Rating/warnings: light R
Word Count: 24,489
Notes: This is set in the same 'verse as The Right Side of Reason, I'm Numbing My Feeling, Every Second's a Longer Wait, and Soon We'll Fall to Pieces. Title stolen from I'm Yours Tonight by The Academy Is....
Summary: Sam struggles to understand Puck's actions and starts making some potentially life-changing decisions, only one of which goes well.
Sam wakes up to the sound of his mother calling his name. He opens his eyes blearily and groans, pulling the covers over his face as sunlight streams in through the window.
“Sam, you’ll be late for school if you don’t get up,” his mom says, passing by his door.
“I’m not going,” Sam mumbles from beneath the sheets. He gets a few more minutes of peace before his mom comes in and gives his shoulder a firm shake.
“Sam, get up.”
“I’m sick, I can’t go to school today,” Sam insists, turning over to face the wall.
“Maybe you wouldn’t be feeling so bad if you’d gotten some fresh air this weekend instead of holing up in your Batcave of a room and playing video games in the dark.”
“I was chilling.”
“Chill time is over. Now get up and get in the shower. You have school.”
Sam grumbles loudly as his mom pulls the sheets down. He covers his eyes with his hands and frowns in her general direction before trying to burrow his head underneath his pillow, but she snatches it away and runs a hand through his mussed hair.
“Sam, what’s going on?” she asks, annoyance seeping into her voice. She puts a hand against his forehead and raises her brows. “You don’t have a fever, and I haven’t heard you coughing or sniffling at all, so please don’t lie and tell me you’re sick.”
“My life sucks. I just don’t want to go to school,” Sam groans, kicking the covers away. “I hate school.”
“Why? I thought you liked McKinley.” His mother pauses for a moment. “Sam, is there anyone bothering you again?”
“No, no, it’s nothing like that.” Sam blows out a sigh and looks at the ceiling. He feels a little stab of fear when he remembers Puck telling him that Santana knows he’s gay. He’s okay with Rachel and Kurt knowing now because he’s sure they’ll keep his secret, but Santana is a whole different story. She’s the last person Sam would trust to keep anything a secret.
“Then why don’t you want to go to school?” his mom asks. “Are you failing science again?”
“No,” Sam says stubbornly, even though he’s only partly confident in this answer. He’s probably not failing science. Not yet. “I’m just tired of it.”
She rolls her eyes and picks up a dirty pair of socks from the floor. “When you get your first job, are you going to decide you’re tired of it after a couple of weeks and just not show up?”
“Okay, I’m getting up,” Sam says in irritation, climbing out of bed. His mom is so crazy sometimes. “Just stop nagging me.”
“Make sure you take the trash out before you leave,” she says. “I’m heading out. If I get a call from the school that you’re not there, you’re grounded.”
Sam groans as he trudges down the hall to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. He hears his mom’s footsteps going downstairs, then her heels against the kitchen tile, then her car pulling out of the driveway. Sam rubs his eyes and catches a glimpse of his hair sticking up in the mirror, and as he runs his fingers through his tangled bangs, he suddenly remembers Puck’s hands there, brushing back his hair before he kisses Sam in that strangely desperate way he always does.
Anger surges through Sam so quickly than he nearly rips the shower door off its hinges as he steps inside and turns the water on. He can’t believe Puck. He can’t believe he treated him like one of his Cheerios hookups. Sam had been so sure that he meant more to Puck than that. He really thought he’d found someone special—not even like that, but just a friend he could actually count on. A real friend.
He should have listened to all the rumors about Puck in the first place. This is the guy who slept with his best friend’s girlfriend and knocked her up. Puck clearly has serious issues.
Sam picks up the shampoo and squirts a glob onto his hair, lathering it up furiously. The suds run down his face, and Sam hisses as his eyes start to sting. He dunks his head under the spray and swipes at his eyes until the pain subsides, then he lets out a sigh and rinses the shampoo from his hair. He stands under the spray for a long moment, keeping his aching eyes closed, trying to imagine how he’s possibly going to handle seeing Puck at school after what he did to him.
It’s been three days and he still can’t believe Puck used him like that. Puck, of all people. The guy who knows his most painful secrets. The one person Sam really trusted. Now he’s on his own again. Sure, he’s making friends with Kurt and Rachel, but they’re not Puck. He hasn’t guzzled syrup at two in the morning with them, or fallen asleep on their shoulders, or gotten embarrassingly drunk at a gay club with them.
It just sucks. Sam hates his life right now, and he’s so pissed at Puck that he almost sees red every time he thinks about him. But mostly it hurts. It hurts even more than the moment he realized Kyle had turned on him.
He doesn’t want to be lonely again, but unfortunately that’s how things are turning out. At least he’s had practice. Maybe it won’t be so hard the second time around.
He doesn’t even see Puck until lunchtime. Puck is standing by their regular table that they share with Finn and a couple of other guys from the team, the table that Sam had avoided during his first break with Puck. This time Puck is the one that walks off, and Sam understands right away what Puck is doing. He doesn’t want to alienate Sam from the team again, so he’s leaving so Sam doesn’t have to.
Sam blows out a sigh and turns around. He likes Finn, sure, but they’re not that close. He’s not close to anyone on the team except for Puck. Sam looks around until he spies Kurt and Rachel, then heads to their table.
“You’re back again?” Kurt asks, and Sam actually winces at his tone. When even Kurt sounds sympathetic, he knows his life has reached a new low.
“I take it you and Noah had a fight?” Rachel bites into an apple wedge and looks at him expectantly. Sam sits down, wondering if he should tell them everything, but he’d feel too guilty about outing Puck, even though he knows Kurt and Rachel wouldn’t tell—not that Puck has admitted to being queer, anyway.
“Kind of,” Sam mumbles. “It was more of a misunderstanding, I guess.”
“I’m not surprised. Noah’s such a Neanderthal,” Rachel says, and Kurt wrinkles his nose and nods in agreement, shrugging at Sam. Sam would usually wave it off; the two of them always talk about Puck like that, and Sam always tells them they don’t know Puck like he does. He doesn’t say anything to defend Puck this time, though, because right now he’s not sure that they’re wrong.
“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Sam says finally. “I just don’t want to talk about Puck at all.”
Kurt and Rachel exchange looks.
“He’s mad,” Kurt says, and Rachel nods quickly.
“I’m not mad,” Sam insists, even though he is. He’s been alternating between rage and gloom since Friday night.
“I was actually starting to wonder when this would inevitably happen,” Kurt says. “Puck always does this. It’s like he has some kind of built-in mechanism that forces him to be a total cow at least once to everyone he comes in contact with.”
“It’s probably not personal,” Rachel chimes in. “It’s just how Noah is. It’s all right, Sam, it’ll blow over.”
“It’s personal,” Sam says, glaring at the table. “And it’s not going to blow over. And I’m done talking about it. I’m capable of having a conversation that doesn’t revolve around Puck, you know.”
“That bad, huh?” Kurt asks gently, and Sam sighs heavily and nods, plopping his cheek against one hand. Rachel pats his arm and Sam tries not to feel like the world’s biggest emo. He just wants to hole up in his room and play video games until high school is over forever.
It starts raining during last period, and Sam is seriously considering skipping football practice despite his fear of Coach Beiste. The last thing he wants to do is be in the same room as Puck, even though it’ll be easier to avoid him when they get on the field. Sam trudges down the mostly empty hallway after the last bell, heading for the locker room, but keeping one eye on the double doors of the exit. It would be so easy to just head home now and face the wrath of The Beiste later.
He turns a corner and stops short when he spies Puck by the stairwell. If Puck had been alone, then Sam would have turned away in a huff and gone straight home. But Puck’s not alone. He’s with Santana. And they’re having a passionate make out session under the stairs. And Sam feels like someone has just punched him hard in the gut.
Puck and Santana are too absorbed in each other’s faces to notice Sam, so he pauses for a second, his teeth digging into his bottom lip as he thinks about how just a couple days ago, he’d been in Santana’s place. He suddenly wonders if Puck has even thought about him at all. He wonders if Puck even cares.
Sam clenches his jaw and briskly walks past them, not caring if Puck sees. He’s never wanted to hit someone so badly in his life, but he settles for slamming the locker room door, and he fleetingly considers breaking into Puck’s locker and throwing all his clothes in the shower.
“Come on, guys,” Beiste says, carrying an umbrella. “Rain or shine, we’ve got practice. Get dressed.”
Sam changes into his uniform, pointedly ignoring Puck when he walks in. He doesn’t know whether to be grateful or upset that Puck doesn’t try to talk to him. He eventually decides to just stay angry as the team heads outside to the football field, rain drumming across their helmets.
The field is muddy, and they all get dirty fast as Coach Beiste sends them on a hundred different drills. Sam’s glad he stayed for practice, because it lets him release some of the tension he’s been carrying around for a few days now. He’s taking a break as he tries to wipe some of the mud off his cleats, and when he straightens, he finds Puck standing right in front of him.
“Sam,” Puck says, clearing his throat. Sam’s first instinct is to snub him, but before he can take off in the other direction, Beiste starts yelling at them to pair up to practice blocking.
“Sam, I’ve gotta talk to you,” Puck says, and Sam shakes the rain out of his eyes, wiping his muddy hands down his jersey.
“Get in position, partner,” Sam says, taking a step back as he leans down, facing Puck. Puck frowns and follows suit, his brow furrowed as he gets in place.
“Can we meet up after practice?” Puck asks. Sam doesn’t reply. He waits for Beiste’s whistle, his body tight as he glares at Puck.
“I’m not gonna go easy on you,” Sam says.
“Can we just—”
The whistle pierces the air, and Sam launches himself at Puck. Puck’s body nearly gives beneath his hands, but he steadies himself in a second, and Sam clenches his jaw as the two of them struggle. Sam pushes his feet into the muddy field and gives Puck a hard shove, probably harder than he should have, because Puck almost falls as he jumps back.
“Get your head in the game, Puckerman,” Sam spits, crouching as he watches Puck catch his breath and take his position again.
“I know you’re pissed, but—” Puck is cut off by the whistle again. Sam doesn’t hesitate, but this time neither does Puck, and the two of them get locked together, straining and pushing while neither of them gives an inch.
“Sam, you can’t just ignore me forever,” Puck says through gritted teeth. Sam digs his fingers into the padding on Puck’s torso, keeping his head low as he pushes.
“Why, are you feeling lonely?” Sam asks. “Because I know for a fact you haven’t been alone.”
“I just want to work things out. It’s not over between us.”
“Are you serious?” Sam grunts as he holds his ground while Puck pushes harder. “There was never anything between us. You made that pretty fucking clear to me.”
“Look,” Puck says, lowering his voice. “I freaked out that night. I’m still freaking out.”
“Yeah? Well, I’m still pissed at you. You used me to satisfy your stupid curiosity.”
“I didn’t,” Puck says, easing his grip slightly. “I swear. I wanted to be with you.”
Sam just stares at him for a tense moment before he clenches his muscles and pushes back as hard as he can. Puck isn’t expecting it, and they both go sprawling into the mud with a wet splat. Sam lands on top of Puck and brings his face close, shaking with rage.
“If you wanted to be with me so badly, then why were you making out with Santana right before practice?” Sam snarls.
“Sam, that didn’t mean—”
“Don’t tell me it didn’t mean anything!” Sam yells. “Does anything ever mean anything to you? Do you just go around kissing people and stringing them along for your own fucking amusement? I’d rather you stop pretending and just leave me alone than constantly messing with my head!”
“I’m not messing with you,” Puck insists, pushing Sam off as he tries to sit up. “This shit’s confusing, Sam, I’m just trying to explain!”
“I don’t want your explanation. I don’t want you near me,” Sam hisses. “Go off and be with Santana, I don’t care. I do not need you. Now if you don’t leave in the next three seconds, I’m going to punch you, I swear to God.”
“Ignoring this isn’t gonna help,” Puck says angrily. “I fucked up, I know, but—”
Sam draws his fist back, planning to sock Puck right in the face, but someone grabs him from behind and yanks him roughly to his feet.
“What the hell is going on here?” Beiste demands, holding Sam by the back of his shirt. “Evans, what do you think you’re doing?”
Sam swallows, trying to push down some of his anger. Puck gets up warily and pulls off his helmet, rain dripping down his face as he meets Sam’s eyes. Sam looks away sullenly, squirming out of Beiste’s grip.
“Nothing,” Sam mutters.
“Were you going to hit him?” Beiste asks sharply.
“It was nothing, we were just arguing over something stupid,” Puck says.
“Oh, yeah, it was nothing,” Sam shoots back. Puck looks like he wants to tell him to shut up, but Beiste beats him to it.
“Shut up, both of you,” she says in disgust. “I’m not going to have you two fighting on the field. Especially you, Evans. What the hell kind of quarterback do you think you are? You’re supposed to be a leader.”
“Sorry,” Sam mumbles. “It won’t happen again.”
“What’s this about?” Beiste asks, finally letting Sam go and glaring daggers at both of them.
“Nothing,” Puck repeats when Sam doesn’t reply.
“Evans? Answer me,” Beiste says in a firm voice. Sam looks up, tightening his jaw as he points at Puck.
“He’s an asshole and I refuse to be paired up with him,” Sam says.
“You know what? You’re acting like you’re five years old,” Puck snaps.
“Oh, that’s rich coming from you, considering you’re the most immature person I’ve ever met.”
“I’m the one who’s trying to work things out!”
“And I’m the one telling you to leave me alone or I’ll break your fucking face!”
“That’s enough!” Beiste shouts. “What the hell is the matter with you two? You’re in high school, not kindergarten. Evans, you’re completely out of line. I won’t have you threatening your teammates.”
“He—” Sam gets cut off by Beiste’s terrifying glare.
“I want ten extra laps from both of you after practice. If you have anything more to say, come to my office and talk to me like an adult. Are we clear? I won’t tolerate fighting on my field.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sam mumbles, while Puck echoes him. Beiste walks away to talk with the rest of the team, and Sam bristles as Puck takes a step closer.
“Don’t talk to me, okay?” Sam says.
Puck sighs heavily, his jaw jutting out in displeasure. “You’re pissed, and you have every right to be, but we have to talk, man.”
“I’m beyond pissed,” Sam says through clenched teeth. “You totally fucked me over on Friday, and I spent the entire weekend upset because I’d lost the dude who is supposed to be my best friend, and today I see you making out with Santana like you don’t even give a shit about the fact that you really… really hurt me.”
“Look, I’m just not good at this… relationship stuff everyone wants,” Puck says haltingly.
Sam stares at him for a long moment. “That’s your excuse?”
“No! It’s not an excuse. I’m just telling you—”
“Well, I’m telling you to leave me alone,” Sam says in a hard voice, looking Puck straight in the eye. Puck looks like he’s on the verge of panicking, his eyes wide and worried, but Sam barrels on. “I don’t forgive you—never mind the fact that not once have you even said you’re sorry anyway—and I don’t want to be around you, because every time I look at you, I just think about how you’re the guy who pretended to be my friend until you got what you wanted, and I’m the idiot who fell for your stupid act.”
“It wasn’t an act,” Puck hisses. “I didn’t pretend anything. Why would I put so much energy into pretending to be your friend, why would I do all that shit with you if I didn’t actually want you as a friend?”
“I don’t know—because you’re an asshole!” Sam yells. “You don’t exactly have a shining reputation around here. I should have listened to what everything says about you. You’re a selfish, oversexed, cowardly jerk. I defended you because you were always fair to me before, but I was stupid to think I’d be an exception. I was stupid to think I could actually have a normal life here with normal friends. I was stupid to even come out to you. I wish I never had—I wish you didn’t know anything about me. I don’t know, maybe I wish I never even met you.”
Puck looks away when he says that, and Sam knows he’s hurt him, but he doesn’t care. He wants Puck to hurt like he’s hurting now. He wants him to know how it feels like to have someone betray him so maybe he’ll stop turning around and doing it to other people. Sam is so sick of being the brunt of everyone’s bad choices, and he’s even sicker of not having the slightest clue as to why all his relationships always end up going sour.
“Just leave me alone, Puck,” Sam says, pulling off his helmet and wiping the rain from his eyes. “It sucks not having a best friend, but it sucks even more to think you have one when really, you don’t.”
Puck hesitates for a moment, and Sam watches his hands clench into fists before Puck turns around and starts walking away. Sam lets out a heavy breath, feeling drained. It suddenly hits him that he’s standing outside, soaking wet, and he’s just lost the best friend he’s ever had. He has an intense desire to go after Puck, but he keeps remembering Puck’s words from that Friday night, and it’s like a fresh wound all over again. Sam angrily scrubs his eyes again, then shoves his helmet back on and starts on his ten laps while the rest of the team hurries inside to shower.
He and Puck are the only ones left outside now, and Sam makes sure he doesn’t run too close to him. The rain weighs Sam down, and his cleats keep sinking into the soft mud. He’s winded by the seventh lap, and he knows Puck is too by the way he’s slowing down. Puck finishes before him, and Sam ignores him so he doesn’t know if Puck tries to get his attention again, but after he’s stumbled through his final lap, he looks around and finds himself alone on the field.
Sam catches his breath as he slowly walks to the bleachers. The rain is letting up a little, but it doesn’t matter because Sam’s already soaked as he rips off his helmet and throws it into the mud, then sits down on the bottom bleacher and runs his dirty hands through his hair. It’s like being at Darlington all over again, waiting until the rest of the team leaves just so he can shower without getting harassed. He knows it’s not the same here—Beiste would never let that happen, he’s sure—but he has nothing but his own head to keep him company, and right now he feels just as alone as before.
He seriously just wants to punch Puck in the face, then go back in time so that Friday night could be different. He wouldn’t have kissed Puck. He wouldn’t have even held his hand in the theater.
“Evans?” Beiste’s voice asks, and Sam looks up to find her standing before him with an umbrella, holding his discarded helmet. Sam doesn’t say anything, just fights against the quiver of his lips and lets her hold the umbrella over him.
“Come on, you need to get cleaned up and get home,” Beiste says softly, giving him an expectant look. Sam sighs as he stands, taking his muddy helmet as he walks alongside her. She lets him be when they get inside, and Sam strips off his soiled uniform and showers. He thinks he’s the last one there, but when he comes out with a towel wrapped around his waist and another one in his hands, Puck’s waiting by his locker. Sam stops, feeling water run down his neck as he takes in Puck’s pained expression.
“Can we talk?” Puck asks, his voice thick. “Please?”
Sam takes a deep breath, flicking his eyes away. He used you, he reminds himself. He wants to be able to forgive Puck, to forget this whole thing and just be friends again, but he can’t when just seeing Puck hurts this much. Sam still has feelings for him, once he looks past his current rage.
“I don’t have anything to say to you,” Sam says finally, going to his locker and pulling out his clothes. He drapes the towel over his shoulders, wiping away droplets slipping down his cheeks from his bangs.
“Then just listen,” Puck says quietly, the locker door the only thing separating them.
“Puck,” Sam sighs tiredly. “Give me a break. I don’t want to talk to you.”
“I fucked up big time,” Puck goes on doggedly, and Sam suddenly grips the locker door and leans closer, cutting Puck off.
“Yeah, you did,” Sam says in a low voice. “Now if you cared about me at all, you’d listen when I keep telling you to leave me alone.”
“You don’t get it, do you? Every time I see you…” Sam trails off, swallowing hard as he lowers his eyes. He notices Puck’s knuckles clenched tightly around his gym bag, tension coming off of him in waves.
“I need to make things right,” Puck says roughly, his words strained. “I have to. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“I wish you’d just stop and take a second to think about someone other than yourself.”
“I’m thinking about you,” Puck protests.
“No, you’re not,” Sam grates out. “You haven’t listened to a word I’ve said. You don’t care about the fact that you being here right now, hounding me, isn’t helping. You’re making me feel worse. I don’t want to be around you because it hurts. Okay? I’m sorry if this sucks for you, but the least you could do is leave me alone.”
“I don’t want to leave you feeling like this,” Puck says, his voice suddenly a whisper. Sam can feel his eyes growing hot, and he thinks Puck notices too, because Puck’s hand snakes forward hesitantly.
“Don’t touch me,” Sam whispers back, trying to keep his voice steady. “I want to be alone. Jesus, Puck, just leave me alone.”
Puck draws his hand back, and Sam takes a long breath, blinking quickly. He flicks his damp bangs away from his face and meets Puck’s eyes.
“I just want to be alone,” Sam repeats softly. “Don’t try to talk to me. Don’t call. I need space.”
“Shit,” Puck says, biting his lip as he looks away. “Come on, Sam, that’s not a good idea. You shouldn’t be alone, you’ll just wallow by yourself. Let me help.”
“You’ve done enough to me,” Sam says slowly. “I don’t want you around right now.”
“Sam,” Puck says helplessly.
“Just go.” Sam draws in a quivering breath, furrowing his brow. “Please, just go. Please.”
Puck stares back at him, and for a second Sam thinks the only way Puck will leave him alone is if Sam goes into hysterics, but then Puck takes a step backwards, and the tension in Sam’s chest starts to lessen, but the ache worsens. Puck looks lost as he moves away, taking slow, reluctant steps. Sam exhales deeply when the door shuts quietly behind Puck’s back.
Sam puts the towels away and changes into his normal clothes, then closes his locker and slings his bag over his shoulder. He takes a second to stand completely still and just breathe. The day is over. He can go home now and celebrate the fact that he survived seeing Puck for the first time since everything had gone south.
He ends up moping in bed with a family size bag of Doritos and his laptop as he stalks Puck’s Facebook page. He stares at Puck’s picture, a million questions running through his head. He absently looks up some of his old friends from Darlington, reading their carefree conversations and wondering why people who are complete dicks have better lives than him while he’s never mean to anyone and still can’t manage to have normal friends.
He sighs and puts his computer down. He’s tired of being alone. He should call Kurt or Rachel. Better yet, he should go to Eight Ball and mingle with people who are actually gay instead of fooling around with Puck. He still has Joshua’s number somewhere on his desk, scrawled on a napkin. He should call him right now and see if he wants to hook up. Sam’s never been one for random hook-ups, but maybe it’s time to start.
He doesn’t call Joshua, though. He doesn’t call anyone. He feels too fat and lonely to face the world, and he eventually falls asleep with his face mashed into his pillow. He wakes up in the middle of the night with creases on his cheek, and he groans and throws the sheets over his head and decides he’s staying home for the rest of the week, even though there’s a football game on Friday and Beiste will personally crucify him if he misses a practice.
His mom doesn’t let him stay home no matter how much Sam protests that he’s deathly ill, so he spends the next week of school in a deep funk. He realizes he’s being supremely pathetic by moping over a guy, but it’s not just any guy. Puck had been his friend first, right when Sam had needed a friend the most, and that’s what he misses.
It doesn’t help that he sees Puck and Santana walking down the hall together a couple times a day. At least they’re not making out in public anymore, or even touching as they walk, but Sam is sure that they’re still seeing each other after school. He doesn’t get how Puck can talk about how badly he wants to make things okay between them and then turn around and go right back to Santana. It makes Sam feel more and more like Puck was just using him all along.
He thinks that first away game to Darlington where all his secrets had unwillingly spilled out, and he remembers Puck sitting up with him, listening, icing his battered face, and Sam wonders if Puck had really even cared at all. The possibility that he might not have stings even more than Puck’s rejection the night they’d messed around.
Sam still doesn’t tell Kurt and Rachel, even though they press him for information as to why he’s so down.
“If you don’t tell us what’s wrong, I’m going to ask Noah myself,” Rachel threatens, and Sam doesn’t think she’ll do it, but he changes the subject anyway, just to be safe.
“Santana knows I’m gay,” Sam says softly, scraping out the last spoonful of his strawberry yogurt. There’s too much sugar in it even though it’s fat free, but he’s depressed, dammit, and he’ll eat what he wants.
“Oh.” Rachel sits back, raising her eyebrows. “Well, that’s not good.”
“You think she’ll tell?” Sam asks, looking up worriedly.
“It’s possible,” Rachel says. Sam chokes down his yogurt and Rachel gives him a reassuring look. “But probably not, unless you get on her bad side and she wants to hurt you. I don’t know, she’s got that thing with Noah… maybe she’s jealous of you?”
“She’s the one that’s screwing him,” Sam mutters. Kurt glances at him, and Sam flushes slightly, even though he’s pretty sure they’re both aware of how he feels about Puck. Sam fidgets with his plastic spoon and meets Kurt’s eyes.
“Do you think it’s… lame of me to be, like… do you think I’m a coward for not coming out?” Sam asks hesitantly.
Kurt looks a little surprised. “No. Of course not, Sam.”
“It’s just something Puck said before we stopped talking.” Sam worries his lip and sighs. “I was trying to make a point that being gay isn’t something to be ashamed of, but he got pissed and said I was too ashamed to even come out.”
“Puck has no idea,” Kurt says, wrinkling his nose. “It’s not his place to try to make you feel guilty about not coming out. It’s your choice. Puck doesn’t even know how it feels.”
Sam nods. He wishes he could tell them that he suspects Puck might be struggling with his own sexuality, so he could at least get a different perspective on this whole thing, but he still can’t bring himself to out Puck like that. He looks at Kurt and Rachel and suddenly feels more alone than ever.
“Kurt and I are coming to the game with Finn on Friday,” Rachel says, smiling. “I’ll cheer you on from the stands.”
Sam pauses before smiling back, letting Rachel squeeze his hand. He misses Puck, but maybe he’s not completely alone.
Sam decides to focus his attention on the upcoming game instead of dwelling on Puck. He’s been slacking off on his diet and exercise regimen, so he starts hitting the weight room hard and taking nightly jogs before bed. It helps because it leaves him too tired to think. He ignores Puck at school, and Puck ignores him back, and by Friday Sam’s gotten himself in game mode, and he’s ready to blow off some steam by obliterating the other team without Puck’s help. He’d even take Puck out of the game if Beiste wouldn’t rain hellfire on him for letting his personal problems get in the way of his better judgment.
Sam spends most of the first half too busy to even think about Puck, but there’s always that niggling reminder in the back of his head that he’s there. Sam tries to ignore it, and he’s doing an okay job as he runs the ball, but then he meets Puck’s eyes across the field, and for a split second, he’s distracted.
“Sam!” Puck yells, gesturing wildly to his left, and Sam doesn’t even have time to turn before a tremendous weight slams into him. Sam goes down hard and lands on his right arm, feeling something give before he’s gasping in pain.
“Get off, get off, get off,” Sam grates out, giving the other boy on top of him an ineffectual shove as pain blossoms across his shoulder, so strong he can barely see straight. The boy rolls off, and Sam squeezes his eyes shut, lying flat on his back as his teammates start crowding around him.
“Get out of the way,” Beiste barks. Sam feels her firm hand on his chest, and he opens his eyes blearily, trying to focus on her face.
“My shoulder,” he croaks.
“Just lie still,” she instructs as a medic descends on him. He feels him touch his shoulder gently, but Sam curses and tries to shy away as the sharp pain worsens.
“His shoulder is dislocated,” the medic says, and Sam feels a tiny bit of relief that at least he hasn’t broken anything. It hurts, though. It hurts even worse than the time he’d accidentally brought a hammer down on his finger and broken it in freshman shop class, and he’d always been certain nothing could compare to that.
“Come on, get him off the field,” the medic continues, ignoring Sam’s groaning as he and Beiste help him to his feet. The announcer is saying something about him, booming above his head, but Sam doesn’t register a thing until he’s sitting in the medical supply van. The pain in his shoulder is so intense he feels like he’s about to throw up all over Beiste’s shoes.
“Son, just sit still, we’ll have you fixed up in no time,” the medic says, doing something behind his back. Sam closes his eyes, hugging his arm to his chest. He’s pretty sure he’d be on the floor right now if it wasn’t for Beiste holding him upright. His jaw already hurts from grinding his teeth.
Sam lets out a squawk of pain as the medic puts his firm hands on his arm and shoulder, and he pulls out of his grip with a gasp as Beiste starts yelling at him.
“Stay still,” she demands. “He has to set your shoulder back in place.”
“It hurts!” Sam yells back, his eyes watering. He hears an unexpected thump as someone else clambers into the van, and all of a sudden Puck is standing before him, leaning down so that they’re eye-to-eye.
“Sam, stop being a huge baby, okay?” Puck says. Sam flushes in anger. He could clock Puck right now.
“My shoulder is out of its socket,” Sam says between clenched teeth.
“Yeah, yeah,” Puck responds, putting both hands on Sam’s helmet. He pulls it off and starts unwrapping Sam’s mouth guard from it, then puts the helmet down. Sam tries to focus on what Puck’s doing, but his vision keeps going in and out of focus with every wave of knifelike pain that runs through him.
He yelps again when the medic takes hold of him, but this time Puck grabs his face, forcing their eyes to meet.
“Don’t fight it,” Puck says. “Stop struggling, you’re making this harder on yourself. Look at me.”
Sam glares at him, his chest heaving, but he doesn’t have the strength to stay mad. He’s so wracked with pain he can’t even speak.
“This dude’s gonna pop your shoulder back in, and it’s gonna hurt like a bitch,” Puck continues, staring carefully into his eyes. “You’re gonna suck it up and let him do it, okay?”
Sam’s bottom lip feels raw where his teeth keep sinking in, and he groans as the medic positions himself for the third time. He wants to get away because every little ounce of pressure hurts, but Puck’s firm hands keep him grounded, and he turns his attention to Puck instead of what the medic is about to do.
“Open up,” Puck says, holding up his mouth guard. “You’re gonna make yourself bleed if you keep biting your lip.”
Sam opens his mouth and Puck pushes the guard in. Puck puts his hands on Sam’s face again, cradling his jaw as his thumbs rest on Sam’s sweaty cheeks, and Sam shivers as his body tightens in apprehension.
“Relax,” Puck says gently. “You’re gonna be fine. It’ll take two seconds, I swear, then it’ll be over. Just keep looking at me.”
Sam gives the tiniest nod, and Puck glances behind him at the medic.
“Sam, just relax,” the medic says, and Sam doesn’t even have time to digest his words before the medic gives his shoulder a firm push. Sam lets out a harsh cry, nearly falling off his seat at the shock of pain. He barrels gracelessly into Puck, who holds him for a moment as Sam tries not to start bawling. Sam reaches up with a trembling hand and pulls out his mouth guard, dropping it on the floor.
“Shit,” Sam gasps, his face resting against Puck’s chest. His shoulder still hurts, but it’s no longer the bone-grinding pain that makes him want to scream. He feels Beiste’s hand on his back, and he slowly sits up, letting Puck support him.
“That wasn’t that bad,” Puck says, and Sam glowers wearily at him.
“It was that bad,” Sam replies hoarsely, catching his breath. He winces as the medic prods at his shoulder for another moment, then slips a sling over his head, adjusting his arm.
“I’ll get you some painkillers,” he says. Sam nods, sighing, and while Beiste leans out of the van to bark orders at the rest of the team, Sam feels Puck’s hand gently stroke the side of his hair. A part of Sam wants to buck against the feeling it elicits, but a bigger part just wants to close his eyes and lean into it.
“Um. Thanks,” Sam mutters, keeping his eyes low. “For being here. I guess.”
“Sure,” Puck says in an equally quiet voice. He drops his hand and moves back when Beiste comes in, and Sam feels disappointed at the loss of Puck’s warmth. He watches Puck hop out of the van and disappear outside, then looks at Beiste as she comes toward him. The medic hands him some pills and a bottle of water as she starts talking.
“Are your parents here?” she asks.
“No,” Sam replies, swallowing. “I can call them.”
“Can they pick you up?”
“I’ll just call them and tell them I’m okay. I can get a ride back with Finn or… someone.”
Beiste nods. “You can leave if you want. You should rest that shoulder.”
“I’ll go home after the game.”
“All right. You can stay on the bench or in the locker room if you want to be more comfortable. If I see you horsing around, I’ll skin you, understand?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Sam says, following as she climbs out of the van and blows her whistle to herd everyone back to the locker room. Sam tries to keep some distance between himself and his teammates so his arm doesn’t get jostled, but he’s surrounded as soon as he starts walking.
“Dude, your arm—that sucks.”
“I can’t believe that guy took you out. He came out of nowhere.”
“We’re gonna kill him for you, don’t worry.”
“Hey, give him some space,” Finn says, breaking through and making everyone step back. They murmur in agreement, and Sam breathes a sigh of relief, but he smiles at his teammates.
“I’m okay, really,” he says sheepishly. “You don’t have to kill anyone on my behalf.”
“Hey, we’re gonna take that guy down,” Finn says. “Aren’t we?”
Sam can’t help laughing as a chorus of bellows and whoops goes up around him. He tries to look around for Puck, but his neck hurts if he cranes it too much, so he lets himself be ushered into the locker room, where they all sit down as Beiste begins giving them their halftime pep talk. Sam spies Puck sitting off to the side, and the pang in his chest makes him look away.
He jerks back to attention when he realizes Finn is standing up and talking. Sam looks around and sees people nodding, and he looks back at Finn and tries to pretend he hasn’t completely zoned out. Finn will be quarterback again, and as Sam watches him, he realizes that Finn isn’t half bad at being a leader. He’s getting the team riled up and ready to go back out.
“We’re gonna go out there and we’re gonna win this game,” Finn says, then suddenly points at him. “And we’re gonna do it for Sam. That guy brought him down dirty, but we’re gonna show him what the Titans are really made of!”
Sam flushes deeply, but he grins as everyone stands and starts cheering. It suddenly hits him how different things are here, how he’s actually part of the team, and that people like him.
He also knows how easily he could lose all of this. He looks at Puck again, but Puck has his helmet on, his eyes on the door. For the first time in a while, anger doesn’t overtake him. Instead he tries to see things from Puck’s perspective, and thinks about how in a less fucked up world, they might have had a chance.
Sam remembers Puck’s warm hands on his face and his clear eyes full of reassurance. Puck wouldn’t have come back for him if he didn’t care. That’s not the thing stopping him. Fear is, and confusion, and maybe some guilt.
Still, he kissed Santana. Sam sighs to himself, nodding as his teammates leave the locker room, most of them giving him grins. Sam slowly starts taking off his uniform, trying not to aggravate his shoulder. He takes a quick shower and changes into jeans and a hoodie, and he’s putting his arm back into his sling when the door bangs open and Puck comes in.
“What happened to your face?” Sam asks immediately as Puck stomps over. He has an angry scratch down one cheek and a bloodied tissue in his hand.
“I got into a fight with that dude who tackled you,” Puck says, scowling as he plops down on the bench. “He was asking for it. He was out there all gloating and shit.”
Sam sits down with a sigh of disbelief. “You’re an idiot. What did Beiste do?”
“I’m out of the game.”
“Great. Both of us are out. We might as well forfeit.”
“Finn’s got this,” Puck says, shrugging. “I mean… maybe.”
Sam just shakes his head, adjusting his sling and resting his bad arm against his stomach. Puck glances over, and a beat passes before he speaks.
“How do you feel?” Puck asks.
“Shoulder hurts,” Sam replies, pulling absently at the cords of his sweatshirt. “I’ll probably be on the bench for the rest of the season. How do you think I feel?”
Puck nods, pressing his lips into a thin line. “Yeah, okay. Stupid question.”
Sam looks over and studies the scratch on Puck’s face. It’s shallow, but the skin around it is red, and he can see blood glistening in the light. Besides that, Puck has mud on his face.
“You should put something on that,” Sam says as Puck dabs at the cut with his dirty tissue. Puck holds up a packet of alcohol pads.
“Dude in the van told me the same thing,” he says, tearing one open. He swipes it down his face, missing half the cut, and swears as it starts stinging. Sam shakes his head at him again, then takes the wipe and briefly places a hand on Puck’s chin to hold him still.
“Let me do it.” Sam lets go of his chin and gently swabs down the cut, cleaning the mud away. “Stay still.”
“It hurts,” Puck complains.
“I just got my shoulder ripped out of its socket. This can’t be that bad.”
Puck huffs for a moment, but he stays as motionless as possible until Sam is done. Sam lowers his hand slowly.
“Okay, it should be clean now,” Sam says. “You should probably cover it up.”
“I’ll get something for it later.” Puck peels off his dirty gloves and tosses them into the laundry bin. Sam sits quietly beside him as Puck takes off his jersey and starts dropping all his pads on the floor. Puck seems angry, and for once Sam isn’t. He’s just tired.
Puck throws his shoulder pads across the room, and Sam watches them bounce against the wall. Puck lets out a heavy sigh and glares at where they’ve fallen, then suddenly turns to Sam, his expression pained and heated and desperate.
“I’m sorry,” Puck says, taking Sam by surprise.
“For what?” Sam asks, watching Puck’s shoulders slump down dejectedly as he faces forward again. Puck blows out another sigh, his hands curled into fists, resting on his legs.
“For everything,” Puck says in a strained voice. “What I did was so messed up. It was wrong.”
Sam keeps his eyes trained on Puck’s hands. “Not everything was wrong.”
“Yes, it was,” Puck insists. “I shouldn’t have… I shouldn’t have even touched you. I’m sorry for everything I did to lead you on, I’m sorry for kissing you and for holding your hand and for—for what we did that night and—”
“Puck, no,” Sam says, shaking his head anxiously. “Stop. I don’t regret all of it.”
“It doesn’t matter. I shouldn’t have acted like that,” Puck spits out. “It was a shitty thing for me to do. I hurt you, and I’m sorry. I promise I’ll never, ever be such a jackass to you again. We’re friends, and… and that’s it. I crossed a line and screwed everything up.”
Sam stares at him, his heart sinking in his chest. Puck chews on his lip, and Sam swears he sees moisture glisten in his eyes.
“I don’t know what to say,” Sam says finally.
“Say you’ll forgive me.” Puck looks at him, his eyes forlorn and longing. “Please.”
Sam opens his mouth, but no words come out, and the longer he stays silent, the more distressed Puck’s expression becomes. Sam is still stuck on how Puck still thinks it was all a mistake.
“Please,” Puck repeats nervously. “Come on, Sam, please. I don’t… I can’t lose you.”
Sam bites his lip as Puck swipes a hand over his eyes, gripping his knees firmly as he takes a deep breath, then another, his lips trembling.
“We can make everything go back to normal,” Puck says, staring straight ahead at the wall. “We can just be friends again. I’ll even come with you to Eight Ball again, and you can find someone nice, and I’ll just… I’ll make sure you don’t get too drunk, and I’ll drive you home when you do, a-and—I’ll just watch you and keep all the creeps away from you, and I promise I won’t mess everything up this time.”
“Puck,” Sam whispers, the yearning in Puck’s words making his chest ache. “I don’t… I don’t get it. You’re saying one thing, but I’m looking at you and I’m seeing something else.”
“Just say everything can go back to normal, I’ll be fine if we can just go back to how things were before,” Puck blurts out. “Sam, please. I said I was sorry. I don’t know what else to do.”
“We can’t just go back.”
“Yeah, we can.”
“Puck, tell me the truth,” Sam says softly, putting one hand on Puck’s shoulder. “I want to help you.”
Puck shakes his head. “Stop.”
“Just talk to me.” Sam watches a muscle in Puck’s jaw jump relentlessly. “Puck—”
“What do you want from me?” Puck demands, whipping his head around to look at Sam. “I’m trying to fix things.”
“I want the truth, because you’re lying to yourself,” Sam says, then lets out a surprised gasp of pain as Puck pushes him away.
“I’m not gay!” Puck yells, standing abruptly. “I’m not gay, or bi, or whatever—”
“You’re gonna be miserable until you’re honest with yourself!” Sam yells back. He flinches slightly as Puck turns around and slams his fists against the lockers with a loud bang.
“I am not a fucking queer!” Puck shouts, his voice resonating throughout the room. Sam swallows around the lump in his throat, suddenly out of breath even though he hasn’t moved from his spot on the bench. He listens to Puck’s ragged breathing, then looks up as Puck comes back to the bench, his eyes wild and rimmed in red.
“I’m sorry,” Puck chokes out, reaching out and letting his hand hover over Sam’s sling. “Are you okay?”
Sam nods quickly, his eyes burning. “I’m fine. But you’re not. You’re not even close.”
“I’ll be fine if you’ll just let everything go back to how it was,” Puck insists.
“No, you won’t be, because no matter how much you try to deny it, you’ll always know.”
“Dammit, Sam.” Puck chews on his lip, breathing in unsteadily.
“Besides, I can’t go back. I can’t just stand by and watch you make out with Santana and pretend it doesn’t completely suck. I can’t pretend that nothing happened between us.” Sam slowly looks up as Puck turns to face him again. He’s never seen Puck look so wretched and vulnerable, struggling to replace his walls, and failing miserably.
Sam wants to touch him, but he curls his hand into a fist and doesn’t allow himself to pull Puck closer. He wants to help, but he doesn’t know how, and Puck is looking at him like he’s supposed to have all the answers.
“You know, for a while I thought you never actually liked me at all,” Sam mumbles. “Not even as a friend.”
“You’re so stupid,” Puck says quietly, shaking his head. “How did you even come up with that?”
Sam stays silent, and Puck lets out a quick laugh, completely lacking in mirth.
“Okay, don’t answer that. I was shitty to you, I know.” Puck sighs heavily. “The whole problem is that I like you too much. I was just confused.”
“It’s not so bad being a fucking queer,” Sam says, and Puck lowers his head into his trembling hands.
“Don’t say it,” he hisses. Sam falls silent again, his shoulder throbbing and his heart aching even more. He’s exhausted, and Puck’s gone crazy, and their team is probably getting slaughtered right now. Sam reaches out without thinking, and before he knows it, his hand is resting on the back of Puck’s neck, his thumb gliding gently across the base of his skull. He can feel the tremors running through Puck’s body.
“Stop,” Puck says, his words muffled by his hands covering his face.
“You can let yourself have this, you know,” Sam says softly.
“Stop it, Sam.”
“It’s not going to be enough for you to just be friends, Puck. Not forever.”
“It has to be!” Puck says, sitting up. “It will be. You just need to stop being weird and everything’ll be fine.”
“I’m not being weird. I’m telling you the truth.” Sam curls his fingers against Puck’s neck, dropping his voice to a whisper. “I just want to help. I can’t stand back and watch you do this to yourself.”
“Stop touching me,” Puck suddenly snaps, and Sam pulls his hand away with a frown. “You have to stop doing this. Stop coming on to me.”
“Stop coming on to you?” Sam asks in disbelief. “It was your stupid idea to make out at that party in the first place—and don’t tell me it was just a game. I knew what you were doing, and I went with it because I trusted you.”
“It’s no one’s fault, okay? We fucked up what we had. Both of us.”
“No, you fucked up,” Sam shoots back through clenched teeth. “All I did was care too much about you. Don’t try to pin this on me when you were the one who ditched me.”
“I just can’t deal with everything happening all at once,” Puck says. “I’m not like you.”
“Look, I know what you’re going through is hard. You’re making it even harder by refusing to let go of your denial, but you owe me more than this,” Sam snaps, glaring into Puck’s eyes. “You’re scared, I know. I’ve been there. But you can’t… you can’t just keep acting like this was all one-sided.”
Puck looks down at the dirty linoleum, his mouth pressed into a thin line, and Sam swallows and takes a breath before going on.
“You’re the only guy I’ve ever gone that far with,” Sam whispers, blinking quickly. Puck looks surprised for a moment, but he masks the emotion hastily. “It felt right to me, and you were into it, and I thought maybe…”
“Sam,” Puck says, his voice hoarse like he’s been screaming for hours. “I… I can’t be that guy for you. I can’t be that special, really lucky guy… who gets to hold your hand in public, and kiss you, and teach you how to give a proper blowjob. I’m not the one who’s gonna make you happy.”
Sam bites his lip hard to keep his angry tears from spilling over. “You could.”
“No, I can’t,” Puck whispers, gazing at him with watery eyes, his face pinched and weary. “I’m not who you want me to be.”
Sam lets out a wet sigh, looking away as he sniffles softly. “We’re just going around in circles.”
“I’m sorry for hurting you,” Puck says, so softly his voice is barely audible. Sam glances over as Puck stands, his brow furrowed and body tense.
“You said we can’t go back to how things were,” Puck continues. “And we can’t go forward from here. So… I’m gonna do what you asked me before. I’ll leave you alone.”
Sam wipes a fist across his cheeks and presses his sleeve against his eyes briefly to absorb the moisture gathering there. What is he supposed to say? He can’t beg Puck to change.
“Fine,” Sam says finally, resigned.
“It’s because you deserve someone who’s not a monumental fuck-up. I’ve never been able to able to hold on to anything in my entire life, and you just… you deserve a guy who’ll give you everything you want.”
“Stop trying to justify the fact that you’re taking away my best friend, and the guy who could have given me everything I wanted. Just go. If you want it to be over, then it’s over. Just go.”
“I never wanted—” Puck begins, but Sam cuts him off.
“The only reason I’m not kicking your ass right now is because I feel sorry for you.” Sam doesn’t say it with any spite in his voice. He can’t when Puck is looking at him like he’s going to break down any second. “I care about you, and watching you do this makes me feel so sorry for you.”
“You of all people should understand,” Puck insists.
“Why? Because I’m not out? I’m out to the people that matter. I told my parents. I told you.”
“I can’t ever do that because I can’t be like this. I’m not!” Puck turns on his heel and goes to the door, and Sam stands quickly, wincing as his shoulder throbs.
“It meant something to you, didn’t it?” Sam asks. “That night we were together… you felt it just as much as I did, didn’t you?”
Puck shakes his head weakly, tightening his grip on the door handle.
“What if I told you I didn’t want you to leave?” Sam says softly. “Not anymore.”
“I can’t stay,” Puck says simply, no longer freaking out. His eyes look hollow to Sam. “I can’t do this, and it’s not your fault, it’s just… me.”
Sam lets out a soft sigh, then licks his lips as he looks down. Puck’s in denial, he’s sure of it now. Puck’s mom is religious, and he wonders if it’s the thought of facing her that’s scaring him so badly. Sam wants to tell him that Puck doesn’t have to tell anyone, and that he’ll stand by him if he does, but he doesn’t know what’ll happen—maybe Puck’s mom really will kick him out. Sam knows what it’s like to be so scared that you don’t even want to be yourself anymore, and as he looks into Puck’s eyes, he can see all his old insecurities staring right back at him.
“I’m gonna help you,” Sam says.
Puck shakes his head again. “You can’t.”
“I’ll find a way.” Sam’s stomach is churning nervously. If he really wants to show Puck that he doesn’t have to be afraid of who he is, Sam’s going to have to face his own fears first.
He’ll do it for Puck, though. He’s been with him through so much—Puck’s even fought for him, and no matter how much of an asshole he’s been, Sam’s not going to ditch him right when Puck needs someone the most.
“You need to just… find someone better,” Puck says quietly. “Okay?”
“I don’t know anyone else who’s stuck with me like you have. Well, I mean, except for last Friday, but now I know why. I know it wasn’t just curiosity for you, either. So… I’m gonna help you, because you’re my friend, and I know how shitty it feels to be abandoned, and you were always there when I needed you.”
“You’re wasting your time,” Puck says, chewing on his bottom lip as he casts another glance in Sam’s direction. Puck finally pulls open the door, and Sam watches his chest rise and fall unsteadily as he goes out. The door slowly swings shut behind him, and Sam sits back down, cradling his arm as he thinks. He’s actually grateful to have something else to focus on, because he doesn’t want to think about how much he still misses Puck, and how hard it is to watch him struggle like this. He has to find some way to show Puck how to be brave and that he doesn’t have to run away from his feelings.
Sam has a plan slowly forming in his mind—a terrifying one, but a plan nonetheless. He’s of course doing this for Puck, but as he thinks, he realizes that it’s also something he really needs to do for himself. He’s never liked being in the shadows, and he hates being chained down by that niggling fear that’s always in the back of his mind.
He has to find Rachel and Kurt, just to make sure he’s not planning something cataclysmically terrible, but he knows what he has to do.