DISCLAIMER: I neither own Glee nor the characters. They are the property of Ryan Murphy and FOX. This is purely for fun. Enjoy! :)
A/N: Welcome to the final chapter of Close Quarters! This story was a blast to write, and I want to thank each and every person who stuck with me to the end! I already have a new story up which you should definitely check out, Blood Bond, and I hope you enjoy the new one as much as you enjoyed CQ!
He'd decided that it was the roar of the crowd that was getting to him the most; it seemed like the walls of the locker room started to shake with every scream and yell he heard coming from above as the clock ticked closer and closer to game-time. Tensions were high in the clammy, smelly, man cave, but there was an undeniable twinge of hope floating through the air.
Finn was back. They might just win this thing.
It was hard to focus on what the coach was saying as the rest of his teammates finished getting ready around him. A dizzying buzz of adrenaline was the only thing keeping him focused while he secured all of his pads in place and slipped on the uniform that he hadn't worn in what seemed like ages. It had been like a second-skin to him before everything that had happened; he hadn't realized how much he'd missed it.
It was futile to try and ignore the stares he was getting from his other teammates; the ones who were relying on him today to pick up where he'd left off in the beginning of the season. He had been allowed back on the team and now this was his chance to prove that nothing had changed. That no matter what had happened to him throughout the year, he was still the quarterback; the leader. Their season had been rocky, but they still had time to bounce back before the post-season started.
It was all up to him today. The morale of both the team and the school was riding on his performance out on the field today, and he refused to let anyone else down this semester. It was time to redeem himself in the eyes of not only his school, but to the NCAA and everyone who watched college football.
The aftermath of the hearing had created a large amount of publicity for not only the school, but for Finn as well. They had painted Finn as the helpless victim in a nefarious plot and now he had to prove that he was still the same all-American kid he was before this entire fiasco started. He'd been on so many interviews over the past week that it felt like the whole world knew about what had happened, and now was his opportunity to prove to them that the past was the past. If he could show them all that this debacle had absolutely no effect on his football skills, then he might still have a real chance at making football his career one day.
A strong hand clapped onto his shoulder, and he saw his teammate, frat brother and friend, Puck, nodding towards the exits. "Come on, bro. It's time to go."
With a heavy sigh and a reserved nod, he grabbed his helmet and joined his team on the lineup, ready to take on OSU's biggest rival.
Running out to he field for warm-ups, he was greeted warmly by a sea of red, surrounding him in the gigantic 100,000 seat stadium. For some reason, he'd never registered how huge the stadium was, and how the fans seemed to reach all the way into the sky. The fact that people weren't booing him from the start was a good thing, and his confidence grew when he saw fans with posters in support of him.
While the team spent some time warming up, a figure on the sidelines caught his attention, and he smiled when he saw his girlfriend wave emphatically at him from her position behind the team. He had gotten her a position as the refreshments coordinator for the Buckeyes, which pretty much meant she was a glorified water-boy. Well, water-girl. She didn't mind it all all though, and was ecstatic to have some part in Finn's world of football. Plus, she got to be on the field with him so he didn't have to imagine her sitting somewhere far away in the endless crowd.
He jogged to the sidelines to greet Rachel quickly before the game started and he had to go into full-on football mode. Whipping off his helmet, he ran up to her and grabbed the cool glass of Gatorade that she offered him, downing it in a large gulp. He thanked her with a lingering kiss that tasted like cherry.
"How are you feeling today, Finn? Nice and warmed up? Is your arm loose?" She chewed her lip, worried, while he tried to reassure her with a smile.
"Rachel, I'm feeling great, you know that. I'm just glad you're here," he grabbed her hands in his and rubbed his thumbs over her knuckles, softly. "I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you." Her beaming smile gave him the confidence he needed at the moment and he took one more glass of Gatorade from her before they were about to announce the coin toss. With one more kiss, she broke away from him and was about to walk away before she reached for his hand one last time, squeezing.
"I'm not very good at sports jargon, so I guess I'll just have to say, 'Break a leg'." He grinned at her before putting his helmet back on.
"I love you." Her glowing smile was the last thing he saw before the helmet was secured back on and his mind started to focus solely on football.
A rush of adrenaline hit him as the stadium erupted in cheers, waiting for the teams to gather to begin the coin toss. While he knew it was bad luck to act cocky before a game, he couldn't help but feel invincible. Rachel was here, he had the support of the team and the school, and he had something to prove.
Michigan didn't stand a chance.
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It didn't take long for the ambitious Buckeyes to get a good lead early on over Michigan, but the rest of the game hadn't been so easy. The opposing defense was airtight and they'd exploited the slight weaknesses in the offense in order to keep Finn from making complete passes. It was a good thing that their defense was just as strong, or else Michigan would have been dominating them at every turn.
The entire post-season was on the line and by the end of the fourth quarter; Michigan had a three point lead over OSU and there was a little over a minute left on the clock. With only a few more plays left in the game, Finn knew this was his final chance.
The game had stretched into the early evening and as the sun set around the roaring stadium, the huge spot-lights were turned on, giving the field a brilliant artificial glow. Finn felt the stress of the moment build up around him until thought it might cripple him. He looked over at the coach and he saw the man give him the signal for he next play. Standing directly behind the coach was Rachel, her little head poking through the huge players to get a clear view of him and the team. The hopeful and determined look on her face gave him all the confidence he needed at that pivotal moment. This wasn't just about him now; as much as he wanted to prove to everyone he was the same; he wanted to prove to Rachel that all her sacrifices hadn't been in vain. This was as much for her as it was for anyone else. He turned his attention back the field and got into position.
The play was called and the ball was snapped into his willing hands. Backing up a few paces, time seemed to slow to a halt as he tried to find an open man to throw to. It seemed like Michigan's defense formed a human wall against his other men and no one could break through it long enough to head down the field. He spotted a huge linebacker coming right towards him and if he didn't get rid of this ball right now, the play would be wasted while precious seconds ticked away. Right before the opposing team slammed him to oblivion, he spotted in his periphery the one player who was able to break through the defense and make his way towards the end-zone.
Trying his best to aim, he pulled back his arm and threw the ball with all the strength he had in his body. He watched as the ball soared into the air and headed straight towards Puck right before the intimidating linebacker plowed right into him. Not letting the weight deter him for even a second, he bounced right back up to watch the path of the ball as it soared across the sky, trying desperately to catch the breath that had been knocked from his lungs.
When the ball landed in Pucks arms, he couldn't stop the exalted cheer that escaped his lips as his teammate crossed he threshold of the end-zone, scoring for the Buckeyes and clinching the lead. The field goal secured their lead as the final seconds ticked away to zero.
"Yes!" He roared, as the crowd erupted in cheers and applause that could have rocked the stadium to the ground. He spotted Rachel on the sidelines, jumping up and down like a maniac, screaming and clapping with joy. He took the time to point to her from the field, trying to convey all the love and gratitude he had for his girlfriend. He wanted everyone to know that she was his; his girlfriend, his roommate, his strength. She'd always been his personal cheerleader and number one fan.
This moment wasn't just for him, it was for her too.
He couldn't have done it without her.
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"So where are we going again?"
A sly smile was his only response as the small car weaved it's way around the streets of Columbus. After driving for what seemed like forever, he realized that they were heading to the more suburban areas outside of town. When they approached the facade of a modern apartment complex, Finn's brow wrinkled in confusion. "Rachel, what is going on?"
"Will you be quiet and let me surprise you!" She laughed while putting the car in park. When she turned to face him, the smile on her face was wide and mischievous. "We're here!"
He looked around and couldn't figure out what the surprise was. "Where are we?"
Instead of indulging her secret, she looked at him suspiciously while he fidgeted under her stare. "Why didn't you tell me that you only signed a six month lease?" Whoa, how did she find out about that? He'd been the sole name on the apartment's lease since the very beginning. He shrugged his shoulders.
"Well, I had every intention of renewing the lease for next semester, I didn't think it would be a big deal. How did you find out about that?"
"The landlord came by the other day to talk to you about renewing the lease at the end of the month. I told him we would get back to him."
"Rachel, what's going on?"
"When we were broken up for those few weeks in October, I had started looking around for a new apartment by myself." He couldn't help the sting of shame that prickled through him when he remembered what he'd put her through. "This was one of the placed I'd looked at and while I couldn't afford it by myself, I think it would be perfect for two people to share. Come on, I want to show you." She got out of the car and he had to stop himself from staring at her, and how the chilly December wind whipped her hair around in a beautiful frenzy around her face. He followed her blindly, grasping her by he hand as she led him through the building. An excited look crossed her face as she opened the door to reveal her surprise.
The apartment was amazing: spacious, well-lit and the style was progressively modern. This had to be a brand new building; he had never seen an apartment that looked this nice by the campus. There was only one bedroom, but it was larger than both Finn and Rachel's rooms from their apartment combined. There was even a walk-in closet. Glass paneled double doors led from the bedroom to the wide and inviting living room, and the kitchen was almost twice the size of the one they had now.
"Rachel, this apartment is awesome! How much is it a month?" She beamed at him while he poked his head in the bathroom and noticed the huge bathtub with powered jets built into the walls. Those had to cost extra. . .
"Well, even though it's only a one bedroom, it's about a hundred dollars more a month than what we're paying now." She smiled at him hesitantly. "But that's only because this building is brand new and it's in a more suburban neighborhood. Even though its a lot farther from campus than we're used to, I'm willing to leave a few minutes early if it meant being able to live here. I think we should let the lease run out and move in here at the end of the month."
He joined her back in the living room, watching the hope bubble in her eyes as she waited for his answer. Grabbing her hands in his, how could he say no? This was his chance to take their relationship to the next level, something he'd been wanting to do since the very beginning. No more hopping between bedrooms and being modest, she wanted to move in with him for real and share his space for good.
"Are you sure you want to be living win me in such close quarters, baby? You won't be able to banish me to my own bedroom anymore. You'll never get rid of me."
Her short giggle was punctuated with a kiss. "I think I can manage." She started to pull him by the lapel of his sweater towards the bathroom and he had to ask her what she she was doing. Her lips turned up into her trademark billion-watt smile as she pulled him into the bathroom and shut the door behind them. "What do you think, Finn? We're breaking in our new shower!" The clothes started to fly off and Finn smiled blissfully in the spacious bathroom.
He had a feeling he was really going to like it here.
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Until Next Time. . .sings. . . Don't Stop Reviewing!
Merci Mille Fois