Title: Reverse Psychology
Ship: Rachel/Puck, Mrs. Puckerman
Word Count: 4,947
Summary: Razi Puckerman always knew Rachel Berry was meant to be the girl to get her boy on the straight and narrow and she aims to make sure that happens.
Razi Puckerman checked the time, listened for the expected chaos going on upstairs and sighed when she heard the usual 'Get outta my room, Squirt!' and 'No-ahhhh!' before she grabbed her purse and handful of recently clipped coupons. This was a usual afternoon in the Puckerman household. With school out only a half hour before, her two children were quick to begin antagonizing each other. She'd only been home from work an hour and already she could feel the headache pounding at her temples. "Oy vey," she muttered to herself, leaving the kitchen and crossing to the stairs.
"I'm going shopping, I'll see you two when I get back," she shouted up to them. "Noah, empty the dishwasher. Dani, I want your bedroom clean before I get home." Hooking her purse, which had seen far better days, over her shoulder, she side-stepped her son's forgotten duffel bag of dirty gym clothes and sportswear and walked to her front door. As expected, their pounding footsteps made it down the stairs before she could make her escape. Throwing her eyes upward in exasperation, she cursed at her bad luck.
"Ma, I emptied the dishes last time. It's Dani's turn," Noah complained, brows raised expectantly.
"Nu-uh!" she cried, elbowing him as she shoved forward. "He paid me ten bucks to do it last time and 'cause I couldn't reach the cupboards up top, I put 'em with the pots and pans." She stuck her hands on her hips and smirked back at him. "And my room is so clean! I even made my bed! Can I go to Jenny's, mom, please-please-please?"
Muttering a Jewish prayer beneath her breath for patience, she raised a brow back at her two children. If her son thought he got that because God was looking kindly down on him, he was wrong. He may use that look to lure in unsuspecting shiksas and loose jezebels, but his mother was who perfected that cocked eyebrow and she used it to convince her children that she was old but not feeble minded. "Your room looked like World War Three: Daniella versus Cleanliness in there, so don't expect to me to believe you when you says it's clean," she argued, shaking her head. "If you want to see Jenny or anyone else the rest of this month, I want it so clean in there I can see my reflection in the carpet."
When Daniella simply stomped her foot, crossed her arms, and stuck her lower lip out, Razi pointed up the stairs. "March, bubbala."
"So unfair," she whined but turned and climbed the stairs, glaring back over her shoulder only once.
Noah laughed at her. "Hup-two, brat."
Whirling around, she glared at him and then smirked in an all too Puckerman manner. "Noah stole all your old videos from when he was little and in all those dumb plays at the JCC! He taped over all of them except the ones where him and Rachel are singing together!"
"Dani!" Noah shouted, turning and lunging up a stair like he was going to attack.
Screeching, Dani turned and raced off to her bedroom, slamming the door and locking it behind her.
"Noah," Razi interrupted, staring up at him threw thinned eyes. "All of them?"
Fidgeting, he played with the end of his shirt. "Just the ones where I look like a tool..."
She pursed her lips.
"Okay, so most of them…" He rolled his eyes. "You don't even watch 'em, ma, and I needed the tape…"
She glared sternly. "For what?"
Turning his eyes away, he muttered under his breath.
"I said…" He sighed, loud and irritably. "Rachel wanted to make some stupid tape to send in to like Julliard or whatever and I stupidly told her I had a video camera, but we didn't have any tapes left and I spent the last of my money on dip, and whatever… Like you need to know how lame I looked in those bogus plays they put on anyway. You got tons of pictures…"
"Oh, but Noah," She put a hand to her heart, "You were such a sweet little boy!" She frowned. "Not like now, where you're just a chaya!"
He rolled his eyes. "I grew up, ma. Get over it."
"Oy ves mear!" she cried, throwing her hands up. "What did I do to get such an unfeeling son, hm?"
"Ma…" he sighed, exasperated.
"No!" She shook her head, waving her finger around. "No, you fool around - potchka! – no fear for the consequences or others!"
"I care, all right? They're just some stupid movies, they—"
"They're your childhood! Where you come from, what you did, how proud you made me with your excitement and your goals! And now, what do you do?" She threw her hands up. "You pay your sister to do your chores! You sit in this house playing your video games to all hours! You date those-those gentile whores instead of a good, nice, Jewish girl! And you wonder why I'm upset that you taped over the times when you were a good boy who listened to his mother and did what was expected of him!" She shook her head. "You want to waste your life, you go ahead! But don't you take away what good of you I have left!" Turning on her heel, she reached out and yanked the door open. "Bubbala, you are my pride and joy, but if you never learn that you are worthy of great things, then you will never accomplish great things. And to get there, you must first accept who you were, who you are, and who you will be!"
"Ma, c'mon, I—"
"I'm going shopping! If I'm lucky, I'll find a little direction for you in aisle three!" Slamming the door behind her, she walked quickly to her old station wagon, tossing her purse inside and climbing into the driver's seat. As soon as she turned it on, the radio blared loud and angry at her. Cursing under her breath, she turned the volume down and wondered why she ever let him take her car out again after he tried to steal that ATM with it. Pulling out of the driveway while she was still putting on her seatbelt, she muttered to herself, going in and out of Yiddish.
She loved her son. God bless him, she did. He was a hellion and a brat and he looked too much like his good for nothing father, but she loved him. Enough to want the very best for him, even when he was so blindly ignoring the obvious. Once upon a time, she'd had a little boy who could do no wrong. Sure, he was a little more combatant than, say, Finn Hudson, but he always did things for a reason. If he beat up another boy, it was because that boy was doing something wrong and Noah wanted him to know it. Like when he was four and Jacob Ben Israel put paste in Rachel Berry's perfectly braided pigtails. Noah gave him a wedgie that involved a lot of tears and a week's suspension, from pre-school. But Razi had understood then; she understood that her little boy was just trying to stand up for the pretty little girl he knew from his synagogue, who was the only other kid besides Jacob that was his age at JCC. He was only doing what his parents taught him to do, what was right. If that had gotten lost in translation somewhere and Noah had somehow decided that meant to fight rather than reason, then that was her fault. And she obviously hadn't explained it any better because he continued to use that way of thinking the rest of his life. At the time, she'd been more excited that her little Noah was standing up for sweet and Jewish Rachel.
It wouldn't be the last time he did such a thing for the girl, nor the last time he wedgied Jacob Ben Israel, and thus began a long steam of incidences where Noah reacted to what he didn't like by pummeling, berating, or slushyingit. She was well aware of the mistakes her boy had made. Getting that Christian girl Quinn pregnant, while she'd been dating his best friend Finn, no less! It wasn't something to be taken lightly, she knew. Nor did she. She remembered well how she'd cried and sobbed and yelled at him for doing such a stupid, reckless thing. And he'd yelled back at her to stop treating him like shit, to stop making him feel like a loser, to stop comparing him to his father, and then he'd cried and he begged her to forgive him. And somewhere along the way, she'd mended the relationship with her son that she'd been too sad and too angry to notice was even broken.
They had been getting along better since Beth and Juvie. An odd sort of thing to bind them, she knew, but their family was anything but normal. Eli had run out of them when she was six months pregnant with Dani; he didn't call or leave a forwarding address and he definitely never sent money. She supposed that was about the time Noah went from standing up for the underdog to beating them down. She hadn't noticed or cared at the time, too caught up in her own heartache. But when he and Rachel had their falling out and she wouldn't even so much as look at him in JCC, Razi started paying attention. Like her own Jewish mother, Razi was a shrewd, intelligent matchmaker and she'd decided early on that Rachel Berry would be her son's forever. Sure, he was rough around the edges while she had her sights set far and big on New York and Broadway, but even as a little boy Noah had looked on at Rachel with wide eyed adoration for her ambition, big heart, and even bigger voice. Here was the girl that would set her boy straight, she decided. But instead she watched him make mistake after mistake with that Hispanic girl first, then Quinn, then the very unexpected wrestler, Lauren. And still, Rachel was there on the sidelines, playing a supporting character in Noah's life when Razi just knew she was meant to be one of the leads, meant to stand next to Noah, rather than star in her own, separate play, one where Finn Hudson was her leading man.
When she pulled into the grocery store, her ire had dimmed some. She had no doubt her son had already put her and her yelling out of his mind, he was probably playing those video games again and ignoring his homework. And Dani probably wouldn't do much more than stuff dirty laundry in with clean clothes, hiding it away in her dresser drawers instead of taking any time to actually do her laundry. She'd be lucky if when she got home her two children weren't tearing each other apart again. Grabbing up her purse, she pulled out her coupons and leafed through them. She had a couple weeks worth to buy for and with a growing boy on the football team she needed to pinch every penny so they could all eat. For such a fit boy, he sure did pack away a lot of food.
Gathering a cart, she started in the bakery section, eyeing the decadent pies and cakes and telling herself she just didn't have the metabolism she once did. As she was arguing with herself over how worth it a double chocolate cupcake was, she heard a very family voice.
"I can't help but criticize your point of view. You absolutely cannot call yourself a vegan and then work in the deli section of the super market… I can't begin to fathom how you might convince yourself that there is anything okay with that manner of thinking. You're handling slaughtered animals. Whether or not you eat them does not change that fact!" Rachel Berry flicked her hair behind her shoulder and glared. "I must demand that you stop referring to yourself as a vegan immediately…" She shook her head. "No, of course I'm not the sole moderator of all things vegan, but it's simply a matter of principle. I—"
"Rachel?" Razi interrupted, drawing the girl from her rant.
"Oh!" She smiled, her demeanor changing dramatically. "Mrs. Puckerman! How nice to see you." She turned back to glare thinly at the boy behind the counter before walking away, dismissing him dramatically. "I apologize if my voice was raised… I find when I become animated about a subject I lose control of my volume and don't realize it until after the fact." She briefly touched her throat and then beamed at the older woman. "Is Noah or Daniella with you?" She looked past her searchingly.
"No, dear, sorry…" She raised her brows teasingly. "I left them at home in hopes of finding a little peace and quiet."
Rachel flushed. "I apologize again, I—"
"It's fine," she told her, reaching out to soothingly pat Rachel's shoulder. "We haven't seen you around the house much lately."
Basket swinging at her side, Rachel nodded, moving to walk with her as she perused the shelves for sandwich bread. "Yes, I'm afraid I've been very busy. I realize it's only the beginning of our senior year, and Noah never fails to remind me that I should be taking more time to enjoy myself, but I feel like getting a head start on my applications, both on video and in paper form, will put me ahead of my peers as they too reach out in search of a place for higher education." She grinned, shrugging lightly. "I've tried speaking with Noah about his own applications, but he tends to talk over me whenever I bring it up and I find that it eventually leads to a very loud, very nonsensical argument in which I lose my temper, call him various adjectives for 'brute' and promptly go home to rant to my dads that your son is a thickheaded Neanderthal…" She frowned. "No offense."
Razi laughed. "None taken."
She ducked her head slightly, eyes darting away. "No, really… I hope you don't think I'm ridiculing Noah, because I'm not. I just wonder sometimes if he doesn't recognize his own potential or if he truly doesn't care…" Brows furrowed, she stared off distantly, as if she was still trying to work out the enigma that was her son.
Razi stared at her a long moment, eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "You know, Rachel, I'm not sure if I see the potential you're speaking of either…" She sighed, long and loud. "Why just today, Noah was behaving like a bratty little boy rather than the man he's supposed to be." Clucking her tongue, she shook her head. "I thought he'd grown up, thought he'd learned from his mistakes, but you know… I'm beginning to think that boy isn't going anywhere." She tapped her foot. "He'll stay here in Lima and grow up just like his father, never trying for anything better, never making anything of himself. Why, one day, I wouldn't be surprised if he up and left his family just like Eli did us." Her eyes widened dramatically. "And we'll find him drinking away whatever potential he had, with a bucket load of regrets and nothing to show for his life."
Dismissively, she looked between the Dempster's and Wonder bread and finally chose the former. Seeing Rachel's gaping expression, she fought a smile. "I tried, dear, I did… But you know, maybe you were right in choosing Finn, even if you two are broken up. If only I had been as lucky as Carole to get such a good boy…" She sighed mournfully. "Instead I'm stuck with my gentile impregnating criminal!" She scoffed, turning to stare at Rachel seriously. "You know, I bet Finn even talks about getting out of Lima. I bet he plans to make it big in music or sports or what-have-you, and what does Noah want, hm? Gornisht! Nothing!" Brushing her hands off, she turned and walked away, moving down the soup aisle. "And what kind of husband could he make? He doesn't know the meaning of monogamy, he dates all these awful girls... He thinks too much with his downstairs brain is what he does! And children? Why he gave up his first, a mistake in the first place, so what kind of father would he—"
"Enough!" Rachel interrupted, her face flushed and her eyes big and angry. "I-I can't believe I'm hearing you right. I'm truly—I'm appalled by what you're saying, Mrs. Puckerman." She swallowed tightly, her eyes welling with tears. "I had thought, if anybody could support Noah, it would be you. But obviously my belief in your person and your skills as a mother were sorely overblown. Noah is—He's…" She threw her hands up. "He's a wonderful boy! Perhaps he's misguided and scared about his future, but he's by no means a talentless going-nowhere criminal!" Breathing heavily now, she put her hands on her hips. "I will have you know that Noah would be a wonderful boyfriend! He was a wonderful boyfriend! If I hadn't been so distracted by my misdirected appreciation for Finn, I might've noticed that Noah and I had a very real connection. Even now, when we're engaged only in friendship, he's by far the most compatible with me." Firmly, she reminded, "He's very blatantly himself, never pretending to be anybody else, and that's a refreshing personality when surrounded by so many fake people pretending to like you if only for your voice and what it might offer to them!"
She leaned in close and pointed a finger in Razi's face, "And as for his ability to be a father or husband, I seriously regret that you think so lightly of him. Yes, Beth was borne of a mistake with a girl he'd thought he loved enough to hurt his best friend, but not a day goes by that he doesn't wish he could've done better by his daughter. And he would be a wonderful husband! He would need direction and a lot of understanding and we'd certainly have our fights, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't be happy together or have a very fulfilling marriage in all aspects and I-I…" She stomped her foot. "I happen to love your son and I don't appreciate what you've said, not one bit!" Whirling on her heel, she made to walk away, only turning back steps away to shout, "You can bet than when Noah becomes a sensational hit in the music industry, he will be deserving of everything he's done and you'll regret your words, Mrs. Puckerman!" She stabbed a finger into the air and left the aisle with determined, stomping steps.
And Razi watched on, smirking. Pleased with herself, she turned around and continued her shopping; certain that what she had intended would be carried out.
Hours later, when she returned home to find the dishwasher emptied, Dani at her friend Jenny's, and Rachel Berry's red loafers lined up perfectly next to her son's haphazardly kicked off sneakers, she grinned. She shut the door a little harder to warn them she was home and when, ten minutes later, as she was putting away her groceries, Noah and Rachel came down, the latter still smoothing out her clothes nervously, she was certain her matchmaking had worked. She was proven right when Noah proudly brushed Rachel's hair off her shoulder, kissed her neck with an audible, possessive smack and then grinned smugly at his mom. "You want help? Rach's staying for dinner."
"Wha-? I-I didn't say I was—" She pursed her lips up at him. "I don't remember being asked to dinner, Noah."
He grinned, kissing her puckered lips, and shrugged. "Didn't ask. 'm telling."
Her eyes narrowed. "And if I had plans to—"
"You don't. Daddies-Berry are outta town," he reminded, brows furrowed. "Besides, it's Tuesday. Leroy makes his tacos on Tuesday; you hate those."
She frowned. "You do have a point."
"'Course I do, babe. Now help ma with the groceries." He shoved her lightly toward his mother, patted her butt and then turned and left. "There's a game on," he said in explanation when they turned back expectantly, waiting for his help.
Rachel sighed, clucking her tongue. "You won't be eating in the living room, Noah Puckerman."
"S'okay, I can see the TV from the table," he called back smugly.
"We'll see," she muttered, brow raised.
Rolling her eyes, Rachel turned back to see Razi peering at her. "Well… I suppose you've put most of the groceries away…" She surveyed the empty bags. "I apologize we weren't down earlier, but we…" Her eyes turned up as she tried to think of a convincing lie, "were so caught up in our homework that we—"
Razi's snort interrupted her. "Rachel, there's a heart-shaped hickey on your neck, you're wearing my son's jersey, and that boy's got a shit-eating grin on his face that gives you away like nothing else…" She raised a knowing brow. "I hope you'll make an honest boy out of my son."
Her cheeks lit up, but her smile was full when she replied, "You have my word that I will definitely try."
Gathering up the bags, Razi looked from the ingredients she wanted for her kugel back to the fidgeting young girl in front of her. "What I said at the grocery store…"
"Was a very inventive tactic," Rachel said, nodding. "I admit I was quick to take your word as your true feelings, but later it occurred to me that you were simply bating me…" She chewed her lip, staring at the floor a long second before finally saying, "I'd like to thank you, actually. While I think your ploy was certainly harsh, it was rather cunning… I should've expected that from a Puckerman, I suppose."
Razi grinned. "I'm sure you'll learn."
She glanced affectionately back at the living room as Noah shouted at the TV screen, invested in his game. "It may take time, but I think I'll become a connoisseur of all things Puckerman."
"I'm not sure you aren't already, at least for that particular Puckerman."
She smiled. "I did know that I had feelings for him," she admitted. "I just wasn't sure what they were until you gave me that little push."
"What was it exactly?" she wondered, brows furrowed. "That what I was saying was wrong or that even he probably believed it was right?"
"I…" She frowned. "At first, I was just angry for him… And then, when you were saying those things about Finn, I began to realize that I was expecting so many things of the wrong boy… While another boy, a boy who happened to fit me much better, wanted many of the same things I did, and would offer them to me if I had asked, rather than making me fight for them like Finn had." She stared up at Razi thoughtfully. "I always had to try with Finn… I had to make him notice me, like me. I tried to be someone more socially acceptable so he would be more content with me, but Noah…" She smiled softly. "Perhaps he doesn't always enjoy my chatter, but he'd never ask me to change… Shut up, maybe, but never change." She chuckled lightly. "He's flawed and so am I, but he appreciates my flaws just as I do his… Like his awful Mohawk and his dislike for authority… He's strong-willed and unique and proud of that. It's a very attractive attribute."
"Hey babe, we got anything to drink?" he called to her, like he knew she was talking about him, and felt like testing that theory.
She sighed, long and suffering. "I would suspect that since your mother just finished shopping that yes, you would happen to have beverages. You might want to raise yourself off the couch and come in search of them yourself!"
It took him a few minutes, but eventually he came lumbering into the kitchen. "Four words, babe. I could'a said that in four words." At her quirked brow, he raised a hand and counted them off, "Get it yourself, Puckerman!" He smirked. Hunching over at the fridge, he grabbed out a Gatorade and, closing the fridge door, leaned back against it, snapping it open and finishing off half the bottle in one long guzzle. "So…" He licked his lips clean. "What's for dinner, ladies?"
Razi frowned at him. "You don't smarten up and I'm taking your girlfriend out to eat and leaving you here to fend for yourself, nudnik!"
He rolled his eyes. "Berry won't do me like that…" He reached over and dragged the small girl back by her waist, pulling her until she was leaned back against him, her head upturned against his shoulder. "She loves me…" he said, drawing it out obnoxiously.
Rachel rolled her eyes. "Less and less with each Neanderthal based action."
He smirked. "Nah, you're stuck with me." He nuzzled her nose with his. "Better get used to it."
Her expression softened, big brown eyes staring up at him adoringly. "I just might…"
"I'm the greatest shadkhen that ever lived," Razi toted to herself, turning to get her kugel together as the two teenagers murmured to each other, trading kisses, thoroughly distracted.
A few minutes later, Noah sent his girlfriend off to the living room, making her promise not to change the channel. She smirked back at him devilishly before sing-songing, "Oh, but I bet I can find an episode of your favorite show, Hannah Montana, somewhere…"
He glared after her as she wiggled her fingers and slipped into the living room.
Stuffing his hands in his jeans pockets, he came over and leaned against the counter. "So, uh…" He glanced down at the kugel and then at her. "I know you had a part in this… Not sure how…" He reached up to rub the back of his neck. "Rachel talks at like mach-five speeds when she's worked up, but I got a few words." He sighed, brows raised. "Something about how I've got too much potential to waste and she wasn't gonna let me and that we'd prove you wrong together and, just, whatever…" He shrugged. "I guess what I'm trying to say is… Thanks… Y'know?"
Razi smiled at her son, turning and reaching over to take his handsome face in her hands and drag him forward so she could kiss his forehead.
"Ma…" he complained.
She kissed his nose with a loud smacking noise just to irritate him more. "You're my favorite son, Noah—"
"'m your only son," he snorted.
She smirked. "Yes, and thank God! I can only handle one boy with your thick head!" She chuckled lightly and squeezed his shoulders. "That girl loves you! She'll be good for you! And you…" She rested her forehead against his. "You will be the best thing to ever happen to her, d'you hear me?"
He stared up at her with those eyes of a little boy, a little scared and unsure, but he nodded all the same. "Yeah."
"You will," she promised. "Because you love her as much, if not more than she loves you, and bubbala… That love is going to grow with you, through mistakes and life and whatever your future throws at you… If it's here or New York or wherever, I will be proud of you, I will support you, and I will know that you deserve every great accomplishment you make!"
He swallowed thickly. "I'm better than him," he told her with conviction.
A flash of his father, of him walking out that door and leaving all his baggage on his son's shoulders filled her mind. "A million times better," she agreed, drawing back and patting his cheek sweetly. "And that girl has always seen that in you."
"Yeah…" His brow quirked as he eyed her worriedly. "What if Finn wants her back?"
With a strong, stubborn expression, Razi told him, "Then you do what you've always done, Noah. You fight for what's yours, for what you believe in, and for what you deserve…" Her eyes flashed. "And that zhlub won't stand a chance! Fershstay?"
Grinning, Noah laughed. "All right…"
"Good." She nodded sternly. "Now go…" She waved him off. "I have dinner to make."
He moved to leave, pausing to kiss her cheek before he went, and Razi stood smiling as she put together their dinner and listened to the laughter and teasing of the two in her living room. It was just the beginning, of course, but she had high hopes for those two. And of course, she was right in doing so. At twenty-three and twenty-two, Rachel and Noah came home from New York to marry at their childhood synagogue. And over the next eight years, they'd give her three beautiful grandchildren. Thing weren't always perfect; they broke up once or twice along the way, but eventually they always found their way back to each other, just as they were meant to.
To think, she could have avoided so much confusion if she'd just used a little reverse psychology on them when they were much younger. Oh well, no point in regretting it now. They were together and happy and they had her to thank. She told them a fourth grandbaby would be just the trick. And because they loved her so much, and never really could keep their hands off each other, they gave her that too.
Oy Vey – Oh, how terrible things are!
Shiksa – Gentile girl or woman
Bubbala – Term of endearment; darling
Chaya – "Wild animal"; used to describe unruly children
Oy ves mear! – Oh woe is me!
Potchka – To fool around; to be busy without a clear goal
Nudnik – Pest; annoying person
Shadkhen – Professional matchmaker
Zhlub - An insensitive, ill-mannered person, a clumsy individual.
Fershstay – Do you understand?