Author's Note: So this story was inspired by a song of the same named, specifically the Matt Brouwer version. I listened to it about 50 times in a row while writing this, and it really does set the pace of the whole thing, so you should totally youtube the song and listen along. I'm really nervous about this story considering how far out of my comfort zone it is, but I hope you all like it. Thank you in advance for reading, and hopefully reviewing!
Noah Puckerman fell onto the living couch with an unceremonious thud, the pain from knocking his head on the under-padded arm not even registering. After getting up at an hour he usually only saw from the other side just to catch a seven-hour flight and then stand around in a hospital for almost eleven hours, he was just hoping it was all a dream. His mind was playing tricks on him, and when he woke up he'd laugh lightly to himself remembering how real it all had seemed – the cold of Ohio in comparison to California, the desperation in his sister's voice when she said she couldn't leave school because of finals, the cautious looks shared between the doctors and nurses when he asked whether his mom would get better.
Puck groaned, turning to his side and nearly falling off the couch in the process. If he hadn't been half asleep already he might have trudged up the stairs to his old bedroom. Instead, he just lied on the couch, his eyes eventually opening and staring blankly across the room. If he had been back in his apartment in California, the view would have been a little better than the half-covered window with snow covering the outside half. In fact, on a good night, the living room window was all the entertainment he and his roommate, Kyle, needed – given their hot neighbor had a tendency to shower and then walk naked from her bathroom to her bedroom. Puck never told Kyle, but he'd nailed that girl almost the second after the first instance of watching her strut her stuff, and now Puck was pretty sure she did it just to entice him back.
But that wasn't going to happen.
Puck learned long ago that he was not suitable for a monogamous relationship, and he'd learned that lesson right there in that very house. It was their senior year of high school, shockingly four years ago now. The glee club had finally won Nationals after losing Regionals again the year before. They'd come in second, at least, and the loss was probably what drove them to not just make it to Nationals but win. The group always had something to prove, and when it was finaly all over, everyone dealt with it in their different ways.
Artie and Brittany had broken up junior year right after Regionals, and it took that long for both of them to get a little reckless at Nationals and hook up with Tina and Santana, respectively. Mike and Brittany had ended up hooking up during their first year at Julliard, and word on the street was they were both going to be in some new dance-centered movie soon. Lauren bypassed college and went right into pro wrestling, leaving Puck with some choice parting words - standard for her after they'd broken up over the summer when she found out he hadn't stopped sleeping with the town cougars.
Who knew that wasn't allowed when you were in a relationship?
The same summer Quinn and Sam had gotten got back together, and they stayed together the entire senior year with almost no drama. The pair barely realized glee had been over as they were too busy planning their perfect lives together, which started with them attending the same college and moving into an apartment two years later and getting married this coming summer. Quinn had told Puck via text and then emailed him to say he should expect an invitation, but fuck that noise.
Kurt had come back to McKinley senior year after the whole thing with Karofsky blew up in everyone's faces at the end of their junior year. Seriously, Puck knew that kid was a flamer the whole time, but watching him deal with the whole thing and expecting anyone to give a rat's ass was kind of sad. Still, the glee club sort of banded together and helped the poor guy out, and Dave was actually a big reason they made it to Nationals. Kid had sick vocals hiding behind all that neck fat.
Both Kurt and Mercedes dated guys from Dalton that year, but the relationships faded when they left for college. Last Puck heard, Mercedes was graduating next year and moving down to Mississippi or some crazy shit to teach Sunday school and choir to a bunch of snot-nosed brats. Kurt was, of course, into fashion and had been in New York since the day after they threw those stupid pointy hats up in the air and said goodbye to McKinley forever.
That only left him, Rachel, and Finn, all who probably had the most difficult time with dealing with glee club being over. Rachel had always had a plan to end up in New York and sing on Broadway and win a Tony or eight and generally be happy. But she never took into account the people she'd meet on her journey. She never considered that their decisions might affect hers, and visa versa.
Finn was staying in Ohio. He'd gotten a football scholarship for Ohio University, and he was going to major in education. He was probably the only one on the whole fucking planet who wanted to end up like Mr. Schue, the latter included. Puck, on the other hand, didn't even apply for college. He knew it wasn't for him and he wasn't going to bust a nut trying to come up with reasons why he should give it a shot. Instead, he was going to try to milk his rock star status for all it was worth and try to make it big. And so it was only a question of New York or California.
It was a difficult question surrounded by a lot of other landmines that had been put into place during the course of the year. He, Rachel, and Finn had all dealt with everything that happened between them during sophomore and the beginning of junior year. They'd grown close as friends and all three of them had taken the reins on making sure their club got to and won Nationals. But under all that friendship were a lot of other layers.
Finn and Rachel were always close; for better or for worse, they were each other's first loves. Finn had never really loved Quinn, though those two had gotten closer again over the years and were still good friends. Finn was actually going to be one of Sam's groomsmen, which was only a little fucked up considering their past and the whole cheating thing. But it probably all had to do with Rachel, and how everyone assumed Finn and her would get back together. Something about the first love made people wonder if it should have been the last, too.
But then there was also Rachel and Puck.
Between school, glee club, and then their dedication to their religion, the two of them spent more time together than probably anyone else during their senior year. At first it was a lot of bickering and name calling, but then they got used to each other. Rather, they each learned exactly which buttons to push to get the response they wanted, and most of the time they both just wanted the other not be so fucking annoying. Through time, all that button pushing changed one another.
Everything about Rachel that had made Puck want to light himself on fire went away. Like an ape living with humans, her original instincts tampered off and Rachel slowly started acting like a normal person. She was the one person Puck felt comfortable talking to, and he'd sworn it was because he didn't care about getting into her pants and shit, but then that changed, too. She'd always had a leg up with the short skirts and kinky knee-high socks, but hanging out with her made him see other stuff. Like how she always matched her bra and underwear, and the sexy spot she'd gotten that musical note tattoo after the Regionals win. He noticed different tones in her voice and different expressions on her face – though his favorite was and always would be that 'fuck me' look she got, usually when she had one too many drinks (or spiked drinks, as was normally the case).
Despite his best efforts, Puck started seeing her and the more he saw, the more he liked.
It would have been a lot easier if the same couldn't be said for Rachel, but Puck's life had never been easy. It had been one dysfunction after the next, and his senior year had been an amplified case. His sister had started high school and his mother forced Puck to look after her, which was easier said than done since the younger Puckerman was set on making her own mark at the school. He'd almost gone back to juvie trying to protect her, but Rachel had convinced him that Sarah needed to learn the hard way, just like he did. And considering how quickly her life had spiraled out of control, she'd hit rock bottom a lot quicker than Puck had, which meant he was around to help her get back on her feet.
And it was all because of Rachel. Everything that happened that year had been because of Rachel, which is why it was no surprise and the biggest fucking surprise of his life when they'd spent the night together after their big congratulatory glee party. Rachel had been ecstatic about the win, but afterward she was less than her jovial self. Puck, similarly, was down in the dumps because despite trying to personally ruin each glee club member's life at one point or another, he'd really grown to care about everyone. They were more like his family then his own blood, and he knew that party was the last time he would ever see some of them even though they all promised otherwise.
Both he and Rachel ended up in the same secluded bedroom, so far away from the music and the other glee clubbers that it seemed like a separate world. She teased him about flirting with one of the judges after they'd left and he'd picked on her about her long-winded acceptance speech that no one asked for, but nothing could have stopped the conversation that was going to happen. Puck knew it was coming, as Finn being his oblivious best friend self had approached Puck about it earlier in the week during some video game marathon and asked for his thoughts. Even now, Puck wondered what might be different if he'd just told Finn right then and there that he thought his friendship with Rachel was turning into something different.
Knowing him, probably nothing. He'd still be lying on the couch of his childhood home, so fucking tired he could barely move and yet unable to sleep because she was on his mind. He'd still be obsessing over that night in high school, when she'd told him that Finn told her that he still loved her and she asked for time to think. He'd still remember pointing out how unusual it was for her to show any amount of hesitance, and he'd still remember her proving his point when she leaned in and kissed him. And, most of all, he'd still remember the way she'd told him to go to California instead of New York, even after they'd screwed each other's brains out for the entire night.
Come to me now
And lay your hands over me
Even if it's a lie, say it will be alright
And I will believe
The sound of the front door opening pulled Puck out of his memories of that night, but it wasn't enough to bring him out of the past. Had the situation been any different, he might have grabbed a bat and approached the unannounced visitor with some mustered up fury. He certainly had the urge to break shit and the option might be a nice stress reliever, but Puck knew the visitor wasn't an intruder. It was past two in the morning and there was only one person other than his mother and sister who was comfortable enough coming into the house without so much as a knock.
"Noah?" She questioned softly, her voice faraway but steady.
The house was pitch black and the only reason Rachel probably knew he was in the living room at all was because of that freaky sixth sense she had. He'd be lying if he said he hadn't been thankful that it still worked, but at the same time he wasn't quite ready to talk to her yet. His mother was in the hospital and the doctors weren't optimistic about her chances. He was the exact opposite of being ready to talk.
She came around to the other side of the couch, and fuck if her appearance didn't wake him up just a little. Little Rachel Berry had grown out of her crazy animal sweaters and old-lady shoes, gone were the days where she resembled a 12-year-old girl. Standing in front of him was the picture of perfection, every guy's wet dream. The sweaters had changed to form fitting (and at that moment see-through) blouses and the loafers had switched to sleek high heels. And, Jesus help him, she never tired of the short skirts.
"I got here as soon as I could."
Terrible news travels fast, too, he thought bitterly as Rachel knelt down in front of him. He hadn't looked directly at her yet, and he wasn't awake enough to actually open his mouth to make the crude joke about her being on her knees. Puck was tired as all fuck, but hadn't been able to sleep since his sister had called him crying in hysterics late last night. He'd been running on autopilot for the past 25 hours and knew this was just the beginning. It was exhausting in a restless leg syndrome kind of way, but something about Rachel's proximity soothed him.
Suddenly he was at peace.
"Everything's going to be alright," she whispered, her hands coming up from her lap to touch him softly, one skimming back across his close-shaven head while the other rubbed gently up and down the arm resting on his stomach.
Puck inhaled deeply, moving his head only a few centimeters to look into her eyes. They looked exactly the same as the last time he'd seen them, her assurance and strength rarely wavering. In all the years he'd known her, she'd always presented herself as the same overly confident, never wrong girl he met back at their local synagogue – even when she was completely unsure and knew without a doubt that she wasn't right, like at that moment.
But that was just Rachel.
For better or for worse, she would always be the girl who knew him better than he knew himself, which is why he wasn't the only one sitting in his family's house in the middle of the night. She knew the news of his mother's illness would have been hard on him, and she didn't hesitate to leave everything in New York behind her and come to him now. This was her last year at NYU, and much like his sister, Puck imagined Rachel had finals to take into consideration as well. But, God love her, Rachel wasn't always rational in her decisions and when she put her mind to something it was going to happen whether you liked it or not.
That was how he ended up in California in the first place. After what happened at the party, they had woken up the next morning in a bit of a daze. They'd been denying the sexual tension between them the entire year (or three, depending on when you started counting), and like a match to lighter fluid, the whole thing had exploded on them. Rachel, for what might have been the first time in her life, was speechless. Or maybe she just didn't want to say the wrong thing, which is exactly what she ended up doing after Puck basically poured his heart out to her.
He said he could go to New York; they could make it together. He'd messed up a lot in his life, but she'd seen it all and she'd stuck by him. And sure he had a lot more to learn about monogamy and that relationship bullshit, but he could do it. He would do it, for her. She could teach him how not to be such a fucking degenerate, and he could teach her the merits of make up sex.
Only she didn't want to learn. At least not from him.
She'd said she didn't regret what happened, but she didn't want him to regret the future. She wasn't going to be with Finn, either, but rather thought it was good for all of them to go their own separate ways. With her in New York, Finn staying in Ohio, and him in California, they could finally figure out what kind of people they were without the others' influence. They'd been a trio for so long that she'd lost who Rachel Berry was without being sandwiched between the two men. They had to spread their wings and grow and whatever other asinine bullshit she had started to ramble when she realized he wasn't taking the news well.
Broken in two
And I know you're on to me
That I only come home when I'm so all alone
But I do believe
But he'd done it. He'd left almost the next day, packing a duffel bag worth of crap and taking all the cash he'd earned at his graduation party a few weeks before. He said goodbye to his sister and his mother and grabbed the first available flight to Los Angeles. No one dared to fuck with him the entire trip, crying babies even dulling their wails in fear of pissing him off. He'd grabbed a handful of roommate wanted fliers from the bulletin board at the airport, and by the next night he had a place to crash and a new friend who didn't even know anyone named Rachel.
For almost seven months, he spent every single day and night staying busy just to avoid thinking about her. He got a job as a waiter at some fancy ass restaurant, where tips were earned on a sliding scale of hotness. It was there he upgraded from older married women to younger married women of rich, neglectful husbands. And when he wasn't working or screwing, he was on street corners playing his music or talking to people in an effort to get real studio time and maybe a record deal.
Puck rarely spent any time at the apartment, but he and Kyle actually became pretty fast friends considering they barely saw each other. Kyle was a struggling actor, so he understood everything Puck was going through trying to get his music career started. Plus, he was only a couple years older and was an even bigger manwhore than Puck. Their friendship started at sharing horror stories of one-night stands and drunken parties, moved onto favorite games and movies and other stuff they had in common, and then they started talking about families and shit. Kyle had a younger brother who'd died in a nightclub from a cocaine overdose at the age of seventeen, and suddenly Puck's worries about his sister getting pregnant or stealing a car didn't seem as troublesome as they did before.
Their close friendship, however, didn't start until one night in December. Despite how much he valued Kyle's friendship, that night was one that Puck wished he could have blacked out on just so it didn't haunt his memories almost every fucking day. Kyle was celebrating getting some pretty awesome guest spot on some popular TV show, and by the fifth or so shot of Jaeger, Puck's mouth started running without him having any control. Kyle was just going on and on about if such and such girl could see him now, and before Puck could stop he was telling his roommate the whole sad story about the crazy, hot Jew who'd managed to pry his heart open just to rip it out in almost the same breath. Kyle continued to poke and prod about knowing Puck's attitude had to have stemmed from a chick, and the last thing Puck remembered of that conversation was his dumbass roommate convincing him to buy a plane ticket back home.
Rachel was there for winter break, staying at her dad's house for three weeks. When he'd arrived at her doorstep, drunk as all Hell because he couldn't have convinced himself to show up without being plastered, she didn't even seem surprised to see him. Seven months without a single call, email, or text, and it was like she expected him to show up. She expected him to be an incoherent mess, expected him to basically tackle her and take her right there on the stairs of her family's house. Her father's were away on business for a few days, which was information told to him only after they had already finished and were lying next to each other as best as two people on a set of stairs could.
They didn't talk about everything that had happened that last time they'd seen each other, and they both obviously left out parts of the time they had spent apart. It was slow at first, both of them talking about their roommates and jobs, but then they got comfortable. She made him some noodle mess and they sat across from one another at the dining room table, just chattering about anything and everything. No matter how much he wished it hadn't been true, it was like nothing had changed. They spent the next few days alone in the cocoon of her empty house, exploring each other in new and fun ways, and then the hour before her parents were set to return, he went back to California, and eventually she went back to New York, and they didn't talk again.
And not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me
Their relationship continued like that until … well it was sorta still like that. They'd gotten over the not talking thing after the summer of her freshman year of college. Puck stayed in California, partially for the money and partially to avoid her. She must have sensed it, too, because it was the weekend of Fourth of July when she showed up at his apartment. Kyle called her a stalker considering Puck had never given her the address, which wasn't exactly the best first impression. Then again, when Puck realized Finn had been the one to give her the information, his impression hadn't been much better.
Something inside him snapped and he went into some jealous rage, telling her that she couldn't be with Finn and use him for sex. Apparently a year at college had done something to Rachel's already verbose vocabulary because the words she used to spew back at him were not only longer than before, but they were edgier and said with a new ferocity. She yelled at him one breath after the other, calling him out on being a hypocrite as well as a few other more colorful names. It seemed like Rachel was picking up some of that New York temper everyone always heard about and using it against him.
Unfortunately, like usual for them at that point, all that anger turned into something more, something passionate. They attacked each other right in front of Kyle, who discreetly went into his room because it was obvious they weren't going to make an effort to leave. No, instead, they'd had sex right on the kitchen counter. It was hot and almost animalistic, but tinged in sadness because they both knew it was a one-time thing. Rachel and Finn were giving it another go, and even though Puck hadn't really talked to Finn since leaving Ohio he also wasn't going to go down that road again. So he let her go, let her know that he wouldn't bother her and wished her a happy life.
And he'd meant it.
Sometime after Halloween the next year he met Erica. She was a yoga instructor by day and a bartender at night, a lethal combination on Puck's fuckable meter. She loved hearing his music and listening to him sing, but she was tone deaf beyond belief, which was actually another plus for him – the anti-Rachel, Kyle called her. They started out fast and then eventually slowed down, which was kind of opposite of how things were supposed to be but worked for them. That year Puck didn't come home for winter break or summer again, and the night Rachel emailed him saying she missed him, he asked Erica to move in. Kyle was dating some girl, too, and she was already living in the apartment despite what his roommate wanted to believe at the time.
It was no big deal.
Except it was, because he had told Rachel about it. She had been making an effort to try to rekindle their friendship during her sophomore year, and she'd write these long ass emails detailing the trials and tribulations of her classes and the people she'd meet at rehearsals and tryouts and stuff. And, honestly, Puck tried to read them, sober and everything. But the chick rambled and then she'd throw in random shit about Finn and her and that's when that light-himself-on-fire feeling would come back. So to remedy that, he told her about Erica. He told her all about the crazy sex they had because she was so flexible and about all the parties they got into because of all the people they knew between the two of them. You know, real fucking mature stuff like that.
But when he told her in June that Erica was moving in, the emails stopped. It wasn't until Hanukah the next year when he finally called Finn and asked what the fuck was up Rachel's butt. Eloquently, Finn explained that he and Rachel broke up at the beginning of the summer, but they still talked and knew she was going to be home for break in a couple of weeks. Puck played it off like he didn't care, but as the two weeks passed, his level of curiosity grew more and more each day. Erica started to notice him pulling away, and when she asked why, he didn't have a reason. And when he bought a plane ticket for Ohio, he didn't have a reason for that either.
Needless to say, Erica had plenty of reasons to move out while he was gone.
Please say, honestly
You won't give up on me
And I shall believe
And I shall believe
Puck's hands lifted to his eyes, rubbing softly at the tired orbs before moving to his aching temples. The light filtering into the living room was brighter than he remembered, and he was suddenly glad he hadn't taken that detour last night to the bar. Otherwise the light mixed with the smell wafting in from the kitchen would have been nauseating instead of as pleasant as it was.
"Mornin'," he drawled, his hand rising up to itch the back of his head even as he stretched while walking into the kitchen. His eyes were in slits but they were open enough to notice she'd changed out of her clothes into some of his. He didn't even know he still had his football jersey from McKinley, but fuck if she didn't look better in it then he ever did. In fact, his number accentuated her frame better than he figured Finn's ever would.
Her voice was light and airy but still managed to possess a hint of caution in them, as if she knew better than to be enthusiastic about the day. His eyes scanned the clock on the microwave and he quickly did some calculations that let him know he had about an hour to eat, shower and get back to the hospital before his mom's surgery. Or, as one of the nurses had told him, the last and only shot they had to make her better.
"Are you hungry?" She asked, and he couldn't help but wonder if it was a question she ever found herself asking Finn. He knew she likely didn't have much of an appetite given everything going on, and he felt much the same. But Finn was like a garbage disposal, his stomach the one place he didn't keep his feelings and could always stuff with food. His mom made some banging chicken potpie, too, so maybe that had something to do with it. That and, of course, Rachel's odd obsession with baking.
"I could eat." She nodded once, turning back to the stove while he took a seat at the piss ant table his mom had set up in the kitchen. Typically his family ate in front of the television, so they didn't have a need for a big, fancy dining room table. They used that room for an office of sorts, his mom putting a desk and computer and then like three bookcases inside the four walls to display all her many books on the Jewish faith and how to raise difficult children.
The silence dragged on in the room, Puck watching Rachel's every move as she put the finishing touches on whatever she was making. His mind flashed with memories of Erica cooking at his apartment and even faded ones of his mom making him lunch as a kid. When Rachel turned off the stove and put a plate in front of him, his expression must have prompted some fear in her because the apprehension was written all over her face.
"I was terribly sorry to hear about your mother, Noah."
He shrugged noncommittally, his standard response for such sentiments. His mother's cancer had been spreading more quickly in recent years, her chance for survival dwindling each passing day. By then, her death had become more a matter of when and not if, even though that didn't necessarily make it any less painful. He just hoped his mom held on long enough for his sister to fly in this morning after her last exam.
"Do you need me to do anything? Pick up Sarah from the airport maybe? I could call your work and explain to them the situation."
"I don't need you to take care of me, Rachel." Puck pushed his plate away, having only managed a few bites before realizing he really wasn't in the mood to eat. Unfortunately Rachel had other plans, pushing the plate right back toward him.
"Well someone has to if you aren't going to take care of yourself."
He grunted in response, lifting out of his seat without so much as another word and walking upstairs to shower. She followed him like a new puppy, on his heels the entire time until he whipped around. Rachel ran into him, her tiny frame hitting his solid one like a ton of bricks. Her chest was heaving from working herself up into a little frenzy, and it was hard not to watch the fabric of his jersey move up and down.
Did she have to be so fucking irritating while looking that hot?
"Unless you plan on joining me in the shower, Berry, I suggest you get the fuck away from me." His words were like venom, his tone like ice as he brushed past her and into the bathroom. He turned the water on full blast and pealed away his clothes, just then realizing he'd slept in his shoes. Stepping into the stall and inhaling a long breath of the steamy air, Puck choked when he heard the door slam shut and Rachel's voice surround the small area.
"I know this is hard for you, Noah, but I'm not just going to go away. Just because you're some emotional retard doesn't mean that I'm going to give up." The cold air from her pulling back the shower curtain hit him almost as hard as the fury he felt from her words. "I'm not some dumb bimbo you can toss to the curb and expect to stay out there until you're ready for me to come in again."
He tried to focus on the anger, desperately tried to latch onto that iota of self-control that was slipping through his fingers. Rachel Berry moved into the shower, standing in front of him wearing absolutely nothing while the water from the showerhead curved down her body in some tantalizing dance. Seriously, the most frustrating thing about Rachel was that she had no idea when she was being hotter than fuck.
"Oh I'm ready for you to come again."
Rachel sighed, her eyes lifting up in exasperation even as her hands fell helplessly at her sides. He knew her well enough to know they were both thinking back to that winter of her junior year, it feeling like a lot longer than only a year ago. He'd arrived in Ohio sometime during the three o'clock hour and, much like Rachel did last night, Puck hadn't hesitated when he walked right into her house and up to her room. He crawled right into bed with her, falling asleep after whispered words of her knowing he'd come and him telling her she would later.
Sometime during the course of the early morning they'd had sex, almost subconsciously even though it was a vivid memory for each of them. But once again, when they woke up and hashed out everything about Finn and Erica, they eventually went their separate ways again. They both agreed that it was clear they had something special, but considering how many times they hadn't gotten it right, they figured it wasn't special enough to keep them together in the long run. So they just decided to keep things the way they were – fucked up.
And now here they were, in the same damn spot, still unable to move forward.
Open the door
And show me your face tonight
I know it's true, no one heals me like you
And you hold the key
Puck dragged himself up the walkway, his heart as heavy as the rest of him at that moment. The door seemed to open like magic, his eyes settling on two pitiful expressions of sympathy. No one said a word though, each of the older gentleman just gesturing up the stairs and Puck following in understanding. They each pat him on the back on his way up, and Puck wondered when he might ever be able to feel someone's touch again. When would everything not be so numb?
His mother had made it through surgery and well into the night. Sarah was able to visit and even talk to her, the two women a blubbering mess when the doctor told them they had to leave for the night. Puck had taken his sister home and made her dinner, and they tried to talk about her classes and stuff without thinking about everything else going on. They dodged phone calls and even knocks on the door just to avoid everything, the two falling asleep on the couch watching Schindler's List like the good old days. And when they woke up to a ringing phone, they knew their mother had died.
He opened her bedroom door, hoping she'd have the answer. Rather, knowing she did. Rachel always had the answer, and when it came to him, she always knew what to say and what to do to make everything better. He felt numb, but she could make it right. It didn't have to be wrong.
"Noah." Her breath caught in her throat, Rachel turning from her spot in front of her vanity. She was up off the seat and in his arms before he could even choke out a response, the force of her embrace ripping the air from his lungs. He inhaled sharply, his eyes closing when her familiar scent filtered through his body. Was it wrong that he already felt better? "I'm so sorry."
He heard it about a thousand times today, and he knew it was sincere from at least half the people. But hearing Rachel say it made it all seem much more real. There was so much to do and so much to think about, but right then he just wanted to escape it all. He wanted to pretend he lived in a world where it was just him and Rachel, and all that other bullshit didn't matter. It wasn't the grown up thing to do, and it certainly wasn't productive at all, but she also didn't question him. She just knew it would make him feel better, and so she let it happen. With her dads downstairs and the mood most definitely not set, they did it in her scary ass pink room.
"Finn's going to be here any minute," she said in way of warning, her head turning to her right to face him even though he was staring at the ceiling. "He wanted us to go to your house together to see if you were alright."
"Yea," Puck scoffed, lifting up into a sitting position and swinging his legs over the side of her bed. "I'm fucking fantastic."
"No, listen." Puck's harsh tone stopped her, the fire in his eyes halting her protests. "I don't need the damn pep talk." He leaned down and rummaged around the floor for his boxers, his head still tilted back so he could see over his shoulder. "I'm fine."
Rachel just nodded her head, turning around to face the opposite side of the room, gathering her own clothes in silence. By the time he'd dressed and turned back around, she'd had moved back to her vanity and wrapped an oversized terrycloth robe around her body. Typically the look she was giving him was enough to make Puck stop whatever it was he was doing at that particular moment, but right then it was only pissing him off more. So he stormed out of her room and practically ran down the stairs only to come face to face with not just her fathers but Finn, too.
"H-hey, man." Finn looked queasy, always the typical male when it came to showing emotions in front of other guys. He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other while Puck shoved his arms into the sleeves of his winter coat. "I heard about your mom."
"Thanks?" He questioned harshly, stuffing his hands into his pockets while glancing at Rachel's dads from the corner of his eye. Their attention seemed to shift to the top of the stairwell, and without even looking he knew Rachel was making her way down. Bitch wasn't the only one with a sixth sense. "Want to go grab a beer?"
"It's … uh …" Finn looked at Mr. and Mr. Berry and then up at Rachel before looking back at Puck. They were 21 now so there was nothing wrong with the two of them getting a drink. Well, almost nothing. "It's like nine in the morning."
"You coming or what?" He asked while walking out the door, knowing Finn would follow. He heard Rachel tell him it was alright, which meant there were two things about Finn that hadn't changed since high school. He was still more of a follower than a leader, and Rachel Berry still had him by the balls.
Because it was still so early, the two men found themselves back in a familiar spot, taking pulls from a bottle of whiskey while lounging on the hood of Finn's truck. Parked in the middle of the practice football field at McKinley, the bottle passed back and forth between them wordlessly, it was almost like nothing had changed. If Puck closed his eyes, he could be eighteen again and everything could be so much simpler. Finn was his best friend, Rachel was his chick friend, and his mom was alive. He didn't care about the future, had settled all his demons with his past, and was having a good time in the present.
Now everything was different. Complicated.
"What's going on with you and Rachel?"
"Nothing," Puck answered quickly, his tone harsh but even.
"Doesn't seem like nothing."
"For Fuck's sake, Hudson!" Puck snarled, ripping the bottle from his friend's grip. "Do we have to have this talk now?" Even Puck wasn't sure whether he was talking about the early hour or the poor timing considering all the other things going on, which is why neither man brought it up again.
"It's great." Puck rolled his eyes, passing the bottle back. Sometimes Finn's innocence was actually refreshing. "Warmer."
"I can barely feel it anymore," Finn stated matter-of-factly, emphasizing the warm liquid's effect on his body with the short statement.
Puck could almost hear his friend's inner monologue telling him to stop drinking now so he'd be able to drive them back into town later. He replaced the cap on the bottle, knowing he should stop drinking too if he was going to face his sister later. She'd run off to a friend's place after they'd gotten the news, but he knew they both would have to be home later to start making arrangements and figuring everything out.
"She loves you, you know?" Puck's eyes opened, his head slowly turning his head toward his friend. He was surprised to see Finn looking right back at him, more honesty in his eyes than Puck expected. "You shouldn't fuck around with her."
"I'm not down with all that relationship bullshit," he muttered, ignoring the first part of Finn's statement. He was already pretty far gone and thinking about love would no doubt make him throw up. "Puckasaurus can't be tamed by one woman."
"Sure." Finn rolled his eyes, slowly coming to a sitting position and looking back at Puck. "You and I both know Rachel's been your girl for like a year now, if not longer." Puck scoffed, sitting up with Finn but wishing he hadn't as the first indication of his blood alcohol level sloshed in his head. "It's OK, you know? To be happy even though everything is shit."
"Just take me back home, Finnessa." Puck slipped off the hood of the truck, going back into the passenger seat and slamming the door shut. He and Finn didn't speak another word until they pulled into Puck's driveway, when Finn had told him that he was still his friend and would be there for him if he needed anything. Puck had mumbled a thanks and closed the door in the same breath, walking inside the house and collapsing onto the couch for the second time in only a few days.
Never again (no no)
Would I turn away from you
I'm so heavy tonight, but your love is alright
And I do believe
A few hours later, Puck woke up to the sound of his sister walking through the front door, another familiar voice mixed in with hers. He groaned and turned to hide his face in the cushions, not really surprised when the two women ignored him and went up to Sarah's room. He tried to pretend like he didn't care, but his head lifted on its own volition, his ears perking up in an attempt to listen in on whatever they were discussing.
Last night Sarah had told her that she was the one who'd called Rachel after their mother was admitted into the hospital. He didn't understand why she would do that considering Rachel lived in New York and wasn't family, but Sarah had quickly denied him. She'd said that Rachel was the closest thing she had to a sister, and – and now he was quoting – even if he never got his head out of his ass long enough to make Rachel his, she'd always be her family.
It was a dwindling concept in Puck's mind, Sarah really the only relative left that he talked to. They had an aunt in Michigan and a couple of uncles spread out through the South, but he hadn't seen them since he was just a kid. He figured they'd show up for the funeral, and suddenly he was short of breath wondering who else would be there. Did the old glee clubbers know what happened? Had someone gotten a hold of his father or his new wife and kids?
He sighed, figuring he'd have to be the one to do that. Puck was used to being the man of the house, but being the responsible one as well was a bit too much for him. Still, he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called the restaurant, letting him know he'd be in Ohio for a few more days. Next on the list was Kyle, who told him that Rachel had called earlier letting him know all the details and he'd be on the first plane leaving for Ohio tomorrow morning. Puck tried to tell him that he didn't have to do that, but it was half-assed at best when his mind was suddenly overcome with so many more thoughts.
The second he ended the call, his body turned toward the stairs and he focused on Rachel. She was standing on the bottom step, waiting for him to approach her. Her calm demeanor only seemed to rile him up, all the anger and emotion from this morning bubbling back up until it boiled over.
"The fuck?" He blurted out, coming to stand right in front of her. "You made funeral arrangements?"
"Sarah and I did earlier, yes." She squinted her eyes, giving him that look. "Between the two of us we called everyone and set everything up for a traditional Jewish memorial service."
"You called everyone?"
His question came out strangled, but the meaning was as clear as day. They'd argued many times about how they both had daddy issues, they just happened to be the exact opposite problem. Regardless, Rachel was the only person who really knew how hard it was on Puck that he and Sarah's father had up and left, and then started a new, better family. The crazy thing was Rachel sort of understood, what with everything that happened with her birth mother and Beth's adoption.
"He's going to come, Noah." She bowed her head, unable to look him in the eye when he knew he was falling apart from the inside. "I'm sorry if that's going to make it harder for you, but … I'll be there."
He bobbed his head, half of his brain dedicated to thinking about his father and the other half dedicated to thinking about what Finn had said earlier. If Captain Oblivious was certain that Rachel loved Puck, then why was he still not sure? Why could she fly in from New York and hold his hand while he slept and cook him breakfast and soothe the pain and make all the arrangements and he still not be convinced that what they had was something real?
"Do you ever think about that party after Nationals?" He asked suddenly, holding his breath as he waited for her answer. Sarah choose that moment to barrel down the stairs, declaring that she was starving and wanted Chinese food like when she was younger. She'd invited Rachel to come with her to pick it up, and Puck thought he was never going to get his answer. But, right before she walked out of the door behind his sister, she turned back and whispered her response just loud enough for him to hear.
"Every single day."
That not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me
Puck shook another nameless face's hand, accepting their condolences with a tight smile. The entire thing had started to feel so much like an assembly line that Puck had to be literally shook from his robotic state when he simply shook Artie's hand and went to move on to the next person.
"Sorry, cripple." Puck shrugged helplessly, his eyes scanning the crowded area. "Long day."
"Sokay, man. Just glad to see you aren't dead, too." Puck laughed at the joke, both men pleased to find out he kept his sense of humor through the whole ordeal. They talked briefly about Artie's career plans for after graduation, about he and Tina long-distance dating, and about how they could hang out after they moved to Seattle after college. After that, Puck finally honed in on the tiny brunette he'd been looking for, her little black dress swaying as she moved up the stairs and away from the crowd.
He followed her all the way into his old bedroom, closing the door behind him and waiting for her to turn around. When she did, he first noticed the low neckline of her dress, and then he saw the tears in her eyes. Maybe he was running on autopilot because of the funeral or maybe it was because he hated to see her upset, but he'd crossed the distance between them quicker than he thought was humanly possible. His arms wrapped around hers, and they both sighed into the embrace together.
"I'm sorry," she sobbed out, burying her face into his chest even as her body wracked with emotion. "I shouldn't be crying. I'm sorry. So sorry."
Each time that she tried to stop crying only made it worse, the next breakdown coming out louder and with more force than the last. He rocked her gently from side to side, keeping his breaths even in a subtle attempt to calm her down. And it worked. After about ten minutes, she had stopped crying and they were just swaying, no music playing or able to be heard from downstairs but the two of them unable to keep still.
Story of his fucking life.
"Thank you …" he stopped, weighing how deeply he wanted to fall into the rabbit hole. Then again, how much further could he already fall? "For everything. Seriously."
She seemed surprised by his sincerity, but grateful. If there was anything that had changed since high school, it was Puck's understanding of women. Before, he knew how to get them into bed. He'd been born with enough charm and sex appeal for ten regular men, but it wasn't until later on did he really figure out what women wanted. It wasn't just compliments and remembering special dates, but it was just little things. It was realizing when they had a bad day and knowing how to fix it. It was knowing their standard order at a local takeout joint, and exactly how it would change depending on their mood. All men had to do was pay attention, and at that moment Puck wished he'd paid more attention to the woman in front of him over the years.
"It's not a big deal." She shrugged lightly, downplaying the moment with modesty. "You would have been here for me if the situation was reversed."
Puck stared at her, his resolve melting like the chocolate of her eyes. Everything from the past couple of days slammed into his mind at once, including all the memories that had been swimming around his brain. He had the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but they've all involved Rachel in one way or another. She'd always been there for him and just her believing in him enough to know he'd be there for her was all he needed.
His lips pressed against hers without warning, their mouths parting and a sigh escaping each of them simultaneously. This moment had been a long time coming, one where the sex and the love blended together. It wasn't all about teasing one another or getting to the finish line. Instead they took their time, ravishing each other entirely until they both couldn't take it anymore.
And then they'd done it again.
Please say, honestly
You won't give up on me
And I shall believe
I shall believe
Puck woke sometime during the night, Rachel pressed into intimately into his side. They'd gone back down later in the evening and talked to the guests together. She'd stayed by his side when he confronted his father, and then later all the old glee clubbers hung out and talked before they left, too. It had been a long day and everyone went to bed almost immediately, Rachel staying over with Puck. He'd been exhausted when they were downstairs, but something about having her alone in his room and not having her naked seemed like a travesty.
"What are you thinking about?" She asked quietly, Puck's chin tilting down when he'd heard her voice. He hadn't known she was awake.
"Nothing." She kept his gaze and he couldn't help but smirk. "Everything." She smiled at his admission, her eyes closing as she snuggled her face deeper into his chest. "A lot has changed quickly."
The way she said it made him frown, knowing it was less understanding and more afraid. After all their back and forth, Rachel still wasn't convinced this was it for them, and Puck wished he could blame her. Sure, she'd been the first reason they never got a real shot, but he'd played just as big of a role in the years after high school as she had. They were both responsible for what their relationship had become.
"I'm going to sell the house. Give the money to Sarah for school." He saw her frown and tried to interpret her reasoning without assistance. "I still have enough saved that I could get a small place in New York as long as I found a job, too."
"I'm not worried about that, Noah." She lifted her gaze back to his, looking at him sheepishly. "I'll miss this house." She bit the corner of her lip, blush rising on her cheeks. "It has a lot of good memories for me."
He grinned at her train of thought, going back in time for just a moment. "That's right. I almost forgot I popped your cherry on this very bed."
"Yeah right." Rachel rolled her eyes, turning away from his embrace but doing nothing to move away when he spooned her from behind. "You think about that night everyday of your life." She wiggled her ass, pretending to be trying to get comfortable but really just fucking with him. "Admit it."
"Make me," he growled, pressing into her a little more insistently.
Rachel responded in what was probably the best way possible, altering her position just enough that he slipped inside her. He cursed softly at the feel of her heat surrounding him, his hand gripping her hip as he tried to hold it together. She arched into him and mumbled assurance that she was on the pill, and that was really all he needed. After that, they both started rocking their hips together in a practiced but new rhythm, Puck realizing they were moving in the same beat they had been swaying to last night when he was consoling her. Only now he knew what it was.
And not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me
They shared a cab to the airport, sitting in the backseat together in silence. Despite all the terrible things surrounding the trip, their time together had been almost perfect. Now it was time to go back to their very different, very separate lives, and Puck couldn't help but wonder if it was all going to change. They'd never been able to make it work before, so what was different about this time?
"Do you think Kyle will ever stop talking about that time we did it on the kitchen counter?"
"Probably not until he can convince Michelle to try it once." Puck laughed, following her out of the cab and into the airport terminal. They made it through security and their gate within thirty minutes, but their planes didn't take off for another half hour.
"We could always have sex somewhere even more risqué. Maybe then they'd cancel each other out."
"Mmmmm." He moaned into a kiss, his bag falling off his shoulder as his arm wrapped around her tiny waist. There wasn't many places naughtier than the kitchen counter while your roommate was home, but Puck was sure he could spin it to make it seem like the airplane would be a good jumping off point. "I love you."
He scoffed at her answer, surprised the words had escaped his lips but less than thrilled with her response to them. That shit wasn't easy for him to say, and Rachel all but spit on it and covered him in dirt. Maybe she didn't understand.
"I mean, I always have." He shrugged while looking around, still too much of a guy's guy to say this shit without being a little embarrassed about who could hear him. "Always will."
"Fuck, Berry. Say it back or some shit!" Rachel giggled at his outburst, lifting to her toes to kiss him soundly on the mouth. They lost themselves in the embrace, their tongues sliding languidly against one another's while their hands roamed each other's bodies as appropriately as possible for a crowded airport.
"You should know I love you, Noah." She rolled her eyes while catching her breath, her hand lifting up to wipe away some of her lip gloss from his face. "Just because I didn't say it doesn't mean it hasn't been in every one of my actions since … senior year."
"I guess you're right." He lifted one shoulder up in understanding, sighing when he thought about how much time they'd wasted. Now they only had to last a few months apart, less if Puck could find a job and place to stay in New York quickly. "How can I make it up to you?"
"Not the way you want to." She giggled again, pushing away his advances as the sound of the flight attendant announcing that her plane was finally boarding filtered through the space. "But I did have something in mind."
"Name it," he said eagerly, visions of the mile high club pushed aside in exchange for some hot, airport bathroom sex.
"Well …" Her smile grew wider, almost devilish. "I do need a date to Sam and Quinn's wedding."
Fuck. He walked right into that one.
Please say, honestly
You won't give up on me
And I shall believe
I shall believe
I shall believe
I shall believe