A.N.: I blame all of you for this, in the best way possible. I couldn't leave this alone. There's still enough of me that loves Glee, that believes in it, that wants to try to fix this season. So here I am, writing a semi-canon piece and trying not to lose hope. Come with me, and remember the first 13.

Be With You

I always thought it'd be me. Puck ran a hand over his head, dropping heavily onto the bench. Holy crap, he's really gonna - He blinked, focusing on Coach Beiste and the recruiter. Cooter. What the heck was with that anyway? Finn, not the Cooter. He snickered. I know more about the Cooter than Hudson ever will. Damn it, that brought him back to thinking about Finn. And Rachel. And...

Shelby. He should be thinking about Shelby. Puck took a deep breath, closing his eyes and clenching his fists. Shelby, and Beth. He was part of a family, getting everything he could have dreamed of - acceptance and understanding and maybe Rach would turn him down in the end anyway and -

Oh, come on. Puck's eyes flew open again. Shelby. Beth. Life was good.

So why was he about to lose his lunch? And why lie to Hudson about condoms? Puck knew better than anyone that Finn needed all the help he could get. What did San say? A sweaty sack of potatoes?

Wait. But maybe that was why Rach was being so weird. Yeah, so maybe it was weird that he was banging her mom, but if she and Hudson were going all the way, she needed someone to talk to who'd tell her straight up. And none of the girls would be able to deal with her questions so...

Screw it. Maybe he couldn't help Hudson, but Rachel, he could handle.

xxx

Rachel smiled as Finn rounded the corner, turning back to her locker with a sigh. "Oh! Noah!" She jumped, closing her locker with a shaking hand. "How can I help you?"

"Actually, I'm here about how I can help you," Puck retorted. "Word on the street is Berry's berries are about to be plucked."

"Word on the -" Rachel flushed, brushing her hair back. "Did - did Finn say something to -"

"Just me, Rach, chill. But I figured I'd offer my expertise to you too." He quirked a brow. "So? Anything I can help with?"

Rachel's eyes went wide. "You want – to ask if I need –" She blinked and inhaled slowly. "I think I'm all right. Though I do appreciate the offer, strange as it may be."

He shrugged. "I just know Hudson, and I wanna make sure you're like, prepared, okay?"

Rachel snorted a laugh. "Noah, of all people to worry about being prepared, I believe I should be last on your list. Quite possibly behind you."

He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, but I'm serious here. I feel like, responsible for –"

She shuddered. "Please, Noah, do not tell me that sleeping with my mother makes you feel responsible for me, all right? I need never consider such a thing."

"We haven't. Yet. We just mess around."

"You just -" Rachel slapped a hand to her forehead. "I still don't need to know that either, Noah, but thank you for your concern. I'm –"

"Why Fi- now?" He licked his lips. "I mean, I thought you wanted to wait."

She ducked her head, frowning. "I – I do, but –"

"But what? Do I need to kick his ass? Is he pressuring you?" He looked past her in the direction Finn had retreated.

"No!" Rachel placed a hand on his chest. "No, Noah, thank you, but no. He's not. This is...it's about me."

Puck grabbed her hand, squeezing before letting go. "Well, it better be, s'all I'm saying." He smirked. "And just in case you need a test run..."

"No!" Rachel winced. "I – not that I find you unappealing – "

He nodded. "Well good, 'cause I totally would be your first." And why the hell did he just say that?

Rachel's eyes went wide again as she struggled for a response.

"Anyway, whatever, the offer stands if you have any questions. I just wanted you to know." He ran a hand over his head. And now I gotta get out of here before I say something else stupid.

Rachel swallowed and nodded. "Th-thank you, Noah, I – I do appreciate it."

He nodded. "Cool. See you later. What time is dress rehearsal?"

"We're to be on stage by 7." She smiled. "See you then, Bernardo." She rolled the r just slightly.

He grinned. "Hasta la vista, Maria."

xxx

At rehearsal that night, Puck watched Rachel move across the stage, looking for a hitch in her step or an awkward walk. (And he refused to think about why it mattered.)


Puck narrowed his eyes suspiciously as Quinn, Santana and Brittany entered a classroom the next day, Tina already inside sitting on a desk. That many chicks could only mean trouble, especially without a ringleader. He smirked, heading for the door. Well, as Glee's ambadassador, it would make sense for him to be the Rachel. Rachel? He frowned, peering in the window. It wasn't creepy, it was opening night, and if there was a problem someone should know, right? Just making sure they were all - what could they be talking about? He watched Rachel's face, the other girls dismissing her. He snickered. Rachel would have better luck going to a poisonous frog for advice than this bunch. 'Cept maybe for Chang. Mike said she was cool, so maybe she'd be the right person. Hopefully. Tina started talking and Rachel started to smile. He turned away from the door, shoving his hands in his pockets.

Good. At least someone was gonna make sure Rach was taken care of. Now he just had to go take something for his upset stomach. Came on real fast. Must've been the burritos at lunch. What else could be harshing his mellow, anyway?

Not like that gathering in there looked like the Chastity Club again.

And not like that smile of hers looked like she wasn't gonna be able to be part of it for much longer.

Not like that was a bad thing either.

(Right?)


Puck grinned, exhilarated as he took his curtain call on opening night. If this was what it was like on Broadway, it was no wonder Rachel was all about it. Speaking of...He turned to look at her in the middle of them all, and frowned. That's not the right smile for opening night of the role she wanted since birth. What? He wasn't a complete idiot, he listened to her go on and on about it when they were...whatevering. And that diva-off was pretty epic. But that wasn't the smile he expected to see. (What? She had a really pretty smile. And those lips...)

He looked for her backstage through the mob, finding her and Blaine tucked in a corner. "Yo, Rach."

She turned with a weary smile. "Yes, Noah? You did a wonderful job tonight, you know. I'm grateful Coach Beiste had you all try out."

He shrugged. "It was actually a lot of fun, so, whatever. Look, you got a minute?"

She nodded, squeezing Blaine's arm. "We'll talk later," she murmured. "I think we did fine, considering."

Blaine rolled his eyes. "Considering. I'll call you later." He kissed her cheek, nodding at Puck as he went by.

"Can I help you, Noah?" Rachel smiled tightly. "I'm a little drained, I have to say, but –"

"Are you okay?" He ran a hand over the Mohawk. "I don't – I don't know, I just...You don't seem right."

She bit her lip, worried eyes searching his face. "Was my performance sub-par? Did I come off as inauthentic? Was it the chemistry with Blaine? Was it not credible? I knew Artie was worried about our ability to connect emotionally, and I tried to – to experience everything and Finn didn't –" She pressed her hands to her face. "I can't believe I even remotely alluded to this all with you."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa. What about Abrahms?" Puck raised a brow. "What did he say?"

Rachel flushed. "Noah, it's fine. He was just suggesting that Blaine and I broaden our experiences in order to be more credible in a piece about a sexual awakening. It makes –"

"It makes me wanna punch him in the face, bros or not." Puck frowned thunderously. "Where is that little –"

"Noah!" Rachel touched his shoulder, drawing his gaze. "Noah, please, it's fine. Artie was just trying to be a good director. And he has been. This is just...it's my shortcoming, and I –"

"Look, I know I'm the last person you'd expect to hear this from, but screw him." And me. He shook off the thought. "If you wanna guard your carnal treasure a little longer, you have the right to."

Rachel giggled. "Carnal treasure, Noah?"

He shrugged, rolling his eyes. "Sarah likes that Win a Date movie, okay? Whatever, not important. Just...don't rush into something 'cause some dude says you'll be a better actress. Isn't that how the whole thing where all the chicks sleep with the directors to make it big started? Just do what you want, when you're ready to."

She nodded slowly. "Thank you, Noah. I'll definitely think about what you've said." She kissed his cheek. "Now let's go celebrate."

He ran a hand over his Mohawk. "Actually I, uh..."

Rachel smiled tightly. "Ah. Well." She brushed herself off and took a deep breath. "I'll see you tomorrow, then." She turned her gaze towards the rest of the cast.

"Rachel." Puck gave a smirk. "Chemistry isn't your problem. It may just be your costar."

She chuckled. "Well, I can't say I had much choice. Either way I was kissing someone who doesn't play for the same team."

Puck frowned. Speakingofthesameteam..."Hey, where's Hudson? Shouldn't he be back here?"

Rachel swallowed visibly, her smile growing more brittle. "He, uh, he had things to - to tend to and -"

Puck frowned. "You're sure you don't need me to beat him up? I still owe him for the sucker punch."

Rachel sighed. "You deserved that one and you know it. And no, no violence, please. I'm...I'm all right. I just made an error in judgment and - and tried something I shouldn't have. It's fine, Noah." She smiled genuinely this time. "Too bad you didn't audition for Tony, I think you would've done an amazing job. You don't give yourself enough credit." She squeezed his arm, walking past him.

He rubbed his arm, watching until she turned the corner out of sight. Neither do you, Rach. Neither do you.


Rachel bounced into the auditorium before the matinee the next day, beaming. "Good morning, everyone!"

Puck looked her up and down, taking a deep breath. "Mornin'."

She cleared her throat, subsiding slightly. "How was your night?"

He smirked, arching a brow. "You really wanna know?"

She rolled her eyes. "Maybe not, actually. I was just being friendly." She turned to Blaine. "Can I talk to you?"

Blaine grinned at her, nodding. "Absolutely. Dressing room?" He crooked his arm.

Rachel slipped her arm through it, kissing his cheek. "Isn't it a beautiful morning?"

Blaine giggled. "Oh, it is."

Puck watched them disappear backstage and rubbed at his chest. Stupid greasy breakfast sandwich. "Anyone have anything for heartburn?"

Artie tossed him a roll of Tums. "Dude. High school student directing the first school musical in years. I always have something for heartburn. Works in like, two minutes flat."

He caught it with a grin and a nod. "Thanks, bro."

(By intermission, he finished the roll. The burning sensation refused to leave. And as he traced Rachel's smile into the crowd to Finn, he asked Artie for another roll.)

(He should have had something else for breakfast.)

(Or punched someone's face in.)

xxx

Puck watched Rachel beam as she acknowledged the crowd, her smile as bright as the spotlights on stage. (Not that he'd ever say that to her.) He glanced out into the audience, finding Finn grinning back at her. Well, good for them. Hudson obviously figured something out, and Rach didn't look any worse off. The smile on her face was the one he wanted for him– her, for her – He shook his head. Whatever, if she was happy, then he was – He frowned as she winced walking offstage. "Rachel." He quickly crossed to take her arm. "Want an escort back to the dressing room?"

She took a shaky breath. "I'm – I can –" She squeezed her eyes shut. "Yes, that would be lovely."

He tucked her arm in his to help her to an empty dressing room. Closing the door behind them, he released her to drop onto a chair. "I think I know what you did last night."

She tucked her hair behind her ear, sitting at the vanity mirror. "Whether we did, or didn't, I don't see how it's any -"

"Was he - was he good to you? Careful and everything?" Puck fought back the wince, mentally kicking the voice calling him a pansy.

Rachel blushed deeply. "Noah, I don't think I should be talking about this with you, though I thank you for your concern." She gave him a sour look. "Other than a truly surreal and disturbing sense of responsibility based on your...relationship with Shelby, I don't see why this should matter to you, honestly. I should hope you don't see yourself in some sort of...of parental role in this instance, that would be exceedingly -"

"It's not about Shelby, all right?" He ran a hand over his head. "I just – I always thought -" He shook his head. "I just wanted to be sure he made it good for you." He looked away, sighing as he turned back to her. "You deserve it, okay?" he muttered.

"Noah..." Rachel crossed to him and laid a hand on his arm. "Thank you. Sincerely. I - he - it was...it was...good. I just...I needed to focus on the right things, the relationship I want, not the - the outside issues. Something so important shouldn't be tainted by Artie or Ohio State or NYADA or anything like that. Once I approached it like that, it was...it was..." She shook her head. "It was perfect." She smiled genuinely at him. "Thank you for asking."

"Yeah, well...whatever, it was..." He shook his head. "Ohio State?" he blurted.

"Finn, he wasn't - he wasn't scouted," she said quietly.

Puck blew out a breath, running a hand over his hair. "Well, that sucks. When did he find out?"

Rachel licked her lips. "He, um...yesterday. That's why after the show he just, he just left to go home, he didn't want to – to tarnish my night, so..."

"Wait up." Puck frowned. "He found out yesterday. So he left right after the show. Instead of celebrating with you. Did he even talk to you before he disappeared?"

Rachel gave him a hurt look. "Noah, I understand what you're implying, but –"

He raised a brow. "What do you think I'm trying to get at?"

"That Finn, as my boyfriend, could put aside his own anger at not being scouted and focus on me fulfilling a lifelong dream," she murmured, dropping her head. "I know, Noah, I know."

He shook his head. "Screwed up."

She turned to him, her eyes pleading. "But, I had made a mistake first, Noah, you know that. I basically told him I was...I was furthering things to be a better actress. That must have been a blow to his ego."

Puck chuckled, wincing. "Yeah, I'm not gonna lie on that one."

"See?" She pointed a finger. "We're both wrong, but, what happened last night..."

He waved a hand. "Okay, yeah, you're right, way too freaking weird talking too much about this. So long as it wasn't a pity screw, we're all happy here."

"A – a pity –" She frowned for a moment. "No. That...that wasn't...that wasn't it."

Puck raised a brow. "I'm not gonna ask who you're trying to convince here."

Rachel frowned at him. "It wasn't. It was perfect. It was about us, and it was with my first love –"

"Chill, Rachel, I'm buying, okay?" He held up his hands. "I'm not your dads, you don't have to defend yourself." He smirked. "Even if there was a little pity going on." And why did that burn in his gut? Stupid.

Rachel pursed her lips. "Well, at least I wasn't the one being pitied, all right? I'm a heck of a consolation prize."

Puck burst out laughing. "Damn, Rach, can't say I was expecting a crack from you. I like it."

She smiled. "I'm glad you approve. And all that is to say that I'm fine, Noah. Thank you for your concern."

He shrugged and stood. "Yeah, well, I recognize the signs of post-party injuries, let's say."

"And you wanted to be sure it was good for me," Rachel said quietly, holding out her hand. "You're a good friend, Noah."

"Is that what we are?" Puck took her hand, letting her boost herself up.

She giggled. "Yes, that's what we are. And as a friend, I'll tell you this. If I'm anything like my mother, you are terrifyingly attractive to her. Just be steady and be there, and you'll get through her defenses. I'm sure she's afraid to trust that you can be consistent. Show her differently. And don't forget how charming and musically gifted you are. Just remember Sweet Caroline." She squeezed his hand. "I do."

So do I. He grinned. "Thanks, Rachel."

She leaned up to kiss his cheek. "That's what friends are for," she reminded him.

He chuckled again. "Friends." He shook his head and opened the dressing room door. "The rest of 'em are that way."

She nodded with a smile. "Yes, they are. Now come on, before people start talking about Puckleberry again."

He snorted. "They'll always talk about Puckleberry, Rach, 'cause I've got a secret for you." He tucked her hand in his arm again.

She quirked a brow. "What's that?"

"Puckleberry was frickin' hot. We're worth talking about."

She giggled, leaning her head on his shoulder for a beat as they walked. "It's funny because it's true."

He grinned, turning the corner to find the rest of the cast. "Ladies and gentlemen, Maria!" He released her into the throng, sliding next to Artie. "Yo, dude. You got any more Tums on you?"

Artie handed him another roll with a frown. "Wanna talk about it?"

Puck popped a tab. "About what?"

Artie chuckled. "About what's got you popping antacids like an old man?"

"Dude, consider yourself lucky I'm not taking your head off right now. Who're you to tell people to lose their virginity so your show's better?"

Artie swallowed visibly. "Oh. I, uh...I..." He cleared his throat. "Well, it's not like they went and did it before the show yesterday."

"They tried," Puck muttered. "Just keep your romantic advice to yourself, huh? Sex is sex for guys, sure, but for Rach – for any girl – it should be special."

Artie grinned, gesturing towards Finn and Rachel's embrace. "Well, it looks like it will be." His smile widened as they kissed, oblivious to the catcalls of the cast. "Or maybe it was." He looked up at Puck. "Maybe I was like Cupid, giving them a little push."

Puck rolled his eyes. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, Wheels." He rubbed at his chest. "Thanks for the assist here." He tossed the roll back at Artie. "I'll catch you later."

Artie frowned. "You're not coming to lunch with us?"

Puck shook his head. "Nah. Gotta tend to some pipes."

Artie chuckled. "Got it. Later, dude." He rejoined the crowd.

Puck shoved his hands in his pockets, watching Finn and Rachel whisper to each other. Well, good for them. And if steady and consistent was the name of the game, he had somewhere to be.

(If it also happened to help the heartburn issue, even better.)


A/N: Since last night's Glee dovetailed into this piece, I'll be keeping it semi-canon for now. For now. Someone stop me from writing too much, got something else up my sleeve for Christmas! :)