a/n: lolalolafan and CSM both suggested I write something that covered the missing Finchel moments of season two. Here goes! There will be ten chapters, one for each of the ten episodes. I hope to post them all before the second season resumes. The title comes from "Mona Lisa" by the All-American Rejects.


:: 2.01 - Auditions ::

i.

"You look gorgeous, peaches," her daddy says.

"Thank you!" she says, stepping out of the car and ignoring the stares of her classmates. She knows it isn't exceptionally cool to have her fathers drive her to her first day of junior year, but they always like to drop her off on her first day, and she won't deny them that. She smoothes out her new pink blouse as her dad pulls out the camera to take yet another picture, and she smiles widely for the photo.

"Do you have your lunch?" Dad asks.

She holds up her pink, bedazzled lunch box.

"I put an extra treat in it for you," Daddy says, winking as he takes it from her and tucks it into her backpack. "Have a good day, sweet pea." He kisses the top of her head. "It is, after all, your second to last first day of school!" Tears pool in his eyes.

"Oh, you're so dramatic, Daddy!" she exclaims, kissing his cheek.

Tapping his cheek, Dad demands a kiss, too. "Are you sure you don't want us to pick you up?" he asks. "I can take off work early. We can spend the afternoon together!"

"No," Rachel says, "Finn already volunteered to take me home. You know that!"

Daddy makes a face and Rachel giggles, shaking her head at him. She knows he loves Finn, even if he likes to moan that Finn has stolen his baby girl away. "I'll see you both at dinner!" She waves happily as they climb back into the car and drive away.

"Nice skirt, Berry," some Cheerio sneers, "you only look like a total freak."

Rachel straightens. "Your utter lack of creativity is more insulting than your intended slight," she replies, and she turns towards the school before the dimwit can come up with a proper response. She doesn't need to put up with girls like that. Besides, her boyfriend is waiting.

She bites back a smile at the thought.

Her boyfriend is waiting. And not just any boyfriend — Finn Hudson is waiting. Even after a summer by his side, she still can't fully fathom the idea that she, Rachel Berry, has won the star quarterback and Glee stud. Of course, they're a perfect match, but so many people have tried to stand in their way in the last year that it seems like a dream to be with him now.

She spies him by his locker and starts to head towards him only to pause. He's talking with a ring of jocks. Her confidence wavers. She waits for him to catch her eye, for him to nod that she should join them. She's always been somewhat intimidated by these people he likes to claim are his friends. It's silly, of course, as Rachel Berry has nothing to fear from such Neanderthals, but. . . . .

For a moment, her mind flitters to the terrifying possibility that maybe now that school has started, all his doubts and insecurities will rise up and he won't want anything to do with her and —

He sees her. He smiles. And she beams. She skips over to him and leans up to kiss his cheek. "Hey," he murmurs. He looks at the other football players. "You guys remember Rachel, right? My girlfriend."

They all murmur something or other, but Rachel doesn't really care. She slips her hand into Finn's and lets the words my girlfriend wash over her. This is by far the best first day of school she's ever had. "Hey girl!" Mercedes calls as she walks by.

"Hello Mercedes!" Rachel replies, waving enthusiastically. She glances around. She wants to spot her other friends, too. She sees Artie and waves happily, he nods a little sadly. Her attention, however, is quickly drawn back to Finn, who's checking his hair now that his friends have left. She knows he doesn't much like the haircut his mother gave him last weekend, although she thinks it makes him look mature.

"Leave it be," she tells him. "You look very handsome. I knew this polo would look good with my new blouse. And you thought it would be silly for us to coordinate our outfits!" She smoothes out his shirt. "Don't I look nice?"

"Yeah," Finn says. He tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. "You look really pretty."

She bites back a blush and leans up to kiss him again. He looks pretty pleased with himself. "Here," she says, "you missed a button. It's important to be well-groomed at all times, Finn. You never know when the camera will find you." She starts to button his polo, and as if to prove her point, the camera does appear, momentarily taking her aback. It's Jacob Ben Israel, of course, but she doesn't care — it doesn't matter who's behind the camera, only who's in front.

And she can't afford to let the paparazzi take her by surprise. "We've been dating all summer," she tells the camera proudly, smiling her most winning smile.

Of course, Jacob asks a string of rude questions, and Finn is not very helpful.

When Jacob finally leaves, Rachel looks up at her boyfriend. "I — I don't think you're annoying!" he quickly says. "And I like that you're controlling." He smiles nervously, and she shakes her head at him, more amused than anything else. He has, after all, proudly called her his girlfriend to his friends and declared himself her boyfriend to the camera. What more can she ask for?

"Walk me to class?"

"Sure," he says, smiling in relief and taking her hand once more.

Yes, this is by far her best first day of classes ever.

ii.

Okay, so Empire State of Mind is totally awesome.

He still can't believe the whole school doesn't sign up for Glee after that. They totally rock it, and it sucks that only, like, that one kid thinks it's cool. Of course, Finn's totally gonna find that one kid and talk to him, but there should have been at least, like, five kids who really liked it or something.

"It just doesn't make sense!" Rachel exclaims.

"It makes plenty of sense," Tina replies dejectedly. "Glee club will always be the loser club."

"But high school is a hierarchy!" Rachel goes on. "If the top of the hierarchy, if boys as attractive, talented, and popular as Finn and Puck and Mike all join Glee, it should make other popular kids want to join, too!"

"She's right, you know," Quinn says. "It should work like that."

"But it doesn't," Santana snaps, "especially not when the club's still full of mega losers." She looks pointedly at Rachel, who pretends not to see. Finn takes her hand, though, just so she knows that he doesn't think she's a mega loser.

"Okay, okay, enough," Mr. Schue says. "You all did your best, and who knows — maybe your performance will bring in a few interested members. I was definitely impressed." He smiles proudly at all of them, but it doesn't really make Finn feel any better.

He thinks of the posters he made to put up everywhere. Those are sure to get some people, right? Rachel even helped him make them, and she's really good at crafts and stuff like that. "Are you still upset, too?" Rachel asks him.

"Yeah, a little," Finn says, shrugging. Mr. Schue dismissed Glee, and most everyone has left. He stands and starts to walk out with Rachel, her hand once more in his.

"Well, I for one plan to recruit a few members even if I have to do all the work myself," she says. "And, don't worry, even if we don't find any more members, the club is still plenty strong." She smiles up at him, and he wonders how she can be so — you know —

"Hey, Rach, what's that word for, like, being really happy and thinking positive and stuff?"

"Optimistic?"

"Yeah," he says, smiling. "You're really optimistic."

"Thank you!" She leans up and kisses him.

It totally rocks how often she leans up and kisses him. He really wants to, like, twirl her around and press her against a locker and make-out with her, but that totally wouldn't fly. And little kisses are cool, too, 'cause she smells so good and her chapstick is always berry-flavoured. Plus, as long as she's always giving him small kisses, everybody knows that she's his, which is totally a good thing.

'Cause, honestly, it makes him nervous to be back in school.

He and Rachel have never really dated while in school. Like, that messed up time around winter break last year doesn't really count, and they were still kinda getting their ground last spring after Regionals. Summer was cool, 'cause he could spend all his time lying around with Rachel and there was nobody there to judge him or her or them.

He taught her how to play basketball, and she was really bad, but she got really into it whenever they would play, and afterward she would make him cookies or these little cakes or pancakes with lots of chocolate chips as long as he agreed to watch some musical or something. They went to the movies sometimes, also. And they went to the lake a few times, too, and she wore this bikini that totally made him crazy. He knows Puck, Mike, and Artie all thought it looked awesome, too, and Finn was kinda super proud that she was his girlfriend.

But he has nothing to fear from Puck, Mike, and Artie.

They might all complain sometimes that Rachel is annoying, but they all like her, and they all know that she and Finn are supposed to be together. Most people at school aren't like that. Most people at school judge Rachel, and they treat her bad, and they judge Finn for being with her. He hates that. Like, he knows that Rachel doesn't mind what people say about her, but he minds.

What if she realises how much he cares what other people think? What if she wants him to be better than that and he just can't? It makes him nervous that people are gonna treat her bad and he won't be able to stop them. If he can just stay cool, then people are going to leave her alone, mostly, 'cause nobody'll really want to mess with the quarterback's girlfriend, and —

"Finn?"

He glances down at Rachel, who's gazing up at him expectantly. He really needs to pay more attention. "Sorry," he says sheepsihly. "What?"

She doesn't look annoyed, though. She's all kinds of awesome like that. "Lunch is almost over," she says. "Aren't you going to hang up those Glee posters we made?" She smiles softly at him.

"Yeah, right," he says. "Guys are totally gonna go for them!" He's actually kinda excited.

"They are very manly," she agrees, squeezing his arm. "And I'll hang up my posters. It's important that we both continue to search for recruits, even if the rest of the club is disheartened. We are, after all, the co-captains."

"Definitely," he says. "You can count on me."

She beams, and, yeah, leans up to kiss him quickly. Some jerk turns the corner with a slushie, and Finn steps a little closer to Rachel. He glares at the dude, some stupid hockey player, and dares him to try to slushie Finn or his girlfriend. The guy walks past. Finn smiles at Rachel. "I'll call you after football gets out," he tells her, and he watches her leave. He's not gonna disappoint her — not about this, not about anything.

He's not gonna let anyone mess with her.

iii.

"Rachel!" Tina calls. "Over here!"

Rachel beams and weaves her way through the crowded cafeteria to her friends.

She has a table full of friends. Artie smiles when he sees her, and Mercedes pauses in her argument with Kurt to greet her. Tina asks her how her morning was, and what she thinks of the new English teacher. Rachel answers her quickly, and Tina actually listens and nods along.

It's absolutely amazing.

She has friends who want to sit with her and talk to her and spend time with her. She pulls her lasagne from her lunch box, and Tina asks to try some. "Of course," Rachel says happily. "I made it myself!" Tina really likes it. Rachel can't hide her grin.

"We really need to get you a new lunch box," Kurt comments.

"Don't listen to him," Mercedes immediately cuts in. "He hates anything more fabulous than him." Rachel laughs along with Mike, as Kurt and Mercedes began to tease each other, and Rachel realises that feeling rising up in her is belonging. Last spring, and this summer, too, she's felt a solidarity with her fellow Glee club members. How could she not? Glee ties them all together. But now there's no talk of Glee, and she finds she's loath to bring it up.

She likes that she has something to share with her friends outside her voice. Of course, Glee is what brought them all together, is what brought all these people to realise how great a friend Rachel really can be, and she'll forever cherish Glee for that.

When Finn sits down beside her, she greets him with a grin. "Hello!"

He looks surprised at her enthusiasm. "Hey," he says. "How's your day?"

"Amazing!" she exclaims. "Do you want one of my cookies?"

His eyes light up, and she giggles. She leans up and kisses his cheek.

"Oh, good lord," Kurt exclaims, rolling his eyes dramatically as he pointedly looks away.

Tina, however, slips an arm around Mike's torso and shares a small smile with Rachel, as if she, too, knows exactly what it's like to be in a wonderful relationship with a wonderful boy. Rachel leans into Finn and soaks it all in. This is the perfect start to a perfect year. She can't wait for what comes next.

She wants to stay and revel in it for longer, but she has to go to the bathroom before lunch ends — she hates to miss class for any amount of time, even a quick trip to the bathroom. "I'll be right back," she tells her friends, and she walks, beaming, to the bathroom.

She finds Sunshine there — Sunshine, who's a smaller, prettier, more talented version of Rachel.

And Rachel sees it all go up in smoke.

(She can't let it.)

iv.

He doesn't know how to tell her.

He doesn't even know how to admit that it's real.

Sam doesn't show for auditions. Nobody shows up. Finn can't believe it. He's completely, totally failed. He's off the football team, and Glee doesn't have enough members, and those posters he made were completely stupid, and why did he ever think Artie could be in the team?

He tries to be a good leader and a good friend, and he just messes everything up.

He walks slowly out of the choir room with Rachel. "It could be worse," Rachel says, trying once more to be optimistic or whatever. It only makes him feel worse, though, 'cause she's gonna be so upset with him, he just knows it. How can she not be? He's upset with himself.

"Hey, loser!" somebody shouts.

Finn looks up, even as Rachel automatically turns to the side, her eyes pressed closed. Finn has his own reflexes, though, when he sees the slushie, and he hoists Rachel up and twirls her aside. The slushie hits the locker beside him. "What the hell, dude?" he yells, stepping murderously towards the guy. Rachel holds him back.

The fatass just laughs. "You're getting good at dodging those, loser," he says, and he and his cronies laugh as they stalk off. Finn kind of wants to chase after them and punch the shit out of them. Rachel won't let him.

"Calm down," Rachel says, stroking his arm. He looks down at her, and guilt seizes him. She looks so happy. "You actually saved me from a slushie," she says. But he shouldn't have had to help her dodge a slushie; nobody should have even tried to slushie her in the first place! Doesn't she get that? Doesn't she know she deserves so much better than this?

She tries to catch his gaze. He won't let her.

"Want a ride home?" he mutters.

"Are you okay?" she asks softly. "He didn't hit me, Finn. You saved me." He doesn't know what to say. He's gonna find that guy, and he is gonna beat the shit out of him. "I don't need a ride, thank you," she finally says. I brought my car, remember?" She pauses. "And don't you have practice?"

He might as well tell her. It's not like he can avoid it. "Coach Bieste kicked me off." There. He said it. He still can't look at her, though, even as she waits for an explanation. "Artie wanted me to help him get on the team so that he could win back Tina and I thought it would totally be cool, but Bieste got really pissed and she kicked me off." He starts to say it all as fast as he can. "I tried to join the Cheerios —"

"You what?"

"— But everybody knows what a sucky dancer I am. It didn't work, and I'm definitely off the football team now." He finally looks at her nervously. What is she going to think? But her face is soft as she meets his gaze, and before he can say anything else, she hugs him. She isn't upset at all. He presses his face into his hair and wills himself not to cry.

"It'll be okay," she murmurs. "I promise. It'll all work out."

He lifts her off the ground and clutches her. She doesn't realise what it means for him not to be cool anymore. She doesn't realise that he can't defend her or anything. And he wants to be cool. He wants to play football. He loves football. But she still likes him, and that's something, isn't it? She's not pissed the way Quinn would be.

"Don't worry, Finn," she says soothingly, running a hand over his hair, her knees pressing slightly into his hips as he holds her. "It'll be okay."

v.

She takes a deep breath.

And she steps into the classroom.

All eyes turn to her. She wants to cringe, but she fights the urge. Kurt gazes at her coldly, like she's something unpleasant he stepped in, but that's nothing new. Mercedes has her bottom lip jutted out, attitude written all over her face, like she just can't stand Rachel, but that's nothing new, either. Artie shoots her annoyed looks, even though he won't meet her gaze, and Tina has her arms crossed over her chest.

They all hate her.

"I'm sorry," Rachel says softly. She clears her throat and faces them bravely. "I am truly, completely, sincerely sorry. I know that I have jeopardised the future of the entire club and it was for entirely selfish reasons. I have never been so disappointed in myself —"

"Save it, hobbit," Santana says. "Nobody wants to hear your speech."

"Hey," Finn says, glaring at her. He catches Rachel's gaze and nods encouragingly.

Rachel takes strength in that. "I completely understand if you all refuse to forgive me. I don't think I could forgive myself if I were in your place. As an apology, however, I will not seek any of the solos for the next — the next two weeks. I don't deserve them."

"We really could have used her, you know," Mercedes says sharply.

Rachel nods and focuses her gaze on the floor. She can't look at them. She doesn't want to cry in front of them all. "I'm sorry," she repeats softly, taking a slow breath.

"Whatever," Puck says. "It's cool with me. I don't care."

"You don't care about anything," Kurt snaps. There's a tense moment.

"Just promise not to do something like that again, okay?" Tina says.

Rachel looks at her and nods quickly, grateful. "I promise." She smiles tentatively.

Tina doesn't really return the gesture, but Rachel will take her olive branch nonetheless. It's something, at least. Mr. Schue finally stands and Rachel takes that as her cue to sit. She hurries to the empty seat beside Finn, and he takes her hand and squeezes it.

The lesson goes on, and Rachel keeps quiet to appease the others.

For the first time all week, however, she wants nothing more than for Glee practice to finish so that she can be alone. When it does, she hurries to the door. Finn follows after her. "Did you want to hang out?" he says. "Maybe we could —?"

"Later," she says quickly. "I need to relieve the overbearing stress of this day with a little yoga. You can come by later, okay?" She gives him a moment to nod, and she leaves without another backward glance.

vi.

He's not really sure when later is, but he figures yoga can't possibly take more than an hour, right?

He goes around to the back of the house, 'cause that's where she keeps the spare key. She showed it to him, hidden in the potted plant with the stone frog, a few weeks into the summer. He almost feels like she gave him a key to her house, which is totally cool.

He steps into an empty kitchen. "Rachel?" he calls. The ceiling fan is swirling softly, but the kitchen is cool and empty. He closes the door quietly. She's probably in her room. As he climbs the stairs, he smiles a little. Picture after picture of Rachel line the stairway wall, as if part of a shrine to the most beloved member of the family. There are photos of her as a baby and then a toddler and then a little girl, and just at the top are all the pictures of her from high school.

He pauses when he sees the newest one: he and Rachel at Regionals, hugging on stage. He remembers that moment, remembers how sure he had been that they would win. He still can't believe they didn't. Still, it's a pretty awesome picture. And it's totally cool that the Mr. Berrys finally like him enough to put his picture up in the Wall of Rachel.

He climbs the last step onto the second landing and starts to call her name again, only to pause. She's definitely in her bedroom, he can tell, but it's not her weird yoga music he hears. He frowns and walks softly towards her room. The door rests slightly ajar, and . . . and his eyes go wide when he peaks into the room and sees her.

She's sprawled across the bed in her little blue dress, she's clutching her favourite teddy bear, and she's crying. She's, like, sobbing. Her whole tiny body shakes, and he can see her knuckles are white where they grip the pink fur of her teddy. He doesn't know what to do. He's seen Rachel cry before, but never like this.

She looks so messed up, and what kind of shitty boyfriend is he that his girlfriend is crying alone in her room? She should, like, be able to count on him when she's upset like this. And what's she upset about? What's happened?

"Rachel?" he says.

She glances over at him and then looks away quickly as she sits up and starts to wipe furiously at her eyes. "Finn," she says, nearly choking on hiccoughs. "What are you doing here?" She won't face him. "I was just — I —"

"What's the matter?" he asks, stepping daringly into the room. "Did something happen?"

"No! No, I was just watching — I was watching The Way We Were, and you know how that movie always reduces me to tears." She finally looks at him and manages a wide smile. It doesn't look right, though. Her eyes are still red and wet and she still looks really screwed up.

He should probably just take her word for it, though. He doesn't know how to handle this stuff. But, like, he doesn't want her to lie to him. She's all he's got left now.

"Rachel," he says slowly, sitting beside her on the bed. "Is this about Sunshine?"

"No," she says immediately, "why would I be upset about Sunshine? I mean, it is upsetting, of course, and I'm sincerely sorry for my role in strengthening Vocal Adrenaline and betraying New Directions, but I'm really fine. I — would you like to watch a movie or something? Or homework! That's right, I was supposed to help you with your Spanish homework, wasn't I?"

Yeah, something's totally wrong.

She starts to stand, but he grabs her hand. "Wait," he says, "let's talk." He tugs her back to the bed. "I'm your boyfriend, Rachel. You're supposed to tell me stuff." He rubs at her wrist. He wants to be a good boyfriend. And she's been the best girlfriend to him. "Girlfriends tell their boyfriends stuff, right?"

Her face softens. "Right," she says quietly.

"So . . . tell me what's going on."

Her bottom lip starts to tremble. She glances away from him. "I . . . I thought I had friends, Finn." The words are barely more than a whisper.

But he hears them. And he frowns. "You do have friends."

She starts to shake her head, and her shoulders shudder. "No, I don't. Nobody likes me."

"I like you," he says uneasily. He's not good at this stuff.

She looks over at him. "I don't know why," she whispers. "I'm a horrible person." The emotion builds up in her face. "But I just — after Regionals I thought we were all a family, you know? And then this summer, Puck invited me to play flashlight tag when we all played, and Kurt and Mercedes and Tina took me shopping with them, and I even went to the movies with Quinn and Mercedes that one time, remember? And — and I thought I was part of the group!"

"You are part of the group," Finn insists.

"They only like my voice," she says, and she looks down at her lap. "And if they could replace that, they would. If they could replace me, they would. Once upon a time I would have been okay with the idea that I was most valued for my voice, because I do have a stunning voice. But I . . . I want to be liked for more than that, Finn." She sniffs, rubbing once more at her eyes.

Her voice grows even softer. "I thought I finally was, and I didn't want anything to change. I didn't want to lose that, and I just made it all worse." She avoids his gaze yet again.

"Rachel," he says, his frown growing. "Did you send Sunshine to that crackhouse 'cause you didn't want her to take all your solos or . . . 'cause you didn't want her to take all your friends?"

"Does it make a difference?" she murmurs.

"Yeah," he says, trying to catch her gaze. "It makes a big difference."

Slowly, she looks at him. "Is it so bad to want — to want to be liked?"

"No," he tells her. "I want to be liked, too. I think everybody does." He can't believe this. It kinda makes him angry. How can any of those people, especially people like Kurt and Tina and Mercedes, who have been pushed down and treated shitty before, make Rachel feel like this?

"Look, Rach, you do have friends. And maybe they're pissed 'cause they really wanted to win and now it's gonna be harder, but friends forgive each other, so they'll forgive you. And Sunshine could never replace you . . . especially not for me."

She look at him, and he returns her gaze earnestly. "You're kinda my best friend, you know," he admits sheepishly. She reaches for him, then, and he wraps his arms around her as she buries her face in his neck. He hates that she ever thinks stuff like this. He hates that she's afraid she doesn't have friends and people won't like her if she can't sing. Doesn't she know how awesome she is?

Doesn't she know that she's everything to him?

"I love you," he whispers, and he kisses her hair — it smells fruity today. He likes that. He likes everything about her.

Her arms tighten around him. "I love you, too," she murmurs.

His eyes pop open. She's never said that before, even though he waited all summer. He starts to smile, and he pulls back from her. "Yeah?" he says.

She nods shyly, and then she starts to smile, too, and it's a genuine smile this time. She leans up and kisses him sweetly. "You're my best friend, too," she says. "And I do love you." She presses another soft kiss to his lips.

"Cool," he says.

He might not be popular anymore, he might have gotten himself kicked off the football team and he might be a total loser, and she might have pissed off all their friends, she might have cost them the best chance they have at beating Vocal Adrenaline, but they still have each other.

They can still count on each other.

vii.

She steps off her elliptical, smiling as she sees she has a new text from Finn.

She loves that he greets her every morning when he wakes up. Her mind flitters to the weekend — they spent it all together. And she smiles at the very thought of their talk after school on Friday. He really is the most wonderful boyfriend, so sweet and so considerate and so much more perceptive than people realise.

She glances at the clock. Her timing is impeccable, as always: she has exactly an hour to make banana bread for him, like she planned. He deserves a treat, and he always loves the goodies she makes him. (He doesn't even realise that all of them are vegan!)

Morning Rach. What should I wear?

She grins at the text and glances at her outfit for the day, laid out on her chair.

I will be wearing a blue-striped dress. How about your blue polo? xo Rachel

She heads to the shower, but she hears the phone buzz a response moments later.

Cool. See you soon.

She clutches the cell phone to her chest, unable not to smile at the empty room.

tbc


a/n: the rest of the second season is soon to follow :) I also have a fluffy future!fic in the works as well as a reconciliation fic. I just got my tonsils out on Tuesday, so I have plenty of time to sit around and write!