A/N: I know. It's long. I'm sorry! I've had this written since before the back nine aired. It's AU from before Sectionals, I suppose.
Basically, this is my interpretation of what could have happened if the truth about the baby never came out. Hope you like it!
... ... ...
There are times when Rachel wonders if it's all her fault, the way things have turned out.
She's the catalyst for the New Directions.
Everything that happens after that is a result of her getting Sandy fired.
Finn joins, Quinn joins, Puck joins.
Glee club gives her some of the best days of her life.
(She wishes she'd known then the sacrifices she'd be making now. Maybe she would have done it all differently.)
... ... ...
If he really thinks about it, he can say with confidence that he's to blame for all of it.
He's never been a good person. Ever. He took and took and took and gave as little back as possible, and no one dared to question him, because he was who he was and he'd kick their ass if they suggested he be anything different.
He sleeps with his best friend's girl because she's hot and he can.
He joins glee club because his buddy is there and so is the mother of his child. Selfish reasons only.
He kisses Rachel (the first time around) because he wants to fuck her.
It should be everything he wanted. None of the responsibility of having a kid in high school. He gets to keep his best friend. And he gets to keep Rachel.
He doesn't know when all those things became all the ones that make him feel terrible.
He's sure there's a moment somewhere in his history that it started.
(He'd hate himself even more if he tried to look for it, so he doesn't bother.)
... ... ...
Finn thinks that if he wasn't so stupid, everything would be different.
He wouldn't have gotten Quinn pregnant.
He wouldn't have stayed in glee and met Rachel and started this weird, crazy relationship with her. Sometimes he doesn't even know how that happened.
He wouldn't be a father at 16.
He'd have more opportunities, his pick of colleges and choice of what he wants to do, even if most of the time he couldn't tell you if you asked.
But he wouldn't have his daughter, either, so he's not sure he'd give any of it up.
(He doesn't know. He just knows that he thinks about it sometimes, how it could be like if he had to do it over again.)
... ... ...
Every single choice she's made in her life has probably been the wrong one.
She starts dating Finn because he's the quarterback and she's the cheerleader, and he's attractive, and she wants him.
She stays with Finn because he's the quarterback and she's the cheerleader, and he's attractive, and she likes the way people get out of their way in the halls when they're together.
Never mind that they don't really have anything in common, or that he can be a total fool, or that sometimes it feels like he's just plain not right for her.
She sleeps with his best friend because she wants to and he's there and she's always known that Puck had feelings for her.
The lie about the baby isn't supposed to make her feel so terrible.
(But every time she looks at her daughter, there's a split second when she wonders if maybe it would have been better if she'd just told the truth.)
... ... ...
Finn and Rachel kiss five times.
Auditorium. Bowling alley. Her bedroom. His car. Choir room.
Each kiss sets him on fire, like he thinks real kisses should, and he can still feel her lips on his for a few moments after, like his body isn't ready to not be kissing her yet.
But then he and Quinn sleep together during the seventh month of her pregnancy, and he starts thinking that kissing is cheating, so he stops trying to come up with situations where he might be alone with Rachel.
He ignores the hurt he sees in her eyes sometimes, because it's not his fault she can't handle that he has a girlfriend.
He ignores the hurt he sees in Quinn's eyes sometimes when she catches him looking at Rachel.
"You have nothing to worry about," he tells her.
Sometimes he means it.
Most of the time, he thinks he's a huge liar who doesn't deserve either of them.
... ... ...
Quinn calls him a fuck up (not those words, but she might as well have used them) and he calls her a frigid bitch, and he doesn't give a fuck if she's crying because of it, because of him.
Except he does care, and that's his baby in her belly, and he's fucking sick of playing pretend.
"You know, someday everyone's gonna find out," he spits at her angrily. "And then everyone'll know you're a fuck up too."
"You and I are the only two people who know," she reminds him. "And you wouldn't do that to Finn."
"I already slept with you."
"And aren't you guilty?" The way she asks is like she's begging him to say yes, because God, she's guilty, too.
He doesn't say anything, just walks away and punches the wall. He doesn't care that his knuckle is dripping blood from where the skin broke.
He thinks he deserves it anyway.
... ... ...
Finn and Quinn talk names, because she's sick of him calling the baby Drizzle (though she laughs sometimes, because she thinks it's kind of cute how much he loves that name).
The room she lived in when she first moved into the Hudson house is now being turned into a nursery, and she and Finn share his bedroom. They've gotten rid of the band posters and the cowboy wallpaper, and if this is what growing up feels like, she likes it.
But they still have his mom to help with things like cooking and buying stuff for the baby, which Quinn is still a little clueless about.
They read a baby name book, and all the names Finn loves, Quinn hates. All the names Quinn loves, Finn thinks are boring.
She's got that book during class one day, and a piece of paper falls onto her desk in front of her. She glances over her shoulder at Puck before she opens the note.
It's the perfect name. She loves it. She loves its short form and its spelling and how it'll go with the middle name she and Finn have already agreed upon.
She doesn't acknowledge Puck, but she decides that whatever it takes, she's going to convince Finn that this is the baby's name.
He hugs her when she mentions it, because he loves it too, and finally they've agreed.
The tears in her eyes aren't for Finn or the baby or herself. They're for someone else all together.
... ... ...
Rachel starts crying one day in practice. They're not even singing a sad song. They're barely even singing at all, actually.
For whatever reason, seeing Finn and Quinn paired up during choreography hits her in the heart and the tears are instant. They fall down her cheeks, and Finn notices, and Mr. Schue notices, and she shakes her head as she runs from the room.
She sinks back against the wall of the girl's bathroom, sliding down until she's sitting on the floor, and she cries for the boy she loves. The boy she'll never have.
She doesn't go back to practice.
She cries again when the clock hits 8:00 and the only person who's called to check on her is the one person she needs to stay away from.
She sends his call straight to voicemail, and she decides that enough is enough.
... ... ...
Finn watches Rachel flirting with Scott Thompson, and he can't help but clench his fists at his sides.
She's not supposed to be flirting with Scott Thompson. She's not supposed to be flirting with anyone.
He asks her about it when he catches up to her between classes. He notices that she holds her books a little closer to her chest when she sees him.
"Rach," he says pleadingly, "what are you doing?"
"Scott is nice," she says.
She spins around and looks up at him, and he's reminded again why he tries not to do this, because God, he just can't help but want her when he looks at her like this. And that's so, so wrong.
"Don't, Finn. I can't...I can't do this anymore," she says quietly. She gestures between the two of them with her hand and then shakes her head and looks to the ground. "I can't be in love with you anymore."
He doesn't get a chance to say anything in return, because she walks away before he can find the words.
(He thinks he's in love with her too. He wants her to stay in love with him. It's so selfish that the guilt makes him avoid two girls, one blonde and one brunette, for the rest of the day.)
... ... ...
Puck's shocked when Finn asks for a favour. Finn's not an 'ask for a favour' kind of guy.
He's not shocked, however, when the favour has to do with Rachel. Puck's not a fucking idiot. He's seen the way Rachel looks at Finn, the way Finn looks at Rachel, and the way Rachel and Scott look at one another.
So he agrees, because Finn is his best friend, and Scott is a fake-ass jerk who Rachel should probably be saved from.
He doesn't have very strict instructions, just an endgame, really. Get Rachel away from Scott.
He corners Rachel one day after glee rehearsal and tells her he needs to talk, so she should shut up for once in her life and listen. He thinks he's stunned her into silence, but he doesn't bother questioning her on it, because he's scared she'll start talking like, any second.
"Scott's a fucking douchebag."
She literally scowls at him, and he feels like he almost needs to cover his privates with his hand for fear of her knee landing there or something.
"Scott is nice to me, Noah, which is more than I can say for most people."
"Yeah? Like who?"
"Everyone!" she cries in frustration. "At least he isn't going to lead me on! Kiss me and then run away again and again. He's not going to hurt me. Not like..."
Puck immediately feels some of the guilt he's been carrying around wash away, because fucking Finn isn't the saint everyone thinks he is.
"Who?" Puck asks.
"No one," she mumbles. There are tears in her eyes, and he actually feels bad for her for a second.
Mostly because he gets it. He understands.
And he doesn't want to be a jerk to her right now, because she doesn't really deserve it. Other than dumping him (which wasn't the worst move she's ever made, he has to admit) she's never done anything bad to him.
"Look, if Scott does anything...just tell me, alright?" he says. She thinks he's being sincere. She blinks rapidly, trying to keep the tears from falling, and nods her head. "And that other guy?"
Her eyes meet his again, and she's thinking, please, please don't say his name. "Yes?"
"That other guy's an idiot too."
He walks away, and she smiles, because her secret is safe with him, and she's always thought Noah is a lot more caring than anyone really knows.
... ... ...
Scott tries to grope her in the front seat of his beat up old truck, and Rachel screams at the top of her lungs, then gets out and slams the door closed.
He rolls down the window and tells her to just get back in so he can drive her home. When she refuses, he calls her a bitch and speeds away, his tires squealing on the wet pavement.
She's stranded in the empty parking lot of this mini mall where they'd stopped for coffee. It's the end of February, and she's in a skirt, and she's crying, because who knows what would have happened if she'd just been a little weaker.
She dials Noah's number because she doesn't know who else to call.
He picks her up, doesn't say a word for a good ten minutes, then when she tells him what happened, his knuckles are white on the steering wheel.
By Monday, Scott's been deemed academically ineligible to play sports, he's got a bruise on his jaw, and there's a rumor going around school that involves certain specifics about his anatomy that definitely aren't favourable to his reputation.
Finn smiles at her like her not seeing Scott anymore is some kind of great miracle.
Puck winks at her.
She laughs and shakes her head at him, mostly so she doesn't misplace that other boy's concern for love.
... ... ...
Puck doesn't go to the hospital when Quinn gives birth to his baby.
Finn's there, holding her hand and talking to her and doing whatever. There's no use for Puck. (He laughs, because that sounds about right.)
He hears about it the next day at school, the baby girl, Mackenzie (the name he picked), who has blonde hair and blue eyes and his best friend's last name.
He doesn't go to the hospital at all. He can't fucking handle seeing her (the baby or the girl) so he sits in his bedroom with a bottle of scotch he stole from his mom's last boyfriend.
He doesn't think about Quinn or the baby after the third drink, and by then he's too drunk to drive to the hospital like he wants to.
So he doesn't see her (either 'her') for a week after the birth.
(And she never called him anyway.)
... ... ...
Rachel cries when she sees Finn with his daughter for the first time.
He's no longer just a boy with a girlfriend, or just a boy with a pregnant girlfriend.
He's a father.
She doesn't hold the baby.
... ... ...
Quinn watches Finn with their daughter (and she's gotten really used to saying 'their daughter') and she's 90% certain she's made the right choice.
The other 10% sees how miserable Puck is.
The other 10% sees flecks of amber in her daughter's eyes that she knows must come from him.
The other 10% knows that she'll always love Puck for giving her this little girl.
... ... ...
Puck spends most of his weekends drunk and angry, and only one person notices. She brings him Advil and Gatorade, sits next to him and talks quietly and doesn't ask questions. He lets her, because he thinks that sometimes, sometimes when it's just them, Rachel really isn't all that bad.
... ... ...
Quinn comes back to school just in time for their last performance of the year, and Rachel single-handedly teaches her the choreography.
Finn watches with a sad, tired smile on his face.
Rachel doesn't know if he's looking at her or Quinn.
She finds herself laughing when she realizes this is nothing new.
... ... ...
Puck shuffles up to Rachel towards the end of sophomore year and asks her if maybe, you know, if she wanted to, or whatever, would she want to go with him to their spring formal. You know, if she isn't busy and stuff.
Quinn helps her find a dress. Neither girl is sure why Quinn is being so nice.
(It's because Quinn feels so guilty about Puck's misery, that she feels the need to make an effort. And besides, she's got a six-week-old to take care of and isn't going to the dance anyway.)
He picks her up and he's completely blown away by how hot she looks. Hot might not even be the right word. It's not the one he uses.
Beautiful, he tells her. She blushes.
He kisses her at the end of the night because he wants to. She kisses him back.
So that's the start of that.
... ... ...
Finn doesn't question Rachel and Puck's new relationship, mostly because he has no right, but also because Rachel's smiling again, and even if she's falling out of love with him, which breaks his own heart even though it shouldn't, he knows she deserves to be happy.
He doesn't give his blessing, because it's not his blessing to give.
... ... ...
"I think her eyes are gonna stay blue," Finn says one day. Mackenzie is laying on his chest, big eyes blinking up at him as he holds her little hands in his.
"Yeah?" Quinn asks from her place, sitting at the coffee table across from them with her text books open in front of her. Turns out, motherhood doesn't exempt you from finals.
The image of Finn laying with their baby on his chest makes her heart melt.
"Yeah," he says.
She's glad Mackenzie looks like her and not Puck.
She smiles before she turns back to her books. She'd reprimand him for not studying, but she actually needs him to take care of their girl so she can get this work done. They've kind of got this tag-team approach to studying for finals, and it's her turn right now, though she's overstepping her time limit. He doesn't appear to be concerned.
She looks up again, and she's almost ready to tell him to stop interrupting her, but the look on his face is too adorable.
He takes Mackenzie's pudgy little face in his hand and squeezes her cheeks gently as he says, "we love you."
Quinn laughs and gets up to move closer to them, and when she takes the baby from his arms, she kisses him quickly, and she thinks that maybe this life is kind of perfect.
... ... ...
Rachel spends her summer riding shotgun in Puck's truck, and he likes her there.
He's so on board when she asks him how he feels about a road trip. Her dads, for some reason, trust them both, and so with bags of clothes packed and Rachel's emergency credit card, and they start driving.
She screams at him when he throws the map out the window (literally). He drives away and leaves her at a deserted roadside rest stop for ten minutes when she's pissing him off. When he comes back to get her, she cries and apologizes and he doesn't cry and apologizes, and they make out on the grass in the hot summer sun to make it up to one another. "As if I'd ever fucking leave you," he says.
(They don't know how true this is yet.)
They end up in Nashville, and she absolutely loses her shit when they get tickets to the Opry. Even more when she learns that Carrie Underwood is performing.
He thinks he's going to have to give her CPR when she actually meets Carrie and Rachel gets her ticket stub autographed.
"Noah!" she cries, rushing back into his arms a he hangs back behind the crowd. "Did you see?"
He laughs and catches her. Sometimes she's so fucking cute he can hardly stand it. "I saw, babe."
They get stuck one night on the way back to Ohio. They drive through three towns without 'procuring' (Rachel's word) a hotel room. There's a minor league baseball tournament in the area and no rooms available anywhere.
She's frantic as she asks him what they're going to do, and he reaches beneath the seat of his truck for a sleeping bag and gestures to the bed of his truck.
She looks at him like he's insane, but then they drive for a while and he parks the truck down an old lane next to a tobacco field, and there's a little clearing with a creek next to it.
Then, she looks at him like he's the man for finding the most romantic spot in all of Kentucky.
Rachel loses her virginity in the back of Noah's truck under a sky full a stars while Patsy Cline plays from the radio.
She thinks she's in love with him.
(He thinks she's as close to perfect as he's ever going to get.)
... ... ...
Rachel sits in the stands with Noah and Finn's moms, Mackenzie on her lap for the first football game of the season. Noah and Finn are in their uniforms and Quinn is back with the Cheerios, shouting things to warm up the crowd.
Puck glances into the stands to see his girlfriend with his daughter in her arms, and he thinks he's going to be sick.
Finn looks up into the stands to see Rachel with his daughter in his arms, and he thinks he's heartbroken.
Quinn looks into the stands to see Rachel holding Puck's daughter, and she blames the tears in her eyes on the wind blowing dust at her.
... ... ...
Quinn shows up at Puck's house one Saturday afternoon with Mackenzie in her arms and a nervous look on her face.
He doesn't look at her. He's looking at the baby.
His mom isn't home, and Rachel's away for the weekend with her dads. Finn's working. Quinn knows this is the perfect time.
"What do you want, Q?" he asks. It doesn't come out as harshly as he wants it to.
"Can I come in?"
He pulls the door open and she steps inside, and she doesn't think this needs to be quite so awkward.
"Here," she says, holding the baby out to him.
He takes Mackenzie under the arms and pulls her towards him, because Quinn isn't really giving him much of a choice, here. He cradles his daughter against his chest and something happens to his heart when she takes his collar in her little fist.
"What are you doing here?" he asks Quinn. He's running his hand over Mackenzie's back, and it surprises Quinn how natural he looks with the baby.
"You've never even held her," she admits. Their eyes lock, and she has no idea what he's thinking. "I just...wanted to see you hold her."
He doesn't say anything for a while. Probably an hour. Quinn sits on his couch and pretends her heart isn't pounding in her ears every time Puck placates Mackenzie's whimpers.
He sits down in a chair with this little person, this little girl he created, staring up at him, and it kills him to know he would have given her the world if Quinn had let him.
It kills him to know someone else is doing that very thing.
"You're good with her," Quinn finally notes. She thinks this is the most genuine smile Puck's given her in almost a year.
"She's kinda perfect, huh?" he asks. Quinn laughs, then nods slowly. Quinn checks her watch and says she has to go, so he passes his sleeping daughter back to her and walks her to the door. "Thanks for this."
She smiles again and lets out a slow breath. She takes his hand with her free one and holds it for just a second. "Thank you."
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to decode what she's thanking him for.
Rachel calls him an hour later, and he doesn't answer.
... ... ...
Rachel and Finn continue to do most of the singing, and one of the duets Mr. Schue assigns them hits way too close to home.
When they perform In Another's Eyes at Sectionals, Rachel's tears win over the judges, and Finn holds her hand tight until the applause ends.
... ... ...
When they baptize their daughter, Finn gives Quinn a little white gold ring with a small diamond in it, and she cries and hugs him after he slips it onto the third finger of her left hand.
"I love you, Quinn," he says seriously. She pulls away and he smiles and wipes her tears. "It's not like we're engaged or anything, but it's like...a promise. Or whatever. You know, cause we're gonna be together."
She laughs tearfully and hugs him again. "I love it. I love you," she says. "Thank you."
She thinks less and less these days of how Mackenzie is the only thing keeping him with her. It's not true anymore. They're in love, and she's not making it up.
When he's standing in her church, their baby in his arms, she realizes that Mackenzie is his in all the important ways, and she cries again, because maybe the timing is all wrong, but everything else seems really, really right.
... ... ...
Finn might be the only one who notices how fake Rachel's smile is when Quinn shows the girls the ring.
... ... ...
Puck gets fouled hard in a basketball game right before winter break, and Rachel can't get the sound of his head hitting the hardwood to stop ringing in her ears.
She's at the hospital, waiting for news and crying because she doesn't know what's going on and no one will tell her. It's been three hours and she's too exhausted to talk her way into getting the information. Puck's mom is driving in from Columbus, where she's been at a conference for work, and his sister is at Finn's place.
Rachel has been standing, pacing, sitting, and trying to do anything to keep herself occupied in the cold hospital waiting room. She's sitting bent over with her head in her hands when she feels a pair of arms around her.
She doesn't need to look at him to know who it is. "He'll be okay," Finn says quietly, his lips brushing her temple.
This is the calmest she's felt in hours. "How's Hannah?" she asks, because maybe talking about Puck's sister will take her mind off the fact that her boyfriend is somewhere in this god forsaken hospital having tests run and being tended to.
"She just fell asleep before I left. She's fine."
"Have you eaten anything? Want me to..."
"No," she says, latching onto his arm. "Finn, can you just...just don't move."
She doesn't tell him to hold her, because that's one of those 'off-limits' phrases that they can't use in their relationship. She sits there with him running his hand up and down her arm, his heart beating in her ear and the scent of his cologne calming her.
She's sure she shouldn't be doing this, but to anyone else, they're just the girlfriend and the best friend of the guy with the injury, so no one will question it. She decides not to either.
Finally, a nurse steps into the waiting room and gives them some news. He's got a concussion, but other than that, everything's fine. Rachel cries against Finn's chest, and he doesn't ask why.
He stands in the doorway to Puck's room as Rachel rushes towards the bed and practically throws herself on her boyfriend. She kisses his face all over and he smirks at her.
"You scared me," she breathes out. "I was so scared."
He's all drowsy, she can tell, and he looks kind of cute, she thinks, with his eyelids lazily opening and closing. "'S'all good."
She actually laughs and kisses him again.
"Hey, man," Finn says from the door.
"'Sup?" Rachel rolls her eyes at how casual he's being, but she realizes it's not really his fault if he's got a head injury. "You get that assface?"
"Matt decked him. Tanaka's pushing for the guy to be suspended for the season," Finn answers.
"Good," Puck mumbles. "D'serves it." Rachel's sitting next to his bed now, running her fingertips over his scalp and staring at him. "That feels good, babe."
She wonders what painkillers they have him on.
"I know I make fun of you sometimes for not being as obviously book smart as I am, but can you maybe never hit your head this hard again?" she asks, leaning forward in her chair.
"You look good in my sweatshirt," he notes, reaching over to toy with the zipper of the dark grey shirt she has on. It's not the first time she's ever worn his clothes. Actually, he insists on it on game nights.
"You should get some rest," she says with a laugh.
"I'm good. Nurse what's-er-name says I gotta wake up ev'ry couple'a hours so I don't die or somethin'."
Rachel's face pales and she pulls herself closer to him. "Don't joke about that, please," she says quietly, and his hand slips into her hair, pulling her towards him so he can kiss her. "I can't even..."
"S'okay, Rach," Puck insists. "Sorry."
She can't help it if she starts tearing up again. Puck doesn't say anything, just rests his hand on her cheek and looks at her.
Finn leaves, and she doesn't notice.
"So you stayed?" Puck asks. She looks at him like he's insane. (Obviously she stayed, and what did he expect her to do?)
"Or course I stayed."
He closes his eyes and gets comfortable against the pillows. "I love you, Rachel."
He's never said the words before, and neither has she. She freezes, because what girl wants to hear those words from her boyfriend when he's got a head injury? He probably won't even remember it in 10 minutes, let alone a few hours. She's got no intentions of saying it to him, because he won't remember and he probably doesn't mean it anyway.
She holds his hand in both of hers and looks at him. She's glad she can't see the bump she's sure is on the back of his head. He looks peaceful when he sleeps, she knows this, but right now, the steady rise and fall of his chest is far more soothing than it's ever been before.
"You wanna tell me you love me too? Fuck. What I gotta do, here?" he mumbles, opening his eyes to look at her.
"You're concussed," she says, though her heart is racing and she's trying not to laugh.
"Doesn't matter. Still love you."
She shakes her head and he smiles lazily. She leans over and kisses his cheek. "I love you."
Her perfect I love you certainly never took place in a hospital room with a half-conscious boyfriend, at least not in her dreams anyway.
Nothing's ever perfect with Noah.
Nothing's ever perfect, but sometimes she thinks it's better.
... ... ...
Rachel's dads have an annual holiday party, and this year, Rachel actually has friends to invite.
The glee club mingles in the living room with Rachel's dads' friends, and it's not weird. No one feels out of place or unwelcome. Noah stands next to her, his hand at the small of her back as they talk to an architect who owns the biggest firm in Columbus.
Finn and Rachel find themselves alone in the kitchen when he's getting Quinn another drink and Rachel's refreshing the cheese platter. He doesn't say anything and she doesn't say anything. When she has to slip past him to get to the fridge, she rests her hand in the middle of his back.
He hates how easy it is for him to want to kiss her.
They walk back into the living room and Puck's holding Mackenzie, smiling at her as she giggles at nothing at all.
Rachel's heart swells. She files this knowledge that he might just be really good with kids away in the 'someday' folder in her mind. (Along with a wedding, maybe, and a Tony, and a Best New Artist Grammy.)
Puck winks at her and she blows him a kiss.
Finn's smile disappears.
... ... ...
Puck and Rachel get Mackenzie a sterling silver dreidel, thought it breaks Puck's heart a little bit to know that everyone but he and Quinn will think it's a joke. And they also get her the sweetest teddy bear Rachel's ever seen.
They exchange gifts on Boxing Day, and when Rachel and Finn are sitting on the floor, playing with Mackenzie and her new toys, Puck and Quinn stand back and just watch.
"Thank you," she says quietly.
"For this year. You've been...I asked something crazy of you, and you've done it."
He shrugs his shoulders and juts his chin towards Finn. "He's better at this than I would have been."
Quinn laughs softly and shakes her head. "That's not true," she almost whispers.
He scoffs and turns to her. "You're the one who picked him over me."
... ... ...
Finn goes to Rachel's house to work on some stuff for glee, and it's weird, really, because it doesn't make him feel much of anything to be alone with her in her house.
There's no guilt, no anticipation, none of that when he arrives.
They sing and laugh and she cooks them dinner, and that's when it changes.
She's doing dishes, hair spilling down her back and her little plaid skirt taunting the hell out of him, and so when he walks up behind her, he doesn't know if it's just this moment, or all the moments leading up to this one.
But he doesn't touch her. He stands there behind her, close enough that he can feel the heat coming from her body, and he waits to see how she's going to react. He's got no clue what he's doing, just that he wants to.
She leans back slowly, her back meeting his chest, and when he sets his hand on her hip, it's just to steady her.
They haven't been alone together in far too long, he decides.
"Rachel." It comes out as a whisper, almost, and he can see her reflection in the window above the sink. She's got her eyes closed and her hands in soapy water, and he decides that last part is probably a good thing, because if she touches him right now, he doesn't really trust himself not to touch her more.
And he's in love with Quinn. He is. And Rachel's in love with Puck. He knows all this.
But then there's this, and he feels it every time they're together, singing in rehearsal or talking in the hall. They're friends, yes, but it's more than that too. And he has no idea what it means, other than it makes him really hard to be around her sometimes.
He leans down, against his better judgement, and kisses her temple sweetly, and he thinks that she probably knows there's a whole lot more he wants to do.
"I have to go," he says, whispers it in her ear.
She nods, doesn't say anything, and he leaves the house with all the guilt he was expecting in the first place.
... ... ...
"Know what I think?" he spits at her in an argument.
"What, Noah? What do you think? I'm curious, because you never tell me anything!" she shouts back.
They're in her room, the bed between them, and fighting over absolutely fucking nothing. Honestly, he doesn't know what he did to piss her off this time. He just knows that there are times when she looks really hot when she's mad, and there are times he can't even fucking stand to look at her.
This falls somewhere in the middle. Probably because she's wearing a white tee shirt with no bra underneath, but she's giving him shit about...something.
"I think you're like, ashamed of me or something," he says. Her expression goes blank, like it always does about 45 seconds before she starts crying. "You're fucking insane, and you're...you're just trying to change me. Well you know what, Rach? I can't change! I am what I am, and you knew that going into this. So deal with it, or what the fuck are we even doing?"
(And okay, so this isn't really what they've been fighting about, but it seems like as good a time as any to bring it up.)
"That's what you think?"
"Yeah," he insists. "And I put up with your shit, Rachel, which for the record, you have a fucking lot of. You should at least try to put up with mine."
She lets out a humourless laugh and shakes her head. "I am not trying to change you, Noah," she says seriously. She's even more angry now. It's freaking him out, he won't lie. "I'm trying to get you to realize that you can do better for yourself."
"Which is psycho babble for 'change'."
"No, it's not," she tells him. She thinks it's ridiculous that the bed is still between them. She thinks it's ridiculous that this is even an issue. "Why can't you understand that I just want what's best for you? If that means you apply yourself a little more and stop going to fight club, or whatever other ridiculous..."
"Fight club is awesome!" he yells, because it feels really important to point that out.
"Why is it so terrible that I want something more for you?" she asks. Her tone has softened, and he looks to the ground. "I don't want you to stay in this town. I want..." She takes a deep breath and he glances back at her again, because it's not often that she needs to stop and think before she talks. (Sometimes she should, she just usually doesn't.) "I want you to come with me."
He's confused. He has what they jokingly (just between the two of them) call a 'Finn Moment' and he honestly asks the stupidest question ever.
She smiles and shakes her head. "Wherever I go. New York. Chicago. London. I don't know! I just want you with me," she says. She gets up onto her knees on the bed and moves toward him. "And hate to tell you, but there aren't a lot of pools to clean in Manhattan."
"Don't bitch about my business, okay?" he says hotly. She's right in front of him now, and it's really hard to not just grab her and throw her down on the bed. (This fight has turned into one of the ones where she's really hot.)
"I'm not," she insists. He looks away, but she takes his face in her hands. "You're smart, Noah. And you're capable of being...amazing. And I already think you are amazing, just so you know." He doesn't want to smile. He can't help it. "I don't want you to change, I just want you to realize...to see that you're so much better than you think you are."
Well, fuck. That's pretty much the opposite of ashamed, isn't it?
She kisses him and he lets her.
Maybe that's the moment he realizes that he doesn't know what the hell she sees in him.
It's definitely the moment he decides that he's going to do whatever he can to go anywhere with her.
... ... ...
Quinn and Rachel have a girl's night out, just the two of them, and Finn has to work. Finn's mom is busy doing something, so Quinn calls Puck and asks if he wants to watch Mackenzie for the evening.
It's crazy, the way the little girl cuddles against him. She's almost walking now, so Finn warned him that she doesn't like to be coddled, and basically Puck's job would be to make sure she doesn't brain herself on the coffee table (Quinn smacked Finn's arm for wording it like that).
But Mackenzie (who he calls Mac, just because no one else does) curls up against his chest with her little blanket in her fist. He doesn't put her down, can't bring himself to, even when she falls asleep.
His mom comes home and he's laying on the sofa, cradling this baby girl in his arms.
He wakes up with Mac's little foot kicks at his stomach, and he whispers that he loves her because he doesn't know when he might get a chance to next.
... ... ...
Finn gets a football scholarship to OSU, and Quinn is accepted to the economics program. Their acceptance letters come on the same day, and their happy yelling wakes up Mackenzie and scares the hell out of Finn's mom. Once Carole realizes what's going on, she's the one with tears in her eyes and the baby on her hip, insisting that the kids go out to celebrate.
They end up walking through the center of town, his thumb toying with the ring on her finger as they hold hands.
"Looks like you're getting out of this town after all," he says quietly, kissing her temple.
She smiles and leans a little closer to him as they walk.
The truth is? She's terrified.
... ... ...
Rachel, of course, got early acceptance to NYU. Of course she did. She applied to only a couple schools, and when the news came from NYU, there was no question where she'd be going.
She doesn't know that Puck applied to NYU too. It's stupid, he thinks, because he seriously didn't think they'd even take the time to send him a rejection letter. But being Rachel's boyfriend has forced him to work a little harder on school, and his grades haven't been bad at all for about the last year and a half. He excels in math and physics, and he has a pretty good idea of what he wants to do.
He's applied to a few schools' architecture programs, and he was accepted to one already.
Then the letter comes from NYU.
He strategically positions it on his desk so that the next time she comes over, she'll see it and ask about it.
Sure enough, she catches sight of the emblem on the corner of the envelope, and she freezes in her place.
"Noah, what is this?" she asks.
"What?" He turns around and she's holding the envelope in her hands. "I dunno. Open it and find out."
The grin on his lips is telling her that he most certainly knows what it is.
But still, the squeal she lets out when she reads the first lines of the letter makes him laugh. She's still holding the paper when she throws her arms around his neck and hugs him so tight he thinks she's going to break bones.
"Why didn't you tell me!" she cries, shoving at him. He rests his hands on her hips to keep her close.
He shrugs his shoulder. "More fun this way."
Her eyes fill with tears, and he wraps his arms around her waist. "You're really coming to New York with me?"
"I was going to anyway."
Everyone else is leaving. He figures he had better leave too, before there's nowhere for him to go. And getting to go with Rachel is just the bonus.
... ... ...
Mr. Schue doesn't even really get them in trouble when, at Nationals, Rachel and Finn 'trade' rooms so that the couples can each be alone in their own hotel suite. Mr. Schue finds out when he does a random curfew check and Finn answers the door to the 'girls' room in just his boxers.
Mr. Schue chuckles and tells them to at least keep it hidden from everyone else.
Rachel yells at Finn for 20 minutes in the parking lot for being stupid enough to open the door in the first place.
Puck laughs, because if it had been their door Schue knocked on, he would have found two students in a lot less clothing.
... ... ...
Finn proposes to Quinn the day after graduation at a party Rachel has thrown at her house.
She wonders if he's trying to hurt her.
She walks up behind Puck, where he's sitting on the patio with Matt and a couple of his other jock friends. Her arms wrap around his torso, fingertips slipping between the buttons of his shirt, and she leans down to speak in his ear.
"Come with me," she says.
It's very unlike her to leave a party she's hosting. But she takes the glass of iced tea from his hand and sets it on the table, then takes his hand and leads him inside. There are a few parents milling around the party, but most of the women are now fawning over Quinn's ring (Rachel hasn't looked at it) and the men are congratulating Finn (Puck hasn't gotten a chance...)
Rachel pulls Puck into her bedroom and closes the door, locking it behind them. He thinks it's pretty hot, the way she pushes him against it and kisses him as she pulls his shirt from his pants and starts on the buttons.
"Can't control yourself?" he asks teasingly as she opens his shirt and kisses his chest. She looks up at him through hooded eyes and shakes her head. (And she's telling the truth. She needs him. Him. Not anyone else.)
His fingers drag down the zipper at the back of her white dress, and he thinks he should probably make some promise about the future and engagements and white dresses, given what's happened today, but he's not that guy and they both know it.
"You look so fucking hot today, baby," he says instead. That's more like him.
Her dress falls to the floor, and she's wearing only white lace underwear and a matching strapless bra. When she sits down on the bed, biting her bottom lip as her back hits her pillows, he can't seem to get out of his pants fast enough.
He joins her, slipping his arm beneath her to move her so she's flat on her back, and she places her hand on his chest to stop him from kissing her.
"I don't want you to make love to me," she says.
"What?" (He'd almost sound angry, but there's something in her eyes that's really sexy, and it's telling him that there's more to what she's saying.)
"I want you to do what you call it."
He grins and dips down to kiss her hard, leaving her totally breathless. "You can't even say it, can you?" She shakes her head and he laughs as his hand slips into her underwear. "You want me to fuck you?"
She nods, breathes out his name, and then they don't really say anything after that.
He makes her forget everything else. She loves him for that, and for a whole bunch of other things.
She can't wait to get away from this town and just be with him alone.
... ... ...
The moment the last box is unpacked, Quinn puts her hands on her hips and surveys their little apartment. It's on-campus housing for students in their position. It's just two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room, but it's practically perfect for them.
"This is weird," Finn says. Mackenzie is sleeping already, and it's dark out, and both he and Quinn are exhausted.
"I was going to say it's nice."
"No! It's nice, yeah, but...this is our own place, you know?" he asks. She smiles at him and wraps her arms around his waist.
"I know. That's why I like it," she admits. "We can do this on our own now."
"We always could," he says. She raises her brow and looks up at him. "Okay, mom helped a lot, but whatever. We supported our baby. We can still do it."
"Yeah," she says quietly. She leans up and kisses his cheek. She loves that he has so much faith in them. "We'll be fine. We'll be great."
"We are great," he insists, like there's no room for argument.
She moves to stand in front of him and raises her hands to rest on his cheeks.
The ring doesn't feel quite so heavy on her hand anymore.
... ... ...
"New York is our fucking bitch lover!" Puck proclaims as soon as they're moved in. Rachel rolls her eyes.
"You're an idiot."
"I'm a fucking badass idiot who put all our fucking furniture together in a fucking day," he corrects her.
"Stop cursing," she says, though she's wrapping her arms around his torso. They're standing in their living room, and yes, all their furniture is assembled. They're both looking out the window longingly, as if their apartment doesn't overlook another brick building. "You think we'll be okay here?"
He's never heard her so unsure of this, this life and making her mark (a huge fucking gold star, he's told her) on this city.
He pulls away from her and walks to the stereo, flipping on Run This Town. He raps (badly) and 'dances' around the room, grabbing onto her and forcing her into 'performing' with him.
He kisses her when the song is over, then switches it to Empire State Of Mind.
"We're gonna be fucking awesome, baby."
She smiles and kisses him, then. He might do it in his own unique way, but he always does reassure her.
... ... ...
Quinn sends Puck and Rachel a photo of her, Mackenzie and Finn all together, happy and smiling in the fall colours on campus at OSU.
On the back, in Quinn's loopy writing, is, "We miss you!"
Only Puck knows what that really means.
I miss you.
... ... ...
Finn calls Rachel one Sunday morning. He knows Puck goes to the gym, has always gone to the gym on Sunday mornings. Quinn is out with Mackenzie and Finn is home alone.
"How are you guys?" he asks.
"Good! Busy! We love it here!"
"How are the wedding plans coming along?"
"You know. Same old."
She loves him a little bit for keeping that discussion to a minimum, realizing she was just asking to be polite. "Noah isn't here."
"I know," he tells her quietly. "I wanted to talk to you."
"Tell me about school," she insists. She shouldn't be smiling.
"I like it here. The campus is great. Classes are hard though."
"Yeah. It's hard to adjust."
"I um...You ever miss high school?" he asks quietly. (Do you ever miss me?)
She takes a deep breath, ignores the way her throat tightens. "All the time, Finn."
... ... ...
He cheats on her.
It's stupid, and he's drunk, and the girl sticks her tongue down his throat, and Puck doesn't stop her. He fucks her on a couch in a room in a house and she doesn't even come, and he leaves before she's dressed again.
He doesn't even know why he did it. He can't even find an answer when he tries.
Rachel finds out before he even gets home. He doesn't know how the fuck that's possible, but he's pissed about it.
There are tears on her cheeks, and he smells like whiskey and cigarettes, and he knows that this is the worst night of his life. The worst. It edges out that other one, the night he learned Quinn was in the hospital.
"Why?" she asks before he can even give her any kind of apology.
"I don't know."
"Don't lie to me, Noah. There has to be a reason. Tell me why!" she says, her voice raising with every word.
"I don't know!" he shouts. He's still drunk, and the room is spinning, and she looks terrible and beautiful at the same time, and he hates himself. "I don't know."
"Why would you do this to us? To me?" She's shaking her head, and he knows, even though he's so drunk he can barely see straight, that she's more disappointed in him than anyone has ever been. "How could you?"
He reaches out for her and pulls her against him, and she doesn't even fight him. He buries his face against her neck and he thinks he's crying or something.
"I'm so sorry." He doesn't even know if she's heard him. "Fuck, baby, I'm so sorry."
She feels tears fall onto her collarbone, and her heart breaks (again), and she ends up with her arms around him.
"You make it really hard to love you," she says quietly.
"I'm sorry," he says, pressing his lips to her neck.
She pulls away from him, disgusted that his lips are touching her now after touching someone else. "Don't," she insists dangerously, pushing him away. "Just...don't do that right now. I can't...I can't."
He sleeps on the couch for a week, and they only talk when they have to, like when she asks if he has change so she can take the train to her job at the dance studio or when he asks if she'd rather sweet and sour pork or that chicken soo guy stuff she likes when he orders Chinese.
He goes to class and she goes to class, and when she comes home, she goes straight into the bedroom. This happens every day until Friday.
He's sitting on the couch with a can of Coke in his hand when she walks in after work. She looks tired, he thinks. She looks exhausted from school and work and avoiding him. He's watching a basketball game, and she actually smiles at him when she sees that his team is winning.
It's the first smile she's given him all week.
She heads into the bedroom, but she doesn't close the door behind her this time.
At 11:00, she gets up off the bed, turns off the television in the bedroom, and walks to the door wearing nothing but the tee shirt of his that she sleeps in. She watches him for a moment, just sitting there with his feet up on the coffee table.
She loves him. Mistakes (and there are a lot of them) and all. He loves her, too, and she knows it, even if he's got a terrible way of showing it sometimes.
"Noah," she says softly. He looks over at her, sees her leaning against the door frame in just his faded old McKinley tee shirt, and his heart races. She's so fucking beautiful. "Come to bed."
He doesn't even turn off the television because he shoots up off the couch and towards her so fast that he forgets.
He takes her in his arms and pulls her against him, and her breath in his ear is enough to almost make his throat tight.
"I love you," he says seriously, his lips against her cheek. "I love you so much, Rachel."
She takes him back because she's one of those people who believes that love is enough.
... ... ...
"Dude, how could you cheat on Rachel?" Finn asks angrily, as soon as Puck answers the phone.
"I don't want to fucking talk about it," Puck grumbles.
("With you," goes unsaid, but not necessarily unheard.)
They don't talk about it.
... ... ...
"You're just taking him back? After all that?" Quinn asks through the line. Rachel closes her eyes and sighs.
"You don't know what it's like, Quinn. Finn is practically a saint," Rachel says.
Quinn knows what it's like to have her man wanting someone else. She knows Finn is far from a saint.
They cut their conversation short, both claiming they have homework to do, because they're both wondering if it's possible to be in love with two people at the exact same time.
(The worst part is, it's not the first time either of them has thought of this.)
... ... ...
She's been avoiding Finn's calls for two weeks, because she doesn't want a lecture from him, and she's sure she'll get one. She'd say her relationship with Noah is none of his business, but that's not entirely true. Only because they're friends. Only because they're all friends.
"He's my best friend, but you're crazy," Finn says.
She's got tears in her eyes as she lays on the sofa in her apartment waiting for Noah to get home from class.
"You're..." She can't finish her statement.
"Rachel," he says pleadingly, practically begging her to engage in this conversation.
She takes a breath and rolls onto her back. "You're jealous."
"So what if I am?" he asks quietly. "He doesn't deserve you."
She laughs bitterly and shakes her head, and the tears don't fall.
"Neither do you."
She hangs up before either of them can point out the fact that she might be lying.
... ... ...
When Quinn asks Rachel to be her maid of honour, it's not entirely surprising.
But there's a little part of Rachel that wonders why Quinn would ask her. (She's getting married to Finn.)
Puck is best man, which has always been pretty much obvious.
He sits on the sofa and tries to watch sports or whatever as Rachel and Quinn talk about invitations and guest lists and registries, and he thinks that he and Rachel are so far away from all that shit that he doesn't even want her anywhere near it. He knows what she's like when she gets her mind set on something, and the thought of her going all wedding crazy scares the hell out of him.
But then he remembers that they're just getting back on solid ground after he fucked up, and he thinks that if Rachel even still considers marrying him, now or ever, he should be really thankful.
She climbs into bed next to him one night after ending a call with Quinn, and she settles against him.
"Quinn's coming this weekend to go dress shopping."
"Coming here?" he asks stupidly.
"What about Mac?"
She pulls away and smiles softly as she furrows her brow. "Well, Finn is there," she reminds him. He rolls his eyes and pulls her closer again. "I can't wait to look at wedding dresses."
He laughs a little bit and kisses her temple. "Don't get any fucking ideas, Rach."
"You're not opposed to marriage," she states, like she already knows it and he can't try to tell her otherwise.
He reaches over and switches off the light, runs his hand up and down her side lightly. "No."
He's really not.
(When he thinks about Quinn in a white dress before he thinks of Rachel in one, he tells himself it's just because she's the one getting married first.)
... ... ...
His nickname has disappeared over the years, replaced by his real name. Finn is the only one who calls him Puck anymore, and even that's usually when it's just the two of them alone
He likes the name Noah. He thinks it suits his 'new' personality.
His daughter calls him Uncle Noah.
It breaks his heart every time.
... ... ...
Quinn's laying on the sofa watching Oprah when Puck gets home from his class. The night before, the three of them had gone to dinner and had a bit too much to drink. He wasn't hungover, but the girls definitely were. By the looks of it, Quinn still is.
"Hey, Champ," he says with a smirk as he drops his bag by the door and kicks off his shoes. "How you feeling?"
She's smiling a little bit as she buries her face in the pillow. "I don't know how Rachel is working with a bunch of dancing kids right now."
"I don't know how she does that...ever," he admits. Quinn laughs a little bit as she sits up so Puck can sit next to her. He looks over to the corner of the room, where there's a garment bag hanging up from the coat rack that he never bothers to use. She got the dress yesterday, just the fifth one she tried on. "So...wedding stuff."
"Subtle," she says quietly, wringing her hands in her lap.
"What the fuck am I supposed to say?" he asks. "You're sitting in my apartment after buying a fucking wedding dress, Q. What else do you want to talk about?"
"How about your daughter," she says, turning towards him.
"She's not my daughter, remember? You didn't want her to be."
She rolls her eyes. She thought they were past this. She knows how crazy that is. "Can we...? God, it's been three years. I just thought you might want to know how she is."
"I know how she is. Finn talks about her non-stop, and Rachel puts all the pictures you send into an album. It's not like I don't care. I do care. I fucking..." I love her. "It's just...I can't do this."
They turn their attention to the television, but neither is really watching at all. Rachel comes home an hour later with Chinese food and stories from her day. She doesn't notice the way Quinn turns her head when Puck greets Rachel with a kiss, or when Rachel squeezes his shoulder as she hands him his food.
She leaves at the end of the weekend with a wedding dress in her arms and the knowledge that Puck and Rachel are happier than she's ever seen them eating away at her stomach.
... ... ...
Puck and Rachel stay in New York, even after their classes are ending. The way they see it, they're not giving up their apartment, and if they're paying rent on it they're sure as hell going to live in it. And Rachel has her job and Puck works in a bar near their place.
The first time they've been to Ohio since winter break, it's for a week.
For a wedding.
He's got a duffle bag and a suit. Rachel's got a mountain of luggage. He makes fun of her, of course, but carries her shit to the curb as she flags down a cab to take them to the airport.
They spend the week in the hotel where the wedding is being held. Her dads are paying for the room, which Puck is pretty thankful for, because he's broke as shit and so is Rachel.
The first night they're in town, all Rachel wants to do is lay with him in their big hotel bed and watch movies and have sex (and yeah, she totally admitted that to him on the plane ride home). But then her cell rings, and he gets a text, and apparently their 'old' group of friends is meeting up at a restaurant nearby for food and drinks, and they can't very well say no.
So they sit there next to one another, laughing and eating, getting served alcohol even though they're underage. Puck has his arm around the back of Rachel's chair, but like always, she gets a little more handsy with every sip of her mojito. He does not hate that.
He watches her hug Finn at the bar, the two of them talking close, her laughing and Finn smiling at her. Puck is not jealous. He's not. When he walks over and slides up behind her, kissing the juncture of her shoulder, he's just at the bar because he needs another beer, that's all.
They're up until 3:30 in the morning having sex and talking, and he thinks that they should take vacations more often. He loves this girl. He does. So much. And even at the restaurant, when he could feel Quinn looking at him, or Finn looking at Rachel, he didn't care. He's got her, his girl.
The night of the bachelor/bachelorette parties, Puck lays on the bed in his button down and jeans and watches as Rachel steps into her black satin dress. The girls have decided to go semi-formal and have a classy dinner and wine in a back room of a restaurant where Brittany's parents have pull.
"You look so fucking hot right now, baby," he says. She stops fussing with her hair long enough to walk over to the bed and sit next to him.
"Noah, you'll..." She looks down at her hand, toying with one of the buttons of his shirt.
"There're strippers, yes," he says, because he knows what she's getting at. He knows she has reason not to trust him. He hates himself for that. He does love, however, that he can read her well enough to know she's freaking out about this. "Don't worry."
"What the fuck would I want with a stripper?" he asks seriously. It makes her laugh. "You're the sexiest girl I've ever seen."
She thinks he's lying, so she rolls her eyes, but when he sits up so he can kiss her, she can't do anything but trust him.
... ... ...
The girls' classy dinner and wine turns a little sloppy with every glass (bottle) of wine they're served. Quinn's sister is older, married, and telling stories about married life, which make all the girls laugh. Rachel talks about her life with Noah in New York (no one notices the way Quinn holds her glass a little tighter at the mention of his name). Mercedes is seeing someone, and it's new, but she blushes as she talks about him. Brittany and Santana share looks all night that no one really wants to dare to decode, and Tina talks about Artie like they haven't been together for just as long as Quinn and Finn and Puck and Rachel.
It's Rachel's job as maid of honour to get Quinn back to her hotel room safely, and as she pushes open the door, Quinn's arm draped around her shoulder, Quinn says something that Rachel thinks might break her heart.
"Finn's perfect," she says, slurring her words. "Sometimes."
Rachel thinks he should be with someone who thinks he's perfect, always.
(When she lets herself think of him.)
... ... ...
Strippers are fucking nasty. Puck thinks about Rachel in that dress all night.
... ... ...
Rachel is walking to her room when she sees Finn standing outside his door with his keycard in his hand. He doesn't look nearly as drunk as Quinn is. She supposes that answers the question of why he's not getting help from his best man. He waves her over, and she smiles (ignoring the fluttering in her stomach) as she steps down the hall towards him.
He doesn't say anything as he pushes the door open then lets it close behind them. He sits down on the bed and grabs her wrist a little too tightly, pulling her to sit down next to him. His eyes are all glassy, and even though he's seated, he's swaying a little bit. He's drunker than she thought. He's drunker than she is.
This is very dangerous territory. She knows it. But she can't force herself to leave.
"I'm getting married."
"I know," she says. She doesn't need a reminder. The fact that she's just dropped a very drunk Quinn off in her room and pulled the 'Bride To Be' tiara from her hair is all the reminding she can handle right now.
"It feels...It feels really...final," he says, finally looking over at her. There are tears in her eyes already.
"You know, Quinn is looking at it like a beginning. You're sitting here looking at it like an ending."
That makes him feel like such a piece of shit. He'd care more if he wasn't so used to it.
"I'm sorry, Rachel," he says quietly. His hand reaches out for hers and she can't pull it away fast enough. "It's all my fault."
"What are you talking about?"
"This." He squeezes her hand. "We could have...I always thought you and I...If there was no Mackenzie." He stops talking and almost gasps. "I love her. I love her, you know? She's...she's my daughter and I wouldn't trade her."
"I know," Rachel repeats once more, because he's getting frantic now.
"I just...it could have been you and me."
Rachel's throat tightens and she shakes her head. "Don't. Don't make it seem that easy."
"You love him, and I love her, and...I know that, but..." He looks at her, and he's never seen her look so sad. He hates that it's his fault. All of this is his fault. "Stay with me."
"Finn!" she gasps. "You're...in two days, you're..."
"I know. But tonight...Rachel, I just need you," he says. He leans over and nuzzles his face against her neck a little bit. She closes her eyes as he places kisses to her skin. "Please. Just once."
She knows better than to stay. She knows this makes her a horrible person.
But just once...
... ... ...
Puck steps onto the floor of the hotel where his room is after having one last beer by himself in the hotel bar, and when he slips his keycard into the door and pushes it open, it's pitch dark. He switches on the light and there's no one inside.
When he walks back into the hall he notices the door to Quinn's room is slightly open, so he knocks gently before entering. She's laying on her bed in her pajamas, makeup smudged and hair all messy. He thinks she looks gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful.
"I don't know where Finn is," she states without even looking at him. He doesn't know if she's just telling him because she thinks that's who he's looking for, or if there's something more to the statement.
"I don't know where Rachel is," he says.
They both know what this means. She says the words anyway.
"They're together, you know. It'll always be them, at least sometimes."
(If Rachel were here, he knows she'd pick apart Quinn's contradictory words. But she's not here.)
"Yeah." He sits down next to her on her bed and she wipes a tear away.
"It'll always be us, too, you know," she says.
He tucks her into her bed and heads back to he and Rachel's room. He pretends to be asleep when she comes in.
... ... ...
The ceremony is flawless. Mackenzie runs (literally, and it's adorable) down the aisle dropping the light pink rose petals when she remembers to. Rachel walks into the room and Puck thinks she looks amazing in her pale green dress, hair pinned up in big curls, smile on her face.
Maybe it'll always be Finn and Rachel, Puck and Quinn. But it'll never be anything more than just that, an idea of what could have been.
Watching Rachel walk down the aisle, her eyes locked with his as he stands in his rented tux, Puck thinks he wouldn't have it any other way.
He's not even really pissed at her for fucking his best friend two days before the wedding.
... ... ...
"The other night..." Puck's hands are on Rachel's waist, hers on his shoulders, dancing at their best friends' wedding reception.
She's been avoiding this.
She knows he knows.
"It didn't mean anything," she whispers, tears in her eyes. (It's a lie. She knows he knows this, too.)
She looks up at him and he doesn't hate her for cheating. He can't hate her for anything, and she can't hate him for anything either, as they've already learned.
He doesn't want to fight. He doesn't want to have some shitty life with her or to break up with her, god forbid. He just wants them to be happy together. He doesn't care how fucking sappy that makes him.
"Okay," he says.
They don't talk about it again. He lets it go easily because frankly, he needs her, and he loves her, and he's done the same thing to her. It doesn't mean anything. Rachel's his girl, not anyone else's.
He pulls her closer, kisses her temple. (Forgiveness.)
She tries to remember what it feels like to have a heartbeat.
... ... ...
Finn and Quinn honeymoon in Mexico.
She pretends she doesn't know about him and Rachel.
He pretends the guilt isn't killing him.
"I slept with Rachel." He blurts it out one night when the lights are out and she's laying in his arms in the middle of the bed.
She doesn't even flinch.
"You...what?" he asks. The old Quinn, the one from high school, from before Mackenzie, would be kicking his ass out of the bed and her life right now.
"Never again," she says quietly.
He sighs, pulls her closer, and thinks he might start crying or something. He doesn't deserve her.
(She wanted to say, 'we're even.')
... ... ...
It's winter in New York, and Puck and Rachel are walking around the Upper East Side, because she likes to do that sometimes, dream big about where they'll live when she's a famous Broadway star and he's a brilliant architect. She mostly just jokes, spins around on the sidewalk, letting her hair fly around her face, and he catches her around the waist before she runs into people. He'll call her crazy and she'll remind him that he loves it, and well, he doesn't have an argument for that.
"Sane girls bore me," he says. She laughs against his lips and tells him to buy her a chai latté.
The truth is, he loves her a little more when she gets like this. She reminds him of the crazy 16 year old she used to be, so sure of herself (she still is, she's just a little bit more jaded these days). He loved that girl, and he loves this woman, jeans tucked into boots, instead of skirts and knee socks and flats. Her cheeks are pink from the cold, not shyness (as confident as she always was, one compliment from him would get her blushing).
She's standing across the street when he walks out of the coffee shop, and he runs across, dodging traffic to get to her. She's watching as a wedding party get their photos taken in the snow in Central Park. He comes up behind her, reaches his arm in front of her to hold out her paper cup, and she smiles at him over her shoulder as she takes it.
He doesn't really get the whole wedding thing. Yeah, being married he can understand, but the actual wedding, especially now that he's witnessed all the craziness and planning almost first-hand, he doesn't understand. It just seems like a big waste of money and time.
But then there's Rachel, standing there and looking at this scene like it's something she wants, and he's not too proud to admit that he'll give it to her if it'll make her happy. He's going soft. He doesn't even care.
"We could do that," he says, pulling her back so she's pressed against his chest.
He rolls his eyes. "You know what."
She turns around and she's practically laughing at him. Well, fuck.
"You are not proposing to me with no ring, on the middle of the sidewalk with a cup of coffee in your hand." She raises one eyebrow and puts her hand on her hip. "You're going to have to come up with something better than that."
He just smirks and kisses her.
She'll say yes when he actually asks. (No matter how he actually asks.)
... ... ...
Rachel doesn't tell Quinn about that day with Noah in the middle of January when he sort of almost proposed the idea of a proposal. They're practically best friends, but she doesn't say a word.
She knows why.
(She wishes she didn't know why.)
... ... ...
"Can we go see aunt Rachel and uncle Noah?" Mackenzie asks one day during the summer.
Finn and Quinn are both working, opposite hours for the most part, so they can save on daycare, but that doesn't leave much free time for vacations. The only day they both have off is Sunday, and they use what little extra money they have to do things like go to water parks and the fair when it comes to town. Going to New York is not an option.
"No, we can't, baby," Quinn insists. She's trying to cook dinner, and Finn is on the phone with his mom, which means he's of no help for a while.
"Because mommy and daddy have to work," Quinn answers. She shoots Finn a look and he mouths an apology.
"I could fly!" Mackenzie says, eyes all lit up.
Quinn stops what she's doing and laughs, walking over to where Mackenzie is sitting at the kitchen table. "Sweetie, you can't fly."
Quinn pulls her daughter onto her lap and tickles her, which makes her squeal adorably and giggle. "Do you have wings?"
"We can make them! With paper. And sparkles!" Mackenzie says, like this is a foolproof plan. Finn comes up behind them and lifts the little girl into his arms, holding her as high over his head as he can. "Daddy!"
He swears his heart melts every time he hears that.
"We can't go visit," he explains. She full on pouts at him, and he almost wants to laugh. "But we can call them and you can talk if you want."
"Okay! But I'm talking. You and mommy always hog the phone. I love them too!" she cries defensively.
There's a split second of awkwardness where Finn and Quinn are both thinking of other kinds of love, maybe a few ties they try not to ever acknowledge.
... ... ...
Puck can't believe he's doing this shit, really. He's sitting in his apartment with fucking flowers all around him and nice, presentable clothes on. He's wearing a goddamned tie.
His phone rings in his pocket, and Rachel tells him she's stuck at work because one of the other girls called in sick, and she won't be home until after 10:00.
He chucks the flowers in the trash and cancels their dinner reservation. He changes into an NYU tee shirt and a pair of sweats.
He puts the ring back into the place in the back of the closet where he's been hiding it for two weeks.
... ... ...
By the time Christmas rolls around, Rachel has talked her boss into giving her a full two weeks off so she (they) can go home to Lima for the holidays. It's been a year and a half since they've been home. Everything's so good with them when they're away, when it's just the two of them. It's when they go home and see those other people that everything gets all fucked up. Rachel knows this.
"We don't have to..." she says as she watches him toss his things carelessly into a bag.
"Fuck that. We're going." It's not up for debate. (His mom would kill them both.) "And we already have our tickets, crazy girl. Of course we're going."
"No, I know," she says, smiling at him as she carefully folds another sweater. "I just wanted to make sure you were still up for it."
"Why wouldn't I be? We're good to stay at your dads' place, though, right? Because apparently Hannah has a boyfriend and there's a good chance I'll be kicking ass if I run into the guy."
She laughs and moves to sit on the edge of the bed between their suitcases. "Noah, she's 14. And Steven is a sweet boy. You know, he brought her Mini Eggs on their first date." (It's a little-known fact that Mini Eggs are Hannah's favourite candy, which Puck teases her about, since it's an Easter candy and they're Jews.)
"Noah!" Rachel cries, kicking at his leg. "You do sweet things like that for me."
He scoffs and throws his bag onto the floor before grabbing her suitcase and doing the same. "Only 'cause I know you get all chick crazy if I don't."
"That's not true!"
"Oh really?" he asks, one brow raised as he moves toward her, then leans over her until they're both laying down on the bed and he's between her legs. "What would you do if I didn't get that coffee you like from that place in Brooklyn when I go hang out at Jason's?" She scowls at him, because he's totally right. "And if I didn't make you my kick ass french toast on Sunday mornings, you'd totally dump me."
She laughs (he feels it through his whole body) and wraps her arms around his neck. "Totally," she teases, smiling as he leans down to kiss her.
They get a little caught up, but when there's a knock at the door, she holds out her hand for cash to pay for their dinner, and he laughs at her as he places the $20 in her hand. She kisses his cheek and slips out from underneath him, running for the door.
He checks to make sure she's occupied, then takes that little black box from the back of the closet and hides it in his carryon bag. He kind of chickened out after his last plan got screwed up. He thinks that maybe a Christmas/Hanukkah proposal would be kind of cool.
And he's determined for them to have a good, normal, angst-free vacation. He's not sure they'll ever be able to accomplish that with 'The Hudsons' around.
... ... ...
Rachel's dads throw this Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza party that's pretty much the hottest ticket in Lima. Puck gets suckered (okay, not really, because he's not a jerk) into putting up lights and decorations and whatever, and he's rewarded with cookies and kisses from his girlfriend, and she winks at him as she licks the icing from her thumb and steps back into the kitchen.
People start showing up when he and Rachel are still getting ready. Well, she's getting ready. He's just watching. It's one of his favourite things to do, to watch her do her makeup and hair and slip into her dress at the last possible second. He doesn't know why. He thinks she likes that he watches.
There's a knock at the door just as he's zippered Rachel's sexy black dress, and then Quinn's head pokes in and the girls squeal and hug each other as Finn steps into the room and he and Puck shake hands. Mackenzie runs in and straight into Rachel's arms. Puck pretends his heart doesn't constrict at the sight of it, his girlfriend with the child she'll never know is his.
... ... ...
Rachel and Quinn meet up for coffee at the little shop in town for girl talk and gossip. They sit there for two hours and talk about anything they can think of, as if they don't already talk or email a couple times a week. Rachel talks about how Mackenzie is looking more and more like Quinn every day, and Quinn nods and says that she's kind of glad the girl's hair stayed blonde and her eyes are the same green.
Quinn doesn't mention Rachel and Finn. Ancient history.
When they get back to Rachel's house, Finn and Mackenzie are sitting there with Puck, the three of them talking, which basically means that Mackenzie is talking (she's a talker, and neither Finn nor Quinn are entirely sure where she gets that from) and Finn and Puck are trying not to laugh too much.
Rachel's dads come home and insist that the young family stays for dinner, and the 'kids' hang out in the den, since the Berry's have insisted that they don't need help with dinner. Finn sticks around in the kitchen for a while, talking with Rachel's dads about work and jobs and something or another, and Quinn stays with them too, to join the conversation.
Rachel and Mackenzie are talking about something or another, and Puck just stands against the door frame and watches with a little smirk on his face. Mac is so amazing. There's part of him that's thankful to Quinn, because he knows that Finn has a lot to do with the way Mac is being brought up. The other part of him still hates that Mac will never know just how much he loves her.
He lifts her up into his arms when she says she's tired, and Rachel smiles at him. She's always saying he's good with kids, but he ignores it, mostly, because he doesn't need her getting any crazy ideas.
"Daddy always lets me sleep on him. You're not my daddy," Mackenzie says. She's so cute that he can't be mad.
He's just heartbroken instead.
"No, Mac. But your dad's busy. You mind if I hold onto ya for a while?" he asks. She flashes a bright smile and nods, wrapping one arm around his neck and resting her head on his shoulder. Rachel runs her hand down his back.
Mackenzie falls asleep in his arms as he sits on the sofa, and Finn just laughs when he walks into the room to let them know dinner is ready. He doesn't bother to wake Mackenzie up. Puck just lays her down on the sofa and covers her over with a blanket.
Even he doesn't know what the look he and Quinn share means as he passes her.
... ... ...
It's at the New Year's party Kurt throws that Finn finally gets a moment alone with Rachel. She can deny it all she wants, but he knows she's been avoiding him. He texted her twice last week asking if she wanted to grab a coffee or something, and she never responded.
It should not bother him so much. He's a married man.
"Finn, don't," she says pleadingly, smoothing out the fabric of her gold dress.
That's how she greets him.
(It's been a year and a half, and the memory of that night together haunts him, how she felt, how she tasted, how she might have been everything he ever wanted if he didn't already have everything he has.)
"He knows, you know," she says after a moment of silence. "He knows and he loves me anyway."
"I told her."
Rachel laughs humourlessly and shakes her head, tipping back her martini glass and draining the contents.
"This is over," she states with confidence. They aren't even looking at one another, just standing side by side and watching other people talking and dancing and laughing. "Whatever...whatever it is that's been...It's over."
"It doesn't work like that."
"It has to."
She walks away and he watches her go, but not like he used to. He knows she's right; it's been over for a while, if he really thinks about it. (It never really started, depending on how you look at it.) He might not want it to be, but there's nothing there anymore, just memories and what ifs, and he doesn't want to get caught up in either of those things.
He watches her walk up to Puck, who's talking to Matt, and she wraps her arms around his waist effortlessly. Puck, so naturally it's almost scary, drapes an arm around her shoulder without even taking his eyes off Matt.
Finn finds his wife and kisses her at midnight and thinks that maybe everything worked out just like it was supposed to anyway.
... ... ...
So, it's not that he didn't want to propose over Christmas/Hanukkah. It's just that the opportunity never presented itself. Her dads were around, literally, all the fucking time, and the more his mom hinted towards the future, the more he wanted to hang onto that ring tightly in his own hand just to spite her. She's been on him about marrying Rachel since he was 18. She's clearly insane. Obviously.
But then they're at the airport, and Rachel's going on and on, like she does every time they fly, about how much she loves airports, how it's all hellos and goodbyes and I love you's and hugs and flowers and smiles and tears, and before he even gets a second to think about it, he's on his knee (on his knee!) in front of her, right there in the middle of the terminal.
Shit. Shit! He has a ring. It's easy enough to find in his bag and he pulls it out as the tears well in Rachel's eyes.
"Shut up for a second," he says. Shit. He had a speech planned, too. Something about loving her. Yeah, definitely that. And then something about wanting to spend his life with her. God, that sounds lame now. And people are staring. "So...uh...you wanna get married?"
There are pretty tears coming down her cheeks. She shouts "Yes!" and he stands so she can throw her arms around him. She wraps her legs around his waist, too, and he laughs as the crowd around him claps. He kisses her, his hand slipping into her hair as the other holds her against him, and he can taste her tears, which he thinks is strangely...hot, but only because the tears are the good kind.
He slips the ring onto her finger, and she knows it's perfect. Not too big, not too small. It's yellow gold, which she loves (tradition) and just perfect.
"Took you long enough," she says laughingly, smiling through her tears. "Almost a year since that day, Noah. Don't think I haven't been thinking about it."
"Betcha didn't think I'd do it in an airport," he says, smirking proudly. She shakes her head and kisses his face all over. "Good."
"I like surprises," she says needlessly. By this point, he knows pretty much everything about her.
"Love you, baby," he tells her.
"I love you, too," she whispers. Her heart is beating in her ears. He's perfect. They're perfect.
They get upgraded to first class, which is awesome, but Rachel refuses to have sex with him in the bathroom, which kind of sucks.
(She makes up for it, oh, as soon as they're in their apartment.)
... ... ...
"Maybe our families could come here for the holidays next year," she says, laying in his arms in their bed. She can't stop running her thumb over the band of the ring on her finger.
Puck smiles, pulls her closer and nods. "Yeah."
She's done with Lima.
... ... ...
Finn tucks Mackenzie into bed, going through the motions without really thinking. This is his job, and he loves it. He carries her to her room, usually, because she gets all sleepy and does this adorable thing where she twists this lock of hair right by her ear and says 'Daddy' and that's all it takes. He slips her beneath her covers and she always hangs onto him until the last second, and if she's not too tired, he reads her whichever story she chooses. If she's already falling asleep, he stays there, sits at the edge of her bed with the purple sheets and matching comforter, and waits until her breathing evens out.
He honestly doesn't know what he'd do if he didn't get to do this every day.
But tonight, it's different. Tonight, he learned that his friends are engaged. He talked to his buddy for a while, saying congratulations and asking all the whens and wheres (two weeks ago at the airport, they just haven't told anyone yet, wanting to bask in it a while, and Finn knows that's Rachel's logic, because he doesn't know what bask means, really).
He doesn't talk to Rachel, just hands the phone to Quinn and then the girls talk for a while.
Finn tries to concentrate on his homework for the rest of the night, but when that fails him, he cleans the kitchen and Quinn smiles at him from the sofa, where she's doing reading for one of her classes and watching some stupid reality show or something.
He sits back down at the table and opens his books again, and after a while, Quinn comes over and starts running her hands over his shoulders, massaging them, and he likes this. Loves it, actually. She does it sometimes after practices or rough games, sometimes rubbing A5-35 over his tired muscles. They joke that it's their aphrodisiac, but it's not really a joke at all.
"They're really getting married," he says quietly, spinning his pen between his fingers like he used to do with his drumsticks. (And that just makes him think of glee, which makes him think of Rachel and how she was his first, dammit.)
"Yeah. It's good," Quinn states confidently. She hopes he can't tell that she's been sitting on the sofa for the last couple hours, thinking about all this and biting her cheek to keep from tearing up, for some stupid reason.
"Finn," she sighs, shaking her head. They don't talk about it, about Finn and Rachel. And he doesn't know enough (anything) about she and Puck to talk about that, either. He's oblivious. (She's not as guilty about it anymore now that he's slept with Rachel.)
"I guess we knew it was coming, right?" he asks.
She stops touching him, takes her hands away completely. "We're not talking about this. I don't want to talk about it."
"I'm just saying..."
"You're just thinking about her. Like...like you're...disappointed or something. Or like you want her to be marrying you or something."
"Quinn, that's crazy," he says seriously, standing, turning to face her. "I'm not disappointed."
"Then what are you, Finn? Because you don't seem happy that our two best friends are getting married," she says. He hates the tears in her eyes and pulls her close, cradling her against his chest.
"I'm in love with my wife," he says quietly, and he means it. "Okay?"
She nods against him and he rubs a lazy circle on her back. "We're not talking about it anymore."
They don't. Not once.
... ... ...
Puck does not know how many fucking bridal magazines one woman needs. Certainly not every fucking one ever published.
It's taking over his life, and they haven't even picked a goddamn date. Because the one they wanted, her dad has a business conference, and then the next choice, his mom's cousin is scheduled for surgery, and then the one after that, his mom just flat out says no to, since she won't have her son getting married in the fall, for whatever fucking reason.
"Noah!" Rachel calls from the kitchen. He groans and tips his head back on the sofa. He's trying to watch a little college basketball in silence, here.
"Yeah?" he shouts back.
"Would you come here so we don't have to shout at one another like heathens?"
He rolls his eyes, but he's smiling, because she totally just yelled all that at him. He steps into the kitchen, sipping his beer, and slumps down in the chair next to hers. "'Sup?"
She pushes one of the (thousand) magazines towards him and points to a photo. "Do you like these? I like them. They're classic and simple. You know? Very clean lines, and...What?" she asks when he starts staring at her blankly.
"Seriously? You called me in here to ask about fucking invitations?"
"I want your opinion," she says smoothly. She knows him so well that she knows his lashing out isn't at her at all. "I'm not the only one getting married, here."
"Baby, we don't have a date. Or a location. How the fuck are you already onto invitations?" he asks seriously, flipping through one of the magazines. He comes to an article on wedding night lingerie. "Now this? This is the stuff I'm happy to talk about. Fuck, I'll go shopping for that shit."
She giggles, because he hates shopping. "I'm just trying to think forwardly."
It takes every ounce of self restraint he has not to roll his eyes.
"Whatever. Listen, I don't wanna sound like a dick, because you know I wanna marry you, but to be honest, as long as we have a couple rings, a rabbi, and a bottle of champagne for the wedding night, I'm good to go." She's just blinking at him and he can't tell if he should make a joke or apologize. Joke. Always joke. "And some of that hot ass lingerie, if you wanna get real specific."
She laughs and shakes her head, closing the magazine and setting it on the stack.
His heart races and he knows he's smiling when he asks, "what?"
"This is getting so...stupid!" she cries. "If it's not my dads with a problem, it's your mom. If it's not them arguing over the wedding being here or there or the rehearsal dinner being at their place or her place, it's your mother trying to give me her wedding dress, which, I'm sorry, but...No." She's talking all fast like she used to, and he wants her. Right fucking now. She moves her chair closer to his, hooking her calf around his and grabbing a fistful of his shirt at his chest. It's like she can read his mind. And it's hot. "You, me, quiet vows and a night alone. That's all I need."
He kisses her hard, because he's honestly never found her sexier. Well, that's a lie, but this feels different. The fact that they're on the same page about this stupid wedding (the marriage part, he can't wait for, actually, but the wedding is fucking ridiculous) makes her seriously irresistible. Or maybe it's just the way she's tracing his lip with her tongue. Whatever.
"And hot lingerie?" he asks, pulling away from her.
She laughs and nods her head. He pulls her into his lap.
... ... ...
Puck's mom is pissed. Rachel's dads are disappointed.
Finn and Quinn?
Rachel's pretty sure they're just relieved that they don't have to go to the wedding.
(It's funny, she thinks, that she wears a white dress from Banana Republic, and he wears black pants and a grey shirt, and they go to city hall just because they got tired of trying to plan a proper wedding. They spring for a hotel room they can barely afford and get drunk on champagne and being married, and she practically falls apart in his arms when he calls her Rachel Puckerman.)
... ... ...
They say good things come in threes, but Finn isn't really sure of all that.
They graduate. Coach Tanaka is suspended indefinitely after a random drug test, and Finn gets the job as football coach and gym teacher at their old high school, so they move back to Lima, buy a little house with the money they've been saving.
And Quinn gets pregnant.
It's not like last time. Not at all. They haven't been trying, per se, but they've talked about it, having another baby now that Mackenzie is older and he's got a job and Quinn is looking for something. He's not really sure when they stopped using birth control, but she's never been on the pill, so he supposes he should have known this would happen eventually.
And he's happy. Thrilled. He can't wait to have another baby around. Quinn cries a lot more, but he knows how to deal with it all this time. And even when she's got tears on her face, he knows Quinn is happy too.
"Maybe a boy," he says one morning, just after he's set her cereal in front of her (dry, because it's the only thing she can keep down.)
She smiles and leans over to kiss him. "Maybe," she whispers.
She loves her daughter with all her heart, but this pregnancy feels so much better than the last one.
... ... ...
Rachel prints off the sonogram Quinn emails her and posts it on the fridge door as she smiles. Puck is pouring coffee and thinks it's funny how the last time Quinn was carrying a baby, he never actually saw a sonogram at all. Weird.
"We could do that, you know," he says casually, raising his mug to his lips. She gets a serious case of deja vu and turns to look at him, tilting her head.
"You know, there are other ways to broach a serious topic of conversation, Noah," she says seriously (though she's totally smiling), hand on her hip. He nudges it away and replaces it with his own, her hand covering his wrist.
"We could have a baby," he says quietly, looking down between them, not at her.
Her thumb moves back and forth over his skin, her fingertips brushing against his wedding band. It's been there for almost a year; they've been married almost a year. He's working as a draftsman at an architectural firm downtown, and she's in a not-entirely-terrible off-Broadway show.
They could have a baby. She thinks she might want to.
"I'll even let you raise this one," she says quietly, just waiting for his eyes to meet hers. She's not even all that afraid of what he'll say or how he'll react.
"How did...? What are you talking about?" he asks, recovering, but not quickly enough. He's just looking at her, and she's blinking at him, and they're no closer or further apart than they were to begin with. He's not really sure what that means, exactly.
"Noah," she says quietly, tilting her head. "I've known since senior year."
His face pales and he pulls away from her, collapsing onto the chair behind him. A little coffee spills from his cup, scalding his skin, and he curses. Rachel's right there, though, as usual, pressing a tea towel to his hand to dry him off and make him feel better.
"What the fuck, Rachel? Why didn't you ever...You never said anything."
His mind is racing. She's known all along. Now a bunch of little things make sense. In high school, if Finn or Quinn asked her to babysit, she'd always invite him over. If he was holding Mac in a room full of people, she'd always give him a bunch of time alone. Last time they were all together, when Mac said he wasn't her daddy, the way Rachel ran her hand down his back like she always does when she wants to comfort him.
Holy fucking shit. She's always known.
She leaves him sitting there, walks into the bedroom and closes the door.
(He doesn't want to know her reasons for keeping quiet, and she doesn't want to know his.)
... ... ...
("Why didn't you tell me you knew?" he asks one night after a little too much wine.
"I loved you."
"You wanted him."
"I loved you."
They don't talk about it again. She doesn't ask questions and he doesn't bring it up.)
... ... ...
Quinn gives birth to Alexander two days after Mackenzie's birthday. Everyone thinks this is funny, even Mackenzie, who dotes on her little brother.
The boy has a full head of dark hair that shoots off in all directions no matter what Quinn tries to do with it. It's really cute, actually, and it becomes something of a joke in the family. Mackenzie puts a pink headband on Alexander one day, and Finn throws a fit (not a very serious one) and when he pulls the headband off, the boy's hair flies out in little tufts.
Alex looks so much like Finn that Quinn is left thanking god for the millionth time that her husband doesn't know much about things like dominant genes. (Mackenzie looks more like her mother, sandy blonde hair and green eyes; Quinn hasn't had to answer a question about that.)
Finn gets up in the middle of the night when Alex starts crying, and Quinn wakes up anyway, though she's sure Finn thinks she's still asleep.
She hears Finn through the baby monitor, talking to their son, telling him all about the members of his family.
Quinn listens a little more closely when Finn starts talking about Uncle Noah and Aunt Rachel.
He talks about them in equal parts, and Quinn is fairly certain he's finally gotten over Rachel.
... ... ...
"That's a good lookin' kid, Q," Puck says over the phone one day. She called and Rachel is out. It's the first time he's spoken to her since Alex was born six weeks ago.
"Yeah, he's pretty cute," she says, and just the tone of her voice lets him know that she's holding the baby right now.
"How's Mac doing?"
"She loves him. She's like a little baby sitter. As soon as she gets home from school, she runs in to see him," Quinn says fondly.
He smiles to himself. Sometimes, no matter how much it sucks, he thinks about that family and how maybe, just maybe, Mackenzie is better off with them anyway.
"She's really good, Noah," Quinn continues when he says nothing. "She's happy, and smart. And she's just...she's the sweetest little girl."
He's not even lying when he says, "I wish we could see her more often."
"Just her?" Quinn laughs. Puck rolls his eyes, despite knowing she can't see him. "You should come visit before he gets all big."
"Yeah. Maybe we will," he says.
He doesn't know if Rachel will go for it, but she smiles when he asks her what she thinks of the idea, and they both take a week off work so they can drive to Ohio. She makes mix CDs that include a bunch of music she knows he'll only tolerate because she likes it, and one of the mixes is made up of a bunch of his favourite songs.
He leans across the seat of their rental car when they're on a long stretch of highway, and he kisses her cheek as she chews him out for taking his eyes off the road.
... ... ...
Puck chases Mackenzie around the yard of Finn and Quinn's house while the girls talk and fawn over the baby and Finn mans the grill. Rachel catches her husband's eye at one point and smiles at him as he hoists Mackenzie up over his shoulder. She likes now, that she doesn't have to hide anything.
"He's good with kids," Quinn says, almost like it surprises her.
Rachel thinks she does a brilliant job of hiding the way she tenses. She's had so many moments over the years where she wanted to let her friend know that she knows the truth.
"Yes, he is."
"You should have one! Then our babies could be friends," Quinn laughs, bouncing Alex in her arms.
Rachel laughs and smiles, but doesn't commit to anything. The truth is, she wants one. So badly. Looking at the little boy next to her, that need gets stronger. She just knows it's career suicide to have a baby before anyone knows who she is. Sure, she's got her credentials to teach, but that's her fallback; it's not there just so she can rush one dream and steamroll the other.
"Noah?" she asks that night when they're laying in bed.
"You're okay with us waiting to have a baby, aren't you?"
He flicks on the light and winces. It's always really fucking weird to be in her super-girlie bedroom now that they're adults. Married adults.
"Course I am." She nods and runs her hand over his stomach. "Why?"
"I guess I just got baby fever today," she says, smiling at him across the pillow. "And seeing you with Mac..."
He smirks at her and raises his brow as he turns on his side. "Sexy dad fantasy?"
"Shut up," she laughs, shoving at his chest before he pulls her closer. "But yes, you do look very good with a child in your arms. There's something about seeing you caring for children that..." She stops talking and sighs. He fucking loves that.
"You just say the word and I'm totally down for some baby makin'." She laughs some more, but he covers her body with his and parts her legs with his knee. "I'll make a baby right now."
"My dads are right down the hall," she reminds him, stifling a giggle as he nips at her neck.
He pulls away and looks at her incredulously. "Has that ever stopped us before?"
He thinks it's adorable that she's blushing.
They don't actually make a baby, they're really going to wait for that, but it's pretty amazing anyway.
... ... ...
Rachel stands in the kitchen of Finn and Quinn's house, listening to the commotion around her. Quinn decided that since Rachel and Noah eloped, it was on her to throw them an engagement/wedding/one year anniversary party, even though all three of those were well in the past. Rachel couldn't argue, and Noah said that as long as he didn't have to pay for beer, he was there.
So she looks out into the living room, where he's standing with Mr. Schue, Kurt, Matt and Mercedes, and she smiles at him when he catches her eye and winks.
She hasn't moved from her place in the kitchen for at least 20 minutes. She's got a sleeping baby in her arms. Besides, she's talked to everyone, and she just needs a break.
She turns and sees Finn standing next to her, a bottle of water in his hand; he never was that big a drinker.
He grins and looks down at his son, laying in her arms. "Looks like he's got you wrapped around his finger already."
She smiles and shakes her head lightly. "It's not that hard to accomplish when you look like he does," she jokes. Finn reaches over and grabs onto his son's hand. "He looks so much like you."
He smiles. She realizes a moment too late just how that sounded. It's certainly not how she intended it.
"Yeah. I'm glad," he admits. "I mean, Mac's perfect, but she's all Quinn." (He doesn't notice how Rachel winces.) "I like that he looks like me." Rachel looks up at him and nods, running her hand over Alex's little stomach as he sleeps. "You uh...you guys gonna have one?"
Rachel smiles across the room at Noah, who's laughing, engaged in a conversation with Matt. "Eventually."
"You'd be great," he says quietly, leaning toward her and resting his hand on her shoulder.
She smiles, thanks him, and then they start talking about their jobs, one on one like they haven't been able to do yet. For the first time in years, maybe ever, she feels like they're friends. She laughs and smiles and he tells her stories and takes Alex when the boy wants one of his parents.
Their relationship - friendship - is exactly what it should be.
... ... ...
They say their goodbyes in the Berry's driveway. Ms. Puckerman kisses her son on the cheek and Rachel wipes the lipstick off his face while he listens to his mother's lecture about being safe and working hard and giving her grandchildren. Hannah looks completely disinterested, since she's now a female version of 'Puck', with an I don't care attitude and looks that make people fall at her feet.
Rachel's dads cry like they do every time Rachel says goodbye.
Mackenzie hugs her aunt and uncle around the legs and promises she'll email, which just makes Rachel laugh, and Puck lifts her up so he can hug her properly. Quinn shifts uncomfortably, and Rachel watches her.
Finn hugs Rachel and says something goofy to her, and Puck watches him.
They're quiet for a few moments when they're driving away from the house, Hard To Handle playing softly from the speakers, until Rachel slips her hand into his and he runs his thumb over the rings on her left hand.
"I think he's finally fallen out of love with you."
Rachel smiles and holds his hand a little tighter. "I know."
... ... ...
Quinn starts her own business as a financial advisor, since she can work from her home office, which means that she can take care of Alex and be home when Mackenzie gets off the bus from school.
It's a perfect arrangement, really, until the family completely outgrows the house Finn and Quinn bought upon returning to Lima.
Mackenzie doesn't want to share her room anymore, and Quinn would like an actual office space. They're making enough money that they can afford to look for something bigger.
So they buy a four bedroom house in a familiar neighbourhood. Right across the street from Rachel's dads. Mark and Brian are great. They help with the move and offer to babysit the kids any time, which Finn and Quinn actually take them up on.
It's great. Everything's great.
... ... ...
Things don't really work out as planned for Rachel and Puck. Well, not really.
Rachel lands a supporting role in a Broadway show while Puck works crazy hours and gets promoted from draftsman to junior architect. His first project is a house in Connecticut for one of New York's most prominent businessmen, and he and Rachel drive out for a weekend to 'survey the land.' Basically, it's an excuse for them to get away before she's performing in eight shows a week and he's working until after 8:00 every night.
They drift apart, but it's only because they rarely ever see each other. He leaves for work at 7:30 every morning, just as she's getting up (sometimes before; if she's particularly tired, he doesn't wake her). She doesn't get home until almost midnight 6 days a week, and he's either sleeping or getting ready to. They work hard to make time for one another, but it's not easy.
She hates it. She misses him. He smiles and kisses her when she tells him that, and then they wonder how they can change it. They can't really.
They're forced into it.
A year into her run in Chicago, Rachel discovers she's pregnant.
And she's happy.
She waits until her day off to tell him. It's a Monday, so she books an appointment with a doctor, just to be sure, and then waits and waits for him to come home. He said he'd be late, so she's not worried.
She just falls asleep. She only wakes up when she feels someone laying on top of her, kissing her. His hand is on her side, his thumb grazing her stomach. It's enough to make her tear up. She wonders if it's too early to blame hormones.
"Hi," he says as her eyes flutter open. "Already in bed, huh? Waiting for me?"
"I got tired," she admits quietly. She doesn't make mention of all the innuendo in his words. "Good day?" He nods and brushes his lips against hers again. "I really hope what I have to say makes it better."
He looks at her for a moment, watches as her eyes search his. Then he smiles.
"You're totally pregnant."
Her mouth flies open and he laughs. "How did you know!"
"Baby, I know you," he tells her. "You've been crazier than usual lately. And you just said...I dunno. I figured it out."
"Are you as happy about this as I am?" she asks timidly. He smiles and drops his lips to hers.
"Fuck yeah." She laughs a bit and shakes her head. "I...are you sure? I mean, it's not like, a false..."
"I went to the doctor. 5 weeks," she says. He lets out a breath and kisses her.
"I love you," he whispers, running his hand over her cheek. It still amazes her sometimes, how often he says those words, how he's not afraid anymore. "I'm...I'm really, really happy, Rach."
"You're going to be an amazing father," she tells him as he lays next to her, pulling her into his arms.
He loves her so much for seeing that.
But he still, just for a second, thinks of that other woman who never saw it.
... ... ...
"They're gonna be awesome parents," Finn says after he and Quinn hang up with Puck and Rachel.
"I know, right?" Quinn says with a smile. She tries to move past him in the kitchen, but he wraps his arm around her waist and hauls her towards him. "Finn!"
His fingertips dip just below the waistband of the skirt she's wearing. His other hand brushes her hair aside so he can kiss her neck. He smiles when she lets out a little noise.
"Not better than us," he says softly into her ear.
"Of course not," she says, laughing a little. "What's with you today?"
First, he woke her up before their alarm even went off, kissing her bare shoulder and pushing the strap of her nightgown down onto her arm. That was better than coffee, certainly. Then he got the kids ready to spend the day with his mom, which was scheduled already so Quinn could devote the full day to working. Then when he got home, he insisted he'd make dinner and told her that the kids were staying at his mom's until later and she'd bring them home.
"Nothing. Just being a good husband," he says, letting both hands come to rest on her hips, holding her against him.
"You're always a good husband. This is extreme," she laughs. She turns in his arms and he's grinning at her. "What? You're acting like a teenager."
"It's just so quiet, and it's just you and me, and..." He shrugs and gives her this look that he knows makes her do exactly what she does next. She bites her bottom lip just subtly and blinks slowly. "We should take advantage."
She doesn't argue. She can't.
And she's so glad that he's happy for their friends, not depressed that someone else is getting what he wants.
He's told her a hundred times that everything he wants, he has. She believes him.
They're barely dressed when Carole drops off the kids, and Mac is talking a mile a minute about her day at school and with grandma, and Quinn holds Alex, just watching as Finn gets Mac laughing at something or another and the girl curls against him on the sofa, her little body tucked beneath his arm.
He winks at her from across the room and her heart races like it always does.
... ... ...
Pregnancy takes his normally sweet, albeit crazy, tiny little wife and turns her into an obsessive compulsive, neurotic freak.
Okay, not really, but right now? Right now, he's having a really fucking difficult time not just leaving their apartment and giving himself some time away from her.
Apparently, when he put his laptop bag on the floor next to the door after coming in from work, it wasn't in the right place on the floor. What the fuck? As if that matters?
And then when he tries to make dinner, because Rachel's 7 months pregnant and he's not a complete jerk, so he helps out with whatever he can, he goes looking for oregano to season this pasta sauce and he can't find it. Or anything.
"Rachel. What the fuck is going on in here?" he asks as he rifles through cupboards. Everything's fucking out of place.
"You fucked up our shit. Where's...What the hell happened to our spice rack?"
Now, he normally wouldn't care about things like spice racks and where the goddamn wooden spoons walked off to, but since he's been doing more shit in the kitchen, he actually likes to, you know, know where everything is. And it was just fine before.
"It was bothering me. A completely inefficient system, that thing was. I moved the spices over here, to the pantry, and they're lined up alphabetically. See?" She looks far too accomplished, and he's looking at her like she's fucking lost her goddamn mind. "What?"
"The pantry is 15 feet away from the stove. The spice rack was right here," he says, gesturing to the now empty space next to the stovetop. "How is that more efficient?"
Her chin quivers.
Jesus fucking Christ.
"I was here all day, alone, and I just...I needed something to do, and it was a good idea. It is! And now you're..." These two big sad-looking tears fall down her cheeks and he rolls his eyes when she's not looking. He crosses the kitchen and wraps his arm around her shoulder, pulling her against him. "I'm sorry."
"Shut up," he says. "You're goddamn crazy, you know that? Fucking nuts."
"I just thought it made sense."
"It's fine," he admits, because really, he's able bodied. As much of a pain in the ass as it is, it's not a big deal to have to walk to the pantry for fucking oregano. "Stop your bawling."
"I don't know what's wrong with me!" she laughs, wiping her face. He smiles and raises his brow. "I should have known your child would make me crazy."
"Stop it," she scolds, swatting at his chest. He leans over and kisses her.
So whatever. That blows over and they eat dinner and watch the latest episode of some terrible fucking sitcom that she's all into, and when she announces that she's going to bed, he kisses her quickly and says he'll be in later.
He needs to watch some late night shows to cleanse his palate from the utter trash she just made him sit through.
So he's sitting there, minding his own business, watching Jon Stewart making fun of whatever politician is being a douche this week, and Rachel walks out of the bedroom with just her robe wrapped around her. It's pretty funny, actually, since it's one of her pre-pregnancy things and she refuses not to wear it. He kinda digs the way it barely covers her stomach and she can hardly tie it. Whatever. That's his kid in there. It's pretty amazing.
"What's up? I thought you were sleeping."
"You're not going to leave me, right?" she asks.
Dead serious. She's dead fucking serious.
"What?" he asks, turning towards her, resting his hand on his knee as he stares at her.
"I read somewhere today, the statistics on men who leave women who are pregnant. It's staggering," she tells him.
Oh. Well. That makes absolutely no fucking sense still.
"Rachel, don't you think that if I was gonna leave your crazy ass, I would have done it by now?" She doesn't look impressed with his answer. He's not sure why. "No, I'm not going to leave you. You need to stop reading altogether. It's making you fucking nuts."
"I'm not crazy, Noah, I just asked you a question and you had to get all...Puck about it!"
He gets up and walks towards her, crossing his arms and staring at her like he tends to do when she gets like this. There's this particular look he can give her that makes her realize how fucking ridiculous she's being.
"C'mon. Let's go to bed," he says after a few moments of staring her down.
She doesn't budge. "No."
"Rachel, seriously? I have to get up at 6:30 and I don't have time for this shit. You know I'm not leaving you. You know I love you and our kid. You know I can only handle all this hormonal shit in doses, and you've given me about seven of 'em today. Bedtime. Move your ass, baby."
"I married Noah. I don't intend on going to bed with Puck tonight," she says defiantly, crossing her arms.
He gets this smirk on his face because he's almost certain that most of the time, she actually loves going to bed with Puck. He really wants to make that comment, but he's pretty sure it'd get him divorced, castrated or murdered, and none of those options are all that appealing.
"Look," he says, settling his hands on either side of her stomach. She's still got this tiny waist. It's pretty cute. She makes a hot pregnant chick. "I'm sorry, alright? I am. You're just extra...sensitive today, and I didn't mean to be a dick, but you gotta cut me some slack. Your mood swings catch me off guard."
She smiles at him. He figures that counts for something. The baby kicks beneath his palm and he grins at her.
"But not enough to leave me," she says. This time she's joking. This time he laughs.
"Nah," he says, leaning forward to kiss her quickly. "I'm gonna wait 'till some old socialite hits on me, then I'm leaving you for the money."
"Noah!" she cries as he grabs her hand and pulls her towards the bedroom.
"What? I'll come back for you after she kicks it."
She's laughing as she pushes him back onto the mattress.
Yeah, he's gotta get up at 6:30. But sometimes those hormones hit at just the right time.
... ... ...
Quinn is laying on the couch with her head on Finn's thigh. The kids are asleep and she's let him convince her to watch a baseball game with him. It's a sport she understands and can tolerate, so she agreed. And she likes this time with him, the way they sit like they used to in that brief time they were together that they were carefree teenagers, before their daughter was born. He toys with her hair, massages her scalp a little bit, and she tries to keep herself from purring when his fingertips trail over that spot behind her ear that they both know drives her crazy.
They've had a pretty average evening. Quinn saw clients all morning, then used the afternoon to clean the house and make dinner (lasagna, Finn and Mackenzie's favourite). She was home to get Mackenzie off the bus, and Finn picked Alex up from daycare on his way home from school.
They've got this down to a science. The thing is, even though it's 'average' and often predictable, Quinn loves it. Her teenage years were so stressful, marked by uncertainty and fear most of the time. This life is perfect for her. It's not boring, like some would assume. And she loves it when Alex' face lights up when he sees her, the way Mackenzie sits at the kitchen table and does her homework before dinner, talks about her day. She loves the way Finn always, always hangs around in the kitchen, completely getting in her way as she tries to fix dinner.
It's nice, the domesticity. She doesn't think she'd change a thing about it if she could.
And this, laying on the sofa with her husband in a relatively quiet house, she loves this, too.
"So apparently Rachel's driving Noah insane," Finn says with a chuckle sometime during the 6th inning. Quinn laughs softly. "I mean, can you picture her right now?"
"She's eight days overdue. I can't even imagine."
"Well, our kids were punctual," he says proudly.
She turns so she's laying on her back and looks up at him. "Punctual?"
His brow is furrowed adorably. She smiles. "That's the right word, right?" She decides it's a little strange, but it's not wrong, so she nods. "It's gotta be a boy."
"I think so too," Quinn says.
She's been annoyed with Rachel and Noah for not finding out the sex of the baby. She always thought, knowing Rachel, that she'd just have to know. Apparently Noah twisted her arm into keeping it a secret. Quinn isn't sure how he could have managed that. She's fairly certain she doesn't want to know.
"It's a mini Puck," Finn laughs. "Already breaking rules."
"Poor Rachel," she says, smiling as she shakes her head. His hand comes to rest on her stomach and she covers it with her own.
"We could have another one," he says after a moment. He can tell she's trying to figure out if he's serious. "We could."
"Do you want to?" she asks quietly. Her hear is fluttering a little bit. She thinks of all the things she's done in her life, she loves being a mother most.
"Sure," he says, shrugging one shoulder. She laughs a little bit and raises her brow. "Alex is almost three. Mac's an awesome big sister. And I miss seeing you with a baby."
"You know," she says, sitting up next to him, "eventually we'll have to stop having kids. We can't just have a baby every time one of them starts walking."
He laughs and pulls her against him. "I know. But three isn't crazy," he says, kissing the top of her head. She nods. "Neither is four."
"Four!" She pulls away and she's smiling at him, so he's pretty sure she's not really mad or anything. "Let's just have the third one and we'll wait and see," she says laughingly.
"Yeah?" he asks, smiling at her excitedly.
She leans in and kisses him.
He's just laid her back on the sofa and tugged his shirt over his head when the phone rings.
Rachel's in labour.
... ... ...
Puck calls Finn sometime during hour 13.
Hour. Fucking. Thirteen.
He doesn't know how much more of this he can take. He's not stupid enough to say that to Rachel. Finn will understand.
"Dude, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing."
Finn laughs. Bastard. "Just do what she tells you and you'll be fine. Don't make anything about you. They really hate that."
"She's telling me that she's never having sex again, and that she's Googling 'vasectomy' when we get home. It's totally fucked."
Yeah, neither of those options are going to work for him, thanks anyway.
"She doesn't mean it," Finn assures him. But he's still laughing. Some fucking best friend that is. "Just like, hold her hand and tell her it'll all be worth it. And do that thing with the wet cloth on her head to wipe the sweat. I know Quinn loved that. Oh! And ice chips!"
"Seriously, man? You're telling me ice chips and a wet cloth are the answer to the problem right now?" Puck asks incredulously. He hears Rachel's cry from the room he's outside of and fuck, he hates this shit. "Look, I gotta go. I'll call you later."
"Hang in there, man. She's just like, in a world of pain right now. Be sensitive," Finn says. "Good luck."
Puck mumbles something that sounds a little like goodbye, hangs up the phone and heads back into the room just in time for Rachel to be through with another contraction.
He grabs the cool cloth and dabs at her forehead and she gives him this sleepy, dreamy little smile.
Thanks for the tip, Hudson.
... ... ...
Finn and Quinn decide, when David Noah Puckerman is three weeks old, that they're using their vacation this year to go to New York and see their best friends. Mark and Brian are over every day, showing the photos Rachel emails daily, but that just isn't enough for Quinn. She needs to see that baby in person.
Mackenzie is so excited that she chatters through the whole flight, going on and on about how long it's been since she saw her aunt and uncle. "Since Alex was a baby!" she reminds them, as if they don't know it already. And talking on the phone isn't the same, she says, and Finn thinks he agrees with that. Alex sleeps most of the flight, wakes up only when they're landing, and doesn't cry like Quinn was sure he would.
They get to Noah and Rachel's apartment around noon, and they're ushered inside by Rachel, who gives out tight hugs that make Quinn think that Rachel's as excited as Mackenzie.
Puck is sitting on the sofa with a baby in his arms, watching television as David bats his little fists. He can't even pretend he's not happy to see his friends.
Mackenzie is the first one at his side, sitting on her knees on the sofa, looking down at the baby.
"He's cute," she announces. Puck laughs and sends a wink her way. "Hi, uncle Noah."
"Hey, brat," he replies. She hates that nickname. That's why he uses it. She gives him this little scowl that is all Quinn, and he laughs.
He looks around the room, where Rachel and Finn are talking, Alex holding onto Finn's legs because he obviously doesn't remember having met these people before. Then Quinn is in front of him, holding out her arms to take the baby before even saying hello.
"Good to see you too, Q. How've you been?" he asks sarcastically. He stands up, passes the baby to her and watches as she fawns over his son.
"You know I don't really care about you," she says, smiling at him so he'll know she's joking. "Oh, he looks like you."
"I know," he says proudly. "'S'a lucky boy."
She laughs and rolls her eyes. "I suppose he could do worse," she admits. Rachel walks over and wraps her arm around Quinn's waist, both of them looking down at the baby. "Hey, mama." Rachel doesn't say anything. Her heart swells, though. She hears Noah and Finn talking, Alex and Mackenzie sitting on the sofa together. "This is amazing. You're finally not pregnant!"
Rachel laughs and nods her head. "Finally. I honestly thought he was just going to stay in there forever."
"Seriously. She did," Puck adds. "She cried about it for like, two hours."
"Shut up," Rachel giggles. "I was emotional." Finn laughs and watches his wife holding the baby. "Finn, do you want to hold him? I mean, you might have to pry him away from your wife, but..."
Finn is holding David, talking to Puck, and sitting on the sofa next to Alex. Rachel, Quinn and Mackenzie move suitcases to the spare room, then pop into the nursery so Quinn can see in person how it's decorated. Rachel didn't realize how much she's missed her best friend until this moment.
And sometimes she still can't believe that Quinn is her best friend. She tries not to think too hard about how all that happened, all the history that took place way back when.
After dinner, when Mackenzie and Alex are watching a movie, David is sleeping, and Quinn and Noah are tidying up the kitchen, Rachel bumps into Finn in the hallway when he's coming out of the washroom.
"Hey," he says laughingly, resting a hand on her shoulder to steady her.
"I was just checking on David," she says, holding the baby monitor in her hand.
He smiles and nods, tucks his hand into his pocket. "So," he says, looking down at her, "how's it feel to get everything you wanted?"
She laughs softly and locks eyes with him. "Pretty amazing. But you know that."
"Yeah. I know." There's a beat of silence, then he opens his arms. "C'mere."
She laughs as she steps forward and lets him pull her into a hug. It feels nice, being hugged by Finn, since he's so much bigger and taller than her. It just feels comforting. That's all she feels. It doesn't surprise her.
"Everything turned out right," she says with confidence, and he's nodding in agreement when they part. "I wouldn't change it."
"Me neither," he says. She smiles.
She thinks maybe it's crazy, but she wouldn't change any of their past, either, even though they both did things they aren't proud of and held on a little longer than either of them should have. It's okay, because everything worked out in the end, and if they'd changed even one thing, that might not be the case.
"Rach!" she hears Noah calling from the living room. "Where's that thing with the stuff you said you wanted?"
She closes her eyes, sighs and shakes her head. When she opens them, Finn is grinning at her. "Though at times, being married to him can be a little exhausting," she says, and they both laugh as they make their way into the living room.
Noah pulls her into the kitchen as Finn and Quinn stand in front of the large balcony window and look out over the city.
"Noah," Rachel laughs as he pulls her flush against him, his legs parted just slightly so she stands between them as he leans back against the counter. "What are you doing?"
"Kissin' you a little," he says, his lips brushing against hers a few times. He licks at her lips a little bit, but she arches her back away from him. His eyes fall to her chest.
"Focus," she giggles.
"Oh, I am," he tells her darkly. "This sucks." He's pouting and she looks at him questioningly, her brow raised. "This!" He runs his hand gently over her breast. "I don't even get to play with them."
Her jaw drops and she swats his chest, pulling away from him. "I'm surprised you aren't marking the days off on a calendar," she says.
He laughs and reaches for the calendar stuck to the side of the fridge, flipping the page to the next month where there's a big red circle around her doctor's appointment where they'll tell her whether or not she's cleared for sex.
"Our friends are in the next room," she reminds him in a whisper. He pulls her back towards him again. "What?" she laughs. "You're being needy."
"I'm trying to have a moment with my wife while our son is asleep," he says, using the tone of voice they both know she loves. Sure enough, she sighs and her expression softens. "Love you. You know?"
Rachel leans forward and kisses him, then curls up against his chest and he wraps his arms around her.
"I know," she says quietly, her hand on his chest, loving the feel of his heart beat beneath her palm. "I love you, too."
He brushes his lips across her temple and runs his hand down her back. She loves that he gives her these little moments, and she smiles to herself when she realizes that she's giving them to him, too.
"Uh, I think I just saw a guy peeing," Finn says from the other room. Quinn laughs, and Rachel and Noah walk into the living room just in time to see Finn wrap his arms around his wife.
When Rachel starts tearing up, Noah rolls his eyes and pulls her against him again, explaining that he's been dealing with the random waterworks for months. Rachel shrugs him off and explains that it's just nice for them all to be in the same place at the same time for once, then Quinn is crying, and Finn looks uncomfortable, and Noah sits down on the sofa as he shakes his head.
"It's just...after all the stuff...after everything, we're all so happy," Rachel says as she leans against her husband. "It's perfect."
That's the first and only time any of them reference their tangled past. None of it seems all that important anymore.