Notes: Hope you like it!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: /''You know… We should get married.''/ Puck had experienced more than his fair share of pain – heartbreak, one would say. There's always a reason behind the shallow existence of a player. And he had his. But then came Rachel Berry.
A star in the overcast sky
'You don't forget the face of the person who was once your last hope.'
It's been a long, ongoing promise that Puck has been looking forward to ever since the words left his lips. It was a promise worth fulfilling. A promise that has kept him in good behavior and he hasn't been a troublemaker for over a week. It was a promise worth fulfilling, because Puck held his end of the deal, thus so should dad. Actually, every promise should be worth fulfilling. It's a promise, nonetheless. You don't go back on a promise. You don't lie in the process. You just don't. It's not fair, it's not nice… it's mean. It's tiresome and mean and downright unfair.
So, he throws a brick against Betty Johnson's window and calls it a night.
He tells the truth when his dad confronts him with his typical sore look that indicates that he has had a bad day at work and the smell of vodka and lemon chips eases of off him like a habit uncontrolled.
His dad doesn't seem surprised, and neither does Puck. Because his dad leaves his room – solely leaving him grounded, and apparently at a minor case of memory loss to prefect it.
(Puck kind of stops believing in promises all together – because if his own flesh and blood could lie right into his face, what's stopping a total stranger from doing the same?)
Dad's got a habit of drinking too much.
He's what his teacher would call; 'A mean drunk'.
Dad spits unnecessary profanities into his mother face, usually things that contain 'fat, lazy, stupid' and a 'bad lay'. Puck might be young, but he's not that young. He knows what a bad lay is and for the life of him he can't understand how that's such a bad thing.
His mother usually cringes underneath the slurs of his father's verbal abuse. Dad waves his hands in front of her face, stepping closer, sometimes even pushing her in the awake of his movements. It's a game, Puck had told himself. It's a game of 'with push comes the shove'. Dad pushes her whenever, and however he wants, until mom gets fed up with it, and shoves back. Hard. Hard enough to make dad push back even harder. It's a rectangle of pushes and shoves that never end.
But when dad pushes too hard, and mom hits her head on the wooden cabinet right behind her, everything stops.
It's kind of still in the house, and Puck hides behind the Sony TV that manages to cover up his whole body. His Mohawk sticks out, but not mayor or anything. And if so, dad doesn't seem to care one bit about his son's presence.
When mom doesn't stand up, dad falls to his knees. He shakes her up a few times before he resolves into slapping her face. Dad's face is scrunched up – Puck can't pin point if it's anger or sadness or both or maybe even some kind of indescribable remorse.
Mom does wake up, eventually. Her face is hot red, and she's breathing kind of shallow. She's shadowing her hands against the pumping slaps of his father's hands, because even though his mom did wake up, dad never stopped slapping.
Puck knows something is wrong when his mom stampedes into her room.
Dad's been slapping her again. Her face is red and there's this cut on her forehead that says that dad's went all for it. She stumbles a few times, barely making it into her bathroom, and for a moment, Puck's certain that she's about to fall again, hit her head. And this time she might not wake up.
So, he follows her into her room, stands right behind her as if waiting for her to fall back and silent praying that his arms are big enough to wrap around her tender frame and hold her still until she does finally want to wake up. Because when she does, she wants to see a friendly face, he likes to think that he has a friendly face.
Mom doesn't fall back. She doesn't fall at all. Instead she balances herself on to her tippy toes, wavering a few times. He's kind of scared that she might fall anyway, so he takes a gentle step forward. He staggers back when she staggers back, and he walks up, when she walks up.
He wants to say something, something in the words of; 'you can fall if you wanna, mom. I'll catch ya'. But all that comes out is air.
She rumbles into the upper cabinet. And he sees things falling out that he's seen his teacher English carry with him when he has this so called headache. His teacher always says that Puck's the cause of his headaches that he's doing this to him. As if the tiny boy with the Mohawk actually finds pleasure into hurting people.
His mom grabs one of those white dry looking thingies and puts it in her mouth.
This time she does stagger back completely, but he catches her and they both fall on their asses.
She laughs, like this moment is hilarious, like their fall was hilarious, like bleeding is hilarious, like everything in her life is hilarious. And he doesn't want her to feel alone, so he laughs with her.
There's this new girl at school.
She's actually really, really pretty.
She reminds him of Princess Aurora with the really long pink dress and the shiny crown right on top of her head. She has this really great smile and he totally digs the missing three teeth she has. Her dress isn't pink though. It's a sky blue dress that stops right below her knees, and she moves past him just as elegantly as princess Aurora once did. He can only imagine what the distant smell she vents could be. Maybe strawberries, or apples, or pineapples, or something just as juicy and sweet and tender and sheer like the very sight of her.
''Her name is Quinn,'' Finn says. And his tall, goofy best friend looks at her the way Puck imagines looking at her too.
They become the unstoppable trio; at least, that's what Finn likes to call them. She's the really pretty girl that comes up with the wicked ass ideas – and might he say, she has a lot of wicked ass ideas. Finn's the clueless one, which actually helps a lot, because if he doesn't really know what they're up to, he can easily lie to their superiors. Or not lie – it depends on the way you see it. Puck of course, gets the deed done. He gets the assignment, and he fulfills it like the bad-ass he is. It kind of helps that its Quinn telling him what to do, because he doesn't mind doing whatever she wants.
(Shit. That sounded a little bit… whipped.)
All is well until he gets caught in this risqué prank that Quinn set up.
He's running away with Quinn and Finn right ahead, and the lights of the house he's been send to flickers on. Puck hears dogs barking and a door opening, but he doesn't dare to look back. He's scared that once he does, he'll see something worth shitting his pants for and he'll trip over his feet like a lanky old freak and find his legs in a matter of second's right in the jaws of a hungry dog.
He feels the toilet paper slowly slipping away from his grasp. And shit, does he hold on to it as if it's life itself right on the balance of a thin piece of rope. Its evidence and he cannot drop evidence. More importantly; it's Quinn's evidence. She took care of the toilet paper. It has that flowery sent masking its colorful pattern. And Puck be damned into letting her take the fall for it.
But there's something nipping at the back of his mind. Something that vaguely sounds like the voice of Mike Chang and his words of wisdom oozing through his brain 'you're always goin' to get caught. Whether it be now or in ten years from now – you're always goin' to get caught'. There's something about that realization and the truth in those words that slow him down. There's something about the fact that he's always been getting caught – most sooner than later, that slows his pace. Puck's never had a problem with getting caught. That is, until now.
So he slows down until he's standing completely still and the sound of hungry dogs barking behind him become louder and louder.
He casts a look at the tiny little sculpture of a girl, with her hair hiked up in a perfect Blonde ponytail and her tiny little feet pounding on the lawn, before he turns around. Fully content with the whole idea of taking the fall.
Then he feels a rough hand on his shoulder, grasping him tightly, and he can barely hear Finn's voice calling out his name. Foolish, of course. Because now Puck can't vein oblivious when this man asks his name like all his former victims have done.
Instead of feeding him to the dogs, which he'd expect him to do at a certain point – or expected the dogs to do instinctively, because, face it, those dogs look pretty hungry. The old man pulls him by the shoulder, like a fish trapped in a fisher's hook.
He looks back, despite himself, hoping that he could spot the distant sight of a remake of Princess Aurora herself.
But all he sees is darkness.
It smells like tea.
Like fresh plucked herbs that's used for tea. The house itself isn't out of the ordinary… which is strange considering the stories that have been told about the house on thirteen one street. And let alone the stories that contain the man in question walking up to his cabinet. As if he's about to take out something humanly common and invite Puck to sit down with him for a nice cup of tea.
That's exactly what he does.
It almost sounds like an order. As if he's more than certain that Puck will comply. And perhaps the man knows – or even smells his fear ten feet apart. As though the stories that people whisper about him are in all honesty estrange. Or perhaps, he's about to live up to everyone expectations.
But he doesn't seem like the brutal butcher with the weird fetish for human feet at all. Or if so, the crazy old freak that carriers a torch for young children. Hell, he doesn't even look that old either. People on the street whispered that he'd be at least over sixty years old. Yet he doesn't look like he's hit forty. Quinn used to say that once he has you, reality and fantasy would be blurred.
Looking at the old freak, it seems like reality and fantasy are worlds apart.
''Are you going to sit down, or what?''
This time it's a question, and Puck swallows tightly before he complies.
The chair looks almost green, but Puck can swear that it's far from being its natural color. Perhaps it was yellow before, or even white or a tenderly pale blue.
White seems more likely.
He sits down, fisting his hand around the toilet paper.
The old man, however, catches his movement, but pries his eyes away as he pulls out a cup out of the cabinet, and sits down on the red chair next to Puck.
It's quiet for a while. The scent of the fresh plucked herbs invading his nostrils. Subconsciously, he starts hearing the ticking of the clock, something that was once a part of the background music.
He can't take it anymore.
The old man moves forward, leaning over the coffee table and plucking a tea sack out of an antique striped pot. The origin of the herbs.
''How long do I have to stay here?'' Puck crackles out. He eyes the old man sideways, fisting the toilet paper in his hand as if he's trying to summon strength out of a roll of paper. Impossible, of course ''…You're not going to call my parents… are ya?''
This time the old man casts him a glance, but soon afterwards fixates his eyes on his cup.
It's empty. There's no water in it. Except for the tea sack, it's completely empty.
He seems to notice, because he laughs a little. And Puck's not sure if he should freak out or just laugh with him.
So, he does nothing.
''I forgot the water.'' His voice is deep, like a male opera singer launching a comeback. It reminds him of his dad's voice. ''…oh well.''
''You're not…'' Puck pauses, hiking up his left eyebrow. ''You're not goin'… to get some... water?''
Another hollow laugh breaks out of his mouth. ''So that you can… what? Run out?''
It never even crossed Puck's mind. But now that he's said it…
''I'm not going to ask you why.'' The old man states, simply. He moves forward, Puck's eyes trailing him along the way as he puts the cup back on the coffee table. Puck suspects that they're about to talk about the teepeeing attack that he and his friends (but mostly him) have done. Maybe even a lecture here and there or an empty threat just for the special effect. ''Because I already know why.'' This time around, the old man leans his elbows on his knees, settling on looking at Puck with these quite expressive brown eyes.
It's like they're looking into his heart, or even possibly, into his soul. If he even has one. People like to say that he's lost it long ago. A boy like him, doing the things he does, couldn't possible carry a soul. Heck, the only way anyone would believe him of actually containing a heart would be by medically slicing him open and pulling it out. And even then, suspicion isn't shielded.
''Yes… yes I do.''
Puck's not about to ask why. He feels like he's about to hear it anyway.
''Girls can be tricky, can't they?''
''I didn't… I didn't do it for –''
''I know.'' The old man cuts in, leaning back into his chair. He lets out a sigh. ''It's always not for the girls… but then again, it is.''
''I don't get it.''
That twinkle in those hazel eyes of his speak otherwise.
''What's her name?''
''That's none of your business!'' It comes out harsh and fell and exactly the way he meant it.
The old man nods, like it all falls into place, and somehow Puck moves the toilet paper behind his back, shadowing his eyes away.
No one in the room is able to tell if it's shame or anger that's haunting the air, but it's something intoxicating and uncomfortable, regardless.
''You know… I'm a doctor.'' The old man pipes up. ''A really good one too.''
This time, Puck looks up. Partly not comprehending how that has anything to do with this situation, but partly fully aware that it has a lot to do with this situation.
''I'm not crazy.'' The old man states, matter of fact. ''I think…'' He lets out a laugh; it's less hollow and more… amusing. ''I think it's the whole 'I'm a surgeon and I cut into people for living' thing that freaks the most people out.'' Puck looks a bit scared and that kind of shuts the old man up. ''Not like a… monster or something, but like… do you know what a surgeon is?''
''Are you going to cut my feet off and hang them in a chamber?'' He blurts it out because the suspense is killing him and he's slightly afraid that the old man is one of those killers that make small talk before they cut into their victims.
''Of course not!'' He looks legibly mortified and Puck's more than certain that no one can act that well. Even if money was on the plate. So he lets his tense shoulders go and hangs his head. Because he's just accused a man for cutting off feet and hanging them in prized chamber and believe it or not but he's been accused for a lot of things – even things he hasn't done – and it really sucks when no one believes you. Mostly it's because Puck has told so many lies, he's become that kid in that story that yelled 'wolf' and got everyone eaten.
The old man sighs. ''That's okay… You know, I wasn't going to hurt you or anything. I just wanted to talk.'' He drapes a hand through his weary brown hair, tugging at its strings. ''But I guess if you're really, really sorry –''
''I am.'' He interjects. ''I am, really, really sorry. I just… I need to go home. My parents are goin' to get worried and I don't want them thinking –''
''That you've been harassing people, again?''
Puck wants to say something, but nothing comes out, so he looks away.
''See, I'm not the only one that people talk about.'' The old man leans on his right elbow. ''I'll let you out.''
He doesn't reply because the thought of knowing that this man is going through the exact same thing as Puck, kind of defeats the purpose of talking. He feels like it's just going to be another few words left hanging in the already thick air. At least that's how Puck would see it. Words, at a certain point, lose their effect.
So, he stands up and follows the old cloistered man up to the door, opening the doorknob feverishly but not without turning around a final time and apologizing. Regardless of the emptiness it withholds.
''I won't do it again, Mr. …''
''Berry. Hiram Berry.''
And just then he hears the crackling of treads, and in his haste of finding out what that sound was, he catches two pare of tan legs running up the stairs. Leaving the faint sight of a black and white stippled dress imprinted in his memory.
He hears the noise out on the street.
It's quiet loud. The yelling reaches an octave, unreachable. Screeching across the street like sirens making space. He staggers back, momentarily. Stopping dead in the tracks of a car. It's black. The tracks look almost carved into the grid and Puck suspects that somebody was in a hurry. Only someone frightened enough could be capable of leaving tracks like that. He couldn't leave tracks like that. Dad could.
He stands there for… God knows how long. Picking at the indomitable tracks beneath his tiny feet and contemplating if it's safe to go home, or if it's the honorable thing to do. Perhaps it's the manliest thing to do… And Puck is a man. Nine years is quiet manly. But he's still afraid – terrified, even. And real men don't fear. Real men know no fear. His dad used to spew stories about how real men were carved out of titanium. Unbreakable, powerful, fearless… just like Wolverine. He's not carved out of titanium, he's not unbreakable. He's a kid, scientifically proven so.
But when a deafening, high pitched scream hits his ears, he jolts into the direction of his house like fear wasn't ever an issue.
She's almost completely covered in blood. She smells like metal and sweat and tears, and oh, does she look like the world has dealt her the wrong cards in life. He hears her blood pounding like horses rampaging through the streets, but he vaguely wonders if it's her blood or if it's his.
He's not to blame. He couldn't stop it, even if he tried. He wasn't there when things took a wrong turn, and he's not a man.
He's a kid.
But he didn't try. Not yet, at least.
His dad is screaming profanities at the top of his lungs, his mom's on her knees, grasping at the carpet, and he's standing there in the middle of a chaos that triumphs his capabilities of coping.
God, does he wish that Mike Chang was here. He's smart; he would know what to do.
''Stupid, stupid bitch!'' Dad spits it out, like a tiny little hair just fell on his tongue and needed to get off.
Fearfully, Puck tries a wholeheartedly; ''Dad…'' But to no avail.
''Shut up!'' He slams his fist against the wall, throwing both his hands in his hair.
Dad's so far out it, he can't even feel the impact.
''She's bleeding.'' Puck mutters, stating the obvious.
Dad glares back, his eyes blood shed red. Puck staggers back, but holds his ground. Fisting both his tiny hands and matching a glare of his own.
It's unknown as to how he found the strength to look back. Maybe the roll of toilet paper does have some kind of masked power.
''We need to bring her to the hospital.''
''Or call 911… both could work.'' He pauses, his dad glares, his mother cries. This is far out of his comfort zone. ''I mean it… dad. Please…''
''And then what? Huh?'' He blows out an pungently breath. ''Have the feds come in and take me away? Is that what you want to do with your old man? Do you want me in jail?''
Puck shakes his head vehemently. ''Of course not! I – I Just… They won't –''
''Are you really that dumb?'' His father cuts in. Puck's a bit thrown back by the ferocity that his dad's voice contains. It's one that he's never heard before. Not one directed at him at least. ''They see a bleeding woman…'' His dad motions for his mother. She grasps at her face, and as slowly as possible, blood slips through her slender fingers. As if it's their aim to torture Puck with the sight of it. ''And a nine year old kid as shaken up as you… who'd you think they're going to be pointing the fingers to? You? As if!''
His mother's cries become louder, the bleeding is so much more.
''But dad, you did do this.''
Puck contemplates watching his speech, or even taking it back.
But he can't – he won't. He's too deep in this puddle of shit and this is his moment to show his mom what he's made off.
They don't need a dad.
He's the man.
''You… hurt her.'' He straightens his shoulders, the way he has seen thugs do on TV when they try and be intimidating. It really works, because his father's frown loosens, like a twig slowly breaking from its branch. ''You did this. You are the cause of this.'' Puck inhales, taking a little step forward. Almost daring him to charge. ''And I can't – no, I won't – let you hurt her, or me, or anybody else in this family anymore. I - I'm the man. I'm the man.''
He's the man.
But dad's face loosens up completely and he starts cracking up like a mad man high on prescription pills. He raises his finger, practically distracted by his own hand.
''You…'' He hiccups and lets out a laugh. ''You're the man?''
Puck opens his mouth to respond, but nothing comes out. Almost as if he's scared, again. So he just nods, as if slow motion took over this moment in time.
''You… You little twerp…'' The bitterness in dad's voice is destructive. ''I'll show you want a man really is.''
Dad's never hurt him.
Not, until now.
And that hit; the touch of his callous hand on his shoulder, the impact on his back when he gets thrown against the stairway case, was first in history.
They always keep a bat by the door.
It's really just for precaution; like when an intruder decides to infiltrate their house and make a living out of their stuff. Or if a masked murder gets the kicks out of stabbing innocent people. Mom used to be against that thought though, but dad made it his duty to enlighten her in all the possibilities that could arrive if they didn't have a precaution measurement.
Puck grabs the bat the moment his dad's back is turned.
It's hard, because his own back hurts, and he can barely stand up. But the thought of getting that douche far away from his mother and him is so persistent and so encouraging, that he does find a way to the bat by the door. And he does find a way to stand upright, even when his back is killing him.
He does find his voice and when he calls his dad by his given name; 'Elijah', finding tranquility in the shock written all over his face as he turns around, he strikes him with the bat.
Not once, not twice, not thrice, but over and over and over and over again.
Then his back starts to hurt and Puck caves in.
They don't speak about it ever again, they barely even manage to say a word when the cops come and take Elijah away.
His name almost, almost sounds foreign.
He stops midway in the hallway, his books underneath his arm as he looks up to see Finn running towards him. His trademark, half-smile plastered on his face.
''What?'' Puck barks back, leaning his back against the lockers. It still hurts. Even with taking sick-leave for two weeks. The pain is still there. Not unbearable though, but manageable.
''I heard about your dad.'' Finn finally states, dropping his half-smile and settling on a frown. Puck can't believe he's actually missing that half-smile of his right now. Anything is better than this pity party. ''I'm sorry… Are you okay?''
He hates sympathy. It's not a nice feature on anybody. So, he shrugs and rolls his eyes, but withholds from uttering a snarky comment.
''Like I care…'' He huffs. ''He's dead to me.'' He pauses, squinting as he purses his lips. ''A dead-beat old douche.''
''Dude!'' Finn exclaims mortified. ''Isn't that a bit too harsh for a guy that was just, like, trying to put money on the table for your family? I mean.'' He shrugs. ''I get it… it wasn't like, right or something. But still…''
Puck sighs. That's right. The whole population of Lima just thinks that his dad was busted for fraud. Which is true, apparently. When the police came, after his mom called them, and took Elijah away, they got a call a few days later about how Elijah was completely broke after committing fraud and losing everything – their savings, his saved up college money, his mom's saved up money – everything.
Granted, Elijah felt like the ground was collapsing underneath him and all that he had was his bottle of vodka to keep him company. Puck's heard his teacher English talk about 'desperate times call for desperate measures' and how 'when someone's ruined all they can do is drink their sorrows away'. But drinking the pain away rarely works, Mrs. Littlewoods said. Something about losing control of your life just shouldn't be worth all that drinking, and hopefully a few days of amnesia.
Puck's never going to drink. Ever. It's just a sign of how messed up and out of control life is pending out to be.
''Yeah… whatever.'' And as far as Puck's personal life goes, he doesn't want anybody to know what was going on behind closed doors. That's none of anybody's business. ''Doesn't excuse shit, y'know.''
''But he's still your dad…''
''I don't have a dad anymore.'' Puck replies bitterly. He leans his head against the iron metal behind him, closing his eyes and willing his mind to bring him to a warmer, better place.
But all he sees are legs; tanned, short, legs.
''Hey, do you know if Mr. Ber – I mean, the old whack job on thirteen nine street has a kid… a daughter?''
Finn arches an eyebrow up, cocking his head sideways. ''Does it have something to do with you getting caught?'' Finn gasps. ''Did he kidnap someone before you?''
''No, dude, shit.'' Puck snaps his eyes open, shaking his head, stunned about his friend's stupidity.
''Are you mad about the whole ditching you thing – cause it's not my fault! Quinn really wanted to go. I mean, I told her about you still being there and she was like 'we need to go! Puck can handle it on his own'. And you know how she is… she's really persistent and stuff.''
She said what?
Puck widens his eyes, his mouth full of teeth. ''She… She said that?''
''Yeah… But she meant well… I think. No, no, I'm sure.''
He lets out a strangled, short mouthed, laugh. ''Whatever…'' He can't believe that he actually put his life at stake for her. Granted, he wasn't ever in real danger. But all they had ever known about Mr. Berry was his status as a crazy freak that lived of off cutting people's feet. And she just… scrams? Knowing that Puck could be in danger? Un-freaking-believable. He was taking the heat for her, he actually, sort of sacrificed shit for her, thinking that it could be his last day! And she just scrams? ''I just wanted to know if he had a…'' He can't properly think straight. ''You know,'' he exhales a breath. ''Whatever… I dunno… Leave it.''
''Okay… If you say so.''
Puck barely looks at her all day. It's kind of sad, really. Finding out that his make-shift Princess Aurora has nothing on the real thing.
There's something about the way his mom is perched on the edge of the sofa, with a cigarette lit between her lips, and that thoughtful no good look, that throws him off a loop.
He closes the door behind him, dropping his backpack somewhere in the hallway before falling back next to his mom.
She's looking at an insignificant spot on the wall, obviously overthinking some situation that spells nothing good in Puck's book.
He lays a gentle hand on her knee; it seems to draw her attention, but only barely. Somehow it almost feels like she's looking through him instead of at him. ''Oh… hey, Noah.'' She turns back to stare at that spot on the wall, that little dot that seems to be far more important than her health.
''Since when do you smoke, mom?''
She doesn't answer, and he doesn't expect her to. She's not obliged to respond, he however, is.
But things are about to change. He's the man now.
''My English teacher – you know her, Mrs. Littlewoods – said that silence can speak volume or something.'' He pauses, searching her face. ''Is your silence meant as… volume?''
She giggles, light hearted and breathlessly before she drags out another huff. ''You're a smart boy, Noah.'' She blows the long breeze past her lips, dragging her tongue over her bottom lip. ''Oh so smart…'' She smiles, but only for a second. It takes another light inhale of the Tabaco, before she utters; ''you're going to be such a good big brother.''
He cocks an eyebrow up, he's pretty sure something about that sentence doesn't add up with their current life style. ''But…'' Slowly, he opens his mouth, scrunching up his nose as if he's trying to solve a three-hundred puzzle piece. ''I don't have a sibling?''
His mother finally takes it upon herself to look him in the eye, to share a soundless piece of information that very well speeds up his heartbeat.
Puck's going to be a big brother.
He is going to be a big brother!
Puck. He… a big brother?
''Mom…'' He needs her to say the words. To seal the deal. Make it official. He needs to hear those words leave her lips. He needs to hear those three worded syllables. It needs to be real. God, somebody, pinch him? ''Mom, you need to… I don't know how to… Mom?''
She only hums and just as he's about to reply, hopefully a coherent sentence, the home phone rings.
He doesn't move, purposefully ignoring the phone.
''Pick up the phone, Noah.'' She looks at him, placing the cigarette between her lips. ''We can talk later.''
''But… I…'' He shuts his eyes, sighing he replies, ''fine.'' Before re-opening his eyes, standing up and walking to the home phone. He grabs the horn and promptly places it over his right ear.
''What?'' He bitterly starts, turning around so he can stare at his mother. She's leaning back against the sofa, the insignificant spot detaining her attention.
''Puck. It's me, Quinn.''
She sounds so… quiet.
''What do you want? I'm busy.'' He's snarky and straight to the point.
And she deserves it.
He knows that she hates that – being pressured into doing something that she might not be ready for. But mostly, she hates losing power over a situation. He doesn't understand how she could've possibly been a replica of Princess Aurora.
''I just wanted to know how you're feeling…'' Quinn pauses, Puck clears his throat. ''You didn't talk to me today.''
''I don't have time for this, Quinn.'' His eyes falter to his mom's stomach. ''I'll talk to you later.''
He's about to put the horn down, but she exclaims a ''wait!'' and he can't possibly shut her off because… it's Quinn. Not Aurora, but Quinn.
And he likes Quinn. He can't switch that shit off, even if he got paid to do it.
He brings the horn back to his ear.
''I just want you to know…'' She sighs. ''That I care about you, you know that, right? And I know I can be… unclear or even… mean, sometimes.'' Most of the time is more accurate. ''But I care. I really do. I care about you and I always will.''
He feels kind of relieved. Like a rock was attached to his chest for quiet sometime now, and now the center of his being has been lifted it up.
Maybe he just needed to hear her voice, or maybe he needed to know that she cared about him. Maybe that's all a person needs to know – if it's true or not. It's liberating and less lonely.
''I gotta go… I'll call you later.''
He kept that promise, which is, quiet strange if you'd ask him.
The next few years go by in a blur. He gets a little baby sister; mom calls her Rebecca (she has these three little tiny brown hairs sticking out of her head that don't look any longer than an inch or two, and her smile is intoxicating. When she opens her eyes, they've got a daring glint within them that reminds him of a certain little boy with hazel eyes.), he understandably becomes the main man of the house; he figures, perhaps, he could do something right for a change. Puck manages to do the most desperate things one could think of that could possibly get you the girl, and he loses a part of him that he never knew he had.
At a certain point, a stop sign in the middle of life's road, he finds himself exhausted, wounded and broking.
He figures that he's lost.
He sees her for the first time at the start of his sophomore year in high school. Puck knows it's her. There's no doubt about it. The plaid skirt she's wearing that halts midway up her thighs bare the legs that he hasn't been able to wash away from his mind since he was nine years old. They're just as tanned as he remembers, but a whole lot longer. They've got that admirable beauty lingering that pry his focus away from the pretty red haired Cheerio leaning up against the lockers, hostage between his arms.
The Cheerio makes a sound of dislike when he moves his shoulders up, and turns his head away from that tongue on tongue session she's got him doing for the remainder of their period. Strangely, he can't seem to care, when yet, seconds ago, that was all he cared about. But the difference between now and ten seconds ago are beautiful, tall legs, hoisting up the girl of his past. And that's one hell of a big difference.
The girl of his past that finally gets a face. And that face, is far more gorgeous that he has pictured it out to be.
There's something contagious about her brown doe eyes that captivate that alienated life of hers. Her brown hair falls in waves past her shoulders, glowing underneath the synthetic lights of McKinley High, lying almost perfectly past her chest. He feels like she knows it. Like she knows just how perfect she is right now. Or maybe she doesn't, maybe she's clueless.
He gapes in awe, stares at the Goddess strolling their unworthy halls.
When she passes him, their eyes connect and something above recognition shoots right through her eyes.
She doesn't smile, but he vaguely suspects that it would be one of the most picture perfect sights in his universe, if she did.
Her name is Rachel.
It fits her, he decides. She says her name almost as brightly as those star filled eyes of hers, when she graces his class and introduces herself. She stands there, arms hugging her Chemistry books, and her reindeer sweater that would be a total turn-off for everyone around him, becomes a gift to him.
It only makes him wonder what hides underneath those clothes, and if she would ever give him a shot of finding out.
He figures she won't, because she never looks at him, almost purposefully. Maybe because she remembers him, too. Maybe she remembers him as the douche that teepeed her house when she was little kid and accused her dad of being a brutal-feet-hacking murderer. Maybe she remembers him just as well as he remembers her.
She has every right to dislike him, but damn, does he want to change her view of him right this instant.
He learns in class that he's not the only one interested in Rachel.
They're a strange pairing, honestly.
And he's more than shocked to see Rachel actually… like this person.
Seriously. How in the world – how in the world does that even match?
More importantly, how in the world would Santana actually go for the reindeer sweater, star stickers on every book, and, what Puck has figured out sooner than later, a hell of a big worded talker? Maybe it's the skirts – that would have been most definitely illegal in any other state – that's so appealing for Santana. Maybe Santana sees something beyond the things that look freakishly cute on Rachel. Maybe it's something he's not catching.
But all he sees between the two girls; the Cheerio and the Reindeer girl, is an open shot for him to actually get to know Reindeer girl. And he wants to know Reindeer girl; he never realized just how much.
Getting to know each other doesn't really go all that well.
Who's he kidding?
It's completely shitty.
Rachel's really skeptical about him, and it doesn't help his case at all when Santana, more than gladly fills her in on all his escapades this year only.
(This year only has enough fuel to diminish everything he so holy tries to glue together.)
''I didn't really… I mean…'' He stops himself from going on, because really, he shouldn't be pleading his case to anyone, and most certainly not to a hot girl that carries a piece of his past right in those tiny little hands of hers. He wouldn't even do that for Quinn Fabray.
''I see…'' Rachel mutters, looking more than uncomfortable after Santana had told her how he ditched Sugar Motta two days after sealing the deal.
But in his case; she was way too clingy.
He tells Rachel just that.
And she's left speechless, because, granted, ditching a girl for being way too clingy is kind of – or just really – a douchey act to begin with. But Puck has never claimed to be a saint – Puck's far from being a saint. He's not the good guy in this story. He's the guy that throws firecrackers at a homeless man's feet, the one that promises to call but doesn't.
''It was douchey Puck.'' Santana bites back. He vaguely recalls Santana and Sugar actually being friends – he should've seen this shit coming. ''You were a pendejo, and you deserve an ass-whooping.'' She juts her chin high. ''And if you weren't my homeboy I would've done it myself.'' She snarls.
Of course Puck's a little bit… pissed off right now. Face it, Sugar knew what she was getting in to. It's not like he's got a rep for being the most chivalrous human been alive. He's an asshole. Sugar knew it, Santana knows it and he knows it. The only one who doesn't know this is Rachel Berry.
Puck, kind of wishes, she still didn't.
''Wait,'' Rachel pipes up, and all eyes fall on to hers. ''You're name is… Puck?'' She scoffs, Santana leans back against the lockers, and he raises an eyebrow. ''That's a joke… right?''
Puck huffs. ''No, it's not.''
''Correction;'' Santana helpfully pitches in. ''Noah is his name. Noah Puckerman.'' He doesn't look at the Latina, but something tells him she said it just to spite him.
She's doing a good job at it, too.
''Why would you want to call yourself Puck?'' Rachel wonders out loud, actually confused. ''Noah is a lovely name and Puck is… Well…''
Puck purses his lips, frowning tightly. ''Well… what?''
Rachel waits a second, something he'd take as a person carefully trying to pick their words, in the hopes that no one gets hurt. But preaching Rachel's story, he suspects that she's far from fears and caution in regards of uttering her true feelings. She's probably delighted to say what's really on her mind, harsh words be damned.
''It's not foolish.'' He throws back. ''It's… badass.''
This time she does smile, and he finds that she's actually trying to keep herself from laughing.
''Badass?'' She quips up, shooting Santana a look. ''Does he actually call himself that?''
With a shrug, and a 'it's sad but it's true' face, Santana nods. ''It's a shame…. At least he's pretty.''
He huffs, another time. ''That shit, right there San, is sexually harassment. And it's illegal.''
Santana and Rachel both start laughing and during Rachel's spur she exclaims; ''we're laughing with you, not at you Noah.''
He figures that hearing her say his giving name isn't that bad… it isn't that bad at all.
(Maybe getting to know her didn't go as shitty as he thought.)
There's a new unstoppable trio in town and it's in the form of a badass, a spontaneous miscreant, and a hot as fuck-petite-(scary)-star-crazed midget. It's a freaky combination, but if someone would ask his opinion; it's the best combination there is.
Not to say that he's ditched Finn completely. They still hang out and shit, but they hang out less. And it's not because he found another fairytale somewhere else, it's just that they grew apart. Frankly, they never really recovered from the Fuinn-Puck gate in freshman year. Puck still has scars at places where he rather not comment on.
It's embarrassing for someone of his physique and rep.
And not to forget that he's been pissed all over on and thrown in a garbage disposal as if he's not worth a dime, by both of them.
It's quite refreshing hanging out with a girl that knows nothing about his present. She doesn't ask, mainly because he suspects that she knows it's this dark, deep hidden time buried underneath rocks of denial. He doesn't ask about her life, either. Because he knows it must've been hard living in Lima for God knows how long, in a forsaken house where she sees no one, and no one sees her. Talk about robbing a person from their freedom.
At that time, when he was nine, he never thought anything about Mr. Berry having a kid. But by now, contemplating about those legs for almost a decade, he figures that he might've been the only one, except for Mr. Berry, that ever saw those legs. No one ever knew about Rachel at that time and they still don't.
It says something, when she never corrects anyone when they say she transferred from a city to this hell hole in Ohio. Maybe she's scared to talk about it, too.
Sometimes it's comforting, not talking at all, just sitting on the grass, looking up at the sky. Sometimes it's nice having no worriers at all, being accepted even though the closest friends he has know nothing about his story.
Sometimes Rachel points at the biggest star in the sky, the one that practically lights up the night, and she says; ''I'm going to be that one, one day.'' And he smiles, and Santana agrees. As if they knew that already.
That's all they need, right there; in that unforgettable little moment in time.
McKinley high just won their first ever football game. And to say he's over static, being the one that threw the football up to their quarterback; Finn Hudson, which caused him to make the winning goal, is an understatement.
Santana's running towards him, her pompoms thrown somewhere at the sidelines before she jumps into his arms. He grabs her instantly, finding himself twirling her around.
''You did it!'' She yells over the noise. ''You actually did it, Puckerman!''
He grins from eye to eye, putting her down on the grass as he exclaims, ''yeah I did!'' It feels like he's finally achieved something important in his life.
Puck finds himself looking at the screaming, cheering stands instead of the jumping Cheerios, moving their way towards him and away from Finn.
''Great game!'' Coach Beiste exclaims, clapping both her hands together.
Puck throws his shirt on before sitting down on the bench and tying his shoe laces together.
He hasn't seen Rachel yet. But he's positive she came. Santana said she saw her before the game started, and if anything, Rachel wouldn't want to miss this for the world.
That's what he likes so much about her; she cares, a lot. It's kind of relishing that her concern is directed at him only.
He feels his lips quirk up, taking his backpack of the bench and deciding against waiting for his friends as he steps out of the locker room.
Puck only takes three steps out in the open field, until he hears the sweet melodic voice of his upcoming star; ''Congratulation!''
He grins the Puckerman smile, withholding the urge to run up to her and wrap his arms around tiny little frame. Maybe even stealing a little kiss or two, but with Santana cheekily walking next to Rachel still in her Cheerios uniform, he refrains from actually confirming whatever thought that's spooking through the Latina's head.
Sometimes it feels like Santana knows everything.
He shrugs nonchalantly. ''Thanks,'' as he finally stops right in front of Rachel. ''T'was a piece of cake.''
Santana snorts. ''As if… you looked like McKayla Maroney.''
Puck huffs. ''You always need to find a way to diss me, don't you?''
Rachel shrugs. ''I believe she's doing a great job at it too.'' She smiles. ''But honestly… you were great out there. Really, despite Santana's efforts to sound otherwise… without you McKinley wouldn't even have won.''
Santana whips her head up to her friend. ''Berry, what the fuck?'' She pops her hip out, placing a hand on top of her hip. ''What happened to sticking together?'' Santana says; a flare of humor attached to it. ''I never picked you out to be one of those gringas that'd ditch their homegirl for a piece of good eye candy.''
''Santana!'' Rachel scowls, clearly stunned. ''That's not what this is… I was just trying to be helpful.'' She looks at Puck. ''She's… She's just kidding… You know Santana…'' Shyly, Rachel looks away, trying hard to cover up that blush Puck sees creeping along her cheeks.
Tempted to see how far he can push her, he crosses his arms over his chest. Veining confusion. ''You know… no, I don't know how she is… I think she's telling the truth.''
''Of course I am!'' Santana exclaims. ''I always tell the truth, it's an aspect of mine.''
''I –'' Rachel drapes a hand through her hair. ''I'm not going to get into this with you guys… I'm not!''
''Rachel,'' Puck sighs. ''Do yourself a favor and be hone –''
''Hey, there's Finn!'' Rachel suddenly exclaims, cutting off Puck's meekly attempts to wire her up. ''Finn!'' Rachel waves a hand over, and sure enough the tall dufus obliges with a nod.
Puck knows exactly why she's doing this, and though it's obvious that Rachel's trying to change the subject and push all the attention off of her (mind you, that's a first time for Rachel Berry. She loves – craves – the attention), he can't help but feel that slight fling of irritation shift through his chest.
It's probably something he ate.
''Hey guys.'' Finn smiles that half smile of his, and naturally Rachel shoots him her show stopping smile, Santana reluctantly forcing one of her owns. ''I was just looking for all of you...''
''Oh, you did?'' Puck says, sarcasm dripping off of every word. ''I'm surprised.''
Santana giggles softly, hiding her smile behind her hand.
Rachel, of course, somehow caring about the lanky quarterback, rolls her eyes, nudging Santana against her shoulder.
''Yeah? Why were you looking for us?''
''Sam's throwing a party and everyone's coming.''
''Fish lips is throwing a party?'' Santana stops her laughing fit, arching a perfect plucked eyebrow. ''We'll be there.''
''San…'' Rachel starts. ''I don't know…''
''Don't worry, B, we'll be outta there before you know it.'' Puck pitches in, nodding back at Finn. ''We'll be there.''
Finn grins. ''Cool. See you there.''
As Finn walks away, Rachel pries all their attention. ''I'm not sure about this, guys… A party with Cheerleaders and football players… it doesn't feel right.''
He wants to agree with her, because face it, the Cheerios and footballers aren't Rachel's greatest fans. They're not even fans to begin with. More like, monstrous, fucked up, asshole goons.
''It's going to be fine!'' Santana puts a hand on her shoulder. ''And just to put a start to this wonderful a-fucking day. You'll ride with Puckerman while I go back to me casa and wear something… nicer.''
''Don't tell me it's for Trouty mouth…''
''What? How dare –'' Santana shoots Puck a glare. ''I don't even talk to the guy… I just… I just wanted.'' Santana pauses, straightening her shoulders and whipping her ponytail back. ''Fuck you, Puckerman. That is all.'' He grins. If anything, she started the game of; 'who can piss whom off first?' ''I'll see you both at the party.''
He just realizes, as the Latina struts away, that Santana threw an open window out for him by letting Rachel catch a ride with him.
If this doesn't spell; 'I know everything, Puck,' than he's utterly confused as to what this favor actually means. Not to say that he's against it, or anything… not at all.
Nothing happens in the car.
But the party is a whole new different story.
To say the least, Sam Evans knows how to throw a party.
He's such a good party thrower, that somehow; Puck manages to get Rachel to drink.
At first she says some bullshit about her vocal chords and how she won't be able to sing if the alcohol pollutes her talent and that her life is her voice and without her voice, life isn't worth living. That the whole purpose of throwing a party is poison all together for the human body – and a whole bunch of shit that he forgot because seriously, what's the use anyway?
He got Rachel Berry to drink. Puck got Rachel Berry to drink beer.
One minute she says; ''It's gross!'' Pulling a sour face as she puts the plastic cup back on the counter. Puck can barely hear her over the music, but the face she pulls, are words enough. ''Don't they have… juice? Or coke?'' She seems to think about her choice of words before she shakes her head. ''Coke is damaging for the voice…'' She's weighing her options here. ''I need water… water is better.''
''Just drink it Berry.'' He rolls his eyes, looking down at her, resisting the urge to push that little strand of hair behind her ear and bask in all her glory. God is she beautiful. ''The moment everything's down and dirty, you're gonna like it… a little bit… but like it nonetheless.''
''I doubt that.'' She snarls, looking around. ''When's Santana coming, anyway?''
''What? I'm not good enough company?'' He mockingly throws back.
Rachel shakes her head, clearly apologetic, apparently having missed the sarcasm in his statement. ''Of course not! I just… She's been a while, right?''
He shrugs; Puck's thinking maybe a few minutes, tops a quarter. ''She'll be here… now drink the cup.''
She pouts, rather cute, as she grabs the cup once more, deciding to down it all together, because maybe, the first time tasting something as bitter and raw as beer, could go easier on the taste buds if it leaves the mouth quicker.
It takes Rachel four plastic cups of beer, before she's jumping up and down on the dance floor, perhaps not far out it, but not really there with them either.
Maybe he shouldn't have given her that fourth cup. She looked a little bit woozy for him at her second cup.
''Damn…'' Sam mutters next to him, both leaning against the wooden desk. ''She's really… she's really enjoying herself. Eh?''
Puck does not like the way Sam's looking at Rachel right now. That's the 'I'd totally fuck her' look. Puck invented that look.
''Maybe I – we – someone should be there… with her, or something?''
''One.'' Puck states, raising his index finger. ''No one – and I mean – no one's going to be there with her except me. Two… fuck you Evans!''
In a haste, Puck puts his own beer bottle down on the desk, stepping on to the dance floor, without a second look back.
When Rachel spots Puck, she enlightens him with that smile of hers that always seems to drive him crazy. Stumbling on her feet, she hooks a finger through his collar, pulling him flush against her body. Slightly empowered by his need to hold her close, and slightly trying to balance her mobile body, he puts his hands on her waist, dragging his thumb up and down her side.
With glazed eyes, and a slight ajar mouth, she drags her tongue across her lips. Holding close to her; the want that inflames his eyes.
She's a good – no – fantastic dancer. She proves of such as she slowly moves her hips against his. Stepping, if possible, closer. And if this wasn't a dance floor, and there weren't a bunch of people surrounding them, all of which he knows, he would've deflowered her right here and then.
Instead he takes pleasure in the things that they are capable of doing right here and now. Relishing in the feel of how good she feels and how great they fit together.
Rachel tangles her hand into his, dragging it up against her side and slowly moving it to her lips and placing one of the gentlest kisses on top of them.
When she looks up at him, those brown doe eyes captivating all that he is, he more than certainly, feels imprisoned by her beauty. But it's a good kind of prison. If anything, he wouldn't mind spending twenty-five 'till life captivated in this prison.
You know what, screw PDA. He really just needs to kiss her. He really needs to feel those rosy, soft lips on his mouth instead of his hand. The slow grinding just won't cut it either.
And just like that, as if she adapted Santana's psychic skills, she moves up to her tippy toes as he leans in to capture her lips.
''Rach…'' Puck doesn't know what to say… or perhaps he doesn't have to say anything at all.
Silence is more than appropriate right now.
''Guys! You need to see this!''
Not yet, he thinks. Not yet. This dream can't end just yet. Just a kiss.
''Jesus Christ!'' He hears Quinn screech across the room.
As a habit, he moves his head away, staring at the group of students that have now gathered around the TV. Some are grasping each other's hands, while others are silently holding in their breaths.
''Noah…'' Rachel mutters, grasping his shirt. ''…Kiss me.''
He wants to… he will… but…
But – he can't?
''Dude, Puck, you need to see this!'' Finn exclaims. ''It's like an accident or something, this truck full of industrial chemicals just came out of nowhere!''
'We're standing at the scene of where the car accident took place, not even minutes ago.' Puck frowns, shaking his head, as he stares down at the petite girl in his arms. 'Police reports have yet to find the cause of the accident.'
Quinn hikes an eyebrow up as she stares at him and an intoxicated Rachel. ''Are you… coming?''
He looks from Rachel up to Quinn and then back at Rachel, as he decides; ''I'll be right back, babe…''
''Promise?'' She slurs, despite herself.
He nods, a cheeky smile covering his lips. ''Yeah… Yeah promised.''
She's confused, he can see it in her eyes, but he'll be right back. He won't let this end right here.
'…Nor are they aware of the people that have been in the accident.' Puck lays both his hands on the sofa, leaning forward as he stares at the TV. 'The only thing that is confirmed is the identity of the car… a blue Sedan with the licenses plate Ohio H2 -5148… according to reports the truck came out of nowhere –'
Puck's more than certain that this was not worth stealing the precious time and moment that he could've had by making out with Rachel. Hell, everyone's so intently focused on the TV; no one would ever notice that he and Rachel just slipped out to go somewhere more… quiet.
But then he hears it. Rachel's sweet, lips tainted with smeared strawberry lip gloss, uttering; ''…That's Santana's car.''
Rachel doesn't come to the funeral.
Something unbearably painful clings on to his chest – heart – body. It hurts like a stapler stapling every little metal staples up to the last remainder into his skin. Nothing is left untouched. There's something pathetic about the thought of losing someone close to him. Maybe it's the faint recognition of utterly, and hauntingly, loss. The way it's going to be dealt with. Incomprehension, hate, fear for death itself or even denial. It makes the progress of letting go and moving on; pathetic.
Puck thinks it's pathetic.
He thinks Santana is pathetic.
He thinks Rachel is the leader of all pathetic creatures in this universe.
But he feels empty – does that make him pathetic too?
And they load her body into the chamber of loss, they burry her beneath the sand of life, and he doesn't know why, or how even, they expect him to cope. He doesn't understand what is happening right now. Because it's just not possible. It feels like a dream, a nightmare gone rebellious.
There's something bitter about the taste of incomprehension, the sour prickling in the back of his throat. The sting of crackles of cries all over.
He's… dry. There's not a tear in his eyes, not the faint tender tingle of a soundless, haunting sob. There's nothing. He feels nothing. Like his organs have been ripped into shreds and taken out of his body, replacing it with air. He's stunned that he's even capable of holding his ground, right now.
They talk about how Santana was a precious sweet girl. Her smile that enlightened every place she went, as though, she carried something infinity pure within her. Purity, that's the word Rachel would use. The sweet scent that left her skin, the warmth she brought into a cold room. She was it. She was the gift to humanity.
He laughs. Actually, laughs. And for a moment he doesn't give a crap about the looks he's getting. For a tiny little split second, he just doesn't care.
Sam breaks out into a laughing fit too, followed by Brittany Spears, Kurt Hummel and before he knows it, everyone seated on the bright puke green meadow – which would have Santana rolling in her grave, if the damn thing presenting her lifeless body was open – is laughing.
He realizes that this has actual happened… Santana has died.
Santana Lopez is dead.
She's dead. Gone.
Believe it or not, but it's a shocker. If anything, he expected her to go with a little more uproar and style. And maybe, then again, she did. The car crash was her uproar, and the style is the hot ass fuck purple dress she wore trying to come to the party. The hot ass fuck dress she wore to impress Sam Evans.
He's suddenly not laughing anymore, but the desire to get a drink has never been this strong.
Puck punches Sam after the ceremony.
Santana would be proud. He left the building with an uproar, and fuck, did he leave with style, too.
A drink becomes ten or so, and it folds together with a bottle of wine.
There's a misty scent of hope when he makes his way, stumbling, to a payphone cell. Somehow, somewhere, he lost his phone, his friends and his car. Puck's too far out to remember where he left everything. And his thought progress isn't too far adjusted to help him think, either. Where did his car go? Where did his friends go? Where did his sense of humanity and sorrow go? Lots of questions, no capability to answer. And yet, perhaps, the distance that has been laid between him and his feelings may have possibly been the best thing to have ever happen to him. What must one do with feelings anyway? It only halts the mind from any logical thought process, and it makes human's look more pathetic.
He's not pathetic.
He grabs the phone of the horn, draping his hands through his clothes in search of a penny or two.
But he realizes soon enough that he's broke. Puck's broke in the middle of nowhere at two pm, lacking more than just his money.
Talk about an adventure.
Rachel doesn't pick up her phone.
It's been two days. Two fucking days. And she doesn't pick up her phone.
Puck drags another huff out of his cigarette, ticking out the ashes against the school walls. He watches them go, slowly falling on the concrete and washing away with the stream of some nasty shitty water that's strolling out of the pipes.
He's about had it – Puck shouldn't be the one trying to get her out of whatever state she might be in right now. School is important. She should be capable of dragging her own ass out of bed.
He gets it. Santana died. But he's dealing with it, he's fine, actually. And if he can do it, Rachel fucking Berry can most certainly do it. She's the strongest person he knows.
He drags another huff out of his cigarette, throwing it away and blowing the smoke past his lips.
Puck's got Chemistry right now; maybe after class he'll have received a call back. No human being possibly of caring could possibly not call back after ten text messages and five urgent voicemails, right?
She doesn't ever call back. He's just slightly angry.
Okay, slightly angry wasn't doing his emotions enough justice. He's pissed and betrayed and hates, hates… loathes the feeling of want.
He doesn't need her, or anything, but he does want to know how she's doing. And a text message back stating 'I'm fine,' would get him off her back. And if she's not fine, he doesn't mind going up to her house for whatever girl talk and emotions dropping she wants to do.
But this? This silent treatment for no fucking reason? It's not fair.
He wonders how he got into this unfamiliar Blonde's house and took his anger out into screwing her brains out.
He starts screwing lots of girls; from nameless faces and unrecognizable features to Quinn Fabray, which results into getting her to cheat, again, on Finn… again.
When he realizes, after he's done screwing Quinn, that he couldn't give a rats ball about them cheating on Finn again, like it's playing a regular ball play around the park, (it's a mutual decision, if he's going down, so help him fuck, is he going to bring her down with him) and destroying his friendship with Finn is just the homerun, he figures that he's stopped caring about lots of things, too.
The idea that a pill can fix everything is almost… scary – bitter and distasteful, but liberating and easy, after a while. It's satisfying knowing that a cure can sit right in his upper cabinet, just waiting for a ride down his esophagus. But scary, nonetheless. It's kind of like the first time trying coffee. It's gross at first. The taste is like no other, and the churning of the stomach suddenly sounds like Christmas Eve without presents. But when the taste becomes a regular thing and eases up the body… suddenly, imagining a day without coffee is like imagining a day without sunlight. It's possible, but no one really likes to think about it.
The day he first takes a pill, it's just for the emptiness in his chest. It feels like a weight; a hard pressing weight right on top of his chest, almost draining out the function of his heart. It's painful, but yet again, he feels nothing. And perhaps, feeling nothing is what hurts the most. He doesn't realize it then, but the thought of allowing medication to cheer him up and heal the wounds, is far more dangerous than any other pain worth imagining. Getting hooked up on prescription pills wasn't his idea of living. It might've been the one his mom took upon herself to preform and drinking might have been Elijah's way of coping, but it can't be Puck's.
He has a little sister that counts on him, and he made a promise to his self to never allow something just as destructive to take control over his life.
But then again, he stopped believing in promises long ago.
A pill become every week at least twice.
He's tangled in this nest. In this Godforsaken nest, with iron bars and this breezy ice cool air filtering the room. He's positioned in his own hell. It worse than flames and bones and demons tearing souls apart, this hell craves to torture him. Post his name right on top of a door on a one way road and direct all his personal fears right at him.
There's nothing in his hell. It's completely empty. And for a moment he thinks that he's this invincible super being with no fears at all. Just an indestructible force against nature and everything itself. But then this agonizing pull, pulls at his heart and these claws scratch feverishly at his ribcage as though, a simple reminder that he's just like everyone else. He fears and he loves and he hurts and he wishes for things that can't be given and he promises things that end up broken. He's terrified. He's terrified of the nothingness in the room. Perhaps this is it, and Puck's just the devil in his own misery. Perhaps the nothingness he feels has been spawned out of his isolation, rage and abandonment issues. He had to see this coming.
But after all, is this fear worth scarring every little bit of his being until he's unrecognizable to the girl of his dreams and his self, too?
Just exactly how far can one go before their feet can't take no more?
She comes to him.
She doesn't look like she's been crying and he opens the door wide enough for her to step in.
Rachel's wearing a white and black dotted summers dress and it flashbacks him to the moment he first saw her legs. Those beautiful tanned legs that grew up making the most gorgeous girl he has ever seen.
''How you have been?'' She starts, crossing her arms over her chest as she walks to his sofa.
She doesn't sit down, but he does.
Puck shrugs. ''Good.'' He takes her in. ''And you?''
It's kind of hard reading Rachel's expressions. She's this damn good actress that manages to neatly fit every role thrown at her. She can play the 'fine' card and he'd believe every single word dropping out of her pretty mouth.
''I'm… okay.'' She starts, moving down to sit on the arm rest. She sighs. ''I heard… I heard you punched Sam?''
He laughs, nodding rather uncaring. ''Yeah, I did.''
''Have you been…'' She looks at him, the same way Santana used to. Like she can look into his soul, pick out every little trouble he has. It's scary. It's scary that she knows Santana's tricks all that well. ''Drinking?''
''You don't get to ask that, Rachel.'' He's fierce and straight to the point, but if anything, Rachel's far from being scared of. She doesn't scare that easily. She's too strong for that shit.
''You know…'' She inhales a deep breath. ''My dad… You remember him, right? Anyway, he talked about you, a lot. Ever since that whole ordeal with the toilet paper and the… accusations.''
''Sorry 'bout that, by the way.''
She gives him a smile, shrugging. ''It's okay… anyway.'' She licks her lips. ''He talked about you, like you were this guy that got the bad end of a rotten deal. And all you were trying to do is fix the things that weren't up to you to fix… he made you sound like a… saint. Or no – a hero. It was sweet.'' She inhales another deep breath, but this time she waits a while longer before she goes on. He's just flabbergasted that Mr. Berry actually thought so highly about him. No one ever thought so highly about him.
''And… San – Santana.'' She closes her eyes, shaking her head. ''She said the sweetest things about you… you know, as sweet as Santana can possibly be.'' She seems to laugh a little bit, opening her eyes as if she just recalled a beautiful memory. He wishes he could say that he knows that feeling – but he doesn't. He doesn't recall anything, mostly because he doesn't want to. ''After that… after that I really, really wanted to be your friend… even if it didn't seem that way at first… I believe that what they said about you and what I've experienced in the past few months of being your friend, is that you're actually… you're amazing, Noah. And I hate – I would hate to see that tarnish.''
She plays with her fingers, squinting at her hands. ''But you see… I think it will.''
''You don't know me, Rachel… You have no idea, what I've been through!''
He sees her freeze up and it's the first time that he dares to admit, that the harshness in his voice wasn't his intention.
But then she fists her hands and stands up, rather wildly and continues to point her index finger right at him.
''You want to know what I think, Noah?''
The tone in her voice is freaking him out, seriously.
''I think that you've been hurt.'' But whenever has that stopped her from saying what she really thinks? ''I think that your dad was an ass,'' this time it's him that freezes up. ''That your mom lost control –''
He furiously stands up. ''Don't talk about my mom, Rachel! You don't know anything –''
''I think that you've got such a huge responsibility with your little sister and that Quinn really messed you up. I think that you've been hurt.'' He relaxes. ''You've been hurt a lot of times. And there's just so much a person can take – there's just so much you can take. And I get that, I really do. I get that it's easier to not care about anybody because that means that you don't need to feel. You don't need to feel anything… You've felt so much and you've been afraid for so long and people screwed you over… So you're scared.''
He wants to say something… anything. But the words don't come out.
''I get it. I really do… So you lash out. You screw every girl around and you punch people because it's all getting too much for you.''
''How did you know –''
''Kurt…'' Aha, figures. ''You've been hurt so many times that the only way you can actually deal with it – without really dealing with it – is making people feel just as bad.'' He falls back into the sofa, somehow feeling utterly exhausted. ''So maybe…'' Her voice gets softer. ''In the hopes of it all, someone can find the cure to that pain you feel in your chest. To that… soul-eating, gut-tearing, pain. And maybe someone could share that cure with you and you could be all better. Well, you know what Noah,'' the moment he looks at her, he doesn't know anything anymore. He's tired. He really is. ''There is no cure. There's dealing with it. There is no cure.''
He huffs. ''I am dealing with it.''
''Drinking.'' She states. ''And… smoking? And hurting others… that's not dealing. That spreading your shit around so other people can get just as sick and you don't need to feel alone.''
Rachel never swears… he seriously pissed her off, didn't he?
''You're not alone.''
He shakes his head. How dare she? Come into his house and preach about how he's not alone but when he needed her most she couldn't even pick up her damn phone. And now he's suddenly not alone?
''You didn't pick up your phone, Rach… what was I supposed to do? Wait?''
Rachel exhales, plopping down next to him, letting her head fall into her cushion.
''No… you shouldn't have…'' She turns her head to look at him. ''I was… I was coping.'' She smiles. ''I should've picked up my phone, you're right… I just… I didn't. I didn't pick up my phone.''
There's no more pep in his body to continue this discussion. He doesn't even have the energy to be angry anymore.
He's just so tired of being… tired.
''I fucking miss her.'' He mutters.
He hears her sniff, before her head falls on to his shoulder. ''Me too.''
Coping. Coping is such a big word.
How does one cope without actually hurting their selves in the process? Is that even possible? Because really, doesn't the pain always linger there? There's something about the actually coping part of the word that's so hard. Puck doesn't know how to cope – and moving on was never his strongest pursuit. He still has wrenching grudges one can only experience in their nightmares; he still remembers the shit that he's gotten spilled all over him as if it was only yesterday. He can't move on, he can barely forgive.
So when Rachel decides that they should take a fielding trip into the middle of nowhere, he can't really comprehend how that's going to help him cope.
Besides, he hates bugs.
''Rachel…'' He moans, crossing the ginormous hill. Rachel's way up ahead, holding onto her larger than normal backpack, that looks like it's capable of swallowing her tiny little body whole. He knew she was athletic, with her dance classes and jogging routines all day long, but this shit is just ridicules. ''I'm fucking tired!'' He barks.
Puck should be used to all this exercise, with the football team taking its toll, but this is just not how he rolls.
''Come on, Noah!'' She exclaims over her shoulder. ''Don't be such a wussy!''
Lately she's found a new perspective in life; at least, that's how Puck sees it. The profanities and therefore lack of fear is something new entirely. He feels like she's the one wearing the pants in this relationship.
Only, it's not a relationship.
''I'm coming, you don't need to be so mean about it, you know?'' He jogs the rest of the way, stopping on top of the hill where Rachel has seemed to stop. ''I thought we were going to the woods or somethin'?''
Not to say that he isn't relieved about the change of plans, but camping on top of a hill – where the possibility of falling is quiet large. He can't say he's thrilled about this either. Puck loves his life way too much to say goodbye so soon. He hasn't even kissed Rachel yet, let alone got into her pants. Puck's got so much to look forward too. Death isn't one of them.
''It's kinda…'' He looks down the hill, hiking up an eyebrow. ''A long way down… isn't it?''
She nods a grin spooking on her lips. ''It's perfect… Set up the tent.'' She throws the backpack off her shoulders, stretching her back as she steps to the edge of the cliff.
Puck's only slightly tempted to pull her backwards.
What? It's a long way down.
''Aren't you going to help me?'' He questions, throwing his own backpacks on the ground. ''It's a long way down, you know…''
''I know…'' She mutters, closing her eyes. ''Do you feel it?''
He knits his eyebrows together, crossing his arms over his chest. ''Do I feel what?''
There's a small pause, as the gentle air creeps through her hair, slowly cherishing her skin. She looks peaceful, but there's something questionable about her recently unleashed features.
Rachel opens her mouth, stretching both her arms, before enlightening him with an answer; ''everything…''
Puck, really, really wants to go back home.
This is not something he takes lightly. He isn't a person that rather spends his time at home instead of sleeping with (they're sleeping in separate sleeping bags – close enough) a hot girl. But he hears creaks outside of the tent and cries – and he swears its werewolf cries. Or maybe Rebecca forced him to watch way too many twilight movies and his light obsession with Jacob Black has gotten him into a frenzy or if you will; the fear of getting eaten by life-sized werewolves. And it's not like Rachel actually lets him get into her pants, which is just a low blow on this already fucked up time.
He rather spend time home babysitting his little sis and taking care of his mother, than be here. And that says a lot.
''Rach.'' He whispers. He doesn't want to wake her up, but he's not sure that he'll be able to get through the night without someone … just … being there with him. ''You awake?''
He frowns. He's only slightly flabbergasted that she's actually awake too, seems like he's not the only one freaked out about the noises. Maybe she's having second thoughts.
But that does not mean that he's going to talk about how scared he is right now. That's not an aspect of his badass persona.
''…Are you like…'' He purses his lips, turns around in his sleeping bag, and stares at her back. ''I can't sleep.''
''Me neither.'' She says, turning around in her own sleeping bag. She doesn't look tired, or scared. She looks like Bella Swan, right now; lack of emotion. ''Why can't you sleep?''
He contemplates all together to just come clean, because maybe, she'll leave this hill they're sleeping on and come back home with him.
''…I dunno.'' He says instead. ''I guess, I can't fall asleep in an unfamiliar territory… Not at first, at least.''
He expects her to say 'me too', smile that pretty show stopping smile of hers, turn around and try to fall back to sleep. He expects her not to talk, to nod and call it a night. He expects her to say a long ass almost scripted lecture about how bad it is not to sleep, but she doesn't do anything he expected her to do. And it makes him wonder just how well he knows her.
''Santana reminds me of my dad… her death, at least.'' She confides, shrugging her shoulders. ''It was a car accident too.''
He frowns, utterly confused. Her dad's still alive, so how? ''You're dad is still alive, Rach…''
''Not my daddy… my dad.''
Upon his frown deepening, she smiles. ''I have – had – two dads. Dad died when I was five.''
''Oh…'' Is all he says, shaking his head. ''I'm sorry…''
''There's no reason to be sorry, because, how possibly could you have known that I had two dads and that one died?'' She shrugs, again, placing both her hands underneath her head. ''…Some people would think that a five year old wouldn't remember the death of her father… but when he dies with you in the same car and you're left…'' She inhales a shaky breath. ''You're left to hold on to this ten inched wound on his stomach, because he was bleeding so much… There's nothing you don't remember… from the smell to the pain to that warm sipping… to the helplessness that occurred when he died right next to you… I remember everything.''
''I –'' Puck has no words – no words whatsoever for this. But he thinks, because Santana is gone, that Rachel's searching for someone she can confide in; a new Santana. And the sole fact that she told him this… It makes him feel special. He has never felt special.
''My dad beat my mom up.''
This time it's her that looks stunned.
''It started when I was nine, or something, I don't know…'' He licks his lips. ''It's just like, when he had too much to drink, you know?'' She nods. ''He like, lost control or something. Maybe he was looking for someone to blame, or someone to feel the same pain he felt that caused him to drink, I dunno. But he lost control, and he hit. Over and over again.'' He zones out, closing his eyes, as he shakes his head. As if the memories slowly crept out of that safe house at the back of his mind. ''… The first time and last time he hit me… I made sure that he never, ever touched any of us again.''
Her voice is soft and comforting and she reaches out to touch his hand. ''What did you do?''
''I used fire against fire…'' He looks at her. ''Do on to them what has done to you.''
He smiles, shrugging his shoulders. ''I'm fine, anyways… We're both fine, right?''
''No… we're not. You're not fine, I'm not fine… we're really…''
She nods. ''We're fucked up.'' Giggling, she shakes her head. ''The use of profanities really is tawdry…''
He laughs, turning around so he can face up to the sky – err – upwards of the tent.
''I love you.''
When he says the words, he vaguely expects her to say nothing at all.
But she does talk, and she says just what he has always wanted to hear.
''I love you too, Noah.''
''Noah!'' In a whirl, Rachel slams his locker door shut, prying his attention away from his almost chopped of hand and back to her.
''What the hell, babe? You almost disabled me!''
''I need to tell you something… something really important.''
Puck huffs. Still stunned about his almost decapitation. ''It better be worth this scare…''
''I see Santana.''
Okay, just, what?
It's been two months since Santana's death, and a lot has happened. For starters, he and Rachel are actually dating. Yeah, he's totally tapping that. Puck and Finn have renewed their friendship – without him knowing about Quinn and him getting it on while they were still dating, again. But what gives? It doesn't matter anyways, Puck's past that. And to top it, the last time his mom used unnecessary prescription pills was two weeks ago. And that's a lot for someone who does it every single day. Apparently the talk Puck and his mom had, had its effects. Or perhaps, telling her about his new Jewish girlfriend was the cherry of the cake.
See, the tricky thing about Santana's death was that it wasn't ever a discourse matter. They never talked about her, as if she was forbidden subject all together.
But this? This is new – and freaky.
''Do you mean…'' He pauses, searching for the right words so she won't think that he's making fun of her. ''In your dreams?''
''Psychic, Noah. As if I'm psychic…''
''Like what? James Roday from Psych?''
She rolls her eyes. ''No, that's fake! I mean… As though… I see her. I see, see her. And she talks to me. We talk. We talk a lot.''
''Aha…'' This is just crazy, but whatever floats her boat. ''And… Ghost Santana, that's what she is, right?''
Rachel seems to think about it for a moment, before she nods. ''Yes?''
''Is she here with us right now.''
Rachel peaks over his shoulder, before returning her eyes back to his. ''Yes, she is. She's standing right behind you.''
Puck refrains from looking back.
''Okay, I see.''
''Do you believe me?''
He pecks her quickly, pulling his backpack over his shoulder. ''I need to go to class, I'll see you after, okay?''
There's something vaguely unsatisfying moving in her eyes, and if he didn't know better, he'd assume it was hurt. But she smiles nonetheless, despite herself, and he thinks they're cool.
He thinks Rachel 'psychic' behaviors are getting scarier by the minute.
He could've sworn he has seen her, multiply times, talk to herself.
Sometimes Puck catches her hugging complete air, or she laughs at something no one has said, or even yells at nobody in particularly, and when he asks if she's alright, she tells him she's just fine. But after a few times of suspicious behavior, fine has lost its meaning. But he thinks that because he's been through a lot; losing the people he loves, making choices that don't always seem right, and taking care of more than his fair share of people that he can't bear to ask further. There's something about saving others that require self-sacrifices and it makes him a little bit too exhausted. He's just tired. So, he accepts 'fine' even though he knows something's up.
He hears her talk to herself again outside the gates of McKinley High.
It's a heated conversation and Puck hides behind the wall that covers his whole body and beyond to eavesdrop.
Rachel is crying, her voice muffled with her sobs, and there's this part of him that wants to run up to her and hold her tight, but his curiosity gets the better of him. So he keeps on listening.
She's yelling and screaming and asking why she (he presumes its Santana) can't leave her alone. It's a continuous why leaving the lips of an exhausted, lacerated girl that makes this elevation very well heartbreaking. But then Rachel says; ''I understand that you're here for me, but I don't need you! I have Noah, now...'' There's a hopeful, happy smile on his face that she actually thought about him.
She thought of him, during her crazy spur. And he feels like that says a lot.
He is here for her.
But lately, because of Puck's own fears of what he might recover in Rachel's deepest darkest moments, he never goes beyond asking her if she's really fine. Maybe fine has a hidden meaning that he has yet to define.
Then there's realization washing both of their faces, his and hers. He realizes that he doesn't deserve her trust. And she realizes something that has her breathing louder and harder and her hands find their way to the walls for support.
That's when he leaves his hiding place, practically running, and goes on to help her.
It's his silent promise to do this forever.
When her father, Mr. Berry, calls him ten pm. in the midnight, telling him that Rachel has fainted. He drops everything he's doing, takes his car without telling is mom where he's going, and heads up to the hospital.
He faintly feels a bitter taste fingering his mouth. It usually happens when he's about to puke.
''I'm looking for Rachel Berry?'' Puck breathes out, frequently looking around him.
''Wait for your turn, please.''
The desk is not crowded, the hospital is not crowded, but it seems that she could care less about what is happening around her. She could have at least looked him the eyes. Make the exchange a little bit more personal.
He frowns. ''Listen up. Rachel Berry is my girlfriend, she fainted and I just need to see her. That's all.''
''I said –'' the moment the female looks up from her paper work, her eyes widen. He can see the change of mind reflecting in her eyes. The Puckerman face can do that to certain people. ''Let me check…''
''Thanks.'' He grins.
He exclaims, ''what the hell happened?'' the moment he steps into her hospital room and takes in her pale face. It's not a common sight – if anything – it's an impious sight for someone like Rachel Berry. It's a moment of weakness pried away from the rest of the civilization and Puck gets the honor to see her like this.
It's an honor. It truly is. He feels like he's meeting a part of her that no one else has ever seen, her dad, not with counting of course.
With her hands lying neatly on top of her legs, she looks up. ''Noah.'' Rachel smiles while he leans down to kiss her gently, slowly moving a strand of hair behind her ear. ''It was nothing.'' She waves off. ''I just fainted, nothing more.''
Her dad seems to think otherwise. ''Rachel, that didn't seem like nothing.''
''It didn't?'' Puck wonders out loud.
''Can we just…''Rachel sighs. ''Can we just leave it? I want to go home…''
''I don't think that's going to happen, Rachel.''
All three of the people in the room look up to see the invader. It's the doctor; Puck guesses that the white coat he's wearing and the chard in his hands are requirements for the job.
But the way his face seems to be spells nothing good.
He finds it almost artificial. No good news for Rachel Berry? Could the world be any more out of balance?
''What do you mean?'' Mr. Berry asks, looking from the doctor to Rachel. ''What's wrong with her?''
The doctor sighs, putting down the chard and walking up to the foot side of Rachel's bed.
He doesn't want to hear the news. He really doesn't want to hear it. He doesn't want to hear the words fall of the doctor's lips. He's not ready. God, shit, someone, give him a moment. Puck deserves at least that.
''I'm dying, aren't I?'' Rachel interjects.
And somehow, not surprising at all, the doctor says; ''yes. Yes you are.''
What they're telling him are words going in and out directly. It's so senseless and stupid and unreal and unimaginable and impossible for a girl like Rachel Berry. It's not possible. It's impossible. It's unreal, and he feels unreal. This moment is unreal and he wants to go back to the days when it was only him and Rachel in his room looking up at the ceiling as if it was filled with stars and they were counting every little one of them, making stuff up that seemed ridicules and imaginative, but were theirs entirely. Those times seem like galaxies away now.
''You knew?'' He mutters, almost not to her, but more to himself.
How did he not know? How could he have been so blinded by the stars that seemed to dance in front of his eyes ever since his trip down the face of earth for a dying girl? How could everything just have shattered around him like this?
''Santana told me…'' She fills him in as if it's the most logical explanation that a ghost told her she was going to die.
How did he not know?
''Santana?'' The doctor asks.
Puck can't seem to answer, and her dad instead, barely able to capture the pieces that are falling apart, says; ''she… died. A few months back…'' His voice is as hollows as a piece of cardboard. ''Rachel, how could she have said that?''
''It's possible.'' The doctor explains. ''In the sense of her sickness… She has cancer.'' Cancer. Cancer. The word doesn't sound right, not in this context. Not to Rachel Berry. She's the healthiest person alive. She doesn't drink, she doesn't smoke… she doesn't even eat meat! If anything, he's more likely to get cancer than her. How the world could have fucked up so bad that Rachel Berry, destination; Broadway, the new Patti LuPone is dying, is beyond him. ''It's stage four metastatic melanoma. It means that the cancer has spread to other organs throughout her body. Including damaging the brain – which was most likely the primary reason for her hallucinations.''
''What is her survival rate?''
He doesn't want to hear it.
He really doesn't want to hear it.
The doctor sighs. ''She has… a five percent survival rate…''
''And how long does she have?''
Enough! Enough with the torture. Just stop. Stop it. Stop it!
''A couple of weeks… maybe a few months.''
He thinks he's going to be sick.
''What about chemo?'' Mr. Berry tries. ''I mean... This might not be my expertise, but… it is possible, right?'' He looks from the doctor to Rachel, who hasn't said anything yet. ''She can survive right?''
''Five percent is really… it's low –''
''I don't care!'' He retorts back. ''Is it possible that she can survive with chemo, right?''
''If she gets the surgery and chemo there is a chance of survival… but, it's pretty low –''
''She'll do it.'' Hiram interjects. ''She'll do it. Arrange it doctor Abrams.''
''Hiram… are you sure? I mean, it's going to be excruciatingly painful on her body.'' Doctor Abrams looks at Rachel. ''If you don't want to… You don't have to Rachel. It's perfectly understandable if you don't want to undergo so much pain.''
''She's sixteen.'' Mr. Berry goes on. ''She will, if I say so.''
''Not in this case.'' Doctor Abrams fills in, ''we are talking about mayor,'' He emphasize the 'mayor' part, as if that should freak Rachel Berry out. This is Rachel of all people. She won't go down without fighting. Puck won't let her go down at all, ''surgery, and even then the chances of her coming out of it alive are very small, we're talking about loads of chemo too… she won't even be able to get out of bed. She'll feel so weak, and exhausted… washed-out…'' The doctor shakes his head. ''That pain, that – that torture on the road to a small possibility of recovery shouldn't be performed if not completely behind it.''
''Rach…'' Puck knows what he wants, but his needs aren't big enough to make her do anything. It's up to her, and that frightens him most. ''You will do it, right?''
He never expected her to actually think about.
Because, what is there to think about? There is rolling over and dying, or fighting and maybe dying. But this is Rachel. This is Rachel fucking Berry. She won't die. The apocalypse is sooner to occur than Rachel Berry dying. Giving up is not in her vocabulary. Rachel Berry does not roll over and take it. She stands up, runs at the gun and takes every. Single. Shot. Fuck how much it hurts. She'll write a biography about how much it fucking hurt and how hard she laughed in the face of the grim reaper as she triumphed death.
But she is thinking about it.
There is a possibility that she would rather give up, than fight.
And that, actually, hurts.
''You will do it, right?''
Her father is piercing her with the same, almost, desperate look that Puck has going on.
''I'm thinking, okay!'' She abruptly yells, shaking her head. She frowns at the bed, fisting her hands.
He can't believe she's actually thinking about this. There is nothing to think about. She has to do it.
If not for herself… than for him.
''Five percent chance…'' She mutters, closing her eyes. ''Santana said… She said that she came back for me.''
''To what?'' Puck pauses. ''Watch over you?''
''No, she wasn't here for me. But… for me… To take me with her. Isn't that…'' Rachel sighs. Puck's getting real tired of Santana's bullshit, because the evil bitch figured out that Rachel could be happy without her, there's that disgusting need to not be forgotten. No, fuck that! Santana can go straight back to where the hell she came from. ''Doesn't that mean that my destiny has already been written?'' She laughs lightly. ''I don't even smoke or drink or eat unhealthy food… And yet… I'm dying.''
''Sometimes.'' Doctor Abrams reflects. ''Sometimes there isn't a good explanation why the greatest hearts suffer the most…''
''You can't give up Rachel.'' Puck tries. ''Please… We can do this, together.''
Her father nods. ''We are not going anyway where.''
''You have to promise me that. Because I don't think I can do this alone.''
''Rachel, honey, you will never be alone.''
''This promise stands, babe. I swear, I won't leave your side.''
She inhales a deep breath, finally nodding her head as she looks up at the look of skepticism on doctor Abrams face.
''Okay… I'll do it.''
They start with Chemotherapy, because the tumors are quite big and if they don't get any smaller, soon, the surgeons won't be able to take it out and Rachel will die.
There's a whole lot wrong in that sentence, but manly, Rachel's name shouldn't be in it. But he's getting used to it.
The Chemotherapy isn't making her tired. At least, that's what she says. She toys with her notebook, thinking about songs she wants to sing and actually gives off a rendition of Celine Dion's 'I will always love you', pitch perfectly. She makes it look so easy; Puck can swear he can do it too. She jumps around and laughs at every joke he makes and she toys with the flowers their class sent her after they heard she had cancer.
She gets paler by the day, there are tubes trailing out of her arms and she's attached to a tall looking pole that has a sack of blood attached to it, but her smile is ever so bright.
The doctor comes in, and he says the dose of Chemo will get higher, and she smiles, that ever so big smile of hers that makes him weak at the knees, and says; ''Bring it on.''. Her voice is softer and mellow, but she looks so strong, Puck has never been more proud.
Kurt visits her with Mercedes and Sam and they joke around like there's no care in the world. He's always there to check up on her and he starts to lose track of time, so he sleeps in the hospital with her, even going as far as to miss school. It's not Puck's first time to miss school so it doesn't do him all too much.
When he leaves her room, for just a moment to grab a cup of coffee (the machine takes a while and he swears, he's going to throw that thing on the floor) but he ends up at her door anyway, and when he does, he gets greeted by an exhausted looking star, that's slowly losing its shine. And if he didn't see her chest rising up and down, and her eyes staring up at the ceiling, slowly blinking, he would've guessed she ditched him to soar along the sky.
He figures, that Rachel Berry isn't as invincible as she deluded everyone else to think.
But he helps her keep up that font for everyone else, as he steps into her room and she greets him with the softest, stillest; ''Hey...''
After a week, she's starting to lose her hair, and she's really depressed about it.
She tries hiding it with this red cashmere scarf that Kurt brought her the other day, and Puck gently pulls it off, bearing what he sees as beauty.
''You're so beautiful.'' He says, smiling.
Because truthfully, he thinks she is fucking beautiful. But he refrains from saying 'fucking' because she has gotten tenderer about his cussing. He kisses her on her lips, holding on to her face, and pecks her almost bald head and she sheds a tear because he figures she can't believe she got so lucky to get a guy like him.
Puck can't believe he got a Goddess like her.
Rachel's getting operated on her liver today. The surgeons did some kind of CT scan and saw that the tumors had shrunken, which is something positive.
They're starting at her liver first and Rachel doesn't look nearly as terrified as he expected.
Puck would be freaking scared if people were about to cut into him, but Rachel and him are two completely different people. She's strong – she has this admirable strength that's hard to come by, and he doesn't.
She holds onto his hand as they wheel her into the OR, her dad is walking close next to his co-workers, and they go as far as to the big white doors before their fingers are barely touching each other, than gracing, until… nothing.
He feels like he's about to cry. But he doesn't. Not here. Not yet. Not when Rachel expects him to be strong – he'll be strong for her.
Then the big white doors close and his phone beeps with an incoming call.
It's his mom.
He clicks ignore.
Its hours, of hours – of hours agonizing wait.
His leg is trembling, like this uncontrollable tic, her dad is looking at him – or through him (it almost seems like he isn't there at all) – and Puck's staring at the doors they just came from.
The wait is killing him.
(Two surgeons come out an hour later, and he recognizes doctor Abrams instantly when he pulls off his cap. He has no emotion on his face, and Puck fears the worse.)
Rachel looks tired.
She's sleeping, they're saying. The surgery went well, and they got the tumor.
He wants to be ecstatic – and he is. He wants to jump a hole into the sky, call his friends, and share the good news. Wake her up, kiss her, make out, make love – but the battle isn't over yet. He can't be happy when he knows there's still a battlefield up ahead waiting for her. Like sneaky little stalkers waiting for the right moment to attack. But he smiles, when she eventually wakes up, and acts happy for the sake of it.
But she's not happy. She's relieved, but not happy. As though they share the same thoughts, and she still believes that death is just waiting right next to her bedside.
''Santana… is… back.''
She says it like she knew it wasn't over.
And he yells at Santana to just… fuck off. That she should just fucking leave. Because Rachel isn't coming with her, so she can just… find a different poor son of a bitch to haunt. And the doctors say shit about the tumor in her brain that has to come out soon, and they talk about consequences and possibilities and he doesn't want to hear them, but Rachel listens and stops them when they say; ''you might lose your memory.''
And that gets her to think, again.
(For fucks sake, not the thoughts, anything but the thoughts.)
''Rachel,'' Puck starts. ''It's your memory or your life. It's just a possibility anyway.''
Her dad agrees with him, but Rachel doesn't. She's against it, vehemently.
''Noah, don't you… understand?'' She talks a lot slower since the Chemo and surgery. They weren't kidding when they said it's going to take a lot of energy out of her. ''If – If I lose… my… memory I won't … be… able to – to remember you or my dad o – or my talent or… my… love for Broadway.'' She slowly shakes her head. ''Who am I… without… without… all that… all that makes me? I – I rather… die… than live… not knowing… me.''
''Don't say that!'' He exclaims. ''Don't, okay? I want you, Rachel. I don't care if I have to remind you of who you are every single day. I will.''
Her dad seems to think about it, and yes, they both know just how much Rachel's personality means to her, and who she is, is what makes her. And her not being who she is – is just terrifying. But he doesn't think he'll be able to live without her, anyway. Memories can come back right?
And besides, it's a possibility. It's not likely to happen. It's what; A twenty five percent chance?
''If …'' She breathes heavily ''If I do this … I won't be… Rachel.''
Frankly, this gets him to shut up.
Mr. Berry looks up at the doctor, almost as a cry for help.
Doctor Abrams crosses his arms over his chest, walking up to the foot end of her hospital bed. With an intake of breath, he nods. ''It's true, Rachel. There is a possibility that you might forget who you are and you might be brain damaged, too… but we have our finest doctors working on you… Of course, I do understand why you wouldn't want to do this… it's up to you… But the surgery is really, your only shot at beating this thing.''
''What about a DNR?'' She asks.
Puck doesn't know what that is, but her father jolts up and exclaims a; ''no!'' And Puck frowns, as the doctor breathes in another breath.
It must be hard working on a case of one of your co-workers daughter's. The thought that one slightest mistake could kill his co-workers daughter might be more than mortifying.
''What is a DNR?'' He questions, looking at Mr. Berry.
He doesn't look at Puck as he answers; ''Do not Resuscitate…'' Mr. B whips his head to Rachel. ''You want them to let you die?''
''What?'' Puck imitates. No way! No way in hell! ''Rach… Are you crazy?''
''So, how … about … it?'' She goes on, ignoring both of them.
''You can't.'' Her father interjects. ''You need my permission and the answer is no.''
''He's right, Rachel.'' Doctor Abrams reveals. ''But maybe… maybe it's not so a bad idea.''
''Abrams!'' Mr. B exclaims. ''Don't you dare –''
''I'm saying, I've seen – we have both seen – cases where people forget everything and everyone because of these severe surgeries… And we both know how heartbreaking it is to see a person lose everything they once were… The chance of them ever getting their memory back is very, very low.'' Slowly, Mr. B begins to sit down, leaning his body weight against the chair. ''I'm saying that maybe you should think about it. That if this were to happen and, God forbid, Rachel goes into cardiac arrest… she won't have to suffer – neither of you – would have to suffer that pain by bringing her back.''
He sees Rachel's head slowly move to look at her father, and her dad looks at her as if they've got some unfinished business to attend to.
She tells Puck to leave the room as politely as she can so her and her dad can talk.
At first he doesn't want to, but when her father insists, Puck is fully convinced that Mr. B wouldn't let her do it, because it's a ridicules idea and no one in his right mind would let his own kid die like that, so he leaves to get a cup of coffee.
His mom is calling him again.
And he can't bring himself to pick up the phone, so instead of pressing ignore for the hundredth time, he presses disconnect, in the hopes that his ma will get the message. Frankly, he doesn't want to be bothered. He's got his own mind process and the love of his life to worry about.
Puck believes that there are more important things happening right now, than her problems.
When he comes back to her hospital room, her dad is crying as he bumps into Puck on his way to wherever. Mr. Berry doesn't stop to say anything and casting his sight to the glassy glass, he can see Rachel breathing out a sigh of relive, and Puck swears; she almost, almost looks content with what he fears is the worst possible idea ever.
(He drops his coffee the moment she looks at him with those big brown doe eyes that say; 'I am happy' and 'I know what I'm doing' that very well fills him in on whatever just happened.)
He drops his coffee, and runs. He shuts his eyes, almost too tightly to bear, and runs. He passes the desk, he passes the visitors he passes the doors, he passes, God knows where, and he runs. He runs until his legs hurt, he runs until his feet cry out for help. He runs until his chest can't take no more, he runs until the sight of her doe eyes seem like a distant memory, he runs until his stomach drops. He runs until his throat turns dry – he runs for God knows how long. He runs until he can't anymore.
Then he stops, panting heavily and falling to his knees.
It feels like he's died together with her. She's not dead, not really. But it feels like she's already left.
Maybe it takes him hours or minutes to finally muster the courage up and find his way back to the hospital. The only thing he knows is that he does arrive back at the hospital – and for the life of him, Puck can't understand why.
What's the use, coming back for somebody who's ready to give up?
Yet somehow he can't just leave her, even if she's leaving him.
Does that make him… pathetic? Or just a fool in love?
Puck ponders about that for a moment, in the middle of the hallway, not in hurry to get back.
''You know… Sometimes, the hardest things in life are right.''
Doctor Abrams catches him by surprise, and with a hand on his shoulder, it seems like he catches a lot more personal issues that are way too heavy for Puck alone to hold.
''This doesn't feel right.'' He looks up. ''Not at all… It hurts. It fucking… hurts.'' Puck bitterly bites out. He clenches his teeth. ''I don't want to lose her… does that make me selfish?''
He huffs, Puck doesn't even want to know.
''No, it doesn't make you selfish.'' Doctor Abrams states. ''You love her and you don't want to lose her… I can't relate, but… I've been here for quite some time to know what loving a dying person does… It hurts.''
''So, you understand why I can't lose her?'' He feels a lump form in his throat, and no amount of swallowing can get that out.
He will not cry.
''I can't…'' He shakes his head, exhaling a sharp breath. There are unshed tears shimmering in his eyes. He's going to break down – Puck can feel it in his chest. ''I can't lose her.''
''I know, I know… But, the worse part of seeing people not lose their loved once because of what they wanted, is the pain… This is just the beginning… She's going to suffer and it might just be too much for her.''
Nothing is too much for Rachel… At least, that's what he thought months ago. And now, to think that so much has changed in a couple of months. Losing Santana – at the brick of losing Rachel, when will enough be enough?
He's just so God damned tired.
''You might see Rachel as unconquerable. But she's human, just like anyone else. And she knows that… Her father knows that… Maybe… Maybe it's time that you know that, too…'' Puck averts his eyes.
''And just so you know.'' Doctor Abrams whispers. ''Her pain, will hurt you too. And if anything, I don't think you would like to see her hurt, would you?''
''No… No I wouldn't.''
It feels like this is the beginning of the end.
He's not ready.
''Then accept, Puck… accept that she's not unconquerable.''
That's something he can't accept.
When Puck steps back into her room, she's staring transfixed at her shiny black berry sitting on top of her lap, Rachel only looks up when he shuts the door – rather loudly – to gain her attention.
She smiles, meekly, and murmurs a soft; ''Hi.''
She breathes in, her chest slowly rising. She looks so precious and vulnerable in those white sheets. ''I guess… this … is it.''
''This is it.''
He stands awkwardly at the door, her eyes attached to his form. Silence passes them and he wonders for how long. How long until this is just a memory?
''How… have you … been?''
He shrugs, takes a step forward and shoves his hands into his pockets. ''Good. You?''
She barely shrugs, but manages to nod. ''Good – better soon.''
''You'll remember.'' He states. Because it feels like they're saying goodbye and he wants her to know that there's still a chance that she can get out of this alive with her memory intact. That possibility is still there. This shit isn't over, yet. ''I know you will.''
Rachel looks at him, searchingly, but drops her eyes back at her phone when it feels like she found nothing.
It's not a confident, agreeable; 'yeah', but a, we'll see; 'yeah'.
And that just has to do for now.
She tells him; 'If I don't make it out alive –' and he stops her right there and then because he doesn't want to hear that. Not from her – not now. Not while he's barely holding it together. But she continues, almost breathlessly and goes on to say; 'If I don't make it out alive, promise me, you'll do anything you can to get out of Lima.' He starts to feel like his life exceeds out of hollow promises, promises he's doomed to keep and promises he's actually fulfilled. He's getting sick and tired of promises because it's always the end of a chapter and Puck can't bear any endings.
But for her, he tells her; 'I promise' because, face it, this might just be her dying wish.
And he loves her.
He'd do anything for the ones he loves.
(They wheel her out back to the big white doors, and a part of him expects to never see her again. So this lone tear breaks free from his eye, and as if the prison cells in his brain decided to follow on command, he starts crying, sobbing, and clenching his fists like the end of the world is near and he has everything to lose.)
When dad hit mom too hard on a Saturday evening (Puck remembers a Saturday evening because it was that day when Cartman got beaten up by Wendy and he remembered wanting to feel joy and laughter because Karofsky talked about the beat up on Monday and laughed and laughed and laughed but something felt unmistakably wrong about that whole moment. He remembers the sheer agony he felt and before he knew it he was punching Dave Karofsky over and over again, yelling at the top of his lungs 'do you like that? Do you like that? Is it funny now?' It wasn't funny, it wasn't fucking funny. It was raw and bad and he punched him until his fists bled and Mr. Schuester pulled him off). It was that day that his mom blacked out for over an hour.
She looked beaten up, almost like when Larry Holmes got the better of Muhammad Ali.
There was this fear running through his chest, and he jumped up away from their Sony TV, almost knocking the thing out and ran up to his mom lying in the middle of the hallway.
Dad was standing over her, like a triumphed winner, the beer bottle in his hand, drips of liquor or spit or sweat or something else; he doesn't know, trailing down his bruised fist.
He doesn't think he cried – he doesn't remember. He remembers fear – only fear. And fear seemed like the only emotion to stand out, or somehow, the most important.
Fear of losing her? Fear of her dying? Fear that now, and forever, his dad would be in control of him?
The worst part of it all wasn't the fear, no, not at all. The worst part was that Puck couldn't do anything – he didn't know what to do or even how – to save her. His hands were soaring over her limp body, carefully trying to pick out where he could touch her, but they always dropped back to his sides. As if he had a significant part in her death and that alone was unforgiveable. He reached out his hands, continuously, trying to choose a place that would be the perfect part to cover up any kind of wound.
But dad grunted, sips of something falling on the laminate, and Puck was scared.
So, he dropped his hands and stared, waiting, hoping, time flew by, his eye lids getting heavier; knowing that there was nothing else he could do. He got tired, Cartman was talking on the background, his back was hurting him, but he never left.
She gets out of the surgery alive.
He squeezes her hand as her eyes slowly open, a small smile playing over her lips.
Fuck, does he feel relieve right now.
''Hey babe.'' Puck mutters.
''Welcome back, honey.'' Mr. B pitches in.
Doctor Abrams takes a step closer, the chard in his hands. ''How are you feeling, Rachel?''
She clears her throat, blinking a few times, before she answers; ''Good, I think… how did the … surgery go? Did you get it all?''
Doctor Abrams breaks out into a smile. ''Yes, we did. We got the tumor.''
She grins; he can't believe how much he missed that grin.
''He said you did amazing!'' Her dad concludes. ''I knew you could do it.''
She smiles, leaning back against her pillow.
After a few seconds, she directs her sight back at Puck, smiling.
Puck arches an eyebrow up. ''Hey babe.''
She pauses, looking at her dad and then at doctor Abram. ''How did the… surgery go?'' Puck frowns. ''Did you get it all?''
''It went well, Rachel… You just asked that before, don't you remember?'' Doctor Abrams retorts.
This time she frowns, ignoring him as she breaks out into a grin. ''My brain is tumor free?'' She sounds ecstatic, and his grip around her hand slowly loosens. ''Oh my God.''
He casts doctor Abrams a glance. ''What the hell man?''
Doctor Abrams exceedingly alert, walks up to Rachel, flashing his light into her eyes.
''What is going on?'' She questions.
Doctor Abrams fixates his eyes on Mr. Berry.
He fears the worst.
''…Nothing… I hope.'' Her dad answers after a moment.
''Okay…'' She leans back against her pillow, her stare falling back to the ceiling. ''Hey…'' She says, directing her glance at Puck.
''How did the surgery go?''
''It's possible that the memory part of her brain was damaged in the surgery.''
''It's possible!'' Puck yells, he waves his hand up at the glass, his finger pointing at Rachel. ''She's asking us the same damn question over and over again and she has no recognition that she already asked the same question before… And you think it's possible?''
''Puck, calm down.'' Mr. B tries, though he can see the worry reflecting in his gaze. ''Doctor Abrams is it possible that she could get her memory back?''
The doctor ponders about the thought. ''It's… possible.''
''But…'' Puck interjects.
''But, the chance is slight.''
He realizes all too well that this is not what Rachel wants. And if he wants to have any shot of saving her, he needs to help her get her memory back. Even if it takes forever.
''I'll try to get her memory back.''
''Puck…'' Doctor Abrams sighs. ''I don't know if that's possible… your efforts might be in vain.''
''I'll take that shot!'' He exclaims. ''I won't let Rachel Berry die like that, not if I can do something about it.''
He knows that the longer he stays here precious time is going to waste.
So, he turns around, leaving an unsure Mr. Berry and an astonished doctor in the awakening of what could possibly be a shot at nothing, but then again, Rachel isn't nothing.
He stuck post its at practically every corner in the room, covering every little space uncovered with information that could be important to her.
''Noah…'' She mutters, staring at his moving body. He writes 'you want to be a Broad way star' on a yellow post it and sticks it at the far corner of the room. ''What are you doing? Did my surgery go well or –''
He points his pencil at the pink post it stuck at the table right ahead of her.
''Oh…'' She mutters. ''So, they got it all?''
He points at the blue post it next to the pink one, and she smiles for a minute and says; ''That's amazing!'' Before she shakes her head and looks back at him. ''Why are you doing this anyway –''
He points at the green post it next to the blue one with a scripted message stating; 'you lost your memory' and she looks astonished, raising both her eyebrows as high as a girl that just had brain surgery could possibly do.
''Oh my Barbra! That's awful… so that explains why you're doing this!''
He smiles every time she remembers but loses a piece of hope every time she forgets.
It gets frustrating every day and he throws his pencil and post it's on the floor, chucking his hands through his hair and she looks confused and a little bit scared, because frankly, she doesn't know what is going on.
He can't blame her, because honestly, it isn't her fault.
So, it becomes all-nighters of trying to remind her of anything that he thinks she would want to know and he starts to forget how home looks like, and seriously, he can't seem to care.
He yells at her.
He doesn't mean to, but this job gets so frustrating at times. And he knows that he wanted to do this even though he's been told it's a lost cause, and he knows – or least should know – what he's getting into, but it just gets so frustrating, anyway.
So he yells at her to 'not forget constantly!' and 'you fucking know this!'
And her eyes get watery and she's like; ''I – I don't know, Noah, I'm sorry.'
But he keeps on yelling anyway, and he doesn't know if it's because he's tired or because he's frustrated or simply because he's angry at her. He's angry at her for getting cancer, he's angry at her for wanting to die, he's angry at her for putting him through this, he's angry at her for making him love her, he's angry at her. He hates that he loves her. He really does.
And he tells her just that.
And suddenly, she's yelling too. And they're both yelling and it makes no sense but then again, he feels like this was coming anyway.
She pulls the post its from the walls and the bed and the table and she makes little scrunched up balls out of them and throws it at him, shouting back; ''I didn't ask you to do this for me!''
He knows she's right but he doesn't let it end there, because, what kind of douchey ass boyfriend would he have been if he did let rot in this hospital bed all alone and ditch her because he can't handle the pressure?
''You are a douche, Noah!'' She yells. ''Santana knew it, you knew it, I knew it – the whole population of Lima knows it!''
So he tells her to fuck off, and she tells him to fuck off and this goes on for an hour long.
He realizes that it went on for an hour.
She usually forgets every minute.
When he tells her just that, there's joy in her eyes and joy in his and she laughs and he laughs and they hug and all is well, finally. He doesn't regret staying with her at all.
He squeezes and she presses her cheek against his.
Then her arm falls limp, and her head loses potency, and she's gone.
There are a million things running through his head. He's screaming for help and he's pressing her chest over and over again and screaming help and crying and sobbing and the doctors come and push him away and he frankly doesn't know what the hell just happened. His hand is going through his hair and her dad walks in and he can't believe what he's seeing, there's pushes and pulls, but he refuses to leave, he begs for her not to leave him alone, because he loves her; ''I fucking love you, Rachel.'' He pleads, but she doesn't respond, because she's actually gone.
And just when the doctors are about to try and resurrect her, this nurse he saw at the desk filling in papers, suddenly says; ''We can't!'' Everyone stops, because, why? ''Her dad signed a DNR.''
''Does it hurt?''
His grandma shook her head.
''Not if it's willingly… Then it's liberating.''
He finds death and liberating in the same sentence an odd combination. Why would you want to leave planet earth anyway, like, has she not seen Niagara Falls?
He didn't see it either, but he's heard it's almost a Godlike, picture perfect, breath taking, unforgettable sight right here on earth. Unbelievable, right?
Puck would never, willingly, want to leave here.
''It sounds stupid to me.''
They stare at her; AED's dangling from their hands.
''No!'' He barks, feeling his warm tears trail along his face. ''DO SOMETHING!''
''Puck…'' Doctor Abrams shakes his head. But, in a weak attempt looks at Mr. Berry. ''It's your call…''
''She remembers!'' He enlightens them. ''She just did. You can't let her die, please… please.''
''She did?'' He vehemently nods. ''Do it.'' Her father says.
''But you signed a legal bond…'' The nurse goes on. ''We can't –''
''Do it!'' Her father exclaims. ''She is my daughter. It's my signature… Abrams...?''
There's a moment of pause, it feels like forever, and he looks at her still body almost afraid that the longer they wait, the bigger the chance gets that he won't ever see her again.
Then Doctor Abrams exclaims a; ''Screw it.'' And orders the others to charge.
(Frankly, Doctor Abrams just put his ass on the line for them, and Puck would never say this out loud, but he owes the dude one.)
It's been two weeks since Rachel's near death scar, and she's so much better. As good as a girl with cancer can be, anyways.
He's actually happy. Honestly, she's getting better and that's what counts, right?
She's staring at him eating her pudding. She doesn't like the hospital food, but he thinks it's delicious.
''What?'' He mutters, licking the spoon.
She smiles, but it leaves just as soon as it got there. ''Have you gone to school?''
He frowns. ''No, but it doesn't matter. They know I'm here anyway.''
She nods, but she doesn't look satisfied at all. ''Did you go home?'
Putting the spoon down, he answers; ''No, but they know I'm here too.''
''Hmm.'' She pauses, seemingly contemplating about saying something, but refraining from doing so.
''You know.'' He starts, picking up the spoon. ''We should get married.''
''Wh – what?'' She splutters out. ''Noah… Is this because of my situation? Because marriage is really… it's big and – and we're sixteen! We can't get married!''
''Yeah we can.'' He reveals. ''I read this shit on the internet about Tennessee and how with legal permission and shit we can get married – so what you say?''
''Are you proposing to me?''
He shrugs, if that's what she wants to call it – sure. ''Yeah, I guess so.''
''Do you know that marriage has a lot of financial bounding's and not to mention we're still in school?''
''I can get an extra job, babe.'' He sighs, taking a bite of his pudding. ''I just want to spend the rest of my life with you.''
''You mean the rest of my life – I'm not danger free, you know.''
''Not yet.'' He retorts. ''But, you're kicking cancer's butt, so it's the rest of my life – no scratch that. The rest of our lives.'' He licks his lips. ''So how about it? Marry me?''
She tells him okay, not a full blown happy yes he'd expect a dying girl to have, but it's something and something makes him happy.
He notices that she's hiding something, but when he kisses her and he smiles and she smiles back, he realizes that he doesn't want to know either way.
Rachel gets phone calls that make her uneasy. She doesn't want to talk about it – which is a first time – and he doesn't pressure – which isn't a first time. But he's getting more curious by the minute. Puck thinks he should know what is going on in his fiancée's life (fuck it if that doesn't sound good to say), because they already got the 'in sickness and in health' part down a notch.
But he thinks that if she wants to tell him, she will.
It took her almost a month, really since the diagnosis, and a week after Rachel's near death scare, to visit.
Frankly, it's a surprise that Quinn out of all people came to visit.
Puck can't imagine the ice queen having a sudden growth of heart. But then he spots them talking to each other through the glassy glass of Rachel's hospital room and they talk like they've known each other forever. It's not a pleasant sight but friendly nonetheless, and almost regretful from Quinn's part. She takes Rachel's hand gently; slightly afraid that the mere touch is crucial on Rachel's part.
Rachel doesn't pull away; it's not welcoming, but not spiteful either. It's different.
Who could've known?
There's a pause, Rachel looks sad as she pulls her hand away and holds it close to her heart. There's a nod, a large intake of breath; there's tears leaving Quinn's eyes, he spots her mouthing; ''I'm sorry,'' and then it goes still. There's silence and acceptance and if Puck didn't know the both of them he would almost presume that the whole exchange was beautiful.
''I didn't know you and Rachel were friends.'' He utters as Quinn steps out of her room.
She wipes her mascara stained cheeks, shrugging, before turning around to look at him ''There's a lot you don't know, Puck.''
He ponders about that for a moment when all that falls is silence. She looks at him and he looks at her. He's frowning and she utters no emotion at all. He slightly expects his body to betray him, pull her hands away and wipe those tears on his own – there's a linger of a faint memory about her and him running through her backyard playing tag – and he realizes that that's all they are; a memory.
Quinn parts when all there's left to say is nothing.
He remembers beautiful, tiny tan legs running up a wooden staircase as if it just happened today.
Puck steps into her room, a look of skepticism gracing his features.
''So, you and Quinn.''
''Me and Quinn…''
He sighs, walking to the foot end of her bed. ''Since when?''
He thinks there might be something really bad going on because she doesn't look him in the eyes. She doesn't look at him at all.
''I don't know.'' Rachel pauses, playing with a loose string of the sheets. He assumes there's a big story behind 'I don't know' but he doesn't comment.
''Could you get me a cup of tea… please?''
He's almost out of the door when Rachel exclaims a; ''wait!''
And naturally, he does, turning around to look at her.
''I love you, Noah.''
He smiles, because, what else can he do? ''I love you too, babe.''
He realizes way too late, that asking questions is more than necessary.
Screw; 'curiosity is a sin'. Curiosity can save hearts.
Puck lost his on a Saturday morning.
It was raining; he remembers the rain trickling down her empty room window. Almost like a race, to see just which raindrop could be the fastest.
''She told me to give you this.''
He's certain that he should've seen this coming. A letter, however, seemed almost impossible to foresee.
Doctor Abrams looks sad. As if. This isn't titanic. Puck's not some love stricken guy, hopelessly devoted – pathetically left. Doomed to roam the world with something missing – something – something, what is this something?
But only, he is.
He doesn't read the letter.
It's yet another piece of a chapter, and he doesn't admit it then, but he fears it's the end of this chapter. He fears – but he doesn't tell a soul.
There's that beautiful engrafted star right on top of the letter, and he moves his finger over it feverishly relishing in the thought of his Goddess mark.
'I'm sorry' is the title of her letter.
He's sorry too.
Puck just doesn't know for what.
He ends up at Quinn house, it's still raining. He feels like the big man up there is crying with him – or without. Maybe, deep down inside, he's crying too. He just hasn't realized it yet.
He knocks on her door, hard. Harder. More than a few times, he can see the color draining from his knuckles; ''Quinn!'' He exclaims, he can feel the pain shooting through his hand. Fuck, it doesn't even come close to what he's feeling now.
What is he feeling, actually? Is it emptiness? Or something worse? Shit, how can something be worse than feeling nothing at all?
She whips the door open; she's not nearly as beautiful as he once sought her out to be. There's someone else.
''Puck.'' She sees the letter in his grasp. It's wet. It deserves to be wet.
It's a statement. He knows. Quinn knows. How did he know? How did he figure out? How did the hospital discharge his fiancée without contacting him?
Is she even still his fiancée?
''I'm so sorry…''
''We… we were going to get married.'' She looks astonished, and he lets out a hollow laugh. It resembles what his insides feel like right now. ''And she left.''
Quinn can't comment, so she crosses her arms underneath her chest and says; ''D – did you read the letter?''
There's a pause, the rain feels heavy.
She doesn't invite him in, and he doesn't want her too. So he turns around and leaves, and she shuts the door.
He finds it quiet ironic how the one person that he believed to be his last hope, left.
Maybe that's what they mean when they say; 'hope is dangerous, it has the ability to make you or break you'. It seems that Puck gotten the bad end of that quill.
By the time he reaches an empty park and sits on the bench, the raining has stopped.
He reads the letter.
You must hate me right now, and I fully comprehend your reasons. After all, you have stood with me day by day and night after night after this horrid disease took hostage over me. You at least, deserve the truth and a verbal conversation. Unfortunately, knowing my love for you and the capabilities you possess, I couldn't possibly talk to you face to face for it might have clouded my judgment and I may have never left.
But you see, Noah; I must leave.
I know you're wondering why – and you deserve a why.
But if I tell you, promise me, that you won't go out looking for me.
Promise me, Noah.
And if you're thinking about going to my father's house, I must inform you that he has left with me.
You see, me being here with you, isn't right for you, even though it means a great deal to me. But you, after all, mean more. Knowing that this disease might never leave and the treatments may take a while longer than expected, your life with your family and your school – your education – is falling down the drain, because of me. And I knew that if we married; you would have thrown everything away, in your heroic attempt to save me. And no amount of me pleading for you not to do it, would have worked.
Because that's the kind of person you are, Noah. You're good and kind and sweet and you put others before yourself. Even if it means losing everything, it's slightly heartbreaking, isn't it?
I feel that you need the saving right now.
After all you have done for me; I owe you the courtesy to put you in front of my own needs.
I promise you that I will continue my treatment elsewhere and I hope you will go back to your family and continue your education.
Don't come looking for me. You won't find me.
Rachel Berry. *
He cries – and it seems that Rachel has always found a way to touch a nerve. And even though he has every right to rip the letter apart and drown himself in bottles of liquor and smoke his intestines away, he manages, after all, to promises her, wherever she is, to do just what she asked him. Maybe, along the way, they'll see each other again. Because, if anything, this might be the end of this chapter, but his life-long book is still intact. And Puck's convinced that she's still in it.
He believes that she broke her promise.
But maybe there is some truth behind the saying; 'the greatest hearts can't be detained'.
And even a promise is then, worth breaking.
Yesterday I died, tomorrow's bleeding
Fall into your sunlight
The future's open wide, beyond believing
To know why, hope dies
Losing what was found, a world so hollow
Suspended in a compromise
The silence of this sound, is soon to follow
End song; Shattered by Trading Yesterday.