For the anon who prompted me on Tumblr. You made my day, so I had to reciprocate. Your wish became my command. :D


1


There were a lot of things—scratch that—there was a shitload of things that Noah Puckerman didn't like. For one thing: the old X-Box. The black and green piece of shit was the bane of his existence because that motherfucker was a defective turd of a game station that would shut off right when he defeated one of the most hard-ass bosses on Ninja Gaiden. Neither did he like wearing cummerbunds 'cause they made him feel like he was wearing a girdle. He didn't like those Chinese porcelain figures that his Nana Connie had on display in her living room either 'cause they always stared at him like they were struggling to break free of some Asian curse and attack him.

But above all else, there were three things that Noah Puckerman absolutely loathed.

One: okra. He just fucking hated okra. He could eat whatever-the-fuck-else was put in front of him, but he just could not deal with okra. The fact that the flesh was all stringy once you took a bite, so either you cram the whole damn thing in your mouth at one time or deal with gnawing your jaws off to cut off the string—UGH. Not to mention the slimy, seedy inside that never failed to make him gag. Plus the outside itself was kind of fuzzy like it had hair, and the combination of hairy, slimy, and stringy sliding down his throat just made the hair rise on his arms. Blech.

Two: snakes. He wasn't ashamed to admit that he fucking hated snakes 'cause Indiana Jones, that badass motherfucking archeologist, hated them too. They were just creepy bastards, man. Poppin' up every-fucking-where 'cause they had the ability to hide in the most random and inconspicuous places. He'd had run-ins with real snakes and the gardening hose enough times to completely and totally turn him off to the species.

Which led him to number three: gardening.

He really, really hated gardening. Fucking despised it. He didn't mind dirt or sweat or bugs or the smell. He wasn't some pansy-ass priss who didn't like it when dirt got under his nails. He just didn't like the fact that he was doing backbreaking (literally) work and getting absolutely nothing out of it.

"But you get a nice clean garden, Noah!" his ma would cry. "The state of your property reflects on the individuals living on it!"

And he understood that. Yeah. His ma was a woman, and she wanted shit to look pretty—flowerbeds, perfectly pruned trees, fuckin' immaculate yards. But they were literally throwing out gallons of water on stuff that was doing absolutely nothing for them. If he was farming, sure. If he was weeding to protect his fucking tomatoes or potatoes or canta-fucking-loupes, then by all means—he would do this shit with no complaint. But the fact that instead of getting food out of his work, he was getting fucking azaleas? Yeah.

He wasn't pleased about that.

So he was pretty much composing a whole song out of every cuss word he knew and making a hell of a time out of it as he clawed through the mulch and dirt he'd laid out the week before to find the invisible weeds his ma was just so damn paranoid about.

And then his gloved fingers finally found one of the thick runners of the grass that used to grow in the area. Puck sighed and looked up to the sky.

God, he prayed, please don't let there be any more of these bastards under here.

Then he shifted around to clamp his hand around the root and yank.

But the son of a bitch wasn't budging.

Like the motherfucker was just fucking attached to the base of his house, and he'd wind up uprooting the whole damn structure if he wanted to get this piece of shit out of the ground.

He reached in through the dirt and grabbed hold of the root with both hands, coming up to his feet so that he was squatting on the ground instead of kneeling. He straightened his back, braced his feet, and then pulled—pulled with all his fucking might until it finally popped out and sent Puck flying onto his back.

He groaned, still clutching the roo—wait.

Then he froze, blinked, frowned, and then looked down at what was supposed to be a root in his hand. But instead, he was holding a stick. Or…more like a club—like what Pocahontas's dad nearly smashed John Smith's head with in that Disney movie.

"Oi! You found it!"

Puck snapped upright and stared at the foreign exchange student that was currently running across his yard. "The fuck?"

"You found me shillelagh!" Rory cried, grinning from ear-to-ear.

"Sha-lee-lee? The fuck, Flanagan?!" Puck breathed, his face torn between disgust, shock, and disbelief.

Rory just brushed him off and reached for the stick. "It's shillelagh, Puck. Sha-lay-lee," he corrected him. "It's me walkin' stick."

Puck just continued to sit there, squinting up at Rory. "Why the hell was your walking stick buried in my yard, Flanagan?" He refused to flinch at the words that had just come out of his mouth and hoped the idiot would take it at face value and that none of the neighbors were watching.

Rory scowled and reached for his stick, effortlessly yanking it out of Puck's grip—which was, by no means, supposed to be an easy feat considering how tight Puck had been holding it. "That blackguard Donnabhain banished it couple'a centuries ago."

Puck blinked.

"Been all arseways since I'd been parted with it. Damn-near lost me mind during the sixties," Rory continued, oblivious to Puck's expression as he fondly held his shalee-whatever. "Travelin' up and down the world tryin' to find it."

Then, gripping the circular-end of the stick, he tapped the other end on the ground, and Puck suddenly felt the dirt underneath him quiver. Ripples of gold light radiated from the tip of the creepy-ass stick. Puck watched in fuck-struck shock as Rory started to shrink. His hair grew lighter, going from brown to a light auburn while the tips of his ears lengthened into points. His sneakers darkened and smoothed into shiny, black leather shoes as his jeans transformed into dark green slacks—complete with fucking emerald-green suspenders. His t-shirt shimmered and morphed into a white button down-shirt covered by a bright red jacket with seven buttons and gold and green embroidery on the cuffs. When he finally stopped shrinking at a solid three feet, a dark green fedora appeared in Rory's other hand, and he smoothly flipped it up onto his head.

"WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING?!" Puck bellowed, scrambling off the ground and sprinting toward his front door, trying to put as much distance between himself and the…THING.

He glanced over his shoulder to see Rory with his head cocked to the side in curiosity, but when he turned back, he screamed and nearly back-flipped. Rory had somehow magically disappeared and reappeared in front of him.

"HOLY SH—"

"Puck, calm down—"

Call it instinct. When something that freaky materializes in front of someone with some serious anger management issues, you can expect that the aforementioned materializing freak would get punched in the face.

But as soon as Puck swung, Rory vanished again, reappearing to Puck's right.

"I mean you no har—"

Puck twisted and aimed his knee to his right, but when his bone should've collided with Rory's nose, it met thin air, and Puck spun from the momentum of his kick, landing on all fours on the ground again. He blinked and was suddenly staring at shiny black shoes.

"Can ye' listen to me now?" Rory sighed wearily.

Puck replied with a swift uppercut. Rory dropped to his knees, clutching his crotch in absolute pain as his face immediately turned as red as his jacket. Puck pushed himself up to his feet, glaring down at the shrunken Rory, who'd just curled up in fetal position.

"Noah!"

Shit.

"Noah! Why did you just punch the leprechaun?!"

"Bekah, get back in the house! This is a-a-a zombie leprechaun!"

"Noah, you numbnuts! There are no such things as zombies," Bekah snapped indignantly, marching off the porch and heading straight for Rory.

Puck just glared at her, his mouth hanging open. "And there are such things as leprechauns? Have you lost your—Beks, don't touch him!"

"But it's Rory!" she protested as Puck grabbed her around the waist and lifted her off the ground.

"No, it's not! Not anymore! It's the…evil, uh, emerald gremlin from Ireland!" Puck floundered for an answer as he fought his ten year-old sister to keep from letting her slip out of his hold.

"You're such a douche, Noah," Bekah said flatly, flicking him in the nose. "Now go put him in the house before I tell Ma you've been attacking people again."

"That's not people, Bekah! That thing's not even human," Puck countered.

She nearly kneed him in the balls. "Put—him—in—the—house," she commanded stonily, burning the tips of his 'hawk with Nana Connie's trademark glare.

With a heavy sigh and a whispered "holy fuck, I'm dreaming," Puck set Bekah on the ground, awkwardly hefted the groaning Rory into his arms, and then stalked into the house. Bekah trailed after him, protectively holding onto Rory's hat and shalley-thing. As soon as they were in the living room, Puck unceremoniously dumped the…whatever…onto the couch and stepped back so his psychotic little sister could get to him.

"Rory, Rory, Rory," she nagged. "You okay?"

Puck rubbed the bridge of his nose and took deep, even breaths. "Did you spike my drink?"

"With what?" she demanded exasperatedly, throwing another glare at him over her shoulder. "Pixie sticks and detergent? Yes, Noah. I totally spiked your OJ. Can't believe we're related."

He scowled down at her and nearly stepped into the coffee table when Rory jerked up and made him jump back in surprise.

"Whoa, that was quite a jab," Rory groaned, shifting sorely on the couch and then grinning up at Puck. "Haven't been hit that quick and that hard since the Second Leprechaun War." Then his attention was redirected to Bekah, who was still holding on to his hat and stick. "Well, hullo there, me 'ould flower."

"Hi, again, Rory," she answered with a smile. "So Brittany and I were right? You are a leprechaun?"

"O'course," he answered with a grin as he lifted his hat out of her hands and put it back on with a flourish. "Decided to have some fun with ye' and pretended to be a human pretendin' to be a leprechaun. S'why I told Brittany—well, that and ye' and I know she's a pretty bird, so pretendin' to be somethin' I actually am for a snog seemed like a good idea, eh?"

Puck closed his eyes even tighter against the throbbing headache he was developing. He could barely understand the dude before—now, ever since that goddamn twig popped outta the ground, it was even worse. The accent was thicker, and there was some random-ass words getting throw into the mess.

"Anyway, I gotta thank ye' for findin' me shillelagh," Rory said sincerely, practically pirouetting off the couch as he took his stick from Bekah. "I owe ye' a favor."

Where was his father's old shotgun? Puck needed it to go blast his own head off since the piece of shit was malfunctioning. He'd lost his mind. It'd been the heat. He passed out from heatstroke and was having some funky-ass dream as some sort of cosmic payback for coming up with so many racist jokes about Rory. He thought he'd been in the clear since he'd never said them out loud, but…apparently he was wrong.

"M'gonna have a stroke," Puck muttered breathlessly, collapsing into one of the armchairs.

"Stop being such a drama queen," Bekah sighed. She rolled her eyes. "Good Lord, what kind of self-respecting Puckerman are you?"

"There is a leprechaun in our living room, Rebekah!" Puck cried, hands outstretched toward the allegedly mythical creature itself. "What sane, self-respecting Puckerman are you?"

"I believe in what I can see, Noah," she answered patronizingly. "And I see Rory standing right there. So what if he's a leprechaun?"

Puck blinked at her. "Are you high?"

"NO-AH!" she shrieked furiously, chucking one of the throw pillows at him.

"All right, all right, kids, calm down," Rory said in an attempt to placate them.

It wasn't working.

"BE-KAH!" Puck mocked at the exact same pitch. "You're such a fucking psycho! I knew Ma dropped you on the head too many times!"

"God, you're such a jerk!" she screamed. "Ma may have dropped me a thousand times, but she left you with the wolves for the first five years of your life!"

"Kids, please—"

"SHUT UP, FLANAGAN!" both Puckermans barked in perfect harmony.

Two loud booms echoed through the house, shaking the floors and making the glass rattle. Puck and Bekah turned and looked down at the three-foot irritated leprechaun.

"I have not waited five centuries to regain my powers only to play babysitter for the both o' ye'," Rory snapped, his normally-blue eyes turning emerald. He rounded on Puck, brandishing the pointy end of his shapoopie in Puck's face. "Now ye'll tell me how I can pay ye' back, or so help me, I will force it outta ye'."

"What does that even mean?!" Puck demanded. "What are you talking abou—no! NO! No, you know what I want?! You know how you can pay me the fuck back, you creepy little fucking gremlin?! Scram! Get outta my face! Leave me to pick up the fucking pieces of my goddamn sanity! I swear to God, I need to get outta this town!"

"NOAH!"

But Rory just grinned, bowed, and then said, "Your wish is me command, boyo." Then he tipped his hat, tapped his stick on the floor one more time, released one more pulse of gold light, and vanished.

Puck dragged his fingers through his 'hawk and scraped them through the stubble on either side of his head before pulling them forward to drag the skin of his face down to his jaw. This was because of how hard he crammed for that geography final. He was permanently brain damaged.

~oOo~

Puck cracked his eyes open one at a time, making sure that he was exactly where he expected to be, looking at exactly what he was supposed to be looking at, feeling exactly what he was supposed to feel—in his bedroom, his ceiling, and his sheets, respectively. Well, he was feeling hungry and a little sleepy too, but that was beside the point.

But he couldn't reassure himself that it had all been a dream because he distinctly remembered taking a shower, dumping his clothes in the hamper, ignoring Bekah screaming at him about how he was such a moron for passing up an opportunity to take advantage of a magical creature, ignoring her some more as he made dinner, locking her in her room, convincing his ma that Bekah had too much chocolate and had gone berserk, and then going to bed with a raging headache that had him tossing and turning half the night. Which was why his comforter was on the floor along with one of his pillows and the Spiderman comic book he'd been trying to read to distract himself.

His door blasted open, and Bekah rushed in. She gracefully leaped right up onto his chest and started bouncing on him. Bitch.

"Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up!" she squealed. "Ma made chocolate chip pancakes, scrambled eggs, and those biscuit-thingies that you can peel off in layers!"

"Is there meat?" Puck groaned, shoving her off his lungs and pinning her down with his pillow.

"Turkey bacon, you pig," Bekah sighed, not even bothering to put up a fight.

"You know I always gotta have meat, Beks. I'm a man."

"No, you're a beast."

"Well…that works better," Puck said with a lopsided smile. "Thanks, Beks!" Then he winced and had to ask. He didn't wanna rush down the stairs only to see that the creepy little gremlin had decided to crash breakfast. "Hey, uh, did Rory drop by?"

She gave him a funny look. "Flanagan? No. Why?"

He froze and stared at her. "What did you do yesterday?"

"Watched TV while you went gardening," she answered as if he was stupid, pushing the pillow away and sliding off his bed to pick up his Spiderman comic.

"And then…?" he prompted, throwing off his sheets and standing up.

She flipped through the comic for a second before answering, "And then you came in, made dinner, and then we went to bed."

Holy fuck.

"NOAH! BEKAH! COME EAT!"

Holy fuck. Holy fuck. Holy fuck.

"Come on, pig," Bekah said, snapping Puck out of his stupor and dragging him out of his room by the hem of his shirt. "Before the pancakes get cold. They're best when the chocolate's still gooey."

He was so shocked out of his mind that he completely forgot that Ma didn't make chocolate chip pancakes unless she was about to shoot them down with a machine gun of bad news.

Had he dreamed it all? Had he really fucking dreamed it all?

But…but the dirty shirt he was wearing was still in the hamper—just as dirty. And the Advil he'd taken to relieve his headache a little was still on his desk with a glass of water. And he still had the bruises from where he'd been pinching himself.

That hadn't been a dream. Right?

Fuck, he was losing his marbles.

So as soon as he made it to the table and started shoveling in forkful after forkful of chocolate chip pancakes and turkey bacon and eggs and those fucking delicious biscuits, he regained enough presence of mind to ask his ma: "Okay, woman, what do you want?"

She smacked him upside the head and reached out to wipe away a smear of chocolate on the corner of his mouth. "I taught you better table manners than that."

"I'm taking a mental health day from manners, Ma," he said around a mouthful of eggs.

"Not a good enough excuse," Bekah scoffed, daintily taking a sip of her apple juice. "Every other day is a mental health day for you, psycho."

Puck ignored her and zeroed in on his ma. "Why'd you make chocolate chip pancakes?" he asked flatly.

Aviva Puckerman sighed and sat down at their small dining table. "Do you have any idea how proud I am of you, Noah?"

He swallowed whatever had been left in his mouth and leaned back in his seat, frowning.

"I know, I know," she said mournfully, "I've never acted like it—but can you blame me after all the hell you put me through? Good Lord, boy. But when you walked across that stage and threw the tassel to the other side of your cap… I was two parts proud and eight parts disappointed."

"Ma!" Bekah cried in horror, dropping her fork on the floor with a clatter that made Puck's eye twitch.

"Not like that! Lord Almighty, no!" Aviva cried, glancing back and forth between her kids. "No, no, I was disappointed—sorry that I'd been such a crap mom to you, Noah. Y-You tried, and a part of me knew it. What with the glee club a-and Beth coming back to town… I just…I didn't want to look too much into it because I figured that you had a cycle for this sort of thing. You did good, and then you did something bad—do you understand?"

Puck tried his best to clamp down his grimace, but his lip still twitched involuntarily. "Yeah, yeah, I got it," he muttered a little bitterly.

Aviva smoothed the edges of the cream-colored placemat in front of her nervously. "That's why I wanted to take a pre-emptive strike. You've got your diploma, so—"

"So you're gonna manipulate me so that I won't do anything stupid to maintain my equilibrium?" he blurted out.

She looked a little shocked—at the idea or how he phrased it, he wasn't sure. Yeah, he knew a couple of big words. Fuck off.

"Your great-uncle Seth—you know, the one who owns a guitar shop? Well, he's…getting along in his years and—"

"He's old, and you offered me to help him out before he keels over by himself?" Puck finished dryly.

She winced and then started waggling a finger at him. "Y-You're the one who's been insistent on getting out Lima for years, Noah! You said it yourself before—you've got star potential. You can't possibly get any opportunities in this town, so instead of thinking of this as me trying to keep you out of trouble, think of it as my boot on your butt to help you fulfill your dream."

"You really wanna get rid of me that bad?"

"I do."

"Shut up, Bride of Chucky."

Then he dropped his eyes to his plate and started rubbing his 'hawk.

Apparently he was going to New York City.

~oOo~

He wasn't gonna call it good luck.

He wasn't gonna call it good luck because that meant acknowledging there was a certain amount of luck involved.

This wasn't luck.

This was full-on magical interference.

After the third hundred-dollar bill he picked up off the sidewalk, he was thoroughly convinced that the crazy-ass experience he had with Rory the Leprechaun was as real as his dick. He didn't know why the creepy gremlin was doing it, but it was being done. And it was kinda scaring the bejesus outta him. Which is why he actually donated the fourth Ben Franklin to the St. Jude's donation jar at the local Wal-Mart.

Though he totally didn't decline the offer of a free full tank from Dolly, the cashier at the local Mobile station who'd made eyes at him as soon as he walked inside to pay. He was a nice guy, but he wasn't an idiot.

He blamed his traffic-jam-less trip on good timing. He blamed Quinn when he narrowly missed getting in a car accident with a motherfucker who ran a red light because she called him, shrieked at him when he told her he was driving, and then forced him keep his foot on the brake until he'd hung up and set the phone on the shotgun seat. And he blamed his kickass reflexes when he jumped out of his truck and caught a toddler who'd decided on diving out into the busy street in spite of his screeching mom.

But the fact that he actually saw the bird shit coming straight at him only for it to jerk to the left a little bit to hit the sidewalk instead? But the fact that the rain literally stopped two seconds after it started? But the fact that his car stalled in the middle of the intersection only to roar to life half a second later—with no action on his part?

That was serious and scary magical interference, bitches.

So when Puck finally managed to walk into his great-uncle's shop, he half-expected one of the display guitars to come crashing on his head only for it to zoom back up to its stand or something.

Instead he got a cantankerous son of a bitch whacking him in the face with a rolled-up newspaper for coming too early.

So much for magical interference.

"But it's four! I'm here on time!" Puck protested, easily dodging another whack only to have his kneecap nearly popped out of place by the rubber end of a cane.

"You know better than that, boy! Puckerman time means a half-hour delay! I was expecting you at four-thirty! What's wrong with you? Didn't your mama raise you right?"

This was his life. Double-edged swords and the psychos wielding them.

"Waltzin' up in my town, expectin' me to be doin' your mama favors," he grumbled under his breath. "Now I'm gonna have to rush my salmon so I can beef up your skinny ankles. If you'd come on time, it would've been all nice and juicy and soft 'cause I would'a had time to cook it right, but now your malnourished ears are…"

Puck just tuned the old man out and pulled his duffel back out of the bed of his truck only to be yanked backward by his collar as soon as the strap was on his shoulder. He was manhandled all the way into the warmly-colored store that smelled of varnish, wood, and peppermint and up into the two-bedroom apartment above the shop, Uncle Seth ranting and grousing about Puck's so-called "skewed sense of punctuality" and various skinny and unhealthy parts of his body.

"Now listen up, boy," Uncle Seth announced, stopping in front of the apartment door. "I'm old. I don't got the patience I had some fifty years ago—heck, I never had patience. So I won't be toleratin' any fornicatin' up here. You either take your women in a motel, hotel, or alleyway, but under no circumstances will you be defiling my apartment, my shop, my buildin'. Savvy?"

Without waiting for a response, he unlocked the dark green door and hauled Puck in by the collar of his shirt.

Honestly, he'd been expecting a lot of tacky, old mismatched furniture, but apparently his great-uncle got the genes of good taste. Dark cherry woods, forest greens, and dark brown leather were congregated in simple, classic styles. All the pictures on the walls were landscapes, but all the ones on tables and on the mantle were of random family members—whom Puck recognized to be the specifically weird ones. There was Uncle Luke who couldn't tell a story without changing one crucial piece of information with every retelling. A simple trip to the butcher's somehow mutated into an alien abduction. There was Grandpa Jesse who kept his house a pigsty with clothes all over the place, but at the same time, he was the biggest germaphobe alive—Pillsbury couldn't hold a candle. And—holy shit! Look!—there was Cousin Silas whose backyard garden would have regular ecological makeovers depending on his mood—desert, jungle, savannah, forest, meadow, etc.

"Don't look so shocked, you little prick! I ain't like your nana," Uncle Seth groused, sounding totally offended as he slammed a packet of salmon onto the counter and pulled out a cooking sheet for the oven. "Woman is like a quilt. Everything's patched together to make a whole mess."

Puck snorted and set his bag down next to the couch as he peered out the windows.

"Don't you put your bag in my living room unless you're bunkin' next to my coffee table!" Uncle Seth barked so loudly that Puck's forehead collided against the window. "And don't you go breakin' my glass pane your first day here! Heaven help me! Go stick your bag in the guest room—door on the left in the hall! And don't—for the love of God—break anything! And hurry back in here so you can eat and I can show you how to run the counter! S'gonna be like training a baboon to play the cello for the Queen! Good God!"

Well.

This was gonna be the time of his life.

~oOo~

"Oh, sweetheart, let's not be so prudish. We're all adults at this point."

"Not yet, Hiram," Leroy Berry gritted out through his teeth, casting a sidelong glance at his husband. "Not until December."

"Oh, but the Lord and Lima knows what happened between Finn and Rachel already—it's only understandable that we have a contingency plan in place. Stop being so naïve and start owning up to the fact that our little girl has blossomed into a young woman," Hiram Berry chided gently, adjusting his glasses on his nose. "Now, pick a name or your opinion will be vetoed entirely."

Leroy rolled his eyes and sighed. "Why can't you possibly pick normal names, love?"

"There is nothing wrong with naming a child Memphis. It's masculine—"

"Bono named his daughter that."

"Then it can very well be unisex!"

"What's wrong with simple names? Like…Joseph or Naomi?"

"Joseph and Naomi?!" Hiram echoed incredulously, stopping right there in the middle of the sidewalk to stare in disbelief at the man he once knew. "May as well throw in Shem, Ham, and Japeth into the mix, shall we?!"

"There is nothing wrong with Biblical, Jewish names, Hiram!"

"Oh, really?! Let's go with Methuselah then! Methuselah Beelzebub Hudson! That's longevity and power all in one name right there!"

"Oh, stop being so ridiculous!"

"Rachel will be smack-dab in the middle of the spotlight! Her children must be distinguished and must therefore have names that convey that kind of prestige!"

"And Memphis conveys the kind of absurd prestige you're obsessed about?!"

"And Methuselah is any better?!"

"That one was your idea! And why are you so against Jewish names—you're the Jewish one, remember?!"

"But it doesn't immediately necessitate Jewish names for my descendants!"

Frankly, it wasn't the disturbing topic her fathers were discussing that had Rachel Berry practically cowering between them. It was the fact that somehow—on this day, in this beautiful city, in this wondrous country, on this spectacular earth—the laws of physics were being shamefully defied.

A bright yellow taxi had sped past them, running over a puddle left over from the previous night's rainstorm. And there was no splash. The water barely even rippled. But Rachel brushed it off as a fluke.

Until a disgusting-looking used napkin was picked up in the breeze and nearly flapped into chest before it suddenly changed direction two inches from her skin and flew in the opposite direction. She masterfully convinced herself that hadn't happened. Because she was fairly good at that kind of thing.

But what really alerted her to something happening was when she and her bickering fathers passed by two old men seated on a bench outside a shop. The portly one had bright red hair streaked with tufts of white and held a gnarled, old stick in one hand and a tambourine in the other. The second man, a leaner gentleman with stormy-gray hair was hunched over an acoustic guitar. The redhead elbowed his friend, throwing a wink in Rachel's way as the other man looked up and smirked. A sense of familiarity glimmered around the edges of Rachel's consciousness, and when the gray-haired man began to strum his guitar and the redhead beat out a rhythm on his lap and the tambourine, she stopped.

"Dancing when the stars go blue," the gray-haired man sang, nodding at her.

And ever the performer, Rachel took her cue. "Dancing where the evening fell."

"Dancing in your wooden shoes," the redhead sang with a definite Irish accent.

Rachel grinned and stepped forward from between her now-silenced fathers. "In a wedding gown."

"Dancing out on seventh street," sang the gray-haired man as he continued to strum his guitar, "dancing through the underground."

"Dancing little marionette," Rachel continued, indulging in a playful little spin that had her fathers grinning widely.

"Are you happy now?" Rachel, the gray-haired man, and the redhead all sang together in perfect harmony. "Where do you go when you're lonely? Where do you go when you're blue? Where do you go when you're lonely, I'll follow you…"

By now, they'd garnered some attention from the passerby, and Rachel stepped closer to the two men as more people began to congregate. Inside the shop—which just had to have been a music shop—a man with a shaved head whose broad-shouldered back was to them began to beat out a more complicated rhythm on the drum set, having heard them singing from inside.

The gray-haired man smirked even wider. "When the stars go blue…"

"Blu-uu-uue," Rachel and the redhead crooned.

Hiram subtly reached for Leroy's hand, squeezing affectionately and bumping his shoulder against his husband's. "She's perfect."

Leroy grinned. "Of course she is."

"Is it so bad that I want her children to be just as legendary?" Hiram continued. "I mean…if we start them off with names that spell out majesty, maybe we'll be setting a precedent—"

"A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, love," Leroy interrupted gently. "And Rachel's not even pregnant. In case you forgot, she recently had her engagement broken. We've still got a lot of time to argue about this."

Hiram hummed in contentment, watching Rachel continue to sing with the two men. "Gray hair looks familiar—like we should know him from somewhere or at least he reminds me of someone."

"He most certainly does," Leroy agreed. "But honestly, what are the odds?"

"We haven't heard from him in decades," Hiram reminded his husband. "The odds are very much in our favor. Look at the way that man is making love to his guitar."

"We are standing outside a guitar shop, love."

"That's beside the point."

Leroy chuckled and nudged Hiram to be quiet as Rachel and the two men finished the song with a flourish. The crowd that had formed around them applauded and cheered before slowly dispersing. Leroy stepped toward the trio, tugging his husband along.

"That was impressive, young lady," the redhead complimented, taking Rachel's hand and dropping a kiss on her knuckles.

"Thank you," Rachel responded meekly. "I'm actually a musical theater student, so you shouldn't be all that impressed, really. I was trained."

"Regardless," the gray-haired man said decisively. "You got a natural spark, sweetheart. Heard a lotta people sing in my time—take my word for it. I know."

"Oh, thank you, but really—it's not that big of a deal."

"Lies, Berry," a voice interrupted as the door to the shop swung open. "That's a hundred-percent raw talent, Uncle Seth."

"Noah!"

Puck grinned and winked at her as he leaned on the doorframe, arms crossed across his broad chest. Rachel laughed and stepped up to give him wrap her arms around his middle. She squeezed him gently, and when his arms went around her to squeeze her back, she let herself rest in his arms for a few seconds longer. Then she finally noticed:

"You shaved your Mohawk!" Rachel blurted out, reaching up to rub his shaved head.

"No self-respecting grand-nephew of mine's gonna look like he dropped outta a time portal from the fourteen-hundreds," Seth grumbled, rolling his eyes.

Puck scowled. "You didn't have to do it while I was asleep."

Seth waved his hand dismissively and then he turned to look up at Hiram and Leroy. The old man glared at them for a second, but then his dark expression softened into a mischievous smirk. "Small world, innit?"

Hiram grinned and shook hands with the old man. "Seth, how are you?"

"Moody."

"Shut it, boy."

"S'true, Uncle Seth. You told me not to lie, remember?" Puck reminded his great-uncle innocently as Rachel pulled out of Puck's embrace. (97% of his brain pummeled the 3% that felt disappointed when she fully detached herself and stepped away.)

"So, Noah, what are you doing here?" Leroy asked, clapping the teenager on the shoulder. "Last I checked you were still in Lima."

"His crazy mother kicked him onto my doorstep 'cause she thinks I'm senile," Seth growled. "It's really 'cause she can't feed the boy right. Look at 'im! All skin and bones!"

"Noah looks perfectly healthy, Seth," Hiram admonished with a barely-concealed smile. "Well-muscled and strong."

"Down boy," Seth teased suddenly, eliciting a few laughs. Then he turned to motion to the redhead. "This here's Rick."

"S'nice to meet ye'," Rick said genially, shaking hands with Leroy and Hiram.

Rachel didn't miss the way Puck suddenly stiffened and was now staring at Rick through narrowed, suspicious eyes. She glanced back and forth between her friend and the oblivious, old Irishman, who was amusedly listening to Hiram's account of his visit to Newgrange during his European tour right after his high school graduation.

"Hey, um, Berry? Where were you going today?" Puck asked, his eyes never straying from the old redhead.

"Dad and Daddy were accompanying me to find a tutor," she answered. "I was encouraged to be a well-rounder performer so on top of the rigorous dance lessons I'm being forced into with this blonde nightmare of a teacher—summer lessons, no less—I have to find a music instructor to help me master a musical instrument."

Puck paled on cue. "What instrument?"

"I don't have the time or the hand width to be much of a piano player," she replied. "I was hoping guita—"

"Son of a bitch."


Hello again, bubble. Long time no post.
Heh. Sorry about that. College and all that.
Expect the second and concluding chapter next Wednesday.
Hopefully.

Anyway, this is in dedication to the Corrs, an awesome Irish band whose music I decided to utilize to follow a distinctly Irish theme in this fic. The song Seth, Rachel, and Patrick sing is "When the Stars Go Blue," sung by Bono and the Corrs.