Author's Notes: So, this is a fic that is made out of crack. It's a fulfillment of a promise for fic that I made to unequivocally on LJ like three whole months ago, so. I'm sorry that it's taken so long!
will go wrong
Before the smell of burning rubber, before the pie stain on the dining room rug, before the overturned couch, before the discarded pack of cigarettes, before the ruination of her Chemistry textbook, before the gum stuck to the hat rack, and before the soft sound of Noah Puckerman singing his daughter to sleep, there had been a knock on her door.
At first Rachel had assumed that her Daddy had locked himself out again, because he was always forgetting his keys on the counter by the door. But when she pulled it open, her hair still wrapped in a curling iron and snowflake pajamas draped over her body, the shadow that fell over her was way too tall to be her Dad or her Daddy or even their business partner, Mark, who sometimes came by to steal leftover pie.
(The Berrys always had leftover pie, because Rachel and her Dad baked one every night. Her Dad thought it was important to spend time together, and Rachel thought it was important to expand her domestic horizons, so that, in the event that she marry, she could efficiently and impressively run her household, the way she did everything else.)
"Cute jammies," Noah Puckerman said, his eyebrows raised and this horrible little smirk on his face that indicated to Rachel that his words were less than sincere.
She hadn't quite gotten a grasp on sarcasm yet, but she had a very steep learning curve, and although she couldn't yet employ it for her own use, she was rapidly becoming proficient at recognizing it.
For a moment, Rachel was too startled to say anything, but because she'd trained extensively for surprise visits from the paparazzi, she quickly composed herself and smiled. "What can I do for you?" she asked politely, trying to remember if this was one of the days that usually came with toilet paper and forks on her front lawn.
But no, it's just a Sunday, and even Puckermans rest on Sundays, because now here he was, standing on her stoop with a backpack on and his daughter sleeping in the crook of his arm.
He rolled his eyes at her, like he did whenever she spoke, and said, "They're fumigating my house. We have termites." He shifted, and Rachel sensed a hint of discomfort on his part. She imagined that having to ask her for help was a physically painful concept for him. Well, not literally painful, because Rachel knew that displeasure couldn't actually manifest itself as feeling in the nerve endings, but still, she felt that in the interest of trying to sound "less like the ninety-year-old baby you dress like" (-Kurt Hummel), she could try and incorporate a few slang terms into her vocabulary.
Rachel wrinkled her nose. She had a strong distaste for bugs, particularly those that crawled. She would hate for such a young baby to subjected to that sort of environment. She stepped aside and gestured for Noah to come in, and he didn't look at her as he did. He'd been over before, several times in the three days that they had been intimate, so he went straight into her living room and gingerly set Drizzle on the couch, nestled between the armrest and a pillow.
She waited in the doorway, watching him. Noah Puckerman was an endless source of bewilderment for Rachel. She found him both fascinating and infuriating; he was on the one hand an utter Neanderthal with little or no fashion sense (exhibit A: the hair; exhibit B: the hair) and zero ambition (beyond, Rachel had come to understand, a particular passion for cleaning pools, which frankly seemed a waste). On the other hand, however, she (very) occasionally saw flashes of someone that deserved the title of "human being" beyond his happening to have opposable thumbs.
He straightened, rubbing a hand over his scalp and exhaling slowly. When he caught her staring, he raised his eyebrows and snapped in a whisper, "What, do you want a picture or something?"
If the baby weren't in the room she might respond to him with the full force of her higher-than-average intelligence, but because the tiny ears were always listening she checked herself. In all of her extensive research, she'd found that baby's do an enormous amount of processing even while sleeping and she didn't want to do anything to stunt little Drizzle.
Also, Finn always said that she shouldn't say everything that was on her mind, so Rachel had been trying out his "social filter" theory. As such, she chose not to inform Puck that she had no need for a photograph of him, as he was in the yearbook several times over, and that as such any further documentation would just be superfluous. Instead, she focused her glare at him and hissed, "No, thank you, I have an almost perfect recall."
Puck rolled his eyes and was opening his mouth to respond when suddenly he frowned and sniffed the air twice. "Dude, you suck at cooking."
Rachel frowned. She wondered if this was diversionary. "I beg your pardon?"
"Whatever you're cooking. It smells like ass."
"I'll have you know that my father and I bake together every night, and as such I've become quite proficient at the culinary arts, and any suggestions otherwise are ignorance-based and don't accurately reflect all the relevant information."
"Berry, I think you're ignoring the obvious question, here."
"And what's that?"
Rachel's eyes widened and she wondered why that question hadn't occurred to her immediately upon Noah's observation. She felt that this concern ought to be returned to at a later time for consideration, since it seemed to indicate a carelessness that Rachel rarely showed in her day-to-day behavior. Perhaps spending so much time with other people her age was beginning to get to her.
"Oh," she said after a moment, remembering. "My curling iron."
They looked at each other, Rachel satisfied that she had solved the puzzle, and Noah … well, just being Noah, and then as one turned and sprinted back to the front door. Sure enough, there was her curling iron, resting in a little bed of flame that was starting to lick dangerously close to the wall, eating up the rubber on her brand new tennis shoes.
Rachel remembered vaguely that when faced with a crisis one must always remain calm, and that she'd had extensive fire safety training. Still, at the moment all she could do was stand and stare dumbly as her shoes went up in flames, and it took her a while to process that Noah had nonchalantly taken the fire extinguisher by the door and was unleashing its powdery whiteness on the fire with what seemed like practiced ease.
"Have you done this before?" she heard herself ask faintly.
He didn't bother answering, just shot her a look that seemed in indicate that he thought she was of inferior intelligence. Which, frankly, seemed ironic to Rachel, since she was the one with the 4.0 GPA and he hadn't been to a math class in two years.
Noah set the fire extinguisher against the wall and asked, "You okay?"
He sounded sincere, or at least as close as he ever came to sincere, so Rachel made herself smile and nod. Her Dads wouldn't be too angry, since accidents did happen, and the fire had been handled with skill and minimal damage. There were some angry black streaks on the wall right next to the door, but Rachel imagined that those could be taken care of with relative ease.
"So, uh. That sucks about your shoes." Noah jammed is hands in his pockets and didn't meet her eyes.
Rachel meant to thank him, as polite society demanded she do, but instead she heard herself blurt, "Would you like some pie?"
He blinked at her. "Uhh. What?"
"Pie. We have pie. I told you, I bake with my father. Right now it's pear crumb, because that's my favorite. I like pears a lot, which I personally thinks says a lot about my character because pears are something of an obscure fruit. Which is not to say that I am obscure, of course, but only that I don't march to the same beat as everyone else, so to speak."
In retrospect, maybe the additional thoughts on pie hadn't been quite necessary, but Rachel was a nervous talker. She always had been. And Noah just made her nervous — you can't spend two years terrified of someone and then suddenly be best friends with him. The world didn't work that way. Rachel didn't work that way.
"Uh," Noah said, "Sure. Okay."
Rachel nodded. "Good. Excellent. I'll go get that for you then. I really think you're going to like it, it's quite delicious. I know because I made it myself and I was very particular with the measurements. Also, I happen to know that you really like pie, so it stands to reason that you'll enjoy this one."
Oh, God. This was terrible. She was pretty sure that there was a certain protocol to co-babysitting with a boy but she just didn't know what it was. It was times like these that Rachel really wished she'd spent more time watching the popular blockbuster films instead of musicals.
She felt strongly that some pie would improve the situation.
She cut a generous slice and took a moment to despair over her appearance. It was times like these that a girl could really use some knee socks to hide her admittedly undefined calf muscles.
When she emerged in the living room, Noah was on his hands and knees, crawling around the living room and whistling uselessly, as if calling a dog.
As the plate slipped from her hands and bits of pear crumb pie sunk determinedly into her grandmother's white persian rug, Rachel began to re-evaluate her dads' emotional response to the state of their home.
"What are you doing?" she gasped as he began to tear the cushions off the couch and then tip it over. It landed with a loud thud. Rachel felt faint, and also, annoyed, because was Noah going to help her clean up? Not if she knew boys, and certainly not if she knew him.
This kind of activity seemed highly unorthodox for your standard babysitting adventure.
"She's gone!" Noah yelped, his voice reaches octaves that even Rachel had to admit were impressive. "She's just — what the fuck is this, Baby's Day Out?!"
Rachel blinked a few times, trying to be sure that she understood. "You've misplaced Drizzle?"
The glare he sent her was so scathing that she felt the hair on her arms rise. "I haven't misplaced shit," he snarled. "She disappeared like fucking Harry Potter, okay. I left her right here."
Since misplacing a baby could, admittedly, effect him emotionally, Rachel decided to overlook his harsh tone and grabbed a flashlight from her father's desk. "She can't have gone far," Rachel told him sensibly, opening the cupboards beneath the TV and shining the light in.
"She can't have gone anywhere, she's six months old for fuck's sake," Noah snapped, quite rudely in Rachel's opinion, since it was hardly her fault that somehow Drizzle had managed to get herself off the couch and to an as-yet-unknown location in the two minutes it took Rachel to retrieve the pie and the fifteen seconds it took to permanently stain her rug.
He sunk back into a seated position and dropped his head into his hands. "Jesus fuck," he groaned, "Quinn is going to kill me."
Privately, Rachel thought that was probably true, but she decided to keep that to herself. Instead, she crawled over to sit next to him and put her hand on his shoulder. They sat in silence as Noah reached into his pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboro Reds. He stuck one into his mouth and lit it, offering the pack to her with raised eyebrows.
"You shouldn't smoke if you want to be a performer," she scolded with a frown. "Do you know what that does to your vocal chords?"
"I don't want to be a performer," Noah said blandly, and then clapped his hand over her mouth, which was highly unnecessary because Rachel hadn't even begun to process the full ridiculousness of what he'd said, much less had time to formulate a proper response. "Shh," he hissed.
Rachel wanted to point out that she hadn't spoken, but then she heard the faint sound of a baby giggling and kept quiet. Noah began creeping along on his hands and knees, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, Rachel crawling behind.
This was … not quite how she had imagined this Sunday playing out.
They found Drizzle tucked happily away behind the futon. Rachel wondered aloud how she'd managed to get herself there and Noah just rolled his eyes and told her that clearly she had some seriously superfly mojo in her genes.
Which did not make biological sense.
They sat in silence for a moment and Rachel asked reflectively, "Is babysitting always like this for you?"
He didn't look at her when he answered, "Well, yeah, but Sarah turned out okay so I'd hate to fuck with the system."
There was hardly a point in scolding him for his language, but Rachel tried anyway.
By lunch time, Rachel had not yet managed to get dressed, clean up the pie, collect the scattered cigarettes in the living room, fix the couch, or wrestle from Noah just how long he was planning on staying. It seemed that when he got it into his head that he was going to do something, he just did it, a character trait that Rachel could certainly empathize with, although she usually approached her goals methodically and with a surety of success, where as Noah … just knocked things over a lot.
She wondered if this was how Mr. Schuester felt, and whether that was why he was always trying to destroy her career.
Noah was sitting at her dining room table, Drizzle settled on his lap, and he was throwing little bits of napkin at Rachel while she tried to do homework.
"Noah," she said without looking up, "Please stop."
"I'm try'na get one in down your shirt," he answered, like that was a legitimate reason to continue. It was not. "Hold still."
"I will not hold still while you continue to objectify me!"
"Berry, I'm bored. If you don't let me do this, shit could start getting dangerous. I'm good friends with the fire extinguisher for a reason."
"Think of the lesson that you're teaching your daughter right now, Noah. Do you want her to grow up believing that she is but an object for male pleasure?"
He raised his eyebrows, and looked between Rachel and Drizzle several times. "Dude. She's six months old. I could tell her she was a flying monkey and that it was weird she didn't have a dick and she wouldn't even know what that meant."
Rachel's hand flew across the table to clap over his mouth as she hissed, "Noah!"
"Have you done no research? Babies minds are consistently active! They absorb much more than we give them credit for! Haven't you ever seen the commercials for Baby Einsteins? Didn't Quinn ever put headphones over her belly so that the baby would hear Mozart? Didn't you prepare for the culturing of this child at all?"
"Um," Noah said through her hand. "No."
Rachel felt a shudder run through her, and she experienced for the first time what Quinn used to call Man Hands Syndrome: she tasted bile in her mouth. Quinn used to post comments like that on her MySpace page all the time, but Rachel herself had never quite understood what they had meant. Now, suddenly, she did.
She took a deep gulp of tea, trying to wash the feeling away.
Her mind began reeling, picking out various music and games and shows that she would have to open Drizzle up to as she got older, all the things she would have to teach her because obviously Noah and Quinn weren't going to do it.
"That's it, then, I'll have to start compiling a list — "
As she removed her hand, Noah said, "Dude. I'll make sure she's cultured. She'll be a dead shot in Resident Evil by the time she's four. What else is there?"
Rachel instantly regretted drinking tea, because suddenly it was coming out of her nose and her mouth and spraying all over her Chemistry book as she yelped, "What else is there?! What else is there?!"
She outlined the importance of the collaboration of Gilbert and Sullivan, the masterful works of Stephen Sondheim, and the more modern style of rock operas as an echo of the human condition, but Noah was too busy laughing at her to pay any attention so she trailed off and simply let herself seethe.
Noah was remarkably good at ignoring her anger, and he was still laughing when he asked, "D'you think she looks like me?" as Drizzle began to settle down.
The frustration flooded out of her (which was perhaps what he had intended and Rachel was onto his game) as she studied the baby's face. She wanted to give an honest answer. In truth, many of Quinn's features were dominant — blonde hair, sharp chin, well-proportioned ears. Rachel smiled at him. "She has your eyes," she decided.
Noah ducked his head. "Cool," he said, and returned to firing things at her chest.
"You have impeccable aim," Rachel told him, batting away his latest bullet. "I've never attempted a spitball before."
Noah stilled, and when she looked at him his jaw was slack and his facial expression appalled, which seemed to indicate horror or bewilderment, or perhaps both. Rachel pointed out that such activities were for immature people who weren't career-oriented.
"No, Berry," he argued flatly, "they're for people who liked to have fun."
Without another word, he disappeared into the kitchen. Rachel heard the following: three broken glasses, one dinged cooking pot, a knife cutting a tomato (Rachel tried to understand why they might need vegetables for this particular activity), forks being used as drum sticks, and finally the refrigerator door slamming.
He emerged, however, with nothing but an old platter, which he set up against the TV and which had an X drawn in the center.
He didn't look at her as he disappeared again, and Rachel gave up on trying to identify the multiple sounds of destruction. There was a long silence and then he popped his head into the door. "Um," he said slowly. "Don't be mad."
Rachel frowned, her stomach dropping. She sensed that whatever he was about to say would get her in very deep trouble with her Dads, trouble she hadn't seen since she was twelve and tried to hitchhike to New York (admittedly, not her best plan). "What have you done?" she demanded suspiciously.
He winced. "Before you say anything, it's Sarah's fault."
"Sarah is not here, Noah," Rachel snapped.
"It's still her fault," he argued, sticking out his chin like Finn did when he was angry. "If she didn't steal my shit all the time, I wouldn't have to booby trap them with gum."
Rachel closed her eyes. She had long ago resigned herself to the possibility that she would be homeless by the time Noah left. "Where have you gotten gum stuck?" she asked wearily.
He shifted uncomfortably. "Um. The hat rack."
"The hat rack? Noah, how could you possibly have — "
"I put it in the hood of my sweatshirt, okay? I know she's been stealing it and wearing to school but I couldn't prove it so I put gum in the hood so that it would get stuck in her hair and then I could, you know. Give her an ugly haircut."
"Well," Rachel said nastily, "You do know all about ugly haircuts."
His hand went automatically up to his head. "Hey," he protested defensively, "don't question the badassness of this mohawk. This is a BAMF mohawk."
"You're an imbecile," Rachel said. She wanted a great deal to expound on that thought, and list the numerable ways that he was, in fact, the most moronic human being that she had ever met and probably ever would, and that his hair was stupid and in no way 'badass', since hair in and of itself could not be badass. And furthermore, he. had ruined. her house. Rachel would be sure to emphasize that point.
But he threw her off when he shrugged and said, "Yeah, well. I'm really sorry. I know I sort of … fucked a bunch of shit up. Although the fire was definitely not my fault. Also the disappearing baby thing. And actually, also the Chemistry book thing because that was all you. Dude, I'm totally innocent here!"
"Totally innocent? None of this would have happened if you hadn't waltzed over here — "
" — Waltzed? What musical do you think we're in, because — "
" — going to have a perfectly nice afternoon — "
" — sort of thinking West Side Story, that's about gangs, right — "
" — not even friends, I don't know why you — "
" — I mean, people die in it, right, like there's stabbings and stuff — "
" — and then you sit there and blame me — "
" — and also like fist-fighting? Don't people bleed? 'Cause if I have to sing then there had better be — "
" — West Side Story is NOT ABOUT GANGS, IT'S A LOVE STORY YOU IDIOT."
Noah looked disappointed. Rachel considered punching him, but he was still holding Drizzle, and the repercussions of dropping a baby far outweighed the brief satisfaction she might derive from causing someone bodily harm.
Speaking of Drizzle, she had started crying when the yelling started, and Noah looked down at her with a bewildered look on his face before he started to hum.
Rachel stepped involuntarily forward, ears pricking when she caught the tune. His voice was low, and sweet, and rumbly like a dryer on tumble dry low. He was grinning.
"You knew it was a love story," she said slowly, understanding dawning.
"I saw it at the Community College once and you're hot when you're mad," he answered, and then went back to humming.
Rachel was unsure of how to handle that information, so she chose to ignore it. "That's my favorite song of the whole show," she said. "Which is strange because usually I don't like dream sequences."
He looked up at her, eyebrows arched. "You're not even mad anymore, are you?" He grinned. "You're such a freak."
"You're still helping me clean," she said.
"Rachel, why is there gum on the hat rack?"