|Man He Didn't Have to Be
Author: poeticgrace PM
Puck steps up when a terrible accident leaves a grieving Rachel pregnant and alone.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Puck & Rachel B. - Chapters: 25 - Words: 77,490 - Reviews: 201 - Favs: 104 - Follows: 168 - Updated: 08-29-12 - Published: 06-24-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8250498
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A sleek black car made its way slowly through the quiet, picturesque streets of a typical American suburb on an otherwise normal Tuesday morning. In most neighborhoods, people wouldn't think twice about such a thing, but for the ladies of Dixie Street, such an appearance could only mean one thing. As the women watered their flowers and played with their children in their front yards, they each waited with baited breath as the car made its way past, just praying that it wouldn't stop at the edge of their driveway. They didn't send the black car when it was good news.
Rachel was humming to herself quietly in the kitchen as she cleaned up her breakfast dishes when her doorbell rang. She glanced through the window above her sink and saw the car parked across the street in front of Kate Miller's house. The whole world seemed to slow down, and she knew for certain that the pair of military men were there to either call on her or ask her to accompany them across the street while they delivered the bad news. She had already seen it happen twice since she had moved to Fort Knox.
Wiping her hands absently on her apron, she made her way slowly through the dining room and into the foyer. The door bell rang out again, echoing loudly in the small confines of the hallway. Rachel spotted a silver framed picture of her and Finn together at their wedding just a handful of days before he was deployed to Afghanistan. It had been five months after they had graduated from high school and six weeks after she had dropped out of NYADA to spend Finn's last precious days with him at home. It had been the hardest decision of her life and the easiest all at the same time. Two weeks after Finn had left the United States, her fathers had left her at their new home in Kentucky as she was determined to do this on her own.
That had all been thirteen weeks ago, and she knew that they still had another twenty-four to go. The ladies in the neighborhood helped. They were the only ones who understood what it meant to be a military wife. It was never a role that Rachel had envisioned for herself, not like Broadway Diva or Proud Jewish Mother. No, this one had caught her off guard when Finn had announced just before she left for New York that he was going to follow in his father's footsteps. It was only now, with her hand poised on her polished brass doorknob, that she fully understood what that really meant.
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Hudson," the uniformed officer greeted her politely. She recognized him as Sergeant Davis, the man that the base had sent a few weeks ago to help her move some things down from the attic. The other man was older and equally as stoic, his hands folded tightly in front of him as he tried and failed to meet her eyes.
Rachel stepped to the side and let the pair into her pristine living room. "Ms. Berry," she corrected them easily, trying her best to smile. She knew now that they were here for her, but she needed to prolong this as long as she could. "I kept my maiden name because that's what I go by professionally." She knew they didn't really care but she tended to ramble under usual circumstances, let alone when she was nervous and terrified. "But you can call me Rachel."
"On behalf of the President of the United States and the United State Army, we regret to inform you that your husband, Finn Hudson, was killed this morning when the vehicle he was riding encountered an improvised explosive device," Sergeant Davis recited perfectly. His tone was the perfect mix of sympathetic and professional, and Rachel hated him just a little for his flawless delivery. "This is Chaplain Phillips. He is assigned to our base and will be here. Would you like to pray with us, Rachel?"
Her hands were shaking as she clutched at her stomach. Finn hadn't known. Setting that aside for the moment, Rachel managed to shake her head. "Is there someone you would like for us to call, Rachel?" the chaplain asked, resting his hand gently on her shoulder. Rachel felt her legs collapsing beneath her as she sunk to the ground, burying her face in her hands. She couldn't manage the words between the choked sobs escaping from her in fits and starts. The only thing she could do was cradle her stomach protectively, thinking about the three-month-old baby growing inside of her that would never get to meet its father.
"No, no, no, NO!" Rachel finally screamed. She was angry at Finn and at these men and the President for making him go there in the first place and at herself for not arguing more and at God for letting any of this happen at all. "No, it's not Finn, I'm sorry. You must be wrong, gentleman. You have the wrong house. Finn couldn't be dead. I would know if he was gone. You see, I'm a little bit psychic, I have a sixth sense. I would know if my husband had died. We're soulmates, we're connected. I would be able to feel it. No, I'm sorry, you just have the wrong house."
Davis smiled at her sadly and bowed his head before shaking it gently. "No, Rachel, I am so sorry," he told her again. "Would you like for us to stay with you while you notify your next of kin?"
Rachel looked at the man as if she hated him and he supposed that she probably did a little. It never got any easier, delivering news like this. He had seen nearly every reaction under the sun, ranging from your run-of-the-mill denial to tears so hard that they echoed throughout the entire neighborhood to utter silence. That one, the cold numbness, was almost the worst.
"I don't know," she finally said, one arm across over her stomach while the other pushed dark hair from her face. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do."
The sergeant smiled somewhat and nodded knowingly. "We have two men reporting to Lima, Ohio, to inform Carole Hummel about the passing of your husband. Would you like to contact your own family? The United States Army is prepared to pay all..."
Rachel watched as his mouth moved but she didn't hear any of the words. She only buried her face in her hands and started to cry all over again. She couldn't bear to hear her husband's death talk about as though it was a business deal, negotiating over what the military would pay and what would become her responsibility. The only response she could give when he finally stopped talking was to press her cellphone into the sergeant's hand and mumble her fathers' names before bursting into tears all over again.
Two hours and two thousand miles later, Puck was just packing the last of his equipment into his big black truck when his cell phone started to ring. He grimaced when his mother's name flashed across the screen and almost hit ignore before thinking better of it. "Listen, Ma, I'm still working. Can I call you later? I have a lot to do but should be off in a few hours."
"This can't wait, Noah," she told him softly, and he could hear the tears across the line.
"Ma, what is it? Is it Sarah? Are you okay? What's wrong?" he asked worriedly. The self-professed badass didn't care about a lot of things, but his mother and sister were everything to him. For so long – too long – it had been the three of them against the world. Now that he was in California, he took his responsibility even more seriously. A nice check twice a month let him feel like he was taking care of his family, his mother splitting it between paying a few bills and saving for Sarah's college fund. "Ma, seriously, I'm freaked."
She was quiet for a moment, and that was when Puck knew it was bad. Rebecca Puckerman had never been quiet a day in her life. "I am so sorry, Noah," she cried quietly into his ear. "It's Finn, honey. They just came to tell Carole a little bit ago. Burt called..."
"Ma, what is it with Finn? Did he get hurt? Where is he at?"
"No, Noah. Oh, baby, I am so sorry," she repeated again and he wanted to hug his mother. He was nineteen-years-old and the only thing he could think about was hugging his mommy. "Finn was killed, honey. Finn's dead."
The whole world shifted in that moment and Puck knew that he was going to throw up. He bent over at the waste and hurled his breakfast into the Harpers' rose bushes. His entire body was shaking as he clutched the cell phone to the side of his head with white knuckles. Once he was sure that he wasn't going to throw up again, he assured his mother that he was fine before asking the only question that mattered to him right now, "How is she?"
"I don't know," Rebecca answered honestly. "Honey, I think you should come home."
"Yeah. Fuck, Rach," he muttered beneath his breath, rubbing his free hand absently over the top of his head. "Look, Ma, I gotta go. I will call you when I'm on my way to the airport with the specifics."
"Be safe, honey," she implored him maternally.
"I will," he promised. "And Ma?"
"I love you," he told her before ending the call. He hastily threw the rest of the equipment into the bed of the truck with one hand while dialing Rachel's number. It rang four times before going to voice,mail. He couldn't stand to hear her sounding so happy right now. He ended the call without leaving a message and instantly redialed her, not at all caring about California's stringent laws about driving while talking on the phone. It only rang once this time before her voice,mail came on. It went straight to voice mail the next time and he knew that she had turned off her phone.
It would take six more hours before Puck would finally get to hear how she was doing for himself. He reached up and knocked timidly on the door, ignoring the line of cars outside waiting at the curb. He knew that it was a short drive from Kentucky to Lima, completely manageable in a few hours. It didn't surprise him at all that so many people had already showed up. What did surprise him was when she opened the door and launched herself into his arms.
"I got you, babe, I got you," he murmured into her hair, and he knew then somehow that she had been waiting for him before she could finally fully break down. She went limp in his arms, allowing Puck to walk them both into the house without worrying about what anyone else thought. She didn't know how he'd known to come here instead of Lima, but she was glad that he had chosen Louisville International as his final destination when he had booked a very expensive ticket at LAX. Her face was buried in the crook of his neck and he could feel the slightest rounding of her stomach against his abdomen. He pulled back and searched her dark eyes questioningly, glancing down and then back up at her. She nodded slightly and his heart broke all over again.
"Make them go away," she said quietly. "All of them, everyone, Noah, please." She sounded desperate and he wondered just how long it would be before she wanted him to leave. Rachel would eventually be determined to do this all on her own. He knew her well enough to know that she would turn it into a role, some sort of twisted acting game where she could play the part to get herself through it. And he also knew her well enough to know that Rachel knew he'd see right through it and push him away when he tried to get her to deal with reality. "Noah, please."
Puck nodded gently at her as he led her over to the staircase and nodded for her to go on up. Once she was safely out of earshot, he turned to the women seated around the living room with the saddest looks in their eyes. "Ladies, I appreciate you all being here for Rachel, but as you can see, she needs a little space," he told them politely. "I am sure someone will call you when the..." His voice trailed off as he felt his hazel eyes started to water. "Someone will let you know when the arrangements have been made."
With that, he turned on his heel and took the stairs two at a time to find her sitting in the hallway between two bedrooms. On one side, he could see a large bed that indicated it was probably the master, the room she was supposed to share with Finn. Across the hall, he could just make out the light yellow walls through the slightly open door. Deciding that neither was a good option, he scooped her up and carried her the rest of the way down the hallway toward what he hoped was a third bedroom. Relieved to find a guestroom, he gently deposited Rachel in the middle of the bed and pulled a blanket up to her chin. She was already on her way to crying herself to sleep. Once her breathing had evened out, Puck started to close the door behind him when he heard her whisper, "Stay." Puck nodded once and pulled a wooden chair to the edge of the mattress, promising himself and Rachel and Finn that he would watch over them for as long as it was necessary.