A/N: This story idea hit me like a freight train and it won't go away. I don't know how many parts it will be other than to say many—which is not what I need to do considering the sheer volume of stories I have in progress. Sorry. I'm taking some major musical liberties here, too, but I'll get into all that later so I don't ruin the story. It'll all be revealed in time. All you need to know for now is that this is AU after Original Song. The rest will be explained. I'm going to rate it T for now but it will probably end up getting bumped up to M when we hit the main action because you all know by now how I can't control my sailor's mouth.
Major thanks to Paceismyhero. Lizzie, you are such a huge support while I'm writing and I know I'm needy and it means you're rarely surprised by anything I post. You rock my socks. Also to the other group I've stumbled into – you guys are awesome and I'm having so much fun.
Disclaimer: I don't own Glee or any of the other things I'm blatantly ripping off. No harm or infringement is intended.
Lest You Forget (I'll Write This Down)
Prologue: Just Ignore It
Finn sighed as he took in her small form, curled up tightly on the couch. She always tried to wait up for him and it never worked. He kind of wondered why she bothered, even as he acknowledged himself that it was kind of sweet even as it was totally impractical; band rehearsal often went until eleven or even later like tonight. He rubbed a hand over his close-cropped hair and flicked a glance to the television. How could she stand to watch that crap?
He smirked. Obviously she couldn't. That's why she was asleep.
He crossed the small room in two long strides before he pulled the remote from the arm of the couch. Even as he pointed it at the television, though, he heard something familiar. It took his brain a second to catch up with his ears, but it was like a radio tuning to the closest station. Eventually the static drifted away the sound he heard was very clear. Instead of turning the volume down, he turned it up a little bit, with a careful glance to make sure Quinn didn't stir.
It was amazing that her voice was clear as a bell to him now, even through the scratchy and muted television speakers, and even though she was singing backup for some guy. It seemed really weird to hear her singing backup, but it was more like a duet. Either way, he never expected to hear Rachel Berry's voice on the stupid shows Quinn watched to 'unwind' from her rough day at work.
His eyes flicked over to the clock on the stove in the darkened room, wondering if he could call her. It was close to midnight, but the last time he had talked to Rachel, her run had just been extended. He squinted as he strained to remember how long ago that had been. It had been when she called for Kurt's birthday and they happened to be in the middle of brunch as a family—so that would've been in February. Now it was April. He sighed and realized he had no idea if the show was still going. She usually at least emailed when something major happened, and he hadn't seen anything about her starting a run of some kind in London or anything. Either way, midnight wouldn't be too late to call if she had finished a show.
His gaze shifted back to Quinn. He probably ought to at least make sure she got to bed before anything else. Once she fell asleep like this, she wasn't going to wake up. He could start pounding the skins that were sitting five feet away from her and she would continue on. Nope, he would have to carry her into their room, right on schedule.
He picked up the nothing of his slender girlfriend and tried not to laugh as she curled into him and murmured something in her sleep. She almost always talked when he picked her up on these nights and sometimes the results were pretty damn hilarious, honestly. Plus she refused to believe she did it, which was kind of an added bonus. The most recent one that had made him laugh until he almost dropped her was No, Puck, don't give me herpes. He was kind of waiting for something to top that. It looked like he would probably have to wait at least one more night.
Finn got her settled into bed, never really feeling like his presence even made a difference to her. It was easy enough to shrug off that feeling, though, and he pulled the door closed behind him as he came out of the bedroom. He didn't even make it to the couch before he was palming his cell phone out of his jeans pocket and keying through the contact list to find Rachel's number.
He rubbed his hand over his head one more time and dropped down onto the couch, hearing the well-worn and tired squeak from the second-hand furniture. If his band got a record deal, the first thing he was doing was buying a new couch. Seriously. It was a miracle this thing hadn't collapsed yet.
The phone rang three times before she answered, her voice just as sunny as ever. He fought the urge to smile; Rachel had always been such a morning person that he'd wondered a time or two if she'd had trouble adjusting to performing six nights a week. He should've known she'd be just fine.
"Hi, Finn!" She said. "Did someone die?"
He laughed out loud, unable to fight the bubble of humor in his chest. He sighed when it popped with his laugh and washed over him in a warm wave. "Hi, Rach. No, no one died. I'm glad you'd be so happy about it, though."
"I'm glad to talk to you," she said and suddenly whatever was going on behind her was gone. It was replaced with a hissing sound that he thought might be the wind. "Why are you calling so late, though?"
"Where are you?"
"New York," she said brightly. "And you?"
"Columbus," he said, unable to dampen the smile. She was drunk. Was it bad he could tell just from her voice? When they only talked every few months?
"That's good," she said simply. "We finished our run tonight. I'm at the cast party now."
"Ah," he said simply. "This is all making a little more sense."
"I don't have a job tomorrow," she whispered. Somewhere underneath the vast amounts of gushy drunk girl, he could hear the worry. "What am I going to do without a job?"
"Well, you should get royalties or something because I swear I heard you singing in a song on some stupid television show." He lowered his voice a little as he shifted on the couch. "That should at least…I dunno. Buy you a cup of coffee or something, right?"
She sighed. "Wait…what?"
"I know I heard your voice. That's why I called."
"Was this an old show, maybe? I haven't heard anything…" she said. "Maybe my publicist forgot to tell me?"
He shrugged even though he knew she couldn't see it. "Maybe? I have no idea old or new. It was something Quinn had on her DVR. She fell asleep watching it."
"Oh. It was probably the one from a couple of weeks ago, then." She said easily. "You picked my voice up in all that? I mean… it played during a mass casualty incident with shooting and bodies if it's the one I'm thinking."
He sighed, and with that the smile he couldn't lose before was now gone. He swallowed hard. "Yeah. It's like a gift or something. I can always…." He blew out a breath. There were some things you didn't say out loud. Not to ex-girlfriends who had left you behind a long time ago to make their way in the big, bad world.
And it occurred to him that, for as much as they'd stayed in touch, he didn't know which of the drunk girl archetypes she fell into now. For the first time in a long time, he felt a stab of longing. He wanted to be there. He wanted to see her at a bar in New York. He wanted to see her in New York.
Hell, he just wanted to see her.
They had gone into the city to see her play last fall. She had landed a major role. It wasn't the lead, it was more like she was just off from center stage, but it was a big deal. They hadn't made it for opening night, but instead for a night in the middle of the week just after the show opened. They had gone to dinner the night before, she showed them around a little bit, but it was nothing more than an extended weekend when he'd called in sick-but-not-really-sick-but-maybe-lovesick-over-his-ex.
Still, that was almost seven months ago. It didn't seem right that he hadn't seen in her seven months. Well…other than the picture her publicist put on Twitter when the play was extended. And the picture of her and some guy in a tabloid after she'd won a small recurring role on some lawyer show (and then she was everywhere for a few weeks but it seemed to have died down).
"Wait…didn't I read somewhere that you have a boyfriend? Maybe he can help you out."
Shut up. He tried really hard to keep it from sounding bitter because really…what right did he have at this point? And he knew it.
"I don't have a boyfriend," she muttered. "I don't have anyone, Finn." She sounded a whole lot less bubbly than she had when she answered and he hated that he always seemed to do that to her.
"Well then maybe you should come back home for a while. You have people here."
"Maybe." She sighed. "That's a good idea. It's been a long time since I was home. Since…"
"Since we were graduating from college and you officially moved out of your house."
"Yeah," she said softly. "Wow…has it really been that long?"
His eyes ticked up, like they were trying to physically search his memory for him. Rachel had been lingering in his room when he got home from school that afternoon; they had both come home for the weekend to really clear things out before they graduated college and started their "real" jobs. She attended his graduation on the following Wednesday at Ohio State and yeah, that had been the last time he had seen her in Ohio. He had already started his job when she walked with her class from Julliard and had only attended in pictures and the video her dads had proudly displayed (when he asked, but that was hardly worth mentioning). The other times… well, she'd done a show that stopped in Indianapolis with Broadway Across America and then his trip to New York and that was…that was it? Those were the only times he'd seen her…hugged her…smelled her… in the last four years?
"I think you should come home for a while," he repeated. His voice was low and it almost cracked. "I miss you."
"Well, you live two hours away though," she protested. "And do I really need to point out that you live with another girl—a girl who has been less than approving of me in the past?"
Finn sighed. In that regard, he wasn't sure what had happened other than life had happened. He and Rachel hadn't been in the same place at the same time since high school and she had been a whirlwind of unsettled activity, even when she was in college. Her travel schedule had been enough to send anyone that wanted to see her spinning. She had almost never returned home and that had certainly not changed.
He, on the other hand, had started at the Lima extension of Ohio State and then walked onto the football team during his sophomore year. He hadn't gone any further than Columbus, and now he was basically settled there even as his band was trying to go somewhere else.
The thing with Quinn had been on and off. There had been other girls—sort of. At least, that was until they ended up teaching at the same school in Columbus. Small, small world.
"I'm sure that's all water under… the whatever. I'm not that close to any bridges."
She laughed out loud. "I think I'm close enough to major ones for both of us."
"So cross one and come home. Even the same state is better than nothing."
"I'll think about it," she admitted. "Maybe I can do some more writing. I need the royalty checks to fund my raging Starbucks addiction."
It was his turn to laugh out loud and then change the subject. "So yeah, who was this guy? I liked that song. I'll go buy it."
Rachel sighed. "I'm not sure you want to do that, Finn."
There was a long pause. "I-I'm sorry. I have to go so I can get back inside. I'll email you in a couple days and let you know if I'm going to make it back home. Maybe we can meet in the middle or something."
"I'll pick you up at the airport," he offered. Even though it was late and probably wrong on some level, he didn't want the conversation to end or the connection to be gone. He'd kind of forgotten how nice it was just to talk to her.
"Okay," she said quietly. They said their brief goodnights and she hung up the phone before she twisted to lean against the brick façade of the building. Even though her phone was still in her hand, she rubbed her hands over her face. He had a way of appearing in her life again when she had hundreds of questions with no answers. Something had always pulled one of them away, but maybe…maybe this time would be different.
Rachel had written three or four of the songs on the album he had talked about buying and one of them was written directly to him. She hadn't even sung backup on the song but it would be immediately obvious to him that she had written it and that it was about him. It was her 23-year-old way of begging him to come find her and finally, finally start on the life they deserved.
But that had been years ago now, almost four years to be exact, and she had shelved the song for a long time because she honestly wasn't sure she was ready for him to hear it—and she knew he had never been ready to hear what she had to say. Had that really changed? Could it be that the day she'd been waiting for while she worked her guts out was finally coming? What if she wasn't ready for it?
She blew out a long breath. No. There was no way. Quinn had gotten it right. Quinn had gotten him. They lived together and, though she hadn't heard any announcements, they had been together for so long that she wondered when rather than if. No, it was probably better Finn didn't hear the song. She didn't want him to buy the album. Regardless of want though, it was, as always, out of her hands now. She had long ago stopped fighting battles she couldn't control the outcome of, and when it came to things like love… well, she didn't actually need it to survive and she had never been able to control it. Instead, she chose to ignore its very existence. Maybe not a romantic idea for a songwriter, but six nights a week she performed other people's stories and other people's songs anyway.
She was going to call her equity rep tomorrow and get a list of auditions. That was the first priority because at this point in her life, it had to be. Then she would decide about what she was going to do as far as getting home and going home, which as always, seemed to be two different things.