~~~~~ EPILOGUE ~~~~~
Puck sauntered down the empty halls of McKinley, walking the quickest route between his office and the choir room. It was a Friday and he couldn't wait for the weekend. He loved his weekends now that life was so different than it had been before. As he approached the familiar doorway to the room where he had spent so many hours as a teenager, he heard voices and realized that Rachel was still with a student. Pausing outside the door, he listened.
"…..but what I don't understand is why you gave that solo to Jennifer when my vocal range is obviously far superior to hers. She struggles with high notes! My extensive vocal training has afforded me the ability to reach ANY note… So in actuality, a solo assigned to me calls for less practice! It seems to me that you're making a questionable judgment call and are thereby affecting our chances for success this competition season."
Puck looked in, watching the petite blond girl speaking sternly to Rachel, who was placing sheet music back on the shelf.
Rachel turned and looked at her, unable to hide the sheer exasperation on her face. "Christy, this is the Glee club. You have to expect to share the spotlight if you want us to be successful at Sectionals this year. This is all about teamwork. Sometimes, one team member has to step back so that another one can step forward. But if the end result is success, then it's all worth it. I can relate to how you feel, believe me."
The blond girl sighed loudly. Picking up her books, she turned back to face Rachel. "I seriously doubt that YOU know how I feel. I just don't understand why you have destroy my dreams in order to encourage others." She then stormed out of the room, bumping into Puck as she retreated.
Rachel heard Puck's laughter before she saw him. He walked up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and rested his chin on her shoulder. "So the circle of life at McKinley High continues, I see?"
Rachel sighed, relishing his warmth and the strength of his arms around her tired body. "She's exactly like I was, isn't she?"
"She's your blonde clone. All that's missing is those sexy-ass knee socks. I'm just waiting for her to get Slushied…."
Turning to face him, she said, "Don't you dare plant that idea in anyone's head, Noah Puckerman! She may be as difficult as I was but NO ONE deserves to be Slushied!"
"Pipe down, babe! I would never suggest it….I am in a position of authority around here now, remember? I can't exactly encourage those types of things – even if they were pretty awesome and completely badass."
Rachel turned and smacked him on the arm. Then standing up on her the very tip of her toes, she kisses his mouth.
"Can we go home, Mr. Puckerman?"
"Absolutely, Mrs. Puckerman…you need to be off your feet anyway."
Supporting her with his arm around her waist, Rachel put her hands on her very pregnant belly. Four more weeks and then she could see her feet again! As she waddled with him out to the car, he helped her in and made sure she was securely in her seat before starting the car.
As Puck navigated their new Honda through the neighborhood seats of Lima, they both sat in comfortable silence. Rachel was leaning back in her seat, her eyes closed. Pregnancy was more exhausting than she had anticipated. Just nine months ago, she had received Quinn's invitation to return to Lima. And now, here she was, getting ready to celebrate her six-month wedding anniversary. Rachel thought back to those nights – not their singular night of passion nearly nine years ago – but of the two nights during her trip back to Lima that she spent in his arms. Sighing with pleasure, she possessively laid her hand on her belly. This baby boy was created then…. And then once the announcement about her new position was made, she and Noah went to New York to pack up her life and bring it all back to Lima. They had spent five, wonderful days in New York City packing and sight-seeing. She even got Noah to sit through three different Broadway musicals! She gave him the full tour, leaving out none of the goofy cliché places that visitors from the Midwest often flock to. At night, they made love and planned their future. Once everything was packed, they rented a moving truck and drove it back to Lima. Backing the truck up to Noah's house, her items were offloaded straight into it. There was no question about where she would live when she started her new job.
A few short weeks later, having barely settled into her new job at McKinley High, Rachel woke in the middle of the night and had to run to the bathroom to vomit. Puck heard the commotion and got up to follow her. Wetting a cloth so that she could wipe her mouth, his voice was low and tinged with emotion.
"You're pregnant, you know."
She looked up at him from her perch above the porcelain throne and said, "I think so."
Puck smiled down at her, tears swimming in his eyes. "So this means you're marrying me, right? I mean….I know we should probably wait but…..dammit, I can't. That's my baby and you're my girl. I lost you once and I'll be damned if ….."
Rachel jumped up and threw herself into his arms, hugging him tightly (they would kiss later, after she had brushed her teeth.) "You don't have to ask me twice, Noah Puckerman. And you don't have to worry about losing me. I'm right here."
Puck watched as Rachel's face turned almost green. She then sprinted back over to the toilet and heaved again. When she was finished, she took the cloth from his outstretched hand, wiped her mouth, and hung it over the tub.
Good God, even spewing vomit, he loved this woman so much it made his hands tingle.
Two months later, they were married in Quinn and Artie's backyard. All their Glee friends were in attendance, as were Will and Emma. That day, as Rachel was surrounded by friends, her fingers intertwined with those of her new husband, her new stepdaughter staring up at her adoringly, and the baby she dreamed about growing inside her, she couldn't imagine a more perfect life.
She pulled herself back to the present as Noah turned the car into the driveway. Helping her out, he pulled her into his arms and dropped a kiss on her lips. "Do you know how much I love you?"
"Probably as much as I love you," she offered, which was the standard answer she gave him every time he whispered that same question to her.
Turning, he helped her up the steps and unlocked the door. With an exaggerated sigh, she collapsed on the couch and propped up her feet. Home. It felt so good to be home. She had left before but somehow – perhaps miraculously – she had found her way back home. And she was never, ever leaving again.
Author's note: And so we say goodbye to Noah, Rachel, Sarah, and baby Puckerman here. Now I gotta start thinking of my next story. *sigh* Thank you all SO MUCH for all the reviews. They absolutely make writing worth it. I'm sure my next story will probably be longer than this one…I love multi-chapter dramas. Rest assured, it will be a Puckleberry story because frankly, there are no others! Until then – TOODLES!