a/n: Okay, so this is pretty much my attempt to work through the thoughts behind everything Rachel and Finn do in "Special Education." I'm sure I'll give in and write a reconcillation because I just can't wait a week for the show to make everything for better, but for now I'm just going back and trying to make a little sense of this episode. Take it as you will. Title and lyrics from "Grenade" by Bruno Mars.
Should have known you was trouble from the first kiss,
Had your eyes wide open -
Why were they open?
Gave you all I had,
And you tossed it in the trash.
You tossed it in the trash, you did.
To give me all your love is all I ever asked,
Cause what you don't understand is
I'd catch a grenade for you
Throw my hand on a blade for you
I'd jump in front of a train for you
You know I'd do anything for you
I would go through all this pain,
Take a bullet straight through my brain,
Yes, I would die for you, baby.
But you won't do the same. . . .
How's he gonna fix this?
When she jumps up to face off with Santana, that painful pinching in his gut that always means bad things suddenly takes over, and he tries to stop her, to talk her down, to do anything but let her discover the truth.
He knows he should tell her, but . . . but what good will it do?
It'll make him feel better to clear the air, but it won't help her, will it?
(That's what he tells himself, anyway, because he needs to tell himself something.)
And she'll leave him, he just knows. She's always been so much better than him, always able to know what the right thing is even when she's angry or upset or unable to admit it. She might send a girl to a crack house, but she knew how to suck it up and apologise.
He's just not that good of a person, okay?
He should have said something, though, 'cause now he's made everything worse, and he cringes when Santana calls him a hypocrite and he knows what's coming next. When Santana lets it rip, when the truth all comes tumbling out, Finn expects something big to happen. He expects a huge explosion, or maybe for somebody to scream, or for dramatic music to swell as everything crashes down around him.
Instead, everyone in Glee looks around, shifting uncomfortably and making faces of oh, the shit has hit the fan, and Rachel just stares, her heart breaking in her eyes. Finn can't take that. He forces his gaze on the floor, trying to control himself, trying to keep from screaming at Santana to shut up, trying to keep from losing it. How is he gonna fix this? How is he gonna fix this?
He can barely think straight.
So he just stares at the ground and wishes he lived in a movie like Groundhog Day and he could just, you know, start over and do it right.
She should have seen something like this in her future.
Stars face adversity, and her life has been too easy a road these last few months. She's had solo after solo, some measure of respect and even a little friendship from her fellow Glee club members, and she's been on the arm of the most attractive, sweetest, wonderful boy in the world. She should have known it wouldn't last.
It's bad enough that Mr. Schue rips the solos out from right under her feet. Why doesn't Mr. Schue understand that Glee is all she has? She doesn't have Cheerios like Quinn or tons of friends like Mercedes or all this rocker chick confidence like Tina. She has Glee. Why does Mr. Schue refuse to see that?
Her heart swells, however, when Finn takes up her cause at her instruction, and she revels in the fact that, okay, she'll concede to the idea that maybe she does have one thing outside Glee — she has Finn. Mr. Schue can take her solos from her, but he certainly can't take Finn from her.
Apparently, however, the real threat doesn't lie in Mr. Schue.
It lies in Santana Lopez.
Rachel is speechless at Santana's words, so simple, so easily told from her venomous mouth, and all Rachel can do is stare as a terrible, cold, awareness sweeps over her. No. It's not real. Santana only means to hurt Rachel, because she's jealous of Rachel's overwhelming talent and happy, healthy relationship with the most talented male in Glee.
And then Rachel glances at Finn, at the way he stares at the ground. She wills him to look at her. But when he finally does, it's only for an instant before his gaze quickly shifts away.
Mr. Schue drones on in the background, but Rachel's oblivious.
She's too busy listening to her heart breaking.
Take her solos, go ahead, take them. Just don't take Finn.
Glee finishes, people file out of the room, and Finn puts all his energy into sending Santana the nastiest glare he can muster. But she only smirks in response, and moments later Finn finds himself facing Rachel, who's taking slow, calming breaths.
"Santana?" she says.
Do this right, he coaches himself. "Listen, Rachel," he begins softly.
"No," she replies, "don't." She holds up her hand, and he watches helplessly as she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. "Clear your lunch schedule."
"W-what?" he asks, confused. He expects her to scream or to cry or to walk away in a storm of fury. Is it good that she's not? Is this reaction a good thing? He feels hope rise up in him. Maybe she just wants to forget about all this. Maybe he underestimated her and she'll be able to look past it all and everything will be okay and —
"I'm going to schedule a couple's counselling session with Ms. Pillsbury."
"Couple's counselling?" he repeats, pretty sure he doesn't understand.
"That's right," she says. "Do this for me, Finn. Please. It's — it's the least you can do." She faces him with her back straight, her chin up, and only the slightest tremor in her voice.
It sounds crazy, completely crazy. He's pretty sure there's not a single other person on earth who would react to all this with the immediate suggestion that they attend couple's counselling. But he'll take this kind of crazy, a so-very-Rachel kind of crazy, over her crying and screaming and declaring she never wants to see him again.
"Okay," he says. "I'll do it."
"Thank you," she replies. They stare at one another. "I'll schedule it for 12:15. Come to Ms. Pillsbury's office then."
The next few hours of class are even more sucky than usual. He's so messed up over everything, he can't even fall asleep in English — his head is too full of thoughts to let him. But when the bell rings at the end of history to signal the first lunch period, he kind of wishes it were the start of the day again. He so does not want to do this. Maybe this will make everything better, though, and then — then it can all be over.
Rachel and Ms. Pillsbury are already waiting when he arrives.
He sits slowly, dropping his backpack on the ground and avoiding Rachel's gaze.
"Okay, then," Ms. Pillsbury says. "Why don't we get started? Rachel, since you've scheduled this meeting, would you like to — to go first?" She smiles kindly.
Rachel nods and looks as if she's steeling herself. "Just . . . tell me if it's true," she says.
A thousand thoughts race through his head in one minute. He should deny it. Can he deny it? No. No. It's out in the open now and he just needs to apologise and to make sure she knows he's sorry. If she really loves him as much as she says, she'll, like, take his word for it. She'll believe he regrets it and they can just forget about this whole mess.
He sighs and forces himself to face her. "I'm sorry," he says. "Okay, I shouldn't have lied to you. I just thought if I told you truth, you'd get so mad at me." It's the truth, right? "And you're . . . kinda scary." She has to know that. She has to understand why he lied to her. She has to know how freaking afraid he was of losing her.
But, come on, he's sitting in couple's counselling with her — doesn't that prove how much he wants to make everything okay?
"Don't you see how it's ten times worse now?" she asks, her voice a little breathless. "A — why her? I — I mean Quinn I'd understand, but her?"
He can't believe she just said that. Why does it matter who it was? It was a mistake, he regretted it, he never wanted it to hurt her, so he stupidly lied, and now he just wants it to be another dumb thing in the past that they can look back on and know that they, like, overcame it and everything.
"Do you think she's prettier than me?" She looks down and guilt squeezes Finn. How can she ask that? Rachel knows he thinks she's pretty — he's dating her, isn't he? He doesn't have a chance to say a word, however, before Ms. Pillsbury interrupts up sharply.
"Don't answer that!" She makes a face, waving her hands a little.
Finn glances away, wishing they didn't have to do this with Ms. Pillsbury, wishing he could be anywhere but right there. Rachel starts talking about her dads and wallpaper and he can't believe that this is how everything is playing out, but he coaches himself that at least this is proof Rachel isn't gonna break up with him — she wants to work this out.
He does, too.
Shouldn't that count as working it out? Like, if they both want it to be okay, can't it just . . . be okay?
Ms. Pillsbury suggests singing about it, and Finn feels another surge of hope. Yeah, they can sing about it. He can get behind that. Rachel always goes for his serenades. And he's sure there are some pretty awesome rock ballads out there that could say all the things he wants to say but doesn't know how to. She can sing some obscure Broadway song that lets it all out, and he'll sing some Kiss, and then it'll be okay.
But as Ms. Pillsbury rambles on about the Eagles, Finn glances quickly at Rachel and knows instantly that she isn't going to bite. For the first time ever, Rachel Berry doesn't want to sing about her feelings. Great, Finn thinks. Ms. Pillsbury has a plan b, though, and Finn answers honestly.
He's all for the truth now, okay?
"I didn't want to hurt her," he says. But isn't that obvious?
"Then — why did you do it with her?" Rachel replies, sounding incredulous.
Maybe this is stupid, but he can't help it — his mind sticks on the words with her.
"Why are you so caught up with who it was?" he asks. "It doesn't mat —"
She won't even listen to him. "But is it because she's hot?"
He grows flustered. Listen to me! "Yeah, sure, she's super hot, but I'm, that's —"
Ms. Pillsbury shakes her head at him, and he looks at Rachel and knows he said the wrong thing. Dammit. But —
— but she is hot, okay? But he's in love with Rachel. And that's not even the point! Who it was — is — whatever — that doesn't matter! If she's so stuck on that, then how is she supposed to forgive him? Is it even about him? Is this just 'cause she hates Santana? 'Cause that's not fair.
"As a therapist, is it productive for me to slap him right now?"
Will she forgive him if he lets her slap him? He looks at Ms. Pillsbury, but she shoots it down, and maybe that's for the best. Then she suggests Rachel storm out, and Finn just watches her and wonders why she even wanted to do this in the first place.
He looks back at Ms. Pillsbury.
He's pretty sure she's the worst counsellor ever.
What's she gonna tell him to do now — wear sunglasses?
He sets the water glass down on her bedside table. She only burrows her face further into her pillow. The bed shifts slightly as her dad sits down on her left, and then shifts again when her daddy sits on her right. "Tell us, sweetie," Dad says.
"No," she replies petulantly.
"Would you like to sing about it?" Daddy asks gently, running a hand over her hair.
She thinks about it. But what can she sing? For the first time, she feels as if there's no song that fits her feelings, no song that truly captures the idea of Finn, her Finn, losing his virginity to Santana Lopez. How could he do that? How?
She wonders if anyone ever broke Barbra's heart like this.
"Come on, sweet pea," Dad encourages gently, "sit up and have a sip of water. Tell your dads what's happened. That's what we're here for." He sounds so worried.
She feels guilty, and, truth be told, she is a little thirsty. She pushes herself into sitting position, swiping at her tears and accepting the glass that her daddy hands her. She drinks quietly for a few moments, taking momentary refuge in the familiar comfort of the moment.
"Now, tell us, peaches," Daddy says. "What's happened?"
"Is it Glee?" Dad asks.
"No," she says. She can hardly even think about Glee right now.
"School?" Daddy guesses.
"Has someone been bullying you again?" Dad asks, a tint of anger to his voice. "Did somebody ruin another one of your sweaters? I swear, peanut, if you want me to go to the ACLU, just say the word, and I'll call Larry right now —"
"No, no, it's nothing like that," Rachel says, and she pulls her knees up to her chest, hugging a pillow and resting her chin on the edge as she avoid both their gazes. There are only a handful of things in Rachel's life that matter enough to make her this upset, and they've narrowed down the list to one.
"Is it Finn?" asks Daddy softly.
The very sound of his name makes tears well up in her eyes. "Oh, baby," Daddy says, and he tugs her to him. She buries her face in his shirt, in the sweet, sweet smell of his orange spice cologne. If there are two things that Rachel can count on above all else, it's that one day she'll be a star and that there's no one in this world who love her as steadfastly and unconditionally as her dads.
"Tell us everything," Dad insists. "Start from the beginning."
Rachel slowly pulls away from her daddy. "It's not a very long story," she admits. "It turns out that Finn, he's not — he's not a virgin. I thought he was, but he's not. He lied to me last year when he said he went out with Santana but hadn't been able to sleep with her, because he was waiting for the right person. I thought he was waiting for me, but he clearly wasn't. He slept with her."
She sniffs, clutching her knees once more.
Her dad shifts uncomfortably. "Sweetheart," Daddy says carefully, "boys make a lot of mistakes, especially straight teenage boys. He didn't cheat on you, did he?"
"I'll bring the hand of Moses down on him if he did," Dad threatens.
Rachel giggles despite herself. "No, it all happened last year."
"Then maybe," Daddy says, "maybe you should give him a little leeway."
"But it's — it was with Santana, Daddy. Santana Lopez. She's this Cheerio who's absolutely dreadful. She's not like Quinn, who I know has a heart under her cold, plastic exterior. Santana is truly cruel and — and she calls me all sorts of terrible names and treats me like something unpleasant she stepped in and — why did it have to be her?"
Neither of her dads have an answer for her. She hadn't expected them to have one.
"I'm sorry, angel," Daddy says.
"Me, too," offers Dad.
"He went to couple's counselling with me," she says, "but it was a disaster." She's not going to give up, though. This all hurts her so much and has taken her completely by surprise, but she's not going to lose him over this. She's not. (She hasn't already, has she? No. No. It happened last year. It was a long time ago.)
"You know what you need?" Dad says. "You need a little time."
"And some space," Daddy adds.
"Yes," Dad nods, "and space. You and Finn both need to step back and take a few days to clear your heads. Why don't you put all your energy into music — into Glee? Isn't Sectionals coming up?"
She nods. And she does have plenty of problems with Sectionals to take up her time, mainly Mr. Schue's repeated attempts to stifle the bright shine of Rachel's star potential.
"Good," says Daddy. "Focus on Glee, then, and I'm sure with a little more time, things with Finn will work out." He smiles encouragingly.
"Okay," she says. She takes a deep breath. "Okay. I'll try."
"That's my girl," Dad says.
"Here, cupcake," Daddy says, pressing the water glass into her hand again. "Drink up, and then we'll tuck you in. You'll get a good night's sleep and then start fresh tomorrow, okay?"
She nods, gives them a small smile, and wills herself to believe them for now. But once they're gone, it still takes her hours to fall asleep. (Why did it have to be Santana?)
He's not sure when it started — he honestly doesn't even remember anymore — but for weeks now, maybe even months, they've been texting each other goodnight. It's not a big deal or anything, it's just a text or two passed between them. It's still something, though.
That night, he waits for her text with a kind of pathetic desperation, staring at his phone as the clock hits ten, her usual bedtime, and as it slowly ticks past. Finally, when it's nearing midnight, he gives in and starts to text her. But then he stops himself.
He didn't really do anything. Well, he lied to her, but he was trying to protect her. Good intentions count for something, don't they? Okay, so he knows maybe what he did was meant to hurt her at the time, but she's done stuff to hurt him, too — stuff like Jesse. St. Douchebag. And now he regrets it so much and wants it all to be over and that should definitely count for something.
Maybe with some time she'll see that.
He ends up falling asleep before he texts her.
When she approaches him before class the next morning, he takes one look on her face and feels his heart sink. "Finn," she says coolly. He doesn't know how to reply, but his usual greeting in the morning is a quick kiss, and he knows that isn't gonna fly.
"Look, can we just . . . move past this? Like, just forget it ever happened?"
"But it did happen," she says. "You slept with Santana."
"But — " How can she not understand? "— I wish it never happened." He swallows thickly. "Please, Rachel. I'm — I'm trying here." Can't you try, too?
"You slept with Santana."
What does she want him to say?
"You slept with Santana."
"I'm sorry," he mutters. Can't she see that? Isn't it obvious?
"You slept with Santana!"
"I know!" he exclaims. "You don't have to keep reminding me!"
They stare at each other for a moment, and he grits his teeth, just wishing this conversation was already over and everything could go back to normal. He's never been good at this stuff, at talking, and he's never gonna be.
"I have to go to class," she declares, and he doesn't have the words to stop her.
He had known she would be upset. That's why he didn't tell her, remember? He should be able to deal with this. He should have been ready. But he's not, 'cause he just can't handle this. He can't handle the conflict. He's never been good at handling conflict.
In Glee, she comes in wearing a sweater with all these bunnies on it and with duck tape over her mouth. He almost starts to smile at the crazy, but when he realises that, for the first time in months, he has no idea what brought out the crazy, he suddenly feels like shit again. Like, he's just so used to her sharing every detail of her every thought with him, and now . . . it's like they're not even dating.
But they are, and he sticks to the belief that a little time to cool off will make everything okay.
When Santana walks past him in the hall, she has this knowing look on her face, almost this let's get in on in the parking lot look. Seriously? He just kinda stares and then he sort of smirks. Who does she think she is? She can come on to him all she wants, but he's not gonna go there. He knows what he wants, and it's leg warmers and and beaming smiles and a tiny hand that fits perfectly into his giant one.
He's gonna make everything right with Rachel . . . as soon as he can figure out how.
(Time isn't really so bad idea, right? It isn't. Time's how he'll make it right.)
Her dads were wrong.
She can't just focus on Glee. Not only is everything with Glee in an even worse mess than usual, but she just can't not think about Finn. It scares her, really. No, it terrifies her. She's known since day one that she likes Finn, and she's known she loves him for nearly as long. But when did — when he did becomes so much?
When did he become what matters most?
He shouldn't be! She's a young starlet in-the-making — she can't afford for anything to be more important than her musical future, especially not a boy who slept with Santana. Santana. He doesn't even realise why it matters that it was Santana. How can he not? How can he not understand that Santana is everything Rachel's not? She's attractive in ways Rachel isn't, she's confident in ways Rachel isn't, and she's everything Rachel never wants to be.
Santana is the anti-Rachel.
How can Finn sleep with her and want to be with Rachel, too? It doesn't work like that.
She sees him at her locker, and she thinks maybe she simply needs to tell him her every thought. She needs to sit him down and lay out all her concerns, much like she did when he found a new, temporary love for Jesus Christ. She needs to explain her feelings and maybe they can talk it all out.
And then Santana walks by. The look Finn gives her — oh, God.
That sound? That's Rachel's heart freezing in her chest, falling to the ground and shattering into a million tiny, unloved pieces. When Santana walks by, confidence and triumph in her every move, and mentions that he bought her dinner after, Rachel can nearly feel Santana tap-dancing across the battered remains of Rachel's heart.
"You okay?" someone asks, his hand hesitantly touching her shoulder and completely startling her.
She can barely comprehend the conversation that takes place, but it's not really so crazy — she's always had vast respect for Noah's faith. He really is a good Jew. He walks her down the hall, and she can't help but think to herself that she doesn't need Finn.
She loves him, but he's not her everything.
Stardom is what matters most to her, and all great stars have more than one love.
And she may love Finn, but right now he isn't the one being kind to her, isn't the one acknowledging her pain and listening to her and treating her like she deserves. So why should she waste her time and energy and love on him? She's better than that.
She refuses not to be better than that.
If he wants to chase after other women, let him.
She has her own admirers, too.
She holds Puck's arm a little closer and repeats the ideas in her head, letting them take root and grow and overtake everything else. They don't really talk much about anything as they walk down the hall, but she explains the situation and he offers a heartfelt, "that blows."
"So," she says, "what's your advice?"
He seems to consider her. "Look, I gotta get cleaned up and check in with my mom and everything. But maybe tomorrow we can hang out? I'll come over. We'll talk — Jew to Jew. Okay?" She nods and agrees and wonders if he'll still be acting so benevolently once he's had a little more time away from the port-a-potty.
But he does come over, and he's still acting sweetly. He suggests maybe they eat some ice cream, 'cause he knows that depressed chicks like that. She laughs a little. He looks at her sheepishly, and she thinks a sheepish Noah Puckerman is kind of adorable. You see, she tells herself. Finn Hudson doesn't have a monopoly on being adorable.
"You're so sweet, Noah," she says.
He grins. "Hey, so I know something that might make you feel better," he says.
And he kisses her.
His lips feel strange against hers. She's so used to Finn, to the feel of him and the smell of him and the taste of him. But when Rachel's lying in bed at night, thinking thoughts that both terrify and exhilarate her and imagining Finn, he's probably thinking of Santana and how hot she is and how pathetic Rachel is in comparison. She feels suddenly as if her insides are burning, and not in a good way.
She presses herself into the kiss.
"Wow," Puck says as he pulls back slightly. He smiles slowly, though. "You've always been freakishly good at that, Berry." Before she can say a word, he captures her lips again. She shouldn't be doing this, but she doesn't care. Finn shouldn't have taken her heart when he only ever intended to break it, but he doesn't seem to care either.
If he can sleep with someone and not have it mean a thing, then she can certainly make out with someone and not have it mean a thing. This serves him right.
She closes her eyes and tries to make herself believe it.
Somehow Puck navigates her to the bed, only to pull back a moment later. She can barely process his words. She blinks and he's walking out her bedroom door. The full force of his words finally sinks it, however, and she feels a sudden, overwhelming rush of tears well up in her. What is she doing? She's become as bad as Quinn. She's become as bad as Santana. The tears spring free and she clutches her hand to her mouth.
She has to fix this.
"Wait," she cries, and she scrambles from her bed. "Wait, Noah, wait!" She catches him right before he leaves the house. "You're right," she says. "We shouldn't have been doing that. You're a better friend than that and I . . . I'm a better girlfriend than that. Let's talk. I still need your help. I need you to help me fix this. I have ice cream in the fridge. Please. Let's talk — Jew to Jew."
He nods. "Okay."
It's quiet as she scoops out the mint chocolate chip into two large bowls, but finally he breaks the ice. "Look, just don't think about it so much. Sex with Santana is not big deal." He shrugs a little as if to emphasis his point.
"But he lied," she says.
"You lied, too," he replies.
"It's different," she defends.
"It just is," she insists.
"You're not angry about the lie," Puck tells her. "You're angry that he slept with Santana. You're angry that you're not gonna be his first, and don't pretend you're not, 'cause I know that stuff's a big deal to most girls. And you're angry that he went and lost the V-card to Santana, 'cause she's about as opposite to you as anybody can get."
Rachel stares. How does he know that? How does he hit the nail on the head like that?
He smirks. "I'm good, I know."
She doesn't like the way this makes her look, though. She doesn't look how vulnerable and silly and self-conscious she comes out. Stars aren't supposed to be vulnerable and silly and self-conscious. She decides not to argue the point with him anymore. "So — so what do I do?" she asks him. "How do I get past this?" Because she wants to get past this. She has to.
"You just do," Puck says. "That boy is so totally whipped for you, Berry. It's pathetic. But it's for you, not Santana. He loves you." He shrugs. "Cut him some slack. You were all moony eyes with St. James, so Finn went in between the first pair of open legs he found. Guys do shit like that. Sometimes girls do, too." He looks at her pointedly. "Let it go."
She's not so sure it's that easy.
But she'll try.
(Because he is her everything; there's no use denying it.)
He kind of hates that she's all over his room.
A framed picture of them that she gave him sits on his desk. The throw pillows she made to add "a little homey decor" to his new bedroom sit innocently on his bed. One of her cardigans is on his desk chair, a few of her textbooks are pushed into a corner, and he sees her hair clip beside his alarm clock.
He kind of hates that she's all over his life.
Every other minute, he turns to the side to glance at her in Glee and gauge her response to something, but she's not sitting beside him. He can't write notes to her over her shoulder, either. And he can't text her when he has a random thought, and he can't eat most of her chocolate pudding cup at lunch.
Why can't it just go back to normal?
She loves him, and he loves her, and they're supposed to be together. After everything, after Quinn and the baby and Jesse and Vocal Adrenaline's egging and everything, how can this be what tears them apart? How can Santana be their end? Because this is all about Santana, even if she won't admit it. And that's so insanely frustrating, because it's Santana.
Finn hates Santana. The only person who hates her more is probably Rachel.
Santana's everything Rachel's not — she's vindictive and selfish and impatient. How can Rachel ever think that a stupid mistake with Santana almost a year ago means he likes Santana or wants to get with her or wishes Rachel were more like her?
He just wants to grab her and to shake her and to make her see.
He's pretty sure at some point he's going to do just that, because he can't take much more of this.
Really, the only reason he even slept with anyone at all, never mind who, is because Rachel was with Jesse. How can she blame him? And how can she even have the right to get angry when it happened so long ago, before they were together?
It's all about Santana.
He's trying, and failing, to do math homework when his phone goes off. He thinks it might be Santana again, and he considers calling her and telling her to back the fuck off, but when he reluctantly picks up the phone, he sees that he has one new text message from Rachel. His heart starts racing.
Then he glances at the clock. It's a few minutes before ten. He flip the phone open.
It's not much, but it's something. Maybe this means everything is gonna get better? Maybe this means that all she needed was a few days to cool off, to realise that she misses him as much as he misses her. He almost wants to call her and make sure everything is okay.
But, no, he's gotta play this cool.
He never ends up getting back to his homework. He just reads the two simple words over and over again, and then he goes back over all her old texts, and maybe it makes him a huge girl, but he smiles at every stupid winking face and xoxo she's sent him in the weeks past.
It's gonna be like that again.
They'll get past this.
She still doesn't know how to handle any of it, but she tries her best.
She texts him goodnight on Thursday. She stares at the cell phone, waiting for a response. She wishes suddenly that she hadn't texted him. She finds herself near tears again, and it's like she just can't stop crying anymore. She falls asleep with her cell clutched in her hand.
But when she wakes up, there's a text from Finn. Night, Rach. She smiles a little. And she puts on her Finn necklace. Still, when she sees him that morning, she doesn't know how to approach him. She doesn't know what to say, and she's so rarely been like this before — so rarely been without words. Usually words are all she has.
It's cowardly of her, she knows, but she hides in the auditorium, and when Kurt finds her, he praises her talent and actually asks for her help, and she can't deny that it makes her feel a little better. Plus, she's pretty sure she's ready to sing about it all now.
Maybe time is all she needed.
Or she needs to fake her own death.
She doesn't see Finn for the rest of the day, but on Saturday he pauses on the bus near her seat. She scoots to the window and, with half a smile, he sits down beside her. She wants to say something. But when her eyes catch on Santana, watching them, she feels all possible words die in her throat. Santana rolls her eyes and turns away, but it doesn't matter.
They ride in silence. As it turns out, Rachel will need a little more time.
She definitely needs more time after Kurt drops the bomb. He's so happy to see her, and she's happy to see him. Why isn't it always like this? She jokes that it's because he was her only real competition in Glee and now he's not, but she knows, in the back of her head, that her joke isn't really a joke. Either way, as they talk she feels this satisfied, contented feeling that only Finn has ever been able to make her feel. Except, no, she has felt that way before.
She might never have been the best of friends with Kurt, Mercedes, Tina, or Artie, but they were the original five members of Glee, and at the start of last year, they were the first real friends she had, the first people who made her feel as if she belonged. She lost that somewhere along the way. How? Why? And, most importantly, how does she get that back?
How does she make her life right again?
He brings up Finn, and then he tears out the stitches that were just starting to heal her heart. "Wait," he says, wrinkling his brow, "you didn't know about that?"
She doesn't know what to think, but she has to get ready. She's behind, she knows, and she's the last one out into the audience. Finn stands, letting her past to a saved seat, but she stops in her tracks. Santana's in the next one. Kurt's words echo in her head, and she remembers the look Finn gave Santana in the hallway, and everything is still so messed up, and she doesn't want to sit beside this heinous, heinous girl.
But she doesn't really have a choice, does she?
She puts her attention on the stage. She's going to support Kurt now, and she'll worry about everything else — like asking Finn exactly who he did tell — later.
He knows the moment he catches sight of her that something's gone wrong again.
"You told Kurt?"
"I don't know, maybe," he admits, wishing he had a minute to catch up. He doesn't have anything close to a minute, though, and then they start going around the room and it's clear that everybody knew, but do they have to talk about it like this, like it's nothing, like it's a casual thing that isn't ripping his relationship to pieces? Please, someone, just put him out of his misery.
Santana makes some snide comment, and Finn finally loses it.
He has to put a stop to this, dammit.
"Look, Rachel, when this all happened, you were dating another guy, so you don't really have a right to be pissed at me about it, okay?" He really wishes she would actually look at him, instead of glance away and huff in annoyance, but he's gonna make her listen either way.
"And, fine, I shouldn'ta lied about it," he goes on, "but, to be honest, that isn't what you care about. You care about the Santana of it all."
"Oh, who are you right now?" she exclaims, indignant and self-righteous and refusing to admit what they both know because — because why? Dammit it, Rachel, just admit it, and then maybe we can get past this! He turns away from her. He can't look at her and stand so close to her or he really will just reach out and shake her like he's thought of doing for days.
Frustration is still welling up inside him when Mr. Schue gives this speech about singing together, and Finn makes himself focus on Mr. Schue's words. The guy's right. Finn shouldn't be thinking about everything with Rachel right now. He needs to think about the team.
And it feels good up on that stage, singing and dancing everything they've practised. He's actually really good at the choreography this time, 'cause Glee rehearsal has been the only thing he's really had to help him get through this week. He's stunned when the car dude announces that there's a tie, because, come on, that's just weird — can they even do that?
He stops caring, though, when Rachel hugs him suddenly. She smells so good, he clutches her to him, and yes, this is how it's supposed to be. She pull back awkwardly, but he isn't gonna let her just run away. "We get to go on," he says. He can't really think of what else to say.
She nods. "Yeah."
There's an awkward pause, but moments later they're being tugged into a group hug and then off the stage, and it's clear the rest of the day will be a celebration with Glee club. That's not so bad, though, and the only thing Finn wants to do is celebrate when Rachel stands on her tip toes and says softly, "We'll talk." She even kisses his cheek.
It's really gonna be okay.
When he catches sight of her necklace on Monday, of the shimmering gold Finn, he feels that warm, giddy feeling only she ever seems to make him feel. They don't really get a chance to talk at all until after lunch, but when they do, he finally says what he's wanted to say all along.
"Are we a part of something special?" he asks. "You and me?"
She looks down, and momentary panic rears up in him, but then she looks back up at him. "Yes," she says softly. She seems so vulnerable right then, but determined, too, and she's his favourite kind of Rachel, the good, open, honest, sweet Rachel.
"I love you," he tells her.
If he hasn't made that clear before, he'll make it clear now. He'll say it a thousand times of day if that's what she needs to hear. It's what he should have said from the start of this whole mess.
She hugs him, and relief washes over him as he sinks into the embrace. When she pulls back, he doesn't really want to let her go. He runs his hands up and down her arms and he leans in close. "No more lying," he says. "Ever." He can do that for her. And he can try his best to make sure she knows every day that, yeah, Santana's super hot. But Rachel? So much hotter.
But she doesn't look pleased at his promise. "There's, ah, something that I need to tell you." She glances around and then starts to lead him off to the side, and he kind of freaks out. What now? What else could possibly have gone wrong? She starts to talk about last week and fighting and making him feel as bad as she felt, and he his heart rises up in his throat.
Whatever she's gonna say, it's not gonna be good.
She made out with Puck. Did she intend to sleep with him? She tells the whole little story so that he can picture it perfectly, but he can barely breath let alone picture Rachel, his Rachel, making out with Puck and ready to give it up to him.
How could she have done that? How?
"I know you're a lot of things, Rachel, and I loved you because and in spite of all them," he says, not even sure he knows what he's saying. How could she have done that? "But . . . I never thought you were mean." I never thought you were like them, like Quinn and Santana.
She only makes it worse when she starts talking about things cancelling it out and — she cheated on him! How can she not know how totally worse that it? Of all the people to do this to him, he never thought it'd be Rachel. (And it hurts all the more because of that.) She even brings up couple's counselling, but he can't take that.
He can't be a couple with her.
All he wants now is to be as far away from her as humanly possible.
"You said you'd never break up with me!" she cries, her eyes wet.
She should be crying. He doesn't know why he hasn't started bawling yet.
"I never thought you'd make me feel like this," he says.
He makes it out of the building and all the way to his car before he loses it. He throws a punch at the car door and barely feels the pain spiral up in his knuckles. He sees her description play out in his mind and he punches the metal again, feeling his eyes burn.
How could she have done that?
She had to know how it would make him feel, she had to know if it were with Puck it would be all the worse, she had to know and she did it anyway. How could she have done that?
This — this isn't something they're gonna get past.
All day Sunday, she sits in her room simply thinking.
She thinks about those terrible days when she dated Jesse and was barely even friends with Finn. She thinks about how much her life has changed since she and Finn finally became an item. She thinks about how when she finally had the two things she wanted most —the chance to shine and Finn Hudson — she became someone she didn't recognise.
She finally had what she wanted, and she was so afraid of losing it all that she became so protective of her stardom and of her relationship with Finn, and every small, perceived threat to either made her crazy. She became someone she's ashamed to have been. She couldn't even have a friendly conversation with Kurt until he was no longer in Glee.
But it's not gonna be like that anymore. Sections was so wonderful, despite the fact that she wasn't the star and things with Finn were on the rocks. It makes her want to change. She is going to change, well, no, not change. She's simply going to shed the armour she'd foolishly put on to protect that nearest and dearest to her heart.
She's going to be the person who can truly want her competition to succeed because it's Kurt and he deserves it.
She's going to be the person that Finn thinks she is.
When she arrives at school on Monday, Rachel is determined not only to reclaim who she once was and be a better friend, but also to make things right with Finn.
It's time to forgive him.
They never really talked about it, but she doesn't want to lose Finn over this, he clearly doesn't want her to lose her over it, and she's going to have to take that all at face value. She's going to have to accept that it was another past mistake he made, and it doesn't mean anything.
He smiles when he sees her, and she approaches him timidly. "Hi," she says.
"Hey," he greets.
It's quiet. She bites her lip. His gaze won't leave hers. "Walk with me?" she says.
He smiles slightly. "Sure."
She doesn't know where to start, but she has to start somewhere. She might as well begin with her revelation. "When we first started glee club," she says softly, "I told Mr. Schuester that being part of something special makes you special. You know, I just think I lost that somewhere along the way, but winning that way at sectionals really reminded me of it."
That's the honest truth.
He stops and asks her gently if they're something special.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
She tells him as much, finally allowing herself to be as vulnerable as she's felt all along, and then he finally says it, and she can see how much he means it. "I love you." Her shattered heart flies back together again, surging with new life. She hugs him, never wanting to let go.
It's finally right again.
And then it's not.
She knows she has to admit what happened, admit her stupid, impulsive, vindictive, stupid mistake with Puck. After all, she and Finn need to communicate better, need to avoid another hellish week like this. She can see as the words pour out of her that he isn't taking it well.
She tries as hard as she can to make him realise it was just one moment, just a brief, stupid, rash mistake, and nothing came of it. Even if Puck hadn't turned her away, she knows she would have turned him away — she wouldn't have been able to go through with it. But she can do little more than beg for him to understand.
It was only their fight that pushed her to it, and maybe — maybe couple's counselling will help. They really need simply to talk about all of this.
But he breaks up with her.
Her heart seizes in her chest and the only breath she can manage to draw makes her feel as if her insides are collapsing. No. She races after him. "You said you'd never break up with me!" she cries. Hadn't he meant it? He had to have meant it. They're forever, she and Finn.
"I never thought you'd make me feel like this," he says.
What has she done?
As he walks away, Rachel knows that this, this feeling here, is so much worse than anything the whole debacle with Santana made her feel. She's lost him, just like that, and it's entirely her fault. She escapes to the bathroom as quickly as she can and cries it out. But she has class. She has to get her act together.
He avoids her all day, and she knows it's a lost cause.
How can she possibly expect him to forgive her?
What she did with Puck is nothing like what he did with Santana.
Steeling herself, repeating that she needs to start fresh with her new realisation about herself and her friends, she goes to her locker. She takes off the necklace. She puts away that calendar. She erases every bit of him from her locker. She will start fresh.
She pours herself into their last performance, into backup singing and dancing for Mercedes and Tina. She's remembered how important Glee club and friends are, and that's something to cling to when she's lost Finn. Isn't it?
But when they glance at each other, both smiling, only for his smile to fade as reality quickly claims them both, she's reminded of the reason why she was so protective about their relationship to begin with.
How is she supposed to do this, to function without him beside her when she's gotten such a wonderful taste of what it's like? She can't. She has to make this right. But how?
How's she going to fix this?
No, no, no, no. . .
Black, black, black and blue beat me till I'm numb.
Tell the devil I said "hey" when you get back to where you're from.
Mad woman, bad woman,
That's just what you are, yeah.
You'll smile in my face then rip the breaks out my car,
Gave you all I had.
If my body was on fire, ooh,
You' d watch me burn down in flames.
You said you loved me you're a liar,
'Cause you never, ever, ever did baby.
But darling I'll still catch a grenade for you. . .