Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. I also don't own '(I've Had) the Time of My Life'. Also, some of this is from Puck's viewpoint, and he's kind of an offensive guy, so I'd like to point out that his viewpoints don't always reflect mine.
A/N: Here we go with a brand new multi-chaptered story. This one will be a lot closer in tone to Treading Water than Missing Ending. I'd just like to say thank you to my returning readers-it's great to have you back-and welcome to anyone who's never read either of my previous fics. Also, a note: this fic was inspired by The Killers' 'Mr. Brightside', so that gives you a clue of where I intend this to eventually head. Please read and review. Thanks!
"No, no, no, no! You're doing it all wrong!" Rachel Berry shouted at Finn, rubbing her chest where he'd just struck her. "You're supposed to spin left, not right. Every time you spin right you hit me! If you can't get it right I'll have Mr. Schuester replace you because I will not let you mess up our chances at Regionals."
Finn rubbed the back of his neck and grinned sheepishly at her. "I'm sorry Rach. Let's try it again; I know I can get it right."
Her expression softened. "Okay, then."
Rachel retook her place again and Mr. Schuester restarted the backing music to their performance of '(I've Had) the Time of My Life'. Rachel shook her head as she waited for her musical cue while Finn began to sing. When it came time for her to join in, she moved forward next to him. As the music picked up, Rachel spun to the left just as they were both supposed to, and Finn spun right again. Since he had clearly never learned to keep control of his arms during turns, he backhanded Rachel hard across the cheek.
Rachel cried out in pain and stopped just short of colliding with him (she tried to ignore the laughter coming from the others). Cupping her hand over her cheek, she turned on her heel to face the tall boy.
"That's it, Finn." She stomped her foot. "I cannot work like this!" She turned to Mr. Schuester, who had once again stopped the music, and was correcting Tina's hand placement. "When you either teach Finn how to do this routine properly or replace him with someone who is more competent, please let me know. But until then, I am done with this song."
Rachel stormed out of the room as Mr. Schuester glanced over at her. As she headed down the hall, she heard the room grow noisy. She was sure they were all either complaining about her diva behavior or celebrating the fact that Finn had smacked her (even though he hadn't meant to). She was just so tired of it all. Regionals were coming up in a mere three weeks and nobody else seemed to realize how important the competition was. She needed to win at Regionals. If they won, her path to Broadway would be ten times easier. Everyone would remember her as the star because she just knew her voice would outshine their competition (okay, so the others probably didn't care that they were interfering with her Broadway ambitions, but still).
After she'd entered the ladies' room, Rachel stood in front of the mirror and removed her hand from her face. She leaned over the sink to inspect her cheek more closely. It had turned slightly red and she was worried it would bruise. She sighed. At least it wasn't my nose, she thought as she gently prodded the spot where Finn had hit her. Wincing, she twisted the knob for the cold water and grabbed several paper towels. Wadding them up, she thrust them under the water and placed them against her cheek. The chill was instantly soothing.
As she held the paper towels to her sore skin, she mused over her current irritation. It wasn't just that no one seemed to care that Regionals were so close and they still hadn't nailed down the choreography for the only group number Mr. Schuester had actually settled on (they were still missing one) or that they still hadn't picked who was going to perform the required solo (she really, really wanted it, but she had a feeling Mercedes would threaten to 'cut' her if she volunteered before Mr. Schuester brought it up). No, a good portion of her frustration was due to Finn.
He and Quinn had broken up months ago and Finn still hadn't made a public move on Rachel. She was so sure that they would officially be together by now. She had dreamed of wearing his letter jacket to school and going out on real dates with him, the kind of dates that everyone else knows about. Instead, he would steal a kiss every now and then before asking her to keep quiet and then he would run off to hang out with his baseball friends (it was early May; they'd moved on to yet another sport season). Rachel had attended all of Finn's basketball games because he asked her to, but he never really acknowledged her at them (though that didn't stop him from acting hurt when she skipped a game to attend a production of Rent in Cleveland). Sighing again, Rachel rewet the paper towels before placing them against her cheek again. She supposed he would expect her to attend his baseball games too when they began; they were only in practices right now.
If she were to be honest with herself, Rachel would admit that she was disappointed. Nothing about her relationship with Finn had turned out like she expected. She didn't understand why he wanted her at all of his games but was never willing to be affectionate in public. Or why he still told her not to tell when he kissed her; it wasn't as if he had a girlfriend anymore. They were free to be together, so why was he acting as if they weren't? Rachel sighed again, dropped the paper towels in the trash, and exited the bathroom, wiping the extra moisture from her face. Despite her insistence that she wouldn't return until Mr. Schuester had given her a competent co-lead, she had left her bag in the choir room and she needed her books so that she could do her homework tonight.
Puck was laughing his ass off. He couldn't believe that Finn had hit Berry. He knew it hadn't been on purpose; if it had, Puck would've beat the shit out of him (he didn't put up with guys who hit girls). Plus, Berry was so damn over-dramatic that Finn had probably barely even tapped her. Finn had turned bright red and run out of the room after Berry and Puck didn't know what was funnier: that he was yelling Berry's name, the gay-ass way he ran, or the fact that it had taken him about five minutes to even realize Berry had left the room. So Puck was laughing so hard that he was nearly falling out of his chair. And that shit was not badass.
Calming down, he looked around the room to see if anyone had noticed. They were all busy talking to each other though, so his rep was safe. When he saw that Schue had left, he figured he was good to go home. He got up and grabbed his guitar from the corner. He was fuckin' ready to leave. Staci, a blonde Cheerio with a huge rack, had asked him to come to her house after practice because her parents were out of town. He was so getting laid tonight. He turned to leave with a big smile on his face at that thought; a smile which slid off when he saw the rest of the glee club, minus Berry and Finn, blocking the exit and staring at him.
"Why in the hell are you looking at me like that?"
It was creepy as fuck when all nine of them exchanged a look. It was even creepier when they seemed to make a decision without talking (did they share a fuckin' brain?). They all turned back to him again and Kurt took a step forward, straightening his vest.
"We need you to do something for us."
What the fuck? "Beyonce, I don't do favors."
"You'll do this one. There's sex in it for you," the smaller boy said certainly.
"I don't do guys either," Puck stated with a shudder.
"As if I'd be interested in a brainless dolt like you," Kurt scoffed.
"You like Finn well enough and it doesn't get much more brainless than that," Puck muttered under his breath.
Kurt pinkened slightly but otherwise ignored the comment. "Since Finn hasn't manned up yet, we need you to have sex with Rachel."
Puck snorted at that, badass reputation be damned. They wanted him to have sex with Berry? They hadn't talked since October, and she wouldn't even let him touch her boobs when they were dating. Before he could answer though, Brittany piped up.
"But I thought Rachel did have sex with Finn."
Mercedes rolled her eyes at the blonde. "Please. Diva just screams unrelieved sexual tension. If there was ever a girl who hasn't gotten laid, it's Rachel Berry."
Brittany scrunched her face in confusion. "But Finn's had sex."
At that announcement all of them, Puck included, turned to look at her.
"If he didn't have sex with Rachel, then who did he have it with? They're together, you know," she continued on, oblivious to the way everyone was staring at her.
Santana recovered first. "Okay, number one, how would you know if Finn has had sex? And number two, what do you mean they're together? Because they sure as hell don't look together to me."
Brittany smiled brightly. "Oh, I can always tell when someone's had sex. It's like a fifth sense."
"Britt, sweetie, there are five senses and what do you mean you can tell when someone's had sex?" Quinn asked curiously.
"I can tell you've had sex," she responded.
Quinn rolled her eyes. "I had a baby so that's not exactly a big secret."
Brittany frowned, "Right." She thought for a moment and then perked up. "I can tell Santana has had sex."
Puck let out another snort. "Everyone knows that-she's the school whore."
Santana flipped him off and said, "And you can't say Puck either because he's the school manwhore."
Puck smirked lecherously at her, "You can't tell me you didn't enjoy your rides on the Puckerone."
"Guys!" Quinn interrupted them. "Go ahead Britt."
Brittany grinned. "Mike and Matt have had sex. But not with each other; separately."
The two boys in question shifted uncomfortably at that suggestion before Mike responded with, "Uh, Britt, I had sex with you, remember?"
She nodded vigorously. "Yeah, and it was lots of fun." Then she was off to her next thought, "Oh, Kurt, Mercedes, and Artie have all had sex."
Now that he didn't know. Puck glanced at the three of them. Kurt was staring at Brittany in surprise, Mercedes was avoiding looking at anyone, and Artie was turning red and appeared to be trying to sink into his chair. Probably because Tina was glaring at him. Damn, she looks scary! When Artie grinned sheepishly up at her Puck shook his head. Amateur.
"Tina and Rachel are the only virgins left in glee club," Brittany concluded.
"Then why did you think she was having sex with Finn?" Mercedes asked curiously.
"I thought maybe I was wrong about her because I'm definitely not about him. They've been together secretly since basketball season and Finn only had sex for the first time last month, so I thought it had to be Rachel," Brittany explained. "Because if it's not, then he's been cheating on her and that's just really mean."
Everyone was silent for a moment as they absorbed this thought.
"Finn's too damn nice to cheat on someone, so you must be wrong about him and Rachel," Mercedes finally declared.
Brittany shook her head. "They were kissing in the auditorium yesterday."
Quinn sighed. "Okay, they're probably together. So, then who's Finn sleeping with?"
Puck raised an eyebrow at her. If Finn was going to cheat on Rachel with anyone, he was sure it would be Quinn. The Cheerio (her spot on the squad restored after the baby although Santana was still captain) noticed his expression and crossed her arms over her chest, scowling.
"It's not me," she defended.
Kurt waved his hand through the air. "This isn't important. What is important is that Rachel needs to relax before we kill her or she kills us if we want to make it to Regionals. And that's where you come in," he finished, refocusing his attention on Puck.
"I won't promise to sleep with Berry," Puck stated. No way was he getting involved with that crazy again.
"Fine. Don't sleep with Rachel. But if she's goes all homicidal bitch, I'm coming back and haunting you," Mercedes said.
Puck frowned. "Why don't you have Matt or Mike do it?"
"Hey!" Brittany exclaimed.
Right, Mike was with Brittany.
"Okay, so what about Matt?" he corrected.
Matt turned red. "She's hot and all, but she's kind of scary."
"And you dated Santana so scary should be nothing for you," Kurt declared, ignoring the glare the Latina sent his way. "So are you in or not? If you're not, we'll persuade someone else to help us out."
Puck scowled at that. He didn't like the thought of them finding some random bastard to sleep with Berry. Sure, she was a little insane and scary-intense, but he knew that she was a fairly good person. If she slept with some fucker who'd only slept with her because he was paid to (and there wasn't a doubt in his mind that was how Kurt intended to persuade the guy), she'd be really fucking hurt when she found out (and he'd learned that secrets never stayed secret in this school). They'd backed him into a fuckin' corner.
"Fine. I'm not saying I'll sleep with her, especially if she's with Finn because been there, done that," he decided (Quinn blushed), "but I'm sure I can relax her without sex." He smirked. "After all, I'm a fucking stud."
There were satisfied nods all around the group and Kurt said 'Good'.
"Now get the fuck out of the way," Puck ordered.
The group finally disbursed to get their stuff and Puck headed for the door. And ran smack into Berry who let out a squeak and stumbled backward. Puck automatically reached out and steadied her.
Rachel had just made what was perhaps her longest ever walk from the bathroom back to the choir room. When she pushed the door open, Mr. Schuester had been waiting for her. He had proceeded to lecture her about how storming out during practice wouldn't solving anything. He then suggested that she spend extra time working with Finn on the choreography if he wasn't performing to her standards (and she had tried; heaven help her, she had tried).
Well, Rachel couldn't just stand there and let him attack her, so she told him that Finn's performance shouldn't be up to his standards either if he wanted New Directions to win Regionals. Because they certainly wouldn't win if Finn kept hitting her during their performance. Judges did not respond well to violence. Mr. Schuester had been very quiet at that (she loved it when she made an irrefutable point).
He had finally agreed with her and assured her that he would figure something out. Perhaps a change in choreography would help. Having achieved one victory, Rachel suggested that it was time to pick out their other group number and the person to perform the solo, and while he was at it, could they please have an additional practice every week? Mr. Schuester had just stood there silently, his mouth hanging slightly open as he stared at her. He was clearly running a little slow today, so Rachel patted his arm (and ignored the wary look he gave her because really, she was definitely beyond her silly crush on him) and told him to get back to her.
She was deep in thought as she made her way back to the choir room. Her mind was swirling with song choices for the solo and the group number. She had several suggestions for the second group performance that would be much better than the song he had settled on for their first one. In her opinion, '(I've Had) the Time of My Life' was one of the most overrated duets of all time. She would like to do something that was either edgier or more heartfelt. Something that would draw emotion from the judges would be an ideal choice, especially if it was an unusual choice for a show choir. She was so focused on narrowing down the selections in her head that she wasn't paying attention as she reached the choir room door and barreled headlong into Puck.
She had nearly fallen backward (and wouldn't that be supremely embarrassing) when he caught her by the shoulders and steadied her.
Tilting her head back to look up at him, she was irritated to see him smirking.
"Watch where you're going Noah," she snapped (she's not sure why she was suddenly angry with him; there was just something about him that always put her on edge).
He just smirked even bigger. "You're the one that ran into me Berry."
She huffed and pushed roughly past him into the room. She smiled at Tina, who looked distinctly disgruntled, and returned Brittany's cheery wave (for some reason, the blonde Cheerio had been waving at her more frequently).
When she reached her roller bag and pulled the handle up, she turned to find that Puck had followed her back into the room.
"What now?" she asked in annoyance.
"You seem fucking tense Berry. Not getting any off of Finn?" He was still smirking at her.
"You are disgusting and I refuse to dignify that with a response," she stated, blushing even as she frowned up at him.
"That's a no." His smirk turned into a grin. "So, do you want to do something sometime?"
"Not interested," she remarked definitely.
What was he doing? This behavior was a breach of their clearly established 'ignore and avoid' policy. Since she had dumped him back in October, they had both been pretending the other doesn't exist and it was working for them. So again she wondered, What was he doing?
"Come on Berry," he cajoled her. "You need a break from all this glee stuff before you die of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 16."
That just made her angry. He was clearly among the members of the club who didn't understand how important Regionals were.
"Regionals are in three weeks and we only have one group selection and Finn can't even get the choreography right on it. We should have begun our preparations months ago! I don't know how I let Mr. Schuester get away with putting it off for so long! We're never going to win if we keep relaxing; in this case, relaxing is just another way of saying procrastinating." She took a deep breath and then added, "And I'm not having sex with you."
With that she lifted her chin and, dragging her bag behind her, exited the room. Stunned, he watched her go.
Well, fuck, that didn't go how he planned, Puck thought as he watched Berry storm out for the second time that day.
"Fix it," Kurt commanded him, pausing on his way to the door.
Puck rolled his eyes. "Damn, man, I agreed to help and I'll keep my fuckin' promise. But I know how Berry works and if I try again now, she'll shut me down completely."
Kurt shook his head and left the room.
Santana sneered. "Well, if you ever plan on getting anywhere with her you might want to turn on some of that charm you claim to have," she said as she passed through the door.
She's one cold bitch. She was also wrong. Puck actually had turned on the charm; but apparently Berry needed another strategy.
As Brittany bounced to a stop in front of him, Puck realized that the room had cleared out. Other than Mike, who was waiting at the door, he and Brittany were the only ones left.
"You can't treat her like one of your sluts," the blonde advised earnestly. "Rachel's a serious girl, so you need to treat her like one."
Puck considered that; she had a point. He'd be best to approach Berry from a friendship-only angle. Fuck. He'd never been just friends with a girl; Brittany was the closest he'd ever come to with that since she was one of the only Cheerios he had never fucked.
"Also, could you please not have sex with Rachel?" Brittany requested. "I don't think her first time should be with someone who's only after that."
That kind of stung, though Puck would never admit it out loud. But he could see Brittany's point. Berry wasn't a fuck-and-run kind of girl and he was that kind of guy. Besides, he wasn't interested in Berry in that way (or at all, really, he was only doing this to get the others off his back). Matt was right-she was way too fuckin' scary. Shit though, he was going to have to put more effort into just being friends with Berry than he'd ever had to put into finding someone to blow him.
"I'm not going to have sex with her," he reassured Brittany when he realized she was watching him expectantly. She was one of the only people who could ask him to do something and he'd actually do it.
She smiled happily and practically skipped over to Mike. Slipping her hand in his, they left. When did Brittany start watching out for Rachel?
Puck was in the hallway when he passed Finn, who was headed back to the choir room.
"Have you seen Rachel?" Finn asked.
Puck nodded. "She's already fuckin' left dude."
He watched curiously as his ex-best friend (they were talking again but they weren't really friends) frowned and slumped his shoulders in a defeated gesture.
"Oh. I guess I'll catch her tomorrow then."
As Puck watched him walk off, he wondered about what Brittany had said earlier. Were Berry and Finn together? Had Finn had sex, even though Berry hadn't? Because he was sure now that she hadn't ever had sex based on the way she had responded when he had asked about Finn. And if Finn was cheating on Berry, what should he do with that information?
Not a fucking thing (it had nothing to do with him).