Author's Note: Here it is. The Epilogue. I can't tell you guys how much I appreciate all the support and understanding, not just after last week but during the whole story. I'm probably not going to tackle another multichapter fic for awhile (but then I always say that, don't I?), but this one has been so much fun and I loved sharing it with y'all and hearing what you thought about it. So, thank you very much, and I hope you do the same (enjoy and review) for this last part.
Puck craned his neck back over the plush chair, trying to peek around the halfway-shut bedroom door down the hallway and catch a glimpse of Rachel through the reflection in the floor mirror in his line of vision. He could hear her and Kurt bickering back and forth about outfit selections and hairstyles even from his spot in the living room. Although funny, the only real reason his interest had piqued was because Rachel had posed the question, "This one or this one?" Anytime a woman said something close to that in reference to clothing, it meant she was likely not fully clothed.
Unfortunately for Puck, he couldn't tell either way.
"I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you've seen her naked enough the last few days," Blaine pointed out with a grin, flipping the channel from the football bowl game to the college basketball game they'd been watching before the commercial.
Puck smirked. "No such thing," he replied vaguely.
Puck didn't mind being candid and Blaine seemed chill enough, but he was also gay and Puck really didn't want the conversation to go in that direction. He was cool with the whole homo thing, but at a reasonable distance from his body and psyche. For instance, it was not cool earlier when Kurt had tried to put a belt on him. That was way too close to his junk for his comfort - even if Kurt had been right; the blinged out belt buckle did kind of look badass.
"Did you change the channel again?" Kurt huffed as he entered the living room. He was just about finished getting dressed, but he hadn't done his hair yet. "I thought we were watching football. I don't like basketball."
"Surprised ya know the difference," Puck mumbled.
"I'll have you know I was the star kicker for our high school football team during my sophomore year," Kurt gloated, his smile fading when his gaze moved from Blaine's adoring face to focus on Puck's mocking yawn. He smiled tensely. "Have I mentioned how lovely it is to have you back in our lives?"
"Likewise," Puck called toward Kurt's retreating form. The two would never be friends, but they'd silently agreed to bury the hatchet - as best as they could considering their two very different personalities. It was too easy to pick on Kurt, for a number of reasons, and he had plenty of moments of holier-than-thou bullshit that Puck couldn't tolerate, but at the end of the day Puck respected him. He liked that Rachel had people in her life that cared for her the way Kurt obvious did. In fact, their friendship was a lot like his and Sam's; like Kurt, Puck would have no problem throwing down for his boy if the need arose.
"Finn's here!" Blaine announced as he stood up from the couch to answer the door, yelling mostly as a pseudo-timer for the two people still scrambling to get ready.
"Hey," Finn greeted once the door opened, stepping inside and immediately laughing at the commotion that could be heard to the side of the main area. "Still not ready?"
"You know Kurt," Blaine answered absently.
"And Rachel," Finn added, his smile only fading slightly as he nodded his head toward Puck in greeting. Puck and Rachel hadn't been back together for too long - and most of those days were spent locked away in his hotel room - but word of their reunion had clearly spread. Not surprising since Kurt was a blabbermouth, but Puck couldn't hate on the guy too much considering he'd also been the one to stick up for Puck in terms of the whole Quinn thing. It was probably the only reason he and Finn could be in the same room together without a fight breaking out.
"Last show and you couldn't even put on a tie," Blaine joked, closing the front door and leading Finn to the living room. The tall drummer was sporting a pair of gray slacks with a plain white button down and a black cardigan over top. The outfit wasn't entirely casual, but compared to Blaine's traditional suit - though modern when paired with the patterned shirt - Finn felt underdressed.
"Speaking of tie," Finn looked Blaine up and down, a smile creasing onto his face, "what the hell? No bow tie?"
"Don't worry." Blaine grinned, pulling a pair of plastic, neon pink sunglasses out of the inside pocket of his suit coat and making a spectacle of putting them on. "I've got it covered."
"I can't believe I'm married to you," Kurt deadpanned, re-entering the living room with his hair finished and completely dressed. If Finn was underdressed, then Kurt was overdressed. He was wearing a three-piece charcoal suit with a deep red shirt underneath that complemented the red stripe in Blaine's shirt, his hair styled up into a faux-hawk. "And related to you."
"Only by marriage," Finn pointed out, his teasing smile falling off his face as soon as he turned toward the sound of clicking heels in the hallway. "Wow."
"Good, fuck." Puck stood from the chair slowly, trying not to trip over his tongue as he did so. Purposefully, he blocked Finn's view of Rachel as he drew closer; they might not be throwing punches at one another, but Puck didn't trust Finn anymore than the tall drummer probably trusted Puck. He'd had feelings for Rachel since he was in high school and they clearly hadn't gone away yet, so Puck felt pretty good about keeping a buffer between them, especially when Rachel was dressed to kill. Honestly, he didn't think anything could top the dress from her album release party, but this one didn't just have cutouts at both sides but also one across the chest that highlighted her cleavage. Hands down (his pants) win. Plus, the white dress made her bronze skin look even better, and her long, dark hair was done in breezy waves that wasn't exactly sex hair but close enough that he couldn't stop fantasizing about how to change that.
Rachel had heard Finn's heated sentiment as well as Kurt and Blaine's whistles, but she couldn't stop herself from staring solely at Noah. For one, he looked incredible; he was wearing dressy black pants and a satin black vest over a white collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up, but there were touches of him in the loosened tie and the black Converse shoes. But, more importantly, the way he seemed almost stunned at her appearance made her feel incredible. The fact that he could make her feel like the sexiest woman alive even when she was fully clothed really just made her not want to be.
"You're not so bad yourself," she practically purred, her fingers toying with the edges of his vest while his explored the back of her dress. Rachel had kept her makeup on the minimalistic side, opting for a nude gloss on her lips so she wouldn't have to worry about the color smearing when her and Noah kissed. She'd also worn a subtle pink blush, which she hoped would help her when he inevitably said or did something to make her skin flush.
"OK, save it for the red carpet. Let's go."
Despite the fact that he'd been just as late at getting ready as Rachel, Kurt broke the spell between the couple. In a flash, he ushered everyone out of the loft apartment and toward the waiting car. They'd decided to take one car since they were all going to the same place, but Rachel suddenly wished she'd opted for her own car so she can be with Noah privately. Actually, in hindsight, she wished she would have cancelled on her best friend and gotten ready for tonight's event at the hotel with Noah. They would have been just as tardy - if not completely absent - but at least it would have been because they spent more time getting dirty in the shower than clean instead of because Kurt arguing with her about wearing her hair down or up for twenty minutes.
"Ya look good," Puck reiterated quietly once everyone was situated in the back and the limo started toward the event. "Legit, you're lucky there's three other people back here."
Rachel smiled coyly, pressing her thigh hotly against his. She bit her lip when he leaned in closer, her eyes fluttering closed a little as she whispered, "Depends on your definition of luck."
Puck growled lowly, his fingertips indenting the edges around her knee where his hand had landed in his attempt to find a safe spot. It wasn't that he cared what the other three in the car would think, but he didn't want to draw too much attention to them, either; Kurt, Finn and Blaine were currently talking about the setlist and plans for the after party, and Puck knew it wasn't going to take long to get to the event. This was really the only chance he had with Rachel before the press would swarm them. And, even though she hadn't said so yet, Puck knew she was worried about the media attention to their relationship.
"I'd consider it lucky if this thing split in two and our half went back to the hotel."
Rachel giggled humorlessly, placing a gentle kiss in the crook of his neck before resting her head against his shoulder. She loved going out and she loved New Year's Eve in New York City, but Noah's idea was quite appealing. She was fairly certain she'd never tire of nights alone just her and Noah (spent in any capacity), but considering the venue, Rachel was less excited about what lied ahead for them this evening.
"We're almost there!" Kurt announced merrily, smiling across the limo at Rachel. "You ready to come out of hiding, Lady Love."
"I'm not hiding anything."
Rachel instantly eased at Puck's gentle (teasing) tone, his light kiss to her temple further diffusing her defensiveness. She'd known Kurt didn't mean anything from his comment, but she was already nervous about what the press would think once she and Noah emerged together from the car. She'd never denied anything about their prior relationship after everything that had happened, but now she almost felt embarrassed that they were going to be seen together. It was as if they were going to be caught in a lie, which made even less sense considering this time was more real than before.
"I'm simply not prepared to answer a million questions regarding my marital status," she finally stated, though Noah was the only one left to hear as Kurt and Blaine and then Finn had already exited the car.
"Ya don't gotta say anything." Puck winked, waggling his eyebrows suggestively. "I can make it obvious."
Rachel couldn't help but laugh, though she did manage to roll her eyes before playfully pushing him out of the car. She took a deep breath and waited for his extended hand before exiting the car. She was instantly blinded by a thousand flashes and her ears rung from the low dull of her name being repeated again and again. She tensed immediately, but then Noah draped his arm loosely around her, and it was as if all her nerves and anxiousness seemed to disappear. He guided her across the red carpet, letting her shine for photographers but still managing to almost protect her as they answered questions together. Noah had a way of letting those little comments that might have made her squirm roll down his back, spinning the answer so effortlessly that she'd fallen in love with him all over again by the time they'd finished.
"Daaaaaammn." Santana drew out her appreciation until she crossed the short threshold between where she was standing and where Rachel and Puck had just entered the building. "Ya sure make me miss tacos, Berry." The Latina glared at Puck. "I'd rather die than have a threeway with you, though."
Rachel rolled her eyes at their playful banter. It would be confusing to most to figure out how two people who barely knew each other could seem so comfortable together, but knowing both of them Rachel understood completely. They were one in the same, which might have made her nervous or even jealous when she was younger. However, she'd learned that people too similar rarely worked out romantically, so their connection was oddly comforting.
"Fairy Dust and the rest of them went toward the back," Santana mentioned, seeing Rachel's eyes veer left and right in a subtle search attempt. "I can't believe we had to get here so early 'cause of the stupid show," she pouted. "I like to make an entrance."
"I'm sure you and Sam arriving together caused quite a flurry of commotion," Rachel reasoned. While neither Santana nor Sam were denying their relationship, between his promotional touring and her international shows, tonight's event was their first public appearance. Apparently there were bets on whose relationship outing would earn the most media attention; Rachel didn't want the spotlight on her in this scenario, but she'd pick her and Noah if she were of the gambling mind. "If not, your dress certainly did."
Santana grinned like a Cheshire cat, spinning in presentation despite the fact that the blue-to-white ombre dress clung to her body like a second skin. The asymmetrical, one-shoulder neckline worked well with her sleek parted hair, though, and the strappy sandals she'd paired with it took away some of the dramatics. "There are probably more photographers now, though. I should leave and come back."
"Yeah," Sam snorted out, appearing out of nowhere. "More pictures. Good idea." He shrugged emptily. "I still have most my vision, so yeah."
Rachel giggled lightly at Sam's teasing, leaning in to accept his kiss on the cheek (and returning one on his opposite cheek). "You look quite dashing."
"I picked it out," Santana stated immediately.
"Gotta change out of it for the set anyway. So, whatever." Sam shrugged, looking down at the navy suit. There was a lighter blue shirt underneath, unbuttoned at the top. The pair looked good standing next to one another, though Rachel suddenly realized that her white ensemble next to Noah's mostly black (with a little white) outfit also matched nicely. "Saw Kurt's hair, though. Bring back memories, dude?"
"Shut up," Puck chuckled. "That cut was badass."
"It was quite sexy," Rachel agreed hotly, curling her arms around one of Noah's. When she was met with three pairs of questioning eyes, she blushed. "I saw pictures after ..."
"Broadway Falls for Bad Boy," Santana interrupted. "I remember that one." She glared again at Puck. "Just 'cause you're tappin' my girl again doesn't mean ya gotta give hairstyle tips to her gay bestie."
"Santana," Rachel interjected before Noah could comment, "I thought you were going to be nice to Kurt from now on."
"No, I said he should be nice to me." Santana rolled her eyes, leaving abruptly to presumably walk the red carpet again.
After the truth about Santana's lie had come to light and the chaos of everything had died down, Rachel had spoken to Kurt about the prolonged animosity between the two of them. They hadn't gotten along as well as she and Santana when they were all in college, but they had at least been civil before things had ended between Santana and Finn. Now that Kurt knew Santana had actually been protecting Finn, Rachel thought the two might be able to get closer to friends. Apparently not.
"We should go, too," Sam advised, walking back toward the backstage area so Puck and Rachel could have a little time alone before the show started.
"I just gotta stay back there 'til they start, 'kay?"
Rachel nodded, unable to frown at the thought of him leaving as Noah's lips captured her own. She sighed into the embrace, her body humming at the way his arms wrapped around her lithe frame and pulled her close. His fingertips danced across the patches of exposed skin at her sides, and she shivered in response. Her hands cradled his face in an effort to prolong the kiss, but eventually the two parted with ragged breath. When Rachel opened her eyes, Noah was smirking widely.
"Somethin's obvious now."
She didn't dare look down, her eyes set on him in mock sternness until he finally turned away once he'd backtracked to where Sam had stopped to wait for him. Once the boys were out of sight, Rachel headed toward the bar, still shaking her head in amusement. With a drink in hand, she started to make her rounds with a few key reporters. To Sam's point, she still felt partially blinded from the camera flashes, and it was no surprise to Rachel that they had plenty more questions to go along with those pictures. Before she knew it, Blaine and the Warblers and Sam were starting their first song.
I kn-kn-know a girl, she gets what she wants all the time
'Cause she's fine
But for an angel she's a hot, hot mess
Make you so blind
But you don't mind
'Cause she's an uptown, get-around, anything-goes girl, girl
She's a hardcore, candy-store, gimmie-some-more girl, girl
She'll make you take her to the club, but then she leaves with her friends
She likes to stay late at the party, 'cause the fun never ends
And all her clothes are on the floor and all your records are scratched
She's like a one-way ticket 'cause you can't come back
Saying yeah … you want her, but she's so mean
(You'll never let her go. Why don't you let her go?)
Yeah … you want her, but she's so mean
(You'll never let her go. Why don't you let her go?)
"Do you think this is about me?"
Rachel turned her head toward Santana, trying to cover up her widening smile. "No. I'm sure it's completely fictional."
"Liar." The two girls laughed, but then Santana's expression suddenly grew serious. "I can't believe this is his last show. Look how happy he is."
Rachel frowned, too, her eyes diverting from the front of the stage to the back where Finn was rocking out on the drums. Even in high school when he'd been the lead on the Glee club, Rachel had always known Finn was more comfortable behind the drum set; she'd actually been the one to advise him to pursue instrumental music as opposed to performance arts, which he hadn't technically needed considering his connection with Blaine but would certainly come in handy now. Quinn and Finn had decided to work on the marriage for the kids' sakes, and the first condition Quinn had for Finn was devoting a little more time to his family and less to his career. Blaine and the rest of the band had been nothing but supportive about the decision, but everyone had mixed words with Finn at least once in the last six months; Rachel had been Kurt's ear several times in an effort to keep him from saying anything to ruin his relationship with his stepbrother.
"He'll be happy at home, too, with Rain and Hunter."
Santana sighed, conceding with an empty shrug. They both weren't particularly fond of Quinn, but they knew nothing would change; it hadn't since high school, after all. "Q did one thing right, compromising to Rain instead of Drizzle."
"Agreed," Rachel giggled, lifting up her shot glass to toast with Santana.
"Time out," Puck announced, clearing through the last of the crowd and stepping between the two women. "I ain't missin' another Berry body shot." Rachel rolled her eyes at him, swallowing the liquid and waving goodbye to Santana, who was pulled away by a few friends from the modeling industry. Ignoring the extra space made by the Latina's vacancy, Puck leaned even closer into Rachel, dipping his head down to speak into her ear. "Wanna practice our midnight kiss?"
Rachel's mouth fell open, the words fighting to come out as his lips swept across the sensitive skin below her ear. She could feel the tip of his tongue on the back outer shell, and then his teeth scrape lightly against the lobe. If there weren't hundreds of people around, she'd consider practicing more than just a kiss - right there at the bar. "Noah," she said instead, hoping the soft whine would pull him back into reality.
"S'okay, babe. Everyone's watchin' the show."
"They are performing quite well together," she pointed out, further trying to pry each of their attentions to something other than their desire. "It would probably be a very profitable tour."
"Only if we add a hot, leggy brunette," Puck stated, forgoing his seduction but not ready to dislodge from her completely. Instead, he curled around Rachel's back so she was pressed up against his chest and his arm was draped across her body so much that his hand could toy with the exposed skin at her opposite rib. He allowed her to rest the side of her head against his, speaking once again in her ear. "Ya think Katy Perry would be up for it, though?"
Rachel's mouth gaped open, her head falling back to his shoulder in an effort to glare at him. His laughter filtered through her body, though, forcing her disapproving scowl to give way to light amusement. "You'd be lucky to afford me on such a tour."
"Even with music like this?" Puck asked as Sam and Blaine started the next verse of the second song they'd done together.
You bring me to my knees
You make me testify
You can make a sinner change his way
Open up your gates 'cause I can't wait to see the light
And right there is where I wanna stay
'Cause your sex takes me to paradise
Yeah, your sex takes me to paradise
And it shows, yeah, yeah, yeah
'Cause you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long
Yeah you make me feel like I've been locked out of heaven
For too long, for too long
"Is this the song you helped write?"
"Well it wasn't the one about Santana."
Rachel giggled softly, finally turning in his embrace. "I'm very proud of you, Noah."
"Thanks," he choked out, still sometimes taken aback at how easily she said those words.
"And even though I'm quite happy that you've found a nice balance between your career and your passion for music, it would be a great honor if we did a duet."
Puck couldn't help but smirk. "Sorry. It's loud in here." He pulled her closer, though there was barely an inch between them to begin with. "Did you say we should do it?"
"Noah," Rachel drew out her admonishment, letting both her hands fall from behind his neck to push him lightly at the chest. "Must you always resort to physicality?"
"Come on, babe." He winked. "I've never been good with words."
Rachel smirked just as deeply, shaking her head a little before uttering, "At least not the sweet kind."
Author's Note #2: The first song that was meant to be performed by Sam and Blaine (and the Warblers) was Matchbox 20's "She's So Mean". Still can't get it out of my head and refuse to think it wasn't written for Santana, basically. Haha. The second song, which Puck was supposed to help write, was "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars. Not my songs. Don't sue.
Author's Note #3: I did a Google Images search for all the outfits mentioned, so they're all real and worn by the appropriate star. If you want a better visual of the attire mentioned, PM me and I'll send a link.
Oh, and, don't worry too much about this being the end. I won't completely fall off the face of the earth/board. I've got some oneshot ideas already brewing. :D