A/N: So this will be a four parter. It starts at the time when Puck joined glee club and will follow them through high school and beyond; the firs chapter is sophomore year, the second, junior, and the third, senior, etc. It's a bunch of firsts. A lot of this is from Puck's POV, some from Rachel's.
Hope you enjoy! Feedback is lovely.
The first time he actually talks to her, they're in practice, and she's blathering on about dance moves or something, and he's trying to pay attention, really. But then there's Quinn and Santana, and he's distracted, so he runs into Finn, and Rachel rolls her eyes and tells them to start over from the chorus.
He's very aware that everyone's getting it but him. Rachel's pacing, and Mr. Schue is giving some special vocal attention to Tina and Brittany. Rachel steps in front of him, and he kind of punches her shoulder (he's used to being around dudes, so it's all he really knows).
"Hey," he says, and he scratches the back of his head when she faces him full on. "Is it two rights, then a left, or two lefts, then a right?"
She smiles, all teeth and glossed lips, demonstrates the move (he watches her legs for a couple reasons; maybe he kind of gets why Finn's so into this shit) and says, "Two rights, a left, and then another right."
He mumbles a thank you and she smiles and nods eagerly.
She might be fucking insane, but at least she's nice.
The first time he's really nice to her, he hands her a Big Gulp, watching how her face turns completely confused. She doesn't know what she's doing, actually letting him stand there with a full slushie in his hand. But his eyes look soft (she's never really noticed them before, since she's always so busy looking into someone else's) and he's got a straw extended to her.
Their fingers brush against one another's when he hands her the cup, and the smile she gives him almost makes him feel, like, good and stuff.
The first time he kisses her, they're in her room, and her skirt is short, and he can see the outline of her bra beneath her white shirt, and she's looking at him all eager. She can't say she expected him to ask her if she wanted to make out, but she finds herself saying yes, because she does want to make out. With him.
She tries not to giggle when he grabs her and pulls her towards him and flips her over onto her back so she's pinned beneath him. He laughs a little when she grabs his tee shirt at his sides, and he moans when she sucks on his bottom lip a little bit. He had no clue she'd be this good at this.
He's more than a little surprised when she shifts, pushing him onto his back and straddling him. He doesn't know if she really means to grind against his lap, but it happens, and he likes it.
But she stops, because all she can see is Finn, and all she wants is Finn.
He sings to her for the first time, a song about a girl named Caroline, and he doesn't admit it (maybe she knows anyway) but the words actually really make sense.
He really doesn't know when it began.
She smiles at him, and she swears her heart is beating a million times a minute, and her stomach is doing backflips. He's looking at her, only her, and she's so proud of him that all she can do is blink at him and sing the bah-bah-bah's when the time comes. The rest of the room laughs and dances in their seats, but she's too busy watching him.
He's a good guitar player. He's almost graceful in the way he moves, sauntering towards her a little bit. He's gorgeous (she doesn't deny it anymore). And his voice gives her goosebumps.
She's completely misjudged him. He smiles and kisses her when she tells him so.
(It's nice to not be a fuck up for once.)
They break up for the first time (they don't know it yet, but there'll be others; kinda) on the bleachers at school. She comes up to him, looking really good, he decides, in her dark sweater and knee highs, and he's thinking that maybe giving up football for glee wasn't a terrible choice, but he still misses the sport.
He lies when she asks him about it, out of habit alone.
She does most of the talking, which she's okay with, really (she expected nothing different) and she's completely surprised when he starts asking questions that, with anyone else, would be rhetorical. Puck wants answers. So she gives them.
It stings when he walks away, says they aren't friends and doesn't even look at her.
It's weird, but she feels closer to him now that they've broken up than she ever has.
They have more in common than she thought.
The first time he really hears her sing, she's in this smack down (he refuses to call it a 'diva-off', because there's gay, and then there's gay, and he's neither) with Kurt for the lead on this song, one that Puck thinks is pretty lame no matter what.
But then there's Rachel, standing there, singing like her life depends on it, like she means every single word and has to sing them or something bad'll happen. He's watching her, and she's singing to an imaginary audience of a thousand people.
He's said it before. She can sing.
And if his throat gets tight when she hits that note Kurt missed, it's just because...
He sets his jaw when he realizes he doesn't have an excuse.
Her eyes meet his briefly afterward, and she bites her lip, because she doesn't know how, exactly he's looking at her, what expression is on his face as he claps, but she likes it.
He votes for her (everyone does) and he thinks that maybe her smile is worth it.
He realizes that they aren't so different, for the first time, really, when they're all paired off to do these stupid ballads.
There are two people in the room he wouldn't despise singing a ballad to.
(Ditto for Rachel.)
But Quinn and Artie are paired up (and okay, Puck can admit that them rehearsing that country tune I Run To You is both awesome and hilarious; you know, 'cause of that whole wheelchair thing.)
Rachel's shoulders don't fall (she has to make an effort) when Finn draws Kurt.
And Puck can also admit that he doesn't exactly hate watching Rachel sing Endless Love.
He and Mercedes are basically like milk and vodka, two things that should never, ever go together. (When he tells her so, she corrects him, "Chocolate milk," she says, like she agrees on everything he's said except that.) They never do decide on a song, so he's happy they don't have to perform.
Lean On Me is kind of awesome, he supposes, and it's at least a little fun. Rachel sings to Finn, and she watches the way Puck sings to Quinn.
She catches his eye at one point.
He ignores her.
"We just did a good thing," she says to him quietly, both of them gathering their things. "Right?"
(The underlying feel of please, please say yes buried in her words.)
He's never heard her be so unsure of anything. Maybe he's only known her for a couple months, but she's pretty much always annoyingly confident. Conceited, even. He knows, because people say the same thing about him.
"Probably," he says. He shrugs his shoulder and she smiles sadly. He thinks he does the same thing in return, but he can't really tell because he's never done it before.
Just once, she wishes she could hug him, because he looks like he needs it, and no one else will do it.
When everyone is looking at her like she's a horrible homewrecker who couldn't keep a secret if her life depended on it, everyone's looking at him like he's a horrible homewrecker who doesn't care about anyone but himself. (She's not sure if both those things are true, or neither are, but she's leaning towards the latter.)
When their eyes meet in the hallway, there's an apology there, one for him and one for her.
She goes home and thinks about him (about all of them really, him, Finn and Quinn) and worries that no one will hear his side.
He goes home and thinks that if he were a better guy, he'd thank her. Maybe for a bunch of stuff.
She doesn't talk to him at all the day of Sectionals, but for the first time, when she looks at him, he's completely vulnerable to her. Finn has just saved the day, then blown Puck off, and Rachel's pretty sure that if there's a road back to that friendship, it's going to be a long one.
So she just looks at him, and he just looks at her, his eyes all sad and face mostly blank. She doesn't smile, doesn't wave. She just looks back at him, like maybe he knows what it's like when the person you love doesn't love you and you have no friends to speak of.
She knows, from listening to her fellow glee club members, what everyone does on the weekends. They all come to Monday morning practice, gushing about parties (Mike, Matt, Santana and Brittany), or shopping (Kurt and Mercedes) or epic movie marathons (Artie and Tina). Quinn's time is spent at Miss Pillsbury's condo, where she's taken over the spare room, just until she figures out what she's going to do. Finn got a job working with Kurt's dad, so that's been taking up most of his time.
Puck doesn't say anything, doesn't contribute to the conversation, and no one mentions him as part of their plans. He and Quinn go to lunch one Saturday, but Rachel hears that from Quinn, not Puck.
So when Friday rolls around and she hears the 'popular kids' talking about some party, and Puck is at the other end of the hall, pulling on his letterman jacket, Rachel thinks that maybe if she's going to be alone, and he's going to be alone, maybe they could at least be alone together.
She shows up on his doorstep and knocks before she can back out. She's surprised when he answers the door with an eight-year-old draped over one shoulder, and a smile on his face. He almost looks...happy. His smile fades, though, when he really registers that Rachel fucking Berry is standing on his doorstep. She's got a box of pizza in her hands, a six pack (really?) resting on top, and he doesn't know what the fuck is going on.
"Hi," she says.
"What the fuck is going on?" Puck asks. Okay, so he's not so subtle.
"Swear!" Rachel laughs at the little voice shouting something Rachel would like to shout, herself. She sees a little face, an upsidedown one, peer out from behind Puck. "Hi."
"This is Hannah," Puck says stupidly. He's still in a daze. "My sister."
"Oh," Rachel says, blinking at him. Her eyes are asking him why he never mentioned a sister. He hates that he can tell that.
"Who're you?" the little girl asks.
"I'm Rachel. I go to school with Pu...Noah," Rachel answers.
"Come in!" Hannah cries, seemingly okay with that answer.
"Shit. Yeah. Come in."
"Noah! Swears!" Hannah shouts again, and Rachel just laughs as he sets his sister on her feet. "You owe me a dollar."
"Yeah, yeah. You know I'm good for it," he says, messing the girl's hair. He knows Rachel's going to see him differently now, like he's some kind of good guy or something, which he's not. "Go up and put your pajamas on."
"But its only 6:30!"
"Do it," he says, and Hannah giggles and heads for the stairs when he takes a threatening step towards her.
Rachel thinks that the only one who isn't terrified of him is this little girl.
"You're a big brother," Rachel says when Puck turns to her again. He shrugs his shoulder and basically asks what the hell she's doing standing in his house. "I um..."
He blinks at her in shock for the second time in five minutes. "You just said um."
"You said um. You never say um." He's smug as he points it out. She hates that she thinks his smirk is at least a little attractive.
"Anyway, my dads are away for the weekend, and I know you weren't planning on going to Dave Sherman's party. I figured your weekend routines would included pizza and beer, so I did my best. Of course, this is non-alcoholic, since not only am I underage, but I also would never, ever drink and drive. But anyway, this is just pepperoni. I hope that's okay."
She brushes past him before he has a real chance to respond, which is probably a good thing, because he's pretty sure that a girl showing up at his house with food and beer (okay, sort of beer) is just about the hottest thing he's ever had happen to him, even if it is Rachel Berry as the delivery girl. In her defense, her skirt is criminally short, so that kind of plays into the fantasy. Knee socks, too. Of course. Those don't hurt.
"So you just...came to my house. For no reason. On a Friday night." She's in his kitchen, and he's standing against the door frame, arms crossed as he watches her search through the cupboards for plates. "Nothing better to do?"
She turns to face him, eyebrow kinked, and puts her hand on her hip. "And your night is so exciting?"
Well played, Berry, he thinks. "I'm babysitting. My mom's working," he says. So there. At least he has an excuse for staying home. Can't leave the brat unattended.
"Will Hanna want one slice, or two?" Rachel asks, flipping back the top of the pizza box.
"One," he answers robotically, though he's still completely stunned by the fact that Rachel Berry is in his house.
"I also brought a movie. It's in my bag. I figured you for an action movie type of person."
"I prefer my movies a little more X-rated."
"The Fast and the Furious?" she says, breezing past his comment. He notices a flash of colour in her cheeks anyway. "I've heard it's full of car chases and explosions. If you've seen it, we can watch something else."
Dammit. He has seen it. He owns it, actually. But it's also awesome, and there's something about Rachel right now, in his house, doling out slices of pizza onto three plates, her skirt swaying when she moves around the kitchen. Something that he thinks he likes.
And the words Rachel and like most certainly do not belong in the same sentence.
(It's hard to even think it anymore; he can't even convince himself.)
He'd ask her why she's here, but he already knows the answer, and as much as he'd love to be a dick about it, her taking an interest in him is probably nice and stuff, and it probably took a lot for her to get herself to do it.
She doesn't owe him anything. He owes a lot of people a lot of things.
He opens his mouth to say something, but he hears footsteps coming down the stairs.
"Princess ones!" Hanna announces, skipping into the kitchen.
Puck rolls his eyes. Leave it to his sister to ruin a perfectly good opportunity for him to say something, anything, to make Rachel squirm. (He may owe her now, but he's certainly not going to admit it.)
"Oh, I love those," Rachel says as she hands Hannah her plate. The little girl looks down at her pajamas, pink flannel with little tiaras and stars (fucking stars, Puck thinks; that'll forever bond these two chicks). "Pink is my favourite colour."
"Mine too!" Hannah looks at Puck, all wide-eyed, like Rachel is the coolest girl in the world or something, and Puck mocks her, though she's too young to realize that's what he's doing. "Noah, what's your favourite colour?"
"I dunno," he says, shrugging like this is the most annoying conversation he's ever been unwillingly pulled into (the number of annoying conversations he's been pulled into since joining glee club has increased radically.) "Blue, I guess."
He notices Rachel smiling as she passes him his plate. "Are we allowed to eat in the living room?" she asks.
Puck smirks as Hannah laughs. "We eat pretty much exclusively in the living room, Berry," he answers.
"Oh. Alright then. Sweetie, why don't you go get comfy?" Rachel says, steering Hannah back towards the other room.
Huh. Who knew? Rachel's good with kids.
"She's gonna expect me to be nice to her now," Puck says after biting into his slice. He normally wouldn't talk with his mouth full (his mother raised him better than that) but he knows it'll piss her off. Sure enough, she scrunches her face and sighs.
"Well, it didn't exactly look like you were torturing her when I showed up," Rachel says.
He wants to hate her. He wants so badly to hate her.
She turns around and opens the cupboard where she saw glasses, but they're too high for her to reach flat footed. She gets up on her tip toes, and Puck cranes his neck to check out her legs and her ass and her...her...as she does it. When she turns around and sees him, her cheeks flare again. He expects her to look away, cover her face or just plain ignore him. But she just locks eyes with him. It makes him uncomfortable.
"You know, a gentleman would offer to help," she says curtly.
"Too bad I'm not one of those, huh?" She stares at him until he caves and walks towards her. He pulls a glass off the shelf and hands it to her, and when she opens a can of this non-alcoholic beer, his mouth gapes. "You're not...You don't put beer in a glass. Unless you're a chick. Or in a bar."
"Well, Noah, I happen to be a...woman. So it's perfectly acceptable," she argues. He's shaking his head, however.
"Nope. Not allowing it. My house, my rules."
"You're a child." He grins and she rolls her eyes. "Fine. I'll drink from the can."
She watches as he takes a can for himself, pops the tab and drinks a long sip. The muscles of his arm are tight underneath his shirt, and she wonders (you know, for professional reasons) how he's so tan all the time, even in the late fall. She finds herself thinking that even that absurd hairstyle can be attractive at times. This is one of those times.
And she never, ever thought she'd be the type, but she even finds it attractive when he finishes his beer in one fell swoop, then sets the empty can on the counter sharply.
"So listen, I'm gonna say this once, and you have exactly two seconds to laugh, and if you spend any more time than that, I'm going to be seriously pissed off," he says. She looks stunned. "What?"
"Nothing. I just don't think I've ever heard you string so many words together."
"Bullshit," he scoffs. "We had some good conversations when..."
She smiles and nods, then picks at the crust of her pizza. "Yeah, we did. Okay, so what am I not allowed to laugh at?" He holds up two fingers. "What am I allowed to laugh at for two seconds?"
"I sorta promised Hannah she could watch The Little Mermaid," he mumbles.
She literally beams (he'd always thought that was just a figure of speech) and grabs her drink and her plate. "I love that movie!" she shouts as she runs from the room.
"Of course you do," he says, rolling his eyes as he follows her.
It's not unbearable, really. Hannah barely finishes her slice (she never eats the crusts, and she picks all the pepperoni off), and Rachel only eats two, so he has almost a whole pizza to himself, which is pretty awesome. He thinks it's pretty funny that she's sipping 'beer' from a can, watching a cartoon, her legs pulled up onto the sofa. Hanna sits between them, and the girls are giggling and talking about the movie, and Puck rolls his eyes only when they're paying attention to him, not the damn fish on the screen.
The girls sing along with the songs, and Hannah tells Rachel that she has the prettiest voice in the world. It's the one and only time Puck has ever seen Rachel actually humble about her talent.
And it's probably the one thing he's really ever agreed with his sister on.
Hannah's half passed out by the end of the movie, and Puck purposely ignores Rachel's eyes as he scoops his little sister into his arms and carries her up the stairs.
Rachel tidies up while he's upstairs. She places the plates in the dishwasher and snoops around for a recycle bin for the pizza box, and she's fluffing the couch cushions when Puck steps back into the living room. He laughs at her, because what the fuck? but she doesn't seem to care. He wonders if she's just used to him laughing at her, and how much of a dick that makes him if that's the case.
"You know, you're very good with her," Rachel says as he flops back down on the sofa.
He shrugs his shoulder. "She's my sister."
Rachel smiles and nods, but she thinks it's really, really sweet that there's this side of him that no one else sees. She assumes Finn has (oh, Finn, she thinks dreamily) and perhaps Quinn, but Puck is the 'badass' and no one else probably even knows that he has a sister.
It's still early, just barely 8:30, so he starts 'their' movie (it's still really fucking weird that Rachel is sitting next to him on his couch on a Friday night, ready to settle into watching a movie with him). Rachel pulls a pillow onto her lap and toys with the corner of it, which for whatever reason, is very distracting to him. Probably just because he knows what those little hands feel like sneaking under his tee shirt, and he hasn't gotten any in a while. Yeah. That's it.
He smirks when she gasps or flinches during races and crashes. But they don't say a word to one another for the duration of the movie. Not a word. There's a foot of space between them on the sofa and they've each polished off a couple non-alcoholic beers (as lame as it is, Puck thinks it's kind of cool that she thought to bring them).
The credits roll and Puck stands, stretching his arms over his head. He catches her staring at his stomach when his shirt rides up, but for some reason, he doesn't mention anything about it.
"I must admit, that wasn't the worst movie I've ever seen," she says. He rolls his eyes. "I assumed it would include only terrible dialogue and unnecessary violence, but it was much more than that. And the love story was very sweet."
"And the chicks are hot."
Rachel shakes her head as she stands and smoothes out her skirt. "The women were attractive, yes." He cocks his brow and stares at her with a boyish smirk on his face. "What?"
"You just admitted..."
"Oh, don't be so juvenile. I'm confident enough in my sexuality to be able to admit when another women is attractive."
She's standing there with her arms crossed, her hair falling over one shoulder, and her weight resting on one leg. And she just said the word 'sexuality'. This girl keeps surprising him.
"Whatever," he says. (He's changing the subject, but he's sure this isn't the last time he'll think of this moment.)
"I should be going," she announces. It unnerves her that sometimes she can read him like a book, and sometimes she has no idea what he's thinking. "It's getting late."
"It's not even 11:00."
He doesn't know what he means by that. He doesn't want her to stay. But he doesn't want her to go, either.
"I have ballet on Saturday mornings," she explains. He looks surprised again. "I've been dancing since I was a baby." He furrows his brow. He's not even sure how that's possible. "Thank you for your hospitality, Noah. I had a nice time."
He lets out some indeterminable grunt as she slips her jacket on and heads for the door. She smiles before she leaves.
The first and only time Rachel is ever in his house, Puck realizes that she's fucking insane, but she's also kind of sweet, when she's not acting crazy. He knows it was fueled by some kind of pity, her reaching out to him, but the fact that he had an alright time erases the anger he should feel.
And when he's laying in bed that night, he wonders what 16 years of ballet might do for a girl's flexibility.
Finn and Rachel finally get together, to the surprise of absolutely no one. He makes this really cute, bumbling speech and ends every sentence with "and stuff" and Rachel just smiles at him and bites the inside of her cheek because she's so close to screaming from happiness. She throws her arms around his neck and he catches her, laughing at her a little bit (deja vu) and then she kisses him, right there in the doorway of her house, where they've been standing for five minutes.
So they hold hands all. the. time. And Rachel's always (always) smiling, and Finn looks happier than maybe he ever has. Everyone's happy for them, claiming they've seen it coming for ages. Puck mumbles a sarcastic congratulations, but even he can admit that they're good together.
When Quinn walks up to him in the hallway one day looking nervous, he wonders what he's done this time. She just shrugs her shoulder and asks him if he still wants to be with her, and he swears that he's speechless. He nods and she smiles, and days later, when he asks her why the sudden change of heart, she simply says that if Finn and Rachel can get it together, then so can they. Puck supposes that's a good enough answer. And he likes the way she kisses him after and mumbles something against his lips about really, really just wanting him, too.
He and Rachel share a smile in the hallway once when the two couples pass one another, the girls holding their boyfriends' hands.
And there's a part of her, no matter how small it is, that is happy that Puck was her first real boyfriend.
(The rest of her wants Finn to have all her firsts.)
Finn's too stupid to notice, but Puck thinks hell must be frozen over, because it's clear that the girls have worked together to come up with this plan. Evil geniuses.
He should have known it when Quinn suggested this place. A seedy karaoke bar really isn't her style, and she's 7 months pregnant, so their dates have been pretty much limited to whatever food she's craving and trying to find a movie to watch in his living room that won't make her bawl her eyes out. (So far, they haven't found one.)
She's still living with Miss P. (as Puck calls her), and Quinn admits that it's a little weird when Mr. Schue comes over for 'dates' and stuff. So she tells Puck that she wants to get out of the house, and he's pretty much adopted the 'whatever Quinn wants, Quinn gets' mentality, so he agrees.
Karaoke, though? Red flag for sure.
When they walk in and he sees Finn and Rachel sitting at a table for four, talking to one another (Finn says something that makes Rachel lean over and kiss him), Puck turns to Quinn and glares, and she tightens her hold on his hand.
"It's time to make an effort," she tells him in her 'I'm still head bitch in charge, don't question me' voice. He's a little scared of that voice.
He begrudgingly follows her towards the table, and he notices Finn's expression harden as Rachel makes a show of acting like this is all some big coincidence. Puck wonders if she's a terrible actress, or if he's just better at seeing through her than her own boyfriend. He thinks it has to be the latter.
They order cokes and a bunch of food, and the girls talk to one another, and Quinn talks to Finn, and Rachel talks to Puck, but Finn and Puck don't talk to one another.
The boys sit awkwardly at the table and watch as the girls get up on stage, but Puck looks at Finn as if to ask if the girls are really friends or not. It sure looks like it. He wonders how much time they've spent talking without he or Finn knowing. Sneaky.
They sing that annoying pop song The Boy Is Mine, and they're both laughing hysterically (okay, so Puck can kind of get the joke behind that) when the crowd claps and shouts and cat calls them. Finn looks at Puck and they're both smiling.
Until Rachel and Quinn return and then the guys' names are called, and then the shit hits the fan, because what the fuck are they trying to do? Puck's life is not a fucking musical, thanks anyway.
"I'm not getting up there," Puck says defiantly, crossing his arms. Quinn looks at him, smiles and bats her lashes. "Nice try, babe. But no."
"Yeah, Rachel. This is...no. I'm not doing it," Finn says.
Even Puck is terrified with the withering glance Rachel gives her boyfriend. "Finn Hudson, I know you are not afraid to perform. So march your perfect ass up those stairs and grab a microphone. Or else!"
Puck notes a few things. Rachel just said the word ass. She's a tyrant. There's a threat there that he's desperate to know more about (what exactly do Finn and Rachel do together?). And also, Finn is totally whipped, because he kisses Rachel's cheek, sighs, and stands up.
"C'mon, dude. Let's just do this," he says.
Those are the first words they've spoken to one another in weeks. Certainly, they're the first ones that mean anything at all.
Puck glares at the two evil women when he gets on stage and sees them high fiving across the table before they start clapping and cheering like crazy people. (He's not so sure they aren't, at this point.)
Puck wonders what the hell Finn's told Rachel about their friendship, because More Than A Feeling starts playing, and the guys just look at one another. It's the song they always used to play real loud as they sipped beer after games, and the one they listened to on repeat when they took a four hour road trip the day Puck got his license. It's kind of their song, as lame as that is.
But they start singing, and about half way through, they look at one another and smile, and Puck thinks that even though this is stupid and he may have to kill his girlfriend for it, he might be getting his friendship back.
It doesn't hurt that the two girls are absolutely swooning right now, so he's fairly certain this is going to work out pretty well for him.
They get off the stage, bumping fists and laughing with one another, and when Finn gets up to go to the washroom and Quinn is paying more attention to her milkshake than anything else, Puck looks across the table at Rachel and mouths the words, "you win."
At the end of the night, after they've all sung with one another and the place is practically empty, just a half hour from closing time, Rachel catches Puck off guard with the first hug they've shared since they broke up.
"Of course, I win," she says softy.
Vocal Adrenaline absolutely kicks their asses at Regionals. No one really wants to admit that. And besides, it's all a little suspect to Puck; he saw the way the judges turned a blind eye to a couple of Carmel's missed steps and weak notes.
Rachel's doing that thing where she's trying to act all professional and pretend she isn't about to cry, and Finn's comforting her, saying things like next year, we'll take it, and but you were so amazing anyway. Quinn is laying on her side on the couch in the dressing room, her hand draped over her stomach with her eyes closed. Puck thinks it's pretty amazing that his girl isn't freaking out like that other one.
She sleeps all the way home, her head resting on his shoulder, and Rachel sits next to Mr. Schue and tells him all the things they need to work on for next year, song selections and perhaps recruiting more members and hiring a (not as crazy as Dakota Stanley) choreographer.
When they get back to the school, Puck helps Quinn into Miss P's car, then sees Rachel talking with Finn, Finn's mom, and her dads. She looks animated, like she's about to lose it any second. One of her dads has his hand on her shoulder, and Finn's rubbing circles on her back, and Finn's mom is shaking her head, probably telling Rachel how unfair the whole thing is.
Puck doesn't know when he became the kind of guy who feels the need to placate this seriously crazy chick, but he figures all this ranting isn't good for her vocal chords, and he does need her to be able to sing.
So he saunters over, his hands tucked into his pockets and his tie hanging loose around his neck. "Hey, Rachel," he says.
He rarely ever calls her that. She and Finn notice and exchange glances. "Yes, Noah?" she asks curtly.
If there weren't three parents around, he'd call her on being such a bitch when he's clearly not deserving.
(He really wishes he didn't have an audience for this.)
"Just wanted to say that you were really great today," he says. She looks shocked. She shouldn't be, she realizes, because yes, she was great, so why don't they have a trophy and a trip to Nationals right now? "We deserved to win."
She turns around quickly to look at her dads. "See!" she shouts, pointing to Puck. "Even he knows it!"
"Rachel, honey, calm down," her dad says quietly.
"Those Vocal Adrenaline geeks had the judges in their back pockets," Puck continues.
"Exactly!" She looks up at Finn, who looks like he's not sure whether to thank Puck or ask what the hell's going on, here. "Next year, I'm going to see to it that this doesn't happen again. Lucky for us, I have the email address of the director of the Ohio Show Choir Association, and I will not rest until new, unbiased judges are chosen!"
Finn's mom is trying not to laugh, and her dads are shaking their heads. Finn is definitely scared of her when she gets like this. Puck thinks it's hilarious.
"Right on, Rach," he says. "See you guys later."
And so Puck encourages her for the first time, and she shows up to practice on Monday with a homemade cake for the group. The icing is blue (his favourite colour, and he wonders if she remembered that).
She gives him the first piece. (Extra icing, too.)
Quinn goes into labour two days early, during spring break.
Labour is awful for both Puck and Quinn, because he's learned that those birthing classes? Those things only make you think you know what you're doing. He still has no fucking clue. He just does what people tell him, Quinn especially. At the 10 hour mark, they're told the baby is breech, and Puck asks what that means again, because in his sleep deprived, scared-out-of-his-mind state, he's forgotten basically every word he read in all those books.
Quinn's crying, clutching his hand and practically begging him to do something, but he doesn't know what to do, so he just sits there, letting her cry. He gets as close to the bed as he can and lets her rest against him.
It doesn't help that there are two other people, relative strangers, standing in the room, worried about their daughter. (Puck doesn't even know who he's talking to when he thinks 'their'. All of them, he supposes.)
They end up not being able to give Quinn an epidural, something about needing her to have 'full control' or something? All Puck knows is that she's screaming with every contraction, and he absolutely hates this. Hates every fucking second.
18 hours later, he's clenching his teeth and holding back tears as he hears his daughter crying, sees the people who'll be taking her home crying, and feels Quinn let go of his hand for the first time in what feels like hours.
Quinn holds the baby first, and Puck doesn't care if he's got tears running down his face, because this little girl looks like him, and the way Quinn looks at him lets him know that she sees it too. He doesn't really hear the things Quinn is saying to the baby, because he's too busy wishing he hadn't screwed up so bad, that maybe if they were just a couple years older things could be different, better.
So he holds his daughter for the first and last time.
Her 'real' parents say that they're naming her Elizabeth (Quinn's middle name) and Puck approves, though he realizes quickly that he really doesn't have any say in the matter, does he?
Once Quinn's settled for the night, Mr. Schue and Miss P. in her room to sit with her, Puck is told that he should go home and get some sleep.
He stops by the nursery and looks at his baby girl through the glass, and he does the one thing he's been trying not to do for two months now; he tries not to think about how much he doesn't want to give her up, how Quinn practically made the decision and he's been going along with it.
And right now, he fucking hates her for doing this to him. (He technically did it to her, too, but he's not going to pay attention to that.)
He's got a mickey of JD stowed away in his truck, and he figures that there's no better time than right now to drink as much of it as he can. It's not like he'll be able to sleep or anything anyway.
So like the pathetic loser that he thinks he is most of the time, he sits on the bleachers at the school, looking out at the 50 yard line, trying to tell himself that it's for the best. It's all for the best. That he wouldn't have picked a prettier name (Sophia) and he wouldn't love her more than anyone in the world could. That he wouldn't do absolutely anything for her, and that he'd give anything for her to know that he loves her already.
He loves her, and he'll never be able to tell her.
He ends up at Rachel Berry's house, his truck parked in the driveway (it's not until he's standing beside it that he realizes how stupid it was for him to drive). He knocks on the door, probably far too loudly, since it's after midnight on a Tuesday and her dads both work.
He doesn't even know why he's here. He just knows that she's the one person who's never really judged him, not about the baby, and she's the only person he wants to see.
She answers the door wearing star and moon pajama pants and a long sleeved tee shirt, her hair in a ponytail and a surprised look on her face. Her dad, the bigger of the two dads, is standing right behind her looking confused.
"Noah," she breathes out.
He knows that she knows.
"Daddy, it's okay," she says. He looks at her skeptically. "I promise."
Even in so few words, her voice is soothing to him. Her dad walks away, back up the stairs, and Rachel gestures to the sofa. She can tell Puck has been drinking, and while she really wishes he hadn't, she can't say she blames him. She doesn't know how long he's been awake, but his eyes are red and he looks like he's just had the worst day in his entire life.
Finn is visiting his aunt and uncle in Cleveland for the weekend.
She should push Puck away when he grabs her (a little harshly, and it almost scares her) and hugs her the way he probably needs to be hugged. She's pressed right up against him, her head against his chest, and she tentatively wraps her arms around his waist. She has a hard time keeping it together when she feels a tear drop onto the top of her head.
She eventually gets him to sit down, and while he's never been much of a talker, she insists that he tell her everything.
(This is why he came. He needs to tell someone everything, and no one else would want to hear it all, every last thing.)
It's nearly three in the morning by the time he appears to be out of words, and he wipes at his eyes angrily. Rachel has hardly said a thing, and at some point, her hand ended up holding onto his, her fingers curled around his, and there's a cup of water in his other hand. He doesn't remember her getting up to get that for him.
"I'm so sorry, Noah," she says quietly, looking down to her lap and shaking her head. "This must be so awful for you."
He looks at her for a moment, blinks, not caring that it sends more tears down his cheeks (he'd be pissed at himself if he didn't know that she doesn't care if he acts like this) and he moves closer to her. No one else gets it. No one else understands it this way. Everyone's been fawning over Quinn, and yeah, she deserves it, but he's a part of this too, and for whatever reason this girl, this crazy girl who he doesn't even know how to classify in the categories of people he knows, is the only one who sees that this is just as hard for him.
She wraps her arms around his shoulders, pulling him against her, his head resting on her shoulder, face buried against her neck.
He falls asleep like that, but not before muttering, "We're just giving her away, Rach. She's our daughter, and we're giving her away."
Rachel cries, not a fake tear among any of them, when she knows he's not waking up, and she gently lays him down so that his head is resting on her lap.
Her dads don't say anything the next day when they walk into their living room and see their daughter, wide awake with a boy who isn't her boyfriend sleeping so close to her.
They make breakfast, and Puck wakes up when he smells bacon. Rachel's hand is kind of massaging his scalp and he wonders why she doesn't hate him. Everyone else seems to.
Her dads serve up breakfast and Rachel delicately tells the story of what had Noah (he doesn't even hate that they're all calling him by his first name) coming over so late at night, and he's not annoyed by the sympathetic looks they give him.
"You're doing the right thing," Brian, the little one with the glasses says.
Puck believes it for the first time. Maybe it's the way Rachel smiles at him, like she's in agreement of the fact.
He thanks them for breakfast as they make their way to the door, and they tell Rachel to behave herself, and it's all a joke, and Puck smiles for the first time in three days.
As soon as they're alone in the house, Puck sticks his hands in his pockets and looks to the ground. "You wanna see her?"
She smiles and nods, changes into a pair of jeans and pulls on a sweatshirt before they leave the house.
They stand in front of the glass looking at the tiny little baby sleeping, bundled in a pink blanket.
"Noah, she's beautiful," Rachel says quietly, her hand pressed to her heart. "She looks just like you."
He's sure there's a compliment in there somewhere, and if he wasn't feeling like...well, the worst he's ever felt, he'd call her on it.
And then Finn starts walking down the hall towards them, and Rachel's face kind of lights up because he wasn't due back until Saturday. She doesn't care that he hugs Puck first, and she just watches the little baby sleep while the boys talk and Finn explains that Rachel called him and told him Quinn had the baby. What goes unsaid is that maybe Rachel knew Puck needed his best friend. She didn't tell him to come. She loves that Finn understands her subtext, understands her.
Puck announces that he should go see Quinn, because he feels weird playing third wheel with Rachel and Finn (he always has, but even more so now, maybe because he slept so close to Rachel and she's been so good to him, and he doesn't think he deserves it).
Finn wraps his arms around Rachel's shoulders as he stands behind her, and her hands come to rest on his forearms as he leans down so his chin is resting on top of her head.
"She's cute," he says, looking at the baby.
"She's perfect," Rachel insists.
"It's weird," he says quietly. "We're never going to know her."
Rachel bites back tears and turns in his arms.
This is the first baby any of them has. And they're just giving her away.
Puck and Quinn break up about a month after the birth of their daughter. Puck can't get over the fact that they've given up something that he thinks they should have tried harder to hang onto, and she can't get over the fact that he's the one who made it all happen in the first place. They try to forgive each other, but she's having a hard time as it is, and he isn't helping. So they split and promise to stay friends, and it works pretty well that way. They're not braiding one anothers' hair or anything, but they're civil and they can work together in rehearsals, and even laugh together every once in a while.
Rachel doesn't know many of the finer details, but she doesn't ask questions. Neither does Finn (he and Puck talk, but that stays between them, and Rachel is fine with that).
That's not why she and Finn start fighting.
They've been together for months, and they've been a stable couple, communicating well, laughing, spending time together, doing everything together. They slept together just two months in, both so sure of it that no questions needed to be asked.
She and Finn start fighting because he gets accepted to a football workshop for the summer, and he registers before telling her anything about it.
The blow up happens in the middle of a rehearsal, when the littlest thing sets her off.
Their rehearsals now are mostly just for fun, since their next competition won't be until the fall. They all want to improve, and so three times a week, they meet in the choir room and go over old numbers and new ones, picking apart their 'weaknesses'.
Right now, Finn is the weakness. Rachel does nothing but make it known.
They're working on With A Little Help From My Friends, and Finn just can't get it right. His harmonies, his dance steps, nothing.
His mind is in a whole other place (his girlfriend is pissed at him, so he thinks he's got a good enough excuse).
"Finn!" she shouts, stopping in her tracks after he almost steps on her foot. Again.
"I'm sorry," he says. The way he's looking at her lets her know that he's apologizing for a bunch of things. She believes him, but she still hates that he didn't even consider her feelings before signing up to be away from her for six weeks. Alabama isn't exactly close enough to visit. (She nearly took his head off when he suggested it.)
"Sorry isn't going to repair a broken toe!" she cries.
Puck is the only one who laughs.
"Okay, okay," Mr. Schue says, holding up his hands. "Why don't we take a break? You two can...talk."
Rachel gives him that death glare of hers and puts her hand on her hip. "I don't need a break, and I have nothing to say to him."
"Well then, I need a break, and I'll talk to him," Mr. Schue says. He pulls out the authoritative voice and Rachel huffs and rolls her eyes before storming out of the room.
Everyone else is still under the spell of all the tension in the room, and Finn puts his hands on his hips and hangs his head. Eventually, everyone starts talking among themselves, and Kurt heads to his locker for Evian. Mercedes is texting someone and Artie and Quinn are talking.
Puck slips out of the room after Mr. Schue and Finn do, and he walks down the hall where he thinks he might be able to find Rachel.
He notices the stage door to the auditorium is open, so he walks in and sees her standing front and center, her hands at her sides, staring out at nothing.
So he heckles her. Naturally.
"Sing something, or get off the stage!" he calls out from behind her, cupping his hands over his face.
She spins around and she's smiling, so he thinks that's a good thing. She runs her hands over her face and he sticks his in his pockets as he approaches her.
"I'm being a total bitch, aren't I?" she asks.
He cocks his brow and grins at her. "You said the B word," he teases childishly. "And yeah, you are."
"I'm just so...mad at him," she admits.
She has no idea when she and Noah became one another's confidantes. It defies all logic.
"Well, maybe you should chill," he suggests. She sends him a withering glance and he shrugs. "This camp is a big deal. Only 50 guys from across the country get invited."
"Why does one of those guys have to be my boyfriend?" she asks. He laughs again and she lets out this frustrated growling sound. "I'm happy for him. I am. I just wish he had told me, so I could prepare."
"You know, so I wouldn't have gotten the information all at once. It's hard enough being the loser dating Finn Hudson. I don't need him to be away for six weeks, where he has the opportunity to meet someone better than me. There are a million girls out there who are more beautiful, more popular, more talented. Well, maybe not more talented, but...I just don't want him to...to forget about me."
He scoffs and shakes his head. She's even more insane than he thought. (There's a voice, way, way at the back of his mind, that asks if someone better than her even exists.)
"Berry, you're not a loser. Not anymore, anyway," he says. She rolls her eyes; that's not the point here. "And you may talk too much and act like a total bitch sometimes, and maybe you could dial back the crazy just a little bit, like, 90 per cent of the time, but...You're hot, and Finn's into you."
"Into me," she mumbles. (But she's always liked it when Noah calls her hot.) "Yeah, that's great."
"Isn't it?" he asks, completely confused as to how that's a bad thing. "Why're you getting all psycho over this?"
"Because I love him!" she shouts.
Puck and Rachel turn toward the voice and see Finn standing there, looking surprised and confused, and all Rachel can think is Oh my god, how long has he been standing there? He steps a little closer, so he's standing next to Puck in front of Rachel, and she closes her eyes tightly.
When she opens them, they're both still standing there, and this isn't some insane dream, so she steps forward and slips her hands into Finn's.
"I love you," she says, looking up at him. She thinks she might start to cry or something, which would do nothing to make this whole thing less embarrassing.
A little smile creeps to Finn's face and he pulls her closer. "I love you, too."
And that's how Noah Puckerman is witness to Rachel and Finn's first I love you.
He uses the fact that it's a Friday night to drown in cheap beer at the 50 yard line of the football field again, because why in the fuck does he care so much?