The day he has to leave, she wakes up in his bed with him tracing shapes on her back, dangerously close to her ass. She doesn't mind, really, because a glance at the window tells her it's somewhere around mid-morning and the sun is out and he's leaving in a matter of hours to go back to L.A. She doesn't want him to go and she's being a brat about it. She doesn't move, doesn't want to let on that she's awake. If she's awake, he's going to have sex with her to avoid talking about the fact that today is the day he boards a plane.

She's not stupid and naive. She knows this isn't the end of them, and she trusts him. She made him promise they'd talk every day, even if it was just for a few minutes, and he insisted he's really good at writing dirty texts. She knows this already.

"Rach." She doesn't move. He laughs a little, leans down and rests his chin on her shoulder blade. "You're awake."

"I am not," she pouts. He chuckles harder and curves his hand around her hip. "If we don't wake up, you can't leave."

He kisses her shoulder, tugs on her hip a little so she'll roll over onto her back. She doesn't know how long he's been awake, but she can tell it's been a while. She knows he's not the type to just watch her sleep, but he's definitely not above just touching her with the tips of his fingers while he watched the ceiling.

"If we don't wake up, I can't make love to you before I get on a plane."

She smiles and blinks a few times. "How difficult was it for you to just say 'make love'?" she asks, biting back a laugh.

"Pretty hard." He rolls her beneath him and waits a second, doesn't kiss her just yet. "I'm totally capable of doing it, though."

She giggles, nods. She knows that. "I really love you," she whispers after a moment, looks into his eyes.

"I really love you, too, Ohio." He brushes his nose against hers and kisses her quickly.

He's barely through the door to his place in L.A. before he's grabbing his guitar and reaching for a pen. He's got lyrics in his head he needs to write down. First, he texts her to tell her he landed safe and she writes back Good. xoxo.

... ... ...

Santana is sitting in the lobby of Rachel's apartment building with a bag by her feet and her phone in her hand when Rachel comes back from a meeting with the stylist Kurt recommended.

"What are you doing here?" Rachel asks, smiling at her friend.

Santana shrugs her shoulder and stands. "I gave you a day to be sad about him leaving. Now we're having a girl's day and you're getting the fuck over it."

She picks up the bag and Rachel can see a few wedding magazines inside, laughs as they head to the escalator. "You mean put the attention back on you and the wedding," she says, brow raised.

"Oh, please," Santana says. "God forbid I get a little bit of the attention, Rachel. Miss Broadway Star dating Noah Puckerman."

She's teasing, mostly, and that's good because if she were serious, Rachel would have to point out the way things were when they were younger. And the way things were was the complete opposite. The head cheerleader making Rachel's life something of a living hell.

Anyway. They're over it.

"I think I found a dress I want to wear," Rachel says as she unlocks the door to her apartment. "It's the colour you want."

"Sounds good," Santana says. Rachel really is happy that Santana, though she wants a 'perfect' wedding, isn't a bitchy bride. It's kind of a miracle, if she thinks about it. She looks through the apartment and then back at Rachel. "Okay, are we really not going to talk about him?"

Rachel rolls her eyes. "No, we're not. There's nothing to talk about. People have long distance relationships all the time."

"You don't."

"Santana," Rachel sighs. "It's fine. We're fine. I'm going to see him soon anyway, so I'm not thinking about him not being here right now."

Santana raises her brow and shakes her head. "Yes, you are."

They talk solely about the wedding after that, because Santana is right and Rachel honestly doesn't want to think about it. She'll get used to it. She doesn't have a choice.

... ... ...

It takes two weeks in L.A. before he's photographed with some slut in too short a skirt. The pictures end up fucking everywhere and like most of these shitty, grainy pap photos, it's not at all what it looks like.

Fuck, he hopes Rachel believes that.

Look, he's a celebrity. He's hot and young and famous, and that means that when he goes to a birthday celebration for another celebrity at a club on a Friday night, he's going to have pictures show up on the internet by the early hours of Saturday morning.

This chick just came up to him, drunk off her ass and reeking of Chanel No. 5 (because yeah, instant class) and grabbed onto his arms just above his elbows. He put his hands on her waist to steady her because she looked like she was about to fall backwards. She then proceeded to tell him she was in New York and saw the play and she wanted to fuck his brains out. He was not at all interested, and he told her that, but she leaned up so her tits were pressed against his chest and told him she didn't care if he had a girlfriend. Then he walked away before he said some really terrible shit, and left the club sober and alone and went home. He was going to call Rachel, but the time difference meant it was really late in New York and he didn't want to wake her up.

He's regretting that decision now.

He calls her when Kurt sends him the proof of the Us Weekly cover that's coming out in a few days, with one of these grainy pictures blown up and a smaller one of he and Rachel. The tagline reads Noah Puckerman Cheats! and underneath it says Broadway Star Devastated.

He hasn't even talked to Rachel. It hasn't even been 12 hours since he went out.

Fucking media.


"Rachel, you know..."

"I know," she cuts him off. He sighs in relief or frustration. "I certainly hope if you were going to cheat on me, you'd pick someone with a little more class than that whore."

He wants to laugh, because yeah, she can be a bitch when she wants to be. He's just happy it's not directed at him.

"I wouldn't cheat on you."

"I know that," she says again. "Kurt emailed me. He said he's going to - and I quote - maim that backstabbing, lowlife bitch of a reporter with his bare hands and make sure they don't print this garbage."

That's better than what Kurt said on the phone to him this morning, to be honest. He's never heard Kurt say so many curse words in all his life, and honestly? It's kind of awesome that Kurt's all mama-bear over Rachel because they're friends, too. It's totally going to help Puck out with this kind of shit.

"I shouldn't have gone out," he says.

"Puck, it was your friend's birthday. You shouldn't have to stop living your life just because people want to document and misconstrue your every action."

She's like, an angel or some shit. Honestly, she's the coolest woman ever and he does not know why she's with him, but he's pretty fucking happy that she is. He's really glad she's on his side no matter what, and it feels incredible to know that it takes more than a bad picture of a stupid situation to make her doubt him or shake her trust in him.

"You're the shit, baby."

She laughs loudly into the phone and asks how his night was, otherwise.

Us Weekly doesn't run the story, and when Puck asks Kurt what he had to do to get them to pull it, he honestly doesn't know if the guy is joking when he says, "Promised them the rights to yours and Rachel's wedding pictures."

... ... ...

She's in L.A. in a recording studio, sitting on a large, comfortable sofa while he sits in the booth with his acoustic across his knees and headphones on. This is only his fifth day of recording for his album, and so far she's only heard the instrumental version of this one song that isn't even complete, and she loves it. It's different from his other stuff. Softer, slightly, and less rock. There's more of a singer-songwriter edge to it, but not in a lame way. He's not attempting to pander to the masses or anything like that.

It's got more heart in it.

Which is kind of terrifying, since she thought his previous records had a lot of that, too. That said, she didn't know him like she does now when she listened last.

She's dying to listen to the lyrics. She hasn't heard any of his new material, not even the things he was working on in New York. He's very closed-lipped about his writing, which she supposes she can understand, but she wants to hear everything, so he's being mean by not letting her.

He comes in after he's finished recording the guitar part, and the sound engineer gives him a flash drive containing the unmixed version, and they call it a day. He finishes the rest of Rachel's tea without asking, not that she minds, and holds her hand while they leave the studio. There are photographers around, and he doesn't seem to care and she tries not to. They bump into a musician friend of his before they get to Puck's car, so the three of them chat and ignore the click of cameras, and Puck kisses Rachel's temple before he pulls open the door to his car for her.

She wants him to play the recording and sing it for her as soon as they get to his (amazing) house, but the drive is still in his pocket as he cooks dinner and talks about how good it is to be back in the studio, and this producer is one of his favourites, and blah, blah, blah, a bunch of things she should care about, but doesn't.

"Puck!" she pouts when he sets another glass of wine in front of her.

"What?" he laughs.

"Would you please just sing it for me?" He starts shaking his head, so she hops down off the stool in his kitchen and grabs ahold of the sides of his shirt. "I miss hearing you sing. Part of the reason I fell in love with you was because of your singing."

She's laying it on really fucking thick, and he knows how messed up it is that it's totally working. The girl could ask him to cut off his arm for her and he'd seriously consider it.

"Fine," he says, and she squeals and jumps up and down all excitedly, and maybe it's the two glasses of wine she's had already, but she's cute and he kisses her before he grabs his laptop and pulls up the song.

Fuck, he's gotta sing this shit live to her? If he's doing that, he's doing it for real. He grumbles something and she looks confused until he gets his guitar from its stand and sits down on his sofa. She comes in and sits on the table across from him. He's going to sing this song with her sitting two feet away from him. Not intimidating at all.

He sings about Ohio. She's basically melting into a puddle on his coffee table as he sings about their home state and a girl with pretty brown eyes and a 'come kiss me smile'.

Jesus, how in the world is she supposed to respond to this? He took the nickname he's had for her practically since they met and turned it into a song about her, about them.

When he's done and waiting for her reaction, she takes the guitar from his hands and sets it gently on the sofa, then grabs the front of his shirt and pulls him to the edge of the couch.

"That was the most fucking romantic thing you have ever done," she tells him. She kisses him and he's smiling, and their dinner is in the oven, but she adds, "Sexy, too," and honestly, she doesn't care if she doesn't eat for three days as long as she has him right now.

He meets her in his bedroom after turning off the oven, and she's not undressed, because she tells him she wants him to do that for her, and when she murmurs that she loves him against his bare shoulder, all he feels is relieved that she liked that song. Well, he feels like he's fucking in love with her, too.

... ... ...

He waves her into the booth after he's done recording the final guitar part for the song she's watched him work on all day. He covers her ears with the headphones he was just wearing, pulls up the sheet music and lyrics and winks at her. She gapes at him, but he smacks her ass once and kisses her twice.

She sings the hell out of the song, once she's got the melody down. She's a fucking natural in the booth and her voice sounds incredible recorded when he listens to the playback of the first couple takes. He gets chills when she finishes her best take yet and her face is all flushed, breathing all heavy.

"You're amazing," he says against her hair, arms wrapped around her as they listen to her singing surrounding them in the studio.

"If you keep writing me songs, I may be forced to stay," she mumbles against his throat. He chuckles and holds her tighter, but shit, he could totally do that.

He tells her when he wrote the song and she loses her mind and pushes at his chest. It's not like it hurts or anything, 'cause she's sitting on top of him and they're in his bed, but still. She's all smirking when she asks if he's written any other songs for or about her. He says, "I'm not telling," and she fucking moans because she definitely knows that was a yes.

... ... ...

Tony nominations come out and he swears she's the only one surprised that she's up for one.

He's not, but he doesn't care. She's nominated and so is their show, and the only thing that sucks about any of it is that he's in L.A. and she's in New York celebrating with her friends and not him.

... ... ...

They're in their home state state together for the first time, and he's driving a convertible with the top down and his girl beside him, and fuck, life could be a hell of a lot worse.

He's never really been into weddings. He gets the point, really, but he thinks maybe people who don't have attention on them all the fucking time are probably more interested in this shit than people who do. He and Rachel have talked about this. Not getting married or anything, because fuck, not yet, but about the whole wedding thing as it pertains to the fact that her friends (who are becoming his friends) are having one. Santana's parents are apparently pretty well off, and are paying for practically everything. And evidently Finn's mom and step-dad aren't hurting either, because they're paying for the honeymoon and Finn and Santana are spending two weeks all expenses paid in Aruba.

So it's a huge church wedding. Well, huge by small town standards. Apparently there are about 200 people coming, and Santana's dress cost eight grand (Jesus) and the food is supposed to be out of this world and there's an open bar. Thank god. Puck doesn't know if he'll be able to make it through this whole thing without one.

Look, it's not that he doesn't want to be here. He wants to be with Rachel, and Finn and Santana have both said they're looking forward to him being there. He traveled under an alias so there'd be no photographers around other than the one being paid by the bride's mother. He just really hopes that no one will put more attention on him (and Rachel, and he and Rachel together) than they put on the couple getting married.

The rehearsal dinner is kind of a good thing, then, because it gives people a chance to let the shine come off his star (that's what Rachel says, obviously) before the day.

To be honest, he's kind of more worried about meeting her dads for the first time than anything else. When they were in New York for the show, he and Rachel weren't really anything to be talked about, so he didn't meet them. She's insistent her fathers are laid back and happy that she's happy, but...It's still him meeting her dads. It's kind of a big deal.

It's kind of important that they like him, you know, considering how much he likes her.

"I love it right now," she says randomly over the radio.

"Love what?" he laughs.

"Everything! This. You. Ohio. The wedding."

He lets her put her hand in his. "Okay."

Then they get to her house, a nice place in a nice neighbourhood with a basketball net in the driveway and all sorts of flowers around the front porch. It's like, the nicest lawn he's ever seen and she says her daddy has always used landscaping as his stress relief. He'd mention that most dudes just have sex for that, but then she's grabbing his hand and leading him to the door. There's no one inside, but he's looking around to check things out. Her dads are on the back deck with a bottle of wine sitting on the table and a few glasses there. They both get up and Rachel's squealing, and while one of her dads hugs her, the other one hugs him.

Okay, then. He's not so worried about them not liking him.

"So good to finally meet you!"

"Yeah, likewise," he says, smiling. It's really hard not to smile around this family, okay?

"Wine? We have wine. And there's beer inside if you'd rather. Actually..."

Puck laughs and holds out his hand. "Wine is good, thanks."

He pours for himself and Rachel while they ask about flights and make small talk, and he drapes his arm around her chair once he gets even more comfortable. They're up until like, 1:00 a.m. and realizing that they've both definitely had too much to drink to drive to their hotel for the night.

That's how he finds himself with Rachel curled up in his arms in her small, childhood bed, staring up at the glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling before he falls asleep.

... ... ...

She cries through the entire ceremony and when she catches Puck's eye in the church, he just smirks and shakes his head at her. He'd told her she'd do this, and she didn't want to believe she would. She should have known. She was just too proud to admit it. She doesn't know why; her best friends are getting married, so it's to be expected that she'd be a little emotional.

And seeing him sitting there with her fathers as even they cry (after all, they've known Finn and Santana practically as long as she has) is kind of something. He's wearing a black suit with a straight black tie, and it's all a very simple look on him, but that doesn't mean he doesn't look absolutely incredible.

As she's walking back up the aisle with Finn's best friend (one of her oldest friends, too) Mike, she sees Puck patting her dad's back and starts laughing.

She and Mike both wanted their significant others to sit with them at the head table, and Santana had no problem with that, even though her mother was squawking about breaking tradition or something like that. Rachel grabs Puck as soon as they're done taking all the photos, and kisses him in a roomful of people because she doesn't care who sees them or has a camera right now.

"Hey," he laughs.

"Thanks for being my dad's shoulder to cry on," she giggles.

He shakes his head and slides his hand down her back. "We totally bonded." She laughs loudly and he wraps his arms around her, and over his shoulder she can see that several people are watching them. "You look incredible."

It dawns on her that they haven't seen one another since she left the hotel this morning in her jeans and tee shirt to go to the salon. He didn't see her hair pinned up like this, or her makeup, or her dress. Well, he saw the dress because she actually bought it in L.A. when she was visiting him once.

"Thank you."

He winks and she pulls him with her towards their table, sits down next to Santana with him on the other side of her. Well, he doesn't sit down until he's hugged Santana and kissed her cheek, told her congratulations and shaken Finn's hand.

She gets him to dance with her for a few slow songs, and when he's getting her another glass of champagne, someone asks her if she's next.

She doesn't have an answer, and then she and Puck are making out in the hall near the bathrooms when Santana tosses the bouquet, so she supposes she'll just have to wait and see.

... ... ...

He's finished recording his album and in New York for press, The Tonys, and Rachel.

(That last one seems way more important than the others.)

They've been together for like, a year, and that's just kind of crazy to him, because he's never been with anyone this long and honestly, he doesn't want to not be with her. He nearly snapped the other day when some asshole photographer got a little too close to her on the street and made her uncomfortable enough to cling to Puck's arm and say his name kind of desperately. He's protective over her, which he's thinking is pretty natural, considering.

The night of the Tonys, she wears Dior and they walk the red carpet together and this is totally her realm and he's totally letting the attention stay on her, because she looks incredible and she is incredible and she deserves it. He knows a few people they see, and she knows everyone, and even Patrick looks kind of happy to see him, which is pretty fucked up. Last he saw the guy, he was making it pretty clear that he hated the fact that Puck got Rachel.

Whatever. Puck didn't care about what the guy thought then and he doesn't care now.

Her name is announced as the winner and she seems completely frozen in her seat. The only part of her that moves is her hand to her mouth. When he whispers in her ear to get her ass up onto the stage, he's laughing and she turns to him, puts her hand on the back of his neck and kisses him with the cameras on them. The whole room is on their feet and she cries through most of her acceptance speech.

Yeah, he's in it. He honestly feels like he's gonna puke, he's so fucking proud. She says, "I love you," and blows him a kiss from the stage, and fucking everyone will be talking about this tomorrow, but he doesn't give a shit.

She holds onto her award with a death grip at the party they go to.

He doesn't really care about that either, because her other hand is holding his just as tightly.