Summary: It's 1944 and radio star Rachel Berry has been enlisted to help with the war effort. Back home from the European Theater, First Sergeant Noah Puckerman has also been asked to help.
Author's note: This fic marries my love of Puck/Rachel and WWII history. And it's dedicated to my Twitter little sister (TheMegster23), Megan. She's the only Gleek I know who loves WWII history as much as I do. Also, I use the term "Japs" in the story. Yes, it's offensive by today's standards but it was very common in speech back then. I only use it to be historically accurate and in no way endorse the use of that or any other racial phrase. Please keep that in mind.
"Ms. Berry, you're on air in 20 minutes…Oh, and there's someone here to see you."
Rachel Berry looked up from the mirror as she swept her long hair back, gathering it at the neck and placing a large red bow at the base.
"Who is it, Wally?" she asked the program manager.
Wally shrugged. "Dunno, but he looks official."
Rachel swung around in her chair, slid her feet into her heels, and stood up. "Well send him back. And thank you."
Wally disappeared as Rachel smoothed down the skirt that fell to the top of her calves and then took a sip of tea from her mug. The knock on her open door caused her to swivel around and meet the eyes of an elderly man in a suit.
"Are you Rachel Berry?" he asked. He removed his hat and placed it against his chest as he entered the room.
"I am. And you would be?"
The man extended his hand and said, "My name is Reginald Cissell and I'm from the War Advertising Council."
Rachel stared at the man expectantly, unsure of what his business was with her. "And what can I help you with?" she prodded.
The man shuffled and then smiled. "Ms. Berry, I understand that your show is going off the air for the summer hiatus after tonight, is that correct?"
"Yes, sir. We'll be off the air for three months. Why?"
Mr. Cissell cleared his throat. "Ms. Berry, as you know, the war effort requires a commitment out of every single one of us, from the man mopping the floor to the biggest Hollywood star. We've had many celebrities help out with the war bond effort and we're wondering…"
"…if I could help out while on summer vacation?" Rachel finished for him.
Nodding, the man continued. "Your radio program is one of the most popular shows around. The Rachel Berry Radio Hour hosts so many famous guest stars that you rub elbows with everyone. You have quite the clout, Ms. Berry. We know you're busy but the war bonds rally tour is only for three weeks and you'll be visiting big and small towns across this great country of ours. You'll be accompanied by other radio and movie stars, as well as some of our finest soldiers who are home fresh from the front lines."
Mr. Cissell twisted his hat in his hands, staring at the beautiful radio star in front of him. Rachel Berry was 23 and had managed to captivate radio audiences for the last year. She'd done several guest appearances on The Jack Benny Program and her gorgeous singing voice, coupled with her on-air chemistry and talent for handling the unexpected (which was often the case with live programming) had won her a spot in the heart of America and her own show six months before. Now, the first season was coming to a close and she was free for the summer and America, and the war effort, needed her more than ever.
Rachel thought for a moment, adjusting the cuff on her jacket before smoothing her skirt again out of habit. Finally, she lifted her head and stuck out her hand. "Mr. Cissell, it would be my honor to help with the war bond drive. Please contact my manager and he'll arrange for my participation."
Dropping the hat back on his head, he beamed at her. "Thank you so much, Ms. Berry. You'll make America proud."
Rachel watched the man leave and then let out a satisfied breath. She hadn't planned on doing much but spending time along the Jersey shore and visiting her father back in Ohio during her vacation. But for the war effort, those plans could be changed. In 1944, everyone who was someone made an effort to help America and the Allied forced fighting for freedom – and Rachel Berry, radio star, was definitely someone.
The voice rang across the camp and First Sergeant Noah Puckerman jumped, dropping his razor into the chilly water he'd been using to shave.
The flap of his tent flew open and Noah, or "Puck" as his men called him, stood at attention as Lt. Masters walked through.
Puck's stance loosened slightly and he reached for the towel to wipe off the rest of the sudsy shaving cream from his face.
"Puck, we need to talk to you back at headquarters. If you'll get dressed, I'll escort you."
Puck stared at his commanding officer quizzically for a moment before jumping to throw his soiled shirt back over his battered body. It was early-May and they were stuck in a camp in Italy where the weather had been so foul that there had been very little opportunity for bathing and laundering. Puck knew that both he and his men reeked but knew there was nothing he could do about it. He just chalked it up to another one of the sacrifices this war had forced upon them all.
Once he was dressed and his boots were laced, Puck followed Lt. Masters outside the tent. He nodded at some of his men, giving them an "I have no idea" look as they stared questioningly after him, and hopped up into the green Jeep. The driver pulled quickly out of camp and drove the men back the eight miles to headquarters.
Inside the expansive office that had once been part of a winery pre-Hitler's invasion, Puck took a seat and Lt. Masters stood behind him. When Capt. Johns walked in, both men jumped to attention.
"At ease, men. Lt. Masters, have a seat." He motioned for Masters to take a chair. "Look men, I called you both here today because I've been asked by the War Office to enlist some help with the war bond effort back home."
Puck perked up. He tried so hard not to think about home much anymore. He'd left home in early 1942, just months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Puck had enlisted in the Army on December 8th, 1941, despite the protest from his mother about how he was the man of the house and was needed there. He understood that, he really did, but America needed him more. He'd been home briefly after basic training but then, he'd been shipped off to Europe and had been there ever since. He'd seen far more than anyone of his tender age of 24 should ever have to see. He'd watched friends be blown to bits by grenades or bleed out in the middle of the snow thanks to a bullet through an artery. But up until four months ago, he'd had a sweetheart waiting for him back home in Ohio. The letter ending it all had found him right after the Monte Cassino battle. He'd taken a bullet through the calf and shrapnel in his arm and was recovering in the field hospital when the letter arrived. He hadn't heard from his girl, Quinn, in months and was beginning to get worried. But as his fingers had touched the envelope, dread had coursed through him. He knew even before opening it that bad news was inside. Tearing the envelope open roughly, he read:
This letter is very hard for me to write. It's important for me to tell you that I've met someone. I know that I promised to wait for you and I'm sorry that I'm breaking that promise. His name is Finn Hudson and he's my boss at the airplane factory. I didn't mean to fall in love with him but it's happened and we're getting married.
I'm sorry, Noah. I hope you can forgive me someday.
Please be safe and know that you're always in my thoughts.
Puck's thoughts were pulled away from his blond former girlfriend and back to his commanding officer.
"First Sergeant Puckerman, you've led your men with honor and valor since you've been in Europe. You've earned three Purple Hearts already. The story of your fight at Monte Cassino is exactly what Americans need to hear right now to raise money for war bonds."
Puck didn't like where this was headed. He couldn't leave his men…not now. They'd been hearing rumors of troop build-up in England and everyone thought that something major was about to happen that would send those fucking Nazis dashing back to Germany. Wherever he was about to be assigned was exactly where he needed to be.
"Sir, I appreciate—" Puck began but was cut off when Capt. Johns raised his hand.
"First Sgt. Puckerman, you don't have an option in this matter. I know you want to be there to lead your men but I assure you, they'll be in good hands with Lt. Masters here while you're gone. You leave to fly back to New York City tomorrow. The war bond rally tour starts next Monday and will last for three weeks. After that, you'll have a week-long leave to see your family and then you'll be reassigned and will rejoin your men, wherever they are at that time."
Puck stared at the captain, his chest heavy with a raging battle inside. He could go home… He would get to see his mom and his sister… But he had to leave his men to do that and that didn't sit well.
Standing up, Capt. Johns extended his hand. Puck stood and shook his hand. "Sir…I can't say that I'm not hesitant to leave my men but I understand the effort. I'll be glad to take this assignment."
Capt. Johns smiled and clasped his other hand over Puck's. "Good luck, son. Thank you for your bravery and leadership. Go home and make us proud."
Puck and Masters were escorted back out into the sunlight. Puck fished his pack of Lucky Strikes from his shirt pocket and lit up a cigarette, inhaling deeply. The two men climbed back into the Jeep so that Puck could be returned to camp to gather his things.
"Home," Puck said tentatively, as if testing out the word.
Masters grinned. "You're fuckin' lucky, Puck. Every one of your guys would kill to be in your place. And think, you get to go home and see your girl."
Puck groaned, taking the last hit off his cigarette before tossing it on the ground. "Fuck, no. I got no girl now."
Laughing, Masters put his hand out to ask for a cigarette. Puck passed him the pack and then tucked it back in his pocket. "Well then you're even luckier, man. Four weeks home? Your dick's gonna be chapped."
Puck snorted with laughter and stretched out in the Jeep. Maybe going home wouldn't be so bad, after all.
Rachel watched as her trunks were loaded onto the train. The mid-May wind tried to lift up her large hat and her gloved hand was soon pressing down on it to hold it against her head.
"Ms. Berry?" the voice from behind her asked.
"Yes?" she asked, turning to stare at the small woman holding a stack of papers in her hand.
"If you'll follow me, I'll show you your quarters on the train. Once you get to Pittsburgh, someone will assist you and the other participants further. In the meantime, dinner will be served on the train and you'll get to meet everyone else who will be working on this tour."
Rachel followed the woman onto the train and her eyes surveyed her private room. Not the most luxurious of quarters but living on a train and hotels for three weeks was a completely new experience for her. She tried to maintain her composure and be representative of the image of a radio star but she was nearly giddy. Prior to her show, she hadn't seen much of the world. She'd left Ohio after she'd finished secondary school and moved to New York because she wanted to be a radio singer more than anything. But now, thanks to her status, she was getting to see California and Colorado and a host of other places that were familiar with her but of which she had never seen. It was all so exciting.
Rachel found her way to the dinner car and was let inside by a man who quickly seated her. Looking around the room, her eyes grazed over several well-dressed people and a few men in uniform. She nearly sputtered, though, when she recognized Jim and Marian Jordan, stars of the biggest radio show on the air, Fibber McGee and Molly. Rachel closed her eyes in an attempt to poise herself because the urge to gush was nearly uncontrollable. When she opened her eyes again, her gaze swept to the back of the room and settled on a devilishly handsome, tall soldier in an Army uniform who was staring at her intently. When he saw her looking, he tipped his hat at her and flashed her a white-toothed smile. Rachel ignored the racing of her pulse and gave him her famous smile before finding a seat at the end of one of the narrow tables.
"You're Rachel Berry!" announced one of the soldiers from across the room. Rachel nodded at the man and gave him the same smile she'd given the handsome soldier with the hazel eyes. She watched as the soldier who'd recognized her spoke to the attractive one and then she saw his eyes widen and then gawk at her in recognition. For some reason, she felt herself blush under his gaze. Men in uniform always did have such an effect on her, though.
During dinner, Rachel listened to the man from the War Advertising Council discuss what a war bonds rally would consist of and each part the people in the room would play. There would be singing acts (such as Rachel), performances from other radio stars, and then the soldiers would give a sanitized version of what they'd seen without getting gruesome. And then they'd move on to the next city and repeat the rally. They were visiting 8 cities in the three weeks of the tour.
When the server was refilling Rachel's water goblet, she felt the gaze of the handsome soldier on her face again. She lifted her eyes and looked his way and he smiled and winked at her. Rachel blushed but didn't look away. He was really very handsome. He had such a sculpted, chiseled face, strong jaw, a beautiful mouth…and those eyes. His skin was tan and dark from what Rachel assumed was time on the front lines. But it was those eyes…they seemed to pierce right through her. If he didn't make her entire body feel warm, his probing gaze might have embarrassed her. She knew that he liked what he saw and frankly, so did she.
Puck felt like things were picking up the minute the brown-haired broad walked into the dinner car. She was small with big, deep eyes and a sexy mouth. And her legs…fuck, her legs. Even though her skirt hung past her knees, he could see that she was packing one hell of a set of gams. And then he'd found out that she was Rachel Berry. The guys loved her show. They heard it through the Armed Forces Radio Service and he'd heard (and participated) in many conversations about how fucking gorgeous they all bet she was. As it turned out, they'd been right.
When dinner was over, Puck nodded at some radio star he'd never heard of before and made small talk with the guy who played Fibber McGee (because, fuck, he loved that show.) As people began filing out of the dinner car, he saw Rachel lingering and made his way toward her.
"Ms. Berry?" he asked. She twirled around and her eyes brushed over his uniform before meeting his eyes.
"Yes?" her voice was soft and pleasant and when she licked her lips, his mind wandered to places he hadn't allowed himself to visit for a very long time.
"I just wanted to tell you that your voice has been a huge comfort to my men these past six months." Puck put his hands in his pockets and leaned against the wall of the train, swaying with it as it moved them toward Pittsburgh.
Rachel's smile brightened immediately. "I take it you're just back from the war…"
She glanced down, searching for a nametag.
"Oh…sorry! Noah Puckerman. First Sergeant Noah Puckerman. My men call me 'Puck', though," he extended his hand and Rachel placed hers in his. He lifted it to his lips and kissed it gently before dropping it again.
Rachel ignored the chill that sat at the base of her spine when his lips touched her skin. "I think I'll call you Noah… So tell me, Noah, are you just back from the war?"
"Yes, ma'am. Been in Italy for months. Before that, we were based in England."
Rachel began to walk toward the exit of the dinner car and Puck followed her. "And where are you from originally, Noah?"
Rachel stopped, turning toward him to smile. She placed her hand on the lapel of his jacket. "Please don't call me 'ma'am. I'm pretty sure we're nearly the same age. And I'm from Ohio, too! What part?"
"Little town called Lima. It's in Allen County. You?"
Rachel began walking again. "I'm from near Columbus."
"Small world," Puck said. He watched as Rachel stopped in front of a door to a private room.
"This is me," she said softly. She extended her hand and Puck shook it. "It's lovely to meet you, Noah. I look forward to getting to know you."
As she opened the door, she said, "Goodnight." Their eyes locked for a moment and then she hesitantly closed the door with a small smile on her lips. Puck stared at it long after she was gone, his mind replaying his meeting with the fine dame now inside that tiny room.
Finally, he shrugged and headed down the narrow hall towards his own room, which he shared with the three other soldiers on the rally tour. Rachel Berry was one gorgeous and sexy broad and he intended to get to know her better.
The first rally was a huge success and raised over $50,000 in war bonds. Rachel had been greeted by throngs of fans and found herself signing a few autographs as she made her way into the hotel in downtown Pittsburgh. It was late evening and many of the others had taken their dinner in their rooms but Rachel needed to relax. Performing always keyed her up and the energy and patriotism displayed at that night's rally was intoxicating.
She walked into the hotel bar and took a seat, quickly ordering a drink. As she sipped her drink casually, her eyes studying the young couple in a corner booth. He was in uniform and from the way his hands kept sliding over the girl's shoulders, Rachel assumed he was on leave and hadn't had the touch of a woman in quite a while. Smiling, she shook her head.
"Think those two better get a room." Rachel recognized Noah's voice behind her and turned on her stool.
"Hello, Noah. How are you?" Her heard thumped in her chest again when their eyes met. It had happened each time she was near him and every time she even glanced his way. Her pulse sped up and her ears seemed to pound with the sound of blood pumping through them whenever he was near.
"I'm good, Rachel. You were amazing tonight, by the way." He took a seat on the barstool next to her and ordered a scotch on the rocks. When the bartender placed it in front of him, he tossed it back in one gulp and then sat the glass down. Rachel watched with interest.
"Heavy drinker, are you?" she teased.
"Nah," Puck shook his head. "I can just hold my liquor."
The bartender placed another one in front of him and Puck tossed that one back, too. The bartender ticked his eyebrow at him and Puck shook his head, indicating he was done.
"You wanna get out of here?" Puck turned and asked Rachel.
"Where would we go, Noah? It's late?"
Puck put his hand on Rachel's arm. "Well, can't we just see where our feet end up taking us? We don't have to have a plan, do we?"
Rachel thought for a moment. "I don't normally do things on a whim, Noah."
Puck stood up, his hand still on Rachel's arm. "Sorry, kid. Tonight, you're on my whim. C'mon." Tossing some bills on the bar, Puck nodded at the bartender and then pulled Rachel along after him. They stepped out into the darkened street and Puck sucked in a deep breath.
"What are you doing?"
"The air smells different here. I guess my lungs are used to Europe or something. It just feels…different."
Rachel cocked her head to study the man in front of her. He was so strange. He seemed to be so immature in some ways and yet worldly in others. Then again, he had been fighting in a war and she knew that meant he'd seen and heard things that would make her shudder from revulsion.
"What are you staring at, Rachel?"
"You, Noah. You're very…curious."
Puck laughed and gripped her around the waist. Rachel went wide-eyed because it was the first time he'd touched her in such a way. A trolley car squeaked past them as they stood in the street, their bodies pressed together, and Rachel felt like time stood still.
"I'm gonna kiss you," Puck told her, his eyes on her lips.
Rachel nodded. "I'd like for you to."
When he lowered his lips to hers, Rachel felt a sliver of heat spike through her body. She was a good, moral girl and hadn't had a lot of experience with men. Only one serious boyfriend who'd broken her heart when he'd try to use her newfound fame to his advantage, she was woefully inexperienced. But as this near-stranger soldier ran his lips over hers and then bit gently on her lower lip, Rachel forgot about everything but the way she felt in his strong embrace.
An hour later, she let him slide the zipper of her dress down and then push it to the floor. She stood in front of him in her brassiere, panties, and garter belt. His eyes scanned over her small, beautiful body and he was positive that he was the single luckiest man on the fucking planet. Puck pulled his shirt over his head and undid his belt, unzipping his pants so that they hung low on his hips. He guided her toward the bed and when she was laid out before him, he slid next to her, hanging over her as he brushed his lips over her body. When he stripped her completely naked, she tried to hide from him but he shook his head at her and removed the rest of his clothing. Then their bodies were touching, pure skin-on-skin, and Rachel thought of nothing else but what his body was doing to hers. As he pushed her thighs apart and sunk himself into her while their lips mingled, Rachel wondered if she'd regret her actions in the morning. The thought was fleeting, though, because he rolled them over and began guiding her body over his in such a way that made all thoughts leave her overly active brain completely.
And in the morning, when Puck pulled her against him, whispering what a beautiful dame she was, she realized that she'd never regret anything she did with him.
The rally tour passed in a blur. Rachel and Puck slept apart on the train but when they were in a city, he always ended up in her hotel room after the show. Between whispering dirty things that were so shocking that Rachel blushed crimson, Puck would strip her clothing off, peel her hose down her long legs, and then fit himself between her thighs. He was a careful, patient lover and always made sure she was satisfied before he reached his own satisfaction. And then he'd hold her until he fell asleep.
Rachel would often wake up in the middle of the night, though, because he was tossing and turning and sometimes even shouting in his sleep. She'd shake him awake and he'd turn toward her bleary-eyed as he attempted to get his bearings. And then he'd apologize and either pull her against him and go back to sleep or slide her under him and bring them both to release again. Sometimes, Rachel would simply stroke his hair until he calmed down and returned to a restless sleep. She wanted to be inside his mind and understand what he was experiencing. Did he see someone, maybe a close friend, die? Was he remembering the people he'd killed? She couldn't imagine what he'd gone through and what she knew, in just a few short weeks, he'd be enduring again. She so badly wanted to ask him but she felt like they were his most private thoughts and that even if he told her about them, she'd never truly understand anyway. Instead, she comforted him when he worried and that seemed to be enough.
The first day of June, Rachel and Puck were walking through downtown Chicago when they passed a dance hall. Puck could hear the familiar strains of Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" being played as the door swung open and he grabbed Rachel's hand, telling her, "Let's dance!"
Inside, Puck paid their admission fee and then tugged Rachel out onto the dance floor. She laughed when he twirled and dipped her, moving her effortlessly across the crowded space.
"Noah! I didn't know you could dance!" Rachel giggled as he spun her around.
"Mom made me take dance lessons with her," Puck supplied, his hands sliding down her waist to guide her across the polished floor.
When the music changed and Puck began singing along with Jimmy Dorsey to "I've Been Drafted and Now I'm Drafting You" while they danced, Rachel's mouth fell open. "You can sing, too?" She swatted him playfully on the shoulder. "What else don't I know about you?"
"I play guitar," he answered. "Really good, actually. I love music…which is why I'm such a fan of yours."
Rachel blushed, his compliment so sincere, and she pecked him on the cheek and then let him spin her away from and back to him.
Later that night, after they'd brought a bottle of vodka back to her room and he'd gotten her slightly tipsy, she let him touch her until she was arching her back and crying out his name so loudly that he was afraid hotel management would be called.
In the morning, when the sun filtered through the curtains and Puck was on his stomach snoring loudly, Rachel got up and slipped on her robe. She stared down at his naked form in the bed and felt herself go weak. She didn't know how it was possible to love someone she'd only met two weeks ago but she did… She loved him so much that her chest hurt like it was being squeezed. He made her loosen up, he listened to her and would sometimes interrupt her just to kiss her, and he made her toes curl.
Rachel Berry, radio star, was in love with First Sergeant Noah Puckerman. And he was leaving in just a week to head back to Europe via a stop in Ohio. She didn't know how they'd manage this crazy relationship they'd started but she was going to see it through to the end. And she could tell, when he rolled over onto his back and muttered her name while he slept, that he was as willing as she was.
Soft strains of big band music filtered through the room as two bodies moved together on the bed. Puck's lips softly suckled against Rachel's breast as he slowly moved himself inside her, his hips meeting hers with absolutely no urgency. It was the early morning hours of June 6 and the final rally of the tour had ended hours ago. The train didn't leave to take them back to New York City until the next evening; they had all the time in the world.
"Noah," Rachel whispered softly, her fingers gripping the back of his neck.
"Rachel," he whispered in response, his lips slicking across her throat and up to her mouth. He kissed one side of her mouth and then the other before locking their lips together as he gave two final thrusts and then spilled himself inside her. Rachel arched her back to accept him as her own orgasm tore through her.
Panting, Puck slid out of her and rolled onto his back. He tugged Rachel against him and threaded his fingers through her hair, tipping her head up to kiss her on the lips. They broke apart a few minutes later when the soft, late-night music suddenly stopped and a voice took over the radio broadcast.
"CBS World News, Bob Trout speaking. And again we bring you the available reports, all of them from German sources, on what the Berlin radio calls 'the invasion'."
Puck sat up in bed and quickly pushed off the covers. He dashed naked over to the radio to turn up the broadcast and then climbed back across the plush mattress, tucking Rachel against his body again. They both stared wide-eyed at the glowing radio tube as information began to pour in about troops coming ashore in France.
Weaving his hand through his hair, Puck looked down at Rachel. "This changes everything, Rachel. If this is true, we may win this war before Christmas!"
"Oh, Noah, that would be so wonderful. It would so nice to see all the boys come back home….and maybe you won't be gone for too long." She bit her lip after she spoke, the idea of him going head-first into the fray enough to make her dizzy.
Their eyes drifted back to the radio and they listened as Bob Trout spoke in a monotone voice about German and French reports of an Allied invasion on the coast of France. Rachel placed her hand on Puck's chest and could feel his heart pounding beneath his ribs.
"I wonder if my men are there," he said softly. "They probably aren't but still…"
Rachel fingered Puck's dog tags, twisting the chain in her hand as their eyes stayed locked on the radio. Speculation and news from the Germans continued to be relayed to the listeners across the United States who were actually up at that time of night. She watched as Puck's breath seemed to catch in his chest several times and then she tugged him backwards against the pillows. He let her guide him back and then propped himself up, his eyes never leaving the orange glow of the radio. Rachel pressed herself against him, throwing her arm across his taut stomach, and pressed her head against his chest.
"I can't believe it's happening and I'm missing it," Puck muttered remorsefully. The urge to be on the front lines again, to be fighting along side his men, nearly sent him into his clothes and onto the first ship that would take him back to Europe. But then he inhaled the lemon-scented hair of the woman beside him and he calmed himself. He allowed his pulse to lessen and he closed his eyes, his ears still finely tuned on the radio. Maybe the war really would be over soon….
Puck and Rachel stayed up nearly the whole night listening to the broadcast. When they finally turned the radio off and went downstairs to breakfast, the restaurant was buzzing about the arrival of Allied troops in France. The biggest offensive of the war was underway and everyone hoped that finally, Hitler and his cronies would be killed.
Rachel's hands gripped Puck's tightly as they left the hotel that day and headed toward the train. He was in an amazing mood and couldn't stop talking about what they were hearing. He translated the military speak for Rachel and even sat down and drew her out a map of the French coast (which he'd memorized from studying maps as hushed rumors of a huge invasion began to filter through the troops) and showed her where the troops were coming ashore. His eyes sparkled with optimism and Rachel finally kissed him just to temporarily quiet him. But as they climbed onto the train and said goodbye to the friends from rally tour, Rachel couldn't help but dread what was to come. Her time with Noah was slipping away and then, he'd be back in Europe and in the middle of everything going on.
The pit in her stomach finally gave way to nausea and Rachel discreetly slipped away from Noah long enough to throw up. He was so excited that she hid the dread she felt. She felt like she was losing him before she ever even had him.
"I have to go soon, Rachel. My flight to Ohio takes off in an hour."
Rachel wiped the tears from her cheeks as she sat down on the couch in her New York apartment. She knew this was coming. From the moment she'd laid eyes on him and knew that he was going to change her life, she knew they'd have to say goodbye.
"I know, Noah…it's just…" she gulped. "It's just very hard."
Puck was at her side on the couch in a second, taking her hand in his. "Then come with me, Rachel. Come with me to Ohio!"
Rachel looked at him strangely. "What? Why would I come to Ohio?"
Puck sucked in a breath, fighting off the queasiness he felt. This girl was the most amazing, most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. She'd blown into his life just three weeks before and now, he was going to have to leave her and he couldn't stand the thought. He'd lost too much since this goddamn war had started. He'd seen friend after friend die, he'd lost his girl to some other guy, he'd been severely injured. The war had taken its fucking toll on him. He may have been 24 but at that moment, he felt much older. And this girl? He fucking loved her. He knew within about three minutes of meeting her that this dame was different from Quinn or any of the other broads in his life. This girl was a fucking keeper.
"Marry me," he barked.
Rachel's eyes widened and she slipped her hand from his. "Marry you? Noah! We barely know one another!" She stood up and paced across the floor, stopping to stare out the window. She parted the curtains and realized that her hands were shaking.
"Yes…Fuck, Rachel, marry me! My buddy married a girl he'd only known for two weeks before he was shipped off. They write all the fucking time and he's got a little baby waiting for him back home in Mississippi. It happens all the time."
Rachel felt tears pool in her brown eyes again. Her own friend Tina had done the very same thing. She'd met Artie in early 1942 and they'd married just a month later. She'd been so much in love with him that even after he'd been injured in a battle in the Pacific and he'd been left wheelchair-bound for life, Tina hadn't - and wouldn't – leave his side.
"It's…it's crazy, Noah!" Rachel said weakly. She knew it was extreme but at the same time, it made perfect sense. She'd never loved anyone like him before. He was crude and full of himself…but he was kind and he sang to her and yes, she'd only known him for three weeks but she'd already given him her whole heart.
"I know it's crazy but fuck, baby, this is war. People do crazy shit. And if we get married, you'll be the beneficiary on my life insurance and I know that's probably a fucking stupid thing to say but it just popped into my head and—"
"—Noah, don't talk like that! I don't care about your life insurance! I want you to come home to me, not your remains. I don't want to be a widow before I'm ever even really a wife!"
Puck stomped to Rachel's side, pushing her chin up to meet her eyes. "Are you saying you'll marry me, Rachel?"
Rachel blinked once. And then again. And then she shook her head, threw her arms around his neck, and breathed into his neck, "It's crazy and it's insane but yes, Noah, I'll marry you."
Three days later, Puck and Rachel were married in Lima, Ohio by a rabbi. His mom cried while his sister, Sarah, just rolled her eyes at her overly emotional mother. She was proud of her brother. He had quite a reputation as a ladies man around their small town but from the moment she'd met Rachel Berry (who she was a huge fan of and couldn't believe was now her sister-in-law), she knew that things were going to be different for Noah.
A reception was held at Puck's house later that evening and most of Lima's Jewish community was there. He'd shared a bit of his war experience with a few of the boys that were leaving soon and he'd advised Jacob, who was hoping to be a war correspondent, that he'd better toughen up and prepare for what he was going to see. War was ugly and brutal and it would scar him. Jacob listened, fascinated, and took notes in his small notebook.
"Maybe I'll see you out there somewhere, Noah," Jacob said as he went to leave later in the evening.
"Hope so, Jacob." Puck offered the smaller, younger man his hand. "But be careful and keep your head down. And don't forget to complete your life insurance paperwork as soon as you can."
Jacob blanched at the mention of his mortality and slowly stumbled out the door. Puck was about to close it when it was pushed open and his former girlfriend, Quinn Fabray, breezed inside.
"Hello, Noah," she said quietly.
"Quinn," he acknowledged stiffly, his eyes scanning the room for his new wife.
"I wanted to stop by and say congratulations."
"Thanks," he said. Just then, he spotted Rachel across the room and motioned for her to come his way. When she did, he dropped his arm across her shoulders casually and said, "Quinn, meet my wife, Rachel Berry."
Quinn's eyes widened and she looked Rachel up and down. "The Rachel Berry from the radio?"
Rachel, knowing none of the history between Noah and Quinn other than the fact that she'd sent him a "Dear John" letter and married her boss while he was recovering from a wound, smiled sweetly and extended her hand. "One and the same!"
"Golly..." Quinn breathed. "Just…golly."
"She's pretty amazing," Puck said, pulling Rachel to him to kiss her temple.
Quinn stared down at her wedding band and twisted it around and around her finger.
"Noah, your mother is motioning for us," Rachel said. Puck looked up and saw his mother waving her arms frantically.
"Well, good to see you Quinn. Take care," Puck said as he walked away. It was funny, he didn't feel a fucking thing when he saw Quinn. No sadness or anger or anything. It's like she'd never meant anything to him at all.
Rachel smiled again at Quinn and said, "Thank you for treating him like he was disposable, Quinn. It was the best decision of your life because I've benefited from it greatly. And nice to meet you!" With a bright smile, Rachel flitted away, leaving Quinn staring after them.
"You said what to her?" Puck asked, practically wheezing from laughter. He and Rachel were standing outside in the dark, watching the lightning bugs dance across the back yard, as Puck blew out smoke from his cigarette.
Rachel dropped her head and looked up at him through her lashes. "I merely thanked her for tossing you aside because then it made way for me."
Puck chuckled and tossed his cigarette down on the ground. He pulled Rachel to him and kissed her lips before looking into her eyes. "I fucking love you," he said.
"I love you, too," she whispered, pushing herself up to kiss him again.
"Let's go in…" Puck's voice was seductive and she knew what he meant by his tone. A shiver coursed through her and her body instantly responded to him.
Later that night, Puck made love to his wife for the first time in the small bed of his childhood home. He knew that in just a few days, he would leave her and return to the war but right then, it was all about them. He needed something to cling to when he was back amongst the stench of unwashed bodies or infected wounds.
Rachel stayed behind in Ohio when Puck left to return to Europe. She wanted to get to know her new mother-in-law and work on bonding with her younger sister-in-law. Rachel's mother had died when she was so young that she couldn't remember her so for the first time, she finally had a mother. It excited her and helped bolster her up as she stood in the Puckerman driveway sobbing while her husband left in the cab that would take him to the airport.
Rachel had assured Puck that she'd write every day and he'd promised to write back whenever he could. Then he'd kissed her hard, brushed the tears from her cheeks, and promised that he'd love her forever.
When the cab disappeared from view, Rachel's new mother-in-law gripped her sobbing daughter-in-law around the shoulders and guided her back into the home.
That night, Rachel slept with one of Noah's shirts tucked under her cheek. It smelled like him and gave her a small amount of comfort. She wouldn't get frantic yet. He wouldn't be back in Europe for nearly a week and until then he was safe. But even that did little to ease the worry.
A few weeks after Puck left, Rachel was back in New York City. Her show would resume on-air in six weeks and she had to begin preparing for the second season. She spent her days lunching or taking tea with some of radio's biggest stars as she worked to secure guest spots for her second season. But every evening, after she'd washed the day from her body, she put on a nightgown and sat down at her desk and wrote her husband a letter. And every night, she hoped that tomorrow would be the day she'd get a response.
A month after Puck left, she finally got the letter she'd been waiting on. She'd nearly dropped her bag when she'd recognized his handwriting on the outside of the envelope and she laughed because he'd addressed it to "Rachel (Berry) Puckerman."
She dashed up to her apartment and opened the letter with trembling hands.
I'm back with my men. As much as I hated to leave you, being with my troops again has helped. There were a few less familiar faces, though, because we lost three guys while I was back in the states. We're in the middle of fighting and of course I can't really say where because of the censors but I promise you that I'm staying safe. I've got more to fight for than ever and I'm not going to get hurt.
I think of you all the time. Sometimes, I think I even hear your voice. Again, if this wasn't censored, I would say a bunch more but I guess what I need to say isn't really any of their business, is it? Just know that I'm thinking of you and all those nights we spent together all the time. Honestly, I can't wait until your show comes back so that I can at least listen to you again. None of the guys really believe I'm married to you, either. I keep showing them your letters but they think I'm trying to pull one over on them, so if you'd mention me when you get back on the air, it would probably shut them all up for good.
I hope you're okay and that you don't miss me too much.
I love you.
Rachel read the letter over and over again until she was sobbing. She was so relieved that he was okay but she missed him so much. But he'd made a request of her and as she tucked the letter beneath her pillow, she vowed to fulfill it.
"I want to thank everyone for tuning in tonight," Rachel spoke into the microphone. "I had a wonderful summer vacation and got involved in the war bonds drive. If you haven't yet purchased your war bonds, be sure you do right away. You can get them through your employer." Rachel smiled at her director and then dropped her script to the ground as she began to speak from the heart. "And while I was on tour, I met and fell in love with a wonderful man. He's now my husband but he's somewhere in Europe tonight, defending our country from the likes of the Nazis and the Japs. First Sergeant Noah Puckerman, I hope you and your men are safe tonight. This song is for you."
Rachel motioned to the orchestra and the first notes of "You Made Me Love You" began to play throughout the studio. As Rachel sang the haunting lyrics, she closed her eyes and focused all her energy into sending her love through the radio. Once it was transcribed and played for the troops, thousands of America's bravest, including her own husband, would hear her. It had to be perfect.
"I'll be damned, Puck," Karofsky shook his head and punched Puck in the shoulder. Puck's men were gathered around the radio because he'd told them all, "My wife's fucking show is all tonight and you're all gonna sit your asses down and listen. Once she says my name, maybe you'll finally believe me and shut the fuck up!"
Puck shushed Karofsky with a stern look. No one was allowed to talk while the show was on because Puck didn't want to miss a word. When the song finally ended and Rachel signed off, he leaned back on his cot and smiled at his men.
"Fuck you….and fuck you…and fuck you…" he said with a smile to each of his doubting men. The guys all laughed and the smallest of the guys, Kurt Hummel, grinned.
"Okay, Puckerman, we believe you. You're married to Rachel Berry. And for whatever reason, she seems to think she loves you. I have to question her sanity now."
The guys laughed at Kurt and focused back on Puck, who stood up with a huge smile on his face. "C'mon guys, chow time."
He stepped out into the waning light and smiled up into the stars. Hearing Rachel did wonders for him and reminded him how much he wanted this goddamn war to be over so he could get home to his wife and never leave again.
It happened so fast that there was no time to prepare. The artillery shell landed just as he was diving into his foxhole and he didn't even get to formulate a thought before the whole world exploded around him. There was a huge flash of light and then pain and then nothing.
Rachel got the telegram from the War Office as soon as she'd stepped into the studio. The moment she saw it, tears streaked down her face and she nearly fell on the slick marble floor of the lobby. Her hands were shaking as she read the words:
We regret to inform you that your husband, Noah Puckerman, First Sergeant, was gravely injured during service of his country. He is presently infirming in a hospital in England and more information will follow.
"Injured, he's injured. He's not dead!" Rachel repeated hysterically to the small crowd that had gathered around her. Wally put his arm around her and guided her into a chair.
"Take deep breaths, Rachel. He's okay. He's still alive."
Rachel let out a heavy sob and her arms wound around Wally, who had been like a surrogate father to her and now stepped into the role since her own father was in Ohio.
"He's not dead. He's just injured. He's just injured," she repeated into his shoulder. Rachel gulped deep breaths until her sobbing stopped and she was left with just a small tremor. She smiled at the concerned faces around her and stood up, addressing everyone, "we have to do the show, everyone."
Wally grabbed her hand. "Are you sure, Rachel? We can pre-empt it tonight if we have to."
Rachel shook her head violently. "No. We have to do the show. Noah may hear it and he depends on my voice. We're doing the show."
With her head held high, she tromped through the lobby and into the elevator. Rachel Berry was a performer and even when the chips were down, she was going to perform. Her voice may be the only thing keeping her beloved hanging on.
Puck was in and out of consciousness for three days before he woke up and stayed awake. He was in incredible, blinding pain most of his waking time and no amount of drugs seemed to reduce the throbbing in his legs. His thighs were heavily bandaged and when he realized that the majority of his injuries had happened below the waist, he yanked his clothes down quickly to make sure that his genitals were still intact. Once he'd been assured by the nurse no less than seven times that he was okay and that everything was in working order, he'd finally relaxed. He couldn't really remember much about the artillery barrage but apparently, he'd jumped into his foxhole just as it exploded. It ripped huge holes in the backs of both his thighs and he'd lost copious amounts of blood but somehow, and the doctor told him it was damn-near a miracle, he'd lived through surgery. And as each day passed and he became stronger and stronger, his mental health improved. All he wanted to do was get home to Rachel.
On a Wednesday night, Puck barked at the nurse. "Do we have a fucking radio around here?"
The nurse looked up from administering morphine to the soldier in the bed next to him and said, "It's in the resting area, why?"
"Because my wife's radio show is on tonight and I'm not missing it."
The nurse looked at him like he was clearly rambling from a fever and walked over to press her hand against his forehead. Realizing that he was not even slightly feverish, she dropped her hand to his shoulder. "Who's your wife?"
"Rachel Berry. Ya know, The Rachel Berry Radio Hour? That's my broad."
"Really? I didn't know that! That's fantastic."
"So d'ya think I can listen? Please? If I don't hear her, I may fucking die right here in this bed and you don't want that on your conscience, do you?"
The nurse scowled at Puck and then patted his cheek. "You're past the danger zone, First Sergeant. But what time's the show on?"
"8pm," Puck answered quickly.
"Okay then," she smiled. "Remind me five minutes before and we'll wheel you in there so you can listen."
Puck sighed in relief and pressed himself back into his pillows. He'd been so tense at the idea of missing Rachel's show that he'd barely thought of the pain searing through his legs.
"Thank you, Nurse… It means a lot."
She patted him gently on his knee and walked away.
Later that night, when Rachel told him that she loved him and hoped that he was healing quickly, he was pretty sure that the nurse had been an angel for allowing him to spend an hour with his wife.
Puck didn't tell Rachel he was coming. He'd written her a few letters as he'd healed but when he'd received his discharge papers and was put on a ship that took him from England back to New York City, he couldn't bring himself to tell her. He wasn't even really sure why he didn't. He was afraid that if he told her, something would happen on the way home and he'd never make it back. But if she didn't know, she couldn't worry and neither could he.
He arrived at her studio before she did. When he walked in, he introduced himself to the receptionist and she shrieked happily, calling Wally down to the lobby.
A balding man stepped out from the elevator and made beeline for Puck. "Noah Puckerman?" he asked, grinning broadly.
"Yeah?" Puck leaned on his cane as pain shot through his thigh and down to his ankle.
"I'm Wally, Rachel's program manager. She's told us all so much about you, son. It's wonderful to meet you. Does she know you're coming?"
Puck shook his head vigorously. "No, she still thinks I'm in a hospital in England. It's stupid but…I wanted to surprise her."
Wally clasped his hand around Puck's arm and helped him into the escalator. "Oh, she'll be surprised."
Puck decided to wait for Rachel inside her dressing room. He was reclining on the couch, sipping a bottle of Coca-Cola, when the door opened and Rachel walked in. She was rooting through her handbag and didn't see him until he cleared his throat. Her head shot up and her movement stilled. Then her mouth fell open and she stared at him.
"Hi, babe," he said softly. His chest was tight with unspoken emotion at seeing her again after all these months. She was still so fucking beautiful.
"Oh my god! Noah!" She shrieked as she ran forward. She threw her handbag on the ground and launched herself at him. Puck winced when his legs bore the brunt of her weight and she felt him flinch beneath him. She stood up quickly, tears pouring from her face, and said, "I'm so sorry, Noah. I forgot that you're injured. I'm just…I never thought I'd see you again and I've been making contingency plans for what to do if we were never together again and I just have missed you so much…"
Puck chuckled. "Rachel….you're rambling."
She bit her lip and smiled through her happy tears. "I know. I'm sorry…"
"Don't be. C'mere…" Puck patted the seat next to him and she carefully sat down to avoid his injured legs. Puck pulled her against his side and kissed her quickly and hotly. It was the first time he'd touched her in nearly five months and all the heat and fire from their short month together rushed back. When she pulled away, Puck kissed her forehead and then the tip of her nose.
"Why didn't you tell me you were coming?" Rachel asked, her head on his shoulder while her fingers kneaded the palm of his hand.
"I wanted to surprise you. Are you surprised?"
"Oh, yes," Rachel breathed. "So, so surprised. And I'm so happy. Does your mother know you're home?"
"Nope. I'm gonna call her later and let her know that I'm back and I'm safe. She and Sarah have been writing, too." Puck glanced up at the clock. "Don't you have to go on the air soon?"
Rachel nodded. "I do. And I need to get prepared. Would you like to sit in tonight?"
Puck smiled and pushed himself up. "Fuck!" he gritted out as pain scorched through him again. Rachel was back by his side again and her arm went around his waist.
"Are you okay?"
His eyes still closed, he pressed his lips to her forehead. "I am. Docs say it's gonna take a while to heal. But it gets better every day and, hell, I'm back home with you so I really don't care how long it takes."
Rachel wound her arms around his neck and kissed him again, inhaling the warm scent that was so very much him.
"I love you," she whispered against his neck.
"I know, baby. I love you, too…and I'm so fucking lucky."
Later that night, Puck sat on a stool inside the studio and watched as his wife made jokes into the large microphone, performed in skits with the other cast members of her show, and finally sang a few songs. When it was time for her closing number, her voice was choked with emotion.
"I wanted to share with everyone that my husband, First Sergeant Noah Puckerman, returned from the war today. He was gravely injured a few months ago but he's healing and he's home now. I'm so excited to have him back. My heart goes out to everyone whose loved ones haven't yet or won't be returning home."
Rachel turned toward her Noah and took a breath, meeting his eyes from across the studio. As the music began to play, she sung into the microphone.
You give me your lips and your lips are so heavenly
Stars in the sky are all free and they shine for me
So does the moon in the blue
All this is mine and heaven too
Puck's eyes swept over his wife as she sang into the microphone. When her voice filled the studio, he could forget about his injuries and the loss of his buddies and the fact that the war wasn't even over yet. Hitler was still barking orders from Berlin and the Japs were still brutally fighting their way across the Pacific. But as he watched Rachel close her eyes and grip the microphone as she finished the song, he let himself think about what would happen after the war for the first time. Sure, he'd carry the scars of what he'd seen and felt for the rest of his life. But hopefully with time, he'd be able to sleep at night without remembering the freezing cold ground in Italy or the smell of blood that seemed to permeate the air in France. They were gonna win that war because they were too fucking powerful not to. And then his men would come home and he hoped that they, too, would find what he found: his own little songbird.
Author's Note: Radio broadcast from D-Day are transcribed word-for-word from the actual events. I have a MASSIVE old time radio collection and the D-Day broadcasts are part of it. Also, all radio shows mentioned (except The Rachel Berry Radio Hour) are real shows.