Author's Note: If you can believe it, I actually started this not long after the "Big Brother" episode aired. A lot has been going on in my life, to say the least, so that is why I'm just now finishing it. I'm honestly not 100% pleased with it, as it seemed like it would be so much better when it was all in my head, but this is my first attempt at writing again since my hiatus so hopefully y'all will cut me some slack. I have another one shot that I'm also working on that should be done in the next week, but for now just read this one (please and thank you) and let me know what you think!
Disclaimer: If you didn't read the summary, note this is an episode redo of the Season 3 episode "Big Brother". Spoilers up until that episode, and it would probably be better if you've seen that episode first as the story takes knowledge of stuff that was said and done and uses that for fictional missing scenes (which by the end change the course of the rest of season 3). Got it? Cool. :)
Puck sprinted the last fifty feet of the track, blowing out a heavy breath once he reached the finish line. He lifted his hands up to rest on top of his head, his elbows splayed out as he tried to regulate his breathing. For a state that had such shitty weather for so long, it was super hot outside and running when he didn't have to probably wasn't the smartest idea. Then again, it was better than stewing inside the sweaty locker room, where he knew Sam and Finn and the other guys were lifting weights today. Puck didn't need to work on his guns, and he really didn't need to work on faking being interested in whatever Finchel topic circulating today.
He'd had plenty of practice in that arena already this year.
"Hey, loser," Santana greeted in her normal, charming tone. "Don't you know by now you can't outrun your love for Berry?" She smirked devilishly when he started to choke on his own tongue, then rolled her eyes when he played it off like a symptom of his run. "You're pathetic."
"What the fuck do you know, Satan?" He growled, subtly looking around to make sure they weren't within earshot of anyone else.
"More than you want me to, obviously."
He scoffed. "Whatever."
"Good comeback." Santana crossed her arms over her chest, her Cheerios skirt sashaying in the wind as she walked alongside him. "It's not obvious to everyone, if that's your beef." She hip-checked him to get his attention. "I've known you since the first grade, asshat. And we were fuckin' around for almost two years."
"Before ya gave up hot dogs for tacos." He finally turned his head to the side, smirking at her. "Insert obvious racial joke here."
"Only if I can go back a couple months and insert the obvious secondhand joke about you screwing the old hag only 'cause you couldn't have the one you really wanted."
Puck sighed, his momentary good mood lost again. "Leave Shelby out of this."
"Fine," Santana surrendered, following Puck up the bleachers and sitting on the first row along with him. "As long as you admit I'm right."
"Doesn't matter, even if you are." Puck sighed heavily. He'd come out here to avoid all this shit, and now Santana was making it ten times worse. "They're gettin' married."
"They were getting married," she emphasized. "Time is once again on your side."
"Never been my experience, babe."
"Look, those two are clinging to each other harder than Jacob Ben Israel's right hand to his dick, but breaking them up … cake." Santana smiled devilishly, crossing her legs as she leaned in a little closer. "All ya gotta do is get Nipples thinking for himself again."
"Not possible; they're fuckin' now," Puck stated matter-of-factly, shaking his head. "Even if it were possible, his dick's gonna trump his brain."
"Berry's too busy right now to be giving it away. Nationals, NYADA, exams … hell, Britt and I are down to just once a day." Santana shuddered a little, causing Puck to snort in amusement. "Just plant the seed and watch it grow. It won't take much to tear them apart."
Puck considered her proposal for a few moments, finally turning his head to stop staring forward and really look at her. "Why do you care so much?" He smirked for good measure. "Ya hot for Hudson again?"
"Please," she scoffed, smoothing away the invisible wrinkles on her uniform skirt before standing. "Might be a sweet threeway, but … no." She lifted her right hand, gripping the hair at the back of his head and forcing his eyes up to hers. "You're my friend, idiot, and I'm sick of you pretending to ignore her just to keep from laying her on the nearest flat surface."
Puck grabbed at the back of his head as soon as she let go, watching her walk away while rubbing the pained area and thinking about what she'd said. He really hoped his feelings for Rachel weren't as obvious to everyone else as they clearly were to Santana. But, in a weird way, she was one of his best friends and it was kind of a relief to get a break from pretending. It was exhausting and after a full year of playing the supportive friend, any time off was welcome.
Then again, the only way to make it completely stop was to follow her advice. And, frankly, Puck wasn't sure he could do it. He'd kept his mouth shut this long because Rachel finally seemed happy – happier than last year, anyway. Plus, he definitely owed Finn after everything that happened sophomore year. And they were finally back on track to being the type of friends they'd been before all that went down. Any scenario where he went after Rachel would ruin all that again, not to mention possibly ruin his friendship with Rachel, too; she'd hate him if she found out he'd been the one to fuck everything up.
But she couldn't hate him if Finn fucked it all up, right? Even if Puck was the one who planted the seed?
Puck stuffed an entire chili cheese hot dog into his mouth. He already felt sick to his stomach, so now was as good of a time as any to add on to the pain. Plus, part of him wanted to blame it on the fact that he was hungry and not on the fact that he felt like a complete tool after the conversation he'd just had with Finn. Puck hadn't just planted the seed after the group (Quinn) had picked Cedar Point for Senior Skip Day. No, planting the seed would have been stopping after just saying there was the possibility of the New York plans not working out. But then piling on after Finn hadn't wavered in the least - he'd sounded a little desperate when he'd assured Puck it was gonna happen, but Puck could understand that; he could relate to needing something to go right in your life, no matter what anyone thought, after dealing with shit storm after shit storm – was just a dick move.
Puck didn't even need Finn's help. He could totally fix the busted Jacuzzi all by himself. But Finn was good at that stuff and, at that moment, building up the tall teen's confidence seemed like a good idea. Plus it would give the two another chance to talk about everything alone. Until then, Puck was going to do his best to ignore the gnawing feeling in his stomach and remember that he was only planting the seed of doubt and maybe now fertilizing it, too. He wouldn't go any further, and if nothing happened because of his meddling he'd finally be able to believe that Finchel was meant to be.
Or pretend to believe, at least.
Puck watched Finn try not to stare at the cougar's tits, but she was putting them on proud display while bending over to give the tall teen some fruity drink. Part of him wanted to beat the crap out of his friend for looking even though he was with Rachel, but … well, please. It was hard not to stare, even if Puck knew from experience that it wasn't worth the trouble. He'd tapped that sometime last year, and it was nothing special; nothing compared to how he pictured Berry was in the sack, which Puck sadly did more than once (a day).
Plus, it was a great opening, telling Finn that she'd be considered ugly in California. And, fuck his life, Finn had again seemed so confident when he told Puck that L.A. was out of the question. After that it became more like a game. Puck didn't take to rejection very well, so his ploy to get Finn thinking about moving to the Sunshine State became more about pride than just trying to plant some stupid seed. He turned into some crazed used car salesmen, sprouting off shit about Finn always being the one to give everything up and how Rachel didn't think about him.
It worked, too.
Puck saw the doubt flash through his friend's eyes, and it was like a shot of adrenaline. Progress, finally. He started talking a mile a minute (very Berry like, in fact, which might be why Finn responded to it so well) about how Rachel would be fine in California, too. He made Finn believe Rachel would be just as happy in L.A. as in New York (huge lie, even if it were true that she probably could find work), all while he had all these opportunities to do something else with his life besides be Rachel Berry's shadow.
Puck sighed, finally getting out of the truck he'd parked by the curb in front of his house nearly twenty minutes ago. He shuffled his feet as he headed inside, realizing that he'd moved from planting the seed to fertilizing it to watering the stupid thing.
Puck was determined to enjoy Senior Skip Day if it killed him. He'd tossed and turned all last night, more than once picking up his phone to call Finn and confess everything. Admit that he was trying to get Finn to just consider that things might not work with Berry, to think that maybe there was a better life to be had. He'd needed to tell him that he'd applied to some schools in New York and, if they accepted him, L.A. would be the furthest thing from his mind regardless of if he could convince Finn otherwise.
But he didn't.
Instead, Puck decided to finally let the chips fall where they may. And, ya know, avoid Finn like the plague all day. It wasn't too hard considering Rachel was obviously going to be his riding partner (no pun intended) all day. The couple had sat up front on the bus, which wouldn't have mattered regardless because Puck had slept the entire way up to Cedar Point. He'd only woken up when the bus stopped in front of the gate, and then he sort of struck up a conversation with Sam. He hadn't really talked to the blonde since he'd come back to McKinley, which was weird since he'd never had any beef with the kid despite what everyone thought (legit, everyone thought he was gonna kill Trouty Mouth for scamming on Quinn, but Puck was way over that shit).
"Did everyone abandon you, Noah?"
Puck turned at the sound of her voice, inwardly cursing himself for noting how hot she looked today (not for the first time). If he was avoiding Finn so hard, he should be avoiding Rachel even harder. Not just because he was behind the scenes basically trying to hurt her - he'd tried to convince himself he wasn't, that it was for her own good, but it was a lie. He knew what he thought about Finchel was right, but he was doing all this for completely selfish reasons. But she also had a crazy way of getting him to talk (about anything) and that shit was dangerous when he was already developing a nervous twitch about all the scheming.
"Is everyone still in the restroom?" She prompted again, knotting her eyebrows up at him.
"I dunno." He shrugged, clearing his throat. "I think Britt and San went to the gift shop, and Sam went to get a pretzel or somethin'."
"We just ate."
Puck shrugged again, closing his eyes when he'd realized his gaze had immediately moved to her mouth. His mind instantly raced with images of her sipping from a straw that organic juice crap she drank to far less pure things she could wrap those perfect lips around. He was so fucked. If he couldn't avoid her, he needed to avoid having any time to think to himself.
"Ya enjoyin' skip day?"
"Yes," she answered bashfully. "I feel bad about lying to my fathers, but this has been quite enjoyable thus far."
"Ya didn't really lie, Berry. It can't be senior skip day if there are juniors here."
Rachel tilted her head in consideration, a small smile etching her face as she shrugged one shoulder. "I suppose."
Puck tried to think of anything but how she'd stepped closer to him, taking residence in the little bit of shade that was left in the area where they were waiting for everyone. It wasn't exactly easy, though, because even over the strong smell of spun sugar and the hint of vomit looming in the amusement park Puck could sense a hint of lavender that he knew was from her shampoo. He knew this because he'd asked her what it was all the way back when they dated for those five minutes sophomore year. She'd laughed at him for not knowing lavender was a flower, then proceeded to explain that she sought out the particular type of shampoo because lavender was a calming scent, one that was light enough to go undetected and didn't overpower any of her perfumes. He'd kissed her to shut her up, but since then he'd been partial to lavenders.
"Ya sure you're tall enough to ride this?" He asked, slyly moving away from her and resting his hand on the wooden cutout designating the height requirements for the roller coaster they were getting ready to get in line for.
"Yes, Noah," she scoffed. "I'll have you know I'm tall enough for all riding."
Puck groaned (as if he wasn't already half hard after smelling her hair) and Rachel just giggled because she clearly thought he was doing it just to be funny. He wasn't going to tell her otherwise, especially not as Kurt and Mercedes returned and the three of them got swept up in a conversation. Finn approached another minute later and Puck may have made a comment about the perfect weather and how it was always that way in California.
He was so fucked.
Rachel burst through his room like a derailed freight train, his door flying open and slamming shut once she was inside. He was sitting at his desk chair straight across from her, so casual that it seemed to infuriate her more. She stomped closer, ripping the headphones from his ears painfully before replacing her hands on her hips. She breathed heavily and jutted one finger out toward him, her entire arm shaking in admonishment (apparently she was taking what she'd learned from Blaine's brother and using it in her real life).
"What did you say to him, Noah?"
"'Scuse me?" He asked genuinely, trying to catch up.
"Finn!" She shouted, pacing away from him for a split second just to return just as close as she'd been standing before. "You clearly had a discussion with Finn about Los Angeles and I want to know every word!"
Puck set his guitar back into the case, sighing out, "Look …"
"Every word, Noah. Now!"
"Well I don't keep a fuckin' recorder on me, so a summary is gonna haveta do." She shrunk a little at his harsh answer, but he didn't feel bad. She'd interrupted his apology, and he was only being defensive because she was being a bitch. "Not that it's any of your damn business."
"It is my business, Noah! When my fiancée suddenly tells me he's considering moving to California instead of with me to New York because he needs to find his own dreams, it is my business. When he says that Puck told him about this amazing pool cleaning business opportunity, it is my business." She started pacing again, her arms flailing as she spoke. "Leaving the preposterous notion that a pool cleaning business is a great opportunity alone, I just don't understand why he suddenly feels there are more opportunities for him in California than there are in New York. There are an equal amount of opportunities in both, if anything, and I told him we'd figure it out together, but he didn't care. He's already figured it out. Thanks to you."
"Hold your shit for just …"
"He said if he was going to be my husband. If, Noah!" She interrupted, turning and facing him again, gasping a little when she saw he'd stood from his chair and was now right in front of her. "He claimed I didn't love him. He said I only cared about his dreams as long as they didn't interfere with my own."
Puck still felt the anger boiling below the surface, but her attitude had moved from pissed to depressed so suddenly that he was feeling a bit of whiplash himself. He didn't like the accusation that anything he'd said had any bearing on Rachel and Finn's relationship, but just because he didn't like it didn't mean it wasn't true. He was the one who'd pointed out to Finn how one-sided the conversations about Finn and Rachel's futures have been, so Puck was kind of at fault on this one. He'd been pulling the strings behind the scenes for the past week and now the real puppet master wanted some answers.
"I can't do this without him."
Her words didn't just interrupt his explanation, it made it disappear. He no longer felt sorry about anything he'd done in the past week; he couldn't be upset about anything but what'd she'd just said - and how she'd said it. Rachel Berry was not supposed to sound so pathetic and wounded, and she certainly wasn't supposed to sound that way over a guy. A performance or the fate of a musical icon, sure. But Finn Hudson? Fuck that noise.
Rachel lifted her bowed head, blinking once. "Excuse me?"
"I didn't fuckin' stutter, Rach. Get the fuck outta my room with that weak shit." He grabbed her shoulders, moving her backward toward the door for about three steps before she realized what was happening and went dead weight on him; she might be tiny, but she was tough. "Legit, Berry. I ain't sayin' sorry for anything now so you'll just be wastin' your breath."
"Why are you being so cruel?"
"Because I'm sick of this," he snapped, letting her go and stepping back to his original spot. "I'm sick of listening to the same damn thing over and over again. I don't wanna hear it anymore, Rach. It's bullshit."
"I don't underst …"
"Finn is right." He wasn't derailed even as she gasped at his words. "You're just clingin' to him 'cause you're scared to face New York alone. You just want him there to hold your fuckin' hand till you're ready, and he called ya out on it."
"How do you know what he said?"
Puck sighed, sitting back in his seat with a defeated slump. Right then would be the perfect time to tell her everything about the past week and how he'd been the one to set it all in motion. But, even though he'd thought about what he would say every night and almost every day since that first conversation with Finn in the library, Puck couldn't tell her. He couldn't explain to her why he'd done what he did without at least trying to let her know it hadn't just been for sport.
"I know ya wanna run off into the sunset with Finn and conquer New York together and whatever, but you don't need him."
"You're incredible, Rachel," he interrupted, lifting his head so his gaze was back on her again. "You're gonna get into NYADA and you're going to leave Lima and dominate in New York and have all your dreams come true. You."
Rachel's eyes fell, her hands wringing in front of herself. "I'm scared."
"I know," he answered slowly, reaching his hands out to grab hers, pulling her closer. He was surprised when she didn't pull away from his touch, and couldn't believe it when she casually sat on his left leg. Just when he was starting to feel guilty again, she had to make it all worth it. "But you don't need him to go with you." He swallowed thickly, his eyes focused on his thumb as it brushed over the exposed skin on her knee. "Not if you don't love him."
"But you're going to L.A."
"Not if I had a reason not to," he answered slowly, unsure if he'd heard her correctly. She'd moved her gaze off him, but he didn't know if it were deliberate or not. And, if it were, he didn't know if that was a good or a bad thing.
"How does that make you any different than Finn?"
"It didn't until about two minutes ago." Puck moved his hand from her knee to her hip, his fingers stroking the sliver of exposed skin between her top and skirt as he waited for her to look up at him. "When you all but admitted you love me back."
Rachel's eyes twinkled, the tips of her mouth turning upward until she was smiling wide. Hesitantly, her hands moved from her lap to his jawline, one of her thumbs gliding over his lips. "Back?"
Puck rolled his eyes, both at her coy question and the adorable way she'd asked it. But instead of answering her he simply leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. He'd forgotten how soft her lips were and what an awesome kisser she was, but he didn't let himself get carried away. He'd hadn't exactly been a saint this week considering all the evil plotting, and it wasn't very noble to kiss your best friend's girl either, but Puck wanted to do a hell of a lot more and stopped. So that's progress.
"That didn't answer my question, Noah."
"Didn't it?" He asked, his eyes casual but his voice deceiving him. She seemed to understand because she nodded bashfully before standing up from his lap and smoothing her skirt down. He stood too and wiped his hands on his jeans, stepping closer to her just to ease his sudden anxiety. "See ya tomorrow?"
She hummed in reply, looking at him through her eyelashes before turning and heading for the door. Slowly she turned back around, her bottom lip caught between her teeth before she released it and shyly asked, "See you in New York?"
He wanted to kiss her again. Actually, he wanted to shove her against his bedroom door and press his body against hers while kissing her. But neither was an option, and they both knew it. Even if she talked to Finn tonight, they couldn't go to school tomorrow and be a couple without ruining everything – friendships, Nationals, graduation. It sucked, but Puck was actually cool with just knowing that she wanted the same thing he did. A chance.
"Yea," he finally agreed, unable to censor his smile when hers shone so brightly back at him. "See ya in New York."