A/N: I wrote this based on a prompt at the drabble meme for the PuckRachel community at LJ. Um...it's slightly longer than a drabble. I hope you enjoy it!

... ... ...

Frankly, she's used to being ignored. For a full year and a half, people have been talking over her and treating her like her knowledgeable and well thought out opinions mean absolutely nothing and don't count for anything. She's used to that.

The blatant disrespect is new. Instead of people just talking over her, they've actually started telling her to shut up. She hates that phrase, finds it completely unnecessary; there are ways to ask someone to be quiet without being so rude.

They don't seem to realize that they need her more than she needs them. She's got voice lessons and acting classes and community theater. Her talent wouldn't fall to the wayside if there were no glee club. She might miss it, true (though that may not even be true anymore) but she doesn't need it. They need her. They can't win without her. The sad thing is, they haven't realized it and probably won't. She's the backbone, and the only person who's ever realized that is no longer speaking to her, after their rough breakup. She thinks he should get over it since it happened months ago, but apparently he's no more mature than anyone else.

So she has no friends, hardly any acquaintances.

She thinks that if she left tomorrow, they probably wouldn't even care. She's too stubborn for that, so she shows up to rehearsal every day, ready to work.

Besides, there's a smug, stubborn part of her that likes outsinging them all on a daily basis.

... ... ...

She knows the jocks have crossed a line when she's doused in coffee one morning. It's not scalding hot, but it's not a pleasant feeling. Everyone in the hall laughs at her, and even the one boy she thinks will show her some compassion right now, doesn't.

She watches Finn walk in the other direction and tries very hard not to cry. Crying will just make everything worse, all of it, and she thinks she might break completely if that happens.

... ... ...

He saw those douches throw coffee at her. That's fucking low. Cold is one thing; you get a chill and the shock, but it doesn't actually hurt. Hot is fucking dangerous, and even he'd never do that shit. So he found them after, in the bathroom, and told them that if they ever pulled that on anyone again, he was going to take shit into his own hands. He likes to keep his threats vague and make people guess their fate. More fun for him that way.

When he passes Rachel in the hall, she still smells like coffee and he notices she hasn't changed. He's pretty sure that's his fault, too, because ever since the slushie crap stopped, she probably hasn't been keeping a change of clothes at school.

He tosses her a plain white tee shirt from his locker and doesn't say anything to her.

She hands it back, says thank you for offering, but she'll be fine. He's a little confused as he watches her go, holding her books tightly to her chest. Someone bumps into her and she doesn't even chew them out. He thinks there's something serious going on with her.

Maybe it's just 'cause they're both in glee club or whatever, but there's a little part of him that's actually, like, concerned about her.

... ... ...

The final straw is when Mr. Schuester removes her from a number altogether. He doesn't just take away her solo (he does that, too, but it wouldn't bother her so much, since he does that so often she almost expects it) or stick her to the back of choreography. He removes her from the song. He tells her it'll be a good rest for her, and that he wants to try Mercedes on lead 'for once'.

He almost had her convinced, up until 'for once'.

"I'm sorry," she interrupts. "For once?"

"Here we go," Mercedes says, rolling her eyes dramatically and clicking her tongue.

Rachel doesn't care. She is not about to argue with that girl over anything. She's had enough of that since glee club started. She doesn't even bother looking at her as she speaks.

"You know, I've put up with a lot from this group. I've dealt with your lack of dedication and closed-mindedness, and I've generally done it with a smile, because despite what you all want to believe, I actually liked being part of a group. I haven't been unreasonable in wanting what I've wanted, and to be honest, you're all delusional if you think the entire reason there still even is a glee club is because of me." She turns to Mr. Schuester again, because seeing scared looks or more eye rolling doesn't appeal to her right now. "I'm sorry you feel the need to sacrifice us all and our performances for the sake of feeding an ego that's already out of control. And that's coming from me."

"Rachel, this isn't about you," Mr. Schuester says diplomatically.

She'd love to believe him. She really would.

"I'm sorry, but it's always been about me. This whole club has been about me, in some way or another, since it started. You all either hate me and talk behind my back, or you're begging me to help you work on things and come to your rescue. And still, you've never just admitted that you need me."

"That's not even true," Finn says. It's the first thing he's said to her in weeks. The last time he spoke to her, he wanted to borrow a pencil. She puts her hand on her hip and looks at him.

Something inside her snaps. He was her one true friend, her one ally for so long, and she never really wanted to believe they weren't still somehow going to work it out. Him taking the others' side and saying that just confirms that she is completely, entirely, 100 per cent alone.

And frankly, she's pissed about it.

She marches over to her seat and grabs her folder containing all the notes they'll need to improve on their performances to even dream of winning Regionals. There's no way they're getting her input if they don't want her, too.

"I wish you all the luck in the world trying to win with 11 members. You're going to need it," she says bitterly over her shoulder as she heads for the door.

It may be her best storm out yet.

It's also the only one she cries after. She's sitting in her car in the cold and realizing she's just quit the one thing she had left that made her happy at that school at all.

She wonders if it's too late to transfer to Carmel to finish out the year.

... ... ...

So yeah, her fucking bailing really sucks, and he's pretty sure he's the only one who knows it. That's 'cause despite the fact that he knows he's, like, awesome, he knows that the group fucking sucks without her. They learned that last year when she got sick and they could barely make it through one song without completely falling apart. That's bad news, considering Regionals are in two months.

They're totally fucked.

The really messed up thing is that he's actually kind of proud of her or whatever. He's been waiting for the day she snapped and told everyone to go fuck themselves, and it was pretty awesome that he got to witness it. Schue practically makes it his job to make her miserable, and Puck's surprised she put up with it for as long as she did. If he was in her shoes, he probably would have left after a week in glee club, based on the way those idiots treat her.

She's not exactly badass, but at least she's not a pushover anymore. There's something really awesome about that.

... ... ...

School the next day is even worse than usual. It's not like they ever did anything for her before, but now she knows that even if something does happen and one of the jocks assaults her with some kind of beverage, she really doesn't have anyone to turn to. She's completely alone. She has no friends, no 'frienemies'. She has no boyfriend and nowhere to eat her lunch in peace, since she's sure the choir room has been deemed off limits to her by her former 'teammates.'

So she walks the halls alone, which is nothing new at all, but at lunch, she can't even sit at the glee table and pretend they all like one another, that they all like her. She finds a quiet table in the corner, far away from everyone and tries not to notice the way they all look at her and start talking, snickering and no doubt making fun of her.

She has not deluded herself into thinking they'd actually miss her, not yet. (Not until they come in last at Regionals.) It shouldn't surprise her that they're actually being mean.

She glances around the cafeteria. She sees the glee/jock table. It's an interesting one, just few over from the glee table. Sometimes they all sit together. Today, Quinn, Santana, Brittany, Mike, Matt and Noah are all together, and Finn is with the others. The fact that he's laughing, too, hurts her heart more than it should. She should know by now that he really doesn't care about her at all.

She catches Santana's eye across the room and the girl very nearly smiles, but then Noah has his arm around her and he's almost got her in a headlock, so she looks away. Rachel doesn't know what any of that is all about.

She doesn't care. She doesn't need them. They were never her friends and they never will be.

She finishes her salad and drops off her tray, and she spends the rest of her lunch break in the library, counting down the minutes until she can go home.

... ... ...

So glee totally blows.

None of them will actually come out and say it, but they're absolutely as fucked as Rachel said they'd be without her. Seriously, they can't do this without her. He and Santana seem to be the only ones who know it, but even she doesn't really care, just wants to be wherever Britt is. He figures that makes sense, since he joined for Q in the first place. Whatever.

The whole problem he has is that he hates being part of a losing team. He gets enough of that shit playing football. And at least with football, he still looks cool doing it. Singing and dancing is one thing. Singing and dancing and sucking is totally another.

He tries not to say too much, though, just goes about singing his part and tries not to laugh too hard every time Kurt pooches a note or Mercedes has trouble with choreography Rachel knew like the back of her hand.

Fucked as it is, he totally envies her being able to just walk out like that.

... ... ...

She starts keeping extra clothes in her locker again out of necessity. She's probably the only person who's more of a loser after quitting glee club than she ever was as a member. She almost, almost goes back after the sting of a lemon-lime slushie burns her eyes, but she won't give them the satisfaction.

It's malicious and most definitely not healthy, but she wants to watch them crash and burn, which she knows they'll do in spectacular fashion. She may actually laugh about it. Yes. Yes, she thinks she will.

When she walks out after school one day and her car is covered in a mixture of slushies, toilet paper, and eggs, she seriously considers homeschooling.

Her fathers tell her it's too late in the semester for that and look at her all worriedly when she sighs and grinds her teeth like she always does when she's trying not to cry.

"What's wrong, sweetie? You've always loved school."

"I don't anymore," she snaps. "I hate it. Everyone hates me. I have no friends, and now that I'm not in glee club..."

"You're not in glee club?" Daddy asks, confused.

She shakes her head and wipes angrily at her cheeks. "I quit."

He doesn't ask why, and she thinks she loves him even more for that. He's known all along how those people treat her. Dad is the one who tells her to be strong and ride it out. Daddy doesn't want her to ever have to deal with those types of people. Between the two of them, they'd given her motivation to stay as long as she did. Now, though, she's just too far gone; too much has been said and done and she's over it.

"Okay," he says quietly. "What about all the other clubs."

"I didn't join this year so I could focus on glee," she whispers pathetically. She hates that she gave so much of her time and dedication to a group of people who wouldn't throw water on her if she was on fire. "I just hate school."

"It'll get better, honey," he promises, kissing the top of her head. She knows it's no true. He might not, but she does. "Just finish out the year and if you're still unhappy, we'll look into other schools."

She nods and tries to smile, wipes her cheeks, and knows how good she has it at home. She doesn't know anyone else whose parents would make that kind of promise. So at least she has that to be thankful for.

... ... ...

The day he walks into practice and Kurt and Mercedes are fucking squealing together over singing a duet that was always, always Rachel's song is the day he basically loses it.

He sits there for a few minutes and thinks it over, what he's about to do. And by 'thinks it over', he means he sits there and tries to come up with a way to give them the finger while telling them all how much they blow. He could do it, sure, but he's going for dramatics. He learned shit from Rachel, apparently. Yeah, she's obnoxious and pushy, but she's got more fucking talent than any of these losers will ever dream of having.

Mr. Schue walks into the room and Puck walks out.

He hears Finn and Schue calling after him, but he doesn't turn around, doesn't stop to explain himself or anything. He just leaves.

Fuck them.

He's not quitting because of Rachel, not really. He's just not about to go down with a sinking ship. He's like one of those dudes on the Titanic who hopped in the first fuckin' life boat and pushed a bunch of chicks and kids out of the way. Except, you know, not that much of a douche 'cause there's not actually lives at stake here.

The really fucked up thing is that it feels good, walking away from the bullshit. He can see why Rachel never looked back either.

... ... ...

She's more than a little surprised to see Noah walking towards his truck when she's cleaning off her car. Today's assault included wet crepe paper, so at least it's somewhat easier to clean, even if the dye is marking her silver paint and she'll have to go to the carwash immediately.

He's supposed to be in glee rehearsal.

"What are you doing?" she calls to him across the parking lot.

"Going home. The hell happened?" He walks over and sees the pile of red, white, black and gold streamers sitting behind her bumper. "Who did this?"

"Does it matter?" she asks, laughing bitterly. "This is nothing compared to what I usually get. And really, I'd rather they decorate my car than throw things in my face." He kicks at the pile with his toe. "Why aren't you in rehearsal?"



He shrugs. "It's all bullshit anyway. I can play guitar and sing in my bedroom without having to deal with those fuckers."

She really should not smile, but she finds she can't help it. "That was part of my rationale, too."

"Yeah, you kind of fucked us when you left," he says. It's not an accusation, and she doesn't hear it as one. "They're idiots, though. They totally think they're still gonna win."

She smiles a little, raises her brow and looks at him darkly. "Not with 10 members, they aren't."

He grins at her, pulls a piece of paper off her car. "You're kind of a bitch."

She shrugs her shoulder and looks downward. "It's not like they don't deserve it, right?"

"They deserve a shitload worse than what you're giving." He laughs a little and she bites her bottom lip. She should not be attracted to him. The fact that he's the only person in a week and a half who's said anything to her other than derogatory remarks is probably playing into that. "Sucks that everyone's picking on you."

"Says the boy who put the target on my back the second day of freshman year," she says bitterly.

"Yeah. Fuck," he mumbles. He's already apologized and she doesn't really expect him to do it again.

"I'm just sick of this entire place. I'm sick of everyone treating me like some kind of sub-par human being when I didn't do anything wrong to any of them!" she says angrily. He nods, but she doesn't think he really gets it. "They're all losers. I'm the one who's getting out of here, glee club or no glee club. Actually, I'm better off without those...those...bitches. I can just focus on me and not worry about what they're saying."

He looks uncomfortable. And maybe a little proud of her for cursing. "Right on."

"Everyone in this school will live to regret the day they harassed me and said horrible things. When I'm famous, I'll call each and every one of them out by name and list the reasons why they're terrible," she says, and she doesn't know where this is coming from, any of it, or why she's saying it to him. It feels good, though, venting and making these threats that'll probably never be followed through upon.

Not that she won't be famous. Of course she will be.

"Am I on that list?" he asks teasingly.

She smiles a little. "Not at the moment, no." She sighs and shakes her head. "I'm sorry for telling you all that. I'm sure you think I'm insane or something."

"Already did." He winks when she rolls her eyes. "'S'cool, though. You're kinda hot when you're all pissy." She tries in vain to keep herself from blushing. "Hey, get a note to leave at lunch tomorrow, 'kay?"

He starts walking away and laughs at the confused look on her face. "Why?" she calls after him.

"We'll get the fuck away from here," he says, walking backwards and pulling his keys from his pocket.

She doesn't know where they'll go or what they'll do. She nods anyway and finds herself smiling when he salutes her from behind the wheel of his truck as he pulls away.

... ... ...

So look, he doesn't really know why he basically invited her out with him, but she really did look hot when she was ranting like a crazy person and totally acting like she's a bajillion times better than all those glee fuckers. True fact? She actually is better than all of them. And he thinks it's fucking hilarious when she says shit like that and tells it like it is. It's awesome that she knows herself so well, okay? He can relate to that.

Also? Something he's learned over the course of a little over a year, is that it's always better to be on her side than on the side of whoever she's fighting.

... ... ...

She's unnaturally nervous as she sits in the front seat of his truck. It's new. Last year, he was driving his mother's sedan around. She knows he bought this 10 year old Chevy at the end of the summer after working two jobs and saving his pennies. She says she admires his dedication and his work ethic, and he tells her, "Whatever. It's a piece of shit and it sucks oil like a two dollar whore, but she gets me around, you know?"

So no, that doesn't do anything to calm her nerves. He's tragically nonchalant about the whole thing, when she knows they haven't been alone together anywhere since they 'dated'. Although, that's a rather generous term for their farce of a relationship. They basically holed up in her bedroom and had some kind of unspoken contest to see how much they could kiss before her fathers came home and he had to leave.

(A lot, for the record.)

So she doesn't exactly know how to be alone with him and just sit here and not do or say anything.

"Why did you really quit glee?" she asks seriously.

"Told you."

"No, I mean really."

He glances at her. "I told you," he repeats. "Besides, you've started some kind of war or whatever, and you're like...you're the guy who's team you always wanna be on, you know?"

"Not exactly," she says. "I'm a girl, and I'm fairly certain that sentence makes no sense whatsoever."

He rolls his eyes, but laughs softly and sets his hand on the gear shift. "I'd rather fight with you than against you," he clarifies.

Oh. Well, that actually happens to make a lot of sense.

And it's nice to have someone choose to be on her side for once.

"Especially against those fuckers," he adds, and she laughs so loudly it startles her (it's been a while since she laughed) and she covers her mouth with her hand.

They go to McDonald's, which completely disgusts her at first. It turns out to not be all bad; she orders a salad and a bottle of water and she doesn't have to worry too much about the food she's consuming. He, on the other hand, orders two (two!) Bic Macs, super-sized fries, and a massive Coke. The fact that after he's done eating (how he finishes before she does is a feat of the human gastrointestinal system, she's sure) he orders an apple pie and a dish of ice cream and proceeds to dip the pie into the dish and eat it.

"That's the grossest thing I've ever seen," she remarks, pushing her tray away when she's done.

He shrugs. "I need lotsa calories."

She looks at him disbelievingly. "Why is that?" she asks.

"I work out a lot. Like, every day. Plus football and basketball. I'd pass out if I didn't eat so much," he explains. She thinks that's an exaggeration, but she supposes it makes sense. "So." He leans forward on the table and folds his arms one over the other. "How're we gonna make those assholes our bitches?"

This outing seems to make a lot more sense now that there's actually an agenda. For some reason, it makes her far more comfortable about the whole thing.

"I wasn't aware that was the objective."

He leans back in his chair again, grins smugly, and she knows that expression could very well get her into a world of trouble.

... ... ...

The first thing he does is make sure none of the fucking stupid jocks do anything to her. Look, he doesn't like, go up to them and tell them to lay off, or make any kind of big deal about her at all.

He does what any evil genius worth his salt would do.

He just puts the focus on someone else.

Like, say, that Jacob kid who's always looking at Rachel and walking around with a binder in front of his junk. Two birds with one stone. He just goes to Jacob and gives all the dirt he has on the jocks he can assume are bugging Rachel (and a few who just generally piss him off). That info goes up on Jacob's blog about two minutes later. Then Puck heads down the hall to the jocks and mentions seeing some things on Jacob's blog that they probably don't want on there. Like Karofsky only has one nut 'cause he hit himself with a skateboard wiping out and...well, he only has one nut. And Adam Sandford got crabs from some skank he fucked from West Lima last semester. And Anderson still shares a room with his little sister.

So yeah, Jacob and his little band of geeks are basically targets one through eight or whatever, and Rachel can walk down the hall without worrying about anyone fucking up her shit.

He's basically a genius.

They don't hang out or anything, but he doesn't straight up ignore her, either. Everyone's just as pissed at him as they are at her. Maybe more. Finn's not talking to him and Quinn's bitching at him every fucking 30 seconds about quitting. He doesn't really give a shit, because both of them have fucked him over just as much as he's fucked them over. They're all square now, and he doesn't have to listen to a damn word they say. Sometimes he and Rachel sit next to one another in class, and sometimes they hang in the library at lunch. He sits with her once in the cafeteria. Just for a few seconds, but he makes fun of her for eating fuckin' dandelion leaves and shit, steals one of her special vegan cookies (those things are good, too) and gets up to head over to where some of the better football dudes are sitting. No one gives him a hard time about it, 'cause he can do whatever the fuck he wants and they know it's none of their business.

"What're you up to this weekend?" he asks her one day as they head to the parking lot. It's a Friday afternoon and they both have a free period. Well, she has a free period and he's just skipping Chem, but whatever. They're both leaving.

She shrugs her shoulder and digs her keys out of her purse. "I don't know. Nothing, really. I have dance tomorrow, but that's about it." She looks at him from the corner of his eye like she suspects he's up to something. "Why?" she asks lowly.

He'd laugh if it wasn't so ridiculous that she still doesn't really trust him.

"Just making conversation."

She stops walking and puts her hands on her hips. It'd be more effective if she wasn't carrying two backpacks and a purse. "Look, if you're planning on ridiculing..."

"I'm not planning anything!" he says defensively. "Jesus. It was just a fuckin' question. I thought maybe you'd come to the game tonight, but fuck. Forget it. You'll probably just bitch at me from the stands or something."

That seems to get her attention. She moves her hands and looks down, toying with the pink sparkly 'R' on her key ring. "Oh," she says quietly. "Okay."

She starts walking again, and he rolls his eyes as he goes after her again. "So are you gonna come?"

She laughs out loud and gives him a doubtful look. "I don't exactly belong at a basketball game, Noah. And besides, my boycotting of all things McKinley certainly applies to athletics. I will not sit in the stands and watch as my ass of an ex-boyfriend attempts to lead a truly atrocious team to an unlikely victory." She looks at him quickly again. "No offense."

He laughs a little and holds up his hands. "I get it. But hey, just don't cheer for him." She raises her brow like she knows exactly what he's going to say. "Cheer for me."

"As tempting as it is to sit in a gym full of people who hate me, I'll take a pass on this one. Thank you anyway."

Alright, so he can't really blame her, and he doesn't really care one way or another if she actually goes to the game. It just kinda sucks that she's always saying that everyone hates her. He doesn't hate her. He might be the only one, but it's gotta count for something, right?

"Well, you wanna hook up after?" he asks. She's unlocking her car and she freezes, turns to look at him. Shit. "I didn't mean hook up, hook up. I meant, like, get fuckin'...ice cream or something."

"I'm vegan, Noah," she tells him for the hundredth time. "No dairy products."

"Dude, you're missing the fucking point."

"I'm not a dude." She's laughing, but really, he doesn't need a reminder of that particular fact. He notices it on the regular. "And...if you want to, you could come over after the game."

"Your dads gonna be home?" he asks. He never officially met them. He just waved one morning last year when he was 'dating' Rachel and he picked her up for school. She nods. Fuck. "Oh."

"Why are teenaged boys always intimidated by fathers?"

"'Cause fathers know what teenaged boys are into. Even gay fathers know that shit. And you got two of 'em." He holds two fingers up for emphasis and she laughs, tossing her things into the back seat. "But whatever. If you're convinced they won't, like, kill me or something..."

"I think they'll just be happy I have a friend coming over," she says, laughing a little. He doesn't think that shit's all that funny. He shoots her a look to tell her so. "They worry. Since I quit glee, I haven't exactly been...social."

He smiles and taps her gently on the chin with his fist. "Well, we'll social it up tonight. I'll text you after we lose."

He starts walking away, and he's smiling, 'cause he can hear her laughing, and he kinda likes that sound.

... ... ...

She finishes all her homework for the weekend before dinner on Friday night, just like she does every week. After she's finished eating and helping her fathers clean the kitchen, she heads back to her room and starts tidying up. She's generally neat, but she puts things away that she doesn't want him to see, like her teddy bear from when she was a baby and her Elphaba Barbie. (Limited edition collector's item, thank you very much.) She's never let anyone see those items, and while she's sure that whatever comments Noah came up with would be at least mildly entertaining, she wants to spare herself the ridicule.

She's a bit on edge, though, and she knows she's just overthinking everything he said this afternoon. It's just that when he was talking about her fathers being there, he made mention of 'what teenaged boys are into', so she's been questioning whether or not he wants those things with her, or just in general. She hasn't decided yet which she'd rather have be the case. On one hand, it's always nice to be desired. On the other hand, she really doesn't have time or energy or, frankly, the emotional strength to have a boyfriend right now. She's a little lost (she thinks he knows that) and she doesn't want to latch onto the one person paying any attention to her, just because there's no one else around. It wouldn't be fair to either of them. And knowing her, she'd stupidly fall in love with him or something ridiculous like that, and then she'd get her heart broken. She'd like to avoid that if at all possible.

She doesn't bother changing out of what she wore to school, because she doesn't want to seem eager or expectant. Besides, she loves this skirt, and her cardigan is warm and comfortable. Her house is on the cool side, since Daddy likes to light the fireplace in the living room and use that as a heat source. It doesn't do much for the rest of the house the rest of the time.


She's conservatively dressed and ready, even though she has absolutely no idea what they're going to do once he arrives.

The bell rings sometime after 9:00, and she hears him making small talk with her fathers, telling them about the loss and how he lead the team in scoring but couldn't catch up to the other team. She can tell he's nervous, too. It makes her feel better to know she's not alone in that.

She hears him coming up the stairs and vaguely wonders why she didn't go down to greet him at the door. Not that he has any manners to speak of or will think there's anything wrong with any of this.

She has no idea how to stand. It sounds silly, maybe, but she doesn't want to look too excited, but she doesn't want to make it look like she's completely nonchalant about this whole thing. It's stupid. She's had boys in her bedroom before. She's had him in her bedroom before.

"Hey," he says, walking in and flopping down on her bed. "We lost. A-fucking-gain. I swear, I should just quit sports all together."

His hands are behind his head and his tee shirt has ridden up a bit. She thinks it would be a shame if he was any less athletic than he is.

"Well, I'm sure you tried your hardest," she says. She sits down next to him and he looks over at her.

"Yeah. I did. Everyone else blows." She giggles despite herself. She really hates that kind of language, but somehow it works on him. It's as though he'd be unrecognizable if he didn't speak like that. "What'd you do?"

"Homework," she says with a shrug. He looks at her like she's crazy. "I like to get it done immediately so I have the whole weekend free."

"You would."

"What's that supposed to mean?" She doesn't mean to sound defensive, she just does. She's so used to everyone picking everything she does apart that she sometimes cant' tell when someone just says something to say it.

"Means you'd do that," he says easily. "I'm not making fun of you or anything, so save the hissy fit for someone else."

"I'm sorry," she says, turning to him a little more. She pulls her legs up and folds them, careful to make sure her skirt is dipping between her legs to cover her. She almost blushes when he turns on his side and she realizes his face is right...Well, it's a good thing she's careful with her skirt. "I'm just getting used to this."

"Used to what?"

"To having a friend," she says quietly.

He rolls his eyes dramatically. "Damn, Rach, why you gotta do that?" he asks, almost laughing.

"I'm just being honest," she says, shrugging her shoulder. She's thought about what he said the other day. She does want to, as he says, make them her bitches, whatever that entails. "I just want...I want them all to pay, you know?"

He kinks his brow. "What're you thinkin'?"

She laughs. "I don't mean whatever delinquent acts you have in mind. I just want them to regret it, you know? Treating me so badly for so long."

"They're already fucked for performing."

"I know." She sighs and shakes her head. "To be honest, I'd love nothing more than to join Vocal Adrenaline or something and just...outperform all of them. If I won a national title without them, they'd have to admit I'm better than them."

"Well, shit, Rach, they already know that," he insists. She doesn't know how he came to that conclusion, but she's never come to the same one. "They treat you like shit because you're fucking awesome. They know you're gonna fuckin'...go out there and do it, and they'll be in, like, hairdresser school or some shit. They're jealous assholes, all of them."

She bites her lip and tries really hard not to smile as widely as she wants to. But really, it's been a long time since anyone but her fathers sang her praises. The fact that this is coming from this boy, this attractive boy who seems to be the only one who cares about her whatsoever, is making her feel...well, really good. It's been so long since she felt really good that she has no idea how to handle it.

"You think I'm awesome?" she asks quietly.

He rolls his eyes again, purses his lips and looks at her like she's stupid for not just knowing.

It's incredibly girly and very dangerous and most likely the worst possible thing to think, but she really, really likes that he does know.

... ... ...

She's walking with him through the parking lot. He likes her, okay? He does. It's fucked up and totally...fucked up. It snuck up on him, too. They basically just hung out in her room Friday night, messed around listening to music and stuff and talked and ate organic, seasoned corn chips or whatever the hell she fed him from that fancy bowl. Whatever, they tasted good.

He has a good time with her. He has for a while. The hanging out alone together was good. He could do that more often.

And he thinks it's fucking hilarious when they're walking through the halls at the end of the day when everyone else is on their way to glee practice. They get all these glares and she doesn't give two shits. It's hilarious how she ignores them all, every last one of those stupid fuckers who don't understand how important she is to their survival.

Seriously, they're still glee nerds, and she's friends with The Puckerone. Pretty clear who's better off now.

They're almost at his truck when Santana pulls up in her cherry red Mustang with the window rolled down. He and Rachel are both pretty fucking confused.

"Get in, loser, we're going shopping," Santana says. He and Rachel are both pretty fucking confused. "Mean Girls?" Rachel opens her mouth like she might say something, but doesn't. "Okay, fuck shopping. We're watching it."

"I'm...sorry?" Rachel manages.

"My place. Puck knows the way."

She drives off and Rachel turns to Puck, looks up at him as if she expects him to explain. "Dude, I dunno," he says. He almost wants to laugh, because she's seriously thrown. "C'mon."

She talks the whole way to Santana's place. Puck drives without paying attention to anything really. He knows this route like the back of his hand. Rachel's asking him questions they both know he can't answer, like why Santana wants them at her house, and why she's apparently quoting movies and quitting glee club and talking to Rachel for reasons other than to publicly call her gender into question. He actually asks her about that one, asks if Santana ever really took it that far. Her quiet, "every day," really fucking pisses him off for some reason. Obviously she's a girl. And a hot one. And it's not like he ever saw or touched the area, but he knows for a fact she doesn't have a dick. She did spend almost a week grinding on top of him ('cause she liked to be in control and he did not have any complaints about that).

She's nervous as she walks through the door to Santana's house, so he puts his hands on her shoulders and kind of roughly massages them, pushes her forward at the same time. Santana's in the living room, and he sits himself down on the couch. Rachel sits so he's between the two girls.

"Damn. I had dreams that started like this," he mumbles, putting his arms around them both. "'Cept you got naked and went dow..."

"Shut up, Puck," Santana groans, moving away from him to grab the remote. She presses play on her DVD player and fast forwards through the previews.

"Santana, why aren't you at glee rehearsal?" Rachel asks immediately.

"Because that shit's so lame it hurts," Santana answers.


"Seriously, without you two there, it's just a big waste of time. Schuester's a total ass hat, and he put Quinn on so many leads it's stupid. He so has wood for her, you know that, right?" Santana looks at Puck. He just shrugs his shoulder. Not his problem one way or the other. "And he's making them do another one of those assemblies to try to get members. I say we go and sit right in the front row and intimidate the shit out of them."

"So you just quit?" Rachel asks. Santana shrugs. "That's...unexpected."

"Less unexpected than you quitting."

Puck laughs. "She's right," he agrees. Rachel just rolls her eyes. "So, cool. Is this that movie with Lindsay Lohan, pre-rehab?"

And that's as much as they talk about glee club. Rachel is still totally uncomfortable, he can tell, and for some reason, when he notices it, he shifts a little so his thigh is pressed against hers. He doesn't know what that's going to do, but it feels good to him, so maybe she'll think it feels good, too, and calm herself the fuck down. It seems to work.

She moves a little closer, laughs at all the funny parts and pulls faces at some of the grosser/weirder stuff. They all seem to be really aware that if Santana isn't Regina George, she's at least one of her minions, and Rachel is a poor, unsuspecting girl who just wants to be liked. It's fucked how accurate that shit is.

At some point, his arm ends up around Rachel again. Then her hand kind of manages to find its way to his thigh, and when she pulls her legs up onto the couch, there's no way she could get closer without sitting on his lap.


"God, if you two wanna go make out or whatever the fuck it is that you do together, just go up to the spare room. Second door on the left," Santana says.

Rachel jumps away from him so quickly he's confused. He didn't realize how much he liked having her there until Santana went and fucked it up.

"We don't make out," he says.

Santana scoffs. "Why not?"

"I'm not that kind of girl," Rachel insists, tucking her hair behind her ear.

"You mean like me?" Santana raises her brow, and if this turns into a fight, Puck will have to break it up. After like, five minutes or something.

"I didn't say that. That's not what I meant," Rachel insists. "Noah and I are merely friends."

Well, shit, now that they're talking about making out, he's kind of thinking about it. Not that he hasn't before, but still. Sucks to know it's completely off the table.

As they're leaving so he can take Rachel home, Santana pulls him aside and whispers in his ear.

"You're totally gonna fuck her by March break."

She's pretty evil. Or maybe awesome. She knows he can't back down from a challenge.

... ... ...

Santana sits with them at lunch the next day. They're at their own table, and Mike comes in halfway through the period and sits down next to Santana, steals fries off Puck's plate, which is kind of a good way to lose a hand, but whatever.

"I'm quitting glee," he announces, mouth full.

"Nice," Puck says, smiling and reaching across the table for a fist bump.

"Why?" Rachel asks.

Clearly she's still having trouble with the whole idea that not everyone hates her. They're gonna have to work on that.

Mike shrugs his shoulder and looks at her across the table. "It's not fun anymore."

"You know," Rachel says, taking a bite off a carrot stick, "you all seemed to quit glee club without a second thought."

"'S'cause it's nothing without you," Puck says without skipping a beat, without looking at her.

She looks over at him and misses the way Santana looks confused or amused, one of the two.

... ... ...

"So," Santana says, walking up beside Rachel in the hall, looping their arms together, "Puck totally wants to bang you. Why are you still wearing panties?"

Rachel stops walking, jerks Santana to the side of the hall. "What on earth are you talking about?" she hisses quietly. "And please lower your voice!"

"Please, babe, he wants to see what's under those little skirts. To boldly go where no man has gone before."

Rachel's face hardens. How dare Santana initiate this conversation. They've been 'friends' for a day, and Rachel is by no means ready to have conversations of a sexual nature with this girl. And yet she still finds herself saying, "Finn and I dated for a long time, Santana."

Santana looks impressed. "No shit, huh? But...Finn, though." She grimaces. Rachel waits for the explanation. "I mean, you probably need it worse than I thought."

"I don't quite understand why you're saying all this."

"Because Puck apparently wants to plant his flag on your continent and..."

"How many more euphemisms do you have?" Rachel asks. She's at least a little amused. Mostly mortified, though.

"I can go all night," Santana laughs. She pulls Rachel with her as she starts down the hall again. "So are you gonna do it?"

Rachel scoffs. "Noah and I haven't so much as kissed since that pathetic week we dated."

"That is so not even anywhere near an answer to my question."

Rachel sighs as they get to the door of her calculus class. "I have no intentions of sleeping with him," she states clearly. Santana doesn't look convinced. "He and I are friends, and frankly, even that is completely new and probably fragile. There's no way I'm going to jeopardize that for something as trivial as sex."

Santana smirks, shakes her head a little. "Sweets, if you had ever had really, really good sex, you would not be calling it trivial." She looks up at the clock in the hall. "I have to get to chem. Later!"

Rachel spends the entire period contemplating that. She'd never thought the sex she'd had was bad. The thing is, Santana has (apparently) had enough of it to know how it should affect one's thoughts on the entire act. Now she's questioning whether or not she's ever been properly fulfilled by sex. She's thinking that if she has to ask, the answer's probably no.

And does Noah really want her that way?

... ... ...

Rachel spends her Friday night at a party at Casey Roth's house. She doesn't feel comfortable at all in this situation, in this house that belongs to one of the Cheerios. But she showed up with Santana and Mike, and found Noah quickly, and she figures it's not as terrible as it could be. Brittany is here, too, but no one else from glee club dared to come. Or maybe they weren't invited. She smiles a little bit thinking about it, and Mike asks her what that's for, and she just says it's nothing and sips her 7-Up. She likes that Mike doesn't drink either, and she didn't know that until tonight. It's nice to be able to stand with him (or sit on a countertop like they're doing right now) and drink soda and not feel pressured. Knowing she has a sober ride home is comforting as well.

And when Mike starts pop and lock next to her, she laughs and everyone seems to look over, Noah included, who gives her this little smile she doesn't think she's ever seen. She tucks her hair behind her ear as they look at one another.

Ever since that conversation with Santana, she can't stop thinking about him. About it. About...it with him. She thinks if that's what having a girlfriend does, makes you think about boys and question everything, then maybe she's glad she didn't have one until now. She hasn't needed help in that department, really.

She slips away from the kitchen to find a bathroom, and she's a little shocked by how many people are in this house. She keeps getting pushed around, which she supposes she can understand, since she's so small, but an apology wouldn't hurt. Not like the elbow she takes to the back of the head. She finally gets to the end of the hallway where the bathroom is, and she feels a hand on her hip, spinning her around. Startled, she shrieks until she sees the face staring back at her.

"You scared me," she says quietly. Noah looks far too amused for her liking.

"Sorry. You having fun?"

"Yes, I think so," she says, smiling at him. He raises his brow. "This is my first real party."

He groans. He looks angry as he takes a step backwards. "Would you quit fucking saying shit like that?"

"What?" she asks, oblivious.

"You make yourself sound like this pathetic little charity case, and you're fucking not, okay? Jesus."

She's a little shocked. She's never seen him this upset with her. It's unsettling. "I thought I could be honest with you," she says, because no one's ever really cared about how she felt (Finn doesn't count, if you ask her), and she truly thought Noah did.

"Honest is one thing. You act like everyone hates you," he spits. "If they did, you wouldn't even be in the same neighbourhood as this party right now. People might not have a clue who the hell you are, but they don't fucking hate you."

"Yes, they do!" she shouts. He seems surprised that she'd yell at him. She ignores that stupid part of her that likes that she can catch him off guard. "They do hate me. All they've done for years is hate me. You don't know."

"Yeah, I do. People pick on you 'cause you make yourself an easy target!"

She wants to slap him. She has no idea how they ended up having this argument, but she doesn't like it. She doesn't want to fight with him. She really doesn't like the way he's standing close and staring at her with those intense eyes and a little crease between his eyebrows. It's intimidating, and she hates him for doing it almost as much as she hates him for not understanding, and for saying what he just said.

She shakes her head, takes a step backwards. "You're as bad as the rest of them," she says quietly.

"Fuck that."

"It's true. You just...you don't even get it," she insists. She turns around, but he grabs her arm. "Ow!" He doesn't loosen his hold. "Noah, let me go!"

He steps closer. She can smell the beer on his breath and she's rather repulsed by it, but she can't seem to make her feet move to get away from him. His touch turns gentle before he lets her go completely. "I don't wanna...Fuck. I don't wanna fight."

"Then you shouldn't pick fights," she says seriously, putting her hands on her hips. She thinks she sees him smile, but it disappears too quickly to really tell. "I'm going to see if Mike wants to leave yet."

"Rach, don't," Noah says, shaking his head. "C'mon. I'm sorry." She's only ever heard him say one other apology. It's strange, and she doesn't know how to respond to it. "I didn't mean it." He moves closer, and she backs up this time, the edge of the door frame hitting her between the shoulder blades. "I just get...It pisses me off, thinking about how people treat you, okay?"

The butterflies in her stomach come alive as she looks up at him. "I'm really tired," she says, figuring a subject change is best before one of them does something stupid, like he takes it all back and puts the tough exterior on again, or she leans up and kisses him. "I might go anyway." He nods, steps away from her and runs a hand over his head. "Call me tomorrow?"

He nods and she smiles, and she walks away from him, completely forgetting to use the washroom like she'd intended. She says goodbye to Santana, who's decided to stay and get a ride home with one of the sober Cheerios. Rachel is quiet on the way back to her house, even when Mike messes up the words to the song playing from the radio. She admires him for being confident enough to sing at all.

But she doesn't think about that too much, because there's a bruise on her arm and she's almost positive Noah cares for her more than he's willing to admit. Perhaps more than he knows.

... ... ...

He's pissed that she leaves with Mike. He knows why and everything, obviously, and he's glad she's got a safe way home, but there's this fucking jealousy he's feeling and it's annoying, because he really shouldn't be jealous of anyone in regards to Rachel.

Still, he texts her about a half hour after she leaves the party, tells her to let him know she's alive, and she sends him back a smiley face. It's so fucking lame it's cute.

... ... ...

And he takes her out for brunch the next morning. He tells her all about hangovers and how this one is basically nothing (it disappears after he eats, thank god) and she says she doesn't think she'll ever drink enough to be sick, and instead of telling her she's a prude or that she needs to act like a normal teenager for once, he actually finds he's relieved. Like he doesn't want her to feel shitty, like, ever.

So that's when he knows he's got a problem.

... ... ...

The assembly is in a week, and Rachel finds herself cornered by Mr. Schuester after school one day. Noah, Mike and Santana are at the other end of the hall, but they don't see what's going on, so they all walk out to the parking lot without her. It's not strange of them to do it, since so often after school she has dance class.

She tries very hard to listen to Mr. Schuester's words, his pleas for her to rejoin the glee club. The only thing she can think, however, is that he hasn't asked the other three members of her new circle of friends to come back. Does he not value them as members as much as he values her? It makes her mad to think it.

The irony of it is, if he'd implied as much weeks ago, before she'd quit, she probably would have loved it, adored the attention and acknowledgment. Now it just bothers her that this is what he does; he picks and chooses favourites based on who he thinks is going to serve him best at any given moment.

She very tersely thanks him for seeking her out, but tells him in no uncertain terms that she is not coming back to glee club. Ever. For anything.

She walks away and she thinks she hears him curse.

Noah, Santana and Mike all keep talking about some kind of revenge. She texts them all to meet somewhere, and she's told to go to Noah's.

She doesn't want to hurt the club as badly as they hurt her; she's got more compassion than any of them ever will, evidently. It's very selfish, she's aware, but she thinks some kind of revenge actually sounds rather brilliant.

... ... ...

Puck actually has to grab Santana by the waist and keep her from running out of his room and back to the school to bitch out Schuester when Rachel tells them what happened. It's pretty hilarious, and everyone laughs but her. She knees him in the balls (gently, but still; bitch) and tells him to put her the fuck down. Chick has serious anger issues. He's been on the receiving end of one of these epic tantrums, and it ain't fun.

But yeah, Puck's pissed that Schue was trying to steal back his girl. You know, Rachel, who has basically become Puck's girl. All the guys at school know that shit. He's very aware of it. If anyone tries to fuck with her...well, they don't. The glee club are all bitches, but they don't even talk to her anymore at all, because she's always with him and they're basically afraid of him. And if she for some reason isn't with him, she's with Santana. That's even scarier sometimes, to be honest. Of course, Rachel's clueless to all of this, which is probably for the best since she'd get all, 'I don't need your protection!' on them and whatever.

Once they get Santana calmed down enough to, you know, not break things, she grabs a nail polish from her bag and pulls Rachel's foot onto her lap. Puck definitely looks at where Rachel's skirt has ridden up. He can see a good 80 per cent of her thigh and he is definitely liking that. Santana shoots him a look and he gives her the finger from where he's sitting out of Rachel's line of sight. Fucking Mike catches on, though Puck's pretty sure dude has known all along. I mean, Rachel's hot and Puck likes hot girls. Not exactly rocket science, kids.

Rachel's babbling about the whole situation as Santana paints her toenails and Mike and Puck start playing a little Madden Football. Santana's piping in with such awesome statements as, "Fuck that jheri curl assface," and, "guy probably gets off on you singing in those little skirts," and Mike and Puck laugh, because, yeah. Who wouldn't?

"I'm just appalled that he has the nerve to approach me now, weeks after the fact. I guess desperation can drive a man to lose all sense of dignity," Rachel says, wiggling her now bright red toes. Puck thinks that look super hot, especially since her skirt is black and her shirt is pink and somehow the red just works, okay? Fuck off.

"I say we hijack their assembly," Mike says nonchalantly, not taking his eyes off the television screen.

"What?" Rachel asks.

"Oh, my fucking god, that's brilliant!" Santana says, reaching over to push his arm. He just smiles. "It'll be amazing. As soon as they finish their song, we can get up and just start singing."

"How is that even possible?" Rachel is worried. This isn't something she'd normally do. That doesn't stop her from wanting to do it, but still. "We don't have anything prepared."

"Assembly's in a week," Mike says. "You know Schue's had us pull shit from thin air before performances before."

"That is true," Rachel concedes. "His preparation leaves much to be desired." She's got ideas. A lot of them. Noah can play guitar, and they can harmonize and...Oh, this could be amazing. "Noah, may I use your computer?"

"Yeah," he says distractedly. "Just don't open the folder called School Stuff. 'S'porn."

"That's vile!" Rachel cries, looking over at him. He's just smiling as he plays his game. Santana laughs and Mike just shakes his head.

But seriously, as hot as it would be for her to watch porn on his computer, he doesn't want her doing it when there are other people around.

... ... ...

She doesn't exactly know how she ended up pressed against her bedroom wall with Noah's lips on hers, but she's not going to stop it.

Actually, when he pulls away and smiles at her, grabs her hand and pulls her back onto the bed with him, she gets a minute to review the situation. Then she's on top of him, straddling his lap and almost positive her skirt is no longer covering her backside and she loses that train of thought again.

Basically, he came over to help her choose a song for their foursome to perform, and when he suggested the perfect song after over an hour and a half of searching, she was sure she'd never been more attracted to him. Ever. And that's saying a lot, especially considering how attracted she's been to him lately. So wasn't entirely surprised (he was, a little bit) when she grabbed his collar and pulled him towards her, kissing him as soon as he was close enough. That was where her domination of the situation came to an end, though, because his hands found her hips and he backed her against the wall and pinned her there while they kissed.

This new position is so much better, mostly because she can feel everything that much more, and when she pushes her hair back and he's smiling up at her, she rocks her hips the slightest bit and tries not to feel too proud of the groan he lets out.

"This is crazy," she says as he tugs her down to him by the front of her shirt.


"No. I mean yes, I know," she says, and he laughs a little bit against her cheek where he's kissing her. "I just didn't think..."

"Hey, can we make out now and talk later?" he asks, eyes pleading.

He looks so sweet and hopeful and...hot.

"Oh. Yes. I think that's probably a good idea."

So they don't exactly get started on arranging the song like they'd intended, but Rachel thinks, for the very first time in her entire life, that there's something more important than music. It happens to include Noah's lips and hands and the sweet and sometimes completely sexual things he says to her as they kiss on her bed in the middle of the afternoon.

... ... ...

So yeah, he spent most of yesterday fooling around with Rachel. And that's awesome, in case there was any doubt. Thing is, she's the kind of girl you date, not just fuck around with, and he kinda totally does want to date her. He was pretty shocked that the conversation they shelved didn't actually end up happening. He was sure she was going to stop at any second and, like, bust out the rules of their new arrangement or whatever the fuck she'd do. But she didn't. Like, at all. They stopped for a breather every now and again, and they talked, sure, but about, like, their song, and their history teacher, and marshmallows, at one point.

But fuck, now he doesn't really know how to act around her. They get together with Santana and Mike the next day and work on their song. They decide to do it a cappella, because if Puck's got a guitar next to him during the assembly, it'll be to obvious. Rachel's smart like that.

And, okay, she's totally fucking cute right now, all excited and in charge and fucking amazing. Seriously, her voice is, like, so good. She's basically got the best voice he's ever heard, and it's really hard not to kiss her when she belts out this one line like owns it.

He just kisses her after, when they're sitting in her driveway and he's supposed to be dropping her off. Instead of going inside, they just make out and he totally gets his hand under her skirt, just barely touches the side of her panties at her hip. She makes this little noise he fucking loves, and yeah, she's maybe only letting him touch her there because they both know it's not going any further as long as they're in her driveway, but whatever.

Under the skirt. Doesn't matter how or why.

... ... ...

Rachel is terrified she's giving Noah the wrong impression. That being that she just kisses boys and lets them touch her like that without being in a defined relationship of any kind. And no, their friendship doesn't count. Friends don't know what kind of fabric one another's underpants are. They're stuck in this strange place between friends and something much, much bigger than that, and she wants to talk to him about it, but every time she's alone with him she finds herself distracted by his lips and not caring 'what they are' as long as he doesn't stop kissing her.

So yes, that's problematic.

And see, this is the kind of thing she would have just worked through on her own before, ridden it out and waited for everything to fall into place and work itself out, with, of course, some prodding and massaging from her. But now that she's got friends, she thinks she can get some advice. Santana may laugh and joke and say I told you so, but Rachel is positive the girl will actually have some decent advice to share.

Santana's laying on her stomach on Rachel's bed after promising she'd come over and hang out. Rachel's parents are downstairs, and she is very aware that this is the first time she and Santana have really 'hung out' alone. It's nice, having a girlfriend.

But when she explains everything to Santana, all she gets is laughed at, until the girl has to sit up and hunch over to try and regain control of her breathing.

"Stop laughing!" Rachel hisses. "I actually need advice!"

"I'm sorry," Santana rasps. "Sorry. It's just...Mike owes me 20 bucks." Rachel blinks. "I told him as soon as Puck quit that you two'd end up fucking."

"Santana!" Rachel cries, mortified. "First of all, that hasn't...that's not happening. Second of all, please don't say it like that."

Santana rolls her eyes. "You're right. You're the kind of girl Puck would actually make love to."

Rachel can't help it. Her face lights up. "Really?" she asks quietly.

"Oh, Christ," Santana groans. "Look, Puck, he's...he's special. And I don't mean that in a stupid way. Okay, sometimes in a stupid way, but whatever. It's just...he's useless when it comes to relationships and stuff, but it's pretty obvious he actually likes you or whatever."

"He does?"

"You're a moron," Santana says, annoyed. "Of course he does. He nearly slugged Gabe Brander the other day for even looking at you, okay?"

Rachel bites her lip. "Oh."

"Yeah. So if you ask him to be your boyfriend or some lame shit like that, he'll probably hand over his balls in a little satin pouch."

Rachel actually laughs at that. "I don't want his...his balls," she whispers, cheeks warming.

Santana's brow ticks up as she smirks. "You sure?"

"You realize you and he are practically the same person, don't you?" Rachel giggles.

"That's why we never worked. We nearly killed one another."

Rachel moves from her desk chair and sits next to Santana on the bed. "It doesn't bother you that he and I are..."

"Oh, fuck no," Santana insists, shaking her head. "No. Douchebag is all yours."

Rachel smiles to herself, because other than that awful word she hates, she thinks she likes the idea of Noah being hers.

... ... ...

After they're done practicing (and they sound fucking awesome) at Rachel's, Puck sticks around for a bit. They're in her room, since it's practically sound proofed now, and her dads are downstairs. She opens the door, blushing, and he figures there's probably some kind of rule about that kind of thing. Apparently there's not one about having him over when her dads aren't home, 'cause they've done that a couple times.

Whatever. Not time for thinking.

He hooks his arm around her waist and pulls her against him, and this friendship is seriously the best thing ever. He loves it. She's awesome, first of all. She's nice and funny and now that she doesn't think they all despise her or are going to turn their backs on her any moment, she smiles a lot more and doesn't say shit that depresses the hell out of him.

Then there's the fact that her mouth is fucking fantastic and her body can make him hard within, like, two seconds.

"Noah," she breathes as he lays her down on her bed. "Noah, wait."

He lets out a hum against her neck as he kisses her. It's his favourite spot. Mostly because she loves it and always turns her head and lets out noises and grabs onto his shirt and stuff. It totally gets her hot. Which gets him hot.

"Noah," she says again, then whimpers when he fits himself between her thighs. "Are you my boyfriend?" He keeps kissing her, maybe a little harder, and starts making his way back to her lips. "Do you want to be my boyfriend?"

Shit. You know what? He does. He nods as his lips find hers, and she pushes him away a bit, trying not to laugh when he just tries to kiss her again.

"What?" he asks, smiling at her. "I said yeah."

"You didn't say anything."

"I'm top of you and we're making out. 'S'that not a good enough answer?"

She shrugs and looks at him coyly. "The words would be nice."

He rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I wanna be your damn boyfriend." She smiles and her arms twine around his neck. "Can your boyfriend please kiss you now? God."

"I'd like that," she giggles.

He'd make fun of her, but fuck, she's cute.

... ... ...

She's standing between Noah and Santana in the back of the auditorium as they wait for the curtain to be raised. Noah has his arm around her, which is about as much PDA as they've gotten around to, since they're definitely still trying to figure this relationship out. He's kissed her in the hallway a couple times, but certainly nothing that would cause any gossip, and he hasn't held her hand. Everyone seems to know they're dating. He hasn't wanted to hide that, per se, and neither has she.

She's nervous. She doesn't know if she's nervous for their performance or the glee club's. She is very aware of something called 'second-hand embarrassment', and she doesn't particularly want to experience it today. If her friends are right, she definitely will.

Mr. Schuester comes on stage and says something completely lame about the glee club needing members and being excited to go to Regionals again, and how it's a chance for McKinley's talent to shine. Santana actually laughs, and Rachel snickers because of it.

The curtain goes up and the glee club is there, dressed very plainly in jeans, white tee shirts, and those stupid Converse shoes Rachel's always resented wearing for almost every single number.

She covers her mouth with her hand when the intro to Ain't No Mountain starts playing.

It's worse than she thought.

She can understand Mr. Schuester wanting to bring a new performance to the table that no one had heard before, but she thought he might at least present some creativity. Rachel has nothing against this song, but it's definitely lacking the wow factor necessary to recruit the shallow student body at this school to the club with the worst reputation.

As they watch Mercedes sing circles around Finn on this 'duet', Noah leans over, lips brushing her ear as he says, "Is this as bad as I think it is?" She just nods and he kisses her cheek, which is so adorable and so not something she'd ever thought he'd do, that she puts her arm around his waist and leans into him a little more.

Vocally, the arrangement is all over the place. She knows it's because without Noah's wonderful tenor balancing out the harmonic range, and Santana's alto layered with Tina's, everything feels so thin and one-dimensional. She almost feels sorry for them.

But she doesn't.

When that musical trainwreck is over and the crowd is dubiously clapping, Santana, Noah and Mike all lean in close as Rachel gives them their note. Thank goodness for her perfect pitch; it really does come in handy.

And when they start singing in their rich, perfectly arranged four part harmony, everyone in the room turns around to look at them. They're kind of standing in the shadows, and it couldn't be more dramatic even if Rachel had designed a lighting treatment herself.

By the middle of the first verse, Santana's verse, Rachel knows they have the audience in the palm of their hands. Use Somebody is a much more modern song, far more convincing and interesting and recognizable to this crowd of teenagers. Not to mention, Rachel thinks the lyrics are rather poignant, especially with the glee club standing there uncomfortably on stage. She wonders if they're catching the symbolism here.

When it's her turn to sing, after Noah has finished, he puts his hand on the small of her back and she sings better than she ever has. Well, maybe not, but that's what it feels like. The crowed whistles and cheers for her, clapping for her interpretation of the melody. She's in her element. This is what she was born to do, and she doesn't need the glee club to do it. She never did.

They finish, their harmonies tapering off until Rachel indicates with her hand for her friends to stop singing, and she honestly thinks she loves them all when the audience breaks into cheers and stands up. She smiles widely and Santana's squeezing her hand. She tries to bow to their audience, but Noah is pushing her out the door, because the original plan was to just sing and leave with their heads held high, no matter what happened.

It's Mike who starts the group hug Rachel finds herself in the middle of. She giggles a little bit, because someone's hand is on her ass, and she doesn't think it's her boyfriend's. She knows it's Santana's when Noah mumbles something and pushes it away. He kisses the back of her neck, then her shoulder as they all embrace, and she's completely shocked that he's even still there and hasn't renounced this as lame or stupid.

"We just rocked that shit," Mike says. If Rachel didn't know any better, she'd call him giddy right now. "Seriously. We owned that."

"Of course we did," Rachel says seriously, straightening out her top. "We were well-prepared and put thought into our song choice and performance. We didn't pander to the crowd and give..."

"Yeah, Rach," Noah cuts her off, slinging his arm around her shoulder again. "We were awesome. Just say it."

She smiles up at him as they start walking down the hall. "We were awesome," she says quietly.

Santana takes her hand, and Rachel realizes the girl is holding both her hand and Mike's, and she shoots her friend a look. Santana says nothing, just swings their arms as they head to the parking lot.

Rachel is thankful the assembly was at the end of the day, so they can just leave and worry about the repercussions tomorrow, if there are any. She assumes there will be. As she watches Mike climb into the driver's seat of Santana's Mustang, keys in hand, Rachel, hand still twined with Santana's, leans close and giggles.

"20 bucks says you two start sleeping together within the month," Rachel says.

Santana laughs loudly and pats Rachel's cheek. "We've been sleeping together for two weeks." She winks and Rachel's jaw drops.

Puck's just laughing behind her, grabs her wrist and pulls her with him to his truck. "Can you believe them?" she asks. She supposes it's rhetorical, but he shrugs his shoulder anyway.

"Not a big surprise."

"It is to me."

"That's 'cause you're oblivious to that shit," he says, laughing when she pouts at him. "C'mon. I gotta get Hannah from school. You're helping babysit."

"Why do I have a feeling that means setting her in front of the television and fooling around in your bedroom?"

He grins at her, wrenches open the stubborn passenger side door to his truck for her. "Because you're not oblivious to that shit."

He puts his hand on her thigh as they drive through town to Hannah's elementary school. Rachel is still practically buzzing from their performance, and when Noah pulls her closer to him so she's in the middle seat and Hannah can climb in, she doesn't question it. Hannah drops her bag on the floor and starts talking about an art project she has to do. Noah is completely disinterested, but Rachel smiles and makes conversation and laughs when Hannah abruptly asks if Rachel is Noah's girlfriend.

"Yup," Noah says before Rachel can answer. He squeezes her thigh for good measure.

She spends a couple hours at his house, but he drives her home before his mother gets home, kisses her chastely in his truck while Hannah sits there with a smile on her face.

The first thing her father says when she walks through the door is how happy she looks. She breaks down and tells him about the assembly and what she and her friends did, and he laughs and tells her he's relieved that she's smiling again.

To be honest, she is, too.