Title: I can't do a love song, like the way it's meant to be.
Author: lightning bug
Character/Pairing: Finn, rest of cast. Implied Finn/Rachel
Summary: Senior year at William McKinley High School.
Disclaimer: Fox and Ryan Murphy own it, I'm just borrowing. The title comes from the Dire Strait's song "Romeo and Juliet"
The weird thing is that by senior year, they're kind of legit. Sophomore year they made it to States and everyone had to accept that Glee wasn't just a joke, but no one was happy about it and Finn still got a lot of shit from his friends. Then last year they made it to the first round of Nationals. So now people take them seriously.
Well, the Cheerios don't. And the football players don't like it either, but their material is getting old. They haven't come up with a new insult in months.
Still though, it isn't until the auditions during the first week of school that Finn realizes they're the real thing now. Instead of a couple of names on a sign-up sheet, there is a line of nervous-looking kids waiting outside of the auditorium.
Once they make it into the auditorium, Rachel practically squeals, "Did you see the freshmen? Aren't they adorable? And there's so many of them!"
Rachel is too in love with the freshmen to notice that Finn isn't agreeing. He doesn't think they're adorable; he thinks they're terrifying. He has never seen that many people interested in Glee before in his life, even after making it to states there weren't that many kids interested in joining up.
He looks back at that line outside. Finn doesn't want them to join. He wants it to stay small, to stays theirs.
Finn shakes the feeling off. It's stupid, anyway. They need new members, especially since Tina and Arty graduated. And it's not like this is what he was meant for. He's got football, and school, and his mom. Let new people take over Glee, see if he cares.
(He tries his hardest to get that feeling from coming back later, when they're talking about who to let join and who to cut)
He broke up with Quinn over the summer. He expected some sort of fallout from it, but there wasn't any. His mom had never liked her, Glee definitely didn't like her, and the football team hated anyone involved with the Celibacy Club.
It's weird being single. They'd been dating for almost two years and he'd gotten used to just having someone around. Quinn may not have always been reliable (she'd blown him off a lot for cheerleading, but he'd done the same to her with football and Glee) but she was someone that he could call most nights before bed. He liked having that routine.
A little after they broke up, he started talking to Rachel more.
She was at some sort of musical boot camp for the summer but apparently still had access to facebook, because the day after he and Quinn broke up, he had a text from her that just said "I heard. I'm sorry."
He was kind of surprised by how sane it was. When he saw her name flash up, he was expecting a speech about grief and moving on or something else weird. But it seemed like she was really concerned, so he just texted back "I'll live," and then asked if she was going to out-sing them all after coming back from her camp. Of course, she had a response to that.
So that's how the regular texting started. Then he called her one night because he'd seen a cool dance move in an old movie on TV and wanted to know if they could do it in a performance.
That call ended up lasting an hour.
After he got off the phone with Rachel, his mom asked "So who was that?" But it wasn't just a normal question because she asked it in that way.
"It was just Rachel, Mom."
But then she did that annoying knowing-smile thing and he went to bed that night wondering if Rachel was supposed to be more than that.
One of the new girls—Mika? Michelle?—gushes to him that she thinks it's just so amazing that they made it to the national championships last year.
Yeah it's amazing, he tells her. He doesn't tell her that what's less amazing is that they didn't even make the first cut—the only states they beat were Michigan and South Carolina.
New Girl clearly hasn't talked to Sue, because she never lets them forget it. When they came back from Nationals last year, she had the Cheerios make a banner that said "Congratulations to New Directions—48th in the Nation!" And then Finn overheard Mr. Schue say that Sue had started calling him "48" or would loudly mention how well the Cheerios did in their latest tournament.
The new kids don't care about that, though. They were now members of a team that had made it to a national tournament. It's like what Rachel was always saying about being in something special. Everyone wants it.
He has a mandatory meeting with Miss. Pillsbury (she always says that he should call her Emma, but that just feels weird). Everyone has to have one with her before November to discuss college stuff.
At the start of their meeting she looks at her a computer for a bit and then turns to him with that huge smile and says, "Finn, have you thought of going out of state for school?"
No, of course not. But that's not really the sort of thing you're supposed to say to your guidance counselor, so he just says "I hadn't thought about it much."
"Well, I think you're in great shape to get a scholarship to an out-of-state school. Your grades saw a significant improvement sophomore and junior year—" okay, he was pretty proud of that. Rachel would probably think a solid B-average was the same as failing, but he was happy with it—"You've been with football since middle school and the team did well this year, considering—" considering that Coach went completely insane, stopped showing up to practices, and eventually fled the country (apparently he had a drug ring going with Mr. Rierson)?—"and you have New Directions." She looks at him very pointedly and asks, "Are you going to mention that in your interviews?"
Finn doesn't answer right away, so she continues, "I really think you should. It shows that you're diverse, that you're not just another jock who wants a scholarship. You've proved that you can multitask and still maintain a good GPA."
He knows that he's staring at her kind of blankly. He honestly hadn't thought about bringing it up. It wasn't like he was going to keep singing and dancing in college, right? This was all just temporary.
But it's still not something to tell your guidance counselor, especially one who is closely involved with all the singing and dancing.
So he just tells her that he'll definitely think about it and she gives him that big smile and tells him to have fun at glee practice that afternoon.
So here's the thing about Nationals that they won't tell anyone: it was a fluke.
They never thought they'd win at Regional. But the other teams weren't that great that year and they happened to be really good and that's how they got to States.
The second they got back to school they completely freaked out. The team was not prepared for States. They couldn't even agree on anything to sing and spent whole meetings fighting over it.
And then Mr. Schue came in one day and told them that he and his wife were breaking up.
That kind of put things in perspective. Kurt didn't threaten to slap Rachel if she brought up "Singin' in the Rain" again. They stopped fighting and mostly just felt really bad for Mr. Schue.
The next practice Tina came in and played "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" for them. That's when everything changed. They all knew it would be their song, even Mr. Schue who had been telling them not to go with a song that was too obscure. He just quietly said after the song that Rachel should start coming up with choreography.
They won States with that song. They shouldn't have, because their team still wasn't that great, but that helped them because the song was awkward and it didn't need that many people to sing on it. And Mr. Schue definitely helped them bring the right passion to it.
So yeah, it was a total fluke. Never would have worked if it hadn't been that song at that time Kurt said later that Mr. Schuester should get divorced every year, and Finn kind of agreed. He's not sure they can even get to Nationals again, even with so many new people on the team.
But he really wants to get to Nationals again. Maybe it's because football sucked so hard this year or because it's his last year with Glee, but he wants to win. Just to prove that they can.
His mom kind of sums it up when they see Sue at the grocery store. Once she's out of earshot, his mom growls, "I would love to slap that smirk off her face."
Finn's pretty sure that showing up Sue and the Cheerios by winning at Nationals would be the best graduation present ever.
Rachel had been telling everyone since junior year that she would be applying early to Julliard and NYU and that it would be so hard trying to decide between the two. It was classic Rachel—totally over the top but after a while they all took it as fact.
In the beginning of November she doesn't show up to school two days in a row and they all realize that she must not have gotten in. He was so used to hearing about her sure-thing future that Finn actually feels let down about it.
He gets her address from Miss. Pillsbury and drives over to her house after practice. One of her dads lets him in (and he still has no idea how to deal with them. His mom's pretty liberal and in theory he's for gay marriage, but there aren't a lot of gay couples in Lima so it's always weird when he sees Rachel's dads) and Finn asks to see Rachel.
"She's in her room," her dad tells him. "She's barely come out since she got the letters." Letters. The team was definitely right about the rejections.
He gets the directions to her room and knocks on the door. "Uh, hey Rachel. It's Finn." He pauses and then adds, "Can I come in?"
There's nothing and then she says, "Sure."
He has about two seconds to register that her room is as pink as he expected when he notices Rachel. She's curled up in the middle of her bed wearing a huge robe and surrounded by tissue boxes. It really gets to him seeing her like that; he's so used to Rachel being put together that to see her acting less than normal (well, normal by her standards) freaks him out.
"We missed you at practice," he says. "Michelle and Daniela are going crazy without you." There are these two freshmen that are obsessed with Rachel and hang on her every word. She loves it, of course.
"Michaela and Danielle," Rachel corrects. "It's very hard for the team to have cohesion if you can't learn anyone's name, Finn."
Normally he'd roll his eyes at a statement like that but instead he just smiles a little because she isn't so depressed that she won't lecture him. "So, you know, how are you?"
Rachel sighs dramatically. "Horrible. The letters came Friday afternoon. And I just knew when I saw them that it wouldn't be good news. They were skinny envelopes." She says 'skinny envelope' like it's the plague. "And then I opened them and that was it. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. There's no way I can go back to school. I've been telling everyone that I would get in and to just go back to school where everyone knows that I got deferred would be humiliating and--"
"Wait, you got deferred?" Why didn't Finn think of this before? Of course she would react to a deferral this way. "Rachel, that's not a rejection. You've still got a chance in the spring. Just ask Miss. Pillsbury."
"Oh, I know what Emma will say," Rachel says with an impressive eyeroll. "'Rachel, just keep your grades up! Stick with your activities! Show them that you're consistent! You'll get accepted in April for sure!'"
"Which is totally true."
"No it isn't. Deferral is just a rejection you have to wait longer for."
She looks really defeated and Finn has a feeling that anything he tries to tell her she's already heard from her parents a hundred times.
Looking at Rachel, Finn has the same feeling he does when his mom's upset. He really wants to do something to make her feel better. It's not a surprise because Rachel is his friend and it makes sense that he doesn't want her to be sad.
What is a surprise is when he blurts out, "Do you want a hug?"
Rachel doesn't say anything, but she does get out of bed and wrap her arms around his waist. He hugs her back and they just stand there for a minute, not saying anything. They pull apart at the same time and he asks, "Are you going to come back to school tomorrow? Physics lab is kicking my ass without you there."
"I am very good with optics equations," she says thoughtfully, and he feels really good when she finally smiles.
The next two months go really quickly. By the time winter break comes, Finn's already got in most of his college applications due to his mom and Miss. Pillsbury's constant pressing. He was looking forward break until Mr. Schue told them that they would need to come in three times over break to practice since Regionals was just one week after school started again.
On December 31st they all pile into the auditorium to practice "I'll Take You There." They take a break when Tina shows up to help them figure out the lightning (something she turned out to be really good at. They haven't found anyone to replace her yet so she helps out when she get away from school).
Finn's been noticing that Rachel still looks down about the deferrals, even though it's almost two months later, so he goes out on a limb and asks if she wants to go to a New Year's Party with him.
"Will there be drinking," Rachel asks warily.
"Uh, probably. It is New Year's." He has a feeling he's about to get a lecture.
Yup, he is. "Drinking really isn't healthy, even if it's just for a special occasion," Rachel tells him. "I read somewhere that extensive drinking can have a negative effect on the vocal chords. That's not really a chance I want to take. Anyway, I don't like staying up late so close to a competition. I like to be in the best health possible. You should think about doing that."
There's no way he can get out of going to the party. Puck's throwing it and he's threatened Finn with bodily harm if he doesn't show up. Anyway, he'd go even if he hadn't been forced into it. After finishing all that college application crap and glee practice, he needs the fun.
Still, he remembers what Rachel said about alcohol and vocal chords, so he avoids the keg and just drinks Coke all night.
He spends the night hanging out with the football team, grateful that Rachel isn't there. She'd probably just make some awkward comment about kissing and midnight and then everything would get weird. And she'd be judging everyone there for drinking, even though she was the only one with vocal chords to worry about.
He's still thinking about her when the clock hits midnight.
Apparently Mercedes and Kurt have this theory that Miss. Pillsbury in love with Mr. Schue and he kind of sees it. She likes coming along to tournaments with them. She doesn't sit in the audience and watch either; she actually hangs out with them backstage while they wait to go on, which is the most boring yet nerve-wracking time period ever. Anyone who would voluntarily put themselves through that torture would have to be in love.
Of course she comes with them to Regionals. She's like an honorary member at this point.
The competition is being held at Mark Hanna High School and the teams all have to wait in this long, badly-lit hallway on one side of the theater.
"I think you guys are a shoe-in to win," Miss. Pillsburry says in her usual chipper way. Finn (and the rest of the team) ignore her. Mr. Schuester pulls her aside and whispers something to her. Mercedes stops panicking long enough to look at the whole team while doing this intense raised-eyebrow-I-told-you-so thing.
Finn hates the time right before a performance. The first time he ever went to one, he thought that it would be just like the time before a football game.
He was very wrong. At least in football games you didn't have to sit and listen to the crowd cheer for other teams for an hour before you came out. It was like hell. He's always convinced that they're never going to be good enough and this time is no different.
It doesn't help that they're going on right after Carmel High School. Vocal Adrenaline hasn't really got over being beat by them two years in a row and is not shy about showing that. So not only do they have to wait in the wings to watch the end of Carmel's performance, they have to stand there while the Carmel kids file past them. One girl fixes him with a pretty scary death-glare and he hears someone on his team make a startled noise as the others walk by.
Nothing like a little psych-out before a performance.
There's no time to really think about it because then they're out on stage and everything is a blur. Finn is always a little freaked out how quickly it goes by. It's months of work for five minutes. At least football games lasted a whole forty-eight minutes and were once a week. Before he knows it, the performance is done, the crowd is cheering and applauding, and they're being hustled backstage so the next school can come on.
Mr. Schue and Miss. Pillsbury are waiting in the wings and they're both smiling like crazy at them and whispering congratulations.
One hour later they win Regionals. One hour and five minutes later they start trying to come up with ideas for States.
He's late for Glee a week after Regionals—he had to meet with his calc teacher because functions make no sense at all—and instead of seeing Mr. Schue coaching the team, half of the team is singing something that sounds a lot like Celine Dion and the other half is singing a Coldplay song. Mr. Schue is sitting in the back of the room and when he sees Finn he gestures at him to come over.
"Uh, what's going on?"
"'Competitive Song Selection.' Rachel's idea," he adds, which kind of explains everything. "She learned it at that camp she went to over the summer. Everyone starts singing their own selection but there's actually only one right song. Soon, everyone will start singing along to that song, and we'll know it's the one we should sing for States"
"Does that work?"
"Well, they're all either singing 'It's All Coming Back to Me Now' or 'The Scientist', so I guess it does. Although," he continues, "This is the second time we've gone through this. Last time it was a three-way tie between 'Paper Planes', 'Boys of Summer', and something from La Boheme that Michaela was very committed to."
"I guess I should go join them?" Except he doesn't want to, because it sounds insane.
"No, it's completely insane," Mr. Schue says. "I was thinking that you could help me brainstorm while they battle it out."
They bounce around a couple of ideas while the rest of the team tries to sing over one another (they start on round three of the competitive song whatever and the room is filled with everyone yelling song lyrics).
Mr. Schue mentions 'California Girls' and Finn blurts out, "I got into UCLA."
"That's amazing, Finn. Congratulations," Mr. Schuester says. "When did you find out?"
"Last week," he answers.
"Why didn't you tell us earlier? This is huge news."
"I really only told my mom," Finn says. "I still haven't heard back from State so I'm don't know if I'll be going."
"Did you get a scholarship?"
"Yeah, a good one, but I'm just not sure." Mr. Schue looks at him oddly and Finn keeps talking even though he kind of doesn't want to. That's one of the things he's noticed about him; he's really good at getting Finn to talk things out, which is good, he guesses. He's kind of stealing Miss. Pillsbury's job, but she probably wouldn't mind. "I don't know if I want to go that far away, you know. Most of my friends are going to be staying in Ohio, and my mom's here, and everything." He shrugs, "I'm just not sure if it's the right thing to do."
Mr. Schuester nods and says, "Have you talked with Emma about it?"
"Not since I got in," Finn shrugs.
"I think you should go for it," Mr. Schue says. "The decision is entirely up to you, but I think you should take the chance and go somewhere completely different. I mean," he gestures to rest of the team, still singing different things, "taking a chance got you here. Although maybe you don't think it's a good thing."
"I do," Finn answers quickly. "But I don't know…" he trails off. He's not sure what he doesn't know, but he feels like he's standing on the edge of a really big cliff and that falling off of it could be interesting, but it's still falling off a cliff.
He's about to explain that to Mr. Schue—but with way better wording—when Rachel stomps in front of them.
"I need you both for a tie breaker," she demands.
"Rachel, two people don't necessarily make a tie breaker," Mr. Schuester explains.
"Fine! Then I need whichever one of you is more likely to vote for my choice."
The song for States, per Mr. Schue's vote, is "I Wanna Dance With Somebody."
They meet in the school parking lot at five on a Saturday morning in April to drive to Canton for States. It's pouring down rain and they're all tired and miserable, especially Kurt who won't stop complaining about what the rain will do to his new hair cut.
Only teachers can drive—Mr. Figgins didn't want to let students drive and then have to deal with the liability—so the only cars they have belong to Mr. Schue, Miss. Pillsbury and Mercedes' mom.
Finn gets into the back of Mr. Schue's car (he learned the hard way that Miss. Pillsbury has a very strict no-food rule in her car) along with Rachel, Danielle, and a sophomore guy named Greg.
"I know that it's five in the morning," Mr. Schue says, "but I want all of you to stay awake. I don't need a groggy team at States. Did you hear that, Rachel?"
(Rachel had complained the day before about the no-sleeping-in-the car policy (which Finn thought was almost as cruel as the no-food one). "I need my rest, Mr. Schuester," she said. "How can I be expected to do my best if I'm sleep-deprived?" She vowed to sleep the whole three hours and wake up completely refreshed and ready to perform.)
Finn looks over at her. She's already got her eyes clamped shut and is doing some dramatic heavy-breathing that he thinks is supposed to mean she's asleep.
Finn's meets Mr. Schue's eyes in the rearview mirror and rolls his own eyes. She's pretty obviously faking just out of spite.
Once they get on the road, the weird breathing stops and her head drops down. Her eyes are really closed this time, but she's smiling. She's been annoyingly happy all week; her NYU acceptance letter came. At least someone knows where they'll be in the fall. He's still trying to decide between UCLA and Ohio State.
Mr. Schuester turns to get onto the on ramp for I75 and they all shift to the right, including Rachel's head, which lands on Finn's shoulder. She doesn't wake up; she just moves a little closer to him.
Instead of awkwardly pulling away or trying to figure out why he should or shouldn't be freaking out, he just rests his head lightly on hers and watches the cars go by.