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Fic: Born in the Pound 2/2

Teenagers smelled bad. Puck wasn’t sure how he’d missed figuring that out before, but right now he felt like a loser with asthma, struggling to breathe through the fumes of cigarettes and pot, body spray and body odor. It wasn’t just the boys, either. He’d been aware that the guy’s locker room always smelled particularly bad, but now it was like he couldn’t even walk past a girl without gagging on a cloud of perfume and hairspray.

He’d spent the most of the weekend at the Berry house or out in the middle of nowhere, the second option coming into play whenever Rachel’s information dump and general enthusiasm started to get a little overwhelming. Her dads were out of town for at least another week and his mom didn’t really care where he spent his nights as long as he didn’t get arrested, so Puck had crashed in the basement on both nights and rode into school with her on Monday morning. He hadn’t picked up on any weird smells back then, but now Santana’s perfume was making him choke when she sat down next to him in first period earth science.

Between that and the death glare she aimed at him when she came into the classroom, Puck had the feeling that this day was going to suck. He couldn’t skip class without it somehow getting back to his probation officer and possibly sending him back to juvie, but there wasn’t a teacher in the world that wouldn’t shove you out of the room if you ralphed into the trash can and combination of nasty smells in the room (seriously, had no one told Jewfro to shower and maybe wash his skeezy hair?) would make that fairly easy.

Mr. Haskins settled for just the overtures before sending him off to the nurse’s office, apparently a little gunshy when it came to puke. Puck bypassed the empty office (the new school nurse worked for the entire district and spent most of her time at the elementary school) and headed for the choir room instead. Despite the allure of the cot and pillow in the infirmary, there was a weird smell in there and it was just going to make things worse. The choir room wasn’t nearly as bad, and it had the added bonus of being mostly deserted during school hours, other than the occasional wandering musician wanting to practice while skipping class. Puck closed the door, turned out the lights, and stretched out on the back riser.

His precious, non-smelly solitude was broken within five minutes when Rachel stepped into the room and turned the lights on. She headed straight for the piano, which meant that she probably couldn’t see him and he had a decent chance at getting away with this without another of her lectures. Once Berry got started on a song you could set off an explosion without her noticing, so as long as nothing interrupted her focus she wouldn’t notice him.

Luck wasn’t with him, of course. Things usually didn’t work out the way he wanted, and this particular moment wasn’t any different. Rachel hit a snag while playing out the piano accompaniment to her song and had to pause and practice that part multiple times, and in the midst of all those practices she looked up with a scowl on her face just when he was shifting to try and get comfortable on the planks of the riser.

“Noah!” She ended on a chord, a little too much of a professional to do anything else, before standing up from the piano bench and hurrying up to his position. If he hadn’t felt so crappy he would have enjoyed the view, especially when she dropped down to her knees in a position that allowed him the chance to look straight up her skirt to the Promised Land. “Is something wrong?” There was a look of concern on her face, steady for a split second, before it morphed into something a little more suspicious. “Are you skipping class again?”

“I can skip class if I want to, Berry.” It took an effort not to stick his tongue out at her. Sometimes Rachel made him feel like he was five years old.

She made an exasperated sound that an uncharitable person would have called a snort of disbelief. “That depends on whether you feel like graduating,” Rachel pointed out. “You know the teachers are looking at you more closely since your stint in juvenile detention.”

Puck groaned and sat up. “Chill, Berry. Haskins let me out when I started gagging in class. I’ve got a pass.”

“Shouldn’t you be in the nurse’s office?”

He shrugged. “Smells bad in there, and it wasn’t helping. But it’s not so bad in here.”

“Oh!” She stood up and hurried over to her bag, and Puck felt a little bit of a chill in her absence. She came back with a bottle of water and a baggie of . . .was that pot? Was his Jewish-American Princess getting ready to offer him a joint? He inhaled when she got a little closer. It looked like she had a bag of weed, but he didn’t smell it on her.

“What’s with the stash?” This was all starting to feel just surreal enough to be a dream. Hell, maybe the last several days had been a dream and this werewolf crap was just something that his brain came up with while he was sleeping off a fever.

Rachel ignored him and opened the bag, and the smell hit him with an almost physical overwhelming force. Unlike his earlier time in the hallways, though, this was most definitely not gag-inducing. The strong scent of mint wiped away the undertones of sweat and perfume and hair-control products that had followed him into the room. “Dad dries the leaves from his mint plant for me so I can have mint tea whenever I want,” she said, keeping her voice quiet. “I figured it might help.”

“Yeah, it helps,” Puck rasped out. He didn’t really want to admit it, but it helped keep everything else from overpowering him. “I didn’t have this problem at your house.”

“Daddy is severely allergic to all perfumes and artificial scents and slightly allergic to even some all-natural fragrances. Everything at the house is hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, even my toiletries.” Rachel looked worried. “I’m sorry, I should have realized that it would get overwhelming. The books and files all said your senses would be dialed up.”

“It’s fine,” Puck said, though he held the bag of mint leaves close enough to keep the fragrance in his nostrils. Then, since only a wuss would let something like a few bad smells keep him down, he stood up. His stomach protested a little, but he ignored it and reached down a hand for Rachel. “Just something else I’ll need to work on. What do you say we ditch the place so I can practice someplace that isn’t full of smelly teenaged assholes?”

She bit her lip and Puck felt his eyebrows inch up in surprise. He wasn’t expecting her to take him up on it; hell, he didn’t think she’d even consider it. Rachel Berry was a little too tightly wound for that. But he wouldn’t have made the offer if he hadn’t wanted her along, so at that first sign of weakness Puck started a campaign to wear her down. Skipping school was always a lot more fun when someone else was breaking the rules along with you. “C’mon, Rachel, it’ll be fun.”

“I shouldn’t skip classes,” she said. “What if the one thing I needed to know for a role is being taught today and I missed it? I’ll be behind the curve!”

“Do you have any tests? Any papers you need to turn in?” He smirked. “Still have your books? ‘Cause we both know they aren’t going to teach you anything in those classes that you couldn’t learn for yourself by reading the book.”

“But maybe Ms. Reynolds will teach it in a way that makes more sense than the book!”

“Rachel, have you met Ms. Reynolds? That isn’t happening.” She was still teetering on the edge of indecision. It was time to bring in the big guns. “Think of what awesome songs you can write if you try out this one little act of teenage rebellion. Besides, it’s for a good cause. You’re the only person who can help me with this werewolf thing.”

He knew he had her with that one. Rachel was the kind of person who thrived on being needed and wanted. Used sparingly, it was the surest way to get her to do what you wanted. And it was the truth, in a way. Puck could probably figure this one out on his own, given enough time, but right now Rachel Berry was the only one who could help with any of this, the only one with answers, and it would be a lot more fun if he could split his time between learning and teasing her.

“All right,” she said, an oddly shy smile slipping up onto her face. “Let me go to my locker and I’ll meet you in the parking lot.”

“I’ll be a few minutes. I’ve got to go gag and maybe throw up in Figgin’s office so I can get a pass home.”

As it turned out, he did have to puke to get out of the rest of the day’s classes when it came to the principal, but after poking his head into the boy’s locker room on the way that wasn’t exactly a problem. Figgins sent him home at record speed and Rachel was waiting for him by the truck. “My house or the woods?” she asked once she’d scrambled up into the passenger seat.

“My place. I need to brush my teeth.” And change his shirt, since all he could smell was stomach acid and the regurgitated bagel he’d had for breakfast right now. “Then out to the woods. Apparently I need to work on this around actual smells.”

After a quick pit stop at the house (his mom was home, but she was asleep and he was in and out before she could notice anything) he and Rachel drove to Fort Amanda State Park. It wasn’t the closest place around, but it was large enough to suit their purposes and they were less likely to get caught that far away from Lima. Rachel was quiet on the drive, though she sang along to the radio per usual.

He parked next to one of the longer trails and turned to look at the girl next to him. “Want to make out?” he asked, mostly as a joke. He was fairly certain it was going to take a little more convincing to get her to go along with that particular proposal. The werewolf thing was apparently kind of a turn-on, and if that failed he could always pull out a song, but she was a lot more gunshy when it came to kissing these days and there was a pretty decent chance she was still hung up on Finn.

Those things made it a little bit more of a surprise when Rachel slid across the seat of his truck and started kissing him with her usual enthusiasm. Puck might have been caught off-guard, but he’d figured out a long time ago that it was a bad idea to turn down a good thing and making out with Rachel Berry would always be a good thing. He was glad he stopped at the house to brush his teeth after his performance in the principal’s office, which he’d mostly done to drive out the taste than for any further considerations.

It didn’t go nearly as far as he might have liked. The angle was awkward, for one thing, and the seats in his truck were far from comfortable, and Rachel wasn’t the kind of girl who was going to lose her virginity in a pickup truck while skipping school to hang out in a state park. Puck knew better than to push too hard at this stage, and they had work to do right now. A few more sessions would probably smooth the way, but he’d worry about that later.

They spent the rest of the day making up some ways for him to practice tracking down scents and blocking them out, and resisting the urge to make out. Rachel was apparently a lot better at that second part than he was, since she kept bringing him back to reality whenever he made a move. After a couple of hours in the woods they pulled up stakes and headed for someplace a little more populated. Rachel had a plan, of course, with gradual steps from the woods to the mall, but after the first two stops (the library and a music store, both of them mostly deserted and completely boring) he decided to skip to the end.

The local mall made him want to hurt people on a normal basis, so this would be a quick trip: game store, sporting goods, food court, and then back to someplace where he could feel at least a little normal. Maybe he could talk Berry into another make-out session and be a little more ready for the whole thing this time. That would be a Monday afternoon well spent, in his mind.

The problem came when they got to the mall and realized that school had let out a couple of hours ago. Puck had been expecting the kind of crowd you normally saw during school hours, mostly consisting of senior citizens and stay-at-home moms that weren’t exactly filling the Game Stop or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Puck was starting to wish he’d followed Rachel’s plan, because while he might have gotten flack from either side of those two groups for not being in school they’d have mostly left the two of them alone. For some reason it was like every single person either one of them had met was at the mall today, and they all wanted to stand around and talk. That would have been fine, except most of them smelled so bad that he kept gagging and dragging Rachel away. He’d had no idea there were so many different kinds of rancid-smelling body spray available, or that so many people had problems with the concept of oral hygiene.

After twenty minutes he was miserable enough that not even the thought of making out with Rachel after this could cheer him up. If Hell existed, it looked like a locked mall full of people who didn’t realize that they smelled like shit and wanted to lean in close to talk. Screw this, he’d put in a serious effort. He headed for the exit, Rachel in tow, and didn’t take a deep breath until he was twenty feet from the door.

Some impulse had him pulling her in close to his body so that he could bend his head down and bury his nose in her hair, taking in big lungfuls of her scent to try and chase away the aftereffects of being in the mall. She smelled so much better, like the outdoors and herself and not much else. It was something he could really start to enjoy.

“All right, the mall was a little too much,” Rachel said, her voice a little muffled from where her face was buried in his chest. She tried to pull away, probably to take a step back so she could look at him while she talked, but Puck kept her in close. “That means we should have stayed with my carefully laid out multi-step plan in the first place, Noah.” She didn’t struggle against his hold while he used her scent to drown out the stink of the place, and for his part Puck didn’t notice how her breasts were pressed into his chest. Well, mostly.

When he relaxed his arms and moved away she stepped back and tilted her head until she was looking him in the eye. “My house?” she asked, and he nodded. The Berry house sounded like a fragrance-free wet dream right now, and he could totally use the sympathy card to get guaranteed make-out time if he was careful about it. If there was one good thing from this shitty inheritance it was this . . . whatever it was with Rachel. Anyone else would have run screaming by now.

The drive wasn’t particularly pleasant, but it was quiet and relatively short. He kept catching worried looks from Rachel from the corner of his eye, but there was no way he was taking his eyes off of the road right now unless she started taking off clothing. Driving was keeping him from puking.

Even without the radio, which had to be practically killing Rachel, the sound of the tires on the pavement was loud in his ears. There was a barely audible rattle coming from the undercarriage if the truck. Something was loose and he should fix that soon. With a truck that was this old, every single small problem became a really big problem fast.

Focusing on that sound helped him keep it together until Rachel had gotten him safely into the house and onto the couch. Her dads were still out of town, which was convenient for his needs, but at the same time it kind of sucked for her. His mom wasn’t exactly brimming with maternal love, but she was at least around most of the time.

Rachel sat down on the couch next to him and he pulled her in before she could get started again, kissing her to keep her from explaining her plan and the revisions she had probably made to it on the drive here. It was his favorite approach to dealing with her, the ultimate win-win situation.

The make-out session derailed her train of thought and even when they stopped to take care of his growling stomach. He skipped the sweet and sour pork because she tended to resist kissing a little more when he’d had some dead pig, but still got beef lo mein because he seriously needed the protein. She didn’t object to the cow as much as the pork, though she still made a face and made him brush his teeth.

After food and some enforced homework and more make-out time, Rachel was curled up against him on the couch, half-asleep, and Puck was considering joining her. Sleep sounded like the best idea ever right now, and he was warm and comfortable and Rachel was pressed into him in an interesting way. He could get used to this.

She stirred, face turning until he could just make out sleepy brown eyes. “Are you staying here tonight, Noah?”

He brought his free hand up and brushed her hair out of her face, his other hand resting low on her waist. “Yeah, Rach, I’m staying.”

xxx

Nick stepped into the current of people at the right moment, still using his nose to search for the mutt. If he could put a face to the scent it would help narrow things down considerably. Elena was meticulous about keeping the dossiers up to date even with her added responsibilities and they would be able to use that. If he was careful about it, Nick might even be able to use the camera on his phone to get a shot of the mutt’s face.

Of course, first he’d need to find the other werewolf. He wasn’t as good as some of the other’s in the Pack at locating by scent while in human form (the best would be Elena, hands-down) but they all trained for this type of thing. He was above and beyond the best at hiding in plain sight, at least, which made him the best choice for following a mutt around New York City.

It took a while, but finally Nick managed to narrow his focus down to a tall figure. His clothing was nondescript and casual, consisting of jeans, T-shirt, and a canvas jacket, and judging from the back of the guy’s head his hair was dark and buzzed close to his head. A glimpse at the mutt’s face would have been helpful, but he couldn’t take the risk. For now Nick would be content to simply follow. He’d learned a little patience over the years, after all, and this guy would slip up eventually. Most mutts weren’t that bright.

xxx

It was hard not to feel unbelievably stupid and exposed while he was doing this, but at least there was no one but Rachel out here and Rachel had already seen this, or at least heard it. Even so, Puck felt pretty silly at the moment, naked and on all fours in the middle of the woods. If he didn’t still remember turning into a freaking wolf last weekend in the Berry panic room (and why did it make so much sense that Rachel’s family had a panic room?) he would have thought it was all part of some elaborate prank from a surprisingly devious mind. “You sure about this?”

Rachel’s voice came from her perch in one of the older, taller trees. He’d helped her construct a fairly comfortable little nest up there out of blankets and other shit he’d had in the bed of his truck. “Yes, Noah. Everything I managed to read from the official files said that the notion of werewolves changing only on the full moon was a complete myth and entirely erroneous, and that is supported by the fact that it was a waning quarter last weekend. Supposedly the more often you change, the better your control and easier the changes will become. Also, having me hiding up in this tree is unnecessary. I have no doubt that you will be in complete control.”

Rachel waiting in the tree with a tranquilizer gun made him feel much better and safer, no matter how mind-blowing the image was, but there was no way he was about to tell her that. “Whatever, princess. Just pretend you’re rehearsing for the role of that chick from Hunger Games. You’re sure you can hit me with that thing if you need to?”

“I am an excellent shot,” she said primly. “My fathers made sure I was trained in all kinds of weaponry since I was ten because they were concerned for my safety. I am simply uncertain that it will be needed. I have complete faith in you, Noah.”

He didn’t have the same faith in himself, not really. Puck had a hard time controlling his impulses when he was walking around on two legs. There was no telling what he might do on four. He wasn’t about to tell Rachel that, though. Instead he hunched his shoulders and tried to force his body to change into a wolf.

After five minutes of accomplishing absolutely nothing beyond looking like an idiot, he heard Rachel stir from her position in the tree. “Noah, are you having performance issues?”

He hunched his shoulders a little more, making sure his face was completely hidden. It was definitely not badass to blush with embarrassment at that type of question and he could feel his face getting warmer. “No!”

“Because I would understand if you’re finding it a little difficult to force the change,” she continued. “You’re very tense right now. Maybe I should come down and try to help you relax.”

It was hard to tell if she’d meant to be completely innocent or if she was coming on to him, but Puck responded at the images those words brought about anyway. Not in the way he needed to, of course. That would be too easy. Now he needed her to stay up in that tree for more than one reason. “I’ve got it, Berry. You stay right there.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He wasn’t thirteen years old anymore. He could handle this like an adult.

All the frustration from this mess was just fuel, and just like when he was playing football he needed to use it. He closed his eyes and pushed past the memory of the pain the first time he’d changed, focusing on the way it had happened. Puck could do this. He had to do this.

Turning from a human to a wolf was still as fucking painful as it had been the first time around. Afterwards he had to stay on his side on the freezing cold ground for half an hour or so before he was ready to move, and even that was hard to accomplish. When he did finally get up and stretch, his front paws straight out in front and his tail in the air, he caught a whiff of bile off to the side. Rachel must have lost it in the middle somewhere, freaked out by the sounds of him changing.

There was a rustle in the branches of the tree and he tilted up his head to see her peering down at him. The movement meant that he caught a scent and he immediately turned to follow it, Rachel still tucked away in the treetop and safe.

Puck had no idea what the scent was, but the wolf part of his mind identified it as food and that was all he needed to know. He followed the scent trail, moving through the woods with the kind of stealth he never managed in human form. Wolf-Puck was apparently some kind of ninja, mostly by instinct. This whole thing was a pain in the ass for the most part, but there were some extremely badass benefits and it was too bad that Rachel was the only one who’d ever get a chance to see it.

Food turned out to be a rabbit, captured, killed, and consumed without a second thought. He stopped at a creek for a drink and to clean the blood from his muzzle before he headed back to Rachel’s tree. No matter how understanding Rachel was about the wolf and its instincts, she would be upset by the sight of the blood on his face.

A few feet away from the tree Puck pulled himself into an awkward halt. He wasn’t sure why he’d thought Rachel would have listened to him, ever, but he had really expected her to stay up in the tree for his peace of mind. Puck was still pretty sure she was scared of the wolf despite all her protests and would stay away from the wolf. Instead she had scrambled down from her nest, sleeping bag in tow, and was sitting primly at the base of the tree, a travel mug of what was probably mint tea in her hands. She said something, but when he was a wolf it was harder to understand words, which was something else he’d have to practice. Her voice was soothing, though, and he came closer, her familiar scent calming him down like always.

He edged in a little at a time until he gave in and dropped to the ground next to her.

xxx

This was probably going to end up with him riding on the subway, Nick could just tell. He still hadn’t managed to get a good look at the mutt, though he had quickly figured out that the other wolf wasn’t alone. There was a human girl with him, short enough that she could have been jailbait but dressed like an actual adult and not a kid playing at grown-up. The two of them were pressed close together, so close that Nick was wondering how they were managing to walk down the sidewalk without tripping over each other’s legs. Getting the mutt away from her without causing a scene would be a problem. Of course, if she ended up with her throat torn out it would be an even bigger problem. That was always the trick with confronting mutts in the first place. Ninety-five percent of the time, werewolves were completely predictable. They’d follow either wolf instinct or human instinct and you could tell from the first move which one was currently motivating the mutt.

The remaining five percent would somehow blend the two mindsets for at least a short time and were infinitely more dangerous. Outside of his fellow Pack members, Nick could count on one hand the wolves he had met who had managed to do things that way. One of those had been a former Pack member. The other had ended up being recruited after a few years. It was something that took training and control and patience, much like forcing a partial change, and it wasn’t something most mutts could accomplish.

It was too soon to be sure, but Nick had a feeling that this one might be part of that five percent. Nick’s luck was just running that way today.

xxx

The rumor mill at McKinley High could put any intelligence-gathering agency to shame. Puck hadn’t done any of the usual things you did to mark your territory in high school, even though he really, really wanted to kiss her in front the entire school assembly, and possible convince her to tattoo his name on her body somewhere. He was trying to keep things low-key, in hopes of containing Rachel’s crazy a little and putting off the inevitable confrontation with Finn, since that was bound to get messy. Besides, he wasn’t entirely sure that they could call this weird thing the two of them had dating, no matter what the rumor mill said.

It wasn’t weird for him to hang out with Rachel on a normal school day. They were friends, of a sort, and she was one of the people tutoring him so he could make it into college. It wasn’t even a little strange that she’d taken to walking down the hallway with her hand in the crook of his elbow again, because that was something they’d done fairly frequently since that week they’d dated last year. Rachel liked to touch people, always had, and anyone that was even remotely friendly with her would receive similar treatment.

Apparently, though, the combination of those two things along with his sudden absence of anything having to do with the weekend party circuit for two weeks was all anyone needed to confirm the rumors. It was especially irritating to have these rumors shoved at him along with a microphone at seven in the morning by Jacob ben Israel, who had apparently forgotten to brush his teeth or take a shower that morning.

He somehow managed to not kill the little weasel, a fact that would probably make Rachel happy, and settled for trashing his equipment and moving on. He had too much to do this morning to get bogged down with that little dickweed.

Santana was too busy to do much more than toss a couple of barbs about his unfortunate dating choices lately, but he had a feeling she’d be dumping shit on his head as soon as she had a little free time. He wasn’t quite as lucky when it came to Lauren, who managed to pin him down in a hallway and yell at him for about twenty minutes about his sudden preference for a singing, dancing twig, but aside from the potential embarrassment he was glad to wash his hands of her. In some ways she was more high-maintenance than Rachel and less even-tempered, and she had a habit of dragging him into exactly the situations he needed to avoid if he wanted to stay off the radar.

The one he knew was going to be the worst of them all still hadn’t happened by the end of the day. Puck had been expecting a thrown punch from Finn, his back itching whenever he headed down a school hallway, and if it hadn’t been for the double shot of his parole officer and his newly minted girlfriend he might have bailed on school rather than bother. Hudson might not have been dating Rachel, but he’d always had a hard time letting go and sharing, and it would always be ten times more complicated than it should have been when it came to the three of them. Puck had the suspicion that Finn would be all right with Rachel dating almost anyone as long as it wasn’t Puck.

Puck wasn’t worried about Finn’s reaction, exactly, beyond a mental note that it would be the most extreme. It was hard to care what Finn thought about him after the last couple of months. The real problem was that if Finn threw a punch, Puck had no problem returning it with interest. He’d deserved the one he got when the news had broken about Quinn’s real baby daddy, but Rachel was fair game. Knocking Finn’s teeth down his throat would get him sent back to juvie, though, no matter how deserved, and juvenile detention was a double threat now. If he went in he’d probably end up killing someone because of the wolf, and that would end up in prison and probably with more deaths, ending in more prison. That wasn’t something he wanted to ever experience, so he’d roll with any punches Finn decided to send.

Rachel was waiting for him at his locker before Glee rehearsal, looking a little worried, so she must have been hearing shit about the two of them and put the two things together. “Finn cornered me right before sixth period.”

Puck literally saw red for a moment and his hands clenched into fists. “I’ll kill him,” he growled.

“No, it’s fine,” she said. It wasn’t fine, he could see it in her body language, but Rachel hated fighting. “Let’s just head to Glee. I don’t want to think about Finn right now.” She slipped her hand into the loop of his elbow. “How was English class?”

He shrugged. “Same as always. Want to explain why Shakespeare was so fucked up this afternoon?”

The distraction worked. “Noah, Shakespeare was the most well-known author of his time. His plays were meant to hold the attention of everyone from peasants to royalty, and in many ways he was the precursor to most modern screenwriters.” She continued along on the topic and he nodded along, cataloging the threats to her in the hallway as they walked toward the music room.

Finn was sitting next to Quinn, his expression that weird thing where he was angry and trying to hide it, and Puck lead her to the other side of the room and sat so that he was between the two of them, ready to step between the two of them if needed.

The rest of the club had already figured out what was happening and were clearly staying out of it, sitting clumped together on the back row as they trickled into the room.

Schuester picked up that something was wrong the instant he walked into the room, and Finn glared at the two of them. “Nothing’s wrong, Mr. Schue. We just need to practice. Regionals are coming up in three weeks.”

The teacher didn’t truly believe that information, but he started rehearsal anyway. Rachel was unfortunately still paired with Finn in at least one number and the two of them were awkward in their movements. Rachel clearly didn’t want to come too close to Finn, while Finn wanted the opposite, and after three tries through the choreography Santana snapped.

“Get over it, Finn! Puckerman decided he liked being poked in the eye with someone’s nose when he’s making out with her and Rachel apparently likes the dead squirrel he’s got stapled to his head. If I have to practice this number one more time because of you I’ll cut you, got it?”

“Santana, that’s enough!” Schuester snapped. “Take five, everyone. Get this figured out so we can move on.”

Quinn rolled her eyes and stepped away, clearly wanting no part of this particular bit of drama, and Rachel stood her ground when Puck came up next to her. “You got something to say, you say it, Hudson,” he said, because the one thing he hadn’t missed about dating Rachel was being part of a love polygon.

“Are you and Rachel dating now?”

Ah, what the hell. “Yes. Is it any of your business?” He answered his own question. “No, so back the hell off. At the risk of sounding like Hummel, if you liked it then you should have put a ring on it.”

“But you promised you’d stay away.”

“I promised I wouldn’t let her use me to make you jealous. This has nothing to do with you, Finn. Back off.”

“Can I say something?” Rachel asked before plowing ahead without an answer. “Finn, you’re clearly with Quinn now. Noah and I have decided to explore a relationship of our own, one that has nothing to do with you. So please just leave us alone, and we’ll return the same courtesy.” With that she walked away, head held high.

Puck smiled as he watched her go. “What she said, Finn. And if I find out you do something to upset her like you did earlier today, I’m going to kick your ass.” Promise delivered, he headed after Rachel. There were still three minutes left of their time and that was enough time for at least a little making out.

xxx

Nick took a deep breath before following the mutt and the girl down into the pits of hell, also known as the subway tunnels. No matter how miserable the air was in Manhattan, it would be ten times worse down there.

It was hard to stay focused as he followed them onto the train, and ten years ago he might not have been able to handle it. Of course, ten years ago he wouldn’t have even tried. He would have happily foisted this off on Clay and Elena and been content to stay in the background, and Elena would have allowed it with a roll of her eyes and a comment about taking it easy.

It wasn’t as crowded as it could have been on the train, but Nick could still feel the crowds of people, smell body odor and perfume and urine all around him. He was wondering how the mutt could possibly handle it until he saw the girl step in close to him, pressing her body against his and allowing the mutt to bury his face in long brown hair. It blocked the kid from noticing Nick, but it probably also kept the stink of the subway to a minimum. It also upgraded the girl, because that was a little too practiced and natural to come from a one-night stand. This was a girlfriend, probably one that knew about the mutt’s personal difficulties.

Hell. The mutt wasn’t just passing through, or even staying here for a couple of months. It was carving out territory within a part of the world that should belong to the Pack.

He was going to need backup.

xxx

On days like this Puck wondered when this had become his life. Rachel was looking at him from the passenger seat, still dressed in her dance tights and a little sweaty and totally hot. Hannah was between the two of them, playing the role of the cock-blocking little sister to perfection, and was dressed similarly to Rachel since his girlfriend (might as well admit it, after all) had become Hannah’s new best friend. That much had become fairly familiar over the last few months as Rachel crawled into every corner of his life.

The strange part came from his sister. Hannah’s expression was pure Puckerman murderous, which was surprising. Hannah was the easy-going one, the one that would freak out if he killed a spider or at the sight of a mousetrap that had done its job. His little sister didn’t really do angry, usually, but right now she was trying to incinerate the figure on the front porch with the power of her mind and he was giving it even odds towards working.

Eli Puckerman was still standing there despite Hannah’s best efforts, an oddly smug look on his face. Puck could just barely recognize the bastard, since it looked like he’d done some pretty hard living after he’d abandoned his family ten years ago, and he had no idea how Hannah knew that she was looking at the son of a bitch that had left them to fend for themselves, since she’d never even met the man. He couldn’t think of any other person that had earned his sister’s wrath, though, so she must have figured it out.

He could feel a growl bubbling up in his throat as he looked at the smug expression on the bastard’s face. Rachel had reached across Hannah and clamped her hand onto his wrist, holding on with surprising strength. “Don’t kill him, Noah,” she said, her voice pitched low and her face pale and frightened. It made him even more angry, knowing the asshole was threatening the two people who he claimed as part of his territory and that he’d scared Rachel. “Not here and not now. Hannah shouldn’t have to see it.”

There were lots of things that Rachel was not-saying, probably for Hannah’s sake, but Puck heard them loud and clear. One of them was the basic acknowledgement that he was probably going to kill his father. Puck wanted that, wanted to turn into a wolf and go after the man with teeth and claws and all of the skills he’d spent the last six months honing. He was born a monster and this other wolf was stepping into his territory. Rachel was right, though. He didn’t want Hannah to see it.

Fortunately, that was a problem he could solve. “Get over here and take the wheel, Rach,” he said, just barely keeping it from being an order. Rachel got all pissy when she thought someone was giving orders. Hannah made a noise of protest and Puck took a deep breath and forced his anger down, shoving into a box until it was safe to let it out again. “I’m not going to kill him,” he promised, even though that was exactly what he wanted. It was way too public for that right now. “I’m just going to get rid of him. And I want you two as far away from the douchebag as you can get.”

Rachel’s eyes were fixed on him, intense enough to be uncomfortable. He still wasn’t entirely sure that he bought the theory that Rachel didn’t have any superpowers, since it seemed like she could read his mind sometimes. Finally she nodded and climbed over Hannah as he opened up the door and stepped out of the truck. The vehicle rolled a little when he picked his foot up off of the brake, and the gears ground a little when Rachel put the old vehicle into reverse and backed out onto the street, but those things were just part of the background. Now that his girls were safe, there wasn’t anything else in the world except the opportunity to remove this jackass from his life.

“Noah,” the man said, and the sound of his first name in that mouth grated across his nerves. “It’s good to see you, son.”

Puck felt his hackles rise, pretty much literally. “Can’t say the same. What can I do to make you get the hell out of here?”

His father lost the smile. “There are some things we need to talk about. You need to know about your heritage, son. Your mother wouldn’t have known what you needed to know.”

“What, that I’m a werewolf?” Puck snorted at the man’s expression, which was suitably irritated and surprised. “I’ve known that one for a while. It’s not hard to figure out when you start to change into a fucking wolf at a friend’s house. Figured out how to control it on my own already, thanks for absolutely nothing. Don’t get caught in that speed trap on the way out of town, I wouldn’t want you to have any excuse to stay around longer than you have to because you’re busted by a cop.”

“Come on, Noah, sit down and have a beer with me.” The smile was back again. “I’m sure you have questions.”

“They’re mostly questions about your sanity, asshole, since no one with half a brain would have come back here and expected anything but a door in your face. Get out, go away, and never come back. There’s no way in hell I want what you’re selling. If you’re still here when I get back I’m calling the cops on your ass. I know for a fact Mom filed a restraining order on you.”

He turned around and stalked away. He’d have to call his mom and warn her not to go back to the house and he’d have to think up some excuse to keep her away until it was safe. That could wait for a few minutes while he calmed down.

“You call the cops, I’ll make sure to tell them everything,” his father called out.

Puck stopped on the street and turned back, arching one eyebrow. “Go right ahead. I’m sure they’d love to tack a drug charge on top of everything else, asshole.” He started walking away again. He needed to find Rachel and Hannah, make sure they were all right before he’d be able to relax.

His only warning was the sound of boots on the grass, moving too quickly for anything but an attack, and he turned back as his father closed in and went for his throat. The man used his hands, which was better than if he’d used his teeth, and Puck broke that hold before it got started, ducking and twisting away and taking a step or two back to give him more space, and smiled. He’d wanted this fight from the beginning and it looked like his wish was coming true now.

It was a pretty brutal fight, as these things go, and thankfully short. Eli was pretty good, even as rundown as he looked, but Puck was better, faster, and he was definitely more angry than Eli. He definitely wouldn’t have to call the cops now; the neighbors would do that for him since there was a fight out in the middle of the street. Mrs. Scott next door had never liked him, but she liked his father even less and she’d probably pulled her rocking chair up to the window as soon as Eli had shown up.

He was sitting on the porch steps when the first car arrived, knowing that running was pointless unless he felt like skipping town entirely. It would have seemed like a good idea six months ago, but now he had no intention of going anywhere if Rachel wasn’t along for the ride.

Eli would be nursing a possible concussion and a broken hand and probably a serious grudge, once he woke up. Puck had dragged him out of the middle of the road with the last dregs of his compassion. He had his own bruises and a wrenched knee to worry about, but those would heal, and that paled in comparison to the satisfaction of finally getting a chance to kick the man’s ass.

They took him in for questioning and then released him without charges, despite one or two dirty looks when his record came up. Rachel was waiting with Hannah and his mother when he walked out, and he wrapped one arm around her shoulders as the four of them headed for the car, his mother alternating between lecture and praises as they walked.

Rachel didn’t need to say a word. Her smile said it all, and that was what mattered.

xxx

He’d gone back to Stonehaven to report and regroup. Shaking down a transient mutt was one thing, but one that would be missed by the humans required a certain finesse and Nick didn’t want to attempt it without Elena’s input. Instead, Nick had followed the mutt until he and the girl stepped into an apartment building, waited for an hour to make sure that they were staying there, and proceeded to chat up the neighbors. Now he was back home to share that information.

“His name is Noah Puckerman, and he moved to the city with his girlfriend at the beginning of the summer,” Nick said, handing his phone over to Elena. He’d brought up the clearest picture he’d managed to catch, the mutt’s face clear and turned down toward his human companion. There was another shot of the two of them after that captured her face as well. She’d been turning to unlock the door of the apartment door while the mutt stood behind her, shielding her from the street. There was a third picture from the subway, the two of them huddled together, and Elena flipped through them rapidly, memorizing their faces. “They’re both students at NYU. He works moving stock at a store across town and she teaches a ballet class in the building down the street from that.”

“So the people around them know who they are,” Elena mused. “No sign of any trouble?”

“Nothing,” Nick said. “I wouldn’t have even known there was a mutt in the city if I hadn’t caught his scent in the park.”

She looked out at Clay, leading the twins in a complicated game out in the yard that was probably a precursor to hunting strategies. “In the old days we would have drug him out of New York by his toenails. Now, though, it seems a little extreme. Keep an eye on him, if you can, but we’ll leave him be for now.” Elena hooked his phone into her computer and pulled off the pictures, tucking them into the electronic copy of the mutt dossier that she still kept up. “If he keeps his head down, we’ll pretend like we never saw him.”
poundend

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
jebbypal
Dec. 26th, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
Awesome verse you've started. Curious as 2 what Rachel's supe background is.
faithburke
Dec. 27th, 2012 02:22 pm (UTC)
you will just have to wait and see!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )