A/N: Welcome to the longest chapter ever in my short history of fanfic writing (I can't believe I've only been doing this for three months!) Chapter title is an oldie but goodie by Def Leppard.
Tina blinked, wondering if her eyes were playing tricks on her, as she stared at the wretched looking person standing at her door. It was Puck, all right - but instead of the sexy smirk and confidence he normally exuded he...well...he kinda looked like total shit. He was in dire need of a haircut, was wearing a gray, ratty old McKinley High sleeveless T-shirt, and wrinkled jeans.
"Puck?" She asked, her voice a bit skeptical and unsure. Do I really want to invite him in?
"Hey Tina," Puck began, shifting uncomfortably on his feet, "can I talk to you?"
Resigned, Tina pushed the door to her apartment open, allowing Puck to enter. He followed her into the dining room, where she motioned for him to sit down at the table.
"You want something to drink?"
"Soda, if ya got it," Puck said. Tina went to the cabinets, pulling out two glasses and filling them with ice. Grabbing two cans of Coke, she brought it to the table and sat down in a chair, tucking her legs beneath her.
"What brings you here, Puck?" She knew the answer, obviously, but was trying (and failing) to act as casual as possible. Her hands shook as she poured her Coke into the glass. Act cool…act casual. DO NOT betray Rachel's location!
Puck took a drink of his soda. "Rachel."
Tina stiffened, unsure of how to proceed. Rachel didn't want to hear from Puck but he, obviously, wasn't doing well with Rachel's plan of avoidance.
Tina seemed to trip over her words when she answered him. "What about her? I can't…"
"Fuck, Tina," Puck cut her off with a growl, "I know you know where she is and that you can't tell me. Well, you can…but you won't."
Tina jumped, a little shocked at Puck's outburst. She knew he would be upset but she hadn't expected this. His eyes were dark and angry, his face contorted, and his chest heaved slightly. He was pissed.
"Puck, I made a promise to Rachel that I wouldn't tell anyone where she is." Tina watched as Puck's jaw flexed and moved as he obviously gritted his teeth. Leaning back into the seat, he took a sip of his soda and closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, Tina could tell that some of the tension had eased as he worked to compose himself.
"Is she okay, Tina?"
"She's doing as well as can be expected." Tina slowly took a sip as she calculated her words. She had to make sure she didn't say too much. I don't want to betray Rachel. But dammit, Puck looked miserable!
Puck roughly ran his fingers through his messy hair. Swearing under his breath, he looked Tina in the eye. "I miss her, Tina. I know you won't tell me where she is...it's just... I miss her so much." Looking down at his glass, he added, "She's all I fucking think about."
Tina was speechless at both his admission and his demoralized tone. She had expected angry Puck and she could deal with him when he was angry. She'd gone through enough years of high school with him to know how to deal with his bad moods. (Ignore, avoid, and don't provoke!) But vulnerable Puck? Vulnerable Puck was a completely different animal and it nearly took the wind out of her sails.
Puck looked up again, his eyes softer and questioning. "Does she ever mention me...like, at all? I sent her a message on Facebook but she ignored it." Pressing his back against the wooden back of the chair, he added, "I feel like she's fucking forgotten that I ever existed."
Tina sighed. "Puck, I don't know what you want me to say. I...Rachel asked...It's..." Tina struggled with what to offer. It was easy to tell Rachel that she wouldn't say anything to Puck in theory. But the reality of it was now facing her and she felt like a few things needed to be said on Rachel's behalf. Finally, she just gave into her gut and went for it. "You hurt her, Puck. Your reaction to...to...to what happened?" How do I talk about the night that they had sex? "The way you walked out? That destroyed her." Meeting Puck's eyes with a defiant glare, she said, "You ignored her for two weeks, Puck. You pretended she wasn't even there. What kind of friend is that?"
Tina's words stabbed through Puck's heart like sharp little knives. He knew all this. Hell, he'd lived it himself for weeks now, over and over again. But watching the emotion come over Tina's face, seeing the hurt that she had for Rachel, was like seeing into Rachel's heart – even just a tiny bit - and it tore him up inside.
"Tina, I know I fucked up. I think about it constantly. I wish I woulda done pretty much everything about that fucking night differently. I wish...I..." Puck stood up, shoving away from the table. "I don't know what the fuck I wish, anymore. Nothing really matters anymore anyway. She's gone. She's apparently not coming back." His voice caught. "And she hates me and doesn't want anything to do with me."
"Puck...I don't think she hates you," Tina offered quietly, watching Puck's shoulders rise up and down with his ragged breathing. "I think she's just...heartbroken at how things turned out."
Puck whirled around, Tina's words prompting a strong reaction. "And you know what, Tina? This shit isn't completely my fault. Rachel never bothered to tell me how she felt about me, did she? No! She kept it in! She didn't say a fucking word and watched me get engaged to another woman. That doesn't seem like the actions of a woman who wanted to be with me, does it?"
"What would you have had her do, Puck? Beg you not to marry Kim? Risk your friendship? Tell you that..." Tina almost added, "that she loved you," but she cut herself off. She couldn't reveal Rachel's feelings. It wasn't her place. And as Puck spoke again, it was obvious that she didn't need to, anyway, because he'd figured it out.
"Tell me that she loved me? Yes, she could have! Then, none of this shit might have happened and she might...I--," Puck struggled with what to say. "And then maybe I would have had her now, instead of spending every waking moment hating myself for what happened and missing her so much...." He sat back down in the chair, his body and mind fatigued.
"Do you want her Puck? Like that?"
"Are you serious, Tina? Of course I want her...I wouldn't be going bat-shit crazy if I didn't want her so much that I can't fucking breathe. Leaving her that night was the biggest mistake of my entire life. And you know that I fuck up a lot. It's apparently the one thing I actually do right." Puck tugged at a hangnail on his middle finger, staring intently as he waited for Tina to respond.
Tina's mouth gaped at the miserable man sitting across from her. Oh my God.... He's in love with her. Puck is in love with Rachel! Noah Puckerman loves Rachel Berry! Puck hearts Rachel! Tina wanted to screech, jump up and down, grab her cell phone, and call Rachel immediately. This was huge. This changed everything. All bets were off, now!
Tina finally composed herself and said, "I didn't realize that you loved her, Puck."
Puck let out a sad chuckle from deep in his chest. "Neither did I, until recently. I..." He searched for the right words. "...I think I have for a long time, actually. But I just didn't want to see it or couldn't see it or...fuck, I don't know. All I do know is that I just want to get her back, Tina. You can understand that, right? I need her. It's been seven weeks since I've looked into her eyes or have even seen her from a distance. Seven fucking weeks."
Tina's heart hurt for Puck - for Puck and Rachel both, actually. They'd made a mess of this whole thing. But I can't betray Rachel...I can't tell him where she is. But he needs to tell Rachel how he feels. She deserves to know…it changes everything between them.
Tina and Puck sat in silence as Tina toyed with her glass. What do I do? I actually want to help the stupid schmuck because, in the end, it will help both of them. And I want Rachel to be happy. Even if it is this idiot that seems to matter most to her. Slowly, Tina looked over at the cut-out that divided her kitchen from her dining room. Sitting on the ledge of that cut-out window were the pictures she and Rachel had taken in Seattle. She'd printed them out so that she could mail Rachel copies but hadn't gotten around to going to the post office yet. Just a few feet behind Puck's head lay the answers he so desperately sought. Just a few feet…
As she was thinking, her phone rang. Standing up, she made her decision and started speaking before her better judgment could intervene. "Puck, I have to take this call. Behind you, there are some recent pictures I took. They might be of interest to you."
Tina walked into the living room, where she snagged the cordless and answered. Even as she began speaking, her hands shook and her mind swirled with a thousand thoughts. Please forgive me, Rachel. Please…
Puck stood up quickly, looking behind where he sat. He spied the stack of pictures lying on the ledge, seeing Rachel's face immediately. Grabbing the pictures, he stared at them in shock. The top picture was of Rachel and Tina, smiling brightly. They were high above a city at some observation spot but he couldn't tell where. The most obvious part of the picture to him, though, was that Rachel's smile didn't reach her eyes. She looked tired and worn out. And she'd lost weight. Puck scowled at the picture. Where the hell was this taken?
Flipping to the next one, he saw Rachel posing in front of red brick building with "Jackson Street Bakery" painted on the window in big block letters. Jackson Street? Where the fuck is Jackson Street? There are millions of those all over the fucking place!
The next one, though, was the Holy Grail of photos because it answered the one question that had dogged Puck for weeks. It was a picture of Rachel and Tina standing on a ferry, arms thrown toward the sky in apparent "jazz hands" pose, with a city skyline in the background. His eyes zeroed in on the buildings until he settled on the Space Needle. Rachel's in Seattle.
SHIT! Rachel is in Seattle!
Puck looked around, trying to figure out what to do. I have to go to her. I have to see her. Dropping the photos, Puck shot out of the dining room.
Tina was still on the phone when she saw Puck bolt through the living room. Interrupting Tina, he asked, "Jackson Street?"
Tina nodded solemnly. "North Jackson Street."
Puck started to leave but was stopped by Tina's voice. Turning, he met her pleading eyes. "Puck, don't make me regret this."
His face, although still tired, seemed to have lost some of the worry lines that had etched it when he'd arrived. With a crooked smile, he assured her, "I won't Tina, I promise." And then he was gone.
Tina watched the apartment door slam behind him as he disappeared quickly. Smiling into the phone, she said, "Kurt, Puck's on his way to get Rachel."
"Thank God," was Kurt's reply.
"I just hope Rachel forgives me…"
Six hours later, Puck's truck was in long-term parking at the Cleveland airport and he was buckled into his seat as the plane climbed high into the sky. Settling in, he looked out the window, feeling better than he had in ages. With nothing more than the clothes on his back and his cell phone in the pocket of his jacket, he had rushed to the airport and bought the first ticket to Seattle that he could find. He had no address to use to find her other than "North Jackson Street" but he knew that he would find her. He had to. Things had to be fixed. He had to have her in his life, now more than ever.
I'm on my way, Rach.
By the time Puck made it to Seattle, it was late and dark and he was nearly exhausted. He looked up the address of Jackson Street Bakery on his iPhone and then found the hotel closest to it. Checking into his room, he yanked his clothes off and fell into the cool sheets with Rachel's face in his mind as he fell asleep. He was there, in Seattle. And since he knew the general location of her "hideout", he knew that he was going to find her. The missing void of her in his life couldn't go on.
The rain came down sharply, pelting off his skin. Puck sunk further back into the recess of the brick wall as the misery of the situation took hold. What if she never comes? After arriving at the bakery at 6am, he'd been standing there for five hours so far. He'd watch the sun fully come up over Seattle. He'd seen tons of taxis and heard plenty of sirens. It felt like hundreds of women had walked by…but none of them were Rachel. Sighing, he leaned against the wet building. He felt so discouraged. He knew it wouldn't be easy to find him but white-hot fear was snaking into his veins. What if he didn't find her? What if she never showed? What if there were actually like thirteen different Jackson Street Bakeries on Jackson Street? What if she'd found a roach in the whole grain wheat bread she'd purchased last week and was now boycotting the very bakery he was loitering in front of? It would be just like Rachel to do such a thing. And it would be just his fucking luck for it to happen right before his ass finally found out where she is. He forced determination into his gut and worry out with a groan. I'm here because I need to see her again. I need her to understand how sorry I am…and that I know I fucked up. He wasn't giving up yet. If there was even a slim chance that Rachel would show, he needed to be there.
Rachel woke up with a pounding headache and a growling stomach. Rehearsals had gone late into the evening and when she'd finally made it back to her apartment, she was too tired to eat. Now, as her stomach seemed to be digesting itself while she snuggled under the blankets, she regretted the decision. She stood up, forcing herself to function through the pounding in her head, to go find something to eat. Glancing at the clock, she read 12:30. The sound of rain hitting her window alerted her to the fact that after five gorgeously sunny days, the rain was back. Throwing her hair into a ponytail, she popped back two Tylenol, took a drink of water, and threw on her rain slicker. It was time to get something to eat.
At 12:50, Puck's stomach was grumbling so loudly that he thought the people around him could hear it. He hadn't eaten anything since yesterday and the smell of bread coming from the bakery was like a cruel form of torment. Stepping out from the alcove in the building, Puck looked in every direction, his eyes browsing the horizon. Once he was satisfied that he didn't see Rachel anywhere, he ducked inside the bustling building. Time to test out why Rachel apparently loved the place enough to have her picture taken in front of it.
Rachel was glad it was Sunday because the normal crowds on Jackson Street were considerably less, even at 12:55 in the afternoon. With a quick glance at the bakery, she turned the corner and headed toward the café. She needed more than bagels and cream cheese today.
Puck stood in line for fucking forever just to buy his food. Grabbing a small table right by the window, he sunk his teeth into the yeasty goodness of the glazed doughnut he's paid entirely too much more. But as soon as the warm, bready texture touched his tongue, he grinned. This place was the shit! He sat quietly, downing his doughnut and his bottle of Coke as he stared out at the rainy city street.
Where are you, Rachel? It's after 1pm. Please show today. Please.
The grilled chicken sandwich Rachel ordered at the café was simply heavenly. Not only had it appeased her growling stomach but it had also eradicated her the last remnants of her headache. Smiling because she felt so much better, she stepped back out into the rain and headed back the way she'd come. She had a day off and she was determined to enjoy it.
1:47pm. One fucking forty-seven. The rain had lessened slightly but Puck was still so soaked that he felt like it would take weeks to dry out. He'd been waiting for nearly seven hours. Seven goddamn hours. Swearing and kicking at a wet cigarette butt, he threw his body down onto the wet wooden bench in front of the bakery. Burying his head in his hands, he closed his eyes and groaned in despair. He'd never realized how painful it would be to have to endlessly wait for the one thing he'd wanted most in his entire sorry-ass life to show the fuck up.
Humming a tune from her show, Rachel approached the corner. She slowed down to maneuver through the crowd that had gathered to wait on the light to change and then finally made it around the corner and out of the throng of people. As she turned, she spotted a man with his head in his hands on the bench in front of the bakery. Her steps slowed. I recognize that jacket.
She stepped closer, pushing her hood off her face so she could get a better look. Her eyes trailed down the man's drooped head and settled on his fingers. Her body grew cold, tension pouring into her muscles, as she recognized the long, nimble fingers that cradled his face. A thousand times, she had seen those fingers nimbly strum the strings of his guitar with expert skill. And one time – on one singular occasion - she'd felt them slide over her body, plucking and teasing, with just as much knowledge. Eyes growing wide, her hand flew to her mouth. Without realizing it, she let out a loud squeak. The man looked up at the sound of her surprised gasp and their eyes locked.
Puck vaulted off the bench, his legs pounding a heavy beat against the pavement as he ran toward Rachel. She stood, too stunned to move.
"Rachel! Thank God!" Skidding to a stop in front of her, Puck searched her face. She looked so beautiful, even though her eyes were tired and she'd obviously lost weight. His hands itched to touch her skin. His palms tingled to wrap themselves around her shoulders and pull her body into his. Instead, he tucked them into his pockets as she continued to stare at him, her face unreadable.
"Noah…wh—what are you doing here?" Rachel's voice was weak, almost completely drowned out by the sound of taxi splashing through a puddle as it meandered past.
"For you, Rach," was all Puck managed to say. His heart was pounding because she was finally, finally standing in front of him. I love you. I'm sorry. I need you in my life. Please tell me you love me. I'm so sorry. Can we start again? Do you still love me? "I missed you and…Fuck, Rachel, I'm here to say that I'm sorry…"
Rachel felt like her head was swimming. The rain was soaking her, her headache was rushing back, and she felt weak. Noah. In Seattle. "How did you find me?" Why are you here? Why are you ruining the Noah-free life I'm trying to create? I can't see you! I can't… It's too hard.
Not wanting to out Tina for her help, Puck shrugged and gave Rachel a lopsided but nervous grin. "I have my ways…" He looked around, trying to spot a place where they could talk privately. "Look, Rach…can we go somewhere and talk?" His chest hurt just from looking at her. It has been early two months since he'd seen her, two months since he'd been able to touch her and feel her breath against his skin. He needed time alone to talk to her. His heart sank, though, when Rachel shook her head.
"No, Noah…I don't think we should. I…I have nothing to say to you." Rachel's hands trembled so she slid them in the pockets of her rain slicker. Her heart was pounding a drumbeat in her ears that was so loud, she was sure passersby could hear it. I have to get away from here…from him. Rachel turned to flee but Puck's strong hand flew out of his pocket and grabbed her around the wrist.
"Please, Rachel, don't go!" His voice was frantic. "Please…we have to talk."
Rachel wrenched her arm from his grasp and darted across the street. Puck watched her go for nearly a full second before taking off after her. "Rachel!" His voice was loud and he was practically growling her name but he didn't give a fuck. The woman who had consumed nearly every one of his thoughts for the past two months was running from him like he was her attacker and not someone who had once meant so much to her. Luckily, his long legs and athleticism pushed him until he caught up with her. Grabbing her by the arm again, he pulled her under a nearby awning and out of the rain. Both of their chests were heaving and rain dripped down their faces, absorbing into their already-soaked clothing. Puck's eyes roamed over her face but she refused to meet his gaze. Instead, she stared at the ground. Puck saw her body tremble and he groaned in frustration. As lust, love, and hundreds of over emotions raged through his body, Puck closed the gap between himself and Rachel and wrapped his arms around her waist, jerking her against his body roughly. She looked up, shocked at his bold embrace, and he took advantage of her upturned face to lower his lips to hers in a brutal, nearly-painful, kiss. Rachel made a muffled protest against his mouth, which he stifled by sliding his tongue along her lips, causing an involuntary shiver to slide from her spine to her belly. For a few seconds, she was too stunned to do anything but kiss him back. Slowly, though, Rachel pushed the fiery longing from her body and began to get hold of her senses. She struggled to break free of his embrace but Puck's hands went to her hair, fisting it tightly, in order to keep her face on his. His lips slid from her mouth to her cheek and then to her ear, where his breath was hot against her face when he whispered, "I'm so sorry, Rachel. I fucking miss you so much…" He dropped a kiss along her jaw and whispered again, "so sorry…"
Sucking in a ragged breath, Rachel jerked her head away from him, smacking his hands from her hair. Glaring up at him, he saw the anger flash through her eyes. He knew she was about to lay into him but he didn't care. At least she'd be talking to him, even if it was an ass-chewing.
"Leave me alone, Noah," she begged quietly.
"No, Rachel. I'm not going to. I can't." His voice was loud and shaky. She can't run from me like this. Please, not again.
"I thought, Noah, that my absence from your life was a clear indication that I wanted nothing to do with you. Perhaps you didn't understand when I ignored your messages as well but let me be very clear: we have nothing to say to one another. Despite your attempts to hold me by physical force, we still have nothing left to discuss. Absolutely nothing." You broke my heart, Noah Puckerman. I don't know if I can ever forgive you for that.
"That's bullshit," Puck barked. "I fucked up and I'm sorry. You have every right to hate me. But we have a lot that needs to be said – that should have been said months ago. I'm not leaving until we talk. Please?" His voice dropped lower on the last word, desperation uniting with his anger.
Rachel felt rage and stress rising in her stomach, making its way up her abdomen and into her throat. I don't want to talk to you! "Leave me alone," she gritted out. "I'm leaving now. And don't follow me. And don't come back here again either. I'm in Seattle for a reason so leave me the hell alone. Whatever we shared is gone now." Rachel dodged back out into the rain and Puck watched her go. His hands shook…he didn't know what to do. He hadn't expected to see so much…hate. And it was nearly crippling to see.
When she was nearly a block ahead of him, he took off after her again. "Rachel!" he yelled. Fuck...I have to get her to stop! "Rachel, please! I love you!" Puck watched as she slowed, his words gliding through the rain and the noise of the traffic so that by the time they reached her, he wasn't sure she'd heard them. He watched as she glanced back for a moment, a curious look on her face, before she picked up her pace again. He followed after her and just as he was gaining ground, she bolted into a red-brick building. Speeding up, he ran in after her. His wet shoes sent him flying across the tile floor and he struggled for purchase when he slammed into the staircase. He looked to the right and then to left and spied a pant-covered leg belonging to Rachel entering through a door before he heard the door slam shut. Running after her, he stared at the door. Apartment 1D. Rachel's home here.
Standing outside, he rapped softly. "Rachel…" Listening, he heard nothing. "Rachel," he tried again. "I know you're in there. Please. Just give me five minutes. That's all I ask…" He waited, hoping the door would open. However, total silence was all that greeted him. Swearing loudly, Puck kicked her door and then stalked to the other side of the hall.
Fine. If she's going to be like that, I'll just fucking wait until she has to come out again.
Sinking to the floor, he jerked his wet jacket off and threw it by him. Stretching his legs out, he crossed his feet at the ankles and started intently at the door. I know where you are and we have to talk.
Rachel's breathing was jagged and uneven on the other side of the door. Did he say? Did I just hear him say...? She shook the thought from her head. I heard him wrong. What is he doing here? Why won't he go away? Angrily swiping at the tears streaming from her eyes, she stalked into her bedroom to change out of her wet clothes. After toweling her wet hair off, taking care to dry the ends, she changed into sweats and a shirt and quietly padded back to the living room since she was convinced he was listening on the other side of the door. Standing a few inches from the door, she focused hard to listen. She could hear him shifting back and forth on the other side of the door, sighing loudly. She squeezed her eyes shut against the pain that his close proximity caused. Seeing him again had hit her like a jolt of lightning – his beautiful eyes, gorgeous features, strong build, and the fact that she still loved him so much that her entire body throbbed from it. Time and distance have done very little to take those feelings away, Rachel thought sadly. But it had also failed to remove the hurt and the anger that he'd caused and those feelings – those were what kept her on the inside and him on the outside.
Growling under her breath, Rachel turned and flounced over to her cell phone. Looking at the contacts, she spied a name and dialed quickly. It was time to call for reinforcements.
Nick had been admittedly shocked when Rachel called him on a Sunday and begged him to come over. Her voice was high-pitched and shaky and it took him a moment to fully grasp what she was saying. Once he'd gotten her to slow down and explain it, though, he'd quickly pulled off his ratty sweats, turned the television off, and headed over to her apartment.
Twenty minutes later, he was in Rachel's building and walking down the hall. He spied the man on the floor in front of Rachel's door. The guy pulled his legs up so that Nick could pass without opening his eyes. Nick stood above him, staring down. Puck opened one eye and looked up.
"Puckerman," Nick nodded solemnly. Puck hopped to his feet, tense and ready to throw a punch if he had to. How the fuck does this guy know me?
"Who the fuck are you?" Puck barked at the tall, dark-haired man now standing in front of Rachel's door.
"A friend of hers,", he indicated, nodding toward Rachel's apartment.
"So I take it she's told you about me?"
Nick nodded, crossing his arms across the chest so that his muscles bulged. "I know all about it."
Does this dude think he's a threat? Puck crossed his arms in the same manner. If this guy wanted to have a "guns" battle, Puck could fight it out with the best of them. And I'll fucking win every time.
"Dude, I don't know who you are and I don't give a fuck...All I want to do is talk to her. Just for a minute...." Puck set his lips in a scowl even though his head was screaming to punch this fuckhead between the eyes.
Nick looked at the pathetic man standing before him and let out a little laugh. There were visible bags under his eyes and his clothing was wet and rumpled. Fucking pathetic! Turning away from him, he rapped his knuckles against Rachel's door. Puck was now standing so close that Nick could feel his breath against the back of his neck.
"Rachel, its me, Nick. Let me in." There was a moment of silence before both men heard the door unlock. Slowly, it opened a tiny bit and Rachel's eyeball appeared and locked with Nick's. Nick nodded silently and as Rachel began to open the door, he put his arm out against Puck's chest to keep him advancing toward the open door. Quickly and deftly, he slid inside and they both closed the door in Puck's face.
Puck stood stunned, his heart thumping. She just let some fucking muscle-bound dude into her apartment. What the fuck? The realization that Rachel possibly had a male friend (he refused to think that it could be more) stung. With a frustrated yelp, Puck stalked back against the opposite wall again. This is bullshit!
As soon as Nick was inside, Rachel hugged him. "I'm sorry I called you...I just freaked out and didn't know what to do...." Nick wound his arms around Rachel and pulled her close.
"You're shaking," he said into her hair. "Did he try to hurt you?" He put his hands on her arms and pulled away to look at her. "I'll bust his ass if he tried to hurt you!"
Rachel was quick to answer. "No! No, of course not! He would never hurt me physically...."
"Then why are you shaking?"
Rachel's eyes went dark, worry lines appearing by her eyes. "I don't know...I think I'm just shocked that he's here. I obviously didn't expect him to show up here, in Seattle!"
Nick snorted. "When you have drama, Rach, you have drama. How the hell did he even find you?"
Rachel threw her hands up, stalking back over to the door to look through the peephole again. "I don't know! I have a feeling that my dear friend Tina needs her ass kicked. Only she and my dad know exactly where I am. Well, now those two and….him! The one I moved so far away from in the first place!" She motioned toward her closed door for emphasis. Rachel ran her hands through her damp hair and looked into Nick's eyes. "I don't know what to do! I don't know what I'm supposed to do now….I've been doing so well without him around and seeing him again just…" her voice trailed off as she thought about Noah, standing on the other side of her apartment door. Less than ten feet away, the entire source of her heartbreak stood quietly…waiting. Rachel felt like she was going to pass out. With a dizzy groan, she grabbed Nick's hand and collapsed onto the couch. "What is he doing here?" she muttered.
Nick stared at the woman before him. Her face was pale, worried, and she looked like a nervous wreck. Her eyes repeatedly darted back and forth from the door to the floor in front of her.
"Rachel…do you want to invite him in?" Nick spoke slowly, afraid she would claw him at the mere suggestion.
"Yes…No!" She took a deep breath and then repeated, "No. We have nothing to say to one another."
Nick looked at her curiously. "Really? Because I think you two have tons to say to each other. He obviously worked hard enough to find you and come all this way. That has to mean something, doesn't it?"
Rachel glowered at Nick. "So you're taking his side, huh? You know what he did to me!"
"Rach…you love him, don't you? Even after all that?"
She nodded, the pain from the fact that yes, even after everything they'd gone through and the intense heartbreak she'd endured, she still loved him so much that it scared her.
"Then let him in…" Nick sat down beside her, throwing an encouraging hand on her knee.
"No…I'm not ready," Rachel leaned back into the couch. "I mean, I still love him, yes. But I also hate him so much because of what happened. I've never been so hurt in my entire life...and at the hands of my best friend?" She looked slowly back at the door. "No...I hate him." She sounded like she was trying to convince herself and Nick wasn't buying it.
"Women…" Nick muttered, suddenly feeling kinda sorry for the pathetic-looking dude standing outside the door.
Rachel didn't speak for a few minutes and Nick could tell that she was straining to see if she could hear Puck on the other side of the door. "You want me to invite him in for ya?" Nick stood and walked toward the door.
"No!" Rachel shrieked, rushing after him.
Nick laughed as Rachel plowed into him. Grabbing her around the waist, he steadied himself and led them both back to the couch.
On the other side of the door, Puck heard Rachel shriek and that dense-looking asshole laugh. Puck's fists turned white as he clenched his knuckles. Is that guy her boyfriend? Fuck! Leaning against the wall opposite from the wall, Puck glared at the door, trying to magically gain x-ray vision so he could see what was happening inside. The thought that Rachel already had a man in her life made him nauseous. The very thought told him that maybe she hadn't really loved him at all. Puck closed his eyes against the pain that this intense attraction and pull that he felt for her was actually one-sided. Pushing it away, he admonished himself to relax. Get a fucking grip, Puckerman. She loves you. She wouldn't have left if she hadn't felt she had to…she loves you….she loves you…
After an hour of near silence, only broken by Rachel's occasional sniffles, Nick yawned. "Rach…do you still need me? I'm kinda…Well… to be honest, I'm really fucking uncomfortable right now."
Rachel gave him a sad smile. "I'm sorry I bothered you, Nick. I had a momentary freak-out."
Momentary? You're still freaking out, Nick thought.
"I've got to get home because my mom is stopping by in a few for our Sunday evening dinner but…Call me, okay? And if you decide to let the douche in, you'll probably feel better. You know you want to…"
Rachel stood up to walk him to the door but he stopped her. "I'll let myself out."
Nodding, Rachel sat back down on the couch as Nick quickly opened the door and slipped out.
Puck's posture stiffened when the door began to open. His hopes were quickly dashed, though, when he saw the green eyes of MuscleFucker instead of Rachel's gorgeous dark brown ones.
Puck glanced at the floor, hoping the dude would just walk away. He didn't. When he felt the guy standing in front of him, Puck looked up.
"She's really upset," Nick offered.
Puck nodded. "I figured."
"Are you just going to stand around out here?" Nick crossed his arms again and Puck fought the urge to roll his eyes. Seriously, dude? I could totally take you.
"I'm planning on it… I have things to say to her…"
Nick shrugged. "Well good luck, man…I don't see her budging… Not tonight anyway." Turning, Nick stuck his hands in his pockets and sauntered away, whistling softly.
Puck watched him go and once he disappeared, he refocused his eyes back on the door. C'mon, Rachel. Please...
After Nick left, Rachel paced the floor of her apartment, wearing a path between the kitchen, around the couch, and back again. Once she was alone, she let the tears fall freely. Her hands literally ached to yank the door open just to look at him again. She could still feel the intense kiss from earlier and it only made her cry harder. Why had he kissed her like that? And had he really said what she thought he'd said? He's not supposed to be here. We weren't supposed to ever see one another again.
Rachel walked up to her door as quietly as possible, standing on her toes, to look out the peephole. She could see him against the opposite wall. His head was dropped and his hand was rubbing his forehead slowly. Her insides screamed for him to go away and come inside. She wanted to never see him again and also never let him leave again. It was absolute torture. The push and pull of him on her heart nearly made her pass out. How can I love you and hate you at the same time?
At 12:30am, Puck was still outside. He was sitting on the floor again, staring at the door. There was no light coming from underneath it so he'd assumed she'd gone to bed. He leaned his head back against the wall, trying to figure out what the fuck to do next. He'd come all this way and he'd barely slept in days. His veins coursed with the need to touch her again. Her name was on his heartbeat. He had arrived in Seattle, planning on begging and pleading. He'd grovel if he had to. He'd planned on it. He had a huge speech all prepared so that she would understand how he felt. And instead, he sat staring at the door to her apartment. Her silence was complete fucking torture.
At 3am, he gave up. Standing up, he glanced at her door once last time. His heart was very heavy as he stepped outside and hailed a cab that would take him back to his hotel. He'd get a few hours of sleep and show back up in the morning to try again. He felt the lead in his stomach tighten when he realized that he had to leave tomorrow, too. No one knew where he was, other than Tina, and he had to be at work. The thought of leaving her just as soon as he'd found her make him tremble with anger and longing. She had to talk to him.
Rachel laid on the couch that night instead of her bedroom. She told herself that she was too nervous to sleep well anyway but deep down, she knew it was because he was just a few feet away when she was on that couch. She swore she could smell his oh so familiar scent, too. She loved that smell – the combination of body wash, deodorant, skin oil, and leather - it was so much a part of him. It had always been comforting until the morning she woke up after he'd rejected her and left. Since then, his scent only represented the worst moment of her life.
"Noah," she whispered into the dark. "I don't want you here. You broke me...." Closing her eyes, she tried to force herself to sleep.
In the middle of the night, she woke up when she heard footsteps outside her door. Padding softly so he wouldn't hear her, she peeked out and watched him stand. With a final glance at the door, he walked away. Tears ran rivers down her cheeks as he disappeared from her view. Oh God...he's walking away. Don't go... Yes...go. Why did protecting the final pieces of her heart from him hurt almost as bad as the first time he broke it?
Rachel woke up early and forced herself into the shower. Glancing out the window, she decided she'd get dressed and head over to the gym to burn off some steam and emotional stress. Rehearsals weren't until the afternoon and if she didn't get out of her apartment, she was afraid she would scream. When she stepped carefully into the hall, she glanced in all directions. The hall was empty. Noah was nowhere in sight. Rachel rolled her tense shoulders, trying to force the tension out of them, and then she headed toward the main entrance. As she turned the corner, she ran directly into Noah, who was leaning against the mailboxes. Startled, she jumped back.
"You're still here?" She sounded more surprised than angry, which made him feel better.
"I came back. Went to the hotel to get a few hours of sleep…" His hands were in his jacket pockets and he looked…sad. She knew his emotions well…she'd been learning them for years.
"Well I have to go…" She started to step away but his strong fingers wrapped around her bicep, gripping her arm tightly.
"Can we please talk?" His voice was weary, almost defeated. It nearly made her stomach clench.
Not looking at him, she said, "I'm not ready to talk to you, Noah."
He swore under his breath, releasing her arm. "Fuck, Rachel…please? I have to go back to Ohio today because I have to work tomorrow. I just want to talk to you… I just found you and I don't want to leave again. My life is shit without you. Please...five minutes?"
"I said I'm not ready yet." She tried to make her voice defiant but it just came out weary. His life is shit without me?
Puck wanted to punch something. He was so fucking close and she was pushing him away. He didn't know why he was shocked. He knew she wouldn't throw herself into his arms. Fuck, she had moved 2000 miles away just to be free of him. But dammit…she loved him. He knew she did. And he loved her.
"Do you think you'll ever be ready to talk?" His voice was low, the words carefully spoken.
"Someday, maybe…" She continued to stare out the door at the early morning light. She refused to meet his eyes. She would give in if they locked gazes. And she knew her eyes would betray her…so she stared ahead.
Puck exhaled. "Someday is more promising than never." Puck stood tall, shoving his hands back into his pockets. "Look, Rachel…I have to go back home to take care of a few things. But I'm going to be back…and I'm going to be back soon. I'm not giving up. I don't care if you make me wait five months or fifteen years, we are having that discussion. We have a lot to talk about, whether you're ready to admit it or not."
Her eyes darted to his face and then away again. He longed to pull her to him and hold her close. He wanted to scream that he loved her again but he knew she wouldn't believe him. The anger and bitterness he'd seen in her eyes and on her face told him everything he needed to know. It would be a long time before she believed his professions of love, regardless of how sincere they were.
"Have a safe trip home, Noah," she offered quietly, her chest so tight that it hurt at the idea that he was leaving already.
"I'll be back, mark my words. This—," he motioned at the two of them, "—is not over. You and I? We're just starting."
Without another word, Rachel pushed open the door and stepped outside. Puck watched her go, his heart sinking further into his stomach with every step that took her away from him. As she disappeared from his view, he muttered, "I love you, Rachel."
When she was out of sight, he closed his eyes. What the fuck do I do now?
Long after she was gone, he stood in her building. He knew he needed to head to the airport. He had to fly back to Cleveland and then drive back to Cincinnati to be at work in the morning. But the thought of leaving Seattle and not being able to make it back for a week or two or three made him ill. He finally, after nearly two months, knew where she was. So she may not want to talk to him yet? At least he could see her…and maybe, someday, touch her again.
Puck kicked the metal frame of the door and swore. I have to leave.... He couldn't seem to make his legs move because then they'd be carrying him away from this building - her home.
"Excuse me, young man?" Puck turned at the sound of an elderly woman's voice and his eyes took in the small lady with the crooked wig that stood behind him.
"Yes, ma'am?" he said instinctively (because his mother had beat it into him to respect his elders.)
"Honey, I noticed you here last night, too. If you are looking for an apartment, call the landlord. They don't come by much if that's what you're waiting for." She seemed concerned about him, which he found slightly amusing.
Puck rubbed his head over his hair, staring at the woman. He opened his mouth to speak but she cut him off.
"I heard yesterday that those awful people on the second floor are getting evicted." She looked around, making sure no one was around, then dropped her voice to a whisper and added, "I think it was for drugs or prostitution or something." Straightening back up, she said, "Their apartment will be available soon." She walked over to the sign above the mailboxes and Puck watched, a smile twitching on his lips because she was barely four feet tall and her crooked finger didn't even get anywhere close to the sign she was pointing at. "Here is the landlord's number. If you call him, you can probably get the apartment."
Puck began to shake his head no and tell her that he wasn't in the market for an apartment in Seattle and then stopped as he felt a stroke of brilliance slice through him. Empty apartment. In Rachel's building. In Seattle. Just feet from her. Rachel. Rachel. RACHEL!
Nodding, Puck typed the number into his cell phone. "Thanks, Ma'am."
She patted him on the shoulder. "You look like a nice man. You aren't into drugs or prostitution or any of that perverted sexual stuff are you?"
Puck blanched. "Uhh…No drugs or prostitution, I promise." Can't say the same for the perverted sexual stuff…
"Well, you look like you'll do fine here. Now make that call! I'm going back inside. My stories will be on soon and I don't want to miss them. Cassandra's going to find out today that Walter used to be a woman! All hell's gonna break loose." With a wave, the tiny woman turned her back on Puck and headed back toward her apartment.
Puck watched her shuffle back inside her apartment and close the door. He exhaled loudly and for the first time since he arrived, allowed a huge smile to grace his face.
It's drastic. This would be a drastic thing for me to do.
The idea that he would even consider moving there seemed insane. But then again, Rachel had done it. And he would do anything to get Rachel back into his life. She was going to be his for good and if that meant starting over here, he'd do it. Hell, he'd follow her to Russia if he had to.
Dialing the number, Puck spoke to the woman that picked up. A few minutes later, he walked outside the building and hailed a cab.
Thirty minutes later, Puck stepped out of a small building on the edge of downtown Seattle with a copy of his lease for apartment 2D in his hand. I'm gonna be living right upstairs. She definitely won't be able to avoid me now. Fuck, this is scary! Puck found himself grinning at his own devious plan. He knew Rachel well enough and could practically see the conniption fit of epic proportions she would have when she found him living upstairs. But he also knew that being around her every day was the only was that they'd ever be able to put the past behind them and start over together. And a life without Rachel in it was an absolutely shitty way to live. So fuck it - he was moving to Seattle.
Puck grabbed another cab that took him to the airport. Soon, he was on his flight back to Ohio. The entire way, he was nearly shaking from anticipation. As soon as he got back to Cincinnati, he'd resign from his job, pack his shit, and then get his ass back on the road to Seattle. His mother would have a fucking stroke when he told her that he was moving. But he believed that once he told her it was for Rachel, she'd shut up. She'd wanted them together forever anyway.
Leaning back in his plane seat, Puck grinned and closed his eyes. Rachel Berry was going to be his. It may take weeks or months or years but he wasn't giving up until she was his for life.
Next up: Welcome to the neighborhood, Mr. Puckerman! Things are about to get entertaining... There will still be some angst but also some fun and PERHAPS some sexual tension????