Friday had come and gone, and Rachel's heart literally broke when she heard Noah's reaction to her lack of communication with the station. She felt like the most terrible person in the world for doing that to him, after all the effort he – or Santana – had put into locating her and instantly dialled the radio's hotline to try and get through before it was too late.
But it was no use. The lines were terribly busy and by the time she got through to someone, Santana was gone.
Pacing frantically from one side of her living room to the other, Rachel listened intently to her cell as it rang. "Come on, pick up, pick u—Has he replied to your email yet?" She asked almost as soon as Kurt picked up the call. Whether she had called once, twice or ten times over the last two days about this was beside the point, she wanted to know if Puck had said anything at all, and she really wanted to know now. Not for the first time, it frustrated her that Puck's show only aired Monday to Friday meaning he likely wouldn't be in the office over the weekends.
And what was she to say if he was? 'Oh yes hello, I'm looking for Noah Puckerman? … No I'm just some crazy stalker woman who fell in love with his voice six months ago'. Yes, she was sure that would blow over terrifically.
Hearing a resigned sigh on the other end of the line, Rachel resisted the urge to roll her eyes at her friend and instead just waited for him to say something. "I'm opening my inbox right now," Kurt told her in a bored tone. "Let's see … reply from Ohio FM Radio … 'Thanks Kurt, that meant a lot. Puck.'"
Pausing in her pacing for a moment, Rachel just stood there wide-eyed for a while before blurting out, "That's it?"
"That's it, beautiful, nothing more and nothing else. Just uh… seven words of wisdom."
"Oh," was all she managed to say, dropping onto her couch and exhaling loudly.
"That's all he said to me too," she replied, feeling a little irritated. The station must just give the same copy-and-paste reply to everyone who sends emails in.
"You sent him an email?" Came Kurt's excited screech and Rachel couldn't help but wince at the high-pitched tone.
"I sent him a message through the radio's website and signed it under a different name. He replied back with those exact words." She knew neither she nor Kurt had really said anything of any importance, though she'd tried to be subtle and had left a couple of hints in her message to suggest she was more than who she was pretending to be. But of course it had been a waste of time; no doubt Puck barely got a chance to read through every single one of the messages he had received since Friday morning.
Wincing again, this time at herself, Rachel immediately regretted using the phrase 'waste of time'. It should be a banned phrase in her house from now on, as far as she was concerned. The pain those few words had shot through her when Noah had muttered them had been hard to deal with.
"What did you expect him to say? 'Thanks for emailing. Oh and by the way, do you happen to be Rachel, the girl I've been looking for'?"
Sighing loudly, frustrated, Rachel shook her head even though Kurt couldn't see the action. "I have no idea what I was even hoping for. I don't know what to do about this whole situation." Staring down at her hand as she picked idly at the hem of her skirt, she thought over everything that had and hadn't happened in the last few weeks. "I should have called in again earlier, I know that now. Or better yet, I shouldn't have chickened out and hung up on Santana the first time, but it's too late. Regretting it is not going to make things any better, is it?"
Making a noncommittal sound at the other end of the line, Kurt stayed silent for a moment and Rachel let him think things over. She was a little preoccupied with her own thoughts after all.
"Rachel, honey," her friend eventually drawled, sounding far too positive compared to the mood she was in right then.
"What?" She asked slowly, suspicious.
"You know what you did last time you had problems in your love life, don't you?"
Frowning, Rachel tried to remember back, but because she hadn't really been interested in anyone lately – or anyone else, rather – she couldn't think what on earth Kurt might be referring to.
But then it hit her.
Hearing her friend chuckling, Rachel bit back a laugh of her own. Honestly, how could she forget?
"I could try that …"
"Okay, thanks for that Ben. Now, today's last caller is ..."
Looking down at the message blinking in front of him, Puck's voice trailed off. He couldn't believe it. It was literally the next working day since his anniversary show and Santana's final attempt at tracking this woman down, and he'd spent the whole weekend wondering what he was to do now. Clearly he should just get over the girl, but there was something about her that he couldn't seem to shake.
But what were the chances? Then again, it wasn't like it was an uncommon name, it really could be anyone. Still ...
Clearing his throat, he started again. "Uh, today's last caller is ... is Rachel. Hey, Rachel, how's it hanging?"
There was a beat of silence before Rachel spoke, but when she did he closed his eyes and didn't try to hide the smile that crossed his face. "I believe my last answer to that question was terribly confusing, so I'm just going to stick with 'okay' this time. How are you, Noah?"
It was her. It was fucking her, and she was calling him Noah. "I'm doin' great babe, I'm doin' great. So, uh ... you need advice on something?"
He heard her take a shaky breath before starting. "Yes. You see, there's … this guy. He's really very sweet, though to listen to him talk sometimes you wouldn't think so. He helped me out of a sticky situation some time ago, and I haven't been able to forget him since."
Puck wondered how bruised his ribcage would be by the end of this phone call. His heart was pounding. "Sounds like an alright guy. So what's the problem?" As if he didn't know.
"The problem is ... you see, I've never met him before. I'm pining after this guy who I've never even looked in the eye, and last week he announced live on radio to his co-worker that, even though he admitted to having a thing for me, he didn't think I was worth his time."
Hold up. "That wasn't exactly what I—uh, he, said."
"I'm fairly certain it's what he meant."
Falling into silence, Puck tapped his foot nervously against the ground and debated his next few words. He was finally talking to her again. Six months later, after a three week search for her, and they were finally talking. He couldn't screw this up. "Maybe he thought he'd dreamt the whole thing."
He hoped the small gasp she emitted was a good sign.
"Maybe he just thought you'd never call, and maybe he believed that after a few weeks of trying to track you down, it was just useless. Maybe he thought that you'd heard everything that was happening and just didn't want to be found or didn't want anything to do with him. Did you ever think of that?"
Silence greeted his answer and Puck bit his lip against repeating himself, or asking if she was still there. She'd hung up on the station once already, he wouldn't put it past her to do it again.
"I just … Noah, I wanted to know what you thought I should do. I want to meet him, but I barely know this guy and I've only seen pictures of him from appearances or glimpses at events."
"Don't lie, you've looked m—uh, the guy up on the net haven't you?" He joked.
There was another pause where he swore he could hear a soft giggle before Rachel replied coyly, "Maybe."
"I can work with maybe," he told her, unable to mask the wide grin that began to spread over his face. Looking up, he spotted Mercedes' beaming smile as she stood outside the glass door of the studio, and she promptly gave him a thumbs-up when he caught her eye. Chuckling, Puck continued. "So, you want my advice. Is there anything really stopping you from meeting this guy? Anything holding you back, any stupid fears of rejection, that sort of thing?"
When Rachel replied her voice was soft, as if she wasn't even sure of what she was saying. "Should there be?"
"Hell no, I'm pretty sure he's made it obvious what he wants. I reckon you could walk straight up to this guy and lay a big wet one on him, and he'd just puddle at your feet, babe."
Her surprised burst of laughter was music to his ears.
"So what do you say? Because I think you should just go ahead and give this guy a shot, see how things work out. I don't doubt that he's dying to meet you too, Rach." Fuck yeah, he was. Testing his luck, he suggested hopefully, "Why not right now? I remember you saying you lived not far from … uh, where this guy is. Why not track him down?" He'd stay put if it made it easier for her. Who was he kidding? He'd trek across town if it made it easier for her.
"Well, I'm actually late for work, but I'll see what I can do. I really do want to meet him, Noah. You've got no idea how much I want to meet him."
"Then do something about it. I'm giving you the green light here, Rach. Go for it, go meet this guy."
"Okay. Okay, I will. Noah, I have to go now, but … thank you."
"See you, babe," he replied, stressing the casual goodbye. As far as he was concerned he would be seeing her, and soon. She just had to make her move. "And Rach?"
"Don't leave it too long."
Wondering if she could be fined for loitering, Rachel nervously shifted from side to side as she waited by the elaborate garden out front of the multi-story Ohio FM Radio building. It had been two days since she had spoken to Noah on his show, and she'd heard him joke about some boring meeting he was supposed to go to later in the day, so she had decided that this would be it. Rehearsals conveniently finished very early on a Wednesday, and she had no other reason to put this off any longer.
She was long overdue to meet Noah Puckerman.
That was when she spotted him. Watching as he hurried down the sidewalk, Rachel took a deep breath and tried to still the butterflies in her stomach. Having seen pictures of him before she had known he was handsome, but seeing him close up in person for the first time was a little daunting. He really was gorgeous.
"Noah Puckerman?" she called out when he was only a few feet away from the entrance.
Watching as he spun around to see who had spoken to him, Rachel smiled brightly and stepped forward. "Hey," he called back. "How're you doin'?"
"I'm good, really good," she replied, feeling the butterflies become more and more agitated the nearer she was to him. Any moment now she expected him to recognise her voice, or to ask if she was finally there to see him, and she could barely contain her excitement.
When his eyes flicked down and over her body she flushed bright red, but continued to look at him.
"So, what can I do for ya?" He drawled, though his eyes glanced down at the watch on his wrist.
"Well, I didn't want to keep you busy. I just thought—"
But he interrupted her, "Yeah, I gotta head inside to a meeting, but if you want to make any requests or enter into any of our competitions I'm sure the girls at reception would be able to help you out." Smiling impishly, he added, "I'm just in a bit of a rush."
Blinking stupidly for a moment, Rachel wasn't sure what to say. No reaction? Nothing? Not that she expected anything huge, but … he'd recognised her voice well enough when they had barely spoken to each other before, so what was the difference now? Flustered, she considered just blurting out who she was and why she was there, but she didn't really want to make him late for work.
Then an idea occurred to her.
"We should catch up sometime," she said suddenly, tugging out a pad of paper and a pen from her bag.
Quickly scribbling out a message on the pad, her eyes flicked up to see him hesitate by the door, but she was pleasantly surprised when he just said, "Yeah, sure, sometime." Granted he sounded very noncommittal about the idea, but she was sure once he looked at this paper he would realise …
Signing her name with a flourish, Rachel ignored the way her hand shook as she handed the scrap piece to him. "Well," she said, placing the pen and pad away again in her bag and smiling brightly. "Have a good afternoon, Puck." Turning, she bit her lip and slowly walked away.
She had done something. Finally.
Watching, bemused, as the woman walked away, Puck just shook his head and looked down at the scrap of paper she had handed him. Honestly, he was used to forward women, but despite her actions the poor girl had looked nervous as all hell as she spoke to him.
Pretty thing though. Brunette locks curling around her face and falling down around her shoulders, sexy voice, bright eyes and really, really good-looking lips. Plus those skinny jeans and the loose fitting top just looked aces on her. Looking up again quickly he watched her hips sway as she slowly walked away, and he smirked to himself. Okay, maybe he wouldn't just toss this number in the bin as he had originally planned to do.
Moving to step inside, Puck smoothed the note to read. "'Meet me at the Café on the corner of …'" But he couldn't finish. Trailing off, he stared dumbly at the phone number scrawled at the bottom of the scrap of paper and the name and love heart underneath it.
Turning swiftly, Puck's eyes instantly locked again on the retreating figure of the brunette he'd just been speaking to.
No fucking way.
"Rach!" He yelled out, and watched with a quickly widening smile as she turned around to look at him.
She was grinning back at him.
No fucking way.
And no way was he letting her out of his sight now, management meeting be damned. Taking off down the street, he watched as Rachel slowly started walking back again to meet him.
Slowing to a stop, Puck couldn't help the incredulous tone he used when he blurted out, "You're really her?"
When she giggled and nodded, he ran a hand over the short hair on his head and just stared in disbelief.
This was Rachel. Holy hell, she was fucking gorgeous.
"Say something again," he asked, stepping a little closer.
"Like what?" She laughed.
"I don't care, just … anything. Just … say my name."
Her smile deepening, Rachel murmured, "Noah."
It was her, and she called him Noah. That was her voice. How did he not realise that?
"You've had me going up and down and all over the fuckin' place for the last few weeks, Rach," he told her seriously, though the smile that wouldn't leave his face showed that he wasn't really bothered by it, not anymore.
Her face still fell though. "I know, Noah, and you have no idea how sorry I am."
Shaking his head, he told her, "Don't think about it. Water under the bridge, all that."
Biting her lip, Rachel nodded, "Only if you're sure."
"I'm sure. Really damn sure. In fact …" Trailing off, he figured it couldn't hurt in the slightest to be as honest as possible with this chick. It was worked in his favour so far. "I want to kiss you," he told her seriously. When she only nodded in response, her gaze already dipping to his mouth, Puck gave in. Cupping her face in his hands, he stepped forward and pressed his lips to hers. "Rach," he murmured a moment later, pulling away by just an inch or two so he could speak. "I gotta warn you, right now, before anything else happens. There's one downfall to dating someone like me."
"What's that?" Rachel asked quietly, though even as she spoke her gaze didn't leave his lips.
The fact that he had already dropped the D-word, even though they had only truly met each other for the first time minutes ago, didn't surprise or concern either of them. But Puck had to make sure she understood what she was getting herself into.
"Our entire relationship so far has been aired across the state. That, and anything and everything that happens between us from now on is pretty much fair game on my show." Frowning, he added, "And Santana's show, apparently."
"Noah," she started, looking up at him. "Honestly? I was born to be a star. I may have been surprised by the attention at first, but I can most definitely handle it."
Shaking his head and grinning when Rachel giggled, he told her, "I gotta head off for this meeting thing, but when I'm done I'll call you. Alright? And you have to come back here so we can go do something. Get coffee, or dinner, or just … walk, I don't care. Deal?"
Stepping forward, Puck murmured, "Usually guys shake or something when they make deals, but you're not a guy so I vote we kiss on it."
"You just want to kiss me again," Rachel teased lightly and Puck didn't even try to deny it. Smiling instead, he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers again one last time before finally stepping away.
"Alright," he murmured, grinning. "I'll catch you later, Rach."
Biting her lip, the brunette nodded and said, "Catch you later."
Walking back to the front of the station's building, Puck found himself constantly glancing back over his shoulder.
It was really her.
When he burst into Mercedes office he completely ignored the annoyed stares the seven other people in the room shot him and sat down in a seat next to Santana.
"Puckerman," Mercedes snapped, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms, trying to look intimidating. Seriously? Right now he just did not give a shit. "You better have a decent excuse for being this late."
Shrugging, he turned to Santana and simply said, "I just saw Rachel."
There was silence in the room, and he heard their boss mutter a soft, 'Oh'. Then Santana asked, "Was she hot?"
Pulling into the theatre drive way and heading over to her customary parking spot, Rachel smiled brightly when the song finished and the voice of her boyfriend began playing through the speakers once more.
"Morning Ohio, what's going on? Puck here with you on your drive to work, and it's just ticked over to eight, so you know what that means? Relationship Advice. But this time I gotta ask for your help. See, Valentine's is coming around quick which means it's been a year since I started dating my girl, and I'm seriously stumped on what to do. Now for those of you about to call and tell me not to do this stuff on air, stress less. She's gonna be stepping into the theatre any moment now and won't be able to listen to the rest of this segment anyway. Isn't that right, baby?"
Scoffing at his confident tone, Rachel simply shook her head and poked her tongue out at the radio before switching off the ignition and getting out of the car. Spotting Kurt already making his way across the car park, she waved happily at him and strolled over to meet him, all the while smiling smugly to herself.
Little did Puck know, she and Kurt now had a stereo in the changing room.