He doesn't understand.
He finally said what he needed to say. He finally said what he was thinking and what he was feeling. He was finally just honest, with her and with himself. He does love her, and she admitted that she loves him, too. And he understands where they went wrong, and he knows that they could really be together, and be better, a second time around. If she still loves him, why would she still walk away?
And he still has to save her. How can she not want that? He tries to talk to her again at school, but he can't find her anywhere. He has her backpack and he decides after fifth period that she must have simply left school. That's really not like her, but maybe she's just overwhelmed, or something, and she had to get out. He knows that feeling.
But he wants to get out with her, away from school and stupid stuff that doesn't matter. Out, where they can focus on him and her and how to save her so that they can be him and her again. He has to talk to her again. As soon as the final bell rings, he speeds out of class and out to the parking lot, and he pretends not to hear Quinn shout his name.
He drives to Rachel's, and he sees her car in the driveway. There aren't any other cars. Her dads aren't home. He half expects her not to answer the door when he rings the doorbell, but she does, and she even offers him a tentative smile when she steps back to let him in. "I'm glad you came over," she says. "I skipped all my classes to come home and think, and we need to talk."
"Yeah," he says. "We do." She leads him upstairs, and has him sit on her bed. "I meant what I said earlier," he tells her, because he has to get this out before anything else happens. "I do love you. And I want to be with you again. But even if you don't want to be with me again, you still have to let me save you. You have to."
"I love you, too," she says. She smiles. "I love you so much. I never stopped. I tried to move on, and I think I grew up a little, and I realized that I can't control everything, and that I need to put myself out there more, I mean really put myself out there and open myself up to people so that I can have real friends. I think that's why I got to know Kurt, and because friends with him and with Mercedes and with Sam — because I finally let them know the real me.
"The only other person I've ever really let in is you. And I'm glad for that. Despite everything that went wrong between us, I don't regret us, and I still love you so much." Tears gather in her eyes, and he realizes that his own eyes burn a little, too.
"But, Finn, I love you so much that . . . that I don't want this to be your life."
He frowns. "What — what do you mean?"
Wringing her hands slightly, she sits down beside him. "You have to let me die, Finn, because it's the only way you can really live."
He shakes his head. How can she say that? "No," he murmurs. "No, that doesn't even —"
"Yes," she insists. "Yes, Finn. I don't know why we have to go through this. I don't know why you have the power to jump through time. I don't. But I know it's not some cosmic helping hand to give you the chance to save me, because you can't save me, Finn. You can't."
"I can!" he says, trying not to shout. "You just have to let me!"
"It doesn't work that way!" she says, standing.
"It does —"
"No, believe me," she cries, clutching her head, "it doesn't!" She takes a few gasping breaths. "Finn, you said that real time only moves forward when you let the days play out the way they're supposed to. You finally had Monday play out right, and eventually Tuesday, and then Wednesday, and you're trying to make Thursday go right.
"And, eventually, Thursday will play out correctly. And then Friday will, and then it will be the real prom day, and what will happen? You'll try to save me, and then what? You'll jump to some random day because that isn't what's supposed to happen. I'm supposed to die. That's how they day's supposed to play out."
"No," he says, "you're supposed to live."
"Look at the timecircle," she says, grabbing the paper from her desk. "You only moved from prom day to the next real day when you let me die without sabotaging anything. And when you did change something so that I could survive, you had to go to another random day in time before you returned to real time. You only went to real time when you let me die."
"I . . . no, I mean — no, that doesn't —" He shakes his head, because she's wrong.
"Finn, if we come to the real prom day, and you save my life, then it'll all just start over again. You'll jump through time, unable to live your real life, because you won't let me die. You have to let me die. It's the only way."
"No!" he shouts, and he stands. "I'm not gonna let you die. This is completely insane, Rachel, and I can't believe you would say this. Why? Why would you —?"
"Because I love you!" she exclaims. She grabs his hands. "I love you, and I don't want this to be your life, because it isn't a life! If I don't die on prom night, then you'll stay trapped in time, reliving the same days over and over again. Is that what you want?"
"It's better than letting you die!" he says. "I'd rather live stuck in time than just let you die and live out my real life without you!"
"But living in trapped time isn't really living!"
He surges forward, clasping her hands tightly, and he kisses her. She gasps in surprise, opening her mouth to his, and her pours every pent up feeling into that kiss, into his lips against hers, into his tongue sliding against hers, into the kiss, into them. Her shaking hands come up to grasp his shoulders, as if to steady herself, and he tugs her closer to him, clutching her, even as he finally breaks the kiss.
His chest rises and falls unsteadily in time with hers. "This," he breathes. "This is living, Rachel. This is real. And I'll take this over anything else, even if I have to explain that to you again and again because we're stuck in some fucked up world where you're supposed to die."
She shakes her head, even as she leans into him. "Finn, don't you want to get married? Don't you want have children? Don't you want to travel to all sorts of exotic places and grow old?"
"Yeah," he whispers. "I want that. I want all that — but I want it with you."
"You can't have it with me," she says.
"Then I'll take what I can have," he tells her. He kisses her cheek. He kisses her forehead, and her temple, and the corner of her lip, and the bridge of her nose, and her cheek again, and —
"I won't let you do that," she whispers. "I love you too much for that. And if you love me, then you'll do this for me. You'll let me love you enough to save you. You'll let me save you." She pulls away from him, wiping at her tears.
He shakes his head.
"Think about it," she says. "For a while, it'll be okay. But think about it, Finn. Really think about it. Think about constantly trying to have to figure out what day it is. Think about living on a script. Think about the random days when you'll be forced to relive my funeral or visit my grave. Think about having to prove to me again and again and again that you really love me, and that you want to fix what went wrong with us. Think about having to see me with Sam every Monday. Think about having to watch me slushied every Wednesday. Think about how every time we have a good day, I won't even remember it."
But she only goes on. "Think about if we were to run away one day, to skip school and escape everything. You'd wake up the next day, and it wouldn't even be the next day. It would be some random day, maybe the day Sam asks me to prom and I say yes, because that's how the story's supposed to go. Think about that, Finn. Think about what your life would become. It'd be like a sad movie that never ends. And maybe it has it's happy moments, but after a while those aren't enough, because they're not real, because no one else even remembers them. Not even me."
He sinks down on her bed.
"I don't want that to be your life," she tells him. "That isn't a life."
"So I just let you die?" he whispers.
"No," she says, and she comes to stand in front of him, so close that her legs are tucked between his. "No, you don't let me die. You realize that it was never really up to you. That you don't let me die, because it's not your decision. It's God's or fate's or a really, really bad nightmare's decision. It's not yours. And you have to love me enough to let me go, so that you can live a real life." She cups his cheek and runs her thumb gently across his face.
"What was all this about, then?" he asks. "If I'm not supposed to save you, if it's not even in my hands at all, then why let me see what would happen?"
"So that we can have a chance to find each other again," she whispers. She kisses him sweetly, and he pulls her even closer, gripping her waist tightly. She rests her forehead against his, and her breath washes warmly over his lips. "So that I can have you as mine again for real," she says, "even if for only a day."
He can't hear any of this. It makes too much sense, and he can't. . . .
He kisses her, and he can taste peanut butter and bananas, and he can smell her peppermint lotion, the kind her dad buys special for her, and it's all just so familiar, she's so familiar, and her small, soft form feels so perfect pressed up against him. "You do love me, don't you?" she whispers into his lips.
"So much," he breathes, and he turns slightly, laying her back on the bed and beneath him, and her arms come around him, her hands running through his hair and then running along his back as he trails kisses along her jaw and down her neck, feeling her throat move under his lips. "I can't lose you again," he says, pressing his face into the soft, sweet skin of her shoulder. "I can't."
"You won't lose me," she tells him. He looked at her, and her hands come up to stroke his face. "You'll always have me to remember and to love and to think of and feel everything love is supposed to make you feel." She kisses him.
And he feels her hands slip down his back and then grip the hem of his shirt and start to tug the polo off. He pulls back enough to let her pull the shirt over his head, and she leans up slightly and presses a kiss to his chest. "Rachel," he whispers.
"This is real, Finn. This is living. This is real, living love." She takes his hand and rests it over her racing heart. "I can feel it," she whispers. "Here."
He nods, not taking his eyes off hers, and she lifts her arms up. He tugs off her cardigan and her shirt off at once, and he kisses her again, soft and slowly, until the world starts to drop off around them, because he can't think about anything but her, but her nose brushing against his, but her hand skating along his back, but her toes curling against his calves, but her soft, warm skin, trembling slightly under his touch, but Rachel, and her kisses and her warm breath and her.
Somehow, she undoes the button of his jeans, and his hands find the zipper of her skirt, and they slowly undress one another. He doesn't really know what he's doing, but she doesn't either, and they're in this together. She kisses him, and he doesn't feel afraid.
He pushes into her, and she stares up at him, her breath slow and stuttering.
"This is real," he whispers.
She nods, and he squeezes her hands, intertwined with his, as he starts to move, and they're them again.
"Am I really supposed to watch you die and not to do anything?"
She lies pressed against him, her head on his chest, her fingers tracing random patterns across his stomach. "You're supposed to love me," she says. He toys with her hair, because he does, and that's it, isn't it? He loves her, and he doesn't want her to die.
"I don't know if I can do it," he says. "I do love you, and I — I don't want to bury you and live year after year without you, because you died and I didn't stop it, and. . . ."
She leaned up and kisses him, taking away his words. "If you love me, Finn, then let me love you, and let me give you the rest of your life, okay? Please." He looks at her, with her hair a tangle around her head, and her lips swollen from his kisses, and her eyes so large and earnest and fearless. Isn't she scared, like him?
"You want me to prove how much I love you by watching you die?"
"I want you to love me enough to trust me that it has to go like this." She takes his hand and kisses his knuckles. "Please, Finn? Please. You can go on for a while, but I want this day to be right. I want to remember this. And I don't want you to live through weeks or months before you give up, with this moment here only a distant, distant memory, lost in it all, a real moment lost in a life that isn't real. I want you to remember me like this, and no other way. If you really love me, you'll do this for me. Please?"
And he knows he really can't deny her anything. He never has been able to. He nods.
"Promise me not to try to change what will happen? Promise me you'll love me and trust me and do this for me? Promise me, Finn?"
He curls his fingers around hers. "I promise."
He doesn't know how many hours he actually sleeps.
He wakes up when his radio turns on at six. He slams his hand down to silence the sports commentator, and then he stares up at the ceiling. He needs to get out of bed. He has to find out what day it is. Did yesterday play out right or not? He can't seem to force himself out of bed.
He wants the day to have been right, because, somehow, despite everything, he can't really think of a better day he's ever had, and he wants it to have been real, like they told each other it was. He wants it to have been right, like he knows it was. But if that's how it was supposed to go, then today's Friday, and tomorrow will be Saturday, will be the real Saturday.
He doesn't think he can handle that.
Slowly, he kicks off his sheets. He goes to the bathroom, mechanically brushes his teeth, mechanically dresses, and mechanically walks downstairs. "Good morning, Finn," his mother greets pleasantly.
"Morning," he says. "What's the date?"
"Mmm, the 27th, I believe."
His breath catches a little. "Friday, May 27th?" he says.
She nods. "That's right."
He's never actually lived this day before. Really, that means it might be three or four days, if not more, before the real Saturday comes. He doesn't have any idea how he's supposed to act. Is he allowed to talk to Rachel? But he has to be, because what happened between them yesterday was supposed to happen, so surely he's not suddenly supposed to ignore her today. Right?
He texts her.
He might as well find out.
She texts back moments later. Good morning :)
He stares at the text. He doesn't want to go to school. He knows he should, that he's got to if he's gonna do the day right. But, honestly, there's no way he's gonna do this day right on the first try anyway, and he's not sure he wants to. He just wants to spend a little more time with Rachel.
You wanna ditch school today? I don't think I can handle it.
He sits at the kitchen table and stares at his phone, willing her to reply.
Is that what we're suppose to do? she replies.
He sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. His mom asks if he's okay. He just nods.
I don't know what we're supposed to do. I've never lived this day before. But it's what I wanna do. I just wanna hang out with you. Just you and me, you know?
She doesn't text back for nearly five minutes. He grips his phone tightly when she does.
They make plans to meet at the lake that's on the outskirts of town. He eats breakfast and talks a little with Burt, and he gives Kurt a ride to school. He even gets out of the car and stuff, and then pretends he forgot something, and he sends Kurt on ahead of him.
He speeds out of the parking lot.
Rachel's already there when he arrives, and she has on shorts and a tank top, her bathing suit just barely visible underneath. Her hair's in a pony tail, she's wearing flip flops, and she looks so amazing that he kisses her even as she starts to say hello.
She smiles a little into his lips. "I love you," she says.
He leans his forehead against hers. "You have no idea."
She insists they put on suntan lotion.
They talk for a little while, then, about nothing, really. She tells him about this book she's reading, and she says she brought some snacks and some bored games and even her computer and some DVDs. He grins. She's always so prepared.
"You would have made a really good boy scout," he tells her.
"I did make a very good girl scout," she replies.
They go swimming for a little while, splashing around and then just floating. The water's cold, but they grow used to it, and Finn thinks maybe it warms up after a little while. They eat these little sandwiches she packed for lunch, and she puts on big, pink sunglasses.
She looks so adorable — he has to kiss her again.
They play a little Battleship. She wins. They swim some more. They kiss some more. They eat the raisins and crackers she packed. And, by three in the afternoon, as he lies sprawled across his back and she rests on top of him, her head on his chest, they've still managed to avoid any talk of prom night and what they know has to happen.
(But does it really?)
Even as he starts to nod off, though, she finally says something, her voice soft and wistful. "I wish I could go to prom with you." She traces a random design on his stomach, and her fingers are cool against his sun-baked skin.
"Me, too," he murmurs. And then he can't help himself. "We can, if you want." He curls her hair around his finger. How can her hair honestly be so soft all the time?
"But that's not what's supposed to happen. I wouldn't even remember it, would I?" she asks. He doesn't want to say no, so he says nothing. "It wouldn't be real." It's quiet for a long time.
"You're gonna go with Sam, right?" he says. Sam isn't a bad guy, he really isn't, but Rachel shouldn't go with him. She should go with Finn. She's supposed to go with Finn — except she's not. She's not supposed to go with him, and that's the point, isn't it?
He wraps an arm around her back, as if she might suddenly pull away.
"I have to, don't I?" she says.
"No," he whispers. "No, you don't."
"I do," she replies, her voice a whisper, too. "We both know that. This is how . . . for the first time, this — this is how it's really supposed to go."
He can't think of the right words. He settles for the best he knows. "I love you."
She presses a soft butterfly kiss to his chest. "You have no idea."
He makes a bed out of his jacket and their clothing.
Her skin is as warm and damp as his, and her hair is a messy tangle that forms a curtain around their faces as she kisses him, licking her way into his mouth and nipping on his lips. She tastes like Gatorade, and she smells like suntan lotion and sweat, and she feels like Rachel. He keeps his hands on her hips, and he won't break her gaze as she moves slowly over top him, his name on her lips.
She doesn't move off of him, away from him, for a while. They simply lie there, breathing together, her sweaty face pressed against his neck, her breath hot against his skin. He can feel her tears, too. "Are you scared?" he asks. He is.
"I'm terrified," she admits softly.
He clutches her. He wishes he didn't have the power to travel through time, but the power to make time stand still. He wishes they could stay like this forever.
(He could. But she couldn't. And he doesn't want to stay here without her.)
That night, they go bowling.
She laughs and lets him try to teach her how to bowl again, but she still manages to fail spectacularly. He wants her to get a strike, though, just so they can fix another past mistake. She never does get one, but she gets a spare, and she claps and squeals and he kisses her firmly on the lips.
They eat pizza for dinner, and he teases her when she eats the pepperoni. "Some vegan you are."
"It's tradition," she protests, pinking slightly.
He doesn't want to say goodbye to her. He doesn't know how. He's pretty sure it's not really goodbye; he'll see her tomorrow, but it won't be tomorrow — it'll be a year ago, or two days ago, or three months from now. But she won't see him tomorrow. Still, he walks her to her car, and he presses her up against the side and kisses her, tracing her lips with his tongue, running his hands up and down her sides, sucking her tongue into his mouth.
He feels intoxicated when they finally break apart. He keeps his arms around her, and she presses her face to his chest. "I want you to know," she finally says. "I want you to know —" She gazes up at him. "That you're the most amazing person I've ever known, and I know, I know, you'll do great things someday."
"Don't," he says, choking a little, his eyes burning with tears he doesn't want to cry.
(Can he really do this, just because she says he has to, just because she asks him to?)
"I have to say this," she tells him, tears beading in her own eyes. "Because maybe it'll be another week or two before Saturday comes for you, but it's my tomorrow, and I won't be able to see you, not really."
"Rach," he says.
"Thank you," she tells him. "Thank you for the last two years. You changed my life. And thank you for the last week." She smiles tearfully at him. "For everything. Thank you. I really do love you."
"I know," he says. "I love you, too."
Her hands curl into the material of his shirt. "Promise me something?" she asks.
"Anything," he breathes.
"Promise me that you'll go off to some amazing college, and you'll do really well. Promise me you'll major in something you love, and you'll get a job you love, and you won't settle for anything. Promise me you'll marry and have lots of kids — "
"Rachel —" He can't hear this.
But she only goes on, ignoring his protests. "And if you have a girl, you have to make her watch all the classics, and take her to dance lessons and singing lessons — for me. And — and take her to Broadway shows, too, at least one every year." She laughs a little, but her tears finally spill free, too. "Promise me that you'll take the world by storm," she whispers, "like you have this last week, okay? Promise me."
"Rachel," he repeats.
"I — I promise."
He kisses her, he hugs her, he tells her loves her, and he watches her climb into her car.
He watches her drive away.
His mom looks pissed when he arrives home a little past ten at night, but she pauses when she sees his expression. "Later," he tells her. "Please just give me a night?" Uncertainly, she nods, and he reminds himself that she really is the most awesome mom ever. But Rachel would probably be a totally incredible mom, too.
He cries that night, in his bed, in the dark, and he doesn't remember when he falls asleep.
Kurt wakes him up. "Are you excited?" Kurt says, sitting on the edge of Finn's bed.
Finn's heart stops. "Is it Saturday?" he whispers. But he already knows how this day starts.
"That's right!" Kurt trills. "It's Saturday, May 28th! The big day! Our Junior Prom!"
Finn can't believe it. How can yesterday have possibly been right?
(How can it possibly have been wrong? He should have known.)
He wants to call her all day.
But he thinks of her pleas that he'll let this day go the way it should, and he resists. And she's right. There isn't a way to change what happens. If he does, he'll only live these same days ago. And that isn't living. He takes a two hour shower, and he lets Kurt help him with his tuxedo, and he apologizes when he snaps at Kurt for being so fucking happy.
He doesn't really know what happens to the whole day, but somehow it passes.
They take pictures at Tina's house, all the Glee kids there, and all their parents, too, and Finn tries not to watch Rachel in her bright pink dress, with her hair curly and her eyes all smoky and pretty, as she giggles and poses with Sam and with Kurt and with everyone but Finn.
He grows sick to his stomach with each passing minute.
And how can she even be happy right now? She knows what's supposed to happen tonight.
Eventually, they all start to group off into cars. And finally, finally, Rachel glances over at Finn. Her expression in that instant breaks his heart a little, because he knows with absolute certainty for the first time that Rachel really is an amazing actress.
After a moment, she smiles a little at him, her eyes soft, and he almost can't stop himself — he wants to go over and grab her around the waist and kiss her, long and hard, and then he'll take her to prom, and she'll survive, and it'll be perfect.
And if he has to live in random moments forever, at least she'll be alive, too.
It wouldn't be real, her voice whispers.
She breaks his gaze and climbs into the car, Sam shuts the door behind her, and that's that.
"Finn," Quinn says sharply, and he knows she's probably pissed, 'cause he's been watching Rachel all night, and, yeah, he forgot the corsage again. He offers her a weak smile, and they both climb into the limo that's just arrived. The drive is slow, and Quinn complains about how pictures took forever and did they really need to invite the whole Glee club? He just kinda nods and doesn't really listen.
Dinner passes slowly, painfully, and he glances at his watch continually.
By eight, he finally can't take any more of Quinn's chatter about prom, and he manages to escape to the bathroom. He locks the door and then splashes water on his face. He grips the sides of the sink and stares at himself in the mirror. An hour from now, Rachel will be dead.
How is he simply supposed to let that happen?
If you really love me, you'll do this for me.
He focuses on that last smile Rachel gave him, and he returns to Quinn. They leave a few minutes later. He can barely breathe properly as the limo starts to drive to the school. Quinn grips his arm and leans into him, and he closes his eyes and sees Rachel's smile.
He tries not to be sick.
The limo pulls over to the side of the road. He forces the words out. "We're not there already, are we?" he asks, gripping the seat with white knuckles.
"We can't possibly be," Quinn says. "It's at least half an hour to school." She pauses. "Honestly," she mutters, and she flicks down the partition. "What's the matter? Why have we stopped?" she demands.
The sudden impulse overwhelms him.
He has to see her one more time.
He knows he should wait a few more minutes, wait until he hears Kurt scream, but he can't. He just can't. He needs one last moment, one last glimpse. He shoots out of his seat, shoving open the door and stumbling out. He ignores Quinn's indignant shout. Other cars have pulled over to the side of the road, and Finn sees Kurt nearly fall out of Blaine's car, even as Blaine rolls the car to a stop — just like the times before.
Finn ignores them. He knows right where to go, and his walk breaks into a run, right to the overturned car, and then past the car, past where Kurt leans down to help Sam, and ten feet forward to Rachel, lying on the ground, dying.
Finn drops to his knees, and Rachel looks up at him.
Blood plasters her hair to her head, and blood stains her face and her neck and the top of her dress, so much blood, but her eyes focus on him and hold his gaze. There's glass in her stomach, a sharp jagged piece that thrusts out from the bloodied, torn material of her dress, just like the last time, just like all the last times.
"Rachel," he whispers, because this can't really be real, can't really be it.
People shout, sirens sound in the distance, cars squeal to sudden stops, but Finn doesn't pay attention. He slips his hands under her and pull her closer to him, pull her into his lap. She gazes at him, her chest rising and falling slowly, blood trickling from her nose. "I'm sorry," he whispers. "I'm so sorry."
She doesn't stay anything. She just breathes slowly, harshly, her eyes steady on his face.
"I love you," he says. "You know that, right? I love you so much. I've never loved anybody like I love you." The words tumble out of him. "And I never will. I love you. I love you." He's crying, but he doesn't realize until his own tears splatter onto her face.
He hears somebody gasp, shout her name, and then somebody screams something about 911, but Finn doesn't truly hear any of it, not really. He clutches Rachel a little closer, her mouth opens, closes, and then opens again, and he pulls her even closer still.
"You —" She tries to say something, her words muffled. "— you —" She swallows, and blood gathers in the corner of her lips. "Good," she whispers. "Did good."
"No," he says, shaking his head and choking a little on his own breath. "No, I shouldn't have let this happen, I shouldn't have —
She tries to say something, her eyes glassy. It's happening. It's happening. She's dying. He knows. He's seen it all before. But this time it's for real. And suddenly the desperation starts to claw up in him, because he's not really gonna let this happen, is he?
"Stay with me," he cries, "for just a little longer, please!" Her chest doesn't rise up as much anymore, and she can't seem to say the words aloud, even as her lips move. No. No. He was supposed to stop this, wasn't he? He spent the last few weeks trying to stop this.
"Just stay with me, baby," he says. "We were wrong. I never should have, oh, God, Rach, you can't leave me, okay? Stay with me." It's too late. He should have realized sooner. It's too fucking late. Oh, God.
What has he done?
Her chest rises, falls, and doesn't rise again. Her eyes glaze and then flicker shut and — and —
"No," he says, desperate, his heart thumping, his mind reeling, his eyes blurring with tears. "Open your eyes, Rachel. Open your eyes. Open your eyes!"
But she doesn't. She only lies motionless. He starts to sob then, barely able even to breathe. The rest of the world falls away. He crumples forward, his face pressing to hers, still so warm, still so soft. Somebody screams his name, and light blinds him. He clutches her, and he shakes and sobs and begs her to open her eyes, but she doesn't move.
Rachel dies on prom night.
The barrage of sounds hits him first.
"Pulse is back," someone says. "And looks like he's conscious."
He groans, trying to open his eyes, but everything hurts, and his lungs burns, and he can't think —
He tries to make sense of the voices, but he can't, and there's beeping, and where is he? Light shines in his eyes, and he cringes, and his side throbs. "Right pupil's blown," someone calls. He blinks, his vision clears, and his eyes catch on her. "Hey there, buddy, can you look at me?" She smiles at him, and she has blonde hair. "Do you know where you are? Can you tell me your name?"
He tries to say something. He tries to say his name. He wants to ask her where he is, and what's happening, but nothing comes out, and he can't talk, and his head pounds, and he can't breathe, he just can't —
"You're okay," she says. "You're okay. We're on the way to the hospital right now, and you're gonna be just fine. Okay. I've got your hand. Can you feel my hand? Can you give it a squeeze?" He stares at her, trying to focus, but he can't, and — and where's Rachel? What happened? She died. God, no. She died, for real. And what happened to him? What —?
He can't breathe, he can't — he can't — he has to — he — Rachel —
"Stay with me, kid —"
And the world turns black.
His head feels like cotton.
He doesn't want to wake up, but he knows his alarm will probably go off soon. His eyes flutter groggily, and he tries to turn to the side, but he can't, and he tries to fall back asleep, but he can't, and then suddenly he sees it all, sees Rachel die, and his eyes fly open.
Everything's white and bright and he blinks furiously. His head throbs, and he aches, every part of him, every bone, just aches, and the feeling sweeps over him in a wave. He tries to look around, but his vision swims with the effort. Where is he? He can remember this blonde woman asking his name and telling him he'll be okay, and he can remember Rachel dying, but —
Fingers stroke his hand, and Finn blinks again, desperately trying to understand where he is. And then he sees her. He's lying somewhere strange, but she's there with him. Rachel. She sits in a chair, and she holds his hand in hers, gently running her thumb over his knuckles, her eyes closed tightly, her hair in a messy bun. Her face looks sallow, and bandages stretch across her collar bone and disappear beneath a ratty sweatshirt that Burt wears around the house, but she's alive.
He doesn't know what's happened, or where he is, or anything, but he knows that Rachel's alive, perfectly alive, and she's sitting right there, right beside him, and that can't be bad. Has a new day started? But he let prom night play out the way it was supposed to, didn't he?
He tries to say her name. "Ra — " The sound scrape against his throat. "Ra — ch —"
She gasps, her own eyes shooting open and landing wildly on him. He starts to say something else, but she lunges forward before he can. He tries to hold her, then, to put an arm around her back, but his arm hurts like a mother, so he just lies there and basks in the feel of her right there and alive as she peppers kisses across his face. "Oh, Finn, you're okay, you're okay, oh, Finn! . . ."
"Wha —?" His throat burns.
She draws back, wiping at her eyes and beaming at him. "We were in an accident," she says. "They took us both into surgery, and I woke a few hours after, and I was fine, but you — oh, Finn, it's been three days. And, oh, goodness, we need to call for the doctor, don't we?" She laughs a little, and she clicks some button on the wall or something. "You're okay," she says again, almost as much to herself as to him. She reaches out to cup his face, and she seems so crazy happy.
He is, too.
And he still doesn't understand, but she's alive, and that's all he really needs to know.
Everything starts to happen quickly after that. A few nurses arrive, and then his mom comes, and she spills her coffee all over the floor as she rushes to him, tears already springing from her eyes. People are talking and telling him to look in this direction and asking him who the president is and to count to ten, and he tries again to ask what's happened. Somebody makes him drink some water. Somebody else shoves something in his ear.
He keeps a hold of Rachel's hand the whole time.
"But — what — what happened?" he asks, so confused.
"Some idiot ran a red light and slammed into Sam's Vovlo," Kurt says, tears in his eyes, even as he smiles at Finn, and Finn isn't sure when Kurt arrived. Puck's here, too, and is that Tina? And Finn kinda suddenly wants them to all leave, 'cause his head is pounding. "Rachel was thrown from the car, and you rushed to help her, and before anyone else could get to you both, another car nearly tore right through you, I swear, I've never been so terrified —"
Quinn and Mercedes both burst into the room. "Oh, God, Finn!" Quinn cries, hurrying to him, her eyes big and shiny with tears. And Rachel's hand slips from his. No. He's alarmed. He doesn't even have a chance to stop her. Quinn leans forward and kisses him softly. "I was so worried," she tells him tearfully.
He tries to see past her, though. Where'd Rachel go? He catches a glimpse of her, catches the soft, small smile she sends him just before she leaves the room, a smile just like she gave him before she drove off with Sam. Where's she going? He can't lose her again.
"Wait," he says, barely audible. He looks around. "No, wait," he says. "Come back!"
"It's all okay, sweetheart," his mom says, smoothing his hair over and using that soothing mom voice. "I know you're confused, but you're alright."
Quinn takes his hand.
"No!" he yells, his lungs stinging with the effort. He couldn't care less about his lungs. He tears his hand from her grasp and tries to push himself out of bed. They all go crazy, talking at once and forcing him back into bed, doctors and nurses and parents and Glee kids and — and — "No!" He shoves them away and swings his legs off the bed. His left wrist's all fucked up, but his legs work fine, he thinks.
"Mr. Hudson, you really ought to stay in bed," a doctor tells him, "at least until —"
He stands. He stumbles slightly, ten bajillion hands reach out to steady him, and he swats them all away. "I gotta go get her," he mumbles, his words still sticking in his throat.
"Finn," Quinn starts, "it's really not good for you to —"
"No!" he shouts, and everybody's finally silent. "I know what's good for me, and I'm gonna get her." He pushes past them and makes it out of that room, and he looks desperately up and down the hospital hall. His mind spins for a minute, and he has to lean against the wall. But he spots her almost instantly, spots her before Kurt can do more than touch a hand to Finn's arm.
Starting towards her, he calls her name. She turns around in surprise. She's on the phone, but he doesn't care. He tugs her to him, hoists her up, and buries his face in her hair. Somebody shouts something at his back, his wrist stings painfully, and her phone drops and skids across the floor, but he just takes a deep breath and squeezes her a little tighter.
"Finn," she whispers gently, her hand hesitantly running over his hair. "What —?"
"Stay with me," he says hoarsely. "You can't leave me again. Stay."
And slowly, gently, she kisses his forehead. "Okay," she finally says. "Okay." He leans against the wall, his eyes flickering closed as he takes a slow breath. His back has begun to pulse with the pain, but he doesn't want to put her down. And he won't. He refuses. "Okay, Finn," she murmurs sweetly. "I'll stay." She strokes his face. "Don't worry.
"I'm not going anywhere."
It was all a dream. He figures that out pretty fast.
But he needs to talk to Rachel.
He wants to tell her about the dream, and he wants to tell her what he realised. He wants to explain to her everything he explained to the Rachel in his dream. He wants to tell her that he loves her, and that he wants to be with her. He simply wants to talk to her.
He tries a couple of times, but someone always interrupts them.
One by one, though, their friends leave, and soon after they're all gone, Burt convinces Finn's mom to go home with him, telling her that she better sleep for weeks to make up for all the sleep she missed. And Kurt takes a Mr. Berry on each arm and leads them away to the hospital cafeteria, winking at Finn as he goes.
Finn looks over at Rachel. Finally, they're alone. She smiles a little at him. "This is all kinda crazy," he says.
"I know," she replies. "But you're okay."
"You are, too," he says, and they stare at each other. "I had the craziest dream, Rachel. I — I lived in this world where you died on prom night, and I jumped through time to try to —"
He falters when a nurse appears in the doorway. She checks Finn's vitals yet again and then makes him promise not to try another run for freedom. He looks over at Rachel, who stares at the ground with this look on her face, like she's desperately trying to make sense of something.
His mom is suddenly back, then, with Burt trailing behind and looking exasperated. She fusses over Finn some more and claims that she can't sleep as long as he's still in the hospital. At the very least, she'll wait for him to fall asleep. "I'm fine, Mom," he insists. "And Rachel's here. She can take care of me." He glances at her. But she still has her gaze on the floor, and she looks slightly amazed now, even as a slight smirk plays across her lips.
"But Rachel is still recovering, too," his mom says.
Rachel finally seems to rejoin the world. "Oh, don't worry, Mrs. Hudson-Hummel. I'll take very good care of Finn, and he'll still be here and in even better health when you come to see him tomorrow after a good night's sleep." She smiles brightly.
A few minutes later, Burt leads Finn's mom away again, and Rachel grasps Finn's hand, bright excitement bubbling up in her eyes
"What?" he says.
"You dream," she says. "You jumped through time to try to find a way to save me from dying on prom night, right?"
What? How —? He nods slowly, confused. How does she know that?
"And I told you that you couldn't save me, but you tried again and again, and you kidnapped me one morning and you let out the air in Sam's tire, until finally I convinced you not to try anymore, because I had to die, because that was the only way to live, because you couldn't be trapped in time, because —"
"You — yes, but — that was real — ?" He doesn't understand. How can she know? Holy shit. Was it real?
"And you told me that you loved me?"
Shocked and a little freaked, he slowly nods again. But — "And you told me you love me, too," he whispers. This doesn't make any sense.
Nodding, she grasps his hand. "I'll start at the beginning. I was thrown from the car," she says, "and knocked nearly unconscious, but I could still feel you come to help me, and then you were hit by a car. They rushed us to the hospital, and I turned out fine, but you — you died."
That's not what happened, though. Neither of them died in real life, and in his dream she died. But she goes on, and he listens, and he tries to follow it all.
"I fell asleep crying," she says, "and when I woke up, I was in my bed, like nothing had ever happened. I didn't have a single scratch. And my dress hung in my closet, untouched. I ran downstairs to ask my dads what had happened, and I learned prom wasn't for another week. I even called you, and you picked up, and it was really like nothing had happened.
He can't believe this. Has he fallen into a coma again, or something?
"I went to school on Monday, and it was a pretty normal day. But the next day was Friday. And you acted strangely, like you knew all these things I didn't, and nothing made sense. I started jumping through time. I tried to put all the pieces together, and you helped me after I explained everything to you. I needed your help, because I continually jumped to prom night, and every time, no matter what I did, you died. Every time."
She's squeezing his hand tightly, and she keeps her gaze on him as the words pour out of her. "I figured out how it worked. I figured out the difference between real time and special time. I figured out how to progress through real time. And I figured out that I had to let you die. But I couldn't. I did everything to stop it, week after week. I called the police to warn them of a drunk driver on the road. I poured soda on Quinn's dress so she had to change. I told you everything, and you and I drove out to see a drive-in movie instead of going to prom.
"Again and again, I saved you, but it was never right. Time stood still, and I was trapped in this endless loop. I lived every day a dozen times. And you didn't remember any of it, except the days I lived in real time, but once I lived them, they were finished, and I simply lived in special time, time you didn't remember, time only I knew, and I couldn't move forward because I wouldn't let you die, and. . . ."
She finally pauses, swallowing thickly.
"And then you called me on a random Sunday to ask about juice, of all things, and I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out why something had gone differently. I even thought maybe I imagined the phone call. But I came to school the next day, and you came to talk to me at lunch. I couldn't believe it. I was floored. That wasn't how Monday was supposed to go. I knew how Monday was supposed to go, just like I knew how Sunday was supposed to go. I knew both days to a tee. I had the script memorized. I knew. And you were going off script.
"Something had changed for the first time in months."
He nods a little. "You did seem a little weirded out," he says slowly.
"I know, right? But you mentioned Sam, and that was a conversation I knew, one we were supposed to have in the parking lot that afternoon. I wasn't sure what was happening, but I played along — you remember that indignant speech with Sam?"
"Yeah," he murmurs.
"That was all off a script — a speech I had given you ten times over. But I was pretty convincing, wasn't I? Broadway doesn't stand a chance." She smiles, then, and he only stares. Seriously? Is this actually happening?
"See, I slowly realized that some sort of new reality had begun," she goes on. "And, according to what this new you in this new reality told me, it was a reality in which I died instead of you. I thought maybe it was because for so long I had refused to let time play out the way it was supposed to, and . . . and God was finally saying, 'okay, fine, Rachel, does this work better for you?' And I wasn't sure what to do, and then I realized — that I could never let you die, even if it meant I would be stuck in this place. I was too selfish to let to let you die.
"But I couldn't let you become stuck, too. I decided I had to convince you that it wasn't a life." She pauses.
His mind runs over everything she said, and . . . and holy shit. Holy fucking shit. "We had, like, a merged dream?" he says.
"I think so," she says breathlessly. She bites her lip, staring off into space for a moment, and he can nearly see the wheels turning in her head. Her head snaps suddenly to him, understanding bright in her gaze. "Dr. Zegeer says that I was unconscious for seven minutes, and you were unconscious for two, and we were both resuscitated around the same time and taken in separate ambulances to the hospital, where we went in to surgery."
"Yeah," he says. "But. . . ."
"What if it was those seven minutes?" she whispers. "What if I started in on this world where you died and I refused to let you, so I was stuck in time, and each minute was a few weeks? And then you were knocked unconscious by that second car, and you joined me, and my reality changed, became subsumed by yours, and for two minutes our two subconscious minds joined?"
"That's . . . that's crazy," he says. But it kinda does work, doesn't it?
"Crazier things have happened," she murmurs. "And . . . the first time we slept together in your reality, it was on Thursday, right? In my bed, before my dads came home from work?"
He nods. "And we ditched school on Friday, and we went to the lake?" he asks.
"Yes," she says, "yes. We both imagined that."
This is way too heavy for him.
"So you were there for everything?" he asks. "Every time, I like, re-did a day — you knew what was going on and you remembered the last time I did that day and everything?"
She nods. "That's right."
"What about, like, when I was at your funeral?"
"Well, I wasn't there for that. It would have been rather cruel of our joined sub- consciousnesses to make me lie in a coffin all day, wouldn't it have been?" She looks rather pleased now, like this is so amazing. And it is. God. It wasn't real, it was all a dream he had in only two minutes, yet it was real, 'cause she lived it all, too. He thinks over every conversation they had.
"Wait, but how did you know all this stuff whenever I didn't, if you jumped around with me?"
She shakes her head. "I didn't jump around with you. I lived the days in order. I had to live Monday three times until you got it right. and I had to live Tuesday two days. It went like that. By the third time I lived through Monday, I finally knew what was happening. And, of course, you explained everything to me that night. It still took a little while for me to realize that you were jumping around randomly like I had once done and not just doing the same day over and over until you progressed like I was doing now — if that makes sense."
It sort of does. Still, his mind is kinda blown. "This is really confusing," he says. He frowns. "Since I made it all up in my head, shouldn't it be easier to understand?
"The capacity of our unconscious minds is astounding," she replies. "I mean, I've never been able to explain my sixth sense."
"Yeah." He runs a hand through his hair. "So, like, how many times did you pull out scripts on me? Like, how many conversations did we have when I was bouncing around time that you'd already had?"
"Oh, several." She leans back in her seat. "I'm a wonderful actress. I had to be very careful if I intended to convince you to let me die. I had to take my time." She smiles proudly.
"So you couldn't let me die, but you were gonna make me let you die?" he asks. That's not fair.
"It wasn't about dying," she says softly. She reaches out and touches his cheek. "It was about living. I couldn't let you die, even if I meant I wouldn't really live. But I could never let you not really live, trapped like I was."
And, maybe it's weird, but he really understands that, at least. "Do you think," he starts, "do you think we woke up 'cause we both finally let each other die, or whatever?" he asks.
"I honestly don't know," she says. "I guess it doesn't matter." He nods. It's quiet for a little while. He tries to run all the scenes through his head yet again, tries to remember every moment he lived where she might have acted funny, and then he goes through everything she told him, and —
"Wait, hold on," he says. She glances away from the window to meet his gaze. "You lived for, like, months in dream time before I joined in, right?"
"Yes," she says, nodding.
"And, like, just now you said the first time we had sex in my reality, it was on a Thursday," he says. "Does that mean we had sex in your reality, too?" He blushes a little, but he can't help asking. She blushes, too, biting her lip, and nods. "But it was still your first time when we had sex on Thursday. . . ."
"It was a new reality, different from mine," she says. "And, besides, I lost my virginity to you several times in various ways in the special time of my reality — time lost all continuance, remember."
"Oh." But what does several times mean? "How many times?" he asks, just 'cause, you know, he's curious, or whatever.
She starts to count on her fingers, pauses, and then — "Seventeen times. And don't worry — you took my virginity very lovingly all seventeen times." She pats his hand, and he just stares at her in disbelief. She laughs a little. "Honestly," she goes on quietly, "I think the first time we have here, outside our minds, will be better than all those times." She smiles softly at him.
He thinks it will be, too. But does this mean —? They both experienced everything in those two minutes, and they both remember all those conversations, and does —? "Does this mean — are we — are we us again?" he asks.
She takes his hands in hers. "Finn, we were never not us. We've been us since the day we met. We're simply the good kind of us again."
"I love you," he says, because he really can't think of any words that fit better.
And she smiles slowly and widely. "You have no idea."
Everyone in Glee claps when Finn and Rachel return a week later.
Regionals is in less than two weeks, and school lets out two weeks after that. They probably won't have any success at Regionals, not with everything that's happened, but Finn doesn't really care. "And there's always next year," Mercedes says, smiling happily at Rachel.
"We could totally still kick ass this year," Puck says.
"And, on that note," Mr. Schue says, "why don't we get started?"
Nobody pays him any mind.
"Did you have any cool dreams?" Mike asks Finn. "Like, coma dreams?"
Finn and Rachel glance at each other. They had decided not to tell anyone what happened. It's theirs, and theirs alone, and he kind of likes that. Besides, no one has asked why they're together again. Apparently, nobody's surprised. Finn talked with Quinn, too, and explained that they were never really good for each other. She took it pretty well, actually.
"Nah," Finn says, answering Mike. "Not really."
"What about you, Rachel?" Artie asks. "Did you at least have a Britney Spears fantasy?"
"Or maybe a Barbra Streisand one?" Mercedes asks, grinning.
"Actually," Rachel says, "I did have a very nice fantasy. It was of me and Finn, together and happily in love."
"Did you do that lame thing where you hold hands and dance around a piano?" Lauren asks. "Because that's really not all that great. Trust me."
Rachel only smiles and leans into Finn.
"God, you two are boring," Santana says, "even in dreams."
"Yeah," Finn says, "I guess so."
Out where the dreams all hide,
Out where the wind don't blow,
Out here, the good girls die.
Now, Cinderella, don't you go to sleep.
It's such a bitter form of refuge.
Why don't you know, the kingdom's under siege,
And everybody needs you. . . .
a/n: too much of a cop-out? I just don't do unhappy endings! How about too crazy? It was originally a much simpler plot that I started after "Comeback," but the more I wrote, the more complicated it became, and it may have turned into a kind of monster. . . . Please review? :)