Author's Note: Just a little something rattling in my head. Hope it lives up to any thoughts I'm sure all Puckleberry fans have had regarding this idea.
Puck grimaced as he wrapped a new bandage around his hand, using the wall for hold it tight while he secured it in place. There was a split second of regret each time he had to tend to the wound, but it quickly passed when he remembered just what had brought him to New York to begin with. Besides, the bruise around his eye was just about faded and the cut on his lip was only a problem when he spoke certain words. And, considering he was stashed away in some seedy motel in New York City, there weren't many people to talk to. Even less so since he looked like he would pick a fight with anyone who tried.
When Santana had called him and told him everything about that fucktawd Brody, this wasn't exactly the aftermath Puck envisioned. For one, he'd never seen the guy so he wasn't quite prepared for the dude's physical strengths. Brody was a little shorter than Puck and not as chiseled, but it was a pretty even fight on paper. Luckily Puck had intense, unadulterated rage on his side; that Brody kid managed a few punches, but most of Puck's lasting injuries had come from trying to pound that motherfucker into the ground. Still, on the drive from Ohio to New York, Puck figured the confrontation would have been a lot more in-and-out. Two hits; Puck hitting Brody, Brody hitting the ground.
Then, in light of his knight and shining armor ways, he really hadn't expected to be exiled to some shithole on the opposite side of town. Like, he legit needed to rest up for his next big fight, in which he would be outnumbered and in a smaller weight class because the size of the roaches in the place was insane. Santana had promised that last night would be his last, but she wasn't exactly living up to a lot of her promises lately.
Exhibit A, no JD waiting on ice in the room. Exhibit B, and the more important one since it had (basically) been the whole reason he'd come, no Rachel.
He'd been in town for three days and hadn't even seen her, nor heard from or about her. Whenever Santana did call (she never stopped by; she was footing the bill for the motel and apparently knew enough about the conditions to stay away), all she'd say was that she was working on getting back in Rachel and Kurt's good graces. According to the last text, they were apparently in the middle of "bonding" and Puck couldn't even will himself to picture some hot Rachel-on-Santana action. He was tired (he was getting shit for sleep because the lights stayed on, probably to keep the roaches at bay) and hungry (one pizza to last three days; "It's Brooklyn style!" Santana had said mockingly) and one echoed gunshot away from calling this the worst vacation ever.
But not really.
He hadn't drove nearly 10-straight hours and suffered what was probably an acute fracture in his right hand to leave empty handed. Technically, he didn't want to leave at all. Legit, leaving LA had been the right move, but Lima sucked. Old news, but shit. It was different now because he knew what was out there and there was nothing holding him back. Jake didn't need him around for them to stay close or whatever, and his mom and sister had been doing fine without him. It was time he started to think about himself, and despite his current living arrangements, Puck liked New York. He liked all the noise and how fast-paced everything seemed. Plus, he heard some guy playing his guitar in the subway for money and the dude was making a killing - he could do that.
Or he could take some classes at one of the hundred schools nearby. His recent injury had got him thinking, between the athletic trainer at McKinley and his mom's job as a nurse, Puck knew a lot about medicine and stuff. It wouldn't be easy and he'd have to find something to do to make money in the meantime, but he could totally see himself on the sidelines for the Knicks, taking care of guys' bum knees and shit. How badass would that be?
"Noah Amos Puckerman!"
Her voice evoked a lot of different emotions in him at any given moment. Sometimes she was so damn annoying that he wanted to light himself on fire and other times she was so fucking sexy it made him feel like he was on fire. She could be soft and trusting, but she could also be stubborn and defensive - both of which provoked him to act in kind. Presently, her voice was shrill and demanding, fear coursing through his blood as he moved through the motel and hesitantly opened the door.
He stepped out into the recently washed (of blood stains, probably) corridor, his eyes cast downward at the brunette standing in the middle of the parking lot with her hands on her hips. He'd caught glimpses of her at McKinley's play and had even talked to her a bit at the non-wedding a few weeks ago, but she still kind of took his breath away. New York looked good on her, which sounded like an asshole thing to say/think. But he always thought she was hot, so he figured it was cool.
"Don't pull that ambivalent crap with me, Noah." She was shouting, but there was something about the familiarity in her words that made the conversation seem private. "Gather your things. We're leaving!"
He'd already been mostly ready to go since the check out time was fast approaching, but his eagerness to leave the unlivable space wasn't as urgent when a pissed off brunette was waiting for him, looking like she was ready to pounce at the next wrong step. He had almost a foot on her and at least seventy pounds, but she intimidated the hell out of him - she'd always had, but for less obvious reasons. He was defenseless against her (in all aspects), right then, a duffel bag in one hand slung over his shoulder and his guitar case in another; he could always use the items to cover his vital organs if she started swinging at him, though.
Rachel pushed her sunglasses from her eyes up onto the crown of her head, fire in her eyes until her gaze filtered down to his right hand. The tips of her mouth dipped further down her face, the corner of her bottom lip sinking in a bit as she chewed on the inside in contemplation. Slowly, she reached out for the guitar case, taking it from his tight grip only to place it gently on the ground. Her eyes hesitantly rose, his pulsing once in recognition of her mood shift as well as the tender touch of her fingers skimming against his bandage.
"Does it hurt?"
He shook his head, then answered her just as quietly. "Nah."
She frowned anyway, looking back down at the wounded hand. She toyed with the white fabric of the gauze for a few more seconds, her touch lingering against the bare skin of his palm and fingers before dislodging completely. "Thank you," she whispered, eventually looking back up at him again.
"S'no biggie." He shrugged, just trying to keep his voice level. Legit, this girl did things to him and even though they were weird and sometimes scary, they weren't entirely unwelcome. "I was in the neighborhood."
Rachel just rolled her eyes, bending down again to pick up his guitar case before walking toward where he'd figured the subway was given the sheer amount of volume that made its way into the motel room every few minutes. He let her carry it for about a minute before he took it back, grumbling for her to shut up when she tried to argue. It was really the only words spoken between them the entire trip, outside of Rachel asking him why he'd sold his truck and him lying about insane parking fees; she didn't need to know he planned on using the entire grand he'd made on that rusted piece of shit to either buy a plane ticket back to Ohio or use it to start his future in New York.
"We have to turn this into a musical so I can play Jo."
"Can I be Blair, and we can do a duet?"
Rachel's voice had not been as light-hearted as Kurt's and Santana's had sounded, but she'd smiled as soon as she opened the door to the loft and heard their conversation, so Puck didn't care. It was the first time she'd smiled since she came and picked him up, and he figured it was in his best interest if her roommates could get her to open up about what had her so down. He obviously had a pretty good idea, but he wasn't brave enough to ask; he might actually kill someone if he didn't like the answer.
"What the fuck is that?" He asked instead, his eyebrows furrowing as the living room and its occupants came into view, crazy ass pillow things wrapped around each of them.
"Puck?" Kurt questioned, his head practically twisting off his neck as he turned from Puck and his duffel bag to look at Rachel, then Santana and back again. "Absolutely not!"
"Rachel, we are one homeless person away from being classified a shelter as is!" Kurt argued immediately, unwrapping the half-a-person pillow from around him and standing with a huff. "We can't just keep taking strays off the streets just because ..."
"Bathroom," Rachel interrupted primly, leading Kurt to the only room that had a door.
Puck stood near the front, waiting for the bathroom door to close and Rachel and Kurt's whispered words to start up again before he looked at Santana. She looked torn between eavesdropping on the conversation and talking to him, sighing before throwing her own pillow down and walking toward him. He followed her to the kitchen, where she shuffled some things around in drawers and produced a small cooler. He grabbed the extended bottle of Jack from her grip, moving to the table as he popped the top and swallowed a large gulp.
"S'not on ice."
Santana shrugged, taking her own swig from the bottle before giving it back to him. "I'll owe ya."
"You do owe me," he reminded, tipping the bottle back again and trying to ignore how eerily quiet it had gotten in the bathroom.
"I gotta do everything?" Santana bit back. "I brought the bitch to ya. What more do you want?"
Puck opened his mouth but closed it immediately as Kurt bellowed for Santana to join him and Rachel in the restroom. The Latina rolled her eyes, swallowing another quick sip of alcohol before making her way inside the bathroom. Puck considered listening in on the conversation between the three roommates, but he figured it was better to be in the dark. He took two more large gulps of the hard liquid, then screwed the cap back on the bottle. Just as he was putting the cooler back in the same hiding spot he'd seen Santana get it from, Rachel came out of the bathroom, her arms crossed weakly in front of her chest.
"You can have the couch," she offered softly. "Santana is working late tonight, but she'll sleep in my room."
Rachel tried to smile, but it didn't quite work. "I'll call Daddy tonight and ask him to transfer some money for a plane ticket."
"S'cool, Rach," he interrupted, clearing his throat nervously. "I, uh, think I'mma check out some things. Stick around for awhile." Her eyes widened a little and he tensed immediately, backtracking, "I won't stay here long."
"No." Rachel shook her head, her arms falling down to her sides even though her hands wrung in front of her lap. "Stay as long as you like."
"Just shower first," Santana inserted herself into the conversation, walking out of the restroom with Kurt hot on her heels. "Get rid of the fleas and shit from that dump, then take a nap 'cause you look like hell." She grabbed her coat, then tossed Rachel hers and shoved Kurt's at his chest. "We're going to dinner before my shift."
Rachel pulled her coat back on after just taking it off, looking over her shoulder at him. "I'll bring you back something."
He nodded and waved goodbye just to keep himself from saying anything stupid. Like, I love you.
Puck woke with a jolt, his hand grabbing his pocket as his eyes adjusted to the dark surrounding him. He searched for a clock to no avail, pulling out his cell phone and answering the ringing phone gruffly.
"Dude, sorry." Jake said. "Were you sleeping?"
"Kinda." Puck ran his free hand over his face, trying to wake himself up. "What's up?"
"Nothin'. Just ... did my performance today."
"Oh yeah?" Puck asked. It seemed like a million years ago when Jake had asked him to help with his glee assignment after he'd had a fight with Marley about his first choice. In reality, it had been the last thing he'd done before leaving for New York just a few days ago. "Did ya own it?"
"Totally." Jake chuckled into the receiver. "And she ate it up. So, like, thanks."
Puck shrugged even though his brother obviously couldn't see him. He was a pretty good authority on what made girls wet and how to rock a performance, but his brother was playing a completely foreign game to Puck. That Marley chick was serious, and Jake was lucky that she was even giving him a chance. He was glad that the two were doing good again after whatever stupid thing they'd been fighting about (honestly, he'd forgotten), but Puck knew it wasn't that easy. It never was, especially not with those types of girls.
"How's New York?" There was a long enough pause that Jake added, "Marley heard Finn on the phone after he got fired. Said something about not being able to go just to save the day." There was another pause, though shorter. "Did ya save the day?"
"I guess," Puck answered weakly.
Most of the credit probably should go to Santana since she'd been the one to call and set that Brody fucker up for the fall. And he still wasn't sure what had happened between Brody and Rachel, nor was he entirely positive that he did the right thing. But it didn't matter if he handled it the same way Finn would have - if he hadn't denied Santana's request when she'd called - and it also didn't matter that Puck was Santana's second call when she (of all people) knew what he'd do for Rachel. All that mattered was Rachel knew the truth now and Puck had shown her that he was in her corner.
"Did ya get the girl?"
Puck's eyes had finally adjusted to the dark, and even though he still wasn't sure what time it was, he did see a stream of light coming from below the curtain separating Rachel's room from the living space. He briefly wondered what she was doing up and what she was wearing, before he considered that she might be up crying and missing someone that wasn't him. His hand flexed in response, and he winced as the bandage rubbed against the abrasion.
"What's it to you?"
Jake chuckled. "That's a no."
"Dude, chill." The younger sibling laughed a little harder before explaining, "If she's your guilty pleasure, then you should totally follow your own advice."
Puck ended the call without so much as a goodbye, tossing the cell phone onto the coffee table next to the couch. He'd never told anyone about his feelings for Rachel, Santana only figuring it out thanks to her Mexican psychic third eye. He wasn't sure how Jake even knew, though he faintly recalled a conversation between them at the non-wedding when he'd been three sheets to the wind with no plans to stop after seeing Rachel and Finn leave together. Telling Rachel hadn't actually ever been in the plan, though. Rather, he'd expected her to just know after the grand gesture of beating the tar out of her boyfriend and make her move.
His advice to Jake, however, did sort of apply. He shouldn't play hard to get with a girl that's hard to get - yeah, he'd stolen it from a rerun of Sex in the City he'd seen on accident in LA; didn't mean it was pertinent to either situation. After all, considering he'd been trying to get Rachel again since sophomore year, waiting around like a wuss probably wasn't the best idea. She was usually only single for about three minutes, and Puck really didn't want to miss his opportunity yet again. It was bad enough that he had to think about what might have been if he'd come to New York after Finn had come back instead of giving that Brody guy the chance swoop in.
Without overthinking it (rarely a problem for him but still), Puck got up from the couch and crossed the living room area to grab his guitar. It took him approximately twenty seconds to grab a chair from the table and drag it into Rachel's room, his eyes ghosting over her body in reflex. She was shocked to see him, certainly, but completely clothed and showing no signs of slipping into depression or anything. He lifted his hand to stop her from talking (absently wishing it were always that easy), then twisted the chair around so he could sit. He plucked at his guitar for a second to check the tightness, inhaling a shaky breath before strumming the first chord and then diving right in.
There was only one song that he felt captured this moment completely, from the lyrics to the sheer embarrassment that matched his brother's assignment (and therefore the origin of his advice).
Hold on, little girl
Show me what he's done to you
Stand up, little girl
A broken heart can't be that bad
When it's through, it's through
Fate will twist the both of you
So come on, baby, come on over
Let me be the one to show you
I'm the one who wants to be with you
Deep inside, I hope you'll feel it, too
Waited on a line of greens and blues
Just to be the next to be with you
Build up your confidence
So you can be on top for once
Wake up. Who cares about little boys
That talk too much?
I've seen it all go down
The game of love was all rained out
So come on, baby, come on over
Let me be the one to hold you
I'm the one who wants to be with you
Deep inside, I hope you'll feel it, too
Waited on a line of greens and blues
Just to be the next to be with you
Why be alone when we can be together, baby?
You can make my life worthwhile
I can make you start to smile
The pace of the song had given him an excuse not to break until just then, the guitar solo played effortlessly as he looked down for the first time since starting. She'd remained damn near motionless throughout the entire thing - even her eyes had stayed fixed - but in the few seconds he was looking down at the fret during the hook, she'd moved so much that she was right in front of him. He messed up the first note after he'd noticed, and then all the others after since she'd rested one of her hands over his and the other on his jawline so she could kiss him.
"Shit," he hissed, pulling back immediately and running his tongue over the cut on his lip. The desperate pain seared through him again, and he groaned loudly. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
"I'm sorry," she rushed out, her hand falling from his cheek as he moved back even further.
"Don't." He shook his head, banging the back of it against the curve of the backrest a few times in frustration. "Don't ever be sorry for that."
She blushed and looked at him with this crazy combination of adoration and lust and he couldn't believe this was happening. The girl of his dreams kisses him, a pretty awesome sign that she was at least a little receptive to the idea of them being something, and he can't even kiss her back without feeling like he was dying? Fuck his life.
"Unless ya didn't mean it," he added roughly, noticing her suddenly antsy behavior. It wouldn't be the first time they'd kissed and she'd regretted it. In fact, he was pretty sure it would bring the grand total to every time.
"I meant it," she assured, hesitantly asking, "Did you mean it? A-all of it?"
He'd already drove so far just to defend her honor, then stuck around to see if she'd care. Then he'd serenaded her with the lamest song (whatever; he loved early '90s rock) ever and told her she could kiss him anytime she felt like it. And yet it wasn't until right then that Puck really felt nervous. She was forcing him to put all his cards on table, and he'd never been much of a gambler when it came to this type of thing. In fact, he'd folded a few times before. But he'd done a pretty shitty job at bluffing his hand so far, so he might as well go all in.
"I love you."
The guitar was quickly forgotten, the poor instrument pushed from his lap and replaced by Rachel. The kiss was urgent, demanding, and hurt so much that Puck thought he might black out. He'd probably needed a stitch or two for it to heal properly, but there was no fucking way he was going to stop another kiss between them. It had been way too long since they'd last kissed (outside of the millisecond just a moment ago), and it had been just as long since he'd felt such a deep desire. Like he said, this chick did things to him.
"I love you, too," she admitted breathlessly, her hands moving wildly against his shoulders as she spoke. "And I know that sounds crazy since I was just with Brody and Finn before that, but I've been thinking so much lately about everything and ... I haven't felt like myself for so long and you'd said something at the wedding - or non-wedding, I guess it was - about how I'd looked different. Remember? I'd asked you good different or bad different, and you'd said just different, and that I always looked good."
She sucked in a quick breath before continuing, "And it could be written off as shallow or even insignificant considering the slew of compliments you throw at just about anything in a skirt, but ... I've known you longer than most people - certainly Brody, and even Finn - and you've never lied to me and you've always been there for me when I've needed you and ... I guess what I'm trying to say is that I need you. Now more than ever, because I've been feeling so lost and out of touch with myself and I like who I am when I'm with you and who you see when you look at me and ... I love you, too."
"Yeah." Puck snorted out a chuckle, shaking his head slightly as his bandaged hand came up to press against her cheek, his thumb sliding across her temple to move some of her hair behind her ear. "I heard that part. Ya know, before my ears started bleeding."
"Noah," she whined, the rest of whatever she was going to complain about cut off by his lips. Although, she didn't seem to mind given the drawn out sigh that escaped from low in her throat when his tongue invaded her mouth. He teased her for as long as he could, stroking his tongue tantalizingly across hers and sipping at her lips. It was still kind of surreal that they were even in the position they were, willingly and honestly. Eventually, though, he had to pull away to gather his thoughts - and his breath.
"Are you really thinking about staying in New York?" She asked quickly, not stopping there. "I think you'd love it here, Noah. There's so many things I want to show you. And we could research classes at nearby schools or I could help you find a job closeby. Despite the heavily publicized unemployment rate, I have seen so many places hiring just while walking around the city. And I can help you learn your way around. If you want to find your own place, then ..."
She stopped mid-sentence, his thumb pressed gently against her lip. "Sorry," she mumbled, his thumb falling from its perch as she sucked in her bottom lip in embarrassment. "We can discuss all this later. You still must be so tired."
Puck chuckled, strong-holding her against him and coming to a stand; her surprised squeak made him smirk deeper, lust coursing through him as she held onto him tighter. "Yeah," he practically growled, resting his knee against the mattress of her bed before letting them both fall down on the plush surface, his lower half grounding into hers just in case there was any question about his intentions. "But I ain't plannin' on sleeping just yet."
Saturday mornings, in general, were pretty great. He didn't have to wake up early, there was usually time to have a good breakfast and they still played some pretty sweet reruns of cartoons that Puck remembered watching as a kid. He usually didn't wake up early enough to enjoy the last one, but then there was at least some game on that he could watch. None of it, however, compared to that morning. First, waking up in a nice, soft, clean bed after staying in the rat motel was incredible. Counting his nap from before Jake had called him, Puck had slept nearly fifteen hours.
The sleep was nothing compared to how it felt to wake up with Rachel next to him, though. She'd curled up next to him like a kitten after their activities last night, which, by the by, was fucking intense. He knew it would be creepy to admit, but he'd thought about sleeping with Rachel probably a thousand different times in all his time of knowing her, and he hadn't even come close to how mind-blowing it was in reality. But, even crazier, he totally dug the after stuff. Usually he sprung out of bed so fast smoke appeared, but 1) he'd been too exhausted and 2) Rachel fit so perfectly against him that it hadn't felt right to move.
"Mornin'," he drawled as he felt her stretch against him, a soft hum released into the air. Her body curled against him before settling back into the nook that had somehow formed, and he moved his arm from resting on her leg to slide across her stomach. Even though there was only about an inch between them as it was, Puck pulled her closer, running his lips across the back of her neck and shoulder.
Her outside arm moved to rest on the one he still had secured around her abdomen, her fingers dancing over his bicep and forearm before drawing random circles on the back of his hand. It was so rythmic that he wouldn't have been surprised if she was doing it to the beat of some song, but it was too hypnotizing for him to be able to pay attention to long enough to figure it out. Between that and the way their breaths seemed to sync up, Puck almost fell asleep again. But then, without warning, she pinched him.
"The fuck?" He asked, grasping the weaponized appendage, pulling it up and turning it to force her back against the bed. He looked into her eyes questionably. "I don't gotta 'nough flesh wounds already?"
Rachel giggled lightly. "I'm sorry, Noah." She kissed his lips gently, leaving a trail of light pecks down his neck and chest until she was back flat on the mattress looking up at him. "I'd thought it was all a dream."
Puck's hard stare softened (he knew it), his free arm pulling Rachel against him. He groaned when her left leg wove between his in her effort to get closer; skin to skin was dangerous territory, which was becoming more and more obvious with each passing second of her warmth seeping through him. He could feel his blood start to boil in desperation, his hand moving from its mostly safe spot splayed on her lower back to a much less innocent area.
"Are you fuckers ever gonna get outta bed?" Santana asked seconds before tearing open the curtain closing off Rachel's room. "Gross."
Puck's smile was tight at best. "Ya need somethin', Satan?"
"Listen here, Puckerman. You're new here, and while I'm sure you'd love to rail Berry into oblivion, I just worked a ten-hour shift and can't sleep with Baby Face out there sweating to the oldies or whatever." She pointed to Puck, then Rachel, then toward the living room as she said, "You and you, get dressed and get outta my bed."
"We'll work on the details later, but there's no way Puckerman gets a cozy bed when I'm out on the couch every night." She glared at Puck. "Do you know how many musicals and shitty movies I've had to sit through?"
"How quickly her tune changes," Kurt commented as he, too, entered Rachel's room. "Speaking of tunes, Mr. Big? Really?"
"What?" Santana scoffed, her attention moving from Kurt to Puck. "You used some shitty classic rock song to bed his BFF?" She shook her head in disgust, moving her gaze to Rachel. "And you let him?"
"The song was lovely," Rachel assured, using the top of the sheet to shield herself as she sat up. She blushed as the fabric moved dangerously low against Puck's torso, smiling a little when her eyes moved up to his face and he winked at her. "And he sang it beautifully."
Kurt and Santana shared a look, the former putting words to their shared displeasure. "Well I hope you text as well as you sing; this stupid thing has been buzzing all night." He tossed Puck's cell phone toward the bed, the small device landing heavily on his stomach. "And it wasn't the only loud thing keeping me awake."
Rachel's skin flushed more, and absently Puck thought that he could get used to this. There were obvious reasons to enjoy waking up next to Rachel, but he also liked the chaos of all of them living in the same space. Much in the way that Rachel's crazy had kind of grown on him, Puck didn't have as much of a beef with Kurt anymore now that he'd grown up a bit past the social caste system and the latter quit it with the holier-than-thou bullshit. And Santana was so much like an extension of himself that it was like living with his shadow.
"If I make breakfast - a real breakfast," Rachel clarified, likely before either roommate could protest about Rachel's eating habits, "would that perhaps be enough to entice you both to give us some space until everything is figured out?"
"Let me confer with my client," Santana said, leaning into Kurt before whispering something into his ear. His eyes glazed over for a moment before staring deeply at Rachel and then Puck, finally turning to speak quietly to her. She nodded once, looking back at the couple on the bed. "We want pancakes."
Rachel rolled her eyes as the two of them left, slowly turning back to face Puck. "Hungry?"
"Sure." He hinged upright, resting his chin on her shoulder. He inhaled the intoxicating scent of what he knew to be her shampoo and sweat leftover from their night together. "Need my strength for later." He waited for her to melt against him, her breathy sigh wisping across his face. "Job hunting and stuff can be tirin'."
"Noah," Rachel chastised softly, her light laughter negating any admonishment she might have meant from it. Instead, she opted for rolling her eyes and getting out bed, redressing in the pajamas she'd been wearing last night. She motioned for him to follow her, but Puck gestured to his phone, opening up the message screen and poising his fingers on the keys to fire off a quick reply to Jake's texts from last night and this morning. In the background, he could hear Rachel arguing with Santana and Kurt that vegan pancakes were real pancakes, and he couldn't help but laugh as he hit send.
No worries. Got the girl.
Author's Note #2: The song used is Mr. Big's "To Be with You". Don't sue.