A/N: Final chapter of BPS! Thank you all so much for reading and your reviews and favorites. I hope you find this last installment satisfying and as always, I appreciate the feedback.
A quick staccato sounds on his bedroom door and he can't helping rolling his eyes for a second before he calls out, "Yeah Ma, what is it now?"
She's been driving him fucking crazy all afternoon. It's his own stupid fault; he'd used the words 'date' and 'Rachel' in the same sentence which apparently she heard as 'Rachel' and 'getting married and immediately setting to work making me some Jewish grandbabies.' And no, he's not even going to comment on the terrifying thought that that may not be the worst idea in the entire world. 'Cause, you know, first he really needs to get Rachel's cute little ass on lock-down.
Not that he's worried; she's made it totally clear that he's the best she's ever had. Most recently, last night when he doubled her up so hard, she told him she actually saw stars. Shit, it took him at least fifteen minutes to be able to move a muscle again after that, but it was totally worth it. Honestly though, he doesn't even need to be a sex-addict about it. She's pretty amazing in the sack, just like he always knew she would be, but this is more. Truth is, the two of them, they're good together, even when all it is is talking about stuff and hanging out and spending time together.
He likes that. He wants more of it.
But that's kind of the problem-the spending time together crap. She'll be in New York and he's got at least another six months in Maryland and as much as he'd like to assume that all the actors and shit that she's going to meet are going to be stupid pretty boys or, even better, batting for the other team, he knows it isn't true.
She's this tiny little package of crazy perfection and he already knows she gets way more appreciation for that in New York than she did in Lima and the thought of her sharing that with anyone else makes him twitch, so yeah, at this point, he's pretty willing to do whatever it takes to prevent that from happening. The whole date thing is part of the plan that he came up with yesterday while freezing his balls off in the parking lot of the 7-11 on the way to her house. (Fuck you. He does some of his best thinking with a slushie in hand.)
And so yeah, the plan consists of A: taking her out and B: getting her to agree that dating him long-distance over Skype is way preferable to having her choice of a city full of rich, eligible jackasses who don't have a clue how to appreciate her. There's some other stuff too, that he scrawled on the back of an old lumber invoice (all of a sudden, he's strangely reluctant to wing it) but those are the main points.
Admittedly he didn't realize that listening to his mother freak out for three consecutive hours would be part of what it takes to get this thing done. Mostly it's been pretty harmless. She's mentioned the new Italian place, (helpful), reminded him not to act like a jerk in front of her fathers (so taken care of, the taller one, Dad, hugged him on the way out this morning) and confiscated his condom supply (just kidding on that last one, he's pretty sure she doesn't know where he keeps them).
But here she is again for the millionth time, walking in and holding up a freshly ironed shirt. Crap, he didn't even know they had an iron. "Thanks Ma. You didn't have to do that."
"Nonsense Noah. A man should look like he takes some pride in his appearance. You want to look nice for your evening with Rachel, don't you?"
Seriously, she's starting to reach a pitch that's going to have every mutt in the neighborhood howling in about three minutes.
To calm her down, (and maybe himself a little too) he says lightly, "Relax. It's nothing. It's just dinner."
Suddenly, she's laughing.
Hell, would it kill her to be a little more supportive here? Or less? Or whatever?
"Sweetie, take a look around. Does this look like nothing?" she demands, sweeping her arm around at their surroundings. Shit. It looks like the contents of his closet have vomited all over his room. Stupid clothes covering every surface because he's trying to figure out what to wear to something he should have done in fall of sophomore year. You know, if he'd been smart.
And because she doesn't miss anything, she's zeroing in on his dresser top where a little gold bracelet with stars is lying, after having been tucked away for months, waiting for...shit, he doesn't even know what he's been waiting for. "And that Noah, that definitely isn't nothing."
His jaw hangs open for a moment before he flushes heavily and sweeps it into his pocket. "It's a bracelet, Ma. Not a ring."
"Oh, I know." (Fuck his life, she is absolutely mumbling 'not yet' under her breath.) "And Noah? Try the blue shirt."
"I think I can get dressed by myself," he says firmly to her retreating back as he picks up the grey shirt.
Of course, he's almost late because he has to go back upstairs and put on the blue shirt. And no, he doesn't purposely sneak out while his mother is busy in the kitchen. That's just a bonus.
Truth is, with three years of Glee behind him, he's seen Rachel in a lot of dresses and he probably remembers them all. (Well, yeah. Most of them were as short as shit and he fucking loves her l
egs.) But even with all that, he can still feel his gaze go all soft and unfocused when she opens the door and she's there in this dark blue fitted thing that looks like it must be made of silk or satin or something almost as smooth as her skin. Her hair is down and curling over her exposed shoulders, and her eyes are dark and smoky. And don't even get him started on the perfume.
He's trying to say something, but either he's turned stupid, or it's the something squeezing so tight in his chest that he can't force anything out.
She seems to get it, or at any rate, she doesn't seem offended, just stares right back up at him, teeth worrying her plump, shiny bottom lip.
Without any input from his brain, his hand is reaching out to touch her and it settles on the curve of her waist, his thumb scraping gently along her hip. She inhales sharply and that's all it takes. He pulls her into him and her lips finds his and for a minute, he forgets everything but the taste of her and the feel of her under his hands. His mouth wanders and he really can't tell where the dress ends and she begins, only that her skin is warmer, heating up under him.
There's something...wait. The plan.
Right. Did the plan include pressing her up against the door and...
He releases her reluctantly, shoving his hands into his pockets so they don't start wandering again. (That's kind of a problem when she's around.) "I like the dress."
"I can see that," she laughs a little breathlessly. "You look very nice as well, Noah. I like that color on you."
He can't help grinning. Of course she does. Miriam Puckerman may be crazy, but she knows her target. "Can I come in for a minute?"
They both step inside, but he can hear the television in the den. He needs to move this thing along before her dads come out and start making conversation, or pull out the baby pictures, or hug him again. (Also so he doesn't freak out and put it off again. It's just a bracelet.)
"This is for you," he says bluntly, pulling his hand out of his pocket and almost thrusting it into her hands. "You know. Like a Hanukkah present or a late birthday present." (Like, really late.)
She's looking down at her hands and one finger delicately prods the golden stars so that they catch the light. She's not saying anything, but he's okay with that because her smile is huge. Suddenly she flings herself against him and kisses him hard. He brings his arms up to catch her, but she's already torn herself away and is bouncing on her heels, eyes shining, talking a mile a minute.
"I love it! Thank you so much Noah! I've always had this connection with stars! Well, you know that of course. Metaphors are important." She fumbles with the clasp and finally makes an impatient sound and demands, "Put it on!"
Sure, he could do something with that line, but for fuck's sake, they're trying to have a moment here.
He works the clasp carefully, trying to ignore the way his fingers seem to tingle when he brushes against the skin of her wrist (is she shivering?) Then he stands back and watches her admire it, turning her arm first one way, then another.
"It's perfect! You know, There's a jeweler in New York who creates pieces like this one and I've always admired them, but I've never..." she trails off and tilts her head at him questioningly.
"I got it in New York. Been holding on to it for a while." He clears his throat uncomfortably. "So, you ready for dinner?"
She hesitates like there are words trembling on the edge of her lips, but finally just nods and smiling at him says, "I'd like that." She grabs her coat and takes his hand, linking her fingers with his, and then tugs him out to the truck.
So apparently, going on dates is pretty cool. Or at least going on dates with Rachel is. They get this tiny table in the back and he steals bites of pasta off her plate and feeds her half his salad to make up for it and it takes them a couple of hours to eat because every time the baby-faced waiter (What is he? Sixteen? Why doesn't he go clean some pools?) comes near them, Puck keeps having to glare at him. The douche is staring at Rachel, who of course, is completely oblivious. Fucking teenagers.
They share a bottle of wine, which is hilarious. He keeps it to a glass because he's driving and she ends polishing off most of the rest of the bottle. She gets a little flushed and expansive as she describes an elaborate ranking system she's concocted for Broadway legends (she loses him somewhere between Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone) and then he's really confused because she's on to something about how he's destined to restore a house for her someday. Which he could totally do, no problem, but he's definitely drawing the line at rowing her around in some stupid boat during a rainstorm. What the fuck? Not and have her lose her voice or die of pneumonia or something. (But, if she really insists, he could compromise, like maybe on a nice day in Central Park...)
Honestly, she's the one who's half-sprung, so why is his head spinning?
He's watching her polish off her last bite of her fruit sorbet (and is inwardly groaning thinking about berries and the flavor of her mouth) when he jumps like hell because her toes are travelling a slow path up and down his calf and of course the sensation goes straight to his dick. The look she's giving him is fifty percent sex and the rest of it is all now and he's totally fighting the urge to pull her down with him and disappear beneath the tablecloth.
"Ready to go?" she asks huskily.
Does she even have to ask?
"Check please!" he calls out. Maybe too loudly, the waiter kid nearly wets himself scurrying over. Whatever. The punk is keeping his eyes to himself now, anyway.
Just because he can't help himself, and damn right, she can't keep her hands off him either, they end up making out in the parking lot, kissing slow and hot, fingers sliding under coats, seeking skin, pressed right up against his truck. (He's parked way in the back corner; it's like he's got an instinct for this kind of thing.) Eventually they both start getting cold and it's starting to snow, little stars drifting down and settling against her dark hair. He pulls her into him one more time, lips brushing her forehead, her cheeks, her eyelids, before opening the truck door and boosting her into the passengers seat. (He gets a flash of panty as a reward, this gentlemanly stuff is the shit.)
He drives her to his house. No real reason; he's thinks he's cool with her dads now. He just wants her in his bed, one last time.
(Or maybe not the last time. Like if he doesn't screw it up.)
"Baby, we've got to be quiet," he whispers into her ear as he unlocks the back door and steps with her into the darkened kitchen. "Everyone's sleeping."
She giggles. "Stop then," and lightly slaps his hand away, because he's tickling her waist.
Crossing over to the cupboard he pulls out two glasses and fills them with water, but before he can turn back to hand her one, she's ducked under his arm and inserted herself between him and the counter, which obviously, he likes. She fists her little hands into his shirt, but she's looking down and he can't see her eyes, just the sweep of her lashes against her skin. Gorgeous.
"When did you get me that bracelet?" she asks. She voice is soft, but serious. There isn't a hint of the wine she's drunk, but suddenly he's feeling it, or something like it, a rush or a shot of adrenaline, anyway.
"A year ago. About twelve hours after the first time I'd seen you again." He knows that means something. Just like it means something that he's been carrying it around ever since.
"Do you love me?" she says, and it's so quiet that he can barely hear it. "I know I'm not supposed to ask like that, but I've never been a patient person. And this...this feels like love to me."
She move one hand to her wrist, brushing the bracelet gently. "Not just your beautiful gift and the thought you put into it, but all of this. This date, and the time we've spent together and how you treat me, and how I feel when I'm with you."
Fuck. Oh fuck. He's not even breathing. Isn't that shit supposed to be involuntary?
"And maybe even the way you came to me last year when you needed someone and from the first time you touched me, grabbed my elbow and called my name on a New York City street it felt just right. Like we were perfect together. And it scared me and I tried to ignore it or rationalize it away. I even thought it might burn itself out, but it hasn't and each time we walk away from each other it gets a little harder. I feel like I'm fifteen years old again, watching you walk away from me on the bleachers and wondering if I've made a terrible mistake."
His hands are locked on to her and he knows somewhere in his head that he's holding her too tight. But right now she's the only thing he can see, and if he loses her, he's going to fall, he knows he is.
"And I don't know if you want to take this into account when you make your decision, but I do love you. And I don't know when that truly started, but there it is. I can't explain it away Noah Puckerman; my heart is yours and I'm an amazing actress, but I can't pretend that it isn't any more. I don't even want to."
She's looking down at his chest shyly, smoothing his shirt under her hands and all the tension and doubt he's been carrying for however long shatters and disappears and for once the words are easy.
He tilts her chin up carefully. "No decision to make, Rach. Shit, I wouldn't have a clue how not to be in love with you."
There's more that he could tell her, more he wants to tell her. Like how he's wanted her as long as he'd known her, and that even if he's an idiot who took years to figure it out, he's loved her for nearly as long as that. How he's going to make sure she never regrets this because apart from everything else, God would kick his ass. How he's fucking sure if it hadn't have been Eli, it would have been something else that brought him back to her.
But he doesn't get to say any of it because he's got no idea who started it, but they're kissing again and she's almost humming with pleasure and it's the best fucking feeling in the world.
Or maybe the second best.
He lifts her up onto the counter effortlessly, nudges her knees apart, and steps in between them. She's letting out these tiny keening noises that he has to muffle with his mouth and as his hand slides along her thigh, pushing her dress up, he allows his fingers to drift to where her thighs join. She arches into him, impatiently yanking on the buttons of his shirt, then skating her hands along the muscles of his back, his shoulder blades, spreading heat wherever she caresses.
"Baby, Rachel, love it when you touch me," he hisses and then groans "yeah," when her nails dig in a little, just enough to feel good. He pulls her closer, so that her ass is barely perched on the edge and she has to clutch at him and wrap her legs around him to keep her balance, and then he grinds into her until they're both panting.
They could totally do it. The kitchen is at the opposite end of the house from the bedrooms and he can probably keep Rachel quiet enough. He could unzip and then just pull her panties aside and sink up to his balls into her, and his cock feels like it's about to explode just thinking about it. Hell, he's even got a condom. He wants it quick and dirty and desperate, wants to see how high he can bring her up and how fast and how hard he can get her off. He wants to make her burn every time she sees that countertop from now until fucking forever.
"Noah, I'm just so...god, I'm about to crawl out of my skin! Will you please just fuck me!"
Oh fuck yes. He can do that.
When she comes around him, shuddering and latching on the the skin of his shoulder to keep from crying out, he thrusts into her one last time and he's so relieved that he's finally told her that he loves her, because there's no way, no way, he'd be able to stop himself from saying it to her now, from breathing it into her hair like he's doing right now, over and over and over again.
"I don't want to let you go," she whispers against his skin in the half-light of a mid-winter dawn.
He slides his hand in a slow sweep from her shoulder to her wrist where he rubs his thumb along the bracelet he gave her. "You don't have to," he says quietly.
Five months. Five months sucks.
Five months means lots of phone calls and webcams and text messages. It means trying to work around her theatre schedule and his classes and exams and going a little crazy trying to make things work.
It means a few intense stolen days whenever he can get away and she can spare some time. Twice in the Brooklyn studio she's subletting. He even manages to see her opening night, and her solo, all three seconds of it, and that night when he lays her back in her bed, he assures her that she stole the show and as far as he's concerned, she did. Once in Maryland when she unexpectedly gets three consecutive days off and is on a bus within three hours. And once in a hotel room in some nowhere town half-way in between. Didn't see anything of the sights, but he got pretty familiar with the view from the bed and with the number for room service.
It means another semester spending a lot quality time with his hand.
But six months being Rachel Berry's honest-to-god boyfriend is pretty awesome. Even if it is from two hundred miles away.
It's not like it's going to be forever. (The two hundred miles thing that is.) They both know this is going to end up with him moving to New York. They even talk about it a little, like when he's with her in Brooklyn in a apartment that he legit doesn't fit in. No lie, there's a loft stretching over half of it where her futon mattress goes and after the third time or so that he smacks the shit out of his head on it, he starts talking about how she needs a bigger place and how when there's two of them paying rent, they can maybe afford something that has a bedroom with a door. She's holding an icepack to his head, but he doesn't miss her huge smile. so he guesses she's okay with that.
And then on opening night, when he's sitting next to her dads waiting for the curtain to open, they ask him straight out and instead of being pissed that he's planning on living with their daughter without the benefit of marriage, (Seriously, Ma. Give it a rest.) they're relieved as fuck that she's going to have someone to look out for her in the big, bad city. Truth be told, he'd never say anything to her because she's all about being able to take care of herself, but he wants that too. The show gets out pretty late and she doesn't always take a taxi home.
So yeah, it's an established thing, but he thinks he can still surprise her, which is why he's leaning up against the brick wall of the theatre on a May afternoon. It's not a performance night, but she's in rehearsal and he's not sure when she's getting out. He finally spots her exiting the stage door, going through her bag while chatting with someone he vaguely recognizes from the chorus and he's so focused on her and the bounce in her step and the way the light shines on her hair, that he almost lets her walk by him again until gets his shit together and calls her name.
She whirls, bring up a hand to her mouth (dramatic, he's missed it) and then launches herself at him and wraps her arms around him just like she did the first time he saw her on a New York City street.
"Noah! You're a week early!" She pulls back a little and looks at him all concerned. "What about your exams?"
He snorts and pulls her right back where she should be. "Took 'em early. Finished the last one about four hours ago." He kisses her hard and her arms come up to wrap around his neck and they both ignore the laughing and cheering from the other performers all filing out behind her.
"You gonna to take me home?" he asks finally, huskily, into her ear.
"Absolutely," she beams and takes his arm in hers.
And this time, he's not leaving.