a/n: okay, here's yet another AU for you. the current plan is seven chapters, but that might change. this is based on a prompt from Kelsey and Ally - thank you both so much! And thanks also to my two editors, Dhi and Quinn! title and lyrics come from "Bleed" by American Pearl.

I believe the sun will rise one day,
And we'll come alive and reach for something real.
I can feel the sun through darkest sky,
But all the faith inside won't take away this fear.
But I'll be stronger than before,
And they can't bleed me anymore.

Nobody at the police station even blinks when Finn walks in.

They all know him, and they always have.

He's even slept here at night, when he was little and his mom had an event and couldn't find a sitter. Captain Defibaugh nods at Finn. "Looking for your old man, Huddy? He's back in his office." Finn thanks him with a tight smile and weaves his way through the station.

His father started as a police officer here straight after he graduated the police academy, "a rookie fresh from the cradle," his dad likes to say, and now, twenty six years later, he's a Bureau Chief, in charge of the Patrol Boroughs, and he has dozens of underlings, all of whom still treat Finn like an awkward, lanky twelve-year-old.

He knocks on the door frame of the office, and his dad and Major McCraty both glance over.

"Mom said you wanted me to stop by after school?" he says hesitantly, nodding at McCraty when the older man smiles at him. McCraty is pretty cool, all things considered.

"Oh, yes! Right on time! Right on time!" his dad exclaims, grinning. "You've got this, eh, Collin? You've got this." He claps McCraty on the back. "We'll talk more later. Come on in, son. Come on in. I've got news for you!"

His dad is a huge man, tall and beefy, the lines on his face hard, but on closer inspection he isn't too terrifying: his dark hair always sticks up in the back, and his clothing always looks a little rumpled. Maybe it's from one night too many at the pub down the street, but his dad seems to have this permanent kind of rosy red tint to his cheeks that only grows brighter when he laughs.

Plus, Finn is, like, two inches taller than his dad now, which kind of rocks.

(Still, when Christopher Hudson wants his way, when he yells, spit flying, when he stares Finn down, his jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed, his face even redder with fury, Finn always feels a solid two feet shorter.)

His dad circles around his desk to close the door after McCraty passes Finn out of the office, and then he turns back to Finn. "Tell me," he says. "Do you know a Matthew Rutherford?"

Finn frowns. "Um, Matthew Rutherford?" he repeats. "Actually, ah, there's a Matt Rutherford in my English class, I think. Why?"

"Ha ha!" his dad shouts, clapping Finn on the back and then leaning back against his desk. "Deputy Grant brought him into the station last night — caught him dealing."

"Oh," Finn says, because he doesn't really know what else to say. He is kind of shocked. Matt doesn't really seem like the kind, but, then again, Finn doesn't really know anything about him.

"It's not his fault, though, a'course not, a'course not!" his dad says, waving his hand. "He's a kid, hey? And he told us, he came right out and told us, like a damn fine kid, exactly how it all went down. Peer pressured, he was! Like something out of those damn after school specials."

Finn just nods, waiting for his father to tell him the point of all this.

"And you know who he said leaned on him? You know who? Noah Puckerman. Noah Puckerman!" his dad roars, his face growing red with excitement. "Can you imagine!" He chuckles, apparently thrilled.

"Yeah, that's, um — who's that, again?"

"Puckerman, kid! Motherfucking Puckerman! He's the son of Sam Puckerman, who's the brother-in-law of Hiram Berry. Hiram Berry! We've got him, kid! We've got him!" His dad laughs, and Finn nods and manages to chuckle a little.

He should have known this would be about Hiram Berry.

"And good ol' Rutherford promised to talk. To tell us everything. And then we'll have the nephew, and that'll lead us straight to the big bad wolf! Because Rutherford, he promised he had something good. That he had seen things! Can you believe it! Seen things! We've never had a witness who could lead us straight up the ladder, never! But, oh, Rutherford — good ol' Rutherford!" His dad can't seem to stop grinning.

"That's awesome, Dad," Finn says.

"You're damn right it is, kid! And you'll come in Thursday, then, to help."

"What? Why do I — why do you need me?" Finn asks. "I don't —"

"Of course we need you!" his dad shouts happily, clapping Finn on the shoulder. "You go to his school. If he tries to back out, if his feet go cold — you'll be there to give us the insider advantage. You keep an eye on him tomorrow at school, see if he likes a girl, huh? See who his friends are. And then if he tries to balk, tries to hold his tongue on Thursday — you'll tell us what we need to make him talk! It'll be perfect!

"We'll say seven, then, Thursday night, huh?"

"No," Finn protests, because he doesn't want any part of this — he never wants any part of this. But his dad stares at him, blinking in confusion, and Finn splutters up an excuse. "The dance," he says. "McKinley has a dance on Thursday. It was Friday, but they moved it, because Headmaster Figgins said —"

"Oh, of course, of course!" his dad says, and he smiles. "You've got to show your girl a good time, don't you? Of course. It's Quinn, isn't it?"

"Actually, we, um, broke up," Finn admits quietly. He kind of thought his dad already knew, but that doesn't really matter. He knows now.

His dad frowns. "Oh, oh. I'm sorry, son. But, hey — you must have another girl, then, to take the dance? Sweep her off her feet, huh?" He grins at Finn, and Finn manages a weak smile and a nod. He'll leave the lie at that. "Excellent, excellent. We'll do Friday, then! I'll have Rutherford told to come by on Friday. You'll have your dance on Thursday, and then come by the station on Friday, and we'll talk to Matt, then. Perfect. Perfect."

Finn swallows back more protests.

He may never want any part of this, but he always ends up in the middle anyway.

"And, you know, son, you help out with this — it'll go a long way." He lowers his voice and leans closer to Finn, as if to share a secret with him. "Years from now, after I've been Police Commissioner and I'm retired, the man who follows me — he may well know you, and he may well remember that Finn Hudson, even back as a kid, helped bring down Hiram fucking Berry. How's that sound, huh?"

He pulls back and then stands. "You better be on your way home. You tell your mom I'll be home late, okay? Okay." He smiles as Finn nods, and he opens the office door for Finn. "This is it, kid," his tells him. "This is our yellow brick road, straight to that bastard Berry. You know what I always say. There are three great evils in this world, right? —"

"Dirty, damned Defence Attorneys," Finn says.

"That's damn right, and those rich, rotten Republicans, and what?"

"And those Berry bastards," Finn answers.

"Atta boy, son. And those Berry bastards are about to see their end, huh?"

He claps Finn on the back yet again, and then Finn starts back through the station, and more people holler out hello to him, and they call him Huddy and joke about when he plans to come on in here in a uniform of his own. He smiles and nods and acts like he wants to wear a uniform of his own, and then he finally escapes out onto the street.

But he doesn't head home. It's not as if his mom needs the message — his dad is always home late; family dinner, when his mom isn't passed out, is usually around ten at night.

The security guard at Sam's house recognizes his car and buzzes Finn past the gates, and the guy must call up to Sam, because Mike shouts for Finn to move his ass on upstairs the moment the maid lets Finn in. He takes the stairs two at a time and catches the X-Box controller that Sam tosses at him when he walks into the bedroom suite that Sam calls his own.

(His mom is this big time judge, and she makes a crazy amount of money, but pretty much everybody at McKinley has a parent that makes a crazy amount of money — it's McKinley, the school for kids of the rich and famous in NYC. Finn has only met Mrs. Evans once or twice, but he and Sam have been friends forever.)

"What's up, dude?" Sam asks.

"What did your dad want?" Mike says, and he offers Finn a beer from the mini fridge.

"We have to go to the dance on Thursday," he says.

"The dance?" Sam repeats, and he actually pauses Halo. "Like, at McKinley?"

"Yeah," Finn says, popping open the beer can.

"I thought we were gonna skip it and go to the Planet of the Apes at the two dollar theatre," Mike says. "Wait, did you and Quinn —?" He pauses, and he and Sam glance at each other and then back at Finn, and he shakes his head. He does not want to talk about Quinn.

"No, it's my dad," Finn says. "He wants me to help out with a case, and I tried to get out of it. It didn't work, and now I've gotta go to the dance."

Mike shrugs. "It might not be totally lame."

"I think we can make an appearance," Sam says. He turns back to the X-Box.

"Whatever," Finn says, and he downs the rest of his beer and flops back on the bed. The dance will be totally lame, 'cause it's a freakin' high school dance, and, worse still, he'll be there without a date. Mike and Sam won't have dates either, and they obviously don't have a problem with that, but Finn still feels like a loser.

Quinn would probably call him one.

But he doesn't give a fuck what she would say. (Or, at least, he doesn't want to give a fuck.)

"Dude," Mike says, "don't."

Finn glances over at him. "What?"

"Think about her," he says knowingly.

"She's totally not worth it," Sam agrees, and he manages to shove some Doritos in his mouth without taking his eyes off the television screen. "I never liked her —" He frowns and starts to pound on his controller, muttering fuck repeatedly under his breath.

"I can't help it," Finn says. "I mean, it's not like I miss her that much, or whatever, 'cause we didn't even hang out all that much, but she, I mean, it just makes me feel —" He stops, 'cause he's a guy, and he isn't gonna talk about his dumbass feelings.

"We'll find you another girl, man," Mike offers.

"Yeah," Sam agrees, his mouth full, "one who lets you touch her boobs."

Finn throws a pillow at him and then sits up and leans over to grab another beer from the fridge. Quinn can go fuck herself. He has other shit to worry about, anyway. Like, apparently he has to help interrogate some kid from school. And will Matt really have enough dirt on Puckerman and the Berrys to bring them down?

His entire life, his dad has wanted to see Hiram Berry fry.

Hiram Berry, the untouchable criminal. Hiram Berry, with hundreds of murders to his name. Hiram Berry, the biggest Polish mob boss in New York City. Hiram Berry, the devil incarnate according to Christopher Hudson.

Finn has heard stories about Hiram Berry his entire life.

And now, apparently, his dad needs his help to see Hiram Berry burn.

He avoids Quinn at school the next day, like always.

She's actually better about that this week than she has been since the break-up — she doesn't ambush him in the halls anymore. He does try to learn something about Matt, but it's hard. He doesn't really talk to anybody that Finn knows, and Finn actually has to look up some kids in the yearbook to find out who the boys that Matt does hang out with are. And he doesn't have a girlfriend, as far as Finn can tell. Whatever.

It's not like Finn will be that helpful on Friday anyway.

He chills with Mike and Sam that afternoon, and they go out to find costumes, 'cause apparently nobody told him before, but this dance is the Halloween Formal.

Finn goes as John Connor, Sam as Bruce Springsteen, and Mike as a vampire — and, yeah, Sam and Finn rib him for that for hours after they buy stuff at Goodwill and the Dollar Store for their costumes. Finn knows it's all about Tina for Mike, though, 'cause he's totally had wood for the other Asian since this past summer.

The dance is up on a large stretch of flat roof on the giant mansion that serves for a private school, and Finn shows up a little past ten, 'cause it would be super lame to show up on time at eight, and they don't need any help in the lame department.

Finn stares out across the roof, filled with his classmates, most of whom opted to dish out actual cash for expensive, fancy costumes, like this dance even matters. Then again, most of these people actually have dates, and Finn frowns a little to himself. He really hopes Quinn isn't here.

"You cool?" Sam asks him.

"We can still bail, dude," Mike says. "We can, like, go bowling or something." But his eyes are on Tina as he talks, and Finn knows Mike psyched himself up to talk to her tonight.

"Nah, I'm cool," he assures.

They head over for the tables across the roof, where some of the guys from the football team are hanging out. The roof doesn't look that bad: there's a stage for the DJ, a huge dance floor, and Chinese lanterns hung all around, and the tables each have a table cloth, flowers, and a lit candle.

Finn greets his friends with fist bumps, and then he stands there and waits for time to pass, and he kind of ignores everybody but Sam and Mike. He isn't really surprised when Mike disappears to find Tina, and the best part of his night might be when he raids the cookie table. He loses Sam at that point, too, though, and he starts to kind of wander aimlessly, nodding at people he knows.

And then he runs into Quinn.

She looks really good, in this soft, fluttering green dress, her hair perfectly curled and pinned up, probably by the same lady who does her mom's hair for the movies. "Hi," she says softly. "How are you?"

"Seriously?" he asks her coldly.

She closes her eyes, wincing, and then looks back at him sadly. "I'm sorry," she whispers. Her eyes grow large and wet. "You have no idea how sorry —"

"Don't," he cuts off. "I don't want to do this." He tries to turn away from her. She reaches for him, though, and the words shoot out of him. "I have a date."

She pulls back as if burned. "What? You — you have a date?"

"Yeah, I have a date," he repeats, swallowing thickly as he looks at her broken face. What does she care, anyway? "Can you believe it?" he goes on. "There's somebody who actually wants to go out with me." He turns away again, and this time she doesn't stop him.

He looks for Sam, only to find his friend making out with some girl at a back table. He sighs, shoves his hands in his pockets, and makes a beeline for the door.

Mike catches his eye and nods, as if he understands, and Finn manages to give him a small smile as he leaves the roof. The third landing of the school, where all the boarding kids live, is cool and quiet, and Finn starts down the hall towards the main stairs.

He hears the door open behind him, and he turns, expecting to see Mike, ready to ditch with Finn.

But Quinn stands in front of him. "Finn," she says, her eyes soft.

"What, Quinn? What?"

"Please hear me out, Finn," she says. "Please. I know you're mad at me, I know. And I know that I made a mistake, I do, believe me!" She steps closer to him. "And you have no idea how much I wish I could take everything back. You are the best thing that ever happened to me. God, Finn — Finn, I love you."

He flinches. No. She doesn't have the right to say that.

But she only goes on, stepping still closer to him. "I tried so hard to justify everything to myself, and to you, even, but — but I can't. I know that. I don't have an excuse for what I did, other than that I was drunk and insecure and I didn't think. I'm sorry. If I could —"

He can't take this.

"Okay," he says, jaw tight. "I forgive you. Can this be over now?"

"Can what be over?" she asks, a sudden lilt of hope in her voice. "Our fight?"

"This conversation," he replies, his voice hard.

Her face falls. She still doesn't give up. "Finn, don't do this," she says, desperation in her gaze now. "We both came to this dance alone, because the only person we should be with is each other, and —"

"I'm not here alone," he protests.

"Finn," she says, her face pinching slightly in that way of hers, so familiar. "You don't have to lie."

"I'm not lying!" he growls. He is, but he hates the look on her face right now. He kind of just hates her, actually, hates her pretty dress, hates her pretty voice and her pretty eyes and her pretty little lies, and he doesn't want to have this conversation, because he can't.

"You are," she insists, "and I understand why, but we can move past this, Finn, we can, if only you would —" She falters, her eyes looking past his shoulders.

And he spins around to see another girl in the hall, her eyes wide at her accidental interruption. He doesn't know who she is, doesn't recognise her small frame or her dark hair and dark eyes, but she doesn't have a corsage on, and he can't help himself. He smiles. "Hey. I was just coming to look for you." He looks back at Quinn. "This is my date."

Quinn only stares in disbelief, and when he glances back at the girl, she looks shocked too.

But Quinn can't see his face in that instant, and he mouths please at the girl.

"Finn," Quinn murmurs, and she almost has a tone of pity now.

But the other girl hesitantly steps forward, and she hooks her tiny hand around his elbow and then holds out the other for Quinn. "I'm Rachel." She smiles warmly, and her eyes are shy, but she doesn't look confused anymore.

"You're here with Finn?" Quinn asks flatly.

Rachel nods. "We actually met at this diner on fifth, and we were friends for weeks before we realised we both went to McKinley. Crazy, right? This is our first date — and he forgot my corsage!" She giggles a little and shakes her head, before she leans into Finn, pressing her head against his arm.

She's, like, a really good actress. She smells good, too, but that's not really important.

He look at Quinn, who still looks floored, but the disbelief has faded from her gaze. She totally buys the story. "Um, well, Rachel, this is Quinn," Finn finally says. Quinn nods. Her face has turned sour now. "So, well, I guess we should get back to the dance." He steers Rachel towards the door to the stairs, and she doesn't try to stop him.

They climb the narrow stairs in silence, but the moment they're back on the roof, with the hanging lights, the DJ, and their classmates everywhere, she turns to him and raises her eyebrows. "Is that your ex-girlfriend, or something?"

"Kind of," he says. "Actually, yeah. As of, like, two weeks ago. I'm Finn, by the way. And that was cool, what you did back there."

She smiles. "No problem. Trust me. I've been there." She pauses, and she leans a little closer. She has huge eyes, and they're really dark, but they have these gold threads spiraling in them, and she's actually kind of gorgeous, this random girl who totally went to the bat for him, with her glossy pink lips and her thick, soft dark hair.

"You want to dance?" she asks.

"Ah, what — really?" He's kind of surprised.

She giggles and slaps his arm playfully. "Oh, come on, Finn!" She snares his hand and drags him out towards the dance floor, and he catches sight of Quinn, only a few feet behind where they had stood. Oh. They're still on a fake date.

It's cool, though. She's pretty cool. And it's not like he has anywhere else to be.

The fast, silly, poppy song playing ends even as they settle on the dance floor, and something calmer comes on. Rachel reaches her arms around his neck, and he rests his on her hips. She really is small — the top of her head doesn't even reach his chin. They kind of simply sway to the music, 'cause he really doesn't want to fuck up and step on he feet like a giant oaf.

He's never really known how to act around girls. Like, he can talk to them, but he usually comes off like a doofus. Quinn pretty much asked him out and led him by the hand through their whole relationship — but she probably only wanted to date him for status. And he isn't gonna think about her. He's gonna think about Rachel, who's really cool.

Her dress is made out of this gauzy pink material, and he fingers the material a little. "I'm a fairy princess," she tells him, as if she knows his thoughts, "hence the crown." She tilts her head a little, as if to point at her fake flower headband. "What are you?" She gazes up and down.

"John Connor," he says.

"From The Terminator?" she asks. "That's fun."

He grins. He didn't know girls watched movies like that.

"So what's the story?" she goes on.

"What story?"

"With Quinn? Or is that rude of me to ask? I'm sorry. I never really know how to handle these situations. None of my friends have ever really been in serious relationships, although Santana has been in a lot of relationships, but that term really applies loosely to her escapades, so I don't know the basic rules for these sorts of conversations."

"Um . . ." He tries to process all of that. "It's cool. She, ah, cheated on me — two weeks ago."

"Oh, I'm — I'm sorry, Finn," Rachel says gently. "My boyfriend of five months cheated on me, too. Or tried to, anyway. It really makes you feel inadequate, doesn't it?" She gazes up intently at him. "Like — like something's wrong with you." She sighs a little, and her fingers brush the back of his neck.

"Yeah," he murmurs. That's exactly how it feels. "Like, I didn't even see it coming. We were together for almost three months, and then I see her car in the parking lot of school, in the parking lot, and I go over to say hi, and —" He shakes his head and pushes to the end of the story. "She had some guy in the back seat with her."

"That's terrible, Finn. But, if it means anything, you deserve somebody with more class than that."

He smiles. The song changes, and he playfully takes her hand and twirls her around in time to the faster beat. She laughs as she spins back into him and takes his hands. He hopes she doesn't care that he dances like a club-footed duck.

She doesn't seem to. They trip backwards on one spin, and he knocks into someone dressed like Princess Peach, and then she laughs so hard that she presses her face into his chest to try to calm herself down. (It's actually kind of awesome, having her small, warm body pressed up against his.) The next song is this techno beat, though. She looks up at him, her lips pressed closed and her eyes playful. "No," he says. "Definitely no. Come on."

She laughs as he leads her off the dance floor. He swipes an entire bottle of sparking cider from the back of the drinks table and leads her to a table off at the back of the roof.

"I suppose we can't all be excellent dancers," she teases.

"And some of us can't even reach the top shelf of our closet." He taps the top of her head.

"I resent that!" she cries, and he only grins at her as he takes a seat and then pops open the cider.

"So what's your story?" he says. "Some douche cheated on you?"

She nods. "Jesse. He graduated last spring. But last winter, my best friend, in an attempt to be helpful, set out to prove what a jerk he was, and she tried to seduce him. Apparently, she didn't even have to work hard at all. He took the bait. She didn't actually sleep with him of course, but she caught him with his pants down on camera."

"Wow. He really is a douche. Your friend is cool, though."

"She's certainly not boring," Rachel replies. "But, yes, I kind of like her." She smiles.

He feels nervous all of a sudden, because he kind of actually likes this girl. Like, he sort of wants to lean closer to her, and he wants to touch her hair, 'cause it looks so soft, and he wants to kiss her, and, fuck, he can see the swell of her breasts when she sits close to him like this.

He takes a swig of the cider and then offers the bottle to her.

"That's not very lady-like," she tells him.

"That's 'cause, see," he leans closer still to her, "I'm not actually a lady." He grins, and she only rolls her eyes and swipes the bottle away from him. She takes a delicate sip, and then she licks her lips, and he glances off to the side and quietly lets out a low breath.

"Anyway," she says, "My best friend convinced me to come to the dance tonight, and we were having a great time until she disappeared, probably to some boarder's bedroom." She shakes her head fondly. "But I haven't dated anyone since Jesse. I like to focus on my studies, and on college applications, and on my voice, of course. I'm a singer."

"That's cool," he says. He doesn't really know anybody into music. Sam plays guitar like a boss, and sometimes they mess around and play some covers together, but only ever in the privacy of his basement. "I play the drums a little," he admits. He takes another sip of cider. "We should, ah, have a jam session or something soon."

Whoa. He sounds like a total idiot.

But she claps. "That would be so much fun!"


"Do you have your phone?" she asks. "I'll put my number in."

He eagerly pulls his cell out of his pocket, and her fingers brush his as she takes the phone from him. She really does have tiny hands, and these cute little fingers with pink nail polish. He watches her as she types her number into his phone, biting her lip and leaning against him.

"Usually I like to put a star by my name whenever it's in print," she tells him, "because it's a metaphor for me being a star, and metaphors are important, but a smiley face will have to do in this case." She smiles at him and hands back his phone.

"Cool," he says.

"I really am an amazing singer, you know," she goes on. "I plan to go on Broadway some day. It's been my dream since my daddy took me to my first show. He takes me to one every Friday night, and someday he'll come to see me on that stage on a Friday night."

"That's awesome. I've never actually seen a Broadway show."

She gasps. "You're a Broadway virgin?" She touches her hand to his knee as she looks up at him, her eyes bright. "Oh, Finn! We need to fix that!"

"It's a tragedy, huh?"

"You have no idea!" she cries. He laughs, but she only goes on seriously. "I can't stand for this. I'll take you to a show." She nods her head firmly. "What are you plans for next Saturday evening? I can call for tickets first thing tomorrow."

"I'm free," he says.

She beams. "It's a date." She's so close, then, that he can see the freckles on her nose, and he can smell her perfume, this spicy, fruity scent, and his eyes flicker to her lips, and his heart is racing

She draws back suddenly, blinking rapidly, her eyes darting away from his face and then back again. "I'm sorry," she says quickly. "I know you probably aren't ready for —"

"No, I'm —" He grabs her hands before she can stand. "I'm — I really like you. You're cool, Rachel. And — " He pauses, unsure, and they stare at each other. She giggles breathlessly suddenly, looking away and then smiling back up at him, her checks pink. He lets out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding, and he grins, laughing a little with her.

She catches his gaze again. "You're cool, too, Finn."

He smiles and looks down bashfully.

"Oh!" she gasps. "I love this song!"

He pauses to listen, and then suddenly she starts to sing.

"Your sweet moonbeam, / The smell of you in every single dream I dream, / I knew when we collided, / You're the one I have decided, / Who's one of my kind. . . ."

Her voice quickly overpowers the tinny sound of the voice from the speakers across the roof, and he only stares at her, because she really can sing, and her smile is infectious as she belts out the words, dancing playfully a little in her seat.

"Hey soul sister, / Ain't that mister mister on the radio, stereo, / The way you move ain't fair you know, / Hey, soul sister, / I don't wanna miss a single thing you do tonight. . . ."

She stands suddenly and pulls him to his feet, cajoling him into dancing with her.

"Just in time, I'm so glad you have a one track mind like me, / You gave my life direction, /

A game show love connection, we can't deny, / I'm so obsessed, / My heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest. / I believe in you, like a virgin, you're Madonna, / And I'm always gonna wanna blow your mind. . . ."

He playfully does the lawnmower dance move that Sam likes, and Rachel laughs, and he can't help himself: he sings the next verse with her, and he only grins widely when her eyes go wide.

"The way you can cut a rug, / Watching you is the only drug I need, / So gangster, I'm so thug, / You're the only one I'm dreaming of! / You see I can be myself now finally, / In fact there's nothing I can't be, / I want the world to see you'll be with me. . . ."

They finish together, breathlessly, and she claps happily. "You're amazing!" she exclaims.

"Me? You're gonna blow Broadway out of the water!"

She beams, only to bite her lip, and his stomach swoops again as she catches his gaze and holds it.

"You know," she says suddenly, "you can kiss me if you want to."

His breath catches. "I want to."

And he reaches out and cups her head with his hand. His hand trembles a little, but when she presses her own warm hand over his, he can feel how nervous she is, too. He smiles a little, and she does, too, and then he leans forward, still holding her gaze, and he kisses her.

Her lips are soft and smooth against his, and he can't believe this is real. He pulls back, sees her large brown eyes, flecked with gold, gazing back intently at him, and then he really kisses her, letting his other hand fall to her hip and tug her closer to him, her knees brushing his as her mouth opens tentatively under his, and he can taste the cider on her lips, and he wants more, wants to tug her into his lap and kiss his way down her throat and —

He tears away from her, mortified that he's about to cream his fucking pants.

But she starts to smile, and she shyly picks up the empty cider bottle and takes another sip.

And watching her, watching this gorgeous girl who talks a lot but who listens to him, this sweet, adorable, tiny girl who can sing better than anybody, he relaxes. He takes the bottle from her, and she smiles at him as he takes a swig.

She leans forward impulsively and kisses his cheek. "I can't wait for Saturday," she says, "but how about one more dance before my ride comes to pick me up at midnight?" Her eye are bright.

He grins. He wants to kiss her again. A lot. But if she wants to dance, he can do that first.

She literally skips out to the dance floor as he trails behind her, and he glances around. Nobody seems to care about Finn and Rachel, first tucked in away in a corner, laughing and singing and kissing, and now dancing, and that somehow seems strange, when he feels like his whole world has tipped upside down.

It's a slow dance, thank God, and at one point he sees Sam, and Sam sees him with Rachel, and he gives Finn a big grin and two thumbs up.

Finn only grins, and then he walks her off the roof, to the third landing of the school, now lit and warm and ready for students to trickle through as they leave the dance. She holds his hand as they walk, all the way down the second and then the first landing, and she kisses him again in the entrance hall, standing on her tiptoes and pressing her hands into his chest.

He's already addicted to her kisses.

And how exactly did that happen? (Is it bad that he really doesn't care?)

He heads home, and half way through the drive, his phone goes off. He grins, sure that Rachel, sweet and eager and a little bit crazy, is already calling him. But when he grabs the cell, he frowns at the screen and the words Quinn Fabray Calling.

He ignores the call.

But a text comes in as he lays in bed, watching some random movie on the television, and this time the screen reads New Message from Rachel ;) and he eagerly flips the phone open. The text is simply "goodnight!" but she includes another smiley face, and he texts quickly back "sweet dreams," because he can't really help himself.

The school is in tumult when he pulls into the parking lot on Friday morning.

Police cars are there, and reporters, too, and he tries to ask what happened, but nobody really knows. As he pushes his way into the building to see if he can find a police officer — 'cause chances are he'll know whoever he finds — he starts to hear the whispers: somebody's dead.

Over the loud speakers, Coach Sylvester announces that all students should report to the auditorium immediately, but Finn ignores that.

He sees his father, and his heart starts to pound.

His dad would only be here if something really bad happened. He rushed out of the house this morning for an emergency call, and now Finn knows for what. His dad looks pissed, too, as he talks with the headmaster at the bottom of the stairs, and Finn pushes his way down the hall towards them. His dad disappears into a classroom with the headmaster, though, before Finn can reach him, and Finn comes face to face with Detective Reynolds instead.

"Morning Huddy," Reynolds greets, sleepless purple smudges under his eyes.

"What happened?" Finn asks. "Why is my dad here?"

"I really can't —"

"Please, Detective. It's something big, isn't it? Is — is somebody dead?"

Reynolds sighs and motions him closer. "Yeah, kid. Somebody's dead." He pauses, and when he finally goes on, his voice is even quieter. "Murdered in his bed last night with two bullets to the head. Your dad's here 'cause it has to do with a case of his. It was a kid that was gonna be a witness for him —"

"Matt," Finn whispers.

"You better head to the auditorium," Reynolds says. "And don't tell anybody I said anything."

Finn nods and turns away, sort of stunned, because this totally means that Hiram Berry had a teenager that goes to school with Finn murdered in his bed because Matt might have been able to point his finger at the man.

And then he nearly runs right into somebody. Rachel.

She has on these sparkly pink flats that clash with her school uniform and match her sparkling pink headband, but he doesn't really focus on that. He focuses on her face, on her expression, on the disbelief and almost horror in her eyes as she stares at him. She must be freaked out about the murder. She must have overheard Reynolds. Wait — does she know Matt?

"You're Finn Hudson," she says.

"Um, what — yeah," he says.

"You're Chris Hudson's son."

He nods slowly. "Is that —"

"I'm Rachel Berry," she tells him.

It takes him a second.

"I'm Hiram Berry's daughter."