Prompt via Smc_27 - She closes the door before the winter lets the cold in, And wonders if her love is strong enough to make him stay

The Safe Choice

The news drops on a Thursday.

Rachel's at work when her manager brings the magazine in and lays it down on the table in front of her. There's a huge picture on the cover and she finds her eyes scanning the image for a moment before she feels her stomach drop into her gut and the tears fill her eyes. She's so hurt, so embarrassed and mortified, that she can't even find the words to respond when he asks her if she's alright. The look on her face must say it all, though, because he taps her on the shoulder sadly and tells her he will talk to her later.

Work is the only thing that she has to occupy her, so she throws herself into it knowingly. She spins on her turns a bit harder, presses her voice just a bit further, and that night she gets her first standing ovation on her new show. It's when she's backstage surrounded by her peers that she realizes she doesn't feel anything, that a sort of numb resignation has overtaken her.

There are a few copies of the magazine sitting around the makeup table and she's almost positive that everyone around her knows that her life is falling apart. They already think she's a heinous bitch so she's not all too surprised when she hears the whispers that linger when she walks past. She calls the babysitter and tells her she's going to be a little late and then she walks into her director's office and asks for some time off.

For some reason, she can't find it in her to care that she's basically handing the part to her understudy.


It happens on a Tuesday.

Puck's at some cheap stripper club with a few of his friends and they are drinking and checking out the girls on stage when she approaches him. She's wearing this tiny little pair of green boy-shorts and a pair of really fucking hot black heels and little else. Her blonde hair is piled into a messy bun on her head and she leans over and he immediately thinks of a girl he used to love in high school. He knows he's pretty much fucked and his head already feels fuzzy from the booze so it doesn't take much.

His friends are pretty much as fucked up as he is but they don't have to deal with the same shit he does. And it's not that he doesn't love his wife, he kind of always has, but more that he so sick of all the shit that comes with being with her. Her tits are in his face and she's laughing with her head thrown back and his hands dig into her hips until she leans over and whispers in his ear that she'd love to blow him out back.

He ignores the disappointed and disgusted looks on his friend's faces as he she takes his hands and leads him to the back door, not even bothering to cover herself up. He doesn't really even think about his wife, Rachel, until the girls on her knees in front of him her fingers working the button of his jeans. He's so fucking horny and it's been so long since he's had someone blow him that he pretty much pushes the thoughts away as soon as they surface. His fingers tangle in her hair and his eyes clench tight as she runs her tongue along him. He lets loose in her mouth and all he can think is fuck, finally.

He sees the camera flash behind his closed eyes and he knows he's fucked.

It's a week later when his best friend Finn calls him and tells him what a fucking asshole he is. He hasn't talked to him in weeks so the whole thing takes him by surprise until Finn mentions the magazine. When he finally understands what he's being told, the sound of the dial tone doesn't surprise him at all.


If there's one place that she figures she can go without having to deal with all of the gossip sights and paparazzi its home. Lima, Ohio for all intense and purposes seems like the perfect place to disappear to for awhile. Rachel calls her Dad and Daddy to give them a warning that she's coming to visit and then she starts packing. She packs Jack's stuff last, shoving a few outfits and his favorite stuffed bear into his Mickey Mouse suitcase.

The suitcases are resting by the door when her husband finally makes it home. He smells like stale booze and sweat. It's a bitter scent that makes her nauseous and she clenches her eyes tight praying for some sort of strength. After a moment of silence she opens her eyes to look at him noticing almost immediately that he looks almost as broken as she feels.

"Rachel," he mumbles. His hands are dug deep into his pocket and his head is hanging low. She can see the beginnings of his five o'clock shadow on his chin and she finds herself thinking about the way it used to feel as it scrapped against the inside of her thigh. The thought disgusts her.

"Please Noah, don't." She replies. Her voice is high, tight and she's pretty sure that she's either going to lose it and scream or she's going to burst into tears at any second. "I've always trusted you," she whispers, "always believed in you so much more than anyone else around us."

"Right," he replies, his voice tense, "because I'm just a worthless piece of shit without you." It's not the first time he's doubted his self-worth, she knows this all too clearly. But now it just kind of pisses her off. Her fists clench into the fabric of the couch and she grits her teeth trying to keep her voice quiet so that they don't wake their son.

"That's not what this is about," she growls, "man up for once and take responsibility for your actions." Her breathing is ragged and she listens to the sound of it as she counts to ten. "I saw the pictures, Noah, so please save the self-deprecation for another time and explain to me how you could do this to us; to me."

When he shrugs his shoulders she finally loses all hope of keeping her composure. She's known him for most of her life in some form or another so she can read him and his actions pretty well. The tears streak down her cheeks and she watches him clench his eyes shut, avoiding the sight. There are so many words jumbled in her head and all she really wishes is that she could find something profound to say.

"I didn't mean to hurt you," he mutters, "I was drunk and she was there and it all just seemed so easy." The words aren't comforting at all. It feels like he's taken a knife and stabbed it into her heart and she finds it so hard to breathe.

"You wanted easy," she whispers, "and you got a two dollar hooker to suck your dick. Congratulations." Her throat hurts and she forces herself to swallow a few times before she continues. "Do you want to know why I picked you all those years ago?" she mumbles, "Why I chose you over Finn and Jesse and even Sam? I picked you because you were the right choice for me Noah. You let me be me."

"Please," he scoffs his voice rising in anger. "You didn't chose me because I was right, you chose me because I was safe." She can't help the laughter that bubbles from her lips even as more tears streak down her face.

"You were the safe choice?" she questions with a hint of amazement in her voice. "The man who could barely keep his hands off another woman let alone his eyes was the safest choice for me?" Her head shakes back and forth and she can feel her heart pounding in her ears. "I've got a heart smashed into about a thousand pieces that tells me you were never the safe choice."


It's pretty obvious how badly he's fucked up when he wakes up the next morning to an empty house. He makes his way from the spare bedroom down the halls making sure to avoid looking at the pictures lining the walls. Rachel's keys are setting on the entry table and there is a small pad of white paper lying next to them. The page is completely blank.

Puck picks up the keys and feels the weight of them in his hands and he doesn't really know what to do, so he doesn't do anything. He sets the keys back on the counter and spends the rest of his day lying in the guest bedroom staring at the ceiling.

It gives him a lot of time to think about everything and at some point he just gives up and falls asleep.

The sound of his phone beeping is what wakes him up the next morning. He's almost positive there will be messages from his mother and from most of their friends and he's not really sure he's ready to deal with them just yet. He also knows that his manager is probably shitting her shorts right about now but that's kind of what he pays her for.

It's almost too easy to flip off his phone and forget about the outside world, so he does.

He drinks all the beer in the fridge and then switches to the bottle of whiskey that was stealthily hidden in one of the higher kitchen cupboards. The burning feeling settles in his gut and everything gets a dark kind of hazy edge around it that fills some sick twisted need to just forget. It's fucked up because forgetting is what got him here in the first place.

He's not really thinking anything when he finally passes out.


Four years ago, the last time she visited home, she was pregnant and standing at the front of her synagogue marrying the man that had always been there for her. Now, Rachel sits in the back with her Daddy and Dad, Jack squirming on her lap, and tries to avoid the knowing glances that the fellow members shoot her way. There's a sort of smugness in the air, an indelible 'told you so' that's being left unsaid and that's putting her more on edge than she should be. When it comes time to mingle and nibble on a few treats, she takes Jack's hand and smiles sadly at her Dad before slipping out the back door.

Instead of heading straight home, the two of them take their time walking the streets of the city. They stop at a small café and she buys him a hot chocolate and a small cookie, feeling a tiny bit guilty for having him miss the cakes and cookies that had become a staple of her childhood. When they make it to Lima City Park they stop for awhile to watch the ducks that line the grass around a small man-made pond before Jack takes to the swings. As he throws his head back, laughter echoing through the air, she can't help the small ache that swells in her chest.

It was never supposed to be like this.

Everything that she and Noah had, everything that they've shared, is tainted by this huge mass of hurt and anger. She can't get the pictures out of her head, as hard as she tries, and she wonders if this is some kind of Karma for 'cheating' on Finn all those years ago.. It's hard not to wonder if this has been going on behind her back the whole time they've been together, but thinking about it kind of makes her sick.

She's not sure how long it's going to be before Jack starts asking for his Daddy and she's not sure what she's going to tell him when he does. As much as she doesn't want to keep the two of them apart, her life is in Lima right now (at least for the time being) and Noah's is in New York and while it's not across an ocean or anything, it's not going to be easy. The thing that really kills her, though, is that she knows how it feels to have one parent absent, knows the desperate longing and constant wondering, and she can't force her son to go through that, she won't.

Her phone's in her hand and she's moving her fingers over the keys when she hears the voice calling her name. It takes her a moment to place it and she finds herself turning around and smiling at the man standing behind her.

"Sam, how are you?"


Puck spends the first week they're gone writing music and working in the recording studio. When he's busy it's easier to ignore the echoing quietness of their house and the fact that he fucked up just as badly as his father did all those years ago. He contemplates calling Rachel but every time he picks up the phone he loses his nerve. He wonders how Jack is doing and if he's being good for his mom. Instead of calling to find out, he picks up a twelve pack and his guitar and lets the music be his escape.

Most of his friends have bailed on him, having no difficulties picking sides when there are pictures out there for the whole fucking world to see. Santana's about the only one who will answer when he calls but it's more to rub it in his face and be a bitch than to actually help him the fuck out. It's lonely, lonelier than he can ever remember being and he's not sure why that bothers him so much. He finds himself sitting in Jack's rocking chair late at night, strumming his guitar into the open silence as he works on a lullaby his son will probably never hear.

It's all so fucked up and he's not sure he will ever be able to fix it.

He wakes up the next morning to find an 'exclusive interview' with the blonde stripper on about fifty different websites and blaring all over the news. She's dressed for the occasion; a classy blouse and skirt that makes her look more like a librarian than the whore she is. There's not much truth to most of the things she's saying and he can tell from the fucking glint in her eye that she's eating up the attention for all it's worth. It's then that he realizes he got fucking played and there's not a god damn thing he can do about it.

When he tries to call Finn later that day he gets sent right to voicemail.


Its nice having a friend around, someone she can rely on and talk to. Sam's there the day the interview breaks and she finds herself sitting on her couch glued to her TV. The tears stream down her face as she feels her heart break into even smaller pieces, each word crushing her further and further. He calls his sister and she comes and picks up Jack, shooting Rachel a look of sympathy as she walks out the door.

"Let it out, Rach" he whispers, his arm wrapping around her shoulder and tugging her to his side. Before she can really stop him, he flips off the TV and the room is silent around them. "If you keep letting this moment define you, break you down and tear at you, then you're never going to be the person you once were. And I know that neither of us wants that. Get it all out and then figure out what's next."

Neither of the steps are easy and both are going to require a ton of work. At the same point in time, it's exactly what she needs to hear which is refreshing and surprising. She clasps his free hand and squeezes his fingers in thanks, using her other to brush the tears from her cheeks. When Kurt and Finn call she hits the ignore button and spends the rest of the day curled up on the couch with her new best friend.

It's strange how comfortable it all seems.


The only reason Finn calls him back is because Rachel's not picking up her phone. Their conversation is short, the words angry, and he's pretty sure that not only did he lose his wife but also his best friend. When Puck hangs up, he contemplates calling her, but he's not sure where he would even begin or what the fuck he could possibly say to make everything alright again. There's this strange pit in the center of his stomach that won't go away no matter how many Tums he chews and it's starting to freak him out.

He's been avoiding his Mother like the plague, afraid of the disappointment and resentment he would hear in her voice, but he's pretty sure he can't put it off any longer. He presses the number 3 button and listens to the hollow ring echoing through the line. She's crying when she picks up, her voice nasally and tense. She doesn't ask him to explain, doesn't ask him why, but there's this resigned hush of things not being said between the two of them. And then she ruins it all.

"You're losing them, Noah, both of them."

His Mother's always been a little bat-shit crazy, but she's also always been one of his and Rachel's biggest fans. He can understand why she's upset, probably even hurt, but the words seem a little bit extreme even for her. That is until she continues.

"Rachel's been all around town with that blonde-haired gentile that you used to hang out with, the one that had that awful bowl-like hairstyle. He even joined her and Jack the other night at synagogue and Jacob said that he saw the three of them out to dinner at Breadsticks together."

"Sam?" he questions, his voice breaking slightly as his stomach flips uncontrollably.

"That's the one," she gossips. "Rumor around town is that the two of them are getting close."

There's a moment where he thinks he's going to either throw up or lose his shit so he gets off the phone, promising his Mother that he will call her back later. There's this ceramic bowl next to the couch, it's kind of pointless because it doesn't do anything but sit there.

So he picks it up and chucks it across the fucking room.


Sam gets Jack this little rubber football and takes him into the front yard, the two of them tossing it back and forth. Rachel sits on the porch, watching the two of them, and can't help but smile as her son's laughter fills the air. It's loud and obnoxious and so him that she wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

There's this feeling, though, in the pit of her stomach that tells her how wrong this whole situation is. She knows how upset Noah would be if he knew that someone else taught his son a sport, one that he played for several years. But Noah isn't calling, he isn't writing, and she hasn't heard from him in almost two weeks. A small part of her wonders if he's shacking up with other women. An even bigger part of her wonders if she and Jack are that easy to walk away from.

"Mommy," Jack screams and she looks up to see the ball flying towards her, both Sam and her son laughing. Grabbing the ball, and then placing her hands on her hips, she looks between the two of them and shakes her head with a small smile. Making her way down into the yard, she lets the grass sink in between her toes and throws the ball to an unaware Sam, hitting him in the stomach. He lets out a grunt and then a laugh and she finds that she can't help but join him.

Her Dad and Daddy corner her a day later after she's just put Jack to sleep. They sit her down at the dining room table, their eyes filled with concern, and ask her what her plan is. If she's honest with them, it's not really something she's thought about all that much because she knows that once she makes a decision it will make everything real. She knows it's childish and she knows it's imprudent but it's like hammering the final nail in the coffin.

There's a sheet of paper on the table in front of them and they push it towards her, giving her a moment to read it. Her manager emailed them information about a casting call in Chicago for a show that's just starting out. She reads through the premise and feels her heart skip a beat. She's missed performing and the thrill of being up on stage and it would be a new start for her.

Rachel takes a deep breath, already knowing in her heart what she needs to do, and promises both of her Dads that she will think about it. Later that night, as she's lying in bed, she sends a quick text to Sam.

I'm figuring it out- RB


He's in the studio, just finishing up for the night when his manager walks in. Her face is haggard, tired, and she looks like she's been through the ringer and back. When he sets down his guitar, he knows that he needs to brace himself just by the look she shoots the few other people in the room with him.

"I wanted you to be aware before it hit headlines tomorrow," she tells him. She holds up an announcement from the AP the words 'Rachel Berry Signs On' in bold across the top. She hands it to him silently and he can hear the whispers behind him as he reads the sheet. He only gets halfway through it before the curses start falling from his lips and the room feels like its spinning. "There are a lot of people asking questions about if you two reconciled or if you're getting a divorce and Puck I don't know what to tell them."

"Tell them to fuck off." He replies, his hands gripping the paper so tightly that it makes a loud crinkling noise. He can hear the whoosh of his heart in his ears and there is a slight pounding in his head that makes it hard to focus on anything other than the utter panic that is building up inside of him. It's all wrong, all of it, but he's pretty sure that he's too fucking late to fix it. When he gets up and walks out without another word, no one stops him.

It's probably better that way.

He makes it to the lobby before he realizes that the building is swarming with Paparazzi all waiting to get a comment or a picture from him. Puck ducks into one of the side rooms, his hands shaking as he tugs his phone out of his pocket. His presses down hard on the one button, and waits with bated breath. The phone beeps for just a moment before an automated voice apologizes and asks him to try again. When he gets the message a second time, he knows it's not a fluke.


The day after she signs the contract she changes her phone number out of necessity.

Somehow her personal information got leaked online and she knows there are weirdo's out there. She's not taking any chances now that she and Jack are on their own. When she tells Sam she's leaving he's surprisingly supportive and even encouraging and she can't help but kind of love that about him.

Chicago's a vibrant city and it kind of reminds her of New York in so many ways that she loves and hates it. She finds this quaint little house that she falls in love with the minute she sees it. Her and Jack move in a few weeks later (with help from her Dads and Sam). She's got some time to get used to the new city before rehearsals begin and she takes everyone to the Lincoln Park Zoo the next morning as a kind of thank you.

They're standing by the lion pen, just silently watching, when Sam moves next to her, bumping her with his shoulder. "This place is going to suit you well, Rachel. I can tell already."

Jack lets out a loud laugh, her Daddy bouncing him up and down on his shoulder and she turns to Sam and smiles. "I think you're right," she replies with a small laugh. "For the first time in weeks I'm at peace with a decision I made. You've been a great friend, Sam. Thanks for pushing me in the right direction." He slings his arm over her shoulder, pulling her into a hug for a moment before letting her go.

"It's what I'm here for," he chides.

Sam and both of her Dads head back later that day, spouting promises of visiting again soon. Jack's exhausted from the busy day, so she tucks him in early and starts unpacking the various boxes of stuff they brought with them. The house is quiet and it's nice but she can't help the loneliness or sadness. There's a stack of paper (a petition for divorce, to be exact) her Dad brought with him sitting on the counter that she's supposed to look over.

As much as everyone around her would love for her to sign them, she just can't. It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but her. She's just not ready.

Kurt calls her a few hours later, lamenting over the fact that her move away from him and Blaine was permanent. He's overdramatic and boisterous and it's exactly what she needs to keep her mind off of the drama that has become her life.


If Rachel was trying to hurt him, she fucking succeeded. If she was trying to make a point, he finally gets it. He misses her and he misses their son. It's like this huge fucking chunk of his life is missing and there's not really anything he can do to get it back. He should have tried to call her, should have put some fucking effort into it. But he didn't, he let his pride and his anger rule him and now he has to live with the consequences.

Puck never thought he would turn out like his Father, never thought his whole life would be one big fuck up.

US weekly comes out with this huge article about how Rachel is moving on. There are a few pictures of her new theater and a couple of quotes from other members that have been cast about how amazing she is. It's when he sees the pictures of her, Jack, her Dads, and Sam at the zoo that he loses it. They look like a fucking family and the magazine does all but say that Sam is taking his place in his Sons life. They also quote a 'close source' as saying Rachel was close to filing for divorce.

He goes on a bender of drugs and alcohol. It's the only way he really knows how to cope and even then he's not really coping. He drinks and smokes and snorts until he can't feel anymore and the world is just a hazy mess of nothingness. There's all this disappointment and resentment bubbling up inside of him and he's kind of surprised because as angry as he's always been he's never hated himself more than he does now.

Its two weeks before anyone comes to check on him and then it's his manager and she fucking screams at him for an hour about how he's wasting his life away. She drags him out of his house, shoves him in a car, and checks him in to some fancy rehab facility that's supposedly discrete. It's not like it fucking matters anyways, it's not like he matters.

Not anymore.


Between rehearsals, dance and voice lessons, and Jack she has little time for the gossip or fodder that has become a staple of the crew. She hears the whispers behind her back, see's the magazines lying around the table and she ignores them all. It's easier to ignore them, and the ache that settles in her stomach, then to deal with the flutter in her chest when she sees his picture on the front cover.

It isn't until his Mother calls her that she finds out exactly how far he's fallen and even then it's hard for her to believe.

For the first time in weeks she cries for him and for Jack and for them. It's still so hard to believe how it all went wrong so quickly, that in a blink on an eye she lost everything. Instead of dealing with the cameras constantly following her and the questions being thrown at her she throws herself into work and into making sure that Jack wants for nothing.

When Halloween comes she dresses Jack up as Peter Pan and herself as Tinkerbell and they traipse through the neighborhood just like any other normal child collecting candy from house to house. There's an excitement buzzing in the air and for a moment she wonders what it would have been like to have Noah there beside them; her Captain Hook rounding out the crew.

By the time they make it home, they are both exhausted and her feet are killing her. She lets Jack eat two pieces of candy before she tucks him into bed, kissing him on the forehead and flipping on his nightlight. She's exhausted both physically and mentally and she wonders how most single parents are able to function.

Because it's not an easy task, no matter what one would think.

For Thanksgiving her Dad and Daddy fly to Chicago to spend the holiday with the two of them. There's a small tofurkey for herself and a medium sized turkey for the three of them. She spends the day in the kitchen slaving away over the stove and worrying about nothing but getting the recipes right and making everything taste yummy.

Chicago is finally starting to feel like home to her and to Jack and it's a wonderful feeling having a place where she feels like she belongs. After dinner her Dad and Daddy put SpongeBob on the TV and the three of them sit and play cribbage while Jack watches the show fascinated. Jack and her Dad crash early and she spends the evening sitting with her Daddy watching old movies on the TV.

She can't help but cry with Judy Garland, her Daddy shooting her knowing looks as she brushes the tears from her cheeks. "You still love him, bug." Her Daddy whispers gently. "And that's alright. You probably always will."

There's been this huge hole in her chest for awhile now that she's kind of refused to acknowledge but it just keeps getting bigger and she's afraid it's eventually going to swallow her whole. "I just can't let go, Daddy." She feels another tear slip down her cheek as the truth in the words ring through her.

"I know, baby," he coos. He wraps his arms around her and pulls her closer, letting her head rest against his shoulder as his fingers stroke through her hair. "Have you talked to him at all?" Her shoulders shake with her cries and she nods her head no, feeling utterly helpless. "Maybe you should try?"


He gets out on a Monday. It's the beginning of December and it's so fucking cold that they are advising people to stay indoors instead of braving the weather. His Mother and his little sister are sitting in his house when he gets home, the two of them on the couch in front of the fireplace. They both jump up when he enters the room, the two of them seem tense and nervous. It kind of pisses him off.

"Knock it the fuck off," he mumbles softly, "It's me, Noah."

His Mom cries and his Sis fucking throws herself at him, her arms wrapping around his stomach and squeezing him tightly. They spend the afternoon hanging around his house, catching up and avoiding the one topic that is really all that fucking matters to him anymore. When he gets up to get a glass of water from the kitchen, he notices a new picture of Jack tacked to the fridge with a cheesy magnet. He's not sure how long he stands there staring at it before her voice breaks him out of his revere.

"I called her," his Mother mumbles. When he turns to look at her there's this mixture of embarrassment and shame on her face. "I got her new number from Eli when I ran into him at the synagogue."

"And you're telling me this now because?" his voice is irritated and he can feel a small pulsing behind his left eye. He's at a stage in his life where he's not sure what he thinks of surprises anymore and as much as he loves his Mother he's also pissed.

"She needed to know what was going on with you," she shrugs her shoulders, shooting him a sad smile. "There is so much history there, Noah. You're both hurting and both stubborn and someone had to make the first move." She pauses for a second, her shoulders squaring as she continues. "I missed my Grandson and I wanted to check and see how he was doing. I have that right."

He swallows the lump forming in his throat, his eyes glancing at the picture for another second before nodding his head. "How's my boy doing?" His voice breaks slightly and he turns away, fingers wrapping around the edge of the granite countertop.

"He's good, Noah. "She pauses for a moment, sighing. "He's growing so much and he's so talkative. Rachel put him on the phone and he just jabbered on and on about football and dinosaurs, SpongeBob and the lion at the zoo. Rachel said Chicago's starting to feel like home to the both of them; they love it there."

His eyes are burning and as much as he wants to fight back the tears that are forming, he kind of can't. So he nods his head and pulls open one of the cupboards, keeping his back to her as much as he can. "There's one more thing," she tells him and he feels his shoulders tense, "you should probably know."

His fingers grip the edge of his glass and he keeps his eyes focused on the counter. "Sam," she whispers, "is still living in Lima." He hears his Sis click on the TV in the other room, the noise echoing around him as he tries to process. "Eli says she still misses you."


It's a cold and blustery Wednesday; snow falls heavily from the sky when she takes Jack outside to get a reprieve from the cabin-fever that is encasing both of them. They are bundled up; layers of clothes protecting their skin, as they walk hand in hand down the street. A few blocks away from their house lays a small park which is their destination for the afternoon.

The walk doesn't take long, which Rachel is thankful for, and the two of them set about making a snowman and snow-fort, Jack's laughter echoing through the open air. There are a few older kids on a small snow-hill, their sleds and snowboards just viewable in the distance; but otherwise the park is empty. It's a nice change from the busy bustle that has become their life and Rachel finds herself taking a moment to just enjoy the time with her son.

They stop at a coffee shop on their walk back, the warmth a welcome reprieve from the chilliness that had encased them. Jack nibbles on a cookie and sips a glass of warm milk his eyes transfixed on another child's stuffed dinosaur. When they go to leave, he shoots the other small boy a wave and Rachel can't help but smile and laugh.

It's getting dark out earlier now that it's winter and the sun is just beginning to drop below the horizon when they make it to their block. There's a hunched figure sitting on their porch and Rachel pauses for just a moment, eyes squinting and then widening. She lets go of Jack's hand briefly out of shock and it's then that the small boy notices his father.

"DADDY," and before she can stop him he takes off down the sidewalk, his legs slipping and flailing as he moves. Noah meets him halfway, his arms wrapping around and lifting his son. She's frozen in spot as she watches the two of them whisper, hug, and then kiss. There's all these emotions swirling around inside of her and she can feel the tears tumbling from her eyes. She takes a few steps towards them, unsure of what comes next or even what to say.

"Rachel," he murmurs. She's always been good at reading Noah, always know what he's thinking and feeling just by looking at him and the tone of his voice. It's different now, though. They're different. Reaching up, she brushes a few stray locks of hair back, her eyes meeting his for the first time in months.

"Noah," she replies softly. There are so many things unspoken between them and as hard as she's tried; she hasn't been able to forget him. It's a strange kind of torture, seeing him now with their son and it pulls on her heartstrings and makes the tears tumble harder.

"I'm so fucking sorry for everything I put you guys through." She's not sure if it's the sound of his voice or the wind but a shiver runs through her body and she nods towards the house, her hands burrowing in her pockets. He hugs Jack to him tighter and moves alongside her, neither of them really saying anything. She shoves her key in the lock, her eyes lingering on him for a moment before twisting the key and ushering both of them inside and out of the cold weather.

Jack jumps down, tugging his boots and hat off and chucking them on the floor and he stumbles through the house leaving the two of them standing in silence. She can't help but marvel at how different Noah looks, almost healthier, and a kind of heavy sadness fills her heart.

"It's been months, Noah."

"I know," his voice breaks slightly and she can see a hint of the boy she fell in love with all those years ago. "I needed to fix myself before I could come back, Rach." He pauses, taking a deep breath as he tugs off his hat. "I promised you a long time ago that I would never be like my Father and as much as I wanted that promise to be true it wasn't. I had my own set of demons to concur, my own fuck-ups and problems to face. In the process, I not only let you down but Jack as well." He clears his throat, his eyes misting over and speaks the four words that could potentially break her even further. "I still love you."

The house is warm and her fingers tug at the end of her zipper, pulling it down and her coat off as she contemplates his words. "There's still so much to talk about, Noah. What you're asking for is a huge leap of faith that would not only put my heart at risk but Jack's as well. I still love you too," her voice breaks and she swallows back the lump forming and presses on. "But things are different now. You broke us and it's going to take a lot of work to fix all those cracks."

"I know." He answers honestly. "And I'm willing to do whatever it takes because I know what it's like now living a life without the two of you. I've already talked to a realtor about selling our house in New York because your guys' home is here now. I told the studio I was taking some time off to work on me and to work on us. I can get an apartment and we can start from scratch if you want. I'm so close to fucking being me again and all I need is you, Rach. I've always needed you."

It's only the third time she's seen him cry, the first being when he gave up Beth and the second when the doctor placed baby Jack in his arms. She nods her head, her tears tumbling down her cheeks and lets out a small sob when he wraps his arms around her waist and pulls her into a hug. They still have so much to talk about, so much to work through in the days and months to follow.

It's far from perfect, but it's so them, and it's a start.


For those of you patiently waiting for an update to Safe Haven... I'm working on it (promise). I've been toying with this story for weeks now and finally (FINALLY!) finished it!