Summary: Rachel has always lived for her future. Fortunately, she has her fellow gleeks and a certain Mohawk sporting badass to teach her about living (and loving) in the present.
Pairings: Puckleberry, Bartie, Chang-squared, hints of Samtana, mentioned Brittana, hints of Klaine. Puck/Rachel/Santana/Sam friendship, Faberry friendship.
Warnings: This contains spoilers up to "A Very Glee Christmas". It pretty much goes AU after that for obvious reasons.
Disclaimer: I don't own this show or anything related to this show. If I did there would be many more songs featuring Santana, Puck and Artie. There would also be a lot more Mike and his wondrous abs. I also do not own any of the songs mentioned in this chapter. Nor do I own any rights to Tangled or Chuck or Zachary Levi… sad now.
Author's Note: Hello everyone! I come bearing a brand spanking new chapter. Hope you all enjoy it. Now, I have some good news and some bad news. We'll start with the bad. This chapter was super long and I really felt like I should break it down… again. The good news is that I decided that I might get killed for breaking it yet again and then taking another month to post the third part, so I just left it alone. So we're finally concluding the whole prom arc. One final piece of business, I'm apologizing in advance now to anyone who gets any song from Tangled stuck in their head. I may have been watching that a bit too many times while writing this chapter. But you'll hardly notice… yeah, right. Anyway, enjoy!
The first thing Rachel noticed when she woke up the next morning was that her back really hurt. Her next conscious thought was the understanding of why her back was seriously aching. Somehow during the course of the night she ended up on the floor next to her bed. A quick glance upwards answered that question as well. Apparently was Quinn was very much a bed hog. The blonde was sprawled across the bed while Santana was laying half on and half off the bed. Her upper body rested on top of Rachel, who was still lying on the floor. Quinn was sleeping peacefully, ignorant of her friends' plight.
"I love her to death, but she's officially banned from all future sleepovers," Santana murmured from where her face rested in the crook of Rachel's neck. "Also, as if this wasn't awkward and weird enough. I think she may be cuddling my leg at the moment."
Rachel pushed herself up on her elbows in order to get a better look. She couldn't help the laughter that erupted at the sight of Quinn snuggling Santana's sweatpants covered leg like it was a teddy bear. She laid back down, not even bothering to suppress the giggles.
"I'm glad you're amused by this, midget."
"How can I not be?" Rachel asked, breathlessly. "It's just so ridiculous!"
Santana groaned before shaking her leg in a vain attempt at shaking her off. It only resulted in Quinn rolling over fully trapping Santana to the bed.
Though they started off their morning with giggles and fake grumbling, the severity of their situation came crashing back all too soon. This is how Rachel found herself watching Santana as she stared into space and sipped halfheartedly at the cup of coffee Rachel managed to force on her. In the background, Quinn was rooting around the refrigerator searching for something non vegan. It was a success as she finally found the eggs and sausage that Rachel's fathers kept on hand for Santana, Puck and Sam, who were all frequent guests at the Berry household for breakfast Come to think of it, there were a lot of items in the fridge that were specific to just Santana.
Before she could even form the mental capacity to question it aloud, the door opened revealing Leroy Berry accompanied by Sam and Puck. Judging from the looks on their faces, they all knew and none of them were happy with the news. Leroy murmured under his breath as he took in Santana's visibly depressed appearance. He quickly crossed the room to stand in front of her. Santana placed the mug down as she peered up at Leroy cautiously.
"The boys told me everything," he whispered, prompting her face to crumple. "You don't have to worry about anything. This is your home for as long as you need. If you want to work it out with your parents, I will help you any way that I can. If you want to live here until you graduate, that's fine too. Just know that you will always have a place here, Santana. This is your home too."
Rachel watched as tears slipped down Santana's face unnoticed. Leroy must've expected it as he pulled her into an embrace and rested his chin on her bowed head. Rachel froze at the sight of her best friend's shoulder shaking from the sobs she was still trying to hold back. She never saw Santana cry. Honestly, the concept was so inconceivable that she still couldn't reconcile the act with what she was seeing. Santana was invincible to Rachel. But now she was fragile and displaying... emotions. That was not kosher. Rachel felt her hands clenching into fists.
"Rachel, Quinn," Leroy's voice dragged her from her homicidal thoughts. "I trust that Sam will be accompanying you to school this morning. Noah is staying here with Santana."
At this Santana lifted her head to throw a tear filled confused look in Puck's direction. He gave her a half smile while lifting a previously unnoticed orange bag up. It apparently meant something to Santana as she laughed softly, tears falling again.
"Of course," Puck said, his tone sounding offended she thought he could forget. "It's also why I didn't make it over here last night. Had to wait until the other store opened to get the gummy bears. Why you only like the kosher ones I'll never understand."
Santana sat up somewhat, but still leaned back on Leroy. "And the green ones?"
"Sammy picked them out personally. They're currently decorating Jewfro's lawn."
Santana looked warily in Sam's direction. Rachel could almost feel how awkward this was for both of them but she also felt a small sense of satisfaction when Sam gave her a wide smile and shrugged.
"I think a few of them actually got stuck to his window too."
"Well that's what happens when you lick them before you throw them," Puck pointed out, pride evident in his voice. "Next time, we need to toss something a lot heavier than a gummy bear."
"Boys," Leroy warned. "You both know better."
"Yeah, I know. No destroying Jewfro's house because it's not his parents fault he turned out to be such a seedy bastard," Puck muttered. "Still think it is. I mean come on! You've seen his dad. That guy gives off perv vibes like a mile away. I think he's actually forbidden to come to the school for parent-teacher night."
Leroy rolled his eyes, though Rachel saw the smile playing across his lips. "Anyway, as fun as all this is, I think it's time for you all to be heading to school."
"Just one question, I get why San isn't going to school but what's Puck's excuse?" Quinn asked, grinning.
"My doctor said I could ditch. Don't hate the player, hate the game." He winked at her before ushering Santana downstairs.
As they passed, Rachel caught sight of the contents of the bag. There were more than a few Disney discs in there, including Lilo & Stitch and Tangled. Both of those were Santana's favorite movies. Rachel smiled faintly remembering the day Puck and Santana showed up on her doorstep and changed her life. Puck knew just what to bring over to cheer her up and it looked like he did the same for Santana. Her boyfriend was so amazing.
Leroy cleared his throat bringing all attention back to him. "Now, I know that you all want to get revenge on Jacob and I don't blame you. But just remember to be careful and don't get caught."
"Wait, you're actually okaying us kicking his ass?" Sam asked.
Leroy blinked in an act of innocence that made Rachel jealous. "I'm not Okaying anything, Sam. I'm merely saying that if something were to happen to him, I sincerely hope that you three wouldn't be accused of it. But what I am saying is that I will be severely disappointed if something didn't happen to him by the end of the day. Take from that what you will."
Rachel beamed, standing on her tiptoes to press a kiss against her father's cheek. "You're the best, Dad."
"I try, sweetheart. I try." He paused as the television started playing. Rachel knew it well enough to know it was Tangled. The fact that her father knew that as well just meant that Santana did spend way more time here than she imagined. The fond smile that was on her father's face just meant that her fathers knew that too and didn't care either. "I know they didn't seriously start that movie without me. I'll see you kids after school."
With that Leroy excused himself to the basement. Part of Rachel wanted to stay as well but aside from her perfect attendance record, she had some unfinished business with Jacob. She was going to get him back for what he wrote and then she was going to kill whoever gave him the information in the first place. She looked up to see similar dark thoughts on the faces of Sam and Quinn. This was going to be fun.
This was so not fun. Jacob must've felt that they were coming after him because they couldn't find the little weasel anywhere. After a car ride that was spent alternating between arguing over who got to hit him first and exactly how they were going to get him back, the trio went straight on their way to collect their revenge. Only their prey was eluding them and that was not ok. As they were walking out the A/V room, they bumped into David Karofsky.
"Finally," he muttered. "I've been looking for you everywhere."
"Not now, Dave," Rachel grunted, her eyes darting around the crowded hallways looking for a sign of that horribly, frizzy afro. "We're looking for someone."
"Let me guess, Jacob?"
"How'd you know?" Quinn asked with narrowed eyes.
Dave rolled his eyes. "Really? Jacob posted a blog basically ripping Quinn to shreds and outing Santana and you're seriously asking me how I knew you would be looking for him? Gleeks stick together."
Rachel had the good grace to look sheepish for snapping at the jock who had slowly become their friend. "Sorry, about that. Have you seen him this morning?"
"Yeah, he's in the nurse's office."
"Unconscious," Dave smirked. "Like I said, gleeks stick together. The Jacob problem has already been taken care of. You guys got here late."
"By who?" Sam asked, incredulously and with more than a hint of regret.
"Well the official story is that Mike Chang kicked his ass in the parking lot," Dave paused, lowering his voice. "But the actual story is that Tina and Blaine were waiting for him in the parking lot of the school. I'm not really sure what exactly happened but I know it involved a lot of screaming. By the time Principal Figgins managed to get outside with Ms. Pillsbury, Jacob was already out for the count and Mike was claiming responsibility for everything."
Despite feeling disappointed that she wouldn't get to break her nonviolence code on Jacob's face, she couldn't help the feeling of pride that Tina and Blaine would do that for Santana and that Mike was willing to take the fall.
"Why did it take so long for Figgins to get outside?" Quinn asked.
"I don't know. Something was wrong with the doors," Dave shrugged. "They were jammed with a hockey stick. They had to go all the way around the building."
"A hockey stick, huh?" Sam smirked. "Wouldn't happen to be the same stick that Avery used to jam Artie in a porta potty yesterday was it?"
"You know what, I think it actually might be. Interesting," Dave returned the grin. "Like I said, gleeks stick together. Even gleeks by association." The two boys shared a conspiratorial fist bump.
Quinn and Rachel both hugged the former bully before rushing off to the principal's office. They could see Mike sitting on the couch by the administrative assistant's desk while Tina, Blaine and Kurt hovered close by. Tina and Blaine were looking entirely too smug while Mike appeared similarly unconcerned. Kurt was the only one who appeared worried.
"Well, well, look at who finally decided to show up," Tina grinned, taking in the newcomers.
"Don't even start. I'm so mad at you," Rachel jabbed a finger in her direction. "You couldn't wait a half an hour?"
"I was going to but I got a text from your father."
"I just saw Dad this morning."
"Not Dad, Daddy," Tina clarified. "He told us to make a move and he'd back our play. He's already on his way over here to get Mike out of trouble. Even if Jewfro's parents try to press charges, your dad said he was going to counter sue."
"So because Rachel's dad tells you, it's ok, you guys go crazy in a parking lot?" Quinn asked, tapping her fingers on her arm.
"You're just mad because you got here after all the fun," Blaine pointed out. "And for the record, we barely touched him. We just strongly implied what we would do."
"Very strongly," Tina added.
"With a few demonstrations for the words he didn't understand."
"Just a few."
Rachel couldn't help but laugh. She also couldn't help but be happy that her fathers were on her side. Hiram wasn't even back in town yet and he managed to get Jacob out of the picture. It was then that Rachel remembered the other part of why she wanted to break Jacob in half.
"You know that someone leaked the information to him, right? He didn't just get that information by being a creeper, which he totally is but still someone told him everything," Quinn said, voicing Rachel's thought.
"We figured that out this morning and we got a name," Blaine scowled. It was such an unnatural look on his normally smiling features that Rachel immediately wanted to tell him to smile. But then he spoke again and Rachel felt herself scowling as well. "It was Lauren."
Lauren Zizes was an anomaly in the glee club. While she was physically larger than most of the girls in their town and pretty much all of the girls in their school, she was also completely confident and almost cocky. She really was scarily similar to Puck. But even Puck wouldn't cross this serious a line. It was almost like an unspoken rule. What happens in the glee club stays in the glee club. The school made being in glee almost taboo. So it was just assumed that it was them against the world. As Dave pointed out so succinctly, gleeks stick together. Somehow Lauren missed that memo.
But she didn't miss the memo going around school that Jacob fainted in the parking lot after being "aggressively verbally confronted" by Mike Chang. The fact that the actual confronters were prone to giggling every time they overheard that little tidbit did wonders for improving Rachel's mood. Still, she knew she wasn't going to feel better about anything until she actually asked Lauren what the hell she was thinking. And by third period, she finally got her chance. It was a free period for her, Tina and Quinn. Usually Santana would be there with them but she wasn't because Lauren opened her big mouth to Jacob of all people.
They managed to track her down in the locker room. It was practically empty as most of the other students were already changed and in the gym. Once they saw the three girls walk in, the rest of the stragglers cleared out. Obviously news of this morning's parking lot antics had spread quickly. Lauren sat on one of the benches almost as if she were waiting. Rachel supposed she was.
"Is this the part where you threaten to kick our asses before we kick yours?" Tina asked. Rachel made a mental note to ask when the Goth got this sassy. But that was after she dealt with Lauren. Suddenly, she wished they bought Blaine with them. They could definitely use some of that Dalton Fight Club stuff he'd apparently used on Jacob.
"No," Lauren replied, flatly.
"I only have one question," Rachel spoke, priding herself on how calm her voice sounded. "Why? Why the hell would you say anything to Jacob?"
Lauren finally looked up from her hands which held her attention from the minute they walked in the room. "I made a mistake."
"Gee, you think?" Quinn retorted.
"You don't know what it's like!"
"We don't know what is like?"
Lauren gestured for the three girls to look in the mirror. They did so with confused expressions on their faces. When they turned back to Lauren, she was waiting with a raised eyebrow. "You notice a difference between you and me?"
"You're wearing glasses?" Tina suggested. Rachel rolled her eyes.
"Yes, we're all aware that there is a difference in your physical body versus ours but I really don't see what that has to do with you outing Santana to that scumbag Jacob."
Lauren sighed. "I just realized yesterday that I stand no chance at being the prom queen. Quinn and Santana have this hands down because they're pretty and popular. Even after quitting the Cheerios, even though they're in glee, people still like them. I never stood a chance."
Rachel frowned. She knew the feeling. She often felt like she didn't measure up when compared to Santana and Quinn. She knew she was attractive, pretty really, but that didn't mean anything when you walked beside two girls that were freakishly gorgeous. So Rachel totally understood where Lauren was coming from but she couldn't forgive it because it hurt Santana. She didn't look gorgeous this morning with her flat hair and dead eyes.
"Why didn't you say something?" Quinn asked. "Why did you tell us you felt this way? We would've set you straight from the beginning."
"Really? What you going to give me a makeover and make me beautiful?"
"Don't need to," Quinn shot back. "You're already beautiful. Lauren, you're pretty. The fact that you're confident makes you beautiful. You embrace who you are and you love yourself. You think that San and I are perfect? Please. Obviously San had her thing that she was keeping hidden. And me? Well, I wasn't always this way."
They watched as Quinn took a deep breath. She reached into her purse and pulled out a faded photograph. Rachel took the picture and felt more than saw Lauren and Tina huddle next to her to get a better look as well. She recognized it as a class photo from their eighth grade pictures. The girl in the picture was larger than even Lauren. She had thick glasses and braces that were showing in her tight, reluctant smile. Everything about the girl screamed awkward and miserable. Rachel wanted to ask Quinn what this had to do with anything when she recognized the sad green eyes staring back at her from the picture.
"This is you?"
Tina snatched the picture out Rachel's hand, gasping. "No way! It's like the girl that ate you!"
"Thanks, Tina," Quinn nodded, though she smiled a little. "But yes, that's me. They called me Lucy Caboosey. It was so embarrassing. But instead of just realizing how amazing I was, I begged my parents to let me transfer schools. I got a nose job, went to fat camp and started cheering. I dyed my hair blonde and here I am. I dropped the Lucy and became Quinn." She looked at Lauren. "I know what it's like. But I also know that if I had the same friends I have now then I would be a totally different person."
"Seriously, it's like you ate yourself!"
Rachel giggled, covering her mouth quickly. "I don't think there is a single girl in New Directions that doesn't have some kind of image problem or some issue about themselves that they've tried to change. I've tried to be less annoying. I tried to change everything about myself when I was dating Finn. I figured that's the way to make him stay. That clearly didn't work."
"You probably don't remember me from last year but I was dating Artie then. I used to fake a stutter. I figured that people wouldn't bother with me because of the stutter and it ended being the thing that came between me and Artie."
"See," Quinn said, gently nudging Lauren. "We're all defective. Rachel is a loud, bossy, midget dictator. I'm a spoiled rotten princess with self esteem issues that will keep my therapist in business for years. Tina… well she's Tina." Quinn had to duck as Tina swung at her head. "We've all got issues, Lauren. But the point is that we found the one place that accepts us even with those issues. We all accept Rachel for who she is. She know that sometimes she might be completely selfish but at the end of the day, she's still ours. Kurt may be melodramatic and bordering on annoying some days, but he's still ours. We stick together."
Lauren looked between the three girls, closing her eyes briefly. "I am so sorry. I really never meant to hurt Santana like that. I just…I was just so jealous. I was so tired of being the fat girl that no one wanted to be bothered with. I just wanted to know what it was like to be popular for once."
"You picked the wrong place for that," Tina grinned. "Glee club? It's social suicide."
"But who needs popularity when you're a glirl?" Quinn smiled. "Besides we all know this prom queen race is a sham anyway."
"What do you mean?"
"I am reasonably sure that the whole thing is going to be rigged to go in favor of a certain pair of masterminds," Rachel huffed, her lips forming a fond smile. "Noah and Brittany spent a large amount of time last week learning exactly how the votes were tallied. We have a pool going for who they're actually going to make prom queen and king."
"I still think it's going to be Kurt and Blaine," Tina muttered.
Instead of being amused, like they thought she'd be, Lauren seemed even more despondent with that bit of information. "So you mean I did all that for nothing?" Oh, yeah, guess she wouldn't be feeling too great about that right now. The three friends exchanged confused looks. "God, I can't believe I was so stupid! I should've just walked away from that jerk when he first suggested that I sabotage you guys."
"Who Jacob? Because if this was his idea to begin with, I'm more than willing to make him actually bleed," Tina said, nodding her head. Rachel really wondered when she became that blood thirsty. Or maybe she was always that way and none of them noticed. Whatever it was… she kind of liked it.
"No, it wasn't Jacob. It was Jesse."
For the second time that day, Rachel saw red. Lauren and Jacob were just pawns in Jesse's never ending mind games. Well, maybe not so much Jacob because he was a perverted jerk but definitely Lauren. Jesse prayed on her insecurities and used them to hurt Santana and Quinn. A part of her wondered why but most of her didn't care. She might not have gotten a crack at Jacob but she was damn sure going to let Jesse know exactly how she felt.
Despite near perfect grades, Rachel was so over high school academics. The teachers at McKinley lacked any kind of passion for their jobs. It wasn't her fault they failed at teaching basic things like history correctly. It also wasn't her fault that she felt the need to inform her fellow classmates of these grievous errors. It was bad enough that they were getting a sub par education overall. They should at least know that the civil war was not started because the North was "uppity". Needless to say, her teacher did not appreciate her intervention. It also went without saying that her expression of her displeasure of Rachel's interruption caused a significant delay in her arrival at glee. She was so busy muttering under her breath about her teacher that she almost failed to notice that Santana and Puck were both present when they were supposed to be home.
She was similarly surprised to see that Santana was sitting next to Lauren. The two girls were talking but neither appeared to be upset. As if she noticed Rachel's silent scrutiny, Santana looked up to meet her gaze. She nodded briefly before going back to her conversation. Rachel took that to mean that she could leave her friend alone for now. So instead she took her place beside Puck.
"I didn't think I was going to see you until I got home," she said as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
"Eh, we got bored. And also I felt like my manliness was decreasing with every passing moment."
"I got in an argument with your father and Satan over there about who was the hottest Disney prince: Aladdin, Flynn Rider or Prince Eric from the Little Mermaid."
Rachel giggled. "Who won?"
Puck sniffed. "I did. Flynn is voiced by Zachary Levi also known as Chuck. That guy is dope and he can sing. He's like my nerdy hero. Anyway, after that I came to the sad realization that I just beat a gay man and a girl in an argument about hot male cartoon characters. So I figured I'd come here and at least I'd be around other dudes to reaffirm my masculinity. Then I remembered we'll be singing and dancing for the entertainment of the student body. My manliness is pretty much not there."
She couldn't do anything other than laugh. Puck was so over the top sometimes he made her look good by comparison. She pressed a soft kiss against the corner of his mouth. "Hmm, I would definitely be willing to help you test that theory." She trailed a finger over his arm gently. "You feel pretty manly to me."
He smirked, leaning closer. "Would you care for a proper demonstration?"
"Yes, I think that would be appropriate. Best to gather evidence," their lips brushed lightly. "I wouldn't want to make a hasty decision."
"Oh, no, you wouldn't want that," he smiled against her mouth. "I suggest we make a very thorough examination."
"Ugh, really?" Kurt squealed as he walked into the choir room. "Who let Puck and Rachel into fornication mode?"
Mike, who was still beside the couple, shrugged. "It's Puck and Rachel. When are they not in fornication mode? They're always either eye-sexing, making out or both. And that was before Puckleberry 2.0 became a reality. At least now they get through a day without being physically attached to one another. I think we should all be grateful that they're together finally."
"Chang's got a point. All that UST was killing me slowly," Santana gagged, plopping down in the chair next to Rachel. "Miss me?"
Rachel raised an eyebrow. "A little less when you're mocking my perfectly healthy physical relationship with my boyfriend."
"Just make sure it's not too healthy," Santana warned. "We're roomies now. I definitely don't need to hear you two going at it."
Rachel flushed. "We will not be going at it!"
"Aw, you're so cute when you're all red like that!" Santana smiled. Rachel narrowed her eyes.
"You're so eating tofu for dinner tonight."
"Gag. And that's so not happening. Leroy owes me the meat of my choice after he lost our little bet this afternoon."
"He bet that Puck and I wouldn't sing every single song from Tangled on the front lawn. He forgets that neither of us have any shame."
"None," Puck agreed. Rachel blinked in disbelief. She was starting to wonder who was influencing who in this situation. Her father or her friends? "It's easy given how many times we've watched that movie. You could do it too, Rach."
Rachel sniffed indignantly. "I suppose I could but why would I want to?"
Puck shrugged. "You never know when you're going to be called upon to give someone that perfect teen movie moment." Rachel looked at him, helplessly confused. Sometimes she really wondered about him.
Thankfully, Will chose that moment to join his students. He looked around the room and frowned. "Where's Quinn?"
"Right here," Quinn replied, breezing into the room. Rachel was immediately on alert. The blonde's earlier upbeat mood was gone. She was frowning now and there was evidence that she was crying. Brittany pulled her into the seat next to her, putting an arm around her shoulders. They all watched as her face crumpled.
"What happened, Q?" Tina asked, gently.
"It's Nicholas," she whispered, tearfully. "He broke up with me."
"Because of the blog?" Lauren questioned carefully.
Quinn lifted her head to meet the wrestler's mournful gaze. "That's partially the reason. But honestly I think it was coming before then. The age difference was always bothering him. I think this just gave him the excuse he was looking for."
Quinn laughed bitterly. "I have no idea. I've been walking around all day trying to keep my head up around these assholes and now I have to show up to prom dateless and alone."
There was a moment of silence before a hesitant voice spoke up. "Not exactly." All eyes flickered towards Sam. He flushed at the sudden attention. "I'm just saying. I don't have a date. You don't have a date. Why don't we go together? For old times sake?"
"You'd really go with me?"
"Yeah, I really would."
She laughed and launched herself into his arms. "Thank you, Sam!"
Rachel started to smile when she noticed the distant look was back in Santana's eyes. She leaned into her best friend's shoulder. "You know that they're just going as friends, right?"
Santana jumped as if forgetting Rachel was there. "I don't care about that. Sam's not dating anyone. He's free to go with Barbie if he wants."
Rachel took Santana's hand in hers. "I'm here when you want to talk about it." Santana didn't reply. But then she didn't need to. Rachel felt the slight pressure in response and that was enough. "So now that we've got that issue settled, shouldn't we be discussing songs we're performing?"
"I had a suggestion for our opening number," Kurt raised his hand. "I was thinking that we should do something that properly demonstrates our group techniques as well as starts prom off with a bang. We need something timeless but also shows who we are."
Will nodded thoughtfully. "What song were you thinking?"
"Two words: Michael Jackson." There was a rise in agreement from the others. "Specifically the appropriately named 'Wanna Be Startin' Something'. It's the perfect way to start prom and it's appropriate given the rumors and nonsense surrounding us lately."
"Let me guess, you want to sing lead?" Santana asked, cocking her head to the side.
"Usually I would rise to that bait with a sarcastic but well timed comment, but today I'm going to acknowledge that I do have a history of being a bit demanding."
"A bit?" Brittany whispered to an amused Artie. Kurt glared in her direction.
"Anyway, I was actually going to suggest Blaine."
Blaine sat up straight. "What?"
"I think you would be the perfect choice for that particular song."
Will smiled. "Kurt has a point. It would actually be perfect for you."
"You want me to start prom off?" Blaine asked, shakily. Santana snapped her fingers, attracting his attention.
"You can do this, Hogwarts. You've got soul deep down under those dorky, white boy clothes and bow ties. You're going to be great. And if you get too nervous, just remember to sing to me. I am your date after all."
Blaine's lips curved into a smile. "Yeah, you are." He let out a slow breath. "Okay, so I'm starting prom off. What other songs are we singing?"
The rest of practice went smoothly afterwards. Will made the decision that they would each have a selection of songs so that no one person was missing too much of prom. Rachel noticed that Blaine was slated to perform a little more than everyone else but she knew that he was probably more comfortable with performing than he was actually dancing at prom. Rachel wasn't even upset that Puck would be performing a lot as well. It would just give her more time to dance with her friends. Friends… now that was something she never thought she would by the time prom rolled around.
"Still focusing on the unimportant things I see," Jesse's cool voice announced him before he even arrived in the room. He was pinned against the door by a furious Sam before he could even register what happened. "What the hell?"
"What the hell is wrong with you?" Sam snarled. "Do you get your kicks messing with people's lives?"
Jesse's gaze rolled towards Lauren briefly before going back to the seething blonde still holding him against the door. "So I guess you found out that I was the one who suggested that… what's her name tell the ugly kid with the horrible hair your little secrets?"
"Her name is Lauren," Sam said, shaking him slightly. "And yes, we know everything. One question for you though. Why the hell would you do that?"
"Because you're all so caught up in this prom crap that none of you are focusing on what's important," Jesse spat. "You're going to lose Nationals because you're so concerned about one stupid night."
Sam growled and Rachel was pretty sure that it was not going to end well for Jesse at that moment. Luckily, Santana chose that moment to intervene. She knew that her best friend harbored significantly less than pleasant feelings for the former lead for Vocal Adrenaline but she was willing to put that aside so that Sam didn't end up killing him. She wrapped a hand around his arm, pulling him away gently.
"Finally," Jesse muttered.
"Don't," Rachel warned him, quietly. She saw Sam and Santana talking in the corner. He appeared calmer, at least he wasn't jumping at a chance to try and beat the hell out of him. She eyed her ex boyfriend carefully. When they dated, she thought he was everything she could want. He was talented, focused and driven. But now she could see that was all he was. "Just leave, Jesse."
"You're really firing me this close to the competition? We have two weeks before you're expected to perform. How do you expect to win this without me?"
"We got here without you," Rachel replied, calmly. "We got this far without you. I'm willing to bet that we'll make it further without you and your constant attempts at demoralizing this group. And if we do lose, well at least we wouldn't have to deal with you. So just go home, Jesse. We don't need or want you around."
Jesse stood frozen for several long moments. For the first time since she met him, Rachel could actually read the older teen. He was lonely. He would always be alone until he realized that winning was great but it wasn't everything. She wondered if he would ever really learn that lesson. Finally, he muttered something none too complementary about them before spinning on his heels and making a dramatic exit. Rachel was beyond caring. She slumped back in her seat, leaning heavily against Puck.
"That was pretty harsh, babe."
She smiled, lifting her head to look him in the eye. "Yes, but you loved it."
"Oh yeah. I loved every damn second of it."
When Rachel was younger she used to dream about her ideal prom night. She would have a gorgeous dress. Her fathers would be taking pictures. And she would be getting ready surrounded by her best friends. There would be laughter and smiles and everyone would be so happy. When she reached high school, it became clear to her that this dream was never going to happen. That's why she was abruptly surprised as she walked into her room three years after she gave up the dream to find that it came true… well for the most part. Her dress was gorgeous and her fathers were taking pictures. But Santana was also threatening to ram a curling iron up Kurt's rear end. There was laughter though, so maybe it wasn't so far off.
"San," Quinn said, once they realized she might seriously carry out her threat. "I'm sure Kurt and all of us would appreciate if you didn't shove a hot curling iron anywhere on his body."
Santana sighed. "Well then tell him to stay away from me with that makeup kit of his. If I wanted more color on my cheeks I would've done it before!"
"You look like a zombie corpse," Kurt retorted, from his safe hiding place behind Mercedes. "Tina has more color than you."
"Who invited him to this again?" Quinn muttered.
"Me," Rachel said, sheepishly. "I just figured he was good with makeup and it might make this whole process easier. And more enjoyable."
Santana rolled her eyes, placing the curling iron down at last. She cocked her head to the side taking in Rachel's dress. "You clean up well, midget. I approve."
Rachel grinned. "You don't look so bad yourself, Satan."
Santana twirled, running her hands down her red clad sides. "Well, when you earn a certain reputation, you have to live up to it."
"Well, I think you look awesome," Brittany added from where she lay sprawled across Rachel's bed with Tina.
"Thanks, babe," Santana grinned in her direction.
After an initial period of awkwardness that lasted all of the five minutes it took both girls to just say the hell with it, Santana and Brittany were back on track. Thanks to Santana now living with the Berry family, Rachel knew that the two former cheerleaders had a serious heart to heart talk where they both realized they were awesome friends but not anything more. Santana was slowly coming to terms with being bisexual and Brittany was still with Artie. All in all, it wasn't a bad ending for something that was a huge disaster only three days before.
"Seriously though, why isn't Blaine here?"
"Sam and Puck kidnapped him on his way here," Rachel replied, shaking her head. "They said he needed some manly bonding time. Really, I think they just wanted to make sure he wouldn't try to run for it."
"I'm worried about him," Santana admitted.
"He's going to be fine," Brittany chimed in. "I promise."
Santana narrowed her eyes. "What did you do?"
Brittany blinked with her best innocent face (which was pretty damn innocent given that it was in fact Brittany). "Remember that thing you told me to stop doing to our friends?"
"Yes, pick pocketing is bad even when you know them. And for that matter give Kurt back his wallet." Brittany frowned before handing Kurt back his wallet. To his credit, Kurt did not react outwardly. Although he did subtly check to make sure everything was there. "So you stole Blaine's wallet?"
"Actually I borrowed his phone to call in some reinforcements for tonight. Blaine is going to be just fine tonight," Brittany beamed.
"Girls and Kurt, the boys are here!" Hiram's voice drifted up the stairs, preventing anyone from further questioning Brittany or her mysterious reinforcements.
There was an excited squeal as they all rushed to finish getting ready. As they were walking down the stairs (making their grand entrances as Kurt demanded), Rachel felt a sudden pang of anxiety. She knew it was stupid. She knew that Puck wasn't expecting anything out of this. But that was the problem. What if he was only dealing with all this because they were supposed to perform at the prom? He never actually asked her to prom. She just assumed they were going. But what if he didn't care. What if he wasn't amazed by her pretty dress and the hours it took to do her hair like this? What if he didn't buy her a corsage?
She didn't realize she was at the bottom of the stairs until she felt someone tap her on the nose. Blinking, she took a step back to see an amused pair of hazel eyes. The owner of those eyes was smiling soft at her… and holding up a single pink rose.
"You look amazing," he whispered. She took the flower and smiled back at him. That's when she noticed the box in his other hand. "My mother sends her regards and a corsage."
"Thank you, Noah," she giggled as he slid the matching rose corsage onto her wrist. "It's beautiful. Just… thank you."
He kissed her on the nose, mindful of Kurt's yelling in the background about not ruining her makeup. "Prom might not mean a lot to me but it means a lot to you. And you mean a lot to me, so I'm going to make damn sure this night is perfect."
She looped her arm around his and sighed dreamily. "It already is."
It was the perfect start to what she hoped would be a perfect evening. But of course, the ignorant minded student body of McKinley High were working over time to make sure that it was a less than perfect evening. As she was walking towards the gym where the prom was being held, she felt a worrying sensation of fear in her stomach. She wondered idly if she picked up some of Blaine's nervousness or if there was really something to be worried about. She realized the answer a little too late. She was behind her two friends as they pulled the doors open to find two of the hockey team members bearing Slushies.
Rachel gasped in horror as they held their hands to toss the cold drinks on her two friends. She started to move forward when Puck held her back. He simply pointed ahead and that's when she noticed the hands that were holding the cups were now empty and the contents were all over their would be tormentors. Blaine and Santana exchanged wide eyed glances.
"That's a good look for you, Avery," Dave smirked. "Matches your eyes."
"What the hell, Karofsky?" the captain of the hockey team sputtered as he, and his friend, both wiped away the cold drink. "You're hanging with the fags now?"
"If the alternative is you then I think that's a hell yes."
"I think you missed the part where the glee club is officially off the target list," Puck said, stepping forward. "From now on you and your little team of bitches are going to back off. We're done taking crap from you assholes. You mess with one of us you mess with all of us." Lauren, who was standing beside Dave, smirked as well. "Now, spread the word and do us all a favor and clean yourselves up. You look ridiculous."
Rachel watched as the two bullies stomped away leaving a trail of red ice in their wake. Puck looked over at Dave and Lauren. "Seriously, dude, cutting that a little close, weren't we?"
"I'm sorry," Dave shrugged. "Got distracted."
"By the horrible fashion sense of the junior class," Dave replied, deadpan. "Some of these dresses and suits look like they're straight out of the Eighties. I know retro chic is back in but enough is enough."
Blaine surprised them all by snickering first. "Really? That was too gay for even me."
"I try," Dave clapped him on the shoulder. "No, actually I got distracted by Artie, Sam and Mike. It seems that they've caught a case of Puckerman disease."
Puck's eyes widened. "Those bastards! They're trying to spike Coach Sylvester's punch without me?" Rachel didn't even bother to catch up with what he was talking about. She only accepted the hasty kiss before he dashed off to where the three boys were sitting with their heads bowed, obviously plotting. She shook her head. The more things changed, the more they stayed the damn same.
"Thanks," Santana said, dragging her out of her thoughts. She was looking at Lauren. "You know for making sure this dress didn't get ruined."
"Of course," Lauren nodded. "Gleeks stick together."
"That we do. I think I could get used to this whole anti bullying campaign Puck's started. Especially with our gleek muscle around," Santana threw a wink in Dave's direction. Lauren looped her arm through Dave's.
"We do make a good team," Dave agreed.
"Now this is the kind of gay boyfriend I could get used to." Dave blushed but Rachel could see the smile on his face. Rachel found herself smiling in response. If anyone would've told her six months ago that she would be proud to call David Karofsky her friend, she probably would've run the other direction in fear. But then again she definitely never imagined herself living with her best friend forever, Santana or dating Puck. So clearly the Rachel of six months ago was a Rachel that was better left in the past. Her future was much brighter.
"So it's time to get our Michael on!"
The first song of the evening went well. Blaine was a natural performer and any lingering traces of anxiety were put to the side as he led them through the song. They had the whole place dancing and singing along. Blaine only got better once Brittany's 'reinforcements' arrived. Rachel didn't think she was ever so happy to see the Dalton uniform as she was when Blaine's whole face lit up at the presence of the Warblers (though the new lead, Sebastian, left a lot to be desired). The rest of the gleeks happily forfeit a couple of songs in order to let the Blaine and the Warblers perform. She was currently dancing with Puck to their rendition of Teenage Dream. If the version Kurt heard was half as good as this, she totally understood why he fell in love at first sight.
"He's drooling," Puck murmured in her ear. She glanced over at Kurt to see that he was the only one on the dance floor that was watching the group on the stage completely captivated. Rachel was sure if she squinted she would see a little bit of drool on the corners of his mouth. She didn't really blame him. "He's so beyond obvious."
"Well, it's his first crush where it might actually be returned."
Puck smiled mysteriously. "Oh, I'd say there is a good chance it's returned."
Rachel raised an eyebrow. "You know gossip. You spill now!"
"Am I your boyfriend or your girlfriend?"
"You're my everything," she leaned in for a chaste kiss. "Now spill!"
He chuckled, resting his hands on her hips. "Blaine likes Kurt. I think he feels that he has pretend otherwise because Kurt really wasn't one of us in the beginning. That's why Quinn and Britt have been working at trying to include Kurt in things lately. They want Blaine to know its ok for him to like Kurt. Could be worse. He could get a crush on Finn."
Rachel snorted, remembering Kurt's unfortunate crush on his future stepbrother. "Yes, I think that's for the best." She wound her arms around his neck. "I love you."
A soft smile spread across his lips. "I love you too."
"This night is everything I wanted it to be and more," she said, solemnly.
"And it's only going to get better," he promised, pointing towards the stage. The Warblers (and Blaine) finished performing and were standing towards the back of the stage watching Principal Figgins. Rachel realized that it was finally time for them to announce the King and Queen. She glanced up at Puck, hoping to see some sort of sign that he had anything to do with the results but his face was a blank slate. He was getting better at this acting thing. Maybe she could persuade him to do Broadway after all.
"The results are in. This year's Prom King is…. Sam Evans." There was a polite round of applause as Sam stood beside a positively beaming Quinn. Rachel caught her gaze and the little wink at the end of it. "And the 2011 Prom Queen is….. Santana Lopez?"
The response this time was decidedly louder than before as the students all started clapping wildly. A spotlight centered on the decidedly confused Santana. Rachel looked at Quinn who was clapping and cheering as loudly as the rest of the students. She looked back to Santana in time to see that Kurt and Mercedes were pushing her towards the stage.
"You planned this," she teased, gently. His carefully put together mask cracked a little as a telltale smirk formed. "You're really a big softie."
"Yeah, I guess I am," he finally admitted. "But I actually had nothing to do with this. It turns out that McKinley might not be the great big ball of suck that we thought it was. They wrote her in without any interference from me or Britt. I guess the other students are as tired of this crap as we are. She was on all the ballots when Britt and I snuck in earlier." He paused, eyes widening. "Ooops, we gotta go. Time to sing."
"Remember how I told you it was easy to sing all the songs from Tangled. Well, I need you to sing one in particular."
Rachel giggled as he dragged her away. "You really are a big softie!"
Santana was certain that she did something horrible in a past life that led her to this moment. Or maybe it was that she did a lot of horrible things in this current life that put her here. Whatever. The point is that she felt completely exposed. The entire student body was looking at her like they were waiting for something. Sam was standing in front of her. He was watching her cautiously. She had no idea what to do. She was out of the prom queen race. So why the hell was she prom queen?
"You don't have to do this if you don't want to," Sam whispered, reading her face correctly. She looked up at him, eyes wide. "I understand. It's ok."
No, it was not ok, Sam. Because last week she could pretend that she was just like everyone else in the glee club. Last week she could pretend that she wasn't totally in love with both Brittany and Sam. But now everyone knew. Everyone knew she was in love with Brittany, including Brittany. And everyone knew that Brittany was still with Artie and she was all alone. Except Sam was standing here.
"I….,"she started, swallowing. "I don't know what to do."
Then suddenly music started to play. She looked up at the stage to see Puck and Rachel. Puck had his guitar in hand and was playing a familiar song. She knew what it was before Rachel even started singing.
All those days watching from the windows
All those years outside looking in
All that time never even knowing
Just how blind I've been
Now I'm here, blinking in the starlight
Now I'm here, suddenly I see
Standing here, it's all so clear
I'm where I'm meant to be
Santana felt the tears stinging her eyes. This was definitely Puck's doing. She didn't know how but he was definitely involved in this one. She continued to stand stock still on the dance floor with the spotlight shining on her and Sam while Rachel sang with Puck accompanying her on guitar. This was her teen movie moment and she was too petrified to move. That is until she saw a hand extended in her direction. She looked up with teary eyes.
"I'm here, San. I promise it's going to be ok."
Nodding slightly, she took Sam's hand and let him pull her into her arms. She rested her head against his chest as they danced to their best friends singing the theme song from her favorite movie. This was definitely a total crappy teen romantic comedy moment.
"I need to tell you something."
He pulled away from her somewhat, still keeping a loose grip on her waist. "Brittany was my first time with girls. I'm not sure if it's just that I love Britt or what but there's that. I like girls. I've screwed around with Puck more than once. I also screwed a bunch of guys from the football, hockey and softball teams."
He looked confused. "Why are you telling me all this?"
"Because I need you to know why you should be walking away from this," Santana whispered in response. "You shouldn't want me."
"Too bad," he smiled softly. "I do want you. I like you just the way you are. I like the way you're ultra bitchy and sarcastic. I like the way you're not apologetic about anything. I just like you, Santana. I like everything about you."
She found a smile forming on her lips. "I like you too, Sam."
"So what do you say? Wanna give them all what they've been dropping hints like anvils for months about?"
"I think I do."
And it's warm and real bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once, everything is different
Now that I see you
Now that I see you
As Puck and Rachel finished singing, Santana had to smile as a warm set of lips met hers. She dreamed about kissing those lips and it was everything she thought it would be and more. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she found herself smiling against his lips, pulling a matching smile from him.
"I still can't believe you ruined our amazing performance by cursing," Rachel griped.
Puck rolled his eyes but was smart enough to look appropriately shame faced. Though she knew he was hiding a smug smirk. She couldn't fault him for it. Sam and Santana were pretty much attached at the hip since they were crowned king and queen. And she felt nothing more than sheer relief that the two idiots finally got it together. They'd been dancing around the issue for so long and all it took was a little public humiliation. Rachel didn't know if she was grateful to Jesse for forcing their hand or not.
"Oh, great," Puck muttered. She looked around for the source of his distress. She knew that he, along with Finn, Sam, and Artie were supposed to perform the final song of the evening. He was getting ready to go backstage and prepare when he suddenly tensed. The source of his tension was revealed a moment later. Jesse stood on the edge of the dance floor, sharp eyes focused on Rachel.
"What the hell is he doing here?"
"My guess… he wants to talk to you."
"I'm not interested," Rachel replied, stubbornly.
Puck hugged her tightly. "You are, babe. I know you. You need to talk to him. Get some closure on the whole St. Berry chapter of your life."
She hated that he was right. That was the whole reason she wanted Jesse to help them with Nationals. She wanted to close that chapter of her life but he ruined that with his stupid meddling. She cut him out of her life again and yet here he was again. It seemed like Jesse St. James was always going to be a part of her life no matter what. But so was Puck. She wasn't kidding earlier when she told him that he was her everything. She didn't want him to think that she ever rated Jesse higher than him.
"Rachel," he lifted her chin. "I know I have nothing to worry about." He held up her left hand where his grandmother's ring rested. He kissed the ring before kissing her. "That's my ring you're wearing. It's me you promised to think about forever with. I'm not worrying about St. Dumbass. I'm worrying about you. I know you need to talk to him. So talk. I'm going to go be awesome with my bros."
Rachel laughed weakly. "You're the best, Noah. I just need you to know."
"I do," he kissed her again, ignoring the impatient calls from Finn. She didn't need to look to know that Sam and Artie were also giving similar difficulties moving away from their respective girlfriends. Finally, Puck managed to tear himself away from her lips and was bounding up onto the stage but not before playfully shoving Finn. Jesse was by her side before he was even picking up the guitar.
"I don't know what you see in him."
Rachel smirked. "You don't?"
"Sure he's got a nice enough voice but he lacks finesse that'll get him ahead in this industry," Jesse commented, watching as Sam sang his part of the verse with Puck playing guitar beside him. They were grinning at one another, clearly having fun. Personally, she was never really a Hot Chelle Rae fan but after listening to this song on repeat for the past week while the boys rehearsed their performance, the band was starting to grow on her. Especially this song. Especially the parts Puck sang. Ok, so she was shallow.
"Jesse, why are you here?"
"Because I still want you, Rachel. You can't tell me that this is what you want. You used to be focused. You knew what you wanted. Now you're content to sit back and be part of the crowd. That's not the Rachel I knew."
Rachel tore her attention away from the stage. Puck meant what he said. He hadn't looked in their direction once during their performance. His attention was solely on "being awesome with his bros". He trusted her that much. He loved her that much. And she loved him enough to make sure that he never had a reason to doubt her.
"I was that way," Rachel agreed. "I was driven and focused on winning. Wining was everything. But this year has taught me a lot. It's not everything. Being on top means nothing if you're up there alone. And the way that I was going about things meant that I was destined to be alone. That man up there showed me that there is so much more to life than just winning. He showed me that winning is even better when there are people that you care winning with you. People that love you for more than just your voice."
Jesse looked at her. "There's no chance for us, is there?"
She shook her head. "No," she replied without a hint of regret. "I love him. I don't know what my future holds. It could be Broadway or not. But I do know that it very much involves him and Santana, Sam, Tina, Brittany, Artie, Mike, Quinn and Blaine… really just all of them. We might lose at Nationals. But if we do then we lose as a family and we learn from our mistakes and try again next year."
"I don't understand."
"I know you don't. I don't expect you to. But just know that it's really over between us, Jesse. I'm not the Rachel you knew anymore. That Rachel died on a Sunday morning over Chinese food and Funny Girl. She's never coming back. I realize that there are more important things than winning."
We're goin' at it tonight, tonight
There's a party on the rooftop
Top of the world tonight, tonight
And we're dancin' on the edge of the Hollywood sign
She leaned up on her tiptoes. "Goodbye, Jesse," she kissed him on the cheek before rushing over to where Blaine, Tina, Brittany and Mike were holding court in the center of the dance floor. Or more like Blaine and Tina were amusing themselves while Brittany and Mike were showing off their dance moves. She watched as Brittany and Mike twirled around the center of the crowd, earning more than a few envious stares. Tina and Blaine were soon joined by Quinn who was dancing with them. Rachel stood at the edge of the appreciative crowd before she felt an arm wind around her waist. She felt a chin rest on her shoulder before she leaned her head against the dark head pressed against hers.
"So, I know it's early and all but I'm totally calling this as the best night ever."
Rachel grinned, lacing her fingers through Santana's. "Yeah, I think it's a fair call to make." They stayed like that for only a few moments before Quinn, Tina and Brittany were forcing them to dance with them. She found that a few of the Warblers had stuck around and were dancing with the gleeks. It was fun. She looked up at the stage and saw Puck staring at her. She beamed at him in response. Tonight was perfect.
Just don't stop, let's keep the beat pumpin'
Keep the beat up, let's drop the beat down
It's my party, dance if I want to
We can get crazy, let it all out
"Alright! Which one of you degenerates spiked the punch?"
*Whew, and it's done. This was the longest chapter I've ever written. Ever. Feels pretty awesome. Any way, I don't want anyone to panic but I'm taking a little bit of a break from this story. Prom has totally worn me out. Well that and my attention has been taken by the damn Operation: Endgame 'verse again. So expect a new story in that little world soon. I've also got another story I've been working on that's completely different for me. It's like a fairytale, glee style. So look for those…. Sometime in the near future. Hope you enjoyed this story. Don't worry it's not over yet. I've got at least one more chapter all planned out. Ciao for now!