Author's Note: So here's my third World War II Puckleberry fic. As you will see, it starts out as Samchel and Quick. But have some faith because Puckleberry is the only thing I ship! And yes, this is short but it's just the prologue. The remaining chapters will be much longer.
Prologue: December 7, 1941
The war that was raging in the rest of the world arrived at their tiny row house on Long Island in the middle of a calm Sunday afternoon. In between plating a serving of parsnips and freshly baked bread, 22-year-old Rachel Evans was shocked into silence as the radio announcer cut into weekly broadcast of the New York Philharmonic and blared forth news that changed everything.
… We interrupt this broadcast to bring you this important bulletin from the United Press. Flash: Washington. The White House announces Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor…
Rachel stared at the radio in disbelief, her eyes focusing on the orange tube that cast a faint glow on the dark shelf below. As the announcer continued, her brown eyes widened before she blinked rapidly. The words pouring from the speakers were foreign to her. Death toll. Wounded. Ships destroyed.
"Sam!" Rachel called to her husband, her voice rising in panic with every word. "Sam! You have to come here right this instant!"
Rachel heard shuffling in the next room before her handsome, blond husband appeared by her side, worry lacing his voice as he asked, "What's wrong?"
Pointing silently at the radio, Sam read the concern in Rachel's eyes and froze, his ears tuned to the broadcast. His posture tensed as the announcer went into more detail and Sam slipped his hands into his pockets and leaned against the kitchen cabinets, his eyes never leaving the small radio. After a few minutes of silently listening, his mouth popped open and he turned toward his wife. "We're at war, Rachel," he said softly.
"I know," Rachel nodded solemnly, "I know."
Two days later, President Roosevelt's radio broadcast changed the course of an entire generation with the simple words that the US had declared war on Japan and Germany. Rachel and Sam sat on the davenport, their fingers linked, as their dear friend Noah Puckerman sat in a chair next to his sweetheart, Quinn Fabray. After the President's broadcast was over, Rachel busied herself in the kitchen, slicing a coffee cake into meticulously neat pieces while nervousness raged its own war inside her. The air inside the house crackled with tension and it made Rachel's neck stiff and achy. Next to her, Quinn stoically prepared to brew a pot of fresh coffee while jumping at even the slightest of noises.
After Sam and Puck tromped through the kitchen, the back door clanked shut and Quinn jerked back from the counter like a frightened cat, sloshing coffee grounds all over the floor before shooting an apologetic glance at Rachel. Quinn bent to clean up the mess while Rachel watched Sam and Noah step out onto the grass, her gut coiling in the kind of fear that was hard to identify. She had no idea what to fear, really. For all she knew, they were discussing football or some other meaningless topic. But when Sam's shoulders slumped and Noah's brow furrowed deeply, Rachel knew they were talking about the President's broadcast.
She stood at the kitchen sink for the longest time, her eyes on the men in the yard. Their discussion became animated, both of them pacing and waving their arms at separate intervals. At one point, she was able to read Noah's lips. "Hitler," he'd clearly said. Rachel scowled and cast another concerned glance at Quinn. War was a foreign concept to her. Sure, she was well aware of what was going on over in England and France because the radio was almost always on in the Evans' household. But as to what the war actually entailed, she couldn't fathom. Her father had fought back in the Great War and she'd lost an uncle somewhere in Europe but no one in the Berry family ever spoke of it. War was, Rachel had always assumed, something that would never affect her. But as she watched her husband and his best friend talk in their miniscule backyard that was still piled with snow, the scowls on their faces told Rachel that not only had the war come to her country but it had arrived on her doorstep. Minutes later, after the two men had nodded their heads and smacked each other cordially on the back, the door opened again and Sam appeared thin-lipped while Noah's eyes were downcast. Their nervous postures said more than words ever could and tears formed in the corner of Rachel's eyes.
Her suspicions were confirmed an hour later, not long after they'd bid their friends goodbye and settled into the bedroom for the night. "You know I have to go, don't you, Rachel?" Sam asked, his eyes on his wife as she slipped her soft nightgown over her head.
Rachel's gut clenched with the burning fear of the unknown and her eyes clouded with tears again. "But why, Sam? What will going to war solve? Why? And why so soon? It's only just begun!"
Sam pushed himself off the bed and pulled Rachel into his arms. "We'll be drafted anyway, Rach. If we volunteer, we'll probably end up with a better unit and we'll get our choice of where to serve."
Eyes wide and dark with frustration, Rachel pushed herself out of Sam's arms and asked, "We? We, Sam?"
"Puck and me, of course," Sam clarified. "He's my best friend. We're enlisting together."
Rachel gulped, her throat clogging with fear and words she couldn't even begin to identify and wrap her tongue around, and she nodded. When hot tears began sliding down her cheeks, Sam gathered her into his arms again and kissed her forehead. "I'll be okay. We both will. But we have to go, Rachel. We can't let those bastards get away with this."
No amount of reassurance could calm the bubbling fear and wracking sobs that shook her. Even before he'd even enlisted, worry settled inside Rachel's bones and clutched at her. He was going to war and he wouldn't be okay. She knew it. As sure as she knew the sun would rise tomorrow and that her heart would break to tell her husband of less than a year goodbye, she just knew. Nothing would ever be okay again.
Next: A bit of Puck's perspective as the men head off to war, Rachel gets some news, and the men endure training and deployment.