A/N: This is the runner-up fic I wrote for the Support Stacie auction. Good thing there was no word cap on this. It's long. It had to be broken up into three parts. It's about 30,000 words total.
Thanks to LunaMystik who gave me an absolutely awesome prompt. I'm so happy she likes it. I hope you do too!
No seriously. Like, it really blows.
It's summer! Puck should be chasing ass, sleeping until noon, drinking at night, and walking around flaunting his shit. (Seriously, have you seen his body? He keeps it in top shape for exactly this reason.) But fuck. When you're working five days a week, trying to prove (still) that you're not a fuck up, it leaves you kind of drained.
Honestly, that whole baby thing really messed him up, you know, emotionally or whatever. Not that he's about to admit that. To anyone. Ever.
It's really, really weird to know that he's got a kid out there. He knows he's going to end up being one of those douchebags who, as soon as the 18 years are up, goes searching for his kid. He's already way too curious about it. And yeah, his kid's adoptive parents are super cool and live in a nice house with a treehouse in the backyard. His daughter has an older brother, which Puck thinks is pretty awesome. He knows she's in good hands; he wouldn't have handed her over in the first place if he didn't approve of these people. (No really, he pissed Quinn off for like, months, because he could find something wrong with every couple she showed him. She sucked at picking.)
So yeah, he's cleaning pools, but that's just during the week and only until about 2:00, before the sun like, starts melting his face off. He's getting up at sunrise, which means that he's not...staying out until sunrise. He and Quinn are still paying off her hospital bills, little by little, so he doesn't even get to enjoy all his paycheck. He doesn't even remember the last time he actually had a drink.
Shit. This summer is seriously the worst ever. The only saving grace is that, like, all of his friends are around this year. They're working and stuff, usually opposite hours than him, but he can still catch a movie (lame) with Finn every once in a while, or play Call of Duty with Matt and/or Mike.
So yeah, his friendships are restored or whatever, you know, after he fucked everything up by nailing Quinn. But that wasn't an easy road. The only reason Finn even started talking to him again is because Rachel threatened him to within an inch of his life or something. Puck hasn't said thank you. He's sure Finn would have started talking to him eventually.
But yeah, right now? He's laying on his bed in his air conditioned house, thinking that summer sucks already and it's only two weeks in.
He doesn't think he's gonna make it.
His phone rings, and it's Quinn. Fuck.
Okay, it's not like they hate each other. Actually, they tried that whole dating thing for a few weeks before realizing that there's a reason they never dated in the first place. They like each other well enough, but as a couple? No. Not so much. He's too 'wild' (her word) and she's too 'Jesus Crazy' (his words) and they can appreciate one another as friends, which is actually pretty cool. And she doesn't even hate him anymore for, you know, knocking her up at 16. Sweet.
"Brittany's stupid brother is driving me crazy. Let's do something," she says as soon as he's answered the phone.
Yeah, she's living with Brittany. It's...interesting. He's pretty sure she's close to killing someone 90% of the time. It makes him laugh. (And Brittany's little brother is a total freak. Puck's given the kid pointers on how to make the girls crazy. It's awesome.)
"What do you wanna do?"
"Dairy Queen," she says, as though he should have already known the answer.
Yeah, she's been like, crazy about her food and diet and exercise or whatever, but Dairy Queen is the one thing she won't give up from her pregnancy. He doesn't really complain, because he's always been a fan of a cookie dough Blizzard.
"I'll pick you up in 10."
So yeah, spending the evening with Quinn at Dairy Queen? This is what his life has become.
Rachel Berry does not get bored.
She's too busy for that. She has a strict workout regimen that gets her up no later than 8:30 each morning. She has one lesson or another every day; voice, dance, acting, tennis. Her fathers work long hours, and she takes care of the house, sort of. She keeps things clean, makes dinner a couple times a week without being asked. She attempted to mow the lawn once (it had been ten days since her dad did it, and it was throwing off the balance of the neighbourhood) but that didn't work out so well, so she hasn't tried again. Every once in a while, she'll find some time to lay in the sun, covered in SPF 40 and wearing protective sunglasses with the two piece that no one else knows she has.
So no. She doesn't get bored.
However, she finds, two weeks into the summer, that she gets restless. Very restless. To the point of insanity. Well, not actual insanity, but that's not the point. The point is, she really isn't used to just sitting around anymore.
You see, she had a boyfriend. An honest to goodness boyfriend. He was wonderful, a singer and dancer and total sweetheart who treated her like gold.
For a while.
She still doesn't exactly know what happened, what broke them up. She's driven, incredibly talented, and he knew that, liked it (loved it, if he wasn't lying) about her. But when the time came for their two glee clubs to take their rivalry to the stage, a concert set up by Mr. Schue and Ms. Corcoran, it seemed Jesse was either intimidated by her talent or, well, just a jerk.
They broke up two hours before the show.
Finn, the only one of the glee members who she'd actually consider her friend, hugged her and let her cry for five minutes, and then she insisted that she was fine, held her chin up, smoothed out her dress, and told Finn it was time to go kick ass.
And yes, she said ass. Finn smiled.
So what if Jesse got a whole lot of her firsts? He really was a wonderful boyfriend, and he was sweet with her when she was feeling insecure or left out or crazy. It was nice having a boyfriend from another school, an objective party to remind her that she's not a loser, that she'll never be a loser. And when they slept together for the first time (after one of his school dances that he took her to; held her on his arm like she was better than everyone there) he was perfect. He took his time and made sure she was comfortable and she loved him, she thinks, for that.
The long and short of it is, they broke up. He was her first real boyfriend (because no, eight days of kissing Noah Puckerman behind closed doors does not count) and it was nice while it lasted, and she's had her period of sadness, but it's over now.
She just wishes she had something to fill the time he used to take up.
She calls Finn, but it goes straight to voicemail, so she assumes he's working. She thinks about calling Tina, but she remembers the girl saying something about going to Artie's for the day, so she hangs up her phone and lets out a sigh. She could practice. She could take advantage of the fact that she has an empty house and sing until she doesn't feel like it anymore.
But she doesn't really feel like it in the first place. (But only because she had a two hour voice lesson that morning.)
Two weeks into summer, and she's already anxious for school to start.
She pulls on a summery dress, puts her hair up in a ponytail, swipes on some watermelon lip gloss, and grabs her keys.
She doesn't know where she's going until she sees that red and white sign in the distance. She mentally checks her schedule, knowing she doesn't have another voice lesson for two days and she can eat a whole lot of dairy without causing any real damage.
And she's always loved cookie dough Blizzards.
"Hey, isn't that Rachel's car?"
"Huh?" he asks, turning to look over his shoulder.
Yeah, that's Rachel's car. It's kind of awesome actually. She drives a brand new, bright red Accord coup. Totally not what he'd think she'd drive, but it's nice.
And he still thinks it's really fucking weird that Rachel and Quinn don't hate each other anymore. It's like like they're best friends or anything. They've like, hung out a couple times alone without killing each other.
This year has been so fucked.
Rachel smiles when she comes into the restaurant, waves and walks towards them. Puck can't help but notice that she looks hot in her purple dress and flip flops. She's really casual, like he's never really seen her. It's good.
"Hi," she says, tucking her keys into the little pocket on the skirt of her dress.
Puck wonders why dresses have pockets in the first place. Seems kinda stupid if you ask him.
"'Sup?" he asks, his mouth full of ice cream. She's staring at him. He figures he better talk before she lays into him about manners or some bullshit. "You gonna sit?"
"I'll order first. You don't have to stay. I'm sure you've got better things to do," Rachel says, flicking her wrist.
And see, this is what pisses him off about her. She's all self-deprecating (and he only knows what that means because she said that he's self-deprecating once) and she makes it sound like being around her is fucking torture or something.
It's really not.
It's not like he's her friend or anything, but she's not horrible, and he can sit there while she and Quinn talk about whatever bullshit they're going to talk about. Whatever. It's better than laying around at home doing nothing.
"I can't believe I'm going to say this, but she actually looks really, really cute," Quinn admits, smiling as she looks over at Rachel, laughing with the boy behind the counter. "Is she flirting!?"
Yeah, that gets Puck's attention. He looks over as the kid flips over the Blizzard and Rachel laughs. What the fuck is that? Ice cream? Really? That's all it takes to get her going?
"Yeah, she looks hot. She is hot. I don't know why you never saw that," he replies. Quinn is just staring at him. Fuck. "She's a freak and you're a bitch, but still."
Quinn scowls at does that thing where she clenches her jaw. "Do you have to be such an asshole all the time?"
When Rachel sits down, she notices the tension. Look between Puck on her left, and Quinn across the table, she wonders if she's missing something completely.
"If I'm interrupting, I can..."
"No," Quinn answers, plastering on a smile. "We were just wondering what's going on with you and the soft serve boy."
Puck clenches his fist. (What the fuck?)
"Oh!" Rachel laughs, covering her mouth as she swallows a bite. "He goes to Carmel. I met him a couple times with Jesse. They were on the same soccer team until Jesse gave up the sport to devote himself to the arts."
Puck scoffs and Quinn smiles. "How are you with that whole Jesse thing?"
"There is no thing," Rachel says seriously. "Our relationship ended. And that was three weeks ago. I'm fine."
"Sounding pretty defensive, Berry," Puck says. She's got a dab of ice cream on the corner of her lip. He does her a favour and reaches out to wipe it away. She looks seriously offended that he's touched her. Her eyes go wide when he licks the ice cream from his thumb. Cookie dough? He almost smiles. "Whatever. That guy was a douche."
"He was not!"
Quinn laughs and scrunches her nose. "Rachel, he kind of was."
Rachel stiffens, then stands from her place. "It was nice seeing you two. I forgot I have things to do."
She walks away and Puck and Quinn watch her go (Puck's the only one watching her ass, but whatever). She gets into her car and drives off, then Puck looks back at Quinn.
"Oops," she says. She actually sounds remorseful.
"Whatever. It's the truth."
"I know that," she laughs. "She's obviously not over it, though."
She reaches for her phone and keys in a message. "What are you doing?" he asks, leaning over the table.
"Apologizing. You know? That thing people do sometimes when they realize they're wrong?" she says, smiling at him.
"Never heard of it." He stands and pitches their empty cups into the garbage can. "Wanna catch a movie or something? This fucking town is killing me."
He turns off his phone when they're in the theater and forgets to turn it back on until he's home after dropping Quinn off. He has three texts. All from one person.
Rachel 6:14 - I apologize for leaving so abruptly. I suppose I'm just sensitive about the breakup, because I'm still harbouring feelings for Jesse, though they are certainly waning...
Rachel 6:16 - It was unfair of me to lash out like that when you were merely stating your opinion. I shouldn't have reacted the way I did. I know by now that there's no changing the way you speak...
Rachel 6:17 - And yes, Jesse probably is what you called him.
He laughs to himself and grabs his guitar. She couldn't even type the word.
He wonders, just for a second, if he might be able to fold Berry into the group of people he could call when he gets bored. But then he thinks about spending time alone with her, and if he's not making out with her, he doesn't think he could handle it.
Then he thinks about making out with her and how awesome that was.
The summer heat is fucking with his head. Yeah. That's it.
When he finds himself strumming the chords to a Christina Aguilera song one day, he decides he needs to learn more tunes. Seriously, he's run out of shit to play, so he's playing shitty pop songs? No. That's just not kosher.
So he pulls up his favourite tabs website and pretty much looks for any song he thinks is awesome, printing off all the pages, despite the fact that it's costing him a fucking million dollars in paper. Whatever. He's got shit to learn.
But you know what sucks? November Rain, acoustic.
And then he gets this fucking wicked idea that he should like, win a prize for or something.
He's going to start a band.
That'll totally turn his summer around. Sex and rock and roll? Hell yeah. (No hard drugs, since he's not an idiot, and smoking weed is lame, so he probably won't do that either.)
Whatever. Point is? He's going to get his buddies together and rock the fuck out.
The next time Rachel sees Noah, he's wearing nothing but a pair of black and white board shorts and a pair of aviators.
No really, nothing. Not even shoes.
See, for some reason, Brittany invited her over to have a 'girls day' with she, Quinn and Santana. Why Rachel is lumped in with the Cheerios, she has no idea. All she was told was to bring a few fashion magazines, a snack of some kind, and a bathing suit. Could she say no? Absolutely not. What kind of team member would she be if she refused to take part in these bonding exercises?
So she shows up at Brittany's huge brick house wearing her simple black bikini beneath her red tank top and denim shorts. She's got a shopping bag full of Sunchips and virgin margarita mix, along with a couple magazines. She can do this. Brittany is a sweetheart, and she and Quinn get along well. Santana is another story, but Rachel honestly can't remember the last time Santana called her a name or replaced her hand cream with Nair. So that's something.
She hears laughter coming from the back of the house, so she walks around the stone path and sees Quinn, Brittany and Santana, all in matching Cheerio sanctioned bathing suits (she assumes Quinn is just wearing hers for fun), feet dipped into the pool as they laugh. Quinn's suit is a one piece, though Rachel isn't really sure why. The girl's body is pretty much the same as it was before she got pregnant. Rachel thinks that's really none of her business, though.
And Noah, standing on the other side of the pool with some kind of pool cleaning instrument in his hands.
Rachel swallows thickly as she watches the muscles of his arm move, the way his body seems to glow (no really, glow) in the summer sun.
"Hey Rachel!" Brittany calls out
She really, really hopes that no one caught her staring. "Hi," she chirps, walking up the steps to the deck. "I brought what you asked me to bring."
"Get out of your clothes!" Brittany says, making the other girls laugh.
Rachel doesn't miss the way Noah seems to start paying attention after that.
"I um...I don't match," Rachel says, gesturing to the other girls' suits.
Santana smiles (yeah, actually smiles). "You're nervous because he's here, aren't you?" she asks. Rachel doesn't say anything. She supposes that's not actually far from the truth. "Don't worry. He'll leer at you anyway. He's a jackass like that."
"Fuck you, San," Puck calls, still working on the pool.
Quinn starts giggling and takes a sip of her vitamin water. "Puck was just telling us how he and Finn are starting a band."
The rest of the girls start laughing even harder, and Puck looks pissed. Rachel actually doesn't think that sounds like a bad idea. Not at all. Finn is an adept drummer, and Noah wold make an excellent front man.
She honestly doesn't get what's so funny. She smiles at Puck and he looks back to the water.
"Look, are you almost done, because I'm getting really hot, here," Santana says, holding out her arms, checking for sunburn.
"Don't flatter yourself," he says seriously. "And you can get in while I'm..."
Fuck. He totally loses his train of thought, because Rachel starts unbuttoning her denim shorts, pulling them down her legs. And she fucking bends over to do it. Jesus. Suddenly he's reminded of why he loves summer so much. She pulls her tank top over her head and holy shit. Her black bikini has this little silver heart in the middle of the top, right between her boobs, and it's fucking hot, dude.
"You need a glass of water?" Quinn laughs.
"Huh?" he asks, looking over at her. Rachel is still oblivious, adjusting the bottom of her suit at her hips. "Fuck you, too."
Rachel sits down beside Santana and distributes the magazines she brought, pulling her sunglasses down over her eyes again as she dips her feet into the pool. She is acutely aware that there is a boy there. A really, really attractive boy who keeps looking her way. But she doesn't think much of it, because he's wearing sunglasses and she can't tell if he's really looking at her, or one of the other girls, or all of them, or maybe none of them at all.
When he's done, the girls are eating chips out of a big yellow plastic bowl, sipping virgin margaritas out of fancy glasses and pink straws. And he watches as Rachel laughs, totally fitting in with the other three girls. It's kind of nice, he thinks, to see them all getting along.
Not that he cares.
He walks over and steals a handful of chips before standing and looking down upon them. Rachel totally avoids him. What the fuck? And why does that bug him?
"I'm out. Brit, tell your dad he can pay me next week."
"Oh! I have the money!" Brittany says, hopping up and running back into the house.
She pats his chest on the way by, and he laughs because he doesn't really know why. She comes back out and all the girls laugh and whistle when she tucks the bills into the waistband of his shorts. He reaches out and smacks her ass, making her squeal, before she sits down.
"Alright, you girls have fun. If any making out happens, please take pictures," he says jokingly.
Quinn throws a chip at his head.
Puck places his foot between her shoulder blades and pushes her straight into the pool.
The three other girls are laughing together, turning away and shouting when Quinn starts splashing them. Puck is pretty happy he's around to witness this. Four hot girls and a water fight? Not a bad image.
"I'm so out of here before she gets out and attacks me," Puck says, walking towards the edge of the deck. "Later!"
Rachel watches him disappear around the side of the house, and for some reason she feels the need to give him her vote of confidence regarding his band. The other girls just made fun of him for it, and Rachel thinks that maybe he won't do it if all he gets is ridicule. She knows him well enough to know that he's like her; he cares about what people think more than he lets on.
"I'll be right back," she says, getting up quickly and running after him.
Running in a bikini with no shoes on.
Not her best idea.
He's standing by his truck, loading his stuff into the back when she gets to the front of the house.
He looks over at her and his smirk is pretty much instantaneous. His sunglasses are perched on top of his head. She watches him look her up and down. The pavement is hot beneath her feet, so she steps back onto the grass and he comes to her.
"What's up?" he asks, stepping a little too close. She doesn't really mind.
"I just wanted to..." Her breath catches in her throat when she notices a bead of sweat roll down his temple, then along the line of his jaw. "I um...your band. I wanted to tell you that I think it's really great that you're not just ignoring your talent, and..." She reaches up and brushes the sweat from his face. It doesn't gross her out. (It so should.) "I'm sorry. You just had..."
"'S'okay," he says, his voice low as he smirks at her. "And thanks."
She watches his adam's apple move as he swallows. "Artie."
"Artie!" Her train of thought is back on track. Thank goodness. "Artie would definitely be interested. I was speaking with him the other day, and he mentioned not having a lot to do this summer. And he's a very talented player. I'm sure he'd play bass if you asked."
He smiles, a genuine smile. "Yeah. Thanks."
She smiles and nods her head, and he is having a really hard time not grabbing her and kissing her, because she looks fucking ridiculously hot. And if he's not mistaken, she was totally checking him out before. And she wiped the sweat from his face, which is not only super hot, but totally not something he thought she'd do. Not to mention the fact that she's wearing this bikini, and he can't help the way his eyes fall to that silver heart between her boobs.
He hooks his finger through it and tugs gently, pulling her closer to him. Her hand falls to his chest and she looks between his hand and his eyes.
"What do you think you're doing?" she asks breathily.
"Didn't know you'd rock something like this," he says, his hand still between her breasts. His knuckle is grazing her skin, and she really hopes he doesn't notice the goosebumps. "I think you might have made my day, Berry."
The thing is, she could totally pull away if she wanted to.
"Just saying. You look good."
She blinks up at him before taking a step back, looking over her shoulder. "I should go..."
He smirks at her and watches as she runs one hand up and down her upper arm, covering her chest in the process. For whatever reason, he thinks it's kind of awesome that he can get her all flustered.
"See you later, Rach."
She turns and walks away, and when she looks over her shoulder he's still watching her.
She can't remember the last time, if there was one, when he called her by some form of her first name.
And when she gets back to the pool, Brittany, Santana and Quinn are all in the water, making fun of Rachel for running after Noah. But their ridicule is the friendly kind, not the mean kind. She gets into the water and thinks that maybe this summer won't be so bad at all.
Rachel gets word that Noah, Finn and Artie have been rehearsing in Puck's garage for better than a week, almost every day, when their schedules allow.
It's not that she doesn't love her vocal lessons and her vocal coach. She does. She really does. She wouldn't be the singer she is without the woman's guidance. Of course, she'd still have an incredible voice, but her breath control and range wouldn't be as developed.
The problem is, there are only so many arias and Broadway numbers one can sing before getting just a little board. That was the beauty of glee club; it forced her out of her box, made her sing things she normally wouldn't. And she misses glee club for that, among other things.
So when she shows up at Noah's door one evening, she's got a plan. A good one.
She, for some reason, doesn't expect his mother to answer the door.
She's met Ms. Puckerman once or twice at glee events, but she's sure that Noah has never let on that he and Rachel are....
Well, she's sure he's never talked about her.
"Can I help you?"
"Hi, Ms. Puckerman, do you remember me? Rachel Berry?"
"Oh! Of course!" Ms. Puckerman swings the door open wider and gestures for Rachel to step inside. "How are you?"
"I'm just fine, thank you, and yourself?" Rachel asks. She realizes that this is the first time she's ever been in this house.
"I'm good. I'm just on my way out the door to work. And you can call me Aviva."
The woman's smile is so kind that Rachel can't help but return it. "Is Noah home?"
"He is. You can head right up. Second door on the left," Aviva says as she gathers her purse and keys. "And would you mind telling him that Hannah has soccer until 7:30, and the Adlemans are bringing her home?"
"Sure," Rachel says with a smile. "It was nice seeing you again."
"You too, sweetheart. Take care!"
Aviva is out the door and Rachel is wondering why it's okay for Noah to be alone in the house with a girl. Does Aviva know that she has nothing to worry about where Rachel is concerned? Does she just think Rachel isn't his type? Does she like Rachel enough that she doesn't mind that Rachel is in her home alone with her son?
She needs to stop this line of thinking. Immediately.
She starts up the stairs, noticing photos on the wall of Noah over the years, alone and then with his sister. All too soon, she's standing outside his bedroom door, wiping her hands on her skirt - when did they get get so clammy? She suddenly thinks she was crazy to come here. What does she hope to accomplish? She knows that he's going to say no to what she's about to propose.
But it's too late to turn back now.
"What?" he mumbles after she's knocked at the door gently.
"It's me. It's Rachel." She rolls her eyes at herself. She should be more confident than this.
"Do you know another Rachel?" She's almost smiling. She likes that she can surprise him.
"No." Fuck. What is she doing at his house? And is his mom even home? Did she like, McGuyver her way into his house or something? Shit.
"Well? Can I come in?"
His room is a disaster. His bed isn't made, and there are clothes everywhere. And uh, he's wearing nothing but a pair of boxers. He grabs the closest pair of bottoms - jeans - and pulls them on, wrenching the door open before he even bothers to do up the fly. And no, he's not really surprised at the look of shock on her face.
She can't help the way she looks him up and down. Honestly, it's kind of impossible not to stare. It's like he's been carved from marble or something, only he looks so much softer (his skin is...she thinks she's blushing) and when her eyes find his face again, he's wearing that smirk and his brow is raised.
"Please tell me you're alone," she says. He's wedged between the door and the frame, and she can't see inside his room.
"What are you doing here?"
She supposes that's an answer. He walks into his room and lays down on his messy bed.
"Could you...um...you own shirts, right?" she asks. She marches to his closet, sidestepping piles of...whatever. She grabs a tee shirt off a hanger and thrusts it towards him. "My god, Noah, how do you live like this? It's disgusting in here. Is that a pizza box? And a half eaten donut!?"
"Whatever. What are you doing here?" he repeats. He doesn't put on the shirt. He likes how obviously attracted she is to him, how she obviously won't admit it.
Not that he'll admit that she looks really damn hot in her little denim skirt and pink tank top.
"I want in."
Shit, the things a phrase like that'll do to a guy...
"In what, exactly?" he asks, leaning up on his elbows. He and Rachel (okay, maybe it's one sided) have had this flirtation pretty much since winter. He'll flirt with her and she'll...
She rolls her eyes?
Not exactly what he wanted to see.
"In your band," she states confidently.
He starts laughing. Hard.
"Rachel, fuck. No!" She scowls and crosses her arms. "Look, this isn't like, some fucking lame ass Broadway review, alright? We're doing serious, kick ass tunes. Like, fuckin'...The Stones, and the Police, and other awesome classic rock stuff."
"Which is exactly what I'm interested in," she says seriously, shrugging one shoulder.
"I want to expand my repertoire, and I honestly can't think of a better way. Not to mention, I've been playing piano since I was six, and I can sight read music better than anyone I know."
Shit. He and Artie were just talking the other day about how how they could use a decent keys player. They just didn't know of one.
"Really? Keys?" She nods emphatically. He sighs. This is really hard to say no to. "We could use a background singer."
"Background!?" she shouts, stalking across the room to stand in front of him. "What do you mean background? I'm not a background singer, Noah, and you know it. I'm cut out for the spotlight."
"It's my spotlight now," he reminds her. She opens her mouth to say something, but he cuts her off. "My band, my song choices. I'm lead. If you want in, you can deal with it."
She seems to mull it over, and when she looks down at him, his upper body on display and the light grey of his boxers visible.
She decides that his way doesn't seem that bad.
(It doesn't occur to her until a couple hours later that her judgment was completely impaired by whatever it is that courses through her when she sees him; lust, maybe.)
"Fine. Some of the best vocalists are backup singers first. Look at...look at Trisha Yearwood. She sung on a multitude of records in the mid-90's before starting her solo career, and now she's one of the most popular..."
"Yeah. Whatever. Listen, we rehearse tomorrow at 3:30. Bring your shit."
As soon as she's left, he wonders what he's agreed to.
Their first practice, she shows up and asks (tells) Finn to unload her keyboard from the trunk of her car, and she commandeers the boys, insisting that they need a clean workspace. She grabs a broom and asks Puck to shove aside some of the boxes that are in the way.
Fine. Puck can admit that it's easier to rock out when there isn't a bunch of shit in his way.
He's a little surprised with how easily she keeps up with them, since they've been practicing for a couple weeks and this is her first rehearsal.
And okay, when she suggests they do Mustang Sally, he can admit that their voices blend really well or whatever.
And when she starts rambling on about...whatever...he starts playing Smells Like Teen Spirit, and winks at her when she rolls her eyes and crosses her arms.
She actually looks kind of cute, he thinks, when she's belting out harmonies to that Aerosmith tune and he catches her eye.
"Boys, you are so going to thank me," she announces, walking into the garage one day, that huge, creepy smile on her face.
"'Sup?" Puck asks, jutting his chin in her direction. He can't help but look her up and down, because she's wearing this really sexy black strapless summer dress with her flip flops.
"I, my friends, have just gotten us our first show!"
"What?" Finn asks worriedly. "Are we...are we even ready for that?"
"Sure we are! And besides, it's not for another two weeks!" she says excitedly. "It's at the Lynnwood, and they've agreed to let us play even though we're underage. I'm very persuasive."
Puck mumbles something about her being persuasive like a nuclear warhead, and yeah, it doesn't really make any sense, which Finn is quick to point out, but whatever.
"What's it pay?" Puck asks.
"$200 each, as long as we aren't terrible," she says, taking her place behind her keyboard. "So we need to practice!"
That's probably the moment he decides that he really likes having Rachel in the band.
You know, because she's making him $200.
"Don't you think it's really weird that you're the only girl in this little band?" Quinn asks one day. She and Rachel decided to go for mani-pedis at the nicest spa in town, and they're sitting there next to one another, feet dipped in hot water. "I mean, you're with them all the time."
"Not all the time," Rachel insists, smiling. "And it's fun! You know? Learning these new songs and hanging out with the guys."
"Are you and...are you like, hooking up?"
"With who?" Rachel laughs.
"Um, anyone?" Quinn answers, giggling.
Rachel shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "No. I'm not. It's just about the music."
Yes. The music. Not how good Noah looks with his guitar slung around his shoulder, sweat gathering on his skin as he sings. Or about how their voices blend seamlessly, or about him winking at her when he notices the same thing. And it's most certainly not about the way he pulled her aside to thank her for booking them a show, or how his hand never left her elbow.
No. Because she's not actually interested in Noah. She can't be.
"Stop thinking about him," Quinn says.
"I'm not! Noah and I are just friends!"
Quinn practically beams at Rachel. "Who said anything about Noah?" she asks. Rachel's cheeks flare red, and she covers her face with her hands. Quinn is an evil genius with these mind games. "You so want him!"
"I do not," Rachel insists, shooting a hard glare at the blonde. "I don't."
"You just keep telling yourself that," Quinn says in a sing songy voice. Rachel closes her eyes and tips her head back. "You know, it's okay if you do."
"No, it's not."
"Sure it is."
"No!" Rachel almost shouts. "No. He's disgusting. And crass. And he makes fun of me almost constantly. He's despicable, and he seems to have some strange seasonal aversion to wearing shirts!"
"Oh, please," Quinn says, shaking her head. "I know you aren't calling that a bad thing. I mean, it's not like I want him...at all...but the guy looks good without his shirt on." Rachel groans and lets out a frustrated breath. "Rach, he's really changed this year. I mean, with the whole baby thing, and...I think glee changed him, too."
"It doesn't matter, because I'm not interested," Rachel repeats, turning straight ahead and talking to her manicurist. "Can you be gentle with my cuticles? They're very sensitive."
They don't talk about Noah any more after that.
But Rachel doesn't stop thinking about him for the rest of the day.
It doesn't surprise her, really, since that's pretty much been the story of her summer so far.
They're rehearsing one night and they totally lose track of time as they try to put together an honest to goodness set list, which they learn is harder than they assumed. Of course, Rachel knows more about it than any of them, so she puts something together and they swap out songs here or there, and by the end of it, they've got a solid list, but the sun is going down. Puck tries to figure out if they've really spent like, four hours in his garage, playing and arguing over song choices.
His mom comes in with lemonade for them, and she starts talking to 'the boys' about their show. She's a pretty cool mom, Puck knows, but seriously? He's not a little kid. He doesn't need her bringing him snacks and shit.
"Rachel, sweetie, I didn't notice your car," Aviva says.
"Oh, no. I walked. It was just so beautiful out earlier," Rachel answers, and Puck notices the way Finn smiles at her.
But yeah, they've talked about girls (that's pretty much all they talk about) and Puck knows that Finn isn't into Rachel. And he's pretty sure she's not into Finn either. Which is good.
You know, for band unity or...whatever.
"Noah, you had better walk her home," Aviva says sternly. "You're not letting her walk alone at night."
"I could drive..." Artie starts, but Puck cuts him off.
"Sure thing, mom. I got it." Puck winks at Rachel (she blushes; he's always doing that) and she sips her lemonade.
"You kids sound really wonderful!" Aviva says, changing the subject completely. "I do love that Bon Jovi song."
"Of course you do. You have a pulse," Finn says with a laugh. Aviva looks at him adoringly and rests her hand over his shoulder. "But I've gotta go. Mom's probably freaking out already."
"I should head out, too," Artie adds. "But thank you for the lemonade, Ms. Puckerman."
Puck rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. Artie is one of those freaks who's polite like, all the damn time.
"You're welcome," she sings. Finn pushes Artie out of the garage and helps him load his wheelchair into his car. "Now Rachel, you make sure Noah takes you all the way home. I can't have anything happen to our little starlet."
"No excuses, Noah!"
"I'll insist," Rachel says, smiling at Noah. He actually looks embarrassed, which she thinks is pretty cute. She doesn't think she's ever seen him look this way before. Aviva says goodbye and heads back into the house. Rachel turns back to Noah, who's running his hand over the back of his head. "Your mother just called me a starlet."
Yeah. He caught that part.
"She's probably been drinking again," he says. He's joking, of course, but he doesn't think she picks up on it. "C'mon. It's getting late."
"It's not even 10:00."
"Don't you go to bed at like, 8:30 normally?"
"You're an idiot," she says, walking out of the garage and down the driveway. He'd be pissed if he didn't know she was just teasing.
And it's really not hard to follow her when she's wearing those little shorts and flowy purple tee shirt.
He's learned a lot about her in the last week or so. She's a fucking slave driver, for one. They've been practicing nearly every day, but he doesn't really mind, because he wants them to sound really good, too.
And he's learned that without a doubt, no matter what, she'll pull her hair into a ponytail three songs into their practice. It doesn't matter what the temperature or what she's wearing or how she's been wearing her hair. Three songs in, she slips the elastic off her wrist and pulls her hair up.
"What are you gonna wear?" he asks.
"To our show. What are you wearing? I mean, I can't put on a rock show with a backup singer who's dressed like an 80 year old."
And yes, he takes every possible opportunity to remind her that she's his backup singer. It's just so fun watching her scowl.
"Well, I do have something that I've been dying to wear."
"Tell me it's not, like, a fucking plaid skirt or something," Puck says, groaning at the thought of her on stage at this bar in a fucking school girl outfit.
"Rachel, seriously. We have to look at least a little badass. We've already gotta deal with the fact that we've got a kid in a wheelchair in our band. I can't have you dressing like...you."
She stops walking and stands in front of him with this devious little smile on her face. It's not so bad, he decides, to just be walking towards her neighbourhood, the sticky air around them. It's quiet, save for their own conversation and their footsteps. But yeah, he's a little worried about what she's about to say.
"Noah, if I'm not mistaken, you haven't had much of a problem with the way I've been dressing lately," she says, eyes locked with his.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
He knows exactly what it means.
"I don't even think you've been attempting to be discreet," she says quietly. He takes a step towards her. "I've seen the way you've been looking at me."
"'S'because you're fucking sexy, Rach," he says candidly. What? He figures that if she's being bold, he's not going to deny it.
"You are, and you know it," he insists. "And you actually dress like a normal person in the summer." He hooks his index finger through the belt loop on her shorts, tugging her closer to him. "I still think about you in that bikini," he admits. She's just blinking up at him. "That's some of the best material in my spank bank."
Her brow furrows and she looks at him. "Your spank..." Her eyes go wide when she actually realizes what that is. "That's disgusting!"
He smirks and takes another step towards her. His knee brushes her thigh. "Then why are you smiling?" Her jaw drops and she moves backwards a little. "You like it, Rachel. You like that I think of you like that. Admit it."
He does not know what he's trying to do right now.
"No," she says confidently. She wonders if he knows that she's lying. Judging by the smirk on his face and the raised brow, he knows. "I think it's disgusting that you're objectifying me for...for...self-gratification."
He actually starts laughing. "I'm not objectifying you."
She lets out a huff, spins around, and starts marching down the sidewalk away from him.
She really doesn't know what to think. Yes, it's disgusting that he apparently has a whole 'bank' of images that he...does that...to. But there's something about the idea that he thinks of her in a sexual way, as something more than just a girl he knows, that stirs a feeling in her stomach. And then there's the image of him...doing that...and that just makes her face feel hot, and she needs to stop picturing that.
"Rachel, slow down."
"C'mon, I'm sorry," he says, reaching for her arm. "I was just trying to piss you off." She should not be disappointed, thinking he just made all that up. "I mean, all that stuff is true, but I shouldn't have told you. Fuck. Seriously, I shouldn't have."
"Are you embarrassed to admit that you...that you think of me that way?" she asks. She's stopped walking again, but her back is still to him.
"No," he admits quietly. He's standing right behind her, but he's somehow keeping himself from touching her. "Not at all." And yeah, he's totally checking her out as he says it. "I just don't really need you to know that."
He laughs a little as he says it, and she turns around then, noticing how close he is.
"Can you just walk me home?" she asks, eyes all soft as she looks up at him. "In silence."
He nods and does as she asks.
He thinks he really, really just screwed up.
Quinn is sitting by the pool at Brittany's house while he works. It's become kind of their tradition, the two of them hanging out while he skims the top and checks the chemicals.
"So what'd you say to Rachel?" she asks after a few minutes.
"Liar. I called her yesterday and she said she was going to rehearsal, but she didn't seem excited about it at all."
Puck glares at her. "So you automatically think that has something to do with me?" he asks angrily. "That's bullshit."
"Please!" she laughs. "Artie wouldn't hurt a fly, and Finn is...Finn."
"He strung her along before," Puck points out. So there.
"Yeah, but he's not doing it now. And she told me he was picking her up," Quinn explains, looking over at him. "What did you do?"
"Nothing. Drop it."
He almost wonders if he should ask advice on how to get back into Rachel's good graces, but that's just not how he rolls.
And he tells himself he doesn't really care anyway.
Quinn calls Rachel to talk about her weird encounter with Puck, and Rachel acts completely disinterested, dodging questions when Quinn asks them. No, nothing happened. No, I'm not mad at him. No, I don't care if he thinks I'm mad at him. Please stop talking about me when you're with him.
She's really not mad at him. It's just that she doesn't know how to act around him. Needless to say, she's never had anyone admit what he admitted to her before. Even Jesse, who she dated for nearly four months, didn't divulge such personal details. It shouldn't surprise her, really, that Noah crossed the line. Maybe she should have expected it.
She finds herself at his house, since she promised to drop off some sheet music, and she won't let the band suffer because she feels strange around him now.
When his mother answers the door, Rachel thinks that she lets out a sigh of relief.
"Hello, Aviva. I just wanted to drop this off for Noah," Rachel says, handing over a bright pink folder. (And yes, she chose bright pink just because she knows he'll hate it.)
"He's upstairs if you want..."
"No, no," Rachel says quickly. "No, it's okay. I should go."
"Rachel, are you sure?" Aviva asks worriedly.
"Yes, it's really fine. Just remind him that our rehearsal for tomorrow needs to be an hour earlier," Rachel says smiling as she jingles her keys in her hand. "I'll see you soon."
"Bye," Aviva says, slightly bewildered. The girl is a whirlwind, but usually not so much of one.
She figures she has a pretty good guess as to what's wrong with Rachel.
When his mom comes into his room and smacks him over the side of the head, Puck looks at her like she's out of her goddamn mind. Which she might be. She throws a pink folder at him and he doesn't know what's going on.
"Whatever you did, you better undo it," she warns sternly.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"Rachel wouldn't even come into the house." She puts her hand on her hip and Puck tries not to groan. Granted, he hasn't really made much of an effort to smooth things over with Rachel, but he doesn't think she should be this weird anyway. "You had better fix it."
"I will," he says, for some reason.
His mom smiles and turns to leave the room. "Good! She might be my only chance at Jewish grandchildren, and I don't want you mucking it all up!"
She tugs the door closed again and Puck pulls his pillow over his head.
Women are fucking insane.
He's not a pussy, okay? He's not.
He just doesn't want to actually have to like, talk to Rachel to work this shit out. And yeah, he knows he has to work it out. All the crazy chicks in his life are telling him he has to, so he figures maybe they're right. Whatever.
He IMs her.
Puckerone: We cool?
Rachel: Cool? What do you mean?
He rolls his eyes. Of course she's going to make him spell it out.
Puckerone: After the other night. Don't want you to be mad.
Rachel: I'm not mad.
Puckerone: You sure?
Rachel: Yes, I'm sure. I was just uncomfortable. But your admission shouldn't change anything between us. *Nothing* should change. We need to remain friends, for the band's sake.
Puckerone: Just don't want things to be weird.
Rachel: They won't be. Promise.
Rachel: I have to go. See you at practice tomorrow?
Puckerone: Yup. Later.
There. Air cleared.
But wait. Nothing should change?
Yeah, he spends way too much time thinking about what she meant by that.
Rachel is sitting on the sofa in the garage with a notepad in her hand and Finn sitting next to her when Puck comes home from work one day.
Well, don't they look fucking cozy.
He's had a shitty day. Long, tiring, and super hot. And now Rachel's sitting there in her tank top and shorts, and he can see that she's wearing a bikini top underneath, and her hair is in a messy ponytail, and for whatever reason, he just wants to be alone with her. He wants Finn to leave so that Puck can take her somewhere, anywhere with water, really, and strip her down and swim with her and cool down.
Shit. His imagination is going crazy.
She's giggling when she notices that he's there.
"Hi!" she says happily. Finn does something that makes her squirm. "Don't!"
"What?" Finn asks her innocently, making her roll her eyes at him.
Puck is not in the mood for this shit.
"What are you doing here? Rehearsal isn't for another half hour," he notes, pulling his shirt off. Rachel watches him intently. He doesn't miss the way her eyes linger on his chest.
"We're coming up with names," Finn explains.
"Without me? Where's Artie?" Puck asks. He lays down on the cool concrete floor, and winces as his back cracks and straightens out. Hey, you can't say cleaning pools is easy work.
"Are you okay?" Rachel asks worriedly. She slips off the sofa and sits next to him, her hip almost brushing his.
"My back is killing me, and I'm hot as fuck."
"Want a drink or something, dude?" Finn asks. Puck manages a thumbs up and Finn heads inside.
"Sit up," Rachel insists. He looks up at her like she's nuts. "Do it."
"I'm comfortable," Puck says. And as an afterthought; "Don't boss me around."
"Relax. Don't you trust me by now?" He lets out a sigh and winces as he sits up, and Rachel moves so she's sitting behind him. "You know, you really should take it easy. I know you're all about making money, but you should..."
He thinks his eyes roll back in his head when her hands skim over his skin, applying pressure to his aching muscles.
"Holy shit, Rachel, what are you doing back there?" he asks. She's like, doing some crazy massage thing and he honestly didn't even know her tiny little hands could do that shit.
"Daddy used to be a licensed massage therapist. I've picked up a few things. You're very tense, Noah." She digs her thumbs between his shoulder blades and he arches his back. Her face is suddenly hot. His skin is so smooth, just like she's imagined it'd be. "You have a knot."
"You're good at this," he says, his voice low as she works that spot. He lets out a throaty noise before he can catch himself.
She's just about to do something stupid. No seriously. It's really, really stupid. She's honestly thinking about kissing him. Just...anywhere. Just to feel him, some part of him beneath her lips.
Thankfully, Finn walks back into the garage with three cans of Sprite before she manages to embarrass herself. She pulls her hands from Noah's skin and takes the can Finn extends to her.
"So what names do you have?" Puck asks, grabbing the notepad off the couch as Finn sits down. He doesn't need to be thinking of Rachel's hands. Like, at all. Ever. Rachel gets up and sits on the sofa again, too. "Blue Cocoon? What the fuck kind of a name is that?"
"Hey!" Finn says, all offended. "It's my favourite colour and an awesome word. I think it sounds cool."
"I think you're an idiot."
"Let's try not to be mean," Rachel intervenes. "And we should really wait until Artie gets here before deciding upon anything."
"Can we decide against Blue Cocoon? And TumbleDown? Jesus Christ, these are the worst names in fucking ever," Puck says.
They spend the next 20 minutes arguing over the names Finn and Rachel have been brainstorming. Puck hates them all. Seriously, they might as well call themselves Kitten Fur or something equally as fucking stupid, the shit those two picked out is so lame. Honestly. What kind of name is Shutter Lens? Admittedly, the ones Rachel picked, written out in her loopy cursive, are marginally better than Finn's, but still, they aren't good. There's no connection between the names and the band.
When Artie arrives, Puck has literally just set the notebook on fire. Rachel is not impressed. Finn is totally trying not to laugh. Puck drops the book into a metal bucket and Rachel scowls, pouting at him as she crosses her arms. (And yeah, he checks out her rack. A fucking plus.)
"I take it your attempts at coming up with a suitable name are..."
"Currently smoldering in a trash can? Yes," Rachel says. Puck winks at her. She lets out a huff.
Artie has some good suggestions. No one hates them, which is a bonus, but no one is really in love with anything either. They sit around, sipping sodas, with Puck lazily strumming his guitar as they talk.
"What about The Association?" Artie suggests.
"I like it," Finn says.
"No. Nick Jonas and The Administration. It's too close," Rachel insists.
They collectively sigh and go back to thinking. It's another five minutes before Puck comes up with something that doesn't suck.
"Order of Assembly."
"What does that even mean?" Finn asks. "Veto."
"Dude, just because you now know what that word means, doesn't mean you can use it for every fucking suggestion someone has," Puck says seriously. Fuck, this blows. This is taking way too fucking long.
"I think we just need to relax," Artie says. He wheels over and grabs his bass, flicking his amp on and starting to mess around with a bassline. "I think we have good intentions, but we just can't come up with anything by pure force of will."
"Wait," Puck says, leaning forward. "Say that again."
Rachel and Finn share confused glances. "What?" Rachel asks. "Pure force of will?"
"Well, that's fucking awesome, too, but no. The Good Intentions," he says seriously, smiling as he stands from his place. "That's our name. The Good Intentions."
Rachel smiles all wide, and he knows he has her. And honestly, if he has her in agreement, the other guys don't really matter, because she'll talk them into it.
"The Good Intentions," Finn repeats. He grins and nods, then Artie does the same, and they all high five, though Rachel hugs them all instead. "We have a name!"
"We have a kick ass name," Puck says.
Rachel's watching him as she takes her place behind her keyboard so they can actually start their real rehearsal. He gives her a genuine smile and notices the way she blushes.
He can still feel her hands on his back, and he really, really wishes he couldn't. It's distracting as hell.