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Beyond that first day, when Schue first told them that Puckerman was in juvie and wasn't going to be with them for however many weeks it took for him to serve whatever time they gave him for whatever crack pot stunt he'd pulled, no one actually heard any news from or about Puck. So, the biggest surprise that afternoon, during glee practice, might simply be when Puck just walks in, nods at Schue and then plants himself at the far end of the seats, not even looking at anyone.
It might be the biggest surprise, but it's not. Kurt isn't too surprised that the mohawk is back, he's not overly surprised at the combat boots and the cargo pants and the long sleeved skin tight shirt under his equally tight t-shirt. He's not even too surprised at the matching pair of ear-plugs in Puck's lobes. No, the biggest surprise for Kurt is that Puck just sits down and is quiet for the remainder of glee. He doesn't talk to anyone, doesn't make comment, doesn't pass remark. He just sits there and glares forwards.
But then, if Puck is just out of juvie, it's highly possible that he's taking some time to readjust to life without the constraints and rules that his time behind bars would of course have revolved around. Except it doesn't stop after that one day.
Puck attends classes now, and Kurt is shocked to notice that they actually share a few, but he doesn't really participate. If he's ever asked a question he stares blankly at the teacher with his eyebrow raised until they move on. And the throw back to the punk era seems to be a new, lasting style. Puck doesn't wear his jeans and sneakers, he wears cargos and boots, he sticks to long sleeved t-shirts with other shirts over them and a leather cuff bracelet on his wrist. He never wears a jacket, he doesn't even bother with his letterman jacket any more. Kurt figures it would all be understandable if it were just a matter of Puck getting back into his own skin, but he seems to be shifting further and further away from it.
Life goes on around him, and Kurt barely notices the change in Puck while he's thrumming on the excitement of planning his Dad and Carole's wedding, even as he's fitting all the girls for their dresses and the boys for their suits. Only when it comes time to measure and fit Puck, Kurt is aware of everything going on around them. Puck's glare is forced and fake, his stance is hunched and tired, his eyes are distant and unfocused. There's something off about him. Kurt tries to take his time with Puck's fitting, tries to coax conversation out of the onetime bully, but all he gets are a few one word answers or grunts in response. The weirdest thing is the way Puck flinches just slightly as Kurt raises his arms so that he can measure arm length, he watches as this wary look comes over Puck's face but doesn't say anything.
Maybe it's just because of how exposed his sides are, Kurt had heard some rumours about Puck getting shanked in juvie, if they were true, he'd probably make a point of protecting his ribs and stomach, wouldn't he. "Just a quick," Kurt works fast to measure the span of Puck's back, getting Puck to hold to the tip of the measuring tape with his left fingers and marking down the length at his right wrist. It's a crude and fast way to do it, but Puck seems far more uncomfortable and Kurt finds himself wanting to help where he can. "That's us." And Puck can't get out of the room fast enough.
At the wedding, Puck acts normal. Like he literally has to act like himself. It's when Kurt goes to get a glass of water, to keep cool, when he notices Carole standing by a door with Puck. They're talking quietly and Carole has a hand on Puck's right arm, stroking it comfortingly while she speaks, low and quiet. Kurt is fascinated, because Puck isn't scowling or glaring or frowning, he's sort of broken. Just staring at Carole with his head half bowed and his brows furrowed in slight confusion, but his eyes just look so devastatingly soft and open that Kurt can't walk away from it.
There's no way to hear what Carole says, there's no way to even figure out what they're talking about, but Carole looks like she's close to crying as she pulls Puck towards her, her hand at the back of his mohawk to pull his head down and onto her shoulder. The way that Puck's shoulders shake, the way his arms wrap around Carole's waist and he leans into her, the way Kurt's new step-mother has him held tightly to her, stroking the strip of hair, Kurt's beginning to think there's more going on that anyone really knows.
He means to talk about it, to get a hold of Puck and ask him what's wrong, what's going on, if he wants to talk about it all. But he gets so caught up in his transfer and moving to Dalton and Blaine that he doesn't even have the time to ask Finn if he's noticed something different with his former best friend. Kurt doesn't even know for sure if Puck and Finn are even talking again. He doesn't get a chance to speak to them at Sectionals, he doesn't even get a chance to speak to Puck at the football game, although Blaine comments on how great they all play, even the girls. Kurt witnesses a small conversation between Finn and Puck and thinks that good, they are talking, he can ask Finn about things. But it doesn't really turn out that way.
"What?" Kurt just works it in that night, while they're sitting with their warm milk, and Finn just looks confused, "Nah, he's fine. He's making things up to me, so we'll see how that goes, y'know. He's gonna stay away from Rachel and Quinn and, well, we'll see." And yeah, Kurt doesn't understand it, but he'd been noticing that Puck and Rachel seemed to be growing closer –he knew that winter break was probably when Rachel and Puck spent most time together, since they were Jewish and didn't celebrate Christmas. So he wondered just what Finn thought he was achieving by taking away one of Puck's friends.
He finally gets to the root of things at Rachel's party. Most of the group indulge, they get drunk, except him and Finn. He notices Lauren and Quinn shouting at Puck, both drunk and angry and mean, and the way Puck just flinches ever so slightly, but takes it. It's after the disastrous spin the bottle, when Blaine is falling all over Rachel and singing with her and Kurt just needs to escape for a moment. He ends up going upstairs to the kitchen, thinking he can get a glass of water and be alone for a minute, instead he finds Puck, hunched over the sink and taking deep breaths that Kurt can hear from the doorway of the kitchen.
His shoulders aren't shaking, but he's gripping to the counter with white knuckles and Kurt notices that just left of where Puck is standing there's a kitchen knife sitting out, just lying on the counter. It's not right, because the block for the knives is on the other side of the kitchen.
"N-Noah?" Puck spins around like he's been poked or something and stares at Kurt like he's a stranger. "Are you okay? Need help to the toilet? It's probably better to throw up in there than in the sink." But Puck isn't about to throw up, Kurt gets that when Puck looks towards the knife and then back at Kurt and there's this scared look in his eyes that Kurt can't ever have imagined being there before. "Noah? Is everything okay?"
"'s fine, Hummel." His jaw is tight, his grip still on the counter, eyes still full of something that is definitely not Puck. "Go back to the party." Kurt wants to laugh, because that is not happening now, not a chance of it.
"What're you doing up here?" Kurt steps into the kitchen and he watches as the tension coils through all of Puck's muscles, the way he absently leans backwards, away from where Kurt is. Kurt is sure that something happened in juvie now, something bad and horrible and that's why Puck's changed so much, because he hasn't been able to deal with it, and Finn took Rachel away because he thought Puck was going to hurt her and now, Noah doesn't have anyone.
"Needed some air." Kurt thinks this might be the most he's actually heard out of Puck since he came back from juvie. And when he really adds it up, he can understand. Quinn started dating Sam, so Puck avoided hanging out with Sam or Quinn, for obvious reasons. Finn was still ignoring him, so Rachel tended to avoid spending time with him. Santana seemed cold and angry most of the time these days so Puck apparently wasn't spending time with her, although she claimed they were 'together' they never seemed to be. Mike was spending all his time with Tina. The original gleeks never really spent time with Puck, although Artie spent some time with Puck before he started dating Brittany properly. So it's not like Puck's had ample opportunity to talk himself over whatever happened, he's just been isolated beyond practice, and frankly, Kurt doesn't see this strange affection for Lauren panning out anywhere.
"It gets so stifling down there, doesn't it. So many people and the dancing and the music. It's just suffocating." Puck watches him, as Kurt makes his way into the kitchen, leaning against the counter beside Puck, his body in front of the knife that's out and Kurt tries a smile, "Rachel's broke out the karaoke, so it'll probably wind down soon." Because they get enough of Rachel's singing when they're sober, right? They'll start leaving soon.
"Whatever." Eyes darting around the kitchen, Puck seems to be looking for something but can't find it and Kurt gets a little worried that maybe it's not just alcohol in Puck's system.
"Hey, are you-" he's about to say 'alright', he's about to make sure Puck's not high or really that drunk, he's about to try and be comforting. But his hand closes around Puck's left forearm and the larger boy jerks from it like he's been burnt, pulling his arm away from Kurt and moving until he's boxed himself into the corner of the kitchen, just staring at Kurt from the distance. Kurt can't even believe that it happened, can't believe how quickly Puck reacted to just a touch.
Kurt feels like his concerns have just been answered, that all his questions are close to being answered and none of the explanations are good. He's slow in moving, keeping himself from rushing in or raising his voice or any of it.
"Noah, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to alarm you," because Puck wouldn't take kindly to someone insinuating that he was scared, "I was just wondering if you were okay, because you don't seem okay. You seem pretty far from it. And whatever it is, I promise, you can tell me. I'm not going to-" the rest of his speech just falters off because right there, stark against the white of Puck's top, blood is staining the material on Puck's left arm. "You're bleeding."
Puck stares down at his arm, finally tearing his gaze away from Kurt, just looking at his arm but not moving to do anything about it. Kurt reacts, he grabs the kitchen roll and moves closer to Puck, hesitating in taking Puck's arm before slowly reaching out. Puck lets him take his wrist, lets him raise his arm outwards, but when Kurt starts to push the sleeve of Puck's top up his arm, Puck's head turns to the side and Kurt frowns. Until he sees it.
The cause of the blood is a small but rather deep wound at the top of Puck's inner arm. But the shocking thing is the line that runs almost from the crook of Puck's elbow to his wrist. It's thin and scarring, there are small marks which show that it was stitched and there are smaller scars around the skin of Puck's arms and Kurt just stares. He snaps out of it when he hears laughing and feels Puck try to pull his arm back. Kurt holds tight to Puck's wrist, which gets a panicked look from the boy in question, until Kurt puts the kitchen roll over the bleeding cut and pulls the sleeve down, letting Puck wrap his arm around his waist, hugging the evidence tight to his body as if anyone could see it if they just looked at him.
Kurt is in a daze as he listens to Mercedes and Tina laugh loudly while they filter out with Mike and Sam, it's slow but sure, everyone filtering out. Santana and a half clothed Brittany leave and Finn comes up to stare at Puck, "Dude, will you help me get Artie upstairs?" Puck nods and steps around Kurt. "Hey, man, you cut yourself?" The tension is right there in Puck's shoulders, even as he tries to deflect it.
"It's nothing, nicked myself with a broken bottle, it's fine." Kurt stays in the kitchen, trying to breath around the revelation. Puck tried to kill himself. Noah slit his own wrist. Noah cut himself. Was he suicidal? Was it just one time? The attempt, was that the first one? Was that the only one? Was it what sparked him going to juvie? Was juvie even real? He spots the knife again and picks it up, wondering. But the wound wasn't fresh, the cut on Noah's arm that was bleeding, so he doubts that Puck had done it there. Maybe he was just thinking about it, maybe he was just talking himself out of it, or into it, or something. Kurt puts the knife away carefully, staring at it like it will explain everything to Kurt. Once again, noise startles him out of his thinking.
"Hey Kurt, um, I'm gonna take Artie home and well, Blaine is already asleep in my truck." Kurt just nods, forcing a smile because Kurt can't even think about the Blaine thing right now. "You wanna drive home behind us?"
"No, it's fine, I was going to drive Noah home." Puck looks over at him, stunned a little until Rachel throws her arms around his neck.
"Thank you for helping me throw the party Noah, it would've sucked without you. You're so smart, and so very tall, why are you so tall? Finn's taller than you. Looking up at Finn hurts my neck sometimes. He thinks I'm clingy. Do you think I'm clingy, Noah? Am I clinging right now?"
"C'mon, little princess, let's get you in bed."
"You can stay if you want." Finn twitches from the door.
"Not a good idea, but thanks Rach. C'mon, upstairs." Rachel throws a goodnight over her shoulder and Puck gives Kurt a nod as he helps the little diva up the stairs to her room. Finn stares at where they just were and Kurt watches Artie roll himself out the front door.
"They're just friends, you get that, right?" Because Kurt knows that Rachel only views Noah as a friend, because they've gotten to be good friends while Kurt's away at Dalton, whatever the reason for that being. "They share their religion and they've known each other for years, and she misses having him as a friend."
"He keeps kissing her."
"Because you don't want her and she wants someone to." Finn leaves in a bit of a huff, and Puck comes back downstairs, flicking the lights off as he goes. Kurt doesn't ask how Puck knows his way around the Berry's house like he does, but he shuts everything off as Kurt waits by the door and Puck stretches up to above the doorframe, using the spare key to lock the front door before putting it back where he got it. All it does it draw Kurt's attention back to the line of blood on Puck's shirt.
It's tense in the car for the first few minutes, Puck drawn up into himself, legs up high and his body twisted towards the window, even though Kurt has more than enough space for Puck to stretch out. There are hundreds of questions running through Kurt's head and he half thinks that if he doesn't ask them now, he'll never get another chance, but he just doesn't know where to start.
"Noah," he doesn't know what question is the most important, so he just starts with the one that bothers him the most, "when did you do it?" It's possible that he should've asked why, but Kurt thinks he knows why. Puck isn't the most stable of personalities, but it was obvious that everything in him loved his little girl, even before she was born. Losing her, he's not really surprised that it affected Puck as deeply as this might suggest.
"October." It's just that one answer, and Kurt is stunned because, yeah, that was a while ago and Puck was supposed to be in juvie in October.
"Was something that was made up. Carole and Ma, they figured it was, I don't know, I don't even care." Carole knew, it made sense, but Carole knew.
"Do you, I mean, what, God, do you want to talk about it?" Puck looks over at Kurt, frowning.
"What is there to talk about? I took a kitchen knife to my arm and almost bled out on the floor. But Ma came home early and called the fucking ambulance, so I wound up in hospital for two weeks while they tried to assess my mental stability and get my iron count back up." Puck says it as if it was a run through on a football game, as if it's just something that happens, like it's nothing important.
"How about why the hell you thought your best option was opening up your arm? And why there's, there's a, God, are you thinking of doing it again? Was that what you were doing in the kitchen?" Kurt doesn't mean to get angry and start shouting, he doesn't mean to lose his patience, but he can't believe how Puck can just brush it off.
"Fuck no, I'm not gonna, no, I-" but Puck seems to lose his steam before he even finishes the sentence, "I wouldn't do that to Rachel." And he means killing himself in her house probably, using her kitchen, using her party. He wouldn't let Rachel see that.
"Noah," Kurt pulls up outside Puck's house, staring at the small but well lived in building and sighing. "Why?" Puck doesn't move to leave, doesn't get out or look like he's even realised that they were outside his house at that point.
"I don't even know." It must be so confusing, wanting to end your life and not knowing why. "I mean, losing Beth, it hurts like crazy. But she'll be better for it, right? She can have a life with someone who loves her and she'll have support and, and it's not like I didn't want her, I wanted her, but I know I can't raise her, I can't- She'll understand that, she will." Kurt wants desperately to reach out to Puck, but he doesn't know how well the boy will take it. "But it's like this hole. And it's just fucking killing me that I can't see her." Kurt can look back over the summer, he can look back to when Quinn and Puck had to give Beth over, the days when Puck would come to school hungover, when he'd come to school with bruises and dead eyes. Kurt had heard about Puck's tendency to leave Lima for a few days at a time during the summer, how no one really hung out with him or how no one really knew what was going on with him. Was that when Puck started to self-destruct?
"I know that you think you don't have anything," that was obvious enough, "but you'll grow up, and Beth will grow up, and one day she'll want to know about you, and you don't want her to have to hear that you died at seventeen. There's more, there's so much more out there for you."
"No, Kurt. There isn't." Before Kurt can respond, Puck just climbs out of the car and walks up to his front door, not even looking back. None of the lights turn on in the house, there's no sign of Puck actually moving around and Kurt sighs, ten minutes later, and drives home.
Blaine is already passed out in Kurt's bed, and Kurt starts to get ready for bed, but he just can't stop thinking about Puck and what he said before leaving and how he knows he can't just forget it, because if he goes back to Dalton and has to hear from Mercedes or Rachel or Finn that Noah did it again, that his mother didn't come home early this time, that Noah's gone, Kurt doesn't know if he'll be able to live with himself.
He sits up all night, looking up teen suicides and depression and filling himself with facts and advice and tips. He's horrified to learn that statistically speaking, up to a third of teenage suicide attempts will try again, and that six months to a year is the highest risk point. Noah's looking at the five month mark from his last attempt, and Kurt's heart hammers in his chest when he remembers that knife just sitting in the kitchen and how Noah looked so desperately lost.
It's the reason why, after school the following day –and hearing all about Britt and Santana's puke explosion on Rachel at the assembly, Kurt finds himself sitting on Puck's doorstep, waiting for the jock. Puck is walking home, the truck just sits in his drive, not moving or being used, and Puck walks along the street, not even faltering when he sees Kurt sitting there. He does walk past Kurt though, putting his key in the door and opening it. "Move it, get in." So they end up sitting in Puck's room, and Kurt is half amazed at how normal it feels.
"I was, I did some reading last night. I um, I didn't really like what I read." He doesn't know how to ask Noah if he really is considering killing himself again, if he's trying to work out when he can do it without interruption. It's not exactly 'polite' or 'casual' conversation. "It said, I mean, one of the sites said that teenagers were most likely to try again." Puck just sits there, picking at the bed of his nails. "Are you, I mean, have you thought-"
"Yes." It's startlingly honest, even though Puck doesn't look up at him. "They make me see a shrink once a week," probably what they call 'community service' for the juvie excuse, "and all it does is make me feel like a fucking failure. Because they treat me like something's wrong, like I'm not meant to feel like this. Ma took Sarah to go live with Aunt Claire until I'm 'better'. She sends money for like, food and the bills and shit, but she can't even stick around to help and they wonder why I want to fucking off myself?" It's like Puck's just opening some dam, like he's just letting it all out. "I can't even look at Quinn without wanting to- it's not even the- I just don't care anymore."
It's not like Kurt can see a lot of reasons why Puck would care. Finn hasn't noticed, Rachel apparently doesn't know, his mother apparently can't deal with her sons emotional turmoil, he's practically alone all the time with just what's going on inside his own head and that isn't healthy.
"Let me help."
"How the fuck can you help? You can't bring her back, you can't change what happened, there's no point."
"That's just it, there is, just, just let me show you? Give me one month to show you, give me one month to show you there is a point, that it matters." Kurt has no idea how he's going to do it, he has no idea just what he can do, but he's going to try. And Puck, because Kurt knows this isn't how he wants things, Puck agrees. He gives Kurt the chance to do it.
The first few times they go out, it's difficult. Kurt doesn't know how he's going to do this. But they go to the movies, and then they go to see a band play in Columbus that Kurt is fairly certain Puck will enjoy. It's fun, strangely, spending time with Puck, and Kurt starts to see all the small chips in him, all the small cracks between Noah and Puck that just demonstrate how vulnerable Noah really is, and how much of a front Puck is.
Kurt tries to balance things, but it turns out easier than he'd think, because Puck vetoes his plans one day, making him bring all his homework over to Puck's house because Puck does actually have to do his school work too. Apparently, Puck works better when there's someone else there to beg for breaks too. Kurt spends the day doing his homework and starting his projects and playing Mario Kart and Call of Duty with Puck. It shows him that he doesn't need to think up elaborate things to do with Puck, because all that Noah really needs is someone to spend some time with him and not care that he's a little bit damaged right now.
"Hey, um, you're like into all this fashion stuff, right?" It's between classes at Dalton and Kurt has a free study period. He's not technically supposed to be on the phone, and he knows that Puck isn't either because Puck is meant to be in Spanish, but Puck doesn't actually attend all his classes –which makes it weird that he does fill his homework and assignments, but Kurt hasn't really figured out Noah's logic just yet. But Noah's question is intriguing.
"Yes, Noah, I do like all the 'fashion stuff' as you put it, why?"
"Cause there's this thing on in Cincinnati and I figured instead of paintball of Saturday, you'd maybe wanna do that instead?" Kurt's stunned speechless, because yeah, he knew about the show case of young and upcoming fashion designers being held in the conference hall of the Four Seasons in Cincinnati that weekend, but he never figured that Puck would want to go, and he had tended to spend his Saturday's with Noah now. And this would mark his month, this would be the last day of his month and he'd thought paintball, that was something that screamed Puck.
"I, are you sure? I mean, I would loveto go, but Noah, we-"
"We can paintball any time, apparently this is a three day only event, so we'll do that. Pick me up?"
"Yes, of course. Be ready by nine, okay?"
"Sure thing, babe." Puck hung up before Kurt could thank him, because he had been desperate to go to this, but never even thought that he'd be able to do it. Friday through to Sunday was always busy, and while he'd have been able to drive to the show on Friday night he'd be there for a total of one hour before it would shut down for the night and Sunday had turned into family night since he wasn't always able to get home on Friday early enough, and Finn seemed to want to spend more time with Quinn any way.
"You look happy." Blaine commented when Kurt walked into their AP French class, and Kurt was aware that the grin was wide over his face, but he absolutely didn't care.
"Noah and I are going to the Young Fashion Designers show case on Saturday." There's this tone in his voice, he can hear it, just this bursting with joy sort of tone, and Blaine frowns.
"Noah? That's Finn's friend, right? Puck."
"Yes, he was Finn's friend, but he's mine too. We were in glee together." Really, he doesn't know why Finn should get ownership over Noah, because Finn hasn't even paid attention to Noah at all. Even when he was in dire need of just a little attention.
"Well, sure, but didn't he used to throw you in dumpsters? And push you into lockers? And call you names?"
"Finn did all that stuff, too. People change, what's your point?" Kurt's getting defensive, because Blaine is ruining his mood over the designers showcase and it's not how Kurt wants to spend his afternoon. Because things are good, and Noah doesn't have any new wounds on his arms or anywhere else, and he's talking to his sister on the phone and he's getting better and Kurt is just hoping that this means they'll cycle through the six months, and the year, and then two years and Noah won't become just another teenage statistic. He's already one with the teenage dad, he doesn't need to be a teenage suicide too.
"It's just, you're spending a lot of time with him, aren't you? I just, I thought, just be careful okay. I know you don't believe in bisexuality and everything, but the heart can overrule the head sometimes, and Puck, well, Puck just screams 'straight', you know?"
His good mood is officially ruined for the rest of the day. Because what the hell is that supposed to mean? Of course he's spending a lot of time with Noah, he's helping Noah realise that there's more to live for, that he doesn't need to take an out because he has his life ahead of him and things can change. He knows that Noah is straight, he's painfully aware that Noah is straight, because the only boy in McKinley that even looked at Kurt like that was Dave Karofsky and Kurt didn't even want that. It's not like he's angling for anything with Noah, it's not. He's just helping. Why do people always assume that just because he's spending time with a boy that he's looking to get with them? Why do people not understand that he can be just friends with a boy? Is there something about him that screams 'will molest you' or something?
He might still be in his mood when he arrives to pick up Noah on Saturday morning, because Noah stops before climbing into the Navigator and stares at Kurt. "Did Finn piss in your low-fat, pro-biotic yoghurt this morning or something?" The fact that Noah knows exactly what Kurt eats in the morning is not lost on Kurt. "Seriously? You do wanna go to this thing, right? Because I even learned the designer's names."
"Just get in." They're half way there when Kurt finally breaks, "It was Blaine."
"Ah, the hobbit. What did he say this time, baby penguin?" See, there's more than just giving Noah that something to look for, because Kurt shares things, and Noah listens and they are friends now. There's a balance to it all, it isn't all Kurt giving to Noah, because Noah gives back and Kurt hasn't ever had a guy friend like that.
"He just, he warned me. To be careful. With you."
"Think I'm going after your virtue does he?" The whole sexuality thing isn't a problem for Noah, and Kurt is starting to see that Noah never used those terms or words because he was homophobic or anything, they were just designed to get a rise out of Kurt and they were the easiest to use. Kurt understands that when Noah calls something 'gay' it's not always a bad thing, because he was watching something on youtube with Kurt, laughing until there were tears and he just commented that 'that is so gay, it's like, it's dope'. Which Kurt knows is not a bad thing.
"Really? You're out for my v-card Hummel? Well I guess since you've put the work in." Kurt can't just laugh it off with Noah though.
"I'm serious," he's getting worked up again, and it's mostly at Blaine, because as great a friend as he is, Blaine just says things without thinking about how Kurt will take them, about how they make him feel, "he told me to be careful, because you were straight and that I shouldn't- God, it's just so stupid. It's like when I tried to make friends with Sam all over again. They all wanted him in glee, but it had to be Quinn who lured him there. It's not even about talent it's about who was more sexually frustrated." Noah chuckles beside him, it's the first time he's actually kept a good mood at the mention of Quinn. "You just laughed. I mentioned Quinn and you laughed. What is wrong with you?"
"You." There's still this smile on Noah's face though, "Forget the hobbit, seriously. He doesn't know shit, so just forget it. Besides, we both know what's going on here and it's no one else's business." And Kurt gets that, because Noah is very private about things now, not least his attempt to take his own life, but his actually pretty decent grades and his living situation and the fact that he's taking anti-depressants.
They arrive at the Four Seasons in Cincinnati, park up and Kurt feels the giddy nature come back to him. Because he's been looking forward to this, he has, and Noah said he actually learned the designer's names, so that he wasn't completely obtuse about the whole thing, but Kurt can still prattle on about everything. And it's glorious. There are so many fabulous things, and Kurt feels like he's just been given the keys to the kingdom. He comes away from it all with leaflets on how to make it in the fashion industry, steps to take, things to know, people to study; he's got samples and a new scarf that is just so darling and no one else has another one, anywhere. The best thing, Noah is still smiling, like he actually had a good time, like it wasn't hell for him, and Kurt could just hug him for how great he's been when it's meant to be his day and not about Kurt.
"So, good idea?"
"Oh my God, it was the best thing ever. I loved every minute of it, seriously, it was wonderful. And did you see them? Some of them are only a few years older than us. That could be me in four years, I could be one of those fabulous people living the dream and educating the masses on fashion and fabulousness." His entire body is thrumming with excitement and giddiness and it was so easy to just forget about what Blaine was saying, because not once did Noah act like a straight boy being dragged around by his gay friend. "Thank you so much for this, Noah. It was, it just, I was, oh, I'm without words."
"Good," they arrive back at the Nav and fill up the trunk with all of Kurt's goodies, and Noah just rolls out with it, "I figured I had to make the first date pretty spectacular for you to get it." Kurt stops moving, because those were definitely the words that Noah used, Kurt wasn't imagining it.
"Seriously, if the hobbit fucked this up, I'm going to ruin his pretty face." Kurt turns to look at Noah, seeing the first hint of that nervous energy that is always hidden behind Puck, the signs of insecurity that he never lets out normally. "All this time, hanging out, your little project to make me, to fix me, I just. It's more than that, okay. Because you gave a damn, and you didn't hold all that shit over my head and just walk away, and you tried. And no one has ever done that before." Kurt automatically reaches out a hand to place on Noah's forearm, fingers curling around his shirt. "And it's been good, and I don't wake up in the morning and wish I'd done it right, I don't go to bed thinking that tomorrow might be different. Because it's not hard any more, getting through from one day to the next. I still miss Beth, but the hole, it's not as big I guess."
"Don't okay, don't try and convince me that I'm straight, don't tell me it's just the meds or that I'm just vulnerable or any of that, okay. Just tell me if you like me back, because that's all I care about." Kurt hadn't ever let himself think like that, hadn't let himself crush on Noah, because the crush he had on Finn was bad enough. He'd made himself only think of Noah as a friend, made himself think about the crush on Blaine, made himself understand that Noah was never going to think like that because they were just friends.
But they aren't, because Noah didn't hold back. And Noah likes him. So Kurt can't lie.
"I do. I never really thought you'd, I mean, I do, Noah. I like you back."
The smile that he gets from that, the way Noah's eyes shine with something that isn't tears, the way he leans in towards Kurt with that bright, happy look, it's enough to convince Kurt that this isn't just Noah being vulnerable and lost and looking for something to cling to. It's Noah being open, and honest, and caring. And maybe Kurt doesn't believe in bisexuality, but he does believe in following your heart, and if that means a gender you wouldn't have expected, then so be it.
He stops thinking when Noah's lips brush his, and Kurt leans up into it, closing his eyes and letting himself fall into the soft press of Noah's lips against his and Noah's strong arms around his back and that solid chest in front of him.
And screw what anyone else thinks, because Kurt's watched as Noah built himself back together, and there's something so honest and raw about this boy that Kurt knows he could love, and that if Noah loves him, it'll be the best thing he's ever gotten out of high school.