Title: Revisiting The Past
Rating: Rated: T
Prompt: “I don’t want to be the one that got away. I want to be the one you never let go.” – puckrachel drabble meme on LJ (by: synnersaints)
“I hate you a lot right now,” Rachel growled under her breath, reinforcing the fact that she wasn’t happy about being dragged back to Lima for their class’ ten year reunion weekend, before plastering a bright smile on her face as the door in front of her opened. “Hi Mr. Schue!”
“Rachel! Santana! I was hoping you’d make it, Santana told me she’d do her best to see that you could both get down here in time for our own little glee reunion, but she wasn’t completely positive last time we spoke. She said you’ve both been busy with work and might only be able to come down for the main event tomorrow.”
Santana looked slightly sheepish at the glare she received from Rachel and quickly darted into the house where she expected all the other gleeks had gathered. Rachel followed more sedately, nodding distractedly at whatever Mr. Schue (“Don’t be ridiculous, it’s Will now.”) was saying, reluctant to enter the room and possibly face her one biggest regret from high school…if he was even there.
Ten years was a very long time to go without contact with the person you once counted as your best friend, closest confidant and love of your life (once Santana had finished “deprogramming the Finn”, as the Latina herself claimed, senior year). It’s even longer when, just as you work up the courage to tell said person the truth…they disappear.
And of course, the second she enters the room Rachel could practically feel the air being sucked out of her lungs because he’s standing across the room, leaning against the fireplace with a beer, looking exactly as he had the last time she had seen him – the night of the graduation party Mr. Schue had thrown them.
“So, Oklahoma City University huh?”
“Yea,” Rachel replies quietly. They had been over this time and time again. She had gotten over her disappointment – the economy had left her parents comfortable but not financially stable enough to afford NYU or Julliard; especially not when the smaller university had offered her a full scholarship. “If it’s good enough for Kristen Chenoweth then it’s good enough for me. They really do have an excellent program and was my third choice school anyway.”
“So you’ve said,” he mutters back, leaning against the brick fire place of Mr. Scheuster’s new home. Rachel just sighed in response, apparently Noah had yet to get over his (misplaced if you asked her) anger over the situation. “It’s just not fair Rach. You deserve New York.”
“And I’ll get there. If anyone should be ticked it’s me. I don’t understand why you are. Besides, San’s going there for undergrad too. It’s her Mom’s alma mater. Once we graduate we’re moving there, me to audition and her for law school.”
“Yea, yea…you’ve pointed that out too.”
“Enough about me Noah, what are you going to do?” Rachel questioned, not for the first time. No matter how much she or Santana had pressed, the male of their trio (after all the drama of junior year the three of them had become, much to everyone else’s shock, incredibly close friends as seniors) had refused to tell them what his post high school plans were. All they knew for sure was that he would not be joining them in Oklahoma (and not for a lack of applying).
“Figure some shit out.”
“So you’ve said,” she responded dryly, forcing herself to keep the pain out of her voice. The sad smile that graced his face at the words clued her into the fact that she hadn’t been as successful as she had hoped. It was that moment that the pang that smile always caused in her heart, the thought that she didn’t know what was next for him, the regret of waiting so long to speak up finally hit her like a freight train. “Can we talk?” Puck raised an eyebrow and gestured between them as if to point out that they were doing just that and she shook her head, “No. Like, really talk.”
“Course we can,” he replied, nodding. “Not tonight though,” he added quickly, glancing at his watch. “My mom’s got an overnight shift at the hospital and I actually have to go watch Sarah. Come by tomorrow?”
“Sure,” she whispered, both relieved and nervous. On one hand, she got to put off a potentially life altering conversation; on the other hand, she was terrified she’d chicken out (again) by tomorrow. “Tomorrow then.”
However, the next afternoon when she went by his house she found his truck missing and a letter taped to the door with her name on it. Ignoring the dread pooling in her stomach Rachel had read the letter and felt her stomach crawling up her throat with each word and phrase on the page – “I’ll be fine. Ma knows where I am. Please don’t ask her.”, “You’re going to kick New York’s ass one day. Don’t ever forget that, even if they tell you no at first.”, “Keep an eye on San for me.” and the one that paused her love life right in it’s tracks, “You’ll always be the one that got away Rachel. I would have told you sooner, but you deserved better. I’m going to be better. I love you.”
Ten years later and their eyes met; hers showing surprise (and a hint of anger) and his with a peace she had never seen in them before. It was that emotion that quelled the sudden urge Rachel had to slap him silly. Instead, she took her cue from her best friend and proceeded to make the rounds of the room, dolling out hugs and greetings to friends she had only occasionally seen (despite maintaining close enough friendships with most through other means) over the last decade.
It took her almost an hour, and while he moved around the room (doing the same thing she was, though much more awkwardly) their paths never crossed, for them both to reach the fire place once more. Rachel didn’t even need to consider it before she spoke, “So, how’d that figuring shit out go for you?”
“Pretty well actually,” he replied.
“I think I knew that when I walked in. You look good Noah.”
She was more shocked then she could ever express when she didn’t receive an innuendo, despite purposefully giving him an opening, “I am good Rachel.”
“So this is going to be like pulling teeth is it?” she asked him with a raised brow.
“No, it’s not that,” he insisted. “This whole thing is just kind of surreal. I’m still trying to process the fact that no one kicked the shit out of me when I showed up.”
“Yes well, let’s just say that we’re all too thrilled over the fact that you aren’t dead!” she snapped, relishing his guilty flinch at her words.
“Mr. Schue knew where I was,” he responded and then shrugged and her look of shock. “I asked him not to tell anyone.”
“You are still as infuriating as you were when we were children. Do you realize that Noah Puckerman?”
“I work around kids, I have to keep up the youthful vibe Rach.”
“Uh-huh,” he replied, inelegantly and without further explanation. “So, can we talk?”
“Oh, now he wants to talk,” she muttered under her breath before nodding. “Yea, let’s talk.”
“Walk with me,” Puck’s statement was accompanied by a guiding hand across the room and towards the front door.
Just as they were about to walk out Santana’s voice rang loud and clear through the room, “Puckerman! I’m giving you two like twenty minutes to fish or cut bait; then, I’m coming after you to kick you so hard in the junk your grandchildren will feel it. Fucker.”
“Missed you too Santana,” he shouted back and quickly led Rachel out into the early June evening. “So, she hasn’t changed a bit.”
“Would you have wanted her to?”
“Nope,” he replied with a light laugh. “You have though.”
“A little bit. Thanks for that,” she responded, letting ten years of silence from him bleed a slightly bitter sarcasm into her words.
Puck exhaled then dropped his head back to look at the sky, giving Rachel the impression that he was gathering his thoughts. It took a few moments but when he finally spoke there was heaviness brought on by being ten years older and a lightness that had never been present in his teen-aged self, “I’ll never be able to apologize enough for leaving the way I did.”
“But you had to “figure shit out”; we’ve been over this Noah. Start explaining. For real this time.”
“Yea, alright. Long story short? I went and stayed with my Aunt in Columbus and went to community college for a year, transferred to UPenn ’cause it turns out High School doesn’t really matter if you work your ass off somewhere else, am probably in debt for the rest of my life thanks to that too, worked my ass off even more and managed to get into their med school. I’m still in Philly at Children’s finishing up my third and final year of residency. What about you?”
Rachel stared up at him in complete shock and shook her head a few times to clear the sudden cobwebs that had apparently taken up residence in her brain, “Oh you know, just Elphaba, Wicked revival. Nothing too big or anything,” she snapped because in that moment (and really any moment she had ever had with the man in front of her since her senior year) she could care less about herself. “Noah! You’re a doctor? And you didn’t tell anyone before now?”
“Well, Ma knows of course. Sarah. Mr. Schue. And, besides, I told you, I had to figure some shit out. I had to be better.”
“Don’t you think that was up to me to decide if you needed to be better for me?”
“Well, I mean, yea if you want to get technical but it was mostly for me,” he mumbled, scuffing his shoe lightly on the pavement. “If I had you back then Rachel, I wouldn’t be here now. I needed to kick my own ass.”
“Now? I’ve got three months left and then I’m starting a pediatric oncology fellowship at Sloan-Kettering in New York,” he told her quietly, looking nervous (and hopeful) as the words left his mouth.
“Did you mean it?” she asked, ignoring the flutter in her stomach at the knowledge that he would be in her city (finally); while ignoring the pain that he had been a mere three hour drive away the last seven years. “What you wrote in the letter,” she clarified, though she didn’t expect that he was thinking of anything else. “Did you love me? Am I really the one that got away?”
“Everyday,” he replied looking down at her with a soft smile.
“Good,” she whispered. “But, there’s a problem with that Noah. I don’t want to be the one that got away. I want to be the one you never let go of. Where does that leave us?”
“We fix it,” he whispered back.
“We’ve got a lot to talk about,” Rachel pointed out, not fully ready to forgive but desperately hoping he was right, reaching out and sliding her arms around his waist gently.
“I know. We’ll be okay Rach. It’s us,” Puck replied as he cupped her cheek and slowly lowered his mouth to hers.
Just before their lips touched Rachel took the leap she was suddenly, for the first time, glad she hadn’t made senior year and told him, “I love you.”
“I love you back,” he responded before catching her lips with his own.