a/n: this is something like a short story in itself, but I had a lot of ground to cover! and I should warn you: I threw something of a crack pairing into the ending, just for funsies, and I'm sorry if that upsets anyone!

They stop in Cleveland to ditch the car.

Finn finds this suspicious man named Pete, who'll pay cash with no questions asked.

Rachel is scared of Pete, but as soon as they leave the junkyard she rants and raves about how Pete only gave them eight thousand dollars for a car worth far more. Considering the fact that Pete will probably know what to do with a stolen car, Finn thinks eight thousand is plenty.

Still, he buys her a chocolate Frosty to cheer her up.

They buy tickets for a Greyhound out of Ohio that night, and Rachel falls asleep against his arm.

Two days later, she purchases the LeBaron from this used car place.

He drives the little green car, and she sits shotgun with a thousand maps in her lap, directing him, changing her mind about which exit or turn or highway he should take over and over again. She falls asleep eventually, though, and he stays on the road, driving with his left hand because her head rests against his right arm, his hand captive in her fingers' grasp.

He doesn't mind.

For some reason, he keeps expecting something big to happen.

He expects police to show up at the hotel door, expects to see his dad leaning against the car when he and Rachel walk out of a restaurant, expects to see his face on the news, expects something.

It keeps his stomach in knots day after day.

But nothing really does happen, not like any of that. They drive, and they stay in hotels, and they eat cheaply, because Rachel already keeps a tight budget — she even purchased a spiral notebook from a dollar store in Colorado for just that purpose. It isn't all stressful, though. They sing along to the radio. They talk. They sit in comfortable silence. And he learns little stuff about her, like that she sleeps on her back, head turned, hand curled in a fist under her chin.

Then, somewhere along the line, she starts to call him Finn, honey. And it's weird, but it's not. That's how all this is, really. It's unreal, but it's what their life is.

He catches her crying in the shower on the third night.

Before she even knows he was opening the bathroom door, he retreats and buys her a pack of Skittles from the vending machine on the first floor of the motel. He hands them to her when she emerges from the bathroom. Her smile makes him feel a little better, and her kiss tastes like sugar.

He misses weird things, like checking game scores on the internet and showers with good water pressure and the familiarity of waking up in his own room. But those stupid things don't really matter, and he knows he should appreciate this. He knows that this is like the few clear hours after the storm, when the air is still cool and the world seems strangely sweet.

And he knows what comes next: the hot and sticky and miserable aftermath.

But that isn't here yet.

They reach Las Vegas a little after a week, and he spends two hundred dollars on a ring. He knows she might be pissed, but he already feels crappy about how little money he has to spend on her, and he needs to give her this. As it turns out, she only smiles tearfully and lets him slip on the ring as the state of Nevada declares them man and wife.

After that, they have to make a new plan yet again.

"We can't simply drive to nowhere," she exclaims. "This won't last for long!"

"I know," he murmurs, staring out at the road.

"And even if we pick somewhere, what will we do? Find an apartment? We'll be able to afford the first month of rent, but what then? We need to find jobs. How will we find jobs? We're high school drop outs on the run — what are we even doing?"

He doesn't know what to say. He doesn't say anything. It's silent for a tense moment, and then —

"I miss home," she whispers. "It's been two weeks, and I miss my dads. I hate them, but I still miss them so much. I miss my aunt. I miss Noah, and Becky, and Santana, and Kurt and —"

Her words are tearful. He still doesn't have a response, and he only grips the steering wheel tightly.

"I . . . this was such a stupid idea," she whispers.

"I know," he finally says. "And I miss home, too." He pauses, sighing. "It sucks that my best friends think I'm dead. It sucks that my mom thinks I'm dead. It sucks that this is how everything played out. But as much as I miss home, Rachel, if we hadn't left, I'd miss you more."

It's quiet.

"I'm so in love with you," she tells him.

He smiles.

He starts to fear less and less that the past might catch up with them.

Before long, they settle in Seattle.

She finds a studio apartment, and they really can't afford a place like this, but he doesn't think Rachel can stomach anywhere worse. Plus, if they can finds jobs soon enough, they will be able to afford this place.

The city is so insanely different from New York, but he likes it, likes the people, likes the food, likes how insanely different it is. He and Rachel buy furniture from Goodwill, and some clothes, too, and she models for him all the clothes she buys in the living room of their new apartment.

(Of course, he likes it better when she wears his new clothes, his new t-shirt sliding off her shoulder as she straddles his lap, hair falling down over her shoulders, her thoroughly kissed mouth smiling down at him.)

It doesn't take him long to find work: he landscapes with a ragtag team of men that meet at five in the morning outside a gas station and then drive in trucks to the job. He earns minimum wage. It isn't a life, but it works for now, and he'll take it. He tells Rachel that, and she kisses him, and they celebrate steady work with a television from Goodwill.

She scrunches her nose up at the stain on the back, but he scrubs as much off as he can and then covers what remains with duck tape, and she rewards him with kisses all over his face. The television has pretty bad reception, but he can manage to find a few channels, and that's enough.

Rachel buys a Monopoly game for them to play. She always wins.

And time marches on.

He starts to learn her habits, her changing moods, the details that make up the big picture he fell in love with. He learns that she isn't ever grumpy in the morning, but if he keeps her up too late she turns cranky. He learns that she likes to give herself pep talks. He learns that she hates onions. He learns that her fingers are always cold. He learns that she hates to sneeze. He learns her.

He falls more in love with her, until he can't really remember what it would feel like not to love her.

She still can't find a job, despite how hard she looks, and he hates that, because he knows how much she hates that, and they do need the money. But if he has to work extra hours to take care of her, then he will. He'll do anything to take care of her — anything. All she has to do is smile.

For now he makes enough to pay rent and buy food, but no more impromptu purchases for better living are allowed. He does buy her flowers at Pike Place Market for a treat on a rarely sunny Friday, though.

She puts a heart by the entry in her budget book.

He wakes up to the smell of pancakes, which is pretty much the best thing ever.

And he grins when he stumbles into the kitchen to see Rachel, in his boxers and his t-shirt, tapping her foot and singing softly along with the radio. She finally notices him, and, smiling, she holds up a plate of pancakes proudly.

They usually stick to cereal, 'cause that's cheaper, but she always makes pancakes on Sunday.

He loves Sundays. He never works on Sundays. He spends Sundays with Rachel.

He kisses her before he accepts a plate, and he can taste syrup on her lips. He makes his way through four pancakes before the song on the radio changes. He looks at her the same moment her eyes fly to his, a smile tugging on her lips.

"Your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my left side brains," she sings sweetly. "I knew I wouldn't forget you, / And so I went and let you blow my mind."

"Your sweet moon beam, / The smell of you in every single dream I dream," he starts, "I knew when we collided, you're the one I have decided who's one of my kind."

And they sing the chorus together, like they're back at that dance, so long ago but really not so long ago at all, not really, not in reality. "Hey soul sister, ain't that Mr. Mister on the radio, stereo, / The way you move ain't fair, you know! / Hey soul sister, / I don't want to miss a single thing you do tonight. . . ."

She holds out her hands for him, and he laughs and lets her pull him to his feet. She steals a few of his awesome dance moves, and then he twirls around, and then she tries to twirl him around, and they both end up stumbling, the fridge catching their fall.

He holds her off the ground and sings softly against her cheek, feeling her smile against his face.

"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. . . ."

He loves Sundays, and he loves pancakes, and he loves Rachel most of all.


He has no idea why she wants to scream murder at four in the morning, but he stumbles out of the bedroom, trying to think of what he could beat a robber over the head with, only for his sleepy eyes to go wide when he sees Rachel, eyes crazy, standing on the kitchen table and spraying Windex everywhere as a cockroach scuttles around on the kitchen floor.

He squashes the bug with a paper towel, throwing it out and then holding out his hands to help her off the table. "Thank you," she murmurs. "I came in here for a glass of water and then I saw it, and it looked right at me, and I could see murder in its beady little eyes."

"Sure, babe," he murmurs. "Come back to bed now."

He falls asleep to her ranting about how heinous cockroaches are, and how no matter how hard she tries, she simply can't love all God's creatures, not if cockroaches are included, but they really shouldn't be because they're like miniature aliens that want to eat her and. . . .

He comes home from work, kicking off his shoes and shoving them against the wall with his foot, calling out to her. He sets the bag of groceries down on the counter, washes his hands in the kitchen sink, splashing water over his face, and pulls a beer from the bag.

His buddy Manuel used his ID to buy him the drinks. Finn bought some toothpaste, too, and some noodles and a red pepper, just like Rachel asked him to pick up. And he bought her some chocolate, the kind with the inspirational messages on the wrappers, 'cause she loves those.

He might maybe make more impulse purchase than her rules allow. He can't help it, though.

This isn't that easy, this life they've carved out of nothing for themselves. His work makes his bones ache, and he misses just sitting around, playing video games and hanging out with his friends. He misses, like, being a kid. How lame does that sound?

And do Sam and Mike know he's alive yet? Have they found out the truth? Kurt might've told them. But he might not have. Finn wonders if anyone knows the truth, or if the secret remains.

It seems to him as if it does, as if nothing has changed in their absence, as if New York City paused when he and Rachel left, and until they return the city will stay on pause.

But that isn't the case, is it?

He pops open the beer, taking a swig. "Rachel?" He walks to the bedroom.

She's lying on the mattress that they bought for three hundred bucks, curled in a ball, blanket pulled up to her chin. She looks so small. He can hear her sniffling even though the sound of rain is magnified as it hits the skylight in the slanted ceiling above the bed. He sits down on the mattress, reaching out, touching a hand to her hip. "Babe?"

She turns to him, eyes rimmed in red. "I'm useless," she tells him, lip trembling.

"What? No, Rachel," he says, shaking his head. "No. Why would you even say that?"

"Because we've been here for months, and I still don't have a job! We've burned through all the money from Noah, and your work, your exhausting work, barely pays the rent and keeps us fed, and if I had a job, any job, we'd be fine, but —

"But I won't!" she cries, tears breaking free.

He isn't supposed to be on the sheets if he hasn't showered or changed out of his work clothes, but he crawls to the middle of the bed anyway and wraps her up in his arms.

"This is so stupid," she repeats, "so, so stupid. We're kids, Finn! We can't do this!"

"We are doing this," he says. "Look. We have an apartment. And we have clothes, and furniture, and food. You actually have a Washington license, and you know your way around the city and stuff. We're together, and we're okay. We're married."

She stares at him, a little hope in her gaze, and he smiles encouragingly.

"And — and we're still working out the kinks," he continues, "but it'll be fine. You might not have a high school degree, but you're still you. You still have all that talent. And, like —" He pauses, frowning a little to himself. "How come you haven't done that?" he asks. "I mean, like, auditioned for anything?"

She hasn't, not that she's told him.

"I don't know," she murmurs, a sigh in her voice. "It seems silly. This is the real world, and I can't expect to waste my time with pointless dreams. It's not like I'll ever be on Broadway now anyway." She won't look at him, and he kind of hates that she would ever talk like that. It's not Rachel.

"You could still go on Broadway," he says. "We might end up back in New York before long —"

But she shakes her head. "You don't believe that, Finn, I know you don't. The way you talk about your mom, your friends, Kurt — you don't think we'll go back, do you? You won't say it to me, because you don't want to make me feel bad, but I can be realistic, too. And, realistically, we're probably never going back to New York, are we?"

He sighs, and she finally looks at him again.

"I don't know," he admits. "I don't usually, like, think that far ahead. But, Rachel, even if we don't ever go back to New York, or to Broadway, you still like to sing, don't you? And you're so good at it. Like, the best in the world. And maybe only me and some, like, theatre people in Seattle will ever know that, but shouldn't you do what you want?"

"Shouldn't you?" she asks softly.

"I want you," he says quietly, and she starts to smile, but did he just say that he wanted — "Wait, that's not what I meant. I didn't mean I want to do you, I just mean —"

She laughs. "I know what you mean," she assures, cutting him off with a quick kiss. "And I'll try a few auditions. I have missed the stage. I just — I don't want you to resent me because you're working so hard at something you don't even enjoy and I'm —"

He cuts her off this time. "I could never resent you," he says. "Besides, once you're, like, starring in musicals and stuff, you'll be the one supporting me."

She bites her lip, eyes teary. "How do you always know what to say?"

He brushes a hand over her hair. "It's this girl," he says, lowering his voice and leaning close to whisper the words to her. "I'm in love with her, and I even married her. She just — she inspires me, you know?" He hugs her as fresh tears splash down her face, and she presses her face into his neck. "You were the first person that ever made me really care about something," he whispers.

She kisses his jaw, his cheek, his mouth, holding his face in her hands. He slips his own hands under her shirt. She draws back, and he tries to pull off her shirt, but she laughs and swats his hands away. "We can't," she tells him. "You'll soil the sheets, Finn, honey! You need to take a shower, or half a front lawn will be on our sheets!"

He groans, even as she nudges his hip, as if to push him off the bed.

"Fine," he says, sighing dramatically. "We can take a shower if you really want."

Her brow creases. "I said you —" She squeals when he hoists her up suddenly. "I need to make dinner!" she exclaims, laughing. He thinks dinner can wait, and he tells her so as he carries her to the bathroom, managing to tug off her sweatpants while he walks.

He can multitask like that.

Across the table, Jack Anderson sighs.

But Kurt doesn't break his gaze. "I know this is a lot to believe, but everything I told you is the truth. And I want my friends to come home. I miss them, and they deserve to come home. But before they can, this war needs to end."

"Christopher Hudson is among the best police officers I've ever known," Mr. Anderson says.

"He still killed a man, and he beat a kid nearly to death," Kurt replies. "That kid can testify. His wife can testify to other crimes. And we have that recording my friend Sam extracted from him. I don't know exactly how the organization of the New York Police Department works, but surely some form of recourse exists for police corruption, and with the evidence I have —"

"That's all circumstantial evidence," Mr. Anderson cuts in. "Look, kid —"

"You can't look the other way to a police officer who commits heinous crimes, no matter how much you like him," Kurt insists, and then he pauses, considering. "I'm friends with Mercedes Jones, you know," he says. "Her mother is Lorraine Jones. Of the New York Times? I'm sure an exposé on the corruption of the police force would make for an excellent read, especially with the tale of star-crossed lovers and some facts on the Polish mob included to add a little spice."

"Are you — are you trying to blackmail me?" Mr. Anderson asks, and he looks more amused than anything else. He reminds Kurt of his son in that moment, with that same smile playing on his lips.

Kurt shrugs. "I'm trying to make the facts clear, is all."

Mr. Anderson leans back in his seat. "You know," he says. "I've always liked Lorraine Jones."

He looks so gleeful when he runs into the house, waving the flier around.

It's for a karaoke night at this bar, and apparently whoever earns the most applause wins a cash prize. She knows they'll have this in the bag, of course, and it's exciting to have a reason to do her hair and put on make-up and go out on the town with him, so to speak. It's like a date.

They haven't been on a date, not a real date, in ages.

The bar is packed, but Finn keeps a hold of her hand and weaves his way through the crowds, and they try to put their names down for a duet, but when that isn't allowed, Rachel signs herself up. "I want to see you on stage anyway," Finn murmurs into her ear.

Most of the people who troupe across the stage do not impress Rachel.

But soon enough she takes center stage, and she immediately finds Finn in the crowd, and she focuses on him before she closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She chooses a Katy Perry song, because who better pleases a crowd than Katy Perry? And she belts her heart out.

The bar goes crazy, cheering and clapping, and she beams out at them all as she sings.

This is where she belongs, and her eyes find Finn once more as she finishes her song.

She knows from her last note that the prize is hers, and more than a few people tell her so as she skips off stage, and she nods and smiles and graciously accepts their praise. She can't wait until she can truly return to the stage, just like Finn said she should. The prize is a hundred dollars.

It's a good night.

The moment she sees the sign, she makes up her mind.

If the theatre needs part-time help in the ticket booth, then they need look no further than Rachel Hudson. She tells the manager of the theatre that. He blinks blankly and asks for her resume, and she replies that she can bring him a copy, but anything he really needs to know she can tell right at that moment. "I don't have much experience in the work force, I'll admit," she says.

"But I know everything there is to know about theatre, and I'll be an absolute asset, I promise."

He tells her to bring a copy of her resume. She tells him her life history: how she grew up in New York, how she aspired for Broadway, how she won several awards in various school and extracurricular productions, how she couldn't finish high school due to extenuating circumstances.

"Extenuating circumstances?" he repeats.

He looks like an old soul, she decides, with his dark blonde hair in a bowl cut and his round glasses and his unexpressive expression, so she decides to go for broke. She needs this job.

"My father is a mob boss who tried to kill my boyfriend, the son of a police chief with whom he had a bloody rivalry, so my boyfriend and I faked out deaths and ran. We're married now."

He simply stares at her.

"You can Google me if you like," she tells him. "Rachel Berry. I died in a car accident."

"I still need to see a resume."

She returns a few hours later, resume in hand. It isn't very impressive, but she thought of a few more key comments to make, such as her excellent people skills and how successfully she sold Girl Scout cookies for almost five years. He sighs when she appears in his office.

"I looked you up," he says. She waits for more. He doesn't say anything more.

"I really need this job," she tells him.

He sighs yet again. "How about a trial basis? We'll say nine dollars an hour to start, and if you prove you can handle the job after two weeks, I'll offer you ten dollars and a little more security."

"Done. Deal. That's — that's a done deal." She nods firmly, trying not to smile too widely. "It will be a pleasure to work with you, and you will not be disappointed, Mr. — Mr. —"


"Mr. — Brad."

"I'll need you here tomorrow by three for training," he says. And she only nods, trying to hold back her squeals, and she succeeds until she steps out onto the street, where she proceeds to squeal her heart out, dancing around, hugging herself, and beaming at the homeless man a few feet away.

As he does on whims every now and then, Finn brings home flowers for her that night.

The pretty tulips end up trampled under his own feet, though, when she jumps him and announces that she has a job, a real job, with bad hours and hourly pay, but a job, and at a theatre, and he laughs into her mouth and kisses her and tells her how proud of her he is.

As she pulls his t-shirt up, he starts to kick off his boots-but she tells him to keep them on. She kind of likes his boots. He only laughs more and kisses her more, and they have sex on the floor of their living room, because this is their apartment, and they can, and that's that.

As they eat sticky banana bread on the floor, the sky a powdery pink as the sun sets outside the window, the last rays warm against her bare back, the real world doesn't feel so very unconquerable anymore to Rachel, not with Finn.

For months, honestly, it didn't feel real, living in Seattle with him, with her husband; it didn't feel permanent, not until suddenly it was, and now the idea of any other kind of life seems strange.

This is their home, with furniture all their own and jobs that pay the rent, and this is their life.

The days begin when Finn wakes her up with soft kisses along her neck, and the room is dark but the curtains glow from the sunlight they hide, and she smiles sleepily against his cheek as he spreads her legs. And then he works and she works, and they fill their nights with each other, and with their new friends, like Grace, who has bright purple hair and wants to be a music teacher, or like Billy, who roots against the Indians just to annoy Finn but always calls Rachel ma'am.

And she likes their life, likes Seattle, likes to make coffee for Finn, because she loves the smell but hates the taste, and now she can smell all the coffee she wants as she hands a mug to him.

She likes how calm and casual Seattle is.

She tries to be calm and casual, too, and not worry about money or auditions or the moment her daddy knocks on the door. That doesn't always work so well. But then Finn sits on the couch to watch the game, and she sits on the floor, her back to his knees. And as she does her toenails, he absently toys with the ends of her hair, and all those worries feel less important in comparison.

They celebrate a year together on a Tuesday, the anniversary of the Halloween dance that brought them together.

And life carries on.

The apartment doesn't really have a balcony, only a smoking deck, but if they open the door wide and pull chairs right up, they can almost pretend they're on a porch. It becomes habit to sit like that with beers, talking softly, knees touching under a shared blanket.

The first time they nearly fall short on rent, even with their combined incomes, they sit like that, watching the sun set, staring out at the city lights as the night turns dark and cold.

"We could always move," he says quietly. "I'm sure it won't be hard to find a cheaper place."

"We'd have to move out of the city," she replies, "or somewhere dangerous. I like it here."

"I do too, but if we . . . but if we hadn't sold the couch," he says, "we would have been evicted. We would have been homeless."

"Mr. Lewinski might have been more lenient than that," she tells him.

He doesn't say anything.

"You know," she says carefully, "some people do everything right. They actually manage to graduate high school, and they go to college, and they marry after years together instead of weeks, and they don't take any stupid risks. But the world can still instantly turn their life upside down."

He looks at her.

"You never really know what will happen next. We made rent this time, and we'll worry about next time when next time comes, okay? I mean, I might have a starring role this time next month!" She smiles, and he starts to smile, too, nodding.

He leans over and kisses her, his breath warm, and he tastes like beer.

Two months later, she does earn her starring role.

It's in RENT as Maureen, her very first role on stage.

And it's at her theatre, the place that gave her a job, the place the she loves like a kind of second home. And it isn't until after months on the job that Rachel learns Brad is not only the manager but also the owner of the theatre. With his support, she lands an audition—and a lead role.

(After that, she learns very quickly that if she talks enough, Brad gives her what she wants.)

Finn starts her standing ovation on opening night. She cries, ruining her stage make-up, even as he hoots and claps and grins, holding her gaze despite the bright stage light that surrounds her.

The pay for her first role isn't much, but after that she becomes a regular on the stage, a regular in the theatre company, always in one of the productions on stage, and as amazing as the lights of Broadway would be, she feels happy with this, with fame in the theatre circles of Seattle, with a job that pays her to do what she loves alongside friends as talented as she is, with an adoring audience to applaud for her every weekend.

Her friend Cassandra plays the Joanne to Rachel's Maureen, and Cassie is the first to call Rachel affectionately by the nickname Huddy, simply because she likes to give nicknames. And at some point everybody starts to call that, her other castmates, her director.

Soon, Brad is the only one who calls her Ms. Hudson.

Finn likes it. "Your nickname is from my last name," he says, smiling a little to himself as they walk down the street. She takes his hand, pulling his gaze to her.

"From our last name," she says. His smile widens, dimples peeking out.

He has the radio on when she arrives homes, and she finds him in the bathroom.

"Are you taking a bubble bath?" she asks, tilting her head and smirking, amused at the sight of her giant husband in a tub full of bubbles.

"It's not a bubble bath," he protests. "I think I sprained something in my shoulder this afternoon when we put in an irrigation system over at this elementary school, and the hot water helps."

"And the bubbles are for show?" she says. "If you want, I can light some aroma therapy candles."

He makes a face at her, and she laughs, kneeling down beside him. "What hurts?" He shifts slightly to show her, and she finds the knot in his upper back, his skin warm and wet under her hand as she presses her thumb and tries to massage the muscle. "How's work?" she asks.

His job is new, more official, with health benefits to boot, and Rachel loves that a small company actually heard good things about Finn from the side work he did and recruited him. But this work is different than his old, minimum wage work; it's harder, really, and she worries about him.

He shrugs. "It's fine."

She leans back on her heels and runs a hand over his hair. "I'm about to write Kurt. I bought a postcard this afternoon, and Grace is spending the weekend with her parents in California, so she can mail it for us. You want me to say anything for you?"

"Nah, I'm cool, but — is all that really necessary? Like, sending mail from different places and stuff. I mean, if anybody wanted to find us, it wouldn't be that hard. It's not like we're really in hiding or using cool fake identities or anything."

She sighs. "I know. It makes me feel better, though." It's quiet for a moment, and when he catches her eyes he offers a small smile. She smiles, too. "If they ever do find out we're alive," she murmurs, "and they come looking, they can't really do anything. We have our own life now."

It's the truth.

She hasn't seen her fathers in nearly two years now, and she doesn't miss them the way she used to, or hate them the way she came to, or fear them the way she wouldn't admit she did. She simply thinks of them sometimes, a little sadly, a little curious, and she wonders if she and Finn will ever go back. They have a life here now, yes, a family with each other, new friends to call their own.

But she does miss Noah, and Santana, and Kurt, and New York City.

"I know," he murmurs, smiling softly. She thinks he really does know it all, does understand it all.

She starts to stand, leaning over the tub to give him a quick kiss.

"You know," he says, "you're welcome to join me." He wiggles his eyebrows.

"See, now you're just trying to reassert your masculinity," she teases, and moments later she screams as he snares her around the waist and pulls her, fully dressed, into the tub. The water splashes everywhere. She smacks his arm, wiping water from her eyes. He only laughs as she exclaims over the mess and her ruined clothes.

He looks so proud of himself, and she rolls her eyes, huffing and managing to find her footing in the tub so she can stand up in her soaked clothes. He protests even as he smiles — and that turns into a bigger grin when she pulls off her wet sweater and tosses it to the sink.

She'll deal with that later.

She ends up falling when she tries to take off her skirt, and she splashes him even more, knees him in the thigh-and she yelps when she bangs her elbow against the tub.

But Finn kisses that better.

They buy a townhouse three days before her twenty-second birthday, and Finn puts a bow on the front door.

It takes a while to make the house their home. He cajoles his buddies into helping him strip up the awful carpets in the living room, and she helps him paint the kitchen yellow, and they buy these green ivy curtains at Belk that match perfectly, and Finn bleaches the grouts in bathroom tiles.

She surprises him for Christmas with a new television, still a little smaller and outdated than the best available, but much nicer than their old Goodwill television. He's excited as she'd hoped he would be, even more so when she lets him order a cable package. They have internet access now, too, and he buys an old Mac desktop from a lady whose front yard he irrigates.

It all feels so grown up, she thinks, more so than when they set up a bank account of their own or ordered their own checks or paid taxes for the first time. This is their house, the kind of house that people who run away from home and don't graduate high school and marry in Las Vegas when they're eighteen years old aren't supposed to have.

(This is the kind of house a child can grow up in.)

Her little pink Canon camera, among the very few possessions that she took with her when they left home, has documented the last five years of their life, and she finally orders copies of favorite pictures of them, and Finn helps her pick out frames at Target to decorate the whole house.

This final touch will make this house their home, she explains.

They spend an entire Sunday hanging up all the framed pictures. The last picture to hang is a surprise. By then, Finn is exhausted, but Rachel carefully watches his face as she hands him he dark brown frame with the picture inside. She found that on her camera, left over from another life.

She had a lot of old pictures, actually, but this is the gem of them all.

It's supposed to be of Kurt, talking with Puck and Santana in McKinley, his eyes bright and his smile wide, even as Puck makes a face at the camera and Santana rolls her eyes. But the picture features Mike and Sam, too, walking past in the hallway, as oblivious of the camera as Rachel was of them when she snapped the photo. Sam is in the middle of some explanation, his hands waving wildly, while Mike sports half a grin.

It's a picture of their friends, back before they even knew each other.

Finn stares at the photo for a long time. "This is cool," he finally murmurs.

"It is," she replies softly, and they hang the picture on the kitchen wall, right beside their wedding picture and the picture of them at the Pike Place Market on her twenty-first birthday a year ago.

Her stomach rolls.

"Finn, what is that smell?"

Fresh from the shower, he looks at her in surprise, wearing nothing but boxers, drying out his wet hair with a towel. "I don't smell anything," he says, frowning. He sniffs. "I don't. . . ."

"It's making me sick," she replies. She takes a sniff herself, and, dear, God! She claps a hand to her mouth, even as her head turns heavy in the worst possible way. She scrambles off the bed, and waves at him to move, and, yes, that smell is definitely from the bathroom.

He touches his hand to her back, concerned. "That's it," she announces, her hand to his chest to keep him at arm's length. "Your shampoo. It's making me sick. You need to take another shower, wash that mess out, and use some better shampoo. What did you buy yourself? I need a glass of water."

She stalks out of the room.

"It's Head and Shoulders!" he calls. "And you bought it!"

She did not buy whatever foul thing he decided to put in his hair.

They put the pieces together eventually, and they visit the doctor.

A few weeks later, as soon as Finn falls asleep, she slips quietly out of bed.

She takes a throw pillow from the neat stack on the chair by the bed, and she tiptoes to the bathroom, closing the door behind her softly before she turns the light on. She slips the pillow under her night gown and up to rest on her stomach, tries to adjust the shape, and then she looks at herself in the mirror. She runs a hand over the pillow. She turns to the side. She smiles a little.

She puts one hand on her back, and one on her stomach, and she wonders how long until she looks like this. She's only a little over two months along now, so she has a few more months to wait, doesn't she?

Finn knocks suddenly on the door. "Rachel? You okay?" He pushes the door open before she can stop him, before she can even yank the pillow out from under her night gown. She opens her mouth to say something, but she can't think of anything. He starts to smile softly, though.

"I wanted to see what . . ." She shrugs a little.

He comes over to stand behind her, and he places his hand over hers on top of her pillow stomach.

She looks at him in the mirror, and he smiles back at her. His hair is messy, sticking up in the back, and his eyes are still hazy with sleep, but he kisses her temple. Then he holds out his hand to nobody. "I'm Finn Hudson," he says. "Nice to meet you. And this is my wife, Rachel. She's about six months along now."

Rachel giggles and leans into him, and they stand quietly, smiling at the mirror, at each other.

Curious, she looks up her father on the internet.

Finn lies asleep in bed beside her, and the room is dark, and she somehow feels guilty as she types his name into Google. She doesn't know why she suddenly thought of him, but she supposes the thought of her own little girl makes her remember when she was his little girl. That all seems like ages ago, though, like a whole other lifetime. She hasn't even written Kurt or Puck in months. Or has it been a year? More than a year? She can't remember the last time she wrote them.

A lot of hits come up, news articles, and her heart races as she realizes the stories talk about his prosecution, because her father is on trial. She can't believe it.

And then she finds a story from the New York Times, and her heart stops in her chest as she reads: it's the whole story, their story, about how her uncle, a mobster, killed a police officer, and in revenge Chris Hudson killed him, and an undeclared war started, about how Finn and Rachel were raised, about how they faked their own deaths —

She shakes Finn awake to show him.

They read through more articles together. His father is in prison, apparently, and has been for the last year, and hers is still on trial, and the whole affair is chaotic and scary and simply unreal. Across the country, everyone they know is caught up in this and has been for the last six years.

"You think we should go back?" Finn asks quietly.

Over the baby monitor, Sophie starts to cry, saving Rachel from an answer.

Finn kisses her quickly on the temple before he climbs out of bed, and he returns moments later with Sophie in tow. She squirms in his arms, cheeks red and wet from tears, little limbs flailing all over the place as she tries to suck on his finger, and he hands her over to Rachel.

It's quiet as Rachel nurses her, and she gazes down at the tiny face of her tiny baby, with her thin layer of dark her and her little fists curling and uncurling, and Rachel thinks her tiny baby chin is already like Finn's, no matter how much her friends at the theatre tease her for that assertion.

"I don't want to go back," Rachel whispers. "Not yet, anyway. Not now."

Finn nods, murmuring agreement with Rachel, but his eyes steadfastly on Sophie the whole time. He traces a finger up the arch of her tiny foot, so that Sophie curls her tiny toes, and he smiles to himself, laughing a little when Sophie randomly, wildly kicks his hand.

Rachel touches a hand to his shoulder, drawing his gaze to her.

"Someday," he says.

She nods. "Someday."

Her performance in Hello, Dolly! might be her best yet.

Finn says she steals the show. He always says that, though. And she knows she always does, too, especially in her interpretation of the classic Barbra Steisand role. The show has been on the stage for a little over two months when her favorite security guard, Ben, approaches her backstage.

"A man is here to see you," he says. "He claims he went to high school with you."

She smiles to herself, wiping the last of her stage make-up off with a baby wipe. She knows it must be Finn waiting for her. He likes to do silly things like that, asking her for autographs to tease her. "Oh, does he?" she asks, trying to share an amused and knowing smile with Ben.

But Ben only nods. "He says he's your brother-in-law. Kurt Hummel."

She freezes. "What?"

"You know him? He's about my height, maybe an inch shorter, has dark brown hair, wearing a purple bow-tie. Seems like an okay fellow, but could be the stalker type. You want me to —?"

She shakes her head. "No, I — I know him. He's Finn's — Finn's brother. Stepbrother. I think."

Ben looks curious, but Rachel only points at the door. "He's right out there?" Her heart pounds in her chest as Ben nods, and she takes a deep breath and heads down the hall, slipping out into the theatre, to the aisle in front of the stage. Her eyes land on him in an instant.

That's most certainly Kurt Hummel, fashionably dressed from his shoes to his purple bow-tie, tapping his hand absently against his thigh — probably a nervous tick. She feels her eyes burn with tears, and then she laughs a little, because Kurt Hummel is here in Seattle, is at her theatre, is right in front of her.

It only takes him a moment to catch sight of her, and he straightens, his own eyes going wide.

Hesitantly, he starts to smile at her, and, laughing, she runs the last few steps to him. She hugs him tightly, and he starts to laugh too, even as her tears spring free and she squeezes him still tighter.

She pulls back and puts her hands on his shoulders. "Kurt," she says. "You're here."

"I'm here," he repeats.

And she laughs again and pulls him in for another hug.

It's been eight years.

Almost to the week, this time eight years ago, he watched Finn and Rachel drive off. And now he's actually come to Seattle, following a postcard that's almost three years old, and here she is. She looks older, of course, looks more mature, her face thinner, her hair curled and barely brushing her shoulders. And she wears a wedding ring, but he knew that from her vague postcards.

"You were amazing up on stage," he tells her. "You're even more talented than I remember."

"Aw," she says, and she shrugs, titling her head, her hands still holding his as she continues to beam at him. "I'm just so happy to see you! I can't believe you're here! I've missed you, Kurt Hummel."

He smiles softly. "I've missed you, too, Rachel Berry."

"Rachel Hudson," she corrects, biting her lip. "And I supposed you'd like to see Finn, wouldn't you? You called yourself my brother-in-law. Does that mean . . .?"

"They celebrated their sixth anniversary last May," Kurt says, nodding.

Her smile is still so sweet as she stares at him like she simply can't tear her eyes away, and then she laughs and hugs him yet again, and she invites him backstage so she can collect her coat and purse and they can drive out to her house, to Finn, to their house. She starts to chatter about her life over the past eight years, then, and she seems so happy and assured and grown up.

She's so much like the eighteen-year-old he knew, yet she's nothing like her.

And Finn sounds like such an adult now, too. He even owns his own business, Rachel says.

They've had this whole life all these years, when to him they seemed frozen in time, kept away from the real world.

He fills her in on his life these last few years, skipping over the hard parts, at least for now. He talks about NYU, about how he now works low on the totem pole at a fashion magazine. She asks about Puck, and Kurt fills her in: her cousin married last year, and Rachel squeals, delighted, when he tells her that Santana Lopez is now Santana Puckerman.

Their house looks so sweet, painted peach with white shutters and a big porch, and she explains how they lived in an apartment and then a townhouse before they bought this place just last year, and his nerves flare up again as she parks the car and leads him up the walkway.

"I saved the best for last," she tells him.

He frowns, confused, but she only unlocks the door. "I'm home!" she calls. He follows her in, eyes roving over the little rose bud wallpaper and the thick white carpet and — and the little girl who nearly skids to a stop when her wide eyes land on Kurt.

"Kurt," Rachel says, grinning from ear to ear, "meet your niece, Sophie."

With dark eyes and dark hair and Angelina Ballerina pajamas, Sophie only blinks at Kurt.

"You have a daughter," he says. That shouldn't be such a surprise, but somehow —

"I have two actually," Rachel tells him, and she picks up Sophie, who can't be more than three years old and who simply stares shyly at Kurt. She murmurs something to her mother, and Rachel murmurs back his name, calls him Uncle Kurt, and kisses the pink little cheek of her daughter.

Rachel has a daughter.

And then she walks down the hallway and into a living room, and Kurt sees Finn, stretched out on the ground in front of a Barbie castle, a Barbie in his hand and a baby asleep on a pillow beside him. He glances up, starting to say something, and his jaw literally drops a little when he sees Kurt.

"He came to see my show tonight," Rachel says, clearly pleased to present her surprise guest.

"This is Uncle Kurt, Daddy," Sophie murmurs.

"Yeah," Finn says, starting to smile. "Yeah, it is." And he laughs in disbelief. "Kurt!" He pushes himself to his feet, and Kurt half laughs and half cries as his giant stepbrother pulls him into a hug. Like Rachel, Finn looks a little older, too, with a thinner build and a five o'clock shadow, but he laughs and hugs exactly like he did eight years ago.

Rachel sets Sophie down to pick up the baby — Haley, Finn introduces, four months old.

"I've missed you, man," Finn tells him, his hand on Kurt's shoulder.

Kurt wipes his tears. "I've missed you, too."

It takes a little while, but eventually, after Sophie and Haley have both been put to bed, they talk.

"I'm sorry I haven't written in years," Rachel tells Kurt. "I don't even know why I stopped. I suppose life just happened, and the more time went by, the further away New York seemed. I really missed you, though."

"We both have," Finn adds. This is so weird to see Kurt. It makes him feel like a kid again.

"It's fine," Kurt says. "I still managed to find you, didn't I?" He smiles.

"Yeah, and um, don't get me wrong," Finn starts, "I'm totally psyched to see you, dude, but — but can I ask why? Like, why now? I mean, me and Rachel, we read some stuff on the internet —"

"About the trials," Kurt says.

Finn nods. "Is it all over now?"

"It is," Kurt admits. "It took years, but it's finally finished. It all came to a close just a few months ago. Your father has been in prison these last few years, but your father," Kurt pauses, looking at Rachel, "he was only just now finally convicted in federal court for fraud and human trafficking. It took so long because they made his case the spearhead of a huge sweep against organized crime."

"My father is in prison," Rachel murmurs, disbelief in her voice.

"I doubt he'll end up doing more than ten years," Kurt says, "but, yes, for now, he's locked up. Ken Tanaka is away for life on several murder counts, and a few of your father's other minions are, too. The family business has officially fallen to pieces. I don't think anyone took up the mantle."

Rachel nods, looking as if this is all too much, and Finn takes her hand, squeezing it.

It's quiet.

"I know you have a life here," Kurt says. "I'm sort of stunned at what an amazing life you have, actually. But I . . . I came here to tell you that you can come home — or at least visit, if you want. It's safe. And if you need any more reason, I'd actually like to — I'd like to invite you to my wedding."

"Your wedding?" Rachel exclaims. "Kurt! You're engaged?"

He nods, blushing. "And this is the real twist." He looks at Finn. "It was a little less than a year ago that my serious boyfriend asked me to marry him, and he's actually an old friend of yours."

Finn frowns. He's pretty sure the only gay friend he ever had was Kurt.

"It's Sam," Kurt says.

"What? Sam Evans? No! He's totally straight!"

Kurt laughs, and Finn looks at Rachel. "Did you —?"

Rachel shakes her head. "It's news to me," she says, smiling. "But congratulations, Kurt! And of course we'll —" She glances at Finn again, and he holds her gaze, nodding. "Of course we'll come to your wedding," she says. "We wouldn't miss it for anything."

Finn has never actually been on a plane before.

It's kind of exciting, but he's also super nervous, and he clutches Haley closely to his chest as he walks through the metal detectors and then heads onto the plane. Rachel gives Finn the window seat, and he sits with Haley on his lap, nervous and staring out at the landing stretch.

Kurt gives him gum to chew as the plane lifts off, and Finn tries to focus on Rachel, reading a book to Sophie to distract her. He falls asleep eventually, Haley sleeping easily against his chest.

And when he wakes up, the sky outside is dark. They only have another half hour before the plane lands.

Kurt and Rachel talk in soft voices. "— but Santana finally told Puck that when he said I'm waiting for Rachel to come home, he actually meant I'm an asshole and afraid of commitment, and two weeks later he thrust a ring box at her, and that was that."

"That sounds like them," Rachel says. It's quiet, and Finn glances at Sophie, snoozing with head in Rachel's lap. "I'm sorry we didn't try to come home earlier," Rachel says suddenly. "We could have, I know that. We probably could have returned only a year or two after we left."

"Probably," Kurt agrees.

"But even though I was raised in New York," Rachel says, "I grew up in Seattle. It's home. And I guess I thought if we left, if we came back, we'd be back where we started, we'd return to the mess we left behind, and. . . ." She trails off.

"You didn't leave behind a mess," Kurt says. "You escaped a mess, and I'm glad. I'm glad you did, and I'm glad you found this whole life in Seattle, and I already adore my nieces. It's okay, Rachel. It all worked out now, see? It's the way it should be now." He has his hand in hers.

"I think Finn wants to talk to his dad," Rachel says. "But what about my dad . . . ?"

"That's up to you. If you don't want to see him because you're scared, then I have to tell you that there's no reason to be scared. He doesn't have any power over you anymore. But if you don't want to see him because you simply don't want to see him, because you don't need to see him — then don't go to see him. You don't owe him anything, Rachel."

"Oh, Kurt," she says, tears in her voice, "I've really missed you."

"It's a wonder you ever survived without me."

Finn smiles and lets himself fall back asleep for a few more minutes before Haley starts to fuss.

New York looks the same.

Sam picks them up from the airport, laughing as he hugs Rachel and then Finn, and he makes faces at Sophie, kissing Kurt quickly before they head out of the airport. Finn is totally weirded out, but this is Sam, his best friend, and the weird factor dissolves on the drive to the Hummel house as Sam talks about NYU and his work as a personal trainer and what does Finn think about the Spiderman remake trilogy?

Finn didn't even know how much he missed Sam until now.

And then Sam pulls the Ford into the parking lot of a small brownstone house, and Finn stumbles out of the car moments after his mother stumbles out of the house. She looks different, her hair cut differently, but she still looks like his mom, and tears flood her face as she wraps her arms around him, rocking back and forth.

"Oh, sweet boy," she murmurs, "my sweet, sweet boy."

He presses his face into her hair, holding her tightly.

But then his mother cups his face in her hands and she smiles at him. "Look at you. All grown up. I've missed you so much."

"Yeah," he says, "I've missed you, too. And I'm — I'm sorry about the way I left —"

"Oh, no," she dismisses, waving her hand. "That's old news. You're home now. And you brought my daughter-in-law!" She laughs, her eyes travelling to Rachel. He can literally see her face light up when she catches sight of Sophie and Haley. "And are those —?" She looks at Finn.

"Yeah, Mom," he says. "Those are your granddaughters."

Fresh tears well in her eyes, and she smiles. "Oh, goodness."

As she fawns over the girls, giving Rachel a tight hug too, Finn greets Burt, who claps him on the shoulder and welcomes him back to the city. He offers him a beer, too, and Finn nods gratefully. The house is amazing, and he sees pictures of himself littered everywhere.

It's at the top of the stairs that he finds the framed newspaper article: "Star-Crossed Lovers Fake Death and Align the Stars for Themselves" and their yearbook photos top the article, and he shakes his head as his eyes scan the article.

"You two were celebrities," Sam tells him.

Finn nods. "I'm sorry," he says. He needs to say that to a lot of people.

"Nah," Sam says. "I'm over it. I might have to punch you in the face at some point, just to, you know, deal with some old anger issues —" He grins, and Finn laughs. "But, seriously, dude, I'm just happy you're alive. I've been that way ever since Kurt spilled the beans. Mike, too."

"How is Mike?"

"Married," Sam says. "You remember Tina Cohen-Chang?"

"No way — he really finally made a move?"

"He had some pretty heavy inspiration," Sam teases. "Yeah. They live upstate now. I'll give you his number. He'll be down for the wedding, though. And he has a kid now, too. A boy."

"That's crazy."

"That's crazy? You've managed to reproduce twice since I last saw you!"

It's pretty awesome to see his mom and Burt and Sam again, and to watch them with his girls.

But when Rachel sees Puck, the look on her face alone nearly does Finn in. She spots Puck from across the parking lot at the restaurant where they're supposed to meet, and she takes off into a run, tackling him and nearly knocking him backwards. He laughs and hugs her, and Santana pulls her away from him to claim a hug, too.

Puck looks good, the mohawk exchanged for a buzz cut, and he nods at Finn.

His eyes fall quickly to Haley, and then to Sophie, and Finn totally pretends not to see when Puck tears up a little, because he knows how easily his daughters can bring grown men to tears.

That night, sitting on the outdoor patio, Rachel asks Puck about her dads.

They're all there, not just Finn, Rachel, Puck and Santana, but Kurt and Sam, too, and his mom and Burt as well, and everybody stiffens a little when Rachel ends a lull in the conversation with her questions. "What happened to my papa?"

Sighing, Puck answers quietly. "He lives in an apartment now, I think. I haven't seem him since the last day of the trial. He and your dad didn't split, but they had some problems."

"It was over you," Santana adds.

Rachel frowns. "Over me?"

"Yeah, Uncle Leroy claimed, after everything came out, he claimed that you were as much his daughter as you were Uncle Hiram's, and that he'd lost you, too, and it was Uncle Hiram's fault." He leans back in his seat. "I don't know. It was a mess. My mom was messed up —"

"How is she?" Rachel interrupts. "I can't believe I haven't asked earlier."

"She's fine. She moved down to Florida with this accountant she met, taking Becca with her. She'll be up for the wedding, though. Kurt invited her out of courtesy, and I don't think she planned to come, but then she booked her plane ticket as soon as I told her you'd be here. She missed you, too, Rach. We all did."

It's quiet.

"And daddy is in prison," Rachel finally says. "I still haven't decided if I want to see him or not."

"You don't have to," Puck murmurs.

She nods. "I know. But . . . but he's still my family, even after everything."

"Yeah," Puck starts, "you know those people that say you only have one family? Load of bull. Look around you, Rachel. This is your family. We're your family, because we're the people you chose to be your family. You don't need him to see him if you don't want to see him.

"And, hey, maybe you should go see your mom instead."

"My — my mom?" Rachel asks. Finn frowns. Her mom has been dead for years.

"She's alive, too," Kurt pipes up. "That came out in the trial. She actually testified against your father, came into town. I met her. She was nice. She looks so much like you."

"That's not . . . that's not possible. She did die. It was a car accident. She died."

"Just like you did?" Santana asks.

"Uncle Hiram lied," Puck finally explains. "He and Uncle Luke made a play to take over after Grandpa died, right? And they pretty much slaughtered the other two big Polish families. Your mom came from one of those families, and she was pissed. She tried to leave — and to take you with her, but Uncle Hiram said it was one or the other. She could leave, but she couldn't take you with her. You were his, and if she wanted to keep you, she had to stay."

"So she left," Rachel whispers. Her eyes flicker to Sophie, half asleep against Finn's mom, and to Haley, completely out cold in her carrier in the seat between Sam and Kurt. "I guess I can't blame her. I don't know what I would have done in her position."

"And you'll never have to know," Finn's mom tells her, and she smiles.

Under the table, her hand finds Finn's.

"She lives out in Ohio now," Puck says. "I bet she'd like to meet you. But like I said — if you don't want to see her, you don't need to. You've got plenty of family right here."

"I'll drink to that," Burt declares.

"Literally," Santana says, holding up her wine glass. "To our family."

They all raise their glasses, and in imitation Sophie even sleepily lifts her sippy cup. "To our family."

"I don't want to see him," Rachel whispers to Finn. "I don't want to visit my daddy."

He doesn't reply right away. It's the middle of the night, and he finally managed to put a fussy Haley back to sleep, although she managed to wake up the entire Hummel household before then.

"It's not that I want to avoid him or avoid reality, not anymore," Rachel continues. "I just . . . I don't want to see him. There's nothing I want to tell him, or to ask him, and I stopped missing him a long time ago. Is that — is that terrible?"

He wraps his arm around her waist and tugs her firmly into his chest. "No, babe. It's not."

But three days before the wedding, Finn decides he does want to see his dad.

Rachel offers to let Puck and Santana take the girls for a few hours so that she can come into the prison with him, but he tells her that isn't necessary. He'll only be in and out. It won't take long.

She agrees to wait outside for him.

It makes him nervous to walk inside a prison. He signs a few forms, walks through a metal detector, and sits in front of a window. A few minutes later, from the other side of the room, from the other side of the window, they bring in his dad. Finn tries not to gawk.

He picks up the phone. "Hey Dad." The words catch in his throat a little.

"Hey Kid." He stares at Finn through the stained window, his five o'clock shadow peppered, his eyes dull, and Finn stares back, unsure what to say or how to act. "It's nice to see you in the flesh," his dad murmurs, his voice a rumble. "Last I saw you, they were wheeling you off to dish out your organs. That's right. My boy was brain dead."

Finn looks down, clutching the fake black phone tightly. "I'm sorry. It was all. . . ."

"I know, son. I know. I read the story in the paper. Half the damn city did. And on trial. I sat and listened to Kurt Hummel testify about how he helped my only kid fake his own death. You were smart, kid. You did it smart. Fooled me."

"I'm sorry," Finn murmurs, "but I'm . . . I'm not — I'm sorry that I put you and Mom through that, but I'm not sorry that I did it. I'm not sorry that I got out, and that I got Rachel out."

And his father chuckles a little. "That's good to hear. I like that. And you want to know something? I ain't sorry for what I've done either. I'm not sorry for what put me here. I'll tell the damn judges and reporters I am, but I'll tell you, kid, I did what I had to do. And I might be here, and your mama mighta left me, but I did what I had to do, and if I had to go down, too, to take down Berry, well, then, hell, that's what I did."

Finn nods. His dad is still his dad. It's quiet for a moment, and Finn can't look at his father.

"But tell me about you," his dad says. "You and Rachel Berry, huh? You still together?"

"We're married," Finn says, and he hands the phone from his left hand to his right so that he can hold up his left hand, can show his father the wedding band. "We married after we left."

"Good on you, kid."

"I, um — we live out in Seattle now," Finn continues. "I landscape. I have my own — my own business, with a buddy of mine. It's an irrigation business."

"Irrigation? That's good work. That's good." His father nods.

"And we have two — two girls —" He fumbles with the phone as he pulls the picture out of his wallet, taken just a few weeks ago, and he slides the picture through the small slot. His father picks up the photo. "That's — the baby is Haley, and that's Sophie, here sister, she's three next week."

"Those are some good looking girls," his dad says, nodding. "And that — that Sophie, huh? She has that Hudson smirk on her face. A real Hudson smirk. That's — that's nice." He smiles, and Finn does, too, looking down at his lap. "You know I'm . . . I'm up for parole in a few months."

"Kurt told me."

"I — I have a job lined up. Private security. It's the haven of the disgraced cop, you know. And it'll only be for a little while, enough to push the feds off my back, and, you know, keep myself fed. It'll do. But, um, when I'm out — I'd like to —" He nods at the picture. "I'd like to meet your girls."

"Yeah," Finn says, and he feels a completely new yet somehow familiar affection rise up in him for his father, the best of so many bed men. "Yeah, I bet they'd — I bet they'd like to meet their grandfather. Here, I'll, um — I'll give you my cell number. And when you're out —"

"I'll call," his dad says, accepting the business card Finn slips him. "And this picture? I can keep this, right? I'd like to keep this."

"Sure," Finn says. "You can keep it." He pauses. "I should probably head out. Rachel is right outside, and — but I just . . . I love you, Dad."

His dad stares for a moment. "Of course you do. I'm your father. And it was good of you to come see your old man. Not many people do, kid, despite what I did for this city." He shakes his head.

"Okay, well, um, I'll see you."

"You'll see me," his dad says, nodding, and Finn starts to hang up the phone.

But his dad raps his knuckles abruptly against the window, and Finn brings the phone back to his ear, waiting. His dad sighs, chuckles a little to himself, and then offers Finn half a smile. "You're my only kid. My boy. And I —" He shakes his head again, as if this is all stupid. "I love you, too."

"Thanks, Dad," Finn murmurs.

"Right." His dad nods, not looking at him. "Get out of here." He hangs up the phone.

Finn smiles when he sees his girls waiting for him, Haley propped up in her carrier and gnawing on her fist, Rachel sitting with Sophie in her lap, playing some sort of clapping game.

For a moment, he simply watches them, laughing a little to himself as Rachel bounces Sophie in her lap, making the girl giggle madly before suddenly she squeals when Rachel gives her a loud, wet kiss. He finally approaches them, and Rachel smiles at him hesitantly, the question in her gaze.

"It went okay," he says, nodding.

"I'm glad," she murmurs. They'll talk more later, he knows, but for now Rachel wants to take the girls to Central Park. He grins and agrees, and when Haley starts to fuss, he takes her out of the carrier, rocking her a little and kissing her cheek as they start towards the car.

Sophie grabs his right hand and Rachel's left, demanding that they swing her between them. Finn only laughs in response and, with Rachel, swings her up, up, up, and then down again before she suddenly breaks free and races ahead of them, having spotted something or other, probably a flower.

And Rachel takes Finn by the hand, squeezing softly.


I believe in a Monday morning dream,

Of a rising star and a celebration of freedom.

"I believe the sun will rise" some say,

With an independence day for every season.

And I'll be stronger than before,

And they can't bleed me anymore.

a/n: and now it's really over! I want to thank Kelsey and Ally so, so much for their amazing prompt, and if you're a finchel fan then you need to read their stories, found under the pennames CharmingKelsey16 and Sad Or Thirsty or under their joint penname, GleeTwins. I also owe a huge thanks to Quinn for betaing and helping me brainstorm and making this story ten times better than it would have been. you should definitely check out her stories under the penname Quibily.