He steps back to the microphone, shoots a smile to his lead guitar player. Guy's fuckin' serious about his playing. Puck doesn't think there are many guys who have better tone than Alex does. He hit the jackpot when he found that guy in Chicago playing Jeff Buckley and Clapton covers at that little dive bar. That solo was amazing.

Puck knows these guys on stage with him make him sound good. Well, better. He always sounds good.

As he's singing the last chorus, he sees this girl who has floor seats get hoisted up onto some dude's shoulders, so Puck kisses two fingers and points them in her direction. She goes a little crazy, shakes out her hair, but her friends stop her before she can pull her shirt up. She's definitely hammered, but whatever. She's having a good time and that's what it's all about.

This is his life. He asked for it, wanted it, did everything he could to make it happen.

It's a fucking cliché, but he loves every second of it.

... ... ...

Rachel lays on her bed with her headphones on as she leafs through the magazine that came for her today. It's an issue she's particularly interested in, because there's an article on one of her favourite musicians in this one. She just gets to the page, turns her iPod to her favourite song of his, and Santana taps on her door before walking into the room.

Rachel would be annoyed by the permanent grin on Santana's face these days if they weren't best friends. Besides, Santana has a lot to smile about anyway, since their other roommate and Santana's longtime boyfriend just proposed and she's wearing a ring Rachel helped pick out.

"Whatcha doin'?" Santana asks, sitting down on the bed. Rachel laughs a bit, holds up her magazine. Santana rolls her eyes when she sees the cover photo, this guy wearing a half-buttoned white shirt. He's holding a guitar, sitting on the edge of an Infinity pool, soaking wet. "God, could that guy be more of a cliché?"

"I love him," Rachel says needlessly. She's sort of joking. Sort of. She loves his music, and she's intrigued by him and how he came out of absolutely nowhere to take the industry by storm. Their styles are completely different, so she's not all that jealous.

"Yeah, I know," Santana laughs. She bats her lashes dramatically and places her hand over her heart. "Noah Puckerman. His songs are so sweet and I want to marry him and have his babies. I bought these edible panties just for you."

Rachel's laughing at the look on Finn's face as he stands in the doorway.

"What the hell?" he asks.

Santana rolls her eyes and looks at him. "It was a joke," she insists, getting up and walking over to him. He kisses her forehead as he smiles. "And I didn't know you were home."

He laughs and tucks her against his side. "You'd have to fight Rachel for him," he says. Santana laughs.

Okay, fine. Rachel knows her admiration for this singer/songwriter isn't exactly subtle and certainly doesn't go unnoticed, especially not by her two best friends.

They all moved to New York together after high school. Rachel to pursue her career in musical theater, Santana to go to NYU for economics, and Finn to NYU because that's where Santana was going and he figured he could learn to be a teacher anywhere. Finn and Santana have been together (together, together) since senior year of high school. They're that weird couple no one thought would stay together. Now that they're 25 and he's finally proposed (Rachel thought she was going to have to intervene if he didn't come to that conclusion himself), everything seems to be working out for them. Santana works in the head office for an upscale hotel chain, and Finn is a teacher at a private school near their place on the Upper West Side.

As for Rachel, she decided to put off going to college, instead wanting to work as hard as she could to get her foot in the door of an industry where youth is infinitely important. Sure, there are stage actors of every age. She didn't want to wait until she was 30 before getting her big break.

She just finished a six month run in a revival of Beauty And The Beast. She's had other roles on Broadway, but this was her first lead, and she loved every second. The only thing she hated was the fact that it was only a six month run. Now she's unemployed again. The thing now, is that she has the connections and the reputation to choose her roles. People are coming to her. Unfortunately, there's nothing available at the moment.

Her fathers are proud. How could they not be? She left her small town with a million dreams everyone said were too big and too much. They said she'd never succeed. Some people said she'd end up back in Lima with her tail tucked between her legs and begging for a spot at the local community college. She had to prove them all wrong. She hasn't been back to that town in three years.

They just moved into this apartment a year ago when they all started making a little more money and could move closer to where they all work. Rachel thought of getting her own place, and she knows it'll happen once Santana and Finn are married (even if they say they don't care if she lives with them, that they want her to). She's not ready to be on her own yet. It's not that she's not old enough, or that she's scared, or anything like that. She just loves her friends, and she only knows a New York where they all live together. She's sure it'll feel completely different once she's on her own, and she just wants to hold onto this New York for as long as she can.

"Come on," Finn says. "I'm starving."

"I really wanted to read this article. You guys go ahead. I'm going to stay here," Rachel says, settling back against the pillows on her bed.

"Are you sure?" Santana asks.

Rachel looks over and sees Finn idly toying with the ring on Santana's left hand. Rachel smiles, nods. "Yeah. You two go out."

Her friends leave and Rachel skips back to her favourite song of Noah Puckerman's.

Sometimes she wonders how she can feel lonely when she lives in with two other people. This music makes it all go away a little bit.

... ... ...

The problem with playing L.A. is that that's where his manager is based, and that means Puck can't so much as take a piss without Ian fuckin' talking to him through the door. The guy (and Puck's publicist) burst into his room at 11:00 in the damn morning and wake him up, even though he was on stage last night and went out with a few friends after. And that was his publicist's idea, too. Apparently being seen out with some of his friends who are also in the music business is good for his image or something.

He doesn't give a shit about his image. That's Kurt's problem.

The thing is, Puck cares about the music. He wants to write and play and record and have decent album sales and a few hundred thousand people who'll come see him on tour. Kurt's all about 'social networking' and 'photo opportunities' and 'dating the right women'. That's another sore spot. Puck doesn't 'date' women. He has sex with them. Lucky for him, the last girl he was with was in the industry and she was all about making appearances and holding his hand, then slipping out of hotel rooms after they'd slept together. She didn't ask much of him. He didn't even have her phone number. Their publicists set everything up, and she just thought he was hot enough to have sex with a bunch of times before they 'ended their relationship amicably', or so the official statement said.

But whatever. His album sales have gone up 10 per cent since he hired Kurt.

He's a small town guy, okay? He learned to play on a guitar his uncle bought from a pawn shop in Vegas on some fucked up road trip. It's still the only thing, other than genes, he has from his dad's side of the family. He doesn't play that guitar much anymore, but it's in a case in the house he has in Malibu. Why Malibu and not some downtown condo? Because he loves the beach, that's why. No other reason, really. Anyway, it's not like he's home a hell of a lot anyway. He tours half the year, spends the other half in studios or doing press or whatever.

His manager is straight off television, he swears. Actually, he calls the dude Ari every once in a while (even though his name is Ian) because he's so much like Ari Gold it's ridiculous. But it's kind of cool, because Puck needs someone to rule with a bit of an iron fist, and Ian deals with all Puck's bullshit without complaining too much.

The complaining is Kurt's job, anyway. Puck would have been fine without a publicist, to be honest. He's kind of a dick, sure, but he doesn't think he needs anyone calling the shots and telling him what to do and where to go and whatever. That said, he gets paid to appear at night clubs. Not even to play. Just to show up and get his picture taken outside. They give him free drinks and he stays for a couple hours, and his bank account benefits. He really can't say that's the worst thing Kurt's ever done. But yeah, Kurt worries about every fucking little detail, down to the colour of Puck's tie when he has to wear one. Puck tends to say some really honest shit during interviews, and Kurt's always popping antacids and talking on his phone, trying to make sure these things don't get printed. Does Puck care if the world knows he lost his virginity at 13 to a girl nearly four years older than him? No. Does he care if people know he thinks Lindsay Lohan is a fucking train wreck and he can't wait to see her end up in jail or passed out in an alley in Tijuana? No.

Whatever. They deal with one another because Puck can admit that Kurt's not all bad, and Kurt loves the amount of Puck's money he can claim as his own. And Puck does make a lot more money now that Kurt's around, so it all evens out, he supposes.

But this? Them in his house when he's trying to fucking sleep? Not cool. Not cool at all.

"What?" he barks from his place, sprawled on his bed on his stomach. The covers are kind of on him, sort of, but it's fucking hot in this room for some reason, and moving feels like the worst idea ever. He's also naked. "'S'fuckin' early."

"It's after 11:00. Get up," Kurt orders.

"No." Puck at least rolls onto his back, making sure the sheet is still covering him. "Not giving you the pleasure of seeing the goods." Kurt rolls his eyes and Ian laughs as he looks at his Blackberry. "The fuck are you doing here?"

"The tour is almost over," Ian explains.

Puck gives an incredulous look. He might not be able to keep all his shit straight, but he knows he's only got one more show here in L.A., then he's got some actual time off. His label head is being a total cunt about his next record, and while he's writing, he's not trying to write for an album. It's different. He kind of likes it. He hasn't had a break in four years. He's three albums into his career, and it's kind of nice that he can just take a few weeks or however long and do whatever he wants.

"Yeah. I know," he says.

"Well you need. to fucking. write," Ian says, enunciating every word like Puck is some kind of moron. Puck rolls his eyes. "Look, you wanna keep making money and rolling in pussy? Write some fucking songs."

"I am writing," Puck explains.

"Yeah. That piece of shit you played me the other day? Never gonna work. You need a change of pace."

Wait. What? Change of pace? He doesn't like the sound of that. Last time they said that shit, he ended up on the fucking local news in his home town and doing a signing at the mall 'cause they thought he needed to get in touch with his roots. Total fucking bullshit.

"I'm not going home," Puck insists seriously. "Fuck that. I'm not doing it."

"Did I say anything about home?" Ian turns and looks at Kurt, who is just standing there with his arms crossed. "I didn't hear me say anything about home, did you?"

Puck runs his hand over his face. "Cut the shit, Ian. Seriously. What the fuck are you talking about?"

"You're going to New York," Kurt blurts out quickly, and he sounds way too excited about it considering they all know how much Puck hates New York. He likes to go there exactly once a year, and that's just to play MSG and then get the fuck outta there.

"Nope," Puck argues, shaking his head.

"Yes, you are. Ian and I have been working on getting you an amazing job, and..."

"Job?" Puck asks, sitting up a little further. "I have a job. Fuck you guys." He furrows his brow and glares at them. "And how am I supposed to write if you've got me some job?"

"It's not like you're going to be working at TGI fucking Fridays in Times Square," Ian remarks, still looking at his Blackberry. Puck's pretty sure Ian might be the first guy to ever die from one of those things, he's on it so damn much. "You're going to be in a production." Puck stares blankly, ignores the stupid fucking smile on Kurt's face. "On Broadway."

Before he can stop himself, he's laughing his ass off.

"Puck! Plenty of performers go to Broadway to showcase their talent! P. Diddy, Megan Mullally, Forest Whitaker. Oh! Jordin Sparks is..."

"You lost me at Diddy," Puck interrupts. "And fuck you both. I'm not doing it."

"It's a musical," Kurt carries on. "And it's rock music. You're perfect. They aren't even making you audition, which is quite a show of faith, since the only time they've ever seen you act was the time you hosted SNL."

"Pack your shit," Ian says, turning to the door before Puck can say anything else. "I worked my ass off to get you $10,000 a week. Your flight leaves at 4:00."

Well, fuck.

As he's sitting on the plane with Kurt next to him, he figures he can at least check out the script before he tells them all to fuck themselves and heads to his place in South Beach to write his next album.

... ... ...

Rachel went to the audition on a whim. She wasn't even what the casting call asked for, seeing as she's not blonde or 5'8" or blue eyed. She is, however, a great dancer and an even better singer, and she's desperate for work. Her agent told her to go to the open call anyway.

She honestly didn't think she'd get the part. She was told to sing a Broadway 'classic', so she used her old standby (On My Own). She was also told to sing a newer song, something with more of a rock feel to it, but nothing too heavy. She performed Jordin Sparks' Battlefied and sang as good as she could. When she got the call back, she threw on her dance gear and headed to the theater, only to find she was the only brunette in a sea of blondes. But she put her training to work, followed the not-exactly-easy choreography (she knows how this process works; they like to weed out as many people as they can as quickly as possible). She stayed to read through a scene and performed one of the songs with just piano accompaniment. She was the only girl not to flub the lyrics or the blocking.

But still, she was excited and completely surprised when she got the call saying she got the part. Her screaming and shouting had Finn and Santana running to her room in their pajamas to see what the fuss was about. The squealing (Rachel and Santana) ended in all you can eat breakfast (Finn) at the diner around the corner from their place that they all love.

She honestly thinks she's going to have a heart attack when the director of the show calls her personally to tell her who her costar is going to be. She's fairly certain she's going to hyperventilate. She's going to share a stage with Noah Puckerman. She's going to sing with Noah Puckerman. She's going to kiss Noah Puckerman. She's going to simulate sex on stage with Noah Puckerman.

She's blushing. Her cheeks are flushed, her hands are shaking, and there are a million butterflies in her stomach as she tries to explain to Santana what's happening to her right now, how her life is absolutely perfect.

"What are you talking about?" Santana asks, laughing as Rachel wears a path in the carpet in the living room with her pacing. "You need to slow down."

"I just talked to Patrick, and he told me who my costar is going to be, and I honestly don't know how on earth I'm going to be able to perform with him!"

"Yes, Rachel, I got that part." Rachel glares, but Santana just laughs again. "Who the fuck is it?"

"It's...Oh god," Rachel says. She takes a deep breath and turns to her friend. "Noah Puckerman." Santana bursts out laughing, ends up half laying on the sofa because she can't control herself. "Santana!"

"I'm sorry! It's just...God, you'll be pregnant within the month!"

Rachel puts her hand on her hip and scowls. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"It means you've practically mailed him a pair of your panties already!" Santana laughs, wiping tears from her eyes. "Get you in a room with him and you'll be naked in minutes. And doesn't he have to hump you on stage? You're going to fuck him."

Rachel fumes. The insinuation that she'd just spread her legs for Noah Puckerman so quickly simply because she has some silly crush on him is preposterous. She doesn't know him. Sometimes she feels like she does, but that certainly doesn't mean she's about to throw herself at him the minute he walks into the rehearsal studio. She is not that girl, nor does she plan on ever being that girl.

Even if his eyes are insanely beautiful and his little bit of a mohawk does ridiculous things to her stomach and his body is...

She is not going to sleep with him.

Not right away and probably not at all ever.

She does not turn a blind eye to the stories about his womanizing ways. There was actually a report not long ago about him receiving an offer from one of the most prominent condom companies, wanting to name one of their 'products' after him. You see, his nickname, Puck, rhymes (rather unfortunately, she thinks) with a particularly crude euphemism. Or slang term. Whichever you call it. She doesn't know if there's any truth to that, but the fact that it was ever a story in the first place lets her know that he's not exactly a stranger to that kind of activity. The way she sees it, as long as his music continues to resonate with her, she doesn't care what he does behind closed doors. Or in the back of taxis or in alleys in Miami, if other 'news' sources are true.

"I refuse to even justify that statement with an answer," Rachel says defiantly.

"Oh, please," Santana says, tilting her head to the side. "Are you telling me that if he asked you, you'd say no?"

"I'm saying the odds of that happening are slim to none and I'm very aware of it. And I'm also reminding you, since you seem to have forgotten, that I'm not some average slut who goes around sleeping with every attractive man she sees."

Santana stands up, a little grin still on her face, and holds up her hands in defeat. "My bad."

She retreats to her bedroom and Rachel stays there in the living room.

She won't lie and say that if the stars aligned and he for some reason wanted to romance her, she'd say no.

He's Noah Puckerman, for goodness sake.

... ... ...

Okay, so he reads the script and it's actually pretty awesome. There's sex and he gets to punch someone, and he's supposed to make out with some hot blonde chick. Actually, he's told the girl playing the part is a brunette, but he can work with that. He's equal opportunity with his hot women. He'll take them as they come to him (and make them come when he does take them).

Someone - he isn't really sure who, but probably Ian and/or Kurt - have set him up in a sweet penthouse for however long he's going to be in New York. He's talked to the label and they're more than happy to 'let' him do this. He's seen the schedule, though, so he really doesn't know how much time he's actually going to have to write. He really hopes this isn't just them taking the bitch's way out before dropping him or something, but Ian has told him that's not the case. He fucking hopes not. Not that he couldn't or wouldn't get picked up by another label pretty easily, but that's a whole lot of bullshit he really doesn't need in his life.

So whatever, he's in this crazy nice apartment in a city he honestly despises. He's got his acoustic across his lap and a pen and paper on the table in front of him. That script he's supposed to be memorizing or whatever is sitting next to him, but whatever. He's writing a song about hating where you are but not knowing where else you want to be. It's a little different from the stuff he usually writes, but he digs it.

The thing about Kurt being his publicist is that the guy is around all the fucking time. Seriously, Puck can't escape the dude. He's got a little apartment in this same condo complex, which means he's showing up unannounced all the time.

Like right now.

"What are you doing?" Kurt gasps.


"You're supposed to be going over your lines and your music! Your first rehearsal is this afternoon, Puck."

"Isn't rehearsal where you learn this shit? Why I gotta know everything on the first day anyway?" Puck asks as he strums his guitar lazily. First of all, it's awesome to make Kurt squirm. Second of all, he thinks he's right. "Calm down."

Kurt pushes aside Puck's notebook and pen, sits down on the table so he's right across from Puck. "This is Broadway, Puck. Broadway." He enunciates every syllable. Puck just looks at him incredulously. "Most of these people have been performing for years, and if they haven't, they're still the best of the best. They take this seriously. You're already going to have a target on your back because you're walking in with no experience in theater. If you show up unprepared, they're going to hate you even more."

Puck shrugs his shoulders and smirks. "You say that like I care. Isn't Broadway just for people who aren't hot enough to be in movies anyway?" Kurt actually gasps, and Puck laughs. "Come on, buddy. I'll be fine. You know I'm good for this shit."

"This," Kurt says, picking up the script, "is not shit. It's art. It's fantastic. And so help me, I won't let you ruin it. Put the guitar down, because you need to at least know the first scene by this afternoon, and I'm going to help you."

Puck gives in.

What? It's just easier to go along with Kurt sometimes than hear him complain for fucking hours.

... ... ...

Santana is at work the day of Rachel's first rehearsal. Finn has a professional day. That means he's the one sitting on her bed 'helping' her pick an outfit fit to meet Noah Puckerman for the first time and make a good impression on him and the rest of her costars.

"Finn, you have to have an opinion on this dress," she says, annoyed as she puts her hands on her hips and stands 10 feet away from him.

He looks terrified. And maybe just as annoyed as she is. "It's...nice. And blue. It's..." She rolls her eyes. "I don't know, Rachel! I have no idea what you want me to say."

"I just want to look professional, but..."

"Rach, I don't want to hear about you trying to make this dude...whatever. You should have done this yesterday with Santana," he says seriously.

She throws her hands in the air. She did do this with Santana last night. They narrowed it down to 12 outfits, and Finn is supposed to offer male perspective on the situation. Him constantly telling her she's like his sister isn't helping her. Obviously she should have thought this through a little better. She never should have let him do this.

"Maybe I should have just bought something new," she says exasperatedly. "I still have time. I could go..."

"Rachel," he says, standing up and walking over to her. He puts his hands on her upper arms and she looks up at him. "You know I love you, even when you get all crazy and weird like this." She scowls and he smiles. "But seriously, no one's gonna care what you wear. As soon as you open your mouth to sing, they're all gonna love you anyway, so whatever."

She's so happy she let him do this. The thing with Finn is, despite the fact that he's lovably clueless from time to time, he always somehow manages to say the right thing. Like that. Even if they aren't singing at rehearsal today.

"Thank you," she says. He smiles and she takes a big breath to calm her nerves. "Now," she says, turning around to look at her closet again, "what should I wear?"

He groans, but she ignores him, and they (she) eventually decide on something for her to wear that is both appropriate and attractive.

Her hands shake the entire way to the theater. She's glad she walked, though, because the sound of her flats on the sidewalk gives her something to focus on. She runs her lines in her head. God, she loves this play. Not only is the dialogue well-written and believable, but the music is amazing. She knows Noah Puckerman's voice is perfect for these songs. The demos she's been listening to feature some random and (if she's being honest) mediocre session singer. She can't wait to hear Noah Puckerman singing these songs.

She wonders if she'll be able to break out of the habit of calling him by his first and last names.

She walks into the rehearsal space and sees Patrick, so she walks over and they share a hug and trade kisses to the cheek. He tells her she looks amazing, and she breathes a little sigh of relief. So far both he and Finn think the way she looks for this occasion is great, so that gives her some more confidence.

She sees a couple more people she knows from previous shows or just the small world that is Broadway. There's this actor she absolutely adores, who was an understudy for Beauty And The Beast, and a girl she absolutely hates, who has a small supporting role in this production. She's seen the cast list and had to bite her tongue when Patrick told her Tara is great for this part. Actually, Rachel has to agree. Tara is playing the girl who tries to come between the two main characters, played by Rachel and Noah.

See, the play is the story of a man and a woman. They're not exactly from opposite worlds, but they aren't from the same one, either. He pursues her until she gives in, then promptly breaks her heart. The entire third act revolves around his personal growth and the apology he sings to her in the middle of a busy New York street. She tries to walk away, but he says (sings) magic words and she stops.

Of course, there's much more to the whole thing than just the love story. There are complex metaphors and themes of love and forgiveness and regret. Rachel loves the story and knows this production will be amazing. She's going to do everything in her power to make sure.

Part of that will have to be getting rid of these stupid nerves. Noah Puckerman isn't even in the room yet and she already feels star struck. She needs to calm herself down. She knows people get like this when they meet her. There's no reason for her to be nervous. They're coworkers, colleagues, and they're going to be working together for months. She's sure this feeling will go away as soon as she shakes his hand and they get through this table read. They need to sell the sexual tension and attraction on stage. She doesn't think that will be a problem on her part.

He walks through the door and everyone in the room turns to him. Rachel's heart does this ridiculous thing in her chest. He's wearing a grey button down shirt and what looks like a very expensive pair of jeans. He's got Gucci sneakers on and his phone in his hand, script rolled up (she'd chastise him for that if he were anyone else). He looks up and sees everyone looking at him, so he offers that trademark grin to the room. Rachel watches Patrick walk over to him, shake his hand and start talking as they head in her direction.

Rachel can't even remember who she was just talking to, but the person left and now she's standing alone in front of Noah Puckerman (Patrick is there, but she barely registers it).

"Hey," Noah Puckerman says casually, jutting his chin at her. "I'm Puck."

"I know who you are," she says quickly. She wants to kick herself. He smirks. She thinks he likes that everyone knows exactly who he is and probably what they can expect from him. She extends her hand for him to shake. "I'm Rachel Berry."

His eyes are even more gorgeous up close. "Rachel Berry." There's something in his voice she's never heard before, not in any interview. It's not exactly unpleasant, but it is unsettling. "Never heard of you."

She's taken aback, knits her brow as she takes her hand from his. Everyone seems to be watching them, so she makes her face more neutral again before anyone can notice that she's suddenly very uncomfortable. She didn't expect that. She puts on a soft smile as she looks at him. He tucks his phone back into his pocket. She likes that she has his attention now.

"I've been in several shows. Most recently, Beauty And The Beast," she explains. She doesn't necessarily like that she has to, but she understands that he's busy and knowing which Broadway performers have been in which shows most likely isn't high on his list of priorities. "I didn't know you had an interest in theater."

He scoffs, looks at her like she's crazy. "I don't," he says seriously. "I don't give a shit about this stuff. I like the money and my manager's a fucking jerk. I didn't have a choice, so here I am." He pulls out his script, holds it up a little before letting it fall to his side. "I don't really get the whole Broadway thing."

Rachel sputters. How can you not 'get' Broadway? This is her life. Performing is her life. She really thought he, of all people, would understand that.

It's crazy, how celebrity makes you think you know people. It is very clear that this 'Puck' is nothing like the Noah Puckerman who writes gorgeous lyrics and performs on darkened stages with an acoustic guitar across his knees.

"Pardon me?" she asks.

He shrugs again (it annoys her) and glances around the room, not even looking at her as he speaks. "Don't get why you wouldn't just want to do TV or movies. They pay more and people actually care about it and shit." He looks back to her. She has no idea how to respond to this. "Plus, you don't have to live in fucking New York to do it."

Rachel can't possibly stand here and talk to him about this anymore. She needs to get away from him before her opinion of him is completely shattered and she ends up hating the music he makes that she's loved for years.

She decides she's going to let the content speak for itself.

"We should start," she says, looking up at him. "I think you'll find there's more to Broadway than what you've been so quick to assume."

She walks away because she cannot believe she just spoke to him like that.

However, she knows for a fact (she's not supposed to, but she accidentally saw a salary list on Patrick's assistant's computer screen the other day) that she's getting paid more than him. It made her feel great at the time. It feels even better now.

Puck watches this chick walk away. She's crazy hot. Too bad she's kind of a bitch. She's wearing this black dress with little white polkadots on it, tiny little straps. The dress is pretty short, and she's got these great legs and this little waist. Her hair goes down to the middle of her back, and yeah, she's fucking sexy. Making out with her on stage and dry humping or whatever the script calls for isn't going to be all that difficult.

He sits down next to her because Patrick tells him to. She avoids eye contact as she opens her script. Hers is all perfect, with none of the pages tattered. Talk about OCD. He opens his to the first page of dialogue and bends the cover back, runs his hand down it to crease it. He sees her looking at him as if she really wants to ask him what the fuck he's doing. He glances at her, sends her a wink, and she looks back to her own page.

He wonders if she's a fan. The first thing she said to him was 'I know who you are', so she probably is. She looks about his age, and she's all serious and uptight and tense, and he thinks it could be a lot of fun to change all that about her. Well, except the age thing, but whatever. And her body has to be awesome under that dress.

Fuck Kurt. No matter what that dude says, Puck isn't going to heed his advice to 'do not even dare to think about sleeping with a costar. On stage chemistry can make or break a performance.' If Kurt saw this woman, he'd want to bang her, too. Okay, if he wasn't gay, he'd want to bang her.

Puck's a pretty good judge of people. He sees the way Patrick is looking at Rachel as she starts reading from her script. Dude wants her, if he hasn't already had her. Puck would straight up assume that's how she got the part, but she seems way to snotty for that. She'd probably slap him if he even asked her. She's one of these chicks who thinks talent is everything.

Maybe that's why she's stuck on Broadway.

After they read through the dialogue, which is apparently all the leads are doing today (the dancers or whatever are coming in to go over choreography, and he's thankful he doesn't have to do any of that shit), he catches Rachel carefully tucking her script back into her bag before saying goodbye to Patrick. She heads for the door, and Puck follows after her.

"Hey," he calls out, jogging after her once she's in the hallway of this building they're in. She turns to look at him, offers a little smile (he doesn't think she wants to, but whatever). "What are you doing right now?"

"Going home," she answers.

"Can I come?"

She stops in the middle of the hall and turns around. She's still walking in front of him, so he nearly runs into her. He takes that opportunity by the horns and decides he can pretend a little. He's an actor now, right? He presses his body against her, uses the hand that isn't holding his script and holds her around the waist. Her dress is soft, and he's totally looking at her tits before he realizes she's staring at him with a seriously pissed off look on her face. He doesn't so much care about that. Her body feels fucking amazing against his. He'd love to get her naked and feel it the right way.

She does not like the innuendo in his voice, the way he said that, asked that question.

She hates that Santana may have been right. She hates even more that all those reports of what a womanizer he is (man slut has been the term of late) have been right.

"I beg your pardon?" she asks, pulling her body away from his. She hates herself for thinking his large hand felt good on her side.

He gives her his best grin, crosses his arms because he knows it makes him look good. "We should hang out, right? Build chemistry or whatever."

She actually laughs. That's just about the worst line she's ever heard. He must get by on his looks alone. (She doesn't doubt that he could.)

"I think we can manage that just fine in rehearsals, Noah." She turns to walk away, but she knows he's right behind her again.

"Call me Puck," he insists.


"'Cause I want you to."

She turns around again, puts her hands on her hips. He doesn't touch her this time. He's got one hand beneath his shirt, scratching his stomach. That shouldn't really be attractive. She's seen photos of him shirtless before. The little glimpse of tanned torso she can see should not send her heart racing. She chalks it up to the fact that he's standing in front of her right now, not just on the page of a magazine or a computer screen.

"So I should just do what you want me to?" she asks, annoyed. "Frankly, you're convincing me very quickly that would be a terrible idea."

He furrows his brow and stares down at her, puts both hands on his hips. "The fuck is that supposed to mean?"

"It means your charm leaves much to be desired. Your natural charisma might be enough for a lot of women, but it's not enough for me. I've known you only a few hours and you've already made disparaging remarks on my livelihood and lifestyle. You're delusional if you think I'm going to invite you to my place and do what I think it's safe you assume you expect."

Holy fuck, that was a lot of big words coming from this one tiny woman. He thinks that whole speech basically translates into 'Fuck you.'

"So that's a no, then," he says. She lets out a huff and turns around again. But really? He's pissed. She doesn't fucking know him. Most people don't. And yeah, he said some shit about Broadway, but since when is it a fucking crime to say what you're thinking? "Well, this'll be fun."

"What are you talking about?" she asks, sighing as he falls into step beside her.

"Didn't think my costar would be such a bitch," he says, and it's a little harsh or whatever, but it's not like she's really given him much of a chance, either.

She turns to him and scowls. "Well, you haven't exactly been what I expected, either," she bites out.

She walks out the door and he wishes he hadn't signed that fucking contract, because he really doesn't want to do this shit anymore. He fucking hates New York, and Broadway is stupid and overrated, and this Rachel chick is fucking brutal.

He can't believe he gave up a couple months chilling in Miami for this bullshit. If he didn't owe his entire career to Ian, he'd fucking fire the guy right now.

... ... ...

"...And then he had the nerve to ask me if he could 'come' to my house!" Rachel cries, using air quotes and ranting and gripping the stem of her wine glass tightly as Santana makes dinner. It's a rare occurrence and Rachel doesn't want to interrupt it.

"Sounds like someone wants our little starlet in his bed. Or your bed. Wait, what was that latest thing? On a road case backstage at a show?" Santana asks, barely able to keep herself from laughing.

Rachel doesn't appreciate it. Not at all. She's trying to express just how disappointing it is to learn that Noah Puckerman really is the prize ass the media tends to make him out to be. His personality is completely abrasive and nearly intolerable, and she's going to have to pretend to be in love with him. She's beginning to think that's going to take much, much more effort than originally anticipated. This morning, she was worried about making a fool of herself and fangirling over him. Now she's wondering how on earth she's going to make their on-stage love affair seem at all believable.

"Santana, this isn't funny," Rachel says seriously.

"It's a little funny," Santana insists. Rachel whines and lays her head on the counter she's sitting at. "Rachel, I've told you for years that guy is a total jackass."

"But his music is...it's so good!" Rachel argues. "I just don't understand how someone who writes such beautiful music can be so...disgusting and closed minded."

"You need to stop freaking out about it. You have to work with him. Why can't you just turn a blind eye to what an asshole he is?"

"Because it's impossible!" Rachel cries. Santana rolls her eyes. "It's like when you find out there's no Santa Claus."

"You're Jewish."

Rachel rolls her eyes this time. "You know my fathers raised me to be well-rounded, and plenty of Jewish families still adopt the idea of Santa Claus as a holiday tradition," Rachel explains. Santana laughs again. "Anyway, it's like that. You can't just wake up the next morning and pretend Santa is still real. It's ruined. The whole illusion is ruined and...and it's all a lie!"

Santana stops chopping celery and puts her hand on her hip, looks at Rachel with a smile. "You know, it's really too bad you're not at all dramatic."

Rachel lets out a huff and grabs her wine glass, gets up and starts towards the hall. "I can't talk to you about this."

"Come on, Rachel," Santana says. There's still a little laughter in her voice. "Rach."

"Forget it! I'll just run my lines and pray he doesn't choke on his own ego!"

Finn walks through the door just in time to hear Rachel shouting that from her room, and he looks to Santana.

"Don't ask," she insists, shaking her head.

"Yeah, I don't wanna know."

... ... ...

"Oh! I forgot to ask! What's Rachel Berry like?" Kurt asks, practically giddy. Puck has just poured himself a glass of JD and Kurt is asking him all sorts of stupid and annoying questions about the show and mixing himself a martini at the bar in Puck's place. "I saw her two years ago in this tiny little theater in Brooklyn. She's fabulous."

"She's a raging bitch," Puck says, laughing a bit. Kurt's jaw drops. "Seriously. She's got fucking attitude. She hates me already."

Kurt puts his hand on his hip and narrows his eyes. "What did you do?"

Puck really doesn't appreciate that Kurt is just assuming the whole thing is his fault. Totally isn't.

"I didn't do anything! She's just a bitch. She's got a rod up her ass, and I don't mean that in the way you like," Puck says. Kurt rolls his eyes. Fuck that. Puck thinks his jokes are hilarious. "All I said was that I don't get the big deal about Broadway."

Kurt lets out a disappointed breath, braces himself against the bar and closes his eyes. "And?"

"And told her we should hang out and work on our chemistry."

Kurt laughs. "And?"

It's fucking annoying that Kurt knows him so well.

"And called her a bitch when she shot me down."

"Puck!" Kurt gasps. "She's one of the most promising Broadway stars! She turned down a role in Rent in London so she could do Beauty And The Beast here. Do you understand that dedication? Can you even comprehend how hard that woman works to hone her talent?"

"Hey," Puck says, offended. "You don't think I worked my ass off, too?"

"I didn't say that. It's just different in this world. She has to sing, and dance, and act. You write some songs, put on a tight tee shirt, stand in the middle of the stage and everyone loves you."

They both know it's a little more complex than that.

"Whatever," Puck says, taking a swig of his drink. "She's stupid and I don't like her."

Kurt starts laughing and swishes his drink around in his glass. "Apparently since you're seven years old all of a sudden, I'll remind you that you met her once and you really shouldn't judge people so quickly, Noah."

Puck sets his jaw. "Don't call me that."

Kurt sips his martini and shrugs his shoulder. "Just don't be an asshole to her. She's better than you, and you're lucky you're even allowed in the same room as her." His phone rings and he grabs it off the bar, checking the call display. "Ooo! It's that wench from US Weekly that we hate. You want to see a real bitch? Watch and compare."

Puck sits there, sipping his whiskey as he listens to Kurt talk on the phone. It really fucking sucks that no one's on his side here. Rachel really isn't anything special if you ask him, and he doesn't get why Kurt's got his panties all knotted up over her.

And she's better than him? No fucking way. In no universe is the chick he met today any better than he is. That's totally not right, and he's pissed at Kurt for saying it.

But yeah, he hates that cunt from US Weekly, and watching Kurt tear her a new one is kind of a nice end to his day.