Author's Note: So I honestly have no idea where this even came from…it just did. I guess I just love grown up and complicated Puck and Rachel. The title comes from the Lifehouse song by the same name. Seriously, they need to do the soundtrack for the inevitable but epic Puckleberry movie someday!
Also, this fic is my entry into the Happy Holidays 2010 contest over at the puckrachel community on LJ.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy. And Happy New Year!
The wipers squeaked like they were losing a battle against the fat, heavy snowflakes that smacked into the windshield. Eying the heavy white snow zooming towards the vehicle, Rachel leaned forward to ask her driver, "Are we okay in this?"
The man nodded, bobbing his head in a way that said "yes but I don't want to talk to you" and then pushed the button to raise the divider between himself and his cargo. Rachel glared at the window as it closed and then shifted in her seat, her eyes settling on the angry snowstorm that raged outside her hired car.
Grabbing her iPhone, she sent Santana a text. [Are you still coming? Weather is terrible!]
After the message was gone, Rachel turned on the overhead light and grabbed the script for a potential project that she'd brought along for the ride from New York City to the cabin in the Catskill Mountains that Santana had rented for a "girls only" New Year's Eve getaway. She flipped open to the spot she'd marked and tried to read the riveting scene that took place between the two main characters. Out of the corner of her eye, though, the snow pelted against the window and Rachel's nerves got the best of her. Tossing the script back down, she stared at her phone and willed Santana to answer.
Back in New York City, Santana glanced at the message from Rachel and then around the room at her friends. Finn was leaning on the couch, his arm wrapped around the shoulders of his pregnant girlfriend, Brittany, and grinned when she sighed and leaned against him. "You okay, baby?"
Brittany stretched, flexing her bare feet, and then leaned her head back into the couch. "Just tired. Hoping this plan works because I can't handle the stress."
At the mention of "the plan", Finn turned his eyes back toward Santana. "So, what'd Rachel wanna know?"
Santana glanced at her BlackBerry and then back up at Finn. "She wants to know if we're still coming."
Finn nodded. "So I take it she hasn't made it to the cabin yet?"
Santana let out a laugh and shook her head. "The second she gets to that cabin and sees him there, both our phones are gonna blow up. So be prepared because they're both gonna be pissed as hell."
Brittany let out an exaggerated huff and flung her legs across Finn's lap as she rubbed her swollen belly in attempt to soothe the kicking child inside. Finn's gaze landed on her hands and he watched, transfixed, at the motions of her hands. Without lifting his eyes, Finn said, "Rachel said she got the divorce papers this week. I'm glad we had this planned because it's almost too late. As soon as they sign the papers, it's over." His face full of worry, Finn looked up at Santana. "Do you think it'll work?"
Santana finished typing out a reply to Rachel and then nodded toward Finn. "It has to. It's our last fucking chance to make them both see they're being stupid. D'you know that Puck told me he's gonna try to start dating again soon? Fuck, that shit can't happen! It'll devastate Rachel and personally, I'm tired of her crying over his stupid ass."
Finn looked horrified. "Are you serious? Man, that guy kills me. He doesn't even want the damn divorce! He's miserable sleeping on Sam's couch. Sam says he mopes around all damn day when he's not working." Finn shot a concerned glance at Santana. "This has to work."
Puck pulled back the curtains that covered the window of the cabin and glanced out again. The snow was swirling heavily now and he had to wonder if Finn and Sam were even going to make it in this weather. Dropping the curtain back into place, Puck stoked the fire inside the small, two-bedroom cabin and glanced around. He wasn't sure why he'd agreed to welcome in the New Year with Finn and Sam up in this godforsaken mountain cabin but then again, there was no reason to stay in New York City, was there? Puck's thoughts went to his soon-to-be ex-wife, who was probably primping and preening that very moment as she prepared to attend some star-studded, soul-sucking New Year's gala where she'd have her ass kissed like usual.
Kicking off his shoes and untucking his dress shirt, Puck unbuttoned it and let it hang open as he paced back and forth across the worn wooden floor of the cabin, his mind on New Year's Eve a year ago. He and Rachel had spent it in Switzerland, holed up in a chalet that was about a thousand times nicer than the one he was in now. A bitter smile took over his face as he thought about how much things had changed in the past year.
With a heavy sigh, Puck plopped down into the plush, maroon chair that was wedged into one corner of the cabin's small main room. He ran his fingers through his short hair, a dull headache already taking root in his brain and starting to throb.
He'd filed for divorce last week.
After five years of marriage and twelve years of being with her, it was time to let her go. He still remembered the way his hands shook as he signed the papers and then handed them back to his lawyer. Everything in his body screamed "no" as the attorney folded them up and nodded, promising that they'd be filed with the courts immediately.
All that was left now was for Rachel to sign the papers and then, it was over. Puck seemed to wilt at the thought, sinking into the chair as the vessel in his brain throbbed in pain.
The flash of headlights cut through the thin curtains and pulled Puck from the miserable memories. "'Bout fucking time," Puck muttered as he stood up.
Yanking open the door, he ignored the blowing snow and squinted out into the waning daylight. He heard the slamming of the door and then heard the crunch of snow as the car pulled away. And then he stood face-to-face not with his two closest friends but with his estranged wife. Snow swirled angrily around her and settled into the expensive fabric that made up her overnight bag. She stared back at him, her mouth gaping.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
Puck shook his head, his face twisted in frustration. "Oh, hell no. The fuck are you doing here?"
Rachel stormed past Puck and pushed her way inside the cabin, shaking the wet, heavy snow off her coat and bags as they clunked to the ground. Tugging her phone from her purse, she dialed Santana's number quickly and then scowled when it went to voicemail. A few feet away, Rachel heard Puck shout into his own phone as Finn's voicemail picked up. "Thanks a fucking lot, douchebag!"
Shoving her phone back down into her bag, Rachel dropped her hands to her hips and glowered at her husband. "I think we've been set up."
Puck pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. "Fuck, no. Get your shit and let's go. I have my SUV. No goddamn way I'm staying here in this fucking cabin with no television and no computer and a fucking snowstorm outside with you as my only form of entertainment!" His eyes darted around the room until they settled on his coat and bag. Before he could move to get them, though, Rachel stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"Noah, the weather is horrible out there. The limo practically got hung up climbing those last few hills. The driver said he was pulling over at that hotel down the road and staying for the night. It's almost impassible now and they're calling for a foot of snow before the night is over! Leaving now would be completely irresponsible and frankly, I'm not in the mood to die tonight."
Puck stared at Rachel for the longest time before beginning to pace back and forth across the room. The sound of his heavy footsteps mixed with his labored, angry breathing as he balled his fists and barked out, "Fucking assholes. Why the fuck would they do this, Rach? They know this shit," he motioned between the two of them, "is over."
Rachel watched Puck's tense body move rapidly from one side of the small space to the other. "Because they want us to work it out, Noah. I've tried to tell them that our marriage is over but they're convinced that we can fix it." Rachel stared down at the floor and watched the snow melt from the surface of her expensive loafer. "I think that they honestly believe we can work through it all."
Puck let out a bitter laugh. "Yeah, well, too fucking late for that." Stomping over to his bag, Puck snagged it and threw it over his shoulder. "I'll take the bedroom on the left. You can have the other one. See ya."
Rachel watched as he turned away and then entered the bedroom, closing the door quickly.
Grabbing her phone, she typed out an angry message to Santana. [I can't believe you would do this to me. You know our marriage is over! Thanks a lot.]
Seconds later, her phone beeped. [You're welcome.]
Glaring down at the words on her screen, Rachel turned off her phone and grabbed her own bags. With the determination instilled in her since birth, she let herself into the bedroom that would be hers for the night and began to get comfortable.
Finn dropped his phone onto the side table and shot Santana a nervous look. "So now what?"
Santana smiled as she stood up and walked toward Finn and Brittany. "Now we let the snowstorm and the fact that they still love each other but they're too stubborn and too stupid to admit it work their magic."
"You really think so?" Brittany was unsure, remembering the horrible fights she'd witnessed between her two friends in the past year.
Santana rolled her eyes. "Please. I know Puck. He's been in love with Rachel since we were 15. He's just pissed that they've grown apart but I promise you, he's not letting her go." Pushing her purse over her shoulder, Santana bent and kissed Brittany on the cheek, gently patting Brittany's swollen stomach. After hugging Finn, she said, "Happy New Year, guys. I'm gonna go spend some time with my girlfriend."
Finn waved at Santana and Brittany shouted, "Give Quinn our love!"
With a flick of her wrist, Santana disappeared out of the apartment and into the snowy Manhattan streets filled with New Year's revelers.
Rachel eyed the huge, overstuffed mattress longingly. She'd barely slept the past few days and honestly, the past few months of life had taken their toll. She was exhausted both mentally and physically. Dropping onto the plush mattress, Rachel closed her eyes and sighed. When she heard a thump next door, followed by Puck's loud swearing, she opened her eyes and scowled.
I hate you, Santana, she thought. I can't believe you did this to me!
When he had quieted down again, Rachel stood back up and began peeling her clothes off. She stood in her panties and bra as she rooted around in her bag until she quickly found a simple t-shirt and yoga pants, which she quickly slipped on as the chill of the room began to seep into her skin. After she was dressed, she stared at the door, frustration coursing through her.
What am I supposed to do? I'm not talking to him. He filed for divorce. I have nothing to say.
She head Puck moving around again and shot a frustrated glance through the wall. And then, because there was nothing else to do, she pushed back the covers and crawled into the bed. If she was stuck here in this snowstorm with her soon-to-be ex-husband, she'd sleep until it was time to go home.
Her brilliant plan only lasted a few hours because she woke up trembling. The room was nearly freezing, no heat from the fireplace having seeped under the doors to warm her quarters.
Irritated, she pushed the blankets off her body and climbed out of bed before tugging on the comforter and wrapping it around herself. The soft fabric dragged across the floor as she made her way quickly through the bedroom, tugging the door open, and stepped back out into the main room. Her movements stilled, though, when she spied Puck, now in a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt, sitting on the floor directly in front of the fire.
"Room got cold, huh?" he asked without turning around.
"Glacial, actually," Rachel corrected haughtily. She carefully stepped into the sitting area and dropped into the plush chair closest to the fire, tugging the blanket tighter against her body. She found herself staring at the back of Puck's head as he leaned forward to stab at the fire with the poker.
"Shit's still coming down out there," Puck offered after a few moments of total quiet other than the crackling of the fireplace.
"I assumed as much. I hope we can get out of here tomorrow. I have things that have to be done and they really can't be delayed."
Puck let out a snort and stood up. "Yeah, I know. Story of your goddamn life."
Rachel glowered at him from beneath the comforter. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Puck dropped his hands to his hips and gave her a stony glare. "You know exactly what it means, Rachel. I'm not fucking fighting with you over the same shit again. I'm done."
"Yes, I'm aware that you're done," Rachel said, her voice laced with bitterness. "I got the divorce papers."
"Just sign the fuckers and then we can be done, okay?" Puck threaded his fingers through his hair and then stepped away from the fire. "No sense in dragging the inevitable shit out anyway."
He disappeared into the bedroom and came back out with a comforter of his own. Taking the chair opposite from Rachel, he wrapped himself in the blanket and leaned his head against the back of the chair. Rachel watched his eyelids flutter closed and couldn't help but notice the way the light from the fireplace made his eyelashes seem even longer as they fanned across his cheekbones. Her mind went to another time and another place when she would have commented on it and he would have made fun of her for the things she noticed. Her eyes began to burn as memories of their intertwined pasts assaulted her but with a large gulp, she pushed them away. No sense in remembering the past or wondering what might have been. They were getting divorced. As he had so callously reminded her, all she needed to do was sign the papers.
Turning on her side so that she couldn't see him, Rachel closed her eyes and let the snapping of the wood inside the fireplace and not the deep, even sound of her husband's breathing lull her back to sleep.
When Puck opened his eyes, the first thing he noticed was the sound of the wind howling against the windows. As his bleary eyes focused, he turned and saw that the comforter Rachel had used to cover herself was now crumpled in the chair and she was gone. He heard the sound of clanking dishes in the tiny adjoining kitchen and a minute later, Rachel appeared, two steaming mugs in her hands.
She pushed one toward him with a small smile and he took it, nodding a silent thanks before taking a long sip of the Peppermint tea she'd brewed. He closed his eyes as he swallowed and the warmth flooded through his chilled body. After sipping nearly half his glass in silence, Puck pushed back his blanket, dropped his cup on the end table, and tugged on his coat.
He didn't miss the worried, concerned look on Rachel's face when she said, "Where're you going?"
"More wood," he answered. "We're out and it's fucking freezing. However much Finn or Santana paid for this shithole was too damn much because it's so freaking cold."
Rachel nodded, biting her lip as he disappeared out into the storm. Minutes later, he returned covered in snow and with his arms full of wood. He stepped up to the fireplace, let the wood fall to the ground with a loud thud, and then pushed off his coat before loading the fireplace with kindling. As the fire roared to life again, Rachel let a chill rush through her body and she shuddered. Puck watched her shoulders shake and then headed into the bedroom. When he came back out, he tossed one of his old sweatshirts and a pair of his thick wool socks at her and said, "You're always underdressed. Put 'em on."
Rachel wordlessly donned his clothing, the smell of him that she'd grown so familiar to but that she'd missed greatly since he moved out settling around her. She watched as Puck grabbed his tea mug again, dropped down into his chair, and pulled the blanket back over his body. Silently, they both watched the flames flicker.
"You missing any parties tonight?" Puck asked after a few moments.
Rachel nodded. "I got invited to several but Santana insisted that she, Brittany, Quinn and I needed to go on this 'girl's weekend'." Rachel let out a bitter laugh. "I should have been suspicious. Santana hates the country, she would find this cabin particularly revolting, and she'd never agree to miss New Year's Eve in Manhattan."
Puck's eyes took in the small cabin as Rachel spoke and then he said, "This cabin has Finn's stamp of approval all over it. I bet this is one of his stupid teacher friends' cabins or some shit. And I shoulda known we were being set up because Sam kept being evasive as shit when I tried to find out when he was leaving. I kept suggesting we drive up here together but he made a dozen excuses and I finally said fuck it, I'd just meet him here."
Rachel smiled. "Our friends aren't the brightest, are they?"
Puck took a sip of his tea and then smirked. "Pretty fucking smart if you ask me. They got our stupid asses up here in a fucking blizzard and we were too dumb to figure it out."
Rachel let silence fill the cabin again, her eyes on the dancing flames, and she finally said, "I guess there is worse company than each other."
She expected Puck to laugh and agree. But when he took the last swig of his tea and stood up, he said, "Really? 'Cause I honestly can't think of anything fucking worse." Then he walked away, disappearing into the next room. Rachel watched him go and once he was gone, she stood up, wrapped her blanket around herself, and retreated again into the freezing bedroom so that he couldn't see the tears on her cheeks.
In the kitchen, Puck leaned against the countertop and braced himself, squeezing the edge of the wooden surface tightly in the palms of his hands. He heard the bedroom door close and knew Rachel had retreated and that his words had been the cause.
Blowing out a breath, he turned and leaned against the fridge, his eyes staring unseeing into the exposed wooden beams of the ceiling. New Year's Eve with Rachel. Fuck.
He'd planned on starting the new year with a new woman in his bed. Since he'd filed for divorce the week before, he'd accepted the fact that there was no going back. Rachel had checked out of their marriage months before, anyway, and the paperwork just seemed like the last step in an already predestined conclusion. And he thought he'd be relieved after initiating the paperwork but since then, regret was his only constant companion.
He thought about the woman now locked inside the bedroom and about the girl she once was. So full of determination and life, she'd taken New York like she owned it when she first arrived. She'd graduated early from NYU and he'd been along for the entire ride, having started dating her during their senior year of high school but having loved her from afar from before he could even drive a car. He'd stood by her side as they'd married in Central Park and then again two months later when she won her first Tony. He watched her take a break from the theater to record her first album and was there for all the awards ceremonies as she'd kicked the ass of the competition. He'd been with her when she filmed a movie last year that went on to be a blockbuster and was now generating Oscar buzz. Somewhere along the way, though, he felt like she'd stopped noticing he was even around. His own career as a musician was a constant struggle. He refused to let the status of his successful, celebrity wife affect his own work so he'd stayed as low-key as possible. He'd found moderate success as a songwriter and a few of his songs had been on the radio but every single day felt like a fight. Meanwhile, Rachel Berry was becoming a household name and most of her fans knew anything about her husband, Noah Puckerman.
Puck let out a bitter sigh as his mind wandered through the past year of their marriage. The fighting. The fact that she was always too busy with this interview or that photo shoot to take time to do things together. He'd endured her blowing off some of his work-related events in order to attend his own. He knew she was a success; he shared a bank account with her. He definitely got it. And for the longest time, he wasn't bitter at all. Hell, he was proud of her. He loved her. That was his girl up there on the stage or on that movie screen. But then his mother suffered a stroke and Rachel hadn't been able to adjust her filming schedule to go to Lima with him. Six months later, his sister, Sarah, gave birth to a baby that ended up in the NICU and Rachel hadn't been able to take the time to go with him then, either. It was then, sitting in the NICU, holding his sister's hand while he watched his tiny nephew struggle to live, that Puck realized that Rachel and he were in two very different places. He'd mentioned wanting to start a family to her several times. It was usually a post-sex conversation, when the haze of their physical chemistry left them exhausted and happy, that they'd talk about the children that were inevitable. But when he'd bring it up any other time, she'd tell him "not yet" and "we need to wait just a little while longer." Watching his sister and brother-in-law's heartbreak as they worried about their tiny baby and realizing that he may never have a child with Rachel because she didn't seem interested was just further fuel to the fire.
Once his nephew had beaten the odds and was released from the hospital, Puck had gone home and that was when the fighting had really started. He knew he was picking fights. When she would get home and bring him sweet and sour chicken instead of pork, it would turn into a battle. And even while he was turning tiny fights into blow-ups, he couldn't help himself. He just kept pushing, pushing, pushing – hoping to see a sliver of the fire inside the girl he once loved in the woman she'd become. But he never did. And then two months ago, it all came to a head. He'd received the best news of his career and couldn't wait to share it with her. He'd call her on his way home and she'd assured him that she'd be leaving the studio soon and would meet him at home. He'd been so stoked that he'd ordered in food, set the table, and waited. By the time 11pm had rolled around, he'd given up and gone to bed. The next morning, when she made no mention of either the exciting news he had yet to share or why she'd been so late, he finally cracked and began to pack his bags. She'd cried and begged him to stay, telling him that they could work on it, but he was past the point of caring. When he asked her if she even knew why he was leaving and she couldn't pinpoint it, he'd shoved the last of his vital belongings in a duffel bag left. And after delaying for as long as he could, he finally filed for divorce. Now, at 29-years-old, they were both about to start over again.
Puck massaged his temples and then roughly jerked open the fridge, relieved when he found it stocked with beer. Yanking out a bottle, he popped the top and sighed in contentment as the ale rushed down his throat. Determined to forget about the woman in the next room, he grabbed a second beer and took both his bottles to the table closest to the fireplace. If she wasn't leaving, he could at least drink until he pushed her from his mind.
In her bedroom, Rachel dug out her phone, wiped the tears from her face, and dialed Santana.
"You fucking hate me, don't you?" Santana asked by way of greeting.
"At the moment, yes," Rachel admitted. Flopping back onto the bed, Rachel stared at the ceiling. "Why'd you do it, Santana?"
"It needed doing," Santana answered simply. "You guys wouldn't talk here at home so we figured if we sent you up on a mountain, you'd be stuck. We hadn't counted on this blizzard but I gotta admit, I'm pretty fucking pleased about it." Santana paused for a moment and then asked, "How's it going?"
"Awful," Rachel answered quickly. "Noah hates me. He wants nothing to do with me and you know it."
"Bullshit, Rach. He loves you. You love him. This divorce is the stupidest thing I've ever seen. You have to work this shit out. Brittany cried for twenty minutes today about how she couldn't ask you two to be the baby's godparents if you were divorced. She and Finn are gonna ask me and Quinn if you two actually split, Rach. Me and Quinn? Godparents? I fucking hate kids and the only one Quinn's ever had, she gave away!"
Rachel let out a laugh and nodded. "You two would make awful godparents, I will admit."
"Fuck right, we would. That job has the Puckerman name written all over it."
"Uh huh," Rachel said softly as she eyed the bag holding the manila folder with the divorce papers tucked inside, "except I'm not going to be a Puckerman anymore as soon as I sign those papers."
Santana's voice was full of frustration on the other end of the phone. "Don't sign the papers, Rachel, until you're sure it's over. Talk to him. You're stuck up there until tomorrow at the very least. Don't sign them until you know."
Rachel blew out a breath. "Don't I already know, Santana?"
Santana paused. "Do you still love him?"
"More than anything," Rachel answered honestly.
"Well, shit, babe…then you don't know anything at all yet, do you?"
Rachel hid out in the bedroom until her stomach began to growl loudly. After arranging the blanket neatly on the bed again, she pushed the sleeves up on Puck's sweatshirt and opened the door. Puck was sitting by the fireplace, an empty beer bottle by his side and one in his hand. He ignored Rachel as she walked past him and into the kitchen. Once she'd opened the door of the fridge, she was happy to see it had been stocked full of fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as vegan ranch dip. She removed some celery and green peppers from the fridge and then rooted around in a few drawers until she found a paring knife. Once the vegetables were washed, she silently went about chopping them up.
Puck's voice made her jump and drop the knife. As she bent to pick it up, she answered, "Very. You?"
Rachel went to the fridge and pulled open the freezer. "There's some frozen pizzas and other fatty, disgusting foods that I'm sure you'll love. Would you like me to fix something for you?"
Puck eyed the contents of the freezer and nodded. "Pizza's fine."
As Rachel unwrapped the box and pre-heated the oven, she could feel Puck's eyes on her. He stood in the doorway of the kitchen, his tall frame seemingly amplified by the tiny space they shared.
"You look thin," he finally observed.
"I've been busy and stressed out lately," Rachel countered icily.
"Still no excuse not to take care of yourself, baby."
They both flinched at the use of his favorite term of endearment but let it pass between them without saying a word.
"I'm fine, Noah. I'm taking a week off next month and I intend to get plenty of rest then."
"Fuck that, Rach. You never take care of yourself like you should. You'd barely sleep if I didn't make you."
"Right," Rachel spat back as she turned to face him. "And you haven't been home for two months so it's no wonder that I haven't been sleeping."
"Whatever," Puck answered. "Like you ever fucking noticed if I was home or not."
Anger sliced through Rachel at the implication that she hadn't noticed. "Are you kidding me, Noah? Every time I walk into that stupid house, I realize you aren't there. I never hear the clinking of the piano keys or the sound of your guitar anymore! There aren't dirty socks flung all over the bedroom and I haven't found a pair of boxer shorts lying on the coffee table in months. Your mail doesn't even come there, your closet is empty, and—" Rachel's voice caught as tears suddenly filled her throat. Still, she pushed forward and met his eyes with an angry gaze of her own. "—and the bed sheets don't even smell like you anymore."
Puck watched the emotion play over his wife's face and his chest tightened. It was the most she'd done to admit that she missed him since he'd left. But he wouldn't allow himself to even hope that it meant anything. Instead, he brushed off her observations. "Well, that's what happens when a marriage has gone to hell. One of us had to put an end to the farce, Rachel. You were content to be miserable but I wasn't. I'm sorry if you miss me now but if you'd given a damn when I was there, maybe our fucking marriage wouldn't have been flushed down the goddamn toilet." Rachel opened her mouth to argue but Puck stopped her. "I'll be in my room. Lemme know when the pizza's done."
Without another word, he spun on his heel and left her standing in the kitchen. She took a deep breath to steel herself against the pain of fighting with him again, and then calmly returned to chopping her vegetables. She ignored the fact that her hands were shaking the whole time.
After Rachel had indignantly kicked Puck's door and barked "pizza!", she disappeared into her bedroom and ate her veggies and dip in silence. Then she curled up in the bed and fell into a dreamless sleep. When she woke up again, she grabbed her phone. 1am on New Year's Day.
Staring at the phone, she looked at the date of the new year that flashed in front of her. She never imagined that the year would start off like this. She should be focusing on the fact that her movie was generating huge Oscar talk. She should be concentrating on the finalization of her sophomore album that was scheduled to drop in April. There were a dozen things that needed her attention at that moment. But as she sat there, the howling of the wind unnerving her, all she could think about was the angry hazel eyes of the man who had crept in and taken her heart for his when she was just a teenager with tiny skirts and massive dreams. And he'd never let her heart go, even now when all he wanted was to be free of her.
A tear slid down her cheek and she wiped it away and then gave up when another and then yet another joined it. She let herself cry for a few moments because honestly, it felt good. She'd cried on Santana's shoulders a few times since Puck left but hadn't let herself cry much since she received the divorce papers. She'd told herself that if he didn't want her, fine, she didn't want him either. But that hadn't been true. If they could only talk without fighting, she felt like things could at least be amicable. If he was determined to divorce her and make her part of his past, she hoped they could at least do it in a way that would allow them to keep their friends. Losing Noah was painful enough. She didn't know what she'd do if she lost Finn, Brittany, Sam, Quinn, and Santana in the process.
A soft rap on her door jolted her from her thoughts. Puck didn't wait for an answer and pushed the door open instead. "C'mon out by the fire. I know you're freezing."
Rachel nodded but asked, "Can we be in the same room together without screaming?"
Puck shrugged. "Probably not. I'll just keep my mouth shut."
He spun and walked away as Rachel climbed out of bed and followed him in to the living room. The fire was blazing again and the snow on the floor by the door indicated that Puck had gone back out into the storm to get more wood.
"How is it out there?"
Puck dropped down onto the couch that sat in the center of the room and propped his sock-clad feet up on the coffee table before pulling a blanket over his body. "I found a radio in my bedroom. The snow has moved out but the wind is staying put for a while."
Rachel sat down in a chair and nodded. "At least it won't snow anymore."
Puck smirked. "Thank fuck. Better our chances of getting the hell out of here in the morning."
Rachel watched the flames dance, her eyes falling on the shadows that the fire created against the wood grain of the floor. A droplet of water inside the wood popped and Rachel jumped, the noise deafeningly loud in the quiet cabin. Once the flames settled down again and gently licked against the log piled on top, Rachel finally spoke. "Brittany wants us to be the godparents of their baby."
Puck smiled. "We'd be good."
"But only if we stay married. Otherwise, it's Quinn and Santana's job."
Puck's smile turned to a scowl. "Santana eats kids. And Quinn's a little…uhh… cold, don't ya think? The fuck are Finn and Britt thinking?"
Rachel shook her head. "We're apparently a bad influence if we're divorced."
Puck chuckled. "As opposed to her and Finn, who aren't even married and are having a kid?"
"Brittany logic, Noah," Rachel reminded him matter-of-factly.
Puck rolled his eyes and sipped his beer. The wind kicked up at that moment and a haunting howl slid down the chimney, nearly extinguishing the fire. The flames danced and flickered, nearly going out, before the wind settled and they took hold again, roaring to life. Rachel watched the entire thing, transfixed, as is the fireplace had taken on a life of its own.
"Sucks up here," Puck commented after a moment.
Rachel glanced away from the fire and took in the frustrated look and furrowed brows of her husband. "What? The cabin? It's… it's not bad. It's tiny and cold and lacking in even the most basic of insulation and probably is meant for summer use and not winter but… It reminds me of…" Rachel's voice trailed off as she thought about a place and a time not too far in the past.
"That shitty cabin we rented in the Sierras for our honeymoon?" Puck asked, his lips curving into a slight smile.
Rachel nodded and laughed softly. "Why'd we go there on a honeymoon anyway, Noah? I can't even really remember anymore."
Puck's tiny smile turned into a full-scale grin. "Because, at the time, you were obsessed with saving the black bears. What was it, a Discovery Channel documentary that sent you on the warpath?" Puck laughed at the memory. And you were convinced that 'communing' with them, as you put it when you argued for a Sierras trip over a cruise to the Bahamas, was the way to go."
Rachel smiled. "And then we never even left the cabin the entire trip and I never saw a single bear. Not even a cub!"
"Nope," Puck shook his head. "But we had a good time."
Blushing at the memories, Rachel bit her lip and looked up at him with an eyebrow arched. "We had an amazing time."
An uncomfortable silence filled the small cabin as they both thought about the very heated, passionate honeymoon they'd shared in a rickety cabin surrounded by grand redwoods and fresh air.
Puck shifted uncomfortably, pushing out of his chair. He quickly headed into the kitchen and jerked a beer from the fridge, forcing the recollection of Rachel clinging to him, her eyes pleading for release, from his mind. They'd always been passionate. From the moment he'd taken her virginity when she was 17 and tired of being heartbroken over and over again by Finn, she'd been a blaze of passion. Her body was lithe and tight and every single time they came together, it was incredible. But that honeymoon… Puck shuddered at the thought. It has been extraordinary and had cemented in his mind that they were perfect for one another in both body and soul. That realization now, though, felt like a hot poker branding him in the gut.
Popping the top off his beer, he took a swig and shook his head. Perfect. Yeah. Sure.
When he walked back into the living room, Rachel was uncovered and was standing by the window, watching the wind whip up the snow outside. Hearing Puck step up behind her, she said, "It's the new year, Noah. It rolled in while we were sleeping."
"Nah," Puck corrected. "I was wake. Watched the year flip on my phone. Doesn't really matter though, does it?"
Rachel turned toward him. "Why not? Every new year brings chances at fixing the wrongs…making what's bad good again…"
Puck let out a huff and turned away from her, stalking back to his seat by the fire. "Yeah," he said once he pulled the blankets over himself. "The only thing I want to fix can't be fixed so no, this new year isn't about anything but starting the fuck over for me."
Rachel's eyes filled with tears as she watched the clenching of his jaw. He didn't look at her, his eyes settling on the shadows the fire cast onto the floor. She could see the tiredness in the way his shoulders drooped and the way he scrubbed his hand over his face before he took a sip from his beer. "D—" she paused when he turned his head to look at her but then she started again. "Do you want to fix us, Noah?"
He looked away from her again and stared blankly ahead of him. She could that his eyes didn't focus on anything in particular but that he just didn't want to look at her. "I never wanted to end things, Rachel."
He let the words hang between them and didn't glance her way. He heard her suck in air and then felt the floor vibrate slightly as she stomped over to him and stood directly in his line of vision, her hands on her hips. In her eyes was a fire rivaling that burning in the fireplace.
"You filed for divorce, Noah! You're the one that left, not me! I knew you were frustrated but we were so busy fighting and I could never really tell what was wrong! And then you just left. So don't tell me that you want to fix things because if you loved me, you never would have left."
Anger whipped through Puck like a hot flame and he pushed out of his chair, his gaze locked on Rachel as he stared her down. "Don't give me that bullshit, Rachel. Do not stand there and play the goddamn victim. You knew you were throwing away our marriage every single fucking time you blew me off for an interview or some fucking appearance where people would fawn all over you and kiss your ass. Don't pretend that you don't know what the fuck I'm talking about." Puck stormed away from her, into the darkest corner of the cabin and then stilled, his chest heaving with unshed frustration.
"Those things are part of my career, Noah!" Rachel roared, making her way across the chilly cabin toward him. "You know I have to do those things. It's required when you're in the public eye! And furthermore, you know that I've been working toward this kind of recognition since I was very young! This shouldn't be a surprise to you!"
Puck let out a sad laugh. "It's not a surprise, Rachel. I've always known that your career was gonna be the most important thing to you. You've been talking about being a star since you could fucking walk. I just should've figured out that in the end, the only person you'd love enough to give a shit about was yourself." Rachel let out a shocked gasp and Puck shook his head. "My mom almost died, Rachel. She almost fucking died and you couldn't even find the time to get to the hospital. And then when Aiden was in the hospital and Sarah, who has always worshipped the fucking ground you walk on, wanting nothing more than her sister-in-law to come and hold her hand, you couldn't get away from whatever the fuck you were doing to be there. Do you know what that's like?" He lifted his eyes and met hers in the near-darkness of the room. "To lie and try to think up some excuse for why my wife can't even find her way to shitty Ohio? You chose fame time and time again and that's fine, Rachel. You've worked hard for it and you deserve it. But at least none of us have to wonder where we stand with you. And at least I don't have to pretend that you give a fuck about me anymore because you don't."
Rachel sucked a breath and nearly faltered. She was torn between anger and heartbreak and she needed to get it all out. "Noah! That's not true! I've always loved you. Since I was a teenager, you've been the one steady part of my world. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for you." She stepped away from him, over to a spot in the cabin where the air was less thick, less crackling with tension. "But it just felt like, for the longest time, you were pulling away! You didn't want to go to any of my events or appearances. It's like you were ashamed of me." A tear trickled down Rachel's cheek and she ignored it because she felt like a floodgate was opening.
Puck stalked toward her, standing closer than they'd stood in months, and stared down at her. His face was completely honest and softer than she'd seen in a long time. "I'd never be ashamed of you, Rachel. Never. I'm so fucking proud of what you've become. Fuck, I'm not even surprised. I knew you'd be a star. When everyone else back in Lima doubted it and just thought you loved the sound of your own voice – which you do, by the way - I fucking knew that you'd show us all. And you did. You have."
Rachel locked eyes with him and read both the pain and loss she saw in them. "Then why, Noah? Why'd you stop showing up with me? I missed having you on my arm."
Puck tore his gaze from hers and shook his head. "I dunno… Frustration. Jealousy."
Pacing away from her again, Puck went to stand in front of the fire. He hated being so vulnerable but at this point, what the fuck did it matter? "You're famous, Rachel. And I'm just this struggling musician. I mean, the movie is gonna change things, I hope, but until then, nobody knows who the fuck I am and those that do just think I'm using you and your money so I can play around with the guitar. I guess I just got frustrated and felt like I was a leech or some shit."
Rachel stared at him, processing his words, with her mouth agape. "Movie? What movie? What in the world are you talking about, Noah?"
Puck's face fell and he gave Rachel a hard, unforgiving look. "Remember the night before I left? I told you I had big news and you said you were coming home and you didn't get there until really fucking late and didn't even ask me what my news was?"
The evening ran through Rachel's mind. She'd been at the studio until late re-laying tracks after damaged equipment had affected the quality of her previous recordings. She'd known Puck was excited about something when he'd called but she'd gotten so distracted that she'd honestly forgotten. She took a heavy gulp and nodded at Puck. "I—I remember. That was a bad night."
"Yeah, well… I found out that day that some stuff I submitted for consideration for a movie soundtrack was picked and…" Puck looked up at Rachel, pride on his face. "And they hired me to do the score for this moderate studio release that comes out later this year."
Rachel clasped her hands over her mouth, her eyes widening in shock. Before she could even think about what she was doing, she propelled herself towards him and didn't stop until she had her arms tangled around his neck. "Noah! That's amazing! Oh my God! You're scoring a movie!" Pulling away, she gripped his shoulders and met his eyes. "What movie? Who's in it? Anybody I know? Oh my God, Noah! This is so incredible. I'm so proud of you."
Puck slowly slipped from her grasp and stepped away from her again, the smile gone from his face and his body tense at her apparent touch. "It's…It's just a small film, really. No big named actors or directors but it's a good story and it's about a guitar player that hits rock bottom and then finds his way to stardom. It…it kinda hit home with me in a lot of ways when I read some of the script to get a feel for the music."
Rachel stepped behind him and placed her hand on his shoulder again. He tensed at her touch but didn't pull away. In fact, she felt him relax into her slightly as her hand curled around him, the warmth of his skin settling into her hand. She missed the feeling of his body, the flexing of his muscles. "I'm so proud of you, Noah. I'm sorry that I missed out on the news by being so focused on what was going on with me. You didn't deserve that. And I'm sorry that you ever felt frustrated and jealous. I never meant to make you feel that way."
"Whatever. Shit's over and done with now and we can't take it back."
Puck walked away again and Rachel closed her eyes, her hands dropping into balled fists at her sides. Every single time she thought they were making headway, he'd close up all over again. She watched from the other side of the room as he roughly jerked the blanket he'd used earlier out of the chair and then dropped into it, covering himself up again. When he looked pointedly at Rachel and then closed his eyes, she knew their conversation was officially over.
Frustrated, she stomped into the bedroom and closed the door. The room was freezing but if she stayed by him in front of the fire, she'd want to talk some more. And he was obviously done listening.
When Rachel woke up, she noticed two things: one, the wind seemed to have died down because the windows were no longer howling and two, it was very apparent to her that she wasn't alone in the room. Turning her head, she saw Puck sitting on the other side of the bed, his eyes closed while his head was propped up against the headboard.
"You're awake," he said without opening his eyes.
"I am. What time is it?" Rachel rolled to her back and stretched, kicking the covers off but tugging them back over her body when the chill of the room hit her.
"Nearly 5am. Wind finally stopped about an hour ago."
Rachel turned toward him, tucking her hand between her cheek and the pillow. "Have you slept at all?"
"Not really. Can't."
Puck glanced down at her before slipping deeper beneath the blankets himself. "Too much shit on my mind."
They both went quiet and Rachel listened to the creaking of the mattress as Puck shifted to get comfortable. "I'm sorry that we've reached this point, Noah," she offered. Her heart beat in her chest as soon as she said the words because he could either be sweet or horrible in response and she wasn't sure she could handle what he had to say. But instead, he just nodded and said, "Yeah, me, too."
Rachel felt Puck shift again and then his leg brushed against hers. She jumped slightly but didn't shy away and left their lower legs touching.
"Rach…can I ask you a question?"
Puck flipped on his side to face her in the dark. "Why'd you let me ramble on about the whole 'family' thing but when shit got serious and I really wanted to start a family, you'd make excuses and blow me off?"
The same dull ache that formed whenever Puck mentioned children began to burn deep inside her again. Rachel shifted against the uncomfortable feeling as she grappled for the words. "I… I didn't have a mother, Noah. My grandmothers weren't involved in my life much, either. Honestly, the idea of being a mother terrifies me."
Rachel heard Puck blew out a breath and then he said, "That's why? Because you thought you wouldn't be good at it?"
Nodding in the dark, Rachel put her hand on his cheek so that his gaze stayed on her. "I didn't want to disappoint you, Noah. Your mom did an amazing job, considering you put her through hell when you were a kid. I just… I can't live up to that. And what if we had a baby and then I ruined it because I didn't know when I was supposed to change it or feed it or what if it didn't like me? I've never made friends easily, you know. What if my own child hated me?"
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."
"Noah! It may be stupid and admittedly, it does sound a bit irrational when I voice my concerns out loud but they're still my concerns, just the same, stupid or not."
Puck's face softened as he took in the worried look on Rachel's face. "You'd be an awesome mom, Rachel. You're smart and if you didn't know how to do something, you'd have 50 different sources on speed dial who did know how to do what you weren't sure about. Besides… I don't think you have to have a mom to know how to be one. It just… it just comes." Puck looked away and rolled back over onto his back, flinging an arm behind his head as he stared at the ceiling. "And shit, Rach. Why couldn't you have just told me this stuff?"
"I don't know, Noah. I've just felt for a very long time like we weren't hearing each other anymore. It's like we both had chips on our shoulders and just didn't see eye to eye. It's sad really because we've always been so good together. It's just like we were..." Rachel's voice faded as she tried to think of how to word what she was feeling.
"Like we were on two different pages," Puck offered.
"Or even in two different books," Rachel added.
"Yeah," Puck said.
"Do you... do you think we could maybe start reading from the same book again?" Rachel bit her lip, her eyes on him.
Puck pinched the bridge of his nose and then bobbed his head against the pillows. When he spoke, his voice was gruff. "Yeah, I do."
Rachel's heart swelled at both the single word he'd uttered and the sound of his voice, thick with emotion. And then he did the most curious and wonderful thing he'd done in months. He reached his arm across the bed and slid it beneath her neck until she curled into him, her hand settling over his belly. His other hand fell across hers, his palm closing over the back of hers and gently squeezing. He heard her open her mouth and before she could speak, he said, "Sleep, Rach."
Nodding against his shoulder, she closed her eyes again. Deep inside, she felt things were going to be okay.
When Puck woke up again, sunlight was coming through the threadbare linen curtains. He turned his head, watched Rachel's chest move in and out as she slept, still pressed to his side, and smiled. Nothing had changed, really… except that they were finally talking. And once they'd started, the shit really didn't seem all that bad. Sure, they'd let some bad shit go down but it wasn't like they'd cheated on each other or anything. She was sorry and damn it all, he was, too. It just took that freezing bedroom in the middle of the fucking Catskills Mountains to force him to accept the fact that he was with the only person he wanted to be with. And divorce or no divorce, that shit wasn't ever gonna change. Rachel was part of his past and now, when everything seemed to make a bit more sense, he knew she'd be part of his future, too. Closing his eyes, he gave in to exhaustion again.
Puck heard his name and slowly lifted his heavy lids and nearly jumped because Rachel was staring down at him, practically nose-to-nose.
"Yeah?" he rasped.
"It's after 11."
"Do you want to head back to the city now? I'm sure they've been working on the roads and you have four-wheel drive anyway, right?"
"Yup," Puck said, his eyes drifting closed again.
"We should get moving," Rachel prodded.
Puck just shook his head and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, tucking her body back against his. Her lips pinched into a small grin, she snuggled back beneath the blankets, sinking into his embrace again.
At 1pm, Puck's cell phone rang and both he and Rachel jumped. Searching the room, he found the phone where it had slid from his pocket. By the time he found it, though, the ringing at stopped.
"Just Finn," he said as he glanced at the screen.
"You're going to call him back, right?" Rachel asked.
Puck shrugged. "Why? He just wants to know what's happening and honestly…" Puck brushed his fingers through his hair. "Honestly, do we even know what's going on yet? Besides, after the shit they pulled, I think they need to worry that we froze to death up here."
Rachel watched him for a moment and then stood up, walking around him in the small room towards her bag. Puck's eyes followed her as she jerked it open and extracted a folder that he immediately recognized. "I don't know about you, but I think these things," she shook the folder for emphasis, "were hasty and irrational."
Puck's jaw flexed and Rachel waited, her breath catching in her throat. "You calling me irrational, Rach?"
Rachel licked her lips to hide her smile. "You're a Puckerman, aren't you?"
"You are, too," he said dryly.
Rachel tapped her foot and grinned at him. "That's right, and I intend to keep it that way. I hope you'll agree."
Instead of answering her, he pulled open the bedroom door and walked straight toward the fireplace, where he threw on a few more logs and then poked at them until the fire roared to life again.
"Noah?" Rachel questioned, hoping he was still going to respond to her statement.
Puck crouched down and pulled open he own bag, yanking folder that matched Rachel's from inside. "I'm not saying that things are totally fixed and everything is all better. No way am I ready to say that. But I'm not ready to sign these fucking things, either." Puck held his divorce papers up for Rachel to see and they stared at one another, silent understanding passing between them, before Rachel marched over and tugged the folder from his hand.
"I'll do you one better, Puckerman," she said as she stepped away from him with both sets in her hand. "I don't think we need them at all." With a pronounced flick of her wrist, she tossed the papers into the fire and watched as they immediately caught and began to burn. When she turned back around, Puck was smiling.
"That shit cost me a lot of money."
Rachel flounced back over to him, planting her hands on her hips. "So I guess you'll just have to make more, huh, Mr. Movie Soundtrack Composer?"
Their gazes locked and she watched Puck's pupils dilate as his hands reached out and tugged her to him. When his nose was buried in her hair and her fingers were locked behind his back, he said softly, "I fucking missed you. It's been hell without you."
Rachel nodded into his shoulder, her eyes drifting close as she inhaled his scent. "Can we go home? Together?"
Puck looked around the cabin for a minute and then his face twisted into a smirk. "I got a better idea. Let's stay for another day. The roads'll be better by tomorrow anyway and personally," Puck snagged Rachel around the waist as he eyed the bedroom, "I think we have some making up to do. Oh, and more talking and shit, of course. But definitely some making up."
Soft laughter filled the cabin as Rachel let herself be pulled back towards the bedroom. Once Puck had propped the door open so that heat from the fireplace would make its way toward them, he turned toward Rachel, who gently took his face in her hands. "I love you," she said.
Puck's eyes grew dark and then he nodded. "I know. I think I just forgot for a while." Pulling her against him, he kissed her softly, almost chastely, before adding, "I love you, too. And I'm sorry."
Relief flooded Rachel's body as she tangled her arms around his neck and latched her lips to his in a much more heated kiss. As their hands found purchase by digging into one another's skin to hold on tight, their lips mashed, parted, and mashed again, tongues intertwining and breath becoming more labored, Rachel felt the tension and stress of everything leaving her body. We're going to be fine.
Once they finally pulled away for air, Rachel said, "Remind me to thank our friends."
Puck let out a deep laugh and shook his head. "Hell, no. This place is a dump. We'd thank 'em if they sent us to Tahiti or Hawaii or something but I'm not thanking them for this shitty place!"
"But Noah!" Rachel argued, gently pushing at his chest with her hand. "If it weren't for them, we wouldn't be here now. Face it, Santana and Finn are pure genius!"
As Puck pulled Rachel down into the mattress, he rolled his eyes. "Baby, Finn Hudson ain't no genius."