"Can we just get this over with Berry? My mom got pissed last time you kept me out all night practicing and I don't plan on getting yelled at again." Rachel looked across the stage at Puck and sneered.
"If I remember correctly, last time we were practicing, you weren't complaining. We wouldn't be here all night if you would stop getting angry every time I correct you." He just rolled his eyes at her.
"Well if you would stop correcting me, I wouldn't get angry. Seriously Berry, not everything has to be pitch perfect. We can't all be you." An unexpected smile came across her face, which left Puck wondering what he'd said to make her smile that way. "What?"
"You said I was pitch perfect. Thank you. No one else seems to notice." Puck just shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, we dated for like a week, something was bound to rub off. Such as the fact that I know way more about musicals than I ever intended to. You can take all the blame for that." She continued to smile as she looked at him.
"I will gladly take the blame for that. Now, if I promise to not correct you as much, will you try to put some feeling into it?" Puck nodded his head, noting how the tone of her voice had changed somewhere between correcting his notes and his confession of knowing about musicals. The new tone wasn't technically new. It was the same one she'd used with him when they were dating, the soft, innocent, less diva tone that he still loved hearing. Anything was better than the crazy diva tone that everyone heard on a daily basis.
Twenty minutes later, the diva was back. Puck just couldn't get into the song and it irritated Rachel to no end.
"Noah, I don't understand what your problem is. There's no emotion in your voice at all. The notes are right, you're on key, but it's like you don't even care. There's no commitment in your performance and quite frankly, I'm disappointed. I know you have more than the required vocal capability to do this song. Why is it that you can perform 'Sweet Caroline' like it's no problem at all but you practically refuse to do this song any justice?" Puck listened to her rant patiently, up until she got to the part about "Sweet Caroline". His nostrils flared a little as he raised his head to look at her again.
He'd put himself on the line when he'd sung that song for her. He went into the relationship with the full intention of getting into her pants and nothing more. But when she refused, saying that if he couldn't handle a solo he couldn't handle her, he took it as a challenge. That intrigued him. If any other girl had of given him an ultimatum, he'd of laughed at them and moved on to the next girl. But this one, Rachel Berry of all people, challenged him and he didn't want to disappoint her. That was the real reason he'd performed the song for her, to prove himself to her, to not disappoint her.
Sure, he realized that he'd never put this much effort into getting a girl before, but that didn't bother him. Sometime during their short-lived relationship, probably when she was cleaning slushee out of his Mohawk, he realized that he actually liked being with her. The way she looked at him made him feel like he was a good, deserving person. She was the only person that looked at him like that, the only person to ever make him feel that way. He'd opened up to her and Noah Puckerman didn't open up to anyone.
He took a deep breath as she stared back at him, waiting for an answer.
"I did 'Sweet Caroline' because I wanted to." He watched as her eyes widened. He couldn't think of anything else to say, so he just went with a less sappy version of the truth. She recovered quickly and stuck her chin up in the air as she walked across the stage to stand in front of him.
"Can you at least pretend to want to do this song? It's not like you can't act." One of her eyebrows rose as she smirked.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Rachel rolled her eyes and laughed.
"Oh come off it Puck. You know how you act all 'badass' at school." She made air-quotes when she said badass. "But I know that's not all you are. You're sweet, and thoughtful, and protective. Once you let your guard down, face it, you're not a bad guy. You're Puck at school, but I like to think that when you were with me, you were Noah. I liked both guys actually, when the one wasn't being a total jerk and throwing slushees in my face."
"Hey I apologized for that, a lot. And I haven't slusheed anyone since then, now that I know what it feels like." She was making it hard for him to defend himself.
"I know that Puck. I'm merely using it as a point of reference to represent how Noah and Puck are different. But like I said, I liked both guys." Puck looked at her. Despite how professional she was, he could always tell when she was acting. He could see nothing but sincerity in her eyes.
"Then why did you break up with me?" She hung her head at his question. Her voice became a whisper.
"I thought I loved Finn." He had to do a double take. Puck could've sworn she used the word 'thought'. He shook his head and blinked a few times.
"Wait a second. Does that mean you don't love Finn?" When she looked back up at him, she looked so innocent.
"It was like I woke up one morning and realized, he's never gonna feel the same way about me. And even if he did, he'd never admit it. Finn cares way too much about what people think of him. If he ever started dating me, he'd probably want to keep it a secret or something. He's a good guy, a good friend, but I just don't see a future there anymore." Puck stuffed his hands into his pockets to keep from fidgeting beneath her gaze.
"I didn't care who knew when we were dating," he mumbled, almost hoping she wouldn't hear. Almost. When he looked back in her direction, she was walking back across stage to the CD player. She turned back around as she hit the play button and smiled.
"If it doesn't work out this time, I guess we'll just ask Mr. Shue for a different song." Her smile faded and her voice got lower as she said, "That would be very embarrassing, and I don't embarrass easily. Puck, don't embarrass me." All he could really manage was a nod. This was crazy diva Rachel, and crazy diva Rachel kind of scared him sometimes.
Puck sang his heart out. He put every bit of emotion in his body into the song. By the second verse, he was beginning to like the song a little bit. He'd never admit to that. When they were finished, Rachel didn't look like she was going to lay into him again so he figured he was safe.
"See? That wasn't so hard. You're a great performer Puck, and you have a beautiful voice." Puck couldn't help the smirk that came across his face as he looked back at her.
"By 'beautiful', you mean 'badass' right?" He repeated her air-quotes from earlier and laughed a little. She started laughing as well as she stepped closer to him, her shoulder brushing against his arm.
"Of course, you have a badass voice to match your badass guns." At that, both of them started rolling with laughter. Neither could really see from the tears in their eyes. Rachel sat down on the stage and Puck followed suit sitting down beside her. Once he stopped laughing, she looked over and smiled at him again.
"What?" She just shrugged her shoulders.
"I was thinking of what you said earlier, about how you didn't care what anyone thought when we were dating." She stopped talking, kind of leaving the statement hanging in the air. Puck didn't really like that.
"And it made me curious. I mean, if anything would make people 'question your badassness', it would be dating me. Yet you didn't care. Why was that?" Puck shot her a small smile before answering.
"Stop air-quoting me. I had a hot girlfriend who wasn't a bitch. Why would I care what anyone else thought? I was happy. I lied that day you know." A confused look came across her face.
"What do you mean," she asked.
"The day we broke up. I told you that I was going to break up with you anyway. I only said that to make myself feel better that I was getting dumped. I was gonna try and get you back, but then the shit hit the fan about me being the father of Quinn's baby and I couldn't do it. Even if you would've taken me back, I didn't feel like I deserved you." He felt her small hand on his shoulder as she leaned closer to him.
"Noah, everyone makes mistakes. Granted, not everyone gets their best friend's girlfriend pregnant. But Finn forgave you and Quinn is going to let you be a part of the baby's life. And I don't know if you've noticed but, now that everything got out in the open, Quinn and Finn are closer than ever. You can't keep beating yourself up over the past. It's pretty pointless." When she stopped talking, she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek lightly. "And I wouldn't have taken you back." He looked at her somewhat stunned.
"Way to hit a guy when he's down Berry." She laughed lightly and hit him on the shoulder.
"Not then at least. You forget, I still thought I was meant to be with Finn at the time." He turned and looked out into the empty auditorium. Her implication didn't escape him, he just wasn't sure if he was ready to put himself on the line again. After he'd counted to the twentieth chair in the auditorium, he looked back at her. She was still staring at him.
"Would you take me back now?" She smiled at him, but it was a coy smile.
"That depends. Do you want me back? I'm still pretty high maintenance."
"Berry, I never didn't want you. So, is that a yes?" He didn't like the way his voice wavered at his question. She just smiled back at him and stood up.
"That's a yes." As he stood up in front of her, something came to his mind and he smiled. He placed his hands gently on her hips and pulled her to him. After he kissed her, he let his forehead rest on hers.
"I should tell you, I'm disaster." She backed up a little and a shocked smile shone back at him.
"Did you just make a 'Rent' reference?" He couldn't help smiling back at her, knowing that only she would be able to recognize a random line from a musical.
"I told you, I know way more about musicals than I ever intended to. But it's worth it if I can make you smile like that." She smiled again but then looked professional again. Puck cocked his head to the side, wondering what was about to happen.
"We're gonna have to set some ground rules." He groaned. Puck hated rules.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, if we're dating again, I want to meet your mother. And you have to meet my fathers." He snickered a little at the thought of meeting her fathers.
"So, should I hang around Kurt for a few days so I know what to expect?" She hit him in the chest playfully and laughed.
"Come to think of it, it probably couldn't hurt. Kurt might get the wrong idea though, and I'll be damned if that queen is gonna try and steal my man." Puck shuddered a little at the thought of Kurt liking him. He shook his head.
"I think I'll just wing it with your dads. What other rules did you have in mind?" She put her finger to her lips and pretended to think. After a second or two, she looked back to him.
"Well, I would expect you to sing to me, because I love your voice. You would have to kiss me a minimum of twenty times a day. And a make-out session only counts as one, so don't think a twenty minute make-out saves you from that duty. And lastly, generally just deal with the basic insanity that is Rachel Berry. Think you can handle those terms?" Mimicking her, he put his finger to his lips. He began to walk around a little bit, moving his hands in a balance fashion, pretending to be 'weighing' the pros and cons. He turned back to her and smirked.
"Gee Berry, I don't know. Twenty times is a little much, don't you think?" She smiled up at him and wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Well those are my demands so if you don't like it, I guess you're out of luck." Puck placed his hands on her tiny waist and held her closer to his body.
"I suppose I could endure it, you know, if that's the only way you'll take me back." Her face looked serious for a second as she looked back into his eyes.
"Oh, the kissing is a deal breaker."
"Well then, I think we have a deal." He lowered his head to hers and locked her lips with his. He moved one hand up her side and around to her back when a thought managed to snake its way into his head. He pulled away gently. She looked up at him, her lips slightly swollen and her eyes wide.
"Do I at least get to touch your boobs this time?" He started laughing right in the middle of his question so she knew he meant it as a joke. Despite this, she pressed her chest firmly against his torso and smirked fearlessly up at his surprised expression.
"Is that your deal breaker?" Her actions and words confused him slightly. It sounded like a trick question.
"Well, I wouldn't call it a deal breaker exactly, more of a suggestion. Such as, if my hands were to drift upward of their own accord, will they get slapped away or encouraged?" At that, she pulled away from him and wrapped her fingers around his wrist. First, she placed his hand on her neck, then slowly guided it down her collar bone until he was gently cupping her breast.
"Does that answer your question?" Puck could play her game well. He smirked at her and shook his head.
"Actually no. I don't think my other hand really understands that well. Could you explain it again?" Rachel let out a sigh of faux exasperation and took his other wrist in her hand. As she repeated the process, Puck could feel her heart beating fast through her chest. He smiled at the effect he seemed to have on his girlfriend.
"What about now?" He grinned at her again as she looked up at him. She was so beautiful. Her long dark hair was just begging to be tangled around his fingers.
"I think we have a deal," he breathed against her neck. He bent his knees slightly, lowering himself to her height. His arms coiled around her back and lifted her up into the air against his body. She giggled as he held her tightly in his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her forehead against his.
"I missed this," she whispered. Just as she was moving her head closer to his, his phone began to ring. She giggled at his responding groan. Slowly and reluctantly, he lowered her back to the ground and fished his cell phone out of his pocket.
"Hi mom." His mother's voice was angry on the other end.
"Noah Puckerman, I told you that if you were going to be out late, to call and let me know. Sometimes you are so inconsiderate of other people's feelings. I just don't know what do to with you anymore." He exhaled heavily at his mother's rant and looked over at Rachel. She had a sympathetic smile on her face and was mouthing an 'I'm sorry'.
"Mom, mom, listen to me. I'm sorry I forgot to call but I was rehearsing with Rachel for Glee and," suddenly his mother's voice interrupted him.
"Rachel? Rachel Berry? As in your ex-girlfriend, that sweet Jewish girl you told me about?" Puck sighed. He was home safe.
"Well, not so ex-girlfriend anymore mom. I'm sorry, and I'll be home as soon as I can." He heard the smile in his mother's voice as she happily replied.
"Oh honey, don't even worry about that. You stay out as long as you need to. Just get home safe."
"Alright. Oh yeah mom, Rachel wants to meet you. Would it be okay if she came over and ate dinner with us tomorrow night?" He had to move the phone away from his ear because his mom's response was so loud.
"Oh Noah, you can bring her over here whenever you want! I would be delighted to have her with us. You tell her she's welcome in our home anytime she wants to come over!" Rachel started laughing as Puck put the phone back to his ear.
"Alright mom. I'll be home in a little while. Love you, bye." He hung up before his mom could go into another profession of love for Rachel. "Well, I guess you're coming to my house tomorrow night. Your dads won't have a problem with that, will they?" Rachel shook her head and grinned.
"Well, if you give me a ride home, my dads could meet you and then they wouldn't have a problem with it. My car's at Kurt's dad's shop getting an oil change and brake realignment and all that stuff that I have no clue about. I was supposed to call my dad when we were finished here so that he could come pick me up." She took her phone out and started dialing. Puck stuck his hand out and took her phone.
"If I'm taking you home, what are you doing?" She deftly grabbed her phone back from him with a smile and said,
"I'm giving them a heads-up that my boyfriend is bringing me home." Puck watched as she redialed and held the phone out in front of her. He heard it ringing, she had it on speaker phone.
"Hey honey! Are you ready for me to pick you up?"
"Actually dad, do you remember Noah Puckerman?" There was some movement on the other line, like her father was readjusting the phone in his hand.
"Noah? Oh, that boy you dated a few months ago? How is he?" Rachel giggled a little at her dad before answering.
"Well, we are kind of dating again. He's gonna drive me home and I thought that maybe he could officially meet you and daddy. Would that be okay?" As she had been speaking, Puck heard her dad gasp a little. At that, he got a mental image of the man grasping at his chest at the thought of Puck dating their daughter. He had to work hard to stifle his laugh.
"That would be delightful darling. We would love to meet Noah. See you soon honey!" The line clicked dead and Rachel closed her phone. She looked up at him and smiled.
"Well, should we get going, or would you like to run through the song again?" Puck rolled his eyes. She was nothing if not thorough, but he didn't like the song that much.
"Why don't we get out of here?" She smiled and nodded her head. She walked back over to the CD player and unplugged it. As she slipped the disk back into its case, she walked back over to Puck. He slipped his hand over hers and gave it a gentle squeeze.
As they walked out of the school, Puck placed his arm around Rachel's shoulders and pulled her closer to him. They walked through the parking lot to his truck. Puck opened the door for Rachel and laughed a little at the look on her face as she stared up at the truck. She was so small that the floorboard of the truck came up to her thigh. There was no way she could get up into the cab by herself. Puck just took her books out of her arms and tossed them into the seat. He placed his hands on her hips and easily lifted her up into his truck.
"Thank you Noah." He smiled at her and shut the door before walking around to the driver's side and getting in. After he started the vehicle, he pulled out of the parking lot and headed in the direction of the Berry home.
Rachel reached over and turned his radio on. To her surprise, the CD that Mr. Shue had given all the Glee kids so they could practice for Regionals started playing rather loudly. She laughed and looked over at him. He just shrugged and smirked.
"What? I like the Stones." She laughed lightly once more and scooted over next to him in the seat. As she laid her head on his shoulder, he grabbed her hand in his, lacing their fingers together.
"Are you nervous? About meeting my dads?" He turned his head to see her staring up at him with those big brown eyes of hers.
"Kind of. I mean, I've never had to meet one father before, much less two. I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do."
"Just be yourself. That always worked on me. They know a little bit about you already, from when we dated before." Puck cringed a little.
"Do they know I got Quinn pregnant?" Rachel's head rose off of his shoulder to look at him better.
"I talk to my dads about everything that happens in Glee. So yes, they know you're the father of Quinn's baby." Rachel's house came into view and Puck pulled over to park on the curb.
"And they still let you date me?" Rachel just nodded her head with a smile.
"They also know that you wanted to take responsibility for the baby but Quinn wouldn't let you at first. Daddy said it was very respectable the way you stepped up and that Quinn is lucky to have you and Finn to be there for the baby and her. He said it takes a very big man to do something like that." Puck happened to glance past her while she was talking and saw two men standing in the bay window of her house.
"Don't look now but, your dads are watching us." Rachel just shrugged.
"I can't say I wasn't expecting it. I am their little girl." Puck smirked a little as he snuck a peak at them again.
"Wanna give them something to watch?" Rachel started giggling before she said,
"Noah, despite my 'twenty times a day' rule, I'm not making out with you while my fathers are watching. Nice try though." Puck shook his head and opened his door to get out.
As he walked around the truck to the passenger side, he saw the confused look on her face. He opened her door for her as she scooted back over so she could get out. She looked as though she were about to jump to the ground but Puck placed his hands on her knees to stop her. Then he slid his hands up to her waist. She seemed to understand as she put her palms on his shoulders and stood up on the edge of the floorboard. Gently, he lifted her out of the truck and swung her body around and into his. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. He never wanted to let her go. Sadly, she started to slide down his body to place her feet firmly on the ground.
Hand in hand, they walked up the small sidewalk that led to the front door of her house. He walked in behind her after she opened the door.
"Dad, daddy, I'm home." Almost immediately, Puck saw two men standing in the doorway leading to the family room of the house. One, a tall black man, and the other a shorter white man, smiled at him. Noah couldn't help noticing the way the darker man stood with his hand on his hip. He understood where Rachel's attitude came from already.