Disclaimer: Glee is not mine.
His eyes look up towards her as inconspicuously as possible. He bites his lip. He can never fully forget how she's a completely different person when she's singing. When she's swirling around, belting out the newest Glee song, she's not Rachel Berry. She's someone else entirely. She's beautiful, and amazing, and everything he wants to be. He looks down at his hands. It's wrong being so entranced by her. Not when his best friend feels the same way (even if he has Quinn). Not when, in reality, she is the epitome of everything he hates, and everything he wants to forget. She's Rachel Berry, and he's Noah Puckerman. They shouldn't even belong in the same sentence.
But they do.
He grips the armrest of the chair harder than he would normally. He really needs to stop all these thoughts. Rachel Berry and him do not mix. They're totally different people. They have nothing to do with one another, other than Glee club. What would he have to offer her anyway?
She's going places. And he? Well, he's going to be stuck in the same town, with the same dead-end job until the day he dies.
He doesn't clap when she's finished.
Just because Rachel is a different person on stage doesn't mean that she gets any less annoying as soon as she's off stage. It's hard to comprehend how someone can be that infuriating. She never relaxes. Never stops to think, or dream, or breathe. God, sometimes he just wants to put a hand over her mouth to get her to shut up. Why doesn't she just take the hint?
They're alone in the auditorium, both of them early. He was hoping that if he got there early he would actually get some peace and quiet. He doesn't seem to be able to get that anywhere. Not at home, what with his mum nagging him about finding a nice Jewish girl. Or at school, when he's around Finn who's always going on about the baby that isn't his. Sometimes he just wants to get away from it all. Then along comes Rachel Berry, and all he can do is sit there glaring at her, because no matter how many times he tells her to shut her mouth, she doesn't.
He has to beg Mr Schue to give her lead parts sometimes, because at least when she's singing she's not speaking to him.
Besides, it's another chance to get sucked in all over again.
Rachel Berry is his guilty pleasure.
He's dragging Berry by the arm, out past the school and onto the football field.
"You need to calm down, Berry." They hit a soft patch of grass, and stop. She gives him a confused look, staring around her at the empty field.
"I'm perfectly fine. Why am I out here anyway?" She purses her lips, and wraps her arms defensively around her torso.
"Lie down." He sinks down to the ground, tugging lightly at her hand in order to get her to do the same.
"Lie down." He all but hisses, and she hesitantly rubs the creases from her skirt and sits down, before reluctantly spreading her body out and lying on the ground next to him. He notices that she's keeping a safe distance between the two of them and rolls his eyes.
"So what happens now?" She whispers, and he closes his eyes. He can feel her gaze on him, those deep, brown eyes boring into him, trying to elicit some sort of response out of him. He has to stop the corners of his mouth from lifting into a half smile.
"Now, we relax."
They stay out there long enough for the complete and utter silence to kick in. There's nothing but the occasional car passing by, and the rustling of the trees. He can hear her breathing, slow and steady, and is amazed to find that she's gone a full hour without saying a word. He really needs to make her do this more often.
They sit up slowly, and he watches her dazed eyes looking around in confusion. Her hair is messed up. He almost wants to straighten it, but he keeps his hands in his pockets. Just because they can tolerate each other - and only just - doesn't mean that they're best friends all of a sudden.
"How long have we been out here?" Her voice sounds different when she hasn't spoken in awhile. Even she seems to be startled by it.
He just shakes his head, amused, and starts walking toward the school building.
"What?" She asks, running to catch up with him.
He smirks. "Just not used to the silence, I guess."
She stops in her tracks, and glares at him. Then the spiel starts up, and the sound of her voice hits his ears again. She's going on about how he should appreciate her positive energy and enthusiasm, or some crap.
Well, it did seem too good to last.
She drops a pile of paper on his desk, waking him up. He looks around the room groggily before his eyes lock on the excited brunette in front of him. Sighing, he sits up straight and watches her as she shifts through the pile of paper, frantically. As though what she's doing is a life or death situation.
"What are you doing?" He rubs his head still feeling a little sleepy.
"I'm searching for...ah, here it is." She beams at him, shaking the piece of paper in front of him. He raises an eyebrow, and snatches it away from her.
"Yeah. I was thinking we could work on improving the quality of your performance together. You can play the guitar, I can help you hit the correct notes. We could work extremely well together."
"Berry," he looks at the sheet of music. "You really need to get a life."
"Noah," she looks down at him, her eyes focused solely on him. "Glee is my life."
He's never spent as much time rehearsing as he has with Berry. He's convinced that she's some kind of humanoid robot or something, because he doesn't get how someone could spend all that time continuously singing the same song over and over again without their face melting off. And this is the type of thing that she does day in and day out.
He can barely even survive one day of it.
She gets him to do some warm up exercises, most of which make him sound like a total pussy, and he wants to refuse so badly, but then she gets that stupid puppy dog look on her face and all he can do is grind his teeth.
Stupid brown eyes.
He manages to make it through rehearsal without complaining too much. He knows that this is her way of helping him out, irritating as it seems.
He's just finished football practise, and is rounding the corner when he sees a bunch of them, all in the team, blocking Berry from her locker. She's standing her ground, and he's about to leave her to it (Rachel Berry can handle anything) when one of his team mates pushes her. Rough enough for her to stumble backwards and lose her balance, luckily she manages to catch herself just in time.
Puck may not be considered a gentlemen, and he's pretty much willing to look past anything, but pushing girls around is something that he's never been able to tolerate. Maybe it's because he has it ingrained in his mind. He has a sister and mother. Using force on women is just something that you don't do.
He's about to go up there and pound someones face in, when out of nowhere, up pops Finn. And Finn's doing the fighting instead. Puck hangs behind and watches. His eyes drift towards Berry, who's looking at Finn like he's her knight in shining armour, and maybe he is.
The rest of the team back off, and then there's just Finn and Rachel, and all he can do is stand there staring. Berry's looking at Finn all meekly, thanking him. It's not her. If it were him that had saved her, she would have been droning on about how she doesn't need his help, how she could have dealt with it on her own. But it's Finn, not Puck, that did the saving.
Her eyes meet his, and she waves her hand, slight smile on her face.
He doesn't wave back.
"You know how we're kind of friends now?"
"We're not friends, Berry."
"Ok...well, we're certainly more than acquaintances." She shoots him a knowing look which he ignores.
"What's your point?" He asks bluntly.
"Well, I like Finn." Her cheeks turn red, and she looks down at the floor.
"Which anyone with an active working brain could figure out..."
"So Finn knows?" Berry stares up at him expectantly. He rolls his eyes.
"I said active working. If you haven't noticed already, Finn's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed."
Her shoulders slump, "I've noticed."
"Look," he takes a deep breath, willing himself to look directly at Berry and her shiny brown eyes. "Just because we're 'more than acquaintances', doesn't mean that you're allowed to come crying to me with your problems."
She purses her lips. "I know. It's just difficult to tell anyone else." She looks at the ground again. "I'm not exactly the most popular person around."
He resists the urge to snort. She sees the look on his face and sits down next to him, reluctantly. "And it's not like I can tell Finn about this. So you're basically my only other option."
He doesn't say anything. Just sits there staring out of the window, though he can feel her gaze on him.
"You know you can tell me anything too, right?" Her voice floats into his mind, and suddenly it's like she's singing again, and he's forgetting that she's Rachel Berry, most annoying person in the universe. It's almost too easy to tell her things that have been on his mind. Things that he would never tell anyone else. Not even his best friend.
He crosses his arms over his chest and closes his eyes.
Almost too easy.
But not easy enough.
He's sitting at home watching TV with his little sister when the doorbell rings. At first, he thinks that it's Finn, so he bounds towards the door and opens it without so much as looking through the window. Instead, there's Rachel Berry in tears at his doorstep.
He doesn't know how she got here. How she even knows where he lives. But he can't very much push a crying girl out onto the street, so he quickly pulls her through the door, and shuts it behind her. Guiding her towards the couch, his sister eyes him with wide, surprised eyes, so he navigates Berry out of the living room and into his own room where he closes the door behind him. Only then does Berry start sobbing again.
Looking around the room, he spies a box of tissues, and grabs them, shoving them at Berry. He doesn't know how to console her. Although he lives with two girls, it's not like his mother goes crying around him all the time, and his sister's too young to be crying about boys (judging from the way Berry keeps saying Finn's name, that's what he's assuming she's crying about), and even if she were crying about boys, he would be out there shredding them for touching his sister, leaving the consoling to her own friends.
His mind flashbacks to the conversation he had with Berry a couple of days before. He's the only person that she can go to about Finn, and so he sits there while she uses tissue after tissue, going on about how there's no reason why she should be crying, and that when she's famous, and her personal life's splashed out in front of the tabloids, crying isn't going to change anything.
He just nods carefully every now and then, before excusing himself and ducking out of the room. There has to be something he can do to calm the girl down. He heads into the kitchen, where he sees his sister sitting down at the table eating, she looks up as soon as he's in the room. He can tell from her face that she's bursting with questions, but he shuts her up with a glare.
"Ice cream." She pipes up all of a sudden. He looks at her in confusion.
"That's what crying girls need. That's what you give them in the movies, anyway." She licks her spoon.
He shoots her a look of gratitude and opens the freezer, managing to find the tub of ice cream straightaway. He takes out two spoons from a drawer and is just about to go when he hears his sister again.
"I think chocolate helps too."
"Thanks." He takes a block of chocolate, and heads back to his room.
Berry manages to polish off the entire block of chocolate, and most of the ice cream. He doesn't know how girls do that. When they're heartbroken, they flip a switch, and suddenly they're human vacuums, with bottomless pits for stomachs. He doesn't know what compels him to sit there and listen to Berry cry her eyes out, but it's not like she has any place else to go, and she did help him practise (even Mr Shue noticed an improvement), so he figures that he owes her this.
And there's something kind of sweet in knowing that it's him that she turns to for this. At least he knows that if he ever needed to talk about something (not that he ever would) he's got someone, even if it is Rachel Berry, to turn to.
When she calms down a little, she explains that she saw Quinn and Finn kissing, and although she'd seen it a million times before, she just broke. It probably had something to do with them being at the grocery store at the time, she continues. At least when they do it at school she can pretend that it's all an act, and that when they go home, they can go back separately. It's nice knowing that they aren't attached to each other a hundred percent of the time. But seeing them together on a weekend was just too much.
She's been working too hard, he hands her another tissue. She keeps trying to perfect herself, and always seems to be falling flat. Maybe, she wonders, she's already achieved her best, and this is as good as it's going to get. This thought sends her into another spiral of tears.
It's in that moment that Puck realises that Rachel Berry isn't a robot, or a vacuum with a bottomless pit.
Just a girl that's trying to hold onto dreams that are slowly sliding through her fingers.
But at least she's trying, which is more than can be said for him.
With her talent, it's only going to be a matter of time before she gets the attention she craves.
Once he realises that Rachel is nothing but a teenage girl, it becomes harder to separate her from her on stage persona. Yes, she's still as amazing as ever. But it's like he's seeing her for the first time. Her insecurities, the way that her eyes look around the room with an uncertainty that he's never acknowledged before, her hands drumming nervously against her leg. Both her personalities have merged into one, and his opinion of her has forever changed.
On stage she's Rachel Berry. Just like the Rachel Berry who's in Glee club. Who talks too much, and practises way too much. Who's over dramatic, and annoying.
But she's also the Rachel Berry who cares, and helps people out when they need it, even if it means she'll be snubbed as soon as they're back in school.
And she's still everything that he wants to be.
They're lying out on the grass again. The wind rushes over them, hurrying in an unknown destination, and there's something so peaceful and nice about this that he can't stop what comes bubbling up to the surface.
"You inspire me."
He doesn't even know where it comes from. It's just something that's been on the tip of his tongue, waiting to be said. It's not even that he's trying to get into her pants, or that it's some cheesy line that he's using. It's coming from something inside of him that she, with her words and crying and stupid brown eyes, has opened up, or changed, or fixed. He's not sure what it is, but he knows that it's because of Rachel Berry.
There's this utter silence that overtakes the both of them, and at first he thinks that she's going to laugh (he can't bear it if she laughs, because he's never been more serious in his life), but he looks up at her, and she's staring at him with the most tender expression he's ever seen on her face (or any persons face for that matter), and smiles, just a small smile, threading her hand in his.
They stay like that. In that perfect, exquisitely beautiful moment for who knows how long. He doesn't want to leave because then that moment will vanish. Just disappear into the dark recesses of his mind, as a distant memory (one that he will never forget). But that's what makes it so special. They lie on the ground until the moment is over.
In the end, she stays silent, and he speaks. She listens intently, holding onto every single word that comes out of his mouth. How he wants to be something more than he is. How he doesn't want to be stuck here for the rest of his life. How, even through everything, he still doesn't know what to do with his life. Not like she does. He doesn't have goals, but he has ambition. And if he has something to work towards, he can get there.
She watches him with fascination. He's still what she wishes she could be. Popular. Adored.
But he's never been more ordinary to her in her life. And there's something comforting in the knowledge that even he (with his perfect life, perfect social status, perfect everything), at the heart of it, is just as ordinary as she is.
Just a boy who's trying to find himself, who just wants to know who he is and where he fits in.
And although he's never seemed more ordinary, he's never been more beautiful.
He's walking out of Glee, when he sees her standing at her locker, closing the door. The rush of people coming out of class after the bell, blocks her from his vision. And for a second he thinks that she's left, but he looks, and there she is, staring straight at him with her big, brown, puppy dog eyes.
She gives him a hopeful smile, raising her hand in hesitance. And, at first, he doesn't realise why she's being so coy, until she looks around at the crowd of people, and he gets it.
She's afraid that he won't wave back. That he'll shun her again, like all the other times she's done this before. It is so like her to keep doing it, though. Rachel has always been persistent.
So he walks over to her, watching as her eyes widen even more in surprise, and then he's in front of her.
It all comes back in a rush of memories. How she listened to what he had to say. How she understood. How she didn't laugh. The way she looks on stage. Her voice, her self-confidence, everything that makes her Rachel.
And then he's looking down, taking her hand, and intertwining his hand in hers.
They walk down the hallway. Two perfectly ordinary humans, realising that sometimes, to be special, the moment doesn't have to end.
A/N: It's official. I fail at endings. God, that was bad. Anyway, I started writing this before the season finale. I think back during 'Mash-Up', but I didn't finish it till now, because I had no idea where I was going with it. But I somehow, slowly...very, very slowly, managed to actually finish this thing. And, you know, when you get something in your head, and you think that it's going to be so good, but for some reason you can't get it down the exact way that you wanted to get it down? This is that story. So yeah. Reviews are awesome :)