Author's note:

So, this was written for a prompt over at puckrachel on livejournal, and the original prompt was this: "What's wrong with you? Chicks always want to reform a bad boy, but you always pick the fuckin' good guy that wants to run away from you and go with another girl. Pick me! Reform me!" Obviously I could not resist. Although it sort of took a life of its own, I am not sure I like it (so plenty of praise would not go amiss).

Puck comes out a little bit out of character. And I apologize for that.

Disclaimer: If I owned Glee, I would be able to have a serious conversation regarding the portrayal of women. Sadly, I cannot have this conversation, because I do not own glee.

In Which Puck is a Badass and Rachel Stands up for him

Noah learned in third grade the value of being a badass. He was an active child, climbing up trees, and doing things on his bike that would turn his mother's hair white if she knew about them. Being an active child is all well and good, except that it has a nasty effect on clothes, and Noah frequently came home with holes in his jeans and stains on his shirt. No matter how hard his mother tried, she could not quite get all of the stains out, or mend the jeans to the point where you could not tell they had been ripped. Because she also could not afford to buy her son new clothes, Noah went to school in his tattered clothes.

Dave Karofsky, in particular, took exception to Noah's attire, and after a week of teasing, Noah took exception to Dave's face. It was the first time that he had ever punched anybody, and he had not made his fist quite right – he'd tucked his thumb into his fingers – and so it hurt dreadfully. Before his eyes could well up, a small girl wearing a dress the color of strawberries stepped between him and Dave – who was sitting on the cold cement, and he was definitely crying.

She grabbed the hand he had punched Dave with (he hissed, quietly, but she noticed and grabbed his other hand without saying a word), and dragged him to the swings, where she proceeded to attempt to push him, even though Noah was in third grade, and could swing on her own, and even though she was absolutely tiny.

He got off of the swing when he saw the teacher storming towards him, a stern middle aged woman, who wore her faith like armor, and who had taken offense at both his mother's new, unmarried status, and the Star of David she wore around her neck. She glared at both him and the girl who, Noah thought, was definitely the girl in his class who was always at the front, waving her arm around, it had never occurred to him to wonder, before now, why she was never called on.

"Noah Puckerman", she said, and it was startling to hear that name. His mother had changed all of their names back to her maiden name, but he still wasn't used to it. "Why did you punch David?" He gulped, nervously, this was the first time he had ever been in trouble, and he didn't know what to say. He was suddenly terrified that they were going to call his mother. She would stare at him with the disappointed eyes, and he would want to do anything to make her stop, it was going to involve him doing the dishes for a very long time.

Before he could answer, though, the girl did. "Mrs. Cope?" The woman sneered before redirecting her attention.

"Yes Rachel?" Noah made sure to remember that name.

"Noah couldn't have punched Dave." Noah turned to gape at her. She was lying to an adult, something that was very much against all of the rules. "Noah was pushing me on the swings, and then I was pushing him on the swings all recess."

"Are you saying that David is lying to me?" Mrs. Cope looked like she did not quite believe Rachel.

"Yes", Rachel replied stubbornly, moving between Noah and the teacher.

"He has a bruise on his cheek." Mrs. Cole glared, daring Rachel to come up with an explanation. Luckily for Noah, Rachel was more than ready to do so.

"I saw him fall off the monkey bars." She pointed, her face suddenly all innocence. Mrs. Cole turned to look, as if to confirm that it was possible to see the monkey bars from where they were standing.

"Why would he lie to me?"

"I don't know" Rachel's voice was sugar sweet. "I thought lying was wrong?"

Mrs. Cole pursed her lips and turned back to Noah. "I'll be watching you." She then turned away and walked off. Noah turned to stare at his savior, but before he could say anything the bell had rung, and it was time for them to head into the building.

Mrs. Cole stayed out to watch recess every day for the next week, but Noah did not need to punch any one. Dave and all his friend shied away from him, and for the rest of the year, every time he came to school with bruises from his dubious bike escapades, he said they were from a fight.

By the end of the year he had gained the reputation that would follow him his entire academic career. He had also learned the first benefit of being a badass:

Boys were scared of badasses.

In eighth grade Noah, who had transitioned to Puck, became aware of the second reason why being a badass rocked.

He'd just shaved his head, and came to school with a Mohawk for the first time. Immediately, walking through the doors he felt amazing. The boys – except of course for his boys – all shied away, and the girls, just beginning to develop, all shy smiles and blushes started smiling and blushing more. He even heard Santana and Quinn giggling as he passed.

In his first period (English, he thought, but maybe history, he should definitely check) Santana had boldly dropped a note on his desk as she hurried to her desk:

Puck,

Wanna go to the movies with me on Friday? My brother will drive.

Circle: Yes or No

Puck had smirked, it was a look he had practiced in the mirror the night before, and he was eager to try it out. Judging by the fact that Santana, who was looking eagerly at him, blushed and looked down, he judged it successful. When she was looking at him again, he balled up the paper and shrugged. He would have to ask his mother, but that was hardly something that he could tell Santana, badasses do not do parental permission.

She looked crushed, and he momentarily felt bad, before shrugging to himself. He'd make her week when he agreed to go with her. Before he could dwell on the matter, Mrs. Fox came in, triggering his need to put his head down. As soon as class started, so would his nap – 7:30 was too early to be up anyway. He and Mrs. Fox had fought about it at the beginning of the year. She'd been determined to be the teacher who reached him, and he'd been determined not to be reached. Eventually she had given up.

This time, however, her eyes had narrowed when she looked at him. "Mr. Puckerman, what is that on your head?" Automatically he reached up to check, but he didn't feel anything but his freshly shaved hair. So he answered.

"My hair?" He had not meant to sound like a smartass, but when the class snickered, he was certainly not displeased.

"Yes. Very funny. Are you aware that Mohawks are against school dress code?" he had not been aware of that, but he did not particularly care, so he shrugged again.

"Mr. Puckerman, this is the last straw. I am going to have to send you to the principal's office." He stared at her, wondering what she thought she was doing. She'd been trying to portray herself as the 'cool teacher' all year, and had refused to so much as give a detention.

While he was sitting, the teacher opened her mouth again, but she was interrupted.

"Excuse me Mrs. Fox?" Now that she had her attention, Rachel Berry – what on earth was she wearing? – waited patiently to be acknowledged.

"Yes Rachel?" it was said with a sigh, that was how all of the teachers addressed Rachel Berry, and it was a good bit nicer than the way the students did.

"Technically, Noah's hair does not violate any school rules. The only rules on record about hair prohibit abnormal colors, and Noah's hair is still brown. Furthermore, I personally object to our school attempting to stifle creativity in students. While I, personally, do not want blue hair, I resent being told that I cannot have it. Our bodies are our own, and the school system attempting to control them speaks of unpleasant things."

She opened her mouth to speak again, but Mrs. Fox cut her off. "Yes, very well, Mr. Puckerman. You may stay." He was not sure that this was a good thing, but he turned to look at Rachel, remembering, now, the first time she had stood up to an authority figure for him.

He stayed in class that day, but, just to make a point, he showed up the next day with a blue Mohawk. His classmate's gaped, and Mrs. Fox did send him to the principal, but he saw Rachel smother a smile, and did not wonder at all why that made him feel so good.

That Friday he took Santana to the movies, he'd paid and gotten to second base in the darkened theaters.

That was the week he learned the second reason why being a badass rocked:

Boys feared you, and girls wanted you.

By the time Puck was a sophomore he was well versed in all the reasons being a badass was awesome. In addition to the money he made off of Jew-fro alone, he was confident in saying that he had received more tail than anyone in the school, and everyone knew it.

Of course he played up the bad boy image (people were under the misconception that he was failing all of his classes because he just didn't care, but that would never fly at home, and he quietly brought home B's for his mother), and he truly enjoyed it. Which meant that that was the year everything had to change, he'd gotten Quinn pregnant, fallen in love with Rachel I-put-stickers-after-my-name Berry, and the wannabe punks he thought he had put squarely in their places began to get ideas.

He had not meant to have sex with Quinn. Not that anyone would believe that. Finn, though, was his boy, and he knew how upset he would be. Finn was a commitment sort of guy, and while Puck could not personally understand it, he loved his friend enough to put up with it.

But that had been a bad night, people let Quinn off because she was drunk and feeling fat, but the truth that he was also drunk, and feeling sick with jealousy over Finn (Finn who had the perfect girl, and who was the star quarterback of a team that never won anything, and who was popular despite the fact that he could not count higher than ten unless he took his shoes off) would not have been acceptable. So he just shrugged when anyone asked. They took from it what they wanted to.

As much as he did not mean to have sex with Quinn (and then knock her up) he even more did not mean to fall in love with Rachel. He didn't know how it had happened. He had started dating her to get his mother off his back, even though she was annoyingly high maintenance, and she had no boobs. But she was surprisingly hot, despite the lack of cleavage, and surprisingly willing to make out.

After his initial reaction to her girlish room, he had actually found it sweet, and, after the slushy incident, he found her marvelous. It was sticky humiliation, and after having it happen to him once he wanted to end everyone who had a hand in it. He had lost count of the number of times he had done it to her, this amazing and forgiving girl who had stood up for him multiple times, and yet still she stood in the bathroom, gently washing his 'hawk, the same one she had defended when he had first gotten it.

She had told him that she would understand when he chose football over her. It was her quiet certainty that he would choose football, and her acceptance of that fact, that convinced him not to. Even then he had not loved her, he had been fond with her, and he had certainly wanted to get his hands up her skirt. She'd definitely been right when she told him that he was not going to break up with her.

He'd marveled at her, had wanted to know more about the girl underneath her diva exterior. She'd broken up with him, had seen him staring at Quinn, and admitted that she was half in love with Finn (and if he had thought he was jealous when he slept with Quinn, he did not know how he was going to define this). He'd opened his mouth to tell her that he had not even thought about Quinn since they had gotten together, but she had flat out admitted that she was partially in love with Finn, and he could not stand to make himself so vulnerable when there was not even a chance that it would pay off. So instead he told her that they had never been friends.

He'd needed to hurt her like she had hurt him.

He'd tried not to think of her. He was, after all, the biggest badass in school, no matter what Karofsky seemed to think, and he could still have any woman he wanted. He'd gone back to Santana, it was easy, and the sex was great, and he did not feel any more for her than a mild fondness. But as hard as he'd tried, it was hard to avoid thinking of her.

For someone so tiny, she had a disconcerting ability to take up an entire room, and he spent more than one Glee rehearsal just staring at her. He'd wanted to be angry with her when she told Finn about the baby, but he could not quite manage it. He had always known that she wanted Finn, and Rachel was the type of person that would do anything to get something that she wanted. And, to be honest, it was not as though he had not wanted to tell Finn every day since he had found out about the baby. He had even started to a few times, before remembering Quinn calling him a Lima Loser – letting her do what she wanted really was the only thing he could do for it.

Their eyes had met in the hallway, and he finally understood what people meant when they said you could read what people are thinking in their eyes. 'I'm sorry' her eyes said 'I never wanted this to happen. I wasn't thinking. I'm here for you'.

He liked to imagine that she could read his: 'It's okay. It wasn't really your fault. I forgive you' in his eyes, but there was really no way to be certain that she did. Regardless, on the bus to sectionals, when everyone else was glaring at him, clearly blaming him for Jew-fro being anywhere near them, Rachel (who had the most reason to object to having him on the bus) sat down right next to him.

She started rambling about things that did not make much sense. And he had zoned out, paying attention to nothing but the sound of her voice. It was not nearly as abrasive as he had thought it was. When she was not shrieking about losing solos, it was lilting and sweet like the rain, and he wanted to close his eyes and let it was over him, cleaning his soul, but it was not a particularly long bus ride, and soon enough he was stepping off the bus, and listening to their competition stealing their set list.

Finn had swept in to save the day, and after that he and Rachel were a couple.

A few times he had wanted to talk to her:

"I'm glad you, at least, got the one you wanted" he would not mention that the two of them could never have the person they wanted at the same time, because Quinn meant no more to him than he meant to Rachel (this is not technically true. Quinn is the mother of his child, and he loves her for that, if nothing else).

Or, instead:

"Is he everything you thought he would be?" What would go unmentioned this time is that Puck would be anything for her. He would change anything if she would just smile at him, if she would hold his hand again, and admire his guns. He might even go to math class.

But these thoughts frightened him, though he would not admit it. He was not entirely certain that he would be able to stop himself from mentioning the parts of his thoughts he knew had no place outside his head. They would linger on the air, awkward and heavy and too much. Added to that, he was not entirely certain how to bring up the conversation, she had taken him at his word when he said they were not friends. Now all they had was loaded glances and Puck's imagination.

Before he could find a way to bring up his questions without making a fool of himself, Finn had broken up with Rachel. He'd wanted to stretch his wings (and his dick) with Brit and Santana. He had watched as it destroyed Rachel, and again he wanted to tell her:

"If it had been me, I would never have done this. I would have waited. I know you don't believe me, I know my reputation, and it's true. But for you? For you I would have waited"

But again, this was too much, and he would not scare her away now that she saw Finn for the douche he really was and he finally had a real chance. He also did not want to think that there was a chance Rachel, his forgiving diva, would not believe him, that she would think it was just a tool for him to get into her pants.

So, instead, the next time he saw her, all he got out was "'sup Berry?" She had smiled at him, but she hadn't answered.

He was planning his move when Jesse came along. Jesse was perfect for her, all immaculate curls and jazz hands. Puck had hated him, but not for the reasons everyone else did. He'd hated that, unlike Finn, this was a boy who could make Rachel happy, and he hated that there was every chance that he would not. He did not think that Rachel would ever do anything to jeopardize the club, but he still did not trust Jesse. Rachel trusted people, even people who did not deserve to be trusted.

He'd moved the list off of her locker because there was no way it would not hurt her, and there was not a version of himself, now, that wanted her to be hurt. And he'd agreed to do the stupid 'Run, Joey, Run' video with her, because she had asked, and he was not sure he could deny her anything. Not that she ever asked him for anything. He sang, harder than he had ever sung, had done everything that she wanted him to; 'look at me' he said with every movement 'look what I will do for you, only for you.'

And so it had hurt him when he found out that he had been triple cast, but he had forgiven her as soon as he thought about it. This was Rachel, her brain did not work quite like everyone else's, and he honestly believed she had not thought about how it would hurt people. She did not understand that all three of them wanted her, badly, and that she was taunting two of them with images of things they could not have.

Finn was panting after he like a puppy, it was pathetic, and he hoped Rachel had the sense to know better. To know that he had slept with Santana and lied about it when she had been so honest about sleeping with Jesse (and he had never wanted to break someone as much as he had wanted to break Jesse when he thought of him touching Rachel in places he had only dreamed of, well, never wanted to break someone so much, and held back). He hoped she knew that Finn was flighty and untrustworthy.

Jesse took her back, of course, only to break her heart. The betrayal had been too much. Not just the fact that he had betrayed the team, which made him angry, but the betrayal of Rachel. She'd come in to school covered in eggs, and he had quietly led her into the bathroom – the same bathroom where she had first cleaned him up – and gently rinsed the yolks out of her hair, off her cheeks, and pretended that he did not notice the tears.

Mr. Shue had stopped them from beating Jesse's face in as a team, but Puck had found him after regionals, after he had given away his baby girl, after they had lost the opportunity to be a club the next year, and he rearranged Jesse's face. Jesse had laughed "It was always you I worried about. Finn is an idiot, but someday she might notice the way you look at her. And maybe it will matter." Puck's eyes closed as Jesse continued. "But you will destroy her. You ruin everything you touch. Violence is your only skill." Jesse did not say anything after that, but Puck imagines he will try to spin the broken nose into an entirely new story if he ever does reach fame.

It is not until after that Puck finds out that Rachel is dating Finn again. He gets so drunk when he finds out that his inability to pay for good weed becomes the world conspiring against him, and something that has to be fixed. So he drives through the window and drives out with the ATM, just to make a point to the world.

Rachel is the only one who visits him in juvie. She pretends to believe him when he tells her that his shiner is from a fight that he won. She complains that he is losing weight, that his muscles lack definition. He takes offense to keep her from realizing that he knows, that his food is getting stolen, and sometimes he feels so weak he has to sit down before he passes out, because badasses do not pass out, even if it would earn him a night in the nurses office. Regardless, every time she visits him after that, she brings her famous cookies, and nibbles on one while he devours the other two dozen in one sitting.

When he gets out of juvie, Rachel and Finn are stronger than ever, but he notices the way Santana glares at them, the way she opens her mouth when Rachel says something that pisses her off, before cutting her eyes to Finn and shutting up, and he knows that it is not going to be long before the truth comes out, and he stops sleeping around, stops sexting Santana, because he needs to be ready if it happens. She notices, and raises an eyebrow at him one day.

Despite his preparations, he pulls Santana aside one day.

"Let Finn and Rachel be. He isn't interested in you, and you will only hurt them." He barely cuts off the 'it will hurt her' because this is what Santana wants, and the idea of hurting Rachel will just make her more likely to do it.

She flips her ponytail. "Oh, what do you care? If they break up, you might actually have a chance with manhands." She laughs then "What? Didn't think I would notice?" She smirks then, and turns around and leaves.

She waits for weeks, until it will do the most damage, and then she drops the bomb. Puck has never wanted to hurt a woman before, but at the look on Rachel's face, and the smug look on Santana's, he wants to do nothing more than punch her.

Rachel is angry and devastated and when she invites him over to her house. She lets him touch her, and it is better than he remembers. She is softer, more yielding and he wants it to never stop. But, he looks at her face, wanting to see if she was enjoying what he was doing, needing to know what she liked, instead he sees the tears she is hiding back. This, he realizes, is not about him, she does not want him, she wants to hurt Finn, and so he pulls back, making an excuse that luckily rings true. He hurries out of her house, even as she calls out apologies, and begs him not to tell.

To show her that he wasn't angry and to let her know that he was not afraid of standing up for her, he interjects when Santana attacks her. "I kinda like her." Even through her rage she looks at him and smiles, just a little, and he hopes she knows him well enough to know that 'I kinda like her' translates to 'I totally like her, so back the fuck off'. Santana does, but Finn and Rachel keep fighting. He does not know if he hopes they get back together, if just for her happiness, or if he is praying that they break up, so he can finally have a real chance. He thinks it is the second one, and suddenly he is glad that his religion does not have a hell, because he would certainly be going there.

He knows, when she shows up, sobbing, at his door, that she told Finn. He never would have, but he cannot expect her to carry on the type of deception that he is capable of. He opens the door wordlessly, and she is in his arms before he can swing it closed, way before he can lead her up to his room so they can have a little bit of privacy. His mother comes to see who was at the door, but before she says anything she sees Rachel, the only one of Puck's girlfriends she has ever approved of, and she spins away silently. He sinks to the floor, and Rachel curls in his lap. He thinks he sings to her, and knows he whispers nonsense words.

Normally, if there were a girl crying on him, he would push her off and send her on her way. Puck does not deal well with women's tears, he has an automatic urge to comfort that conflicts with his bad boy image, and before this girl, his image was always more important to him. But this girl is everything, and the thought of her facing this alone is too much for him.

He'd meant it earlier when he told her that he was going to be a better person. He'd told her that he was going to be nicer to Jews, but what he meant was that he was going to be better for her.

So, when she stopped crying, he picked her up effortlessly – she weighed ninety pounds soaking wet, and his guns were legendary – and carried her up to his room.

She hiccupped as she buried her face in his neck. "He broke up with me" she gasps out.

"He's an idiot" it is the only thing Puck can think of to respond with, but it is true. If he had Rachel he is not sure there is anything he would not forgive her, especially when she had been so honest with him.

"No. It's me." She gasps out "I'm unlovable. Look at Finn. At Jesse. Nobody wants me." Her tears threaten to start again, but he is suddenly so angry that he pushes her away from him.

"What about me?"

She looks baffled, and that is almost worse than the fact that she didn't mention him. She did not even think of him. "What about you?"

"Why do you think I don't want you? You broke up with me."

She smiled at him. "You're sweet Noah, but we both know you were only dating me because you could not have Quinn."

He rubbed a hand over his head. He did not want to have this conversation, did not want to open himself to her the way he was sure to, but if he wanted her, even the slim chance that this would pay off was worth it.

"We do not both know that. You made it up, in your crazy brain. I never wanted Quinn."

She smiles indulgently. "I know you have to say that, because otherwise it would damage your reputation to have Quinn and Sam together. But even if I accept that as truth, what about last week, when you pulled away from me? If you had wanted me, it wouldn't have mattered to you what it would do to Finn."

And damnit if that did not feel as though she had punched him in the stomach. "Well thanks so fucking much for that faith in me." She opened her mouth, and suddenly he felt guilty for that outburst. It was not if he had wanted her, but rather if she had wanted him? She was right in that he would not have cared what it did to Finn's feelings.

He interrupted her before she could say anything. "God, Rachel, what's wrong with you?" She opens her mouth to object, but he continues on and she shuts it again. "Chicks always want to reform a bad boy, but you always pick the fuckin' good guy that wants to run away from you and go with another girl. Pick me! Reform me!"

He is silent then, that is not how he had intended that confession to come, but it is out there now, and he can only wait for her to answer.

"All the books say you should not try to reform a bad boy because it will only lead to disappointment. People never change." He gapes at her, and he cannot help but laugh. Indignantly she wipes at her eyes.

"Only you, Berry, would answer that way. God only knows why I am crazy about you."

When she opens her mouth again, he leans down to cut her off, with his mouth. She is already open to him, so he sweeps his tongue in, gentle with her in a way he has not yet been. Soft and loving, while his hands clenched desperately in and out of her shirt, terrified that she will pull away from him. Instead she softens, going boneless into his arms. He cradles her to his chest before he pulls away.

She, for once, is speechless. So he leans down, resting his forehead on hers. "This is not how it was supposed to go. I had a speech." He does not feel silly admitting this. Only Rachel could bring this out in him, and he trusted her to keep his secret. "It was going to be epic romance, like that Romeo and Juliet or Titanic shit you are so fond of."

She smiles up at him, her eyes shining. "Those stories don't have happy endings anyway. Did you know I've had a crush on you since you punched Dave Karofsky in third grade?" He was not quite sure how to respond to that, so he leaned down and kissed her again.

The next day Puck was prepared for Finn to be angry with him. Instead his former best friend called Rachel a dirty slut. Noah's fist crashed into his nose.

Rachel told Mr. Shue that Finn had an accident at football practice and had to go home.