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Rachel Berry has always been a little bit psychic.
Seriously. She has.
She first noticed it when she was five. She knew that Mrs Wright was going to give them a segment from Oklahoma to do at the rehearsal, so Rachel already knew every move and lyric and note, she nailed it. Everyone was jealous of her success but Mrs Wright saw Rachel's talent and potential. It happened again at a JCC fund raiser. She knew that Jacob Ben Israel was going to try and accost her in the girls bathroom, so she made a point of being by Mrs Puckerman when she asked her Daddy to be excused. Mrs Puckerman always made Noah escort her at fund raisers, so Jacob couldn't get near her.
Throughout her life, Rachel's mild psychic ability has always helped her. Given her ample warning to do well in class, to study for pop quizzes, to know which musical to know off by heart, when to stop her Daddy from breaking his strict low-cholesterol diet. She doesn't expect, in her senior year of high school, to suddenly be responsible for Noah Puckerman's safety.
The first time it happens, it's before Invitationals; she dreams that Noah and Finn are messing around on the stairs at school, right before their performance. It's a friendly nudge, just to the top of Noah's shoulder. But his foot catches on something and it's like a slow motion replay and Noah tumbles down the stairs. She wakes with a cry on her lips and Noah's lovely brown eyes staring lifelessly upwards. She feels sick all day, but she knows she can't say anything because they all roll their eyes when she tells them about her psychic powers. So, she waits, and it almost kills her inside knowing that she's waiting for the moment that Noah is about to die. It happens exactly as she dreamed. She's just a little behind Noah and Finn when it starts and she has to rush forward as Finn nudges Noah's shoulder and he starts to twist and oh God no, Rachel just grabs his wrist and hauls him forward, away from the stairs.
Noah barrels towards her, their chests pressed together and Rachel feels his heart thump against her chest, just the same as hers is. She did it, she saved him, his arm wraps awkwardly around her waist to steady them and he laughs a little against her hair. "Saved your life," she whispers it softly, and Noah smiles a little against the top of her head.
"Thanks, Berry." He's still joking though, like it's not a big deal, like he didn't almost die.
Rachel runs on adrenaline for the rest of the day. And for once, it's not about the performance.
It's a week later when it happens again. There's screaming and cheering and everyone is on their feet. Rachel has grown to love football games, ever since she got to play at the Championship game. She sees it all from the stands, all the action, all the excitement. Until it turns horrifically bad and the dread pools in her gut. Noah blocks for Finn, but the other team are huge, Finn makes the run, but Noah takes the brunt of the tackle and is thrown back. She doesn't know how, but she hears it, the snap, and then it's all panic and rush and ambulances. But it's no use. Not as Finn drops to his knees and the Cheerio's cave in on themselves and Coach Beiste looks up from kneeling at Noah's side.
Rachel curls in on herself as she wakes, the snap of Noah's neck echoing in her head until she starts to sob.
She refuses to allow this to happen. But it would take a lot to stop Noah from playing in a football game. It takes careful planning and manipulating before she has everything set up. It's not even hard to start crying that day, she sees Noah walking down the hall towards her and it all comes rushing back to her and the tears follow. Noah hates crying girls; not because they're annoying, or whiny or anything that he claims but because he cannot say no to a crying girl. He stops by her locker and Rachel knows she's laying it on thick, but whatever it takes. She cries against his chest while she spins her tale, and it's comforting on so many levels to feel his arms around her as he listens, stroking her back to soothe her, right there in the middle of the school.
He follows script, just like she knew he would, finding Jacob -whom she'd already set in place with false information- and slamming the boy into the locker, teeth clenched and threatening him. Rachel feels terrible for setting Noah up like this, with Coach Beiste seeing the altercation and giving Noah detention for threatening a student and benching him for the next three games. Beiste doesn't report the incident to Principal Figgins, thankfully, since something like this could place Noah back in juvie. Rachel doesn't want that, she just wants him safe.
He's benched for the game that night, looking pissed off and dejected the whole time. Rachel catches him afterwards, just wrapping her arms around his waist and breathing in and feeling his heart beating in his chest. "I'm sorry you missed out on the game Noah, but thank you." The Titans still won, but Finn suffered a sprained wrist. Rachel thought it was acceptable if it meant Noah wasn't gone.
It carries on like this; Rachel has a dream, Noah dies, she saves him. Repeat.
Sometimes there are a few days between the dreams, sometimes there are a few weeks. One time they went almost a month without Noah nearly dying. But then it starts happening every few nights. Noah getting hit by a car after school, so Rachel asked him to stay behind to play background acoustics on a song she was hoping to perform at a charity thing her father was attending. Noah getting injured in Chemistry and bleeding to death on the lab floor, it was the one and only time Rachel had been adamant that he didn't need to go to class, he could absolutely take her home because she wasn't feeling well. Noah being shot in a mugging at the Lima Bean, and that one had been difficult because not only did she need to convince him they didn't need coffee but she also had to explain why she desperately needed to use the pay phone outside the mall without telling him she was placing an anonymous call to the police department about an armed robbery.
It was exhausting, and devastating, and chipping away at her sanity every time she watched him die. She stopped feeling accomplishment after the fifth time she saved his life, because by then, she just knew there would be a sixth. All she feels now is trepidation, what will come next, how will she see him die, how will she stop it, what if she can't? And under it all, there's this niggling question.
What if Noah is meant to die?
It makes her stomach lurch, because it can't possibly be true. Noah is still young, they all are. He has his whole life ahead of him, he's turning things around, he's looking to make something of himself now. And Rachel know he'll do it. If he can just survive long enough to do it. But what then? When they graduate and go to college, how will she keep him safe then? She doesn't know what colleges Noah is applying to, although she knows that he did put in one to OSU, because Finn was still hesitant and Noah declared they'd both do it, like 'bros' and that was that. But beyond that, she has no idea what his plans are. She's planning on going to New York, everyone knows that, and she can't possibly imagine giving up her dream. But this was Noah's life, not just his dream of what to become, not having his name up in lights, not some silly stage. But his life.
She has to make sense of things, even at the risk of being laughed at and called crazy by a boy who had been her best friend for longer than she knew, who meant more to her than she knew, it's just something she's going to have to do.
Noah accepts her invitation over after school. Her parents are out late tonight with work and other commitments, so Rachel knows they'll be alone. It's not like any of the other times she's had him up in her room, but it feels like so much more. "So, I have to tell you something." They're sitting on the box at the end of her bed, so reminiscent of so long ago, but still not. "I want you to listen to me, and not make a joke." She needs to get through it all. She needs him to understand. He gives a nod, and she takes a breath to start.
"I've been having these dreams, about you, since the start of the year," almost six months, it's so scary to think that. "And in each one," she can't look at him, she needs to look at the carpet below her feet as she forces the words out, "you die." It's hard, saying the words, because sometimes she can pretend it's not happening, but she dreads going to sleep every night and she revels in seeing him, alive and whole and there every morning. "I've been seeing you die for months now, and every time I save you it just happens again, and oh Noah, I just don't know how to stop it. How to keep you safe, I can't keep watching you die, but I just can't lose you." She's sobbing a little, leaning towards him as he places a comforting hand on her back and rubs soothing circles around her spine.
"How? I mean, like what ways?" He's not calling her crazy, not flat out, he's not scoffing and walking away and telling her to keep her psycho to herself.
"The first time was when you almost fell down the stairs," she leaned in closer to his side, sighing against his neck as his arm wrapped around her. "And that time you almost got hit by the tiles that fell in the gym? The girl at Brittany's party? Her boyfriend would'e walked in on you two and, well," she didn't want to relive them, didn't want to tell him. "I've stopped it every time, but there's always something else, and it's scaring me Noah." She can't tell him how tired she is, because she doesn't want him thinking that she is giving up, that she's going to let him die.
"Okay, okay, so," he's not entirely on board, she knows it, but Noah rarely says no to her, he almost never turns her down, no matter how crazy her request. Like when he actually went out looking for a dog for Mercedes when they had their 'Night of Neglect'. "From now on, in the morning, you just call me, and we'll talk about it and I'll help?" He gives her this look, this one that says he's doubtful, but for her he'll try and it makes her heart swell and a smile pull to her lips.
"Yes," because two of them taking care of him, it'll work better, surely.
Except things get steadily worse.
He narrowly avoids another car accident, his home gets broken into and all Noah can do is comfort himself knowing that he and Sarah were safe thanks to Rachel's dream, he's almost knocked off the stage at Regionals when a light almost falls on his head and that was two deaths, she knew it. It goes on and on. She can't look at Finn after she witnesses him throwing a ball at the back of Noah's head with a late warning and fractures his skull, she can't look at Kurt after he accidentally gives Noah something with peach in it and sends the boy into anaphylactic shock, she spends time glaring at Mr Schue after a particularly horrible time where a piano string snapped and almost tore out Noah's throat. She woke up sobbing after that one and refused to go to glee, making Noah stay in the girls bathroom with her while she sobbed against his chest.
"Maybe," they're sitting on her floor this time, Noah just as tired as she is, because he's almost died five times in the last nine days, "maybe this is like, a sign or something." She really doesn't like his tone of voice. "I mean, maybe I'm meant to, like,"
"No, Noah just, no." She's had the same thought, but she can't possibly let him consider it.
"It's not like I want it to be true, Rach, but seriously. This is just getting out of control." Their nerves are frayed, they both flinch at the slightest thing, neither able to really relax any more. "I just, I can't stand what this is doing to you." The tears come again, even as she sniffs and climbs into his lap to wrap her arms around his neck. Because he's the one that is apparently destined to die young, to lose his life tragically and horribly according to some of her dreams, to have everything he's dreamed of cut short, and he's worried about what it's doing to her.
Rachel doesn't understand why Noah doesn't just show his true personality, why he hides behind 'Puck' and the brash manner and the fighting and bullying. Why he doesn't show people the boy who sits with his sister until she finishes her homework, the boy who drives Rachel to her dance classes even when they are at seven in the morning on a Saturday, the boy who makes dinner for his family because his mother works late, the boy who keeps an ultrasound picture in his wallet because it's the only picture he has of his daughter, the boy who hugs Rachel tightly while she sobs her heart out on his favourite green shirt. She wishes there had never been Puck, and that Noah had always been her best friend.
"It'll be okay Rach, it'll all be okay."
She calls him the next morning, after she's showered and dressed and can stop seeing his body in a tangled mess with his truck, overturned in a ditch with rain pelting down on the ground. He sighs heavily when she tells him, and just says 'okay, okay,' before they both start getting ready for school. He attends all his classes, is polite to the teachers, doesn't growl at anyone, doesn't start any fights with the jocks. He's a perfectly well behaved student all day. Rachel hates it. She loathes it, the way he answers questions when asked and hands in his homework and doesn't skip class. Because she knows what it means.
She sees him having a conversation with Brittany, and later in the day, Brittany is smiling her adorably innocent smile at Artie and Artie looks like he's been given the world. He tells Mercedes about one of the nicer jocks -one of the reserves- who has a huge crush on her but is scared of asking her out because she's so confident and strong and he's just not. Mercedes has a date for next Friday night. "He totally just gave me it, I mean, it's awesome. He says he was just cleaning out his junk and this was going, but dude, it's so not junk." Rachel recognises the baseball that Finn is showing Kurt and something breaks. She can't stay in school for this. She blows off her classes and goes home, not that she doesn't expect him to chase her anyway.
He does, much later. He lets himself into her house, like he'd been able to do for weeks and weeks, and find her on her bedroom floor, tears staining her cheeks while she flicks through their year book from junior year. "I'm surprised you waited this long." He just sits next to her, shrugging lightly.
"Dinner with Ma and Sarah." She doesn't ask if he kissed his little sister goodbye, if he tucked her into her Barbie bedsheets and read her a story, told her he loved her. Doesn't ask if he told his mother, if he'd given her a hug or kiss, told her she was the strongest woman he knew, that he was sorry he screwed up so much, but that she was never to blame for the way he was. She couldn't ask, because she knew that he probably had. "Wanted to see you last."
There's a clap of thunder outside, just as the rain starts.
"Don't Noah, please, please don't." The tears are silently streaming down her face, she'd suffer a million dreams than face this, she would. "We'll figure out another way, but please," he sighs and shakes his head, looking so sad and lost and just, Rachel doesn't even know. There's this softness to his expression whenever he looks at her, and she's never figured it out, never been able to place this look.
He presses his lips to hers softly, cupping her jaw and moving in and Rachel sighs against him.
And then he's gone, standing and leaving her room and Rachel can't hold back the sobs. Because he's leaving, really leaving. He said his goodbyes, he passed on what he wanted to pass on, he hugged his sister and kissed his mother and saw her. He came to see her. She sniffs and thinks about it, he came to see her last. She was the last person he'd see, his last kiss, his last memory. She heard the click of her front door closing and Rachel knew she couldn't let him do this.
She was down the stairs as fast as her legs could carry her, running out the door just before he climbed into his truck -his soon to be mangled, destroyed, coffin of a truck- and Rachel threw herself at him. "Don't go, please don't go, don't leave me." She can't tell when it happened, only that it did. Somehow, this boy, this complicated, confusing, wonderful boy, wormed his way in and meant the world to her. And she'd never seen it, never noticed, that she meant it all to him too. "You can't leave me, I won't let you."
Her lips found his, slick from the rain pouring down around them, her hands holding his head to her as she kissed him, putting everything she could into it. Noah's arms wrapped around her waist to pull her tighter to him, his lips moving over hers and tongue seeking entrance, and how could she not know how important he was when he kissed her like this? Finn had once told her that he saw fireworks when he kissed Quinn, kissing Noah, Rachel felt them. Her lips tingled, her stomach clenched, her skin was on fire, everywhere he touched her just burned with pleasure.
"Stay with me?" She whispers it against his lips, their foreheads pressed together while the rain and thunder roars. Noah just nods; Rachel knows already that he'd give up just about anything for her.
They spend the night on the sofa, after drying up and changing -Noah into a pair of sweats and a jersey of her Dad's and her into her own sleepwear- cuddled up and watching random things on the television. Except neither of them are watching. Rachel is sprawled over his chest, listening to his heartbeat, which is fast becoming her favourite sound ever, while he runs his fingers through her drying hair. Mr and Mr Berry find them there later, throwing a blanket over them and leaving them to sleep. Rachel wakes with no start, no scream, no cries; just snuggling into his warm chest and sighing.
There's no dream after a week, and Noah and Rachel go public with their relationship with a rather telling make-out in the hall at school. After two weeks, their parents all know and strangely, according to him, her fathers approve. There's still no dreams. After a month, they've slept together and he's told her those words. She said them back.
She still hasn't had a dream of him dying. But she has had a dream.
"Noah," he grunts in response, glancing over for her to continue. "I had a dream last night." He drops his pen, closing his history book and looking over at her. She just smiles because it wasn't one of those dreams. "We were in New York, and we were in an apartment, and I came home from a gruelling day of being wonderful on the stage," she can see his expression change, understanding that they're still good, he's not going to have any more near death experiences. She pushes him to lean back on his hands, climbing to straddle his lap on the floor. "You were standing there, waiting for me, with a kiss." She leaned over, kissing his lips softly, "and our son in your arms."
His mouth pretty much drops, but there's a grin in his eyes that she can see.
Rachel Berry has always been a little bit psychic.