… … …

Quinn has never seen Avatar.

When she sees it on her Netflix homepage, she purposely does not click it. She's not going to watch it or put it in her queue. She's never seen it, but she knows it's dorky. And she is not a dork.

(When she logs in again, she clicks it just to read the synopsis. She does not order it.)

Sam Evans is dorky. She knows now because they've had a few conversations, and he's managed to make a nerd reference in nearly every single one of them. Normally, she would think he's the perfect example of why pretty boys should just keep their mouths closed for their own protection. But it's kind of cute. In a lame sort of way.

She's never dated a dork before. Well, Finn is sort of dorky, but not in the conventional way. He's just dumb and goofy. Puck would slit his own wrists before he let on that he'd even heard of Avatar. He might be addicted to video games, but he draws a serious line at things like comic books and nerd movies. The rest of the boys don't count. Those are the only two that mean anything in her head.

And it's not like she's dating Sam anyway.

They went on a date. There's a big difference.

A week after their Breadsticks dinner, he manages to con his way into partnering her in glee again. She doesn't really want him to be her partner. She wants Kurt. Kurt wants Rachel. She gets Sam. It's hard to say no anyway when he smiles at her and claims blonde alliance. She tells him to go pick on Brittany, but he raises his eyebrows into a very imperfect grin, and she knows she should just give up.

There's no prize for this because Mr. Schue claims it's not a contest. Everything in glee is a contest, though, even when they don't actually call it that. Quinn thinks it's pretty dumb. She doesn't care about doing any more duets. She'd rather just focus on Sectionals because at least that way they wouldn't be wasting their time. When she goes into this during rehearsal, Sam tells her that he thinks it's fun to "break up the monotony."

She responds with, "You're too new. Glee doesn't know the meaning of monotonous."

"Well, Brittany probably doesn't. Finn might not, either."

She laughs despite herself, and she decides that maybe he's got a better grip on it than she thinks.

She lets him talk her into doing a really dorky acoustic version of "I Wanna Be Like You" from The Jungle Book, and even though she rolls her eyes a lot and says a million times how lame it is, she secretly sort of enjoys it. A little. The rest of the team seems to enjoy it, too, so maybe it's not that lame.

When they get on the bus to head down to Cleveland for an away game, he sits down beside her without asking. They get a few looks that she purposely ignores. Sam seems completely oblivious to it. It's almost like he doesn't understand that you can't just sit down with the head cheerleader without some sort of prior agreement. Especially if you can't even play because of a banged up shoulder.

She isn't sure why she doesn't tell him this. Maybe because they're on their way to an important game, and they all need to stay focused. She can school him on social status and appropriate behavior later. It's not like she gets a chance anyway because he immediately starts telling her about a giant rat he saw in the locker room.

"You're so gross, shut up."

He laughs when she says it, and her eyes are immediately drawn a few rows forward to Santana who turns around and whispers something to Brittany. Then she leans forward and whispers to the seat in front of them. Quinn has no idea what she's saying, but she has a feeling it's probably nothing good.

When they get off the bus, she tells Santana that her skirt is wrinkled and that she can't cheer unless she finds an iron and fixes the problem.

(Santana somehow manages to do just that but not before she calls Quinn a bitch and asks how she plans on ironing out her stretch marks).

When the bus makes a Dairy Queen stop after the win, Quinn sits with the Cheerios and keeps a close eye to make sure no one is over-indulging. Coach Sylvester will blame her if the squad comes back collectively ten pounds heavier. For the most part, they're all really good.

Santana, though, makes sure to be in her line of sight as she steals the cherry off of Sam's sundae and pops it into her mouth seductively. Then she gives a fake laugh and messes up her hair like she's just playing around. Sam laughs, too.

Quinn can't even begin to count the double meanings in that little show.

She sits with him on the way back.

When he asks her if he can take her on another date, she tells him no. They're in glee, and Rachel's boring them all with some lecture on the importance of proper vocal warm-ups. No one is listening, not even Finn. Rachel, of course, is totally oblivious.

Sam's face falls when she says no, and she almost feels bad for him. She doesn't let on, though. She just tightens up her ponytail and sits up straighter in her seat.

"You can't take me on a date," she repeats, keeping her eyes forward and staring at Rachel who has now moved on to demonstrating proper techniques. "But you can take me to our free dinner. I'll pay."

She can see him grin from the side of her eye, and it makes her feel better than it should.

That weekend, he picks her up and takes her to Breadsticks. It's the first time she's been in his car, and she's a little surprised. It's an older model, probably a 90-something, and there's a tear in the passenger seat. It's clean, though. Like really clean. And it smells nice. Puck's truck always smelled like weed and sweat and McDonald's.

His radio is tuned to the Top 40 station, and she's not surprised. He doesn't know too many of the more obscure selections they do in glee, and the only things she's ever heard him sing have been pretty poppy (their brief dalliance into Disney excepted, of course). It's okay, though. She likes Top 40- it's usually pretty safe.

He feels pretty safe.

Sam tells her that since this dinner is actually free, they need to order the most expensive meals on the menu. Before the server returns with their drinks, though, he forces her to promise that she won't flip flop again and make him pay. She laughs and shakes her head, saying she won't. He holds out his pinky for confirmation, and she rolls her eyes.

"Oh, my god, are you seven?"

She pinky-swears him anyway and doesn't even mind when he tugs her little finger just a tiny bit too hard.

They end up with way too much food, and even though he's a sixteen year old boy, she knows there's no way they'll be able to eat all of it. It's all so fattening, too. The breadsticks are so good, though… She can't overdo it, though, and when he tries to pressure her into helping him make a bigger dent in their food, she tells him that there are probably a week's worth of calories on their table.

"You're, like, super-skinny. A few extra calories aren't going to hurt you."

And she eats nearly all the ravioli after that because no one has called her skinny in over a year.

He starts hanging around her a lot at school. She doesn't really mind as much as she should. It's not like the rest of the school knows he's a huge dork. He's hot, and he's on the football team. He's in glee, yeah, but so is she. It's not like it's that ridiculous that she would be giving him the time of day.

She won't admit that she finds him pretty endearing. The lameness is cuter than it should be, but she never tells him (or anyone else) this. She tries to insult him sometimes, but he usually just laughs and then it's a lost cause anyway. And it's not like he tries to be her boyfriend or anything. He doesn't ever try to hold her hand or kiss her or put his arm around her. He just hangs around her and sometimes walks her to class even when he should be going the other way. He sits down beside her at lunch sometimes, too, and she hates that she glances around for him on the days that he doesn't.

Puck comes back to school the third week of November.

He's been gone for more than a month, so Quinn is shocked when she sees him by her locker before school. She almost turns around, but she has to get her things, so she walks toward him and pretends not to see him. It doesn't work, of course, because if there's one thing Puck refuses to be, it's ignored.

"I want to talk to you," he says, and she wonders if he thinks that's an appropriate greeting. She would have gone with something more conventional (like hi), but conventional has never really been his thing.

"We have nothing to talk about." She spins the lock and pulls her locker door open, still refusing to look at him.

"Thanks for calling, by the way. Or like, giving a shit."

She really shouldn't be surprised, but she's shocked that even he would have the nerve to try and pull that tone, given the situation. She knows she should ignore it, and she really does try.

"Next time something bad happens to you, don't expect me to give a fuck."

"Nothing bad happened to you," she snaps, finally looking at him. The Mohawk is back, and it jars her for maybe half a second. She wonders if he grew it as an attempt to make himself look meaner behind bars. He's glaring at her, and she's not the least bit surprised. "You tried to steal an ATM! Why are you out of prison?"

"I wasn't in prison," he snaps back. "I was in juvie. Big fucking difference."

"You need to be in prison."

"You need to be in hell, but somehow here we both are."

She has no idea what's going on. Honestly. She has no idea why he's picking a fight with her or why she's biting. They've barely said three words together since last year, so she doesn't know why he's decided to pick her for his first back-to-school argument.

"Leave me alone, Puck," she says, gritting her teeth because she's seriously thisclose to slapping him.

The urge doesn't lessen when he says, "You're such a bitch."

That's all she needs, though. She slams her locker shut and doesn't even care that several people turn around to stare. "If you ever wonder why I didn't want to raise a baby with you, this is exactly the reason!" His eyes narrow, and she knows she's pissed him off. "Just because your mom was content with raising a kid in between trips to the bondsman doesn't mean I am."

She's hit as low as she can possibly hit, and she knows it. She stares at him, though, completely unflinching and unapologetic. She doesn't even care that he looks like somebody just punched him. She's not going to do this with him. He ruled her life last year. She's not going to let him do it this year.

"Are you okay?"

She's surprised to hear a quiet and somewhat nervous voice behind her, and she turns her head just enough to nod. "I'm fine," she says firmly, but she can tell Sam doesn't really believe her.

Puck momentarily ignores the new addition and finally finds his words. "You don't know shit about anything," he finally hisses at her. "So fuck you."


Quinn wants to scream at Sam to shut up and shove him away so that he doesn't end up dead or something, but she doesn't get the chance. Puck apparently can't ignore him anymore because he looks at him like he's lost his mind.

"Who the fuck are you?" he asks incredulously, and the question is ridiculous because obviously he knows perfectly well who Sam is. He might have been gone for a month, but it's not like they haven't been on the same football team since pre-season.

Sam obviously has enough sense to realize that they're treading into dangerous territory (or maybe he's just scared) because he keeps his voice quiet and even. "Just chill out," he says calmly, and Quinn cringes when she sees the look on Puck's face.

"Man, stay the fuck outta my business," he snaps. "I will kick your fuckin-"

"No, you won't," Quinn says firmly, moving so that she's positioned right in front of Sam. She realizes that this probably just makes him look weak, but she doesn't care. Puck is dying for a fight, and she knows it. She isn't going to let Sam get caught up in it when he has nothing to do with anything, and Puck might be an asshole, but there's no way he'll take a swing if she's in the way. "Just go away, Puck."

He glares at her. Then he glares at Sam. Then back at her. "This is your new boyfriend?" She stares at him defiantly and refuses to even acknowledge his question. It doesn't matter because he's going on a second later, his attention back at Sam. "Good luck, bro. She's pretty fucking uptight, but if you give her a couple of drinks, her legs fall right open."

He walks away after that, and all the people in the hall who were pretending not to listen hurry to make themselves look busy. Quinn stands there and says nothing for several long moments. She knows Sam is still there even though she doesn't turn around to confirm. Her face feels very hot, and her eyes are stinging. She wants to disappear, but she doesn't remember how.

"Quinn…" His voice breaks her out of her daze, and she shakes her head quickly without looking at him.

She heads straight to the girls' locker room and is beyond thankful that he doesn't follow and try to talk to her. She's even more thankful when Mercedes seems to magically know where she is and shows up. She breaks down in tears for the first time in months, but she lets Mercedes hug her and she doesn't even ask how she knew where to find her.

She pretends not to notice when she sees Mercedes's phone and notices that her last incoming call was from "Bottle Blonde."

Puck doesn't come back to glee, and Quinn stakes the safest position possible right between Kurt and Mercedes. She doesn't look at Sam, and she flat out refuses to acknowledge Santana when she raises her hand and asks which one of them is going to have to suck Puck's dick to get him back. She immediately takes herself out of the running and volunteers someone else.

"All in favor of Quinn?"

Mr. Schue actually gets really mad and tells Santana she's out of line. He tries to force her into apologizing, but he gives up when Artie snorts, Tina mumbles, "Yeah, right…", Santana rolls her eyes so far back they almost disappear, and Quinn interrupts and asks if they can just start rehearsal already.

(It's Rachel, actually, who gets Puck back. Quinn's nearly ninety-nine percent sure that oral sex is not involved, but she does see them talking in the hallway. Well, Rachel is talking- Puck is rolling his eyes. Still, he shows up for practice the next week and doesn't seem to care that no one will speak to him.)

It takes awhile for Quinn to stop ignoring Sam. He still walks by her locker and smiles at her in the music room. He doesn't push it, though, and she isn't sure why she misses him at lunch or in the hallways. She's been getting used to having him around, so it's weird when he's gone. Still, she doesn't want to deal with answering questions right now. She is confident in her own skin, but there are pieces of her that are fragile.

He saw one of those pieces get cracked.

And she hates that.

He calls her one night when she's studying for a chemistry exam, and she only hesitates for a second before answering. "I'm studying," she says as soon as she puts the phone to her ear. "What do you want?"

"Hello, Quinn. It's great to hear from you, too."

Her face ticks into a smile, but she's glad she can't see it. Instead, she lets out a fake-annoyed sigh. "Hello, Sam. To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"It's a pleasure?"

She snorts, and she hears him laugh.

"I wanted to see what you were doing Friday night," he says when he's done teasing her.

"I'm doing the same thing you are," she tells him lazily, highlighting her notes carefully. "We have a game."

"Well, then I wanted to know what you were doing after the game." She can literally picture his face as he says it, and that bugs her. "Because I thought maybe I might be doing that, too…"

"Ask me out," she says flatly, surprising even herself. She's worked hard to purposely avoid him lately, so she's surprised that she wants him to ask her.

"Do you…" he speaks slowly, and she's amazed at how clearly the visual forms in her head, "want to go out with me Friday?"

"Go out with you where?"

She's stopped highlighting, but she's careful to keep the amusement out of her voice. She hopes she's making him nervous.

"To a really late not-free dinner?"

She smiles because she knows he can't see her. "Not to Breadsticks."

"Not to Breadsticks," he agrees.

"Fine. But if you end up smelling weird after the game, I reserve the right to withdraw my acceptance."

He laughs again, and it makes her smile more. "I probably won't be playing, so unless I fall into a dumpster or something, I think I can manage to smell decent."

She almost tells him not to get thrown in a dumpster, either, but she refrains.

They go out for pizza after their first loss of the season. He smells fine because, just as predicted, he occupied the side-lines for the entirety of the game. She made sure to catch his eye every now and then, and she was pleased to see that he paid more attention to the cheerleaders than to the game. She calls him on it while they're waiting for their pizza.

"Maybe Coach Bieste would let you start playing again if you showed any interest in the game." She sips her pop and raises her eyebrows at him from behind her straw. "Or you could just try out for the Cheerios next year. I have a little pull."

"I don't think I could pull off the skirt."

She giggles and glances down at her lap where her own skirt is riding high on her thighs. She tugs it down. She hates her thighs now, and she tries to avoid looking at them as much as possible. She wonders if Sam notices.

"Do you even like football?"

"Do you like cheerleading?"

She stares at him, honestly caught off-guard by the question. He's got his eyebrows raised and his head tilted. Puck would do that differently. Puck can raise one eyebrow, and he does it whenever he's trying to be seductive. Sam can't pull off seductive. He can barely get inquisitive. Mostly he just looks adorable.

"I like being a cheerleader," she says calmly after she takes a second to think of an answer. She wants to know if he deciphers the meaning, and she can tell he does.

"I like being on the football team."

She nods. She understands.

He takes her bowling on Saturday, and on Sunday he shows up at her house unexpectedly and asks if she likes to swing. She goes with him even though she needs to be studying, and they end up at the park. No one's really there because it's cold, and the sun's nowhere to be seen. She gets out of his car and watches as he literally runs to the swing set and grabs a seat. He starts swinging right away, and she doesn't even move from the parking lot until he starts motioning for her to join him. When she goes, though, she walks slowly. She is seventeen, not seven. There's no need for running.

She won't sit down at first, and she stands there and watches him as he zooms back and forth beside her. She can't decide whether it's the cutest or the dumbest thing she's ever seen. When he catches her hand on one of the zoom-bys and almost makes her fall, though, she lets him pull her forward, and she sits down in the swing beside him.

"This is the best thing in the world," he tells her, and she looks over at him. She's barely moving, both feet on the ground and just barely wavering forward and back. He's several feet off the ground and going higher by the second. She watches as his hair whips around his head- a mixture of his movements and the fall wind. She wonders if he knows how silly he looks.

She bet he doesn't care.

"You're so not normal," she answers back. "You're the only boy I know who thinks the playground is the best thing in the world. Well, the only boy past second grade."

He just laughs, and she finds it endearing that he never takes her insults seriously. She's not entirely sure she means them, so it's pretty accurate.

"You don't appreciate it," he says breathlessly, "because you're not doing it right. Your feet aren't supposed to be in the mulch."

She plants them more firmly, and he turns his head around to look at her and rolls his eyes. "C'mon, Quinn," he tells her coaxingly, and it's weird to listen to his voice come from behind her and then in front of her so quickly. "This is like flying."

"Push me."

He slows down just the tiniest bit and looks at her. She stares back at him, letting him know that, yes, she's serious. "Push yourself," he finally says, and she's impressed because it's one of the first time he's 'stood up' to her. She stands her ground, though, of course.

"You should be a gentleman. Push me."

And she watches in half-amazement as he actually stops himself, dragging his feet through the mulch and dirtying up his sneakers in the process. She waits patiently for him to get stopped and then to get up and stand behind her. He grabs the chains of her swing right above her own hands, and she turns her head upwards to look at him.

"Don't go too high," she warns him seriously.

The last thing she hears before she feels herself being pulled backwards and then flung into the air is, "You can take it, cheerleader."

She doesn't mean to scream, but it slips out as she goes flying forward and up into the air. It dissolves right into giggles, of course, and then another little shriek when he gives her the second push. She will never, ever admit that it is actually kind of fun. He keeps pushing her higher and higher even though she constantly orders him not to.

Finally, though, she yells down and tells him she wants to stop. It's fun, but the wind is getting to her, and she's sure her hair is in knots. He gives her a few more pushes that she answers with shrieks until he finally does as she says and helps her stop. He lets her get slowed down, and then when she's just a little ways off the ground, he grabs hold of her swing and pulls her to a stop. It's a little jarring at first, and she grips the chains tightly. He's got her guarded, though, one arm in front of her and one arm behind her.

She lets out a breath when she feels all the movement stop, and she turns her head to look at him.

He's staring at her really intently, and his head isn't that far from hers. She feels something fluttering low in her belly, and she can't believe she's actually realizing the meaning of butterflies in the stomach. It's absolutely terrifying.

"Can I kiss you soon?" he asks quietly, and it's the most serious thing she's ever heard him say.

Something deep in her throat answers. "You can kiss me now…"

And he does. And all the things she's ever read in romance novels about sparks and fireworks suddenly make sense. His lips are a little bit chapped, and she can feel it against her own. One of his hands keeps hold of the swing, but the other comes up to rest just under her ear. His hand is freezing, and it almost makes her shiver. Or something almost makes her shiver- she's going to call it his hand.

It's not a very long kiss. It's not even very deep. They just press their lips together and hold them there, and when her eyes slip shut, she's not even surprised. When they pull apart, she opens them again and looks at him as he slides both of his own lips inward and then drags the lower one between his teeth. He looks shy and nervous, and she thinks it might be the most adorable thing ever.

"Thanks," he says, and his voice is still really quiet.

"For what?" She's surprised she even has a voice.

"For letting me kiss you."

She feels like she should be thanking him, but instead, she just looks down at the ground and says nothing.

They start seeing each other a lot outside of school, and he takes her on dates every single weekend. He invites her over and introduces her to his dad and his stepmom and his little brother. They're all nice, but it's his stepmom who really makes her feel welcome. She invites her to stay for dinner all the time, and she talks to her like an adult and not like some stupid teenage slut who ruined her son's life.

It's a nice change from what she's used to.

One night, they're in his room doing homework (seriously), and she's watching him out of the corner of her eye as he visibly struggles with something he's reading. She doesn't look over all the way, and she certainly doesn't stare. It's just interesting to see the way his face twists up and the way the frustration builds up behind his eyes. She knows he's dyslexic, but it's not something she ever really thinks about. They definitely never talk about it.

She doesn't mention it now.

Instead, she brings up a totally different topic. "Does your family know about me?"

He looks up from his homework, and she can tell he's honestly confused. "Know what about you?"

She wants him to just know what she's talking about, but she knows it's unfair to expect him to be a mind-reader. "About last year," she says, sitting up straighter in his desk chair. "About the baby." She looks away when she says it.

He doesn't immediately answer, and in her head, she knows that means that he's too embarrassed about that tidbit and hasn't share it with his parents. A second later, though, he nods. "Yeah. They know."

"Do they think I'm a slut?"

"No!" He looks horrified that she'd even ask that. "No. They don't. No."

"I'm not." She says it firmly because it's the truth, and she doesn't care what anyone else says. She's made peace with that much at least.

"I didn't say-"

"I know," she says calmly. "I'm just telling you. I… I'm not."

"I know you're not." She thinks he probably means it.

"I was saving myself." It's one of the very few times she's actually had this conversation, and she watches him closely to see how he reacts. "For marriage," she clarifies. "I wanted to… save that."

He doesn't say anything, which she appreciates. It means he's letting her take her time and get it all out there.

"I made a mistake." Her voice is quiet, and she's choosing her words carefully. "That was the first time… the only time. And everything just… It all just got messed up."

"But everything's okay now." She knows he's just trying to make her feel better, and it's achingly sweet. She's not finished, though.

"Do you know the whole story?"

He looks at her for a second, and when he answers, his words are drawn out and questioning. "I know you had a baby… And the baby was adopted…"

"I had a baby with Puck," she tells him flatly. "I was dating Finn."

He stares at her. She can't tell whether or not he already knew that.

It doesn't matter, though. "And I lied," she goes on seriously. "For a really long time. I don't even know if I would have ever told the truth if it didn't just come out." He still doesn't say anything, and she isn't sure whether she feels better or worse now that she's got so much off of her chest. "I'm not a very nice person."

"I think you are." He's almost whispering, and something about it makes her heart swell a little bit. Still.

"You don't know me that well."

"I want to." He doesn't even hesitate, and it scares her a little bit how much she really believes him. "I really want to…"

He's beautiful. Really. He's so pretty he could be a girl. His eyes and his hair and those lips… She really wants to know him, too.

And she's pretty sure she's never been more terrified in her whole life.

… … …

A/N: Sam is possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life. I think I'm in love! Thanks for reading!