Title: Catching Fire

Author: TheMastress, or smartalli on LJ

Count: 5500+

Characters: Puck/Rachel, Rachel/Santana and Quinn/Rachel friendship

Warnings: You are hereby entering AU territory, so some of the rules no longer apply. Other than that, there's a little Puck language. Nothing crazy extreme.

Summary: In which Quinn, Santana and Rachel attempt to exorcise the demons of ex-boyfriend Finn, and discover that no one should ever allow Santana near an open flame with a bottle of tequila.

Disclaimer: Don't own it. Not mine. Don't sue.

A/N: From a prompt from the Puckleberry drabble meme, listed at the bottom of the story. It's important to know that Finn and Quinn are the only ones from Lima. Everything else is pretty obvious, I think. Reviews are lovely and always appreciated.


"Go away."

"Rachel Barbra Berry, you open this door right now. I mean it."

"Quinn, please. I'm not in the mood for company."

"You haven't been in the mood for two weeks. And I get it, I do. But it's time you stopped feeling sorry for yourself and moved on. Stop letting him live rent free in your head. He doesn't deserve the awesome real estate."

"Quinn..."

"I'm not above allowing Santana to use her powers of persuasion to gain entry."

Rachel pauses, her hand on the door.

"I mean that. She's walking away as we speak...she's going to your super...and who knows what excuse she'll use to get him to open your apartment for us? Uh oh...she's almost to the stairs...she's starting to-"

Rachel sighs and unlocks her door, pulling it open and glaring at the two women standing on the other side, paper bags in their hands. "You're not nice people."

"Uh huh. Step aside." Santana shoos Rachel back with her hand and steps into the apartment, Quinn right behind her. "A sip or two of José should make you a little less Mopey dwarf."

Rachel shuts the door and says, "I don't like tequila, San. You know that."

"You should learn to live a little, Ray."

"Have you forgotten what happened the last time you made me drink tequila?"

"No."

"Then you'll also remember that that particular night turned out a lot better for you than it did for me."

She rolls her eyes. "Okay, so I'll drink it. Whatevs."

Rachel looks at Quinn and asks, "What's in the bag?"

"Take a look."

Quinn holds it out and Rachel peers inside. She takes note of a CD, a t-shirt, a scarf, various pieces of paper large and small, and a purple stuffed bear. "Are you planning on starting a yard sale?"

"We're going to perform an exorcism."

"My apartment isn't haunted. And I'm fairly certain we'd need a priest for that. Or in my case, a rabbi."

Santana drops her bag on the sofa and plops down next to it, unscrewing the cap on the bottle of tequila in her hand. "A Finn exorcism, Ray. We're having a Finn exorcism."

"He's not dead, last I checked. Though right now, I'm not sure I'd mind that."

Quinn smiles. "We're going to exorcise our feelings for Finn. Get him out of our systems once and for all so we can move on to bigger and better things."

"So the bags are..."

"All shit he gave us. Or left with us. Or forgot he left with us." Santana takes a sip of tequila and lifts a baseball jersey out of the bag next to her. "I'm going to really enjoy setting fire to this stupid thing."

"Isn't that his signed Roberto Alomar jersey?"

"Yep."

"Santana, don't you think you should give it back to him?"

"If he wanted to keep it, he shouldn't have gotten caught with another chick. It's restitution, Ray. For my pain and suffering."

"I don't think that applies in this case."

"Hey, who's the lawyer? You or me?" Santana takes another sip from the bottle before she sets it on the coffee table in front of her. "That's what I thought."

"It'll be good for you, Rachel. It'll be good for all of us."

"I don't know, Quinn."

She sighs and sets her bag down. "I need this, Rachel. You know how much Finn hurt me." Rachel nods. Her own relationship with Finn had been intense, but short-lived. She'd had hopes for the future, and she had liked him very, very much, but it hadn't progressed any further. Quinn, on the other hand, had spent years building up trust and love, only to have it all come crashing down on her about a year ago. "And there's this guy...Sam...and I think he's great and sweet and I want to see where things go, but I need to get rid of Finn, to get him out of my system, once and for all. Will you do this for me? Please?"

"Look, whether you want to admit it or not, he screwed us all over. And that sucks, but you know what sucks more? The fact that he's screwing with us now. You're all weepy and mopey, Quinn's got this super hot guy she won't take a chance on 'cause she's afraid he'll hurt her, and I can't even muster up the balls to meet Britt's parents. We have to stop letting him fuck with our lives."

Crass though her delivery may be, Santana had a very valid point. Rachel had grieved long enough for him. "You're right."

"I know. Go grab your Finn box and let's get this shit started."

Rachel grabs the box from her bedroom and brings it out to the living area, setting it down on the coffee table next to Santana's and Quinn's. Santana had placed the white metal trashcan from her bathroom in the center of the coffee table, next to the open window, and Quinn was walking back toward the couch with an open bottle of wine, two glasses, and the box of matches from Rachel's junk drawer.

Rachel accepts a glass from Quinn and waits as the blonde fills it. "Okay, how do we start? Does someone go first?"

"I will." Santana picks up the jersey out of her bag and holds it over the trashcan, the box of matches in her other hand. "Finn, you gigantic, bumbling man-child...I have to admit, I actually thought all of the rambling and the blushing was cute. I thought we had a good time. Sure, you kinda sucked at kissing and you had, like, no technique in the sack, but I was willing to overlook that because it was actually kinda fun to be around you. And then I caught you with another chick, and I wanted to cut your balls off. I still want to cut your balls off. But as it seems that particular type of retribution is frowned upon in the state of New York, I've decided to burn some of your most prized possessions instead. Goodbye, Finn. You suck balls. I'm glad I don't suck yours anymore."

Santana tosses the jersey in the trash can and lights a match, dropping it into the can after. The material inside begins to catch fire, and Santana proceeds to drop everything else from the bag on top of the flames. "Your turn, Ray. Give him hell."

Rachel takes a sip of her wine and pulls a stuffed strawberry out of her box.

"What in the hell is that?"

"It's a stuffed strawberry. You know, because my last-"

"Yeah, I got it. Why does it have a face?"

Rachel looks at it and frowns. "I don't know. Finn won it for me at one of those silly carnival games. He insisted I had to have this because of my last name. I always thought it was sort of sweet, actually. I mean, look...it's smiling."

"It's creepy, Ray. It has a lazy eye. You let him give you that?"

"Well, he won it. I wasn't going to say no. And it's whim...You know, it doesn't really matter. I'm about to burn it anyway."

Santana concedes the point and crosses her legs, taking another sip from the bottle. "Still creepy, though. Like that damn Chucky doll. Didn't you ever worry that thing was gonna murder you in your sleep or something?"

"Not until now, I didn't. Thanks so much, San."

"Stop freaking her out, Santana." Quinn shakes her head and says, "Go ahead, Rach."

Rachel holds the strawberry by the tips of her fingers over the trashcan, her fingers barely grasping the leaves. "Finn, even though our relationship didn't last as long as most of my previous relationships had, I felt a genuine connection with you. I thought we had the chance to be something truly wonderful. Yes, you were often forgetful, but I thought it was just a part of your charm, something that would most likely continue to irritate me in the future, but something I felt I could ultimately live with. I thought you were charming in a sweet, bashful sort of way, and I admit I fell for that. But it turns out I'm not the only one who fell for that.

"I know it's silly, I know we hadn't been dating that long, but I was already dreaming big dreams with you. And when you cheated on me, I felt so many of those dreams fade away. And I hate you for doing that to me. I deserve so much better, and by exorcising you now, I'm allowing myself a genuine shot at happiness. Goodbye, Finn. You should have been a better to me."

She drops the strawberry into the slowly dying fire and watches as it catches flame. "Was that okay?"

Santana shrugs and says, "A little wordy, and I would have told him to go fuck himself, but yeah...sure."

Rachel drops all of the other items from the box – the Happy New Year headband, a coaster from that bar in Brooklyn she loves, concert tickets, an old t-shirt of his, dozens of photos – into the trashcan one by one and watches as they start to burn. She takes a minute then sits down on the couch.

Rachel has to admit, though she had serious doubts as to the validity or usefulness of such an exercise, she finds her heart to be considerably lighter than it was ten minutes ago, before Quinn and Santana showed up at her door.

Of course, that could be the Merlot talking.

"Okay, Quinn. Your turn."

The blonde takes a deep breath and stands, pulling a picture out of the bag at her feet. "Finn. Once upon a time, I thought you and I were going to have a happily ever after. Everyone in Lima thought we were meant to be, including me. You were so good to me, and when my parents split up, you were there for me, through it all. I was always so sure that no one could ever love me as strongly as you did. We'd been through so much together, I was sure there was nothing we couldn't handle. It was so easy to love you.

"But New York, it changed you. You became this different person. And suddenly, I wasn't sure how to talk to you anymore, and you didn't seem interested in working anything out and...I don't hate you. I think it would be easier if I did, but I don't. But if this is the person you really are, then I'm glad we aren't together anymore. Goodbye, Finn."

Quinn drops the picture into the trashcan and the three women watch as the fire begins to eat through the top of the photo, quickly erasing the faces of Quinn and Finn. Santana takes a sip from the bottle in her hand and asks, "Is that your prom picture?"

"Yeah."

"Nice dress. Good color on you. Your tits look awesome."

Quinn laughs. "Thanks."

She takes the rest of the things out of the bag and dumps them into the trashcan, but the flames seem to have died down, so the remnants of her relationship with Finn aren't igniting the way Rachel's and Santana's had. They peer into the can and Rachel says, "Maybe we should light another match."

Santana shakes her head and says, "There's no point in that. There's already a flame, it just needs a little fuel." She takes one more sip from the tequila bottle before she tips it over the trashcan.

The flames shoot up and out of the trashcan, making all three women fall back onto the couch in shock. "San! How much tequila did you pour in there?"

Santana's about to respond when Quinn cries, "Curtains! Rachel, the curtains!"

Rachel looks over at the pale blue curtains surrounding her windows, horrified to see them going up in flame, and can't seem to make herself move. She just stares, watching as the flames start to lick higher and higher up her walls.

After that, things happen rather quickly. Quinn dials 911 and Rachel vaguely hears her giving the dispatcher the address of Rachel's apartment. Santana fills glasses with water and tries to put out the flames, but it's a mostly ineffective method, and the flames keep growing. When Rachel finally gets her wits about her, she grabs the fire extinguisher from under her kitchen sink and starts to try extinguishing the flames, but clearly she should have grabbed it much sooner, because all she seems to be doing is keeping them at bay. About the time she starts to realize that her one little fire extinguisher won't be much help against the growing fire, she feels herself being pulled away by a pair of strong arms. She tries to resist, to break away from his hold – Doesn't he see she has a fire to put out? What does he think he's doing? – but he holds firm and pulls her out of her apartment.

"What are you doing? My apartment's on fire! I have to put out the fire!"

"That's why you called us, ma'am. Let my buddies do their job, okay?"

"Where are you taking me?"

"Downstairs to the paramedics. You need to get checked out. You inhaled some smoke, so we just need to make sure you're okay."

Rachel allows him to walk her down the first flight of stairs, though she keeps looking behind them every few seconds. "But...but my-"

"What's your name?"

"Rachel. Berry."

"Hi, Rachel. I'm Matt."

"Hi, Matt. It's nice to meet you." She's sure her fathers would be quite proud to know that even in the face of fear, she still remembers her manners.

He smiles and shakes his head. "Look, I know you're freaked out because your apartment is on fire, but the best guy in the whole company is up there right now. He'll have the fire out in no time."

"Really?"

"Really. He has awards and commendations and all of that. Your apartment is in good hands. I promise."

Rachel suddenly realizes that she hadn't seen Quinn or Santana for the last few minutes and starts to panic. "Matt! My friends! Where are-"

He pulls her along, down the last flight of stairs and toward the front door. "They're outside, getting checked out by the paramedics." When they clear the front doors, he leads her to an ambulance with its doors open and points at her two friends. "See? They're just fine."

Rachel rushes to them and pulls both of them in for a hug and they laugh and hug her. She's relieved to see they're alright, just a little sooty and tired. She turns her head to thank Matt, but he's already gone.

A few minutes later Brittany shows up and wraps her arms around Santana and refuses to let go. This isn't shocking; Brittany is very touchy-feely. She's been known to hug Salvation Army Santas. But as long as Rachel has known Santana (which is quite a long while, they met in preschool), she has rarely ever been witness to the emotional openness on her face whenever Brittany is around. Brittany is good for Santana, very good, and Rachel hopes it lasts.

Sam shows up just about a minute after Brittany and rushes to Quinn's side when he sees her, his hands hovering but not quite touching, his anxiety palpable. It's clear he wants to pull her into a hug, wants to check her over himself for any injuries, but doesn't think he's allowed to. His status in her life is too uncertain, but Rachel can tell he likes Quinn very much. She's very lucky. Sam's attention makes Quinn a little bashful and she blushes when he says he's glad she's alright.

Rachel wishes she had what they do. She wants to have someone who will rush to her side at the very mention of trouble, someone who will hold her and tell her he's glad she's alright.

Before long the firemen have exited the building and Rachel's feeling a little like a fifth wheel. She sees Matt motioning toward her, and an older man in a uniform walks over. "I'm Captain Flannery. Are you the owner of the apartment?"

"I am. Is..." She can't bring herself to say the words, can't bring herself to ask whether the picture of her fathers on the bookcase has burned, whether her awards have become misshapen versions of their former selves, whether everything she owns is gone.

He smiles. "We were able to isolate the fire and limit most of the damage, although I'm afraid you're going to need a new coffee table and new curtains. And you should get someone in to take a look at the woodwork on that wall."

Rachel lets out a sigh of relief and over his shoulder, sees Quinn and Santana and Brittany and Sam mingling with the firefighters. "Thank you. That's great news."

"But in the future, you should probably limit all your fires to a fireplace, okay?"

"Absolutely. You have my word."

He nods and walks away and Santana and Quinn walk up to her. They each grab an arm and pull her toward the firefighters and Rachel tries to stick her feet into the pavement to impede their progress. "What are you doing?"

"You'll thank us in a minute, B."

"What are you talking about?"

Quinn and Santana give each other a look and stop. Santana steps behind Rachel and puts her hands on her head, directing it to look at one specific firefighter, who has just taken his helmet off. He has close cropped hair and he's smirking at another firefighter, who Rachel recognizes as Matt. She really should thank him properly for helping her out of the building.

"You want me to look at Matt? Why?"

"Not Matt. His friend. Puck."

"What kind of a name is Puck?"

Quinn says, "Who cares? Look at him, Ray. He's perfect for you. Tall, gorgeous, great smile, muscley...and he's the one who put the fire out. Don't you think he deserves to know how appreciative you are?"

They start to pull her toward Puck again and Rachel tries to resist, saying, "If he's as great as you think he is, I'm sure he has a girlfriend already. And that would just be...awkward."

"No girlfriend, B. We already asked. Come on, I can think of at least five ways for you to thank him for saving your apartment, and only three of them involve condoms."

Rachel is no match for the combined strength of Santana and Quinn and before long, she's standing in front of Puck with absolutely no idea what to say. She wants to tell him how thankful she is, but she can't seem to form the words. The longer she stands there, gaping like a fish, the larger his smile grows. She finds it's doing unsettling things to her stomach.

"Our friend is curious about something, and we wondered if you could help us."

Puck looks briefly at Santana before returning his eyes to Rachel. "Sure. What?"

"Does your squad have a calendar? And if so, where can she buy one?"

"Santana!"

Quinn stands behind Rachel and puts her hands on Rachel's upper arms, pushing her a little closer to Puck. "This is Rachel Berry. She's twenty-six, single, and Jewish. She has the voice of an angel and the legs of a temptress and she's currently starring as Maria in the Broadway revival of West Side Story. She gets a standing ovation every night. Likes include baking, singing, watching old movies and long walks on the beach. Dislikes include fake people, the phrase "making whoopee" and forgetful boyfriends."

Rachel closes her eyes and covers her face with her hands. "I'm so sorry. Normally I don't let them out in public without adult supervision."

Puck starts to laugh. "And what are you?"

Rachel takes her hands off her face and notices that her friends have deserted her. "Usually? An adult. But since my apartment nearly burned down tonight, I think I'm allowed to be a little flustered."

"Yeah, alright. I guess that gives you a pass."

She says earnestly, "Thank you, by the way. For putting out the fire. I have a few things that are very precious to me, and I don't know what I would have done if I had lost them."

"S'cool." He shrugs. "It's what I do."

"Really, Puck. You have no idea how grateful I am. It is Puck, right?"

He gives her a lazy little smile and says, "Noah."

"Noah." He nods. "But I thought you told San and Quinn your name was Puck?"

He shrugs. "Nickname. My last name is Puckerman."

"Noah Puckerman."

"Rachel Berry. Twenty-six, Jewish, awesome legs."

She groans. "You really shouldn't believe anything they say."

He lifts an eyebrow. "So you're not Jewish, then?"

"No, no...I am."

"Me too."

"Really?"

"Unless my ma's been lying to me for twenty-seven years, yeah."

"Noah Puckerman. Twenty-seven, firefighter, Jewish."

"Mr. April."

Rachel's mouth parts and her eyes start to widen. "There is a calendar?"

"No." He laughs and waggles his eyebrows. "Gotcha goin' though, didn't I?"

She levels him with a glare and crosses her arms. "Cute."

"I really am." Someone shouts for him and Puck turns his head and nods, acknowledging the command to wrap everything up. When he turns back to Rachel, he takes off his gloves and holds them out. "Can you hold these for me?"

Rachel is confused by the request but accepts the gloves. "Of course."

"Thanks." When she takes the gloves he takes his now free hands and starts patting her pockets until he finds what he's looking for. She jumps, her eyes wide, and he says, "Don't worry. I'm not feelin' you up. Unless you want me to." He shows her his hand then slowly reaches into one of her front jacket pockets, pulling out her iphone. He taps it a few times then puts it back in her pocket and takes his gloves back, putting them on and reaching for the helmet at his feet.

"Puckerman! Let's go!"

"Try not to set anything else on fire tonight, okay? I go off shift in an hour."

She rolls her eyes. "I'll try to control my desire to engage in any more displays of pyromania."

"Good girl." He winks and hops up into his seat behind the driver and the truck pulls away and down the street. Rachel watches until the truck turns the corner and out of sight, wrapping her coat against her to fight against the growing chill.

"Tell me he asked you out."

Rachel turns to Quinn. "No."

"Then tell me you came to your senses and asked him out." When Rachel doesn't respond, she asks, "Why not? He's cute. And totally into you."

"How do you know that?"

"Oh, I don't know...how about the fact that he couldn't take his eyes off of you?"

"Q's right. He's all about your sexy little Jewish ass."

Rachel pulls her phone out of her pocket. "I think he left me his number." When she opens her contacts, she's proven right. There he is: Noah Puckerman.

"Good. Call him."

"Now?"

"Yes. Now. Before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it."

Rachel stares at his name and is about to press it before she stops herself. "I have a better idea."


Five days later Rachel walks into the fire station nine blocks from her apartment, her arms loaded down with Tupperware containers, purse barely hanging onto her shoulder. She's wearing her cutest sundress – San always says it makes her legs look extra long and enticing – and her hair is curled just so, and at the moment she feels like she could do just about anything.

"Man on the roof!"

Rachel starts when she hears the voice close behind her, and spins around.

A man smiles at her and says, "You look familiar."

"You responded to a fire at my apartment five days ago."

He nods. "Right, right. I guess you want to see the guys?"

"Would that be alright? I'd just like to express my thanks for everyone's hard work."

"Sure, sure." He jerks his head toward the staircase. "Follow me."

Rachel is just starting up the stairs when she says, "I don't mean to put my nose where it doesn't belong, but if there's a man on the roof, shouldn't you be taking care of that?"

He laughs and keeps walking up the stairs, taking them two at a time. "You're the man on the roof."

"Not to criticize your powers of deduction, but I'm fairly certain I'm not a man, nor am I on a roof."

"It's an expression firemen use whenever a civilian enters the firehouse."

"Oh." She blushes. "Sorry."

He laughs. "Don't worry about it. Hey guys, we have a visitor."

"Rachel? What are you doing here?"

Rachel smiles at Matt as he stands up from a chair in the corner. "Hi, Matt. I just wanted to drop by and express my gratitude to all of you for saving my apartment."

"You're welcome, but it's really not necessary."

Rachel smiles coyly. "Does that mean you guys don't want the cookies I made you?"

"Hell yes!"

Three of the men jump forward and reach for the containers, practically ripping them out of her arms. Rachel holds onto the top container and smiles as the men pry the lids off and grin at the differently shaped cookies inside. One of them holds up a cookie in the shape of a fire hydrant and says, "Puckerman, if you don't make a move on this chick now, I swear to fucking God I will steal her out from under you."

"Back off, Sanchez." His voice comes from directly behind her and she jumps, spinning around to look at him. He looks down at the container of cookies in her hands briefly before meeting her eyes and a slow smile begins to grow on his lips. "Those for me?"

She slaps his hand away when he reaches for the container. "Don't touch. These are for your Captain."

He pouts and says, "What did he do? I'm the one who put the fire out."

"He was very kind and quick to assure me that only a minimal amount of damage had occurred to my apartment, thereby relieving me of the anxiety I was feeling due to the possible loss of some rather precious items."

"Do you always use fifty words when you could've used five?"

"Is that how you talk to a lady, Puckerman? No wonder you're single."

Rachel smiles and turns around to face the Captain, holding out the container of cookies. "Captain Flannery, thank you again for your kind words. They did a wonder for calming my rattled nerves. I made you these in appreciation. And while I realize they pale in comparison to the heroic acts in which you engage on a daily basis, I hope you like them."

The Captain picks up a cookie and takes a bite, nodding his head in appreciation. "These are excellent, Rachel. Thank you."

She smiles, pleased, and as the Captain is walking away, hears, "You didn't call."

His tone is light, but she thinks she also hears a darker note, one of accusation. When she turns, she finds he isn't smiling. He's just standing there, looking at her. "I wanted to talk with you in person. I hope that's alright."

He nods slightly and she sees his eyes stray to his co-workers, smiling and laughing as they eat their cookies. Rachel rolls her eyes. Boys and their one track minds.

She reaches into her purse and takes out another container, watching as his eyes light up. That makes her smile, and she lifts off the lid and holds the container out to him, saying, "I wanted to make them even more personalized, but all I really know about you is your name and your age and the fact that you're Jewish, so in addition to the fire hydrants and trucks I also made some n's and p's."

"And Stars of David." He pulls out a star from the container and bites off one of the points.

"Yes, and Stars of David." She takes a deep breath and clutches her purse a little closer and says, "I wanted to explain about the fire, and it didn't feel right to do it over the phone."

"You don't have to explain. Fires happen all the time. Kinda wouldn't have a job otherwise."

"Yes, but this specific fire was set on purpose, so I think I owe you an apology."

"You mean 'cause you were burning some ex-boyfriend's crap?" He takes another bite out of the cookie.

"How did you..."

He puts the last of the cookie in his mouth and reaches into his back pocket, pulling out a photo and holding it up in front of her face. It used to be a picture of her and Finn, but the fire had erased Finn, so all that remains is Rachel, smiling in Times Square, surrounded by burn spots and bubbled emulsion. She reaches for it and he pulls it back, returning it to his back pocket.

"Hey! That's mine!"

He shrugs. "Five days ago you tried to burn it."

"Yes, well..."

"So this guy was a jackass to you, huh?"

"To all of us, actually. First to Quinn, then to Santana, then me. Are you going to give me my picture back?"

"Nope. So why did you date this douche if he'd already screwed over your friends?"

She winces. It became clear in the days following their breakup that getting together with Finn in the first place had been a very poor idea, and the fact that she had allowed herself to be blinded by his sweet, goofy façade still nettled her. "I think he showed me the person I wanted him to be. It seems he is quite good at pretending to be someone he is not."

"So what happened?"

"You don't want to hear about this."

He shrugs. "Maybe I do."

"Why?"

He shrugs again but doesn't otherwise respond.

She sighs. "He told me he had to work late one night and then I ran into him in my favorite bar, kissing another woman."

He shakes his head. "Fuckin' idiot."

"Has Puckerman asked you out yet? Because I swear to God, if you make me cookies like this once a week, I will be good to you for the rest of our lives."

Rachel turns and smiles at Sanchez, who is now standing next to them, and Noah growls. "Dude...what did I say?"

Sanchez ignores him, turning his body toward Rachel. "Seriously. I know this great little Italian restaurant in the Village-"

"Sanchez, if you want to keep your balls, walk away. Now."

Sanchez puts his hands up in surrender and backs away slowly, a grin slowly starting to grow on his face.

"You and me. Friday night. Seven o'clock. I'll pick you up."

"I have a performance Friday night."

"Saturday?"

She smiles apologetically. "Another performance. The only night I have off is Monday."

He shifts his weight and scratches the back of his neck. "Shit. I'm on shift Monday night."

"Not anymore."

"Cap?"

Captain Flannery pulls a soda out of the fridge and says, "I'm givin' you Monday off. Don't waste it."

"You sure?"

"Am I sure, he asks." He rolls his eyes. "I can always rescind the offer, Puckerman."

"No! Noah is very grateful for the offer, Captain. We both are." She turns to Noah. "Tell him thank you."

"Thanks, Cap."

The Captain's eyes shift from Rachel to Noah and back again and he says, "In the four years I've known him, Puckerman has never once thanked me for anything. Rachel, sweetheart, please don't ever leave us."

She blushes. "It's just one date."

Matt snorts and takes a bite out of the fire truck cookie in his left hand. "Yeah. Okay. Whatever you need to tell yourself." As he walks away, back toward his chair, he says, "I call Best Man."