Based on kimmy_77 's prompt: "Unless it's mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it's a waste of your time. There are too many mediocre things in life, love shouldn't be one of them."
~quote is from "Dream for an Insomniac"
Rachel Berry wasn’t a cheater. She wasn’t. She understood the concept of temptation, but that was one thing and acting on it was another. She had absolutely no sympathy for people who were unfaithful to their partners.
But sometimes she wondered… hadn’t some famous actress once said that she’d rather her husband sleep with someone else than become emotionally attached to them? That emotional infidelity was actually worse than its physical counterpart?
Because physically, Rachel was in the clear. But she was afraid that she couldn’t say the same thing emotionally.
Emotionally… she was a dirty whore. And the guilt of that ate away at her.
The fact that the man she was emotionally cheating with was her boyfriend’s best friend only made things worse. She’d always been dramatic, and that had helped her get here—to New York and her first role(of many, she was sure) on Broadway—but she couldn’t help wondering when her life had turned into something out of a bad daytime soap.
She and Finn had been together, with a few starts and stops, since the summer after their high school graduation, and she’d always imagined that he would be it for her. How romantic would it be if her first love also turned out to be her last?
But about a year ago they’d gone to a party and played a drunken game of truth of dare that had reawakened her attraction to Noah, which had been dormant since their barely there relationship when they were sixteen.
She couldn’t even remember the name of the guy who had dared her to kiss Noah, but she did remember the warmth of his mouth as it settled on hers, the way his fingers crept up to stroke her neck under her hair at the exact same moment that his tongue slipped between her lips. The taste of him had been heady and exciting, like drowning in whiskey during a thunderstorm.
Drunk off his ass, Finn had laughed. Actually laughed, as her entire world tilted on its axis and spun out of control.
She still wondered if he’d have laughed if he had known about the intense conversation that would follow that kiss—the first time she’d ever seen Noah completely open up about his feelings.
The first time she’d really wished there had never been a “Finn and Rachel,” because that would make giving in easy rather than impossible.
This… thing with Noah was not a part of the plan. He was their friend, the third sardine that had been packed into their tiny apartment when they’d first moved to New York at eighteen. Now they were twenty-four, and he wasn’t supposed to be the one she thought of first when she wanted to celebrate, or needed cheering up, or woke up in the morning with the memory of phantom lips on her skin.
She’d almost done it once, left Finn for Noah. She’d actually made up her mind to go through with it, and had been waiting for him to get home from work with the speech ready when she got the call from his co-worker, saying that there had been an accident at work and Finn was in the hospital.
The injury wasn’t as serious as they’d first thought, but a full recovery took a few weeks, and by then Rachel had lost her conviction. So she stayed, and Noah barely spoke to her for a week before he pretended to understand.
She knew he was pretending because he stopped hiding what he was feeling after that. Never around Finn, of course, but when they were alone Noah said things that high school Puck never would have said. He made her feel beautiful and special and she loved it, and that made her feel awful because it was wrong to crave his attention as much as she did.
And the really scary thing was, that was how much her feelings had changed: she’d rather feel awful with Noah than feel good without him.
In high school they’d barely been friends. Now a day rarely went by without them at least texting or calling each other, if not meeting up to grab coffee or lunch or something.
They always got together after her show on Sundays because Finn had to work then. There was nothing sexual about their little meetings, it was just their time to catch up with each other. Sometimes they went to his place, sometimes hers, but the only rule was that the guest provided the beer. When he came to the apartment she shared with Finn, they almost never actually stayed in the apartment.
Rachel didn’t know if that was because it was their time and spending it in the space she shared with Finn was weird for him or if it was just because the roof of her building was awesome.
And it was. Really, the roof was probably her favorite thing about the pricey building she’d convinced Finn she needed to live in. It wasn’t the tallest building around but it was high enough that it felt a little secluded, away from the noise of the city below. She loved going up there and watching the bright lights as the world went by, feeling almost frozen in time.
She’d never understood why Finn preferred the view from their apartment windows.
As she climbed the stairs and opened the door to the roof, a bit of cool air hit her and she smiled. Noah was already there, leaning back against their table and nursing a beer from the six pack that sat beside him.
She paused just for a second to admire his languid stance, the way he looked relaxed and self-assured in his jeans and plaid shirt. She’d performed for packed theatres, been given dozens of roses from adoring fans, even been offered proposals from men she didn’t know who were just that enthralled by her voice, and she still had never found the kind of easy confidence that Noah Puckerman had apparently been born with.
Blinking to shake her way out of the trance, she stepped out onto the roof and over to grab her own beer. “Hi.”
“Hey.” He turned to grin at her, and the not-so-subtle once over he gave her, the appreciation that lit his hazel eyes, made her shiver the way it always did. “How’d the show go?”
“Aside from a slight wardrobe malfunction, pretty well.”
His grin turned exaggeratedly lecherous. “Wardrobe malfunction, huh? Shit, sorry I missed that.”
“I’ll be sure to let Carol know. It’ll make her day,” Rachel replied with a laugh, taking a seat next to him on the table. “You know she has a crush on you.”
“You tease.” He gave her a dark look over the top of his drink before shrugging his shoulders. He knew all of Rachel’s castmates, and liked Carol maybe best of all; she was sixty-one going on sixteen and had a sense of humor to rival any college frat boy. “But, yeah, how could she resist?”
“It would be nearly impossible,” she deadpanned, rolling her eyes before taking a pull from her beer. With her free hand, she tugged at her sweater. She nudged the wooden bench with the toe of her right sneaker.
Watching her, he couldn’t help but smile as he playfully nudged her with his shoulder. The lights were just starting to pop up in the darkening night, and even fidgety, she was gorgeous. “So, what’s up? Something’s goin’ on your mind.”
She was relaxed and warm and somehow still full of nerves, and the words came out before she could even think of how to say them. “I think Finn’s going to ask me to marry him.”
His jaw tightened and he glanced away. That wasn’t what he’d been expecting to hear. It wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but shit, ignoring something didn’t make it go away. “He is.”
“Course I know. He’s my friend. You think he could keep that shit to himself?” Noah shook his head, telling himself not to ask the question, but he couldn’t help it. He needed to. “You gonna say yes?”
She opened her mouth to answer, exhaled loudly and shut it without saying a word.
He snorted out a harsh laugh. “Of course you are. High school dreams fulfilled and all that shit, right?”
“That’s not fair.”
“No, what’s not fair is you marrying him when we both know you love me.”
Was she being unfair to Finn, not letting him know the whole truth about her heart? It was something that she’d worried about, and she didn’t like hearing it from Noah’s lips. “He’s happy,” she stated firmly.
He gave her an incredulous look. “I meant it’s not fair to us. That asshole’d get a pretty good deal out of it,” he said with just a hint of a smile.
“You should want him to be happy. That asshole is your best friend,” she reminded him.
There was something warm and soft in his eyes—a look she’d only ever seen directed at her, his mother, and his sister—that left no doubt in her mind as to who he considered best friend number one.
“And what about you? Are you happy, Rach? Cause I’m sure as hell not.” He reached up a gentle hand, let it caress one side of her face. “I don’t want to watch you marry him. I’m not sure that I can.”
Desperately, she pulled away from him, before she did something stupid that she couldn’t take back. “Right, because you’ve been eaten up about it so far,” she laughed, trying to make light of this. Her heart needed light before this man’s gravity completely consumed it. “You don’t seem to have trouble distracting yourself.”
“Don’t do that. Don’t act like I should be sitting at home by myself with ‘the world is shit’ music playing and a bottle of vodka, fantasizing about the day you might choose me, okay? I’m not a saint and you’re not that fucking selfish.”
“I know. I know, Noah, I’m just saying… I have Finn and you have your harem. We’ve managed so far.”
“Goddamnit, Rach, you won’t even let yourself see the difference, will you? They’re nothing. They’re nothing, Rachel. I’ve never even thought about anniversaries or birthdays with them. And living with one of them? Fuck, most of ‘em don’t even get to know where I live. I never think about any of that shit. Not with them.”
With you. He didn’t say the words, but she heard them loud and clear, and they brought tears to her eyes. The fact that she’d done all of those things with Finn made her heart break just a little more. “Noah…” she started, but she didn’t know what else to say.
“You don’t even love him.”
“You know that’s not true. I love him.”
He ran an irritated hand through his hair. “Fine, yes, you love him. Maybe you’re even in love with him a little bit.” Or she’d managed to convince herself that she was after years of being with him, anyway. “But not the way you’re in love with me.”
She wished she could tell him that he was wrong, but they both knew better and she wouldn’t lie to him. That was one of the million things she cherished about her friendship with Noah, that they were always completely honest with each other, even if the truth was ugly or awkward or painful. And the truth was this: Finn was a great guy and she was completely comfortable with him, but Noah… Noah was the only man who could make her feel like she was on fire just by touching her—not even a sexual touch, just a graze as he handed her a drink or passed her in the hall.
But the other truth, the one that she would acknowledge to herself, without voicing? Finn was the safer bet, and this was her life that they were talking about. Her life was crazy—rehearsals, shows, parties, awards ceremonies. Finn would keep her grounded. Sane. “He’s a good, decent man, Noah.”
“I’m not gonna argue that. He is,” he agreed hotly. “Someone’s a ‘good, decent man,’ you bake them a fuckin’ cake, you don’t marry them. Jesus Christ, Rach, you’re fire and earthquakes.”
“You’re comparing me with natural disasters?”
The sound that came out of his throat resembled a growl. “You’re drama, an explosion—the good kind. You honestly think you can build a life on good and decent? You think that’s gonna make up for everything else you’re missing?”
She stared at him, her dark eyes huge and bright, and shook her head. “He won’t break my heart, Noah.”
“You’re absolutely right about that. And you want to know why?” He stepped closer, so that his face was only inches from hers, and breathed out the truth that they both knew. “Because he’s not the one holding it. I am.”
She closed her eyes and just tried to breathe, feeling two big, hot tears run down her cheeks. He was right, and she hated it. She hated him for making him love her, almost as much as she hated herself for falling.
When she was composed enough that she wasn’t going to burst into hysterical tears, she lifted a hand to wipe away her tears and opened her eyes.
Noah was already gone.
Rachel was going to go insane and because she did nothing halfway, she was pretty sure she would end up drooling in a straightjacket if things didn’t change soon. It had been a week since she’d heard from Noah, despite calling, texting, and showing up at his apartment. Twice. Finn was still acting weird, plus he was beginning to wonder why Noah wasn’t around.
It was too much. She couldn’t think. She’d been saying the same lines, singing the same songs, eight times a week for over a month now. By all logic, they should be ingrained in her brain, but she couldn’t remember the words. After an awful morning trying to channel her character and coming up with nothing, she called in sick and headed for the one place she knew she could get an honest opinion.
With Santana there were no guarantees that she was going to like that opinion, but it’d be honest nonetheless.
“So, you’re sure he’s gonna pop the question?”
“Yes.” Rachel sighed as she scooped a spoonful of vegan ice cream into her mouth and snuggled further into the comfy cushions of Santana’s overstuffed couch. Pouring out her dilemma had been kind of therapeutic, but it hadn’t done anything to ease the knot in her stomach. Ice cream was her last resort—if this didn’t fix her, nothing would.
Her friend settled down next to her, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Frozen Yogurt in her hand. Santana had never been down with sharing Rachel’s vegan food. “Seen the ring yet?”
“No,” she admitted. “But he’s been acting weird at the strangest things and… when I mentioned it to Noah, he said Finn already talked to him about it.”
Santana’s eyes widened as she let out a little hum in her throat, taking all of that in. “Jesus, Berry, your life’s one step away from turning into a Jerry Springer episode. I’ve gotta tell you, I did not see this coming when I met you freshman year. You’ve exceeded my expectations.”
“Gee, thanks.” Rachel lifted one of the pillows and launched it towards her head. She missed by about an inch, but only because Santana had really fast reflexes.
To her credit, Santana continued as if nothing had happened. “You’re going to hate me for asking this question—”
“Then don’t ask it.”
The ex-Cheerio cocked an eyebrow at her. “Since when has you hating me ever been a problem between us?”
“You have a point. Fine, ask.”
Santana actually looked a little sympathetic as she said quietly, “Shouldn’t you be happier about this whole proposal thing? Because I’m looking at you now, talking about how your boyfriend of forever is gonna do the down on one knee thing, and you look like your best friend just died. And since I’m obviously alive and well, that can’t be the case.”
Rachel smiled a little, but it was sad. “I don’t know. I could be happy married to Finn, I could.”
“You trying to convince me, or you?”
Honestly, she didn’t know. She took another big bite of ice cream, the knot in her stomach only growing. “What would you do in my place, San?”
“I’d never be in your place. A life with Finn or Puck would only lead me to violence.” At the incredulous look from the tiny brunette, she rolled her eyes before sobering up. This was serious, and she did actually want to see her friend happy. “I guess the way I see things is… unless it's mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it's a waste of your time. There are too many mediocre things in life, love shouldn't be one of them.”
Rachel stared at her, shocked into silence. She’d always known that Santana was more than what she appeared. Behind that bitchy façade was a slightly less bitchy girl with a heart of gold and balls of steel. But she’d never known her to be profound.
A little freaked out by the silence—Rachel was never silent—Santana shrugged. “What? Jeez, Berry, you’re a shitload of things, but bound for mediocrity? That’s just not one of them. And your love life would really be the place to step things up, you know?”
Actually, she was starting to think that she did know. Maybe a part of her had known all along.
The knocking started at five. In the fucking morning. On a fucking Sunday.
At first Noah thought it was a nightmare, but then he heard her voice. And don’t get him wrong, her voice had appeared in his nightmares before, but this was different. Because Rach yelling at him was pretty much always the stuff of nightmares(girl had a set of lungs on her), but she’d never say “Get your ass out of bed and open the damn door.”
Yeah, nightmare Rachel didn’t curse. Actually, normal Rachel didn’t even curse. It was kind of hot.
So he knew it wasn’t a nightmare, and he was tempted to pull the pillows over his head and just ignore her the way he’d been ignoring her for the past week and hope she got the fuckin’ message. Seriously, for a smart chick she was pretty damn slow on the uptake.
Except it was impossible to ignore a screaming Rachel Berry, and in about two seconds his bitch neighbor from hell would join the chorus and he’d have to, like, rip off his arm and give it to her as a sacrifice to appease the screeching, and he didn’t want to deal with it.
So he dragged his body to the front door, steeled himself against whatever pleading “can’t we be friends while I rip out your heart fucking your best friend for the rest of my life” speech she came up with, and opened the door.
Rachel pushed her way inside so fast he swore she must have been leaning on the damn thing, waiting to hear the click of the deadbolt sliding back. She closed the door behind herself and stared at him, big brown eyes too awake for five in the morning. “Finn and I never fight.”
“What?” She’d come to his apartment to tell him that?
“Finn and I never fight,” she repeated, starting to pace in the small entryway. “We haven’t in years. We did in high school, a little, but then… I don’t know. We just don’t. You and I fight all the time.”
Noah froze, his arms crossed over his chest. Did she seriously come here and wake him up to explain why she and Finn were the fucking perfect couple and they weren’t?
“And you were right. I’m fire.”
She stomped her foot and looked up at him fiercely, like he better start paying attention or there would be consequences. But if she just came here to step on his heart, why did he need to listen? “I’m fire. Or earthquakes, or lightning, or whatever you said I was before. It’s true. And I know some people find it annoying and intense, but it’s me and I can’t change it. So fighting… it makes sense, right? Because fire isn’t supposed to be calm and boring. It’s supposed to be intense.”
“Rach, what the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about us,” she cried, getting annoyed now. “Our relationship has never been calm. What’s between us isn’t normal.”
“No,” he admitted, “it isn’t.” In fact, it was pretty fucked up, from where he was standing, but his mind hadn’t quite caught up with hers yet.
“It’s, it’s… extraordinary,” she stated, and the way her face lit up when she fell upon that word made it seem like she’d been trying to remember it from somewhere. “And mad, and… well, I have my suspicions about the passionate part and—”
“Have you been drinking?”
“No! Noah, aren’t you listening?”
“Uh, yeah, babe, but you’re not making any sense and it’s five in the fucking morning. Stop babbling and get to the point.”
She hit him. Actually fisted her little hand, pulled back, and hit him right in the chest, looking outraged. It didn’t really hurt, but damn. “You’ve never told me you loved me.”
“What?” How the hell had they gotten to that?
“You. We kissed and then you started saying all those wonderful things to me. I say Finn’s going to propose and you tell me you can’t watch that happen. But you’ve never said the words.”
He shifted on his bare feet, feeling truly awkward for the first time since she came in. Of course he’d never said the words. He’d never told any chick he loved her, never given that kind of power to another person. And doing it to someone who was unavailable was almost as stupid as falling in love with her in the first place. He’d done one unbelievably stupid thing and it had made him feel sick with jealousy and wanting. He didn’t need to take it that one step further. “Shit, Rach, you know how I feel about you.”
“But I need to hear it.”
“Because!” She huffed out a breath and resumed her pacing. “Because anything that happens between us will never be mediocre, and I want that. But if I’m going to turn my whole life upside-down and break the heart of someone I really care about, I think you can say three little words, Noah!”
He reached out to stop her, holding her arms in his hands to keep her in place. His eyes drilled into hers as she blinked in surprise at the abrupt movement. “You’re leaving him?”
“Say the words.”
“Fuck, I love you, okay? You’re seriously leaving him?”
Slowly, she nodded her head.
Without saying anything, Noah pulled her into his arms, holding her small body close to his. He felt a quick stab of regret that Finn would be hurt over this; he didn’t deserve it, and they’d do whatever they could to salvage their friendship with him.
But Rachel was right, in her rambling, crazy way. She’d made him love her, and that was extraordinary. He wasn’t giving her up.