"Slow dancing on the boulevard,

In the quiet moments while the city's still dark.

Sleepwalking through the summer rain,

In the tired spaces you could hear her name.

When she was warm and tender,

And you held her arms around you,

There was nothing but her love and affection.

She was crazy for you,

Now she's part of something that you lost.

And for all you know,

This could be,

The difference between what you need,

And what you wanna be.

Yeah, what you wanna be.

Night swimming in her diamond dress,

Making small circles move across the surface.

Stand watching from the steady shore,

Feeling wide open and waiting for,

Something warm and tender.

Now she's moving further from you,

There was nothing that could make it easy on you.

Every step you take reminds you that she's walking on."

i.

Summer's just begun, and he sits awkwardly, his hands on his knees.

He's been in her living room before, and in her kitchen, and even in her bedroom.

He's never been in this basement den before, though. There are pictures of Rachel in mismatched frames all over the walls, various boxes with labels that almost always include the name Rachel, and a huge shelf full of DVDs and videos. The couch and chairs are plush and mismatched and worse for wear, unlike absolutely any other furniture in the house. The giant television hung up on the wall is pretty much the only nice thing in the room.

But, really, he's just kinda nervous 'cause she said this is her favourite part of the house.

And she's left him down here, and this is their first real date, if watching movies in her basement counts as a real date. He really hopes so, 'cause he wants this to be a date. They've kissed once now, in the McKinley parking lot after Regionals last week, and he really wants to kiss her again.

Plus, he wants to go back to school on Monday and know that she's his girlfriend.

"Did you pick a movie?" she asks, finally returning from the kitchen.

"What? Um, I . . . yeah, no. You pick." He smiles, and she beams. She sets a bowl of popcorn down in his lap, and he realises it's, like, covered in chocolate — the popcorn, not the bowl. It's all melted, and it looks really good.

"How about The Misfits?" Rachel suggests, holding up a DVD. "It's both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe's last film, and they both give a stunning performance that takes my breath away every time I watch."

"Sure," he says. He doesn't know who Clark Gable is, but Marilyn Monroe is some old, hot actress, right? And as Rachel puts the DVD in the player, she goes on and on about how she just loves this movie, and he thinks she seems pretty happy, which is totally what he wants.

She sits down beside him. There's, like, this awkward six inches between them, but he tries not to care as the DVD menu comes up and Rachel messes with the remote. He looks back at the popcorn. He had dinner before he came over, but that looks really good.

"Can I have some of this?" he asks.

She looks over at him in surprise. "Of course!" she says. "But I should warn you: it's pretty messy." She smiles. She starts the movie, takes a few pieces of popcorn, eats them slowly, and then he watches, his own mouth full (and, yeah, chocolate-covered popcorn is totally awesome), as she absently licks off her fingers and then reaches for more popcorn.

Oh, God.

He tries to focus on the movie, he really does. He puts in, like, one hundred and ten percent of his attention, or whatever. But somehow she ends up curled against him, and then he teases her that she has chocolate on her cheek, and she tells him he has some on his face, too — and then she licks it off, her eyes bright and her cheeks pink.

He wraps his arm around her as she sucks his bottom lip into her mouth.

She tastes like popcorn, like salt and chocolate and Rachel, and she's so soft and warm and she's his again, finally, for real, his.

She cries at the end of the movie.

He's never been happier.

ii.

"Popcorn's sort of my guilty pleasure," she explains one night as they leave the theatre. She ate two buckets of popcorn with him, which kinda totally took him by surprise, and she must have noticed. But it's not like he cares that she loves popcorn and ate pretty much all of his.

"What's there to feel guilty about?" he asks.

She shrugs. "It really isn't very healthy," she says. "Well, it can be, but certainly not when it's coated in salt, like at the movie theatre. And it often has a great deal of butter on it, especially at the movies. And I don't regularly eat butter, of course, because I'm a vegan now, but it's just so good on popcorn. . . ." She looks at him with shameful eyes.

He stops and takes both her hands in his. "I promise not to tell anybody," he says, smiling a little and hoping she will too. She does, and, even better, she leans up on her tiptoes to kiss him. He doesn't know how long they stand kissing in the movie theatre parking lot, her hands gripping the sides of his shirt, his hands on her hips. But he doesn't care.

She tastes like salty, buttery popcorn and a little bit of crazy, and he won't have her any other way.

iii.

They never really talk about it all.

They don't talk about his relationship with Quinn and how it all fell to pieces. They don't talk about his friendship with Puck, and when Finn starts to hang out with him again, they act like it's no big deal. They don't talk about sad clown hookers or cat calendars. They definitely don't talk about Jesse St. James.

They go swimming. Rachel tries to teach Finn how to garden. Finn tries to teach Rachel how to play basketball. They go hiking. They to go the mall together and both get haircuts. She takes a swing dancing class and then proceeds to teach him everything she learns. They try dipping popcorn in ice cream, which turns out to be pretty gross, actually, but the chocolate fudge ice cream by itself is good, so it isn't a total waste.

They don't talk about the hard stuff, but he starts to think maybe they don't need to.

It's all working, isn't it? She's becoming, like, his best friend, and she's told him that he's hers, and he never — never — gets sick of making out with her. And, yeah, okay, he'd kinda love to do more than make out, but he gets that she wants to go slow, and at least she's not weird about it the way Quinn was.

They get each other, he and Rachel.

iv.

He comes by her house after another morning at the hospital.

His mom and Kurt are still there, but Finn just can't take it. Hospitals are hard, okay? And he can't sit there anymore while his mom and Kurt both try not to cry and Burt just lies on the bed and . . . and he wants to hang out with Rachel. She'll make him feel better.

She happily invites him into the house. "I was just practising a few pieces I'd like to do this fall in Glee. One of which is from Rent, a play I someday intend to star in, as you know, and I think we could take Sectionals next year with my rendition of this number. Here. Listen." She sits him on the bed and performs for him, and it's really good.

But he's just kinda in a sour mood, and she must be able to tell. She offers to watch something on TV. She even says he can pick. He flips through the channels. Nothing's on. She offers to play a video game with him. He doesn't feel like it. Finally, she says her dads bought a popcorn that you pop yourself. "Let's try it," she suggests. She nearly drags him into the kitchen. "It seems simple enough," she tells him. "You put the kernels in this pot here and heat the pot up on the stove, and. . . ." She does make it sound simple.

Somehow, though, popcorn ends up everywhere, she lights an entire stick of butter on fire, and the smoke detector goes off.

She turns off the oven and runs from the house with her hands over her ears while he stands on a chair and turns the smoke detector off. When she returns to the house, she nearly starts to cry, but he starts to laugh, 'cause she's adorable. "This isn't funny!" she says, stomping her foot.

"I know," he says, biting his lip. "I know."

It's quiet.

"We have more kernels. We could try again." She doesn't seem so sure of her own suggestion.

"Yeah," he says. "Or we could just microwave some, if that's easier."

She glares at him. He tries really not to laugh. "Fine! You want me to admit it? Fine! I can't cook!" she tells him. "I simply can't! I'm a baker! Not a cook!" She throws her arms up in the air dramatically and then buries her face in her hands.

"Baking's totally more important anyway," he tells her. She peaks out at him from behind her fingers. "I mean, like, cookies and cake and, like, banana bread — that's all stuff you bake. And those are my favourite."

"Really?" she asks.

"Really," he says. He hugs her and rubs her back to make her feel better.

She's crazy. And he's so fucking in love with her he thinks maybe he's a little crazy, too.

In the end, she makes brownies, and they eat them with microwave popcorn, and he decides it's a pretty good day. She does make him feel better, 'cause she's her. Kurt calls him around seven. Burt's okay. Rachel's so excited for him. She makes another batch of brownies for him to take to the hospital.

They're all okay.

v.

"Abate," Rachel says.

"To . . . lesson," he guesses. She grins, and he opens his mouth. She gets a little closer this time when the piece of popcorn she tosses bounces off his nose. She giggles as he grabs the piece from the ground and tosses it into his mouth.

"You really shouldn't —" she starts yet again.

"Five second rule," he reminds her yet again.

She only shakes her head at him. "Pragmatic," she says.

"Smart," he replies.

"A little more," she says.

"Um . . . like . . ."

"I'm pragmatic when I colour code my notes."

"Prepared?"

"Or?"

"Practical?"

She's so excited she actually rushes him, and she nearly knocks them both out of his chair. He laughs as he catches her. She giggles a little, and he kisses her. She pulls away after barely a moment, though. "Open," she instructs. Still giggling, she drops the popcorn into his mouth.

"You're gonna ace the SATs," she tells him. "And I'll have my home-made kettle corn ready as your reward." She kisses the tip of his nose and then stands and returns to her spot on his bed. He sighs, but nods for her to continue. "Rancorous," she says. He's not so sure. "Quinn is extremely rancorous," she adds.

"Bitchy?"

Her lips twitch. "That'll do."

vi.

He feels totally stealth about it all.

She falls asleep on his bed, 'cause it's pretty late or whatever, and he goes and makes some popcorn for a snack, and then he gets on his computer and orders this necklace. He's been thinking about it for a while, ever since he started his search for a present and found this perfect one online. And, yeah, Kurt was the one who showed Finn how to shop online, but Finn actually picked out what he wanted all on his own.

He orders the necklace while she sleeps, and then he turns away from his desk and just sorta looks at her for a second. She let her hair out earlier, and it's all spread around her head now, and her make-up's smeared a little, too. Her red dress has ridden up, and she's wearing one of his sweatshirts, and it almost looks like she's wearing nothing but his sweatshirt. He loves her. God, he loves her. It's, like, not normal.

She looks so tiny on his bed, and his bed is pretty tiny.

"Finn?" she whispers sleepily, blinking blearily at him.

He closes his laptop. "Yeah?"

"Aren't you going to come and snuggle with me?" she asks, as if it's silly that he hasn't already. Her eyes flicker closed again, even as she speaks. He smiles a little and goes to lie beside her, and he curls around her, 'cause it's the only way they can both fit. She turns into his arms, and she kisses him briefly.

"You taste like popcorn," she murmurs. "I love popcorn."

"I love you, too," he tells her.

She giggles softly, drowsily, and she shifts even closer, her legs tangling with his as one of her cold little feet slips in between his legs. She buries her face in his arm. "I decided what song I'm going to sing to you," she tells him, her voice muffled. He wonders if she's still tipsy, or just tired.

"For what?"

"Our wedding." She yawns. "But don't ask me what it is, mm'kay? 'Cause it's a surprise."

"Okay," he says, kissing her forehead. He wonders what song he'll sing her — something classic, he thinks. He smiles a little when she starts to snore, 'cause he totally didn't know she snores, and it's kinda cute. She even snores all delicate and stuff, 'cause she's delicate, just like the necklace he bought. It's a delicatenecklace, 'cause she likes that kinda jewellery.

Yeah, he notices that stuff. He has to. It's what good boyfriends do.

vii.

He's never done it before, but apparently it's something that Burt and Kurt always do.

And since they're all a family now, his mom insists that they do it as a family. She buys cranberries at the grocery store and pops like ten bags of popcorn, and then they all sit in the living room and Kurt demonstrates how to string popcorn and cranberries correctly. Finn's really bad at it. He can't help it. The whole house smells like popcorn, and that makes him think of her.

He hasn't talked to her since school let out. The last real conversation they had, really, was in the Christmas tree lot. He doesn't want to think about that. He doesn't want to think about her at all.

"Finn, sweetie," his mom says. "Could you make another bag of popcorn? Somebody's eating all of the popcorn I've made." She glares playfully at Burt, who teases her, and they both laugh.

Finn only stomps off to the kitchen.

viii.

He doesn't get it.

He doesn't get why she even wants to be with him. She doesn't, like, follow him around anymore or anything, but she watches him a lot in Glee, and she smiles hopefully whenever he looks at her. She'd jump into his arms the moment he opened them. He knows that. But he doesn't know why. Why does she want to get back together with him? Why did she even want to be with him in the first place?

It's not like she ever loved him.

If she just wants to go make out with people, Puck's not gonna stop her. Why does she want Finn?

It sucks, 'cause it doesn't make any sense. And it sucks even more, 'cause when she sings Need You Now he can't pretend like he isn't so fucking pissed off, he can't pretend like he's not still in love with her. Fuck. Fuck! How's this fair? He's still in love with her, and she never even loved him to begin with, and it's just all confusing and complicated.

Puck promises he doesn't want anything to do with Rachel, and Finn thinks that's cool. But then Rachel's handing out high-fives for football and wearing a football uniform and screaming that she wants to kick some ass and . . . why does she have to make this all so hard?

He wants it to be easy. He wants something, anything to be easy.

He wants not to care. He wants not to love her. He wants to focus on something else.

He focuses on the game. They win, and it's completely fucking awesome. The entire school loves him again, just like they used to, just like when it was so easy, and he focuses on that. And then Quinn kisses him, which is totally fucking weird. He barely even talks to Quinn anymore. He knew it always made Rachel uncomfortable when he was too friendly with Quinn or Santana, so he just tried to avoid it all. But his life doesn't revolve around Rachel anymore, right?

Right.

So he sticks up for Quinn, and then she kisses him, and. . . .

He doesn't know what to focus on anymore.

But then Rachel comes to school on Monday with these popcorn balls she made and dyed the school colours. The whole Glee club eats them and pats her on the back, and they all talk about the awesome victory and how great Tina was, and how Puck was great, too, and so was Finn. But Finn doesn't listen to any of it, and he can barely breathe when Rachel smiles shyly at him and offers him a red popcorn ball.

He thinks of salty, chocolate lips and guilty pleasures and popcorn tossed at his face and never quite able to make it into his mouth.

He shakes his head, and he focuses on Quinn.

That's easier.

ix.

He's not sure why he gives her the necklace.

He's meant to for a long time. He's been carrying it around for, like, two weeks now. He just wanted to give it to her and be done with it. Maybe he even wanted to make her feel bad, like — like, look, look, see how much I loved you? And you went and fucked me over.

But now he just wants her to realise that she can't keep shooting him these looks with those big brown eyes. She can't keep making him miss her. She can't keep reminding him of popcorn kisses. Because he can't kiss her again, because he's working really hard not to be in love with her. If she can't be in love with him, then she can't keep him in love with her.

Maybe this will make everything better.

He likes Quinn, anyway. Or something. When he kisses Quinn, it's like fireworks — it's loud and bright and really, really distracting.

x.

His mom finally gets off work and picks him up from school.

She fusses over him as she helps him into bed. She takes his temperature and asks him lots of questions, but he doesn't really hear any of it, 'cause he just sees the look on her face over and over and over again. It just plays on this reel in his head. He thinks of what she said, and it was like always — she talked and he stayed silent and she nearly cried and he stayed silent and then she left and he was still fucking silent.

"You want something to eat, hon?" his mom asks, stroking his hair.

His throat is burning. But he nods. "Can I have some popcorn?"

He doesn't cry until she's left the room.

xi.

"This is our time," she says.

He doesn't know what that means. They're on the front porch of her house, and they're, like, together now. He thinks they are, anyway. She's broken up with Sam, and he's over at her house, and they've already kissed a bunch of times, so, yeah. They're together.

But he's still not sure what that's supposed to mean.

He waits for her to explain.

"Finn?" she says. He can hear the expectation in her voice. He looks at her. She raises her eyebrows at him. "Don't you think?" she says.

"Um, I — what do you mean?" he asks. If she were Rachel, she would have known he didn't follow, and she would have explained herself, and she wouldn't have made him feel like an idiot when she did. But — but he and Rachel are only friends, if even that, and this isn't about Rachel, so he's not gonna think about her.

Quinn sighs. "I think we've never really been able to make things work," she says, "because the timing's never been right. We've never had a chance really to be together. And this is our chance. This is our time. Don't you think?"

Okay, so this is one of those times when he needs a surge protector for his mouth.

Rachel's the one who explained surge protectors to him. She even made him buy one at Best Buy when she saw the atrocity (atrocity: noun — the quality or state of being atrocious. Thanks, dictionary dot com. That's real helpful) that apparently were the outlets in his room.

Anyway, she should have bought him a surge protector for his big fucking mouth, 'cause it's like things just pour out of him and he can't stop them. It tends to screw him over.

"I don't think timing messed us up the first time," he tells her.

She frowns.

Fuck. "I mean, never mind. You're right." Why didn't he say that to start with?

"No, Finn," she says, her voice sharp, "if you have something you'd like to say, please, by all means, say it." She crosses her arms over her chest.

He sighs. She only glares. "Look, I just mean . . . if we're gonna do this," he pauses, and she motions at him to go on. It kinda makes him angry, so he just lets it rip. "If we're gonna do this, then you gotta admit that we didn't work before 'cause you cheated on me, and then you lied to me for months and led me on and totally messed with my head. It's not 'cause the timing wasn't right."

He can't believe he said all that.

Her jaw tightens. "I know I've made mistakes. But if you really hold them against me after all this time, then why do you even want to be with me?"

"Because," he says, shrugging.

"Because why?" she demands.

"For the same reason you want to be with me," he tells her, and he really wishes he'd just agreed with her to start and they didn't have to have this stupid conversation.

"And what's that?" she pushes.

"Because it's easy! Because we make out, and that's awesome, and we're cool, and people at school wanna be like us. Because I'm the star quarterback and you're the head cheerleader, and it's easy. Okay?" She knows all this. Why do they have to talk about it? He hates this. Rachel never made him talk about stupid stuff that he didn't want to talk about.

But Rachel's not really a part of this, so, again, he's not gonna think about her.

Quinn sighs, as if for patience, and then she reaches for his hand. "I have honest feelings for you," she says. "You know that, right? I know I've hurt you in the past, and I'm sorry, but I never meant to, you have to believe me."

He doesn't.

But he has his, like, mental surge protector turned on, so he nods. "Sure," he says. And that's that.

She kisses him, and then she asks him if he wants something to eat. She's pretty sure there are Cheese-Its in the pantry, and her mom bought those pudding cups he likes, and she has some white cheddar popcorn, if he wants that. "You love popcorn, right?" she asks.

He tells her he has to go home.

Rachel hates white cheddar popcorn. He's not gonna think about that, though.

xii.

But Quinn gets him thinking, and he can't fall asleep. He lies in his bed, and his mind flickers to timing.

He thinks about the day he psyched himself up in the mirror, 'cause it was gonna be the day he finally grew some balls and broke up with Quinn. And then she dropped the bomb: she was pregnant. That — that was bad timing.

He thinks about how fucked up he was after Sectionals last year, after the truth came out, and nobody understood, and even when they tried he almost didn't want them to understand. And he let Rachel assume what she wanted 'cause she was there and she was nice and she listened to him yell and cry and whine and bitch. He thinks about how he finally realised what he wanted, and she had found somebody else.

That was bad timing, too.

Quinn wants to talk about timing?

He doesn't have the guts just to come out and fix everything with Rachel until after she makes out with Puck. Yeah, Quinn, that was bad timing. Or something. Whatever. He doesn't care. Maybe that was just him being an ass and her being a bitch and. . . .

But Rachel's not a bitch. He gets that now. She just doesn't love him.

He punches his pillow and forces his eyes shut.

Whatever. Just whatever.

He can't fall asleep until he makes himself a snack.

He has rice krispies, 'cause they're out of popcorn. He's really glad they're out. He wasn't really in the mood for popcorn, anyway.

xiii.

He doesn't like complicated stuff.

He doesn't like when Quinn acts like they're something they're not, because it wasn't about timing, and he's forgiven her or something, but he's never really gonna trust her again. He's definitely not gonna do whatever she says anymore. He sort of does, though, 'cause it's easier.

And he likes when things are easier, remember?

He doesn't like when supposedly gay guys kiss girls. What's that fuckery about, anyway?

But nothing's easy. Because the more time he spends with Quinn, the less great it is, 'cause he remembers that she made him feel like crap for so long, and . . . and she just reminds him of Rachel, reminds him of what he's missing, and he can't have that.

He needs as little reminders as possible.

He needs this to be easier.

He needs to move on, like she's moved on. But it doesn't work like that, 'cause she thinks that he doesn't care, that he doesn't love her, that he didn't feel anything when he kissed her, but he felt . . . he felt everything when he kissed her. He didn't say that, though, and now she's all moved on and making out with gay dudes.

And he can't move on, even though he knows that she doesn't care, that she doesn't love him, because she never loved him. If she had, she wouldn't have cheated on him. It's pretty simple, actually. He likes when things are simple like that.

He's thinking in circles. He keeps coming back to the same stupid stuff.

He tries not to think about any of it.

But it's like God doesn't want to make things that easy for him.

Like, Rachel and Kurt are besties now or something, and she starts hanging out at the house. He manages to avoid her when she's over, until he walks into the kitchen after a date with Quinn and sees them. Kurt's laughing so hard that he's crying, Mercedes's making Rachel's stuffed monkey do this little dance while she sings in a funny voice, and Rachel's giggling and covering her mouth. And there's a bowl of popcorn in the middle of the table. There's chocolate drizzled over the popcorn.

He backs out of the room before anyone can see him.

He doesn't dislike complicated things.

He hates complicated things.

xiv.

He escapes to his room, but his mom follows, 'cause she just knows sometimes, you know?

"I thought you'd be more excited."

He glances up to see her in the doorway, leaning against the frame and watching him carefully. He nods. "Yeah," he says. "I am excited and stuff. I am. It's really cool." He looks back down at the paper, at his scores. He really, really wants some popcorn.

The bed shifts as his mother sits beside him. "What's the matter, Finn?" she asks gently.

He doesn't really know how to tell her, but her hand runs up and down his back, and it feels really good, so he just kinda lets it out. "Rachel."

"Rachel?" she repeats. She waits for more.

Slowly, he goes on. "Yeah. Like, I used to fall asleep in those SAT prep classes," he tells her. "I just . . . it was like school, and it was boring and I couldn't . . . I don't know. I used to fall asleep. But . . . she — she had all these games and stuff, and these flash cards. And — and this one time, she made popcorn while I studied, and she'd ask me random questions, and every time I got one right she'd tried to toss a piece of popcorn in my mouth."

He doesn't even know what he's saying. He sounds like a fucking idiot.

"I don't know," he finally says. He tosses his scores onto his bedside table. "I just . . . she was always going on about how the SATs were the best way to show the world my potential and stuff and I just . . . I really wanted to do good, Mom, so that she'd be proud of me."

"And you did do well," his mom says, smiling softly. "You did amazing."

"Yeah, but now I just wanna call her and tell her, 'cause she'd be so happy. She even — she promised me if I did well, she'd make me homemade kettle corn. She even said she'd started practising this new recipe she'd found so that she'd be ready when I did really awesome. She said like it was just a fact, you know? That I'd do good, I mean."

"Call her, then," she tells him, as if it's that simple.

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"'Cause I . . . I just can't." He lies back on his bed and stares up at the ceiling. This is stupid. He should not be this upset. He shouldn't. It's just some stupid scores, and Rachel wouldn't even care. He can't avoid his mom's eyes forever, though, so he finally looks back at her.

She holds his gaze for a moment, and she pats his arm. "You really miss her, don't you?" she asks.

He shrugs.

"You know," she says, "I met your father when we were sixteen."

"I know, Mom." He's heard the story ten million times. "And you guys totally fell in love and got married right out of school and had me and it was great."

She smiles a little. "No," she says. "That's not really the whole story. In fact, it's not really the story at all."

What? Is she kidding?

"I was so in love with him," she says. "He was so tall and handsome and charming. He had the best laugh. Oh, it was . . ." She smiles a little, almost as if she can hear his laugh now. She sighs. "But after about two years together, right around graduation, we broke up."

"What? Why?" Does she mean to fuck with the pillars of his childhood?

"Because . . . my parents were moving, and I wanted to go to college, and he wanted to go into the army, and . . . and it was like the whole universe was against us. I remember thinking that. I remember screaming into my pillow and thinking it wasn't fair. Thinking — thinking what did I ever do to deserve this?"

"So what happened?"

"So . . . well, we broke up. We'd been fighting, and it just seemed easier, you know? Love is important, it is, but it's not everything. Dreams and money and . . . and timing — that matters, too. And the timing wasn't right for us. That's what my mom told me, anyway, after the break up.

"But see, he left to go to boot camp, and I went to community college, and . . . and I realised that all that fighting we did? It's because we were both big babies, you know? We wanted everything but we didn't know anything, and . . . and we had to grow up. And I did grow up. I grew up, and he came home for two months between camp and his first tour, and . . . we got back together. We both wanted to, and we were ready for whatever came next, and . . . we were ready."

He nods. He thinks about Rachel, 'cause he knows this is supposed to be about Rachel. But his mom doesn't understand everything. Like, she knows a lot and stuff, but she doesn't understand him and Rachel — she just doesn't. He barely understands.

"Some people can meet when they're young," his mom says, "and they can grow up together. But I think that most people have to grow up a little all on their own before they can really be in a happy relationship. That's why it's so hard, I think, when you're young and you really fall in love."

"Mom," he says hesitantly, "can you just say what you what me to know?"

She laughs. "Oh, Finn," she says. "You and Rachel might not be ready to be together again. Maybe you weren't ready to be together in the first place." At his frown, she hastily adds, "I'm not saying you didn't love each other, or that you don't now." She sighs. "I'm saying that when you do love someone, then that's a grown-up feeling, and you have to be grown-up to handle that. Maybe you and Rachel have a little more growing-up to do, and then . . . who knows. Maybe then."

"Yeah," he says, but he isn't really sure of that — he isn't really sure of anything anymore.

She leans forward and kisses his forehead. "I'm really proud of you, Finn. And I love you." She starts to leave, but he stops her when she's at the door.

"She didn't love me," he tells her. She frowns a little, so he explains. "Rachel, I mean. She didn't love me. She doesn't. She wouldn't have cheated on me if she did — or does, or whatever." He swallows thickly. He's wanted to say that out loud for a long time.

"Oh," his mom says, "I don't know if I believe that." She smiles fondly at him, and she leaves.

He's kinda more confused now.

xv.

His mom's words play in his head over and over again.

He sees her at school, and he just, like, mentions it. "I got my SAT scores," he says. She smiles brightly at him. "I got, um, 520 on writing, and I got 530 on verbal, and 5-580 on math. I got 580, Rachel." He can't help but grin a little as he tells her.

And she looks up at him with this beaming smile, this huge, perfect Rachel Berry grin.

"Finn, those are fantastic! I knew it! I knew you'd do well! You're so smart!" And she steps forward. He doesn't know if she intended to hug him or to kiss him or what, but she freezes, and he freezes, too, and they stand there. "I'm really proud of you," she finally says, looking away and nervously tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.

He nods. "Thanks."

The warning bell rings, and they leave for class in opposite directions.

When he gets home from football practice, his mom tells him that Rachel stopped by earlier. He doesn't even have a chance to ask why. She nods at the table, and there's this pink basket there, with two bags of kettle corn that're tied up with pink ribbons, and it's so Rachel Berry that he just stares for a second.

It turns out that she makes really great homemade kettle corn. (He almost wishes that she didn't.)

xvi.

He breaks up with Quinn.

She's a Cheerio again, and they're totally back on top again, but he can't take anymore of it. Maybe she breaks up with him; he doesn't really know. All he knows is she's bitching about Sam and Santana again, and she's lecturing him again, and he's staring at Rachel again, and then suddenly it's over, and all he can think is thank God.

Three days later, Karofsky slushies him. It's the first slushie facial that Finn's had in a while.

He tries to slam Karofsky into the lockers, but small hands hold him back, and then Rachel leads him to the bathroom, sits him down, and helps him clean up. She has a towel from her locker with her, and she washes his hair out and gently rubs the slushie from his eyes.

"You don't have to do this," he tells her, because he can't take the silence.

"I don't mind," she says. "We're friends, right?" She won't meet his gaze, but her fingers feel so good running over his scalp and gently brushing his face, so he lets his eyes flicker closed and tries not to act like he relishes the feel of her so close.

"Yeah," he says. "We're friends." He opens his eyes again, and they stare at each other. "I miss chocolate-covered popcorn," he tells her, his voice soft. He can't help it. He has to say something.

"I miss you, too," she replies, nearly whispering.

And then some random girl comes in the bathroom, glances at them, and looks away quickly, as if she'll be next to get hit by a slushie should she happen to stand too close to Finn and Rachel now. "Come on," Rachel says. "We'll be late to Glee practice." She avoids his gaze once more.

xvii.

Santana has a party.

And she invites Rachel.

He doesn't know how that happens. Rachel's friends with Kurt and Mercedes now, and they hang out all the time, but that's not so weird. And it's not that weird that she and Mercedes went to the movies with Tina and Mike, too, and that Mike sometimes actually mentions Rachel like she's a friend when he's hanging out with Finn and Puck.

But Santana? Maybe she's just, like, growing a soul 'cause she's spending all her time with Sam, so she's being nice to Rachel by inviting her to the party and stuff. Or maybe Sam's friends with Rachel, or something.

Anyway, there's a party, and Rachel comes, and she stands with Mercedes, Tina, and Mike the whole time, laughing a little and drinking Pepsi. Finn stays in the kitchen most of the party, 'cause he can see her from the kitchen, and he really wants just to go over and talk to her, but somehow he feels like he can't, 'cause it'll be awkward.

Finally, though, some random dude comes into the kitchen, and the guy's really high. He asks Finn if there's any food. When the guy finds popcorn, Finn gets an idea. He makes some popcorn, too, after the high dude's done, and then he takes it out and he heads over to where Rachel is, and he acts really casual when he bumps fists with Mike and then asks everybody if they want some popcorn.

Rachel shyly takes some, and she smiles at him.

He wonders what it means that those five seconds are the highlight of the dumbass party.

(Probably nothing good.)

xviii.

"Finn," Mr. Schue says, stopping him before he can leave with the rest of the club. "Could we talk for a minute?"

Finn glances at Artie, who shrugs. "Just come by my house," Artie says. They're supposed to play some Call of Duty this afternoon. Finn nods at Artie, smiles briefly in thanks, and then looks back at Mr. Schue. They're alone now.

"Is everything okay?" Finn asks.

"That's what I wanted to ask you, actually," Mr. Schue says.

Finn frowns. "I'm fine."

Mr. Schue sort of nods. "Are you sure?" he asks. "You seemed really on top of everything at the start of the semester, with football and grades and even here in Glee. You were a real leader. And you still are. But you seem . . . off. Is there anything you maybe want to talk about?"

Finn hasn't talked to Mr. Schue in a long time, but it's probably just 'cause Mr. Schue's been all wrapped up in his own stuff. Finn scratches at the back of his neck. It probably would be nice to talk to Mr. Schue. "I've just been really confused, I guess," Finn says. "I mean, a lot's happened, and . . . I don't know. I hate when stuff's all messed up."

Again, Mr. Schue nods. "Come on," he says. He leads Finn out of the Glee classroom and to the teacher's lounge, and he hands Finn a soda from the fridge as he nods at a seat. Finn really isn't sure why Mr. Schue suddenly, like, cares again, but he takes the soda and sits. He watches, then, as Mr. Schue puts a bag of popcorn in the microwave and then sits across from Finn.

"We never really talked about you and Rachel," Mr. Schue says.

Finn swallows thickly. "Were we supposed to?"

Mr. Schue sighs. "A lot's happened lately," he says. "Sectionals was crazy, and so were the weeks after, and I've realised over the last week or two that maybe I haven't really been the best teacher in a while. I haven't really talked to any of you personally. That's my own fault. I've been caught up in my own problems. But I'm still your teacher, and I do care about all of you."

He pauses. "I've noticed that things between you and Rachel have been awkward. I wanted to see if maybe you wanted to talk about it. It always helps to have somebody to talk to." He smiles, and Finn can't help but smile a little, too.

But what does he say?

"I don't know," he says, shrugging. "We broke up, and . . ." He looks at Mr. Schue, who nods for him to go on. "Can I ask you, like, a personal question? About . . . about Ms. Pillsbury?"

Mr. Schue raises his eyebrows, but he slowly nods. "Sure, Finn."

"Okay," Finn says. "It's like . . . she was your best friend, right? Like, you were married, but your wife wasn't really good to you, so you counted on Ms. Pillsbury to be there for you and stuff, and then you ended up falling for her, right?"

"Ah . . . that's right," Mr. Schue says.

"And you guys, like, finally ended up together, but then it turned out that she didn't really love you, right? How did you — how did you deal with that? I mean, how do you deal with that?" He feels awkward asking all this, but Mr. Schue's always known the answer to this stuff.

The microwave goes off. "Um, one second," Mr. Schue says. He brings the popcorn back to Finn, and he tears open the bag and spreads the popcorn out on a napkin. Finn's overwhelmed with the smell for a minute, and he's always loved the smell of popcorn, but he . . . he hasn't had any in a long time, and he knows why.

Mr. Schue eats a few pieces.

"It's hard," Mr. Schue says, "when you can't be with the person you love. But that's how life goes, I think. The reason Ms. Pillsbury and I didn't work isn't because we didn't love each other. I did love her, and, honestly, Finn, I still do. And I know she loved me, too. But neither of us was ready to be in a relationship. I needed to find out who I was before I could find out who we were. I still do, and I might have lost her because I wasn't ready, but . . . I can't change that."

Finn nods. "But how do you deal?" he asks.

Again, Mr. Schue sighs. "Well, I'm trying to be her friend, because she's still important to me, and I still want her in my life. And I'm trying to find out who I want to be, who I am, so that the next time I fall in love, I will be ready."

Finn takes a sip of the soda. "Okay," he says. He's not sure he really feels any better.

"Okay," Mr. Schue says. "Try this. Tell me who you are."

"What?"

"Tell me who Finn Hudson is," Mr. Schue encourages.

"I don't know," Finn says, shrugging. He's never really thought about it. Like, not directly, anyway. "I mean, I'm . . . I'm the quarterback, and. . . ."

"That's not who you are," Mr. Schue says. "That's what you do. And ten years from now, it won't matter that you were the quarterback. What will matter? What do you want to look back on, ten years from now, and say defined you? Who are you, Finn? Who do you want to be?"

Again, Finn just shrugs. He eats a few pieces of popcorn. "I guess . . . I want to be a good guy. I want to, like, help people. Not just to be cool or something, but 'cause it sucks when you feel stupid or, like, not hot, or . . . like a loser, and I don't want my friends to feel that way. So I want to be a good friend and make sure they don't, and . . . I wanna be a good guy, and a good friend, and . . . I don't know." He feels like an idiot.

But Mr. Schue smiles. "Then work on that," Mr. Schue says. "Be a good guy, and be a good friend. I'm pretty sure Rachel wouldn't mind another friend."

Finn nods. Okay. He can be Rachel's friend. She wants to be friends, doesn't she? That's what she said the other week in the bathroom. He eats some more popcorn. It's really good. He thinks maybe it's the extra butter kind.

"I've got to go," Mr. Schue says. "But I'm glad we talked." He stands. "Just . . . one more thing," he says. Finn looks up at him expectantly. "You asked me how I dealt with the fact that it turned out Ms. Pillsbury didn't really love me," Mr. Schue says. "But she did. Just like Rachel loved you." He looks at Finn significantly.

But Finn shakes his head. "I don't think she did. Rachel, I mean."

"Why not?" Mr. Schue asks.

"'Cause she wouldn't have . . . she wouldn't have done what she did if she loved me."

"People make mistakes, Finn. They do stupid, stupid things. I know. Because I've done stupid things, and I've hurt people along the way. I've hurt Ms. Pillsbury. I've made stupid mistakes that have cost me Ms. Pillsbury. But it doesn't mean I didn't love her, or that I don't still. It means that I made a stupid mistake, and I had to grow up."

Finn only nods.

"You know," Mr. Schue says, glancing back from the door, "I wonder who'd Rachel say you are."

xix.

Mr. Schue gives Finn and Rachel a duet.

Finn thinks maybe his teacher's trying to do him a solid, so he decides to man up. He and Rachel are friends, and he invites her over to his house to practice. She hesitates at first, but she agrees. She smiles a little softly and tells him she's free on Saturday afternoon. She shows up right on time, like always, and he feels a little awkward with her in his house. He can't even remember the last time she was here.

They practice for a few minutes, and she grins and spins around with his hairbrush as he sings a few lines from behind his drums. They sound good together. They always have. Afterward, she's a little breathless and he somehow has a hold of her hand, and he wants to kiss her.

He wants to kiss her so much he can't even describe it. But he can't. "Do you want something to eat?" he blurts, because he needs to say something to distract himself.

"Sure," she says, and her hand slips from his. She follows him to the kitchen and sits down at the table, one foot tucked behind the other and her hands in her lap. He doesn't know what to offer her. He used to make his mom keep around some stuff Rachel liked, but . . . but, yeah, obviously he doesn't anymore.

"Do you want a fruit or something?" he asks awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck.

"What do you have?"

He goes to the fridge. "Um . . . apples?"

She frowns. "Do you have popcorn?" she asks.

He doesn't look at her as he takes a bag from the pantry and unwraps it. "Hey, Rach," he says, trying to act casual, "we're friends, right?" He doesn't look at her.

"We're friends," she says, a little uncertainty in her voice. "Why?"

"I just wanted to ask you something. What sorta guy do you think I am?" He finally glances over at her as he puts the popcorn in the microwave, and she still looks a little confused. "I mean, like, if you had to describe me to an alien or something, what would you say?"

"Well," she replies slowly. "I would tell him that you were tall, and you were handsome, and you had dark hair. I would tell him that you're very loyal, and you stand by the people you care about, like your mother and your friends. You're forgiving, too, the way you forgave Noah and Quinn."

She traces a design on the table.

He wants to tell her that he forgave her, too. Does she know that? Does it make a difference? He forgave her a long time ago. He's not sure when, but he did. He forgave her, but he couldn't be with her, because . . . because he couldn't. (Because he can't? Or is it couldn't?)

"I would tell him that you are a . . . a good guy. You're a good son, and a good friend, and a good . . . a good boyfriend, too. You're honest, and you're sincere, and you're caring. You give people the courage to believe in themselves." Finally, she looks back at him.

They stare at each other.

"Rach," he says softly.

The microwave beeps.

She looks away.

"You know, actually," she says suddenly, "I really don't think I can stay any longer. My dads wanted to talk about college applications with me this evening. You can never start too early, you know?" She's rambling as she stands and pulls on her coat. "I'll see you at school, Finn."

He barely has time to say more than "Yeah, okay," before she's gone.

xx.

He finally throws Kurt a bone.

"I put sugar in it," Kurt says, and his eyes are all big. "I could even go grab a snack, too, if you'd like more than some warm milk. How about some popcorn? You love popcorn, right?

Finn sighs. "Fine, Kurt. But you don't have to bring popcorn."

"Oh, no, give me just a minute!"

Ten minutes later, Finn's on the floor of his bedroom, eating popcorn and drinking milk with Kurt, who chatters on and on about something or other. He starts to tell a story about Rachel, and Finn listens, and he doesn't feel angry or sad or like he just can't take it any more.

He munches on his popcorn and realises that he really has forgiven Rachel.

He just misses her now.

"More milk?" Kurt says happily.

"I'm good, dude." Finn smiles.

xxi.

"I'm sorry, but no," Rachel declares, standing up and whirling around to face them all. "Now, we did very well at Sectionals, we did, but we still tied. And winners don't tie. Winners win."

"Here we go," Quinn says, rolling her eyes and crossing her arms over her chest.

"If we want to win Regionals," Rachel goes on, "we need to put our best foot forward. Now, I've prepared several possible numbers, but — and, again, I'm sorry — but there are only a few people in this room who can truly outperform Vocal Adrenaline with a solo, and by a few, I mean myself and Mercedes."

"You sure you don't just mean you?" Santana sneers.

"Yeah, I think Santana did really good at Sectionals," Sam volunteers.

"Yes," Rachel says, exasperated, "and I'm sure you also think you and Quinn did well with your duet, when in fact all you did was a sub-par imitation of the much more heartfelt and vocally impressive duet that Finn and I performed last year."

"Okay, no," Quinn says.

"Guys," Mr. Schue interjects weakly.

"You do remember that we didn't even tie at Regionals last year, right, Midget?" Santana asks. "We actually lost.So maybe you're the problem here."

"That's not true," Finn says, or, you know, snaps. 'Cause he hates that they all do this, that they all gang up on Rachel just because she's the best and she knows that. And if they're not ganging up on her, then they're just sitting there and pretending not to care, like Artie and Mike. Well, he's not gonna do that. He stands up and glares at them all.

"Look, Rachel is the best, and we all know it. Like, when Vocal Adrenaline tried to mess with us last year, they tried to mess with Rachel, 'cause even they knew she was our best singer. And she works the hardest, and she's the entire reason we even won Sectionals last year and that this club is still around."

Everybody just stares at him.

He feels kinda awkward, but he plows on. "Plus, she always has the best ideas, 'cause she actually plans everything and stuff, so let's do what she says." He sits down.

"Whatever," Santana says, and she looks at her nails.

"I think Finn's right," Tina says softly. "I think Mercedes should take the solo, and then Finn and Rachel should do a duet."

"And then we'll all do a group number together," Mercedes says, smiling.

"Works for me," Artie agrees.

"Okay, then," Mr. Schue says, clapping his hands together, as if that settles everything. "Let's move on." He keeps talking, but Finn doesn't really listen. He glances at Rachel, and it's like she's waiting for him to look her way, 'cause she catches his eye immediately, and she smiles at him.

He thinks maybe if he'd let her, she'd kiss him.

(He'd let her. Does she know that?)

xxii.

They stand in line together.

Her hand brushes his. He pretends not to notice, and she must pretend, too. The line surges forward a few feet. His stomach rumbles. "You really are hungry, aren't you?" Rachel asks, smiling teasingly at him.

"I haven't eaten anything since breakfast!" he says, and she actually laughs. He's glad she volunteered to come with him when he announced to everyone that if they had to wait four hours to go on stage for Regionals, he had to grab a snack from the concessions stand.

"Are you excited?" she asks. She sounds pretty excited.

"Yeah," he says. "We're totally gonna rock it." He grins, and she beams, and their hands brush again. He wonders what would happen if he just, you know, just went for it and grabbed her hand. Before he can take the chance, they step forward, and suddenly they're at the front of the line.

"What do you want?" he asks. "I'll buy."

"You really don't have to," Rachel says.

"I want to," he replies. She smiles shyly, and the guy behind the counter looks at Finn dully. "What do you want?" Finn asks Rachel again.

"Something healthy," Rachel tells him. "What healthy options do you have?" she asks the bored guy, who only shrugs.

"How about just something to get us pumped?" Finn asks.

"Like what?" Rachel says.

"Like popcorn." He orders a bucket before she can stop him.

"I really shouldn't have any," she tells him as they step away from the counter. "Did you see how much butter that boy put on?"

"Don't worry about it," he tells her. "Come on. I won't tell. You love popcorn, even if it's not all healthy and vegans don't eat butter." He shrugs. "It's your guilty pleasure."

She stares. "You remember that?"

"Yeah," he says. Shouldn't he? "You told me when we went to see Inception."

"I know," she says. "I just . . . it's a pretty random thing to remember."

He shrugs again. "I remember everything about us."

She blushes and takes some popcorn, and he tries not to think too much about it. But then they start back to the room where the rest of the club is, and her hand brushes his again, and he just can't help himself.

He stops, turns to her, and kisses her. She gasps a little into his mouth at first, but he only grips her waist and moves his lips over hers until suddenly she leans up and into him, her hands circling his shoulders and her mouth tentatively opening.

She tastes like popcorn. Of course she does.

She breaks away after barely a moment, though, and she looks up at him with wide eyes. "What was that?" she asks, a little breathless.

He's not sure. "I don't know, but . . . but just tell me," he says. He's a little breathless, too. He has to ask, though, and now seems like as good a time as any, even if they're just standing in an empty hall in some random building. "Did you . . . did you love me?"

He has to ask.

"Finn," she says, and gently she reaches up to cup his cheek, her thumb stroking his skin. "Of course I did. How can you even ask that?" Some tight, hot, like, ball of nervous energy dissolves a little inside him, and he feels all funny and strange and relieved.

And she's so close again, and, honestly, he kinda just wants to kiss her. But he can't, because they have to talk. They have to.

"Do you still love me?" he breathes.

She hesitates. But — "Yes," she finally whispers. "We're — we're friends, though." And she pulls away from him. She smiles, but it isn't the right smile. It isn't her smile. There's a sheen of tears in her eyes. "We're friends," she repeats. "We're friends, because we tried to be something more, and it didn't work. It didn't. So we're friends." She tries to smile again.

But he's still not sure he understands it all.

"If we both love each other, if — " His voice breaks a little. "If we both did, then why didn't it work before?" he asks. And how can we make it work now? Because he doesn't want to think that they're never gonna work. He doesn't want to think that they have to be friends, because they can't ever be more. He doesn't know how to handle that.

"I don't know," she says, her own voice almost a little broken.

He thinks of Mr. Schue, and of his mom, and of Quinn, and of everything they told him. "Maybe we just weren't ready," he says. "'Cause I didn't have the guts to be the guy I wanted to be, and . . . and you were still insecure. I mean, we were both insecure, and I couldn't own up to stuff I was ashamed of and . . ." He doesn't really want to rehash all the stupid stuff they've both done.

"Maybe we just weren't ready," he repeats. "But I'm . . . Rach, I think I'm ready now."

She holds his gaze, and she looks so lost he wants to wrap her up in his arms and make everything better again. He just wants everything to be better again. He'll do whatever it takes. He's ready now. He is. He's ready. The timing's right this time.

"I — I don't know if I am," she says, and a few of her tears escape.

Slowly, he reaches forward and brushes his thumbs across her cheeks to gather her tears and take them away, and her eyes flicker shut as she takes a slow, shuttering breath. "That's okay," he says. "We can be friends for now. I'll wait. Just . . . just let me know, okay? When you're ready?"

She opens her eyes, and she smiles at him, and it's a little more like the smile he loves. "I will."

xxiii.

A few hours later, they win Regionals.

It's totally awesome.

Mercedes has a solo that she blows out of the water, and the whole club totally kills the group number, and Finn and Rachel finish with this duet that's, like, their best ever. The audience goes crazy, and Rachel hugs him so tightly, and she smells so good, and then they win, like, they've got a giant trophy and an invitation to Nationals in New York.

"You'll wait?" she whispers into his ear. They're still up on stage, and everyone around them is shouting and clapping and jumping around because they won.

He squeezes her a little and then kisses her cheek. "I'll wait."

xxiv.

He comes by one afternoon, and he helps her record a song to put on facebook.

"I've never put a video up on facebook before," she tells him. "I hope it has some good responses." He watches her for a minute as she just sits there and nervously stares at her screen. He's pretty sure everybody's not gonna immediately comment.

"Come on," he says. "Let's watch a movie or something."

He drags her away from the computer, and they end up in the living room watching Monty Python and the Holy Grail. She thinks it's so funny, which kinda takes him by surprise. He totally should have pushed to pick more of the movies they watched when they were together. When they pause the movie halfway through to make popcorn, she can't stop quoting the film.

"I got better!" she says, trying to use a voice, even as she dissolves into giggles.

As soon as he leaves her house, he calls Puck. "I need you to scare the shit out of some people," he says.

The next day, Rachel skips up to him before classes start and tells him that thirty-seven people liked her video, and there were eighteen comments, and they were all really good. "Oh, Finn, people finally appreciate my talent!"

He grins. "I knew they would."

xxv.

He tells her some of it.

They sit in her backyard on a random Sunday, and he tells her whatever comes into his head. He tells her how messed up he was last winter break over everything with Quinn and Puck, and how she was like an escape. He tells her he thought what she did with Puck this past winter break meant she didn't love him. He tells her that he doesn't even really like fireworks.

He talks and talks and talks and when he doesn't think he can talk anymore, she makes him some popcorn, and they eat quietly on their backs, her leg pressed against his.

xxvi.

They have one day to sight see.

She wakes Finn up at nine in the morning, won't even let him take the time to shower, and then drags him all around the city. She points to the theatres she's been to and the theatres she wants to go to and the theatres she plans to perform in. She talks about everything from ice-skating to The Today Show to the history of some local pizza place that her daddy really likes.

He buys her popcorn from some vendor on the street.

It actually tastes really gross.

As he tosses it into the trash, though, she leans up and kisses him sweetly. "I'm ready," she whispers into his lips, pressing another soft, chaste kiss to his lips before she pulls back slightly.

"Yeah?" he says, and he starts to smile.

She nods, biting her lip as she starts to smile, too.

He picks her up, then, and he spins her around and shouts so loudly he scares all the nearby pigeons, but she kisses him again, really kisses him, nipping at his lip and letting him suck her tongue into his mouth and just kissing him.

It's about time. It's their time.

xxvii.

They don't win Nationals.

It sucks a lot, but Mr. Schue still takes them out to this big celebratory dinner, 'cause they made it so much further than anybody thought they would. Rachel leans into Finn when Kurt gives a speech about how much he loves New Directions and he doesn't know how he ever left the best friends he's ever had, and Mr. Schue smiles knowingly at Finn when he sees.

When they walk back to the hotel, Finn takes Rachel's hand.

She's not as upset as he thought she would be. He mentions that to her, and she shrugs. "I am upset," she says, "but we still have next year. Next year New Directions will be ready. Some things just take a little time, you know?"

Yeah. He knows. He kisses her quickly.

Puck makes some comment. Rachel says she spits in his general direction, and even Santana laughs a little. Rachel tells Finn she's so tired, then, and he gives her a piggyback ride the rest of the way to the hotel.

xxviii.

Summer's just begun, and they're in the basement when she tells him.

They're sharing random secrets, and she just blurts it out. "I made chocolate-covered popcorn on our first date on purpose," she says.

She's sitting curled up on the couch with his head on her lap, and they're watching Jon Stewart. The whole room is dark except for the glow of the television. She toys with his hair a little. "Why?" he asks. "Just 'cause it's really good?"

She doesn't answer right away. "I knew how messy it is," she says. "And I wanted an excuse to kiss you."

He smiles. He can't believe that, but somehow he can, 'cause it's her.

"You didn't need an excuse," he says.

"I know," she replies, "but I . . . I wasn't sure of us yet, and. . . ." She trails off as he sits up to face her. He can barely make out her features in the dark, but she's so close he can feel her breath on his face. "But you do like chocolate-covered popcorn, right? I can go make some if you want."

"Rach," he tells her, grinning, "you definitely don't need an excuse now."

She kisses him.

She doesn't taste like popcorn.

He really doesn't care.

Fin.

"Every word you never said,

Echoes down your empty hallway.

And everything that was your world,

Just came down.

Day breaking on the boulevard,

Feel the sun warming up your second hand heart.

Light swimming right across your face,

And you think maybe someday, yeah,

Maybe someday.

And for all you know,

This could be,

The difference between what you need,

And what you wanna be.

Yeah, what you wanna be."


a/n: too much popcorn? It was meant to tie the story together, but I might have gone overboard. Oh, well. Let me know what you thought! And if you haven't ever melted chocolate chips over popcorn, go do it now. I mean it. You'll never be the same again.