Author's Note (a disclaimer of sorts): I have no idea what this is. I sat down last night to write a short oneshot and it turned into this….this whatever this is. It's getting pretty long so I decided to break it up and post it in two parts.
This is told completely from Puck's perspective because, let's face it, I love him best. It's canon through the "Heart" episode but then I took it in my own direction (because anything the writers do isn't going to make a bit of sense anyway!)
Puck sits outside her house for so long that he starts to feel like a stalker in one of those shitty TV movies his ma loves so much. Even though it's dark, the lights are bright inside the Berry house. Their blinds are thrown open and from his vantage point, he can see her two dads moving from the den to the kitchen and back again. They both have wine glasses in their hands and, even from a distance, Puck can tell they're talking nearly nonstop (like always). He doesn't see Rachel anywhere but the golden glow of her bedroom light is illuminating the night so he knows she's home.
Just go knock, he tells himself. It seems like days ago that Rachel announced to the Glee club that she and Finn were getting married. In reality, it's only been about five hours but since then, Puck's pretty sure he's gone through every emotion he has. He's finally settled on pissed and all he wants is five minutes to ask her what in the fuck she's thinking. All he has to do is get out of his truck.
It's another ten minutes until he finally forces himself out into the February evening. He can see his breath as he tromps through a pile of leftover snow and climbs the steps to the front door. He raps his knuckles against the polished oak before he can stop himself and seconds later, he's staring into the surprised eyes of one of Rachel's dads (the one that kinda looks like that movie star.)
"Noah," he says slowly. "What…what can we help you with?"
"Is she here?" Puck asks, even though he knows the answer.
Hiram nods and pushes the door open wider so that Puck can step inside. He waves at Leroy, who is sipping from his wine glass as he tinkers at the piano, and then starts up the stairs. He's on the fifth step before Hiram's voice carries upward to him. "Finn's up there with her."
Puck skids to a stop, his knuckles gripping the banister. He swears to himself, swallowing hard, and then turns and bounds back down the stairs. When he tries to go back through the door without saying a word, Hiram puts a hand on his chest to stop him. The look in Hiram's eyes makes Puck uncomfortable. "You're leaving? I thought you wanted to see her?"
"Finn's there, too." Puck looks away, his eyes on their immaculately pristine carpet. (Seriously, he thinks they comb it to make sure all the fibers face the exact same direction.) "It can wait. I don't wanna bug them."
Hiram just nods and moves his hand, allowing Puck to pass. He thinks he sees something like recognition in the man's eyes but he brushes it off. He's not transparent. He knows he's not.
He ignores her at school for the next few days but she's so caught up in wedding plans that she doesn't even notice. Nearly every time he turns around, he catches her and Finn making out. The whole sight turns his stomach. Finn's too damn tall for her and he kisses with his mouth wide open, like he's trying to eat the lower half of Rachel's face. Rachel looks like she's practically trying to climb up him because she's clinging to him so tightly. He can hear them slurping at each other from across the hall and he feels like puking. The rage that he's been carrying around for days seems to boil over so he escapes to the gym and spends the next hour beating the punching bag. Even though he wrapped his knuckles first, they still end up bloody.
The next night, he drives Becca over to her friend Callie's house and on the way back, he ends up on Rachel's street. He feels like a dumbass but figures maybe he'll finally get a chance to talk to her. All he wants is two minutes to try to talk some sense into her. It's worked before. Thanks to him (okay, him, Kurt, and a shitton of other people at the mall), her perfect Jewish nose is still intact. He figures it'll just takes some of his special brand of common sense to make a difference this time, too. But when he slows in front of her house, he sees Rachel climbing into the passenger side of Finn's shitty little car. Puck guns it and takes off before either of them notices he's even there.
By the time Saturday rolls around, Puck's in a foul mood. His sister has gone to Nana Connie's for the weekend, mainly to get away from him. His mother's already warned him that if he snarls at her one more time, she's going to bend him over her knee like she did when he was five. "I don't know what your problem is," she growls, "but you better get your attitude fixed pretty damn quick, young man."
He hides out for most of the day and it's not until his room is cast in a pinkish orange hue as the sun sets that he finally turns his phone on. He has a few text messages from Santana telling him he's an asshole (that's a normal thing) and when he sees one from Rachel, his breathing hitches in his throat.
[Are you made at me, Noah?]
He stares at the message for the longest time before finally typing back a simple "no" and hitting send. Seconds later, his phone is beeping again.
[You say that but you haven't spoken to me in days. Did I do something to offend you?]
Puck lets out a frustrated huff and considers not responding to her at all but he knows that if he doesn't, she'll just keep at him. If Rachel Berry is anything, it's persistent. He quickly types back a short message telling her to leave it alone and then turns off his phone.
After that, he realizes he doesn't feel like doing anything at all. He's peeling his t-shirt over his head and about to strip down to his boxers when his bedroom door opens. He expects to see his bitchy mother but instead, Rachel's standing there, her mouth agape at the fact that he's half-naked. Puck smirks at her but grabs his shirt and puts it back on anyway.
"What're you doing here?" he asks. He makes an exaggerated show of re-zipping his jeans and the simple act makes a pink blush bloom across Rachel's cheeks.
Her eyes are wide. "You told me to leave it alone but I think we both know that me leaving anything alone is next to impossible. What's wrong, Noah?"
Puck drops down onto his bed and grabs his guitar. He figures that if he messes with the strings a bunch, he won't have to look at her. "Nothing's wrong."
"You haven't spoken to me in days."
"You have bigger stuff going on than worrying about me."
Puck looks up when Rachel places her hand on his leg. Even through his jeans, her hand is warm and he hates the way her touch makes his heart start to race. (It's not the first time.)
"You're upset about the engagement, aren't you?"
The question hangs between them for so long that Rachel finally looks away and starts to study the piles of junk that are all over his dresser. He doesn't know what to tell her because being honest is just going to piss her off but he also doesn't want to lie to her. He shakes his head, smoothing his hand over the strip of hair on his head, and then plunges in. "I'm not upset. I just think it's the stupidest shit I've ever heard."
Rachel seems shocked, which he would find mildly hilarious if he wasn't so fucking annoyed. "You think true love is stupid, Noah?"
Puck lets out a snort and practically sneers at her. "No, I think true love is great when it's real. But what you and Finn have? Ain't true love. Not by a fucking longshot."
"How dare you! Who are you to tell me what Finn and I share?" Rachel's fists are in tight knots at her side, anger flashing across her face. Her whole face is turning red and he knows her ire is up but she started this shit by bugging him so he really doesn't care. He's wanted to say this stuff to her for a while now.
Puck shoves his guitar aside and stands up, pacing to the other side of the room, putting as much distance between them as possible. "Who am I? I'm only the asshole that's you've run to every fucking time he hurts you. I'm the guy that has to listen to him whine about how you talk too much and how you're too focused on New York when Lima's a good enough town. I'm the guy you've used to cheat on him with. I'm the one that has to watch you become this…" Puck pauses, searching for the right words. "You've become this fucking shell of the girl you used to be since you've been with him and it's total bullshit. The Rachel Berry I used to know wanted Broadway so fucking bad that she'd send an innocent exchange student to a crack house if she thought the chick would get in her way. This," Puck gestured toward her angrily, "is somebody I don't recognize. It's like you sold your goddamn soul to make Finn love you."
It feels like ages before Rachel finally moves and when she does, it's to slap Puck across the face. He reels back, shocked that she hit him but then she's storming out of his bedroom. He hears the front door slam while he's still rubbing his jaw. For a second, he thinks he should run after her. He didn't even get to the important part. He didn't even get to tell her (beg her) not to marry Finn. But she's so furious that he knows she won't listen so he lets her go.
Puck skips school on Monday. Nobody seems to notice. Nobody texts him to check in and he's reminded, for the hundredth time, why he can't wait to get the fuck out of Lima.
On Tuesday afternoon, Finn's the first to approach him. School is over for the day and, even though Regionals is right around the corner, Puck's skipping Glee practice. He just can't deal with the bullshit. Rachel's still not talking to him. In fact, he saw her turn around and walk in the other direction when he came out of his Chemistry class earlier. He doesn't blame her for being pissed off because he was kind of an asshole but he was only telling the truth. She just can't handle it.
He's shoving his Spanish book into his locker and deciding which homework he's actually going to do when Finn ambles up to him, a half-smile on his face.
"Dude, where you been lately? I've barely seen you."
Puck stares into his locker and avoids Finn's eyes. "Been busy. Got shit going on at home."
"Really? Is your mom okay?"
"Yeah." Puck slams his locker closed so hard that Finn flinches.
"You coming to Glee?"
"Nope." Puck shoves his backpack over his shoulder and turns away. Finn doesn't follow after him and ask questions and Puck's relieved.
The text messages start 20 minutes later. The first one is short.
[Noah, you can't miss Glee practice this close to Regionals.]
Even though he's surprised she bothered to text him a tall, Puck deletes it without responding and throws his phone back down before picking up the game controller again.
Five minutes later, his phone beeps several times in quick succession, signaling more than one message. He pauses the game with a sigh and begins to read.
[Noah, Finn said that you're having family issues but I know that's not true. I'm still furious at you for the horrible things you said last week but we have to put those things behind us because Regionals is coming up and that's the most important thing. We need you in Glee, Noah, because we're going to win this year and we can't if we're missing part of our team. It's imperative that you're here. I'll see you tomorrow!]
Puck knows what she says is total shit. It doesn't matter if he's there or not. It's not like he's actually going to have a solo or do anything but stand in the back and sing the chorus. For a second, he admires that Rachel's at least focused on winning, which is kind of, at least, like the Rachel he used to know. Grabbing his phone, he types back quickly.
[U still marrying Finn?]
He shoves his phone under his pillow so that he can play without being interrupted. Two hours later, when his eyes hurt from playing, he turns off the TV and slips his hand beneath the cool sheets to see what Rachel's response is.
There isn't one.
He skips Glee for the next two days but it doesn't improve his mood. Mr. Schue tries to hunt him down a couple of times but Puck knows every hiding place there is at McKinley High so he has no trouble evading the guy. Avoiding the rest of the Glee club is harder, though, and by Thursday, Mike has him pinned to wall in the locker room and Sam's threatening to rearrange his face if he doesn't stop missing Glee and fucking up their chances to win at Regionals. He finally relents and agrees to go because he's tired of their bitching.
When he walks into the room, Rachel smiles at him shyly before turning her attention back to Finn. Puck's stomach immediately tightens, his neck feeling tense. He fucking hates this. He's almost sure he hates them. (Well, Finn anyway.)
Friday afternoon, he leaves school the second Glee is over. After he takes his sister over to Nana Connie's, he runs a few errands for his mom and ends up on Rachel's street again. Before he can acknowledge that he's even slowing down the truck, he's already pulled over to the curb and he's staring up at her bedroom window. She has the blinds open and he can see her moving around. She's talking on her phone, her arms waving animatedly around the whole time. He leans into the seat and smiles as he watches her because she's just so… sweet. He hates even using such a pussy word because the chicks he's normally into are hot or sexy or smokin'. But Rachel's always been different and he thinks that's why he's so pissed. She's always believed in him and made him feel like he could do anything he wanted (including applying to a few schools in New York without telling anyone.) The problem is that somewhere along the way, she stopped believing in herself. He feels like he has to try to help her get that back.
He's out of the truck and knocking on the door before his nerve can falter and this time, Leroy answers. Hiram is standing nearby, though, in an apron that says "Mr. Good Lookin' is Cookin'" in bold, red letters.
"Finn's not here," Hiram tells him as soon as he sees Puck.
"Can I go up?"
Hiram nods slowly and then Leroy asks, "You don't think she should marry Finn, do you?"
Puck shakes his head no and then heads up the stairs. When he's near the top, he hears Leroy ask, "Why couldn't she fall for him instead? He has some sense, at least, which is more than I can say for the Pillsbury Doughboy she's in love with."
Puck sucks in a breath as he pushes open Rachel's door without knocking. She's still on her phone but as soon as she sees him, her eyes widen and she says, "Finn, we'll talk about the guest list later. I've got to go….Okay… I love you, too. Bye!"
Rachel's tense from the moment she levels her gaze on him and Puck can tell she's already spoiling for a fight. He holds up his hands in surrender as he shakes his head. "I'm not here to start shit."
"Good," Rachel says tightly, "because I don't want to listen to it. If you can't be supportive, you should just go ahead and go."
"I can't be supportive…but I'm not leaving. Not until you listen to what I have to say."
Rachel lets out a tired sigh. "I don't need you to insult me further, Noah. You've already done enough of that."
"I'm not gonna insult you. I just…fuck, Rachel. What are you thinking? Why are you doing this?"
Rachel's eyes dart away for a long time before she finally looks at him again. "Why do you care so much, Noah?"
Puck knows this would be the perfect time to tell the truth. It would be so easy to tell her all the things running through his mind. Because you're throwing your fucking life away before it even begins and you're going to regret it. Because he doesn't even know how to love a girl like you. Because I want a chance with you. Because I could be by your side and still let chase your dreams without tying you down. Because I've tried to ignore how I feel about you for two years but I can't anymore and it's fucking killing me inside. He finally settles on, "Because you're doing it for the wrong reasons. You're scared, Rachel, and for some reason, you think that becoming Mrs. Finn Fucking Hudson is going to give you some form of security but it's not. Rachel, it's not. Whether you're married or single, you're still gonna be terrified in New York. You're still gonna have the same bullshit to deal with at school and the same bitches who'll be ruthless as hell to try to beat you out for the lead and shit. The only thing marrying him will do is anchor you down before you're even ever had a chance to reach the top."
"That's not true." When Rachel responds, he can hear the quiver in her voice. He knows confident Rachel and this isn't her. "That's not true at all. Finn will be a huge support system to me. As my husband, we'll be able to face the world together and we'll be so much stronger because of it."
"You're fucking seventeen years old, Rachel!" Puck's voice is louder than he meant it to be but he's got so much fire inside him. The words he wants to say seem to be eating at him but he can't let them out. He won't. "This isn't a third-world country and you don't have to get married. Fuck." He drops his hands to hips and stares over her head out the window. "When did you get so stupid?"
"Leave, Noah. I'm tired of this. You're never going to see my side of it and, no matter how hard you try, I'm not going to see yours either. Finn and I love one another. We're everything to each other. Whether we get married now or in ten years, that's not going to change so save your breath. I want you to be happy for me because you're my friend but if you can't be, I'm not going to fret over it. My decision is made. Don't bother coming to the wedding."
Puck doesn't say anything for the longest time. His wheels are spinning, though, and he's trying to figure out what to say to get through to her. He'd love to grab her by the shoulders and shake her until all the stupid comes loose and the strong, cutthroat girl he used to know reemerges. He knows she's still in there somewhere. She has to be. But as he looks around her room, he sees pictures of her and Finn everywhere. On the mirror. On her dresser. By her bed. As the wallpaper on her laptop. That's when he realizes that he's not going to get through to her. He's not sure there is any getting through to her.
He leaves her room without saying anything else. He hears her following behind him but ignores her when she calls his name. He storms past her fathers without saying anything to them, either, and vows that he's never coming back to Rachel's house.
Monday is quiet. Puck goes to all his classes but doesn't spend too much time bullshitting with anybody. When he gets to Glee, he instantly sees that Rachel is nervous. She's bouncing from one side of the room to the other, grabbing sheet music, talking to Finn, trying to get Brad to agree to a key change, and constantly fiddling with the engagement ring on her finger. As soon as Schue comes in, Rachel demands everyone's attention and announces that she and Finn have moved up the wedding date: they're getting married right after Regionals on Saturday. The club reaction is basically a loud chorus of "what the hell?" While most of them are yelling about not rushing into things, Puck's busy packing up his backpack and guitar. Her little announcement is all it takes to make his decision for him. He's done. He'll be damned if he's coming to Glee next week to be bossed around by 17-year-old Mrs. Rachel Hudson.
While everyone is still staring at each other stupidly and Rachel and Finn are once again doing that disgusting kissing thing where they swallow each other's faces, Puck throws his backpack over his shoulder. On the way out the door, he says, "Hey, Schue? I quit." Then he hauls ass to his truck, turns off his phone, and hides out the rest of the night to avoid the backlash, at least temporarily.
As expected, everybody freaks out when they realize he's serious. He tells them that it doesn't matter because even without him, they still have 12 members so he really doesn't care. Santana threatens to cut off his balls and use them to decorate her rear view mirror if he doesn't come back but he tells her to go fuck herself. He's over all of that stupid shit. It's not like they'll miss him because they like him or anything. No, they're just worried about their stupid fucking chances of winning regionals. As usual, it's not actually about him at all but about them. Well, fuck that; he's not going to Regionals, he sure as fuck isn't going to Finn and Rachel's wedding, and he doesn't care if he talks to any of them again. He's so tired of Lima. He's tired of never being good enough to be the lead, or the boyfriend, or even being noticed as the guy who does things for other people (and he has a big fucking list of things he's done for other people in Glee club without anything in return.) He's tired of being invisible. Nobody ever sees who he really is and those that occasionally do get a glimpse of the other parts of him (like Rachel) don't care enough to dig any deeper. He's been dumped by everyone who has ever mattered to him (his dad, Santana, Rachel, Lauren, Quinn, Shelby) so he figures it's time he does some dumping of his own. He expects it to feel better than it actually does.
A week later, he hears through the gossip mill that Finn and Rachel's wedding was postponed because her dad, Leroy, had a heart attack right before the ceremony. Puck knows immediately that it's bullshit because that guy is really fucking healthy. He's gotta give the man props for pulling such a huge stunt to stop that farce of a wedding. But even though he knows it's it didn't happen, it doesn't take away the hurt of it all. At least he knows that Rachel hasn't fucked herself over completely, though. Not yet, anyway.
Puck gets through the rest of senior year on autopilot. He starts hanging out with the jocks again and the majority of his former friends in Glee steer clear of him. He catches Mike and Sam giving him sad, pathetic looks every once in a while but he ignores them both. The worst part, though, is that sometimes, he'll be sitting at lunch and he'll catch Rachel looking in his direction. It's in those moments that everything starts hurting. His chest, his throat, his stomach, his head – it all hurts. He'll usually lock eyes with her but as soon as he does, she drops her gaze away, loops her arm through Finn's, and lays her head on his shoulder. It feels like a slap in the face every single time it happens, too. He misses her. He misses all of them, really, but he misses her the most. Even still, he refuses to go back. He's put in enough time the last three years staring at the back of Rachel Berry's head while she made moon eyes at Finn. He's let himself be walked on for years by everybody he cares about (especially her) and he won't do it anymore.
It's those last three months of senior year that teach him an important message: sticking to his principles sometimes hurts.
On graduation day, he's eager to get his diploma. He has a summer job working for his uncle's construction company in Cleveland and then he's heading off to New York City. He's decided to live there for a year and get a job before he starts taking classes at the City College of New York.
Puck watches Rachel walk across the stage to get her diploma and he smiles. She's beaming and he can her fathers whooping their support from somewhere in the audience. She does a little happy spin before she steps off the stage and Puck's struck with the fact that, even though he hasn't spoken to her in months, he still cares about her (a lot.) He figures part of him always will but he knows there's nothing he can do about it.
He gets his own diploma in hand with little fanfare and a while later, the caps are thrown and then graduation is over. He makes a beeline for the parking lot because he doesn't want to run into anybody from the Glee club but as he steps around a very short, round woman, he nearly runs into Hiram and Leroy Berry. The older men grin at Puck and Hiram grips his arm. "Noah, congratulations. We haven't seen you around in a while."
Puck shifts uncomfortably, his eyes darting around. Rachel's nowhere in sight so he relaxes a little bit, nodding at the two men. "Yeah, I've been… I don't really have a reason to come around much anymore."
"That's a shame," Hiram says. "I know Rachel's missed you." Puck lets out an incredulous snort but Hiram shakes his head. "No no, she has. She told us what you said and how you quit Glee club. I have to say, son, that it's admirable what you did. I'm not going to pretend that I don't know what your motives were because it's obvious to both Leroy and I that you have deep feelings for her."
Puck swallows, his chest tight, and looks away. "It doesn't matter how I feel."
"Ahh, but it does. Rachel's been so blinded by that… that gargantuan, fleshy fool that she's completely unaware of everything else around her. We stopped the wedding but as of right now, they're still engaged. It's going to be a long-distance engagement, of course, because Finn's not going to join her in Manhattan until next January at least. He has things to take care of here for Burt first. Something about learning a trade before he goes to New York so that he'll have something to do. I don't know. Carole told me but I wasn't actually paying attention because her split ends are distracting."
Puck perks up at the news about Finn staying behind in Lima. "Oh yeah?"
Hiram nods. "And your mother says you're going to arrive in Manhattan in August, yes?"
"Yeah," Puck admits. "That's the plan anyway."
The look on Hiram's face strikes Puck as odd. Next to him, Leroy grins broadly. "It's never too late, you know."
Puck sees Rachel coming, her fingers intertwined with Finn's. She's gazing up at him adoringly but Finn seems not to notice. Puck looks back at her dads and shakes his head sadly. "Yeah, it is."
He nods curtly to both of them and then turns away, disappearing into the crowd just as Rachel and Finn are approaching. His chest physically hurts by the time he makes it to his truck. When he slides into the cool cab, he tosses his diploma into the seat next to him and closes his eyes. He just wants to get out of town.
Cleveland is great. He makes a lot of money that he's desperately going to need once he gets to New York and there's no shortage of girls willing to give him head. All in all, it's a perfect summer.
He goes back home to Lima just long enough to appease his ma. He only stays five days before he's loading his suitcase, guitar, and a cooler full of food into his the bed of his truck. His ma cries the whole time he's packing and he has to promise to call her at least once a day to get her to calm down. After he kisses her on her forehead and assures her (once again) that he'll be safe, he climbs into his truck. The engine hesitates and he almost freaks out because if he doesn't get the fuck out of Lima in the next five minutes, he's going to lose it. Finally, the engine catches and rumbles to life. With one last wave out the window, he's pulls out of the driveway and then he's gone.
A/N: I'll post the second half soon!