Another little P/R drabble-ish gone wrong thing. It's kind of not what I'd anticipated it being when I started but... meh. Anyway.
Written with ♥ for cheapen , who gave me the prompt: "Your relationship is like watching 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.' I didn't even see it or anything, but even the title sucks."
Puck’d been at Rachel’s apartment for over an hour when she finally got home. It was, as she liked to put it, an abuse of the power of the emergency key she’d given him, because it obviously wasn’t an emergency, but she’d put up with two years of his shit so she was used to him barging in by now. That’s what friends did, right? Besides, she (fondly) held on to the belief that he had no manners anyway, so he figured there was no harm in proving her right.
He glanced up when he heard the door open, and took a moment to appreciate the sight. "Hey, you look hot. Where've you been?"
She glanced up as she closed and locked the door, no surprise on her face when she saw him sitting on her couch watching her tv and eating her food. (Okay, maybe there was some surprise that he was eating her food, but he'd found a bag of vegan chips in her cabinet that he knew from past experience didn't taste like complete and total crap, and he was hungry.) "Thanks. I had a date."
That statement made him feel a little sick, and he didn’t know why. It’s not like they were dating or anything, they were just friends, who yes had some sexual tension lingering between them, but… some other guy taking up her time when he’d wanted to hang out kind of pissed him off. "With who?"
"Who do you think? Roger."
Ugh, Roger. Just the name legit made Puck cringe. He'd met the guy once(she hadn't actually wanted him to, but she was too small to actually kick him out of her place, no matter how much she threatened) and he couldn't have been more wrong for Rach. For one thing, the guy owned a steakhouse. How the fuck he'd even convinced her to go out with him, Puck didn't know. The vegan and the guy who made his money selling roasted animals? That was some seriously fucked up logic right there.
Plus the guy totally didn't seem to get her. He'd stood in the doorway of her apartment, with this fuckin' superior look on his face that Puck had been this close to wiping off with his fists, and when she'd started babbling about whatever art gallery they were going to, he'd actually told her to calm down, that it wasn't that big of a deal. When she'd been completely excited about it.
And yeah, maybe she had been weirdly eager to go look at paint slapped across canvas, but that was Rach. She was this tiny person packed so full of energy that it came bursting out of her, often at the worst damn times, but it was kind of part of her charm. She'd been happy, and there was something about Rachel when she was genuinely happy that made everyone around her feel better.
Except, apparently, Roger. Puck could still remember the way her face had fallen for that one second before she pasted on a fake smile and actually apologized. He didn't get what the fuck she'd had to apologize for—not having a stick shoved up her ass and feeling that she was too good to be happy over something?
Nothing she’d said about the guy since then had improved the way Puck saw him, so yeah, he was kind of waiting for her to realize that he was a douche and kick him to the curb. It was kind of surprising that it hadn’t happened yet. "You're still going out with that asshole? Really?"
Rachel sighed as she kicked off her shoes and made her way over to the couch. "Roger's a perfectly nice man, Noah. I don't see why you insist on calling him names."
"I don't like the dude."
She smiled a little as she sat down next to him, lifting her legs to rest them across his lap. Well, on his lap. Her midget legs weren't actually long enough to make it across, but he thought it was kind of cute that she tried anyway. "Really? I had no idea. You're getting so good at subtlety, Noah."
He pinched her ankle, then squirmed when she laughed and tried to kick him dangerously close to the family jewels. Note to self, don’t start shit with girls who are in a position to make you sing an octave higher. "And you're getting better at sarcasm. Soon you'll be a regular smartass."
“Coming from you, I’ll take that as a compliment.” Completely relaxed now, she reached up and started pulling the pins from her hair.
He watched as the long locks began to tumble down around her shoulders, saw the look of quiet relief on her face, and thought that this was like the start to an awesome striptease. Too bad there was no way she’d finish it in front of him.
“So, honestly, Noah. Why don’t you like him?”
He blinked, snapping out of the trance. “Uh, aside from the fact that the dude’s a bastard?”
“Yes,” she sighed patiently, “since I do not consider that in any way constructive criticism, aside from that.”
Uncomfortable, he shrugged. She’d never actually asked him this kind of shit before, and he hoped to hell that it didn’t mean she was getting serious with Roger. “He’s just… he doesn’t fit you, okay?”
He expected her to blow up at him, because this was Rachel and she didn’t like to have other people say when they thought she was making the wrong choices, even if she did ask for honesty. But instead she smirked, just a little. “How would you know if he fits me or not?”
Blank. His mind fizzled for a whole ten seconds before it came back to life. Was Rachel seriously making a dirty joke? “Shit, I think I really am starting to wear off on you. ‘Bout damn time.” Except why, God, did it have to be about fucking asshat Roger?
She giggled, obviously proud of herself for having the balls to say that—what other dirty thoughts went through her head that she didn’t say?—even if the light hint of a blush on her cheeks kind of ruined the effect.
But shit, for serious: was she fucking the guy? It wasn’t even eleven yet and she was home, with no boil of humanity attached to her hip, so that seemed like a no… but then Roger was totally the kind of guy Puck could see going to an early dinner, which would leave time for a roll in the sack before he turned back into a stinky, wart-marred pumpkin at the late hour of ten.
Was there any way for him to ask if they’d done the deed yet, without her twisting her foot and making an instant eunuch out of him? Probably not. Goddamn it, it just wasn’t something he was willing to gamble with.
“I know I shouldn’t encourage you, but I couldn’t help it,” she admitted, still grinning. “Back to serious conversation now. Explain, please.”
This wasn’t gonna go well. He knew that before he even opened his mouth, and maybe he should’ve pled the fifth, but he didn’t. Puck didn’t do staying silent because it was safe. “He doesn’t really like you.”
She frowned. “What?”
“Shit, I mean he doesn’t like the real you. He likes you ‘cause you’re gorgeous and you’re in theater, which to some people means culture, and you’re smart—”
“And which part of this do you think is not the real me?” she interrupted, an edge to her voice.
Jesus Christ, had he just called her stupid? “No, that’s you,” he assured her, very aware of the placement of her feet. “Let me try this again. Your relationship is like watching 'I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change.' I didn't even see it or anything, but even the title sucks."
"What? Noah, that's not—“
"He likes what he sees on the surface, okay—dude would be a moron not to—and he’s into you. But to get to the you he really wants, he’s fuckin’ with the stuff that makes you… you. He’s gonna keep trying to change you until he gets the version he wants, and that shit’s not cool, Rachel.” Because Puck was starting to wonder if the guy might succeed, and the thought of that was oddly terrifying.
She stood up, shaking her head. “That isn’t true, Noah. You have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t I?” he shot back, getting up too because looking up at Rach during an argument was just creepy. “Okay, then tell me why you’re wearing pants.”
She stared at him in complete bewilderment. “Because indecent exposure would get me arrested, Noah!”
“You don’t like wearing pants. You’ve been a skirt kind of girl since high school, and you know it.”
She put her hands on her hips and glowered. “You just said five minutes ago that I looked hot.”
“I’m not sayin’ you don’t look smokin’ right now, Rach. I’m saying you’re wearing pants because you think it’ll make him happy, not because it’s what you want to do. And you went all dark side for the guy. You like colors. Look like a fucking rainbow half the time, but that’s you and it works. You’ve been all dark and… pant-sy since you started dating this guy.”
She glanced down at her black pants and navy sweater combination, then stubbornly, dismissively, looked back up. “I have not—”
“Yes you have, and you know what else? You’re toning down, like, everything, and as someone who knew you in high school, I never expected to say this, but it’s fuckin’ wrong. You’re supposed to be all bright and shiny and loud, not dull. Just cause Roger’s a goddamn robot doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel anything anymore.” She was frozen, standing there staring back at him with big eyes and disbelief all over her face, and he was pretty sure that he’d hurt her feelings by letting that all out. Well shit, he hadn’t meant to hurt her feelings. But he needed to be honest.
This conversation was making him realize how close she really was to just fading away, and how much he didn’t want that to happen. Like, he couldn’t stand it. Maybe, right now, it was his worst nightmare. “You’ve done this before, Rach,” he said, more gently. “In high school, with Finn. You keep trying to change to make other people happy. That shit doesn’t work, babe.”
She clenched her fists and lifted her head in a way that was obstinate and so familiar it almost made him smile, except she was clearly pissed. “I’m tired. Can you please leave, Noah?”
He sighed, shifting awkwardly on his feet. “Rachel—”
She gritted her teeth and repeated, “Please,” which normally wouldn’t have been enough to make him listen. Except right now that ‘Please’ sounded more like ‘Fuck off,’ and the look she gave him was cold enough to shrivel his extremities.
Wondering why anyone bothered with honesty when all it got you was tossed out on your ass, he let her usher him to the front door, but stopped short when she held it open and glared meaningfully. “Anyone who thinks you’re not good enough the way you are ‘s fuckin’ nuts, Berry,” he told her quietly. “They’re the ones that need to change, not you.”
And he left, feeling like some serious shit had just gone down and not knowing where the hell it left him, or them.
Noah was wrong. Of course he was wrong. He was being overprotective, and an ass, and he didn’t know what he was talking about.
Except, when she went out with Roger that weekend and Noah’s words kept repeating in her mind, it didn’t feel like he was wrong.
She’d worn the amazing new pink blouse she bought when she was out with Quinn the other day, just to make a point, and the look Roger had given her when she opened the door to greet him was… disapproving, she supposed would be the best way to describe it.
Things had gone steadily downhill from there.
She’d gotten tickets from one of her friends to the opening of a new show on Broadway, and she’d tried to engage him in conversation about it on the way to the theater. When she was in the middle of telling him what she’d heard about the costumes, he’d interrupted and suggested, very politely, that they talk about something else.
Rachel couldn’t figure out why hearing his nicely-worded request had stung more than the innumerable times Noah had cut her off with a grin mid-rant and said, “Take a fucking breath, why don’t you, Berry?” Maybe it was because with Noah she’d never had a problem with giving a mock glare and continuing. With Roger, she felt that perhaps he really didn’t want to hear any more of what she had to say.
And maybe it was just because she was looking for faults that night, but he did seem exceptionally unemotional about… everything. His reactions to the play, to the music, to their dinner were all bland, bland, bland. Rachel hated bland. Why hadn’t she noticed before that he was so staid?
She didn’t let him come up to her apartment, and didn’t say much either way about their next date, but somewhere inside she had a feeling there wouldn’t be one. Because maybe she hadn’t meant to—she certainly hadn’t realized what she’d been doing at the time—but she had been trying to become Roger’s dream girl so he would love her.
The problem? Roger’s dream girl was boring, and would probably require a severe brain cell deficiency to be happy living the kind of life he would give her. The guy had money, and was handsome, but in other categories he was lacking.
Besides, she had already tried this path with another boyfriend, and the words “sad clown hooker” came to mind with enough force to make her wince. People were supposed to learn from their mistakes, but she’d fallen into the same dumb routine.
Instead of going inside her apartment and wallowing, she headed back downstairs and out into the cool night air. As she walked, she pulled out her cell phone and typed a quick message to one of the few men who knew her completely, no faults hidden. Mallory’s. Drinks. Interested?
They hadn’t spoken since she kicked him out of her apartment, so she was a little worried about whether or not he’d even bother with her on a Saturday night, but less than a minute later, his reply flashed across the faceplate. Be there in 10.
She was already drowning her sorrows in a big glass of red wine when Noah joined her, sliding into her side of the booth rather than taking the seat across from her. She took a sip of her drink and gave him a sad puppy-dog look out of the corner of her eye. “You ruined everything, Noah.”
He laughed, slinging an arm over her shoulder. The invite had pretty much told him he was forgiven, but now he knew what had happened between her and Roger. “I know.”
Chuckling, she leaned closer, resting her head on his shoulder. He held her there for a moment, just held her in a way that was comforting and warm and mildly intoxicating all in itself, while she sipped at her wine. “Thank you.” Still looking like a cuddly little animal that had been kicked one too many times, she held her glass up to him as a peace offering.
He took it, only because he felt like refusing would insult her, swallowed a mouthful, and tried not to wince. He hated wine. “’S no big deal.”
She sighed. “Do you really think there’s someone who’ll love me, without wanting me to change?”
“Crazy girl. Some people already do.”
The smile that lit up her face was part joyful, part shy, and totally worth him acting like a sap and drinking something that reminded him of fruit tree sludge.
“Oh, and Rach?”
He handed her back the glass. “You look hot in pink.”
She just grinned and snuggled in closer.