Title: It's Your Song That Sets Me Free (I Sing It While I Feel I Can't Hold On)
Category: Glee
Genre: Tragedy/Angst/Romance
Ship: Rachel/Puck
Rating: NC17/R
Warning(s): Coarse/Sexual Language, Sexual Content, Character Death, Suicidal Themes
Word Count: 4,904
Summary: Rachel Berry had no idea what events would transpire that day. How standing up for someone she didn't know would eventually lead to tragedy. And Noah Puckerman was the unfortunate boy who had to deal with the aftermath; only he had no idea how. And coping was never his strong suit.

It's Your Song That Sets Me Free (I Sing It While I Feel I Can't Hold On)


Monday morning, a group of grief stricken glee clubbers collected in the choir room.

Where once they surrounded themselves with music, with smiling and clapping, dancing and cheering, now there was nothing but a dark, empty silence.

Mr. Shuester looked around at each of them, at these faces that had changed so much in these last few weeks. These kids had been through not one, but two deaths, and the toll it had taken was obvious. They looked older, harder, forever changed by their loss. He saw it like a weight on their shoulders, hanging heavy on their emotions and their happiness, surrounding every moment of their lives like an all-consuming bubble of depression and hurt.

He took a deep breath. "I know… This is probably the last place any of you want to be…" He nodded, casting his eyes around in understanding. "To be honest, I feel the same way."

"Great, then we can leave," Santana said, moving to stand up.

She wasn't wearing her Cheerio outfit. Instead, for the first time Will could remember, Santana wore all black. Where once a girl who used to be full of flash, throwing her sensuality out there like a slap in the face, now she wore layers, her face scrubbed of make-up, and her hair vaguely tied in a knot behind her head. Despite all her grandstanding of being a 'tough bitch,' it was obvious that she cared about Puck. If nothing else, he'd been her friend, and his death had hurt her. Customary to Santana, she hid behind a wall of not caring.

Knowing her better than that, however, Brittany put a hand out to stop her girlfriend and coaxed her back into her seat.

Leg over her knee and bouncing, Santana crossed her arms and glared at their teacher. "Well?" she demanded.

Will half-smiled sadly. "I…" He took a deep breath and reached into his vest pocket. "I have a letter here… From Puck…" He looked around at each of them. "But if none of you want to hear it, then I won't read it… I want this to be decided as a group." He nodded. "Show of hands, who wants to hear the letter?"

People were hesitant at first; they looked around at each other uncertainly.

"I want to hear it," Quinn said, raising her chin.

Mercedes nodded, holding up her hand. "Me too."

And slowly, the rest of them raised their hands as well.

"I don't know," Tina said, shaking her head. "I'm not sure I can…"

"It's okay, Tina…" he assured. "If you want to leave, if it's too much, I can stop…"

She gripped Mike's hand and nodded.

Sitting back on his stool, Will stared down at the letter thoughtfully. "Puck marked it with a song he wanted you guys to hear… It's Bayside's Winter…" He reached down by his side and plucked up a guitar. "So I'm going to start with that…" He checked to make sure everybody was okay with that and when they all sat back and waited patiently, he put his guitar in his lap and started strumming, nodding his head along to the beat.

When Winter falls…
Next year, I'll be holding on,
To anything nailed down…
As for being patient,
With fate and all, it's getting old,
And my mind is slowly changing
I'm calling all my oldest friends,
Saying "sorry for this mess we're in,"
And I'm waiting…
For the sun to come and melt this snow,
Wash away the pain, and give me back control…

He raised his chin and looked at each of his gleeks as he sang a little deeper.

An angel got his wings,
And we'll hold our heads up knowing that he's fine…
We'd all be lucky to have a love like that in a lifetime…

He let the guitar trail off for a few seconds before standing from his stool and moving around the room, pausing to sing to each of them.

Should we still set his plate?
Should we still save his chair?
Should we still buy him gifts?
And if we don't, did we not care?
It makes you think about the life you've led,
Shit you've done, things you've said.
And it's grounding…
I've been feeling three feet tall this month,
Hardly indestructible,
But the snow melts…
And the rhythm still goes on…

Following the chorus, he stared at Finn meaningfully.

Friends stay side by side,
In life and death you've always stole my heart,
You'll always mean so much to me, it's hard to believe this…
These nights in vans…
These nights in bars…
Don't mean a thing with empty hearts…
With empty hearts…

And together, they all joined him for the chorus.

An angel got his wings,
And we'll hold our heads up knowing that he's fine…
We'd all be lucky to have a love like that in a lifetime…

Sniffling, they leaned into each other.

Nodding, Mr. Shue walked back to his stool and placed his guitar down beside him.

He cleared his throat as he picked up the rumpled paper that he'd obviously read through many, many times since receiving it.

"Mr. Shue," he began, adding, "(and all the gleeks). You can read this to them if you want. I didn't write up something for all of them 'cause I figure this should be enough."

Santana scoffed. "Lazy pendejo."

He let it slide, continuing, "I don't know if you're pissed at me or if you're sad or disappointed or what… I feel like half these letters are just me apologizing. So yeah, I'm sorry. Sorry I won't be there with you guys when you take Nationals. Sorry I won't see Mike dancing his ass off in LA or Artie's big movie debut. Sorry I won't see Santana and Brittany tie the knot and get their lesbian love on. Sorry I won't get to see if Quinn and Sam's kids are mutants, 'cause seriously those two are probably related or something, it's freaky."

A few of them laughed, while Sam frowned and Quinn rolled her eyes.

"Sorry I won't hear Mercedes put Aretha to shame. Or be around when Tina's art takes off. Sorry I won't hear about you, Mr. Shue, taking another bunch of reject misfits to Nationals and making them proud of themselves." Mr. Shue smiled faintly to himself.

"I'm really sorry I'm not the badass you all thought I was and that I fucked this up just like I've done everything else. I'm sorry I ruined Quinn's life. I'm sorry I slusheed and swirlied and threw some of you in dumpsters. In general, just sorry I was such a dick to you. I'm sorry I'm upping the death toll to two and causing any of you guys any more shit. But I'm also really thankful…"

He paused to look around at the group, some of them frowning, some unable to look at him as he read.

"Thankful that I got to know you. That Mercedes brought the chocolate thunder. And Mike and Tina brought the Asian Fusion. That Artie was my boy; for all our COD marathons and how you always got my back. I'm grateful that Quinn gave me Beth; even just to know she's alive is enough. That Sammy-boy showed up to take care of my baby-mama like she deserves. Grateful to Santana for still being my les-bro after everything went down; you'll always be my favorite bitch. For Brittany and all her blonde wisdom. And you, Mr. Shue, for—" His voice caught. Swallowing tightly, he went on, "—for being a stand-in father when my own was a douche I hardly remember. Despite everything, you always stood by us…" He reached up to swipe at his eyes and cleared his throat.

"I'm grateful I got a few years to sing and dance with you awesome losers. And I really, seriously hope you all do great things with your life. 'Cause you deserve it.

I know you won't all get it and maybe you'll think I'm crazy as fuck or a selfish asshole, but… I made my choice and I don't care if you like it or not. She was everything I had and everything I loved and without her, I just didn't make sense anymore. Call me a pussy if you want, call it bullshit, whatever. It's over now and I want you to know it's what I wanted. I was ready and prepared for this and I know there's no going back. This wasn't something I decided at the last moment, I've just been waiting for the right time…"

Mr. Shue raised his head to look at Finn, before finally reading the rest.

"So that's it. It's all I really had to say. Thanks for all the memories. Live long, dream big. – Puck"

He folded the paper back up and held it tight between his fingers. Rubbing a hand down his jeans, he nodded and looked at them. "So that's it… That's… That's the last words of Noah Puckerman…" He laughed thickly, humorlessly. "And it's a little bit my fault. I—I should have stepped in more. I should have pushed him to get more help. I…" He shook his head. "I hoped that he would cope or…" He sighed, closing his eyes. "I don't know what I hoped, except that he would be here still, with us… That they both would be…"

He looked over the crowd of familiar, sad faces. "And I'm sorry… I'm sorry that you—you lost Rachel and Puck and that… That you are all hurting so much…" He stared searchingly. "I'm sorry that I couldn't save them and I hope— I really hope that if any of you are feeling the way he was that you don't… Don't do what he did. That you just, you talk to me or your parents or a counselor, anybody, just as long as you don't follow in his foot steps. Because it's not…" He waved the letter at them. "I know that loss— it hurts. That loving somebody and losing them, and not just— Not just a break-up but to actually physically lose somebody… It-It's heart-wrenching. But I am begging you… Your life is worth more than this. More than a goodbye on a piece of paper. I want you, all of you, to go on to have long, incredible lives. I—I wanted that for Puck too…"

He dropped his head and sighed. "He made this decision and I don't agree with it." He shook his head, frowning. "I—I'm even a little mad at him for doing it and maybe some of you are too… Maybe you're really angry or you think he was being selfish…" He looked to a nodding Santana, staring off angrily with her jaw clenched tight against emotion. "What I know is that Puck was really hurting and he made a decision when he didn't think he would ever feel another way. But I am here to tell you that you will…" He raised his brows meaningfully, gazing around at each of their faces. "It may not feel that way. It might feel like you can't imagine ever not hurting, not missing them, not wishing, desperately, that they were here with you… But one day, and it might be a long way down the road, but one day you are going to be okay again…" He pressed a hand to his heart. "You are going to smile and laugh freely and you will feel joy and happiness and you will be able to talk about them and remember them and not feel that ache in your chest. I promise you."

He watched as they let his words sink in. As Finn buried his face in his hands, elbows braced on his jumping knees, and Mercedes reached a hand out to his shoulder. As Quinn rested her chin on Sam's shoulder, her eyes closed. As Mike and Tina hugged each other equally tight. As Artie fiddled with his gloves and sniffed covertly. As Santana wiped quickly at her face and leaned away from Brittany's comforting hands. They would all heal and grieve in their own ways; he only hoped that it would be healthy and safe and that none of them chose the path Puck had.

The door swung open then and they all turned to see Coach Sylvester and her sidekick, Becky, walk into the room.

Shoulders slumping, Mr. Shue sighed. "Not today, Sue, please…"

"Don't pull your Labradoodle weave out in an unattractive rage, William," she said, tucking her arms behind her back. "We come in peace…" She looked around at each of them and nodded her head. "We heard you lost one of your tone-deaf monkeys this week and wanted to offer our condolences."

Skeptical, he frowned. "Thank you…"

Sue waved her hand dismissively. "We also heard that since there's no rock solid evidence of His Badassery's complete and total demise, Figgins doesn't think you should throw another memorial assembly…" She shrugged one shoulder, tipped her head, and said, "Can't say I blame him, since the screeching and sobbing mess of the last one did prompt a student to suicide." She raised a finger pointedly. "Note that as a statistic I will bring up next near when I petition once more that the Glee club is a sign of oncoming apocalypse… But," She drew a deep breath, "since you've already lost two of your champions and we're feeling in a charitable mood…" She glanced at Becky. "I know you wanted a plaque and your miniscule budget, and even smaller wage, wouldn't cover it, so… Becky?"

Stepping forward, Becky handed it over to Mr. Shuester.

"From us to you," Sue told them.

Blown away, Will shook his head, looking from her to the memorial plaque in his hands. "Sue, I… I don't know what to say, I… Thank you… really."

Nodding, she said sincerely, "I know it may seem like I hate all of you with a fiery rage that could eclipse the sun, and for the more part that's accurate, but… Streisand and Diamond were of the few underhanded and determined little termites I actually liked just a little…" She shrugged slightly, adding, "Even if their incessant show of PDA made me dry-heave until I tasted blood on occasion…"

He smiled slightly, partly amused.

"Well… That's about all the sympathy I had left to share, so…" Sue turned back around to leave. "William… Children of the Corn," she said in farewell, as she and Becky left.

Everybody was silent a long moment, stunned at what had just transpired. But finally, Mercedes asked, "What's it say?"

Mr. Shue read it through to himself and then smiled faintly at the picture of Rachel and Puck on the front, arms wrapped around each other, smiling widely.

He cleared his throat before sharing it with them:

"Destined for greatness, gifted with talent beyond their years, taken too soon, remembered forever.
Rachel Barbra Berry and Noah Isaiah Puckerman were tragically lost to us, leaving their dreams and accomplishments as our last encouragement.
They live on in the hearts of their beloved friends in the glee club and their families.
We only hope that their love for each other and for music transcends the limits of death to go on with them

He nodded approvingly. "It goes on to add their dates of birth and death."

"It's beautiful," Tina said, smiling softly.

"Yeah, Rachel would like it," Mercedes agreed.

"We'll hang it in here," Mr. Shue decided. "Next to the trophy case…" He half-smiled. "So they can share in our future accomplishments."

After it was hung, they shared a moment of silence for their fallen friends.

Finn stared at it there on the wall thoughtfully. He considered what it said and what it meant and who it was for.

Brows furrowed, he sat back in his chair and filled the thoughtful silence.

Step one, you say we need to talk,
He walks, you say sit down, it's just a talk,
He smiles politely back at you,
You stare politely right on through…

Quinn stood from her chair, walking down to the floor below, staring intensely at the plaque, she sang with her arms wrapped tight around her waist.

Some sort of window to your right,
As he goes left and you stay right,
Between the lines of fear and blame,
And you begin to wonder why you came…

Mercedes rose with them, a hand to her heart, and belted out the chorus.

Where did I go wrong,
I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness,

She pointed at the plaque meaningfully.

And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life…

Artie raised his chin, his face a mask of resolute sadness, and rolled forward to sing in a deep, grief laden voice.

Let him know that you know best,
Cause after all you do know best…
Try to slip past his defense,
Without granting innocence

Sam wrapped an arm around Quinn's shoulder and shook his head, eyes closed tight as his voice rose up.

Lay down a list of what is wrong,
The things you've told him all along,
And pray to God, he hears you…
And pray to God, he hears you…

They harmonized for the chorus, their voices rising from deep inside themselves and echoing all around; reaching past the chorus room and out into the school as well.

Mike and Tina held tight to each other, singing together.

As he begins to raise his voice,
You lower yours and grant him one last choice,
Drive until you lose the road,
Or break with the ones you've followed…

Santana shook her head, throwing her arms out as she sang emotionally.

He will do one of two things,
He will admit to everything,
Or he'll say he's just not the same,
And you begin to wonder why you came…

They sang the chorus twice more, reaching out and taking each other's hands, bound together, gripping tight and taking comfort.

Brittany looked to Santana as she sang out softly.

How to save a life…
How to save a life…

And finally, Mr. Shue finished it out.

Where did I go wrong,

I lost a friend,
Somewhere along in the bitterness,
And I would have stayed up with you all night,
Had I known how to save a life…
How to save a life…
How to save a life…

And breaking down once more, they came together in a group hug, holding each other up.

"We're going to make it through this," Mr. Shue promised.

"It doesn't feel like it," Tina cried, shaking her head.

Mike rubbed her back soothingly. "We will." He turned to look at the others strongly. "We will."


New Directions went on to take Nationals that year; they cried as the trophy was handed to them, partly out of joy and partly because of who wasn't there to share in their victory.

They dedicated it to their fallen friends and placed it in the trophy case.

And before they all left, Brittany stuck a small, gold star sticker on their shiny trophy, blew a kiss to the memorial plaque, and told the club quite simply, "They're proud of us."

Mr. Shuester saw genuine happiness in his kids for the first time in a month. They believed her. And, he supposed, they should; she was right.

Wherever they were, and he'd spent many a time pondering it, he was sure that Rachel and Puck weren't just together, but they'd been cheering them on the whole time.

After all, Rachel Berry never missed a performance. Surely not even death could stand in her way.


September, 2012

"Have you blown up the glee tree yet?" Blaine wondered, smiling at the boy next to him.

Kurt pushed his sunglasses up onto his head. "Blaine, we just got off the plane…" He shrugged. "I was going to wait until we were in the cab."

He laughed, wrapping an arm around Kurt's waist. "They'll want to know…"

He nodded. "Yes, all right…" He dug his phone out of his pocket and started texting. "I'll tell Finn first..."

"How's he liking OSU?"

"Loving it," Kurt told him, eyes wide as he nodded. "Did I tell you his truck broke down on the drive over?" He waved a hand dismissively. "Anyway, he said his roommate is pretty cool. A jock just like him; sports and girls on the brain." He rolled his eyes.

"He's taking business courses, right?"

"Mm-hm. He says he wants to be prepared for when he goes back to Lima to take over the tire shop from dad…"

"Well that's good. At least he's preparing."

"Yeah." He looked up at his boyfriend thoughtfully. "It makes sense, you know? Finn likes Lima. It'll be good for him to get out for awhile, get some business experience, but he'll be happy going back."

"While we'll be happy here…" He squeezed his shoulder. "How are you feeling? I know you were worried you might have regrets… Might feel like you were missing something…" He stared at him searchingly. "Or someone…"

Kurt sighed. "I miss her. I miss them both… I feel like they should be right here beside us…" He looked to his right as if still expecting to see them there. "But they're not and… Puck wanted this. He—He told me to do this and to enjoy it, so…" He nodded. "I'm going to." He leaned into him. "We're going to."

"Okay. I just—I worry… I know how hard it all was on you."

"It was…" His brows hiked. "It is…" As they stepped out of the airport, he stared at the busy street in front of him. "And I'll never forget them or what they've given me…" He stopped, turning to look at Blaine seriously. "I choose to believe that they're happy, wherever they are… I choose to believe that they're together, even if it's farfetched or crazy or just plain fairytale…" He shook his head. "That's what comforts me. That even though we lost Puck, he has her now. He has Rachel…" He sighed. "And if trading in New York for another year spent in Lima, saving up money working odd jobs meant I could have them back, I would. In a heartbeat… But it doesn't. They're gone. And I…" His voice cracked emotionally. "I know they want me to be happy and in New York so I will make an effort to do just that…" He blinked quickly, pressing his lips tight together.

"Okay." Blaine wrapped his arms around him. "And I'll help you. Every day."

Nodding, Kurt buried his face against his boyfriend's shoulder.

After a few moments, when he'd calmed enough, he stepped back. "Let's get a cab," he suggested, smiling for both Blaine's and his own benefit. "Our life has just begun… And I can't wait."

Nodding, Blaine walked to the curb to hail them down a ride.

Twirling on his heel, Kurt looked around the busy street and the crowd of people with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Finally, he raised his face to the sky, where the setting sun painted it a mix of blue, yellow and orange, filtering through scattered clouds. "If… If you can hear me, I just… I want you to know…" He licked his lips. "I made it!" He smiled shakily and pressed a hand to his heart. "I love you both and… thank you."

He received no reply but the honking of horns and the hustle and bustle of New Yorkers. Still, he felt in his heart just a little more comfort.

"Kurt!" Blaine called, standing by the open trunk of a yellow cab and waving at him. "Life's waiting."

He grinned wider and crossed to him, lifting his rolling bag up and passing it over.

And he didn't care one bit that the passing New Yorkers gave his horse sweater a wry glance. Because sure, it wasn't his style, in fact he thought it was hideous, but it made him feel like just a little piece of Rachel really was with him. And that was all that mattered.


Some Years Later

"Do we have everything?" Kurt asked, eyeing the bags by the door.

"Yes," Blaine assured with an exasperated smile. "Kurt, trust me…" He stared at his boyfriend with a quirked brow. "This is nerves, okay?" He reached out to him and took his hands, leading him back to the couch. "Do you want to go over your speech again?"

"Would you mind?" he asked, though he was already digging the cue cards out of his pocket.

With a light chuckle, Blaine shook his head. "You've already read it to me and to yourself a hundred times…" He squeezed Kurt's hand. "You've got this…"

He nodded. "I know…" He shifted in his seat. "But this is so big, so huge…" He shook his head. "I can't screw this up, Blaine."

"And you won't." He sighed softly. "I'm so proud of you… Of what you're doing here…" He stared at him searchingly. "Balancing this all with your schooling, with auditions…" He shook his head. "You amaze me."

He smiled. "Well, I did have some help…" He bumped Blaine's shoulder, turning his eyes to him meaningfully. "I couldn't have done this without you."

"Well, it's a good thing we have each other then, right?" He lifted Kurt's hand to kiss the back of it, threading their fingers.

"Right…" He squeezed Blaine's fingers and then turned abruptly to his cue cards. "Okay… One more time…"

With a grin, Blaine nodded him on.

Kurt stood from the couch and raised his chin. "My name is Kurt Hummel… And I run the Rachel-Noah Initiative to ban bullying in its every form. I'm here in Ohio because for me, this is where it began… This is where myself, and my friends', and countless peers, began their journey of harassment and humiliation. I stand before you today not as the voice of one victim, but as the voice of many. I speak not just for myself or my personal experiences, but for hundreds of thousands of people who have shared their stories with me… Today I will only tell you one. I will tell you the story that led me to you. I ask only that you listen with open ears and hearts… I think it's only fair that I warn you that this story doesn't have a happy ending… But for what has come of it, it is full of tragedy and heartbreak… I want to tell you about Rachel Berry and the boy that loved her…"

It started with a blog.

A story.

A petition.

Kurt reached out to the world at large and he told them about Rachel. He told them about her dreams and her passions, her two dads, her losing battle against bullying, and her final stance.

He told them about a girl who stood up and said no. A girl who died for someone she didn't know. And a boy who accidentally killed her because he was scared. Because he feared the persecution of his peers and the unforgiving world he lived in.

He told them of Rachel and Puck and Karofsky and himself. He shared his own experiences as a boy coming to grips with his sexuality and facing the harsh reality that whether he accepted himself or not did not guarantee others would. He added that Karofsky had been a bully of his and so had Puck once upon a time.

He explained how Puck changed and grew and became Noah. Of how he embraced Rachel's dads like his own; how he received a face full of the same slushee beverage he'd once tossed at others; how he stood up in defense of those he'd once hurt; and how he took his own life when Rachel was lost to him.

Kurt gathered interest. Bloggers. Supporters. News outlets.

He petitioned the world to take notice of what they were doing; who they were hurting; what they were losing.

He contacted his congressman and he made him listen; made him understand.

The day the bill passed banning bullying from the schools, encouraging teachers and parents to take a good hard look at the children around them rather than turning a blind eye, Kurt Hummel wept with gratitude.

In Lima alone, slushees were banned from school property and any student found in possession of one was subject to a detention. If said student was a perpetrator of any harassment of a fellow student, a suspension was handed down. Continued abused meant an expulsion was in order. Contact between parents and teachers became more common; an awareness class became mandatory in all educational facilities to better teach students that bullying was unacceptable. It shouldn't and wouldn't be tolerated.

The Rachel-Noah law was by no means easy to get through and it took hard work and dedication, but eventually, they succeeded.

It went into effect on the anniversary of her death.

Kurt met the rest of the glee club in the McKinley choir room where, together, they hung up a framed copy of the signed piece of legislature just beneath the memorial plaque.

"For you," he said, staring at the picture of the smiling couple. And as Blaine and Mercedes took his hands and squeezed, he added, "For all of us."


Note: I'm still not sure if I'm going to write that alternate ending, mostly just because I feel like this is where this was always headed. This is the ending I always planned for Puck and I do feel that this is what he would have felt was justified for himself. For those of you hoping the alternate ending had Rachel alive and it was all just an awful dream, I'm sorry but that was never planned. As much as I appreciate the plot-device, I feel like it would undermine quite a bit of this. So if you want an alternate ending of Puck living and triumphing over his grief, let me know and I'll try my best to write it. Otherwise, for any of you interested, I have a short sequel/oneshot already started that has Sarah in high school and entails how she coped with the grief of losing her brother and Rachel.

Thank you all for reading and for any of you who might be depressed or suicidal, I want you to know that there is help out there and there are a ton of resources! I don't want you in any way to think that this is me encouraging suicide, because I have been there. I know what it feels like and it took me awhile, but I did fight back and I did win over my own depression. There is hope, whether you feel like there is or not. I am telling you from first hand experience that you can survive and you can be happy again. So if you're hurting and you need help, please seek it out. Call the help phone lines, write somebody, reach out to a friend or a parent. You are not alone and I personally do not want you to give up on yourself.

Lastly, I just want to say that this has been an emotional rollercoaster for me to write, but I've been so happy to do it. It was painful and many times I was trying to write through my own tears, but I'm glad I did this. I want to thank you all for reading this far, because I wasn't expecting many of you to come along on this very sad journey with me, but you guys really held in there. And I promise you, I will try to update with something much happier next!

Thank you, and I love and appreciate all of you!