Title: Forever Yours
Characters: the Puckerman family, with appearances by Quinn, Rachel, Mercedes and Kurt, and mentions of Shelby
Pairing: none in particular, mentions of Puck/Quinn and Puck/Rachel (because Puckleberry owns my heart, even though Beth now owns a good portion of it)
Summary: He doesn't know how he's supposed to get out of bed on Monday morning and just go to school like nothing's changed. – The aftermath of Beth, from the Puckerman family's PoV. SPOILERS: 1x22 – Journey.
Spoilers: through Season 1, but particularly 1x22 - Journey.
Word Count: 3616
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Ryan Murphy. I am not him.
- o – o – o -
Abigail is two streets from home when her phone rings.
She can't help but smile, albeit wearily. Despite everything that boy has put her through, especially lately with the Fabray girl, he's still her son and she loves him.
He's probably calling to tell her how they did at Regionals. She'd been so disappointed when one of her co-workers had called in sick and she'd had to go in instead. He'd shrugged it off, but she thinks he was a little disappointed as well.
As she picks up the call, Abbie wonders if she can persuade him to do acoustic versions of the set list for her and Hannah after dinner.
"How did you go?" she says, a smile on her face, even though her head aches and her new shoes are pinching her toes.
He doesn't answer but she can hear someone talking in the background.
Abbie frowns. "Noah?"
"Quinn had the baby."
It's a good thing there's no one else on the road because Abbie's eyes glaze over for a moment in shock. She hadn't expected to hear those words for another month.
"Is she okay?"
She doesn't know who she means: Fabray, or the baby.
Noah can't possibly know either but he says, "Yeah."
His voice is soft and she feels her stomach clench. She's never heard him like this before, not when he was sick as a child, not even when he brought that girl home with him and told her what had happened.
Her fingers tighten on the steering wheel and she only now notices that she's pulled up to a complete stop in the middle of the street.
"Where are you?" she asks and he gives her the name of the hospital. They're a town over but she nods, even though he can't see her.
"I'll be there soon."
- o – o – o -
When she arrives in the maternity ward, the waiting room is empty so she makes her way to the nursery. That's where she finds him, pressed up against the glass in front of a crib labelled "Fabray."
She stops beside him and stares down at the baby girl in silence. For the last few months, this child has been the star of every nightmare she's had, a constant reminder of her son's lack of responsibility and her own failings as a mother. Because of everything it stood for, it was easy to hate this baby.
But now she looks up at her son, her own precious baby, and all she can see on his face is love, unguarded and completely unashamed.
Abbie likes to think that God does everything for a reason. When Noah told her about the baby, she'd been at a loss. What could God possibly mean, giving her sixteen year old delinquent son a child?
Watching him now, she thinks she knows. This baby has turned her boy into a man. Yes, he has a way to go yet, but she was the turning point, the beginning.
And now he has to give her away.
It's the right thing to do; she knows it, he knows it, but her heart aches for him because he's going to love this little girl for the rest of his life.
She wants to hold him but she doesn't know if he'll let her; it must be at least six years since he started shrugging off her hugs.
Instead, she reaches up and runs a hand over his head, softly, gently, just like she did when he was a baby and all his dark hair grew in a long, narrow tuft.
"Her name's Beth," he whispers and when she lowers her hand, he grabs it and holds on like he's afraid he'll drown if he lets go.
"She's beautiful, Noah."
She means it.
- o – o – o -
Mom picks her up from Aunt Deb's really late. It's way past her bedtime but she's wide awake because she's a big girl now and doesn't need a bedtime.
Her mom pushes her towards the car but Hannah stops when she sees Noah in the front passenger seat. He was supposed to go home on his own, after that singing competition thing he had to go to.
But there he is, leaning his forehead on the glass of the window. He looks tired and kinda sad.
Hannah looks up at her mom. "Is Noah okay?"
Mom smiles and smoothes her hair in that way that tells Hannah that she's loved more than anything else in the world.
"Yes, but he's had a long day. Just give him some space and some quiet, okay?"
It's a lot to ask, because there's nothing Hannah wants more than to talk Noah's ear off about how she found the singing competition on the TV by accident and got to watch him and his friends sing and dance in front of a real live audience.
She slides into the backseat, says hello to Noah and sits back, but even as she does, she knows something's different.
The car doesn't smell the same. Usually, when Noah's inside, it smells like his perfume—no, he calls it cologne—but not now, even though she saw him stuff it into his bag before he left that morning. The smell isn't strange, though; she's definitely smelled it before.
They're almost home when she realises where she knows it from.
The car—Noah—smells like the hospital. She remembers hating the smell when they had to visit Grandpa there last year after his heart attack.
When they turn into their driveway and get out of the car, she watches him from the corner of her eye. He doesn't look hurt so maybe he's sick. Why else would he have been at the hospital? All of a sudden she's terrified. What if Noah is sick? What if Noah dies? What will she do? What will Mom do? They're not Puckerman's without Noah; he's always told her that.
They get inside and he goes straight up to his bedroom. Mom sighs and heads into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. When she turns around, she almost trips over Hannah, who has followed her in.
"Noah's not dying, is he, Mom?"
"What? Where did you get that idea?"
"He smells like the hospital. Dying people go to hospitals, right?"
Mom sighs again and then holds Hannah's cheeks in her hands. "Noah isn't dying, I promise."
"Quinn had the baby today, that's why Noah was at the hospital."
Hannah's eyes widen so much she thinks they'll fall out of her head. "Really? Can I see her?"
Her mom shakes her head. "No, honey, I'm sorry. The baby's going to be given to someone else. Someone who can look after her."
Hannah looks up at the ceiling, as if she can see Noah from where she's standing. "Is that why he's sad?"
"Yes. Now go up to bed and don't disturb him. I'll be up soon."
Hannah drags her feet up the stairs and turns into her bedroom. Across the hall, Noah's door is firmly shut.
She knows she's not supposed to disturb him but she doesn't like it when he's sad. It seems to her that he's been sad too much lately. So she crosses the hall and knocks three times, just like he told her to.
He calls out for her to come in and the door knob turns smoothly in her hand. When she peeks in, he's lying on his bed, still in his dark shirt and pants, but his tie has been thrown over his desk.
Now that she's in there, she doesn't know what to say, so she shuffles her feet in the doorway and stares at the floor.
"You have a good time at Aunt Deb's?" he asks.
"I watched you on TV," she says and, when he arches an eyebrow, explains how she found the competition on some random channel. "But…you didn't win."
He shakes his head. "Nope."
"Are you disappointed?"
He shrugs. "Kinda. Won't have Glee Club next year."
"But you'll still play your guitar for me, right?"
He gives a small smile. "Sure."
Hannah steps up to the bed and then lies beside him when he scoots over to make room for her.
It's pretty quiet. All she can hear, other than their breathing, is Mom in the kitchen downstairs.
"Is she pretty, Noah?"
He nods. "Yeah."
- o – o – o -
He doesn't know how he's supposed to get out of bed on Monday morning and just go to school like nothing's changed.
Everything's changed. Everything's different now.
There'll be no more feeling the baby kick in Biology, and Glee Club is over. Yeah, he and Finn are talking again, but now he's gotta figure out this thing he has with Quinn. It's all too much.
Yesterday his mom was great, checking in on him, making sure he ate, keeping Hannah out of what's left of his hair when he wanted to be left alone. He thinks she might have even let him stay home on Monday, but not even the thought of a day off school can keep him in bed. He has to be there for their last Glee Club meeting, if nothing else. It doesn't seem right to miss that.
He doesn't see Quinn until lunch. She's sitting with Mercedes and Kurt, nibbling a slice of pizza. She catches his eye from across the room, jerks her head in a silent offer for him to join them. He figures he might as well.
So he walks over and drops into the seat between Quinn and Kurt. It doesn't cross his mind to keep his distance from the other guy, like it did even just a couple months ago.
He's glad Mercedes and Kurt are sitting with them, because they talk over the silence that radiates from him and Quinn. They don't mention babies or hospitals or parents or anything. Hell, they don't even talk about Regionals; Puck figures that one Saturday is going to be the one day nobody in New Directions ever mentions again: the day they fought so hard to prove themselves and still lost to Vocal Adrenaline, and the day they met and gave away one of their own. Beth was just as much a part of Glee Club as any of them were.
There's still ten minutes to go before the bell rings and Mercedes and Kurt have run out of things to say. They all sit and stare at each other until finally Puck speaks.
"You were wrong," he says to Mercedes.
He shrugs and looks down, spinning the cap of his water bottle on the table. "I'll still talk to you."
Mercedes smiles and nods in understanding, then Quinn and Kurt start smiling as well, and Puck can't help the small curl of his own mouth. When Rachel appears, they're all grinning like lunatics and probably doing nothing to dispel those Glee freak rumours.
Rachel's eyes are red and kinda puffy—she's probably been crying since she got home on Saturday—but she's got that determined, take no prisoners glint in her eye. She braces her hands on the table and leans in, encouraging the rest of them to lean in with her.
"I understand how…disappointing and draining Saturday was for all of us but I've been thinking and I've decided we need to do something special for Mr Schuester. He's sacrificed so much for us this past year. We're even partially to blame for the breakdown of his marriage. I feel it's only appropriate for us to put together a suitable performance to demonstrate out appreciation."
Quinn nods. "That's a great idea."
They all agree and, later, Puck's walking to the auditorium to meet up with the rest of the club when he turns and finds Quinn beside him.
"We did the right thing," she says.
He stuffs his hands into his jeans pockets. "Yeah, I know."
"I know a part of you wanted to keep her."
He shrugs. "I swore a long time ago that I'd be a better father than my dad. He screwed up by leaving but the best thing I can do for her is let her go."
They don't need to say anything else after that. They'll figure themselves out later, once they've come to terms with what they've been through, so they enter the auditorium together and sit where Rachel tells them to.
- o – o – o -
When she was fourteen, her mom sat her down and told her about her parents. Her biological parents. She pulled out photos, photos of a pretty blonde girl who looked like her, and a smirking dark-haired boy with her eyes.
That was six years ago.
Now, she's on a bus to New York City with those same photos in the side pocket of her handbag, watching the Manhattan skyline get closer and closer, while her stomach feels sicker and sicker. It's summer and the air conditioning in the bus is bad. Really bad. So bad that she can feel the sweat beading along her hairline.
To take her mind off the heat, she fiddles with her phone, flipping through pictures of her dog Corky, her mom, her friends. But then, almost without meaning to, she leaves her photo gallery and checks her notes, reads the address, repeats it over and over in her head. It's a ritual she's completed more times than she cares to remember in the last few weeks.
Her mom hasn't called; Beth wonders if that's good or bad. Her mother always told her that if she wanted to find and meet her parents, it was okay, that she'd even help her if it was what she wanted. But Beth's pretty sure Mom never intended for her to just up and leave in the middle of the night one day, just a note on the kitchen table to explain her absence.
When they reach the bus terminal, Beth isn't sure whether she's happy or not. Part of her wants to buy a ticket back to Cincinnati…but she's already come so far.
So, wiping the back of her hand across her forehead, she collects her bag—just a small one so it's clear she doesn't mean to overstay her welcome—and goes to find a cab. On the drive to the Upper West Side, she sits on her hands so she doesn't rub them raw.
The building they stop at is a four-storey brownstone, really pretty, with swept front steps. She pays the cabbie, takes her bags and watches the car drive away. She wants to call it back, ask him to just wait until she finds out if she's wanted, but it's too late now because he's turned a corner and disappeared.
So she turns to the house, mounts the stairs, and takes a fortifying breath before carefully pressing the doorbell.
From inside, she hears the laughter of a child and almost throws up when she sees a person's silhouette through the glass in the door. It opens, but the dark-haired woman is turned away, telling a young boy further down the hall that he can only have ice cream if he finishes his homework and eats all his dinner.
The woman turns around and she and Beth gasp simultaneously. Beth gasps because she's seen photos of this woman as well. It's Rachel Berry, the biological daughter of her adoptive mother…and who is, presumably, living with Beth's biological father.
Rachel's eyes travel over her face and gradually reduce in size as the seconds roll by.
Finally, she says, "I'm sorry. At first glance you look just like someone I used to know."
"Quinn Fabray?" The words are so quiet even she almost misses them.
Rachel's eyes widen again. "Yes, but…" Her jaw drops a little. "Oh, my God. You're…"
Rachel is pale, about two seconds away from a dead faint by the looks of things, and Beth suddenly feels insanely guilty.
She shakes her head. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have come here, I just…" She's backing away from the door, turning to descend to the pavement, when Rachel grabs her arm and pulls her back.
"No." There's a small smile on her face now. "No, it's all right. Come inside. I…I assume you came to see Noah."
Beth nods and gets ushered into a room just off the entrance hall. There's a little girl sitting on the floor, stacking multi-coloured blocks, who looks up when Beth and Rachel enter.
"This is Emily," Rachel says. "Our youngest."
"Oh…" Beth perches on the edge of a sofa. "So you and my…you and Noah are…?"
"Married. You didn't know?"
"I…well, I knew he wasn't living with Quinn. She's in London now. But I didn't realise he was with someone else."
Rachel bites her lip. "Are you disappointed?"
Beth honestly doesn't know—it's all a bit much to comprehend right now—so she just shrugs wordlessly.
Rachel nods and pats her shoulder gently. "I'll go get him for you."
But before she can even turn away, there are heavy footsteps coming down the stairs and then he's there, standing in the doorway.
"Who was at the door?"
Clearly he hasn't seen her yet, partially shielded as she is by Rachel's body…until Rachel steps back.
His reaction is more subtle than Rachel's was. The arms he has folded across his chest loosen until they hang limply by his sides, the curious frown on his face eases so that his eyebrows can rise towards his hair.
The photo she has of him in her handbag is pretty old, so she's not surprised that he looks a little different. His face is more defined now, and he doesn't slouch. There are small laugh lines around his eyes and mouth.
He still hasn't said anything, and Rachel's just watching him, so Beth swallows hard and says, "Hello."
It's not what she ever planned to say if she met her parents. Depending on the stage in her life, she used to imagine herself pouring out declarations of how she never needed or missed him, or how much she'd wished he was there when her first boyfriend dumped her. She'd imagined questions, endless questions, about herself, and him, and Quinn.
But all those things are gone now, snuffed out under the gaze of hazel eyes she sees every time she looks in a mirror.
He still hasn't spoken so she stands and wipes her hands on her t-shirt.
"I just…I don't know why I came. I shouldn't have."
She moves to leave but he puts up a hand to stop her. "How long have you known about me?"
She shrugs. "Six years. Mom never lied about me being adopted. She explained everything when I was old enough to understand. She…she told me that you and Quinn were good people. Two kids who just made a mistake."
"Do you hate us?"
Rachel gasps softly and, from the corner of her eye, Beth sees her reach out for him.
"No. When I was younger, I couldn't understand why parents would give up a child, even if they were young themselves. But I'm older now and I don't blame you. I've had a great life, with so many opportunities. You did the right thing."
He smiles and she sees his throat work as he swallows. "Good."
Beth nods. "Anyway, I…tracked you down. I don't even know why I did. Just, one day, I had to know where you were and when I did…I couldn't get it out of my head. I had to come, even if it turned out you didn't want to see me. I hope you don't mind."
He shakes his head. "No, I'm glad you're here. I've dreamt of meeting you your whole life."
Her small smile is instantaneous. "Really?"
They stand there and smile at each other for what feels like years. Beth is so relieved that she feels happy, that her stomach is light and that this doesn't feel awkward. She knows then what she wants, and hopes her mom doesn't mind.
"I don't know what kind of relationship we could ever have," she says, "but I'd like to know you. If that's all right, I mean. I understand if you'd rather we just left it here after today."
"No." He waves her words away. "I'd like to know you too."
Rachel heaves a huge sigh of what sounds like relief. Beth can only imagine she's been standing there holding her breath this whole time.
"Well." Rachel clasps her hands together tightly. "You have to stay for dinner! And you'll want to call your mom of course, let her know you got here all right."
Beth nods and Rachel bustles out of the room, touching Noah's arm as she passes and taking little Emily with her.
"Maybe tomorrow we could go out somewhere," Noah says. "You could tell me about yourself."
"I'd like that. Until then, though, there's just one thing I hope you can do for me. It's something I've always wanted."
She gives a small shrug. "A hug from my dad."
He grins; she's surprised to see how much it changes his face, how it lights up his eyes, makes him look younger.
And he steps forward to enfold her in his arms. He's gentle at first, almost hesitant, but then her fingers clutch his shirt as she breathes in the spicy scent of his cologne, and his hold tightens.
"You're so beautiful," he whispers into her ear. "Everything I hoped you'd be."
Resting her head over his chest so that she can hear his heartbeat, she replies, "So are you."
- o – o – o -
A/N: Phew! This ended up being so much longer than I anticipated. But it's also so much better than I imagined it would be. I've been wanting to write in Mrs Puckerman's PoV for a while now, and then after the finale I had the idea for the opening section and one thing just led to another. I'm really proud of this piece so if you don't mind, let me know what you think. Thanks!