Author's Notes: Yeah, so, this definitely has some spelling typos and such in it, but I am just way too lazy to go back through and make the necessary adjustments. This is a gift for Teri (une_fille), because she basically outlined the whole story and I just put in some verbs. Yeah. No seriously.
I mostly hate this, and it doesn't feel very canon, but what the hell. I haven't posted anything in a while.
and i understand (that some things take so long)
Afterwards, when they're all laughing and pretending to love each other because admitting that they're all still mostly assholes would be awkward at a time like this, Quinn realizes that she legitimately has nowhere to go.
There's a moment of panic, because Quinn has worked hard her whole life to make sure that this never happened, that she was always surrounded by people who loved and adored her (or at least feared her enough to fake it.) But Finn still isn't speaking to her, and neither Brittany or Santana have really spoken to her since the whole "LOL, LESBIANS" thing, and let's all be honest here, even a pregnant, de-captained Quinn has more social currency than the rest of these people.
For a moment, she entertains the idea of turning up at Finn's house and doing what she always does in their relationship, which is to demand things and then watch him trip over himself trying to get them.
But the way he looked at her at Sectionals keeps popping into her head, and anyway, she's trying on this new, like independent woman thing on. It's too big, but hey, she's supersizing like Rachel's nose after the fifth grade, so maybe she'll grow into it. (Okay: she knows she's not supposed to make those comments anymore, but old habits die hard, and anyway, misery loves company.)
"So, my Mom is making Hot Pockets for dinner."
Puck is leaning against the doorway with his hands in his pockets. He's doing that thing with his eyebrows that simultaneously makes her granny panties melt and triggers a desire to claw his eyes out. (She's assuming it's a crazy pregnant hormones thing, but then again, it could also just be a Noah Puckerman thing.)
They're the only ones left, the others having gone in a cloud of painfully loving acceptance—even Rachel had won a temporary stamp of approval, like the borrowed wristbands you had to wear to get into the over-21 bars outside of town.
Quinn makes a show of rolling her eyes and fiddles with the hem on her skirt. The chairs in the music room aren't uncomfortable, and she's pretty sure Mr. Schue still has that mattress from the Jump! commercial. She could make this work.
"Wow, if you changed that story completely and made it interesting, I might care," she says. She knows the barb lands by the way his shoulders tighten briefly, and she doesn't know why she does this when he's been trying so hard to be something he's not, for her.
Except that it's not for her, it's for the thing inside of her, and Quinn is getting really tired of people talking straight at her belly, okay? Finn and Mr. Schuester and Coach Sylvester and now Puck, acting like she's somehow a different person just because she can't hold her alcohol.
He shrugs. "I'm saying you should just nut up and come stay with me," he tells her flatly. He does this thing, sometimes, when he's nervous, where he pouts his lips out and flares one nostril. It makes his jaw look weirdly fat, like a chubby Jewish baby, and this is the face that Quinn remembers from That Time They Drank Wine Coolers And Made A Baby Together, Oops.
"Charming, but no. I told you, I want to do this on my own."
"Okay," Puck answers calmly, making an exaggerated eye-sweep of the room, "well, hopefully they've taken care of that cockroach problem, because if not, those motherfuckers could eat the skin right off your face."
He turns and leaves her there, and she stays stubbornly in her seat for two minutes before she thinks she can feel the roaches on her, their legs skittering across her skin as they look for a good place to bite down.
She doesn't look at him as she climbs into the truck.
"This is only temporary," she says, hugging her knees to her chest. It's easy to be vulnerable around Puck, because he basically doesn't ever seem to care one way or the other. With Finn it was all, are you sad how can I make it better what can I do how can I help you and draw attention to your problems, but Puck just raises an eyebrow and says things like:
"So kind of like that whole chastity thing?"
If she were Santana she'd punch him and if she were Rachel she'd launch into some long diatribe about the Lord making her a virgin in her heart even if she's no longer a virgin in her body, but she's not. She's Quinn. So she shakes her head disgustedly and murmurs, "Pig."
He just grins at her, wide and fake and angry, and Quinn is reminded why she chose Finn in the first place. When they pull up to his house, they both just sit for a moment and for once don't try to piss each other off.
"My Mom already knows," Puck says. His voice is almost gentle. "She's, uh, been expecting you."
Quinn's voice is tired: "Is she mad?"
He shrugs and doesn't answer, leaning over instead to turn on the radio. Quinn relaxes against the passenger seat and wishes that the rest of the pregnancy could be like this: just the warm sun and a comfortable chair and some music she doesn't really care about blocking out all of her thoughts. There would be no Cheerios, no Glee, no school. Just Quinn and the baby and the music, and maybe someone tossing chocolate at her once every half over. Pickles when she was in the mood.
"Okay," she sighs. "Well. We should go in."
Puck casts a look at her and sinks lower into the driver's seat. He closes his eyes. "Could we just . . . sit here, for a second?" he asks, letting out a breath. She thinks he might be trying to act sweet again, but then he adds, "Sarah's gonna be all hopped up on NesQuick and I'm not above smothering her with locks of her own hair."
"And you wonder why I told everyone she was Finn's baby." She's being serious, but she's also sort of teasing, too, and she gets a fleeting grin in response. It's moments like this that Quinn is reminded of the hazy feeling she'd had That Time, even before the wine coolers, when they were sitting with their feet in some old lady's pool and he was telling her about how Finn cried the first time he threw Kurt Hummell into a dumpster.
They'd agreed that Finn needed to be protected, like a baby or an endangered species, and they'd toasted their plan to save his social life and theirs by destroying the Glee Club. And she almost forgets why things didn't work out differently.
"Aight," Puck says after a moment. "Let's go make some Hot Pockets. You can have the sausage, but don't get used to it 'cause a man needs his meat, Fabray, no homo."
And then he speaks, and she remembers.
His mom sets her up in Puck's room. Their couch folds out into a futon, and Quinn is pretty sure that the polite thing to do would be to insist on sleeping there, but frankly, the thought of sleeping on a futon, even temporarily, is a new low that Quinn is just not ready to sink to.
Puck argues loudly that he'd already knocked her up, it wasn't like they could get into more trouble, but his Mom launches into this Rachel Berry-esque tirade about sexual promiscuity and Schindler's List and Neil Diamond, none of which really go together, but the moral of it is that as far as the Puckerman household is concerned, Quinn is forbidden fruit and any consumers of that fruit would be kicked out of the garden, so to speak.
"Doesn't she know that's just, like, begging me to have sex with you?" he grumbles as he watches her try and figure out out to put fresh sheets on her bed. There had always been someone else to do it, before, and the damn fitted one keeps popping off the corners. Quinn's stomach is getting bigger, and she's afraid to lean too far over and put pressure on it, like it might squish the baby or something.
Quinn gives up and hurls the bundled sheet at Puck's face. If she can't make a bed with it, the least she can do is use it to smother him to death. He drags the cloth away from his face and spits out a loose thread. "Let me make this as clear as I possibly can," she snaps nastily, and she's not as angry as she sounds. But it's preferable to distract him with annoyance than admit that she can't even make a damn bed. "We? Are not together. We will never be together. We had sex one time in what was probably the worst mistake of my life. I was feeling fat and abandoned and you had wine coolers, and it's never. happening. again. Get it?"
Puck does his eyebrow raising thing and rolls his eyes; as usual, he knows what she's doing because he does it, too. For all his rough edges, sometimes Quinn is startled by how much of herself she sees in him, in the way they understand the world and the way they handle it (forcefully: it will fit or they will make it fit, like a dress or the shoes her feet have gotten too swollen for).
He gets up and shakes the sheet out, flicking it at her. She folds her arms over her chest. "C'mon, Fabray. I know you're like a retard with this shit, but let's get our life skills on."
She takes a corner of the sheet and stretches it to fit around the edges of the bed. "Knowing how to make a bed is not a life skill," she informs him with what might be a pout. "Unless you're aiming to become, like, the hired help."
"Who has two thumbs and wants to clean your pool?" Puck asks sarcastically. "Whatever. Imma graduate and then blow this fucking town."
Her immediate reaction is to think take me with you, but she shakes it off and focuses on finishing the bed: cover sheet, duvet, pillows. Puck watches with his arms folded across his chest and a frown on his face, waiting for something, but God, Quinn doesn't know what.
When she's done, they step back and tilt their heads together to look at the finished product. "Well," she says miserably, "it's better than watching those deaf kids sing Don't Stop Believing."
Puck looks at her with smiling eyes and laughs, flopping onto bed and tucking his hands behind his head. "No, Quinn. This is way worse than that. Fuckin' Lil Wayne would make a better housewife than you, and that dude drinks cough syrup."
And he's serious, but he's teasing, too, and sometimes Quinn likes that he's not afraid of her, that she has no power over him (and even if she does, he'll fight her tooth and nail for it, fight until she gives it back because it's not worth the stress). She lies gingerly beside him, careful to be sure that not and inch of their skin is touching.
Quinn wakes up with the sun in her eyes. At home she'd had thick curtains that the maid would come and draw every morning—seven on week days, weekends at ten. Puck has shutters, but they only cover half the window and most of the louvers are folded or broken.
Quinn draws the blankets around her and stares at the ceiling. Finn's house had been small but nice, homey; Puck's house is small but ironic, somehow, as if the walls were amused and wearied by everything that happened here.
She misses her own bed, her own room, so fiercely that she feels sick. Maybe it's just morning nausea. Whatever — Quinn is about to hurl.
She throws the covers off and sprints to the bathroom, barely making it in time. She tries to be quiet, out of some misplaced sense of manners, and when there's a lull in the sickness she shoves a towel under the door so the sound doesn't get out.
She's torn between wanting someone there holding her hair (Finn had done it, and when she hadn't let him he'd sat outside the bathroom door panicking until she gave in) and not wanting anyone, anyone, to see her like this, ever. The Myth of Quinn is built on her flawless performance, on her perfect presentation of herself. No one will like or fear a pathetically pale blonde slut who has vomit on the corner of her mouth.
She flushes the toilet. She breathes deeply. She washes her face and pulls the towel out from under the door.
Puck is standing just outside, his hands folded across his chest and his face twisted into a scowl. "Are you all right?" he asks, voice tightly controlled.
She's about to get yelled at, and it annoys her because Puck is not this guy for her, he is not the guy that cares whether or not she's throwing up. (She'd done it That Night In His Truck and he hadn't said anything, just laughed and told her to aim for the grass next time.) So she shoves past him, back to his room, and closes the door in his face.
He opens it and comes inside, still glowering as she crawls back in bed. "Are you. all right."
It's not as easy a question as he's making it sound, but she gives in. She knows he's worried because he's angry, which is the same way that she worries, when she bothers to. "Yes," she says at last. "I'm fine. God."
Puck rubs a hand over his eyes. "So the gross puking is normal?" he asks. "You're not just, like, Mary-Kate Olsen-ing up your food?"
She sighs. "You're the stupidest person on this planet," she tells him, but maybe not as meanly as she could, because even though worry isn't as endearing on Puck as it is on Finn, it's nice to be cared about. "Morning sickness is common in pregnancy. So thanks for that."
"I don't know what to fuckin' do with you," he says as she fluffs the pillows and tries to get comfortable. "One minute you're all I choose you, Pikachu and the next it's like I'm the monster from Children of the Corn."
She raises her eyebrows and lets herself smile. Maybe he has a point, and maybe he just doesn't get that she's never going to choose him, that he's never going to be her first choice. "I can't believe you just made a Pokémon reference. Who are you, Jacob Israel?" He turns off the lights and sits in his bean bag chair, pulling his guitar off its stand and playing a few low notes.
"Shut the fuck up, Artie really likes it," Puck murmurs. Then he starts to hum, low and rumbling, and Quinn closes her eyes and just … listens.
Puck tries to convince her to play Halo six times before she finally gives in. The truth is that it's fairly obvious that he'd normally be doing this kind of thing with Finn, smoking weed and killing aliens at three in the afternoon, and maybe it's kind of her fault that he can't anymore. And anyway, what else is there to do? So she makes them tuna melts (her favorite sandwich: the only one she can make) and they sit in front of the TV.
Quinn is bad. Like, really bad. And normally she doesn't bother to do things that she's bad at, because that way all that's left are the things she's good at and then it looks like she's never bad at anything (and this is why she never jumps rope). But her complete lack of skill seems to amuse Puck, rather than annoy him, and he spends most of the time cracking up and choking on his sandwich.
"Next time, shoot the alien before it shoots you," he advises with an oh-so-clever grin. There are fading remnants of her dead body all over this level. One the one hand, Quinn appreciates the realism, the reminder to be careful, that she's been burned here before. On the other, it's creepy to see her replicated self strewn around the floor, forgotten and stuttering out of existence.
"Thanks, Einstein," she grumbles. "I know what to do, I just don't know how."
After a few more minutes and a few more restarts, Puck gives up on her and offers, "Why don't you just stay behind me and let me kill them? Then you can go around and pick up supplies. That way maybe we'll actually make it off the ship."
She rolls her eyes at him, but he has a point, so she crouches behind a grate while he takes out the invaders and then scuttles around picking up ammo when it's done. It's a strategy that works, for them: he does the dirty work and she collects the benefits, and pretty soon they've gone up four levels and Puck's mom is pulling in the driveway, back from her afternoon shift at the hospital.
Puck startles and shuts off the TV, shoving the Xbox and the controllers into their drawer and dragging her onto the couch. There's a discarded Physics book on the table and he pulls it onto his lap. "So, that's why Distance equals Rate times Time," he says loudly as his mom walks through the door.
Quinn is confused, but not retarded, so she nods seriously and slaps the book like it's brought her a revelation. "Oh, I get it now!" she cries. "Which is also why Rate equals Times divided by Distance and Time is Distance divided by Rate!"
Puck blinks at her and scratches the back of his head. "Uhhh, yeah, I guess?"
There's a special rush Quinn gets from lying, and she allows herself to revel in it for a moment before Puck's mom nods once, sharply, and does into the kitchen.
"The fuck are you talking about?" Puck hisses at her once she's gone. "Time divided by rate divided by distance. You're like a hotter Rachel Berry and it's freaking me out."
She rolls her eyes at him and gently slaps the backside of his head. "You're retarded," she says, but even to her own ears it sounds like Pikachu.
At home, dinner had been this super fancy affair, when the maid brought out the food exactly at seven and they all said grace holding hands around the table. Fresh flowers were cut every day for the centerpiece.
Puck's family mostly eats takeout and Lean Cuisine. They say weird Jewish prayers, and Quinn doesn't know how to handle it so she just whispers grace quietly to herself. She's already sure that Mrs. Puckerman hates her, because she gets teary and miserable every time Quinn does something particularly Christian, and they've had to watch Schindler's List twice already. It's only been twenty-four hours since she moved in.
"That's just a Jew thing," Puck tries to tell her on their way down the stairs, toward the smell of Thai food. "Seriously, that's not even you, that's just like, history and shit."
"I think it's clear that I am not Liam Nielson in this picture," she growls back, and maybe this isn't as big a deal as she's making out but these hormones are turning her into a crazy person. Yesterday she woke up at four in the morning feeling as if she'd die if she didn't get some lime jelly STAT, and two days ago a re-run of Saved By The Bell made her cry.
They sit in silence during Puck's mother's prayer, but Sarah is busy making origami cranes out of her napkin and Puck keeps trying to put his hand up Quinn's skirt under the table. They watch TV while they eat, Quinn and Mrs. Puckerman tense and uncomfortable, Puck bored, and Sarah consumed with trying to make her cranes float in her water glass.
(At Finn's, his mother had been loud and friendly, the two of them bumping into each other every time either one tried to move in the kitchen; there had been a lot of kissing on the cheek and a lot of denim vests. She had thought it would be one of those things she got used to, but honestly, Quinn was always just a little out of place.)
"Is no one talking because Noah's girlfriend is preggo?" Sarah asks abruptly, putting down her origami and taking a big bite of her Pad See Ew. "Because Lonnie Marcus' sister got stuffed and they sent her away to an Aunt's."
Quinn chokes on her fried rice; Puck reaches behind her head to high-five his little sister. "A thousand points for dope use of the word 'stuffed'," he says.
"Yessss!" Sarah hisses with a quick fist pump. Besides Schindler's List, Quinn is learning that the most watched TV program in this house is Whose Line Is It Anyway. Puck and Sarah have taken to assigning points to random things that happen during the day. This morning Quinn won two-thousand points for saying the word shit when she tripped on her way down the stairs. (Nobody needs to know that she felt sort of good about it.)
"Sarah, be a good Jew," Mrs. Puckerman scolds, which Quinn has learned could mean any of a number of things: be appropriate, be smart, be pretty, be afraid of mustached men, be frugal, be clean, be careful not to get caught smoking weed in public places.
"I don't have any aunts," Quinn volunteers, stabbing at her food. She'd be going for sympathy if she didn't know that Mrs. Puckerman despises patheity almsost much as she despises girls who can't keep their legs crossed (which is ironic because: Puck's existence).
"Cousins?" Sarah asks, leaning in with an eyebrow raised. "Cousins once-removed? Cousins twice-removed?"
"She can't have cousins if she doesn't have aunts, dipshit," Puck snarks through a mouthful of Lad Na. "Don't you know where babies come from?"
Mrs. Puckerman snaps her chopsticks together in a warning. "You, apparently," she snaps curtly, and that's pretty much the end of dinner conversation.
She hasn't gone to church in a while. It feels like it would be insulting to God, to step her pregnant self inside. And of course there's the question of her parents, of all the people that she used to know who now don't talk to her, all of them looking at Quinn's sad lonely self and thinking look how the mighty have fallen.
But if there's one thing Sue Sylvester has taught her, it's that bad publicity is better than no publicity, so she makes Puck drive her to KMart and picks up a new dress. (It's physically painful to realize that she's at a place in her life where buying dresses from KMart is kind of okay; but all her stuff is still at Finn's and she can't make herself go back for them, she can't.)
"Why don't you just ask Santana or Brittany to get your stuff?" he asks, raising his eyebrows.
"I can't do that," she tells him shortly. What she means is I can't need anymore help than I already do. He doesn't answer, so she knows he gets it.
He hesitates when they pull into the church's parking lot. "Do you… want me to come with you?" he asks, tilting his head to the side. "Or are you into this whole Kelly Osbourne rebel thing?"
She smiles, a little, shakes her head. "You're Jewish," she tells him flatly. "I don't want God to be confused when the Day of Reckoning comes and let you into heaven."
"Ha, ha," he intones flatly, and reaches across her to open the door. "Watch out, world. If her words don't get you her huge stomach will."
She gets out, feeling strong and fueled by the exchange, a reminder that she is Quinn Fabray, and she's made wrestlers cry. She stomps into Christ's Blood Catholic Church with her jaw set and sits in the very front, where everyone can see her but she can't see anybody.
She makes it until Communion before she can't stand it anymore, the burning eyes, the muted whispers, the way she can feel everybody looking at her and thinking about her, the way that they are all thinking that God doesn't love her anymore and they way that they're right.
When they all shuffle to stand in line, she bolts, one hand on her stomach and one hand in a fist.
Puck's truck is idling outside. He is sitting in the driver's seat like he had been on Friday: music blaring and eyes closed, waiting. She slams the truck door as she gets in and folds her arms over her chest, trying trying trying not to burst into tears, and when he opens his eyes lazily to look at her, she snarls, "Drive."
He doesn't say anything, but drives her to the nearest Dairy Queen. She closes her eyes and tries to breathe deeply, but it's difficult, because every inhale makes her angry and scared and sad, and then suddenly she feels something soft and silk in her hands.
She looks down. It's the loose Coach shirt she'd bought herself when her stomach started to expand, started to show. The last time she'd seen it, it had been laid out on Finn's bed, waiting for her.
Puck shrugs and doesn't meet her eyes. "They go to church, too," he says. "I climbed through the window and jacked your stuff. I figure it isn't really breaking and entering if Finn's a dumb fuck who leaves his window open."
The moment verges on overwhelming, on moving, on sweet, so Puck coughs and turns up the radio and shouts over the sound: "KMart makes you look like a pregnant virgin, and I don't associate with those."
She leans over and kisses his cheek. "That's why Jesus hates you and your people," she yells back.
She thinks Puck's little sister is plotting something sinister.
Sarah is nice, generally; she doesn't pay Quinn much attention except to occasionally ask if it was true she kissed Finn, and if it was, to describe it in detail. But today she has been staring at Quinn's stomach calculatingly, and Quinn is definitely not imagining that she's been carrying around scissors and a hairless doll. She has this not entirely unfounded fear that Sarah is planning to break into Puck's room at night and shave off Quinn's eyebrows while she's sleeping.
"Uhhh," Puck says when she tells him this theory, "no. Sarah's just a huge freak, I told you that like six months ago when she asked if it was possible to build a go-cart out of cigarette butts."
"If I wake up with no eyebrows," she snarls warningly at him, stabbing a finger at his chest, "you're going to wake up with no eyes, do you understand?"
The next second, she's in this huge achy ball of tears, curled up on the far end of his couch and clinging to a pillow. She doesn't even know why she's crying, except that she just had a flashed image of what her baby would look like with no eyes and it was so ugly and oh god what if she had an ugly baby? "What if she has man hands?" Quinn wails, burying her face in the pillow and curling up tighter. "What if she's fat?"
Puck looks horrified, which shouldn't surprise her since it's how Finn always looked when she cried, but it just makes her sob harder until at last he breathes out a sigh and reaches across to drag her toward him and she's curls up with her face in his shirt, making puddles with her tears. "For shit's sake, Fabray," he grumbles, "she's not going to be ugly, okay? Jesus, the girl's got like mega dope steroid genes. She's gonna have to go into intensive care so they can try and reign in the awesome." He pauses as her crying subsides a little. "You've gotta deal with this hormone shit better, 'cause it's freaking me the fuck out, okay."
She sniffs and nods. Finn would have spent five years talking about his feelings and how they're life will be perfect and trying to make her feel better, but she likes that Puck doesn't coddle her. Most people in her life do—Mr. Schuester and her parents and the rest of the Glee club. Puck's an ass, but sometimes it works, for him.
"Yeah, okay," she murmurs, and wipes her eyes and sits up, glaring at him. "But seriously, if your sister touches my eyebrows, there's going to be consequences."
"Thatta girl," he says.
They're not allowed to be in the same room after nine, according to Mrs. Puckerman's rules. Puck grumbles that it's not like he can get her knocked up twice in one round, but Quinn doesn't mind—he hovers, sometimes, like he's afraid she's going to suddenly disappear.
Still. When she has trouble sleeping, she leaves the door open so that she can hear his guitar, slow music and low voice drifting up the stairs.
Things are different, after Sectionals. Not radically different, not so different that Quinn isn't still The Pregnant Girl, but different. No one gets slushied; no one gets locked in Porter Johns; no one has a picture of a penis glued over their face in the yearbook.
But things are also the same: at Glee, everyone flocks to Finn like he's an angel in plaid clothing, and she and Puck stand awkwardly off to the side.
Sometimes Quinn wants to remind them of all the times Finn disappointed them, all the times he turned his back on Glee for the sake of his reputation, all the times he stood them up and let them down. She and Puck never did that, she wants to point out. She's the one who got them a full page in the year book; Puck chose Glee over football even when Finn gave up.
But of course, she doesn't remind them of this. Neither of them do. Looking at Finn, face drawn, eyes downcast, smiling at Rachel because she needs to be smiled at and he just wants to please everybody, Quinn feels a rush of affection and sadness and love and keeps her mouth shut.
He means well, she reminds herself. He means well, and he keeps glancing over everyone's head at her with those kicked-puppy eyes. It's within her reach, those eyes, that face, that person. She could walk over to him now and say I'm sorry, I love you and he would take her back.
But this weekend did something, meant something, and she can't leave Puck, even if she doesn't love him, yet.
Finn finds her just after the bell rings. He doesn't quite meet her eyes, but he doesn't smile, either. He's fidgety and nervous and upset, and she doesn't touch him because she knows he'll make it either a slap or a kiss and it's neither.
"You came and got your stuff," he says, looking at the floor. "I noticed because it was all gone. And at first I was like, we've been robbed, but then I realized it would be weird that a robber just came in for your maternity clothes, but then I realized they were probably the most expensive things in the house, but then I realized that someone would have had to know that and know that you'd left them."
"Yeah," she agrees. She toys with the hem on her sweater. "I'm sorry I did it when you weren't there, but I didn't want to upset anybody."
Finn mumbles when he talks. "No, yeah, that's good, it's okay. Thanks."
"Yo, Juno, you coming?"
Puck's voice comes before his body, and Finns straightens. He looks back and forth between his friend and Quinn and seems to get it, suddenly, and his expression darkens as he storms out.
Puck hesitates. "Y'all right?" he asks after a moment. "Are we going to have to do that hugging shit again?"
She punches him on the arm. She's learning that negative reinforcement is the only way he learns (like a dog or a really stupid child). "No," she says, pushing him lightly away. "I'm okay."
(She's not, really; but he if he knows he lets it slide.)
For the first time that night, Mrs. Puckerman doesn't scowl at her for the entirety of the meal. Quinn's not saying that they're best friends or anything, but there is a definite lack of obvious hatred in the room, so at least they're at the point where they can pretend to not want to kill each other. (Mrs. Puckerman probably wouldn't; with her crazy hormones, Quinn makes no such promises.)
They're having Lean Cuisine for dinner, and Sarah announces that one of the biggest issues facing Americans today is obesity, but that fad diets such as South Beach, Jenny Craig, and even the Master Cleanse aren't the cure. She also announces that Lean Cuisine, for all its lack of calories, is full of starch and carbohydrates and have an sixty-four percent chance of making her babies deformed.
"Five hundred points for believable fake statistics," Quinn responds, without thinking, and the room goes oddly silent.
Then Puck breaks into a smirk and Sarah nods once, approvingly, before contesting, "Only five hundred?"
This feels like an important moment, so Quinn does what she always does when she has no idea what to do next: she makes like a Cheerio and fakes it. "The delivery was a little soft," she says casually, with a shrug. "Meet someone's eyes when you're lying to them."
She glances at Mrs. Puckerman's face and amends: "That is, don't lie, it's wrong."
A few minutes later, she feels Puck's hand reach under the table to grasp her own. She's not sure how she feels about this, about the way he's studiously not looking at her, but she links their fingers.
The first basketball game of the season is Thursday afternoon, and even though McKinley usually doesn't suck, with Puck and Finn not speaking they're pretty much guaranteed to get crushed. Still, Puck has practice every afternoon. Quinn used to go watch from the bleachers when she was with Finn, but she's pretty sure it's one of those things that he'll read into. Finn has a way of turning the tiniest look into a confession, and it's not that she doesn't still love him, she just . . .
She likes the independence of living with Puck, of staying with Puck even if she's not with Puck, of being able to do some of this on her own. Finn treated her like the pregnancy made her an invalid, and it doesn't, it just makes her fat. And crazy, sometimes.
Anyway, she goes to the music room instead of the gym and fiddles around on the piano. She'd taken lessons all through elementary and middle school, but didn't really have the drive to be any more than okay. Still, she can sight read pretty well, so she plays the music still on the stand. It's the Beatles, Hello Goodbye. Probably Mr. Schue's, since he has a habit of inviting them to choose their songs and then just going ahead with whatever he wanted to do, instead.
She hums a little while she plays. You say goodbye, I say hello. Just another sad song disguised with upbeat melody. Quinn never got what the big deal was about the Beatles. They were just four dudes with bad haircuts who sung about things like LSD and Norwegian Wood. Quinn prefers The Supremes, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone. Jazz, motown, even disco when she's in the right mood.
She plucks a few chords. "Isn't it a pity? Isn't it a shame, yes, how we break each other's hearts?" She makes a mistake and stops, embarrassed, though no one is listening. She waits, as if expecting someone to criticize, and then tries again, getting better, smoother, remembering the way the keys felt under her fingers. "Maybe one day at least I'll see me, and just concentrate on giving, giving, giving, giving . . . till that day, mankind don't stand a chance, don't know nothin' about romance, everything is plastic. Isn't it a pity?"
The door opens and she hits a wrong chord, startled. Rachel is standing in the doorway, looking frozen and horrified and almost afraid, and Quinn likes it, feels a rush of grace for the fear because at least some things never change. "That was very nice," Rachel gushes after a beat. "You get a little nasal and pitchy on the high notes, but your phrasing is excellent."
"Thanks," Quinn says dryly. "You dress like a soft-core porn video for nine-year-olds and your personality is worse than being homeless." It's easy to be mean to Rachel; everything about her invites ridicule, and she's no good at comebacks. It's like a punching back that doesn't hurt when you hit it and always spins back into range.
"You're still upset about Finn," Rachel guesses, ignoring her. She perches on the edge of the piano bench, body stiff and legs clamped together. "I understand. I realize that perhaps it was unfair of me to go behind your back. I just wanted—"
"To be the one who told him the truth, so he'd finally see that you're the better choice?" she interrupts, pushing the bench back from the piano and jarring Rachel off it. She rubs a hand over her eyes. She liked it better when whether or not Rachel's feelings were hurt didn't have any effect on her day, when she didn't have to worry about things like team unity and other people. "Look. I get it. Finn's an incredible guy. But don't pretend like you're some altruistic victim, because you were just trying to get your claws into him."
It's painful to admit it, but they're really a lot alike: when they want something, they get it, not caring who or what they step on in the process. The ends justify the means. Rachel looks at her hands. "Well. Perhaps I am somewhat tunnel-visioned when it comes to success, romantic and otherwise. I failed to look at all possible angles of—"
"Ohmigod, Rupaul, shut up."
"At least you have Noah now," she tries, one last time, weakly. It's clear that she'd thought this conversation would go differently; Quinn's mercy before Sectionals had been mistaken for a personality transplant. But what the hell, she can't be one-hundred percent on her game all the time.
She doesn't understand why people either think she's an awful sinner or a perfect saint. She can be a little of both, when she's in the mood, but every new action brings a swing on the pendulum of opinion: one good deed makes her a hero and one disappointment demotes her to villain. Why does Finn get all the second chances?
"Yeah," she says, half laugh and half sigh. "Yeah, at least I have Noah."
She laughs again, and then, to her horror, starts crying, and these hormones have really got to settle down because she's tired of every day being an emotional roller-coaster just because they've run out of milk or she's gotten a B.
"Go away, man hands," she orders, burying her face in her hands as she falls into the nearest chair.
Rachel hesitates, then comes to sit beside her and puts an awkward, stiff hand on her back, and stays.
Puck laughs for ten minutes when she tells him about the incident in the music room. "That's like the hottest porno ever," he says as they drive home. "You and Berry, meeting up in the music room and getting freaky."
He's still a vulgar pig, but sometimes it makes her laugh, and today she lets herself smile. "Your mind is not safe for children or animals," she informs him disgustedly, shaking her head. "Seriously, I don't know why you haven't been smited yet for being a pervert."
"Says the preggers sixteen-year-old who once single-handedly gave a girl an eating disorder," he counters. He sounds proud.
"Oh, for the good old days," Quinn agrees, and they meet eyes over the stick shift and smile, remembering.
They do homework in the living room, where his mother can keep an eye on them. Sometimes Puck "takes a break" to play the guitar, and usually Quinn can't focus with music on but it's different when he plays. Soothing.
When she's finished with her Spanish and his (they made the deal her first night at his house: she'll do his homework if he cleans the room and makes the bed) she tosses her pencil down and lays back, resting a hand on her tummy. The baby isn't kicking or anything yet, but sometimes it feels a little warmer, like it's nudging up against her and wanting to be held.
"Do you know any Tams?" she asks as she pulls her hair into a ponytail.
"Nah, we're out, you ate 'em all last weekend, Chubbs," he answers without looking up.
She rolls her eyes. "Not Tam-Tams, The Tams, you know, the band." She pauses. "And I didn't eat them all — Sarah helped."
He raises his head to grin at her, leaning back in his chair. "Are you bribing my sister to like you?" he laughs, putting the guitar aside. "What the shit, Fabray, that's fucked up."
"Like you don't buy her licorice in exchange for her keeping silent about your stash of weed in the bathroom!"
"That's extortion, not bribery," he defends immediately, and Quinn rolls her eyes. Of course Puck would know what extortion means but not that women don't have prostates. Sometimes she worries that her child is doing to inherit the worst genes ever. "She's a smart little fuck. I'll be surprised if she makes it to twenty without getting arrested."
He sounds so proud, and Quinn is reassured that she is making the right decision about adoption, that their little girl needs to be taken as far away from them as possible. Quinn's a selfish bitch and Puck is proud of his sister's delinquency, and between them they'd raise a monster fit for an A&E reality show, Intervention or worse, Hoarders.
He strums a few familiar chords and she smiles, humming Papa Don't Preach as he plays.
"Get your ass in gear, Fabray," Puck yells in lieu of "good morning." She's groggy today, slow and run down, but he's jigging his keys in his pocket at the foot of the stairs as she trundles down. "No hurry or anything, but Sarah's about five minutes from going rabid over missing her morning dose of Jerry Springer."
Quinn speeds up. She's seen what the little Puckerman is like when she hasn't had her fill of white trash and sad wastes of air, so she doesn't complain when Puck drags her by her wrist out to the truck. She rubs ruefully at the skin as she throws her backpack into the backseat. "You almost pulled my arm out of the socket, Puck, God," she grouches, nestling in and crossing her arms over her chest.
"Okay, fine, next time I'll be gentle and let the Beast get you," he snaps sarcastically.
She rolls her eyes and turns on the radio. It's become a morning ritual to bicker over what station gets played—Quinn is waiting for the right moment to tell him that mullet rock makes babies retarded.
They stop at a 7/11 for their usual breakfast: Puck gets a bag of Puff'n Corn and a Big Gulp; Quinn starts with yogurt and finishes off with two donuts, a bag of Smart Food, a package of Reese's and a water. They share a dessert of cookie dough ice cream.
"The cravings are getting worse," Puck notes, nodding at the extra donut she'd shoved guiltlessly into the shopping cart. "Does that mean you're gonna pop soon?"
She reaches over to smack him. She's starting to like this kind of easy violence. It takes the place of her usual barbs of words. The smack of her hand against his head is more satisfying and less permanent than insults ever were. "No, it means I'm a seventeen-year-old pregnant girl who hasn't had saturated fat since she was four."
"Why would you want wet fatness?" Puck asks, disgusted. "It's gross enough dry and stuffed inside Jacob Israel."
"Sometimes I worry that you're actually retarded," Quinn deadpans. "Did your parents, by any chance, drop kick you when you were a baby?"
His face goes stony for just an instant at at the s on the word "parents," and Quinn winces. She's mean, but she's not that mean—not anymore, and not to the people she . . . cares about.
But Puck's like her: he wouldn't want her to get all soft and nice and babying about His Tragic Life. So she schools her face into a nasty mask and taunts, "Maybe it was more of a hot-potato situation. Maybe they did all those things that most people want to do to their children so that when they had Sarah they'd already have gotten it out of their systems."
She uses the plural; she emphasizes the plural. Maybe it sounds like she's rubbing in his father's absence. She is. He glares gratefully at her (they are so wrong, everything about them is wrong, but it makes sense, too; they are on equal footing, they understand each other, they fit in a way she and Finn never did) and throws the car forcefully into park as he skids into the parking lot. "At least no one kicked me out of my house," he volleys back, almost cheerfully.
They continue like this into the building. It's habit by now, this borderline cruel back-and-forth; Quinn enjoys it, in a twisted way. The exchange gets her juices flowing, makes her strong and ready and reminds her that Puck, for all his many, many flaws, doesn't think less of her for being who she is. Maybe he even sort of likes it.
He drops her at her locker and when she closes it, Kurt and Mercedes are waiting, looping their arms through hers and finishing each other's sentences like freaky inverted twins.
"Spill. You and the Mohawk. Doing the daily grind?"
"Mama, I'm not going to tell you how to do your business, but that boy is bad news."
"He already knocked her up, Mercedes, what's the worst he can do?"
There's a weird moment where she's both flattered and disgusted by this interaction: she feels the warmth of acceptance and the bitterness that maybe she needs this, that she's fallen so low on the high school totem pole that these people are legitimately her only options as friends.
On the other hand, Kurt is funny, when he's mean and judgmental, and Mercedes' side remarks and blatant hatred of Rachel earn her definite points in Quinn's book. She battles with herself before relaxing into their grip and saying primly, "I'm just staying with him until I can work things out."
Kurt definitely stiffens beside her. "So you're still in love with Finn," he surmises, a little coldly.
And against all odds, she feels a little bad for him, so she laughs. "Who isn't?" she asks rhetorically. "You want to slowly and surely destroy everyone who wants to get in his pants? Get in line and bring tape so I can attach a target to Rachel's back."
Mercedes laughs, long and loud, and eventually Kurt manages a snarky little smile. "Can I be the one who burns the evidence after?" he asks.
"Mmm, that is the only way to apologize to the world for her fashion taste," Mercedes agrees.
She gets a note during history:
How are you?
She'd recognize Finn's handwriting anywhere, but he refuses to look at her when she turns around with questioning eyebrows.
She keeps her response short:
Fine. The doctors say everything is normal.
A few minutes. Then:
Are you still staying with Puck?
Quinn doesn't write back for a long time. She can feel him looking at her, wanting her to turn around, but she keeps her eyes on her paper. At last she slips a shorn off bit of paper onto his desk.
Where else am I supposed to go?
Last week Mr. Schuester had assigned them all to pick a pop song that describes them. As usual, Rachel volunteers to go first, and Quinn sits back, waiting to see another ballad directed at Finn gushing about how perfect they are and how life is so wonderful when you have two gay dads. She's not far off — Rachel sings La La Land by Demi Lovato, and though it doesn't make her ears bleed or anything, Quinn hates it on principle.
Kurt sings Tearin' Up My Heart, which is weird and oddly charming, and Mercedes owns Survivor. Tina sings Bad Romance and doesn't suck; Artie has them all in tears of laughter with his rendition of Tik Tok. Matt kind of rocks out Party In The USA, but only slightly less than Mike's strangely touching Girl On TV. Brittany and Santana don't even pretend to have chosen their own songs, and instead collaborate on Circus.
Finn sings Penny and Me by Hanson. Quinn isn't sure if he's singing to her or to Rachel, because he doesn't look at either of them.
Puck had spent all week bitching about having to sing a pop song, but he gives a surprisingly good performance of the Backstreet Boys' Poster Girl. He meets her eyes while he sings, and it would be sweet if it weren't for the glint in his eye that was more predatory than charming.
Quinn sings last, because she hasn't practiced much and because she feels heavy and hard to move. But she chooses Girls Just Want To Have Fun.
It's not great, but it doesn't suck, either, and by the end, she realizes that she's smiling.
Puck's Mom pulls a triple shift at the hospital, so Puck and Quinn have to take Sarah to and from school. In the morning they take her to the 7/11 and then sit idling in the parking lot of her school, gorging themselves on junk food and ice cream.
Sarah sprints inside like the Tazmanian Devil on speed, and Puck grins lazily over at her. "Thank fucking God we got her out of here before the sugar high hits. She's going to be a motherfuckin' nightmare."
She's not sure why her heart suddenly skips at his grin, and she doesn't let herself show it. "Yeah, but this way when we pick her up she'll be on a down swing and we can get her to pass out in the back."
He reaches over to tug affectionately on her hair. "I like the way you think, Fabray," he says, and she laughs.
Rachel marches up to her during lunch and demands to know why love always feels like a battlefield. Quinn tells her to stop listening to bad music and aim for something that's slightly less awful than she is.
Maybe Rachel is getting used to her, or maybe Quinn is losing her edge, but Rachel studies her for a moment, then nods seriously and thanks her for her advice. Which is bewildering, because Quinn was very careful not to give any.
Puck has to go warm up for the basketball game immediately after school, so Quinn walks the four blocks to Sarah's school to pick her up. It feels . . . weirdly intimate and important, but she and Puck both awkwardly treat it like it's no big deal.
"Yo, Q-tip," Sarah greets when Quinn finally manages to find her classroom. Quinn sometimes despairs about how much like Puck Sarah is becoming. "Is my banana of a brother waiting with the car?"
"No." Quinn hooks Sarah's backpack over her shoulder. She ignores the glances the parents are giving her, the way they whisper to their children to stay away as if pregnancy were contagious or something. "He's got a basketball game. We've got to go back and watch."
Sarah pops some gum. "Can I throw shit at the back of peoples' heads?" she asks.
"Don't say shit," Quinn scolds immediately, and at Sarah's eye roll gives in. "And yes, as long as you aim for the girl in the blue shirt that says Team Finn."
The littlest Puckerman gets a nasty glint in her eye. Maybe it's unfair to unleash her lovelorn self on Rachel, but, well, high school's not fair, so Quinn doesn't feel too bad.
They stop at the 7/11 and pick up extra ammunition (and two ice creams).
Puck shoots them a brief grin when they enter the gym and take their seats, and Quinn makes a point not to look at Finn (she doesn't know if she's punishing him or herself, but either way, he made his choice and now she's making hers, maybe, sort of, almost). They keep tally of who can get the most popcorn in Rachel's hair before she notices (Quinn does, but she's had more practice).
At half time, Puck jogs over to the stands and shouts, "Yo, gutnugget, how was school?"
"Nobody died," Sarah screeches back. "And only one kid started crying, but it ain't my fault Johnny Jorkins is a fuckin' pussy!"
Quinn covers her face with her hands. "Language!" she hisses.
"Puck swears," Sarah says with a bored shrug.
"Puck's not a lady," Quinn replies, and at Sarah's unimpressed glare, adds, "and Puck isn't trying to get Finn Hudson to fall in love with him."
Sarah freezes, and then looks sheepishly up at Quinn from under her eyelashes. She looks pretty, this way, girlish. Almost nice. "Are you mad?" she asks.
"No," Quinn promises. She squeezes Sarah's shoulder. "But if you want me to help you get his attention, you're going to have to stop cussing like a thirteen-year-old boy."
Sarah seems to weigh the pros and cons. She turns back to her popcorn and eats with concentration.
After McKinley loses (big surprise), they wait for Puck outside the locker room. Just before he comes out, Sarah sticks out her hand and says with determination, "I'll stop swearing if you promise to stay."
Quinn stares down at the hand, shocked. "What . . . what do you mean?" she asks carefully.
"I mean that things are more fun when you live with us," Sarah mutters, staring hard at the floor. "Noah is nicer. He smiles a lot more and doesn't play such emo music. Mom's just about the same. And I don't totally hate you all the time, or whatever."
Quinn's not really one for hugging, but she drops to her knees and sweeps the skinny girl into her arms and doesn't let go until Puck comes out and makes vomiting noises.
She packs her bags after dinner that night. Puck watches her silently.
"Where the fuck do you think you're gonna go?" he asks, sounding amused and panicked all at once. "Seriously, everyone hates you."
"Brittany's," she says. "She's too dumb to remember to be mad at me, and her house is so big that her parents probably won't even notice."
Puck puts his hands on her suitcase. "Fabray. The fuck? Is it the hormones again, because I thought we covered this shit."
She shakes her head and glares down at her hands, fighting tears. "This is, like, effecting people," she manages after a few seconds of swallowing and breathing hard. "Sarah . . . likes me."
"Uhhh," Puck says, "yeah, I'll bet that's new and terrifying for you." She laughs weakly and pushes at him. He catches her wrist and sighs, frowning. "Look. Shit's more fun with you here, okay? So just get the fuck over yourself and unpack the garden vomit you call dresses."
She makes herself meet his eyes. This isn't what they normally do—they aren't this lovely-dovey, lets-talk-about-our-feelings couple, they aren't even a couple at all. But she has to know, for once, she has to be totally sure. "Were you drunk?" she asks quietly.
He takes a step back. "What are you talking about?"
He runs his hands over his head and breathes through his nose. At last he says, "Yeah. I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't. Finn's a fuckin' retard but he's my best friend."
She turns back to her suitcase. She isn't sure if what he's said has made her decision to leave or to stay.
Then he adds in the quietest voice she's ever heard: "But I've wanted to. Since, like, eighth grade. You were hot in those weird little skorts you used to wear."
She leans against the bed and fights a smile. She feels warm. She doesn't turn around, because this moment is already too nice and too weird, but she silently starts unpacking her suitcase.
She finds an old lost notebook in her locker just before history. On the first page, Finn has written:
If you want to come back, you can.
She stares at it for a long time. Five days ago she would have sprinted to him and kissed him on the mouth and not been ashamed of how grateful she was.
She walks slowly to sixth period.
"Did you get my note?" Finn asks after class.
"Yes," she says carefully. "Thanks. I'm sorry for everything. I know you've been . . . having a hard time, lately."
He shrugs. "Do . . . do you want to? Come back?"
He's not asking just about the house. He's asking for her, for the baby, for everything. Quinn looks at the ground.
"The thing is . . ." she begins, "the thing is, I want to do this on my own. It's not—it's not you, Finn, God, you're the sweetest boy I know, it's just . . ." His face falls. He doesn't even try to hide it (Puck would have tried). "I'm sorry," she breathes, voice catching. "Finn. I'm so sorry."
He shrugs. "It's okay," he mumbles. She thinks he might be crying (Puck wouldn't, not ever, no matter what). "I'll see you around."
She doesn't speak on the drive home, or at dinner, or even after, when Whose Line Is It Anyway comes on and Sarah slips up and yells, "Fuck you, Wayne Brady!" at the TV. She goes to bed early and tries to sleep, but can't, so at midnight she sneaks downstairs. Puck is still up, smoking weed and playing Halo, so she turns off the Xbox and plants herself in front of him.
"Yep, you're bigger than the TV," he says. "Didn't know that was possible."
"If we're going to be together, we're going to be together," she tells him without preamble. They're not really the making-speeches type, anyway. "You can't get with anyone else. No sexting, no cougars, nothing. Just me."
He's surprisingly honest: "I might fuck it up."
"Probably," she agrees. "Do you want to try anyway? This is a one-time offer."
He doesn't say anything for a long moment, and doesn't quite meet her eyes when he asks, "If we do, and shit goes south, will you still stay here?"
She feels her breath catch in her throat and doesn't trust herself to speak (it's the hormones, it's got to be), so she nods. He settles back against the couch and grins. "I knew you couldn't resist my smokin' hot self," he declares after a moment, and gestures for her.
She goes to him, curling up on the couch and settling into his arm. He presses a kiss to the top of her head and she smiles. "Puck," she says into the darkness, "Don't fuck up."
His mother finds them in the morning. Sarah will later use the term snuggling, but both Quinn and Puck are strongly opposed to this word. Puck says she just pancaked him and was too fat to lift off; she says he rufied her so he could sneak out and she wouldn't tell his Mom.
They don't tell anyone about the kissing, or the way his hand brushes hers beneath the table. They don't tell anyone anything, except that she's going to stay for a while.
They spend the day playing Halo (and they're good now, a perfect team, so long as they both play their parts) and making weird sandwiches (because Puck's Mom never has any normal spreads so they have to use whatever condiments they can find). Sometimes he leans over to kiss her, and she lets him, and it's a little weird, but nice, too, really nice (not like it had been before, with Finn: different. Maybe better; maybe she's just had too much sugar lately).
"We don't have to like, get married or anything, do we?" he asks abruptly, as Quinn creeps up behind him and shoots him in the head. He always sees her coming, but he lets her do it, sometimes, because it always makes her laugh. "'Cause I'mma be real with you, Fabray, that shit is way super gay."
She rolls her eyes.
"Pig," she says, and takes a bite of sandwich.