Finn feels the mood of the apartment is different when he gets back from work on the first Monday in August.
Puck sits at the table, Quinn rubbing his back soothingly. Rachel's crying, and Sam's shaking his head.
"What's going on?" Finn asks quietly.
Puck gestures to a letter on the table. "Fuckin' bullshit, that's what."
Confused, Finn looks down at the letter, then back up at Puck. "I don't—"
"I've been drafted," Puck says flatly. Rachel lets out another little sob. "Looks like I'm headin' to Vietnam."
Finn stares at him in disbelief. "You're joking."
Puck laughs. "I fucking wish."
A tear slips down Quinn's cheek then, and she hastily wipes it away.
"What're you gonna do, man?" Finn asks quietly, sitting down between Rachel and Sam.
"What can I do?" Puck asks acidly.
"Something – anything!" Finn insists. "Go – go to Canada or some shit, I don't know!"
Puck shakes his head. "Ain't no use. They say I gotta go, so I gotta go." He gives Finn a grim smile. "Thanks, though, man. You're – you're still the best friend I've ever had."
"This is bullshit," Finn says quietly.
"Ain't that the truth," Sam mutters.
Finn glances back over at Puck, and he notices that this tough persona he has going is just a front – just trying to stay strong in front of Quinn and Rachel – when in reality he's probably scared shitless.
Finn's scared shitless, too. He knows what war can do to a person, knows that Puck might not come home.
He just hopes he's dead wrong.
Rachel's finally stopped crying. Noah getting drafted has been quite the shock, and she can't stand the thought of losing her brother in this miserable war. She already lost Jesse. She can't lose anyone else.
Finn's at work – again – so she's sitting on the couch by herself, turning the pages of Pride and Prejudice but not really reading anything. She feels someone sit down beside her, and she looks over to see Santana.
"Hey," Santana says quietly. "You okay?"
Rachel shakes her head. "Not really," she whispers.
Santana nods. "I didn't think you would be."
"I wish Finn were home," Rachel whispers. "I just – I really need him to hug me right now, to tell me that things will be okay, even though I know they won't be."
Santana purses her lips. "You guys really love each other, hmm?"
Rachel nods. "Yeah," she whispers.
Santana shakes her head. "Is it sad that – that I want that? For someone to look at me the way he looks at you? Like you're his entire world?"
Rachel's heart flutters a bit – because she's sure that's how she looks at Finn, too – but she shakes her head. "That's not silly at all, Santana," she whispers.
Santana sighs. "It's easier for you, though. You're not – you're not different, like me."
"How is that, exactly?" Rachel asks slowly. She remembers what Finn voiced to her – concern that Santana felt the way about her that Finn did – but she doesn't want to just lead with that. She understands that a matter like this must be handled delicately.
"I – I like girls," Santana says quietly. "It's why I came here, from the small town in Georgia where I grew up. It's why my boyfriend beat me, and why I ended up here." She sighs, glancing out the very window she came in almost two months ago. "It's not something I can control, not something I'm necessarily proud of, but…" She takes in a deep breath, glancing over at Rachel. "You're the first person I've told, you know. The first person I've willingly told."
Rachel smiles, squeezing her hand. "I'm glad you can trust me, Santana."
"I – I felt things for you," Santana whispers. "But I've seen the way Finn looks at you, and how you look at him, so I – I know there couldn't ever be a you and me."
Rachel glances down at her lap. "I'm flattered, Santana, really—"
"It's okay," Santana insists. "I've moved past it, really."
Rachel nods. "Okay."
She hears a sniff then, and she looks up just as Quinn comes out of her and Puck's bedroom, a cigarette dangling from her fingertips.
"Quinn," Rachel says quietly.
Quinn looks up with bloodshot eyes. "What?" she asks, her voice thin. "Nothing's – nothing's wrong, alright? I'm fine." She takes in a shaky breath, her voice convoluted with tears. "I'm fine," she chokes out.
She tries to light her cigarette with shaky fingers, but she can't get her lighter to light.
"Quinn," Rachel says again, softly, getting up.
Quinn begins to cry in earnest then, and she doesn't even pull away when Rachel hugs her. "I'm so s-scared," she chokes out. "He's g-going off to war and what if he d-doesn't come h-home?" tears pour down her cheeks.
"Shh," Rachel soothes, rubbing Quinn's back, her own eyes filling with tears. "He'll be okay, Quinn."
"He won't," she wails. "He's not g-gonna come home."
Rachel winces, but she keeps shushing Quinn and rubbing her back. She can't think about that, because if she thinks about Noah possibly not coming home, she'll lose it as well.
She just does her best to comfort her stepbrother's girlfriend, even though she's not sure that things really are going to be okay.
Puck doesn't hand in a two weeks notice. He just stops showing up to work. He ends up going to bars instead, drinking away his sorrows, and Finn is stuck picking up his shifts.
"You gotta stop this," Finn says after the fourth occurrence. "If not for yourself, then for Quinn, man."
Puck looks over at him with bloodshot eyes. "The hell do you know?" he spits. "You ain't the one goin' to war, ain't the one going to put your life on the line."
"Don't take this out on me," Finn says fiercely.
"Then why don't you sign up, too?" Puck asks, his voice laced with venom. "Why should you get to stay here?" His voice breaks. "Come – come with me, Finn. Don't make me go alone."
Finn hates seeing his friend so broken, but he shakes his head. "Someone's gotta stay here and look after your stepsister, and Quinn…"
Puck laughs, but it's humorless. "'Course," he says flatly.
"Puck, I'm scared for you—"
"Don't be," Puck says, his voice still flat. "I'll be okay."
Finn takes in a deep breath, then asks, "But what if you're not?"
Puck makes eye contact with him then, his eyes sad and hollow. "Then you'll take good care of my sister, won't you?"
Finn stares at him, speechless.
"Won't you?" Puck persists.
"I – yeah, of course," Finn says quickly.
Puck nods. "Good man." He takes another swig of his beer.
Finn leaves Puck in the bar, because he can't stand to see his best friend acting like he's already dead. He hopes that he can get through this, for both of their sakes – and for Rachel's and Quinn's as well.
Rachel goes out the next day to stock up on groceries and when she comes back, Santana is gone. Her area where her few belongings have been is clear, and Quinn sits on the couch, handkerchief to her face and a note in her hand.
"What…?" Rachel trails off as Quinn hands her the note.
She scans it quickly, looking back up at Quinn. "Santana's gone?"
Quinn nods sadly.
Just then the door opens, Finn hobbling in, holding up what appears to be a wasted Noah. Finn steers Noah to the table, plopping him down in a chair.
"What's the matter?" Finn asks, out of breath.
"Santana's gone," Rachel says shortly. "She must've left this afternoon."
Finn furrows his brow. "Why'd she do that?"
Rachel sighs. "According to this," she begins, brandishing the note, "she felt like she couldn't stay here anymore – that she was intruding."
Noah snorts at the table.
"Where have you been?" Quinn snaps, crossing her arms.
Noah's eyes widen, as if he's just seeing her. "Quinnie!" he says exuberantly.
"Are you drunk?" she snaps.
He shrugs. "'S neither here nor there, sweetheart."
"The hell it isn't," Quinn snaps. "I sit here all day, every day, worrying about your sorry ass, and you have the nerve to go drink until you're blue in the face?"
Noah stares at her in shock.
"You don't have the right to do that, Noah Puckerman," Quinn fumes, tears leaking from the corner of her eyes. "You don't get to go get wasted while I sit at home and worry about you."
"Quinn," he says slowly, as if saying her name takes effort. "C'mon, I'm sor—"
"Don't say you're sorry," she snaps. "I have had the worst week. You're leaving, Santana left, and the last thing I need is this shit." She wipes at her eyes, pushing past Finn and out of the apartment. She slams the door behind her.
"Well, I sure fucked that up," Noah notes.
Rachel glares at him before turning on Finn. "You let him do this to himself?" she asks.
"No, baby, I – I didn't, I swear!"
She sighs. "I know you can't control him, Finn, I really do, today's been stressful, and Santana's gone—" She starts to cry, and Finn strides toward her, taking her in his arms.
"Shh, baby," he says, kissing the top of her hair. "Everything will be okay."
"Do you really believe that?" she asks tearfully, looking up at him.
He hesitates, then he says, "Of course, Rach."
She knows he's lying.
That Saturday, Finn and Rachel manage to stay holed up in their room. Puck and Quinn have done nothing but fight, Quinn storming out earlier in the day after a particularly nasty bought. There's still no sign of Santana.
"I feel like everything's changing, Finn," Rachel murmurs, burying her face in his chest. "Noah's leaving for Vietnam next week, we hardly see Sam and Mercedes any more due to their hectic schedules, and Santana… Santana's gone."
He kisses the top of her head. "I know, baby, but I'll still be here. You know that, right?"
She nods. "I know." She sighs. "I wish Noah didn't have to be such a jackass to Quinn, though."
"He just doesn't know how to deal with this," Finn tells her. "He's scared, Rachel. He won't tell anyone, but he is. So he's trying to push Quinn away a bit, trying to see if she'll truly stick around."
"That's awful," Rachel breathes.
"Is it?" Finn asks. "He just wants to see if he means as much to her as she does to him."
Rachel shrugs. "I – I guess that makes sense." She pauses, then she asks, "Do you feel the need to test me like that, Finn?"
He thinks about it for a minute. "No," he says finally. "You mean so much to me, Rachel, and I just have to trust that I mean that much to you."
"You do," she breathes, pressing butterfly kisses along his chest. "God, you so do." She kisses her way up his neck. "Can I prove it to you?" she whispers. "Will it ever be enough?"
He groans. "Rachel, you'll always be enough."
He feels her smile, her lips still ghosting over his skin. She proves it to him anyway.
He doesn't complain.
Finn comes home the day before Noah is set to leave with some news.
"I got another job," he tells Rachel, pulling her in for a hug.
She smiles into his shoulder. "Baby!" she squeals, wrapping her arms around his neck.
"Nothing too exciting," he says hastily. "Just painting a few apartments in the new building they're renovating down the street."
She bites her lip, trying to keep the huge grin that is trying to break through off her face.
"I mean, Puck's leaving so we'll need some way to pay his part of the rent—"
She can't hold back any more, so she leans forward and presses her lips against his. "I'm so proud of you," she says quietly.
He ducks his head. "I'm just doing what we have to do."
The door opens behind him then, and Quinn comes in, her eyes rimmed red like they usually seem to be.
"Did Puck get out of bed today?" she asks quietly, glancing at his closed door.
Rachel shakes her head, loosening her arms from around Finn's neck.
Quinn sighs, then goes over to knock on the door. "Puck? It's me. Can I come in?"
She stands there for a few seconds, then the door swings open. Quinn disappears inside, shutting it behind her.
Finn sighs, rubbing the back of his neck. "Everything's about to change, isn't it, Rach?"
She nods, looking up at him with sad eyes. "Yeah," she whispers.
He hugs her to him again, and she lets the tears spill over, cascading down her cheeks. She feels Finn's own tears on her hair.
She thinks the worst part about this imminent change is that she literally can't do anything about it.
Finn ends up borrowing a car from a guy he works with at the café to drive Puck out of the city so he can catch the bus to boot camp. Puck says goodbye to Mercedes and Sam at the apartment, Mercedes hugging him so hard he claims he can't breathe, but Finn notices he squeezes her back.
Puck's already tried talking Quinn and Rachel into staying here and not seeing him off, but they both insist on going. So Finn and Puck end up in the front seats and Rachel and Quinn are in the back.
Hands down, it's the most awkward car ride of Finn's life.
Finally, they reach the spot about ten minutes outside of the city where the buses are waiting to take the boys away. Other men are already there, being hugged by various family members, girlfriends, or small children.
Puck sighs. "Guess this is the end of the line," he says grimly, getting out of the car. "Thanks for coming to see me off." He slams the door, going around to the trunk.
Finn quickly gets out of the car, Quinn and Rachel following suit. "Whoa, whoa, hey," he says, meeting Puck at the trunk as he hauls out his duffel bag. "That's it? No goodbye?"
"Goodbyes are for pussies," Puck says gruffly.
Finn glances behind him at Quinn and Rachel. Rachel has her arms crossed and her lips pursed, and Quinn is glaring at Puck.
"Noah, you're leaving for God knows how long, and I want a proper goodbye, dammit," Rachel snaps.
Puck sighs, turning around to face his stepsister. "Don't be like that, Rachel. I'll – I'll see you, I will."
Rachel doesn't budge. "And you'll write at least once a week?"
"Sure, sure," Puck says quickly.
Rachel's eyes fill with tears then and Finn's come to know her so well he sense what she's about to do right before she does. She throws herself at Puck, wrapping her arms around his neck, throwing him off balance a little bit. Hesitantly, he loops his arms around to hug her back.
"Be safe, okay?" she blubbers, pulling away and wiping at her eyes.
"I, uh, yeah," he manages to say, nodding. "Yeah, sure thing, sis."
She sniffs, walking over to Finn to take his hand. "You okay?" Finn mutters, rubbing his thumb on the back of her skin.
She shakes her head as Quinn and Puck converse in low voices in front of them, Puck wiping away a tear that's skating down her cheek. "It just sucks," Rachel says.
Finn puts his arm around her, pulling her close and dropping a kiss on her hair. "I know," he murmurs.
Puck and Quinn kiss then, and Finn deliberately turns his head, because he has a feeling that sort of thing is meant to be private, so he looks over at the bus that is supposed to drive his friend away instead. It's large and black, not inviting or appealing at all. The windows are tinted and everything about it seems large – bulky.
Rachel clears her throat, and Finn looks back over to see that Puck and Quinn have broken apart, Puck looking at Finn expectantly.
"Well, Hudson, did you want a goodbye or not?"
Finn gives him a small smile, letting go of Rachel to clap his friend on the back, pulling him in for a hug. "Thanks," Finn mutters.
"For what?" Puck asks gruffly.
Finn swallows. "For – for being a friend when I needed one. For introducing me to Rachel. Just… for everything."
Puck gives him a small smile in return, clapping him on the back one final time. "I'm the lucky one, Hudson, you know that?" He shakes his head. "Guess it's time to get the hell out of here."
He picks up his duffel bag, slinging it over his shoulder. "Take care of Quinnie and Rachel, alright?"
Finn nods, his throat tight, and he watches his best friend board a bus, taking him someplace Finn can't follow, someplace from which he may never return.
Silent tears are now coursing down Quinn's face, and Finn sees Rachel pick up her hand in her own, then proceed to lace her fingers through Finn's. "He'll be okay," she murmurs.
"Yeah, he'll be okay," Finn repeats, more for Quinn and Rachel's benefit than his own.
He doesn't know if Puck'll be okay, and he thinks the not knowing is worse than anything.
Quinn doesn't come by the apartment any more. Rachel can't really blame her, honestly, because she knows that it must be hard to stay in the room where all of Puck's things are, to literally be thinking of him every second. Rachel thinks she'd go crazy herself. She will go crazy if she doesn't find a way to occupy her time. Finn works two jobs, Mercedes and Sam have gigs more and more frequently, and finally, Rachel finds something that might be classified as her calling.
"I'm volunteering," Rachel declares happily when Finn gets home one evening. Noah's been gone for two weeks now. Mercedes looks up at her from the sheet music she and Sam have spread out on the table.
"Like, at an animal shelter?" Finn asks slowly, shrugging off her jacket.
"Nope, at an anti-war protest center that's just been set up on Maple Street." She beams at him, but her smile fades when Finn doesn't smile back. "Finn?"
"Is that such a good idea, Rach?" he asks, sidestepping her and heading to the fridge.
Rachel stares at him. "Why wouldn't it be? It's to help stop the war, Finn – the war that has wrongly abducted my brother – your best friend!"
"I didn't say that I didn't want all that," Finn snaps. "I'm just saying that – seeing as Puck is fighting in that war – that it might not be the best idea."
"I just want to do something," Rachel says exasperatedly. "I can't just sit here and wait for that letter saying that my stepbrother is gone."
Finn freezes, hand still on the fridge handle. "Don't say things like that," he says shortly.
Rachel glares at him, heart pounding in her chest. "Why? Because one day it might be true?"
Finn doesn't answer, just grabs a beer and shuts the fridge.
"I could make a difference, Finn," she says quietly, walking over to him and placing her hand on his arm. "I could help – even if it's only in a small way."
Finn takes in a deep breath. "Rach, I don't know…"
"Please," she whispers. "Just… I have to do this, Finn. Please let me."
He studies her for a moment, then, slowly, he nods. "Okay."
"Okay?" she asks, beaming at him.
"I'm not happy about it," he warns. "But okay."
She squeals, wrapping her arms around his neck and peppering his face with kisses. "I love you," she breathes against his cheek.
He turns his face so his mouth captures hers.
"Can you two not neck in my kitchen?" Mercedes deadpans, glancing over at Sam.
"Sorry," Rachel says quickly, lacing her fingers with Finn's as she giggles. "We'll just take our necking to the bedroom then."
She sees Mercedes roll her eyes, but Finn just smirks at her and lets her lead him into the room they share.
Finn doesn't know how to feel about Rachel volunteering for the antiwar effort. One hand, he's happy she's found something she's passionate about – something she likes to do – but on the other hand, he can't help but think that this could only lead to bad things. He's seen police officers breaking up protests on the news, seen people thrown in jail. He just doesn't want that to be Rachel.
Plus he realizes how much he's been taking her for granted. Now that she's not always waiting for him when he gets home, he realizes just how much he misses her being there, and he tries to spend as much time as possible with her.
She proves to make this resolution very difficult. She volunteers at any hours that are available, so she usually ends up coming home later than he does, crawling into bed and curling up beside him.
One night he wakes up when she crawls into the bed beside him, pressing a kiss against his jaw.
"Mm, hi, baby," he murmurs, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her close.
"Hi," she whispers. "I didn't mean to wake you."
"What time is it?" he mutters.
"Late," she replies. "Just go back to sleep, baby."
"How was work?" he murmurs.
"Just work," she replies, her hand sliding under his shirt.
It bothers him a little bit that she won't tell him about her day, because no matter how tired he is, he still wants her to be able to talk to him. "Just… tell me," he insists gently, grabbing her hand and extracting it from his shirt.
"You'd rather hear about my boring day than fool around?" she asks, her lips hot on his neck and her hand now quickly heading south.
"Rach," he groans, flipping them over and pinning her hands above her head. She smirks up at him. "Please talk to me. We hardly ever see each anymore, and… please."
Her eyes grow soft, and she manages to lean up far enough to press her lips against his. "Okay," she concedes. "What do you want to know?"
He sighs in relief, letting go of her hands. "How was your day? What did you do? Who are some of the others that work there? Have you made friends? How—"
"Whoa, whoa," she laughs. "Slow down. My day was pretty good. We're trying to organize a protest in Times Square…"
He revels in the cadence of her voice as she describes the latest effort of the group, how her voice changes when she talks about Julia, a girl she's managed to befriend, and he smiles, kissing her forehead.
"I'm proud of you," he murmurs.
She smiles, her eyes wet. "Really?"
"Of course," he whispers.
She kisses him then, and this time, when her hands slip under his shirt, he doesn't pull them away.
Rachel loves her new job. She's actually elevated enough within the protest organization to get a little pay for it now, and she likes being able to keep busy – to have something help keep her mind off of Noah and, ironically, the war.
Finn beats her home most days and her hours are unconventional at best, but she doesn't mind.
Her working so late also seems to take a toll on what she sees and hears around the apartment, however. She doesn't notice the way Mercedes doesn't bring Sam around anymore, doesn't notice that her amount of gigs have skyrocketed.
So she's the one who least expects it when all the bad blood boils over.
Sam comes over to talk to Mercedes, so Finn and Rachel hole up in their room, Rachel burying her face in Finn's sweater as the shouting floats through the thin walls.
"You told me we were a team, Mercedes! You said that if you made it, we'd all make it!"
"I'm sorry, Sam, but there was literally nothing I could do!"
"You could've not taken the deal!"
Silence falls outside the door.
"You said you'd help me reach my dreams." Mercedes' voice shakes, anger building up behind it.
"I didn't realize you'd be leaving me behind to reach them!"
"Sam, you knew what you were getting into—"
"I thought I did, but I guess I didn't."
Rachel hears the clumping of Sam's footsteps then, hears the door wrench open, and then hears it slam shut. Sobs are then heard echoing from outside.
"Please tell me that'll never be us," Rachel whispers.
"Arguing over a record deal?" Finn asks. "Never."
She looks up at him, pouting. "You know what I mean."
He sighs, his fingers playing with her hair. "I'd never give up what we have without a fight, Rach. I don't give up that easy – especially something as special as what we have."
She sighs, snuggling further into his side. "Finn, promise you'll never leave me." She knows she's being vulnerable, but she's pretty sure Sam and Mercedes just broke up, and she needs to know that there can be a constant.
"I promise," he whispers into her hair.
Those words are all she needs to hear. The last thing she expects is for him to break his promise.
Puck's first letter comes in the mail after he's been gone for about a month. Rachel calls Quinn and she comes over to read it with them, frown lines permanent in her cheeks.
The letter basically says that things are going well, but Puck writes a special paragraph just for Quinn (and the way Quinn blushes when she reads it makes Finn think he really wouldn't want to know) and then a short message to Finn, telling him to make sure his invitation to his and Rachel's wedding isn't lost in the mail.
It's Finn's turn to blush at that one. He's only twenty; he hasn't really thought about marriage, not seriously. He sneaks a glance at Rachel though, and she's blushing a little bit, too, but she's smiling.
He knows he's not ready to get married, but when he is, she'll be the only one he wants to get married to.
Mercedes makes them all dinner about a week after Noah's letter arrives. She rarely has time to cook, so it's a nice treat, just her, Rachel, and Finn eating chicken and noodles around the small kitchen table.
"I have some news," Mercedes announces.
Finn and Rachel both look up at her expectantly.
"Is it about Sam?" It slips out of Rachel's mouth before she can stop it, but she's noticed than since her and Sam's fight two weeks ago, Mercedes has been down, and she really just wants to see her smile again.
Mercedes sighs. "Well, sort of. I got a record deal!"
Rachel squeals (even though she kind of already knew), standing up to hug Mercedes tightly. "That's great!" She glances back over at Finn, who's still sitting at the table, almost in a state of shock. "Isn't that great, Finn?"
"I, uh, yeah," he says quickly. "It's just… what about Sam and the guys? Are they in on the deal, too?"
Mercedes frowns. "Well, no. That's – that's why Sam hasn't been around lately. He didn't take the news too well." Noticing Finn still is unsmiling, she adds, "This is my dream, and, Sam or no Sam, I'm takin' the deal, okay?"
Rachel glares at Finn, and slowly, he nods.
"Thank you," Mercedes says briskly. She glances back at the meal that's still untouched on the table. "Now, we gonna eat or what? I didn't make all this food for nothin'."
Finn picks up his fork as Rachel sits back down, and Rachel really is excited for Mercedes, but she sees where Finn is coming from, too. It really isn't fair to Sam or the other guys in the band.
But it's Mercedes' life, Mercedes' dream, so she decides that all she can do is be supportive, regardless of who gets hurt in the process.
Rachel's schedule becomes even more hectic than usual. She's home even later, leaves even earlier, and Finn finds himself spending less and less time at work due to his own hours being cut and more and more time sitting on the couch, drinking a beer and waiting for Rachel to come home.
One night she doesn't come home.
He stares blankly at the new television Mercedes invested in, the screen flickering in front of him, but his mind is going a mile a minute. Where is Rachel? Is she okay? What if something happened to her?
He doesn't know how long he sits there, the television flickering and his heart pounding, but eventually his eyes close and he falls into a restless sleep, filled with nightmares centering around Rachel and Puck and Mercedes, dark looming shapes, and gunfire, lots of gunfire.
He snaps awake when the door closes.
Rachel does her best to tiptoe into the room, shutting the door gently behind her. She sees Finn sprawled out on the couch, the television still on.
He sits up groggily, turning to her and surveying her through half-closed eyes.
"Hi, baby," she says quietly.
He stares for a few seconds, then he asks, his voice flat, "Where the hell have you been?"
"I had to work late," she says. "I figured you knew."
"How would I know that?" he asks.
"I – I don't know, deductive reasoning?" Rachel tries.
Finn stares at her some more. "I didn't know where you were," he says, his voice shaking with anger. "You – you could've been on the side of the street somewhere, or – or dead—"
"Finn, stop it," she says sharply. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was working late, but I'm fine, alright?"
"No, it's not alright!" he fumes, standing up abruptly. "This job – it's tearing us apart, Rachel."
She glares at him, folding her arms. "Finn, you're being ridiculous."
"I'm not," he says. "I never see you anymore, Rachel, and this job isn't – isn't safe! You said the other day you're planning some sort of rally—"
"Finn, just stop it!" she shrieks. "I'm fine, you're fine, we're—"
"We're not fine, Rachel!" He takes a step toward her, his breathing a little more ragged. "How – how are you okay with this, only seeing each other for a few hours every couple of days?"
"Finn," she says quietly. "This is my calling! This is… This is bigger than you and me."
He looks at her like she just punched him in the gut. "It shouldn't be," he says quietly, and his voice sounds so broken, she's tempted to reach out as he brushes past her.
"So what?" she asks. "You're going to make me choose?"
She feels him pause behind her, his hand still on the doorknob. "Looks like you already did."
"Finn," she pleads, turning around as he opens the door. "If – if you leave, I won't be here when you come back."
He takes a deep breath. "You're not here anyways – not really."
He leaves then, shutting the door behind him, and Rachel feels her world crumble. She collapses to the floor, drawing her knees up into herself, and she sobs, tears streaming down her cheeks.
He'd said he'd never leave, and now she's all alone.
He doesn't go anywhere, really. He just walks around the block a few times, trying to clear his head. He didn't mean what he said – he was angry. He's not leaving her. He could never leave her.
So about two hours after their fight, he heads back to the apartment.
"Rach?" he calls quietly as he walks through the door. No answer, but the bedroom door is closed. He takes a deep breath, then goes over to the door, pushing it open gently. "Rachel, I'm sorry—"
His breath catches in his throat. The bed is made, the drawers are empty. All of her stuff is gone.
He slowly sinks down against the wall. This can't be happening, it can't, she can't be gone. He can't even cry; all he can feel is numb.
She's gone. He was stupid and now she's gone.
Rachel shows up outside Quinn's apartment, two bags full of her belongings and dried tears on her cheeks.
"What happened?" Quinn breathes, helping Rachel inside.
"F-Finn left," Rachel whimpers. "He l-left, Quinn. He promised he wouldn't, and he did!" She dissolves into fresh sobs then, Quinn awkwardly trying to help her over to the couch and pat her comfortingly on the back at the same time.
"It'll be okay," Quinn murmurs, pushing back Rachel's bangs. "Shh, it'll be okay."
"He promised," Rachel repeats. "He promised."
"I know," Quinn mutters, and Rachel notices the way her hand flitters over her stomach.
"Quinn," she breathes. "Are – are you…?"
Tears fill Quinn's own eyes, and she nods. "I'm about two months along, so right before he—" She takes in a sharp intake of breath. "What am I going to do, Rachel? What if he doesn't come home?"
Rachel shakes her head, hugging Quinn tightly, and the two of them cling to each other, tears rolling down both of their cheeks. Rachel's lost the one person she thought would be there no matter what, and Quinn's bringing a baby into this screwed up world by herself. They cling to each other, because right now, Rachel feels like that's all they have.
Finn hasn't gone to work in days. He knows he's gone back to the apartment, but he's slept on the couch. He can't be in that room. Everything just reminds him of her.
Mostly he just spends his time at the bar down the street, drinking mindlessly and staring at the woodwork. He falls into a pattern: Sit in the same seat, order the same beer, take a swig every few seconds. The pattern helps him not think of her as much, because when he thinks of her, he gets this pain in his chest and in his gut and it's just the worst feeling in the world.
He was supposed to be there for her no matter what, and now she's gone. He has nothing.
He feels someone sit down next to him. He stares at the woodwork some more.
"How's it going?"
He manages to turn his head far enough to glance next to him. Sam is giving him a weak smile.
"Not good," he replies.
"Same." Sam sighs. "Bartender, whatever's on tap is fine."
The bartender gets Sam his drink, and Finn asks, "So you and Mercedes are finished?"
"Seems like it," Sam sighs. He pauses, takes a drink, then asks, "How's Rachel?"
Finn's hand curls into a fist and his throat is tight just at the mention of her name. "Done," he manages to say. "We're – we're done."
"Ah," Sam says. "I'm sorry to hear that."
"Me, too," Finn says quietly. He takes another gulp of his beer.
He and Sam get hammered but it doesn't even matter. It's not like he has someone up worrying about him, not like he has someone waiting for him to get home. Not anymore, anyways.
Even drinking doesn't take away the pain; it just numbs it for a while.
The rally is finally underway. After weeks of planning, they are finally doing this. Rachel stands near the front of the crowd, holding a sign that says, Bring Our Boys Home. She's ready. This is what they've been planning. So the group starts to march.
It's noon. It's Times Square. And before she knows what's happening, all hell breaks loose.
People start screaming. Men in police uniforms are suddenly everywhere, swarming in. Terror floods her, pumping through her veins, and she looks around, hoping to see Julia or just someone she knows, anyone.
She just sees blurred faces and uniforms.
Her sign is ripped out of her hands. She tries to cry out, tries to fight them off, but her hands are forced behind her back, handcuffs placed roughly over her wrists. She's dragged over to a police van and hauled in the back.
Rachel's breathing heavily, looking around her. She recognizes some of the faces, but others have black eyes or blood dripping from their noses, so she can't be sure.
The only thing she can be sure of is that she is completely and totally fucked.
He almost doesn't go when he gets the phone call. He calls Sam up and Sam tells him not to go, but he goes anyway.
It's Rachel, and she's in trouble, and even though they've both fucked this up, he still loves her.
So he shows up at the jail downtown a little after seven. He posts her bail. And then he has to walk her home.
"Thanks," Rachel mutters once they exit the police station.
"Don't mention it," Finn says gruffly.
They walk in silence for a few minutes.
"Why'd you leave?" he asks, his words sounding much louder than he intended in the cool night air.
"Me?" Rachel asks incredulously. "You're the one who left."
"But I came back!" he says exasperatedly, stopping and grabbing her arm, turning her so she's facing him. "I was always going to come back!"
"I sat there, on that floor, crying for you," Rachel replies acidly. "I waited for you to walk back through that door. You didn't."
"I had to cool down first," he says. "Clear my head. But then I realized that the only thing that mattered? Was us. Was you."
"You don't mean that," she says quietly.
"You don't get to tell me how I feel about you!" he replies hotly. "I – Never have I ever felt about anyone the way I felt about you. Still feel about you. I came back, Rachel, and you were gone."
"You said you'd never leave me!" she shrieks, pointing her finger at him accusingly, her eyes wild.
"I didn't," he says again. "And you know what I think? I think you knew that. I think you just left because you didn't want me to be the one to break your heart – so you broke mine instead."
He starts to walk again then, because he can't look at her right now – can't look at her sad eyes and her twisted mouth.
"Where are you going?" she calls weakly.
"Home," he says flatly.
"Mercedes lives in the other direction, you know."
He stops, takes a deep breath, turns around. "I'm going to back to Ohio, Rachel."
She stares at him, her breath visible in the cool night air. "Wh-what?"
"I'm going back to Lima. Mercedes doesn't need the apartment anymore, and I can't pay for it. And – and I don't have anything left for me in this godforsaken city anyways."
"That's not true," she says softly.
This time she doesn't answer.
"Quinn's apartment is only two blocks away. I think you can make it."
He turns on his heel then and walks away, leaving the girl he loves alone in the street on a November night.
He swears he hears he call out, "You broke my heart first, you know!" but he doesn't turn around. He can't. Because if he turns around, he'll never get out of here.
Rachel doesn't want to leave Quinn's apartment ever again. She broke the news to the rest of the people at the antiwar center that she would be stepping down, and they basically berated her for not standing up for the cause.
She can't bring herself to care anymore. She's lost Finn and she may very well lose Noah. She can't keep fighting for things that she can't make a difference in.
Quinn's not doing very well. She's three months along now, and she still hasn't written to tell Noah that she's pregnant with his child. She cries when she thinks Rachel can't hear her. Her waitressing shifts have doubled so she can pay the rent. Rachel's taken up waitressing as well to help out where she can, but both of them are just stressed, Quinn more so.
Then they get the letter. It arrives on a Tuesday, and Rachel can tell from the envelope that it's from the army. She hands it to Quinn, but Quinn hands it right back to her.
"You do it," she says, her hands shaking. "I – I can't."
Rachel nods, blinking back tears, and she slides the envelope open. She scans the letter.
"Well?" Quinn asks. "What is it?"
"Noah – Noah's been shot."
Quinn starts to cry, her hand flying up to her mouth, but Rachel says, "No, wait, there's more. He's – he's okay. He's here, in the city, they've flown him back, and – and he's okay."
Quinn cries even harder, throwing her arms around Rachel, and Rachel wonders if maybe it's the pregnancy hormones. "He's gonna be okay?" Quinn asks, her voice thick with tears.
Rachel nods. "Yeah. He's gonna be okay."
She wonders if she should call Finn to let him know his best friend is okay, but he's probably in Lima by now. She wouldn't want to bother him anyway.
He doesn't want to see her anymore. He made that quite clear when he abandoned her in the middle of the city.
She still misses him though, feels this tugging on her heartstrings. She doesn't know what it means or when it will go away or even if it ever will.
"Puck's home," Quinn whispers.
Rachel pushes thoughts of Finn aside. Noah's finally home, and that should be the only thing that matters.
Finn hears that Puck's back from Vietnam while he's staying with Sam and his buddy Mike. Sam hears it from one of Mercedes' new band mates ("What? He's a friend. Not like I'm trying to keep tabs on her.") who hears it from Mercedes who hears it from Rachel and Quinn, apparently.
"He's back?" Finn manages to ask.
Sam nods. "Shot in the leg, apparently, so he's in the hospital, but he's back."
So before he heads back to Lima, he stops in to see his best friend.
Puck looks older, more tired. His head is shaved, his leg is elevated, and frankly, he looks likes he's been through hell and back. He cracks a smile when Finn walks in though.
"Hudson! My boy!"
Finn smiles at him grimly, sitting down in the chair next to his bed. "How you feeling, buddy?"
Puck shrugs. "Been better. Did you hear though, Hudson? I'm gonna be a father."
"What?" Finn asks, laughing a little bit. He figures the pain meds Puck's on are going to his head.
"Yeah, apparently I knocked Quinn up before I left. Can you believe it? She told me three days ago. Came in crying and blubbering about how happy she was that I was okay and Rachel was just smiling over there and then she dropped the bomb that she's carrying my kid." He shakes his head. "Funny ol' world, innit?"
"That's – that's great, Puck." Finn grins. "Really great."
"So the fuck happened between you and my sister?"
Finn sighs, looking at the ground. "Things just didn't work out, Puck."
"When I left, you were all in love and shit, and I come back and she's living with Quinn and you're… well, she seemed to think you're going back to Ohio."
"I am," Finn says quietly, meeting his gaze. "I'm actually catching a train once I leave here."
Puck shakes his head. "So, seriously. What the hell happened?"
Finn takes a deep breath, then finds himself telling Puck everything: How Rachel started volunteering and worked later and later hours, how they fought, how he left and then she left for good.
"Basically, we both really fucked up," he finishes.
Puck nods slowly. "But you still love her?"
"Then be with her."
"It's just not that simple, okay?"
"Look, Finn, I know the fuck I'm talking about," Puck says tersely. "I just survived a fucking war never knowing if I would see the girl I love again." He gestures to the bed next to him. "Artie over here? Legs were blasted by a grenade. Doctors say he'll probably never walk again."
Finn glances over to the guy in the next bed, a pair of thick-rimmed glasses set on his still-young face. He groans in his sleep.
"Point is, Hudson, if you love my sister, you need to fight for her."
Finn shakes his head. "I – I don't know."
"God damn it!" Puck glares at him. "You don't know?"
"This is just all really confusing, okay?" Finn fires back. "I – I shouldn't want her as much as I do, shouldn't need her like this. I shouldn't have this aching feeling in my chest when she's not there!"
"Did you ever stop to think that maybe that means something?" Puck demands.
Finn stands, gritting his teeth. "Look, I gotta go. My train's leaving soon."
"You can't run away from this forever," Puck calls as Finn leaves the room.
Finn ignores him, grabbing the backpack he set down in the hallway. This perpetual ache can't mean anything, and this feeling like he and Rachel are connected can't mean anything, either.
He just has to get away and clear his head. Eventually it'll all go away.
It has to.
Noah has to stay in the hospital for about a month, and Quinn and Rachel visit him often. He says Finn came to visit him before heading to Ohio. Rachel doesn't know what to think about that.
On a Tuesday, Rachel and Quinn get an unexpected visitor.
"Rachel, can you get that?" Quinn calls, referring to the knocking at the door.
Rachel sighs, wondering who it could be. Part of her hopes it's Finn, but she knows the chances of it being him are slim. She pulls open the door and is immediately engulfed in a hug.
"Rachel, it's so good to see you. Mercedes said we could find you here." Santana beams at her as she pulls away, and Rachel sees that a blonde girl is standing behind her, smiling as well. Santana's eyes soften as she glances at the girl, taking her hand. "This is Brittany."
"It's nice to meet you," Rachel manages to say.
"I have a cat," Brittany says, nodding. "His name is Lord Tubbington. But he and Santana don't get along very well."
Rachel raises her eyebrows.
"Rachel, who's at the door?" Quinn calls.
"Santana, and her new… friend," Rachel calls back.
Quinn pokes her head around the kitchen door, beaming. "Well, come on in!"
"How's Puck?" Santana asks as she and Brittany settle on the couch. Rachel notices the way their pinkies stay linked, the way Santana keeps shooting Brittany secret smiles when she thinks no one's looking.
She thinks that's how she and Finn used to look. She feels a pang in her heart.
"He's doing well," Quinn says cheerily, wiping her hands on her skirt and sitting down next to Santana. "He was just discharged formally from the army the other day. Shot in the leg. He's fine," she adds hastily, seeing Santana's worried frown, "and…" Quinn takes in a deep breath, thrusting her left hand in Santana's face, "we're getting married!"
"Oh, oh my God!" Santana breathes.
"That's a pretty ring," Brittany notes.
Quinn ducks her head, smiling shyly. "We're having a baby, too."
"Shit," Santana breathes. "I leave for six months and all this happens?"
Santana turns to Rachel. "What, did you and Frankenteen elope as well?"
Rachel feels her cheeks burn. "We're not together anymore, actually," she says quietly.
"It just didn't work out." Rachel shrugs.
"The hell kind of excuse is that?" Santana snaps.
"Excuse me?" Rachel asks.
"Obviously something went wrong, and you got scared, shut him out or whatever, ran away—"
"He left me," Rachel says empathetically. "And didn't you run away?"
"And I regretted it," Santana admits. "I – I was scared and I left. But I wanted to come back so many times. And now…" She takes in a deep breath. Brittany squeezes her hand and gives her a small smile. "And now I have. So you just need to take charge and stop running."
"He doesn't want to see me," Rachel mutters.
"You still need to try," Santana says gently. "If you still love him, you need to fight for him – for you."
Rachel sighs, her eyes filling with tears. "So what, I just go to Ohio and ask him to take me back?" She shakes her head. "I can't ask him to do that."
"I'm sure he still loves you," Quinn says quietly.
"He shouldn't," Rachel mutters.
Santana shrugs, but Brittany's the one who says, "The heart wants what the heart wants."
Santana nods in agreement.
"Alright," Rachel concedes. "I'll go."
"You will?" Quinn asks, her tone surprised.
Rachel nods. Her voice shakes as she says, "I'm going to Ohio."
She feels confidence surge through her, her heart pounding, but she knows that for the first time in months, she's doing something right.
He really hates being home. He ends up telling his mom about his dad, and she tears up but pretends like she's not crying, which makes it ten times worse.
He mostly stays holed up in his room, listening to the radio.
There's one song that plays that makes him always think about New York, and, by default, Rachel.
"Hey Jude / Don't make it bad / Take a sad song and make it better / Remember to let her into your heart / Then you can start / To make it better."
He likes it when that song comes on, but he hates it at the same time. He knows he fucked up. He just doesn't know how to make it better.
His mom calls his name, so he hauls himself out of his bed, flicking off his radio.
"Mom," he groans, entering the living room. "I already washed the—"
He freezes. Rachel Berry is standing in his living room. She smiles timidly at him. "Hi."
"Hi," he says slowly.
His mom looks between the two of them. "Well, I – I guess I'll leave you two to talk." She sneaks off into the kitchen.
Finn sighs. "What are you doing here, Rachel?"
"I was wrong," she says.
He must've heard her wrong. "What?"
"I shouldn't've…" She takes in a deep breath. "We should've talked about our issues. But I – I bolted. Because, you were right – part of me was scared, scared of how – how intense my feelings for you were. I could see our future, Finn, and I sabotaged it, all in one stupid night."
She shakes her head. She swallows. "I quit. After you bailed me out of jail, I quit. Without you… I just realized that it wasn't worth it, and it definitely wasn't worth losing you over. I – I miss you. I miss you so much. New York isn't the same without you. Nothing is, really." A tear slides down her cheek then. He wants nothing more than to cross the room and wipe it away, but he stands his ground.
"I never stopped loving you, you know," she whispers. "And even when you're not there, it's like – it's like I can feel you. Like we're each on ends of—"
"Of this invisible tether," he finishes. Her eyes widen in shock, but she nods. "I felt it too," he admits. "I – I still do." He places his hand over his heart. "Right here."
Rachel bites her lip, and Finn doesn't know who moves first, but suddenly she's in his arms and she's crying and he's kissing every part of her face he can reach – her cheek, her eyes, her forehead, her lips.
"I'm sorry," she whispers. "I love you, I'm sorry, I love you, Finn."
"Shhh," he says. "It's okay, baby. I'm sorry, too."
She blubbers something incoherently, and he presses another kiss to her hair. "I love you, Rachel, and we'll be okay."
For the first time in months, he actually believes it.
They find a new apartment down the street from their old one just in time for Christmas. It's smaller, with just one bedroom, a kitchen, and a living room area, but it's their own.
Rachel kind of wants to spend Christmas back home in New Jersey, but she agrees that they should just stay in the city, celebrating with Quinn, Noah, Santana, Brittany, and the newly reunited Sam and Mercedes in their new apartment.
"It's so cute!" Brittany gushes, looking in every possible nook and cranny. "You don't have any mice to play with though. San and I have mice."
Mercedes makes a face. "You better not have mice in here."
"Lord Tubbington's not very nice to the mice, though," Brittany notes.
Sam also invites his roommate, Mike, and Rachel invites her old high school friend, Tina, and they seem to hit it off right away. Noah even brings his hospital roommate, Artie, along.
"He didn't have anywhere to go for the holidays," he explains at the door from behind Artie's new wheelchair.
Rachel beams at him. "Well, now you do! Come on in, Artie, make yourself at home."
Artie offers her a grateful smile.
Everyone scoots around the small kitchen table as Rachel attempts to cook a Christmas dinner, and even though the apartment is small, no one seems to mind. Rachel smiles to herself as she stirs the mashed potatoes, glancing over at Noah and Quinn, who are adamantly discussing baby names, then over to Mike and Tina, who are discussing their separate childhoods, over to Mercedes, Sam, Artie, Brittany, and Santana, the latter three listening intently as Mercedes and Sam describe their upcoming touring schedule. Mercedes ended up insisting Sam and her old band play on her record, so they're touring with her as well.
Finally, Rachel locks eyes with Finn, who's already watching her, smiling.
"What?" she asks, giggling.
He shakes his head. "How many Christmases do you think we'll have like this?"
"Mm, as many as you'll agree to," she murmurs as he comes up behind her, putting his hands on her waist.
He kisses her cheek. "So every Christmas until the end of time?"
She laughs. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
He turns her around then so he can kiss her properly, and she smiles when their friends all start groaning and booing, Noah loudest of all.
"Get a fuckin' room, won't you? We're your guests!"
Finn groans, pulling away from her, but she winks at him. "Merry Christmas."
He laughs, drawing her close and squeezing her. She breathes in the scent of him. He smells like detergent and Finn and home. "Merry Christmas, baby," he breathes back.
She really thinks that no Christmas could ever top this one.
Puck and Quinn get married in May. Their daughter, Beth, is only a month old, but Puck insists on her being flower girl, so as maid of honor, Rachel ends up carrying her down the aisle. Something about seeing Rachel with a baby does strange things to Finn. Puck smirks over at him, so Finn tries to cover by adjusting his tie and clearing his throat. Puck just rolls his eyes.
The ceremony goes by rather quickly, and Finn knows Puck will kill him if he ever says anything, but he notices the way he tears up toward the end of it.
The fun part is definitely the reception. Rachel's stepmom, Rebecca, surprisingly has taken a great liking to Quinn, although it could have to do more with her granddaughter who already has her and Mr. Berry wrapped around her finger. So she gladly takes Beth off of Rachel's hands.
"Beautiful wedding," Rachel comments, watching Quinn and Puck sway on the dance floor.
Finn grins, grabbing her hand. "You look amazing."
"You clean up pretty nice yourself," she remarks.
Puck goes up to the stage to whisper something in Mercedes' ear – who agreed to do the entertainment for free – and she nods, gesturing to Sam. The music changes then, fading out, and then Mercedes' voice rings throughout the tent.
"There's nothing you can do that can't be done / Nothing you can sing that can't be sung / Nothing you can't say but you can learn how to play the game / It's easy."
Finn grins down at Rachel. "Dance with me?"
She ducks her head. "Of course."
Finn places his hands on her waist as she wraps her arms around his neck, and they sway back and forth. He just loves her, and he knows now that that will always be enough.
"All you need is love / All you need is love / All you need is love, love / Love is all you need."
"You know, we were dancing the first time you kissed me," Rachel points out.
Finn smirks at her. "Yeah, I remember."
"You know what we should do?" she asks.
"Elope?" It tumbles out of his mouth before he can realize what he's saying.
She raises an eyebrow. "Don't you want this?" she asks, gesturing to the tent around them.
"Not really," he admits. "I just want you."
She laughs. "You have me," she tells him. "For forever."
"I think I can live with that," he murmurs, and then he leans down to press his lips against hers.
So that was long, haha. I've never written a period piece like this before, and I'd really love to know your thoughts :)
Special thanks to Jess, Nadya, Kelsey, Julia, Bea, and anyone else who read over stuff for me when I was having trouble!