Author's Note: I finally had some "me" time and I meant to work on the other story I've been writing here and there for the past two weeks, but instead this came out. I blame it on the fact that I've been reading a ton of drabbles - and the whole in-and-out writing might work better for my new lifestyle. I'm not sure if it counts as a drabble, but regardless I hope you like it. And please let me know what you think (like or dislike) because I've never done this kind of thing, and I really NEVER write in present tense (preemptive apologies if I slipped up anywhere) so that's kind of scary.
Background: For this story to work, you must pretend as if everything that happened after the Finchel breakup in season 2 (yes, I said 2) no longer exists. That is all.
Disclaimer: Please. You'd be wasting your time suing me.
Rachel's eyes rise in exasperation the second she hears the tell-tale signs of Noah Puckerman getting ready to complain yet again about the work in front of him. It is moments like these when she wishes the two of them hadn't gotten closer over the past year or so, as her life was much simpler beforehand. Mundane, surely, but simple. Now she had the stress of juggling her academics, her (budding) career and her social life. And even though she couldn't deny her Friday nights were much more enjoyable spent hanging out with friends, the current friend lying on his stomach on her bed made her want to scream at the top of her lungs – something she'd never, ever do since it was so harmful to her vocal chords.
"Noah!" She says sternly, refusing to turn around from her spot at her desk. "It's been five minutes."
"I'm legit gonna kill myself, B."
Rachel sighs and marks the spot in her textbook before swiveling in her chair to face him. He's now pressed his face into the crease of his own textbook, and she can't help the bubble of laughter that escapes. "And I'm the dramatic one."
He lifts his head and scowls at her. "I ain't bitchin' 'bout my panties not matchin' my bra. This is an actual problem."
"How did you know I like my undergarments to coordinate?"
"I didn't 'til just now." He chuckles when she gasps in horror. "Get off it, Berry." He rolls his eyes when she huffs at him. "This is the Puckasaurus we're talkin' 'bout here. Of course I already knew."
"You're repulsive," she finally says, turning back in her chair just so he won't notice her blushing cheeks. Being friends with Noah for the past year has certainly heightened her tolerance when it comes to biblical matters, but at the same time he's always been able to make her squirm. Friends or not, Rachel can't help the way her heart races when he slides his arm over her shoulders or how her tongue runs over her bottom lip when she watches him play any sport. Just the way he looks at her sometimes makes her knees weak, and if he were any other boy she'd probably tell him so.
But he wasn't. He was Noah.
"Why?" He asks, waiting until she turns around again to continue. "I'm single. You're single." She nods slowly, her eyes narrowing. "What's your beef with me noticin' another thing that makes ya super hot?"
Rachel thinks about his question – and not the way he constantly butchers the English language. He was correct in his dissection of each of their marital statuses – she hadn't been off the market since her and Finn broke up last year before Christmas, and he was done "playing the game" as he'd told her more than once - but what she keeps focusing on is his usage of the terms another and super hot. Another implies that he has previously noted other things about her that he finds attractive, which … well, she obviously has heard him remark on her physical appearance before, but again. This is Noah. He's as blunt as a dull butter knife and certainly isn't shy about sharing his opinion on the female form. Any female form, so why should she feel special if and whenever he comments on her own?
The other phrase, however, holds a bit more connotation in her world thanks to a Freudian slip by Finn last year. Rachel long came to accept the fact that, yes, Santana is super hot. It really isn't debatable, and she's learned to accept that. She's also learned to accept Finn and Santana's relationship, mostly because she saw it coming even before the two of them bothered admitting it to themselves; Finn felt guilty about moving on just a month after he and Rachel split and Santana didn't think she believed in monogamy. More than a year later, Rachel is the only one who is not surprised they're still together (including both Finn and Santana).
But she is surprised by Noah's casual albeit likely unintentional comparison between her and the Latina. "You think I'm …" she drops her voice shyly, "super hot?"
He scoffs and pushes himself off his stomach so he can sit on the side of the bed closest to her. "Ya think I'd bail on an epic party to study with an ugly chick?"
Rachel doesn't have the heart to reprimand him for such a demoralizing statement, mostly because the vital organ is busy beating twice its normal rate. "These exams are crucial, Noah," she decides to say instead of continuing down the dangerous path. "Despite your beliefs, it will not kill you to apply yourself."
"I'd love to apply myself." He wiggles his eyebrows suggestively before craning off her mattress, each of his hands coming to rest on opposite sides of her desk.
Her breath catches in her throat when he flexes and draws nearer. "That's not what meant," she clarifies, her eyes wide and hopefully not giving away how not uncomfortable she is. "We're seniors and these are the last grades colleges will see before making their decisions and I want you to do well because …" she chokes a little before the words start to rush out, "you'll have a better chance of being accepted into a school in New York if you improve your grades."
She slams her eyes shut as soon as the last word echoes in her ears. She can feel him move away, the loss of the heat emanating from his body causing her to shiver. It was a stupid thing to say, and she knew better. She's known better, accustomed to biting her tongue when it came to her hopes and dreams regarding their future. They were just friends and even though she knows he'd be willing to blur the lines a little, she's sure they wouldn't want the same thing out of the relationship. And, frankly, no amount of attraction or legitimate feelings for him is worth risking their friendship over.
"I'mma Lima Loser, Berry," he says, his voice so matter-of-fact that her heart breaks a little before her anger catches up.
"I don't agree." She punctuates each word on the off chance that it will make him listen better. "You're extremely talented and intelligent and capable of doing anything you put your mind to." Rachel immediately lifts her hand, pressing it lightly against his lips just as his patented smirk emerges. "Don't bother with the sexual joke. You can trick other people into thinking you're completely one-dimensional, but I happen to believe in you too much to fall for such nonsense. So, just … let me know what I can do to help you."
His eyes soften and it is so rare that she barely registers the way his lips pucker against her fingers as she watches the orbs shift in color. When he makes his way down to her wrist, though, she snaps back into reality and jerks her hand away. He flinches at the abrupt movement, his eyebrows creasing while he just stares at her. His scrutiny makes her uneasy, and she finds herself filling the silence with the unasked questions she sees in his eyes.
"I'm sorry. That was … lovely, Noah. Of course. But, just because you are single and I am single and have been wishing for maybe something more between us for … well, far longer than I'd like to admit … doesn't mean we should give into temptation on a whim. If you still feel like kissing me after we're finished with these tests, then we can discuss that then, but right now I believe it is in both of our best interests to shelve these feelings and focus on the work."
He grins so wide that her stomach drops to her feet. She's literally biting her tongue and replaying what she said in her head so she can work on her retraction when he grabs the seat of her chair and yanks her forward. Their lips literally crash together, and somehow she still finds it within herself to respond to the embrace almost instantly; the gentle touch of his hand on her thigh certainly helps. She opens her mouth to him in invitation, sliding her tongue along his for only a moment or two (at least it feels that short) before he pulls away.
"This ain't no whim, babe."
Again, it's a statement that she would sound like a line from anyone else (and maybe even him) and yet Rachel blushes when he utters the words. If anyone should ask, she'll blame it on the way his thumb is rubbing a small circle on the inside of her thigh. It wouldn't be far from the truth, as the gesture is completely foreign to her and still so fantastically relaxing and embarrassingly erotic at the same time. She knows she was the one who said they should table all of this for later, but now she's more curious than ever as to whether there might be any merit to some of the things he says to or does for her.
"How long?" His jaw tenses for a split second (unnoticeable probably to anyone but her), and she realizes that this is still Noah and he's never going to be comfortable openly talking about his feelings. "Today?" She waits. "This week?" Pause. "This month? This semester? This year?"
His eyes drop and he mumbles, "Longer."
It seems like too short of a word to take her breath away, but she can't help the sharp inhale she takes after his quiet confession. Rachel should be thinking of nothing else but the boy sitting in front of her – who is participating in an actual conversation about emotions for one of the few times in his whole life – and yet she can't help but picture Santana's smug smile. The two girls were no longer enemies thanks to Noah's friendship to each of them and an odd bonding about Finn, and just as Rachel had teased the Latina about her early ignorance regarding Finn, Santana was convinced Puckleberry 2.0 was inevitable.
Rachel typically didn't like being wrong, but she'd take it in this scenario.
"Ya really think I could make it in New York?"
She nods simply because she knows the words won't matter, then leans forward and touches her lips to his again. Her hands cradle his jaw delicately, her thumbs caressing his cheekbones before her hands slide back and through the short strands of his Mohawk. Her fingers toy with the sensitive skin of his neck as he stealthily moves her from the chair to his lap. She pulls away from him on a yelp when she feels the effect she's having on him, but her lower half doesn't budge – clearly indicating the effect he's having on her.
"We should study," she forces out, assuming the moan he lets out is in equal frustration of stopping what they are doing to start work he never wanted to do in the first place. It's almost enough to convince her to give in, but now she also has a bit more at stake if he doesn't go to New York. Not to mention a lot more leverage than she had earlier, too. "Come on, Noah. You don't want to end up one of those homeless guys in New York with a sign begging for money."
He somewhat unwillingly lets her up off his lap, twisting back toward the notebook he'd abandoned earlier to grab it and a pen. She watches intently as he scrawls something across the paper horizontally, waiting with her hands on her hips for him to finish. It takes him longer than she feels is necessary, so she hides her impatience with a question.
"That's not working. What will it take for you to actually work on the assignment?"
He smirks like she asked the perfect question, and when he turns the notebook to face her and she reads what he's written, she realizes she did.
Will work for food. Or sex.
Rachel feels the corners of her lips tick upward, and wonders for the millionth time since she first started to realize she had feelings for Noah how she'll manage to deal with him. Then again, after that last kiss, she's starting to come up with a few new ways.
And none have anything to do with food.