a/n: I'm sorry if I flooded your inbox with four e-mails for this one story. I thought it would be easier on everyone if I split up this story so it wasn't one long, monstrous chapter, and since livejournal made me split it into four chapters, I figured that would work for here, too. :) Also, random question, but do those dividers even work? They seem to disappear and reappear on their own random whims. If it's something I've done, I'm sorry! I hope it isn't too confusing when they magically don't appear. Anyway, title and lyrics come from The Killer's "A Dustland Fairytale." I owe a huge, HUGE thank you to my bestie, Kristen, who not only edited this but also helped me plan it and work through all the plot twists-even when that required laughing as I jumped up and down in excitement and spilled soda all over myself. You're an amazing beta and an even more amazing friend, Kris!
But we persevere, God gives us hope,
But we still fear what we don't know.
The mind is poison.
Castles in the sky sit stranded, vandalized,
With drawbridges closing.
Saw Cinderella in a party dress,
But she was looking for a nightgown.
I saw the devil wrapping up his hands,
He's getting ready for the showdown.
Rachel dies on prom night.
The limo slams on the brakes, and Quinn actually slides along the seat. "We're not there already, are we?" Finn asks, worried. Quinn says no, they can't possibly be there yet — it's at least half an hour from the restaurant to the school. And limos aren't supposed to stop like that.
Annoyed, Quinn rolls down the partition, and the driver, panicked, is on the phone with 911, telling the police there's been an accident. Finn looks over at Quinn. She doesn't seem too concerned. "It was the car right in front of me," the limo driver says, "this little red Volvo —"
Finn shoots out of his seat, shoving open the door and tumbling out. He ignores Quinn's shout. A few other cars have pulled over to the side of the road, and Finn sees Kurt nearly fall out of Blaine's car, and then he sees —
His heart stops. The car lies overturned in the center of the road, glass everywhere. He knows that car, that stupid little red Volvo. That's Sam's car, and two hours ago, Finn saw Sam hold open the door and help Rachel into that car. Finn stumbles forward.
There's a stranger hunched down in front of the car, saying, "I'm gonna get you outta there, kid, just hold on, now . . ." and Finn can't breathe as he bends over, tries to see in the car, calls out her name. Sam hangs upside down, held in place by his seat belt, and he blinks dazedly at Finn and the stranger. But where's Rachel?
Finn doesn't give a fuck about Sam. "Where's the girl?" he asks the man, almost shoving him aside. "Is the girl okay?" He races around to the other side of the car as the man frowns at him, but Rachel isn't there. Rachel isn't in the car. What happened? Did she find another ride? Did — ?
And then Kurt lets out a blood-curling scream.
Finn spins around wildly, and his eyes snare on the mess of pink taffeta lying twenty feet down the road. The ground drops under him, and he sprints blindly towards her, falling to his knees beside her, beside Rachel. He can hear sirens in the distance, but all he can see is her, is glass and blood and her. There's glass in her stomach, a sharp jagged piece that thrusts out from the bloodied, torn material of her dress.
He reaches forward, his hand trembling, and touches her pulse point — it's faint, but it's there, it's definitely there. She's still alive. She's still alive. She's just unconscious, probably knocked out or something, but she's alive.
"Rachel," he whispers. "Wake up, Rach, come on." He gently shakes her. Nothing.
People shout, sirens sound, more cars squeal to sudden stops. Finn doesn't care. He reaches out and takes her hand. "It's gonna be okay," he says, keeping his finger pressed to her neck so that he can feel the steady pulse.
But it's — it's growing fainter, and he presses harder, because he won't let it stop. "Just — just wait a second, and the ambulance'll be here," he tells her, desperate, "and you'll be okay. Just hold on. Just one second. Come on." He's crying, but he doesn't realise until his own tears splatter onto her face.
She doesn't respond. She's still unconscious. And her pulse — it's gone. No. No. It's a mistake. He runs his finger along her neck, trying to find the pulse again. There's nothing there. "Rachel!" he cries, panic and desperation squeezing him. "Stay with me! Rachel, no, please!" He touches her cheek, shaking her a little, trying to wake her up, trying to make her open those big, brown eyes, because she's not dead — she's not.
He falls forward, clutching her, and people scream his name, and car lights flash, and he shakes and sobs and begs her to open her eyes.
A car horn honks.
He rolls over in bed, the sheets tangling around his legs, and glares groggily up at the ceiling. His head pounds, and he tries to remember what he did last night. It's Sunday, right? So last night was Saturday, and . . . and he and Puck didn't get drunk or something, did they? Last weekend Finn had the worst hangover.
In sudden, random busts, screams fill Finn's ears, and it all rushes back to him. He remembers the the limo skidding to a stop and Sam hanging upside down and glass and blood and Rachel — Finn sits up in bed, his breathing erratic, panic freezing his veins. No. No. It didn't happen. It was all a fucking nightmare. Right?
He races down the stairs, stumbling slightly and banging his knee on the banister. His mom is pouring a glass of juice, Burt's watching the news on the tiny kitchen television, and Kurt's reading the comics. "Kurt — last night — Rachel?" Finn asks, unable to string a full sentence together.
"I'm sorry?" Kurt asks, blinking blankly up at Finn.
"What happened last night at prom?" Finn demands.
"Prom?" Kurt repeats, raising his eyebrows. "Prom isn't until next weekend, Finn."
"Sweetheart, are you feeling okay?" his mom asks, glancing over at him from the fridge, her eyes crinkled slightly in concern.
"I — yeah, I'm just . . . I had a — a nightmare, or something." He smiles tightly and slowly leaves the kitchen. That's right. Prom doesn't happen for another week. Finn just had a really bad, really realistic nightmare. That's it.
Still, when he makes it up to his room, he scrolls through his cell phone and hits send before he can stop himself. He holds his breath as the phone rings once, twice, three times, four times —
"Finn?" She sounds shocked. But she also sounds alive.
"Hey, Rachel," he says, smiling a little as he sinks down on his bed.
"I — what — " She pauses, and he freaks out a little. Is something wrong with her? "Is there . . . is there something you need?" she finally asks.
Shit. He didn't think about that. "I'm just — I wanted to ask you a question about, um, juice."
"Juice? Well, okay," Rachel says slowly. "Go ahead."
"Um, if I'm not . . . if I want to be healthier, should I drink grape juice or orange juice?"
There's another long pause.
"Oh, well, that really depends," she says. "Juice is, of course, a much healthier alternative to sodas of any sort. You should be sure not to drink juice overloaded with sugar, however. Now, between the two, grape juice is really better, as it has many more anti-oxidants, but, on the other hand, orange juice. . . ." She goes on for a little while.
He doesn't really listen to what she says, just to the sound of her voice.
He sleeps in late, and his mom ends up pounding on the door to wake him up, which is as totally a sucky way to wake up as Monday is a sucky day. Or something. He tries to catch some more sleep in the shower, but then he doesn't really have time to eat breakfast, and he has to have toast on the go. And everything really goes to shit when he pulls into the parking lot and sees Rachel step out of Sam's car.
What the fuck is that?
His mind flashes to his nightmare.
Rachel had been Sam's date, hadn't she? He doesn't usually remember dreams, but he can remember this one perfectly; he can remember that they all took pictures at Tina's house, and Sam was with Rachel, and Finn had been so pissed when he found out, but he couldn't do anything.
And then Sam had gone and gotten in a fucking car accident and killed Rachel.
Sam says something to Rachel as they start towards the school, and she giggles and looks up at him happily. Finn's chest tightens. Seriously. What. The. Fuck. Is. That? Sam's a big douche. He doesn't eat anything he actually enjoys, and he gave Quinn a stupid promise ring just to rope her into being his girlfriend so that he'd be cool, and now suddenly he wants to date Rachel? He must want something from her. He's using her, just like Jesse St. Jackass.
Like, Finn knew Rachel and Sam were friends or something, but he didn't think it was anything more than that. Maybe it's not. Friends can give each other rides to school, right? The only reason they might be more is cause they were in Finn's dream.
But it was a dream.
(No, it was a nightmare — with too much blood and glass and body bags and — and he's not gonna think about that, not gonna think about Rachel dead, no, no, never.)
Rachel isn't dating Sam. They're friends. After first period, though, Finn sees her in the hallway, and then he sees Sam beside her, and he watches as Sam wraps his arm around Rachel's shoulders. Finn just gapes, nearly dropping the books in his hand.
He needs to talk to Rachel.
"Hey," he says, setting his lunch tray down on the table.
Rachel looks up from the sheet music in surprise. She opens her mouth, pauses, and then clears her throat a little. "Hi," she finally says. "Is, um, is everything okay?"
"Yeah," he says, and he sits down. "I just thought I'd eat with you. That's cool, right?" He hasn't eaten with her in a long, long time, but it's not so weird — they used to eat every lunch together when they dated, sometimes in the cafeteria, sometimes outside, and sometimes here in the choir room.
"Um, sure," she says, smiling briefly. "How are you?"
He shrugs. "Fine. There was a pop quiz in history. It sucked."
"Finn," Rachel says, looking partly amused and partly exasperated. "Mr. Jackson warned us about that quiz two weeks ago."
Finn frowned. "Seriously?" Had he really? Actually, that kinda made sense. "Damn."
Rachel laughs a little, and he watches as she pulls out her pink lunch box and carefully unwraps her sandwich. She looks back at her sheet music, but her eyes don't move. Her shoulders are tight, and he can see that crinkle in her forehead that means she's trying to wrap her head around something.
Oh, come on. It's not that random that he's having lunch with her. Right?
He opens his milk carton and drinks half in one go. And then he lets it rip — "So you and Sam, huh?"
Her eyebrows fly up as she looks back at him. "Me and Sam?" she repeats, but there's almost a triumphant smirk or something in her gaze now. "We're friends."
"You looked a lot like something more earlier," he says.
Her lips purse, she sets her sandwich down, and she straightens slightly as she gazes sharply at him. "Finn, have you come to eat lunch with me simply to question my friendship with Sam?" Her voice has an edge, and he knows that edge. It is not a good edge.
"Look," he says, "I just don't think you should hang out with him so much. He's kind of a tool."
"He's kind of a tool? You don't even know him! You were friends for all of five minutes at the start of the school year, and you've since had, at best, a tenuous acquaintanceship with him — when, that is, the two of you don't give in to Neanderthal tendencies as you compete for social dominance!"
He doesn't really know how to respond to that. He just goes for what he knows. "He's gonna hurt you, Rachel."
"He's going to — oh! Oh!" She stomps her foot under the table and then shoves her seat back so she can stand up to her full 5'2 stature. "How dare you, Finn Hudson!" she says. "How dare you!"
"Rachel, I'm just looking out for you!" he protests. Why does she have to get so worked up?
"Really, Finn? I had no idea you cared so much."
"Of course I care," he says, frowning. "You're my friend, and I —"
Her eyes narrow, and his speech falters. "If I'm your friend, Finn, let me be the first, and I'm sure not the last, to tell you that you treat your friends very poorly."
"I'm not finished. We're co-captains of Glee club, and we work well together. We managed to win Regionals, and we will win Nationals in three weeks, too. But for all intents and purposes, we have no semblance of a relationship outside of Glee and the occasional moments you deign to speak to me in some sort of patronizing benevolence! Sam, on the other hand —"
"Wait, come on, Rach —!"
"Sam, on the other hand," she repeats, her voice rising, "has been nothing but wonderful to me since he and Santana had their disastrous break-up. He helps me with my facebook videos, and he listens when I talk, and he gives me rides to school, and he would be here now to eat lunch with me if he didn't have to meet with his math tutor! He is my friend, the sort of friend you used to be!"
He gapes at her. How can she say all this?
"Excuse me," she says, "but I think I'd like to eat alone." She packs up her lunch with jerky movements, shoves all of her sheet music into her favorite pink folder, and storms from the room. He watches her go, and he doesn't say a word.
When, exactly, did things get so messed up with Rachel? He doesn't talk to her that much, that's true, but it's not his fault. He had to put, like, some . . . some distance between them, and then suddenly every conversation was awkward and — but he tries to be nice every chance he can, and he tries to make sure that she knows she's not alone, and that he supports her, and that he knows she's gonna get out of here, and. . . .
He scrubs a hand over his face.
He can't ever do anything right.
He doesn't talk to Rachel for the rest of the day. He sees her in the parking lot after school. She's with Sam, and Finn glares at the two of them, at the way their hands continually brush, as if Sam wants to take her hand, like he has any right. Sam helps Rachel into the car, and Finn's glare follows the stupid red Volvo out of the parking lot.
He really hates Mondays.
His head hurts so bad, and his back does, too, and he thinks he must have slept on it funny. He rolls over in bed and tries to force open his eyes. The room spins a little. He rubs sleepily at his eyes. What time is it? How late has he slept?
He slowly sits up, trying to stretch his back a little. He can hear voices downstairs. He glances at the clock, and his eyes sort of bug out of his head as he finally wakes up entirely. It's nearly eleven.
He shoves back his sheets and scrambles out of bed, 'cause he's supposed to be at school. He bangs into his dresser, though, and he realizes that throbbing in his head is a hangover. Seriously? He didn't drink anything last night. His stomach churns, though, and he rushes out of his bedroom and to the bathroom down the hall.
He makes it just in time.
Kurt walks in a few minutes later. Wiping his mouth, Finn glances up at him. "Dude," he says, "I can't go to school today." He frowns slightly when he realizes that Kurt should be at school now, too.
"It's Winter Break, Finn," Kurt says softly. "We don't have school." He smiles a little, something guarded in his gaze.
"Winter Break?" Finn says. "What — what do you — it's not. . . ." He stops and leans over the toilet again. Fuck.
Kurt sighs. "Why don't you finish up, take a shower, and dress? Then come downstairs. Carole made a lovely brunch spread, and . . . just please come down when you're ready, okay?"
Finn nods dumbly at him. He doesn't know what's going on, but, come on, what's new? He manages to strip and stumble into the shower, and he stands under the spray for a while, leaning against the wall and trying to make his hangover disappear from willpower alone. He feels maybe a little better when he finishes, dresses, and starts downstairs.
He can smell bacon. He doesn't feel sick at the scent, and he thinks that's progress.
Nobody's in the kitchen, but he can hear lots of voices in the living room.
He crosses the kitchen quickly and pushes open the half-closed door, only to stop in his tracks as everybody goes silent and stares at him. Kurt, Burt, and his mom are all there. Mr. Schue is on the couch, too, right next to Mrs. Pillsbury. Puck, Mike, and Tina are by the window, and Artie's next to the television. And Mr. and Mr. Berry are there, too, along with some woman that Finn's never seen before.
"Um," he says, frowning, "did I miss something?"
"Please, Finn," his mom murmurs, "have a seat." She rests her hands on his dad's old chair.
Uncertain, Finn goes over and sinks down, his eyes darting from person to person. "What's going on?" he asks quietly.
"We wanted to talk to you," Mr. Schue says. "Yesterday was a hard day for all of us, but . . . but you seemed to take it particularly hard, and that's understandable, it is. We wanted to talk with you, though."
He's so confused it's kind of painful. "About what?" he asks.
"About Rachel, dude," Puck says.
"Rachel?" Finn repeats. "I don't . . . look, guys, can somebody please just tell me what's going on?"
The woman who Finn doesn't know steps forward. "Finn, my name is Nancy Granger. I work with your mom at the hospital, and she's told me a lot about you, and about what you're going through. I thought I might be able to help."
He just stares at her.
She smiles a little. "Everyone in this room, Finn, cares very much about you, and they're all worried about you in the wake of your friend's death."
Finn tries to process her words. Who does she —? Oh, no. "Rachel?" he says, his breath growing shallow as he glances at everyone. "Are you talking about Rachel?" They can't be. That was just this really, really vivid nightmare, and —
"Yes, Finn," Mrs. Pillsbury answers kindly. "Now, I — I truly believe that grief is something we all handle differently. But —"
"But Rachel's been dead since prom," Puck cuts in, "and you can't do this anymore." Tina smacks his arm, but Finn doesn't see. He shoots to his feet. This isn't possible. Prom doesn't even happen for another, like, five days, and it's — what the fuck is going on?
Rachel's not dead.
"We all miss her, Finn," Artie offers.
"We really do," Tina adds. "Mercedes and I go by the cemetery nearly every week."
"No!" Finn shouts, because he is not gonna listen to this. "Look, I don't know what the fuck you all are trying to do —"
"Finn!" his mom says, her eyes wide and heartbroken.
He just ignores her. "— but this is messed up and I'm not — I don't even — just — just —" He pushes his way out of the room. This must be another stupid nightmare or something. It has to be. They call out to him, but he doesn't stop. He goes into the kitchen. He needs some aspirin.
And, somehow, his eyes land on the wall calendar. His mom's one of those people who crosses the passing days out. According to the calendar, it's December — December 2011, and today's Monday, December 19th. He's, like, seven months in the future. No. No way. He tears his gaze from the calendar and starts towards the cabinet his mom keeps medicine in.
He can't ignore him. Slowly, he turns around. It's Mr. Berry, the one with glasses, the one who sang into his spoon alongside Rachel at the table when Finn first had dinner at their house. The man looks so much older than he ever has before, so much smaller, and Finn feels his own shoulders slump as he faces him.
"Mr. Berry," he says quietly.
"I didn't get out of bed yesterday," Mr. Berry says. He pauses, and then he sighs. "See, there are three days in my life that stand out above all others as the three best days. There's the day I met Leroy. There's the day Leroy and I committed our love to one another in a ceremony with our friends and family. And — and there's the day a nurse handed me this perfect six pounds, seven ounces and told me I had a daughter."
Finn swallows thickly. Slowly, Mr. Berry takes off his glasses and methodically wipes the lens on his sweater vest. "I remember that day so clearly. December 18th, 1994. The day Rachel was born. And all day yesterday, I laid in bed and thought about the day, and about her, and about how much I missed her."
Mr. Berry slowly put his glasses back on, and they almost magnified the tears that had gathered in his eyes. "I don't think I'll ever not miss her. I'll certainly never be the same without her."
"Mr. Berry," Finn whispers. Rachel isn't dead. She can't be.
"But I can't not live my life, even if it's only half a life without my baby. I still have Leroy. I still have so many other people I love and care about, and who love and care about me. And I have to cling to that. I have to cling to the knowledge that Rachel wouldn't want . . . she wouldn't want anything less than the best for me."
Finn still doesn't know what to say.
"Your mom told me she's never seen you so drunk as you were last night, Finn," Mr. Berry says. "And I know that's not what Rachel would want. Maybe — maybe this — this grief intervention, or whatever it is, isn't the right way to go. But something has to change."
Finn just sort of nods.
"I'll leave you be," Mr. Berry says, slipping his hands into his pockets. "But if it helps," he says, glancing back from the doorway, "I know Rachel loved you — so, so much." He gives a small smile and leaves.
Finn just wants to go back to sleep.
He escapes up to his bedroom, he locks the door, and he buries his face in his pillow.
This isn't real. None of this is real. Rachel isn't dead. This is all a stupid nightmare. He couches himself over and over again with the words, and at some point he falls asleep. By the time he wakes up, it's dark out. He goes downstairs and avoids eye contact with Burt, Kurt, and his mom. Everyone else has gone.
His mom makes lasagna for dinner, and she touches her hand gently to his shoulder as she hands him a plate.
He goes back to bed as soon as he's finished. But he can't fall asleep again, because what if this isn't a dream, and this is, like, some alternate reality that he's trapped in? What if he can't leave? What if he's forever stuck in this world where Rachel's dead? That'd be the worst possible world ever. He starts to think about that Sandra Bullock movie when she travelled through time to try to save her dead husband, and he wonders if that's happening to him.
But he can't remember something. Does Sandra save her husband at the end or not?
He falls asleep eventually.
Kurt wakes him up. "Are you excited?" Kurt says, sitting on the edge of Finn's bed.
Finn frowns. "Am I excited for what?" he grumbles. The day before, or maybe just another nightmare, flashes vividly through his head. He sits up and looks over at Kurt with wide eyes. Was it a nightmare, or —?
"Oh, come on, Finn, you know what day it is!" Kurt exclaims. "It's Saturday, May 28th!" he trills. "The big day! Our Junior Prom!"
"What?" Finn asks, his eyes wide. Wait. Wait. He's had this conversation before. That first nightmare, the one that ended with Rachel in a body bag — that nightmare started like this. But then when he was in the future — was that a nightmare, too and this is another one or . . .?
This is way too confusing.
"Oh, for goodness' sake, Finn!" Kurt says. "I'll let you sleep for a little while longer, even though it's already noon, but you need to be ready to leave for Tina's to take pictures promptly at four!" Kurt stands, gives Finn another pointed look, and then trounces from the room.
Finn falls back on the bed and stares at his ceiling. Okay. Okay. He needs to think about this. It's prom. And . . . and he needs to talk to Rachel. Because what if she dies tonight? He can't let that happen. He'll prove that it doesn't have to happen, that the future he was in yesterday isn't real, and then everything'll go back to normal.
He calls Rachel. She doesn't pick up. He texts her. Can we talk? She never replies. He calls again. Still, the phone rings four times and then goes to voicemail. He dresses, showers, and eats lunch. Kurt has his tux on by two, but Finn only watches baseball on the TV and texts Rachel some more. She still doesn't reply. He calls her a few more times — nothing.
Finally, frustrated, he decides to go see her. "Where are you going?" Kurt calls.
"Out," Finn says. He drives to her house in record time. But when the front door swings open, Mr. Berry stands there, not Rachel. It's the Mr. Berry with glasses, the one who spoke so sadly to Finn yesterday. Finn's thoughts flee.
"Oh, hello, Finn!" Mr. Berry says, smiling. "This is a pleasant surprise. Is there something I can do for you? Rachel isn't here, you know."
Finn frowns. "She's not?"
"No, she's been over at Tina's with the other girls all day." Mr. Berry smiles again. "But you can still come in, if you'd like. I'll make some tea! It's been such a long time since you've been by. You never finished your explanation of the rules of basketball, you know." His eyes soften a little. Finn hasn't been by in a long time, he's right — not since he and Rachel broke up in December.
"Yeah, I know, um, I really shouldn't, though," Finn says. "Kurt's probably gonna freak out if I don't get back soon. Thanks, though."
He'll talk to Rachel at Tina's.
He makes it through the next hour. When he pulls into Tina's driveway, though, he sees Rachel talking with Mercedes. Her hair is curled, and she has on this big dress that involves lots of pink and lots of taffeta, just like in his first nightmare. Shit. This stuff is repeating. He follows Kurt out of the car.
He needs to talk to Rachel. Every time he gets close, though, somebody pulls him over for another picture, or pulls Rachel in for a picture. Seriously, he can't get within two feet of her. The whole Glee club is there, and all the parents have come over, too, and everybody's so happy.
Finally, he can't take it anymore. He knows he should be subtle and stealth and all that, but whatever. "Rachel!" he says loudly, clearly, and she looks over. But then she shakes her head almost imperceptibly and turns away from him again.
What the fuck?
Kurt suddenly grabs his arm. "Come on," he says. He drags Finn around to the side of the house.
"Dude, let go of me," Finn protests. "I have to talk to Rachel."
"No, what you need to do is leave Rachel alone," Kurt says.
Finn sighs. "Look, you don't get it. Just — I just need to talk to her, okay?"
"If I don't get it, then explain it to me." Kurt crosses his arms over his chest.
Finn glares at him. "It's . . . I —" Where does he even start?
But Kurt gazes up at him knowingly, shaking his head. "Oh, Finn, is this about Sam? It is, isn't it?"
"What? No —"
"It is, and you really shouldn't do this," Kurt says, not letting Finn get a word in. "If it makes you feel better, I think they've only come as friends, but even if they've come as more than friends, you really shouldn't make a fuss. It's not fair to Rachel. You've moved on, and she deserves to move on, too."
"I thought you were friends, you and Rachel," Kurt says.
"Then be a good friend and let Rachel enjoy her prom night," Kurt tells him.
"But she's gonna die!" Finn shouts.
Kurt gapes at him. "Finn," he murmurs. "I don't. . . . Why don't you take a minute to calm down? I don't know what's wrong with you, but you've been strange all week. Calm down, and don't ruin this for everyone, please."
Kurt walks away.
What's Finn supposed to do now?
By the time Finn finally returns to the front of the house a few minutes later, Rachel and Sam have already left. Most everybody has, actually, and Quinn looks pissed as she stands by a limo. "Come on!" she shouts the moment she sees him. "The limo's been here forever."
His stomach heavy, Finn climbs into the back of the limo with her. "Why'd we get a limo, anyway?" he asks her as she slides in beside him.
"Because I wanted one," she snaps. "Why have you been so pissy all afternoon? I'm the only one who has any right to be mad, considering you forgot my corsage! And what did you do yesterday, anyway? Where were you?" She glares him as she fires off the questions.
"I was nowhere," he mutters. He leans against the window.
The rest of the ride is uncomfortable, and so is dinner. Quinn complains and complains and complains about the fact that they're having their prom at the school, which is apparently the most terrible atrocity ever. Finn doesn't give a flying fuck. He just wants dinner to be over. But when they set off from the restaurant for McKinley, he starts to freak out a little bit. He tries to talk himself down. Maybe this is all premature. Maybe this will turn out differently than before.
Nightmares don't follow patterns or anything, do they?
Then the limo screeches to a stop. "Why are we stopping?" he asks breathlessly, but he already knows, doesn't he?
"I don't know," Quinn says, frowning. "We can't possibly be at the school already. It's at least a half hour —" He lunges for the door and tumbles out of the limo. "Finn!" Quinn shouts.
He spins around, even as Blaine's car pulls up on the side of the road and Kurt tears out of it before it's even come to a full stop. Finn sees the wreck of Sam's car again, just like before, and he races over. "I'll call 911!" Blaine shouts.
A man races out of his Prius towards Sam's car, but Finn barely sees him, not one his eyes immediately find the swatch of pink up on the road ahead. "RACHEL!" he screams.
She's just lying there, just like before, her leg at an odd angle, and blood's everywhere. But she's still alive. He sinks down beside her, and her glossy eyes look up him as she takes slow, shuddering breaths. She's still conscious. That's good, right? That's good.
Ambulances sound in the distance. "Help's coming, Rach, help's coming," he mutters. "It's okay, it's all okay, just stay with me." He reaches for her hand. Slowly, her fingers curl around his. "It's okay," he repeats. He doesn't know what else to say. But she won't die this time. She won't.
Her mouth slowly opens and closes, and a little blood bubbles out of her lips. She's trying to say something. "What?" he asks, leaning closer to her. "What is it?"
"You," she says, "you — you —" She chokes a little.
"Me what, Rach? What, baby?"
"Did," she says. "You — d-did — good." She almost smiles a little, and then — and then her eyes focus on something over his shoulder, and her head falls a little to the side. He grabs her face, turns her to look at him again, but she can't see, because her eyes are glazed, and —
"No! No! Rachel, don't — they're here now! The ambulances are here now!"
She's already gone.
Hands wrap around his shoulders and pull him to his feet. "It's alright, son," somebody says. He won't take his eyes off of Rachel. He can't leave her. He can't let them zip her up in some black bag and take her away. He can't —
"Oh, God, is she — is she dead?" Kurt breathes. "No! That's not possible. I can't — I won't — No! Rachel!" Kurt screams.
Finn's heard the sound before.
He stumbles away from the policeman. He falls into his knees and starts to ralf his guts out. And when he finally manages to look up, he sees Sam, standing in the middle of the road, a dazed look on his face as he ignores the EMTs that swarm around him.
Finn pushes himself up. "Hey," he shouts. "Sam!" He stalks over. Sam glances at him. And Finn punches him in the face. Sam stumbles backwards, an EMT catches him, and Finn pulls back his arm a second time. A second EMT holds him back, though.
This happened last time, too.
His alarm goes off at six, just like it does every weekday.
Finn rolls over and smacks the stupid radio until it shuts up. He doesn't want to go to school. He feels like crap. Then again, he never wants to go to school. He has to — his eyes go wide. Last night, he fell asleep in a hospital chair, his head on his mom's shoulder.
Rachel was dead.
He races out of bed, tripping slightly on his sheets, and then he pounds down the stairs. He skids into the kitchen. "Mom!" he shouts.
She turns around in shock. "Where's the fire?" she asks.
"What happened last night?" he demands.
"I don't —"
"What day is it?"
"It's Monday, sweetheart."
"Finn, I don't — it's Monday the 23rd. May 23rd. Are you sick, honey?"
Finn slumps against the wall. It's Monday again. How is this possible? What's happening? Is this all one long nightmare? Is this — what if this like that movie Groundhog Day, except he's living a lot of different days over and over again? "Finn?" his mom presses.
"I'm fine," Finn mutters. He closes his eyes. He sees Rachel dead. His eyes snap open. "I just had a really bad nightmare," he tells his mom. She doesn't look like she believes him, but he avoids her gaze until he has to leave for school.
Sam and Rachel walk through the parking lot just like they did before.
Rachel even has on the same outfit — a plaid skirt and a red sweater with a dancing plaid bunny stitched on the front. She smiles and giggles at the same moments, and she disappears into the school without one glance at Finn. He goes to class. In first period, Mr. Jackson hands out a quiz. Finn can't believe this. It's the exact same day. None of this makes sense.
He just needs to get through this day.
He watches Rachel all day. He watches her in the hallway when Sam puts his arm around her shoulders, and he watches her when Sam isn't there. He almost goes to eat lunch with her again when he sees her disappear into the choir room after fourth period. But he remembers how that went last time, and guilt overwhelms him.
He eats his lunch out on the bleachers, and he thinks about what she said.
Does she really think of him like that? Is any of this real at all? He spends all afternoon playing Call of Duty and working really hard not to call Rachel. When he goes to bed, he has no idea what he wants to wake up to.
Everything seems normal.
His alarm goes off at six. It's a school day. He brushes his teeth, he takes a shower, he gets dressed. It's all normal. Maybe he's finally woken up from . . . from it all. He goes downstairs. Burt smiles at him over the newspaper. His mom offers him a glass of juice.
And he glances at the wall calendar just to be sure.
Monday's crossed out, but so are Tuesday and Wednesday. Apparently, today's Thursday. He's skipped two days. Why? Is that right? "Hey, Mom," he says.
"It's Thursday, sweetie," his mom answers absently. "Thursday, May 26th." When he frowns, she shoots him a small smile. "You've asked every day this week," she says. "You really need to get some more sleep."
He smiles tightly at her and stares at his juice. Why is this happening? Who did he piss off upstairs? As he walks to his truck, he can't help it. He looks up. "Are you pissed about the whole grilled cheese sandwich thing?" he asks. Then he feels like an idiot, and he curses himself and climbs into his truck, trying to make a plan.
But he's never been great with plans.
He sees Rachel at her locker, and he thinks about what he should say to her. Would she be able to help? She's as good at making plans as he's not. And she'd help him, right? She always helps him. No matter what else is messed up in their lives, she helps him if he really needs her. That's part of the reason she's so great and all.
He nods his head. He'll talk to her. He leans into his locker to find his physics textbook, and when he pulls back to shove it into his backpack, he jumps a little. Rachel's right there, and she smiles shyly at him. "Hey, so I've done some more research," she says.
"Research?" he repeats.
"Mmm-hmm. Well, I watched Back to the Future, as you asked. I actually thought it was rather amusing, I'll admit. But I found the doc's explanation for time travel to be vastly incorrect. I can understand why he sold you on his theory, though, because it's so simple, and we always want a simple explanation — it's a natural human inclination. I mean, isn't that what's behind Occam's Razor?"
"Um, yeah," he says slowly.
"So, as I said before, time really isn't linear. It's circular. And you can travel around that circle, but you can't change any part of it, as what's going to happened has already happened. I've drawn up a picture for you — I think I can explain it to you in the same sort of terms the doc uses." She starts to rustle through her backpack.
"Rachel," he murmurs, "I'm not really . . . I'm not really sure what you're talking about."
She pauses and glances up to frown at him. "We're talking about time travel," she says.
"Time travel?" he squeaks, and his mind flickers over the last few days. "Time travelling isn't real."
"Finn," Rachel says, and she leans in, lowering her voice to a whisper, "you're time travelling, aren't you?"
His eyes go wide. Is that what's happening? But how does she know anything about that? "I'm not . . . I don't . . ." He can't think this fast. He can't process all this. Has he told Rachel? He doesn't remember, but he's skipped some days, right? So if he's in the future now, then . . . but. . . .
"Oh," Rachel says, understanding flashing in her eyes.
"What?" he says. What does she understand? Can she explain it to him?
"You haven't yet . . . Okay. That's fine. We'll try again next time, I guess." She crinkles her brow a little. "This really is very confusing, isn't it?"
He laughs a little hysterically. "I know," he says. "But what — what do you know?"
"Nothing," she says breezily. "I don't know anything at all." And she leans up and kisses his cheek. "Don't worry," she murmurs softly. "I'm going to help you." She turns to walk away.
"Wait!" he shouts, and half the hall glances over at him. He tries not to blush. Rachel smiles, shakes her head at him, and disappears around the corner before he can say something else or even make his stupid legs run to catch up with her.
He makes it through the rest of the day on autopilot.
He gets a D+ on that quiz from Monday. He's not really shocked, and he definitely doesn't care.
He goes to bed early that night, his head swirling with thoughts of Rachel promising to help him one moment and then lying in the road dead the next.
He wakes up before the alarm this time. He runs downstairs.
"Good morn —"
"What day is it?" he asks.
His mom glances up from the sink with raised eyebrows. "It's Tuesday," she says slowly. He stares and waits for more. "The 24th," she adds. "Tuesday, the 24th."
"Of May, right?"
"No, of April," she says.
"What?" he exclaims, his eyes wide. Oh, fuck.
"Sweetie, sweetie —I'm kidding! I was kidding!" His mom looks at him like he's a little crazy. "It is May. May 24th."
He lets out a slow breath. Okay. This is a little better, he thinks. If he just jumps around the same week, he can handle that. And he is jumping from day to day, isn't he? He's jumping through time. That's what's happening. He's put those pieces together. He's jumping through time so that he can figure out a way to save Rachel, right? That's got to be it.
And he will save her.
"Finn?" his mom asks hesitantly.
"I'm fine," he says automatically. "But — but don't joke about stuff like that."
"Of course," his mom says, biting her lip. "I'm sorry. That was very thoughtless of me."
"It's cool," he says. "Just don't do it again."
His back really hurts.
He thinks maybe time travel is bad for you back. His wrist is sore, too, and he doesn't think it helps when he bangs his hand against his locker right before homeroom. But Quinn just sneaks up on him, and he's on edge enough as it is. "Hi," she says, and Finn tries not to hiss at the shooting pain in his wrist.
She leans against the lockers, her books clutched to her chest, and blinks up at him softly.
"Ah, hey," he says, managing to smile a little. "What's up?"
"I haven't seen you a lot lately," she says. She looks down, biting her lip, and then gazes back up at him shyly. "I've missed you."
"Yeah," he says. The thing is, though, he doesn't really miss Quinn when she's around. Like, she's great when she's there, but when she's not, okay, that's cool, too. And he's had other stuff to worry about than what's going on with Quinn, which is pretty much always the same thing: prom.
"I'm sorry," she says. "I've been so busy lately, and I know I've neglected you. The prom committee just takes a lot of my time. But prom's going to be so amazing. You know it's this weekend, right?"
He nods. He knows. He really knows.
"Good," she says, smiling. "I called Barker's last night, and I ordered my corsage. You need to pick it up on Saturday morning. You can't forget."
Or she'll be pissed, yeah, he knows. He sighs. He can't deal with this. "Look, Quinn, about prom —" he starts, his mind whirling with memories of pictures in Tina's front yard and a limo and a boring dinner and then Rachel motionless, Rachel bloody, Rachel dead —
"I'm so excited," Quinn says. "It's going to be the most amazing night of our lives." She bites her lip and rests a hand on his arm. "We'll be there together, and — and maybe after we'll really be together, if you want."
He frowns. She's implying she'll have sex with him, right? She's kind of been implying that for a while now, but he's . . . he just can't think about everything with her right now. "Okay," he says. "I'll think about it."
Her expression freezes. "You'll — you'll think about it?" she repeats, a shocked note in her voice.
"Yeah," he says, nodding, already ready for this conversation to be over. "I'll let you know or whatever." He slams his locker shut and walks away.
He needs to talk to Rachel. He already feels like it's sophomore year again and he's desperately trying to find a minute alone with Rachel when he can be himself — he doesn't need Quinn to make that feeling worse. He doesn't see Rachel before homeroom, but he spies her at lunch. She's poking some sort of vegetable casserole from the cafeteria.
He quickly sits down beside her. "Hey," he greets, smiling cautiously.
"Hi," she says. He realizes that, if he's got his dates right in his head (and he spent all of English trying to get them right) at this point in time he hasn't talked to Rachel about anything, since he re-did Monday. Is that how it works? Does he get to re-do days?
"You mind if I sit here?" he asks.
"No," she replies. "Not at all." She smiles a little, but she watches him carefully.
He nods at her tray as he opens up his milk carton. "Have you started buying lunch?" he asks.
"Oh, no, I just had to today. I forgot my lunch at home. It's the first time ever, you know!"
"That sucks," he says.
"Yes, it really does. Do you even have any idea what this is?" She stabs the casserole with her fork. "It says spinach casserole, but. . . ."
"It's better not to think about it," he tells her, and she giggles. He's missed this. When was the last time they just sat talked about nothing, anyway? He can't even remember anymore. He almost doesn't want to bring up the whole time travelling thing.
But he's got to.
"So there's kinda something I need to talk to you about. Something . . . something's been happening to me."
She bites her lip. "Is this about last night?" she asks quietly.
"Last night?" What happened last night?
She leans closer to him. "Look, I said I didn't not believe you, but I'm still not so sure about any of this, Finn. You have to admit that it's crazy. And, before you ask, no, I haven't opened the envelope. I'm going to wait until the day is over to see if you were right."
He has no idea what she's talking about. "Um," he starts.
She sighs. "Don't look so shocked," she says. "You knew I would act like this, right? I mean, how many times have you lived this day?"
He blinks at her. "I — you already know?" he asks. How does she know all this stuff before he tells her anything? If she already knows by Tuesday, when is he supposed to tell her, then?
She frowns. "You told me last night, Finn."
Oh. Okay. He's supposed to tell her Monday night. But for whatever reason, he didn't. Next time he lives out Monday, though, he'll tell her everything. That should work, right? "Sorry," he finally says, because she's staring intently at him. "This is all really confusing. This is actually the first time I remember living this day, and I don't remember having told you anything."
"Okay," she says, but she still doesn't sound certain of anything.
And then Sam sets down his lunch. "Hey," he says, grinning a little at Rachel as he sits beside her. He looks surprised to see Finn there. "Hey Finn," he adds after a beat.
"Sam," Finn says, nodding. He flexes his fist a little under the table, and he remembers the feel of his knuckles slamming into Sam's face. Finn wouldn't have to do this, wouldn't have to work so hard to save Rachel's life, wouldn't have to see her die over and over again every time he closed his eyes, if Sam left her the fuck alone.
"How was your morning?" Rachel asks Sam.
"Meh," he says, shrugging. Rachel starts to chatter to him, and she tells him about her trig class and how she thinks Mrs. Hannigan purposely doesn't call on her. Sam tells her that Mrs. Hannigan just knows Rachel is smarter than her. Rachel mentions that the song What is This Feeling? came on her ipod when she was running this morning, and she thought of her relationship with Quinn. Sam tells her she should get Mr. Schue to let her and Quinn sing it.
Finn watches them, feels like some sort of third wheel, and tries not to make a scene.
"Hey, so, um, I've got to go," he interrupts. He smiles nervously at Rachel. "I'll see you later."
"I'll see you," she says. She starts to complain about the poor quality food that's served to American children across the country, and she doesn't even glance at Finn as he stands up.
He doesn't understand.
When did he and Rachel become not friends?
(And how does he get her back — as a friend?)
After dinner, he lies on his bed and stares up at the ceiling.
He thinks about the Christmas tree lot. He thinks about how happy she had looked in that one moment that he had let her kiss him. He thinks about when she declared happily that the girls would lie there, just lie there. He thinks about when shouted that she was ready to kick some ass, and she had on that football uniform.
He thinks about the look on her face when she found out that he wanted to open a kissing booth, and then the look on her face when she found out he kissed Quinn. He thinks about Justin Bieber and what a dumbass he made of himself, and for what? He thinks about how adorable she was drunk, even as she made everything so much harder. He thinks about her songs, how she finally felt the music she wrote.
He thinks about how he watched her from a distance, and he was so proud of her, and he tried to tell her that, to make her know that the still believed in her, but . . .
. . . He thinks about how he couldn't spend too much time with her, because ten minutes with her made him want to take her up in his arms and hug her and kiss her and forgive her. And he couldn't, because she didn't love him, and she deserved better than him. He had Quinn, anyway, and they just worked better together. Everything was easier with Quinn. And Rachel was just too much for him. He thinks about how time went by, and they talked less, just because, and. . . .
His mom knocks on his door. "Sweetheart," she says, "Rachel's downstairs. She came by to talk to you. Do you want me to send her up?"
He wipes his eyes. "I'm not really feeling good," he shouts. "Tell her I'll see her at school tomorrow, or something."
"Wake up! Wake up! Finn, come on! Wake up!"
Finn groans a little. Someone sits beside him and then bounces up and down, and the bed shifts. "Go away," Finn mutters. He's really not getting any sleep anymore.
"Are you excited?" Kurt exclaims gleefully. Finn rubs the sleep from his eyes and pushes himself up. He stares at Kurt. And he recognizes the look on his brother's face.
"Is it Saturday?" he asks, a little breathless. He doesn't want to this again. He just doesn't.
"That's right!" Kurt trills. "It's Saturday, May 28th! The big day! Our Junior Prom!"
He drives to Tina's house this time, long before they're all supposed to meet up to take pictures. He pounds on her door, and he must look messed up when Tina answers the door, because her voice trails off before she even really says hello.
"I need to talk to Rachel," he tells her, and he doesn't leave any room for argument.
"I'll get her," Tina replies. "Just one sec."
She totally takes longer than one second. He starts to think maybe Rachel'll refuse to talk to him, but if things work they way he thinks they might, then she's supposed to know by now what happens, right? 'Cause he tells her all about the time travel. But, wait, did he tell her about what would actually happen on prom night?
She comes to the door. Her hair is in curlers, and she's wearing jeans and a button-up shirt. "You shouldn't be here, Finn," she says, her voice soft. "You know that."
"No, actually," he says. "I don't know that. This is what I know: you can't go to prom tonight."
She crosses her arms over her chest and glances away from him. "Don't do this, Finn."
"Just — come on, Rachel, just look me in the eye and tell me you even really want to go to prom tonight with Sam. If you want to go, fine, I believe that, but you don't want to go with Sam. You don't. I know you don't."
"Of course I don't!" she finally exclaims, her eyes shiny. "We both know that! But that doesn't much matter, does it? You promised me, Finn. You promised me. And even if you hadn't — you know you have to let this happen."
"Let what happen?" he asks. "Do you even know what I'm talking about, Rachel? You're going to die!" He tries not to shout the words. "That's what's gonna happen if you get in that car with Sam tonight. You're gonna die, Rachel!"
"Oh, Finn," she says, her expression softening and she looks up at him with wide, sad eyes. "You haven't put all the pieces together yet, have you?"
"What — what pieces?" he sputters.
She reaches out and touches his cheek, her fingers running across his skin. "You can't change this, Finn. Don't try. It'll only make everything harder." She smiles a little, and he can see the tears start to gather in her eyelashes. "I really want to kiss you right now," she whispers. His heart catches in his throat. And then she steps back and starts to close the door.
"Rachel, wait —!"
The door closes before he can surge forward and stop her.
He pounds on the door for at least half an hour. No one lets him in.
He comes back to Tina's house for pictures. Rachel avoids him, and he knows Kurt has an eye on him, ready to stop him should he try to make Rachel listen to him. Frustrated, Finn growls and snaps at everyone who tries to talk to him, and he eventually climbs into a limo with Quinn.
It all happens the same — her snide complains, dinner, the limo slamming to a stop, the rush into the street, the sight of Sam in the car, the sight of Rachel, and holding her hand as she tries to say something, as her eyes glaze over, as she dies.
He still throws up until he can't breathe.
And he stills beat the shit out of Sam.