Title: Let it Snow
Author: TheMastress (smartalli on LJ and AO3, pinkhairisnotpunk on tumblr) Heavens...I'm everywhere...
Characters/Pairings: Puck/Rachel, Becca Puckerman (Puck's little sister)
Warnings: Puck swears, guys.
Summary: "We're here to kidnap you. Isn't that awesome?"
Disclaimer: Don't own it. Not mine. Don't sue.
A/N: My entry for Puckleberry Hanukkah on tumblr. Basically, my gift to the Puckleberry Bubble. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone. And thanks for all the love you've ever given me. I'm a lucky girl to have you.
Rachel furrows her brow and looks up from her book at the tiny sound, narrowing her eyes as she listens carefully. When she doesn't hear anything, she shakes her head and looks back down at her copy of A City in Winter, and curls her legs a little further underneath herself. She pulls her blanket tight around her waist and sinks further into the pillows on her bed with a smile, cracking her book open once more.
Listen to my tale, which is also yours, and is told for love. Come back to me, come back to this time before you were born, to a golden morning in December as the sunlight frosts the city roofs, and a thousand singlets of smoke rise to the pure blue heavens in which I –
Rachel shuts her book and throws the blanket off her lap, standing up off the bed.
This time it's easy to tell where the sound is coming from, and Rachel walks over to her window and looks out, shaking her head when she sees Noah standing in the middle of her snow-covered front lawn, his ridiculous knitted mohawk hat jammed down over his head. He has a pebble in his hand and he moves to throw it when he sees Rachel and grins. Rachel pulls her window open and wraps her arms around herself at the sudden blast of cold air, and she leans out the window and says, "Noah? What are you doing here?"
"Cool! You're up."
She rolls her eyes. "What are you doing here?"
"We're here to kidnap you."
Becca walks out from behind the oak tree on her front lawn and waves enthusiastically up at Rachel, her braids bouncing against her pink ski jacket. "Hi, Rachel!"
Rachel smiles and says, "Hi, Becca."
"We're here to kidnap you. Isn't that awesome?"
Rachel opens her mouth to respond and Noah cuts her off with a, "Right. So we're headed up."
He nudges Becca forward and Rachel says, "You're hea-" but cuts herself off when she sees Becca and Noah swing themselves up onto the first branches of the tree outside her window and start climbing steadily toward the top. "What are you two doing?"
Noah stops climbing and shoots her a look from his spot halfway up the tree, holding onto the branch with both arms as he leans out to catch her eye. "Seriously?"
"Noah...it's ten o'clock in the morning and my dads aren't even home. You could've used the front door."
He shrugs and keeps climbing, and Becca pipes up from the branch right next to Rachel's window. "This was way more fun."
"What she said."
Rachel helps Becca in through the window and says, "Well...if you fall and break your neck – which, by the way, is a distinct possibility – then I'm not helping you."
Noah grins as he scales the branches and says, "Yeah, you would."
She huffs. "Okay...I would. But only because I wouldn't want Becca to have to see that."
"There were some boys playing football after school about a week ago and one of them got crushed and broke his leg. The bone came through the skin and everything." She shrugs. "It was pretty cool."
Rachel blinks and looks out at Noah. "You've warped her."
He grins and stretches an arm toward her open window. "I know...isn't it cool?"
She steps back from the window and Noah leans his head into her room, throwing first one leg, then another over the sill, until finally he's standing in her bedroom, shaking a few quickly melting snowflakes onto her carpet. "Didn't break my neck."
"Alright...coat, hat, gloves...let's go."
"Where are we going?"
He rolls his eyes. "Rach, we're kidnapping you. You don't get to know."
"But if I don't know where we're going, how can I dress appropriately?"
"I told you...coat, hat, gloves. And boots. Put on some boots."
"She should probably wear a scarf too."
"Yeah, true." When Rachel makes no effort to move, Noah rolls his eyes and walks to her closet, pulling a coat and scarf out. He holds them out to her and says, "Becca, grab her a hat. And gloves."
Becca starts happily rifling through Rachel's closet, and Rachel looks at the proffered coat and scarf and says, "Those don't match."
"Who cares? You're not walking the red carpet, here. No paparazzi are going to come jumping out of your bushes the moment you walk out the door."
"You never know."
"Rachel...put 'em on."
Rachel gives him a little smile and takes the rainbow striped coat from him, pulling it on and buttoning it up. Becca comes walking over with her red beret and she slips that on too, taking the white gloves Becca's holding out in her other hand. Noah slips the scarf around her neck and says, "Alright...let's go."
"I should grab my-"
"You don't need to bring anything." He steps behind her and starts pushing her toward her bedroom door. "I've got it covered."
"Not even my house key?"
Noah steps away from her and grabs her keys off her desk, dangling them in front of her face before slipping them in his jacket pocket. "Got it. Now let's go."
Becca grabs Rachel's hand and starts pulling her down the hallway toward the staircase, chattering happily, and Rachel smiles. She can feel Noah close behind her, and he puts his hands on her shoulders and pushes her forward.
When Rachel suggests they take her car – the heater in Noah's truck has a tendency to be a bit...temperamental – she's quickly vetoed. Kidnap-ees don't get a say, apparently.
Rachel opens the passenger side door of the truck and lets Becca climb in before she steps up and into the cab herself.
"So where are your dads?"
Noah turns the key in the ignition and starts playing with the heater, pounding on the dash in some intricate pattern known only to himself, turning the majority of the vents toward Rachel and Becca.
"Visiting daddy's sister and her family. They'll be back this afternoon."
"Why didn't you go with 'em?"
"Because she has six children that range in age from five to eleven. Six. Even in small doses they're hard to take. And I just saw them at Thanksgiving, so I asked to stay home."
He nods and Becca snuggles into Rachel's side. Rachel asks her if there's anything new going on with her since they last saw each other, and Becca tells her about how these kids were bullying her at school, picking on her and calling her names, and how she walked right up to the biggest kid one day and popped him right in the nose. Made him cry. And while Rachel doesn't necessarily approve of the method, she most certainly approves of the message, so when Noah grins and says, "That's my girl," Rachel smiles and praises her for standing up for herself too.
Rachel is so engrossed in Becca's stories, that she doesn't even notice they've stopped until Noah turns the truck off and says, "Alright...we're here."
Rachel looks out at the empty, snow-covered hill in front of them and practically has to shove open her door to prevent a squealing Becca from climbing over her to get out.
She comes around the truck to Noah's side and he hands her a big red plastic snow saucer. Becca climbs up on the tire of his truck and leans over the side, pulling her own scuffed pink saucer out of the bed of the truck. Noah pulls a final saucer out of the back – a marked-up, well loved royal blue one – and Rachel looks back down at the saucer in her hands. It doesn't have a mark on it.
Becca streaks away toward the hill and shouts, "Last one to the top is a rotten egg!"
Noah grins down at Rachel. "You're not going to let her beat you, are you?"
Rachel looks at Becca, already a third of the way up the hill, pink saucer waving back and forth in her hands, and Rachel takes off at a run too, sparing Noah one final glance.
Becca beats her to the top, but just barely, and starts dancing around and cheering in triumph, cheeks a rosy pink that nearly match her jacket.
"Yeah, yeah...you won."
Rachel nudges him with her shoulder and says, "She beat us fair and square."
Becca drops her saucer into the snow and plops down on top, crossing her legs and grabbing onto the sides of the dish. She looks back over her shoulder at her brother and he drops his saucer and moves forward, putting his hands on her upper back and leaning back to brace himself to give her one big shove. Becca goes sliding down the hill with a squeal, laughing loudly as she starts to gain more and more speed.
"You're a good brother." Noah looks over at her and shrugs, turning his eyes back to Becca as she nears the bottom of the hill. "You are. And you're a good friend." Becca stands up and waves at them, shouting for them to get a move on already, and Rachel smiles. "How did you find this hill, by the way? I've never seen this hill before."
"I passed by it the other day when I had to pick up Becca from one of her friend's houses."
"This is a ways outside town, isn't it? We could've just gone to the hill behind the city park."
"Nah. Everyone goes there. We would have had to fight a bunch of seven year olds to even get one run in."
"Are you guys coming down or what?"
Rachel sets her saucer down in the snow and sits down, startling when she feels Noah put his hands on her shoulders. "Ready?"
She grips the edges of the red plastic dish and laughs as Noah gives her a push, sending her careening down the hill. The icy wind whips through her hair and bites at her cheeks and her heart picks up speed, and she laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs and laughs.
She hears Noah's happy laugh, and she looks to see him a few yards behind her, the tails of his hat streaming behind him in the wind. His grin splits his face in half, and he catches Rachel's eye and laughs. From the corner of her eye she sees Becca running back up the side of the hill, and the moment her saucer reaches the bottom of the hill, Rachel's running up the hill after Becca, Noah's footsteps close behind. He overtakes them both easily and drops his saucer, jumping on it for another run before Becca can jump on hers.
"No fair! Your legs are longer!"
Noah looks over his shoulder at them and grins, pushing himself over the edge and down the hill, Becca following close behind. Rachel grabs her own saucer and heads down the hill, and tries to remember the last time she laughed so hard."
Rachel offers to buy them lunch and then remembers she doesn't have her wallet, but Noah refuses anyway. Says it's on him. He takes them to a diner nearby and Rachel orders minestrone soup and apple cider and simultaneously laughs and cringes when Becca tells a story with food in her mouth. Noah slaps a napkin over her mouth and tells her to keep her mouth shut while she's chewing, and Rachel smiles when Becca rolls her eyes at him and takes a bite out of her burger, identical in every way to her brother's. He nudges her with his shoulder and steals a fry off her plate, and slaps her hand away when she tries to steal an onion ring off of his. She calls him a jerk and he calls her a brat, and Rachel smiles into her apple cider.
"Thank you, Noah. I had a wonderful time today."
He smiles and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "You're welcome."
They hear a car horn and look over to see Rachel's dads pulling into the driveway in their sedan, relieved smiles on their faces. Her dad steps out of the car with several gift bags in his hands, and says, "Hi, Star. Hello, Noah."
"Hey, Mister Berry."
Rachel's dad kisses her on the cheek and says, "I see coats and hats. What were the two of you up to today?"
"Noah kidnapped me."
"Did he? Well, it was nice of him to return you in one piece."
"Did you enjoy seeing Aunt Karen?"
"Your aunt and uncle decided to give your cousin Jason a drum set this year. He was very...enthusiastic...and his parents seem to be laboring under the delusion that they're raising a musical prodigy. I'm afraid they're setting themselves up for severe disappointment."
"He sucks that bad, huh?"
"Worse, unfortunately. And he shows no immediate signs of improvement, either."
"Do we have Advil?"
Rachel's daddy leans forward and kisses her on the cheek in greeting, and Noah says, "Hey, Mister Berry."
"Hello, Noah. It's nice to see you again."He turns to his husband and says, "Please tell me you remembered to pick up Advil when you went shopping on Monday."
"I remembered to pick up Advil when I went shopping on Monday."
"Bless you." He slips behind them and into the house, and Rachel's other dad says, "I think I may need one or two of those myself. Noah...thank you again for bringing her back in one piece. Star...I'll see you inside."
She waits until her dad is inside, the door closed firmly behind him before she opens her mouth. She wants to tell Noah that she doesn't know what inspired him to play in the snow with her and buy her lunch and laugh with her, but she's grateful and happy that she did. That she'd feel honored he'd even think of sharing a day like this with her. But Becca rolls down the passenger side window and wonders what's taking him so long, and his mother calls, asking him to pick up oil at the store on the way home, and the moment is broken. So they say their goodbyes and Rachel says thank you one more time, and watches as he climbs in his truck and drives away.
Tink Tink Tink
Rachel is a little surprised to see Noah tapping on her window, hours after he'd dropped her off, but she hops out of her desk chair and pulls the window open for him, standing back to allow him inside her bedroom.
But this isn't like earlier this morning, when Noah was all smiles and playfulness. His fists are clenched, his jaw is tight, and his muscles are tense. Rachel can see he's doing his best to keep it together, but he looks to be about a half second away from exploding, and while Rachel doesn't relish the idea of seeing that, she wonders if it wouldn't be better if he just screamed, let it all out.
Screaming may not be good for the vocal chords, but it can do wonders for the soul.
He paces in front of the foot of her bed and Rachel sits down and folds her hands in her lap, watching him. He rips the hat off his head and balls it up in his hand, clenching it so hard that his knuckles turn white, and Rachel can't stand the heavy silence any longer.
"Noah? What's wrong?"
"She just...she just let him walk right back in like nothing happened!"
"She? She who?" Noah gives her a hard, angry look, and Rachel feels her stomach shoot up into her throat. There is only one person in Noah's life who inspires that much anger. "Noah...is your father back?"
"Yes." He puts the hat over his face and screams into it. "FUCK!"
Rachel starts to reach out to him but pulls her hand back quickly. She isn't sure how welcome her touch would be right now.
He pulls the hat away from his face and drops down to sit on the bed next to her, his shoulders sagging under the weight of his anger. "He just...walked right in the damn house like he'd never left. Like all he did was go out to get milk or something. And she let him. I mean...what the hell? And today? He had to come back today?" He shakes his head and drops it into his hands. "He probably doesn't even fucking remember."
Rachel does. She remembers the day Eli Puckerman left his wife and two kids behind. She remembers frantic phone calls exchanged between her dads and Noah's mom, and she remembers the way Noah changed almost overnight into a hard, angry little boy, intent on fighting the entire world if necessary.
Rachel thinks Noah's right: it's very likely Eli Puckerman has no idea that it was precisely on this day, eleven years ago, that he left his family behind. Or worse, that he doesn't care.
"She should've kicked his sorry ass out. Bye...thanks but no thanks. We don't fucking need you. Get bent. But no. She let him inside. She brought him a drink. He was sitting on the fucking couch, Rach. Why would she let him in?"
"I don't know, Noah. But I'm sure she has her reasons."
He stands abruptly and begins pacing again. "Eleven years. She was a mess when he left the first time. That's what he does to her. He turns her into a mess. And now he's just going to let him do that to her again?"
Rachel remembers that too. And she knows how long it's taken Noah's mom to get over that betrayal. But she can't help but think this might be a good thing. For all of them.
He must see the change in her face, because he says, "What?"
Rachel hesitates. "I want to say something, but I don't want you to get mad."
"Rach, I'm not going to get mad at you."
She sighs. "You might."
"Just spit it out."
"We always tell each other the truth, right?" He nods. "Well, here's the truth: I don't think it's a bad thing that your dad is back."
His anger is immediate. "What the hell, Rach?"
"And now you're angry." She sighs again. "Just...please. Hear me out, okay?" He crosses his arms over his chest and leans against her desk, hard eyes trained on her, and she takes a deep breath and stands.
"I think you should go back home, and listen to what he has to say. I know you've wanted to know why he left for years, and now you actually have the opportunity. Maybe he'll give you a good reason as to why he left-" Noah snorts and rolls his eyes at that. "-but probably not. Probably it will just be another excuse. But at least you'll know. You won't have to wonder what kind of man he is. You'll know. And it's the perfect opportunity to tell him how you feel. It's the perfect opportunity to tell him that he's a terrible person for leaving you, that he's a jerk. And that you deserved better. Because you did. And that you're a better man than he's ever going to be., and you'll prove that by standing by your mom, even though you're afraid she'll make the wrong choice, and let him back into your lives. Because that's what strong people do. Strong people stick by the people they love, even when it's hard."
The silence is immediate and heavy, and Rachel wraps her arms around herself.
His voice is quiet, subdued. "I'll see 'ya."
He moves over to her window and begins to climb out and back onto the oak tree.
"I'll see 'ya."
And then he's gone, climbing down the tree and away from her as fast as his legs will carry him.
Rachel worries all through dinner with her dads, but if they notice, they're kind enough not to say anything. She checks her phone more times than she can count for voice messages or text messages, she checks her email and her facebook, hoping for just the smallest hint that she hasn't possibly messes up their friendship beyond all repair.
But nothing ever comes.
At just after one in the morning, all the lights are out in the Berry house but Rachel's. Her dads went to bed hours ago, and Rachel tried to go to bed too, but sleep just wouldn't come. So she lays in bed instead and reads the same page over and over again, and she pretends that she isn't thinking of Noah.
Tink Tink Tink
Rachel shoots out of bed and over to her window, pulling it open. "Noah!"
"Hey." His eyes leave her face and travel around her room. "Can I come in?"
"Yes. Of course." She steps aside and he climbs into her room. She idly wonders how many times in his life he's climbed into a girl's room through her bedroom window, then decides that's not something she really wants to know. "Hi."
"Hey." He runs the back of his neck. "So...she kicked him out."
He lets out a soft laugh, more a huff of air than anything else. "Yeah. It was awesome. He was trying to make all these shitty excuses for why he left, and she just...she wasn't having it. Becca kicked him in the shin, too."
Rachel lets out a giggle then clamps her hand down over her mouth, and Noah looks over at her, a grin on his face.
"Nailed him good. And uh...I got to say what I needed to say too." He pauses. "He's not as big as I remember him being."
"Well, you were seven when he left, Noah. I imagine he would've seemed very big to you at the time."
"Yeah, but...you know how you can create this version of a person in your head?"
"An idealized version?"
"Well, yes. Finn."
He nods and she can see in his eyes that he was thinking the exact same thing, he just wasn't going to bring it up. He's not interested in being cruel to her. Not anymore. "Right. It's like...the version of him I had in my head...it doesn't match. Doesn't even come close. He's got a beer gut, Rach. And my mom always used to talk about how great he played the guitar, and I thought so too...but he pulled it out to play for her, and I'm way better than he is. He always used to seem so big to me, and he's...not." He sits down in her desk chair, and Rachel takes a seat on the side of her bed, facing him. "You were right. Felt pretty good to tell him off."
"I'm glad." She hastily adds, "About it feeling good. Not about being right. I'm not sure I really wanted to be right this time."
He laughs softly. "C'mon...you always want to be right."
She smiles to herself, looking down at her hands in her lap. "That's true."
"So, uh...Happy Hanukkah." He stands and holds out an envelope to Rachel and she takes it, looking up at him in surprise. "It's your present. I meant to give it to you earlier, but I didn't really want to do it in front of anyone else and then my dad happened, so..."
He motions for her to open it and she does, sliding a hand-drawn certificate out of the envelope. "This coupon entitles you to unlimited guitar lessons with Lima's most kickass guitar player, the Puckerone."
She looks up at him, a questioning smile on her face, and he says, "You're always talking about how a good star has a "vast array of talents", so I figured if you knew how to play the guitar, that might make it even easier for you to land a part."
Rachel stands and wraps him in a hug, and marvels at her luck, that the boy who used to be one of her worst tormentors is now one of her biggest, fiercest supporters. "I have a present for you too."
Rachel pulls a rectangular package out of her top desk drawer, smoothing the silver paper and blue ribbon before handing it to him. "Here." Noah pulls the bow off and unwraps the paper, and stares down at the stack of blank sheet music paper in his hands. "Do you remember Becca?"
He gives her an odd look. "She's my sister, Rach. Little hard to forget her."
"No, the song you wrote that summer we were twelve. Remember?"
He nods. "Yeah. Sure. I still sing it sometimes."
"It was a beautiful song, especially considering you were only twelve years old. You've always been talented, Noah, and I think you should write more. Get your voice out there. Be heard. You're too big for Lima, Ohio."
He pulls her into a hug and whispers a thank you into her hair, and Rachel smiles into his jacket.
When he pulls back Rachel walks over to her closet and pulls a coat, hat, and gloves out, and says, "Come one."
"Where are we going?"
She grins. "You'll see."
"Oh...are you kidnapping me now?"
"Maybe." She smiles as she pulls her hat onto her head and pulls a pair of snow boots on over her pajamas. "Come on."
They walk quietly through the hallway and down the staircase, past the kitchen, past the living room and into the family room, where Rachel pauses in front of the sliding glass doors and pulls them open, stepping out into the moonlit, snow-covered backyard. She runs out into the middle of the yard and Noah closes the door behind them and walks over to Rachel, whispering, "What are we doing?"
"I'm going to make a snowman. Do you want to help?"
"Rach, it's like...one-thirty in the morning."
"Noah, if you don't want to help, that's fine. But I'm going to make a snowman." Rachel crouches down and starts forming a small ball in the snow and smiles when she feels Noah crouch down next to her.
Rachel starts work on her ball, rolling it across the ground to make it bigger, and Noah starts in on his, moving in the opposite direction. Halfway through making his second ball Noah decides to make his own snowman and he laughs when he places the second ball on top of his first and his snowman is already dwarfing Rachel's.
Even though his snowman is bigger, Noah finishes before Rachel, so he finishes up her last ball for her, rolling it until it's just the right size and lifting it to place it on top. As they step back to admire their work, the white twinkle lights in Rachel's backyard – put up long ago for a summer party and never taken down – blink on, bathing the backyard in gentle light and sending shadows skittering across the snow.
They look back toward the house and see Rachel's dad standing there at the sliding glass door in his bathrobe with a small, knowing smile on his face, a mug in each hand. "Noah." He holds out a mug toward him. "Star." He holds out the other mug to her.
They walk over and take the mugs from him, each taking a sip from the steaming cups in their hands. Rachel can feel the hot chocolate sliding down her throat and warming her from within and she smiles into the lip of her cup.
"Noah, we do have a front door by the way." Noah chokes on his hot chocolate and Hiram smiles and says, "Goodnight," before taking his leave, walking away from them and toward the stairs.
Rachel and Noah sit down on the back steps and stare out at their snowmen, taking sips of their hot chocolate, enjoying the lights. It's cold out, but Noah's body heat next to her and the hot chocolate are doing their part to keep her warm, and she thinks she could stay here forever, just like this.
"I applied to schools in New York."
He looks over at her and nods. "I don't know if I'll get in, but I applied." She leans into him and he leans into her, and says, "Lima's too small for me, right?"
She rests her chin on his shoulder and says, "Way too small."
He nods, sets his mug down, and wraps an arm around her shoulders.
Rachel and Noah look up at the night sky and smile as tiny snowflakes brush past their cheeks and noses, as some brave snowflakes fall to rest on their eyelashes, only to be blinked away a moment later, and Rachel thinks that this...this...is as perfect a moment as she's ever going to get.