Finn smiled to himself, tossing a football between his hands with a lazy shrug. It was only the beginning of December; just because it hadn't happened yet, it didn't mean it wouldn't happen at all. Get his bench press reps up a bit, keep his head up, wave to the crowd, and it would all be okay. Life always had a way of working out for him.
He wiggled his toes, took a deep breath, and opened the choir room door.
Rachel was pacing in circles. Finn smiled at her, but noticed her crazy, brilliant eyes were squeezed shut. She clutched a thick manila envelope in her hand, muttering a litany of I can't under her breath, then raised her hand to her forehead in a dramatic, sweeping motion.
Finn rushed over to her, not quite knowing what to say, and wishing his pockets contained smelling salts and a fan like that Mr. Darcy dude she was always harping on about.
Kurt patted Finn on the shoulder, then shook Rachel forcibly. "Cut the crap, Barbra," he said, grabbing the envelope from her tiny hands and tearing it open without ceremony.
As Rachel opened one eye, cautiously, she shook her head, the fear on her face palpable. "Oh God, what does it say. Kurt? Kurt?"
"For you, my dear?" Kurt broke into a wide grin, and threw the letter in the air. "Everything's coming up roses!"
Once, Rachel had claimed her voice could break glass. It couldn't; Finn had called her bluff on that during a particularly boring date night in Junior year, and was actually thankful because he'd placed two of his Mom's favorite crystal goblets in the line of fire. However, this squeak might well have succeeded where her voice, for once, had failed.
Finn blinked, slowly, and sat down. This couldn't relate to college. NYADA wouldn't be sending out acceptance letters for several months. So, what was this?
"I got the Broadway League internship!"
"Oh," said Finn, numbly. "That's great, Rachel." He scratched his head. "Wait, what Broadway League internship?"
Rachel ignored him as she danced in Kurt's arms, lighter than air, skirt twirling like a parasol.
Last summer, he'd held Rachel's hand as the pair of them had walked out of McKinley's faded, rusty doors. They were going to be the couple, and this was going to be their year. Rachel had, of course, always needed to dream and do bigger and brighter than the rest of them, but her ambition was what made her, well, her. Time would pass slowly, August stretching beyond them in the distance, humid days so different to chilly damp December mornings with his breath in the air, hanging like a promise in front of him, and if Finn didn't think about it...
"Rachel Berry on the casting couch," said Santana. "Wanky."
"Dude, what's a casting couch?" Finn hissed in Kurt's ear.
Mike shook his head, and looked to Tina. "Don't answer that," they said, simultaneously.
Quinn glanced up from filing her nails into soft points. "So many has-beens to make coffee for. So little time..."
Finn bit his lip. "Is anyone gonna tell me what this is about, or?"
"I'll totally have an in to Andrew Lloyd Webber," said Brittany. "He'll love my revival of Cats. It's going to feature real cats."
"When do you leave?" Kurt asked Rachel, a hint of jealousy underpinning his voice.
"June the first!" Rachel said, flicking her hair with pomp and ceremony. "Right after graduation!"
"Where will you stay?" Kurt asked, raising an eyebrow. "Is it... is it large enough for perhaps a visitor?"
Finn looked sideways at his girlfriend. Her eyes sparkled, glittered, glimmered, crinkling with happiness and not one tint of regret. His lip stung and he dug his nails into his palm, silvery crescents marking his skin, not that it mattered, because it couldn't mask the hurt of finding out something so important in this way.
Why was he always the last to know about everything? His stomach was heavy and unsettled, as though he'd swallowed a wasps nest, like that time Puck dared him to drink a whole bottle of Pepto Bismol in eighth grade. He looked at Rachel, again, and Rachel was meeting every pair of eyes apart from his.
"Why the hell didn't you tell me this, Rach!" He said, clenching his hands in his hair. "It's not just your future you're talking about, here!"
Rachel said nothing, or perhaps didn't even hear him through her New York clouded brain, or perhaps because Blaine was bouncing around on the soles of his feet, whispering something in Rachel's ear. Whatever he said only served to turn her smile up another thousand watts, and Finn hadn't seen that smile of hers since Nationals.
Kurt, though. Kurt stood next to him, silent, his presence comforting, and Finn felt his cheeks flush as his brother's comforting hand reached up to pat his shoulder. At least someone was on his side, but, still. This was real. This was happening. Finn's Senior year had passed him by in a syncopated blur of rehearsals and parties, and life was revolving around him at breakneck speed bringing with it acceptance, rejection, everything and, in his case... nothing.
It felt like an entire lifetime had passed, but it was only two weeks ago he'd spent the night at Rachel's, with Rachel, for the first time.
Afterwards, he'd wrapped her in his arms. "Thank you," he'd said, and cringed. "Was... was that okay? I - it gets better. Not that, I know, because... I've just been told."
Rachel nodded, and reached down for his palm. "It was perfect, Finn," she said, lacing their fingers together and squeezing tightly. They kissed slowly and gently, time on their side for once, and she'd curled into his side and drifted towards sleep while he murmured the words he thought she wanted to hear into her thick, warm hair, which fanned out on the pillow, softer than the satin lacing up her ballet slippers.
I never stopped believing in you. Nothing will get in the way of your dreams. You don't need to choose; I'll be right there with you, I always will be.
"Just think," Rachel said, sitting up, sweeping invisible patterns in the air with her palms. "This time next year, we'll be in New York together, Finn. Imagine that?"
"I'll never break up with you," he whispered into her ear, feeling her shiver against him. "Never, Rachel. I promise."
"I know," said Rachel. "I love you so much."
"I've don't think I've ever loved anyone more," he replied.
"You knew I was leaving, Finn! I am not staying in Ohio. My dreams are not in Ohio!"
"I'm really not part of the equation, huh?" Finn sighed. "Okay. I'll move for you."
Chilly air blew through Rachel's window, and Finn wrapped his arms around his chest as Rachel searched underneath the bedsheets for her underwear.
"You said it would get better!" She said, accusingly.
"What?" He frowned. "Sex? I can't help it, I just get so excited with you, and nervous, and I -"
"No," she said, arms balling fists in her comforter. "The... that's fine. It's this. Us. It's harder now that it's ever been, Finn, and I... I don't want to choose."
"You don't have to choose," he said. "I'll apply to NYU, get my application off by Monday."
"You got a 470 on your Maths SAT, Finn," she said, matter of factly, belaying the fact she knew her words were stinging him like poison ivy. "If you'd just tried that little bit more, let me coach you, we could retake, and I..."
"Me? Why is it always my fault?" he paused, shaking his head. "Kent State would have been a great school for you, for the both of us, Rachel, you said so yourself. Why are you doing this? I thought you said -"
"I never said that I would never break up with you."
"I love you," he murmured, because he did, he really did. "Nobody else understands me like you do."
"Sorry," she said, small and scared, "but the problem is that you just don't understand me. You say I'm the best girlfriend ever, say it all the time in fact, but you're... you're not the best boyfriend ever, Finn."
"The hell, Rachel! After everything, after all..." His fist slammed into the dry wall behind them, a spray of dust landing on Rachel's pillow. "This just doesn't make sense! I thought you said you we could have it all? I'll reapply! I can transfer, save up, wait tables and fumigate grotty apartments in the Bronx! I'd, I'll – I'd die for you, Rachel! And you give me that 'it's me' crap? That because I can't do it now, we can't do it at all? C'mon!"
Rachel couldn't look him in the eye, didn't want him to see her crying, he supposed. "Don't, Finn. I'd appreciate it if you left, now."
Her voice was wobbling, but her gaze steely. Wordlessly, he put his clothes on, slamming the door behind him. He sat in the front seat of his car, face creasing up, trying to cry, but he just couldn't.
Their love was epic, wasn't it? Kurt had said so one evening, over a glass of warm milk, joking that there would always be that tether between them, and he'd write a play about it but the average Broadway male was just so short, and he didn't want Blaine getting that role, didn't want Blaine kissing Rachel again. Hey, maybe the two of them could kiss? Even up the score a little?
He'd known Kurt had been joking, but his gut turned like a cement mixer all the same and he'd merely smiled, because he knew Rachel thought he wasn't New York good, deep down; she'd merely confirmed the fears that had been there all along.
Really, who could blame her?
Rain pelted the roof of his car, and Finn cranked down the window, the rain tumbling through the air, but not washing away any of the ache chilling him to the bone. Turning the key in the ignition, he stuck his arm out, letting the wind and the water lash his skin.
Kurt sat down next to him on the couch. "You think you've broken up with her?"
"But you're not sure?"
Finn merely sighed, placing his head in his hands.
"Come here, you big lummox." Kurt paused. "You can't just lounge on the couch watching reruns of Family Guy. You haven't been in school for days; don't you think you're just confirming her suspicions?"
"Great. My brother thinks I'm a loser, too."
"No, Finn. Far from it."
"Tomorrow," he said, and meant it. He couldn't help but grin as Kurt let him ruffle his hair for once. "Dude, you feel all crunchy like tostitos."
Kurt glared at him, but his eyes were soft and bright and Finn knew he didn't mean it.
"I can't believe you let me put a honey and oatmeal mask on you."
Finn shrugged and extended his arms. "It kinda made me feel like Bigfoot. So, are you really going to stay with Rachel in New York?"
Kurt curled up against him. "Don't tell Rachel this, but..." He exhaled, the rest of his words exiting far too speedily and unpracticed. "I'm deferring for a year. That way I can save up for NYADA, get some Community Theater under my belt, then Blaine and I can waltz out into the Great White Way together. Kurt and Blaine Anderson - New York's latest, greatest power couple!"
It was as though his world caved in for a second time. Finn knew he had Kurt on his side, wanted Kurt to be happy, knew Kurt deserved to be happy, but for once, it seemed like the puzzle pieces were falling in place for everyone but him. Also, he still didn't know what the Great White Way was, except that it reminded him of a vicious, circling shark snapping at his heels.
"What's wrong?" Kurt asked him. "Finn?"
"Nothing," he said, mutely, while any naïve dreams he'd had of walking arm in arm with Rachel Hudson fading fast and inelegant around the edges like a lomographic photograph. "Everything is just fine."
The following day, Kurt shoved his backpack into his hands and all but pushed him out the door, but he managed to make it to school. He avoided Rachel, Rachel avoided him, and he'd had a pretty great day. He'd killed it in the weights room, he'd nailed it in glee club, old school Clapton nonetheless, and, yeah. He could do this.
"Hey, Kurt!" He peered into the living room, frowning, and walked into the kitchen. "You'll never guess what I bench - Kurt? Where are you, man?"
Yet, he froze in his tracks as Kurt stomped into the kitchen, rummaged for a dessert spoon and tub of ice-cream, and flounced upstairs before Finn could even ask him what had happened. His door slammed dramatically, and the strains of musical theater's most infamous (and annoying) out-of-love songs escaped from his room like a twenty-first century Greek chorus.
Finn's heart sunk. He'd known exactly what had happened: a dumping, of epic proportions. If he witnessed any of the guys on the football team behaving in that way, he'd have mocked them gently. Then, a fist bump, a couple of beers, and 'bros before hos', and it would be temporarily forgotten.
But, this was Kurt. Kurt wasn't just another guy on the football team; Kurt was his closest friend. Finn grabbed a tube of Magic Shell and a glass of milk and plodded upstairs, hoping Kurt could hear him over the strains of Frank Sinatra.
"It's me. Finn."
Kurt cracked open the door, a shadow of an icy glare visible underneath his ridiculously over-sized sunglasses.
"Who else would it be?" Kurt snorted, his hands on his hips, "Joey Greco?"
"I- can I come in?"
Kurt shook his head. "I'd rather be alone right now. And why did I have to hear it from Puck when you knew? I thought the job of a family was to look out for each other?"
"Knew what? What's happened? Kurt, you're scaring me!" Though, his gut started to sink, because he had an inkling. He'd asked Kurt once, during a late night chat, if he ever had suspicions about the weekends Blaine spent away from Ohio. Kurt just laughed, and said, 'just because you've been cheated on, Finn Hudson', and hit him with a throw pillow. That was that.
"Sebastian." Kurt said, sniffing, and Finn extended his arms to hug him, but Kurt merely waved a hand in his face.
Shit. He thought back to Puck's party. Sebastian, the guy from Dalton, looking like Kurt's evil, coiffed twin from one of the bad daytime soap operas his Mom watched, curled up with Blaine like a pretzel, giggling, which Finn had thought was more than a little insensitive considering Kurt was stuck at home with stomach flu. Finn had raised an eyebrow at the pair, and Blaine had merely reached his hand out for a first bump, asserting that two-player Spin the Bottle was the game of 2011.
He'd remembered the conclusions he'd jumped to with Quinn and Sam in Junior year, and besides, what Blaine was doing didn't seem too much like cheating, not more than the rest of what glee club had done since Sophomore year, at any rate.
And Kurt was... different. Fragile, underneath all the quiet strength he possessed. Kurt would take it the wrong way, and so Finn decided not to tell him.
Once, he overheard Kurt describing him to one of Blaine's friends from Dalton. "Big heart, but not the sharpest tool in the shed." Quite frankly, it was far easier to ignore his intuition and act like he was expected to, slotting himself into the role they made for him with ease.
'Empire State', Blaine had called him, once.
"One of the seven wonders of the modern world, Blaine? Really now?" Kurt said, with a quirk of his eyebrow.
"Nah. All substance and no style."
"That's... that's not nice," Kurt replied, but Finn had heard his suppressed giggle echo down the hallway.
Now, the glass of milk was cool in his hand, burning a chill that pooled down to the ends of his toes.
"I didn't know," said Finn, "I - they were just cuddling! Cuddling like we do after a few drinks. I swear, I – Kurt, let me help. Please?"
"How can you help? He's probably been cheating on me for months," Kurt said, "months. We planned our lives around each other. I just... how am I supposed to reconcile the Blaine I knew with this? Then again, Finn, it's not like you don't know about cheating."
"I'm not sure how you can get over it," Finn said, though he knew it was a rhetorical question. "Sorry, dude." He closed the door gently behind him. He had eighty pounds on Blaine, easily, and should have just hauled up Blaine by the scruff of his neck, yelling words like brother, and no right, and he trusted you.
Perhaps he should have said, and done, the right things. Forced his way into Kurt's room, and hugged away his tears, but, really, who was he kidding?
He knew well enough from what had happened recently with Rachel that words and actions couldn't heal wounds that easily. He also knew that words weren't his forte. His consonants and vowels tripped over his tongue, his good intentions tangling into something else entirely. This time, he'd made things worse without even having had the opportunity to help, so who knew the damage an actual conversation would cause?
Kurt wanted time, needed time, but Finn just wanted to wrap him up in his arms and wipe his tears away.
Then again, Kurt didn't really need him. The clock hadn't even chimed six as Finn wandered downstairs to grab a snack and saw Kurt curled up on the couch, his Mom's arms wrapped tightly around him. Kurt's face was buried into her arm, and he didn't even look up.
"Upstairs, Finn," his Mom told him, gesturing him to help himself to one of the cookies on the coffee table. "He'll need you later, but his friends are coming over; let them comfort him now, okay?"
Of course, when Carole had popped to the bathroom, he'd snuck downstairs as he could feel his stomach rumble in his throat, and he just had to eavesdrop, had to know what Kurt was feeling.
"You have to admit, it's more than a little ironic," said Tina, while Finn pressed his nose against the door. He could all but taste the fumes of the nail polish being applied, making his eyes water like liquid smoke.
"What, Blaine wants me to date one of the stepbrothers we met while duetting at Six Flags? That's not ironic," said Rachel.
"You're right," said Quinn, "it's just pathetic."
"If you want pathetic, look at Finn," said Santana.
"Where is he tonight, anyway?" asked Mercedes.
"Upstairs." Santana said, and Finn just knew she was smirking. "Yeah, we all know he's claiming he's applying to York College via rolling admission. Most likely? Co-Ed Confidential re-runs."
"Ew," said Mercedes, "I can't believe my man Kurt was crushing on him in Junior year."
"No way," gasped Sugar. "Ew! Incesty! Did you know my cousin Dana was in that Co-Ed show?"
"Yes way. Everyone loved Finn. He was the most popular guy in the school." Quinn paused. "Looking back, I can't quite see why. He's nice. Affable, but... he doesn't have the biggest heart, and he certainly doesn't have the biggest brain."
"His heart's always in the right place, but..." Tina coughed lightly. "He hasn't really been himself lately. Back in Junior year, he..."
"Tossed Kurt in dumpsters?"
"Took a back seat while Karofsky threatened his life?"
"Stopped the football team making it even worse, Mercedes. Stood up for me when it counted, Santana." Kurt sighed. "He's a… good brother. He even gave up football camp this summer so we could go on a family vacation."
"Finn tasted like mud pies," Brittany said, her voice small and soft, "he was all gooey in the center. It wasn't a turn on."
"And those nipples," said Santana, chuckling. "Like gone-off fudge rounds."
"Blaine used to call him Gloppy." Kurt sounded regretful, and Finn could hear him pacing around the room. "Poor Finn. He thought it was a term of endearment."
Someone whispered something; Finn couldn't hear what.
"What? Oh, get some, Berry! Now he is a guy with some moves!"
"Did you ever tell Finn he broke your toe that one time, Rach?"
"I didn't need to," she replied. "My nose was still healing at the time."
"Uh, what did you see in him again?"
Kurt remained silent on the matter, and Finn? He couldn't take it any more, shrill, critical voices and Kurt's wordless disdain blurring into one wounding lump, and it was enough that he'd lost Rachel, but Kurt seemed to be slipping away from him, too. His mind could fill in the blanks perfectly well enough without knowing what Kurt was about to say and so he chose not to hear it.
It stung. He hadn't given it much thought, but he really would lose his best friend if he did go to college next year. Kurt wouldn't always be there for him, bright opal eyes meeting his on a bleary gray morning, nagging him about his dress sense and his hair, but handing him a steaming cup of coffee and a bagel and patting him on the head. He wouldn't always have the comfort of a reassuring hug and a sympathetic ear at the other end of the upstairs hallway.
And since when was Kurt his best friend? In fact, more often than not, it felt like Kurt was his only friend. How had that happened? Why was he seeing bright, blue eyes and an impish, toothy grin whenever he closed his own?
Because, yeah, he'd been sad about Rachel, but that was more due to what losing her meant for him.
Finn retreated upstairs, scrunched up a piece of paper, and tossed it in the air several times. He sat at his desk, and right clicked on his Word document containing his college application, sending it to the recycle bin. He had considered it, briefly, he really had, but... perhaps another year in Ohio, with Kurt, wouldn't be the worst thing in the world?
He emptied his recycle bin and slammed his laptop shut. Good riddance to bad rubbish, or however the saying went. Life would work out for him. It had to, right?