And here begins my new A/U Finchel fic. The rating is a tentative T for now, but at the rate it's going, it may well soon become an M; reviews would be welcomed home with a grateful hug.

As for pairings, the main focus is on Finchel, though there are elements of Brittana and Quick too. I hope you enjoy it!

Disclaimer: I don't own Glee or Dashboard Confessional's 'Stolen', and there's violence from the onset.

We watch the season pull up its own stakes
And catch the last weekend of the last week

Finn never learns, he's come to terms with that, but it still lands him in the worst kinds of trouble, and no matter how many times he's been here before, the sound of Puck's knuckles smashing into someone's nose makes him tingle with sickness and disgust.

Growl punch punch spit punch drawback punch again final spit; the dude has a rhythm he always uses, and Finn knows when to look away; when Puck spits for a second time on the ground, it means it's over.

He does that now, when his best friend hawks on the guy's shoes and rubs his knuckles absentmindedly on his pants. Finn never learns, and he should know by now that agreeing to be Noah Puckerman's wingman never turns out to be a good thing.

Except the result, 'cause the result is the only reason they do this shit; money. He wishes it wasn't the way things worked, but the whole world wants money, and not a penniless loser who can't even support his own family.

"So," Puck says through gritted teeth, and Finn readies himself for the information, "are you gonna tell us where Redmond is yet?"

The guy's face is a fucking bloody mess. His nose is broken in several places and his eyes are swollen and Finn can count at least three teeth on the floor, fallen from split lips. He feels sorry for him, he does, because they're all in the same boat; they all want to survive.

The man rattles out an address, and their job is done. Even if Finn hates these tasks, he's grateful that it ends at the beatings because he's in too deep as it is. No, now that they have what they're looking for, they pass it onto Rutherford, who relays the info along the line. Finn's never really sure what they're actually doing (he has no clue who Redmond is, or the guy that Puck's just kicked the crap out of), but if he's learnt one thing, it's that you don't ask questions ever; they get paid for their 'services', and it means food on the table and a roof over their heads.

"Good." Puck grabs Finn by the elbow and drags him out, 'cause he knows what to expect now, they've done it enough times. No matter what kind of dirty business they're into, Finn hates seeing people getting hurt, and the urge to help the victim burns in his body like he's some kind of big shot leader. No one deserves so much pain, do they? Puck tells him that these people are scum, but as far as he can see it, that makes the two of them so much worse, doesn't it?

"You got my cell?" asks Puck when they're in his truck, and Finn hands it over. He's grateful that he has a friend like Puck. Sure, he gets him into deep shit sometimes, but that's what brothers do, and he wouldn't have it any other way.

He knows the guy with the mohawk could handle these situations on his own, 'cause literally, Finn contributes nothing, and simply stands and watches while Puck gets the job done.

Without fail though, Puck includes him on every 'mission' just so Finn can get a share of the payment, and he owes him his life for that.

"S'up Rutherford, how are things?"

Finn preoccupies himself by driving. Puck cusses him out for going so slow, but old habits die hard, and after once hitting a mailman, he's extra careful just in case (it seems almost laughable after the mess they left that guy in, but he doesn't linger on those kind of thoughts).

"Yeah, course we cracked him, what do you take us for? Puckerman and Hudson always get the job done."

He grins at Finn, and Finn grins back, and in these rare moments, it reminds him of how things used to be, when they were carefree kids digging up worms and building forts and being innocent (well, mostly innocent; they stole a few cookies when they could get away with it).

"Yeah, sure, I'll text you the address, and then you can drop off the payment in the usual place. See you Matt." He hangs up, and Finn taps anxiously on the wheel, a disembodied rhythm that matches the irregularity of his heartbeat.

"Everything okay?"

"Yup, everything's a-okay." Puck turns up the radio, and the two of them screech along to some Journey, wishing they could believe Steve Perry when he tells them to hold onto that feeling.

What feeling; complete and utter fear, or the knowledge that they're both failures?

The song changes, and Finn focuses on the road.

Glee!

It's gone midnight when he makes it home, and with a bundle of notes in his jacket pocket, he feels that rare euphoria that follows a job. His mom's past the point where she questions his source of income, 'cause she's learnt that Finn's never going to let up, and she knows how difficult it is to get through the month with barely enough money (she works at the local Pick N Save, but her wages only just cover the rent these days).

He sneaks into the kitchen and finds a cold plate of leftover meat and veg (he's pretty sure it's about four days old now; his mom really knows how to use every bit of food they have), and so he sticks it in the dysfunctional microwave that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't.

Tonight it does, thank God, and he scarfs the lot as quickly as he can and washes it down with water. He doesn't bother going to bed, 'cause after nights like these, the image of the victim burns into his eyes and brain and skin and everything everything everything, and no matter how hard he tries to sleep, no matter how many sheep he counts and recounts and counts again for good measure, he can't shut off, so he has to stay awake, waiting until the sun comes up before he goes looking for decent, honest, good work.

He grabs his old football from a pile in his room, and with nothing better to do, Finn throws it in the air, over and over again, and before he knows it, seven hours have passed, and he can hear his mom shuffling around in the kitchen. He needs to give her the money so she doesn't spend all day worrying, but he doesn't have the balls to face her, so he sits and stares at the ceiling, pretending that he can see the clouds, and pretending that there are shapes that change as the wind blows them around in the sky.

At eight o'clock his mom leaves, and he feels an uncomfortable tug on his stomach. They need to talk about what they're going to do, about the house and the lack of money, but he likes to think that if he ignores it, it'll go away on its own, and that'll be that (if only it were that easy).

He doesn't want to move. Even if they have little in the way of possessions (sold for as much money as they could make, which wasn't a lot), this is the house where they all lived as a family, his mom, his dad, and him, a baby. His dad died shortly after, but once they leave the dilapidated place, that presence will be gone, and Finn'll never be able to get it back.

He absentmindedly wipes away the tears that fall, and takes to doing exercises for the rest of the morning.

Glee!

Finn gets a call at 2am, and he knows it's not going to be a good thing.

"Hello?" he says sleepily, roughly, and he can tell it's Puck by the way the guy's breathing (he's extra loud when he's nervous).

"Finn, I've got us a job."

"Another one, at this time in the morning?"

"No no, it's different, it's... it's big league. Can you come over?"

He doesn't think he has much choice, but big league means big bucks, so he pulls on some pants, climbs out of his window and jumps in his truck, taking the short trip to the Puckerman house, which is even shittier than his place. He knows that Puck's getting desperate too, and with an extra mouth to feed in the form of his younger sister, he knows how the dude feels. In Lima, you're either dangerously poor or eye wateringly rich, and there never seems to be a compromise.

Puck jumps into the truck with a wide grin on his face, but it's not a happy smile, Finn can see that; it's a desperate one, and it means that he's not gonna like what's coming, but they have to do it nonetheless.

"This is our shot, Finn, this is it! No more beating up losers for a couple of dollars; this is the big time."

"What is it?"

"Kidnap."

"Oh."

"Yeah, that's what I said too, but, God, Hudson, you've no idea how much we'd be getting for this shit."

"How much?"

"We'll talk specifics later. I need to know if you're in or out."

"Who is it?"

"Huh?"

"Who do we have to kidnap?"

"Some stuck up rich chick."

"Oh."

"Yeah, that's what I said too, but we have to do this."

And Finn knows they do. Once upon a time, he had a conscience that stopped him from hurting animals and stopped him from robbing old ladies and stopped him from being disloyal to his friends. Now? Now, well, he still has that very same conscience, but it does little to stop him. With every job he takes part in, he watches in silence, knowing all too well that what they're doing is wrong, but it's not about right or wrong anymore, and that's the difference.

Kidnap though, that's pretty extreme, and that means he's going to be away for a while.

"What about our moms?"

"Already taken care of it. Rutherford and Chang are gonna keep an eye on them, give 'em food and part of what we're earning, and they'll be okay." His voices breaks, and there's an unspoken connection because neither of them want to leave their families behind. "We have to do this. If we do, we might have a shot of getting out of here, Finn, and we have to get out of here; I can't be a Lima loser for the rest of my life."

"Okay, I'm in."

Puck wraps him in an awkward, impromptu hug, and Finn returns it, trying to swallow his guilt.

"We snatch the bitch tomorrow night."

Glee!

They've talked it over a hundred times at least, and Finn knows the plan better than he knows himself. This is it, the big shit as Puck calls it, and once they pull it off, they'll be golden.

Saying bye to his mom killed him. She asked so many questions, shouted so many insults that he knew she didn't mean, and when he refused to tell her where he was going with Puck, she cried, cried for fucking ages, and he almost backed down to stay with her.

He's doing it for her though. She's taken care of him for his entire life, so it's time he returned the favour.

He leaves the house with a sore cheek (his mom sure can slap), and he gingerly wipes away the lipstick mark on his other cheek, and he knows things will be okay, eventually. He catches Puck crying when he clambers into the truck, but he pretends not to notice, and sheds a few of his own as they drive up to Carmel.

"Look at all the rich bastards," Puck hisses, caught between admiration and disgust. Finn knows the feeling, because these kids have got it good, and he bets they take it all for granted. It's not their fault, but they both need someone to blame so they blame them, in their blazers and synchronised routines.

"She leaves at-"

"Six, after she's taken part in-"

"Glee club, and she won't be-"

"Alone; she'll probably be with-"

"Two other kids, and we need to-"

"Distract them, right."

The constant back and forth of the plan helps to keep both of them calm, and Finn has a feeling he's going to be reciting it in his sleep.

"What time is it now?"

"Five to six. You ready, man?"

Finn doesn't hesitate. "I was born ready." They share a quick fist bump before they jump out of the truck and disappear in opposite directions. Puck's job is to distract the girl's friends, make them go the other way, and then Finn has to ask her for help, long enough to steer her off towards the truck so he can pull her inside.

As he's waiting around, he remembers how much he misses McKinley. Yeah, it was a shithole, like pretty much everything in his life, but it was normality, for a while at least. Neither he nor Puck wanted to drop out to get involved in crime, but it's not like they had much of a choice.

He stiffens when he sees the target. She's only with one other person, a black girl who gives Puck the evil eye, and while his friend pretends to ask her survey questions about how much she likes attending Carmel, Finn steps forward and puts his limited acting skills to good use.

This is the first time he's ever seen Rachel Berry in the flesh, and for a split second, he questions everything. She's small, tiny even, and she has big brown eyes and long dark hair and she has a smile, a presence about her, that makes him wonder if it's worth it. The photos don't do her justice, and he bitterly thinks that if things were different, if he was a rich kid who attended Carmel too, he'd have liked to ask her out on a date.

Except wishful thinking never got him anywhere, and for all he knows, Berry is a bitch, and he tries to remember that as he approaches her.

"Excuse me," he says weakly, his hands shaking (he can't tell if it's with nerves, or if he's shaking on purpose). "C-can you help me?"

In the over-the-phone briefing sessions, the 'boss' (they never have any clue who they're officially working for) warned them that Rachel would be wary of strangers.

"All Carmel kids are," said the gruff voice, "so you need to earn her trust in any way you can."

Finn can immediately see the fear in the girl's eyes, and though it's gone in a flash, it was there for long enough. "I'm sorry, I have to go, I-" She's about to sidestep him, and Finn thinks about just grabbing her and running, but then she does something he doesn't expect, and she hesitates before touching his arm; the contact practically burns him. "What is it?"

He has no clue why she's suddenly interested, but this works, and he can't blow it. "M-my dog, Noah, h-he's bleeding in my truck but I'm n-not good with blood, and I think s-something's stuck in his paw."

Finn knows girls are suckers for animals, and if she wasn't hooked before, she certainly is now. She seems to melt on the spot with sadness, and before he knows it, she's taking his hand and pulling him towards the truck in a half-sprint.

"I know what to do," she says firmly, and Finn squeezes her fingers as he follows behind. He briefly looks over his shoulder to see Puck staring at him in awe, and then he's running behind them, ready to escape. "I happen to be an expert in animal first-aid."

"Awesome," he says breathlessly, and Finn's heart pounds pounds pounds like it's going to explode. They only have one shot at this, and he tries to ignore his sudden fear for her safety, because she opens the back doors to peer inside, only to see some rope and a blindfold.

"What-"

They decided that Puck would be the one to get her inside since he's quicker and stronger and pretty much better than Finn in every way. He's glad that they planned this part too, 'cause in the blink of an eye, Puck already has her in the truck, a piece of rope shoved in her mouth so she won't scream, the blindfold tied tightly around her head.

"Hands," he hisses to Finn, and he gets onto tying up her hands with rope. Even though she's gagged, he can hear her whimpering in confusion and fright, and his heart aches for the tiny girl. It's not her fault that she's from a wealthy family (one of the wealthiest in town, according to Puck), but they need what her parents have, and all's fair in love and war. "You sit in the back with her, make sure she doesn't get free of anything."

Puck jumps out, locks Finn and the girl in, and they're forced into the darkness of the truck, waiting for the engine to start.

The vehicle jerks forward, and they're on their way, they're doing this, and there's no turning back, not now, not ever.

Just like they're taking a casual drive to the park, Puck turns on the radio and sings along to Journey (it's the only thing that ever plays these days), leaving Finn to sit awkwardly and stare at the shaking, blubbering girl. He wants to reassure her that they're going to take good care of her, but why should she believe him?

So he doesn't, but he shuffles closer, and he gently strokes her hair in the way his mom used to do to him when he couldn't get to sleep.

She winces, and he doesn't blame her, but she doesn't pull away, and she stops crying, which is good (it's better for his conscience that way). Finn wants to tell her his name. He's not dumb though, so he doesn't; she can't know his name in case she spills the beans when they let her go.

"We've got a long journey ahead of us," he whispers in her ear, "so maybe you should try and get some sleep." He's still stroking her hair, and he sees her nod a little, though she doesn't move her body. "I'm sorry... about the dog thing. That was nice of you to want to help."

At this she turns her back on him, and he doesn't try to talk to her anymore. They have plenty of time for that, and so Finn sits in silence, listening to Puck killing a few classics while he watches Rachel, the newest honorary member of their shitty little family.