A/N: If you haven't already, go back and read "Break Free;" otherwise nothing will make any sense. Total AU now that I'm on my sequel. To all of my readers: enjoy! I hope I live up to your expectations. Don't get too mad about what goes on in the beginning here - you know you all love that I bring the drama. And now... on with the show!
Disclaimer: I own nothing but these silly ideas in my head. And that's only until I get them uploaded to the internet. Sigh.
Oh, God, Ohmygod, she thought as she struggled to keep from hyperventilating.
"Will you marry me?" he asked her, and more than anything in her life, she wanted to say yes. She wanted to scream out her acceptance and become a teenaged bride. But she had bigger dreams than that, and Noah knew about them. He said he supported them. They had worked towards her dreams (and his) side-by-side for the better part of 3 years. Now was not the time to go second-guessing those dreams.
She had known what she wanted to do with her life when she was a toddler. She loved singing and dancing and making her fathers laugh, so she became determined that she was going to be a star. As she began receiving more and more instruction, she realized that her true love was singing, and that expressing herself through music was more gratifying than any other feeling in the world. Until she had found Noah in the glee room that day. Until her life path had been altered.
She loved him. She felt incomplete when she wasn't with him, and when he returned to her it always produced a rush of warmth and happiness in her veins. She could see herself spending the rest of her life with him. But she wasn't ready to get married. She was just getting ready to get out of Lima and live a little – not settle down and get married and have to deal with all of those pressures on top of being a college student and an aspiring Broadway star!
Still, she didn't want to tell him all of that in front of all of these people. When she had dreamt of being on a stage and having everyone's eyes on her, this was not exactly the situation she had envisioned. She didn't want to break his heart – they would need to talk about why she was going to say no, so that it wasn't a no, not ever, but just a no, not right now.
She knew she was pausing for too long as Noah's fingers twitched around the microphone and his eyes crinkled at the side in the first stages of confusion. She couldn't bear to hurt him like that in front of all of these people, so she decided to perform for him, to save his heart.
"Someday, my prince," she said, and she pulled him to his feet. "Someday, I will marry you," she whispered to him, and then she kissed him hard on the mouth. Behind their figures the celebratory fireworks exploded into the sky and she could hear the cheers erupting all around her.
They made their way onto the field hand-in-hand, and were congratulated by practically everyone that either of them had ever known. All the girls were squealing with delight about wedding planning (Rachel's stomach rolled at the thought) and the guys all fist-bumped or clapped Noah on the shoulder with a murmured, "Congrats, dude."
Noah's mother and sister rushed onto the field to hug them, and Rachel felt a pang of guilt when she pulled away from each embrace. She had come to love them so much in her years with Noah – they had become a second family to her. When she told him that she wasn't ready, she hoped his family wouldn't think that she was rejecting them.
Her fathers reached the field and raced towards her. For all intents and purposes, they both appeared to be excited about the prospect of having their teenaged daughter get married right out of high school, but Rachel knew that they were just as startled and scared as she was. They were almost as invested in her dreams as she was.
"We know something's wrong," Daddy whispered to her as he pulled her into a hug,
"You're not ready for this, are you?" Dad questioned her as he took his turn to embrace her.
"No," she whispered back ashamedly. Turning from them, she slipped her hand into Noah's and her fathers walked up to congratulate him as well.
"Are you two going to one of the after-parties?" Noah's mother asked them.
"Yeah, Mom, I told you that already. And then I'm staying the night at Rachel's tonight, okay, so don't wait up," Noah responded as she realized that she had completely forgotten about agreeing to go to the after-party. That was pre-proposal. Post-proposal, she felt as if she were about to vomit.
"Well, if you decide to drink anything, just let us know and we'll come get you," Daddy said. "We're so proud of the both of you, and we would hate for you to have your futures compromised because of drunk driving. We would hate to lose you…" he trailed off at Dad's warning glance.
"Too morose!" Daddy exclaimed, switching tactics. "So sorry. Go, go, children, and embrace the joys of youth. Enjoy your party, and call us if you need us!" he trilled, and Rachel shot him an appreciative grin.
"Hey guys!" Brittany exclaimed from behind them. "Ready to go?" she asked.
"Yeah, we were just leaving," Noah said, and the two of them hugged their families good-bye. The presence of Brittany saved Rachel from having to answer any of the questioning looks Noah kept shooting at her, and when they reached the car they were joined by Kurt and Mike and the boys provided enough distraction for her to only get away with saying a few words during the trip to the party.
They all walked in together, but Noah pulled her aside almost immediately. "Hey," he said to her, "come talk to me." He pulled her into an office on the main level and shut the door behind him.
"What's wrong?" he asked her, and he pulled her into his arms. She stiffened slightly, trying to hide her jumble of thoughts, but he felt her stiffen and pulled back from her.
"I thought you would be happy and chattering off the walls by now," he said, frowning a little.
"I am happy," she began. "But I'm also a little freaked out right now and very confused as to why you would think now would be a good time to propose, much less get married."
"Don't you want to get married?" he asked her, his face wrinkling in confusion.
"Yes! Someday," she emphasized. "But not right now. We're about to go to college, Noah! What did you think was going to happen? I'm going to New York, and you're going to be attending community college here in Lima. What would happen when we got married – one of us would have to give up their dreams and their future. And we've worked too hard to give those dreams up so quickly."
"But," Noah began, but Rachel cut him off. She was on a roll now.
"You know how important my future is to me, and you know how important your future is to me, especially since I believe that we will be together forever. But we're 18! I'm not ready to get married! I want to go to school and become an adult and start my career. If I show up at school engaged, no one will take me seriously. They'll all think that I'm just in this until my wedding certificate is filed away, and that I'll graduate with an MRS not a B.A." she ranted. "And then I'll never get any good parts or any good showcase times and no one will ever find out who I am and my career will never take off!"
She was angering him, she knew, but she couldn't help it. "And proposing in front of the entire town? Really? Way to put me on the spot. I couldn't say what I wanted to say, I couldn't talk to you about it and tell you that I loved you, but that no, I don't want to marry you. Not yet. That's why I said someday, Noah, because someday I want to marry you, but that someday is not anywhere in the near future. Okay?" she questioned.
"So, what you're saying is that even though you pretty much said yes on the stage, you don't want to marry me?" he asked her, his voice hard and cold. Rachel had registered a burst of sound from the party and then total silence as Noah had finished asking her his question. She turned towards the door and saw the entire party standing outside the doorway staring at them in shock.
"Let's go," she said to him and tried to take his hand in hers, but he jerked away from her.
"Fine," he snarled back, and walked out to his truck without opening her door for her. She hoisted herself up into the seat, and as soon as she shut her door, he began talking to her.
"I can't believe you would embarrass me like that! In front of everyone we know. I proposed to you at graduation because I thought you would enjoy the importance of it, and because I was pretty fucking sure that you felt the same way about me that I do about you. I see that I was wrong," his voice dripped with venom.
"No, that's not true," she whispered to him, and tears began to well in her eyes. "I love you!" she cried.
"No, you don't, because if you did, you would care more about me than your dreams or what people will think of you at school. You should have had faith in me that I wouldn't ask you to give up your dreams. Instead, you underestimated me and humiliated me," he fumed as he drove. He was driving very fast and the lights were flashing by. Everything was blurred because Rachel had tears streaking down her face.
"I just need some time!" she shouted at him, but he wasn't listening.
"You've had time!" he shouted back, gripping the steering wheel tightly in one hand. "What am I supposed to tell my mother and my sister, huh? What am I supposed to tell all of our friends? What, that you love me, just not enough to marry me?"
"No, just tell them that we're waiting," she said, trying to make peace.
"That only works if there's something to wait on, Rachel," he snapped back at her as he pulled into her driveway. "So is there something to wait on? Will you wear the ring I bought for you?" he asked her harshly.
"I told you, I don't want to go to school engaged," she said. "I still want to be with you. I still love you. Please, please, try to understand what I'm saying," she begged.
"So that's a no." It wasn't a question, it was a statement and the way he said it hurt her heart.
"No, I won't wear the ring, yet," she qualified. "But I will someday."
"That's not good enough, Rachel. Are you embarrassed to be engaged to me, is that what it is? I'm not from a good enough family, I don't have any money, I'm not going to a real college, I don't have a real job? Is that it?" he was shouting at her now, and her front porch light had come on. They were still sitting in the cab of the truck with the engine idling.
"You know that's not true!" she cried, desperate to reassure him.
"If it wasn't true you would marry me," he said sadly.
"Don't be stupid!" she shouted back, getting angrier now. "It's not any of those things. It's what I told you, and if you don't believe me, if you can't have enough faith in me and everything we've been through these last few years to know that I don't care about any of that, then maybe you don't really love me, and we shouldn't get married!"
He reeled back as if she had physically assaulted him. She sighed in defeat and went to get out of the car. "Good night, Noah," she said to him as she climbed from the truck.
"You're not going to let me come in and finish our conversation?" he asked her, incredulous. "I thought I was spending the night tonight."
"After everything that we've just said to each other, I think we need a night apart to think," she told him.
"But," Noah began, but Rachel jumped inside the cab and pulled him towards her for a heart-searing kiss.
"I love you," she told him right before she shut the door to the truck. She walked up the sidewalk to the front door and turned to see him sitting shell-shocked in the truck. She waved at him and went inside the house, locking the door and turning off the porch light as she began to cry in earnest.
She went upstairs to her room and lay on her bed crying, listening to the sound of Noah's truck idling in the driveway. She wasn't sure exactly how long he stayed before he drove away, but she knew that it was enough time for her to decide what needed to be done.
Slowly, she got up and walked zombie-like out of her room and knocked on her fathers' door.
"Rachel, sweetie, what is it? Why are you home so early?" Dad asked her as he answered the door.
"I need to talk to you," she told them, and then she began to tell them about what had happened tonight, and what she had planned for the future.
The next morning she left a few letters on the front hall table, ready to be given to the people who would inevitably come looking for them. She picked up her purse and walked out to her car. Her fathers were standing next to each other and the early morning sunlight was just beginning to glow across their skin.
She felt a lump rise in her throat and her eyes got itchy and watery as she struggled not to cry.
"I'll call you from the road," she told them. "Thank-you for understanding," she whispered to them, and they both hugged her fiercely.
"I love you," she called to them, and climbed into her packed car. She rolled down the window and each of her fathers leaned their heads in through the window to kiss her once on the cheek.
"Drive safely," Daddy said, and she looked up at him nervously.
"Tell him I love him," she said anxiously.
"We will, honey, don't worry. He'll understand," Dad said encouragingly.
"I don't think he will," she whispered, her eyes falling to her lap.
"He might not yet, but he will someday," Daddy said, and she felt a knife pierce through her heart at the use of the word "someday." She didn't know that it could hurt so much.
"I love you," she told them again and then she backed down the driveway.
She rode the interstate for hours, stopping frequently to use the bathroom and get beverages and stretch her legs. She sang along to sad music and she cried. She sang along with empowering music, and she felt vindicated. She talked to her fathers a few times, but the last time she had called, they hadn't answered. She thought that he must have arrived at her house by now, and that they must be telling them that she was gone.
She felt a fist squeeze around her heart, and she nearly ran off the road she was in so much pain. She missed him so much, already, and she couldn't imagine her life without him in it. But she had to go on.
She kept driving as night fell and when she finally reached her destination it was 3 o'clock in the morning. She gathered her purse and her laptop, leaving everything else in the car as 2 figures made their way down the sidewalk to her car.
"Hey, Rach, are you okay?" someone asked as she stumbled slightly getting out of the car.
"Yeah, I'm fine," she said, and she realized that while it wasn't true yet, it would be someday. "How are you, Finn? Quinn?"
She had stayed with Finn and Quinn the remainder of the summer. She talked to her parents and to some of the other glee kids, but she hadn't heard from Noah or his family at all. No one spoke to her about them. It was as if they were a taboo subject. She worried about him, but she didn't want to call him and give him false hope when she had already made up her mind. She ached for him everyday and cried for him every night, but as time went on she stopped crying as long, she stopped aching every second of the day. When she left Maine to go to school, she left it with a healthier heart than she'd arrived with.
That had been almost 4 years ago. The time had flown by, and in just a few weeks she would be performing her final showcase and graduating once more. She still hadn't heard from Noah.