Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot. I also don't name any of the rides listed. I got the names off The Beach's official website. Also, I guessed at the medical advice listed based on a website I found since I never actually got checked for a concussion the one time I got knocked out. The short-term memory loss is normal though (I still can't remember what happened for about 15-20 minutes after I regained consciousness even though my mom says I was walking and talking). Also, I couldn't remember which side Noah had pierced so I guessed it was the left.
A/N: I would like to thank all of my readers and all of my reviewers! Without all of your encouragement and wonderful words, I probably wouldn't have made it to the end of this story. You guys let me know my efforts were worth something! And over 100 of you have made this story a favorite-that's just so amazing! Wow, we've made it to the final chapter. I can't believe it's already here. I'm going to miss this story, but I'm also excited to move on to my other ideas. Speaking of which, you might want to check back later this week for my new oneshot that I'm writing next. However, it will be a tragedy, so if you don't like unhappy endings you might want to stay away from it. I really hope I've done the ending justice for everyone who has been following this story (and there so many more of you than I ever expected there to be). Please read and review (I want to know what you think of the ending). Thanks!
Rachel was dazed. She was lying on something very hard and she was freezing. She felt like something big had happened, but she couldn't remember anything from before she woke up. She didn't really want to open her eyes; her head was throbbing, so she just knew that the light would irritate them. Scrunching up her face, eyes still shut, she tried to remember what had happened.
She had been in the wave pool when she and Brittany had gotten split up by a new set of waves. She remembered Brittany nearly made it back to her but then the waves had started up again and they had once again been separated. Everything went fuzzy at that point though. What had happened? She thought it must have been something important, but she couldn't pinpoint it. She must have gotten knocked out somehow though; otherwise, she wouldn't have such a terrible headache.
Rachel had been so absorbed in recovering her memories that she hadn't noticed the voices around her, but she noticed now. One of them was shouting and it was making her head hurt even worse. When she focused on the voice, she was surprised to recognize it. Noah? What was he doing here? And why did he sound so angry? Her curiosity was killing her, but she couldn't bring herself to find out. That would require opening her eyes. Instead, she attempted to tune him out and focus on the other sounds in the room. She could hear Mr. Schuester quietly trying to calm Noah down, and there was a girl speaking quietly; that seemed to make Noah even louder. However, it was the last sound, a heart-wrenching sob, that made her finally open her eyes. Looking past Noah, Mr. Schuester, and Santana (what??), Rachel saw Brittany sitting alone on a chair in the corner, crying.
"Brittany," she croaked out. Her throat was really sore.
That one word had an amazing effect on the room. Brittany jumped up and ran past the others to throw herself on Rachel where she lay, knocking the breath out of her. Noah stopped yelling, and he and Mr. Schuester approached. Santana didn't move, but when she looked over at Rachel, there was relief in her glassy eyes (had she been crying?). Rachel wrapped her arms around Brittany, who had half-lifted her off the surface she was lying on and was currently trying to crush all of her ribs.
"I was so, so worried," Brittany murmured. "You didn't wake up for so long. I thought Puck had gotten to you too late."
"Can't...breathe...." Rachel gasped out. She loved Britt, but the girl was going to kill her if she didn't loosen her grip.
Brittany eased up, though she didn't actually let go; she had started crying into Rachel's shoulder.
A warm hand smoothed down the back of Rachel's head, sending comfort through her and easing the ache inside. She leaned back into the touch with closed eyes, enjoying the sensation for a few moments before opening them and looking up into Noah's hazel gaze. The emotions she saw there caused her heart to constrict in her chest. The worry, relief, and joy were easily recognizable, but there was also something infinitely more tender-something she had never seen there before and something that terrified her; she chose not to analyze it too closely as she remembered that she was mad at him because he preferred Quinn (but oh, she hoped it was what she thought it was). The thought of Quinn must have shown on her face because he dropped his hand and took a step back (she tried to pretend she didn't immediately miss the contact). Mr. Schuester stepped into Puck's empty spot.
"Puck, go let the others know she's awake so they can go back to their plans."
Puck cast one last, longing look at Rachel before exiting the room.
"Rachel, how are you feeling?" Mr. Schuester asked, concern evident in his tone.
Rachel grimaced, rubbing circles on Brittany's back as she continued to sob. "I have a headache, my throat's really sore, and I'm freezing because of the air conditioning, but other than that I feel fine. I'd like to rejoin the others if possible."
Mr. Schuester nodded. "I'll just go see if I can find the EMT to check you over. If he gives approval for you to return to the park and the rides, then I won't stop you."
He stepped out of the room. Almost instantly, Rachel heard Puck cry out.
"You left Santana in there with her?! What if she tries to smother her with a pillow?!"
Mr. Schue's voice came soothingly, "You're overreacting Puck."
Rachel was highly confused by the entire exchange. What had happened while she was unconscious? Because, she had finally remembered that her inner tube had flipped over during a round of waves and she hadn't been able to swim away. Instead she had been dragged to the side, eventually hitting the right side of her head on the rock wall of the pool. She still didn't know why her tube had flipped to begin with, but she suspected it must have been the waves (it had just been so steady up until that point).
Puck stormed into the room and Rachel winced as the slam of the door made her head throb. She winced again when she got a good look at the expression on his face as he glared at Santana, who was cowering under his gaze. He looked positively murderous; Rachel had never seen him so terrifying.
"What's wrong? Why are you so angry Noah? Why do you think Santana would smother me with a pillow?" Rachel questioned, desperate for some answers.
Surprisingly, it was Brittany who answered, lifting her head and twisting to see Santana. "She tried to kill you!" If looks could kill, Santana would be dead twice over now.
Santana finally spoke. "I did not! It was just supposed to be a joke. I didn't mean for her to actually get hurt," she finished softly.
Rachel cast a glance between the other three. "I'm really confused. Can someone please explain to me what exactly is going on here?"
As Puck opened his mouth to answer, the door swung open and Mr. Schuester entered, accompanied by a member of the medical staff.
"Okay, Rachel, is it?" he began with a charismatic smile. "I'm just going to check for any signs of concussion; that's the main worry with head trauma now that you've woken up successfully." He turned his smile on Brittany, who was still wrapped around Rachel. "You'll need to move so I can give her the check up."
Brittany pulled her arms from around Rachel. Grasping her left hand, she moved to stand on the left side of the examination table that Rachel was on. The glare she sent the EMT made it clear that was as far as she was willing to move. He just sent her a comforting smile and worked from the right side of the table. Puck and Mr. Schuester stood against the wall on either side of the open door; Santana still hadn't moved from her spot in the center of the room, though she was watching the EMT's actions anxiously.
He started by checking the dilation of her eyes and testing her reflexes. As he performed the physical actions of the exam, he kept up a steady stream of questions for Rachel to answer.
"What is your full name?"
"Rachel Barbra Berry."
"Where are you?"
"I'm at The Beach, a water park in Mason, Ohio."
"Who is the current president?"
"President Barack Obama," Rachel answered, "and it is about time our country had an African-American president. Of course a female president would have shown excellent progress too. My Daddy says..."
"She's fine, dude," Puck cut her off.
The EMT let out a chuckle as Rachel scowled at Puck. "It certainly appears so. I don't see any signs of concussion, and though your throat is a little raw, that's just from swallowing and then spitting up so much chlorinated water during the CPR performed on you." He stepped back from Rachel. "You're okay to return to the park, although you should avoid the body slides since they place extra stress on the neck and head. And if you start to feel light-headed or dizzy, you're to return here. Otherwise, you're free to go."
Rachel smiled and got off the table, Brittany still keeping a hold on her hand. Their entire group of five left the first aid building. Rachel was slightly surprised to find the entire glee club waiting outside. She was even more surprised by the concerned looks reflected back at her from every face, including Kurt and Quinn.
"So, you alright then, diva?" Mercedes asked.
Rachel smiled brightly at them. "I feel fine, but none of you would happen to have any aspirin, would you?"
Most of the others laughed at that. She was obviously in good spirits.
"I have some in my locker. Would you like me to get it for you?" Kurt offered.
Rachel was touched. Perhaps this was his way of offering his friendship. If so, she would accept just as she had said she would. "If you wouldn't mind; my head really is quite sore."
He nodded and he and Mercedes moved down the path toward the locker rooms.
Mr. Schuester clapped his hands. "Okay guys, I think we can just split up now. Go enjoy yourselves. Remember to meet back at the locker room, fully dressed and ready to go by five. It's 11:30 now, so that gives you plenty of time to have fun."
He and Miss Pillsbury moved back in the direction of the nearby wave pool with a quiet 'I'm glad you're okay Rachel' from the guidance counselor. Tina and Artie followed them, the brunette stopping to pat Rachel's arm on the way. Quinn and Santana headed in the same direction as Kurt and Mercedes.
Mike and Matt approached Rachel and Brittany.
"So, we thought we'd hit the Typhoon Twist first. What do you think?" Mike asked the girls.
"I was told to avoid body slides," Rachel admitted. Seeing the disappointment on their faces, she added, "but you three could go without me. I'll be fine on my own."
"You wouldn't mind?" Matt checked.
"Not at all. I don't want to ruin anyone's fun," she reassured them.
"I'm staying right here," Brittany declared. "I'll keep Rachel company."
The guys smiled at them before taking off in the direction opposite the wave pool. A bright light flashed from somewhere nearby. When Rachel looked in the direction of the flash, she recognized the frizzy haired boy, but then he was gone.
"Jacob's here," she announced in a less than pleased voice.
"Yeah, he was lurking around the wave pool earlier. Mercedes and I have discussed it, and we believe he is stalking you," Kurt announced as he and his best friend rejoined them.
He held a little white bottle of Tylenol out to Rachel. She gratefully shook out two before handing the bottle back to him.
"Glad you're good Rachel," Mercedes said. "Now, if you'll excuse us, Kurt and I are gonna go get our slide on."
The two headed back the direction they'd come from.
"I'll go get you some water so you can take your pills," Finn proposed excitedly.
Rachel had forgotten he was even there (unlike Noah, whose presence she felt behind her even though he'd been silent since they'd left the exam room). Again, the puppy dog like actions that used to endear him to her just made her feel vaguely annoyed.
"No, Finn. I'll get something for myself. You should go and find Quinn; I know how much you still like her," she spoke the last part more sharply than she normally would, but his unintentionally hurtful words from yesterday were still reverberating in her head.
"But, Rachel, I told you..." Finn started.
"Yes, I remember perfectly well what you told me. That's why I think you should go find Quinn. I'm going to be as nice about this as possible, but I'm not interested in you Finn. I do not want to date you, not now, not ever again. I'm sorry if I seem harsh, but I've tried to be subtle about it and that only caused you to say what you did, so you clearly didn't understand me," Rachel explained. "So, again, go find Quinn."
Finn's expression was sad, but he turned around and moved away from the wave pool. Rachel, her back to Puck, hadn't seen the fascinated way he had followed the conversation or the frown on his face as a suspicion niggled at him from Rachel's words. She did however feel the shock that ran down her arm as his hand landed on her shoulder (she tried to ignore the memory of how he had kissed the same skin his hand now covered).
"You okay there Berry?" he asked, gazing down at her.
Dazed (she could see that unlabeled emotion in his eyes again), she just nodded. He gave her a rakish smirk before following Finn. Rachel shook her head to clear the fog that had set in.
"So, let's get some water." Brittany's tone was calm, but there was a knowing grin on her face.
Rachel's morning had been plenty of fun (you know, if you don't include that whole getting knocked out thing), but she was starting to get frustrated. Jacob Ben-Israel kept popping up and snapping pictures of her, so Kurt and Mercedes were right-he was clearly stalking her. Brittany had gotten very clingy since they'd left the first aid building. At first, her reactions were understandable to Rachel. Brittany had clearly been shaken up by Rachel's accident and keeping in contact with her had reassured the blonde that Rachel was, in fact, perfectly safe and healthy. That had been two hours ago though and Rachel really wanted her hand back. On top of all of that, Puck was lurking around. It was as if he'd made it his mission to keep an eye on her. Rachel and Brittany were sitting at a table across from Mike and Matt, who had found them, eating lunch, Puck at the next table, when another flash shined through the seating area.
"I am so sick of Jacob Ben-Israel," she complained.
Mike shook his head. "The guy traveled two hours to take pictures of you in a bikini. How messed up is that?"
"Actually, this is pretty normal for him. He's usually perched in the tree outside my bedroom with his camera. I've tried calling the cops, but they don't respond anymore since there's almost always someone causing problems at our house." She noticed the horrified expressions on her three friends' faces. "Oh, don't worry. I've learned to just keep my blinds closed at all times ever since he got a topless picture of me the first time he climbed my tree."
Rachel felt more than saw Puck get up and leave the seating area. She turned to Brittany.
"Um, Britt, do you think you could let go of my hand? It's gone numb," she requested gently.
Brittany dropped her hand and apologized, "I'm sorry Rachel, but I really thought you were going to die. I was so scared and there was nothing I could do to help. I'm just so mad at Santana!"
Rachel's earlier confusion rushed back. "I'm sorry, but what does Santana have to do with my accident?"
"She's the one who flipped your inner tube over!" Brittney burst out. "I saw her do it but I couldn't warn you in time. And I'm not a very good swimmer, so I couldn't save you. I could just scream when you hit your head. I'm just so glad that Puck got to you in time."
"Wait," Rachel hesitated, piecing the explanation together, "Santana pushed me into the water and Puck saved me? Why would she do that?"
Mike shrugged. "Hard to say. She probably just thought it was a prank."
"A horrible prank," Matt added. "Luckily Puck had already started swimming to you before Brittany screamed, so he was able to get you out before you drowned. He even used CPR to get you breathing again; thank God his mom made him learn it so he could take his sister swimming."
An awestruck look crossed Mike's face. "You should have seen the way he looked at Santana when he told us what had happened on the way to the first aid building. I honestly thought he was going to attack her."
Brittany nodded. "He probably would have if she wasn't a girl. Mr. Schue told her that if school hadn't ended for the year she'd be in a lot of trouble for what she did. Umm, what'd he call it? Engendering a fellow student?"
"Endangering," Matt corrected her. "And Puck yelled at her the whole time you were unconscious; we could hear him all the way outside."
There were a few minutes of silence as Rachel considered their words.
"My eyes, my eyes!" Kurt cried out lowering himself into an empty seat at their table with Mercedes. "Puck just threw Jacob Ben-Israel down the Banzai. Nude. Do you think anyone in the park knows how to perform a nice, brain-cleansing lobotomy?"
"Not the first dick I wanted to see," Mercedes added.
"Me neither," Kurt agreed. They both gave a disgusted shudder before Kurt mentioned, "Quite the avenging angel you have there Rachel."
"What are you talking about?" she asked curiously.
"We were next in line for the slide, so we overheard Puck telling the little creeper that the next time he climbed the tree outside your bedroom, he was going to, and I quote, 'shove a branch so far up your ass you'll be coughing sawdust'," Mercedes filled them in.
While Rachel gaped, Mike, Matt, and Brittany burst into laughter.
"I bet your Jacob problem is taken care of for good now Rach," Mike gasped out.
Rachel just shook her head in disbelief and stood up. Her three best friends followed suit. Rachel gave a little wave to Mercedes and Kurt as they began to walk away. She stretched her arms above her head, working out the kinks in her back from sitting for so long, as Puck passed going the other way, his eyes glued to her flat stomach. As they reached the edge of the tables, they heard a loud crash behind them. Turning, they saw Puck righting himself from where he'd tripped over one of the table's legs. As they turned back around, Brittany flashed two fingers at Rachel.
At three that afternoon, Rachel was sitting on a bench at the bottom of the Aztec Adventure slide waiting on her friends and cradling her head in her hands. Her earlier Tylenol had worn off and her headache was back with a vengeance so she hadn't felt up to the slide. She had a huge goose egg above her right ear that was throbbing. When someone sat down next to her, she didn't even lift her head.
At the sound of Quinn's voice, Rachel looked up to find the head Cheerio holding out one of the travel packs of Tylenol the park sells and an unopened bottle of water to her. She was very surprised at Quinn's kindness; they hadn't spoken a single word since the mall (and that wasn't exactly a happy encounter). Still, she was in too much pain to turn down the offered relief. Taking the pills and water from the blonde, Rachel thanked her. After Rachel took the painkillers, they sat silently for a few moments before Quinn spoke.
"Are you and Finn really done?" Quinn asked out of the blue.
Rachel was a bit surprised by the question, but answered, "Yes. We are definitely through." Rachel's eyes unconsciously sought out Puck, who was sitting on a bench around the corner of the pool watching Quinn through narrowed eyes. "I've moved on."
Quinn followed her gaze.
"He's not slept with anyone since you and Finn broke up, you know," she stated coolly, still looking at him. "Actually, he's only slept with one Cheerio since he and I broke up and that was the day after you and Finn had sex."
Rachel blushed, "You could all tell we'd done that, huh?"
Quinn rolled her eyes at Rachel. "Finn wasn't exactly subtle about it. Puck was really angry, so he slept with one of the seniors on my squad." She sighed. "Then you and Finn broke up the next day and he stopped sleeping around altogether."
"Why are you telling me all of this?" Rachel questioned. This whole conversation seemed so out of character for what she knew about Quinn.
"Because, whatever it may look like, Brittany really is my friend and I miss her. If being nice to you means I get to have her back in my life, then I'm willing to do it. I'm not saying you and I will ever be best friends or anything, but I think we can get along with each other for Brittany's sake," she explained.
Rachel nodded. "That works for me; I don't want Brittany hurt and I know she misses you and Santana, though maybe not the latter so much right now."
Quinn ignored that comment and glanced over at Puck again before facing Rachel. "Also, as Puck reminded me repeatedly while we were dating, you stood by me when all of my friends but San and Britt had abandoned me. I may have ignored that, but I won't anymore." Quinn stood up. "Anyway, you should fix whatever happened between the two of you. Puck gave up sex for you, and you know what a huge deal that is for a 'stud' like him." With that advice, Quinn walked away.
It was at times like this that Rachel remembered why it was so hard to hate Quinn. Underneath her icy shell, there was actually a decent person (plus, it wasn't her fault that both the important guys in Rachel's past had thought about her while they were with Rachel).
It wasn't two seconds later that Santana sat down in Quinn's abandoned spot on the bench. Rachel edged away slightly as Puck got to his feet, eyes glued to Santana and prepared to help Rachel if needed.
"I'm not fuckin' going to hurt you, manhands."
Rachel just held herself very still, ready to flee at the slightest sign of danger.
"Look, I wanted to apologize. I didn't mean for you to get knocked out when I flipped you; I just thought it'd be funny to watch you struggle a little. So, can we just put this the hell behind us so that Brittany will talk to me again?" the Latina requested in a demanding tone.
Rachel shook her head slowly. "I have put up with a lot from you over the years. The slushies, the pornography on the bathroom walls, the nicknames, and so many others; and yes, I know you weren't the only one to do those things. I never retaliated because you never physically hurt me; you never endangered my health or my life," Rachel paused to draw a deep breath. "You crossed that line today. You put me in a situation that placed me in danger and I nearly drowned because of it-because you thought it'd be funny. The point of all this is that when Brittany forgives you, and we both know she will-her heart is too big not to-I will tolerate you, but that is it. I will never trust you as I might have someday before you nearly killed me; as I may someday trust Quinn. And the worst part is that I will never be in your corner the way I am for the rest of my friends; you gave up that chance today."
Having had her say, Rachel walked off to join Brittany and the boys who had finally come down the slide. She wasn't aware that her words had their intended impact as Santana wondered how badly she had screwed up that someone who would trust Puck, and maybe even Quinn one day, after all they had done to her, would never trust her.
An hour after her confrontation with Santana (and many confirmations that she was perfectly fine), Rachel, Brittany, and the boys were rounding a curve near the wave pool on their way to the Twilight Zoom. Rachel was feeling slightly more comfortable-Puck had stopped shadowing her (she had a feeling she should be worried about that though-her psychic powers were clearly acting up). They only had just under an hour left before they'd have to be changed and ready to leave. Rachel was actually sad to see the day come to a close even if it had been a very action-packed one. She couldn't believe that she had braved a string bikini, stood up to Kurt and Santana, nearly drowned, spent ten minutes unconscious, and come to an understanding of sorts with Quinn. And, as she learned when she rounded that curve, the surprises weren't over.
"What kind of fuckin' bastard says that to a girl?!" Puck yelled.
The four of them came to a stop at the shocking sight of Puck cornering Finn next to the entrance of the very slide they were headed to. His face was red and Finn was backed up against the wooden staircase behind him. Much like the night at Wendy's when Rachel had told them about Kurt's insults, Puck had clearly reached the limit on his control. Mike and Matt told the girls to stay put before taking off to stop Puck if they needed to.
"Do you have any fucking idea what the hell you did to her when you said that?!"
"I was trying to make things better; I want her back. She deserves better than you!" Finn, oblivious to the danger he was already in, shouted back. "At least I wouldn't just use her for sex!"
Puck let out a roar and reared his right arm back. Mike lunged forward, but he was too late and Puck threw his fist forward and caught Finn square in the nose. Hard. Rachel watched in horror as he doubled over and covered his face with his hands, blood streaming from under them. When Puck pulled back again, Mike and Matt each grabbed an arm. Puck tried to throw them off, but their hold was too tight.
"Let me go! Goddamnit, let me fuckin' go!"
He finally tore himself from their grasp and turned. Rachel was standing there with a hand over her mouth. She knew that Puck tended to solve problems physically but she had never actually seen it before (the closest had been when Finn punched him over the revelation of the baby's paternity). It was a terrifying sight-she really didn't like violence. When Puck caught sight of Rachel's expression, his own softened noticeably as sadness filled his eyes. He didn't say anything though, just walked back around the curve toward the wave pool.
As Rachel stood there watching Finn collect himself as Matt instructed him to visit the first aid building, she knew she had reached another crossroads. She had a choice to make, just as she had when Puck had offered her his hand before her first swim lesson. Only this time, he had offered her a glimpse of his vulnerability in the way he had looked at her before walking off. She could ignore it or follow him and finally have it out over the Quinn issue. Whichever she decided, she instinctively knew that they would never be able to go back.
Making her choice, she turned and sprinted back around the curve, ignoring Brittany calling her name. She prayed he hadn't gotten too far.
When she reached the wave pool, she scanned the crowd for Noah. She was so absorbed in her search that she didn't even notice Tina and Artie waving at her. Just when she'd lost hope and believed that she had hesitated too long to make her decision, she saw him leaning in an alcove next to the tube rental stand watching her through hooded eyes. She approached him, not sure what she was going to say.
"What did you think you were doing back there?!" Okay, so righteous anger it was. "You could have broken his nose! You know I don't approve of violence; and yes, I know what he just told you because I know what he told me to try and win me back. I don't know why he would have told you that, but I don't think that punching him..."
Noah straightened up. "Rachel, for once in your life shut the fuck up and listen to someone else."
Shocked speechless, Rachel immediately shut her mouth.
Noah smirked. "Better. I asked Finn about what he'd said because you seemed pretty sure that he was still into Quinn and you ran out when I said Quinn's name last night. But you took it the fuckin' wrong way."
"You don't just say another girl's name unless you're think..."
He cut her off again, "I wasn't thinking about Quinn when I was kissing you."
"But you said..."
"Damn it Rachel, I love you!" he shouted in exasperation.
Rachel went completely still. She thought her heart may have stopped. He couldn't have just said what she thought he did (but, oh how she hoped he had). "What?"
"I love you," he repeated. "I've wanted you for months but then you went and dated fucking Finn so I dated Quinn. And when you had sex with that bastard, I completely lost it. Even after you broke up with him I never made a fuckin' move because he's right, you do deserve better than me, a fuckin' Lima loser who's going nowhere when you're gonna be a fuckin' Broadway star." By the time he finished his speech, his voice had lost all of its vehemence and his eyes had softened back into that earlier sadness. When he continued however, it was with renewed vigor. "You're a fuckin' idiot though if you think I wanted Quinn last night. I lose control when I kiss you and you had been fuckin' drinking and the last time I slept with a girl who was drinking she decided I had ruined her life; she still fuckin' thinks so."
"Quinn," she breathed out. And Rachel finally understood what was happening in his head the previous night. "That's what you meant, you were reminding yourself that I'm not Quinn and that I deserve better than drunken sex." She looked up at him; he was avoiding her gaze, so she knew she was right. "But Finn had said all that stuff to me about her earlier and so I thought you were just thinking like him, wishing I was her. It was more than I could take in one day, so I ran and didn't let you explain." She buried her face in her hands. "Oh, I was such a fool."
Noah tugged on her wrists to remove her hands from her face. Closing both wrists in one hand and cupping her chin with the other, he tilted her head to look up at him. "That's why I punched him. He was an asshole to say those things to you. I don't want fuckin' Quinn; I want you, I wanted you even when I was dating her. I don't want to ever fucking lose you again like I almost did today."
Then he let go of her wrists, threaded that hand through her wet hair, and lowered his lips to hers. It felt even better than before, she thought as she flattened her palms over his nipples, his piercing cutting into her right one. The movement of his lips on hers sent heat to pool between her legs as he began to rub circles on her cheek with his thumb. As he pulled her lower lip between his teeth and bit down, she moaned and melted against him. When he swiped his tongue against her lip, easing the bite, she pulled it out of his grasp to let him deepen the kiss instead. He still tasted of mint and cinnamon and it still topped her previous favorite, strawberry. As their tongues meshed together, she pushed him farther into their alcove. He stumbled slightly but when his back hit the wall, he shifted so that his thigh was pressed against her core. Unable to resist the sensation, she ground against him, turning her blood to fire in her veins.
Using his thigh to help lift her up, he brushed her hair aside and lowered his lips to her neck.
"So you love me?" Rachel got out between gasps for air. "Because, God help me, I sure as hell love you." She wasn't even sure when it had happened.
Her words clearly awoke something in him because he bit down on her collar bone and sucked. She knew he was marking her as his but she didn't care. She was his. And the slight pain just added an edge that enhanced her pleasure. Grinding down against his thigh harder, she grabbed hold of his mohawk with one hand and tugged his nipple ring between the thumb and forefinger of the other. He let out a hiss against her neck as he soothed the irritated skin of the mark he'd left with his tongue.
Someone cleared their throat behind Rachel, bringing the two of them out of their bubble.
"I'm thrilled that you guys made up," Brittany started.
"And out," Mike added, raising an eyebrow suggestively.
Brittany scowled at him, "Quiet." She turned back to Rachel and Noah, "but we only have about fifteen minutes before we're supposed to leave. Plus, if you guys keep doing that, you'll get kicked out."
"Or you'll have all the adults in this place pairing off and finding quiet alcoves for themselves," Mike added, "because, dude, that was hot."
Rachel blushed and, turning around, hit him in the arm. "Mike, you're a pervert!"
He shrugged. "I wasn't the one dry-humping in public. Nice hickey by the way, Rach."
When Rachel huffed in annoyance, Matt sighed. "Come on, we need to go get ready to leave."
He grabbed Mike's arm and dragged him away, lecturing him on decorum (Rachel had to wonder if she was rubbing off on him). Rachel and Brittany fell into step together behind them. Once Puck had calmed down sufficiently, he followed. Rachel threw a wink at him over her shoulder, and he promptly walked into a palm tree. As he cursed, Brittany grinned.
"Number three! You owe me ten more dollars!"
After they had changed, they waited for the rest of their group to finish up and join them. Rachel was a little nervous when she came out of the locker room to stand next to Noah. She really wanted to hold his hand, but she wasn't sure if he'd be okay with that. Deciding she was sick and tired of doubting herself with him (he'd said he loved her, how much more could she want?), she slipped her hand into his. He didn't break in his conversation with Mike and Matt, merely tightened his hand around hers and laced their fingers together. Brittany drew her into a conversation about where they should all go for dinner when they got back to Lima and everything felt the same even as her and Noah's clasped hands were visible proof that something had changed.
Each time a fellow glee member joined them, they cast the same second glance at Puck and Rachel. None of them seemed very surprised though. Most just smiled or shook their heads. Tina joined them and stated that it was 'about time' while Artie nodded in agreement. Santana was obviously angry to see her ex with Rachel, but Quinn gave Rachel an approving smile before gazing longingly at Finn, whose nose was visibly swollen (he had taken one look at Puck and Rachel before turning resolutely away; Rachel figured they were going back to the previous standard of him avoiding her and she found that she was fine with that). Rachel thought she might have to sic Brittany on those two; they obviously belonged together. And once Britt set her mind on pairing two people up, it was going to happen even if they kicked and screamed the whole way (she and Noah were proof of that).
Mr. Schuester and Miss Pillsbury shared a baffled look upon seeing the two once-antagonists together, but didn't comment as they ushered the group out to the bus. As they walked through the parking lot, Rachel tilted her head to look at Noah.
"You're not a Lima loser, you know. I don't date Lima losers."
He smirked down at her. "Oh, so we're dating now Berry?"
"You can't tell me you love me and then not date me. Of course we're dating."
Noah appeared to consider her words. "I acquiesce to your generous offer of assistance." His smirk and tone gave the word assistance a whole new meaning.
Rachel recognized the words that she had used to accept his offer of swim lessons and fell into the banter easily. "English, Puckerman?"
"That means yes," he stated. "Does this mean we'll have sex soon?"
Rachel smiled suggestively up at him. "Maybe." (They would finally have sex two months later. And Noah Puckerman? Lasts a whole lot longer than two seconds and it's wonderful. Rachel considers it her true first time.)
"No more string bikinis in public Rach," he commanded very seriously. (She, of course, never again wore a swimsuit that wasn't a string bikini in public-it was just the type of relationship they had-and besides, jealous Noah? Super hot in bed.)
As Rachel, holding her boyfriend's hand behind her back, climbed up the steps onto the bus behind Brittany who gave a bubbly giggle in her direction at their banter before Mike and Matt pulled her down the aisle, Rachel thanked God for Mr. Schuester and his horrible ideas.