Title: Gift Wrapped

Pairing: Finn/Rachel

Rating: NC-17

Author's Note: Written for a "shoe porn" challenge between my friends who are also writers of fiction. We each chose a pair of shoes from the swanky Nordstrom shoe department to use as our inspiration - mine was a gorgeous pair of peep-toe, chocolate brown, satiny heels with a looping bow across the toes. They were heavenly, and I don't blame Finn for discovering he had a shoe kink because of them. This was written last August.

He's on his third pastry of indiscriminate (yet tasty) filling, and he's quite thankful that he found this table of treats in the corner of the lobby on their first day in New York. It's not that he'd expected to spend this much time waiting for her, but eating high-end baked goods and drinking fancy coffee was certainly an easy way to pass the time.

The lobby is immense – marble floor gleaming, glass sparkling, and the lights of Times Square reflected in the windows of the ceiling high above. He grabs a fourth pastry – this one looks like raspberry, he thinks, examining it closely for a moment – and walks toward the front windows.

He takes a bite (holy crap, it's good), and watches as dozens of people stream by on the sidewalk below, each unaware of the other, all unaware of him. He thinks of Lima. He thinks of getting away. And he thinks of Rachel, who he knows dreams of being just where they are now.

It's funny that they've ended up here, for what's going to be their final chance at a national title. As sophomores in a fledging club of misfits (he puts a hand over his face and chuckles, remembering - gosh, they were a motley crew), it would have taken a minor miracle to get them to this point.

As it was, they worked – hell, they battled – their asses off to go as far as they did that year. A smile crosses his face as he thinks of the talent and strength of his friends, and – because he knows he's alone in this corner of the huge lobby – he closes his eyes and hears the voice he loves best. He's biased as hell, of course, but he'd give her most of the credit; well, she and Mercedes, who can't (and won't) be counted out. Not with those pipes.

It's the memory of last year's competition that really makes him grin, though. He might be staring through the glass at the lights and the movement of Times Square, but as he pops the remainder of the pastry (which he's pretty sure isn't actually raspberry) into his mouth, he's back in Florida again.

He still wonders how they ever made it to a national competition, much less how they'd placed third ("Work," Rachel tells him. "Hard work and lots of practice, of course." Which is true – glee club took more practice than football ever did.). And he remembers his own elation at such an incredible accomplishment (he'd nearly cried, much to his horror), followed by his momentary panic that she would be absolutely distraught at not winning, being the best.

But he'll never forget the look on her face backstage, the jubilant tears in her eyes, or the way she ran to him and jumped into his arms, fully confident that he'd catch her. And he had, of course, and he'd kissed her, and he'd whispered in her ear that he loved her. He remembers, as he leans back against the wall and presses his temple to the glass, how she'd buried her face in his neck and cried, her arms around his shoulders, clutching him as tightly as she could. (He'd known long before that, but hadn't found the right moment to say such important words; but right then, grinning into her hair, he was fairly sure he'd chosen a good time.)

He'd heard the same words later that night, in a stolen moment by the vending machines on the sixteenth floor of their hotel. It wasn't perfect, he knew, and still, somehow, it was, with the warmth of the soda machine's motor at his back and Rachel pressed close to him; the hum of the ice maker drowning out the sound of their kisses and her intermittent sighs.

Third place at Nationals, Rachel really loved him (though, hadn't he always known that?), and they even got to spend a day at Disney World before heading home to Ohio – it had totally been the perfect trip.

But it's this chance, here in New York City, that has Rachel excited like he's never seen her before, and it's exhilarating, really. It's lit his own passion for this, given him a hope that the competition on Sunday afternoon will be The One for them.

He's thinking about their choreography for the opening song (and, to be honest, wondering what the hell was taking his girlfriend so long) when he hears the click of high heels across the wide marble floor of the lobby. He spares a second or two to imagine his Rachel in a sexy pair of heels, smiling as he decides her usual choice is fine by him, knee socks and all. (Besides, he can see her with neither socks, nor shoes, nor any clothing at all, if he wishes, and that's better any day.)

He's curious as the footsteps approach the corner where he's standing, and he turns when he hears a quiet and cautious, "Finn?"

And suddenly, he's so glad he just swallowed that last piece of pastry because he would definitely have inhaled it (and he imagines that choking on a danish would ruin this moment). All he can do is...stare.

He knows she's beautiful, sees sunshine in her smile and chocolate in her eyes and all that stuff that would sound so...cheesebucket if he said it out loud, but before him is the most stunning Rachel he's ever seen.

Her hair is piled loosely at the back of her head in big, shining curls (he thinks of releasing it later), and she's wearing a smoky blue dress with no straps, tied around the waist with a wide brown ribbon (he's got thoughts of untying that to set it free, too). Her shoes have caught his eye and quickened his pulse, however – brown and satin and with heels way, way higher than any he's ever seen her wear before and twisting loops at the front like a gift wrap bow. She looks so fantastic that he's barely got words – even those of the cheesebucket variety.

"You're…holy crap, Rach…" He gestures to her shoes (oh my God, he thinks, those shoes, and he feels a bit like Kurt, except that he kind of desperately wants to feel those heels digging into the back of his legs), and his jaw drops. He must look like an idiot. "Those…I can't even…"

She clasps her hands in front of her, around the straps of her purse, and smiles up at him. "I'm sorry it took so long to get ready. I wanted everything to be perfect for our evening together since it's the only free night on this trip, and I also thought that perhaps the judges for Sunday's event might be staying here" – she looks around – "and you never know who's watching, Finn! What if one of them is local and scouting for the theatre? Really, you never know…"

He cocks an eyebrow. "That's kind of against the rules of this show choir thing, isn't it?"

Waving a hand, she dismisses this fact. "Still…they're always on the lookout for talent." She glances around the lobby once more, but they're alone except for an elderly couple checking in.

"By the way," he says, reaching for her arm and sliding his palm down into hers, "it's okay – I wasn't waiting too long for you. And you look incredible." He laughs once, leans down to kiss her, then straightens to say with a half-smile, "Now that I figured out how to say it."

She smiles and thanks him, then laughs and begins to pull him toward the elevator that takes them to the ground floor of the hotel. "Come on! I want to show you New York!"

He mocks her a bit – "The whole thing? Wow…" and she slaps his arm playfully with her other hand.

"Well, Times Square...the Theatre District...you know, my New York." And the grin on her face is so bright that he can't help but return it.

They join the stream of people on the sidewalk, and to Finn, it feels like he's gotten on a conveyor belt, endlessly moving forward at a pace he hasn't set. But it's fascinating, really, and he's trying hard to watch where he's going instead of looking up at the billboards and neon and blatant, forty-foot sex plastered to the buildings.

He's also trying to listen to Rachel over the noise of the city – people and cars and that sound that's just always there. She's telling him about the first Broadway play her dads brought her to see - "…right over there, at the Marquis. I was eight years old, and Finn, it was magical. Reba's hair is just as beautiful in person as it is in pictures…"

She's beaming at the memory, and he really does want to listen; he releases her hand and puts his arm around her shoulders instead, falling into step beside her as her heels click the pavement.

"We also went to see The Music Man that weekend, which was amazing, but that played back there." She points behind them down Broadway, past their hotel. "And when we came for my tenth birthday to see 'Phantom' –" She looks up at him. "You know, Phantom of the Opera?" (He raises an eyebrow and mock-scowls, because the reason he knows all the words to "Masquerade" is walking beside him, and really, did she think he'd never picked up on any of these things in the time they'd known each other?) "…that was over there." She points down another street.

Time passes as they walk past store fronts, around theatre-goers lined up at box office windows, and finally to a stretch of pavement lit more by streetlamps than neon. The white noise of the city is still so loud in Finn's ears that he almost doesn't hear her when she quietly states, "I'm going to be a part of this someday."

There's a rare vulnerability in her voice, and he pulls her in close as they walk. "I know, Rach. You will."

At the next cross street, he points half a block down to the lights of the nearest theatre. "Right there. They'll have one of those poster-sized photos out front, with you singing." She giggles and he gestures grandly, going on, "The book thingy…" - "The playbill," she corrects, her grin never wavering, as he continues - "…won't just have your name inside, where you'll thank me for my everlasting support and everything, it'll be on the front – (he's talking with his hands now) – and they'll put it outside in one of those glass cases." Looking at the theatre, then at her, he nods decisively. "You'll own the stage in that place. Hell, they'll have to rename it the Berry." ("Hudson," he hears her murmur, her still-smiling gaze focused down the street, and his heart stops for a moment, then pounds a bit faster afterward.)

Instead of crossing, he steers them away from the throng of people assembling at the sidewalk's edge; just outside the halo of the corner streetlamp, he turns his back to the wall and pulls her against him.

Their lips meet a moment later, and he's lost in the sweet smell of her hair, the graceful slope of her back as she arches into him, and the wonderful difference he can feel in the way their bodies connect because of those amazing high heels. He's fairly sure she can feel it, too; only a few minutes pass before she breaks their kiss and suddenly he feels her breath, soft and warm at his ear.

"I don't mind giving Manhattan a show, but we can have our own back in my room." His eyes go wide at her words. She sucks his earlobe into her mouth and he can feel her smile against his jaw when it makes his torso tremble. "Do you like that idea, Finn?"

He doesn't say a word, reaching instead for the hand she has wrapped around his back, placing her palm against his erection.

As she kisses him, her fingers grip just a little tighter, and her "Mmmm" in response simply mixes with his groan. It's definitely time to head back.

As they break apart and begin to leave, Rachel turns her dark eyes up toward him. "I saw Rent at that theatre." She gestures behind her, toward what he proclaimed would be her future stage. "I'd love to be onstage there in the right production."

A little, long-ago memory of their voices blending on a duet from Rent, sitting alone at the piano bench in the choir room, bubbles up, and he's struck by how glad he is that his life took this turn. How the hell he became a show choir soloist is beyond his comprehension, but glee club really is the best thing that's ever happened to him.

Well, glee and the gifts that tagged along with it.

"You know I'll be there to see you."

She smiles at this, a genuine, sweet smile, and places her fingertips at his jaw line. "I know," she says, and there's no pretention in her voice – she simply says this because she believes him. "And I love you."

When she kisses him, it's soft but powerful, and the moment crackles with the quiet fire of trust. It crosses his mind that this must be what it feels like to be an adult – and if so, he doesn't really mind.

He takes her hand, squeezes it, and gives her a crooked smile before they continue on.

As they walk, she's still sharing little stories with him about this musical or that theatre or a certain memory from a time her dads brought her here, and he's intrigued by the way she lights up talking about it. This city is an assault on his senses, for sure, but he imagines (hopes, really) that it isn't all like this.

The click of her heels on the sidewalk is driving him somewhat mad, but only because each time he looks down, he sees her feet and thinks of unwrapping a present. It's a naughty vision, honestly, and doesn't involve wrapping paper at all (but it certainly could, he thinks, the kind they wrap gift baskets in) and then knows he's gotten carried away in this fantasy, and maybe ought to tell her –

"…very good pizza, but they don't sell it by the slice. You have to order the whole thing."


She glances up at him. "Hmm?"

"I really like your shoes." (Okay, that was lame.) "I mean, like, I really, really like your shoes…" She looks puzzled now, and he knows for sure he's messing this up. Trying again, he simply says, "They're hot."

She smiles happily, looks down at her feet, and thanks him, but he knows he hasn't gotten this across to her yet (he does know, however, that she won't be taking them off with the rest of her clothes – which, as he continues to think about it, makes him wish he hadn't tucked in his button-down shirt…).

By the time they're back at the hotel's elevator, she's nearly finished the smoothie she had a craving for (his was finished within a block and a half of purchasing it), and as she lifts the straw to her mouth, he finally leans in to tell her just exactly why she won't be taking off her shoes inside the door tonight.

"Oh," she squeaks, eyes wide.

The cup quickly finds a home in the nearest trash can, and a moment later, both hands are around his waist, and he leans down as she stretches up, their lips meeting just as the elevator dings and the doors open.

He presses seventeen, where everyone in the glee club has a room, but she looks at him and shakes her head, pressing the button for twenty-eight. "My faucet leaked."

He turns his palm over and fixes her with a mild "so what?" look, waiting for her to continue.

"So I complained. A lot." She looks at the floor. "I mean, really, really, a lot."

He raises his eyebrows. "And they changed your room?"

She nods, and her grin lights up her face, lights up the elevator. "Oh, Finn, wait till you see it. The view!"

"My view is a wall," he intones, staring at her.

But then his face breaks into a smile, and he has to laugh at whatever she must have done to convince a desk clerk to move her up eleven floors because of a faucet leak.

"Really, I can't wait to see it, Rach."

"I can't wait to show you."

And it's so easy to pick up where they left off downstairs, pulling apart only when the doors open at the seventeenth floor and peeking around the doorway, just in case Mr. Schuester happens to be in the hallway.

When the doors close again, he slides down the wall a bit, bracing his back against it, and pulls her to him. His tongue has just begun exploring hers when he feels her foot slide up his leg, and he's almost lightheaded with the feeling of it, the looping gift-wrap bow against his calf muscle. Then, on the return trip, it's the heel of her shoe gliding agonizingly slowly against his shin, and he can't even continue kissing her, because his jaw has dropped open, and he's having trouble breathing.

Just then, with a ding, the doors open and she pushes away from him, grabbing his hand and pulling him to stand. She's looking over her shoulder and grinning at him every few steps, nearly running down the corridor toward her room. The hallway is empty and silent except for their hurried footsteps, but he suddenly wonders when she forgot all about the judges and talent scouts who might be in the hotel (he hopes they aren't looking, then realizes he doesn't really care).

His arms circle her as she slides the key card in the lock, and as the door opens, she turns in his arms, grabs him around the waist, and pulls him inside.

She hasn't left any lights on in her room, but honestly, she doesn't need to. Times Square provides enough wattage to bathe the majority of the suite in a pale blue shimmer. He almost has time to notice this as the sliver of light from the hallway fades against the wall, and he hears each of the door's locks click securely in place.

His eyes are still adjusting to this new half-light when he feels her lips crush against his and her arms wrap around his shoulders. He's happy to reciprocate, kissing her deeply and placing his hands at her hips. She still tastes like her smoothie (like berries, he thinks, absurdly), and he loves the sweetness of it on her lips and her tongue.

A few minutes later (an hour, a lifetime? - he's lost track of time by now), she leads him to the sofa by the window, stepping from the darkened space by the door and out into the circle of pale blue light that illuminates the room. He sits down, and she climbs on his lap, and he thinks how much he loves the way they fit together like this, when he doesn't have to lean down quite so far just to reach her.

He's got intentions for her hair of the undoing sort, and he can barely wait to run his hands through it, but he figures he ought to ask first.

She laughs at his question, propped up with her palms spread on his chest. "You and every other guy, always imagining the 'sexy librarian letting her hair down' look"!"

He's got the good grace to look sheepish, at least, but he laughs, too. "Maybe." And sweeping his hand over her hair where she's brushed it back, he adds, "You made it look really nice tonight. It's pretty this way, so if you want to leave it…" His voice trails off.

She gives him a steady look as she reaches back to untie her hair, but her hand stills before she loosens it. "Thank you," she says softly, before letting it fall.

And then she's kissing him again, and his hands are in her hair (the few hours he waited for this was long enough), and there's a tangible shift in the current between them.

One hand leaves her hair to travel instead from her knee along the muscles of her thigh and up around her hip bone. His fingers slide under the leg band of her underwear, continuing back slowly around her curves, then making a return trip toward the front. He has always, always loved the feel of her skin under his fingertips, and wonders if he'll ever get enough.

When he turns his hand to slide into her wetness, he's gratified by the gasp he hears and smiles against her lips. But only moments later, he's freed both of his hands, and they're sliding down her back, because as beautiful as her dress is, he's ready to see a lot less of it (well, really, a lot more of her).

As he fumbles around with the ribbon at her waist, he thinks of how he wishes sometimes that he was a bit more suave about things like this. But honestly, handling a football or holding drum sticks simply didn't require his fingers so much as his hands (he bets Artie, with his guitar prowess, can take off a bra in no time, but he's not about to let his mind wander to whether or not he actually has). He gives her a slightly panicked look – who knew untying a ribbon was this hard?

She smiles at him and reaches behind her (of course she doesn't mind taking charge), untying the knot with one hand. He's glad when she goes back to unbuttoning his own shirt and leaves him to take care of the zipper on her dress – that he can do.

And he does, to reveal a strapless bra that's sexy in its own right, and he leans forward to trace just above the lace at the top with his tongue. The bra, too, is gone a moment later, and she quickly finishes unbuttoning his shirt so she can step out of her dress. He shrugs it off, then the t-shirt underneath comes over his head by the back collar.

She's undoing the button on his trousers, unzipping the fly, and honestly, there aren't many activities in the world he could claim to enjoy more than what he knows is about to come next, but he'll wait this time. Tonight, he's imagining her knees over his shoulders and those gift-wrapped shoes at his back. (He really had no idea this was his kink…)

He lets her take off his khakis, sliding his boxers along with them, but stops her before she sinks to her knees on the floor (he's hard as a rock just thinking about it, though). At her questioning look, he gives her a half-smile and says, "Your turn."

After that, he doesn't need to say anything else. He kisses his way up the inside of her thigh, higher and higher, and he looks up to see her eyes closed, her hand already clutching the top of the sofa cushion. His hand glides upwards over soft skin (he thinks it might be unnatural to love the feel of a girl's skin this much), and it's a thrill to see what the touch of his fingertips can do to her. He leans forward, and as soon as he touches his tongue to her clit, her shoes dig into his back and he hears her gasp. His head is spinning at the feel of it, and he's fairly sure that that's unnatural, but he's damn well going to continue.

So he does. He dips his tongue inside her, feels the muscles in her legs quiver as he does so, and moves higher to circle around and around her clit, sucking it into his mouth as he hears her say his name on her exhaling breath. He can barely handle the sensation of her skin beneath his fingertips, the taste of her on his tongue, and the way she looks right now, with her eyes squeezed tightly shut and her mouth open as though she's surprised at what his mouth is doing to her. And holy crap, those heels at his back – he's not sure he's ever been so aroused in his life.

He's surprised when he only needs to touch her once more before he suddenly feels her hand in his hair and her muscles tightening beneath his tongue, around his fingers.

He's racking up so many of these images that he never wants to forget, filing them away in his memory. And absolutely, the vision of his girlfriend, one hand in his hair and the other holding on to the sofa, trying to catch her breath post-orgasm…well, he won't be forgetting that any time soon.

Climbing onto the sofa, he covers her body with his and kisses her deeply. She moans into his mouth, certainly aware of his erection at her leg, and most likely tasting herself on his tongue (he's not sure he should tell her just how much this turns him on).

When she breaks their kiss to tell him, breathlessly, "I need you, Finn…now," he's more than ready. She doesn't look too surprised when he lifts her from the sofa (seriously, they might be teenagers, but they're not sixteen anymore), but her face does register confusion when he doesn't head for the bed; he simply sits her on the desk.

She's looking up at him, and he almost laughs at her expression, but he gestures toward the glittery cityscape outside the windows, both behind her and to their side, with his hands. "It's gorgeous here, Rach. Your New York, you know? Thought it'd be…different."

She smiles at him, understanding, agreeing. And when she hooks her legs around his waist (immediately, his thoughts are almost incoherent at the feeling of those high, high heels against the backs of his thighs), it's his invitation to push inside her. He's slow and gentle at first, like always, but this isn't that kind of night, and his pace quickens almost immediately.

He hears her exhale loudly with each thrust, and his eyelids drop momentarily as he takes in every sensation, every sound. He can barely believe how deliciously sexy it is to hear their bodies coming together, and her skin under his hands is now covered with a sheen of sweat that's very likely mixed with his as well. This turns him on even more (is that even possible right now?).

He hears his name no less than three times; once, then twice again the word is breathed into his chest, and her small hands clutch at his shoulder blades as she says it. The third time, her breath finds voice, and it's quite possibly the sexiest thing he's ever heard in his life, this one word, tinged with pleasure and desperation and almost-there. He's sure his name will never, ever sound the same again after tonight.

This isn't going to last. He's so close, and he tells her, but her only response is to nod as she quickly slides one hand from his shoulder, down his back, and across his hip. It's never stopped being shockingly sexy to him to see her touch herself (the vision of her beneath him on his bed, her eyes locked with his and her hand between their bodies, is often the one he chooses when he's alone and he needs release); his head drops to her shoulder, and he's panting as he watches her fingers work.

It's this that sends him over the edge.

Every nerve ending in his body is suddenly alive and his heartbeat pounds in his ears. He's completely overwhelmed by this, can barely breathe with the force of it.

Suddenly, her hand stills, and he hears her breathe in sharply as the heels on her shoes dig almost painfully into his back, and the fingers of her other hand spread against his shoulder blade.

He pulls her close, her breasts against his sweat-slickened stomach, and he can feel her pulsing around him, drawing out his climax far longer than it would usually last.

And he holds her there (because she doesn't seem to want to let go, either) until he can breathe again, and his heart rate has returned to something close to normal. She unhooks her feet from behind him, and as he steps back, she crosses her legs at the ankles, still sitting very much naked on the desk.

He's struck by the image and grins at her, placing both hands on the table on either side of her and kissing her deeply before straightening again.

If there are words to tell her how amazing this has been, he doesn't have them, so he's glad when she asks, with a sly smile, "Did that completely blow your mind, too?"

He laughs out loud. "You could say that, yeah. How'd you know?"

"Lucky guess."

She looks up at him, and he can see the lights of Times Square reflected in her eyes, and he really, really doesn't want to go back down to his own room tonight.

But of course, Mr. Schue will have both their asses if he finds out (they haven't been caught doing anything yet, but gosh, they've come close), so it's not a choice. She seems to read his expression and reaches out to slide her palms up and down along the sides of his torso, a gesture he senses as far more comforting than erotic.

"You know, Mr. Schuester suggested midnight at the latest – " (he rolls his eyes because seriously, they're eighteen, not twelve) " – and I agree, because we have to be up early for rehearsals tomorrow. Plus, our voices need good rest to be ready for Sunday."

It's all true, of course, and he knows it, but she's just told him this while she's sitting demurely on the desk, washed in the pale blue light of the city, and still completely naked. At this moment, he doesn't quite care what time anyone has suggested for anything.

"I was thinking, though –" She hops down from the table and walks to the nightstand, checking the time on a tiny travel clock. (And dammit, he's hard again, watching her cross the room in those high heels and nothing else…) "- it's only 10:45. What do you say we…clean up?"

He looks around the room and doesn't see anything out of order, really, other than some pillows from the sofa that have fallen on the floor, and the pens and papers from the desk scattered around. He gives her a questioning look.

She's walked to the door of the bathroom, and she turns the lights on, silhouetting herself and causing him to squint as his eyes adjust to the change in brightness. When he can see her, he spots the mischievous smile on her face and returns it. Whatever she's got in mind, he's game.

"You know, Finn, I can't get these shoes wet, but if you'll finally let me take them off, maybe we could enjoy this shower together." She wiggles her eyebrows and grins at him, gesturing grandly at the cavernous shower behind her; by now, he's at the door to the bathroom, leaning on the frame and watching her with amusement. "Or maybe this lovely whirlpool tub…" She sits on the edge and looks from him to the tub and back. "If we fit."

He laughs out loud, the sound echoing around the tiled walls, and in two strides, he's got his arms around her and the shoes off her feet (and then she's his tiny Rachel again, still somehow just as sexy as ever, even without the high heels that were such a turn-on).

Twenty minutes later, the bathroom mirror is steamed up and they've discovered that he really is too tall to fit in the bathtub correctly. They've also discovered that it doesn't matter – and that she really, really likes it "that way." (That's one more image that he'll have catalogued in his mind forever.)

The minutes have gone by way too quickly when he finds himself at the door, dressed again in his button-down and t-shirt and nicest khakis, his hair still wet and tousled (why bother fixing it?) from the bath…and shower. He grins at her and unwraps the front of the towel she's still wearing, using it to pull her body against his.

A few kisses later, she's holding the towel up with one hand, the other waving him goodbye as he walks to the elevator.

He wonders on the way down, as he stares at himself in the mirrored doors, if she's finding it this hard to stop smiling tonight, too.

The band plays those final three notes they've all heard so many times, from the choir room to the school auditorium to this stage, and he swings her in a well-practiced arc, their hands clasped tightly. He hears the feet of his friends stomp the stage in unison as they each meet their mark on the last note and, just like that, it's over.

The music and their voices and the sound of their shoes upon the stage reverberate through the silence of the auditorium, hanging there like smoke in the air for a half-second before the room comes alive and absolutely fills with wild applause.

And he's filled with it, too, his heart pounding as he tries to catch his breath and take in every bit of this moment. He glances sideways at Rachel, sees the tears in her eyes and the spotlights reflected there, and he knows. He's sure - in a way that he's only been sure of one thing before - that they've won this, that somehow, the last eight minutes have changed their lives.

An hour later, he's laughing gleefully into her hair backstage, spinning in a dizzy circle (because honestly, that's how he feels right now anyway), and it's all vaguely reminiscent of the competition a year ago. Except this time, the trophy they'll take back to Lima is bigger and somewhat shinier, and Finn really does have to cry when New Directions is given that award (the moment is quick, but mortifying).

Also different this year, with his strong arms holding her close to him, her legs around his waist (bringing to mind one of those wonderful filed-away memories of pale blue light over shimmering skin), is that he's whispered in her ear not only "I love you" but also a promise – one that gleams brighter even than the trophy being passed excitedly around their team. And she doesn't cry into his shoulder when she hears it (which surprises him, to be honest), but instead simply kisses him, grins with joy, and laughs.

It's a happy laugh, an affirming laugh, and he laughs with her and spins them around again. Because this is quite possibly the greatest day of his life.

He still has no idea how the hell a kid like him ended up with his hand on a national show choir trophy and a future Broadway star (he's sure of it) in his arms. He doesn't suppose the how and the why matter so much, though. Glee, Rachel, all of this – it's the best thing that's ever happened to him, and it (well, she) is definitely a gift he plans to keep.