Disclaimer: I do not own anything recognizable from either Mag7 or Glee. I also don't own the ATF AU (I think MOG does). I am just borrowing to play! (Disclaimer good for all chapters…just in case I forget to post it!) THE FINAL CHAPTER….at least until I start playing around with one-shots that people have given me ideas for! [Mag7 fans….I'll be posting a new story either tomorrow or Friday! It's a 15,000 word AU!]
A handful of days after being admitted to the hospital, Rachel Berry had had quite enough. She appreciated all of the help and hard work the hospital personnel had done for her, but she had seen these same four walls for too long. Granted, she did not feel ready to do much, but she desperately needed a change of scenery.
iWhite walls, a tiny window that looks at another wing of the hospital, daytime television…I am going to go mental./i
It had not been all bad. She had a constant stream of company in her room. She did not know who had pulled what strings, but Puck had been allowed to stay with her. Everyone else took shifts so that neither of them was ever alone. She had enjoyed getting to know all seven of the ATF agents. At least one of them stayed in the hospital room at all times. One day when Puck had been forcibly taken home by Chris in order to take a shower and change clothes, she had tried to let them know it was not necessary for them to stay as well. Ezra had given her a small smile.
"My dear Miss Berry, surely by now someone has informed you of your friends' actions during the recent crisis? Mr. Puckerman performed quite admirably, and even managed to impress Mr. Larabee. Or perhaps about Miss Lopez and her exemplary behavior? Indeed, every one of your friends reacted better than many of the adults we have dealt with in the past."
Rachel nodded. "I understand, but I am not sure what that has to do with you staying at my bedside. Surely you do not do the same for everyone you come across while working?"
"No, you are quite correct," agreed the agent. "However, this bis/b something we do whenever one of our own has been injured."
"Oh, but we're not…" Rachel began. Ezra reached out and touched her chin.
"Yes, my dear, you certainly are."
While the ATF agents had been wonderful to her, she had heard that they gave Mr. Schuster an earful. According to Santana, Chris had been less than impressed with his apparent lack of concern for some of his students. When she tried to explain, he shook his head.
i"He only called you once the entire time. He shouldn't have let you out of his sight at all, but a single phone call over that span of time? It's not right."/i
Brittany and Tina also told her Buck had reacted badly to the other Glee clubbers' dramatics. They complained about missing the action, or having to go home to Lima while the others got to stay in Denver. Tina said she overheard Buck tell JD he was glad they had not had to deal with the whole passel of them, especially the one or two that blamed Rachel for their loss.
iAs if it had been some great adventure! Like I asked to get shot!/i
The door to her room opened. Chris and Puck walked in with an orderly right behind them.
"Hey, Babe, ready to go?"
She rolled her eyes. "You cannot even begin to imagine. I intend no offense to the individuals whose livelihood is earned within this structure, but I shall go completely insane if I am forced to reside within these walls one second beyond absolute necessity."
Chris shook his head. "Good thing I'd already planned to take you to the ranch." The two teens frowned in confusion, but he grinned. "The only other place for you would be Ezra's. One five-dollar word user is enough for any home."
Puck raised an eyebrow. "You think that was bad? Ask her about Broadway."
"Noah!" Rachel exclaimed, smacking him on the arm. He just grinned and curled that same arm around her waist. Chris gave a small laugh and gestured at the orderly. As the orderly brought a wheelchair around, Rachel frowned.
"I do not believe that I am in need of…." She started.
"Hospital policy, miss," the orderly interrupted with a smile. Rachel sighed but took a seat.
"This is just silly. I am perfectly capable of exiting the premises without having someone be required to…"
Puck rolled his eyes. "Quit with the crazy, Rach. We're practically out the door. You can file a complaint later."
"I have no intention of filing a complaint, Noah Puckerman!" Rachel exclaimed. "I simply feel it to be a complete waste of this man's time. Surely there are more valuable and productive ways his time could be put to use. When a person is competent to maneuver without assistance, then it seems to be both counterproductive and illogical to have a second person involved in the process."
"See what I deal with?" Puck turned to Chris as he gestured towards Rachel.
Chris lifted a brow. "Ezra's worse."
"Oh really," sighed Rachel. "There is nothing criminal about having or using an excellent vocabulary."
Puck chuckled as they reached Chris's truck. "Didn't say there was; you just like to throw it around."
Rachel gave a disdainful sniff. "See if I help iyou/i in English this year."
"Come on, babe, you know you love me!" Puck leaned down and planted a kiss on her temple before helping her out of the chair and into the backseat.
She giggled. "Sometimes!"
His eyes narrowed playfully and he pointed a finger at her. "I'll deal with you later…in private."
"Promises, promises," she murmured.
Chris laughed as he hauled himself into the driver's seat. "Let's get moving. We've got some anxious people waiting for us."
On the drive out to the ranch, Rachel stared at the passing countryside, enthralled by the mountain landscape. She had never seen such beautiful natural scenery before. The tall peaks stretching into the clouds made her feel so tiny; not in a bad way, but it reminded her of the awesome wonders the world held.
Pulling her eyes away from the grandeur, she asked about the others.
Puck grinned back at her. "They've been spread out mostly. Mike's hanging with Josiah while Tina's staying with Nathan and his wife. Santana and Brittany are at Ezra's." He chuckled. "If we lived in Denver, I think Satan would move in."
"Satan?" Chris frowned.
Rachel rolled her eyes as Puck began laughing. She shook her head. "Santana has a temper and can get very nasty if you get her mad at you. She is probably the most dangerous girl in all of McKinley High; so some of the boys call her Satan. It is not nice." She glared at the back of Puck's head. He just laughed even harder.
Getting himself under control, he glanced at her with a smirk. "Mike thinks we should introduce his mom to Josiah."
"Michael wants to introduce his mother to iJosiah/i?" Rachel asked with a frown. "He would never see her again. And I sincerely doubt Chris would approve."
"Why's that?" Chris asked.
This time Puck rolled his eyes. "Chang's mom is the debater from hell, man. Give her a topic and she will find isomething/i philosophical to turn it into. She can go for days."
Rachel laughed. "Please tell me Tina's not getting us into something?"
"Nope," Puck answered. "Goth-girl and Britt are just hanging out. I think they're liking the break from Lima. Who wouldn't?"
Finally they turned off of the small highway and onto a blacktop road. The trees gave way to open pasture, and Rachel gasped as a herd of horses came in view. Chris glanced at her in the rearview mirror.
"Like horses, do you?"
She smiled, blushing. "I always have."
He smiled at her. "Most people do. Those are some of ours."
"Yours?" she asked.
"Yep," he replied. "My team's anyway. This is a working horse ranch. We only run a small herd right now. Mostly we help with training horses."
"What about your ATF work?" Puck asked.
"That's my main job. This is what I'll retire and do." Chris nodded at the horses as they drove past. "The whole team's got a stake here."
They pulled up to the house. As Puck helped Rachel out of the truck, people poured out of the house. Chris stepped in front of them, shielding them until the crowd stopped.
Nathan stepped forward to stand next to Chris. "I know you're excited, but Rachel still has to take it easy. No jumping on her and gentle hugs. Then she's going inside to rest."
"Nathan," whined Rachel. "I have been doing nothing, but resting."
He gave her a stern look and JD laughed. "Give it up Rachel! He's got his 'Mother Hen' face on."
"'Mother Hen'?" Nathan turned his frown on JD.
The younger agent gave him a grin. "Sure, Nate. Yours is worse that Chris's."
The teens all laughed as Chris threw a half-hearted glare at his technology expert. "One of these days I'm going to remember I can fire you."
"Not until you figure out that new satellite system." JD smirked.
Everyone started laughing at that point and began taking turns greeting Rachel. When they all had a chance to give the brunette a hug, Nathan ushered her inside. He made sure she sat down and then went to get her a glass of water. The others found seats or sprawled around on the floor. Santana sat on the floor at Rachel's feet. Buck, Mike, Vin, and JD sat on the floor in front of the television playing some kind of video game. In the kitchen, Tina helped Josiah and Nathan put together some snacks for everyone, laughing as the two men argued over healthy snacks versus junk food. Ezra sat on the couch, politely listening as Brittany described her cat's criminal behavior. Chris sat in the other chair watching the whole menagerie with a bemused smile.
Rachel looked around the room, affection gleaming in her gaze as she watched her friends interact and joke around with the ATF agents. Puck sat on the arm of the chair and brushed her hair back.
"Hey," he whispered. "What're you thinking?"
She smiled up at him and announced. "I am an exceedingly fortunate girl."
As everyone turned to smile at her, Santana leaned back and looked up at both of them. "No shit."
Rachel tugged on a lock of her friend's dark hair. "Santana, language!"
The room dissolved into laughter.