A/N This is my first Glee fic and I lack a beta, so all mistakes are mine. No slash in this one, just a little bonding. There will probably be one more chapter, to close things up and let them talk it out a bit.

There was a rhythmic pounding coming down the hallway, moving closer and closer to his office. Will cocked his head and listened carefully, even though he already knew who it was. Sue, the only woman on campus allowed to wear tennis shoes to work. Please God, let her just pass on by. He had more than enough to do before Glee this afternoon, and listening to her gloat about something or other wasn't high on his list.

As always, Lady Luck wasn't on his side, and the tread stopped right outside his door. Damn it. Sometimes he swore he could almost hear the clip-clopping of cloven hooves inside those shoes.

"Will?" The tone was deceptively sweet. "Oh, Will, are you in there?"

No, he was doing something else with his free period, which had barely started. "Yes, Sue, what can I help you with?" It killed him to be nice to her, it really did, but he just didn't have the strength to fight her this time.

She appeared in the doorway, a smug smile on her lips. "I just thought you might want to know that one of your dancing canaries is sitting in the principals office, about to be suspended. Fighting is not tolerated at this school." The triumph in her eyes was unmistakable.

As much as he would have liked to call her on the lie, he knew that she wouldn't have bothered coming over here unless it was true. Puck, it had to be Puck. The boy was talented, but his temper was a little wild and despite everyone's best efforts, he knew that the boys were still being teased by the other members of the football team. He swallowed and forced his voice to be calm. "Which one?"

"Why, your boy wonder, of course. Finn Hudson."

Will would have almost been less surprised if she had said it was Kurt. Finn put up with his fair share of teasing, yes, but he was such a gentle boy at heart. He was one of those kids who pulled all of their stress inwards, rather than pushing it out on other people. "What?"

"Finn Hudson. He got caught beating the crap out of one of the students in the locker room. Huh, I wouldn't have thought he had the balls. Anyway, I thought it would be the compassionate thing to let you know. See you later!" Off she went, a new spring in her step.

Will rose without thought, wanting to go down and see for himself. The office door was halfway open, and, sure enough, there was Finn, darkly flushed with rage and holding a wad of bloody paper towels to his face. When their eyes met, the boy's free hand raised slightly, like he wanted to reach out for Will, then dropped back to his lap. His shoulders slumped as his head drooped.

It was heartbreaking. Will wasn't stupid, and he knew that Finn very much looked up to him. Like so many of the students, he didn't have a father in the home, and he seemed to have latched on to Will as a substitute. Not that he minded, not at all. Finn was incredibly sweet and talented, and had great leadership skills. Most importantly, however, he was enthusiastic about the strange turn his life had taken with Glee Club, just like he was with everything else. He had jumped in with both feet and his entire heart, and that was a rare enough trait. Maybe one day his own little boy would be like Finn.

But those were worries for the future, and he had a kid who needed him right now. He moved into the room, gently reaching out. "Hey, Finn, do you want to tell me what happened?"

Principal Figgins narrowed his eyes. "Mr. Shuester, this is between me and the student, you have no place in this room."

He didn't even know Finn's name, and the kid had been the star quarterback for two years. Once again, Will wondered what sort of hold Sue had on the little man. "You let Ms. Sylvester in."

"Yes, well-" Whatever explanation he had been about to come up with, it was interrupted by Ken and Mr. Samuels, the Calculus teacher, dragging two more kids in. "More fighters."

Will didn't recognize the pair, but they were still struggling to get loose and attack each other again, which took Figgins's attention and allowed him to ease in and sit next to Finn. "Do you want to tell me?" He kept his voice soft and nonjudgmental.

Finn shrugged, his head still down. If Will had learned nothing else, it was that the boy liked to be touched, so he rested a hand on his knee. It was only then that he noticed Finn's shirt was not only on backwards, but also inside out. "Come on, it can't be that bad."

The dark brown eyes were hollow and too bright when he finally raised his head, one eyebrow quirking. He was hurt and about to be suspended, so, yeah, it really was that bad. "Ok, it's pretty bad, but we'll fix it, just tell me what happened."

The boy was about to talk, Will could tell, but Figgins interrupted them. "Mr. Hudson, your mother is going to have to pick you up."

When Finn pulled the paper towels away from his mouth, Will could see where his lip had been busted. "She's not here. She's in Florida until next Friday for work."

A compromise occurred to Will. "I'm the detention teacher and it's my free period, how about I take Finn for right now? You obviously have a lot to deal with, and I'll try and get the truth out of him."

Figgins narrowed his eyes. "Not acceptable."

Will wasn't going to be deterred. "If Ken wanted to take him, you would let him. I'm his coach, too, and that needs to be recognized."

One of the other boys ripped out of Ken's arms and lunged at his companion again. Figgins sighed. "Fine, take him. I expect to see him back in here once your free period is over, not one second later. Mr. Hudson, you will behave yourself."

"Ok." It was barely a whisper, but it was enough. Will put a hand on Finn's shoulder and gently guided him up. "Can we have an ice pack for his lip?"

"Go get some from the cafeteria." Figgins sounded tired.

It was between classes, and the hallway was virtually deserted, so he and Finn were able to walk in silence. Will wanted to ask again, but something held him back. If he waited until they had some privacy, Finn would be much more likely to open up.

The lunch workers gave them dirty looks, but provided some in a bag. Finn took it with a mumbled "Thanks", before falling back into silence. A quick stop at the employee vending machine got Finn a can of coke, which he slurped at thirstily.

Will's office was small, but it did have a tiny couch, and a chair. Will debated for a second then chose to sit next to Finn instead of across from him. Again, he put a hand on the boy's knee, and this time Finn responded, laying his forehead on his teacher's shoulder.

As soon as they touched, another part of the puzzle fell into place. Will put a hand under Finn's chin, and pulled the boy's head up. Even though Finn was calm now, he was still incredibly flushed and his eyes looked glittery. "Finn, are you feeling alright?"

"Not really." Will took the whispered confession as permission, and placed a light hand on his student's forehead. As he had suspected, the boy was running one hell of a fever. How could he have failed to notice that immediately? Finn was his responsibility, and he was failing him.

"How long have you been ill?"

"Uh, I got up like 10 times last night and puked, but I felt better this morning." He leaned into Will's hand, probably grateful for the cool touch. "I guess not that much better, huh?"

Even now, he was making the effort. "No, I guess not. Ok, listen, why don't I go see if I can get some aspirin or something, and I'll talk to Figgins."

He was almost out of the room when he heard the small voice. "Thank you, Mr. S. It's really cool that you're stranding up for me."

It was kind of hard to speak around the lump that suddenly appeared in his throat. "No problem, Finn, we're a team now, right?"

"Yeah." Finn put the ice against his face again. "Shit, it hurts."

"Just hold that on there for right now. I'll be right back."

The dark eyes closed. "Kay."

When he got back to the office, Figgins was on his hands and knees, scrubbing what looked like blood out of the carpet. He glared at Will. "That boy is yours, Will. I don't care what he's doing in there, what he's breaking; I'm not taking him back. He's yours until school is out."

That suited Will just fine, but he knew better than to act like it. "I'll deal with him. Listen, Principal Figgins, Finn is actually pretty sick. Is there any way I can get him some aspirin or something to try and bring his fever down?"

"Aspirin is dispensed by the nurse, and we don't have one. He's going to have to tough it out." Figgins didn't seem to have much patience or sympathy left.

With any of his other kids, Will might have backed down there. But he had a special bond with Finn, and the poor kid had no one else to take up for him. "What do you think it going to get us in more trouble: giving Finn a couple aspirin to bring that fever down, or giving him nothing and us having to take him to the hospital later today?"

The little man sighed and pulled out a bottle. "Keep this on you at all times, I don't want him left alone with it for even one minute. He'll probably snort it or inject it or something."

Now was probably not the time to point out that even the most desperate kids didn't abuse aspirin. "Thank you, sir."

The next stop was to see Emma. The school might not have a nurse, but he was more than willing to bet she was better stocked then any school office could be. When he came in she was carefully wiping down her desk, which was absolutely immaculate. "Em?"

She jumped, giving him her patented nervous look. "Will, hi! What's going on, can I do anything for you?"

Emma Pillsbury might be the most generous woman in the entire world. No matter what he needed, she was always willing to go out of her way and help him. "I need a thermometer, do you have one?"

As it turned out, she had four. "What's going on?"

"Finn's sick." A thought occurred to him. "Maybe you could give me a hand with him? I mean, I don't know much about sick kids, and he might like a woman's touch."

Her nose wrinkled. "Is he messy sick? Because you know how I feel about messy."

Good point. "I think he finished with the messy part last night, but it's alright, I can handle him."

Her hazel eyes locked on his. "Will, you're the one he wants. He trusts you, and you need to be the one who's there for him, alright?"

Again, there was that strange sense of tenderness towards Finn. "Thank you, Emma."

He was halfway out the door before she called him again. "Will? I don't know too much about sick kids either, but I do know this: the messy part is never over. Be ready for him to start spewing all sorts of fluids and- Oh God, just go. I have to clean something."

Why did he find her quirks so endearing? "Thanks, Emma, you're a lifesaver"

Her smile could have lit up a room. "Thank you, Will." One hand toyed nervously with the pin on her collar. "I'll see you at lunch."

"Sure, absolutely." As he turned to the side, he could see her pull out a container of Clorox wipes and start scrubbing. She was crazy, but in a good way.

He had closed the door to his office when he left, and knocked lightly. "Finn? Are you alright?"

There was no response, so he eased the door open. Finn was still half sitting up, but he had slumped to the side, his eyes tightly shut. Will gently slipped the ice pack from his lax fingers before shaking his shoulder. "Finn? Finn, can you wake up for me?"

Finn's head lolled to the opposite side. "No." It was a mumbled slur, and his eyelids never so much as flickered.

"Come on, I've got something to make you feel better." He pulled Finn upright, surprised at how heavy he was. Damn, the kid was out like a light. "Finn, open your eyes, ok?"

Finally he responded. "Yeah?" His dark eyes had opened about halfway, which was probably as good as they were going to get. Will shook the bottle. "Hold out your hand."

Finn took the pills with the last bit of his coke. "Kay? Sleep now." His chin dropped back down to his chest before Will could give any response.

"Okay, then, I guess you can rest a bit." Finn didn't look like he could possibly be comfortable like that, so Will carefully took off his sneakers and moved him so he was lying down on the couch. Well, as much as a rather tall teenage boy could fit on a small couch. Finn's legs dangled over the arm rest, but he seemed more at ease then before. Will huffed softly. The poor kid was exhausted and completely limp, which made him very hard to move. He also seemed to be shivering a bit, so Will pulled the afghan, which Emma had knitted for him, off the back and covered him up.

When he was done, he pulled back and had to smile a little. Finn didn't seem to be as caught up in the manly-man image as some of the other boys, but even he would probably draw the line at being covered in perfectly aligned pink and red hearts. If he had been conscious, that was.

Sitting down at his desk, he pulled out his papers again. Then Emma's words echoed back through his mind and he moved the little trash can that was under his desk over to sit beside the couch. If Finn woke up sick again, he needed to be prepared.

It turned out to be a good thing, too, because he had only graded for a half hour or so before Finn startled himself awake and sat bolt upright, gagging and heaving. Luckily, he managed to find the trashcan before puking up the pills and coke.

Will dropped his pen (right in the middle of giving another Cheerio a 'D'. At least this one spelled her name correctly, which was the only reason she hadn't gotten an 'F'.) and jumped up, putting a hand on Finn's shaking back. "Ok, it's ok; breathe a little, its ok."

It all seemed to go on forever, but eventually Finn calmed down into dry heaves and pitiful little whimpers. He said something that Will couldn't quite catch, something that sounded a little bit like 'mom' and coughed a few times. Then he twisted to put his head back on Will's shoulder, one hand fisting into his shirt. "Sorry."

"Not your fault. Why don't you let me get you some water, ok? You can rinse out your mouth."

Finn nodded and released his grip, the reluctance clear in his dark eyes. "You're coming back?"

It was such an odd question. "Of course, Finn, this is my office. Where else would I go?"

That funny smile quirked at his lips. "Oh, yeah, right. Sorry, Mr. S, you know I'm kind of stupid sometimes."

Will didn't think Finn was stupid. Lazy at times, yes, and he didn't pay very good attention in class, but not stupid. Finn just didn't seem to learn well when he studied alone. If he was paired up with someone else, and they verbally covered the material, he did fine. That, in addition to his continuing problems telling his right from his left, made Will wonder sometimes if he didn't have some form of dyslexia. He had brought it up once, but Finn had given him that one shouldered shrug and pointed out again that, while he appreciated the vote of confidence, he knew he was just a dumb jock and that was all there was to it. "You aren't stupid, Finn, you just have to study in a way that works for you."

"Yeah, whatever. Listen, can I go back to sleep? I still feel bad." He rubbed at his face tiredly.

Belatedly, Will remembered the thermometer and retrieved it from the desk. "Here, I'll go get you some water."

Finn sighed, but popped the instrument in his mouth, giving his teacher a pointed look. Will could take a hint, and got a mug from the drawer. There a drinking fountain in the hall that actually had cold water, so he headed there. He was filling the mug when he spotted a familiar dark head going towards his office. "Rachael!" Even as he spoke, he knew she wouldn't be able to hear him. Once that girl got an idea into her mind, she was blind and deaf until she made it a reality.

The mug was only half full, but that would be fine. Gulping a lot of water right after being sick was only going to make Finn feel worse. He made it back to his office in time to hear her shocked "Finn! What happened to you?"

Looking at Finn objectively, Will had to admit that he was pretty pathetic looking. He was still sitting up, but his body had kind of hunched in on itself, making him look small and vulnerable. His skin was white and beaded with sweat, his eyes downcast and hazy. The cut on his lip had split open again, and blood was slowly dripping on to the thermometer, which he was still gamely holding. "Rach." The word was mumbled and indistinct, but she went to him immediately, wrapping her arms around his trembling form.

That was all the encouragement Finn needed to bury his face against her neck. The thermometer beeped, and she pulled it out of his mouth, giving it a brief glance before handing it to over. Will checked the display and flinched. 102.4, not good at all. Rachael raised an eyebrow at him, clearly asking for an explanation of why Finn was curled up in the office, looking like death warmed over. Will went with the easiest one; using his free hand to turn Finn so he could take the mug to rinse his mouth, then drink. Finn submitted limply, not seeming to care any more. "Rachael, Finn isn't feeling too well right now."

"No shit. Finn, don't drink that so fast, you're going to get sick again." She pulled the mug out of his hand and put it on the table. "How long has he been sick and what are his symptoms? What are you doing to fix this?"

That was the Rachael that they all knew and loved. Bossy, stubborn and demanding, but caring underneath it all. Will thought for a second, waiting to see if Finn would speak up for himself, but the football player was silent, his eyes closing again. "Other then the fever? He threw up, that's all I know. Apparently he was sick last night, too, but decided to come to school anyway. Oh, and he got into a fight, which is why his lip is bleeding. Finn, we're going to talk about that later. He's had some aspirin to bring the fever down, that's it. We've really only been here for a few minutes."

She heaved a dramatic sigh, using it to tell me just how much she thought everyone else was doing wrong. Then something else occurred to her. "Finn? Why is your shirt like that? Has it been inside out all day?"

Actually, Will was a little curious about that himself. Finn looked down; seeming puzzled, then shook his head. "No. Uh, Adam and I got into it in the showers, and then Coach told us to get dressed fast and I guess I put it on wrong. My head was hurting really bad."

She gave him an indulgent smile. "You fix it, and we'll see what else we can do to get that fever down."

Sick as he was, Finn seemed to know that there was no arguing with Rachael, ever. It was better to just go along with her until she was either satisfied or so frustrated that she gave up. He got to his feet, a task that required Will to step in and steady him when his knees tried to give out, and pulled the long sleeved shirt over his head, turning it so it was right side out.

Will turned to Rachael, noting the glazed over look in her eyes when Finn started stripping. He shot her a pointed look, and she left the room, pulling something out of her backpack as she went.

"Where'd she go?" Finn had that endearingly confused look on his face. "She was really here, right?"

Apparently he was still a little out of it. Sometimes Will thought that it was that look alone that had at least three members of the Glee club tied up in knots over Finn Hudson. "She stepped out for a minute. Are you feeling any better?"

Finn gave him another shrug and collapsed back down onto the couch. "Not really. I felt better right after I puked, but not now. Now I just feel like I want to die again. I'm really hot"

Will wondered if it was normal to feel this helpless when confronted with a sick child. According to school rules, he had already done too much, giving Finn aspirin and even touching him to try and provide comfort. It was hard to think of Finn as just another student, though, and Will didn't think he was crossing any lines. The boy was comfortable with him, and needed the reassurance. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry, Finn, I have no idea what to do for you right now. How can I help?"

"Dunno." He picked quietly at the afghan. "Can I just stay here with you for a little while? I'll be good, I promise."

"I have a class in a half hour, but you can stay here and rest all day if you need to. We'll figure something out for after class."

He was treated to another one of those lopsided smiles. "Cool"

Rachael interrupted them before the conversation could become awkward. She bounced back into the room and took her previous place beside Finn. "Come here. And Finn? If you get me sick, I will send both of my Dads after you, alright?"

It sounded mean, but Rachael and Finn seemed to have an odd understanding, a secure bond between them. Will watched as she produced a damp washcloth and tenderly wiped Finn's face. He moaned softly in relief and leaned closer, allowing her to try and cool him down.

"You always keep a washcloth in your purse?" Things had apparently changed since Will was in high school.

She snorted. "Please. Mr. Shue, when you get pelted with Slushies as often as I do, you learn to carry quite a bit." Ever the multitasker, she moved Finn around as she spoke, wiping first the back of his neck, then his throat. "Better?"

"Little bit." He closed his eyes and let his head drop down. "I'm tired again."

"Alright, you sleep." She stood up and tucked him back in, her hand lingering on his cheek for a few seconds too long. Will gave a silent groan. Finn was dating someone else, someone who he had gotten pregnant, but both Rachael and Kurt seemed to think they had a chance. But what was he supposed to do about it? They were teenagers, and they needed to make their own mistakes. He just prayed that those mistakes didn't upset his Glee club. The pregnancy, the one he was aware the rest of the kids called "babygate" had done a good enough job of that.

"Mr. Shuester, the reason I came down here in the first place was to go over a few things for the club. I've put together a list of songs, all heavily featuring me of course-"

Of course. Rachael's favorite songs always heavily featured her, mostly singing solo. Finn made a sound that might have been a soft snort, but when they both looked over, he was expressionless, his eyes closed. Still, that noise seemed a little too coincidental to have been a sleep vocalization. When Will looked closer, he thought he saw the ghost of a smile lurking around the corners of Finn's mouth. Oops, Rachael was taking again, better pay attention.

"-been writing weekly letters to the council ever since we started, so I'm pretty sure this year a ballad will be included in our rotation. Now, I've put together a list of songs that are in my vocal range, arranged by my personal preference and their ability to please a crowd." She broke off there, apparently noticing that Finn had cracked one eye open. "Ballads are traditionally sung by one person, Finn. They're usually a love song, but they can be any song that tells a story. Otherwise I would totally want to sing with you."

Rachael wanted to do a lot more to Finn then sing with him, but she stopped just short of announcing that. Finn raised one eyebrow and shrugged, flinching a little at the movement. "S'ok."

She gave his shoulder another pat. "I really prefer soft rock, but some of the older country songs might work. Only if they aren't the twangy ones, though, I absolutely am not singing twang."

There were definitely times when Will thought Rachael was wasting herself in Glee, and indeed in high school. She simultaneously needed them and didn't. Even if she didn't have Glee, she would succeed in the world through the sheer force of her personality and her determination to be the best. But there was a woman down the hall that shared those same qualities, and it was all too easy to imagine Rachael Berry becoming the next Sue Sylvester. An incredibly talented, but emotionally barren woman who had everything she ever wanted and no soul left to enjoy it with.

"Mr. Shuester, are you listening to me?" She had a hand on her hip, her dark eyes locked on Will's. "Now, after the ballad, I'm thinking something from one of the lesser known musicals. It will stun the judges and show a greater range of interest. Maybe Narnia or-"

"Mr. S?" Finn scrambled upright. "I think I'm going to puke again."

Will shot to his feet, scooping up the trash can and holding it under his student's mouth. Rachael started backing towards the door. "You know what; I think I'll just leave you two alone for now. Sorry Finn, I don't do puke. Mr. Shuester, I'll speak to you at practice"

She was gone before Will could even think of formulating a reply. Almost simultaneously, Finn settled down and leaned back, apparently deciding not to get sick after all. "I'm ok now."

"Are you sure?" Will knew how quickly that sick feeling could sneak up on you, and he didn't want any ugly surprises.

Finn closed his eyes again. "Nah, I never felt sick. You just looked like you needed a hand, and I know girls hate gross things, and puke is gross, so there you go."

That was a typical train of thought from Finn. You jumped in there as fast as you could and kept on going until you had either succeeded and had dug yourself a hole so deep that you couldn't get out. Still, it was a sweet thought and certainly creative. "Thank you, Finn."

That earned him another soft chuckle. "No problem. I love the girl and all, but she can get on your last nerve sometimes. Plus, I kind of just want to be left alone." He yawned again. "Not by you, of course, I mean, this is your office."

Again, Will was overwhelmed with that helpless feeling. "What can I do for you?"

"Not much, I think I just need some sleep. Mr. Shue, can I stay here with you? Please? I won't bother you any more, I promise."

The response was automatic. "Hey, you aren't bothering me. It's not your fault that you don't feel well." He patted the broad shoulder. "You can stay here for the rest of the day if you want. We'll figure something else for after school."

Finn sprawled backwards on the couch, laying the washcloth over his eyes and shifting around in a futile attempt to get comfortable. After a while he seemed to go back to sleep, his breathing growing deeper and more steady.

Not for the first time, Will was grateful that McKinley High ran on the block schedule instead of the normal nine period day. There were only four classes a day, plus lunch, so each one was an hour and a half long. Thus, even with all the drama with Finn, he was still able to grade most of the papers. The Cheerios, for the most part, had pulled their grades up to the minimum for passing, though he still wondered if all those flips and twirls hadn't caused some sort of brain damage. They seemed to think that adding an –o to the end of the English word would automatically translate it to Spanish.

The bell was due to ring in less than five minutes, creating a new dilemma. It wasn't that he didn't trust Finn to stay alone in the office, because he did. It was more that he was worried that Finn would get sick again, or need something and wouldn't have anyone to help him. But there wasn't much he could do about that. The school had no nurse and, with his mother out of town, there was nowhere else for Finn to go.

With a heavy sigh, Will stuffed his papers into his briefcase, wondering how the hell he was going to get through this day. He knelt next to the couch and shook Finn gently. "Finn? I have to go to class now."

He woke easier this time, groaning softly and bringing a hand up to rub his face. "Ok, do I need to go?"

"No, you'll be fine." He handed Finn the thermometer again, taking the now-warm washcloth off the boys face. "I'm going to get you some more water. Try to drink it while I'm gone, so you don't get dehydrated."

Finn didn't say anything, seeing as he was far too busy crossing his eyes in an attempt to read the thermometer as the numbers climbed. Since he seemed to be occupied and reasonably happy, Will went out to fill the glass, then changed his mind and bought a Gatorade instead. That was supposed to be better when you were sick, although he really wasn't sure what flavor to get. He had seen Finn drink Slushies on multiple occasions, so grape was probably a safe bet, but maybe cherry. He wanted to be sure that Finn would actually drink it, after all. Then the absurdity of it all hit him. This was Finn, who ate and liked everything that he could fit in his mouth. Will pushed the button for grape, feeling oddly pleased with himself, like he had actually accomplished something other than putting quarters in the machine.

He could hear the thermometer beeping as he reentered the room, and he hurried to take it before Finn could start playing with the buttons and erase the reading. 102.8, higher then before. Shit. Was he supposed to give him more aspirin? It had been less than an hour, but he was pretty sure Finn had barfed up the first set. Maybe just two this time. Right at the moment he was more concerned about Finn's fever getting too high than he was about overdosing him on aspirin. He popped two out of the bottle and handed them over. "No more than these, even if you get sick again."

Finn went along with him, taking very small sips of the Gatorade and laying back. Will laid the damp cloth on the kids pale face. "Do you need anything else?"

"No, I'm good." Finn waited until Will was almost out of the room before he spoke again. "Hey, Mr. Shue? Uh, just so you know, those weren't my drugs. I swear to God I have no idea how they got in my locker. I don't want you to think those were my drugs. I don't do things like that."

For a second, Will had no idea what he was talking about. Then it hit him, his guilt becoming overwhelming. He had nearly forgotten hiding that marijuana in Finn's locker a month ago, in a desperate bid to get another male singer in the group. After Finn had agreed to join, neither one of them had ever brought it up again. To be honest, Will had forgotten about it entirely, and it had seemed like Finn had, too.

Only he hadn't. Will took a steadying breath. "Finn, I…." Cowardice took over at the last second. "I know, buddy. I believe you, alright?"

When Finn gave him that gentle, relieved, smile, he felt even worse. "Good, because, well, it would be really bad if you thought so. I mean, not as bad as my mom finding out because she would be really mad, but you make that disappointed face just like she does, and that would be really bad too, because I don't want that." He cut himself off mid-ramble with a funny half sigh. "I'm just going to shut up now."

When Will smiled, even he could tell how forced it was. "I'm not disappointed in you Finn. No matter what happens, I won't be disappointed." For the first time, it occurred to him that he loved Finn. Not in a creepy "hot for teacher" sort of way, but in more of a paternal way. It was a surprising revelation, but not an unwelcome one.

"I'll come back and check on you after second period." He gave Finn one smile, which the kid returned and walked out of the room. It was going to be a long hour and a half.