Spoilers: AU S3
Warning: Rude & Homophobic language. Bullying. Puck's internal dialogue. Raw and unBETAed
Summary: The summer before his senior year, Puck meets Mrs. Miller, an elderly lady. At her influence, he takes up a new hobby which inadvertently leads to a lot of lifestyle changes and personal growth for Puck. One of these said changes is his view of Kurt Hummel. Klainers can rest easy because there is no Klaine and so, no Blaine-bashing in this AU... as if I would bash my sweet Baby Blaine.
“Now you listen to me,” cried out Puck’s mother in an angry voice that caused Puck and the rest of the occupants of the room to wince. “I know my son and if he says he didn’t do it then he...”
Puck scowled as his mom trailed off, her voice starting to sound less sure than it had milliseconds earlier. He could bet that she was remembering all of the times she had been called to school over the years because of the trouble Puck got into. Perhaps she was even thinking of his brief stint in Juvie for attempting to steal an ATM machine, or the time she caught a woman nearly her age in his bed with him, or the day she had to miss work to go pick him up from mall security after he had been caught in the women’s dressing room, or any of the other times he had let her down.
He hated that she was wearing her scrubs, knowing it meant that she had been called away from work. They couldn’t afford having her miss work, but here she had been called away from the hospital because of her son acting like an idiot, again. She worked as a laundry attendant which was how she met Carole and how Puck and Finn had become friends when they were little. The woman worked herself ragged at her job. She was a single parent with two kids to feed and clothe, and rent to pay. On top of being left to fend for herself by the idiotic father of her children, she was always and forever being forced to deal with her delinquent son. Puck wanted to scream.
“Well, I’m sure he didn’t do it this time,” she finally finished.
She reached over and squeezed Puck’s hand, smiling tightly at him. Puck frowned at her but squeezed her hand back. He knew he was a terrible disappointment to her. He wanted to be better for her but he just couldn’t seem to keep it together long enough to show her that he was changing and maturing, that he could be trusted, that he wasn’t his father’s son. THAT was the worst of it. He hated his father for leaving, for being an asshole, for treating everyone like shit, for being a complete deadbeat, but he couldn’t help but think, to his horror, that he was exactly like him.
“Oh, it was him alright,” exclaimed Mr. Tabay, glaring angrily at Puck from across the office. “He’s been nothing but trouble since he started in my class. He thinks Art is just some big joke. Well it isn’t funny, Mr. Puckerman, not one bit. And I’ll see to it that you aren’t laughing by the end of this.”
“Are you threatening my son, Mr. Tabay?” asked Puck’s mom in a venomous voice.
“Alright, alright,” cut in Principal Figgins, holding his hands up to silence them. “Let’s not get excited. Mr. Tabay, do you have any evidence that this heinouscrime was in fact carried out by Noah Puckerman?”
“This sweater,” started the teacher who had been consoling Mr. Tabay, holding up a grey hooded sweater. “Was found in with the mess.”
Puck’s jaw dropped as he took in the sweater the teacher was brandishing. It was light grey with the McKinley Spartans logo on the front and ‘Puckerman’ embroidered on the shoulder. He had been looking for that sweater. He hadn’t seen it for a few days, not since the day the guys had surrounded him in the locker room after football practise... Puck’s eyes immediately narrowed and he set his jaw angrily. He was being set up.
“He must have gotten overheated with the work it took to destroy all that expensive school property and took it off,” said the teacher, waving the sweater around tauntingly. “Not so smart, now, huh?”
“This whole thing reeks of sabotage,” growled Puck. “Are you really so naive to think that I would be that stupid? Don’t you think it’s a little too convenient that my hoody just happened to be left behind?”
“Is there any reason that Noah would want to do something like this?” asked Principal Figgins.
It looked like the man was trying very hard to keep his expression neutral, but Puck could tell Figgins wanted to side with the teachers. One doesn’t visit the principal’s office as many times as Puck had in his high school career without becoming the obvious choice when it was time to lay blame.
“Do teenagers really even need motives to do the stupid things they do?” asked the teacher who was quickly writing herself into Puck’s books as a genuine bitch.
“He was quite upset with me for the mark he got on his last assignment,” said Mr. Tabay, his facial features beginning to draw into a thoughtful expression instead of their wild insanity. “Perhaps he wanted to teach me a lesson.”
Principal Figgins nodded slightly before turning his attention over to Puck.
“Is that it?” he asked, trying to sound understanding. “Did you feel like Mr. Tabay was marking you unfairly? You know there are other, less destructive ways to deal with these kinds of concerns.”
Puck frowned at the principal as if he had bitten into something sour. When had this turned from a question of if he had done it into a matter of why he had done it? He ground his teeth together and decided not to speak. It seemed they were going to draw their own conclusions no matter what he said, so there was no point in saying anything that could be twisted into a confession.
“Noah is in that class every other day,” started his mom, suddenly. “Who’s to say the sweater didn’t get left there during class one day? That is not evidence enough to put the blame on my son!”
Principal Figgins nodded contemplatively.
“Of course, you are right, Mrs. Puckerman,” he said with a sigh. “Until there is concrete proof that Noah is the perpetrator, it would be unfair of us to punish him for the crime.”
Puck slouched a little in his seat, feeling both grateful for his mom and relieved by Figgins’ declaration. Mr. Tabay gasped in outrage and jumped to his feet from the chair he had been sitting in. He slammed his hands down on Principal Figgin’s large desk and leaned over it menacingly. Even from only just seeing his profile, Puck could see his eyes were wild with fury.
“Who will pay for the damages? Whp will clean up the mess? Who will replace all the easels and models and my paints?” he cried out.
“I’m sure the school will be able to find the money in the budget to replace the items necessary for you to continue to teach the class,” replied Principal Figgins evenly. “You’ll just have to go without whatever can’t be repaired or replaced on our dime until we do crack this mystery and find the person or persons responsible.”
“Fine,” exclaimed Mr. Tabay angrily. “Don’t make him pay! But I am no longer comfortable having him in my class. I demand he withdraw from it.”
All the blood left Puck’s face and he stared dumbly at the spiteful teacher in absolute horror.
“But I need those credits to graduate,” he croaked.
Mr. Tabay turned from Principal Figgins and rolled his eyes dramatically at Puck.
“I doubt you were going to pass anyway,” he scoffed before turning to leave.
“Mr. Tabay,” warned Principal Figgins, sharply, causing the man to pause in the doorway. “You can’t actually force Noah to drop your class.”
There were a few tense moments of silence. It didn’t feel very quiet, though, the silence in the room was deafening and so was the throbbing in Puck’s head. He sucked in a breath and grabbed onto the armrests of his chair with a white-knuckle hold.
“You know what?” he managed to spit out without giving away how panicked he was feeling inside. “Fine. I’ll quit your class. I wouldn’t want have to spend any more time trying to learn from a selfish prick like you anyway.”
Principal Figgins clapped his hands together and smiled brightly.
“Excellent,” he said. “A solution.”
Puck’s mom raised her eyebrow at the principal as if asking if he were actually serious and then turned to frown at Puck.
“Are you sure about this, Noah?” she asked softly. “What are you going to do to get those credits?”
“I’ll find a different class,” answered Puck with a shrug. “Or maybe I’ll take an online course or something. There’s gotta to be other options.”
“There’s plenty,” spoke up the principal with a bright smile and enthusiastic nod. “I can set up an appointment for you with the school counselor.”
“Okay,” said Puck, numbly. “Thanks.”
Puck felt awkward as he walked his mom out to her car. He wanted to say something, but had no idea what. He wanted to know what she was thinking but was also scared of finding out exactly what it was. If he could just figure out the right thing to say, perhaps he could start to fix the rift that had formed between them. He glared down at the sweater in his hands, and instead let his mind drift over to the jocks and what he should do to get back at them.
“Look,” said his mom once they had reached her battered old car. “This is your last year of high school and then you’ll be able to do... whatever it is that you want to do with your life. Can you please just try to stay out of trouble until then?”
The pleading tone of her voice and the resigned look in her eyes clenched at Puck’s chest. She looked so tired. Puck frowned, then, her words suddenly sinking in.
“Wait, you don’t believe me,” he said, his voice rising with every syllable. “You think I actually did trash the Art room.”
“Noah,” sighed his mom, tiredly.
“No,” exclaimed Puck, throwing his hands in the air and turning to stomp away. “You know what? Screw you! My own mother doesn’t even believe me! This is fucking bullshit!”
“Noah,” said his mom with a little more strength. “Noah!”
Puck dropped his balled fists to his sides and turned to glare back at her.
“Please don’t,” she pleaded. “Just... don’t.”
“You want me to change?” asked Puck angrily. “How am I supposed to ever be anything other than a loser if that’s all anyone ever treats me as?”
His mom frowned at him; her lips pursed and her jaw clenched but her eyes looking like they could tear up at any moment. She finally just shook her head and sighed.
“I gotta get back to work,” she said before pulling open the car’s door and getting in.
Puck kicked angrily at a pebble on the asphalt of the school parking lot while he listened to the dull roar of his mom’s shitty car as it drove away. He glared at the stupid sweater that had gotten him into the mess before throwing it as hard as he could to the pavement. The soft rustle it made as it landed wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying as he had wanted. Puck let out a frustrated groan that was half growl before shoving his hands in his pockets and trudging back toward the entrance of the school.
Lunch break was nearly over when Puck finally entered the cafeteria. Everyone was eating or finished eating, so there was no line up when he grabbed a red tray. It also meant that there were barely any food options left. He grumpily accepted the mac-n-cheese from the hair-netted lunch lady and grabbed an apple and chocolate brownie at the end of the line before walking stiffly toward the ‘glee table’ where Kurt was, again, seated with Finn and Rachel.
“You look pissed,” commented Finn as Puck dropped down into the seat across from Kurt just like the day before.
Puck just grunted in reply, quickly tucking in to the lukewarm pasta so he could fill his stomach before the bell rang to end lunch break.
“He’s probably upset because of what happened to the Art room,” said Rachel matter-of-factly and Puck froze.
“It’s all over the school,” explained Rachel at Finn and Kurt’s curious expressions. “Someone ransacked the room. They destroyed everything and made quite the mess. I bet Puck’s upset about that. I would be. I mean, can you imagine if someone did that to the choir room?”
“I heard it was Puck who did it,” sounded a soft voice from behind Puck.
Everyone looked up at the girl who had just spoken.
“Raine tell you that?” asked Puck gruffly.
Tina frowned before pulling out the chair next to him and sitting down. She leaned an elbow on the table and bodily turned toward him, resting her chin on her hand.
“Yes, actually,” she said softly. “I told her there was no way you would do something like that... I hope I was right in saying so.”
Puck grimaced at how unsure Tina sounded.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” he said quietly from between clenched teeth.
“Dude,” gasped Finn, making Puck turn toward him. “You didn’t, did you?”
“Finn,” sighed out Kurt in exasperation with an exaggerated eye-roll. “Of course he didn’t.”
At Kurt’s words, Puck felt a warmth bloom in his chest that quickly covered the cold and bitter anger that had just begun to develop because of Finn’s question. He smiled at Kurt and Kurt simply shrugged as if to say ‘well, of course you didn’t; I’m just saying the truth’.
“I was framed,” said Puck, simply.
Rachel gasped and touched his arm.
“Do you know by who?” she asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Puck, even though he was pretty certain he knew who had done it and he planned on getting them back. “It isn’t like anyone is going to believe me, anyway. It’s too easy to blame me for shit like this.”
Kurt caught Puck’s eye in that moment and Puck couldn’t look away. He stared across the table into Kurt’s blue-green-grey eyes, his breath caught in his throat. He felt like the other boy was trying to study him, or communicate something to him, or maybe even both. The problem was that he had no idea what Kurt might have been trying to communicate to him. When Kurt looked away, finally releasing him from his grip, Puck exhaled heavily and quickly glanced around the table to see if anyone had noticed.
Tina was frowning sadly at him and Rachel was giving reprimanding look. Puck dared glance back at Kurt to find him simply looking down at the magazine he had open beside his plate.
“I’ll talk to Raine,” Tina offered.
Puck simply shrugged, but he silently hoped she could persuade them of his innocence. He’d really like to have Taylor and Raine back on his side.
“So, it looks like you have French available during that class if you wanted to try that,” started Miss Pillsbury as she stared down all wide-eyed at the class schedule in her hands. “Or we could try to move around a few of your other classes.”
Puck groaned in frustration.
“I’ve already spent over two hundred dollars for supplies for Art class,” he grumbled.
“Well, you’re not officially withdrawn from the class, yet,” she said in her small voice, hands trembling as she shifted through her papers. “Perhaps you could try to work things out with Mr. Tabay?”
“The guy’s a jerk,” said Puck angrily.
Miss Pillsbury swallowed and nodded her head quickly, her eyes having grown slightly wider at Puck’s statement. She fiddled with the paper in her hands for a few moments before finally looking up at Puck.
“Okay, Noah,” she said carefully. “I’m not exactly sure what you want from me right now.”
Puck let out a sigh before shifting in his seat in front of Miss Pillsbury’s desk.
“You know what I asked Principal Figgins to set up my appointment with you instead of Mr. Jenkins?” he asked.
He continued when she shook her head.
“It is because you actually seem to care about us,” he said. “All the teachers around here just see me as the troublemaker, but you seem to actually just see me as a kid. So, I was hoping you could actually help me out here, Miss Pillsbury.”
Puck grinned when the corners of the redheaded woman’s mouth began to twitch. She smiled a private little smile and nodded awkwardly to herself before meeting Puck’s eyes with a determined grin.
“Alright,” she said. “Tell me what you need.”
Puck’s grin only widened and he leaned back in his chair, starting to feel his frustration begin to leave the tense joints of his body for the first time that day since coming across the Art room.
“I want to take art,” said Puck. “But I can’t take it in Mr. Tabay’s class because he’s a dick and would fail me out of spite. I’ve got all the supplies, I just need...”
“Distance Learning,” said the guidance counsellor, brightly. “Often, if there’s a class we don’t offer here, you can take it through the American Distance Learning program. It is kind of like homeschooling or getting a college degree from home. You enroll, get your text book in the mail, and send in your assignments periodically. We have a few students here who take a class or two through it. You can use your free class like a study hall period and work on it then. I’ll look into it for you, there might be different rules considering we actually do offer the class here.”
“Thanks, Miss Pillsbury,” said Puck sincerely.
“You’re welcome, Noah,” she said with a smile.She passed Puck’s class schedule back to him before quickly pumping some hand sanitizer into her palm. Puck gave her a little salute and crooked smile before sauntering out of her room. Everything was going to be just fine --well, at least the art part of it was. He still had to come up with a plan for getting back at the assholes who had done this to him.