A/N: Hi, beloved readers! I'm really excited to present to you my newest fic! It's a multi-chapter spec-fic surrounding the Super Bowl spoilers. I believe it is a unique take worth sharing. So, I hope you enjoy!
Also-the title is a football term for when the quarterback hands off the ball to someone else. Yeah, shocker, I know But I'm such a dum-dum when it comes to sports that I was proud of myself for discovering the term that was appropriate for Finn and Rachel's situation, that uncertainty as they are thrown out of their comfort zones and must learn to trust that they can still win.
It was the end of the first day of classes after winter break. It had gone pretty well, Finn thought. He, Sam, and Artie were hitting the gym together to get the new semester off to a new start.
He didn't even wanna think about the first day of Glee tomorrow. He looked at the clock and saw that his buddies were late. He was growing anxious. He needed them for confirmation that his self-imposed solitary hell was over.
Since he broke it off with Rachel, he had to pull through finals, then fake-smile his way through Christmas, and he had not had time to do what he wanted to do: lie for hours without moving, punch things, destroy things on Halo, cry.
Once Christmas was over and his grandma, cousins, and Aunt Sherry and Uncle Tim were out of town again, Finn hardly left his room. He spent a good time hating Rachel. He enumerated the many instances Rachel could have prevented her infidelity. Why didn't she think? Or maybe thinking was the problem. Why wasn't she thinking? Why was she so cold to want to punish him in the worst way possible?
He started to think all those hours they spent lying together talking were a lie. All those things he thought revealed her true self were not her true self. He didn't know who the hell Rachel was. His Rachel.
Sometimes, he thought he should quit Glee club next semester so he didn't have to face her. He wished she would move, would disappear—something had to make this pain go away. Not to mention all the shame.
There were other times, he wanted her to call or visit. He wanted to see her miserable like he was. He wanted her to burst into his room, fall to her knees and cry, to grovel, to somehow make things better. She screwed it up, so she had to make things better. It was her fault. Her fault.
It was only Kurt who was merciless enough to draw Finn out of the misery bubble that was his room. The night the new family was supposed to be together, Kurt texted him to come to the Hummel house after Carole arrived alone and told Burt and Kurt that Finn wasn't feeling up to it. Kurt's blunt text read:
"Listen here, Hudson. You get your mopey butt over here, and I won't tell your mom about your condom stash, comprendez-vous?"
Growling, Finn texted back, "Y do u care?"
To which, came the harsh—but meticulously-typed (like Rachel's texts)—response: "She'll never tell you, but your mom's really upset by your behavior. She wants to see us all be a family, and she can't do that if you always cop out on her to feel sorry for yourself."
Finn felt a wave of guilt wash over him. He remembered the wedding. He thought about the grin on his mom's face at the wedding as she had said to him, Burt, and Kurt at the altar; "We're finally becoming a family!"
Groaning, Finn texted, "C u in 10 mins," then jumped up to get dressed and walked over. When he arrived, his mom would fuss over him walking in the cold, but Finn would say it was nothing. The Hummels actually lived pretty close. It was just a ten minute walk for his long legs.
After that night, he and Kurt hung out every night until Kurt left for school the second of January. And it was pretty great hanging with Kurt-except when Kurt was watching America's Next Top Model or Project Runway (Kurt's commentary was an endless stream when he watched those shows.)—that was when Finn would duck out and watch TV with Burt and his mom upstairs.
Kurt and Finn's favorite thing to do was play card games. Turns out Kurt knew a bunch of crazy card games Finn had never heard of. So, Kurt would teach him a new game every day, and they would play for hours.
Except for the weird crush stuff that still haunted him at times, Finn felt like he lucked out in a brother. Dude was smart and one of the funniest people he'd ever met—once he got used to Kurt's dry delivery.
As Finn tied his right shoelace, still waiting for Sam and Artie, he thought that it was kind of nice to play cards with someone who wasn't such a sore loser as Rachel, who would hide her anger at losing by making it seem like she was joking—but they both knew she wasn't. Finn never got why she had to be great at everything.
Though it was pretty cool when she got into the habit of attacking him when he'd tease her about losing. Getting tackled by Rachel was the most hilarious, awkward, yet sexy thing ever.
No, no, no. Finn was not going to do this. He couldn't think about her. He was going to think about his guy time coming up.
Finn's phone buzzed. It was a text message from Artie: "Can't make it. Goin to Brit's. Sorry."
Finn groaned. So, that's where Artie was. Now, where the hell was Sam?
Then he heard the locker room door open, followed by two harsh whispers. Then one of the voices got louder: Sam's.
"Don't worry so much! I'm trying, all right?" Sam said harshly to someone just outside the locker room door as he shut it, stopped, then adjusted his gym bag with a sigh.
Finn knew that sound too well. Through the mirror ahead of him, Finn saw Sam was behind him, walking slowly, his head down. Finn turned and threw him a pair of boxing gloves. He watched Sam catch the gloves with a knowing look.
"I know. I know. I'm late," Sam said defensively.
"It's fine, dude. I'm having trouble getting motivated these days, too."
"Where's Artie?" Sam asked.
"With Brittany." Finn answered.
"Dude, what is with him these days? We never let our girls get in the way with guy time, right, man?"
Finn didn't say anything.
"I mean, when you were … You never. You know what I mean. Sorry, man. I kinda forgot. You and Rachel were, like, institution to me."
"Yeah, I know. I thought we were, too," Finn began punching at the bag, telling himself that the scrunched-up face was pure he-man fury of punching and nothing to do with a girl.
But it was hard to dodge thinking about her now. He might as well use the angst.
Rachel used to say that about being angry, telling him it was a great way to "channel loose energy and focus it into something beneficial." She was also the reason he knew what the word institution meant. She always used it in relation to them. "We're becoming a Glee institution, you and me, Finn. Mr. Schue should make a plaque when we graduate," she had said one day when they came together to practice their duet for the competition. He and Rachel talked about so much, every conversation made him think of her.
So, yeah. Rachel—four. Finn—zero. They'd been broken up for a month, and yet she still had power over him. Every damn day, she won the battle in his brain.
One thing was for sure: next person he dated, he had to know he could never love her. It just wasn't worth it. At least, not in the messed up world of high school.
"Sorry for being snarky before. I'm just feeling a lot of pressure .. from somewhere I didn't think I'd feel it."
"Quinn—" Finn said between a lower-cut from his left hand to one from his right.
"Yeah, how'd you know?"
"Lemme guess; she's telling you how you're so close to home-free, being the top couple of the school, getting that crown at Homecoming—but it's only looking just out of reach because of something you're doing."
"Damn. That's exactly it."
"Like I said, dude. Been there."
"Oh, yeah.… Is—was Rachel like that?"
"Well, she wanted to control little things, like the time I picked her up for dates and what days we should be color-coordinated (Don't tell anyone that is was on purpose, okay?). She tried to get me to quit the football team for, like, a week. Also what I got to touch and when. But I always figured that was girlfriend territory anyway. She lets me plan what we—let me plan what we did, too. I didn't have as many ideas as her, so, she normally took over, anyway …" he shrugged.
"Sounds pretty cool. Quinn and I used to be like that, but now that the football season's about over, she's says we'll 'only be secondary' because I'm not her damn quarterback boyfriend. I used to think girls just wanted commitment, so I got her a ring. Bam! Commitment. But she still wants more from me. She basically.."
"Wants you to be me … …"
"Yeah.." Sam agreed, looking crestfallen.
"Well, me plus, I guess, 'cause she used to get mad at me for wanting to go bowling or waving at certain people because it wasn't cool." Finn stopped, realizing Sam was looking at the ground, frowning a little. "Dude, don't take it personally. I think she just wants to get back on top. I mean, to the top she thought she used to be before she joined Glee. For some reason, to her, that means, being head cheerleader, dating the star quarterback, and being prom queen. That's the only way she'll be happy with herself."
"Don't know why she thinks that. She's perfect now. I don't know if I can take much more of this," Sam muttered, not looking up.
Finn frowned, seeing that this really upset Sam. He placed his hands on Sam's shoulders.
"If it helps any. It's obvious she likes you more than she liked me."
Sam looked up, a prick of a smile at the side of his lips.
We only dated because everyone said we should, Finn thought. He remembered how all the guys would elbow him in the ribcage when Quinn would flit past him and his football buddies with her entourage of Cheerios. A huge grin would bloom on his face because the guys on the team told him that he was bound to get lucky with Quinn soon.
"Those little skirts are toast," Puck liked to say with an arrogant pucker to his lips.
It was the first day back to Glee. Rachel had arrived first to the empty choir room. She spent a few minutes deliberating which seat she should take—just like she always used to do when she was the single misfit. Should she be in the back where no one could see her, but she could see everyone? Should she sit in the front and not have to look at anyone else, fully focused on Mr. Schue and the task of the day?
She took the front, deciding the back was too cowardly and made it look like she was trying to hide from Finn. She was done with cowering. She thought back on that fateful day she had decided to invite Puck into her room. The last period of the school day had finished, and she stood at the corner of the hallway, watching Finn stare into his locker, deciding which books to take home for the day. She wanted to approach him, but she was too angry at him. Instead, she watched, wondering how he could do this to her. How he could give up his virginity to the resident mattress Santana Lopez. Had he no pride?
She had thought they were a pair of equals, that they were the image of symmetry. He had had one steady girlfriend before her; she had had one steady boyfriend before him. They were co-captains, highly involved in their extracurriculars. She now played some of his games—the Star Wars ones were her favorites. He was a burgeoning fan of musicals the more she shared with him. She baked bread for him, and he made her mix CDs of his favorite songs. They were meeting in the middle. It was perfect.
She was so pleased with herself when she told him she was actually a virgin—that is, after she saw he wasn't mad. She could add this to their long list of their symmetrical qualities.
But it turned out it was all a lie. He wasn't her equal. He was not a virgin. He had the perfect opportunity to spill, but he did not. The moment was also unequal; she confessed; he didn't. It could have been a symmetrical moment.
Instead he sat and waited for Santana to blot up their relationship by doing what he should have done. She was always doing this to Rachel—blotting up her life, slandering it as if the bully even knew Rachel. On the bathroom stalls, she still makes obscene drawings of Rachel—often of a sexual nature. Santana is always limiting her this way, putting her in a corner by saying these caricatures on the wall are all that Rachel is—nothing more, nothing less.
Santana's pigeonholing of Rachel tortured Rachel's middle school years. And when high school came around, Santana used Quinn as her puppet to fuel Rachel's self-hatred. When Quinn and Santana's faux-friendship ended, Rachel saw that it was not the head cheerleader and her lackies who seemed to want to destroy her—just Santana. And Rachel couldn't stop herself from caring about every snarky comment Santana made. Rachel was so good at ignoring negative comments, but Santana really got to her, and Rachel hated that. She hated that she gave Santana such power over her.
Once Santana joined Glee, Rachel felt like she was in competition with this girl—except everything Rachel bettered Santana in Santana reacted with indifference, knowing it would infuriate Rachel, pitting Rachel against herself. She even pitted Finn against her. Like the week she went to the dentist. He hadn't said anything then agreed with Santana's snide comment on her clothes. Rachel vs. Rachel. Finn vs. Rachel. Santana needed to stop.
Or Rachel needed to stop letting Santana do this.
Not only had Santana taken Finn's chance to confess himself, but she had taken his virginity. Taken his virginity-taken a part of him. A part that Rachel could never have—a memory she and Finn could never share.
It drove Rachel crazy to learn that Santana had something over her that Rachel could never take back. There was no competing. That part of Finn could never be Rachel's. Rachel had so wanted that part of Finn.
She had wanted so much to share that with him.
It just wasn't fair. No justice. No balance. They weren't equals. It was all a lie.
Then her skin crawled as Santana pranced past his locker, blowing him a slow and juicy kiss—and was that a smirk that Finn replied with?
Well, of course, it all made sense now. She realized that Finn never stood up for her to Santana because he had a soft spot for Santana. She remembered what Brittany had said once, "You take his v-card; he follows you for life." Finn may never follow Santana, but there was something between them—and nothing could undo that. This new thought drove Rachel stark mad.
Then Puck approached her.
"What do you want? Do you want to take something from me, too?"
But Puck seemed in earnest when he asked if she was okay. It was the first person to sound concerned for her that week. Finn was too busy defending himself or holding his breath, waiting for her to be overdramatic to tray to be any source of solace or comfort (because he was just like the rest of the school, expecting her to always react in the worst possible way—she thought at least he thought better of her).
As she gripped Puck's rock-solid arm, a plan formed in her mind.
"I want Finn to know how hurt I am, Noah. I want him to understand."
"Totally. That's why I'm thinking your little skirt and me are the solution here. I represent all the things that are so not cool about Finn, so it would really rub him the wrong way if—"
"If I slept with you."
Puck's eyes popped open.
"You don't mess around!" He said rather loudly as they made their way through the parking lot.
"When I have a plan, Noah, I do not flounder. I think this is the way to-to even the playing field, so to speak. He lost his virginity to that floozy Santana; you're the male floozy of this school. You two have a history of friendship; as well, Santana and I have a history of a similar rivalry. Did you know we used to be best friends?"
Puck did a double take as they stood by his car.
"In elementary school. We used to watch DVDs of our favorite movies—mostly musicals and dance movies—and dance to them. She used to make up choreography, and we'd perform routines for her parents and my dads."
"Well, damn," Puck said, dumbfounded.
"It's perfect symmetry," Rachel said more to herself than to Puck as she settled into his car.
In five minutes, Santana entered the choir room. With hardly a glance at Rachel, Santana strutted in and sat in the upper-right corner. She folded her arms.
"Where's Brittany?" Rachel asked.
"Where have you been, Berry? She wants to be with Artie now," Santana said the name with disgust.
Rachel started at Santana's startlingly earnest response. She didn't throw any insults, just filed her nails and seemed to mourn the absence of her friend. Rachel could relate to that, but she knew if she tried to say another word to this girl, Santana would cut her. Or maybe Rachel would cut her. The anger was faded now, but she still resented Santana for butting in on her and Finn's affairs. It angered her, mostly, because it baffled her.
Why months after it had happened? Why didn't Santana tell her when they started dating or at the beginning of the year, if she wanted to foil their relationship? Part of her wanted to ask but the other part was too afraid to.
Before long, the rest of the Glee club came in. Finn sat in the middle row which Rachel took as a good sign. He was not consciously choosing to sit as far away from her as possible, at least. Rachel started when she saw Mercedes plop beside her, wiggling her fingers in a sweet wave and smiling. Rachel was about to smile back, but her gaze shot up when Mr. Schue called—very loudly—for rehearsal to begin.
Mr. Schue spoke of new beginnings, or "a fresh start," as Rachel noticed seemed to be his favorite phrase. He wanted everyone to seize the new year and better themselves by singing about goals and the future and optimism.
Rachel rested her chin on her fist, which rested on her crossed-over knee. She gave a deep sigh that blew her hair up. This was going to be a tough assignment.
She heard her sigh echoed from the seat she knew Santana was at. She then heard a giggle from Brittany, who was sitting to Rachel's left, whispering something to Artie. She felt a hot gaze on her. She turned to see that it was Santana, glaring.
But she wasn't glaring at her.
She was glaring at Brittany with Artie.
And then, Rachel knew. Santana was lonely. Brittany and Artie started dating the week before Santana outted Finn.
"You're on my list, dwarf."
Could it be that Santana feels jealousy?
Anything Mr. Schue said for the remainder of class was up and over her head. Her mind was a maelstrom of ideas, memories, and sympathy.
When class ended, Santana was first to flounce out of class, very clearly upset. Her neck doing that ghetto roll with every jerky attitude-step she took. Rachel actually found it endearing. Then she practically barreled out of the classroom after the Cheerio.
Clearly, she was going insane, approaching the girl who had been single-handedly high-jacking and crashing her life since middle school. She reached out her hand to Santana's shoulder once they had arrived at her locker.
As Santana opened her locker, Rachel said: "You're lonely, aren't you? Since Brittany started dating Artie?" Rachel breathed.
"Oh, no, no, fringe girl. I think you have me confused with you. I have lots of friends," Santana replied coolly without looking at Rachel.
"You have an entourage, and almost the whole school is afraid of you. That's not friends."
"Shouldn't you be hating me right now instead of drowning me in this pointless mush?"
"I don't hate you, Santana. I understand, now," Rachel said, quietly and firmly.
"Sorry?" Santana said, quietly, looking at Rachel for the first time. It was clear she was taken aback. Rachel saw her walls come down—if only for a second.
"I understand why you were preying on Finn and chose to tell me about you and Finn months later. You weren't plotting to destroy my life so much as you were just … lonely. You lost more than a best friend, didn't you? Weren't you and Brittany … intimate? What happened?"
"No one likes a dyke," Santana said, matter-of-factly, a tinge of sadness in her eyes.
"But if you like her, and she likes you …"
"This is high school in the middle of Ohio, weepy. Guys may whoop and holler when two girls are kissing, but at the end of the day, they don't wanna see two girls walking down the hallway, hand-in-hand, talking about making lady-babies."
"You mean, you rejected Brittany because of your reputation? And now you have nothing. Not even Finn. He wants nothing to do with you, now—or me."
"That's right," Santana said, smilingly while crossing her arms. Her mask was back on. " Look, you're gonna have to thank me for knocking that pedestal from under you later. I have Cheerios practice. Later, schnoz."
Rachel's lips tugged into a meek smile as she watched the retreating figure. Santana's exit almost looked desperate. That was only further confirmation that Rachel was right: Santana was lonely.
Santana Lopez was human.
And she was vulnerable, just like the rest of them. Just like Rachel. And, in that quietly blissful moment, Rachel knew Santana would never have such power over her ever again.
Maybe this was the time for a fresh start like Mr. Schue had said.