A/N: This is an AU one shot based off another prompt from finchel-prompts (it's the I Told You So prompt). Basic premise: this is basically snapshots of five times that Finn told Rachel he was going to marry her (AKA: soft, happy, fluff). It was so much fun to work on this piece – I hope you like it! :)
Finn and Rachel meet when they're four years old, at nursery school. Finn's kind of shy at first; he's never really hung out with kids before. His mom's his only friend and he kind of likes it that way. For the first few weeks of school, he mainly just follows Ms. Carl around, asking her what time it is and when mommy is going to come and pick him up.
She always smiles at him nicely and says, "Soon, Finn!" He smiles and is satisfied with that answer for a few minutes, before he realizes that his mom is still not at the door waiting for him. So then he has to go find Ms. Carl again and ask her if she's totally sure that his mom really is coming soon. Because Finn needs to know because his mom always takes him to the park after school and he has to be ready with his coat on for when she says it's time to leave.
It's October when Finn's mom tells him at dinnertime that she's not going to be picking him up at school from now on, and that Mr. Berry is. Her shifts have been changed from afternoon to mornings and so he needs to stay with the Berry's until she's ready to pick him up at three. Finn's pretty confused because he's never even talked to Rachel and besides, Mom is supposed to pick him up, take him to the park, and then drop him off at Grandma's. That's how it's always been.
Mom says something about Grandma being too old to handle him though, and that Mr. Berry said that watching over Finn would be no problem at all, that Rachel and Finn get along wonderfully. Finn thinks that Mr. Berry is lying, and liars are bad people, but Mom's smiling widely at him so he doesn't want to hurt her feelings or make her happy face turn upside down.
So the next Monday morning, Mom kisses him by his cubby and she whispers into his ear, "be a good boy for Mr. Berry, alright? Make sure you try to eat all of your lunch, but if you don't like it, I packed a snack for you and it's in your backpack." She takes Finn's hand, helps him open up his bag, and makes sure that he knows exactly where the snack is. And she points out a present that's tucked next to his bright blue lunchbox; it's wrapped in Power Rangers wrapping paper and it has a big bow on it.
"If you're a good boy, Mr. Berry will let you open that, okay?" she asks, and Finn nods. He wraps his arms around her legs, hugging tightly. She ruffles his hair, and kisses him again on the head. "I love you so much, baby. Have a good day, I'll see you soon!"
She wipes at her eyes a couple of times and then walks out the door. Finn stands at his cubby for a few seconds, before he feels a hand wrapping around his. He looks over, and Rachel's standing next to him.
Her hand's sticky and glittery, but it feels kind of nice to have someone holding his hand, so he doesn't push her away like he usually does.
"We're having a play date today," Rachel announces, and she swings their hands back and forth. "My daddy bought bananas and apples and oranges and we're going to put chocolate on them and eat them!"
Finn looks confused. "But bananas aren't dessert."
Rachel shakes her head. "It's fine, Daddy says that dessert and fruit can be mixed sometimes."
Finn's never heard of any kind of rule like that, but it's sounds cool and he likes chocolate, and he likes bananas, so he thinks that together they'll taste pretty good.
Rachel asks him if he wants to go play in the water table with her. Finn looks over at Ms. Carl a little nervously, but she's smiling at him, and is motioning for him to go towards the art room.
Finn's never played with anyone at school before. He's usually way too busy making sure that Ms. Carl is keeping track of the time. But since his mom isn't coming today, he guesses that it'll be okay to play with Rachel for a while. He knows that she never plays with anyone either. Maybe they can be friends.
"Sure," he says, hesitantly, "but I have to get a smock first, right?"
"And roll up your sleeves," Rachel chirps. She drops his hands, and pushes up the sleeves of her own dress. It's bright pink and has blue and yellow polka dots all over it, and has two pockets that are filled with cut up pieces of paper and yarn.
Finn pushes up his sleeves and follows Rachel into the art room. The water table is filled with big bubbles, and there are some spoons and plastic bowls inside. He can't help himself – he reaches over and pops a bubble, then grins, and starts popping some more, splashing his hands in the water.
Rachel shrieks, "FINN! You have to put on a smock!" She grabs his arm, pulling him away from the table. She looks at him seriously. "You have to follow the rules at the water table; otherwise Ms. Carl says we can't play in it. Okay?"
He nods and walks over to the wall where the smocks are, and pulls one on over his head. Rachel smiles gratefully at him, then puts her own on. They walk back over to the water table, and Rachel hands him a spoon.
"I make blueberry pies," she says, stirring her spoon carefully in the water, pouring some of the bubbles into a bowl. "And then I have Ms. Carl or Ms. Samson try them. You can try one, too, if you want."
Finn doesn't know what to say. He's never made blueberry pie before but he thinks that if all it takes is stirring his spoon around a bit, it can't be that hard.
But – "I don't like blueberries."
Rachel looks up at him for a second, then dumps the water out of her bowl, starting over. "That's fine. I'll make a chocolate pie. I know you like chocolate."
Finn smiles at her and Rachel smiles back before focusing her attention onto her 'pie'.
He thinks that she's pretty. She has really long hair and it's pulled back into a ponytail that almost reaches her waist, and her eyes are big and brown. She kind of looks like one of those princesses from those movies that Mom watches with him on Sundays.
He's not sure why, but he thinks that she'd like to hear that, so he tells her.
"You look like Belle," he says, and Rachel drops her spoon in the water.
"Really?" she asks breathlessly. "Oh, that's my favorite princess of all time."
Finn smiles, and encouraged, continues, "Yeah. You look like her. My mom and I watched that movie and my mom sang all the songs."
"I sing all the songs, too!" Rachel says excitedly, clapping her soapy hands together. "My daddy says I sound just like her! I'm very talented, you know."
Finn knows this. She sings every day at meeting time and she dances on the playground when everyone else (besides Finn, who is usually just sitting by Ms. Carl) plays tag.
He splashes a little more in the water, until Ms. Carl says that it's time for meeting. Rachel sits next to him on the carpet as they sing the morning song, and she sits next to him during snack time, too. He shares his carrot sticks with her, and he thinks that maybe it's not so bad having friends besides his mom.
Finn starts to miss her when Mr. Berry comes to pick him and Rachel up, though, at noon. Mr. Berry's very, very tall. He wears glasses and he talks in a low voice. He calls Finn 'bud' and he offers to carry his backpack for him but Finn just shakes his head, no.
Finn's never been around any man beside his Grandpa, and Grandpa's old and hairy and in a wheelchair. Mr. Berry's old, but he's not that old.
He's quiet the whole drive to the Berry's house, as Rachel talks to her daddy about their day, and how much fun they had, and how excited Finn is about the chocolate and fruit. Mr. Berry tries to talk to Finn, but Finn just doesn't know what to say, how to say it. He doesn't think that Mr. Berry scares him, but still – he's not Mom.
Mr. Berry makes them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and then offers Finn Cheez-Its or pretzels. Finn takes the Cheez-Its shyly, and Mr. Berry smiles, and says, "those are my favorite, too, but Rachie always chooses the pretzels."
Rachel grabs a pretzel log and breaks it in half, pretends it's a microphone, and starts to sing loudly. Finn smiles, and Mr. Berry gives him a look, like, see how silly she is.
Finn cries a little after lunch when Mr. Berry takes him to the living room so that Finn can take a nap on the couch. Mom really, really shouldn't just leave him like this and Rachel's nice and Mr. Berry's okay, but they're not his Mom and they're not his Grandma and he just wants to take a nap in his own bed.
Mr. Berry reads him a cool story though and Rachel decides that she wants to nap in the living room too, so it's not so bad. After nap time, they make chocolate fruit, and it's so good, Finn eats a whole banana and a whole orange by himself. He laughs when Rachel can't even finish a whole apple, and she looks a little sad.
"I'm just joking," Finn says nervously. "Because we're friends."
Rachel sniffles. "Best friends."
Finn nods. "Best friends." And then he pauses, before saying, "my mom says that Belle and the Beast married because they were best friends first. We should get married when we're old."
Mr. Berry almost chokes on his apple. "How old are we talking, bud?"
Finn shrugs. "Fifteen?" That's as high as he can count, so he thinks that must be old. Rachel shakes her head at him.
"You won't want to marry me when we're old."
Finn thinks about this for a second, taking another bite of an apple slice. "Will you still have long hair? And brown eyes?"
Rachel nods enthusiastically. "Oh, yes! Hopefully my hair will be down to my waist by then."
"Then I'll still want to marry you."
Rachel is thirteen when she loses her first dance competition. Finn is sitting in the audience with Mr. and Mr. Berry, and they all look nervously at each other when it's announced, "Rachel Berry, second place in the thirteen to fifteen year old lyrical division."
Finn almost has to look away, because he's pretty sure that when Rachel walks on stage to collect her trophy she's going to be crying hysterically. But she's not – she manages to stay composed as she walks across the stage, her head held high. The main judge places the trophy in her hands, and smiles at her graciously.
Rachel does her best to smile back, and does a little curtsy.
"She's going to be miserable tonight," her daddy whispers to Finn anxiously, as he rolls the program up in his hands anxiously.
"Oh, an absolute terror," her dad agrees, almost in a reminiscent tone of voice. "Remember when she tied for first place at that singing competition last year? The one in Buffalo?" He sighs, almost sounding proud of her. "I thought she was going to burn the house down."
"She seems to be doing okay right now," Finn argues hopefully. But deep down, he knows his Rachel. She might be holding it together now, as she stands with her trophy at her feet, clapping for the second place winners of the other divisions. But she is not going to be holding it together for long.
She looks over at him. He's sitting in the front row, stage left, like he usually does at her competitions. He tries to smile and give her a thumbs up sign. She doesn't even attempt a smile, she just stares at him stonily before looking away as the judge announces the first place winner:
"Lucia Vernon, first place in the thirteen to fifteen year old lyrical division!"
He honestly should be prepared for what happens next. After years of being friends with her, he should always expect the most dramatic response possible from her, no matter what the situation is. Still, she manages to shock him sometimes.
Like right now, as she kicks (literally kicks) her trophy as hard as she can across the stage. It breaks apart as it catapults off from the stage and into the third row. Finn whips his head back to see if it hit anyone; it didn't, thank God, and he quickly turns back to the stage to see Rachel running off it, her hands covering her face and her cries audible to the entire auditorium.
Lucia just stands there, her mouth open and her trophy hanging loosely in her hand. The entire auditorium is in silence and Finn slumps down a little lower in his chair, wishing he could become invisible.
Her daddy drops his head in his hands and sighs, and her dad reaches over and rubs his back gently.
"You'd think she'd realize she can't win every time," her daddy says, his voice muffled. "Even if she is the best. Lucia's fouettes were dreadful, as always."
"Hiram," her dad says reproachfully. "The girl's fifteen years old, cut her some slack."
"All I'm saying is that Rachel hasn't traveled unnecessarily on her fouettes since she was ten," her daddy says innocently. "You would think that the judges would realize that and not award first place to a girl who can't manage that simple task!"
Her dad nods understandingly, and then looks over at Finn. "You want to check the dressing room? I'll check the bathroom. Hiram, you can check to see if she's already out at the car. If we can't find her in twenty minutes, lets meet back out at the lobby to brainstorm where else she could be."
They've been through the 'finding Rachel' thing before. After the Nutcracker Ballet last year, she hid in an empty practice room for an hour because she felt that she hadn't danced in the ballroom scene up to her full potential.
Finn stands up, grabs his jacket, and walks as quickly as he can out of the auditorium. It feels as if he's been to this auditorium like, a thousand times. Rachel has competitions every other week, for either dancing or singing, and he's been to a ton of them. His mom works all the time, and he doesn't really like being stuck home alone – so he hangs out with Rachel, and hanging out with Rachel means going to her competitions.
He thinks that maybe it'd be more fun playing video games with Puck, or practicing football with Mike. And he does that stuff a lot, too. But Rachel likes having him at her big competitions, and he kind of likes being needed, so he keeps going.
Anyway, so even though he's only thirteen, he knows McKinley High School pretty well because that's where a lot of Rachel's competitions are held. He walks over to the math and science wing, because that's where the changing rooms are for the dance competitions; the room Rachel usually changes in is 213.
He knocks on the door, calls out that a boy is entering, and then slips inside. Rachel's sitting on one of the desks, sulking, her arms folded across her chest, and tears still dripping down her face.
The classroom's deserted; all the other dancers are still in the auditorium probably. He pulls out a chair, drags it over to where Rachel's sitting. He sits down, too, but doesn't say anything.
She sniffs loudly, drags her hands across her face, then looks at him defiantly.
"I didn't say anything."
"You look like you have an opinion," Rachel insists, and she reaches her hands behind her head, pulling her bun a little tighter. She then places her hands in her lap, smoothing her skirt out across her thighs. She sniffs quietly, and Finn reaches into his pocket, hands her a tissue wordlessly.
"Is this used?" she asks, taking it from him. He shakes his head and she blows her nose loudly, then hiccups and lets out a little sob. "Can you please say something?" she asks, her voice cracking. She swings her legs back and forth, her feet brushing against his legs.
He looks at her ballet slippers. They're pale pink and even though most people who dance lyrical don't wear shoes, she refuses to go without. She says that her ballet shoes are her lucky charm.
He taps the top of one of her feet with his knuckles.
"You might need to get a new lucky charm."
She giggles. Finn doesn't know how to explain it, but it's almost as if her laugh sounds watery, like her tears are now making their way down into her vocal cords or something. He glances up at her. She's still crying, and her makeup's all kind of running together. She looks a little bit like a raccoon, but he's positive that's not what she wants to hear right now.
He sighs. "You shouldn't have kicked your trophy." It sounds stupid saying it, but it kind of needs to be said. Like, she needs to know that's definitely not okay.
"I was so mad," she says, and she blows her nose again. "It's just so unfair! Lucia doesn't practice for nearly as long as me – she's never beaten me, at anything, ever. It's like they just handed it to her to make her feel better about herself," Rachel says bitterly, and she crumples the tissues in her hand, curling her hands into little angry fists that rest in her lap.
"I'm sure she worked like, super hard," Finn says, and Rachel glares at him. He quickly adds, "not as hard as you, but still. She probably wanted to win just as badly as you."
"No one wants to win as badly as I do," Rachel says with the utmost seriousness, folding her arms across her chest. "I'm not being facetious, that's the honest truth." Without him even having to ask, she says, "Facetious is like being silly, or foolish."
Finn nods, understanding. He scoots his chair a little closer to her, and he's so close to her now that he can smell the body spray that she has on, that she always puts on before she goes on stage. It smells like flowers and it's sort of really distracting when he's trying to like, have a serious talk with her.
(Sometimes he thinks he – you know – has a crush on her, but then he remembers that she's his best friend, and that'd be weird as shit, so he tries to stop those thoughts from ever really coming together.)
"I know you're seriously mad," he says, and Rachel interjects despairingly,
"That doesn't even begin to cover the extent of my feelings!"
"- but sometimes people lose. It just happens. And it's not always fair or whatever, but it happens." Rachel doesn't say anything, so Finn continues nervously, "but you shouldn't be mean or kick your trophy, because you don't want to make Lucia or whoever else beats you feel bad. Because it's not their fault that the judges went with their performance over yours."
He stumbles over his words a little and he braces himself, because he's starting to think that Rachel might slap him across the face. She did it once a couple weeks ago when he said he didn't understand why she kept going on and on about Barbra Streisand, because Finn thinks that Barbra's voice is too nasally – so he knows that Rachel definitely has it in her to hit him, if she really wants to.
But Rachel doesn't hit him. She just covers her face with her hands, and shudders a little.
"I'm embarrassed," she says quietly. "I told myself not to get so upset but when I work so hard and I come so close – it's beyond frustrating, it's beyond infuriating when people don't recognize my talent. I've never lost before," she says, and she takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly. "I just don't like this feeling."
Finn nods knowingly. "I understand. When I didn't make JV this year, I felt like an idiot for even trying out, you know? I mean, Puck made it, Mike made it… it felt like all of my friends made it but me."
"But your coach said that next year you'll make it for sure," Rachel says passionately. "You just need to work on your throwing arm a little, and besides, Puck and Mike only made it because they don't play quarterback – their positions aren't as competitive!"
Finn smiles. "I know, Rach. But look, it sucked when I didn't make it, and it sucks watching my friends play here at the high school. I'm not gonna like, hate them forever, though."
Rachel sighs, and she hops down off from the desk. She brushes her hands across her skirt again, and she stands up straight.
"I understand the analogy you're trying to make." Finn does not know what that means, but she sounds a little happier, so he guesses it's a good thing? "And I understand that I shouldn't have stormed out quite so dramatically. Instead of kicking my trophy, I should've just thrown it in the trash on my way out of the building."
That's really not the point Finn was trying to get across, at all, but Rachel's smiling happily and is looking pretty proud of herself, so Finn supposes that at least she learned something from this.
"Thanks for talking to me, best friend." She leans down then, and she presses her lips against his quickly. When she pulls away, their lips make this smacking sound, and Finn almost pisses himself because Rachel Berry just gave him his first kiss.
Finn looks up at her, startled, then licks his bottom lip fast. It tastes like cherry chapstick.
He lets out a breath shakily. "I guess I should try to convince you not to be a drama queen more often." He doesn't know what else to say, and he's starting to feel awkward, out of place. He stands up, pushing his hands in his pockets.
Rachel just keeps smiling at him, and Finn raises an eyebrow. "You realize you really are going to have to marry me now, right?"
He always says that to her, and he has ever since they was little. It's kind of weird, and he usually just says it to annoy her, or tease her when they're around their friends at school – but he feels kind of serious right now.
Like, someday when they're super old, and she's won a ton of awards and he's the drummer in some famous band, they're totally going to get married.
Rachel blushes and she covers her face with her hands, like she always does when she's embarrassed. "You're so silly," she says, and Finn shrugs.
"I'm just telling the truth. You kissed me. It means you want me."
"I was doing it to thank you! I would never ruin our friendship by dating you," Rachel responds, and she starts to walk towards the door. "Come on, let's go find my dads. I bet I can get them to take us out to dinner, since I lost and am therefore in the depths of despair."
Finn laughs and she leads them out of the room. As they walk down the hallway, she reaches over to hold his hand. He doesn't say anything about it, and she drops it as soon as they see Mr. and Mr. Berry waiting outside the auditorium for them, but still. It means something. Finn knows it does.
It's Finn's sixteenth birthday and all of his friends are over for a pool party. It's not that cool, but mainly his friends consist of the Glee Club. Rachel forced him to join when they were freshmen, and even though he still thinks it's kind of lame, it's not the worst thing he's ever done with his time. Besides, Puck, Mike, and Sam are all in Glee too, so it's not like he's the only football player involved with the club.
Quinn Fabray joined Glee last year, and at first she seemed like she hated it. But she's a pretty decent alto and she's kick ass at harmonies, so after a while she seemed to actually enjoy being a part of the group. Finn's not exactly sure why she joined – she's a cheerleader and stuff, and Glee's not a popular thing. But Finn's glad she joined. She's pretty hot and after she started coming to meetings, Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce joined, too, so then they finally had enough people to compete at Sectionals.
Finn's nearly positive that Rachel hates Quinn, though. She never says it out loud, directly, but she makes it kind of obvious. Whenever Quinn and Rachel are over at his house at the same time, Rachel always starts talking about these stories from like, elementary or middle school, stories that only Finn would understand. Quinn nods and acts as if she's in on the joke, but she obviously has no idea what Rachel and Finn are talking about when they mention soapy blueberry pies or whatever.
Anyway, Finn is trying to make teams for chicken, and Rachel and Quinn are having some sort of weird girl fight about who's going to be on his team. It'd be sort of hot but it's definitely not, because it's making Finn feel awkward as fuck.
"So, Mike and Tina, Brittany and Puck -."
"Britts is with me," Santana interjects lazily, before shooting a smile over Brittany's way. Finn sighs, and crosses out Puck's name, writing in Santana's name.
"Whatever. Brittany and Santana, Puck and Quinn -."
"I am not climbing on top of Puckerman's shoulders," Quinn interrupts. "I'll get a disease."
Puck blows her a kiss. "You can climb on top of me any time you like, sweetheart," he calls from across the lawn. He's sitting next to Rachel, who has her knees pulled up to her chest and is looking super pissed for some reason. But Finn doesn't know why, because his mom definitely went out of her way to make sure that there was enough vegan food here for Rachel, and it's the good vegan food too – not the cheap stuff.
Maybe the food had too many mushrooms in it. Rachel doesn't really like those. Finn thinks that maybe he'll have to check about that later, but he's got a few more important things to deal with right now.
"Alright, so Rachel and Puck, then it'll be Quinn and me -."
"I thought I was going to be your partner," Rachel says loudly, looking at him almost challengingly. "You know, since we've been chicken partners in every single game we've ever played together since we were ten years old."
Quinn clears her throat. "Not willing to share?" she asks, a little mockingly, and Rachel looks over at her with possibly the darkest stare that Finn has ever seen across her face.
"Not with you," Puck says for her, and he laughs, then slaps Rachel on the back. "C'mon, my Jewish Princess. Let's kick some ass." Rachel stands up slowly, looking over at Finn as she brushes strands of grass off from her bathing suit bottoms. She looks seriously hurt and Finn feels like an asshole, but – he doesn't know why.
Because it's not like Rachel has some claim on him or something. She doesn't and she's definitely made that clear. He's asked her out like, twenty times since they were thirteen, and every single time she answers that she doesn't want to 'jeopardize their friendship for a brief affair'. And whenever Finn tried to protest, saying that if they were ever going to get married, they needed to at least date first, she just would roll her eyes and tell him to stop building up fantasies in his head.
And yeah, maybe Finn's joking when he says he wants to marry her. But he's also sort of not, and it kind of sucks that she won't even consider dating him. They've been best friends for forever and she knows him better than anyone. Why would he want to be with anyone else, right?
But she said no, and she keeps saying no, so it's not like Finn feels that bad for her in this moment. It's his party and yeah, maybe it's weird not being on her team for the first time, but she's not his girlfriend so it's not as if she has some right to be his partner.
Santana and Brittany easily knock out Mercedes and Sam, and Rachel and Puck take out Mike and Tina in about two seconds. Rachel and Puck then beat Santana and Brittany in an epic twenty minute battle that only ends when Puck finally pushes Brittany off of Santana himself.
Rachel squeals excitedly, jumping into the water and throwing her arms around Puck, hugging him tightly. Puck grins, grabbing her around the waist, hugging her back just as forcefully. Finn looks over at Kurt, who's sitting the game out with Artie. Kurt gives him a sad little smile, and Finn sighs. Even his step-brother feels bad for him, when it comes to Rachel.
Quinn then grabs his arm, and smiles at him.
"Ready, partner?" she asks softly. He forces a smile back.
"Totally." He jumps into the water and Quinn follows suit. She shivers a little, and she swims over to him, wrapping her arms around his waist. She giggles, looking up at him.
"We'll have to turn the heat on," she says teasingly. Finn quickly looks over at Rachel, who is openly glaring at him now, before looking back down at Quinn. She's still smiling at him, and he doesn't know what to say, so he just takes a deep breath and then goes underneath the water. He can feel her starting to climb on top of his shoulders, and he places his hands on her thighs, holding her tightly, before coming back up out of the water.
Rachel and Puck are waiting, with one hundred percent serious looks on their faces. Rachel looks as if she's almost cutting off Puck's circulation, her knees are locked so tight near his neck, but Puck doesn't even seem like he gives a shit.
Puck's one of his best friends and all, but Finn wants to seriously punch him in the face.
"Ready?" he asks Quinn.
"Definitely," she responds, and Finn takes a couple of steps closer to Puck and Rachel. Rachel's already holding her arms out in front of her, and Finn's not sure if Quinn really is ready for what Rachel is most likely about to do to her.
But Finn's pretty strong and as long as Quinn can manage to maintain some sort of balance, Finn's sure he can knock Puck down. And Finn knows Rachel – the minute she feels like she's falling, she'll let go of Puck's shoulders.
So that's Finn's strategy going into it, but that kind of goes out the window when Rachel pushes Quinn off his shoulders harder than Finn has ever seen Rachel push before. Quinn didn't even have a chance, and she's falling off of Finn's shoulders within like, twenty seconds of the game starting.
Puck immediately bursts into laughter and Rachel lets out a cry of triumph as Quinn surfaces in the deep end, her hair falling out of her ponytail. She looks mortified as she swims over to the ladder and gets out of the pool, and Finn feels bad for her, because it's not like she had any idea of how intense Rachel gets during games like this. Quinn's never been to a pool party with all of them before.
"Nice," Finn says sarcastically to Rachel, who's sliding off from Puck's shoulder and back into the water. She swims over to him and tries to grab onto his arm, but he pulls away from her. "You couldn't have even given her a chance?"
Hurt flashes through Rachel's eyes. Like, literally, she goes from happy to upset in a split second. "I'm sorry; I thought the point of a game is to win. I didn't realize I was supposed to just let you and your girlfriend."
"She's not my girlfriend," Finn says in a low voice.
"She's certainly acting like it," Rachel says, just as quietly.
"Why would you even care?" Finn asks. "We're just friends, remember?" Before she has a chance to answer, he climbs out of the pool, grabs a towel off from the ground, and goes over to sit near where Santana and Mike are.
"Don't bother me with your never-ending drama," Santana says, holding up a hand before he can even start talking. "I'm not in the mood to discuss your obsession with Yentl."
Finn sits down anyway. "I just don't get why she thinks she can tell me who I can or can't date."
Mike and Santana share a quick glance before they both look at Finn. "I'm not sure how many more times we can tell you this," Mike says delicately, "but she likes you."
Finn can't help it as he scowls at them. "You've been telling me that since like, eighth grade. I've asked her out a thousand times and she says no every single time. I'm over it."
"Then be over it," Santana groans, "and date Quinn, or date whoever, but for fuck's sake, just move on. If she's not going to date you because she doesn't want to ruin your friendship, that sucks, but there are other people in this school who, for God knows what reason, would kill to date you." She lies back down on the grass. "Now, leave me alone. I know this is your party and everything, but you're being a buzz kill and I'm attempting to have a good time."
Finn sighs, stands up, and heads inside the house to the kitchen. He's pouring himself a glass of water when he hears her calling his name. He turns around and he sees Rachel standing by the sliding glass door that leads out to the patio; she has a towel wrapped around herself, and she looks sad.
"There's soda in the fridge," Finn says flatly, putting the water pitcher back in the fridge and slamming the door. He grabs his glass and goes to head back outside.
"Finn, wait," Rachel says, and she grabs onto his wrist. "Talk to me. Please. I'm sorry about what happened out there with Quinn. I didn't mean to be rude; I was honestly just trying to win."
Finn rolls his eyes. "Rach, you and Puck were trying to kill us."
"That's a bit unfair," Rachel says, frowning. "I can't help that she's not a very effective partner, and -."
"Look, if you're jealous of me and Quinn being friends or whatever, why can't you just say it?" Finn asks, placing his water glass on the kitchen island. Rachel doesn't say anything, and Finn sighs. "I know things have been… weird between us, but I haven't asked you out in a while and I'm like, respecting your space and stuff. So I don't get why you think it's okay to act as if you – as if you own me, or something." He mumbles the last part.
Rachel takes a step closer to him.
"I don't want to lose you," she whispers. "You're my best friend – the only best friend I've ever had. I can't lose that."
Finn smiles a little sadly, but still tries to joke. "You know, if you'd just realize that we're going to be married someday, you'd realize that you never are going to lose me."
Rachel giggles a little, and this time Finn takes another step closer to her. She doesn't look up at him, but they're so close now that their feet are practically touching. Finn takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Santana and Mike's voices echo in his mind, and Finn makes a decision in that split moment.
"If you want me, date me," he says impulsively. "But this is the last time I'm asking. I know you like me. And I know you're scared this is going to ruin our friendship, but God, Rach – hasn't this," he says, motioning between the two of them, "been what we've been working towards since we were four?"
She takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, then looks up at him. "If this doesn't work out, you have to promise we'll still be friends. Best friends."
Finn knows that Rachel doesn't have many friends outside of Glee. He knows how much he means to her, but she has to know how much she means to him, too.
"Always," he says, and awkwardly, he places his arms around her. He hasn't really kissed her since he was thirteen, so he's not sure how this is going to go, but he leans down and tries anyway – and it goes pretty fucking awesomely, if he says so himself.
Rachel pulls away and whispers, "Still think you're going to marry me?"
She says it teasingly, and Finn brushes his nose against hers.
"It's going to be the biggest 'I told you so' moment of my entire life," he promises, and she stands on her tippy-toes so she can kiss him again.
Finn's almost positive that Rachel is the most talented person at NYADA. He goes to every single one of her performances, and she just – she blows everyone out of the water. Her senior year, the main spring production is of West Side Story, and Rachel kicks ass. It doesn't hurt that she played Maria in high school, but there's something different about this performance.
Rachel's grown so much as an actress and singer since being at college. She sings with such emotion and power, and purpose. It kills Finn, in the best possible way. Honestly, when she starts to sing Tonight, he's pretty sure that he's never heard anyone sing that song as perfectly as she is right now.
It's the last night of the show, and not only is Finn here, but so are her parents, his parents, Kurt, Santana, and a couple of his friends from the station. Well, they're not just his friends – they're Rachel's, too. When he first started working at FDNY, she sent him to work with plates of brownies and cookies. The guys teased him at first for it, but they quickly began sending Finn home with requests for more sugar cookies and double fudge brownie bars.
So. They're pretty big fans of her's, and when a couple of his closer friends, Luke and Danny, realized that it was going to be Rachel's last time performing at NYADA, they insisted on going to the show with Finn.
Danny fell asleep before the end of the first act, and Finn's pretty sure that Luke has no idea what's going on, but at least they showed up. That's what will matter most to Rachel.
After the finale, Rachel steps out onto the stage, holding a bouquet of flowers to her chest. She's crying a little, and she takes a bow by herself. She waves at the audience, and once they stop cheering and clapping, she starts talking.
"I just wanted to thank everyone who's supported me throughout the years here. NYADA has been the absolute best place to work on my perfecting my craft, and I am so thankful to be at a school that cares for me so much."
She looks down at the ground, takes a deep breath, and then continues, looking back out at the audience. "I remember when I was younger, I always dreamed about being the best at everything. I lost a dance competition once, and I actually kicked my trophy off from the stage because I was so upset. I think the thing I've learned the most at school," she says, her voice breaking as she starts crying a little harder, "and throughout my life, really, is that it doesn't necessarily matter if I'm the best. I just need to try my best to be the finest performer I can be."
Luke leans over to Finn, his eyebrows raised. "Did she really kick her trophy off a stage?" he whispers.
"Holy shit," Luke breathes, settling back into his chair. "I knew there was some crazy underneath that sweet exterior."
Rachel holds the bouquet of flowers out in front of her. "So thank you, to all the members of the audience, for supporting me on my journey. I'm sure I will see you all when I'm on Broadway."
She laughs a little, but Finn can tell that she's being completely serious. She bows one more time, then walks off from the stage. Finn's hands hurt from clapping so hard, but he can't help it.
His girlfriend's graduating soon. She's actually going to be auditioning for real plays, plays that will make her money, and make her famous, and that will allow her to accomplish all those goals she set for herself way back when she was just discovering who Barbra was.
It's kind of a huge moment.
Later that night, when it's just Finn and Rachel back at their apartment, they're eating Chinese food on the floor of their living room. Rachel gave up the vegan thing back at the beginning of college, but she's still a vegetarian. So she's eating a carton of vegetable lo mein, and Finn's working his way through his third pork roll, and they're on their second bottle of wine.
Rachel takes a drink out of the bottle and then hands it over to Finn. She smiles at him.
"Did you honestly ever think we would be here right now? In New York, dating, you a firefighter, me graduating from NYADA?" she asks, taking another bite of the lo mein.
She's wearing one of his sweatshirts and a pair of his workout shorts that are way too big on her, but that she insists are more comfortable than any of the pajama bottoms she owns. Her hair's pulled into a high ponytail and Finn's not sure, but he thinks that her hair is so long that if she tilts her head back, it would reach her waist.
He looks around the room. Their apartment is small, but Rachel calls it quaint. There are built in bookshelves near the television, but instead of books, it mainly holds a couple of their old Glee trophies, and pictures of the two of them; one from their first day of kindergarten, a couple from their eighth grade trip to Washington DC, one from their high school graduation, and then a bunch from their years in New York.
Finn thinks about it seriously for a moment.
"I don't know," he says. "I mean, I always knew I was going to marry you… " she rolls her eyes playfully " – but I never really thought about being a firefighter growing up, and I never thought I'd live in New York."
She puts the lo mein down, crawls across the floor so she can sit on his lap. He pushes his hands underneath her sweater, rests his hands against her bare back, and she kisses him gently.
"Are you glad you live here though?" she asks.
"Yes," he says, without hesitation.
"Are you glad that I lured you into being my best friend through the use of fruit and chocolate?" Rachel asks, smiling. He smiles back and says yes again.
"I hope you know how proud I am of you," Rachel says, her fingers playing with the hair at the back of his neck. Finn lets out a little noise of appreciation, and Rachel presses a kiss against his cheek. "I'm serious, Finn. You're amazing at your job, and you help me stay grounded, and you just – you've always believed in us."
"You've always believed in us too," he says. Rachel nods.
"I did. I just needed a little push at first."
"I understand. It must have been scary for you as a four year old to realize you had met your future husband."
She laughs and kisses him again, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him even closer. She wrinkles her nose after a couple seconds, though.
"You taste like pork roll."
"Want me to brush my teeth?" Finn asks, and Rachel sighs dramatically.
"I think I can handle it just this once," she says, then motions towards their bedroom. "You can take me to bed now," she says, and Finn grins, kissing her, nipping at her bottom lip.
"Thanks for the permission, babe."
Finn asks Rachel to marry him when he's twenty-four years old, at their old nursery school. He's kind of surprised that the place is still standing, and he's even more surprised that Ms. Carl (except now she's Mrs. Renolds) is still teaching there.
He knocks on the door on a Friday afternoon in late June, and the door swings open, and there his old teacher stands in front of him. She's a little grayer and a little rounder, but she basically looks the exact same. She stares at him for a few seconds, a faint look of recognition crossing her face.
"I'm sorry, can I help you?" she asks brightly, and Finn holds out his hand.
"Sorry, you probably don't remember me. But I'm Finn Hudson. I was in your class, like, twenty years ago," he says, and she shakes his hand, laughing a little.
"Gosh, I apologize – I thought you looked like an old student, but you're so tall now, Finn! I barely recognized you," she says, and she ushers him inside the school. "I bet you're surprised to see me here?"
Finn nods, yes, following her into the art room. It's crazy, how familiar and yet how very different it looks, at the same time. There are new tables, new chairs, new paint, but everything is still set up in basically the same way, except now there are other kids' artwork covering the walls – obviously, but it's still a little surreal for Finn to look at the paintings and realize that twenty something years ago, one of those paintings would have been his, and one of them would have been Rachel's.
He looks over at Mrs. Renolds. She's looking at him curiously.
"I guess you're wondering why I'm here."
"That would be an understatement," she says honestly, smiling. "What's going on, Finn?"
"Well," he says, and he sits down at the art table. She follows suit. "I'm not sure if you remember, but I was best friends with Rachel Berry when I went to school here?" Mrs. Renolds nods, and Finn takes that as a sign to continue. "We actually started dating when we were sixteen, and we live in New York now – and I want to ask her to marry me."
Tears spring into Mrs. Renolds' eyes, and she clasps a hand against her mouth. "That is – oh my, my little Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry! Getting married!" She rushes to him, giving him a hug. "Oh, Finn! You want to propose to her here!" she exclaims with understanding. Finn nods and Mrs. Renolds hugs him again. She pulls away, wipes at her eyes with her fingertips.
"This is just so romantic. I always knew you and Rachel were special! You were just so quiet when you started here, and she was so loud," Mrs. Renolds says, "and you two balanced each other out, perfectly. I'm – I'm so, so happy for you both." She laughs. "I'm rambling."
Finn's looking over at the water table, and Mrs. Renolds clasps her hand against her mouth again. She runs to the kitchen, then runs back to the art room. She's holding a bottle of dish soap in her hand.
"It was soap, right?" she asks. "You two went here the year that I always had soap bubbles in the water table."
"Yeah," Finn says, smiling. "We went here that year."
For July 4th, Rachel and Finn fly out to Lima. He tells her that Mrs. Renolds called him randomly the other day, said that she had found some old stuff of theirs that she thought they might want. Rachel thinks nothing of it, and so they drive out to the nursery school on their way to his family's annual barbeque.
They hold their hands on their way into the school.
"It's odd, isn't it?" Rachel says, almost wistfully. "It feels as if nothing's changed. I remember exactly where my cubby was." She points at the third one on the left. "And yours was… right here, right?" she asks, moving to the other side of the cubbies, touching the fifth one. "I remember, because you shared with Tina."
Finn nods. "Yeah. And you didn't share with anyone, because your cubby was always too full of your toys and fake microphones."
Rachel laughs. "A natural performer, even at age four." She smiles at him. "So, where did Ms. Carl – I mean, Mrs. Renolds leave our things?"
"I think in the art room," Finn says nonchalantly. Rachel turns to walk into the room, but Finn holds her back. She stares at him, confused, and he motions towards himself.
"You need to push my sleeves up. And we need to get smocks, right?"
Rachel slowly looks up into his eyes, and Finn can see realization dawning. Her hands shaking slightly, she slowly pushes his sleeves up past his elbows.
He takes her hand, intertwining their fingers, and they walk into the art room. The water table is full of bubbles and there are two smocks lying beside it.
"I don't think those will fit anymore," Rachel says faintly, and Finn shrugs.
"We'll just have to be careful."
They walk over to the water table together, and Rachel kneels down next to it. Finn sits down there beside her. There are some spoons in the table, and a bowl. Rachel looks at him, a couple of tears starting to slide down her face.
"We're not here to actually pick up old paintings, are we?" she asks, and Finn shakes his head, no.
Rachel puts her hand into the water, and she gently starts to search through the bubbles. It only takes about a minute, and Finn can tell when she's found it, because she lets out this slight gasp of a breath. She pulls her hand out, and she holds her palm out to him; in the middle of it, there's, of course, a ring.
"So," he says softly, "what do you say? Are you finally going to marry me?"
He places the ring on her finger, and she covers her face with her hands, laughing excitedly. "Yes!" she says, and she motions towards the water table after a second, smiling widely.
"Want to make some blueberry pies?"
A/N2: I'm always tempted to throw angst into my stories, but I just couldn't do it here, so I'm sorry if this was fluff overload. Hope you enjoyed, regardless! (Also, apologies if the dividers are messed up. I had to go back and add in '-x-'. If they don't show up, I'm sorry!)