AN: So, I was really, really sure that I was done with this story, but a few people asked me to consider an epilogue from Rachel's point of view. And I thought about it, wrote a few lines, went and wrote another story, wrote a few more lines, started yet another story, and finally really started feeling this one. I hope you like it as much as I do.

That said, this is dedicated to Metaphor who said an epilogue would be nice and NerdyArtsyUnderdog who asked for it twice.

I don't own Glee (or the world) but if I did, it would be April and Puck would be making me smile.

*****

As he pulls her half-gently across the lawn to his truck, all she can think of is a single moment from her childhood. She's five, happy, fearless, and no one has ever told her that she's too weird, or too noisy or just too much. At the playground she doesn't walk, she bounces from the slide to the climbing structure and back again. "Higher!" she calls to daddy as he pushes her on the swings. At the top of the arc, she leaps, squealing at the sensation of rushing air, then the sickening drop before landing safely in dad's arms.

This is like that.

Everything has been planned for her since she was a little girl--mostly with her enthusiastic participation. Elocution lessons, dance recitals, extra-credit assignments all leading gracefully and inevitably to a foregone conclusion somewhere in the distant future. It's safe to say she's always been all about the steps and the hows and the means to the end. And here she is, possibly at that end (or beginning).

She's spent the day with her pencils and charts, or maybe the weeks since the hospital parking lot, or even the months since he pushed a slushie in her hand and told her it was grape, thinking about getting to this point. Now that their fingers are tangled together and she's walking with him through the almost-summer night air, she's only just realizing she has no idea what comes next. The twist of worry in the pit of her stomach doesn't surprise her, because she and Noah are surely about as far from a sure thing as it is possible to be. What shocks the hell out of her is how exhilarating it is to have no expectations nipping at her heels, no set agenda for this.

It's too much to contain, so she doesn't even try. They're on the sidewalk, almost to his truck and he's still a step ahead as she stops and tugs him back to her. She reaches up and draws a line of kisses along his jawline, hands fluttering a little shyly, skimming the waistband of his jeans before settling at his sides. She can feel his lips curve up into a smile against her skin and she smiles a little in return, as she moves to cover his mouth with her own.

After a time, he pulls back a fraction of an inch. "C'mon baby," he murmurs along the shell of her ear so softly she almost feels it instead of hears it. And she doesn't know where they're going or what they are going to be doing (although, honestly she has some ideas, as well as a few things she'd like to try), but for right now, that feels perfect.

*****

Of course it's not some kind of fairytale ending, or beginning--not even the like the slightly frightening Brothers Grimm ones or even the Perrault versions daddy had insisted on translating from the original French.

Because they fight a fair amount. Over her desire to help everyone actualize themselves as performers in time for Nationals. (Rachel, you are driving everyone fucking crazy and we are not giving up dairy products for the duration.) Over his complete inability to keep his hand off her ass in any situation whatsoever. (Really Noah? At temple? Rabbi Wiseman didn't know where to look!) Over her wardrobe choices because there seems to be some sort of inverse relationship at work: the more he sees of her body, the less he wants anyone else to see it. (Rach, you're smokin' but I can't believe your fathers let you out of the house like that!) Over his desire to kill anyone who looks sideways at her. (Actually Noah, I don't think he was going to slushie me, I think he was simply checking out my legs. Fuck! I should have hit him harder!)

And with the exception of his mother (who beams and digs out the baby pictures) and her fathers (who have taken to clapping him heartily on the back and calling him 'son') no one thinks they are going to last. Two weeks in, Rachel and Puck walk into Glee (regrettably, it must be admitted both late and slightly disheveled), only to find a spirited betting pool set up predicting the date of their break-up. When Kurt asks Mr. Schue if he wants in on the action he actually looks interested until Rachel's glare recalls him to his duties.

Also, the waters of their sexual relationship are complicated to navigate at first. Rachel tells him flatly that she's not ready for intercourse and other than wincing slightly at her choice of vocabulary, he's neither surprised nor unduly dismayed by that. And it turns out that there are so many other interesting and satisfying things that they can do and further, that she's really good at them.

Curiously, by the time she informs him that she's ready (and safe), he's decided that his truck is not an appropriate venue for her to lose her virginity. But Rachel's always been a problem solver and with the appropriate motivation, it turns out that Puck is as well. So the last week before school begins again they go to the reservoir for a picnic and he plays 'Sweet Caroline' on his guitar for her and she feeds him strawberries and frozen grapes and they watch the sun set together. She pulls out some candles (flameless--she's not going to be responsible for a potential forest fire). He shakes out a blanket and in a surprise move, sprinkles on some rose petals (smiling inwardly, she recognizes her neighbor's beloved Gallicas).

And truthfully? Truthfully at first it's a little awkward and uncomfortable, but he's gentle and makes sure she enjoys it. That, put together with his intense focus and the gratifying noises he makes? Unexpectedly (because she's done the research and wants to regard it from a practical standpoint) it's sort of wonderful. And the second time is even better.

She decides that it's a metaphor for their relationship.

When she used to think about it, in the moments between closing her eyes and sleep, or after she finished her homework, or sometimes even drifting off a little during Mercedes' solos, she never really succeeded in picturing them together as a couple. Even now, they may not look very likely. But for every fight and every doubt two things stand out. Firstly: he has never expected her to dim herself one iota. And secondly, she loves him right back.