Author's Note: Another short chapter, I know. I'm sorry. They feel very meaty when I'm writing them, and then I look at the word count once i upload it and I'm like, "What the heck!" Anyway, it should get better (the word count and the story ... dun dun dun), but hopefully you enjoy nonetheless! Thanks to all!


Puck chuckled to himself as he just lied in bed watching Rachel pace back and forth in the small guest room of Sam's apartment. He was still kind of light-headed after what was some of the most intense angry sex (way better when the two people aren't mad at each other) he'd ever had, but she was clearly still not over whatever had pissed her off so much. Her hands were moving just as wildly as her mouth, and she'd already shushed him once when he'd interrupted her tirade to make a joke about having to pay Sam to replace his carpet after she was done burning a hole in it.

"... Furthermore, I think she should remember that I hired her and could very easily find someone else to manage my career. I'm the perfect client, not only because I'm extremely successful, but I do as I'm told. I'm driven and determined and have work on my mind nearly 24 hours a day. She should be so lucky that this is the riskiest thing I've ever done. I could be out partying every night, saying inappropriate things to reporters and having pictures of my vagina sans underwear being taken all willy-nilly, but do I? No, because I am a professional. And my personal life should not dictate my professional life. They are completely separate and … why are you laughing?"

"You're bat-shit crazy, babe."

Rachel huffed, stomping her foot as her gaze narrowed on him. "Noah! This is serious. You should have heard her. She …"

"Legit, don't tell it again. I got it." Puck pressed his fists into the mattress, lifting himself up so his back rested against the headboard, the coolness of the wood welcome on his hot skin. "She ain't wrong, though."

"I beg your pardon?"

"I'm just sayin'." He held up his hands in mock surrender. "Manager to manager, I get where she's coming from." He shrugged helplessly. "We're walkin' on some pretty thin ice here, babe."

Rachel's frown deepened, her eyes losing the fire that had been present since he'd arrived to Sam's place. "You agree with her?"

Puck heard the hurt in her voice, watched the way her expression became hollow to cover up the muted insecurity he'd seen swimming in her eyes beforehand. He'd been thinking a lot about their relationship lately - ever since that night when he'd all but bared his soul to her. His response to her text earlier had been immediate, and he'd spent the entire drive back from his meeting (with a few of his connections in the music business, which he'd only set up because of her and her encouragement) thinking about it.

Any other time, he would have ignored the text or told the chick he was busy. What made Rachel different? Why did he have this urge to protect her, to be there for her when (quite obviously) he couldn't help? Why had she been able to pry information out of him that he hadn't told a single other person before, including those that he'd list as closest to him (not to mention known much, much longer)? And, the one thing he'd kept coming back to during all these musing:

Why was the answer so obvious and not nearly as terrifying as it had been before?

"Nah," he answered as casually as possible, ignoring the scratch of his throat. "She just ain't wrong." His voice dropped even lower. "Ya shouldn't be with me."

Rachel's heart sped at the implication of his words. They'd both been so careful to avoid labels; neither had yet to use the word relationship to describe what they were doing, even if it were perfectly acceptable just from a friendship status. "Is that what you want? For us to not be," she held her breath, "together?"

His mind flashed to their first night together, and Puck couldn't believe it had only been a little more than a month since that night. He'd been the one to convince her that they should do the casual thing; she'd given him the out and he'd talked her out of it. Now, here they were, and he still wasn't ready to give up on whatever it was going on between them. He wasn't sure he'd ever be ready.

"I wanna, but it ain't my career thata take a hit."

Rachel beamed at his confession, her heart soaring so high that she couldn't think about how true his (and, therefore, part of Gabby's) words were. Instead, she took the few steps necessary to reach the foot of the bed and lifted her bent knee to the mattress. She considered crawling up his half-covered frame, but didn't want to get sidetracked again; she hadn't intended on having sex with him almost immediately after he'd showed up at Sam's, she couldn't help herself. She'd gotten so worked up over what Gabby and then Kurt had said that she just released all her tension on him.

His dazed-but-satiated expression told her he didn't mind, though.

"I suppose I can understand her vantage point," she finally resigned. "I'd just prefer to spend time alone with you outside of a windowless room under the illusion that you are sleeping with my roommate or I with yours."

"I dunno." He shrugged, hinging forward so his torso slumped over his legs slightly, his left hand moving so he could run his finger down her exposed leg, wishing she were still naked like him; she was still wearing her bra (it'd never come off) and had put her underwear back on before starting to recount her conversation with Gabby. "I kinda like the seclusion." Puck smirked when she shivered from his touch. "Not that sex in public isn't worth it."

Rachel rolled her eyes. "That's not exactly what I meant," she clarified, ignoring the way her heart beat harder just thinking of being with Noah in that capacity. "I don't want to go to the party for my album and have to pretend to barely know you." She pouted more. "Although, to be perfectly honest, I don't want to go to my party at all now. Kurt is driving me insane."

"Short trip," he joked, moving back to his reclined position. He could feel another rant coming, so he figured he should get comfortable.

"I'm grateful he's going through the trouble of taking over all the planning, but he's calling or texting every other minute, which defeats the purpose. I gave him a required guest list and a few other key decisions, but I'd assumed he'd handle the rest." She sighed heavily, realizing she probably sounded like a brat. She almost expected him to start humming the tune to It's My Birthday (And I'll Cry If I Want To). "Plus, he's been playing messenger for his brother and that's just awkward."

"I didn't know he had a brother."

"Yes you do," Rachel giggled, shaking her head. "Well, it's his step brother. My and Santana's ex-boyfriend." She sighed again. "He's apparently having marital problems, and it's always the same thing with Finn. If there's something going on between him and Quinn, he will always turn to either Santana or myself."

"Wait … what?"

Rachel scooted closer, her smile warm. "Don't worry. I've dealt with this since high school, and I'm no longer remotely interested." She bit the corner of her bottom lip, bravely letting her hand lift to curl around his bicep. "Despite how much I enjoyed it, there's no need to show your possessive side again."

Puck couldn't move, could barely think. Part of him was still focused on Rachel, on the feel of her hand against his skin and the look in her eyes that told him she'd calmed down enough for some non-crazed (but still awesome) sex. The other part, however, kept replaying her words and trying to figure how he could have missed so much. "Finn is your ex? Finn Hudson?"

"Yes." She looked at him quizzically. "You knew that."

"No." He couldn't stop the short, incredulous laugh that escaped. He hurried out of bed, picking up his boxers on his way and putting them on before resuming Rachel's spot so he could now pace. His mind was somehow moving at a mile-a-minute pace and yet was focused solely on one thing. "Ya said you knew him. Ya didn't say you did him."

Puck knew he was overreacting. Not necessarily for the situation, but for him. He was just so caught off guard that it felt like an out of body experience. His physical self was in the room with Rachel, but the rest of him was back two years ago in a similar room with a different girl. She was telling him that she'd been lying to him for the past six months and that she was going back to New York, to her fiance. She was engaged to Finn, who Puck was trying to get to play in Sam's band as his first contribution to the blond's career after Puck had finally agreed to be his manager.

"Noah," Rachel chastised softly, scooting to the edge of the bed and letting her feet dangle as she watched him. "We haven't been together since high school; there's no need to be jealous."

Puck's blood boiled at the thought of losing another girl to Finn fucking Hudson. It had sucked before, but most of his anger had been wrapped up in all the other shit that went down between him and his ex. This time, with Rachel … just the thought was almost too much. Then again, the thought that Puck had Rachel and Finn clearly wanted her (or wanted her again now that there was trouble in paradise) was sort of gratifying. Like he'd lost the battle but could easily win the war.

"We are friends, though; he will be at the party." Rachel felt herself holding her breath, worried the history between Noah and Finn would cause tension at the party. It was clearly already affecting him if his suddenly brooding aura was any indication. "And, given the problems between him and Quinn, I'm positive she'll make some excuse to not attend, which means there will be nothing to stop him from following me around all night asking question after question about Sam."

Puck had anticipated being forced to explain his behavior, but there was a silver lining in Rachel's nervous rambling. If Quinn wouldn't show up, then did he have to tell Rachel anything?

"Put on some clothes!" Sam shouted, knocking on the door and effectively interrupting Puck's thoughts and Rachel's questioning. "I can't believe I'm knocking on my own door."

"What?" Puck practically growled as he swung open the door, his stare growing even harder when Sam dared to look up and down his frame before looking over at Rachel (who had thankfully been of the mind to cover herself with the sheet).

"You could be a little nicer." Sam grinned, not deterred by his friend's sour mood. "After all, I am letting you defile my guest room while Santana is out of town."

"What do you have there, Samuel?" Rachel asked sweetly, overdoing it a little to counteract Noah's harsh welcoming.

Sam smiled, presenting the small radio out and turning up the volume. "Just thought you might want to hear this."

We got our feet on the ground

And we're burning it down

Oh, got our heads in the clouds

And we're not coming down

This girl is on fire

This girl is on fire

She's walking on fire

This girl is on fire

Rachel smiled shyly, looking away from Noah's clearly impressed gaze. She knew he'd heard it before; the song had been out since right before they first met - the first time she'd heard it playing was through her cell phone after Kurt had called her screaming like a fangirl. She'd been so excited that she didn't even bother reminding him that there was a three-hour time difference between New York and California and he'd woken her at four in the morning - and he'd randomly commented one day on how it wasn't as "Broadway-y" as he'd expected. It wasn't much of a compliment (though, now knowing him, it was more than what most people get), but seeing his expression and how he still seemed blown away by her talent was enough for her.

"Thank you, Sam," she finally said, looking to the blond. "But I've heard the single on the radio already."

"It's not just a single." Sam turned the song up as high as it would go, speaking louder. "It is now the number one single."

Rachel's mouth hung open, her eyes widening milliseconds before her mouth followed. Her smile was blinding, and if it hadn't knocked the wind out of him, the way she'd jumped from the bed and into Puck's arms certainly would have. She squealed in his ear and he couldn't help but laugh at her reaction, holding onto her just as tightly as he spun her around in celebration; it was at that moment - or maybe the next, when he finished the last spin and used her back and the force of his body pressed hotly against hers to push the door closed; Sam called out a "you're welcome" before it shut in his face and he started to walk away - that Puck decided he wouldn't tell Rachel about his past.

She was his now, and that's all that mattered.


Author's Note: To clarify, there was a goof in the timeline on this story (caused by one wrong word in a previous chapter that ruined everything. Go figure). In chapter 10 Rachel mentioned she'd been thinking about him all "week", but it was supposed to say "month". Hopefully this doesn't pull you too far out of the story and everything still flows fine (and you aren't too depressed about missing so many days of secret Puckleberry hookups). LOL!

Disclaimer: The song used is Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire". I think Lea could kill that song, and it is kinda perfect for Rachel and her narcissistic self. Haha. As a side note,if there is anyone who knows how to insert a break in the text so song lyrics don't smush together, I would LOVE to hear it. If you've read my stuff, you know it isn't rare for me to put in song lyrics, and this happens EVERY time. I've tried adding little asterisks and whatever and it just deletes them. I've added HTML coding and it shows up as working, then I click save and the breaks go away. So frustrating!