this is an AU fic based loosely on the Bing Crosby film 'Holiday Inn' set in the 1940s for Jess. Merry Christmas! :)
also dedicated to Mary Gael because I told her I'd dedicate all of these to her xoxo

All mistakes are mine.
Title is from the song "Unsafe Safe" by The Hush Sound


no, you won't disarm my heart

i.

Finn Hudson's only twenty-five, and he's already ready to retire.

"You can't just pack up and leave," Jesse St. James, his business partner, protests. "You have a career here – a great one! Do you know how far we've come already, singin' and dancin' our way to the top? And you're going to just throw all that away?"

Finn shrugs. "I was never too much about the flashy costumes and the bright lights," he admits. "Plus, now I have Quinn, and a nice farm in Ohio, and I figure we can settle down. Start a family."

Jesse wrinkles his nose. "And that's what you really want?"

Finn smiles. "It really is."

Jesse sighs. "Well, if you're so sure… But is it what Quinn wants as well? Does she want to pack up and leave show business?"

Finn hesitates. "I – I'm sure she does," he says finally. "'S what she said, anyway."

Jesse just nods, pursing his lips. "Right. Well, best of luck to the both of you."

"Thanks, man," Finn says, clapping him on the back. "You're a good friend, you know."

Jesse smirks. "I know."

Except it turns out that Jesse's not a good friend at all.


ii.

Quinn doesn't even tell him that she's leaving him face to face.

He finds a note on his dressing room mirror after his final show, a note that says she's not going to Ohio with him, but she's staying here instead.

With Jesse. Her fiancé.

He swears that it was just yesterday she was marrying him instead.

"I'm sorry, Finn." He spins around to face Will, his and Jesse's manager, a sympathetic frown on his face. "She wanted to tell you in person, but she wasn't sure how you'd take it."

He shakes his head, looking up at the ceiling. "This fucking sucks," he groans, looking back at Will. "Did you – did you know about this? Jesse and Quinn?"

Will frowns. "I'm sorry," he says apologetically.

Finn wants to hit something.

His girl left him for his best friend, and now he's bound for Ohio alone. Isn't that fucking peachy?


iii.

The farmhouse he's bought needs more than just a little fixing up. The shutters are practically hanging off the windows, the porch has several missing planks, and the door is basically hanging off its hinges.

Finn thinks it looks more like home than anywhere else he's been.

He learns how to milk the cows in the barn (the hard way, dodging a few well-aimed kicks), gets up at the crack of dawn every day, and he doesn't regret leaving Hollywood, not really.

He doesn't really feel like this is what he's meant to do either, though.

The idea hits him on a cold Tuesday in October, when he's fixing the rickety shutters of the window outside his bedroom. He's not cut-out to be a farmer (that much is obvious, seeing as he's sold all of his cows but one), and nothing seems to be clicking here, not in the way he had hoped.

But he's suddenly inspired to start an inn, right here in his own home – and the best part? It'll only be open on holidays, so he'll have the rest of the time to himself.

He grins, taking a nail out of his mouth and placing it in accordance with the shutter. He just might be onto something.


iv.

Rachel Berry has been trying to make it for four years now. She's been in New York City for two, trying desperately to break into show business to no avail.

So she works in a flower shop to pay the bills.

She checks the clock for the fifth time that hour, amazed at how time seems to lag on forever.

"It's still not eight yet," Brittany, her co-worker, says in a sing-song voice beside her, arranging a vase of purple tulips.

Rachel sighs, tapping her pen against the desk. The flower shop is practically empty, and she begins to imagine what her life will be like once she finally makes it big: singing on stage every night, the audience held captivated by the power of her voice.

The bell tinkles and she's snapped out of her reverie. She glances over at the door to see a curly-haired man of about medium height walking into the shop, taking out a slip of paper as he makes a bee-line for the counter. Rachel inhales sharply through her nose.

"That's Will Schuester," Rachel breathes excitedly, nudging Brittany with her elbow.

"Who?" Brittany asks vaguely, squinting as she looks up from the tulips.

"Will Schuester," Rachel hisses again. "He's only one of the most prominent managers of talent in this town! He manages Quinn Fabray and Jesse St. James, Brittany!"

Brittany still looks confused.

"I have to wait on him," Rachel says worriedly. "He'll have to get me some sort of opportunity to make it. He's my best bet, really!" She pouts, widening her eyes at Brittany. "Please let me wait on him?"

"Sure," Brittany says cheerfully. "I'm just gonna take these tulips to the back room, okay?"

Rachel nods, smiling, and she takes in a deep breath.

"Excuse me?"

She turns to beam at Mr. Schuester, asking cheerfully, "And how may I help you, sir?"

"I need to place an order for a dozen red roses to be delivered to a Miss Quinn Fabray at McKinley's in three hours," he says, passing her a sheet of paper.

Rachel bites her lip. It seems that Mr. Schuester is in a hurry, so she might have to flip this situation so it's in her favor. "Oh, I'm sorry, I'm afraid we can't do that," she says apologetically, frowning.

"What do you mean?" Mr. Schuester asks.

"We're pretty booked tonight," Rachel lies smoothly, the way Mr. Schuester's confused stare sweeps the nearly-empty store not going unnoticed by her. "I can't promise that they'll be sure to get there in time."

"This is very important," Mr. Schuester insists, lowering his voice.

Rachel nods, and then she widens her eyes as if realizing who he is for the first time. "Why – you're Will Schuester," she says suddenly. "You manage Quinn Fabray, and that partner of hers – Jesse St. James – don't you?"

Mr. Schuester sighs, ducking his head. "Lord, here we go," he mutters.

"I'm Rachel Berry," she tells him, "and I aim to be in show business myself one of these days."

"Of course you do," he mutters. "Look, Rachel, I'm sure you're quite talented—"

"I am," she interjects.

"—But I really just need these flowers delivered—"

"I might be able to work something out," she says quickly. "I could – I could deliver the flowers myself, I could go over to the club and give them to Miss Fabray—"

"Perfect!" Will exclaims. "Yes, simply grand! Bring the flowers, and, you know what? Stay for the show as well."

"Really?" Rachel asks breathlessly. "You – you mean it?"

"Sure," he says absently. "Yes, fine. First table at the front, I'll reserve you a seat."

"Oh, thank you, Mr. Schuester, thank you!" she squeals, leaning across the counter to hug him. "You won't regret this, I promise!"

"Yes, well," he says uncomfortably, maneuvering out of her grasp, "Let's hope so." He turns to leave then, calling behind him, "Eight o'clock sharp – don't be late!"

Rachel just beams, staring at the door. "Brittany!" she calls. "I'll be leaving early this evening!"

Hopefully, sometime soon, she'll be leaving this shop forever.

She's on the cusp of fame; she can feel it.


v.

Jesse and Quinn invite him out to a show they're doing in New York at the end of November. He's so excited about his 'Holiday Inn' idea that he doesn't even feel heart-wrenching pain at the thought of them anymore, so he agrees to go (because he needs to attract talent to his hotel anyway).

He sits at a table in front of the stage, tapping his foot to the music of the band, when suddenly a dark haired girl is led to the table, her gold dress trailing the ground as she takes the seat beside him.

She looks around before placing her hands on her napkin, twirling it nervously between her fingers. She appears to be in her early twenties, around twenty-one – maybe twenty-two.

The show begins then, and Finn is tempted to say something to her, but she doesn't even look at him, just stares at the stage.

Jesse and Quinn make their entrance, traipsing around, Quinn as light on her feet as ever, her blonde hair in an elegant bun and her arms on Jesse's shoulders as he spins her around on the stage.

The girl next to him sighs, still fiddling with her napkin.

"Do you know Jesse and Quinn?" Finn asks politely, nodding to the pair twirling around on stage.

"Oh, yes," the girl replies seriously, making eye contact with him for the first time since she sat down. "Why, do you?"

He chuckles. "I do, indeed. I'm Finn Hudson. And, I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name?"

The girl looks offended, her brown eyes wide as she gives her hair a small flip. "I'm Rachel Berry," she says indignantly, but her voice shakes – just slightly.

He raises his eyebrows. "Oh, yes, of course."

She smiles a little, turning back to the pair dancing across the stage, and Finn furrows his brow, watching her carefully. She still seems a little uncomfortable despite the confidence she just displayed, fingers gripping her napkin tightly, a few droplets of sweat settling on her brow.

Almost like she's unsure. Almost like she's never been in a place like this before.

He doesn't tell her, but he's never heard of anyone named Rachel Berry in all his life. He's beginning to suspect that she might not know Quinn and Jesse at all.

He'll keep her secret though. He doesn't know why, but he feels obligated to do at least that.

The act ends shortly, Finn clapping enthusiastically for his former partner and fiancée, and Rachel Berry claps as well, chewing on her bottom lip as she anxiously scans the audience around her.

"You alright?" Finn asks over the applause.

"Oh – oh yes," she insists, her eyes still shifting uncomfortably.

He doesn't ask any more after that.

Will comes over a few seconds later, beaming as he claps Finn on the back. "You made it, Hudson!" he exclaims happily. "Thinking about coming back to the stage?"

Rachel's eyes widen as she looks between him and Will, but Finn says casually, "Nah, I don't think so. Just here to support Jesse and Quinn."

"How's the farm?" Will asks.

"Well, I'm pursuing some other interests now," Finn says instead, scratching his neck uncomfortably."

"Oh," Will says knowingly. "Well, say, why don't I just call Jesse and Quinn over here, so they can say hello!" Sure enough, he waves across the room, and Jesse smiles, leaning over to whisper in Quinn's ear before leading her to their table.

Finn glances over to see what Rachel might think of this only to find that her seat's empty. The mysterious Rachel Berry is gone.


vi.

"So you're turning your quaint little farm into an inn?" Jesse asks skeptically, his arm on the back of Quinn's chair as she inspects her nails in a bored fashion.

"Yeah," Finn says decisively. Jesse tends to undermine people and their ideas, so it's a good thing he already knows that and can effectively ignore it.

"That's cute," Jesse sneers.

"Adorable," Quinn echoes, not looking up from her nails.

(And he used to be friends with these people – wanted to marry Quinn, even?)

"I'm looking for some talent to headline at the inn," Finn presses on. "So if you run into anyone, let me know. Who knows, maybe you and Quinn could even perform for a night or two, Jesse," he adds.

Jesse laughs. He doesn't say anything else.

"I might have someone, Finn," Will says, running his fingers over his chin. "She's a plucky girl – brand new to the business. I might send her your way if she's interested."

Finn smiles at him gratefully. "That'd be great, Will. Thank you."

"Maybe we'll stop by sometime," Jesse adds breezily, his hand curling around Quinn's shoulder, his fingers brushing the sleeve of her dress.

Finn clenches his jaw, nodding curtly. The wound's not as fresh as it was, but it's still there.

He's not too worried though. He knows Jesse's lying anyway. There's no way he'd leave New York to come to middle-of-nowhere-Ohio, not even for a visit.

"Yes, it would be lovely," Quinn adds, giving him a smile that doesn't reach her eyes.

He knows she's lying too, but he just smiles in return, gulping down his glass of champagne.

He really hopes Will's serious about this girl wanting a job, otherwise his business will be done before it even begins.


vii.

It's three days before Christmas Eve, and it looks like Finn won't have the Inn open before New Year's, mainly because it seems like he won't have an act. (He supposes he could always go on instead, but he'd rather not. He came here to escape all that anyway.)

He's hanging the sign he made yesterday – bright red letters that read 'HOLIDAY INN' – trying not to slip off his ladder and into the snow when he hears the sleigh pull up. He has a nail between his teeth and another between his fingers, hammer ready to strike, and he glances behind him to see Sam – a man about his age who lives in town – blonde hair peeking out from beneath his hat, coaxing his horse to a stop right in front of the inn.

"You should really invest in an automobile," Finn calls down, smirking, as he removes the nail from his teeth.

"Nah," Sam hollers back, his tone easy and carefree. "I reckon no automobile would be as reliable as ol' Rocky here." He pats the horse affectionately on the neck, going around to the side of the sleigh. Finn assumes he's just unloading the firewood he said he'd bring from town, so he turns back to the task at hand, oblivious to the girl dismounting from the sleigh.

So he's caught off guard when he hears a high, female voice call out, "Hello? I'm looking for the owner of this inn?"

"That'd be me," he says gruffly, still facing the sign.

"Well, I'm here to be your new opening act. My name is Rachel Berry."

Finn nearly breaks his neck, he turns around so fast, and when he looks down and sees that it's actually her, he promptly falls off the ladder and into the snow.

"Are you okay?" she squeaks, glove-covered hands reaching out to help him up. She helps to dust him off, then she gasps when she gets a good look at his face. "You're – you're friends with Mr. St. James and Miss Fabray! Mr. Schuester was talking to you!"

"Yeah, I'm Finn Hudson." He smirks. "And you're the famous Rachel Berry."

She blushes, ducking her head. "Okay, so maybe that was a bit of a fib. But you didn't tell me that you were Finn Hudson – former partner of Mr. St. James himself!" She glares at him playfully, pointing an accusing finger at him.

"Alright," he laughs. "So we're both liars."

She laughs a little too, and he notices that her nose scrunches up when she laughs. The snow is sticking to her hair and eyelashes, white gleaming in contrast with dark.

"You wanna come inside?" he asks, tongue darting out to lick his chapped lips. "We can talk about the show – if you're still interested."

"Well, I didn't come all the way out to Ohio for nothing," she replies saucily, brushing past him to push open the door and sidle into the inn.

He's torn between annoyance and amusement, so he simply follows her inside, Sam and the wood in the sleigh forgotten.

"This is very quaint," Rachel says knowingly as she removes her gloves, glancing around the inn. "Very cozy and home-like." She turns around to give Finn a smile. "You've done a nice job on the place."

"Thanks," Finn says, smiling in return. "I did it myself, actually."

Rachel raises her eyebrows. "Impressive, Mr. Hudson."

"Please, call me Finn," he insists.

"Alright, Finn," she says with a smirk.

They stare at each other for a second, and he notices how perfect her eyes are: dark brown, large, and so, so warm.

They hear a lot of shuffling and stomping, and Sam comes into the inn, huffing and puffing as he drags Rachel's suitcase inside. "Where do you want it?" he asks, wheezing against the doorframe.

Rachel stares at expectantly at Finn, and he remembers that, oh, right, she needs a place to stay.

"First door on your left when you go up the stairs," he says quickly. "That's where Rachel'll be staying."

Sam nods and begins to drag the suitcase in the direction of the stairs.

"So I have the job?" she asks, beaming at him. "You haven't even heard me sing!"

"I'll listen to you later," he promises. "But if Will recommended you, I'm sure you'll be fine. 'S not like I have anyone else anyway."

She launches herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck, and he staggers, caught offguard.

"Thank you so, so much, Finn!" she squeals, pressing a chaste kiss to his cheek before she lets him go. "You won't regret this, I promise!"

She squeals once more, then races toward the stairs, trailing after Sam as he lugs her suitcase to her room.

Finn raises his hand and presses his fingers to his cheek, where Rachel's lips had been seconds before. He can't help but think that they were exceptionally warm, even though she had just been out in the cold.

He thinks that Rachel Berry might just be what this inn needs – and maybe even what he needs as well. She's a little sunshine and a little warmth, and he thinks she'll be a perfect fit.


viii.

Rachel can sing – like really sing. The second she opens her mouth with a lovely rendition of 'White Christmas,' her voice cuts right through him like a knife, and he can't explain it, but his heartbeat speeds up and his pulse quickens and he can't look away. He just sits at the piano – not even playing, really – and stares at her, mouth open.

She blushes when she's finished. "Well?" she asks. "What did you think? Am I hired?"

Finn nods mutely. He clears his throat. "You were – that was…"

She giggles.

"That was good," he finishes lamely. "And, uh, welcome to the staff."

She beams. "So when do I meet everyone else?"

"When I hire them," he says breezily.

She gapes at him. "New Year's Eve is ten days!"

He nods. "Sam's already agreed to drive people over from town, and he said he'd convince some others to help with cooking and serving food and stuff like that, so I think it'll all come together."

Rachel raises an eyebrow.

"It'll all work out," he promises. "You'll see."


ix.

He has to admit that he's a little surprised when it actually does all work out. Sam helps him recruit a couple of waitresses –a brunette named Santana and an Asian girl named Tina – as well as Mercedes, a sassy black woman who agrees to assist with the cooking. He talks Noah (who likes to be called Puck) and Mike (who's engaged to Tina) into helping out as well, and he figures that he has enough people for the small crowd he's expecting to draw in for their opening night.

It's kind of a shock then when the inn ends up being packed, every table full.

Finn takes a deep breath, scanning the crowd, and he checks the clock. They have ten minutes until show time. He glances around and doesn't see Rachel anywhere. In fact, he doesn't think he's seen her all night.

He climbs the stairs and comes to a stop right before her room.

"Rach?" he calls softly, knocking. "Can I come in?"

He hears a muffled thump, then she calls, "Yes!"

He pushes open the door to see her standing in a floor length gold dress, biting her lip as she looks over her shoulder, studying her reflection in the mirror. His breath hitches in his throat. "Wow," he says softly.

She blushes, turning to look at him. "I – I don't know if I can do this, Finn!"

He stares at her in disbelief. If Rachel doesn't go on he's screwed. "C'mon, Rach," he says, his voice breaking. "You – you just have preshow jitters. You'll be amazing, I know it!"

She bites her lip again, her fingers combing through her hair. "You really think so? I – I mean I know I'm good… It's just… This is my first real show, did you know?"

He just shakes his head, biting back a smile.

"What if I disappoint everyone?" she asks in a small voice, looking at the floor.

"Hey," Finn says softly, taking a step toward her. "You'll be great, Rachel. I've heard you sing – I know you'll blow everyone out there away." She looks up at him, eyes shining. "And I'll be right there with you, okay? If anything were to go wrong – which it won't," he adds hastily, "then I'll be right there to carry you through."

Her lips quirk up into a smile. "You promise?"

"I promise," he vows.

She squeals, rushing toward him and suddenly her arms are wrapping around him, her head leaning against his chest. Naturally, his arms curl around her, drawing her to him. He can't help but breathe in the scent of her shampoo, and his stomach flutters because she's so close and there.

After a few seconds, she pulls away, and he reluctantly loosens his hold on her. He's only known her for a few days, and he's already grown attached to her – in an extremely dangerous way. She looks at him for a second, and he stares back. He thinks she's going to kiss him for a second – he wants her to kiss him for a second – but then she looks away as she steps around him.

He lets out a breath he didn't even know he was holding.

She turns back and stretches out her hand, cocking her head to the side. "Ready for showtime?" she asks with a grin.

He smiles back, taking her hand. "Ready, Miss Berry. How about you?"

"Ready," she affirms. She grips his hand in her own as she leads him into the hallway.


x.

The show goes really well, just like he knew it would. Rachel is phenomenal, shining on stage like the star she's meant to be. She smiles and floats just like she's meant to across the tiny stage, her voice wafting over the audience, so big for a person so small.

She catches his eye as he talks to a few of the guests, grinning widely as she struts around the stage. He can't help but smile back.

He feels a hand on his shoulder then, and he turns around to see the familiar face of Will Schuester looking at him worriedly. "Have you seen Jesse?" he says over the sound of the band, looking around the dining area anxiously.

Finn furrows his brow. "Jesse?" he asks in confusion. "Why would Jesse be here?"

Will swallows uncomfortably. "He – He got some bad news this afternoon. Quinn left him for some millionaire in Texas. He found the letter a few hours ago, and then he scribbled a note about comin' out here to Ohio to see you. He also seems to have cleared out his liquor cabinet…"

Finn sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. A drunk Jesse St. James is literally the last thing he needs to deal with at this point. The show's been going perfectly, so it figures a situation like this would arise.

"Have you seen him?" Will presses again.

Finn's about to reply that he hasn't and he really hopes he doesn't because that jackass kind of deserves what Quinn did to him when he hears the band suddenly change the tempo of the song they'd been playing. And he realizes that Rachel's stopped singing.

Will is oblivious to all of this. "I'll go check the kitchen," he says decisively, and Finn barely notices when he slips through the crowd and through a door on the side of the room.

He slowly turns around and looks over at the stage to see Rachel smiling nervously as a man with dark curly hair takes her hands, leading her onto the floor.

Finn's hands clench into fists subconsciously at his sides. Jesse St. James is here after all. He makes to go separate him from Rachel when he stops. Rachel's taking all this in stride, her body adjusting to an exquisite ballroom frame easily, and she smiles at the crowd, acting like this is all part of the show.

He bites back a smile. She's good, really good.

Jesse stumbles a bit, an arm going to Rachel's waist, but Rachel quickly hoists him up, leading him across the dance floor. She's light on her feet and clearly has some idea of what she's doing, keeping her head high and smiling as she steers both herself and the intoxicated Jesse. Jesse manages to still be a better than average dancer (something Finn could never achieve) even though his posture is less than great and he keeps leaning on Rachel for support.

Rachel laughs a little uncomfortably as Jesse stumbles over his feet once more, and Finn figures it's time to end the show for the night. He quickly crosses over to where the music director – Brad – is sitting at the piano, leaning down to say something in his ear. Brad gives a nod of understanding and draws the number to a close.

"Thank you so much for coming," Finn says loudly, hooking an arm under Jesse's, supporting him between him and Rachel. "Happy New Year and Happy Holidays! We hope to see you on Lincoln's birthday!"

There are cheers and claps and the scraping of chairs against the wood floor as people begin to stand up and collect their things.

"Worst fucking day ever," Jesse complains loudly from between Finn and Rachel, his head rolling slightly.

"I heard," Finn mutters, looking over at Rachel. Her brow furrows in confusion.

"I really loved Quinn, you know?" Jesse continues, slurring his words a bit. "I really loved her, but she – I guess she didn't return the sentiment."

They reach the stairs when Jesse turns to Finn, gripping his arm firmly. "You loved her too," he says slowly, his eyes wide.

Finn swallows uncomfortably. "At – at one point I s'pose I did."

"I am so sorry," Jesse says earnestly. "You probably felt like shit."

Finn sighs.

"So, so sorry," Jesse repeats.

Rachel just looks at him, her head tilted to the side, studying Finn intently.

"C'mon, buddy," he mutters. "Let's get you to bed, alright? We can chat more in the morning."

Jesse just nods, letting Finn and Rachel help him up the stairs. Finn shoots a sideways glance in Rachel's direction, and she's already looking at him, her gaze questioning.

He knows he'll have to tell her about how he ended up in Ohio in the first place. He's not looking forward to it, but he has to.


xi.

"So," Rachel says once Finn closes the door to the room Jesse's staying in. "What was that all about? Wasn't that Jesse St. James? I mean he was clearly under the influence of alcohol, but what was he talking about – all that stuff about Quinn?"

Finn sighs, his hand brushing his face. "According to Will, Quinn left Jesse this morning."

Rachel gasps.

"She told him in a letter. Guess she went and married some millionaire."

"What a horrible thing to do!" Rachel exclaims. "Poor Jesse."

Finn frowns, a muscle in his cheek twitching. "Yeah, poor bastard," he mutters.

Rachel's face softens, and she touches his arm lightly. "What – what did Jesse mean when he said he was sorry?"

Finn just looks at her, his eyes tired and a frown still on his face.

"You don't have to say if you don't want to," she says quickly, lowering her gaze. "I mean, it's none of my business anyway –"

"I came to Ohio to get away from the flashiness of show business," he begins. Rachel's eyes snap back up to his face. "And – and Quinn was coming with me. We were gonna get married, start a family – it's what we both wanted." He lets out a deep sigh. "Or so I thought. The day I was all set to move out here – bags packed, tickets booked – I get a letter from Quinn, saying she doesn't want any of this at all." He swallows. "Saying she's marrying Jesse instead."

"Oh, Finn," Rachel says softly, grabbing his hand and squeezing it. "That's so awful."

He just shakes his head. Her hand is soft and light in his, and he squeezes back after a second, giving her a small smile. "It's really not so bad anymore," he tells her. "I – I hadn't really thought about her or – or what she did up until… well, up until Jesse showed up."

"Quinn Fabray sounds like a harlot," Rachel says matter-of-factly.

Finn snorts. He looks at Rachel for a second, and she looks back at him. He's suddenly conscious of her hand in his more than he was before, and his heart starts to pound. He kind of wants to lean down and press a soft kiss to her lips, but she looks away, slowly extracting her hand from his.

"You were amazing tonight," he says instead.

She blushes, ducking her head.

"You were," he says earnestly. "You sounded phenomenal, and when Jesse was dancing with you, you didn't miss a beat."

"You weren't too bad yourself," Rachel replies, referring to the few numbers he performed on stage. "But I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from the grand Mr. Hudson."

He laughs as she winks at him, and he shakes his head. "That was quite a crowd we had, hmm?"

"It was!" she replies, her eyes lighting up. "I've never seen so many people in one room, not even at Mr. St. James and Miss Fabray's show!"

He smiles at her. "Well, you were great," he says again.

"You've already said that," she says with a laugh.

He just shrugs. "It's true, you know."

She bites her lip, swaying slightly back and forth. After a few moments, she says, "Well, I suppose I should turn in for the night."

Finn smiles at her. "Yeah, yeah, me, too."

She turns and heads down the hall to her room. She stops outside her door, turning to call back, "Sweet dreams, Finn!"

He bites back a grin. "You, too, Rach."

She makes to go inside, then she stops once more. "Oh, and Finn?"

He raises his eyebrows.

"Happy New Year."

He doesn't miss the way her smile grows before she ducks inside her room.

"Happy New Year to you, too, Rachel," he mutters, heading downstairs to his own room. "Happy New Year indeed."


xii.

Will's already in Jesse's room when Finn enters, having already sent Rachel to town for the day with Sam so she can do a little shopping and send a letter home.

"You were great!" Will shouts excitedly, clapping Finn on the back as soon as he walks in the door. "Setting Jesse up with a new partner to cheer him up!"

"Volume," Jesse croaks from the bed, covering his ears. His eyes still have bags under them as he glares at Will. "And the fuck are you talking about?"

"You were brilliant!" Will says jubilantly, choosing to ignore Jesse's request for less shouting. "You were twirling around the dance floor with the girl like you'd been dancing together for ages!"

"What girl?" Jesse asks.

"You don't remember?" Will asks, looking crestfallen.

Jesse shakes his head. "The last thing I remember… I read Quinn's letter. And I punched a hole in the wall. Then I took the bottle of sherry… And I decided I'd pay Hudson a visit." He shrugs, looking over at Finn. "That's the last of it. Guess I made it here though."

"Finn!" Will cries instead, turning to him. "Surely you saw the mystery girl, didn't you?"

Finn's eyes widen. He doesn't know why, but he has a bad feeling about this. He sees flashes of Quinn and Jesse, Jesse's arm around Quinn, Jesse smirking at Quinn, Jesse and Quinn and his heart breaking all over again in his mind. So he swallows, and he decides to lie. "Wh – me? No, no, I was busy looking for Jesse like you said! I went outside, looked around the stables. Why, didn't you see her?"

Will sighs. "Well, no, I just heard everyone talking about it – how magnificent it was. How it was marvelous that Jesse St. James had made a surprise visit and decided to showcase his new act at the inn!"

"We were that good?" Jesse asks, eyebrow raised.

Will nods. "And now we have no idea who this girl is or where we could find her."

Jesse sighs, slumping back against the pillows.

"Tough luck," Finn says nonchalantly, making to head back out the door. "But you'll find another girl, Jesse, you always do—"

"Wait!" Jesse exclaims, wincing after his outburst and holding his head.

"What?" Finn asks.

"She'll be back at the inn, won't she? The girl?"

"I – I don't know," Finn says quickly. "There were a lot of people here last night, and maybe she was from out of town—"

"No, no," Will says quickly. "Jesse may be on to something. Surely she'll be drawn to come back – we'll just have to come to the next show. Jesse's booked throughout January, but your next show will be on what, Lincoln's birthday?"

Reluctantly, Finn nods.

"We'll be here," Jesse says decisively.

Finn sighs. "Great," he says, not able to help the sarcasm that seeps into his voice. Luckily, it goes unnoticed by Jesse and Will, who are already discussing their plan to find a girl they know absolutely nothing about.

"I'm sure I'll remember her if I dance with her again," Jesse says confidently.

Will nods. "We'll find her, Jess, I know we will."

Finn bites his tongue. He sincerely hopes they never figure that the girl they're looking for is actually Rachel, and that she's currently staying at the inn.


xiii.

January is a not only an opportunity to get ready for the next show but also a chance to get to know Rachel even better. He finds out that she doesn't have a mom – just a single dad – and that she grew up in New Jersey. He discovers that she's been singing since the day she was born practically, and she even tells him about how she managed to talk Will into letting her deliver Quinn's flowers and stay for the show on the night they met.

"I had no idea who you were!" she laughs, her fingers brushing against his shoulder as she leans into him as they walk up the path to the inn. Her nose and cheeks are red from the cold, but she's beaming up at him.

He smiles back at her, his heart pounding when she snuggles closer to him.

He's only known her for a little less than a month, and he thinks he might be falling in love with her.

"I had no idea who you were, either," he finds himself saying, bumping her with his hip lightly.

She laughs, the sound echoing across the snowy yard. He thinks it's quickly becoming one of his favorite sounds in the world.

"Well, I mean I wouldn't have pretended to be famous if I knew you actually were," she points out, still giggling.

He just shakes his head, helping her up the stairs and inside. "Everyone will know your name one day, you know," he says once they get out of the cold.

She looks over at him, peeling her coat off, the fabric sliding down her arms. "You think so?" she asks.

He nods. "I really do."

"Thank you, Finn," she says quietly. "No one's ever believed in me the way you do before."

He ducks his head to hide the smile that tugs at his lips. "I should be the one thanking you," he says.

"For what?" she asks.

He looks back up at her. "For reminding me that I'm worth something, that I can still accomplish stuff and… and that maybe this is my calling, being here with you at this old farmhouse in Ohio."

Rachel grins at him, pink tinting her cheeks. "You're really talented, Finn," she says. "Maybe one day you'll believe it." She walks into the kitchen then, leaving him standing in the lobby, wondering how she can have so much faith in him when he's just this broken man who's basically been running away from his problems.

He thinks she might be helping him face them, though. He thinks she might be able to put the pieces back together.


xiv.

His mother, stepfather, and stepbrother pay the inn a visit at the end of January. Finn tells Rachel they'll be coming the day before, and she looks at him with wide eyes.

"Will I need to head to town for the day?" she asks. "Because I'm sure I can find some things to do…"

"No, no," he says quickly. "It's fine. I – I want you meet them. My mom already knows all about you anyway."

"She does?" Rachel asks, cocking an eyebrow. "What have you said about me, exactly?"

He shoots her a dimpled grin. "The best things, of course."

Rachel just smiles and shakes her head, and Finn can tell she's still nervous at the prospect of meeting his family.

"They'll love you," he tells her confidently. Like I do, he adds mentally, but he doesn't say it out loud. He knows he does, because every time he sees her, his heart swells and his palms grow sweaty and he really just wants to cup her face and kiss her, but he's not sure how she would feel about that, so he keeps his feelings inside.

"I sure hope you're right," Rachel murmurs.

"I am," he tells her confidently.

And he is. When his mom walks in the door the next morning, she hugs and kisses her son on the cheek, immediately asking where Rachel is. Rachel peeks shyly around the kitchen door only to be immediately engulfed into a hug, her cheeks turning pink as she smiles and hugs Finn's mother back.

"I feel like I know you already!" his mother gushes. "I'm Carole, and you must be Rachel!"

Rachel nods, squeaking out an "It's nice to meet you!" before Carole hugs her again.

Burt and Kurt (his stepfather and stepbrother, respectively) come in then, dragging suitcases behind them, Kurt looking quite disheveled from the wind.

"You just had to literally move to the middle of nowhere," Kurt says exasperatedly. "Visiting you in New York was definitely more enjoyable."

"Kurt!" Carole chastises, giving him a reproving look.

Kurt ignores her.

"This is my stepfather, Burt, and my stepbrother, Kurt," Finn says, gesturing between Rachel and the two men. "Burt, Kurt, this is Rachel. She works here with me."

Burt raises his eyebrows, but he simply says, "It's nice to meet you, Rachel. You like it here alright?"

"Oh, yes," Rachel says quickly. She shoots a glance at Finn. "I like it here very much."

Finn tries not to smile too widely.

Burt just nods, looking between the two of them, before asking, "Hey, Finn, mind helping me haul these upstairs? You can remind me which room we're stayin' in."

"Sure," Finn says quickly, helping his stepfather with the suitcases left abandoned by Kurt, who's already asking Rachel about why on earth she would move here from New York City.

"It's quite charming, actually," Rachel's saying, and Finn can't help the smile that appears on his face as he takes the suitcases up the stairs.


xv.

"She's a wonderful girl," Carole says warmly the next night. She and Finn are in the kitchen, Rachel and Kurt loudly discussing their favorite Broadway plays in the dining hall, their voices audible even though a wall separates them.

"She's wonderful alright," Finn agrees.

His mom gives him a smile. "She's perfect for you, Finny."

He blushes, ducking his head. "Oh, it's not like that, Mom, we're just—"

"Friends?" she supplies.

Finn smiles.

"You like her a lot, don't you?" his mom asks gently.

"I – yeah," he admits. "I actually – I actually think I might love her." It's the first time he's said that out loud, and it feels rather freeing.

His mom's smile widens. "And how does she feel?" she asks, her eyes bright.

Finn sighs. "No idea."

"I think the feeling's mutual," his mother says, leaning over to pat his hand.

He rolls his eyes. "You're supposed to say that. Plus she, like, works for me, so… I really doubt she'd let herself feel that way about me."

"Sometimes we don't get to choose who we feel that way for, regardless of the situation," Carole points out. "In fact, we rarely do, if ever. If you love her, Finn, you have to tell her."

Finn looks over at his mother, a sad smile on his face. "I don't want to ruin anything or make things awkward because we are friends, first and foremost. And I like having her here. I don't want to ruin that."

Carole nods in acceptance. "Well, it's up to you. But if you do tell her, I think you might be pleasantly surprised by her response."

"I'll keep that in mind," Finn promises.

Just then, the kitchen door swings open, Kurt marching in, followed by a distraught-looking Rachel.

"Where is the nearest shopping area?" Kurt demands.

Finn looks between Kurt and Rachel in confusion. "Either Fort Wayne or Columbus. Why?"

"Have you seen Rachel's attire?" Kurt asks incredulously.

"Yeah," Finn says slowly.

"It's a disaster! She's wearing a sweater with a penguin on it, Finn!"

"I like her sweaters," he admits.

Rachel beams at him, and his heart skips a beat. "Thank you," she says.

Kurt sighs. "You're impossible." He turns back to Rachel. "The next time I visit, we're going shopping. And that's final."

Finn's heart pounds at the thought of a next time, and he knows his mom is right. If he really does love Rachel (and he does), he has to tell her how he feels. Because he's starting to suspect he'd really like to spend the rest of his life with her.


xvi.

His family leaves the next day, promising to keep in touch and come back to visit sometime soon. Rachel tears up a little bit when they leave, and Kurt will deny it later, but he does as well. A tear runs down her cheek as she shuts the door behind them, and she looks over at Finn with a small sigh.

"Your family is lovely," she says quietly.

"Yeah," he replies. "They're pretty great."

They stand there for a second, and he realizes that since he's admitted that he's in love with Rachel, he doesn't quite know how to act when he's alone with her.

"It's a little chilly," Rachel says, rubbing her hands up and down her arms.

"We should go sit by the fire," Finn blurts out.

She nods, biting her lip as she smiles lightly. "Yes, okay."

He reaches over to instinctively grab her hand as they head into the dining area together, sitting at the table closest to the fire. She doesn't seem to mind his fingers in hers, and he marvels at how natural it feels. Like her hand was literally made for his.

Finn swallows, and Rachel surveys him carefully as she sits down beside him. She doesn't let go of his hand.

"Finn?" she asks. "Is… is something bothering you?"

He licks his lips – because suddenly they're extremely dry – and he clears his throat. "Rachel, I – I've got somethin' to say."

She keeps looking at him, her brow furrowed in confusion. "O – Okay," she says hesitantly.

"I – My mom really loved you, you know."

She laughs. "I really loved her, too. I loved your whole family – Carole, Burt, and even Kurt. Kurt most of all, maybe." Her eyes sparkle, but then she frowns. "Is – is that what you wanted to tell me? That your family loved me?"

"Well, sort of," he manages to get out. "It's just – it's really important to me that they love you, because I…" He takes a deep breath in, and his thumb rubs the back of her hand. "I know it's only been a month since I met you, but you're special, Rach."

She blushes, looking down at their hands, and he reaches over to tilt her chin up with his fingers. "You are," he insists. "And whether you know it or not, you've already changed my life forever."

"Finn…" she whispers, but he just shakes his head.

"Look, what I'm tryin' to say Rachel is that… I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you."

Rachel gapes at him, her mouth falling open a little bit. "What?" she squeaks out.

"I'm in love with you," he says again, clutching her hand in his. "I know it's sudden, and I don't want to make things awkward between us. You don't have to say anything if you don't want to – and in fact we can just pretend this never happened if that's what you really want – but I just thought that you should know. Because I love you, Rach. I do."

She just stares at him, her lips parted, shallow breaths escaping them.

"Please say something," he begs.

"You love me," she says slowly. "You love me."

"I – I know it's not ideal—" He's cut off when she leans across the table to press her lips against his, her grip on his hand tightening considerably as her other hand cups his face. She tastes like strawberries and her lips are full and soft beneath his, and he moves his other hand to place it on the back of her neck, pressing her closer against him. He never wants to lose this feeling because he's pretty sure it's the first time he's ever felt this whole.

She pulls away after a few seconds, her hand still resting on her cheek. Her breathing is shallow and her eyes are bright. Her tongue darts out to wet her swollen lips. He brushes a strand of hair out of her face. "You love me," she marvels again.

"I love you," he confirms.

She leans in to kiss him again, whispering, "I love you, too," against his lips.

He kisses her back exhuberantly, his hands pressing against her back to get her as close to him as possible. She smiles into the kiss, and he feels himself smile as well. He didn't know it was possible to feel this happy.

His mom is a really smart woman, and he'll have to thank her the next time she visits.

Rachel tongue darts into his mouth, and he stops thinking altogether.


xvii.

He really likes being able to kiss Rachel whenever he wants. He kisses her when he comes downstairs to see she's making breakfast in the morning. He kisses her after she finishes practicing for their quickly approaching show on Lincoln's birthday. He even kisses her in front of Sam once when he drives them into town. Sam just smirks, saying it's nothing he didn't expect.

Rachel blushes, burying her face in Finn's shoulder, but he just smiles and presses his lips to her forehead.

The thought of Jesse coming back is still in the back of his mind, but he just hugs Rachel closer to him.

She loves him. She won't leave if Jesse realizes she's the girl that danced with him. She won't.

He hopes that if he tells himself that enough times, he'll believe it.

"What is it?" Rachel asks, looking up at him in concern.

He shakes his head, putting on a smile. "Nothing, I… I just really love you."

She smiles, soft and slow, then she reaches up to press her lips against his.

Lincoln's Birthday is fast approaching, but he just needs to believe that, no matter what happens, he'll still get Rachel.

He can't lose Rachel to Jesse, not after Quinn. He doesn't think he could take it.


xviii.

The Lincoln's Birthday show actually goes off without a hitch. Finn doesn't see any sign of Will or Jesse, although he's constantly on alert, and Rachel keeps sending him flirty smiles across the room, blowing him a kiss at the end of her last number.

His heart swells, and he stops worrying about Jesse and Will altogether.

"That went well," Rachel grins once they say goodbye to the guests, the last of the stragglers exiting the dining room.

Finn reaches over to take her hand, rubbing the back of it with his thumb. "I think so, too," he admits with a small smile.

She leans into him, resting her head on his arm, and he wraps his arm around her shoulders so she's leaning into his side instead.

"I love it here," Rachel says serenely, peaking up at him from beneath her eyelashes. "I lover performing at the inn, here with you, and I love… just spending time with you."

Finn smiles, pressing a kiss to her hair.

"I love you," she finishes. "I – I really do, Finn. And it's crazy, because we've only known each for a few months, really, but…" She sighs contentedly.

"I love you, too," he mutters against her hair.

He feels at peace for the first time, and he thinks that even if Jesse does show up, he and Rachel will be okay. They love each other, and she likes it here, so she won't go anywhere, right?

No matter how tempting the bright lights of the city and fame may be.

Finn's happy, too happy, so it figures that it doesn't last long.


xix.

The Valentine's Day show is two days later, and Finn prepares a special song for Rachel. He shows her that afternoon, placing the sheet music on the piano before grinning at her, taking her hand as they sit together on the bench.

"I've never had a song written for me before," Rachel says shyly, a blush coloring her cheeks. Finn doesn't think he's ever seen her shy before. It's kind of nice, he thinks. "What's it called?"

He smiles, a slow, crooked grin. "'Be My Valentine,'" he answers.

She beams, kissing his cheek as he begins to play, his fingers gliding over the keys. He sings to her softly, his voice low but powerful. She smiles and sways next to him, getting up, putting her hands on his shoulders. He looks up at her as she dances a little further off, spinning around, dancing with an invisible partner.

He goes back to the music, playing his song for his girl, oblivious to the other presence that is now in the room. He finishes with a flourish, turning around to beam at Rachel, to see that she's not looking at him at all.

Instead, she's looking up into the face of Jesse St. James.

Finn's stomach drops.

Rachel finally looks over at him, her cheeks reddening as she takes a step back from Jesse, a small smile on her face.

"You're her," Jesse says, smiling. "I've been looking for you. Finn, you found her!"

Finn just frowns.

"What?" Rachel asks, eyes flitting between him and Jesse. "I – I'm sorry, I don't understand—"

"I danced with you on New Years' Eve," Jesse says excitedly.

"You – you did," Rachel admits. "But—"

"We have amazing chemistry," Jesse continues. "And I think you know that."

Rachel bites her lip, smoothing back her hair shyly. "Well, I—"

"Any luck?" Finn turns to see Will entering the room, adjusting the lapels of his suit.

"I found her!" Jesse repeats, reaching out to take Rachel's hand. Finn wants to clock him, but he settles for curling his fingers into a fist instead.

"This is her?" Will asks, his jaw dropping in disbelief.

"Hello, Mr. Schuester," Rachel says coolly.

"Hi, Miss, er—"

"Berry," Finn supplies. "Rachel Berry."

Rachel shoots him a grateful smile.

"Well, Miss Berry, how would you like to perform in the big city?" Will asks.

"Wh – What?" Rachel squeaks. "You mean, leave the inn?"

"Well, yes," Jesse says impatiently. "You can't exactly be someone when you live in Ohio."

"Oh," Rachel says softly, and Finn doesn't miss the way her gaze lands on him. "I – I couldn't."

"What?" Jesse asks, disbelief coloring his tone.

"I couldn't leave the inn," she clarifies, but she's not looking at Jesse. She's looking at Finn, her brown eyes soft and sad.

He knows it's selfish, but he doesn't want her to go either.

She shakes her head, turning back to Will and Jesse. "I – I made a deal with Finn, and I work for him, you know. If I leave, what will become of this place?"

Jesse rolls his eyes. "Finn'll figure something out, I'm sure."

"Hey," Finn says sharply. "She said she doesn't want to go, alright?"

Jesse eyes him curiously, looking between him and Rachel. "Alright," he says finally. "I understand. She has… an obligation here. I won't force her to do anything she doesn't want to do." He turns back to Rachel. "You're very talented, though," he tells her.

She flushes, wringing her hands.

"It would be a shame if we didn't get to dance for a crowd at least once while I'm sober."

Rachel laughs, and Finn doesn't understand how she doesn't see right through Jesse's charm.

"What do you say, Hudson?" Jesse asks, turning to him. "Think you might have a spot for us?"

"Not tonight," Finn says quickly. "The show's completely booked tonight."

Rachel frowns, looking at him pleadingly.

"Is that so?" Jesse asks suspiciously.

"Yes," Finn affirms. Rachel's still looking at him with wide eyes, so he sighs, then adds, "We can probably work you into the Washington's birthday show, though."

Jesse smiles, but it doesn't quite reach his eyes.

Rachel, on the other hand, squeals in delight, wrapping her arms around Finn's neck and pressing a chaste kiss to his cheek. "Oh, thank you, Finn!" she shrieks. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"

He wraps his arms around her waste, hugging her tightly, and he looks at Jesse over the top of Rachel's head.

He's still smiling, his smile eerie and cold. It makes Finn's skin crawl, and he know he has to be on his guard.

Jesse's set his sights on Rachel, and Jesse St. James isn't one to play fair.


xx.

Jesse and Will stay at the inn for the eight days until Washington's birthday, and Finn finds himself biting his tongue to keep from exploding on his former partner and manager. Jesse keeps telling Finn how he expects the show to go, the numbers he and Rachel will perform, and the creative choices he'd like to put in the show.

Finn's one obnoxious comment away from punching him.

On top of that, Jesse insists on never giving Finn and Rachel time alone. Will seems to always be around as well, urging Jesse and Rachel to practice, and Finn usually ends up retreating to his room, because seeing Rachel in Jesse's arms literally makes his blood boil.

A knock sounds on his door. "It's open," he replies gruffly.

He hears the door open, then a voice asks, "Can I come in?"

He looks up to see Rachel, and despite the anger that's still under the surface, he smiles and nods.

"Are you okay?" Rachel asks, biting her lip.

He sighs. "I just – I hate him being here," he says quietly.

Rachel sits beside him on the bed, entwining her fingers with his, resting her head on his shoulder. "Because of what happened with Quinn?" she asks, her voice a whisper.

"Partly," he admits.

She looks up at him, her eyelashes long and fluttering. "And the other part?"

He sighs, running his thumb over the back of her hand. "I'm afraid – I'm afraid he'll do the same thing, but this time… with you."

"Oh, Finn," Rachel says quietly, reaching up with her other hand to cup his cheek, her fingers lightly tracing his skin. "That's not going to happen."

He shakes his head, looking down at his lap. "You – you can't know that."

"I can," she insists, and something in her voice makes him look back up at her. Her eyes are fierce and bright, her mouth set in a determined line. "I love you, Finn, in the be all, end all kind of way. I'm not leaving you for – for flashing lights and marquees just because one successful man decided I was worth his time." Her lips twitch, and she smiles, soft and slow, adding, "I already have my own successful man right here."

He smiles despite himself, pressing a kiss to her nose. "Thank you," he whispers. "I don't know why I've been so blessed, but someone was lookin' out for me when they sent Will Schuester to that flower shop."

She kisses him on the mouth instead, and he revels in the taste of her. He hasn't tasted her in days. She tastes like strawberries and hopeful promises and indescribably Rachel.

"I have to admit, it does feel nice, to be wanted," Rachel admits when she pulls away.

"I'll always want you," Finn tells her decisively. "Forever."

She giggles, pressing a kiss to his neck, and he hugs her to him. "I'll always want you, too," she promises. "And when I'm dancing with Jesse tomorrow night, I'll just imagine that I'm dancing with you instead."

He laughs. "I don't dance," he points out. "I'm no dancer, and I'd just trod on your feet, mess up your pretty shoes or break your toes or somethin'."

Rachel giggles again. "Regardless," she insists, "I'd still rather be dancing with you."

He grins, and he kisses her until Jesse comes barging in a few minutes later.

Rachel tries to pull away, but he keeps his hold on her hand.

Jesse looks like he's been slapped. Finn feels a sick satisfaction at his look of shock, but Jesse recovers quickly. "Didn't realize this wasn't a platonic relationship."

Finn smiles, glancing over at an ever-reddening Rachel. "Yeah, guess that didn't come up. But Rachel's… well… she's…"

"I'm his girl," she supplies quietly.

He beams at her. She's his girl. "Yeah," he confirms. "She's my girl."

Jesse narrows his eyes, looking between the two of them. "Oh," he says slowly. "I see." He clears his throat, then adds, "Rachel, I was wondering if you were available to rehearse in the dining room."

"Yes, of course," Rachel says quickly. "I'll be there in a minute."

Instead of leaving, Jesse just stands in the doorway, and Finn sighs, leaning over to kiss Rachel on the cheek. She blushes, but she squeezes his hand as she stands up to go.

Jesse gives Finn one last reproving look before they both leave, shutting the door behind them.

Finn lays back happily on his bed, knowing that for once, he has the upper hand over Jesse. And it feels good.


xxi.

Rachel feels more nervous for the Washington's birthday show than she has for any other show so far. She feels comfortably when she performs with Finn or by herself (with Finn watching from the audience), but when she performs with Jesse, she feels like she's on display. Like she's there just to make him look better. (She supposes that, in reality, she sort of is).

She puts on a smile and lets Jesse lead her around the dance floor, but her heart isn't in it. Her heart is with the man at the first table to her left, sitting next to Mr. Schuester, and he sends her a fleeting grin when she grimaces at him behind Jesse's back.

"Keep up your posture," Jesse mutters, tightening his hold on her waste as they twirl to the Baroque-like melody.

Rachel resists the urge to roll her eyes and tightens her smile instead. Finally, after what seems like hours, the music fades and the routine ends. Jesse takes a bow and Rachel curtsies (which is a little hard to do in the large, puffy, Marie Antoinette-like dress Jesse decided she should wear) before he quickly ushers her off stage and into a side room, the sound of applause still ringing in her ears.

"We were great!" Jesse says enthusiastically. "You were a little unsteady at the step-step-twirl – you wanted to step-twirl-step, I think – but I think I recovered for you quite nicely."

Rachel nods, yearning to go upstairs and change so she can go talk to the guests or sit down with Finn – anything but listen to Jesse any longer.

"You know," Jesse says, his voice softer now, his gaze lingering. "You should really reconsider my offer."

"What, leave the inn and go to New York?" she clarifies.

He nods.

"I – I can't," she says, her heart physically aching at the thought of how hurt Finn would be if she left him here and went to New York with Jesse.

"Because of Finn?" Jesse asks with a scoff. "Oh, please. Do you really think that you mean so much to him? Or are you just here because he thinks you're talented –which you are – and because you're bringing business in?"

Rachel feels her lip quiver and angry tears fill her eyes, even though she knows, deep down, that he's wrong.

"You're better than this, Rachel," Jesse says frankly. "You're better than Finn, and you're better than this small town gig. I'm giving you the chance to get out of it. I think you should seriously consider it."

She takes a deep shuddering breath, calming herself, but answering, "I don't need to consider it, Jesse. I'm staying here with Finn. It's what I want, it's what he wants, and – and that's good enough for me."

Something flits in Jesse's eye, but he just shakes his head. "At one point, you wanted to be a star, didn't you?"

She doesn't answer. She knows he's right, and part of her still wants that – desperately – but part of her wants Finn just as much.

"I just hope you realize that I'm the only person who can get you that."

And with that, he leaves.

She takes in another deep breath, wiping away a tear that slips down her cheek. She knows she's doing the right thing, the thing she truly needs to be doing, but Jesse's words resonate with her.

She shakes her head before exiting the room as well, heading upstairs to her quarters to change. Finn turns just as she passes the dining room – almost as if he could sense her – and he frowns, so she knows she still must look upset. She gives him a small smile and blows him a kiss, but his frown doesn't budge.

She tries to tell him with her eyes that she'll tell him later, and he seems to get that, she thinks. She heads upstairs then, her heart heavier than it's been in a while.


xxii.

"I'm leaving," Jesse announces the next morning.

"Well, we're leaving," Will amends.

Finn looks up from his breakfast. "So soon?" he asks, the sarcasm practically dripping from his voice.

Rachel smacks his arm. "We enjoyed having you here," she says instead.

"Yeah," Finn mutters. "We did."

Jesse smirks. "I'm sure it was an honor for you."

Finn feels his skin prickle and his hand clench into a fist before Rachel's fingers are tracing his skin in an effort to calm him.

"We'll be seeing you," Will says in farewell, leaving the room, suitcase in tow.

"Sam already out there to take you into town?" Finn asks.

Jesse nods, looking, not at Finn, but at Rachel. Finn grips Rachel's hand tightly.

"You two take care of each other," he says easily, licking his lips. "I wish you both the best."

"Thanks," Finn says gruffly. "You, too."

With a final nod, Jesse leaves, and Finn hears Rachel exhale beside him.

"I must admit, I'm kind of glad he's gone," Rachel says quietly, looking down at her porridge.

"Me, too," Finn says, giving her a half-smile.

She smiles back, kissing his cheek quickly, taking his empty bowl and heading over to the sink. "He tried to get me to go to New York with him last night again," Rachel says over the running water.

Finn's heart rate speeds up. "And you said no?"

"Well, obviously," she says with a laugh, but it sounds forced. They both know it's not a laughing matter. "I'd much rather stay at the inn here with you."

He feels guilty, because he thinks he's the reason she's staying here, but he also loves her too much to let her go, really. He's selfish.

He stands up, going to stand behind her, wrapping his arms around her from behind, kissing the top of her head. "I love you," he tells her. "I know it must've been hard for you to walk away from an offer like that, and I know it was probably for me – and it shouldn't be that way, but it is."

Rachel turns off the water, spinning his arms so she's looking up at him, one hand pressing against his chest and the other one coming up to trace his cheek. "It should be that way, though," she insists. "I'm in love with you, Finn, and – and New York wouldn't be the same without you. And the inn is more than good enough." She pauses, then she adds, "You're more than good enough."

Her hands clasp his shirt as he kisses her and, for the first, he starts to think that maybe he just might be.


xxiii.

They have a small show on St. Patrick's Day, then they have about a month and a half until Easter. He and Rachel are in a fairly happy place, walking to town more often than hitching with a ride with Sam because Spring begins to arrive, melting the snow and replacing it with blue skies and chirping birds. He just can't help but feel that there's still an invisible cloud hanging over them, one that tells him that Rachel's going to realize she made a mistake when she told Jesse she wanted to stay here.

He takes Rachel to a church service on Easter morning – even though she's Jewish and doesn't even believe in Jesus, which kind of defeats the purpose of Easter – and she seems really happy in her Easter bonnet as she smiles up at him, standing on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his cheek as they exit the church after the service.

"You look really pretty," he tells her as she grips his arm.

She beams up at him, adjusting the skirt of her purple dress. "You think so?"

"Baby, I know so," he tells her. "You're the envy of the town, you know. Everyone wants to be just like Miss Rachel Berry, or they want to know her like I do."

She laughs, ducking her head. "Well, I doubt that…"

"It's true," he insists, but he chuckles along with her. "Only I get to have you, though," he adds after a quick pause, and he's ashamed to admit that it's partly his own insecurities that make him say it.

She just smiles, however, agreeing, "Only you, Finn. For forever."

She links her hand with his, and he feels guilty that he's still not convinced.


xxiv.

Jesse shows up two days into June in a button down shirt and a pair of khaki pants with nothing but a small knapsack.

"The fuck are you doing here?" Finn asks bluntly.

"Finn!" Rachel chastises, coming up behind him and pushing him aside. "I'm so sorry for Finn's behavior, Jesse," she apologizes, sending Finn a swift glare. "I have no idea what's gotten into him." She's too busy glaring at Finn to notice the smirk that dances across Jesse's lips, but it doesn't go unnoticed by Finn.

"Oh, I'm sure he's a little on edge," Jesse says breezily. "And I suppose he has a right to be."

Finn narrows his eyes. "What do you want?" he repeats.

"A getaway," Jesse answers. Finn's still staring at him in disbelief, so he elaborates. "Sometimes I just feel so alone in that big city, you know? So I thought, 'Why not visit ol' Hud and his girl?'"

"Well, you're welcome to stay," Rachel says before Finn can tell him that he knows he's up to something and frankly needs to get lost. "For as long as you'd like," she adds pointedly, looking at Finn as if she knows what he's thinking.

"Well, thank you, Rachel," Jesse says with a smirk. "I'd like that."

Rachel looks pointedly at Finn until he sighs, adding, "Yeah, man, you know… make yourself comfortable."

"I appreciate it," Jesse laments, stepping inside, Rachel following behind to show him to his room.

Finn has a bad feeling about this, because Jesse St. James is most definitely up to something.


xxv.

It's a month before Finn figures out Jesse's plan. The inn is already filled with guests eager to see their Fourth of July show the next day, and Finn's doing his best to be accommodating and keep things in order. He heads out of the kitchen after talking to Mercedes about how many mouths she would have to feed that night – much to her chagrin – when he hears a voice coming from the small room off to the side, the one where they keep the phone.

He catches a small snippet of conversation and realizes it's Jesse, so he creeps over to the door.

"Will, I've got everything handled here," he says in a business-like manner. "Rachel and Finn have welcomed me with open arms – Rachel more than Finn, but that's to be expected, given our history. All I need for you to do is to make sure that the producers from New York will be here tomorrow. … Yes, exactly, they'll see Rachel and me perform, offer us a contract, and Rachel would be a fool to turn it down. … Yes. … Yes. … No, I don't think he'll be a problem. If he really loves her, he'll have to let her go. … So can you do it?"

Finn feels sick, and he thinks he's heard enough. Jesse's having producers come out here to see him and Rachel, and – he's right – they'll offer them a contract, and Rachel will have to accept.

He's going to lose her, and there's nothing he can do about it.

Unless…

Sam walks by then, whistling to himself, and Finn grabs his arm.

"Sam, I need you to do something for me."

"Well, sure, Finn, how can I be of service?"

Finn feels his stomach twist with guilt, but he knows he has to do this if he wants to keep Rachel, so he tells Sam his plan.


xxvi.

Sam tells her she needs to run errands with him, and even though she protests that she has a show to prepare for, he insists that she come with him.

She keeps checking her watch as he peruses the aisles of the grocery store, and she asks him a thousand times what he's looking for, but he just ignores her, continuing his search. She's beginning to suspect he's not looking for anything at all.

Finally, with an hour until showtime, he seems to give up, thrusting his hands into his pockets and telling her they can go.

"You didn't even get anything!" she shrieks incredulously, throwing her hands in the air.

Sam shrugs, but he doesn't meet her eyes as he mutters, "They didn't have what I was looking for."

They get into Sam's brand new automobile that he finally purchased in April and set off back to the inn. Rachel taps her fingers impatiently against the car door, silently willing Sam to drive faster. She's always been about punctuality, and the last thing she wants is to be late.

Sam makes an unexpected turn, and Rachel looks over at him, eyebrows raised. "Where are we going?" she asks. "This isn't the way to the inn."

"It's a – a shortcut," Sam tells her, looking at the road.

Rachel eyes him suspiciously, but she doesn't say anything else.

Suddenly, he takes another sharp turn, and now they're no longer on a road at all.

"Sam!" she shrieks.

"Shortcut to the shortcut," he explains.

She groans in frustration, wondering if Sam actually knows where he's going. Her unasked question is answered momentarily when there is a splashing sound, and Rachel looks over at Sam, a horrified expression on her face.

"Sam," she says as calmly as she possibly can. "You drove us into a lake."

"I never had this problem with the horse," he mutters, climbing out the window of the car and into the murky, waist-deep water.

"Sam!" she calls. "You can't leave me in here!"

She hears him sigh, then he wades over to her side of the car, helping her out of the window.

"Now, carry me to shore so we can catch a ride back to the inn," she demands, looping her arms around his neck and holding her skirt in her hand so it doesn't get muddy.

"Oh, I dunno," Sam says slowly. "Maybe we should wait here…"

"Don't be ridiculous," Rachel snaps. "Take me to shore this instance, Sam Evans!"

He does as he's told, but suddenly he slips, and she falls into the muddy water. She comes up sputtering. "Sam!"

"You pushed me!"

"I did not!" she shrieks. "How could I have pushed you?"

He just shrugs, and she huffs, wading to shore herself. She already looks like a mess, but she has to get to the inn. She will not miss a show. She won't.

She finally makes it to the road, and she stands alone for a few minutes, desperately hoping that someone will come along. Finally, a red convertible appears in the distance, a women behind the wheel, a scarf on her head to keep her hair in place.

Rachel sticks out her thumb, and the woman pulls over. "Need a ride?" she calls, her nose wrinkling when she notices Rachel's disheveled appearance.

Rachel nods gratefully, opening the car door and letting herself in. The woman takes off her sunglasses, and Rachel gasps. "Why, you're Quinn Fabray!"

Quinn smiles as she pulls back onto the road.

"What are you doing in Ohio?" Rachel asks.

"I'm helping out an old friend," she replies, glancing over at Rachel. "He owns an inn just outside of town, and apparently his main girl can't make it tonight, so he asked me to fill in instead. My old partner needs, well, a partner, it seems." She laughs.

Rachel feels heat rise up to her face. Finn asked Quinn to come here? And he told her she wasn't going to be there? But why?

"Where are you headed?" Quinn asks. "To Lima?"

"To the inn, actually," Rachel replies. "I'm a – a waitress."

"I see," Quinn says, eyeing her muddy outfit.

"You know," Rachel says. "If you let me drive, I know a shortcut."


xxvii.

Jesse's just finishing up his act – alone, because, while Rachel didn't show, neither did Quinn – when Finn sees Rachel, her dress all muddy and her hair in disarray. She spots him immediately, her eyes wild, and she storms over to him.

"Finn Hudson!" she shrieks, pointing a shaking finger at him. "Why would you do this to me?"

"I don't know what you're—"

"Don't play dumb with me!"

He stops, snapping his mouth shut.

"I ran into Quinn Fabray on the way out here, and she told me something very interesting."

Finn freezes. "Wait, is Quinn here?"

"No, I drove her car into a lake," Rachel says.

"You what?"

"She's fine – she's with Sam – but that's not the point!" She takes an angry breath in. "Why didn't you want me to come here tonight, Finn?" Her gaze is questioning. "I just – I don't understand."

"There you are!" They both turn to see Jesse striding toward them, two men behind him. Finn can only assume they're the producers.

"Oh, you look horrible," Jesse comments, wrinkling his nose at Rachel's appearance.

Finn wants to punch him, because despite the muck, Rachel still looks beautiful.

"Who are these men?" Rachel asks.

"Producers from Hollywood," the first man answers. "I'm Ken Tanaka, and this here is Sandy Ryerson. We want to make you and St. James here star of not only the stage, but the movie screen as well."

Rachel gapes, looking between Jesse and the men, then back at Finn. "You knew?" she asks him quietly.

He swallows thickly. "Rach, I—"

"You didn't think I deserved the chance to decide for myself if this is what I wanted?"

"Rach—"

"No, Finn!" She takes a step backward. "This wasn't your decision. It was mine. And it hurts, knowing that you didn't trust me to come to a conclusion on my own."

"I did it to protect you," he insists, looking at her pleadingly. "I did it to protect us."

"From what?" she asks incredulously. "My dreams?"

"It's – It's not like that, Rach—"

"Then what is it like, Finn?" she demands. "Please, enlighten me."

"Yes, please do," Jesse chimes in, a smirk on his face.

Finn glares at him. "Stay out of this, St. Jackass." He licks his lips, turning back to Rachel. "I – I heard Jesse saying that he was going to have these producers come here, and I – I panicked, okay? I figured you'd take this opportunity and you'd leave, Rachel. I – I didn't – I don't – want you to leave."

She just stares at him, tears filling her eyes. "How can you possibly still not trust me," she finally says, her voice broken and soft, "when I said I wasn't going anywhere. How can you possibly doubt me, still?"

A tear slips down her cheek, and he reaches out to her, saying, "Rach—"

"Don't," she says, taking another step back. "I – I don't know what to do anymore, Finn. I don't know who you are anymore."

"Rachel," he says, and his voice is breaking, but so is his heart. He thinks her heart is breaking as well.

"You can bring me the contract later, Jesse," she says, her voice hollow, her eyes still on Finn. "I need to go pack."

"Rachel!" he calls as she turns and sprints up the stairs. Then she's gone. She doesn't even look back.

He turns to Jesse. "Are you fucking happy now?" he asks. "You've successfully ruined two of my relationships. You get the girl, you get everything you ever wanted."

"Actually," Jesse points out, "you ruined this one yourself."

His words sting because Finn knows that they're the truth. "Fuck you," he says anyway.

"This may be a bad time," one of the men breaks in – Finn had forgotten they were there altogether, honestly – the one named Mr. Ryerson, he thinks – "but we'd like to discuss the possibility of getting the rights to some of your songs for the movie."

"Why?" Finn asks bluntly.

"Didn't you know?" Mr. Tanaka asks. "We're basing the movie on your Inn here."

It's another blow. Of course Jesse would have to take literally everything he loves. He's too numb to care. "Sure," he says, his voice flat. "Take it. Take the songs, take the inn, take Rachel – take everything. I don't want it anymore."

He turns and walks away then, the numbness overtaking his entire body. Somehow, he just lost everything he cared about.

He fucked up, and he can't even blame Jesse properly. He can only blame himself.


xxviii.

Rachel doesn't say goodbye to Finn. She thinks about knocking on his door and saying farewell, but she's still so angry with him, and she's still so hurt.

So she just drags her suitcase down the stairs and lets Sam take it out his horse and buggy (since the car was a little incapacitated). She stands in the lobby for a minute, looking around the inn one last time.

"You're making the right decision," Jesse says, coming up behind her and resting a hand on the small of her back.

"I'm going to miss this place," she admits quietly.

"You won't so much," he tells her. "You'll be in New York and then Los Angeles, and you'll be with me, so you won't be missing much at all."

He hesitates for a moment, then leans down and presses his lips to hers. She feels strange – she feels wrong – but then he pulls away, smiling at her.

"C'mon," he says, taking her arm. "Sam's waiting."

She takes a deep breath and lets Jesse lead her outside. She just needs to forget about Finn and forget about the inn.

If only it were that simple.


xxix.

By the end of August, Finn's shut down the inn. He breaks the news to the staff that they'll have to find other work, and Mercedes about throws a frying pan at his head. "You shouldn't've let her go, you idiot!" she screeches.

He just sighs, because doesn't she think he knows that?

He closes the end anyway, and it really hits them that he has nothing now.

He's just pathetic. He couldn't keep his fiancée, he couldn't stay in show business, he couldn't keep the girl he loved, and now he can't even run an inn.

He can't help but feel sorry for himself, even though everything is completely his fault.


xxx.

His depression still hasn't lifted by the time Thanksgiving rolls around at the end of November. He manages to show up on time to his mom's house, but he knows she can tell something's wrong.

"Finny," she says gently, touching his arm. "Are you alright? You haven't even touched your food."

"Fine, Mom," he says, giving her a tight smile. "Just tired is all."

"How?" Kurt asks incredulously, dipping himself out some mashed potatoes. "You don't even work anymore. You shut down the inn, remember?"

"Kurt," Burt warns.

"No, I am not going to sit here and listen to him feel sorry for himself!" Kurt exclaims. "Finn, do you know how Rachel's doing right now?"

He sees his mom and Burt exchange uncomfortable looks, and he has a feeling they know about what went on. Rachel's maintained a friendship with Kurt and she's probably told him everything.

"Look, I don't wanna hear about how happy she is with Jesse, alright?" Finn snaps. "I know that she's doing what she's always wanted to do. She's happy, and I'm not, and that's that, alright?"

"She's miserable," Kurt says.

Finn stares at him in disbelief. "Wh – What? But – but she has everything she ever wanted."

"Did you think that maybe her dreams changed once she fell in love with you?" Kurt asks, his voice gentler.

Finn shakes his head. "She didn't really love me, Kurt. She would've stayed if she did."

"Finn, she did. That's why you lost her in the first place – you didn't believe that her feelings toward you were real. She was tired of trying to make you see that you were the only thing that mattered to her. She left because she couldn't deal with it anymore, not because she didn't love her."

He stares at his stepbrother, trying to process all of this information. "But… she's with Jesse now…"

"And she's miserable," Kurt finishes. After a pause, he adds, "She was the happiest when she was with you."

Finn swallows, his throat tight. "She loved me," he manages to get out.

"Yes," Kurt says exasperatedly.

"Oh, God," he groans, putting his head in his hands. "I'm such an idiot."

"You really are," Kurt supplies.

"Kurt," Carole reprimands. She places a hand on Finn's back, rubbing slowly. "You still love her, don't you, Finny?"

"More than anything," he whispers.

"Then you have to show her," his mom tells him. He raises his head and looks her in the eye. "You have to go get her back."

"What, go to LA?" he asks incredulously.

"Whatever it takes," Burt adds. "If this girl's worth it, if she's the one, you don't let her get away that easy. You fight for her, son. You show her how much she means to you."

Finn nods. "You're – you're right. I have to get her back."

"Atta boy," Burt says warmly as his mom beams at him. "Now eat your turkey and we'll talk plans of action."

Finn smiles for the first time in months, and Kurt gives him a warm smile back.

He's going to get Rachel back, whatever it takes.

Like Burt said, if anyone's worth it, she is.


xxxi.

It's easy enough for him to figure out where Will, Jesse, and Rachel are staying in LA, because he thankfully still has connections in the entertainment business. So he knocks on the door of their room, and he hears footsteps before it's wrenched open, reveling the equally shocked faces of Jesse St. James and Will Schuester.

"Hi!" Finn says brightly. "Can I come in?"

He doesn't wait for an answer but brushes past them anyway, into the hotel room. He looks around and doesn't see Rachel anywhere, but honestly, he's not surprised.

"Hey, Finn," Will says slowly, looking at him like he's deranged. "What brings you here?"

"Just in town, figured I'd drop in," he says cheerily. "Is Rachel around?"

Finn sees Jesse shoot Will a look, but Will doesn't seem to notice, saying, "No, she's down at the movie lot finishing up some scenes."

Jesse sighs heavily. "But she wouldn't want to see you," he adds. "It would only upset her."

"Would it?" Finn asks, raising an eyebrow. "Because I think she might have missed me as much I missed her."

"She hasn't," Jesse says shortly.

Finn shakes his head. "Look, I know you think I'm not good enough for Rachel or whatever, but you're not, either. Do you know that she bites her lip when she's feeling shy? Or that she wrings her hands when she's nervous? Do you know just how big her heart is – how she'd literally do anything for the people she loves? Did you know her mom left when she was young, and sometimes she worries about her daddy, but she'll deny it if you ask about it? Did you know that she likes to be reminded that she's beautiful, especially if she's having a bad day?"

Jesse doesn't answer, so Finn continues. "Well, I do know all these things. Because I love her. I love her more than I've ever loved anyone. And I'm pretty sure she still loves me, too. So you can take her away from me and dance with her at all your little shows, but at the end of the day, I'll find her, and I'll win her back, because Rachel and I, we're the real deal. She's meant for me and I'm meant for her. I can feel her, this tugging in my gut, and I know that that means something, something that you won't understand."

Jesse looks over at Will, then back at Finn. "So you expect us to let you show up to that studio lot and win back the girl who's heart you broke?"

"Yes," Finn says. He brandishes a small, brass key. "Because I have your room key."

Will pats his pockets as Jesse's eyes widen, and Finn slips out of the room, shutting and locking the door behind him, pocketing the key.

"Finn!" He hears frantic pounding and the rattling of the knob, but he just smiles. He takes the key and places it right in front of the door.

"Best of luck to you gentlemen!" he calls, then he turns and heads down the hallway. He has a girl to win back.


xxxii.

"One more time, Rachel," the director says as he helps her into the sleigh. "A little more emotion this time, alright? Remember, you haven't been back here in years, and you're longing for the way things used to be. Make me believe it."

She gives him a nod, taking a deep breath and taking her mark before he shouts 'action!' She looks up at the set – an almost exact replica of the inn – and she feels a pang in her heart. She walks up the steps, glancing at the roof and remembering how Finn fell off in surprise when she came to get the job.

She isn't even acting, really. She's just remembering, and her heart is about to break all over again.

She walks inside, and the interior is also incredibly similar to the real inn, back in Ohio. The Christmas tree is right next to the piano, just how she remembers, and she knows she's supposed to start singing now, so she swallows thickly, sitting down at the piano bench. "I'm dreaming of a White Christmas / Just like the ones I used to know."

Suddenly she hears another voice, a voice she wasn't sure she'd ever hear again. "Where the treetops glisten / And children listen / To hear / Sleigh bells in the snow." She looks up to see Finn slightly offstage, a smile on his face and a song on his lips, and she doesn't care that he's ruining the shot and she doesn't care that he hurt her and broke her; she just cares that he's here now.

"Finn," she breathes, and she launches herself at him, kissing him fiercely on the mouth. He kisses her back with just as much enthusiasm, picking her up off the ground and swinging her around.

"Cut!" the director calls.

"Hey, Rach," Finn says, shooting her his familiar dimpled grin.

She runs her fingers over his face, trying to memorize every dimple, every freckle. "You're here," she murmurs. "This isn't a dream."

"Not a dream," he promises, kissing her again.

She sighs into his mouth, knotting her fingers in his hair, but she pulls away to whisper, "I love you, Finn. I never stopped. I – I couldn't."

"I know," he says. "I was stupid before, and I shouldn't have let you leave. But I could, like, feel you, you know? I could feel you like we were on separate ends of this tether, and I knew as long as I could feel you, you hadn't really given up on me – on us. I may have not known it before, but I know it now."

She beams at him, then she says, "You know, you can kiss me if you want to."

"I want to," he whispers, before pressing his lips back against hers, this kiss soft and sweet and slow. "I love you," he murmurs as he pulls away.

She leans into him, breathing him in. He still can't believe he's real, but his arms around her suggest otherwise. "I know," she replies.

And she does. She's pretty sure she always will.


xxxiii.

Finn and Rachel get married in April, right around Easter.

Rachel tears up during their vows and, although he'll deny it later, Finn totally chokes up a little bit, too.

He lifts their entwined hands into the air when the priest announces them to the congregation as Mr. and Mrs. Finn Hudson, and Rachel laughs when Finn insists on carrying her down the aisle and out of the church.

He manages to not step on her feet during their first dance as man and wife, and he can't stop smiling because he and Rachel are married now. Her name is Rachel Hudson, and she's all his, for forever.

"We're the be all, end all, remember?" she teases, playing with the slight curls at the nape of his neck as they sway back and forth on the dance floor.

"I remember," he vows, pressing his lips to her forehead.

"This is the beginning of a new era for us, you know," Rachel says, her eyes twinkling. "An even better one."

"I know," he murmurs. "I can't wait to start."


xxxiv.

They reopen the inn just in time for Christmas.

They fix it up and hire even more people so things run even more smoothly than they had in the past, and Finn even convinces Jesse and Quinn – the newly reunited partnership – to come perform. Jesse agrees, so they're the headliners for the night.

"You don't miss being the star?" Finn teases, wrapping an arm around Rachel, whose hands are resting on her ever-expanding stomach.

She smiles, leaning against him. "As long as I'm your star, nothing else matters," she tells him serenely.

"You always will be," he promises, leaning down to press a kiss against her cheek. "You always will be."


I know it's long but thanks for sticking with it if you did! :)
If you'd like to review, I'd greatly appreciate it :')
Happy Holidays! :)