A.N: Apologies if this has been done - barely have time to write lately, let alone read!
Disclaimer: Don't own. And AU, obviously.
Jar of Hearts
Rachel stared at Mr. Schuester blankly. Unknown? What on Earth does that mean? She shook herself from her thoughts. Glee. Focus. She plastered a smile on her face and re-engaged with the group.
Days passed, rehearsals happened, the back and forth dance between the Gleeks continuing.
He's still not back.
As Rachel watched Sam and Quinn accept the gift certificates to Breadstix, her smile faltered slightly, a phantom fist slamming into a locker, hazel eyes blazing. She looked around the room at everyone involved in each other - not one person looking like someone was missing.
The word still rang in her ears.
Finn stood, holding out a hand. "Ready to go?"
"Give me a moment, I want to speak to Mr. Schuester about something." She stood on tiptoe to peck him on the lips. "I'll meet you by my locker."
"Okay." Finn pressed a kiss to her forehead, shuffling out of the choir room.
"Rachel, if it's about the competition or the voting, I assure you -"
"No, Mr. Schue, I -" Rachel folded her hands, taking a deep breath. "I was wondering if you'd heard anything further from Principal Figgins regarding N-Puck."
"No, Rachel, I haven't. Unknown means just that - there's a process he'll have to go through, hearings and possibly evaluations...There's no way to know what will happen at this point. They'll try to figure out the best thing for him."
"I try to be a good guy. I go to school, and I say, 'Be cool, Puck. Be nice.' But by second period, I've got a fire extinguisher in my hands, and I'm spraying some dweeb with it, and I don't know how I got there."
Rachel frowned. "But do they understand the stress he's under? You and I both know he's not forthcoming about things, he won't disclose that he's acting out because of emotional pain -"
"I'm sure that his lawyer would -
"- so he'll simply be looked at as just another juvenile delinquent and he'll languish in a facility with no one to love him -"
"I think his mother actually is - "
"- and years later he'll wonder why he was never good enough for the mother who abandoned her after carrying her for nine months, giving birth and -"
"Rachel!" Will shook his head. "Calm down. I think...I think you're getting a little mixed up and very much upset over nothing. I'm sure the court has appointed Puck a lawyer and hopefully he'll just be honest, all right?"
Have you met Noah Puckerman? No, not all right. She nodded, forcing a smile. "I apologize, Mr. Schuester. I'm certain you're correct. Sorry to bother you." She walked to her locker, mind racing.
"Rach? You okay?" Finn wrapped an arm around her, kissing the top of her head. "You're acting...weird. And for you, especially lately, that's saying something."
Yet another backhanded compliment. "No, I'm - I'm fine, Finn, thank you for asking." Stop it, Rachel. Relax. She leaned her head on his shoulder. "Just thinking."
"Well I hope it's thinking about dinner - I'm starving." He grinned at her. "Wanna go to Breadstix anyway?"
"Finn!" She slapped his arm, shaking her head. "While the plan to secure Sam's participation in Glee has started successfully, spying on their date is not part of it." He had to do a duet with Quinn. Of all people. Poor Noah.
"Hey, who said it was a date?" Finn frowned. "I already talked to him about that."
Rachel blinked. "You - you what?" You talked to Sam about Quinn?
Finn shrugged. "When Quinn told me he tried to kiss her, that that's why she dropped out, I just straightened it out. I know how much you wanted to keep Sam in Glee, just gave him some tips on dealing with her." He kissed her head. "Don't worry, it's fine. We're gonna take Nationals, Rach, we don't need Puck when we've got Sam. And so long as he stops trying to get with Quinn, it'll be perfect. I told you, I took care of it for you."
For the sake of Glee. And for me. of course. "Can you take me home? I'm not feeling well, I need my echinacea tea." Because all I do is think of myself. You just like me anyway. Rachel tossed his arm off her shoulder, packing her bookbag.
"Dad? Daddy?" Rachel walked through the house, depositing bag and coat in their proper places. "Is anyone home?" She sighed, dropping into a seat at the kitchen table. "Of course not," she muttered. Drumming her fingers on the tabletop, she eyed the yellow pages on the counter. Do I?
She grabbed the phone book and the phone itself. What do you intend to do, Rachel, you don't know who his lawyer is or how it works.
"Well, fine, I can find out. I'm Rachel Berry." She put water on for tea and turned on the computer in the den. "Legal advice Lima Ohio." She skimmed the results. "Let's try juvenile delinquency proceedings Lima Ohio..." She frowned. "All right, maybe not that simple." She clicked on a link with most of the words, raising a brow and trailing the mouse down the links. "Rules should work." Scrolling through, Rachel pursed her lips. "A panel?" She backed out to the Google results and called the first law office she saw a number for.
"Yes, hello, I'm looking for information regarding the representation of Noah Puckerman? No, I'm not an attorney. No, I don't have that information, I'm sorry I just - I'm a friend of his and - well, if I knew how to reach him, why would I talk to you? You know, this is precisely why I'm worried about him, because of dispassionate, impersonal treatment like this. How is a concerned friend supposed to - No, I don't want to trouble his mother, don't you think she's going through enough? The entire temple and the Jewish community of Lima are already enough for her to contend with, I just want to know where they might have - No, I don't want you to violate - It's on the website?" Rachel shook her head and scrolled up the list again. How did I miss that? "Thank you, I see it. Thank you very much." Hanging up, she ran upstairs to throw something into her purse, and grabbed her keys and her jacket.
Fucking sucks. Puck hefted the barbell up again. Not like I was really fucking getting anywhere with that ATM on the hood. He exhaled, lowering the bar. Fucking sucks.
"No, no idea, but chick is crazy. Look, all I know is if my sister had tits and legs like that, and wore skirts that short? I wouldn't be in here for assault unless it was her ass I was assaulting."
That's fucked up. Puck glanced over to see another of the older residents of the detention center picking up dumbbells, one of the younger kids spotting him.
"She's giving the guards an earful, something about the ACLU and shit..."
No fucking way. Puck looked towards the door. Couldn't be. Why would she even give a shit? He shook his head and picked up the bar for another set.
"Puckerman. Visitor." The guard's voice came over the speaker. "Come up front, your sister is here."
The other two looked towards him as he lowered the bar back onto the bench. "Your sister, dude?"
Sure as hell hope not. He smirked, shaking his head, and walked towards the guard. "I was just paged?"
The guard eyed him skeptically. "Yeah, you were. C'mon." He escorted him towards the visiting center in the front of the building.
"Thank you so much, there is no way we could leave him without any familial contact, and my mother has her hands full with Sarah. This aberration by Noah is absolutely shocking, we just don't know how to -" Rachel cut off as the door opened. "Noah." You really are locked up in here...She looked him up and down in his orange jumpsuit.
Holy fucking shit. He smirked. "Hey sis." The fuck are you doing here?
Do not blush, Rachel, you'll ruin it. "Hello, Noah." What was I thinking? "You look well."
"Catching up on my weightlifting, gotta keep the Puckerone steel in good condition." He raised a brow. "Do I get a hug?" Might as well get something out of a chick being here, right?
Leave it to him. She smiled for the guards. "Thank you so much for getting him for me, Officer. I truly appreciate it, I know this is slightly unorthodox but -"
"Don't mention it. Seriously." He mumbled under his breath, "I've heard enough already." Raising his voice again, he moved towards the door. "We'll be outside." The guards left the room, standing on the other side of the window.
"So? C'mon, Berry, I'd get a hug if I were your long lost brother in lockdown." Puck opened his arms with a smirk. You want me, you got me now...
"You are incorrigible," she muttered, moving in to embrace him. She closed her eyes with a sigh, laying her head on his chest.
"Are you sure about this, Noah?"
Puck wrapped his arms around her, resting his head on her hair and taking a deep breath.
They stood motionless for a few heartbeats, their breathing matching each others as tension slowly drained away.
Rachel took a deep inhale, ordering her arms not to tighten around him. Focus, Rachel. "Have we made appearances yet?"
"Damn it, Berry, I was enjoying the feel of your boobs." He pressed her closer with a small grin. "It's dangerous to get too excited in here, the Puckzilla missed it. He and I were about to get reacquainted thanks to you, those boobs and that skirt."
She shoved away with an aggravated noise. "Incorrigible!"
He shrugged, dropping into a chair at the table. "I have no fucking clue what that means, but if it has to do with being a stud..." He waved his arms at his surroundings. "Well, I'm definitely guilty of something, right? I'm in here."
"Well, exactly, Noah - that's why I'm here." She sat across from him. "What happened? Did you really drive into an ATM?"
He rolled his eyes, tipping the chair back to stare at the ceiling. "Liked it better when I was feeling your boobs."
"And I liked it better when it didn't require surveillance to talk to you!" She folded her arms, turning towards the window and back again. "Do you have any idea what I went through to get here? To track you down and convince them to let me in?"
He lowered the legs and caught her eyes. "You know, I don't, but I'd love to know why." He scoffed. "Fuck that, it's 'cause you dropped under twelve, right?"
She glared at him. "Yes, Noah, that's it exactly. The same thing Finn said. Because really, I haven't an altruistic bone in my body, apparently. I'm just a heartless automaton - I should've gone to Carmel with the rest of them." If I were that selfish, I wouldn't hesitate to tell you about Sam and Quinn. She shoved the chair back and stood. Let the two of you fight it out while I keep Finn to myself.
"Aww, trouble in paradise? Hudson's not your knight in shining armor either, Berry, I told you that." He looked her up and down. "He really said that shit about you being selfish? That's pretty fucked up."
She turned towards the wall, hugging herself. "He...likes me anyway." She pursed her lips, a bitter taste in her mouth.
"Well that's some bullshit." He shook his head. "How the fuck does that guy get the girl all the damn time?"
Rachel snorted. "I honestly couldn't tell you at this moment."
"You're actually fucking buying it, aren't you." He chuckled. "Y'know, Berry, I thought better of you than that. That's all it takes to get under your skin? I would've saved the money on the slushies."
"Maybe then you wouldn't be in here for trying to liberate an ATM." She dropped her head. "You're right, I don't know why I'm here. Just that no one seemed to notice you were gone, and I -" She blew out a breath. "I never wanted anyone to feel...invisible like that."
Like you. He frowned quickly before raising a brow. "Yeah, well, no one's gonna miss me in Glee, it's only at night, when it's dark and you and every other girl at McKinley has her hand down her -"
"Thank you, Noah, that's quite enough." She closed her eyes, reaching down to her bag and shaking her head. You expected more, Rachel? "I see you're fine. I'm going to take my leave and let you attend to yourself."
"He's an asshole, Berry." He shrugged. "If winning was all that mattered to you, you'd've let me touch your boobs after you heard me sing. Keep me happy and singing solos and shit."
A laugh escaped her before she subsided. "I told Finn about Beth without thinking about you at all. He - when he said I was - well, when it comes to that, I was selfish and inconsiderate. I'm sorry, Noah. I'm so sorry."
He shoved away from the table, rolling his eyes. "Is that what this is? You want to say you're sorry? Fuck off, Berry, you have no idea what that did."
She whirled to face him. "She took something from both of us when she left, Noah. You want to know why I'm here? That's why I'm here. Because I know." She crossed the room to stand in front of him, looking up into his eyes. "I know that vague ache in the center of your chest, the ache of something missing that nothing and no one can fill. The feeling that part of your heart is torn from you, and as much as you know it's for the best it will never, ever, stop hurting. It doesn't matter what anyone says. Not how many songs you sing, or how many reckless acts you engage in." She turned away from him to pace towards the wall. "And it doesn't matter that he likes me anyway," she continued quietly.
She swallowed, rubbing her hands up her arms. "My mother looked me in the face and turned me away, Noah, because what she wanted was to have a baby, someone who'd rely on her. She has one now, a beautiful baby girl who needs what she can provide. Beth is going to be loved, and she'll know that you love her too. There was a good reason for you to give her up. If she found you...You would never, ever, turn her away. And that makes you a better person than anyone - even you - gives you credit for." She moved towards the door, pressing a hand to her bag and lifting her other hand to knock. "I just thought you should know."
He grabbed her wrist, tugging her hand down. "And the fact that she turned you away is why I worry. That's fucked up, Berry. You deserve better than that, and so does Beth."
Rachel smiled sadly. "Noah, don't you see? Shelby has her second chance at being a mother. That's why she doesn't want me. I'm not shiny and new and impressionable. I'm not what anyone wants me to be. I'm never enough for anyone."
"I know two guys in here that would do unspeakable things to you without you even saying a word."
She rolled her eyes. "That's not exactly an enticing offer."
He tugged her a little closer. "Maybe three."
Rachel swallowed, licking her lips as her breathing sped up. "Noah -"
He glanced sidelong at the guards and dipped his head to kiss her, delving his tongue into her mouth.
Rachel! She turned her head aside, his lips moving to her neck. "This is illegal."
He moved his mouth to her ear. "You're not my sister."
She ducked under his arm, twisting her wrist. "I'm not your girlfriend either."
He let her go, smirking. "You could've been."
"But I'm not." She licked her lips again, fighting back the shiver. "Noah, just...please, just tell them you're sorry. Tell them why. Or let me. I don't mind speaking on your behalf."
He laughed, sinking back into a chair. "You would."
"Yes, I would, Noah, because whether you like it or not? I see through your facade. I know that there's a good and kind human being beneath the bluster." And I know that you're hurting.
He tipped the chair back again, shaking his head. "Gimme a break, Berry."
"You're not good enough," Rachel said quietly. "You're never good enough. You've convinced yourself of that, and it's been reinforced by everyone. Then whenever you want to be good enough, whenever you think that you might just make it, you get slapped down again. Ruthlessly. And so you're constantly struggling to outrun that slap, to build solid ground beneath you and it never holds. You can't get far enough ahead. But you can't stop trying."
She sighed and drew herself up. "Say whatever you wish, I don't need you to agree. But I'm here to tell you that you do deserve to have people in your life who care. You made the decision that was best for her, not you. Beth's going to be a lucky girl. I saw the kind of mother Shelby could be." Rachel reached into her bag and tossed a tiny stuffed animal on the table. "Here. This one is my favorite. She offered to sew it back on when I came to her in that..." Rachel shuddered. "Well, you know. The point is, this is a small and inconspicuous reminder that Shelby has the makings of a wonderful mother. I caught her at the wrong time. You caught her at the right one." She crossed to the table and squeezed his hand. "You'll have your right time, Noah. I promise that you will."
He threw off her hand. "Whatever, weirdo."
She rolled her eyes. "Talking about yourself again?"
He grinned. "Nice one, Berry." He snatched the frog from the table.
She smiled and knocked on the door. "Don't lose yourself, Noah. No one could ever tell you what to do or why, no one could make a choice for you. Don't let these people do that."
He stood, crossing his arms to lean his back against the wall next to the door and gaze at her. "Don't let Hudson either." He moved to intercept her eyes. "He prayed to a grilled cheese, Berry. He doesn't understand what it's like to be a Jew."
She laughed as they opened the door, shaking her head. "No, he most definitely does not." And I'm beginning to wonder if he understands me either..."Take care of yourself, Noah."
"After your boobs and those legs? I'm gonna have to." He smirked and blew her a kiss as the guards walked her out, the frog dangling from his fingertips.
"He's back, did you hear?"
The whispers were like wildfire through the halls.
Rachel rounded a corner with a small smile. He made it. She spotted Finn waiting by her locker and bit back a sigh.
Puck fell into step next to her, slushie in hand.
"I suppose the pecking order must be re-established," she said quietly, clutching her books to her chest.
He held out the drink and stuffed the straw into it. "Fuck it."
Blinking, she accepted the offering. "Why, thank you." She smiled up at him. "Welcome back, Noah."
He smirked, glancing at Finn and making a show of a mock kiss. "Thanks, Berry. And since I'm an expert on it now, did you know that skirt makes your legs look fucking illegal? Life was easier in the animal sweaters, it was natural to ignore the fact that you're fucking hot as Santana under there. Miss the Britney Spears gear, babe. You could hit me anytime in that outfit." He turned his back to Finn to leer at her and detoured down another hall.
Rachel giggled, shaking her head and sipping the grape slushie.
"What was that about?" Finn frowned at her.
She spun her combination. "That was Noah just telling me that apparently the lack of animal sweaters means he can't avoid staring at my legs." She drew a deep breath, squaring her shoulders. Hot as Santana, hmm?
Finn frowned down the hallway. "You know, it gets kind of cold -"
Rachel opened her locker door and fought down a grin at what she saw inside. "No, it doesn't, Finn, and frankly if you're concerned with any male attention I might garner, perhaps you should focus more attention on your current girlfriend than your ex!" She slid the piece of paper on top of her books and closed the door quickly. "I'm going to class."
"I'll see you later, Finn." She looked down at the scrawl on the scrap of paper.
"You nearly got me fucking killed with this frog, Berry."
She rolled her eyes, sipping the slushie again and pressing her hand to the paper to keep it from flying off. What is that? Her wet handprint showed more ink on the back. She flipped the note to the back to find, in tiny print, two words:
A.N: There you are. I feel better now. Hope you enjoyed.