"This was love at first sight, love everlasting: a feeling unknown, unhoped for, unexpected-in so far as it could be a matter of conscious awareness; it took entire possession of him, and he understood, with joyous amazement, that this was for life. " – Thomas Mann

"I'm falling fast, but the truth is: I'm not scared at all." – Lady Antebellum, "Can't Take My Eyes Off You"

"Stop fussin' with it."

"But… should it be this hard?"

"She'll love it. Just stop touchin' it."

"But it's like… sticky. And it smells weird."

"I'm gonna chop it off if ya don't stop playin' with it, an' it won't be pretty!"

Finn grimaced.

The idea of an angry Katie coming near him with a pair of scissors honestly frightened him, and no, that did not make him a girl.

He sighed, his hand going to his gel-coated hair once more, but at Katie's pointed glare, he quickly retracted it. He made a mental note to hide his gel bottle whenever the little beast was around.

Katie stepped back, giving Finn a meticulous once-over and ordering him to stay perfectly still. Quickly, she hopped up on his bed, spat in her hand, and smoothed the front of his hair to the side, acting as if she were oblivious to Finn's narrowed eyes. Once more, she jumped down and observed her work. Discouraged by her uncharacteristic silence, Finn inwardly groaned, wondering what the next means of torture would be that Katie would inflict on him. There were only so many shades of blue he could try on. He was pondering how he could lock Katie in a closet when she offered a mischievous, gap-toothed grin and announced,

"Finny, she's not gonna know what hit 'er."

Relieved, Finn managed a smile, but it was only temporary. The truth was, his date with Rachel was only an hour away, and he honestly could feel his stomach twisting into millions of little knots. His mind wouldn't shut up. He just kept replaying over and over in his head anything and everything that could – and, let's face it, mostly likely would – go wrong. If what happened when he asked her out was any indication, this date would probably result in Finn's move to Canada. At this point, it doesn't sound so bad.

After Katie had ordered Finn to "drive – no questions," she began to rattle off instructions on what Finn was going to say to Rachel to get her to go out with him. He almost turned the car around about ten times, but Katie was fierce. By the time they reached the Berry estate, Finn's head was swimming and he honestly didn't think he could conjure up a "hello," let alone ask her on a date – that is, until Katie kicked him out of the car – literally.

-RRRRRRRR—

Rachel stood in the shower until the water ran cold, hoping to wash herself of not only the greasy oil but also the humiliation that threatened to swallow her whole. She'd never felt more pathetic. She wasn't that girl – the one who fell all over a guy, who degraded herself for attention, who made herself vulnerable just to get shot right down. Now, though, she was beginning to question her self-respect. For Rachel Berry, relinquishing the upper hand was both frightening and unheard of; she was always in control. Leave it to some cow town to turn her into a desperate, hopeless, love-struck idiot.

After changing into her favorite Ducky pajamas and a baggy orange T-shirt with a singing Panda bear on the front, Rachel crawled under the heavy covers of her bed, ignoring the clock that mocked with reading "7:07," and immediately dialed her Daddy's number. She knew he'd be able to cheer her up. But when he answered, she found herself unable to stop mentioning Finn, and soon she was relaying the whole damn story and tears welled up in her brown eyes and – maybe she really was hopeless. Not even Daddy's comforting words offered her any solace. Her only hope now was that he would let her come home early; he was always a softie, especially when his little girl was hurting.

Working the "I'm heartbroken – let me come home" angle, Rachel just thought she was breaking her Daddy when she heard the doorbell ring, and moments later, Aunt Ruth actually jogging up the steps. The town must be on fire if Aunt Ruth was practically running. A hurried knock at Rachel's door signaled that perhaps the world was in fact about to end.

"Daddy, I have to call you back. I love you too." Tossing her phone on her bed and hauling herself out of the warmth of the covers, Rachel opened the door to a very excited and slightly panting Aunt Ruth.

"You have a visitor," Aunt Ruth burst. "And he's cute." She winked and laughed giddily, before literally skipping back down the stairs.

Panic was the first emotion to register, quickly followed by curiosity and a little bit of excitement, though Rachel was quick to smother it. It was probably Noah, equipped with some new pick up lines that he can use tonight at the bar for "Thirsty Thursday." He often tried them out on her first, or maybe he just really thought he stood a chance. Or maybe it's Daniel, coming to rescue her from this horrid place and hoist her back to New York where she belongs. She found herself crossing her fingers, hoping against hope that it was the latter.

She took the last few stairs in stride, desperate to find Daniel waiting for her. Opening the door with an eager jerk, she heard herself gasp slightly and manage a strangled, "Oh!"

It was Finn.

Strange how she could still manage a smile when he offered her a lop-sided one as well.

"H-Hey, Rach. How are you?" Did he just stutter?

Rachel's smile stayed in place. "I'm good, Finn, thank you for asking. And how are you?"

"Good, I'm good. I'm great. Er, uh, you know, like Tony would say, 'I'm greeeat!'"

Rachel stared.

"Tony… you know... the Tiger?" Finn cleared his throat self-consciously.

Rachel could only answer in confused silence.

Finn's cheeks were growing redder by the second and he scrubbed his hand through his hair in aggravation. He muttered something under his breath and turned toward his car briefly, and Rachel wondered if maybe he was running from the law or something. What could possibly make him so nervous? It was making her nervous.

Was he here just to torment her further? She was fairly positive she did enough of that herself. Honestly, she would bet money that Noah put him up to it, some sort of stupid boy revenge prank because Rachel refused to be a pawn in his dirty games. She just knew it. On the defensive, Rachel stood stiff, arms crossed tightly over Mr. Panda. When she realized just what her shirt featured, though, she lost a bit of steam and squeezed her arms tighter, self-consciousness winning out.

And it only maddened her further that Finn just stood there like a… well, like an oaf!

"Was there something you wanted to discuss, Finn?" Rachel hoped he could detect some of the impatience in her tone.

Finn shifted on his feet. "Yeah, um… Yes, there was. Uh…"

And then he stopped again. Rachel's fists actually tightened and for a moment, she was sure she would hit him, when she noticed his gaze focused tentatively on something behind her. She followed his line of sight, and… Oh sweet Jesus... there was Aunt Ruth peeking from behind the kitchen door, a mixture of impatience and excitement in her large, creepy grin.

Thank god she had two fists, because Rachel wasn't sure whom she wanted to hit first. Aunt Ruth looked like she was about to bust a gut she was so anxious, and it wasn't helping Rachel's nerves one bit. Taking a step outside, Rachel offered Aunt Ruth a tight smile and shut the door behind her, blocking out the nuisance. No doubt she would see the curtains being pushed aside any second now.

Rachel turned back to Finn, struggling to keep patient. "You were saying?"

Finn cleared his throat and tried a smile that fell off his lips. "Right. Well…"

If this boy didn't finish a sentence… Was it really so hard? Did he know it was one of her biggest pet peeves, or was he just good at pissing her off? Seriously –

She almost missed it.

If he wasn't staring at her, rocking on the balls of his feet and waiting for an answer, and if she wasn't a skilled multi-tasker who could rant and listen at the same time, she might have.

Still, she wanted him to repeat it, because she was sure he was lying. "What?"

His voice this time was barely audible. "…I like your shirt."

So he was here to make fun of her. Eyes narrowed, Rachel placed her hands on her hips and proudly exposed Mr. Panda. "I will have you know, Finn Hudson, that this shirt is not merely an article of clothing. It was a very precious and wonderful gift from my Daddy and it just so happens to be one of my favorite things besides Barbra Bunny and my vast collection of argyle knee-highs. So I would appreciate it, sir, if you would keep your scathing remarks to yourself!"

She might as well have flashed him by the expression on his face: mouth gaping, eyes wide and a bit glazed, brow crinkled cutely. Rachel waited for his apology, feeling a little sorry for her outburst. That always happened; she should really think more before she acted. Maybe he really didn't mean any harm. Finn was no Noah, after all.

Instead of an audible response, Finn turned nervously toward his car and grabbed at his neck anxiously with his hand. Curious, Rachel looked too, and noticed the window cracked about halfway, followed by –

"Rude, it means rude, Finn"

in a whisper-yell coming from the opening. Was that… Katie?

"Finn?" Rachel asked. She hoped her question was clear, but if it was, Finn ignored it.

He shook his head as if to clear it. "N-no, Rach. I mean, I really like it. Really. It, um… It's like you, ya know? All cute and dancing and cuddly and stuff. I-it fits you."

As if she wouldn't smile.

"Y-you think I'm cute and… cuddly?" she asked in a small, hopeful voice.

Finn smiled shakily back. "Well… yeah. You're awesome. Right?"

This had to be the weirdest conversation the pair had ever had, but Rachel couldn't deny that somehow, this boy knew all the things to say to make her feel like flying. Her smile only grew, as it always seemed to do around Finn, and she felt the blush dance around her cheeks.

"Well, I'm glad you think so Finn. No one has… Thank you."

With a contented grin, Finn opened his mouth to speak. But once again, the car spoke.

"Get ta the point, you doofus!"

Rachel's eyes darted to the car, only to see two blonde pigtails retreat quickly inside.

She frowned. "Finn, is that… Katie?"

A nervous chuckle escaped his lips. "W-what?" he breathed nervously. "Of course not. Why would I bring that dweeb with me when-"

This time it was much louder. "Like you'd even be here if it weren't for me! Least I know how'ta talk ta girls, you booger."

"Stop helping!" Finn whisper-yelled back. With a sheepish smile he turned back to a grinning Rachel. "So… yeah, I brought Katie."

"Hi Rachel!" Katie yelled from the car, this time offering a wave and unabashedly leaning her head out the window.

Finn took a step forward and dropped his voice to a whisper. She felt entirely foolish that the close proximity made her heart beat a little faster. "She begged, ya know? Did the pout thing. I felt bad."

Rachel waved happily to Katie and smiled amusedly, turning back to Finn. "Right… So, not that I don't appreciate the drop in, but… what did you want to talk about, Finn?"

Finn let out an awkward chuckle. "Sorry, you've probably got like a million things to do and I'm just standing here rambling on and on like some… I'll let you get back to it, we can talk later!"

Finn turned to leave and Rachel might've let him (what was this boy's angle?), had Katie not shouted quickly out the window:

"He wants ta ask you out!"

"Katie!" Finn cracked out.

"Well you were takin' too long and I've got stuff ta do!" she fired back, sticking her small arm out the window and tapping her wrist for good measure. "Now let's GO!"

Finn ran a frustrated hand through his hair, muttering what she could only assume were evil thoughts under his breath as he slowly turned back to face Rachel. The look on her face could only be described as stunned, and she laughed inwardly when she realized her face mirrored Finn's when she'd scolded him only moments ago. Oh, the irony.

Finn's expression was grave, and it would have been humorous had Rachel remembered how to laugh. She took a moment to regroup herself, willing her jaw to hinge itself back into place, when her eyes spotted his tongue darting out to swipe across his lips nervously.

She smiled. Somehow. This boy made her crazy, but the best – and, admittedly, the most egocentric – part of it was, she made him nervous.

Rachel spoke up. "Finn?"

She suppressed a laugh. People call her dramatic. Finn squeezed his eyes shut, his expression pained, and threw his hands up in defeat. "Are you… free? Tomorrow night?"

Rachel grinned, crossing one ankle over the other. "I am."

Finn peeked one eye open. "You are?"

She nodded. "I am."

"So that's a yes then?" Finn grinned, dropping his hands.

Oh, she wouldn't make it that easy. She played up her most innocent face. "A yes to what, Finn?"

His brow furrowed. "T-tomorrow night," he repeated.

She cocked her head. "What's tomorrow night?"

She hoped he wouldn't hurt himself from all this confusion she seemed to be causing him. "Wha- you said-"

"You gotta ASK her, dummy! Gosh, do I gotta do everything!"

Well, no one ever called Katie subtle…

Pinching the bridge of his nose briefly, Finn exhaled loudly and licked his lips again. Rachel felt a little bad for pushing him; clearly he was… struggling. For whatever reason, she hadn't the faintest idea.

She was about to tell him she would just see him tomorrow when he looked her straight in the eye and smiled faintly.

"I, uh, I'm really bad at this, Rach. I really – I don't, do this – " He gestured between himself and Rachel. " – a lot and I'm kind of – well, I'm sweatin' like crazy right now trying to do this right and – well, obviously – I'm doin' a pretty bad job of it."

Rachel tried to interject but Finn calmly put his hand up to stop her.

"But… if you're not totally weirded out or anything and you don't have any plans – I totally understand if you do! I mean, this is really last minute and you might not even wan –" Finn took a deep breath and cursed under his breath. She couldn't help but smile. "Anyway, I'd, um… I'd really like to take you out tomorrow, Rach, if that, er, if you want."

Well, that was close enough. "What time?"

Finn jerked his head up from the rock he was rolling around with his foot and raised his eyebrows. "Is that a yes?"

Rachel tried to contain her smile, but she met his eyes boldly. "What time, Finn?"

Of course that crooked smile of his would make an appearance. Damn him. "Uh… how about… is, like, s-six okay? O-or later is good, whenever –"

Rachel grinned and gave a quick nod. "Be here at six, Finn. I'll see you then."

The smile threatened to envelope his face, and Finn nodded vigorously. "Okay – yes. I'll – " He started to backpedal away, catching the end of a flower pot and nearly knocking it over before he caught and steadied it. Rachel could practically see Katie face-palming. "I'll be here!" Finn finished, turning and waving to Rachel over his shoulder as he headed toward his car.

"Well that was smooth, Finn," Katie announced out the window, her sarcastic evident. "You didn't say ANYTHING I tol'ja to! And didja have to tell her how much you sweat? That was gross."

Finn tried to keep his voice hushed. "Shut it, twerp. She said yes."

"Yeah, 'cause she felt bad for you! Yer lucky she's nice 'cause there's no way in HECK I woulda said yes…"

"Well good thing I wasn't asking you out then – wait, ew, that's weird Katie… stop messing me up!"

"You're doin' enough 'a that on yer own, loser," Katie announced as Finn shut his car door and turned on the engine. Katie leaned out the window quickly.

"Sorry he's sucha dummy, Rachel! I promise he won't be so stupid on yer date!" Katie chuckled happily to herself and Finn quickly jerked the car in reverse.

"There's not gonna BE a date if you keep talking, brat," Finn whisper-yelled at his cousin.

Katie huffed. "It won't be MY fault, ya big butt." As the car rolled back, Katie leaned once more out the window and offered a huge wave and a smile. "Bye Rachel! I can't wait fer our date!"

Rachel hadn't stopped laughing since Finn walked away, and she waved back giddily at the retreating car. She could hear Finn's outbursts of "OUR date?" and Katie's retorts - "Well after that pe'formance -" fired right back. She was certain they were screaming as the car rolled down the street.

Once she composed herself enough to consider the situation, Rachel found herself taking deep, calming breaths before she quickly ran back inside up the stairs.

What was she going to WEAR?