rating: PG-13 (language)
summary: The end is clear, even from the beginning, but sometimes it's easier to blind yourself until you can't anymore.
a/n: This is Part 1 of the End of Puckurt, which chronicles the last half of Senior Year. Part 2 will be the fallout. Title and cut text from 'Set Fire to the Rain' by Adele.
They're spread out on Noah's coffee table, two nos for Noah, one for him, two and four yeses, and Kurt can't even see them. His eyes are clouded over with something and he doesn't even realize he's crying until Noah pulls him into his lap, holding him tightly. He knows, knows, that what he and Noah have, it's coming to an end, and he doesn't know how to deal with that. Because both of Noah's yeses are here in Ohio, and none of Kurt's are, and he doesn't know if they can survive the distance and the new experiences, doesn't think that anyone can survive that, but he doesn't want it to end. He doesn't want to let go of all of the things he's learned about the beautiful man holding him, murmuring nonsense into his hair with a rattle in his chest that says he's only not crying by sheer force of will.
His dad's excited for him when he tells him about the letters, happy in a way that Kurt can't bring himself to be, and Kurt tries hard not to let him see just how much he's hurting, how much those little slips of paper are changing his life, for once not for the better. Of course, Burt sees, but Kurt knows he won't ask, not until Kurt says something first. So Dad remains excited and Kurt remains guarded, trying to smile for the man that's done so much, sacrificed almost everything for him.
"I want to tell my dad," is what he says to Noah the next day, when they're eating lunch under the bleachers, the Skanks bought off of gossiping with packs of cigarettes and cheap vodka that Noah picked up somewhere. He feels Noah stiffen next to him, and he knows why. It's not because Noah's ashamed of them, he knows, it's because of their past. Noah doesn't think Burt could ever forgive him for what he's done to Kurt in the past, no matter that Kurt has tried to tell him that the past is the past, that it's over and done with.
"Why?" Noah's not asking for the reasons people usually do, Kurt knows better than that after almost a year.
"Because this time is hard for me, and... I've kept it a secret from him for a long time. I don't like lying to my dad, Noah. I know yours isn't always there, that there's no love lost, but for me, he's one of the most important people in my life."
"Yeah, okay. I'm not coming out to the school though, so Finn can't know."
"Honey, you can't come out if you're not gay. And I'm still not convinced you are. So no telling Finn. That's easy enough, I'll just tell Dad while Finn's eating dinner. He'll never know." And they laugh, because they can, because it hurts less than crying.
When he tells his father, he expects a blow-up, not a near-perfect repeat of the conversation they had when he came out in the first place. His dad's not surprised, had noted his mood swings and watched accordingly, had even done some snooping with the phone bill, which Kurt still thinks is a little insane, but at least it's out now, and Dad doesn't seem like he'll kill Noah if he sees him again.
"Bring him around for dinner on Thursday. Finn's over at Rachel's that night so he won't be around to bug us." And Kurt realizes that Dad gets it, gets why they haven't been open, haven't told anyone. His father is much too perceptive sometimes, too knowledgeable for Kurt's comfort, but then there's times like this, where it's completely easy, and he loves his dad more than ever, even if just for those few minutes.
Dinner on Thursday is nice, pleasant, and Noah's on his best behavior, which thanks to Kurt is pretty good, which bodes well for his dad accepting them. Carole's like a shadow, watching from the sidelines, ready to referee if necessary, but she ends up joining in on the conversation about how Noah's mom's doing, since the last time they talked. Kurt thinks it must be hard for them to know that Noah's family knows, has known for awhile about the two of them, but they put a good face on and the night goes on.
It's after Noah leaves, a chaste kiss before opening the door all he allows himself, that Kurt starts worrying. His dad is good at being nice to people even when he doesn't like them, and he's waiting for the real reaction to everything. He doesn't have to wait long for Dad to sit next to him on the couch, passing him a cup of tea that Carole obviously made, flipping on the tv and turning the volume down on something neither of them care about watching, just to have background noise. Kurt sips his tea and waits, knowing that his dad will start speaking soon, for good or ill.
"Thursday nights I'd better see that boy at my table," Dad finally says, and just like that, they're accepted. What follows is a serious conversation about how far they've gone (Kurt carefully doesn't tell him that he's not a virgin anymore) and what they usually do (hang out in malls in Columbus and movie theaters in Toledo, but Dad doesn't need to know that either), the kind of conversation that Kurt's been wanting to have for months now. There are rules laid down, things they can and can't do in the house, and a schedule made up, and tacked on the fridge where Finn can't possibly miss it, detailing certain nights as 'Kurt nights' so that Kurt can have Noah over without worrying about Finn getting in the way. It feels almost normal.
When Graduation rolls around and Kurt and Rachel are made Valedictorian and Summa Cum Laude respectively, the preparation becomes a haze of rehearsals, both for their speeches and the ceremony and for Glee, and he and Noah hardly have any time together, though Dad makes sure that Thursday nights are still theirs, something that Kurt can't be more grateful for. Noah gets a little distant, but Kurt brushes it off, knowing that both of them are busy, that they've got a lot of decisions to make.
That is, until Noah misses Thursday. Kurt calls him, and can hear music in the background, something of Sarah's. "Hey, Hummel." That's it, no 'hey kurt' or 'hey babe', which means he's not alone, and Kurt wonders who's there.
"My dad missed you at dinner. Thought you were gonna go over the 3rd round games in the Series tonight." He keeps his tone light, wondering why he's not just saying that he misses him, even though both of them know it's true.
"Oh, that was tonight? Man, I'm sorry, my dad took us out for dinner and I completely forgot to call. Look, I'll talk to you tomorrow at practice, okay?" Noah's voice is tight, and a little angry, so Kurt doesn't say what he wants to, just nods and closes his eyes.
"Yeah, practice tomorrow. Don't forget your stuff, and don't forget that I love you, even though you can't say it back."
"I won't forget," and his voice softens, just a touch, making Kurt glad he said it, glad he can say it. "Bye Hummel." Before Kurt can respond the line clicks and he's left holding his phone, which has a picture of Puck from last summer as the wallpaper, from the one weekend he'd managed to finagle private time for them.
"What's up, kid?" his dad asks, walking in a few minutes later.
"Sarah's dad's back in town. They went out to eat." He's not sure what his face or the tone of his voice are saying, but he gets up, kissing his dad's cheek. "I'll be upstairs studying, let me know if you need anything." He makes it to his room and shuts the door before the tears are falling, because Noah's father's presence feels like the beginning of the end, even more final than those papers, and his decisions.
There's a rapping on his window that jerks him out of sleep, grabbing for the knife that Noah convinced him to keep by his bed just in case, before he realizes that Noah's hanging on to his window casing, looking miserable. He's up in an instant, opening it and ushering him in. Once inside, Noah holds him tight, something that doesn't happen nearly often enough for Kurt's liking. Noah's shaking, and he realizes that this is it. They're over, whether Noah speaks or not, this is their last night, the last time they'll be them.
"He... He knows about us, about... About me." He pulls back, looking up at Noah, and there's a bruise on his cheek, quickly turning into a black eye, which tells Kurt what happened more plainly than Noah's words ever could.
"So what do you want to do? I know your mom's happy he's back, if only because he's paying for Sarah again." He tries to keep his voice even, even though this is way too big, too much for him to handle.
"I... He'll be gone in a month anyway, he never sticks around long, I don't care what he thinks," he says, voice hard and tight and angrier than it was earlier, which is how Kurt knows he's lying.
"Noah. Calm down and tell me what you want to do."
"I don't... Kurt, I... I love you." And he wishes that Noah hadn't said that, hadn't made the first time the last time, because it feels amazing, to know that Noah actually does feel it too, that if it weren't for Mark the asshole, they could be... something. But it hurts more than he can say, to have that put in his reach and snatched away.
"Don't. Please don't just say that."
"I'm sorry... I do love you, but..."
"But he's back. And so we... we're done." And it isn't until Noah's gently wiping them away that he realizes the tears are streaming again. He wishes that he wasn't such a soft touch, crying at the drop of a hat, but this is important, it's the biggest moment in his life, and he can't take it, even though he's been steeling himself for it for hours.
"Kurt, baby, please, don't..." Noah's voice is thick and Kurt looks up to see that there really is something that can make Noah Puckerman cry. "When he's gone, we can--"
"Don't. Don't do it. I'm going to New York and you're staying here and maybe it's a good thing he's here. I mean, at least we can do this now instead of grow apart and fight and... I don't know, Noah, I don't want to let you go, but it... I can't do it. If we're breaking up, we're doing it for good. I can't go back and forth. I love you, but I can't do it."
"I... Kurt, please... Don't do this. Don't break us up because of one backward asshole. I'll take the bruises to stay with you, you know I will."
"But I can't take you taking them. I don't like you hurt, and... it's like a band-aid, you know? Yank it off quick, hurt goes away quicker." Despite his words, he burrows closer, wrapping himself around Noah, not wanting to let go.
"Okay. Okay." And Noah holds him tight, and they're holding each other, tear-tracks drying, when they fall asleep. Noah will wake up before anyone gets up, and he'll leave, and that'll be it. No more of them, no more sneaking kisses in empty classrooms and date nights on Thursdays in the Hummel living room, no more late-night talks, that devolved into quiet, lazy kisses.
Part 2: However Far Away