I'VE KNOWN IT ALL THIS TIME
He's not crazy about this whole 'prom' idea. Sure, it's supposed to be the 'night to remember' in someone's high school life, he knows that. But he just can't feel it right now. He's not sure why, really, because he's got a girlfriend whose middle name may as well just be 'prom' and he's in the running for prom king and... well... everything's supposed to be perfect.
He walks into the gym and nothing's really perfect - just average, maybe. He lets his eyes roam to the star banner and the colored balloons and the set tables and the empty stage and he still doesn't get it. He doesn't think he'll ever understand the entire infatuation with this whole 'prom' nonsense, but he'll pretend to only tonight, just because he thinks he's supposed to pretend for Quinn or something like that.
So the girl he's with stands with bright eyes in the blue dress, her manicured fingers lazily brushing against his every so often as a sort of reminder so he never forgets she's by his side. She's got on the brightest smile like she's just walked down the aisle of her own wedding, gushing at every little decoration. "Balloons!" He hears her yell, twisting the string on the end of the tied balloons like it's a string of gold. All he can do is stand there and watch, acting like he actually gives a damn about balloons and strings and the entire 'prom' thing.
A few more girls stand near them, their dates all on their arms as they bask in the flash of the cameras. They're giggling and having a good time, every single one of them bearing a smile every single time they're photographed and even when they're not.
Prom makes girls happy; he gets that now. He doesn't get the infatuation or the obsession, but he gets that it makes them happy, so he guesses it's sort of alright.
But then, he spots the girl he should be with. His stomach starts to sink and twist and turn so he lets go of the grip he's got on his date's hand and just stares. He doesn't think he means to, but he does. It sort of just happens.
The girl he should be with stands in the corner, almost alone, her baby pink dress flowing against her body, hugging every single one of her curves in a way that's almost so special he hopes the whole entire room gets a chance to dance with her. Of course, he won't be able to, but it's not his place to anymore. He knows that. He's known that.
He thinks she catches his gaze for a minute, for she grows sort of solemn, quickly dropping her glance to the floor as she pretends to fiddle with one of the curls resting on her shoulder.
He stiffens his posture, grabs onto Quinn's hand and poses for a few hundred more pictures he's not really prepared to take. All Quinn can do is smile, jolting his chin up with her hand.
"Think of how nice these'll be," she tells him. "And we'll look even better later."
He only arches a brow.
"After we're crowned," she says like he's supposed to actually remember something like that.
If he knows anything and anything at all tonight, it's just one thing: he's definitely not rushing to make a place for any pictures from tonight on his mantle.
The first dance happens and he's bored, sort of swiveling his hips along to whichever direction Quinn happens to sway.
"I'll be back," he whispers, lifting his hands from off of her waist and down into his pockets.
"...Sure," she says, almost stunned that he's stopped dancing with her.
He walks away from her quickly, his palms sweating and his head twitching.
"Hey!" He grabs onto Puck's forearm with his hand, causing Puck to swivel away from Lauren, pivoting on one foot as he turns to Finn with a small snicker.
"'Sup, Hudson?" He turns to Finn, sure, but he's still got one hand on Lauren's side, still swaying lightly to the beat of the music.
Finn only presses his lips together. He thinks it's kind of adorable, even if it is Puck and Lauren. (Yeah, he still doesn't understand that whole entire thing).
"Have you seen Rach anywhere?" He doesn't mean for it to come out that way. He's nervous and he's shaky and Puck can totally tell; he's fucked now, he thinks.
Puck leans in closer, shaking his head and letting out a small, "Sorry, dude."
Finn only drops his head in disappointment, letting out a half-smile as he looks back up to Puck, just before walking away.
"Wait!" Lauren's calling out this time, stepping in front of Puck and waving her hand for Finn to come back over. "You're lookin' for the midget, right?"
Lauren, smirking, leans closer into Finn, whispering an almost-invisible, "That way."
"Thanks," is all Finn answers, digging his hands even deeper and deeper into his pockets, letting out a huff before he walks away.
He walks out of the gym and into the hall, ignoring Quinn's small, "Get back here!" and the glare she throws at him once he actually lets her glance meet his with a small shrug.
He's sweating by the time he walks out of there, shaking his head as he lets his hands run through the top of his hair, nervously strutting down the long hallway before reaching the girls' bathroom.
"Rachel?" He leans against the door, lifting his right hand into a fist and pounding into it twice.
The door opens, sure, but it sure as hell isn't Rachel. "Santana," Santana stands at the door with a snicker, taking her fingers and pulling up the top of her dress, letting out a nervous giggle when she realizes he's looking right at her. "Stop looking for her."
He just narrows his eyes. "What?"
"You came here with Quinn," she says, harshness to her tone. "Don't go breakin' Berry's heart because you're bored with Quinn and her strange obsession with being prom queen. I mean, I know she's insane and all but... she's your girlfriend, Finn. Take advantage of that."
"Who the hell are you?" He says with a chuckle, placing his hand to Santana's shoulder and giving it a squeeze.
Dropping her head to the floor, she bats her eyelashes twice, then looks back up to him, a frown across her lips. "The girl who'll never be brave enough to bring another girl as her prom date," she whispers.
"You... what?" He's almost shocked now, his own hands trembling in his pockets as he keeps his eyes fixated on Santana's broken glance.
"You think I'm here with Karofsky because I like him?" She shakes her head, folding her arms against her chest tightly, almost like she's uncomfortable or something. He takes note of that so he lifts his hand up, presses it to her forearm and leaves it there for a minute. She tugs at her lip before she speaks, shaking her head like she regrets ever opening her mouth. "I like Brittany, alright?"
He stands beside her with wide eyes.
"No," she corrects herself, shaking her head, "I love Brittany. And I'm not here with her now because I was a bitch. I was a bitch who bitched out at everyone else because I couldn't have what I wanted. I... I was scared."
He knows how she feels so much it's almost scary, but she's even scarier so all he can do is press his lips together and give off a small nod.
"Do you want Rachel, Finn?" She asks him out-of-the-blue, lifting her head so her narrow eyes meet his.
He lets out a huff, then, "Of course."
"You're only here with Quinn because you couldn't have her," she says. "I get it."
"I couldn't have Rachel because she cheated on me with Puck to get back at me for sleeping with you," he says, irked.
"It's not my fault," Santana hisses. "The Brittany thing? That's my fault. But this thing with Rachel? S'all up to you guys."
Finn only shuts his eyes for a minute, letting his lips quiver as he thinks of something to say that'll beat out any something Santana'll say.
He's got absolutely nothing.
"She's in the choir room," Santana says, pointing to the end of the hallway, the only room with a single flash of light inside of it. "Go get 'er."
He nods his head, pats her shoulder twice and whispers a small, "Thank you."
"Yeah, no problem."
"By the way," he says, turning around before he fully walks away, "you don't have to be ashamed about that whole thing with Brittany."
Santana hangs her head like she is ashamed, though, nervously chattering her teeth as she jerks her head back for one moment, looking to the gym.
"She's in the gym," he whispers. "Go get 'er."
"S'what friends are for." He says this last line louder than anything else he's said all night.
She takes note of it, tugging at her lip with her top teeth.
All he does is smile.
He walks in the choir room slowly, like it's not a room he's in practically all week long but rather one of those sites in those horror films where all of the action secretly goes down in. Tiptoeing, he walks through the door with a huff, pushing at the handle as he sees only a shadow rise up from a chair, alertly.
"Hey," he says breathily, lifting one hand from his pockets and giving off a small wave. Sighing, he sits two chairs down from her, spreading his legs out as he awkwardly stiffens his position. "I can... I can sit, right?"
Rachel's just sitting there. She's in this beautiful baby pink prom dress, a flower in her hair, draping curls hanging across her shoulders, and she's just sitting there. He looks at her about twice before the both of them say anything else, her cheeks flushed and nervous as their glances meet, like they're two strangers who've been locked in a room and asked to fall in love or something. He doesn't feel like Finn and Rachel at all right now, and he's not so sure he's enjoying the feeling. (But they haven't felt like Finn and Rachel for awhile now, he knows when he really thinks about it).
"I thought you were with Quinn," she leans back in her chair even further than she already is, planting her hands in her lap, fiddling with her fingers almost like she's nervous. "You are here with Quinn, right?"
Shrugging his shoulders, he lets out a huff. "I am," he says, catching her bitter glance once he spits out those two words. "But frankly, prom's not my thing."
"Me either," she mutters.
"It's boring, isn't it?"
She only lets out a laugh, then shrugs.
He's not sure what to say next, so he lets his eyes graze her dress, then lets out a soft, "You look nice."
She tugs at her lip and stands up, smoothing out the back of her dress with her hands. "Love bores you, huh."
"I... I don't get it."
"You're here with Quinn yet you're not," she tells him. "You're seemingly bored of it, considering you're in here with me when you really should be finding your date. I... I'm not your date."
She's dropping her head now, acting as if he doesn't know that. Well, he totally does, even if he doesn't want to.
"Love bores you," she tells him again, this time whispering softly.
"No," he shakes his head, "it disappoints me."
"Well," she says, almost sighing, sitting down to the chair closest to his, "I'd like to say the same."
"Why's that?" He turns his body so he's facing her now, closing his legs and placing his hands flat down in his lap.
"I'm in here alone," she says, looking around the choir room, letting her eyes trail along the entire room for what feels like a minute until she finally looks back to him. "It's not like anyone's begging to dance with me or anything."
"I'd dance with you," he lets it slip out before he's got a chance to stop himself.
She grins from the corner of her mouth, letting her glance fall to her lap. "Well," she begins, "you've got a girlfriend. I don't think that'd be the best idea."
"Yeah, but," he sighs, "I'd still dance with you."
She's silent and it's freaking him out because, well, he's never been good with words. Especially now.
"You're beautiful," he says, watching her as she lets her lips quiver, unable to really answer him with any remark. He's kind of glad it's that way, though, because really, he just wants her to hear him about before she pulls the entire 'Quinn' excuse on him again. "You're really beautiful, Rachel. I mean, look at you. You've got the nicest dress and the prettiest hair and even if you don't look like the other girls, you're still special. You're... you're so pretty. And I know you're gonna like, deny it and ask me to stop complementing you because I've got a girlfriend or whatever, but that doesn't have anything to do with what I'm telling you."
She just arches her brow and looks like she's crossed between letting a tear fall or yelling at him and frankly, he's just really glad she's not able to really say anything now.
"Alright, maybe it does have something to do with what I'm telling you, but... but it shouldn't," he says, breathing heavily and nervously, almost like he's announcing this entire thing to an entire room full of people rather than the one he's really talking to.
"Did you find me to tell me all of this or...?"
Nodding, he lets out a weak, "Yes."
"Is it wrong that... that I'm glad you did?" She asks sheepishly, unknowingly (or not-so-unknowingly, he's not too sure) letting her hand fall on Finn's kneecap.
"No," he shakes his head. "It's not. I... I really like you, Rach. I didn't really stop, but..."
"You know," she looks to him with guilt-ridden eyes, "the only reason we aren't here together tonight is because of me."
They stay in this position for a moment - him looking to her like she's carrying the world and her looking back to him almost too guiltily, her gaze filled with apology and regret.
"Let's stop this, Rach," he says, watching as she arches one of her eyebrows. "Let's stop the blame game and all of these hidden feelings we've got for one another. I mean, you do wanna be with me as much as I'd like to be with you, right?"
She bites down on her lip, then, "I'm not sure it's enough."
He only widens his eyes because he always says something wrong, even if he's got no idea what it is exactly.
"You're here with Quinn," she reminds him. "You two'll be crowned king and queen tonight and you'll forget about all of this."
"No," he shakes his head. "No I won't."
"Prove it," she barks, sitting up in her chair, folding her arms against her chest.
"I can't," he says quietly, triggering Rachel's arched brow once more. "I can't kiss you because you're gonna pull the whole 'you've got Quinn' card on me again and I... I can't handle that anymore. Rach, I don't want Quinn."
"You wanted her last week," she answers harshly. "And the week before that. And the week before that, too. And then -"
He's missed her rambling and sure, he'll listen to it any other day, but not now. He can't listen to it now because he's got this urge to kiss her just so she'll know; so she'll know he means it and that she's his even if she's not exactly his right now. So he does. He leans forward and kisses her like he means it and swears to himself if she pulls back he'll run out of prom right then and there because he can't take any more of it - one step forward and two steps back, they always are.
But they're a step forward once Rachel realizes what's going on and puckers her lips so she's kissing him back.
He swears he feels the outline of a smile touch his own when she leans in even closer.
When they finally pull away from each other, almost in unison, she shoots him a look. "So...?"
"So," he mutters, looking down at the floor rather than to her.
"You can look at me, you know," she laughs, lifting her hand and placing it on the tip of his shoulder gently.
"It's stupid," he says in a whisper, shooting over a glance to her.
"I should've came here with you in the first place," he says lowly.
Her jaw quivering, she only stands up from her chair, lets her arms dangle at her side and makes her way for the door.
"Where are you going?" He asks, brow furrowed as he looks at her.
She's got her hand on the doorknob already, her eyes darting back over to him for only a second before she's facing the door once again. "Home," she whispers.
Nodding, she starts to sniffle. "Being a second option becomes a little tiring after awhile."
And with that she leaves.
He doesn't know how long it takes him to get to the parking lot, but he's out there before he even knows it, standing against the brick wall as he peers over the entire crowd of students standing by the staircase looking for the one in the long, baby pink dress with the brunette curls and the broken glance.
"Rachel!" He calls out with a wave once he thinks he spots her. "Rachel!"
Not only Rachel turns around, but Blaine and Kurt join her too, their arms all linked as they meet Finn's eyes all at once.
"C'mere!" Finn calls, still waving his hand up in the air as he waits for Rachel to look back to him.
She only shakes her head, letting out a strong, "no!" from the distance.
Kurt walks over to Finn instead, unlinking his arms from both Blaine and Rachel.
Finn, letting out a huff, only eyes Kurt for a moment before letting his glance dart back to Rachel, whose still standing with Blaine, her arms wrapped around her body as he watches her give off a shiver.
"Is she... is she cold?"
"Really, Finn? You kiss her and basically say you would've been with her if it weren't for Quinn and you're worried about her body temperature?" Kurt asks with a snicker, shaking his head in disappointment. "She's really heartbroken, you know. Even if she denies it later, she's really heartbroken."
"I know." He says it, sure, but he wishes he didn't have to.
Seconds pass and Blaine's hand is in Kurt's now, the both of them leaving Finn with a pat on the back as they head inside.
"The voting's starting," Kurt whispers. "You might want to hurry this little thing up so you can make it inside, king."
Finn never cared about the whole 'king' thing in the first place, but he definitely doesn't care now because Rachel's approaching him, her lips pressed together, an almost-smile on her face. It's a step up from just minutes before, and really, prom king seems even more meaningless to him because he'd rather be a part of this instead. He knows it now. His only job? Make it known to her, too.
"Hey," he says almost too quietly, burying his hands deep in the pockets of his pants as he watches the way she moves toward him, pivoting her right foot so she's purposely angled in the opposite direction of him. "I know you're upset."
She says nothing, so he takes a step closer to her, slides his hand down her arm from her elbow to her wrist. She looks down just to see him wrap his fingers over hers, almost like he's hugging her hand so she'll stay.
"Rachel, I wanna be with you," he starts. When she says nothing, her hand still stiff in his, he clears his throat and knows that, yes, even though he isn't too great with words, he's gonna have to make these next ones count. "I don't know how to put this without you getting upset with me because, well, you'll probably be upset with me. You wanna know why I forgave Quinn?"
She shakes her head no, letting her top lip hang over the bottom a bit. She's so cute it's almost crazy, but he can't let his attention drift off to that when he's over here practically making a speech, so he just clears his throat and lets his hands fiddle nervously in his pockets.
"I forgave her because my relationship with her wasn't going anywhere," he says. "It didn't mean half of what ours did."
"I would've never thought that," she says, looking up to him.
"Well it's true."
"I believe you," she lets her fingers loose in his hand, wrapping hers right over his almost so naturally it feels as if they've been holding hands all night long.
He leans in to kiss her once more, letting his lips graze hers for a second before he really, really kisses her. It feels pretty great, so he keeps on kissing her.
All until the door leading outside slams and a strutting Quinn Fabray makes her way to the stair on the staircase where the two of them stand, letting out a small huff. "You know," she remarks, "I'd be more disappointed if I weren't just elected prom queen." She rips the small crown off of her head and he can only roll his eyes because, well, he definitely doesn't see what the big deal about that stupid thing is anyway - it's a piece of plastic and it looks pretty shitty to him.
Rachel pulls away from Finn almost instantly, nervously dropping her hands to her side as she lets go of the grip she's got on his hand almost as if she really doesn't want to.
"I saw it coming," Quinn tells him, hovering at his backside with a snicker so large it's almost fearful. "I can't even be angry with you because you weren't even elected prom king."
"Then who was?" He can't believe he's actually having this conversation with her right now - Rachel at his side, pressing her still-moistened lips together and Quinn behind him, flashing the crown that's pretty much the only reason she ever got herself involved in a relationship with Finn again for - but it's happening.
"Puckerman," she says, almost uninterested. "Something about him improving himself emotionally and socially throughout the course of the school year. I guess dating that... that thing can do that to someone."
"Maybe he loves her." Finn says, only he's not looking over to Quinn this time.
"Yeah," Rachel adds with a small smile, letting the back of her hand graze the tip of his wrist almost unnoticeably. "Maybe he loves her."
"Yeah, well," Quinn sighs, "it's over. Frankly the decorations were tasteless and almost too tacky for human eyes and the food was horrendous, but it's over. I can go home and say I've won my crown."
"Aren't you forgetting something?" Finn grabs her by the wrist when she's already a step down from where him and Rachel stand. "We've gotta talk, you know."
"We really don't," she says, almost like she's in too much of a rush to even form a complete sentence. "You and I clearly don't work. I see that now," Quinn adds, facing Rachel more than she's facing him.
"There's a reason for that," he says, tugging at his tie nervously as he walks closer to her. "We've gotta talk about it sometime."
"The reason's standing about six feet away from me and I'd rather go home than stand on these steps with you and listen to you list reasons why you're in complete awe of Rachel Berry," she snickers. "Goodnight, Finn."
"So it's over just like that, huh?" He feels Rachel tense up next to him, her gaze almost one of hurt when he looks over his shoulder and to her. "Rach," he whispers, letting his eyes completely leave Quinn, "I'm not mad it's over if that's what you're worried about."
"I'm not," she says quietly, fiddling with a loose end of her hair.
"Good." He's not worried, really, but he's just making sure, because well, he's hurt her enough and he'd rather not fuck up for what'll be the thousandth time.
Quinn, standing stiffly on the edge of the stair, just nods sternly. "It's never been on," she snaps.
"Every single time you weren't paying attention to me, you were paying attention to her," Quinn says, nodding her head over to Rachel, who's standing behind Finn with soft eyes and reddened cheeks. "You stare at her in glee club; you tell me she's fragile and it'd be wrong to date because it'd hurt her; you accidentally called me 'Rachel' when you called to say goodnight the other -"
"That was one time," he interrupts.
Giggling for the first time in a long time, Quinn places her hand to his forearm. "Let's just make this a mutual breakup," she says. "It'll save us both the embarrassment."
Looking over to Quinn, he nods and smiles. Then, looking back to Rachel, he takes his hand and runs it over hers once, then asks, "Are you sure this is alright?"
"Yes," she blushes. "It's fine."
"I know," she says, pivoting so she's leading the two of them inside.
He looks down to her hand in his, the way their fingers curve together, and he finally thinks they've gotten something right this time. It's a pretty good feeling.
Prom's over now so it's basically just a few people inside of the gym cleaning up the decorations. Rachel's hand is still in his once they turn all of the lights on and bring out the garbage bins and the ladders.
"Hey," she turns to him like she hasn't been next to him for the past thirty minutes. "You don't think we're rushing into anything, do you?"
He looks down to their intertwined hands, then back up to her. "Nope," he says almost so confidently he becomes unsure himself for a minute. "I don't. I mean, we never stopped loving each other or anything, right? I've wanted you to be my girlfriend since the day I broke up with you."
Bending down to the floor, Rachel takes a streamer off of the ground, crumbles it in her hands and throws it to him, hitting him in the shoulder.
"What was that for?" He laughs, letting the streamer fall to the ground.
"Don't break up with me again and we won't have that problem," she says, giggling.
He thinks it's the most adorable thing like, ever, and he can't help but laugh himself when he watches the way she touches her tongue to her teeth and the way her chest moves up and down when she starts to giggle even harder. He's paying attention to her and only her until he feels the slap of a balloon hitting his backside.
"Hudson!" Santana chants, Brittany beside her as he looks to the two of them fiddling with helium balloons. "Pay less attention to Berry and more attention to the streamers you're steppin' in."
"Oh..." His cheeks flushed, he lets out a laugh and bends down, picking up a streamer and letting it hit Rachel's stomach. "She distracts me."
"I'm happy for you, y'know," Santana whispers to him once Brittany manages to distract Rachel by dropping a whole case of popped balloons. "How'd you get rid of Quinn?"
"Simple," he shrugs. "I never really let her in in the first place."
"Smart boy," Santana laughs.
"How'd you end up with Britt?"
"Well," Santana sighs, "we're not exactly together, but a Ke$ha song came on and she looked bored beside Artie so..."
"Good for you," he nods, giving her a rub on the forearm. "I'm happy for you."
"I could say the same to you," she says, eyeing Rachel from behind him. "You know it was gonna end up like this anyway."
"Yeah, and it could end up the same way for you," he says, looking to Brittany and then back to Santana, who's tugging down on her lip nervously as she lets her eyes hit the floor. "You never know."
Yeah, no one ever knows, he thinks. Rachel's pretty much all the proof he needs for that statement.
Kurt yells for Carole to come to the living room because Finn's broken another frame and he pretty much lives to snitch on Finn these days.
"It's either that or the computer history conversation'll come up," Kurt warns him as the two of them sit on the couch, broken pieces of one of Carole's old frames sitting in between them.
Finn, narrowing his eyes, lets out a snicker and looks to the broken pieces beside him.
"So what were you trying to do anyway? If you're looking to put my school picture on the mantle, don't. I'll make you a copy you can hang in your room. Much better quality."
"S'not that," Finn shakes his head. "It's this picture."
"Carole!" Kurt yells, picking up a piece of the broken frame resting between the two of them in his hands, flipping the piece over about fifty times as he examines the crack in the glass almost so carefully it irks Finn to no end.
She walks into the living room, looks down to the broken frame in between the boys and just laughs. "It's a cute picture," she says with a smile.
"Too bad Rachel doesn't live with us," Kurt says. "Incase you've all forgotten, it's a mantle in our family room for our... well... family pictures."
"One day, maybe," Carole says, nudging Finn on the shoulder. All he can do is look up to her with nervousness in his eyes, fidgeting as she gives him a little tap.
"As if," Kurt snickers. "Their relationship hardly made it past the six-month mark. What makes you think it'll last beyond that?"
"You never know," she says before darting out of the room, leaving, once again, just Finn and Kurt and the broken frame Finn knows Kurt's totally irked by.
"Fine," Kurt sighs, looking down to the small picture Finn's got in his hands. "It is a cute picture. Just... just go ahead and put it in one of the frames with my picture in it. Just... just do it."
Finn, nodding, walks over to the mantle, lifts up one of the six picture frames with Kurt's picture inside, but shrugs and shakes his head, placing it down quicker than it took to lift it up.
"You're more than welcome to," Kurt says. "I mean, my pictures are lovely but there's only so much Kurt you can see before you get tired, I suppose."
"I'm gonna wait," he says. "I'm gonna buy us our own frame. It'll be like, the 'Finn and Rachel frame' and I'll switch the picture from time to time."
He knows Kurt's about to make a comment regarding the two of them never lasting or something, but all he has to do is look down to the picture in his hands and whatever Kurt's got to say'll seem almost irrelevant.
He's not crazy about this whole 'prom' idea. Sure, it's supposed to be the 'night to remember' in someone's high school life, he knows that. But the only thing he gets out of it is this picture - a smiling Rachel Berry, her arms looped around Finn's neck as she stands beside him, her pink dress totally clashing with his blue tie, the blue tie he wore only to coordinate with Quinn Fabray. It clashes, sure, but then again, it's totally them and he couldn't love it any more than he does.
If he knows anything and anything at all about prom it's just one thing: it gives him one good picture to place on his mantle. He thinks that's kind of important.