A/N: This started out as a fill for two simple drabble prompts, Rain and Lavish. And of course, it turned into a pretty long one-shot instead. This is about the fluffiest thing I've ever written. So enjoy!
She's cold, she's freezing, she's in the middle of a thunderstorm without an umbrella.
She's absolutely miserable.
She feels rejected.
And as the rain beat down heavily against her body, it feels a lot like the universe is trying to tell her something. It's a metaphor, and Rachel Berry takes her metaphors very seriously. This miserable, terrible, absolutely horrid weather is a metaphor for her, and her nonexistent career.
It's her 59th we-don't-want-you, her 20th we've-decided-to-go-in-another-direction. They all end the same.
Better luck next time.
"Okay, fine!" she yells, stopping short in the middle of the empty street to yell angrily up at the sky, her arms wide open. "I get it, okay! I suck! You don't have to rub it in!"
A clap of thunder startles her, and she closes her eyes as the hot, wet tears fall rapidly down her already drenched face. She'll just stand here, she thinks, she'll just wait for lightning to strike and just put her out of her talented but underappreciated misery.
Her look of absolute resignation turns into a small frown when the rain desists.
She opens her eyes to find a rainbow of colors, and gasps dramatically when she sees the man attached to the large umbrella above her head.
"You're going to catch a cold," he tells her, amused. She looks up at him stupidly, momentarily arrested by warm brown eyes, a crooked smile and the most beautiful dimples she has ever seen.
"Are you okay?" he asks, and she steps out of her stupor.
"I- I'm fine," she stammers. "Who are you?"
"Oh,' he says loudly, slapping his forehead. "Of course. Sorry. I'm Finn, Finn Hudson. I was over there."
He turns to point at somewhere behind him, and her eyes widen in utter mortification when she finds a diner full of patrons, those sitting by the glass window looking out curiously at her.
"Me and my brother saw you out here, and you looked like you were yelling or something. I kinda thought you were crazy. But then you just stood here, kinda like that," He points to her posture and she straightens up immediately in embarrassment. "And you know, you're kind of in the middle of street right now. It's dangerous to stand out here like this."
"I was- I was," she stammers, speechless from both utter mortification and disbelief that this handsome man is really standing in front of her, holding an umbrella above her miserable head. He's really tall. "I was just, wallowing."
"You should do that on the curb," he tells her, his voice teasing. She blushes as she looks away.
"Where are you going?" he asks when she starts to walk. She turns to him in confusion.
"To the curb."
"Here," he says, taking her hand to wrap her fingers around the handle of his umbrella. She feels the tips of her skin tingling where his touch lingers. "You maybe wanna take this if you want to wallow some more."
"Thanks," she mumbles dumbly. "But- but you're gonna get wet-"
"Don't worry about it. This is Kurt's anyway, and he has like a million of these."
She thinks Kurt must be his brother. She watches like an idiot as he shoots her another lopsided grin (she can see herself getting used to those perfect lips), and with a small wave, turns around to jog back to the diner.
He turns when he reaches the opposite side of the street.
"Hey!" he yells as he cups his hands around his mouth. "What's your name?"
"Rachel!" she yells back, a giggle escaping her lips. "Rachel Berry!"
He grins again as he nods.
"I'll see you around Rachel Berry!"
He turns and slips inside the diner, and she loses track of him as he goes in further.
She looks up at the colorful fabric of the umbrella and smiles.
"Is this your way of telling me not to give up?" she whispers to the universe, twirling the handle in her hand to spin the umbrella.
Finn. Finn Hudson.
The colors of her shelter are bright and sunny.
It's a metaphor for how she feels.
And Rachel Berry takes her metaphors very seriously.
The first time she steps foot in the diner, she has his umbrella in her hand, her heart beating a mile a minute. She doesn't know if he'll even be there, but where else is she supposed to look?
It doesn't take long to spot him, since he really is as tall as she remembered. He is also standing behind the counter, saying something to the old lady on the stool, those beautiful dimples out at full force. She realizes that she's standing in the doorway like an idiot when the girl behind her clears her throat, loudly.
"Sorry," she mumbles, stepping aside as the teenager, dressed head to toe in black, rolls her eyes. She doesn't know why she's so nervous. She's just returning his umbrella. That's what you do when a person loans you something. You return them.
But as a general rule, the exchange doesn't always happen in the middle of the rain when one of the party is soaking wet and miserable. She's pretty sure that it's rare to have the loaner just appear out of nowhere, like a savior, like a guardian angel (like Prince Charming, but she's too old for that), a shelter at the ready.
He's smiling at the elderly woman before he turns around and heads back into the kitchen. Her hands are clammy as she holds on to the handle of the umbrella and takes a step. She takes a seat on an empty stool, right in front of the kitchen door. She makes herself busy by looking at the menu, smiling to see it fits exactly with the rest of the decor.
It's a crazy mix between two different worlds. Everything about the furniture screams old school, with the fifties-style booths and the analog television bolted against the ceiling, complete with a guitar shaped clock on the wall behind the counter. The floor is painted green, like a football field and she chuckles when she notices the yellow outline of a goalpost at the far end of the room. But with a closer look, she notices the pictures on the wall, sees Julie and Barbra and Patti lining up one side, posters of musicals and the kind of movies she keeps in her collection hung in random places. Even the menus are a fusion of football shaped cardboard cut-outs with little musical notes printed next to the dishes. She kind of likes it here.
"Hey! It's Rachel Berry, right?" She looks up in surprise to find him grinning at her, a plate of burger in hand. She smiles, feeling her face turning a little red at his scrutiny.
"Yes," she says politely. "I came here to return your umbrella." She holds it up as proof and he chuckles.
"Hold on. Mr. Moriarty gets a bit cranky if we're late with his food," he tells her. "Take at a look at our menu."
She watches him as he deftly moves around the chairs, placing the plate in front of an old man who glares at him. He takes it in stride, shooting that heart-melting smile at the man like it's his weapon. She quickly looks back down when he catches her gaze, pretending to look at the menu while her heart beats a million miles per second.
She can feel him walking back towards her, holding her breath when he steps back behind the counter.
"So," he says as she looks up, once again greeted by those warm brown eyes and that crooked smile. "What'll you have?"
She smiles back, putting the menu down.
"Actually," she says. "I was just stopping by on my way to work. I wasn't sure you'd be here in the first place, but apparently this diner is yours."
"Nah," he answers ruefully, running a hand through his hair. "It's actually my stepdad's. I just help run it."
"I see. So you're the manager here?"
"Slash chef, slash waiter, slash busboy," he answers with a chuckle. "My brother is usually the one that manages it, but he's not around today."
"I see." There's a comfortable silence between them as she looks around, and she's not particularly sure of the right thing to say. She came to return his umbrella, and if she doesn't say anything now, that's probably the extent of it.
But she doesn't want that to be the extent of it. She holds back a sigh.
"I um- here's your umbrella, I guess," she says, putting it on the counter. "Thanks by the way. I mean, it really helped with the rest of the walk home."
"Hey, no problem," he answers easily as he takes it and sets it down behind the counter. "Glad I could help. I mean, colds can be a bitch."
"Well," she says, standing up. "I guess I'd better go."
"You sure you're not up for some food?"
"No, it's- it's better to go on an empty stomach."
"What, do you work in like the sewer or something?" he jokes. She smiles at that, shaking her head.
"No. I have an audition actually." She takes a deep breath when he raises an eyebrow. "I'm an actress."
She waits for the knowing look, or the condescending smile to come. Maybe he'll give her the you're an actress? once over.
"Oh, cool," he says instead, smiling. "So's my brother. I mean, he had an audition this morning too."
"Yeah. He's really awesome. He's been in a few musicals and stuff at the Theatre District."
"Your brother's been on Broadway?" she asks, eyes wide in disbelief. He looks a little taken aback by the way she leans over, but she hardly notices.
"Yeah. I mean, only a few small roles here and there, but he says it's just a matter of time before something big comes, so…"
"Wow," she murmurs, awestruck.
"Yeah, he's really good," he says, pride radiating off his words. "So is that what you're auditioning for? Broadway?"
"Me?" she asks, feeling shy all of a sudden. "Oh, no. It's just a small, off-Broadway production of The Sound of Music."
"Oh, well I'm sure you're gonna kill it," he tells her sweetly.
"I don't know about that," she murmurs. A year ago, she'd have given him a confident smile and a silent nod of agreement, but now, now when rejection has seemingly become her bestfriend, well she's not so sure.
"Nah, you're gonna kill it," he tells her. "I can tell."
"How?" she asks, grinning. His eyes light up as she leans closer, and she knows she's being coy, but the way he's looking at her makes her think that he likes that.
"I just do," he tells her, laughing when she rolls her eyes.
"Well, I don't want to be late so, thank you, Finn. For loaning me your umbrella."
She shoots him one last smile, blushing as he winks at her. As she turns away, she hopes he knows that she means more than that, that she's thanking him for being there, for sheltering her from the rain at the worst moment of her life, right when she was about to give up. That one moment in the street when he held it over her head with that crooked smile on his face, it gave her the strength to face this audition today.
She never said she wasn't dramatic.
"Hey! Rachel Berry!"
She's already halfway to the door, but she turns on her heels when he calls her, looking up at him in anticipation. He's already making his way towards her, umbrella in hand.
"The sky looks kinda cloudy today," he says. "Maybe you should hold on to this."
"It's a clear day outside," she answers, frowning. He smiles ruefully, grabbing the back of his neck as he lets out a quiet chuckle.
"Well, just to be safe then."
"Thank you," she murmurs, her fingers still tingling where they touch his as she takes it from him. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"Like I said, Kurt has a ton of these. Besides," he continues, smiling as he leans a little closer. "I'm planning to get that back."
"Are you now?"
"Totally. You know where to find me. Break a leg Rachel Berry."
She thinks she loves him.
"Thank you Finn Hudson."
Her footsteps are heavy as she makes her trek out on the street. It's already dark out, but she barely notices.
She should be used to this by now, she thinks dryly as her mind flashes back to the conversation earlier. She barely got into the song, they didn't even listen before the director, a complete nutjob who thinks he's the next Truman Capote or something who clearly does not have the ability to recognize real talent when it's singing her heart out to him, stops her in the middle of her song with a dismissive wave of his hand.
"I don't think you're right for this part," he told her, without even really looking at her. "You're too… ethnic, for Maria, don't you agree Eric? Besides, we already have a contender in mind."
"But what about Liesl?" she asked. She could make do with being a supporting actress. She deserves more, but she's starting to learn that you don't always get what you deserve in this business. "I can do Sixteen-"
"Girly, I'm going to be honest with you right now," Eric, the casting director, who if she's being honest, was trying a little too hard with his all black get up, said. The beret was just ridiculous. "You're not what we're looking for."
"But the casting ad said an actress who can sing," she had argued, determined not to be dismissed so quickly. "I'm an actress, I can sing. You never mentioned anything about ethnicity."
"Miss Berry, I'm sure you know we don't mention everything in those ads."
"Do you honestly think the audience will buy your portrayal as a Von Trapp, when you look more likely to be one of the Jews the Nazis will be persecuting?"
She had gasped dramatically then, her hand immediately going up to her nose as the director snickered before turning to his equally uncouth casting director.
"Now, now Eric. There's no need to be catty."
I'll show you catty, she thinks darkly, walking down the darkened streets in a hurry as she pulls her coat tighter around her. Needless to say, she had stalked off almost immediately after, but not before overhearing the name of their lead. Rachel scowls, kicking a stray can on the ground and revelling in the loud sound that it makes. She's so angry, she doesn't even care enough to properly dispose of the trash as she always does.
Her gaze stray towards the multicolored umbrella in her hand and sighs as she grips it tightly.
"Break a leg Rachel Berry."
She'll gladly break two, and an arm, if it could guarantee her success.
She knows she probably shouldn't, not with the way that she's feeling, but her feet are already making the decision for her as they shuffle down the familiar path, about a mile away from her usual route home.
The diner looks cosy from the outside, the sign that says "Hudmels" is bolded in red and white, the lightbulbs surrounding the words flashing conspicuously in contrast to the darkening sky. Through the window, she can see that it's almost empty. He's standing behind the counter in an apron, talking to a smaller man that she assumes is his brother, Kurt. She watches as he rolls his eyes at something Kurt tells him, following his brother back into the kitchen. Looking left and right for oncoming traffic, she crosses the street.
She enters the diner just as he exits the kitchen. He looks up when the bell against the door rings, and his smile is wide when he sees her. But it falters when he sees the glum look on her face.
"Are you okay?" he asks carefully.
"I'm fine," she says half-heartedly, making her way to the stool she sat on earlier. She slumps her body down on the seat, and the weight of the day finally takes its toll on her as she sighs, dropping her head dramatically down on the table, her arms coming up to rest in front of her.
"No," she mumbles into the sleeves of her shirt. "I'm not okay."
Letting out a loud sigh, she pulls her head up to open her mouth.
"Hold that thought," he says quickly. She frowns when he turns around to leave.
"I'll be right back!" he yells through the door. She frowns, looking around her to find the place empty, safe for a couple sitting by the window, their heads close together. She looks down ominously at the umbrella leaning against the counter. Is she seriously about to bore this man to death with her woes?
What a way to make them run Rachel Berry.
"Here." She turns to find a cupcake sitting primly on a plate before her. She looks up to find him staring expectantly at her as she stares back in confusion.
"Cupcakes just make everything better," he tells her by way of explanation. "I'm serious," he continues when she looks down at the yellow frosting doubtfully. An elderly Latino woman steps out of the kitchen, and Finn smiles at her briefly before turning his attention back to Rachel. "Look, it even has cheese frosting and everything, and like, nobody hates cream cheese. C'mon, just try it."
He gives her an encouraging look, and before she knows it she's already peeling off the paper, taking a pinch of the pastry for a small bite.
"This really is good," she tells him approvingly, taking a bigger bite, relishing in the moist and tangy taste of the cupcake. Is that lemon she tastes? God, she's starving. He grins, his arms resting on the counter as he leans against it. "Did you make this yourself?"
"Me?" He scoffs, waving one hand in front of him dismissively. "Nah, I'm just the guy shoving trays into the oven. Rosa here's the real deal, right Rosa?" he says, looking up towards the short Latino woman from earlier whom Rachel assumes is currently counting the money at the cash register. Rosa rolls her eyes as she shakes her head, turning towards Rachel.
"Don't let him fool you," Rosa tells her. "He holds his own in there." The elderly woman glares at him. "This boy can deceive you if you're not careful."
"Awww, that's sweet-"
"That's not a compliment!" Rosa snaps before she stalks back into the kitchen. Rachel watches her in surprise and Finn's smile is sheepish as she turns back to look at him.
"She's still a little pissed off at me for breaking up with her niece," he tells her.
"Oh," she answers, hoping her curiosity doesn't shine through. "So you have a girlfriend?"
"Had," Finn corrects her to her relief. He rolls his eyes. "And only if you're the kind of person that thinks two dates is the equivalent of a relationship, which apparently Rosa does."
She laughs, shaking her head as she takes another bite.
"She was totally the one who set us up too," he says, shaking his head. "Santana had about as much interest in me as I do in trying to have a relationship with a lesbian, meaning, not at all."
"You mean?" she asks, raising her eyebrows in amusement.
"Yup," he answers, getting her immediately.
"Yeah, she's still obviously in denial about it. I think she figured setting her niece up with a nice, innocent white boy like me is gonna straighten that girl right up."
"Yeah, I'll bet you're just so innocent," she teases, giggling. He shoots her a wounded look before he smirks, leaning closer. She grins, looking down at the half-eaten cupcake because he's standing too close to her and she can't look him in the eye without blushing like a fire hydrant.
"So anyway, I bet that's the only thing you ate today."
"How did you know that?" she asks in surprise. He shrugs.
"You told me you were going to the audition on an empty stomach, so I figured you wouldn't really have the time to grab something between then and now."
"Oh," she answers, blushing when he smiles at her. "Yes. I'm starving."
"Well, Burt always said that the world is always brighter after a little food. So now that you're fed, let's hear the story. What happened? Did you choke?"
She shakes her head, almost insulted.
"Rachel Berry does not choke on her auditions," she tells him primly. She sighs when he holds his hands up in mock defence.
"I didn't even get to sing the whole song, so it definitely wasn't my audition."
"Then what was it?"
"My nose," she answers glumly.
"Did you just say your nose?" he asks, leaning closer in confusion. Oh God, he's leaning in too close. What if in this light he finally notices how huge it is, standing in close proximities only serve to make it look even more humongous. Unthinking, her hand goes up over her nose self-consciously. He backs away when it almost hits him in the face.
"Yes," she mumbles through her palm, her shoulders slumping in dejection. She's still speaking through her hand. "Well, maybe they have a point. A person with such a prominent feature like mine probably has no place for the roles of pretty and perfect girls. I mean, if one day someone writes a musical on Anne Frank's life, I'd be a shoo-in, but I don't think that's happening anytime soon."
She sighs again, leaning against the counter as she pushes the plate away.
"I used to believe that if you just had enough talent, you'll be able to make it, you know, somehow. But obviously, it's so not true. Looks is all that matters in this business and that's why Quinn Fabray can lend the role of Maria and I can't even audition for Liesl. I mean really? It's like they've never even heard her sing. Scratch that, they probably haven't."
She laughs sarcastically, hand still firmly placed over her mouth.
"Maybe there's a point to my ex's suggestion when he told me that I should 'fix the schnauze'. "
She doesn't notice his frown or his hands moving, and when she feels his fingers softly grasping hers, she starts, almost falling off the stool in surprise. Gently, he pulls her hand away from her face and she barely notices their fingers interlocking as he rests them on the counter. She's too concerned by the way he's looking at her.
"I think you're beautiful," he tells her earnestly, and she's pretty sure the color on her face is matching his right now. He shakes his head. "Those musical people are idiots," he continues bluntly. "And like, totally and completely blind or something. You know what Burt used to say? When people wouldn't let Kurt audition 'cause of how he looked? He'd say that Kurt was special, and that he wasn't meant for the little leagues. I think that's you Rachel."
"You do?" she asks dumbly. He nods, grinning.
"You don't even know me," she tells him ruefully, but she's smiling nonetheless.
"I know a star when I see one," he tells her nonchalantly and her face is so hot, it feels like her skin might just melt away. "You don't live with Kurt Hummel for fifteen years and not pick up a few things."
He grins at her, and from their closeness she sees the sprinkle of freckles all along the bridge of his nose.
This man is beautiful.
"You know what?" she starts, grinning at him with renewed vigor. "I am a star. And- and if they can't see that, then, then-"
"Yeah! Screw them! And if they think that hiring Quinn Fabray over me is a good a idea, then they obviously do not know the first thing about Broadway or talent for that matter, and I don't even want to have anything to do with such an uninspired production anyway."
"Exactly. You're better than the rest of 'em."
He laughs when she beams broadly at him. It's like they both suddenly notice how their hands are still clasped together, and she blushes when she pulls away.
"I told you cupcakes make everything better," he murmurs, smiling. She laughs.
"I hate to break it to you Finn, but I don't think it was the cupcake."
The smile he gives her is small, a new one she hasn't seen yet, and it feels her whole body with a warmth she's certain she's never felt before.
"So wait, just to get this straight. This Quinn Fabray person, we hate her, right?"
There's a twinkle in his eye as he says this and she throws her head back, laughing.
"Completely," she tells him, only half joking.
"Got it," he nods as he straightens up.
"Where are you going?" she asks when he turns around.
"I'm getting you some real food. Did you really think that I'm going to let you leave with only a cupcake? My stepdad would kill me."
He winks at her before he slips into the kitchen. She twirls the handle of the umbrella while she waits for him, watching as the colors swirl together.
Not wanting to seem so forward, she initially reminds herself to hold back, because she really likes this guy, and she doesn't want to scare him away by her admittedly high intensity.
She prides herself in being a very meticulous person. She didn't return to his diner for three whole days after that first time. She figured that gave enough time and distance between them for him to still remember her but not be stifled by her presence.
True to her calculations, he greets her with a wave and an easy smile when she finally comes around. He's testing out a new recipe, he tells her, as he places a cupcake in front of her when she slips into her spot (She likes to think of the stool in front of the kitchen as hers).
"It's Nutella," he tells her. "Chocolate always makes everything better."
She grins as she takes a generous bite and tells her how wonderful it is while he turns red at the compliment.
"Another audition today?" he asks her. She shakes her head.
"No I just- I guess I came to return your umbrella," she answers, again, holding the item up as proof. That smile on his face appears again, the small, quiet turn of his lips as he nods his head and tells her to enjoy the cupcake while he greets a new customer. She has nothing planned for the day (other than her elaborate plan to nonchalantly stroll through his diner, that is), and when Rosa comes up to her and asks if she'll be having lunch, she says yes just to have the excuse of staying there to watch him surreptitiously from the corner of her eye.
He doesn't really have the time for talking once the lunch rush starts, but he smiles at her every time she catches his gaze, and really, it's not her fault she's sitting right in his line of vision every time he steps out of the kitchen with a hot dish in hand. She goes through her salad slowly, but she's always been a slow eater, noting his easy smile and light banter with the patrons of the diner.
She can tell that he's popular with his customers, and when cranky old Mr. Moriarty slowly pushes his way through the door, the first thing he does is yell Finn's name even though Finn is already making his way towards the man's fragile frame. A giggle escapes her lips as she watches him pacifying the old man, who seems to take umbrage at the fact that a young couple is sitting in his customary seat.
"It won't happen again Mr. Moriarty," she hears him promise as he shoots the young couple, who had graciously moved into the next booth, a grateful smile.
It's always that smile. He could get pigs to fly with that smile.
She drinks her coffee slowly, taking in the ambiance of the place, glancing again at the posters on the wall. She gets the feeling that they must have been part of Kurt's personal touch, much like the painted goalpost must have been Finn's. She's never met Kurt, but she thinks she'll like him if he's anything like his brother. She already appreciates his good taste in movies and she's already in awe of his measurable success on Broadway. Maybe she'll get to meet him, and he could give her some tips. It's always a good thing to know someone in the business. And his brother seems to really love him, and that says a lot to her.
One by one, the customers start to leave, and when Mr. Moriarty leaves his money on the table and slowly gets up to leave, he finally comes over to her.
"As you can see," he says, a little tiredly. "Things can get pretty hectic around here."
"Well you seem to have things under control. I saw your little intervention. That was quite the damage control."
"Well that's Mr. Moriarty for you," he says fondly. "He's a little set in his ways. He's been coming here for years. He used to come with his wife, but she died last year, and he's been alone ever since."
"That's really sad," she says. He nods in agreement.
"Mrs Moriarty was like, the sweetest grandma in the world. I think he just doesn't know what to do with himself now."
"Do you know them all?" she asks curiously.
"I know the regulars," he answers. "Like Mr. Moriarty. I mean, I've known the dude since I was sixteen. See that woman over there?" He points to the same woman she saw him talking with the first time she came. "That's Mrs Watson. She comes in every day around three, 'cause her granddaughter works at the florist across the street, and she likes to wait for Mandy's shift to be over. She likes to talk about her cats, but don't ever ask her about Vietnam, because her husband died there, and once she starts crying, she doesn't stop."
"I'll keep that in mind," she murmurs, smiling. He reciprocates, flinging the cloth in his hand over his shoulder.
She shakes her head.
"I should really be getting back. I have a whole week worth of casting calls to look through."
"But um- well, I've yet to use it again, but thanks for this," she says, standing and holding it up. He grins at her, his eye twinkling.
"I think it's going to rain today," he tells her. She grins.
"Is that so?"
"Yep. Saw it on the news this morning."
"Funny how unreliable those weather people are," she answers wryly.
"Mother nature is unpredictable like that."
"So I guess I should keep this," she says as she stands, holding the umbrella up. She feels giddy, and it's hard not to let it show. "Just in case it starts raining on the way home."
"So I'll see you tomorrow then?"
"You know where to find me."
She never does get around to returning his umbrella.
There's just always something he would say.
"It's too hot outside," or "There's a hailstorm in Georgia, you think it might rain today?" and "the weatherman says there's a fifty percent chance of a shower in the next hour or two."
She knows they're ridiculous, and so does he, judging by the smile playing on his lips every time she holds the item up to say, no really. I came here for the umbrella. It might seem stupid to anyone else, but she loves it, the running banter between them.
The umbrella has a special place in her apartment, hung carefully on the old coat rack by the entrance, and every morning before she slips out the door, she grins as she passes it, fingers running against the plastic fabric.
It's on her tenth attempt that it finally happens.
She comes to the diner in the evening, stepping through the door with a smile and a wave to Mrs Watson and her granddaughter Daisy as they walk out. She doesn't see him, but she can hear his voice, playful and teasing and she can hear Rosa's too, exasperatedly berating him.
Grinning, she takes a seat in her usual spot, grabbing a menu off its stack. He's laughing when he steps out and his eyes brighten when he sees her.
"Hey," he greets. "Here to return the umbrella?"
She nods, holding it up as usual, a grin on her face.
"And also dinner," she says. "My roommate kicked me out. Well, more specifically, she came in with her new girlfriend. I could tell because of the noises I heard through the wall. I decided it was best to leave before I suffered any permanent damage."
He laughs as she wrinkles her nose, the corners of his eyes crinkling as he does. She loves his laugh. His head always tips back a little when he does, and the sound is rich, coming out through his belly, unrestrained and carefree.
"You've been sexiled," he teases as she pretends to groan.
"Brittany never does remember how thin the walls are," she answers ruefully.
"Brittany's the name of your roommate?"
"Yes. We've lived together for almost two years now. She's an amazing dancer, but sometimes I think she's not all there when we're talking. But I guess that's a good thing. We probably would have ended up killing each other otherwise. I don't exactly have the best track record with previous roommates."
"Oh my high maintenance ways I guess," she answers easily. "I've always been a little… intense. Well one of them called me a neurotic psycho, but that was a total exaggeration, and a really distasteful one at that. I mean, is it so bad that I have a strict routine that I abide by under all circumstances? Really, the world would be a much better place if everyone would just organize themselves. I- you're laughing at me."
"No, no I'm not I promise. It's just-" There goes that crooked smile that sends her heart racing. "You're cute when you get all worked up."
"I am?" she asks dumbly, surprised. "No one's ever said that before. I mean, frankly I find myself to be wonderful company, but the general consensus doesn't-"
"Rachel," he cuts in, amused.
"You need to learn to take a compliment."
"I- Oh." He chuckles as she blushes, his words finally sinking in.
He thinks she's cute. That's a good thing, right?
"So," he says, taking out a notepad from the back pocket of his jeans.
"What'll you have?"
He flits in and out of the kitchen as she eats her salad, dividing his time between joking with the few customers still around, talking to her every time he passes by and walking closely behind Rory, the new busboy-cum-waiter, to make sure that the boy doesn't drop anything. Honestly, she thinks the boy is just too clumsy to be a waiter, and with his thick Irish accent, it's a wonder anyone could understand him when he repeats their orders.
"He just needs time to adjust," was all Finn said she when mentioned it to him. "He's a good kid. He just needs a chance."
"Hi miss Rachel," Rory greets her as he steps behind the counter, a tray of dirty dishes in his hands.
"Hi Rory," she answers with a smile. Her eyes widen with dismay when she sees his left foot turning the wrong way. "Rory, watch-"
She winces as the young man stumbles, the tray in his hands teetering to the side before he rights himself quickly, balancing the tray with one hand clumsily reaching to stop a stray plate from crashing.
Rory's face is pale, and she's pretty sure hers is too.
Finn comes out, takes one look at them both and grins, patting the younger man on the back.
"Nice save dude," he says proudly as Rory snaps out of his stupor, the color returning to his cheeks.
"Thanks Finn Hudson," he says, still in a slight daze as Finn gently pushes him towards the kitchen.
Finn turns towards her, grinning.
"See? He's totally adjusting."
She shakes her head as she laughs.
She stays until it's almost time to close up, telling him about the next three auditions she has lined up once the other customers start to leave. He listens to her intently as he wipes down the counter and when the last customer leaves, she half-heartedly fishes out her purse.
The thunder startles her as soon as she holds the umbrella up for him to see.
"It's raining," he tells her, like it's the most amusing thing in the world.
It kind of is, in a way. She shrugs, a smile playing on her lips.
"I guess I'll see you tomorrow then."
He looks out the window, assessing the darkening sky. He turns to her, that ever present smile on his face.
"I'll walk you home."
"I- really?" she asks, but he's already taking off his apron.
"Hey Rory," he calls out to the young man currently wiping down the tables. Rory looks up expectantly. "I'm putting you in charge of closing up today. You up for it?"
Rory's face changes from disbelief to ecstatic in a matter of seconds.
"I won't let you down Finn Hudson."
Finn laughs, shrugging on his jacket as he steps out from behind the counter.
"I trust you dude," he says solemnly, a twinkle in his eye. His fingers brush against hers as it slides down her wrist to grasp the handle of the umbrella in her hand.
"Let's go," he says, their fingers intertwined as he pulls her towards the door.
"Is this how you lure in your regulars?" she asks teasingly as they walk side by side under the shelter of his umbrella. "Through the pretext of loaning umbrellas?"
He laughs, and she feels the vibrations of his body as it leans against hers.
"Only the special ones," he answers, catching her eye. They both look away, small smiles pulling their lips upward as they fall into a comfortable silence.
"You gotta admit," he says suddenly, smirking. "It's a pretty effective method."
She can't help but to agree, leaning a little closer against him to evade the heavy rain around them.
It's become her routine, another slot on her daily planner, to spend her time at Hudmels, in between her auditions and her part time teaching job at Schuster Academy two blocks away (She has a trust fund that is slowly depleting, and the job helps with the rent).
She's another regular now, and sometimes when he's too busy to talk to her, she spends her time with Mrs Watson, regaling the tales of Lord Tubbington, Brittany's Persian cat (she's almost certain that he's highly obese, and Mrs Watson seems to agree with her). She even learns how to talk to Mr. Moriarty, who doesn't seem to have any patience with Rory. Finn told her once that his wife was a big fan of musicals and, feeling like it's right up her forte, she went to sit on the booth next to his once, and in her no holds barred manner, proceeded to talk his ear off about My Fair Lady ("That was her favorite," Finn told her. "She loved Audrey Hepburn"), ignoring the old man's glares until he begrudgingly started to listen and stopped calling for Finn to throw her out ("No can do, Mr. Moriarty. Rachel here's a regular and she's not in your seat." She beamed at him.).
She loves his diner (She's not crazy enough to say she loves him. Yet.)
She finds rejection to be a less bitter pill to swallow when she knows that something sweet is waiting for her.
For every rude you're-not-right-for-the-part, and every polite we're-going-on-a-different-direction, there's always something waiting for her when she trudges into the diner in despair.
It's always something sweet, a cupcake, or a brownie, a variety of desserts he came up with for the day.
He always says the same thing.
A cupcake/ brownie/ fudge/ insert-relevant-word-here makes everything better.
The truth is that it's him. He makes everything better. But he doesn't acknowledge this, so she doesn't either.
The rejection doesn't hurt any less, but the aftermath is less painful and it gives her something to look forward to. In an almost ridiculously bipolar way, sometimes she just can't wait to blow past the torture of rejection straight to the reward waiting for her, her very own good for you, you're still on your feet. Here's a cupcake and a gorgeous smile for making it through another day.
"Why are you so nice to me?" she asks him dejectedly one evening, staring sadly at the piece of strawberry rhubarb pie in front of her. Rejection after getting a second call back is the worst. It's like they dangle the hope in front of you, that elusive sliver of success, only to yank it back just when it's within arm's reach.
He smiles at her.
"Let's just say I know what it's like to feel like the whole world is against you," he says nonchalantly, coaxing a fork through her fingers.
She looks up at him curiously.
"What do you mean?"
He shrugs, glancing at her mysteriously.
"Tell me," she demands.
"If I do I'd have to kill you," he says as he leans in close. She rolls her eyes.
"Finn, it is hardly fair that you know my entire life story, practically, while I know almost nothing about you other than your stepfather's name is Burt and you have an elusive brother called Kurt. Or that you run- one day, you're going to laugh at me, and my feelings are going to be really hurt."
She huffs, straightening up on her stool to glare at him as he laughs quietly.
"I'm sorry," he answers, sobering up. She frowns, looking away when he shoots her an apologetic smile. His face blocks her view of the clock as he cranes his neck to shoot her those puppy dog eyes, and she almost smiles but turns away instead.
She refuses to be swayed by his charm.
"I'll tell you if you accept my apology," he offers. She smiles to herself in victory as she turns to face him.
"Okay," she beams. He looks a little taken aback by her abrupt change of mood, but he takes it in stride with a chuckle and a shake of his head. He steps out from behind the counter and she watches as he slides onto the stool next to hers, facing her as he leans against the table.
"It's just, I was pretty messed up as a kid. And I mean a total punk." He shakes his head ruefully while she listens attentively. "See, my dad was a cop. When I was a kid, I used to think he had like the coolest job in the whole entire universe. Like, he was even cooler than the President, 'cause he had a badge and everything. I wanted to be just like him. Until I turned 12, and he got shot straight through the chest during a drug bust."
She gasps softly, her hand moving to rest on his thigh soothingly at the sober look on his face. He smiles at her.
"I'm so sorry," she says quietly.
"I'm fine. I mean, it's been years. But it messed me up a lot back then. I was so angry, mostly at him for not having a vest on him. I spent years blaming him for his own death, and somewhere in there I decided that I wanted to be as far away from who he was as I could. And for a thirteen year old, that pretty much meant doing every single stupid act I could think of. Not like serious stuff though," he says quickly when her eyes widen. "Just like, refusing to go to school and alienating all my friends and just… forced myself to stop caring, in a way. About anything. My mom didn't know what to do with me when I started cutting school and just like- well," he rolls his eyes. "Basically I had my head firmly stuck up my ass, and you know how it goes with these things, I screwed up my grades, screwed up my relationships, and the next thing I knew, no one really wanted to have anything to do with a loser like me anymore."
"Oh Finn," she whispers, feeling her heart break for the young boy he was.
"It gets worse," he tells her. He frowns, looking away from her this time as he turns to face the counter. "I was fifteen when mom got sick. I was a selfish little bastard too. All I thought about was how unfair it was, about how life was screwing me over. And I was too scared to go near her, 'cause I thought she was ashamed of me, and I was mad at her too, 'cause it kinda felt like she was leaving me too, you know?"
The smile on his face is sad, and tentatively, she reaches out to him, her small fingers trying to engulf his larger ones as she holds his hand.
"What happened?" she asks softly. The diner is quiet this evening and Rory has the orders under control and so she tightens her grip on his hand, trying to sooth him. He cocks his head to the left.
"This happened," he tells her with a small smile on his face. "This place. It used to be called Burt's Diner. Yeah I know. Original, right?" he jokes. "One day I just- I broke in. I heard my mom on the phone with a friend, she said she wasn't getting better and I just- I don't even know why I did it. I think I just wanted to destroy something. But, Burt was in the kitchen and he heard me." He grins as he remembers.
"Dude should have called the cops, but he took one look at me, and then he told me he needed help to clean up. Crazy, right? I mean, he didn't even threaten to press charges or anything. That was the first time in years someone other than my mom stopped dismissing me, and I don't know. After a while it kinda made me want to just not be a dick around him. He was the one who taught me how to cook. Never in a million years, would I have ever thought that it was gonna be my calling."
"And you're really good at it," she compliments. "I mean, your desserts are amazing."
"Thanks Rach," he smiles. "But it's all one big collaborative effort with the kitchen people."
"Finn," she says, smiling in amusement.
"You need to learn to take a compliment," she says teasingly, throwing his words right back at him.. He laughs, eyes twinkling as he nods his head.
He turns to her with a self deprecating smile and shrugs his shoulder.
"Then you know, he met my mom, and a bunch of other boring things happened, bla bla bla… and the rest as they say, is history. So you know, these days I'm all for throwing out those lifelines. Sometimes all you really need is to know that there's someone standing on your corne ."
They're quiet as she takes in his story, a question nagging at the back of her mind.
"Can I ask you something?"
"When you said that your mom was sick," she starts hesitantly. She doesn't continue, unsure of how, exactly, to do that without being insensitive. He gets where she's going with it though, judging by the sad smile on his face.
"She had a few years," he answers quietly. "And they were happy ones."
"I'm sorry Finn," she tells him quietly. He nods, silent. She feels his fingers slowly twining through hers as he turns his palm upwards. She squeezes his hand, hoping that her touch could convey more than her words can.
"For whatever' it's worth," she starts, looking him in the eye as she ignores the heat crawling up her neck. "I'm glad you're on my corner."
He nods, mouth quirking upward in the barest of smiles as he squeezes back.
She goes back to her hometown for Thanksgiving, and she doesn't see him for almost a whole week.
She had some reservations about returning to Lima, Ohio, sure that she'll be on the receiving end of those knowing looks, the one that says I knew you weren't going to amount to much. Where are you now Rachel Berry?
"You're being stupid," he told her bluntly when she shared her worries. She looked up in surprise, insulted by that, but he took it in stride as he continued wiping down the counter. "For one thing, the right part is just around the corner for you. For another, who cares what people think? Plus, like, those are a bunch of sad people if they're still hung up on high school."
"You don't know Lima," she told him ominously as he ignored her.
"How would anybody know anyway?" he argued.
"Quinn Fabray will," she muttered. "We went to the same high school," she explained at the confused look on his face. "She was the pretty, popular head cheerleader, and we were both in drama club together. She was the one with all the friends, but I was the one with all the talent. She told me, right before we graduated that I was going to peak at high school, that no producer was going to pick me over someone like her."
She frowned as she looked down at her lap, realizing that she had torn the napkin she was holding into shreds.
"She's a bitch." She looked up to see the frown deeply embedded on his face.
"Well, she's right, obviously. And now everyone will know that too."
He didn't say anything as he looked at her.
"The audition yesterday didn't go well?"
"They said they'll keep in touch," she answered glumly.
"Hey that's a good thing right? I mean, that means they're still considering you."
"Or that they're just waiting until after Thanksgiving before they drop the bad news."
"Stop being so hard on yourself."
"Yes you are. C'mon Rachel, we already have enough people in this rotten world telling us we won't amount to anything. You don't need to be up against yourself too. Seriously, stop feeling sorry for yourself and eat that brownie. The ice cream's melting."
"Food doesn't always make everything better you know," she grumbled as she complied, taking a bite and letting the ice cream melt in her mouth. He grinned at her.
"Yes it does."
"I wish I could spend Thanksgiving here. Not," she said quickly at the surprised look on his face. "With you. I meant, here, in New York. Alone. Not at the diner, or with your family or anything. That's just crazy."
"It's not that crazy."
"It's not?" she asked dumbly as he refused to look at her.
"No. I meant like, if your parents weren't around or anything and you'd be alone, it's not that crazy."
"But I'll see you when you get back right?"
"Yeah of course. I mean, you'll be around?" she asked cautiously. He grinned.
"I'm not going anywhere."
She went back, and found out that he was right. She won't go as far as saying that she actually missed Lima, but there's something to be said about going back to the place where you grew up, no matter how painful the experience had been (They don't call it growing pains for nothing). And seeing her fathers again, after months of nothing but phone calls and Skype chats, had definitely put her in a better mood.
He was right about other things too.
It was two days before her flight back home when she got the call, just as she was about to sit down for dinner. What was meant to be a quiet dinner turned into a celebration of sorts when her parents broke out the champagne, her daddy quietly crying in the corner for his baby girl's first starring role.
"I'm not the star," she reminded him. Technically, she was the second lead, but it was obvious from the script that she had the heavier material anyway, and she felt it in her bones the moment the producer called. This was going to be her big break. So what if it's a play off- off Broadway and features a group of musically inclined teenagers in a mental facility? If they made it big, she might even get to play an original character on Broadway.
She's been on pins and needles as she waits for the day she finally returns, and when the plane finally lands on New York ground, the first thing she does is to direct her cab driver straight to his diner. He doesn't know because she hasn't told him, even though his face was the first one that came to mind the moment she hung up. It just feels right to tell him the news face to face. She's been picturing the smile on his face. Will he give the huge unrestrained grin, or will she be getting that small, little upturn quirk of his lips? Either way, she can't wait to see him. She misses him, and what better excuse to come waltzing back into his diner than this?
She's in such a good mood, she tells the cab driver to keep the change as she hurries out of the vehicle. She doesn't notice his absence until after she has stepped into the diner.
"What will you have today?" She looks up in surprise at the distracted voice to find a much smaller man standing behind the counter, impeccably dressed with his hair perfectly coifed as he shoots her a tired smile. Finally, she meets Kurt.
"Erm," she starts, taken off guard. "Is Finn here?"
"Finn?" Kurt asks with a frown. Clarity overtakes his features as he looks at her. "Oh, you must be Rachel," he says as he steps out from behind the counter.
"Yes," she answers, almost shyly, as she shakes his hand. She gets a good look at his shoes, and there's no doubt about it. Those posters on the walls are definitely his.
"It's nice to finally meet the girl my brother won't shut up about for months," Kurt tells her wryly, and she blushes. He talks about her?
"Is he here?" she asks instead, frowning as she notes the sober look on Kurt's face.
"No. He's at the hospital. We're taking turns at the diner-"
"Is Finn okay?" she cuts in quickly, feeling her heart drop dangerously low at Kurt's words as a multitude of reasons that could land him in the hospital flies through her brain. He was in an accident, he was deathly ill, he contracted a deadly virus, he broke a limb-
"Oh he's fine," Kurt says quickly, and she feels all those horrible scenarios melt away. "It's- it's our father."
She's not sure if she's ever ran faster for anything in her whole life, but the words "It was a heart attack", coupled with everything he had ever told her about Burt Hummel plays like a broken record in her mind, and all she sees is that sad smile on his face when he talked about his mother as she runs through the hallway to find room 305. There's a loud squeak as her shoes scrape against the floor when she stops short just in front of the door, her heart beating furiously against her ribcage.
Taking a few deep breaths, she gingerly pushes the door open.
His laughter is the first thing she hears, and it calms her almost immediately. She sees him sitting on the visitor's chair, leaning back easily as he talks to the older man lying on the bed. Hesitantly, she knocks on the door.
Burt sees her face, his face registering slight confusion as she smiles at him. She takes a second to observe him, the lines on his face, slight stubble that clutters his jaw and his round, kind face. He looks like Kurt, only without the head full of hair, and she can easily see him holding out a kind hand to the younger man in front of him years ago.
"Rachel." Finn's surprised tone causes her to look away, and she turns to see him already in a half stand, stunned. "What are you doing here?"
"I- erm-" He's already walking over towards her, and she notes the bags under his eyes, the scruff that had grown over his usually clean shaven face. He looks so tired. And so confused by her presence.
"So you're the little lady Finn's been talking about."
She sees the slight color on his cheeks before she turns to look at his stepfather. That's the second time she's heard that today.
"I guess I am," she says pleasantly, smiling at the older man. She turns back to Finn. "I- I went to the diner earlier," she says in a quiet voice. "And Kurt told me what happened. I just- I wanted to make sure you're okay."
"I'm fine," he murmurs, smiling as he takes her hand. "You should sit down."
"I- I don't want to intrude-"
"Nah," Burt cuts in as Finn pulls her nearer towards the bed. "I gotta tell you, it's great seeing someone else for a change. Between Kurt telling me he's putting me on a death row's diet and this one over here, refusing to sneak me a piece of sweet dessert, I don't got a lot to thank about this Thanksgiving."
She smiles at his joke as she takes a seat, noting the way Finn clenches her hand just a little tighter.
"You had a heart attack," Finn says quietly.
"It's not like it's my first one." Burt mutters.
"Son, if I stop living my life every time this stubborn little organ decides that it needs a break, I might as well stop living altogether," Burt tells him wryly.
"I'm not saying that!" Finn retorts, and she jumps a little at his booming voice. Obviously, she's just got herself stuck in the middle of a long standing argument. Burt raises an eyebrow and she catches Finn glancing at her out of the corner of his eye. "I'm just- look, Burt you gotta take care of yourself better."
"There's nothing better than food," Burt says stubbornly. "I own a freaking diner, and you're telling me I can't eat the things I'm selling?"
"You expect me to eat the crap this place makes instead? Because I'm telling ya buddy, the food here is gonna kill me faster than any clogged artery will."
"Wanna bet on that?"
The reproachful tone slips out of her mouth before she realizes it, brought on by the hurt on Burt Hummel's face. Finn's hands are still in fists at his sides, and he doesn't look at her as he sighs.
"I'm gonna go see the nurse about that lunch," he mumbles, walking away without a backward glance, leaving her alone with his stepfather.
She sits awkwardly on the chair as she waits for Finn to return, the conversation she had with his stepfather dwindling down into awkward silence.
"So Finn tells me you're a singer."
She nods, smiling at him.
"A really good one."
"I am," she says. "Not that he would even know that, since he's never really heard me sing before."
"Well, you got him convinced anyway."
She smiles, blushing. It's been ten minutes, and they're both still waiting for Finn to return. She notes the slightly worried look on Burt's face as he furrows his eyebrows. He's pretending to be nonchalant, but she knows better. She's worried too.
"That ridiculous boy is worried about me," he says quietly.
"I know," she answers.
"He's being stupid of course. I'm not going anywhere."
She doesn't say anything as Burt shakes his head, knowing that it's not really her place.
But Rachel Berry's never really been the quiet kind of girl.
"He really isn't," she says. "Being stupid. He loves you, and he's worried about you."
Burt raises an eyebrow as he looks at her appraisingly, but she stands her ground. He chuckles.
"He's- he's scared that you'll leave him."
"You seem to know a lot about my son."
"I- we understand each other, in a way. And Finn just wants you to be better."
"How am I supposed to get better when all I get to eat is crap," he grumbles. She grins.
"I'm serious. They put you in a hospital to get you better right? And then they feed you crappy food and they think that's not gonna make a person miserable?"
"I'm sure we can find something to make you feel better?"
"All I want right now is a piece of Finn's pecan pie and I'm good."
"Those things are amazing," she agrees. "But no. What about music?"
"What about music?"
"Well, music has been known to make people happy," she answers, shrugging. "And I will tell you now, people will soon be paying to hear Rachel Berry sing, so you might be in for a once in a lifetime performance."
He stares at her blankly while she smiles on. Burt laughs when he realizes that she's not really kidding.
"Girly," he says, his eyes twinkling. "If you can pull off a good Mellencamp, I'm going to tell Finn to never let you go."
She beams as she leans forwards to take his hand.
It takes them a while to pick a song, mostly because the only John Mellencamp song she knows, Burt hates. And unfortunately, although his son seems to be well-versed in the ways of Broadway, the same can't be said for him. They settle for Journey, the only band that stuck with her through all of her ex-boyfriend's collection of Mullet-haired, testosterone-filled rock bands.
"Be prepared for a mind blowing performance," she warns him teasingly before she starts to sing. She's used to accapella, and Wheels in The Sky has been on her repertoire ever since she realized that Rock of Ages could potentially be an option for her.
She doesn't realize how much she misses it until she catches the look on Burt's face.
She loves performing. She can't remember the last time she sang in front of someone without the pressure of rejection looming over her head.
It's surprisingly liberating.
She giggles, her concentration breaking when he joins in at the second verse, the slowed down ballad she initially went for turning into a more upbeat version as he sings along boisterously, up until the last verse where they are both pretty much screaming their hearts out, proper vocal training be damned.
She jumps to her feet, primly curtseying as Burt claps his hands, whooping animatedly.
"You got some lungs there missy."
"Forget about letting you go, I'm gonna make sure Finn marries you if you brush up on those song choices."
"What are we getting Finn to do again?"
She whips her head around too fast, but ignores the whiplash as her face heats up when she sees him standing in the doorway.
"F- Finn," she stammers, embarrassed. She glares sideways at Burt when the old man chuckles.
"What happened to lunch?" Burt asks, traces of amusement still coloring his words. Finn still looks a little perplexed as he answers.
"I had a talk with Suzy. You're getting the jello today."
Burt eyes him appraisingly as Finn looks on, and she gets the feeling like she's in the middle of something deeper again.
"I thought jello was scrapped off the list?"
"Well apparently you were wrong."
She looks between them, notes the dimples on his face and the twinkle in Burt's eye before she rolls her eyes.
"Do the two of you always talk in codes?" she asks, annoyed.
"Thank you," he says quietly as they walk side by side out through the hospital doors. "For visiting. You really cheered him up."
She shrugs, a small smile growing on her face as they huddle closer together in the cold air.
"I wanted you to know that I'm on your corner," she says, only half teasingly. He chuckles as he nudges her shoulder.
"Noted. That all?"
"Oh!" she exclaims as she stops short in the middle of the street. "I almost forgot."
She turns to face him, looking up at his expectant face with a barely contained beam on her own.
"I got it," she tells him calmly.
"I got the part."
She loves it when his face lights up, when his dimples are out in full effect and his eyes shine, just like they are doing right now as the excitement finally spills out of her in a bubble of laughter.
"Get out!" he exclaims, leaning down to envelope her in his long arms. She shrieks when she feels herself lifted off the ground, the world around her spinning. "I told you the right part was just around the corner!"
She grins up at him when he sets her down. She feels great, like her heart is blooming in her chest, like she can do anything, and with the way he's looking at her, he makes her feel like she really can.
So she stands on her tiptoes as she wraps her arms around his neck, pulling him down to her level. There's a split second of surprise that registers in his eyes before they give way to the warmest, most comfortable look she has ever seen.
And she kisses him.
She doesn't know what she was expecting, whether it was meant to be just a light peck on the lips, or a full blown, explosive cornucopia of emotions, but maybe it's both, because he pulls way for just a fraction of a second, before he dives in again, his fingers weaving through her hair as his other hand pulls her closer. She feels... she feels everything in his kiss, the way his lips feel against hers, the hard, lean muscles of his body underneath her roaming fingers, the way her chest expands, screaming for air that she refuses to take.
A loud honking sound startles them, and they pull away. She looks on to find a cab driver giving them the finger as he drives off.
His grip on her is strong, and her body is still fused together with his as they catch their breaths. He chuckles, and she hides her face in his jacket, refusing to look at him as she turns red. Did she really just do that? She feels his fingers softly grazing the underside of her jaw, gently forcing her to look at him. She looks up to find a new smile on his face, one she's never seen before, and Rachel Berry secretly prides herself on being the connoisseur of Finn Hudson's list of smiles.
Her heart skips a beat as he leans down, close enough that their noses are touching.
"You know," he murmurs. "You're kind of in the middle of street right now. It's dangerous to stand out here like this."
She feels the laughter bubbling up in the pit of her stomach, but she settles for a smile instead.
"I'm celebrating," she whispers. He smirks.
"We should do that on the curb."
"Okay," she says, grinning as she wraps her arms around his waist, pulling him in closer as she breaths him in. He smells like cinnamon, just a hint of Old Spice and something else that is just distinctly his own.
"Just for the record," he starts conversationally as he slides his hand from the curve of her neck down to hold hers. "Is this how you get a guy to fall in love with you? Through the pretext of needing umbrellas?"
She laughs as he grins, pulling against his hand slightly.
"Only if he's special."
"And what if he's really special? Do you blow his mind by serenading his stubborn stepdad?"
She looks up at him in surprise, finding a sly smile on his face as he looks ahead.
"You gotta admit," she jokes, smirking. "It's a pretty effective method."
A review does a happy author make ;P