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"Noah," she shifts against him, not sitting up but half burrowing against him further, like she could actually get closer and Puck just smirks at her. "I fell asleep?"

"Yeah, you missed Shrek saving the day." Granted it was fairly late, the lights on the deck were on, the timer flicking them on sometime after nine, the neighbour's houses being mostly in dark from what Puck could see out the sliding door to the patio.

"I'm so sorry; I'm the worst hostess ever." Rach shifted again, pushing herself up slightly but still not pulling completely away from Puck's side. Her arm rested over his lap, her legs slipping down to the side of the sofa while her shoulder rested against his side, just nestled along his underarm.

"It's okay," he joked, aiming for teasing to keep things from getting too awkward, "you kept me warm." The blush was obvious on her cheeks, even as she laughed at him and ducked her head in against his chest.

"Shush you, you could've woken me." They both knew he wouldn't have done that, but Puck wasn't sure how long he would've just sat there and let her sleep either. Which totally wasn't a stalker move, for real he couldn't actually figure out if he could get more pathetic or not. "It's late." Puck just nodded at Rachel's observation, glancing over at the glass doors again, probably after midnight considering how many movies they'd gotten through. "You um, you probably should head home, right?"

"Yeah, probably." His dad knew where he was, they didn't really have a curfew so long as they knew where he was, although Richard preferred him home before midnight on a school night. It was kind of cool that they just took his word for where he was though; not calling parents to check on him or anything like that. He's not making any move to leave though, and he really should, but Rachel's just sort of staring at him now and he figures it's past time to head out. "Want me to help clean up before I go?"

"No, that's okay, I've got it." They'd already cleared out the kitchen from the tacos, so it was just the DVDs lying around on the table and their glasses in the living room to clean up, and Rachel was a little anal about her hosting abilities that even Puck didn't want to piss her off by doing too much for her liking. Rach was the one moving from the sofa finally, and Puck shook himself into getting up too, getting his boots from the hall and pushing his feet into them. He could hear Rach shifting about in the kitchen, putting the glasses in the sink before venturing into the hall.

"So, see ya on Monday?" They had one more week until Regionals, all week was set to be rehearsals with the club after school, so the whole group had agreed to have this last weekend to themselves to avoid tensions getting high due to constant contact. Puck was pretty sure it was just so that Santana didn't stab Finn in the eye and so that Brittany could get her weird out this weekend.

"Yes, have a nice weekend," Rach moved in for a hug and Puck turned into it, perfectly comfortable with the hugging nature of half of the glee club at this point. Rach turned her head just as Puck was about to place a perfectly innocent kiss to her cheek, missing her cheek and catching her bottom lip softly.

The thing about kissing Rachel was that he never really forgot it, not really. From the time they spent dating, the brief moments just before winter break last year, he'd always sort of remember the feeling of kissing her. It wasn't like she kissed differently from anyone else –except Josie Walker, but she usually tried to eat people's faces rather than make out like any normal person. But it was the little things really that stuck out; like the fullness of her lower lip, the softness of her lips, that little bite thing she did that was definitely awesome. There was around about a half second where Rachel leaned up towards him, her lips parting slightly as Puck pressed closer before she pulled back, blinking owlishly at him and Puck realised exactly what had happened.

"Um, sorry, I—" running a hand over the top of his mohawk, he just watched her raise an eyebrow and touch her fingers to her lips. Shit, he was seriously going to fuck things up there. "I'll see you Monday." He repeated, opening the door and leaving before she could say anything. He shut the door behind him, heading to the Camry quickly to avoid Rachel coming out and asking to 'talk about it' or something like that. He really didn't need to listen to her telling him why they should stay friends and nothing more. Knowing he didn't have a chance wasn't as bad as listening to her tell him why. It would be easier to just let her ignore it and not bring it up.

They could put it down to an accident anyway; she was still a little tired from waking up, they were a little off balance from having been on the sofa for so long, it was totally just an accidental contact thing.

He really needs to work on lying to himself.


The difficulty with deciding something and doing something is that part in between, the part where he actually does it. Puck manages to convince himself that it's not a big deal and Rachel probably won't even mention it anyway, it was just a stupid little peck, totally chaste and innocent considering what they'd done already. But telling himself it didn't matter and believing that, at least on his end, it was just stupid to expect it to be possible. He'd gotten home just after two in the morning and Richard just smiled at him, this weird sort of expectant look on his face as he asked how the tacos went.

Puck had pulled enough double entendre in his life that he knew the tone Richard used, spurning him to roll his eyes as he grabbed a bottle of water and explained that tacos were fine and they watched the Shrek movies, that nothing went on and then he headed to bed.

And there was nothing, at all, all weekend. No text message, no Facebook message, no calls. Just radio silence from everyone and yeah, it was nice, kinda. He actually wouldn't have minded Kurt and Blaine talking him into frozen yoghurt and a movie, he would've been okay with a Call of Duty campaign with Artie, Sam and Mike, if Quinn just happened to show up, he'd be okay with that too. But the whole weekend, they maintain the distance like they agreed and Puck spends his time doing homework, playing with the dogs and teaching Sarah how to make mac and cheese.

It was one of the tamest weekends he'd had in his life, but somehow it managed to exhaust him.

He woke up on Monday feeling like he hadn't slept all week, which was just ridiculous. The looks he got from his dad and Richard definitely didn't help because he was starting to think that they had some kind of freaking telepathy thing going and knew exactly what was on his mind. He wasn't stupid, he'd figured out from the comments that his dad liked Rachel just as much as his ma had liked her, maybe a little more. The fact that their families were oddly mirroring in certain aspects was a little disconcerting, but it was like osmosis or something, the way Dad and Richard just knew stuff that Hiram and Leroy knew. At the very least they knew something was up, and probably that it had to do with Rachel, he could do without parents that actually had the time to watch and see what the hell was going on in his life really. It was cool, yeah, but times like these, it just drained him even more to try and avoid those conversations.

Thankfully, for him at least, Rach had a lift to school that wasn't him. Hiram was dropping her off, and since they were all doing the after school rehearsals with the club they'd all ended up car-pooling. It meant he'd normally be driving her home, but today she was going to the mall with the girls to get their nails done –don't ask him why, he still doesn't get it, Quinn spent fifteen minutes explaining why it was important for the performance and he'd just commented that the judges weren't going to be close enough to see their nails and it wasn't where they were meant to be watching anyway, was it?

It still gives him a day to pull himself together while being around her and work out what he needs to say if he needs to say anything and just how to make sure she doesn't see that he's lying through his teeth when he agrees that it didn't mean anything.

"Are you ill?" Santana just blurts it out while they're sitting in Chem, her usual partner for the class being off and his having some horrible accident with a power tool first period meaning they were paired up for the day.

"What? No. Why?" He's pretty sure he doesn't look that bad; for Santana to notice and comment, he'd need to be at deaths door. For her to really care, he'd need to be secure in the coffin and six feet under.

"You've barely said a word all class, all your working out is right and thunder-thighs there just flashed you," Santana nods her head towards Yvonne, one of the Cheerio's, and Puck catches her glancing at him before ducking her head, "you didn't even notice. So spill, what gives? If this is you coming down with some prolonged brain fever that started with you and Quinn agreeing on something, just tell me if it's contagious so I can get immunised before Regionals."

"San," he just rolls his eyes, rubbing at his temple in a bid to stave off the headache that's starting to build already, "it's fine, okay. It was just…it was a rough weekend." Not that it was at all.

"Christ, you didn't sleep with Quinn, did you? Or have you fallen out with Rachel? Sarah in some kind of trouble? I mean, your dads are fine, I know that because Britt and I saw them when they dropped the squirt at school." Puck didn't know which part of that to focus on first, despite the fact that he was sure she almost sounded concerned.

"Okay, I'm gonna ask you now, are you ill? 'Cause, seriously? Do you hear yourself?" Him and Quinn were friends, sure, but they'd never really given off the 'ready to hook up' vibe. And they weren't, because they both knew that they were better as friends. Him and Rachel having a fight shouldn't have even popped into Santana's head, although it was possible that the Latina had noticed that Rach was practically his best friend now in lieu of Finn. "Sarah's fine, no I didn't sleep with Quinn and no, Rach and I aren't fighting."

"Those are seriously the only things that would cause this space case thing to be happening, okay. So c'mon, what's up?" The teacher isn't paying any attention to anything that's going on, just sitting at the desk at the front and scribbling whatever it was that teachers scribbled. Technically, he could just tell Santana, he wouldn't have before, like last year before, or even the year before that, because she was still a grade A bitch, even when they were fucking.

But she's like, mellow or whatever just now, and Puck's pretty sure it's to do with the solo at Regionals, Quinn Fabray saying Santana was the best at something and Brittany being her not-so-secret girlfriend. He can't say for sure, she might just be self-medicating like he'd told her to do in freshman year, but it's a safe bet on the former –at the very least, about the Brittany thing for sure.

"I kissed Rachel on Friday night." She stares at him, one eyebrow raised and Puck can sort of see Yvonne in his peripheral vision, like she's trying to catch his attention while he's mostly just watching Santana's expression.

"What happened? I mean, did she—" she makes some kind of motion that Puck doesn't understand, it's definitely nothing sexual, because those ones he does know and it's not like Rachel would do any of that shit anyway, but he just frowns at her.

"Nothing happened; we had tacos, watched movies, she fell asleep and when she woke up I went home. But like, we hugged, and I went for the cheek but she moved and…" He gives a shrug, because that's exactly what happened and there's really nothing else to read into that, is there? But Santana gets that weird eye motion thing, like she's having a conversation in her head, or playing it out in her head and watching it or something.

"So, it was just like a brush of lips?" Puck shook his head, 'cause it was more than that.

"No, it was a kiss. Without the swapping of saliva though." Her nose crinkles in that way where she acts like he's grossing her out, but it's all just a show.

"What did she say?"

"Nothing," he shrugs one shoulder, moderately confused as to why Santana cares so much, because this is very new, "I left just after."

"Seriously? You just left? Just kissed her and left?"

"What was I supposed to do? I mean, it was an accidental kiss, and I think I surprised her enough with that from the deer-in-the-headlights look I got from her. You think I should've stuck around and blurted my way through an apology?" Santana knows how very not good he is with talking about things. He just grunts or mumbles his way through 'meaningful' conversation. Not that he's had many of those with Santana, although there was one rather eventful time where that had happened shortly after the truth came out about Quinn and his baby.

"Okay, so probably not a good idea, but what about later? I mean, you guys must've hung out since. You guys always hang out. You're like Miss Piggy and Kermit, Sonny and Cher, Hansel and Gretel. Only not because that would be gross." He's completely lost at this point and regretting telling her anything at all. But they've got ten more minutes of Chem, nothing to do and it's not like he's even thinking about finding out just what it is Yvonne's wanting.

"No. We agreed not to hang out this weekend."

"You think that stopped me from getting my mack on anyway?" It's the closest Santana has come to all out admitting that she's with Brittany right there, and Puck feels half proud of her.

"It's Rach, she's a stickler for the rules."

"God," her elbows drop to the table, her head falling down as her hands wrap around the base of her ponytail and she practically talks to the table. "You guys are exhausting." He really doesn't get much more out of her, least of all on what the hell she means. But at least he's not the only one completely drained right then.


They work on the choreography for 'Put a Spell On You' that day, which means he's sort of not really around Rachel at all. He gets paired with Tina on this one, which isn't all that common, but it works out okay. She doesn't ask him questions, doesn't prod for answers and just accepts if he says he's fine. And he is, he's completely himself when it comes to glee, except for those quick glances at Rachel to make sure she's not freaked out or anything and the almost conversation without words he manages to have with Santana –it's all head movements and frowns and glares and her trying to murder him with a scowl.

No one seems to notice it though, and if they do, nobody says anything. At least not to him.

It's much later, after dinner when he's playing Call of Duty with Sam because he's actually fed up with Artie kicking his ass at Madden. Once or twice was fine, but five times in a row was just humiliating. Puck's mostly ignoring his cell phone while he plays, although he's aware of the three waiting text messages since he heard the alerts. When Sam signs off for the night, Puck follows suit and gets up to check his phone, noticing that all three messages were from Kurt.

What's the deal with you & Rach? You guys disagree over country music again?

So, maybe some people had noticed, but Kurt was fairly good at picking up when things we off, with any of them really. But he seemed to think that Puck and Rachel genuinely had those arguments about music; they had rather in depth conversations, yes, usually Rachel got very heated about them, but Rachel got heated about everythingto do about music, not just when Puck disagreed just to wind her up.

Okay, seriously, why is Rachel acting so weird? I asked her what was wrong and she started rambling about the future. What's going on?

With Rachel, it's easy to figure out when she's really nervous. For one thing, she blushes like a champ. It's cute, most of the time, the way her cheeks flush red and her mouth opens and shuts like she's actually at a loss for words –and that almost never happens. But once she gets over than initial surprise of the moment, her mouth just starts going and the words seldom link up or make any sense and she can wind up talking about absolutely anything; Barbara, the future, Broadway, why ducks are just a little bit evil, the fact that her Prius is totally better than his borrowed Camry, why Kurt has too many scarves, anything at all. Blaine and Puck think it's kind of funny, Kurt gets freaked out when she doesn't stop to breath for almost two hundred and seventy six words. Yeah, he counted one time.

Whatever you did. Fix. It. I mean it, this is not going to do us any favours. Sort it Puckerman.

The fact that Kurt last named him in a text message pretty much tells Puck right then that he's totally screwed. For Kurt to pull the last name, it has to be super serious, like biting nails serious. It means that Puck's going to have to talk to Rachel, try and defuse things as well as possible in the given time and with his lacklustre meaning. He's sort of hoping that she'll be keyed up enough about Regionals that she won't be able to tell he's lying, she's annoyingly good at calling him on that though, so it's only a tiny little bit of hope that the stress and excitement and craziness of the week gets him off the hook, at least until it's over and he can put a little more feeling or conviction into a lie.

Why did his life need to get this complicated?


Preparing himself for a Rachel Berry confrontation, especially when he knows he's going to lie, is a difficult thing. It takes a bit of doing, but he definitely needs to make sure that nothing goes horrifically wrong during the day to piss her off, wind her up, upset her at all or make it that she thinks he's up to something. It means he can't flat out make a point of easing her day, not obviously, but he can't be seen to be scheming to make it that way either.

It works okay with the slushies being a thing of the past and Quinn kind of running interference, which honestly makes Puck wonder if Quinn was talking to Santana and that worries him. But it clicks, just after lunch, that Quinn isn't running interference for him, she's running it for Rachel.

She's avoiding him.

Which hurts, he's not going to lie. He sits through his maths class, barely paying attention, ignoring Blaine's subtle questioning and frowning. Because if Rachel is actively avoiding him, which it seems she is, then there has to be something wrong. Not one of those imagined 'something is going on here' but a proper, serious 'I might've fucked everything up' wrong. Rachel would avoid him for two reasons; she thinks he was trying to get into her pants and she's pissed at him, or she's figured out that he meant the kiss and she's trying not to hurt him by flat out having to reject him and thus turning to avoidance. He's a little pissed off that his rational voice in his head sounds like Rachel.

He's pretty sure it's the latter of the two when Quinn tells him during glee rehearsal that Rachel is going to her house after school to hang out so he doesn't need to drive her home. Mercedes and Rachel are working on their own choreography for 'Take Me or Leave Me' while they hammer down the step work for Santana's solo before they move on to drilling the group number down over the next few days. Tina actually asks him if everything is okay that day, which makes him wonder just what Kurt and Blaine, even Rachel, might've noticed. He brushes it off with a smile and a nod and they just work the routine until they've all got it nailed to perfection. Even Finn's managing his feet right with the directing of Mike and Sam.

By the time Thursday comes around and they've progressed the exact same both days, Puck realises that he hasn't said even two words to Rachel since Friday night. It's a little agonising, because they've never actually gone this long without talking since he got out of juvie. And she'd still written him letters –seriously, she'd mailed him letters on scented paper while he was in juvie, he was only there for three weeks and she managed to send him four letters. But she's either surrounded by girls, sitting with the guys or just vanishes any time it looks like he might get a chance to talk to her, and that's a little harsh in his opinion.

It's not like he actually meant to kiss her, so it shouldn't be a huge deal. He went for the cheek, she moved her head. He'd kissed her cheek a million times by then because that was what Rachel Berry thought was an acceptable goodbye after a night of company. So why the hell was she being so weird about it? He couldn't even talk to Kurt or Blaine about it, because Puck was sure that Kurt already knew more than Puck was entirely comfortable with and Blaine was probably the same. And Quinn was avoiding him just as much, she'd become attached to Rachel or something and Puck would call her a traitor if it wasn't for the fact that Rachel had always wanted them to hang out more and actually act like friends. So at least someone got something out of this.

He was sulking at home when Sarah called him on his bad mood. And he was fine with admitting that it was sulking, because that's what he was doing. He'd spent the rest of the afternoon in the den at the back of the house, playing Sarah's PlayStation just for something to do that didn't involve his glee club friends. The fact that he wound up playing Guitar Hero was just a coincidence.

"What crawled up your butt and died?" Sarah and Mitzy just sort of invaded the space, Fang already sleeping by the far wall and Puck didn't even look away from the screen. He gave Sarah a mild shrug, only shifting his shoulder slightly when she climbed up on the sofa he was leaning against while sitting on the floor. "You've been moping around like Finn killed our dogs all week. What the heck is up with you?"

Sometimes, Sarah gets this way where it's hard to remember that she's nine and not older. It's a bit of a bitch because he's not all that keen on her growing up too fast, and right then anything faster than a turtle is too fast.

"It's nothing okay, just leave it." He's aware that it's more than nothing and Sarah can figure that out too. He's pretty hopeful that she's not smart enough to figure out when the off mood started and work out that it had anything to do with Rachel, because Sarah is likely to tell Rachel that he's in a mood or something and that'll just make shit even more awkward.

"Is this because of what happened with you and Rachel?" Okay, maybe she will figure it out. Quicker than Puck would've thought she could too.

"What about me and Rachel?"

"On Friday, something happened didn't it? Are you two gonna date now?" Puck quit the song he was in the middle of, putting the guitar controller down and turning to face Sarah, frowning at her.

"What are you talking about?"

"Okay, so, I don't want to brag," lie, she totally wants to brag, that's why she's bringing it up, "but I sorta had a plan. See, on Friday, I wasn't really sick, I just said I was so that you'd go over and hang out with Rachel alone, even though I really wanted to come. Because if you guys hung out, I knew you'd like cuddle on the sofa like you do here when I go to bed and Rach stays to watch One Tree Hill on the television with you." She's paid way more attention than he knew, and the fact that she was sly enough, and that she gave up a Rachel Berry taco night, just informs Puck how serious she was about this. "So, it worked, right? I mean, you and Rachel totally figured it out right?"

"No," if people could stop meddling in his life he's pretty sure he might be able to get over Rachel. Having everyone point out how great she was and how fun and smart and pretty she was, it didn't help at all. Because he knew all this stuff and he was trying not to screw up the best friendship he'd ever had. "We're not dating, we're not talking. Seriously, Sarah, you need to stop with this Rachel thing, okay. I am just her friend."

"Seriously? You didn't ask her out or anything?" There's a look that Quinn has, this half arched eyebrow and off-center kind of glare at the same time while her lips thin and the displeasure is just written all over her face; well his little sister is wearing an almost replica of that same face and it's a little freaky. "Do you just wanna be her friend? 'Cause if you do you're so stupid, Rach is like the most awesome girl around."

"Yeah, I know. I figured that one out by myself, thanks." Except Quinn sort of pointed out that he knew it, which is where the whole mess started, it had to be. "But it doesn't matter what I think, 'cause Rachel just wants to be friends, so we're just friends." He moves to stand up, already done with the conversation because he does not need to explain to his nine-year-old sister all the reasons why Rachel is better off anyway.

"No she doesn't." He's half-way out of the room when Sarah says it, twisting on the sofa to stare at him. "Rach is totally into you. She keeps watching you when you're not looking and she comes over all the time, even just to sit around and do nothing. She's even listened to you talk about really stupid boring stuff and not said a word. She lied when she said she didn't know anything about playing guitar, cause I know she can play the chords, she just wanted you to teach her. You're like the Lucas to her Peyton. Or the Chandler to her Monica. Or the Marshall to her Lily."

"Okay, enough with the television references or I'm totally telling Dad you're watching crap again." At least it's not those stupid teen-Disney things. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Guys are so dumb," here's hoping she thinks that until she's twenty. "Rachel likes you. She likes you likes you."

"Then why the hell isn't she talking to me?"

"Well what did you do?"

"Nothing. Well, I kissed her. Accidentally. Then went home."

"You are such an idiot." He's starting to get that. "Okay, so, you kissed her, but didn't say anything and now she's not talking to you. That means you need to apologise. Like actually tell her why you didn't say anything. And also, you should tell her how you feel. 'Cause girls like to hear that."

"God, why does it always have to be feelings?" It's not that he's embarrassed, not really. He's probably been half in love with Rachel for a while and then just went the rest of the way when he really got to know her. And yeah, he's accepted that. He's in love with Rachel Berry and it's fairly difficult but sort of okay too. It'd be awesome if he was actually with her when he figured out he was in love with her, but he rarely does things the easy way.

"Because, it's Rachel, and if she thinks you didn't mean it then she'll avoid you so that she can build up the walls and tell you it's okay, even though it's not. It's why you were avoiding her too, wasn't it? So you gotta tell her, like straight up just tell her." Sarah jumps from the sofa, something she's been told numerous times not to do but still does it anyway. "What are you anyway, a man or a mouse?" She gives his hip a little fist bump, Mitzy trailing from the den after Sarah and Fang's head popping up to stare at him accusingly.

"Hey, don't you start too." Puck would just like one or two days of normalcy, that's not too much to ask is it?


The interference from the others carries on all the way through to Regionals. Kurt's not amused that they're going to the competition with Rachel avoiding even looking at Puck and Puck walking around like there's a thundercloud over his head, but Puck points out that it's not his fault the girls conspired to never give him a minute to get things sorted. He can't do it right then either, even though he'd finally manage to get her alone for five seconds, but he doesn't want this to be a timed rush because they have a stage call and he sure as hell doesn't want her being overly emotional or him being messed up right before the competition, because if they lose she'd kill him.

Vocal Adrenaline are as great as always; they pull out their usual cheerful solo song, something to showcase the talents of their one lead singer and yeah, Sunshine is pretty amazing or whatever, but Santana has their solo in the bag. Puck doesn't recognise the other songs they do, but the looks from Blaine, 'Cedes, Kurt and Rachel tell him that they're both show tunes and they are done pretty well. Vocal Adrenaline's usual insane standards mostly. But they know that they've got something different, even with Finn's little speech that he makes in the back room, which Puck doesn't listen to because he's still trying to get Rachel to just meet his eye, they know that they just need to enjoy themselves and do what they've been practising all week.

So they go on stage with nothing resolved, although Rachel meets his eye once in a cross over during 'Put a Spell on You' and she at least gives him a tiny smile that he manages to return. They were right about the song though, because they keep the whole thing understated and Santana's voice just oozes sex, with the dark lighting and the fog (seriously, they have fog) everything just gets the chilled sort of feel. They get everyone moving with 'Extraordinary', Tina, Kurt and Quinn rocking on their leads, Britt and Mike getting a burst of applause mid-way through for their dancing and Puck and Rachel brush past each other twice and it feels a little easier; the smile on her face, the atmosphere, like she's maybe moving past whatever and might actually talk to him after the competition.

When they shifted on to Mercedes and Rachel's duet, it was pretty clear that most of the club was thrumming with excitement. Possible none more than Rach and Mercedes themselves. They'd been putting so much into the song that it was surprising sometimes that either of them still had their voices left, but it was just as powerful as the first time they'd sang it and every move that each of them made just felt seamless. They couldn't even look at this and think 'we screwed that up' because they didn't. When the last note is dropped there's the roar of applause that gets all of them grinning before they head to the back room to wait the fifteen minutes before they were back on stage for the announcement.

Rachel looks over at him, just as he's high fived Artie and Mike and it almost looks like she's intending on moving over to him before Finn grabs her for a hug and Puck ends up attacked from both sides by Santana and Brittany who are grinning from ear to ear. And yeah, they can get to talk afterwards, because everyone's burning off the rush from the performance right then.

But Puck's pretty sure that if he doesn't talk to her tonight, Sarah might kill him when he gets home.


Those seconds it takes to announce the winners never get easier, it's always a heart stopping, gut clenching ache just waiting for them to spill it out the winner's names. Of course for those scant few seconds it's like every scenario runs through their heads and not one of them move for three seconds after New Directions are announced as first place winners and then they just lose it.

They hop around on stage for near five minutes, confetti everywhere, screaming and cheering going on and Kurt even starts bawling on Blaine's shoulder, before they finally clear the stage back to the dressing rooms and Britt hits out with, "If you guys don't come to my house to celebrate, I'll hate you all forever." Which means they're all going to Britt's place to celebrate.

A celebration in Britt's means snacks and drinks and music and laughing around on the living room floor while her parents are off somewhere for the weekend or something. No one's really drinking, they're still too drugged up on adrenaline, a nice natural high and the continuing merriment meaning it's fairly easy going. But Puck still can't seem to manage to snag a minute with Rachel.

It's not even like anyone is doing it on purpose though; Tina interrupted his first chance by demanding the Rachel play in her team against Britt and San on the dance mat, then Sam muscled in just after that trying to get Rachel to agree with him in an argument with 'Cedes, now, when everyone is sitting in the living room, San and Britt engrossed in each other, Kurt and Blaine talking quietly against the sofa, no one to swoop in and interrupt, Puck just can't seem to get Rachel away from Finn for two lousy seconds.

"We did it," Quinn beams at him, giving him a quick hug from the side as he automatically wraps an arm around her shoulders. "We beat Vocal Adrenaline at Regionals, like we didn't two years ago." It's probably poignant that around this time two years ago, they'd just lost to Vocal Adrenaline and they were giving up their daughter. Puck just nods his head, because crap, they've come a long way.

"Yeah, definitely a big deal." But he's not really all that bothered about it. He's sure he will be later, if he ever gets the chance to talk to Rachel, but right then, it's just not something he's processed. Beth is two in three days, three days from now would mark the anniversary of them giving her away. Puck just wanted to get at least a word in with Rachel.

"Hey," Quinn gives his hand a light squeeze, grabbing his attention, "I'll distract Finn, you take her out to poolside, okay?" The small smile is encouraging, probably a comfort too, reassurance in Quinn's wordless way, and Puck just nods, watching her walk away and act like she hadn't just been standing there talking to him. Rachel's about to slip back into the living room when Puck just grabs her hand and tugs her out Britt's back door to the patio. He counts the fact that Rachel didn't fight it or need talking into it as a good starting point.

Brittany's back yard was massive; the pool covered most of the space, lit up by the little lights around the edge of the pool and on the patio around it, little palm trees made a circuit around the yard with deck chairs out for lounging and a little patio furniture set at the far end with the barbecue down there. Puck sort of led Rachel over to the patio seats, her hand just clasped gently in his and he wasn't really sure but he thought he felt her squeeze it once, sort of like she used to do when he was still healing up from the car accident.

He still wasn't exactly sure how to say this, he'd tried working out what to say, tried preparing something, anything, but with Rachel, that rarely worked in his favour at all. But sitting there, in the dark with just a little light from the house and the pool, Puck seriously had no idea what he even wanted to say.

"So, we've kind of been avoiding each other." He noticed the mild blush on her cheeks, not as high as it could get, but it was still there, "And I'm pretty sure that's mostly my fault." Taking a breath, Puck turned himself half towards Rachel, their knees bumping but not pulling back. "I should've said something before I left last week, the fact was I really didn't know what to say. You know I suck at this feelings business and I'm pretty bad at just talking about anything at all for that matter, but I didn't mean to kiss you on Friday," Rachel nods her head, dropped her eyes to the ground between them and Puck smirks before he finishes, "and I wasn't sure how to tell you that it was an accident and didn't mean anything, not when I kinda wanted it to mean something." Her head pops right back up, eyes a little wide but not as wide as when he'd kissed her last week, her mouth just a little bit open in shock. "I figured it would ruin things, you'd start acting weird around me. 'Cause usually, you figure this stuff out pretty quickly about me, you know? And I can't really lie to you 'cause you've got some freaky built in bullshit detector or something. So I didn't say anything and just left."

"I was a little hurt, the way you left." Her voice is soft, like she's worried more than that will ruin the moment or something. Rachel's a big fan of 'moments' in her life.

"Yeah, I'm sorry about that," it had taken him a little while after Sarah dropped the little bombshell on him to figure out that Rachel might've been doing the exact same thing he'd done; avoidance to cut out the hurt. "I really didn't think I stood a chance, you know. We're friends, and you've always been so in love with Finn, even when you're not with him, you still sort of gravitate towards him, like you just orbit each other." Rachel and Finn had never made sense to him, not in the long term. They were a high school fling, they were first love or something. But the more they stayed together the more they seemed to believe they were meant to be and Puck had come to accept that Rachel would always be Finn's at that rate. "So I was trying to not ruin what we have with what I want."

"Noah," Rachel shifted, moving closer and one of her legs straightened out to lie under his, her hand reached up to his cheek and he really didn't know if this was where she said she felt the same or if she told him she was just having a moment of weakness or something. "You could never ruin what we have, what we have is far too special."

"I—" he had to lay his cards out, and if it took them until Nationals so get the awkwardness out of the friendship, then so be it. But he was hoping that Sarah hadn't been wrong and the Quinn wouldn't let him make this big an ass of himself, "I'm kind of completely in love with you, so I wouldn't mind changing what we have a little. You know, just things like going out on dates instead of just hanging out, maybe some more kissing without the accident element, calling you my girl." He shrugged a shoulder, grabbing her hand from his cheek to just hold in his, watching her face for reactions.

If Rachel was surprised, she wasn't showing it, the soft smile on her face as she looked at their joined hands sort of made the clenching in his gut ease up. He didn't think he'd ever really put himself on the line like this for a girl. He'd been a bit of a tool trying to figure out things with Lauren; he'd never really had to chase a girl before, never really fought to have the relationship, it was new and it was work and it frustrated him sometimes and made him laugh others. But he'd never really laid himself out for Lauren, he'd just jumped through her hoops.

"That— that seems like a good change." She's shy when she looks up; that watery eye, batting eyelash, biting lower lip shy thing she manages to pull off all the time. He doesn't really think it matters since he's sure she's agreeing with him. "I love you, I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you, and when you kissed me, I wanted you to mean it."

"That one I didn't mean, I mean this one though." Leaning forward, his lips catch hers just as she lets out a little laugh. He's smiling against her lips though and this time, Rachel kisses him back.


It's sometime near dawn before he actually gets home, dragging himself into the house and almost passing out on the couch in the living room. He's beyond tired but can't really care about it at all. Having spent almost the whole night out on Britt's patio with Rachel, actually getting somewhere through the mix ups and the miscommunications, he's pretty sure that there isn't anything that'd really bring him down around then.

Pansy or not, he'd actually got the girl this time.

Making it to his own room just seems like a gruelling task and he's definitely not up for that right then. So he just makes it to the sofa and sprawls out. He knows that in a few hours Richard will be up and Fang will be head-butting his face to get him up and Sarah will be jumping on his chest or something just as annoying and sisterly. But he just can't care right then.

So he naps for a few hours, mostly comfortable on the sofa until Richard pokes his forehead somewhere around eight in the morning and Puck just grunts. "Dogs are coming down." Which means a face licking and head-butting, but it's okay because after he's eaten something and walked the dogs he'll go upstairs to his own bed and get a few more hours sleep. "Out late?"

"Yeah, celebration at Britt's." He turns onto his side, not ready to actually get up but mostly conscious.

"So you won? That's great! Where is Nationals this year?" His dad just appears rather suddenly, but it's not unusual for him to get up at the same time as Richard on Saturday's. Puck's pretty sure that Richard and Dad were going to make a point on getting the time off for Nationals. They couldn't manage it yesterday for Regionals and Sarah was getting some sort of mid-term test thing to determine what level she went into next year, but it wasn't like Puck minded, because Sectionals that year had been the first time he'd had parents at the competition.

"Dallas," they hadn't gotten a location of the venue yet, but Schue had said they'd be doing some fundraising soon to help get them their airfare and hotel costs. "It's set to be around the second week in May." Fang pads over, getting dog breath all up in Puck's face and he has to roll away because the big lug has seriously bad breath, but Fang just thinks it's a game and pounces up to climb over Puck.

"So, celebration night? That the reason why you crawled in around five and just passed out on the couch, fully dressed?"

"The stairs are my enemy." He knows they're half asking if he was drinking, he didn't drive home anyway, even though he wasn't drinking, but he shared a cab with Kurt and Rach, dropping him off before Kurt went back to Rachel's house to stay. "Didn't drink, was perfectly safe, got a cab home." But they still like to check that he's being responsible. "Just a really long night." Fang finally settled, lying over Puck's chest while his butt pushed Puck's legs off the sofa and Puck had always thought that it was cats that did this shit just to piss their owners off, but apparently dogs like getting all the space too.

"Well that's great, you gonna be okay for walking these pair?"

"I'm coming too!" Sarah comes thumping down the stairs, Mitzy hot on her heels and Puck's a little surprised that Sarah's fully dressed already. Usually he needs to threaten to leave without her before she gets her butt downstairs and ready to go. "You said I could come with you today."

"Yeah, I'll be fine, Sarah's got Mitz today." Somehow, Fang ended up switching affections towards him, and Mitzy became Sarah's best friend, although there were times when Sarah would call dibs on both of them and when Sarah was playing with Fang and Mitzy there was just no getting in there. Not like Puck cared really, it was like having two really dorky siblings that just happened to have fur, tails and four legs. "C'mon," giving Fang a nudge he gets the pair of them into the kitchen and Sarah dishes out their breakfast while Richard plates up for all of them.

"So didja win?" Puck just nods at Sarah's question, "And did you bring me anything?"

"We were in Carmel, what would I get you in a high school in Carmel?" It wasn't like when they were out of town for Sectionals, but Sarah had apparently still expected some kind of gift. "I'll take you to Carmel next weekend and you can find something okay?"

"Why can't we just go today? You can drive us and we'll find somewhere to play with the dogs and I'll get something cool." With Richard working, Puck usually tries to give their dad the space to get the last bits of his work done so that Sunday isn't another work day since it's the only day off Richard and Dad share. Him and Sarah either do something, or Sarah has some club or whatever and Puck gets out of the way or they just find something to do out of the way before they go to Temple before dinner and Rachel comes over afterwards. But this Saturday is just a little different.

"Because, I'm going out later."

"Where are you going?" He's very well aware of that tone, that's the tone that Sarah uses when she's breaking out her 'I told you so' voice. Ma had the same one, it's eerie hearing it from Sarah, but it's just something she's managed to perfect. Dad and Richard are watching him too, even as he pushes his cereal around in his bowl.

"I'm going out with Rachel." She's still watching him, this stupid half smirk on her face, "Y'know for dinner." And Richard has that same smile now too, like they already know and they probably do. "As a date." Sarah laughs, punching his shoulder much harder than she used to but still not enough to hurt, just enough to get a frown out of him.

"You asked her out then? What happened to 'just friends'?" He knows his dad is just teasing, but he could really do without it because now that he's brought it up he is actually pretty nervous. He's gone out with Rachel loads of times; to the movies, out to restaurants she wanted to try, teaching her how to bowl, just hanging out at the mall. But none of them were actually pre-planned dates, they'd just been hanging out and more often than not Kurt and Blaine came along too. And yeah, they'd probably still do that, but as two couples rather than just four friends, but he was still a little nervous about this whole 'first date' thing. Even if he already knew she liked the restaurant, and that she'd be okay with the froyo afterwards, it was still a little nerve racking.

"Yeah, okay, we're a bit more than friends, and yes I asked her out but can we please not do the third degree at least until after we've gone out?" He doubted they'd really give him a hard time, but until he got through this date he'd really rather not have the teasing making him feel even more apprehensive.

"Okay, no teasing." Sarah offers her pinkie for a promise and Puck links his up with hers to shake in agreement and Dad and Richard just nod at him. It means that the day progresses mostly normal, except that after Temple, Dad and Sarah go home –and Sarah is not covert about her thumbs up, and he takes Rachel to one of her favourite restaurants for dinner.

They don't need to worry about that annoying presence of their friends, because most of their friends don't bother trying out places that have vegan options on the menu, or ones which a more heavily vegetarian or vegan orientated. Puck's found that he doesn't mind vegan stuff that much. He doesn't eat any meat while he's out with her, she says she wouldn't mind, but he's okay with just taking one of the pasta dishes. It's a little awkward for all of five minutes before Rachel just laughs at herself a little.

"You know, Quinn told me I was overreacting about the kiss, that I needed to talk to you. The whole week, even when she was helping me avoid you, she was telling me that I should just talk to you." Puck smirks, because it's just like Quinn to manage to play for both sides there and not to pit them against each other or something.

"Yeah, Q's kind of known for a while." Sipping at her water, Rachel raised her brows at him, "Um, just before the end of winter break I think? She called me on how I felt." In typical Fabray fashion and simply as blunt as ever. "But you were still with Finn back then." Rachel just nodded, letting a small smile pull at her face.

"I'm glad she knew, so that she could tell me I was being stupid." Puck's kind of glad too, since it worked out for them. The rest of the meal goes completely fine; they talk as usual, there are jokes and it all eases out into what they're used to, comfortable but with a bit more intimacy and that's completely fine with Puck. They walk down the block afterwards to get their frozen yoghurt and then walk back to the car slowly. When it starts to get a little cool, Rachel seems perfectly happy to slot herself under his arm, like it's totally natural and they've been doing this for months. It's around then that he realises that nothing's really changed; they're still the friends they were, he's just allowed to kiss her now, there's a little more meaning behind it when he wraps an arm around her, they don't have to tell people that they're just friends when they assume their dating. He figures out that he was completely stupid to be in the least bit nervous about this at all.

"So, will you be picking me up on Monday?" They're standing outside her house, him leaning against the Camry while he sort of spots her dads by the window inside. He knows that she told them they were going out, she tells her dads everything because they're super involved and it used to be weird, except now he gets it because Richard and his dad are like that too.

"Yeah, and I'll be bringing you home, and likely every day from now until graduation, if you want." Usually he'll pick her up most days, but sometimes Kurt or Blaine arrange to do something different. But Puck was fine with picking her up every morning and being her ride back home.

"That sounds perfectly acceptable to me." She grins as she leans into him, her hands on his hips as her chest presses against his and she tilts her head up for a kiss. It's pretty fantastic that he doesn't need to stop himself from doing this, he can just wrap her arms around her and hold her there, slipping his tongue past her parted lips to tease her. She still bites on his lower lip and it still causes a low groan in his chest and she's definitely going to be the death of him.

When Rachel starts to pull away, Puck leans in for another quick kiss before she laughs at him and heads into the house, Puck waiting until she turned to wave at the door before he got into the car to leave. Considering how much he stressed over the whole thing, not to mention the length of time it took him to get with the program when it came to Rachel, it's a little anti-climactic in the best possible way. He'll take no drama over complicated mess any day.

Of course Sarah is waiting for him when he gets home, grinning from ear to ear and he just throws her one of the chocolate bars he picked up for her before heading upstairs after calling his goodnights to Dad and Richard. He actually is pretty tired, considering he barely had any sleep the night before. He doesn't even get to shut the door over before Sarah is pushing her way in.

"Nu-huh, you gotta tell me what happened."

"Seriously? You think I'm going to talk to you about my date? You're not going to know about dates, any kind of dates, until you're twenty. Maybe twenty-five." Sarah just rolls her eyes, making herself at home on his bed and opening up her chocolate.

"Where'd you take her?"

"We went to Rizzo's, okay? You wanna know what we ordered?" Puck just kicked off his shoes, ignoring Mitzy when she nudged the door open and came in to slide under Puck's bed, he was used to one or the other coming in to sleep.

"No, I wanna know if you screwed it up. You better not have."

"I didn't screw anything up, okay. We're gonna be fine." And he was pretty sure that they would be, so long as Finn wasn't an issue, and he was getting the feeling that Finn wouldn't be.

"Didja kiss her?" Sarah sings it, leaning against his headboard and grinning like a dork and Puck feels the blush that only a little sister and her stupid teasing can really cause. "You did! And on a first date, for shame." He can't stop himself laughing at her, but she's seriously not getting to stay up and watch stupid movies anymore, because that is just weird.

"Okay brat, shut up and shift over." He plops down on his bed beside her, apparently that irritates Mitzy who slithers out from under the bed to climb up and lie down by their feet. "You're okay with me and Rach dating though, right?" She hands him over a little piece of chocolate, even as he grabs the remote to flick on the television and find something on to watch for a while before he kicks her out to go to bed.

"Yeah, it was my wish for Mom's birthday, remember?" And yes, he did remember that, but he'd told her at the time to knock it off. He should've known she gave up too easily. "I like Rachel, she's nice to me. And Mama really wanted you to be with her, 'cause you were happy when you were with Rachel."

"Okay, stop being smart, it's annoying." She just smirks and leans on his shoulder, watching the start of yet another repeat episode of Family Guy.

"Just don't screw it up, Noah. I really like her." Which was just a little obvious.


Since Richard feels like they need a little time away or something, Puck's pretty sure the guy just wants to get the hell out of Lima for a day, so they spend Sunday roaming around Columbus and being pretend tourists. He spends most of the day texting Rachel and completely ignoring the comments from his dad about being whipped after just one date.

Monday morning didn't bring any nerves, even as he pulled up at Rachel's house, fully prepared to go inside and do the introduction thing like Rachel had talked about on Saturday night, even though her dads knew him perfectly well, only to find Hiram and Leroy almost shoving Rachel out the house to the car. They were waving from the front door with grins on their faces as Rachel climbed into the car, huffing slightly before smiling at him and leaning over for a kiss.

"What was that about?" He asked with a frown, noticing that her parents were going back into the house and not to their cars to go to work.

"Apparently my dads had an 'over/under' bet on as to when we'd get together." He's not exactly surprised, apparently everyone but him knew that it Rachel didn't just think of him as a friend and that's just a touch embarrassing but you'd think one of them could've actually told him in small, concise and to the point words to help him along or something.

"And that meant kicking you out of the house?"

"I don't want to talk about what it meant." She has her 'firm and determined' face on so he just laughs, drives them to the Lima Bean for coffee before class and then they head in to meet Kurt and Blaine. Kurt's probably the first to notice his arm over her shoulder and her grin, the way he elbows Blaine in the side lightly.

"Oh my Liza, can it be?"

"So, what did you guys get up to this weekend?" Rachel blushes a little but doesn't pull away from him and Puck just doesn't care because he's fairly certain they were hoping for this anyway.

"Oh, behave you two, you know exactly what happened." Kurt just muscles in on Rachel's other side, hugging her quickly with a grin.

"It's about time you know, Finn is my brother and I love him dearly, but sweetie did you ever really doubt this one?" Kurt nods his head at Puck, and Puck just rolls his eyes.

"I really hate when he talks about me like I'm not there." Puck made a point of talking to Blaine and not Kurt, just as they always did when Rachel and Kurt had their own little conversations about Puck or Blaine like they weren't there.

"It seems to be more and more common. You think we should worry?"

"Okay, enough, let's just go to class and stop teasing each other." There are a few whispers through the halls, and Puck's sure that he hears JBI's stupid camera, but they mostly just ignore it, or remain oblivious. For all that glee club is seen as a pack of losers, everyone seems to want to know who's dating who and what's going on behind the choir room doors. It's frustrating sometimes, but it's gotten to the point where it hardly matters.

Santana doesn't say anything to him during Chem, although she does bump his shoulder with her fist and give him a smirk from her station since their partners are both back this week. Quinn sneaks up to give him a hug before third period and Finn just frowns at him during lunch. He figures glee might actually be a little bit interesting at this rate.

"First of all, congratulations guys," Schue comes in, trophy in hand, grinning from ear to ear like they already sort of knew he would. "We have come so far, everyone. This is proof that feeling and hard work can get us anywhere. There's nothing we can't do now, and this year, Nationals is ours." Puck covers a laugh with a cough when he hears Kurt muttering about preparation over stupid weekly assignments beside him and Rachel gives him a strange look that he just waves off. "Now, Nationals is in Dallas, and we're going to be ready for it." Hopefully that means much more preparation.

Schue starts talking about possible set lists and how he wants to showcase everyone, to give them all an opportunity to shine, even though they all know he's probably going to revert and try to do the same stuff as before. It'll be harder with Mercedes being so strong willed to have her time now, and with Kurt and Blaine being far stronger and capable singers than Finn and Santana getting that taste of solo-spotlight, it's not going to be something she'll be wanting to give up.

"You ready for a bloodbath, babe?" He gives Rachel's shoulder a small nudge, knowing that even though she's a brilliant singer and definitely their driving force, she's going to have a bit of a battle on her hands getting Nationals to be an even keel show.

"Are you going to support me through it?" Rachel just grins at him, probably figuring this out just the same as he has; it's cool that she's not freaking out, that she's kind of looking mellow about it, because if they can bring everyone's talent to the front, then Vocal Adrenaline will have been nothing but a blimp. Nationals with all of them working together for once, rather than fighting for a top spot, it'll be something completely different.

"What else would I be doing? I'll shake some fuckin' pom-poms for you." Her head rests on his shoulder, his arm around the back of her chair to cradle her there and she just smiles.

"You know, I've never been to Nationals with a boyfriend before. I seem to leave with one, but go in single."

"You want me to dump you right before Nationals so we can hook up again afterwards? Or will we just break that tradition along with the losing it one?"

"Now you're talking." Even if they don't win (which he's sure is utter crap, because they're totally gonna win this one, none of that writing their stuff the night before and half assing it on stage) He's not letting her get away and he's not giving up on this without a fight. Not after what they've had to put up with to get there.

"You wanna come over for dinner? 'Cause I'm pretty sure Sarah wants to gloat while you're actually around to hear about how big a dumbass I am." And he loves his little sister dearly, but sometimes she's scary like their nana was scary, and that's a lot of scary in a tiny nine-year-old package.

"Sure, it's not like I really need to worry about your family not liking me."

"Rach, baby, you need to worry about them marrying us in our sleep."

"Maybe after I graduate from Julliard or NYU or NYADA and you've found your calling. But you still have to propose." And normally, he'd be breaking into a cold sweat right there and choking up, not because he's scared of commitment or anything, but the prospect of being with a girl who can see that far ahead and already has it sort of planned? That's worrying shit right there.

But with Rachel, he just smirks and places a kiss on her cheek, kind of stoked that she's actually thinking that far ahead, and that she still thinks they'll be together, and that she's hoping for that. It just means that he gets his cake, and he can eat it too.