a/n: okay, I know I should be working on one of my two WIPs, but a scene from this story got stuck in my head last night when I went for a run and "Little Miss" by Sugarland came on my ipod, and I had to write this one-shot. I was up until four in the frickin' morning working on this (granted I did laundry and watched Grey's and Fringe, too), and then I spent a few hours on it this afternoon. I included the song both at the start and end of the story and actually in the story, which is kind of overkill, I know, but I couldn't help myself. There's sort of a coherent theme to this, but, erm, not really, so, anyway. . . .

Little Miss down on love,

Little Miss I give up,

Little Miss I'll get tough, don't you worry 'bout me anymore.

Little Miss checkered dress,

Little Miss one big mess,

Little Miss I'll take less when I always give so much more.

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright,

Yeah, sometimes ya gotta lose 'til ya win,

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright,

It'll be alright again, it'll be alright again.

Little Miss do your best,

Little Miss never rest,

Little Miss, be my guest, I'll make more anytime it runs out. . . .


"How about a movie?" he says randomly.

He used to take Quinn to the movies a lot, because they didn't have to talk at the movies. He could sit there and eat popcorn and she didn't snipe at him or complain or tell him not to be a pig. Okay, sometimes she would say something sharply when she had to stand to let him pass to go refill his popcorn bucket, but whatever.

Anyway, he realises the moment he show's up at Rachel's house for their date that he has absolutely no idea what to say to her. She answers the door in this cute little dress and bright green tights, and she smiles shyly at him as she tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. What does he say? He's missed this so much, missed her so much, but it's like their first date all over again, except it's not, 'cause they did this all a year ago, and then it all got fucked up and —

Right there on her doorstep, feeling like an ass, he asks if she wants to see a movie.

She seems surprised, but she nods and then tells him she'll need a minute. She lets him into the house, and he watches her silently as she quickly gathers a few things. She grabs a sweater, and he remembers that's 'cause she always gets cold in theatres. She digs out a juice box from the pantry, too, and then takes a bag of trail mix and an apple and puts them in a large purse.

He frowns. "Are you gonna sneak food into the theatre?" She never does stuff like that.

She only smiles, though. "It's cheaper. Did you want to sneak something in, too? My purse is plenty big enough, and we have lots of juice boxes."

He wonders suddenly if she went to the movies with him, and that's when she picked up the habit. He wants to ask, but he knows he can't, so he only nods and tries to smile in a way he hopes doesn't look forced. They leave the house after a few more minutes and head towards his truck. Her hand brushes his. And she tucks her hand into her pocket.

He feels like she slapped him.

Rachel loves to hold hands. She loves it so much that he can hide how much he loves holding hands behind how much she loves holding hands. Apparently, though, she sneaks food into theatres now and doesn't like holding hands now and, fuck, he doesn't even know what movies are showing when she asks him what he wants to see.

The whole car ride is awkward as anything. When they're finally there, she tells him to pick the movie, and he goes for some stupid action film before he realises he totally should have picked a dumb chick flick. She doesn't say anything, though, which only makes him panic more, 'cause she loves to talk, and what the fuck is this?

He runs out of popcorn about twenty minutes into the movie, and he nudges her. "Hey, I gotta go get a refill." He hopes she isn't angry.

She only glances at him briefly and smiles as she tucks her knees to the side. He remembers that she isn't Quinn, and then he remembers that he already learned that last summer, and does he really have to do this all over again? But last summer he and Rachel sort of, you know, just fell together, and everything slowly, easily worked itself out.

What are the chances it'll go like that the second (third?) time around?

He buys her some Sour Patch Kids at the concession stand, 'cause he thinks maybe it'll show that he doesn't have to relearn everything. He almost tries to hide them, though, when he returns to the theatre, 'cause what if she thinks he's an idiot? She packed nuts and stuff, so why does she need expensive movie theatre candy?

But she sees the green package before he can make up his mind. "Ooh!"

He grins as he sits down and hands them over. She tears open the package as she explains to him what he missed, but he doesn't really listen because her nose brushes his cheek as she whispers to him, and she smells so sweet, but her perfume's different, but he doesn't care, but then she leans a little into him, and . . .

. . . and he doesn't know what he's doing or how this is gonna work, but one way or the other, he's gonna make it work.


He takes her hand as they leave the theatre.

She doesn't really react; she doesn't squeeze his hand or pull away or say a word. He sees, though, in the reflection of the glass theatre doors as they step outside, that she's smiling a little as she bites her lip and looks down, and he's pretty sure that's good.

He squeezes her hand.


He wants to kiss her so bad.

But she only pecks his cheek when he pulls into her driveway after their date and then tells him he doesn't have to walk her to the door. He always used to walk her to the door, and she would hold his hand and smile and blush and say what a great time she had, and then they'd make out on her front porch. But that's not how this is gonna go. So he smiles, nods, and tells her that he'll call.

He calls the next morning. She invites him over to watch movies with her and her dads. He agrees, and her dads are as awesome as ever, and he's so glad they don't hate him now. She waves to him as he drives away at the end of the night, and that's all she does. He wonders if this means that she isn't actually his girlfriend again.

He doesn't call the next day. He experts her to call, 'cause Sunday was always her favourite day to go for a morning run, and she invited him along every week. But she doesn't call. Finally, he calls her that night. "Are you my girlfriend?" he asks.

"Do you want me to be?" she replies.

"Yes," he says, "of course." How can she not know that?

"Can you ask me to be, then?" She pauses. "I've made a lot of assumptions in my life, and it's something I'd like to work on. I want to face reality more practically."

He isn't sure what that all means, and he isn't sure he likes it, but he does want her to be his girlfriend. "Rachel," he says, "will you be my girlfriend?"

"Yes," she says, "I most certainly will." He can hear it, then, in her voice: the giggly, giddy tone that she reserves for when she can't seem to contain how very happy she feels. He loves that. She starts to go on about the upcoming week and his plans, and he loves every word out of her mouth.

On Monday, they go out to dinner and then watch a movie at his house. The credits start to roll, she applauds and tells him that she grows more and more in awe of Barbra every day. He says he thinks that A Star is Born isn't really Barbra's best, 'cause her character doesn't have as much depth or whatever as in, like, say, The Way We Were.

"Finn," she says, something strange in her voice.

"What?" he asks.

She leans forward and kisses him, and his eyes open wide in surprise, but they quickly flicker closed as her lips move with such familiar, take-charge certainty over his. She bites down lightly on his bottom lip and pulls it into her mouth like she always used to, and he wraps his arms around to her to pull her closer. "Finn," she whispers, and she starts to kiss along his jaw, and then up his cheek, and then all over his face. She grips his shoulders and peppers him with butterfly kisses.

He wants to capture her lips again, he wants to slip his hands under her shirt, he wants to hear her moan into his mouth, to hear her make that little whimper that makes his head spin. But when she pulls back for a moment, her face flushed, he realises her eyes are glassy.

He wants to ask what the matter is.

She leans towards him once more, though. She hugs him and presses her cheek to his, and he hugs her, too, rubbing her back and wondering if he did something wrong. "I missed you so much," she tells him softly, and he thinks maybe he understands. He probably doesn't, though. But he hugs her a little tighter.

The thought occurs to him a few hours after she's left.

He never actually asked her to be his girlfriend before. They've dated three times now, but this is the first time he's ever said the words, made the request, done anything other than let her assume what she wants. He doesn't really like that thought. From his bed, he texts her goodnight.

She texts back and includes a smiley face, and that makes him feel a little better.


One afternoon, he tries to teach her how to play baseball.

He uses this old plastic, yellow bat that he's had since, like, fifth grade and a wiffle ball, and she can't hit no matter what he does or says. But she doesn't seem at all bothered. Burt tries to help her, too, and Kurt's there, tanning in a lawn chair with these crazy big sunglasses on, and it's kinda nice. Rachel even manages to convince Burt to belt out a few lines from a song by the Boss at one point.

That girl can bring out the music in anyone.

When she finally does hit the ball, he lets her run all the bases and doesn't tell her the ball's foul.

Afterward, she showers in his bathroom and smells like his shampoo.


They go to the lake on a Thursday.

Everyone in Glee comes, actually.

She wears a black bikini, and he tries not to drool when she pulls off her shorts and t-shirt. Last summer, she wore a one piece with these big ruffles, a bathing suit that totally fit her personality. This fits her, too, just in a totally different way. Mike comes over to greet them and then tells them that they're just in time for some volleyball in the water.

"You in?" Mike asks.

"Totally," Finn says. "Just give me a second." Mike nods and goes back to Tina, and then Rachel stretches out on a towel and pulls a book from her giant tote bag. He frowns. "Aren't you gonna come play?" he asks.

"I wasn't invited," she tells him, opening her book to a marked page.

"Yeah, you were."

"I really wasn't. Look. It's four on four. It's Mike, Tina, Sam, and you, I assume, against Quinn, Mercedes, Kurt, and Puck." She smiles again at him. "I'll be fine. If you feel dehydrated, though, be sure to call a time-out. I packed some of the purple gaterade for you."

Unsure, he finally joins the others. And it's pretty awesome. They win by, like, six points. He does ask Mike, though, why he didn't invite Rachel. "She never wants to play," Tina tells him before Mike can answer, and Finn just nods and goes back to Rachel. He eventually convinces her to come out into the water with him, just to mess around and stuff. She mainly clings to him as he floats in the water, splashing the others and laughing when they splash back and Rachel squeals.

It's a good day, all in all.

But as they walk to the car, he has to ask. "Have they ever invited you? I mean, like, last summer and stuff?"

"To play volleyball when we all come to the lake? No. I don't like volleyball much, though."

"You love volleyball," he argues, stopping and forcing her to stop, too, and turn to him. "In gym you spiked the ball so hard at some girl's face that Bieste thought for a minute you might've broken her nose. I've never seen so much blood in my life."

She sighs. "Finn, don't act like this." She won't look at him.

"Don't act like what?" He doesn't understand.

She crosses her arms over her chest. "Don't act like you don't know."

"Don't know what?" He hates when people talk down to him like this. She never used to do it.

"No one in Glee ever invites me to do anything, Finn," she says, meeting his gaze. "You know that."

"No," he argues, "that's not true. I mean, like, they invited you to the lake today, didn't they?"

"No," she replies, "they invited you, and you brought me." And she continues the trek to her car, as if to signal the end of the conversation. Honestly, he doesn't have the guts to try to fight her on it. She starts up a conversation in the car about this NPR podcast she listened to on her ipod after she finished her book, and all he can think about is that she knew to bring a book and her ipod and, yeah, they used to go the lake all the time last summer.

He spent the whole time messing around with his friends and pretending it wasn't weird that he kept his t-shirt on. What did Rachel do? Lie there and read her book and listen to her ipod until he decided maybe they should actually hang out for a couple of hours?

He feels even shittier when he realises that, okay, maybe all those times at the lake last summer he did say something to her, maybe he did ask her why she didn't want to play volleyball and stuff, and every time she came up with some cute excuse and smiled and kissed him and told him to have fun. She always made sure to cover up how sucky all their friends are and he never even noticed.

He doesn't want things to be like that anymore.

(She must not want that, either, 'cause she didn't even try to cover for their friends today, and that's the only reason he put two and two together.)


Burt grills hot dogs and hamburgers and corn-on-the-cob on Friday night, and Rachel comes over. She helps his mom make a salad, but then she drinks a soda (what about her vocal chords?), and she actually asks Burt if he can make a hot dog for her (what about Babe?)

Hot dogs aren't vegan. Finn doesn't know all the rules, but he knows that.

She shrugs at the look on his face. "I gave it up a little while ago. I still try not to eat too much meat, and I generally prefer to make sure all animal by-products I eat are from free range farms. Anyway, your mom promised me these were the healthiest hot dogs in the store."

He likes that she doesn't have such a weird, hard-to-follow diet anymore.

But he still feels like he's missing something.


She never puts up myspace videos anymore.

He sees the camera in her closet and asks her about it.

She shrugs. "No one has myspace anymore," she says. "I happen to be on facebook at this very moment, in fact."

"You can post videos on facebook," he tells her.

She only shrugs again, and he drops the subject. He wonders, though, when she stopped. He hates that there was this time when he wasn't around, when he wasn't part of her life, and he hates even more that he doesn't know how to ask about that time, because he never knows how to do anything in relationships right, and he's always counted on her to handle that kind of stuff.

He doesn't know about the meat thing, and he doesn't know about myspace, and just . . . it's weird.

"You need to update your profile," she tells him. "You aren't a junior anymore."

"Yeah, okay," he says. He lies on the bed beside her and wonders if she wants to go out tonight or if they're gonna just watch movies and make-out and stuff. He's really not sure which one he wants to do more.

"I decided over winter break that I wanted to focus my energies on Glee and not on my own personal music career," she tells him, as if commenting on the weather. "After all, Glee does give me plenty of practice, and it's the best chance I have for any sort of fame in high school. The comments on my myspace were never very flattering to begin with, anyway." She smiles and focuses on the newest pictures of some fat baby that her second cousin or someone posted.

See? Rachel knows how to do the relationship stuff. He should really learn, too, though.


In the middle of June, she starts a job at the music store in town, which is totally cool.

He pretty much starts to spend all his time there after that, 'cause that's where she spends all her time. They have all sorts of old records, but they have new stuff, too, and they have some guitars around, too, and some drums in the back, and one of these days he's just gonna go and play them and impress everybody.

She stands behind the counter, or straightens the sheet music section, or re-stalks the CDs, and he talks with her and tries to distract her, and she never manages to use a serious voice when she tells him he really should leave her be to do her job.

His mom tells him he should follow Rachel's example and get a job, too. He tells her he can't, 'cause then when would he see Rachel — besides, like, on her days off and after she gets off work and stuff? She's his girlfriend. They're supposed to spend the whole summer together.

He explains all this to Rachel, and she rewards him with a kiss over the counter.

Plus, that douche with the red hair that works pretty much all the same hours as Rachel totally, like, molests Rachel with his eyes all day long, and Finn is not cool with that. Creep.


At breakfast on a Tuesday, Kurt starts to plan a slumber party.

"Are you gonna invite Rachel?" Finn asks.

Kurt hesitates, and something that's been lying in wait rears up in Finn. "You're friends, right?" he pushes. "You went shopping the other day." His mom stands a few feet away in front of the sink, and he knows that she's listening, and so's Burt, too, from where he sits behind his newspaper.

"We are friends," Kurt says slowly, "but Rachel doesn't really get along with any of the other girls. It would be awkward. Besides, she doesn't seem like the kind of girl who likes slumber parties."

"Bullshit," Finn says.

"Finn!" his mother reprimands, but he doesn't pay her any attention.

He glares at Kurt. "You know, she's always stood up for you, even though she gets bullied, too. And when have you ever done anything nice for her? Maybe if you guys weren't all so busy making fun of the stuff Rachel wears and being huge, big divas yourself, you'd actually get to know her and you'd like her."

"Finn," Kurt says, his eyes wide.

"Whatever," Finn growls. "I'm just sick of you and everybody else in Glee treating my girlfriend like she's awful or something, when really she's better than all of you." He leaves the kitchen and doesn't talk to Kurt for the rest of the day. He plays Call of Duty all afternoon with Artie and Puck, and neither seems to care that Finn's in a foul mood.

Later that night, though, he comes downstairs to see Quinn, Mercedes, and Tina all at the kitchen table in their pyjamas. He glares at them as he grabs a soda from the fridge. And then Kurt walks into the kitchen, leading Rachel behind him. She has on her pyjamas, has her rolling backpack in one hand and a pillow in the other.

She smiles a little at him before she slips into a seat nervously beside Tina. He's never seen her nervous before. He wonders randomly if she's ever been to a sleep-over before.

Kurt shoos Finn from the kitchen.

Tina's new facebook profile picture the next morning has her with one arm around Mercedes and one around Rachel, and all three girls are beaming. Rachel gushes on and on about the sleep-over the next day, and she and Mercedes spend all of fifth period passing notes, and Finn wants to pump his fist in the air.


She nips his jaw and then swirls her tongue over the skin before she reclaims his lips. Her hair cascades down around his face, and his hands trace paths up and down her back. He can barely think straight when she sucks lightly on his tongue, and his hands start to circle around to — he stops himself in time and forces his hands to settle on her waist.

"Rachel," he breathes, because he can at least ask, right? It can't hurt to ask.

"Mmm?" she murmurs into his mouth.

"Can I . . . you know, and stuff?" That doesn't make much sense, and she pulls back a little, panting, to look at him for an explanation. He thinks of the few times she let him take off her shirt last year, and the one time she didn't let him take off her shirt but she let his hands slide under and she wasn't wearing a bra and —

His gaze must fall to her boobs, because he can see her understanding when he finally manages to look her in the eye again. "Please?" he tries. She sits up. Fuck. This can't be good. Apparently, it can hurt to ask. He sits up, too, shifting uncomfortably. He's gotten better at self-control and all, but they've spent the last fifteen minutes making-out, and he's not that good.

"We need to talk," she says.

"Okay," he replies nervously, nodding.

"I mean we need to have a real talk, Finn. You have to be open and honest with me."

"I will be," he says. Why wouldn't he be?

"And you have to look me in the eye and do more than nod and mumble and blush like you always did last year when I attempted to talk about these things," she says, and there's a kind of edge to her voice. He does look her in the eye. He thinks this is one of those chances to prove that he's doing their relationship right this time, 'cause the third time's the charm and all.

"Okay," he tells her, and he tries to make her see how serious he is.

She nods, runs a hand through her hair, and then starts. "I . . . I love you, Finn."

"I love you, too," he says.

"Don't," she cuts in, and he's kind of alarmed. She sighs, closes her eyes for a moment, and then looks at him with this forced patience in her gaze. He doesn't understand. "Please," she says. "Let me say this all, okay?"

He nods.

"I've honestly never felt about anyone else the way I feel about you, if that makes sense."

He nods, a little uncertain.

"No one has ever made me feel the way you do. No one has ever made me as happy as you do, or as comfortable in my own skin." She smiles some, and he smiles, too. He can handle this kind of conversation. "No one has ever made me as aroused as you do, either."

He freezes, 'cause, yeah, those words went straight to his junk. Fuck. He can't believe she said that. "I've always believed that two responsible people who wished should be able to engage in intimate activities. As long as they were consenting and safe, then I didn't see a problem. My fathers raised me to be open-minded and realistic."

He kind of knows this part, because he still remembers that Celibacy Club speech. He's never gonna forget that, 'cause it was part of that, like, single week when he realised all of a sudden that this girl, this Rachel Berry, was totally fucking awesome.

"Still," Rachel goes on, "I've always felt that I, personally, wanted to wait until I met the right person, someone who treated me well and whom I felt strongly for. I've known for some time now — I suppose I've known since I really first got to know you — that you're the right person, Finn."

He swallows thickly.

"I want to lose my virginity to you. I want to be with you in every way. But, the truth is, I'm — I'm scared." She closes her eyes and lets out a quick, shallow breath. "It's the reason why I kept the progression of our relationship so slow when we were together last summer and fall, and it's the reason why I don't want to rush into anything now. I'm scared."

"Of what?" he asks, wincing the moment after.

She doesn't seem upset. "Of a lot of things," she says. "It's just . . . all forms of intimacy, even those simply leading up to sexual intercourse, are . . . . big steps. And I'm afraid that I won't be able to handle them or that. . . ." She stops and looks at him intently.

"It'll break my heart, it'll break me, Finn, if your feelings aren't genuine, if we become intimate and I lose you."

His jaw kind of drops.

And then her daddy pops his head in the door. "Hey sweetheart!" he trills. "And Finn, what a pleasant surprise! I've got some leftover appetisers from the office mixer this afternoon. Come downstairs and try some!"

Really, Mr. Berry? Can't you tell they're in the middle of something?

But Rachel nods and steps off the bed, and Finn has no choice but to follow.

She doesn't give him the chance to finish their conversation. Instead, he has to make stupid small talk with her dads and eat weird-looking crackers. She kisses his cheek when he leaves, and she won't look him in the eye. He has to figure this out. How could she ever think that?

He has to figure this out.


"They are," he tells her. He comes by her work, finds her at the front counter, and he doesn't give her a chance to avoid the subject. "They are genuine. My feelings, I mean. I'm genuine. I mean. I — I love you. That's what I'm trying to say. And I would never leave you just 'cause we —"

"Finn," she interrupts quickly, "this isn't the place."

He frowns. "I thought you wanted to talk. Come on. We have to talk." He steps a little closer and lowers his voice, letting his vulnerability leak out. "I've been dying all weekend. Please, Rach."

She stares for a moment and then nods. "Phil, I'm going to be in the back. I have to use the bathroom." She grabs Finn's hand and tugs him towards the back of the store and the break room before Phil, the redhead who wants to steal Rachel from Finn, can even say a word.

As soon as they're alone, he starts his speech again. "I love you," he tells her.

"Do you?" she replies.

"Yes!" Why doesn't she believe him?

She sighs and sinks into a seat at the one table shoved in a corner. "You don't have to," she says. "We've only been back together for a little over a month, and we're only in high school —"

"I never stopped loving you," he says. "You have to know that."

"No, Finn, I don't. I don't know that you ever really loved me to begin with."

"I — no — I — what're you talking about?" He swallows thickly. "Remember Regionals sophomore year? Remember Faithfully? I meant that, Rach. I've loved you since then, since before then."

"How do you know?" she asks, tilting her head as she looks at him.


She takes a slow, shuttering breath. "Finn, you're a great guy." He frowns and tries not to freak out. He hates that line. Nothing good ever follows a line like that.

"And maybe you thought then," she goes on, "and maybe you think now that . . . sometimes we say what we think is the right thing to say, not what we really feel, because we don't know what we feel and —"

"No," he interrupts, and he feels almost angry, 'cause why is she talking like this? "I did mean it, and I do mean it. I love you." There's a long pause. He wants her to say something, because he doesn't know what else to say, how else to make her understand.

"You can't simply say something and make it real, Finn. You can't even sing it and make it real. I remember the first time we sang Don't Stop Believin' and I came home and told my daddy that I had met the man of my dreams. I was so head over heels for you and I didn't know even why. I was a kid, and I was in awe of you and . . . and we're kids, Finn. What do we know about love?"

He doesn't know what to tell her.

She stands and comes towards him. She takes his hands. "I have to go back to work," she says. "But I want you to know that I do believe you really care about me, I do. And that's what's important." She leans up on her tiptoes, and he obediently leans down so that she can kiss him.


He's not super smart or anything, but he figures it out.

She doesn't want to hear him say he loves her because she doesn't believe him.

And she doesn't believe him because he's never treated her well. He tells himself he has, though. Like, he loves all her crazy and last year he always helped her with whatever song or duet she wanted to do, and he made sure that she knew he liked the way she dresses and . . . and, yeah, no, he was an awful boyfriend.

He starts to text her goodnight everyday, like he did for a month or so last summer before school started up and he started to deal with other stuff.

She texts him back, too, and he promises he'll keep it up this time around.


He takes her for ice cream, and she gets something fruity and gross that turns her lips an adorable purple, and then they head out to the drive-in movies that's, like, forty minutes away.

They've barely been on the road for ten minutes before she starts to search through the console of his truck. "Where's that CD of show tunes I made you?" she asks. "Remember, it had songs from Rock of the Ages and other songs we'd both enjoy." She flips through a stack of CDs she finds in the glove compartment.

"Yeah, um, I must have left it at the house," he says, "the last time I cleaned the truck." He shrugs, and she sighs and starts to spin the radio dial until she finds a station she likes. He lets her pick whatever she wants, and he really hopes she doesn't think too much about his dumb excuse.

He threw that CD out over winter break, when all he wanted to do was throw out any and everything that made him think of her.

Three days later, she hands him a mixed CD. "Here," she says. "Keep this in your car. You know I don't like the radio. There are too many artists with commercial success who don't deserve even to sing on cruises." She smiles and kisses him swiftly. That afternoon he realises that the CD is the very same one she gave him before, only a new copy.

She totally knows he threw out the old one.


She still has dance classes every Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and he picks her up from them a lot. She's always in a really good mood afterward, and she likes to sing whatever song comes to mind as he drives her home or out to dinner. He likes when she just, like, breaks into random song.

She always has this big smile on her face, and the music pours out of her, and he knows she just loves it, and that she'll always love music, love singing, even if there isn't an audience. Like, she loves attention and applause and she wants to be famous, but she's not shallow. She loves the music, too, way more than anyone he's ever met.

He sings alongside her when he knows the song, and it makes her smile become a bright, beaming grin. This is like last summer, like the months they were together before. She's still Rachel Berry, she's still the girl he loves (because he does love her, no matter what she thinks), and he's so glad that hasn't changed at all.


Couch Bieste starts up football practice three days a week. It's still, like, the middle of the summer, but Bieste usually knows what she's doing, so Finn doesn't complain too much. Plus, he's usually finished by two in the afternoon (even if he has to wake up at seven in the morning).

Rachel comes by with Tina one day, and they wave at Finn and Mike from the stands.

Practice ends, the Cheerios take over the field as Ms. Slyvester glares murder at Coach Bieste, and Tina and Rachel climb down from the bleachers to greet Mike and Finn. Mike suggests they all go on a double date after he and Finn shower, and Rachel claps in excitement. "I think that's a yes," Tina says, amused.

When Finn emerges from the locker room, though, Rachel won't look him in the eye. Something's happened. They all go out, and Rachel asks Mike lots of questions in her self-proclaimed attempt to get to know him better, which Tina seems to think is hilarious and with which Mike indulgently goes along. But Finn knows Rachel's upset about something, and it's killing him that he doesn't know what.

He finally asks at the end of the night when he walks her to her door. "What's up with you?"

"Why do you never flirt with me?" she asks.

He frowns. Was that a response to his question or . . . ? "What're you talking about?"

"The few times you've flirted with me," she goes on, "were to get something from me, like to get me to rejoin Glee because you thought you needed a music scholarship in order to provide for your child. Why does there have to be an ulterior motive to flirt with me?"

"I don't —"

"And if you like the way I dress, how come you never, like, look me up and down and smirk? Even Puck does that, and —"

"This is about Puck?" he says. Fucking —

"No, this is about you," she replies, "and the fact that. . . ."

"That what?" he pushes.

"That we've dated three times, each time more seriously than the last time, and you claim to love me, but you won't flirt with me, even though you'll flirt with some random Cheerio floozy." She speaks quickly, and he needs a minute to catch up with her.

"A floozy?" he repeats.

"I saw the way you looked at her," Rachel says accusingly.

He doesn't have any idea what she's talking about. This isn't the kind of crazy he likes, and he doesn't understand where it's coming from. She's not like this. She's not like Quinn or like Santana or —

"I don't want to be a crazy, jealous, possessive girlfriend," she says, "but I want . . . sometimes, Finn," and her voice trembles a little, "I want you to look at me like I'm hot, I want you to smirk and nod and look at me the way you look at Santana and other Cheerios."

Guilt makes his stomach clench painfully. How has he been so bad to her and never realised? "Okay," he says softly. "I didn't even realise . . . I'm sorry. You know I think you're hot."

"You know, I really don't." She looks at him with large, vulnerable eyes. She didn't used to do this. She didn't used to say when something he did upset her. He thinks it's good that she says it now. It's better. And he's gonna be better to, like at noticing and at not letting things slide and pretending and stuff. He's gonna be better to her.

"You are." He steps closer to her and puts a hand on her hip. "I guess maybe I . . . I don't say because . . . because . . . I don't know. I just always thought you knew, and I don't mean to, like, look at other girls. I don't want you to think I take you for granted, because I don't. I swear I don't, Rach. I'm sorry." He's not really making any sense.

She only nods, lets him kiss her, and then disappears into her house.

Does he take her for granted?

He won't anymore.


Puck organises a Glee club flashlight tag game.

They take over Tina's neighbourhood, and the weird fountain at the end of her street is the safety base. Puck brings beer, Rachel brings cookies, and they play until one of Tina's neighbours comes out and shouts at them to take their ruckus elsewhere because it's two in the morning.

They go to iHop, Rachel sits on Finn's lap when there aren't enough chairs at the table, and Finn eats so many pancakes he think he might be sick. It's a fucking epic night.

They all agree they totally have to do it again.

"Next time," Sam says as they all head to their cars, "Rachel is totally on my team."

"Because my team always wins?" Rachel asks proudly.

"Because you're a fucking ninja," Puck tells her, "and you play hardcore."

"I play to win," Rachel replies matter-of-factly, leaning into Finn. "And don't be so crass." She's happy, he can tell. He drives her home, but before they reach her house, she makes him park on the side of the street. They make-out in the back, and she giggles a lot, and she lets him slip his hands under her shirt, and she tastes like strawberry pancakes.

Like he said: a fucking epic night.


He comes to the music store to see her on a Monday.

He had meant to spend the day with Puck, but the dude cancelled at the last minute, so Finn's there unannounced, and he can't believe what he sees. Rachel sits on a stool in the corner of the store with a guitar in her lap, and her red-haired stalker is behind her, his hands on her shoulders as he explains something to her. "What's going on?" Finn says.

They both look over at him. "Finn!" Rachel says. "I thought you were —"

"Puck's mom grounded him again," Finn tells her. "What are you doing?"

"Phil is teaching me how to play the guitar," Rachel explains. "He gives me lessons whenever the store is empty. I've actually gotten quite good, but I didn't want to say anything until I had truly mastered the skill."

"You're already almost there," Phil tells her, and she beams at him.

Finn kind of wants to punch Phil.

Rachel probably sees that, because she steps off the stool, hands the guitar to Phil, and pulls Finn out of the store. "You don't have to be upset," she says. "I know you think Phil has a crush on me, but I assure you that I have only platonic feelings for him, and these lessons are completely innocent."

"That guy wants you, Rachel," he says.

"So?" she challenges.

"So — so —"

"I'm with you," she goes on. "Don't you trust me?"

"Of course I trust you, but —"

"Then there shouldn't be a problem," she says. And he stares at her, and he thinks about Santana and Puck and Quinn and the months when he barely even spoke to Rachel because they both royally fucked up, and how he told her that he forgave her and he trusted her and he wanted to be together again.

"It's not like that," he says. "I just don't like other guys, like, checking out my girl and jerking off to thoughts of her and stuff. I'm the only who gets to do that, 'cause I'm your boyfriend." He realises what he says a moment after he says it. Her lips twitch. "I mean —"

"Finn," she says. "Phil isn't even a very good guitar player." She smiles a little and, tilting her head at him, holds her arms out. He hugs her, kissing the side of her head and closing his eyes for a moment. "We'll be okay," she tells him softly.

He really hopes so.


Her parents aren't home, and he has her pressed to the mattress beneath him.

"Finn," she pants into his mouth, "could you, I mean —?" She squirms a little under him, her legs shifting slightly. He pulls back to meet her gaze. He thinks of the boys versus girls competition last year and to the first time, and one of only a few times, they went to almost third base last year. "Please?" she murmurs.

He nods and kisses her again, even as his hand travels down, squeezes her thigh a little, and then slips up and under her skirt. She doesn't even tense, she only kisses him harder, and as his fingers slip under her underwear and brush against her folds, she moans, automatically spreads her legs a little, and kisses him even harder.

He didn't know what to do the first time, and he doesn't know what to do now, but he flicks and rubs and curls his finger inside her, where she's so wet and so hot and . . . he imagines what she must look like down there, and he imagines what she must taste like, God, and his free hand goes to one of her breasts, because he can't help himself, and she arches up into his hand.

He nearly loses his own shit when she comes, and he does what he didn't have the guts to do last time — he pulls his fingers up and puts them into his mouth. She watches him with a glazed expression. "Thank you," she murmurs, her chest still rising and falling a little unsteadily. Her face is flushed and sweaty, her hair is a tangle around her head, and he thinks she looks fucking fantastic.

"Sure," he says, smiling. That was kind of completely awesome. He hasn't gotten to do that since, like, six or seven months ago, and he feels like they've finally made their way back to the place they were — physically, anyway — when they broke up last winter.

"Do you want me to . . . ?" She nods at him.

She doesn't reach her hand into his pants, though, after she unbuckles his jeans. Instead, she tugs his jeans down, and his boxers, too, and her eyes are wide as she stares at him. He starts to feel ridiculously self-concious, but she whispers, "It's so big," and he kind of feels pretty proud of himself. But she doesn't give him a hand job like she has before.

Instead, she goes down on him.

Afterward, as she curls into him and he wraps an arm around her, he tells her softly, "I love you."

She only kisses his cheek and asks if he wants to stay for dinner.


He finds the box under his bed when his mom tells him he has to clean his room or else.

He thought he threw it out, but he guesses he just threw it, and it ended up under his bed. It's all wrapped up and everything, so he takes it over to Rachel's house. "Here," he says, trying to act like it isn't a big deal or anything.

"What's this?" she asks.

"It's, um, it's a present I bought you," he says. He pauses. "For your birthday." He doesn't look at her. "I bought it before, you know. . . ." He shrugs.

"Oh," she says softly. "Well, thank you, then, for this belated birthday present." She smiles and starts to carefully unwrap the present. He feels nervous all of a sudden. But she starts to squeal when she sees the turquoise bracelet.

"It's sterling silver," he says proudly. "And —"

"And my birthstone!"

"Yeah," he says, "you told me once that you wanted more jewellery with your birthstone. And I couldn't find that necklace you liked that one time in the mall, but I saw that a few weeks later and, so, yeah, I got it."

She beams and has him help her put it on.


She tries to teach him how to bake banana bread on a Wednesday.

He's really bad at it. She only laughs at him, though, and she has on this lacy, checkered apron that's adorable, and afterward she agrees to let him try to teach her how to play Call of Duty. She's really bad at that, and at the end of the day she declares that they each bring their own skills into the relationship.

"I bake delicious treats," she says, "and you blast the heads off little cartoon people. What else could we possibly need?"


Her dad lets him into the house on a Saturday morning.

"She's practising upstairs," he tells Finn, smiling and closing the door. Finn nods, thanks him, and takes the stairs two at a time. He has tickets to that community theatre thing she and Kurt have both been raving about, and she's totally gonna freak.

He stops in her doorway, though, in surprise. Her dads bought her a guitar last week as a surprise, and she has it in her lap now as she sits in the bad. Her eyes are closed as she plays it softly and sings. She has gotten pretty good at playing, and she looks so hot right now, holding a guitar and wearing jean shorts and a tank top — clothing she only wears at her house — and he almost doesn't want her to see him in case she stops.

She does pause, though, and then starts the song over, and she looks like she really means every word. She grows into the song, and she smiles a little, her eyes are still closed, as he actually listens to the words.

"Little Miss down on love, / Little Miss I give up, / Little Miss I'll get tough, don't you worry 'bout me anymore, / Little Miss checkered dress, / Little Miss one big mess, / Little Miss I'll take less / when I always give so much more. . . ."

He stares at her as she tilts her head back, and he wonders if she's always done this, if she's always played songs for herself without any video camera — he checked to make sure there wasn't one set up, and there definitely wasn't. How come she never told him?

"It's alright, it's alright, it's alright, / Yeah, sometimes ya gotta lose 'til ya win, / It's alright, it's alright, it's alright, / It'll be alright again, it'll be alright again. . . ."

He doesn't know the song. He likes it, though.

"I'm okay, It'll be alright again, I'm okay, It'll be alright again, I'm okay. . . / Little Miss do your best, / Little Miss never rest, / Little Miss, be my guest, I'll make more anytime it runs out. . . ."

Will she perform this for Glee next fall? She won't, he knows. He doesn't know why, and he doesn't know how he knows, but he does know.

"Little Miss you'll go far, / Little Miss hide your scars, /Little Miss who you are is so much more than you like to talk about. . . ." She smiles to herself, this wide smile that makes him smile at her, too, 'cause just — just look at her.

"Hold on, hold on, you are loved, are loved, / Little Miss brand new start, / Little Miss do your part, / Little Miss big ole heart beats wide open, she's ready now for love. . . ."

She opens her eyes a little, and she sees him. He smiles, she looks shocked, but she doesn't falter, and she starts to smile, too, as she lets her eyes slip closed again and belts out the last few lines.

"It's alright, it's alright, it's alright, / Yeah, sometimes ya gotta lose 'til ya win, / It's alright, it's alright, it's alright, / It'll be alright again, it'll be alright again, / I'm okay, It'll be alright again, I'm okay, / It'll be alright again, I'm okay. . . It'll be alright again. . . ."

He claps when she finishes, and she smiles shyly. "I've become rather adept at the guitar, haven't I?" she asks as she pulls the guitar strap off her shoulder and gently sets the guitar down on her bed. "Practice really does make perfect."

"Yeah," he says. "That was awesome, Rach. It's a good song, too."

"I think so," she admits. "It's not my usual genre, but . . ." She shrugs.

"You should post that online," he tells her. She immediately shakes her head, though. "Why not?"

"Because . . . because this is just for me," she says. "I don't want the world to see this and to think how talented I am, even though I am and that's certainly what they would think. I just . . . I don't want to share everything with the world."

He sits down beside her. "Since when?" he asks, and it isn't supposed to be mean or anything. He honestly wants to know.

"I don't know," she says. She leans over and kisses him. "My daddy says it means I'm growing up, but I'd really rather not try to analyse that. I'm glad, though, that you got to hear. I can perform it again, if you'd like to hear the whole song." She pauses. "I do want to share it with you."

He kisses her and asks her to play it again, from the beginning, even though he's already heard it from the beginning. She grins and starts again, and he hums a little and tries to echo her a few times. They're pretty good together.

And she does totally freak out after when he shows her the tickets.


He asks Rachel if it's so fucking hot out 'cause of Global Warming.

"It's not supposed to be this hot in August," he complains. He's sprawled across a blanket in the backyard, and she's sprawled out beside him, and they're both melting under the sun. He kind of wants to go in and sit in the air conditioning and play a video game or something, but she wanted to be outside, and she pouted and prodded and he agreed.

But they're not even doing anything out there, 'cause it's so hot.

"Mmm," she says, and he isn't sure if that's an affirmative or not. He turns slightly to look at her. She has on pink sunglasses and a pink polka dot dress that's she let ride up in her attempt to find a comfortable position on the blanket. He watches a bead of sweat trace it's way from her hair and down her temple. She looks fucking gorgeous.

He tells her so (except not the explicative part, 'cause she doesn't like that).

She smiles lazily.


He comes up with the plan two weeks before classes start again.

Last summer, as school approached, Rachel grew nervous and called him constantly, wanting him with her at all times, wanting him to want to spend all his time with her, and he knew why, even if he never said anything to her. He doesn't want her to doubt them like that again this summer, though. He doesn't want her to doubt them ever. He doesn't want her to be insecure, and he doesn't want her to feel bad. He wants her to know the truth and to believe it.

She's a little different than she used to be, a little more relaxed, a little more mature, maybe, and he's never been great at, like, self-examination or whatever, but he thinks he might be, too.


She sits at the kitchen table with sheet music spread all around her.

"Hey," he greets.

She smiles a little but doesn't take her focus from the music. "Hey," she says. "I'm nearly finished. This year we are going to win Nationals, and we will have my planning and organisational skills to thank." She shuffles a few of the papers.

He takes a slow breath. "I have something for you," he tells her.

She must hear something weird in his voice, she must hear how totally freaked out he is right now, because she looks over at him with a slightly puzzled expression. "What's that?" she asks.

"Look, I know you want, like, a big gesture, or something," he says. "You want proof, real, actual proof that's just not me saying it, and stuff, but I've been working on this for a while, and I thought . . . I don't know. I thought it was something you should see." He thrusts the paper at her.

Frowning, she accepts the three stapled sheets of notebook paper. "One hundred reasons," she reads, "why I . . ." She pauses and glances up at him. "One hundred reasons why I love Rachel Berry."

He nods. "It took a long time," he tells her. "I mean, like, not that it's hard to come up with reasons why you're awesome and stuff, but a hundred is a lot, you know? It's really a lot." He rubs his neck awkwardly as he watches her eyes trail over the paper.

"Number twelve: because you're really cute when you bite your lip," she reads. She bites her lip and then pauses and blushes. She reads a few more. She chokes a little. "Number forty-two: because you cut up your spaghetti so it isn't as messy." She looks over at him, and her eyes are wet. "Is that really a reason to love me?"

He shrugs. "Everything about you is a reason to love you."

She nods and looks back at the paper. She laughs a little. "Number sixty: because you sing better than Barbra Streisand." She clutches a hand to her mouth.

He sinks into a seat beside her, and then he reaches out to grasp one of her hands. "I know what you want," he tells her. "You want me to, like, stand up for you in school and not let people walk all over you and, and — and you want me to be proud to be your boyfriend, and I am. And when we get back at school, I'm gonna show everybody how great you are, and I'm gonna stand up for you, and . . . I'm gonna do it, Rach. I'm not gonna take you for granted or anything."

"Finn," she murmurs.

"You wanna know the truth, Rachel? I'm — I'm a huge coward. I am." He has to say this all. He just has to say it, 'cause he's fucked up his life too many times already just 'cause he didn't man up and say what he needed to say. "I'm so afraid of what other people think and of looking cool and of . . . I don't even know what."

"That's not true," Rachel whispers.

"It is," he insists. "And you — you're the bravest person I've ever met. You never let anybody talk down to you, and you stand up for what you believe in and what you want, and that's so cool. And you deserve somebody who can do that, too, and . . . I'm gonna be that guy, Rach." He leans forward and takes her face in his hands. She grips his wrists as her tears finally escape her lashes and spills down her face.

"I'm still not good at, like, standing up to Karofsky and those guys, and I can never seem to make a decision and stick to it. Like, I want to be in Glee and I love it and I'm proud to be in it, except I always freak out when things get tough and . . . and I don't — I just know that when I'm with you, I'm better. It took me so long to realise that I couldn't get scared and try to run away from you and try to run back to when things were easier.

"'Cause when things were easier, Rach, before Glee, before you — that sucked."

She laughs a little, and he smiles, too, despite himself. "I'm not gonna be too scared to be your guy anymore, Rachel, I swear. You're the best thing that ever happened to me, and even if you don't believe me now, I'm gonna prove it to you. I'm gonna prove how much I love you."

She surges forward, then, into his arms, and he hugs her tightly, pressing his face into her hair. "I know you do," she whispers, "I know." She digs her fingers into his shoulders and he can feel her tears on his neck, and he does. He does. He loves her.

She kisses his cheek as she draws back, and this time she cups his face. She brushes away his tears gently, and he isn't sure when he started to cry, but he doesn't much care. "I love you, too," she whispers. "I love you, Finn, because you're Finn."

He smiles a little. "Number one hundred," he tells her.

She wipes her own eyes as she flips to the last page of his list. "Number one hundred," she reads, "because you're Rachel Barbra Berry." She starts to cry in earnest again, and she kisses him.

He wants her to read them all. He wants her to see number four: because you make kitten sweaters sexy. He wants her to see number seventy-two: because you covered your eyes when all the penguins at the zoo were having sex. He wants her to see number ninety-nine: because you're my best friend.

He only kisses her, though.

She can read the rest later.


Santana actually plans this one.

She invites all of the Glee club over, even Rachel, and she tells them all simply to bring bathing suits and towels. Rachel packs suntan lotion and a book and some healthy snacks, too, but they all end up forgotten when Finn pulls into Santana's driveway, they step out of the car, and Puck immediately assaults Rachel with a super-soaker.

It's girls versus boys, Quinn quickly explains as she drags Rachel off to the back of the house and Mike shoves a super-soaker into Finn's hand. There are sprinklers going off all over Santana's giant lawn, and people strip off their clothing and abandon them in random spots around the yard until everyone is in their bathing suits, and there are bases and team codes and it's fucking awesome.

Super-soakers are Finn's new favourite thing ever.

They stop the game for lunch at one point, and Santana orders ten thousand pizzas, but then she and the other girls put pink lemonade in the super-soakers and totally ambush the guys. Rachel aims right at his face, and he ends up with his hands spread out and his mouth open to catch as much lemonade as he can.

The guys totally get them back, though, when Puck figures out how to climb up on the roof.

Afterward, when they return to Rachel's empty house for the night, Rachel wants to take a shower, and she casually asks if he wants to join her to celebrate the girls' victory.

Showers become his new favourite thing ever.


The night before their senior year begins, they watch movies in his basement

They lie together on the couch, their legs tangled under an old blanket his mom has had forever, and her cheek rests on his chest as he absently plays with her hair. He makes her watch The Godfather for the first time, and he agrees to watch His Girl Friday, and then they watch The Way We Were.

She starts to tear up half way through the movie. "That could be us," she whispers. "I'm kind of like Katie, and you're kind of like Hubbell."

"Yeah," he says, frowning a little, "until he's a total douche and abandons Katie and his baby."

"He's not —"

"I'm not like that," he insists. "I'm never gonna leave you."

She glances up at him. "You've said that before," she murmurs.

"I know," he replies. It's quiet. "I mean it this time. If we get in another fight, and I bet we will, not that I — but, I mean, I won't just walk out on you. I promise." He nods as if to make his intent clear. She tugs him down for a kiss, and her lips are slow and soft on his, like she wants to tell him something.

"Finn," she whispers, "I'm not so scared anymore."

The Way We Were plays on without Finn and Rachel.


Rachel wears her Finn necklace to school on Monday.

(He thought she threw it out or sold it or something. He's so glad she didn't.) He likes that the whole school has a reminder who she belongs to. As they leave at the end of the day, he asks her what she wants to do that afternoon. He doesn't have football practice, and there's no Glee today, and they don't really have any homework yet.

"How about a movie?" she suggests.

He nods. "We can stop by the seven and pick up some candy and stuff to sneak in," he says.

Smiling, she takes his hand in hers. "Perfect."


Little Miss you'll go far,

Little Miss hide your scars,

Little Miss who you are is so much more than you like to talk about.

Hold on, hold on, you are loved, are loved.

Little Miss brand new start,

Little Miss do your part,

Little Miss big ole heart beats wide open, she's ready now for love

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright,

Yeah, sometimes ya gotta lose 'til ya win,

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright,

It'll be alright again, it'll be alright again

I'm okay, It'll be alright again, I'm okay, It'll be alright again, I'm okay,

It'll be alright again. . . .

a/n: thoughts? Is there even a point to this story?