They weren’t back in one of the hotel rooms for ten seconds when Santana, whom Puck had noticed was practically vibrating with rage, completely lost her shit. Like, she started lunging at Rachel, held back by Sam, Mike and Quinn, screaming, “Escucha, soy de Lima Heights Adjacent y tenga orgullosa. ¿Sabes lo que pasa en Lima Heights Adjacent? Cosas Malas!”
Now, if she’d been trying to claw Finn’s eyes out, Puck would have been able to understand her anger, but no, she was focusing on Rachel. As though it was her fault that Finn had been bone headed enough to plant a kiss on her -- on stage!-- after Rachel had made it clear that she didn’t want to renew their relationship. But no, as always, anything that went wrong somehow ended up being solely Rachel’s fault.
Standing behind Rachel, Puck glanced at Finn, who was sitting on the bed with his face in his hands. In typical Finn behavior, he made no move to defend Rachel from the anger and scorn of anyone else.
That pissed Puck off. He’d been trying to be a good guy, he’d told Finn to make one of those grand, romantic gestures that Rachel liked, knowing that the winds had changed and thus Finn was moping over Rachel again. For Rachel’s part, she was still half in love with Finn and needed a chance to get him out of her system. Frankly, Puck didn’t think there’d be a better way for her to realize Finn was completely wrong for her than for her to date him again.
He and Lauren had worked that out together. After prom they’d realized they were better as friends, but, not wanting to deal with the drama the others seemed to expect whenever a relationship ended, they’d decided to just…not tell anyone until after school let out for the year.
And really, Lauren was kind of awesome, in that badass, evil mastermind way. She hadn’t held back, calling him on his own affection for Rachel, but she didn’t seem put out by it. Just as he didn’t mind that she’d already caught the eye of a wrestler from another district. It was her that helped him organize his jumbled thoughts regarding the whole Finn-Rachel-himself situation.
He might have feelings for her, but until Rachel got over Finn, there’d be no chance of them having a successful relationship.
So he backed off, slipping into back into the role as Finn’s buddy, just a lot smarter and more grown up than he had been in the past.
But this…nope, he couldn’t just let this slide.
Before he could over think things, he stepped forward, moving smoothly around Rachel to block her from Santana’s line of sight with his bulk. Knowing that, when Santana was in one of her violently angry moods, she needed to have her focus broken and he knew how to do that.
Taking a deep breath, he shouted, “Where the fuck do you get off blaming Rachel for this?”
Everyone fell silent, startled by his volume and the fact that someone had stepped up to defend Rachel. Even Finn looked up from his egocentric bubble of woe. Sputtering, but no longer trying to pull out of the hold Mike and Sam kept on her, Santana said, “She…she kissed Finn and Jesse said that ruined….”
“Uh, no,” Jesse said from where he was standing by the wall, watching them all with an expression that managed to straddle entertained and disapproving. “I said Finn ruined your chances of placing….”
Fuck. Was he the only one that actually saw what happened. “They kissed. Both of them were involved, but let’s be real. Rachel gets involved with her performances and all that shit. And she said she didn’t want to get back with Finn so he used the song. So why don’t you all blame him for once?” Puck tossed an arm at Finn, who lurched up off of the bed, face screwed up in that constipated look he got when he was angry…or thinking hard.
“What the hell, man?” Finn demanded, looking down at Puck from his freakish height. “You’re the one who told me to take her out on a romantic, chick-flick date! You wrote that soppy song for us to sing….”
Little hands gripped the back of Puck’s shirt and he felt Rachel lean around him to stare at Finn. “Excuse me!” she demanded and the tone in her voice made everyone in the room, even Santana, take a step back. Everyone except Puck, anchored by her hands, and Finn, pinned by her gaze. “I thought you wrote Pretending?”
Oh, shit. Of course Finn would have to run his mouth in the three sentence he managed to get out. Since Finn had been all about writing the song, Puck had just handed him the lyrics and music he’d composed, giving Finn some line about the ‘leader’ presenting the lyrics. Because it was in his own benefit to do so, Finn easily agreed.
But now the cat was out of the bag.
Everyone was looking at Finn as he said, “Well, no, I umm…Dinner and I was depressed when you said no, so Puck wrote the words.”
“And the music,” Sam piped up helpfully, blithely smiling as Puck tossed him a quelling look.
“Noah, why would you let Finn take credit for your work?” Rachel asked, peering up at him with a look of puzzlement on her face.
He froze for a moment, eyes ticking over to Lauren, who gave him a look that clearly said Make your move, dumb ass!
“You…you have this script in your head,” he began, thanking God that he was surrounded by people who wouldn’t mock him for what he was about to say. Well, St. James might, but Puck knew he could totally kick that dude’s ass. “And you cast Finn as your leading man. So he’s supposed to be the one who does shit like write songs and knows that this city is where you belong. Who knows you’re gonna leave Lima and never look back….”
That was when Finn decided to throw a punch at him. Hell no. He’d let Frankenteen beat him down last year over baby-gate ‘cause he’d felt he deserved it. This time was different…plus, Rachel was still attached to his back and if he fell on her he’d squish her tiny little frame.
Instead of letting Finn’s punch connect, Puck raised his arm to block the blow, then gripped Finn’s forearm and twisted, bringing the bigger boy down to his knees with no fuss.
“Finn!” Mr. Shue shouted, stepping in now that the argument between the boys had gotten physical. “Ho many times do I have to tell you violence is not an appropriate reaction?”
“He started it!” Finn said, a distinct whine in his voice. “Make him let me up!”
Before Mr. Shue could say anything, Puck released Finn’s arm and the bigger boy rose, but moved over to stand by the teacher, clearly missing the look of disappointment on Shue’s face. “You’re just jealous!” he said spat, massaging his arm and really misreading the room.
There was a soft intake of breath from Rachel and Puck decided that he might as well throw caution to the wind. “That she chose you? Yeah. Am I surprised? No. For some reason, the people who never miss a chance to see and point out every little thing we do wrong turn a blind eye to you. I’ve accepted that because next year, high school ends and the real world is going to eat you alive.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Finn demanded, realizing he was being insulted without actually understanding the insult. Puck kind of figured he figured out the insult part of the statement due to the low hum of ‘ooohs” and ‘burns!’. “And why are you still standing with him?!”
Puck was wondering that himself and looked down at Rachel, who was wearing a thoughtful expression, though that morphed into disappointment when she looked over at Finn. “Because I want to,” she said, look of reproach clear on her face.
“No you don’t,” Finn told her and you could almost hear the sound of eyes all around the room rolling. “You kissed me!”
“I returned your kiss, something I completely regret!” Rachel responded, ducking around Puck to plant herself in front of him and jab a finger in Finn’s direction. “I told you I was not interested in continuing our relationship and yet you persisted and I was weak. I thought you cared enough about me to write a lovely song and were inspired to take me out for a lovely meal, but that wasn’t you, was it? You didn’t think you’d need to put effort into wooing me. You just assumed I’d trip over myself to take you back, but now I’m thinking that perhaps I viewed our entire relationship through rose tinted glasses. I…I need to take a walk.”
“Fresh air sounds lovely,” Kurt hurried to say and there were noises of assent from around the room.
Finn took a step forward and Mr. Shue grabbed his shoulder. “No,” the teacher said sternly. “You tried to assault a classmate. You’re staying in your room, is that clear?”
Whatever Finn’s response was, it was muffled as the door swung shut, everyone, including Jesse vacating into the hall and wandering down to the lobby as though in shell shock.
“Where are we going?” Britt asked, raising her face to look up at the sunny spring sky.
No one had a set place in mind, so Puck nodded his head to the left. “My cousin told me about a bakery I noticed was down the street. Babycakes Bakery. I could eat a cupcake.”
Because cupcakes were not a food to be turned down, the group began to wander down the sidewalk. Puck offered Rachel his elbow as he had before and she looped her tiny hand through it. A few feet away, Jesse commented, “Nicely done, Puckerman. It’s hard to look beyond that atrocity on your head, but you might have potential to step up into a more prominent role in New Directions next year.”
“Jesse! Be nice,” Rachel chided, then looked up at Puck again. “While the Mohawk may be initially off putting, I find it charming. Very distinctly, Noah. It‘s…puckish.”
Peering at Puck again, Jesse nodded and agreed, “That is true…and considering his name, clever wordplay. I’ve revised my opinion. The Mohawk works.”
“Gee, thanks,” Puck drawled, then nodded to the rest of the group. They were slightly ahead of them. “Let’s catch up. I wanna see them loose their shit when they find out it’s a vegan bakery.”
Rachel’s eyes brightened and he knew she was pleased that he’d directed them to such a shop. He figured what the hell. Rachel was a vegan and some vegan food, especially the sweets, were pretty damn good. Rachel’s cookies were always awesome.
He wondered how no one else figured that the snacks their vegan teammate brought to rehearsals were vegan. Then again, they were the same people who seemed to think Finn knew how to write sheet music, thought he and Lauren were still a couple and didn’t know Sam and Mercedes were, so he wasn’t putting much stock in their observational skills.
But, for the moment, that shit didn’t matter. The New Directions might be the high school equivalent to the Island of Misfit Toys (Shut up, his little sister liked Christmas specials), but they were his friends. Since getting out of juvie, he’d pulled his grades up to a respectable level and summer was fast approaching. Next year he’d be a senior and they’d win Nationals.
From the grin on Rachel’s face and the excited way she squeezed his arm, he could see she was thinking the same thing.