this one goes out to jess and rachel because of two three am skype sessions in which i was a complete nutjob. thanks for da encouragement, ya'll

glee isn't mine nor is that thing you do omg


Fingers tapping to the hymn in his brain, he's truly in his own world, jolted out by the jingling of the bell on the door of the diner. Two familiar faces lumber in the doorway, he smiles as they hop onto the bar stools, feet dangling centimeters off the ground. "Listen, Hudson," Puckerman begins, balancing his chin precariously on the heel of his hand, "we need the kinda help only you can offer."

"And what's that?"

"Evans busted his elbow. Our band is in desperate need of a drummer – you still bangin' on them snares?"

"'Course," he responds, rolling his eyes, "everyday."

"You in? We gotta competition up in Cleveland tonight, if we win, we split a hundred dollars," Jesse explains, running a hand over his curly hair.

"I don't know, man." He glances behind him, at his step-dad tossing burgers in the kitchen, smiling as he does so. "Playing in a band again…I'm in. What's this tune?"

"A ballad I wrote," Jesse says quickly, and with a sharp nudge in the elbow, corrects himself, "We wrote. Anyway, practice is at three fifteen this afternoon precisely.


His hands artfully screw together his drum set, foot pressing on the pedal of the bass drum a few times, sticks tapping on cymbals. Puck introduces him to the bass player, Blaine, who eagerly shakes Finn's hand up and down and up and down. He lifts one eyebrow and nods at the guy.

He nearly drops his drum sticks when a hand glides over his shoulder blades, pausing atop one, familiar lips lowering onto his cheek, warm breath against his ear,"Hi, Finn."

"Rachel, hi," he murmurs, tensing as she rests her hands on his shoulders, thumbs circling atop the fabric. She smiles warmly at him, and he hasn't seen her for more than a moment since high school, and somehow, she's only gotten more beautiful. Her hair hangs long down her back, straight but curling slightly at the ends.

She squeezes his shoulders once more before flouncing over to Jesse, looping her arms around his neck and kissing him deeply. Puck releases a loud wolf whistle as he tunes his guitar and Blaine just rolls his eyes. Somehow every time he sees her she manages to send his world spinning out of orbit, forces his heart to find a new metronome to follow, the metronome of her heart, and it's much faster than the slow ballad he begins tap, tap, tapping out on the drums.

The song doesn't require quite as much drumming as he'd hoped, more of a bone structure for the rest of the song. He rolls his eyes as the song fades out, cheesy and sweet, and apparently, totally Rachel's thing, since she, once again, kisses Jesse in front of the entire band. The other guys seem used to it, though, and simply turn to one another.

When band practice is over, he sidles up beside Rachel, tossing darts at a target that he imagines is Jesse's face. His elbow brushes Rachel's, and her eyes meet his, a small smile tugging at her pretty rose colored lips. "So, what do you cats call this band, anyway?"

"So far we are unnamed." Finn nods and tosses another dart, pursing his lips, before smiling slightly.

"How 'bout the Wonders, a bit of a pun," at Blaine's confused expression, he elaborates, "like, a play on words, y'know – just the one song, the Wonders?"

"Nice," Puck agrees, and Jesse nods.

"That's perfect!" Rachel exclaims, turning to Finn with an excited grin. "I knew you'd be a fantastic addition to the band!" She loops her arms around her neck and stays there for a moment, forehead brushing against his shoulder.

"Thanks for the help," Jesse says, one hand forward and shaking Finn's, "See you tonight."


The song's too slow. Too slow. He's a little nervous, you know, foot tap, tap, tapping against the accelerator as he drives to the show and it hits him – the damn song is too slow, they aren't gonna win, no, no, nonono.

Regardless, he parks the car and ambles in, paying for a ticket and spotting Rachel in a crowd of people (somehow she's the only one he can see). He sits beside her, thigh pressing against hers, and he murmurs a low hello, knee bouncing up and down. She places her hand on his knee, stopping the bouncing, and smiles at him. "Hiya!"

"Where're the guys?"

"Um, Jesse's warming up backstage – alone – and Blaine and Noah are lookin' for girls to fornicate with."

"Huh. Noah?"

"Puck," she explains, shrugging. He nods and sucks in a breath, knee resuming its rhythmic jumping beneath her warm hand. "Finn, are you nervous?"

"A bit," he responds, grinning shyly. "First time performing in front of a real crowd, y'know?"

The singer on stage's song comes to a close, Rachel stands and claps, smile so wide he can't even imagine that it's fake. "Rach, she sucked!"

"No, no, no, you can't appreciate her artistic value just yet, Finn, but one day you'll understand." She smiles and sits beside him. Her small fingers wrap around his wrist and lift it, studying the watch clasped around it. "You have to get backstage! D'you have your drumsticks?"

"Yup," he responds, coming to a stand, and she squeezes his hand, mouth a half moon on the sky of her face.

"Break a leg."

He smiles and walks away.


"Finn, what the hell are you doing?" Jesse shouts, right in his ear. God, he doesn't really know what the fucking hell he's doing up here, but his hands are shaking to a faster beat than the song faster than usual his drumsticks clangclangclanging wood on wood as he counts out onetwothreefour, Jesse screaming and Puck's urging him up 'cause now it's time to put this shit together.

And hey, it sounds pretty fuckin' good. That beat is tapping through his body and it's so much less cheesy now more of a dance beat as every chick in the joint pushes toward the stage and begins to dance right along with the beat – his beat. Drumming feels real good right now, a real thing instead of some instructions on a piece of paper, it feels just like it does in his basement, feeling the music in his heart guiding him leading him forward as the entire room erupts into applause, Jesse's pissed as hell and he can pick out Rachel's pretty, beaming face in the crowd, cheering with everyone.

His heart squeezes he bows and backs up, off stage, slapping a high five to Puck and Blaine's outstretched hands, pulled into a hug by Rachel as she whispers, "I knew you could do it." And there's a promise, something different in her eyes even when she kisses Jesse deeply.

Some guy comes up to them, offering them a spot at his restaurant and they agree and it's like – it's a real gig, a real job, maybe he's finally growing up, finding his way.


He nurses a bottle of beer, tipping the neck backwards as Puck slides into the booth across from him, flashing a fistful of bills, twenties and fifties, and doles them out, evenly, and he shoves the bills into his pocket. Rachel sits beside him, bare elbow brushing against his as she runs her hands through Jesse's hair, saying sweet and low in his ear you were so good, J, in his ear. Jesse just nods, like, yeah, yeah I'm fucking great.

It's the end of their first week playing regularly at this little restaurant and it's been sold out every single night. The idea dawns on him and bursts out of his mouth, "What if we cut a record?"

Rachel turns to him, eyes wide and bright, excited, "Like make a real record? A record, record?"

He nods and ignores the roll of Jesse's eyes, 'cause Puck and Blaine nod and agree. "Awesome, my friend Sam, Rach, you remember him, he works in Dayton recording children's choirs – he's got all the equipment, so, what do you say?"

Clapping and squealing, Rachel exclaims, "I'd say we're cutting a record, huh, J?" Jesse purses his lips, brows furrowing together.

"As long as we record an additional ballad – slow, this time – then I'm up for it."


With the cut of their record, sold for a dollar at each show they play, he's beginning to feel something big coming. And that something big comes in the form of a guy named Bryan Ryan, who approaches him as he scrubs the counter in the diner.

"You from that band last night? The one that played down at – at that restaurant by the airport?"

"Yes, sir," Finn says slowly, "Do you want a record? We got 'em for just a quarter."

"No, no," he negates, sitting atop a bar stool, "You're the drummer, right?"

"Yup." He begins washing the counter once more, rhythmic circles corresponding with the song flooding from the jukebox in the corner.

"I've got an offer for you. How would you like to hire me as your manager – play some shows in the area, Cleveland, Dayton, maybe even Pittsburgh?"

"Well, gee, I don't know. I've gotta ask the band…"

Naturally, the guys all love the idea and don't hesitate, and they find themselves playing real shows, granted, they're nothing special, but they finally get booked big time up in Cleveland.

He's a little more than nervous, smoothing his hair and tapping his sticks against the counter in the dressing room. He's alone; Jesse is ensuring that his hair is perfectly coiffed, while Puck and Blaine are outside, probably looking for girls, or something or other.

The door pushes open, revealing Rachel. He sucks in a slight breath at seeing her, clad in a light blue dress that cuts into a v-neck at her chest, and she's always been pretty, but somehow, she's more beautiful than he's ever seen, dark hair curled over her shoulders.

"Hi, Rach," he stutters, smiling as she moves closer to him, steps light and graceful, a dancer through and through. She sits atop the counter, smoothing her dress over her thighs, though there's really no need, as the hemline more than covers them. He's tempted to rest his hand on her thigh and push the skirt up, up, up, touch parts of her he hasn't in years, and –

"Nervous?" She smiles slightly, swinging her dangling legs. His tongue darts out to lick his lips as he stands, smoothing his hair in the mirror.

"Just a bit." Her eyes bore into him for a moment, wide and brown, and god, so pretty, she's so pretty with her olive skin and dark eyes and dark curly hair and pink lips like flowers and her teeth, and her hand slips into his and she's leading him out of the dressing room but he can't take his eyes off the way the fabric of her dress swishes around her knees.

She leads him through backstage and brings him center stage, arm winding around his waist as she leans against him slightly and, oh, it's nice to be this close to her; the smell of her strawberry shampoo inundates his olfactory senses and he sighs comfortably.

"This theater fits about eight hundred people, did you know that?"

"I didn't want to know that."

"Eight hundred people. And the only one whose opinion matters is the person's standing beside me."

"Rach, if they laugh me off the stage, I'm going to hate myself."

"What difference does it make?"

"Huh?" She turns, facing him, hands running over his chest in soothing circles.

"Finn, you are amazing at drumming. And I know you can do it. No matter what, know that you are special and –" He cuts her off abruptly, cupping her face in his and pressing his lips against hers.

She freezes for a moment before grasping his arm, squeezing the linen shirt between her fingers as he tugs her close, mouth against hers insistently. After a moment, she pushes him away gently, lips parting slightly when he moves away, eyes hazy. "Finn, we're over."

"Baby," he murmurs, gently pressing his forehead against hers and kissing her again, "baby, it's never over."


They don't mention the kiss again, and the show goes spectacularly that night, partially (mostly) because of Rachel's encouragement. He's on top of the world the next afternoon as Mr. Ryan takes him (just him) to a late lunch, some place down the street from their hotel. "I want you to meet someone, actually," he explains as they head to a table in the back, where a man in his mid thirties sits, wearing a sharp black suit.

He stands, extending a hand for Finn to shake, introducing himself as Mr. William Schuester of Play-Tone records, and have a seat, Mr. Hudson—you can call me Finn, sir.

"Finn, Mr. Schuester here would like to take you under his label."

"Oh, Mr. Ryan, I can't—you're our manager."

"Not anymore, I'm not. Look, Finn, Mr. Schuester here can take you far, farther than I can—look, I've done my job, you kids are too big a sensation for just little old me."

"Well, no offense to Mr. Schuester or anything, but I'm just not sure."

"None taken," he says, holding up his hands, palms out, "You can stay with Mr. Ryan here, play more shows in Cleveland, Dayton, maybe even Erie if you're lucky."

"No, no, no, Finn. With Mr. Ryan and the Play-Tone record, you'll be able to travel the country playing shows, particularly their midwestern county fair tour."

"All right," Finn concedes, "I'm in. Only if everyone else is."


"And who is Rachel?"

Their heads snap to Jesse, who splutters, "Oh, she's my—um she's kinda sort of my, like, my girlfriend."

"You want her on tour with you?"

Jesse pauses, seconds ticking by into hours, so Finn answers, "Yes, yes, of course."

Schuester furrows his brow in his direction but agrees nonetheless, "Fine, she'll be in charge of costumes, which, by the way, must be changed—suits, nice, matching suits, because you are nice boys."

Finn nods approvingly, imagining himself in a black suit banging away at the drums, cutting a real record—celebrity stuff. He smiles, even as Schuester eyes him up, scrutinizing him, and contradicts, "Except you, Finn. You're a bit dangerous."

Puck, Jesse, even Blaine burst out laughing at him, "Schuester, man, Finn is the nicest guy around."
"Doesn't matter. His image will be of the bad guy." Finn approves, pursing his lips and catching the black sunglasses Schuester tosses at him.

Blaine, Jesse and Puck follow Schuester out of the dressing room, asking question upon question about the other Play-Tone stars that will be possibly attending the tour, while Finn stays where he is, admiring himself in the mirrors—a totally un-Finn-like mannerism.

Too much time with Jesse, he decides with a slight smirk just as Rachel pushes her way into the room, gingerly calling out, "Jesse?"

"He's not here," Finn replies, a little coldly. "Just little old me."

"Oh." She pauses at the door, small hand resting on the old bronze doorknob, turning and nearly walking out before saying, "Finn, about earlier—"

"Forget about it," he mutters, refusing to meet her eyes, "Didn't happen."

She bites her bottom lip, sticking out a hand, "Promise?"

He smiles warmly, though forced, "'Course."


She's sitting beside him on the bus, olive green velour clashing with her pretty lilac dress, dark hair tied in a plait at the nape of her neck. His fingers itch to untie it and watch the long curtain of her hair drape around her shoulders, but he knows she'd murder him for ruining her hair.

Her head turns, flushing slightly at catching his fervent gaze, and she smiles slightly, lighting up the entire room with the brightness of her grin. His bass drum heart pounds steadily, thump, thump, thumping against his chest, desperate to find a new tune to follow.

She scoots closer, thigh barely a centimeter from his, crossing the ocean between them. "Where is Jesse?"

Somehow, he always manages to disrupt these perfect, divine moments between them, voice harsh and rough, and she nearly jumps back to the edge of her seat, jerking her thumb backwards, pointing to where Jesse sits, scribbling hastily onto a pad of paper.

"I see," he responds, turning his head coolly and observing all the other musicians on the bus, none of whom he admires or reveres in any way, so he feels no need to talk to anyone but her. "Why aren't you singing?"


"Rachel, c'mon. You told me in high school you were going to be a famous singer."

"Dreams change," she responds flatly, gazing sullenly out the window before rising from her seat. "'Scuse me. I'm going to go sit with my—with my boyfriend."


She and Blaine become friends quite quickly as the tour progresses, sitting side by side on the bus while Jesse writes and he watches, helplessly. They used to be friends—more than that—but now they're nothing more than strangers. He watches her laugh at something stupid Blaine says, tucking a strand of dark hair behind her ear.

Puck nudges him in the side, because, yeah, he's being completely obvious. Jesse glares at him a little, but says nothing, gazing, instead, at some beautiful forty-year-old woman named Shelby, crooning some song about love lost on the stage.

"Shelby Corcoran," he sighs, pen stilling its frantic scribbling, "absolutely—" Rachel surprises him, plopping on his lap and kissing him real hard on the lips, and Jesus Christ, he can't look away, it's like a train wreck.

Blaine sits beside them, tugging a thin boy behind him, introducing him as Kurt, of the Tenors. The group greets him halfheartedly, and he wishes for nothing more than to return to the hotel and drink 'till he passes out on the cushy comforter.

"Christ, Rachel, why do you have to do that?" Jesse chastises when they break for air, "I was just making a breakthrough."

Rachel rolls her eyes and slides off his lap, squeezing beside Blaine on the bench and avoiding Finn's potent gaze. "I think I have a tear in this suit. Rachel, come check—you're the costume girl, after all."

She gives him a steely look as she obliges, pulling him angrily to a corner of the fairgrounds. "Finn, what is this about?"

"You're avoiding me. Rach, I'm sorry that I know you and your dreams, and following Jesse St. James as he pursues his dreams is not what you want to do."

"Finn, you can't tell me what to do—"

"I'm not telling you what to do! I'm telling you to be yourself, be Rachel Berry, not Rachel St. James."

It all explodes, then, in, "At least I'm leaving! At least I'm not rotting in Lima, surrounded by all those girls with babies who—who we graduated with, like Santana Lopez, Finn, she's got a baby already! That's not me, Finn!"

His chest heaves, and God, he wants to kiss her and hold her close and love her the way she should be loved, not like Jesse loves her, not like she's something to be ashamed of, but her eyes are heavy, saturated with tears and years' worth of self deprecation, so he doesn't press his mouth against hers as much as he wants to. Instead, he hugs her tightly, squeezing her waist tightly. She grips him real tight, too, hands buried in his sweater, nose brushing the crook of his neck.

He feels her heart thudding against his chest, his heart finds a beat with hers, booming bass and crashing symbols to the rhythm of her snare, and he finally releases her, fingers trailing down her arms. She smiles slightly and squeezes his hand as it trails over his.

Oh, yeah. It's not over.


If ever he is feeling nervous, he glances stage right to see Rachel's face, grinning and usually singing along, and once or twice dancing with Mr. Schuester, much to his amusement.

After one particularly good show, they bow—in unison—and run offstage, and Jesse picks Rachel up and kisses her heatedly. Finn's heartstrings pull taut in his chest, and Mr. Schuester claps a hand over his shoulder.

Their album, they find out in the coming weeks, is seventy-fifth in the country, which, according to Mr. Schuester, is cause to celebrate and head out to a little bar in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

He's completely star struck when he walks in—some of the biggest names in jazz music are just sitting around, talking, and he heads to the bar, ordering a scotch on the rocks and downing it so he's a little more courageous when he walks over to their table and introduces himself.

Across the bar, Rachel sits at the counter, Coke in front of her, stirring it slightly with a straw. Mr. Schuester sidles up beside her, ordering a cognac and striking up a conversation with her. "How long have you and Jesse been together?"

Smiling, she responds, "Four years this May."

"And you love him?" She nods, running her fingers over one another.

"Jesse is special." Her eyes roam the bar before landing on him, sliding himself into a seat in a booth between Shelby Corcoran and her piano player, pointing to their record on the charts. "He's got so much life in him. He understands me—we're perfect for each other."

"Yes, Jesse truly is a musical genius." Mr. Schuester smiles slightly, eyes shining as if he knows some secret, "But Finn is special, too, isn't he?"

Her eyes shift, watching Finn interact with some jazz musician who laughs at whatever he says, and he sloppily brings a clear glass with russet colored liquid in it to his lips, some of it pouring onto his shirt. He laughs, despite his mess, and continues talking and talking, fingers, she knows, tapping out a beat against the wooden table.

"Yes," she agrees, "Finn is very special."

"Is there—is there history there?" Mr. Schuester seems to know he's intruding, especially at Rachel's pink cheeks, and simply walks away, talking to some big guy in a suit she assumes must be another corporate worker.

She and Finn most definitely have history, so short it could be etched onto the corner of the wood table Finn's sitting at, but dug in deep, so it could never be erased. She can't remember a time in her life where she hasn't been in love with Finn, from the time they met when they were seven to right this moment, watching him act silly across a smoky bar, she is completely, totally in love with him.

They'd given it a shot in high school, a real shot, lasting three good months in the summer and two of the school year, but the pressures had been too much and they'd ended things messily, receiving no closure, as Finn seemed to enjoy kissing her even when they weren't dating (even when he was dating another girl).

So she gave up on him, on waiting for him to get his act together.

Naturally, he's too late.

"Ray," he slurs, stumbling towards her and leaning against the bar, "we had it goin' on, right? Like, we…we were good."

He reeks of alcohol, and a little bit of—"Finn, are you stoned?"

"Maybe," he mutters, smiling slightly and leaning forward so that his lips brush her ear lobe, "Completely."

He pulls away from her and rests his forehead against hers, and she's so tiny, nearly a foot smaller than him, but he loves it, loves her just like this, small and short and travel size, his travel size Rachel Berry. "You're cute," he exclaims as she takes him out of the bar, his big form stumbling behind her, feet not quite able to make it very far before tripping even a little.

"You're drunk," she mumbles in response moments later, so later that his compliment has been eradicated from the murky sea in his head.

"Yeah, well, you're a fuckin' fox, like seriously, baby girl."

"I'm not—I'm not your baby girl," she says quietly, quickly sticking her hand in his pocket to grab his room key, and opens the door to his hotel room.

"You will always be my baby girl," he tells her sweetly, his hands winding around her waist and tugging her close as he crashes onto the bed. "You're cool, Rachel."

She squirms out of his arms and kisses his forehead. "You're going to be real sick in the morning." He eases into sleep as she places a glass of water beside his bed, eyes trained on him as he murmurs something incoherently and turns in his sleep.


Mr. Schuester hurries them off the stage much quicker than usual, ushering them into the green room rapidly. "As of this morning," he begins, excitement inundating his tone, Finn furrows his brows and squeezes his drumsticks, "you fellas have the number one record in the country."

They all explode, somehow, Finn and Blaine and Puck and Rachel screaming and jumping up and down, Rachel flies into Jesse's arms and kisses him on the cheek. "We have got a flight to the west coast in an hour, if and only if we can make it."

"California?" He exclaims, slapping his hand against Blaine's. With that revelation, they rush out of the dressing room and through the halls, one after another in a single line as they maneuver through various Play-Tone stars and police officers. He's leading the pack and stops shortly when he hears screaming and shouting, and giving Mr. Schuester a questioning glance, bolts up the stairs, shielding his eyes from the flashing cameras as they all cheer his name.

"Put on your shades," Mr. Schuester murmurs, and the fans erupt in more delighted screams. A police officer appears and guides them into a car, and he looks behind him one last time only to see Rachel being held back by a police officer while Jesse slides into the taxi, completely disregarding his girlfriend.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, she's with us!" He exclaims, curling his arm around her shoulders and squeezing her into his side, steering her to the taxi and sliding in beside her. She coughs, pressing her face against his shoulder, and thanks him for saving her.

He nods, pressing his cheek against her head, and squeezes her knee.


He steps out of the bathroom on the plane, running straight into Rachel, who pats his chest. "Rachel? Fancy meeting you here."

She only coughs in response, falling onto her seat and shutting her eyes. "D'you think it's cold in here? I'm freezing."

"No," he responds, placing a hand on her forehead, "but you're warm. You've got a fever, baby girl. Lay down."

She curls on her side and he covers her with a blanket, pushing a pillow beneath her head. He crouches beside her and kisses her forehead softly. "Close your eyes, go to sleep, and when you wake up, we'll be in California."

"Hmm," she hums, snuggling into the blankets, "here we come."

He wants to sit with her and watch over her, hold her hand and make sure she's okay, but that isn't his job. He's just her friend, after all, as much as it may feel like she's his—she isn't.


They've been in Los Angeles for three days and have already accomplished radio interviews as well as a movie appearance, granted, they weren't actually playing the instruments, but it was pretty cool, anyways. He's exhausted, completely drained from working morning to night. He's collapsed onto his bed, nearly unconscious when he hears a quiet knock at the door of his hotel room.

Grumbling slightly, he rolls out of bed and opens the doors, eyes squinting against the hallway brightness. "Finn," she sighs, "Can I—can I sleep in here?"

He squints at her through tired, heavy eyelids. Her hair is disheveled, sleep shirt half off one shoulder. There are bags under her eyes and a sickly flush to her cheeks. He blinks and places his hand on her face, caressing her cheek and feeling for a fever, only to find her skin much hotter than a few days ago.

"C'mon in," he murmurs, tugging her behind him and shutting the door. She stumbles a little as the room is cloaked in darkness, scarcely illuminated by the moonlight bleeding through the curtains.

Her feet shuffle tiredly, so he swings her into his arms and tucks her into the bed, easing in beside her. He leaves a foot of space between them on the king size bed, but she snuggles into him, pulling the white comforter over her head.

"Jesse locked me out," she whines quietly. He swoops down to kiss the crown of her head, and chooses not to tell her that he'd never lock her out. He doesn't tell her a lot of things, he realizes as she sinks into sleep, hoarse breaths evening out against the skin of his neck.

She's an electromagnet, completely off-limits yet still drawing him in with every interaction.


"You nervous?" Puck inquires, glancing at Finn in the mirror. He glances up from the tapping of his drumsticks on the linoleum counter.

"A bit. Where the fuck is Anderson?"

"Dunno. Think I saw him sniffin' 'round that Tenor cat's room last night, but I couldn't be too sure." Finn groans loudly, checks his watch and attempts to dial him one more time.

The sound of retching echoes from the bathroom and Finn's ready to beat his head against the wall. This is it. Their fame has reached its peak, and now they're waiting in the wings to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, which is so unrealistic. To think, five months ago, he was just a guy working in a diner and playing drums all by himself in his basement to his favorite jazz vinyl, and now, he's a hotshot drummer with a chart-topping record.

"Where's Rachel, Jesse?"

"'Dunno? Off at the store or something? Do I look like her keeper or something?" Finn rolls his eyes. "Listen, can you get me some water before we go on or else I'm going to vomit all over the stage."

The lights are so, so bright, nearly blinding him as he sits on the stool, bouncing his knee a little as unfamiliar nerves crawl into his stomach and surge in his veins. Regardless, he puts on a cool front, counting out the beat and playing the song that's ingrained into his memory, after nearly six months of daily playing, it's hard to really get it out of his mind.


"Engaged? Rachel, where in the hell did you get the idea that we were engaged?" Her mouth falls open as he turns in full force, eyes narrowing in anger. "We're barely even dating, Rachel, Jesus Christ, do you know what this could do to my rep?"

"Your—your reputation? Is that all you care about?"


"What about me?"

"Rachel," he says sternly, "you are the last thing I need."

She releases a shaky breath just as the other band members wander into the room. Finn grins, looking her up and down and grasping her hand. "Miss Berry, you look gorgeous."

She flushes and thanks him, but is distracted, intent brown gaze honed in on Jesse. "Jesse, from now on, I want you to stay away from me. I used to think we were soul mates because of your light, and your joy, and your smile, but now I know it was all a lie. You're just—just a shell of a man who only wants to advance in his career, and I am so done with you."

She storms out and Jesse yells to her retreating form, "Shoulda dumped you in Cleveland!"

Moments later, Puck and Blaine (who miraculously showed up at last minute) head out of the green room, Blaine heading to Vegas, and Puck to find some chick to sleep with. Finn stays put, glaring at Jesse through the black lens of his sunglasses.

"Take those stupid shades off," Jesse hisses, "You look like a moron."

He sends Jesse a steely glare as he pulls the sunglasses off. "Why couldn't you have ended things with her in Cleveland?"

"What, so you could date her? Listen, Hudson, you're not good enough for her."

"I'm not good enough for her?" He laughs bitterly, exiting the room, "Look who's talking."


"So, you're staying on the west coast?" Her voice is soft, finger tracing the edge of a coffee mug. He nods, raking a hand through his hair. Now that the band has fallen apart, with Jesse's quitting and Puck and Blaine running off in the sunset with their lovers, or whatever, he's left here.

"Yeah." She manages a smile, but refuses to meet his gaze. "Don't be sad, I'll—I'll come home and visit you, honey. I promise."

"It'll just," she sighs, "I'm going to miss you so much."

He eases his hand into hers, squeezing her fingers between his. "Oh, Rachel, don't you know I'll miss you, too? But I've—I've got to do this, Rachel."

"I know," she says, voice small as she hops off the stool at the counter of the café in the hotel lobby. "I understand, Finn. Doesn't mean I'll miss you any less."

He sighs. "Yeah. Yeah. I know."

She wraps her arms around his neck, hugging him close to her chest. "None of this would've happened if not for you joining the band—and I mean that in the best way possible."

He hugs her back, closing his eyes for one long moment. He doesn't think he's ever been so in love with another person in his entire life. His heart thuds against his ribcage, urging to be with hers, and he sighs, because he's going to miss her more than anything. "Come by sometime. We'll listen to records in the basement," she says quietly, removing herself from his arms, and with a tender kiss on the forehead, leaves.

Sighing, he orders a cup of coffee, feeling his knee bounce up and down rhythmically on the railing of the bar, and the waitress working turns to him and says, "Really? You're going to just let her go?"

Heart pounding, he shakes his head, no, nononono. His feet carry him much faster than usual out of the hotel lobby, standing outside in front in a mass of people, and for a second he can't recognize her until—when his heart begins to buzz and thrum in his chest, he knows she's out here, somehow, he can always feel her.

Closing his eyes and breathing in deep, he steps up to her. "Rachel," he calls, "when's the last time you felt loved?"

She turns slowly, eyes meeting his, and he's nearly brought to his knees by the expression on her face. "You already know the answer to that, don't you, Finn?"

Grinning boyishly, he takes three big steps and takes her into his arms, simply staring for a moment before crushing his mouth against hers. She pulls away after a moment, arms wrapped around his neck, and stares up at him. A slight grin tugs at her rose red lips swollen from his kissing and she presses her mouth against his again, standing on her very tiptoes.


Later, they lie beneath the sheets in his hotel room, her toes brushing his calf as he traces circles on her bare collarbone. "You're so beautiful," he murmurs quietly, brushing his lips against her arm. She laughs, pushing his head away as his lips trail across her body, whispering his name.

"I'm exhausted," she whines as he presses kisses against her face.

"Fine," he responds, pulling away and curving his body around hers, "we can go to sleep now, baby girl."

She squeezes his forearms, turning her head slightly to tell him, "Thank you, Finn."

"For what, love?"

Releasing a soft sigh, she answers, "Being you."


His fingers slide over her skin, strumming a mute symphony across her rib cage as sunlight flickers into their bedroom. He smiles slightly and leans forward, pressing his lips against hers softly, smiling as he feels her respond. "Wake up," he murmurs, brushing his nose against hers when they break apart.

"No," she mumbles, resting her head against his shoulder and sighing tiredly.

"Baby girl," he whispers, breath warm against her forehead, "please. I have—I have something important to ask you."

With a loud grunt, she responds, "Let me wake up real quick, then." She stretches, bending forward and backward, and leaning against the pillows, eyes slipping shut—all a part of her morning ritual, apparently. In their year and a half on the west coast, spent living together, he's learned about every one of her idiosyncrasies, from her asinine morning habits to her organizational strategies.

Naturally, he's fallen more and more in love with her as each day folds into the next, and it doesn't surprise him that he finds himself here. "What do you say—darling, I love you. How d'ya feel about marrying me?"

Her eyes pop open, big and brown, and her surprised lips fall into a small, sweet smile, as she leans forward and hugs him tightly, wet kiss placed on his ear, whispers, "Yes."


The wooden stairs creak slightly beneath his feet, trying to keep quiet, but failing, of course, as a little body shoots out of the house and at his legs. Laughing, he scoops up his daughter, little Ellie Hudson swung into his arms. She babbles incoherently, a mixture of daddy and mommy, the only words she truly knows.

"Hi, honey," he murmurs, kissing her honey-toned nose and placing her on her feet. "Lead me to Mama."

He smiles as he walks through the house, air thick with summer's growing humidity. He hears Rachel's voice, singing sweetly from the porch, and doesn't need Ellie to lead him to find her—he's found her all on his own, after all. Regardless, he keeps his hand firmly in his daughter's as she toddles clumsily through the screen door.

His arms wind around her waist, lips pressing against hers briefly. "Hi, Rachel," he says as Ellie tugs at his pant leg, begging to be picked up. "I missed you girls today."

"We missed you, too," Rachel assures, running her hand through Ellie's light brown hair. "Finn, please let me help you with the school. I miss giving voice lessons. Just…send some students here once a week?"

She's begging, she knows, but she misses the instruction she was allotted at the school for performing arts she and Finn opened just a year into their marriage—a wildly successful school, now. And she misses singing for instruction, not just for bedtime and naptime and playtime—she wants to be told she's good, quite frankly, and an eighteen month old just isn't cutting it these days. Finn shifts Ellie in his arms, brow furrowing momentarily.

Finn sighs, squeezing her hip with his free hand, "You really want to?" She nods, and he kisses her nose. ""Of course then. If it makes you happy, Rachel, I'm happy."

Her voice erupts from her throat in a loud squeal, arms tossing over his neck in an excited embrace. Smacking her lips against his cheek, she exclaims, "Oh, Finn, I love you so."

He smiles slightly, places Ellie on the ground, and tugs Rachel flush against him, "From the very first day?"

"From the very first day."

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