Candle In the Wind

Author's Note: So I found this ship completely by accident and really fell in love with it. I always liked these two together, they made more sense to me than Finn and Rachel, given how driven Rachel is and how wishy washy Finn is. I always thought she'd walk all over him. But I heard the song on the radio and really was thinking of how it applied to a Rachel who'd been with Finn so long she clung to him instead of her dreams. Hence this fic. It's short but hopefully sweet. It's also AU for the third season.

Puck looked over at Rachel, cooing with Finn and admiring the chip of a diamond ring on her finger. What the hell was she thinking? Didn't she know that the moron she'd said yes to would chain her to this town with babies and guilt and she'd never get to Broadway? Finn was a smalltown boy at heart, he'd never dreamed big in his life not even with people like Mr. Schue and Rachel telling him he could do better.

Puck scowled and fingered the chords of the song he had in mind once more, he was damned if he was going to let this happen. Damned if his hot little Jewish American Princess was gonna waste away in this fucking one horse town where the sidewalks rolled up at nine o'clock. She was not going to spend the rest of her life pregnant and barefoot while her idiot husband relived his glory days down at the bar.

"Mr. Schue," He stood, "I got somethin' to sing." He was interrupting the teacher but he didn't care right now. "It can't wait."

"O-kay Puck," Schuester nodded, a bit startled but to give the man credit he was always willing to let Puck perform.

Puck strode to the front of the choir room and nodded at his classmates and to Brad, the pianist. "This ain't by a Jewish artist, but it says everything I want to say. Because sometimes…" He took a deep breath and looked straight at Rachel. "Sometimes we don't realize what we're choosing to give up. Sometimes…we change by degrees, not by one sharp turn. Sometimes we cling to the wrong things. This is about a girl who did that…gave up who she was…and well you could say she's a legend, but I don't think it was a happy one. Alla them things we learned in English Lit 'bout Roman and Greeks, never did have happy endings to myths and legends…" He shook his head almost embarrassed by his own rambling, "Anyway, I hope this makes all of us think twice about what we might be giving up."

Brad began the almost tinkling notes and Puck plucked the strings of his guitar in imitation, the guitar wasn't the piano but he'd never felt comfortable singing behind a keyboard,

"Goodbye Norma Jean
Though I never knew you at all
You had the grace to hold yourself
While those around you crawled
They crawled out of the woodwork
And they whispered into your brain
They set you on the treadmill
And they made you change your name,"

Puck looked at Rachel and stared at the ring on her finger, the ring that was the first link in a chain that would keep her tied to Lima for the rest of her life as he began the chorus,

"And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did,"

Puck hoped Rachel knew as he began the next verse that she'd always have friends, people who loved her, if only she stayed true to herself. She was the strongest woman he'd ever known, strong enough to make it in New York without Finn holding her down or holding her back.

"Loneliness was tough
The toughest role you ever played
Hollywood created a superstar
And pain was the price you paid
Even when you died
Oh the press still hounded you
All the papers had to say
Was that Marilyn was found in the nude,

And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did,

Goodbye Norma Jean
From the young man in the 22nd row
Who sees you as something as more than sexual
More than just our Marilyn Monroe,"

Puck segued into the chorus again, never taking his eyes off of Rachel, praying that somehow she'd understand that he believed in her. That she'd make it. The world was gonna see the star she was."

"And it seems to me you lived your life
Like a candle in the wind
Never knowing who to cling to
When the rain set in
And I would have liked to have known you
But I was just a kid
Your candle burned out long before
Your legend ever did."

Brad's piano echoed, lonely notes in the silence of the room and Puck let his hands fall away from the guitar. Suddenly he just couldn't stand to be in that room anymore, with Finn's arms wrapped possessively around Rachel's shoulders, Santana looking at him and then at Rachel with slowly knowing eyes and Quinn with pity on her face. "Yeah, so that's it," He said roughly. "I gotta go," And as quick as he could he booked out of the damn room where he'd obviously done a lot more than sing a damn song. If the evil duo figured out what was going on with him then Rachel wasn't far behind. She was just as smart as those two.

And sure enough, he hadn't even gotten to the parking lot when Rachel's voice was calling his name, "Noah!"

"What Berry?" Puck swung around, fists clenched and noticed that she didn't even flinch at the sight. "What are you going to say now? Try to make me feel better? Try to tell me you know what you're doing? That you and Finnessa are destined? That this is true love and a Lima Loser like me wouldn't understand? What could you possibly say that I'd want to hear right now?"

Rachel's hurt little face stared up at him until she took a deep breath and masked her emotions, fixing on that bright 'I'm in show business' smile she thought hid everything. And it might have worked if she hadn't been talking to him, the boy who'd known her from Temple since they were old enough to talk. The boy who'd memorized every expression on her face and loved each one. "I just…" She shrugged and her hands twisted together, her fingers in tiny little knots. "Why that song?"

"Shit," Puck sighed and looked at her more closely. "You really wanna know Berry?" When she nodded he groaned, "Fine. I'll tell you. And then you drop it unless you're really gonna do something because I can't take anymore drama today."

"Agreed," Her prim little voice was quiet and fervent. Puck nearly groaned again, he loved that voice. It made him want to bury his face between her thighs until she screamed.

"Because you're hangin' onto a guy who doesn't want New York," Puck told her bluntly. "Finn's small town. His biggest dream is playing for the Buckeyes. He's gonna want you to stay in Lima with him. He'll want you to apply to state. He's gonna want kids and a little house and to work in the garage with Burt for the rest of his life."

"But he's promised to go to New York with me," Rachel protested quietly. "Noah, he asked me to marry him knowing I want New York."

"Yeah, 'cause Finn's never broken a promise to you before," Puck retorted. "Have I? Ever? Did I ever lie to you? When you asked me something directly did I ever lie? Did I ever cheat on you? When we were dating did I ever let anyone slushy you?" He shook his head and shrugged slightly, "I ain't sayin' I'm Finn. I ain't. I'm a punk, a juvenile delinquent with delusions of standin', but I'm gonna get out of this town even if I have to do it in a pine box. I've been busting my ass this year Rachel so I could get out. Outa this town, outa this county and outa this fuckin' state."

"Where do you want to go?" Rachel wondered aloud. Her lips tilted wryly, "I don't recall you ever saying."

"I want New York or Los Angeles, ain't decided," Puck shrugged. "Music scene's good in either one, though I like how New York sounds a lot better, California sounds like it's all nose jobs and fake tits."

"I see," Rachel frowned. "Why did you sing that song then Noah," She shook her head. "You'll get out of Lima. But why are you so convinced I won't all of the sudden."

"Geez Berry," Puck shook his head. "Finn can't keep his mouth shut to save his life," He told her flatly. "He's fulla all these plans about goin' to state, about workin' with Burt. He never shuts up about his future, how he wants a family and to be near his parents and how its gonna be great. Especially since you tanked your first NYADA audition, he figures you'll never make New York and you'll just give up and stay with him here."

"He said that," Rachel's face was almost unreadable except for the pain in her dark eyes. "He said I'd never make New York."

"I'm sorry Rache," Puck tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "I know you can do it, but it's like…you're just givin' up. Settlin' for an ordinary life when I know you got that star inside you burnin' so hot you'll burst with it if you keep it stifled in this town." He looked at her sadly, "So I sang that song, maybe to remind you, you ain't a candle Rachel. You're a fuckin' star an' you need to remember that."

"Thank you Noah," Rachel nodded thoughtfully. "You've given me a lot to think about." She looked back at the school where her fiance had not come to check on her absence, and not the first time. "I suppose I so used to no one really loving me that when someone says he does…I cling to it"

"You got people who love you Berry, even if you ain't ever heard 'em say it," Puck told her gruffly. "Why doncha go in and talk to Kurt. He can probably verify a lotta what I said. He wouldn't a wanted to say anything out a turn but if you ask him, you know he won't lie." He couldn't resist, she looked so lost fiddling with that tiny ring on her finger, he pressed his lips to her forehead. "Just remember, you're a star. An' you got me in your corner if Finnessa starts to act like a douchebag again."

"You are an invaluable and stalwart friend Noah Puckerman," Rachel stood on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his cheek. "Thank you for giving me something to think about."

Puck was screwing around with a term paper and trying to figure out why everyone thought Thomas Jefferson was so awesome when the man was a fucking hypocrite when Finn came pounding at his front door. It had been a few days since his Elton John number and Rachel had been disturbingly quiet ever since. That was usually a sure sign she was thinking hard about something. She'd texted him a couple of times, asking him to clarify something she'd heard once, supplying him with homework information another, and then asked if he'd give her a ride to school in the morning. That was a bit of a shock but he'd just texted her back the time he'd be at her house and that he expected some form of food in payment for the gasoline.

Opening the door to get a first in the jaw wasn't entirely unexpected after Rachel's text but Puck couldn't say he enjoyed it, especially as Finn yanked him forward and attempted to repeat the sucker punch. That time Puck blocked and rammed his fist into Finns gut. "You wanna fight we ain't breakin' up my house," Puck warned the quarterback. "My mom can't afford to repair drywall right now." He pulled the bigger boy out of the house and kept his guard up as Finn glared at him.

"What did you say to her?" Finn shouted, ignoring the fact that there were neighbors across the street, one of whom had a kid in school with them. "What did you say to Rachel?"

"Shit, I just told her the truth, like I always do," Puck shrugged refusing to feel guilty about it. Rachel deserved better than this moron who was constantly torn between two girls and couldn't man up if his life depended on it. "I told her you weren't planning to go to New York."

"Why the fuck did you do that man," Finn almost screamed. "We're gonna get married. We get married she's gotta stay with me."

"Who made that rule?" Puck nearly snorted his derision, "Someone forgot to tell my dad." He shook his head, "You shouldn't a lied to her man, the fallout from the truth ain't my problem."

"It is when Rachel breaks up with me, practically throws the ring in my face and tells me she'll get to New York if she has to hitchhike to get there." Finn snapped back angrily nearly throwing himself at Puck.

Puck sidestepped and shook his head as he caught a whiff of whiskey on Finn's breath. The stupid son of a gun never could hold his alcohol, "Shit you've been drinking. That's fuckin' brilliant." He pulled out his cell and dialed Kurt.

"You've reached Kurt Hummel, male diva extraordinaire, how may I assist you today," Kurt's sparkling voice nearly made Puck laugh.

"Your idiot brother is sprawled on my front lawn, drunk and disorderly," Puck told him flatly. "He's already sucker punched me once. He says its my fault Rachel broke up with him."

"Well it is and it isn't," Kurt sighed. "I honestly think he was hoping he'd get her pregnant so she'd have to stay with him. He was talking about having kids a lot at dinner."

"Shit, Kurt, they didn't… she didn't…" Puck felt sick. It was one thing for Rachel to have sex with Finn for her first time, he could understand that. But Rachel would never have sex without protection. It was one of the most important things she and he had talked about their junior year when he'd been so busted up over Beth. How she never wanted to go through what he and Quinn had.

"No, apparently our Rachel is sneaky smart and she's been on the pill since her sophomore year and she started dating the school bad boy," Kurt's voice was amused. "Speaking of that, are you picking her up tomorrow? I told her if you couldn't I would. Finn can get himself to school."

"No, I got it covered," Puck answered, relief coloring his voice. "So would you mind getting your more macho half and dragging Finn off my lawn before my ma gets home? I dunno where he got the bourbon man, but he reeks of it now."

"The liquor cabinet," Kurt sighed. "Just go inside and lock the door, we'll be over in a minute or two."

Puck decided that was good advice, he still had to finish that stupid term paper. "Hey, Kurt, doncha think Jefferson was kinda a hypocrite?" He asked curiously as he went back inside. The gay boy's response was typically funny and Puck grinned into the phone as he sat back down to study. It wasn't long before he was immersed in his work and the noise on the front lawn blocked out.

Rachel was quiet when he picked her up in the morning, but she handed him a mug of coffee and a brown paper bag with three breakfast muffins inside. "Thank you for the ride Noah," She smiled tentatively.

"Hey anytime Berry," He shrugged as he bit into the muffin and then moaned in appreciation. "For these I'll drive you to New York myself."

"You may have to if Finn has anything to say about it," Rachel muttered. "He wasn't…feeling very friendly last night."

"Yeah I know," Puck shrugged. "I got the sore jaw to prove it."

"He hit you?" Rachel's voice rose dangerously and Puck put his muffin down to pat her thigh in overfamiliar reassurance.

"Don' worry 'bout it babe, ain't like I don't have a head of solid rock," Puck grinned. "His hand's a lot more sore than my jaw." He looked over at her, still grinning. "He got drunk last night, so he should be a joy this morning."

"That's such a lovely thought," Rachel sighed. "At least it won't be too much longer before… well before senior year's over."

"Yeah," Puck took a deep breath. "Wanted to tell you somethin'," He pulled a letter out of his pocket. "But I wanted you to be done thinkin' 'bout everything when I told you." He handed her the letter.

"Noah whats…" Rachel unfolded the letter and scanned it. Moments later her screech of joy filled the cab of his truck and he grinned. "Noah Puckerman I ought to kill you for keeping this to yourself."

"Eh," Puck shrugged. "Just wanted you to know, if I can get in, you can." He looked at her, "Even if you don't get NYADA, there's still Julliard, or Tisch."

"You got into Tisch, I'm so proud of you Noah," Rachel waited until he'd parked in the school lot before she threw herself against him, squeezing him tightly. "I'm so proud." She repeated happily, "I knew you could."

"Yeah, well I know you can too," Puck looked at her. "I mean it Rachel. Please don't give up."

"Noah Puckerman, you know me," Rachel's gorgeous brown eyes sparkled up at him. "When have I ever just given up?"

"Like never?" Puck grinned. "It's what I love about you."

"And I love how you just quietly believe," Rachel said softly. "Noah, I know now isn't… it really isn't…"

"Yeah," Puck looked at her and let his hand cup her face, guitar string calluses rough against her soft skin. "But we'll have New York. A fresh start would be nice wouldn't it?"

"It really would," Rachel nodded. "So I'll have the rest of this year to get my act together."

"Well I heard that there're auditions for Julliard in Cincinatti in two months," Puck told her with a grin. "Pretty sure Kurt was going for it."

"Will you come with us?" Rachel smiled hopefully.

"Are you kidding? Someone's gotta drive you divas, you'll be practicing so much you'll end up in a ditch," Puck grinned. "C'mon, let's get to class."

Puck grinned as he handed the conductor his ticket and relaxed back into his seat. Senor year had been a whirlwind. When it had gotten around McKinley that Finchel was over Rachel had been the target of some pretty nasty gossip until Santana and he had stepped up. Of course Finn outing Santana had pretty much made the Latina hate the quarterback with all the passion she loved Brittany. But San had thrown herself into a friendship with Rachel, taking her under her surprisingly protective wing and helping her weather the storm. Puck knew that Rachel had done the same for the Cheerio and they'd actually gotten to be good friends. Santana was headed to NYU along with him, her interest primarily in their law school.

Even Quinn was better friends with Rachel these days. Babymama had told Puck she'd gotten rail passes for she and Rachel from Connecticut to New York so they wouldn't lose touch. That had made Puck more proud of Quinn than he'd been since sophomore year. Quinn hadn't said much about her major but Puck was pretty sure Babymama would land on her feet no matter what.

Kurt had gotten into Julliard, much to his delight, though his love of fashion would never wane. He'd been really considering a school with a good design program but decided that after he made it as a pop star he could always start his own fashion line. Puck hadn't laughed too much at the thought before conceding that if anyone could do it Kurt could.

Puck looked up as Satana sat down across from him, "Sup Satan," He greeted her with a smile.

"Waitin' on the diva, you know," Santana rolled her eyes. "Finn's got something up his gargantuan sleeve."

"Yeah, he don't quit when he gets hung up on somethin'," Puck sighed and shook his head. Finn had done his level best to make the rest of senior year hell for Rachel and Puck despite the fact that neither of them were dating. Finn was convinced it was Puck's fault Rachel had dumped him. And maybe it was, if nothing else, Puck would take responsibility for being a catalyst, he grinned as he thought the word. Berry would be proud of his improved mental if not verbal vocabulary. But then he'd always thought better than he spoke.

"Moron," Santana shook her head. "Saw Kurt, he's huggin' his dad an' Carole g'bye, so he'll be here soon."

"Good," Puck nodded distractedly and then the most beautiful sound in the world reached his ears.

"Noah, what are you thinking over so hard that you don't even notice me trying to talk to you?" Rachel was laughing down at him from the aisle.

"Nothin' important," He shook his head. It was the truth, his worries were nothing when she was actually standing in front of him. "Sit," He moved over so she could take a seat.

"Thank you Noah," Rachel grinned as Kurt hurried onto the train and reached into her purse for some chapstick carefully applying it against the dry train air before she put her hand over Pucks.

He grinned at her, "NYADA here she comes," He teased. "And you thought you'd tanked it."

"Tina and Jesse were a big help," Rachel smiled, "Jesse went a long way towards redeeming himself with me. Though I doubt I'll fully trust him again. It was nice of him to do what he did."

Puck nodded distracted by her tiny hand on top of his, "Yeah, but even if he hadn't you woulda gotten in." He was convinced of that. Nothing stopped Rachel Barbra Berry for long, not idiotic ex-fiancés, not tanked auditions, not even laryngitis.

"I wouldn't have gotten in without you," Rachel told him quietly as the train began to move. "Without you and my friends believing in me, I wouldn't have made it out of Ohio."

"Yeah you would have," Puck told her quietly. "But its nice to have a hand in helping a star shine." He looked over at Santana and Kurt, but both of them were busily examining copies of Vogue and Elle.

"Noah I know we said we'd have a fresh start in New York," Rachel said softly.

"Yeah," Puck nodded. "Need some more time?" He steeled himself for her answer. He could wait, he could wait as long as she needed, so long as he was in her life somehow.

"No," Rachel smiled at him and he couldn't believe how beautiful that smile was. "I was thinking, we're on the train to New York, and that means we're practically there…so…" She squeezed his hand under hers. "Maybe we could start…now?"

Puck grinned and bent down to kiss those perfect Berry lips as gently as he could, "Yeah Rachel, I think now's a good time to start. So long's we don't stop until…well…" He pretended to think, "The fifth day of forever sound okay with you? We'll end it then."

"Sounds perfect," Rachel smiled up at him.

The Tony's were insane, even for someone who was used to packing stadiums, they were like chaos rolled in madness and wrapped in sequins. Puck shook his head as he watched a stream of Broadway actors pass him, unable to believe it. But they were finally seated and names were called and there was a lot of screaming and he couldn't stop grinning when she took the stage.

Her acceptance speech was heartfelt, her gratitude to all the people who'd helped her, and they knew who they were, and most of all to her husband of eight years, "Noah, you were right," She looked out towards him, those gorgeous dark eyes gleaming as they found him in the audience, "Like you wrote in the song, as long as we're together on the fifth day of forever. That sounds perfect to me." She leaned down to the microphone and added one last thing, "And you, Rebecca Puckerman, you'd better be asleep when your dad and I get home or you won't get to play with this new toy we've got." She held up the Tony and grinned, "Thank you all again."

Puck sat down as she left the stage and smiled at absolutely nothing, yeah, the fifth of forever just might be long enough with her.