Sorry about the length of time between updates, guys. I got sick, and then my kids got sick, and after all that? My poor beta got sick! But anyways, thanks for the welcome, and enjoy. Kerri. X.
If I thought that I'd see gross displays of public affection, I was sorely disappointed. I saw Puck walking with Rachel - his arm draped casually around her shoulders, or her hand tucked through the crook of his arm. But I'd seen that numerous times before. I saw them sit together in class, but that was nothing new either. Nor were the whispered conversations between them, or the easy way Puck brushed his lips over the crown of her head. I'd seen all that. That was them - and I found myself as fascinated with them as I had always been.
Yes, I saw gentle brushings of his lips across hers between classes, but nothing that screamed 'get a room!' The days turned into weeks, and the girls still glared at Rachel, for taking Puck off the market. And when the weeks finally turned into a three-month relationship, the gossip turned to speculation as to whether or not they were having sex. Rachel wasn't talking, and after Puck punched Finn out for having the gall to even ask, people left them alone.
And as the days heated, and the school year ended, Puck and Rachel finished their Junior year, with the solid reputation as one of McKinley's powerhouse couples. Puck hadn't hooked up with any girls since well before Prom, and no one dared to call him a pussy for dating Rachel. He didn't hide their relationship, but that being said, he didn't flaunt it either. And when I saw Finn leaning against Rachel's locker and talking to Puck, I knew that Finn was finally seeing what I saw, and that he had finally forgiven Puck for last year.
As a group, we socialized together a fair bit over the summer vacation before our Senior year. Shopping trips with the girls, and lazy afternoons spent watching the boys shoot hoops. Barbeques down by the lake, and pool parties at Santana's. It was at a small pool party at Rachel's own home that I finally saw a kiss that lingered. But even then, it certainly hadn't been meant to be viewed.
I'd arrived a little earlier than the designated time, with the ready excuse that I wanted to help set up. The truth of the matter was, I wanted to see where Rachel lived. How she was within the privacy of her own home, in the safety of the family nest. And when I arrived, it didn't surprise me to see Puck's truck parked on the driveway. No one answered my knock, but when I peeked through the side gate that led to the backyard, I could hear soft laughter and splashing, so I let myself in.
The others in our group must have felt the same way I did, because Finn, Matt, Mike, Tina and Artie were already there. And as I opened the back gate, Mercedes and Kurt were pulling up behind Santana and Brittany. I found Rachel in the kitchen stirring a bowl of dip, and a surprising arrangement of fruit and raw vegetables on a platter. We exchanged greetings, and she thanked me for the salad I'd brought with me, before I found myself ushered into the backyard, where Puck was heating up the grill, while chatting with the others.
The afternoon wound down into early evening, and the others began to slowly gather up their belongings. When only Matt and I remained, that we too, said our good byes, and walked out the front. We talked for several minutes, before heading our separate ways with plans to meet up the following afternoon. It was only when I was sitting in the car that I realized I'd left my towel by the pool. Sighing in frustration, I got out the car, and slipped back through the gate, only to stop in my tracks.
They were in the pool together: Rachel was backing away from Puck, while laughing helplessly as he advanced on her. However, it was the look of satisfaction on his face that caught my attention. His bottom lip was caught between his teeth, while a predatory gaze darkened his features as he backed her into the corner at the shallow end of the pool. And when he boxed her into the corner with his arms, her laughter died away as he said her name in a thick voice. They stared at each other for a long moment, before he said her name again and pulled her into his arms.
Puck had kissed me before - that was no secret. But he'd never kissed me like that. He'd never kissed me, as if he was a man starving for oxygen. But that's how he kissed Rachel. He slid his fingers through her hair, causing the wet strands to twine around his fingers like rope, while he bound her closer to him with his free arm. And when Rachel slid her hands up his arms, and scrapped her nails across the back of his neck, his rough groan echoed in the sudden silence of the backyard.
With that groan, he was hitching her up into his arms, and cradling her bottom in his hands as he braced her against the edge of the pool. And braced there, Rachel tilted her head back, as he rained nips and kisses down the side of her throat to her clavicle, where her breath hitched. And it was that loud hitch in her breath that had him lifting his head. And as quickly as it had started, it was ending, and he was easing Rachel out of his arms, and moving a few steps away from her with a soft laugh.
It was breathed out, and he shook his head as Rachel smoothed her hands over her hair. Puck gestured to the steps of the pool, and then reached down to adjust himself.
"You'd better head inside, Rach."
Rachel frowned and took a step towards him, only to pause when he rubbed his hands over the back of his head, and then dragged them down over his face.
"If you stay, Rach, I'm gonna fucking eat you alive," he muttered. "If you stay, I'm gonna kiss you again. If I kiss you again, I'm gonna forget that I need to wait. I'm gonna forget that you aren't ready, and I'm gonna break you in half when I fuck you. So go. I'll be in to help you clean up soon. I just need a minute."
Rachel nodded as Puck turned his back on her, and laced his fingers together behind his neck.
Puck turned to face her as she lowered her eyes, and began to twist her fingers together
"Daddy always said that a smart girl took precautions when it came to sex. That it shouldn't be left up to her partner to make her safe, or to safe guard against pregnancy. He said that a real man wouldn't push her into anything she didn't want to do. That when I was ready to give myself to someone, that I had to make sure I was ready, that it was what we both wanted."
Rachel licked her lips slowly as Puck tilted his head slightly, before he crossed over to her. In that dying light, her hand shook as she held it out to him, and Puck's face tightened slightly with concern as he took her hand.
"I've waited nearly six months, Rach… You know I said I wouldn't push, and I haven't," he said in a low voice, and Rachel nodded as she tucked her hair behind her ear.
"I know. I went to the…. I'm on the pill, Noah… I have been for a couple of weeks now."
Her voice shook as she made her admittance, and he reached out to skim the backs of his knuckles over her jaw briefly.
"If you'd said that to me back in Sophomore year, I'd have had you on your back so fast your head would have spun," he said finally. "But…. fuck, I can't believe I'm about to say this, but no, Rach. Not tonight," he muttered, and Rachel flinched.
"Don't you want me?" she whispered, and Puck swore harshly as he reached out and jerked her into his arms.
"Fuck… of course I want you! I just don't want you to have sex with me, Rach, because it's what you think you should do. I want you to have sex with me, because it's what you want."
He cupped her face in his hands, and tilted her head back as his eyes searched her face. Rachel nodded slowly, and then reached up and brushed a chaste kiss over his lips, before burrowing her head into the dip of his shoulder as his arms tightened around her. And as they stood there holding each other, I slowly slipped away as a new picture of their relationship cemented itself in my mind.
Our Senior year started out quietly. There were whispers of disappointment, when Puck strolled in on our first day, with his arm tossed casually across Rachel's shoulders. Whispers of jealousy, and whispers of curiosity. Those whispers ran rampant through the halls of McKinley High, and through the Glee club as well. And when the Senior class were given their class rings, all eyes were trained on Puck's hand for weeks, as the students wondered if and when his ring would grace Rachel's hand.
The gossipers were too busy looking in the wrong place though - they never saw the dainty pink sapphire necklace that rested so gracefully below the dip of Rachel's throat. The jewel was a vibrant pink, fashioned into the shape of a heart, and given to Rachel on their six month anniversary. Mercedes dragged that admission from Rachel in our first Glee practice of the year. As Mercedes retold the story to the rest of us, she emphasized that Rachel had blushed as she confirmed that it had indeed come from Puck - I was left with the silent knowledge of what she had likely given to him. And then one Monday morning, I got the confirmation that I'd been watching for.
I'd often thought that Rachel would smell like flowers or freshly baked cookies or something equally kittenish. I learned I was wrong, when we were partnered up for an assignment in English. Rachel Berry smells like soap, and some sort of subtle body lotion. But it wasn't the scent of lotion that I could smell on her, as I sat beside her in class - it was the stronger, clean scent of the ocean. And as the crisp scent of Puck's soap filled my nose, Puck walked into class, and paused to brush his lips over Rachel's in greeting. And in watching that greeting, I saw Puck's eyes flicker shut momentarily over the top of Rachel's head, as he breathed in deeply.
With his eyes shut, his feelings were written all over his face. He liked smelling his soap on Rachel, in the way that a man likes smelling his scent on a woman after sex. The look on his face spoke volumes - it was territorial, speaking of a deeper feeling than just love. It was satisfaction and desire and contentment and the deeply seated knowledge that he had possessed her completely. But then he was drifting away, and Rachel turned back to face me. And when our eyes met, that knowledge was confirmed in the delicately stained color of her cheeks.
We continued to stare at each other, until the teacher spoke suddenly and the moment was broken. Rachel bent her head back over her book, and even though I did the same, my mind was traveling back and forth between time and place. I couldn't help the thoughts that filtered through my mind, even as I internally recoiled from them. The thought of her experiencing what I once had…. I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Sadness. Happiness. Jealousy. Regret. Relief. Pain.
Had she been slightly drunk on wine coolers and a healthy dose of self pity too? And when that thought flittered through my mind, I flinched at my own pettiness. I knew that he loved her, that he loved her enough to have waited. I couldn't see him doing rose petals and candle light. But I could see him taking his time. Slowly mapping out each centimeter of skin that was revealed to him, first with his fingers, and then with his lips. Had chills broken out over her body, at the feeling of those calloused fingertips gliding over skin that had never been touched before? Had she shivered, at the forbidden thrill of teeth scraping over her hip bones?
Had she seen just how dark the color green could be, as he'd sucked his bottom lip between his teeth, and stared down at her through barely opened eyes? Had he paused to brush her hair back over her head, after that first initial moment of pain? Had she experienced any pain, or had she been with him in that moment? Had his groan sounded as if it had been torn from the pit of his stomach, as he'd pressed slightly sloppy kisses to her shoulder and throat as he'd lost himself in her? How had she felt, with his full weight pressing her down into the mattress, and his breath ghosting over her skin?
I swallowed thickly, to fight back the bile that was threatening to rise into my throat. And in swallowing, I also fought back tears, as I raised my hand and asked for a bathroom pass. Once inside the girl's bathrooms, I locked myself in the toilet, and gave way to what I was feeling. Puck's words from the library floated back to me, and sent a new wave of tears streaming down my cheeks. I had thought that he'd always be there, waiting for me to make up my mind. That he'd still want me, after all that we'd shared. And in my treatment of him, I'd sent him into the arms of another girl. And as much as I wanted to hate Rachel for that, I knew that I only had myself to blame.
My own private epiphany/pity party opened my eyes. And in opening my eyes, I took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror. And for the first time since I had first become pregnant, I didn't like what I saw looking back at me. And after spending most of the weekend deep in thought, I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to apologize to Puck for how I had treated him, so that I could move on. The thought of that, of how he was going to react, made me feel sick. But the knowledge that I had had made him feel worse, was what had me knocking on his front door just after nine on a Sunday morning.
His sister Sarah answered the door, and when she saw me, her face became carefully blank. Seeing that look on her face, and knowing that I'd seen it on Puck's numerous times before, had me smiling politely. Even though Sarah was only thirteen, there was a closeness between her and Puck, that had been born due their mother working night shift, and Puck raising Sarah from an early age. And upon seeing that look on Sarah's face, I knew the younger Puckerman wasn't ignorant to what had happened between her brother and me.
"Hi, Sarah. Is Puck home?"
Her nose wrinkled slightly, and her voice was cool when she answered.
"Puck? Noah's home, Quinn. But Puck? He doesn't live here anymore."
I licked my lips, and tried not to flinch at the unforgiving look I was receiving out of eyes the same shade and shape as her brothers.
"All right… Is… is Noah home?"
Noah. It felt strange on my tongue. He'd always been Puck to me. But Sarah had tilted her head, and a strange smile toyed with the corners of her lips for a moment, before she shrugged and pulled the door open a little wider.
"He's upstairs in his room. Mama worked last night, so watch it on the fourth step. She's sleeping."
I nodded as I slipped past her, but while I headed up the stairs, I wondered at the small smirk that had played across her lips as she'd flounced back to the living room, where MTV was playing at a subdued level. Puck's door was ajar, and when I pushed it open, it only took a second for my eyes to adjust to the darkened room. And when they adjusted, I knew what the smirk on Sarah's face had been for, and I silently applauded her direct yet subtle slap at me.
Puck and Rachel were still asleep in bed, with the covers kicked half off as they lay curled together. I'd lived with Puck for three months before I moved in with Mercedes. I'd shared a bed with him the entire time. He'd slept on his back, and had made no move to touch me each night. It had been like sleeping with a brother - purely platonic. He had his side of the bed and I'd had mine, and there had been an invisible line drawn down the centre of those crisp white sheets, that neither one of us dared cross.
But here, in the warmth of his room, he didn't sleep on his back. He slept curled around her, and she wore him like a second skin. Her head was cradled by the dip of his shoulder, and her body was surrounded by his. His arms were wrapped around her, and the fingers of his left hand were tucked under the waist band of her pajama pants. But more than that, it was the look of peace on his face, even as he pressed it into the mass of dark hair that spilled across the pillows.
My eyes drifted to Rachel, who was so small compared to him. Her hand was curled up towards her face, her fingers curled around his arm as it crossed her chest. And while I watched them, Rachel shifted, as if feeling the weight of my scrutiny even in her sleep. She frowned, huffed, and rolled over. Puck's arms tightened momentarily, before he loosened them, allowing her to shift. And when she buried her nose in his chest, his arms tightened back around her as he snuffled softly.
I don't know what was worse: seeing them like this, as innocent as it was, due to the pink pajama bottoms that Rachel wore, that had bright yellow ducks marching all over them. Or knowing that they'd had sex the night before, if the torn and empty condom wrappers on the floor were anything to go by. I backed away silently, and made my way down the stairs. But as I went to open the door, Sarah said my name quietly, and I turned back to face those cool green eyes.
"Did you want me to tell Noah that you stopped by?" she asked, and I shook my head slowly.
Her lips tilted into a crooked smile, yet the coolness of her eyes didn't warm. And as I made my way home, I managed a small smile myself, as I thought about Sarah. William McKinley High would be in for a shock, when the younger Puckerman began to walk its halls, while the ghost of her older brother's reputation kept her safe from slushy facials, and the meanness of the girls who would wear the Cheerio's uniform. And as that thought filtered through, I came to a standstill, and winced. His reputation, would keep her safe, from girls like me.
The school year slowly came closer and closer to Graduation. And as it did, I still watched them. I saw the small moments, the big moments, and all of those in between. The kisses between class, and the light that lit up Rachel's eyes when she found the single pink rose in her locker on their one year anniversary. And on that day, Puck's class ring found its way onto Rachel's hand. I saw his direct way of calming her down when stress took its toll, and she became 'Scary Crazy Rachel' or SCR for short. And I saw the way she could defuse his temper with nothing more than a stroke of her fingers across that stubborn jaw. I saw their love.
I also saw their joy, as their plans for the future began to solidify after they were both accepted into the New School, in New York City. I don't think any of us, except for Rachel and Mr. Schue, knew that Puck had even applied. But that well guarded secret showed why Puck had changed his ways last year, and had begun to apply himself to his school work. And when he walked in and handed Rachel a letter with a boyish grin on his face, we all saw her scream, and then throw herself at him as her words ran into each other in her excitement.
And as quickly as that, we had graduated and we were gathering at Rachel's home to wave them off after a noisy breakfast of pancakes and syrup. And as the car backed out of the drive way, my eyes met Puck's and for one moment, I felt the excitement that he did. And then they were gone. Standing in the warm morning sun, surrounded by my fellow gleeks, I didn't know that I wouldn't see them again for another four years, and that when I did, the pain I felt as I waved good-bye to them, would pale in comparison.
As the years drifted past, we scattered towards our different futures. I headed to Virginia for school, and left my past behind me as I did. I concentrated on school, and made some new friends. I tried dating, but the ghosts from my past held me back. But being away from Lima let me gain strengths in other areas, and during my second year of school, I finally let go of the past, and looked towards my own future. But I heard snippets of information on the others through Matt and Santana. I heard more through Kurt and Mercedes.
Whispers of how Finn and Brittany had discovered each other, and had fallen in love. Murmurs of how Artie and Tina had broken up, and made up, only to break up once more, when Tina and Mike fell in love at Asian camp. And tales of how well Puck was doing at school. How he had left behind the boy I had called a Lima Loser, and was going from strength to strength. He was excelling in musical composition. And he and Rachel were as strong as ever.
Phone calls filled with gossip, as Rachel found her feet in New York, where bitchy cheerleaders were a thing of the past, as was being called man-hands, and being Slushied daily. Surprise evident in Santana's voice, when she called to tell me that Rachel and Puck had moved in together, in some shitty little apartment in Soho. And four years later, Matt drove down to tell me face-to-face, that Puck and Rachel were headed back to Lima after they graduated - they wanted to come home.
Four years is a long time when you think about it. I had kept Puck in my mind as he'd been when I'd last seen him - the boy I had watched during high-school. But reality has a way of slapping your face when you least expect it too, and when we gathered at Santana's for a barbeque, I saw how wrong my memories really were, when I walked in and saw the group all together for the first time in four years.
Puck was talking to Finn, as Finn grilled burgers and nodded. And as I drank the sight of Puck in, I followed his arm down, which was wrapped around Rachel, who stood in front of him. And in that moment, time ground to a stand still for me, and I saw the reason why they had wanted to come home. Because although his arm was wrapped around Rachel, it was his left hand that held all my attention. His hand, that was idly moving over the gentle curve of Rachel's belly, while a simple gold band glinted dully on his ring finger.
I don't know how long I stood there staring. But when a hand took mine, I looked up into Matt's sympathetic eyes, and saw the knowledge that shone in them as he gently tugged me away. And when he wrapped his arms around me, he whispered that Rachel was six months pregnant. They had gotten married in New York three months ago, and were planning on holding a simple ceremony at home for their family and friends.
I can't tell you what I ate that night, or what else we spoke and laughed about. But I can tell you this. Puck was happy. It was evident in every word he spoke, and every gesture that he made. And as I made my excuses and left, I was barely able to hold it together. I made it as far as the driveway before my name was called, and I turned back to see Rachel standing there, her hands curved around her belly, and a strange expression on her face as she made her way towards me. And standing there, she reached out to me, and apologized.
That was the reality slap that I needed. What did she have to apologize for? But then it hit me, as a memory of her and Puck in the library flashed to the front of my mind. Of Rachel telling Puck that he needed to sort out his feelings for me, and how they hadn't gotten together for nearly a year after that. She'd put aside what she felt for him, because of me. She'd waited, because she'd known I loved him. And if he'd turned to me back then, she would have put aside how she felt, and let him go.
I saw sympathy and the fear of rejection in her eyes as she waited for me to speak. To accept her apology for what it was, or to reject her offer of what I really needed. And when I reached out and laid my hand on the gentle curve of her stomach, I felt movement, and grinned at her. Tears of knowledge swam in my eyes, when she lifted her hand and covered mine. I finally realized that for all the time I had spent watching Puck, Rachel had been watching me.