Summary: When Rachel said they were forever, Puck wasn't sure this quite what she meant. Because even though Rachel's dead, she apparently has a message and there will be no resting in peace until Puck figures it out.
Pairings: Puckleberry and Samtana. Suck, Pucktana, Pezberry, Brittana and Puck/Brittany friendships
Warnings: No real spoilers involved in this story. Be warned, this fic does deal with violence. Also this story does deal with a character death and supernatural elements. You have been warned.
Disclaimer: I in no way shape or form own Glee because if I did Chord Overstreet would still be there. *sigh*.
Author's Note: I honestly don't know where this one came from. It's a little trippy and a little experimental, so I'd really love some feedback on this one. I guess it was a mix between me wanting to just write a fluffy Puckleberry one shot and my incessant need to torture Puck. Thus this lovely story was written. So I hope you enjoy. More babble from me in the end notes.
That's what Rachel promised they were going to be. Together forever, no matter what. Even at eight years old, Puck believed Rachel… well because she was Rachel. If Rachel said it then it must be true. And despite a few bumps in the road (freshmen year when he thought he didn't need her, Babygate, Finn) they were together. Even when they were other people, they were still together. Eight year old Puck believed Rachel when she said it would be forever. Eighteen year old Puck knew better. He knew there was no such thing as forever. Or if there was, it had a very short shelf life.
"Puck, listen… Fuck… It's just that… so sorry, shit… babe, she, Rachel…didn't make it."
'Make it,' Puck thought derisively, 'like we were playing a game or something'. But he supposed that was just Santana's way of trying to sugarcoat it for him. To make the truth easier for him to handle. But it didn't. It didn't make it easier because that's what Rachel did. Rachel made things easier for him to deal with. But now she was gone. And he felt that shit immensely.
Since the day of the accident, he'd felt a dull ache in his right side that had little do with any superficial injuries he'd sustained that afternoon and everything to do with the no longer here pintsized diva with the bright eyes and big voice. He felt like a piece of him was missing. And it was. It was lying too still in a closed coffin at the front of a crowded funeral parlor.
There were so many people there that afternoon. Not just the gleeks and Mr. Schue, but also Coach Bieste and even Coach Sylvester. There were other students there as well. Puck wanted to scream and ask them why they were there when they never gave a damn about her when she was alive. But he didn't. He wouldn't do that to Leroy or Hiram. Furthermore, he already knew the answer. They were there to try and appease their guilty consciences for trying to break the girl and to say goodbye to a star burned out too soon. He was there for the same reason. Only Puck knew his guilt would never go away. He never wanted to say goodbye.
He felt his eyes grow misty yet again. And here he thought he'd cried out everything he could already. He shifted uncomfortably against the wall he had been plastered against since the wake began. He saw the gazes that were flickering in his direction. Their eyes full of sadness, grief and suspicion held only for Puck. He bore it without complaint though because he deserved it. He killed Rachel. It was Puck's fault that Rachel wouldn't be walking at their graduation in a month. It was his fault that she wouldn't be taking Broadway and making it her bitch. It was his fault and he knew it. And he hated himself for it every minute of every day since he woke up.
"Hey, how you holding up?" a voice whispered in his left ear. Since waking up a day after the crash to a world fucked beyond repair, he was very sensitive about people being on his right side. "Puck?"
He snapped out of his thoughts and found himself looking at Sam. The blonde was watching him carefully. There was a gentle hand on his shoulder keeping him grounded. Keeping him here. He wanted nothing more than to shrug that hand off and avoid reality. Because sometimes movies got it right. Reality really did bite.
"You don't have to do this, you know?"
Puck only shook his head. "I have to do this, Sam. I have to say goodbye…. I have to tell her I'm sorry." He felt Sam take a breath and held up a hand to hold off the lecture he knew was coming. "Spare me the 'Puck, this isn't your fault' speech. I've heard it a million times and I'm so fucking over it."
Sam gave a quiet growl of frustration. "Then spare me having to make it! Puck, this guilt trip that you're on is stupid. This was not your fault."
"Yes, it was!" Puck snapped, without really meaning it. That's when he felt warmth radiating on his right side. He turned automatically expecting to see brown eyes but found nothing more than a few curious glances and awkward stares. "She's gone, Sammy."
Sam deflated at the words. "Yeah, Puck… she's gone. She's not coming back."
Tears burned his eyes. "I know that, ok? I know," he swallowed looking at the coffin at the front of the room. "I just have to do this."
Sam sighed but mustered a wan smile. "You wouldn't be you if you weren't so damn stubborn." He released Puck's shoulder, freeing him to move forward. And now that he could move, he found that he didn't want to. But if he didn't move he'd have to deal with Sam and his damn puppy dog eyes of infinite sympathy and understanding. For a second he thought he heard a familiar, musical giggle but he brushed it off as his imagination.
He took a hesitant step forward approaching the coffin as if it were set to attack him. The hushed conversations and muffled crying that permeated the room stopped as Puck finally gathered his courage and stood in front of the coffin. He didn't need to look to know that the person clearing their throat was Santana and she was none too subtly telling all the gawkers to get the hell over it and give him his privacy. He was grateful every day for that girl. He turned his full attention to the hardest thing he'd ever done in his eighteen years of life and that included having to explain to his little sister why their father left.
He rested a hand on the smooth lid of the coffin. Part of him wanted to see her one final time but the other part was happy that he wouldn't have to see her like this. Rachel was full of life. He wanted to remember her like she was that afternoon with her eyes sparkling and a smile tugging at her lips. He didn't want to remember her cold, lifeless… dead.
"Hey, Rach," he felt a tear slide down his face but didn't move his hands away to brush it away. "I'm sorry I wasn't by to see you earlier. I was… I guess afraid, you know? I just… I needed… wanted to say that I'm sorry, Rachel…. I wish that I never asked you to go for that stupid ride."
He paused for a moment trying to regain his composure. The pressure was back in his chest. It felt like the guilt was trying to smother him from the inside. This was his fault. He was the one that was bored that afternoon. Rachel was busy working on set lists for their final performance as New Directions but Puck didn't want to be bored alone. He wanted his beautiful, sexy best friend only recently turned girlfriend to be with him and that's where the idea for the drive came up. They weren't even going to be gone long. And he promised that when they got back, he'd subject himself to whatever songs she picked to practice for as long as she wanted. It was only supposed to be for an hour or two tops…. But then it happened.
Another car jumped into their lane going the wrong way. Puck couldn't keep it from slamming into his truck. He tried to swerve away but it was too sudden and just not enough. He didn't remember the impact. He just remembered her screaming his name and then blackness. He woke up in a hospital with a dull numbness on his right side and a crying former cheerleader.
And now was the first time he was facing Rachel since that afternoon. His hand trailed the wood grain pattern of the coffin. He knew that Jewish tradition frowned upon looking at the body during this time. He also knew that if he wanted to lift the lid to see her one last time, her fathers would allow it. He still didn't know why they didn't hate him but he accepted it. He couldn't lose them too. Not now. He knew they'd understand soon enough that their daughter was gone because of him and then he'd be alone. He already felt so alone. With Rachel gone from this world, it felt like he had nothing… like he was nothing. Puck hunched over as the pain in his chest grew.
"I'm so sorry, Rachel," he whispered. His voice was choked as he struggled to push down the emotions clamoring for his attention. "Oh God, I'm so fucking sorry."
"For what?" Rachel asked, softly.
"Getting you killed," Puck replied automatically. And then he remembered Rachel was dead. So Rachel couldn't be asking him questions. Slowly he looked down at the still closed coffin. There were no sounds of banging coming from inside. There was no other sign of movement. He sighed. "I'm losing it."
"I think given the amount of stress you're under at the moment, it's perfectly understandable and acceptable. Although I expected a lot more grief from you. I suppose you would be the one to think that crying isn't manly. I thought you would make the exception at my funeral. It's a little disappointing really, but we'll do it better for the real thing."
Puck's eyes widened and he looked around to see if anyone else heard that voice. The closest people to him were her fathers and Santana. None of them gave any indication that they heard anything. He turned back to the coffin, scrubbing a hand over his face.
"Well, yes and no. Look to your right, Noah."
Puck chewed on his lips, keeping his eyes trained on the coffin. That was reality. Fantasy was the disembodied voice to his right. Reality, death. Fantasy, voices from the dead.
"Noah Aaron Puckerman! Look. To. Your. Right!"
Shakily, Puck turned his head to the right to see a beaming Rachel Berry. She was wearing the same ridiculously short skirt she was wearing the day of the crash. Rachel's smile grew wider once she saw she had his attention. She then looked around the funeral parlor and wrinkled her nose.
"I thought there would be more dramatics. I fully expected Kurt to throw himself on the coffin and beg for me to wake up. I also expected more Evita. Note to self, work on more detailed plan for funeral service. This one is… lacking." She shrugged and glanced at the shell shocked and silent Puck. "What? You look like you've seen a ghost."
Puck's jaw dropped slightly. He backed away from the joking apparition of Rachel, shaking his head rapidly.
"No, this isn't happening!"
"Noah, I think it's best if you don't panic too much right now. You're kind of making a scene and drawing a lot of attention. And you're kind of the only one that can see me."
Puck blinked in her direction before his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He was aware of shouts, then hands grabbing him and easing him to the floor. Although before everything went black, he could swear he heard Rachel mutter something about overly dramatic boyfriends going a touch overboard.
It was hazy. That was the only way he could describe the murky darkness that surrounded him. In the distance there was a light that was beckoning him. He could hear voices in that direction, calling his name, and pleading with him. He didn't know what it meant. He tried to go that way, to climb out of the darkness but he couldn't. He was frozen to the ground. He watched as the light grew fainter and fainter before it died. And then he was alone.
His eyes snapped open before promptly slamming shut once again as a harsh overhead light assaulted his eyes.
"Fuck… my head."
"Hey. You with me?"
He groaned turning his head to the side. "No, Sam, I'm sleep-talking."
He heard his friend sigh and decided to open his eyes and relieve his friend's anxiety. The other teen was sitting in a chair by his head. Puck looked down to see what he was lying on and then lifted his eyes back to the ceiling.
"Please tell me that I'm not really lying on one of those tables where they dress the dead bodies."
"Uh," Sam said, hesitantly. "I could tell you that but it would be a lie."
"Great, just great," he sat up slowly, and not without a little assistance from Sam. "What happened to me? One minute we were at the wake and the next I'm here."
"You fainted," Sam explained chewing thoughtfully on his bottom lip. "San said you freaked out when you were… you know. I told you that you didn't have to do it. You just got out of the hospital two days ago, idiot."
Puck rolled his eyes, trying to ignore the headache that was steadily building. Beside him Sam continued to blather on and on. Sometimes Puck was convinced that Sam talked only to hear his own voice. There was no other explanation. He had to talk incessantly with one of them just to remind himself and others that he was still there.
"You can be deliciously catty when you want to be. Must be all that time spent with Santana."
Puck found his eyes drawn to the source of the voice. There she as just as she was before Puck took his impromptu nap (dudes do not faint!). Though then she was criticizing the lack of dramatics at her wake. Now she seemed content to make mocking hand gestures behind the still rambling Sam.
Puck sighed again. "Sam, do me a favor? Take a good look around this room." He waited until Sam finally pushed off his confusion and did as he was asked. He looked back at Puck, an eyebrow raised. "We're alone in here, right?"
"Aside from dear, dead, Mrs. Goldstein, yeah, it's just you and me."
"Perfect," Puck muttered. He glared at the figure behind Sam. he refused to think of it as an actual representation of Rachel. Rachel was dead and what he was left with was a figment of tired, injured, grief stricken imagination. With time he'd learn to cope without the girl he'd known since they were children. The woman he thought he was going to continue growing old with… that he was going to love forever. But that was over and he was certain that with time he'd learn to put Rachel in the past and move on with his life.
"Because we know how well your coping skills are developed," 'Rachel' snickered. Puck closed his eyes. "Oh, you're ignoring me now, Noah? That's really mature."
"Go away," Puck hissed.
Puck rolled his eyes in Sam's direction. "Not you!"
Sam swallowed. "Um, but Puck, we're the only ones in here. Who are you talking to?"
Puck shrugged off his annoyance with the apparition of Rachel to focus on Sam. Next to Brittany, Rachel and Santana, Sam was his best friend. He'd known him for two years but it felt like more. And he knew that they'd be friends… well for as long as they lived because forever was definitely not a realistic setting. During the course of their friendship Puck prided himself on knowing Sam pretty well. Right now he couldn't see any sign of a joke. All he saw there was worry, concern, and fear… fear that he'd lose Puck to his grief. After all everyone knew that Puck and Rachel were a package deal.
"Hey," Puck snapped his fingers in front of Sam's face and forced a smile. "get me something to drink, will you? My throat is dry and I'm pretty sure that Satan will be down here soon to force my meds on me."
"Sure! You have any preferences? I think the machine had soda and water. The store isn't too far away. And I could you something else if you want."
Puck stopped the rambling by holding up his hand once again. "Dude, just get me anything… and take your time. I need a moment," he looked at Rachel, "alone."
"Sure," Sam nodded hesitantly before hurrying out the room.
Rachel giggled. "You know, I don't really remember him being that puppy like. I guess you just bring it out in him."
"And I don't remember you being this annoying," Puck muttered. "Oh, the tricks the mind plays on you."
"I'm not a figment of your imagination, Noah. I'm really here."
"No, you're not. You're dead! You're not here because you're dead."
"Apparently, but no. Well I guess… it's all subjective really. Here, I'm dead. But where I am, I'm alive." Great, now he had to suffer through existentialism from a figment of his imagination. "I'm not your imagination."
Rachel sat down on the table beside him so that their arms were barely touching. It was so familiar that it hurt.
"When we first met, you told me that you wanted to be the greatest guitarist in the world. But you were scared you wouldn't be able to do it alone. So I told you…"
"That we'd be together forever," Puck finished, looking down at his hands. "You said we'd always be together so I would never be alone. And since we were friends, we'd never really be apart even if we were."
Rachel smiled brightly and spread her arms wide. "Was I wrong?"
He shook his head. "Whatever happened to resting in peace?"
She shrugged. "I've got plenty of time for that when I'm really dead there. Until then I have a message for you."
Puck raised an eyebrow. There was no doubt in his mind that the person next to him was definitely Rachel. But what he couldn't comprehend was this whole concept of here and there. And what message could she possibly need to pass along? Shouldn't she have messages for her fathers or something?
"There is one way to find out, you know?"
He narrowed his eyes. "Stay of out my head, Rach! How are you doing that anyway? Does being vegan really give you psychic powers?"
"Scott Pilgrim is not the guideline to life, Noah!" Rachel chastised with a small smile.
"So what's this message you have for me?"
"Finally! It's very simple actually. I'm not gone, Noah. This isn't…." she trailed off, her mouth opened slightly. Her eyes went wide as she tried to speak but nothing came out.
She met his gaze unsteadily. Her mouth opened and closed several times without success. He could see the frustration building in her eyes.
"Maybe I could guess?"
Rachel glared at him before burying her face in her hands. "You're not ready," she finally said, her voice muffled. "I can't say it because you're not ready to hear it. But you need to be ready to hear because it might be too late." She lifted her head, looking around. "I think I have to go now."
"But…. Why?" he asked, quietly. "I promise I'll listen to whatever you have to say, Rachel, I swear. Please just… don't go. Don't leave me."
She smiled sadly. "I'm afraid it doesn't work that way. I think I only get a little at a time." Rachel closed her eyes and it was if she was in pain. He hated her being in pain. "I'll be back, Noah. I promise you."
Puck could only manage a small nod before she faded away. Once she was gone, the hollow feeling was back. It slammed into his chest, almost taking his breath away. He thought he hurt before. But he was so wrong. It hurt worse than before. Because for the few brief minutes that they were talking, he felt whole. And now he was back to feeling like a part of him was missing. That he just didn't belong here.
He opened his eyes unaware that he even closed them to find Santana and Brittany standing in front of him. He mustered a smile for Brittany. The blonde was taking Rachel's death almost as badly as he was. They had gotten closer towards the end of their high school days and were even going to dorm together at Julliard. Now….
"Hey there, ladies," he cleared his throat and sat up somewhat. "What's up?"
"Are you ok?" Brittany asked, hesitantly. Her eyes were searching him as if she could spot a lie or a sign of distress.
"Of course," Puck forced a grin. "You know me, Britt. I'm the Puckerone. I can't be held down for long."
Brittany gave him a sad smile and pressed a soft kiss against his cheek. Her lips brushed against his ear as she pulled back. "You don't belong here."
"What?" Puck asked his eyes wide. Brittany gave him one of her usual blank looks before going back upstairs. Puck remained seated, gaping in surprise as she left.
"What did Britt say?" Santana asked, sitting down on his left side. They all went to his left side. He didn't even remember telling them that but they did it on their own. Santana wrapped his hand in hers. "Puck? You with me, babe?"
"Yeah," he whispered, hoarsely. "I think so."
"The jury will accept that answer," Santana smiled softly. "You know you're not the only one that misses her right?"
"Yes, but I'm the only one who is to blame for this."
"No, I'm pretty sure the drunken motherfucker who decided to get plastered at noon on a Saturday is to blame for this. All you did was drive, Puckerman. And there's no law against that. You also didn't make Rachel get in the car with you. She got in the car because she loved you. Because being around you made her almost as happy as singing. I think maybe a little more."
Puck sighed. "I hear you. I really do. And I understand it up here," he pointed to his head. "But I can't… it just feels like…. I can't."
Santana nodded her head. "I know. But I see you and it's like you're fading away. You're a ghost here, Puck. And I don't want to lose you too."
Puck didn't promise anything. He merely leaned his head against hers and tried to ignore the fact that she was right. He was fading away. He didn't feel like he should be here. Not without Rachel. Puck shouldn't exist without Rachel. It was just… wrong.
He wasn't sure how long they were there but they both sat up when they heard footsteps approaching the room. Sam was back and he was carrying a bag full of drinks.
"So, I uh, wasn't really sure what you wanted. So I just kinda bought everything I knew you liked. If you want something else, I can always go back and get it."
Puck turned his head slowly towards Santana who was watching the fidgeting blonde with amusement shining in her eyes. He laughed a little and it felt weird and good at the same time.
"What?" Sam asked, nearly pouting.
"Rachel was right," he smirked. "You are like a puppy."
"Rachel said that? When? No, she didn't…. and I am not like a damn puppy! You know what? I'm tossing all these drinks."
"Leave the Gatorade before you take the others to the house," Santana called out to the figure retreating up the stairs. They heard Sam curse loudly before he stomped back down the stairs, slammed the red bottle down beside Puck and went back upstairs. "And I thought getting back together with him was a good idea."
Puck snorted. "He has his moments."
Santana arched an eyebrow. She eased herself off the table. "You ready to come join the rest of the living with me?" she held a cautious hand out to him.
Puck stared at the smooth palm held up to him. Part of him was telling him to say no and to curl up on that table until the world made sense. But he realized that that wouldn't help him. The world wasn't going to make sense anymore. He didn't have Rachel. And that was a fact. So with a deep sigh, Puck gave his hand to Santana and allowed her to pull him up to where the rest of the gleeks were waiting to move to the Berry's house where there was a small reception and gathering. He tried to feel warmed by the love and support they were showing him. As soon as he was in sight of the group, he was wrapped in several hugs (including Finn). But he still felt numb. He still felt like he didn't belong. He wasn't sure that feeling was ever going to go away.
It was a little more than a week before Rachel came back to see Puck. During that time, he'd managed to convince himself that he actually made up the entire encounter. He blamed it on the stress and the grief… and the guilt. The overwhelming combination of three factors caused his mind to snap and create a fictional image of his girlfriend to help him deal with her death and the fact that he didn't belong. That was it.
So why was he so disappointed when said stressed, grieving and guilty mind failed to conjure up that image of Rachel? He needed her back. Even if she wasn't real, he could deal with that. He needed to just talk to her. He felt so... alone now without her. Santana was right. He walked around like he was a ghost. He felt like he didn't fit in his own skin and every attempt at trying to reach out to others or move on felt like he was denying a part of himself.
It was little over a week (nine days, five hours and twenty three minutes to be precise) and there was still no sign of ghostly Rachel. Puck tried to put it to the back of his mind and continue his attempts with moving on with his life. This latest attempt found him volunteering to help Santana, Brittany and Mercedes clean out Rachel's room. This just involved the girls sitting on her bed, crying and sharing memories of their friend. Puck couldn't join them. He wasn't ready to share memories of the past. He wasn't ready for Rachel to be his past. Not yet. And if he was honest, not ever. So instead, he chose to focus his attention on the studio. It was the room where she went to practice, upload her Myspace videos, and just basically be in her element. He'd spent a lot of time with her in this room. He just knew in his heart that one day she'd be in a real recording studio.
He sat down at the desk chair where they wrote songs. Because somewhere between Nationals in junior year and Sectionals in senior year, they became known for writing songs. The first time she sang a song that he helped write, he knew that they were endgame. He finally understood what Rachel meant when she said they'd be together forever. And now here he was. Sitting at her desk, alone, holding the guitar he'd left there that afternoon and looking around the room through hazy eyes. His fingers strummed the strings unconsciously. The melody he chose did little to ease despair. If anything, he felt worse.
"No Roads Left. I thought you were out of your Linkin Park phase," a voice chimed in his right ear suddenly. Puck yelled at the sudden intrusion in his quiet and jumped out his seat. His hip bumped against the desk, knocking the star studded microphone that was decorating her desk to the floor. "Noah! It took me a week to decorate that! Of course, it probably wouldn't have taken nearly as long if you and Santana hadn't been annoying me the entire time."
Puck blinked as he struggled to regain his calm. For a figment of his imagination, Rachel sure did ramble a lot like the real thing. He heard Rachel scoff.
"We're back to this again? Noah, I don't know what I have to do to get you to understand that it's me. It's really me."
"Yeah, well the real you didn't just pop out of thin air and read my mind," Puck growled. "The real you also died two weeks ago and left me alone."
Rachel rolled her eyes. "Again with this too? Seriously, Noah. It's like you don't listen to me at all. And I know that's not true. You remember everything I tell you. It's part of why I love you so much." Puck felt his heart beat faster but he refused to give in. He refused to look at her. "Listen to me, Noah. I'm not dead. Well, I am here but not there."
Puck huffed and looked up. "This again? I don't get the whole here and there shit. I live here and you're dead. So I really don't get what the point of this is."
"What happened to you?" Rachel asked, sitting on the desk he was still leaning against. She peered up at Puck with wide eyes. "You're so angry again. You're closed off."
"You died," Puck retorted sharply. "What the hell did you think was going to happen? You're dead, Rachel! You left me alone and it hurts. And it's my fucking fault!"
"Noah," she started, but he held up a hand, cutting her off.
"Save it, ok? I know you're not dead where you are."
Rachel shook her head. "I wasn't going to say that, this time. I was only going to say that the accident wasn't your fault. You didn't make it happen. You didn't want this to happen. It was just supposed to be a quick drive around town. I wanted to be there with you. It was fun until the end. But none of this is your fault, Noah."
Puck blinked again as a familiar stinging appeared in his eyes. He looked down for a few minutes before lifting his eyes to meet hers' once again. "How do you know about that? I thought you said you weren't dead there."
"I'm not," Rachel replied. Her eyes shut down somewhat and she gave him a sad, tired smile. "Yet, anyway. That's why I need you, Noah. I need you to just trust me. I need you to come with me."
Puck's eyes widened. His dead girlfriend was asking him to join her. Was he really that co-dependent though? Could he really not live in this world without Rachel?"
"Damn it, Noah! You're not listening! You're not… you're just not…. "She trailed off. "I don't have much time left. I need do to this though. I need… you."
The words were whispered but Puck heard them loud and clear. They were words that resonated with him because he'd felt them since the afternoon he woke up to a world without Rachel. But could he really just give up everything here to be with Rachel. Yes, he'd be happy but what about everyone they left behind? What about Sam and Brittany and god, Santana? How could he leave them without him and Rachel?
If Rachel was picking up on his thoughts, she didn't say anything. She was lost in her own world of thought. Puck studied the silent figure sitting beside him. She looked the same as a week ago, but she seemed duller. Like she was put through the wash too many times and all the colors were starting to fade. She was chewing her bottom lip in thought. The familiar action along with the lost look in her eyes pushed through the last of his defenses. He reached a hand towards her tentatively. He was surprised when a very solid hand slipped into his. Their fingers intertwining naturally.
"Rach, I'm sorry?"
She gave him a brief smile before staring back into the distance. She sighed. "I have to go, Noah. And… I don't think I'll be back."
"Because we're out of time there. I'm sorry. I tried," she blinked away the tears that were starting to form in her eyes. "Maybe it's better for you here. Maybe forever has to end."
"Rachel… what are you talking about?"
She opened her mouth to speak but the words came out muffled. She was starting to look even more faded. The hand that was clutched tightly in Puck's shimmered and it felt like he was grasping air. Their eyes met a final time and then she was gone again. Just like before Puck felt the emptiness slam into him. He knew he was missing something and that something was keeping him from understanding what Rachel was trying to tell him. And for some reason, Rachel trusted him to be smart enough to figure out what that something was.
"Come on! Who the hell said I was the smart one?" he yelled to thin air, not really expecting an answer. Of course, that's exactly what he got. Just not from the one he wanted it from.
"Puck, who are you talking to?" Brittany asked, coming into the room. Puck opened his mouth to lie but he remembered Brittany's words from the funeral home. She told him that he didn't belong there too. It seemed that out of their friends, Brittany was the only one who was picking up on the fact that Puck wasn't right.
"I was talking to Rachel," Puck replied, calmly. Brittany nodded, indicating for him to continue. She closed the door behind them and sat down on the studio's plush chair and waited. So far she didn't think he was nuts. But then again, Brittany was probably the most open minded of them. And more importantly he was tired of feeling alone. So he let the story spill from him lips and finally shared the burden with someone else. He finished with Rachel's final proposition and watched as the blonde processed it all.
Puck was not one of the gleeks that thought Brittany was stupid. He knew better. He knew there were hidden depths to the girl that very few got to see. Brittany was a lot like him in that respect. She hid behind comical one-liners and blank stares. That's why he knew she'd understand. She would help him to figure out what he was missing.
"You love Rachel, right?" not loved, but love. This is why he loved Brittany so much. He nodded in response to her question. "And you trust her, correct?"
"Britt, you know the answer to those questions. There aren't a whole lot of people in this world that I can say I both love and trust. Rachel is pretty much the top of the list. You, San, Sammy and Artie come in real close."
Brittany gave him a small smile. "Then trust her, Puck. Rachel is a lot of things but she's never been crazy selfish. She may hog the spotlight in glee. She may send girls to crack houses so she can still be loved by all but she would never want you to die because she did. Maybe she would want Finn to die with her but that's really because she never believed in him. Not like she believes in you. She knows that you're too special and too awesome to just give up after she's gone. She would never want you to die with her."
"So why did she ask me to come with her if she doesn't want me dead?"
"Did you ever stop to think that maybe Rachel isn't the figment of your imagination? Maybe it's everything else?"
Puck raised an eyebrow. What the hell was she talking about? Everything else?
"You don't belong here and you know it. It's why you're like a ghost. It's because you are. You don't belong here. You belong there. But you're running out of time."
"There?" Puck repeated, his mouth going dry. "But I don't get it…."
"Puck, think about the accident. The car hit your side of the car. Why are you fine? Why is Rachel dead? That doesn't make any sense. None of it makes any sense."
Puck felt a shiver travel down his spine. It didn't make sense. None of it. Why didn't he see it from the beginning? Aside from a headache and some phantom aches and pains, Puck walked away from an accident that totaled his truck and killed his girlfriend. That shouldn't be possible. And apparently it wasn't.
"This isn't real," Puck whispered, his eyes searching Brittany's. "This is all something I'm dreaming … Am I dying?"
Brittany cocked her head to the side in thought. She sighed sadly. "I think so." Puck swallowed. His hands trembled. It sounded crazy. If he had this conversation with anyone else, he was sure they'd lock him up in the hospital before he could even blink. But the more he thought about it, the more it seemed right
Since the day he woke up, nothing seemed real. And it was more than just Rachel being gone. The more he thought about it, the more he realized he hadn't seen his mother since the day of the accident. Where was she? Why hadn't he gone back to school? What happened to graduation? Why were the gleeks the only people he had any interaction with in the past two weeks? And why did he dream of blackness with a single light that got dimmer every passing day?
"Puck, you have to go back," Brittany said, urgently. "You don't belong here. And you can't stay here. You'll just fade away here too. You need to go back."
"But what happens to you guys?"
"We're a part of you. We'll always be with you. And we're there too, remember? We're here because we're special to you. That means we'll always be with you."
Puck toyed with the microphone he picked up at some point during his story. "How do I go back? What do I have to do?"
"I guess you just have to wake up."
He looked down at the gold studded stars. "What if I'm wrong? What if this is where I'm supposed to be?"
"You know it's not. You know that this is not where you belong. You belong with Rachel. And you need to go. I think you understand it now, don't you?"
They were giving up on him. Whatever was going with him there was becoming hopeless. They were giving up on him recovering. It's why the light got dimmer and the darkness more smothering. He had to go back. He had to get back to Rachel before it was too late.
"Britt, I don't feel so….." he trailed off as his tongue felt too big for his mouth. He didn't know why his body felt so heavy suddenly.
Brittany helped him to lie down on the chair. It literally hurt to even think about moving. His head was resting on a soft pillow. It smelled like Rachel. Between the scent and the fingers carding through his hair, Puck felt himself drifting. He was mildly confused as he was certain that Brittany said he had to wake up. But now he was falling asleep.
And then he knew why. The hazy darkness was back. He was surrounded. It was cold and empty. He felt alone. He couldn't see a thing around him. And then in the distance, he saw a light. It was barely a pinprick in the sea of darkness. But it was there. He heard the voices again. He recognized them as his friends this time. They were pleading, begging, for him to wake up.
For a moment, he doubted. For a moment, he wondered if he was doing the right thing. And then he thought about what Brittany said. He remembered everything about Rachel and he knew it was the truth. He struggled to move towards the sounds of his friends' voices. With every step closer that he took, he felt aches and pains in his body. His left side felt heavy. His whole body ached in ways he didn't think possible but still he struggled towards the light.
He had to laugh at the irony. Most movies and television shows taught you to stay away from the light. But he was charging headfirst towards it. Of course, most movies and television shows would also say that Finn would've ended up with the girl. Clearly sometimes movies got it wrong after all. He was going to get back to his girl. And they were going to have their Happily Ever After. He sighed in pained relief as he finally reached the source of the light. He didn't know how this was going to work, or if it would even work at all. But he knew he had to try. He lifted his hand towards the light.
"Here goes everything."
And then it all went black.
There was something choking him. It was the first thought he registered when he felt himself jolt awake. The other thought was that the stupid light was entirely too bright now. It felt like his eyes were burning. The next thought wasn't any less important than the first and that was why the hell did he hurt so damn much? And again, there was something choking him. It felt like something was shoved down his throat.
"Puck?" he heard someone ask hesitantly. He would've said something or at least turned his head to look at who was next to him but did he mention that something was stuck down his throat and choking him? "Oh my god, he's awake!"
"Should we call the doctor?"
"Shit! Rachel is going to kill us!"
Suddenly the lights were replaced with the somewhat terrified face of Santana Lopez. She gave him a brief smile before the scared look came back. "Puck, I'm so happy you're awake but you really need to go back to sleep until Rachel gets back. Or else we're all dead."
"She's going to murder us!"
"Uh, I think he's choking on the ventilator. We might just have to call the doctor."
Santana groaned. "Ugh, fine." She picked up the call button beside Puck's head and pushed it down. A nurse was in the room less than a minute later. Her eyes widened as she took in the gagging Puck and the petrified teenagers.
"Oh, she's not going to like this," the nurse grinned. She replaced Santana by Puck's side and smiled gently down at her patient. "Hi there, kiddo. You've had a lot of people really worried. But I think you want to get this out, huh?"
Puck mustered the energy for a weak nod. She checked some information from his monitors before excusing herself to check with a doctor. Now that the initial panic was fading, he was able to see who was in the room with him. Santana was still standing close by with Sam beside her. The pressure he felt on his left side was Brittany. She was practically cuddling with his arm. That was fine. It helped him to focus on something other than the pain radiating throughout his body at the moment.
A half an hour later, the tube was out, a healthy dose of painkillers was administered and Puck was under strict orders not to move, talk or strain his voice. As soon as the doctor and nurse were gone, he turned to Santana. "Where's Rach?"
"What part of don't talk do you just not understand?" Santana chided. She shook her head, smiling fondly. "She's fine, Puckerman. So don't start worrying your pretty little head. Trust me, she's made more nurses and orderlies cry in the past two weeks than I think they have in their entire lives. She's absolutely fine."
"We sent her home," Sam finished for his girlfriend. "She's been here every day since the accident. Today was the first time we managed to get her to go home."
The three teens exchanged hesitant looks. Puck looked at Sam. He didn't even need to use the words. His best friend sighed.
"It's because they thought you were going to die. Your vitals were dropping and you… you weren't doing so good. Rach was wrecked. So we made her go home in case… something happened."
Puck would wonder why they were apparently more equipped at waiting for him to die than Rachel was later. Right now, he wanted them to get his midget here. Because he didn't have any reason to think that any of them would lie to him but he needed to see her with his own two eyes. He needed to hold her. He also needed these pain meds at home because they were seriously awesome.
"He's high as a kite right now, isn't he?" Brittany asked, chewing on her lip.
"Yeah, pretty much," Santana grinned. "Alright, so who wants the honors?"
"She's your best friend," Sam sat back.
"She's Britt's roommate."
Puck pulled himself out his thoughts to see Rachel standing in the doorway of his room. Her hair was pulled back in a haphazard ponytail and she was actually wearing sweatpants in public. She wasn't wearing any makeup. Not even her favorite lip gloss. But what caught his attention the most was how pale her skin was. She looked like she hadn't slept in months.
Tears welled in her eyes and the brightest smile he'd seen her give spread across her face. "Noah. Noah, you're awake?"
"Hey, babe," he smiled weakly. She laughed tearfully and raced into the room. She sat down on his right side and took his hand in hers. "I saw you."
"When?" Rachel asked, confused.
"In my dream," he blinked. "You wouldn't let me give up. You made me come back. You and Britt."
Rachel looked up at Brittany, who was still seated on the other side. She shrugged and continued doodling on his cast. He would probably be really pissed when he finally saw what she drew but he was willing to just forget that for now. He was also willing to forget how Santana and Sam bolted out the room like the hounds of hell were on their asses the minute Rachel showed up.
"I love you, Noah," Rachel whispered. "I hate that I didn't tell you that before now. I hate that you that before now."
"I know you do. We're forever."
Rachel smiled with tears streaming down her cheeks. She never looked more beautiful to him. "Yes, Noah. Together forever."
*Hello! Hope someone out there enjoyed. Just so you all know the original ending was right before they got to the hospital. But apparently my best friend did not like that ending and thus this one was born. Hope you enjoyed it. I'm off to try and actually write something fluffy. I will write Puckleberry fluff. I will!