Don't ask me. I just let my fingers start typing.
Oh the places we'll go
Rachel Berry fell in love at the age of four. She was picked up from the JCC's daycare center by her daddy, and when Leroy Berry had asked about her day, she had simply put a hand to her mouth in order to keep her words from rushing out in an excited babble. Leroy Berry was worried, despite becoming accustomed to the dramatics that his partner, Hiram, had been instilling in his daughter since the moment she had been placed in their arms. Her entire face was red as he rushed home, to where Hiram was waiting, already unpacking that night's dinner from the local Chinese restaurant.
"How was your day, sweetums?" Hiram asked his precious daughter, looking up sharply as Leroy chuckled.
"She refused to tell me," Leroy revealed. "I think she was purposely trying to keep it in."
"Well, you can tell us, sweetheart. Daddy and I want to know everything about your day," Hiram promised.
Rachel knew this, of course. She had simply wanted to wait until both of her fathers were present. This was a monumental announcement of course. Even she, as a four year old pre-school student could understand that. She took a deep breath and looked up at her fathers with twinkling brown eyes as she sweetly announced,
"Daddies. Today I met the boy I'm going to marry."
Hiram blended a gasp with a chuckle at his daughter's precocious announcement. Leroy on the other hand furrowed his brow and stared down at Rachel with an almost possessive protectiveness. He shook his head and said,
"Please tell me sweetie, that the little Jacob boy didn't do anything..."
"DADDY! YUCK! JACOB IS YUCK!" Rachel screeched. She shook her head and again her eyes began to twinkle, "A new boy came today. Noah. I'm going to marry him. Like Ariel and Prince Eric got married."
"The Puckermans," Hiram nodded in understanding. He shook his head as if he understood Rachel's sudden fascination. The four year old Noah Puckerman was a beautiful little boy, and Rachel always did love beautiful things.
"Well, my little starchild, you are kind of young to be thinking about boys and getting married," Leroy warned sternly.
"First we're going to be best friends. Then we're going to get married like you and daddums," Rachel insisted.
"Did you tell Noah your plans?" Hiram wondered throughtfully. He smiled when Rachel's face fell for the first time. "How did you take that, sweetums?"
"Don't worry, Daddies. We're going to get married," Rachel nodded firmly, her stubborn nature already plotting out her entire life in her head, taking it as iron-clad contract. Getting Noah to agree was simply a formality at that point. She flounced out of the room, ready to change into her after-school clothing before eating dinner.
Leroy smirked at Hiram and shrugged, "That boy is not going to know what hit him."
"Noah, baby, time to go to school," Aviva Puckerman poked her head into her little boy's room with a harried smile. She had exactly twenty minutes to get the child fed, properly washed, dressed and to the JCC's daycare center. She knew she could do it, but it was going to take a flawless effort on both of their parts.
"Can't...sick!" Noah cried out with a surprising amount of believable pain for a four year old.
"You didn't seem sick this morning when I heard you singing the Power Rangers theme song at 6am," Aviva shot back, going towards his bed and holding an expert hand to his forehead. No fever. No clamminess. Her boy was the picture of health. "Out of bed lazybones. Mama's got to get to work."
"I'm DYING!" Noah insisted obnoxiously. "I can't EVER go back there. I'm DYING, Ma!"
"You're dying?" Aviva smirked, reaching into his closet and picking out an outfit quickly. "I suppose the best place to die would be the basement of the synagogue, bub. Come on, let's go."
Noah let out a strangled cry as he rolled out of bed and crawled over to his mother, who simply knelt and worked at getting him out of his pj's and into his school clothing. He looked at her with his huge hazel eyes full of crocodile tears as he jutted out his bottom lip pathetically.
"If you make me go back there, I'll hate you forever!" Noah insisted.
"Baby, I have to go to work. Or else we can't have dinner or breakfast or lunch or a house over our head, understand?" Aviva said with as much patience as she could muster, even though it broke her heart that she was making her amazing little boy do something he clearly didn't want to do. He shrugged and immediately stopped resisting her attempts to dress him, although he made no effort to help. Aviva asked curiously, "What's so bad about school anyway, bub?"
"Rachel Berry," Noah whispered. His next words were full of horror and disgust, as if his stomach was about to revolt and spew all of its contents around the room. "She said she wants to marry me!"
Aviva fought back the immediate bubble of giggles that bloomed as soon as her small son had said the words. She nodded and pulled his t-shirt over his head and shrugged, "Noah, baby, that's not the worst idea I've ever heard. Not by a long shot."
Rachel surveyed Noah very carefully from the moment he trudged through the door miserably. She studied his every move and every word, anxious to see what she had done incorrectly the day before. Obviously walking up to him during free play and stating that "you're my prince, and I'm the princess, so we're going to be married someday" had been the wrong way to go about things. She watched as he built a sky high tower out of the boring wooden blocks, very patiently for a boy his age. Minutes after she was sure he couldn't go any higher, he took one last block and squinted carefully at the tower he had built. Half a second later, he tossed the block precisely at the middle of the tower and Rachel gasped in horror as the tower came tumbling to the ground.
The rest of the boys in the room seemed to think this was impressive. Rachel couldn't understand why someone would want to build something so tall and amazing only to knock it down. She shrugged and watched as Noah moved on to the small play kitchen set up in the corner of the room. Rachel wrinkled her nose when another little girl ran up to him and obviously tried to make him play house with her. She felt only slightly better when Noah ran away quickly, heading towards the magic reading carpet where Rachel had been sitting, pretending to read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. She quickly looked back at the book and pretended to finish it before pickup up another. She really liked this one, and although she couldn't read just yet, she did know most of the words by memory, as her daddy Leroy read it to her every night before bed.
"Hooray, today is your day...you'll go to great places, you're off and away," Rachel recited sweetly. She looked back up and snuck a peek at Noah, who was trying not to pay too much attention to her, even though he sat down on the opposite end of the circular reading rug, his chin in his hands as his eyes darted between the ceiling and the little girl reciting the book from memory.
"You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can go anywhere you choose," Rachel smiled brightly, looking back at Noah openly, as he stared at her with morbid curiosity. "You're on your own and you know where to go. And you are the boy who will decide where we go. Oh the places we will go!"
Rachel put the book down and Noah looked at her curiously before grumbling a question, "The book is done?"
"Yes," Rachel lied, blushing. She didn't want to admit that all the words that she had committed to memory easily had flown out of her brain.
"Read another?" Noah wondered.
"Okay," Rachel smiled, reaching for a book and picking it up, knowing she couldn't read it and she didn't have this one memorized either. She took a deep breath and just decided on the spur of the moment to make everything up. "Once upon a time, there was a princess, and she loved her family. And she loved to sing and dance. And one day she knew that she wanted a new friend that she wanted to make smile and make happy. And she met a boy one day and knew that they would smile a lot and be happy together all the time. And they lived happily ever after."
Noah squinted his eyes at the girl, not really believing that her rapid fire reading was for real. How'd she read that fast? He still had trouble writing down his abc's. Rachel put the book aside and looked as if she was about to say something when the teacher announced,
Rachel pulled herself to her feet as Noah did the same. She walked beside him as nap time was being set up, with all the tiny children reaching for the cushioned mats, small pillows and soft fleece blankets that they used every day for their short naps. Rachel stayed behind Noah in the line that had formed and received her blanket and pillow, before finally trying to balance the cushioned mat all in her little arms. She dropped it twice before Noah sighed and picked it up, carrying it to the nap area where the twenty small children would set up their slumber time equipment. He plopped the two mats down next to each other, trying to keep them as far apart as he possibly could without getting too close to the other children. He threw down his pillow next, then looked to the blanket in his hands.
Bright pink. Great.
"Noah? Can we please switch blankets?" Rachel asked nicely, looking down at the bright green one in her hands, then back to the pink one in his eagerly.
"Sure," he shrugged, grabbing the more desirable green blanket from her hands and thrusting the pink one at her.
"Thank you," Rachel smiled. BIG-time smiled.
Noah felt his cheeks flame as he threw himself down on his cushion, quickly hiding his face under his blanket as Rachel gracefully dropped and covered herself up. The teacher dimmed the lights and surprisingly, all twenty children drifted off for a peaceful 45 minutes of napping.
Noah woke first, blinking his eyes open and being greeted with the sight of a bright pink blanket wrapped around a girl who was still peacefully sleeping, a smile on her face. He looked past Rachel, to see that another boy had woken up and was slowly creeping his way towards one of Rachel's pig tails, his hand reaching out slowly, a weird, sort of sick smile on his face.
"HEY," Noah said quickly.
The other boy backed away quickly, just in time as Noah's warning to the boy had woken up Rachel, who popped up into a sitting position immediately. She grinned down at Noah and asked,
"Did you nap well?"
Noah furrowed his brow and wondered how on Earth a girl his age learned to talk the way she did. He nodded before they were all called to the lunch table. He went through the rest of the day with a thankfully more subdued Rachel. She hadn't mentioned getting married or other gross girly stuff all day, and when his mom came to pick him up hours later he begrudingly admitted that school hadn't made him want to die that day.
"How's the girlfriend?" Aviva smirked.
"I DON'T GOT A GIRLFRIEND!" Noah scowled. He paused for a moment before shrugging, "Rachel read two stories today. It was cool."
Aviva simply smiled to herself as she waved at Leroy Berry on the way out of the school. She glimpsed little Rachel hopping into the backseat of the car, chattering away about her eventful day, no doubt and couldn't help but be impressed. The girl had managed to scare the bejesus out of her little boy one day, to completely charming him the next. Rachel Berry was certainly not the worst thing to have ever happened. Definitely not.
Five-year-old Noah Puckerman knew a few things about life.
One. School was for suckers.
Two. Girls were gross and probably had cooties.
Three. Rachel Berry couldn't really be a girl. She wasn't exactly gross and he hoped that she didn't have cooties. They had spent a whole year napping next to each other. And maybe sometimes he spent time at her house since his mom was picking up extra shifts at the hospital. If she had cooties, he would have certainly been infected after a summer full of swimming in her dad's backyard pool and sharing inflatable floaty toys. And after that first day, she had never mentioned getting married or even being boyfriend and girlfriend again. That was pretty cool. Definitely not girl-y.
Four. In Kindergarten you had to have a best friend. And he had decided that Rachel Berry would be his. He had a few prospects. That Mike Chang was cool, but definitely a little too shy. Finn Hudson seemed alright, but the kid ate paste every morning after snack time. Rumor around the reading circle was this wasn't Finn Hudson's first trip to kindergarten, and odds were that he may even have to repeat AGAIN. He definitely wasn't the sharpest crayon in the box. The other girls were out due to the aforementioned cooties and grossness. So it had to be Rachel.
Five. Jacob Ben-Israel was a freak-turd and needed to be stomped into the ground. He was a creeper and he had an obsession with Rachel's hair and well...Rachel in general. It creeped her out and you couldn't go around creeping out Noah Puckerman's best friend without facing the consequences.
"Hey baby kindergarten babies!"
Noah looked up from his place on the merry-go-round, his go to meeting place for Rachel after she went to her after lunch bathroom break. He frowned at the second-grader who was mocking them from the basketball court. The older kid was sticking out his tongue in mocking and Noah couldn't help but roll his eyes. Lame.
"HEY, merry-go-round! What's with your clothes? You poor or something?"
Noah held a middle finger in the air, causing the other children to gasp audibly. Tina Cohen-Chang then shrieked her freaking head off as the second-grader came barreling onto the playground, heading straight for Noah and the merry-go-round. Noah hopped off the merry-go-round and clenched his fists, ready and waiting for a fight.
The second-grader stopped in his tracks as a small brunette girl suddenly blocked his charging path towards the twerp who had flipped him off. He stared down at the girl who was seriously tiny, even for a kindergartener. She stared up at him with a wrinkled nose, as if the very sight of him was making her feel sort of sick to her stomach. He scoffed at her and said, "Move it, I'm gonna go and beat the crap outta that kid."
"Oh no you are not!" Rachel insisted. "You're going to go back to where you came from and never, ever come back."
"Oh yeah? Whose gonna make me?" he demanded obnoxiously.
"HIYAH!" Rachel screamed, her hand jutting out and knocking the boy in his midsection, as high as she could reach. He doubled over, the wind being knocked out of him. She brought her leg back and then forward with a ludicrous amount of force as she shouted, "HIYAH!"
The kid crumpled and Rachel grinned and turned to the merry-go-round, hopping on and asking a shocked Noah in her sweetest voice, "Noah, please start us off with a push. We only have ten minutes left to recess."
"Where'd you learn to do that?" Noah wondered as he pushed the merry-go-round dutifully.
"Daddy says its important for little girls to be able to protect themselves," Rachel answered, her grin widening. "We watched the Three Ninjas movie until I learned the basics."
The first time that Rachel had "saved" him had been too awesome to complain about. The second time she had gotten in the way when he had wanted to mess with Azimio's face about making fun of the Berry daddies had still been pretty cool cause she had made Azimio cry. By the tenth time she had gotten in the way of an impending fight, this time with Finn over him eating all of the paste, it was starting to get annoying.
Whenever he was in trouble, Rachel Berry was there. First grade? She made sure he didn't get locked in the bathroom by the janitor while they waited for his mom to pick them up after school. Second grade? She spent an entire weekend drilling him on math flash cards so his mom wouldn't kill him for completely failing math and being held back in the second grade like some stupid paste eater. Third grade was the great Rachel and her dads give Noah his first guitar saga, which in a way saved him for sure as that was the horrible year where the screaming of his lazy dad and his overworked ma got really loud.
And Fourth grade...well, Rachel really did save his life. Not by jumping in the way of a fight, but rather handing him a life preserver when life was continually trying to pull him under.
"Go away," he mumbled from underneath the covers.
"I need your help, please," Rachel asked sweetly.
She was technically his best friend. But today was just not a good day. He rolled out of bed anyway and made his way to the door, opening it and walking out, ignoring her gasp as he strolled down the steps to the first floor of his house.
"Noah! Your face!" she squeaked at the sight of the ugly yellowish bruises splattered across his face.
"I got into it with my dad. I think...I think he's not coming back, so its okay," Noah shrugged. He didn't resist her as she grabbed his hand and rushed into the kitchen, opening his freezer and jumping until she could get her fingertips on a bag of peas. She placed it against the swelled and bruised left side of his face. He hissed slightly and she made a sniffly sound. Her eyes were definitely filling with tears and her bottom lip was quivering uncontrollably. He reached out and gave her an impulsive one armed hug, as she still held the frozen peas gingerly against his face. "It's okay, Rach. It's better that he's gone. Ma's gonna have a baby, you know. And he was gonna hit her. So I had to...I told him he should leave and never come back."
"That was very brave of you, Noah," Rachel said softly. "Very very brave."
"Nah, its just he coulda hurt my little sister and my mom," Noah shrugged. "You're supposed to protect the stuff that matters to you."
Rachel blushed suddenly and pulled away, looking slightly uneasy. She turned towards the countertops and gestured to the bags she had brought with her when her daddy had dropped her off. Chocolate chips and bags of sugar were spilling out of it and she shrugged, "Daddy seems to think that food is the cure-all for anything."
"I like cookies," Noah managed a smile. He started to help gather what Rachel would need, reaching for the things that she would probably need the step stool for. "But your cookies are like crack, so yeah. Get started!"
"Noah!" Rachel giggled reproachfully.
"COOKIES NOW! ...please?"
For one whole year after Noah's father left, Rachel made approximately 250 dozen cookies at the Puckerman residence. And although they didn't exactly save his life, her company had been something he had grown to depend on.
And in the summer between fifth and sixth grade, it all went to hell, when Rachel Berry, of all people, hit puberty before everyone else. She didn't get taller. She didn't change very much. Her legs suddenly elongated slightly, but she was still very short. Her sweaters fit a little differently. And her hormones? Well. They went a little crazy, and Noah didn't quite know what to do.
"Yeah, Rach?" he wondered as he placed his tiny baby sister in the playpen for her afternoon nap. He looked to her and was surprised that she had hopped off of the couch and was two inches from his face, a hazy, unidentifiable look in her eye. "Rachel?"
She didn't answer though, she simply grabbed two fistfuls of his t-shirt and drug him to her, planting a quick and forceful kiss to his lips before pulling away, a wild and nervous look on her face. His eyes grew large as he stared down at the tiny fists clenched around his shirt.
"Well?" she demanded.
"huh?" he asked.
"NOAH!" Rachel hissed.
"I want a grilled cheese sandwich. Want to split?" he wondered, deciding that the best thing to do at that moment was to ignore completely that Rachel had just stolen his first kiss.
She decided to drop it, lest she die of embarassment. However, it didn't stop her from basically attacking him several times that summer. Swimming at the lake, smooch attack when their parents weren't looking. Movies? Forget about it, she would sneak at least five surprise kisses before the end of the trailers. She kissed him hello and goodbye every time she saw him. Right smack dab on the lips.
He blushed mostly. And ignored it. He realized that he liked it a little, but it was still to strange and weird and new for him to really embrace the fact that his best friend, who just happened to be a sort of girl that didn't really have cooties was smooching him at every given opportunity. It came to a head however the day before the start of sixth grade.
"Hello Noah! Are you ready for a fun-filled day of school supply shopping?" Rachel questioned as she skipped into his room. She bent at the waist and dropped a kiss on his lips as he sat at his desk prone and helpless.
"Sure," he shrugged. "Hey, Rach? About school tomorrow."
"I'm exceptionally excited. We'll have an hour long music class and the opportunity to join a choir!" Rachel grinned.
"Yeah," Noah nodded. "Actually, I was thinking...are you going to keep kiss-raping me at school?"
"...Excuse em?" Rachel asked, shocked to her core. Her cheeks began flaming and she hissed, "kiss-raping?"
"Well, like you're a ninja about it, and you're sneaky and I can never dodge you in time or get away from them," Noah shrugged.
"DODGE THEM?" Rachel repeated, her voice gaining in volume. "GET AWAY FROM THEM?"
This was not going to end well. Noah's eyes grew larger and larger with every loud syllable being pushed out of Rachel's mouth. This was only going to get louder. And possibly painful. She stamped her foot as more angry words came out of her mouth and he realized it was definitely going to be painful.
"I hadn't realized I was VIOLATING you, Noah, but now that you've made your complaints clear, don't worry yourself over it. I will NEVER. KISS. YOU. AGAIN!" Rachel shouted before turning on her heel and flouncing out of the room.
Noah realized his mistake one week later. Something clicked within him and he didn't know if it was puberty or the fact that the first week of school had been the longest time he hadn't spoken to Rachel since they were four, but he missed her and he missed, of all things, the tiny little physical things she had dropped on him so epically throughout the entire summer. He missed those a lot.
He tried to apologize. But if Rachel Berry was good at one thing it was the icy cold ignore.
It lasted for six whole months. Until one day he couldn't take it anymore. He missed his best friend. His mom missed her. His baby sister would constantly demand where Wacha was. She was getting new teeth and crying and whining about it and when she was at her saddest she would come to him, sniffling and sobbing, holding the Little Mermaid video and demanding "Wacha!" His mother was pulling a double shift, so he had no choice but to bundle up the tiny teething demon and walk the five blocks to Rachel's house.
"Hi Mr. Berry," Noah managed a small upturn on his lips, trying his best to balance his sister, the bag of stuff he would need to keep her fed, happy, dry and clothed, and the precious video that would hopefully soothe all of his little sisters pain, in addition to patching things up with his best friend. Two birds. One stone. He hoped.
"Rachel is downstairs practicing," Leroy nodded, allowing the boy and his baby sister in.
Noah made his way downstairs slowly and surprisingly quietly. The little girl who had been sobbing the whole walk from his house was now silent in gleeful anticipation of seeing Wacha. He heard the music as they got further down the stairs to the Berry's sound proofed basement. He had seriously missed that basement. The Daddies Berry had spared not one penny in creating the most perfect basement of all time. Projector and screen? Check. Large wooden floors that Rachel had spent hours scuffing up with dance shoes? Check. Mini-stage for last minute performances? Check.
Maybe it was because it had been six months since he had last been in Rachel's house, but he was getting overly eager to reach the bottom of the stairs and see Rachel once again. Sure, he saw her in passing at school, but it wasn't the same and he was keenly aware of that. Maybe now he'd have a chance to apologize.
He may have figured it out during Rachel's six month snubbing of him that her physical affection towards him wasn't entirely a bad thing. In fact, maybe now that he was a little older, he sort of missed it. Some of the boys in his class had been eager to discuss girls, and he was beginning to understand their way of thinking. His Nana Connie had told him that all Puckermans were late bloomers, but once they started blooming, everyone better lock up everything. He still didn't know what she meant, but he knew that it was only a matter of time before he did.
He pushed the door to the basement open and a wall of sound came rushing at him immediately. Some Broadway thing, he was sure. After years of drilling it in his head, he may even be able to place it. Definitely old. Definitely loud. Definitely Broadway. He watched as she went through a routine flawlessly. It was probably about the fiftieth time she had run through it that hour. He found her pursuit of perfection fascinating. He always had. When they were little pre-schoolers, she had striven to be the first girl in her tap class to perfect every step, including the steps that weren't even being taught to the advanced older kids.
Even back then, her tenacity was something that intrigued him. Which was why he knew that as soon as she stopped her routine, he was in for some trouble. Because Rachel Berry had set her mind on ignoring him, and it would take something monumental for her to give up on that particular task. He watched as his sister rushed to the oversized couch, making climbing up with some difficulty before settling in, waiting for the movie to begin.
"Wacha! SING!" she demanded obnoxiously.
Rachel stopped dancing immediately and an automatic smile came on her face as she saw the tiniest Puckerman holding their favorite video high above her head. She looked to the door and her smile faded as she saw Noah standing their with his hands in his pocket, his feet shuffling awkwardly. He met her eyes just briefly before staring back down at the floor. She looked pissed. STILL. He had to think. He had to come up with something to make her forget just how angry she was at him.
"Noah," Rachel hissed. "What are you-"
Her words were cut off as Noah leaned in and pressed his lips to hers quite firmly. She had initiated hundreds of kisses, but this was the very first time he had done it. Rachel froze, shocked in her place even after he pulled away, a definite blush covering his cheeks.
That. Was. Awesome.
He leaned in to do it again, eyes closed, mouth turning up in an almost giddy smile. And just as he thought he was going to make that enjoyable contact again, he felt the stinging of Rachel's hand against his cheek. He blinked his eyes open stupidly and furrowed his brow, not understanding the problem.
"We both like it now," Noah shrugged at her, not understanding the problem. "Let's let the brat watch Little Mermaid and we can...you know, figure stuff out."
"I am going to watch the movie with your sister. You are going to go upstairs and occupy yourself with other business," Rachel whispered.
"It's too late, Noah!" Rachel shook her head firmly.
"We're...twelve," Noah reminded her helpfully.
"I'm transferring. To a specialized middle school for the performing arts. If all goes well...I may be going to New York for high school," Rachel revealed, her voice quiet and gentle. As if it might help to soften the blow somehow. She looked up at him and smiled sadly saying, "Daddy wanted me to go at the start of the year, but I-I wanted to go to a normal school. With you. But then-"
"Then I made you hate me," Noah answered.
"No, that's not true, I could never hate you, Noah," Rachel insisted fiercely. "You're my best friend."
"It's cool. I'll see you around," Noah shrugged. He walked over to his sister and scooped her up in his arms, ignoring her protests. "Come on brat. Gotta get you home."
"Wacha!" she shrieked.
"Noah, please don't leave," Rachel pleaded in vain, as he made a speedy exit despite the obnoxiously wailing baby in his arms. Rachel felt tears burning at her eyelids and with surprising speed they trekked their way down her cheeks. She sniffled as her face scrunched up in that way she couldn't quite control when she was about to dissolve into hysterical tears. She managed to squeak out one syllable before succumbing to her need for hysterics.
Two miserable years went by in the blink of an eye. Looking back, it seemed like a blink of an eye. During the actual time, it felt like slow motion. Rachel Berry completely disappeared from his life. Her disappearance made him angry. The anger built up day after day until he felt that he was ntohing but angry. Noah disappeared under the weight of it all. Only Puck remained. Puck figured out that Santana Lopez would do just about anything he wanted if he only asked. Puck figured out that a careful balance between intimidation and fear made him one of the most popular kids at school.
The summer before freshman year of high school, he heard from his mother that Hiram Berry was sick. He hated that his first instinct was to run right over to their house and see if Rachel was alright. If she had needed him. But she hadn't needed him for two years. So why would she want him now? When his sister would ask him why Rachel wasn't around anymore, he honestly couldn't come up with an answer. Because they had had a misunderstanding? Because they had hurt each others feelings? Because they just weren't little kids anymore and didn't have the need to be each other's best friend?
That was a lie. He felt like he needed Rachel Berry every damn day. He felt Noah slipping away and knew that the only thing that would bring it back was her. He was surprised when his mother told him that Rachel had canceled her plans to attend high school in New York and was instead going to be enrolling with him at McKinley.
He had woken up that first day with an inkling of hope. Maybe things would go the right way. After lunch though, with some careful words from Santana and Quinn, all the hope drained from him as the first slushie left his hand and went splashing in Rachel's face. It was definitely over then.
She kept surprising him though. Glee club. Getting Sandy Ryerson fired. Sweet Caroline. Sectionals Junior year. They never spoke of the near decade long friendship they had shared. Even the kids who had witnessed it didn't speak of it. Mike Chang had tried and had ended up running for his life. He may have gotten away from Rachel that one afternoon when he brought it up, but two weeks later when he tried Puck, he didn't get away so fast and endured the most painful wedgie of his life.
He watches with forced disinterest as Rachel and Finn dance around each other in New York again. He suggests the date, the romance, and he can't really explain to himself why. He plays the stupid accordion that his Nana made him learn one Rachel-less summer and he watches. And he waits. And it sucks. He's angry at everyone. At everything. He's angry at his dad for being a grade-A douchenozzle. He's angry at Quinn for giving his baby to Shelby Corcoran. He's angry at Finn for kissing Rachel on the stage at Nationals. He's angry at himself the most though, because he feels like he's to blame for all of it. He's angry for days. So angry that he can't even hear himself think, much less talk to anyone.
A couple of days before school starts, he blows off history and heads to the choir room, anxious to strum around on his guitar for forty-five uninterrupted minutes. He stops in the doorway when he sees her, plucking away at piano keys for a few seconds before scribbling furiously on lined paper. He enters the room silently and listens to what Rachel is working on.
"And when things start to happen, don't worry.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too."
Puck closed his eyes and couldn't fight the smile. He noiselessly went to the corner of the room as Rachel continued to be absorbed in her work. He wasn't surprised that she didn't notice him moments later, standing behind her with a guitar in his hands, picking up on the melody she was picking out on the piano. He knew he was basically the shit when it came to music, but even he was surprised when he started to strum the guitar, playing along quite well with what she was trying to compose.
"Oh! The Places You'll Go!" he sang softly.
Rachel stopped playing for a moment and turned back to look at him, a curious, though not unhappy light dancing in her eyes. She turned back to the keyboard of the piano as he strolled around with his guitar in hand, adding a few chords and progressions to Rachel's work in progress.
"You'll be on your way up," Rachel sang sweetly. She looked to Puck and nodded, indicating that he should take the next line.
"You'll be seeing great sights," he added for her.
Their voices blended on the next line, his voice always automatically finding that perfect harmony to compliment her sweet, dulcent tones.
"You'll join the high fliers who soar to high heights..."
Rachel started laughing, cutting off the song completely. Noah simply watched her, smirking slightly as her giggles began to die down. She shook her head at him and wondered, "I can't believe you remember the words."
"You fake read it to me every day for a year when we were four," Noah reminded her.
"Yes, although my memorization skills at such a young age were just as impressive as being able to read the actual book," Rachel insisted.
"I miss you."
She looked up at him curiously, his blurted admission coming out of left field.
"I don't want to be with Lauren. And I don't want you to be with Finn," Noah said quietly. He didn't quite understand where all of this sudden honesty was coming from, but he certainly couldn't help the word vomit from tumbling from his lips. "Imiss you. I'm sorry. For everything. For whatever. I just. I want you back in my life."
They remained silent for quite some time, both a little afraid to say anything at all. Finally Rachel said softly, "I forgave you sophomore year for the slushies, Noah."
"I know. But for other stuff too. I'm sorry," he insisted.
"We were children. There's nothing to be sorry for," Rachel smiled at him. She was quiet again for a few minutes before she finally whispered, "Finn and I aren't going to last forever, you know."
"I hope not lasting forever kind of means breaking up later tonight, but whatever," Noah shrugged.
Rachel giggled in spite of herself. She stood from the piano bench and walked over to where he was standing as he quickly shifted the guitar on its strap so that it rested on his back. She popped up on the tips of her toes and placed a firm kiss on his cheek, her lips just barely brushing his lips. It felt like they were twelve years old again in that brief, blissful moment.
"Oh, Noah. The places we will go."
I'm working on my other stuff. Promise.