This will be 3-4 chapters long. It's halfway done and if my muse cooperates I think I'll be able to update weekly.
I'd like to thank my beta and friend Lori. You are awesome and great and many more wonderful things and this would totally suck without your help
I don't own Glee.
If there is one thing Rachel Berry had grown used to, it was to expect certain things to happen in her life. First of all, she has very supportive parents. Very supportive parents. Her dad, Hiram, is like this unquenchable force, unstoppable when it came to making her dreams come true no matter what. He walked with her every step of the way and wanted it just as badly as she did. He's the one who auditioned every potential vocal and theatre coach and dance teacher for her(not the other way around), sifting through their backgrounds with a PI and going through every aspect of their lives with a fine-toothed comb when Rachel told him she wanted to be on Broadway, so sure of her dreams at the tender age of four. He is the enabler. Her daddy, Leroy, on the other hand, is the one who keeps her sane and real. His faith in her is just as strong as her dad's, maybe even more so because he's blind to almost all the shenanigans that show biz is about, the kind of competition she's up against, the unbelievable pressure, the fact that being good - no, being great - just doesn't cut it. She knows she has to be spectacular and he believes she is because she's his little girl and there's just no way someone can be better than her.
Back home in Lima, Ohio, her fantastic potential is sorely wasted. She does fine at school and her afternoons are packed with vocal, theatre and dancing classes, but the school she attends lacks an arts program that would mold her, prepare her as a triple threat and, eventually, propel her to (inevitable) stardom. Rachel knows there are schools that focus on the performing arts, and she wants it so, so badly that she spends months researching and making lists about their admission requirements, looking for alternative jobs for her parents should they feel the need to go to one of the fantastic cities where these schools were located.
She likes that she's Lima's star though; her neighbors, the people at temple, her teachers – they're always telling her that she's meant to be someone special. That she's going places. Kids her age…well, they don't see it the same way. They're intimidated. They're scared of so much ambition and talent in someone so young (and so small) so Rachel is, more often than not, alone. They don't hate her per se; they're not mean to her like she's seen some of the popular kids be mean to the so-called "freaks". In fact, they're generally nice. Some of them are even protective of her, like this one boy she sees at temple, Noah, who once came at her rescue when this other kid from her class, the biggest, meanest bully, pushed her to take her place in the line at the cafeteria. Noah is one year older than her and, with one fierce glare from his admittedly gorgeous eyes, he effortlessly makes the bully step back, apologize to her and head to the end of the line before he disappears in the throng of students. Rachel doesn't get a chance to thank him, so she plans to bake a batch of cookies for him (her daddy convinced her that investing in nurturing skills other that the ones that will inevitably catapult her to the brightly lit stages of Broadway will one day pay off) and offer them as a thank you the next time she sees him at Temple. But then his family stops going for a while, and when they come back, his dad is gone, his mother is sad and gaining weight at a fast rate, and Noah is…different.
Her situation hits rock-bottom when she stars her school's production of Hair, which is all sorts of weird given they're eleven year olds and the play revolves around topics such as free love, sex, rock and roll, and drugs. They only get to perform on opening night; afterward, Sandy Ryerson, their drama teacher, is practically run out of town by the enraged parents en masse and banned from the Ohio school system. The local news station interviews the young cast and Rachel is simply mortified that her first TV appearance will be forever connected to such a torrid event. She just can't stay in Ohio. She would just die there.
Two weeks into junior high, she receives the best news she's ever gotten as of yet. The New York's Professional Children's School finally has an opening, and they want her to join them. She leaves with her dad in a matter of days while her daddy stays behind to wrap up their business in Lima and rent out the house before following them to the Big Apple. Rachel's excited and even more manic than usual. This is what she wants. This school, New York, it's where she's meant to be, what's meant to happen. Everything will be perfect.
Except there's this tiny, microscopic part of her that kind of wishes she didn't have to leave so soon. That part, that irrational part of her that Rachel just won't let get its say, is crushing on Noah.
Only three days after she's officially started seventh grade, she's walking to her Chemistry class, thinking about fitting the week's homework within her afternoon schedule, when she turns a corner without looking ahead and bumps right into a warm body. Now, let's be honest – Rachel's tiny, so of course she falls back on her behind when she crashes into someone who's at least two heads taller than her. What does catch her off guard is the cold, sticky liquid that hits her on the side of the face on collision and drips down her neck and her chest, completely ruining her shirt.
"Crap," the boy curses and kneels beside her. "You okay? Sorry, I wasn't looking-"
"That's alright, I was quite distracted myself." She looks up and meets Noah Puckerman's eyes and her breath catches in her chest. Rachel doesn't even know how she was even able to speak a whole, complete sentence without stuttering.
"Here, lemme help you out." He stands up, securing her tiny hand between his, he pulls her up like she's as light a feather. Avoiding her gaze, he bends over and picks up her books.
She wonders if he recognizes her, although the chances are pretty slim. They've never really spoken, she never got to thank him after he stood up for her a couple of years back in elementary school, and their families don't really run the same circles at Temple. Rachel always notices him, though. It was like she had this… ability that told her when he was around. Like a radar. A Noah-radar.
This is the first time she wonders if he's ever noticed her too.
"Stop looking at me like that," he mumbles under his breath, and she thinks she sees his honey skin turn slightly pink in the cheeks.
"Like what?" She doesn't know where this boldness is coming from. This boy talking to her makes her so nervous, she's shocked she hasn't turned around and sought for a hiding place.
"Like a deer in the headlights." His hand moves towards her face, and Rachel sucks in a breath as he brushes a glop of slushie off her brow. "C'mon. Let's get you cleaned up."
Noah tugs her hand and strides down the hall to the locker rooms.
Rachel thinks it's physiologically impossible to feel the skin his fingers touched on her brow scorch, when she's shivering cold. Also his hand – his hand feels really good wrapped around hers like that.
She still leaves Lima. Once in New York, she gets to really nurture her talent. The school's education in the performing arts is everything she's dreamt of and she grows professionally as a performer in the years to come. She's even going to auditions on Broadway and gets to understudy the role of Young Cosette on Les Mis. When it's time to actually worry about getting into a good college (she's been planning her education on Excel since kindergarten), Rachel fully expects to be wooed by the very best performing schools of the country. And of course, Rachel Berry is always right.
Julliard wants her, as do the North Carolina School for the Arts, the Pratt Institute and the Eastman School. She should have been embarrassed with how she was being propositioned by the schools (really, there was no other word for it), who seduced her with tempting offers, amazing promises and flattering words. But she knows she's good, all her teachers know she's good, and it's just fitting that the rest of the world knows it, too. In the end she chooses Julliard, because New York, and New York has always been her dream and the center of the universe. Of her universe, at the very least.
College is a whirlwind, and before she knows it, she's graduated with an offer to join the Les Mis cast in London, to play the adult Cosette.
Her dads fly to see her on opening night, even though Daddy absolutely abhors planes. She's a professional, even if this is her first production outside the comfort zone school and childhood provided, but she admits to be nervous all the same. She was in another country, helping bring to life possibly the longest running show in musical theatre history, and – honestly – she doesn't want to suck. Her dads offer comfort, as they always had, and she feels better to have them in the audience on opening night. But in the stillness of the night, as she lays awake in her apartment (or flat, as geography would have it), Rachel wishes her entire life, every single aspect of it, didn't revolve around being a star. She has neglected her social life in favor of honing her talent even further. She's hung out with people from school, people who share the same dreams and ambitions, but she can't really call them her friends. The business is competitive and no one trust their colleagues. She just feels uneasy in social situations that are beyond her comfort zone. Or maybe she's just the kind of person who doesn't make friends. She thought she didn't have friends in Lima because they were intimidated by her talent but she finds that talented people aren't friends with her either. In all honesty though, Rachel hasn't really made an effort in the friend-making area.
She wishes she had.
On opening night, she gets an standing ovation for her performance. Afterwards, her dads give her a book, but not the kind you buy in a bookstore to kill a little time before dozing off to sleep or to be entertained during a Tube ride. It's homemade, and the pages are full with handwriting she recognizes as theirs, complete with pictures and cute little drawings here and there. It's like a fairy tale, telling her story from the beginning, every class she took, every competition she was in, various birthday trips to Chicago and New York to see her favorite plays, the adversities, however mild, she's had to face, her reports card from school – every single event in her life that has led her to who she is and where she is today.
Rachel openly cries when she reads it. Her life is the theatre. She needs applause to live. Without it, all she has left is her family. She can't lose it. God forbids that ever happens.
Her career really picks up once she gets back from London. Returning with a stellar reputation is certainly a career boost, and she's suddenly being begged to audition for some of the musicals she's always dreamt about. Spring Awakening is fun, and Wendla's particular brand of drama suits her as well as the as the black thigh highs, so she runs with it for a little over a year, even after Jesse St. James becomes her co-star. He's a professional like herself, and while Rachel is reluctant to let go of the fact that he once played her like a Hasbro board game in order to make her emotionally unstable so that he could be the star of their Julliard's Senior concert, she can still work with him.
Then, Cabaret. It's more grown up, and there's no naivety in it, a clear contrast to her previous work. But she nails Sally Bowles like she's nailed all her other roles. Frankly, though, the emotional strain of the tragic characters she's played so far proves to be too much for her, so in a move her manager vehemently objected to, Rachel leaves Cabaret after only seven months on stage and moves on to Everyday Rapture. It's extravagant and different, and she can relate to her character and it just works so well.
Belle is probably her favorite role, and she sticks to it for two whole years. By then she's months away from turning twenty eight, with several Tony nominations on her CV and even two Drama Desks for Outstanding Actress in a Musical for Spring Awakening and Beauty and the Beast to show for.
That's when she's forced to stop.
It's horrible and so sad. It's a nightmare. She has gotten to live her dream, gotten the accolades and the acclaim, something she wants now as much as she did when she was twelve. But it's cruel that the dream gets taken away from her so quickly.
She never again gets to perform.
It's just not…fair.
It starts as a slight hoarseness. She ignores it, pushes through and continues taxing her voice to its very limits. Soon, it gets worse and she starts dropping notes she has sung since she was four. A trip to the doctor delivers a very scary message: partial vocal paralysis. The only cure is a risky surgery and she vacillates so much on whether to go through with it or not, by the time she decides, the choice has been taken away from her.
Rachel Berry can sing no more.
Once that happens, she's dead to Broadway, and Broadway wastes no time in telling her so.
She thinks it's weird, how she feels so much better about her situation when she returns to Ohio than she did before she left New York for good. Ohio had always been the place to get away from, the last place on earth she wanted to be in. New York was everything she ever wanted and loved, but after everything that happened, the lights she craved started dimming and the perpetual life of the City That Never Sleeps became something irritating. Being away from all that, everything New York represented for her, should have drowned her in the depths of clinical depression.
It didn't. When her plane lands in Columbus, Rachel breathes relieved. When she drives her rental to Lima, she's smiling. When she watches the town's familiar scenery pass by through the window, she feels… okay.
She figures it's not the end of the world. It's not. She's more than just Broadway. She has had her fair share of standing ovations and autograph signings. In the past six years, she has had more success most performers ever accomplish in a lifetime. She can safely say she was (is) a star. And her life – it's definitely not over.
It's just a different kind of life now. Different kind of dreams. And admittedly, she welcomes the tranquility of this new life of hers. She might have lived for the applause but doing eight shows a week and near daily rehearsals for six years (not to mention she's been dancing, singing, going to acting lessons, preparing herself to be a triple threat since she was four) can be quite draining. She thinks she might even like her new, different life.
She hasn't even been home for two whole days and her dads are already demanding that she cooks for them. They're committed to take out and they wouldn't be able to find their way around an oven even if their lives depended on it so her culinary talents have always been appreciated by them. And she's missed it as well, cooking for someone else. Taking care of the people she loves, even if it's only by making them their favorite spaghetti alla carbonara, makes her feel incredibly good about herself. She hasn't had the chance to do any of it during the past couple of years.
Plus she's more than a little happy to get out of the house. Don't get her wrong, she loves her dads and her childhood home, but sleeping in her old bedroom is unexpectedly unnerving. She hasn't lived there since she was twelve and the house had been rented by another family while she finished high school. Sure, her dads came back when she started college but it's been nearly ten years since then. She's changed, grown up, and she doesn't appreciate the bright yellow walls, her pink curtains and the alarming amount of stuffed animals she'd collected throughout her childhood, greeting her as she crosses the threshold. It makes her uncomfortable, like it's some sort of shrine to her childhood. Redecorating really wouldn't be worth it since she's moving into her own place as soon as she finds one that meets all her requirements. So yes, Rachel wants to escape the ghost of the marginally perkier version of herself that lived in that house. She is actually enjoying doing errands, from going to the post office to change her address, meeting her realtor, Mercedes Rutherford, to discuss her options, and going to the store to pick up a few things for home.
Rachel is inspecting the variety of pasta brands available when she feels a pointy finger tapping her shoulder lightly. "Excuse me," says a sharp, determined voice behind her. "I need you to do me a favor."
It's a girl, she realizes upon turning around; a teenager, more specifically, probably not a day older than thirteen though her hazel-golden eyes speak of a maturity that she's too young to have achieved. She's petite, two whole inches shorter than Rachel and the darkest shade of natural black hair she has ever seen, gathered up in a neat high pony tail, her bangs covering her eye brows. It's summer out there but her complexion is extremely fair, though not in a sickly way. Her cheeks turn pink and Rachel realizes she's been staring at her for who knows how long.
And she finds that this girl? Has got an attitude, if the incredulously annoyed look she's is giving her right now is any indication.
"Hello," Rachel smiles politely. "You require my assistance?"
Her bangs are covering her brows, but Rachel is positive her brows went up to her hairline, matching her look of amusement.
"Yeah," the girl suddenly grabs Rachel's hand and tugs her towards the other side of the store. "I don't know you. Do you live here?"
"I used to, when I was younger. Now I'm back," Rachel replies, more than a little confused.
"Cool." Without stopping, she glanced at Rachel. "I'm Bee, by the way."
"Pleasure to meet you, uh, Bee—" what kind of a name is that? They turn on aisle nine.
The girl doesn't return the pleasantries and stops in front of the shelves. "I need you to get me some of these," Bee says, meeting Rachel's eye for a moment before ducking her head.
With a frown, Rachel averts her eyes from her and looks, for the first time, at what the shelves held.
Rachel is certain she blanched that very moment. In fact, she may have audibly gasped in horror too.
How could this be happening to her barely over 24 hours after she sets foot in Lima? It's positively surreal.
For starters, she's completely outraged that a girl would ask a stranger to buy her tampons. She could have chosen a perverted child molester or a serial killer or…you get her point. Yes, Lima is a relatively safe place to live but this girl needs to learn not to trust strangers, no matter how nice they seem to be.
Then she is overcome with the reality of the situation. This little girl, Bee, is turning into a young lady. She's taken the first step up the ladder of womanhood. She is growing up. It's one of the most important moments of a girl's life. Rachel is practically tearing up at the thought.
And her family apparently has no idea, or if they do, they don't offer the support she obviously needs if she is desperate enough to ask a complete stranger for tampons.
"So, are you gonna?" Her cheeks red, Bee speaks lowly. "I have money. I promise I'll pay for them. I just need you to pass them through the register. And, you know, tell me what kind I'm supposed to get ."
Rachel gulped. Her heart was breaking right now for this girl. What kind of horrible home life does she have? Would this be the time were Rachel calls social services and gets her hauled out of the definite house of horrors her home apparently is?
"That won't be necessary, Bee," she smiles brightly, trying to convey sympathy for her, reaching for two boxes of Tampax Junior and placing them in her cart. "But you're going with me to the diner on the corner and we're going to have a little chat, alright?"
"Yeah, sure," she shrugged.
Rachel shakes her head. This poor, lonely girl.
"Alright Bee. I still need to get some stuff, would you mind joining me?"
Together they walk around the store, Rachel picking up different items here and there.
"You know, you kind of look familiar. You never told me your name," Bee says after a while.
Rachel smiles brightly as they fall in the line to the register. "My name is Rachel Berry."
"Hold up." Her hazel eyes wide open, she dramatically stares at Rachel. "You're Rachel Berry. Broadway star Rachel Berry." Rachel nodded, placing the items on the counter. "People talk about you all the time!"
She chuckles, a warm feeling spreading inside her by Bee's fascination. "Good things, I hope?"
"You bet," she looks at the brunette up and down, as if evaluating her. "Even my dad, and he never talks about girls," she says casually as Rachel gives the money to the cashier. "So what did you want to talk about?"
They're on the sidewalk now, the summer heat attacking them once they step out from the air-conditioned environment of the store. As much as she would like to ask away and find out what in God's name is going on with this girl's life, they have more pressing matters. "Let's get you to a restroom first," Rachel says with a pointed look, leading the girl to her car to leave her groceries before heading to the diner.
After checking that there was no one else in the restroom, Rachel explains in detail the correct usage of the tampons to Bee, even using her lipstick to draw a diagram on the mirror over the sink to illustrate the procedure. Then she leaves her, telling her she'll be waiting in the hallway and to just yell if she needs her. Minutes later, Bee exits the restroom, still looking embarrassed but also a little accomplished.
Rachel thinks she's crazy or something of the sort for feeling so deliriously proud of the girl right now.
It's only when they have milkshakes in front of them ( there was no point in avoiding dairies anymore now that her voice is effectively ruined so she might as well enjoy what was previously forbidden. Plus, who doesn't love milkshakes?) that Rachel decides to breach the subject.
"I know this might come as a bit harsh and crude, but I'm absolutely appalled that you would seek help from a stranger for such an important matter as menstruation. I don't know you or your family, but I'm going to need to have a chat with your parents to make sure everything is in order. I'm sure your home environment is the last thing you want to talk to a stranger but if you're in trouble, I'm going to have to step in for your protection. I might even bring the authorities with me. But I need to know," she takes a big breath. "Are you being in any way neglected by your parents or family members?"
"No," Bee stares at her blankly. "My dad's at work, I'm gonna tell him about this whole thing when I see him but I'd much rather get… that…" she glances to her lap "under control first."
"How about your mother or any other family members?" Rachel frowns suspiciously.
"Gran's out of town and Aunt Bex is away in college," she shrugs. "And I don't have a mom."
"Oh." She's not sure what to think. Bee doesn't look like she's lying, but Rachel can't be sure either. And she needs to be sure.
"I promise, I wasn't going to keep this from my dad," Bee repeats. "And I asked you because you didn't look like a total psycho."
"Thanks," Rachel frowns. "I guess."
Bee chuckles before taking a long slurp of her milkshake.
Rachel decides she'll give Bee's father the benefit of the doubt. But she is so meeting him ASAP.
Bee Puckerman is a genius.
Scratch that. Bee Puckerman is a mastermind. Watch out world; lying, manipulating and general awesomeness are her superpowers and she's not afraid to use them.
See, she's not an idiot. She would never ask a stranger the time of the day, much less tampons. There are some sick freaks out there, no need to bait them.
She recognized Rachel Berry the moment she saw her profile. Chick is totally famous around here, everybody knows who she is. Bee has spent countless hours collecting the few but precious pictures she has of her, some of her in stage costumes, that she'd gotten from the local newspaper. She practically memorized every bit of the actress's face.
Okay, so she might have been a teeny bit lying when she said she thought Rachel looked familiar .
She's been to New York only once, when her and her dad took a little road trip last summer and the Big Apple was one of the cities they visited. After a considerable amount of pouting, sulking, fake weeping and countless promises of year-round stellar behavior and retirement from her well-earned position as teachers' worst nightmare, Bee was able to convince her dad to take her to see the play Rachel Berry was starring at the moment. Thankfully, she was in Beauty and the Beast; Bee's manipulation skills were legendary, but she's sure not even she could've convinced her dad to take her to see Cabaret or Spring Awakening given the mature content of those plays. Of course, Bee also plays the soundtrack of Beauty and the Beast with religious fascination until she finally drives her dad nuts and he takes away her iPod and hides it in the freezer.
First of all, no, Bee is hardly a stalker, just to clear that up. It's completely normal to be a fan. And secondly, her obsession with Rachel Berry is perfectly healthy. There's nothing wrong with her and her affection for the town's one and only star. It's natural. Why, you might ask?
Well (and this comes out with a certainly sizeable amount of embarrassment, you can rest assured), Bee has this lifelong fantasy where Rachel Berry freaking excels at the role of mother.
Of Bee's mother.
It's not her fault, okay? Her biological mother wanted nothing to do with her or her dad, and he's never, ever brought a woman home he might be interested in having a serious relationship with. Bee needs a mother. She needs one. Her grandma's awesome but doesn't quite cut it. She's only got one school year left as a junior high student, and after that? High school. Dating. Boys. Breaking curfew. Popularity. General femme fatale badassness. If she's going to rule high school like she's meant to (and are you kidding? It's her fate) she needs a well-rounded home support system. She is not going to be able to pull off even a tenth of the things she's got planned for high school if her dad keeps such a short leash on her. Bee gets it, okay, she is and always will be his little girl, and he loves her and worries and blah freaking blah.
Her theory is that if her dad finds the right girl (namely, Rachel Berry but she's open to suggestions. Should he choose someone else, Bee's perfectly okay with submitting said girl to a full evaluation to decide whether she is worthy of her dad or not) he would lay off her back considerably. Having her dad's attention divided is more than enough for Bee to carry on her family's unofficial tradition: dominate McKinley High, badass way.
Also her old man deserves to be happy.
And she's not entirely opposed to the idea of, you know, having a mom and siblings and stuff.
So that's that.
And hello? Rachel would be a kickass mom. She's beautiful, talented, loaded, Jewish, and more importantly, she looks like she'd be the kind of mother who'd let her break curfew every once in a while and stand up to her father when he wouldn't let her go out on a date with a boy (she's had this thing with Jim Malory going on since her friend Alex's birthday party last month; they were playing Seven Minutes in Heaven, and oh boy, guess who she had the pleasure to spend those 7 minutes with? They'd been hanging out too, only with their large group of friends, but Bee's pretty sure he's going to ask her out soon and the last thing she needs is her dad scaring him off the minute he finds out). Anyway, Bee's sure her dad would totally fall for Rachel once she orchestrates enough date scenarios for them to fall in love with each other.
She's aware how crazy this all sounds. She is very, very aware. But who cares? Rachel is perfect for her dad, and she read she retired from Broadway and was back in Lima for good, whatever the reason. There is really only one thing left for Bee to do.
Make it happen.
Meeting Rachel at the 7/11 had been purely the universe putting everything into place so now, she just has to put Operation: Get Noah Puckerman and Rachel Berry Together For Good into play. And yes, she knows she needs a better name for it.
Feigning helplessness (because she is a Puckerman and Puckermans are in no way, shape or form, helpless) she sighs dejectedly as she eyes her bike in the 7/11 parking lot.
"Everything okay?" Rachel asks, digging her car keys from her purse.
"Yeah," Bee pouts a little. "It's just that riding my bike right now is the last thing I feel like doing."
"Don't you worry about that," Rachel smiles and slings an arm around Bee's shoulders. "I'll give you a ride."
"Thanks," Bee smiles shyly and her cheeks turn slightly pink (yes, she can blush on demand. It's one of her many talents. She can also cry and dislocate her left shoulder when needed).
There is nothing more beautiful than the sight of a wrecking ball in action. It's so perfect, so graceful as it swings smoothly on mid air, back and forward, before it unleashes its might and smacks the walls of the warehouse, masonry disintegrating with every blow. There's the sound of iron meeting granite and glass and more iron and the promise of an avalanche of what used to be a building and now it's nothing more than a pile of debris.
Fuck deconstruction. That green friendly, let's-remove-the-materials-by-type-and-in-alphabetical-order. Shit is boring as fuck. Why would you want to do that when you can use wrecking balls and bulldozers and high reach excavators and (fuck yeah) explosives? What is the point to having a license to fucking destroy things if you didn't enjoy it?
Noah Puckerman grins widely and whoops along with his crew as the last bits of the old warehouse fall down. This is not the first time he thinks he should not be this excited about witnessing a demolition. His high school football coach used to call him (fondly, he'd like to think) a psychopath and he had a feeling the guidance counselor agreed with him at some point, if the panicked way she turned around in mid-step and ran away when she happened across him in the halls or even the hilarious-as-fuck way she blanched and started shaking that one time when he willingly went to her office to see her were any indication. In hindsight, that was really douchetastic of them. Come on, it's not like he was hurting little animals and had a secret stash of firearms under the football field bleachers. He was a jock and he terrorized geeks and losers, yeah, and he could make people lose their bladder control on fear alone, but he wasn't that bad. The State of Ohio and the city of Lima both authorized him and trusted with heavy machinery and explosives for construction purposes, so suck that.
His job is so cool. When he was sixteen, the only tolerable future life prospects where those outside and away from Lima. He hated this town and everything it represented. Staying after high school ended equaled being a loser and Noah vehemently refused to be a loser.
Now, he wouldn't leave Lima for the world. And it's not just because of his job or his family. He could just as easily find another job in a big city and move away with Beth. He could sell his house and find an apartment. He always thought, for some reason, that Boston was probably a nice place to live. But he likes knowing that the crime rate and statistics here in Lima allows him not to be too worried about his daughter; he still worries, and quite a lot, but probably not as much as he would if they were living someplace else. Also he knows almost everybody: he used to clean pools, mow lawns, shovel driveways and stuff like that in the past, and his clientele was pretty extended too, and he sure as hell made an impression on his teachers and the people who used to go to school with him. These people used to fear him when he was a teenager, but he'd (partly) grown out of his bad boy ways after he became a father. He used to be seen as a loser, a slacker and a no-good motherfucker (he went through a cougar phase, okay? They were really educational. Shut up). Now, they see that he works hard, and not just so that he can buy dip and slushies or sleep with cougars. They see his daughter and his family mean everything to him. People actually like him now and he likes that. Yes, sometimes it is annoying when his neighbor Mrs. Greenberg rings his doorbell on a Sunday afternoon and asks him to do some handy work for her around the house, but he still does it because A, the old hag would probably slip and break her hip again if he didn't, and B, he feels really good when she smiles and thanks him for a job well done (plus, she's a helluva baker and her oatmeal raisin cookies are to die for).
And his job? Fucking phenomenal. Seriously, he's been in this line of work for eleven years, since he graduated from high school. His uncle Josef used to be the general contractor and he employed him as a worker while he attended OSU Lima to get his degree in Construction System Management. Then he got licensed and Uncle Joe retired and left him his business. Now it's been 5 years and he's kept the whole operation running smoothly. At twenty-nine, he owns a successful business, has a house way nicer than the one he grew up in, helps his mom put his sister through college and has the most beautiful daughter he could have ever asked for.
Well, he never actually asked to have a kid, but nonetheless, the little midget was the best thing to ever happen to him.
But back to work already. The new Lima Presbyterian Hospital isn't gonna build itself.
Yeah, that's right, he's building a hospital. He's not a sociopath. He's the shit.
(And he's gonna be so loaded when they finish this project.)
The huge pile of debris is waiting for them to do the clearing. The local authorities demand that they reuse all the recyclable elements, such as rubble (which is a great landfill as any) and wood, meaning Noah's crewmen have to sort out the stuff they can use. The working day is nearly over though so he knows they're not going to get it done before 5pm. Mind you, the warehouse wasn't exactly monumental, but still, it's going to take them at least till the end of the week to sort through the debris, roll off the waste to the waste treatment facilities and clear the space. Then and only then could the actual construction begin.
He's wrapping things up with the civil engineer and the architect when he feels the sudden, familiar weight of Beth hanging off his back, her arms latched around his neck and her knees digging into his lower back. He grins knowingly, ignores the gaping expressions of the two men in front of him, and reaches back, dragging Beth up over his shoulder and suspending her in mid air, head down, tickling her sides mercilessly.
She's begging him to stop with tears in her eyes, choking on her giggles, and she's flailing around trying to escape so he's kind of flailing around with her (in a totally manly way, of course) when he turns around and sees the hottest pair of legs he's ever seen. No, really, he's been around and had the pleasure (no pun intended) to become quite acquainted with a large section of the female population of Lima. He knows hot. This right here? Perfection.
God, he needs to get laid. He hasn't fucked a chick in like six months (God, he hates himself), and that was not a pleasant memory. She was the caterer for the parent-teacher conference at his daughter's school and she was kind of hot, even if he hasn't been into blondes since high school (thank you, Quinn Fabray). He figures that if he hadn't been suffering from a severe case of blue balls at the moment, he wouldn't have taken the trouble of switching on the charm on for her. But Beth was staying at his mother's house that night and he was questioning his manhood enough to let the opportunity walk away. In the end, it kind of sucked anyway, since she was incredibly selfish in the sack and got really freaky the morning after, making, like plans for dinner and meeting his daughter. He didn't need that shit. Especially if she was such a terrible fuck.
He used to get so much play back in high school, it was ridiculous. Seriously, when he was sixteen, it seemed like it was open season on any and all pussy he could get at. He didn't even need to chase them. Then he got Quinn Fabray pregnant and chicks started to avoid him altogether, like they could catch the preggers from him. He still fucked a lot of cougars but after Beth was born, he would much rather spend every minute he wasn't at school or working with her (not to mention he had Child Services on his back at the time and they kind of frowned upon promiscuity). So his once awesome sex life took a backseat to fatherhood.
It's not like he's been celibate ever since he became a father. Hell no. But there's also the problem that the sort of chicks he's interested in? They are definitely not 'meet-the-daughter' material. Hell, they're not even 'meet-the-dog' material. And the ones who were, want a fucking family; they see him, a stud, with a badass job, a house and a daughter and they dare to assume he's game for all their shenanigans. And he's not. He's very much happy with the life he and his daughter have just the way it is.
But dammit, he gets lonely sometimes. Okay, most of those times are at night (or early morning, you know, R-A-G-I-N-G W-O-O-D), but lately that annoying, nagging feeling in his gut, like he was missing something, would appear at the most random of moments and freak the shit out of him. He wasn't some sort of wuss with girly feelings, okay? Yeah, there are times when he wishes he wasn't alone in this whole parenting business but honestly, he's not doing that bad. His daughter is happy and he has enough going on with work that he hasn't the time and effort to dedicate to a relationship.
He shakes his head. How the everlasting fuck did he go from admiring a seriously hot pair of legs to think about relationships? What's happened to him? He should be concentrating on the smooth expanse of tanned skin and the legs that go on for miles even if she's wearing brown leather flat strappy sandals or whatever the fuck those thing are called.
His eyes rake higher and he decides this chick's ridiculously tanned, tight, hot body, in that airy white sundress she's wearing which, by the way it barely reaches her mid thigh, is totally stored on the spank bank. That shit is gonna stay in the rotation for a while.
He sees her fidget and realizes all too late that he's been checking out her rack for too long (she has three little buttons up top and they look like they might pop open any second now and bare her goods, so yeah, he's staring). He actually has the decency to look embarrassed to be caught ogling as he glances up and meets her gaze.
That's when he sees her face.
It's common knowledge that just because a woman has a smoking body, it doesn't mean she's pretty. He remembers back in high school there was this Cheerio who, from the neck up, keenly resembled a warthog. Seriously, she was that ugly. But from the neck down? Total hottie. Tall, curvy on all the right places, firm ass and porn star nipples. But yeah, she was fugly. He still tapped that twice, though, went doggy style both times. With the lights off.
Now a chick connoisseur like him knows there are a lot of types of beauty. He's seen angelic (Quinn Fabray), exotic (Santana Lopez), cute (Brittany Pierce), unconventional (Coach Sylvester, God rest her soul) striking and stunning. This girl in front of him is, hands down, the loveliest creature he's ever seen. Her plump, red mouth, begging to be devoured, and her big brown eyes are the first things to get his attention. Upon further inspection, he notices the gentle arch of her brows, the strong jaw and cheekbones, the mole on the hollow of her left cheek, the flawless, golden skin, and the long wavy brown hair, framing her beautiful face and cascading over her shoulders almost covering her breasts. Her nose might be considered a little big for her face but he thinks it adds character. The way it all hangs together? Fucking gorgeous.
(He lingers on the mole, finds it incredibly enticing. He also distantly remembers another girl who had a mole on her cheek as well.)
Then it hits him. He knows who this chick is. She's Lima's favorite native, the same girl he accidentally doused in grape slushie when he was thirteen, had moved to New York to be a star, and whom his daughter was stalking from a distance. Rachel Berry. It takes him a total of five seconds to process all of this –all of her – and decide that New York's loss is totally his gain.
Knowing all this, he's intrigued as to what the fuck she was doing hanging out with his daughter.
"Dad," Bee tugs on his shirt to get his attention. Noah looks down. "Stop staring at her, you're making her uncomfortable."
"I wasn't staring," he denies strenuously. Just to be sure, he avoided the brunette's eyes. Bee just arches her brow as she continues to stare at him (and guess where she picked that up?). "I wasn't," he hisses, then quickly changes the subject. "What are you doing here? I'm supposed to pick you up from soccer practice in half an hour."
Color creeps into her cheeks as she avoids her father's gaze. "I skipped."
Noah's jaw tenses visibly. The soccer field is good 5 miles away from the construction site for her to come on her own. "You know how I feel about you going around town all alone. If you want to skip practice, you go straight home or to one of your friends' house as long as you text me and let me know. You can't come here all the way from town on your own, it's dangerous."
"I drove her," Rachel cuts in, gulping audibly. She doesn't want Bee to be lectured for her actions until her father understands all facets of the situation.
Noah turns to face her again, his brow cocking up. He wants an explanation.
"I'm Rachel. I met your daughter today, at the 7/11. She required help and I assisted her with the promise that she'd let me come and talk to you," she says all in one breath, anxious to get the issue out of the way.
"About?" His tone is defensive, like he always gets when something threatens his daughter. Granted, Rachel doesn't seem like she could hurt a fly and her breath control is very promising but still.
At that, Rachel suggestively looks down at Bee, prompting her to enlighten her father.
She blushes (for real, this time) and glances at her dad. "I have important news to share with you, dad," Bee started tightly.
"Okay?" Noah crosses his arms over his chest. He knows his daughter and she's never shy or embarrassed. He's starting to worry.
She takes a big breath but when she opens her mouth, no word comes out.
"You can tell him, sweetie," Rachel encourages with a reassuring smile.
Okay, now he's officially worried. What the fuck was going on between his daughter and this woman?
"I got my period," Bee says diligently staring at her feet, her voice small and soft.
He did not see that one coming.
And how is he supposed to react? Should he congratulate her? Hug her? That's probably not a bad idea since she looks a little upset right now.
"Hey." He holds her against his chest, rubbing her back. "There's no need to be embarrassed. All girls go through it. It's natural," he assures her. Then he turns his face to Rachel, nearly freaking out, and mouths to her, Right?
She nods, beaming at him. Because the image of this strong, exceptionally handsome man in front of her hugging his daughter and making her feel comfortable with herself when he probably felt out of his element, was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen.
"You're not mad?" Bee says, her face buried in his chest.
"You crazy Bee?" he laughs, ruffling her hair and messing with her pony tail. "I'm fucking proud of you."
"Aww," Rachel sighs with a contented smile. "That's just so cute."
Noah's head shoots up and gives her an incredulous look. Rachel blushes under his gaze and covers her mouth with her hands. She can't believe she said that out loud.
Bee giggles. "Are you questioning his badassness?"
"What-? No," she shakes her head earnestly. "I was just- well, it was lovely moment, really-"
"I'm going to say hi to Jacob." Bee extracted herself from her father's embrace and smiled at the two adults before bouncing off to a weird looking young man with excessively curly red hair manning a sledgehammer.
They both watch her go (Noah yells at her to put on a hard hat) and silence engulfs them.
Rachel can't believe this is Bee's dad. Well, she is a beautiful child so it really shouldn't be a shocker that her father is attractive, to put it mildly (she's been to quite a few parties in New York and London, and has met exquisitely handsome male models that would sell their souls to Satan for features like this man's. He looks like he could seduce a saint if he cared to). But she hadn't expected someone quite so young. He couldn't be much older than herself.
She'd been originally taken back when she and Bee had filled into the construction site and the girl had pointed his back to let Rachel know which one was her dad. He was tall and large, his wide shoulders testing the seams of the gray tee shirt he was wearing, his arms toned and just lovely (she couldn't find any other word in her admittedly superior vocabulary for it). She'd been mesmerized and insanely attracted by the sheer strength he managed to give off and that was even before she'd seen his face. And then she did and saw his smile, how carefree he was with his daughter, how his hazel eyes darkened to a deep shade of green as his gaze raked up and down her body.
She doesn't even know his name and she's already all hot and bothered.
"She was embarrassed to buy tampons," Rachel tells him, forcing herself not to melt in his presence and lowering her voice so the two men that passed by them with identical wheelbarrows filled with debris wouldn't hear her. "I was there, so she asked me. She said she planned to tell you after she got the situation under control."
He nods, a smile tugging his lips. "She's like that. Beth wouldn't call for help unless the house was on fire."
She beams. "Her name is Beth? It's beautiful."
Noah frowns. "She didn't tell you her name?"
"She introduced herself as Bee."
He rolls his eyes. "Of course she did. I'm Noah Puckerman, by the way," he smirks and thrusts his hand out to shake hers.
It's Rachel's turn to frown. She must have heard wrong, or at least her memory is failing, because she once knew a boy from Lima named Noah with smoldering hazel eyes, and it'd be too much of a coincidence if that boy had grown up to become the man currently in front of her.
He chuckles at her confusion. "We've met. You made me 'Apology accepted' cookies back in junior high after I accidentally tossed my slushie at you."
Her cheeks grow red remembering the peace offering she gave him mere days before leaving for New York. "Well, you wouldn't stop saying sorry every time we saw each other, so I had to do something to make you understand I had forgiven you. And how did you know it was me?"
"You're Rachel Berry," Noah shrugs. "Everybody here knows who you are."
Rachel should be on her way to her car, forgetting about this whole thing. Her only reason to come to this place was to make sure Bee was fine, and she is, and Rachel is a fairly good judge of people's character and she is positive Noah was a wonderful father. Besides, she's interrupting his work and Bee is off mingling with the construction crew. She's helped Bee as much as she was supposed to; her job is done.
So why can't she bring herself to leave?
"Noah, if I may?" Rachel asks before she can stop herself. He arches his eye brow and she begins to think he's patented that facial expression. "I don't want to be privy or anything, but I was wondering, do you, uh, have a, ah, lady friend or, you know?"
Noah isn't sure what she's really asking him, and in all fairness, Rachel doesn't exactly know either. He takes two steps, invading her personal space. "Why? Interested?"
"What-No! I—" Rachel huffs, her spine steeling so quickly she vaguely fears a lumbar injury. "I'm just worried about Beth."
She would be the first to admit that, until then, Noah Puckerman was the epitome of a gentleman. Now, his scowl tells her to run. Fast.
"Listen up, lady. I don't know you and you sure as fuck don't know the first thing about me or my daughter, so kindly back the hell off before you piss me off."
She gulps down. The sheer intensity of his scowl is surely the single most terrifying facial expression she's ever seen. Rachel doesn't think she'd ever want to cross this man. Except now she kind of is.
"I didn't mean as an insult or doubt over your parenting skills," she assures him, and she's not sure when she grew a backbone but apparently now she's using it. "I was merely wondering if there's a woman in your life who Bee can turn to if she has questions regarding her menstrual cycle. It's hard on girls, okay? And this is a milestone in her development, both physical and psychological. I grew up without a mother as well, and trust me when I tell you that no matter how much support and love she receives from you, there are just some things that Bee's not going to be comfortable discussing with you. Would you be able to talk to her about cramps or bloating? I don't think so. She needs someone who can relate to what she's going through. Menstruation is no laughing matter and an improperly placed tampon can be uncomfortable, useless and potentially painful. I know this from experience, and as this being her first time, Bee really needs to be very careful. Which brings me to another dilemma: this is her first menstruation, and as someone still actively menstruating herself, you should know-"
Noah doesn't want to know. He wants her to stop talking and stop saying the word menstruation. It's freaking him out.
He's sworn to do whatever it takes to be a good parent, be everything Beth needs him to be, but he can't grow a vagina and an uterus or wherever it is the blood comes from, and oh, fuck, now his mind is full of images and this is not good. He can't help his daughter go through this when he has no idea what this whole menstruation shit is about, and if Beth has questions, there's a good chance he won't be able to answer them. He's never cohabited with a woman other than his mother and it's not like they sat around the dinner table and chatted about her period.
Wait. How old is his sister? Twenty? She probably has her period too, right?
He needs help.
(He is so fucked.)
"I'll call my mother," Noah decides. "I'll tell her to get her ass back from Cincinnati as soon as possible."
"Fabulous," Rachel grins. She chooses to ignore the fact that she's just shared a great deal of private information about her own menstrual cycle. She can see, though, by the utter mortification in his face, that he probably didn't need to know about her difficulties with tampons when she was a teenager herself. "I'm sure she'll provide all the assistance you'll require, as well as rest Bee assure of her bodily changes."
"Well, I need to be going-"
"Sure, yeah, thanks for everything." The corners of Noah's lips tug upwards and he reaches to shake her hand.
(She is not feeling electricity from his touch. Nope. Not at all.)
(Just to be clear, he isn't either.)
"You're leaving already?" Bee says, disappointed, as she approaches them. She turns to her father. "Can't she come over for dinner? Please?" before he can answer, she turns back to speak to Rachel. "He's making chicken piccata tonight and he's a real good cook. Will you come?"
"Um, well…" She decides to ignore Noah's existence right now, since she's suddenly feeling too warm and she doesn't want to find out if he wants her to say yes or no. She doesn't want to find out if she wants him to say yes or no. This day has been too confusing to add it up. "I'm sorry, but I have to decline. I've only been back for a day and I promised my dads I'd cook for them tonight," Rachel smiled apologetically, feeling her heart sink low in her gut when she sees Bee's face fall.
"Whatcha making?" Noah asks genially.
"Spaghetti alla carbonara."
He smirks and arches a brow at her. "Kosher?"
She finds herself biting her lip and looking at him beneath hooded eyes. "Not in the slightest."
Noah's smirk widens and Rachel smiles as well, feeling slightly breathless. He's thinking of how she is, by far, one of the hottest woman he's ever met and how much he wants her to let him do to her all the dirty things that are currently flooding his brain. She's thinking of how she would have very little problem declining, considering she's nearly melting in his presence and they've only shaken hands.
(Bee's thinking that making these two fall for each other? Not gonna take much.)
"Well, could you maybe come over after dinner?" she pleads, turning her eyes from Rachel to her dad and back again. "I have a lot of questions about what's going on with my body."
Yes, Bee knows it's not fair, but she also knows her old man and he for sure doesn't know the first thing about menstruation. Bee could ask her grandma or even her aunt, but she's not gonna miss out on a chance to get her dad and Rachel under the same roof for some quality Jew time.
"We'll call Grams when we get home, squirt," Noah placates her. "We've bothered Rachel enough for a day."
She rolls her eyes. "She's not gonna have time to answer my questions while she bawls about how I'm growing up and all."
True. She would probably get a calendar and mark the day, too. Yenta's crazy like that.
"I don't—I don't mind," Rachel offers, glancing from father to daughter. "If that's okay by you, of course," she throws in for good measure, staring into Noah's hazel eyes.
He merely nods, because for some reason he finds talking really difficult right now.
(She's willing to help him out through what's unquestionably a milestone in parenting, one he's not entirely sure he can overcome alone. And she's doing it, even though she doesn't know him or his daughter, when other chicks would probably shrug it off and tell him to find them later for a good fuck.)
Noah watches her leave, after she says goodbye and exchanges numbers with Beth, promising she'd swing by their place around eight. He is seeing this woman beyond the abundant physical appeal, doesn't even check out her perfect ass (much). He thinks, right now, that he wouldn't half mind if Rachel Berry was a part of his life.
Reviews are very much appreciated. Thanks for reading ;)