Genre: Drama/Romance

Paring: Jake/Rachel

Notes: I don't even know how this happened. One day I was strolling through and out of boredom I clicked Rachel and Jake and suddenly I saw no fan fictions about them and I was like: 'why not?'

Slightly AU.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Summary: How do you put something together when it's all scattered around this sequestered little world? Where do you start? From the beginning, of course.

Where do we start?

''Two people who weren't meant to be together. Maybe they'll still get their happy ending, just because they both want it so much.'' – House


Jake's dad is a douche.

There's no alleviating or kinder way to describe him. He's a plain douche; a cruel, wife beating, kid neglecter, abysmal douche. He drinks bottles of beer that he throws around the house, expecting someone other than himself to pick it up. He chunks down, sometimes, a bottle full of clean vodka – no cup needed – and passes out, ungracefully, right there on their red shredded couch.

Sometimes he wakes up a few hours later – sometimes it takes a day – sometimes Jake catches himself hoping that dad doesn't wake up at all. It's evil – and unholy – and mom has told him that it's wretched entirely to ask God to do bad things to people; especially family. Then it's just downright devious.

Oddly, it doesn't feel wrong at all.

Jake stares at his father's snoring body; his chest rising up and down, a puke green pillow supporting his head.

(He knows something is madly wrong with him when he thinks about stepping to the couch, grabbing the ruffles of the disgusting green pillow that mom liked more than that pretty heaven blue dotted pillow, and smothering his father right until his heart slows down, his breathing quickens up – and then … nothing.)

(But he doesn't.)

He loses respect for this so called God they worship.

Dad never believed in a God. Dad likes to say; 'if He actually existed, why the fuck do I suffer?' Sometimes Jake's tempted to answer that question all by himself. To do the duty that he expected God to perform. He sits at the end of the red sofa, his legs tugged underneath his body, and his Math book attached to his lap like tomorrow's just waiting to come by. There's this tightness in his chest, a feverish twist in his stomach that daunts him off. He wants to – so badly. But mom had new bruises on her wrist, long red lines coming from her ankles, she walks around almost like she's ready to drop dead, and he finds himself unable to can. He wants to say things like 'you've hurt your family' and 'you've hurt mom' and 'you've hurt me' and 'you deserve to suffer you ungrateful drunk bastard', but he can't.

Dad looks around for a culprit to throw out a fist or two against, someone that he could hurt just as much as he's been unmistakably hurting.

Jake can't possibly be that one. He refuses.

So he swallows the words down, averting his eyes to the nonsense making of his homework.

And suddenly he wonders why he's even trying.

What's the use?

Then mom leaves him and he loses faith entirely.

It was on a Thursday in the middle of March. He remembers the birds chirping, this flowery, musky scent oozing its way through his nose. Jake never liked flowers or anything of that girly shit. But today was a different day. Today he got an 'A' on that math test that he didn't seem to understand. There were those calculations and numbers and lines that were all about nauseating. And for a second there, Jake was wholly content with getting his first insufficient grade on a test.

But he nailed it. He actually nailed it!

He knows something's wrong when he steps into his house, the door unlocked, little pieces of crumpled up papers, a broken lamp and clothes that look well enough to be worn again, all cascaded over the floor. There's that vague scent of lemon that mom likes to wear and those almost essential Prada shoes she got five years ago when money was the least of their problems.

His heart sinks right there in his chest, and he barely manages to utter her name.

It's almost as if he never said her name at all.

Jake drops the 'A' graded paper on the worn laminate, slowly shuffling into the house as he takes in his surroundings.

She wouldn't leave without him, would she?

She wouldn't leave her son behind, would she?

Not with dad, not with him. She wouldn't do that to Jake. Not ever. And the nerve that his mind has to even think that is sickening.

(But it's his mind that guides him up to her room.)

It's even messier there. The sheets are on the floor, the bed is un-made – she used to hate it when dad left the bed un-made, but then dad raised his fist and promptly shut her up – it's as if the hitting and the screaming were all about coming their way, he thinks it's been slowly building up. The calm before the storm. There must have been some kind of warning that he missed. Something that he'd refused to acknowledge.

Can you blame him though? Jake couldn't bear to face the color.

There are drawers open, clothes messily trailing out of them and back to the floor, Jake never knew that mom had so many clothes; no wonder dad only used one drawer.

Then his eyes catch that spot in the corner of the room where her purple suitcase used to stand.

(She never even left a letter. Not a message on his phone. She didn't even tell him goodbye before he left for school.)

He takes his first smoke behind the school playground with two guys he's seen hanging around lots of times.

They're those typical, stereotypical, skateboard junkies that get high on drugs instead of life. They roll up their own weed in white thin paper and smoke it up like it's been done a couple of hundred times. They blow it out through their nostrils, and one of them in a grey hoodie, his green ninja turtle skateboard right underneath his red with grey striped airmax exclaims a; ''so good…'' his eyes hanging, almost exhaustedly, while he licks his lips.

It reminds Jake of Dave Chappelle and his antics when he talked about the 'good weed' and joked a little too over the top about how amazing it was to smoke something that goes all the way into the chest and frees itself blissfully.

And at the time, that just sounded silly and the scent didn't do anything to help glorify it either.

But when grey hooded skateboard dude, with the make-shift low voice, asked him if he wanted a smoke, Jake readily realized that he actually had nothing to lose.

So he said yes, took the wrapped up weed between his index finger and thumb (vaguely remembering that it's illegal – but whatever), and inhaled it once. Almost instantly coughing up smoke and bending forward, because shit, he feels like he's going to choke right here and now, and dying, still on school grounds, is not a pleasant way for him to go.

''You gotta smoke over the lungs, bro.'' Other skater dude, that looked way too old to still be in high school, said.

He contemplated not listening and doing what the hell he wanted, because one, he wasn't good at following directions from anybody, and two, he hated following directions from anybody. It feels like the moment he gives out a hand, people suddenly expect that they can take the whole arm too. It's greedy and not at all uncommon, and he's experienced this rotten end of the deal for far too many times.

But he does it anyway, not because old skater dude says so, but because Jake read something about that on the internet– and because he wants to.

The third time rolls over easier, and suddenly, it doesn't taste that bad at all.

(He actually feels calmer, too.)

He receives a big fat red 'F' on his English test.

It almost looks like the grade was purposefully trying to immigrate all over the paper to broaden not only it's horizons but be an outright reminder of how majorly he's been failing English class. And it's not like Macbeth was hard to read. Not at all. He actually adores the story. He's read it at least three times in his room, even possibly capable of narrating the whole damn story without even so much stealing a glance at a letter.

But recently he's just not in the mood to perform well, at all.

Jake can't even bring himself to fully care that he's failing a lot of classes either.

(No, it's not boredom. It's something else… exhaustion, he guesses.)

Ms. Bravoski is another story though. She's the typical 'cannot stand seeing one of her best students fail' teacher. The ones that actually care about their students and would purposefully go through major risks just to get them somewhere in life – somewhere far beyond this shithole in Alabama.

It's nice – having someone that actually cares.

''Jake, can you stay behind.'' She utters, as the bells rings.

He shrugs, moving back into his seat as he watches his fellow students stroll out of the class.

He knows what's to come, and he can't say that he's in the mood for a sermon, either.

Ms. Bravoski twirls, that grey pluck of hair of hers that seems to permanently maroon at the top middle of her forehead, between her fingers. Resultantly letting it go, a signature action of hers, which means that she's about to get deep into a subject.

''Jake… Do you know why I've asked you to wait?'' Here it comes. He rolls his eyes, sinking deeper into his seat as he lets out a strangled breath. ''You've been getting bad grades.'' He tugs in his bottom lip, revolving his eyes back to the floor. Is that an ant? ''This is not at all like you…''

Isn't it? Is this really not like him? He feels like he's just getting started – like life, for him, has just begun. Now's when the real shit's about to get down.

''Jake.'' She turns her head to get a good look at his face, as if the truth might very well be neatly scribbled in a big fat black marker. ''Look at me, Jake.''

He hears the prestige in her voice.

He doesn't look at her.

Ms. Bravoski sighs, leaning back. ''I can't help you if you don't let me.''

This time he does talk back. ''Who said I needed your help?'' And never so much removing his eyes from that ant that seems to be trying to wiggle itself through a little crack in the floor. Stupid ant. Doesn't it know that it can't escape? It's captivated in between their walls, and not even a crack can get it out. This jail cell is twenty-five to life, and that light, right there at the end of the road; it's a diversion. Give up while you still can.

Fuck knows that he's been trying to give up for a while now.

''You…'' He can hear it in her voice. She sounds … pathetic. ''You do need help.''

''Can I go now?''

She startles when he looks at her, square in the eyes.

(Maybe she can see it. Maybe she can see his interior – that black, torn, shredded place of once full hope. Maybe the eyes are indeed the windows of the soul.)

''You may leave…''

(Or maybe she's just a little too scared to look any further.)

The next day when he gets back into English class; the ant's gone.

Dad's got a mean mouth.

He says bullshit and he utters crap about painful, tender subjects that leave little to the imagination that once, maybe, in a full blue morning sky with beautiful shaped clouds and tenderly green leaves, he actually loved Jake. That this one day, a day like no other, deep hidden in that buried past of his – dad actually cared about Jake.

(He's learned to live without dad's love – he doesn't need it.)

(He doesn't need mom either.)

Dad speaks loud and clear like those junkies in the neighborhood that make their selves known during the night and talk about that once pretty house, and that once good enough lay with the most perfect girl ever made, and that once pretty life that was all theirs and no one other, but now they've got nothing. Dad sounds exactly like them. He has that pitchy tune lingering in his vocal exaltations when he talks about happiness and joy, his eyelids are heavy, he looks everywhere but Jake, almost like he can't see him at all, and he fantasizes about a life not rightfully his anymore.

Dad feels like he has nothing. Jake is nothing.

Then he speaks of Edna – beautiful dark haired Jewish Edna – and Noah – the son he has always loved.

It's a different song.

It's dark and moist. It stinks and reeks of sweat, the floor is dirtier than the unhygienic kitchen from that restaurant mom and Jake went to three years ago before she decided to up and leave him behind with his deadbeat father. He can still see her brown hair, that beautiful tan she had been sporting since that weekend vacation in Peru, her beautiful smile and those perfectly white shaped teeth that almost look like heaven sent... And where the hell was he again?

Jail is nothing like mom – it's hideous and ugly and no one ever loves anyone.

But then again, how could it be possible to leave a loved one behind and still be heaven sent? Maybe jail and mom aren't so different at all.

The thing is; he can't really think straightly. He's rubbing his hands over his worn face and flinches when his finger touches his busted lip. His mouth tastes like barriers of metal and Jake's sure that he hasn't licked the bars of the cell… yet. He remembers when he was six years old and the need to lick things was bigger than his mother's need to eat chocolate with nuts. It had to be specifically chocolate with nuts; she couldn't eat it without nuts. He thinks that the taste of chocolate, really, wasn't all that great, but the taste with it with nuts (like his weird fascination with bread, peanut butter and nutella) made it all the more tasteful.

He doesn't think he's about to lick any cell bars, but his cell mates do look like the types that are tempted to shove one down his throat.

Where the hell is grey hooded skater dude and old skater dude anyway, weren't they here with him before?

He heaves his head out of his hands, wondering how the hell he got here. Jake really shouldn't have downed that last cup of beer. He's never been this far out before… heck, he hasn't even drunken alcohol before.

But today was different, today he heard about his alleged living brother – well, half-brother to be exact.

Shit, how could dad have kept that from him?

''Pssh…'' Jake frowns. ''Pssh. Yeah, you there… kid.''

In a hesitating attempt to turn his head, he forgets to cover up his face as he stares at a young looking man – guy – boy? He doesn't look all that older than Jake.

''Shit… they got you bad, didn't they?''

''Who?'' He wonders out loud.

(It's strange – but maybe the guy knows something he doesn't.)

''The cops, of course.''

Jake wrinkles his nose. ''Pretty sure no cop would hit a person, or a kid for that matter… isn't that illegal?''

The guy leans back, shrugging his shoulders like he doesn't even know what he's talking about… Where the fuck did Jake end up?

''Then what are you here for?'' The guy questions, turning his head to take a good look at his face. ''I'd say… a fight that got out of hand? Doubt that you'd be thrown into jail for anything less...'' Jake looks around him, he's got this odd feeling that his cell mates are looking at him… and he's not talking about the 'let's be friends' kind of way.

''I am…'' Jake mutters. Shaking his head.

''So?''

''So?'' So, what?

The guy smiles a bit. ''So, what are you in for?''

''I…'' Jake pauses. He sees flashes of lights and laughter and someone talking to him with the prettiest smile he has ever seen… but then, blanko. Nada.

He puts a hand against his head, ''you tell me.''

''Shit…'' The guy mutters. ''You don't even know what you're in for?'' He lets out a laugh. ''That makes two of us… the name's Puck. I'd extend a hand, but I think I fucked my fingers up.''

He looks at his fingers as if he's inspecting it for any fractures.

''Just Puck?''

''Yeah.''

He grins – which is just freaking unbelievable if his busted up lip has any say in this. ''Name's Jake.''

''Just Jake?''

''Yeah.''

''Where am I anyway?''

Puck squints ahead, almost like he has to bust a few chords to remember where of Alabama he is.

''Lima, Ohio police station. Where you from? Pretty sure I've never seen you around.''

Lima. Lima fucking Ohio. He's in Lima? How the fuck did he manage that drive? He doesn't remember shit about shit–oh fuck–was he drunk driving? Crap! Did he kill someone?

How the hell is he going to get home anyway?

''You've gotta be fucking…''

''Is there a…'' When he looks ahead, he has to squint to see if the tanned woman walking towards the barriers, is exactly who he thinks it is.

It can't be, can it?

''Mom…'' He whispers.

But then her eyes look right at his, and they're green instead of brown, her hair is black instead of brown, and she's anyone but not mom, so he sinks into his seat and forgets to breathe for a moment.

''Jacob… Puckerman?''

''That's me.'' He answers subconsciously, standing up.

He can actually feel his legs wobble underneath him. He's contemplating if it's the booze, the maybe fight he was in, a car accident that he might have caused, or the fact that he taught that mom cared enough to bust him out, that's got him unstable.

Shit, what did he do?

''Someone just bailed you out.'' Mom-look-a-like says, but she's got this look on her face that states that she doesn't only know him, but loathes him too. Jake got a cop to be pissed of him? Great. Imagine how that's going to go down for him whenever he's in a little predicament. ''Lucky you…''

He doesn't think dad would bail him out, if anything, he'd want Jake to rot there for all he cares.

She opens the bars, but right as he's about to step out, Puck jumps up from his seat and exclaims a; ''I thought your name was Jake?''

He shrugs, because really, he wishes it was. No Puckerman, nothing that could link him back to his dad. No mom, either. Just a clean slate.

So he says; ''It is.''

Because for a moment, he wants it to be true so bad, that it actually feels true, too.

Ms. Bravoski takes her job as a 'cannot stand to see my students fail' teacher a little too serious.

Seriously though, which teacher would bail a student out of jail in the middle of midnight? She's way to righteous for him.

It's a silent drive back home in her pale pink Prius, while she keeps glancing through her rearview mirror in the vague hope that she might find the mustered up courage in her very being to ask him what the hell he's doing in Lima Ohio, in a jail cell, having actually managed to piss off a cop. And maybe, if she sounds like a prestigious mother figure, he might actually be able to remember everything.

''Are you… okay?''

It's a light conversation starter for something bigger.

He shrugs, and nods, because he fears that when he speaks up everything that comes out would be a load full of bullshit.

''That's good…'' She pauses; making a turn as she silently continues to inhale a deep breath. ''I was worried when you didn't come to school… You're dad said,'' she giggles a little, far from humorously and completely bitter. ''He said that you were out… Just out. Nothing more… It's not really funny, is it?''

''I was just gone for a few hours Ms. B. I went to school this morning.''

''You were gone for…'' She frowns against the window, taking a quick glance back at him and then back at the road. ''Three days, at least. Don't you remember?''

He presses his eyes shut, shaking his head. This is absurd. Jake would have known this. Three days? That's not a walk in the park – that's hardcore. And dad didn't even care?

''No… crap… no I don't. I really don't know.''

Ms. B sighs, like she saw this coming. Like she knew something that he didn't but was way too scared to warn him. ''They say that if, sometimes, we focus really, really hard on something that we really don't want to remember… we won't remember anything.'' He opens his eyes, but he doesn't look at her. ''The good news is that we can go on uncaring and blissfully through life for a while.'' She smiles. '' The bad news though,'' her smile faints. ''Is that the truth will always catch up on us. And when it hits – it's hell on a rampage.''

''I'm not blocking out anything.''

He really isn't.

Is he?

''You changed, Jake… A lot. And…'' Ms. B. fists her hands around the steering wheel. ''I don't know why. I'm not sure if your dad… or…'' She shakes her head. ''I don't know why. You're eyes… they used to shine so bright.''

He presses his lips together, until it aches, then he stops. ''A lot changes.''

''Even the eyes?''

''Even the eyes.''

Dad is hell on a rampage.

He convinces himself, when dad screams and throws bottles his way, his lengthy arm trying to dodge the incoming attacks, that the only reason dad actually cares enough to react so brutal is because he's got one too many drinks down his throat, and the memory of a senile teacher weighing his parenting skills on a judge Judy panel seems almost like a few hours back.

There's yelling and throwing, all done by his father, and when Jake catches his dad's brown eyes, he sees flames that actually, in his still wobbly structure, look like those from the pits of hell. He doesn't know how hell looks like, but if anything, he thinks that his life and hell have a lot in common.

No wonder he fled to Lima Ohio, fuck it if it's a little hole in the world map, anything better than here.

Jake doesn't manage to dodge the incoming glass bottle.

(He thinks that the pain feels like mom walking up to him, tearing his chest open, ripping it apart, and filling that hole at the place his heart used to be with salt.)

''Dude, sorry for bailing out…''

Jake turns around, shutting his locker door shut, as he comes eye to eye with grey hooded skater dude.

He really should learn their names.

''Shit…'' He exclaims, looking at Jake's face. ''That fight really got out of hand, didn't it?'' At least he knows now that he was indeed in a fight. Jake wonders if he hurt anybody. Shit, was that the reason why he got arrested? ''Were those cuts there before?'' Skater dude motions to his left eyebrow cut and the one lying diagonal across his cheek.

He shrugs. ''Yeah.'' Because what else could he say? 'Oh no dude, it wasn't. My dad just got a little frisky and threw a glass bottle against my face, no biggie, all is well. Also, what the fuck happened in Lima, Ohio?' Assuming he went there with Jake.

He only settles for the last question.

Skater dude laughs awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head as he utters; ''I didn't go with you… Ryan did.'' He bets Ryan is the old skater dude. ''I would've come.'' He adds quickly – almost frightened. ''But Lima was a long as fuck drive and you were so fucking hell bent – and kind of scary – to go there. You remember right? I mean, the fight was awesome and you were a total fucking badass but –''

''Why did I even go to Lima?'' He cuts him off, not in the mood to hear about his escapades.

So, he's a scary drunk.

You know what they say; like father like son. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

And here he is, still wondering why mom ditched him. She probably has psychic abilities and saw his terror a thousand miles away.

''I dunno, something about your dad and family – you were pretty drunk. Like, you made no sense at all. Don't you remember? Wouldn't surprise me if you didn't…''

''And you just let me go?'' He doesn't mean to raise his voice, honestly, but when Skater dude flinches and takes a step back, he all about did the damage anyway.

''I – I – you were dead set man… sorry. I would've stopped you, really…'' Now he's just grasping at straws. ''But – but Ryan… yeah Ryan wanted the road trip. And I couldn't go; my mom would freak out.''

At least he has a mom that freaks out about him.

Jake's got shit.

''Whatever dude.''

He walks away, his backpack slugged over his shoulder, there's a part of him that wants to find old sk–Ryan–right now. But the bigger part wants to smoke some weed.

Then this voice that sounds like dad tells him; 'You're too big of a pussy to want to know what happened'.

He catches himself agreeing.

''You're high.''

What is high exactly? High in the world, high in the sky, high in the government, high in life, high on life, high on the social ladder, high on happiness, high on pain, high on drugs? Or does the principle mean something else entirely. Has he been performing better, has he, unbeknownst to himself, achieved a greater good. What? Huh. He doesn't get it.

''You're high.'' He retorts instead. Jake leans back into his chair. There's something wrong about this sight… Seriously, where is the TV? He could have sworn that principle Hendricks – Hendrickson – Hendrickly – Dick... something, had a TV. Or was that the intercom. TVs and intercoms do make sounds. No wonder. Or perhaps it was a radio, or a humongous telephone. The size of an elephant. Three elephants and the length of twelve giraffes.

Seems legit.

Principle Dick leans on his elbows, a crease forming between his eyebrows – and dude, shit, he looks old. He's like, twenty, right? No, no, that doesn't sound right. Maybe thirty– thirty two? He looks like seventy anyway. Jake has heard that Nivea for men performs miracles. Maybe he should advise Mr. Dick to buy some…

''Skipping school for three days is against the rules, smoking on school grounds is against the rules, hitting a fellow student is against the rules…'' Mr. Dick exhales a deep breath, leaning back in his swivel chair. ''But throwing a water bottle against a teacher for trying to help you during your schoolwork – that crosses the line Jake.''

Is it him, or is it getting hot in here.

(So, why don't you take all of your clothes off?)

''So?''

''So?'' Mr. Dick huffs rather pissed off, which makes no sense whatsoever. Really, it doesn't. Does it? He doesn't get it anymore. ''So, you have broken several of rules and this school does not condole rule breaking! You should be ashamed of yourself.''

''Shame comes with the whole package, dude – man – person.'' He motions his hands across his body. ''You just gotta say 'fuck it' and move on. Yolo is the motto – and shit, F.I.S.H. Fuck it, Shit happens.''

Jake presses one of his eyes shut. What the fuck did he just say?

''Fuck it?'' Mr. Dick spits out. ''Is that your motto for life? Fuck it? Is that what you're going to tell yourself when you have achieved nothing in life? Fuck it?'' The principle shakes his head, detaining Jake's face as a look of utter shock hits his own. ''A few weeks ago you were a priced student… and now? What happened?''

He's getting sick and tired of that question.

''I happened!'' He exclaims; a forced smile on his face as he throws his hands in the air. ''Me. Me. I happened. I grew the fuck up. Don't look at me like that, the dude had it coming.'' So he hit Ryan. Big deal. He's got a good reason for it too. For a matter of fact, Ryan tried to scam him into paying twice as much for the weed. The con.

Mr. Dick lays his hands down, barely able to keep his eyes on the student before him. ''And the smoking on school grounds, did the school have that coming? And the leaving for three days, did the school have that coming too?''

''I have a legit reason for leaving… sir.'' Actually, he doesn't. He still doesn't know what happened. ''Ask Ms. Bravoski, she'll tell you.''

''Ms. Bravoski has told me what happened.'' He seems relieved, but than Mr. Dick opens his mouth and says; ''she's tired too, Jake. We all are.''

Welcome to the club. Take a seat and wait for your turn to speak up.

''You gotta be fucking kidding me.''

''You're expelled, Jake. Until further notice.''

He can't even bring himself to care.

''Just so you know, Jake. I hope this is worth destroying your life for. I hope giving up on everything is worth it.''

He'll just have to ask his mom if it's worth it, won't he?

Hearing his dad talk on his thirteenth birthday, felt like hearing the devil speak through his ear buds. A loud whisper that was more mentally damaging than a swirl of profanities.

It was his birthday, then. And all he wanted was a happy birthday.

He got nothing but the words; ''useless piece of shit,'' glued into his memory.

Jake's got a black eye that matches his bruised fist. And dad's got a busted lip that matches Jake's blood soaked shirt.

There's silence, and tears from his part, because he's angry. He's so angry at everything and everyone but mostly; he's angry at himself. He's so angry that managing a frown is physically impossible and crying has become that final resort of pitiful emotions; he's so fucking angry that for once in his life he fought back hard enough, until exhaustion took him over and he finally caved into his carpet and called it a night. And just for the sheer pleasure of it, dad gave him a final blow right on his eye, and called it a night too.

They're sitting on the carpet, both exhausted, a bigger reason behind it than the pointless fight that took hostage over that tiny little destructive moment. He keeps wondering how he got here, he keeps wondering what would've happened if he stayed in Lima, he keeps wondering what would have happened if he listened to his fear of failing and skipped his math test and found mom home before she left. Would Jake still have been here?

''I can't… do this anymore.'' He cracks out, because honestly, he's just fucking tired. The fighting, the hitting, the fear, the anger – it's suffocating him. He deserves better. ''I'm tired.'' Jake swallows; it feels like glass shards going down, but the truth leaving his lips has more ammunition than he could have ever possibly imagined.

He can't show repentance or pain or sorrow because than dad will have him. Then dad will see him weak.

But he does it anyway, because really, he is nothing if not, weak.

''You're right.'' Dad pitches in, and as if he's wearing x-ray goggles, he says; ''you are weak.''

(That night Jake smokes the rest of his stash of weed in the hopes that the world might just bring him somewhere else tonight.)

He hears the knocking at three pm in the afternoon. Jake barely gets out of bed when he feels the blood rushing through his head down to his cheeks, the light titillation of his busted face, and the black eye that almost stops him from actually standing up. It's the numb feeling, he decides. It's the completely common pain that feels like the cold rain in an autumn evening. And because he's used to it, it rarely has the power to stop him from going on. Good thing dad's not home, Jake can't bear to look him in the face and recall the words he said last night.

That's the thing with weakness; the moment it's uttered, the courage of actually being able to face the next day has practically been drifted away.

When he pulls the door open, winching at the light that hits his eyes, he has to blink a few times before he realizes what he's seeing.

''Puck?'' He mutters. ''What are you doing here?''

And as he stares at the infiltrator, his eyes catch a wisp of brown hair and before he knows it he's looking into the prettiest brown Bambi eyes that he has ever seen.

Then he realizes that he knows her, but he can't put his finger on where.

''Well… Jake… I – I'm kind of… your brother?''

He barely manages to remove his eyes from the girl and look at his ex-cellmate, but when he does, he finds himself missing the sight of her face.

But wait – what?

''What that can't be…'' There's that slight recollection of dad and him talking and his foul words that spew 'half-brother' and 'Jewish Edna' in his face before Jake realizes why he went to Lima.

''What happened to your face?'' Bambi eyes exclaims as she steps forward, pushing Puck away, while reaching out to touch his face. It feels so familiar… How in the world? ''Who did this to you? Did he do this to you?''

He? How does she know about him?

''I'm going to kill him!'' Puck exclaims, like he knows who he is, too. ''But first things first, let's get you outta here. Pack ya stuff and let's go.''

And just like his mother he packs his things in a haste and never looks back.

He didn't even question if Puck was actually the brother he said he was or if the girl was really someone he knew. He didn't ask any questions about Lima or family or if dad had a loose hand too when it came to Puck and his mom, because honestly, all he wanted to do was get out.

It's like Castiel pulled Dean out of perdition and back into freedom all over again, only this time, Jake was Dean and there was no feathery, callous angel, but two kids not so different from him.

Who knows, maybe they're kind of damaged too.

It's a long ride back to Lima, and the silence that overtakes the car is more than just a little tension, he even finds the flare taste of awkwardness soaring along. What could he possibly even say to his alleged half-brother and Bambi eyes? He's not all for the 'thank you for rescuing my ass' or the conversations about feelings and life and 'what are you going to do now?' that other people seem so invested about.

But Bambi eyes looks like the type of girl that likes to ask thoroughly questions and tries her best to not get all too invested with another person's life. But in the end, does so anyway. It's the heart, he thinks. Her heart must be twice the size of her beauty and that only is enormous.

Jake even catches her not so subtle looks through the rearview mirror. And shit, does his reflection look exhausted.

''…So…'' Bambi eyes starts anyway. Nervously, she plays with her skirt, and he finds himself looking longer at those ongoing legs than expected. ''How are you feeling?''

It's a loaded question, with more than a bunch of answers. There's the 'I'm fine', but really, he's not. There's the 'I'll be okay', but really, he doubts he ever will. There's the 'what took you guys so long?' That really, he doesn't want to say, but deep down in his bottom less chest, he wants to scream it at them until his tongue decides to retreat and his lips can't hold it up anymore. There's the 'why?', and honestly, he figures it's a loaded question for them too.

So he shrugs, better left unsaid.

''Berry, leave him alone. Can't you see he's fucking tired?'' Half-brother Puck decides to throw in.

She casts him a look that says that he can't just tell her to shut up, and Jake realizes soon enough that she's the one wearing the pants in that relationship – friendship – hopefully friendship though. Fingers crossed.

''I mean…'' Puck hastily fetches. ''…You know what I mean.''

''I hope I do, Noah.'' She hisses back.

''You're name is Noah?'' He asks from the back seat. ''I thought it was Puck?''

Puck/Noah huffs and says; ''It is… sorta… Everyone calls me Puck, only family calls me Noah.'' Crap. Does that mean that Bambi eyes is family? He's not down for incest… ''With the exception of Berry here.'' He juts his chin towards Bambi eyes. ''Rachel's got a fetish with my surname.'' He grins.

''Shut up, Noah!''

''You can call me Noah too… If you wanna.'' Puck shrugs. ''You know, if you want to.''

There's a tension in the room that Jake cuts off with; ''Why do you let everyone refer to you as Puck instead of Noah?'' Because there's that little part in his brain that wonders if they're more alike than Jake expected.

Rachel frowns, almost like she's wondering about that right now, too.

He shrugs another time, something that's starting to look like a signature mark of the Puckerman family.

'''Cause then I'm not really a Puckerman… for a while, at least, you know… It kind of has a… jumbled up degree of fucked up emotions riveted with it.''

Jake knows exactly what he means.

''Should I call you Puck, Noah? I mean, I don't mind… I didn't know…'' Rachel doesn't finish her sentence and her words die out somewhere in the car. There's no window open for it to fully depart, so he wonders just where it went to and if it's ever going to come back.

It's cold. Puck seriously needs to put on the heater.

''No babe, you should call me Noah.''

It sounds like the easiest decision Puck has ever made, and Jake contemplates telling her to call him Jacob instead of Jake.

He thinks it's strange, that feeling that maybe, Rachel can make that horrendous memory carved name sound like a God given right.

Ms. Puckerman is different than his own mother.

She's more welcoming and gentle, and her arms are open for him right as he walks through that door and puts his luggage down on the better looking, shimmering laminated floor. She kisses Jake's cheeks and he vaguely suspects that it's something Jewish people are known for doing. She holds on to his face, rather tightly, and inspects his eyes and cheeks and lips and she knows. But no one comments, even when Rachel looks like she's physically restraining herself not to ask.

Not even then.

When Edna Puckerman looks at Jake like he's always wanted to be looked at by his own mother (loved, cherished, 'I will never let you go, my dear one', considerate), he starts feeling like he's maybe, worth something more than a few punches, stashes of weed and a runaway loved one.

Sometimes he forgets where he is. The guest room looks richer and homier than his room in Alabama and he feels like it's way too comfortable to be his infinity.

Sometimes he jerks awake in the middle of the night and hides underneath his blankets, like he expects to hear voices, footsteps and a knock on his door that doesn't even wait for a reply before it enters.

Sometimes it's like he forgets to breathe. As if he forgot about still being alive.

But then he realizes just where he is, and he inhales like it's been forever since his last intake of breath.

Jake hears her sing in the kitchen on a Thursday morning while baking cookies.

Her voice is so beautiful that he gets drawn closer to the kitchen without really controlling his feet. Like a rope of notes pulling him in along his chest.

Then she belts out 'stop crying your heart out' at the top of her lungs, pitch perfectly, and he finds himself stopping in between the door opening, stunned, awed – how is it possible to have someone as unique as Rachel Berry in the middle of a shit town like Lima – and star-stricken all-together.

Maybe it's the friendly environment that he's been led into, or maybe he doesn't really know why at all, but he asks her just that.

She turns around, quite shocked at first, but smiles like it hasn't been the first time that she heard it.

''You've got your story…'' She quips up, turning back around and continuing whatever shit she's doing now. ''And I've got mine.''

He wonders if he talks about his story, would she talk about hers too?

''I feel like I know you.'' He tells her. She halts for a second, before her hands move back into the cookie dough. ''Do I? Like, know you? Do I know you?''

There's a few seconds silence at first, and he knows she's contemplating about telling him something. Maybe it's nothing at all, maybe it's crucial – maybe she doesn't know anything either.

''Lima is a small town.''

He nods, he knows that. He's been living in his own small town for a while. But she can't see him, so he answers with a; ''yeah.''

Then it hits him, and he feels like a fool for not thinking about it before. The weed really did mess his brain up, didn't it?

''Did I meet you in Lima when I got arrested… I swear whatever I did, I didn't mean to! I was –''

''–Drunk?'' Rachel giggles, like she's heard it all before. ''Yes. I know… I… noticed.''

''You did?''

She stops kneading the cookie dough as she turns around. And even with the flower tainting her cheeks, she still looks like one of those pretty girls straight out of the magazines – only Rachel has this uniqueness covering her every being that makes her stand out.

''It doesn't surprise me that you don't remember anything.'' She smiles. ''Not even Noah has been that drunk, since, ever.''

''I don't get it.'' Jake blurts it out before he realizes what he's saying and how forwardly apace he is, ''why wouldn't I want to remember you?''

There's a look of astonishment on her face that reduces to delight and then sadness.

''I don't think it's me you don't want to remember, but your dad.'' She pauses, maybe it's for the extra dramatic effect, or maybe she's waiting for it to really sink in before he hears Ms. Bravoski at the back of his mind and he realizes what they're trying to tell him. ''I think that when you remember me, you would have to remember how you found me, and if you had to remember how you found me, you would have to go back to the start, where it all began.''

Where did it all begin?

Where did it go wrong?

''But the beginning was so painful,'' she inhales, like she's heard his story before, and she's only narrating it for him, like a close reminder. ''That even what you feel for me – wasn't strong enough to get you to face the memories before you decided to drink…''

''Did something happen between us?'' He asks, because, frankly, he's dying to know.

He feels like he's her at the beginning of his arrival, dying to know about his story but slightly scared to hear the truth.

Maybe, though, she wasn't ever trying to hear his story. Maybe she wanted to be alone with him to just be with him.

That feeling in his chest isn't hunger. It's a reminder that his heart is still there.

Maybe mom didn't really take all of him?

(Maybe somebody else retrieved it a while ago?)

''You have a great voice, even if you're drunk.''

Then she turns around, and never answers his question like she expects everything to fall into place eventually.

He starts singing too, with her, sometimes; with Puck, a lot of times. And he actually has a good sound too. Heck, he could probably make a living out of busting tunes if he wanted.

He's not sure if he's going to do it forever though, or if he's going to get Rachel in the end, but he feels like he's on the right track, even if it's just the beginning.

But he's gotta start somewhere, right?


'cause all of the stars
Are fading away
Just try not to worry
You'll see them someday
Take what you need
And be on your way
And stop crying your heart out

The end

Song: Stop crying your heart out – oasis.