Wake Up Call – A Short Story
He has some nameless coed moaning underneath him when he gets the phone call. He ignored it at first, figuring it was her calling to berate him for taking off from the party with this week's new flavor in tow. But after ten minutes of incessant ringing, he pushes off of the girl and grabs the phone, "The fuck, Berry?"
"You're the fuck," Kurt hisses on the other end of the line, "Get your penis out of whatever whore you have tonight and get to Bellevue Hospital. I hate having to actually depend on your unreliable ass in this situation but I'm still in transit from Ohio and I'm at least three hours away."
He's about to hang up and tell Hummel to find someone else to stalk his newest doctor crush when he speaks again. "Rachel's been mugged." He hears nothing else that Kurt says, his stomach instantly knotting as everything around him goes silent. Rachel? Mugged? What the hell?
The next few minutes go by in a blur as he slams the phone shut and starts grabbing at his clothes scattered around the apartment. He ignores the girl in his bed, finally just yelling at her to get out as he puts on his sneakers and heads for the door. He literally sprints to the subway and jumps into a car right before it closes. He knows he has at least eight stops until he will be anywhere near the hospital, anywhere near her.
He knows she shouldn't be there. He was supposed to be with her tonight and had he not punked out on her, he would have been. And then she wouldn't be there. But he did. The second he saw her giggling at her new costars lame pickup line, he grabbed the nearest blonde and bolted for the door. He curses himself for being so stupid. This is New York City, not Lima, and leaving his so-called friend alone at 2 a.m. in this city is not only careless, it's just fucked up.
He tries to push the images invading his mind aside but he can't. Rachel is just so fucking tiny, so fucking innocent and he can't stop thinking about someone actually hurting her. Someone actually putting their fucking hands on her and hurting her. He doesn't even know what happened but he's already seen a thousand scenarios in his head and its killing him. Because he should've been with her.
He's out of the subway as soon as the doors open and he races as quickly as he can to the hospital. He gets inside and excitedly asks the first nurse he sees where Rachel is but pauses slightly when she asks his relation to her. Best friend? Ex-boyfriend? Guy who followed her to New York? Guy who can't admit that he's fucking in love with her? He's not sure of the right answer so he just says he's her friend. She hesitates, then smiles sympathetically and tells him to wait there.
He leans back against the wall, hooking his thumbs in the pockets of his jeans. He clenches his eyes shut when images of an injured Rachel start plaguing him again. Fuck, what he wouldn't give to take the past few hours back and not left her alone at that party. Because right now he is terrified of what he is going to find when he finally sees her. What he and his fucked up self let happen.
He jumps when he feels a cold hand on his arm but quickly falls in step behind the nurse when she tells him to follow her. She leads him down what seems to be the longest hallway he's ever been in and then into a room sectioned off into several curtained areas. He feels like he is going to plow right over her as she slows her pace but then she stops and pulls back one of the curtains, nodding her head for him to go in.
Rachel's eyes move to him as soon as he steps in. It takes him two quick strides to get to her and he gently places his hands on her face, moving her head from side to side to survey the damage. A bandage covers her forehead above her left eye. The same eye has a gash underneath with shades of blue, black and purple starting to form around it. He runs his thumb across her top lip as he notices a cut on the bottom. He looks everywhere, taking in every small scratch, until he catches in her gaze. She smiles softly, surely seeing the fear in his eyes, and then nods her head. "I'm ok, Noah."
"You aren't supposed to be comforting me now, Berry," he says as he cups her cheeks softly and stares at her. It takes him a few seconds to speak again. "I'm so sorry. I'm so fucking sorry."
She shakes her head in his hands, "It's not your fault. I should have called a cab or . . ."
"Or I should have stayed and took you home like any real man would but I had to be an ass and totally fuck that up."
Her eyes soften on him and she bites at her bottom lip. He's known her long enough to know that she does this when she is nervous and he hates that she's doing it with him. "It's ok, Noah," she whispers, "I understand." His heart flutters when she pulls her gaze downward and away from him. Hell no she doesn't understand. She thinks she understands that he chose some good time with a broad over her, and maybe that is kinda what it looked like, but it certainly isn't what he really did.
He opens his mouth to respond but is cut off by the sound of the curtain being pulled back. "Ok Ms. Berry, it looks like everything is in order," the young doctor says as he glances at his chart. He steps back and the doctor replaces him, gently moving Rachel's head to look at her injuries. "Just be sure to keep the cuts and scrapes clean and they should heal normally. Take the pain meds we gave you if you have any additional pain and you can come back next week to get your stitches removed. If my work is as good as I think it is, your face should look as perfect as it was before you came in here." On any other day, he would make some smartass comment about the doc's lame attempt to hit on her but he's fairly certain his comments wouldn't be appropriate right now.
The doctor glances at Puck and grins, "Is this your boyfriend?" He half expects her to laugh at the question but she doesn't. Instead she just stares at him for a few seconds and then simply says no. That word stings him a bit, even though it's true.
Looking back and forth between the two of them, the doctor chuckles and steps back toward the curtain. "Well, I would recommend that maybe you not decide to take anymore walks through the city at this time of the morning. You're pretty lucky you weren't hurt more." He looks to Puck. "Can you make sure she gets home and gets some rest? It's been a long night so sleep may be the best medication."
He cocks and eyebrow. "I thought that she wasn't supposed to sleep . . . ya know, if she has a concussion or anything."
The doctor just laughs. "Well it's good that you know that. But no, she's fine. Pretty sure she doesn't have a concussion. She's free to sleep." He takes one last glance at Rachel and then slips back out through the curtain.
"I think the doc has a crush on you," he says as he stuffs his hands in his pockets. He can't blame him.
Rachel ignores his comment, jumping down from the ER bed. She cringes slightly when she does, placing her hand on her head. Puck automatically grabs her arm. "You ok?"
She nods, her eyes still clenched shut. "Yeah, it just hurts, that's all." When she opens her eyes again, she looks at him. "Kurt should be home soon. I can take a cab to the apartment and wait in the lobby until he arrives. The . . . guy," she stammers, "he took my purse so he has my keys."
"Yeah well that also means he has your wallet with your driver's license and your address. The hell you're going home. You're coming with me to my place. I'll call Hummel on the way and tell him to go stay with one of his guys and tomorrow I'll change the locks on your door." And place two or three or ten deadbolts on it. When she opens her mouth to protest, he just covers it with his palm. "No arguments, Berry. Let's go."
Grabbing her hand, he leads her outside and quickly hails a cab. He slides in the back beside her and tells the driver his address. When he glances at her, she is looking out the window, away from him. He can imagine what she is thinking. That she doesn't want to go to his apartment because she's pretty sure she'll find some skank sleeping in his bed. Just like virtually every time she's come to his apartment unexpectedly only to be "welcomed" by some unknown girl. He's always hated the way she glares at him after, like she's disappointed in him yet again. But he still does it, time after time after time. And honestly, he doesn't have a fucking clue why. Cause every single one of them has been just a meaningless fuck. And tonight's meaningless fuck was taking place while Rachel was being battered by some asshole. That thought alone makes him want to vomit. But the fact that he agreed to go to the party with her and he was supposed to be the one taking her home when it all happened makes him feel even worse.
He runs a hand across his shaved head and takes a deep breath, "Rach, about tonight . . ."
"Noah, I don't want to talk about it. I'm really tired and I just want to sleep." She doesn't turn to look at him but a few seconds later she scoots in closer to him and places her head on his shoulder.
He slips his arm behind her and clutches her tightly to his side. "In the morning then." She nods her head against his shoulder softly and he lets the subject drop.
She's asleep within seconds so he quietly calls Kurt and leaves him the message he promised. She's snoring lightly when they make it back to his apartment but he doesn't have the heart to wake her up. He pays the driver and carefully slips out of the car, holding her steady until he is on his feet and can lift her into his arms. He's always amazed at how tiny she feels in his arms, because he can't seem to forget every moment she's ever been in his arms. She barely moves as he makes his way to his apartment and then inside to lay her on the bed. He pulls her shoes off and places his blanket over her before he kicks his own sneakers against the wall and climbs in beside her. She turns and snuggles herself against him and his whole body feels warm the second she does.
Sliding his arm around her waist, he kisses the top of her head, carefully avoiding all of her stitches and scrapes. He spends the rest of the night watching her . . . and thinking, his mind going over every detail of his relationship with her.
It's almost noon when she slowly starts to wake up. He had slipped from the bed a half hour before, making coffee and sitting on one of his bar stools with his eyes rarely leaving the woman in his bed. When she sits up, he takes her a cup of brew and a pill for the pain and stiffness he knows she is feeling. He sits down in a chair a few feet away from the bed. She smiles and turns her body slightly to keep the sun from beaming in her eyes. He notices how her eye is darker now, the bruising setting in even more.
He lets her sip on her coffee silently for a few minutes, watching her cringe occasionally as her body adjusts to her injuries. She keeps her eyes away from his for the most part and he knows that she is uncomfortable even though he wishes she wasn't.
Closing his eyes, he starts to try to will himself to find the words he knows he needs to say. The ones that plagued his mind last night . . . and those that have plagued his heart for much longer than that.
He clears his throat and she finally brings her gaze to him. "Listen Rach, I know you don't want to talk about last night. But I do. So I need you to just hear me out." She just nods and keeps her eyes on him.
"I shouldn't have left you last night. And I know you think you know why I left but you don't. Because it's not about that girl. Well, it's about a girl but not that girl. It's about you." Her eyes narrow on him, confused, and he can feel the nervousness start seeping through his body. He is not used to this feeling at all.
He shrugs his shoulders and continues, knowing that he can't stop what he just started. "You know sometimes it's actually, you know, painful to be around you. Well no, you wouldn't know that. But I do. Really, really well."
He expects her to go on some Rachel Berry-esque tangent at this point, lecturing him about how she knows she is different and sometimes difficult but that is who she is. She doesn't. Instead, she just tilts her head to the side and stares at him. "I don't understand, Noah."
He laughs uncomfortably, shaking his head. "First of all, you don't have a fucking clue how unbelievably beautiful you are and the effect you have on me. And I'm not just talking about the obvious way you have an effect on me and it be painful," he scoffs at his nervous confession, knowing it's not appropriate though true. "I'm talking about the fact that you don't even realize that I've been following after you for like seven fucking years, painfully in love with you."
"What?" Her eyes are wide now and he's not quite sure how to read them. He wants to start retracting everything he's said, expecting her to start laughing uncontrollably at any moment, but he can't now. So he's going for broke.
"I know what I look like. I know that when you look at me you see this playboy who doesn't even stay around long enough to learn the name of the girl he just fucked. You see this emotionally detached asshole that leaves you at a party just because he got jealous that some hotshot actor was making you laugh. But that's not who I really am. Really, I'm this loser guy from Lima, Ohio who followed the woman he loves, who just happens to be his best friend, to New York City. This guy who is painfully aware that he isn't good enough for you because you are so much more, so much better, than he is and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to grab the nearest distraction he can find."
He stops talking then, lowering his head so he doesn't have to see her eyes. She's silent for a few painful minutes, every second feeling like it's killing him inside.
Finally he hears her sigh. "Noah Puckerman, you're such an idiot."
Ok, so he wasn't expecting that. Or the fact that she is now standing directly in front of him with her hands planted firmly on her hips. "Are you seriously fucking mad at me?"
"Yes, I'm seriously mad," she fumes, "why wouldn't I be? Because you are way off base in what you think I believe you are or are not. Because as a matter of fact, Noah, I have never for one miniscule moment believed you were some emotionless male whore. Regardless of how you often portray yourself to be, and I believe quite strongly that is the Puck in you, I know you. I know Noah." Her face softens slightly and she lets her hands fall to her side. "And Noah . . . Noah is sweet and caring and far from being a loser. He came to New York City and worked hard for everything he got. And I am so very proud of him."
She takes a step forward and places her hand on his cheek. "And I'm very sorry if it was painful to be around me because it didn't have to be. I don't care about any of those guys, Noah. I care about you. And you have always been good enough."
He stands up, taking her hand off his face and holding it in his own. "So what are you saying, Rachel?"
Even with her bruises, he can see her face light up. "I'm saying that it's about time you admitted that because I've always believed you and I were magic together. And I'm saying that I love you too."
Her words are like music to him and he closes his eyes and slips his arms around her waist, pulling her tightly to his chest. He wants nothing more than to kiss her at this moment but he holds back, thinking about the cut on her lip. The last thing he wants to do is cause her any pain. So he settles for holding her. Rocking her gently in his embrace.
After a few minutes, he hears her giggle softly. She moves her head back slightly, her bruised brown eyes looking up at him while her head remains against his chest. "And just for the record, Mr. Puckerman, it was pretty painful being around you sometimes too." He cocks and eyebrow as he stares down at her. "Because all those times, I should have been the one in your bed."
Fuck yeah, he loves this girl. And as horrible as he knows it sounds, he might just have a mugger to thank for that. Because seeing her hurt knocked the truth right out of him. And the fact that this amazing woman loves him back is a hell of a lot better than any meaningless fling could ever be.
He waits two weeks before he makes love to her, ignoring her advances and pleas until her stitches are removed and she is fully healed and he knows he won't hurt her. It's slow and gentle. Beautiful. And he doesn't think he's ever felt more alive in his life. She whispers that she loves him right before she falls asleep. He kisses the top of her head and tells her the same.
He knows this is where she belongs, where he belongs. He'll move heaven and hell to keep her here and keep her protected in his arms. It may have taken a lot of painful moments to get here but the pleasure they will share will far outweigh it.
This is their forever . . . the one she always believed would happen, even when he didn't. He's just glad he didn't miss his wake up call.