Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of the characters.
A/N: This story is a little different and I was arguing over whether to post it or not. Eventually I gave up and simply posted it, I hope you enjoy it. ~ Gabz
If he really thought about it, Noah Puckerman would say the first time he was truly intrigued by Rachel Berry was on the first day of Kindergarden. Of course if anyone asked him he'd say it was the day she showed up in a particularly short skirt in Sophomore year, walked straight up to him and told him she - Rachel Barbra Berry who signed her name with a star - needed him - Noah 'Puck' Puckerman - to help her.
On that first day of Kindergarden she hadn't been loud or obnoxious. She hadn't flaunted her singing voice or spoken in big words no one but she could understand. She hadn't obsessed over some guy who didn't see her and would never learn who she actually was and what she was worth. She hadn't even shown up in a weird outfit.
She didn't tell everyone that she had two fathers, nor did she proclaim how proud she was of them or how much she meant to them or how much she didn't need her mother. If she had done any of that he's not sure how their story would have changed.
Nevertheless he could still remember when she first piqued his interest with startling clarity.
He'd been playing by the trees with Matt, when he'd heard it. It was a small 'umph' but it was enough to have him searching for the source. His hazel eyes had quickly scanned the playground only to realize no one else seemed to have heard the sound. Noticing Matt was still retrieving the ball from the other side of the playground where he had accidentally kicked it, Noah moved slowly around the tree, searching until he finally spotted her.
She was crouched on the ground holding her knee close to her body as she inspected the blood trickling down her leg with a strange fascination. He knew her name was Rachel - they had been placed in the same desk group until Santana Lopez had complained to the teacher that Rachel needed to switch places with Brittany. Apparently Santana's father had said that Rachel was an abomination and as such she'd refused to sit next to one.
He'd asked his mother about what that meant later and her heartbroken look as he sounded out the word abomination had made him regret asking but he was still grateful when she started speaking. She had turned to him and exclaimed with such anger in her voice that it was small minded people that were the real problem in this country and that Rachel's dads were lovely people, no matter what anyone said. If he was already intrigued he was sure those words would have done it.
As he kept watching her from behind the giant tree, he couldn't help the urge that rose in him to help her, as next to the tree Rachel looked even tinier than he'd originally thought. She looked so breakable sitting in her cocoon that it took everything in him not to run and help her.
What intrigued him the most though was that even though no one could see her and she could have cried without being made fun of, she hadn't. She'd simply closed her brown eyes quickly, her lower lip quivering only once before she got up and pulled a wipe and blue bandaid from her pocket.
That's when he first learnt she was prepared for nearly ever situation - he just never thought she'd need to prepare herself against a slushy thrown from his own hand.
After she cleaned and bandaged her wound, she smiled a little too brightly and continued on to the rest of the playground as if nothing had happened.
Having seen Mike cry for five minutes the day before when he'd gotten a paper cut and having walked past a wailing Santana as her father got in his car after dropping her off outside their classroom, Rachel's lack of tears had impressed him. Impressed him to the point that he'd ignored Matt's questioning look after finding him on the other side of the tree - the boy was never particularly talkative - and instead chose to walk over to where Rachel had been, trying to figure out just how she'd hurt herself.
He'd stayed in that position until the bell rang. When with a dejected sigh he turned to head back to class, determined to try to put this behind him when a flash of gold caught his eye.
Looking closer he recognized it as the metallic gold star Rachel had put on her desk that morning. He didn't know why it was so important to her that she'd spent most of the morning looking at it as if it held all the answers but he was going to find out. He also wanted to know why she'd given up trying to get it and he needed to know how it had ended up in the tree in the first place.
He remembered Santana hanging around the trees at the start of lunch and really hoped his new kind of friend hadn't been behind this.
As he looked back towards the entrance to the school building Noah saw Matt desperately searching for him but for some reason he couldn't let this go. Somehow he knew this metal star was going to be important to him too. Quickly climbing up the tree, he breathed a sigh of relief when his hand touched the cool metal. Slipping it into his pocket, he breathed a sigh of relief and began his descent.
Three branches from the bottom, his foot slipped. He winced as he felt the skin on his knee get caught on the branch below and tear as he fell to the ground. Wiping the tears from his eyes, he looked up in wonder as he finally realised just how much Rachel must have hurt herself but with that smile on her face no one would have been any wiser, he wouldn't have either had he not heard her fall.
Pulling the star out of his pocket, he ran his thumb over the cool surface as he wiped the few remaining tears that leaked from his eyes. Feeling something under his thumb he looked closer at the shiny surface and realised there was writing on it.
His forehead scrunched in confusion read the engraving. His mouth opened slightly as he realised Rachel had two dads instead of one. Limping back into class as the late bell rang he quickly slipped past the other students and made his way to his desk, grateful that their teacher was writing on the chalk board and not paying enough attention to yell at him - he'd gotten enough of that at preschool.
Nodding to Matt he watched as his friend finally relaxed in his seat opposite Rachel. It took everything in him not to reach over to the tiny brunette and hand her back her star but he knew if Santana saw it, she'd just do the same thing all over again and he didn't want Rachel to be hurt again.
As everyone grabbed their paint pots and began the art portion of the class, Noah sat lost in his thoughts until he felt something hit his foot. Looking down he was surprised to see a scrunched up ball of paper, his eyes subtly scanned the room but everything and everyone seemed to be in place.
Unwrapping it on his lap, he kept his face completely still as he saw the blue bandaid and wipe inside. Quickly cleaning his cut, he got up to throw the rubbish out passing Rachel at the sink. Unable to help himself he muttered a quiet thanks, once again confused as to why she'd helped him in the first place. He saw her lower lip turn up for a second before it went back to her usual neutral expression. That small flicker the only indication that she'd heard him in the first place.
As the years went on she got better at hiding it but he saw how it quivered momentarily whenever Santana and later Quinn said something particularly mean or when Finn used her again and then proceeded to flaunt his relationship with Quinn in front of the whole club - the place Rachel had initially claimed as her sanctum long before the quarterback ever made an appearance.
He saw the way it turned down slightly in disgust whenever Jacob Ben Israel was around, and the way it pulled to one side in disappointment whenever he'd throw Kurt in the dumpster or locked Artie in the Porta Potty or threw a slushy in her face but none of that mattered because she still smiled so brightly at Finn you would have thought he'd hung the stars himself, as she mooned over him like there was no tomorrow.
So he ignored her looks because he didn't care what she thought or what her bottom lip could tell him.
Or at least that's what he told himself, but he still remembered the way her bottom lip quirked upwards when he'd shaved his head into a mohawk and the accompanying gleam in her eye when he'd told her he knew grape was her favorite because she licked her lips after he slushied her. Those little moments where she seemed thrilled that he cared, that he took the time to say thanks. Moments where he knew the truth even when she refused to say it out loud.
Most importantly he knew he cared what she thought because her bottom lip had not moved when she'd broken up with him on the bleachers and that's when he knew she was lying to herself just as he was. He knew she wasn't going to break up with him if it wasn't a preemptive strike because while he knew she was right about him not breaking up with her that day, it didn't mean either of them were certain about the day after, or the week after or the month after and he couldn't blame her because just like Kindergarden she refused to let others hurt her or see her hurt, something which still captured his attention.
So if he really thought about it, Noah Puckerman would undoubtedly say the first time he was truly intrigued by Rachel Berry was on the first day of Kindergarden. Of course if anyone asked he'd lie because on that day he'd learnt how to read her mind from the little differences in her bottom lip and that was a little secret he was taking to the grave.
A/N Thanks for taking the time to read, if you want to let me know what you thought :) This will probably be about five chapters. Reviews are always appreciated. ~ Gabz