A/N: Based on a prompt for the LJ Drabble meme. Puckleberry as always!
I hope you enjoy and I'd love to know what you think!
Stories? Charlie's got a million of them. You don't watch the world from behind a bar for thirty years and not see a thing or two, not in New York City anyway. Now his dad, he was in the Merchant Marine. Spent WWII in the South Pacific and probably never spent more than six months at a time on shore leave for the rest of his life. Always said he needed the variety. Charlie on the other hand, hasn't left the five boroughs since his nephew graduated from Notre Dame three years ago. He figures he can get all the variety he wants right here. There's something new every day.
Take today for example. It's about two o'clock in afternoon, a real slow time for them, and this guy walks into the bar and Jesus, he's a mess. He's got blood on his face from a cut lip, one eye is darkening up pretty fast and Charlie's been around enough boxing rings to tell that something ain't quite right with his nose. He's all dressed up, got a suit and a loosely-knotted tie on, and there's blood spotted all over that too.
"You been mugged? Need someone to call the cops?" he asks cautiously. Like he said, he sees a lot of shit.
"No cops. I could use a fucking drink though."
In Charlie's experience, 'no cops' means either drugs or a fight over a girl and if there's one thing he hates, it's drugs, but the Rocky look-alike slouching on a bar-stool with his head in his hands doesn't look like some Upper East Side trust-fund brat doing lines in the bathroom.
He pushes a whiskey neat over the bar and throws in a couple of clean bar towels for good measure.
"Thanks," the guy mutters and throws it back, wincing when the booze hits the split lip.
Actually, now that some of the blood is cleared away and Charlie is looking at him close up, he recognizes him. Not exactly a regular, and in this business, that isn't always a bad thing, but he comes in a every couple of weeks. He's a good-looking kid when he's not covered in blood and Charlie usually sees him with whoever the flavor of the week is. Mostly blonds, sometimes a redhead, never the same one twice. Or he shows up with friends. There's the tall one that gets ID'd every time he walks in the place because he's got such a baby face and a Latina with a temper, just like Charlie's second wife. And a pretty little brunette whirlwind who comes in sometimes, usually late. Thinking about it, he seems to remember that the flavor of the week is usually making a indignant exit not long after that one shows up.
"Another one?" Charlie asks, gesturing towards the empty glass.
"Nah. Some ice maybe?"
He scoops some out into a plastic bag and hands it over, but even cleaned up a little, the kid still looks like hell. Not just the bruising, but he looks tired and kind of miserable.
"You sure I can't call someone for you? A friend?"
The kid barks out a laugh. "They'll be calling soon enough."
Sure enough not a minute later his phone rings and he looks at it like it's an unexploded bomb before taking a deep breath and answering.
Charlie can hear it clear as day, and even when he starts wiping down glasses at the other end of the bar, he can still hear the screaming and what sounds like a couple Spanish curse words. His money is on the Latina.
"Yes...What the fuck difference does it make where I am, is she okay?...No I'm not fucking kidding you!...What the fuck do you mean you lost her?...How the hell do you lose somebody wearing that much tulle? She could barely move in the damn thing...Look crazy, just put Hudson on...Well go find him! I know he can't be far since you're carrying his balls in your purse...Fuck you, too. I'll wait."
Charlie looks up to see the guy signaling to him, phone still pressed to one ear. "I guess I will take another one of those," he says with a sigh, gesturing towards his empty glass and then nodding when it's replaced. "Thanks, uh..."
"It's Charlie. I own the place. You?"
"Puck. Noah Puckerman." He shrugs uncomfortably. "I appreciate the...shit, you've got to be wondering..."
Charlie shrugs back, although he has to admit he is curious. But somebody is back on the line and Puck is talking again.
"Hudson! Where is she? Satan won't tell me...Fuck, you mean you really don't know?...I'm at Shays...Yeah, the bar. It was close and I needed someplace to go after that dickhead clocked me. Thanks for the back-up there by the way...What the hell do you mean, you're not sure I deserved back-up?...Fine, my timing was off, but if you knew it all along, why the hell didn't you clue me in?...Yeah, I know. I know. Just please call me, if she gets in touch."
He hangs up and scrubs a frustrated hand along his scalp. "Hey Charlie, you ever do anything stupid? Like mind-blowingly stupid? Something you know immediately is about the worst idea on the planet, but you just can't stop yourself?"
"Been married three times. What do you think?" Charlie laughs.
"Married. Oh fuck. She's going to kill me for screwing up her perfect wedding. If she ever speaks to me again, that is."
He gives Puck the once over and says a little coolly, "You walk out on your bride or something?"
Puck stares at him blankly. "No, I mean fuck I should've been...never mind. No, look, you know how the guy says 'speak now, or forever hold your peace'? I tried really, really hard to hold my peace, but I couldn't let her marry him."
Charlie lets out a low whistle. "Well shit. I thought that only happened in the movies. I take it the groom didn't care for the interruption?" he says gesturing towards Puck's face.
"Who, Bryce? No way. That's all the best man's work. Gotta admit, that was a little unexpected."
The door is opening and there she is, the pretty little brunette, no wedding dress, but her hair is all pinned with a few small flowers. (And Charlie is starting to think he should put in a call to his bookie, that's how fucking good he's calling shit today.) He asks casually, "So why did you do it?"
What can he say, he's a romantic.
Puck groans. "Because I've got shit for timing. Because I'm a fucking idiot. Because she was perfect, even walking down the aisle in that ugly-ass dress and I finally figured it out."
Whoops. Charlie winces because he probably shouldn't have insulted the dress. She's marching right over and he can almost see the steam coming out of her ears, so he decides to get busy restocking the mixers at the other end of the bar, but it doesn't make much of a difference because her voice is clear and more than a little piercing.
"Really Noah Puckerman? What exactly did you figure out? Because I'd like to know exactly what lunacy made you choose that moment, of all moments, to make your little speech."
"Rachel," he says stupidly, spinning on his stool and reaching for her, but she jerks away and he lets his hand drop back into his lap. "Rach, what are you doing here?"
Charlie thinks maybe her face softens a little bit looking at the state of him, but her toe is still tapping an angry beat. "Santana told me where you were, of course. Well? What possibly could have inspired you to disrupt my wedding like that? For that matter, to insult Bryce like that?"
"C'mon Rach! You've got to admit that his eyes are a weird color. And they're set too close together."
"Blue, Noah! Blue is not an odd eye color! And possibly you may have the tiniest point regarding his features, but to call him inbred? His entire family was sitting right there! And what was all that nonsense about the church?"
Puck is frowning now. "Hey, I should be asking what you're doing getting married in some stupid church. You want to get married in your dads' backyard with Rabbi Wiseman giving the blessing. You've had the music picked out since you were seventeen or seven or some shit like that."
For the first time, Charlie thinks he hears a hint of doubt in her voice. "Yes that's true, but Bryce's uncle is an Episcopalian Bishop and he drove in from Pittsburgh to perform the ceremony and I'm not quite sure how it happened, but it just seemed to make more sense given the timing."
"And what about the timing?" Puck accuses. "You've known this guy for what? Six months? So what gives?"
She looks at him steadily. "I certainly don't owe you an explanation. But why in the world wouldn't I marry him? He's a tall, handsome pediatric oncologist who volunteers regularly at a soup kitchen. He told me he loved me on our third date and proposed on one knee at the top of the Empire State Building on our three month anniversary. So Noah, think about this, because I am asking you to give me one real reason why it shouldn't be Bryce and don't tell me it's because his suit is knock-off Armani."
"Yeah, to be honest Kurt was sitting next to me and he fed me that one," he mumbles.
She glares at him as he frowns down at his glass.
"Shit, Rach. Be honest, you wanna marry him or you wanna have him bronzed? Bruce the douche isn't going to make you happy."
"Bryce," she corrects automatically.
Puck ignores the interruption. "And what's more you know it. I saw your face when you took off and there was relief written all over it."
Her mouth twists. "Saving me from myself, Puckerman? How gallant. I think we're done here." She spins on her heels and stalks towards the door.
The kid groans and Charlie sighs loudly over the olives. Sometimes he wonders about this generation. No wonder he doesn't have grand-kids yet. "Go after her!" he hisses.
It's enough to shock Puck into action and he races after her, catching her at the door and blocking it with his body.
"Fine! You want a real reason? What about me? I'll be your reason. Shit, I want to be your reason." He grabs at one hand loosely and she looks down and makes a motion to pull away, but honestly, it doesn't look like she's trying all that hard. "I saw you walking down the aisle buried in three thousand yards of fabric, and one minute I'm thinking that only you could make a fucking bow on your ass look cute, and the next minute I'm thinking that it should be me up there and the minute after that, my mouth is open and I'm spewing all sorts of crap. Hell, I would have said anything to get you to stop. And you were staring at me and Rach, your eyes...I thought maybe you were thinking the same thing I was. And then I'm..."
She's trying to hide a small smile. "...And then you were on the ground holding your nose. Did I mention that Bryce's best man teaches disadvantaged children how to kick-box in his spare time?"
"Jonathan, the preschool teacher? No you didn't mention that." Puck says sourly, but when she takes a step closer and places a tentative hand on his chest his face clears, and he pulls her in against him.
"Noah, I...you weren't wrong," she says so quietly that Charlie almost can't hear her, really can just tell what she's saying by the softness in his eyes and the gentle way he cups her cheek.
At that point, Charlie goes to the storeroom to grab a case of cocktail napkins he doesn't really need. He figures that they've got a lot of time to make up for, although given the way Puckerman is kissing her, he's off to a good start. In fact, they're still at it when he gets back, so he lets the box drop a little louder than he needs to because business is going to start picking up soon and he's not looking to offer a floor show.
It still takes them a couple minutes to untangle and Puck whispers something into her ear that makes her blush before turning towards the bar.
"Charlie, what do I owe you?"
He waves a hand at the two of them. "It's on the house." But if they want to name their first kid after him, he won't object.
The two of them are just about out the door when he hears one last exchange.
"Noah, I want you to know I'm still mad at you! You couldn't have had your epiphany six hours ago or six weeks ago, or even six years ago?" But at the same time, she's smiling up at him and her arm is wrapped securely around his waist.
"I know baby," he says into her hair, "Let's go back to your place and you can yell at me some more."
The door closes behind them and Charlie pours himself a shot, raising his glass to the empty air. Ain't love a kick? Especially in New York City.
A/N: Original prompt: "Well, you know how the guy says 'speak now, or forever hold your peace'? I tried really, really hard to hold my peace, but I couldn't let her marry him."