Author's Note: First thing is first, I have to express my gratitude for all the support on this story. It was incredible and I hope y'all tell me what you think of this very last piece. I got a lot of prompts/ideas last update and I'm going to see if I can do at least a few of them, but who knows. Maybe I'll actually go outside instead of spending all day and night in front of the computer. LOL!
I also need to take a second to say that I didn't give Maroon 5 props last update for the bit of lyrics I had Rachel and Puck utter, so my bad. They were from the song "Misery" and are not mine. Don't sue. Also, to that effect, there are lyrics/dialogue in this epilogue taken from the musical Beauty and the Beast. Don't sue for that either. To Jann, thanks for helping me with the end of this when I was about to claw my eyes out - sorry the end keeps getting ruined for ya. And, lastly, this epilogue is sort of done in a new way for me, so I hope you like it even if it might not be what you expected. *bites nails nervously*
Other than that, just another huge THANKS and ENJOY!
Rachel walked away from backstage in a huff, practically stomping her feet on her way back to her seat - front row center. The director had some nerve telling her to go sit down. Honestly, did he not know who she was? If she was back there, she could help. After all, she had more experience than everyone back there combined. They should be honored to have her in the audience, not to mention beyond gracious when she'd offered to provide her expertise and insight. Talk about a once in a lifetime opportunity!
"Back so soon?" Kurt teased, unafraid of the death stare she tossed him as she sat next to him. Blaine, who was in the spot next to Kurt, managed a half-hearted slap to his partner's arm. Kurt turned to Blaine and they did that telekinesis thing they had perfected years ago, managing to have an entire conversation without opening their mouths.
"I'm sure the director simply has a lot on his plate right now, Rach." She immediately opened her mouth in rebuttal to Blaine's comment, but he talked over her. "It's going to start in just a few minutes so there's really nothing you can do to improve the performances."
"Unless you plan to go up there and reprise your role as Belle."
"Don't be ridiculous." She crossed her arms over her chest in exasperation.
"Yea. Rachel's short but she can't pass for a first grader," Finn chimed in. His wide, goofy grin didn't halt Rachel's scoff of disapproval, but it did manage to make the others laugh a little harder.
"That was not my point." She scowled at Finn from over her shoulder, turning her attention back to Kurt and Blaine. "I'm not worried about Belle. It's the rest of the characters."
"Rachel as Gaston. Now that might make this stupid night worth it," Santana muttered, settling deeper into the plush theater seat, her arms and legs crossed so tightly that her usual FUCK OFF aura was as tangible as the Xeroxed program in everyone's hands. "Where's Puckerman?"
"Why?" Rachel stated defensively.
"Well he's the only one who knows how to get you to shut your trap for more than two seconds."
Rachel clenched her jaw, moments away from throwing her breathing exercises right out the window and attacking the Latina. She wasn't even sure why Santana was here, other than the fact that Rachel had invited almost everyone she knew. In fact, at her urging, her fathers were coming in tomorrow just for the show and leaving again Sunday morning. Rachel couldn't help it; she was beyond excited.
It was her daughter's first time playing the lead in a musical.
"It's one part tongue, two part hands." Puck winked, tossing a bag of Skittles toward the Latina.
"Noah," Rachel chastised softly. "How many times must I remind you that this is not the appropriate venue for such humor?"
"Tonight?" He pretended to think about it, earning another admonishment. Luckily the lights in the auditorium flashed and distracted Rachel enough that she let him off the hook. Her shoulders squared straight toward the stage, her eyes dancing around in preparation for the curtain being raised. She shushed Santana and Brittany without even diverting her attention, but she couldn't ignore it when Puck sat down and leaned into her personal space.
"This is not the appropriate venue for that either."
"We did it at your musical," he reminded in rapid fire, his head dipping down so his nose brushed away some of her hair. His lips found the sensitive skin of the nape of her neck, Rachel tilting her head down in a subconscious attempt to bring her lips closer to his. This wasn't his first rodeo, and he quickly claimed her mouth with his own. He thrust his tongue inside, tasting the subtle hint of honey he still could detect after all these years.
"Do you guys need to suck face everywhere?"
Puck broke away from Rachel slowly, his eyes trailing away from her face to look over his shoulder at his sister. Back when she was younger he would have hit her or at least called her a name, but as had been pointed out already this really wasn't the right place for that type of behavior. Besides, Sarah was so pregnant that she could very well pop under the lightest of hits, and he wasn't going to take that chance. He wasn't her doctor – how weird would that be? – but he still didn't want to have to deal with all the drama. Or, rather, any more drama.
"Yep," he finally answered, a smirk playing on his face. "And just remember we did a lot more than that in the place you currently call home."
"Noah!" Sarah and Rachel bemoaned simultaneously, the latter slapping him in the arm while his sister smacked him across the back of his head.
He was suddenly not looking forward to his mother visiting tomorrow; thankfully she would be staying with Sarah, but Puck was pretty sure if she managed to annoy him all the way from Ohio then she'd be able to up the ante being only a few blocks away. "I'm just sayin'."
"Well please stop saying." Rachel shook her head lightly. "Our daughter's show is about to begin."
"I'm pretty sure our daughter has a line or two, as well," Kurt mumbled, rolling his eyes and lifting up the camcorder just as the lights dimmed.
The familiar xylophone chords in the first scene of Beauty and the Beast began, the stage lights shining brightly on a tiny castle prop. The spotlight honed in on a young boy playing the Prince and then another followed the young girl playing the beggar woman. In the background, one of the adult assistants was narrating the scene, the two kids reacting to his words while on the sidelines a handful of other assistants and crew could be seen. It wasn't exactly of Broadway caliber, but Rachel and Puck couldn't help the look they shared when the narrator uttered the last line of the beginning.
For who could ever learn to love a Beast?
It was a question the couple had encountered more than once since that first doctor visit. Six years later, it was a concept they'd each applied to the other and still commonly thought about self-deprecatingly. After all the problems they had at the beginning of their relationship, no one thought they'd make it as far as they had – sometimes including them. Admitting they loved each other and deciding to be together had only been the beginning. The truth was Puck still had never been in a serious relationship, and Rachel had been in the middle of a lot of different and new situations.
They knew they wanted to be together, but they weren't quite sure how to do it. They'd already done almost everything backward up until that point, so there was no playbook to follow, no right or wrong path to travel down. Puck and Rachel had been forced to make it all up as they went, and while it was working out so far, there were some obvious mistakes made along the way. For instance, pretending they had all the time in the world to figure everything out had backfired, resulting in a Rachel Berry rant epic in proportion and velocity. It all happened while baby clothes shopping with Sarah and Mercedes, and ended with Puck having to leave the office and convince Rachel that he wanted her to move in. She, of course, didn't believe him until he took her back to his place and showed her how he'd decked out the spare bedroom into a nursery. Being eight months pregnant and just plain Rachel, though, she'd called him insensitive for forcing his sister to sleep on his couch.
She had eventually agreed (persuaded was probably a better word) to move in, which was how Sarah ended up staying in Rachel's place. Even after the baby had been born, Puck and Rachel were still too concerned with appearing ambivalent about their future. Since Rachel's apartment was in a wonderful building in a wonderful location at a rent-controlled price, they continued to pay for both places. Sarah was staying in New York since she'd gotten an internship at the advertising firm where Blaine worked, so it made sense for her to live in the available space – it didn't make sense that Puck had paid to have Rachel's living room furniture and bed moved to his place while his went to hers, but he had demanded it nonetheless. It had actually been the catalyst to the fight Rachel and Puck had right before he had proposed.
As a wedding gift, Sarah had agreed to start paying for her own rent, which coincided nicely with her promotion inside the firm – otherwise Puck and Rachel probably could have expected a partially used gift card to Best Buy or something. Instead, she was making fairly good money doing work that she absolutely loved. She did a lot of the mockups and storyboards for the internal departments, but she also had some national work done for various magazines and bulletin boards. And, through a mixture of hanging out with Blaine at work and being close to Rachel, Sarah eventually got to know Finn pretty well.
It was an arrangement that hadn't gone smoothly, mostly because the two had tried to keep it a secret. Unfortunately, Kurt's ear for gossip only seemed to get stronger with age, and he'd quickly spilled the beans to everyone – or everyone except Puck. They all knew he would freak out and while the jokes about Puck kicking Finn's ass again were pretty funny, the fact that they were also true sobered the group up enough that they knew they needed a plan. Part of the plan, however, was not for Puck to find Sarah and Finn making out in the bathroom at a party. Whether Kurt and Blaine's little girl, Charlotte, wanted her uncle Finn to have a black eye or not for her birthday, he got one.
That was two years ago, at Charlotte's fourth birthday party. Kurt and Blaine were picked as adoptive parents by a domestic couple from Ohio, who Kurt and Blaine visited whenever they were in town visiting Kurt's family. Charlotte was the name of Blaine's mother, who had passed away when Blaine was only twelve. Their daughter's middle name, Coco, was Kurt's choice and one made for much less touching reasons. They still lived in SoHo, though they had bought the apartment next to them and tore down the wall to make a much larger living space. Kurt left the musical shortly after they were chosen to be parents, and he actually started a clothing line a few years ago. At first it had been for baby girls, but now he was simply using Charlotte as inspiration and continuously updating his selection as she grew up.
And they were all growing up. Puck and Rachel's daughter and Charlotte were the same age, in the same first grade class together. Hanna was ten now and attending a private school focused on performance arts as well as a special afterschool program where she learned about Asian culture. She was still very close with Lucy, who was nine, and SJ, who had just barely turned twelve, both of whom went to the same school in Brooklyn where Quinn taught. Sarah was due any second with her and Finn's first child, who the group was thankful was going to be a boy because they needed some testosterone; everyone agreed Kurt didn't really count (even Kurt).
Santana and Brittany were still together, but they had no plans for kids. They made the big leap into exclusivity a few years ago, but it was sort of a formality considering they were both freaks in the bedroom. Apparently it was okay to kiss/sleep with other people as long as the other was involved. Puck had tried to argue the same logic to Rachel, but it hadn't gone over as well. In fact, it had been another one of those big mistakes that had only been repaired because a week later Sam and Quinn filed for divorce. While Puck had (jokingly) asked about engaging in extra-marital activity, Quinn hadn't. Again.
Sam ended up leaving Brooklyn and working at the school Finn had transferred to in the city the few years beforehand. They buried the hatchet and became pretty good friends, though Puck banned Finn from coming to the weekly Friday night dinners after he found out about him and Sarah. It hadn't lasted long considering Rachel had chewed his ear off for that, too, but it was the principle of the matter. Besides, the boys' nights kind of died down in intensity over the years anyway, and really became bi-weekly once Sam and Quinn arranged an ideal custody settlement that left him with the kids every other weekend.
Let the world be done with me.
"God, I couldn't have said it better myself," Santana muttered, up out of her seat before the lights even came on and the curtain lowered for intermission. "Come on, Brit. Let's try to salvage the next fifteen minutes of our lives."
"Please, please don't have sex in the restrooms, Santana."
"I was just going to poke my eyes out, but smooth thinking, Shorty."
Rachel watched Santana and Brittany ease their way out of the aisle, heading toward the back and, unfortunately, in the direction of the bathrooms. Honestly, after six years, she should know better. Talking to Santana was precisely like talking to Puck … or a two-year-old. If she said not to do something, it was the exact thing they would do. It was a compulsion.
"Charlotte is doing an amazing job as Mrs. Potts," Mercedes remarked. "Glad to see she took my notes to heart."
Mercedes had stayed at Beauty and the Beast for a couple of years after Kurt and Rachel both left. She worked on a few small projects and toured for a year in a traveling show before landing one of the leads in an off-Broadway production of the infamous musical The Wiz. She'd been in the same role for the past two years, and she was expected to be a contender for a Tony nomination in the coming year. Professionally she was on fire, and her love life had started a slow burn last year that was growing hotter and hotter as time went on. It was the classic story of friends of friends, but Mercedes and Sam actually had a lot in common and they meshed really well together.
"I just can't believe they're so young." Sam looked at SJ and Lucy. "Sorry, kids, but the first show you guys did for school was nothing compared to this."
"Oh, Samuel …" Rachel shook her head, expressing her sympathy to the children, both of whom looked bored out of their minds. "This isn't just a school play, though. This is a specialized production for advanced young people."
"Yea, suck it, Evans. My kid's advanced."
"We're gonna go get some snacks," Mercedes stated quickly, not letting the men start trading barbs. Like Rachel, she was getting pretty good at corralling trouble. "Anyone want anything?"
For whatever reason – or rather a very particular reason – everyone looked at Finn. "What? I just ate."
"That don't mean shit," Puck looked over his shoulder at the tall man, his eyes moving to his sister. "For either of you right now."
"Fat jokes? You really wanna go there?" Sarah sized up her brother. "We're probably equal weight now, so bring it."
"Both of you cool it," Rachel pointed a finger at each of them, used to having to treat them like children when they were around each other. "Or I'll tell Leah and Elliot about how you misbehaved."
Finn groaned loudly, sinking deep into his seat, his knees hitting the back of Rachel's chair. "I can't believe your parents are gonna be in tomorrow. And they're staying a whole week!"
"Got somethin' against Ma, Ogre?"
Finn finished running a frustrated hand through his the short strands of his hair, shaking his head in response before solemnly answering, "She hates me."
"She doesn't hate you," Sarah confirmed before Puck could comment. "She hates that you aren't Jewish."
"And knockin' up her young daughter out of wedlock didn't help."
"You're one to talk," Finn sneered, the two men staring hard at one another. While they'd passed the stage in their relationship where the only thing they exchanged was punches and verbal attacks, the two would never be friends. Puck didn't just know that Finn was sleeping with his sister, but he was also aware that the giant had once tried to sleep with Rachel. "And why do you always have to bring up our age difference? I'm not that much older."
"I suppose intellectually you are the same age."
"Can you two please stop being so petty and talk about something important." She paused for only a quick breath. "Didn't Caroline look absolutely amazing up there?"
The group laughed at Rachel's expense, loving what she considered to be something important and completely not petty. While some had known her longer, it didn't take anyone six years to understand how Rachel Berry operated. Blaine had actually been the one to coin her group nickname, calling her a hummingbird – Kurt had added the on crack whenever it was deemed appropriate. After she'd left the musical to work with Scott on the new adaptation, she was offered more of the same positions, which she did all while balancing her new role as mother and then her newest role as wife. She also branched out and wrote songs for popular artists, and even took her hand at writing an entire musical production. She volunteered with Puck at the synagogue with a different group of Jewish children, she attended social events at Caroline's school and hosted parties for the parents or just their friends, and she also managed to start a fitness group with other mothers in town.
Hummingbird only came up because Santana had already claimed Robot.
"Watching this production is really bringing everything back. I almost forgot all the nuances of the story," she commented absently, having no idea that everyone was wondering if there was a tranquillizer nearby. "Remember when …"
"Do we have to do this at every show?"
Rachel scoffed. "No, but when it is Beauty and the Beast it is a bit more obvious."
Puck rolled his eyes, following the trail Kurt and Blaine took. He wished he could just get up and leave like them, or like Sarah and Finn had a minute ago. But now they were all alone and he knew better to leave Rachel by herself. Plus they were taking up almost row full rows of premium seats and little Rachel wouldn't be able to hold everyone off by herself.
"Do you think she's a better Belle than I am?"
Puck blinked. "How can I honestly answer that question?"
"You can't," she smirked. "I was just curious to see if you would try."
Puck chuckled, tossing his right arm back across the top of her seat, using his hand to pull her closer to him. Her head rested in the crook of his neck, her lips occasionally puckering to drop soft kisses on the smooth skin above the collar. Desire pulsated through him at her touch but he ignored it, something he had learned to do over the years even though he didn't always have to. Everything Puck feared about settling down seemingly didn't apply to Rachel. He did have to listen to her talk a lot more than he had to before and there were of course arguments that had to be settled instead of pushed aside, but the give and take was definitely worth it.
Puck didn't even have a problem with the Puck/Noah dilemma anymore, mostly because it turned out that there were many different sides to him. Rachel didn't particularly like all of them – shares-too-much-information drunk guy was her least favorite – but she did love them all. She had an amazing ability to find the good in everything, and that included him. And with that kind of support, Puck was able to quiet all the demons wrestling in his head and instead focus on balancing his life instead of himself – Rachel already did that; they balanced each other.
He'd proposed to Rachel two weeks after Caroline was born. It was the end of February and freezing outside, but he'd stood out on the front balcony of their apartment with an old-fashioned boombox lifted high above his head. He'd opted for Maroon 5's "Misery" and got his answer in a fiery kiss that ended up with them shedding clothes despite the chilly temperature. They'd gotten married in a traditional Jewish ceremony by the lake in Lima less than six months later, just a little more than a year after the first time they had visited.
"When I was watchin' you it was with the intention that I was gonna get laid." Puck looked around in mock sternness. "Sure as shit better not be anyone in here thinkin' that."
Rachel lifted her head off his shoulder, looking at him with a careful mix of amusement and disdain. "Must you always use that kind of language, Noah?"
"Gettin' you hot?" He leered, resulting in the humor to leave her eyes completely. She opened her mouth to refute his accusation, but the lights flashed to warn people the show would be starting again and then a voice came over the sound system. Whoever was speaking announced that the concessions table would close after intermission as would the raffle, and then there was a special announcement stating that there was real Broadway alum in the audience this evening.
Rachel beamed once the applause started, standing from her seat so quickly that Puck felt the rush of wind skim across his side. Mercedes waved from one side of the theater, her other hand holding onto Lucy, and Kurt waved from the other, where he'd been backstage with Blaine. There had been three others who stood, all of whom Rachel recognized but was not impressed by. She reclaimed her front row center seat, her eyes moving to Puck when she felt his intense stare.
"Nothin'," he lied, leaning in to place a soft kiss on her cheek before turning his attention back toward the stage. It was an uncommon gesture – gentle wasn't usually in his repertoire when it came to Rachel – but one that she reciprocated with a seductive squeeze to his inner thigh. He chuckled, already lost in thoughts about how much things had changed – including them. Rachel wasn't working on Broadway anymore, and even though she adored the spotlight and he'd feared she'd made the decision to leave it because of what had happened, Rachel had never been happier than when she was with Caroline. She was a natural as a mother, and gave him the confidence to be a pretty decent father.
It hadn't been easy at first. Puck had fallen in love with his daughter instantly and would have loved to just drop everything to be with her all the time, but he had to work. One of the doctors at the office had left and Puck had taken much of that workload onto himself. A year later another doctor left to start his own practice, and Puck was asked to become a partner. It had been the plan before; he'd pay his dues and then sign as partner and start living the sweet life. But, between the extra hours and the added obligations, the perks weren't enough to keep him from home. It was so domesticated and he'd barely been able to get it out when he was discussing his decision with Rachel, but he missed them. Like, legit, all the time.
How pathetic was that?
"How did Ching and Chong get out of this nightmare on Elm Street?" Santana asked abruptly, falling back into her chair behind them.
"They're comin' tomorrow. Somethin' about Hanna and dancing …"
"It's wonderful to hear just how well you listen when your closest friends talk." Rachel rolled her eyes, turning back to Santana. "Tina has a book signing tonight."
"I still can't believe she's writing now," Sam remarked when SJ and Lucy were both content in their seats with their snacks. "But I guess if they really aren't having another kid, then …"
"Don't' sound so surprised. That shit's illegal where they come from."
"China." Puck shook his head. "It's bad enough they had a girl."
"Noah," Rachel admonished quietly, rolling her eyes. "They aren't Chinese."
He looked dumbfounded long enough that everyone got a good laugh in before the curtain started to rise and Act II began. He'd wanted to tease her in return, maybe point out that Michael wasn't Chinese but Asian American. Despite the conversation they had all those years ago and the subsequent one between his good friend and her later, Rachel still slipped up from time to time and called him that; Puck wasn't sure what her fascination was with using people's proper first names. It was one of many things he didn't understand about her, though, so he didn't give it too much thought.
Instead his thought process moved from the adult version of Rachel to the miniature version on stage. On the surface, Caroline was exactly like Rachel. She had sleek brown hair that framed her face and hit the middle of her back. Her smile was wide and bright, and her eyes were a deep brown that seriously held too much power within them. She had the same olive skin as both her parents, and she put all her energy (which was a lot) into singing and dancing and performing. To outsiders, it was hard to see Puck in Caroline outside the deviant little smirk she had, but he was definitely her father.
When she was only one, Caroline had learned how to successfully escape her crib, doing so often at night. She wasn't disruptive in her rebellion, though; she simply went to the living room and played with her toys. Rachel and Puck would find her asleep on the floor in the mornings. They were also forced to potty train her early because she refused to wear her diaper. Rachel didn't find the humor in Puck's references to going commando being a Puckerman trait. Nor did she think it was funny last year when they had to meet with the director at the preschool because Caroline kept turning off the classroom's television and refusing to watch the movie. It ended up being Rachel's fault, though, as Caroline had proclaimed that life was meant to be lived, not watched.
Plain and simple, she was the perfect balance of Puck and Rachel. She was ambitious and smart, but she was also mischievous and curious. She was logical but had a temper. She was funny like Rachel in that she was animated, but she also loved practical jokes like Puck. Her favorite color was purple, but she preferred classic rock over kids music. She was charming like her father, but knew how to work and audience like her mother, whether that audience was her parents, her friends, or the group of people in the crowd tonight.
"You have that face again," Rachel whispered, leaning closer to Puck even though her eyes were on the stage. Currently it was the fight scene between Gaston and the Beast, which didn't just mean the end was near but that their daughter would be on stage again very soon.
"Ever think that's just my face?" She tore her eyes away from the stage, flashing him a pointed look before putting some of her attention back on the musical. He sighed, wishing that wasn't enough to get him to talk. "I was thinkin' …" He trailed off, taking a deep breath before leaning closer so his mouth brushed right against her ear. "We should do it again."
Rachel leaned back enough that she could focus on his eyes, seeing in them the very emotion she hadn't been expecting but the one she'd been looking for. He wasn't talking about sex; they'd showered together this morning so there shouldn't have been a need for him to have the urge to take her in a public place (outside of the urge always being there) regardless. He was talking about something much bigger, something she'd been considering for the past year but hadn't brought up for a number of reasons. Something that made her heart race and her mind almost completely forget the fact that their daughter's first musical was coming to an end.
Two lives have begun now
Two hearts become one now
One passion, one dream
One thing forever true
I love you!
"Now?" She questioned softly, a smile playing on her lips.
Puck chuckled quietly, lifting one shoulder up emptily. "Well, practice makes perfect."
She managed a bemused expression before leaning in to pass her lips over his. It was a soft kiss that didn't last longer than a few seconds, but it held a lot of promise. The same could be said for their future, which as they both looked forward to watch the end of the musical they couldn't help but think about. They'd each spent a good portion of the night thinking about the past, and now it was hard to ignore what was coming next. And maybe it wouldn't have a big finale with a large song and dance number, but then again it probably shouldn't.
After all, it wasn't the end, but rather just the beginning.
Certain as the sun
Rising in the east
Tale as old as time
Song as old as rhyme
Beauty and the Beast.