A/N: I accidentally read a spoiler. I don't read spoilers for Glee. But this one burned my eyes and made me mad, so I'm writing a story based on it.

I know Rachel might seem a little bit out of character, but I'm pretty sure that a heartbroken Rachel Berry would have a bit of a mini-meltdown.

----

It spreads through the school like wildfire, and she thinks he's an idiot for thinking it wouldn't.

She walks past him, not even bothering to look at him (her stomach churns at the thought of his eyes on her right now) and pretends that her heart isn't breaking. Again. Over Finn Hudson. Again.

She gets hit with a slushie between third and fourth, and when she's showering in the girls' change room, she overhears three girls speaking, and she only recognizes one of the voices.

"As if he slept with you and not that glee loser."

"What can I say? I can be very convincing."

Rachel wants to punch Santana in her flawless face. She's never been a violent person, but Santana Lopez is her exception to that rule.

"Was he good at least?" another girl asks.

Rachel holds her breath. She might throw up if she attempts to open her mouth.

"Better than I thought he'd be," Santana says. "And whatever. It's not like it meant anything."

"You took the guy's virginity!" one of the others giggles. "It didn't mean anything?"

Rachel can practically see Santana shrugging her shoulders. "It was just sex."

Rachel doesn't even realize she's crying until the water runs cold and she turns it off, then notices she has to keep dabbing at her cheeks with her towel.

She knows she shouldn't, she knows it, but she always just assumed that she and Finn would be each others' firsts.

This is what people are talking about when they tell her that her expectations aren't reasonable.

That doesn't give her any solace from the deep-rooted disappointment and absolute heartbreak.

----

She finds Mr. Schuester after her last class of the day and tells him she can't make it to glee rehearsal. He worriedly asks why, and she tells him she's just not feeling well, and that with a little rest, she'll be good as new for the next day's practice.

She doesn't feel bad about the lie, because she notices Finn coming down the hall and that just confirms that she can't partake in rehearsal.

She turns her back and walks towards the doors before he has a chance to talk to her.

----

"Where's Rachel?" Matt asks curiously when Mr. Schuester starts their rehearsal when they're very clearly down one member.

"Hideous sweater convention?" Santana suggests, not even bothering to look up from her nails. Puck, for some reason, kicks the leg of Kurt's chair when the boy starts laughing.

(Quinn sits quietly, not saying anything, because she thinks she knows what kind of illness Rachel has. She thinks she has some of it too, only hers comes out in anger, not in tears. And that's why Puck is sitting with her on one side of the room, a few bodies between she and Santana.)

"She's ill today. We'll just have to work without her."

"But we don't work without her," Finn says, glancing around at his teammates.

Mr. Schuester shrugs and tells them to get up so they can get started.

In the middle of the song, just a couple minutes later, Quinn sidles up next to Finn for a part of their choreography. "You should have thought about us not working without Rachel before you slept with Santana," she says bitterly.

Finn's shoulders drop. (He doesn't even have the presence of mind to remind her of her own mistake.)

Rachel doesn't miss glee for anything.

And she missed it because of this.

----

She deletes the playlist of songs that remind her of him from her iTunes and throws out her copy of the sheet music they used for Don't Stop Believin'. Between the two of them, they penciled suggestions and notes on the paper for everyone. Her name written out in his messy scrawl is far too hard for her to look at.

She's disgusted with him. Angry and hurt. It's not like it's a secret, how she feels about him. He had to know he'd hurt her if he...did what he did. And he did it anyway.

She turns her phone off, because if she knows him, and she thinks she does, he'll be calling her at some point, and she doesn't want to hear his voice.

She helps her fathers with dinner, and when they ask if anything exciting happened today, she shrugs her shoulders and says, "nothing."

She doesn't think she's lying. Just like every other day, Finn doesn't want her, and she was crazy to think otherwise. It's been a month since the truth about the baby came out, and they've just been friends, just like they always were.

Stupid her, she thought that maybe that was leading her somewhere, that maybe when he was ready, he'd realize they're perfect for each other.

She wonders if this whole incident was just his cruel, passive way of telling her that they're never going to happen.

----

She deletes her Myspace page.

(She has all her videos backed up on an external hard drive, of course.)

Sure, she could just delete Santana's comments and block her, but that doesn't seem like enough. Knowing Santana, she'd just create a different account to continue her horrible insults. (She's the only one of the glee kids who still makes them. Rachel wonders what she ever did to Santana to make her act so cruelly.)

She decides she needs to smile or laugh or something. She searches Youtube for videos of cute animals, but not even the sneezing panda can cheer her up.

When she checks her IM (her status is invisible, but it's always on) she's got a few messages, all from one person.

Puckerone: Missed u practice. Q lost it on Kurt. U woulda loved it.

Puckerone:U there?

Puckerone: Hey...we aren't friends, but if u wanna talk, lemme know. Just no tears or I bail.

Puckerone: If it makes u feel any better Santana sucks in bed. No lie.

She actually laughs. She can picture Quinn screaming at Kurt for something or another, and it cheers her up. Maybe it's indicative of her mood that someone else's misery makes her feel better.

And she thinks it's nice of Puck to offer his ear. They aren't friends. She knows this.

But one non-friend who wants to listen to her is better than 10 other non-friends who don't.

----

"Hey, Rachel," Mr. Schue says with a smile as Rachel walks into practice the next day. "You're feeling better."

"A little bit, yes," Rachel says. She sits down between Kurt and Mercedes, solely because it forces Kurt to move his messenger bag and she knows it'll annoy him. "You ever have one of those days where everything you encounter in this place just makes you feel sick to your stomach?" she asks, casting a glance to Santana, who's scowling at her. "I had one of those days yesterday. I assure you today isn't as bad."

Puck smirks to himself in the corner as he watches Finn squirm in his seat.

"Okay, then," Mr. Schue says, clapping his hands together. He introduces a new song and hands out sheet music, and when Rachel raises her hands and says she isn't interested in singing lead, he looks at her like she's grown three heads. "What? Are you...are you serious?"

"Yes, Mr. Schuester. Believe it or not, Fleetwood Mac is number three on my list of most overrated bands, behind Radiohead and Guns 'N' Roses. Their music is, in my opinion alone, of course, lacking in several areas, and Stevie Nicks' illicit affairs with her band mates was highly inappropriate. I personally don't see any place for that in a professional environment. It's clear that relationships within musical groups do nothing but cause problems." Puck laughs, but covers it with a cough, and Quinn's actually hiding a smile. "So I'd prefer if you gave the part to someone else. Perhaps Santana? I don't think she'd have any problem doing it with Finn."

Puck coughs (laughs) a little harder, and Rachel looks over at him. The rest of the group members are trying not to let their jaws drop to the floor.

"Okay," Mr. Schuester draws out in confusion.

"May I be excused?" Rachel asks. "I think someone needs to get Noah a bottle of water. And Santana probably needs a lot of help with her vocals. You should get started right away. From what I hear, many of her talents leave a lot to be desired."

She doesn't wait for a response before she gets up and walks quickly toward the door, skirt swaying behind her and her hair flipping over her shoulder.

She doesn't notice Puck follow her out of the room until she hears the slow clapping behind her as she stands at her open locker. When she spins around, she sees him smirking at her and she covers her face with her hands.

"I don't know what got into me!" she says quickly. "That was so out of line!"

"The fuck it was!" he laughs. "It was awesome. I think Quinn wants to give you a medal. And trust me, she hates everything right now."

"Yes, well, she is carrying a child and trying to get through sophomore year. A little animosity is to be expected."

He thinks it's funny that she's dealing with her own drama, and yet still defending other people.

"You okay?" he asks. He smiles when she hands him a bottle of water. She shrugs her shoulder lazily, which is really unlike her, so much so that it gives him her answer. "Wanna get out of here? Schue excused me on account of my 'cough'," he says, using air quotes, and she laughs a little. "And I think after your little performance in there, he'd understand if you left."

She gnaws at her bottom lip as she contemplates it. She really has nothing to lose. She grabs her jacket and her backpack from her locker and starts down the hall without another word. He just smiles as he follows her.

He gets into the passenger seat of her silver Toyota and texts Quinn (who drove him to school that day) that he's hitchin' a ride with Berry. (Yes, that's what he types.)

When the car starts and the radio comes on, he glances over at her in surprise. "Really? Def Leppard?"

She turns up the volume and smiles as she pulls out of her parking spot. "Photograph is an amazing song."

They both sing along as she drives. He doesn't know where she's going, but it's nice to see her smiling, so he doesn't ask questions. And really, he doesn't care where they go. When she pulls up to the Denny's on the outskirts of town, he glances over at her in confusion for the second time in 20 minutes.

"How do you feel about all day breakfast?" she asks, pulling the keys from the ignition. It appears she's not going to wait for an answer, but he gives one anyway.

"Pretty damn good, actually."

They're seated in a booth by the window, and they order drinks (tea for her, coffee for him) and he laughs at her when she reads from the breakfast menu, saying she wants one of everything. She orders a grand slam, and he seriously wonders how she'll fare with it. She's tiny, and he just can't see her packing in all that food. Unless she's one of those girls who eats when she's upset, which would be unfortunate, because she'd probably end up weighing 300 pounds by the time she got over Finn.

"I don't think I've ever been so angry in all my life," she says after they've sat in silence for a while. He's sitting back in his seat with his arms crossed, just looking at her. They aren't friends, she reminds herself, but she's going to take him up on his offer to talk. "I've been a best friend to him since..." She stops herself when she meets his eyes. "Sorry."

He shrugs one shoulder and reaches for his coffee mug. "'S'okay. I'm not exactly his best friend anymore. Someone's gotta be."

"Yes, well, it won't be me anymore, either."

"You don't mean that."

"I most certainly do!" she cries. He looks around, but the restaurant is pretty much dead, so no one cares. But she lowers her voice anyway. "I'm not so desperate for friends or...Finn that I'll just let this roll off my back. He humiliated me. He...I wonder if he ever even thought about me once while he was with her."

Puck pulls a face. "Probably not," he says, shaking his head. "We guys tend not to think about much when we're banging a girl."

"You're crude."

"I'm honest."

She rolls her eyes and their food is set on the table. He watches as she drizzles syrup on her plate and then dips her bacon in it and takes a bite.

"I was crazy, wasn't I? To think that he had feelings for me."

He thinks about his answer as he chews on some home fries. "Naw," he insists. "I think he does, he just doesn't know what to do with them."

She raises her brow and reaches her fork across the table to steal a bite of scrambled eggs. He doesn't even get mad at her. Maybe because Quinn's always stealing food and she's threatened him ("I swear to god, if you slap my hand away again, you'll hurt for days.")

"Sleeping with the biggest slut in school was not the right way to show me that."

He has no response for that. He steals a bite of french toast from her plate and they talk about glee and school and Quinn and nothing for the rest of their meal.

He pays. She argues. She drives him home, and he says, "later," before she can thank him for listening.

----

Rachel has successfully avoided any situation where she might find herself talking one on one with Finn for four days. Four days, and her heart hasn't stopped beating. She was a silly girl, all those months, for thinking that if she didn't have him, she'd positively die.

But of course, that was before he put the scar on her heart, deep and painful and in the form of his name.

She stays after practice to talk to Mr. Schuester about her solo (sans Finn, because she's very persuasive), and it's dark outside when she steps into the parking lot. This is one of the reasons she dislikes winter. Short days bother her. Being inside all day when it's light, then only outside when it's dark is highly depressing. And yet, she thinks it suits her mood these days.

She doesn't hear the footsteps somehow, as she reaches for her keys, and an arm comes out of nowhere to grasp her wrist.

So naturally, she screams bloody murder.

Finn's eyes close as he winces. The girl has a set of lungs on her.

"Whoa! Whoa, Rach, it's just me," he says. She pulls her arm from his hold and finally fishes her keys from her bag before starting towards her car again.

"You should know better than to come up behind a woman in a dark parking lot, Finn. You're lucky my fathers took my mace away." She unlocks her car door, but he places his hand on the door so she can't open it.

"Will you talk to me yet?" he asks desperately.

"I'm sorry. I wasn't aware you'd been trying." She doesn't even look at him. "And frankly, you don't owe me any kind of explanation for you well-known-by-now actions, Finn. You and I are just friends. I'm the fool who thought there was potential for something more."

"There is!" he says seriously, placing his hand on her elbow. She yanks her arm away. "And you're not a fool."

"Oh, really?" she asks, finally meeting his eyes. "You think everyone doesn't know how I feel...how I felt about you?" She sees a flash of guilt in his eyes. "You think the entire school doesn't know that you obviously picked a one night stand with Santana over a relationship with me?"

"Rachel..."

"Honestly, I don't know why I'm surprised. When you were with Quinn, I guess I felt there was at least a reason you were staying with her. You thought she was having your baby, and you loved her, in some way, anyway. But then after everything happened, I was the one with you, Finn. I was the one you talked to. It was me who held your hand while you cried when we watched One Tree Hill and Nathan and Haley had their baby."

"You forced me to watch that show in the first place!" he says, because that seems important for some reason.

"The point, Finn, is that I'm nothing more than just a girl you knew would be around. Unfortunately for me, I mistook that for a deeper kind of affection. What other possible explanation could you have for...for giving yourself to someone else?"

He takes a deep breath and steps closer. "Rachel, I didn't...I didn't want to...do that with you," he almost whispers. She didn't think he'd kick her when she was down. She honestly thinks she's going to cry. She can feel her chin trembling. "No, I don't mean it like that! I mean, yeah, I wanted to, but...I mean...I mean I've already asked so much of you, and I just wanted...I dunno! I wanted to blow off steam, and...I couldn't ask you to do that. Not that I asked her, it just kind of happened, but...I couldn't ask you for that."

She blinks a few times and looks skyward to keep the tears from falling. "The thing is, Finn? You could have."

She leaves him to think about it, gets into her car before he can say anything else, and leaves the parking lot. She makes it halfway home before the tears start to fall.

----

Rachel: I HATE HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She sends the message even though Puck's status is set to away. It just feels better to type the words, all caps, and as many exclamation points as possible before she annoys even herself.

She honestly doesn't expect a response back. She's listening to Forever And Always really, really loudly and singing at the top of her lungs when she sees the window flashing on the screen.

Puckerone: Who?

Rachel: YOU KNOW WHO!

Puckerone: Stop yelling. What'd he do

Rachel: ..........

Puckerone: What'd he do now?

Rachel: Are you busy? Do you want to come over? Too ANGRY to type.

Puckerone: If I come over will u calm down? Ur scary when ur ANGRY

Rachel: I'll try.

Puckerone: See u in 10

She lets the song play again, singing into her hairbrush and dancing around a little bit. She tidies her room, just clearing her books off her bed and hanging her clothes in her closet (she went through three outfits this morning before deciding on this one, and then didn't have time to put the others away.)

When Puck pulls up, he can see her through her window, and she's obviously dancing around, and he laughs, because she'd probably hate knowing that people can see her. He rings the bell, but there's no answer, and when he tries the door, it's open. There is an obvious lack of two gay dads right now. He doesn't know why he locks the door behind him.

She's facing her bedroom door when he walks in, and she smiles as she turns down the volume using the remote for her stereo.

"Hi," she says breathlessly.

"Hey." She doesn't say anything, and he doesn't really know what to do. The last time they were in her room, there was some serious making out going on. He probably shouldn't, but he lays down on the bed so he's resting against her sea of girly pillows. "So what's going on?"

She busies herself by changing the CD to something she thinks he might not hate, and then making sure her albums are in the right cases and alphabetized on her shelf. She can feel him watching her, waiting for her to say something. She just doesn't know what to say. And she realizes that her dads aren't home, won't be home, and she's alone in her house with a boy for the first time. And that boy is laying on her bed.

"He said he didn't want to have sex with me," she blurts out.

Puck chokes on...air. "What?"

"He said he'd already asked too much of me and didn't want to...I don't even know what that means. He wanted to have sex with me, but he didn't want to ask?" she says, still completely confused. When she looks at him, he looks just as perplexed as she is.

"That doesn't make any sense. What else did he say?"

"He tried to tell me that I was right to think there was something more between us," she says doubtfully, tilting her head to the side as she scowls and puts her hand on her hip. "Right! Like I'm supposed to believe that now! He has a funny way of showing me any sort of emotion. You know that every time we kissed, which, okay, was only twice and both were months ago, he walked away from me like nothing happened!? He always does this! He does something stupid, then comes and tries to sweet talk his way back into my head again."

"You two kissed?"

"Twice," she says again, holding up two fingers. "And you know what? I'm done. I can't...I can't hang onto him anymore. Every time I think we're getting somewhere, I end up feeling like this. Just...hurt and confused and disappointed. I'm better than that. I'm better than someone who doesn't understand how amazing I am. And that might sound conceited, but..."

He stands up and walks towards her. He doesn't know what the hell he's doing, or why, really, but she's so angry and hurt and upset that he can't help it. He wraps his arms around her and holds on tight. Because honestly? She looks like she needs a hug. He's not enough of a jerk that he's not gonna give her one.

"I just wish there was a way to make him feel as bad as I feel right now," she says as she pulls away.

He smirks at her and moves to the bed again, sitting at the edge. "You can." She furrows her brow. He shrugs. "He slept with someone. You could sleep with someone."

"Noah!" she laughs. She's leaning back against her dresser, a few feet of space between them. (It reminds her of that other time in her room.)

"I know. You're not going to sleep with someone. But I got you laughin'."

She looks down at her feet, manicured toenails tapping to the beat of the song that plays, and she knows, knows it's crazy, but maybe Noah is right. No one thinks she'd sleep with someone. But what's that saying? The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else. Well, since Finn has already done that (she thinks maybe the saying should be the best way to get over someone is for them to get under someone else) she thinks that maybe she should have her own fun.

Santana said it was just sex. Finn doesn't seem too broken up over not having his virginity anymore. Everyone else is having sex. There has to be something to it that makes everyone want it so badly. And yes, she admits that she's found herself...intrigued by thoughts of the act. It was always Finn in those daydreams before. As she thinks about it right now, it's not him.

"I could, you know."

He thinks his eyes bug out of his head. "What?"

She shrugs her shoulder and gets this little smile on her lips. "I could have sex."

"I'm sure you could," he says, laughing softly.

She licks her bottom lip a little bit, then takes it between her teeth. Oh god, he does not like where this is going. "I could have sex right now. With you."

He'd be lying if he said he hasn't thought about it. He'd be lying if he said he hasn't thought about it in the last five minutes. She's standing there in that little skirt and ruffly sleeved tee shirt. Her legs are hot as hell, and he can see the outline of her bra at her back in the mirror when he looks.

But....

"Rachel, no."

"Why?" her voice is all soft and sexy. Not helping. "You said you and Quinn are just friends, right?"

"Yeah, but..."

"No but."

"Look, I'm still trying to prove that I'm not an idiot so she'll let me help her decide about the baby. I can't just have sex with you so you can get back at Finn. And he might not be talking to me, but if we do this, he'll never, ever forgive me."

Her eyes get hard again, a little crease forming between them when she stares him down. "Finn doesn't want me. His level of interest shouldn't have any bearing on who has sex with me, no matter what."

"He wants you, Rachel," Puck insists. He really hopes to convince her.

"I don't know if I can want him anymore," she admits. "We could do this. Don't you think it'd be fun? It'd be fun, right?"

He lets out a breath and tips his head back. "Yeah, it'd be fun. It'd be...but..."

Her hands go to the bottom of her shirt, and she untucks it from her skirt. He honestly can't say anything when she pulls it over her head.

"You're cute when you're trying to be a good guy," she says, stepping towards him. She watches the way his eyes drift over her chest, then down her legs. She reaches for the zipper at the side of her skirt, and she's close enough to him now that he could stop her if he wanted. He doesn't. "You can say no, Noah. But I don't want you to."

Her skirt falls to the floor, and he reaches for her hips, pulling her towards him. In one swift motion, he has her on her back and he's laying over her. "You're fucking crazy." She laughs and he kisses her for the first time in months. It feels oddly right. "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"It'll hurt."

"I know."

"You'll tell me to stop if you want to?" he asks. His nose brushing against hers.

"I promise," she whispers, grabbing the sides of his tee shirt. "Stop talking and kiss me."

It surprises her how badly she wants him now that he's laying between her thighs.

(And it is fun. Both times.)

----

Puck tells Quinn the next day.

She laughs.

She shakes her head, and she laughs, and she tells him to get her some ice cream, then sit down and tell her the whole story.

She laughs some more. Then she calls Rachel Berry a genius.

It freaks him out that he thinks she means it. He doesn't think she's pissed at him for sleeping with another girl.

(She asks him if he liked it. He says, "it was sex, Q. What do you think?" but he's really, really fucking confused, actually, because he had way more fun with Berry than he's had with any other girl.)

----

Finn doesn't find out until third period on Monday, when he's sitting in front of Quinn and she asks him casually why he's not punching a wall somewhere.

She honestly thought he would have heard by now. Both Puck and Rachel are more discrete than Santana was, but this is high school. She didn't know she was the only one who knew about Friday night.

She can't lie when he asks her what she's talking about.

He gets up and leaves class without saying anything to anyone. Not even the teacher threatening him with detention stops him from storming from the room.

Quinn pulls out her cell and texts two people. This could get ugly. But she thinks maybe it's exactly what Rachel wanted.

----

Rachel and Puck both have free period, and she thinks it's weird when she sees him walk into the library. He's usually off campus, driving around town during their free period. She's never seen him in the library, not once in their academic careers.

"Hey," he says softly, sitting down across from her. She smiles shyly and toys with her pen. "How are you?"

She thinks it's sweet that he's obviously concerned. "I'm doing well, thank you. How are you?"

"Finn hasn't killed me yet, so...you know. Good."

She winces and locks eyes with him. "You really think he'll be that angry?"

He lets out a breathy laugh. "Oh, yeah. As far as he's concerned, you're his. That week we dated, be clenched his fists every time he saw us together, and he was dating someone else then."

She looks down to her page and takes a deep breath. "But it was...you don't regret anything, do you? About...about this weekend?" she asks quietly.

If he were the hand holding type, this would be the time. But he's not. Instead, he traps her legs, crossed at the ankle, between his below the table, waits until she smiles, then he talks.

"No, Rachel. I don't regret it," he insists. He knows she means to run the toe of her shoe up the back of his calf. Is she flirting? "It was actually...amazing."

"Actually?" she asks laughingly. "It was actually amazing? You didn't think it would be?"

He laughs and rolls his eyes. "Honestly, I didn't really know what to think. Maybe I should have known you'd be fucking awesome." She blushes and tucks her hair behind her ear. "What?"

"It's just strange to hear a boy say that I'm awesome. Especially about this. It's...unexpected."

"Trust me, babe, it surprised the hell out of me, too," he says, and they both laugh a little bit.

"I like that I can keep you on your toes," she says coyly.

He doesn't know what the fuck is going on right now. He takes a deep breath. He needs to...not be around her, looking at her and remembering how she felt under his hands, how her skin felt against his, how she kissed him and said his name.

"I uh...I gotta go. I'll see you around though."

He gets up and walks away. She decides that watching him go isn't so bad.

----

As soon as he's at his locker, Puck finds himself thrown up against the wall with Finn holding the front of his shirt in his fists.

Oh, good. Finn knows. Whatever little bubble he and Rachel were just in has effectively blown up.

"You slept with Rachel?!" Finn roars.

Puck shoves his 'friend' away and straightens out his shirt. "You didn't sleep with Rachel?"

Touché.

"How could you do that!? Are you just going to sleep with every girl I like from now until forever?"

Puck cannot help himself.

"Are you just going to not sleep with every girl you like from now until forever?" He sees Finn's fists clenching and unclenching, and he rolls his eyes. "Look, man, she's pissed at you for fucking Santana. That was messed up, dude. If you like Rachel, which honestly, I don't think you really do if you can just screw someone else, then you should have told her instead of stringing her along."

"So you think that makes it okay for you to have sex with her?" Finn asks angrily.

"It doesn't make it wrong," Puck argues. They both know he's right. So now he gets cocky. "You should start handling your business, Finn." He pats Finn on the chest patronizingly. "Then I wouldn't have to do it for you."

He walks away, listening carefully for footsteps coming behind him. He wouldn't be surprised if Finn had another sucker punch in him.

And no, he doesn't find it strange that the longest conversation they've had in over a month was about Rachel.

----

"You're in trouble," Quinn sings, sitting down next to Puck in their fifth period English class.

"I know. I already got thrown up against a locker," he says.

"He told me you acted like a smug bastard."

"I am a smug bastard," he says, and she laughs a little bit and shakes his head. "Fuck him if he thinks he's got some claim to Rachel."

Quinn turns in her seat and looks at him quizzically. "He does," she says. He rolls his eyes. "Puck, everyone knows that..."

"Everyone knows that she's in love with him and he picked someone else. More than once," he adds pointedly. "Well guess what, Quinn? She can pick someone else too."

Quinn sits back in her seat. He thinks she looks like she knows too much, something he doesn't.

----

When Finn approaches Rachel, it's in the twenty minutes after classes end, before glee starts. She thinks this is the first time she's found his puppy dog eyes just a little pathetic.

"Hey," he says. She tries to smile, but she knows it's not convincing.

The truth is, she still has feelings for him. That doesn't go away. She doesn't regret sleeping with Noah. She doesn't regret it at all. He was...perfect. He was Noah again, that boy she dated for eight days who was sweet and thoughtful and gentle. (But there were moments, delicious once, where he was Puck too.)

It's just that with Finn standing in front of her with his hands stuffed into his pockets, she's reminded of all the reasons why she thought she was in love with him.

Now she doesn't know what to think.

"Hi."

"Look, I know about...about Puck. About you and Puck. And you know...I really didn't think it was like you to...to sleep with someone for the first time just to hurt me," he says quietly, almost whispering as he leans down to speak to her.

She slams her locker door. She's glad the hall is mostly empty. "You have no right to dictate who I do or do not sleep with, Finn. We're not together, as you so painfully reminded me."

"Look, I get that you're pissed, Rach, but...come on. You know you did this just to get even."

"Even?" she asks, her voice far higher than it should be. "You strung me along for months - months! - and during that time, the only boy I even cast a second glance to was Noah. And he...he treated me...he treated me like you should have, like you should be right now!"

"So you let him take your virginity?"

She laughs humourlessly, shakes her head and glares at him. "I can't even believe you have the audacity to say this right now."

"I'm just disappointed," he admits quietly.

"Yeah? Now you know how I feel."

He thinks that no matter what anyone says, it's still effective when she storms away. At least it is right now.

----

He catches up to her in the parking lot after practice, running behind her and calling her name so he doesn't startle her again. She doesn't pull her arm away when he reaches for it.

"I'm gonna make this up to you," he says, his eyes locked with hers. It bothers him that they're dark and hard and he can't read her at all.

She can't believe him. First, in practice when they were going over Somebody To Love, he 'accidentally' tripped her. She's sure he did it just so he could catch her before she fell.

Well it's too late for that, isn't it?

"You know, I'm still waiting to cash in on the last time you said that to me."

She gets into her car and drives away, leaving him standing there to ponder just how badly he's treated her in the past.

----

What r u wearing?

The message comes around ten o'clock, and she laughs to herself. She's already in bed, and honestly, she thought she and Puck were over with. She's spent the last three days avoiding Finn, smiling at Puck in the hallways at school, and avoiding girl talk with Quinn over the two most important boys in both their lives.

And no, Rachel isn't exactly sure when Puck became so important to her. She just chalks it up to thinking that she'll always remember her first.

Trying to sleep. Talk later.

She's just closed her eyes when her Blackberry buzzes again. Thank goodness for BBM, or her fathers would question the texting charges. (She never has any.)

Repeat. What r u wearing?

Pajamas. Goodnight Noah.

What kinda pjs?

She rolls her eyes and turns on the light, sitting up in bed. She tips her head back, because she'd really like to be sleeping, and now she's stuck wondering why Noah cares what she's wearing and why he's messaging her so late on a Thursday. But it's not lost on her that the only person she's really talked to, even when it was without witnesses, all week, has been him. He'll come into the library during free period and distract her while she tries to study. He'll sit near her in glee, though she's sure that's just to push Finn's buttons. He emailed her a cover of him playing a Radiohead song, trying to convince her that the band isn't overrated.

(She decided that the band is still overrated, but Noah's talent is vastly underrated.)

She hasn't hated any of this interaction. She never considered that he'd want anything more. She doesn't even know if he'll let her call them 'friends' yet.

He picks up on the second ring when she calls.

"Shit, Rach, I didn't think you'd call me. This is way better," he says. She knows when he's joking now, so she laughs softly. "Are you really trying to sleep?"

"It's 10:00."

"Exactly. Who goes to bed at 10:00?"

"I do. The average teenager needs at least eight hours of..."

"Whatever. You gonna answer me or not?" he asks.

"I was trying to," she says.

"Not that. My other question."

"I feel the need to tell you right off the bat that this conversation is not going to go the way you undoubtedly assume it is. But if you must know, I'm wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top."

"It's January," he says. But is he picturing it? Totally. "Aren't you cold?"

"I'm quite hot, actually."

"You have no idea," he mumbles. She hears him anyway.

"Noah, I'm not entirely clear on your intentions at the moment," she says seriously.

He sighs into the phone. He's laying in his bed too, he's just got no intentions of going to sleep any time soon. "I was just thinking. You know, you're giving Finn the cold shoulder. I'm not seeing anyone. Quinn and I are just friends. There's no reason us being together has to be a one time thing, right?"

She thinks about it for a second. She thinks about how Finn said he'd make it up to her (she hasn't yet seen much proof of that, however). She thinks about how she smiles more around Noah than she does around Finn these days. She thinks about her heart, and how it's still annoyingly tied to that other boy, however loosely. She thinks about how it felt to have Puck move his lips down her stomach, his hands on her hips as he kissed her someplace so intimate that it still makes her blush.

"What exactly are you proposing?" she asks.

"You and me. Sex. Lots of it."

She bites her lip and switches off her bedside lamp. She can't deny that the offer is tempting, to say the least. "Can it be just between us? No one else has to know?" she asks after a few moments.

"Are you saying yes?"

"My dads are going away overnight on Saturday. 8:00 work for you?"

"Sounds good," he says with a smirk.

He hangs up moments later, after she's said goodnight in a voice so sexy that he's cursing the fact that Saturday is two whole days away.

He doesn't know what the fuck he's getting himself into. He just knows that he wants more of her.

----

When Rachel opens her locker on Friday morning, and envelope with her name written on the front falls out. She'd recognize that writing anywhere, the way he loops his e's, but not his l's.

When she stands up after picking the envelope up off the floor, Finn is standing right there, watching her as she holds the letter.

"What is this?" she asks.

"I wrote it to you. After...after the bowling alley. I never gave it to you," he says sheepishly. "I should have."

"Oh."

"Will you read it?" he asks. She glances between the letter and him, then nods slowly. "Promise?"

"I promise," she whispers.

He runs his hand down her arm once and then smiles before walking away.

She opens the letter and reads it, right there in the crowded hallway.

Rachel,

I know I hurt you. I deserved to be slapped in the face. Probably more than once, actually. And I'm sorry.

I meant what I said. That kiss meant something. Our kisses always mean something. That's the problem. Quinn's pregnant, and you're you, and you're better for me than she is. I know that. But I can't abandon her. I know you must understand that. I want to think that you like me because I'm a decent guy. I'm just trying to be a decent guy for Quinn and my baby.

And I'm scared out of my mind. I can't even process anything. The only thing I know is that I didn't lie to you the other night. I want to spend more time with you. I just know that I shouldn't.

Maybe it's really wrong to think it, but I keep wondering if maybe someday you and I will be in the same place at the same time, and it'll just work like we both know it should. It would work between us, don't you think?

I don't know what I'm going to do, Rachel. I just know that I want what I can't have.

I hope you know what you mean to me. I wish a lot of things were different.

Yours,
Finn

She's not going to cry over this. She's not. She folds the letter again and tucks it into the envelope, and she takes a deep breath to try to get her heartrate back to normal.

It's sweet, this letter. It's everything she wishes he'd said at the time.

It's four months too late. At least.

She hates that there's a part of her that thinks it's a step in the right direction.

----

Noah tells her he's going to fuck her until she sees stars. If his hand wasn't between her legs, she'd scold him for his language.

And when he succeeds, she thinks she might want to thank him for that promise anyway.

There are bruises on the inside of her thighs. They don't hurt. They make her feel desired, like he can't keep his hands off her. But they are unsightly.

Rachel spends Sunday at the mall and buys two pairs of jeans.

Nobody questions it when she doesn't wear a skirt on Monday. (Kurt says, "Hallelujah!" and Mercedes smiles, but that's all the reaction she gets from her so-called 'friends'.)

Puck comes up behind her during free period when she's standing at the stacks at the back of the library. He wedges his knee between her thighs and tells her she looks fucking sexy.

She thinks the $300 charge on daddy's credit card was totally worth it.

----

By Wednesday, she's back to wearing skirts, and Finn leans over her shoulder during the class they have together and speaks into her ear.

"I'm glad the skirts are back." She doesn't turn to look at him, but she angles her head slightly. "They're just so...Rachel."

She finds herself biting back a smile. He likes her the way she is. He doesn't want her to dress sexier or differently. She's already heard all this from him before, but it's nice to hear it again.

She doesn't flee from the class like she's been doing. She doesn't feel the need to escape him right now. He walks next to her to her locker and stands there, shuffling his feet as she exchanges her books for her next class.

"Did you read the letter? You haven't said anything," he says quietly. It's true. She's been avoiding him, and he hasn't exactly been chasing her down either. He's wanted to give her space. He thinks that might have been a good idea.

"I read it."

"And? Are you still mad at me?" He's almost hopeful, she thinks, and she doesn't know if he should be.

"Finn, your letter, while it held a lot of the things I wanted to hear, was overdue. Thank you for giving it to me, but I don't see how it should change anything right now," she says. He opens his mouth to speak, but she doesn't let him. "The fact remains that you, once again, chose someone else over me. Your letter says you think we could work, but I have yet to see you try to make that happen. So thank you, but as far as being mad at you? I don't see that changing any time soon."

"But, Rachel..."

"You really hurt me, Finn," she says. She doesn't think she should have to explain this to him. "And I'm still waiting for an apology."

He sighs and sticks one hand in his pocket. "And don't you think you owe me one now? Because of Puck?"

"I beg your pardon?" she asks incredulously.

"You..." His tone softens and he leans in a little closer, glancing around to make sure no one else is looking. "You gave him your virginity. I always thought...I thought you and I..."

She scowls at him and slams her locker door, drawing attention to them. "My virginity," she says, her voice dangerously low. "Mine. Mine to share with who I please. And you, of all people, should know that, shouldn't you?"

He hangs his head, because he knows she's right. He can't keep throwing this in her face. He can't tell her that he thought he'd be the one she'd sleep with for the first time when he didn't wait for her. He can't do that when they aren't even together.

And he knows how she feels about him. She's the one waiting. He's the one doing all the screwing up. Every single time.

"Rachel, I really am sorry," he says, locking eyes with her, hoping she'll see that he means it. "I'm so sorry I hurt you."

She feels herself falling again, looking into his eyes and hearing him speak so sincerely. He's apologizing, finally, and she loves it. She deserves it.

"Thank you," she says.

She's not ready to forgive him yet. But this is a start.

----

There's another letter in her locker the next day, and it's from Finn again. It's silly, mostly, written in green pen with her name at the top of the lined page.

He tells her that since his last letter seemed to do at least a little bit of good, he'd write her some more. He says she'll never know when they're going to come or where. He writes that he wants her to get the unexpectedly.

I want you to think of me like I'm thinking of you. Again.

Her heart wants to melt, but her head forbids it.

----

Puck steps into her bedroom one night, and she thinks it's weird, because her dads are home, downstairs watching a Tivoed episode of Mad Men.

"Hey," she says, smiling at him as he closes the door behind him. Her dads never asked her to keep it open when she and Noah were dating. She likes that he remembers that. "What are you doing here?"

"Got bored at home. This was taped to your front door," he says, holding up an envelope with her name written on the front. She inhales quickly and takes the letter from him. She can't read it with him standing there in her bedroom. "What is it?"

"Probably from my neighbour," she lies. She's pretty sure he can tell. "She leaves notes sometimes."

He smirks and raises his brow. "Rachel."

It always makes her heart jump when he calls her by her first name.

"It's from Finn," she admits quietly, looking at her hands. "He's been writing me letters. Well, this is only the third one, but...he says he's going to keep writing them."

He doesn't know what this feeling is, but it's almost like jealousy. Jealousy with a hint of...disappointment. The sooner she and Finn work things out, the sooner this thing Puck has with Rachel ends. And it's just barely gotten started.

Suddenly, it doesn't feel like there are no strings.

"Oh." She looks up at him and shrugs helplessly. For the first time, he sees how confused she is. "You gonna read it?"

"Not right now." Not when you're here.

"Alright." He figures that's one point for him. "You wanna make out?"

She laughs and walks towards him, slipping her arms around his waist. "Sure."

----

Rachel,

I guess I just don't get why it's him? Is it because he's the male vershion of Santana? Because he was my best friend? Because you knew it would hurt me more after everything else he did?

It could have been anybody else and it wouldn't hurt so much.

And I know I have no right to ask you any of this. What I did was wrong. Honestly, I wish I could take it back.

Do you wish you could take it back?

Finn

She scribbles something on the paper (she's angry again; so angry) and gets in her car. She doesn't knock on his door or anything. She doesn't check to see if there are lights on inside. It's a Saturday, and she doesn't care to think of where he might be if he's not, in fact, at home. His car is in the driveway, but that doesn't mean anything. She heard of a party going on. She wasn't invited. He probably was.

She tucks the letter beneath the windshield wiper of his car. She knows it's petty, but her pink marker pointing out that he spelled 'version' wrong makes her feel far better than it should.

She wonders if her not answering his questions really answers them anyway.

(No, she doesn't wish she could take it back.)

----

She calls Noah back to her house that night and tells him the door is unlocked. Her dads are home, but they trust both Rachel and Noah enough not to be worried. Besides, they're wrapped up in a Mad Men marathon in the den with the door closed, and Rachel knows she and Noah pretty much safe.

He really doesn't mind coming back for more. They ended up just making out before, and as awesome as that was, he always wants more of her. Always. It freaks him the hell out.

She's laying on her bed in the sexiest lingerie he's ever seen on a girl. She's wearing this white bra with pink satin ribbon on it, and a matching pair of underwear with a little bow at the front. And white thigh high stockings.

"Oh my god," he says as soon as he sees her.

She bites her lip and smiles at him. "You like it?"

He pushes the door closed and joins her on the bed, immediately skimming his hands up her legs as he kisses her. "I like it. A lot." She laughs softly, just a breath against his lips. "And it's totally kinky that you were waiting for me like this when your dads are in the house."

"Kinky? Is that good?"

He forgets sometimes (since she's already so good at all this) that she's not nearly as experienced as he is. He likes it that way. He loves knowing he's the only one who's ever touched her like this, felt her like this. No one's ever been inside her. She's his.

"It's good," he says gruffly as he presses his hips against hers.

They're really just getting started when his phone rings. He's got his shirt off and she's just undone his belt. She's still in her little ensemble, but he's dying to get her out of it (well, all but the stockings...)

But it's the ringtone for Quinn, and despite the fact that he groans and presses his forehead against Rachel's neck, they both know he needs to take it.

He pulls away a little and grabs his phone from where he'd set it on her bedside table. It doesn't help his situation that Rachel's cheeks are red, her lips are pink, her hair is mussed, and her chest is heaving.

"What?" he asks curtly as he answers the phone. "Why are you crying? What is it?" Rachel runs her hands up and down his back as he talks. She wants to keep him here (here in her room, here in her bed, here between her thighs). "No, no. I know...Well yeah, I'm busy. I'm really fucking busy, actually. But you know I'm not gonna just let you stay there...I'll see you in like, 20 minutes."

He hangs up and kisses Rachel, loving the way she moans a little when he lets more of his weight fall on her. "You're going."

"I'm sorry," he says. He looks down at her again, his eyes lingering on her chest. "You have no idea how sorry."

She angles her hips against him and giggles when he scowls at her. "I have an idea."

See, she says things like that and it slips his mind that she hasn't been doing this for years. "Quinn's at Brittany's, but everyone's drinking and she isn't having fun, but she doesn't have a ride home."

"Get out of here," she says, but she pulls him a little closer.

"You're not mad?" he asks seriously, like he can't believe it.

She laughs again. "Frustrated. Not mad."

He sucks gently on the skin just below her ear. "Just make sure you're thinking of me when you take care of that."

She shoves at him, but she shivers, too. He knows because he feels all of it. And he loves to make her tremble.

"You should go before you get yourself into trouble," she says, smiling at him. She's not sure if she's talking about him getting in trouble with her, or with Quinn.

She misses his body heat when he moves off her.

He looks at her as he bends down to pick his shirt up off the floor. He wants to make her promise that she'll wear this ensemble again. He's pissed that he won't get to peel it off her tonight.

She knows he's about to ask her again if she's really okay with this.

"I promise. Not mad. Drive safely."

"Thanks, baby," he says, hastily pulling on his shirt. He leans over to kiss her quickly. "I'll make it up to you!"

He's out the door when she registers the familiarity of the words and sinks back into her mattress.

----

He comes over Sunday morning when he knows her dads are out.

He makes it up to her. Several times.

She thinks it's interesting, how Noah made good on his promise and Finn has yet to.

(She thinks he's trying, she's just not as easy to win over as he thought.)

----

She walks into practice with Noah, laughing at a stupid joke he's made.

She sings her heart out with Finn, secretly loving the way his eyes look when he sings to her.

(She's glad he regrets what he did; it makes her less angry with him.)

"You can't have them both, you know," Quinn says as the girls leave the school and walk through the parking lot.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Quinn stops walking and grabs Rachel's elbow. She's doing that thing where she's smiling, but Rachel knows she's about to get yelled at. Or at least given a stern talking to.

"You know exactly what I'm talking about," Quinn insists. There's no sense in arguing anymore. "Finn wants you, Puck wants you. Trust me, I know how that feels. But you can't have the both of them. It doesn't work that way. Believe me."

"Just because they both want me, that doesn't mean I want both of them," Rachel insists. Her voice isn't as hard as she wants it to be. (She does want both of them.)

"Rachel, just...You do want them both, and you're all going to get hurt if you're not careful."

"I appreciate your concern, Quinn, really, but I'm fully in control of this situation."

They go their separate ways and each get into their cars.

Rachel's never felt less in control of anything in her life.

----

She spends her Saturday night in Noah's bedroom, falling apart over and over, loving every second. He walks her to the door near 1:00 am (her curfew) and kisses her softly right before she leaves.

She spends her Sunday afternoon with Finn, drinking tea at her favourite place, the one he remembers. He hands her another letter right before he leaves.

I'm surprised you even agreed to meet me, it starts.

I want us to forgive each other, it ends.

She spends her Sunday night alone in her bedroom, laying on her bed, holding Finn's letter in one hand and her Blackberry in the other.

She wants to call someone. (One of them.) She just doesn't know who.

----

"You wanna come over after school?" Noah is sitting next to her in the library, and it's a rare moment of quiet, where he's not trying to slide his hand up her thigh and she's not trying to get him to stop.

"Is your mom going to be home?" she asks, looking over at him.

He's really beautiful sometimes. He's always sexy, she knows, but sometimes she'll look at him and it's just all green eyes and perfect lips and olive skin. Beautiful. (She'll never, ever tell him this.)

"Yeah. We'll just hang out." He shrugs his shoulder and she bites her cheek to keep from smiling.

"I didn't know our...arrangement allowed for just hanging out," she says softly. He smiles a little wider and leans toward her a little more.

"What are we doing right now?"

"This doesn't count. I'm helping you with Physics and you're trying to slip your hand under my skirt," she says, raising her brow. His hand is under her skirt. She's not pushing it away.

"Well, I'm amending the rules. We can hang out," he says seriously.

He gives her thigh a squeeze and she ignores the fluttering in her stomach.

(They watch 28 Days Later in his bedroom, and she clutches his arm when she gets scared. She cries at the end, and he doesn't know why he kisses her as gently as he does.)

----

Mr. Schue finds her in the hallway one day and hands her an envelope with her name written on the front. "Finn asked me to give this to you."

She smiles (it's fake) and takes the letter from his hands, promising to see him in rehearsal at the end of the day.

She tosses the letter in her locker, because if it's like the last one, it's going to ruin her day, and if it's not, she'll still spend the rest of her classes thinking about it, about him. She's almost sick of that, of thinking about him so much. She just can't help it. It's like second nature at this point. Eat, sleep, sing, think about Finn. (Sleep with Noah, think about Noah.)

Halfway through her next class, she asks to go to the bathroom, and reads the letter instead.

It's silly, this one. He wrote it just that morning during his Spanish class (hence, giving it to Mr. Schue to give to her). He tells her how Quinn was eating crackers and making a whole bunch of noise, but everyone was too afraid to mention it. He says that Mr. Schue started singing a Julio Iglesias song during the middle of class when people stopped paying attention.

She laughs a little bit at the way he describes things. And she remembers how much he can make her laugh. Sometimes she's laughing at him, but he never minded, because she wasn't being mean. And he laughs at her too. They have fun together. He's sweet and thoughtful. He's writing her letters. He's trying.

She'll probably get in trouble (that's not so scary anymore) but she sits down on the floor with her back to the wall and opens her notebook to a blank sheet. Pulling out her favourite purple pen (the one he makes fun of her for all the time) she writes him a letter.

It doesn't say much of anything, just that she's kind of skipping out of class to write this (Bet you don't believe that, she writes). She says it's nice to laugh again, to not feel quite so angry with him. (I'm still mad, but I can't lie and say your letters mean nothing.) She tells him she misses how they used to be. (Sometimes I think too much has happened. Or maybe not enough.)

She signs her name at the bottom and grabs a gold star sticker, because he always used to tell her that he kind of loved that she has this thing for stars.

(Noah says the same thing. For two very different boys, she finds it interesting that they have that in common.)

She slips the note into his locker, and then heads back to her class, apologizing for taking so long. Her teacher loves her and simply asks if she's alright. She nods and takes her seat, and after class is officially over, she rushes back down the hall where she and Finn's lockers are. She watches him pull the note from his locker, and she smiles softly at him when he looks her way.

She sees Noah standing at the end of the hall, looking at Finn (at what's in Finn's hand). He turns to walk away and her heart, as rapidly as it had just been beating, all but stops.

She doesn't understand how she's feeling essentially the same thing for two different boys.

----

Noah is supposed to come over Saturday afternoon. Her dads are going out for the day and she insisted she didn't need to go to Cleveland with them.

Noah made a comment about 'sexing' her in the middle of the day that made her blush and him laugh. ("Lights on, baby," and his breath hits the back of her neck.)

But that was before he saw Finn with Rachel's letter.

Now Rachel's sitting and waiting, 20 minutes after Noah said he'd arrive, and it's not like him. In his words, he might not care enough to be on time for much, but he's never late for sex. It makes her feel special. She knows she's the only one he's sleeping with. She's the only one he'll ever get to on time, early, even. She knows exactly how insane it is to think that makes her special.

His being late isn't a good sign. She's given up hope that he'll show up at all when the door swings open. He doesn't knock anymore. She likes that too.

"Hi," he says curtly, walking over to stand in front of her as she sits on the sofa. He worries her even more when he starts pacing.

"Noah, what's..."

"I'm not going to give you fucking letters."

She furrows her brow. "What?"

"He's giving you letters, and that's fucking lame, by the way. He's got a mouth. He could fucking talk to you. But he's not. And you're...you're letting him suck you back in again, thinking that it's going to be different. But it's not."

"This isn't an appropriate conversation," she says, shaking her head and avoiding eye contact.

"I'm the guy you're fucking several times a week. I think us discussing the other guy in your life is pretty much fair game," he says, stopping in front of her with his hands on his hips. "Look, if you want him, just tell me and we can end this."

"I...I don't know," she admits quietly. "I don't know what I want."

"Do you want him?"

She looks up at him and he sits down on the coffee table across from her. "I want the him he was before he slept with her."

"He's never gonna be that guy again," he tells her. It's not harsh, the honesty. It's like he just wants her to to understand it, to know like everyone else does. "And you're never going to be the girl you were before this."

"So...so what are you saying?" she asks, because she thinks it'd be really, really nice if someone just would just tell her how to navigate all this.

Is she really in love with a version of a boy who doesn't exist anymore?

"He can write all the fucking love letters and apologies he wants, but it's never going to be enough. And you know it."

"I do not," she says indignantly. "I don't know anything. I don't know that he's not going to prove that he wants me."

But really, she thinks that if he was going to prove it, if he had the ability, he would have already done it by now.

"Does he kiss you?" Puck asks, raising his voice. "Does he just come out and say that he wants you? Does he touch you? Does he fuck you like I do?"

(It doesn't hurt him to say it because he knows that he's the only person she's ever been with.)

"Noah!" she gasps. "Don't be so crass. My god."

"No. He doesn't. The only time he ever made a move was when he had a girlfriend, and if you ask me, that's pretty fucked up. And yeah, maybe I'm not one to talk, but you really think you want that kind of guy?" he asks. He's speaking softer now, like he's actually concerned for her.

That's the moment she starts to think, to really believe for the first time, that Finn is not the boy he wants everyone to believe he is.

And maybe he's not at all the boy she wants.

But...

"I don't know what I want," she says quietly. There are tears in her eyes when he takes her hands. They don't do this, hold hands, not outside the bedroom. "Everything's so messed up. I don't know how it got like this. I want it to go back. I want it to be...to be two months ago, when he was just hurting and I was helping him." He looks down as he nods. "But then if I go back to two months ago, I don't have you either," she says, squeezing his hands gently. "And...I know it's wrong, and it's selfish. I know I have everything, but...I...a part of me wants you both."

She doesn't even care about what Quinn said. She doesn't care that she is the new Quinn. She's the girl pulling two boys down with her because she's selfish and can't just make up her mind. The only difference here is that there's no baby involved, thank goodness.

"It doesn't work like that," he tells her.

"I know it doesn't. I'm very well aware of the fact that this situation has gotten completely out of hand. But...it's nice to have you both, no matter how terrible that makes me sound." He sighs, but doesn't say anything. "I like the way things are with you, but I like the way he's trying to get back in my good graces. Is that terrible? Am I horrible?"

"No."

"Everything was so much easier when I knew what I wanted," she says, wiping her tears. He doesn't like that he's not holding her hand anymore. He just rests his hands on her knees. "When I wanted Finn and glee, and that was it."

She doesn't know when Noah became her closest (only) confidante. She thinks it's strange that he's sitting here now, listening to all this. They talk. They talk a lot actually. He talks to her about the baby and Quinn and everything, and she talks to him about everything and everything and everything. And Finn. But she's never been quite this honest. Mostly because she's just now realizing all this. She either wants them both, or doesn't want either of them, and she doesn't know which it is.

He doesn't like to see her so confused. Mostly because he knows what he wants. (The only other person who knows is Quinn, because apparently she has spidey senses when it comes to guys having feelings for Rachel.) He's not entirely sure when this stopped just being about sex. Given the fact that it's only been just barely a month of this, he thinks it's some kind of miracle that his feelings for Rachel developed so quickly. They came at him out of nowhere. He wants her. All to himself.

So he takes the plunge, even if it means losing her. (Not having her at all is better than having half of her belong to someone else.)

"It's him or me, Rachel. I can't..." He's shaking his head and his voice trails off. She takes his face in her hands, running her thumbs over his cheeks.

"Why are you making it sound like you're...like you want...?"

He rolls his eyes a little bit and then stares at her. "Because I do."

She kisses him and doesn't answer.

He wants her the same way Finn does. He's just doing it better.

----

Finn drives by Rachel's place, thinking he'll just stop and leave her his latest letter.

Puck's truck is in the driveway. All the lights in the house are off.

If this is the way she felt when she found out about him and Santana, then he thinks his apologies aren't nearly enough.

----

"Is this helping you decide?" Puck asks, his palm lingering on her hip bone as he kisses down her chest and over her stomach.

"Mmm. It's not hurting," she murmurs. He laughs against her skin, and she feels the goosebumps form. "I like this. I like you."

"I should fucking hope so." He laughs again and stops kissing her, moving up the bed to lay next to her again. His hand is still over her stomach as he props himself up on one elbow. "You like me, or you like sex?"

"Both," she whispers.

"Good answer."

She smiles and kisses him. She's laying there on her bed in just her bra and underwear, and he's wearing only his jeans. It doesn't feel weird to be having a conversation right now.

"I do like you. I like...everything about you," she admits. He smiles. Not a smirk, not a grin, a smile. He's never heard anyone say that to him.

"You can't like everything."

"I do," she insists, reaching for his hand. "You're better than everyone."

"Did you hit your head or something?" he asks, pretending to search for bumps on her skin. She just narrows her eyes at him and then kisses him. "Better than him?"

"Better...than...everyone," she repeats between kisses.

She says it confidently, because she does mean it, but she's realizing it for the very first time.

He pulls away, his hand sliding down her neck, between her breasts and down to rest on her stomach. "Him or me. Choose."

"Are you attempting to seduce me into an answer?"

"Will that work?"

She laughs softly again and tips her head back, closing her eyes tightly as she tries to think quickly and make her decision. But it's not that easy. She's not lying when she says he's better. She just can't get into a real relationship with him when she has any type of feelings left for Finn. It wouldn't be fair to any of them.

None of his has ever been fair to any of them.

"I really...really fucking hate to leave you like this." His fingertips trail down to graze her through her underwear. She mewls a little bit and angles her hips, desperate for more. "But you need to decide."

"I know," she whispers.

He sighs and stands up, reaching for his shirt. "Let me know."

He doesn't make a lewd comment at the state he has her in (practically naked, thighs parted, laying on her bed). He doesn't come back to the bed to kiss her before he goes. He just pulls on his shirt and gives her a weak little smile before he leaves the room.

She misses him the second he's gone.

----

Monday morning, she's just turned down the hall towards her English class when she sees him. He looks to the floor and back up at her.

Then their eyes lock, hers and his as they stand at opposite ends of the hall, and she's falling again. It's new, but familiar, and it feels amazing and she doesn't know what any of it means for any of them.

She just smiles. It's appropriate, she thinks, since that's probably how all this started in the first place.

----

She catches up with Finn between classes. Her heart is beating in her ears, but not the same way it used to. She knows this is anxiety, not any other emotion, not the emotion she convinced herself it was before.

She doesn't love Finn. Maybe she did at some point, or she loved the boy she thought he was (the boy he never was, but she didn't know any better).

She spent her entire Sunday in her bedroom with her favourite female singers, all the best songs, and her thoughts. She turned off her IM and didn't check her email. Her Blackberry was downstairs charging in daddy's office so she wouldn't be tempted. And she just thought about everything. About Finn and Santana. About Noah. About both boys and which was better for her. Or which could be better for her.

In the end, the answer was obvious, really.

"Hey, Rach," he says sweetly, giving her that lopsided smile.

She tries to take a breath, but it doesn't work as well as she'd hoped. He's looking at her with those brown eyes and she feels her resolve breaking.

"You should stop writing me letters," she says, finding the floor really interesting. She doesn't want to look at him.

"What?"

"It's been very sweet, Finn, this thing you're trying to do. It's just...not enough. I can't keep pretending that everything's going to eventually work out with us, because I just don't see that happening. And we can't go back to the way it was before, when I wanted you and waited, and you were fine with making me wait."

"Rachel..."

"Finn, sometimes I wonder if you even want me," she admits, her eyes locking with his. "Or if you just want me to want you. If you just like the way it feels."

(She's telling him how she feels. She likes that he wants her, but she's not entirely sure she'll ever want them to be together again.)

"I do want you. I want it....We could be together now," he says. He's desperate to reach for her hand, but he doesn't think she'll let him take it.

She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes tightly. "That's not what I want from us though." He sighs and looks to the floor. "We're good as friends. We've always been good as friends."

"So after all this, after...everything, you're just...over it?" he asks quietly, like he's really just trying to wrap his head around it. She doesn't say anything, just looks at him. "Because of Puck."

"What? No!"

(Yes. Sort of. At least a little bit.)

"Rachel, I saw. He was at your house the other day. You two are..."

"We're friends," she says.

"That's what I said about us when Quinn asked," he reminds her. "I was lying too."

"Finn, I..." She closes her eyes and lets out a sigh. "Noah has nothing to do with my decision about you and I," she says seriously. "He may have just reminded me that I had to figure things out. I truly am sorry, Finn. I didn't want you to get hurt through any of this." She bites her lip and rolls her eyes. "Okay, maybe, maybe when I slept with Noah the first time."

"The first time? There's been more than one time?" He knows the answer. He has this morbid fascination with hearing her admit it.

She's never been one for the 'f word', but she thinks this would be an appropriate moment to use it.

She says, "Yes," instead.

"So, what? You want to be with him?" he asks. She thinks her breath stops.

No isn't the right answer, and she's not going to say it just to make him feel better.

"I do," she admits quietly. "He told me I needed to make a choice, and then when I thought about it, when I weighed what I felt - what I feel - for him against what I feel for you...Finn, I'm sorry, but it's just..."

He sighs when she doesn't finish her sentence. She always finishes her sentences. All four million of them.

"He won't write you letters, you know," he says quietly. It's not like he's fighting for her, per se. He knows there's no changing her mind once she's made her decision. He just wants her to know what she's getting herself into. If she won't be with him, she should at least be with someone who treats her right.

She actually smiles. "I know."

(She doesn't want Noah to write her letters.)

(She doesn't think he'll ever screw up so badly that he has to resort to that anyway; his apologies may be rushed and frustrating and laced with profanities, but she knows he means them.)

"I want us to be friends, Finn. I really mean that," she says. "And it doesn't need to be awkward. Noah and I, we're going to be taking things slowly. So slowly that you won't even realize there's something going on."

"You mean kinda like the last month or however long?" he asks. He hears the bitterness and recognizes the pissed off look in her eyes. "Sorry."

"I'm sorry," she whispers. "I know this whole situation has been...It's been..."

"I started it," he says seriously. She knows he's right. "But whatever. I guess that's all over. And look, we can be friends, and glee will be fine, but...for right now..."

"Time," she says. It's like a promise, and she lays her hand on his arm, just above his elbow. "It'll take time." He nods, gives her a little smile, and she hops up onto her toes to kiss his cheek. "I have calculus."

"'Kay. I'll see you later."

She turns and walks down the hall, and she feels lighter, better, than she has in months.

Maybe she hurt his feelings, and maybe they're not going to be best friends again like they were before. She just did what he could never do for her. She told him the honest to goodness truth about her feelings, even though she knew it would hurt him.

She thinks they could have avoided the whole thing if he had just done that from the beginning. Maybe she'll never know if he ever genuinely wanted her, before he thought she was slipping away and he became so desperate to hang on.

She finds that she doesn't really care anymore.

----

She hasn't been avoiding Noah all day, but she's been waiting to find him until she knows they can talk alone. She's sure he thinks she's 'dumping' him. She hasn't spoken with him since Saturday, not one word or message or anything. She doesn't know the last time they went this long without some kind of interaction. That actually makes her smile, because he's been a bigger part of her life than she even knew.

She's thankful that he 'forced' the decision out of her. It's part of what she likes so much about him; that need to know where he stands at every turn. He doesn't like grey area. She never did either. He reminded her of that, forced her out of the strange place she was in where everything was confusing and nothing made any sense at all. She's always been a problem solver, apt to plan things out and choose her path so far ahead of time it was almost comical.

Her little detour just made her do something so completely unlike her that it let her get back to her true self. It's strange, she thinks, how it worked out that way. She needed to deviate from the plan in order to get Noah.

She's been thinking far too much. Now that she knows what she wants again, she doesn't want to waste any time letting him know.

They had that little moment in the morning, but that was neither the time nor the place. She sees him at lunch, but she's got a meeting for one of her many clubs, and he's standing with her back to him, talking to Quinn. The blonde says something to him as she looks over his shoulder at Rachel, and he just hangs his head and shrugs his shoulder. Rachel doesn't like what that might imply (I don't know what's going on with us) and if she wasn't in such a hurry, she'd pull him aside and talk to him.

She spends the rest of the day cursing her schedule, since they don't have any classes together. He doesn't come find her in the library during their free period, but she looks out the window towards the end of the period and sees him pulling his truck back onto school grounds.

She's not avoiding him. He just might be avoiding her.

She leaves the library before the bell rings, and heads to the hallway where his locker is. He's hanging up his jacket, and in her haste to get out to him, she forgot to secure her notes in her binder. They slip out of her book and scatter onto the floor, and he turns his head when he hears the noise.

She bends down to pick up her papers, and she can hear his footsteps as he walks towards her. She's standing by the time he reaches her.

"Noah, would you like to come over tonight?" she asks, like this is just another day and her question doesn't imply what the both know it does.

She's chosen him.

(But the truth is, it wasn't really much of a choice...)

"Your dads gonna be home?" he inquires, smirking at her.

"Yes, but dad's prepping for a big case, and daddy wants to help. He's been talking about getting a chance to use his multicoloured high-lighters for days, so I'm sure they'll be locked in the study working," she explains. He just smiles at her. She obviously hasn't picked up on the fact that he's teasing her.

"So we can do whatever we want?" He drops his voice to use the sexy tone he knows she loves, and she looks up at him through her eyelashes.

"Yes, and Gossip Girl is on. I know how much you love watching it with me," she says, completely unable to keep her smile hidden.

He glances around to make sure the hallway is empty. "We agreed never to fucking talk about that! And I don't love it," he insists. "You just always put it on."

Her smile grows. "And you always just happen to come over on Monday nights when you know I'm going to be watching it." He rolls his eyes, because he's totally busted. (He just loves how excited she gets...that's all.) "And Nate and Serena are going to defile the kitchen in Nate and Chuck's suite tonight," she says, and he takes another little step towards her. "I'm sure you'll have plenty of lewd comments about that."

"Fuckin' right," he says, smiling proudly. The bell rings and the classroom doors start to open around them. "I'll be there at seven."

She nods and she wants so badly to kiss him. "It's a date."

"Is it?" he asks with a raised brow. (As if he doesn't know the answer...)

She knows he probably wants to hear about her conversation with Finn. "I'll tell you all about it during the commercial breaks."

"Like hell you will," he says seriously. She looks at him, totally confused. "You're going to be busy during the commercial breaks."

Her cheeks flare and she looks to the ground, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. He thinks it's hilarious that they've done all they've done together, and she still blushes at a simple comment like that.

"Goodbye, Noah," she says as he laughs. "I'll see you later."

She turns to walk away, and he doesn't yet know the parameters of this 'new' thing of theirs, so he says her name, and she looks at him again.

"I'm the right choice."

He says it confidently, like he's known it all along and he's just been waiting for her to realize it. It makes her smile that he's so sure of himself, of them together.

She nods gently and smiles a little bigger than he's seen her do in a while.

"I know."

-Fin-