Under My Skin

She whispers to me
She whispers her secrets to me
And I feel her breath as it brushes my cheek
And her voice is the only sound I hear

Puck's pretty sure that when the university music program told Rachel she had to take at least one semester of a stringed instrument besides piano, she picked guitar because she knew she could con him into tutoring her mostly for free.

Not that it's something he minds at all.

He swings up on his knees behind her on the bed - one of two places to sit in his tiny bedroom - and extends his arms to wrap around her, so he can show her what he means about correct finger positioning on the fretboard. Her back is warm against his chest, her hair smells like tangerines, and when she turns her head to ask, Like this? the question wafts into his ear on a vanilla latte scented cloud and he goes dizzy.

As soon as he recovers, he checks the finger placement she's trying to show him and nods. It takes a heartbeat longer than it should, and he hopes she doesn't notice.

And if I don't move
She pulls me off of my bed
And she makes me dance to the songs in my head
And it's late, but please just sing it again

She doesn't - too absorbed in listening to the difference correct fingering makes when she strums. A quick smile of accomplishment flashes across her face and settles somewhere in the pit of his stomach. When she thanks him, all he's capable of doing is shrugging and smiling back as if to say, no sweat.

Climbing down off the bed, he takes the two steps over to his desk and grabs the open beer he left there, swigging down two gulps in an effort to cool down. In more ways than one.

It's been three years since high school. She still doesn't know.

She's under my skin
She's under my skin

Kurt knows, of course; those freaky eyes of his don't miss a trick, and he'd been suspicious since that Barbravention thing junior year anyway. Not that Puck can blame him - the excuse of the two of them being hot Jews who should be proud of the physical evidence of their heritage would usually be a good one, but when you're applying it to a girl you used to Slushie, that you later dated, and you now protest her weirdness and shrillness just a little too much - yeah, then? It becomes a lame excuse, as transparent and fragile as cellophane.

Puck knows for sure that Kurt knows on a day that they're doing homework together, when the dude looks up at his boyfriend and says out of nowhere, Blaine, isn't it funny that Puck should choose to go to trade school in New York when there's so many good ones in Ohio?

All Puck can do is grunt and leave the room to escape Kurt's know-it-all smirk.

And if I say no
She kisses the scar on my chin
And before I can speak, we're dancing again
We turn, and spin right out of control

It's true, Puck could have stayed in Ohio. But sure as shit, Finn doesn't get into any of the New York colleges he applies to and his mom talks him into taking the athletic scholarship he got to the University of Akron. When Rachel doesn't seem as upset about this as Finn thinks she should, when she flat out refuses to even consider going to any college anywhere near Ohio, there's a huge fight...and that's the end of Finn and Rachel. For good, this time.

It wasn't like Rachel hadn't tried to warn Finn. It wasn't like everyone hadn't tried to warn him. It was the quarterback's own damn fault for being so short-sighted and deliberately ignorant.

So Puck tells everyone that he's not about to let Kurt, Blaine, and Rachel go off to New York without some muscle behind them, and he thinks most of them really believe he's being altruistic. He works one more pool season - actually working, not just playing with the cougars, although he's a stud so obviously some of that does happen - sells any of his possessions that are worth anything at all, and hops a bus to New York with a suitcase and his guitar.

Three years later, Rachel still doesn't know the real reason why he followed them, but there's a very good reason for that: he hasn't told her.

Unlike Finn, Puck knows that when Rachel says school and career first, she damn well means it. He has never been under any illusions that he would be able to sway her focus, and besides that, he doesn't want to. Puck is a selfish asshole on a whole lot of levels, that much is true, but he is also pragmatic - not a trait Finn can boast.

They're young. He can wait.

Wherever she goes
She carries a smile in her hand
Like a thief, she can steal any grin that she can
And I watch, I wait, to see her again

He picks up his own guitar and starts idly picking out a pretty melody from a song he particularly likes because it reminds him of Rachel, not that he's said that out loud.

He's smiling at her when she puts her guitar down and scoots over to get within arm's reach. Before he can react, she's carefully removing the instrument from his hands and tugging him to his feet. Just barely loud enough to hear, she's humming the song he was just playing. He knows what she wants.

I don't dance, he protests.

Humor me, Noah, is her reply. I haven't danced with a boy in so long.

You dance with Kurt all the time. I've seen you.

It's not the same.

He knows what she means.

She's under my skin
She's under my skin
She's under my skin
She's under my skin
Under my skin

There's very little room to maneuver in his matchbox bedroom, so she stands carefully on his feet, rests her cheek on his chest, and they sway back and forth, her humming thrumming a vibration that goes through his heart, radiates out and leaves him warm, content, a little breathless, a lot speechless.

Not for the first time, he counts down the days to when he's pretty sure it's going to be safe to tell her everything.

Author's Note: The song in this story is "Under My Skin" by Peter Bradley Adams. Apparently I am having a Puckleberry weekend after a month of nonstop work on my primary story. I hope everyone enjoys it, and I thank you for the reviews and favorites on my other stories. You're all lovely.