I wear this crown of thorns
upon my liar's chair
full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
"Hurt" Johnny Cash (cover)
Lauren doesn’t actually let herself cry, not even held so tight in Tina’s arms, but she does snuffle a little into her shoulder. Tina strokes her fingers through Lauren’s hair, carefully working out the tangles from driving around with the windows down and her music blaring as she tried to forget the look on Quinn’s face.
Her heart gives a great squeeze, and she chokes a little, clinging to Tina to ride it through.
When she finally lifts her head and tries to step back, Tina holds her a moment longer. It’s not like she couldn’t break free if she wanted; she’s got at least a hundred pounds on Tina, plus Tina’s not been wrestling half her life. Still, it’s nice to be held sometimes, and here with Tina, in this house where she’s spent almost as much time as she has at her own, she can let down her guard.
She steps back a second time, and Tina lets her go.
“Want to talk about it?”
Really, that’s the last thing she wants to do. “There’s not much to tell. I told her we hooked up, I told her how I felt, she told me to get the hell out.” She knows her words aren’t fair, considering everything, but they’re out before she can stop them.
“Oh, honey.” She curls her hand along the side of Lauren’s face. “Come on, come sit.”
In the living room, there’s a large pizza on the coffee table, two plates, and two sodas. Lauren glances at Tina and then toward the kitchen. As if he’s been cued, Mike freaking Chang walks out holding four sodas, Pepsi for the adult Cohen-Changs, Tina’s Mountain Dew, Lauren’s orange soda, and a root beer. Lauren’s not sure who drinks that one, until she realizes there’s a Mountain Dew and a root beer sitting with the pizza.
Mike’s got his own soda at the Cohen-Chang’s house, too.
Lauren winces a little, because damn, she’s not really prepared for that change. Tina sees it, of course she does, but must take it wrong, because she blanches. “Sorry I didn’t warn you he was here,” she says, her voice low.
She squeezes her eyes shut for a second, then shakes her head. She’s got to get used to having him around sometime, if he’s keeping soda at the Cohen-Changs.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt your date,” she says and goes to sit on the edge of the couch. Tina sits next to her, her hand on Lauren’s thigh.
“Sweetie, no, you’re fine. I’m here whenever you need me.”
Mike eases his way closer. His movements are graceful, sleek and smooth, and she can see why he’s so good at guard. Football too. The few times she’s seen the team make a touchdown, most of them have been Mike weaving his way down the field.
“I didn’t know what you liked,” Mike says, his voice quiet.
“Orange is mine.”
He juggles the sodas a little, all fast hands and easy movements, then hands that one over. It’s not even shaken up. His smile is small, but there, and she forces a tight one back for him.
Lauren cracks open the soda and takes a big gulp.
“I should go,” Mike says after the silence stretches on a minute.
“No. I should. I’m sorry.” Tina grabs her arm, but Lauren’s already standing, and she tugs Tina after her.
“Stop it. No one’s leaving.” Lauren recognizes that tone. She could physically push her way out, but she doesn’t want to hurt Tina. She doesn’t want to hurt any of her friends. She’s not very good at that, apparently. “We were about to eat dinner and watch a movie. You’re joining us.”
The last thing Lauren wants is food, but she lets Tina push her down onto the couch again. Tina joins her. Mike drops onto the floor, leaning back against Tina’s legs. Lauren drinks her soda, a second, and then a third while they eat and watch some stupid comedy. She can’t keep the characters straight, but the canned laughter in the background fills the silence nicely.
Tina’s phone goes off a couple dozen times, but they ignore it until the pizza’s gone and the movie is done. When it starts ringing again after that, Tina sighs. She lets it stop, and then checks all the messages and missed calls.
“Mercedes and Kurt, mostly.” She glances at Lauren. “I should let them know you’re here.”
What she doesn’t say, but what Lauren hears loud and clear, is what that means. They aren’t drawing lines in the sand, but Tina is on Lauren’s side. Even though she hates Puck. Even though she thinks Lauren is wrong.
Lauren nods and stares at her hands. She doesn’t have words for how grateful she is, how much Tina’s friendship means to her.
Tina doesn’t leave the room to make the call. Mercedes is loud enough on the other end when she picks up that they can all hear her, but Lauren can’t make out specific words. Still, it goes on for a minute before Tina even gets to say a word.
“I already know, Cedes.” Her voice is quiet, but firm. “Lauren’s here.”
There’s either silence or Mercedes is saying something low and fast. Either way, Tina listens and doesn’t speak for awhile. Lauren fiddles with the tab on her latest soda, flicking it back and forth until it pops off.
Mike’s flipping channels, too fast to really be paying attention to what he’s watching, but she appreciates the gesture.
She thumbs the edge of her phone. Twenty times or more she’s considered texting Puck, but she’s not really sure what to say, and she doesn’t want to be that person, the one who runs to her guy for everything. She doesn’t want to be that person, the one who ruins friendships for romance.
Her contacts burn. She jams her knuckles into her eyes, pressing in until the pain mutates into something else.
“I know that,” Tina says suddenly. “I know that too. It doesn’t matter. I’ll talk to you guys later.” She doesn’t sound pissed, exactly, but her voice is sharper as she hangs up.
“I’m really going this time.” Mike rolls to his feet, easy as anything, and starts clearing up plates and napkins and soda cans. Tina starts helping him, grabbing the pizza boxes. Lauren leans against the back of the couch and closes her eyes.
They’re in the kitchen awhile. Lauren can’t hear anything, but she’s not really listening, either. Finally she opens her eyes and taps out a short text to Puck. It takes her far too long to settle on what to say, especially when it ends up being a simple: told quinn. went badly.
Then she silences her phone. She won’t turn it off completely, because she wants to be able to see any missed calls, but she plans to ignore it for awhile.
Eventually Tina and Mike come out of the kitchen holding hands. They’re smiling together, at each other, and Lauren is simultaneously pleased at Tina’s simple happiness and sharply envious that somehow, she’s the one with all the drama now.
Mike looks at her a second. “Have a good night, Lauren.” She thinks there’s something like sympathy in his voice, and she wants to look down, but won’t give that much ground.
“Thanks,” she manages. “You too.”
Tina walks him out to his car. She’s back pretty fast after that, and stands in front of Lauren, her hands on her hips. Lauren clasps her hands together between her knees, rests her elbows on her thighs, and waits.
“We’ll figure this out,” Tina promises at last. “Help me set up the air mattress.”
The Cohen-Changs keep a queen size air mattress around for all the weekends Tina and Lauren sprawl in the living room, watching late-night horror movies and talking about cute guys (and, this summer, cute girls). One of the couches pulls out into a bed, too, and Mercedes and Kurt get that one (though until Kurt came out, Quinn shared with Mercedes). (When Tina came out, the Cohen-Changs were stymied about how to lay out the rules, until they finally decided no sleepovers with boyfriends or girlfriends, but sleepovers with friends could continue. Lauren can almost hear Tina criticizing the heterocentric nature of the world.)
Once they get the air mattress set up and the electric pump filling it with air, they change into pajamas – Tina wears a black silk two piece with red trim, fashionable no matter what; Lauren in a pair of gray cotton shorts and a purple sleeveless shirt – and Lauren grabs her favorite blanket, this soft fuzzy blue one that’s getting a little worn at the edges. It reminds her of being a kid and going on roadtrips with Billy and her mom, and sometimes her dad, driving out to visit family in Colorado. They’d stop overnight in Missouri, and she’d bounce on the bed, then drag the comforter right off, leaving crisp white sheets and the softest, fuzziest blankets she’d ever felt. She told Tina about them once, and the next time she spent the night, there was one just for her.
She twists her hands into it, tugging it across her wrists; she loves the way it tickles.
“Hey.” Tina puts her hand at the small of Lauren’s back and leans her head against Lauren’s shoulder. “We’ll fix this, we will.”
Lauren shrugs; Tina rides it out, still pressed against her.
“Come on.” She works one of Lauren’s hands free of the blanket and gives it a squeeze; Lauren clings to her so tight her fingers ache. “Let’s go watch badass girls slay monsters.”
Despite everything, Lauren grins, surprising herself. “Season three, pre brunette Slayers are evil. My favorite.”
“I know.” Tina squeezes her hand again. “I know.”
They don’t make it more than half an hour into “Faith, Hope, and Trick” – Tina clutches her pillow the second Faith comes onscreen, and no matter how many times they’ve watched it (probably a hundred by now), every single time she grins and doesn’t stop, not for the whole rest of the episode; apparently, Tina's type is badass brunettes with lots of attitude – when someone starts knocking on the door.
“What the hell?” Tina pauses the dvd and rolls off the bed, landing on her knees then surging upright. “Who’s banging at this time of night?”
It’s not even one yet, Mike left right before midnight, but sorta Lauren gets it. It feels later, or maybe she’s just so tired, heartbreak ripping through her like exhaustion, it should be four a.m.
Lauren rolls onto her back, listening. It’s not exactly normal for anyone to show up at Tina’s so late, because her parents, while lenient, are usually home, but it is Saturday night and word does travel fast.
She can’t hear anything but a murmur, and then Tina’s voice, sharp. “You’re lucky I’m letting you inside, I hope you know that. All you do is cause trouble around here.”
“Yeah.” There’s no mistaking that voice. Puck sounds worn out. “I know.”
Lauren kicks off the blanket and sits up. Her hair falls messily into her face and she shoves it back, impatient. She wants to see Puck. She doesn’t want to see Puck. Both are true. It’s not that she doesn’t know what she wants, she’s just feeling very different things very strongly.
She doesn’t like it, not one bit. Emotions should be like the drums. She mastered them one beat at a time on her practice pad, the same rhythms over and over again until they were perfect. That sort of control she understands. That sort of control lets her thrive.
Except obviously, obviously she’s failing miserably at controlling how she feels, about Quinn, about Puck. About herself, trying to balance her happiness and her friend’s, and about what it means to love, whatever love is.
She looks down at her hands, curled into loose fists in her lap. She keeps her nails short for drumming and weight lifting and wrestling, but still they’re pretty ragged.
When she looks up again, Puck’s standing in the doorway, watching her.
“You’re hard to find, babe.” His fingers are hooked in his pockets, and he shifts his weight, widening his stance a little more.
“So this is awkward.” Tina shoulders past him and heads for the kitchen. “I’ll just be over here, in my own house, staying out of the way.”
Lauren sighs and gets up. Her bones feel like iron, dragging her down. “Come on.” He reaches for her when she gets close enough, and almost she pulls away, but at the last minute, she lets him hold her hand as she leads him back out the front door. There’s no comfortable place to sit in the front yard, so they sit on his tailgate, their legs dangling.
Before she can demand a cigarette – before she can ask for one, she’s not even sure how she’s going to phrase it – Puck has one out for her and the lighter ready. Lauren tilts her head down, lets him light it for her.
She picks at her thumbnail for a minute, smoking in silence.
“I really fucked this up.” Puck sighs and drapes his arm across her shoulders, pulling her closer. Lauren switches her cigarette to her left hand and slips her arm around his waist.
“I screwed up too.” Lauren flicks ash. She wants to put her head on his shoulder, wants to curl into him and take comfort even while she comforts him, but it’s not that easy. It’s not that simple, because as good as it feels to hold him, the dirty curl of guilt in her stomach sours everything.
Sitting there in the Jones’s backyard watching ice spill across Quinn’s expression – coldness aimed at her, Quinn pulling back behind her wall of ice because of her – is probably the worst thing Lauren’s ever experienced, and still, still, still she wants this, wants to be with Puck more than she’s willing to admit.
She’s almost done smoking before he speaks again, his cigarette long finished and tossed away.
“I want to make this work,” he says, voice low and warm. Her breath hitches a little, and he bends closer, brushing a kiss against her temple. Lauren closes her eyes. She doesn’t know what to make of this side of him. She knows how to handle him when he’s a cocky, flirtatious ass – sex shark, really? – but not like this.
Finally she gives in and puts her head on his shoulder. She flips her cigarette butt into the street.
“Me too.” She reaches up, tangles her fingers with his where his hand rests on her shoulder. “I just don’t know how to do that.”
He tilts his head against hers, but he doesn’t have any more answers either.
When she finally goes inside, Tina’s playing Angry Birds on her phone, the annoying pig laughter grating. Lauren hits the bathroom, washes her face and hands, and heads back to the living room, turning off the lights as she goes.
She carefully lowers herself onto the air mattress; it’s sturdy, but she doesn’t want to pop it or bounce Tina off by flopping down.
“You stink.” Tina wrinkles her nose and sets aside her phone. “Cheap cologne and don’t even get me started on this whole smoking kick he’s got you on.”
“I make my own choices.” Lauren puts her hands behind her head and stares up at the ceiling.
“I know you do.” Tina rolls onto her side and props her head on her hand. “I don’t want you to get hurt, sweetie. That’s it.”
Lauren sighs. “I know.” She blinks hard, glad for the darkness that hides things, that makes this easier. “I really like him.”
It’s Tina’s turn to sigh, quiet. “Yeah, I kinda got that.”
The bed squeaks a little when Lauren bounces her foot, unable to stay still. “What’s wrong with me?” She has to stop, her voice cracking, then try again. “I’m an asshole. I know it. I embrace it. I’m good at it. But not with you guys. And yet….”
Tina pats her arm, then trails her fingers down it until she’s holding Lauren’s hand.
“I wish it was anyone but him. Anyone.”
“Oh, so you’d offer up the hottest guard boy ever?”
She digs her nails in hard, but Lauren can hear the laughter running beneath her words when she continues. “But you deserve to be happy too. This sucks, but take away Quinn, take away the fact that it’s Puckerman, your eyes shine when he’s around. Even with everything tonight, you two look at each other…whatever, I hate him, but all that aside, I’m glad for you. I want you to be happy.”
“God, you’ve gotten sappy since Mike. What happened to my favorite little goth girl?”
Tina’s cry of outrage makes Lauren smile for the first time in hours, but then she’s lost to laughter as Tina jerks her hand free and starts to dig her fingers into the places she knows are most ticklish, the way best friends do.
(Lauren: side of her neck, near her belly button.
Tina: under her right arm and the back of both knees.
Mercedes: ankles and wrists.
Kurt: basically everywhere.
Quinn: her sides and her right hip.)
Eventually, Tina falls asleep, and Lauren is left staring up into the darkness at the ceiling she can’t actually see.
Lauren expects Monday morning to suck, and it does, oh it does. Seeing Quinn is so much worse than she can ever imagine.
She’s up early, mostly because she lies awake half the night. Getting dressed takes far more attention than normal, but she wants to be comfortable and look like she’s not torn up over this thing with Quinn and also she needs her clothes to be an armor, because she has Tina, but that’s it, and she’s – god.
She’s actually scared to face the others. Not scared, exactly, but she’s in the wrong and she knows it, but doesn’t know how to fix it. Even if she gives up Puck, that won’t fix it now, and she really doesn’t want to do that.
Today, armor feels like a well-worn pair of red Chucks, a dark blue jean skirt that hits her knees, and a sleeveless red blouse with ruching around her breasts over a tight, short sleeve orange shirt. With make-up light enough she hopefully won’t sweat it off and a black leather wrist cuff, she’s as ready as she can be.
For once, she’s grateful the drumline and color guard start practice before everyone else. She’ll be busy before she even has a chance to see the others.
Of course, her friends aren’t the only people they have to deal with. Dating within the drumline, not easy at the best of times.
Puck’s not waiting for her in the parking lot, which is pretty subtle for him, and she appreciates it, but he does approach her at the equipment truck. She’s wearing her hair pulled into two buns, but she can feel bits of it against the back of her neck. He twists a small piece, tugging on it lightly, and it makes her shiver, but she covers it well.
“Hey, sexy woman.” He pitches his voice low, and it feels intimate, even though they’re in public. Even though the muscles in her back tense because it feels like the rest of the drumline is watching them.
“Hey yourself.” She busies herself grabbing her quads, and he gets out the big bass drum, but they walk together over to the warm-up arc.
“Sit with me at lunch?” He shifts the weight of his drum, settling the harness better over his shoulders. “With me and Mike and Tina?”
Lauren arches an eyebrow. “Tina agreed to that?” She glances over to where Tina’s at her car, handing out flags to the underclassmen. Mike’s with her, rifle over his shoulder, flag in his other hand.
“She doesn’t like me.” He says it without much inflection, but Lauren knows him, and there’s a little bit of hurt hiding there too. When she looks at him, he shrugs. “I get it. But Mike suggested it.”
“Mike? Mike Chang?”
“Yeah.” Puck taps the end of one mallet against the edge of his drum. “Guess he’s on our side.”
“There aren’t sides.” She says it so fast she almost chokes on it. “We don’t need sides.”
“Babe.” He puts his hand on her shoulder, his pinky brushing the side of her neck. “It’s already happening. I’m sorry. It sucks, I know.”
Lauren’s jaw works, and she stares down at her drum.
They move apart when Matt walks up, Puck off to the end of the basses, Lauren to the quads. Julie shakes her head, rolling her drumsticks together between her hands.
“Interline dating sucks.”
Lauren bites back some of her anger, but can’t catch it all, not with everything else going on. “Back off. Whatever you couldn’t handle that made you so bitter, I’ll deal. I know what I’m fucking doing.”
“Well, you’re fucking something, all right.” Julie shoves at her drums, getting them into place. “Puckerman’s hot, but damn, I thought you were smarter than that.”
She’s defending him before she even knows she’s doing it. “You don’t fucking know him. Shut the hell up.”
“Woah, chill.” Julie holds up her hands, sticks askew. “I won’t badmouth your precious bass.” The noise she makes is not quite a laugh, something jagged. “This is why it’s stupid to date in the line.”
“I’m not stupid, and neither is he, so let it drop.” Lauren fists her hands tight around her sticks, but this time, Julie shrugs and lets it go. Lauren steals a quick glance at Puck; he’s talking to the other basses, two of them holding sheet music up. That’s not a good sign. They’re supposed to be playing everything memorized this week, and if the bass fucks shit up, Matt’ll have them all working harder still to get it right, which means more time practicing, and she’s not sure she can handle one more thing going wrong.
Matt counts them off and they head into their first warm-up cadence. Lauren lets herself fall into it, the steady, familiar rhythm heating her blood and smoothing away all her tension in the rise and fall of her sticks.
They’re working on getting “Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” perfect this week. It’s the guard feature, so the drumline moves off to the side of the field. Quinn’s side of the field. Quinn stands on her little stairs and looks straight ahead, not meeting anyone’s eyes. Her face is calm, but there’s a hardness in her eyes, a tight set to her jaw, and Lauren wants to beg for forgiveness.
(There’s a tiny part of her, so small she can almost ignore it, that wants to yell at Quinn, to tear into her until she stops the coldness and lashes back, wants to scream until Quinn feels something, damn it.
She knows just how she’d do it, too, Get over yourself! and You didn’t want him, what the hell is the problem?, and It was just a fucking kid, okay, God!
The fact that Lauren thinks these things even for a second makes her feel sick.)
“Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)” also has a trumpet solo that the juniors and seniors are fighting over. Maybe a couple of the underclassmen, too, Lauren doesn’t really care, because to her it comes down to Mercedes or Rachel, and she’s cheering for Mercedes.
Not that Mercedes wants her support right now.
They have to take a break each time they restart, because the guard switches equipment three times and has to reset their chain flags for the opening bit, the flags wrapped around their waists like colorful fluttering skirts.
Lauren stares hard at Quinn, but she never once meets Lauren’s eyes.
The break drags on, and Lauren realizes Tina’s talking to Mr. Schue. She’s climbed halfway up the ladder to the crow’s nest so he can hear her, and her skirt blows in the slight breeze. She’s wearing thick striped tights under it, though how she can stand it in the heat, Lauren doesn’t know.
When she hops down the ladder, she’s grinning.
“Okay,” Mr. Schue says through the bullhorn. “Set up the diagonals before the trumpet solo, and we’re going to start three measures before the solo, standing still. Tina and Mike have something to show us.”
Lauren raises her eyebrows, even though Tina’s too busy setting up to catch it.
This is David’s song as the lead drum major on the fifty yard line, and he counts them off. The guard goes through a couple simple moves, and then as soon as the drum break begins that signals the start of the trumpet solo, all the guard members throw down their flags and create a design right on the fifty yard line, twisting into dance lines.
In the front of it all, Tina and Mike come together, stepping easily into actual swing dancing, their bodies twisting together and apart. He spins her out and back in, then lifts her as he turns, her skirt flaring.
It’s fun, and it’s awesome, and it’s a great little moment that’s over way too fast.
When they’re done, Mr. Schue actually claps for them, and Brittany cheers, bouncing up and down.
“Good initiative, you two. We’re working that into the show. Set up at the beginning of the song and let’s see what we need to do to make it happen.” He’s grinning a little maniacally. “This will give us an edge, you guys. Solid marching skills, excellent music, and flair like this is how we’re going to win.”
Lauren tips her sticks toward Tina in approval and then lines up with the others. She needs this, the giddy rush of a show coming together and the promise of competition in the future.
She wants to remember what it feels like to win.
The day goes downhill from there. She sits between Tina and Quinn in almost all her other classes, and at the end of second period AP Calc, she’s not sure how she’ll make it through the rest of the day with Quinn icing her out.
“We’ll figure it out,” Tina promises in a whisper as they hurry to their lockers between second and third period. “Give her a couple days.”
Santana slumps into the chair in front of Lauren in third period and twists around to look at her. “You really are a serious bitch.” She smirks, and it sounds like she approves, but Lauren knows better than to take what she says at surface value.
Good thing Quinn’s not around yet, and it’s a shame Santana decided to start sitting with them this year. Whatever that’s about, Lauren doesn’t like it.
She tilts her head, exudes fake sympathy. “Oh, sorry, you jealous Puckerman upgraded?”
Santana’s face twists. “Yeah, tubby, that’s an upgrade all right. Sports car to tank.”
“Original.” Lauren drawls, and Tina throws a rolled up scrap of paper at her.
“Shut up, Santana.”
“He’s not a great fuck anyway.” Santana might say more, but Quinn appears in the doorway, and despite herself, Lauren looks up. Santana follows her gaze. “Solid bitch move, though, hooking up with your girl’s baby daddy. Way to smash right through the girl code, heffa.”
There’s no way Quinn doesn’t hear her, but her expression doesn’t change. That’s worse than anything, worse than anger, worse than tears. She’s acting cold and numb, and this is an echo of sophomore year that breaks Lauren’s heart.
Santana tosses her hair, and smiles sweetly, then pats Quinn’s desk. “Come here, Blondie, tell Aunty ‘Tana all about it.”
Quinn sits and stares straight ahead, and Lauren wants to bury her face in her hands, but she won’t give anyone the satisfaction of seeing her like that.
Lunch is awkward. Mike and Puck are already at the table when she and Tina walk in. Tina brown bags her lunch most days, but Lauren hits the hot lunch line. People are definitely talking about her, they keep looking at her out of the corners of their eyes, but no one says anything directly to her. She could stomp toward them, tear into them, yell, but for the moment, she ignores them all.
Her stomach churns, and she still doesn’t want to eat, but she grabs some tater tots and a Coke. If she doesn’t eat, she’ll pass out in weight lifting and wouldn’t that just fuel the flames? The last thing she wants is Jacob Ben Israel’s blog to feature a poll about whether she’s knocked-up or not.
She and Tina sit on the same side of the table, across from the boys, but Puck hooks his foot behind her ankle, pulling her leg closer to his. She bites the inside of her cheek so she won’t beam at him. It’s really not the time to be feeling so good.
Tina peels an orange while she and Puck talk video games, Mike piping up sometimes, and Lauren picks at her tots. Tina pushes a piece of the orange at her. When Lauren stares at it, Tina nudges her.
“Eat it,” she orders. “Have you eaten anything today?”
Lauren shrugs, but she takes a bite of the orange. It bursts bright and sweet on her tongue, and suddenly her stomach grumbles. Tina smiles a little and hands her another piece. Bit by bit, she eats the orange, and then some of her tots, and yeah, okay, she does feel a little better after. Sitting there gets a little easier after that, and she even lets herself smile at Puck, small and fleeting.
They get up when the bell rings, grabbing their trash and clearing the table. Across the room, Mercedes and Kurt are with Quinn. Quinn’s not looking at them, of course, but the matching sour faces on Mercedes and Kurt tear into Lauren.
“Give it time,” Tina says again.
“Yeah.” Lauren scoffs. “Like that’s going to fix anything.” What she doesn’t say is what she really believes: nothing will.
By the time she gets to seventh period, she’s looking forward to working out. Mondays are upper body, and though it’s way too early in the semester, she’s going to max out, because she needs the burn of her muscles.
She dresses out fast in the girl’s locker room. She’s basically got it to herself, not a lot of other girls in her weight lifting class, and she’s glad for it.
Though her first instinct is to avoid him, she hangs out at the water fountain, getting a long, slow drink, until Puck comes out of the guys’ locker room. He heads straight for her, and though she tenses and almost takes a step back, she lets him curl his hand around the back of her neck.
“Today sucks,” she says, and forces a low laugh even though it’s not funny at all.
“I know.” He tilts his head against hers. “Wanna get out of here?”
Yes. “No. You can spot me on bench, though.”
This close, she can actually feel the weight of the promise in his smirk. “Knew you couldn’t resist the Puckasaurus Rex.” He swivels his hips a little. “Just want to check him out from the bench, don’t you?”
She rolls her eyes. “I was going to say you could take me out after sectionals, but no way I’m going to let you near me now. Puckasaurus Rex? Really? How do you come up with this shit?”
“It’s a gift.”
“It’s something all right.” He winks at her, and they separate, heading into the weight room together but not touching.
Ben, Tom, and Andy are definitely talking about them, the way they all shut up the second they come through the door.
Whatever. She shoots them a glare, and they scatter. Her carefully cultivated cult of fear still works. That’s good.
She makes her way to the bench, and Ben starts toward her, but stops when Puck follows her. His face scrunches a little, and she knows she’ll be in for it from the wrestlers at some point. That’s fine, she gets it, a wrestler dating a football player just plain doesn’t happen at McKinley – for so many reasons – but there’s no way she’s dealing with that right now, not with everything else.
Puck grins down at her when she gets settled on the bench; she ignores him. He’s seriously hot, guns bared like they are and that big smile, but this is serious business, and he’s got to learn she won’t be distracted.
Later, maybe, but not in her weight room.
She stares up at the bar, carefully arranging her hands where she wants them, placing her fingers on the marks she's memorized; breathe in, breathe out, and then she pushes up, clearing the bar off the rack, and it's time to work.
Later is stretched out on a blanket in the back of Puck’s truck. She’s kissing him lazily, combing her fingers across his mohawk. The soft fuzz where he’s buzzed off the rest of his hair tickles her palm, and she loves the juxtaposition of the two feelings as she runs her hand along his head.
He has one hand on her hip, his other arm curved near her head so she can use it as a pillow if she wants, and slides his tongue along hers with such finesse her toes curl. His body is solid against hers, and she slides her free hand under his t-shirt, scratching her nails along his back.
She loves this, touching him, kissing him, but sadness swirls through her heart, and she rolls away, onto her back, staring up at what stars she can see through the trees and the clouds and the lights of Lima, small as it is.
He takes her hand, kisses her fingers, letting her use him as a pillow, letting her take comfort from him. This isn’t at all what she expects from him, and the more she learns about Noah Puckerman, or at least this new Noah Puckerman, the more she’s surprised.
The more she learns about him, the parts he keeps hidden, the more dangerous he becomes.
Lauren tugs him closer and closes her eyes.