A/N: A scene from A Night of Neglect. Because you know, you just know there must be a story there...


let's meet in the middle


"Noah Puckerman, out of everything you've ever gotten me mixed up in, this is absolutely the worst! And just so you know, I'm including that time when we were eleven and you somehow convinced me to sneak a bottle of Manischewitz out to the backyard for you during Rabbi Wiseman's Passover Seder!" Rachel hisses into his ear.

Despite the fact that Rachel's knee is way too close to his junk for this to be a good idea, he almost laughs. "Shit Rachel, I ought to be blaming you for that! I puked purple for like three hours. I still feel a little sick whenever I see the label."

She's still glaring. "This it it. My life is over. Principal Figgins won't be able to recommend me without reservation! I won't get into Julliard and be discovered when a Broadway producer scours the practice rooms and performance halls for a fresh young ingenue!

Should he bring up the fact that it was her idea in the first place? Probably not. See above.

"Rach...," he tries to interrupt, freeing up a hand in the tight space to push her hair behind her ears. (It's tickling.)

"And while a news-friendly scandal can be good publicity, a record for breaking and entering while still in high school wasn't exactly how I wanted to wrap up volume three of my definitive autobiography!"

"Rach! Breathe! First of all, it's not breaking and entering: I've got a key. Unlawful entry, tops. Second, that security guard is going to make another sweep in about two minutes, so unless you want to spend the night in county lock-up, I suggest you shut it. And third, since you're on top of me, you either need to stop moving around or else move around a lot more."

She gasps and slaps his shoulder and the movement grinds her pelvis against his. He grits his teeth and puts a hand on her hip to still her, because Rachel on top of him? Hot. Rachel pissed at him? Also hot, but a little scary and she probably doesn't need to be under the (totally correct) impression that his body at least is loving this.

Fuck, too late.

Her eyes widen and she squeaks, "Noah!"

"Look, it happens babe," he says unrepentantly but their conversation comes to screeching halt when the door at the end of the corridor opens, heavy footsteps approach and the light of a flashlight bobs along the floor and walls. She buries her head into his shoulder while he pats her back gently, willing the stupid rent-a-cop to move along and not check the limited floor space underneath the examination table that is literally the only place to hide in the entire room.

A minute becomes three and then five and it figures that they've got the one security guard in the universe who actually takes pride in his work. There's not much to do but try not to think about what he's obviously going to be thinking about and just for kicks he starts wondering what his life would be like if he actually knew how to say 'no' to her.

Ever. About anything.

Just for example, he probably wouldn't have spent the day lugging around a bunch of freaking heavy humidifiers and and helping her color-sort the M&M's out of a dozen jumbo bags. (What makes it even worse is that she clearly has never heard of the urban myth concerning the green ones and as a result, all of his innuendos were completely wasted.)

He certainly wouldn't be risking losing the community service gig Artie got him, or worse, blowing his parole trying to make his escape after sneaking a litter of Pomeranian puppies back into the Allen County Humane Society. Completely unused Pomeranian puppies, he might add, not that he's necessarily complaining. He's a big picture kind of guy and without those little yappers, and the Mercedes' diva-tantrum courtesy of his sort-of-girlfriend, Rachel's tight little body would almost certainly not be pressed up against him right now.

(She's strangely resistant to his charms. Crazy girl.)

Truthfully though, it's not like anything is going to happen, even if he can feel every inch of her, even if her hand isn't gripping his collar any more, but instead has slipped down and is stroking his bicep. He can just see enough of her face in the dim light to realize that her eyes are squeezed tightly shut, so she's probably just choreographing 'Cell Block Tango' in her head. It's kind of (really) hot. But you know, she's still all about Finn and her perfect leading man dreams and him, he's been having a good time with Lauren, like yesterday when they lobbed pee balloons at the hockey team off the roof of the school.

Besides, he's tired of being the asshole who does that kind of thing. Personal growth or something. And since his promise to be nicer to people morphed into a resolution to be nicer to Jews and eventually just became this thing where he takes care of Rachel, he thinks he owes it to God to do a really good job with that. (And if God is keeping score, the booze he provided for her party was totally necessary and later on he did make sure she vomited in the potted plant instead of in her own hair, so it should count.)

He just...her likes her, okay? More than he should maybe, and he likes that he's the one she turns to when she needs something. As for the future, who the fuck knows? There's a lot of high school left and anyway, it's not like there's going to be some kind of force-field around New York where she's the only one who gets to get in.

Like other people could if they wanted to, shit, the Greyhound bus to NYC leaves Columbus three times a day. Or so he's heard.

"Noah? Noah, I think he's gone," Rachel whispers into his ear and he's brought back to the present moment with a jolt. Security Dude is finally back to his comfy chair and portable TV at the receptionist's desk, and they should probably get moving before he really does get her in trouble. They somehow manage to shimmy their way out from under the table and now that she's not in imminent danger of arrest, she's relatively cheerful again, simply rolling her eyes back at him when his hands are all over her ass as he boosts her out the window. (Sure, he could have avoided it, but really, have you met him?)

The rest of the evening is way too short.

He drives her home and spends the entire time flying the last of the M&M pick-up lines by her ("Come on baby, I can have you melting in my mouth and my hands...") and she spends it shooting him down ("I'm reasonably certain you've tried that one twice already, Puckerman.") and singing him the song that she was supposed to sing at the concert. He has to laugh at that because in what universe is Celine Dion a neglected artist? She huffs a little bit when when she tells him in all seriousness that she's the one who's neglected, but he can tell by the way that she's biting her bottom lip that she's trying to hold back a smile.

When he pulls over to the curb in front of her house, she leans over and kisses him on the cheek. "Thank you for everything, Noah. I never would have gotten everything ready in time if it wasn't for you."

He shrugs and tries to ignore the heat of her side pressed up along his (it gets slightly easier with practice). "Guess you're finally going to have to forgive me for turning you into a bad girl at Rabbi Wiseman's Passover Seder, huh?"

Even if she doesn't realize it, she's half-flirting with him when she hops out of the truck, tosses her hair back behind her shoulders and looks up at him through her lashes. "I guess we'll just have to wait and see, Noah!"

"We will," he says, totally seriously, and she tilts her head curiously at him, like all of a sudden she's trying to figure out a puzzle that she's never been confronted with before. He throws her a wink and shakes his head at her, putting her off for now. "Another time maybe."

For Rachel Berry? Yeah, he can wait.


A/N: Thanks so much for reading! I'd love to know what you think.