Won't Let Go – A Short Story
It surprised him at first. But then he just chalked it up to another aspect of the Rachel Berry craziness that he hadn't seen before. He was sure she would revert back to her garden variety of crazy before long. She didn't. And that's when he started to worry.
It started slowly enough. One day she showed up to school wearing black jeans and a white t-shirt instead of her super short skirts and animal print sweaters. Most people didn't seem to notice, Rachel Berry was just an afterthought to them. He noticed though, and not just because he totally looked forward to seeing her smoking hot body in those tiny little skirts every day. He let it slide that day and acted like everyone else did, like he didn't even notice the change. But the next day she showed up the same way and when he cornered her in front of her locker and made some snide comment about hiding her best asset, she just shrugged him off and didn't even say a word.
A week later, she broke up with Finn. He can't say that bothered him. Hell, it actually made him pretty fucking ecstatic that she was finally seeing what a lame boyfriend his best friend was. But even he could admit that this change was certainly not expected. Just two weeks before she had scolded him in front of the Glee club when he called Finn out for choosing to sing Lips of an Angel for Shue's assignment of romantic songs. Seriously, what douche sings a song about cheating on your girlfriend with an ex as a sign of romance? And especially not considering Rachel and Quinn were both sitting in the room. But Rachel defended him then, saying it was perfectly acceptable song to express romance, even though misdirected. And he's fairly certain that the Rachel Berry of previous mental craziness would not have even broke up with Finn had he been cheating (which he knew he wasn't) because she has made it pretty clear that if Quinn stepped in on her guy again, she wouldn't back down and would fight back, as misdirected as he thought that was. Yet here she was, kicking him to the curb without so much as an explanation.
It wasn't long after that she started sitting by herself in Glee. When Kurt or Mercedes would try to speak to her, she would just lower her head and look away like she didn't even know who they were. Hell, even when he would stride in and take the chair next to her, she would turn away and not even acknowledge his existence. And that, you see, sure as hell bothered him. Cause during the time he has known Rachel Berry, and it has been a hellava long time, he kinda prided himself on the fact that he could always get a rise out of her. He knew how to make her uncomfortable, knew how to make her squirm, knew how to make her angry (and loved seeing her that way) but this time, no matter what he said, she had no reaction at all. Even his most vulgar innuendos fell on deaf ears.
Soon after that, she failed her first test in, well, forever. He knows because he sort of eavesdropped outside of Ms. Pillsbury's office when he saw her slumped in a chair, examining her fingers like she had never seen them before. When Ms. P asked if anything was wrong, Rachel vehemently shook her head and then grabbed her stuff and bolted from the office. It was the most emotion he had seen out of her in weeks. But when the ginger haired counselor spotted him looking all concerned standing outside her office, she told him Rachel would probably be just fine and it was likely just some teenage girl thing. He accepted that explanation even though the look in her eyes told him it probably wasn't true.
But the final straw would happen midway through March when the Glee crew was excitedly preparing for another shot at Nationals and Rachel just stopped coming. No shit, the New Directions resident diva and loud mouthed leader, just didn't show up anymore. Sure, she hadn't been contributing much in regards to anything at their rehearsals (meaning she had stopped her bitching and controlling and . . . everything else Berrylike) but she had still been singing, even if it seemed like she was just going through the motions. Even then though, Rachel Berry just going through the motions was still better than anybody else giving their all. So Shue freaked the fuck out and tried to reason with her but she wouldn't give him the time of day.
That's the day he realized that Rachel Berry no longer existed. Yeah she was still there but it was like she had been possessed by some strange, very unBerrylike lifeform. Sure, that lifeform was still hot as hell, but it just wasn't Rachel. And he just didn't like that. Not at all. And maybe it kinda pissed him off that no one else seemed to care, or barely even notice. Finn and Kurt may have said a thing or two about her changing, but neither did a damn thing about it.
He had already made up his mind that he was going to her house to shake the crazy back out of her when his mother told him the news. And that's when it all made sense.
He went to her house anyway but with a new approach. When Leroy Berry answered the door, he looked surprised, but then somehow hopeful. He didn't say anything, just nodded toward the stairs, and opened the door up wider. He took the stairs two at a time until he reached the top. Rachel's door was open and he could see her sitting on the bed, a pillow clutched firmly to her chest. He noticed how messy the room was; looking much more like his than the pristine room Rachel Berry typically kept. But more than that, he noticed how lost Rachel looked. His hardened heart sunk a little.
He's pretty sure she hears him when he walks in but she never raises her eyes to look at him. He just sits down beside of her on the bed and waits. Ten minutes of silence pass before he speaks. "I heard about your dad. I'm sorry."
Her breath hitches slightly. "How did you find out?" He realizes this may be the first time he has heard her voice in weeks and he notices how much he has missed it.
"Ma makes it her business to know all Jew business going on in Lima. Just surprised it took her so long to find out . . . or maybe to tell me." He leans against her headboard and turns his gaze to her. "You wanna talk about it?"
She immediately shakes her head no. He notices her teeth biting softly on her bottom lip as she does so.
"Listen Berry, I know that I might not be your first choice, well, for anything but I'm here and I'm not leaving until you talk to me. Cause really, I'm kinda tired of this anti-Berry thing. I'm half expecting you to show up to school looking like a Jewish Goth soon and I'm pretty sure that's not going to be hot."
Nothing. Not a word, not even a movement. But her lip is still captured underneath her teeth and he knows that she is thinking. And really, he knows that she is hurting. And he sure as hell hates seeing her like this.
"I know what you're doing, Rachel. I know it because I've done it. When my dad left, I changed. It hurt me so bad, and I didn't know how in the world to talk to anyone about it. I decided that I wasn't ever going to let anyone hurt me again. So I detached myself. I became this badass who didn't give a fuck about anything or anyone because I knew if I did, I could get hurt." He nudges against her arm. "Then I got pulled into some homo club with the likes of you and maybe I let just a little bit of my guard down. But now I see all that in you. It's like you're gone. You're lost, just like I was. And maybe your dad hasn't left you and maybe the circumstances here are a shitload different, but I see what you're doing. You're preparing yourself for when he does leave." She closes her eyes when he says these words and he knows that, at the very least, she is listening to him. "Rachel, I know your dad has stage three cancer. My ma says its inoperable. I can only imagine how this is making you feel and how scared you are. And how much you know this is going to hurt you. But distancing like this, detaching like this, it's not good. It's not going to change things and, trust me; it's not going to make you feel any better."
He can't help but notice the irony here. Noah Puckerman delivering the monologue to Rachel Berry. Him helping her. It's always the other way around.
She stays silent for a few minutes and he knows she is considering his words. Then she just shakes her head. "You don't know anything, Noah."
"Oh really," he scoffs, "I know that you're cutting yourself off from your dad because you think that maybe that will give you just a little less pain to deal with when he dies. And you broke up with Finn because you know that at the end of the year, you'll be going your separate ways and ending things now will ease some of that hurt. You left Glee because you don't think you can deal with losing another National title on top of losing your dad. And you gave up on your friendships because you're fairly certain that no one will give a damn about Rachel Berry once this year is over. You're protecting yourself and detaching yourself from any situation you believe will hurt you. But you're wrong. You're wrong about all of it. And you know that because you sure as hell aren't feeling any less pain and hurt right now are you?"
She reluctantly shakes her head but keeps her gaze focused downward.
He places his hand on her leg and feels her jerk slightly in surprise. "You can't keep this up, Rachel. It's going to destroy you. I know because it almost destroyed me. You need to let it out. You need to do whatever it is you need to do to feel better. Scream at the top of your lungs. Be angry. Hit me for god's sake, if that is what you need. I'm here, Rachel, and I'm not going anywhere. So let me have it. Let me be your punching bag or your shoulder or whatever the hell you need me to be. I'm not leaving you."
And that's when she breaks, but not exactly in the way he was expecting. She jumps up off the bed and he jumps up after her. When he grabs her arm, she turns quickly and punches him in the chest. Before he can even react, she punches him again. "Go, Noah, get out," she screams as she continues to pound his chest. "I don't want you here. Get out, get out, get out." He grabs her fist in his hand when she goes to hit him again and he pulls her to him, dipping his head so that he is eye level with her.
"I'll tell you again . . I'm not leaving you."
The tears come instantly and once they start flowing, he knows they aren't going to stop anytime soon. This is the break he wanted for her. The emotions that she has held back and forbidden from everyone, now flowing quickly and easily. He pulls her into her embrace and awaits what he knows is coming.
"Why, Noah," she cries into his chest, "why my dad? What has he done so wrong in his life to deserve this death sentence? All he did was take me in as a baby and love me like his own. He deals with me . . . and I know that I'm not easy to deal with. And he loves me so unconditionally that I'm fairly certain I could do anything and he would still think I hung the moon." He places his hand on the back of her head and pulls her in closer to him. He can feel his shirt becoming soaked with her tears but he doesn't care. This is what she needs and it's why he is here.
"He's never going to get to see me on Broadway," she whispers in between sobs. "It's his dream just as much as mine and he is never going to realize it. And it's just not fair. It's not fair, Noah. I don't want him to go. And part of me doesn't even want Broadway if he's not going to be there cheering me on."
And those words break him. He instinctively wraps her so tight in his arms that he isn't sure that either of them can breathe but he needs her to feel him. He needs her to feel that he he's here for her. And really, he needs to feel her too and know that she is going to be ok.
He kisses the top of her head. "He's never going to leave you, Rachel. Even when he is gone, he will still be with you every step of the way. And he would never want you to give up on your dream. So don't be stupid and walk away from that. You're crazy talented and you will make it. I know it. But you have got to let your dad know how you feel before it is too late. Don't push him away. He loves you." The statement means more to him than he says. But it's not the right time for that. He'll tell her everything else when the timing is right.
He feels her nod her head against his chest but she keeps her arms wrapped rightly around his waist. He loses track of time after a while but soon she starts to calm, her tears slowing and her breathing returning to normal.
When she finally releases her hold on him and steps back, he feels a void much deeper than that of her now missing from his arms. She glances up at him with swollen eyes and red cheeks. "Thank you, Noah," she whispers, "but why?"
He wipes a stray tear from her face and smiles down at her. "Cause you are wrong about your friends. The ones that matter, Rachel, the ones that really matter are always gonna care about you. Now, tomorrow and even after we blow this joint. That's not ever going to change. You need someone to cheer you on as you slay the stage in New York, I'm there. And besides," he smirks, "us Jews, we gotta stick together. You know that."
Pulling her against him once more, he kisses the top of her head. "I told you, I'm not leaving you." And he's not. Today, he'll keep her wrapped protectively in his arms until she's ready to face her dad and her fears. And if she needs him to come back tomorrow to do it again, he will. He'll do it every day until his Rachel returns and every day after that for as long as she's willing to keep him around.
He's pretty sure he lost some of his badass points today but with her in his arms, he doesn't give a damn. Cause Rachel Berry is one of the few things in this world that he does give a damn about and he knows that's not going to change. Ever.
So he'll just continue to hold on tight.