This is an AU One Shot for an old (and since discontinued) story “Third Time Around”. Mostly because somehow this re-mix actually turned out better then how the original long form story was going.
Basically the initial prompt was: “Rachel lives in a Brooklyn loft with her teenage daughter. The dad – maybe Finn – isn’t involved. Puck enlisted in the military right after he graduated but now he’s moving to New York. Somehow he runs into Rachel and they spark something up.”
In “Third Time Around” Rachel had gotten pregnant by Finn before HS graduation and in the story she tells Noah (Puck), 14 years later, that her initial gut reaction was to tell Finn the baby was Noah’s; but, not wanting to saddle Noah with a child that wasn’t his she didn’t (especially since he was leaving for boot camp). During that conversation with Noah she remembers what Finn’s initial reaction to being told she was pregnant was and how she had once again had the urge to run to him due to Finn’s reaction rather then stay with him and try to “fix things”.
In this little slice of universe, she did.
“Soooo, umm, what are you going to do about it?”
Rachel blinked and stared at the, almost angry, expression on her boyfriend’s face. She could completely understand shock, dismay, even panic; mostly because these were all emotions she had been cycling through over the last two weeks since she had discovered her pregnancy. It was the anger that threw her off kilter. She had never understood getting angry about things that had already happened and couldn’t really be changed.
“What do you mean, what am I going to do about it? I’m pregnant. It happened. We can’t exactly change that.”
“Umm, yea we actually can,” Finn mumbled.
Not for the first time she wished she had just sucked it up and told Noah that she was pregnant sometime before he had left for Parris Island three days ago. She knew what he would have done with the news, no matter how hurt he might have been. She knew he would have offered to be there for her. She knew there was a very good chance he would ask to take responsibility for the baby. She wasn’t blind; she could see how much he hated her being with Finn again. And she hated that she could agree with that sentiment. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Finn was supposed to be a rebound; she had been so hurt when Noah broke up with her, “for her own good”, that she had lashed out the best way she knew how.
Now they were stuck.
Then his words registered.
“What do you mean we can? I can’t just magically not be pregnant Finn. Despite what Britt said, there are no time machines.”
She watched as Finn scratched the back of his head and she was suddenly nauseous as the full implication of what he had said processed. Maybe she shouldn’t be surprised; but she was. Mostly because when he was fifteen he had gone back and forth from terrified to excited when Quinn was pregnant with what he thought was his child. And, true, she had never exactly been privy to private conversations between the then couple but she would put money on the fact that he had never suggested that Quinn get an abortion.
“Listen Rach, I’ve got some money put away. I was saving it for New York, but ya know, it could be useful. We don’t want to screw our lives up this early.”
Rachel just stared at him and her thoughts began going a mile a minute. People could accuse her of being Finn’s doormat in the past all they wanted; but a single month as Noah Puckerman’s girlfriend back in January had given her a backbone of steel when it came to Finn. She knew she could do three things at this moment – she could agree with him (no matter how much the idea disgusted her and had never once occured to her during the last two weeks), she could tell him on no uncertain terms that they were not aborting their child and come up with another plan that revolved around them keeping it or she could just walk out and do what she should have done two weeks earlier.
Without fully thinking it through, she’d be lying if she didn’t know what the right choice was the second she found out she was pregnant, she began speaking, “I am not aborting this child Finn. I’m not even going to get into how it’s against my religion or how it’s morally wrong. ‘Cause, I don’t really believe that. I fully support a woman’s right to choose, and perhaps you know that and that’s why you suggested it. But the fact that you didn’t know it was wrong for me? That scares me. Call me a hypocrite, but after seeing what giving their child up for adoption did to Noah and Quinn in the long run, I can’t even imagine what killing mine would do to me.”
“Then we’re back to what are we going to do about it,” Finn grumbled and it was the annoyance and still present tinge of anger that made her decision so much easier.
“It’s alright Finn,” she replied. “It’s more like, what am I going to do about it. You go ahead and go to New York or whatever you want to do. I don’t really want the kind of help that comes with resentment and criticism.”
That being said Rachel turned on her heel and walked out of Finn’s bedroom, stopping to say a brief good-bye to Carole who happened to be home from work for the afternoon, and headed to her car.
Rachel really needed to speak to Abigail Puckerman before she made any other decisions. Over the last two weeks she had absolutely come to the conclusion that she would not stick Noah with someone else’s child. He had far too much going for him now that he had gotten his grades up and joined the Marine Corps. But during that conversation with Finn she had realized something else; she didn’t need to saddle him with someone else’s child to have his support as probably the best friend she’d ever had in her life.
Ten minutes later found her knocking on the Puckerman’s front door, beyond thankful that Abigail had been promoted last year to Charge Nurse for Lima General’s Emergency Room. It meant she made the nurses schedules and her own was far more stable then it had been in the past. It also meant she could stay on first shift now; meaning she could be home in the afternoons and evenings when Sarah wasn’t at school or JCC camp. In short, Noah’s mother, the closest thing Rachel herself had ever had to one, would be home this afternoon.
And Rachel had an uncomfortable feeling, knowing how her father’s tended to react to anything that stood in the way of their daughter becoming something else they could brag about, she would need the older woman on a regular basis very soon.
“Hey Rach!” Sarah’s voice interrupted the older girl’s musings on the Puckerman front stoop. “What’re you doing here?”
“Hey Sarah, is your Mom home?”
“Yea, we just got in. She’s in the kitchen,” the thirteen year old replied, stepping aside to let Rachel into the small, but comforting, home.
Rachel had always wondered why people looked down on the Puckerman’s; she of course knew the stupid mentality of small-town life, something Lima prided itself on being, despite having a population of over 30,000, but she didn’t understand the scorn. Eli Puckerman, and all his problems, had been out of the picture physically since Noah was five and Sarah was an infant, but Rachel knew (from having been friends with the family for years) that he regularly sent child support payments. In reality, there was not one single thing to look down on the family for; money might be tight on occasion but they were far from the ‘white-trash’ label they had been painted with.
She knew that Noah’s animosity towards his father came more from the fact that his father was constantly on the peripheral of his life and she sometimes wondered if he’d have coped better had his father just completely vanished. It was hard to let go of something when you could just about taste it and it was hard to forgive someone who cared enough to send money, but didn’t care enough to actually see you. She was certain the rumors had never helped matters; Eli Puckerman who had never wanted to settle down and wanted to live like a rockstar. Somehow, that had transformed through the years into, Eli Puckerman the drunk who beat his wife and children. Even though the man had never laid a hand on any of them.
Shaking the thoughts off Rachel proceeded through the familiar living room and back into the kitchen, vaguely recognizing that Sarah had headed upstairs to her bedroom, and quietly greeted Noah’s mother, “Hi Abigail.”
“Hey sweetie,” the woman replied and without being asked grabbed a second mug from the cabinet. “How are you?”
“Honestly?” Rachel asked with a bitter laugh. “I’ve been much better.”
“Well, that doesn’t sound good. Is everything alright with Finn?”
Rachel rolled her eyes at the question and shook her head before responding, “Is anything ever alright with Finn and me?”
“I told him he was being a selfless moron you know,” Abigail replied and Rachel knew immediately they were talking about Noah. “He was so afraid when you started talking about how you’d join him after college. He didn’t want you to give up Broadway.”
Rachel blinked in surprise as their break up suddenly made a lot more sense and that’s when the tears started. She hadn’t cried yet, but hearing why she was pregnant, hearing why she wasn’t with Noah anymore, finally broke the wall she had erected upon realizing the news.
“God Abigail. I’m in trouble,” she choked out and let herself be hugged tightly by the older woman. “I’m pregnant,” she whispered and flinched when she felt Abigail Puckerman stiffen.
“Please tell me you cheated on Finn with Noah.”
“For the first time in my life I wish I was a tramp,” Rachel replied, dropping down into a seat at the kitchen table and rubbing her face. “No. It’s Finn’s…sort of.”
“Sort of?” the woman questioned and hurried to fix the tea before joining Rachel at the table as the younger girl gathered her thoughts on the best way to explain things.
“Yes, sort of. I just got finished telling him before I came here. His reaction was to basically start to outline, in his ever so eloquent way of course, how we could go about getting an abortion.”
“Yea, I’m not that surprised,” Rachel muttered, now that things had time to sink in. “I know I could have talked him into doing the ‘right’ thing, whatever that is. Maybe we would have gotten married and put on bright smiles and convinced everyone around us that we were happy and perfect. Hell, maybe we even would have gotten married and been happy and perfect for a while. But it wouldn’t have lasted; Finn and I aren’t forever. I’m not fifteen anymore, I do know that.”
“So, if you don’t mind me asking, what are you going to do?”
“Other then deferring school for a year? Honestly? I don’t have a damned clue,” Rachel stated bluntly and stared into her tea cup like it held all the answers. “All I know is this is the only place I could think to come. I almost told Noah when I found out two weeks ago, but I know what he would have done and I didn’t want to saddle him with someone else’s child.”
“He loves you Rachel.”
“That’s why I didn’t tell him,” she admitted quietly. “I love him too Abigail, so so much. That’s another reason I didn’t tell him before he left. Now that I’ve told Finn and he’s been all, Finn, about it I feel safe letting Noah know. I know, no matter what else, that he’ll be a good friend to me.”
“Of course he will sweetheart,” Abigail agreed quickly and squeezed Rachel’s hand in hers. “What about Finn? He is this child’s father.”
“Like I said, I probably could have talked him into doing the right thing; bulldozed him into it more likely. But the thing is, I don’t want to have to do that. I’m sick of having to force him to do the right thing with me. I’m not surprised Quinn finally got sick and tired of his bullshit. Being with Finn is an exercise in patience like you would not believe. I mean, shit, he was supposed to be the rebound.”
Abigail chuckled at Rachel’s candor; knowing she was one of the only people Rachel ever let her picture perfect image down with.
“But, I do know he’s the child’s father. I know he has rights and I’m not about to deny him those rights; but I will be making the decisions. I just…really wish I had even the slightest idea as to what that decision was.”
“Well, you’ve already axed abortion obviously, since you’re here.”
“I couldn’t do that. Not after Beth,” she admitted softly and cautiously met eyes with Noah’s mother who was nodding slowly.
“I don’t blame you. They always forget how you were effected by that situation yourself. Your…mother…raising Noah’s child as her own. You handled yourself so well Rachel; even if I wanted to smack my own son for not realizing how difficult his leaning on you was for you.”
“I didn’t mind it. Not for Noah,” Rachel insisted, not wanting Abigail to think she had done a single thing she hadn’t wanted to do. It had been difficult at the time, being that her relationship with Finn back then had been so new, but she knew that Noah needed someone and as far as she could tell no one else had stepped up.
“Either way, they should have realized. Now, you can obviously give the child up for adoption or keep it yourself. Have you told your father’s yet?”
“No…that definitely hasn’t happened yet,” Rachel mumbled, biting her lip.
“Well, you need to tell them. That thought in mind, I do know your father’s so I will also tell you that Noah’s at Parris Island for the next twelve weeks and then he gets to come home for a week before he starts his MOS training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.”
“How do you know that? Noah said that sometimes there’s a waiting period.”
“He got lucky with timing and when he declared his interest. There will be slots right after boot for him.”
“Oh,” Rachel mumbled. “I’m a little fuzzy right now; why are you letting me know this?”
“Well, you said you were going to defer school for a year to have the baby. Noah will be done with all his training right around Thanksgiving and he’ll get two weeks leave before his first assignment. The reason I’m telling you this is that if it comes down to it with your father’s, Noah’s room will be empty until Thanksgiving. You’ll be about six months by then right?”
“Just about. The doctor said I was about three weeks pregnant the other day.”
“Right well, I’m more then happy to let you stay with us. It’s quiet around here without Noah and you’ve always been a great help with Sarah; even if she is finally old enough to stay home alone for a short time after school. And I just spoke to Eli last week, he told me even though he wasn’t required since Noah’s eighteen now, he’s still going to be sending the same amount of money every month. You could even take classes at OSU Lima; get your general education courses out of the way.”
Rachel grinned at the rambling tone Mrs. Puckerman had taken on and couldn’t help but laugh lightly, even has the most grateful feeling she had ever felt filled her.
“Laugh now missy, but as far as I’m concerned, that’s my grandbaby inside of you. You know I’ve always looked at you like one of my own.”
“I know,” Rachel assured her. “Do you think I can do it?”
“I think you Rachel Barbara Berry can do whatever you put your mind to.”
“Yea, but do you think I could be a mother? You said yourself, it’s your grandbaby as far as your concerned, I don’t think I could give it up for adoption after carrying the baby for nine months.”
“Well, if you decide to keep it, then we’ll do the same thing we’ve always done together Rachel Berry. We’ll figure it out as we go along.”
“I did learn from the best single mother I know.”
“Oh honey, if you honestly believe you’re going to be a single mother then you’re not the brilliant child I’ve know since she was in diapers.”
Rachel couldn’t help but blush at the comment and, though she pushed it down as much as possible, wish a little bit.
Rachel was bustling around the kitchen and trying not to let her nerves get to her as she finished some final dinner preparations while she waited for Abigail and Sarah to return from Columbus with Noah. He had a week’s leave before he had to be at Fort Leonard Wood and she needed tonight to be perfect. He had just gone through, what her research told her was, an insanely difficult twelve weeks and had finished at the equivalent of the top of his class. She wanted to make sure he was as comfortable and well fed as possible tonight, before she sprung her news on him.
That had been something she and Abigail had argued over, after Rachel had been kicked out and had moved in with the Puckerman’s. Initially, Abigail had wanted Rachel to tell Noah she was pregnant immediately. Thankfully, she had finally seen past visions of a Temple wedding and realized that telling Noah Rachel was pregnant while he was trying to focus on his training might not be the best idea ever. Especially since it was not his child.
The past summer had been less difficult then she had imagined, but far less easy then she had hoped. Once she had told her father’s, after they finished ranting and raving about the fact that she was not getting an abortion and she was in fact going to ruin their plans for her, they had given her a few hours to get her things out of the house before storming out themselves. A few phone calls to Kurt, Blaine, Sam and Mike had fixed that problem and the boys had immediately shown up to help her bring her things to the Puckerman’s. The fact that they had brought with them Santana, Quinn, Mercedes and Tina had at first confused Rachel; until she found out that Finn had told Quinn the situation, in front of Kurt, and that Quinn had slapped him for even suggesting Rachel abort the child.
Thanks to the Glee gossip mill, everyone very soon after learned that Rachel was pregnant and were surprisingly more then willing to help. They had Rachel’s room packed expertly within the next three hours and loaded into the boys and girl’s cars (Rachel had been informed by her father’s that she was not to take her car since it was in their names and they paid for it) ready for the trip to Noah’s childhood home.
It was with a final sad sigh, and a shockingly strong hug from Quinn, that Rachel managed to place the key to her parent’s house on the kitchen table and locked up behind them.
She still wished she had been more surprised by their reaction.
She also wished she had her friends with her for this next hurdle; unfortunately, it was August 24th and everyone had left for their various colleges. Quinn had been the last to leave since she was only going to Columbus and had been surprisingly the most painful to see go. The blonde had been a constant by Rachel’s side for the last three months; she had admitted the week before that it had started out as guilt both over how she had behaved with Beth and treated Rachel over the years, but somehow the two had broken down their issues and worked through them enough that Rachel was forever thankful she had managed to make a friend who actually understood what she was going through.
Finn had pretty much been completely MIA all summer, minus some money here and there that she had learned Carole had made him give her. Rachel hadn’t even found out he had left Lima for the west coast, until Kurt had mentioned that he decided not to go to college since she wasn’t going. She had been more then a little shocked when she went to apologize to Carole when she learned that news and Finn’s mother had only hugged her, called her own son an idiot and told Rachel that if she needed any help to call her.
As for Rachel herself, she had not only deferred NYU; she had turned them down. It had followed a long, intensive discussion with Quinn and Mercedes (both of whom were attending OSU) and Mercedes had been the one to remind Rachel about when they were much younger how she had always said, “If I can’t be on Broadway for any reason. I’d like to teach.”
That had quickly evolved into Rachel enrolling for the fall at OSU’s Lima Campus since that was where their Early & Middle Childhood Education major was based. It had taken some research but Rachel quickly realized that if she got her bachelors at OSU Lima in Early & Middle Childhood Education, she could eventually get her Master’s in Music Education or, if for any reason she changed her mind, just in Education itself and be qualified to teach children from kindergarten to eighth grade.
She had gotten a job at their local music store and worked Monday’s through Thursday’s from three until closing at nine which helped her with her “rent” at the Puckerman’s. Abigail hadn’t wanted to accept even a cent but Mr. Chang, who was an accountant, had explained that in order for Rachel to claim herself on her taxes and get more in financial aid that she wouldn’t be required to pay back she needed to be seen as completely supporting herself. So, two hundred dollars a month went to Abigail Puckerman; though Abigail had quickly informed her it was going into a trust fund for Rachel’s baby. Mike’s father had then helped Rachel file for her loans and grants and managed to set her up with as much financial aid that wouldn’t need to be repaid as he could. She was still stuck with 10,000 a year in loans; but it could have been upwards of 20,000 so she wasn’t complaining.
She would start her freshmen year of college next week, two days after Noah left, and she would be lying if she said she wasn’t excited. And just as Abigail had said, they were figuring things out as they went along. It had already been arranged that Rachel would do her fall semester, take a leave of absence in the spring and then start back up the following fall; she just hadn’t decided on full or part time. It would all depend on how her financial aid was effected by the amount of credits she took.
The slamming of the front door interrupted the spiral her thoughts had taken and she pushed all future problems away; for now she just needed to get through the next week and pray she still had her supportive best friend at the end of it.
“Rach? What the fuck?” was the first thing she heard and with a deep breath she turned and faced Noah. His face was shocked, slightly more gaunt then it had been despite his frame being stocked with muscle. He had grown up, completely, in twelve short weeks. “Shouldn’t you be in New York?” he asked then, looking suspiciously over at his mother and sister. “What happened?”
“Nothing happened Noah,” Rachel immediately replied. “I just wanted to have dinner with you since you were getting home.”
“Cut the BS Rach. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. That much I swear to you. Now, had you asked me that three months ago you might have gotten a different answer,” she began rambling and then shook her head. “No. Tonight is about you. You haven’t been home in weeks and the good lord alone knows what they fed you out there. Go take a shower, change and come down for dinner. We will talk after we eat.”
Abigail and Sarah were snickering at the shocked look on Noah’s face as Rachel steered him towards the stairs and practically shoved him up them before nearly collapsing in relief against the wall.
Her relief only lasted seconds because the next sound he heard was Noah’s voice calling down, “Hey Rach! If nothing’s wrong then why’s all your shit in my room?”
Two days later, once Noah had fully processed the news of her pregnancy and she had talked him down from both tracking down Finn and from claiming the child as his own, they were lying across his bed together talking things out.
“I really want to be there for you and the peanut Rach,” he insisted. “And believe me, I understand you’re not wanting me to be the kids father.”
“Whoa! Hey no,” Rachel immediately interrupted before he could say anything else. “I think we got our explanations crossed Noah.”
“But you said you didn’t want me to be stuck with your kid.”
“Yes, but only because I don’t want you to feel obligated to be a father to a child who isn’t yours. I would love this child to be yours Noah. Things would be one-hundred times easier emotionally, if just as stressful everywhere else. But this child is Finn’s and you are building a career and a life and I don’t want to be the girl that held you back.”
“Well, that’s irony for you,” Noah muttered and intertwined their fingers. “What if I want to be stuck?”
“Noah, no,” Rachel insisted. “You’re my best friend and I still love you so, so much. But you deserve to build your life the right way.”
“You are the right way Rach,” he replied quietly. “I gave you up ’cause I didn’t want you giving up your dreams for me. I wanted you to have New York City and all that came with it and you were talking about living on bases and learning the ins and outs of interacting with other military wives and girlfriends and I couldn’t have that on my conscience.”
“Then why can’t you understand why I’m trying to do the same thing for you?” she asked heatedly. The last two days, since the second he had heard the news, had been full of these back and forths and she was very quickly losing her will to deny him.
She heard him exhale and watched as he sat up, dragging her with him, and looked her straight in the eye, “Let me make a proposal for us. Do you promise to listen?”
“Yes,” she agreed, because for the first time she could tell he was really thinking things through logically.
“Do you still love me?”
“You know I do.”
“No,” he disagreed and shook his head. “Are you still in love with me?”
Rachel rolled her eyes and reworded her answer, “You know I am.”
“Good,” he whispered sounding relieved. “That’s good. Alright, I still love you. I never stopped. So, here’s what I think we should do. I leave in a few days and I’ll be gone for nine weeks. That’s nine weeks of no contact except letters. It sucks, but it is what it is. We both think about what we want during those nine weeks. Then if you still love me, if you still wish this was my baby, when I come home you’ll marry me.”
Her breath caught at the words, because other then a half joking proposal when he had first heard the news (and had obviously been forcing down the urge to go kill Finn) he hadn’t spoken that seriously. Yes he had wanted them to be together, to raise her child as his own, but this was marriage.
“We’re so young Noah,” she whispered.
“Yea, but, I don’t know where my first assignment is going to be Rachel,” he replied, still staring into her eyes. “And I won’t be able to move you onto base with me if we aren’t married. Also, if we’re married you’ll have insurance and you’ll be taken care of if anything happens to me.”
“Do not talk like that Noah Puckerman!” Rachel hissed. “You’re going to be fine. We aren’t even really at war anymore.”
“We’re more at war then the press wants you to think Rach. Yea we’re pulling out but try telling that to the biggest zealots. It’s not a matter of we won, they lost. It’s a matter of we’re broke and it’s been over ten years. No one’s ever going to win in the middle east. But we’re off topic again.”
“I’ll consider it. Is that alright?”
“That works. I can totally accept that. Also, I know you’re going to school at OSU Lima and stuff and I’m super proud of you for that, so if you do agree to marry me, I think we’d survive if you stayed here until you finished school. Especially since we don’t know where I’ll be stationed.”
“Let’s just get through the next nine weeks first okay?”
“Okay,” he agreed and Rachel had a feeling he knew exactly what she was going to say at the end of the nine weeks based on the sparkle in his eye. “You do know I’m not doing this ’cause you’re pregnant right? It’s just, I never thought I’d get a chance to do this.”
“I know Noah. I know. Me too.”
The next nine weeks passed surprisingly quickly for Rachel; she had work, class, doctor’s appointments, letters to Noah and a weekly phone call with Quinn to get her through them. Before she knew it it was two days before Noah was supposed to get home for two weeks and she was over at the Fabray home gossiping with Quinn and Judy.
The older Fabray had shown up at the Puckerman house in the middle of September and had basically told Rachel that she wanted to meet her daughter’s new best friend. Rachel had been so shocked that she had sat down for tea with Judy and had found herself having a surprisingly good time. It was from Judy that she learned that Quinn accredited Rachel for her new, happy, outlook on life and her focus on her classes. That had quickly turned into a weekly meeting between the two women.
Now she needed their advice because time was running out and while she was fairly certain what decision she wanted to make; she needed to hear that it was the right one from someone not related to Noah.
“I think you should do it,” Quinn insisted. “He loves you. You love him. This isn’t going to be one of those shot-gun weddings that you regret in a few years.”
“Judy?” Rachel asked, because her friend’s mother had been through one of those marriages from what she had learned over the last few weeks.
“I don’t know Noah the way I probably should,” Judy spoke quietly, obviously carefully choosing her words. “But if he loves you as much as I can see you love him? Then you’d be making the right decision.”
“What about Finn?” Rachel asked quietly, laying her hand on her six month pregnant stomach.
“Can you get him to relinquish his rights as a father? He hasn’t sent you any money since the end of the summer,” Quinn pointed out. “If you absolutely have to I’m sure you could get the courts to do it.”
“Yea, I guess,” Rachel mumbled. “I just sort of wanted to talk to him about it first.” Quinn looked worried at that statement and Rachel rushed to reassure her friend, “I’m not still in love with him or anything. It’s just that it is his child and he has rights.”
“You’re a better person then me Rach,” Quinn replied. “I thought I’d be with Finn for the rest of my life and we’d have our happy little suburban existance. But, seeing this situation now? I’m glad I got over him when I did.”
“Besides, if you hadn’t you wouldn’t have Jack,” Rachel teased, trying to lighten the conversation and laughed when her friend blushed.
“Jack’s just a friend,” Quinn insisted.
“For now,” Rachel and Judy responded, laughing at the other blonde’s reaction of hiding her face in a couch pillow.
“Ugh, why do I tell you two anything?”
“Cause you’re my daughter and her best friend. It’s against the rules not to tell us these things.”
“I hate you both,” Quinn mumbled and pouted until Rachel leaned over and squeezed her into a hug.
“I love you too Quinnie.”
“You better love me enough to make me your maid of honor, ’cause you know you’re saying yes.”
As easy as it was for Rachel to accept Noah’s proposal a few days later, was exactly how difficult the idea of the wedding itself was. They initially wanted to get married the following weekend in a nice quiet ceremony at their Temple. Quinn, Sam and Mercedes were going to drive down from Columbus since they were the only Gleeks even remotely close to Lima.
Then Noah’s leave got shortened and he was ordered to report to Camp Pendelton in California for his first base assignment.
The couple had shrugged it off, they were engaged and Rachel was planning on staying in Lima anyway since she had a supportive family to live with and school to attend. That’s all they needed at the moment. It really didn’t seem like that big of a deal until Finn showed up in January.
Rachel chose to look at Finn’s arrival as a blessing; no one had heard from him in months. She had the paper work prepared to ask him to relinquish his paternity claims so that Noah would be able to adopt her child, who she now knew was a girl. She and Noah had both agreed that despite the adoption they were more then willing to allow Finn to be in her life if he wished; they just felt that life would be easier if legally she was Noah’s daughter completely. It would guarantee her benefits should anything happen to him.
He rambled on and on in the Puckerman living room, in front of Abigail, Quinn (who had driven down after Rachel’s panicked phone call), Burt and Carole, all about how he wanted Rachel back and how they’d be great together and they just needed to pick a nice family to adopt the baby together.
Rachel gently turned him down, explaining that she and Noah had rekindled their relationship, and asked him to sign over his paternity since he obviously didn’t want the child if he wanted to look for a couple to adopt it. He changed his mind so fast that Rachel would later swear she got whiplash.
It wasn’t until she had dissolved into hysterics from his accusations on her fidelity and Burt had dragged his step-son out of the house that Rachel processed what Carole had told her as she left, “I’ll make sure he signs them sweetheart. But, you promise me I’ll be able to see my granddaughter.”
Rachel had a vague recollection of nodding swiftly, afterall she had discussed this with Carole and Burt before she even had the papers prepared, before Quinn had led her up to her and Noah’s bedroom and rubbed her back until she fell asleep.
When her due date was four days away Rachel found herself forever grateful that it happened to fall during Ohio State’s winter break for President’s Week. If Noah couldn’t be there to see their daughter born (Carole had pulled through with the papers) then at least Quinn would be there. Though why Quinn kept leaning down and telling Rachel’s stomach ‘you have to come out on time’, Rachel didn’t know.
And a few days later in the delivery room with Abigail, Quinn and Noah around her she understood. Apparently, due to his shortened leave around Thanksgiving he was able to get a few days time once he explained the situation. Even if he did have to leave the very next day; it was long enough to see his daughter born, named and sign the birth certificate as her father.
Rachel was pretty certain that Elyse Marie Puckerman, a name she had chosen for her first daughter when she was ten years old (and while she wouldn’t ever tell anyone, that had been the last name she had picked out at ten as well), was one of the most beautiful little girl’s she had ever seen in her life. Her godparent, Quinn, was quick to agree. And if Quinn broke down in sobs holding the baby, while squeezing Noah’s hand Rachel didn’t comment; she understood more then most would.
Two years passed and Rachel, Noah and Elyse managed as well as they could. Every time Noah got leave he flew to Lima to visit his family and if Rachel had a break from school that didn’t coincide with his annual leave she flew, with their daughter, to California to stay in Noah’s small on-base apartment.
It was a surprisingly easy arrangement; between Noah’s duties (and his own studies) and Rachel’s schooling they didn’t have time to truly miss each other. Emails, Skype and phone calls whenever they had a free minute helped things along between visits as well.
Then came Noah’s change in orders.
When February 2015 rolled around, on their daughter’s second birthday Noah and Rachel stood in front of a very small grouping of their friends and family (Quinn and Sam standing up for the couple as their maid of honor and best man; Noah’s trips back to Ohio had allowed the two men to keep the friendship that had developed in high school strong) and were married in the Temple they had grown up in.
Three days later Noah was a Corporal, moved to Quantico, Virginia and life resumed it’s usual schedule. Rachel spent her school breaks in Virginia with her husband and their daughter, Noah flew back to Lima when he could and their phone bills continued to be higher then they probably should have been. They were both in college, Rachel still studying full time thanks to lowered day care costs at the college since she was an education major herself and Noah was studying Psychology part-time through the Corps; to the small family it seemed like nothing could touch them.
Then came the upheaval in December 2016. It was the semester break of Rachel’s senior year and she was happily preparing the house for Hanukkah. Elyse who was nearly four, and was finally old enough to marginally understand why her Daddy was away, was happily telling anyone who she saw that Daddy would be home soon. Quinn was moving home for good, with her fiance Jack Carter, as she and Rachel were preparing to start their student teaching after the holiday’s. The Lima schools had apparently had a rush of retirements in the last year and Quinn had already lined up a position at McKinley teaching English once she finished her student teaching.
She and Noah had briefly discussed her and Elyse moving to Virginia and getting a house as it seemed like he might be based there for a while from the things he had heard. Her research had even shown her that she could apply and enroll in Mary Washington College’s, a university located a half hour from the base, graduate studies program and get her master’s in education completed in two years. It had been Noah’s phone call a week earlier that had given her pause; he had told her that plans might change and tell her more when he got home.
The night he came home, after a long and needed love making session, Noah said the words that no wife ever wants to hear; especially military wives.
“We need to talk,” he had mumbled into the darkness of their bedroom and somehow she knew this was more then just a base change.
There’s something to be said for being very good at your job in most cases; apparently, being good at your job in the Marine Corps means you get noticed, promoted to Sergeant and shipped overseas. So after a month (and she should have known something was up when he was given a whole month) at home in Lima celebrating the holiday’s with their high school friends and their family Rachel drove to Columbus and said goodbye to her husband and then watched as he went through security and headed to the plane that would take him to Afghanistan, via New York City.
And other then one, painfully short, month two years later she and Elyse wouldn’t see him in person for four years when he was finally discharged.
Rachel Puckerman tried to calm her breathing and stared straight ahead, her hand nervously squeezing the tiny hand of her almost eight year old daughter as they waited near the departures of American Airlines at JFK Airport. She could feel Elyse wiggling in excitement next to her, rambling about all the things she was going to show her Daddy, as they waited for Noah to disembark.
It had been a long four years; during that time Noah had been promoted again to Staff Sergeant and been shot twice. The first time she got word that he had been shot Rachel had almost blacked out; he had told her that he was part of a peace keeping mission, she didn’t think there was much peacefulness in being shot. The second time she had received word, she had made sure that it wasn’t serious and then allowed her body to breathe and reminded herself that he would be home in less then a year.
Home that just happened to be New York City.
After Rachel finished her student teaching, and stood as Quinn’s maid of honor that same June, she moved to the second floor of a house that had been renovated to make it a two-family in Bayridge, Brooklyn. She had asked if the couple who owned the home were joking when she heard that the rent was only fourteen hundred a month plus utilities; but they had quickly explained that they use the rent to pay the mortgage on the home and didn’t need anything else. Rachel’s situation was exactly what they were looking for; a way to help a growing family and still keep their own roof over their heads. Considering what she could have been paying in Manhattan for far less space, Rachel jumped on the arrangement.
In a whirlwind, Rachel and Elyse had moved into the surprisingly spacious two bedroom, one bathroom apartment that had a very large living room, kitchen and dining room as well. Rachel applied and was accepted to NYU’s graduate program part-time to get her master’s in education; exceedingly grateful that New York State allows you to teach without a master’s so long as you are in the process of completing it.
She quickly found employment at PS 41 in Greenwich Village and due to her teaching there was able to easily enroll Elyse in Kindergarten. Now, four years later, they were both still at the school and even more settled as Rachel had completed her Master’s the year before.
“Lyse sweetie, relax a little.”
“But Daddy’s coming home!”
“I know baby, I’m excited too.”
“You don’t sound excited.”
“I’m just tired baby. It’s been a long week,” Rachel replied, smoothing her daughter’s hair back and smiling down at her.
“Daddy’s staying this time right?”
Rachel felt like she was punched in the stomach at the question and quickly crouched down to face her daughter before answer, “Yes baby. Daddy’s staying this time. He and I have already talked and now it’s Daddy’s turn to go back to school. But all three of us are going to be a family and be together for good.”
Seconds later, before Rachel could even stand up, her daughter let out an ear piercing shriek and took off running until she crashed into the breathtakingly familiar jean and t-shirt clad figure of her father. Rachel blinked rapidly as she watched Noah drop his duffel and immediately scoop Elyse up in his arms, crushing her into a hug and spinning her around as the little girl giggled.
She slowly approached the pair and gently placed her hand on her husband’s arm to get his attention; but when he looked up and she met those hazel eyes she couldn’t do anything other then throw herself on top of her two favorite people in the world and choke out, “Hi.”
“Well?” Rachel practically pounced on her husband the second he walked through the door of their apartment, or as much as she could pounce with her seven month pregnant stomach. “What did they tell you?”
Noah laughed and kissed her temple softly before pulling back and answering, “Calm yourself babe.”
“Calm? How can I be calm? You just defended your very intensive dissertation that focused on children and family environments, the one I spent hours editing for you no less, in front of a panel of people who have been teaching you for the last five years. This is not a time to be calm!”
“When you’re seven months pregnant and being considered for bed rest due to your midget size then every minute is a time to be calm,” Noah scolded lightly and led Rachel into the living room and forced her to sit on the sofa before joining her. “Now that we’re all settled I’ll tell you what happened.” Rachel only managed to glare for about thirty seconds before she slouched into the couch and looked at her husband pointedly. “Dr. Jacobson told me they’d let me know in a few days; but, he added that I had done exceptionally well and to tell my very pregnant wife that we had nothing to be worried about.”
“Oh thank goodness,” Rachel exhaled the words and let her body calm down.
The last five years of her marriage had been almost as hectic, for her at least, as the first six. Over the course of their eleven year marriage (and thirteen year relationship) the couple had acquired five degrees, two children (one and a half if you asked Elyse), three promotions, 2 bullet scars, two god-children with one on the way (thanks to Quinn and Jack) and were more then ready to finally, fully settle down into their careers and life.
Noah had been working part time with the New York City branch of Child & Family Services as he finished his Ph.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology. While he was doing that, Rachel was still teaching at PS 41 and was the fourth grade teacher that every single student in that school hoped they got as they left third grade (though her maternity leave had apparently ‘jipped’ this years class into only getting her until April). And Elyse, who was now twelve, was attending a junior high school in Manhattan near her Mother’s school (having both parents with influence on the NYC education system had helped Noah and Rachel make sure their daughter wasn’t wandering around Brooklyn alone while they worked).
“So, you’re certain that everything went well?” she asked, needing to double check.
“I’m positive,” he assured her. “I even called the Realtor to let her know we’re ready to move in before I got on the subway home.” Rachel smiled and relaxed into her husband’s body on their, admittedly lumpy, couch as she let her mind wander a bit to the future. “Are we sure Elyse is okay with this?”
“She’s thrilled actually,” Rachel replied. “She told me the other day that she missed being able to see ‘Bubbe, Grandma Carole and Grandpa Burt’ all the time.”
“It kinda feels full circle doesn’t it?” he asked quietly and Rachel glanced up to meet his eyes with a small smile.
“It’s a good full circle though,” she whispered. “And, we’re going to have a house. I miss living in a house.”
Noah laughed and squeezed her shoulder in agreement; they had some good times in the Brooklyn apartment Rachel and Elyse had brought him back to from the airport all those years ago but it was time for a change. As much as the couple enjoyed living in New York, now that certain dreams had changed as they grew older and wiser, they wanted their children to grow up with yards and trees and family.
“I’m supposed to start next month,” Rachel heard him remind her absently, referring to the job he had lined up as a councilor at the same Juvenile Center he had been sent to as a teen, and she nodded along to tell him she remembered. “I’d like to be unpacked before that if possible.”
“We will be,” she replied, yawning slightly as her adrenaline finally crashed. “Josh won’t even be here for a little over two months,” she added, patting her stomach lightly. “And Quinn, Jack, Sam and Margie promised to help.”
“Yea and that means that Jack, Sam and I do the heavy lifting since you three are all too pregnant to do anything other then point and order us around. Even Elyse will be busy wrangling Quinn’s two midgets.”
“I know,” Rachel responded yawning again, chuckling when her husband caught his own yawn off of hers. “It’s going to be great.”
“Who’s brilliant idea was it for us to knock our wives up at the same time anyway?”
“Mine and Quinn’s. Margie was just kismet. Oh, Quinn and I already decided; Josh is marrying Anna. We’ll deal with the whole, ‘not Jewish’ thing somehow,” she mumbled before finally fully dozing off. The last few days of his dissertation prep caught up with Noah then and he was quick to follow her.
When Elyse came into the apartment a half hour later from her second to last day of seventh grade she couldn’t do anything other then roll her eyes and toss a blanket over her parents sleeping forms on the couch before heading into her own room to begin packing.
They were going home to Lima in two weeks, her parents had just bought a four bedroom house near her Bubbe’s, they had an entire apartment to pack up and they were sleeping?
“God help me if I ever get that old,” she muttered and closed her bedroom door.