A/N: End of the academic year craziness made me really nervous I'd have to put August on hold indefinitely if I wanted to post the whole month as one huge chapter. So instead of making everyone wait, I've decided to write it in three parts and put them up I finish them. It ended up working out particularly well considering I got a little trigger happy on the word count? Consider yourselves forewarned: AUGUST IS LONG.
Oh also, everyone say hello to une_fille: the All the Pretty Horses to my Reindeer Games, the Puck to my Finn, the Bam-Bam to my drumkit. Considering we hashed out this whole chapter together via MSN and have legit spent endless hours waxing philosophic about one Nathaniel Bleeker, it's only fair that I give her major co-author props on this month. For serious.
WIN SOME, LOSE SOME
the color of your blood, what you're afraid of
are you made of calcium or are you carbon-based?
and if you're made of calcium, i'll have to take a taste
'cause, listen, calcium is deadly
- andrew bird
He does write a song.
He calls it Berry’s Cherry, but he figures he should probably change the name to Sherry or Larry before he plays it for the guys, unless he actually wants Rachel to tear off his balls and eat them for breakfast. When he saunters into the practice the next day, he’s sporting a proud grin and humming a tune he’s convinced will be Wolf Hunter’s Stairway to Heaven.
“…When she took off those granny panties, she moaned so loud—”
“Puckerman, what the fuck are you singing?”
The guys are staring at him like he’s officially lost it, but all he does is grin like the smug bastard he is. “Just you wait and see, assholes. Just you wait and see.”
When Rachel comes through the door a couple minutes later, her blinding yellow shorts matching her bright smile, the guys are still setting up their gear. Every few moments, her eyes flutter up towards Puck and her cheeks warm. When she quickly looks back down at her clipboard, smiling and biting her lip, he can’t help but chuckle to himself. The chick is so fucking rookie, he knows, but…It’s kind of sexy? He scratches his neck then tilts his head up towards her, waiting for her to meet his gaze. Her eyes flutter up again, and lock with his. He grins as he throws her a head nod and he can’t tell if she’s embarrassed she got caught or just happy.
Bam-Bam’s the only one who catches the darting glances they toss around when they think the other isn’t looking and the persistently warm blush coloring Rachel’s face. It’s strange but he doesn’t think much of it; just rolls his eyes and mumbles a tired, “can the kiddos save the teen dream ‘til after practice?” Ethan and Bleek – who, for the record, have always assumed the Puck and Rachel were bonin’ – don’t think that Rachel spending most of the evening pretending like she’s not staring at Puck is at all out of the ordinary. Puck missing his queue three times because he’s too distracted by Rachel’s ass is also pretty standard, albeit wholly unacceptable.
For the most part, the guys are right: Puck’s just being Puck…Except for one thing: he can’t stop having flashes of Berry hovering over him, slick with sweat and a dreamy look in her eye. The contrast between that chick and this girl pacing around the guys’ living room with a Bluetooth headset in her ear, a giant pink bow across her chest, and Mary Jane’s on her feet…It’s jarring, but in a good way.
When practice lets out, Ethan and Bleek start arguing about some review they read on Pitchfork and Bam gets a call from his mom and has to excuse himself. As Puck is putting his guitar away, his eyes wander to Rachel shuffling by the TV. She’s fiddling with her phone and glancing up nervously in his direction every few minutes. This time, when their eyes meet, she doesn’t break it, just smiles and bites her bottom lip.
He wags his eyebrows and grins mischievously as he makes his way over to the living room and plops himself down on the loveseat.
“Dude, you’re such a chick.”
When Rachel turns to face him, her hands are on her hips and her face is contorted in a mixture of trademark Berry outrage and a trace of anxiety. Last night, she feared giving into her carnal urges (let alone with Noah Puckerman) could only end badly, but she never considered how quickly it could all fall apart.
He rolls his eyes and leans back then tilts his chin up to peer at her, his bright eyes betraying his lazy, conceited smile. “This whole little act you’ve been at. You’re such a chick.”
She scowls at him, immediately defensive. “Well, you seemed pretty pleased with me being a chick last night,” she mutters.
He laughs, unable to tear his eyes from her, a crooked grin plastered across his face. She stares at him for a moment, waiting for him to say something. He knows they’re clearly on two different wavelengths (Hell, when are they not?) so he looks down and laughs to himself, then back up at her with a glint in his eye. He motions with his head for her to come over, and she rolls her eyes before begrudgingly conceding.
She stops a stride away, but he immediately reaches out for her waist and pulls her towards him so she’s standing between his knees, his hands still on her hips.
“Hey.” He says, looking up at her, his voice more quiet than usual.
“Hi.” She breathes back, unable to fight neither her growing grin nor blush.
“Dude, see?” He laughs as he reaches up and touches her warm cheek. “Such a fucking chick.”
She rolls her eyes and swats his hand away.
“Chill out, B. I have this effect on girls, it’s totally normal.”
When she makes a gagging sound and tries to back away, Puck laughs and pulls her back and down onto his lap.
“I didn’t say it was a bad thing! Fuck.”
“I find your comments incredibly condescending, Noah.”
“Just because I let you rob me of my virginity last night—” she lowers her voice to a hushed whisper and crosses her arms again, “—doesn’t mean I’m some—”
“Whoa whoa whoa, rob you?”
“Yes, rob me.” She lifts her chin up in a defiant flourish, and he just laughs.
“Whatever you say.” He brushes her hair out of her face and leaves his hand on her shoulder. “I thought last night was pretty hot.”
In a split second her façade cracks and she rests a hand on his chest, breathing a sigh of relief. “It was, wasn’t it?” She’s smiling like she was during practice and he swears it happens again: flashes of blinding grins against skin, skin, skin—
She’s babbling on about how surprisingly thrilling it was despite him being “a touch raucous,” and how she still wants to believe that the hype around losing one’s virginity is just a socially-constructed form of misogyny, but she swears the birds were chirping louder and sun was shining brighter when she woke up that morning—
“Listen—” He isn’t really paying attention to anything she’s saying; she’s wearing one of those awful headbands and he swears it’s doing shit to his dick that an ugly, plaid hair accessory seriously shouldn’t be. He slides the hand he has resting on her shoulder under her shirt and rubs the base of her neck. She closes her eyes and suddenly his brain is back to running a highlight reel from last night over and over and over—
He blinks lazily and tries to replace the oafish Puck want sex now look on his face with the closest thing to a smile he’s able to muster. “Wanna get some ice cream before I drop you off?”
“That sounds lovely.”
The walk back from the ice cream place to where Puck parked a half mile away is a trek, and although Rachel generally isn’t one much for unbearable humidity, the flicker of fireflies against the trees and the heavy weight of Puck’s arm slung around her shoulders is all the distraction she needs. When they finally reach the truck, her fingers are sticky as she fists them in his T-shirt and her eyes glitter as his rake over her body. He pins her against the passenger side door and she wants to giggle (virginity or no virginity, boys will always have that effect on her) but the low rumble deep in his throat quiets her. Instead, she wraps her arms around his neck and he responds in kind, snaking his around her, his palm stretched out against the base of her back, slowly sliding against smooth skin as it travels up between her shoulder blades.
“Noah,” she breathes, her hands on his face, her gaze trailing from his hungry eyes to swollen lips. “What if someone sees—?”
He laughs before burrowing his face back in her neck. “Why do you think I parked so fucking far—?”
She shakes her head and smiles as she runs her fingers through his hair. His rapidly melting cup of Rocky Road (extra fudge) is stuck between them, and it isn’t until she feels the slow, steady drip of melted chocolate and marshmallow against her skin that she actually pushes him away.
“I told you to throw that out!” As she launches into a predictably Rachel tirade, he’s uncharacteristically unfazed. By now, he’s well aware of her song and dance, and he figures it’s better to just let her go off. “—You know I hate how messy these things get when you don’t eat them right away. And they didn’t even have the common courtesy to give us wet naps—”
He reaches out for her forearm and in one fell swoop, licks the melted mess away.
(It’s hot and stuffy and the feeling of his rough hands against her smooth skin doesn't make it any better. When he pours some melted Rocky Road on her belly, she doesn't even think about the fact that the bed of his truck is probably infested with ants; all she can focus on is his tongue, sticky and sweet, sweeping further and further up—)
At Bam’s urging, Mandatory Band Bonding Day becomes a bi-weekly event, usually accompanied by lots of junk food and B-rate action flicks from the 90s. That Friday, they’re all gathered at the guys’ apartment to watch John Travolta and Nick Cage’s greatest cinematic achievement (Face-Off) when Rachel bursts through the door with a 100-watt smile and a plate full of Rice Crispy Treats.
As the guys quickly devour them, Bam mutters indecipherably that Rachel Berry is actual sunshine, Bleek contemplates whether life-changing baked goods make her role in the band’s ultimate demise any less satanic (“The road to Hell is paved with Rice Crispies,” Ethan offers, patting Bleek on the back) and Puck? Puck’s raving about mouth orgasms and how he lucked out with Berry considering she has boobs and gives great head, and now these—
“Yo, earmuffs!” Bam-Bam shouts, clamping his hands over his ears. Puck just rolls his eyes before stealing another marshmallowy treat from her plate.
When they finally settle down and everyone’s neck-deep in hyperglycemic comas, Rachel decides it’s the right time to drop the news. When she tells them she’s arranged for them to play at the Allen County Fair, she hopes to get a series of nods and a few mumbled thanks, but the guys' only response is a collective groan.
“Dude, don’t they have fucking farm animals at those things?” Bleek offers, clearly disgusted.
“And is that even really our demographic?” Ethan asks, peering over at her.
If Rachel is anything, she’s always prepared, so when they start pelting her with criticism, she’s ready with a whole arsenal of reasons why this show is exactly what Wolf Hunter needs. She’s ready to dish it too, until Bam-Bam sits up with a hopeful look.
“Wait, you guys. Playing the county fair means free carnie food, right?”
When Puck whispers a reverent, "deep-fried Oreos," their disdain quells considerably.
"Yes, Robert, you are correct—as performers, you will be paid with free food tickets for the evening and the esteemed honor of warming up the crowd for the Allen County Hog Calling Champions.”
"Pigs, Berry? Seriously?"
"That's so not kosher."
"Oh hush, Robert, its not like I'm shoving it down your throat."
"Dude," Puck pipes in, "I'd rather you be shoving it down our throat."
"That’s what she said!" Bam shouts and the guys crack up.
“I can’t even get mad—” Puck practically chokes on his words, “—that was so fucking good.” He reaches across Rachel and gives Bam-Bam an exploding fist pump. As the guys’ laughter fills the apartment, Rachel seizes the opportunity to tell them the County Council’s one demand.
“So, aside from Jesus Take the Wheel, you guys are free to play whatever you’d like, but honestly I’d suggest going with things that have a bit more popular appeal since this is a county fair after all and I’m certain no one attending it even knows where Beirut is let alone that it’s a band—”
“Jesus take the what?”
Much to their landlord’s fury, Rachel forces the guys to stay up all night and learn the chords to Jesus Take the Wheel, and much to their surprise, it actually pays off. Even though Bam’s convinced his and Puck’s acoustic cover of Lady Gaga’s Telephone would be their showstopper, it’s Carrie Underwood’s words that steal the spotlight. So, needless to say, aside from Sandy Thompkins creepily perched in front of Puck’s side of the stage, the show pretty much goes off without a hitch.
Its early evening when their set finishes up and the guys are booted off stage by three big men in denim overalls and flannels shirts. Even with their two resident groupies on hand, it takes a while to pack up their gear. By the time they’re done, though, they all just about want to kill themselves listening to Rachel ramble on and on about how expanding their musical horizons and embracing new styles would help them grow as both artists and young men.
“Alright Perky Pants, that’s enough outta you,” Puck grumbles, putting a hand over her mouth. “Now we’ve got exactly four hours to hit up…How many was it, Bammers?”
“—Twenty-five food places. I say we start with a round of deep-fried Oreos, then maybe move on to Gyros and cheese fries?”
Rachel crosses her arms and shoots a glare at both Puck and Bam. “You know, one in three Americans are overweight or obese.”
“Oh my God, are you saying I’m fat?” Bam turns to Puck, feigning sorrow. “Is she saying I’m fat?!”
Puck claps Bam on the back and gives him a sympathetic nod. “Yeah, she kinda is, but whatever, we’re not chicks.”
As they’re about to break, Bleek clears his throat. "So wait," he looks back and calls out the elephant in the room, "those creepy little kids that've been following us...?" He motions behind them to Sandy and two of her friends. She blows a kiss to Puck and he just grimaces.
“I have no fucking idea who that is.” Puck replies, quickly turning around and pulling Rachel close. When they hear a faint, “Oh, Pucky, you’re so silly!” from behind them, Puck urges everyone to pick up the pace.
“Dude, I don’t even wanna know why you have ten year-olds throwing themselves at you,” Ethan laughs.
Bleeker just shakes his head disdainfully. “You realize this might actually make you a child predator, right?”
“How many times do I have to tell you guys, no woman is safe against the power of the Puckerone. It’s my gift,” Puck shrugs and sighs woefully. “…And my curse.”
A couple hours later, Rachel’s munching on honey wheat pretzels as Puck and Bam are sharing a giant turkey leg and a large strawberry smoothie. Ethan has a fistful of sky blue cotton candy hanging out of his mouth and a crazed look in his eye as he smacks Bleeker over and over again with the blow up Indians bat he won in the ring toss.
“Cut it out, asshole,” Bleek smacks the bat out of Ethan’s hands and much to Puck’s shock, actually laughs. He’s about to comment on his surprisingly good mood when Ethan lets out a sing-songy, “buzzkill!” before moving on to flirt with one of the girls. Just like that, Bleek’s smile is quickly replaced with a scowl.
When everyone gets up and starts to make their way through the crowd, a high-pitched squeal from behind stops them in their tracks.
“O-M-F-G. Is that you, Puck?!”
Puck knows that voice. In fact, Puck’s pretty sure that voice holds one of the top positions in his list of most Earth-shattering blowjobs to ever grace his dick. He turns around, his eyebrow already arching upwards when he sees Amanda Silver, possibly the ditziest chick on the Cheerio squad, standing in front of him.
Her long brown hair is pulled into a tight ponytail high on her head and he’s pretty sure her uniform has lost a couple of inches in the skirt since the last time he saw her. That or her pristine, golden legs have grown a couple inches. Puck falls comfortably in the role he knows so well, slapping on a smarmy grin and puckering his lips. The guys stare, awed by the display before them, and Rachel just shuffles around, suddenly fascinated by the bright pink nail polish on her toes.
“Hey sexy,” Puck drawls as Amanda lets out a bubbly giggle. She saunters up to him, her hips swishing hypnotically as she puts her hands on his chest before slowly letting them drift down to his belt loops. She fingers them like a kitten with a ball of yarn.
“You know, I just asked Britt to pull some strings to let me be your rally girl this season.”
“Mm-hmm. Big two-oh’s senior year. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
He grins down at her; watches the slow, deliberate trail her fingers take back and forth across the line between his jeans and his T-shirt. "I'll make it a good year," she breathes.
"Promise?" He chuckles, leering. "’Cause I dunno, I bet I can get any of you Cheerio bitches to take care of me..."
“L-O-L.” She giggles again and Puck swears he sees Bleeker’s jaw almost hit the floor.
Amanda blows Puck a kiss as she moves past him and nearly runs into Rachel.
“Oh, She-Man, I didn’t even see you there!” Amanda’s voice is perky, but strangely kind. Genuine even. “How’s your summer been?”
Rachel practically has steam coming out of her ears and she’s about to open her mouth and give this awful girl a piece of her mind until Bam-Bam swoops in and slings his arm over her shoulder, leading her away.
“Oh, okay then! T-T-Y-L!”
The next ten minutes are about the most awkward any of the guys have ever had to endure, as Puck struts around stupidly oblivious and Rachel grinds her teeth, moping silently. They don’t really know whether they should say something to make Rachel feel better, but the fact that they just witnessed Puck in full high school jock mode is pretty startling in and of itself, and they honestly can’t get over it. After a few minutes, Bleek’s the first one to blurt out, “Oh my God. Did that just happen?”
“Did what just happen?” Puck asks turning around.
Bleeker stares at him, his jaw agape, before all the guys simultaneously burst into laughter.
“What the shit—?”
“Are you even real?” Ethan asks clutching his sides, barely able to contain himself.
“Seriously what the fuck kind of question is that?”
“Puckerman,” Bam says, finally composing himself. “Listen, dude. Tim Riggins just called, he wants his life back.”
As the guys start cracking up again and Bleek mutters something about Explosions in the Sky composing the soundtrack to their life, Puck looks over at Rachel, still baffled. “What? Tim Rigg is my fuckin’ boy.”
Rachel rolls her eyes humorlessly. When he doesn’t see a trace of her normal cheeriness shining through, he furrows his brow and wonders what the fuck could have happened back there that made everyone lose their shit.
“They’re mocking you, Puck.” He knows he’s fucked when she pulls out the big guns, and the sharp k at the end of his name just confirms it. “They’re saying your rally girl romps are laughably cliché.”
He’s about to shout his usual, speak English! when the guys start laughing again, deciding Puck’s the only remnant they have of high school and weirdly enough, that it’s more amazing than awful. Bleek says something about Puck being their own exotic animal – a sort of endangered species – and before Puck knows what’s going on, Bam’s up in his face, holding his hands in front of him like a fake video camera.
“The beast appears to be startled by the commotion around him,” he narrates, British accent and all. When Puck pushes past him with a huff and makes his way to a food stand across the way, he follows closely behind. “Watch as he slowly circles the watering hole, eyeing the corndog.”
“Seriously dude, I’m not afraid to kick your four-eyed ass.” Puck says, pointing a warning finger in Bam’s direction before turning back for his corndog and soda.
“The flaring of the nostrils clearly indicates extreme aggravation. Will the beast charge?!”
Puck swipes at Bam and shouts a gruff, “Fucking cut it out, asshole!” before letting out a loud belch. Bam raises his arms triumphantly.
“His mating call, ladies and gentleman!”
Puck’s stupid, but he’s not stupid. He knows Rachel’s pissed at him, he just doesn’t know why. So when Ethan’s off riding in the spinning teacups with Bleek (or really, puking off the side of theirs, splattering the six year-olds in the teacup next to them) Puck enlists Bam to help him get back in the good graces of their mopey manager.
“Are you telling me you seriously don’t understand why she’s mad?” Bam asks as they wander around, their eyes peeled for bright pastels and a wavy brown pony tail.
“Dude, why do you always ask questions like that? When I say I don’t understand, I don’t understand. Adding seriously in front of it doesn’t change anything.”
“I’m sorry, but were you not here when Miss Pom-Poms dry humped you by the corndogs?”
“What? That was so not dry humping. Dry humping is more—”
“Okay, Varsity Blues,” Bam raises his hand and stops Puck mid-sentence, “I don’t need you to describe what dry humping is in your horny little brain.”
“I just don’t get what the big deal is,” he says shrugging, looking through the crowd for Rachel. “Shit like that’s normal. They’re fucking Cheerios, man.”
“I don’t know what that means and I don’t really care,” Bam says as he spots Rachel and yanks Puck’s arm to follow, “I’m just saying, special little arrangement and all, what you pulled back there wasn’t cool. You could’ve at least said something when that bitch called Rach a She-Man. That’s just fucked up.”
Puck furrows his brow and scowls. He wants to say something in return, but to be honest, he still has no fucking clue what the big deal is. Berry knows she’s hot, she doesn’t need him to tell her. Still though, when it comes to chicks that aren’t skanks – and chicks that are, quite frankly – Puck trusts Bam’s advice. So when he tells Puck to follow his lead as he goes up to Rachel, Puck does.
She's holding a cone of vanilla soft serve with rainbow sprinkles, her face bright with excitement, but when she sees Puck and Bam, her expression fades. “Hello, Robert. Puck.”
She spins on her heel and starts making her way down the aisle, licking at her rapidly melting ice cream as Puck and Bam come racing up behind her.
“Whoa, not so fast, Missy.” Bam says, taking her by the arm and leading her in the opposite direction. “I hear there’s a sparkly purple unicorn in the Whack-a-Mole tent with your name on it.”
“That game is offensive, Robert.”
“Come protest it with me.” When Bam looks up and meets Puck’s confused gaze, he quickly fumbles for the words. “Us. I meant us.”
He clears his throat and when Rachel looks up at Puck, her eyes narrow and venomous.
Begrudgingly, she agrees.
They don’t win the sparkly, purple unicorn after all, but when each of them gets their asses successively handed to them by a group of seven year-olds and Puck manages to make one of them cry, they reach an unspoken truce as they bolt away from the booth clutching their sides in laughter. When Puck reaches out for her hand and she still doesn’t take it, he rolls his eyes and heads towards the High Striker game across the way. He turns around for a second and walking backwards, motions for Rachel to come.
She follows hesitantly and when she finally reaches him, he put his hand atop her head and nudges it, forcing her to peer up at him. "So, are you ready to admit you get off on doing it in front of your stuffed animals?"
"Which one do you want?" He thrusts his chin towards the menagerie of plush toys on display by the carnival game and Rachel raises an eyebrow.
"Shouldn't you actually win before asking me that?" She can't help herself when she laughs at his scoff.
When it’s his turn to go, Puck makes a big production as he picks up the mallet and flexes his arms, nodding appreciatively at his own physical prowess. Bam watches, his arms crossed over his chest, clearly not impressed, but Rachel’s cracking up, so he knows whatever shit that was going on between them has probably blown over.
When he brings the mallet down with all his strength and the weight jolts up the bar to strike the bell on top, he can hear Rachel laughing and clapping behind him. He looks back at her and grins (how is she not ten years-old? He wonders) then back to the wall of stuffed animals. The game attendant asks which one he wants and Puck points to a pink hippo.
“So,” he says, handing the stuffed animal to Rachel, “we good now?”
She’s entranced by the giant creature in her hands and barely processes what he says. “I don’t know what you mean, Noah—wait! He’s sparkly, too!” She shoves her face into the soft, felt belly of the hippo and grins as she rubs her cheeks against it. It’s not an answer, not really. And something tells him whatever just happened isn’t even close to being resolved, but she’s practically purring against that hippo’s plush fur, so the rest can suck his balls for all he cares.
He swings his arm around her, pulling her against his torso. “What about you, Bamarama?” He throws a cocky grin at his bro, riding this new high he didn’t even think possible barely two months ago. (He blames the candied apples and the laughter and Rachel’s soft hands.) “You wanna try taking a swing at that thing?”
“Alas,” Bam sighs dramatically. “I have no one to reap the rewards of my brute strength.” There’s a twinkle in his eye as he pats Rachel’s hippo softly on the head and Puck rolls his eyes. Sometimes he wonders if those two could get any gayer.
“Oh, you could win me something, too!” She squeals, bouncing side to side on the balls of her feet.
“Of course one’s not enough for Berry.” Puck laughs to himself. When he looks up to challenge Bam-Bam again, the drummer’s already striding toward a tent with mermaids painted up the side and Under the Sea blaring weakly from it's shitty sound system. By the time Puck and Rachel catch up to him, Bam has a ping-pong ball in hand, one eye closed and the other trained on the nearest fishbowl. His tongue is sticking out the side of his mouth in concentration and he looks as focused now as he does when he’s about to melt people’s faces off with a killer solo.
“That shit’s rigged, bro.”
“Ah, but not when you have science on your side.” Bam lines up his shot, muttering under his breath about acute angles, the impact of g-forces on projectile motion and the curvature of the Earth.
When Bam wins Rachel a goldfish with fins that shimmer in the light as it swims around its plastic bag, she drops her stuffed hippo and greedily reaches for her new pet. Puck leans down and scoops the plush toy up from the ground with a huff, grumbling about how lame fish are and how he could win one of those with his ass without even trying. He brushes loose dirt off the hippo’s head as Rachel announces to everyone around them that she’s already named her new goldfish Sunny, and begins fretting over plans for aquariums and underwater castles.
“Yo Berry, how long before we can fry that shit up?”
They meet up with Bleek and Ethan just as an announcement is made over the loudspeakers that the fair will be opening again at noon the next day. Ethan snatches his wayfarers from the neck of his T-shirt, slips them back on, and raises his arms, gesturing to the family milling by the gates.
“THANK YOU ALLEN COUNTY FAIR!” He shouts, before launching himself onto Bleeker’s shoulders. Bam laughs and shoves them out the gate before turning back to Puck and throwing a lazy smile his way. When his gaze rests on the goldfish in Rachel’s hands, his eyes soften, then meet hers.
“I still think you should name her Ginger.” He calls out.
“How do you know it’s a her?” Rachel asks, beaming as she leans into Puck.
Just as Bam’s about to reply, Puck pipes in. “Seriously man, it’s not like you can flip ‘em over and look for little fish dicks. Or wait, can you?” He reaches gruffly for the clear plastic bag and starts twisting it from Rachel. Before she has a chance to snatch it away and give him a piece of her mind, the bag has slipped from both of their hands. When it hits the ground and bursts, water splashes against their ankles and Rachel gasps so loud everyone turns around to stare.
Bam stands in shocked silence, watching morosely as poor Sunny flips and flops against the pavement and Rachel’s hands shake against her mouth. Puck just sighs to himself, shrugs dispassionately and lets out an airy, “oh well!” before he steps over the flopping fish and heads towards the gate. When he passes Bam-Bam, the drummer shakes his head, grabs Puck by the shoulders, and pushes him back towards Rachel.
Rachel looks up at him, tears streaming down her face, and he can’t help but feel at least a slight pang of…Well, he’d say it was guilt, but to be honest, he’s pretty sure it’s a residual boner from their quickie in his truck a few hours before. He sighs then grabs the stuffed hippo from under his arm and shoves it in her hands.
Rachel frowns as she slowly takes it from him and hugs it close.
(The ride home is eerily quiet; the only sound that breaks the silence is Rachel’s mournful sniffles. When Puck mutters under his breath that burying that fish was such a fucking waste – that they should have just fucking fried him – Bam punches him in the arm. After a couple minutes, Rachel blows her nose then buries herself in Puck’s shoulder. Without really thinking, he wraps his arm around her and pulls her close.)
When Rachel sneaks him up into her bedroom, he thinks it’s because he’s getting laid.
Turns out the tragedy that took place at the fairground gate is long forgotten (but not before Rachel vows never to return) so Puck doesn’t really know what the fuck she’s yapping about. All he knows is she’s pacing her room, her arms flailing around her head, and every few moments, she turns to him and points an accusing finger. He’s been tossing the stuffed seahorse on her bed around to keep himself entertained, and when she still hasn’t shut up, he aims for her.
When it softly hits her face, she jerks back and gives him the meanest glare she can muster.
“So wait, slower and in English this time,” he says, scooting over to the edge of her bed, feigning interest, “what the fuck crawled up your ass and died?”
He’s pushing her buttons, hoping she’ll give up and just have hot, angry sex with him instead, but she knows his game and isn’t willing to play. (Not tonight.)
“All I’m saying—” she keeps her angry eyes locked on his as she starts pacing again, her hands still on her hips, “is that I don’t understand how those awful Cheerios just let themselves be symbols of misogyny. I’d rather not be some overtly-sexualized little…blow-up doll for boys to call on and paw around whenever they want, thank you very much.”
The second Puck hears misogyny (he still doesn’t know what it means, but he’s heard it enough to know that when Rachel says it, all the fun in the world dies) he seriously wants to gouge his ears out with a fork. That, or launch himself out the window.
He glances over, sees his reflection in the pane and sighs.
Neither option seem very feasible at the moment, and Rachel’s railing so loudly he can’t even tune her out; so fucking loud that her dads have called up to make sure everything was alright…Twice. (“It’s okay, Daddy! Just on the phone!” She had called back.)
Puck closes his eyes and tries to think happy thoughts: her going down on him in the back of his truck. Him licking ice cream off her smooth stomach. The first time they—
“—And if not having legs that go for miles and flawless skin and bouncy hair makes me a She-Man, then so be it.”
“Oh God,” Puck groans, lying back against her cushions before pulling one out from under his head and pressing it against his face. “Bam warned me about this shit—”
“He said—” Rachel takes the pillow off his face then steps back and crosses her arms again. Puck sits up and rolls his eyes dramatically. “He said you were PMS-ing about that stupid She-Man bullshit and I didn’t get what he meant because it’s obvious that you know—”
“That I know what? My place in the pecking order?”
Puck’s eyes narrow, more out of confusion than frustration. “I don’t even know what that—” He waves a hand and shakes his head. She’s clearly missing the point. “Listen, okay? Why do you even care about that crap? You’re a chick. You of all people should understand why those bitches are the way they are.”
She stares at him, a frown slowly forming under her heavy eyes. He sighs and leans forward.
“You do know, right?”
He stares at her expectantly, waiting for something to click. Of all the people he’s known, Rachel Berry is the last one he’d ever expect to be so fucking dense.
She stares down at her feet, refusing to look up at him. The frown on her face is darker than before, and Puck’s about ready to grab her by the shoulders and shake some sense into her himself.
“Yes, they’ve made my boorish resemblance to a man startlingly clear, thank you—”
“Seriously, Berry,” he reaches out and pulls her over to him. “How can you say stuff like that Peking Duck shit—”
“Pecking order,” she corrects him quickly.
“—and be so fucking stupid?” He runs his hands up her arms then lets them linger for a second on her neck.
If she seriously needs someone to tell her how hot she is, she must be brain-damaged, he thinks.
When she still doesn’t meet his eyes, he lifts her chin and she sighs.
“Noah, honestly…” She puts her hands on his shoulders and looks down at him darkly. “I know I was the one who suggested this but honestly—if you’d rather be off with Amanda Silver, I wouldn’t hold it against you. In fact, I’d rather you had the decency to tell me rather than make me feel like the stupid girl who was Noah Puckerman’s pity case for the summer.”
Puck doesn’t say anything in response—he always knew Berry was two parts crazy, but this is so far beyond anything he can wrap his brain around. He’s been with insecure girls before; God, half of the chicks he’s banged were insecure bitches. But Berry? Berry wasn’t insecure about anything. Even the shit she seriously, seriously should have been insecure about. Now, to have her standing in front of him calling herself a pity case…?
He watches her fidget under his gaze before he finally reaches up to her ponytail and slowly pulls out the elastic. She recognizes this move: it’s one she’s seen in almost all of her favorite romantic comedies. And she knows Puck is a walking cliché, so she shouldn’t expect anything less, but the way he’s looking at her…Something about it is different. She knows what he wants – it’s what he always wants – but the look in his eyes is so unusually genuine, she can’t quite place it.
(She doesn’t know if it’s because she’s not used to people looking at her like that or if it’s because she’s not used to him looking at her like that.)
He focuses his attention back on her hair for a second and poofs it out before bringing his hands to her waist. She’s still standing between his knees, her hands planted firmly on his shoulders, looking down at him. She has that faraway look in her eyes; the look that’s clearly thinking what if...
(What if I was pretty?)
(What if I was popular?)
(What if I was wanted?)
He stares up and really, all he wants her to notice is that she’s got him sitting right there…Right in front of her…
He takes a deep breath and pulls her hips closer.
“Did you see Michelle Franklin busting outta her uniform? Chick got fat. Legit heifer.” She can’t help it, she giggles.
Puck pulls her forward and murmurs against her hipbone. “You’re not fat.”
As if on their own volition, her hands tangle in his hair as he moves from her hip to plant a warm, open-mouthed kiss on the strip of exposed skin between her jeans and her tanktop. He plants another on her wrist…On the inside of her elbow…Up her torso. When he reaches her chest, he pulls back and gives a shrug. “Well, no one’s perfect.”
She lets out a huff and tries to smack his head, but it’s half-hearted at best. He laughs as he pulls her down onto his lap.
He’s reaching one hand behind them and shoving stuffed animals off the bed to make room when she pulls away, out of breath, her face completely flush.
“Excuse me—” She was so swept up in him and this and God, everything, that it’s only when she reaches out for the stuffed seahorse by her arm that she realizes how, well, naked they both are. Suddenly, everything jolts back into focus and she helps him push the stuffed animals away then turns her attention back to him, pressing her mouth against his smooth shoulder.
“Noah, you’re so—you’re so—”
“Berry, if you say lovely, my boner and I are bookin’ it, and I swear to God, we’re not coming back.”
He catches her devilish grin as the word sexy rolls off her tongue, and his eyes light up with that kid in a candy shop look.
“Oh Jesus, Berry—” he trails kisses down her collar bone and she can feel his grin make its way down her body. “If you talk dirty to me, B…Oh God, talk dirty—”
When Rachel giggles, he thinks it’s kinda hot. When she can’t stop, a part of him knows the shit’s hit the fan. To her credit though, she really does try to muster the dirtiest dirty talk she knows, honestly! But lying there with Puck under her saying all these truly awful things…It’s not her fault the only word that comes out of her mouth is “penis.”
The first couple times she says it, he pretends it didn’t happen. The sixth and seventh time, he has to put his foot down.
“Shit, can you please just stop? As in close your mouth and don’t speak.” He clamps his hands over her ears until her lips stop moving. When she mouths, “sorry,” and gives him an adorable pout, he reaches for her face and laughs before kissing the corner of her mouth.
“Just—” he laughs against her lips and she laughs back, “just don’t talk.”
As the moonlight filters in through her curtains, it casts a strange glow over his exhausted form. She’s nestled up against him, both her arms wrapped tightly around one of his, her chin pressed against his shoulder as the pad of his thumb rubs circles against her ribs. Even though every thirty seconds or so he opens his eyes and blinks lazily, she knows he’s basically asleep. Still, that doesn’t stop her.
“Noah,” she whispers, and he just grunts. “Noah, are you awake?”
He rustles before letting out a quiet, “no.”
“You’re usually gone by now.”
“I know, go to sleep,” he mumbles, his eyes closed.
“Does this mean you’re spending the night?” She tries to play it cool, but she’s grinning so widely he can feel the front of her teeth against his shoulder. He grunts again.
She doesn’t expect it when his arms lock around her waist and he flips them over, throwing a lazy leg across hers.
“Shut up and go to bed,” he mumbles again, burying his face in her hair. “And try not to molest me in my sleep.”
Her soft giggle is warm against his cheek.
“Sweet dreams, Noah,” she whispers.
P.S. A million thanks to everyone who left such lovely comments on July! I still have to catch up on responding to them all, but honestly-- I don't even know what to say. You guys are the best. Stay tuned for part two!