Pairing: Noah Puckerman / Rachel Berry (Puckleberry)
Spoilers: Season one to be safe, though it's AU.
Summary: She doesn’t want to be in love with him, she’s not that stupid. But it’s been there for as long as she can remember and she just doesn’t know how to get rid of that feeling. She likes to think of herself as a strong, independent woman, but that all goes away when he’s within twenty feet from her.
Disclaimer: Everything you recognize is not mine.
Author's note: This is unbeta-d. So all the mistakes - and I'm sure there are plenty - are mine. English is not my first language.
The first time her lips touch his, he's ju st turned ten and she still has a few months to go before she can catch up, which makes her incredibly mad because she doesn't like staying behind, even when it comes to her age, something she certainly will be changing her mind about it as she grows older. Still, it happens when they're too young to notice what one little action will do to completely change the course of their lives.
They're playing Truth or Dare and Santana Lopez just dared him to kiss Rachel (or the freak, as she had said). Thing is, Rachel is not the most popular girl among them, but when his mom had asked him who he wanted to invite, she was the first name to come out of his mouth (He'll go to his grave swearing that's not true). All kids think that she's only there because his mother made him invite the nice Jewish girl though, and honestly, he's not about to try and change that. He knows that Santana is only making him kiss Rachel because she thinks he'll back out and she'll make fun of him, but even at a young age, Santana underestimates him, which is the reason why they will never be able to work as anything more than friends.
Seriously, it'd be silly of her to think that he'd pass the chance of making out with a girl.
(No, it's just a peck, but still.)
As soon as his lips touch Rachel's, he wants it to be more than just a peck because even though he spent most of his childhood saying that kissing girls was something really gross because they have cooties and he'd never do something like that, kissing is actually pretty cool. It's his first kiss but he knows that he's found something actually really awesome and he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.
Much to his annoyance, Rachel pulls back a couple of seconds later, cheeks burning as she looks down at her skirt and pretends to be very busy trying to smooth the non-existent wrinkles. Santana looks at him expectantly and he just rolls his eyes, pulling a disgusted face, which makes the other girl feel very pleased with herself.
(He tries to think that he just liked that moment because he was kissing someone, but it only takes a few kisses with other girls to make him realize that the only girl whose lips he never want to let go is Rachel. But then again, he'll go to his grave swearing that's not true).
Even at the tender age of nine, Rachel Berry is not naïve.
The minute Noah Puckerman's lips touch hers, she knows she's doomed.
High school is hell. Granted, middle school wasn't that nice either, but it seems that as people get older, they get meaner and she's their main target and honestly, if she allowed herself to use such a poor vocabulary, she'd say it sucks.
At first, it was hard. She was invited to parties only to be made fun of, until eventually she just stopped being invited altogether. She honestly didn't know what hurt more, the constant humiliation or the fact that people tended to pretend she didn't exist. She would like to say that she could just keep her head high and go on with her life, but it'd be a lie. But she couldn't very well say something about all the nights that she cried herself to sleep, that she wondered what it would be not to exist, even if just for a few moments.
Eventually, she just learned to build a wall around herself. She went by her day without changing anything about herself, without letting people bring her down. If she cried some more when she got home, well, she was the only one to know that. To everyone else, she was just annoyingly driven and obnoxious Rachel Berry.
Well, everyone else but him.
They don't really talk to each other. Sometimes they meet at the temple and nod as they walk by, and that's about all the acknowledgement they give one another. At school, he's made a habit of throwing things at her but, much to her confusion, she can see his fists clenching after he slushies her, or the way his eyes seem to linger on her whenever she's walking down the hall.
It's disconcerting, to say the least. And she has no idea why he acts like that.
She wants it to mean something, but at the same time, she doesn't. Just as she wants to go on with her life without thinking about him, or even sparing him a second glance, but she just doesn't know how to do that. It's like she can feel whenever he's in the same room, or how his eyes usually burn behind her neck as he watches her intently. She feels something pulling her towards him, just like she's a body in the air and he's the ground and gravity just can't help but do its job. But at the same time, she feels like there's a barrier between them and she just can't cross it, none of them can, no matter how much they want to.
(She tries to say she doesn't want to, but she knows that's just a huge lie.)
He really doesn't know what he is doing when he thinks joining the Glee club is a good idea. There's really no reason why he should be doing that. He's on the football team, he's the resident stud and he has all the girls throwing themselves at him, and he just knows that signing up for Glee is only gonna destroy his reputation, so really, he has no idea why he's making that stupid decision.
(Except that he does, but shit, he's not joining Glee club because of her.)
And really, it's not a big deal. He likes singing, his friends are doing it too, so why can't he? It's not like people are going to give him a lot of crap about it, because he's still a badass and he can get away with doing this if he wants. Finn sorta can't, because he's an idiot, but Puck is not like that. People wouldn't dare cross him because they know he'd have no problem punching in their faces and it's a skill that comes in hand at times. So whatever, he's joining Glee club and he doesn't really give a crap about what people think.
(That's a lie. He's only joining Glee because he does give a crap about what one person in particular thinks, and if it takes him joining that stupid club to make her eyes lit up like they do and that huge smile take over her face, then fuck what people think, he's doing it. But, you know, no one has to know that's what he's thinking.)
She tries to fight the smile that takes over her face when she sees him entering the rehearsal room, but it's futile. She has enough trouble trying to stray her gaze away from him every time he's in the same room, but just knowing that he's in Glee now, something that means so much to her – and he knows that, because she really can't stop talking about it to anyone who's willing to listen (or not) – and tries as she might, she just can't stop herself.
It's stupid, really. It's not like he's joining because of her. If anything, it's because of Quinn (who is too busy swooning over Finn) or Santana, who has her hand firmly placed in Brittany's thigh and seems like she doesn't care about anything else in the world. Still, he's a boy and she knows for a fact that he has pined over those two girls; so really, it wouldn't surprise her that he'd join Glee just to have a chance at getting in their skirts. There's absolutely no way he'd want anything with her (and she tries to tell herself that she wouldn't allow it even if he did) but when his eyes meet hers as soon as it walks in, her heart still goes crazy in her chest and she knows it's useless to try and fight that. It's been years since that night in his house, years since that pathetic game, but her reaction to him hasn't changed at all.
On one hand, she revels in the beauty of unrequited love, the want and need for a boy who will never care for her in the way she wants him to, but on the other, it's just too painful sometimes. She doesn't cry herself to sleep anymore, but if she did, it'd definitely be because of him.
(But, well, she does cry.)
Still, the day he joins Glee, she allows herself to think, even for a moment, that he's doing it because of her. That he wants to show he's not an heartless asshole and that he can feel about her just as deeply as she feels about him and he's willing to do something about it. She knows he's not the kind of guy who'll open doors for her and treat like she's so incredibly fragile that she can break at any second (just like Finn treats Quinn), but that's alright with her.
She couldn't deal with being handled like that, anyway.
(Not to say she wouldn't complain about it, of course. She's still a girl, and a dramatic one that, so it's expected of her.)
Puck is a player.
He's only sixteen and he's done a lot of things with a lot of girls and he's not exactly shy about it. He likes to talk about his conquers, about all the cougars he did and all the girls he had in his bed. It's how he's built his reputation and if he wants to flaunt it then he sure as hell gonna do exactly that. And as boys wants to be him and girls want to be with him, there's only one reason why he ever did all that.
(He'd say it's because he can, but it's not exactly the truth.)
He kissed Rachel Berry for the first time when he was only ten and six years later (almost seven) he still can't get over how soft her lips felt against his, how they tasted like strawberry and a hint of something else that he was never able to find in any other girl, even if they wore strawberry lip-gloss. And trust him when he says, he's tried. He tried kissing and when that didn't help, he moved to something more and still not even the best mind-blowing sex he's ever had could ever compare to that one chaste kiss so many years ago.
Really, everytime that thought entered his mind he had to check just to make sure that he still had his balls. You know, all that girly talk and shit about feelings and soft lips.
(But really, he even dreams about it sometimes, shit is fucking crazy.)
He wants to say it's just because she's the forbidden fruit. He had a crush on Quinn, he had a crush on Santana (that went away after he got into her pants and all he could think about were Rachel's lips) and he thinks that maybe he just want to be with Rachel so he can have a perfect record and be done with that stupid obsession. Because there's no way it's more than that. He just wants to know how it's like, how she'll feel against him after all these years, if her lips will still taste the same. He just wants to say fuck his reputation and fuck everyone else who thinks he can't have the girl he wants. It's just high school, right? It's not like people think highly of him anyway, so what's one more disappointment to add to his ever-growing list?
Fuck this, he's gonna get her.
(You know, just so he can say that he did, not because he's in love with her or shit like that.)
(Really, he's not.)
(Just a little bit obsessed, maybe.)
When Noah buys her a slushie, she feels like she's entering another reality and all she can do is blink at him because really, he usually just throws it at her, he doesn't take a straw from behind his ear and offers it to her. It's not how things are supposed to work, he's not supposed to say he knows how grape is her favorite flavor or even acknowledge the fact that he watches her everytime he throws a slushie at her because he's not supposed to care about it. He's not supposed to care about her.
She wants to walk away. She wants to give him back the drink and turn around, head held high as disappears down the hallway, hoping to hurt him like he did every single time he threw that cold beverage at her. She knows nothing she can do to him will have quite the same bite to it, but if she manages to hurt him just a little, then she would feel good.
(But she wouldn't. Not even one bit.)
She's fighting a battle of wills, her head against her heart, as she holds the cup, fingers barely brushing against his as his gaze burns into her. It should be easy, shouldn't it? She should just be able to turn around and leave him there because she doesn't own him anything. All those nights she spent crying after him, she should just go and protect her heart, keep it safe and avoid more tears. Any sane person would do exactly that.
It's no wonder people say she's batshit crazy, really.
The thing is, as much as she wants to give him back the drink (or even throw it at him), she knows that she wouldn't be able to do something like that in a million years. Not to him, anyway. He might have deliberately hurt her time after time, but she thinks that at that moment, she's closer to him than she's ever been since that night they kissed so many years ago. It's like the pull is stronger and that wall between them is slowly breaking, that he is the one responsible for the cracks, but that if she doesn't help him, he won't be able to tear it down by himself.
He needs her to help him.
And that's why she takes the drink from him with a small, "Thank you, Noah" and turns around, walking to her first class, not really expecting him to follow her, but managing to hide her surprise as he falls into step by her side.
(She thinks that the smile he gives her might make her legs go weak.)
If people asked him, he'd never admit it, but he actually likes hanging out with her. He had only one thing in mind when he asked her to work on some songs with him, but he's sitting in her bed, watching as she walks around babbling about something and for some reason he's not really mad that they're not making out, or that he doesn't have his hands under her skirt or something like that.
(Shut up, he's not a pussy.)
Truth be told, he never knew she could be so… cute. He knows she's hot, of course. She wears those tiny skirts and some days he can swear she shakes her hips just a little bit more as she walks by him, and he's not to blame if his pants get a little tighter when she does that, but he never thought he'd say she's cute. Obnoxious, annoying, self-centered… he could go on with the list of adjectives that came to his mind when he thought of her before (hot, sexy and smokin' were on the top of his list, but details, really), but cute is definitely a new one.
She's wearing tiny shorts and a white tank top and her hair is up in a ponytail and she just looks so... free. It's like she's an entire different girl from the one he sees everyday walking down McKinley's halls and he has to admit that he likes the change quite a lot. It's easier to see her charm when she's not trying so hard to smother him with all of her talent and all the things she likes to brag about. She's rambling, yeah, but he'd find weird if she wasn't. It's her thing and though it's kinda annoying, it's not as bad when he tunes out and just looks at her, nodding when he finds appropriate to do so. It's not that he's not listening, no, he's listening to her every word, much to his own dismay, but instead of hanging onto her every word, he's just getting the highlights, what's important.
(He doesn't want her to be mad at him for not listening, though he never gave a crap if girls thought he was an asshole or not. But he just doesn't want her to think he's an asshole, so he's making an effort.)
(When he asks if she wants to make out, and she says yes, he thinks it pays off all the nonsense he had to hear that afternoon.)
The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them, as per usual. She wants to berate herself for not thinking before she speaks, for her complete lack of filter, but the prospect of kissing him again (and really kissing him, not just brushing their lips together) takes over her mind before she can fight it and in the end is just stronger than her. Besides, he's the one who offered so it means he wants to, right? Maybe it's just because she's a girl and they've yet to make out and that's something he just can't have but so what? It's not like she's not dying to kiss him.
(She thinks maybe she should've put more of a fight, but it'd just take longer for his lips to touch hers and honestly, she can't have that.)
Not that she's desperate or anything. Really, she isn't.
(She totally is.)
And then he's on her bed and she's straddling him and it's so much better than she remembered because now they actually know what they're doing and she honestly think she could get lost in the way his lips are moving against hers. She can feel his body pressed against hers and her body is all hot and she knows it has nothing to do with the weather. She spent so many nights wondering how it'd be to kiss him like that, to have him wanting to be with her, needing her as much as she needs him, and it's still so much better. It's real.
For a few hours, she can pretend that everything is going to somehow work out and he'll realize that he's in love with her, always has been, ever since he was ten and that everything he did from then on it was just because he couldn't know it was love, was too young to realize how he was feeling. It's stupid, yes, but she's a girl and, albeit different from the other girls in many different aspects, she thinks that she's allowed to dream about finding the love of her life and live happily ever after. She'd never say this out loud, of course, would never allow herself to be that vulnerable, but it doesn't mean that it's not there. That she doesn't want to be loved just as everyone else. That she doesn't want him to love her.
And when he's there, holding her tight against him, brushing his lips against her cheeks and running his fingers through her hair, she can pretend that they can have a future together.
When she gets to school the next day, he has some dumb cheerleader pressed against his locker, his lips eagerly moving against the other girl's.
She tries to convince herself that the sound she hears is not her heart breaking into a million pieces.
(It doesn't work and before she can realize, the tears are streaming down her face.)
That thing about not wanting her to think he's an asshole? Not working really well.
(Because he is an asshole. And he's also very stupid.)
Long story short, he freaked out.
As it turns out, making out with her? Better than anything he's ever experienced. Not that he wasn't expecting it. He spent years thinking about that stupid kiss when they were younger and how it'd feel to kiss her again and fuck, he's not like that. When he went to her house, he just wanted to kiss her (and maybe get some groping too) and leave. It was just about getting what he wanted and stop freaking out about it. But then he started kissing her and he just didn't want to stop. He wanted to hold her, tell her how beautiful she was and how much he wanted her.
(And fuck, does he want her.)
But instead of doing that, he just left and then decided all he had to do was find another girl who would let him in their pants and he'd forget everything about Rachel Berry. Seemed like a good plan in his head, but he should know that it wouldn't be that simple. It hadn't been for six years, why would it be any different now? Still, he's stupid like that, so he just went for it, trying not to think about what it'd do to her.
(Didn't work, it was all he could think about.)
He feels sick. All his life, he's never felt so bad as he feels at that particular moment, watching as she turns around and walks away, her eyes gleaming with tears that will soon be shed. He knows that he is an asshole, there's no question about that, but he thought that maybe he could make things right, could live to the expectations of the one person who believed in him. But no, instead of doing that, he just decided it'd be nice to screw up and kiss another girl in front of her. Of all the stupid things he's done, that one certainly takes the cake.
And the worst? He has no idea how to make it better.
She allows herself to cry for a few minutes before she cleans up her face and walks out, head held high, her years of acting class being put to good use. She's broken, yes, but she has only herself to blame and she's well aware of that. Noah Puckerman is a poor excuse for a human being and of course falling for someone like him would bring her nothing but heartache. That particular knowledge, though, doesn't lessen the pain she's feeling; if anything, it only makes it worse.
Sometimes, she wonders why things can't be easy for her. Why she can't be like Quinn, with her perfect boyfriend, who's loving and caring and would do anything for her without giving it a second thought. She wonders why she can't be like Tina, who has Artie by her side at all times, who knows he loves her even when he's being a bit rude. Hell, she even wishes she could be like Santana, who has had Brittany by her side for as long as she can remember and even though it took Santana a while to accept her feelings for the blonde Cheerio, they're now happily in love and it's borderline sickening. Why can't things be like that for her?
No, of course she had to go for the one who's emotionally unstable and would never see her as yet another body he could get in his bed.
(She tries to shake off the thought that she'd gladly be a body in his bed, but it's useless.)
Try as she might, she just can't stop feeling something for him. She wants to pretend he doesn't exist, wants to ignore how his lips feel against hers and how his touch can make her entire body burst into flames, but she just can't. She doesn't want to be in love with him, she's not that stupid. But it's been there for as long as she can remember and she just doesn't know how to get rid of that feeling. She likes to think of herself as a strong, independent woman, but that all goes away when he's within twenty feet from her. She puts up a mask and she can fool mostly everyone, but somehow he can see the cracks, knows how fragile she is even when she thinks she's strong and it's just completely unfair because she doesn't want him to have a hold on her like that.
(But he does.)
"We gotta talk," he says, slamming the door of her locker and startling her. He can see something flashing in her eyes, but it's gone before he can blink and he has no idea what it means.
She's been avoiding him like the plague and he just can't deal with that shit anymore. He knows he screwed up and he spent countless hours trying to think of something to do to make up for her but in the end he decided he should just man up and go after her because she kinda had a reason to be avoiding him, he thinks. Maybe he should've told her that their make out session wouldn't mean anything and just avoid the whole tension after it had happened, but he couldn't do that. Because as much as he didn't want to admit it (and shit, he didn't) it had meant everything and fuck, if he wants her he has to do something, right? And who knows, maybe she'll tell him what she wants.
"Can I help you?" she asks, a sigh escaping her lips as she turns to face him, and he notices that she's not meeting his gaze. Fuck, why can't things be easy for him?
He runs his hand through his 'hawk, looking around as he tries to think of what he wants to say. Fuck, he can't remember ever having a problem talking to chicks and now he's there in front of her and he's pretty sure he's forgotten how to speak. He's feeling like a fucking loser, seriously.
She opens her locker again, taking a few books and putting them in her bag before she slams the door and starts to walk away. "Have a good weekend, Noah."
When he remembers how to move again she's already out of his sight, walking down the parking lot towards her car. He grunts in frustration, kicking the locker next to hers.
Huh, that went well.
(He thinks sarcasm is not gonna do him any good, but he just can't help it.)
Actually, she's confused, frustrated and extremely tired. It's been over two weeks since that fateful day where she saw Noah kissing that other girl and she's spent those two weeks doing nothing but avoid him. She wouldn't look at his way, she wouldn't talk to him in Glee and whenever she saw him walking towards her, she'd disappear faster than he could blink. Avoiding someone is somewhat of a childish thing to do, she knows, but she just couldn't handle the alternative. If, in order to protect her heart (and her sanity) she has to act like a child, then so be it.
And then he decides to sneak up on her just to stand there, opening and closing his mouth like a fish and seriously, why would he even bother? So it's really no wonder that she's confused. Has been for a long time, actually, but lately it's just getting worse because she knows she shouldn't get her hopes up and then he does something and she just can't help but think that maybe they do have a chance. And then he ruins it. Honestly, she doesn't want to ride that rollercoaster anymore. The weird feeling in her belly it's not welcomed, but dreaded. It's too tiresome to try and make sense of what's going on between them.
She's so unnerved by the entire thing that it's even messing with her perfect routine. She can't remember the last time she slept in and when she woke up today, the clock by her bed was screaming 10am at her and she just can't have that because her schedule is incredibly important. He can't just walk into her life and shake things up like that; he really doesn't have the right.
(He's doing it anyway.)
She finds some comfort in the fact that she has an entire weekend Noah-free and she can focus on herself, on getting her life back on track. Her parents are away for the weekend, celebrating their anniversary and she revels in the fact that she has absolutely nothing to worry about, that she can relax and watch her favorite movies and maybe even work on a couple of songs for Glee. Really, she's not going to let herself worry about a stupid boy who's decided to turn her life upside down. It's the perfect plan and she's more than willing to follow through.
(Unfortunately for her, he seems to have a knack for ruining her plans.)
He has absolutely no idea what the fuck he's doing there.
(At least, that's what he's trying to convince himself.)
It's stupid that a chick can make him do things like care and stuff, because he's really not used to that. He's the kind of guy that gets what he wants and then moves to the next girl, but she's different, for some reason. Always has been, actually. And he's starting to realize that he just can't fight the power she has over him and that maybe that's not such a bad thing. His mom would certainly be glad if he got a Jewish girlfriend, especially if said girlfriend is Rachel Berry, because he can swear his mother is like, completely in love with that girl. Maybe even more than him, it's scary.
(Not that he is, you know, in love with her or shit like that.)
(Fuck, who's he kidding?)
One way or another, he decides that he's going to attempt to make things right (again). How hard can it be, right? All he has to do is talk about feelings and things like that and she'll forgive him. She has to, really. He's pretty sure he's gonna go crazy if she doesn't. And that wouldn't be pretty because he actually likes his sanity too much, which is surprising, considering she makes him insane most of the time and yet he is going after her. He thinks it's better to be crazy with her than without her. You know, if that makes any sense, or whatever.
So he rings the doorbell and braces himself for the worse.
(But he's totally expecting the best, just to be clear.)
"Noah!" she exclaims, surprise taking over her face as she sees him standing outside her door. "What are you doing here?"
He rolls his eyes and shoves his hand into his pockets, and she watches him carefully, biting her lower lip as she waits for him to say something. She can think of a thousand reasons why he's at her door but she can't help but hope it's because he actually cares about her and wants to make things right. He should, really, because he's hurt her so much lately. She wants to say she's not going to forgive him, that she's strong enough to just close the door at his face and be done with it, but she knows she's not. And if he really is there to apologize then she's at least going to hear him out.
"I wanna talk to you," he finally says, meeting her faze. "Can I come in?"
She nods, stepping aside to let him in. "Can I get you anything?"
"No, look," he sighs, running his hand against the back of his head. She walks into the kitchen and walks to the fridge, his footsteps indicating that he's following her. "Shit, Rachel, I don't know how to do this."
"This?" she asks, opening a bottle of water and taking a drink. It's not that she's playing the fool, not really, but if he expects her to make it easy for him, well, he better think twice about his plan.
"Yeah, us, whatever."
"There is no us, Noah." she says, looking down at her legs as she hops on the counter. She can't look at him because she's feeling extremely vulnerable and showing him that will only give him more room to hurt her and she can't have that. She has to protect her heart. Still, she can't help adding a bitter, "You made sure of that."
He starts to walk around the counter, stopping in front of her, lifting her chin to meet his and she presses her eyes shut because she just can't deal with that. It seems that no matter what happens they always end up together somehow and she just feels so powerless. She wants to be able to live without his trace but it's just useless to hope for something like that when it's clear that he means more to her than anyone else even if he did spend most of their lives making fun of her and treating her like dirt. She doesn't want a dysfunctional relationship like that, but she'd be lying if she said she doesn't want him.
(Really, what's the point in denying it anymore?)
"Look," she hears his voice close to her face and she forces her eyes open, burning into his. "I'm terrible with this whole talking about feelings shit. Hell, I'm terrible with feelings. You know that, everyone does."
She nods, sighing softly, "I still don't see your point."
"I like you," he blurts out, rolling his eyes. "Fuck this. I've been kinda completely obsessed with you ever since we're ten. And I really don't know what the fuck is wrong with me, but it's the truth and I might as well accept it."
"Just…" he cups her face in his hands and she can see everything he is feeling, like he's laying all the cards in front of her. She thinks she's never seen him so vulnerable before and it shocks her for a second to think that he'd allow himself to show that to her. "I know I screwed up, big time, but it's only because I freaked out. Every girl I kissed, I kept thinking about you and I just wanted it to go away. But it didn't…"
She lets out a snort, "Is that supposed to be comforting?"
"What I'm trying to say is that I don't wanna fight this anymore," he explains, moving closer to her. "This… pull, or whatever it is, it's stupid to deny that it's there. I want you and I screwed up, yeah, but I know you want me too, Rachel. Don't deny it."
And she doesn't.
(How could she?)
"Promise me you won't hurt me," she whispers, her lips brushing against his as she lets all of her walls come down, baring her soul out to him.
"I promise," he whispers back and before she knows, his lips are on hers again and she can feel the familiar fire spreading through her body, the need for him taking over her, stronger than ever before. And she has no reason to fight it because this time, she knows they're going somewhere.
It's a bumpy road, yeah, but it's all worth in the end.