This was inspired by a prompt by inspire16 at the Puck/Rachel Drabble Meme. ("You can't die Puck, I forbid you." / Puck gets sick, seriously sick. It's a good thing he's so whipped that he'd never dare disobey a direct Berry command.)
This is unbetad, mainly because I don't have one and I'm too lazy to proof-read properly. So all mistakes are mine, and I'm very, very sorry. :(
When Puck first feels the dull ache in his groin, he's not too worried about it. He puts it down to a pulled muscle. After all, just yesterday his fiancee left for a two-week vacation with her girlfriends and two weeks is a hell of a long time to go without sex, so he said goodbye multiple times in a row before he took her to the airport. A pulled muscle seems like good reasoning, so he takes some painkillers and tries not to think about it.
Except, in the next couple of weeks, the pain doesn't go away. Sure, it disappears for a day or two, but then it comes back, as painful as ever. It's seriously fucking annoying him. And then, one morning in the shower, Puck feels something small and marble-like on one of his balls. He swears loudly, because the whole thing suddenly seems to make a whole lot more sense to him. He knows what it is straight away, purely because he's a sports fan. His mind immediately flies to the stories of John Kruk, Mike Lowell and Lance Armstrong and he swears again, and again, and again, before finishing his shower and heading to work.
The earliest appointment he can make with the urologist is the day that Rachel comes home. He knows he can't really fuck around with this, so he makes the appointment, even though he's kind of disappointed that he can't spend the entire day catching up with his woman. He doesn't tell her. Honestly, he doesn't really feel the need to – it didn't have to be a big deal, right? Apart from the pain and the slow swelling of his left testicle, he felt fine. Seriously.
So he collects Rachel at the airport and takes her back to their little New York apartment. He's happy to see her, and he kisses her a lot, smiles through her stories of sangria and sunshine, and laughs at the sombrero she bought him as a souvenir. It's when Rachel starts to get a little handsy that he excuses himself, tells her that he has to go into work for an hour or two, before heading to the hospital.
The exam makes Puck feel violated and uncomfortable. The whole thing is fucking awkward, and he's impatient to get home. He has no time for any of this. He's about to take on a big project at work, producing some diva's latest album, and he has a fucking wedding to plan. This whole situation is just a huge inconvenience for him, and he can't really be bothered with it.
When the doctor says something about a "suspicious looking mass of cells" in his left testicle, Puck isn't surprised. In fact, he laughs dryly and humorlessly, kind of pissed at the doctor for trying to break the news to him gently.
"Don't be fucking stupid. It's not 'suspicious'. It's fucking cancer. You wanna tell me how in the hell I'm supposed to get rid of it?"
The doctor sends him to have blood-taken and participate in even more tests, including an ultrasound. When the cancer is confirmed, his only worry is how to tell Rachel. Finally, he's sent home with booklets containing words that could just as easily be a foreign language and strong painkillers.
Rachel's reaction kind of pisses him off. She acts like it's some huge big deal, her hands flying to her mouth in complete shock, and her eyes filling up with tears. Puck ends up comforting her, which he finds pretty fucked-up considering he's the cancer patient. But whatever. Even though Rachel was being way too over dramatic, he hates seeing his girl cry, so he holds her close to him and rubs her back, placing occasional kisses to her sweet-smelling hair.
"Baby, would you calm the fuck down, please? It's not like I'm dying or anything. Jesus Christ."
She punches him in the arm, but tries to get control of herself, sniffling pathetically.
"You can't die, Puck. I forbid you," She's totally serious, and Puck rolls his eyes.
"You're acting crazy, babe. I'm fine."
"You're not taking this seriously enough!" She's crying again, tears falling from her red-rimmed eyes.
Puck sighs and kisses her forehead. He's so fucking whipped, it's pathetic really. "Look, I'm not going to die. Please. Like I'd even fucking consider leaving you. Don't be stupid, woman. And calm down."
Rachel forces him to call his mom back in Ohio and give her the news. He really, really doesn't want to but Rachel is like a determined little fireball, and the look she gives him is enough to make him pick up his iPhone and start dialing. His mom ends up having the exact same reaction as Rachel has, and it's enough to put him in a pissy mood for the rest of the day. He hangs up on her when she starts talking about getting a flight to New York so that she can visit him, and Rachel yells at him for being rude and insensitive. She yells even more when he starts getting ready for work, simply because she wants to take care of him. Puck rolls his eyes and explains to her that just because he has cancer, he's not going to act like some pathetic little invalid. They both have jobs, lives, and they can't put everything on hold. She's not happy, and he leaves the house questioning why all the women in his life are fucking insane.
He's referred to an oncologist and a surgeon, and before he can blink, his operation is booked for next week. Trying to get the time off work is a hell of a lot of hassle, but he manages to give some lame excuse about a close relative and they believe him. Rachel doesn't understand why he doesn't just tell the truth, and Puck can't find the words to explain that he's sort of humiliated that one of his balls are failing him. As far as he's concerned, the less people he tells and the less attention he receives, the better. It's nobody's fucking business but his. Rachel sighs at his logic but continues baking him sugar cookies and fluffing his pillows anyway. She likes to feel useful by taking care of him, and even though Puck doesn't really need to be taken care of, he lets her think that she's helping. Besides, he's got a pretty sweet set-up too. Seriously, who doesn't want sugar cookies on demand?
When Puck finds out that the surgery involves removing one of his testicles and replacing it with a prosthetic, he's pissed. Seriously fucking raging, and he can't quite figure out what's making him so angry. He wasn't quite sure what he'd expected, but it sure as hell didn't involve one of his balls being chopped off.
He ends up shutting himself away in his bedroom and punching a hole through the door. It isn't until he sees himself in the floor-length mirror, his face red with anger and blood dripping from his hand, that he finally breaks down.
He sits down on the bed and cries for the first time in years, finally realizing how serious the whole thing is. It seems as though Rachel has been waiting for this reaction, because almost instantly, she walks in their bedroom and sits beside him, fully equipped with pages and pages of success stories and practically vomiting positive advice and inspirational quotes. It ends with her perched gently on his lap, holding his face in her small hands and kissing away his silent tears. It worked. That was the night that Puck realized that he really, really needs her in his life.
His mom makes a surprise appearance the next day. He acts mad, but he's totally not. He figures out that he kind of needs her too.
Before the operation, Puck asks if there's any metal in the prosthetic implant. The surgeon, Rachel, and his mom all look at him as if he's sprouted horns.
"It's just," he explains, with a smirk on his face. "If I tell those assholes down at the bar not to mess with me because I've got balls of fucking steel, I'd be completely legit. Well. Half-legit."
Rachel snorts but shoots him an amused smile anyway, and kisses him softly on his lips before he's wheeled away.
"I love you, Noah."
"Love you too, baby."
After the operation, Puck comes to the conclusion that he's never felt less masculine in his entire life. When visiting hours end and he's left alone, sore and tired, he lets himself cry silently, angry at the fucking cancer, but mostly at his body for failing him.
They get the results of the pathology a week later, and it turns out that the cancer is pretty advanced. When the doctor starts saying stuff about the cancer spreading and 'stage three' and lymph nodes and all this other shit he only half-understands, he's not really listening properly. He's mainly focusing on the way Rachel is squeezing his hand as though she wants to be surgically attached to him, and the way he's squeezing back, secretly grateful for the support. He's staring at the room's ugly purple carpet, so he can't see but he knows that Rachel's eyes are full of tears and she's nodding determinedly, taking every piece of information in on his behalf.
He's kind of crushed. Rachel's optimism and positivity after the surgery had been kind of infectious, and he feels sorta nauseous as he listens to all these treatments he'll have to go through.
He's quiet for the rest of the night, and it worries Rachel.
Puck often finds himself thinking about the future. He wants to marry Rachel, and soon, but he also wants kids. The thing is, he knows that with the treatment he needs children might not even be an option in the future. Rachel tries to comfort him when the doctor breaks the news, telling him that he wasn't to even worry about it and that they had more important things to go through first, and even though she doesn't come right out and say it, he just knows that she's disappointed. He seriously wants to have kids with Rachel. He's missed out on being a father once before, and no way in hell is he going to give up another shot willingly. So he makes a decision.
Over dinner, he announces that he's made an appointment at a sperm bank before his treatments start, just to keep their options open.
Rachel cries harder than ever and covers his face in kisses.
"I really, really want your babies," She whispers in his ear, their Chinese food forgotten. "I want everything with you."
Puck will never talk to anyone about what went down at the sperm bank. Ever. It's the weirdest fucking experience of his life, one that he definitely never wants to relive. Shit.
He needs chemotherapy. Four cycles to be specific, and he's warned beforehand that it's sheer hell. Each cycle consists of five days of torturous therapy followed by two whole weeks of rest. It means that he has to call his work and explain what's going on, so that they don't fire him for missing too much. It's humiliating, in a weird kind of way, because he hates admitting that he's not at his strongest, but they send over a big-ass muffin basket and he totally perks up.
He demolishes them within a couple of hours. Rachel is disgusted, and offended that she only got one out of like, thirty.
The night before his first chemotherapy session, Puck gets Rachel to shave his mohawk. He knows it's kind of stupid that he still has one considering he's twenty-three years old, but Rachel loves it, and it adds to his badassness. Still, the chemo will make his hair fall out anyway, and he wasn't gonna sit back and watch it happen. So that's how he found himself in the bathroom watching Rachel through the mirror as her fingers and the shaver practically ghost over his head. He watches as she sticks her tongue out in concentration and it makes him smile. She's gorgeous.
"Marry me," He says, and Rachel's eyes meet his in the mirror.
She smiles and turns off the shaver. "You've already asked me that question."
Puck pulls her into his lap and she laughs quietly, wrapping her arms around his neck and resting her forehead against his.
"Yeah, but I mean soon. As soon as all of this shit is over."
Rachel laughs quietly, musically, and nods. "Definitely."
Chemotherapy is a fucking bitch. He's just finished his first round and all he can do is groan pathetically and throw up pretty much everything he's ever eaten into a bucket by the side of the bed. Rachel can only watch helplessly with big, alarmed-looking brown eyes, and rub his back as she tries to be comforting.
"This is fucking disgusting," He complains weakly, falling back into the mountain of pillows Rachel had set up for him.
"Trust me, I know," Rachel wrinkles her nose at the smell, but manages to smile at him encouragingly. "But it'll be worth it when this is all over, right?"
Puck can only grunt. If chemo doesn't work then he's going to fucking shoot somebody.
Puck's sister comes to visit in the two-week resting period after his first cycle of chemo. He's psyched to see her, and genuinely laughs when Sarah hands him a black t-shirt with the words 'cancer sucks' in sickening green letters printed cross the front. Rachel laughs too, and Puck starts wearing it to all his chemo sessions. S'fucking true.
Puck finds out that Rachel has been making every store, restaurant or theater that she's ever attended place cancer donation boxes by their cash registers. He's kinda touched.
"Babe, we should just keep the money instead of giving it to cancer charities," He's only half-joking.
Rachel tutted at him. "Don't be selfish."
"We need the money. You saw those hospital bills. This fucking disease is bleeding us dry."
Rachel sighs and bites her lip, taking a seat next to him and holding his hand. "We'll manage. Health insurance and all."
Puck scoffs but drops the subject and places a few gentle kisses along her jawline. Rachel breathes out slowly and reaches to press her hand to his cheek.
"How are you feeling, anyway?" She ask softly, her eyes fluttering closed as he moves his kisses to her neck.
"M'okay. A little sore though," He presses his lips to hers gently and they kiss for a few moments. "I don't want to go in for chemo tomorrow."
Rachel sighs again. "I know. I can't even imagine how awful it must be. I hate that you have to go through it."
Puck shrugs and flashes her a forced grin. "You gotta do what you gotta do."
Rachel can't find it in her to return the smile. "Aren't you scared?"
She hesitates before answering, and can't meet his eyes when she finally does. "That it won't work."
Puck pulls her towards him, resting her head on his chest as he kisses her hair. "Baby..."
"It's just," Rachel's eyes are teary and she's clutching his hand tightly. "I can't loose you, Noah. I can't."
Puck actually kinda feels guilty for getting cancer, just because he's managed to make his girl cry. He's never really thought about how hard this must be for her too. Honestly, if the roles were reversed, Puck would be a fucking wreck.
"You won't lose me." He says fiercely, pulling his hand away from hers so that he can wrap both of his arms around her. "Stop talking shit. It'll work, babe, okay? Trust me."
Rachel breathes out slowly and nods, kissing his chest lightly. "Okay. I trust you."
"Would you sit the fuck down?"
"Noah, I'm just trying to help!"
"I can get my own fucking drink, Rachel!"
"The doctor told you to stay in bed!"
"For fuck's sake, I wish you'd all stop treating me like I'm about to break!"
"Noah, you're ill! You should do as you're told-"
"I'm FINE. Stop telling me what to do!"
"I'm only trying to help you out! Why are you being so mean?"
"Why are you being so annoying?"
"You're such a jerk, Noah Puckerman!"
After five hours of endless arguing, Puck locks himself in the bedroom and Rachel storms out to go stay with a friend. She returns only two hours later, looking tired and sad. Puck says nothing but weakly pulls her into his arms and captures her in a hug. Cancer, it seems, has a bad effect on everyone.
The worst night happens halfway through his second cycle of chemo. It's late, almost two in the morning when Rachel is woken by his tossing and turning. He's in a weird state, half-sleeping and half-not, and it terrifies her. Puck feels way too warm, and he hears Rachel gasp when she presses her hand to his hot skin. He's seriously fucking burning up.
He's hallucinating. He can feel things crawl over him, see weird-looking shapes over the bed, and it's freaking him out. He can make out a blurry-looking Rachel frantically type numbers into her cellphone and hear her whisper words of comfort and reassurance, but he wants the shapes to go away. He involuntarily lets out a pathetic-sounding whimper, struggles to sit up, and then promptly vomits all over the bed, multiple times. He's suddenly choking a little and it's so much effort to even cough it up. He thinks Rachel is rubbing his back and he can definitely hear her crying as she speaks into the phone.
He throws up again and he's using all of his energy to kick out at the shapes, and trying to get the covers off him, and he thinks he's crying too, but he's not sure. He feels like he's being smothered, and the constant throwing-up is making it hard to breathe. He's too hot. Way too hot.
And then he blacks out.
Puck wakes up in the hospital. Rachel has pulled up a chair right next to his bed, and is bent forward, resting her head in her arms on his mattress. He can hear her light, regular breathing and he knows she's sleeping. He's fucking confused. He doesn't know how he got here.
He manages to sit up a little and even that one little movement makes him feel like he's just ran a marathon. He swears under his breath when he catches sight of his reflection in the mirror across from his bed. He looks... gray. And sweaty as hell. His mouth tastes like shit, and his throat is raw and painful. He honestly doesn't have a clue what happened.
It turns out that the chemo has weakened his immune system and he's picked up a major infection. He has to stay in hospital for a few days minimum, because his white blood cell count has dropped, and he's apparently been in and out of consciousness all night.
He's worried about Rachel. She looks completely exhausted, almost as bad as he looks. He tells her to go home and get some sleep but she disagrees and instead goes to get him water.
The chick is fucking insane.
During his treatments, Rachel starts bringing wedding magazines with her. Puck would normally object, because he's suffering enough without the added help of bridal magazines, but Rachel looks so happy when she's talking about their wedding, and Puck thinks she needs a little happiness.
So now, when he's having drugs pumped into him and generally feels as though he wants to die, Rachel keeps them both busy by asking questions about flower arrangements, centerpieces, menus, and more shit that Puck doesn't even care about.
In just a month, she has everything picked out. All she needs is a date to set.
Rachel and his family know how depressed he is without even having to tell them. So they seem to take it upon themselves to make sure he visits sports games and eats out a restaurants and does other shit on his good days. They're trying to keep his life as normal as possible, even encouraging him to meet up with his friends and go into work for a couple of hours.
He appreciates it. And he does what he's told, even if he just wants to sleep half the time.
Having cancer isn't easy. Puck hates himself for feeling so helpless most of the time, and it sometimes puts a serious strain on his relationship with Rachel. He often feels like breaking down and just giving up, only because he's never felt so ill, so tired, so generally like crap in his entire life. He didn't even know it was possible to feel so low.
The thing is, if he ever told Rachel that sometimes he just wants to give up, she'd kill him herself. He thinks it's amazing how much she loves him, after all the crap he put her through in high school, and how much work he's giving her now. The girl is amazing. Genuinely fucking amazing, and she's the only thing keeping him going.
"When do you think we can set a date?"
"God, Rach, I dunno. Soon?"
"We have to give our guests a reasonable amount of notice."
"Uh, how many people have you actually invited?"
"Um... Almost a hundred."
"What? Shit, Rach! We don't even know that many people!"
"I have a large family, Noah. You know that."
"Rach, baby, I don't want like, eighty strangers there."
"I know, but, think of how offended my family would-"
"Alright, alright. Invite as many people as you want. It doesn't even matter."
"Really. Go nuts. Whatever makes you happy, babe."
Chemo fucking sucks. It leads to feeling ill and fights with Rachel and another hole in his bedroom door. He hates his life. It's just complete and utter shit. And it's fucking ironic that the treatment that's supposed to cure him is making him feel so lousy.
Rachel cancels the wedding, even though all of the invitations have been sent out already. He's amazed. Stunned. Shocked into complete silence.
"I've realized you don't need the stress of a huge party right now," She speaks with a huge smile and he can't really do anything but stare at her like she's insane. All Rachel has ever talked about is having a huge big wedding.
"I mean, you've just gone through so much lately and you need time to just relax and take it easy."
He glares at her. "I want to get married to you, not take it easy. All I fucking do is take it easy."
Rachel shushes him and laughs. "I know! Let me finish. I canceled the wedding, but we're still getting married."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
She laughs again and kisses him on the nose. "As soon as you get the results of your final scan, before anything else happens, we're going away for a week. Eloping. Somewhere sunny, beautiful and peaceful. Just us two."
It sounds fucking perfect. He adores her. Worships her. Needs her.
"I fucking love you. You're just... You're just amazing. God, Rach-"
She interrupts him by kissing him stupid.
After his very last round of chemotherapy, Puck heaves a massive sigh of both relief and defeat, as he collapses onto the couch.
Rachel passes him the TV remote and perches beside him, running a hand over his head and flashing him a huge smile. "You did it."
He grins back tiredly, his face pale but tinged slightly with green. There's a sheen of sweat coating his skin, and he has dark circles under his eyes. He knows he looks like shit. But he's just fucking happy that it's over for now. "Hell yeah I did. I'm a total badass, baby."
"I'm so proud of you," Rachel whispers happily, bouncing a little on the couch. "You are one of the strongest people I've ever known."
"Shut up. You sound like a crappy Lifetime movie."
The small doctor's office is full of people when he goes to find out the results of his scan. His mom and Sarah decided to fly up to be with him and Rachel, and even though he thinks it's unnecessary, he lets them come anyway. It's been a bad day so far. Nerves have gotten the worst of him and he's been snapping at everyone. Hell, he made Rachel cry over cereal. So it's safe to say they're all a little on edge.
He doesn't even want to think about what he'll do if he needs to go through it all over again.
The atmosphere in the little room is forced-cheery and he hates it, so he doesn't join in on the conversation. Instead he sits and scowls at the floor, holding Rachel's hand but saying nothing.
It's good news. He's in remission.
Everyone's crying. Not him, of course. But he did have something in his eye.
He's never been so fucking happy. And relieved.
He and Rachel are leaving for the Caribbean the next day. His mom doesn't know that they're eloping yet, and he doesn't think he'll tell her until they're safely out of the US, because she's gonna fucking kill him. He can beat cancer, but he doesn't think he'll be able to handle the full force of his mom.
After the tiny little ceremony, Puck and Rachel sit on a bench overlooking the sparkling blue ocean. They sit in silence, listening contently to the rush of the waves and the chirping of crickets. Puck's wearing a white cotton t-shirt with casual jeans, and Rachel's in a floaty white sundress, her hair curling down her back. With her eyes closed, a happy smile on her face and her fingers playing with Puck's hands absent-mindedly, he doesn't think she's ever looked more beautiful.
"Hey, Mrs Puckerman," He pokes her side playfully and she beams at him. "I couldn't have done this without you."
Rachel squeezes his hand gently and nestles herself into his side.
"I couldn't have done it at all." She admits, and breathes out a relaxed little sigh. "I'm so happy it's over."
"Me too, baby. I love you."
Rachel lets out a content little purring sound and he laughs, amused.
"Noah? We can still have a big wedding reception when we get home, right?"
He laughs again and kisses his wife. "Sure, babe. I definitely owe you one."
They fall back into a relaxed, easy silence and Puck finds himself lost in his thoughts. He's thinking about the future again, and not about treatments, and doctor's appointments, and scans, but parties, and babies, and even a little house in a suburb somewhere, where he can look after his family. Sure, he knows that even though he's in remission, there's a chance he may not have ended his war with cancer forever, but right now, he's feeling pretty proud of himself. Powerful. It's a good feeling. He's happy.