Title: Broken and Beautiful (1/1)
Pairing: Puck/Rachel.
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3446
Spoilers: All aired eps.
Summary: love is not impossible. I have seen her, broken and beautiful.
A/N: Based on a prompt from the lovely cheapen.

love is not impossible. i have seen her, broken and beautiful.

The first time he realizes he likes Rachel Berry, and not just in the 'I want to fuck you' way, is when he sees her walking away from Finn. Her shoulders are hunched and she's clutching her books to her chest, trying to make herself even smaller. He can see the tears, knows by the way her nose is all scrunched up, that she is just waiting to get out of the hallway to completely fall apart.

And yeah its been like a month since he talked to her, a little more since they dated but she's left this midget sized imprint on his heart, or brain, or some shit because he can't stop thinking about her. About doing stupid stuff like actually considering beating Finn up, or following her, and then actually following her.

He finds Rachel in the auditorium, sitting on the edge of the stage, her legs dangling off the side. She's bent in two almost and he can see her whole body shaking from how hard she's crying. Puck hates it when chicks cry, because he wants to fix it, or not even acknowledge it. Now he's gone looking for it.

She doesn't move when he sits next to her, just turns away from him so he can't see her face.

"Finn's' a douche, Rach." It's pretty hypocritical but its not like he's treated Quinn's heart like a hacky sack. Finn doesn't seem to get that hurting Berry is like kicking a puppy.

"It just hurts so much." Rachel's voice cracks as she tries to talk and cry and breathe all at the same time. Puck's not a complete tool he knows to wrap his arm around her shoulders and pull her close.

It doesn't feel that weird to place a kiss on the top of her head and let her cry against his shoulder, her fists bunched in his sweater. He just kind of wishes he had some Shue words of wisdom to make her feel less shitty.

When they go their separate ways, she looks like a complete mess. Her mascara is streaked down her cheeks and her face is all red and splotchy, but he thinks she still kind of looks beautiful. It's completely whack and way too Nicholas Sparks for his taste, (what? he didn't get to chose all the Friday night movies growing up).

Rachel kisses his cheek, and he has this weird urge to lean in to her when she's pulling away.

"Thank you, Noah."

The first time he realizes he more than likes Rachel Berry, like, he 'like-likes' her, is after the stupid Kiss performance. He's finally gotten all the makeup off and he just wants to go home and face plant into a bucket of ice water, his skin feels so fucking raw.

When he hears her singing that god awful Gaga shit, he's all ready to go in and bust her chops. Something he does off and on when she stays late to work on stuff. Then he hears another voice and its not Jesse St. Jackoff.

Puck watches Shelby give Rachel the kiss-off, in a nicer way that basically still amounts to 'thanks but no thanks'. It feels really fucking familiar and he totally knows the minute the mother of the year walks out, that Rachel is gonna fall to pieces. They hug and then she does just walk out, bitch passes right by him without saying anything.

Rachel bites her lip, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear, trying to smile at Brad as he heads off. Then it's just her on the stage, her face sort of crumpling as she tries really hard not to cry. It never works.

It's really the wrong time to realize how great that red dress looks on her, or how soft her hair looks. He can't help that Berry broken; fixed or fine is basically the most beautiful thing to him, all of a sudden.

"Noah?" Rachel wraps her arms around herself trying to physically keep everything in, but her voice is so tiny, and it isn't surprise, so much as relief in her tone.

She's reaching her arms out for him before he's even in front of her, burying her head against his chest, sobbing so hard it sounds painful. He rests his cheek on the top of her head, trying to remember all the things his mom says to his sister when she has a nightmare. He can't really manage anything but swaying them a bit, and holding her as tight as possible, like maybe that'll help. He knows it won't but he's going to try.

She's sitting in his truck staring out the window, not even making the tiniest bit of noise and it's freaking him the fuck out.

"Do you think I was a disappointment? Is that why she didn't want me? Maybe if I tried a little harder…" she trails off abruptly when he swerves to the side of the road putting the truck in park on the shoulder. She's looking down at her hands, but she can hear him let out a deep breath, can imagine his pained expression.

"Fuck, Rach, I'm not good with this stuff. But fuck anyone who doesn't think you're good enough. You're the best of us, you know?" He glances at her to see if she gets that, but all he can see is her profile.

Puck sighs. "You've got your dads, I've got my ma, and we're doing okay, you and me." He clenches the steering wheel tighter, trying not to think of the kid he's basically abandoning soon.

Rachel turns her head to him, clasping his hand between hers. "You and me." Puck looks her in the eye and he can tell she wants to say something else; she always wants to use more words. Instead she settles for running her fingertips over his knuckles.

She's getting out of the truck when she stops and leans over to give him a kiss on the cheek.

"Its not the same Noah. Beth will always know she's wanted," she whispers in his ear, before hopping out.

He feels on edge for the rest of the night because something fucking changed when he wasn't paying attention.

He realizes for the first time that he's whipped (minus the pussy), when he finds out about her getting egged. He isn't there when she cries right after, but he hears all about it from Tina, and tells Santana to stop being a douche, when she laughs. He fucking hates the useless feeling that settles over him. Rachel skips the last two periods, so he does too.

Puck brings her vegan chocolates and a copy of Chicago. A musical about men murdering vixens is probably the best bet and the least painful. She's curled in a ball in his huge McKinley sweater, that she refused to give back, and a pair of the most ridiculous fuzzy pajama bottoms. He thinks she looks kind of cute.

"Stop hogging all the covers and scoot the fuck over." She tucks herself against him and he strokes his hand through her still wet hair, trying not to focus on how good she smells. Or how much he wants to beat Jesse with one of his own trophies.

Puck stays for the movie and falls asleep for a bit with Rachel wrapped around him. Her little hiccupping breaths wake him up and he runs a hand up and down her back while she cries.

He puts 'cell block tango' back on when she stops sobbing, smiling when he can feel her mouthing the words against his chest.

He kisses the top of her head before he leaves, trying to forget the way she says, "please don't do anything stupid, Noah," only half awake. Didn't she get that she basically made him do every stupid thing he swore no girl would get him to do?

He goes out that night to slash the Vocal Androids tires. Not because the douche ruined the choir room, or sang a shitty song in their fucking gym, but because he got to have her and he hurt her. Puck never liked sharing and he really hated watching something of his get broke.

He realizes he loves Rachel Berry the night before Regionals. She's leaning against Shue's kitchen counter, eyes shut, her head tilted down. A few tears keep slipping from beneath her closed eyelids and she sort of smiles when she hears footsteps.

"This is becoming a pattern, Noah." Her smile wobbles a bit and she takes a deep steadying breath that sort of falters halfway.

"I really don't like you seeing me like this, it's embarrassing." She wipes under her eyes and huffs when she can't stop the tears.

Puck steps in front of her and catches her hands in his, getting her to stop constantly toying with her skirt. He doesn't go any further than that and she watches him, he is so close that his breath is warm against her lips.

Her eyes sort of narrow as she looks at him, like she doesn't understand why he's here with her, why he's been here every single time. Not much about them makes any sense, but on the other hand everything makes sense. She swears their lives are running parallel.

Puck kisses the top of her head, letting her hug him, even though everyone is still in the other room.


He sighs, "'Cause you're as fucked up as me, Rach." She grips him a little tighter.

She has so many questions and he sees that, but he has no answers for any of this and he sort of hopes that's okay for now. Their lives are so fucked up, Quinn and Finn and Jesse and Santana and all the abandonment baggage, it's too much right now.

"You and me, remember Berry?" Puck hopes she gets the sort of promise buried in there, that she's figured it out, even if he hasn't put it all together yet.

He realizes he needs her, the one time she isn't there. Quinn almost broke his hand and the hospital waiting room chairs are killing his back, and he just needs her so fucking much. Puck can't and won't say it out loud, because he doesn't do that pussy shit. He can admit, at least to himself, that he's scared and soon there's gonna be this little girl out there who thinks her dad didn't love her enough.

Rachel is still wearing her puffy gold dress, which looks so silly in a hospital, but she didn't really have time to change. She shouldn't have stayed behind anyway. Watching Jesse wasn't in any way cathartic and she kept feeling this weird twinge in her chest.

The one and only time he might actually need her to be the strong one and she'd screwed it up. It was unexpected and completely irrational to be this attached, but she couldn't shake this awful feeling through the entire 30-minute cab ride, or the long walk through the nurse's station to the birthing ward.

When she sees him, hunched over in his chair, head in his hands she lets out a relieved sigh. Kneeling in front of him she takes his head in her hands, smiling a little.

"Hey, you." Rachel tries to keep her voice calm and even, since the entire waiting room is empty. She passed everyone else outside, just standing around looking uncomfortable.

Puck looks her in the eyes and says, "I don't fucking need you, you know." His tone isn't at all harsh and she can tell he's trying to convince himself of that, not her. She saw the way he leant into her touch before, like he was relieved to see her too.

"Too bad, because I need you, Noah. I'm not going anywhere." He leans forward resting his forehead on her shoulder. "She nearly broke my fucking hand, Rach." She kisses his slightly bruised knuckles, running her free hand lightly over his scalp. Hoping it will be enough.

He takes her to see Beth right before they have to head back to the theatre. Rachel watches him just stare at his little girl. She has his nose and lips and Quinn's light blonde hair. Rachel takes his hand, because he doesn't look like he wants a hug, and she knows he doesn't need her to talk and this is really the first time she's been on the other end of this.

It hurts a lot to know she can't just fix this for him, like he's patched her up before. Rachel rests her head on his shoulder and just stands with him, until Mr. Shue tells them its time to go.

When Finn says he loves her, she doesn't say it back. Rachel can't say it and he looks so sad when he realizes it. He never says his name but it hangs between them.

"He doesn't make me cry." She hopes that's enough for Finn.

Puck doesn't love Quinn the way she wants him too. He loves what they made. He loves that he got to be there, to name her, to love Beth for a little while. He doesn't love Quinn in a forever kind of way. She doesn't say her name but it lingers between them, she blinks back tears and laughs.

"She needs me, fuck, she even wants me around." He hopes that's enough for Quinn.

Puck ends up on Rachel's doorstep seven hours later, still wearing the stupid black costume from the night before. She got gold glitter all over one shoulder when she cried after losing and he hadn't seen her since.

He feels nauseous, like he could literally lean over the porch rail and puke in the bushes. It's a mix of knowing she might hate him for what he did and that he won't ever get to see his daughter again.

"We gave Beth to Shelby," he blurts out, the minute she opens the door. Rachel is still half asleep, and she can't really process anything. He gives her a minute and he sees her eyes dim a little once the pieces fall into place. She's already shutting the door.

"Oh, okay. Well thank you for letting me know Noah, you should get some sleep."

His foot shoots out to keep the door from closing because he thinks, no he knows, that if it does he may never get another chance. He manages to get into the hallway but Rachel is moving into the living room, creating as much distance as possible. She's weirdly calm, staring at him with this completely blank expression.

"Look, Rach, she came to the hospital and Quinn bought her bullshit and I just-" Puck runs a hand over his head, wishing he still had the Mohawk. "I just want the best for my kid, y'anno?" She shrugs off his attempt to touch her, which hurts like hell because he needs to touch her, even if it's just her shoulder.

"Its fine Noah, Shelby gets what she's always wanted, a daughter and Beth gets a home. I'm fine, but you should really be getting home-"

"Bullshit." He takes a step forward just as she takes a startled one back and something flashes in her eyes. "I beg your pardon?"

"You aren't fucking okay with this, B, and why the fuck would you be? We hijacked your mom." Rachel starts doing that defensive thing, where she wraps her arms around herself and looks away, trying to hold everything in. Completely forgetting he's seen her like this way too many times. And fuck, his chest is killing him, because this is the first time he's caused her to get all closed off.

"Don't pull this shit with me, I know you baby. You don't get to fucking be like this with me." God he hates the sound of his own voice, he's scared and guilty and so many other things, and he just doesn't want any of this to be happening. Hurting her is basically his kryptonite, okay? And he's still not sure Shelby is the right mother for his kid.

Puck pulls her to him, ignoring how stiff she is and how she refuses to uncross her arms. He takes a breath, waiting a minute and hoping she'll unwind a little, let him in, and tell him its okay.

He whispers, "I'm so sorry, baby," over and over again because there is nothing else to fucking say. And when she finally lets her arms wrap around his waist, he kind of stops breathing for a second.

She looks up at him, and he can't help brushing the bangs off her forehead.

"I know it's not your fault and I know we both had to give up a dream, it just hurts to want everything so much and to constantly be reminded that you can't have it. That you never get it." Rachel says, her fingers toying with the hem of his sweater. She won't look at him because she's talking about him too.

"I know, trust me, I fucking know." It wasn't just Beth, he didn't get a dad, Quinn, Santana, a best friend or Rachel.

"You and me though, we have that. We don't leave right, Noah?" Rachel is looking at him like she's prepared for him to bolt or say something really fucking stupid, but he isn't about to bail on the only good thing he had going.

"Yeah, baby, you and me." She hugs him like she won't ever get another chance and Puck is really thankful that she didn't shut that door on him.

When he gets drunk that night she's sitting beside him. Rachel will only take a few sips of JD but she doesn't stop him from downing most of it. They stare up at his ceiling and don't talk at all.

Her fingertips skim his cheekbone and lips, and she looks so serious as she concentrates on the clench of his jaw beneath her palm. Rachel realizes she loves him when he finally lets a few tears fall. He doesn't break down and he won't look at her. She can hear his teeth grinding, as he tries really hard to stop.

"I love her."

"She knows, Noah."

Rachel fits herself against him, tangling her legs with his, getting as close as possible. She tastes the tang of alcohol on his tongue, and feels a few tears run over her fingers, and she can't get over how well they fit together.

He comes over a week later while she's doing the dishes. She's in her sweats with her hair up in a bun, the steam from the water curling some of the loose pieces. Its ridiculous how he manages to catch her at her most unattractive moments.

She nods and hmms while he talks about Super Mario, leaning on the counter behind her. This whole dropping by unannounced thing is happening a lot. So much that her fathers asked that he don't ring the doorbell, so they won't be disturbed. And Rachel has to admit she enjoys having him around more.

She's wearing these tacky yellow rubber gloves and there is water overflowing the edge of the counter, soaking her shirt and he's smiling at her, well smirking.

"What?" He shakes his head and places his hand on her hips pulling her back against his chest. He's still warm from being out in the sun. He smells like fresh cut grass and chlorine. She can't help but smile a bit too.

"I love you." He rests his chin on her shoulder, tapping his fingertips against her stomach.

Rachel bites her lip, turning her head just slightly, "and when did you figure this out?"

"Between you getting snot on my blue plaid and getting it on my grey t-shirt." She smacks his arm and huffs, trying to pull out of his grasp but he won't let her go.

He nuzzles his nose against her cheek, letting out a deep breath. "My mom always had this line that I thought was complete bullshit, she said you couldn't love someone at their best until you loved them at their worst. Way I see it we've covered the worst fucking part."

When she kisses him its soft, this sort of barely there touch of lips. She pulls away and stares at him and even though it's kind of uncomfortable he stares back.

She stands on her tiptoes so she can wrap her arms around his neck.

"I love you too."

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