Chapter 5

A.N. I know everyone who followed this fic must have thought it was abandoned and I am so sorry – inspiration took a sabbatical instead of a holiday. My apologies for the wait – I hope you enjoy this little chapter.

Also I changed the name of the producer of Rachel's movie to a fictional name – I felt a little presumptuous making a real person a character in my story. Previous chapters have been updated.

"I'm not setting myself up as an authority on good parenting," Puck spoke as he stepped into the reflection of Rachel's mirror, "but I wouldn't have thought taking an eleven year old to a New York nightclub was on Dr Spock's to do list."

"I just want her to meet Finn, Artie and Tina," Rachel explained as she pressed emerald studs into her ears. "Of course I'll keep her away from the party. Besides, I promised Tina I'd do a duet with her of that Dixie Chicks song." Which was the clincher as far as Rachel was concerned; if she made a commitment to perform, it would take a national emergency to prevent her. Puck knew this which was why he rolled his eyes but gave up the argument, making better use of his time surveying his wife wearing in her white lace lingerie that set off her olive-toned skin to mind-blowing perfection.

"So is this how you're making an entrance? Not that I'm complaining, but we haven't introduced stripper night yet," Puck teased, placing his hands on Rachel's hips and pulling her towards him.

Rachel smiled as she felt that bump against her backside which meant she still had the power to drive her husband crazy, brushing teasingly against it as she purred "My dress is white so I'm waiting 'til I've finished my makeup to slip it on. And if you ever want to see me in my underwear again, you had better not institute any presentations featuring exotic dancers at your establishment." Puck growled as he spun his wife around, about to claim her mouth with his own when the bedroom door crashed open.

"Rachel, Rachel," Grace cried in high excitement. "There is a boy at the front door with the most beautiful flowers for you! I know you told me not to open the door to strangers so I was talking with him through the keyhole and guess what? I asked him if he had a dog and he said he has three and they are all black Labradors which are very intelligent dogs, from what I have read, and – why don't you have any clothes on?"

Rachel gasped, hastily slinking behind Puck's back. "Grace, I think we need to lay down some ground rules which involve knocking before entering bedrooms."

"Oh, I am sorry, but you must come and see these flowers. The bouquet is so big when I looked though the peephole I thought at first it was some kind of shrub with legs which would be really cool if plants could walk around because then you wouldn't have to worry about watering them, they could just walk over for a drink when they got thirsty." While Grace was talking Rachel slipped into a silk robe, belting it around her.

"One afternoon with you and she's already talking like her tongue hangs on a hinge," Puck observed as Rachel walked to the door.

"I know – wonderful, isn't it?" was Rachel's reply as she exited.

"I'm sorry," a small voice said, and Puck was startled to find his daughter's big hazel-green eyes no longer dancing with excitement but as mournful as a basset hound's. "Howard is always telling me I talk too much. I will be more quiet from now on, I promise. You won't even know I am here." The half-hopeful, half-fearful expression on her face made something stick in Puck's throat and he mentally kicked himself for transforming the impulsive child who had burst into the room into this apprehensive waif.

"That would be a crying shame," Puck said, crouching down to he level. "What's the point of being here if I don't know you're here? It's not like I want a ghost for a daughter."

Grace spied his crooked smile and a glint in his eyes that led her to the tentative conclusion, "So, you were joking, then? About me talking too much?"

"Sure. After 12 years with Rachel, I've built up a powerful immunity to talkative females, It's one of my secret powers," Puck assured her. Grace gave an uncertain smile, still wary of the tall man with the brooding eyes who was number 1 on her mother's list of regrets. She of course was number 2, so at least they had something in common. Perhaps they could bond over their shared talent to disappoint, she thought as she followed her father out of the bedroom. They found Rachel in the foyer, setting a huge basket of yellow roses and purple irises onto the hall table.

"So, which producer is sucking up to you now?" Puck asked as he plucked the florist card from Rachel's fingers.

"Noah!" Rachel cried, outraged.

"Husband's prerogative," Puck said. "A man has a right to know who is sending his wife flowers."

"Oh, maybe its that Mark person you were talking about at lunch," Grace volunteered as she buried her small nose in the fragrant bouquet. "You know, the one who wants you to do that movie so bad."

Puck raised an eyebrow at Rachel. "I thought you told me he wasn't all that interested in you."

Rachel waved a hand as though batting the notion away. "Of course not. Grace is exaggerating."

"But Kurt said he was talking figures and even though I find math totally boring Kurt seemed to think figures are super important," Grace argued.

"Grace, honey, would you mind going to the kitchen and fetching a vase for these flowers?" Rachel asked, figuring the conversation was about to detonate and wanting her new stepdaughter clear of the danger zone. The little girl obediently trotted away.

"Talking figures, huh?" Puck opened the card and read "To Rachel, the newest and brightest star in our midst. I am wishing on your star that you will agree to make cinematic history as my leading lady. Show pity on this lowly mortal and grant my wish post haste. Mark Fleishman." He regarded Rachel coolly as she played with the tie of her robe, guilt written all over her. "I suppose I should congratulate you, although the fact that you are going to be working with someone who writes cards this fruity kind of makes me feel more like offering condolences."

"I haven't agreed to his offer," Rachel blurted.

"You mean the offer you said he didn't make?" Rachel looked away, 'caught out' written all over her face. "When did we start keeping secrets from each other, Rachel?"

"I'm sorry, I've been trying to tell you – Noah, I don't think I'm ready to take that next step in my career. I'm not even sure if I really want it anymore." She put her hands on his arms, gazing earnestly into his eyes. "I want to have a baby with you, Noah. I'm ready for it."

Her word sent a simultaneous bolt of joy and panic through his veins; the image of Rachel's body rounded with his child terrified him just as much as it made his stomach flip in a very un-badass way. He had mastered being a great husband, he was a pro when it came to dealing with Rachel's mood swings and perfectionism. He was a total specialist in the field of being supportive of her career; he could not count how many opening night performance jitters had he nursed her through or how many career decisions he had sound-boarded for her. But when it came to fatherhood, his record was pretty dismal, or so he believed. This was what made him say "I don't think I'm ready to be a father." As tears welled in his wife's eyes, Puck tried to draw her closer. "Rachel…" but she disentangled herself from him.

"I should finish getting ready," she said in a subdued voice and walked back to the bedroom.

Puck ran a distraught hand through his thick dark hair, mentally cursing himself for the pain his words had just inflicted. If he had looked behind him and seen the forlorn face of his daughter as she clutched a glass vase to her chest, he would have regretted his words doubly. But by the time he did turn around she had silently retreated back to the kitchen, fat tears rolling down her cheeks.

"What more could go wrong?" Puck muttered. Always a dangerous question to put out there.