this has taken me the better part of three weeks to write, so i really, really hope that shows. this fic is loosely based on the book/movie Stardust (but more the movie than anything), but you should be able to follow along without having read or seen either! this is very different from anything i've ever written, so i'm a little nervous i'll admit.

thanks to jess for beta-ing and making sure the plot was able to be followed, as well as for reading snippets.

dedicated to mary gael, because she's been waiting for this story for a long time ;)

also thanks to ciel for the help she's provided when helping me make decisions concerning this story. :)

title is from 'yellow' by coldplay.


look at the stars, look how they shine for you

PROLOGUE

Just outside the village of Lima, in the English countryside, there is a wall that divides the seen from the unseen, the imaginable from the unimaginable. This wall is guarded by a single man, keeping the worlds separated for the safety of both societies.

Sometimes, however, no matter how many precautions are made, mistakes happen. One man made it through the passage in the wall. He fell in love with a captive princess, but his time on the other side of the wall was short. He had responsibilities, another life. So he returned to England.

His visit, however, made an impact that would change both worlds forever. Nine months later, a baby was delivered to his doorstep, along with a letter, telling this man that the baby was his son.

This child's name was Finn Hudson.

Our story begins on his eighteenth birthday, in the village of Lima, just a few miles from the wall and the world that would change his life forever.


i.

Finn's eighteenth birthday does not go well, to say the least.

His father gives him the "you're a man now, son, better start acting like it" talk before he goes off to work at the town store all day, and he runs into Noah Puckerman on the way there, who just happens to trip Finn with his walking stick.

"Watch where you're going, Hudson," he sneers, poking him with the blunt end of the stick for good measure.

Finn just winces, standing up and wiping the dust off his jacket and sighing before he goes into the store, jamming his hands in his pockets.

The day passes by slowly until around noon, when the rush begins. His line quickly gets long, and he looks up just in time to see Miss Quinn Fabray enter the store, her bonnet sitting nicely on her coiled blonde hair, a smirk on her lips.

His heart pounds as she immediately approaches the counter, his name sweetly escaping her cherry red mouth. "Finn," she says again sweetly, "get me a bag of flour, would you?"

He just nods, brushing off Mrs. Williams as she tries to remind him that she was here first, and Quinn continues. "I also need a jar of beets, a set of parchment, and a few chocolates."

Finn hurries to fill her order, placing the sack in front of her, an eager smile on his lips. "Will that be all, Miss Fabray?"

She smiles, tilting her head. "I think so, Finn. Unless you'd like to walk me home?"

He looks around nervously, seeing Mr. Tanaka – his boss – glaring at him. "Wh – now?"

Quinn nods, biting her lip.

"O – Okay," he agrees.

Needless to say, when he gets back to the store, he doesn't have a job any more.

His father frowns in disappointment when he tells him, but he doesn't say much, just wishes him a gruff happy birthday, telling him he'll get another job. His father rarely says much at all.

Finn's gotten used to it, really. But by the end of the night, his father will have said more words than he's ever thought possible.

Before that happens, though, he decides to pay Miss Fabray a visit. She'll probably want to apologize for losing him his job, after all.

(*)

He's not the only one there when he arrives outside the Fabray household that night. Noah Puckerman is kissing Quinn Fabray's hand, helping her up the porch stairs, and Finn nearly turns around and heads back, not wanting to be further humiliated.

"What are you doing here, Hudson?" Puckerman calls out right as Finn begins to turn away.

He swallows. He has just as much of a right to be here as he does. "I – Actually, I was hoping to see Miss Fabray."

He sees Quinn frown, but Puckerman answers for her. "She's turning in for the night, so your presence here is unnecessary."

"Puck," Quinn chides quietly. "I'm sorry, Finn," she adds. "Maybe you can come back another night."

Finn hangs his head dejectedly, and he hears Puckerman snicker. He thrusts his hands in his pockets, sighing deeply, and he watches Puck kiss Quinn on the cheek. His stomach churns.

"Better luck next time, Hud," Puck says ruefully, bumping him with his shoulder as he walks past him, a smirk on his lips.

"Finn?" Quinn asks. "Why are you still here?"

"It's my birthday today," he tells her.

Her gaze softens. "O – Oh." She bites her lip, glancing around, then she sighs. "Alright, Finn. We can go out back, alright?"

His heart pounds in his chest. Did she just agree to give him a chance?

"I can't be out too long, though," she says. "Understand?"

He nods. "Y – Yes, Quinn, of course."

She smiles, a brief flash, but she takes his arm, leading him to the backyard.


ii.

Stars have been watching Earth for centuries. They sit up in the night sky, looking down on the world as they shine. They see it all: the pain, the suffering, the sorrow. They see the happiness, too.

They observe the world, but they don't begin to understand it.

One such star, named Rachel Berry, finds herself overlooking the world. She sees adventures being had, sees knights and fair maidens and wars that tear rifts between those that were once whole.

She's strangely fascinated by all of it.

Her star sisters tease her, saying she'd love nothing more to go down to Earth and have at it with the mortals, but Rachel just brushes them off. She knows she can't leave, and she wouldn't want to, really. Sure, she gets restless at times, just sitting in the sky, watching all the events unfold on Earth and not being able to participate in any herself, but she knows how dangerous the world she watches can be as well.

So she sits in the sky, watching time pass by, and she figures she'll do this for the rest of eternity… until one night, something happens that changes everything. A seemingly harmless necklace shoots into the atmosphere, and it knocks Rachel Berry right out of the sky.

The star who had always wondered what going on an adventure would be like hurtles toward Earth, about to find out the answers to everything she had ever wondered.


iii.

Finn scoots closer to Quinn, his knee brushing the fabric of her dress as they sit on the blanket.

She glances over at him, shifting slightly so her dress is out of his reach. "I heard about the shop," she says quietly. "I'm so sorry."

He shrugs. "It's alright, really. I mean, I wasn't going to work in the shop forever. It was just a temporary thing."

Quinn raises an eyebrow. "Happy birthday, Finn."

He smiles. "Thanks."

"My birthday's in a week, you know," she says, looking up at the sky.

Finn just sits there, silent, studying her face in the moonlight, her green eyes trained upward, half her face in shadow.

"Puck's going all the way to Ipswich to get me a ring," she says, her eyes still trained on the stars above.

Finn feels like he's been punched in the stomach. "Ipswich?" he echoes.

She nods.

"He's going all the way to Ipswich," Finn says bitterly.

Quinn looks over at him, her eyebrows raised. "Yes, the nicest rings for miles are in Ipswich. I heard him ask my father for permission to marry me."

"So he's going all the way to Ipswich."

"Yes, Finn, to Ipswich." Her tone is annoyed, and she flips her hair behind her shoulder.

He reaches over, grabbing her hand, his voice soft and earnest. "You deserve so much more than Ipswich, Quinn. You deserve – you deserve the world. I'd travel oceans for your hand in marriage. I'd cross continents, in order to earn your love."

Quinn scoffs, extracting her hand from his. "That's silly," she tells him. "You can't cross continents."

"I would, though," Finn tells her. "For you, I'd do anything."

She bites her lip, glancing back up at the sky, and he only looks up when he hears a small gasp escape her lips. He looks up just in time to see a shooting star streak across the sky, disappearing behind the wall just beyond the edge of town.

"You'd really do anything?" Quinn asks, her voice hesitant, and she eyes him carefully.

"Yes," he breathes. "I'd – I'd get you that fallen star."

She cocks an eyebrow. "You'd bring me a fallen star?"

He nods. "I'll cross the wall, and – and for your hand in marriage – I'll bring you that star, Quinn Fabray."

The edge of her mouth quirks into a smile. "My own star," she says slowly, tapping her chin with a slender finger.

He looks at her, his heart pounding.

"Alright," she says finally, stretching out her hand. "You have until my birthday – a week from today – to bring me that star, Finn Hudson."

He shakes her hand, smiling widely, and he breathes, "Deal."


iv.

She doesn't know where she is. She opens her eyes, blinking in the bright, white glow, and it takes her a few minutes to realize that the glow is coming from her. (Of course it is – stars shine, after all.)

She sits up slowly, her head reeling as she takes in her surroundings. She's sitting in a giant hole – a crater formed when she crashed into the earth, she presumes.

She glances to her left, and she sees the object that knocked her out of the sky: A necklace, the clear stone glistening in the glow she's emanating. She picks it up gently by the gold chain, surveying it carefully.

How could a thing so small completely knock her out of the sky?

Her fingers clasp around it as she turns her eyes skyward. And, more importantly, how will she get back home?


v.

Finn tries to shut the door quietly when he comes back in the house, but the clearing of a throat from the direction of the kitchen table tells him he needn't have bothered.

"What are you doing home so late?" his father asked, eyebrow raised but amusement in his voice.

"I had a chat with Quinn Fabray," he answers honestly.

"Quinn Fabray? At this time of night?"

"I – I sort of… asked her to marry me."

His dad just looks at him. "And she said…?"

"She said she would – as long as I get a fallen star for her. Luckily," he adds hastily, noticing his father's blank expression, "one just fell on the other side of the wall, so I'm leaving tonight so I can get it and bring it back in time for Quinn's birthday next week."

"Finn," his father says slowly.

"Look, I – I know it sounds crazy. But…" He takes a deep breath. "What other chance am I going to get?"

His dad just looks at him for a second longer, then he sighs, pulling out the chair next to him. "Have a seat, son."

Finn does as he's told, confusion etched in his brow.

His father looks like he's looking for the right words for a moment, and Finn sits in anticipation. He's never had a long talk with his father before, never had any sort of serious conversation whatsoever.

"No one crosses the wall, Finn," he begins.

Finn nods. He knows this, obviously. That's why the guard's there – to keep anyone from crossing the wall. He doesn't understand why – it's just a field on the other side, anyway.

"No one crosses the wall," his father continues, "but, once upon a time, someone did. He was a boy, about your age, and he tricked the guard into letting him through. He thought it was just a shortcut to the next town over, but it turned out to be so much more than that." He lets out a sigh. "Do you know who that boy was, Finn?"

Finn swallows. "You?" he guesses.

His father smiles. "Me." He licks his lips, then resumes his story. "Do you know what's on the other side of that wall, Finn?"

"A – a field?" he tries.

"Well, yes," his father says, his lips curling into a small smile. "There is a field. But once you cross that wall, you're no longer in our world."

"I'm sorry?" Finn says, struggling to comprehend.

"On the other side of the wall, there's an entirely different world, Finn," his father explains calmly. "They have magic and princesses and witches. It's a dangerous place. That's why the guard is there. He keeps the balance, makes sure that they stay on their side and we stay on ours."

Finn looks down at the wood of the table, faded and worn. He nods slowly. "So… what was it like?"

"It was wonderful," his dad says, letting out a sigh of contentment, his eyes focused on something Finn cannot see. "There were so many caravans, full of color and light. There were stands selling things I had never heard of, creatures I had never seen." He pauses, another sigh escaping his lips. "And there was a girl."

Finn feels his stomach twist, and he feels like he's on the brink of some unspoken truth. He's never heard his father speak about his mother – he just knows he doesn't have one – but he thinks that's about to change.

"She was beautiful," his father breathes. "She knew I was different – and, to be honest, I stuck out like a sore thumb – but she just smiled, beckoned me over to her stand. She sold me a small, glass flower, and she told me it would bring me luck. A snowdrop, in exchange for a kiss." His eyes mist over, and Finn knows he's remembering. He shakes his head, then looks back at Finn, as if realizing that he's still there. "She told me she was a princess, being held captive by the witch who owned the caravan I was standing in front of."

"So did you free her?" Finn asks, eyes wide.

His father sadly shakes his head. "I couldn't. So I did everything else I could for her. And, in the morning, I left."

"You left?" Finn asks incredulously.

"I had to," he replies. "She told me it wasn't safe there, and I knew I had responsibilities back here." He pauses, taking in a deep breath, then his gaze locks onto Finn's. "Nine months later, you were on my doorstep, along with a letter. I think it's time for you to read it."

Things are happening so fast; Finn's mind is reeling. An hour ago, his main goal was to gain Quinn Fabray's hand in marriage, and now, his father's telling him that about his mother – the woman he wasn't even sure existed. His heart pounds in his chest.

His father goes over to a cabinet and pulls out a small envelope as well as a cylindrical package.

"Happy birthday, Finn," he murmurs, setting them in front of his son on the table.

Finn looks between the packages and his father, not quite knowing how to process the situation. He takes a deep breath and then he opens the letter. A little glass flower falls out of it, and he pockets it before he begins to read.

Dear Finn, it reads.

I don't know when you're reading this letter, but I guess it's because your father has decided it's time to tell you about me, that you're old enough to process the situation. I want you to know that there's not a day that goes by that I do not think of you, and, if my mistress had allowed it, I would have kept you in a heartbeat. Enclosed is a Babylon candle, a candle laced with magic. If you wish, you can light it and think of me, and it will transport you to where I am.

I love you so much, my darling boy, and I hope that one day I will be able to look upon your face and tell you this myself.

Farewell, my sweet Finn.

All my love,

Your mother

Finn hastily wipes at his eyes, slightly ashamed at the tears that have formed. His fingers reach for the package – the one he now knows to contain the candle his mother wrote of – and he glances back up at his father. "Dad," he says quietly.

His father gives him a watery smile. "Say hello to her for me, won't you, Finn?"

Finn swallows the lump that forms in his throat, nodding curtly. "Y – yeah, I will."

His father hands him a match, and he quickly unwraps the candle. He pushes aside the brown paper, looking over the dark, glossy surface of wax. The candle is smooth under his calloused fingertips.

He takes the match from his father's fingers and strikes it, the flame casting shadows across the dark room. He closes his eyes, wondering what his mother will be like, but his last thought before the flame touches the wick is of the shooting star that flashed across the sky earlier in the night.


vi.

Rachel puts her hands on the cracked earth, trying to push herself up. Her leg stings, and she gasps, sinking back down.

Her fingers clench around the necklace, and she hastily puts it over her head. The stone settles just above her sternum, and she winces as she tries to stand up again. Slowly, she strains her arms, lifting herself up off the ground. She tries to balance on her good leg, trying to put as little weight on the other leg as possible.

Finally, she finds herself standing. She breathes in and out for a few seconds, shaking the loose dirt off of her silver dress.

She glances around, noting the crater is actually rather deep, and she wonders briefly how she's going to possibly get out of here when she can barely put one of her legs on the ground.

She doesn't have long to consider this until she's knocked back to the ground, another body coming seemingly out of nowhere and slamming into hers.

She groans, her back pressed once more against the dirt, and she squints up at the person who knocked her over. It's a boy, a boy just becoming a man, she thinks, his brown hair sticking up at the back and his hands on either side of her, keeping his full weight from crushing her.

"I am so sorry," he breathes, "I am so sorry, Mom—"

She narrows her eyes. "Mom?"

"Yeah, I'm Finn Hudson, I'm your son, I'm so sorry—" He's still hovering over her, but he hastily pushes himself up off the ground, offering her a hand so he can help her up as well.

"You honestly think I could be your mother?" she asks flatly, dusting herself off once more when she's stable and balanced.

He frowns, studying her more closely. "I – you're not?"

"No!" she replies indignantly. "I am certainly not your mother!"

He looks crestfallen for a second, glancing down at what's left of the candle in his hand. "But she said to think of her… but then I thought of the star!" He glances around, his eyes getting impossibly wider. "It must have fallen not too far from here."

Rachel snorts. She can't help it.

"Did you see it?" he asks – Finn, she thinks he said his name was. "Did you see the star?"

She decides to humor him, so she opens her own eyes widely, nodding very seriously. "Oh, yes. I think it landed in this crater actually. I think some stupid necklace" – she grasps the chain around her neck for emphasis – "knocked it right out the sky, where it plummeted to Earth. I think it created this giant crater, and I think it was just getting settled when some flying idiot knocked it off its feet." She crosses her arms over her chest, glaring fiercely at him.

He gapes for a second, then he finds his voice. "Y – You? You're the star?"

She smiles acidly at him. "What, were you expecting a lump of metallic rock?"

She sees his Adam's apple bob before he replies, "Honestly, yes."

She rolls her eyes. "Sorry to disappoint you."

He just sighs, rubbing his temple with his hand. She frowns, wincing as she tries to put weight on her injured leg, but before she can stumble, Finn's beside her, slipping an arm around her waist. "Are you hurt?" he asks, and his brown eyes are soft, concerned.

She feels her heart flutter for a second, but she snaps, "Well, I just rammed into the Earth at hundreds of miles per hour, so what do you think?"

He rolls his eyes. "Right, and that's my fault."

She just glares at him, but he reaches into his pocket, pulling out a thin, white chain. "This, however, is my fault."

"What are you—"

He wraps the chain around her wrist, and it loops around, connecting with itself – magic. She looks up at him, fury in her eyes.

"I promised Quinn I'd get her a star for her birthday," he says, stating what he clearly thinks is a sensible reason for kidnapping a fallen star.

Rachel stares at him in disbelief. "Because nothing says 'happy birthday' like an injured woman!"

"Look," Finn says, tugging gently on the chain wrapped around her wrist, "you don't understand."

"Try me," she says.

He looks at her, his tongue darting out to lick his chapped lips, and then he sighs. "Alright. I love her, this girl named Quinn, and I promised her I'd get her a fallen star for her birthday. So I went home with plans to cross the wall that separates Lima from whatever this place is, and my dad decided that now would be a great time to tell me about my mom, so he gave me this candle to get here to meet her, but I thought of you instead, so now, here we are."

Rachel stares at him for a second when he's finished, a feeling bubbling up inside her until she can't hold it in anymore. She can't help it – she laughs.

"I'm being serious!" Finn says defensively.

Rachel manages to catch her breath, and she wheezes out, "I'm sorry, but you just told me that the reason you're kidnapping me is to impress this girl."

Finn looks hurt, so she goes on, "I've watched Earth for centuries. I've seen humans do plenty of stupid things for love – betray people, even start wars. And do you know how well those big gestures for love have turned out?"

He just stares at her.

"Not well," she supplies.

"Look," he says slowly. "This isn't like that. And I promised Quinn I'd get her a star for her birthday, so it looks like you're coming with me." He tugs again on the chain, but she just folds her arms.

"What's in it for me?" she asks, her lips pursed. "Why should I go with you willingly, because, let's face it, it'll just be harder for you if I don't."

He glances down at his hand. "I'll let you have the rest of this Bubbling candle once I get you to Quinn. Then you can go home."

She raises an eyebrow. "The rest of your Babylon candle?"

"'S what I said," he says easily.

"No, you said Bubbling."

"Look," he says exasperatedly. "Do we have a deal or not?"

Rachel sighs, still eyeing him warily. "There's only one good use left in it."

"So be grateful I'm not using it to get us back to the wall now!"

She bites her lip, looking at the candle, then back at his face, and, slowly, she nods. "Okay," she agrees.

He gives her a grateful smile. "Alright," he says excitedly, reaching over to grab her wrist with his hand. "Let's go…."

He trails off, and Rachel realizes he's looking at her expectantly.

"Rachel," she supplies.

His lips quirk up into a smile. "Rachel."


vii.

They've only been walking for a few hours and the first rays of the sun beginning to trickle through the leaves of the trees, but Rachel's already falling behind.

"Come on, we need to keep going," Finn tells her, his voice still gentle, but he has to admit that he's becoming a little frustrated.

She looks at him dubiously, panting slightly. "I'm not used to being up so late!" she points out, sinking down onto the ground. "Stars sleep during the day, in case you haven't noticed!"

"Rachel," he sighs, kneeling down beside her. "We agreed that we'd stop at midday." He gently takes hold of her arm, making to help her up.

"No!" she insists, yanking her arm out of his grasp. "Just – please, let me sleep, just for a little while."

Her brown eyes are large, and he can see the circles forming under them. He sighs.

"Okay," he concedes.

She gives him a tired, grateful smile.

"I'm going to head to the town we passed not too long ago and get some supplies," he tells her, helping her over to a nearby tree. She nods, leaning against the trunk, her eyes already flitting shut.

He looks down at her, her brown hair, falling over one shoulder, her neck visible as her head rests against the trunk of the tree. She's beautiful – but what else would he expect a star to be?

Honestly, he still hasn't quite wrapped his head around the fact that she's the thing he saw fall from the sky.

He leans down, taking the chain still wrapped around her wrist and looping it around the tree, holding it up so that it reconnects. "I'm sorry," he whispers, even though he knows she's fast asleep. "I just can't take any chances."

He looks at her sleeping form one last time, then he squints up into the sunlight. He wonders if anyone up there is missing her. He feels the candle stub in his pocket, and he knows he's doing the right thing, by giving it to her once he's presented her to Quinn.

His heart twinges. Even if he's basically using her first.


viii.

Rachel snaps awake, suddenly alert. She feels a hot breath fan across her face, and she blinks a few times to make sure she's actually seeing what she thinks she's seeing.

The unicorn whinnies softly, tossing back its head, the white hair of its mane glinting in the moonlight.

Rachel smiles, soft and slow, as she reaches out, her fingertips grazing its nose.

Its dark eyes pierce her own, and she gives a nod of understanding. With one quick motion, it cuts her bindings with its horn. The chain dissolves, fading in the evening breeze.

"Thank you," she murmurs, patting it gently. She grips onto its mane as she lifts herself up off the ground. She winces as she puts weight on her bad leg, hoisting herself up onto the unicorn's back.

The beast tosses its head and begins to walk, and Rachel glances up at the sky, where her sisters are looking down on her. She doesn't know where the unicorn is taking her, but she knows it isn't back home.

(*)

She's wide awake and the moon is high in the sky by the time the unicorn emerges from the woods. She sees a cottage across the way, a sign dangling from the porch that declares it to be an inn. She pats the neck of the unicorn lightly, and it heads for the house.

She dismounts as gracefully as she can, heading up to the door. She knocks lightly, her knuckles pressing against the wood. She raises her fist to knock a second time when the door swings open. A young woman with shiny black hair and tan skin smiles at her.

"Come in, come in," she insists, holding the door open wider and ushering Rachel inside. "We'll have your horse sent to the stable, and we'll get you all cleaned up, all nice and fresh, alright?"

Rachel glances around, over at the bright glow of the fireplace and the comfy armchairs next to it.

"We'll get a bath," the woman tells her. "Would you like that?"

"I – um…" Rachel doesn't know what to do – she's never even had a bath before.

"How do you like your water?" the woman continues. "Warm? Scalding?"

"I – I don't know," Rachel admits.

The woman smiles. "Well, I guess I'll make that decision for you. Come, I'll get you a room."

Still confused, Rachel follows the woman up the stairs, her brain whirring a mile a minute.

"My husband owns this inn," the woman tells her. "And my name is Santana, by the way."

"You're married?" Rachel asks as they reach the landing of the second floor. "But… you look so young!"

Santana smiles at her with lips closed. Something flashes in her eyes. "You're sweet," she says, but something in her voice makes Rachel think that Santana doesn't think she's sweet at all. "I'll go draw your bath water while you get changed, alright? Oh, and here." She hands Rachel a damp cloth. "I put some healing remedy on here for you, so try putting it on your leg; it should heal right up."

She leaves then, and Rachel turns, spotting a fuzzy, pink bathrobe. She reaches out to run her hands across it, and she doesn't know why, but she shivers. She feels weird about this place, but she can't place her finger on why.

She takes the cloth Santana gave her and presses it against her leg, gasping when she immediately feels the pain recede. She drops the cloth in surprise. This is a very weird place, indeed.

She thinks of Finn and how she promised him she'd meet Quinn for him, but she quickly brushes the thought aside. She shouldn't feel bad because he kidnapped her when all she really wants to do is go home.

She bites her lip, running her fingers over the soft material once more, and she vows to stop feeling guilty. It's not like she'll ever see Finn again anyway.


ix.

He gets back just as darkness is settling over the forest to find that Rachel's gone.

"Shit," he mutters, going over to the tree where she had been. He had been sure she wouldn't get away; how had this happened?

Without Rachel, he has no chance of getting Quinn to marry him, and Puckerman will go to Ipswich and get her a stupid ring and they'll live happily ever after.

He sighs, leaning back against the tree. He closes his eyes, just for a moment, but he feels himself drifting off. He sees stars behind his eyelids, thousands and thousands of stars, and then a voice begins to whisper in his ear.

"Finn."

He murmurs, turning his head, but the stars are still visible behind his eyelids.

"Help our sister, Finn. She is heading into a trap."

The vision in his head changes, and suddenly he sees a girl, a glowing girl, with red hair and a shiny blue dress.

"Two hundred years ago, another star fell to Earth. She was tricked by a witch and her sisters, the same witch that Rachel is about to come in contact with. They made her feel comfortable, made her feel safe, and when her heart was aglow, they cut it out of her chest."

A scream echoes in Finn's head, and his eyes snap open. He thinks it was just a bad dream at first – nothing bad's going to happen to Rachel – but then he hears the voice again.

"Rachel is in danger, and you are our only hope."

He looks up at the stars, which seem to be glinting even more brightly than usual. He wonders if it's due to their distress.

"There is carriage coming along the main road. In order to help our sister, you must make sure you are on it. You are our only hope."

The voice fades away, and Finn doesn't think; he just begins to run. It's his fault Rachel is in trouble anyway. He should have never left her alone.

He runs faster than he's ever run before, his feet carrying him through the forest, and he doesn't know how he knows where he's going, but he does.

He bursts through the trees just as a carriage is heading down the road, just like the stars said. He has a split second to decide what course of action he should take, then he does the only thing he can: He runs straight for the moving carriage, making a mad jump, and crashing into the side of it.

His face twists in pain, and he groans as he lay sprawled out on the dirt road. His heart pounds, and he slowly sits up as he hears the wheels stop, the horses neighing.

His head pounds, but all he can think is Rachel, so he sits up hastily, ignoring his dizziness and walking over to the now halted carriage.

A blonde man holds the reigns, and he's about to dismount when Finn comes up behind him. "Do you work for my brother?" he demands, eyeing Finn warily.

Finn frowns in confusion. "Wh – no, I just need a lift—"

"Are you one of his spies?" the man repeats. "Do you work for Jesse?"

"I don't know who Jesse is!" Finn says exasperatedly, his voice cracking. "Look, I just – I need a lift, and that's it!"

The man looks him up and down. "You don't know who I am, do you?"

Finn shakes his head.

The man gives a curt nod. "Well, I'm Prince Sam, heir to the throne of Stormhold."

Finn just nods. He honestly just needs to find Rachel, and he needs to find her now, so he could care less.

"I'm on a quest," Sam continues, "a quest to find the stone that will rightfully put me on the throne, and it's very important that I find it before my brother."

"I can help you," Finn says, the words tumbling out of his mouth. "I – I can come with you, I can help."

Sam looks at him for a second, but finally, he nods, getting back on the driver's seat and scooting over so Finn can climb up next to him. The carriage begins to move, and Finn tries to keep his breathing slow and steady. He doesn't know where Rachel is, but the stars said getting on the carriage would be the first step to finding her, so he just has to trust that he's on the right path.

He looks up at the sky once more, and he prays to whatever higher force there might be that he makes it in time.

(*)

It begins to rain after about an hour of travel, liquid pouring out of the sky, drenching both him and Sam thoroughly. Sam just keeps his eyes straight ahead, the reigns in his hand and his teeth firmly clenched.

Sam doesn't talk much, but that's perfectly fine with Finn. He figures Sam's just extremely focused on his quest, and frankly he can't stop thinking about his own quest either.

He really hopes he's not too late.

Suddenly they can see a small cottage through the rain, a light that's just visible.

"We'll stay there for the night," Sam says, his voice loud in order to be heard over the downpour.

Finn wants to protest – because they need to find Rachel, need to find her before it's too late – but Sam's already directing the horses in the direction of the building, and chances are he won't listen to what Finn has to say anyway. He's a prince after all; he needs nobody's authority but his own.

So he just squares his jaw as the horses take them closer, close enough for Finn to see the sign, even in the rain, the word 'INN' printed in large lettering on the wood.


x.

Rachel ventures downstairs to see what's taking her bath so long (not that the innkeeper's wife – Santana, she said her name was – has been less than accommodating). She takes the stairs one at a time, cursing under her breath when they creak under her weight. She holds up her trailing robe with one hand, holding onto the railing with the other as she descends the stairs.

She stops on the landing when she hears a voice – Santana's voice, she thinks. A masculine voice responds to whatever Santana said, and Rachel wonders if it's the innkeeper. She hears footsteps then, and she shrinks back against the wall. She sees Santana head out the door, muttering under her breath, and Rachel wonders what could possibly be going on.

She walks down the few remaining stairs, hesitantly heading in the direction Santana had come from. She looks around the corner, and the first thing she notices is the metal tub, filled with what she presumes is bathwater. The second thing she notices is a blonde man, sitting in her bath.

She's half enraged that Santana gave her perfectly good bath away to this stranger, but she's also nervous. Who is he? Is he another guest at the inn? Is he the innkeeper?

She cranes her neck to get a better look at him when he suddenly turns, his blue eyes locking onto hers.

"Who are you?" he asks, his voice sharp.

Rachel steps further into the room. "I'm a guest here," she tells him. "As are you, I presume."

He eyes her warily for a second, then he sighs. "You presume correctly. I'm on a quest, you see. My companion is currently making sure the horses will be comfortable in the stable."

Rachel nods politely. "I see."

"I'm on a quest to rightfully secure the throne," he adds, sighing as he leans back in the tub, the water splashing against his torso. He glances over to make sure Rachel's still there. "My brother Jesse and I are both looking for the stone, and whichever of us finds it will be declared king of Stormhold."

Rachel nods again, slowly taking a step backward. She suddenly has a bad feeling about this, and she isn't sure if it's him but something in the air has definitely taken a sullen turn. "Well, if you'd excuse me, I think I'll head back up to my room now—"

"Hang on," he says, his eyes going to her neckline. Her fingers fly up to clasp the necklace she's worn since it knocked her out of the sky, her fingers glossing over the stone. "What's that you're wearing around your neck?"

She freezes. She's unable to move.

"It's the stone," the man breathes, standing in the tub, completely oblivious to the fact that he's naked, his eyes focusing on the necklace around Rachel's neck. He reaches toward her, but she's still too far away. "Give it to me, please," he breathes. "Please, I need it. I need the stone."

She wraps her fingers more tightly around it, taking another step back.

"Give me the stone," he repeats, more forcefully this time, his stand still outstretched, a vein in his neck pulsating. His eyes are wild, but before he can get out of the tub to take the necklace himself, a knife comes flying from behind Rachel, whizzing past her in a blur of motion and burying itself in his chest. He lets out a surprised "oh," then he slumps over the tub, dead.

"I told you not to mess with the other guests," Santana growls, pushing past Rachel and heading over to the dead body. Rachel remains frozen in fear as Santana turns the man over, taking her knife out of his chest, crimson blood glistening on the blade. His eyes are still wide open, but they see nothing.

Rachel feels her heart pounding in her chest.

"Pity it had to come to this," Santana says, her voice calm, as she takes out a cloth and begins to wipe the blood from the dagger. "But he wasn't supposed to come here."

Rachel hurriedly steps backward, into the parlor, fear pounding through her veins. Santana looks up to see her retreating, and a slow smile spreads across her face. "Going somewhere?" she asks.

Rachel wants to scream, but no sound comes out of her mouth. She just backs up further as Santana slowly advances, knife in hand and the same sinister smile on her lips. Rachel gulps when she backs into the wall, and she wonders how painful dying will be.

Just then, the front door flies open, and Santana's caught off guard, just for a moment. It's a moment long enough for Rachel to look over to see who could have possibly come to save her, and she gasps, a single name falling from her lips.

"Finn?"

He looks considerably relieved, and he pulls her into a hug. She's never been hugged before, but she thinks it's nice. He smells like rain and sweat, but somehow it's appealing. He lets her go but keeps his hand on her shoulder, studying her face intently. "Are you okay?" he asks in a low voice. "Where's Sam?"

"I – I think—" She takes in a shaky breath. "I think Sam's dead."

Finn's eyes widen, and they both jump at the laughter coming from the woman holding the knife.

"I must admit, you and that prince – Sam, you said his name was? – threw my plans for a loop." She takes a menacing step forward, and Finn steps in front of Rachel, his arms out as if to shield her. Santana's smile just widens. "I was going to feed you and bathe you and make you feel perfectly at ease here, make sure your heart was perfectly light, a soft, peaceful glow about it, before I cut it out of your chest."

Rachel blanches, gripping Finn's arm, her fingernails digging into his skin.

"It would be better, of course, if your heart was glowing, but the tiny, fearful heart of a star is better than no heart at all." Santana's still leering at them, the frightening grin still on her face, her beauty taking on a cruel appearance in the firelight.

"Rachel," Finn murmurs, his voice low. He glances sideways, over at the raging fireplace. "Grab onto me and think of home."

She nods, still terrified, and she keeps her grip on his arm nice and tight as he lunges for the fire, his hand scooping something out of his pocket and thrusting it into the flames.

Santana lets out a scream of frustration, the room begins to spin, and Rachel squeezes her eyes shut, her grip on Finn's arm the only thing she's conscious of.


xi.

Finn feels cold, wet rain on his skin once more. He opens his eyes to see nothing but gray, nothing but the rain surrounding them, and nothing but Rachel, her eyes still closed.

"What the hell?" he spits, yelling to be heard over the rainstorm raging around them.

Rachel opens her eyes, and he glares at her as she takes in the fact that they seem to be standing in the midst of a group of clouds, the rain thoroughly soaking both of them. He looks down to see his feet sinking slightly into the cloud, and he hastily moves over.

"You said 'think of home'!" Rachel screams at him. The rain is plastering her hair to her face. "So I thought of my home and you thought of yours! If you wanted me to think of your home, you should have said!"

He scoffs, once again pulling his sinking feet out of the cloud. "Some mad woman was going to cut your heart out, and you wanted more specific instructions?"

She opens her mouth, presumably to retort, but suddenly they are both blinded by a bright light. He shields his face with his hands, and his first thought is that it's the stars, coming to take Rachel home after all.

Suddenly, a net covers both of them, and he knows that it's not that simple. He thinks they might even be in more trouble than before.

(*)

He and Rachel are hauled onto a ship, her body pressing against his in the net, and then they are flung onto the deck, coughing and sputtering.

A flashlight is shown into their faces, and Finn squints past the light, trying to make out details of the silhouette holding it.

"Well, well, well," a voice shouts over the raging wind and rain."What do we have here? A couple of lightning marshalls?"

"Please," Finn manages to get out, covering his face with his free hand, shielding his eyes from the bright light. "We're just two travelers who got lost!"

"Lost?" the voice repeats. "Seems to be a little out of the way, don't you think? How did you get lost all the way up here?"

Finn just looks over at Rachel, and she's staring just as hopelessly back at him.

"Well," says the voice, "maybe a night in the brig will loosen their tongues."

Finn starts to protest, and he reaches for Rachel's hand, but before his skin can brush hers, he feels strong arms haul him up, and he sees hands pick Rachel up as well.

Then he feels something hit the back of his head, and everything goes black.


xii.

Rachel sighs, nudging Finn with the back of her foot. She can't see him since they're seated in chairs with the backs tied together, but she knows he's still out cold.

"Finn," she says softly, jostling the chairs.

He groans a little bit.

"Finn," she hisses.

She hears him groan louder, and sends a kick in his direction for good measure. He hisses in pain, and she figures he's awake now.

"Where are we?" he asks, his voice thick.

"On a flying pirate ship, I think," she answers.

"A flying… what?"

"They harvest lightning, based on what I overheard while you were out cold. Apparently it's not exactly legal."

"They didn't knock you out?" Finn asks incredulously.

She scoffs. "Of course not. I may be a star, but I'm still a lady, you know."

She hears him mutter, "Right," but she chooses to ignore that. They sit in silence for a bit, and all she can her is breathing, both hers and his.

"I've screwed up," she hears Finn say quietly.

She cranes her neck to look at him the best she can. His eyes are trained on the wood of the floor, his mouth set in a frown.

"What do you mean?" she asks.

"I – I shouldn't have forced you to come with me," he says. "I shouldn't have gone looking for you at all." He swallows. "I'm just a shop boy in love with this – this girl that's so above me. I shouldn't have even tried."

Rachel sighs. "Finn, you're not a shop boy."

"Well, not anymore," he laments. "I got fired."

"No, that's not what I mean." She pauses, looking up at the ceiling of the brig – which is actually a fairly nice, mostly empty room. "I've been watching the Earth for centuries now, and there are shop boys, and there are boys that work in shops for the time being." She reaches over to grab his hand, squeezing his fingers with hers. "Trust me, you are not a shop boy."

She glances over at him once more, and she sees a small smile grace his lips.

"I used to dream about going on an adventure," she admits quietly. "I'd watch people on Earth having them, and I'd wish it were me." She laughs bitterly. "Be careful what you wish for, huh?"

Finn is silent for a moment. He takes in a deep breath, then he says, "I'm really sorry I dragged you into all this. I mean, you deserve your adventure but not… not like this. I was just trying to prove my love for this girl, and everything else just kind of spiraled out of control."

Rachel frowns. "And what is she doing to prove her love for you?"

There's a beat, then, "What?"

"Quinn. What's she doing to prove her love for you?"

She can practically feel Finn grow red, and he sputters, "I – It's not… That's not how it goes."

"Maybe that's the way it should be," Rachel says gently. "I don't know a lot about love, Finn, but it seems that you should love someone who will love you just as much in return. You should be just as important to them as they are to you."

He's just silent, and she thinks she may be getting to him. She grasps his fingers with her own once more, and she starts, "Look, Finn, I—"

The door to the brig swings open, and she quickly drops Finn's hand.

A man just a little taller than her steps into the room, his expression unreadable. His hair is dark and curly, and he crosses his arms as his hazel eyes study them. "So," he says slowly. "You ready to talk now?"

"Please," Finn says, his voice cracking. "We're – we're just married, and we got lost – we're on our honeymoon—"

"You got lost hundreds of feet up in the air in the middle of a lightning storm?" Rachel can't help but wonder why the man seems to be projecting his voice when they're right here. She figures it's supposed to be some sort of intimidation tactic.

"Please," Finn repeats. "Just… please."

Rachel's heart pounds in his chest as the man surveys them both. He steps closer, leaning down so he's whispering to both of them. "Look," he says, "I have to keep up appearances here, but I promise no harm will come to you, alright?"

Rachel nods, and she assumes Finn does as well.

"Oh, done talking now, are we?" he asks, his voice unnaturally loud again. "Well, you'll see what happens when you cross me and my crew!"

He unties both Rachel and Finn's bindings quickly, Finn first, muttering, "Take off your clothes."

"What?" Finn hisses.

"Just do it," he says, punctuating this with a glare.

Finn gulps, then he obliges. Rachel tries not to let her eyes linger as he strips off his coat and shirt, leaving him just in his undershirt before he begins to remove his pants. The curly-haired man pulls a mannequin out of a side closet and quickly begins to put Finn's clothes on it.

Rachel raises her eyebrows at Finn (who's now in nothing but his long underwear), and he just crinkles his nose and shrugs back at her.

"Press on the panel second from the left," the man instructs, looking up from the mannequin at Finn. He gestures with his head to the far wall. Finn does as he's told, and once he leans against it, the panel slides, revealing a ladder.

"It leads to my quarters," the man says in explanation, adjusting the cuffs on Finn's jacket on the mannequin. "You go on up, and I'll be there with the lady shortly."

Finn looks at him in confusion once more. "But Rachel—"

"Just go," he says sharply.

Finn hesitates, then he grabs the rungs of the ladder, shooting once last look at Rachel before he begins to ascend.

"What are you going to do?" Rachel asks the man quietly.

He winks at her in response. "Scream," he tells her.

She hesitates. "Scream," he insists.

So she opens her mouth, a blood-curling shriek escaping her throat.

The man throws open the window on the side of the boat, and Rachel can see the clouds and the blue of the sky.

He shoots her a smirk, then he begins to shout, his voice louder than it was before. "You think you can come on my ship and tell me how to run it? I don't care who you are, but I answer to no one!" With that, he flings the mannequin off the side of the ship.

He mouths the word 'scream' once more, so she does, her voice bouncing off the walls of the ship.

He walks over to her, grasping her arm lightly, and he winks once more. "We still have a bit more of a show to put on," he whispers. "So follow my lead."

She's still confused, but she does as she's told, letting him guide her up the stairs, his grip becoming tighter and rougher the closer they get to the main deck.

"Ready?" he mutters.

She nods, because really, what else can she do?

"Come on, wench!" He pushes her out into the sunlight, and she blinks in the brightness as her eyes adjust. She's surrounded by grimy, greasy, leering men, swords drawn and sneers on their faces.

"What are you staring at?" the man holding her snaps, and she realizes now that he's the captain, because everyone shrinks away, averting their gazes as he drags her in the direction of what she assumes is his cabin. "I'll be very busy for the next couple of hours, so it's very important that I am not disturbed. Is that clear? Otherwise you'll get tossed over the side as well." He glares around the deck, his fingers still tight on the skin of Rachel's arm.

There is a murmur of agreement.

The captain gives a firm nod, opening the door to his quarters and pushing Rachel inside. She stumbles, rubbing her arm, but she quickly regains her balance. She enters the room to see Finn, already seated at a large desk covered in maps and parchment, his stare still bewildered.

The door closes, and the captain enters, brushing his hands off, a smile on his lips. "Well," he says, smirking at both Finn and Rachel. "That went pretty well, I think."

Rachel just looks at Finn, who seems to be just as confused as she is.

(*)

They find out the captain's name is Blaine, and it quickly becomes apparent that he's actually just a nice guy. He shows them his extensive wardrobe and lets them pick out new clothes, even though Rachel protests. ("Honey," Blaine points out, looking at her knowingly. "You're wearing a bathrobe." She decides she might be able to do with a new dress after all).

After they've both changed – Finn wearing a nice, button-down debonair and new trousers, and Rachel a flowing blue dress – Blaine tells them the plan. Finn will seemingly turn up as Blaine's cousin when they make berth at the next port, and the crew will be likely to not recognize him because, as Blaine so lovingly puts it, "Unless it's edible or they can kill it, they tend to be less observant."

Blaine also tells them a little bit about himself – how he was actually on the other side of the wall, looking in. "I always wanted to go to England," he says wistfully, picking up his glass of wine and holding it between his fingers. "I longed for the day I would be able to cross the wall and have a real adventure." He sighs. "But alas, my father wanted me to take over the family business, so here I am, a pirate instead. It's good work," he tells them seriously, looking over the rim of his glass, "but it's not where I always saw myself, you know? I always imagined I would be a poet, or maybe a pianist."

"That sounds lovely," Rachel says with a smile.

Blaine smiles back, letting out a wistful sigh. "It's so nice to have people to be able to confide in. I have to keep up the Mr. Tough Guy persona for the crew, you know, so sometimes it's nice to be able to just have a nice chat without worrying about what I say and how I say it."

"Why be something you're not?" Finn asks, putting down his own glass of wine. "Shouldn't they accept you for who you are, and that should be enough?"

"Yes," Rachel says slowly, looking at Finn instead of Blaine. "That must be awful, trying to be what someone else wants you to be."

He shifts uncomfortably, rubbing the back of his neck.

Blaine glances between them, then he downs the rest of his glass. "Ah, well," he says with a hiccup. "You can't please everyone, I suppose. But why are you really so far from home?"

Rachel and Finn share a look, and Rachel sighs. "It's a long story," she says, "and I don't know if I can tell you all the details.

Blaine smiles. "Well, tell me what you can. We've got a bit of time."


xiii.

They make port a few hours later, Rachel going ashore with the captain and crew, and when they return, Finn is waiting, suitcases spread around him, a grin on his face. "Cousin!" he says exuberantly – just like they practiced – hugging Blaine and ignoring the scowls the other sailors are wearing.

Blaine hugs him back, barely reaching up to Finn's shoulders, and Finn smiles at Rachel over his shoulder. She smiles back despite herself, covering her mouth with her hand.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" Blaine asks.

"I just needed a bit of a lift, figured I'd tag along for a few days," Finn says easily, adjusting the lapels of his coat.

"I think that could be arranged," Blaine says, his mouth set in a line but his eyes smiling. He turns to the crew. "This is Finn, my cousin, and he'll be traveling with us for a few days, understand?"

The men mumble and shuffle their feet, but there seems to be a general consensus.

"And I have a gift for you," Blaine tells Finn, his eyes still twinkling. He reaches over and grabs Rachel by the arm, shoving her in Finn's direction. She stumbles a bit, but he manages to catch her, his lips turning up a little as she looks up at him from underneath her eyelashes, her big brown eyes wide.

Blaine clears his throat loudly.

"Oh, er, right," Finn mumbles, and he grips Rachel's waist, pulling her tightly to him. "Yeah, she'll do nicely."

"Excellent," Blaine beams. Then he turns back to the crew, snapping at them to get back to work.

Rachel lets out a breath beside him, and she looks down at the hand Finn still has on her waist. He blushes, quickly removing it and taking a step back as the crew heads back to their stations. He looks up to see Blaine watching them with a knowing smile on his lips, and Finn has to remind himself that he's in love with Quinn. Quinn, whose birthday is in five days.

He swallows, walking over to Blaine, and leaning down to murmur in his ear, "How far can you take us?"

"As close to the wall as I possibly can," Blaine promises.

"How long will it take?" Finn asks.

"Three days, maybe four at the most."

Finn's stomach churns, and he glances back over at Rachel, who is watching them with a curious expression, white teeth biting her bottom lip.

"What is it?" she asks.

"Just wondering if we'll get there in time, that's all," Finn tells her, giving her a small smile.

"Oh," she says quietly. "Right. Because Quinn's birthday is in five days, and otherwise this will all be for naught…"

She looks a little crestfallen, and Finn reaches over and grabs her hand, squeezing it gently. "It'll be okay," he tells her.

She smiles, but he notices it doesn't really reach her eyes.

(*)

Blaine teaches Finn how to swordfight the next day, giving him one of his older models. He lets him get a feel for the weapon first, then he teaches him the basic footwork, showing him how to properly shift his weight, how to lunge, and how to sidestep.

Finn's actually catching on pretty well, and soon he's facing off with various members of the crew, improving with each bout he has. He beats Thad quite easily, then has a slighter tougher time against David, then manages to beat both Nick and Jeff at once, using two swords. He scrapes up a win against Wes, the first mate, and Blaine claps, letting out a short laugh.

"Well done, Finn!" he says, picking up his own sword. "But can the student defeat the master?"

Finn smiles, mopping his brow with the sleeve of his shirt. "Bring it on."

Blaine takes his stance opposite him, sword out, and the bout begins. Finn goes left but so does Blaine, blocking his hit. Finn sidesteps, swinging back around, but Blaine's already there, countering him again.

Finn can feel his tongue poking out the side of his mouth as he tries shot after shot, blow after blow to no avail.

"I've taught you well," Blaine calls over to him as he parries yet another blow. "But you've still got a lot to learn." With that, he flicks his sword, someone managing to knock Finn's out of his hand and onto the deck with a clatter.

Finn sighs, putting his hands up, and Blaine chuckles, putting his sword away. "Good attempt," he says, patting Finn on the back. "There's still time to learn a trick or two."

The word 'time' makes Finn think of Quinn and Rachel and this quest and how he's actually running out of time. His stomach clenches painfully, and he swallows. "Yeah," he echoes, "plenty of time."

He really hopes he has plenty of time after all.


xiv.

A thunderstorm occurs two nights after Finn 'arrives' on the vessel, and both Finn and Rachel are given raincoats and help wrangle up some lightning with the rest of the crew. They work together to try to rope it into a metal cylinder, using other metal objects to attract it, and when it zaps into the canister, they close the lid tightly, trying to keep it inside.

Wes hands Rachel a finished canister for her to take to the storage area, and Finn offers to go with her. They take down their hoods once they get to the stairs and out of the rain. Finn takes the canister from Rachel's hands, his fingers brushing hers lightly, and she feels a jolt of electricity. She doesn't know if it's from him or the lightning inside the metal canister, but she blushes, withdrawing her hand.

"Sorry," he mutters as they reach the bottom of the stairs. She just shakes her head, and he goes over to put the lightning in one of the slots on the wall.

She thinks it wasn't the lightning that she felt, and she knows that's wrong, because she's a birthday present for another girl.

Her heart clenches at the thought. She wonders if this girl is even worth it, even knows what a wonderful guy Finn is.

She bets she doesn't, but he can't see that, and it kills her.

(*)

Blaine decides that he's going to teach both her and Finn how to dance the next night, despite their protests.

"Everyone needs to know how to dance," he tells them, giving them both knowing looks. And that's the end of that.

Both Rachel and Finn are considerably bad at it, Finn more so. Rachel keeps stepping on Blaine's toes, although he laughs it off and tells her it's fine. "Plus," he adds, "you're small and dainty, so I don't even notice it really."

Rachel ducks her head, a blush coloring her cheeks. She hears Nick hiss loudly from across the deck as Finn steps on his feet, and she thinks he probably doesn't express the same sentiment.

"I know what you are," Blaine whispers in her ear.

Rachel tenses, but he goes on, "No, no, don't worry, your secret's safe with me. I know you're the fallen star."

When she and Finn explained how they had come to end up on the cloud in the middle of the storm, they had left out this detail for her safety, so Rachel's a little taken aback that he's figured it out.

"How – how did you…?"

"Honey," he says, giving her a knowing look. "You're glowing."

She blushes, and he says, "See, there you go again."

"Well, that's what stars do – they shine," she says empathetically, giving him a small smile as they continue to sway back and forth.

Blaine just gives her a smile that suggests he knows something she doesn't, then she feels someone tap her on the shoulder. She lets go of Blaine and turns around, looking up at Finn, who's grinning down at her sheepishly.

"Can I cut in?" he asks.

She nods, blushing when he takes her hand, his other hand resting on her waist. Blaine shoots her a look, and she knows she must be glowing again.

"I'm really bad at this," she warns him as they begin to sway.

He laughs. "Trust me, I'm worse."

She giggles, and she knows she's glowing even more. She thinks being around Finn tends to set it off. Her heart pounds in her chest and her blood races through her veins and her skin glows even more than usual when she's near to him. She loves the way he has a special little smile just for her, and she loves how protective he is of her, and she loves how much he cares about everyone and everything, and oh God, she thinks she loves him.

She bites her lip as he cracks another joke about his lack of dancing ability, and she knows it's true: He's the most annoying, impossible person she's ever met, and she's only known him for a matter of days, but somehow she's managed to fall head over heels in love with him.

Then she remembers why she met him in the first place, how she's supposed to be a present for the girl he loves back home, and she feels her heart sink and her smile fade.

"Hey," he says, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she insists quietly, forcing a small smile onto her lips. "I'm just… hoping we'll get to Quinn in time for her birthday."

He frowns, tightening his grip on her waist as they continue to spin. "Yeah," he says quietly, but he seems to be lost in his own thoughts. Rachel's sure he's probably imagining his and Quinn's wedding day, how happy she'll be when he actually went and got her a star.

She decides to change the subject, to avoid the inevitable breaking of her heart. "Hey," she says, and he focuses back on her. "You haven't stepped on my feet once, so I think you're improving!"

He smiles, a real smile spreading across his face. "How about that," he says, his eyes sparkling, and her heart flutters in her chest.

"Hey, you're glowing," he says with a laugh, and she feels herself glow brighter as she blushes.

"That's what stars do, you know," she teases.

"What, they don't just annoy boys named Finn Hudson?"

She smacks him playfully on the arm. He just smirks, his hand still firmly on her waist as they sway back and forth underneath the light her sisters provide.


xv.

They descend into the port nearest the wall the following day, the boat's landing into a nearby lake a little shaky at best. Rachel and Finn both end up soaked, but he just laughs when she scowls at him, as if it's his fault she's dripping wet.

They say goodbye to the crew, extra clothes packed in a suitcase, and Finn watches as Rachel hugs Blaine tightly, tears in her eyes as she bids him farewell. "Thank you so much," she says. "For everything."

"Don't mention it," Blaine replies easily. Rachel wipes at her eyes, and he adds, "No, seriously, don't mention it. I do have a reputation to protect, you know."

She laughs, another tear slipping down her cheek as she hugs him again.

She takes a step back and Finn steps forward, shaking Blaine's hand. Blaine grips his shoulder, giving it a squeeze, before pulling him down by his arm so he can give him a hug and whisper in his ear. "Maybe if you'd open your eyes, you'd realize that your true love is right in front of you."

Finn gives him a confused look as he pulls away, his heart thumping wildly in his chest. Blaine just nods. "Think about it."

Finn turns to look at Rachel, who is watching them both in confusion. He turns back to Blaine, raising his hand in farewell, then makes to follow her down the gangplank.

"Wait!" Blaine says, and he fishes into his pocket, pulling out a metal canister. "Take this." He stretches out his arm, offering it to Finn.

"Lightning?" Finn asks.

"You never know, you might need it," Blaine says seriously.

Finn gives him a look, but he doesn't say anything else. He just attaches the canister to his belt, pats his sword in its holster, and follows Rachel down the gangplank. He catches up to her, placing his hand on her shoulder, and she looks up at him with a small smile.

His heart flips over in his chest. Maybe Blaine was right after all.

(*)

They've been walking for hours, following the signs that said "to the Wall" as Blaine directed, and Finn feels like they're going to never get there. "We've been walking for half a day," he complains.

"And I'm miraculously not tired!" Rachel exclaims, lifting her arms into the air and twirling around. He can't help but laugh as he watches her, her dress sparkling in the sunlight. She giggles with him, slowly coming to a stop, squinting up into the sun. "It's probably getting close to midday," she notes. "We'll have to pick up the pace to ensure we get to the wall in time for Quinn's birthday."

His stomach drops. Right. Quinn. Rachel's her birthday present. He hears a rumbling then, like that of a carriage, and he grabs Rachel's arm, shoving her into a nearby clump of bushes and diving in after her.

"Ow!" she hisses as she hits the ground, him on top of her.

"Shh," he tells her, covering her mouth with his hand.

"Finn, what—"

"Shh," he reiterates, listening as closely as he can. He hears the carriage rumble past, and he lets out a sigh of relief, removing his hand from Rachel's mouth.

"What was that about?" she demands. She looks so beautiful, lying underneath him, her dark hair splayed across the green grass. He's overwhelmed with the desire to lean down and press his lips softly against hers. "Finn?"

He shakes his head, and he asks, "What?"

She laughs, giving off a light glow. He loves the sound of her laugh. "Why did you attack me?"

"Attack you?" He scoffs. "I was protecting you!"

"Protecting me?" she echoes, wrinkling her nose.

"I can't take any chances," he tells her quietly. "Blaine caught on to you being a star, and I can't risk that someone else will. Who knows what other crazy people might want to cut out your heart?"

"Oh," she says, her glow fading. "Right."

He just listens to the sound of their breathing for a second, so tempted to brush her hair off her face, to cup her cheek and kiss her.

"You can probably get off me now," she tells him.

"Sorry," he says quickly, standing up and offering her a hand so he can help her out of the bush as well.

"Next time you plan on tackling me, how about a heads up first, hmm?" she teases, bumping his hip lightly with hers.

He chuckles. "Sure thing, Rach."

He thinks he might've imagined it, but he's pretty sure her eyes flit over him and her mouth curls into a small smile, but she ducks her head before he can see.


xvi.

It's a few hours past midday when they hear another carriage begin to roll up. Finn makes to grab Rachel again, but she stops him, putting her arm across his chest. "Maybe they can give us a lift," she says hopefully.

"No," he says, shaking his head. Rachel wants to roll her eyes. Why is he so protective anyway? "Absolutely not. I'm not taking that chance, Rach."

"Finn, if we don't get a ride, we'll never make it by tomorrow," she points out, folding her arms across her chest.

He sighs, glancing down the road to where the carriage is getting closer. "Alright," he agrees, "but you have to hide."

"What?" she asks incredulously.

"Just until I get a feel for things," he says hastily. "If it's safe, I'll come get you, I promise!"

She glares at him, crossing her arms as the carriage gets closer.

"Rachel," he pleads, his voice low, his hands gripping her shoulders. "Please."

She sighs. "Fine."

"Thank you," he breathes, and he shoves her in the direction of the bushes. She crouches behind them as Finn walks into the middle of the road, waving his arms. The carriage slows.

A tall, blonde woman steps down from the carriage, and Rachel can tell that she's glaring. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Please, I was just hoping for free passage to the wall that divides this land from the neighboring world."

She eyes him distastefully. "And why should I do that?"

"I – I'll give you something in return!"

"Like what?" she sneers.

She sees his fingers brush over the canister of lightning, then he reaches into his jacket pocket, pulling out a small, glass flower. "Like this," he says.

The woman snatches the flower from his fingertips, inspecting it carefully, a slow smile spreading across her face.

"Okay?" Finn asks. "You'll provide safe passage?"

"I promise you will be in the exact condition you're in now when we arrive at the wall," she tells him. Something about her smile is off-putting to Rachel, and she nearly wishes she hadn't had this stupid idea in the first place.

Finn visibly relaxes, and the woman cackles. "You really should have kept the flower. It was the only thing protecting you from me doing this."

Before Rachel can scream, before she can even react, the woman snaps her fingers. A cloud of purple smoke surrounds Finn, engulfing him, and when it fades away, a little brown mouse is left where he stood.

She covers her mouth to keep from gasping aloud.

"Carole!" the woman calls, and she snaps her fingers again. A bird flies out of the caravan, and by the time it rests on the ground, it's not a bird at all, but a woman in her late thirties. She bends down, picking up the mouse and taking him over to the witch.

"Will that be all, Mistress Sue?" Sue smiles evilly down at the mouse, snapping her fingers once more, causing the woman – Carole – to turn back into a bird.

The witch enters the back of the caravan, and Rachel quickly stands up, sprinting to the side of the caravan. She's breathing hard and her heart is pounding. She waits until the witch comes back out, shutting the door behind her.

Rachel takes a deep breath, then opens the door again and ducks inside.

After making sure the door is shut, she looks around. The caravan is full of various baubles and trinkets, most of it looking like junk. The bird (well, woman) is perched on a ledge, its head cocked. It doesn't make any move to give her away. Instead, it looks to her left, and she turns to see a small cage, Finn the mouse sitting inside, staring up at her.

"Finn," she breathes, collapsing onto a nearby stool. She bites her lip as she studies him – well, the mouse version of him – his black eyes looking up at her inquisitively. She wonders if she'll ever get the real Finn back, and her heart hurts at the thought.

Even if he's a mouse now, she decides that he deserves to know the truth. "Finn," she says slowly. "Finn, if you can understand me, blink twice."

The mouse just stares up at her, and she sighs. "I figured…" She swallows, taking a deep breath. "When I said I didn't know much about love – well, that wasn't true, you know. I – I'm a star. I've watched Earth for centuries. I've seen enough love to last thousands of lifetimes. And – and because I've seen so much, I know that love isn't about gifts in exchange for a hand in marriage or – or money, or prestige. Love is about finding someone that completes you, someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with, despite their flaws, through everything that might come your way. Love is – is about falling for someone, falling completely for someone. And it can be scary, because you don't know if they're going to catch you."

She feels tears beginning to well up in her eyes, but she presses on. "I – I'm scared, Finn. Because I'm falling, and I don't know if you'll be there to catch me. Because whenever you're around, my heart feels like it's going to beat out of my chest, like it… like it doesn't belong to me anymore. It belongs to you." She lets out a little, humorless laugh. "I just wish you could see that – that I wouldn't need big gestures or extravagant gifts. All I would want is – is your heart, in exchange for mine."

The mouse just continues to look at her, unaware that she just confessed her love, and she sighs, looking down to find a wheel of cheese just to the left of the table. She pinches off a piece, pushing it into the cage, watching as the mouse – well, Finn – dives after it, nibbling on it and looking back up at her.

"I'll get you to Quinn, don't worry," she murmurs, reaching a finger into the cage to stroke the top of his head. "And you'll be human again, you'll see."

She swears she can almost see the hint of light brown within the mouse's large black eyes. But then he goes back to his cheese, and she figures she must have imagined it after all.

(*)

Within an hour, the caravan stops. Rachel quickly scrambles out the back – not wanting to be discovered by the witch – pressing herself against the side of it as she hears Sue open the door and go inside.

She seems to be in a small town, cobblestones under her feet and bustling people surrounding them. The witch emerges from the caravan once more, holding Finn. She puts him on the ground, and with a snap of her fingers, he's Finn once more.

Rachel could cry, she's so relieved.

Finn groans, his eyes zeroing in on Sue, and he stands, making to lunge after her, but he stumbles instead.

"Careful now," Sue cackles. "I promised you'd be in that same condition, but you'll be a little lightheaded and woozy for a few more hours."

She's still laughing as she goes back around to the front of the caravan, and Rachel hurries to Finn's side, pressing her hands against his face.

He looks up at her with fuzzy eyes, a slow smile spreading across his face.

"Hi," she breathes.

"Quinn," he smiles in response.

She frowns. "I think I preferred 'Mom.'"

He just keeps smiling goofily up at her, and she hauls him to his feet, letting him lean his weight on her. She looks up to see an inn just down the road, so she begins to steer him in that direction, Finn playing with her hair all the while and wishing her a happy birthday.


xvii.

Finn wakes up with a massive headache to the sound of someone singing lightly. It's a soft voice, an angelic voice, and groggily, he opens his eyes.

He's in an unfamiliar room on an unfamiliar bed, the last few rays of the evening sunset coming in through the window. He sits up slowly, noting there's a partition on the other side of the room. The singing's coming from behind it.

He swings his legs over the side of the bed, standing up slowly. His head kills. He walks over to the partition, opening the little window set in the middle of it. He smiles, seeing the faint glow coming off of Rachel's skin, her bare shoulders all he can see. She's in the tub, singing lightly, water droplets clinging to her skin.

His heart swells as he recalls everything she said to him – well, the mouse version of him – in the caravan. She loves him. She loves him. And he knows without a doubt that he loves her, too.

She turns then, water splashing around in the tub, and her eyes widen as she realizes he's watching her. "What are you doing?" she shrieks, her hands flying up to cover her top half – although he can't see anything, not really. "Turn around!"

He laughs, backing away and turning his back, hands in the air. "I didn't even see anything!" he calls.

He just hears her hmmph and the water splashing as she gets out of the tub. He imagines what she looks like right now – her glow about her, water droplets clinging to her skin, her long, dark hair cascading over one shoulder.

"Okay," she announces. "You can turn around now."

He does, licking his lips as he takes her in. She's clad only in a towel that covers her torso, going down to about mid-thigh, her shoulders bare. She's looking up at him, an odd expression on her face.

"Finn?" she asks. "Are you alright?"

"Did you mean it?" he finds himself asking. "Those things you said in the caravan?"

She blushes, her glow becoming more prominent, covering her face with her hands. "I asked you to give me a sign."

"And keep you from saying those lovely things?" He laughs, gripping her face between his hands and pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

"I – I didn't know you could hear me," she whispers. He lowers her hands from her mouth, squeezing them in his own. He leans forward, surveying her reaction before he presses his lips gently against hers.

She squeaks, but she kisses him back before pulling away, her brow furrowed in confusion. "But… Quinn…"

"You want to know what Blaine really said to me before we left the ship?"

She nods, eyes wide.

"He told him that my true love was right in front of my eyes, if I'd only open them wide enough." He gives her a small half-smile, running this thumb across her cheek. "He was right."

"You know," she breathes. "You can kiss me if you want to."

He grins. "I want to."

She kisses him this time, her fingers running through his hair and her tongue pushing into his mouth. He wraps his arms around her in response, pulling her as close as he possibly can. She's so much tinier than him, so it's easier to keep his mouth attached to hers when he lifts her up.

He feels her gasp, but it doesn't take long for her to wrap her legs around his waist, her hands still in his hair. He groans, backing up until the backs of his knees hit the bed. He sinks down onto it, pulling Rachel down with him. She giggles, nuzzling her nose against his as he cups her cheek, bringing her face down to his once more.

His hands roam over her bare skin, flipping them so he's pressing her into the mattress. He slowly, carefully removes the towel, kissing each patch of bare skin he unveils. He notices her skin glows impossibly brighter when it comes into contact with his touch, so he touches every part of her he can reach, the sounds she's making causing his heart to pound.

She's so beautiful, every inch of her. He tells her this, and she just glows brighter, kissing him once more, sighing into his mouth.

She tugs at his clothes, her breathing heavier, and within a few minutes, they're both bare. Her fingers seem to be trying to memorize every part of him, and he feels like he's doing the same.

He tries to convey the love he's feeling with each touch, with each kiss, and he places butterfly kisses across her cheeks as he slides into her.

She gasps out his name, entwining his fingers with hers, arching her back as he begins to thrust in and out. He kisses her wherever he can: her shoulder, her collar bone, her neck, her mouth.

She cries out, coming done around him, and he follows soon after. She curls her body around his afterwards, running his hand over his stomach and whispering that she loves him before they both succumb to sleep.


xviii.

Rachel snuggles deeper into the sheets, a content sigh escaping her lips. "That's the first time I've slept all night," she whispers, turning over to smile at Finn.

Except Finn's not there.

She sits up, clutching the sheet tightly to her chest. Did she completely imagine last night? She certainly feels a little sore, so she doesn't think she did. So where is Finn?

She gets dressed and heads downstairs. She doesn't run into Finn, but she does run into the innkeeper.

"My friend," she says, "I – I can't find him, have you seen him?"

"Tall, brown hair?" the innkeeper asks.

She nods, smiling brightly.

"He left a message for you. Said to tell you that he's gone to wish Quinn a happy birthday, because he's realized who his true love is."

She gapes at him. Her heart is breaking. "H – He said that?"

The innkeeper nods. "The exact words that came out of his mouth."

She feels numb. Just last night he told her he loved her, but now he's on his way to see Quinn, whom he believes, after everything, is still somehow his true love.

She feels tears well up in her eyes, and she knows she has to find him, has to demand that he explain himself. Plus, isn't she supposed to be Quinn's present?

Her heart in tatters, she leaves the inn, setting out for the wall. She doesn't notice the same, battered caravan as she passes it, or the terrified face of the woman named Carole as she tries to get her attention.

She's too focused on her own heartbreak.


xix.

Finn crosses the wall easily, his feet landing on the other side. He tips an imaginary hat to the elderly guard, who's standing, gaping at him.

He whistles as he walks into town, hands in his pockets. In one pocket of his jacket, he has a piece of Rachel's hair he cut while she slept in the morning. He's simply planning on telling Quinn that he's found his one true love, but he did promise her a star, so he's going to give her what he can.

(She can't have Rachel, anyway. She's his.)

He smiles just thinking about her, and he barely even notices when he reaches Quinn's house.

He knocks on the door, and it swings open a few seconds later. Quinn still looks the same, blonde hair and wide green eyes, and he can hardly believe it's only been a week since he saw her last.

"Finn?" she asks. Her eyes widen as she takes in his new clothes. He's sure he looks different.

"Happy birthday, Quinn."

She grins then, flipping her hair over her shoulder. "You got me my star then?"

He just nods, pulling out the handkerchief that contains Rachel's hair. She face falls a bit when she sees it, but she takes it all the same. "This is it?" she asks. He nods in confirmation. "Well, it's not what I really want, anyway," she tells him, stepping out of the doorway. "I think you know what I really want." She's standing on her tiptoes so her lips are pressed against his ear.

"I think I do," he murmurs. He pulls away, and she beams up at him.

"You want to grow up, and get over yourself."

Her smile fades, a scowl replacing it.

"Hudson?" He turns around to see Puckerman behind him, a bouquet of flowers in one hand, his walking cane in the other. "Fine then. Let's settle this once and for all, shall we?"

He sets down the flowers and unsheathes his cane, revealing a small sword.

Finn sighs, getting his own sword from his belt, swinging it in his hands a few times before taking his stance.

Puck's eyes widen, and he quickly puts his smaller sword away.

"No, you deserve her," Finn tells him, lowering his sword. He glances back at Quinn. "You were made for each other, even."

"Why would I want this?" Quinn asks then, her nose crinkled in disgust, waving Finn's handkerchief. "It's just a bunch of stardust."

Sure enough, sparkly grey dust is floating off of the fabric, and Finn's breath hitches.

"Rachel," he breathes. "She can't cross the wall."

Then he takes off running, his legs moving faster than they ever have before.


xx.

She's nearly to the wall, nothing but the sound of her feet hitting the grass and the thumping of the blood in her ears filling her mind, because if she thinks about Finn, she might cry. She takes a deep breath when she reaches the wall, prepared to step over it, but then she hears the rattling of a caravan, and she turns around to see the same one that brought her and Finn to the town closest to the wall in the first place speeding toward her.

The caravan slows, and the woman – the one who had been a bird – jumps down from the driving seat, grabbing Rachel's arm and yanking her away. "You can't cross the wall or you'll die," she tells her quickly, looking at her with earnest eyes.

Rachel doesn't tell her that she'd rather die than live without Finn, because that might be a little melodramatic.

It's really nothing compared to what happens next.

The door of the caravan swings open, and the witch from before emerges, her eyes wide and angry. "You wench!" she screams, pointing a shaking finger at Carole. "Why have you taken me here?"

"Please, mistress," Carole pleads, but the witch backhands her, and she falls to the ground. Her eyes then flit over to Rachel.

"Well, well, well, what have we here?" she asks, venom in her voice. Rachel shivers as she sniffs the air. "A star. A fresh one, too." She leers at her. "I bet your heart will suffice quite nicely, keeping me young for a century."

Rachel gulps, preparing herself for the worst when another carriage pulls up. The door opens, and the pretty innkeeper's wife, Santana, steps out, a small smile on her lips.

"Not so fast, Sue. That star belongs to me."

Sue turns around abruptly, frowning at her. "And why is that? I'm the one who found her, after all."

"Do you not recognize me?" Santana asks, eyes blazing. For a moment, her face becomes older, distorted, and Sue gasps in surprise, falling to her knees.

"Your majesty, I didn't know –"

"Enough," Santana commands, her face back to its original state as she raises her hand. With a snap of her fingers, purple flames spring around Sue, engulfing her. Rachel watches in horror as Sue's screams ring out, the flames licking at her skin.

Finally, the screams stop. Santana snaps her fingers once more, and the flames disappear. Scorch marks remain, but Sue's body is gone.

"Now then," Santana purrs, taking a step forward. Her smirk terrifies Rachel. She's close enough Rachel can practically feel her breath on her skin, and she cocks a finger, placing it under Rachel's chin. "My little star," she whispers.

"Come," she commands, turning abruptly. She takes a white chain – similar to the one Finn had when he first encountered Rachel – wrapping it around her wrist. She hauls Carole up and attaches the other end to her, smiling at them both. "We could always use a slave to clean up afterwards," she explains.

Carole takes Rachel's hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze before they both climb into the witch's carriage.

"Don't you worry," Santana tells them sweetly. "We'll be home before you know it."

Rachel swallows, fear coursing through her veins. That's exactly what she's afraid of.


xxi.

Finn gets to the wall just in time to see a carriage drive off, and he curses under his breath. "You!" he says, turning to the guard. "Did you see anything? What happened?"

"There was a – a girl – a star, she called her. And the woman was beautiful, unnaturally so, and she took her, she did!"

"Where did she take her?" Finn demands. "Where did they go?"

The old man shrugs helplessly.

"Dammit!" Finn jumps over the wall and begins to walk in the direction the carriage went. He knows he'll never get there in time on foot, but he doesn't know what else he can do.

He's been walking for only a few minutes when he hears a carriage coming up behind him. Heart pounding in his chest, he knows this is his only chance, so he turns in the road, drawing his sword.

The horses stop, and the man driving frowns down at him. "Just what do you think you're doing?" he demands.

"I need a lift," Finn tells him. "And you can either do it willingly, or I can force you to abandon your carriage. Either way, we don't have much time, so choose quickly."

The man surveys him with cold, grey eyes. "Do you know who I am?"

Finn rolls his eyes. "No, I can't say that I do, but I'm kind of in a hurry, so—"

"I am Jesse, Prince of Stormhold," the man tells him, and Finn suddenly remembers Sam. Didn't he mention a brother? Should he even trust this guy? "And I am on a quest to claim the throne."

Finn definitely remembers Sam mentioning a quest, something to do with a necklace, he thinks. And, wait, didn't Rachel have a necklace?

"You're looking for a stone, right?"

Jesse narrows his eyes. "Yes. How did you know that?"

"I ran into your brother."

"Sam?" Jesse's gaze turns murderous.

"He's dead," Finn tells him shortly.

"Oh," Jesse says, a smile flitting across his face. "Well then… I guess I'm king."

"But first you need the stone," Finn reminds him.

Jesse's grin fades. "Yes. Yes, I do."

"What if I told you I know where you could find it?"

Jesse surveys him carefully, then motions for him to get on board. Finn's heart pounds in his chest, and he directs Jesse to continue down the road. He just hopes they're not too late.

(*)

They stop when the road ends an hour later, an ominous castle just off in the distance. Finn doesn't know how, but he knows this is the right place. It's like he can feel her, feel Rachel.

He and Jesse set off for the palace, their footsteps seeming unnaturally loud, his feet unnaturally heavy. He breaks into a run, his heart pounding, Jesse close behind him.

They reach the castle, and Finn peaks in the large window at the front of it, trying desperately to see through the murk and slime to the inside. He can't make out anything.

"What is it?" Jesse asks sharply. "Is the stone inside?"

Finn nods. "We'll have to break in."

Jesse stands, heading over to the door, and to their surprise, it opens when he tugs on it. "Or not," he adds with a smirk.

Finn just rolls his eyes, following him inside.

They hide behind a large pillar, Jesse looking out. "There seems to be three women." He scoffs. "Well, that should be no problem. Do they have the stone?"

"Look for a small one with long dark hair and a blue dress. She'll be a prisoner, and she has the stone."

"What?" Jesse's gaze snaps over to him. "How did she acquire it?"

"It knocked her out of the sky," Finn tells him.

Jesse's eyes widen, and he eagerly looks out once more. "She's a star? Even more valuable than the stone, I'm guessing."

Finn wants to hit himself, or, better yet, hit Jesse. He shouldn't have said anything.

"Ah, yes, I see her now," Jesse says, a smile spreading across his face. "She looks terrified. And – yes! The stone sits upon her neck, just like you said."

"Can you save her?" Finn asks quickly.

Jesse gives him a look. "Why, you want the star all to yourself? Well, as royalty, I'm afraid I'm going to have to keep her for me. The one who possesses the heart of a star possesses eternal life, you know."

Finn frowns. "No, I didn't know that."

"Then what could you have possibly wanted her for?" Jesse asks with a small laugh. He takes in Finn's expression. "Oh my God. You – you're in love with her, aren't you?"

Finn doesn't say anything, just clenches his jaw.

"You're in love with a star! She can't feel you know, she's just this celestial being—"

Finn grabs Jesse by the collar, growling, "You don't know anything about her, so just figure out how to save her or I'll throw you out there myself."

Jesse gulps, prying Finn's fingers from his shirt. "Noted," he says drily.

Finn glances over at the pillar across the way and sees a woman tied to it, staring at him with wide eyes. He recognizes her as the slave who had been on the caravan, the one who had helped him when he was a mouse. She looks terrified.

She also looks incredibly familiar, and he feels like he knows her. He can't explain why.

"I'll be right back," he murmurs to Jesse, then he dashes across the room to the other pillar, ignoring Jesse's whispered, "Hey! Get back here!"

"Where's Rachel?" he asks, crouching down next to her.

"The – the witches have her," the woman murmurs, her eyes still wide as she studies Finn's face.

"Witches?" Finn frowns. "As in more than one?" He swiftly takes out his sword, cutting the bonds that tie her hands to the pillar.

"I'm afraid so. Finn, you have to save her."

"I'm trying, I just—" He stops. "How do you know my name?"

"Finn, I think I know my son when I see him."

He gapes at her as she cups his cheek, her thumb running over his skin. "You're my – my mother?"

She nods, tears filling her eyes as she pulls him to her, hugging him tightly. It's a strange feeling, but he knows she's telling the truth, and he hugs her back, just for a moment, sinking into her. Just for a moment, he feels like everything's going to be okay.

He remembers Rachel then, and he breaks away, looking his mother in the eye. "We have to save Rachel," he tells her seriously.

"I think Jesse's on his way to doing that right now," his mother responds, looking behind him.

"Wait, how do you—"

"Jesse's my brother," she replies calmly.

"So he's my – my uncle?" His head is reeling. That means Sam was his uncle as well and Sam's dead and oh God he might be sick.

"Finn," she replies quietly. "There are more important things happening right now."

He swallows. He knows she's right. He turns to see Jesse emerging into the long entryway, determinedly heading toward the witches, sword out. He really hopes he can take care of things. He hopes Rachel will be okay.

He won't be able to survive if she isn't.


xxiii.

Rachel's terrified. She's been strapped to a table, Carole has been chained to a pillar, and she's been introduced to the other two witches who wish to share her heart with Santana: her sisters, Brittany and Sugar, who are leering at her, licking their lips.

"You'll be a great treat," the blonde one – Brittany – says with a smile.

Rachel shivers, straining against her bonds, but then she stops. If Finn really went to tell Quinn he loved her, is it worth it to live anyway? What is it to live with a broken heart?

"Why so sad?" Sugar asks, looking down at her as a salty tear slides down her cheek. "We'll be quick, I promise."

"Santana," Brittany calls. "I think this star has a broken heart."

Santana comes into view then, sharpening her knife, leering down at her. "Even if that's the case, a star with a broken heart is better than no star at all."

She smirks, but just then a loud booming sound echoes throughout the entryway. Rachel looks up, hoping to see Finn, but a man with dark, wavy hair is there instead, standing next to a large, smashed vase.

"Don't panic!" he calls out to her, sword out as he advances. "I am Prince Jesse, and I'll vanquish these witches and free you, as long as you give me the stone around your neck!"

Rachel wants to roll her eyes. Honestly, she forgot all about the stone. And she has her doubts on whether or not he'll be able to really defeat the witches.

Santana glares at him in fury, nodding to Sugar, who smiles, handing her a doll. Rachel crinkles her brow in confusion, but then Santana grins, holding the doll up in the air, and she knows what will happen a second before it does.

Jesse rises into the air as well, a look of terror upon his face, and Santana snaps the leg of the doll. Rachel winces when she hears Jesse's leg snap as well, his cries of pain filling the room as he crashes back down to the ground.

She desperately wishes Finn were here.

"Please," Jesse's begging now. "Please, just let me go. I'm a prince – I'll give you whatever you want. Just… please."

Santana just cackles as Brittany brings her a bowl of water. Rachel watches in horror as she drops the doll into it. Jesse rises into the air again, this time as if he's in liquid, his limbs floating at weird angles and his eyes wide in horror. He begins to open his mouth, his lungs clearly screaming for air. Rachel can do nothing but watch. She wants to turn away, wants to shut her eyes, but she can't.

Finally, his eyes close, and his body stops moving, and he sinks slowly to the ground.

Rachel whimpers. He's dead.

"Pity you had to see that," Santana comments, looking down at her thoughtfully. She picks up her knife once more, and Rachel squeezes her eyes shut.


xxiv.

Finn's mother has to grab his arm as he makes to move forward after Jesse falls.

"I have to go save Rachel," he tells her urgently. "Mom, I have to do this."

"I know," she whispers, touching his face one more time. "But first, take this." She hands him the flower he gave to Sue, the glass one that had been in her letter. "It will protect you."

"Thank you," he whispers, and he hugs her tight, one last time.

"I'm so proud of you," she tells him, and he smiles before stepping into the open.

His blood runs cold when he sees Santana, standing over Rachel with a knife, and he yells, "Stop! Take me instead!"

He sees Santana freeze, and slowly, she turns around. "You," she says venomously, recognizing him from the inn.

He sees Rachel turn her head, and her lips form his name. She smiles, and she glows.

Then another witch is in his way, a smile on her lips and brown hair falling over her shoulder.

She raises her hand and snaps her fingers, but nothing happens. Finn looks down at the flower he's holding between his fingertips, then back up at her. She howls in fury.

"Sugar, what's the hold up?" Santana barks.

"He has a snowdrop," Sugar hisses.

"And a sword," he adds, and with that, he takes it out and stabs her through the abdomen, a sickening noise escaping her lips as he pulls it out of her. She grips her stomach, looking down at the blood, then smiles one last time before she keels over, falling to the floor, her eyes staring up at things they cannot see.

"No!" the blonde one wails, but Santana holds her back, taking her off to the side and whispering in her ear quietly. The blonde's lip trembles, but she nods, squaring her jaw.

"Go, Brittany," Santana urges, grabbing Brittany by the arm and shoving her in Finn's direction. Finn swallows, holding his ground, his sword raised.

Brittany slowly descends the stairs, taking careful, meticulous steps. Finn's heart pounds, his sword slightly shaking. He just focuses on Rachel. He's doing this for Rachel.

He meets her terrified gaze and tries to give her a small smile.

He doesn't see the huge vase flying toward him until he hears Rachel scream.

He turns, ducking just in time for the vase to swing over his head. Brittany scowls, moving it back in his direction, and this time, he doesn't duck in time. The vase crashes into him, knocking him off his feet and shattering into a thousand pieces.

Santana cackles and Brittany looks up at her, grinning, giving Finn just enough to loosen the canister of lightning from his belt and get it open. Brittany stops mid-giggle as she realizes what he's doing, but it's too late: The lightning heads straight for her, tossing her into the air. She falls to the floor, twitching for a moment, then she is still.

Santana looks at him, then at her two dead sisters, her stare furious.

Finn gulps, raising his sword once more, preparing for the worst.


xv.

Rachel can see Santana's hand shaking, and she worriedly glances from Finn to her, her agitation getting the best of her as she struggles against her bonds.

"You killed my sisters," Santana says, her voice cracking. "You – you killed them."

Finn just shifts from foot to foot, keeping his hands steady. "Let her go," he says evenly. "Please, just… let her go."

Santana turns her back on him, glaring down at Rachel instead. "You took away the only things I loved." She raises her knife, high above her head. She hears Finn cry out, hears his hurried footsteps as he races across the tile floor to reach her. Rachel squeezes her eyes shut, preparing for the pain.

It doesn't come.

The knife cuts through the belt binding her, and her eyes fly open, her breathing heavy as she looks up at Santana in confusion. She's crying, tears racing down her cheeks, the knife falling to the floor with a clatter.

"Just go," she whispers, and suddenly Finn's by her side, touching her arm, grabbing her and hauling her up. "Just go!"

Rachel feels like it's all too good to be true, but she takes Finn's hand and they both race down the staircase, toward the open door. She just focuses on the fact that Finn's here and he's real, and surely that counts for something. She sees Carole just outside, her face hopeful, but then the door slams shut.

Laughter echoes around the hall.

Finn and Rachel stop, turning around to look at Santana.

She's watching both of them, cackling, her shoulders shaking with laughter. "I have to thank you, Finn," she says, picking up her knife once more and twirling it between her fingers. "A star with a broken heart was hardly worth anything to me. But now that you're here, her heart is whole once more, and now that you've killed my sisters, I'll have it all to myself." She laughs as she descends the stairs, her eyes never leaving her prey.

Finn steps in front of Rachel, shielding her from view.

"Finn," Rachel whispers. "I have an idea."

"Rachel…"

"Just trust me," she says. She sees him nod, so she goes on. "Hold me tight, and close your eyes."

Santana's still advancing, but he does as she says. She breathes him in, brushing the back of his hair with her fingertips. "Finn," she says, "what do stars do best?"

His hold tightens on her waist, his breathing, slow and deep, the only sound she hears.

"Shine," she whispers.

She lets go then, lets the emotion of him and her and them fill her completely, and everything is soaked in bright, white light.

There is screaming, and then there is silence.


xvi.

Finn slowly opens his eyes to find that Rachel is still in his arms, and he kisses the top of her head, squeezing her even more tightly. "I thought I'd lost you," he murmurs into her hair.

He glances around and sees that Santana is nowhere in sight. Rachel's plan must have worked.

She looks up at him, her eyes filled with tears, but she's smiling. "You came back."

"Of course I did," he says. "I love you."

She beams, reaching up to bring his lips down to hers. She tastes heavenly and sweet as he wraps his arms around her, and his fingers brush her throat, his hands sliding down to the necklace she's worn since she was knocked out of the sky.

They pull away when they hear a clearing of a throat, and his mother is smiling at them.

"Oh, Carole," Rachel wails, and she goes to hug her as well. His mother smiles at him over the top of Rachel's head as she smoothes down her hair. She pulls away, gesturing down to the necklace.

"Look," she points out.

Rachel gasps, holding the stone out so Finn can see it. Previously clear, it's now a blood red. "How did that happen?" she wonders.

"Finn," his mother says knowingly. "His fingers must have brushed it."

"But… wait," Finn says slowly. "Does that mean…?"

His mother nods. "You're the last surviving male heir. You are the King of Stormhold."

He's frozen in shock, not moving until Rachel tackles him, wrapping her arms around him and kissing the side of his neck.

"You were meant for bigger things after all," she whispers. "You're no shop boy, Finn Hudson."

He kisses her then, lifting her into the air, and he knows she's right. She showed him that, after all.

(*)

The coronation is quite the affair. It takes place right after his and Rachel's wedding, so it's a big, giant day of celebration. He feels a little weird, sitting on a throne and having a crown thrust onto his head, but he just looks over at Rachel – his wife – and he smiles and he feels a little less weird about it all.

His parents are finally reunited, sitting on his left, hands intertwined. It's nice to see his dad happy, after all this time.

He invited Blaine and his crew as well, and they take up the entire first three rows, making obscene gestures and talking at all the wrong times. He doesn't mind. It would be weird if they didn't, honestly.

Even people from Lima come as well, including the newly engaged Puck and Quinn. Quinn smiles tightly as she grips Puckerman's hand, and Finn hopes she'll really be happy. Even though she wasn't his true love, he hopes she's really Puck's. She deserves some form of happiness.

As a wedding present, his mother presents him with a box, her smile knowing as she goes back to sit next to his father. He raises an eyebrow in Rachel's direction as he lifts the lid, and he nearly laughs when he holds up the Babylon candle.

"You'll need it one day," his mother tells him knowingly. "Because the man who has the heart of a star lives forever."

He laughs. "I did promise you I'd get you home one day, didn't I?" he teases, looking over at his wife. (He has a wife now. He has a wife.)

Her eyes sparkle. "That you did. But I think I found a new home."

"How's that?" he asks.

"It's wherever you are," she tells him serenely.

He presses his lips to her hand.

The crowning ceremony takes place then, and he's not a huge fan of the formality, but he thinks this is where he's truly meant to be.

Rachel grips his hand tightly when they're announced as the king and queen, and he smiles, his thumb brushing over her skin. He tells her he loves her, and she just laughs, telling him that she'll love him forever and always, and he doesn't get a choice in the matter.

He just promises her he wouldn't have it any other way.


thank you so much for reading, and i would appreciate it greatly if you left a review! :)