Disclaimer: Still don't own Glee

Chapter Two

Puck returned back to the smith to leave his profit for his partner to tally and enter into the ledgers, unhitched his horses and rubbed them down, and then headed towards the Lucky Bullet.

"Puckerman!" came from behind the bar, and Puck shot a grin at the curly-headed barkeep.

"Anderson, set me up a round for the boys," he called and made his way over to his customary table in the corner.

His best friend, Finn Hudson, was already waiting with a wide grin and a hardly touched whiskey. "A whole round, Puckerman? Someone must've made a killing in Houston."

"Or just gotten laid," Blaine joked, laying out fresh glasses and filling them to the brim.

Puck scowled. "Yeah, as if I need to go to Houston for that."

At a nearby table, a big burly ranch hand named Karofsky laughed. "You do if you ever want anyone other than Santana. She's warned every willing woman in the town off your hide."

Grimacing, Puck took a bracing belt of the watered-down whiskey. "Don't know why." He shrugged. "She's allowed any man that wanders in this place. Seems like I should have my own freedom as well." He looked over at Finn, and saw that his friend was blushing, and sighed. He'd better distract Finnocence before his hair caught fire. "So , David Berry's daughter is in town."

That caught the attention of several men, much to Puck's dismay. Women were few and far between here, and most men were looking for a wife to do their cooking, cleaning and other… wifely duties. Normally, this sort of activity would amuse him. After all, one more man helped into the parson's mousetrap just meant it was one less chance for he himself to be caught. But the thought of one of these men pursuing Rachel Berry… well, it just didn't feel right.

After all, he reasoned with himself, none of them were Jewish, and that was undoubtedly important to her and her father.

"Oh, yeah?" Finn smiled placidly, the content expression of man already romantically engaged. "What's she like?"

Puck shrugged bad-naturedly and wondered why he'd brought this up. "She's abrasive, bossy, and never shuts up."

"So," Karofsky said, "she's a woman."

The patrons of the Lucky Bullet found this uproarious until a door near the back was slammed. "Aw, c'mon, Karofsky," a sharp voice called out, "we're not all that bad, are we?"

Puck looked at Karofsky in amusement as the other man swallowed harshly. "No, ma'am."

Stepping into the light, Sue Sylvester, the proprietor of the Lucky Bullet and town terror, sent a quelling look over the room. "Keep in mind, gentlemen, that you are here at my own allowing. If I wanted, I could turn you all out and turn this into a wayward house for troubled girls. Instead, I sell you cheap drinks and cheaper lays. So I'd ask you: keep a civil tongue in your heads when it comes to women."

The men hunched over their drinks, avoiding her gaze, as she swanned up the bar, her short hair shining gold as she leaned over to her employee, a blond man Puck hadn't noticed before. "Trouty mouth, give me a bottle of whiskey," she ordered. "And not the cheap stuff you give these swine."

He promptly served her, and without another word, she was gone, leaving the tension lingering.

Blaine was the first to break it, as he fought to contain his mirth. "Man, Dave, if you had seen your face…"

That was all it took to have the rest of the men laughing as Karofsky finished his drink and stormed out.

Puck leaned back in his chair and smirked until Finn looked at him appraisingly. "What?" he asked, defenses up.

"It's nothing. Except…"

"Except what?"

Finn shrugged and gave his own smirk, which didn't really fit the man's goofy, too-young face. "You seemed to be warning all the men off this Rachel Berry, when normally you'd be the first one helping them to the altar. Could it be that your mother will get her wish of Jewish grandchildren sooner than later?"

Puck muttered some choice phrases under his breath, then knocked back his drink. "Hell, no." Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a swath of dark hair over red fabric. "In fact, I think I'm going to go check in with Santana. Don't wait up," he said with a smirk as he rose.

"Done for," he could've sworn he heard Finn murmur beneath his breath, but he chose to ignore his friend and concentrate on the night's activities instead.

Rachel finally made it to her father's new home, a lovely house on the west side of town, where he had tried very hard to make it seem the same as the house in Houston. Nearly inch for inch, her bedroom was exactly the same as she remembered it. It was there she waited for her father after they'd dined with the Joneses and Mrs. Pillsbury-Howell, and were now settling in for the night.

As much as she loved Mercedes and Mr. Jones, she couldn't help but have hoped to have her father all to herself for her first night in this new place. She had so many questions to ask about his sudden relocation. She shook the thought away with a moment of guilt. That wasn't fair. For all intents and purposes Mr. Jones was like a second father to her, and Mercedes the closest thing she'd ever had to a sister. She had missed them dreadfully, and they had missed her.

And she had right now to get her questions answered, she thought as her father knocked softly on the door and she beckoned him in.

"Rachel," he said, sitting down next to her and drawing her into his arms once more. "I've missed you so much, sweetheart."

"Oh, Papa." Rachel burrowed her head into his shoulder and fought back the infantile tears that wanted to spill forward. Everything she'd been through in St. Louis bubbled back to the surface, all the fears and regrets and sadness. She refused to let any of that touch this new, fresh life, though.

Her father slowly released her and eased back. "Rachel, you look more like your mother every day," he marveled.

She took the opportunity to really look at him. He was as slight as ever, though his dark hair was decidedly thin and graying now. Some unspoken worry had lined his face slightly, but all in all, he looked like home. And love. She smiled. "Papa, I've missed you, and Texas so much. But I have to ask: why here? Why leave the prosperity of Houston to open a shop here?"

Something flickered across his face, too quickly for Rachel to identify it, and then he smiled. "There was nothing left for us in Houston, sweetheart. We were one of a handful of similar stores. And I thought, why be one choice out of so many, when I can come and help build a community and be the only choice?"

It wasn't the truth; at least, not the whole truth, Rachel suspected. "But what about Temple? There's no synagogue close to here. What have you been doing for Shabbat?"

"There's a lovely widow, Sarah Puckerman, in town who is also Jewish. Her husband moved her and their children here before going off to join the War, and she has been very gracious, and I think a little happy, to have us over for the meals."

Rachel heard the words "a lovely widow" over and over in her mind, but set it aside until later to see how she felt about her father possibly developing an infatuation for a woman. "She has children? How old?"

"Let's see. Her daughter, Rebekah, is ten now. And her son Noah is twenty-two. And single. And co-owner in a prospering business."

She groaned and threw herself back on her bed. "That's what this is about, isn't it, Papa? You and this Mrs. Puckerman have been conspiring with one another."

"Rachel," he soothed, "we're not conspiring towards anything. We have just spoken occasionally about how wonderful it would be if you and Noah were compatible. It would save both of you the time and expense of going to Houston to the Temple Beth Israel for find a suitable spouse."

Rachel wanted to ask why he assumed her future husband must be Jewish, but refrained. Her father had definite opinions on the matter that she wasn't keen to hear them all tonight. It had been bad enough when at one time she'd thought she'd actually have a Gentile fiancé to bring home; she wasn't going to waste her time and breath on a hypothetical man.

Her father was still talking. "-go to visit tomorrow. That's all I ask. Meet Sarah, and probably Rebekah, and if Noah happens to stop by, so much the better."