a/n: title and lyrics come from "New Orleans" by Beautiful Creatures. I'm trying out a new "divider." It might not work. Bear with me!


You got more glitter and a lot more glam
Than Hollywood has its fame.
And holding you is the best damn thing.
No one's ever taking that away.

I said, hey missus, won't you stand by me now?
Give me a little more time.
Hey missus, won't you stand by me now?
Show me how to turn it upside down.


It starts in the summer.

Rachel flies down in time for his graduation, and then they spend two weeks at home.

Most of her things are already in New York, already boxed and labelled and now in the temporary care of Kurt, but she wants to bring back a little more, and Finn needs her help to pack all his crap. They see a few of their old friends, lunch with Mike one day and dinner with Sam on another, and it's easy and nice and a good break. They hang out with their parents, too, who cry lots and talk about the first dance competition Rachel won as a baby and that time two-year-old Finn ran around the mall naked for half an hour before Carole could catch him.

And that's great, sure, but Finn almost feels like he has cabin fever or something, 'cause he just needs to get out, and he knows Rachel feels the same. Finally, on a Tuesday afternoon, Burt helps Finn pack up the truck with everything, and it's kind of amazing that all their stuff fits, even if Rachel has to sit with a duffle bag at her feet and two pillows on her lap.

They leave a little after six the next morning. Finn should be sleepy, but he's not, because this?

This is the beginning of everything.

Kurt meets them there, his little Prius stuffed with Rachel's things, and he helps them carry all the boxes and bags up three flights of stairs and into the new apartment. It grows dark, and they all grow exhausted, sweating from the summer heat that doesn't fade with the day, but they manage to get all the boxes inside, and afterward they order delivery and eat Papa John's pizza on the kitchen floor for dinner.

They drink cheap, celebratory champagne, too, and Kurt makes two dozen toasts that grow sillier and sillier as he grows more and more drunk. ("To apartments with no roaches! To cupcakes! To Finchel! To unicorns!") He finally passes out on a mountain he makes of all the pillows he can find, and Finn spreads out Rachel's comforter on the floor and lies on top of it, letting Rachel fall asleep on top of him.

He's tired, but he can't sleep, not for the longest time. He lies in the dark, toying with Rachel's hair and staring up at the ceiling, and he thinks about how crazy this all is, he and Rachel moving into an apartment together in New York City straight out of college.

It definitely is crazy. But it's gonna be kinda awesome, isn't it?

###

Rachel makes a list for the day.

It has forty-seven bullet points. She reads them aloud to him over breakfast at this diner two blocks from their apartment. "I don't know if we can do all that today," he tells her. "I mean, like, maybe that can be the to-do-list for our first week in New York, instead of the first day."

"Don't worry," Rachel dismisses, "we'll have plenty of time. I've planned everything out."

They go grocery shopping and stock the fridge, and they buy a mattress. That's it. They manage the first two bullet points.

"How was I supposed to know that it would take me five hours to pick the perfect mattress?" Rachel exclaims unhappily as he helps her put sheets on the bed (or, you know, hands her the sheets before she puts them on the bed).

"Yeah," he says, nodding, "I seriously didn't see that coming."

"I know!" she exclaims, and then she starts to plan the rest of the night, saying that they can start to organise the kitchen and empty all those boxes, at least. That's a great plan, really. But he thinks she needs to cheer up a little, and he decides sex would work best.

He totally wins that argument.

###

He starts to look for a job a few days later, when the apartment isn't full of boxes anymore and Rachel has started to mark up her planner with dates of various auditions. She has a role in some off-off-off Broadway play that she auditioned for right before her graduation, but he knows she wants something bigger and better, and he's all for that. Dream big, right?

But he can't find a job anywhere.

Rachel tells him if an internship would work better, that's fine, she can support them with pay from the dance classes she gives at this local JCC and has since her freshmen year at Julliard. But is that really enough money? She has lots saved up, but how long's that gonna last? And he wants to help pay the rent. He's not gonna be some douche who lives off his girlfriend. Plus, he doesn't even know what he would get an internship doing. Like, he doesn't have any idea what he wants to do with his life.

The next few weeks pass slowly, and he helps Rachel paint the living room and bleach the bathroom tiles and hang curtains in the kitchen nook, and he goes to all the local restaurants and shops and stuff, looking for something, for anything that doesn't require more than a sociology undergraduate degree from a state school.

He finally finds a job waiting tables during the crappy afternoon hours. It's not great, but it's enough for now. And when he tells Rachel, she squeal and claps and tackles him, knocking him back on to the couch as she peppers his face in kisses. "I know you would find a job! I'm so proud of you! I love you!"

It's not great, but it's enough to make Rachel proud, and Finn'll take that any day.

###

The song comes onto the radio, and he starts to sing under his breath.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we were older? / Then we wouldn't have to wait so long. . . " He nods his head a little, and he can nearly feel her eyes on him, so he glances over to meet her amused gaze. "And wouldn't it be nice to live together, / In the kind of world where we belong. . . ."

"You know this song is about sex, right?" she asks.

He grins and raises his voice. "You know it's gonna make it that much better, / When we can say goodnight and stay together, / Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up, / In the morning when the day is new, / And after having spent the day together!"

"I'm serious. They want to be older so they can live together and have sex all the time."

He starts to dance his way over to her, and she laughs. "Hold each other close the whole night through, / The happy times together we've been spending, / I wish that every kiss was never ending. . . ."

"This song isn't really appropriate for you to sing, considering we do live together and we can have sex all the time."

"Wouldn't it be nice? / Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray, it might come true, / Baby, then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do. . . ."

He takes her hands, swinging her slightly, and then suddenly he lifts her up, still singing. She's right. They do live together, and they can have sex whenever they want, even on a random, lazy Sunday afternoon, like, you know, right now.

"We could be married and then we'd be happy, / Wouldn't it be nice?"

He carries her into the bedroom, dropping her onto the bed as he belts out the last few lines, dramatically clutching his chest. "You know it seems the more we talk about it, / It only makes it worse to live without it, / But let's talk about it. . . ."

He climbs onto the bed and crawls over to her, pulling down her shorts as she sings sweetly, "Wouldn't it be nice?"

Yeah. It's nice.

###

Rachel wakes up early.

He knows this. She used to talk him into six am runs in high school. And she would text him good morning a lot in college. And on busy weekends she would try to schedule Skype dates at seven in the morning, which did not work for Finn. But the point, see, is that her crazy schedule never really bothered him before.

But he's never lived with her before.

Like, it's tough shit when your girlfriend sings Katy Perry songs at the top of her lungs as she does her exercise videos at six thirty in the morning. He doesn't know how to tell her that, though. He doesn't know how to look up from the grapefruit, eggs, and hash brown she arranged on his plate to make a smiley face and ask her not to make so much noise.

(She sings in the shower, too, after her exercise video, and, fuck, does she have to slam the silverware drawer shut that loudly as she moves around the kitchen?)

He gets a little used to it, though, and he does like the breakfasts she makes, and, well, it makes her happy to get up that early, so whatever.

###

They don't explore the city very much.

Rachel had always talked about all the sights they would see, but suddenly they have to worry about life and stuff, and they don't have time to be tourists. They visit the little boutiques around their apartment, though, and they go to this park a few blocks away. The first time, Rachel packs a picnic, and they spend the whole afternoon there.

They lie in the sun until Finn thinks he might melt, and then they move under this big oak tree. Rachel reads, and Finn lies with his head on her thigh, and he lazily listens to his ipod, flipping through Sports Illustrated and half-watching all the people around them. He feels like he could lie there forever.

They start to go to the park a lot, and they always claim the same spot under the same tree. Finn thinks it might be his favourite part of New York City.

###

He gets assigned the night shift one Wednesday, 'cause Jeff calls in sick, so he actually works a double shift, and he doesn't get back to the apartment until past two in the morning. He's so tired it's unreal. He just wants to go to bed and not wake up until this time tomorrow.

"Rachel!" he calls, tossing his keys onto the counter. The apartment's pretty dark. Has she gone to bed? "I'm home!"

"In here!" she shouts from the bedroom, and he can see the light seeping out from under the door. He pulls off his shoes as he walks, and he starts to complain about how exhausted he is as he pushes open the door, but he pauses when he sees her. She's sitting up in bed with a book in her lap. Her hair's in a sloppy ponytail, and she's just wearing his old Ohio State sweatshirt, which completely dwarfs her.

She looks perfect.

"I waited up for you!" she says brightly, only for her voice to go soft and sweet a moment later. "But, oh, you look so tired." She closes her book and gazes sympathetically at him. "You want me to run a bath for you?"

"Nah," he mutters. "I just wanna sleep."

"Come on, then," she tells him, pulling back the sheets and adjusting the pillows.

He strips to his boxers, and then he's crawling towards her as she flips off the one light by her bed and lies back, letting him pull the covers up over them. "You smell like french fries," she says as she snuggles up against him. He wraps his arms around her.

"You smell like you," he murmurs.

She smiles into his neck. "Aren't you even going to brush your teeth?"

"Uh-uh," he says. "Too tired."

"Poor baby," she murmurs. She kisses his cheek, running her hand through his hair, and he falls asleep a few minutes later.

###

"Finn!" she squeals.

Shit. He could have sworn he remembered last time —

She storms out of the bathroom. "I'm a small person, you know!" she says. "I literally fall in the toilet when somebody doesn't put the seat back down!"

"I'm sorry?"

"How did your mother let you get away with this?" she cries.

"Um, we always had our own bathrooms?"

She stomps her foot and goes back into the bathroom, declaring loudly that she's taking a shower. The seat of her pants is wet. He's kind of surprised she didn't come out to yell at him butt-naked like the first time, but, then again, maybe he's not surprised. "I really am sorry!" he shouts.

"You better be!"

###

Her show has opening night that Friday.

He gets off work early, showers, and puts on the suit she laid out for him before she left. He buys her flowers on his way to the theatre. He wants to buy her some jewellery, too, but he doesn't really have the money for that, so he buys a teddy bear that holds a little heart with the words I Love You Beary Much! It totally works on so many levels, right?

And the show's amazing.

She's amazing, and she's totally gonna be famous. He's never seen a production of Anything Goes before, but he's sure this has gotta be the best one yet. He goes backstage, grinning at her and holding the teddy bear and the roses. She races over to him as soon as she sees him, and he ends up dropping the bear and the flowers to catch her, but she doesn't seem to care.

"What'd you think?" she asks breathlessly. "Did you like it?"

"I loved it," he says, kissing her, "almost as much as I love you."

###

The bed kinda becomes an issue.

Here's the problem: Rachel wants Finn to make the bed. Finn doesn't see the point. It's an issue.

"Finn, if I left bed after you," she tells him, "or if we got out of bed together, then I would happily make the bed, but that's not the case. You always leave bed after me, sometimes after I've left for work, and you really need to start making the bed."

He tries to argue, but she makes a list of reasons why the bed should be made.

"Reason number eight: it provides another great space to do chores like fold laundry. Reason number nine: it instantly reduces clutter and makes the whole room so much more inviting. Reason number ten: it gives a great sense of accomplishment, and —"

"Okay! Okay," he says. "I give up. I'll make the bed."

Sometimes, it's easier to let the small stuff go. It's in his imaginary manual for loving Rachel: it might seem crazy to people who are not Rachel, but that's irrelevant. Sometimes, it's just better not to ask questions, it's better just to put they keys in the basket on the table by the door ("in the best, Finn, in the basket!") and to eat organic chips ("your heart will thank my in twenty years") and to let her iron socks ("the littlest details in your appearance make the biggest difference, trust me").

Whatever makes her happy, right?

###

They never really go out.

He used to go out all the time, back in college — to bars and to parties and just out. It was pretty killer. But things change. He thinks maybe he's mellowed, or something. Like, he doesn't so much mind sitting on the couch drinking some "healthy" wheat beer with Rachel curled up beside him as he watches the game and she reads some epic Russian novel.

She makes him do yoga videos sometimes, and yoga's hard, but if he whines enough she lets him beg off and just sit around while she does yoga, and he has no problem with that at all. (He loves her yoga pants. She looks good in everything, but she really rocks the yoga pants, just saying.)

And they go to movies now and then, and shows, and more shows, too.

He still wants to go out sometimes, though, for, like, drinks and stuff, and she never stops him. She even agrees to go with him every so often, and he thinks he should get a pat on the back for that. He talks her into going with him to B Dubs to watch the Indians play on a Tuesday night, and she dresses up and looks so fabulous with these heels and this tiny skirt and this shirt that dips down really low, and, yeah, they don't make it out the door.

But, again, he's mellowed, so he's totally cool with that.

###

"What's all this?" he asks as he drops down on the couch and kicks off his shoes.

"Put your shoes by the door, please," she replies, not even looking up from all the papers and folders and stuff that circle her on the floor. He sighs and stands up, grabbing the shoes and tossing them towards the door. "By the door," she says, "not somewhere near the door."

He lines them up next to her flats and tennis shoes. "Happy?" he says.

"Very," she says, and she spares him a smile.

"So what're you doing?"

"I'm looking at possible careers."

He frowns. "You have a career."

"I mean possible careers for you."

"Seriously?"

She bites her lip and puts down the papers in her hands, and she comes over to sit beside him on the couch. "We've only been in New York for two months, and there's no rush to plan out the entire future," she says, "but I feel like you aren't very happy with your job." She pauses. "Are you?"

He shrugs. "It's a job. And Jenna says I could start picking up nightshifts if I keep, like, laying on the charm with that baby boy face — her words, not mine."

"You are very charming," Rachel says softly. "But wouldn't you like to do something more?"

"Yeah, eventually." He doesn't really like to think about all that. It's just kind of a lot, and he doesn't want to dwell, or whatever, on that stuff, not right now.

"It's never too soon to make eventually now," she says. "Of course, whatever you choose to do is entirely up to you, and I'll respect and support any decision you come to or any path you'd like to pursue. But I have some ideas. I did some research into fields open to sociology majors, and some other ideas that I thought you might like. I've made a few lists, and we can look them over, if you like." She looks at him eagerly.

"That's cool," he says, but his eyes dart to all the papers, and it's a little overwhelming. "Could we maybe do it some other time, though? I mean, when I haven't just gotten off work?"

"Sure," she says. She leans forward and kisses him. "How does spaghetti for dinner sound?"

"It's not the gross green kind, is it?"

"No," she says, shaking her head at him, exasperated. "I learned from that mistake. I know now that my boyfriend doesn't eat green food. I swear, you're good practice for an eight-year-old." She stands and heads towards the kitchen.

"You want help?" he offers. "I can, like, chop tomatoes or something."

"I'm fine," she replies. He thinks maybe she wants him to look at some of her papers. He sighs and grabs some from the floor. There's this pamphlet on going to school for business and a print-out from about careers in public service, and there's a list written in Rachel's loopy writing, with a boxed title at the top: Possible Careers for Finn.

She has social worker on there, and chef, and police offer, and football coach, and EMT, and car salesman, and —

Basically, she has every career ever on the list. He smiles a little, though, 'cause he has a feeling she honestly thinks he really could do anything, and he knows she's the only one who's ever really thought that.

"Hey, baby?" he calls.

"Mmm?"

"You can make the gross green spaghetti, if you want."

###

She wants to do these couples cooking classes.

"It'll be so much fun," she promises. "And this way you can make dinner sometimes, instead of me, and I'll do the dishes, instead of you!"

He agrees to go with her. And, yeah, he knows what he's signing himself up for. He knows that Rachel's super competitive, and he knows she's gonna be cooking stuff all the time now to practice so that she can be the best in the class. As far as he's concerned, more delicious food around the apartment is always a plus, even if she wakes him up at five in the morning to try some of this manicotti that she may finally have perfected.

She does get pretty crazy in the class, especially against this one blonde lady and her blonde boyfriend. He feels like he should convince her not to do stuff, like, you know, purposefully sabotage the blondes.

But, okay, Rachel's definitely a better cook than that girl, but the blonde thinks she's so good. Jeez, her cherry pie was so bad Finn had to spit his first and only bite out into a napkin. Rachel is totally boss at cherry pies. And the guy's a complete tool who stares at Rachel's butt way more than is allowed ('cause none at all is allowed). So, yeah, maybe Finn ends up jumping up and down with Rachel and screaming "Pwned!" when he and Rachel totally make a better soufflé than the blondes.

Her competitiveness rubs off, okay?

They only go to six lessons. Finn doesn't really learn anything. Rachel still does most of the cooking, and he still does most of the dishes. (But he makes her grilled cheese sometimes.)

###

At the end of the summer, the theatre's production of Anything Goes finishes.

Rachel still hasn't found another show, but she insists that now she really has time to devote herself to the search. She calls some of her old Juilliard professors for help, and she auditions at least two or three times a week, and he knows something will happen any day.

And, until then, she'll teach dance, and he'll work at the restaurant, and they'll just wait.

###

He gets this random Tuesday off, and she cancels her dance classes for the day.

They sleep in late, and they wear pyjamas all day long, and they go back and forth between Al Pacino movies and Barbra Streisand movies. They even order pizza for lunch and Chinese for dinner. Like, if they're gonna be lazy all day, they might as well do it right.

It starts to rain around seven, and Rachel lies snuggled against his side as he mouths the words to His Love Makes Me Beautiful because he's seen Funny Girl way, way too many times.

"Are you happy here, Finn?" she asks quietly, suddenly. He glances down at her. "In New York, I mean," she adds. "Are you happy?"

"Yeah," he says, "of course. Why?"

"No reason."

He thinks maybe it's more than that, but he doesn't say anything else. He only kisses the top of her head, and then sings You Are Woman, I Am Man with her, and they totally sound better than the movie. It's a good day.

###

"I can't believe we have to have this conversation yet again!"

She's pissed. He gets that. She ignores him all evening, until finally, right before they go to bed, she lets loose and won't let up. And he really just doesn't see the problem. He knows he should let this slide, he knows he should listen to his own philosophy on how to handle Rachel Berry, but, honestly, can't she let something slide once in a while?

He finally throws up his hands and interrupts her. "I just don't get why I have to make the bed!" he yells. "It's not like either of us is around during the day to see it all unmade and stuff! And we come home at night and just go right into bed and mess everything up, so — "

"You're missing the point!" she snaps, hands flying to her hips.

"That's because there isn't one!" he says. "Is there? Come on, Rachel. What's the point?"

"The point," she begins furiously, and then she pauses. She purses her lips. And she narrows her eyes. The alarms in his head start to sound, even as she goes on slowly. "The point," she says, "is that if you don't make the bed in the morning, I won't have sex with you at night."

Wait. Hold the phone. What did she just say? He stares at her. "Are you serious?"

She's not. She can't be. "Entirely," she says, nodding sharply. "From now on, every day you don't make the bed is a day I withhold sex. And we're starting today." She walks around him and into the bathroom, obviously pleased with herself.

He can't believe this. He follows her. "This is a joke, right?" Because he and Rachel have been together since Nationals junior year, so, like, more than five years, and this is the first time they've ever been able to go at it on a regular basis, and by that he means every freakin' night, and it's awesome. So she can't seriously mean this. "Right?" he pushes.

"I would never make jokes about something as serious as making the bed," she replies matter-of-factly before she starts to brush her teeth.

"But — but you love sex, too!" he exclaims. "I know you do!"

She only shrugs her shoulders.

He couches himself to keep cool. This is a bluff. "Look, Rachel, okay, I get that it's important to you that I make the bed, so I should. But — but you don't threaten the sex. That crosses a line! It's just not right. Can't you, like, not let me eat Frosted Flakes or something?"

She spits out her toothpaste. "No. I think you need to realise the gravity of the situation."

He frowns. Fine. He'll make the stupid bed from now on. He tells her that, and she pats him on the shoulder as she climbs into bed. He turns off the light and joins her. He stares at the ceiling for a minute. She does love sex as much as he does, and most nights she's on him as fast as he's on her. He waits a minute or two. He reaches for her. She slaps his hand.

"Rach!" he whines.

"You didn't make the bed today," she says.

"But I didn't know," he protests.

"You knew how important it was to me that you make the bed, and you still didn't."

"But —"

"Goodnight, Finn."

The next morning, he refuses to make the bed on principle. Besides, she won't really — yeah, no, she won't even let him touch her a little. He decides two can play this game. He doesn't make the bed the day after that, or the day after that. She doesn't budge. He walks around all day on Saturday in his boxers. She refuses to look at him. He tries to join her in the shower. She throws a bar of soap at his head.

"Rachel!"

"Out! No shower sex for you!"

He can't believe she's doing this. And it's not just the sex. Things are all awkward and tense, and she's around the apartment a lot 'cause she hasn't had any callbacks, and things are just weird between them. Plus, he knows she's stressed about money, 'cause that's starting to be a problem, but she hasn't said anything to him, and he doesn't know how to bring the topic up.

He doesn't get how everything suddenly went wrong.

###

"Look, can we talk?" He corners her in the kitchen on Thursday night.

"What would you like to talk about?"

"You know what. About . . . about everything."

"You mean about sex."

"Rachel —"

"You know, there's more to a relationship than intercourse, Finn."

"Yeah, like talking, and, like, eye contact, so can you look at me, please?"

She sighs, turning away from the pasta. She crosses her arms over her chest and meets his gaze.

"Okay, look, I get that you want me to make the bed, but I don't get why it's such a big deal or why you care so much. I mean, why do you have to get this mad at me?"

"It's important to me, Finn," she says quietly, "and I'm mad that you refuse to do something that means so much to me. I would never do something that you didn't like, I would never refuse to make a small, small change in my life if it were truly important to you, and I would —"

"Oh, yeah?" he interrupts. He hates when she acts like this. "Then how about you stop making so much noise at the crack of dawn? I mean, honestly, do you have to sing that loudly before it's even light outside? 'Cause that's the most annoying thing in the world, and it makes it impossible for me to sleep in at all!"

She stares at him, her eyes wide. Her lip trembles slightly. "You know, Finn, if something I do annoys you, then you need to tell me. I can't respect your wishes if I don't know what your wishes are."

"Well, you know now," he snaps.

"Yes, I do."

And suddenly her shoulders start to shake and her face contorts, and, shit, she starts to cry, and he feels really shitty. "Rachel," he murmurs, stepping hesitantly towards her. Why is this so hard? Why do they have to make this into a fight?

She shakes her head, clutching her mouth. "I can't — I can't — I can't do anything right! I can't land a role in any play at all, even though I go to a dozen auditions a week, and I can't maintain a good relationship with my boyfriend, and I can't —"

"Hey, hey, that's not — we have a good relationship!" He reaches out and gently grips her shoulders, trying to catch her gaze.

"But we don't!" she wails. "What are we — what are we even fighting about? Nothing! And —"

"We're not fighting about nothing," he says, "we're fighting about doing little stuff for each other, and. . . ." He trails off as she gazes up at him with this look on her face.

"You're not helping!" she tells him. "I — I — " She starts to cry in earnest again.

He tugs her to him and wraps his arms around her, running his hand slowly up and down her back. "I'm sorry," he murmurs.

"I just — I don't even know what I'm doing, because I — I feel so insecure in my career, and that's a first, it's — I've never felt like this and — and I need everything with us to be right, and I need to have you, because I just — I miss you, and I don't want to fight and —"

"I don't want to fight either," he says. "And, listen, listen to me." He pulls back, wiping his thumbs across her cheeks to gather all her tears and sweep them away. He catches her gaze. "You're gonna be so famous, Rachel. It's not gonna happen instantly, 'cause you gotta work for it so that you really appreciate it, but it's still gonna happen. I know it is. And you can be insecure about it, but you don't forget that it's gonna happen. And I'll always be here, I'll be here while you wait it out, and I'll be here when it finally happens, and I'll be here after, cheering from the front row of every one of the dozen awesome Broadway plays you star in. Okay?"

She nods.

"And I'll make the bed, too," he adds.

She laughs a little, still crying, and he pulls her once more to him.

"We'll be okay," he promises.

###

Her hands grip his arms tightly, and he moves his mouth slowly, sloppily over hers, his tongue tracing circles around hers, and she pushes forward to meet him every time he thrusts into her, and he loves her, God, he loves her so much. He hopes she knows that, he really does.

He whispers the words into her skin as he comes, and she echoes him, and he thinks that as much as he loves this apartment, the small place they've made their own isn't really home. She's home. She has been for a long time, and he knows she always will be.

"Promise you'll love me forever," she whispers, her fingers ghosting across his back.

He nuzzles her stomach a little, soft and warm and damp against his face. "I promise. Forever."

She asks him to make that promise a lot, and he never denies her. He'll promise to love her forever every single day of forever if she wants. She has to know that.

He starts to make the bed after that. He's not really good at it, but she doesn't ever complain. And he forgets sometimes, but when that happens he tries to make it after he gets back from work. The first time she catches him doing that, she hugs him and kisses him and offers to make him any dessert he wants. (He chooses that double fudge chocolate coconut cake.)

She doesn't sing along to her exercise videos anymore, at least not loudly enough for him to hear. He can sometimes hear her in the shower, but he usually smiles at the sound and rolls over to fall asleep again. There are worse ways to wake up in the morning.

Yeah. They'll definitely be okay.

###

In October, he finally gets assigned to work the night shift, and he makes so much more money.

It's kinda unreal. He sees less of Rachel, even though she starts to walk with him to work sometimes. But she says she's really proud of him, and he splurges and gets her these opal earrings he sees on display in a store during his walk home from work. He doesn't know that much about opal, but it shines with little, like, rainbow sparkles, and he thinks that's kinda cool. She squeals and kisses him a lot when he gives them to her.

He can't wait until he really makes money, and he can really spoil her.

He looks through the old folder full of career stuff for him. She's at the JCC, so there's no pressure or anything, and he just kinda thinks about it. He crosses a few things off her list. He circles a few. He could be an EMT. Or a police officer, maybe. That'd be totally cool. But kinda dangerous. He wonders if Rachel would really be cool with that. Maybe he could be a parole officer.

He puts everything away before Rachel gets home.

###

They drive down to Lima for Thanksgiving.

Kurt moved out to LA with some friends from NYU only two weeks after Finn and Rachel moved to New York, and as soon as Finn pulls into the driveway of the Hummel house, Rachel tumbles from the truck to tackle Kurt, who laughs and hugs her tightly, raving over her dress the moment they break away from one another.

He waves to Finn, who merely smiles and waves, too, before he greets his mom and Burt.

Rachel spends most of the day with Kurt, and Finn can't blame her. Those two were pretty much inseparable after four years in New York together, and as far as Finn can tell that makes perfect sense, considering they're kinda the straight and the gay version of the same person. Basically, Finn knows Rachel has missed Kurt despite the three-hour Skype dates they have every week, and he doesn't really mind sitting around and watching football with Burt as his girlfriend and his stepbrother fawn over each other.

("You hair looks so good, Kurt. It must be all that California sun! And, honestly, your skin has never looked better! What moisturizer are you using now?"

"Rachel Berry, did you buy fashionable shoes? Goodness, I would marry those if I could! I'm so proud. The ugly ducking has become a swan. Strut for me. Oh, amazing!")

Finn and Rachel go to see Mr. Schue the next morning, and he tells them all about New Directions now, with a whole new set of kids, all of whom are still terrorised by Sue Sylvester. "Apparently," Mr. Schue says, "that's never going to change." It's kinda strange how Mr. Schue's life is totally the same, but with different kids. And he has his own kid now, too, a two-year-old boy who falls for Rachel in a matter of minutes and wants to spend their entire visit showing her his toys and sitting on her lap. Rachel loves it, Finn knows, and he sort of does, too.

They go to lunch with Mike, home for Thanksgiving, too. After Mr. Schue and Mike, though, there's pretty much no one else to see.

Puck is still up in Boston, where he went off to school. Quinn lives in California now, because her mother moved out there as soon as Quinn graduated from school. Finn isn't sure what happened to Artie, and he thinks Sam is actually in Michigan now for grad school. Last he heard from Santana, she wanted to apply to medical school. He isn't sure if that worked out. He does know that Mercedes is in Chicago, because Kurt told Rachel who told Finn.

It's weird, really.

Finn thought he would be friends with the kids in Glee forever. Really, he's only close to Rachel and Kurt now, and the rest are just, like, those pretty cool people he knew in high school and might run into someday, but, you know, life goes on. And he's okay with that, as long as Rachel doesn't become just one of those pretty cool people he knew in high school.

(He knows she won't.)

###

"I want to give you something," his mother says. "Sit."

He sits on the old couch, the one relegated to the basement, and his mother sits on the matching chair, leaning towards him with bright eyes. "You know, I married your father when I was nineteen," she says. "Everybody thought we were too young, even my parents, even his parents — everybody."

"But you got married anyway," he says, nodding. "I know the story."

"Yes, I suppose you do." She pauses, her whole face still shining. "I only wanted to tell you that people thought we shouldn't get married because we were too young to understand love, let alone feel strongly enough to marry each other. And I'm sure most nineteen-year-olds don't know love, because they haven't even met someone to love yet, but I knew the moment I met your father. And you — you met the perfect someone when you were fifteen."

She smiles, and he does, too. "Rachel," he says.

"That's right. And I don't know what the future holds, but I want you to have this, just in case. And I want you to know that whenever you think the time is right, it probably is. Trust yourself. Trust your love. And I'll be happy for you whenever that time comes, I promise." She holds out a small, faded pink box, even as she stands.

"Mom," he murmurs quietly.

"I always wanted a daughter, you know," she says. She pats his cheek affectionately. "You found me a good one." She smiles and goes back upstairs, and he wonders if the last two minutes really happened. He stares at the box. He knows what it must be. He flips it open anyway. The engagement ring his dad gave his mom sits inside.

He snaps the box shut.

###

They race each other up the stairs.

She stumbles slightly, and he grabs her around the waist and hoists her up over his shoulder as he takes the last flight two stairs at a time. She laughs wildly, wiggling out of his grasp and back to her feet as he fumbles with the key. She doesn't help him, though. She only starts to unbutton his shirt, following her fingers with her lips and pressing butterfly kisses to his chest.

He finally gets the right key into the lock, and he gets the door open, and they stumble through, his hands tugging at her shirt as he kicks shut the door. He needs this. He needs her.

Home was great, sure. His mom makes the best Thanksgiving dinner ever, and he had fun with Kurt and with Mike. He liked catching up with them and hanging out with Burt, too. It was a good vacation. But they were there for four days, and that meant four days of the occasional chaste kiss and nothing else. Seriously. Nothing else.

He tries to steer them in the general direction of the bedroom, but they don't actually make it there. He doesn't care. This is their apartment, nobody else lives here, and they can totally have as much sex on the living room as they want. He's pretty sure Rachel wholeheartedly agrees.

"Happy to be home?" she asks breathlessly, a smile in her voice as he presses kisses down her stomach, sucking a little on the skin and swirling his tongue around her bellybutton.

He nips at her thigh. "So much."

###

In November, Rachel quits her job at the JCC.

He comes home, and she sits him down with a plate of cookies and explains that she knows it isn't fair to put the full weight of the rent on him, but she really can't devote any more time to a job that isn't for her future, not if she wants to be a Broadway star. "I need to put all of my attention on auditions. It's essential if I want to take my acting career seriously."

He doesn't really mind. He nods and tells her he understands. She smiles a lot, and they make lasagna for dinner, and he goes over numbers in his head, because he really wants to be able to support his girlfriend as she tries to make it big, but he doesn't know if he can. He finally convinces himself he can.

He doesn't find out until a few days later, when her (not anymore) boss leaves a message on the answering machine, that the JCC offered her a position as an arts co-coordinator, a full-time, paid-with-benefits position, and she not only turned them down but also quit entirely.

He doesn't tell Rachel that he knows.

###

They decide to spend Christmas in New York.

His co-workers tell him he'll get better tips around this time of year, and they were really only in Lima a month ago. And, honestly, Finn kind of likes the idea of Christmas in New York with Rachel, just two of them, like their own little family. (His mind flickers to the ring shoved in an old box of comics under the bed. He forces his mind to flicker away again.) He and Rachel have celebrated Christmas together before, of course, and Hanukkah, too, but this is their first Christmas and Hanukkah in their apartment, all on their own, and really together.

He wants to make it special.

He and Rachel buy a tree, this huge one that brushes the ceiling, and she hangs blue and white ornaments and has him string the tree with these little star of David lights she finds, and he thinks it's pretty much the best combination of holidays ever.

He works a lot, but she works, too, or volunteers, anyway. She mans one of those Salvation Army collection jars, and she sings every time someone donates money. He drives over to the Wal-Mart and sits with her on his breaks sometimes, and she looks so happy, even out in the snow standing for hours at a time. He knows neither of them have a lot of money, but they're still gonna have an awesome Christmas, and he spends weeks on his big present for her.

Hanukkah starts on Christmas, and he gives her a little present each day, like this necklace with her birthstone one day and some flowery stationary that she wanted the next. On the last day of Hanukkah, they exchange big presents. He unwraps hers, and it's this really nice camera he looked at in Best Buy a few months ago, and he suddenly feels like his present is gonna be really lame. He didn't have the money to buy her something this nice, though.

"Mine's not that great," he warns.

She only shakes her had at him. "I'm sure it's wonderful!" And she eagerly unwraps the box.

It's Broadway Monopoly. "I made it myself," he explains quickly. "I mean, you always talk about how cool a Broadway version of Monopoly would be, and I remember you wrote that letter to Parker Brothers once and. . . . I drew the board, and I laminated it, and then super glued it the cardboard. And I made up all these cards for it. I went on to this Broadway lovers forum and they gave me suggestions, like this one here — you want good reviews for The Producer: pay each player $100 — 'cause they bribe people, you know?"

Rachel nods a little, her eyes sweeping over the game.

"And, um, I got these pieces at that charm bracelet shop place, you know, by the Swedish bakery. See, this is a microphone, and here's a piano, and this is a hat that looked like something somebody on Broadway would wear and . . . well, what do you think?"

She finally looks up at him. "You made me a Broadway version of Monopoly."

"Yeah," he says. "It's kind of lame, I know, but —"

"It's not," she says, shaking her head, and he realises tears have gathered in her eyes. "It's perfect. It's thoughtful, and it obviously took a long time, and I have always said a Broadway Monopoly would be so much fun. . . ." She trails off and her eyes fall back to the board. She flips through a few more cards.

And she looks up at him again. "I love you," she says, laughing a little and reaching out to hug him. "This is the best present ever," she tells him, and he has to admit he's kinda really relieved. She pulls back after a moment, though, and she suddenly looks slightly alarmed.

"What?" he says.

"The camera I bought you looks so terrible right now!" she exclaims. "I mean, you put all this time and effort into this perfect, personalised present, and I —!"

He starts to laughs, cutting her off with a kiss. "It's exactly what I wanted," he says. "I love it. And I love you, too."

He takes the day off from work, and they spend all day in their pyjamas. They play the game three times through so that she can see all the cards, and she makes him take lots of pictures with his new camera, and he thinks he might like Christmas and Hanukkah more than ever.

###

"And Steve just walked out. Just walked right out!" Jenny declares, eyes bright. "He told John that Herman, Reid, and Associates had already offered him a position, and then he walked right out!"

"And I bet John was begging him to come back by the very next day," Rachel said, grinning.

"Oh, he definitely was!" Jenny exclaimed. "He left half a dozen messages on our answering machine. Steve finally called him back about a week later and said that John shouldn't bother, because he was a better lawyer than John and he had bigger ambitions than John." Jenny goes on, waving her hands around as she raves about her smart, handsome, successful boyfriend, and Rachel smiles and nods and offers her more wine, and Finn sits and wishes Jenny would go the fuck home. He knows he shouldn't think that. She and Rachel have been friends since their freshmen year at Juilliard. Rachel loves Jenny.

But Finn doesn't want to listen to her talk about how awesome her boyfriend is with his awesome ambition and his awesome job and his awesome success, especially not after she looks at him and asks how his job is. She even if he thinks he wants to try for an assistant manager position. Finn wants to throw his wine in her face.

He doesn't. He shrugs. "It's just a job for now," he says.

"Oh, that's okay," Jenny says. She pats his knee. "Don't you worry."

Okay, exactly how mad would Rachel be if Finn tossed his wine in Jenny's face? Like, would she cool off in a day or two? He glances at Rachel as she laughs at something Jenny says. Yeah, no, she'd need more than a day or two. And he needs a beer. Like, now. Wine isn't doing it for him.

It's past eleven when Jenny finally does leave, hugging Rachel and promising to call again the next time she's in New York. The moment after Rachel closes the door, she spins around to glare at Finn. "What was that?" she demands.

"What was what?" he asks, starting to clear the table.

"Don't play dumb with me," Rachel says, hands on her hips.

"Rach, honest, I don't know what you're talking about."

"Finn!" Rachel snaps. He pauses and looks over at her. "Why were you so rude to Jenny? This is the first time I've seen her in months and you were dour and unpleasant the entire evening. She probably thinks you hate her!"

"Maybe I do," he mutters, stacking a few plates to carry to the sink.

"Finn! She is one of my best friends from college! How would you like it if one of your football buddies came to spend a nice evening with us and I treated him that terrible all night?"

"If he was being a douche, I'd say more power to you," he replies.

Rachel gapes at him. "Jenny was not acting like a — a —!"

"Like a self-centered, heinous bitch? Yeah, she kinda was."

"Finn!"

"Look, I know she's your friend, or whatever, but that doesn't mean I have to like her, okay? Sorry. But I don't." He pulls open the dishwasher with a little more effort than is entirely necessary.

"Fine," Rachel says, crossing her arms over her chest. "Give me one example of how Jenny acted less than perfectly pleasant all evening."

He looks over at her, and then he makes a face and takes on a nasally voice. "And look at mydress, isn't it so nice? It was so expensive, but that's okay because I'm so successful, and so is my boyfriend, who's just so fucking awesome, wanna hear me brag about him for eight hours?"

"That is not what Jenny sounds like," Rachel says.

"Um, yeah it is." He uses the voice again. "And my boyfriend just makes soooo much money, and he's sooooo great. What about you, Finn? Dream big and you could be assistant manager someday! Ooh, I'm soooo fabulous."

He starts to load the dishwasher, and he waits for her to give this big speech about how he needs to treat people better or be polite or respect her friends or something like that. She doesn't say anything, though, not before she crosses the kitchen and touches the small of his back lightly. He straightens up and turns to face her.

"She made you feel bad, didn't she, bragging about her boyfriend like that?"

He shrugs. "I don't know. I guess. I just —" He sighs and finally meets her gaze. "I just don't want you to be that one of all your friends who has this loser boyfriend."

"Finn, you are not a loser. I would know. I brag about you all the time to my friends. I did all four years of school, and I still do. About what a good singer you are, and how you can play the drums so well, and how you're athletic, too. You're so talented, really, and you could do anything you wanted. And you're so good to me, and you're my best friend, and I can talk to you about anything and always count on you.

"I think over the years I probably made Jenny jealous, because she's been with Steve as long as I've been with you, and, Finn, Steve has nothing on you. He's not any of those wonderful things you are." She looks up at him earnestly.

"You really think that much of me?" he asks.

She takes his hands. "I always have," she says. "And honestly? I, personally, think Steve is something of a douche." Finn snorts, and Rachel smiles and squeezes his hands. He loves her. He really loves her, and he hopes she knows that. He leans down to kiss her, and then he wraps her up in a hug.

"I'm sorry I was a jerk to Jenny," he murmurs.

"That's okay," she replies, pulling back but taking a hold of his hand once more. She smiles again, and this time there's something else in her gaze, and he starts to grin. "You can make it up to me." She starts to tug him towards the bedroom.

"I am a good boyfriend like that."

###

She still can't find a job.

She auditions again and again and again, and nothing happens. And these New York theatre people tell her this awful stuff. They tell her they want to take the production in a different direction or that they need a girl with a different style or, God, there was this one jerk who said he needed somebody with less stomach and more boobs.

It starts to get to her.

Finn comes home one night to find Rachel in front of the bathroom mirror, crying and pinching her stomach and telling him she can't believe she ever thought someone like her would ever be attractive enough to go on stage. It makes him a little sick.

He gets the story out of her, and he tells her that she's the most attractive girl in the world and that the director guy is a jackass. He tells her that she will make it on stage, she will, but he doesn't think she really believes him, not about anything.

She calms down, though, and he makes her breakfast for dinner, because she taught him how to make pancakes out a few weeks ago and he's totally boss at it now. But she doesn't really eat anything, and he knows why. He puts on Hello, Dolly! to try to cheer her up, but it doesn't seem to help. She watches the movie and he watches her. He thinks about Santana, and how she admitted once to Rachel that she got surgery because she wanted to be noticed.

"Hey, baby?" he says.

"Mmm?"

He grabs her hand. She looks at him, a little startled. He toys a little with her fingers. "I really like your hands. They're so small and cute and stuff. And your nails aren't all razor sharp and freaky and . . . I love holding your hand, 'cause it fits in mine, like, perfectly." He lifts up her hand and kisses her palm.

"Finn," Rachel says quietly.

"I like your arms, too," Finn goes on. "Your skin's so soft. And my heart jumps every time your arm brushes mine, and it's never been like that with anybody else." He presses soft kisses along her forearm and then up to her shoulder.

"What — what else do you like?" Rachel asks hesitantly, her eyes wide.

"I like your collarbone, too," he says, his voice low as he places a kiss there as well. "Like, it doesn't stick out like a skeleton, but it's still so . . . you know, delicate or something like that. And your neck. I love your neck." He nuzzles her neck with his nose.

"You know what else I love?" Finn asks.

"What?" Rachel whispers.

Finn reaches down and lifts up the hem of her shirt just enough to expose her stomach. Rachel immediately starts to tug her blouse back down, but Finn doesn't let her. "Your tummy," he says. He swoops down and presses his lips to the skin again and again in little butterfly kisses, and he feels her stomach contract and then loosen.

"It's so soft and perfect and I like this little freckle here," Finn says, speaking as much into her stomach as to her face. One of her hands curls in his hair. "And it's so gross when girls are, like, so skinny you can see all their ribs and they poke out and stuff, and I'm so glad you're not like that. You're totally hot but you still have a tummy and it's awesome." He presses one last kiss to her belly button and then sits up.

"Rachel," he says, "that guy, all those stupid guys, they're wrong. Trust me. Believe me. Listen to me. And — and your boobs —" He cups one for a moment and looks at her earnestly. "— They're perfect, Rachel. I swear. They're one of my favourite things in the whole world."

She laughs a little, then, tears springing free, and she hugs him.

He likes to think she finally believes him.

But she still doesn't have a job.

###

"It's like mowing the lawn," Rachel says.

"It's not like mowing the lawn," he argues. "When you mow the lawn, you can see what part you've mowed and what part you haven't. It's easy."

"When you vacuum," Rachel replies, "you can see what part you've vacuumed and what part you haven't. That's easy."

"Except it's not!" he says. "I don't see a difference between that patch of carpet and that one there. Maybe you do, but I don't, okay?"

"That might be the case, but I don't think mowing the lawn is easy, and I don't think —"

"Okay, fine, I can be in charge of mowing the lawn, and you can be in charge of vacuuming —"

"We don't have a lawn! Are you suggesting that I should be the only one to do chores around this house and you can sit around and do nothing? I am an independent, intelligent, liberated woman, Finn Hudson, and —"

"I never said you weren't liberated! When did I say that? All I said was that I'm just really bad at vacuuming and —"

"Don't change the subject!"

###

She comes home, carelessly kicking off her shoes and tossing aside her purse.

"How was the audition?" he asks.

She doesn't reply. She walks over to him, leans up on her tiptoes, and wraps her arms around him. He isn't sure what happened, but he hugs her. He feels her arms tighten, her hands fisting around the material of his shirt. She draws back finally. "I really, really needed a hug," she whispers.

He picks her up off the ground, then, to give her a real hug, holding tight. After a moment, he kisses her cheek and sets her back on her feet. She looks up at him with soft eyes. "Feel better?" he asks, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.

She smiles softly. "A lot."

###

"We need to cut costs," she says.

"I know," he says. "But —"

"That means in every aspect of our lives we need to be more frugal. We can't order pizza for dinner anymore. We can't go see any shows, at least until we're more secure in our finances. We can't host anymore March Madness parties, because chips add up, as does beer."

"Rachel, I know we have to cut costs, but —"

"I'll even buy generic yogurt brands. That's a sacrifice I'll make."

"But I need beer!" He can't believe she really wants to cut beer from the budget. Okay, he won't have his buddies from the restaurant over to watch games and give them all free chips and beer. Okay. But not to let him buy beer at all?

"I'm sorry, you need beer?" she says. "Finn, do you feel the only way you can be in this relationship is with alcoholic beverages?"

"No," he says. "That's not what I meant. I just think it's excessive to — I mean — I think we should still treat ourselves sometimes — money's tight but we're not living in a third world country or anything —"

"Oh, so if you don't have beer in the fridge than living with me is like living in a third world country, is that it?" She looks furious now.

"This isn't about you!" he exclaims. "I just like beer!"

"Fine!" she cries. "Have your beer! But don't think I'll forget that I'm willing to make sacrifices for you and you're not willing to make sacrifices for me, because I'm not enough for you!" She storms out of the living room, slamming the bedroom door shut behind her.

"That's not what I said!" he yells. She doesn't respond. He throws his hands up in the air. He looks at the decorative stuffed panda she keeps on the sofa. "Did you hear me say that?" he asks the panda. "No. 'Cause I didn't." He slumps in the chair.

It's almost as if she likes to pick fights with him.

###

He tosses the keys into the little dish Rachel set out, and he calls out for her. "I'm home!"

He starts to push off his shoes, but then he glances up and freezes. She stands in the doorway of their bedroom, wearing her cleaning clothes and rubber gloves, with her hands on her hips and fury on her face. "Um, everything okay, babe?" he asks slowly.

"Do you like cockroaches, Finn?" she asks.

He frowns. "We have cockroaches?" Ew. His apartment sophomore and junior year with some boys from the basketball team had cockroaches.

"Not yet," she says certainly, "but it's only a matter of time with your heinous habits."

And then she crooks her finger at him and turns back into the bedroom. Fuck. Whatever this is, it can't be good. He kicks off his shoes and then goes to the bedroom, and it looks like she did a major cleaning purge. The place, like, sparkles, and he's not even sure how, 'cause it doesn't even really have, like, sparkling surfaces. Rachel glares at him, then reaches into the trash can, and pulls out —

"What's that?" he asks, making a face.

"This," she says, "is a very moldy hot dog bun. It accompanies the sickening hot dog frank in the trashcan that I absolutely refuse to touch again, even with my gloves. I found them both under the bed. Tell me, Finn, how did you manage to lose an obscenely old hot dog under the bed?"

He starts to shake his head, 'cause he honestly has no idea, but then he thinks about it, and he remembers that time when Rachel spent the weekend with Kurt 'cause he was so messed up after his big break-up with Andy, and Finn ate hot dogs and tator tots in bed and one might have fallen and he told himself he'd pick it up later and —

"Sorry," he finally says.

She stomps her foot. "Sorry isn't good enough!" she cries, furiously tossing the old bun back into the trash.

His defences fly up, annoyance prickling to life inside him. He feels bad, sure, 'cause that is gross, but she doesn't have to be mean about it. "What do you want me to say?" he asks quietly.

"I don't want you to say anything!" she says. "I spend hours trying to keep this apartment clean, and it's like you don't even care! I want you to care, Finn, that's what I want! I slave away to make sure that I always dust the pictures, and do you ever offer to help? No. And I try to wash the sheets every weekend because I know you still eat in bed — case and point —" She looks pointedly at the trash can. "—and do you ever help me? No! I go to the Laundromat by myself —"

He's not gonna listen to this. He's heard this whole speech before, and he's sick of it. It's past midnight, and he's been on his feet for hours, and he's not gonna stand there and take this. He walks out of the room.

"Don't walk away when we're having a conversation!" she exclaims, following him.

"We're not having a conversation," he mutters, grabbing a beer from the fridge. "You're having a conversation."

"Well, maybe if you would participate in this conversation more than you participate in household chores, this could be a proper conversation! I swear, Finn, you never put effort into anything. How many times have I asked you to leave wipe your shoes on the mat before you come in? But you never do, and you track mud all over the apartment, and I have to get down on my hands and knees and scrub caked dirt from the floor, and I just clean and clean and clean —"

"You clean and clean and clean," Finn snaps, slamming his beer down on the counter, "'cause you have nothing better to do! I have a job. I'm trying to make some money so you can still have a place to sleep in, let alone waste all day, everyday cleaning, so stop nagging me!"

She stares at him, her eyes wide, and then her face starts to crumple, and guilt swoops through him. "I'm sorry," she murmurs. He squeezes his eyes shut for a minute, trying to calm himself down. "I didn't realise I was a nag. I'll leave you alone. Excuse me." She starts for the bathroom.

"Wait, Rachel, don't —"

The bathroom door slams shut. He hears the lock click.

Dammit.

###

She doesn't come out for a long time.

He hears her start a shower, and then he hears her sobbing, even over the sound of the running water, and he feels like a total douche. He knows she's upset with everything right now, with her life right now, 'cause nothing's going the way she wants. They've had this problem before. He hates that she takes that out on him, but he knows she doesn't mean to, and no matter what, it was totally a low blow to talk about how she doesn't have anything better to do than clean.

The shower goes on forever. He takes out the trash, though, and he looks around the apartment for something to clean as, like, an apology or something. But she's definitely got that place pretty sparkly and stuff. He even checks under all the furniture for old food, and there's nothing.

Finally, he gives up and goes to bed. (He has to pee so bad it burns, but he's so not gonna make everything worse and go in a cup or something, 'cause if a hot dog under the bed is bad. . . .) He manages to fall asleep, but he wakes easily when he feels her slip into bed next to him.

He races to the bathroom.

He crawls back into bed quietly, though, and he starts to reach for her, only to pause.

He lays back, a foot of empty space between them.

"I'm sorry I'm a nag," she finally whispers.

"You're not," he replies, his voice a whisper, too.

"I am," she says.

"Okay," he says, "you kinda are." She hiccoughs, and his hand finds hers. "But you're the good kind, I promise. Like the kind that makes a really awesome mom. I'm just an ass."

"No," she protests, and she scoots a little closer to him, her feet tangling between his legs.

"Yeah, I am," he tells her.

It's quiet. "Yes," she says. He waits. She doesn't say anything else.

"You still love me, though, right?" he asks.

She kisses his shoulder, and her voice is even quieter than a whisper. "Yes."

###

The next day, she tells him she wants to find another job.

"You don't have to," he says. But she promises it's simply to help tide them over until she gets her big break. And she'll only work part-time, so that she can still devote herself to auditions. He nods and smiles and wishes her good luck as she leaves the apartment.

She ends up with a job at a record company, which seems kinda completely perfect. But her boss turns out to be a jerk, and she mainly does lame stuff like answer the phone and make the coffee, and he knows she hates every minute of it. It's like she's just too freaking tired to be all peppy and optimistic and Rachel about everything. He hates that, to be honest.

And the job definitely doesn't really change anything between them. They still smile good morning, and they still kiss goodbye, and she still leans her head on his shoulder when they watch Top Chef. And she never stops him when he reaches for in the middle of the night.

But she never reaches for him anymore.

It's tense. That's the word. The whole apartment's drowning in it — the tension. And he knows that, sooner or later, something has to change.

###

And then everything threatens to change.

She shakes him away, panic in her voice. "Finn! Finn! FINN!"

"What? What's the matter?" He pushes himself up, rubbing his eyes. He glances at the clock. It's not even six in the morning yet, and he worked until two in the morning last night. He groans. "Can we talk about this later?" he asks, falling back against the pillows.

"No," she says, gripping his arm and letting her nails bite into his skin, "we don't have time for that! Finn! Wake up!"

"Seriously, baby, I'm exhausted —"

"Listen to me!" she cries. I woke up, and I felt so sick, and I made it to the bathroom just in time, but I couldn't stop throwing up —"

He forces his eyes open and focuses on her, hovering above him, and he realises she actually does look pretty panicked. And she's sick? She was throwing up?

"Finn, it's been in the back of my head for a little over a week now, but I've avoided the thought and now I'm panicking and, Finn, Finn, I'm late and now I'm throwing up and —" Her grip on his arm tightens even more, if possible.

"Wait, I don't understand," he says, pushing himself up again. "What's the matter?"

"I think I might be pregnant!"

He stares at her. "How is that . . . how can you — I mean, I know how, but —" He runs a hand through her hair. He catches her gaze again, though, and she looks like she might cry. "How sure are you?" he asks quietly.

"I don't know," she says. "Finn. . . ."

"We need to get one of those test stick things."

She nods, and she clambers off the bed. "I'll go to the CVS right now," she says. "I'll, um, I need to get dressed, but I'll —" She starts to open his dresser and then realises and turns away to stumble towards her own.

"Hey," he says, scrambling from the bed. "Hey, wait." He touches her arm. "I'll go, okay? I'll go."

###

He starts the trek to the three blocks to the 24-hour CVS at a walk, but he grows more and more anxious with each step, until suddenly he's nearly running, because he needs to know now. He paces through the store as he searches for home pregnancy tests, and then he freaks a little when he finds them and there are, like, twenty thousand different kinds.

He grabs one that has pink writing on the box, 'cause Rachel likes pink, and at the checkout counter he grabs a bag of sour patch kids for Rachel, too. The lady behind the counter glances at his left hand totally obviously, and he fumbles with his cash, spilling change everywhere and looking like a total idiot. But he finally makes it out of there, and he bursts into the apartment five minutes later.

"Got it!"

Rachel stands, and she looks as if she might have started to go even crazier while she waited. She takes the box from him and disappears into the bathroom before he can even hand her the sour patch kids. He stands outside the bathroom. He sits on the bed. He glances at the clock. He has some of the candy.

The door opens, and Rachel stands there with this fretful look on her face and the pregnancy test stick clutched so tightly in her hand that her knuckles have gone white. "What'd it say?" he asks, shooting to his feet.

She shakes her hand. "I can't pee."

"You — you can't pee?" he echoes, frowning.

"I'm too nervous!" she exclaims. "I just sat there and thought about everything and I just couldn't make myself — I usually perform so well under pressure, but not — I've never really been able to pee under pressure!"

He nods. "Um, okay . . . you should drink something. Like, so you really, really have to go. Beer makes you have to pee, right?"

"I can't drink beer! What if I give our possible baby fetal alcohol syndrome?"

"What about soda?"

"That might work," she agrees slowly. "But . . . but we don't have any soda!"

"I'll go buy some, then," he volunteers. "I can be back in twenty minutes." He thinks maybe he should take the car this time, but he would probably spend hours trying to find a place to park, and he can sort of run again. He can power walk, at least. The lady at the CVS doesn't even try not to look interested as he stalks into the store and then buys three twelve packs of dr. pepper.

He thinks maybe he should have only gotten one pack when he has to walk three blocks with all three twelve packs. It even starts to rain. But he wasn't sure how many he would need.

He sits across from Rachel at the kitchen table as she drinks one can.

"Do you have to go yet?" he asks.

She shakes her head. She starts a second can. "I don't know if I can handle this sudden elevated sugar intake," she tells him. "It's much too sweet." He tries to think of something else they can do, like maybe run the bath so the sound makes her think of peeing or something, but she goes on before he can say anything. "Nevermind, it's fine." She drinks more, slowly making her way through a second can.

He starts to let himself really think.

She might be pregnant.

They're both only twenty-four years old, and neither of them really has a great job, and they're not married, and they've been fighting so much lately — but a year from now they could have a baby. This is way too much even to think about. He doesn't know anything about babies, and he isn't sure Rachel knows much, either.

"Okay," Rachel says. "Let me try again."

She's in the bathroom for a long time. Finally, though, finally, he hears the toilet flush, and he cautiously pushes open the door. She stands in front of the sink, the stick in her hand. "Did you manage to go?" he says, because he has to say something.

She nods.

"What now?" he asks.

"Now," she says, putting the stick down on the edge of the sink, "we wait."

###

They have to wait seven minutes, and they both sit on the edge of the bed.

His leg bounces a little with nervous energy, and she runs a hand through her hair before suddenly lying back on the bed, covering her face with her hands. He stares at her, then, in her little black yoga pants and her pink tank top, with her feet dangling off the side of the bed, unable to reach the ground.

He lies back beside her.

"Hey, Rach?" he says.

She slowly pulls her hands from her face and looks over at him.

"If it's a boy, can we name him after my dad?"

She's surprised, he can tell. She turns to lie on her side and face him, though, and there's a soft smile on her face. "Christopher?" she says softly. "It's a good name."

He nods, turning on his side, too. "We can call him Chris for short."

"I think I'd prefer simply to call him Christopher," she replies.

He thinks about it. "Okay," he tells her, "you can call him Christopher, and I'll call him Chris, and we'll see which he likes better." He grins despite everything, and she giggles, shaking her head at him. But she bites her lip, and he almost sees the anxiety sweep back across her face.

"What are we going to do — if I am pregnant?"

"I don't know," he says quietly. "But I know I love you." He smiles a little. "And maybe it wasn't in the plan to have a baby now, instead of, like, in a few years — maybe this isn't how we wanted everything to go, but there are worse things, right? And we're in this together." He reaches out and cups her cheek, and she presses a kiss to his palm, cradling his hand to her face.

"I'm sorry, Finn," she whispers, tears gathering in her eyes. "I'm so sorry that I've been so terrible to you lately."

"You haven't been terrible to me," he protests.

But she shakes her head. "All this fighting — it's my fault. Everything's so frustrating right now, and I never get a single call back, and I — I hate working at that record company, because I know I have more talent than some of the singers we sign, and. . . .

"And I guess I get so angry, but I can't yell at my auditions, and I can't yell at my boss, but — but I can yell at you. At the end of a terrible, terrible day, I can be mean to you, because I know that you'll still be there the next day. That's not how it should work, I know that, but . . . but I. . . ."

"It's okay," he murmurs. "You can yell at me at the end of any day. I will always be around the next day. You can count on that."

"But I shouldn't treat you like that. And I know you deserve so much better, and I start to think about how sooner or later you'll realise you deserve better, too, and that you don't want to stay here in New York unhappy and with a boring job while I chase after some stupid dream that obviously isn't going to come true, and —"

"Hey, hey," he interrupts. "Don't talk like that. I am happy here with you. And you are gonna get your dream."

She swallows thickly. "I — I just — nothing's going the way I thought it would. I mean, I always said it's a long, difficult road to Broadway and to fame, but I never — honestly, I never really thought I would have any trouble." She bites her lip. "Is that terrible?"

He shakes his head. "No," he says. "You shouldn't have trouble. It sucks that all these New York people can't see how awesome you are right away. But they will. I'm sure of it, baby."

"But what if they don't? If I'm not a star, then I don't know who I am."

"I know who you are," he says. "You're Rachel Berry."

"Does that even mean anything?" she asks.

"It means everything to me," he replies.

A few tears spring free and run down her cheek. He gently wipes them away with his thumb.

"Even after the last year?" she whispers.

"Especially after the last year," he says. "This has been the best year of my life — 'cause I got to spend it with you, all day, every day."

"Really?"

He nods. Doesn't she get it? "Rach," he starts softly, "I might have some lame job and I might be totally unsure what kind of job I do want, but you're here, and that makes it okay. Like, I know it'll all work out 'cause I have you. And after everything we've had to go through, we totally deserve to have that. To have each other. We're supposed to be together."

She smiles a little. "You will always have me," she whispers.

He nods. "And this last year, baby — nobody in high school or college ever really took us seriously. Nobody ever thought we'd make it." He runs his hand down her arm and takes her hand, his fingers intertwining with hers. "But this last year has been me and you against everything," he goes on, "and me and you? We're still here. We're still here. We won, so all those stupid people like Quinn? Those people who said me and you would never work? They can take this last year and stick that in their pipes and smoke it."

She giggles. "I can't wait for McKinley's five your reunion," she says.

"Yeah," he says. "We're gonna blow 'em away."

It's quiet for a moment, then.

"So you think we'll be okay?" Rachel finally asks.

"Do you?"

She nods. "I really do."

He smiles. "Me, too." he pauses. "I know things kinda suck with work for us right now, but they'll get better. I mean, we've still got plenty of time, right? And, okay, so I might end up working in, like, a cubical or something, or like, as some stupid salesman or something, like out of The Office, except not fun. And that'll suck. And maybe nobody'll realise how awesome you are, and you'll become a teacher or a, like, wedding planner or something. You'd be a great wedding planner.

"But I guess my point's that those won't be the best jobs, or whatever, but I'll still be me, and you'll still be you. We'll still be me and you."

"And me and you can take on the world, right?" she says, squeezing his hand.

"Right." He squeezes her hand. "But I do still think you'll be famous," he tells her. She smiles. "And, no matter what, I'll always think you're a star, Rachel, because you — you just, like, shine, when you smile and when you sing and you work for what you want, and you're a completely good, nice person, and you're you."

Her smile widens, then, and she looks down bashfully. "You're so sweet."

His watch beeps.

###

The test is negative.

"I must just be so stressed out," she murmurs. "And I probably have a bug or something."

He searches her face. "Are you disappointed?" he finally asks. He might be, but he's kinda relieved, too, to be honest.

"Maybe a little," she says. "But I didn't really have the time to grow attached to the idea. And, well, I guess this means we have a few more years to find our way together before we have Christopher. Or Alice."

"Alice?"

She nods, smiling. "It's pretty, right? Alice Hudson."

He smiles, too. She leans forward, a hand on his chest to steady herself as she kisses him. She tastes like peanut butter and bananas, and she smells like that cheaper perfume she's started to buy to save money, and she feels like Rachel. She draws back. "I love you," she says.

And he has to do it. He has to. This is it. This is the time. "Come on," he tells her, grabbing her hand and leading her out of the bedroom.

"Come on where?" she says.

"Put some shoes on," he tells her. "We're going out."

"What? Where? It's six in the morning, Finn! And it's started to rain so hard I can hear it pounding on the windows!"

"So put on your rain boots," he replies," the cute ones with the lady bugs." She tries to change, but he won't let her, and he ends up tugging her out of the apartment as she complains that this isn't her best rain jacket. The rain falls hard and fast, half blinding them, but he's suddenly determined.

"Are we going far?" she asks.

"Nope," he says. She brought an umbrella with her, but he's in too much of a hurry to try to stay under with her, and he's soaked through in a block. She tells him he'll catch pneumonia, and he tells her that he trusts her to nurse him back to health. Finally, they make it to the park, to their favourite tree. "Here," he tells her, stopping.

The rain continues to fall in sheets. "Okay," he says. "So I kinda thought I wouldn't do this for a while, but I want to do it now, 'cause I don't really know what I was waiting for, maybe, like, the right moment, I guess. And this is the right moment."

"Finn —"

"Let me finish." He stands there, his arms awkwardly at his sides, trying to make sure he says the right thing. He can't mess this up. He frowns, though. Shoot. "Damn it," he mutters. "I'm sorry," he tells her, "I forgot the virgin cosmos. I was actually gonna, like, put together this whole picnic, you know, but, um, you know, I don't really need that."

"Are you —"

He takes a deep breath. "Okay. Okay." And he goes down on one knee. He can hear her gasp even over the sound of the rain. He pulls the ring box out of his pocket — he'd grabbed it on the way out as she'd hopped around trying to put her boots on in a hurry.

"This is the ring my dad gave my mom," he says.

Her umbrella tumbles to the ground as she claps a hand to her mouth, and he isn't sure whether she's started to cry or not, but he hopes that if she has, they're the good kind of tears. He takes another deep breath and gazes up at her through the rain.

"You know, you can marry me if you want to."

Slowly, she reaches out to rest her hands on his shoulders.

"I want to."

And he starts to grin. "Yeah?"

She nods furiously. "Yes. Yes!" She tackles him, and she kisses him, and the rain doesn't let up, but they stay out a while longer.

###

It starts in the summer.

They drive down to Lima, because no matter how much they both love New York, Lima will always be home, will always be special, will always be where they first became Finn and Rachel.

Kurt comes, of course, and Mike does, too, and even Puck shows, and he brings Santana as his date. They use the backyard of the Berry house for the ceremony, and the Mr. Berrys book their country club for the reception. Finn has his old college buddy Leo be his best man, and Rachel makes Kurt her maid-of-honor. And, at four in the afternoon, they marry.

Rachel can't stop crying during her vows, and Finn loses the piece of paper he wrote his on and he has to go off the cuff, but he thinks they both manage okay. It all happens okay, actually. Nobody breaks a toe or gives an embarrassing speech or gets too drunk. Leo tells some kinda mortifying stories about how much Finn would pine over Rachel at school, but that might be the worst part.

Basically, it goes pretty well

And this is the beginning of everything.

By one in the morning, most people have left the reception. The food is all gone, and the bar is closed, and Kurt and his date from L.A. are the last two left on the dance floor. Rachel doesn't want to leave, though, because she doesn't want the night to end. Finn lets her fall asleep in his lap, and he thinks about how crazy this all is, he and Rachel marrying like this, right before she starts a production of Much Ado About Nothing and he starts as an intern at this ad agency.

It definitely is crazy. But it's gonna be kinda awesome, isn't it?

Fin.

Well, darlin', now don't forget,

I'll always love your style.

Well, darlin', now don't forget,

I'll always love your smile.

I said, hey missus, won't you stand by me now?

Give me a little time.

Hey missus, won't you stand by me now?

Show me how to turn it upside down.


a/n: what do you think? I'm not sure how much I like it as a whole, but I'm really pleased with the ending. Please review!