sapphireej: (sapphires fic)
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Title: Breakaway, Part 6b/?
Author: Sapphire ([livejournal.com profile] sapphiresfic)
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.

~*~

Link to Part 6a
(For full header see Part 6a.)

~*~

After spending the rest of the evening working on Rachel's audition, Puck went home, but the next morning, Wednesday, they changed things a little. Puck was gonna pick her up, but before he did that, he stopped and bought some flowers for her, and then headed over to her house. When he arrived, he took the flowers up to the front door and knocked lightly.

Since Rachel was expecting him, she didn't take long to answer they door, "morning, Noah!" She greeted, motioning inside. "I just have to grab my bag and we can go."

"Alright," Puck stepped into the house, "these are for you," he said, holding out the bouquet of brightly colored flowers.

"Oh, Noah, thank you, but you didn't have to do this," she smiled happily, taking them.

"Yeah, well, now you can't say I don't bring you flowers," he winked, hinting at the duet by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond called 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers'.

Rachel laughed lightly, "very true. You know, we should sing that together sometime," she admitted, moving into the house, "I'll put these in some water before we go."

"That's why I brought them in," he commented, closing the door and following her into the kitchen, "figured you might not have anywhere to put them at school and we should sing that sometime. I got Neil Diamond down and you've got Barbra, so it's a perfect match."

Setting the flowers down on the counter, she then turned to face him, "are you trying to say that we're a perfect match?" She wondered curiously.

Puck moved to stand right in front of her, "I'd like to think we are," he grinned, reaching out to rest his hands on her hips.

"You're not the only one," she stood up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips, "and I'd like to continue this, but we've gotta get going soon."

"I know, but a few morning kisses don't hurt, do they?" He wondered, kissing her again, "especially since today makes five weeks."

Rachel wrapped her arms around his neck and held him close for a moment, "I'm glad you're also keeping track," she commented, smiling at him, "and are these for that or for my audition?"

"Both. Definitely for five weeks, but also to show I hope you do well today and all that," he replied, kissing her forehead, before letting her go so she could do what she needed.

Moving away from him to get a vase, she returned and started to take them out of the packaging to put them in the vase with water, "well they are appreciated for both and are beautiful. Thank you again."

Puck smiled as he watched her, "no problem. You deserve them, star."

Rachel blushed at the nickname her 'Secret Admirer' had started calling her, which was him all along, "I hope it shows today."

"It will," he assured her, "you've got this, babe."

~*~

Rachel and Puck headed to McKinley and after dropping off their things at their lockers, they made their way to the choir room, finding Kurt and Blaine. After greetings the four sat down and talked for a short while, but when it was almost time for classes to start, Blaine left, leaving the other three for the morning.

Kurt and Rachel had been excused from classes that day, so they could audition whenever the NYADA educator arrived and since Puck wasn't returning to 'school' until the next day for his test, he also stayed with them. The three hung out in the choir room until about nine, when Will stopped in to tell them the NYADA person would arrive in about an hour.

Making their way to the auditorium, Kurt passed on the news to his boyfriend, step-brother and a few others to let them know and soon he and Rachel were making their last minute preparations to their costumes. Rachel wore the outfit to school that she was going to audition in: a simple black dress and black shoes; she didn't want anything too fancy, while Kurt was going full out 'Phantom of the Opera', mask included.

"Have either of you decided who's going first?" Will asked, joining them backstage, "I can tell whoever this is you have decided when I meet them and show them to the auditorium."

Rachel and Kurt exchanged glances, "no, we haven't talked about it."

"Uh, can I go first? If I have to wait much longer I may panic and not be able to do this at all," Kurt commented honestly.

"That's totally understandable and I'm fine going second," Rachel replied.

"Okay, I'll let them know. I'll also text you when they arrive," Will said, excusing himself and going to the front of the school.

As he was leaving, Blaine and Finn showed up, both wishing the two good luck. At the same time, Rachel could hear talking in another section of the backstage area, but she thought it was the band setting up for Kurt's performance, so she didn't think much of it.

"I hope they hurry up because I don't know how much longer I can wait," Kurt murmured.

"It'll be fine. I'm sure they're close," Rachel commented, trying to help Kurt stay calm.

"Relax, Kurt, you're going to do amazing," Blaine assured him.

At that moment, Rachel's cell phone vibrated, and she glanced at it, seeing a text message from Will that they'd arrived, "they're here," she said softly, glancing at Kurt.

Kurt groaned, "I can't do this."

"Yes, you can," Rachel agreed, turning to the guys, "why don't you go find somewhere to sit and I'll meet you out there in a few minutes," she suggested.

Blaine gave Kurt a good luck kiss and then he, along with Finn and Puck took Rachel's suggestion and headed out into the auditorium. The two performers were left and though Rachel was calm, Kurt was still a mess, "is there anything I can do to help you relax?" Rachel wondered.

"I don't think so," he replied with a sigh, "I just want to get this over with."

Rachel moved to the curtains to peek out into the seats, to see if she could see who was there from NYADA and at that moment, an African-American woman walked in, followed by Will carrying her bag. Rachel immediately knew who she was and dashed back to Kurt, "oh my God," she gasped.

"What? What's wrong? Who is it?" Kurt asked quickly, when he saw her pale face.

Taking a deep breath, Rachel looked at him, "it's Carmen Tibideaux."

"What? Carmen Tibideaux? She's one of NYADA's most famous and infamous alums!" He gasped, rushing to the curtain to peek out, seeing her sitting down at the director's table, "she's played Broadway. She's performed the most demanding roles in the greatest opera houses in the world," he groaned, rubbing his stomach, "I think I'm gonna throw up."

Rachel sighed, her own nerves building and something her dads told her recently came to her mind, "my dads have been trolling the NYADA chat rooms and they said that she's been appointed Dean of Vocal Performance and Song Interpretation and now she's going across the country to pick out her own inaugural class."

"Rachel, you know the stories of her wrath as well as I do. Once, Tibideaux stopped a performance [...] at the Met, because someone glanced at their watch. [...] She destroyed him. Do you think she's gonna have any qualms about cutting us off if we displease her?" Kurt babbled.

Before Rachel could respond, Carmen called Kurt, so the two performers exchanged glances, and Rachel patted Kurt on the shoulder, "you're gonna be amazing. Alright? I believe in you." Rachel noticed Kurt's hesitation as he nodded, so she gave him a gentle nudge towards the stage, "go get 'em," she added, before dashing to a side door to get to the seats where the guys were watching from and sat down next to Puck as Kurt was walking out on the stage. "You can do this, Kurt," Rachel thought, glancing at Puck before turning her attention back to Kurt.

~*~

Kurt started out introducing himself and the song he was about to song, but he hesitated, mentioning he thought it was a common audition song. Carmen agreed she had heard it several times, so at the last minute, Kurt changed his mind, wanting to do something more 'him' and said he'd be doing 'Not The Boy Next Door' from 'The Boy From Oz'.

The older woman's face remained neutral as Kurt called out someone from the side stage and Tina, Brittany and Mercedes walked out, dressed in their gold dresses from their first Regionals competition years prior. Rachel realized the voices she'd heard were the three girls and she was shocked that Kurt was willing to change his song at such a late time, but it was too late to change again.

The music started and Kurt quickly pulled his cape, pants and jacket off, revealing a black button up shirt and a pair of gold pants, matching the girls dresses. It wasn't long before Kurt was dancing around on stage to the upbeat song, and the girls were even following some of his steps to add another level to the performance.

Though everyone was shocked at the quick change, when Kurt finished, Will, Blaine, Finn, Puck and Rachel all stood up and started clapping, but quickly stopped and retook their seats, waiting for Carmen to say something. During his performance, she'd remained neutral while she wrote notes on the paper in front of her and then looked up at him, "you know Hugh Jackman won a Tony award for playing Peter Allen?" Carmen started, and saw Kurt nod while he stood on the stage, "he trained with me the summer I was in residence at the Sydney Opera House and I'm certain that he would have been," she paused for a moment, "as impressed with what you did with that song, as I am. A bold choice, young man. I congratulate you for taking such a risk today."

Kurt gasped, "thank you!" He exclaimed, turning around and waving at the girls in thanks as he made his way to the curtains, bowing lightly before going backstage.

~*~

Hearing Carmen compliment Kurt about taking a risk, Rachel firstly felt bad she'd tried to talk him out of that song, but she also briefly worried that her 'safe' song choice would not make her stand out to Carmen as much as she hoped it would. Knowing there was nothing she could do, because she didn't have another song picked out, she pushed the feelings aside and glanced at Puck. The two silently got up and headed backstage, knowing she wouldn't have too long until she'd be called to go on.

Once backstage, Rachel took a seat at the small mirror and began fixing her hair and touching up her make-up and lip gloss. After a moment, she took a deep breath, "millions of moments have led up to this moment. All you have to do is just be yourself, because you're a star," she said, staring at herself in the mirror.

Puck had given Rachel a bit of space, but at her words, he walked up behind her and gently rested his hands on her shoulders, "you definitely are," he agreed. Rachel smiled and stood up, turning around and gave him a quick hug and as they pulled away, he smiled at her, "you nervous?" He asked simply.

Rachel took a deep breath, all the thoughts and feelings she'd had earlier were gone or being ignored and she shook her head, "oddly enough, not at all. No, I'm ready," she replied, "I was briefly, but right now, I'm not. I'm calm," she added. "Are you?"

"A little," he shrugged, "it's not every day I'll play piano for a professional actress while my girlfriend auditions for her, but I'm good."

Carmen took that moment to call for Rachel, so with one last smile to each other, the couple made their way onto the stage and Puck walked right over to the piano and took a seat. He had a clear view of Rachel, standing in the center of the stage and he nodded that he was ready, so she turned her attention to Carmen, "hi, I'm Rachel Berry and I'll be singing 'Defying Gravity' from one of my favorite musicals, 'Wicked'."

On his cue, Puck began to play the introduction to the song and Rachel picked up at the right moment, "something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game. It's time to close my eyes and leap..." Rachel gasped as she realized what she'd done and felt her cheeks redden in embarrassment.

Puck's eyes widened and stopped playing when he realized she messed up the words and glanced out to see Will, Kurt, Blaine and Finn, all with their mouths hanging open in shock.

"I'm so sorry!" Rachel gasped, "I'm so so so sorry. Please, let me start over one more time. I'm sorry," she took a deep breath and glanced at Puck, nodding for him to start over.

Eyeing her curiously, Puck knew it wasn't the time to start asking her questions, so he nodded back and started playing the song again.

Rachel gathered her composure and started singing again, "something has changed within me, it's time to close my eyes..." Her hand flew to her mouth as she gasped again, this time tears coming to her eyes in frustration. She couldn't believe she'd just choked twice on a song she'd been practicing for months and knew for so long. "I'm so sorry. I know this song backwards. Okay, please just let me do it one more time. I can start it over one more time," Rachel said honestly.

"No," Carmen said simply from the director's table, beginning to gather up her papers.

"Excuse me?" Rachel asked, stepping forward a little to hear her better.

"You get eight bars. I gave you sixteen," Carmen told her truthfully, "do you know what happens when you forget the words on Broadway? They give the job to your understudy. I'm very sorry, but this audition is over."

"No, please, please!" Rachel begged, tears falling from her eyes as she watched Carmen stand up and begin to leave, "you have to believe me! You just... please, you have to give me one more chance, please?" She continued, watching the woman disappear through the exit.

Realizing she was not going to get another shot, Rachel began sobbing, "oh God! I've ruined everything!" She choked out.

Puck jumped up and rushed over to her, wrapping his arms around her tightly, "I've got you," he murmured, unsure what to say.

Rachel clung to him, burying her head in his chest as she sobbed, totally confused and frustrated that she'd just ruined her only shot to get into a NYADA. "Everything was perfect and I just... I lost the words... I... I don't know what happened," she murmured.

"I don't know either," he agreed, rubbing her back gently, noticing Will, Finn, Blaine and Kurt coming up on the stage. He could see Finn's eyes on them and Puck realized the upset expression wasn't from the audition; he'd figured out their relationship status. "I'm gonna take Rachel home," he said honestly.

"I think that's a good idea," Will agreed.

"But what about studying?" Blaine asked.

Puck glanced to Finn and saw his neutral expression, "I'll be back by four. If I change my mind, I'll let you know," Puck replied, not caring about school at the moment.

The four guys reluctantly left, leaving Puck to help Rachel out, and he gently guided her backstage. "Rachel, let's get your stuff so we can get you home," he said softly.

Rachel pulled back a little and motioned to the small make-up bag and her phone sitting by the mirror, "that's all that's mine. The rest is in my locker," she murmured, reaching out and grabbing a few tissues to wipe her eyes with.

~*~

Puck hated seeing her like that; an emotional wreck and he was totally confused about what happened, too. He knew talking about it was probably the worst thing, so he grabbed her things and silently guided her out of the auditorium, before heading to her locker. Getting her backpack and purse, he led them out to his truck and she clung to him, as if he was the only thing keeping her from collapsing on the ground.

The entire ride to the Berry's house was silent, except for the sniffles and sobs that hit her every few moments and Puck didn't try to talk to her. He just kept his hand on her shoulder or back, gently rubbing it to remind her he was there.

Arriving at her house, the two walked inside and her dads were now up, which they hadn't been that morning when he'd picked her up. Both men were in the kitchen and heard them come in, so they got up and came to see how things went, but Rachel didn't want to talk about it. She stormed up to her room and slammed the door, the sound echoing through the house.

Puck was left to tell her dads what happened and both men were shocked and saddened to hear she'd choked. The three headed up to her room to try to talk to her, but she didn't want to talk about it. She just wanted to cry, so Puck kicked off his shoes and laid back on her bed, letting her curl up and cry why he held her. He didn't know what else to do and figured at least she'd know he was there.

~*~

Surprisingly, Puck and Rachel fell asleep for several hours and it was almost four when Puck woke up, "ah shit," he groaned, seeing her clock.

Rachel gasped and sat up quickly, "what? What's wrong?" She asked, rubbing her eyes.

"I told the guys I'd be back at school at four," he motioned to the clock, which read '3:49pm'.

"Oh, yeah. They were gonna help you study," she said softly, "you should get going, then."

"You sure? You need me more than I need to study," he admitted, looking at her.

"And I appreciate that, but studying is just as important, Noah. You need to go. I'll be fine. I've got my dads here and," she glanced around her room, "maybe being a Broadway star just wasn't meant to be," she sighed.

"Don't talk like that, babe," Puck told her, "you are going to be a star. It was one mistake and so what if one person didn't like you? I told you NYADA wasn't the only school for you and I bet there are hundreds of teachers looking for someone with your talent, Rachel. You'll make it; it just might not be with NYADA."


Rachel smiled, "thank you and thanks for being there for me today. It means a lot."

"No problem," he pressed a kiss to her lips, "you gonna be okay?"

"Not anytime soon, but I will be. I appreciate you being here, but you don't need to sit around all night watching me cry and blow my nose," she admitted, lightly cracking a smile.

"Alright. If you need me, don't hesitate to call," he kissed her once more, and hugged her, before sliding off her bed to get his shoes on.

"I won't. Good luck," she smiled lightly and waved as she watched him walk to her door.

As soon as he was gone, and she heard his truck start up, she felt her tears returning. All of the posters of musicals in her room, the playbills and other decorations geared towards her dreams of Broadway seemed to be taunting her, and she couldn't stand being in there any more, so she grabbed her phone and a blanket and headed downstairs to curl up on the couch.

~*~

Puck hated leaving Rachel, but he knew she was right. She was emotional right now and probably needed some space to herself anyway, so he reluctantly gave in and headed back to McKinley. Parking in the almost empty lot, because school had gotten out an hour prior, he headed to his locker, got his bag and a few things and then went to the choir room, finding Finn, Mike, Blaine, Kurt, Joe, Rory, Artie and Sam all there.

The room looked like his World Geography textbook had thrown up; continent maps hanging up around the room, a huge beach ball of the globe sat on the floor, more maps were stacked on a chair with note cards, flashcards and worksheets piled with more textbooks on the piano.

Seeing everything in there and knowing it and the guys being there was all to help him study meant a lot to him. It made him feel like there were other people that cared about him besides his girlfriend. "Wow, thanks guys. You're really into helping me."

"Of course we are, man. We want you to graduate on time," Mike replied.

Puck glanced at Finn, surprised to see him there, but before he could say anything, Kurt rushed over to him, "how's Rachel? She hasn't answered any of my texts."

"That's because she cried herself to sleep. She's... As good as can be expected, I guess," he shrugged, "she's definitely confused and upset. Probably devastated, too. I don't think she really wants to talk about it. Just give her some space," Puck explained, his eyes going to Finn's, "can we talk, man?"

"Uh, yeah," Finn nodded, getting up.

Puck dropped his backpack on the piano and then the two went out in the hallway and closed the door, so the other guys couldn't hear them. "I saw you looking at me and Rachel earlier."

"How long have you guys been dating?" Finn asked, knowing what Puck was getting at.

"Today makes five weeks," Puck replied honestly, expecting to have a black-eye by the time their conversation was over.

"Five weeks?" Finn's eyed widened, "and you're just now saying something?"

"Look, Rachel and I agreed we'd wait until after her audition to say anything. I didn't want her stressing out over what you or anyone else thought about it," Puck said firmly, "and she agreed, so if you're gonna be pissed at anyone, take it out on me. She doesn't need to deal with any added drama right now."

Finn contemplated what Puck said and nodded, "I get it," he agreed, "and um, it does upset me, but I had a feeling you guys were together."

"Really?" Puck asked in surprise, but then realized they hadn't been completely secret at times, they did sit together in Glee and he knew Finn found out about them spending time together outside of school.

"Yeah," Finn replied, "when Rachel told me that you guys were hanging out, I kinda thought there was more going on and I was preparing to find out. Rachel and I are over, but I do still love her. I know I screwed up things with her and we'll never be a couple again. It sucks, but it's true and it's hard to see her with anyone else," he sighed, not wanting to get into it too much, "but on the other hand, I do want to see her happy and if she's happy with you, then I'm happy for her. I'm not a huge fan of this, by a long shot, but I'll deal, okay?" He told him, holding out his hand.

Puck was hesitant to believe Finn was that calm about things, but he also didn't want to dwell on it if Finn was trying to pass it off, so he shook his hand, "alright. I'm glad. She seems happy, well, with us, obviously she's not about what happened today, but it's just a bump in the road to Broadway for her."

Finn nodded at his statement, "yeah, and I'm sure she wants you to pass this test, too, so let's help you do that," he patted him on the shoulder.

As much as Puck hated studying, he did want to pass the test, so he sighed, "alright, let's do this."

~*~

The guys agreed to work through the night, if they had to, to make sure Puck was ready for his test. Finn had talked to Mrs. Doosenberry and found out the test focused on Europe, so they were all putting their attention on that. It also helped to have Rory there, since he was from Ireland and was more familiar with some of the European countries.

An hour turned into two and the guys all chipped in for pizzas and Blaine and Kurt went out to get them. Once they got back everyone kicked back for a short break, but Puck wanted longer, already feeling like his head was going to explode from everything they were trying to cram into his brain. They didn't stop for too long, getting back to work, but they had only scratched the surface of what Puck needed to study.

"Alright guys, I need a break," Puck admitted, glancing at his phone to see it was already nine at night.

"Come on, man, if we keep taking breaks you'll never get this down," Blaine commented honestly.

Puck had a feeling the guys would fight him on it, so he decided to go a different direction, "I want to call and check on my girlfriend, since she had a rough day, before it gets too late and would be rude to call," he admitted.

"Girlfriend? You have a girlfriend? Since when? Who is it?" Sam asked in shock.

"Yes, I have a girlfriend. Have had for five weeks, but we kept it quiet because we wanted to wait until after her audition to tell everyone," Puck explained, figuring they'd quickly figure out who it was.

"You're dating Rachel?" Artie wondered, putting together what Puck said.

"I am," he confirmed.

"Wow! Congratulations," Sam smiled at him, while the others said something similar, "I didn't know, but I did notice you guys had been hanging out a lot."

Puck nodded, "yeah we have been. We love spending time with each other," he said truthfully, "so if you guys don't mind, I'm gonna see how she's doing," he finished, grabbing his phone from where it was sitting on the piano.

When no one complained, Puck got up and moved out of the classroom and down from the door a few feet to a large window that looked out to the parking lot and took a seat on the small ledge. Pulling up Rachel's number, he hit send and hoped he didn't wake her up. After the third ring, he was about to hang up when she answered, "hey babe."

"Oh, hey, Noah! Sorry, I didn't expect you to call. It startled me," Rachel admitted.

"Sorry about that. I figured it'd be easier to call than text right now," he told her, "how are you dong?"

"I'm alright, I guess. Watching TV right now. Not really in the mood to do anything else," she replied, "how are things going there?"

Puck groaned, "my head hurts."

Rachel laughed lightly, "that's a good thing. It means you're picking up what you're learning."

"Yeah, but I don't want to learn it," he sighed, wanting to change the subject, "um, there's something I need to tell you."

"Oh yeah? What is it?" Rachel wondered.

"When we were hugging on the stage today, Finn saw us and I realized that he figured us out, so when I got here, I confirmed it," he said softly, "I know we should have been together to do that, but part of me felt like it was better coming from me, you know? Bro to bro," he admitted.

Rachel was silent for a long moment, "yeah, you're right. It probably was better that it came from you. How did he take it?"

"He seems to be okay with it. He's not a huge fan, but he'll deal because he wants you happy. He also said he had a feeling we were together, once he found out we were hanging out more," Puck told her, "and just before I walked out of the room to come call you, I told the guys. They congratulated us, so I hope you're okay that I told them."

"Of course it is," Rachel nodded, "I'm glad they're okay with it and that Finn seems to be accepting, or at least will deal with it. The last time I had a boyfriend after we'd split up, he got into a fight with him at prom last year and both him and Jesse got kicked out."

"I know. I remember," Puck agreed.

"Anyway, enough about them," she commented honestly, "I'm focused on you and our future together."

"Yeah, in New York. I don't care how it happens, babe, but we're going to New York and you're gonna be a star," Puck said firmly.

Rachel smiled at his words, "thank you, Noah. I... I really appreciate that you're so supportive, but maybe it's time that I just reevaluate my dreams and try to find some that are a little more down to Earth."

"No, Rachel, don't do that. You've only hit a rough patch. I'm sure you're not the only person out there who's ever had problems at an audition. We'll figure this out, okay?"

Taking a deep breath, Rachel sighed lightly, "okay, but I'm not as confident as you are anymore. It's gonna take me some time to deal with this, so if I'm not my usual positive self for a while, don't get upset."

"Fair enough. You need space. Trust me, I totally understand," he replied, "and I'll definitely give it to you, just like you did for me."

"Thank you, Noah. That means a lot," she replied happily, "and there is one thing I'm positive of," she paused, "us."

"Yeah, I am, too," Puck smiled, "and you're welcome. That's what friends and boyfriends are for," he added, returning the sentiment she'd said to him before.

~*~

Finishing up their conversation and saying 'goodnight', Puck returned to the choir room and passed on how Rachel was doing, before the guys got back into studying. The hours began to pass by and Puck was growing more frustrated and tired of cramming things into his brain. They were all getting a little worn out, but they pushed on.

Puck knew some of the countries in Eastern and Central Europe, from his Jewish history; the countries where the Nazis had concentration camps and he also knew where some of the bigger European countries were like Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Poland, the United Kingdom and Ireland.

They'd finally worked their way to the western region of Europe and Rory started doing most of the 'teaching'. He began pointing out countries on the map and asking him what it was and what the capital was. Puck had only been getting a few right; like Pairs being the capital of France and Berlin as Germany's capital, but the rest he was blanking on. He knew it could be because he was exhausted and felt like his brain was going to explode from being on overload all night; he'd never studied that much in his life.

"Here's an easy one," Rory said, pointing to Dublin, Ireland, "what's the biggest city in Ireland?"

"Balarneycock," Puck replied, from where his head was resting on the piano.

"Dude! He's pointing right at it. Come on," Sam groaned, from a few feet away.

"My brain is fried!" Puck snapped, glancing at clock to see what time it was, "it's frickin' three in the morning!"

"That's awesome! We've still got six hours to cram before your test!" Artie said energetically, as if he'd been drinking coffee all night.

All of the guys groaned loudly. They were all in various states of exhaustion and some of them had even fallen asleep for a few quick minutes, but Artie had been the one to keep them on their toes.

"Okay, so let's hop on back to sunny Spain," Finn said, standing up and reading in the text book he had in his hand, "hey look, here's a fun fact: Spain is considered a mostly mountainous country, [...] with picturesque plateaus and arid valleys."

Joe turned to Puck, "see, fascinating."

"No, it's not!" Puck snapped in frustration as he sat up a little, "who the hell cares? Not even Einstein uses this crap!"

"So wipe it from your memory, after your test," Blaine suggested.

"Now, for the bonus round... Which region of Spain receives the most rainfall?" Finn asked, glancing in the book.

"I don't know!" Puck groaned, rubbing his head.

Finn sighed, "just think about it, dude... The rain in Spain falls mainly..."

"Whatever... In the flatlands?" Puck offered, "the plains?"

"What was that?" Finn asked, pointing at him happily.

"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plains," Puck replied, looking around.

"This sounds like a song from a movie," Artie commented.

Puck glanced at Artie and nodded, "yeah... That's where I've heard it! Rachel had me watch it... Something with 'Lady' in it..."

"My Fair Lady!" Kurt grinned.

All the guys exchanged glances and before too long, Finn was at the drums, Puck, Sam and Joe were all rocking on guitars, while Rory, Mike, Kurt, Blaine and Artie all joked around, singing 'The Rain In Spain', a song from the movie 'My Fair Lady'. The lyrics were mostly 'the rain in Spain falls mainly in the plains', and Puck sang most of those lines, as a way to help him remember that important detail.

The impromptu jam session was the wake up all the guys needed to help them push through the rest of the early morning, and when the song was over, Artie grinned, "okay! Movin' on! What rhymes with 'pre-industrial European deforestation'? Anybody?"

Puck groaned, shaking his head and thinking, "it's gonna be a long few hours."

~*~

After another three and a half hours of cramming, the guys agreed to call it quits a little after seven. School would start at eight and Puck's test was at nine, so he didn't want them to miss their first class of the day for another hour of studying. Puck thanked them for all the help and the nine guys cleaned up the mess in the choir room, before heading to the locker room to change their shirts, since they didn't have time to go home.

When Puck changed his shirt, he pulled his phone from his pocket and glanced at it, seeing a text message from Rachel, "Noah, I won't be at school. Not ready to be there. Good luck on your test! I believe in you! Let me know how it goes! Miss you!"

Reading her message, Puck smiled, appreciating the words and also understanding why she decided not to come to school that day. Hitting the reply button, he typed in, "thanks babe. Means a lot. I'll come over after school. I also understand why you're not here. Take all the time you need. Miss you, too!" Sending his response, he left the locker room and headed for his first class, nerves building for his test in less than two hours.

~*~

Getting to his class at nine, his teacher handed out their tests and he immediately stared at the white paper and black letters and sighed, "I can't do this," he thought, his pen going to the side of the paper and began sketching a guy, rocking out on a guitar. After about ten minutes, he glanced up and saw Finn, Mike, Rory and Sam peaking into the small window of the door. Seeing them made him smile and gave him a little confidence boost, glad to see they were trying to support him.

"Eyes on your paper, Puckerman," Mrs. Doosenberry commented, noticing his attention was somewhere else.

Puck sighed and turned back to the paper, "focus, you can do this. Okay... 'What area of the Spanish countryside receives the highest annual rainfall?' Holy crap! I know that one!" Puck thought, grinning as he remembered the song and wrote 'in the plains' into the blank space. "Question two... 'Name three countries in England where violent storms rarely occur.' This is the easiest test ever!" He thought, writing 'Hartford, Hereford, Hampshire' in for the answer, because that was in the song he and the guys had played, "Puckgellan is on a roll."

~*~

Question after question, Puck put in his responses. Some came easily, because he'd learned them the night before and were fresh in his mind, but most of them he was still confused, so he guessed. He figured putting in something gave him a chance of getting it right. When the bell rang, he'd just finished the last question and smiled confidently. He felt like he knew enough of the answers to have gotten a passing grade, so he stood up and walked the test up to his teachers desk, placing it on the corner with the rest of them.

Walking out of the class, he was met by all of the guys and Mike was the first one to ask him, "how do you think you did?"

"My best," Puck replied honestly.

"Did you pass?" Blaine wondered.

"Does your head hurt? 'Cause sometimes after I take a test and my head hurts, it's usually a good sign," Sam admitted.

Puck took a deep breath and nodded, "you know, it's weird, but I think I did; thanks to you guys," he told them, seeing all of the guys smiling, "so thank you, all of you," he smiled back and wanted to tell them something he'd through of during their cram session, "you know, it's hard growing up without a dad, 'cause you don't have any dude roll models, except NFL players and video game characters, but I lucked out. Instead of one dad, I've got a whole gang of them," he looked around, "you guys showed me what it means to be a man. Not just last night, but for the last four years."

"Let's hug it out!" Sam said, stepping forward a little.

The other guys crowded closer together, sharing a quick group hug and Puck relaxed. He meant what he'd said, too. For the past few years, he'd grown up a lot, learning bits and pieces from the guys in Glee. Most of it was what not to do, but they'd all had their moments of positive influence on him and he was glad to have known all of them.

~*~

Without Glee that day, the guys went and hung out in the cafeteria for their free period, talking and resting through lunch, because none of them had slept that night. Puck was also not used to having much free time, because for the past few months, all of his extra time had been spent with Rachel, working on her audition and now that it was over, he didn't know what they'd do, but for the moment he was glad to hang out with his friends.

After lunch and a few more classes, school ended and Puck headed out. He stopped and bought two large slushies and was glad they had grape that day. Once he left there, he went over to Rachel's house and with the cups in his hands, he tapped on the door with his foot.

Rachel opened the door moments later, "Noah, hey!" She smiled, moving aside to let him in.

Puck could tell she'd been crying, because her eyes were red, "hey, babe," he walked into the house and leaned in, pressing a kiss to her lips, "I brought us refreshments."

"I see that," she replied, closing the door, "sorry I'm not very dressed up," she motioned to her yoga pants and baggy sweater, "but I was just not in the mood to be too dressed up."

"It's okay," he assured her, "I'm totally cool with just kicking back and relaxing. You look amazing, by the way, so no worries."

Rachel blushed and took one of the cups from him, "thank you, for the compliment, for understanding and for this," she motioned to the slushy.

"No problem," he moved into the living room and took a seat on the couch, kicking his tennis shoes off.

"So, how was your test?" She asked, taking a seat next to him and pulling one leg up so she could turn to face him.

"It was okay," he nodded, "I think I did, well, I hope I answered enough to get a passing grade. Some of the questions I learned, but others I was confused on. I remembered someone once telling me that I should always put an answer down, even if I'm not sure, because I could get it right, so for the ones I wasn't totally sure on, I put something I thought it might be and hopefully I got a few right," he explained.

"Yes, that is a very good idea. Sometimes teachers will see that you made an attempt and give you partial credit if it's not completely right," she agreed. "I'm hopeful you passed."

Puck bit his lip and sighed, "but what if I don't? No offense, but we were both confident for your audition and look what happened," he said softly.

Rachel nodded, "yeah, I get what you mean and no offense taken. I had thought the same thing, but it's two different things, so hopefully this time we'll be right to be confident," she paused, "as for what to do if you don't pass, well, it's only one class, so they can't make you come back next year for one class. That's what summer school is for. I don't know exactly how it works, but we can figure it out, okay?"

"Okay," he smiled, reaching out and taking her hand, "and we'll figure this audition thing out, too," he assured her.

Even though Rachel was skeptical that there was anything she could to do fix what happened or to get a second chance, she appreciated that he was willing to be there for her, so she leaned forward and pressed a kiss to his lips, "thank you."

~*~

Rachel was surprised at how quickly things had changed. At the beginning of the week, she was full of confidence and looking forward to her audition and now, on Friday, she was the totally opposite. She was nervous and scared about her future and was still trying to figure out what happened to cause her to choke during her audition.

She really appreciated that her boyfriend was there for her, and he was helping keep her confidence up, but she was still skeptical. She was wondering if her Broadway dreams would ever pan out like she wanted them to, and realized while her main focus had been on performing arts, she also was an excellent student and any college or university would probably be happy to accept her, because of her high grade point average and all the clubs she'd been involved in over the years. She definitely had other educational options, but aside from staring in musicals on Broadway, she'd never sat back and thought about anything else she'd like to do, and now she was faced with the tough reality that Broadway might not be an option and she may need to figure out another path in life.

~*~

At the end of his second class, Mrs. Doosenberry returned the tests from the day before and when Puck got his, he glanced at the large red letter on the page and nodded. The bell rang, echoing all over the school, so he got up and with the test in his hand, began walking through the halls, surprising himself when he ended up in the auditorium. He needed to think, so he found a seat in a darker area and kicked back, figuring since Glee was next and the teens weren't meeting that week, his girlfriend would be in there soon, anyway.

~*~

Getting through her first two classes of the day, Rachel seemed to relax a little, now that she had something else to think about besides the bad stuff in her life and once she was at her locker, dropping her things off, she noticed Kurt walk up to her. "Hey Kurt," she said softly.

"Hey," he reached out and rested a hand on her back and rubbed it gently, "how are you doing?"

Rachel shrugged, "I'm dealing, but it's not easy. Can we talk about something besides our auditions? How has your week been? What have the girls been doing? I haven't talked to any of them all week."

Nodding in understanding, he smiled lightly, "my week's been okay. I guess the girls got into a bit of trouble with Coach Washington and Sue," he admitted, "Brittany, Tina, Mercedes, Sugar and Santana were all standing together and someone made a rude comment when they saw Coach Beiste had a black eye. I guess Sue, Washington and Beiste talked to the girls and told them that joking about domestic violence was not okay. I totally agree; it's not something to even joke about," he explained.

"Definitely," Rachel nodded, "was it from domestic abuse or was it something else?"

"At first, Coach Beiste was saying it was something that happened at the gym, but after the girls sang 'Cell Block Tango' to the three coaches the other day, Tina said Coach Beiste admitted that her husband hit her," Kurt told her sadly.

Rachel gasped, "oh no! That's terrible! She's gotta get out of that relationship," she said honestly, "my dads have a friend who was in an abusive relationship and after years she finally got out, but I hope Coach Beiste doesn't let it continue."

Kurt nodded in agreement, "yeah, I hope she gets out, too. The girls are going to sing her another song, 'Shake It Out', to apologize for joking about it."

"Good for them," Rachel nodded, "if I had been with the girls when that happened, I'd be doing more than just singing a song. She needs help. Granted, just like with Noah, he needed to make the decision to ask for help on his own, so if she's not willing to accept it, it'd be hard to help her, but hopefully she wakes up soon. She doesn't deserve that."

"I totally understand what you mean and you're right. She needs to want the help before it will work and all that," he replied, biting his lip. He really wanted to respect Rachel's request to not talk about their auditions, but he needed to say what was on his mind, "can I just say, for the record, that Carmen Tibideaux is a total bitch? She should have let you start over," he blurted out, "sorry, but I've needed to say that."

Rachel nodded at him and sighed, "she did."

"I mean a second time. You killed the beginning of that song. I wouldn't be surprised if you got accepted from that," Kurt said honestly.

"Kurt, I really appreciate what you're trying to do, but we both know what happened, alright? I had my chance and I choked. I choked on a song that I've known for years and now it's over and there's no one to blame, but me," she bit her lip and took a deep breath, "you were amazing, though. You were... You went with your gut and you were better than you've ever been. You're gonna be great in New York."

"Well, you're coming, too. Of course you're coming, and so is Puck. Just because NYADA didn't work out, doesn't mean you can't still move there and try out for another school," he said honestly.

Rachel felt the tears building up in her eyes again, "can we not talk about this anymore? I feel like I've been crying for two days and I just..."

Immediately feeling bad, Kurt stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her in a friendly hug, "I love you, Rachel Berry, and I'm here if you need anything. I mean it."

Begging her tears not to fall, Rachel smiled weakly at his comment and as they pulled back, she nodded, "I love you, too, Kurt, and thanks. I'll let you know."

Kurt nodded and smiled, rubbing her shoulder gently, before turning and walking down the hallway.

Rachel watched him walk off and she closed her locker and began walking the opposite way down the hall, tears beginning to fall as she started to whisper the words to Kelly Clarkson's song 'Cry'. "If anyone asks, I'll tell them we both just moved on. When people all stare I'll pretend that I don't hear them talk. Whenever I see you, I'll swallow my pride and bite my tongue. Pretend I'm okay with it all, act like there's nothing wrong."

By the time she finished the first verse, tears were still falling and she was walking into the auditorium. She went right up to the stage and continued on with the chorus, "is it over yet? Can I open my eyes? Is this as hard as it gets? Is this what it feels like to really cry? Cry..."

Puck was already in the auditorium when Rachel came in and it startled him, hearing the words she was singing. He could tell she was extremely upset, with tears leaving wet streaks on her cheeks as they fell to the floor, and as much as he wanted to walk up there and hold her, he knew she needed to express her feelings and music always seemed to be her way to do that.

Sobbing even more, Rachel managed to continue, "I'm talking in circles. I'm lying, they know it. Why won't this just all go away?" She grabbed her chest and took a deep breath, feeling her legs shaking and worried that she was going to fall to the floor.

As he realized what the song was, and he meaning soaked in, Puck realized that Rachel was about to collapse, so he jumped up and rushed towards the stage. He quickly climbed the stairs and when he reached her, he pulled her into his arms and she sunk against him, clinging to him so she couldn't stay standing. His own emotions spilled over, tears finally slipping from his eyes as she sobbed against his chest.

Rachel wasn't sure when Puck had gotten into the auditorium, but she was glad he was there. She definitely felt herself calming down with him holding her and at the moment, he was keeping her on her feet. "Thanks," she coked out, lifting her head a little to look at him.

Puck smiled lightly at her, "no problem, babe. You looked like you needed the support; physically and mentally," he admitted honestly, reaching up to gently wipe her eyes. "I'm guessing the song has nothing to do with us breaking up, right?" He asked, hating to bring it up, but he'd heard the song before and it seemed more like a break up song than anything else.

"We're not breaking up," she confirmed, "it's more because of the crying part. Talking about wishing the pain would go away and being tired of always talking about what happened and just wanting to ignore it so I can move on."

"Good, I'm glad we're not and I had a feeling it was because of that, but I couldn't help asking. Sorry," he murmured, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.

At that moment, Rachel noticed his own tears and her eyes widened, "Noah, what's wrong?"

"Got my test back," he replied softly, reaching in his back pocket to pull out the folded papers he'd put there so he didn't have to look at it anymore. Gathering his thoughts, he unfolded it and reluctantly showed it to her, "guess this just isn't our week," he said sadly.

"Oh Noah," Rachel choked out another sob as she saw the bright red 'F' shining back at her, "I'm so sorry."

"It's not the first test I've failed before, so I'm used to it. It just sucks, because it's the first time I've actually tried to pass," he sighed, "I did my best, but I guess I'm just meant to be a failure."

"Don't talk like that," Rachel pushed aside her own problems to focus on him and reached up, gently resting her hands on his cheeks, "you're a good person, Noah. You're not a failure," she said firmly, "you've just had some bad luck and hit a low spot. I know we've said this a lot already, but you'll get through this; we'll figure it out together. I'll help you out however I can and maybe we can talk your teacher into letting you retake the test. I'm not going to let you give up, Noah. You're going to graduate. I believe in you."


Puck smiled and slid his arms around her again, "thank you," he murmured as more tears fell. "I love you, Rach," he said, and at her gasp, he realized that what he was thinking, actually came out of his mouth.

"Noah?" Rachel pulled back to look at him, studying his expression, "do you mean that?"

Though Puck hadn't planned to tell her that for a while, he did feel it, "I didn't mean to say it right now, but I do feel that way."

Tears filled Rachel's eyes again and she hugged him tightly, her shoulders shaking lightly as she cried.

Immediately worrying that he'd just screwed things up, he rubbed her back and gathered his thoughts, "I don't expect you to say it back, if you don't feel the same way, babe. I..."

Before he could finish his sentence, Rachel stood up and pressed a kiss to his lips, one of her hands slipping around to rest on the back of his neck, and let her fingers brush through his mohawk, "I love you, too," she told him honestly, locking eyes with him, "I've almost said it a few times, but I was worried I'd freak you out. I definitely didn't want to scare you away."

"If anyone else would have said that to me, it probably would have, but you could never scare me away," he assured her, his entire body relaxing once he found out she felt the same way.

"Good to know," she took a deep breath, "and this definitely makes our crappy week seem a little better. I know it can't fix everything, but given that we share the same feelings, I'm hopeful that we're past all the bad stuff and together we can work on picking up the pieces."

"I really hope we can, too," he nodded in agreement, "and I like that; picking up the pieces together, I mean."

"Good," Rachel leaned up and kissed him again, "because you're stuck with me."

Puck smirked at that comment, "I definitely don't feel 'stuck'. I'm happily dating you, babe," he promised, "and I'm not going anywhere."

~*~

Disclaimer4: Don't own the rights to the music used. Just borrowing for this work of fiction.

- 'Cry' by Kelly Clarkson, as song in this episode by Lea Michele.

- Defying Gravity... From 'Wicked' sung by Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. This song, as you may remember was a 'duet' between Rachel and Kurt in episode '1x09 - Wheels'. The duet was released on Glee's first album, which we saw in the show, but iTunes also released two other versions. A Lea solo and a Chris solo... I know Rachel's 'choke' storyline came from Lea's own fear of forgetting the words to 'Don't Rain On My Parade', something she mentioned while on tour in the summer of 2011... What upset me, and I know a bunch of other fans were also pissed about, was they had Rachel sing DROMP out of the blue in '1x13 - Sectionals', a song she'd been working on since she was a child and only had a short time to prepare. She nailed it then, yet for her audition, she forgets the words. I get that they were going off of Lea's fear of choking while singing that song, but given the past with Rachel, I wanted to go with a different song. I love Defying Gravity, so this is no way because I dislike it, I just couldn't stomach using DROMP as the 'choke' song, like Glee did.

~*~

A/N4: Hope you all enjoyed. I think this is the longest chapter I've ever written. I knew it would be long; just didn't expect it to be 36 pages! Please, please review if you can. I really need the feedback, everyone. I'm not getting a lot and it's hard to know how you all feel, without it. To those of you who have reviewed, thank you so much and I will get to them as soon as I can!

A/N5: I hope you guys are alright with how I incorporated the Coach Beiste storyline into this. I really felt bad she was going through that, but since it didn't involve Puck or Rachel, I wasn't sure how to bring it up, until Rachel and Kurt had their conversation at the end.

A/N6: Still going through some testing for my abdomen, but the specialist I saw also thinks it's gallbladder. I just have to do the tests to confirm it before I can go see a surgeon. Thank you all for your kind words and support!

~*~



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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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