Author: TheMastress, or smartalli on LJ
Characters: Puck/Rachel, Santana, Caroline Puckerman (and the rest of the Puckerman kids)
Warnings: A little Puck language.
Summary: Caroline's Broadway debut is tomorrow night, and her parents can't make it. Pardon her if she's feeling a little screwed over. FutureFic. Puckerman kid POV
Disclaimer: Don't own it. Not mine. Don't sue.
A/N: From a prompt from the Puckleberry drabble meme.
Caroline can hear the frustration in her mom's voice coming down the hallway and seeping through the crack in her open doorway as the thirteen year old sits on her bed, trying to work out the next chord in the song her dad is teaching her to play this week. (Diamonds on the Inside by Ben Harper. Gotta give as much respect as we can to our fellow Jews, he says.) Her mom's voice gets louder and louder and then suddenly quiets, which means her dad finally got a word in. Caroline flubs the chord, readjusts her finger positioning, tries again, and smiles slightly when the chord finally sounds right.
She hears the volume of her mom's voice increase again, then the volume of her dad's, but she can't make out what they're saying. It doesn't really matter. At this point, they're just arguing for the sake of arguing, venting because they're frustrated. They do that sometimes. There's no real heat behind their words, but they have to let it out somehow, so they yell at each other. Or, more accurately, they yell together, in the same room. Toward the universe or something.
Also, and this is really the key point here, Caroline already knows why they're arguing (it's about her, sort of), so she's not sure whether it would really matter if she could hear them or not. It doesn't take a genius to guess what they're saying.
Blah blah blah, Caroline, blah blah blah, opening night, blah blah blah, obligations, blah blah blah, no way to get out of it.
Insert guilty parental faces here.
Her brothers are down the hall, playing some video game they aren't normally allowed to play (she hears a few too many bones cracking and a little too much gunfire to give them the benefit of the doubt), taking as much advantage as they can of the fact that their mom is a little distracted. Her sisters are in one of their rooms, listening to some 90s boy band that would give their dad a twitchy eye if he was in hearing distance, dancing and laughing and otherwise being girly, giggly, screechy little preteens. (Caroline loves them anyway.) None of them are fazed by the arguing either, which just goes to show you how normal it all is to them.
And see, that's the thing: absolutely everything that happened about an hour ago is completely normal. They're used to agents and publicists and producers calling at the last minute, needing their parents for something. They're used to publicity tours and record signings and last minute plane trips. They're used to the media attention that comes from something silly, like walking to the grocery store, and they're used to mom and Uncle Kurt freaking out over where she lands on the Hot or Not lists. All of that? Totally normal. Absolutely normal. Almost yawn-inducing, even.
Their parents are in-demand superstars. It comes with the territory. Everyone wants what little piece of Noah Puckerman and Rachel Berry they can get. That's just the way it is, and that's probably not going to change anytime soon, so Caroline and her brothers and sisters have learned how to adapt. They've learned how to share their parents with the world.
So normally? Normally, Caroline can adapt just fine to a last minute Conan appearance. Hey, she's proud of her mom and she loves Conan, so...win/win, right? Right. And normally, she'd think it was awesome that one of the most sought after celebrity photographers in the world wanted to take her dad's picture for the cover of his new album. The guy takes some amazing photographs, including one of her mom they all love so much, it's hanging in the hallway, a few feet away from her parents' bedroom door, mixed in with the family photos. High praise from her parents.
So...normally...she'd be totally psyched for them.
Except Caroline's opening night is tomorrow night – her Broadway debut as Agnes in Meet Me in St. Louis – and from everything she's heard so far, there's no way her mom can get back from LA or her dad can get back from Seattle in time to be there.
So pardon her if she's feeling a little screwed over.
She knows they hate to disappoint her, just like she knows they'd change it if they could. (All through dinner they both kept shooting her these little apologetic looks, and she just kept looking away. She may not blame them exactly, but it's not like she was really in the mood to make them feel better, either.) If they were the ones in control, they'd just reschedule Conan and wait until Mr. Big Shot photographer had another window of availability and shoot it then. But it's not up to them. None of it is. So no matter how hard they try, no matter how much they complain, at the end of the day, there really isn't anything they can do about it. And that sucks, but that's the way it is.
This isn't Burger King. Sometimes you can't have it your way.
Caroline hears a too loud explosion coming from the TV in one of her brothers' rooms and puts down her guitar. When she gets to Jack's room she walks in and stands behind her brothers, watching while they each take a machete to...she thinks it's supposed to be a zombie. She's not totally sure, but the guy has an eye hanging out and blood dripping out of his mouth, so she thinks she has it right. "So...having fun expressing your sociopathic tendencies via Xbox?"
"Dude...I just demolished five zombies in one shot."
Yep, zombies. She was right. "Is that good?"
Jack snorts and glances over at Gabe, who rolls his eyes. Brothers. "Yeah...you could say that. So what's up?"
"The argument is winding down. Thought you'd like to know. I figure you've got about five minutes, tops, until mom comes looking."
"Aw, nice. Thanks." He glances at her then takes his machete to another zombie and says, "Not really lookin' to get grounded again."
Caroline turns around to leave when she hears the game shut off and Gabe say, "Hey, Care? It really sucks, by the way."
Caroline turns back around and shrugs, crossing her arms over her chest. "It is what it is. Nothing anyone can do about it."
Jack says, "Yeah, maybe. But it still sucks."
Caroline laughs under her breath and nods. "Yeah, it kinda does." She sighs. "Night."
"Night. Don't suck tomorrow, okay? I don't wanna have to hide my face at school."
"I'll try my best."
Caroline figures that if she warned her brothers, it's only right to warn her sisters too, so she walks a few feet down the hall. When she steps inside the Pepto Bismol-coated monstrosity Gracie calls a room, her sisters are painting their toenails an eye-searing shade of pink Caroline didn't even know existed and singing loudly to some old boy band compilation CD of their mom's from when she was in high school. They've been playing it all week. Seriously. ALL...WEEK...LONG. Caroline is ready for it to suffer some sort of freak accident, possibly involving a hammer. Or a garbage disposal. Or a blow torch.
Maybe her brothers can help her with that.
"Hey Care!" Gracie smiles and wiggles her toes in the air, toward Caroline. "Like my toes?"
"Very...pink. What's that shade called?"
Evie says, "Ate Berries in the Canaries."
Evie wrinkles her nose. "It kinda is, isn't it?"
"Yeah. Little bit."
Gracie stands and walks across the room on her heels, setting her nail polish on her desk. "You wanna borrow a polish to paint your toes for tomorrow? It'll give you good lu-uck..."
"No, thanks. I came in to tell you that mom and dad's fight is winding down, so mom will probably be around for homework check in a few minutes."
Evie hops up quickly and turns the music off, pulling a book out of her backpack. Gracie lets out a little squeak and reaches for her own backpack. "Thanks, Care!"
She nods. "You know, they're still going to be able to smell the fumes."
Gracie looks up from her workbook and her eyes go wide. "I hadn't thought of that."
Caroline laughs. "Clearly. Open the window. That'll help."
Gracie hops up out of her chair and says, "Thanks, Care. You're the best!"
Evie sits back against Gracie's bed, her book open in her lap, and says, "I'm really sorry mom and dad can't make it to your opening night, Care. That's really not fair."
"Yeah. Can't mom just say she'll do it later or something?"
"You mean reschedule?"
Gracie opens both her windows up all the way and says, "Yeah!"
"Doesn't really work that way, guys. You know that."
Evie sighs and frowns and Caroline sees Gracie visibly deflate, like she was holding out hope that maybe her idea was actually possible. "Yeah, I know. But it's still not fair to you."
"Yeah, well...that's just the way it is, right?"
"But you'll still be there, won't you?"
"Of course! And we'll cheer louder than anyone, right Evie?"
She grins. "Right."
"See? So I'm covered."
"Oooo! Can we make you a big sign? And can it be pink? Mom just bought me some new pink glitter!"
Caroline laughs. Her little sisters are such...girls...sometimes. "Sure. I'd love that. But you better finish your homework first, or you may have to deal with mom's wrath."
Gracie frowns. "Kay."
Caroline is almost out the door when Evie calls out, "Hey Care? What's the capital of Rhode Island?"
Caroline nods and walks a little further down the hall, gently nudging open three year old Eliot's door and slowly peeking her head in to see if he's still asleep. He is, which isn't really as shocking as it should be. The further down the Puckerman kid line you get (Jack, Caroline, Gabe, Evie, Gracie, Eliot), the heavier the sleeper, like they've been conditioned to handle any noise extreme. Eliot could probably sleep through a bomb going off at this point.
She watches him for a minute and, when she's sure he's not going to wake up (and he's really, really not), closes his door and walks down the hall toward her parents' room.
"I'm a terrible mother."
"You're not a terrible mother."
Caroline smiles. She's sure her dad is rolling his eyes. Her mom will object – she'll tell him she really is a terrible mother – and he'll say something back to her about how she's a great mom and how it's not her fault her publicist stinks at listening to her, yada yada yada. He might even throw in a "Baby, you're amazing" for good measure.
"I am. I'm terrible. Caroline's Broadway debut is tomorrow night, and I can't be there. Broadway, Noah. Broadway."
He sighs. "You're an amazing mom, baby. You know that. But this shit happens sometimes. We knew it might. And yeah, it totally sucks that your publicist and my producer can't take a damn instruction to save their lives, but there's nothing we can do about it now."
Parents. So predictable.
"But did you see that look on her face, Noah? That horrible, disappointed look?"
He sighs again. "Yeah, I did. Little hard to miss."
"She's worked so hard for this. Tomorrow should be such a special day for her. I know there's nothing we can do about it, and I know it's not really our fault, but I still hate that we're ruining this for her."
"Yeah, me too."
Before they can say anything else, Caroline knocks and pushes open the cracked door. She leans against the doorjamb and says, "So, I called Auntie Tana and Uncle Kurt and told 'em what's going on. You may want to call them to give them more specifics, but Auntie Tana says she'll make sure everyone gets up and to school on time, and Uncle Kurt said he'd be happy to take me to the theater."
"Caroline, we are so-"
"Sorry, I know." Caroline gives them a little half smile and crosses her arms then shrugs. "It's not your fault. I mean, it's not like you asked for this to happen or anything."
"No, but it still means we can't be there tomorrow night, and that sucks."
"It's okay. Really."
He crosses his arms over his chest and meets her eyes. For the first time she can see he's angry – really, really angry – and that surprises her. "No. It's not, baby girl. And you're allowed to say that. You're allowed to be a brat about it and pitch a fuckin' fit, okay?"
She doesn't say anything at first, just looks at her dad with his crossed arms and her mom with her worried eyes. They want her to complain, they want her to pitch a fit, like it'll lighten some of their guilt if they let her yell and carry on. But she doesn't want to. She's not even sure at this point that it would make her feel any better. "Okay."
It's not the answer he wants, she can tell, but Caroline thinks that's because she's not screaming or beating her fists on the ground or calling them terrible parents. (And how weird is that?)
Her mom pauses in packing her bag and says, "If we could change it, we would. You know that, right?"
"Yeah. Course." And she does.
Her mom nods slowly, like she's trying to make herself believe it. She probably doesn't, but then Caroline's Broadway debut means almost as much to her mom as it does to Caroline, so it's not like the thirteen year old expects anything different. "Still...your Broadway debut..."
Her mom resumes packing her bag and Caroline shifts so she's standing upright in their doorway, her hands burrowing into the pockets of her jeans. "Uh...but...you're only going to be gone the one day, right? You'll be back in time to see it Saturday night?"
Her dad's own hands make their way into his pockets and he says, "Wild fuckin' horses couldn't keep us away, alright?"
Caroline nods. "Okay."
"And if someone tries, I'll put a fuckin' boot in their ass."
Her mom pauses in her packing and says, "And he will. Never underestimate your father when he threatens bodily harm to someone. I've learned that approximately ninety-five percent of the time, he follows through on his threat. That's much higher than the national average."
Only her mother would know a statistic like that.
"Got it. Daddy's a badass."
She puts her hand on her hip. "You know how I feel about you kids swearing. In that respect, I have to say, your father is a horrific role model."
"Hey, I'm an awesome role model."
"I figured at this point, since we use the word so much, that 'badass' had moved from 'possible swear word' to 'general descriptive term, most often associated with members of the Puckerman family'. As in, 'Rachel Barbra Berry-Puckerman is one badass performer, proven by the epic amount of awards that take up practically every corner of the Puckerman family home.' "
Her mom sighs. "I suppose I'll have to hold out hope that Eliot or Gracie will grow up without their father's dirty mouth."
"Then you probably don't want to hear what Gracie said last week when she stubbed her toe."
Her mom shuts her suitcase and huffs at her dad. "I blame you. Your bad influence is ruining our children."
"And...that's my cue."Caroline shifts and asks, "When do your flights leave tomorrow?"
Her mom winces and says, "Early."
"We'll both be gone long before the sun comes up, baby girl."
Caroline lets out a breath. "Ah. Early." She nods.
She thinks they're about to apologize again, and she really doesn't want to go through all that again (consoling your parents is way more tiring than it seems), so she tells them goodnight, and to have a good flight, and makes her way back toward her room. When she passes by Gracie's open doorway, Caroline hears a squeal and looks to her left only long enough to catch a door slamming in her face.
"No! You can't look! It's a surprise!"
"I didn't see anything, Gracie."
A few seconds go by before Gracie says, "Promise?"
"And you're not gonna peek tomorrow when the rest of us are at school, right?"
"I wouldn't dare."
The silence lasts a little longer this time. "Kay."
Caroline smiles and shakes her head. "Goodnight, Gracie."
"Night, Care." A chorus of giggles erupt from behind the door and Caroline walks away and into her room, shutting the door behind her quietly.
Caroline's decided that what she really wants – since she can't have what she really, really wants – is to take a nice hot shower, climb into bed, and not wake up until tonight turns into tomorrow morning and her Aunt Santana is standing in her bedroom doorway, yelling at her in Spanish to get her ass out of bed. (There is something oddly comforting about the way her aunt yells at her, like she both means it and doesn't at the same time.)
She's almost gotten her wish (her shower is nice and relaxing and her eyes practically start to close on their own the moment her head hits her pillow) when she thinks she hears someone call her name. But she thinks she must be imagining things, it must just be her sleepy mind playing tricks on her, because when she flips over in bed, all she sees is her closed bedroom door.
It doesn't take much longer after that for her to fall asleep, and that night, Caroline's dreams are filled with trolley cars and screaming fans and zombies and pink glitter. Lots and lots of pink glitter.
"...que significa ser de Lima Heights adjacent."
Caroline smiles and snuggles a little further down in her pillow.
"Did you hear what I said?"
She cracks an eye. "You're taking everyone to school and I better have my butt out of bed by the time you get back. And something about Uncle Kurt and breakfast. Oh...and I'm pretty much your favorite niece in the history of nieces."
Caroline sits up in bed and yawns, wrapping the tops of her blankets around her waist.
"Nice hairstyle. That the new thing? Hobo chic?"
Caroline takes a pillow from her bed and throws it at her aunt, who dodges it easily with a smirk on her face. "I'd like to know what you look like when you wake up in the morning."
"Oh little girl...I came out of the womb looking like this. This kind of awesome is heaven sent."
She rolls her eyes. "I thought you had to get everyone to school."
Her aunt lifts an eyebrow and says, "I have a few minutes." She pauses for about a minute before she says, "You should have seen them this morning. They did not want to leave."
She shrugs. "It's not that big a deal. They know that. We already talked."
She laughs. "Oh Caroline. My sweet, sweet, sweet...Caroline."
Caroline narrows her eyes. "It's annoying when adults are condescending."
"Mmm hmm." She smirks again and lifts an eyebrow. "I'll be back in thirty minutes. Your butt-"
"Better be out of bed. I know."
"And do something about that hair. Seriously, it looks like you let a family of gerbils sleep in it."
Caroline throws another pillow and watches as it bounces harmlessly off her now shut bedroom door, her aunt laughing hysterically from the other side.
When her voice fades, Caroline throws the covers off, gets out of bed, and trudges toward her bathroom. She reaches for her brush and starts running it through her hair, grimacing slightly when she encounters a knot. She expected that. (Her aunt isn't totally wrong when she says Caroline's hair's a mess.) What she didn't expect?
Looking up from brushing her hair to see a message written on her bathroom mirror in her mother's least favorite shade of lipstick, little lipstick stars drawn all around it.
Today, you will SHINE!
Love, Mom & Dad
And written just below that, much smaller, in her mom's favorite shade of lipstick (and isn't that just like him?):
Kick some Broadway ass, baby girl.