a/n: I should be working on my other fics. But this plot bunny wouldn't leave me. So saw Rhodes and Finn = hell to the no. Puck + Rachel = twas ever thus. My first attempt at Glee – please let me know what you think!

Rachel cringed, watching Finn seat himself beside Quinn. The blonde Cheerio flipped her bouncy hair and pouted up at her boyfriend, snuggling herself closer to Finn. Wrapping her arms around herself, Rachel twisted around to face the piano, letting the sounds of the rest of the Glee members in conversation wash over her.

He had used her. Played her like a cheap…worse, he had manipulated her. And it was Finn. One look at that sweet, honest face and no one would have thought him capable of such a thing. But in the end, she had let him win hadn't she? She had sucked up her pride and asked if they would let her back in. Casting her eye around the choir room, Rachel felt a small smile pull at her lips.

No one had ever really liked Rachel Berry before Glee. In fact, a few of the people who had made her life a living hell were currently seated just a few feet away from her. Her eyes landed on Noah Puckerman and she was caught off guard when he quickly averted his gaze away.


Sighing softly to herself, Rachel plucked at the keys absently, letting the notes linger in the air before being drowned out by the sounds of her friends talking and laughing. It felt so good to be back here. Sure she acted like a diva and she wasn't sure why people were still unwilling to accept her inevitable rising star, but these people liked her because of that. So she was glad she had decided to opt out of Cabaret, lick her wounds and swallow her pride, and ask if they would take her back as if they didn't already realize they couldn't win Nationals without her.

But it still hurt, she thought, giving Finn one last look before finally rising from the bench. She started collecting the sheet music and placing it in her pack, deciding to feign a headache and skip out on Glee. Maybe she would wander around the neighbourhood for a while, visit with Mrs Randle since her grandchildren had left for college a few weeks ago. Dad and Daddy were out of town until the end of the week so she was sure-

'You leaving Berry?'

Startled, Rachel almost threw her elbow out in response. Catching herself, and restraining her eyes from widening, she noticed Puck shifting his feet about, as if he was wary.

'Why?' He couldn't fault her for being suspicious, could he? This was the same guy who had thrown slushies at her since the beginning of high school.

'You usually make a production out of everything.'

'Just because I feel the need to express myself fully doesn't mean that I do it all the time. Besides, sometimes discretion is the better part of valour,' Rachel pointed out, hoisting her backpack up. Puck noticed her eyes sliding over towards the happy couple. 'Please tell Mr Schuester that I wasn't feeling well.'

'Tell him yourself,' Puck shot back, pointing behind him at Mr Schue. He watched the Berry girl turn around, allowing himself a moment to take in her nice brown hair, before shaking his head.

He didn't know why the sight of Rachel sitting at a keyboard, making moony eyes at his best friend, had bothered him so much. Perhaps it was because he felt a weird sort of sympathy with her, despite the fact that the mother of his child had already decided that he wasn't good enough to be a decent father. Or maybe it was because the picture of a deflated, defeated Rachel was so at odds with the persona she chose to project. Whatever it was, his legs and mouth had overridden his brain.

'Rachel? What's wrong?' Mr Schuester asked, affecting that look of deep concern that had Puck wondering if it was genuine. Finn looked up at the sound of her name, Puck noted wryly.

'My throat is beginning to feel sore and since my voice is my instrument, I need to ensure that this infection isn't anything serious. May I please be excused? I'll be here tomorrow Mr Schuester, I promise.'

The teacher blinked, appearing bewildered for a full minute before gracing Rachel with a hesitant smile. 'Err sure Rachel. Just keep practicing those lines and I'll see you tomorrow.'

Watching her arch her back stiffly as she walked out of the room, Puck couldn't help but smirk. Despite how crazy she was half the time, he couldn't find fault in her choice of attire. How someone that small had legs that long was beyond him.

Ah damn.

Puck picked up the piece of paper Rachel had left behind.

'Oh. Make sure she gets that Puck, would ya?' Mr Schue asked, clapping him on the back. He stood there for a moment before shrugging. There wouldn't be anyone left in the halls anyway. Not that his popularity had been all that great since he joined Glee.

Tell me who should I be to make you love me?

Tell me what does it mean to be alone?

You've got me wondering if I'm good enough

Pretty enough, giving enough, special enough

Tell me who should I be to make you love me…

Her voice carried and drifted down the hall towards him. Puck swallowed, hearing the thinly veiled pain within the words. No matter how…odd Rachel was, he couldn't deny that it didn't raise goosebumps on his skin whenever he heard her sing. There was something about the way she threw herself into the music, allowed herself to feel her way through the chords and lyrics and create the story behind it. When you heard her sing, you could almost picture it in your mind.

Clearing his throat, Puck hurried his pace until he was almost within reach of her.

Ah shit.

She was crying. He hated it when girls cried. He never knew what to do, what to say.

So he relied on familiarity.

'Geez freak, why it everytime I see you you're either lusting after Finn or throwing some kind of diva fit that involves tears or-'

She sniffled and the words died in his throat.

'Here,' he thrust the sheet music roughly at her. Rachel kept her face averted from his, but he heard her take a hearty sniff before gently easing the paper from his grip. Her fingers brushed against his. He jerked away.

'Thank you,' she seemed to whisper the words, like she was afraid to raise her voice.

'Don't mention it. Ever,' Puck replied, shoving his hands in his pockets. Rachel seemed to pause before she walked away again.

Watching her small frame disappear into the orange-tinged sky of dusk, Puck realized that this was the first time Rachel and him had ever really spoken.

Looking down at his hand, he remembered the burning, fleeting sensation that had sparked up his fingers when she had brushed her small fingers against it.

It lingered no matter how many times he washed his hands with Dettol, causing his mother to give him what could only be described as a hairy eyeball.

It ghosted over his skin as he slept that night.

He dreamed of shiny brown hair, big glassy eyes and pale, small hands.