Disclaimer: Mmm, nope. I do not own Glee. I am, however, working on getting this for Christmas, along with a ribbon-clad Mark Salling beneath my Christmas tree. How psyched would you guys be to wake up to that gorgeous-ness for Christmas? Am I right or am I right?
Author's note: Slight, teeny-weeny spoilers from 1x08. Blink and you'll miss it. You get a cookie if you know what spoilers I'm referring to. Otherwise this is pretty much on a different time line, since I wrote it before the latest episode with all of its wonderful Puck and Rachel goodies. Please forgive me for any mistakes being made, as I am incredibly tired, wrote half of this while watching the World Series, and was also dealing with other stuff. The title refers to "chinks in the armor", not the derogatory nickname for Asians. Drop a review and tell me your thoughts!
Some days, Puck still can't believe he got suckered into joining glee club. Glee is for losers with no friends, not Noah Puckerman, God of William McKinley High.
Puck thinks his stupidity must be contagious, because first he joined glee club (glee club!) and now…
He finds himself staring at The Queen Of Freaks, Rachel Berry.
What is up with this girl that Finn would risk his relationship with Quinn Febray? Rachel is pretty in an off-handed way, the same way that many girls are pretty, but Quinn is beautiful. Puck just can't understand why Finn would risk his girlfriend for Rachel Berry. That chick is certifiably insane, and her voice makes him want to light himself on fire.
Well, at least he isn't looking at her the way Finn sometimes looks at her, Puck consoles himself. If he ever looked at Rachel Berry with the tenderness that Finn looked at her with, Puck would cheerfully let the football team beat some sense into him.
Puck is still watching her.
He watches as she flips through some sort of book (a magazine perhaps?) with Tina, both of them bending over it and giggling. He didn't know that Rachel Berry even knew how to giggle. She almost sounds…feminine.
"The color would totally offset your hair and it would make your skin look really smooth and we both know that appearances are important, because after all, a first impression totally counts and you never know who could be around you so you should always look your best." Rachel tells the other girl, smiling. Tina smiles back.
"T-thanks, Rachel. I didn't know you knew about f-f-fashion."
Rachel nods seriously, like they are talking about a cure for cancer or something. "Oh yes, absolutely. I have learned that you should always take pride in what you wear because it shows how you present yourself, and like I said, you never know."
Puck has never seen Rachel look so relaxed, and she had toned down that megawatt smile that, quite frankly, scares him a little; the smile she wore now made her look more natural, softer looking almost.
Huh, Puck thinks. Perhaps Rachel Berry actually does have XX chromosomes.
Puck shivers and cranks up the heat in his truck, rubbing his hands together to try and warm them. Shit it was cold. Fucking winter, he thinks severely. It was better when he was playing football, because then he couldn't really feel the cold, but in the mornings? Jesus. Not even the thermals beneath his jeans could make him feel more like a person and less like an icicle.
Once he feels the heat is adequate, he drives slowly through the sleepy streets of Lima, wary of black ice. Puck may be a lot of things, but stupid isn't one of them. The other guys on football, however, he couldn't speak for.
There weren't many people at school quite yet, but that was how Puck prefers it. Less idiots to contend with. Getting out of his truck, he sneezes. Goddamn was it cold. He buries his hands in his letterman jacket, gritting his teeth against the biting winds that slap at his face. No one could ever accuse Noah Puckerman of hurrying anything; he was merely power walking into the school.
Shit. Maybe it was time to buy a freaking scarf or something. His skin feels like he had just rubbed sandpaper all over it. The thought of having to go back there to the field house and into the weight room makes him sneeze again. Ugh. Winter.
Not quite ready to go back out into the twelve degree weather outside, Puck goes to the choir room, completely unsurprised to find Rachel Berry there already. The weak winter sunlight was just beginning to bathe the room, including Rachel. He watches as she tinkers on the piano, playing random notes, a tiny smile on her face. Just an uplifting of the lips, but it catches Puck by surprise. Standing here, one would almost think Rachel Berry was pretty. Possibly even beautiful.
Puck ruins the silence by practically coughing up a lung, though it was totally worth it to watch Rachel jump out of her skin.
"Oh! Hello, Puck." She smiles at him, the same one she gave Tina, and Puck isn't sure his sneer is cutting enough. "I never thought anyone but me would be here so early because the school is usually empty around this time so I use it to perfect my instrumentals because really you can never go wrong with a little practice and if I want to make it to Broadway--"
Puck interrupts her this time by sneezing (aw shit, tell him he's getting a cold) and Rachel frowns at him.
"Are you feeling alright?"
The look Puck shoots her is incredulous and he says nothing, merely arching an eyebrow in a what do you think? gesture.
Rachel gets up, clad in jeans and a black sweater with her hair braided behind her, and heads to one of the benches. She grabs something and then walks over to him. "Here." She tells him, holding up a silver thermos. Puck glances from it and then back to her. "It's an herbal tea. I usually use it to warm up my vocal cords, especially around winter, because I'd be sick--just like you--and we can't have that because you guys need me for Regional's and also because it tastes pretty good."
When Puck doesn't immediately take it, Rachel stares him down with those eyes that are big in her face but somehow fit it, and even though she can't be more than 5'3 Puck feels a little apprehensive of the look, so he takes the thermos slowly and apprehensively, like he's expecting it (or her) to bite him.
The smile Rachel gives him is pleased, and something weird stirs in Puck's chest.
It must have been the eggs he ate for breakfast, he tells himself. He knew they were past their due date.
Puck could tell from the minute he got up that today was not going to be pleasant.
For one thing, he woke up late and had to rush to school, almost slipping and falling on his ass from the black ice that covered patches of his driveway. There was something wrong with his heater, so by the time he got to school, he was so cold there was no feeling left in his face or hands. He got detention for being late and then Coach yelled at him after finding out. Luckily enough for him that he didn't get benched, being one of the best players on the field, but Puck got enough laps to last him a lifetime.
And then came along Quinn Febray.
He was making good money shoveling (and those mothers paid him very well, if you catch his drift) and he knew he could help take care of their baby. He told her as much when he drags her to some hallway in between classes.
Quinn laughs at him and repeats her words from a few months ago; that he was nothing but a Lima loser who would never amount to anything or go anywhere.
"He is not a loser." Says a voice behind Quinn, and both of them jump.
The absolute last person Puck expected to be standing there was Rachel Berry, clutching a bathroom pass and wearing a peeved expression.
Quinn sneers at her. "And what do you know about Puck, huh?"
Rachel shrugs nonchalantly. "Not much. But I know that he is absolutely not a loser. He's got talent and drive--not as much as me, of course--and I fully believe that whatever Puck puts his mind to, he can. He's a very hard worker."
Puck isn't sure who's more surprised, him or Quinn.
"Whatever," Quinn mutters, and walks away from both of them. Rachel watches Puck who watches Quinn.
"I know you didn't need me to stick up for you," Rachel begins, "but what she was saying to you was harsh and unnecessary. You're not a bad person, Puck. I don't know why she treats you as such." She gives him one last look before continuing down the hallway and entering the girl's bathroom.
Puck watches her until the door slams shut.
Spring comes to Lima, Ohio, something that the student body could not be more glad for. They celebrate by wearing jeans and t-shirts and drinking cold beverages that no longer make their hands stick to the cup from the cold.
Puck celebrates by buying slushies.
The first time Rachel sees him walking down the hall with one, she flinches and in a move so subtle that probably no one but him would notice, cowered slightly against her locker, body muscle memory aiding her. She remembers all too well the times she got doused with a cherry slushy, and she styled her hair nice today. She didn't want it to get all sticky again.
Puck slows when he reaches her. Rachel's eyes are wide and terrified.
Rachel blinks when he offers her the cup, though now she looks suspicious, like she expects him to dump it over her head. Wouldn't be the first time. "I beg your pardon?"
Puck thrusts the slushy at her a little and she flinches again. Something weird in his chest squeezes.
For once in his life, he doesn't want Rachel Berry to be afraid of him.
"The slushy. It's for you. To drink."
The way Rachel takes the cup reminds him of a few months ago, when she offered him her herbal tea; Rachel must be thinking of it too, because when her eyes meet his she is smiling, looking so happy and relieved that he didn't douse her and he smiles back.
Rachel recognizes the slushy cup for what it is: a peace offering.
The first Monday of every week, Puck buys Rachel Berry a grape slushy, which is her favorite. After the first few times doing this, Rachel is no longer suspicious of his motives.
When they walk down the hallways together, people stare, but it no longer bothers Puck. The first time someone said something to him, he slammed them into a locker and punched them right in the face. Their nose is still crooked. Noah Puckerman does what he pleases, and if he chooses to hang out with Rachel Berry and the other glee club members, well then, that's none of the other students' business. Fuck them.
Puck knows how to get his messages loud and clear, and he thought busting Adrian Sandoval's face in was enough of a warning to the student body.
Apparently, Puck thought wrong.
He is walking Rachel to her next class, since they're both in it (he had History seventh period? Huh, who would've guessed it) and Rachel is chattering his ear off, but she knows that he's listening. His posture is slouched, hands in his pockets while he walks, but his ear is cocked towards her, and the tiny girl walking next to his is wearing a small, pleased smile.
Puck's eyes are focused ahead, which is how he sees Eddie Duarte and the cup of cherry ice in his hands, beady eyes totally focused on Rachel. Anger warms his gut. Puck begins to speed up, Rachel calling his name inquisitively after him.
Eddie doesn't even see Puck coming until Puck flips the cup and the cherry slushy lands all over Eddie's front. Then he slams into the wall so hard Eddie sees stars.
"Don't you ever throw another slushy, or anything else for that matter, at Rachel ever again, Duarte. Do you understand me?" Puck snarls, hand clutching Eddie's windpipe. Eddie nods frantically, and Puck waits a moment to let his threat sink in before stepping back and letting Eddie fall to his knees, gasping for air.
A small hand clutches the back of Puck's shirt, neither pulling nor pushing, simply there, and he tenses but does not turn around until he watches Eddie make a break for it and disappear from sight. There are whispers going on behind them, shocked murmurs over the scandal that just occurred, and Puck grits his teeth.
Turning around, Puck meets Rachel's concerned eyes, her hand falling away from his shirt. "You didn't need to do that to him, you know." She tells him, trying to sound firm and disapproving but her eyes speak volumes. She looks a little dazed that Puck has stood up for her. She might as well get used to it.
Rachel Berry is the kind of person that gets under your skin, and before you know it, you actually like her. It had taken two whole weeks of denial for Puck to come to terms about how he regards Rachel, and now he feels like it's just common fact. He thinks that she might feel it too, because she is no longer following after Finn like a lost puppy. It disappoints Finn, but Puck can't quite bring himself to care. Finn had his chance.
"You could have seriously hurt him, Puck."
"Noah." He tells her, and her eyes widen. She stutters out a little, "what?" and Puck grins at the fact that he has shocked her.
Rachel's smile is dazzling, and Puck gives her an amused grin as they continue to class, the crowd parting for them like the Red Sea.
"Noah." She repeats, and Puck doesn't think he's ever heard anything sounding so amazing in his life as his first name coming from Rachel Berry's lips.
Puck has no idea when he became that guy.
He's frowning at himself while he drums his fingers on his steering wheel and stares at Rachel's house, trying very, very hard not to feel like a stalker.
He has no idea when Rachel-freaking-Berry, Miss I-Put-A-Gold-Star-Next-To-Everything-I-Do, became so important to him. Him. Noah Puckerman, star football player and MILF lover extraordinaire. There are certain lines, certain boundaries, and Puck is about to cross it.
For Rachel Berry, the only girl alive besides his mother who is allowed to call him Noah; who stands up for him, believed in him when no one else did; who does little things for him just because she knows it'll make him smile.
Rachel Berry is worth it.
Puck picks up his phone and punches in her number. "Hello?" A voice asks, and from where his car is parked at the sidewalk, Puck watches as her light flips on.
"Rachel? It's me."
"Noah." She sounds happier now. "Any specific reason for calling me? It is, after all, right after dinner, and I have my MySpace video to put up because I need to keep my vocal cords warmed up."
"Right. Skip that for tonight. I've got a surprise for you."
"A surprise?" He can almost hear the smile in her voice. She's probably sitting on her bed right now, phone to her ear with a smile on her face. He wonders what her room looks like.
"Uh-huh. So put on something nice. I'm outside." He ends the call and then peers through his windshield and watches as the blinds move. Rachel spots him and laughs, shaking her head, before she disappears from sight.
Fifteen minutes pass before Rachel is hurrying breathlessly out her door, and Puck watches her, a little slack-jawed. How he thought she was never truly beautiful escapes him.
"Hi." She greets when she manages to get herself into his car, and Puck wipes his face totally blank lest she see the amusement on his face at the sight of her trying to climb into his truck like it's Mount Everest. "Want to tell me where we're going?"
"You know, keeping secrets are not very nice." She pouts at him, and Puck smirks.
"Chill out, Rachel. You'll like this surprise. Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I do." Rachel says, waving a hand like it's a known thing, like the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the leaves change color in the fall. "I just despise not knowing things."
At this Puck laughs outright. "Oh yeah, I know." Rachel huffs at him adorably and Puck laughs louder before he realizes he just used the word 'adorable'. He almost grabs his junk just to make sure it's still there and hasn't magically turned into a vagina overnight.
They make small talk on the ride over and Puck allows Rachel to fiddle with his radio, not even saying anything when she turns on some kind of weird music that only Rachel and people in their seventies like and belts along to it. In fact, he laughs the whole way there.
When they get there, Rachel makes a noise that Puck believed she was incapable of making, even though he should know better by now; Rachel always manages to surprise him.
"Puck!" She squeals, looking more excited than he's ever seen her, "you're taking me to see A West Side Story?!"
Grinning, he comes around to her side of the car and opens her door for her, immediately being tackled into a hug. Her voice goes up outrageously high while thanking him profusely, and is also gradually becoming thick with the onslaught of oncoming tears, so he presses her head gently against his chest for a moment before pushing her shoulders away (briefly noticing how suspiciously bright and shiny those doe-like eyes are; he knew she was crying) before taking her hand and pulling her to the entrance.
She pauses, surprised, before curling her hand around his and squeezing, and Puck thinks that Rachel's smile could outshine the sun.
Puck's state of bliss with Rachel doesn't last very long.
Three weeks after he took her out to see West Side Story, both Finn and Quinn are absent. It's weird, but not unusual, so Puck doesn't think much of it.
Until the rumors start.
Puck's heart stops beating when he hears that Quinn had a miscarriage.
His daughter is dead.
Puck immediately goes on autopilot, cracking jokes and making rude remarks in class, but on the inside, a chunk of his heart is gone. The child that he would have done anything for doesn't exist anymore, and Puck will never have the chance to meet her. He had plans of being involved in her life without Quinn knowing, but now those carefully thought plans, hatched in the middle of the night where Rachel isn't around to soothe him and where his resentment towards being a Lima loser build and build, will never come to be.
Rachel finds him hiding in one of the spare, deserted classrooms during lunch. She stares at him with sad eyes, and he knows that she has heard as well. Still, her anguish cannot compete with his own, and fury clogs Puck's throat, because Rachel does not know of his situation and wouldn't be able to understand why he feels like he can't breathe, and he doesn't resent her but more like life in general, which Puck just knows must be laughing at him.
He shouldn't have doubted her.
Rachel doesn't say a word when Puck breaks down and cries. She doesn't ask any questions, or raise judgmental eyebrows.
Instead, she holds him, and Puck lets down his guard, his whole guard, all the feelings that have been brewing inside of him until this point, and lets Rachel hold him while his entire world crashes down around him.
Day by day, things get easier.
Quinn stays in the hospital for a week after their daughter dies. She no longer looks like the Quinn from before, the cold hard bitch who ran this school. When her eyes meet Puck's, she looks just as sad and desolate as he feels, and not even Finn can fix this problem.
For his part, Finn looks like someone chewed him up and spit him out. Puck remembers the days when Finn didn't get much sleep after finding out Quinn was pregnant, before Nurse Psycho prescribed them all pseudo-meth pills, and his eyes were constantly ringed red with exhaustion.
He looks a million times worse.
The first thing Rachel does when she sees Finn is hug him tightly, and Finn returns it half-heartedly, though he looks very grateful. The Puck-of-old would have been swallowing down jealousy. Now he's just glad that Rachel is there to help Finn as much as she helped him.
The other Glee girls (plus Kurt) attend to the situation with aplomb. Tina bakes cookies (peanut butter ones, soft and chewy, and were it not totally unmanly Puck would have happily hugged her) and Kurt and Mercedes exchange playful banter, and they all try and include Quinn and Finn into their conversation.
Mr. Schue looks almost as bad as Finn, which is puzzling, but all of them are a little relieved when he tells them that Glee practice is canceled today. All of them leave, with the exception of him.
Instead, Puck sits on one of the chairs, breaks out his guitar, and plays "Tears in Heaven".
It is only after he is done with the song and breathing heavily, eyes closed while the tears ran down his cheeks, that he is aware of Rachel. She had been here the entire time, just sitting quietly, while he poured everything out into a song written for a man's dead child.
"You were emotionally invested in this child, weren't you, Noah?" The words 'the baby was yours, wasn't it?' is implied.
Puck laughs bitterly. There is no denying it now, and really, he's tired of lying to Rachel.
"It was a mistake," he tells her, voice hoarse, "but Rach, it was the happiest mistake I ever made. Quinn may not have wanted me involved in her kid's life, but I was so damn determined to do right by that little girl. No one should feel unwanted by their parents."
It is, Puck thinks, the most sentimental thing he has ever said.
Rachel comes around to face him, and there are tears swimming in her eyes. She looks so sad, and this time, he comes to her, pulling her into his lap and against him. "Do you still love Quinn?" Her words are muffled by his shirt, but Puck hears it as clearly as if she is yelling it in his face.
"No." He tells her, truly, honestly. "Do you still love Finn?"
She laughs quietly. "No." She whispers. There are no more words to be said, and in the silence, their hearts beat a rhythm together.
Puck almost half-expects Finn to somehow find out the real paternity of Quinn's (angel) baby, but it never happens.
Instead, another scandal rocks Glee.
Mr. Schue finds out that his wife had never been pregnant in the first place. The Glee kids panic; it is close to Regional's, and Mr. S hasn't even been in school, let alone in Glee, and no one knows what to do.
In the face of this crisis, Rachel takes charge. She chooses power songs that play up their strengths. Even more amazing is that she lets others have leads.
Even after all this time, Rachel Berry never ceases to keep Puck on his toes.
"You," he tells her when he is driving her home after a stunning performance by Mercedes that made Kurt cry and tugged on everyone else's heartstrings, "are totally amazing."
Rachel laughs loudly at this admission. "Hardly," she says dismissively. "Our group needs direction and leadership, like every other teenager on this planet even if no one wants to admit it, and in lieu of Mr. Schue being gone for goodness only knows how long I merely stepped up to the plate so we don't make a mockery of ourselves at Regional's."
There is more to it, but Puck doesn't push the issue.
"Noah?" Rachel's voice is soft and a little wary, taking Puck aback, because Rachel is almost always confident.
"I never got to thank you for…for letting me in, the week before, and telling me about your baby." Puck's spine stiffens and Rachel notices. "I know how much you wanted to be involved in your daughter's life, and I'm so sorry that Quinn put you in such an uncomfortable position."
Puck parks the car in her driveway and sighs, running a hand against the stubble on the back of his head. "Yeah, well, Quinn…she was so used to seeing a certain side of me that it made it hard for her to realize that I'm not my dad."
"Too bad," Rachel tells him, "she missed out on a great thing. I'll see you Monday, Noah." She kisses his cheek as she goes, and he sits there for a full ten minutes in surprise after her door is closed.
If someone had told him five months ago that he would happily be pussy-whipped by Rachel Berry (when they're not even dating!), that person would have found themselves quickly being driven to the nearest hospital.
Puck doesn't know when Rachel became this huge enigma in his life, but he can't find it in him to regret it.
Life goes on, as it always does.
Mr. Schue shows up three days before they are set to go to Regional's and nearly cries when he sees how hard they've been working.
A while ago, Puck would have been horrified by Mr. Shue's open behavior. Now he feels proud at the beaming smile their teacher bestows upon them, as well as the compliments. Most are for Rachel, naturally, but she graciously points out that she wasn't the only one who helped.
Puck has never been more proud of her than right now, in this moment.
He kisses her forehead when she comes up to him, grinning. "You, Rachel Berry, may have just learned how to share the spotlight."
She rolls her eyes and punches his arm. "Be quiet, Noah." Her eyes, however, are filled with mirth that belittle the severity of her tone, and Puck laughs loudly, noticing absentmindedly that over in the corner Mercedes and Kurt are staring at them and cooing over how adorable they look.
Puck smiles to himself when he reaches down to grab Rachel's hand and there is excited chattering coming from that corner of the room.
Too easy, he thinks, smirking.
He is totally taken aback when Rachel's lips collide with his own, and Puck will never ever tell another soul about the fireworks that go off behind his eyelids.
Rachel giggles at the look on his face when they pull away, and her lips are a little swollen. The sight of this does crazy things to him, so he grabs her bag and pulls her out into the parking lot, her laughing behind him the entire time. He cuts her laughter off short when he pushes her against his truck and immerses her in a kiss that has her moaning.
Unfortunately, the need to breathe was too great after awhile, and Puck pulls away from her, trying subtly to catch his breath. He is nearly undone by the sight of Rachel licking her lips.
Fuck it he thinks.
"Will you be my girlfriend?" It's all out in the open now, there is no way to take it back. This is the first time he has ever said it with such sincerity, her answer banking on everything that he is and everything that she holds in those tiny hands of hers.
Rachel smiles, a soft look in her eyes as her hand rubs the back of his head.
"I thought you'd never ask."