"I swear to all that is unholy, Berry," Santana slapped Rachel's hands away from the material dipping low between her breasts. "You look hot. Deal with it."
"First of all, I don't care how I look, I feel uncomfortable. Second, it's girls' night out. Why do I need to look hot?" Rachel tried again to adjust the top of her dress. Yes, she'd bought the dress herself, without any prodding from Santana or anyone else, but when she'd tried it on in the store she was wearing a camisole underneath and had always assumed she would do the same any time she wore the dress. When Santana had pulled it out of her closet an hour earlier and tossed it at her, she expressly forbid her to put on anything else with it that would 'cover up the girls.'
"Look here bitch, when you're out with me, you're gonna look hot. I don't do frumpy." Rachel only rolled her eyes and reached for her purse as the cab pulled up to the curb in front of the bar. "And I don't know what you're so uncomfortable about. The girls've been good to you. It's only fair you let 'em out to play once in a while."
Rachel groaned a little under her breath and passed a few bills to the driver between the front seats without making eye contact. Leave it to Santana to make a cab ride embarrassing.
"I'm serious! Mine cost me -,"
"-thousands of dollars, and sometimes I swear your little b-cups get more attention than mine do, and mine are not only bigger but also always perky as hell."
Rachel waited, hands on her hips and purse dangling from one wrist, while Santana paid their covers. "Well then, has it ever occurred to you that maybe that is because I don't put them out there all the time? There is something to be said for leaving a little something to the imagination, you know."
"No." Santana didn't even look at her, heading straight for the bar.
"Santana, you –,"
"Seriously." She leaned across the bar and called out their drink order a bit closer to the bartender's ear than necessary. "Boy toy's got an all-access pass, and he sure as shit hasn't gotten bored with them yet. So I stand by what I said. Your girls are something special, apparently. They're good to you, be good to them."
"You know," Rachel accepted the drink Santana held out to her after the bartender slid two across the bar. "I would have thought we'd finally outgrown that nickname, you know, right about the time he and I exchanged wedding vows."
"You and I both know that was never part of the Rachel Berry Master Plan. Boy was a rebound, and you were only with him 'cause you already knew and trusted him or whatever, and I could vouch for how good he was in the sack. Just 'cause you two got your shit together and made it official, five fuckin' years later, doesn't change that. You know it, I know it, hell, he knows it."
"Why thank you, Santana, for your incredibly deep assessment of my relationship with my husband." Rachel rolled her eyes and turned away from her friend slightly, taking a long sip of her drink.
Santana turned and leaned back against the bar, resting her elbows on its surface. "Hey, I never said it was a bad thing. Just pointin' out the facts. Now, are we done talkin' about him? It's girls' night, remember? So finish that thing," she motioned to Rachel's drink, "and get that sweet little ass out on the dance floor with me."
Rachel didn't point out that Santana had been the one to bring him up in the first place. She knew when to pick her battles, and she'd already lost one so far that night, leaving her standing in the middle of one of her favorite bars in a dress that was far too revealing for her tastes. Instead, she did as she was told, emptying her vodka and cranberry and setting the glass back on the bar. She extended her hand to allow Santana to pull her onto the small dance floor that took up the corner of the bar just next to the stage, which was currently empty. The stage was the reason the bar was one of her favorites, and she had only been there a handful of times when it wasn't in use. That had been part of the compromise she had made with Santana, though. Santana had insisted that 'Girls' Night Out' meant going somewhere they could really 'let loose,' which apparently meant that dancing had to be an option, but Rachel didn't want to go to one of the clubs that her friend usually frequented. Santana finally agreed to the bar Rachel liked to go to, as long as it was on a Thursday, when they had a DJ instead of 'some band that wouldn't know dancing music if it bit them in the balls.'
The girls danced through several songs, Rachel making a drink run once, before taking a break. Santana didn't want to even then, but Rachel insisted that she couldn't make it through another song without a bathroom break, so Santana finally rolled her eyes and flicked her wrist in the general direction of the restrooms then told Rachel she was heading back to the bar. When Rachel came out of the ladies' room, she stuck close to the wall as she walked toward the bar, keeping her eyes on a man across the room whom she'd noticed had been keeping his eyes on her.
"Thank you," she accepted her drink from her friend when she got to the bar and took a small sip. "Do you mind if we take a break for a little while?"
"Shit Berry," she ignored Rachel's glare, "been married two months and you're already old and boring. Or, ya know, more boring," she added, almost as an afterthought.
"Okay, first of all, that's -,"
"Not your name anymore, I got it the first dozen times you corrected me. Still not gonna stop."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "Well then, second of all, I'm not being old and boring. Do you see that gentleman at the table over by the door?" She nodded subtly at the table she was referring to.
"Babe, that's a 40-year-old with a popped collar. Don't even pretend there's anything remotely gentlemanly about him, or his little entourage."
Rachel let her eyes drift slowly back to the table and noticed the three other men who were sitting down with the man she had been referring to. She absently wondered where they had been the first three times she saw their friend staring at her and Santana, but knew that wasn't really important.
"Yes, well," she scowled a little when she caught one of the men motioning in their general direction out of the corner of her eye, "either way, the way he's been looking at us is making my skin crawl. Maybe if we take a break, he'll focus his attention somewhere else."
Santana seemed to think it over for a moment, then nodded. "That's cool. I was starting to get hot anyway, and I don't really want to get my sweat on, in case someone worthwhile starts eyeing me."
"Every man in the place is looking at you, Santana." Rachel laughed.
"Like I said," Santana arched an eyebrow at her friend, "in case someone worthwhile starts eyeing me." Both girls laughed and Rachel jumped when Santana grabbed her arm, pulling her toward two stools that had just opened up down the bar.
The girls stayed off the floor for two rounds before Santana insisted the she didn't care who was looking at them, they were dancing again. Rachel appreciated that Santana had gone along with her in the first place, so she didn't argue, letting her friend pull her onto the floor with an arm around her waist, hand gripping her hip. She noticed that Popped Collar's eyes were back on them almost as soon as they began to dance, as were his friends'. She tried to follow Santana's lead and just ignore them, focusing her attention instead on Santana as her friend swiveled her hips seductively and rested her hands on Rachel's sides. (Even she had to admit that they looked good together.) It worked until she noticed that the men were no longer at their table, but instead standing only a few feet away from them, barely even pretending to dance. She grabbed one of Santana's hands from where it had slid, just above the hem of her dress, and jerked her head in the direction of the men. Santana rolled her eyes, then headed off the floor again, pulling Rachel with her.
Santana pushed herself up onto the bar, supporting her weight with her elbows, and ordered another round for the two of them. When she landed back on her feet, Rachel tugged at her dress and leaned in to tell her that she had to go to the restroom again. "Ya couldn'ta told me that before I ordered? I ain't takin' my drink in a nasty ass public restroom, Berry."
"No, it's fine. You stay here with our drinks. I'll be right back."
"What about Creepy and Crew?" She shot the men a shitty look over Rachel's shoulder, though they weren't looking in their direction.
"They seem sufficiently distracted," Rachel kept watching the way the men were, at that point, watching two other women dance together. "I think I can make it to the ladies' room and back." Santana nodded just as the drinks were placed in front of her then motioned toward some empty seats down the bar before heading in that direction.
When Rachel came out of the restroom, she groaned a little upon seeing that Santana was nearly cornered at the bar by two men she hadn't seen before. They were still a little old for them, probably in their mid to late-thirties, which in Rachel's opinion was too old for her and Santana's 25 (not that it really mattered, since Santana wasn't into men and Rachel was only into one man, but still, that was the thought that entered her mind – somehow it was even creepier to get hit on by men whom she would never look at even if she were looking), but their smiles looked genuine and kind, and Santana didn't look ready to gouge their eyes out with her fingernails. In fact, she wasn't really looking at them at all, instead digging through Rachel's purse.
"Hello," Rachel greeted the men cautiously as she sidled up to Santana.
"Oh, hey Berry." Santana ignored the men and turned to Rachel. "I know you got a pen in here somewhere. You're like a fuckin' boy scout or whatever." Rachel rolled her eyes and snatched her purse from Santana, reaching in and locating a pen almost immediately. She held it out to Santana, who shook her head. "It's for him." She pointed to one of the two men, who smiled back at Rachel sheepishly. Rachel returned the smile a little hesitantly before she turned back to Santana, one eyebrow raised. Santana huffed and waved her hand flippantly at the man waiting for the pen, the one closest to Rachel. "Rachel," her voice was almost sickeningly sweet, "this is Ryan and Jack."
"Jeremy," the second man corrected.
Santana ignored him, but Rachel smiled apologetically before handing the pen to Ryan.
"Thanks," he took the pen from her hand and scribbled something on a cocktail napkin before handing the napkin to his friend and the pen back to her, smiling shyly down at her. "We wanted to request a song, but it's really loud, especially over there by the DJ." Rachel smiled warmly and nodded at him. She could certainly understand anything that had to do with music.
She relaxed a little more, taking her drink from Santana and pushing herself up onto the stool her friend had been saving for her, when she noticed that the man's smile looked even more friendly up close, and that he hadn't made any move to get closer to her or Santana since she had arrived.
Ryan's friend never returned from talking to the DJ, and he seemed somewhat shy, but not uncomfortable standing there with Rachel and Santana. They made small talk for a while, and Rachel was more than happy to provide advice, such as, "You have to come back here tomorrow night. There's live music," which had Santana rolling her eyes and Ryan grinning happily at her, when she discovered he'd recently moved to New York from Tennessee. They never covered the topic of relationship status, but Rachel's ring wasn't exactly small, and she'd been holding her drink with her left hand through the entire conversation. (She'd been doing things like that since the day he slipped it on her finger. Since she couldn't wear it at work, she had no intention of concealing it any other time.) She didn't think he could possibly have missed it. Besides, he hadn't made even a small move on her at all, so she figured he really was just a nice man who had attached himself to her and Santana because they were being nice back and he didn't know anyone else.
After about 15 minutes, a man who Rachel noticed was probably the best-looking man in the bar asked Santana to dance. "Oh hell yes," Santana had replied, throwing her purse at Rachel and jumping off the stool.
"You do know he's a man, right?" Rachel laughed when Santana placed her empty glass on the bar after downing the remainder of her drink.
"Yeah, well, you're currently mayor of the Land of the Lame, so I'll take what I can get." She let her new dance partner guide her out onto the floor with a hand on the small of her back.
"That was … harsh," Ryan commented once Santana was gone.
"Nah," Rachel waved off his comment. "That was just Santana."
Jeremy finally returned with another man several minutes after Santana made her way to the dance floor, and the new guy quickly pulled Ryan away for some reason that Rachel didn't really catch. He shot a small, apologetic smile at her before following his friend, but she only grinned back at him and waved as he walked away.
She turned to order another drink from the bartender, and one for Santana, because she knew the girl would return shortly needing 'refreshment.' When she turned back around, Jeremy was still there.
"So …" he started, smirking at her a little, "my friend's kind of in love with you."
Rachel choked on the sip she had just taken and covered her mouth with her hand to keep from spitting it all over the man standing in front of her. He laughed and handed her a cocktail napkin. She wiped her hands and mouth delicately then twisted the napkin between her hands. "I don't think -,"
"No, he is. When we walked in tonight, I asked him if he could have any girl in the place, who it would be. Didn't take him two seconds to say you."
Rachel could feel her cheeks and neck, and possibly even her chest, burning. The man either didn't notice or didn't care.
"We tried to get him to come talk to you, but he was too chickenshit. We came up with every excuse in the book. Finally, I told him he should offer to show you around, since you don't look like this is really your scene, which means you're probably not from here, but he wouldn't even do that because he's only lived here a few weeks and he didn't want to deceive you or something." Rachel's eyes were wide, but she couldn't say anything. "And see, that right there, he's a good guy. One of the few left. Better than me," he chuckled, "because as soon as I saw you slip off to the bathroom, I dragged him over here to talk to your friend so we'd be here when you came back."
"I, um …" Rachel stammered, unsure of exactly what to say. Thankfully, Santana chose that moment to make her way off the dance floor for a drink.
"What's up, bitch? Dude may be a dude, but he can dance. Not too bad with his hands, either." Santana gulped down over half the drink Rachel had ordered for her then nudged Rachel's shoulder with her own. "Lighten up Berry, not like I'm going home with the guy. Probably."
Jeremy laughed. "I was just telling your friend that my boy Ryan is in love with her."
Santana snorted. "No, he's in love with her tits in that dress. Or her legs. Hell, he's got a pulse, so probably both."
The man's eyes darted to the left, then he moved his body in that direction, putting himself almost behind Santana. Rachel looked over his shoulder to find Popped Collar and one of his friends standing a few feet behind him, leering at them, and she realized that Jeremy was trying to shield her and Santana. She appreciated that, at least.
"Alright," Santana finished her drink. "You're still boring and I'm buzzed again. I'm out." She smacked Rachel's ass on her way back to the dance floor, where her partner was waiting with a smirk on his face.
"There are some creeps in this place," Jeremy grumbled and looked over his shoulder, and Rachel nodded in agreement.
"Yes. Thank you for that. They've been eyeing us for most of the night. Honestly, I thought they lost interest after we started talking to you guys, but I guess not. The other girls they were ogling probably told them to get lost."
"The way they were looking at you girls was just wrong." She nodded again as he continued speaking. "But you know, that's just another great thing about Ryan."
Rachel grabbed quickly for her drink, making a point to do so with her left hand, even though the drink was sitting on the bar to the right of her body.
"He's not like that at all. And your friend was wrong you know, about what he likes about you."
She lifted the drink to her lips and let it linger there even after taking a sip, pulling it away from her mouth just a little and swirling the cup around so that her rings would hopefully catch whatever little light was in the room.
"When he pointed you out to me and told me that you were the girl he'd want if he could have any girl in the place, he followed it up by saying that it didn't matter because he'd never stand a chance with a girl like you. He said you were too classy, too good for him."
She smiled at him then tilted her glass back for another drink. When she was finished, she crossed her arm in front of her, keeping her hand lifted high so that it was almost at eye level, to set her drink back on the counter. The man in front of her seemed to be oblivious to it all.
"That's the kind of guy you want, you know, one who thinks you deserve to be treated like gold. Ryan would do that. That's the kind of guy he is."
Honestly, Jeremy seemed like a nice guy. The way he had literally stepped in to protect her and Santana was very chivalrous. And his devotion to helping out his friend was admirable. Truth be told, Ryan had seemed like a very good guy himself, even if he wasn't the type of guy Rachel would go for even if she were single. So she was trying to be nice, to not just blow them off or come off as rude in any way. She was trying to come off as indifferent as possible. She didn't think she could flash her ring any more if she tried. He just wasn't getting it.
"Look," the man finally sighed, "I'm really getting the feeling you're just not into this." Rachel's eyes widened a little and he went on quickly. "And that's cool, I don't want to pressure you or anything. I won't be one of those guys," he jerked his head back toward where Popped Collar was still standing, leaning against the bar with his back to them. "But can I at least ask you something?" She nodded gently, her eyes soft. "Why? I mean, is he just not your type, or are you not looking, or are you married, or -,"
"Yes!" Rachel jumped a little and lifted her hand quickly, wiggling her fingers in front of her face. "I'm married. Your friend seems like a very nice man, and I hope he finds a nice girl, but it won't be me, because I'm very happily married. I just kind of assumed both of you would have noticed by now, actually."
"Oh," the man chuckled a little, looking at the hand that was still lifted in front of Rachel's face. "Yeah, that one totally passed me by. Sorry about that."
"It's fine. Like I said, Ryan was a very nice man, as are you. And I really appreciate what you did before, with those men who don't seem quite so nice. I'm just no longer on the market." She smiled what she hoped was a friendly smile and turned her eyes toward where Santana was still dancing with the man from before.
Jeremy moved a few steps down the bar and leaned on it, waiting to catch the bartender's attention. Rachel decided she was probably going to be alone for the rest of the night, or at least until Santana got bored with her dancing partner and dragged Rachel back out onto the floor, but just as she was reaching for her purse to check her phone for any text messages or e-mails, Ryan's friend appeared back at her side, beer in hand.
"So then, if you're so happily married, why are you here while he's … not? I mean, I'd think he'd want to be with you. Hell, I'm surprised he'd let you out of his sight."
Rachel just shrugged a little. "It's girls' night. My friend, Santana," she nodded in the Latina's direction, "insisted. She said it was her duty as my friend."
Both of them watched Santana for a minute before Jeremy spoke again. "Well, you need to tell him about this – let him know that someone out there really appreciates you."
Rachel actually snorted into her glass. "I really don't think so."
"Nah, you do. He needs to know that other people appreciate you, so maybe he'll appreciate you more."
Rachel closed her eyes and shook her head. This man really had no idea what he was suggesting. "I appreciate the sentiment, really, but I really don't think that would be a good idea. Besides, he -,"
"Look," he cut Rachel off, stopping her mid-speech, "all I'm saying is you're a good looking woman, classy good looking, not trashy good looking, and you're surprisingly nice, given the fact that you look like you do. There's at least one really good man out there, other than your husband, who notices that and really appreciates it."
Rachel's eyes were drawn to a sudden flurry of movement where Santana was dancing, and she couldn't help but smile in that direction over Jeremy's shoulder.
Apparently, he noticed her smile, because he smiled back at her. "See, it's nice to hear, right? And your husband really needs to hear it too, just in case he ever gets any ideas in his head that say otherwise."
Rachel smiled a little wider for just a second then dragged her eyes away from what they were focused on and let them land back on the man's face. "Maybe you're right," she said with a little nod, and he smiled even wider. "Maybe he should hear it. In fact, why don't you tell him yourself?"
Jeremy's eyes narrowed in what Rachel could only assume was confusion, since she'd only known him for an hour or so, before growing almost comically wide when he heard a deep voice just behind him. "Hey. What's goin' on?"
Rachel grinned broadly, but the man in front of her turned cautiously to look over his shoulder.
"Hey babe." Puck lifted one arm in an invitation for Rachel to tuck herself under it, which she did, one of her hands sliding across his lower back and the other coming to rest on his chest while Puck's left hand, wide, dark band glinting on his ring finger, hung in front of her shoulder.
"I, uh," Jeremy stammered for a minute before regaining his composure upon the appearance of Rachel's (rather intimidating looking) husband. "I noticed that your girl here and her friend looked a little uncomfortable when some creeps," he nodded in the direction of Popped Collar and his friend, "started getting a little too close. They look like nice girls and I thought maybe they'd appreciate a little buffer. I was just trying to help."
Puck nodded and didn't mention the fact that from where he was standing, it looked like the guy was just talking to Rachel; Santana was more than handling herself on the dance floor. "Thanks man. Appreciate that, but I'm here now, so you can go."
Jeremy didn't say anything, nodding at Puck and tipping his bottle toward Rachel before he walked away.
Puck took a step to the side, sliding behind Rachel and dropping both of his hands to her hips then pushing her forward until she was just in front of the bar. "So. What was that really about?" His chin bumped the top of her head as he spoke and one hand slid across her stomach to wrap around her when the other lifted to get the bartender's attention. His voice was relaxed and his thumb traced small circles over her hip and she could tell he wasn't mad. Amused, if anything.
Rachel waited until he had his beer in his hand then turned and leaned back against the bar, her hands falling so that the tips of her fingers tucked into his pockets. "Actually, his explanation was partially true." She smiled and Puck lifted one eyebrow as he took a long draw from his bottle. "The gentlemen he was referring to really were giving Santana and me the creeps." She watched his eyes scan the bar until he found the men and she didn't miss the way his jaw ticked. "The part he left out was that he was trying to convince me that his friend, who I talked to for about 20 minutes and discovered just moved here from Tennesse, so I -,"
"Lemme guess, you got yourself a job as a tour guide?" Puck smirked.
"No." Rachel's cheeks burned and she smacked at her husband's shoulder. "I just gave him a few suggestions." Puck chuckled and shook his head before taking another drink. "Anyway, the man you met was trying to convince me that his friend was in love with me because I'm so beautiful and classy, and, even more ridiculously, that I should go home and tell you so, so you would 'appreciate' me more."
Puck took a step back, raking his eyes over her from head to toe, then back up again. "Can't say that I blame him." He only shrugged when Rachel's jaw dropped and she stared back at him. "What? He's right. And that dress is hot." He finished his beer in two more swallows, then pulled Rachel away from the bar so he could step behind her and pull her back against him. He leaned down so that his lips brushed across her ear as he spoke, "Don't wear it without me again."
Rachel could have been annoyed by such a controlling statement, except his 'demand' didn't really sound like one, at all, and honestly, she'd been thinking the same thing herself for a while. She pushed her body a little farther back into him and rested her own hands on top of his. She felt his chin come to rest on the top of her head and it made her smile. She stayed like that for several minutes, watching Santana and her new 'friend' dance for almost an two full songs before tilting her head back to look up at him.
"What are you doing here, anyway?"
Puck glanced down at her, then let his eyes wander back out over the dance floor. He shrugged, "I got bored."
She grinned coyly and pushed one shoulder back into his chest. "You missed me."
They'd only been married for a couple months, and they hadn't lived together before that. It wasn't because of any religious or moral reservations or anything like that – he was Puck, and her dads still weren't technically married (though, that wasn't by choice), so that wasn't an issue for either of them. It was just that Santana had forbidden it. She and Rachel had been roommates, and she refused to let Rachel leave before it was absolutely necessary (and yes, they obeyed that demand, Santana is just not someone you mess with). They even planned the wedding around when the girls' lease expired, so they could both just move out at the same time. Even though they had spent several nights a week together in one apartment or the other before they actually lived together, it wasn't the same. It was completely different once they were married and officially sharing a home. They loved it (both of them, even if Puck wasn't as quick to admit it), and found that neither of them enjoyed being home alone without at least the knowledge that the other would be home soon.
"Whatever," he grumbled, then let one hand slide down the outside of her thigh so that his fingers brushed along the hem of her dress. "'M still bored. I need somethin' to do with my hands. Either come dance with me or I'm gonna go have a talk with douche bag over there about not buggin' women that are too good for him."
Rachel glanced up then followed his line of sight to Popped Collar, who was shooting them none-too-subtle dirty looks. She probably shouldn't have let Puck hook a finger under her dress to run across her thigh just then. She smirked and looked back up at him. "I thought you said you needed something to do with your hands?"
"Exactly," he growled a little through clenched teeth and she rolled her eyes before spinning on her heel to grab the front of his shirt and let him push her out onto the floor.
Once they had claimed a spot on the dance floor, just a few feet from Santana, Puck's grip on her loosened and he smiled down at her as she began to move. He more or less just stood there while Rachel danced in front of him, his hands gliding over her body as her hips moved in time with the music. She spun so that her back was to him and dipped low to the ground, and when she stood back up, he grabbed her hips and yanked her back against him. "And baby," he leaned down to talk directly into her ear, nipping once at the lobe with his teeth before going on, "I appreciate you plenty. Promise."