It isn't fair of her to be bitter. But it isn't fair of him to be staring. She's almost nearly completely certain that he is — staring, of course. Really, she shouldn't be so bitter. And she isn't. Just…sometimes (always) it is extraordinarily difficult to be best friends with Quinn while she is planning a wedding with Rachel's ex-boyfriend. More like ex-everything, really, and yes, the wound still runs deep.
There's a very pretty unopened bottle of pink champagne sitting on her countertop — it wouldn't be too wrong of her to indulge in some alcohol, right?
Just as she's uncorking the bottle, a familiar hand rests against the small of her back, lips barely grazing the skin of her ear as he greets, "Hey, Rach."
She smiles and he wraps his long arms around her. It's always been so special to her, how tightly he can hold her without hurting her, how completely safe she feels in his embrace. Her face presses against his shoulder, and for one imperceptible moment, he is hers. "Happy birthday. Glad you found my champagne."
Her eyes dart to all corners of the room, and she steps away from him. "You bought this for me?"
He smiles and traces his finger along the lip of the bottle. "'Course. Who else knows how much you love pink drinks?"
"Kurt, Quinn, Santana, oh, Blaine, because I got drunk on pink wine coolers and we made out —"
"Me," he interrupts, rolling his eyes. "I know. But, it's more than a gift for your thirtieth birthday, you know. I don't just splurge on — "
"Finn, contrary to what Quinn may tell you, I am only twenty-seven."
"I know," he rolls his eyes, "I'm just teasing you, Rachel."
It's tense for a moment. His tongue darts out to swipe across his bottom lip and she nearly throws herself into his arms, just because she wants to kiss him again and again. "Well, regardless. Thanks, lots."
"I'm, um — I'm real proud of you. You've done so well with Broadway, and I know you're gonna win the Tony this year."
"I haven't even been nominated yet."
He presses his fingers against her shoulder, thumb running along her bare collarbone and she flashbacks suddenly to nights where he could barely get his mouth off the area, and she feels her face heat up. She wonders if he feels it, too. She wants him to, goodness, does she want him. She wants him to bend down and press his mouth against hers and run his hand down her spine like he used to when they were together and whisper in her ear that all the stuff with Quinn was just to get over her.
She wants him to move his hand off her body so she can think straight.
But he persists, fingers curving over her shoulder, and he stares at her, amber eyes filled with — with something she doesn't want him to feel (but really does). "You're a star, Rachel. Always have been, always will be."
She bites her bottom lip and smiles gratefully at him, and finally, he releases her and escapes to the corner of her apartment, where Quinn is currently tipping a bottle of beer down her throat.
She manages to avoid him for the rest of the night, stomach still unsettled from their charged exchange. The night's a blur, really, but a good one, with one too many flutes of pink champagne – she isn't drunk, just a little hazy. So hazy that she lets Sam kiss her on the mouth when she walks him out, and smiles coyly when he asks if they can hang out sometime – just us – but neither refuses or agrees.
Is it wrong of her to hold out hope for Finn? Maybe, but when she turns back to the party, she catches his stare and holds it, before Santana and Brittany distract her with hugs and happy birthdays.
The guests dwindle until it's just her and Finn, and she walks him to the door, trying to ignore the pull to slip her fingers into his. "Where – where's Quinn?"
It's awful, but she doesn't even remember saying goodbye to her. "I, uh, got her a cab awhile ago. She was really out of it, and Mercedes offered to look after her."
"Oh. Well, um – thanks for coming. And the champagne."
He doesn't look like he wants to leave. "Hey, why don't I help you clean up a little?" She can't exactly turn down his help, so she nods and sets to cleaning, making idle conversation all the while. When they were together, he used to squeeze her hips as he scooted behind her to pick something up, or would lift her in his arms to dust the tops of the cabinets.
She shakes the thoughts from her head, as well as the ache in her heart. It does not bode well for a Broadway actress to be heartbroken over a boy. Her head is starting to whirl a little, nearly a full bottle of champagne bubbling up inside her and – don't bubbles rise? Or something? And now all the bubbles swim inside her head.
"Hey, Rach, d'you wanna sit? You look kinda dizzy." He isn't supposed to call her that anymore. It's a pet name he'd given her when they were friends and dating and when he loved her most he called her that all the time, intermingled with a slew of other little nicknames she hasn't heard since. "So, you and Sam? Never would've guessed."
"I – uh – saw you kiss him. Tonight."
"Oh. He kissed me. It was a goodbye peck. We're friends, after all," she insists, scooting on the couch so that her back rests against the soft cushions, "friends kiss all the time."
"We're friends and we don't kiss."
She rolls her eyes and pulls one knee against her chest. Finn lowers himself onto the couch beside her, close enough so that his thigh presses against hers. "Yeah, Finn, but we're friends who used to fuck. Constantly."
"Fuck?" She closes her eyes, because his tone just tells her everything – they were much more than friends who used to fuck. But it's just…it's too hard to say friends who were in love partly because of that nagging ache in her chest and the fact that she is still in love with him. "I'd say in love."
She blinks rapidly. "Mhm. Something like that. But, you can kiss me, if you want to. I like kissing – did I ever tell you about that time Blaine and I made out? He thought he was straight, for a day, maybe, and –"
He cuts her off. "Do you miss me?"
"Miss you?" She shakes her head. "Silly, you're right here. How can I miss you when—"
"You know – I mean – do you ever…miss us?"
She wants to be difficult again, wants to toss her long hair over one shoulder and lift one eyebrow at him (the opposite eyebrow from the shoulder, of course) and tell him no, no she does not. But her mouth is faster than her attitude and forms, "All the time."
Maybe she should ask him if he misses her, too, misses cuddling on the sofa after an episode of Hoarders or the way she would lay out his suits for her shows and how she always left him notes when she left. She opens her mouth to ask, but is silenced by his lips pressing against hers.
It's unexpected, nice, but unexpected, and she wants to give in so badly, and she can't help but kiss him back, just a little, before pushing gently on his chest. He blinks, and is immediately apologetic. "Jesus, Rachel, I'm so sorry I did that, I honestly wasn't thinking I just—I just –"
She closes her hand over his mouth. "I am just irresistible," she teases softly, and this is probably not the appropriate form for jokes, but she can't help herself.
He doesn't think it's funny, though, and his eyes seem to darken at least two shades and he murmurs yes against her palm, lips brushing against her skin in what should really be a ticklish manner but only sends a peal of heat down her spine.
As always, she wants him. He's still got that look in his eyes when his hand lifts to his mouth and pulls her hand off of his face, and instead of letting her hand go, he laces their fingers together.
"Finn," she whispers, "Finn, what're you – what're we – "
His free hand rises, caresses her cheek, thumb brushing across her mouth. He leans in, kisses her bottom lip first, then her top, then closes his mouth over hers. She holds her hand to his on her face, releases his fingers laced in hers to grasp his sweater and pull him closer. He sighs her name into her mouth and it's just so sweet, he's so sweet. His hand runs down her spine and she feels goosebumps everywhere.
But he's getting married. To someone who isn't her. "Finn," she murmurs, pulling away from him, "we can't do this."
He looks like he wants to disagree. She wants to retract her statement, but she has to be strong. "I – I want to."
"I do, too," she admits, and his arms are still wound around her body, and he's careful not to crush her with his body atop hers. "But – you – Quinn."
His eyes slide shut, and he releases this little breath. "I don't…I don't want to think about her. I just want to think about you. And me. Only for tonight."
She should disagree. It's cheating. He's got Quinn, beautiful blonde prom queen Quinn, and she's just Rachel. Brunette, short, big-nosed Rachel, and there's really no reason he should even want her, but he does and – it's her birthday.
If she wants Finn Hudson, she will have Finn Hudson. She stands and pulls him to her room.
Finn kisses her, softly and tenderly this time, lazily slipping his tongue into her mouth. His hands are gentle as they roam all over her body, and they're nearly silent but for the rustling and unzipping and moans and grunts.
There's a cadence, here, with Finn's mouth on her breasts. His leg slips between hers, and he's hard against her thigh. He lifts his mouth from her chest and just stares at her, like he loves her again, loves her still, and he brushes a lock of hair out of her eyes before he kisses her.
He's tender, quiet, as his hips press against hers as he pushes inside her. A groan escapes his lips, then hers as he finds his rhythm and she urges him to go faster, harder, but he swallows her sighs and slides in and out, a slow burn. His hands explore her back, and she writhes and wiggles until he moves a little faster, and oh, her hips rise and meet his and she unravels beneath him, groaning his name.
He comes moments later, face pressed against her collarbone, and she swears he tells her he loves her.
Finn's arm is locked around her waist when she wakes up, his head perched on her shoulder. She runs her hand along his cheek, relishing in his familiar embrace. Her eyelids flutter, tugging her back to sleep, until she remembers.
He isn't hers.
"Finn," she murmurs, wiggling around and feeling her cheeks warm, as he grows hard against her thigh. He sighs and lets out a familiar little groan before burrowing further against her body. "Finn."
He's not too deep of a sleeper, and she smiles complacently when she hears him yawn. "Mornin', baby girl." His voice holds a throaty, loving tone that absolutely breaks her heart.
"Finn." Her lip trembles, and he turns and he's blinking and suddenly it just hits him, what he's done what they've done. She's ruined everything, ruined her best friend's wedding and she can't even bear to regret it because she loves him so much but at the same time she's warring with her guilt. "You – you should leave."
"Rachel," he says lowly, and she shakes her head. His phone starts ringing, jazzy and upbeat, and she feels her heart sink because she knows whose signature ring tone that is that just makes this all the more inherently wrong.
He ignores the call. She runs into the bathroom.
Sam asks her to get dinner, and she agrees, because she is single and attractive and is officially ignoring Finn Hudson. Sam is a nice man, he's sweet and funny and so, so handsome, and she's never been into blondes before, but she sees the appeal. He's carefree and happy and pays for her dinner and walks her home.
She lets him kiss her at her door and smiles when he pulls away because she likes him. She likes his big lips and blonde hair and he's always so joyful. "I'll call you, alright?"
She nods and he kisses her again and it doesn't feel like it did with Finn (dizzy and dancing and completely perfectly right) but it feels good, like fireworks and cotton candy.
Her answering machine light is flashing when she walks inside her apartment, which is odd. Only her doctor and a few other select people have her home phone – it's a formality really – but she should guess who it is before she even presses the listen button.
"Rachel, look, I'm really sorry but I – I just… Let me apologize in person. I've got something I want to say to you, and I don't want it to be over the telephone – or message – or whatever. So please, Rach. Call me."
She shouldn't call him. She should erase the message and undress and sit in her hot bathtub and listen to Barbra's greatest hits and imagine her next date with Sam and decide a good color scheme for the wedding and their kids' names but –
She calls Finn. "Can I come over?"
"Fine." She can nearly hear his smile.
He comes over and they should talk but they wind up kissing on her couch, her legs across his lap and she hates this and loves this at the same time. When his hands sneak up her sweater, she pushes him away, breathing heavily.
"Finn," she whispers, "what are we doing?"
He's still so close to her. "Kissing."
"Finn, that night – that night was a mistake."
"No," he shakes his head, adamant, "Rach, you know it wasn't. Do you regret it?" She doesn't have to verbalize her no for him to understand. "Remember when we went to dinner with Quinn?"
He tugs her close. "Y'know. The first time. We'd – we'd broken up for about two months by that time, and we were finally talking again and – you invited Quinn that night. I didn't know."
Finn presses his face against her hair, says so lowly she second-guesses whether or not she can hear him, "I wanted to – to get back together. I had this speech and – anyways. You told me to go out with Quinn, and left and I just – you weren't interested in me, anymore. You'd moved on."
"You're still marrying Quinn. Besides, that was so long ago, Finn – we still shouldn't be cheating."
"I love you."
She wants to stop it, but her lips say, "I love you, too," before her brain can even process what he said – what he means. But she feels the edge of tears crawl at her eyelids and moans, pressing her face against the crook of his neck and he smells so familiar, like boy and soap and just Finn and before she knows it, she's got her hands threaded in his hair as his mouth moves over hers.
There's so much to talk about, how inherently wrong this is, or how much she's missed him (hated him) since he broke up with her and dated Quinn, but all her thoughts are lost, swallowed in his kisses, tucked away in her mind for later.
They don't talk about it, so she doesn't think about it. Sam calls, asks her on another date, and she accepts – why shouldn't she? As far as she's concerned, she's single, and Sam's cute and he likes her and he's single, too, and it isn't fair of her to hold out for Finn when she's pretty sure he's never going to leave Quinn.
Minutes from the hour Sam plans on picking her up, though, Finn calls. "Hey," and his voice is low, secretive and she hates this, "can I – Quinn's out for the night. Care to spend some time with me?"
She can't resist spinning a sarcastic edge to her voice, "No, I do not. In case you were wondering, I have a date."
"A date?" Her heart thrums at thinly veiled jealousy. "With who?"
"Sam," she responds primly, just as there is a knock at her door. "That's him. Bye, Finn!"
She hangs up, and opens her door to reveal Sam's handsome, smiling face. "Ready, Rachel?"
"Quinn, are you – are you crying?" Rachel gasps and presses her hand against her back, comforting. She ignores the shock of guilt that follows. "Don't worry, Quinn. If you hate it that much, we'll get you another to try on. Kurt! Go get another dress, this one's all – "
"No," she shakes her head, eyes rising, mysteriously tear-free. "I'm just practicing for the day of. I want to be so moved by Finn's vows – you know we're writing them ourselves – that I am crying. And I'm just wondering if, maybe, the tears don't jive with the dress."
"Quinn, I think you look lovely. Just lovely. Finn will love you in this dress."
Quinn twirls. "He will, won't he? He requested pure white, after all." Rachel ignores the sharp ache in her heart. "I mean, this dress is perfect. Right? Perfect."
"Yes," Rachel agrees, falling into a free armchair. "Perfect."
Hopping off the platform, Quinn stands beside Rachel, arms wrapping around her shoulders. "Don't worry, little Rachel. We'll find you a man, some day. How advantageous, our friendship – you dated Finn long enough to know he's perfect for me."
Rachel has to stop herself from laughing out loud, because perfect for Finn is Rachel. "Yes," she agrees, "quite advantageous."
"I'm going to change. Be a dear and – put back the spare dresses? And call the girls back in, would you? You're all next!"
The guilt makes her sick, even more so when her phone buzzes with a phone call. "Rach," he breathes like he hasn't called her every night since her date with Sam, "I need – I need to see you."
"I'm actually at the bridal shop, so if you could stop harassing me, that'd be lovely!"
This is so wrong of her, because she knows he's hurting, too, or something like that. It's hard for her to imagine him hurting like she is. He doesn't have to see the love of his life plan a wedding with his best friend, after all. Or be as involved with it as she is as the maid of honor. He doesn't have to listen to Quinn's bipolar rampages on whether or not to marry Finn.
Today, of course, is a day in favor of marriage. With a dress and bridesmaid dresses chosen, they've had a successful day. "So, what do you say we head out to lunch, girls?"
Quinn hooks arms with her, but Santana shakes her head. "Unlike you fuckers, I have to get to, you know, work. With your fiancé. And I swear to god, if he skips out – "
Dryly, Kurt interrupts, "Speak of the devil."
"Finn!" Quinn cries, hugging him around the neck.
"What a coincidence," Rachel mutters under her breath, and Kurt hears, brow twitching with confusion. He sends her a sidelong glance and she shakes her head quickly. Finn's giving her that look again, so sweet and adoring she can't meet his gaze when she says hello.
"Rachel," he greets, continuing, "Kurt, Santana. Hey, Lopez, get back to the office, you've got a brief to finish."
"Fuck off, Tubs. How the hell did you get out of working?"
"I'm nearly a partner," he responds.
"Fuck that. You probably cited another illness."
"Another?" Rachel blurts, and they're loitering, now, so they start heading towards their favorite restaurant. Finn walks close to her, Quinn trailing behind them, too engrossed in a conversation with Santana to notice Finn's hand brushing against hers, his fingertips tracing along her wrist as their arms swing side by side.
She wonders how no one else notices it, the tension that nearly crackles between her and Finn. But maybe it isn't as palpable as she thinks. Maybe their clandestine affair is fueled by only memory and Finn's cold feet, and truly, she's glad she has Sam, whose name pops up on her phone, vibrating with his text message in her pocket.
"Is that your boyfriend?" Her stomach plummets.
But Kurt answers for her, "Probably just her daddy, right, Rachel?"
Her cheeks flush bright red, ignoring Finn's scrutiny, and she shoves her phone deep into her purse. "Something like that."
Finn's a lawyer, so of course he catches her bluff and brushes his fingertips against hers, but fortunately lets the situation dissolve just like that. She hates when he does this, when he understands her so intricately that it's almost as though he's a part of her and she doesn't want to love him any more than she already does.
Lunch is easy, fun, filled with carefree laughter and jokes, and it's nice to put her worries away just for a little. Of course, Santana heads back to work (hours later), pinching Finn on the ear when he tells her he wrangled the rest of the day off, and Kurt goes to meet Blaine for coffee, so it's just Rachel and Quinn and Finn.
"Well," Quinn says, crooking and snapping her fingers to get the waiter's attention, "looks like it's just the Three Musketeers!"
Rachel laughs hollowly. "Looks like it."
They order another bottle of wine, and Rachel tries to ignore the waiter's flirty glances at her but she also – she also wants to bask in them, so she rests her chin on the heel of her hand and smiles at him as he nervously pours her a glass. Finn purses his lips and turns his head to look at Quinn.
"Listen, you two," Quinn starts, and suddenly Rachel's heart begins to pound, "as you know, my being a photographer for a high-powered magazine can take me across the world for weeks at a time. And I've recently been assigned a project that will need me to go to California. Just for two weeks, of course, but I'm afraid I'll be rather busy in the weeks following."
"When are you leaving?"
"Aw, you two," she croons, placing her hand on Finn's cheek and her engagement ring nearly glitters in the slanting afternoon sunlight. "You'll miss me so much. But the catch is – I'll need you two to finish planning the wedding."
"Me?" Finn blurts out. "Don't we have, like, a wedding planner? Or something?"
Rachel answers, "Well, no. I've been helping plan the wedding."
"Yes," Quinn affirms, smiling sweetly, "Rachel's been such a dear. And Finn, you'll have to help her, of course. You're not too busy at work, are you?"
"I mean, yes –"
"Good. So it's settled."
Rachel can't help but turn her eyes to Finn, who instead of staring at her is staring at the ceiling, eyes pensive and wondering. For a moment, she wonders if he's thinking about her.
The phone wakes her up, and it must be the middle of the night, because her room is dark, and she's using Finn's shoulder as a pillow. She sits up sleepily and gropes for the phone, eyes squinting against the lit up screen as she answers.
"Rachel, thank God you answered. I tried Finn, but he sleeps like the dead, so I wasn't very surprised when he didn't pick up."
"Is something wrong?" Her words are garbled, husky with sleep, and her eyes widen as Finn stirs beside her, turning on his side and wrapping himself around her.
"Am I making the right choice?"
It's rare that Quinn questions herself. "What does your heart tell you?"
"I don't know."
"Then I am of absolutely no help, Q!" She sinks into her pillows as Finn turns, his head falling onto her stomach. Now, he's using her as a pillow. She really should be guilty, after all, she's on the phone with his fiancée at two thirty in the morning, but she's only smug. "Is Finn the love of your life?"
"I – I'm not sure. How do you know?"
She combs her fingers through Finn's mussed hair. "When you think of yourself in ten years, fifteen, forty – is he the one you see sitting beside you?" Finn sighs in his sleep, shifts and rolls so that he's facing her. His brow furrows and releases, and his eyes slip open.
"I – "
Finn moves so that he's just hovering above her. "Q, I'm falling asleep. Call me, tomorrow – 'kay?"
She barely agrees before Finn grabs the phone from her hands and hangs up. He looks at her softly and kisses her so sweetly and gently, it's almost like the first time he ever kissed her, when they were freshmen in high school and he'd kissed her in the field after a football game, clumsily, clandestinely, and after, he'd held her hand and looked at her just like he is now, soft and sweet and overwhelmingly Finn.
He brushes some of her hair off her face and kisses her again and again and it's so awful, this whole thing, awful in part because of what they're doing, made only more awful by their sheer lack of remorse. Or, rather, her lack. Finn could be remorseful.
To his very soul, Finn's a good man. Kind, loyal – at least until now – and always puts others' needs before his own, and he's determined and confident (now more so than in high school, of course) and hardworking and he's respectful, and oh, God, she's ruined him, she's ruined the best one. "Rach? What's wrong?"
They're facing each other, his arms around her waist, legs entangled in the sheets, and she shakes her head. "Everything, Finn. How did we – how'd we get here?"
"I – I don't know."
She pulls her bottom lip into her mouth and looks down, at his hand clasped over hers between their bodies, and she imagines him holding Quinn like this, kissing her the way he kisses Rachel, slow dancing with her in the kitchen, as ridiculous and overwrought and cliché as it is. She can picture it, picture Quinn marrying her boy, loving her man, and the rest of her life spans grimly before her: alone, pining for Finn who only pays her attention when the wife's out.
It leaves her cold. She curls away from him, away from the warmth of his body and eyes and the static of his touch. "Baby, please," he murmurs, "come back to me."
"I just – I need to sleep." She doesn't turn.
He lets out a resigned sigh and kisses her on the back of the head. "Sure, Rachel. Goodnight."
She doesn't tell him she loves him even though the words rest precariously on the tip of her tongue. No, she says nothing as she tucks the covers beneath her chin. Nothing at all.
As they veer into the lasts, she finds herself missing – longing for, even – the firsts. The first time they saw each other, passing briefly in the hallway, or their first kiss beneath bright stadium lights, misses the first time he nervously asked her out and his quiet anxiety on their first date. He'd kissed her shyly at her door, only a few inches taller than her at that time, and promised to call her the next day, and he had, ever the faithful boyfriend. She misses the soft sincerity of their first time, his fingers clumsy as they moved all over her body but she'd never felt more loved than in that moment, and when the next day, he'd put his hand on her shoulder and kissed her in front of her locker, he whispered that he loved her for the very first time.
When he kisses her, she sinks into the mattress, and he settles between her legs, pressing dread all over her body. He's well practiced, now, versed in how to make her sigh and moan out his name and writhe beneath him, urging for more. His hips slam against hers just so and she comes, crying his name into his shoulder.
He stays close to her and cradles her against his chest, rubbing her back as she likes, and she wants to run away and hide, and he kisses her forehead and whispers, "That was the last time, wasn't it?"
She nods. "It's for the best."
"Yours. And Quinn's. Mine, too, integrity wise." She takes a deep breath. "You won't leave her."
"See?" She shakes her head. "Please leave, Finn."
"I guess I'll – I guess I'll see you at the wedding?" He pulls away and dresses, and then turns and stares at her for a long moment, eyes flickering over her as if he's committing it to memory, this moment, the last in their affair (the last ever). "One more kiss."
He steps close and grasps her face in his hands, lips landing on hers roughly, and he pulls away moments later. "Bye, Finn."
She gets tea with Kurt a few days later, heart heavy but mind willing for the possibilities of a renewed second-love, rekindled in Sam's blonde hair and boyish smile. Kurt's all business today, though, unwilling to listen to her updates on the show, or Sam, or even the cat she saw at the animal shelter she may or may not adopt.
"I know," he states plainly.
"Know what?" Her heart hammers. Surely he doesn't –
"About you and Finn. Rachel, he's my stepbrother. You think he wouldn't tell me?"
"I – I don't know. I guess not." She sips her tea, burning her tongue. "It's over, anyways."
Kurt purses his lips. "I disagree."
"Well, face it. He chose Quinn, he'll always choose her." She traces the lip of her cup. "What does it matter, anyways? I have Sam."
"Mhmm." She narrows her eyes at him. "Okay, okay. Fine. Sam, or whatever. I'll hop on the bandwagon."
"Rachel, Finn isn't going to be able to go through with a wedding he feels is inherently wrong. Just you wait."
"I don't think so," she murmurs, looking away from his omniscient eyes and to the dark tea in her mug. "Quinn wins, again. She gets Finn, I get heartbroken. It's inevitable, really, it must be this silly brunette curse –"
"Rachel," he interrupts, placing his hand comfortingly on hers, "you deserve to be happy."
Regardless of the inherent wrongness felt by almost all parties in the wedding, the planning continues – with vigor. Seeing Finn hurts, planning his wedding to another girl hurts even more. He apologizes when they meet at the florists, but he's just awful at this, and what kind of flowers would you pick and she almost has to leave her chest constricts so tightly.
But she smiles and points him towards Quinn's favorite, pink roses and white lilies, and his fingertips brush hers as they pass and smell the flowers.
"I miss you," he tells her quietly, barely audible over the music in the shop.
She bites her lip. "I miss you more."
It doesn't feel like she's suffocating, or like she's drowning in her guilt when Finn grabs her hand and laces their fingers together. "It's funny, because surviving without you – it's almost easy. I can do it, of course, just as you can survive without me." He brushes her hair back, tumbling over her shoulder, and she feels her cheeks warm. "But the question is whether or not I want to."
He hums appreciatively when she looks down and squeezes his fingers. "We shouldn't."
"I know." Abruptly, he releases her fingers. "Would lunch interest you?"
She shouldn't. "Yes."
In any other circumstance – or rather, in another life – she would loop her hand through his arm and nestle her fingers in the crook of his elbow, but instead, they walk side by side, apologizing awkwardly when their fingers brush.
"Finn?" A familiar voice calls and they freeze, and it's almost like they've been caught red-handed.
"Mom," he greets, and she loves the boyish smile that stretches his mouth. He truly epitomizes the 'mama's boy' stereotype. She's always loved his mom, and loved how he loves his mom, so she turns and beams at Carole as she embraces her son.
"Rachel!" She exclaims, lurching forward and hugging her. "I didn't know you two were back together."
"We're not," Finn negates, "and I'm marrying Quinn. You know that."
"I thought that maybe you'd given up on that." Finn sighs, and Rachel remembers overhearing many fights about Carole's steely approval of the engagement. "Besides, I would've called you if I were cancelling my wedding."
"Mrs. Hummel, we'd love if you'd join us for lunch," Rachel invites, and Carole beams and it's settled.
Finn's fingers still brush hers as they walk, and his brow is set even as he discusses lighthearted topics with his mother. Even as they eat, he seems preoccupied elsewhere.
"It's so nice to see that you two are still friends," Carole says, sipping her white wine. Rachel smiles accordingly. "So precious in high school. I always thought…"
"Ma," Finn interrupts, glaring.
"Thought what?" She might be goading Finn, just a little, and the look on his face, wide eyes and a set lip is worth it.
Or isn't, really, because her heart squeezes when Carole continues, "Thought he'd by marrying you. Don't they say first loves are forever? And, my, if I've ever seen first love, I thought you would –"
"Let's move on, shall we?" Rachel interrupts, and she knows it's rude to interrupt people, especially people as benevolent as Carole.
"Yes, I agree," Finn continues. "Rach, tell her about your Tony."
"Well, I've been nominated," she's says, flushing, half at the attention, half at the memory of the night she'd found out, and how Finn's tongue had brushed hers in sweet victory. "The awards are in a few weeks, just before the wedding. Hopefully, all goes well, or else the wedding may be ruined by my sour demeanor."
Finn chokes on his wine for seemingly no reason, and she pounds on his back to help him breathe. And, also, just to pound on his back. "Yeah," he splutters, "you, sour."
"It's very possible. I am a poor loser. But I have been practicing my resigned, but proud look should I lose." She practices and Carole claps for her, Finn's still a little red from his near-death experience, but he's got that pensive look again. "Thank you, thank you."
"Rachel, it's so nice to see you again," Carole sighs, reaching forward on the table and squeezing her hand. "You should come to our Sunday night dinners with the boys. We'd love to have you."
"Mom, Quinn isn't even invited to those."
"Yes, well, Rachel's like family, right, Finn?"
His eyes lock with hers. "Something like that."
"Is it wrong?" Santana turns, stilling her bottle of beer at her lips, what lingering on her lips. "For me to – to still want him. To want to be his first choice. Not the leftover."
"No. Rachel, why do you let Quinn win?"
"Ever since I met you, you've let her have whatever she wants – your favorite dress, your seat at dinner, and the love of your life, and I just – why?"
"Because that's – it's what she does. What we do. Quinn wins. I lose."
"You deserve –"
"To be happy," she finishes, rolling her eyes, orders another pink margarita. She loves, loves, loves these pretty pink drinks. "I know."
"So go out there, and get Finn. He wants you, too."
"Clearly he doesn't! He hasn't left her!" She takes a deep breath. "Santana, it's pointless by now. The wedding's nearly a month away, and in two weeks, we're all heading down to Quinn's parents' house to help prepare – it just isn't worth it to stop, now."
Coffee is bitter, but so is she. Kurt laughs at her as she dramatically tells him this, how her bitterness will eat her alive, and if he isn't careful, she may infect him.
"You are ridiculous." She shrugs and settles in her seat, happy. She can be happy without Finn, and since he's ignoring her (she's ignoring him), she is learning to stop thinking about him late at night, or wishing he could walk with her from the theater late at night.
But she survives, thrives, even, ignoring the loosened threads of her heart. She doesn't want to admit that life would be better if she could just tell Finn she wants him to leave Quinn for her, wants him to choose her, but she doesn't want to force him, either, and she's beginning to hate that she ever let him kiss her behind Quinn's back, hates even more that she ever let him break up with her.
"Rachel?" Kurt's voice is sharp, but teasing, as he snaps his fingers in front of her face. "Where'd you go?"
She shakes her head. "Just thinking. About – about the dress."
Kurt covers her hand with his happily. "What a find, eh? You're going to blow all those other nominees off the red carpet. And I will be right there with you."
His eyes are dreamy, starry, and she can't imagine wanting to bring anyone else to her first Tony Awards – well, the first she's attending as a nominee. "I can't imagine wanting anyone else."
"Rachel," he tuts, "if you and Finn were still together, you know you'd take him."
"That's irrelevant," she hisses.
Kurt looks conflicted, but sighs. "I have a bit of gossip for you."
"Well, I don't want to without Santana here…"
"Are you kidding me?" He shakes his head. "Fine. Call her up."
Fifteen minutes later, filled with Rachel's insistent prodding – to no effect – and nagging, Santana plops into the seat beside Rachel. "Fuck you two, for choosing the farthest Starbucks from where I was. Literally. You fucking suck."
Rachel rolls her eyes. "Okay, Kurt. Spill!"
"A little birdie told me that our bride to be is – wait for it – pregnant."
"Pregnant?" Fiery explosions, hope, dashing out the window, cats. "Finn –?"
A little smirk curls Kurt's lips as he shakes his head slowly. "Rumor has it – no."
"You're fucking kidding me." Santana tips her head back and laughs mightily.
"Santana, you've cracked!"
"Rachel, don't you see? You win this time. Finn's good as yours."
She looks from her hands, clasped on the table, to Santana, to Kurt. "Does Finn know?"
"I – Rachel –"
"Kurt. Does he know?" Kurt shakes his head. "I'm not – I'm not going to be that girl. The rebound, the default."
"What do you want, Rachel?"
"I want – I want to be his choice. I want him to want me, and more than anything, I want to stop being so in love with him."
She stands from her seat and gathers her belongings. "Rachel, where are you –"
"Santana, I'll see you soon. Kurt, I'll see you next week."
"Remember to pick up your dress on Tuesday to check the alterations!"
Quinn comes over that night. "Rachel, am I – do you think I'm making a mistake?"
"I don't know," she responds dully. "Do you feel like you are?"
Quinn's brow furrows. "I – is it wrong if I do?"
"Um." She sighs. "It isn't. But it isn't – it's not fair to Finn. If you don't love him enough to marry him, I think – you should break up with him."
"But – I'm turning thirty, soon," she says quietly. "I want to be married and have –" She stops suddenly. "I don't want to be thirty and single."
"You know thirty's the new twenty," Rachel assures her, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "And you don't want to be thirty and divorced, do you?"
Quinn turns and faces Rachel. "If I told you something, would you promise to keep it – keep it from Finn? I know you two are close, but…" She nods. If only Quinn knew how close. "When I was on that trip for work, I – I ran into someone from college who –"
"Who?" Her voice is tiny, encouraging.
"Long story short, we slept together and now I'm pregnant, and I know it's not Finn's because God knows we haven't slept together in months and –"
She pretends to be shocked. Hugs Quinn, comforts her, and can't help but think of Finn, of the life he plans on giving up to Quinn and this baby who won't look at all like him, but he'll love it just as if he were its dad, because that's Finn. "You need to tell Finn."
Quinn sighs, brushes her hand through her long, blonde hair. "Maybe I will. Thanks, Rachel, for your help."
It's hours later that Quinn leaves, hugging and kissing Rachel on the cheek, and her stomach sinks with the realization that she'll never get Finn again. She knows Quinn, gets how she thinks, and if her baby's father is as flaky as she makes him sound, then she's going to keep Finn, who's constant and sweet and always loving and – it breaks her heart. She can't ruin Finn's life, won't, and refuses to let anyone else.
Her phone rings in the middle of the night. Well, the middle of the night if she were sleeping (if she could sleep). It's almost as though the Tony Award on her dresser has built in lights that blare and glare and keep her up, completely immersed in happy pride, and she ignores her ever-unraveling heart that yearns to share this accomplishment with someone (one person).
She can't sleep, and her phone rings, and she's giggly from normal champagne still bubbling in her veins when she answers, "Hello?"
"Congratulations," he says quietly, softly, and she can hear how proud he is.
"Finn," she sighs. "I miss you so much." And maybe if she were completely sober she wouldn't tell him this. "I wish you were with me tonight – I looked so pretty, don't you think?"
He laughs in that I'm laughing at how cute you are way that he always does. "You certainly did. Kurt sent me a picture." He sobers – ironic because she wants to do the same – and continues, "I miss you, too. And I – you know I want you."
"But you have a baby."
Her chest squeezes, sternum closing in on her heart. "I wish we didn't miss our chance."
It's a surprisingly clear sentence. "I do, too."
She hangs up on him, partly because it still hurts, her heart, but her eyes are slipping closed, and she falls asleep with her phone locked in her hand.
"I can't believe you won't tell him," Kurt hisses, passing her the bright pink suitcase from the back of his car. "I can't believe we're two weeks from the wedding, here, at the Fabrays', and you won't try to get him back."
"Kurt," she says, "you know why I won't tell him."
"Tell who what?" She freezes at the sound of his voice, rich and low and in person, not tinny and electric through a telephone at three in the morning.
"No one anything." She turns and smiles brightly at him. "It's – good to see you, Finn."
He smiles back at her, one side of his mouth just a little higher than the other, and he swoops down and pulls her into his arms, hugging her just a little longer than he should, and she snaps back to that night this all started, this mess, her birthday, when he'd brought her pink champagne because he knew she liked it and hugged her and congratulated her.
She pulls away quickly, because she shouldn't let her heart swell like it is, shouldn't want to take his face in her hands and kiss him, because he's getting married, he's going to be a father – he didn't choose her. He hugs Kurt, and Santana, high fives Blaine, and picks up her bright pink suitcase.
"You don't have to carry it in," she tells him, grasping the handles to pull it away from him.
Laughing, he shakes his head, and tosses it over his shoulder. "Rach, c'mon. I'm being – what's the word? Chivalrous?"
"Yeah. I'm being chivalrous, okay?"
Later, after wine and dinner with Quinn's parents and siblings and the crickets and cicadas and nightingales begin to sing, she allows herself to think about Finn, his saccharine chivalry and friendly compliments. She misses him. He's always been her best friend, dating or not, and she doesn't like this whole…not-talking thing.
She tries to sleep, but can't seem to settle in the alien bed and misses the comfort of her white sheets and down blankets, and not that the bed is by any means less than luxury, it just – it isn't home.
There's a knock at her door, and Finn pops in. "Can I – can I come in?"
She nods and sits up, pulling the blankets around her shoulders. He sits gingerly on the edge of the bed, back facing her, and she should scoot closer, but she doesn't. "What do you need, Finn?"
"I was just…" he turns and lies beside her, inches away, and he smiles softly at her, and if she weren't so in love with him, she would fall in love with him right here, this moment, early summer night air cool and sweet, and she hums along with the nightingales as the silence stretches like miles between them.
"Just what?" She asks finally, still leaning against the headboard, and he's still lying there on his stomach, chin resting on his forearms.
"D'you ever wish that things were different?"
She blinks. "All the time."
"Me, too." He sighs, props his chin on the heel of his hand. "Sometimes I think…you and me, we could do this."
"Relax, Rachel. This whole married, babies, forever thing. I know we could do it, actually." She smiles softly. "And – and maybe I don't…" He shakes his head. "I just wish I didn't have to hurt you."
"Hurt is inevitable."
"I never pegged you for a cynic." He's serious, but smiling.
"I'm being realistic."
"You were always a dreamer."
"I still am." Her eyes sweep downwards, at her hands folded on her lap, thumbs running over one another. She should tell him.
"I'm – I can't believe I'm going to be a father." She freezes, and her face must pale at least three shades. "Rachel? Are you okay?"
"I – I," she stutters, "Fine."
"You don't look fine. D'you need a doctor? Is it too hot in here?" He stands and pulls the blanket from her shoulders, pooling it at her waist, and turns the fan on. "Do you feel better?"
"God, Finn," she murmurs. "I just feel – so awful."
"Why?" He climbs on the bed and kneels in front of her, taking her face in his hands, and this is too intimate for where they are, what they're doing, and it's like the weight of all this – this affair, marriage, this heartbreak – is resting on her narrow shoulders and she's a dam about to burst –
"You're not the dad of Quinn's baby," she whispers, eyes closed.
"I – wh – what?"
"Finn, I'm so sorry."
"Are you – you're – are you sure?"
She nods. Finn looks at her, like he wants to do something – kiss her, maybe – but instead gets off the bed, and stalks out.
She wakes up the next morning to a subdued house. Quinn looks miserable, and Kurt and Santana are talking to one another quietly in the living room.
"I'm so sorry," she says, sitting beside her.
"It's okay." Rachel shakes her head. "Someone had to tell him eventually. You were right. I wasn't being fair to him – so, I guess, thank you for having more strength than me, in that regard."
"Quinn, I – " She's about to tell her all about the affair, but stops herself. She's seen Quinn angry, she goes off the deep end, and instead, hugs her friend and apologizes once more.
Finn's disappeared, but Rachel tries not to miss him so much, and instead focuses on her stint as Nellie in South Pacific, a role she is not intended for, but is only filling as both the lead and understudy contracted some awful virus while on vacation. She likes it well enough, and plenty of people come to see it – she is, after all, a Tony-winning actress – and it keeps her happy.
But she needs a break. From Broadway, from Santana and Kurt, who urge her to call Finn and just be with him, from Quinn's constant complaints about the imminent birth of her baby, which is really about six months.
She's humming her favorite number from the show as she skips home, and contemplates moving, though she loves her apartment. With her budding fame, though, it could be possible that paparazzi are already stalking her at this address. She waves and nods cheerfully to Paul, the doorman, as she makes her way inside and decides to take the elevator today. She's tired, after all, as she often is after a show and dinner with her cast mates.
Once she's off the elevator, on her floor, she sings a different tune, "To tears and fears and feeling proud, to say –"
She breaks off abruptly. Finn's resting against her door, knees to his chest, and her heart thrums and lodges itself in her throat at the sight of him, scruffy and a little dirty, but Finn through and through.
"Rach," he breathes, relieved, maybe, and he brings himself to his feet and the first thing she does is slap him across the face. "Ow. Guess I deserved that, huh?"
She nods. But his cheek is red, so she puts her hand over it gently, a little guilty, but justified, maybe. "You can't just disappear, Finn. I was so worried."
He moans softly and swoops down to kiss her between the eyebrows. "I'm sorry, Rachel. I just…needed to sort through some things."
She wants to be happy that he's here, that he's got his fingers threaded through hers as she pulls him into her apartment, should be glad that he leans down to kiss her even though she pulls away. "Why are you here, Finn?"
"To see you."
"Isn't it obvious?" She shakes her head, and he pops his jaw, so she grabs a pack of frozen peas from her freezer and puts it over his cheek. He sits on one of the stools beside the island in her kitchen and pulls her between his legs. "Baby, I'm here for you."
"Don't call me that," she murmurs.
"I – I can't be with you, Finn. Not anymore."
"You're killing me, Rachel."
She closes her eyes, pushes her breath out between her lips. "I won't be a second choice, Finn. I'm – "
"Second choice?" He grasps her face in his hands, and the frozen peas fall to the floor. "Baby girl, you're the only choice. Don't you see?"
"All I see is I told you to make your choice, and you chose Quinn. You're only here now because she cheated on you."
"I would be here regardless, because I love you, silly girl. You aren't the second choice, Rachel, I was – when you asked me, I was trying to find a way to slip out of Quinn's grasp. And then the mess with the baby and – Rach, I just want you. You're everything."
She doesn't want to believe him. "Why couldn't you tell me that then?"
"You never gave me a choice," he responds, and his voice is soft and sweet and Finn and he leans in and kisses her to reassure her that he loves her, and how could she doubt him, ever? "I'm so in love with you."
"Finn," she murmurs as he presses kisses all over her face, between her eyebrows, her bottom lip, her eyelids as she blinks, "you know how I feel about – about promises, but…I need you to promise me you won't – won't cheat on me."
"I promise," he responds immediately, eyes earnest, and he kisses her knuckles.
"Okay, I'll – we can do this." His smile is blinding as he sweeps her into his arms and hugs her tightly, and she it's like coming home, as if she's returning from a fantastic vacation to find comfort in her bed, in routine and her home.
He kisses her. It's like the first time, his hands grasping hers between them, mouth sweet and soft and tender against hers, but she wants more. She grabs his shoulders and pulls him closer.
It's familiar from there, Finn's deft fingers unzipping her dress and unclasping her bra, her small hands pulling his shirt off his torso. He smells like summer and Finn, like always, and the world melts around and it's just him and her and the city flying by, five stories below.
He tells her he loves her again and again, dropping kisses on her collarbone and her breasts, as his fingers slide down her thighs, and oh, she loves him to the tips of her toes.
Her breath is labored as he pushes inside her, hips pressing insistently against his, and he slows down, breaks his mouth from hers to tell her he loves her so much and he's so sorry, and she silences him, kisses him harder and urges him faster, Finn, but he keeps his pace, a slow burn to a steady climb, and she's standing at the edge of it all, gasps that she loves him, and then, it's over, and he kisses her softly in the aftermath, lips soft against her skin, and she feels so good, so loved.
Later, when she's curled beside him in the chasm between reality and dreamsville, she whispers, "You are my first love."
He looks down at her and smiles softly. "You're mine." He squeezes her closer.
She feels like the beautiful heroine in a romantic comedy, the girl who gets the boy of her dreams. And Finn is the boy of her dreams, unlike the boys she thought she'd do this with when she was young. He's not graceful and mysterious, and he isn't her costar in Funny Girl, but at his very heart, Finn is who she wants. The boy who loved her first, who told her she would be a star, and she wonders if he knows that when she said, "and to you, for always believing," in her Tony acceptance speech, she was talking about him.
Someone is pounding on her door. Finn sighs beside her. "Don't go," he mumbles as she shifts in his arms.
She manages to wiggle out of them and pulls underwear and a random dress over her head, yawning as she shuffles to the door.
"Rachel, thank God," Quinn exclaims, bursting into her apartment. She begins babbling about something or other but all Rachel can think of is Finn in the next room, or his shoes at her door, or even the McKinley sweatshirt tossed over the arm of her couch, and she's completely absolutely screwed.
"Quinn, let's go get some coffee," she suggests brightly, already running her fingers over her knotted hair.
"You look like a hot mess, Rachel. Didja just wake up?"
"Yeah," she responds, "moments before you knocked."
"Huh. Smells like – you totally got laid!"
"Who is it? Sam? I thought you ended it with him, but maybe you reunited without telling me? Is he amazing in bed? He looks like he would be – you know, blondes are proven to be more pleasing sexually."
Quinn continues to prattle on and on until she breaks off suddenly, sentence hanging stark in the air. "What's up, Q?"
"Are those – oh my fucking God." Her green eyes blaze angrily. "Finn! Get the fuck out of wherever you're hiding!"
Rachel prays he doesn't. "Quinn, I don't know –"
"Rachel, I would know those shitty shoes anywhere," she snaps. "How could you do this to me? I knew it, from the moment we started dating – I knew you always wanted him."
"No, Quinn," she protests weakly, but how can she deny that when it's the absolute truth? She's always wanted Finn, he's always held a part of her heart that's finally wove itself back inside.
"You are the worst friend, Rachel. Jesus Christ."
"Quinn, wait," she calls as Quinn storms out, "Please, I'm so sorry."
"Save it, Rachel. I'll – I'll see you, or I won't."
As much as she may be annoyed with Quinn overall, she's still been her friend since she was young, been there for her through meeting Finn and breaking up with Finn, and while it hurt like hell that Quinn actually dated Finn after all that, she's always just loved Quinn, and she closes the door and Finn's there to wind his arms around her waist. He swings her into his arms and carries her to the couch, letting her mourn the loss of her friendship.
Rachel sees her again a year later, and she's got a stroller and a man who looks like Sam is walking beside her, and she's cut her hair and she looks…happy. She looks happy, and Finn glances down at Rachel, concerned, and kisses her temple. "I'm going to get us a table, 'kay, baby?"
She nods and squeezes his fingers as he walks towards the restaurant. Summer is waning fast, leaves changing colors, and the diamond ring on her finger feels heavy as she approaches Quinn. "Hi," she says quietly.
"Rachel," Sam acknowledges, smiling and hugging her politely. Quinn glares, so Sam nudges her in the side.
Rachel glances over her shoulder, already wishing she were inside with Finn, sharing a glass of red wine. "I just…I – I miss you, Quinn. And I wanted to tell you that I do not regret being with Finn, or agreeing to marry him, but I am sorry I hurt you. You…you don't have to talk to me again, but I," she takes a deep breath, "I'm happy for you. Your baby is beautiful."
She turns to walk away, trying to ignore the pinching sting of tears in her eyes, when Quinn calls out to her. "Rachel!" She freezes. "I – I'm happy for you, too. The both of you."
Quinn nods her head at the restaurant, soft smile playing on her lips, and maybe some day they can be friends, again.
But that day is not today.
When she sits with Finn at their favorite table by the window, he looks concerned, and grasps her hand as he asks her if she's okay.
"I'm good, Finn," she responds, and he smiles, relieved. "I'm great."
And she is great. She's got Finn, and they're planning their wedding, and their family, and she couldn't be happier.
Finn kisses her beneath the ear, sweeping her hair over one shoulder, and murmurs against her earlobe, "You are the prettiest woman in the world."
She blushes and turns her head to kiss him softly, much to the head table's displeasure, and he takes her hands beneath the table. "Shut up," Rachel snaps, still smiling, "It's our wedding day."
"You do that whether it's your wedding day or not," Santana complains, and Brittany and Kurt and Mercedes and Tina and her daddy all agree.
Dinner and toasts are over, and she'd had to wipe her eye more than once from Santana and Kurt's sweet speeches, and it's time for their dance, her and Finn. "I have a surprise for you," he tells her as he leads her to the dance floor.
He holds her delicately by the waist and places his other hand in hers. "I took dance lessons," he admits, a little shyly. "I just – I wanted this night, this day, to be perfect for you."
The music starts up and he leads her across the dance floor, and he isn't perfect, but he's perfect for her, and she laughs delightedly as he dips her and twirls her around. "It already was, with or without the dancing," she tells him as he pulls her close, her head tucked beneath his chin.
He doesn't need to tell her he loves her, because she knows, in her heart, in her fingers and toes and shins and her clavicle, she knows he loves her to the very top of his soul. She's loved him (known him) since she was naïve and fifteen, and she loves him now, years later, as he twirls her around the dance floor.
She feels chosen. She's not bitter anymore, learning, now, to paint her dreams with temporary ink, because they're ever-changing. Because now, she just wants to be happy with her husband before taking the stage (finally) as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, but she knows in a year she'll want a little Finn, with his amber eyes and freckles and her voice. She'll want another one, after that, and maybe a dozen more besides.
But for now, she curls against Finn, insurmountably happy – finally.
obviously, credit to glee and something borrowed, and joni mitchell and benjamin francis leftwich for the title. i tried to make it as true to finn and rachel as possible and to ensure finn didn't seem like a huge jackass but sigh who knows
also dedicated to my homegirl/soul mate rachel :')