Disclaimer: The characters you know don't belong to me. The inspiration for this story and the title come from the show Are You Afraid of the Dark? The urban legends/ghost stories featured in this story also don't belong to me.
A/N: So I've been watching Are You Afraid of the Dark? recently and reliving my childhood and this is the result of that trip down memory lane. It also felt fitting, since it's almost Halloween. And I know that the timing doesn't exactly match up, since the show was off the air before this story would have taken place but I'm sure there were re-runs or something, so just go with it. Also, the few bits of Spanish in this story came from Google Translator so I'm really sorry if it got screwed up! Anyways, I hope you enjoy the story and let me know what you think!
"Noah, I can see you."
Busted. Noah Puckerman didn't want to turn around because he knew exactly what he would find when he did. But he also knew if he didn't acknowledge her, she was likely to start griping loud enough to wake up the entire neighborhood. And then he'd really be in trouble.
So, with a sigh, Puck turned slowly, squinting his eyes through the darkness until he picked out her tiny shape on the porch. She was so small that the shadows nearly dwarfed her but there she was, dressed in a red nightgown that brushed the ground with a matching ribbon in her hair.
Puck narrowed his eyes in her general direction. "What do you want?" He grumbled, shifting the strap of his backpack. "Why aren't you asleep?"
Rachel Berry took a step closer to him so he could see her a little clearer. "It's only ten o'clock." She pointed out cheerfully.
"Exactly. Don't you go to bed at like six?" Puck sneered, shaking his head.
Rachel frowned, crossing her arms over her chest. "When I turned nine, my dads let me stay up later." She informed him indignantly, like it was the most important thing in the world. "Besides, I snuck out." Her tone was full of pride.
Puck raised an eyebrow. "Oh yeah? You think you're a badass now Berry?"
Rachel gasped. "Noah! Don't use curse words!" She admonished, looking back at the house behind her with a fearful gesture.
Laughing, Puck shook his head. "What do you want Rachel?" He took off his backpack and set it at his feet. Thing was heavy and if he was just going to stand around talking to Rachel Berry, his back was going to need a break.
"I saw you sneaking by." Rachel informed him.
Puck stared at her. "Yeah…and?"
"I wanted to know where you're going. Does your mom know you're out this late?" Rachel looked at him doubtfully.
Scoffing, Puck shook his head. "My mom doesn't care what I do." Truthfully, his mom would spank him for days if she knew he'd snuck out of the house at night. Lima was a small town but she would still flip her shit if she knew her little boy was out lurking around after dark. But she was working a double and his nana was at home watching him and his little sister but they were asleep and hopefully no one would be the wiser.
Rachel still looked at him doubtfully, like she was about to call him on his lie but thought better of it. "Where are you going?" She questioned instead.
"None of your business." Puck snapped, reaching for his bag. He'd had enough of this; if the other kids knew he was late because he was talking to Rachel Berry he'd never hear the end of it.
"I want to know." Rachel took another step toward him, so that she was on the first wooden step leading to the stone walk. She glanced fearfully over her shoulder again, like she worried that one of her dads was going to come busting out of the house now that she'd officially left the porch.
Puck laughed, rolling his eyes. "Yeah right, loser." He ignored the look that crossed her face. "You should just go back inside and let your daddies tuck you in."
Rachel lifted her chin. "They're asleep, thank you very much Noah Puckerman. But if you don't tell me where you're going I'll run right upstairs and get them." She looked at him through narrowed eyes, daring him to try her.
For a minute, Puck debated telling her. Finally, he sighed and shook his head. "I'm going into the woods."
Clearly, he wasn't going to get away with simple answers. "To meet with the others and tell scary stories. Jesus!"
Again, Rachel stared at him with wide eyes. "Language, Noah!" He ignored her. "Why are you going to do that?"
Puck shook his head. Jesus Christ, this girl was hopeless. "Don't you watch TV Berry? Don't you know Are You Afraid of the Dark?"
Rachel fiddled with the sleeve of her nightgown. "My daddies say I can't watch that show." She said softly. In truth, she had no interest in that horrible show; she'd seen one episode because she'd heard all the other kids talking about it at school and it had scared her so badly she had been afraid to turn on the TV for weeks.
"Figures." Puck turned and started to walk through her yard once more.
"Wait!" Puck whirled around to face her only because he worried her voice was going to wake up the neighbors. And her dads. "I want to go with you."
Puck laughed, which did not make Rachel very happy. "Yeah, that's hilarious Berry."
Rachel frowned. "What's so funny? I want to go listen to the stories too."
"You just told me you were afraid of the show and now you want to go into the woods, at night, without any grown-ups and listen to scary stories?" Puck kept laughing, shaking his head. "Good one."
Rachel walked down the stairs and moved closer to him. "I'm not afraid." She argued and Puck just laughed. "I want to go, Noah, you take me with you."
He gave her a little shove to move her back toward the house. "Go back to bed, Berry. Quit making me laugh."
Rachel stomped her bare foot on the walkway. "Noah Puckerman! I want to go."
Puck stopped laughing and glared at her. "Shut up, you're going to wake up your dads." She glared at him. "You'd be so scared you'd run home crying before we even made it into the woods."
"I would not." Rachel protested.
"And even if I didlet you," Puck ignored her argument, "the other guys would never let you stay."
Rachel crossed her arms over her chest. "They would if you told them to." She pointed out and Puck was appropriately flattered. His nine-year-old ego never minded the stroking. "I want to go, Noah, please. I can be cool."
Puck frowned, furrowing his brow. He hated it when she said stuff like that and sounded all desperate about it. Not that he'd ever be caught dead thinking even remotely sympathetic thoughts about Rachel Berry but they had been kinda friends until earlier this year when the new girl in school, Santana Lopez, had decided that Rachel was the biggest loser in Lima and no one cool should talk to her. Puck, obviously, was beyond cool and besides, he was really only friends with Rachel because she was one of only two other Jewish kids his age so he'd pretty much had to hang out with her by default at the JCC. But it still made him sad sometimes to think about her sitting by herself at lunch now instead of with him and Finn Hudson, who was friends with everyone. Not that he would ever admit it.
"Seriously, Rachel, just go back to bed." Puck sighed, shaking his head.
"Fine, I will." Rachel huffed. Puck felt pretty triumphant. "And while I'm on my way, I'll stop by and tell my daddies what you guys are doing in the woods." She turned on her heel and started back toward her house.
Quickly, Puck grabbed her elbow, pulling her back. "Fine, Jesus Christ! You can come." Rachel squealed in excitement and clapped her hands, jumping up and down. "But don't start crying to me when you're scared out of your mind."
Rachel continued jumping up and down, excited. "Let me get my shoes on!" She hurried back up the stairs and into the house.
Puck could have left her behind, gone running off into the neighbor's yard and been gone before Rachel even came back outside. But he found himself waiting patiently for her to get back. A minute later, she stepped back outside, wearing a pair of ballet flats and a coat that was nearly as long as her nightgown. She grinned at him like a happier thing had never happened to her in her life. "Let's go Noah."
"Don't call me Noah." Puck commanded as they started walking. "And don't talk or like…squeal or whatever. And don't do anything un-cool. And don't-"
"I get it." Rachel grumbled. "I'll just act like I'm not even there." She was pretty good at that by now.
Puck nodded. "Good idea."
They walked together in silence, stepping quietly through people's yards and finding ways around fences and gates. The moon was heavy and full above them, providing enough light to see by, even if Rachel did find the whole thing a little eerie. The closer they got to the woods, the more unsure she became of this whole thing.
In order to make herself feel better, Rachel questioned, "What's in your backpack?" Talking always made her feel better and it was just way too quiet out here.
"Supplies." Puck grumbled. "Campfire supplies."
Rachel wrung her hands nervously. She was starting to remember the episode of that horrible show she had seen. There were witches and missing campers and…woods just like the ones Noah was currently leading her into now. Rachel reached forward to grab Puck's arm, her mouth suddenly dry, her heart beating wildly.
Puck jerked his arm free. "And none of that!" He snapped.
"I told you, Berry, I told you not to come." Puck shook his head. "I told you it was going to be in the woods and it was going to dark and-"
Rachel swallowed and took a deep breath. "I'm fine. Let's just go." She stepped into the woods but hung back, deciding it was probably best if she let him lead the way.
Shaking his head, Puck stepped into the dark woods, sticking to the path he and Finn had found a few days before when they'd concocted this scheme. It had seemed like a brilliant idea at the time and Puck had been sure it was going to be totally badass. Now it just seemed a little scary and stupid. What if there were monsters out here in the woods? Or crazy axe-murderers? They could have just told stories in Finn's basement or something.
It was harder to see the moon under the thick canopy of trees but Puck could still manage well enough to keep them on the path. When he finally spotted the clearing where he and Finn had planned on building the campfire, he sighed with relief. Now that he could see the others, it didn't seem so scary.
Finn was dragging rocks over into the clearing while Santana Lopez and Brittany S. Pierce sat in the dirt, watching him work. Mike Chang and Matt Rutherford were piling up sticks and leaves and other pieces of kindling.
Santana was the first to spot him. "Finally." She rolled her eyes, standing up. A frightening look crossed her face when she saw that Puck wasn't alone. "What is she doing here."
Puck tossed his backpack onto the ground. "She was going to rat me out if I didn't bring her." He shrugged. "She'll be cool." He mumbled and hurried to go help Finn move some rocks.
Santana looked at Rachel through narrowed eyes. "She wouldn't know how to be cool if her life depended on it." She stalked toward Rachel, giving her the once over. "Why'd you even want to come, huh Berry? There are things in these woods that eat midgets like you."
Rachel looked at Santana, trying to remind herself of what her daddies had told her, that Santana was probably just insecure and shy, which was why she resorted to bullying. "There are not." Her voice was a little less assertive than she would have liked. "Monsters aren't real."
"Oh, yes they are." Santana assured the girl, turning and walking away like she had grown bored with her. "I heard some on the way in here. They're hungry and waiting out there in the shadows."
Rachel swallowed and glanced out toward the woods. It was too dark to see more than a few feet away from where she was standing. Anything could be lurking out there in the shadows, waiting to strike. She moved a little closer to where Matt and Mike were stacking the kindling.
"Why don't you save the stories for the campfire, huh Santana?" Puck remarked. "Unless that's the scariest you've got?"
Santana raised an eyebrow at him. "Oh, I got plenty of scary stories Puckerman. My abuela told me the story of los fantasmas aullando plenty of times."
Puck just rolled his eyes. "We'll see, Lopez, we'll see." He unzipped his backpack and pulled out the lighter and matches he'd stolen from his mother's bedroom. It was some of the stuff his dad had left behind when he'd taken off a few months ago.
When they got the rocks pulled around in a circle, Mike and Finn tossed sticks and branches into the middle and Puck tried to get the thing to light. Finally, he was able to get the fire to catch and continue to burn and gave everyone a smug smile. "Told you I could do it." He added a handful of leaves and sat down on the ground beside Brittany. He rolled his eyes when Rachel came to sit down beside him but he didn't tell her to move.
Puck reached into his bag and pulled out the heavy bag of sugar he'd brought with him from home. On the show, the kids always threw some sort of magic dust into the fire when they started their story but he didn't have any magic dust so he figured sugar would have to do.
Finn looked at him. "Okay, so now what?"
Puck shrugged. "We tell stories." It was a little chilly and again, he was starting to wish that they'd just decided to do this in someone's basement. Even though the fire was pretty cool and he was pretty proud that he'd managed to get it started. And it was kinda like the Midnight Society. "Who wants to go first?" He held out the bag to Santana.
Santana shook her head. "Nope, I want to hear Rachel tell a scary story." She sneered.
Rachel frowned, drawing musical notes into the dirt with her fingers. "I don't know many." She said softly.
"Let me guess what happens in your stories: the puppy and kitty get mad at each other and the world runs out of rainbows." Santana rolled her eyes. "What a joke."
Rachel looked up at her. "Fine, I do know one. My daddy told it to me last Halloween." Her dad hadn't been home that night, otherwise he never would have let his husband get away with telling her such terrifying stories. She'd tried to play it off like she wasn't scared just so her daddy wouldn't feel bad but it had given her nightmares for days.
Puck handed her the bag. "All right, let's hear it."
Rachel stared at him. "What I am supposed to do with this?"
Rolling his eyes, Puck took the bag away from her. "Jesus, never mind Berry." He grabbed a handful of sugar and threw it into the fire. A colorful burst of flame licked up toward the sky before disappearing but everyone looked impressed. "Okay, start the story."
Swallowing, Rachel licked her lips, trying to remember exactly how her daddy had told it. "Once there was a girl and she lived with her parents and her dog. And one night her parents had to go out of town for a party so the girl had to stay home alone with her dog..."
By the time Rachel finished telling her story, Puck was both impressed and a little creeped out. A dead dog hanging in the shower and a creepy message written in blood on the mirror...that was pretty scary stuff, you had to admit.
"That was a great story Rachel." Finn said and Puck could tell by his friend's voice that he was trying not to let on to how frightened he was.
"Yeah, I didn't know you had it in you, Berry." Puck nodded. "So who's next?"
They went around the circle, throwing sugar into the fire and telling their stories, just like they had seen on Are You Afraid of the Dark. Mike told a story about a kid that turned into a werewolf and killed dogs but he forget it halfway through and gave up. Matt told them the story of an escaped convict who killed this chick's boyfriend and then left his hook-hand in the car door. Finn's story was about a carnival funhouse that was haunted by a clown and even though Puck recognized it as a story from Are You Afraid of the Dark, he decided not to call his friend out. His story was about a girl who had a killer hiding in the backseat of her car and she didn't realize it even though the guy driving behind her kept flashing his headlights to warn her. His dad told him that story to scare him into going to bed...which made absolutely no sense but his dad was an idiot so Puck wasn't surprised. Brittany didn't tell a story because she said she couldn't remember any and since she often had trouble remembering how to spell her own name, they all decided to believe her.
Finally, it was Santana's turn. She took the bag of sugar from Puck and smiled at them, the flames of the fire casting dancing shadows across her face. "Good idea, saving the best for last. Because this story is going to make you all go crying for your mommies." She looked at Rachel. "Well, those of us who have mommies."
"Just tell the story, Lopez." Puck snapped. When someone teased him a few months ago because his dad ran out on them, Rachel stood up for him, so he figured he could at least return the favor. Not that he'd admit to doing that, of course.
"Fine." Santana threw a handful of sugar onto the fire and then let her eyes move across each of their faces. "Once, there was a boy. He was in his bed after his mommy tucked him in and he was trying to go to sleep. But he kept hearing this voice, real soft and whispery. It was saying I'm walking down your street...I'm stopping in front of your house...I'm coming into your yard..." Santana made her voice real low and soft, imitating the whispering voice in her story. Puck had to admit, it gave him chills. He swallowed and leaned in closer.
"At first, the kid thought he was just imaging things. He closed his eyes and tried to sleep. But he kept hearing the voice: I'm stepping onto your porch...I'm opening your door...I'm coming into your house..." Santana continued.
Puck felt his heart start to beat a little fast. He tried to remind himself that it was just a stupid story but he couldn't help himself. The thought of hearing a ghostly voice when he was in his bed, all alone, trying to sleep...it was all too easy to imagine. Everyone else was silent, staring at Santana with rapt attention.
"The kid was so scared, he wanted to call for his Mom but his voice won't work. So he just had to lay there in bed...listening..." Santana's eyes kept moving across each of their faces in turn. "I'm in your kitchen...I'm in your living room...I see the stairs leading up to your room...I'm on the first stair..."
Okay, seriously, this story was pretty freaking scary. Scarier than anything they'd had on Are You Afraid of the Dark that was for sure. And it was the way Santana told it, all slow with her voice sounding spooky and unfamiliar...He glanced over at Finn and Rachel. Finn was hugging his knees to his chest, staring at Santana. Rachel's face a little pale but she didn't look nearly as frightened as Puck felt. He wasn't about the be the only one afraid of Santana's stupid story, which wasn't even that scary...though he knew that was a lie.
"I'm on the third stair...I'm on the fifth stair...The voice kept counting the stairs as it moved closer to the boy. He wanted to get up and run into his parents' room but he felt frozen and all he could do was wait there, listening...I'm at the top of the stairs...I'm walking down the hallway...I can see your bedroom door...I'm opening the door...The door opened with a creek. I can see you in your bed...I'm moving closer to your bed...I'm...HERE!" Santana shouted the last part and reached across Brittany to grab Puck's foot.
Puck jumped up, shouting in fear, stumbling over the pile of kindling and falling to the ground. Santana started laughing like she had never seen anything funnier in her life and Matt and Mike quickly joined in. Puck got to his feet, brushing the dirt and leaves off his pants. His heart was still pounding in his chest and he felt the sting of tears in his eyes, though he couldn't tell if they were because he was scared or because he was humiliated that his friends, even Finn and Brittany, were laughing at him.
Santana was practically doubled over from laughter, struggling to breathe. "Oh, my God Puckerman. You should have seen your face. Priceless." She managed to choke out between laughs.
Puck glared at her. "Yeah, whatever. I was just pretending."
"No...no you weren't." Santana kept laughing. "You were so scared." She looked up at him, wiping at the corners of her eyes. "Wait...are you...are you crying Puckerman? Are you going to go crying for your mommy?"
Of course, that didn't help Puck's tears and he was so embarrassed he glared down at the ground. That only made Santana laugh harder. "Oh, poor little Puck-" She started to tease in her best baby voice.
"Stop it Santana!" Rachel shouted suddenly, jumping up to her feet. "That was mean trick you pulled on him and you know it. Why can't you just leave him alone? You don't have to be a bully all the time!"
Santana stopped laughing and glared at Rachel. "Are you kidding me right now? You can't talk to me like that Berry."
Rachel crossed her arms over her chest. "You shouldn't go around teasing people all the time." She raised her chin, trying to act like she wasn't as intimidated as she felt.
Santana glared at her for a minute before finally rolling her eyes. "Whatever, screw this. This is lame and stupid. Let's go Brittany." She turned around and headed away from the campfire with Brittany following after. After a few minutes, Matt and Mike got up too and headed after them.
Finn hesitated. "You okay, man?" He questioned, looking at Puck.
Puck continued to glare at the dirt. "Yeah, dude, I'm fine." He snapped. Finn decided not to press the issue and hurried after Mike and Matt, since they all lived in the same direction.
Rachel looked at him a minute, debating whether or not she should say something. Finally, she moved away from him and started kicking dirt over the fire, smothering the flames. Puck watched her as she made sure that the fire was out without any hope of starting up again. All he wanted was to get out of these stupid woods and here she was playing Smokey the freaking Bear.
"God, let's go Berry." Puck snapped finally and grabbed his bag, heading back the way they had come. He was more embarrassed than anything now; embarrassed that he had let that stupid story to get him, embarrassed that he'd been the brunt of everyone's joke. But mostly he was embarrassed that Rachel Berry, of all people, had been the one to stick up for him.
Rachel followed after him quickly, hurrying to catch up with him without stumbling over the roots and rocks in the dark. After they walked for a few minutes in silence, Rachel decided to chance starting a conversation. "The story scared me too, Noah." She said softly. "You shouldn't be embarrassed that-"
"Shut up, Berry, I wasn't scared." Puck snapped, much harsher than he had intended. "Only babies would be scared of that story."
Rachel fell silent and stayed that way for the rest of the walk home. Puck felt bad for snapping at her, especially since she had been the only one who hadn't laughed at him back at the campfire.
When they finally got back to her house, Puck hesitated instead of just heading back to his own place. Rachel stepped onto the porch, then turned back to face him. "Thank you for taking me, Noah." She said softly and moved toward her door.
"Hey, Berry." She stopped and turned back to look at him, confused as to why he wasn't halfway down the street by now. He cleared his throat and stubbed the nose of his sneaker into the walkway. "Thanks."
Rachel smiled and looked practically giddy. "You're welcome Noah."
He stayed in front of her house until he heard the locks click into the place and saw the lamp in her room switch on before he finally headed home.
When Puck came home that evening, he was surprised to find his girlfriend in front of the TV. Usually, she could be found whipping up dinner or lounging on the couch with a book or (his personal favorite) indulging in a hot shower. It wasn't very often that Rachel Berry could be found watching TV if he wasn't around to make her.
He came up behind her, slipping his arms around her waist. "What'cha watching, baby?" He kissed the side of her neck. Hopefully she wasn't committed to it, because he had better ideas.
"Remember this show from when we were kids?" Rachel questioned, gesturing toward the TV, which was playing through the opening credits of Are You Afraid of the Dark.
Puck raised an eyebrow. "They still play this shit?"
Rachel didn't even bother to comment on his language now. She had long since given up on that battle. "Do you remember that time we all snuck into the woods to tell scary stories by the campfire?" She turned around so that they were face to face.
Puck scoffed, making a noncommittal noise. "Yeah, I mean, I guess." He shrugged. Of course he remembered that night, mostly because Santana hadn't let him live it down for the next few days at school. And also because Rachel had been there to stand up for him, just like she did so many other times over the years, no matter how much awful shit he put her through.
Rachel smiled at him, letting him know that she knew that he remembered, whether he wanted to admit it or not. "Remember Santana's story?" She said in a slightly teasing tone. Puck rolled his eyes and Rachel leaned in to kiss him. "I'm on the first stair," she whispered with a smirk, trying to emulate Santana's story-telling voice for years ago. She unbuttoned the top button on his shirt. Puck smirked. "I'm on the second stair…" She continued, undoing the second button. "I'm on the third…" She was giggling at herself and Puck couldn't but smile, especially since she kept undoing the buttons on his shirt.
Finally, Rachel had unbuttoned his shirt, mischievous smile still in place. Her fingers rested on his belt buckle. "I'm at your bedroom door…" She giggled, leaning forward to kiss him. "You know," Puck remarked, pulling her closer, "I like this story a whole lot better now."