Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Glee writers and creators.
A/N: Just a little Christmas gift from me to my reviewers and fellow Faberry fans. :) Love ya guys! Merry belated Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah. Or just, you know what? Happy (Insert Holiday Here)!
Rachel hated Christmas. And no, it wasn't because Finn recently put a very permanent end to their relationship and he happened to adore the holiday. Nor was it because Satan's—oops, Santana's—recently ex-sort-of-maybe best friend slash perhaps girlfriend with benefits but not lately loved it. She did not hate the holiday out of spite.
And no, it wasn't the decorations, either. The endless slew of godawful covers of Christmas music playing on the radio and every department store in the free world may not have helped, but it wasn't the reason either. It also wasn't because she was Jewish and she hated having people shout 'Merry Christmas' at her, only to have them scowl at her when she politely replied 'Happy Hanukkah!' That was Noah's thing, really.
It was because, for as long as she could remember, Rachel had never once had a good December 25th. And no, it wasn't because she always wished for something but never got it. Like last year and wishing for Finn, though she sincerely wished she hadn't wasted that one now. Her reasons for hating that day weren't petty like that.
When she was five, on December 25th at approximately ten in the morning, Rachel slipped on some ice and got a concussion. Eleven years old at eight thirty found her choking on her breakfast of scrambled eggs (this was one of the little known reasons Rachel had gone vegan). Fourteen at twelve fifteen she fell through thin ice while ice-skating and contracted pneumonia. There were other various instances—some more serious, some less—but it never failed. Something would always come along and ruin her day, and whether it called for Kleenex or hospital visits, Rachel always spent December 26th in recovery. Alone.
There weren't many people who knew about Rachel's curse outside of her fathers. Only her friends knew. Well, friend. Okay, Noah Puckerman, the womanizing scourge of McKinley High, was the only person who knew of her horrible luck when it came to December 25th. And that was partly because he was the cause for her horrible Christmas the year she turned nine.
He lifted up her skirt in front of their entire synagogue during the holiday party. She hadn't been surprised, really. Even at nine, Noah was obsessed with women and their pants. Or in her case, skirts. But the party had just been going so well, and she'd almost made it through the entirety of Christmas day without an incident. And he'd ruined it.
When she'd started sobbing uncontrollably, he'd done his best to comfort her and apologize—because, oddly enough, Noah Puckerman couldn't stand to make a woman cry—and that's when she'd spilled the truth about her Christmas curse. He swore never to do anything to ruin it again, and he'd kept that pledge. He'd even gone so far as to send her a small gift (whether it be a simple 'Get Well Soon' card or something thoughtful, like a sheet of gold star stickers) on Christmas every year. It helped, just a little, and she appreciated his efforts.
So, taking all this into consideration, Rachel was uncertain as to why he was currently standing in front of her with a roguish grin plastered to his face, waggling his eyebrows and suggesting she actually try to leave the house this December 25th.
"No," she said firmly, and shocked everyone paying attention to the exchange (meaning Noah) when she left it at that, turning back to her sheet music instead of meeting his disappointed gaze.
Noah's expression immediately crumpled. "What? Why?"
"You know why, Noah," she retorted sharply, shooting him a warning glare.
His frown twisted as he tried to think a way to argue around her sound reasoning for not going to his stupid party the night of Christmas. She had every right to refuse. There were all sorts of ways for her to experience her annual humiliation at a party. Not that she wasn't humiliated at McKinley High every day, but that was different. It didn't usually lead to extended hospital stays.
"Well, you don't know. Maybe it'll be different this year," Noah said at length, trying to sound chipper for her.
"Yes, because the last seventeen years haven't provided ample enough evidence to the contrary."
"You know, you've never told me what happened to you the first year. I know when you turned one you got the chicken pox, but—"
"My fathers claim nothing, but after extensive research and several forays into the family photo albums in our basement, I discovered pictures of my very first Christmas and found that I did, in fact, have a mishap, despite being only one week old." When she glanced up to find him eyeing her expectantly, she supplied, "I threw up on my first present."
His nose wrinkled. "Gross."
"But wait, how do you know it was Christmas? And you get presents on Christmas? My mom won't even budge to do that. So not fair."
"One of my father's parents are Catholic, so yes, I get gifts from them, and this was 'back in the day,' if you'll pardon the phrase, when cameras printed the date they were taken on the corner. I'm positive it was December 25th."
"That…sucks. But seriously, Rach, come on. It could be different," he said doggedly, a thought occurring to him as he followed her from the piano to her usual seat in the front row.
Rachel sighed, frowning at him as he plopped next to her. "I take it from the positively gleeful look on your face that you have some reasoning behind this completely irrational idea."
"Yep," he said simply, popping the 'p.'
"Well, please, do share. I'm intrigued."
Noah's grin went so wide she was reminded of the Grinch, and it didn't help when he leaned toward her in a conspiratorial manner, an arm not-so-subtly sliding over the back of her chair.
"This year, you've got me."
Her scowl did not lessen. "I also had you December 25th, 2003. Look what that did for me."
The hand creeping toward her thigh immediately snapped to his chest, and she smiled in amusement as his grin vanished, replaced by the most devastated look she'd ever seen on the boy. Save for when he cried in her arms the night after Shelby adopted Beth. Her defenses weakened, remembering that, and she placed a hand on his knee.
Surprise entered his eyes, but his attention wasn't diverted.
"I am hurt that you would bring that up after I apologized. The Puckasaurus doesn't apologize to anyone, babe. And after all this time of me being so nice to you. Just really…hurt."
A fond smile spread across her cheeks. "Have you ever considered acting as a career option, Noah? You would make an excellent Hamlet."
He frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"
She shrugged. "Nothing."
"Look, I've got potential, babe. And I don't need to play some pansy assed fruit in some lame chick movie."
Rachel eyed him. "Potential for what?"
Her lip quirked in a subtle smirk. "You're always saying you have potential, but you never say for what."
He rolled his eyes. "Star potential. You oughta get what that means, Miss Gold Star." His eyebrows bobbed.
"Why did you do that?"
"Waggle your eyebrows."
"…Because I made an innuendo."
"No, you didn't. Absolutely nothing in that statement had anything to do with sex."
He smacked his forehead. "Seriously? You're like the most naïve person I know, Berry."
"That's not true."
"Yes, it is."
"There are other people even less well-versed in sexual matters than I am; I'm certain. Quinn, for instance. I'm sure her knowledge only extends to Tab A, Slot B."
"Yeah, but at least she's had sex."
"Thanks to you." He grinned and she rolled her eyes. "That's not something to be proud of, I hope you know."
He shrugged. "Whatever. We've got more important things to discuss than you."
Rachel's eyes narrowed, shooting to him, and she rose up indignantly as she removed her hand hastily from his knee.
"That was rude, Noah. It is one thing when Mr. Schuester or someone tells me I am being too narcissistic for their tastes when I am actually speaking of something regarding myself, but when those comments are made when all I have done is opened my mouth—"
"We were talking about you, Rach." Her lips pursed and he backtracked hastily, knowing if he didn't move fast she was going to be pissed at him for like a week. She really hated being interrupted. "We were talking about me feeling guilty, right? Or, well, how I should feel guilty. And I only do that when you talk to me about it. You're my conscience. Therefore, we were talking about you."
Rachel absolutely melted. Her smile was so obnoxiously blinding he wanted to cover his eyes, but instead he just smirked at her. It wasn't often she smiled of late, so he basked in it while he could. She leaned her shoulder into him and giggled.
"Do I get a badge like Jiminy Cricket?" she asked teasingly.
He had no idea who that was. But since she seemed so pleased about it, he decided to humor her and nodded.
"Sure. It can even be gold star shaped," he said, shrugging.
She giggled again and shuffled her sheet music in her lap. He could see she thought the conversation was over, so he leapt into action, grabbing her attention by dropping his arm to her shoulders, rather than just resting on the chair. Finn wasn't in yet, so it couldn't do any harm.
"But anyway, we got other stuff to discuss. Like you coming to my party."
She paused in her shuffling. "And how is that not about me, again?"
"It isn't. It's about me. Wanting you to come."
Rachel smiled fondly at him again. "You're sweet, Noah. But really, I don't think it's a good idea. Even the last two years, in which I have not ventured out of the house even once, haven't eased my suffering on Christmas day. And with the size your parties tend to grow to, I just—"
He squeezed his arm around her. "Hey. I'm gonna be there the whole time to protect you. You won't have to worry about a thing." He shrugged and leaned back in his chair, putting his arm on the back of hers again. "Besides, it's just gonna be the glee club," he added innocently.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "That's not code for 'it's going to be every underage in the county,' right?"
A chuckle escaped his lips before he grinned at her, waggling his eyebrows. "Nope. Just you, me, and wine coolers, babe."
Rachel rolled her eyes and smacked him playfully on the chest, but she couldn't help giggling along with him, completely unaware of other eyes on them. Noah smiled contentedly when she leaned into his side, stroking her hair once comfortingly. He normally wasn't so touchy-feely in front of other people, but he knew she needed the physical reassurance. Plus, this meant she was giving in.
She sighed. "You'll stay with me the whole party?"
Noah's grin split his face. "The whole time, babe. I promise."
Okay, so Puck may have been bullshitting Rachel a little bit. And he felt bad about it. Really, he did. But honestly, what could happen at a party? Other than her actually having a little bit of fun for once in her life. And he didn't see what the big deal was about that.
Besides, the party didn't start until like nine at night (most people were going to have to sneak out of dinners at their family's houses and stuff), so maybe the bad stuff would happen before she ever got there. As long as she didn't break any bones, she could still come, he could cheer her up, and she could have a night of teenage normalcy instead of another one crying into her pillow or taping MySpace videos or whatever Berry got up to when he wasn't around.
He was sure after he got her with a drink in her hand and dancing with a good lookin' dude that she wouldn't even be mad that the party was about ten times bigger than he'd said it would be. Or that he wouldn't be spending the entire evening with her. Cause really, how could the Puckasaurus throw a party and not hook up with a babe? Especially when Christmas provided the perfect excuse for it: mistletoe. He'd hung up two sprigs, just in case. He only felt a little bit bad about what he was spreading underneath them.
Mostly he felt bad about lying to Rachel like…a lot. And she hadn't even said anything to him about it. She certainly was doing her job as his conscience, he thought grouchily, tossing the glue-caked brush into the sink.
He couldn't wait for nine o'clock to come around. A good party was just what both he and his gold star needed to cheer up.
Rachel was going to kill Noah, she decided. She could not believe he'd lied to her about the size of this stupid party. Well, actually, that was pretty typical behavior for him. But when he knew how horrible this day always was for her? Walking into that house now was pretty much like asking for something bad to happen. No, not just pretty much. It was asking. It was begging. She may as well be getting down on her knees and asking Karofsky to ruin her Christmas.
Though she doubted Karofsky was in there. If he was, it was only because he somehow managed to 'sneak' inside, though with his size and his brains she wasn't sure how that would work. In any case, Noah would throw him out on the spot if he caught him, but it didn't matter. Rachel still may as well be sprinting up the sidewalk to Death's Door and ringing the doorbell repeatedly.
That's what it felt like when she hit the yellow button, though she knew it wasn't likely Noah—or anyone, for that matter—would hear it ring. She could practically feel the earth vibrating from how loud they had the music on. She dreaded going into the basement even more than she already was, and fiddled anxiously with the skirt of her dress.
It was a little shorter than she normally liked, particularly without her knee-highs to protect her legs, but she'd wanted to look nice tonight. And not her definition of nice, but everyone else's. This party was supposed to provide her with a night of teenage normalcy, Noah had said, so she was going to act and dress like a normal teenager. Minus the drinking.
Also, Rachel wasn't sure if most teenagers dressed in scarlet dresses and heels to attend a party. She adjusted the spaghetti straps, uncomfortable with the amount of skin she was showing, and tried knocking instead.
To her surprise, this day had actually gone pretty decently. She woke up at six, rode her elliptical, took a long bath (she learned in 2006 that showering was a bad idea on Christmas), made herself breakfast, practiced for three hours, and then spent the rest of the day watching her favorite musicals until it was time to get ready. She flipped her hair, briefly wishing she had a mirror so she could see if the layers she had tried to put in looked right. She supposed she should just be grateful it hadn't decided to frizz out and make her look like a poodle.
With this thought, it came to her attention that no one had answered the door yet. So, though it killed her to ignore her manners and all of her better judgment was screaming at her to take this as a sign and get back in her car, Rachel hesitantly eased the door open and peered into the Puckerman's living room. It was empty of all life, surprisingly enough, and she realized Noah must've kept the party restricted to the basement for some reason. Likely because his mother had had an absolute fit when one of his more recent parties ended in a ruined carpet.
The new carpet was still shag, but it was a nicer shade than the last one, Rachel noted. She approved with a nod and ventured toward the basement door, from which all sorts of unpleasant sounds and smells were emanating. Why did she listen to Noah? Why was she even friends with him?
Because no one else wants you except JewFro, and even you aren't desperate enough for that.
She rolled her eyes at herself and, wincing the entire time, twisted the knob. She was immediately blasted with the sounds of Taio Cruz's 'Dynamite', but eased down the wooden steps anyway, keeping one fist clenched around the banister as she descended into the mass of gyrating bodies, sidestepping a couple making out on the stairs. More than one person was smoking down here—and not just cigarettes, she was sure of it. With a wrinkled nose, she wafted the smell away with a dismissive hand and peered through the dark room in an attempt to find anyone she knew.
It was difficult to focus on finding familiar faces in that din, but Rachel was determined not to spend the evening squeezing through throngs of sweaty bodies and being groped by drunken louts. The first people she found were—unsurprisingly—Brittany and Santana. It looked like the benefits were back, and they were sharing with the hockey players, who were practically drooling at the sight of the two girls molesting each other by the speakers.
Rachel shook her head irritably. By tomorrow Santana would be back to denying her feelings once again and hopping back on anything that had something resembling a stick, while Brittany would have to crawl back to Artie. Who, while ill suited to the girl, at least didn't seem likely to stray when—where was Artie, while his girlfriend was giving her ex a tongue bath?
Her eyes scanned the surrounding area and she swiftly found him, facing away from the girls and next to what looked like the snack table. He was in a heated argument with Mike about something or other, from the looks of it, because the Asian boy was pink in the face. Perhaps it was the heat of the room, though, Rachel pondered. In any case, Tina was standing at his elbow and looking bored out of her mind. Actually…her eyes had strayed rather curiously to the corner where Santana and Brittany were—well, Tina had always been fairly open-minded, Rachel guessed.
She shrugged it off and turned, making a mental checklist of the glee kids she'd found. Kurt probably wasn't there, she acknowledged with a frown. They weren't exactly friends yet, but she'd like to think they were getting there. They seemed to have an understanding, at least, and he was a bit more supportive than Noah in some ways.
She turned immediately toward the source, relieved beyond words when she felt him crush her to his body. Even if he did smell like musk and beer, he felt so good she just sank into it until he leaned back to look at her, eyes going wide at the outfit.
"You look normal!" he observed, jaw flapping a bit. It made her grin. "An-and smoking hot! Damn! You sure you don't want to make Finnessa jealous some more, babe?"
He squeezed her ass with the hand she hadn't noticed creeping lower and lower on her back, and she smacked his arm with an indignant squeak when he just grinned at her.
"You're drunk," she accused, shaking her head.
"Uh…yeah. That's, like, the point of these parties," he retorted as flatly as he could when he was shouting above the speakers.
"How inane," she observed.
"Come on, Rach, I'll get you some punch. It'll calm you down."
She resisted when he tugged her arm. "I do believe I'll pass. I'm going to try to find someone to talk to who is not drunk," she said haughtily, and whirled on her heel with her perfected storm-off.
She heard Noah laugh and call, "Good luck with that!" behind her, but pointedly ignored him. She was still angry with him about the size of this party, after all, so he didn't deserve to be dignified with a response or graced with her presence. Especially at the moment, when he was drunk and all he could do was related to sex. That was a subtle difference most people missed about Noah. When he was sober, he thought about sex nonstop; when he was drunk, he couldn't stop himself from acting on it.
It took her a moment to get her bearings once she emerged from the mass of dancers once more. She'd seen the Santana and Brittany Show corner and decidedly turned away from that, as well as where Mike, Tina, and Artie were arguing or discussing or watching the aforementioned show. Another corner seemed to be the source of that very non-cigarette-like smoke, so Rachel counted that out, as well, and headed in the only direction this afforded her.
She had to shove through several bodies to get to it and nearly flipped over a couch by the time she reached her destination, and—well, she wasn't quite sure it was worth it. Mercedes was planted on the couch Rachel had almost catapulted over, and sitting in the armchair directly next to her, looking disgustingly sweet as usual, were Sam and Quinn. Cuddling together. Rachel fought the urge to throw the nearest person's cup of beer at them.
To be perfectly honest, the brunette had no idea why the two of them inspired such a violent reaction in her. She simply couldn't understand it. Other than the fact that the two looked eerily like twins, rather than lovers, there was nothing wrong with it. She certainly wasn't harboring an attraction to Sam—he was cute, sure, but the Bieber cut was not flattering and, frankly, he had Frog Mouth. But…nor could Rachel help it. Hence calling them 'Ken and Barbie' whenever she found the opportunity to do so.
She bit her tongue to keep from greeting them this way now.
"Oh, good evening! Mercedes, Sam, Quinn," she said pleasantly, though a feeling of dread was rapidly coiling in her stomach at the slightly discomfited expressions on all three faces.
She rounded the couch, pretending she didn't notice the hush her presence had settled over the three of them, who previously had been laughing at something or other. She was determined to remain friendly. They were teammates, after all, and if she didn't stay with them, she would have to hang out with Drunk Noah. Who was likely already halfway up the stairs with his conquest of the evening by now, and wouldn't appreciate the whining, lonely tagalong.
"Hey, Rachel," Mercedes said evenly.
"Hi, Rach," Sam said, and Rachel almost—almost—stuck her tongue out at him.
She did not give him permission to use that nickname. Quinn seemed to agree with Rachel's disgust at hearing that syllable come out of his mouth. It shouldn't have surprised the brunette, really, since the blonde didn't like anyone she associated with getting friendly with the diva, but it was more the fact that they actually agreed on something that surprised her. Rather than the Raised Eyebrow of Doom (or RED) she was shooting at her boyfriend.
When Rachel and Quinn finished giving Sam disturbed looks, a stifling silence took hold once more and the brunette wondered if you actually could cut tension with a knife. The situation at hand would certainly be a good experiment to test the theory. Suddenly the earsplitting music wasn't quite loud enough, and Rachel wondered if this was why the music was always this loud at Noah's parties—to rid people of the awkwardness. Of course, not everyone was as big a social leper as herself, so there probably wasn't a need for that.
"You look nice," Mercedes shouted suddenly, and even though it was only because she wanted to be heard, it made Rachel jump.
"Thank you," she yelled back. "So do you."
Even though she really wasn't wearing anything different from what she normally did. Except her earrings were larger than usual, Rachel thought.
It was awkward again. Sam was just smiling and bobbing his head, and Rachel wondered if anyone had ever told him that nonstop smiling was just a little—no, scratch that, a lot—creepy. Mercedes kept flipping the flap on the arm of the couch and peering under it. Rachel fiddled with the skirt of her dress some more. And Quinn looked anywhere but at Rachel.
The brunette decided to follow her example and avoid the gazes of her fellow glee club members, gaze wandering to the dancing mob. She admired the few that were actually dancing to the beat, rather than just grinding aimlessly against one another, and particularly the ones that were managing to make their dancing look like something other than dry humping. Really, couldn't they have done this at home?
A tall figure suddenly caught her eye and then—her breath caught in her throat and she nearly choked on it, the sensation making her eyes water. Or that's what she told herself. Because she couldn't possibly be crying over Finn making out with some random cheerleader on the makeshift dance floor, shoving his pelvis awkwardly into her while she pressed her breasts against him. Because Finn wouldn't do that. He wouldn't move on this quickly—and especially not with a stupid cheerleader.
Except he did, and he was, and Rachel realized that Noah was wrong. Her December 25th did suck, even with his 'help.' Maybe this wasn't as bad as other years, but…that basement was suddenly too hot, too loud, too stifling for her. She put a hand to her forehead and began to excuse herself from the group, despite the fact that she knew they probably wouldn't notice if she just disappeared without a goodbye.
"Um…I-I'll be back." She probably wouldn't be. "I need some air."
"Okay," Mercedes said uncertainly, and Sam bobbed his head with that consistent smile and said, "Cool."
Quinn looked like she was about to say something, mouth set in a frown. Rachel didn't bother to find out what she was going to say, already turned on her heel and shoving her way through the crowd, using her elbow to get through. She raced up the stairs to the living room as fast as she could, not noticing the person who trailed her shortly afterward.