Apologies to any readers out there – from any of the fandoms I write in – for the lack of updates. My muse has been awol unfortunately, but I'm hoping this will help get me back to writing again Sorry for the content – angst again, I know – but it brought my muse back (somewhat) so please don't hate me too much ;)
For Linds – to sort of even out the scale on the other one, and as an early bday pres :P (Don't worry, I'll work on dragging out the fluff an bunnies for the real thing lol)
I hope you enjoy…
Title: Like A Prayer
Disclaimer: I own nothing – quite said really
A/N: This is told from Mr. Schue's perspective.
Summary: Maybe we don't do it all for her, but it's not enough anyway. It will never be enough. PR-ish, Will's perspective.
Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.
When Rachel Berry dies there is no great fanfare, no falling stars, no earthquake that rocks the world; she does not go down in a blaze of glory.
She dies on an otherwise regular Thursday evening, alone, in the school auditorium.
It is a great tragedy for someone so young to die, and so suddenly.
When the cause is something as seemingly simple as 'Sudden Cardiac Arrest'; an unforeseen enemy, with exercise; a favorite pastime of hers, a necessity in her daily life, an ally to its side.
For someone with such a huge talent as that which she possessed, and the unique personality that accompanied it, for that to be lost into the abyss.
It is indeed a great tragedy.
The grief they feel; it stretches beyond Glee Club, but it strangles them all in different ways. It morphs into a series of actions that they each partake in; he wonders if they even bother pretending to have similar reasons for doing so.
They're reeling from her loss, this is true; but it means something different to each of them, cuts deeper in some, stings that bit more in others.
They win Regionals for her.
(It doesn't really feel like it's for her though, when they all know what she really wanted was to be a part of it.)
They hold a fundraiser; sell cookies in her name with various messages iced across them just like she herself used to offer in times of need.
(They don't have that same ohmigod-these-are-delicious-you-must-tell-me-how-you-made-these quality hers did and it feels sort of cheap selling their attempts in her name when they fall so short of the original.)
They perform a concert in remembrance of her.
(It's like Regionals all over again and although the kids sing their hearts out and the emotion spills from their entire beings, hands shaking by the end, chests heaving, mouths panting; the standing ovation blurs like a background that doesn't belong and there are two men sitting front-and-center, but no female lead on the stage for them to burst with pride at the sight and sound of.)
They create a memorial in her honor; her face on a plaque for all to see, a star next to her name like she herself used to do.
(It makes him feel sick every time he sets eyes on it, like it is there for others to ridicule her; even in death she cannot escape the cruelty of her adolescent peers.)
When he tells the kids he thinks they should give the trophy to Rachel's dads they all agree, as if her death made them more amenable to things like this, things involving her; except Puck. He thinks it's the right thing to do; but the young man before him disagrees.
"She didn't win it," the teenager tells him. "We did."
"Rachel was part of this club, Puck," he replies. "She was with us from the start."
"Just didn't quite make it to the finish, eh Mr Schue?" the boy counters; and he'd answer if the look in Puck's eyes weren't scaring him into silence.
They all watch him walk away, and when Rachel's dads meet him in the doorway to the choir room he turns his head to them and tells them, "I'm sorry."
He lies awake that night. Puck's words echo in his ears like they're his last dying pledge to the world, and he recognizes the boy's need for forgiveness, even if he doesn't understand it. The look in the teenager's eyes is burned into the backs of his retinas and he can't close his eyes without seeing that blank stare, that haunted gaze that met him with careless words that revealed an inner turmoil he still can't quite comprehend.
They have stalls in the cafeteria and stalls in the hall, one in the gymnasium and several out by the front of the school.
Puck's sister comes running up to Tina and Artie after the game, which her brother won for them (he wonders if the obvious scout he spotted has anything to do with the performance that seemed more motivated than anything he's seen Puck do in Glee or beyond for far too long). He's steps behind her though, and when the youngster spins and asks the elder if she can have one (or three, she adds with an impish grin) he slaps her hand so the cookie falls onto the plate and crumbles into pieces.
"No way I'm paying for that," he tells her. "You won't like them – they're not as good."
"You always say that," the little girl whines, kicking at the floor.
He rolls his eyes at his sister and puts his hand on her upper arm tugging her away.
"Come on," he prompts and she turns with him.
"I wish Rachel was here," she says, frowning at the ground as they make their way towards the doors. "Everything was better when she was around."
"An' ain't that just the kicker," he hears the boy mutter in return.
He watches Puck grabs a bag of cookies right out of someone's hands as he leaves, throwing them in the trash even as the person shouts at him.
"I was enjoying those!" is the indignant shout after the teenager.
"That's only 'cause you never got to have the real thing," is Puck's response, and he wonders if it's the distance that makes it more weighted or if that's just his own guilt dragging him down.
"I don't think this is how any of us could have imagined Rachel Berry's name would appear in lights; or that this would be the show she would steal," he tells the audience. "But I think she'd like it all the same."
There's a murmur of agreement from the sea of faces before him.
"Rachel was a star in the making, and I can only hope we do her proud tonight," he says; and he means every word.
He hears Puck scoff as he walks off to the side; the audience clapping, while the others get ready to perform their opening number.
He gives the teenager a questioning look as the kids start to make their way out onto the stage.
"You just straight-out lied to them, dude," Puck says, incredulity in his voice as he looks him up and down. "Either that or you were jus' hanging with a different Berry from the rest of us."
He's frowning at the boy, about to say something when he's cut off.
"Forget it," Puck dismisses with a roll of the eyes. "Everyone who actually knew her knows all she'd have liked about this thing is that it's all about her. But that doesn't mean she wouldn't have wanted to be the star lead."
The teenager shakes his head at him as he follows the others out. They open with Lean on Me and you don't have to look closely to see Puck's the only one not smiling, the only one not touching any of the others. He sighs, drops his head and shakes it. When he lifts it again, Mercedes has stepped forward and all eyes are on her so he can breathe easy once more; after all, the show must go on.
The memorial concert includes a full set. They sing songs they did at Sectionals, Regionals; concerts she was a part of and concerts she wasn't; songs that showcase the kids' talent and songs that tell of a different talent, one that's missing.
Finn does a solo too and it brings most of the audience to tears. The rest of Glee Club is sitting on the stools they used for their last song, near the back, while he belts out the number. It's dedicated to her, and the words speak of heartache and longing, and overwhelming grief; but he's standing in the exact spot Rachel died in as he sings it all. He almost can't blame Puck when the boy jumps off his stool, and high-tails it outta there. The metal hits the wooden flooring with a deafening clang that reverberates off all the walls and throws Finn off his 'big moment'. It also causes a knock-on effect and the floor gives way beneath the teenager's feet, making him fall into the cavern created and snapping his ankle in the process (he can still play the drums though, and he jokes that he still has one left foot to dance with because they still tell him he has two-left-feet whenever a new dance routine is introduced).
As much as he likes the kid, wishes him well and all, feels terrible that it happened; he can't help but feel it's somewhat fitting.
Rachel never was one to be upstaged, after-all.
When Rachel's dads appear backstage to thank them all, Puck makes his way over to them when the rest are otherwise occupied once more.
"I'm sorry," he says to them; and it sounds like a penance.
One of the men pulls the teenager in for a hug before he can protest, while the other pats his shoulder sympathetically. They look at the boy the same way others look at them, and it makes him wonder what Puck has done to deserve such empathy when these two men just lost the most important person in their lives.
When the evening is over and everyone has left the auditorium; he hears a voice that drags him back in.
Puck stands on the stage, circling the place where Rachel was lying when they found her, as he sings.
You want your independence
But you won't let me let you go
You wanna test the waters
And leave it on the empty shores
The lyrics echo around the empty theatre and he can make out every emotion that runs across the boy's face as he releases it all in this song.
You think that you're the sun
The whole world revolves around you
The center of attention
And everything is drawn to you
But I'll take my time if you want to
And I'll give you what ever you need
And I'll wait a lifetime to give it to you
Give it to you
I will wait a lifetime
And I would wait for you
When Puck finishes, he's kneeling by the hole in the stage and there's a half smirk on his face that lights up all his features in a way that seems almost foreign of late.
"Way to go out with a bang, Rachel," the boy says, and then he drops what looks like a gold star into the sizeable hole in their stage, and walks away.
He catches Brittany painting a star on Rachel's plaque, around her picture, the one by her name blotted out with permanent black marker so it blends in with the background. Some of the writing around her name and image is also blacked out; words her peers offered up to commemorate her life and what she meant to them. He gives her detention on the spot as well as a lecture about defacing school property.
"But she really is a star now, Mr. Shue," she tells simply him in response. "She shines there so that everyone can see her; like a nightlight. She's the one that keeps us company when it gets dark and scary."
He just blinks at her, because honestly? He's sort of stunned by this response.
"She's a star, Mr. Shue," she says again; this time as if he is the one with the elementary school IQ. "And everyone should know that."
When he dismisses her, Santana appears and merely tells him, "Puck told her to do it."
He opens his mouth to call after her as she saunters away from him so easily.
She turns and looking at over her shoulder, she adds, "And fyi, some of the shit on that wall deserves to be blacked out. Stuff like that could ruin a legacy."
Puck wanders into the room, late, and with blood on his knuckles. He drips a trail of it across the class and it pools on the floor in a single spot when he takes his seat.
"Puck, you're bleeding," he says
"Well, at least that makes one of us," is the muttered reply.
"You'll need to go see the school nurse," he tells him. "And then Principal Figgins wants to see you."
The boy rolls his eyes and heaves himself back up to a standing position, making his way for the door.
"And if you see Dave Karofsky, please refrain from hitting him anymore than you already have," he calls after the teenager. "I think enough damage has been done, don't you?"
"Enough that one more punch won't make a difference," he says as he leaves.
He finds Puck as he's leaving the Principal's office, apparently already Hell-bent on leaving, and questions him about Santana's earlier words.
"I'm not the one who wanted the stupid mural shit in the first place," the boy spits, and then he shoves past him like that's all the explanation needed.
"I'm still going to have to give you detention for the memorial wall, you know," he turns and calls after the teenager.
Puck spins on his heel, walks backwards with his arms outstretched, and throws him a smirk that has none of the devious trickster he'd grown used in past months; eyes flat like notes that have no place in their show choir.
"Oh yeah? Go ahead, make my day complete, sir," is the response he gets.
He watches the boy's figure as he retreats down the hall and he wonders what she holds over him that is as strong in death as it was in life.
It's late, the presence of the streetlamps tells him as such, but he can't sleep and he's found himself thinking about her again. He gets up with the destination already clear in his mind, leaves his keys where he left them; the walk will do him good. He grabs the bunch of flowers from the vase in the hall on his way out; the ones that he should've taken straight there instead of deferring and offering to someone else instead.
So with flowers in one hand, and words in his head, his determined step leads him to her grave.
He feels like he's intruding the moment he sets eyes on the figure already present.
Puck is sitting cross-legged on the patch of grass in front of her headstone, guitar on his lap, fingers strumming the strings with an ease that tells of a time when concentrated practice was all he knew.
The melody reaches his ears, as he stands frozen by the oak trees that cast shadows away from her final resting place, and something slips into place as the words flow from the boy's lips.
No warning sign, no alibi
We're fading faster than the speed of light.
Took our chance, crashed and burned.
No, we'll never ever learn.
I fell apart, but I got back up again,
And then I fell apart, but got back up again…
The cool night wind whips around him and the leaves by his feet dance like sprites in the air that binds them. It's enchanting and haunting and it all makes sense.
So here we are, witching hour,
The quickest turn to divide and devour.
Divide and devour.
If I could end the quest for fire,
For truth, for love, for my desire.
And I fell apart, but got back up again.
He hears Puck recount the tales of the day, smiling and laughing as he reports the goings-on from Glee Club and general high school or Lima occurrences.
"An', ye know, so I got this scholarship thing for NYU now. Only you're not gonna be in New York now, which… well, it basically sucks, Rach," Puck says, and his head dips, hand gripping his guitar that bit tighter as he finally sets it down against the side of the headstone.
The boy lifts his head and there's a sad smile on his face when he reaches out, his fingers falling across the stone to trace the gold lettering that spells out her name.
"Maybe I'll blow-up a picture of you, get a bunch of my buddies and we'll stick it up in the middle of Times Square for everyone to see," a grin flickers across his features. "Really put your name up there in lights – on Broadway or some shit."
The light in his eyes begins to disappear once again and the smile falters on his lips.
"Fuck Rach, what am I supposed to do in New York without you?" he says barely a beat later. "That was always your dream, you know. I was jus' following you 'cos you had that whole 'I believe in you, Noah Puckerman/You can do anything you set your mind to' thing going on, an… ye know… I went with it, 'cause… well, it's you, isn't it?"
He releases a sigh, runs his hands over his face and scrubbing at his eyes.
"You better still be with me on this thing, 'cause there ain't no way I'm going out there completely on my lonesome," he cracks a smile, but there's a serious tone running through his words, "I'm gonna need some of that crazy Berry-lovin' you were so good at throwing my way. No lie."
The sight has him mesmerized, the words this boy is spilling; he can't help but keep his eyes and ears trained on him. This strange, strange creature that he once thought he knew; he now realizes that there was only one person who ever truly knew Noah Puckerman, and it's the one that still holds his heart.
"I don't need all your memorials and concerts to remember who she is; and they shouldn't either," Puck enlightens him.
He nods, because this is understandable; but they all grieve in their own way, and in a way, maybe they were being selfish too, maybe it was their way of showing her off, reminding people that she once belonged to their show choir. Maybe they were more similar than they realized; maybe all any of them have been trying to do is to keep her with them as long as possible, by any means possible.
"And you were wrong you know," the boy says next. "That night, you told all those people she was a star in the making. She wasn't."
He's captivated; by this girl, still, who could go anywhere and demand attention at the blink of an eye; and by this boy, who speaks with such conviction that you can't help but take note.
"She was already a star," Puck tells him, and there's a sincerity in his words; a belief that runs parallel with pride and love.
The teenager throws a half-smirk over his shoulder as he adds, "Why'd you think I had Britt re-do your mural? Either do it right or don't do it at all, Schue."
"Rachel wouldn't have it any other way," he agrees with the boy.
"And I won't either," Puck reminds him, and he nods, because this is understandable.
The teenager's eyes fall to the bunch he still holds by his side.
"They're not her favorites," the boy informs him, with a crooked smile and a half-shrug. "But they'll do this time. Looks like you spent enough on them."
"I did," he replies. "And I tried, but they didn't have any of her favorites in stock."
"They never do," Puck says with a devilish smile, walking away and leaving him to stare at the flowers already in place. They're her favorites, and they cover every inch of her land.
Rachel Berry is loved more in death than she ever was alive.
And that, Will Schuester thinks, is the greatest tragedy of all.
A/N: The Puck solo on the stage was inspired by the PR vid on yt 'Center of Attention' so credit goes mainly to the creator of that. And if you've not seen it, you should def. check it out, because it's amazing.
Puck's song in the cemetery is 'Alibi' by 30 Seconds to Mars. Admittedly I'm not really into the whole 'Puck sings emo/sad whatever songs' in fics, so I apologise for my hypocrisy, but I just felt this fit
Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think :)