Author's Note: For fictable prompt #47 - star. (Fictable is over on my LiveJournal account.)
"Rachel, you have to stop fidgeting. I'm serious. I can't put false eyelashes on if you're bouncing around and twitching like you're on a sugar high!" Kurt barked, slamming a hand on his hip and tapping his toes inside his patent-leather shoes in a fast, irritated pace as he glared at Rachel in her big mirror.
Rachel slumped in her chair, drooping her head like a just-corrected child. "I'm sorry, Kurt! I really am. I'm just…so nervous! I don't think I've ever been this nervous in my entire life."
"It's just prom, Rachel. It's not the Tony Awards and no one is expecting you to make an acceptance speech tonight. Besides, you're only going with a friend anyway!" Kurt rolled his eyes dramatically at Rachel and then quickly turned when he heard his iPhone beep. His eyes skimmed over it and then looked up at Rachel. "Sam said the limo will be here in an hour. Now sit down, stop jumping around, and let me finish or you're going to the prom with one amazingly gorgeous doe eye and one that looks boring and dull…like you."
"Fine," Rachel pouted, ignoring his barb. Sucking in a breath and sitting up straight, she batted her eyes and said, "I'm ready, Kurt. Slut me up."
Kurt laughed, shaking his head, and grabbed a lash with his tweezers, dipping it in the glue before he quickly applied it in between Rachel's lashes. Minutes later, her false lashes were in place and Kurt had loaded her lashes with mascara. Standing back, he stared at Rachel in the mirror and smiled at his handiwork. "Now go get your dress on. Sam and Matt will be here soon!"
Popping out of her chair, Rachel darted into her closet and pulled the floor-length yellow dress from the hanger. Shimmying into it, she stepped out of the closet and Kurt quickly clucked at her, adjusting the back and the hips until it fit perfectly. Standing back, he surveyed Rachel appreciatively. "You're ready. And I have to say, you've never looked so gorgeous."
The McKinley High School Junior/Senior Prom was the social event of Lima's high school community. Everybody who was anybody had a date and everybody who wasn't sat at home, crying into their ice cream as they watched Buffy reruns. (Although last year, when Rachel didn't have a date, she convinced fathers to take her to Chicago for the weekend because she didn't eat ice cream or particularly care for Buffy.)
Rachel gripped Matt's hand tightly as they stepped inside gym. Kurt, who was standing next to his boyfriend, let his eyes sweep over the decorations as his lips curled in disgust. "Holy mother of the House of Versace, who did these decorations? This is an embarrassment."
Rachel lifted her eyes and let them skim over the white and silvery crepe paper that seemed to transform the ceiling into a dizzying web of confusion. Below the crepe paper hung stars cut from what looked like cardboard or plastic. They had been spray painted with silver paint and then glitter had been haphazardly tossed at random intervals to make them sparkle.
"It's…interesting," Rachel mused, working to not fuel Kurt's revulsion into a full-on fit about his prom being ruined by tacky decorations.
Matt shrugged, looking up quickly before glancing back at the floor in total disinterest. "Looks fine to me."
"No one ever accused you of being a fashion maven, Matthew," Kurt admonished. "I'm pretty sure you're wearing your father's suit. Besides, did they have to take the theme of 'A Night Under the Stars' quite so literally? I mean, my god. Glitter is going to be falling from the ceiling all night. Someone's likely to cut his cornea or swallow it and choke! My blind grandmother could have decorated this gym with more flair and style."
Rachel looked up at the nearest star hanging above her and noticed that the edges were rough, the points of the star cock-eyed and with one missed by silver spray paint completely. "It's… Okay, it's a total disaster," she admitted.
Kurt snorted with laughter, pleased that his assessment was correct, before turning toward Sam to adjust his tie.
Rachel patted Matt's hand softly once Kurt was distracted. "Let's go find a table, okay?"
Matt nodded and Rachel waggled her fingers at Kurt and Sam before trailing off to find an unoccupied table. Matt pulled the chair out for Rachel and when she sat down, he dropped down next to her. Rachel noticed his eyes darting through the crowd, seeking a particular face.
"Do you see her?" Rachel asked.
Matt shook his head. "Nope. Do you see him?"
Rachel shook her head. "I'm not looking. I don't expect him to come and it's not like it matters anyway. I asked him…he said no. I'm not giving him any further consideration." Her voice faltered on the last word and Matt looked over at her. Then he leaned back in his seat and smirked. "We're pathetic, aren't we?"
Snorting, Rachel nodded. "Pretty much. But I'm serious, when you see Quinn tonight, you're going to ask her for a dance."
"I dunno, Rach…" Matt hesitated. "I brought you and I don't want to leave you."
"Matt! That's absolutely no excuse! You're dancing with her! I can dance with Finn or Artie or Kurt or Sam or Mike… I'll be fine, I promise."
"We'll see, Rachel…Look, you wanna dance?"
Matt held his hand out and Rachel placed hers in his. With dramatic flair, he swept her out on the floor. Minutes later, she was laughing as Matt and Mike danced circles around everyone else and she almost forgot all about her humiliation three weeks before.
Rachel watched him pack up his guitar and swallowed heavily. You can do this, Rachel. You can do this. You're an independent woman. Rachel blinked three times, squeezed her fists strongly, and marched over to him.
"Noah, can I speak with you for a moment?" As she spoke, she made sure her voice stayed confident and even.
Puck shut his guitar case and latched it close before turning toward Rachel. "S'up?"
Rachel shuffled, lifting one loafer up and then dropping the other one with a thud, and looked up at him, her eyes locking as she prepared her speech. "Noah, as you're aware, the prom is coming up. I did not attend my junior year. But now that it's my senior year, I think it's imperative that I attend the dance to ensure that my high school expericene isn't lacking for anything and—"
Puck sighed heavily. "Fuck, Rach…you gonna get to the point sometime today? I gotta pick up my sister."
Rachel's nerves started to falter due to his surly demeanor. She met his eyes again, batted her lashes and simply let the words fly. "Would you go to the prom with me?"
Puck seemed to flinch slightly as if her words carried weight. Then his eyes dropped to the ground before looking back up at Rachel. "No."
Rachel's mouth fell open and her eyes began to burn. She hadn't expected that answer. They'd been so flirty for months and had been getting along so well. And she'd confirmed through the McKinley grapevine that he wasn't going with anyone before she asked.
"Um…okay… Sorry to have bothered you then." Spinning on her heel, she was gone before she let her emotions show. She hadn't spoken to him since and he hadn't even bothered to look in her direction.
Pulling herself from the painful, embarrassing memory, she gulped to loosen the tightness in her throat and focused on her date. When the music switched to a slow song, Matt slid his arm smoothly around Rachel's waist and pulled her against him as they danced. His eyes searched the room again and Rachel watched his face break into a smile when he spotted his target.
"She looks amazing," he said softly. Rachel turned her head, seeking, and found Quinn about 10 feet away, dressed in a blush pink dress and silver heels with her hair piled high. Her arms were stretched up as she danced with Finn, both of them smiling as they chatted.
"You're asking her to dance," Rachel reminded him.
"Okay, okay!" Matt agreed, finally turning his head back toward Rachel.
They danced for a few minutes and then Matt observed, "It would make a lot of sense if you and I were interested in each other, wouldn't it? Everything would be so much easier."
"It would be, wouldn't it?"
"Sucks that I'm just not into you like that," Matt said with a laugh. Rachel gave him a half-smile and nodded. "I know…I understand…"
"But I'm not Puck," Matt added.
"And I'm not Quinn," Rachel said.
"You know," Matt began, cocking his head with a smile, "we're both really pathetic."
"You said that earlier," Rachel reminded him.
"It bears repeating," Matt said with a chuckle before he spun Rachel quickly and then dipped her, causing her to giggle.
Looking into his handsome brown eyes and beautiful smile, Rachel relaxed. They would both make the best of the night.
Two hours later, Rachel had danced with Finn, Artie, and Mike three times each. Her skin was covered in a thin sheen of sweat as the humidity of the crowded room seem to build and build until she was afraid her make-up was going to slide off. Matt was spinning her on the last note of a song when she playfully smacked his chest for making her dizzy. As she regained her footing, she noticed that Quinn was sitting alone at a table, gently fanning herself with a prom program.
"Matt!" she hissed. "Quinn's alone! Go ask her!"
Matt's head swiveled around recklessly until he spotted Quinn. His lips upturned and he looked at Rachel. "You know what? I think I'm gonna." Looking back at Quinn quickly, he asked, "You sure you're okay?"
Rachel nodded enthusiastically. "I'm going to go get some fresh air. Now go!" With a heavy push against his broad shoulders, Matt stumbled forward slightly until he caught himself. Rachel saw him take a deep breath, pull his shoulders back, and march toward Quinn.
Smiling and pleased with herself, Rachel slipped from the gym. Wandering through the halls of the school, she was relieved that the air seemed to cool the farther she got from the gym. Before she knew it, she was standing in front of the double-doors to the auditorium. Pulling them open, she slipped inside and carefully maneuvered down the steps in the dark toward the stage. Feeling along the wall, she flipped on the lights until the stage was partially lit. Then she climbed the steps and sat down in the middle of the stage. Once her dress was neatly arranged, she slowly reclined until she was flat on her back in the middle of the stage, her arms stretched out above her head. Closing her eyes, she let the coolness of the floor relax her.
This night hasn't been so bad.
It's okay that Noah didn't come.
Really, it is.
Opening her eyes again, she arched her back to stretch and pushed herself back up until she was sitting. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness in front of her, she registered a figure sitting in the front row and then she jumped up with a shriek. "Who's there?" she demanded.
"It's just me," the voice called. Rachel's brow furrowed deeply with frustration when she recognized Puck's voice. She watched as he hopped out of his seat and ran up onto the stage.
When he was standing in front of her, she looked away from him and out into the vast blackness of the auditorium before asking, "What are you doing here?"
"Dunno, really…Just felt like showing up."
Rachel huffed indignantly, ignoring the hurt that he'd show up for the prom and that he just hadn't wanted to go with her. When she continued to look everywhere but at him, Puck stepped in front of her line of sight until she darted her eyes away again.
Sighing, he shoved his hands in his pockets. "Look, Rach… dances and tuxes and flowers and dresses and limos and shit…that's not my thing."
Rachel shook her head angrily. "Noah, you can leave. I didn't need you to come to the prom and seek me out tonight just to explain to me why you refused me. I got the message loud and clear, thank you very much." She turned to leave but Puck shot his arm out, dropping it on her bare shoulder and gripping it with his fingers.
"Fuck…no, you didn't get the message because I'm shit at saying what I need to say." Puck used his strength to turn Rachel back toward him and almost smirked when her hands dropped to her hips and she glared at him defiantly.
"You have 90 seconds, Noah. After that, I'm leaving you here in the dark."
Puck dropped his hand from her shoulder and stared down at the floor. Darting his eyes back up to her, he said, "No, dances and all that shit aren't my thing but… fuck, Rachel… You… You're my thing. And I shoulda just manned up and agreed to come to the fucking prom with you because it woulda avoided all this bullshit but… I kinda make stupid decisions a lot."
Rachel enthusiastically bobbed her head in agreement and Puck glowered at her before continuing.
"And I told myself it didn't matter and then I sat at home tonight and imagined you dancing with Matt and Mike and I got pissed." Puck rubbed his hand over his hair and met Rachel's eyes. "And then I imagined you dancing with Artie – fucking Artie - and I started to get really mad. And then I realized that you'd probably dance with Finn a whole bunch and… hell no, that shit's not happening."
Rachel's hands slid from her hips and she crossed her arms, biting her lip to contain her smile. "Are you jealous? Noah? Are you jealous?"
"Maybe?" He looked around the stage. "No." Then he stepped toward Rachel and grabbed her around the waist. "Yes, fine, okay….yes. I'm jealous. I feel like your bitch right now because I'm basically baring my fucking soul here but yeah…I got jealous."
"And you regretted your crass and hurtful rejection of my invitation?" she asked with a sly smile as her hands slid up his t-shirt to rest on his shoulders.
"No," he corrected, "I don't regret telling you no because that prom sucks, I can tell that from here. But I regret making you sad and shit."
"That's…sweet?" Rachel said, her head cocked. Then she looked up at him, her eyes big and watery. "I'm your thing?"
Puck smirked crossed his arms. "Kinda…yeah. You're just… You're this… I… Fuck, Rach, I'm into you, okay?"
Rachel's heart quickened and she would have nearly let out a squeak of glee had she not been such a composed individual. Ignoring the rat-tat-tat of her happy heart, she casually asked him, "So…do you want to come back to the dance with me?"
Puck laughed and pulled her flush with his body. "What part of 'that dance sucks' are you not getting? I'm not going in there. But…you maybe wanna get outta here?"
Rachel grinned happily and arched up on her heels, nearly kissing Puck before she stopped. "Oh! Matt…I came with Matt, Noah. I'm sorry." Rachel stepped out of his embrace and stared down at her shoes, frustrated with herself for momentarily forgetting her friend and date.
Puck chuckled and grabbed again, tugging her to his side and tucking her against him. "I don't think you have to worry about him. I saw Quinn sucking Rutherford's lips off against a locker on my way in here."
Rachel's eyes lit up and she looked up at Puck. "Really? That's fabulous! My plan worked beautifully. I knew she liked him!" Focusing back on Puck, she linked her arm with his. "Okay, Noah…where are we going?"
Puck helped Rachel down the stage steps and flipped out the lights. "Dunno, Rach. But I've got a truck, a full tank of gas, and I'm all yours until your curfew."
"I don't have a curfew," Rachel told him as they carefully walked toward the door in the inky blackness of the room. When they reached the double doors, Puck stopped and turned toward Rachel in the dark.
"No curfew, huh?"
"Nope," Rachel said, tilting her head up to look at him.
"Wanna go to the lookout tower at the state park? It's dark and kinda creepy and sometimes it smells like piss but I bet you can see the stars tonight…and we both know how much you love those."
Nodding, Rachel pulled the door open a crack before Puck stopped her. Sliding his hand against her cheek, he kissed her tenderly before pulling away. Their eyes met in the soft shadowed light and Rachel lifted up, wrapping her arms around his neck, to kiss him again. When she pulled away, Puck exhaled hotly and smacked her on the behind. "C'mon, babe, let's go see those stars."