Seeing Clearly – A Short Story

The thing about small towns? There is no such thing as a secret. He knows that shit all too well. He's still not sure why the hell Finn and Quinn thought they could keep one. Not here. Not ever. Lima was just one big ole' gossip wheel.

He wishes he could say it was a surprise but anyone with half a brain could see this one coming from a mile away. He had warned Rachel so many times that he got sick of hearing it himself. At first, she would get fucking defensive and tell him he was trying to cause trouble but lately she would just shrug and walk away. He fucking hated seeing her like that because he was pretty sure she knew it was coming to. He just wished that she had walked the hell away first.

He's kinda pissed at Santana for doing it. Not that he expected anything less; the girl loves to start drama and loves it even more when it involves Quinn. Girl has made it some sort of mission to bring her down this year. He's also kinda glad she did it too. Now at least everyone knows that Finn fucking Hudson isn't the perfect guy they all think he is. It took one picture posted on Facebook of Quinn sitting in his lap sucking his face off for everyone to figure that out. 'Specially since everyone in Lima already knew Finn got all old school with Rachel three months ago and slid his class ring on her finger. He's pretty fucking sure now that he just did it to string her along as his backup plan.

He'd been half expecting for Rachel to come to her senses right before that and break the hell up with Finn. He could see it written all over her face. She wasn't happy. She hadn't said it but he could tell it and maybe he had pointed it out to her a few hundred times. But hell, he's her friend now and that's what friends are supposed to do. Then though, Hudson put that awful ring on her finger and he freaked out a bit (a lot) and yelled at her and told her how she deserved the douche because they were fucking soulmates. It took him two weeks of missing her crazy ass for him to apologize but by then Finn had imbedded himself into her like a fucking tick or something and he figured the only way to keep her friendship was to support her relationship. So he did. Even though it sucked ass.

But then he saw the change. While Rachel was busy working with Kurt on who knows what, Finn would be chatting up Quinn fucking Fabray. When he confronted him about it, Finn just shrugged it off and said there wasn't anything wrong with him being friends with Quinn. He then scoffed that he didn't complain about Rachel being friends with him. And yeah, while he's right that he hasn't complained to him about it, he's pretty fucking sure he complained to Rachel about it. And by sure, he means that Rachel told him that Finn didn't like it. So he told her in some not very nice words that her douchebag boyfriend was back but she, as expected, didn't listen. She kept sliding her hand into his every fucking day, even when sometimes he was pretty sure she had only been doing it lately to see if he'd hold it back.

When the door opens behind him and a cold burst of air rushes in, he's finally broke from his thoughts. Not that it matters anyway, he knows they will come swirling back the second he's alone to think about it. Like it has every fucking second since he saw that damn picture. He throws his chin back when Blaine sits down at the table across from him.

"I hate Ohio winters." Blaine says as he pulls his scarf from his neck and throws it onto the chair beside of him.

"Move to Alaska for a while and then maybe you'll like the Ohio winters better."

Blaine chuckles and shakes his head. "Nice rationale."

He waits for Blaine to order a coffee and biscotti before he speaks up again. "So why'd you bring me out in this snowstorm? Kinda sucks that they call off school but I have to drag my ass out to meet you. No offense."

"None taken." He watches as Blaine dunks his biscotti into his coffee and takes a bite before bringing his gaze to him. "Do you believe in soulmates?" He's pretty sure that he can't hide his surprise and Blaine catches on. "I know you don't play on my team, Puck. I'm not talking about us. But really, do you believe in people who are meant to be together?"

He relaxes a bit. "Like you and Kurt?"

Blaine's smile grows wider. "Yeah, like Kurt and I."

He takes a few seconds to think about Blaine's question. The only time he's ever even used the term soulmate was when he threw it in Rachel's face about Finn and he sure as hell didn't mean it then. There's no fucking way someone's soulmate is the person who constantly destroys their heart. Even if Rachel thinks so. But then again, he can't say he doesn't believe that no one has a soulmate. Part of him hopes that everyone does. He shrugs at Blaine. "I guess maybe. Why?"

"I talked to Rachel today."

"Oh come the fuck on, Hudson is not her soulmate!" He hates the way even saying this makes him feel and he's so fucking tired of hearing about Finn and Rachel that he can't stand it.

Blaine just laughs at his outburst, shaking his head as he watches him shift uncomfortably. "I know that. She even knows that now. Rachel though, she's a dreamer. And she tries so hard to only see the good in people, especially those she cares about. And she had painted this portrait of Finn when she first fell for him that her heart was determined to make a reality."

"And then he fucking dumped her for Fabray. Fucking again!"

"May not seem like it now but they did her a favor. She's better off without him. And Finn and Quinn? Who knows, maybe they are soulmates."

He can't help but roll his eyes. Finn and Quinn? Yeah, they sure as hell deserve each other because all they do is break other people's hearts. He knows. He was on the receiving ends of one of those breaks before. Till he wised up and de-Quinn-ified his life.

"I'm not really here to talk to you about Finn and Quinn, Puck. I'm here to talk about Rachel." He just nods at Blaine's words and lets him continue. "Rachel has realized many things over the past couple of days. She's not a stupid girl, she knew something was wrong. But you know Rachel; she doesn't give up on anything." Well him, he thinks but he doesn't say it. He should be way past their sophomore year debacle by now. "So she let it play out the way it was supposed to."

"She was supposed to get cheated on?" He shakes his head vehemently. What the hell is this dude on? Or better yet, what the hell is Rachel on? Apparently even him being her friend couldn't keep her from being delusional about Hudson.

"No, no one is supposed to get cheated on. It's embarrassing and degrading and yes, Rachel is very hurt by Finn's betrayal. But she has accepted that she isn't supposed to be with Finn." Blaine dunks his biscotti into his coffee again and takes a bite before he rests back in his chair and glares at Puck. "She's not just hurt by Finn, Puck. I'm pretty certain she's hurting because of you too. Maybe even more so."

Blaine's admission takes him aback and he can't hide it. "How the fuck did I hurt her? I'm not the one who lied to her and stabbed her in the back so I could play Ken and Barbie again."

"You're her friend, Puck. Over the past few months she has grown to trust you probably more than anyone. Then when her world gets turned upside down, you're not around. I know you aren't a fair weather friend and only want to be around when things are ok. So why are you avoiding her now?"

Ok, fuck. Blaine's right and he hates it. He picks up a fork from the table and starts to twist it in his fingers, not looking at Blaine across from him. "S'cause I don't want to see her like that. Ya think I haven't thought about her and how she's feeling ever since San posted that pic? Cause I have. And I want to fucking see her but I don't know what to say to her right now. Cause part of me wants to say I told you so and the other part just wants to fix it."

He doesn't have to be looking to see Blaine perk up at his words and he immediately regrets saying them. "Fix it how?"

"Nothing," he spouts, "Nothing. Just listen . . . I gotta go. My mom needed me to go by the store and get some milk since I'm out in this crap anyway." He pushes himself away from the table and avoids Blaine's knowing glare. "So yeah, it was real." He knows that, at least for Blaine, the conversation isn't over. Hell, he didn't even get to a damn point about soulmates but he can't handle this anymore so he throws his hand up to say goodbye and heads out into the snow.

He stops at the store and picks up a gallon of milk. He doesn't remember what kind his mom wanted or even what they typically drink because his mind is stuck on his talk with Blaine and well, on Rachel Berry. He gets in his truck and he wants to go home. He really fucking does. But he knows he can't because Anderson just told him that he hurt Rachel and that's really fucking killing him right now. Cause the last thing he ever wanted to do is hurt her. Ever. Finn's the prick who does that, not him. And right now, she shouldn't be hurting because of him.

So he throws his truck into gear and heads down the snowy streets toward Rachel's house. He pulls into the driveway and instantly forgets about the milk sitting in his passenger seat floorboard. He knocks on the door and distinguishes the smell of sugar cookies pillowing under it as he waits. Fuck, she's baking. This is worse than he thought.

It takes a few seconds for her to open the door and when she does, he scoffs at her fake smile. He pushes past her into the house. "So I hear I hurt you or something?" So yeah, maybe that wasn't the best opening line but it's what his nervous ass says.

She seems taken off guard for a moment but then bucks up and moves past him toward the kitchen. "No, of course not."


She ignores him; instead she puts on her oven mitt and pulls a tray of cookies from the oven. He watches her, realizing, quite obviously, that he is going about this the wrong way. Bickering with her isn't what he wants to do. So he mans up.

"I'm sorry," he says and she quickly pulls her surprised eyes up to him, "for not calling or coming by sooner. It's not that I didn't want to. Just didn't want to see you hurt by him again. You don't deserve that."

She waits briefly and then looks away. "It hurt more thinking you didn't care enough to see if I was ok. Granted, I don't know exactly where we stand in regards to our friendship or whatever it is but I had hoped that you cared enough for my welfare to call or at the very least, send a text message."

She's right, he knows that. "I'm sorry." It's all he can say now. Cause he is and he shouldn't have been a coward about it.

She starts placing cookies into tins and he walks over to stand beside her. He doesn't ask but she hands him a cookie and smiles warmly when he devours it. He turns around and leans against the counter, crossing his arms against his chest. "Am I forgiven?"

Glancing to him, she smiles. "Granted, I had hoped to make you work for it more but I don't have the energy right now to even pretend that I'm still angry with you. The fact that you came here in this weather is proof enough for me that you do care."

"Course I do. I've always cared about you Rach. Even when sometimes it may not be that obvious." She stops handling the cookies when she hears him and he does the only thing he can think of, bending his knees and hitting his shoulder up against hers. "So you want me to deliver the Finn's a prick speech I had planned or at least help you burn some of his bad boyfriend karma in the fireplace? Or you know I'm really good with voodoo dolls. Like epically good."

She laughs and he likes how that sounds. "I sincerely appreciate the offer and will maybe one day take you up on the burning the bad boyfriend vibes but surprisingly, I'm ok."

But he doesn't buy it. Not fully at least. Not after watching her pine over Finn for so fucking long. He shakes his head. "He's fucking stupid, Rach," he says and he means it. Every word. "He treats you like some toy that he can play with for a while and then put on the shelf until he's ready to take you back off again. The thing is I don't feel sorry for Quinn because she plays the same fucking games. Hell, I've been that toy for her. But you. . . . you don't deserve that. Cause he's never gonna let Quinn go. And you sure as hell don't need to be his backup plan."

She smiles and he doesn't fully get it. How his crazy Berry is so calm about this. "Noah, I know it is hard to believe but I have realized that what I created in my mind in regards to Finn was not realistic and in actuality, it also wasn't what I wanted. I had been considering it for the past few weeks but perhaps it took his indiscretion for me to see that more clearly." She puts a lid on one of the tins of cookies and then steps back, leaning against the counter opposite him. "Finn Hudson fit my role of soulmate well for a while. But he's not the one who should be there. I know that now. So I will find another soulmate. Maybe even my real one."

And there it is again. Soulmate. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell him that Rachel's already had a similar conversation with Blaine. Why Blaine brought it up to him, he's not sure. But he remembers Blaine's description of soulmate and thinks of Rachel's words and he starts to get a slight twinge in his heart. He ignores it. He needs to be her friend right now.

"You know, Rach, I think there is more than one soulmate for everyone. And someone like you? There'd be a line at the door as soon as word got out."

He notices an unfamiliar look upon her face as she stares softly at him. She bites at her bottom lip and he knows that she is nervous. It's a trait he's picked up on over the past few months as they've grown closer. Finally, she takes a deep breath and speaks softly to him. "Would you be in the line?"

He can only imagine the look on his face, probably mimicking the feeling he is having in his heart right now. Shock. But maybe a good fucking shock. She continues. "I know this likely isn't the right venue to be telling you this but I have realized, and have been realizing for a while now, that I have developed feelings for my best friend. For you. And I'm still developing them. And you may not feel the same way and you may feel like I'm only saying this because of everything with Finn but I'm not. I have given this a great amount of thought and really Noah, you are the only one I want to be standing in that line. But only if you want to. So you can tell me, and don't spare my feelings, if you would be in that line."

He realizes then the look upon her face. It's one of fear and of hope. And it fucking breaks him and the resolve he has held so strongly onto for the past few months and maybe didn't even realize. Taking one step across the space to her, he places his hand on her cheek and pulls her brown eyes to his. "Yeah. I'm in line. I've fucking been in line for a while now, Rach."

The fear disappears from her face as it lights up and he loves the way it makes him feel. She laughs. "Good because I was prepared to go to your house and convince you with sugar cookies and a monologue of how we are the ones meant for each other, not Finn or Lauren or anyone else. You and I. And of course, I would have to apologize for it taking me so long to see and you would have to apologize for the same thing."

Jesus, this girl never shuts up so he does the one thing he can think of to quiet her. When his lips crash into hers, she murmurs and melts into his arms, both of their thoughts long gone. He kisses her for a while, holding her gently against him and taking in the sweetness he has missed for way too fucking long.

When he reluctantly pulls away, he places his forehead against hers and lets her catch her breath. "I'm sorry, you know, for not seeing it sooner."

She nods against his head. "Me too. And it took me talking about my feelings for you with Blaine for me to realize you were the guy I pictured as my soulmate, not Finn. I put him there but he didn't fit." And Blaine was feeling him out. It makes sense now.

He closes his eyes. "So this is legit, Rach? You're not gonna wake up tomorrow and realize your still in love with Finn are you?"

He already knows that answer. He can feel it. "It's legit," she says before he opens his eyes to see her mischievous grin. "But I realize you have your doubts so I am willing to convince you if I need . . ."

His mouth finds hers before she can finish and he pulls her so tightly to him that he's not sure either of them can fucking breath. He doesn't care.

Three hours later he is thoroughly convinced. Hell he was before she even offered.

But he tells her he's not and pulls her back into his embrace. He's got a hell of a long time to make up for and he's gonna make damn sure she never gives another thought to Finn Hudson.

And he figures he'll apologize to his mom for the sour milk later. She won't care once she finds out Rachel is the reason why he left it in the truck in the first place.