I told her "I love the view from up here
Warm sun and wind in my ear
We'll watch the world from above
As it turns to the rhythm of love"
We may only have tonight
But till the morning sun you're mine all mine
"Rhythm of Love" Plain White T's
Lauren drags her feet getting ready each morning that first week of school. She tells herself she’s just tired -- and she is, she’s awake for hours each night, flopping from one side of the bed to the other, flipping her pillows over and over to get the cool side, kicking off the blankets and tugging them back on a few minutes later -- but really, she’s trying to avoid running into Puckerman before practice starts and she knows it.
Tuesday, she picks up Tina on the way to school. Normally, they won’t ride in together -- this year, Tina is the one carrying guard equipment in her car for the freshmen and sophomores who can’t yet drive -- but it’s the first day and their schedules aren’t yet set.
Tina slings her messenger bag into the back and drops into the passenger seat.
“Awesome boots.” Lauren eyes them with appreciation. Tina grins and props one foot up on the dash.
“They were super cheap, too. Thank god for eBay.” Tina tilts her head toward Lauren. “So you ready to tell me who you hooked up with Friday?”
She focuses on the road as she pulls away from the curb, but out of the corner of her eye, she can see Tina watching her expectantly.
“No.” It’s worth a try at least.
Tina reaches out and tugs lightly on the collar of Lauren’s shirt. The bruise on her neck is covered by make-up, but it’s not perfect, and Tina traces her nail along the edge. “Spill, sweetie. Obviously you had some fun.”
Lauren grips the steering wheel until her fingers ache. “No one. Nothing happened.”
“Oh, yeah, spontaneous hickeys have been popping up all over Ohio.” Tina leans back against the door, her body pretzeled up, black skirt slipping across her thighs. “Fine, keep your secret for now. Only the band was there, I’ll figure it out eventually.”
True and terrifying.
“What did you guys design for the flags this year?” Lauren asks, in part to change the subject, but also because she's curious.
“They’re awesome.” Tina bounces a little. “Lots of flash, and we have some amazing stunts planned. We’re going to win high auxiliary for sure.”
“Hell yeah. We’re taking all the awards this season.” She holds her fist up, and Tina bumps their hands together.
“I’ll let you change the subject,” Tina says so suddenly Lauren actually swerves a little, startled. “But I want to say this first: I don’t know why you’re keeping this a secret, because you don’t normally give a shit about what people think, but whatever, as long as you’re happy, that’s the important part.”
Lauren bites hard on the inside of her cheek so she won’t spill everything, because she knows how lucky she is to have such awesome friends. No way that acceptance stretches to Puckerman, though.
It is really, really dumb to risk her friendships for a boy. Lauren resolves anew to ignore him until he goes away.
They get to school a couple minutes before the first bell rings. They have lockers together on the main floor, though not the prime lockers by the band room. (The seniors grabbed those, of course. Next year, it will be theirs.) Lauren half expects Puckerman to be waiting at her locker, but he’s not. She clenches her hands into fists and tells herself that weird drop in her stomach is relief.
Mercedes and Quinn are already there, though. Kurt and Hudson walk in together, but Kurt splits away from him to join them. Lauren watches Hudson head down toward his locker. The guys who are in both marching band and football have lockers in the band hall, too, all grouped together.
“Good, good,” Kurt tells Mercedes and Quinn. He eyes Tina for a moment. “You should embrace color,” but then he nods. “Not bad though.” He turns to Lauren and raises an eyebrow. “Too much color. Neutrals are your friends. Stripes do not go on top of stripes.”
Lauren rolls her eyes, but ignores him. It’s advice she’s heard a hundred times before, and she’s not about to start listening to him now. Kurt’s fashion is not her fashion. She dresses in things she likes, things which are sexy and comfortable.
Plus she's got something else on her mind. Puckerman’s not with Hudson, either.
Damn it. She doesn’t care. So what if he said he needed to talk to her? She’s so much better off that he hasn’t shown. What happened between them was a mistake, and if he’s figured that out, too, well good.
He sneaks into the band room halfway through first hour. Schue doesn’t notice -- he’s too busy giving them a big pep talk about how it’s important to do their best and be one band and give their all during practice because how they practice is how they will perform and how they’re definitely going to win -- but Matt does. Lauren’s sitting with the quads, angry at herself for caring that Puckerman doesn’t want to talk to her after all. Matt leans back to mutter something to Puckerman; Lauren accidentally meets Puckerman’s eyes when she turns to look too.
He mouths something, but she’s never been much of a lip reader. She’s struggling to figure it out when she realizes that means they’re staring at each other right there in the middle of the line.
She snaps her head around, glaring forward at Schue. Julie bumps her shoulder against Lauren’s once and then a second time, but Lauren just shakes her head a little, trying to be subtle about it. They’re not all that close, but freshman year, they were the only two girls in the battery, all the others were in the pit, and Julie took Lauren under her wing. The first piece of advice she gave was, do not ever, ever fool around in the line. Any other section was fair game, but the only way to be respected on the line -- and especially the battery -- was to be just as talented and tough and foul as the boys. That meant no fucking around with the other drummers, period.
Lauren’s been doubting the truth of that, but bringing this drama into the line will only prove it right.
“Lauren.” Puckerman tries to stop her when the bell rings at the end of class, but she shoulders past him, planting her elbow in his arm when he touches her. They’re surrounded by the band, loud and boisterous, but she half expects him to make a scene anyway.
He doesn’t. His fingers slip across the back of her hand and then she’s away from him, spilling with the others out into the crowded hallway.
Lauren doesn’t hide.
She’s just strategically eating her lunch away from the cafeteria. So what if the rest of the band is there, eating together. She already has homework. It can’t hurt to get a running start at it, because with competition season ramping up -- and football games most Friday nights, but that’s mostly warm-up -- she’ll be busier than ever with the line.
It sucks that she’s not supposed to take food into the library, but she manages.
Luckily, she only has to worry about Puckerman showing up in one of her other classes. Except for band and weight lifting, she’s in the advanced track, so she spends her days with the same people in different variations. She specifically signed up for classes with Tina and Quinn, but Rachel and Mike and Santana and Matt and Julie and a score of others cycle through, a mix of juniors and seniors.
Her luck runs out seventh period in weight lifting. They don’t dress out first day, so Lauren slumps on the bleachers with a couple of the guys from wrestling. She’s talking with Ben about their plans for state when Puckerman and Hudson and Evans walk in.
“Fuck.” Then, to cover it, “Damn football players.”
Ben nods, slams his fist into Tom’s back to get his attention. Andy looks too, and the four of them glare. There’s not the same antagonism between the wrestlers and the football team as there is between football and hockey, but they have to share weight room space and that sucks.
At least they’ve got the edge in class. Coach Gray teaches weight lifting, and he definitely favors his wrestling team.
Hudson grabs a seat on the first row of bleachers. Puckerman glances up at her, but she hardens her expression. After a second, he drops down next to Hudson, Evans on his other side.
Coach Gray starts in on the weight room rules, and Lauren tunes him out. She already knows them like she knows the cadences that rip through the band or the best way to pin a guy who’s got probably four inches on her and a much longer reach. This isn't for her.
There's a lot that's not.
As soon as she hits the gym floor after class ends, Puckerman heads toward her. He’s not fazed by her little group of wrestlers, even when they start pushing out their chests and squaring their shoulders. Lauren’s pretty used to posturing like that.
“We need to talk,” he tells her. She stops walking, hands on her hips, and glares, shaking her head at him.
“I don’t have a thing to say to you.”
“No? Seemed like you did.”
“Nope. Not a damn thing now or this morning.” She hits the last word hard. Immediately, she wants to take it back. She really needs to think before she says shit. Before she does shit.
“I can explain,” he starts, but she cuts him off.
“Whatever. Don’t care.”
She tilts her head to the side, twists up her mouth. She’s not going to back down from this -- she’s not going to talk to him -- but she sure as hell isn’t going to run away either. They face off right there in the middle of the hallway, until Lauren isn’t sure what she’s going to do. Who knew Puckerman could be as fucking stubborn as she could.
Finally, a bit of luck. Coach Beiste comes slamming out of the locker room, clickboard in one hand, then stops. “Puckerman!” she snaps. “You’d better be on the field in the next two minutes if you plan on staying on the team. I don’t tolerate lateness.”
“Fuck.” Puck shoves his hands into his pockets. “We’ll do this later.”
“No.” Lauren hooks her thumbs in the pockets of her skirt until she realizes she’s unconsciously mimicking him. “We won’t.”
She stands there until he curses again and heads into the locker room.
“What was that about?” Ben asks. She shrugs and starts walking again.
“Drumline shit.” It’s a good excuse; Ben isn’t a band geek. He laughs and lets it go, which is exactly what she knew he would do.
Wednesday, she tries to show up at the practice field with just enough time to grab her quads from the equipment truck and make it to the line before Matt starts their first warm-up cadence, but she cuts it too close, and Matt stares at her as she rushes over, breathless and still settling the weight of the quads just right, silent and judgmental.
When they break from the line to join the rest of the band on the field, he stops her with one hand on her shoulder. “Twenty during the water break.” He doesn’t scream at her, the way their captain would have last year, but the weight of his disappointment is worse.
She doesn’t apologize, because there’s no point. If you fuck up with the line, you don’t need to be sorry, you just need to be better.
When Schue lets them break for water at eight, Lauren carefully sets aside her quads and hits the ground right there on the field, her palms flat against the grass. She counts them off as she rushes through the pushups, pieces of hair blown loose from her ponytail tumbling into her eyes. Her arms burn by the time she’s done.
Tina waits for her at the edge of the field, holding two bottles of water and talking to Mike. They’re both smiling, giddy over each other, and Lauren feels like smiling too. (She very carefully keeps her eyes away from anyone on the line. Maybe if she ignores him hard enough, Puckerman will disappear.)
“Which sucks worse, cymbal laps or pushups?” Mike asks when she joins them. Lauren laughs and takes the water Tina offers.
“Cymbal laps for sure. Pushups are fun.” She gulps some of the water. This is the first time she’s ever really talked to him, and she’s curious to see if he’s good enough for her girl. “Which would you rather do?”
“Cymbal laps. I like clanging them together.” He grins and bumps his arm against Tina’s. “If it wasn’t for guard, I would have tried for the cymbal line.”
Lauren nods. For sure, respect for the drumline is one way to impress her. Over by the bleachers, Matt puts on his snare drum again, and Lauren sighs. She loves the line, she does. She’s just not ready to hit the field again, and the tense set of her back because Puckerman is right the hell there.
But she finishes her water, hands the bottle back to Tina -- Tina recycles at home -- and heads back to her quads. Ready for this or not, she doesn’t have a choice.
Puckerman catches her at the equipment truck after practice.
“What the hell is going on, Zizes?”
She carefully puts away her quads and pushes away from the truck, trying to get a little space away from the rest of the line. When they’re closer to alone -- about as close as they’ll get unless she’s willing to be late for second period -- she crosses her arms over her chest and waits. Most people talk to fill an awkward silence.
Not Puckerman, and despite herself, she’s impressed. She manages to hold out until the busses for the non-drivers are gone and most of the band drivers, and then she realizes that if she doesn’t do something, she’s going to be alone with him, and she’s going to be late for second period, maybe late enough she should just skip. The fact that those two things sound really great is what finally spurs her into action.
Plus Quinn and Tina are both standing at their cars, watching her. She starts to cover her hickey, but catches herself and drops her hand back to her side. Damn it, one of these days she’s going to learn to be subtle or some shit like that.
“Nothing’s going on. Let it go.” She tilts her head a little toward Quinn. To his credit, he doesn’t turn to look. Maybe he doesn’t even know what she means. “I don’t want to be late.”
His jaw tenses, but he doesn’t say anything else, and she walks away.
Lauren showers after weight lifting, then heads to her locker to grab some books. She’s got a couple hours until sectionals -- they’re scheduled so Puckerman and Matt don't have to choose between the line and football -- but she’s not ready to go home yet. She thinks about heading to the Lima Bean to do homework. Tina’s got guard, but maybe Quinn will be interested.
Maybe that’s a bad idea.
She doesn’t get to find out. Quinn isn’t at their lockers when she shows up. No one else is but Tina, who’s leaned her flag against her locker and has her rifle slung over one shoulder while she waits.
She doesn’t even give Lauren time to open her locker before she starts with, “Did you hook up with Puckerman?”
Lauren tries not to react, but her breathing stutters a little and her hand jerks on the lock. Tina knows her too well to miss that. She practically shouted it from the roof.
“I didn’t fuck him,” she says, because it’s the truth, but it sounds like an excuse.
“But something happened.” Tina slings her rifle off her shoulder and knocks the butt against the floor. “He’s the guy at Matt’s party.”
Lauren nods, staring resolutely at her locker. She finally manages to get it unlocked, but she doesn’t pull open the door.
“That’s messed up.”
“I know.” Lauren glances at her quickly. Tina’s easy smile is gone; instead, she looks angry. She’s a tough girl, stomping around in her boots and wearing whatever the hell she wants and not putting up with inequality. Her fierceness is one of the things Lauren loves best about her, but when she’s on the other end of it, it’s intense.
“Were you just drunk?” Tina asks. “Or do you like him?”
She’s still not ready to say it out loud. Instead, she bites hard on the inside of her cheek and nods. It’s not actually an answer, but she knows Tina will understand. And, maybe unfortunately, she does.
“Shit. After everything with Quinn. Really.” She sighs and leans her rifle against the locker too. Next thing Lauren knows, Tina’s hugging her hard. Lauren has no idea what showed in her expression, but she hooks her arm around Tina’s waist and clings to her, so grateful for their friendship. (And, okay, maybe a little the stress is getting to her and she just flat needs a hug.)
Finally Tina steps back and takes Lauren’s hand. “You have to talk to Quinn.”
“I know. I will.” Lauren cups her free hand under her chin and cracks her neck a little. “I just don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do.”
“Talk to Quinn,” Tina says again. “Tell Puckerman to go to hell.” Her grip is tight, but Lauren takes it, not flinching. “Or, I guess, decide if you want anything else from him. But you have to talk to Quinn.”
“I know.” She didn’t mean that sharpness. “Sorry.”
“Yeah.” Tina squeezes her hand again, then lets go so she can grab her gear. “I’ve got practice. Call me tonight, if you want to talk.”
Lauren nods. Once she’s alone, she grabs her books, shoves them into her bag. She can’t go study like this. She can’t do anything, not with the way her thoughts spin so fast. There’s no good way out of this situation. It was bad enough when she just had a stupid fucking crush -- god, kinda she hates that word, it sounds so light, so easy and uncomplicated -- but now things are twisted up and she feels way too much.
What she needs is to get out of her own brain.
She swings her backpack over one shoulder and heads for a practice room.
Lauren runs cadences until she forgets everything but the way her body feels against the drum and the beat of the rhythms in her veins. She breaks out into new things then, pieces that might later come together in her quad solo at indoor competitions. She doesn’t try any fancy stick tricks or anything, just different rhythms to see what feels good together.
That gets a little too much, lets the thoughts slip in because music makes her feel, and when she tastes blood and realizes she’s chewing her bottom lip raw, she switches to straight rolls then crossovers and figure eights, faster and faster until her arms burn with it.
She stops, her shoulders tense, her skin tight.
The door behind her opens, and she turns around fast. Puckerman shuts it behind him, and leans against it, still watching her. No wonder she’s drained and it’s almost too much work to hold her sticks. If he’s out of football practice and freshly showered, she’s been at it for way more than an hour.
Lauren waits for him to tell her they need to talk or ask her what’s wrong, but he doesn’t say either of those things.
“I didn’t know you were such a chicken.” He hits the last word hard, and Lauren freezes, her hands clenched tight around her drumsticks. Anger flashes through her, white hot.
“Fuck you.” Her voice is low and cold and each word carefully enunciated. “I am not a fucking chicken.” She reaches back, carefully sets the sticks on her drum, then crosses her arms over her chest and glares.
“Then why the hell do you keep running away from me?” He doesn’t even look pissed. Or no, he does a little, but mostly he looks -- she doesn’t know what, exactly. Frustrated. Disappointed.
Lauren digs her fingers into her arms, trying to hold herself together. “I have never run away from anything in my life.”
He actually laughs, a short, bitter burst of noise. “Liar.” He runs one hand over his mohawk and takes a step toward her. No way does she back up, give him any ground, and that’s not just because she’d have to step around her drum to get away from him. “I’ve figured it out. You’re so tough about everything, except when it comes to feelings, and then you’re scared.”
“I am not.” Lauren’s breathing hard and leaving finger-shaped bruises on her arms, and still she’s only about half a second from punching him.
“Then fucking talk to me.”
“Oh, that’s rich. Noah Puckerman the sex shark wants to talk.” She sneers, because it’s easy, because it’s safer than actually thinking about what’s happening between them. Of all the people who might know her well enough to call her on her shit, Puckerman is kind of the last one she would expect.
“Yeah, I do.” He hooks his thumbs in his pockets and lets out a slow breath of air. “I want to talk about why you blow me off every time we hook up. I want to talk about why you act like we’re friends one minute and like you can’t stand me the next. I want to talk about why you ran away after you kinda rocked my world.”
“I am not running away from you.” Lauren drops her hands on her hips and glares. He’s unruffled, and she feels a little sick. When did she lose control of everyone, of everything in this damn situation? Instead of dealing with that, she changes her focus, because by god, she knows his weaknesses too. “You know why we can’t be friends, you just don’t want to talk about it, or even think about it.” She pushes herself to take a step forward. “Quinn.”
Puckerman doesn’t back down. “I fucked up with Quinn and it sucks. She has every right to hate me. But why do you?”
“I don’t hate you.” She’s already admitted it once, telling him again isn’t giving away anything else. “Quinn is my friend. She’s important.”
“Quinn is an excuse. Every time we start something, you run away.”
“I do not run!” Lauren digs her fists into her hips. “Look, I don’t owe you anything. I can change my mind. And what do you mean, ‘every time?’ We’ve hooked up twice. What, did you think you were so good I was going to fall in love with you or something? I was all worked up, and you were hot and you were there, that’s it. You were convenient.”
She says it without really thinking about what she’s saying, because he’s backed her into a corner and she has to react. Her voice is loud, filling the practice room, the acoustics amplifying the sharpness of her words. She expects him to yell right back, but he doesn’t. “Two years on the line together.” She can’t read his expression. “I thought we were friends.” There’s something horrible in the way he says it, hurt and frustration all twisted up together.
All last year, all summer, while they circled around Quinn, offering her support and love and whatever she needed from them, no matter what it was, Puckerman drifted alone. Puckerman was popular, but when Quinn got pregnant, he lost Hudson for awhile, and suddenly it was clear. Puckerman was popular, but he didn’t really have friends. Lauren never thought he wanted them, either. The only time he came close was when he tried to convince Quinn they could get through it together, they could be a family, he could be a better father than either of them had.
And he’d lost that too.
Lauren’s heart breaks for him. She wants to reach out, wants to reassure him they are friends, that she’s got his back, but she doesn’t. She can’t.
“Why do you keep pushing this?” she asks. To her horror, her voice comes out strangled. “You know Quinn’s my friend. You know she comes first.”
“That’s part of it.” He rubs the back of his neck. “You’re a badass and you’re kind of an asshole, but you don’t fuck things up with your friends. I’ve got badass and asshole down, but I don’t know how to do that.”
“So you want me to play teacher.” She widens her stance a little, squaring her hips and crossing her arms over her chest. It’s sick, how much it hurts that he might be using her. (And dude’s not been paying attention if he thinks she can’t fuck up everything with her friends. Hell, he’s the case in fucking point.)
“No. I’m trying to say you’re awesome. Why wouldn’t I want to be with you?”
Because you’re in love with Quinn. But it’s not that simple and she knows it.
“I can’t hurt her.”
His shoulders slump, and he laces his hands together at the back of his neck, his head down. “Being with me hurts her.”
“Having you around --” She cuts that off, because even if it’s true, it’s a really shitty thing to say. “I don’t know, actually. She won’t talk about it. Just like you.”
“So where do we go from here?”
“I don’t know.” She drops her hands to her sides, but that leaves her feeling exposed -- and makes her fingers itch to touch him -- so she shoves them into her pockets instead. “It’ll be a long season on the line if we keep doing what we did this week.”
“So that’s it? You’ll fix things for the line?”
Goddamn, he needs to stop looking at her like that, all sad eyes and hard set to his jaw. (How much of this is her fault? If she’d just dealt with her crush freshman year, they’d be over and done by now, and she wouldn’t have this stubborn soft spot for him.)
“No.” She cracks her knuckles, the sound somewhat muffled by her pockets. “I like you. I like being with you.” There’s more to that phrasing than she meant to say, and she stops, sucking in air, but she can’t take back the words. “I can’t hurt Quinn.” She says it again more for herself than for him.
“I don’t want to hurt her either.” He drops his hands from his neck. “I’ve already done that.”
“I won’t lie to her about this.”
He nods, steps closer. God, this is dumb, this is a bad idea, this is -- she should stop it, but reaching for him, brushing her fingers against the back of his hand, shifting toward him when he takes another step, it feels so damn good.
“Puckasaurus doesn’t do secrets,” he says, a hint of a smirk lifting his mouth. Then he falters. “Look what happened when I did.”
There’s more she wants to say, more they need to deal with before this is anything close to a good idea, but instead she curls one hand around the back of his neck and hooks two fingers in one of his belt loops, tugging him closer.
Lauren wants to kiss him. She hesitates right before their mouths touch, faces so close together she can feel the warmth of his skin. He touches her hair, following the way it’s pulled back in a ponytail, his fingers brushing the curve of her ear.
She’s momentarily caught in the space between comfortable distance and the closeness she wants from him. He trails his fingers down the side of her throat until his hand rests on her shoulder, his thumb brushing lightly across her bare skin. Anticipation builds in her, until it feels like her blood is fizzy with it and she is inordinately aware of each breath.
“We need to get to practice,” she says at last, her words taffy slow and warm across her tongue.
“Come over after?” His hand tightens a little on her shoulder, and she tugs on his belt loop.
“Can’t, homework. What are you doing Friday after practice?”
“Something with you. Breadstix?”
“Maybe. I’ll let you know what we’re doing.” Lauren’s got a plan brewing, but she’ll think about that later. Right now, they’re going to be late to practice, and she really shouldn’t be pushing Matt so early in the season. The line is important to her, more important than this boy, no matter how he makes her feel.
(Maybe not more important, but the line is tightly scheduled, and it feels like she’s got all the time she could ever want for Puckerman stretching out before them.)
They don’t kiss, but those moments standing there with him, breathing the same and touching and the giddy freedom of finally admitting what she wants, for the moment that’s even better than hooking up again.
They barely make it to practice on time, running so late they can’t even stagger their arrival. Even if no one says anything, Lauren knows they notice. Drummers notice everything about each other.
Worse, she completely flubs the drum solo the first time through. It’s not because she’s distracted by Puckerman -- really, it’s not, it’s because she drummed too hard before practice and her arms are killing her, they hurt so much -- but she knows it probably looks like she is. (And of all the places to fuck up, during the amazing drum solo Brad, their percussion instructor, wrote into “Hey Pachuco” is probably the worst. It’s the big part of what they’ll use to get high honors, and she wants it to be perfect.)
Matt stops them and makes them run it again from the top. Lauren can feel her cheeks burn and stares straight ahead so she doesn’t have to notice any of the looks they’re giving her.
Later, when they’re putting their quads in the equipment truck so they’ll be on at the practice field in the morning, Julie shakes her head at Lauren. “I hope you know what you’re doing,” she mutters.
Lauren isn’t ready to talk about it, but denying it will just fuel the gossip, so she shrugs instead.
Matt stops her before she can head to her car. He’s got his hands shoved into his pockets, and there’s something awkward to the way he shifts his weight, but he meets her gaze steadily. “I don’t care what you do on your own time,” he says. “But when you’re here, get your head into the line.”
She nods, clinging to her drumsticks. No matter what he believes distracted her, she isn’t going to make excuses. Whatever else is going on, the line comes first. That’s the commitment they all made.
“Be at the practice field at six thirty tomorrow and Friday morning. I want to hear a perfect show out of you.”
She nods again, and he heads for his suv, dismissing her. She watches him walk away, because the last time she really paid attention to his vehicle, it was under very different circumstances and dear god, thinking about that is not really encouraging her to go home and do her homework.
Especially not when Puckerman’s leaning against his truck, smirking as he watches her stare at Matt’s suv.
She mouths an asshole at him, but she’s grinning, too.
Thursday and Friday she runs through warm-ups, cadences, and the show for Matt over and over again. When the rest of the line shows up Friday to start their regular morning rehearsal, he nods and claps her on the shoulder.
“Much better.” From him, that’s quite a bit of praise, and Lauren is smug with it for the rest of the day.
Lauren takes her time putting away her quads after practice Friday night, dragging it out to give everyone else time to leave. Of course, they linger too, until she wants to strangle some of them, but finally she can head out to her car without any company.
Puckerman’s sitting on the tailgate of his truck, smoking and listening to the radio from inside the cab. Oh yeah, that’s subtle. She’s not really bothered though, not when he grins and reaches for her hand, tugging her to stand between his legs, not when he offers her a hit off his cigarette, not when he bumps his legs against hers and the night is so delightfully warm and clear around them.
“Nope.” She finishes the cigarette and stubs it out on the tailgate. When she’s sure it’s out, she tucks it into her pocket. She’ll throw it away when she finds a trashcan. “I’ve got something better planned.”
“Oh yeah?” He leers, and kinda she wants to slug him, so she does, a half-hearted punch to his stomach that barely makes him flinch. “Where are we going?”
“First, I’m taking my car home, so follow me. Then you’re just going to drive where I tell you to go.” From his grin, he's down.
They take fast food out to the reservoir, the radio on the classic rock station. The speakers crackle a little and sometimes the station goes fuzzy, but they sing along to a couple really good songs and Lauren sort of loves it. She leans against the door, half turned in the seat, and lets herself just look at Puckerman while he drives. Kinda he's fucking gorgeous, hair slightly curled at the top of his mohawk and the shadow of stubble along his jaw and the way his long, dark eyelashes frame his eyes when he glances at her. His orange shirt has a bit of a v-neck, and the way his neck rises out of it makes her want to leave a bruise right at the hollow of his throat.
He parks so the bed of the truck faces the water, but it’s warm and dry enough that Lauren spreads the blanket she grabbed from the house out onto the ground. Puckerman drops down to sprawl next to her, and Lauren sets their food and drinks out of the way.
When her dad’s in town, her parents come out here sometimes to fish and flirt and horse around. One of Lauren’s favorite memories -- she doesn’t tell Puckerman about it until much later -- is her parents teaching her how to cast a line. It was summer, the air was hot and the sky that cloudless blue it almost hurt her eyes. When she tilted back her head and looked up at her parents, they were backlit by the sun, golden halos and laughter and the slap of the water against the shore.
The radio’s still on, turned just loud enough they can hear it over the slap of water against the rocks. Lauren takes Puckerman’s hand and lets their fingers settle together. He squeezes tight, his grip firm and his hand warm.
Maybe tomorrow she’ll talk to Quinn. (Maybe next week.) (Maybe she’s scared shitless about this conversation, and she can’t quite settle on why.) For tonight, she lets herself ignore all the ways this is a bad idea and just enjoy herself with Puckerman.
They don’t talk much, and she basks in that silence between them. They don’t hook up, either, though there are some kisses so warm and slick and wonderful that her body aches after they stop. Mostly, they just simply be, except they do it together.
Though, they are drummers. They each grab a couple drumsticks from the truck -- and Puckerman has enough stashed he could open his own store -- and knock out pattern after pattern, building off the water and the bugs and the distant traffic, pounding rhythms into the ground and their cups of soda and their legs.
Her mom’s car is in the driveway when Puckerman takes her home, but the lights in the front of the house are all off, except for the outside light by the door. The radio’s up, the windows down, and the cab smells like menthol cloves and his cologne and like sweaty boy. It’s full of warmth and music and this companionable thing growing between them.
“Night, babe,” he says.
“Babe? Oh, Puckerman, really?” She arches an eyebrow and her voice carries a note of warning, but he just grins. She grabs a handful of his shirt and pulls him close enough to kiss. He moves against her, one hand on her shoulder, the other sliding into her hair, and he clutches at her while they kiss.
He’s fucking shaking a little, like he wants this so much he can’t hardly stand it.
That makes her feel so powerful, so wanted, it absolutely steals her breath. She bites a little at his lower lip and he makes this noise, this half-strangled groan, that goes right through her. She does it again, harder, and flicks her tongue along the spot after.
He’s dazed when she pulls away, his mouth hanging open and his eyes closed. He snaps out of it when she opens the door and the dome light spills over them. She smirks at him, because he thinks she rocked his world once already, but he’s got no idea what she’s going to do to him.
“Later, Puck.” She hits it hard, the satisfying snap of it in her mouth, hops out of the truck, and slams the door behind her. She doesn’t look back, but she doesn’t have to, because she’s hot as hell and he’s predictable.
Lauren damn well knows he watches her walk away to the rhythm of the song in her heart.