Author's Note: So, here's a (crappy?) one shot and it's angst all the way through. Despite being a Finn/Rachel fan (and a Santana fan), I loved Silly Love Songs (which I have renamed "The Episode In Which Rachel Berry Rediscovers Her Backbone") because Rachel's snapping at Santana and her poised and classy goodbye to Finn/"Firework" performance just made me love her more than I even thought was possible (seriously, has she ever looked more beautiful/confident than in the sequences where she was moving down the hall with the shadowed sparkler-wielding extras behind her?) I love Finn, but I'm so thoroughly disappointed in him at this point that I wish he were real just so I could slap him. Since I recognize that as an impossibility, this was written to ease my frustrated heart. Sorry if you hate it.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Damn it.
She'd been doing just fine. More than fine even.
Did she still miss him? Definitely.
Did she still love him? God help her yes.
But she'd found strength and comfort in her new real friendships with Kurt and Mercedes, Mike and Tina.
She'd been finding joy in her reinvigorated sense of purpose and devotion to ambition.
She was fine, really.
She was great.
Until she went to stop at her locker after putting in a little extra work in the auditorium and saw them... Quinn's back pressed against her locker, Finn's tall frame leaning into and over her, hands resting delicately on her sides, as their lips locked.
She froze a moment, struck with pain and nausea, and considered retreat. Just leaving for the night without her books (she was ahead on homework anyway) or returning to where she'd come from for a little extra extra practice.
But then she quickly shook those thoughts away. She remembered herself. Who she'd always been before Finn, and who she was committed to being again now.
Rachel Barbara Berry was no coward, and she was no victim. She wasn't going to let the unpleasant repeat development of Finn + Quinn keep her from living her life. She wouldn't hand him that power. She wouldn't give her that satisfaction.
She strode the last remaining steps to her locker, just a few down from the blonde's, and opened it forcefully. She sensed them startle at the sound but she did not look their way. She grabbed her belongings in a swift motion, and slammed the locker shut with a bang, turning away immediately and walking back off in the direction she'd come from, all without a glance or a word.
She told him he'd given her the strength to move on that day with the mono and the "fireworks" and the revelation that what she'd thought they shared had apparently been horrendously lopsided. But, now having witnessed what before had just been an abstract fact, she not only felt the strength to move on…but the urge, the enthusiasm, to get over Finn Hudson. And quickly.
She was stewing, and she knew her racing thoughts and quick steps were rash reactions and purely emotion-driven, but she didn't care. She was strong, but she was still passionate. She felt things. And right now she felt angry and disgusted. And she believed whole-heartedly that the alternative feelings that could have overcome her at the sight of her ex and his former-ex sucking face, namely sadness and devastation, would have been far worse. So she was glad to go with anger.
Suddenly she heard her name behind her. A hesitant plea in a voice she knew near as well as her own.
But she ignored it, and moved faster.
Between her fury and her desperation to move as swiftly as possible (to get as far away from him as possible), she was storming down the dimly lit hallway in a total blur of oblivion and energy. All she saw was escape, manifested in the double doors at the end of the long corridor, as she tried to outrun the sickening disappointment right on her heels.
Obviously, she failed.
Mr. Disappointment had caught up easily. But just because he was suddenly there at her side didn't mean she had to stop or listen.
"Don't. Don't you dare say my name like that."
She cursed the enormity of his stride as he kept pace with her, effortlessly, even as she continued to try and flee.
"Like what?" He was a little breathless from rushing after her, but there was still more edge to the question than his usual voice allowed.
"Like you care that I'm hurting, that you've broken my heart. Again. You don't care, Finn, or you wouldn't keep doing it." She shook her head. "Though, to be honest, you couldn't keep doing it if I didn't let you. But that's over now; I won't let you, not anymore."
"Hey, you broke mine, too, remember? And, Quinn... I didn't mean for you to see that."
"I'm sure that's true, but it doesn't change the fact that I did. It doesn't change the fact that I feel sucker-punched and furious. Maybe it should, but it doesn't."
He grabbed her arm to stop her, finally, but even as he positioned himself directly in front of her, she wouldn't meet his eyes.
"Finn, maybe you didn't plan to throw this all in my face. After all, objectively, your renewed relationship with her shouldn't really have any thing to do with me. Except, it totally does. You and her, and you and me, and God, Noah, and now even Sam and Santana…our lives have all gotten so tangled up that it's naïve to believe for a moment that any of us can do anything without consequences for everyone else. I'd never deny that you have every right to kiss her, Finn. No matter who's around to see it. But, as intertwined as our lives have gotten? I have every right to try to hate you for it. "
She finally met his gaze, but he wished she hadn't. Her eyes were harder than he'd ever seen them. While he was still far from over everything that'd happened, he was still used to some degree of warmth, whether it from love or longing, in Rachel's eyes. And Finn had never been good with change.
She continued with a humorless laugh. "I mean, even our break up…she was right there in it. When you walked away after I told you about Noah, and when you left me at the tree lot, you were so emphatic that what I did was made so much more awful because of what she'd already put you through. Now, months later, you still can't forgive me for that one kiss, but you've obviously forgiven her now for so much more." She shakes her head a little. "And, do you know what makes it worse? You stick up for her. That's why she kissed you to begin with, isn't it? Because when Sue was making them choose and our performance and the game was all on the line, you had her back. You wouldn't even let me suggest for a second that she'd do exactly what she ended up doing before you rushed to her aide. In all the time we dated, when everyone else would say awful things to me or about me, you never really supported me. Not like that."
He had the decency to look a little ashamed, and she appreciated that he was probably a little sorry, but it wasn't enough to make up for much.
"I know you loved me, Finn. But not like I needed you to, not like I deserved. I'm aware that I wasn't perfect. Far from it, in fact. You had to put up with a lot, with my demands and my tantrums and my ego. But one thing you never ever had to endure was the pain of wondering how I really felt, or how much I felt. You never had to second-guess whose side I was on. I adored you, much more than I had any right to, from the moment you joined glee. For months I put up with so much, forgave so much, because I was so hopelessly in love with you. And even when I was with Jesse, it was always a matter of when for you and me, not if… even though I tried to deny it you knew I still wanted you. Because I've always wanted you. But you…loving me wasn't even enough to forgive me once. And you never wanted me enough to risk your reputation. I'm tired of loving you so much that I hate myself sometimes. And I'm way passed tired of pleading, and praying, for your forgiveness, when I never really made you beg or wait for mine."
She took his stunned silence as acceptance that this conversation was over, but when she moved to step away again his hand reached out again to stop her. She looked at where his fingers curled around her arm, gently but still insistent, then up to his face. She didn't recognize the expression and tried to pull away again.
"No. You had your turn, I should get one too. Especially since I don't feel like I'm dying this time."
She rolled her eyes but then let them lock into his, her gaze both expectant and impatient. He released his hold on her but was still standing so close.
"I was a mess after everything came out about Quinn and Puck and the baby. You know that, you saw that, and I know you know why. Sure, I was hurt. I felt, like, totally betrayed, by the two of them, by the rest of the gleeks. But I was also humiliated. Ashamed that I fell for it, that I wasn't smart enough to see what was really going on, and embarrassed that the proof of how dumb I can be was out for everyone to see. Yeah, it was awful, and it all started with Quinn, but really I was just as pissed with everything and everyone else. But what you did…."
He closed his eyes, and he inhaled sharply through his nose to keep himself in check. "I didn't care about Puck's part in it, not really. I didn't care about what anyone else thought or knew. All I could think about was you. It was because I loved you so much, and because I trusted you so completely, that what you did just killed me. Still kills me. Maybe it seems like the stuff with Quinn should have hurt me more, should have felt worse, but it didn't and it doesn't. Because this was you, Rachel. You cheated. You were supposed to be better than that. We were supposed to be worth more than that."
She let his little rant wash over her, and was surprised at how sharply the fresh rage pricked at her skin, at her mind, at her heart.
"Yes, I cheated, Finn. That's the only thing you seem to be able to say. That's why you let everything fall apart and took none of the blame. But tell me, though, honestly… I was so furious when I found out about Santana…if had I broken up with you then, would that have made it hurt any less that I kissed him later? Other than supporting your illusion of moral superiority, is the technicality that we were still "dating" what makes it sting? Or is it the idea that his lips were on mine, his hands all over me? We aren't together now. If I were to go to Noah tonight, wouldn't that hurt?"
He scoffed at her without thinking it through, pissed and annoyed and frustrated. "Of course it would, Rachel."
Her eyes flashed, reaching forward to jab a finger in the center of his chest.
"Then why was it unreasonable that it hurt me so much to find out about Santana? You seemed to think I had no right because we weren't together. Or, how is it not brutally callous, downright cruel, for me to have to see you now with Quinn? If you can concede that the pain and heartache isn't about the labels of "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", or what can easily be defined as right or wrong, but is really all about what you want yet don't or can't have, then you have to see that the things we've done are not that different. You can't forgive me, Finn, fine. But now you have to understand that I might not be able to forgive you this time either."
Her ending words landed like a slap and she was surprised at how much, in that moment, she meant them. Recovering quicker than he, even as her shout echoed in the near-deserted school, she used his stunned pause to resume her escape.
She'd only made it a few steps though when he found his voice, quieter than it had been.
"I never said I couldn't forgive you, Rachel. Just that I couldn't yet."
She paused to look at him over her shoulder and taking in the new sadness on his face, much of his earlier anger gone, she couldn't help but soften a little, some of her own madness easing away.
In that moment, for the first time in months, it was thoroughly apparent that he still loved her.
But she wasn't wrong when she said she deserved better.
And all they could seem to offer eachother right now was more pain.
"Fair enough, Finn. But I do hope that when you finally can, that it's not too late. For both our sakes...Regardless, your girlfriend's waiting."
She turned and continued on, away from him with her head held high, letting the heavy door clang and thunder closed behind her.