A/N: After careful consideration, I have decided to move some stuff in this chapter around and replace it. I like this version much better & I hope you do as well. I'm very sorry about my poor editing.
Kurt scrambled away from him frantically, feeling the stairs bruise his back as he pushed into them. "Wh-what do you want?" Kurt asked tremulously, "I haven't said anything. And I won't. You don't need to-to do anything."
Karofsky merely looked at him, his expression unfathomable. "I know you told someone."
Kurt felt his stomach drop and land somewhere in fire. He mouthed wordlessly, unable to force his tongue to form syllables. He was frozen yet again, looking into Karofsky's (thankfully brown) eyes and silently pleading. Not for his own life – that wasn't worth much – but for Blaine's and his father's. Please, don't hurt them, he wanted to say, my father doesn't even know anything, and Blaine . . . he can't die because of me. Please.
"They told me. Or they told him and he told me," Karofsky paused, allowing a flicker of sadness to break his flat stare. "He wants me to kill you. Both of you. Or all three of you. They're not sure."
Kurt shook his head. "Please," he whispered brokenly, finding his voice at last, "don't. They don't know anything. Don't hurt them."
Frustration broke Karofsky's emotionless mask. "I'm not going to . . . He's the monster, not . . . Just-just take the freakin' pictures and I'll go. And you'd better hope you never see me again." He thrust out his hand and Kurt gingerly grasped the wrinkled paper.
Instead of letting go of the pictures, Karofsky leaned forward and muttered "Watch out for your new butt-buddy."
"He's not my-" Kurt's heart skipped a few beats and he drew back swiftly as he registered exactly what Karofsky was saying. "He has nothing to do with this. He's just-"
Again, frustration flashed across Karofsky's features. "That's not what I–just be careful around that fairy. He-"
"Hey!" a man shouted from somewhere behind Karofsky. "What the hell-? Get away from him!"
Karofsky was gone as quick as he came, racing up the steps. Puck ran past Kurt and up the stairs, shouting threats and profanities at Karofsky's receding form as he chased him.
Kurt simply stayed there, still frozen. What did he mean "be careful around him"? Is there something after him? A Demon with a grudge and no limits? Why would Karofsky warn me about that? Why did he-
"Kurt?" Mercedes broke his concentration with her questioning shout. She strode up to him, trailed by the rest of glee club. "Kurt, what happened? We heard yelling." she said concernedly.
"I-I fell," Kurt lied, "it's nothing." He knew they wouldn't believe that, with him trembling so terribly it looked like he was having some kind of epileptic seizure.
"Did you break something?" Finn asked seriously.
"He didn't break anything," Rachel interjected quietly, "he's lying. He didn't fall. Someone pushed him."
"No," Kurt said stubbornly, "I was just walking to the French classroom and I tripped on the stairs. I think I twisted my ankle."
"French class is on the ground floor," Mike reminded him suspiciously.
"And it's that way," Artie added, pointing over his shoulder.
"I didn't trip up the stairs," Kurt told them exasperatedly.
They considered that collectively. When it appeared they could find no holes in that aspect of his story, Brittany spoke up.
"Were you going to steal the French teacher's leprechaun?"
Kurt stared at her quizzically for a second before answering. "No, I was going to pick up some things I missed. What is the French teacher's-?"
"Don't ask," Quinn advised.
"Well, why would you go there when she's not there if you didn't want her leprechaun?"
"Yeah," Santana agreed loudly, "unless you're going all bad-boy on us, which I doubt because you have the morals of an eight year old girl, you're lying through your teeth. Now just tell me what S.O.B. made you blubber like a baby so I can endz him."
"I didn't know she wasn't there," Kurt retorted defensively, feeling both insulted and flattered by Santana's comment. "She must have forgotten that I was coming."
After mulling it over for a few moments, the entire group seemed to accept his lie as truth, except Rachel, who was looking at him with a mixture of accusation and sadness. He stared back at her, silently begging her to keep silent. After a few moments she looked down with a tiny nod.
"Well, if that's all then we'd better get you to a doctor," Tina said motioning to Mercedes to help her lift Kurt from the ground.
They were just reaching for his arms when the sound of someone stamping down the staircase caused them to freeze in surprise.
"He got away," Puck panted furiously as he came down the steps to stand in front of Kurt. "Sorry, Kurt. That fat bastard can run."
"Who?" the glee club chorused as Mercedes knelt to put her arm around Kurt's shoulders.
Puck looked at Kurt, dumbfounded. "You didn't tell them?" Kurt shook his head stiffly and glared at Puck mutinously. "It was Karofsky. I came out here and he was all up on Kurt, so I chased him. I woulda beat the crap out of him if he didn't have a head start." He crouched down so that his face was level with Kurt's. "Did he hurt you?"
Kurt felt confusion battling his anger. After a few seconds of intense warfare, anger won. "Why do you care? Are you jealous that he beat you to the punch?"
Puck pulled back in shock. "What's that . . ." he trailed of, understanding dawning on his face. Regret flooded his features a second later. "Look, Kurt-"
"I saw enough," Kurt interrupted coldly. He got up and dusted off his pants, making no attempt to retrieve his belongings. He felt his chest tighten as he walked away, hoping no one would-
"Kurt," Puck called, catching up to Kurt as he rounded a corner and grabbing him by the elbow. "I-I didn't mean it, alright? I-"
"No it's not alright," Kurt spat, yanking his arm away from Puckerman, "do you have any idea what it's like to be bullied every day by people who don't even know you? You-"
"Yes," Puck said quietly as he studied a crack in the linoleum.
Kurt's accusation cut off at the small word. "Since when? No one here would dare touch you." He narrowed his eyes at Puckerman, believing this to be some kind of trick.
Puck didn't respond. He opened his mouth several times before "It happened in juvie. I-I wasn't really king bad ass like I said. There were some dudes in there . . . I mean, I thought I was nasty, but these guys . . . they were bad. Like, demon bad. I swear some of them had black eyes sometimes," Puck shuddered at the possibility. "And they were . . . what's that word for sickos who like pain? Sat-satists?"
"Sadists," Kurt corrected softly.
"Yeah, they were sadists," Puck paused and scuffed the floor with his boot, "There was this kid there and he . . . he had an asthma attack during recreation and he couldn't find his inhaler. They just laughed. This kid was dying and they-they thought it was funny. Turns out they took his inhaler. While he was choking they took it out and dangled it in his face. I tried to help him, but they kept pushing me, calling me wimp, fairy, girl, just . . . everything. A guard stepped in eventually, but that kid . . . he was barely alive. And they were still laughing." Puck looked at him as though he couldn't believe his own memories. It was almost as though he was begging Kurt to tell him it wasn't real; that it was some kind of horrible nightmare.
Kurt eyed Puck thoughtfully for a minute. Maybe I was wrong about him, Kurt felt a rush of anger at the memory of Puck prancing around in the wig, but that doesn't excuse what he did. Again, Kurt felt his conflicting emotions battling in his mind.
He recalled the hurt and humiliation at Puck's thoughtless torment; the repeated wounds that buried themselves so deep that their cracks almost broke him. But was it really Puck that had been breaking him at the time? Or was it something else?
What does it matter now? Kurt asked himself, What difference does it make? This apology means nothing because it doesn't change anything. I . . . never really cared much for Puckerman anyhow. It's not like we were close. What's he ever done for me other than nice little dumpster tosses and slushie facials? Kurt's train of thought faded as he remembered when Finn had told him that Puck had prayed for Burt to heal after hearing about his heart attack.
"I just think you should pitch in so that we can send him something," Finn said as he waved a collection box under his nose. "I mean, juvie can't be a fun place. I just think he might want, like, a gift basket or something. Make him feel better."
Kurt raised an eyebrow. "The purpose of juvenile hall is to make you feel bad about yourself. Puckerman brought it on himself. We don't owe him anything. Especially not you, or do you not recall what he did to you last year?"
Finn's expression flickered from confused, then angry, then confused again before settling on resolute. "Well, that's old news. Besides, he's always telling Karofsky and the jocks to leave you alone, plus he prayed for Burt-"
"And that somehow entails that I am obligated to spend my hard earned money on sending comfort food to a delinquent?" Kurt interrupted frostily.
"No, but it entrails that you should show him the same support that he showed you." Finn retorted hotly. He seemed unable to comprehend Kurt's unwillingness to forgive Puckerman and support him through this difficult time. "Maybe he did bring it on himself, but he's still a good person . . . y'know there are people who would say that you bring heart attacks on yourself."
"If you are implying that the two situations are even remotely related-" Kurt began furiously.
"No," Finn said calmly, "I'm saying that no one owes anyone anything. It's just about having some compression."
"Compassion," Kurt corrected angrily, "and that has nothing to do with this. It's about learning the difference between right and wrong. Or, I suppose, in Puckerman's case it would be idiocy and actual thought."
Finn looked at Kurt piteously, as though he was the moron. "Whatever, dude."Finn said dejectedly as he turned and left Kurt to fume.
At the time, Kurt simply wrote off Finn's advice as pure stupidity, because surely it was a form of the highest idiocy to forgive someone so careless with their actions. But now, Kurt considered the possibility that Finn was right. Maybe this isn't about debts and brain power; maybe it really is about compassion. Maybe Puckerman really did deserve more commendation than I gave him.
Kurt returned his attention back to Puck as he struggled to say something more. "It pro'bly won't make it better, but I'm sorry. I think, maybe . . . I was trying to feel like a bad ass again, y'know, after they freakin' neutered me in that hell hole . . . but now I'm just like them."
Kurt shook his head. "You're a lot of things, Puck, but you're not a sadist. You're just . . . angry." Why do I bother defending him? Kurt questioned himself although he already knew the answer: something about the look on Puck's face, cocky smile replaced with self-disgust, appealed to Kurt's sympathy. Puck had done many stupid things in his life, but he was more than a common bully.
Puck snorted. "Yeah, right."
"The fact that you tried to help that boy proves it . . . I'm not saying what you did was okay, because it wasn't, but . . . you're apologizing and that's something. And you went after Karofsky for me. You just . . . you have to understand that people can be hurt emotionally, not just physically."
Kurt saw something fall to the floor from the general area of Puck's face. Was that–? Is he–? Puck's hand flew to his face and he wiped frantically at the trail of the tear. Kurt's jaw dropped for a split second before he regained composure. He had never seen Puckerman cry before, and, as much as it frightened him, he felt it was reassuring to know that his ruefulness was so compelling.
"I–uh–I'll remember that, Kurt, and I really hope you know that I never meant to hurt you . . . either way." Puck looked up at him, his face torn between hopeful and sheepish.
Kurt closed his eyes thought for a moment, considering the apology carefully and wondering if he would regret accepting it.
Give them a chance. They might surprise you.
"I forgive you."
"Thank you." Puck stepped forward and threw his arms around Kurt's shoulders. Kurt stood stock-still, again waiting for the impulse to force away the intruder-of-personal-space to fade. After he was certain he wasn't going to use his arms to swing at Puck's stomach, he wrapped them around his back tentatively, being careful not to place them too low.
Puck pulled back after a brief moment, patting Kurt on the back roughly and looking at him with big puppy dog eyes that contrasted sharply with his bad-boy physique. Kurt couldn't help but smile in amusement at the sight.
It seemed Puck had exhausted his quota of emotion for the day, as he patted Kurt on the shoulder roughly and said "we'd better get back to the rest of the club. I told them to hang back but they'll prob'ly want to know what went down. Don't want them to think you neutered me for real with those pointy shoes."