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Fic: Born in the Pound 1/2

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Title: Born in the Pound, Raised by Humans

Author: FaithDaria

Genre: Supernatural/Crossover with Kelley Armstrong’s “Otherworld series

Rating: PG-13

Summary: Noah Puckerman discovers that sometimes a family inheritance doesn’t translate to a pile of cash or an ugly knickknack.

Nick was the one who first caught the scent on one of his trips into the city. Normally a mutt passing through New York City wasn’t cause for great concern. As much as they’d like to make it off-limits, it was a major transportation hub and hard to avoid. He called Stonehaven to let the rest of the Pack know about it and started trailing the mutt to deliver a warning. Just because it wasn’t practical to keep every single mutt out of a major transportation hub like New York City didn’t mean that whoever had wandered into Pack Territory could get away without at least a reminder.

He lost the trail in the subway, which was enough to give him pause. There weren’t many werewolves that would willingly get onto a subway train crammed full of humans, even if it was late enough that traffic was relatively light. He still had no idea how Elena had done it for so long. Cities were something to be briefly tolerated because of the easy access to resources that they offered and avoided the rest of the time. There were far too many people in far too little space, if you asked any werewolf with an ounce of sense.

His father was the only available backup and Nick didn’t want to drag him away from business for something like this, so when he lost the scent he didn’t call in and report his temporary failure. Elena or Jeremy would just send Antonio in to help take care of it and Nick was absolutely sure that he could handle this. Wolves were creatures of habit. If he was staying in the city, the mutt would come back to the same section of the park, and if he didn’t return it would mean that the mutt had moved along, which meant that the problem was solved. All he had to do was wait.

xxx
[eighteen months earlier]

English class should be outlawed for being this boring, or at least certain people shouldn’t be allowed to teach it. Mrs. Dawkins didn’t even have the benefit of being hot and even she sometimes dozed off in class, so there was no way Puck could have been expected to pay attention. The old bat gave credit just for showing up, though, and he needed to pass this one to graduate, so he hunkered down into his seat and gritted his teeth.

His stomach was growling by the time the bell rang, and he walked away from the classroom and to his locker. He just needed to take the tests to pass that math class, anyway. Besides, Berry had a free period right about now and he could spend the time bugging her once he’d grabbed food out of his locker. He was pretty sure her dads were out of town again and that seemed like a prime opportunity for anther party, now that the memories of the last one had died down a little. He probably wouldn’t even have to bribe Santana with alcohol to get the gleeks to show up, if he sold it under the cause of getting Berry to lighten up a little.

He was halfway through his second Snickers bar by the time he made it to the auditorium, taking off bites and barely chewing them before he swallowed, and he wished he had another stashed away somewhere, or that he had time to head off of school grounds and grab a burger. In the old days Puck wouldn’t have even worried about it, but now that he was on probation the teachers actually paid attention when he skipped class and would totally narc on him, and there was no way he was going back to juvie for something that small.

Rachel was sitting at the piano when Puck slipped in through the stage door. There was a stack of sheet music set up on the stand and the girl was once again demonstrating her own special brand of intense concentration as she played, her eyes on the music in front of her. She didn’t flinch or anything when he sat down next to her, though, so she’d probably seen or heard him coming no matter how into the music she looked. “Noah.”

“Berry. How’s my fellow good-looking Jew?”

“Aware enough to know that you’re about to ask me for something,” she said, her voice even despite the words. Her hands kept moving across the piano keys. “I’m not throwing another party like last time, Puckerman. I think I can safely say that I will not be touching alcohol for a very long time. Having someone vomit on you can have that effect.” She shuddered, the motion delicate enough to have been rehearsed. Trust Berry to turn it into acting fodder.

“No booze this time,” he said. It wasn’t technically a promise, because he wasn’t about to start policing everyone else, but he was the only glee member with a decent fake ID so odds were no one else would be bringing more than they could sneak out of their houses. “You’re wound too tight. Someone’s going to murder you in your sleep if you don’t relax, and then we’ll never win Nationals. So the glee kids will come over and we’ll hang out in your basement and watch movies or play X-box or something and no one gets killed. It’s a win-win situation.”

Her hands finally stilled, the music dying out on a fairly nice chord because Rachel didn’t end anything on a sour note. “What’s in it for you?”

He shrugged. “I like to win championships and if they kill you we probably won’t win Nationals. Besides, you’re my Jewish American Princess. What would I do with my life if you weren’t around to nag me about going to class?”

“All right,” Rachel said, picking up her place on the piano keys. “I will agree so long as you promise you won’t bring alcohol. And as long as you make sure that the other members of the glee club are there.”

“Excellent.” Puck smirked, because she’d left a lot of loopholes open in that discussion and he was going to see about exploiting every single one of them.

Starting to plan for a high school party three days early was almost insane, but he knew that Rachel probably thought she was being insanely spontaneous for not scheduling out the entire night three weeks in advance. It took some convincing to get her to loosen up on the reins and let him take over, but Rachel didn’t really have time to make out those types of plans right now. She and Hannah were in the same dance studio and it was recital season, so if she wasn’t at school she was at a rehearsal or a class or doing homework she was probably sleeping. Puck wasn’t about to complain about it, though, ‘cause she might be the closest thing he had to an honest-to-God friend and her insane schedule meant that he wasn’t hearing or seeing her mope over Finn.

It was fairly easy to get most of the glee dweebs on board with the plan. Even Santana agreed to show up with only a token protest and two or three catty insults, so she must have seen the secondary mission to get Rachel to relax a little and approved, in her own way. Those two weren’t friends, would probably never be friends, but Santana had finally managed to figure out that Rachel was their best shot at winning. They had an even better shot if Berry didn’t work herself into a nervous breakdown.

Friday should have actually been the best day of the week since he didn’t have anything planned for the weekend beyond the party and the standing Halo Saturday at Artie’s house. Weekends since football season had ended were seriously the best thing ever, even if Zizes hadn’t opened up the shop for business and he was still trying his hand at an actual relationship.

Instead he woke up feeling like crap. It was especially weird because he knew he hadn’t gotten drunk the night before (his mom had ransacked his room while he was in juvie, finding and removing all of his stashes, and continued to check at least twice a month for anything that she thought he shouldn’t have) and because he seriously couldn’t remember the last time he’d gotten sick if you excluded hangovers. This was different. His bones were aching and his skin practically burned under his clothing, tingling in large patches.

Normally he would have taken the golden opportunity to stay home from school for this completely legitimate illness, but his mom was off work for the day and if he didn’t go to school she would be on his ass about the party. It wasn’t that he couldn’t get around her, but the effort of it when he was already going to have to put in extra effort just to be Puck wouldn’t be worth it. So he went to school and tried his best to sleep through all of his classes, growling at any teachers that tried to make him stay awake.

There wasn’t glee rehearsal after school, which meant that he could go home and sleep. He’d helped with most of the set-up the night before, shoving furniture around and stocking the basement fridge with Coke and Mountain Dew and bottled water and nixing most of Rachel’s suggestions for games and schedules and party favors. All he needed to do now was show up.

If he’d had any kind of sense, he would have skipped the party despite the effort he’d put into getting it going in the first place, but Puck would be the first to admit that he’d never exactly been big on common sense. He woke up from his nap when the text alert on his phone went off, letting him know that Berry was still worried about the whole party. The weird feeling under his skin wasn’t any better for the sleep; if anything it was worse. But he’d talked the rest of the glee nerds into showing up and either Santana or Zizes might show up at his house to kill him if he didn’t at least make an appearance, so he trudged out to the truck and climbed inside, his joints aching like he was ninety years old.

By the time Puck had managed to drive across town to the Berry house his hands were cramping and he was starting to think that this might have been a bad idea. Rachel opened the door, thankfully wearing something that didn’t look like it had escaped from the seventies, and the smile slid off of her face. “What’s wrong? Are you sick? Because I can’t afford to get sick right now.”

“ ‘M not sick,” he mumbled. “Tired. Need to sleep.”

She looked a little skeptical, but stepped aside and let him walk through the door. “You’re the first one here,” she informed him, her tone a little too forcefully cheerful. Probably worried no one was going to show. “Why don’t we go down to the basement and you can sleep on the couch down there until more glee club members show up?”

He followed her down the stairs, leaning a little too heavily on the railing, and dropped down onto the leather couch with a grunt of effort. There was sweat beading up between his shoulder blades and behind his knees and Rachel’s face creased up with worry when she rested one cool hand on his forehead. “You’re hot,” she said, moving across the room to the fridge they’d stocked up last night before returning with a bottle of water.

“Nice of you to notice,” Puck grunted, taking the bottle she was offering and guzzling down half of hit before he came up for air.

Rachel frowned at him. “I’m serious, Noah. You’re running a fever. You should probably be in the hospital.”

“No hospital,” he said, practically growling out the words. He laid back against the couch, feeling his body heat sink into the leather almost instantly on contact. The muscles in his arms and legs were twitching and Puck slid down and to the side until he was nearly curled up into a fetal position. The pain was everywhere now, burning from the tips of his fingers to his toes. “Think you could get some painkillers for me, Berry?” he managed to grunt out.

The dim light of the basement was starting to hurt his eyes, so he closed them and listened as she got up from the couch and headed up the stairs. If he paid close enough attention, he could hear her moving around in the kitchen upstairs, opening cabinet doors and walking across the room. When he heard her light footsteps on the basement steps he let his eyes open up into slits. Rachel stepped into view with an oddly serious expression on her face. “Daddy had some Tylenol 3 stashed away. I don’t want to give you anything stronger.” She held out her hand, ready to drop the pills into his palm and he closed his eyes against the light and reached for them with his right hand. It was screaming in agony just like his left, but he was a little more used to it from his punching hand.

There was a sharp intake of breath from Rachel and Puck opened his eyes a little, squinting at the girl. He followed her line of sight to his hand, staring at it and the way his fingers were suddenly shorter, malformed, and covered with thick, coarse hair. In some deep, hidden place Puck started to full-out panic, but it was an oddly dull feeling under the physical pain he was currently experiencing.

Rachel grabbed his wrist, thinner than usual and similarly covered in hair, and hauled him to his feet with surprising strength. Puck let her pull him across the room without putting up a struggle, mostly because he was still trying to figure out what the hell was happening. It was hard to push past the burning pain in his arms and chest and think.

She stopped in the far corner of the room, right against the wall, and reached up on her toes, pressing against one of the decorative panels. There was a click, oppressively loud to Puck’s ears, and one third of the wall swung out into the basement, revealing a smaller room, furnished with a durable-looking couch and a sturdy wooden table.

When she tried to drag him into the room he dug his heels in, finally balking. “What the hell is going on?”

“I just learned something about you that makes perfect sense,” she said, tugging on his arm a little more forcefully. “Go! I’ll take care of everything.” She stepped around him as he stumbled into the room, pain shooting up his arms and legs and across his face, and started to swing the door closed behind him. “You might want to take your clothes off,” she said just before the latch clicked shut. Puck rolled his eyes, or tried to. The gesture hurt too much for him to finish. He’d kicked off his shoes at the door because Rachel got pissed when people wore shoes around her house, but he pulled off his shirt and struggled out of his jeans. He wasn’t entirely convinced that this wasn’t some weird sex thing and he’d pretty much programmed himself to answer that request whenever it was given by a good-looking girl.

His muscles were twitching and the pain in his bones made him drop to the floor, still in his boxers. He managed to make it to all fours more by luck than anything else, gritting his teeth because he was a badass and badasses didn’t whimper in pain. A minute later he didn’t have to worry about whimpering in pain because he was screaming instead.

Puck had felt some real, serious pain before in his life, starting with his dad after a few too many drinks and ending in fights at school and sports, all of which had left him with the occasional broken bone. This was different, so much more than a cracked rib or a fractured arm. He kept hoping that it would get overwhelming enough for him to pass out, but Noah Puckerman had never had that kind of luck. He did lose track of time, though, lost in the feeling of his bones breaking and reforming, organs being rearranged. Somewhere in the whole mess he had figured out exactly what was happening and a part of him managed to be grateful that Berry had shoved him in here and away from everyone. This wasn’t something he wanted anyone else to see, ever. Another, larger part just wanted out of the room. He didn’t belong here, locked up away from everything that would offer a good hunt.

There was no telling how much time had passed when he made it onto wobbly legs, four instead of his usual two. It should have been weird as hell, but the part of his mind that would have gone into total freak-out had checked out somewhere in the middle of this whole thing. He didn’t feel different, not really. He was still Noah Puckerman, and right now he was also a wolf. If anything, Puck was more disturbed by the fact that he wasn’t really disturbed about any of this. Right now, like this, it made perfect sense. This was what he was. This was what he was meant to be.

xxx

This was not typically Nick’s responsibility, and he wasn’t nearly as good at it as the team-up of Clay and Elena. Tracking down and intimidating mutts just wasn’t his thing. He was perfectly content with his position in the pack, as it gave him the most benefits for the least amount of work. Mentoring the latest additions to the pack was about as far as he was willing to go, usually. Unfortunately Nick was the only one here at this moment and by the time one of the others got into place they stood a good chance at losing the mutt in the press of people that made up New York City.

Finding the wolf meant making a plan, and while he’d been working on that particular skill over the last few years with the Sorrentino business it still wasn’t something he excelled at. Nick was better at following orders than giving them despite everything, so when he called home to let the pack know what was up, he swallowed his pride and asked the Alpha-elect for tips on hunting mutts. It took them half an hour to hammer out a plan he could live with, but he felt much lighter when he hung up. Tomorrow he started his mutt-hunt.

xxx

Puck hadn’t exactly given much thought to monsters, beyond idle planning on what he would be doing in the event of a zombie apocalypse and telling the occasional ghost story to freak out his sister. He hadn’t been prepared to turn into a monster, and he definitely hadn’t been ready for how much it would hurt. The only thing he could guarantee at this moment, as he climbed to his feet and unlocked the door, was that Buffy the Vampire Slayer had been full of crap. His baby-sitter (Kelli, a sarcastic brunette and also his first crush, back when he was six) had been a fan and had let him stay up and watch it with her when she stayed over. His memories of the show were more than a little fuzzy, but he remembered when the short musician (Kelli’s favorite character and probably the reason he first showed interest in the guitar) would wake up the next morning with no clue what had gone down. It didn’t work like that for him. Puck remembered everything from last night, from the unbelievable pain of his bones shifting and breaking and reforming to prowling around the little panic room and eventually catching and eating a mouse that he half-suspected Rachel had released into the room to keep him busy. That particular memory wasn’t one he’d be reliving later, though at the time it hadn’t bothered him at all.

The basement was deserted when he stepped through the door and from the looks of things she must have sent the glee kids home without a party. That was a little disappointing. The entire point of last night’s gig had been to get her to relax before she killed someone, maybe get in a little team togetherness or something. Rachel must have spun some story to get them to cancel and that would probably end up biting her in the ass later on. Berry was a great actress, but a horrible liar.

His jeans were pretty much shredded and no matter how well she’d handled last night Berry would probably kill him if he wandered around naked, so he started searching for something that would count as slightly decent. By the time he’d found a pair of sweatpants in the dryer, the smell of pancakes wafting down the basement stairs was making his stomach growl in anticipation.

Rachel was at the stove, a bowl of pancake batter on her left and a stack of pancakes on her right. “The coffee is ready if you would like to have a cup, and there’s orange juice in the refrigerator. Grab a plate and sit down.” She didn’t turn around when she spoke, all of her focus on the griddle directly in front of her.

If he hadn’t been so hungry, he might have wondered what was going on with Rachel, but right now even his worry and internal freak-out about turning into a fucking wolf took a distant second to getting food into his stomach. Apparently turning into a wolf jumped up your appetite. Who knew?

Rachel sat down across from him at the table, a half-empty mug of some liquid that was tinted pale green and smelled decidedly not like coffee. Puck would never understand tea drinkers. She didn’t reach for any of the stack of pancakes, possibly because she was afraid that she would lose a hand if she tried, and she didn’t say anything while Puck ate. It wasn’t until he’d polished off the food and swigged down another cup of coffee that she finally spoke. “Do you remember anything from last night?”

He snorted. “I remember turning into a freaking wolf. And you locking me into the room. That pretty much hit the highlights?” Puck was absolutely not going to mention the mouse incident. The werewolf thing had a coolness factor that disappeared when you considered that he’d eaten a raw mouse the night before.

She nodded. “Do you recall if you have, by any chance, been bitten or scratched by anything recently? An animal or a person?”

Her voice was even, but she was being way too polite, using more words than necessary, and Rachel only did that when she was nervous. It wasn’t hard to reach the conclusion from there and realize that she was scared of him. Two years ago he would have relished the knowledge. Now it just made him ashamed and a little queasy. “No. No dogs, and nothing kinky with the cougars since before Beth was born.”

Rachel blew out a breath. “Hereditary, then.” She stood up and started pacing the kitchen. “It makes sense, really, and it explains so much about you. You’ve always been so very aggressive, but it’s been worse the past couple of years. And I’m not going to even think about how much of a horndog you’ve been since you hit puberty, because I’m fairly certain everyone knows about that.”

His mind had stopped tracking her words back at the first one and his thoughts immediately went to Beth, tucked away with Shelby Corcoran somewhere in New York City. He couldn’t bring that up, though, not to Rachel (or to anyone else who had been tangled up in Quinn’s pregnancy last year). “So I got it from my mom?”

She shook her head. “From your father. The gene follows the Y chromosome, so it can’t be passed to a girl, or come from your mother. It’s another one of those pieces that clicked into place, to be honest. Most werewolves are loners and they don’t really stay in one place for very long. Your dad fits the profile. The only thing that doesn’t really fit is that they usually don’t leave boys behind when they have children.”

Puck looked at the girl next to him, eyes narrowing in suspicion. “How do you know all about this, Rachel?”

To most people she probably looked completely calm and at ease, but he’d known Rachel since they were both in diapers and he recognized her show face when she put it on. She’d worn it almost continuously for the first two years of high school, after all. “The company my dad works for only employs non-humans,” she finally said.

“So that means you’re not human,” he deduced. It made perfect sense, and explained why she had never really known how to fit in. Given recent revelations and last night’s activities, it made him feel spectacularly shitty about the way he’d treated her freshman year.

“I would like to remind you that no one knows which of my parents is my biological father,” she said primly. “Daddy is completely human and entirely normal. Besides, the thing that makes Dad different doesn’t transfer to the next generation. You, however, turned into a wolf last night. I’m fairly certain that takes away any right to cast aspersions on my humanity.”

Puck grunted. She had a point, even if he would never willingly admit it. “Less words, Rachel. Are you calling your Dad right now?”

“I would never do that to you, Noah.” She wrinkled her nose, presumably at the thought. “There’s a prejudice against werewolves within the structure of the Cabals that basically says you are all brutish, dumb savages and we both know that isn’t true. I would never subject you to that kind of bigotry. We’ll just have to work on you being able to control when you change on our own.”

He looked at her for a moment. “You totally memorized everything your dad could get you on werewolves, didn’t you?”

Rachel blushed. “I started with vampires, but they were disappointing. They mostly just have normal jobs and siphon their blood from one night stands, and all of the files suggested that they have incredibly large egos. Even with the clear racist slant on werewolves, they were much more interesting. Did you know that there’s only one female werewolf on the entire continent of North America, as far as anyone in the Cabals know? She’s second-in-command of some sort of organization.”

“Well, that sucks,” Puck muttered. “I’m guessing she’s not up for any fun on the side, either. That’s just the way my year’s been going.”

Rachel continued talking like he hadn’t said anything. It was oddly comforting and familiar. “Apparently most people don’t survive long enough for a bite to actually infect them, and most women don’t live through the first change or two. Also, women are less likely to be bitten in general. Since that seems to be the only way for a woman to become a werewolf, it’s understandable that there aren’t more.”

“Yeah, that’s good to know,” he interjected, recognizing an approaching Rachel Berry rant with the ease of long practice. “So how exactly am I going to learn how to control it?”

Rachel beamed and sat up straighter in her chair. “I did some research last night, independent of the resources Dad brought home. I think I’ve got a few places to start.”

Puck figured out she had been serious about the research pretty quickly when she dragged out her laptop and a stack of books. She had a fresh notebook that she handed over to him, along with a pen. “Write down every question you want answered. We’ll start there.”

He could have rolled his eyes and walked away. It would have been easier. He might get along better now with Rachel than ever before in his life, but she was still best taken in small doses. But she had answers, probably, or could find them easier than anyone else he knew, and just the idea of taking any of this to anyone else scared the crap out of him. He’d seen enough television to know better. Besides, it would be fun to mess with her.

He spent an hour or so on the questions, more because he kept getting distracted by food and the sounds outside (and by the always-present lure of sex whenever he was in the same room as a hot girl) than because it was hard to figure out what he wanted to ask.

Of course, Rachel ended up rolling her eyes at several of the questions. “No, I’m not having sex with you right now. No, I’m not up for a threesome with either Lauren Zizes or Santana Lopez. And no, I will not dress up like Princess Leia in the slave-girl bikini for you.” She pulled out a pen and crossed those off the list with more force than necessary.

“Noticed that ‘right now,’ Berry.” Puck grinned as he stood up from the kitchen table, hungry and oddly restless and energetic considering the previous night’s activities. “That mean it’s open to renegotiation?”

“I’ve learned not to underestimate you,” Rachel said. “I think we can both agree that it’s a bad idea right now, between Finn and Lauren and everything else that’s happened, but you are very hard to resist. But I will hold my position on threesomes and the costume.”

He couldn’t help the smirk, though he hid it behind the refrigerator door, pulling things out to make a decent sandwich. He had a feeling that Rachel would totally be up for role-playing once he explained it as acting. That one was just a matter of time.

“Why are you doing this?” Puck asked around a garbled mouthful of chicken sandwich. Rachel had something that looked a little too green and smelled funny, not to mention far too liquid for his own taste. “The wolf freaks you out and you’re scared of me, so why bother? Why not just tell your dad you’ve got a werewolf that he can hand off to his boss?”

“I’m not scared of you,” Rachel protested. Puck gave her a look with a raised eyebrow as punctuation. “I’m not! It’s just that I hate pain and the screaming when you changed last night was so loud that I threw up twice before it stopped. Twice, Noah! You know how unpleasant that is for me.”

“No one likes puking, Berry, and you didn’t answer my question.”

Rachel sat very still on her kitchen stool and kept her attention on the glass of green goop in her hands. “I’m helping you because you’re my friend, Noah, possibly the only one I have, and this is important to you.” There was a bright smile, not quite show-face but close. “Besides, maybe I can get a song or two out of it. I can use the werewolf thing as a metaphor for coming of age.”

He snorted out a laugh. “Yeah, sure. Just, y’know, thanks or whatever.” He mumbled the words out a little, but she must have understood what he was going for because she didn’t make him repeat it.

Her smile turned a little more real. “You’re quite welcome, Noah. Or whatever.” She drained off the last of her smoothie and set the glass aside. “Now, let’s get started on that list of questions.”

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Nick scanned the news while he staked out the park, starting with physical newspapers and quickly moving online to find something that might indicate a werewolf moving in to the area. The closest thing he could find was a blurb about a large dog seen wandering Central Park last week. Whoever this mutt was, he was careful. That was a good sign, actually. Cautious mutts didn’t linger in Pack territory.

The day passed by with the agonizing slowness of forced inactivity. Nick stayed for about an hour past sunset and was preparing to admit defeat when he caught the scent of his mystery werewolf. The winds had shifted so that he was downwind for a large stretch of the park and it was still more crowded than he liked, but it was becoming stronger pretty quickly and Nick was fairly certain that his prey was moving almost directly towards him.

Part 2