Author's Note: I can't even begin to describe how inspired I was to write this, but everyone's excitement and support certainly added to the fire. You guys are so awesome, and I hope you enjoy Rachel's POV (let me know, either way!).
Disclaimer: Obviously the Mr. Big song is still not mine; however, the dialogue stolen from (YouTube) "Guilty Pleasures" (and then used for my own evil purposes) is also not mine. No harm intended. Don't sue.
Rachel took a deep breath, entering the classroom and wanting desperately to cry her eyes out as soon as she saw him standing there. He looked so charming and welcoming that she wanted to puke, disgusted with how naive she'd been. She clenched the folded money in her hand, greeting him as coolly as she could as she drew nearer. His hand reached out for hers and she purposefully moved hers to meet his in an effort to keep him from leaning into her personal space any further.
"What's this?" Brody asked, each of their eyes cast downward as the bill exchanged hands.
"I was hoping that I could have dinner with you tonight," she began, feeling the anger she'd felt after Santana's confession had sunk in build up again. His vacant expression only fueled the fire. "I'm sorry. Is it not enough? I wasn't sure what the going rate was these days for male hookers."
"Don't judge me."
"Oh really? For selling your body?" She wadded up the money, throwing it at him. How dare he get defensive after lying to her every second of every day they'd been together.
"Not everybody has dodding daddies to pay their bills."
The rage quickly gave way to the indescribable sadness again. How could she have trusted this man, this boy, who could speak to her with such venom in his tone? She hated when people thought she was spoiled just because of her family situation; just because her fathers supported her - financially and otherwise - didn't mean that she didn't work hard every single day to achieve her goals. She worked just as hard on her relationships, too, which might be why she was so disappointed when they failed.
"I'm such an idiot." She shook her head in disbelief, trying to hold it all together but failing miserably as her voice quivered through her next thought, "You told me that if we were honest with each other that anything was possible." She pointed at him accusingly, reaching deep inside herself to bring the anger above the grief. "Why did you lie to me?"
"Why did you lie to me?" He bit back instantly.
Her hands lifted in exasperation, desperately responding, "When did I lie to you?"
"Who do you think did this to my face?" Brody barely paused before answering for her. "One of your ex-boyfriends! He came out of a bathroom and told me to leave you alone or he'd kill me next time."
Rachel blinked in surprise, speechless as she processed his words. She couldn't explain why, but she immediately knew he was talking about Noah. It was like this feeling in her stomach, a gut reaction that told her if someone came to defend her honor, it was him. And, oddly enough, the feeling spread up from her stomach and managed to warm her suddenly cold heart.
"Noah came all the way here to do that?" She asked, mostly because her brain was still shocked even if the rest of her knew it as fact.
"Yeah," Brody answered bitterly. "And who's the liar now? I've never even heard of this guy, but clearly you have feelings for him."
Rachel's breath caught in her throat, her head shaking almost in reflex more than anything else. If she closed her eyes, she could swear it was two years ago and she was standing in the hallways of McKinley with Finn across from her, the two of them having almost the same exact fight. But what did that mean?
"Look, I'm sorry I lied about all that stuff. Okay? But I meant everything I ever said about how I feel about you."
Rachel broke down into tears yet again, turning her face away from him so she didn't have to see the truth in his eyes. She'd come here with the intent of yelling at him and storming out of his life for good (it had been a long time since she'd done a classic Berry storm out), but suddenly it all felt like it was somehow her fault. Because unlike Brody, Rachel couldn't same the same thing to him. She'd been pretending this whole time, pretending to feel certain things and be certain things. Kurt had been right; she was trying so hard to be someone she wasn't.
"I can't do this anymore."
"So, this is ... just, over?"
Rachel looked up from her spot on the piano bench, her vision hazy at best given the tears still lodged deep beneath her eyes. She felt terrible, but not for the reasons she should. "I'm sorry." She inhaled deeply, pulling herself back together as she stood. "It should have never started."
"Seein' you around is really gonna suck," he droned, giving her one last sorrowful look before turning and leaving her alone in the classroom.
Rachel wished she could just leave, maybe even binge on vegan frozen yogurt until things felt better, but unfortunately she had a full day of classes ahead of her. Luckily none of them were with Ms. July, but it was still exhausting; the work itself was tiresome, but doing it all while plastering a fake smile on her face made it even more gruesome. It was probably great practice for her career considering something in life was bound to bring her down when she most certainly couldn't show it on stage. Learning to push all of those feelings and thoughts aside was vital to her livelihood.
However, as soon as it was acceptable, she made sure to take immediate action - as much as she could - so as to not let anything fester to the point of becoming unhealthy.
"Where is he?" She asked immediately after Santana had answered the phone call, her voice groggy from likely just waking up. "I know about Noah coming here. Is he still in New York?"
"That little boyband-wannabe son of a ..."
"Santana!" Rachel gritted her teeth, hoping to get her roommate to focus. "Where is he?"
The Latina sighed. "Ya remember that place I told ya about on the other side of town? Where I was gonna stay before coming here?"
Rachel huffed in reply, ending the phone call without so much as a thank you. It would take her at least thirty minutes to get there, and that was assuming she wasn't mugged on the way. There was too much time to be alone with her thoughts, all of which were circling around the fact that Noah was in town and had been for at least two days. Santana clearly knew, and she would venture to guess that the Latina was the one who'd persuaded him to come in the first place. Whether it was because Santana really cared about Rachel or because she cared about being right, Rachel wasn't sure. But, she supposed it was the thought that counted.
Which, of course, led back to Noah. If he cared enough about her to come all the way to New York just to keep Brody from hurting her anymore than he'd already had (unknowingly to her), then why keep it a secret? Why hide away in some ratty motel without so much as a sarcastic text from him expecting some gratitude? Noah had never been shy about asking for what he wanted (sometimes in painfully graphic detail), so what could possibly be his reason for shutting her out?
"Noah Amos Puckerman!" Rachel shouted as soon as she stepped onto the chipped and broken pavement of the motel parking lot. She hadn't stayed on the phone long enough with Santana to know precisely which room he was in, but the walls looked thin enough that she figured her plan was just as effective as pounding on the front door.
"Sup, Berry?" He asked after appearing out of one of the upper-level rooms, looking like death - yet she still felt herself want to smile at the sight of him.
"Don't pull that ambivalent crap with me, Noah," she warned instead, her voice grating at best and her mood very similar. "Gather your things. We're leaving!"
Rachel sighed in relief when he didn't put up a fight, her hands on her hips as she looked to her left and then right to ensure her own safety. She'd lived in the city long enough to know the movies and television shows exaggerated the crime instances, but that didn't mean nothing ever happened. Noah could have stayed for free at the apartment for as long as he intended to stay in New York, but instead he chose to put himself in danger for no other reason (that she could think of) than because.
She glared at him during his entire trek from the upstairs motel room through the parking lot until he was right in front of her. She pushed her sunglasses from her eyes up onto the crown of her head, his frame blocking the sun enough that she could look at him without squinting. She noticed the fading bruise on his eye immediately, and then the cut on his lip. By the time she reached the bandage wrapped around his right hand, she couldn't help the frown that deepened on her face. Slowly, she reached out for the guitar case, taking it from his tight grip only to place it gently on the ground. Her eyes hesitantly rose, his pulsing once as her fingers skimmed against the gauze.
"Does it hurt?"
He shook his head, then answered her just as quietly. "Nah."
She frowned anyway, looking back down at the wounded hand. She toyed with the white fabric for a few more seconds, her touch lingering against the bare skin of his palm and fingers before dislodging completely. She'd been upset originally when she'd thought about what he'd done - violence was never the answer - but there was something heroic about it now that it seemed like he'd done it all without the intention of her finding out.
"Thank you," she whispered, eventually looking back up at him again.
"S'no biggie." He shrugged. "I was in the neighborhood."
Rachel just rolled her eyes, bending down again to pick up his guitar case before walking back the way she'd came. She was so mentally exhausted that she didn't have the strength to refute him, which was really the only reason she also gave up the fight to carry his guitar case for him so easily. Although she wanted to point out that she was the one with two abled hands, even through all the fog of her emotions she knew better to say anything of the such to Noah; a sexual innuendo would get them nowhere, and she did have at least one question to which she needed an answer.
"Did you drive here?"
Puck's face split for a moment, before he calmly responded, "Yeah, but the truck barely made it. Totally pawned it on this poor dude, which kinda worked out 'cause the parking fees in this place are insane."
Rachel nodded absently, mostly thinking of how she was going to repay him less than his reasoning. She inwardly cringed at her first thought, which was that her fathers would certainly foot the bill. Despite the Lima rumor mill, they'd always been fond of Noah; perhaps it was even because of the rumor mill, which two (interracial) gay men in the small town were certainly topic of more than not. Considering the standing relationship, it didn't count as her depending on her doting daddies, right?
She sighed helplessly, hating that she was even second guessing herself because of what Brody had said. What should matter was everything he didn't say. Instead, though, Rachel just kept coming back to how blind she'd been, not only about him but about how she fit into his life. Or, rather, how he fit into hers. Rachel couldn't believe she was one of those girls who used a relationship to fill a void, but there was really no other explanation. She'd felt empty the second she'd stepped onto that train platform to come to New York; it had gotten a little better when Kurt had moved to the city, but it hadn't been enough. Once her and Finn were officially over, she'd felt like a piece of her was missing. And she'd tried everything to change that - changing herself in the process - but now she was back at square one.
Her eye caught Noah's in her periphery, narrowing a little when he quickly averted his gaze to stare absently out the subway window. He was unusually quiet, though she figured he was thinking the same about her. He'd probably been expecting her to ramble on and on about everything amazing about New York. And, honestly, she wanted to. Through the millions of different thoughts coursing through her, there was a strong urge to open up to him. She wanted to show him all her favorite spots around town, all the neat places she'd discovered that weren't typical for a tourist. She wanted to show him her school and tell him all about her classes and classmates. She wanted to talk to him about living with Kurt and now Santana, and joke with him about rumors she'd heard about their old friends.
It didn't make sense how someone who she'd (maybe purposefully) kept so far from her mind could be the one who brought her so much clarity. Walking from the subway to the apartment, Rachel couldn't help but think about how she'd felt when Finn had showed up in New York. She'd been so nervous his entire visit, wanting desperately for him to fall in the love with the city the same way she had. Everything had felt like a test, much like she'd felt with Brody; she'd always felt like she was trying to convince him she was the person he thought she was (which seemed ironic now).
With Noah, though, Rachel didn't need to show off. She felt perfectly comfortable being herself around him, not just because she'd known him so long but because, through everything, he'd never once made her feel like she wasn't enough. He picked on her about talking too much or about a poor shoe choice, but it was always with the knowledge that he didn't really care. She could have talked his ear off the entire trip about this and that, and he would have just chuckled, shook his head, and chalked it up to her being "bat-shit crazy". And even though she wasn't entirely that girl anymore, Rachel liked that she didn't have to pretend with Noah. He made her feel different, but still like she was somehow the same.
He made her feel whole.
"We have to turn this into a musical so I can play Jo."
Rachel smiled to herself as she opened the apartment door wider, stepping aside so Noah could follow her in while she hung up her coat and asserted herself into the conversation between Santana and Kurt. "Can I be Blair, and we can do a duet?"
"What the fuck is that?" Puck asked, Rachel stepping from behind him and smiling at the precarious positions of her roommates (and their pillow mates).
"Puck?" Kurt questioned, his head practically twisting off his neck as he turned from Puck and his duffel bag to look at Rachel, then Santana and back again. "Absolutely not!"
"Rachel, we are one homeless person away from being classified a shelter as is!" Kurt argued immediately, unwrapping Bruce from around him and standing with a huff. "We can't just keep taking strays off the streets just because ..."
"Bathroom," Rachel interrupted primly, leading Kurt to the only room that had a door.
The door was closed for all of two seconds before Kurt turned and angrily hushed, "This is ridiculous, Rachel. No, scratch that. It was ridiculous to agree to let Santana stay here. It is beyond ridiculous to let Puck ..."
"He came here for me," she interrupted quietly, frowning a bit. "I mean, I think he did. I don't know." She sighed, not really ready to go into all that. "He's the reason Brody had that black eye. I think Santana called him and told him what Brody was doing and ... he came."
Kurt bellowed for Santana at a decimal not exactly necessary since she could only be fifty or so feet away maximum. Still, it took her at least a minute to enter the bathroom fully, and another minute passed between the two of them bickering about the smell of alcohol on her breath before Kurt made it back to his original train of thought. "Did you invite Puck here?"
Rachel groaned at the quick, defiant answer. She's learned to use very specific, precise language with Santana, otherwise she'd find a loophole to not tell the full truth. "Did you call him?"
"Yes," Santana hissed - upset about Rachel figuring out the secret to getting her to talk or about not showing any gratitude, Rachel wasn't sure. "What's the big deal? So he sleeps on the couch."
"Need I remind you that you sleep on the couch?"
"I'm workin' the late shift all this week. By the time I'm getting home and winding down, you guys will be awake." Santana studied one of her perfectly manicured fingernails for a moment, then said, "I'm totally crashing in Berry's crib."
Kurt looked at Rachel, waiting for her to find a reason to hate the idea. Unfortunately, she couldn't. "It's fine." She shrugged, sadly adding, "It's not as if he'll be staying long."
"Well that depends on you, Princess."
Santana's words echoed in Rachel's mind as she walked out, the Latina pulled back in by Kurt before the door shut once more. Rachel crossed her arms in front of her chest weakly, seeing Noah in the kitchen and thinking that she'd missed him - though she wasn't sure if she meant in the last few minutes or from when they'd last really hung out, which had sadly probably been nearly a year ago, after graduation.
"You can have the couch," she offered softly. "Santana is working late tonight, but she'll sleep in my room."
Rachel tried to smile (there was the sexual reference she'd predicted earlier), but it didn't quite work as the next words were spoken. "I'll call Daddy tonight and ask him to transfer some money for a plane ticket."
"S'cool, Rach," he interrupted, clearing his throat nervously. Had she ever really heard him nervous? "I, uh, think I'mma check out some things. Stick around for awhile."
Her eyes widened a little, a bud of excitement coursing through her so fiercely that it overpowered all the other emotions swimming around inside her.
"I won't stay here long," he rushed out.
"No." Rachel shook her head, her arms falling down to her sides even though her hands wrung in front of her lap. How could she be disappointed about something that she wasn't even aware of less than a minute prior? "Stay as long as you like."
"Just shower first," Santana inserted herself into the conversation, walking out of the restroom with Kurt hot on her heels. "Get rid of the fleas and shit from that dump, then take a nap 'cause you look like hell." She grabbed her coat, then tossed Rachel hers and shoved Kurt's at his chest. "We're going to dinner before my shift."
Rachel pulled her coat back on after just taking it off, looking over her shoulder at him. He looked pretty much how she felt, drained and running on fumes. Fleetingly she almost swooned at the thought that he went through all of it for her, but more at the forefront of her mind was whether that were true and how she'd have to find out from Santana at dinner. After all, the three of them hadn't had plans before and from Kurt's anxious behavior, Rachel figured the point of the meal was not to eat but to discuss everything that was going on.
"I'll bring you back something," she promised as Santana ushered her out the front door, his meek wave goodbye the last image of him before the three of them started the trek toward the restaurant.
Rachel blew out a deep breath, feeling like she had been talking for the past two hours without stopping, even though that wasn't really the case. Both Kurt and Santana had interjected plenty, questioning her about every minute detail of her breakup with Brody and dissecting the relationship and his character as if it were a bad movie they'd all seen together. Santana had also explained how she'd figured the whole thing out and what she had done to confirm it, glancing over the whole part about how she'd called Finn to help her but he'd confessed he couldn't before she'd called Noah.
"I suppose it makes sense," Rachel conceded thoughtfully. "I think Noah would do pretty much anything for a good fight."
Santana scoffed, pushing her nearly empty plate away from her as she leaned forward. "Are you kiddin' me?" She hooked her index finger mockingly to draw Rachel closer. "You think that boy came all this way just to kick the shit outta your American psycho? I'd barely finished saying your name before I heard his keys turn the ignition."
Kurt openly swooned. "I can't believe this is happening."
"What?" Rachel asked dumbly, looking between the two and wondering what she was missing.
"Rachel," Kurt practically growled, giving her that look that made her feel like she was two inches tall. "Please tell me you aren't this daft."
"Is it really that hard to believe?" Santana snorted out sardonically. "She still doesn't think Jesse was gay, for Christ's sake."
Rachel rolled her eyes at Santana, ignoring the comment and instead focusing on the more friendly (albeit still strained) face of her best friend. "If he allegedly did this for me, then why wouldn't he just say that?"
Santana barked out a laugh. "You've met Puck, right?"
"Rachel, getting straight men to discuss their feelings is like teaching a whale to play catch. It takes a lot of time and effort and patience."
"And even then the whale could randomly change its mind and swallow you whole."
Rachel's face scrunched in displeasure at the mental image Santana had painted, her brain slowly processing the simile and how it applied to Noah and their relationship. It was no secret that Noah kept his feelings heavily guarded. She'd known him since they were seven and she could only recall a handful of real, honest conversations between them - more than half of them occurring before puberty hit and he'd all but banished her from his life completely, until sophomore year. But even though he was the strong, silent type, Rachel felt like she'd learned to read him well enough that he didn't necessarily need to voice his every thought/emotion.
"There's always been a connection between Noah and myself; I can admit that in spite of everything," she admitted quietly, pausing only to smile at the waiter as he brought them their checks. "Just today on the subway ride home, I was next to him and feeling so lost and confused about everything, and I caught his eye and suddenly everything felt better."
Rachel's eyes widened as the words tumbled out of her mouth, surprised by how easily they were said when she felt like she'd repressed similar thoughts for so long. It didn't help that both Santana and Kurt looked so triumphant as soon as she was finished, basically high-fiving while simultaneously looking at her like she was stupid. She closed her eyes tightly, partially to block out their derisive expressions and partly to focus on pinpointing what her feelings for Noah meant and when they'd developed and how she'd kept them at bay for so long when there was clearly an underlying significance to them.
"You're welcome," Santana stated plainly, moving her check toward Rachel before standing up and leaving the restaurant. Kurt at least threw down ten dollars before leaving, too, telling her he was meeting Adam for a movie but he'd be back early enough that they could talk if she needed to. She appreciated the thought, but couldn't fathom it just then. In fact, after she walked the entire way home and was climbing the stairs - terrified of seeing Noah and how to act around him after everything she'd been told and thought - she yearned for some quiet solitude.
Which was exactly what she got once she opened the apartment door. The setting sun shone low in the windows, but the loft was cast in mostly darkness. Noah was sound asleep on the couch, his feet propped up and crossed on the opposite arm as his head. He'd clearly showered but was wearing the same clothes as before, and Rachel decided after putting the to-go food she'd gotten him in the fridge to wash the clothes that she knew must be dirty inside the duffel bag he'd been carrying. After that, she went about her nightly routine, showering and dressing into her pajamas before making her way inside her bedroom (after whispering goodnight to Kurt, who must have returned home sometime during her shower).
She turned on the small lamp by her bed, hoping the dim light wouldn't shine too brightly through the curtained walls. Through all the chaos of Santana's arrival and Brody's departure, Rachel hadn't been dedicating herself to perfecting her Broadway audition as much as she should. Grabbing the script she'd been working to memorize, Rachel settled onto the bed, her back resting against the headboard. Unfortunately, she didn't make it more than a few lines in before the screeching sound of a chair scraping across the hardwood floor could be heard, followed closely by Noah's intrusion into her room.
Her mouth opened in question, but closed just as fast when he raised his hand disapprovingly. Normally she wouldn't be so obedient, but he was clutching his guitar in his hands and looking even more anxious than he had earlier on the subway. With Kurt and Santana's conclusion floating through her mind, Rachel was willing to keep quiet long enough to see if Noah was going to show her any tricks he knew.
Hold on, little girl
Show me what he's done to you
Stand up, little girl
A broken heart can't be that bad
When it's through, it's through
Fate will twist the both of you
So come on, baby, come on over
Let me be the one to show you
I'm the one who wants to be with you
Deep inside, I hope you'll feel it, too
Waited on a line of greens and blues
Just to be the next to be with you
Build up your confidence
So you can be on top for once
Wake up. Who cares about little boys
That talk too much?
I've seen it all go down
The game of love was all rained out
So come on, baby, come on over
Let me be the one to hold you
I'm the one who wants to be with you
Deep inside, I hope you'll feel it, too
Waited on a line of greens and blues
Just to be the next to be with you
Why be alone when we can be together, baby?
You can make my life worthwhile
I can make you start to smile
Rachel felt catatonic throughout his performance, paralysed by the magnitude of the words he'd been singing. To her. And, even more than the lyrics, his eyes were speaking to her as well. They'd remained focused on her through each verse, telling their own (equally powerful) story, one that she refused to take for granted any longer. The second he looked away, Rachel scrambled out of bed, drawing nearer to him as he continued to strum the guitar. His fingering fumbled a note, then Rachel placed her hand over his to stop his playing altogether. Her other hand moved to cradle his jaw, Rachel bending down a little until her lips touched his.
"Shit," he hissed, pulling back immediately and running his tongue over the cut on his lip. He winced, groaning loudly. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."
"I'm sorry," she rushed out, her hand falling from his cheek as he moved back even further. Panic swelled in her chest, the sting of rejection clouded only by the passing sense of guilt she felt at the idea that he was wounded so badly that he couldn't even kiss.
"Don't." He shook his head, banging the back of it against the curve of the backrest a few times. "Don't ever be sorry for that."
She blushed, loving how open he (always) was with his attraction to her and wishing she could thank him ... properly. Just the thought made her jittery, Rachel not sure how she could have ignored these feelings for so long.
"Unless ya didn't mean it," he added roughly.
"I meant it," she assured in a rush, hesitantly asking, "Did you mean it? A-all of it?"
Everything was happening so fast, and yet time seemed to stand still after she'd asked her question. Each passing second felt more like a lifetime, and Rachel wasn't even sure if she breathed the entire time. Instead, the many different possible replies sprung to her mind, occupying all of her as she contemplated how she would handle each of them. How could something that wasn't even a possibility yesterday suddenly be so important to her?
"I love you."
Rachel frantically shoved at the guitar, pushing it off his lap and out of her way as she climbed onto his lap and attacked his lips. She felt him tense immediately, and while part of her knew he was likely in a lot of pain and they should stop, the other (much bigger) part refused to pull away. It had been so long since they'd last kissed (outside of just a moment ago for about a millisecond) and she'd nearly forgotten how powerful it always felt - and made her feel.
"I love you, too," she admitted breathlessly, her hands moving wildly against his shoulders as she spoke. "And I know that sounds crazy since I was just with Brody and Finn before that, but I've been thinking so much lately about everything and ... I haven't felt like myself for so long and you'd said something at the wedding - or non-wedding, I guess it was - about how I'd looked different. Remember? I'd asked you good different or bad different, and you'd said just different, and that I always looked good."
She sucked in a quick breath before continuing, "And it could be written off as shallow or even insignificant considering the slew of compliments you throw at just about anything in a skirt, but ... I've known you longer than most people - certainly Brody, and even Finn - and you've never lied to me and you've always been there for me when I've needed you and ... I guess what I'm trying to say is that I need you. Now more than ever, because I've been feeling so lost and out of touch with myself and I like who I am when I'm with you and who you see when you look at me and ... I love you, too."
"Yeah." Puck snorted out a chuckle, shaking his head slightly as his bandaged hand came up to press against her cheek, his thumb sliding across her temple to move some of her hair behind her ear. God, his touch did things to her. "I heard that part. Ya know, before my ears started bleeding."
"Noah," she whined, the rest of her speech cut off by his lips. She relented to his silencing tactic with a drawn out sigh, melting against him as he teased her in the best possible way. His tongue moved across hers in some forbidden dance, his lips taking small tastes of her. She couldn't believe she'd wasted time doing this with anyone else, not wanting to stop even when her lungs were burning from the lack of oxygen. The gasp of air was needed, but the space between them when they pulled apart was unwelcome.
"Are you really thinking about staying in New York?" She asked quickly, not stopping there. "I think you'd love it here, Noah. There's so many things I want to show you. And we could research classes at nearby schools or I could help you find a job closeby. Despite the heavily publicized unemployment rate, I have seen so many places hiring just while walking around the city. And I can help you learn your way around. If you want to find your own place, then ..."
She stopped mid-sentence, his thumb pressed gently against her lip. "Sorry," she mumbled, sucking in her bottom lip in embarrassment. Why did she always have to push things too far? Why couldn't she ever just enjoy what was right in front of her instead of always wanting more? She'd said it before (to him): She wanted everything too much. "We can discuss all this later. You still must be so tired."
Puck chuckled, strong-holding her against him and coming to a stand. Rachel squeaked in surprise, wrapping her arms around his neck and locking her ankles around his waist. "Yeah," he practically growled, her arousal heightening even more after he dropped them both to the mattress, his lower half grinding into hers just enough that his train of thought was quite obvious. "But I ain't plannin' on sleeping just yet."
Rachel could feel the warmth of the sun streaming on her face, but more enticing was the heat radiating off Noah's naked frame. She could tell he was awake given the lazy patterns he was drawing on her leg, and the way his breath had changed to match her own. Their closeness (in every aspect) managed to calm and excite her at the same time, her tendency to pop out of bed and begin her day not as appealing as staying under the covers with him for as long as possible.
"Mornin'," he drawled when she stretched against him. She hummed in reply, not even bothering to open her eyes as she settled back into the area where she'd all but burrowed herself into the entire night. He immediately moved the hand that had been resting on her leg to slide across her stomach, pulling her impossibly close before running his lips across the back of her neck and shoulder.
Rachel would be a liar if she said she'd never thought about what it might be like if she'd ever slept with Noah. She'd propositioned him at one point, so obviously she'd considered it. And she'd heard enough about his sexual prowess to know better than to underestimate his abilities, but never in her wildest dreams did she think it would be as incredible as it was. Granted, she'd only been with two other men in her life so she wasn't exactly an expert, but everything about last night had been above and beyond - even afterward when she half-expected him to push her away and grunt something vulgar; instead, he was quite sweet, welcoming her into his arms when she'd attempted to cuddle into him.
Her outside arm moved to rest on the one he still had secured around her abdomen, her fingers dancing over his bicep and forearm before drawing random circles on the back of his hand. She felt him relax against her, his breath nearly evening out. The whole thing was surreal, but nothing more than Noah Puckerman being a snuggler. It couldn't be real.
"The fuck?" He asked, gripping the hand she'd just used to pinch him and pulling it up to turn her so her back was against the bed. He looked into her eyes questionably. "I don't gotta 'nough flesh wounds already?"
Rachel giggled lightly. "I'm sorry, Noah." She kissed his lips gently, leaving a trail of light pecks down his neck and chest until she was back flat on the mattress looking up at him. "I'd thought it was all a dream."
His eyes softened, then turned dark when his free arm pulled her flush against him. She wove her left leg between his to accommodate the new position, his groan of approval vibrating against her. She'd never particularly enjoyed engaging in sexual activities in the morning, too self conscious about her breath or her hair or lack of makeup, but Noah was making it quite obvious that he wasn't paying attention to any of those things. His hand was pressed hotly on her lower back and the second she felt it start to dip lower, her hands skimmed low down his chest in kind.
"Are you fuckers ever gonna get outta bed?" Santana asked seconds before tearing open the curtain closing off Rachel's room. "Gross."
Rachel's hands stopped in the nick of time, her frustration hidden just because of where Santana had entered to room. However, Noah was upset enough for the two of them.
"Ya need somethin', Satan?"
"Listen here, Puckerman. You're new here, and while I'm sure you'd love to rail Berry into oblivion, I just worked a ten-hour shift and can't sleep with Baby Face out there sweating to the oldies or whatever." She pointed to Puck, then Rachel, then toward the living room as she said, "You and you, get dressed and get outta my bed."
"Santana ..." Rachel began, begrudgingly untangling herself from Noah.
"We'll work on the details later, but there's no way Puckerman gets a cozy bed when I'm out on the couch every night." She glared at Puck. "Do you know how many musicals and shitty movies I've had to sit through?"
"How quickly her tune changes," Kurt commented as he, too, entered Rachel's room. At that moment, Rachel had never scorned her opening up her apartment to both of them more. "Speaking of tunes, Mr. Big? Really?"
"What?" Santana scoffed, her attention moving from Kurt to Puck. "You used some shitty classic rock song to bed his BFF?" She shook her head in disgust, moving her gaze to Rachel. "And you let him?"
"The song was lovely," Rachel assured, using the top of the sheet to shield herself as she sat up. She saw the fabric fall dangerously low against Noah's torso, and she blushed before smiling when he only winked in response. Mr. Big indeed. "And he sang it beautifully."
Kurt and Santana shared a look, the former putting words to their shared displeasure. "Well I hope you text as well as you sing; this stupid thing has been buzzing all night." He tossed Puck's cell phone toward the bed, the small device landing heavily on his stomach. "And it wasn't the only loud thing keeping me awake."
Rachel's skin flushed more, flashes of last night passing through her mind. She was embarrassed beyond measure, but nothing would make her regret what had happened. Besides, she'd known Kurt and Santana long enough now that she was getting used to their barbs. Living with them had actually tamed the insults, Rachel likening the whole experience to what it might have been like if she'd grown up with siblings.
"If I make breakfast - a real breakfast," Rachel clarified only to keep them from interrupting, "would that perhaps be enough to entice you both to give us some space until everything is figured out?"
"Let me confer with my client," Santana said, leaning into Kurt before whispering something into his ear. His eyes glazed over for a moment before staring deeply at Rachel and then Puck, finally turning to speak quietly to her. She nodded once, looking back at the couple on the bed. "We want pancakes."
Rachel rolled her eyes as the two of them left, slowly turning back to face Puck. A wave of disappointment washed over her as she realized they wouldn't be able to spend the day in bed, but she hoped this morning wouldn't be their only chance. "Hungry?"
"Sure." He hinged upright, resting his chin on her shoulder. Instinctively, she leaned into him. "Need my strength for later." The heat from earlier quickly returned, her body turning into him and all thoughts of breakfast lost. "Job hunting and stuff can be tirin'."
"Noah," Rachel chastised softly, her light laughter negating any admonishment she might have meant from it. Instead, she opted for rolling her eyes and getting out bed, picking up the pajamas she'd been wearing last night. She could feel his eyes on her as she redressed, and because of his previous jarring and heated scrutiny, Rachel took her time just to torture him. Once she was finished, she motioned for him to follow her, but he gestured to his phone. She nodded once in understanding, walking out of the room and into the kitchen - otherwise known as the interrogation room considering the two very curious pairs of eyes burning holes in her head as she came closer.
"We're waiting," Kurt sing-songed impatiently.
"Do you want to hear all the details or do you want me to make my delicious vegan pancakes?"
"I want to hear the det ..." Kurt stopped mid-sentence, changing the course of his reply. "Vegan pancakes is not a real breakfast."
"Because they aren't real pancakes."
"It most certainly is," she argued to Kurt before looking at Santana, "and they most certainly are."
"Someone's still wound awfully tight," Santana remarked, still mostly collapsed against the countertop after what looked like a very long night tending bar. "Are you havin' that morning-after panic attack? What are we? Where is this going?" The Latina scoffed. "Women."
"No," Rachel answered honestly, though in the back of her mind she recalled her conversation with Finn at the non-wedding, about how he'd called her a liar regarding the open attitude she'd adopted for her relationship with Brody. He'd been absolutely right, and it probably should have been a clear sign that her and Brody weren't meant to be. She didn't take living with someone lightly, and she liked labels - she had a label maker, for Pete's sake! She liked things to be organized and defined because then it was clear where things were meant to be or go. But this time she didn't feel like she needed Noah to call her his girlfriend (and she her boyfriend) because the label seemed trivial compared to how she felt.
Finn had said the reason she couldn't commit to Brody was because she was in love with someone else. And, naturally, he'd thought it had been him. Granted, there was a part of her that would always love him; he'd been her first love and had changed her life by being the stronger one of the two of them the day she'd come to New York. But when Rachel thought about being in love with someone, she envisioned two people who craved one another in every aspect. They loved talking to each other and just being around the other. They pushed each other to all limits, with a passion that burned deeper and brighter than anything imaginable.
She didn't feel that way for Finn anymore. Unfortunately, even knowing that, at the wedding she had probably been at her lowest of lonesome lows, and listening to Finn talk about them being endgame was sadly enough for her to want to believe him. He still clung so deeply to the idea of them being together that she almost felt guilty about not holding on to those kinds of feelings anymore. But now she knew that he'd been right; she was in love with someone else. And sure, she had no idea if her and Noah were endgame either, but that was just another undefined label she was willing to have in their relationship.
"Cool it, Satan," Noah commanded gruffly, appearing from Rachel's room wearing a pair of sweatpants and a wife beater that Rachel had washed the night prior and placed back in his bag. His hand moved to rest her hip as he peered over her shoulder to see inside the bowl where she was stirring the pancake mix. He nodded once in what she guessed was approval before backing away, but not before nipping at her shoulder/neck and smacking her playfully in the ass. "Lay off my girl."
They still had a lot to talk about, but for now, she had no problems with that label.