A/N: So this it--final chapter. I just wanted to thank everyone who has taken the trouble to read, alert, favorite and especially review this work. I loved writing it, would have loved writing it if it had continued as it started--multiple unorganized scraps of paper! But to have real live people read, and mostly like and always encourage...well again, thank you because it's meant a lot to me.
Even after all this work, Glee does not belong to me...
Ms. Pillsbury drops them off near the emergency room entrance and drives off to the parking garage. He's standing as close to Rachel as possible, hasn't let her out of his sight since the stadium. Fuck. He's seriously thinking of handcuffing her to him, just so she never has the opportunity to do anything that stupid ever again (it takes him at least three minutes to start thinking of all the other things he'd like to do with Rachel and handcuffs, which shows personal growth he thinks). At some moment in time, he may have to be separated from her--like, she may need to go to the bathroom or something and want some privacy, but outside of that, no, he's just not letting go.
As they round the corner to the entrance, he sees Finn, all pulled in on himself, leaning against the building, waiting. Good thinking Hudson. Better to take care of this outside.
Finn spots them, and launches himself off the brick wall, storming towards them. Puck stops in his tracks, waiting. He angles his body so that Rachel is tucked behind him, but doesn't bother asking her to leave. After today, it is safe to say that that would be a waste of breath.
"I really would prefer it if he didn't hit you, " mutters Rachel darkly.
"I know, baby." But they both know that the fastest way into the emergency room is most likely through Hudson's fist.
He's waiting for it--face it, he's been waiting for it for weeks, but it still hurts like a motherfucker. Son of a bitch. Unbelievable. Finn has actually broken his nose. He gingerly brings his hand up to his face and it comes away bloody. Behind him Rachel squeaks. He loves this girl; crazy women with guns, no problem, but a bloody nose freaks her out. Happily, Finn seems to be ignoring her completely.
"You asshole! You lying piece of shit!" Finn's voice has risen at least an octave and his eyes are red-rimmed. "This is all your fault!"
He's not sure if Finn means the hook-up, the pregnancy or the fucked-up mess with Schuester's wife. Maybe all three. Doesn't really matter because although there's plenty of blame to go around, and maybe at some point Finn will be able to hear that, right now it's not going to get him anywhere. He looks at Finn. He's breathing hard and his fists are still clenched, but he doesn't looks like he wants to throw another punch immediately.
"Yeah, you're right. I really fucked up." He's being as real as he can be and for just a second he sees seven year old Finn, smiling without his two front teeth but already with that essential sincerity. His best friend. "I'm sorry."
It doesn't seem to do much to appease Finn, but on the other hand, every second that Finn's not trying to kill him is probably progress. Or not. Finn is looking at him like he hates him and his voice is quiet and cold as ice. "Save your apology for someone who cares. Her pulse was so weak...her heart almost stopped in that ambulance. She almost died, you prick. And god only knows about the..." he remembers, stops, looks almost sorry for a second.
Behind him, Rachel fists his shirt. He feels her lay her head against his back and he lets out the breath he's holding. "Are we done here?" he asks flatly.
"For now." Finn says, still coldly.
"Good." He starts towards the doors, feels Rachel's slight hesitation and sighs. He'll try again. "Are you coming in or not?" Not great, but it's all he's got. Finn glares, stands irresolutely, and finally follows the two of them into the waiting room.
The admissions people take one look at his bloody face and try to admit him, but he just ignores them. Rachel does manage to acquire some antiseptic wipes and an icepack and she cleans him up a bit (fuck, it hurts). She offers to get him some coffee, but he just grabs her hand again and leans into her a little bit, breathing in the scent of her perfume, her hair.
When Ms. Pillsbury arrives, she chooses not to mention either his injuries or the fact that Finn is sitting as far away from them as possible.
He expects to see Quinn's parents rushing in. They don't. Ms. Pillsbury goes to the desk every fifteen minutes to see if there is an update and then reports back what she's found out which is nothing except Quinn is stable. He notices that she alternates between the two of them. Is there a pamphlet for that? Maybe 'What to do when the Daddy isn't the Daddy.' Shit. He shouldn't make fun of her. She's sitting in a room full of sick people for them.
Two hours pass this way and he's about to lose it. He's about to hit something. He's about to leap over the admittance desk and go shake up a doctor or two until they tell him something. He closes his eyes and counts to 10...20...30...
"Noah..." Rachel pulls him up and across the room. A nurse has come out from behind the desk and is talking to Ms. Pillsbury. Finn joins them, carefully avoiding eye contact. Ms. Pillsbury nods at the nurse and says to them, "Quinn is awake. She's asked to see me. I'll be back as soon as I can." She accompanies the nurse through the locked doors.
It doesn't take long. Moments like this are supposed to stretch out; it should seem a like a lifetime spent focusing on the door Ms. Pillsbury disappeared behind. But it's an instant, a blink, a heartbeat before she comes back with pity in her eyes for him, for Finn, even for Rachel. His daughter is gone. There are other words, like days for observation, and no visitors at this time, but he doesn't listen. He looks blankly at Finn, collapsed into a seat, head buried in his hands, crying. Rachel's crying too, Ms. Pillsbury is in tears. The whole fucking world is sobbing except for him.
For a moment he blames himself, remembering Rachel's fingers on Terri Schuester's hand, his own silent prayer: not Rachel...not Rachel. Was this the trade off? Not Rachel, but someone else? But he lets it go, lets that bitterness dissolve and wash away, because that's the understanding of a child (he sees himself at seven, trying to make bargains with God through a busted lip). Puck doesn't think he'll ever be a child again.
Later he learns that Ms. Pillsbury drove the three of them home in what would have been the most awkward 20 minutes of his life, only he can't remember it. Rachel must have gotten out with him, certainly he is sitting at his own kitchen table when she makes him a sandwich he can't eat. He doesn't remember going into his room, but then there is Rachel gently drawing him into his bed, pulling the covers over them both, holding him when he at last lets go, not slipping away even when they hear his mother's shaky call from the door.
Three weeks later, he is walking side by side with Quinn along the path, their feet crunching through the last of the fallen leaves.
"How are you feeling?" he asks awkwardly. He mostly knows the answer, Rachel has become the accepted go-between between the three of them.
"Better," she says, but she doesn't sound better, mostly just empty. He gets that.
"Things at home?"
"What can I say?" she says a little bitterly, "They're a lot more understanding about a nice quiet miscarriage than they would have been about a big public pregnancy."
"I'm sorry, Quinn."
They stop together, look down at the tiny headstone. He wraps one arm around her, squeezes briefly. She leans into him for a moment and then pulls away.
"Look Puck, I've been wanting to tell you something. I'm really sorry too. About how I put all the blame on you for that night, the baby, everything." She pauses and he thinks maybe she's done, but she continues distantly (and he's finally figured out that when she's most distant, she means it the most). "I only blamed you for everything because I knew you'd let me. I'd tell you to work on that, but I think you already are." She gestures to the bench by the cemetery gates where Rachel and Finn are waiting. Seeing them look, Rachel waves and Finn nods.
"Yeah, I am," he says and they retrace their steps back to the pair. Finn takes Quinn's hand and leads her away. Finn still isn't speaking to him, but Rachel thinks he will soon and she always gets what she wants (he's smart enough to be profoundly grateful for that). Rachel presses her small body tightly against him while he envelopes her in a hug. It's amazingly comforting--also a little erotic, because hey, the last time he looked he was still seventeen, and he presses his lips against her hair.
"I love you," she says, her voice muffled by his shoulder. It's not the first (or the second, or the third...) time she's said it in the last three weeks, but it still gives him an unlooked for thrill.
"I love you, too." he says and it comes out the way it always does for her, like a kiss, like a poem, like a song.