I know that I got issues
But you're pretty messed up too
Either way I found out
I'm nothing without you

My Life Would Suck Without You, Kelly Clarkson –


There are times when you might think they are friends. Or more, possibly.

In fact, they happen to share such looks that it gets difficult to understand if there is actually a borderline between them being friends or that infamous something more.

Thing is, they are not. Neither friends, nor something more.

Least of all something more.

Because in truth Noah Puckerman hates Rachel Berry and he really doesn't see why a boy would ever like a girl like her. Let alone a boy like him.

She's not a dream-girl of any sort and surely never will be. She's even quite far from the common concept of tolerable, so, when Puck is around Rachel, everybody knows that he'll be bullying on her for no other reason than the mere, reasonable fact that she deserves it.

And he, of course, thinks she's an utter loser.

X X X

She's walking through the hallway on a Monday morning, heading off to her locker, a bunch of books stuffed in her arms. Puck is there and can't help notice how indecently unBerry her attire is. Nothing wrong with the upper part – he's used to those ridiculous sweaters she seems to love so much – but as his look shifts downwards, things cross the line.

"Hey, Berry," he shouts, so that everyone can hear and turn around to watch. "What happened to that skirt? Shrank in the washing machine? You look like a pornstar."

She doesn't blush, but the way she glances down at her half-naked legs and tries to push the skirt down to hide them tells Puck that she's embarrassed.

"Leave me alone, Noah!" she snaps back. She turns her back to him, nose up, and walks away oozing dignity and indifference.

He sniggers. That girl can be so pathetic…

X X X

It's Wednesday and the bell has just rung the lunch-break. Rachel is carrying her vegan salad and orange juice towards the table where Kurt and Mercedes are waiting for her. Finn, her ex boyfriend, observes her from afar, looking a bit depressed.

Well, very depressed.

Puck is observing, too: even though some people stare at her and snicker, she walks like a queen among a crowd of plebs, and Puck reckons it's about time to do something about it. Something involving him and a good grapes slushie.

"Damn you, Noah Puckerman, this blouse was brand new!" Rachel yells, covered in blueish ice. The whole canteen is laughing and Puck sports his boldest and smuggest grin with pride.

"Looks way better, now."

"What the hell is wrong with you?" she shrills, stomping her foot against the floor. Puck can hardly keep himself from laughing: she looks like a whiny baby girl. "I thought Glee would make things better between us – thought we were friends! – but it only got worse!"

"Berry, how could you even think you and me could be friends?" he scoffs, bemused.

The ice has started melting down and she's dripping blue drops of sugary liquid everywhere. Her eyes are dull and cold when she sets them on him before storming out of the room without another word.

X X X

"Okay, guys, I've brought something special for today: Bon Jovi!" Schuester announces on Thursday.

Everyone cheers and applauds. Rock and lovesongs: both boys and girls appreciate Bon Jovi.

"I want each of you to choose one song to perform during next week. If I'm not wrong, Rachel offered to perform Always, weeks ago, right? Rachel, would you like to introduce this week's task?"

"Sure!"

Beaming, she jumps up and sets in the middle of the classroom, hands joined behind her back, ready to give everybody another (unnecessary) proof of her skills. The piano is already playing and she's ready to start singing, but when she opens her mouth, another voice meddles to interrupt her abruptly:

"Oh, please, Mr Schue, not her again! I'm not sure I can take this!"

Puck's voice is a mixture of boredom and irritation. His green eyes are wide and glimmering in something that's quite hard to recognize, even for himself. Only thing he knows is that he wants Berry to shut the fuck up. Now.

"Calm down, Puck," Schuester sooths. "Rachel is an excellent singer, and she had been preparing this song for ages. She has a right to show us what she can do."

"Like we haven't figured it out already, right?" he replies dryly as he stands on his feet. He turns to Rachel and his face sports a angry expression. "We know you're good, Berry, okay? We fucking know! Just give us a break, already! Your presence is suffocating!"

And he shuffles away and right before slamming the door behind his back, he shots a quick glance at Rachel. And she stands there, mouth ajar, eyes fixed on the closed door, and, as anybody else, wonders what's with all that big drama.

X X X

He's beating out a vending machine in the empty hallway, just because. His limbs feel the urge to smash and crash down, and since he can't do that to the real triggering target, he does that to something which can't retort, nor complain.

Or sing, as a matter of fact.

He hurt his knuckles on his first attempt and consequently decided that kicks could do as well. His mother is never going to believe him when he'll tell her that, no, that blood he has on his sleeve doesn't belong to some stupid moron he's dumped in a trash can.

A few bottles of water and coke cans have fallen out and now lay scattered on the ground. His foot has barely has begun to hurt when a pair of ridiculously small but surprisingly strong hands rip him off the vending machine and slams his back against the wall. After a moment of dismay, his sight goes back into focus and what he sees is two huge brown eyes fixing him so intently and so furiously that he feels like he might catch fire any moment.

In more than one sense.

"My God, Berry, what do you got in that crazy head of yours?"

Totally unabashed, she moves a step back and places her hands on her hips, straightening up in superiority.

"Big plans, mostly. And murdering wishes, sometimes. Like now, for instance." She adds, and her eyes narrow menacingly. "And it's 'What do you have', for the record."

He doesn't know what to say, so he stares at her as though he thought she were crazy. Which he thinks, but doesn't consider it a wise thing to point out right now.

She's pissed, obviously. It's no big deal: she's always pissed when she's with him, and it's not like he ever tries to do something about it.

All the contrary, actually.

"Why the shit did you do that?" he groans, massaging the back of his head. "It hurt!"

Short an skinny as she is, she still can look incredibly scary when she puts on that Berry look of hers. He tells himself he shouldn't laugh, not even grin, so he bites his inner cheeks, swallows hard and waits.

There's something with her eyes. He's not quite sure about what, but there's most definitely something. Loathe, probably. And in the very moment his brows furrow in concentration to understand if it's truly loathe or something else, she drops her head and sighs.

"You do that, too."

This is not exactly what he expected. Well, he's not sure, since he doesn't get what she's supposed to mean by that.

The girl is strange and no doubt her mind is overfucked with who knows what silly thoughts. No wonder she's always so mentally instable.

"I do what shit, exactly?" he asks in genuine confusion. Because, really, he might be a badass and all, but he would never ever dare do some physical harm to her, and the slushies burning in the eyes don't count.

He guesses she's still megapissed, because, even though he can't see her face, he notices her hands are clenched in two trembling fists.

"You hurt me, too," she whispers, and her voice is so thin and low he can barely tell she's spoken. "With all those mean comments of yours, and the wanton bullying, and all the rest. But you still do it."

She finally looks up and, man, he would so much like she hadn't, because the blue look in her eyes is crushing, and he's not the type of guy who likes being crushed, especially by a supposedly inoffensive look.

And he thinks it's unfair of her, when she speaks again, to use such a shaky and courageous tone:

"Tell me, then: why?"

Puck has never been this close to speechlessness. In fact, he feels like lingering on the edge of it, small rocks of self-control crumbling under his feet to precipitate in a black hole of terrifying unknown.

Blame it on Berry's stupid eyes and that fucking pathetic baby voice of hers.

Were he honest at least to himself, Puck would admit his dirty bad guy armor is slowly losing consistence, but, to his own luck, he's always been one hell of a liar and his lies are so good that he can believe them himself. So he just tells himself that it's alright and, damn, no, Rachel Berry is not depriving him of his defenses just because she's all downcast and whatever.

Just no.

"You really won't understand, uh?"

For a moment Puck wonders who has spoken, but then he realizes it was him. The gentleness of his tone left him no less shocked than Rachel. He even ignored his voice could sound that sweet.

She crosses her arms on her chest and taps a foot on the ground, a brow impatiently raised.

"All I understand is that you keep bullying me with your stupid jokes and horrible manners and frankly I'm sick and tired of it. I thought you were a good guy, after all, Noah, and I've been trying to be nice to you, but this is all I seem to get!"

He shakes his head and his lips curve into a slight smile against his will.

"You really don't understand."

"Explain, then. I'm all ears."

Ladies and gentlemen: Rachel Barbra Berry, Miss My-desire-is-law.

Puck can't see why he should indulge her. He's not one of her dads, ready to spoil the shit out of her and give her anything she demands. He's Noah Puckerman, and he's the one giving orders.

This is why, as he hears himself reply, he thinks he must have gone crazy or something.

"I'm not good at expressing my feelings, you see, so I – I tend to act instead of spell out, and most of the time – well, always – I act very bad."

He owes her nothing. Then why is he giving out explanations he has never meant to even formulate in his brain?

And even though it's clearly more than she could have ever bargained for, Berry is not happy with it:

"This doesn't justify your harassment in my regards."

"That's not harassment, you idiot!" he shouts impatiently. " 's the only way I know to convey how I feel!"

He's rather proud of himself. It's the first time ever he has used the term convey and, to be honest, he didn't even know his vocabulary included it.

"Okay," she says, but the way her hands stay stubbornly folded is a sign she isn't satisfied yet. "So when you bark at me that I'm an idiot or when you order me – I'll quote textually – 'to shut my damn irritating mouth', you're not being a douche, but just fairly expressing your hateful feelings towards me?"

"You gotta admit your mouth is irritating, sometimes." He chuckles.

Something like jolts of fire break out in her eyes, making them gain a weird reddish hue. Nice, though.

"Go to hell, Noah!" she shouts, and her angry kick collides with the poor vending machine. Puck thanks God it's not his knee, or some other and more delicate (and vital) spot.

She makes to leave in that theatrical way of hers, full of nose up and swirling hair, but, since he hasn't been masochist enough to endure the whole conversation, his hand reaches out to grab her wrist. He takes a mental note to get a check up as soon as possible, because his body doesn't seem to be willing to obey his brain any longer.

"No, Rachel, wait!" he stammers uneasily. "Please, just... wait."

So she waits, but doesn't turn around, and he's glad, because he's not sure he can handle whatever face she might have right now.

"Okay, let's leave your irritatingness alone."

"Irritatingness is not a word."

Puck can't just control himself:

"See what I'm talking about?"

Fuming, she breaks free from his grip and rushes away, her cheeks burning for the wrath, eyes watering for the humiliation.

And now he knows he has no choice.

"When I tell you to shut your mouth it's because I feel the urge to shut it myself with my own."

Rachel stops dead in her tracks. All he can see is her back, her clenched fists resting next to her hips.

"What?"

He's screwed, Puck is perfectly aware of that. And what is worst is that he's basically dragged himself in the situation.

Why couldn't he have left her fucking alone, all this time?

But now… he can't just let her walk away, disappointed by him and hurt inside by his behavior.

He feels smug at the mere thought: he can hurt her inside. He can make her miserable and frustrated. Meaning that he means something to her, somewhere deep down that psycho soul of hers.

Actually, it also makes him feel terribly ashamed and guilty, but it's not like he's ever going to admit it.

Trouble is that, however annoying it can be, he really really wants her to be the usual smiling, lousy Berry again.

So he approaches and stops right behind her, and he doesn't really know what to say. He's confident that his mind can come up with something proper, so when he opens his mouth, he doesn't have a clue of what it'll be coming out.

He hadn't considered the truth to be an option.

Fail.

"I tell you to shut your mouth 'cause your diva lectures elicit something within me that makes me wanna get to you and slam my damn lips against yours. And when I insult your skirts, it's 'cause they're too short and I can't stand seeing all the dudes staring at your legs when you walk by. The slushies? Makes your hair wavy, and you – you look so good with wavy hair... What else? Oh, yeah, your solos shit. Those fucking solos. Don't think you got an idea of what your voice does to me. 'course you don't, otherwise you wouldn't even talk to me, I guess."

He's panting when he's done. He's just uttered things he didn't have the guts to even think of.

She's not moving. Which could be taken as a good sign, since he had expected she would punch him in the face straight away, but as of now he'd happily punch himself for what he's just spat. He's never going to forgive himself.

His life is ruined.

He is ruined.

Everything is ruined.

And damn Berry won't move a muscle or say a damn thing.

It's okay, he thinks. After all, it wasn't going particularly well before, either. And Rachel is still going to hate him, because, let's be honest, he's pretty much done everything to be sure she would hate him. Which might be the wrong approach, if the girl you've been harassing is the same girl that makes your heart beat like a fucking drum, but still.

She hates him, positive.

And if she doesn't now, she will in a moment, when he'll tell her it was all bullshit and he didn't truly mean it and shit. Back to the lying, you know. Just to be safe.

But he never gets to lie and fix everything, because she turns to face him and anticipates him. And damn her stunning eyes slashing him inside like chocolate blades.

"So when you say you wish I were a guy, so you could make me spit my tongue out of punches...?"

And damn her shaky voice.

"Naw, I kinda mean that one. What?" he says, before her saddening face. "You really talk too much, girl."

Okay, so maybe he didn't mean to sound that harsh. And maybe it's painful to him to see her so emotionally wounded by his own words. But this doesn't imply that he gives a fuck about her feelings or what.

He quite likes her, fine, but it doesn't mean anything. The world won't change just because he's said all those embarrassing things. And if anybody asks, he'll surely deny.

"You're hurt." Rachel says after a long pause of silence

Puck frowns. He only understands what she means when he realizes she's looking at his hand, covered in dry blood. He'd totally forgotten about that.

Without a word, she takes a tissue from her skirt's pocket and takes his hand in hers.

It's funny.

Her hands are small, and light, and delicate, and Puck can't stifle a small smile as he sees his own hand is twice as big as hers. And half as soft. She picks a bottle of water from the ground and pours a little on the tissue, then starts cleaning the blood off his skin, so carefully that it barely hurts.

He's mesmerized by her quick and expert movements and her intent expression drags his thoughts far far away from the school hallway, leading him into a world where reputations don't exist and the hot and popular school badass can take the stupid Bambi-eyed brunette into his arms and kiss her over-talkativeness away once for all.

Rachel is amazing.

He doesn't give a fuck if envious people keep bashing her with evil comments (like he does, sometimes). Yes, she's selfish, and hypocritical, at times, but she is tough enough to recognize her mistakes and apologize when she does something wrong. The girl's got balls, under her little doll façade.

"You should have it disinfected, you know?" she says. She throws the bloody tissue in a bin and takes a silky handkerchief from the other pocket of the skirt, and carefully folds it around Puck's wound. He doesn't miss to register her initials and a little yellow star embroidered in a corner.

It makes him smile.

"What, now?" she mumbles. "Even my handkerchief is ridiculous?"

"No," he replies warmly. "It's very – y' know – you. It's cute."

Did he just say cute?

Like… for real?

His ego is never going to recover from this.

"You should learn to express your feelings in a different way, you know?"

"What way?"

"I don't know. One that doesn't offend other people, for example. Especially if you don't intend to offend them."

She has a point. Not that he cares too much about hurting other people. Not hurting her would be enough. Besides, he wishes there was a way to erase what he said before and get back to their mutual almost-indifference, just so he could know that, even if she doesn't like him, at least she doesn't hate him.

It would be cool. Like, very very cool.

As cool as impossible, though.

"Did you mean any part of that stream of consciousness you blurted out minutes ago?"

Stream of what?

"Babe, I'd tell you, if I knew what that shit you mentioned is."

She chews at her bottom lips and he feels the urge to yell her to stop, because he might not be able of keep himself if she goes on like this.

"The things you said about you bullying me for other reasons than mere evilness."

Shit. He was almost hoping he only imagined saying it.

"Okay, Berry, let's make things clear," he states, and sets his hands on her shoulders. "Wish I could say I'll kill you, if this leaks out, but I can't, so let's just say that I'm so sorry for what I did. You've got troubles enough on your own, without me coming around and make things worse, so I… what's the fucking word?" Damn, it's something he must have said just once or twice in his whole goddamn life. "Apologize?"

He assumes he got it right, because the tiniest smile appears on her lips.

He thinks she's amazing when she smiles, but then remembers he's thought she's amazing in every single mode available on a girl's behavioral range (and it's not like it's a small thing), so it probably doesn't count.

"I'm not mad at you, Noah."

He barely hears what she's saying, although it's all he's wanted to hear from her since the beginning of the absurd dialogue, because her hands have risen to rest in the middle of his chest, and now it's like somebody cut a hole into his clothes, right there, where she's touching him, so that the warmth of her skin and his own can melt together in a single spot of increasing heat.

Puck wonders if it's supposed to be okay for his heart to try to break through his chest like that, or if he's having a heart-attack and within seconds he'll be dead. He's seriously concerned for his health, but Rachel's touch is something he's never experienced before, not even when they made out on her bed. It's more intimate than that, more sincere, somehow, and, no, thanks, he doesn't want it to finish, yet.

"How can you not be mad at me?" he manages to whisper without it sounding too much like the groan of pleasure it is.

Her eyes climb up his chest, neck and face, and finally lock into his, and it's red fireworks in his heart.

"I know you. I know who you are and how you relate to the world, and I know you're not mean, but just… you."

It's like when, as a child, he took his mama's crystal cup and held it too strongly. Only, this time it's not thin crystal that's falling to pieces, but living flesh, and not in his hands, but within himself. He's never had his heart broken, so far.

"I'm not a good person." He admits, and it's not the fact itself that makes him sad, but rather the awareness that she deserves nothing less than an excellent person by her side.

But, instead of nodding sympathetically, Rachel sighs and cups his face between her hands.

"You are a very good person, Noah Puckerman." She reassures him softly. "It's just that you don't like to be seen as such."

Puck could swear his heart just stopped beating. Seriously. It went from a million miles an hour right down to zero, and it's kinda scary.

The girl must be a witch, or something like that.

"You're saying so only because I'm better, when I'm with you. Well, when I'm not trying to scare you away from me, I guess."

He feels embarrassed. She must be thinking he's mental, granted.

But Rachel Berry is a constant surprise and doesn't let him down when he most needs to be supported:

"You are good, Noah. You really are. A few random stupid acts don't make you a bad person, only… only a human being like any other. I've seen how you can be when there are no social pressures upon you, and it's an awesome boy you're hiding behind the douche. I'm not saying you're a saint, because you're not… but this is the best of you, can't you see? You're a tough guy with a secret big heart: you should be proud of that."

She smiles again. Sweetly, tenderly, like she really means all of that and wants him to see it, too.

This is what he loves most in her: she can always see the good in everyone and she's never afraid to give her point.

Something warm and pleasing submerges into Puck's utter confusion.

Could it be hope?

"So... do you think we can manage this?" he asks, daring to place his hands on her hips. Hers don't move from his face.

"This what?"

"You and me."

"You and I."

Same, old prissy Berry. One way or another, she'll always find a way to make him want to stuff a sock into her throat.

"In this very moment I'm trying hard to figure out if I long more to kiss you or just tape your mouth already."

It's a quip and it's meant to make her laugh, but it doesn't. Her face falls, instead. She looks sad and her hands slip down at the sides of his neck. They suddenly feel cold.

"I'm no easy thing to handle, Noah." She says weakly. "I'm selfish, and egocentric, and often act like a shameless opportunist. Nobody really likes me. Not even myself."

Puck feels like a bag of shit for causing this abrupt change in her mood. It took her long minutes to make him feel good, and it took him a second to ruin everything.

"I like you." He declares instinctively. Apparently his will refuses to work properly, today. "Blame it on me being such a badass, but I actually like your flaws better than the rest. Y' know... beauty, talent, brains and all that shit..."

This time she laughs and it's like the world is brighter and more colorful all of a sudden.

He pulls her closer and he's glad she doesn't reject him. They've gone far enough into the subject, so he decides he can take a further step into the risky thin ice of Rachel Berry's crazy feelings.

"So, how about it?" he inquires, mentally crossing his fingers, because God knows how bad he wants to get her back. "You and me."

She frowns and the pout she puts on is far from flattered. She points a finger in his abdomen and prods him scoldingly:

"You and me is never going to happen. Neither now, nor ever."

She's serious. She's fucking serious, and he's fucking fucked up.

His hands refuse to let go of her and his head is spontaneously leaning forward, albeit she's just stated fair and square that she doesn't want to be with him.

She doesn't stop him, though, when he skims his lips over hers.

"You and I, on the other hand…" she whispers, one second before he meets her in the most chaste kiss he's ever given.

She smells of sugar and peppermint and her lips, God forgive him, feel like heaven. Her hair is wavy, because he slushied her this morning and her cheeks are blushing noticeably. He thinks no girl in the world will ever look this gorgeous.

No girl in the world will ever be her.

He pulls away just enough to be able to look into her eyes, and what he finds in them steals his breath away.

It's an unmistakably loving look, full of sympathy and respect. Because apparently, for some mysterious reason he'll never understand, Rachel Berry seems to return his feelings, and if this isn't a miracle, then he really doesn't know what else could ever deserve to be called a miracle.

He doesn't even care.

"I think this was my first kiss," he says in astonishment. "The way a real first kiss is supposed to be, y' know… shaky hands, spinning head, racing heart and all…"

Rachel giggles within his embrace and, man, he could die from smugness any moment now.

She's beautiful. Not beautiful like those girls showing off in their miniskirts with tons of make up on their face. No, she's truly beautiful, in her unique, natural way.

Puck rests his forehead onto hers and all that's left is the two of them and an empty hallway, and a dozen coke cans scattered on the floor.

He's almost afraid to admit it, but right here and right now he feels he's got all he needs for a living. Figuratively, of course, especially because the chick he's holding, by her own definition, is not exactly low maintenance. But he can live with that.

And what does he care for his damaged badass ego?

Rachel definitely has got enough for both of them.


A/N: so, this was my second attempt at a Glee fanfic. First one was Finchel, this one's is Puckleberry, obviously. I'm torn between these two pairings, because I think they both have huge pros and huge cons. But, hey, nobody's perfect and this is what makes both couple believable and interesting, so… let's just ship them both. :D Reviews are candy for the heart, so if you liked this at least a tiny little bit, please, let me know!