"So Close" is the one-shot that started this foolishness. You can read it if you like, but it's not necessary. I reference it probably a grand total of three times in this fic, so it's not a prologue or a prequel or whatever.
Because I'm in complete denial that…that…that…
I can't even say it.
Sam will remain at McKinley. He did not leave. He did not go anywhere. He is still a main character—not a "guest star" or a "recently let-go former cast member." And because of this and the fact that the season premiere is coming up and God only knows what Ryan Murphy's gonna do next, this fic will officially become AU as of…whenever the premiere is.
Only it wasn't just one syllable. No, no, no. The word was prolonged like one of Rachel's high notes—complete with eyes clenched shut and hands gripping the mic tightly.
Only it wasn't a mic being gripped tightly; it was a steering wheel. And instead of Rachel keening (in all the wrong ways) in his ears, it was a siren.
Shit shittingly shitting fucking shit.
He seriously considered flooring the accelerator and getting a head start on that "get the hell outta Lima" plan he had for after graduation, but he could almost hear that voice squeaking in his ear about how him skipping town would somehow lead to another Wall Street crash or something. Jesus, when you get her started, she doesn't stop.
And because he wanted to stick around so he could apply that principle to a very different situation, he sighed and pulled over in front of the local pet shop.
Puck was so fucking screwed.
He'd been toeing the line ever since juvie, and even though he'd promised he'd never do something stupid enough to land his studly ass back in there, that didn't stop him from committing a couple of…mild indiscretions. Of course, that shit piles up, and considering all the dumbass moves he'd accumulated during his entire bizarre relationship with Zises, he went from toeing the line to standing right on it. One more problem—big or small—with the law, and his ass would be back in juvie. And even speeding would constitute as that "one more problem."
Oh, so fucking screwed.
With every step the cop took toward him, Puck could almost hear the sounds of the prison cell rolling and slamming shut. He could hear the punches, kicks, and even the big and small squirts of blood. He dropped his head against his steering wheel, kind of hoping that he'd hit himself just right to trigger an aneurysm or something.
The cop had just knocked on the window, and then out of freaking NOWHERE, someone starts shrieking. Like serious blood-curdling, a-fucking-zombie-is-gnawing-on-my-jugular kind of shrieking. At first, Puck was like: "Well, at least the cops are here." And that immediately turned into: "WHAT THE FUCK?! BRITTANY?!"
To which he actually rolled the window down and hollered, "WHAT THE FUCK?! BRITTANY?!"
The girl was sprinting down the street, her cat in a death-grip in her arms. God only knows where she'd popped out from, but when her ear-piercing screeches turned into actual words, Puck couldn't care less where she'd come from just that she actually showed up.
"Officer, you have to let Puck go! He was just trying to help me get Lord Tubbington to the vet!"
The cop, who'd just gotten out of his patrol car, was staring at Brittany with an actual look of fear.
Okay, Brittany's a hot cheerleader with a semi-weird fashion sense (which somehow managed to turn Berry's wardrobe into Lima high fashion) and talks to her cat like it's a fucking human being in disguise. Why in the hell would a cop be afraid of—
"Oh, Officer Hartwell!" she cried, recognizing the guy. "Did that chunk of your leg ever grow back?"
Oh, that's why.
The cop legit paled and started to back away. He turned to Puck and went, "It's okay! It's okay! Just make sure you get the girl and the c-cat to the vet! I'm just gonna…j-just…"
And then he hauled ass back to his patrol car, almost tripping over his own feet, and pulled a loud, screeching U-turn to get the hell away.
Puck turned back to Brittany, who'd just skirted around the front of the truck and hopped into the shotgun seat, petting her cat and cooing apologies for practically strangling it a few seconds ago. He didn't know whether to be freaked the fuck out or relieved as hell that his ass wasn't about to be thrown into prison.
"What the hell was that?" Puck demanded, still glaring/staring at the blonde. "You nearly gave me a fucking heart attack."
She blinked at him innocently. "Lord Tubbington was the one having a heart attack, but then it turned out to be heartburn."
He looked down at the cat. It was just lying there, staring back up at him with wide, yellow eyes, giving no indication of any heart problems—attacking or burning.
But he wasn't about to point anything out to her.
"Glad he's feeling better then," Puck muttered, starting up his car again and pulling away from the curb. "Where to, Brit?"
"The vet," she said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Lord Tubbington is germinally ill."
Puck blinked but refused to look at her. If he looked, he was gonna laugh. "Don't you mean terminally?"
"No," she laughed. "He's sick because of the germs in his heart. They're setting his cells on fire. It has nothing to do with buses."
Now Puck had come a long way from the day when he believed Finn's bullshit about Mrs. Hudson-Hummel having prostate cancer. He'd seen a couple episodes of House, so he was pretty sure heartburn didn't actually involve cell-burning germs, but he'd tried to correct Brittany a couple of times before. He knew that it would just be a lost cause. And honestly, the fact that she knew cells were involved was enough. Her knowing anything else would be asking too much.
So he just settled for saying, "My bad."
"So remember how you told Rachel you promised to be nicer to Jews?" she asked randomly as her fat, creepy cat started to edge its way off her lap to crawl next to Puck.
Puck glared down at the animal as it began to purr and rub against his thigh. "Uh, yeah, I guess."
"What's the opposite of Jews?"
"Would it be water? Like juice would kind of be the opposite of water since juice is tasty and water isn't?"
"Uh, yeah, Brit," Puck mumbled, playing along as he made a sharp left turn so that the damn cat slid across the leather seat and back toward Brittany's lap. "Why?"
"Do you think you could be nicer to Waters then? Not just Jews?"
Puck sighed. "You mean Gentiles?"
"No, not just the gentle people, I mean people who aren't Jews," she insisted as that fucking cat made its way back to Puck's lap.
This was gonna be one of those conversations that Puck would need either pot or beer to get through.
"Christ, Brittany. What the fuck are you asking for?" Puck demanded, grabbing the cat by the scruff of its neck and dropping it back on Brittany's lap. Thing was like thirty pounds, damn.
"I want you to be nicer to the gleeks," she said simply, holding the damn cat up and cooing at its nose as it batted her face with sheathed paws. "We're your family, so you should be, like, super-nice to us. Even if we're not Jews or Gentiles or un-gentle people. We're all really mean to each other, but maybe if they see you being really sweet, they'll start being nicer to each other too."
He couldn't fault her logic even though she jacked up the whole Jews-and-Gentiles thing. But still!
"Brit, I'm the Puckerone!" he argued. "You can't ask me to do shit like that. You can ask me to beat up anyone who picks on the gleeks because that's as nice as I go, but to actually do something nice is just...out of the question!"
"But you're super nice!" she protested, her face crumpling into sadness.
No one—and I mean no one—can stand against Brittany S. Pierce Tears™ . It's damn-near im-fucking-possible.
"You care about Lord Tubbington enough to come with me to take him to the vet, you sang for Rachel in glee two years ago, you gave up football for Rachel, you helped make the music for 'My Cup',and you wrote that song for Finn at nationals."
HOLY FUCKING HELL—
"What?!" Puck screeched at an octave he didn't know he had. He almost drove up onto the curb, and he quickly had to lower his speed and keep his eyes fixed to the road before he got pulled over again. "What the fuck are you talking about?!"
"I heard you humming the song on our way to New York," she explained simply. "You wrote it before we got there, but you gave it to Finn so he could sing it with Rachel. I wish you sang it instead though. I like your voice better. Could you put 'Need You Now' on iTunes? I really want it on my iPod. I need evidence for my Puckleberry argument, and that song would totally help me win my case."
"The fuck?! What is up with you people and that jacked-up name?! Shit's humiliating!"
"It's adorable! Just like how you and Rachel would be adorable!"
"Where the hell is this shit coming from, Pierce?! One second we're talking about being nice to people, and now you've hopped onto this Puckleberry bandwagon. You and fucking Mike..."
She actually reached out and laid a hand on his arm. He stopped at a red light and turned to see her serious expression.
"It's because Puckleberry is endgame."
Puck missed a beat before going, "That still doesn't explain the massive conversation jump, yo."
"I want you to be nicer to the gleeks so that Rachel will see that you're not just Puck, and she'll see that you're just as nice as Finn and come back to you," Brittany explained slowly for Puck's benefit.
Oh, for fuck's sake.
How he manages to get caught up in these kinds of situations is just beyond him.
"Dude, as foolproof of a plan as that sounds, I don't think that's gonna be the direction I take to win Berry's heart," Puck said, knowing that denying whatever weird little jolts he felt for Rachel Berry would just fly over Brittany's head anyway.
Brittany pouted. "What's your plan for Operation Puckleberry then?"
Operation Puckle—oh, hell no.
"One: stop calling it 'Puckleberry.' Two: it's not a fucking clandestine operation, okay? It's simple enough. Three: all I do is follow the midget to New York because we all know Finn's not gonna."
"What midget? Why wouldn't Finn follow a midget to New York? Midgets are cute, but I prefer to call them munchkins—"
"I'm talking about Berry, Brittany! Berry is a midget!"
"Really? But she keeps saying that she falls under average height. I don't know why she's falling, but—"
"I am going to follow Rachel to New York because Finn won't do it," Puck enunciated slowly, making sure that he didn't use any metaphors, nicknames, or whatever else that could potentially jack up Brittany's train of thought.
"So you're gonna wait 'til after graduation? That sucks. True love can't wait, Puck."
Puck pulled into the parking lot of the vet's office, turned off the engine, and because he had nothing better to do and because he kind of owed her, the two of them jumped out of the truck.
"Look, going after Berry while Finn is around is like trying to chase after Scooby Doo, who's dead-set on chasing after a van packed with Scooby Snacks," he said, using a comparison he knew Brittany could digest. "It's useless 'cause she won't be paying attention to any of the shit I try to pull. She'll be too busy tanning herself with the sunshine that apparently shoots out of Hudson's ass."
"Too much sun gives you skin cancer, didn't you know?"
He stopped walking and stared after her as she walked into the vet's office.
Damn. Maybe she's not stupid. She just functions on an entirely different brain level.
"Are you coming in?" she called back. "Lord Tubbington needs all the moral support he can get. Doctors give him indecision."
He didn't bother saying 'indigestion' as he followed her through the doors.
"Well, tell that to Berry," he muttered as Brittany lined up to check in with the secretary. "She's the one who's got her heart set on getting herself some of that skin cancer."
"We need to give her some sunscreen," she said, narrowing her eyes in concentration as if she was planning some major coup. "You need to surround her with mirrors or tin foil to keep the sunshine away even though sunshine is nice and warm and pretty."
And now he lost her.
They sat in the waiting area as Brittany continued to stroke her cat, who continued to stare longingly at Puck, who continued to keep himself from jumping up and driving away from this girl.
Berry was like a loud, obsessive crazy. Brittany was like a flower-growing-on-metal kind of crazy—pretty, but doesn't make one lick of sense. If that comparison made any sense to begin with...
Shit, it's infectious!
He zoned out for a second, but as soon as he got back, she was still yammering on about sunscreen and how him being nice would somehow deflect the niceness of Finn's ass-rays and distract Berry long enough for her to pay attention to him—he totally paraphrased that and had to use even the latent parts of his brain to wheedle out that explanation from her discombobulated speech.
Shit, it even brought out a few big words he's been suppressing (again with the big words!) since fucking prom when his first-ever Rachel Berry Lecture had flown over the actual Rachel Berry's head since she got back with fucking Finn anyway. Goddamnit.
"...why you should be nice to the gleeks. There! That's how you're gonna pay me back," she announced jubilantly.
"What?! I thought you bailed me outta that 'cause you actually needed a ride to the vet!" Puck hissed.
Brittany frowned in confusion. "I didn't bail you out. I did need a ride to the vet's. You being nice to the gleeks is your return-favor for me helping you and Rachel get together."
"What? But we're not even together. You can't cash in a favor without even doing yours first," Puck pointed out incredulously.
"But you and I will be working together to help you achieve Puckleberry, so technically you helping me will be helping yourself to help you and Rachel. Like passing the duck."
He only registered the last part of her explanation.
"Don't you mean pass the buck?" Puck sighed.
She frowned and cocked an eyebrow at him. "I don't want to give you money. Ducks are nicer. They can love and cuddle with you in ways that money can't."
And with that, Puck stood up. "Okay, I think I've filled my Brittany Pierce quota for the year. I'm gonna take a nap in the truck. Wake me up when you're ready to go."
"See?! You're nice! Instead of just ditching me and going to Rachel's house to see if you can get her to make you cookies, you're gonna stay and wait for me!" she cried despite the fact that everyone in the vet's waiting room was legit watching the show.
He leveled dark look at her before turning on his heel and heading for the door.
"You're like Sour Patch Kids! First they're sour, then they're sweet! You're a mean, sour jerk who likes throwing people away in dumpsters, but deep inside—"
"Brit, you better shut the hell up before I flambé your cat!"
"—you're just a big, sweet softie who wants to sing love songs to—"
"I have a lighter in my pocket!"
"—Rachel Berry for the rest of his life!"
Puck blushed a furious red, completely offended that he was being compared to fucking candy. (And more than a little embarrassed that the freaking girl just screamed his biggest secret to everyone in the vet's office.) "Pierce! Shut the hell up! I'm not a softie, I'm not a kid, and the only time I'm sweet is when someone's sucking on my—"
"You're a Sour Patch Kid!" she shrieked. "You owe me, so you have to go by that name! Now go sleep so you can dream of ways to help the gleeks! Then we can discuss your strategies on the way home! And even Lord Tubbington can help once he gets his fire extinguisher medicine!"
FUCK. HIS. LIFE.