesn't know you, he knows Puck, not Noah. And you're Noah to me. Rachel's right, it's like you're two people. And Puck used to toss slushies at us, and throw me in the dumpster, but Noah holds my hand and takes me out, Noah's the one who kisses me sweetly and is waiting for me to be ready for the next step." Kurt wraps his arms around Noah's neck, pressing his forehead into Noah's temple while leaning against his arm. "Noah's the one I'm starting to fall in love with."

Noah turned his head to catch Kurt's lips with a soft kiss, his arm going around Kurt's waist to pull him closer. "He's right there with you." There was no point in denying it, he'd as good as told Santana, so it wasn't like Kurt shouldn't know too. "Santana and me, we're complicated, but if I go to hers and I stay the night, we're sleeping. Just sleeping." San knew his demons, and he knew hers, sometimes you just needed that.

"I trust you." And those three words held just as much weight as the other three.

They don't have sex until the day before they go back to school. Finn's out with Rachel for some pre-school date, Sarah's having a sleep over with Jenna and going from her house straight to her first day of middle school and Burt and Carole were kicked out of the house by Kurt and his frantic planning. Noah doesn't know what's weirder, the fact that Kurt makes him a 'happy three month' dinner or the fact that Carole totally knows what's going on and is fine with it. Whatever it is, Noah's more than comfortable with admitting that it's not just sex, they don't just fuck. He'll go as far as calling it 'making love' because it's careful and slow and so fucking meaningful that it almost hurts. Just the way Kurt holds to him, the stillness in the atmosphere and Kurt's low, gasping noises, the way Noah's name sounds from those lips when he climaxes. He can absolutely attest to it never feeling like that before.

When they wake up, they're still wrapped around each other in Kurt's bed, and Noah's never felt contentment like that.

Arriving at school, Noah's arm over Kurt's shoulder and Kurt's arm around his waist, they get a few stares, but neither honestly care. Britt practically attacks Noah with a hug and a 'thank you!' before darting off down the hall towards Santana where they pair of newly reinstated Cheerio's hug tightly and walk off hand in hand. "What was that?"

"Santana asked Britt to be her girlfriend, official and stuff." Kurt got this little look on his face and Noah just rolled his eyes, "Yeah, they're perfect for each other, c'mon." The kiss on Kurt's cheek was next to habit by then, just something that happened now.

"You know, they'd totally be better double dates than Finn and Rachel." Noah didn't agree, but hell, he wasn't going to start that argument at the start of the day.

"Whatever you say, dear." Whatever happened, Noah had a feeling that Senior year was going to be a hell of a lot better than Junior.