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Title: Breakaway, Part 6a/?
Author: Sapphire ([livejournal.com profile] sapphiresfic)
Fandom: Glee
Pairing/Characters: Puckleberry (Puck/Rachel), Puck, Rachel, other Glee characters
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 19,141 (Part a & b)
Spoilers: This part to '3x18 - Choke'; whole series will be through the Glee season 3 finale.
Series: 'Breakaway' (List of all the parts on my LJ)... Also follows my LJ Lark series. So far 'Part 1 - Breaking The Rules' and 'Part 2 - Something To Talk About'.
Fic Table prompt: #31 - Space (table at my journal here).
Summary1: Alternate, deleted and additional scenes leading to Puckleberry being endgame by the end of season 3. Parallels with my LJ Lark series. Slightly AU after the end of '3x11 - Michael'. Posted in honor of Puckleberry Week. For fic table prompt #31 - Space.
Summary2: Episode '3x18 - Choke'
Disclaimer1: I don't own Glee, so I'm just borrowing the characters and ideas for the fun of writing, *but* I do own the original characters, original plot and other original ideas.
A/N1: I edited this, so all mistakes are mine.
A/N2: Feedback keeps me writing, so please comment or review. :D
Disclaimer2: Title from one of my favorite Kelly Clarkson songs 'Breakaway'. Just borrowing. I don't own!


~*~

Disclaimer3: Any familiar lines from the episode listed have been underlined... Just borrowing them! I don't own!

A/N3: In going back through each scene of 'Choke', I realized they jumped around a lot. It's only supposed to cover a few days, but they kept flashing back to days before and bouncing around, so I've sorted out a chronological order of how things happened... In other words, things will still happen that did in the show, but they may not be in the same order we saw them. I just wanted to let you know, in case you're wondering.

~*~

3x18 - Choke

~*~

It's a Thursday afternoon, and Rachel had something on her mind. She and Puck have been together officially for four weeks and a day and it's been a little over a week since he'd admitted he was her Secret Admirer. She'd hoped that with his admission, he wouldn't keep any more secrets from her, but after accidentally overhearing a conversation he had with one of his teachers that morning, and him not mentioning anything about it during lunch when they worked on her audition song, she needed to talk to him.

Usually he found her between classes, but she went in search of him and saw him at his locker, "Noah, we need to talk," she started, moving to stand next to him.

Puck turned to her and raised a curious eyebrow, "alright. Um, did I do something to upset you?" He asked, closing his locker gently.

Rachel shook her head, "no, but do you have anything you'd like to tell me?" She asked, giving him a chance to bring it up first.

"No, I don't," he replied, not sure what she was getting at.

"I overheard you talking to one of your teachers," she bit her lip nervously, "I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but I saw you so I was going to talk to you, but," she sighed, "I heard her tell you that if you don't pass her test next week that she'll have to fail you, which means you won't be able to graduate on time," she said sadly, "Noah, I didn't realize your grades in that class were that bad. Why didn't you tell me?"

Puck sighed, and turned, motioning down the hall for her to walk with him, "I didn't want to say anything, because the last thing you need is to be worrying about me and my grades. Your audition is next week and you need to focus on that," he said honestly.

"Noah, but I still care about you and I should have known this. What if you don't pass?" She asked nervously, trying not to panic.

"I'm sure I'll pass it. Don't worry," he draped an arm around her shoulders to help calm her down, "since I was out for several weeks and never thought to get any make-up work for it, I'm gonna talk to her tomorrow and see if she will let me take the test later."

"Oh, um, okay. Hopefully she'll allow that. Are you doing okay in your other classes?" She asked softly.

Puck nodded, "I'm passing auto shop, wood shop and metal shop, so this is the only class I need to deal with."

Rachel took a deep breath and nodded, "okay. I just wish you would have told me. I can help you study."

"It's alright, babe. Don't worry about me. I'll take care of this. I just want you focused on your audition," he said honestly, "practice after school at your house?" He asked, wanting to change the subject.

"Yes, my place after school. I quite enjoy our after school practices," she smiled at him, glancing around a little and then leaned up and pressed a kiss to his lips once they stopped outside her class.

Puck returned her kiss, "then I'll see you after school," he promised with a smile.

Rachel nodded and turned to walk into the room and once she was inside, Puck headed towards his next class and sighed, "fuck, what the hell are you going to do, man? Mrs. Doosenberry isn't going to let you take the test later," he thought walking down the hallway, "I'm better off dropping out of school and doing odd jobs around town to make money until Rachel graduates and then I'll have more saved up for when we move to New York," he told himself, "that's not such a bad idea, actually... But she's probably not going to want to date me anymore... She deserves better than a high school drop-out. Fuck, what the hell am I going to do?"

~*~

Rachel trusted that Puck had everything under control, so she didn't bring up their conversation in the hallway again, while they were at her house working on her audition piece and hanging out.

When Friday morning arrived, Rachel went on like usual and while she was at her locker before Glee, she got a text from Puck, "talking to my teacher. Meet you in Glee." Glad to hear he was talking to her, Rachel went to the choir room to wait for him there and hoped he was able to work out something with his teacher.

Greeting her friends and taking a seat near Kurt to talk to him about their NYADA auditions the following week, she didn't think anything was wrong, until everyone had entered the choir room, except Puck, and Will was starting class. Just after Will began talking, Puck walked into the room, wearing all black, including a leather jacket and grabbed the nearest guitar, turned on the amp and began rocking out to 'School's Out'.

Everyone jumped in shock, as they watched him bounce around and jam on the guitar. The song itself, though good for an end of the year song, didn't make sense with over a month left before school was out, so the teens and Will were all confused why he picked it.

Music was a great way for Puck to show his feelings and when he talked to his teacher, he got pissed off and went to Glee afterward, doing the only thing he could to express what was going on. In his mind, he was rocking out on the football field, with Cheerios dancing along to his song, but in reality, he was jumping around the choir room, rocking out.

As the song came to an end, he dropped the guitar to the floor, waking him from the daydream he'd been in. Glancing around the room briefly, he saw the shocked faces of his friends and teacher, and then his eyes landed on his girlfriend. Her mouth was hanging open in shock and he couldn't face her at the moment. He needed some time to cool off, so without a word, he turned on his heel and walked out of the classroom, heading for the parking lot; he was done with high school.

~*~

"What the hell just happened?" Santana asked as Puck walked out of the room.

Kurt reached out and placed a hand on Rachel's shoulder, "Rachel, what's up with him?" He asked, knowing of their relationship.

Jumping when Kurt touched her, Rachel snapped from the daze she'd been in to gather her thoughts. She knew it wasn't necessarily her place to tell them, but she also knew Puck wouldn't, "um, all I know is that he was going to talk to his teacher today about postponing his test, because he missed so much school," she explained, "um, if he doesn't pass it next week, she'll fail him, which means he won't be able to graduate," she murmured, taking a deep breath, "I um... I'll..."


Without another word said, she stood up and rushed out of the room, hoping to catch up to her boyfriend, but had no clue where he had gone. Given the words of the song, she had a feeling she'd find him leaving school and as she finally reached the exit, and looked out into the parking lot, she saw his truck pulling out of a parking space. Walking as fast as she could, she tried to chase after him, but he was driving out of the parking lot before she could get anywhere near him. Pulling her phone from her pocket, she quickly sent a text message to him, "Noah! Don't leave! We can fix whatever it is!"

Feeling tears in her eyes, she took a deep breath, "oh, Noah, what are you doing? Don't do this... Don't give up. We can figure this out..." She thought, jumping a little as her phone vibrated in her hand. Seeing a text from her boyfriend, she opened it up to read, "I'll be at your house after school."

Though she wished she could have gotten more from him, she settled for that and responded with, "I will see you there. Noah, I hope you know I care about you." She wanted him to know how she felt, even if it was just being concerned about him. They'd only been together for a short time and she definitely felt more for him, but she wasn't sure she was ready to use the word 'love', yet, but hoped one day she could.

Walking back into McKinley Rachel was lost in her thoughts. She knew, without being told directly, that her boyfriend's conversation with his teacher didn't go as he planned. She figured he decided to just give up, which is what caused him to sing 'School's Out'; he was dropping out of school. "Oh, Noah, I know you're stubborn and I can only imagine what you're feeling right now, but don't run away. We can figure this out," she thought with a sigh. She hoped she could talk him out of his drastic choice, but also knew she couldn't push him too much, or he'd probably run further away, so she agreed she needed to take things slow. She'd talk to him after school to see what happened and then take things one step at a time.

Rachel found herself walking back into the choir room, where most of the club was still hanging out. They immediately asked if she'd caught up to Puck, but she shook her head, 'no'. "I didn't. I got outside in time to see him pulling out of the school parking lot. He did message me and told me he'd be at my house after school. He's been coming over so we can work on my audition for NYADA, so hopefully later on and this weekend I can talk him out of dropping out school," she explained.

The bell rang to end class, so no one got a chance to respond, but Rachel could tell everyone was shocked Puck was dropping out. They all filed out of the class, and needing to get on with her day, Rachel headed to her locker to get her things for her next class.

After going in the opposite direction as Blaine, Kurt caught up to Rachel at her locker, "hey. Do you really think he's gonna drop out?" He asked softly.

Rachel sighed, "I don't know. I'm hoping he's just upset and needs some time to cool off. I also know I can't lecture him too much, or he'll probably totally give up, so I'm just going to be a concerned and caring girlfriend and see how things go," she explained.

"Understandable. If you need to talk, I'm here," Kurt told her.

"Thanks," Rachel smiled, "that means a lot."

~*~

To say that Puck was upset was an understatement. His teacher was not willing to give him any special treatment, even considering the special circumstances that caused him to miss so much school. He knew there was no way he'd be able to cram a year's worth of World Geography into his brain in less than a week, to even get a 'D-' on the test, so he figured it was easier to just drop out.

As he left McKinley, he saw Rachel outside, trying to stop him, but he didn't want to drag her into his mess, so he kept going. When he got her first message, he responded that he'd be at her house after school, mentally adding, "to give back your music. I'm sure you're not gonna want to date a high school drop-out. You deserve better than that."

When Rachel's second reply came, he was shocked to see the words 'I care about you'. He knew she did, but for her to tell him, meant even more at that moment, and a little hope was restored in him that maybe she wouldn't break up with him after all. "Rachel deserves better than a high school drop-out, so if she doesn't break up with me, I need to. I'll only hold her back. She needs to just move on to achieve her dreams in New York because I'm just the Lima Loser everyone thought I'd be," Puck sighed, chucking his phone into the passenger seat, not bothering to reply to her message.

~*~

Finishing out the school day, Rachel was nervous to get home. She needed to talk to her boyfriend and figure out what was going on. She hadn't heard from him the rest of the day, but she expected it, and couldn't help imagining what he was thinking or doing. "I'm sure he figures that I don't want him anymore. Well, Noah Puckerman, you have another thing coming. I'm not giving up on you. I care about you too much to just watch you drop out and give up," she thought, nodding as she closed her closer and made her way to the parking lot. "You need to graduate, Noah. If you don't pass this test, that doesn't mean it's all over. There are ways of making up the grades. You could take a summer school class and by the end of summer you'd have your diploma, but I don't think we need to think that far off. I believe if you just relax and study you could get a passing grade. I'm sure you're going to be stubborn and I'm not going to push you constantly because I know you'll get mad at me, but I definitely want to help you."

Rachel's thoughts occupied her as she reached her car and started her drive home. Emotions continued to build as she got closer to her house and as she pulled up in front, she parked behind Puck's truck and noticed he was sitting on her porch stairs. Taking a deep breath, she climbed out of her car and grabbed her bag, then closed her doors and walked towards him. She could tell he was upset and he didn't even look up when she got near him, so she set her bag down on the stairs and took a seat right next to him, resting a hand on his thigh, "hey Noah," she said softly.

"Hey," he murmured, taking a deep breath. Reaching for something next to him, he picked up the large folder full of sheet music she'd given him, "I brought back your music."

"You didn't need to do that," she said, refusing to take it.

"Yeah I did," he sighed and stood up, leaving the folder sitting on the steps near her, "you deserve better than a high school drop-out Lima Loser. That's all I am. I'm only going to hold you back and I'm not that good playing music. I'll probably fuck up your audition, so it's better if I just walk away. You've still got time for Brad or someone else to learn the music for your audition," he commented, "and you're probably going to break up with me. If you're not, then I think we should, because I'm probably only gonna ruin your life."

Tears filled Rachel's eyes and she stood up to face him, "do you really think that little of me? Of yourself? That you're a Lima Loser?" She asked, and as he turned his gaze to the ground, she knew he was trying to hide his feelings, "we're not going to break up because of this. Don't tell me who I deserve. I deserve someone who makes me feel fireworks when they touch me and someone who treats me like I'm special. You do that," she reached up and rested her hands on his cheeks, "Noah, you picked me and Glee over football years ago. You helped talk me out of getting a nose job last year and this year, after breaking up with Finn, you spent months being my 'Secret Admirer', just to cheer me up and help me get through our break up. That's the Noah Puckerman I fell for. A diploma doesn't change my feelings for you, so don't even think that I'm letting go of you because of this. I know you're upset, but I want to know what happened and I want to help you."

With her hands on his cheeks, he couldn't look away, so while she spoke, Puck closed his eyes and contemplated her words. As she finished, he looked at her again and saw tears falling from her eyes, "you don't want to break up with me?"

"No, I don't," she said firmly, "I'm not giving up on you or us."

Relief washed over him at her words. For the moment, he didn't care about what happened at school, what he was happy about was that she still wanted to be with him, even with the drama from school and that meant so much to him. Reaching out, he pulled her into his arms and held her tightly, "thank you," he murmured, ignoring the feelings he had about school to focus on her and their relationship.

Rachel smiled and happily wrapped her arms around his neck in a hug, "we'll get through this together," she murmured, pulling back gently to press a kiss to his lips, "now that it's clear we're not breaking up, let's go inside and talk about what happened at school," she suggested.

"Uh, yeah, okay," he sighed, knowing she wouldn't let him get by without an explanation.

~*~

Moving into her house, her dads weren't home, so after a few moments of taking their jackets off and getting some water, the two settled onto the couch to continue talking, "so, what happened when you talked to your teacher?"

Puck sighed, "I asked her if I could take the test later, because I'd missed so much school. She told me that since I haven't done any work for her all semester she doesn't think it's fair to give me an extension on the test. She said I should have been more concerned about my grades when I could have done something to make sure I was at least passing, but now that it's close to graduation it's too late to do anything. She said she's already giving me 'special consideration' anyway. This is her last test of the year. She said whatever I get on the test, she'll give me as my grade for the semester, and she'll overlook at the work I never did," he paused and took a deep breath, "I'm 'street smart', not 'book smart'. I know I'm going to fail it, so I figured there was no point in taking it and failing anyway, so I'll drop out and work odd jobs around town to make some extra money and then when you graduate, we'll have more money to move to New York with," he explained, preparing for the lecture he figured he'd get.

Rachel sat so she was facing him and took his hand in her's, squeezing it gently. During the few hours after this happened, she'd done some thinking and had come up with several things that he'd said, so she expected a lot of it, "Noah, I imagine you're expecting me to lecture you, but I'm not going to. What I am going to say is that I think you should take the test to see what you get. You might surprise yourself. You could pass it and then don't have to drop out," she smiled at him, "I believe you can do it, if you put your mind to it. If you don't pass it, then at least you can say you tried. Like I said, a diploma doesn't change my feelings for you, but Noah, graduating from high school is a big deal and I want you up on that stage with me when we throw our caps. You deserve to graduate," she shifted and wrapped her arms around him, "so please, just think about that before you decide to drop out for good, okay?"

Holding her against him, Puck felt tears fall from his eyes, "she believes in me. No one ever has," he thought, "maybe I could do this." He knew he had a lot to think about, but knowing she believed he could do it, give him an incentive to think about trying, "can I think about it for a while?"

"Of course," Rachel nodded, "I know I can't force you to do something you don't want to do, but I want you to know that I'm here for you, just like you've been here for me. Take the time you need to figure out what you want," she pressed a kiss to his lips, "and we'll go from there, okay?"

"Okay," he smiled, "thank you. I just need some space from school to think, but it really means a lot to know that you believe in me. I've never really had that from anyone."

Rachel kissed him again and rested a hand on his cheek, "that's what friends and girlfriends are for," she smiled, "what kind of person would I be if I turned my back on you when you need someone the most? Especially when you've been there for me, encouraging me and telling me that I can be the star I've always dreamed of. It's time to let me repay you, but you've got to promise me you'll still play for my audition."

"Yeah, I guess I will, if you still want me to. Do you really think I'm that good?" He asked biting his lip.

"Yes, Noah, I do. You're very musically talented and I'd be honored to have you on that stage with me," she told him honestly, "and I don't want it to be the last time we perform together, either. Promise me we'll do it again."

Puck smiled, "alright. I'll play for your audition and I promise we can do a duet or something else together."

"Awesome!" Rachel kissed him once more and smiled, "just don't take too long to figure out about school. There's not much time left."

He nodded, "yeah, I know. Just give me a few days to think everything out."

~*~

Having gone through a break-up in the past, Rachel was familiar with needing space to sort out thoughts and feelings. With that on her mind, even though it wasn't quite the same situation, she still had a good idea of the dilemma he was facing, and reluctantly settled to let Puck have the space he needed to make his own choice. She didn't want to force him to do something he didn't want to do, but she wanted to offer to help him study that weekend, instead of working on her audition, but she decided not to. She knew he was still in the 'thinking' stage and didn't want him to feel like she was trying to rush him, so she 'stepped back' and decided to change the subject to something else.

Puck was so thankful to have Rachel in his life. Not only did she believe in him, she was giving him the space he needed to figure things out. He knew dropping out of school was a bad idea, but he didn't see himself passing the test. He hadn't made his decision yet, and would still need some time, but after hearing what she said, it gave him a little confidence boost and helped him realize that he maybe could pass the test, so he knew he had a lot of thinking to do. He also knew that even if he did decide to take the test, he wouldn't ask her for help. He didn't want her thinking about anything besides her audition for NYADA.

~*~

Getting past the discussion of what happened at school, Rachel and Puck spent the rest of Friday and the whole weekend at her house, working on her audition. They still spent sometime as a couple, hanging out and talking, but their main focus was her song. Rachel didn't bring up his decision, because she didn't want to pressure him and Puck didn't want to stress her out before her audition on things he needed to deal with on his own.

~*~

Monday morning, when Rachel was driving to school, though her boyfriend's troubles were still on her mind, she was also thinking about everything that led up to her big audition that week and the metaphor for her being a star. "Deep in space, there are giant interstellar clouds. Most of them just float through the universe content to be balls of gas and space dust, but there are special ones. Maybe they collide with a supernova or are just made up of something extra amazing, but one day they just get too big for the nebulous they're in and with the sheer gravitational force of their awesomeness, they become a star... I am that amazing cloud. My whole life has lead to this moment... My audition is this week and once I get into NYADA, I'll be one step closer to my dreams of Broadway and a Tony by the time I'm twenty-five. I'm so thankful to have Noah playing the piano, too. I know he has a lot of things going on and I hope he doesn't take too long to make a decision about school, but the support he's given me has definitely been helpful. Yes, I am confident I'll get in, but I also can't help having some doubts about my audition and Noah's encouragement has helped keep my worries at bay, allowing me to focus on impressing whoever the NYADA scout is. They're going to be the one who decides if I get in or not."

Rachel's thoughts passed the time it took her to drive to McKinley and once she parked in the lot, she looked at herself in her rear-view mirror and smiled, her confidence building up even more than it had been, "you are a star, Rachel Berry. And in just two days from now you are going to shine so bright on that stage that the sun is gonna cry with envy. You know when your time is and it's now."

~*~

Though most of the teens in the Glee Club had passed off what had happened with Puck, Finn couldn't forget it. He knew from what Rachel had said on Friday that Puck would be helping her out with her audition over the weekend, so Finn went in search of Rachel between morning classes, in hopes she had some answers. Seeing her at her locker, he walked up and smiled at her, "hey Rachel."

"Good morning, Finn. How are you?" She asked simply, closing her locker and turning to face him.

"I'm alright," he shrugged, "so, I was wondering if you got a chance to talk to Puck about what happened on Friday."

Rachel took a deep breath and nodded, "yes, I did."

"Oh, okay. I usually see him in the mornings, but I haven't today, so I wanted to know what's going on. Is he really dropping out?" He asked concerned.

"I hope not," Rachel admitted, "his World Geography class has a test this week and because he missed so much school, he was hoping his teacher would allow him to take the test later, but she won't. I guess he hasn't done any work in his class and this is the final test. If he takes the test and gets a passing grade on it, she's willing to give that grade to him as his grade for the whole class, allowing him to graduate. He doesn't think he'll be able to pass it, so he thinks that he should just drop out and clean pools and do odd jobs around town to save up more money," she explained.

Finn's eyes widened, "damn it! I didn't realize he had that bad of a grade. So he's just gonna drop out and that's it?"

"No, he's thinking about it. I believe if he tries, he could get a passing grade, which I told him. Apparently he's never really had anyone believe in him before, so he doesn't have a lot of confidence when it comes to education and needs some time to figure out what he wants to do," she told him, seeing concern on Finn's face and realized he cared about him, "as much as I want to force him to come back to school, and I can tell you'd like to do the same thing, if we try to drag him back, he might shut down even more. I hate to say this, but he needs to make this decision on his own. He has to be the one to want to come back. We can't push him into anything."

"Yeah, I know," Finn sighed, "I just wish... There's gotta be something we can do."

Rachel knew they had to get to their classes, so they couldn't talk too long, but she knew what to say, "he needs some space, but he also needs people to believe in him. He needs his friends."

~*~

Rachel was glad Finn seemed to care enough about Puck to ask her about what happened. She hoped Finn and some of their other friends would also reach out to him, to show there were others that cared about him and wanted him to succeed. This could give him helpful push in deciding to return to school, to try to pass his test. She just wished it would happen soon because his test was in a few days and he had a lot of studying to do before then.

~*~

Because Kurt and Rachel had their auditions that week, Will gave the teens the week free from Glee. This allowed the two Seniors to focus on their preparations and the others would have a free period to do whatever they wanted. Kurt still had last minute decisions to make on his song choice and decorations for the stage, so Rachel let him use the auditorium, while she practiced in the choir room during their usual Glee time.

~*~

Finn had been doing a lot of thinking about what Rachel said that morning about Puck. He felt bad that Puck was that upset and wanted to drop out and was also mad that none of the other guys seemed to mention Puck at all that day. He contained himself until he got to gym, when all the guys from Glee, except Kurt, were working out in the weight room. Mike was getting advice from Blaine about using hair products, Sam and Artie were lifting weights and talking about one of their classes, Rory was at the bench press with Joe as his spotter, talking about a new movie, which is when Finn finally snapped, dropping his weights, "hey! I hear you guys talkin' a lot, but is anybody gonna mention what's missing? What's different here?" Finn asked, looking around at the others.

"You finally shook the last five pounds. Dude! Congrats!" Sam grinned.

All the other guys clapped and cheered, thinking that's what Finn was talking about, but he shook his head, "no... No... It's Puck!" Finn snapped, "he's not here... Anybody notice that?" When the others shrugged and shook their heads, he sighed, "he's thinking about dropping out of school."

"I'm going into full-blown prayer mode," Joe admitted honestly.

"I talked to Rachel this morning. She says he needs to pass his World Geography test this week or he doesn't graduate. He figures he won't be able to pass it, so he took off and now he's thinking about dropping out completely. She says he needs some space to figure things out, but honestly, we need to go all Black Hawk Down here. All he needs to pass is that one test. Either we all graduate together or what was the point of all this?" Finn motioned around, "no man gets left behind. We will get him to pass. By any means necessary."

"That's right!" Sam agreed, nodding at Finn, "we can do this!"

"While I totally agree we should help him, how are we going to get him to go along with it?" Artie asked curiously.

The guys all exchanged glances and then looked at Finn, "any ideas?" Sam wondered.

"Well, from what I gather, he's still helping Rachel with her audition and he's cleaning pools, so," Finn thought for a moment, "I know we all have plans today after school, but since gym is our last class of the day, this time tomorrow meet in the choir room. I'll figure out a plan to get him here to cram for his test. It'll also give me time to get his book and figure out what exactly he needs to study."

~*~

Rachel didn't say anything to Puck after school about her conversation with Finn. She figured if it was important to Finn to ask her about him, then he'd reach out to Puck on his own. The couple focused on her audition and both were looking forward to it being over. Puck knew the piano part by heart and Rachel had been familiar with the song for years, and had sung it before in Glee, so there wasn't much 'work' needed. She just wanted to keep going through it to make sure they didn't miss notes and she was on key.

Tuesday started out like usual, and like the day before, instead of the Glee students meeting in the choir room, Kurt and Rachel worked on their auditions and the others had a free period to do what they wanted. Rachel still went to the choir room to use the piano and spent the time practicing, wishing her boyfriend was there to help her. She knew the song, but preferred to only sing, letting him be the one on the keys, so she could focus on her voice. He still hadn't made a decision on returning to school and she hoped he would. She didn't want to spend the next month without him and it also meant he wouldn't be able to go to Nationals. With that thought, she realized she could use that as an incentive to come back, so he could at least have one more competition with everyone before some graduate.

Rachel's thoughts also were on her audition and she realized that in all the time she and Kurt had talked about them, they hadn't shared the songs they were doing. Wanting to find out what he was doing, she decided she'd catch up to him later that day to find out.

Leaving the choir room, she made her way to her locker and picked up things for her next class. As she walked away and rounded the corner, she noticed Kurt at his locker, so she walked up to him, "hey, Kurt."

"Hey, Rachel. What's up?" He wondered, smiling at her.

"Nothing much. I just realized that you've never told me what song you're singing for your audition," she admitted.

Kurt sighed, closing his locker and leaning against it, "I haven't decided yet."

"What?" Rachel gasped, "why not? It's tomorrow!"

Taking a deep breath he looked at her, "I know. I'm torn. I have been practicing Phantom for the last three months," he started, "well, 'Music of the Night' from 'Phantom of the Opera', but recently I've felt like my audition needs something more, so I'd really like to do 'Not The Boy Next Door' from 'The Boy From Oz."

Rachel's eyes widened, "you can not sing that for your NYADA audition."

"Yeah, but I need to be excited about this and when I came up with it, it was the first time I've been inspired this whole process."

"But it's too controversial," Rachel replied honestly.

Kurt rolled his eyes, "it was too controversial in 1962. The play and that song won Hugh Jackman a Tony."

"Trust me, I know," she nodded, contemplating his idea.

"Look, I just thought that since NYADA is a Broadway school it would make more sense. I know Phantom is also a Broadway show, but..."

"Kurt, can I be honest with you?" Rachel asked and when he shrugged and nodded, she continued, "you haven't practiced 'Not The Boy Next Door' enough to be ready. This is the biggest moment in our lives and we can not be taking risks."

"Isn't that the exact moment to take a risk?" Kurt asked slightly confused.

Rachel took a deep breath so she wouldn't freak out on him, but she also wanted to get her point across, "I'm singing 'Defying Gravity'. I've known it for years and we even competed for it our Sophomore year, remember? It's been one of the songs Noah and I have been working on for months, but since I picked it weeks ago as my song, during every lunch and almost every day after school and on the weekends we've been working on it. I think he'll be sick of the song by the time my audition is over, but my point is that it's not just something I picked off the internet and went with. I understand you want to sing it, but the day before your audition is not the time to change your mind."

Taking in what she said, Kurt nodded, "yeah, you're right. It is way too late to be changing my mind. 'Music of the Night' it is," he confirmed.

"Good," Rachel smiled at him, "I believe in you and I believe in that song, Kurt. You're going to be amazing!" She added, throwing her arms around him in a hug.

Kurt returned her hug and smiled, "thanks, Rachel."

~*~

Puck had been doing a lot of thinking about if he wanted to go back to school and 'tough it out' until the end of the year, or just give up. He didn't really like the idea of 'quitting', but even with Rachel's confidence boost, he still wasn't ready to believe he could do it. The test was in two days and he hadn't even opened a book about it, so he was definitely not ready to take it. A part of him thought if he skipped a few more days and came back to school after she'd given the test, she'd have to let him make it up, so it would buy him some more time to study, but even then, he didn't think it would help.

With all the time thinking about school, Puck also didn't have anything to do. He didn't want to sit around his house all day, and he definitely didn't want to study, so he decided since Rachel was in school, he'd kill some time by making the rounds at some of his pools to get an extra cleaning in, to make a little more money.

He stopped at the first house, not too far from his home and went right to the backyard and got to work. No one was home at the time, but as he finished up, and was gathering his things, Mrs. Moore came outside, surprised to see him there so early. He passed it off as he just had a free day from school and she bought it, happily paying him for his work.

Puck thanked her and headed over to the Collins' house a little after one-thirty, figuring he'd finish up there with just enough time to be at Rachel's by the time she got home.

When he arrived, he knew Mrs. Collins was home, because her car was in the driveway, so he gathered his things and headed for their backyard, expecting her to come outside soon. Within ten minutes of getting started, she came walking out, dressed in a very revealing bathing suit that just barely covered her, a sheer over shirt and a pair of heels.

"Noah, I didn't expect you to be here today," Mrs. Collins said honestly, walking towards him.

Puck did his best to avert his eyes, but he couldn't help glancing at her, "damn it, Mrs. C., I have a girlfriend," he thought, "oh, I just had a free afternoon from school, so I thought I'd get an extra cleaning in. Hope that's okay," he told her.

"That sounds perfect," she grinned, "and maybe when you're done we could take a dip," she suggested, motioning to the pool.

"Uh, sorry Mrs. C., but I don't have a lot of time. I gotta be somewhere soon," he replied, not wanting to go into too many details.

"Oh, well, if you change your mind, I'll be inside," she winked at him and turned, sauntering back into the house.

"I'm not looking, I'm not looking... I wonder what Rachel looks like in a bikini," he thought, smirking a little as he returned to skimming the water to get the leaves out.

~*~

Puck had only been at the house about twenty minutes and was currently testing the chemicals in the pool, when Mrs. Collins came back outside, "lookin' good, Noah," she smiled, dressed in the same thing she had on earlier, "hey, the kids are at the neighbors. You wanna go for a quickie in the pool house?" She asked, trying again to get a little something from him.

Shaking his head, "not this time, Mrs. Collins. I'm gonna keep it legit like I have been for the last few months. Gotta work to save up as much as I can."

The older woman sighed, "well, it was worth a try," she stepped over and handed him some cash, "I added in a little extra, too," she winked at him.

Puck saw double what he usually charged, "I can't take that much extra, Mrs. C. I appreciate it, but..."

"Just keep it," she assured him, "the view is definitely worth it," she grinned, looking him over and her eyes focused on his toned, muscular arms that were exposed from the black tank top he had on.

"Uh, thanks," he couldn't help a blush creep onto his cheeks as he pocketed the money.

"No problem. So why do you have to save up money all of a sudden?" She asked curiously.

"I'm moving soon," he replied, keeping it simple.

The older woman nodded in understanding, but sighed, "too bad," she looked him over once more, "I'll miss those abs," she added, before turning and walking back into the house to let him finish.

Puck smirked, but continued what he was doing and after seeing all the chemicals were where they needed to be, he went back to skimming out some leaves and other things that had falling into the pool while he'd been there and knew he'd be done soon.

A few more minutes passed and he was almost done, when he heard footsteps. He thought it was Mrs. Collins again, but as he turned to look at who was approaching, he thought he was seeing things. Taking off his sun glasses, to focus even more, he gasped, "dad?"

"Hey son," the older Puckerman said, "can we talk?" He asked hopeful.

The last thing Puck wanted to do is talk with the man who had abandoned him, his mom and sister years prior. He also knew he was in the backyard of a client's house and he definitely didn't want to make a big scene, so he shrugged, trying to keep his anger at bay as his dad motioned to two lawn chairs near by.

Moving towards them, Puck grabbed his over shirt and slipped his arms into it, letting it hang open as he sat down on the edge, nervously waiting to find out what his dad wanted.

"I brought us a little refresher. The last six-pack from my microbrewery 'Puckerman's Special Sauce'," he explained, popping the top on one bottle of beer and held it out to him.

Puck waved his hand, declining the bottle, "I'm good," he replied, knowing alcohol was the last thing he needed at the moment.

"Oh, come on. A dad likes to share a beer with his son. It'll be fine. I won't say anything," he continued to hold it out, but he could tell Puck wasn't gonna take it, so he sighed and took a swig of it himself, "alright..."

Knowing he didn't show up just to have a beer and 'talk', Puck knew his dad wanted something. His dad took a few more swigs of beer and they sat in silence for a long moment, but Puck was tired of waiting, "so, what are you doing here?" He asked simply.

With a sigh, his dad looked at him, "I hate to do this, but, uh, I'm kinda at the end of my rope. I need to borrow some money."

"From me? For what?" Puck asked in shock, surprised at the request.

"Rent," he admitted sadly, "hardest thing for a man to do is ask for help," he added, looking at Puck hopeful.

Puck's mouth fell open, completely stunned. His mind also began racing in a thousand different directions, including remembering that his dad never graduated from high school. From that, he had a brief flash of himself in eighteen years, begging Beth for money and he didn't want that to come true. This was the kick he needed to get back into school and as much as he wanted to tell his dad to 'fuck off' he also knew if he gave him the money, he'd never have to see him again, so he reluctantly gave in, "how much?"

~*~

Finn had spent the whole day coming up with a plan to snap some sense into Puck. At two, when the guys usually were in gym, he, Blaine, Sam, Artie, Joe, Mike and Rory all met in the choir room, so Finn could show them his plan, which he'd sorted out once he confirmed that Puck would be at Rachel's after school; he'd even drawn up a diagram to show them.

"Alright, everyone listen carefully," Finn called out, catching the other guys attention as he stood by the board he'd set up, "Puck's been going to Rachel's house after school and he usually gets there a little after three, so we're all going to head over to her house and then when he gets there, we're going to grab him and bring him back here," he explained simply, "Sam, you're the driver, so stay in the car."

"Can I play with the radio?" Sam wondered curiously.

Rolling his eyes at the question, he decided to just go on, "Rory, you're on look out here," he motioned to a spot on the poorly drawn diagram of the area around the Berry's house.

Rory nodded, "who am I looking around for? I mean, besides Puck?"

Again, moving on, Finn took a deep breath, "Blaine, Mike and myself will triangulate a very carefully planned attack on Puck here, here and here," he pointed to a few spots on the diagram, including where Blaine was going to be, behind a large bush, but it didn't look like one; it looked like a grizzly bear standing up on it's back feet.

"Is that a bear I'm hiding behind?" Blaine asked, motioning to the drawing.

"No. No, it's a bush," Finn assured him.

"It looks like a bear," Blaine commented honestly.

"It's not a bear, it's a bush," Finn said again.

Rory leaned over to Blaine, "maybe a shrub," he offered.

"What's the difference between a shrub and a bush?" Sam wondered, hearing the discussion about the picture.

Artie rolled his eyes and looked at Finn, "what do I do?" He asked, trying to stop the conversation about the 'bush'.

"Oh! It's the best part! You're going to be the bait, so when Puck gets to the Berry's, you just roll your wheelchair into the..." Finn paused and glanced up when he and the guys heard the door open.

Everyone was shocked that the person they were just talking about, was walking into the room, "you alright, dude?" Mike asked Puck, seeing him looking really upset.

"You look like you saw a ghost, man. What's up?" Finn asked concerned.

When Puck gave his dad the money he'd asked for, which he had in his truck, and then watched him drive off, Puck sat in his truck for a few moments gathering his thoughts. Some things clicked into place and even though he hadn't wanted to see his dad, he realized it was the reality check he needed to snap out of the funk he'd been in. Soon he was driving and wasn't sure where he was going, but he ended up at McKinley. He knew school wasn't out yet, so he figured he'd hang out in the choir room until the day was over and could catch up with Rachel; he needed to see her. When he walked into choir room, expecting it to be empty, he was surprised to find all the guys from Glee, except Kurt there. Seeing their friendly faces was a relief and when they asked him what was wrong, Puck moved towards the piano bench and took a seat, "I just saw my dad. I haven't seen him in five years," he started, continuing on to tell them about the short conversation he had with his dad and what he asked him for.

Finn's eyes widened, "what did you do?"

"I gave it to him. Five hundred bucks," he sighed, "it was a large chunk of money I'd saved up for my move."

"I don't get it. Why?" Artie wondered, surprised.

"The last thing I expected was for my dad to show up and ask me for money, but I did it because I knew if I gave it to him, I'd never have to see him again," he replied, scrubbing his face with his hands gently.

The guys were all silent for a long moment, not really knowing what to say, but felt bad that he'd given away a lot of his money.

"I've kept my money stashed in a box under the seat of my truck, so I was able to give it to him easily. After he thanked me and told me I was a good son, he got into this beat up, old truck, and drove off. I guess this was the wake up I needed. I just started driving and ended up here. You know he dropped out of high school, too? I thought about myself, sitting where he was sitting, across from Beth. No dignity, no future, begging her for rent money," he admitted, taking a deep breath and looking around at his friends, "I can't turn into my dad. I have to graduate and to do that, I have to pass this damn World Geography test," he paused, gathering his thoughts, "something my dad said also stuck with me and made sense."

"What's that?" Sam asked him.

"He said the 'hardest thing for a man to do is ask for help' and he's right. It's not easy, but I need to. I know there's no way I can pass this test on my own. I'd ask Rachel for help, but she's got her audition tomorrow and I want her to only focus on that, so please don't be offended that you guys weren't my first choice, but will you help me? Please?" Hated to ask, but he needed to.

All of the guys smiled at him, glad he'd made the decision, on his own, to ask for help. Finn turned to him, "no offense taken," he said honestly, "we'll help you out any way we can," he promised, holding up a fist to him.

Puck fist bumped him and smiled, "thanks, bro. Thanks guys," he smiled at everyone in the room.

"You're welcome. So how are we going to do this?" Blaine asked curiously.

"Well, I'm playing the piano for Rachel's audition, so tonight and tomorrow is gonna be taken up with that, but after her audition is over, I'll be free," Puck explained.

"So after it's over, we'll all meet in here and spend all night helping you cram for the test. We'll help you pass it," Finn replied.

~*~

When the school day ended, Rachel made her way towards her locker and as she turned the corner, she gasped, seeing Puck leaning against her locker, "Noah! What are you dong here?" She asked quickly, rushing to him to give him a hug.

Puck smirked and hugged her tightly, "it's a long story. Can we talk about it later?" He asked, relaxing more now that he was with her.

"Um, I suppose so. I'm glad to see you. I miss you at school," she admitted, looking up at him, "are you alright? You look a little pale. Are you sick?" She asked, reaching up to rest her hand on his forehead to see if he had a fever.

"No, I'm not sick," he promised, "I just... it's been a long day."

Rachel nodded in understanding, "want to go back to my place and talk?"

"Sure," he moved so she could get into her locker, "relaxing sounds good right about now."

"I think that can be arranged," she smiled, "but we also should put the last minute touches on my audition for tomorrow."

"That's cool. We can do that. I just mean I wanna kick back and relax with you. Been thinking about you a lot today. I've missed you, too," he said honestly.

Rachel smiled, her heart fluttering at his words. She could tell he was upset and needed to talk, so she quickly gathered her things and closed her locker, slipping her arm around his waist, "well, then I say we go back to my place and spend some quality time together and you can talk about whatever is on your mind," she suggested.

Puck draped his arm around her shoulders, not caring who saw. He was glad the guys were willing to help him with his test, but being with Rachel made him feel like things would be okay, "I think that sounds like a great idea."

~*~

Getting back to Rachel's, Puck kicked back on the couch in the living room and Rachel got them some bottles of water, before joining him. "Alright, what's up, sweetheart?" She asked, taking a seat on his lap, leaning her back against the arm of the couch.

Puck smiled a little at the pet name and took a deep breath, "I've been doing a lot of thinking about school, but I figured while I was off, I could clean a few pools. Went to the first and got done, so I had time to go to another. While I was there, my dad showed up."

Rachel gasped, "oh, Noah. What happened? What did he say? Are you okay?"

He shrugged, "I don't know how he found me and I guess I don't really care. He needed rent money. I gave it to him. I don't have much left to move to New York on, but at least I don't have to see him again," he murmured.

Wrapping her arms around his neck, she hugged him tightly, "I'm so sorry, Noah. We'll figure something out, I know it."

"I hope so," he replied, accepting her hug and holding her close to him, "because I gotta get out of this town. There's more, too," he added.

"What else?" She wondered, pulling back a little to look at him.

"Well, I couldn't really say all of this to the guys, I'll tell you about them in a second, but while my dad was asking me for money, I realized that if I dropped out of school I'd be just like him in eighteen years, a divorced high school drop-out, with no future and begging Beth or my other kids for money. I don't want to turn into him and I really care about you, but you deserve better than that, so I'm not gonna drop out of school. I wanna be with you, but I don't want you dating some drop-out when you deserve a whole lot more," he told her.

Relief washed over Rachel, happy to hear he didn't want to drop out of school, but the last part of his statement caught her, "I'm so glad to hear that," she said honestly, smiling at him, then rested a hand on his cheek, "but please don't do it just because of me. I've already told you how I feel about that and though I get where you're coming from, you need to do this because you want to."

"I know, babe. I am doing this for me, but you and my dad are my inspirations for wanting to," he assured her, "I don't want to be like him and I don't want you dating some high school drop out, so even though you'd be willing to date me either way, I at least want to graduate. It's important," he admitted with smile.

"Well, then in that case, I'm really happy you decided to continue with school," she said happily, hugging him again and then pulling back to press a kiss to his lips.

Puck smiled into their kiss and as he pulled back he looked at her, "thanks for saying what you did last week, about believing I could do it. That helped me decide, too."

"You're welcome and it's true. I do believe you can do it, and I'm happy to help you out any way I can," she said, "I can help you study."

"Nah, I got that covered," he commented, "that's what I was getting at earlier about the guys. They were all in the choir room when I got to McKinley. I think they were actually trying to figure out a plan to get me to school. Anyway, something my dad said stuck with me and it was really hard, but I asked the guys to help me study. You were my first choice, so please don't be upset that I've asked them, but I don't want you thinking or worrying about anything except your audition. After school is out tomorrow, the guys are gonna spend the whole night helping me cram for my test on Thursday," he finished.

"I'm not mad at all," she assured him, "I appreciate your concern for my audition, but I'm sure it'll be over by lunch tomorrow. I can still help after school," she kissed him again, "unless you don't want me to ruin the guy time."

He shrugged, "I don't mind if you come. I'm sure they'll be fine with it, too," he told her, "the only problem might be Finn. What I meant earlier about not being able to tell the guys everything, was because I couldn't tell them the other reason I wanted to get back to school: to graduate so you weren't dating a drop-out. I didn't figure he'd be too happy with that, and I kinda worried he might have changed his mind about helping. Sorry."

"Don't be. I get it and we have agreed to keep our relationship quiet until after my audition, so if we are together tomorrow after school, then we could tell him. The sooner everyone knows, the better. I'm tired of keeping it a secret," she replied.

"Yeah, me too," he agreed, "pretty soon we won't have to hide. As soon as your audition is over, if you wanna tell him, we will."

Rachel smiled, "alright. Sounds good."

~*~

Link to Part 6b
(Had to split the chapter up because it was just a little too long to fit in one LJ post.)

~*~

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Notes

Hi! This is EJ... AKA sapphiresfic on LJ, sapphireej on FF.net and EJ8302 on Tumblr and Twitter.

6/8/2012 - ALL LINKS in posts go to LJ. Over time I will correct them so they go to DW, but for now, it's a start.

June 2012

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