A/N: Puckleberry of course. The title is from Shakespeare's "All's Well That End's Well."
I hope you enjoy, and I'd love to know what you think!
It's late and the party is starting to wind down by the time Puck slips out the kitchen door onto the back porch and sinks into a chair, resting his feet up on the rail. The porch light is off, but the moon is full and he doesn't need much light anyway, just wants to get away from everyone and crack open a beer. The noise from the party is muffled out here. He can still hear the thump of the music, but not the words and he can tell that one of the girls is singing (hell, most of the gleeks are still there, so by definition, someone is always singing) but he can't tell who it is. He tilts his head, listens hard for a second. It's not Berry, anyway, but beyond that, no idea.
He could go back in, find Mike or Matt to hang with, or Santana's probably fucking someone over in beer pong in the basement, or even he could even shoot the shit with Artie, dude's a fucking funny drunk. But this is kind of good too. Just out here chilling, letting go of the craziness of the day, first walking at graduation (and face it, a tiny part of him couldn't believe that Figgins had actually handed over the diploma,) and the performance they had staged for all the graduates, and then his mom hugging him tight and for once, her tears were the happy kind.
So he's celebrating. He's getting the hell out of Lima, even out of Ohio, University of Maryland in the fall, and not a fucking minute too soon.
He's ready to be somewhere else.
When Berry crosses his line of vision, she's in the backyard twirling on the grass. It kind of makes her her dress stand out and he'd totally be up for sitting back and trying for a look at her panties, but then she stumbles a little bit and he tenses and bites out a quiet curse.
She's drunk or on her way there judging by the look of her and by the way she's been throwing back that fruity shit Tina's been mixing up all night. Whatever. Tina can hold her liquor. Berry? Who knows? He's never seen her loaded or even close, she's a one glass of wine with dinner girl or a hold a beer to have something to do with her hands girl.
He crushes the beer can and stows it under the chair for Santana's mother to find tomorrow (he's kind of a dick that way) and it's not a great idea, but he's not going to let her do a header into a flowerbed or anything. Fucking Hudson. He's like six inches from her elbow at all times, has been for the last two years, so where the fuck is he now, when he should be making sure she doesn't kill herself?
He digs his hands into his pockets as he crosses the lawn and she turns and smiles, no she beams, when she sees him.
"Hello Noah! It's lovely out, isn't it? Have you seen the stars?"
Totally unsurprising. She's a happy drunk.
"What are you doing out here, Berry?" He's aware that he sounds a little unfriendly, but he figures it's better than the alternatives.
"Looking for my shoes," she says, wiggling her toes in the grass, "Finn's taking me out to the reservoir and I know it may seem silly looking for shoes when the entire purpose of the trip is to swim, but I love those shoes. They match my dress!"
Swim? Is she going to the same reservoir that he goes to? 'Cause that's pretty low on his list of activities. Unless...
"Hudson taking you skinny-dipping?"
"Noah!" The tone is scandalized, but then she ruins it by giggling and looking mischievously up at him through her lashes. "I brought a swimsuit!"
He's seen her idea of a swimsuit once or twice. (Probably would have lost his shit too, if years of watching the skirts hadn't toughened him up.)
Anyway, she's fine, a little tipsy, but not slurring her words. He can leave, go back to his beer or his celebrating or whatever. Instead, for some reason, he moves closer, following her as she makes a beeline to the old swing set in the back corner of the garden.
She takes a seat on the swing and it almost makes him smile because she's kind of tiny and between that and the baby doll sundress she's wearing, she'd look like a kid if you didn't happen to notice the curves. Of course, that train of thought makes it a given that he's now staring at her boobs, but so what. She's hot. He notices, all right? But probably luckily, she's oblivious, just gives herself a push, bare feet skimming the grass and he watches her, leaning against the support in case she falls or something.
He should go. He's not nearly drunk enough for this shit. And he's got an early start tomorrow.
But then she smiles up at him and holds out her hand and says, "Come and swing with me."
He doesn't know why he's suddenly thinking about 'Run Joey Run,' except maybe that's the last time she'd asked him to do something that probably wasn't going to turn out well. And yeah, he'd done it then too, so it probably shouldn't have been a surprise that he's gingerly seating himself on the swing next to hers.
"I can't believe it's all over! And the funny thing is, now that it is over, I'm going to miss everyone, even horrible Kurt! I want you to know Noah, that even when I take NYU by storm before inevitably becoming the internationally acclaimed star that all my talent and hard work and drive deserves, I'll remain a true friend. In fact, I'll always be there for all of you!" And then she looks a little guilty. "Except for Quinn," she stage-whispers it to him like it's some kind of secret. "She hates me. Actually, she's kind of a bitch, Noah."
No shit. He's been aware of that for years, since junior high, and still he's gotten stung by it again and again, most recently and spectacularly when they had crashed and burned during (during!) Regionals, junior year.
Whatever. He's a slow learner.
And since then? Times it by a million.
He has to force his eyes away from exhibit B: the girl next to him, her hair down, the hem of her dress riding up, leading to an awesome expanse of thigh and who knows, probably 'Finn Hudson's girl' tattooed on her ass.
Still, he's got to laugh because she's fooling herself, she really is. Always going to be there? It's the fucking work of a moment to leave someone. Holding on, that's the hard part.
"You'll shake the dust of this town off your heels so fast, our heads are going to spin. Not like they aren't already."
"No!" she protests, pouting up at him.
"Yes, Berry," he says lightly. "But shit, it's not so bad is it? Thinking of the rest of us losers stuck here, bragging that we used to know you?"
"You're not stuck here Noah. And you're certainly no loser." she says, her brow wrinkling in a frown.
He shrugs. "If I'm out, it's because you helped me."
"I just gave you the application form, you did all the work."
He rolls his eyes at her. "Yeah and you found that crazy scholarship, and got Figgins to call the admissions office and got Artie to tutor me in fucking pre-calc, so I'd have the math credits."
"You aren't supposed to know about that!" she says and suddenly she's looking down at her hands in her lap, embarrassed, which isn't what he wanted at all.
"Why not?" he asks, but he's pretty sure he knows the answer. Finn would freak the fuck out if he found out.
Here's the thing. He's rebuilt some kind of friendship with Hudson, but it's not like it was before he and Quinn busted it to hell like a pair of spoiled kids playing with a shiny new toy. This friendship is based on playing things (sports, video games), or sometimes petty crime (vandalism and a little pot, hardly counts). Outside of that, they don't do crap together. Especially not where Rachel is concerned. Dude is like a dog with a bone. Puck doesn't really blame him. History and shit.
So Rachel helping him out? So not okay with her boyfriend and he thinks that she must be aware of that. Truth is though, she's not stupid, not even close, but he's never been sure exactly what she's aware of with all that. (It doesn't keep him up night. Much.)
She doesn't have a real answer for him, or maybe she just wants to change the subject. "I was glad to be able to help, but really, it was nothing."
And this is absolutely something he knows about her. She's always helping people, even when there's shit-all in it for her. So, yeah, she probably considers it nothing, or just some super-secret volunteer work or something. Maybe she's collecting merit badges. He refuses to be stupid enough to mind.
She sighs, leans back in the swing, pushing herself gently. "So tell me Noah, what are your plans for the summer? Are you continuing with your pool cleaning business?"
He glances at her sharply, trying to figure out if she's just trying to get a jab in, but no, she just honestly wants to know.
"Nope. I've got a job in Michigan, doing roofing for some construction company my mom's cousin works at. Can't say I'm looking forward to fourteen hour days on top of a ladder, but the money's good." He smiles at her, one of those genuine smiles that she seems to be able to pull from him from time to time. "I gotta to cover the housing money somehow. I'm headed out tomorrow at 6:00. Shit's packed and everything."
"Why don't I know about this? Does Finn know?" she demands, staring at him.
"No one does. It just kinda came up." (Three months ago.) He shrugs. "Besides, goodbyes suck."
"Finn is going to be so upset!"
Is she kidding? He'd bet a benjamin and whatever's left of the chronic lady in the glove compartment that Finn is going to be thrilled to see the back of him.
"I'll call him next week." Or Mike, or Matt. It'll get around. Eventually.
She looks...he can't figure it out, she looks kind of pissed, or sad maybe and he really shouldn't think about that, the way she's still just looking at him.
Things stretch out.
They both jump a little when they hear Finn's voice calling out her name from somewhere.
"That's Finn," she says unnecessarily, a little breathlessly. "You should...you really ought to come say goodbye to him."
Finn calls again, and he's getting that panicky note that he gets, which irritates the shit out of Puck, because god, she's never done anything but be right there by his side. He should know.
He stands up abruptly. "Nah. I've gotta go. Early start, remember? Besides Berry, I told you. Same thing, right?" he says and it's a little mean, because it's a dead cert that he is NEVER a topic of conversation between the two of them.
"You did tell me. I guess that means we finally must be friends." She rises, smoothing her dress down and then looks at him uncertainly. "Well then, this is goodbye for now, Noah."
She reaches up to kiss his cheek and he doesn't dare move but he can feel the muscle in his jaw clenching and her hand on his wrist burns him. And he fucking hopes she leaves quick. (Only he doesn't really want her to leave at all.)
She pulls away staring at him, and then for a second that look in her eyes, it's not so innocent, like maybe she's figuring something out and he kind of hates himself for that, because what the hell's the point now?
Finn calls again and he's getting closer and she's running towards the house, throwing a last glance at at him over her shoulder and then she's gone.
"We aren't friends Rachel," he says to no one at all, the taste of her name unexpected and sweet on his lips.