It's been six hours and he still can't believe it. It seems like he should be able to by now, but it almost doesn't click in his head that this is reality. That the past day and a half hasn't been a dream and this is real life- right here, right now.
"How in the hell are you still standing?" The voice of one Noah Puckerman announces his arrival, and he can see out of the corner of his eye his best friend coming to stand next to him.
Finn shakes his head, unsure. "I couldn't sleep."
"Well you should take advantage of it." Puck says wisely. "Pretty soon you'll be willing to sell your blood for a few solid minutes of shut eye."
He nods. He's aware of how tiring the next while is going to be, he's been reading up on it for months and he's ready.
"I just can't stop watching her, you know?"
Through the glass window, Ava Melody Hudson is nestled up in a bright pink blanket, a matching cap on her head while she dozes peacefully in her hospital bassinet. She's easily the prettiest one out of the dozen or so infants in the nursery, he thinks. Then again, maybe he's just a little bit biased.
"Feels like if you close your eyes for too long she'll be gone, huh?" Puck's quiet tone breaks Finn from his thoughts.
"Yeah, pretty much." He just can't get over it: he's a dad now. He has a daughter- this tiny little person that he and Rachel created together and waited so long for, and now she's here and real and perfect.
They spend another few minutes staring down at her in silence before Mr. Schue- even if they did graduate like eight years ago, he'll always be Mr. Schue to them- walks up.
"You ready?" he asks Puck, who nods and glances at Finn.
"Come on Hudson, we got something to show you." Seeing his friend open his mouth to protest, he quickly adds, "She isn't going anywhere, I promise. Berry is asleep so don't try using that excuse. Besides, this won't take long."
Reluctantly, Finn slowly begins to follow the two men down the hallway towards the elevators.
"You know, she's had my last name for almost five years Puck." He says eventually, to which Puck only shrugs.
"Yeah, but she'll always be Berry the Freak to me." he responds, but there's a tone of affection as he says it.
They head outside of the hospital and around to the side of the building before Mr. Schue stops without warning and Puck pulls out a pocket knife from his jeans.
Finn suddenly feels nervous. "What the hell are you doing?"
Puck scoffs. "Relax princess; it's not what you think."
Schuester grins. "Finn, it's time for you to be initiated into the Dads Club."
A moment of awkward silence passes before Finn sighs and takes the bait. "Okay, what's the Dads Club?"
"A few hours after Beth was born, Quinn was sleeping and I needed to clear my head." Puck begins. "So I started walking around outside and eventually decided that it would be pretty badass if I left our mark here. At the time we weren't sure if we were keeping her or not, so I wanted at least some evidence that it was all real, you know?" he shrugs. "So I carved our initials into that tree. A few years later Mr. Schue and Ms. P got hitched and caught the baby fever and I guess I was feeling sentimental or just sorry for him or something, because when he looked freaked out later that day I brought him out here and he added to it."
"And now it's your turn." Mr. Schuester smiles. "This is the most important thing that you'll ever do in your life. It will go by faster than you think, so make sure that you appreciate everything- even the little stuff, because it matters. And know that even when you mess up, she is still going to look at you like you hung the moon because to her, you did."
"But don't take it lightly." Puck says, looking him straight in the eye with a seriousness Finn has rarely seen before. "Because it's serious shit. Being a dad is fucking hard as hell. The kid is first now, for everything. You gotta be willing to put it all on the line for her- everything. It's time to step up and be a man."
"We know that you're going to do great, Finn." Mr. Schue tells him. "Just remember that even when it gets hard, that little girl will always love you no matter what."
"That's what it's all about." Puck adds. "If nothing else, make sure the kid knows that- all the time. Even when you think she doesn't wanna hear it or that you've said it a million times, you can't say it enough. Got it?"
Finn nods. From the moment Rachel told him she was pregnant he knew that he would go to any lengths for this child. Now his daughter isn't even half a day old and already she has him curled around her tiny finger.
"I got it. I'm in this for good, I swear." Finn says sincerely, and Puck must believe him because he hands over the knife.
Ten minutes later, the tree now clearly shows Finn, Rachel, and Ava's initials underneath Puck, Quinn, and Beth's. Beneath it the initials of Will, Emma, and little Piper Renee Schuester complete the display.The three men share a drink from Puck's flask before Finn heads back upstairs. He finds Rachel propped up in her hospital bed, Ava cradled in her arms.
"Look who it is." She mumbles quietly to the infant. "Is that your daddy? Say hi daddy! We missed you."
Finn smiles and kisses the baby's head softly before pressing a gentle kiss to his wife's lips. "I missed you both too." He tells them and even though it's been less than half an hour, he really means it.
"So," Rachel lets out a breath and stares at him. "Do you think we're ready for this?"
Finn looks down at the two girls that make up his whole world and responds with the utmost love and sincerity, "Yeah, I think we've been well prepared."