a/n: Title and lyrics come from "Singing in My Sleep" by Semisonic.

All alone on the overpass,

Wired and phoned to a heart of glass.

Now I'm falling in love too fast

With you or the songs you chose.

And all the stars play for me.

Say the promise you long to keep,

I can hear you singing to me in my sleep.


He catches her before she can leave the airport with her dads.

"We're together again now, right?" he asks, because he has to be sure.

She smiles. "We're together again now, yes," she says.

His insides go soft, and he reaches out and touches her arm, because he can, because they might not have won nationals, but they won each other back, and he can't really be bothered to care about anything else. "I promise I won't break up with you again," he tells her. He won't. He'll talk to her, and they'll work through their problems, and —

"Don't promise me that," Rachel says. "You can't know if you'll keep that promise."

He frowns.

"Promise me that we're going to try this time, really try," she says. "Promise me that we're not going to lie to each other. That we're always going to say what we really think and what we really feel. Promise me that we won't ever pretend anymore." She smiles again, and his heart beats a little faster.

"I can promise that," he says, and the words almost sick in his throat, because that one word means so much now, and he doesn't think he has ever felt this much of anything for anyone in his whole life. "No more pretending," he tells her.

He can promise that.


Rachel falls asleep in the middle of Fight Club.

He carries her upstairs after the movie ends, and as much as he wants to take her to his room, he knows he can't. His mom is cool, but she isn't that cool. Kurt and Mercedes are still both down in the basement, and he knows that they've already wrestled control of the DVD player from Puck, and they're probably about to make everyone sit through something like The Devil Wears Prada. It's the Saturday before school starts again, and this is the last real night of summer.

Rachel blinks at him sleepily when he tugs the sheets up over her. He smiles, tells her to go back to sleep, and then looks around for her pink tote bag. She tugs on his arm and mutters something, but he goes over to her bag, and he finds Henrietta, and he hands the purple stuffed hippo to her, because, yeah, his girlfriend can't sleep without her stuffed hippo.

(She sleeps with an entire fleet of animals at her house, like Maurice and Maureen the stuffed monkeys, and Lisa the lamb, but her favourite will always be Henrietta. She told him so when she introduced him to all of her stuffed animals.)

He kisses her softly as she curls up, clutching Henrietta, and then he starts to leave. She stops him, though. "Aren't you going to snuggle with me?" she asks, her voice thick and quiet, and she sounds like a little kid.

Rachel loves to snuggle. He kinda likes that about her — and he thinks he can pass on The Devil Wears Prada. He lies back on the bed, and Rachel immediately takes a hold of his hand and then wraps his arm securely around her, even as she slips her tiny feet between his legs, her toes cold against his calves. "You're always so warm," she murmurs sleepily.

They've spent a lot of the summer like this.

They passed nearly every hot, sticky day watching movies in the Hummel basement with the entire Glee club, and swimming lazily at the lake, and falling asleep to the sound of bad summer television. He even taught her how to drive a lawnmower and how to play basketball. Plus, this summer they've, like, relearned each other.

This summer kinda rocked, basically. But summer is over, and he hates that.

Still, he knows this last year at McKinley is gonna be the best one yet.


He gives Rachel a ride to school on their first day.

She hands him zucchini bread the moment she climbs up into his truck, because she says he has to start today of all days off well, and she knows he doesn't eat a healthy breakfast. They've had this argument before, but she will never believe that Fruit Loops are a great breakfast food. He isn't gonna complain, though, if that means she'll make him banana bread and blueberry muffins and zucchini bread, which is really good, especially since zucchini is a vegetable, and who knew it could be all cake-like?

He holds her hand as they walk through the halls, and he remembers how totally awesome that was last year, and he pounds fists with a bunch of people and everything is cool. He always kinda liked the first day of school, even if tomorrow the teachers will suddenly give them homework and stupid stuff like that. Plus, in his first class he munches on more zucchini bread that Rachel told him to save for lunch — it totally makes the class less boring.

Right before he turns towards the cafeteria to meet Rachel for lunch, he spies her still at her locker, decorating the inside, and he sees her put up a framed picture of him. She adjusts the magnetic frame to be perfectly in the center of the locker, surrounded by her star stickers, her puffy pink letters, and her newest to-do list. He goes to his own locker, and he tapes up his schedule, and he grins to himself as he tapes up a picture of them from Nationals.

It's totally lame, he knows, and it's only a matter of time before Puck asks him if it hurt when Finn chopped off his balls to hand them over to Rachel, but he can't help himself. He wants Rachel to know he's as proud to be her boyfriend as she is to be his girlfriend, because he doesn't think she always realises that.

And, for the record, when she sees the picture in his locker right after sixth period, she kisses him in the middle of the hall, like a real kiss with her hands on his shoulders and her tongue in his mouth, until people catcall and Mr. Schue coughs awkwardly. Finn feels like the man.

After school, she, Tina, and Mercedes wait on the bleachers, gossiping or doing whatever girls in groups do, while Finn, Mike, and Sam have football practice, and then they all go out on this triple date to Breadstix to celebrate the first day of senior year.

It's a pretty good first day.


They talk a lot more now.

He tells her about his early arrival problem, and the mailman, and that very fist kiss they had. She asks why he didn't tell her in all the months they dated, and he admits that he didn't want to look stupid. She shakes her head at his confession, and she assures him she finds his overwhelming attraction to her flattering. She even rewards his honesty with kisses all of his face.

She talks about her insecurities, about how she spent so many years absolutely positive that her only real redeeming quality was her talent. She speaks softly, and he listens and rubs her back and tries not to feel like a dick when she talks about how often she used to compare herself to Quinn, and how sometimes she still has to stop herself from doing that.

After she finishes, he tells her that he really did mean what he told her long ago — there are so many great things about her beyond her voice, like how smart she is, and how pretty she is, and how nice she is, and how she always forgives people and tries to see the best in everyone.

They've always talked, but these talks are different. They always end up moving closer to each other as they talk, her sitting in his lap as they eat ice cream in the back of his truck, or lying together on the bed, listening to songs on her ipod, or watching movies in the basement with her head resting on his thigh and his hand running through her hair.

And he realises that she isn't simply the person he loves most. She's also the person he trusts most. He really hasn't ever trusted anybody the way he trusts her. It's kind of terrifying. He tells her that, though, and she smiles and links their hands, leaning against his shoulder as the movie starts.

He's always known Rachel likes to talk.

But now he knows that he kinda likes to talk, too.


They have four new kids in Glee.

It's pretty cool. It's weird, too, though, because he feels like after the last two years, after everything they'll all been through together, they're a kind of family. It took a long, long time to become that way, but that's what they are. By this point, no one in the club really hates anyone else. They all snipe at each other like family, but they all stick up for each other like family, too, at least against people who aren't in Glee club. And these new kids are, like, outsiders.

But Rachel bakes cookies for them and she offers to help each of them with what she considers to be their greatest musical weakness. He honestly thinks, and not for the first time, that she might be the nicest person he knows. Who else would do all that for some freshmen and sophomores she doesn't even know? She tells Finn that they need to make the new students feel welcome. "We want New Directions to live on after we leave," she says.

That seems even weirder than the simply idea of new kids joining their group — he can't really fathom that in a year the Glee club will be an entirely different group. And, plus, come on, what kind of Glee club is New Directions without Rachel? He mentions that to her, and she says that the club can only hope someone with her talent, and someone with his talent, and hopefully also a pairing with their immense chemistry, will come along to save the club.

"And, until then, we will make the most of our final year," she says.


Bullying still happens. A lot. And that kinda sucks, and Finn wishes he could say that something might actually change at this school to stop that for everyone. He doesn't know if that will ever happen, though.

But everyone in Glee apparently now has this, like, secret pact. Like, when some hockey player starts to toss a slushee at Tina, Quinn screams bloody murder so loudly half the teachers in the building rush over, and the dumbass puckhead loses his guts. He dumps the slushee in the trash. And two days later when a cheerleader trips Rachel, Santana takes the redhead by the hair and throws her to the ground, screaming at her in Spanish.

She then tells Sue, who breaks up the fight, that she isn't about to let some puta mess with one of her girls, and Sue better keep her Cheerios in check. Sue wants Santana — and Quinn and Brittany, too — back on the squad, so she only mutters something under her breath and storms off without a word. And then Rachel wipes at tears of happiness over her newest friendship and hugs Santana, who pats her back awkwardly and looks around for someone to make Rachel get off her.

Finn only grins, sends Santana a big thumbs-up, and goes to class.

And then Rachel comes to the rescue when Azimio starts messing with Kurt again. Ever since everything happened with Karofsky, Azimio has been on this tear against Kurt, and on this random Thursday he pushes Kurt against the lockers really hard, and Kurt's books spill all over the floor, and everybody just stares. Finn sees red, and he slams his locker shut and starts towards them, ready to give Azimio a beating.

But before he has the chance, Rachel flies out of nowhere and starts to beat Azimio with her book, like literally smacking any part of him she can reach with some textbook, backing him into a corner and telling him to leave Kurt alone and to bully someone his own size. "Aren't you going to fight back?" she says. "Huh? Huh? What? You can egg me, you can throw slushees at me, you can call me names, you can shove my best friend against a locker, but you won't —"

Finn pulls Rachel away, and she kicks her legs wildly in the air, but he holds tight until she finally gives up as Mr. Schue, Coach Bieste, and a couple other teaches arrive at the scene.

And she always said violence is never the answer. Apparently, even Rachel Berry has a limit.

Rachel, Azimio, and Kurt all have to go to the office. Finn hopes Azimio fries and Rachel and Kurt get off scotch free. Of course, Azimio doesn't really get in any trouble, because bullies in this school never do, but Rachel and Kurt aren't in trouble either. Kurt links arms with Rachel as they strut through the halls together the rest of the day, and Finn thinks they might be his two most favourite people in the world.

A week later, Sam and Mike get in a fight with some guys that try to mess with Artie, and then Lauren backs this one Cheerio who calls Brittany a slut up against the lockers and stares so long and scary-like that the Cheerio bursts into tears.

By October the message is finally respected: the Glee kids might be losers, but nobody messes with them.


Senior year really takes a turn for the crazy when Quinn, Brittany, and Santana tell Sue they will return to the Cheerios if Sue promises not to mess with the Glee club even a little this year. Sue says yes, but she has one more condition, and when she announces this in front of the entire Glee club, they're all stunned.

She wants Rachel to join the Cheerios too.

"Are you joking?" Quinn asks, because someone has to say something after that bombshell.

"I don't joke about my Cheerios, Q," Sue replies. "I know talent when I see it. What do you say, Berry? You can be the heroine of your precious Glee club, and you can have a free ride to the top of the social ladder and be among the best and most elite at this school."

Rachel only stares, opening and closing her mouth for a minute, and then she glances at Finn.

"Why don't you give Rachel some time to think about your offer, Sue," Mr. Schue says. She agrees, glancing at Rachel one more time before she leaves the room. The rest of Glee practice is sort of awkward, and Rachel is quiet for a long time. Finn really wants to know what she's thinking, but he doesn't want to ask and to make her feel all pressured or whatever.

The next morning, though, she comes over to him in the hall, and he can't help but ask. She didn't say anything about the offer the entire ride over to her house yesterday, and when they texted a little after dinner she only talked about Physics homework, her aunt, and Dancing with the Stars. "So, do you think you're gonna be a Cheerio?" he asks.

"Brittany says I would be easy to lift to the top of a pyramid," Rachel answers. But that isn't really an answer. Is it? Is that a yes? Or — "Of course," she goes on, "Mr. Schue says I don't have to do anything I don't want to do." She pauses and gazes up at him. "What do you think?"

"It's not really up to me," he tells her quietly. He does have an opinion, but he can't, like, make her do whatever he wants. He knows what that feels like, when the person who's supposed to like you more than anyone else tries to dictate your life, as if you aren't good enough otherwise. He isn't gonna do that to her.

"You would be even cooler if you were dating a Cheerio, instead of just a Glee loser," she says.

"Yeah, probably, but. . . ."

"But what?" she pushes.

"But I don't care about that," he admits. "And you're, like, better than that. You're better than them." He reaches out and tugs affectionately on her hair, because she always looks pretty, but he really likes when her hair is down and is all loose and stuff. She smiles, and he can tell he said something right, because she looks really pleased right now.

The warning bell for first period rings. "I'll see you at lunch," she says, and she turns to go. A moment later, she turns back around and hugs him, pulling him down so she can wrap her arms around his neck, like she does when she really means a hug. He knows his Rachel hugs, and he knows she feels all vulnerable if she wants this kind of hug.

"I love you," he tells her, and he feels her lips turn up against his neck.

She announces her decision at Glee practice. "I told Coach Sylvester that I did not want to be a Cheerio, but if she promised to leave the club alone, I would fill in on various occasions when necessary. She agreed." She smiles at all of them, and Finn tries not to grin too widely.

"You do realise that now she's totally gonna, like, push random Cheerios she doesn't really like down the stairs right before every big competition, right?" Santana asks.

Rachel frowns.

"Wait," Quinn cuts in, before anyone can respond, "are you really serious about this? If you were a Cheerio, you would finally have everything you wanted. Everyone would actually like you."

"If this school cannot admire me for my talent unless I wear a cheerleading uniform and conform to an ideal that goes against individuality and originality, then I do not want their admiration, and, in fact, they will all sorely regret how little attention they paid me when I am a famous Broadway star." She nods her head in affirmation, as if that settles the matter, and then marches over to take her seat by Finn.

Kurt claps, Tina nods in approval, and Finn takes her hand. She's so awesome it's unreal.


Rachel might be the most physically affectionate person in the whole world.

She doesn't like to make out in school or anything like that, but she always likes to hold his hand, and to sit close to him, and to touch him constantly, if only her hand on his knee or hooked around his elbow. And when they aren't at school, when they're alone at his house before his mom or Burt comes home from work, she never tries to restrain herself.

He loves that. He loves how she puts so much of herself into every kiss, whether a kiss that builds in this slow, burning way, or a kiss that starts and stays playful as she nips at his lips and giggles against his throat, or a kiss that is so much all at once, that is hot and fast and desperate. Really, he knows all about kissing Rachel.

It's like this: they never really go beyond kisses for months when they first date.

He lives on kisses for a long time, basically.

The first time she lets him touch her boobs, she doesn't even really let him touch them. She grows more comfortable as weeks pass, though, and she finally lets him tug off her shirt and then she undoes her bra, and she flushes bright pink, biting her lip nervously and staring at him as he stares at her. He loves everything about Rachel, really, he does, but he thinks he falls even further for her the first time he sees her boobs.

She has awesome boobs, and they fit perfectly in his hands, and they taste really good, too, and she makes all the best noises when he touches them. And after that first time she finally really lets him see and touch and kiss her awesome boobs, she gives him, like, free reign to slip his hands up her shirt whenever he wants. Of course, he thinks when they reunite at Nationals that he'll have to earn back her trust, will have to start from scratch and once more work his way beyond kisses.

But he doesn't.

She explains to him in the summer that she isn't ready for more, though, not for a while yet, not because she doesn't love him or doesn't trust him, but simply because she isn't ready. "I don't think people should wait on principle," she tells him. "I simply people should wait until they — they just feel ready. And maybe that seems silly, but —" He tells her no, that isn't silly. If she wants to wait, he can respect that. They set up camp at second base, and he can't wait for more, but he can, because she does love him, and she does trust him, and that's really what matters.

She even starts to help him get off as summer ends and senior year begins. She grinds against him and only smiles in this completely sexy way when he comes in his pants, like she meant to do exactly that, and she slips her hand under his boxers one day and he holds his hand over hers and shows her what to do. In other words, Rachel is the greatest girlfriend in the world.

And when she leans against him in the hall as they talk with Mike and Sam, or when she rests her hand on his knee as they eat lunch with Mercedes, Kurt, and Tina, or when she walks down the hall with her hand in his, he feels so fucking proud that this girl is his girl.


They start to talk about colleges really early — like, by the middle of October.

All the seniors having meetings with Ms. Pillsbury. His meeting with her is about five minutes long and not really helpful, but, come on, when has that woman ever really helped anyone?

Most people in Glee are excited about applications and everything, probably because most people in Glee want to get out of this place so bad. Tina talks about how she wants to go to the school furthest from Ohio that she can find. Artie says he has to get into MIT if it kills him. Lauren brags about all the offers for wrestling scholarships she has.

Rachel proudly shows the Glee club her three binders of information on and applications for the best music schools across the country, in case they would like to have a model for how to prepare for the application process. Finn knows that Rachel will help with his applications, but he doesn't want to bring the subject up, and he doesn't want her to, either, because, honestly, the whole idea scares him a lot.

And when he looks around the choir room, he really only sees one other person who isn't thrilled about the idea of leaving McKinley: Quinn. She meets his gaze and they stare at each other for a minute. But he knows how that story goes. That can't be his life, not now that he knows another story exists. He turns away from her, and he smiles at Rachel, and he writes on the edge of her Glee paper that her binders of college stuff are really cool.

He'll avoid everything as long as he can, but when he can't anymore, Rachel will help him.


"Who's writing the original songs this time?" Mercedes asks.

"Oh, my God, do we have to do original songs at every competition now?" Santana says.

"I would be more than happy to provide the club with another original piece," Rachel volunteers.

"I like them," Tina says. "They give us an edge."

"I want to write one," Brittany says.

"Me, too," Artie says. "I didn't even get to try last time."

"Rachel should write one," Finn says. "She totally blew everybody away at Regionals last year."

"Yeah, she also blows you."

"First, that is entirely inappropriate. Second, writing a song clearly takes immense talent, and you all should take advantage of my —"

"Guys," Mr. Schue tries.

"My song would be inspired by my musical hero, Rihanna. I don't like Ke$ha anymore, if you haven't been keeping up with Fondue for Two. It's an online sensation, by the way."

"What do you have to write about, Stubbles? All you and the BFG do is hold hands, dance around the piano, and skip through meadows together."

"Why don't we write another group number?" Sam suggests.

"Finn and I have an emotional depth that only music can truly express, and if we were to write a song together, combining the talent we demonstrated individually last year, then —"

"I agree with Sam," Mercedes says.

"If you all would listen to me for one minute —"

"Why doesn't everybody write one original song over the weekend and next Monday we can all vote, and the only rule is that you can't vote for yourself? And maybe we can have some way to make who wrote which lyrics anonymous, so it isn't a big popularity contest."

The entire room goes silent, and everyone stares at the boy who spoke. Finn can't remember his name. He feels bad. Is it Jason, maybe? Or Jake? Or John? Rachel frowns at the boy, like she isn't she what to make of him, and Mercedes looks confused, too, and Sam and Mike glance at each other, all weirded out, and —

"Be quiet, New Kid number three," Santana snaps, "nobody asked you."

Everybody starts to bicker again.


He finds Rachel in the stands at the start of the game.

She sits with his mom, Burt, and Kurt, and she jumps up and down and waves wildly. He waves back at her, and he grins, because he thinks she might be his biggest fan. She even has a sign that says so. They don't win the game, because McKinley still isn't that great at football, even if by some random fluke they wound up at the conference championship last year.

But he does score a touchdown, and he looks out at the stands, finds Rachel, and points at her.

Everybody else is pretty down after the game, 'cause, you know, they lost, but she meets him at the edge of the field, and she has on her old Team Finn shirt. He didn't know she even kept that, but he grins and kisses her, and she doesn't even break away from him when the rest of the team passes them by and shouts catcalls. "You were amazing," she tells him earnestly, and she hugs him and leans her head against her chest as she waves at Puck, Mike, and Sam.

"We lost, babe," he reminds her.

"You were still amazing," she proclaims.

He kisses her again.


They have a scary movie marathon.

Sam and Mercedes both go totally crazy, shouting at the screen and screaming and jumping up and down and stuff, even as they share random facts about other scary movies during the not scary scenes. They're, like, scary movie buffs or something. Finn likes a good horror movie, sure, but his favourite part of these is the way Rachel is, like, half-hiding behind, half-wrapped around him, and she lets out all these little squeals and holds onto him for dear life.

And, okay, he knows it's totally a cliché that his girlfriend is all over him during scary movies, but he doesn't really care. He likes that he gets to run his hand up and down her back and tell everything will be okay and be the strong, protective dude taking care of his girl. And, hey, Artie gives him a big thumbs up at one point, so he totally understands.

Rachel really starts to freak out during Dawn of the Dead, though, and she trembles and holds his hand so tightly he thinks he might lose circulation. He starts to worry. She doesn't have to watch this. They're all at her house, so she and he can totally go upstairs and listen to music in her room or something. He murmurs that to her, and she only shakes her head and presses her face into his arm. He thinks maybe she doesn't want to be lame or something.

He tries to think of a way to make her feel better.

"You want me to go get Henrietta?" he asks.

"No," she whispers, "don't leave me."

He cuddles her a little closer, and he starts to warn her when something really bad is about to happen. After the movie is finally over, Sam says they're gonna watch The Thing next, and Rachel shouts absolutely not, and this is her house, and next they will watch Singing in the Rain because she, personally, is scared at the terrifying idea that members of a Glee club bound to win Nationals haven't seen one of the greatest musical films of all time.

Nobody tries to argue with her, and she puts Singing in the Rain on. She, Kurt, and Mercedes sing along to every song. When the movie finally finishes, Rachel claps, and Puck declares that this was the lamest ending to a scary movie marathon in history.

Rachel sticks her tongue out at him.


They win Sections.

No one is really surprised, but they're all still pretty psyched. He and Rachel sing a duet, because the rest of the Glee club finally acknowledges that Finn and Rachel pretty much always rock duets, and Kurt sings a solo with Mercedes, and Mike, Puck, and Sam all do this song with killer dance moves. Finn knows the moment the performance is over that this is the best one they've ever given.

Plus, this is the first Glee competition that takes place when his love life isn't a total train wreck, and on stage in front of everyone, as Mr. Schue accepts the trophy, Finn picks Rachel up and spins her around on stage, and she laughs and kisses him.

The whole club goes out to dinner, and then they go to this local park. They swing in the dark and sing random songs to each other. Puck picks up Slushees, and Finn feels like he hasn't had this much fun in forever. He smiles at Rachel as she and Kurt try to see who can swing higher, and she beams at him.

It's past midnight when they all finally split up and start to head home. Barely five minutes into the drive, Rachel tells Finn to go the lake a few miles from her neighbourhood, and he grins at her and agrees. She doesn't have a curfew, after all, and he thinks he can miss his this once. His mom knows he has to celebrate, right?

He has her shirt unbuttoned and she long ago pulled off his when she breaks away from him, and she stares at him for a moment, her eyes bright, before she tells him to sit back, because she wants to do something for him. He realises only moments later what she means when she starts to undo his belt buckle, and he tells her he loves her.

She giggles.

Moments later, however, even as she wraps her hand around him, she sinks down to the floor of the cab, and his eyes go wide, a shudder running through his entire body when her warm breath washes over his erection. She's never done this before. He puts a hand on her shoulder, and he tells her she doesn't have to. "I want to," she says softly.

He stares at her, with her shirt unbuttoned, her hair messy, and her lips swollen from his kisses, and she rests her small, warm hands on his belly. "I honestly do." She leans up and kisses him for another moment, as if to reassure him of her words, and then she pulls back and smiles. "Unless you don't want me to?" she asks.

"No, I do!" he says, eyes wide, and she laughs.

"I don't really know what to do, though," she warns. He nods. As far as he can tell, though, she totally does know what to do, the way she tentatively touches the tip with her tongue and looks up at him with these large doe eyes, and the way she licks him, and takes him into her mouth, and hallows her cheeks, and — and he loses coherent thought when he hits the back of her throat.

She tries to tell him something, giggles a little when he groans, because how does she do that and — and oh, God — and — and as much as he wants to watch her, he simply can't. He grips her hair and squeezes his eyes shut and leans back against the headrest as her tongue swirls around him and she slides him in and out of her mouth.

He doesn't last very long, but he doesn't think he's ever come so hard in his life.

She smiles proudly at him afterward. "You're perfect," he murmurs. Her smile becomes a grin.

He pulls her up to sit in his lap, and he offers to return the favour.

She shakes her head shyly. "I'm not ready for you to — to touch me that way, not yet," she says. "You'll be the first to know when I am." She kisses him sweetly, and he runs his hand over her hair. "But you can buy me some ice cream if you want." She starts to grin, and he laughs as he wraps his arms around her and hugs her. "I love you," she whispers.

"You have no idea," he replies, and he hugs her a little tighter, because he can.

They do drive to the 24-hour CVS, and he does buy her some chocolate chip cookie dough. Sitting in the CVS parking lot, they talk about Regionals, and he listens to all her song suggestions and newest ideas, and then for a little he lies in the bed of the truck and she lies on top of him and they stare up at the stars they can't even see through the clouds.

He finally drops her off at her house a few minutes before three in the morning. His mom is still awake when he arrives home, and he isn't surprised when she grounds him for two weeks.

It's totally worth it.


They have to start in on applications.

His mom buys him this book on colleges, but he still doesn't really know what he even wants in a school. He goes on a couple of tours. Rachel offers to read through the book with him and help him make a list of possible school, and he agrees, but the list they put together has, like, forty schools. "We'll find the right one for you," Rachel assures, smiling.

She already has five schools picked out, and she has for a long time, he thinks: Rochester, NYU, Juilliard, and, as safety schools, the University of Michigan and Ohio State. Finn wonders if he should apply to some of those schools, too, and he knows he'll apply to OSU, but he can't apply to Michigan, because, well, come on. Rachel doesn't seem to think where he applies should have anything to do with where she applies, though, so he doesn't say anything.

She misses two days of school to fly up to New York with her dad for an audition at Juilliard.

She tells him as soon as she returns that her heart will break if she isn't accepted there.

He assures her that she will be, because what school would turn her down? And he thinks everything starts to look up for him, too, as Mr. Schue agrees to write Finn a recommendation to submit to the common application, and Rachel actually helps Finn set up a common application, and finally he narrows his choices down to ten schools. He has some reach schools and some safety schools, like Ms. Pillsbury says everybody should have.

NYU is his big reach school, and he applies to a couple of other schools in New York City. He sees Rachel smile when he reads his final list of schools aloud to her, and that smile suddenly makes him absolutely positive: he has to go to New York with her. He has to.

And there's a good chance he'll get into at least one school in New York City, right?


He recruits the guys in Glee to help him.

Artie comes up with the actual plan. Sam volunteers to take the punch, and Finn is kinda surprised. "You know you can't fight back, right, dude?" Puck asks, and Finn thinks for a minute that maybe this explains why Sam wants to do this, because Sam never really forgave Finn for everything that happened last year with Quinn.

But Sam nods. "I know," he says. "I'm doing this to help Rachel."

Finn can understand that. They wait until the lunch period, and Sam goes over to Rachel, waiting at her locker for Finn. Artie radios to Puck on his walkie-talkie when the moment comes, and Puck nods at Finn, who steps out of the classroom and starts down the hall. He sees Sam, one arm on either side of Rachel, trapping her against the lockers.

Finn narrows his eyes, and tries to look really angry, and then Sam, like, totally makes everything easier, because the kid leans down to kiss Rachel, who presses a hand against his chest to push him back, and moments later Finn tears Sam away from her. "Get the fuck away from her!" he yells. He swings at Sam, who takes the punch like a fucking champ, as Rachel screams, people stare and shout, and Sam barely scrambles to his feet before Mr. Schue pulls Finn back.

"Don't touch my girlfriend," Finn growls, and Sam, with a split lip, looking pissed but wary, holds his hands up in surrender, and a completely baffled Mr. Schue marches them both to see Principle Figgins. Rachel trails behind, demanding an explanation, but Tina, who Mike accidentally let in on the plan, pulls her away from the crowd.

"Damn, blondie got off easy," Puck says loudly, and Finn catches his words even as they turn the corner. "Boy went ape-shit on me last year, 'cause I fucking looked at her the wrong way and said she looked hot in some skirt."

Sam and Finn explain everything to Principle Figgins and Mr. Schue, both who kind of sit there in disbelief for a minute before Figgins finally gives them lunch detention for the rest of the week and tells them to try non-violent answers to their problems. As soon as they leave the office, they run into Rachel, her arms crossed over her chest.

"Really?" she says, glaring at Finn. "That was your plan? A staged fight?" Her eyes flicker from Finn to Sam. "And how did he rope you into this? And Puck, Mike, and Artie, too, from what Tina told me?"

"We wanted to help you, Rachel," Sam says. "That guy is a perv, and you deserve better." Rachel softens slightly, and Sam smiles sheepishly as he goes on. "I'm sorry I tried to kiss you," he says. "I thought that might sell it more." Rachel shakes her head at him, but she smiles, too, and then Sam holds out his fist to Finn. Hesitantly, Finn bumps fists with him, and he wonders if this finally makes them friends again. Sam disappears down the hall.

Rachel looks at Finn, and he can already see that she isn't pissed anymore. "This probably won't even work, you know," she says. "He's rather persistent. Believe me, I've tried to make him stop before. Nothing deters him." She turns a little sad, then.

Finn wraps an arm around her shoulders. "This will, baby," he says.

They go to lunch, and everybody stares, but Rachel acts like she doesn't notice, so Finn tries to act like he doesn't either. They sit with Kurt and Mercedes, who want all the details, and Finn explains everything quietly, because he doesn't want someone to overhear and for the whole plan to go down the drain.

Kurt looks offended. "How come nobody told me? I could have helped."

"You would have told Rachel," Finn argues.

"I would not have!" He pauses. Mercedes raises her eyebrows at him. "Okay. Fine. Maybe I would have." Rachel laughs at him, leans into Finn, and he tells himself that this stunt has to have worked, because this kid shouldn't get away with harassing Rachel.

Later that afternoon, as Rachel pulls her books from her locker, Finn catches sight of Jacob Ben Israel, skulking a few feet away. He thinks of the way Jacob always seems to be a step or two away from Rachel, and he thinks about the e-mails he sends her and all the myspace comments he leaves her, and he thinks about the envelope of pictures of her that the perv left in her locker the other day.

Finn glares at Jacob, and he does what Puck told him — he points two fingers at his eyes, and then he points at Jacob, and he tries to look as mean as he can. He doesn't even have to try that hard to look pissed, because this kid made Rachel cry. Jacob stumbles backwards and runs off, 'cause Finn is totally a badass, and then Rachel smiles up at Finn, oblivious to what just happened.

The e-mails stop, and the myspace comments do, too, and Rachel says she never sees Jacob around anymore, not even to ask her for interviews. Two weeks later Rachel bakes cookies for all the boys in Glee, and she makes an extra batch for Sam alone, but, hey, the guy did take a punch for her.


Finn really wants to enjoy winter break.

But he can't.

He still has to write his application essay. It's pretty much all he has left to do for his applications, but every time he starts he gives up before he writes more than a few sentences. He can't write, okay? He just can't. He sucks at it.

It really shouldn't be so hard. He manages to write the two dozen, like, supplement essays, or whatever, that the schools require, because they're short and pretty easy, and his mom edits them for grammar, and she says they're really good. He knows moms have to say stuff like that, but he thinks she sounds pretty honest.

But he still can't write his actual essay.

He loves Christmas, and he loves Rachel, and he finally gets to have them both at the same time, but if he doesn't write this stupid essay, then he can't actually enjoy either. He asks Rachel what he should write about. She says he should write from the heart, but he should also try to demonstrate what kind of person he is, and then when she sees the look on his face she makes all these suggestions. He tries them all, but he can't manage to write anything good.

Finally, two days before Christmas, Rachel comes over to his house, and she sits him down at his desk. "Okay," she says, "we're going to have you do a tried and true topic: someone who's profoundly influenced your life. I need you to pick someone. Anyone. Off the top of your head. Go."

"Um, can I do you?"

"That's sweet," she says, smiling slightly, "but I don't think I would be the best choice. Who else?"

He tries to think. "Mr. Schue, maybe? Or my mom, I guess. Or my dad. I've always tried to be somebody my dad would be proud of. But he doesn't really count, so . . . um, I don't know." He sighs. "Maybe we should choose another topic."

"No," Rachel says. "I like that one. Your dad."

"Yeah?" he says.

She nods. And she pulls out a tape recorder. "Okay," she says. "Tell me about how your dad has influenced your life." She smiles, and he sees her click a button on the recorder.

"Are you recording this?" he asks, confused.

"Ignore the recorder," she says, "and focuses on me." He forces himself to look at her, shifting slightly in his seat. "Tell me about how your dad has influenced your life," she repeats. "Just . . . talk to me. Tell me how he's influenced your life." She holds his gaze.

"He . . . I never actually knew my dad, 'cause, you know, he died when I was a baby." He pauses, and she nods, smiling. They've talked about his dad before, and this is kinda weird, but she motions for him to go on. "But I grew up with stories about him, and my mom always said that he was watching over me. And that was comforting, but it also, I mean, um, I wanted to make him proud, too. Like, I wanted to be somebody that my dad would be proud of."

"What do you think would make your dad proud?" Rachel asks.

"Um, you know, like, somebody who — a leader. You and Mr. Schue both really got to me, you know, when you wanted me to join Glee, because you made me think of him. And I wanted to make my mom proud, too, because I wanted to show her that she raised a guy like the man she loved. I guess. That she hadn't sacrificed so much for nothing. And I think I am a leader, too."

"You are," Rachel says, smiling.

"It took a long time to get there, though." He glances at the recorder, but she catches his gaze again and motions yet again for him to go on. He does. He talks about everything his mom told him about his dad, and he talks about when Puck's dad left, and he talks about Mr. Schue and about Burt and about how he learned to be a man. "Is that good?" he finishes.

Rachel clicks a button on the recorder. "Perfect," she says. "Now, we're going to write out what we recorded, cut out the ums and likes, and let you polish the structure a little, and then you'll have your essay." She beams at him, and he isn't sure how she came up with this idea, but she always has good ideas like this.

They spend the entire afternoon on the essay, and she refuses to fix anything for him, because this is his essay, and he has to let his own voice shine through. That kind of sucks, but by the end of the day he has this totally awesome essay that makes his mom cry.

He uploads the text to the common app, and he, like, officially applies to college.


Mike comes up with the idea for an epic snow fight.

He lives, like, out in the woods, and they can totally run around all over the place, pounding each other with snow balls that Rachel can make really, really fast, which totally gives their team an edge. They build these giant snow forts, and the fight turns into capture the flag in the snow, and Finn has never seen anybody run as fast as Kurt does when he leaps over the snow, the red towel in his hand streaming behind him. Kurt, Rachel, and Tina do this dance from some cheerleading movie to celebrate their win, as Mike and Finn just grin, 'cause, yeah, their team is awesome.

Mrs. Chang makes them all hot chocolate and pound cake. She's a totally awesome baker.

Rachel suggests karaoke, then, and she sings All I Want For Christmas is You to Finn, which makes him think of last year, and how messed up they were then, and he pulls her into his lap and kisses her lots to make up for that. Kurt and Sam sing Grandma Got Run Over by A Reindeer, and Puck sings some Adam Sandler song about Hanukkah, and from her perch in Finn's lap, Rachel joins in, giggling madly, before Finn totally sings the shit out of Jingle Bell Rock with Artie.

This is how Christmas break is supposed to go.


His physics homework lies abandoned on her desk.

She usually doesn't let him distract her from work, his or hers, but today she easily gives in to his kisses, even allows his wandering hands without real protest, and she sits astride him now, her hands tugging on his hair as she kisses him.

He has one hand up her skirt and the other down her shirt when she draws back from him, nipping one last time on his bottom lip, and gazes down at him, her eyes dark, her cheeks flushed. "Finn," she says, and her hand trembles a little as she runs her thumb across his cheek. "I'm ready for you to — to — to touch me." She bites her lip with the softest trace of a shy smile.

For a moment he only lies there, stunned.

Bu he gets a grip on himself. "Yeah?" he murmurs. She nods, and her smile widens. He slides his hand up across her collarbone to cup the back of her head, and he brings her down for another kiss. "Lie back," he breathes, and she nods a little. He closes his eyes for a moment as she carefully pulls back from him, and he tells himself to be cool, and then he turns and looks at her, lying on her back on her beloved piano rug, her hair a halo around her head.

He smiles at her, and she smiles a little, too, giving this kind of breathless laugh, and his hands skate over her legs and up the smooth expanse of her thighs. She touches his shoulders, her fingers curling ever so slightly in the material of his shirt, even as he curls his fingers around the waistband of her underwear and tugs the material down. He couches himself to stay calm again as he pulls them all the way off and tosses them aside, and then he finally touches her.

It's wet down there. And it's really warm. And she lets out this sharp breath.

He swallows thickly. "What do I — what do I do? C-can you show me?" The words come out in a rush. He licks his lips a little and holds her gaze.

"Show you?" she repeats. "I don't . . . I don't really — k-know." She shakes her head a little, eyes wide. "I don't know."

He stares for a minute, and then he realises what she's trying to say. "You've never touched yourself?" he says. "Like, at all?" He can't hide his disbelief. How has she survived this long?

She pinks, biting her lip. "No. I — I've thought about it. And once, in the shower, I almost started to, but it didn't seem to work, and then I did some research and — and I just . . . I don't — you know, maybe this wasn't a good idea —!" She looks panicked now, as she starts to sit up, and he kisses her quickly, trying to calm her down. She finally sinks into the kiss, and he decides he has to do this right.

If this her first attempt at an orgasm, he is not gonna screw this up and scar her for life.

A few minutes later, he tugs her shirt up and over her head, returning to the kiss again as his hands fumble with her the clutch of her bra, tugging pathetically until she helps him, and then he has her topless, and he kisses his way down her neck and to her boobs, and she arches into him. A few minutes later, she starts to squirm underneath him. This is as far as they usually go. They kiss each other into a frenzy, and then she helps him get off, and then they stop, because she isn't ready for more.

Today, she wants more, and today will officially be all about her. He can do this. He will do this.

He unzips her skirt and starts to tug the soft material down. Her eyes open and she follows the movement, her breathing shallow, and then she is naked, Rachel Berry, naked, and gazing at him and waiting for him. He kisses her again, because she always relaxes when he kisses her, and he slides his hand once more up to the apex of her thighs.

He has to look. He has to pay attention. Her fingers dig into his hair, and he feels the muscles of her legs tense slightly around him. "Relax, baby," he breathes, and she shudders a little, but she listens. He traces his finger along her opening, and this is kind of ridiculously awesome and hot all at once. He slips a finger into her and immediately goes totally, painfully hard, because, fuck, this feels amazing. He glances up to watch her and sees her gaze boring into him.

He smiles, and slowly she smiles, too.

He lets his other hand travel back up to cup one of her breasts, and he curls his finger into her, even as he sweeps his thumb across that little nub. He vaguely recalls when he was thirteen and his mom tried to explain sex to him while he tried to tear off his ears, and she mentioned the little bundle of nerves. This is part of what gets girls off, right? And he knows the wetness and the heat is the lady boner, right?

He's totally doing this right.

He leans up, the angle of his hand changing slightly, to kiss her quickly, and he can see the pink flush crawl down her neck, sweeping over her boobs and down her stomach, and he captures her gaze again. He starts to pump his finger a little, continually brushing his thumb over her clit, 'cause, yeah, he totally remembers now what it's called.

She makes all these breathy, moan-y noises, and he keeps one hand up with her boobs, keeping them company, and she arches a little off the ground when he presses on her clit, so he does that again. She licks her lips, gasping into the air, her hands tugging so tightly on his hair it hurts in the best, most awesome way ever.

And then she comes.

She totally comes. She arches so far off the ground, and her head tips back and she lets out this strangled yell that he thinks is his name, and he pulls his hand from her as she falls back onto the rug and lies there, breathing slowly, her glossy eyes trained once more on him. He comes with her, in his pants, 'cause he just can't not. He wipes his hand on his t-shirt and she reaches out and grabs his hand, linking his fingers with hers.

She stares at him, breathing slowly, and she starts to smile. "I read," she whispers, "that if a girl has a deep emotional connection with someone, that helps her . . ."

"Get off?" he suggests.

She blushes, but she nods, and she still keeps a hold of his gaze. "Like we have," she says.

And he loves her so much. God, he really does. Like, he knows that all the time, but sometimes he gets this random kind of tug in his gut, this wave of feelings in his stomach that's all twisty and warm, and it's not like arousal, it's just, well, it's love, and nobody has ever made him feel like this. "Yeah," he says, "like we have."

"I love you," she tells him.

"I love you, too." He kisses her, and she smiles sweetly when he draws back. And he kinda can't help starting to grin, 'cause, damn, he totally gave Rachel Berry her first orgasm, and maybe it wasn't, like, the greatest orgasm ever, but he'll figure that out, he will, and he'll learn, like, techniques and stuff. He thinks maybe he should tell her that, but her eyes go wide. "What?"

"Finn," she says, "Henrietta saw."

She points, and he turns to see her purple stuffed hippo staring at them. The animal must have fallen off the bed at some point. He looks back at Rachel. "She's jealous, is all," he tells her. And he smiles and she smiles and suddenly she starts to laugh, and he laughs, too, and she buries her face into his neck as he wraps his arms around her.

They stay that way for a while. Her dads will be home soon, and they still need to finish their homework, and she is buck-naked and he is totally clothed, and, yeah, he needs to change. But they stay that way for a while.


Everything starts to crumble in April.

They win the conference championship football game again, and they win Regionals again, and Finn feels more confident in his relationship with Rachel than ever before. And then the letters start to come in. Artie receives an acceptance letter from MIT, and everybody congratulates him, but tension slowly rises up in the room, too, as they all thinks about what acceptance or rejection letters they're going to get.

Juilliard accepts Rachel. She starts to cry as she clutches the letter to her chest, and he hugs her and kisses her and crosses his fingers that some school in New York City, any school, accepts him, because he knows Rachel will go to Juilliard, despite the four other acceptance letters she receives.

Kurt is accepted to Northwestern, and he dances around the entire house in celebration, and then he and Sam both receive acceptance letters from NYU, and Kurt really celebrates. Finn knows that even if Kurt takes a few weeks to pick between the two schools, Kurt will end up at NYU, and Sam sends his letter of intention to NYU the next day. They offered him almost a full-ride, after all.

But NYU rejects Finn. OSU accepts him, and a handful of other schools do, too.

None of them are in New York.

His mom is really proud of him, but all he can think is that this changes everything.

"We can do long distance," Rachel tells him, smiling, but her smile doesn't reach her eyes.


He asks Mr. Schue for advice.

He tells him that his mom wants him to go to OSU, but Finn thinks he might want to go to New York. "They have community college there, right?" he says. "And then I could transfer to NYU after two years. I mean, do you think that would work?"

Mr. Schue hesitates for a moment. "Look, Finn, to be honest, I know some of what's going on in the club right now, with colleges and relationships. And this is about Rachel, right?"

Finn nods.

"I know that you love Rachel," Mr. Schue goes on, "and I know that you can't imagine a life without her, but, Finn, your life is just beginning." He pauses. "You know, I think a big mistake that Terri and I made, because — because we were so young, really — is that we didn't realise that everything doesn't always come down to love. You can't build an entire relationship on how much you love somebody. I know that doesn't sound very romantic, but even if you love somebody with all your heart that doesn't make that somebody that right person for you."

Finn doesn't really know what to say. He knows that Rachel is the right person for him. Right?

"You're young, Finn. And you have turned into such an amazing kid. A man, even. But you still have so much more to grow. College is going to open up so many doors for you. And you shouldn't deny yourself any of that because you're afraid to lose Rachel. Your future is too important."

"What if Rachel is my future?"

That isn't such a crazy idea, is it?

Mr. Schue sighs. "She might be," he concedes. "But you don't know that yet. Like I said — you still have so much more to grow. And — and I know that every relationship is different, and that my ex-wife isn't anything like Rachel, but I would just hate to see you make the same mistakes I did. I was so in love with Terri, with my high school girlfriend — I experienced, just, just so must for the first time with her, and — and I let that dictate the decisions I made for years, instead of making my own decisions."

"But if I went to New York," Finn argues, "that would be my decision."

"If you went to New York," Mr. Schue replies, "and turn down the opportunity for a great education at a great school here in Ohio, you aren't making that decision for you alone. And, Finn, the only person you should plan your future around is you. I'm not saying that you don't love Rachel. I'm not saying that she isn't right for you. But your life is your life. And you need to live your life for you. Go to the college that is best for your future, and don't think about Rachel."

Finn nods. He doesn't really know how to separate his feelings for Rachel from the decisions he makes, but he doesn't think Mr. Schue does either. "I should go," Finn says. "I'm supposed to pick Rachel up from her dance class."

"Okay," Mr. Schue says. "I hope this helped."

Finn stands, and he isn't sure it really did, but he nods at Mr. Schue anyway. He starts to leave, but he can't help himself, and he glances back. "We could still try long distance, though, right?" he asks. "Me and Rachel. She could go to college in New York and I could go to OSU, and we could try long distance. That might work."

"Long distance is hard," Mr. Schue warns softly.

"I know. But we could still try, right?" Finn asks.

"Sure," Mr. Schue says, offering a small smile. "You could still try."

He doesn't sound very convinced, though.


Senior skip day is early this year, only a week or two into April.

The entire Glee club meets at the lake, and somebody even invites the new kids.

They play volleyball in the water, and they take turns jumping off the rope swing into the freezing water, and Rachel, too afraid to go by herself, jumps a few times with Finn. Mercedes and Kurt drive out and pick up Chinese takeout for everyone, and then they all play Never Have I Ever with beer that Puck paid a college kid to buy him.

The girls all lay out on towels in the afternoon, until Puck quietly hands super soakers to all the boys, and then they ambush the girls, who scream and try to hide behind their towels, and Tina even shoves Mike into the lake, taking his super soaker from him as he goes, before turning on Puck.

Around five in the afternoon, they all start the half mile hike back to the parking lot.

Finn thinks it's kinda the perfect day. He doesn't even think about college until that night, alone in his room. And then he reminds himself that everything will work out. Rachel isn't worried, because she would tell him if she were, and he shouldn't freak out over nothing.

They can do long distance.


"It'll be a good story," Quinn says.

Startled, Finn glances at her, closing his locker. "What?"

"Sam and Rachel," she replies. She nods down the hall to where Rachel stands with Sam at his locker, waving her arms about as she explains something while Sam laughs and nods. "They can tell everyone how they met in high school but were only ever friends. And then they both left their small Ohio town for the big city, where they grew closer and closer, until one day friendship became something more."

Finn scoffs. "Sam and Rachel aren't going to get together."

"Maybe not," Quinn says. "But they were both always meant for bigger and better than Lima." She finally draws her eyes away from them and looks at Finn. "We aren't, Finn."

Does she honestly believe that?

"Is that why you broke up with Sam last week?" he asks.

She doesn't respond for a moment, but he sees her turn tense, her defenses shining in her eyes.

"I'm not going to be the high school girlfriend he dumps two weeks after he gets to NYU," she says. She glances away from him for a moment, and when she meets his gaze again, she smiles sadly. "I'm sorry our relationship never went the way I wanted," she tells him. "I've never told you this, but I really am sorry for the way I treated you. I wanted so much for me and you to make sense, even if we never honestly loved each other, because I thought you were the best this town could give me. And you still are, even if we won't ever really work."

She turns away and starts to leave.

"I'm better than this town," he tells her.

She glances back. "Did Rachel tell you that?" She pauses. "I wonder if she'll still think that after she spends a year in New York." She smiles in this unpleasant way. "Do you really think she'll still want to be with you after she realises everything she ever wanted is in New York, and she has to choose between that and her old boyfriend, still stuck in Ohio?"

She disappears down the hall. He looks at Sam and Rachel. He swallows thickly.

He tries not to let what Quinn says bother him.

It does.


He sees Rachel in the empty stands at baseball practice.

He frowns a little, but he has to wait until Coach blows the whistle and tells them to head home before he can go over to her. Sam and Puck wave, and she smiles sadly and waves, too, but her smile fades slightly when she sees him. Everything between them has been off for the last week, ever since Quinn talked to him, and he knows he needs to tell Rachel what she said.

Everything is better when they talk to each other about their feelings and stuff, right?

"Hey," he says quietly, climbing the last few bleacher steps to stand in front of her.

"Hi," she says, and she looks down at her lap. "We need to talk."

"Yeah." He sits down beside her, and he waits for her to say something, but she doesn't. He hates when this happens. He never really knows what to say or what to do, but she almost always does, and when she doesn't he kinda feels like the world is spinning backwards or something. He touches her back hesitantly, trying to come up with a way to start.

"I think —" she says, taking a deep breath and finally facing him, "— I think we should take some time apart."

What? What did she say? His stomach drops, and his chest constricts in this really painful way. He can't believe he heard her right. She didn't really say that. This is one of those unreal moments. Cows will suddenly rain down and this will all turn out to be a whacky dream. This isn't real.

"Time apart?" he echoes. "What does that — what does that even mean?"

She drops his gaze and stares instead unseeingly out at the baseball diamond.

Why won't she look at him? "Are you breaking up with me?" he asks.

"No," she says. He tries to see some sort of tell in her face. He doesn't understand any of this. "I don't want to break up with you," she says.

"Then what does that mean? Take some time apart?"

She doesn't answer.

"Rachel, I know things have been awkward lately, but that doesn't mean we have to break up."

"But what's the point?" she says, and she turns her whole body to face him. Her eyes are wide, and she looks so confused and messed up and so much like she did last year, when they were broken up and he was with Quinn, and he hates that look on her face. He doesn't ever want her to feel like that, feel all lost and broken. "Why should we bother to stay together if we don't have a future?"

"We — we do," he says. When did she suddenly start to think like this? She seemed fine with everything, even as he started to freak out and make everything tense.

She only turns away from him again, and her shoulders hunch slightly. "No, we don't. We're a great high school couple, but that's it. I'll go off to New York, and you'll stay in Ohio, and we'll grow apart and — and who actually marries their high school heart? We might as well just end things now, and spare ourselves the pain of —"

"No! No. I don't — I don't want to break up with you. And you don't want to break up with me. I know you don't. So — so we can make this work, we can —"

"It's not that easy!" she cries. "Long distance is hard. It's hard, and it breaks your heart. Why shouldn't we spare ourselves that pain, like Quinn and Sam?"

"Like Quinn and Sam?" he repeats. "We're not Quinn and Sam. We're Finn and Rachel! We're —"

But Rachel shakes her head, and desperation claws at his insides as she goes on. "Finn, I — I have always wanted to go to school in New York, to Juilliard, or to NYU, or to Rochester, or — I have always wanted that. But these last few weeks I've started thinking . . . this past weekend, I went online to do research about the OSU music department. But I can't — you're not supposed to — everybody, Finn, everybody warns you not to plan your future around a boy.

"And everybody is right. I need to go to New York. It's where I belong. But —"

"Then I'll go to New York!" he says. Mr. Schue is an idiot anyway. "I can move up there with you, and I can get a job and go to a community college, and —"

"No, no," she says, shaking her head as her tears finally spring free. "You can't do that! You can't plan your future around a girl, around me. You can't. OSU is perfect for you, Finn. You have a scholarship, and you'll get to play football, and to major in music if you want, and —" She starts to cry, clutching her mouth and rocking forward, and he doesn't know what to do.

"I don't want to break up with you," he says, his heart in his throat. "I won't."

He reaches out, touching her arm, and waits as she wipes her tears slightly so that she can meet his gaze. "Look, I don't want to break up either." She hiccoughs. "And Kurt says that we should try long distance. He says — he says that we — but we can't pretend we'll be together forever just because everything is so great right now. People don't marry their high school sweethearts. Look at what happened to Mr. Schue."

"Mr. Schue? Rachel, if I were like Mr. Schue, then I would — I would marry Quinn, the girl who never wanted anything more than to settle. You can't keep comparing us to other people," he tells her. He takes her hands. "Baby —"

She shakes her head again. "Don't. I just — I just think that before we decide to — to try long distance or to — before we make any more decisions — we just need a little while away from each other. I've spent every moment with you this year, and I can't think clearly anymore, and I — we need to — to take some time apart. We need to figure this out. Apart."

He swallows thickly. "I can't really say no, can I?"

She shakes her head, tears welling up again in her eyes.

"Okay," he murmurs. "We can take a few days apart."

It's quiet, and she takes a few deep breaths, wiping at her tears once more. She slowly stands, slinging her backpack over her shoulder, and then she looks back at him, and she leans down, steadying herself with one hand on his shoulder, and she kisses him. He can taste her tears as her lips move softly over his.

She draws back. "I'm sorry."

She walks away, and he only watches her go.


She avoids him at school the next day.

She texts him in the morning to remind him not to pick her up. He feels like she slapped him. She isn't by his locker between classes, and he barely catches a glimpse of her at her own locker. She isn't in the cafeteria at lunch, and in Glee she sits with Tina and Mercedes on the opposite side of the room from Finn. He loves Glee, he really does, but he feels so off without her beside him, leaning again his shoulder or holding his hand or passing notes back and forth with him.

The next day goes much the same way. Puck asks him if they broke up. He says no.

He doesn't say anything else.

He can't take this. She said they weren't breaking up, but what if she only wanted to be nice? What if everything really is over between them? He knows she loves him, though. On Friday, she avoids him yet again, and when he calls her name out in the parking lot, she pretends not to hear, and he can only watch her scurry off to her car.

He doesn't understand how this happened. She never showed any doubt all year long. She encouraged him to apply to schools all over the country, and she seemed so confident that everything would work out for them both, for them together. When did that change? When did she, like, lose faith in them?

He stares at the ceiling of his bedroom, and all he can think is that this is wrong.

She is wrong.

He won't let everything happen like this. He might have been worried all year about college and how they would make everything work, but now that he suddenly has to face the actual idea of life without Rachel, without his best friend, without his girl, without his Rachel, he knows that he can't let everything play out this way.

Mr. Schue and Quinn and Rachel — they might all be right when they talk about high school sweethearts and long distance relationships and how life really goes.

But he isn't gonna give up that easy.


Mr. Berry lets him into the house. He goes up to her room, and she looks up at him from her desk only to look determinedly back at her computer again a moment later. "You shouldn't be here, Finn. I need you to respect my decision — we have to spend some time apart."

"No, we don't," he says. He waits. She won't look at him. "Rachel, I — I want to say something, okay? Let me just say this, and then if you still want to spend time apart, or whatever, we can. But just hear me out. Please."

She shuts her computer and turns to look at him. "Okay," she agrees.

He takes a deep breath. "It's like this — you told me not to promise that I would never break up with you, 'cause we have to be realistic and stuff. And you were right about that. About the fact that, about, like, that we have to be all mature and, I mean —" This isn't really coming out as well as he had imagined it would.

He sighs and runs a hand over his hair.

"Do you maybe want to sit down?" Rachel suggests quietly, motioning at her bed.

He sits down, and he looks at her, sitting at her desk with her hands in her lap as she waits patiently for him to go on. "We have to be realistic," he says. "I get that. Last time we lived in this little bubble where we never let anything go wrong, it exploded in our faces. And we promised each other after Nationals that we wouldn't do that again. I promised you that I would be honest with you. Do you remember that?"

She nods. "Of course," she says softly.

"So I'm gonna be honest with you, Rach. I know that we might not be together forever. I know that, realistically, most people don't marry the people they were with in high school. And I know that everybody assumes they're the exception to the rule, when really you can't even know until way after high school. But —" He pauses. He will do this right.

He leans forward, and he hopes she can see how earnest he is. "— But I do think we're the exception to the rule, Rachel. I do. And I don't see what's wrong with that. Maybe we won't get married and have kids and all of that. But we're together now. And I — I am so in love with you." He chokes a little on the words. "And — and you love me, too, right?"

"More than anything," she whispers.

"So it'd be stupid, baby, can't you see that, it'd be so stupid to just, like, break up now because we might not be the exception to the rule. And I don't buy that it'll hurt less now, or whatever. Because at least if we fall apart in college, then we'll know we tried, and we couldn't make it work. But if we break up now? That'd be the dumbest thing ever. And I know dumb."

"You're not dumb, Finn," she says.

"I know," he replies, smiling slightly. "But I've done some dumb stuff. We both have. And I'm not gonna let us mess this up. I love you. And I want to stay with you. And I want to see if we are the exception. If it turns out we aren't, that'll suck. But, honestly, right now I can't imagine marrying anybody but you, or having super awesome babies with anyone but you, and I don't think I should have to. I know you like to plan the future. So, please, Rachel, don't stop planning ours. Don't lose faith in us yet."

Her bottom lip trembles a little, but she smiles at him, and he knows the tears in her eyes this time are the good kind. "We would have very attractive, talented children," she says. "They would have both musical and athletic prowess."

"Yeah," he says. "And they'd be the best Jews ever."

She laughs a little, and he reaches out to grab her hands. "So you really want to do this?" she asks. "You want to try long distance, with me in New York and you in Ohio?"

"I really want to do this," he repeats, nodding.

"Then lets do this," she says, squeezing his hands. She leans forward and kisses him, and his hands slip from hers, up her arms, and then around her to tug her closer. She sinks into him, straddling his lap, and she breaks the kiss only to hug him, pressing her face into his neck. "Let's do this," she repeats.

He smiles. "Yeah. Lets do this."


They make a whole plan.

She tells him on a random Tuesday that she might finally be truly, honestly, completely ready, especially after they worked their way past all of the college drama. And he knows he is, too. Rachel goes on birth control, and Finn gets tested to be extra positive he's good to go. And then they only have to wait for something special, because Rachel has always wanted it to be special, and, honestly, Finn has too.

Chicago is Special.

The night before Nationals is special.

The wine that Puck swipes for him and the flowers Finn buys are special — or special enough.

Everybody switches rooms in this train wreck of new arrangements after Mr. Schue goes out with Ms. Pillsbury and leaves the club to their own devices, and Rachel and Finn make sure they end up in their own room. A little past ten, they break open the wine, and she starts to giggle at everything, nervous, like he is, because they've waited so long for this. And then she kisses him before she's even had half a glass of wine, and she tastes so sweet.

They know what to do at first, as they fumble their way of out of clothing and over to the bed, as they kiss and they touch, as she goes down on him and he goes down on her, as they laugh and they tumble around a little. When she tries to pour more wine, she spills the drink all over herself, and her laughter turns into moans as he licks her clean. And suddenly they're somewhere new. He settles between her legs, and she nods at him and smiles, and they link hands, and he kisses her before he, as fast he can to lessen the pain, thrusts into her.

She gasps sharply, and he looks down at her, holding her gaze, trying to focus on her and not how desperately he needs to move. "Does it hurt lots?" he breathes.

"Not so much," she whispers. "Just lots of pressure . . . and lots of you, and. . . ." He kisses her sloppily, and he waits for her to respond to the kiss, and he tilts his hips a little because he can't help himself.

She wraps her arms around his neck, and whispers for him to "love me" into his ear.

It's all pretty awkward, to be honest. She clings to him, and they can't really manage to properly kiss, and limbs seem to be in places they shouldn't be, and he only lasts about fifteen seconds. But it's still kind of completely awesome, at least for him. And, afterward, as they lie side by side, breathing heavily, sweaty and sore, she takes his hand. He turns to look at her properly, and she turns, too, and she smiles. "I love you," he says.

"I love you, too," she replies.

He remembers the last time he had sex, and how he lay in a motel room afterword, and the sick feeling that swelled up in his chest. He can't even explain how different he feels now, how something so much better is swelling up inside him, and when she stretches ever-so-slightly to kiss him, he lets his hand skim down her stomach, because she should feel as awesome as he does. She feels different down there, but she responds almost immediately, and she smiles when she comes, arching into him.

He loves those kinds of smiles.


They put on pyjamas and turn off the lights, and she lies half on top of him, ghosting her fingers across his chest. "Didn't you bring Henrietta?" he asks randomly. He feels this kind of warm lazy contentment. He thinks he could lie in this bed forever.

"I thought I would cuddle with you instead," she replies sleepily. He smiles to himself. Moments later, she props herself up to look at him, and he runs a hand through her messy hair. "It was special, Finn," she tells him. "But I think it was always going to be special with you."

He doesn't really know what to say, so he only leans up slightly, cupping the back of her head and kissing her. She lies back down, shifting her head to rest right over his heart, and he knows she loves that, loves to fall asleep to the sound of his heartbeat.

He doesn't know what will happen at Nationals the next day, and he should be nervous. He isn't.

Is it totally lame to say he already won? Yeah, probably.


They place third.

Finn can see the disappointment shine in Rachel's eyes, but she bravely smiles as Mr. Schue accepts the slightly smaller trophy. He takes her hand as they all head back to their dressing rooms to collect their things, and he pulls her aside. "You would have won first place," he tells her.

"Finn," she murmurs, "I really don't want to talk about this. I know that third place at the national level is a huge accomplishment, but I can't help my disappointment. I'm going to try to enjoy my time left in New York, however, and —"

"No, Rachel, listen to me," he says, and he touches her chin to turn her face up towards his. "The truth is, this club probably isn't the best in the country. We're probably more like third. But you, Rachel? You're the best in the country. If this were, like, American Idol or something, you would have totally won. And you are gonna win someday. You're gonna be so famous, and you're gonna win all these awards, I know it."

She bites her lip and smiles at him, tears beading in her eyes. "I won you, didn't I?" she asks.

"You never really had to compete for me," he says. "I was always yours." He shrugs. It's a true story, you know? "And I always will be."

She kisses him, holding his face in her hands, and then she hugs him tightly, her fingers curling around the material of shirt. He's disappointed they lost, too, and he knows she isn't suddenly going to be not disappointed, but he means every word he tells her. She is the best, and after college they're going to head out to New York and she'll have chance to show that to the world.

He kisses her quickly again before they link hands once more and follow the rest of the club out of the concert hall.

Mr. Schue takes them all out to dinner, and he cries when he gives a speech about how much he loves all of them, and how proud he is of them, and how they changed his life. Finn kind of cries a little, too. How can he not? This club changed his life. Rachel changed his life, and if Mr. Schue had never started New Directions then Finn never would have had the chance to know Rachel, and to fall for her, and that would be the worst life ever.

Third place can suck it.

It was never really about Nationals, anyway.


Rachel wants to take ten thousand photos at graduation.

He tries to beg off, because Kurt and Mercedes both did, but Rachel won't let him. "Let my daddy take a few more," she insists, smoothing out her dress again. She does look really pretty, wearing this white sundress, with her hair up in this fancy twist. But he has to pee really bad.

"Rachel," he whines.

"Three more, Finn," she replies, and she wraps her arms around him and gives her daddy and the camera another winning smile. He does, too, but he won't be surprised if he looks like he's in pain in all of these photos. "Just think," Rachel tells him, straightening his tie a little, "our children will look at these pictures. We want them to be perfect."

Her daddy snaps another photo as his mom bites back a smile. "Rachel," she asks, her voice playful, "do you mind if I ask exactly how many grandchildren who will enjoy these photos I can expect in the distant future?"

"One of each or up until three of one," Rachel says brightly. "Okay, Finn, just one more photo."

Finn sees his mother trying to hide her smile behind her program, and he grins at her.


He drives to the airport with her and her dads.

Her dads each hug her, and her daddy cries, and her dad makes her to promise to call him as soon as the plane lands. They both seem unable to let her go, and they tell her over and over again how much they'll miss her, and she starts to cry a little, too.

Finally, she turns to Finn. She takes his hands.

"You ready to go?" he asks, his words sticking in his throat a little. She nods. "You have everything you need? Did you pack Henrietta?" She laughs a little and hugs him. He buries his face in her hair, and wishes he never had to let her go. He can't believe his girlfriend is about to fly off to New York and he won't see her for two months.

She pulls back slightly. He brushes his knuckles under her eyes, wiping away the last of her tears.

"I love you," she whispers.

"I love you, too," he says. "I'll love you forever." He smiles. "Am I allowed to promise that?"

She laughs, her eyes watering again. "Yes," she says. "You can promise that."

He kisses her, holding her as close as he can and trying to savour this last kiss for a long, long time. She reminds him he needs to be on Skype at eight that night to talk to her, and then he watches her walk towards security. She waves before she disappears. He doesn't know how everything will work between them for the next few years, but he does love her, and he can't imagine a time when he won't.

And he isn't going to pretend he can.


I've been living in your cassette.

It's the modern equivalent,

Singing up to a Capulet,

On a balcony in your mind.

And all the sounds dream for me,

Dive me down in a soul so deep.

I can hear you singing to me in my sleep.

a/n: there isn't really one scene in this that I love, but I think I like it overall. thoughts?