This is just a little Halloween-type drabble that serves no real purpose except to be so fluffy that I can't believe I wrote it. Enjoy!
The apartment apartment smells like a bakery when Puck lets himself in. It isn't so unusual; Rachel is always baking something. Muffins for breakfast, cupcakes to take to the nursery school, cookies for Mr. and Mrs. Wackerly down the hall. Today though, he smells sugar cookies, and not the ones she used to make when she needed to apologize to someone. No, he smells the soft, cakey sugar cookies that she's been making since they started dating and he told her that they were always his favorite. She'd spent weeks testing recipes, making Puck taste each one, until she found what she declared were the perfect sugar cookies. Now he can always count on getting them for Halloween and Valentine's Day and his birthday because she knows they're still his favorite, even after all of the things she's tried out over the years.
He thinks the Halloween ones are his favorite, but that's probably because it's his favorite holiday. There isn't anything not to like about trick-or-treating when you're a little boy, and once Puck got too old to ring bells for candy, he took to things like egging and forking and TPing. (Okay, not his finest moment, but he was a delinquent. It's not like anyone's surprised.) He moved to New York to be with Rachel in October, too. The first night they were together in her apartment in Brooklyn, he had to knock a basket of decorative gourds off her kitchen table so he could lay her out on it. That was the year that she started making the cookies.
It was four years ago when she let him paint her stomach like a pumpkin. She was six months pregnant and her belly looked like a basketball underneath her shirt. He saw a picture on some website, and she'd thought it was so cute that she'd sent him out to get paint first thing the next morning.
(He still can't get over how fucking beautiful Rachel was when she was pregnant. All the things he'd always heard about pregnant women that he thought were bullshit - that they glowed or whatever - were completely true. Maybe Quinn had just defied normalcy, or maybe he just hadn't been paying enough attention. Rachel though...sometimes he thinks they should have another kid so he can have a chance to see her that way again.)
They just celebrated their seventh anniversary. It's funny, he thinks, how seriously Rachel takes celebrating their anniversary when you consider that they aren't married. She's always insisted that it isn't important. "We love each other," she says. "We have a daughter, and we wake up together every morning. That's enough for me."
He loves her so much that it takes his breath away sometimes.
He hangs his jacket in the hall closet with his work bag before rounding the corner into the kitchen. There are cooling racks spread out on the countertop beside the stove, most of which are covered with cookies shaped like pumpkins and bats and ghosts and spiders. Rachel is standing at the center island, rolling pin in hand and a yellow floral apron tied around her waist. Her hair is a low ponytail, and her face is bare of makeup save for mascara.
She's fucking gorgeous.
"You're home early," she says when she sees him. She reaches into the dish of flour she has sitting near the end of the counter and dusts some over her rolling pin.
"I closed the Jackson account earlier than I thought I would," he says, moving around the counter so he can stand behind her.
"That's great." She doesn't stop rolling out dough when he sets his hands on her hips. "You could pick up Sophia from school."
He was already planning on it, but right now he really wants to kiss the spot on the side of her neck just beneath her ear. She lets out a little hum when he does. "You smell like cookies," he tells her, letting his breath come out warm across her ear just because he knows it makes her crazy.
"Noah," she says warningly, setting aside her rolling pin and reaching for a cookie cutter. "I have cookies that need to come out in three minutes.
He watches her dip the cutter in flour before tapping off the excess. This one is almost square; he thinks it's supposed to be a tombstone. "Is this the last of them?"
"Yes." He flattens his hand on her stomach and presses himself closer to her back. "Don't get any ideas, Puckerman."
Well, it's too late for that, but he can control himself, unlike the first time she made these for Halloween. They were still living in Brooklyn, and she had this tiny little apartment oven that wouldn't hold a standard sheet tray, so she was cutting and baking the cookies six at a time. It was hot for October, but she refused to turn on the air conditioner, so she was wearing a tank top and the world's tiniest shorts with her apron (that one was white with cherries on it; he remembers that shit)
He'd started something that he had to finish, even though she pulled away from him to take the cookies out of the oven before they could burn. Even after the interruption, they didn't make it to the bedroom, and she still brings up the metal witch cookie cutter that got bent all out of shape when he lifted her up onto the counter
Is it any wonder that he loves these cookies?
(Is it any wonder that he loves this girl?)
He steps away from her when she moves to get a cookie sheet for the dough she just cut, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge and sitting on one of the stools on the opposite side of the counter. Puck likes watching her in the kitchen (she's a better baker than a cook, but nobody's going to starve with her around), the confidence that she has when she moves around, lifting hot cookies onto cooling racks once she's set the raw tray in the oven.
"Sophia might be old enough to actually decorate some of the cookies this time instead of just being a sticky mess," she says when she's wiping off the counter.
Puck grins, remembering the sticky pink mess that was Valentine's cookie decorating. He helped with that round, which he thinks Rachel regretted later when she realized that he wasn't really helping Sophia keep the icing on the cookies so much as he was letting her smear it wherever she liked.
They chat while Rachel cleans up the mess and then takes the last batch of cookies from the oven, talking about their days and their plans for the weekend.
Puck waits until she's put the last cookie on the cooling rack and set the still-hot sheet tray on the stove top to kiss her, pressing his hips into hers, pinning her between him and the front of the cabinet.
She tears her mouth from his with a gasp when he slips his tongue past her lips. "Noah," she breathes, tilting her head a little when he sweeps his lips along her jaw. "Sophia."
"Gotta pick her up in forty minutes," he mutters, nipping at her earlobe. He can't help grinning when she whimpers; he loves that sound. "Plenty of time, baby." He slides his hand up the inside of her thigh, pressing against her center with his palm until she whimpers again, this time sounding like acquiescence.
He drags her to their bedroom so he can take her the right way. He has a three-year-old, okay? He knows how to take advantage of some time alone with his girl when he gets it.
Puck never imagined that the sound of a giggling three-year-old would be one of his favorite things in the world, but when that's what wakes him up on Saturday morning, he knows it's true.
"Go wake up Daddy," he hears Rachel whisper, and even though he's already awake, he keeps his eyes closed even when he feels the bed dip under the slight weight of his daughter.
"Daddy," she whispers loudly, scooting up the bed until her head is on the same pillow as his. "Daddy." Her little hand comes out to rub against his cheek. "Daddy, wake up."
Puck opens one eye, forcing himself not to smile when he sees Sophia staring back at him with the big brown eyes she got from her mother. "Daddy, I can't make cookies until I have breakfast, and Mommy won't give me breakfast until you're awake." She says it all in a whispered rush.
"What's for breakfast?" he whispers back, but he reaches out to tickle her stomach before she can answer just so he can hear some more of those giggles.
"All right, Miss Sophia Grace," Rachel says after a minute. "Go set the table for Cheerios." They're literally the only thing Sophia will eat before ten a.m., so it's Cheerios for breakfast every day. Rachel winks at him after she watches their daughter scramble out of their bed and down the hallway towards the kitchen.
In the time it takes him to brush his teeth and put on a shirt, Sophia's worked her way through half of her bowl of Cheerios with bananas. (Rachel doesn't care that she eats the same cereal every day, but she does insist on adding fruit.) She waves from her little booster seat when she sees Puck.
"She's going to make a huge mess, isn't she?" Puck asks Rachel when she walks over to hand him a mug of coffee.
Rachel stands on her toes to kiss him gently. "She's your daughter. What do you think?"
"She's yours too," he points out.
She smirks, an expression he feels fairly certain she picked up from him somewhere along the way. "Exactly."
"Daddy, are you going to help decorate cookies?" Sophia asks around a mouthful of Cheerios and banana.
Puck raises his eyebrows at her over the rim of his mug before crossing the kitchen to sit across the table from her. "You're going to decorate cookies with Mommy," he reminds her. He can already see where this is going. He figures it's a good thing he wasn't planning anything that has to be done today.
"Daddies can decorate cookies," she insists like it's something he should already know, looking at him with an expression that's all Rachel. It's kind of a thing in their house, that Mommy can do anything Daddy can, 'except reach the the cabinet over the refrigerator.' It stands to reason that his kid would figure out that it works both ways.
"Okay, baby," he agrees, taking another sip of coffee. "I'll help."
Rachel sets everything up like a professional, with piping bags of icing in orange and black and purple and green and white, plus a whole slew of different sprinkles and other decorations that she's arranged into little clear glass bowls. After Sophia's finished her cereal and her bowl has been rinsed and set in the dishwasher, Rachel ties on her little apron (pink, because it's her favorite color, with this pattern of little yellow stars that Rachel 'fell in love with' at the fabric store when she went looking) and sets her up on her special stool at the kitchen table.
Sophia decides pretty quickly that the spiders are her favorite - though she insists of icing them in purple instead of black, which just a couple of years ago would have made Rachel crazy - because she can count their legs ('four, five, six, seven, eight!') and give them little faces.
"Can I make a glitter spider?" Sophia asks.
Rachel looks up from the tray of tombstones on which she's piping little RIPs. "You can't put glitter on cookies, kitten."
"That glitter," Sophia insists, pointing at a bowl of orange sanding sugar. (The fact that he knows it's sanding sugar doesn't even register as strange to Puck.)
Rachel just raises her eyebrows and smiles. "Use the spoon."
Two hours later, there are six trays of finished iced cookies (four of which Rachel finished, managing to make pumpkins and bats and tombstones that look like something you'd get in a fancy Upper East Side bakery while ooing and ahing over Sophia's creations). Sophia's cookies look like they were decorated by a three-year-old, which, as far as Puck is concerned, is exactly how it should be. She made purple pumpkins and black spiders with smiley faces and orange sparkles. She gave one of the bats green hair and "vampire teeth."
She watches intently as Rachel finishes piping RIPs on the last few tombstone cookies. "Can I have one with my name, Mommy?"
Rachel makes a pained face. "How about a pumpkin instead?" she offers, glancing at Puck. He's not super keen on having his daughter's name on a tombstone either, even if it is just a cookie.
"Okay," Sophia agrees easily.
She starts yawning during lunch, and even though she stopped taking regular naps when she was eighteen months old (always afraid she was going to miss something, not unlike both of her parents), Puck knows that she's going to take one today.
He doesn't bother trying to convince her to crawl into bed before she falls asleep. It's easier to let her pass out on the living room floor where she's looking at a Sesame Street word book, then carry her off to her room.
Rachel is standing in her bedroom doorway when he finishes tugging her little yellow blanket over her body. "She looks like you when she's asleep," she comments.
Puck just smiles. Rachel's been saying that since the day she was born, but he doesn't really see it. All he sees when he looks at his daughter is his girl. He smooths her hair away from her face before standing and leaving her there, pulling her bedroom door half-closed behind him. "You wanna make another one?"
Rachel laughs quietly, taking his hand and weaving their fingers together as they walk back towards their bedroom. "I have to go back to work sometime." He hums his agreement. She'd left the production she was part of when she started showing with Sophia, and she decided to take a couple of years to do the stay-at-home mom thing. Puck knows that even though she wouldn't trade that time with her daughter for anything, she's starting to miss the stage too much.
He lifts her hand and brushes his lips over her knuckles. "You wanna practice making another one?" he asks lowly.
She bites the corner of her bottom lip, which is enough to make him half-crazy, mostly because he knows it means that she wants him almost as badly as he wants her.
Rachel took Sophia to see Wicked as a special 'you're starting nursery school' treat at the end of summer. The woman who plays Glinda is a friend of Rachel's from school, and Sophia isn't one of those kids who doesn't understand the difference between real and make-believe, so Rachel took her backstage to see the costumes and everything that goes on behind the scenes. The kid is now completely obsessed with the show (of course she is; she's Rachel Berry's daughter), and she insists on being Glinda for Halloween. Rachel, of course, is never one to turn down a chance to dress up in costume, and agrees to be Elphaba to her daughter's Glinda at the nursery school party, green face paint and all.
She stops just short of getting Sophia a blonde wig, and the only reason she doesn't is because the kid would rather have her own hair all curled and shit.
Puck cuts out of work early to stop by the school so he can see his girls. He isn't at all surprised when he walks into the multi-purpose room and finds Rachel with an audience, teaching all the kids to sing "Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead". Wrong show, he knows, but easier for three- and four-year-olds than any of the others.
Rachel manages to sneak away when the teacher - Miss Melody - steps back in from of the class and comes to stand beside Puck. "I'd kiss you, but." She gestures sort of vaguely at her makeup and grins.
Puck compromises a little and kisses her hair instead.
It takes forever to get Sophia calmed down for the evening after dinner. With the excitement of dressing up and having a party and all the sugar she had, she's practically bouncing in her seat all through dinner, and she's extra-rambunctious when Puck gives her her bath just like he does every night. (First, she insists on bubbles because it's a special day, and then she has to wash Barbie's hair twice before she deems it clean enough to pass inspection.)
The nightly routine is always the same. Puck does the bath thing, then gets her into PJs and into her room, and then Rachel reads to her, and sometimes sings, until lights out. She generally falls asleep pretty easily and stays that way, for which he's always been exceedingly grateful.
He cleans up the bathroom while Rachel does the book thing, drying off the bath toys before putting them in the basket under the sink, hanging up the wet towels, and cleaning up the ten gallons of water his thirty pound kid managed to splash all over the bathroom floor.
When he heads down the hall to look in on them, he can hear the quiet sound of them singing together, Rachel's voice soft like it only ever gets with their daughter and Sophia's sleepy and sweet. It's "For Good," which has been the go-to sleep song for more than a little while. He steps into the room so he can watch as they sing the last note together.
Rachel leans over to kiss Sophia's forehead. "Good night, kitten," she murmurs, brushing the girl's hair back. "I love you."
"I love you, Mommy."
Rachel smiles when Puck sets his hand on her shoulder and leans down to kiss Sophia. "Night, baby. Love you."
"Love you," she answers sleepily.
He will never, ever get tired of hearing that.
When Puck was growing up, he imagined his life a lot of different ways. He pictured being a professional football player or a NASCAR driver. For a long time, he thought he was going to be a rock star. For a little while, he pictured being with Quinn and their daughter, and even though he knows Beth now, he's grateful every day that things didn't turn out the way he pictured them when he was sixteen. He spent way too much time thinking that he would be in Lima forever, as a nobody who did nothing.
That night, when he's lying in bed beside Rachel, watching The Daily Show while she reads some novel, her leg bent so her knee is pressed against the side of his thigh, he's struck once again by how he never pictured his life like this, this good.