A/N: This is the last of it. But honestly, I don't think they're done talking just yet.


They get into a lot of trouble at Mercedes' bachelorette party.

Kurt has someone's shorts around his head, throwing dollar bills at a stripper on stage; Tina has some guy licking tequila off her stomach; Mercedes has a guy gyrating on her lap and Rachel hides her face when another guy starts dancing in front of her and Brittany comes behind her and removes her hands covering her face, poking her in the side to keep her eyes open.

The men are gorgeous. All shapes, sizes, colours and after too many tequila shots she's pressed into one of them from behind, Mercedes between two hunks and Tina in front as they dance around, half-drunk and loud. It gets louder and more confusing after a while and soon she and Mercedes are dancing on a table, Mercedes' 'I'm the bride' crown a bit askew on her head as they belt out random songs as the men dance around them.

Contrary to how she is normally, she's pretty quiet when she's drunk. Kurt is as loud as ever and Mercedes laughs a lot. And with the five of them its nonstop giggles and shouting; drunk people dancing around very uncoordinated and falling all over themselves.

It's downright dirty, loud, raunchy fun and if anyone's taking pictures, they'll all be properly embarrassed in the morning. Mercedes tips another shot back when Tina mentions this and shrugs.

"I'm getting married day after tomorrow. I'm having the wrong kind of fun now!"

Someone must have called Finn, she knows it wasn't her, since he's not even talking to her, but she's pretty sure that's him and Mike strolling into a club full of women with half naked men gyrating on the stage. He glares at his brother when Kurt squeals and runs over to him, throwing his arms around Finn.

"Hey baby brother!"

"Ooooh! Another one. C'mon baby, lemme see what's under that shirt!" Some woman screams, running over to them and Rachel almost steps forward to smack her but Mercedes starts tittering at the look on her face and soon she's falling over herself laughing on the floor beside Tina.

Mike walks Tina towards his car and somehow Finn herds the rest of them all together in a cab, scowling as he has to lift his brother into the back. He rests his hands on her back as she climbs in after Mercedes.

"Why're you being such a bitch, Finn?" Kurt mutters drunkenly. Mercedes giggles beside him, her head on the headrest. "Yea, Finn, why're you such a bitch?" she repeats.

"If you like the girl, just tell her, and stop beating your chest over your own stupidity." Kurt yawns.

Rachel chuckles beside Mercedes, no clue what they're talking about. But then Finn's slamming the passenger door of the cab shut and when he looks back at them, she smiles dopily at him and rests her head on Mercedes' shoulder.

She wakes up in her own bed late, blinking angrily at the afternoon sun, Mercedes and Kurt sprawled out beside her. She'd scream in happiness at the bottles of aspirin and water on the night table beside her bed, but the light is too frickin loud.

She, Tina, Kurt and Mercedes spend an entire day primping and getting pretty for Mercedes & Sam's wedding. For once Kurt isn't a fashion Nazi but he's every bit the drama queen when she finds herself patting his shoulder when he awkwardly just bursts out crying, swallowing her grin whenever she catches Mercedes' eye.

"But you're gonna be so far away and I'm not going to see you again and who's going to keep me sane when I want to kill my brother or Blaine or when some idiot doesn't know the difference between robin's egg blue or Tiffany's blue?" Kurt bawls into his hands.

Mercedes pulls him into her arms, patting his shoulder and soon she and Tina are crying together and Sam's sister is just staring at them with wide eyes, her mouth open.

The next day passes in a flurry of activity and camera flashes and Rachel tries not to cry when Mercedes walks down the aisle in her Kurt Hummel dress and Kurt threatens to kill her if she cries in any of the wedding pictures. Sam's hand shakes when he slips the ring on Mercedes' finger but his voice is clear and loud when he answers the priest and its Mercedes crying when they walk down the aisle as husband and wife.

Mercedes squashes cake on Sam's face and he drops icing on her chest, licking it off as everyone screams. She deliberately tucks herself way in the back as the new Mrs. Evans throws the bouquet and when Sam tosses the garter, she covers her face when it lands on Finn's shoulder, he's that tall. She flips Kurt the bird when he looks pointedly at her. She takes the mic after Tina's speech and winks at Sam.

"I'm sure you know by now, that this song has been on repeat since the day you bought her the CD, and even though I can't sing it as good as Mercedes' does, you both deserve to dance to this."

I can't smile, can't dream like a child
Can't feel safe in this wide world without you
I can't go can't disturb this flow
Can't begin to know what I would do
I can't see, can't find strength to be
Rather not be me without you
I can't deal, I can't even feel, without you I'm not real

Sam dips his bride on the dance floor, and everyone around them hoots and claps and hollers. She hands the mic over to the MC and goes back to her seat at an empty table, eyes glued to the dance floor and trying her best to ignore the amber-eyed man sitting two tables across from her.

Finn shows up at her apartment one evening when Brittany's visiting. Santana and Brit look at each other then just walk out the door, clicking it shut behind them. Finn shuffles from one foot to the next, a large folder under his arm as he looks at her.

"I've had enough staring to last me a lifetime so unless you're about to start speaking, you can leave." She doesn't mean to be rude. It's just, one minute the man can't keep his hands off her and the next he won't accept her calls. Santana wants to castrate him. And she'll gladly help her.

He blows out a breath then steps forward, holding out the folder to her. She raises an eyebrow at him.

He sighs. "I was always painting when I was younger. When Kurt would be playing with dolls or dress up with Mom's clothes, I had crayons and a colouring book. My step father was cleaning out the fireplace one evening and I stuck my hand in there, coating the walls and everything I touched in charcoal. Besides the drums, it's the one thing I'm naturally good at."

She already knows this, so she doesn't say anything but he pushes the folder towards her again. She finally takes it from him and sits; he sits at the opposite end of the couch and looks at her, his eyes pleading with her to open the folder. She's seen his work before; she knows he's talented.

"About a month before we met, I got this cruel grade on my portfolio, I was in such a funk and I almost gave up painting. It sucked. Kurt threatened to dress me in pink and khakis for the rest of my life if I did, but I had no inspiration to draw. And then Quinn was there hinting we should get back together."

Her fingers pause on opening the folder and he speaks again.

"I considered it, briefly. And then Blaine got his letter for NYU and Kurt and I planned on taking him out to celebrate."

She lifts her eyes to his and he smiles. "And, well, I got wasted. You remember." He says softly.

He taps the folder in her hands. "I woke up with this image in my head. I thought she was a dream, something I made up. And so I drew her, sketched her, painted her everywhere. My memory had stored every detail of her, down to the mole on her left cheek, her nose, even the chocolate depth of her eyes. I still wasn't even sure she was real."

She didn't dare meet his eyes as he spoke. But she did open the folder and pull out several sheets of paper. Her face looked back her from every one, it was like looking in the mirror.

"Kurt and Puck tried to get me to resubmit these pieces for my final portfolio. But it didn't seem right to share the woman with the world, I didn't want to."

He rustled through the papers to find a drawing of her, at Sam's engagement party so long ago. This one was in colour, the pink polka dots of her suit, the redness in her cheeks, and the green of the bottle as she laughed with Kurt. The likeness was unbelievable.

"You drew me." She finally says.

"Almost every day since you stole away from my bed." He laughs lightly. She glares at him.

"I literally cannot get you out of my head, Rachel. You're in everything I sketch or draw." His fingers shuffle the papers onto the coffee table in front of her and even in the abstract paintings, her eyes, lips or nose was visible.

"Over Christmas break, before the New Year's party I was in the garage and I drew this." He taps a rough charcoal sketch. It's the drawing that was on display at the gallery. The one she had called magical. Her fingers shake as she picks it up.

"Why didn't you call me back?" She asks quietly.

"I was scared. I was stupid. I just…" he stops and rubs his hand over the back of his neck. "Rachel. Everyone else seemed to remember who you were from the beginning. My brother and Tina, especially. They told me about you, Tina mentioned your tattoo; they put two and two together and figured out you were who I kept drawing. Kurt said he saw you the morning you left."

She rubs her finger over one of the music notes of the drawing. It's almost scary, looking at it in closer detail; she can make out what was supposed to be the tattoo on her shoulder. And the music notes flying around, she remembers she was singing for him that night, plus she's pretty sure she was very vocal then too. She drops her hair to hide her blush.

"I wasn't even going to go to Mercedes' engagement party. But then I'd gotten a do over with my professor and I submitted some of the abstract I did over the Christmas, and my professor told me he was putting these on display for our finals. I was psyched, so me, Puck and Quinn tagged along with Kurt."

She pushes the drawing away and sits up straight.

"I wasn't even sure it was you when I first saw you, I couldn't believe it. And you didn't act like you remembered me either. But then you were talking with Kurt and laughing, and I watched you with your friends. I heard you singing in my head. I saw the girl at Tina's New Year's party. The tattoo."

She pulls her hands into her lap and stares at the drawings littering the coffee table.

"When I heard you with that dick in the kitchen, I kinda figured I'd help out you know, get on your good side, and then you ran away from me, I felt like an ass. But I knew I still wanted to see you again. And you literally wouldn't give the time of the day. I begged my brother, Tina and even Mercedes to help me out. They told me to man up and just tell you how I felt."

She tilts her head to the side, stares at him and asks again. "So why the cold shoulder since our lunch date fell through? And Quinn?"

He blows out a breath and stands, pacing in front of her. "It's stupid. I'm an idiot for it. Mercedes and Sam told me what had happened between you and Jesse St. Dickface and at the theatre-house, when I saw you guys talking," Finn sighs and drops his hands to his side, "I overreacted and thought that maybe he was apologizing and trying to get back with you or something. I'm sorry."

She rolled her eyes. "Seriously? You see one conversation and assume that I'm going to forgive that asshole and get back with him? You stop talking to me and start talking to your ex-girlfriend. Real mature, Finn."

"No!" He backtracks quickly. " It wasn't like that with me and Quinn. She knows that nothing will ever happen between us again. She's planning on moving back to Ohio. We're friends, and we've always be able to talk to each other about stuff. We have some history, yes, but we want different things in life. And she understands I don't want her like that."

She nods and gets up. "That's all nice, really. But why are you here now, Finn? Why are you telling me all this?"

She ignores his wince. He sighs heavily and nods.

"Quinn told me to stop being a jerk."

"I could've told you that."

He cracks a smile and steps closer. "Kurt told me that acting all cocky and cool wasn't doing me any favours and if I wanted to be with you I should just talk to you, like myself. Like Finn."

She refrains from rolling her eyes and bites the inside of her cheek. "Again, I could've told you that."

He chuckles and holds his hand out for her to shake. "So, I'm doing this the right way. Hi, I'm Finn Hudson. I can be a right clown sometimes and not think about things before I do them. I'm an intern at Sunset Galleries, I can't dance, I sing a little bit and I play the drums real good, and I'd really like to take you out to dinner some time."

So, Finn takes her to dinner on Thursday. He shows up at the apartment, on the dot at seven o'clock in a button down with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and jeans, smile wide, hair unruly and looking like a runway model. In the taxi he tells her that Kurt had him soaking his hands in some weird-smelling concoction to get the paint and coal from off his fingers and under his fingernails; his palms are calloused and sweaty in hers as they walk to the restaurant.

She turns surprised eyes to him when he stops outside her favourite eatery in the city.

"Kurt told me." He says shyly, his cheeks red. He holds his elbows out and escorts her in, grinning from ear to ear the entire night. When he takes her back home several hours later but too soon, her cheeks tingle when he kisses her goodbye at the door.

They go to the movies on Friday night when he waits for her after rehearsal. "Your choice." He hands his phone to her as the walk to the cinema a couple blocks away.

"You sure you want to do that? Aren't men usually afraid of some lovey-dovey romance movie their dates usually pick?" she says, scrolling through the listings available.

He laughs. "Yea, well, some of those movies make you want to hang yourself halfway through. But I think I'll suffer through whatever you pick."

She looks up at him and smiles. "Uh huh. Right."

She picks Avengers, well, because Loki. And Thor. And Tony Stark… the movie is packed with so much sexiness, and action and comedy and she's having a fantastic time, even though Finn keeps rolling his eyes at her when she fans herself whenever Thor or Loki comes on screen.

She tosses popcorn at him when Natasha Romanoff struts around in her leather catsuit and he waggles his eyebrows over at her. The other people in their row keep shushing them and she sticks her tongue at this one dude who leers at her when she wolf-whistles at the screen. Finn puts his arm around her shoulder when the man keeps staring at her, and she looks from the man to Finn to see fire in his eyes and then man grunts and turns away.

They meet up with Santana and Brittany at the bar later that night and his fingers stay linked in her belt loop all night until he kisses her on her cheek when she gets in a cab with Santana to head home.

The next afternoon Kurt drags the both of them from hanging out on his couch to the design studio to help with cleaning up and then they go get Santana from work and they hang out in Central park, eating bagels, kicking leaves and hanging out. They show up at her show that night with Blaine and his and Finn's whistling earn her a few snickers from her castmates.

Afterwards, she ends up pressed beside him in a booth by Joe's bar, his arm thrown over her shoulder, fingers playing with her hair as they watch Blaine and Santana play darts and he buries his face in her hair laughing when Blaine misses a throw and falls on his face.

They're both playing it safe, drinking soda and water for most of the night. You know, just in case.

She wakes up to sunshine and a silent apartment. It's early, just after 8am but she has nothing doing today, a completely free day from rehearsals. She really appreciates Will giving her the day off from rehearsals. A three-month run is incredible, and she's already gotten the script for April's play.

She wants to enjoy today, it's the first day since forever she doesn't have to spend with just her parents and Sam and Santana; she has friends to celebrate her birthday with this year. She sits up in bed, a happy squeal escaping her lips and then her eyes land on a bunch of papers at the foot of her bed. She scrambles to the pile, and they're all birthday cards. From everyone. Her parents, Sam and Mercedes, Santana, Brittany, Mike, Tina, Kurt's card is shaped like a dress and she's laughing at how perfect all the cards are until she finds one that's obviously hand drawn.

He draws her blowing out candles on a cake with a tiara on her head and wishes her the most special birthday any woman can be blessed with. She blushes and sticks them on her vanity, sticking Finn's at the top, a gold star sticking it to the mirror.

She may be 22 years old, but for someone who went through the majority of her life with little friends the day is already awesome.

"Berry! Get your ass out here."

She's brushing her teeth in the bathroom when Santana shouts for her. There are bagels and coffee cups on the counter and Santana is flipping through a magazine.

"Feliz cumpleaños mi amiga." Santana drawls.

Rachel giggles. "Geez, San. Show a little more compassion, will you? It's my birthday!" she wraps her hand around Santana from the side.

Santana snorts and weasels herself out of Rachel's arms and pushes a cup of green tea towards her. "You're like this every birthday Rachel, like a squirrel on crack. You have enough compassion and energy for the both of us."

"Pssh. Where's Brit?"

"Home. So! Dinner then Joe's? Mercedes & Sam are flying in and Mike and Tina are dropping by. And I have the strange feeling Kurt and Blaine will be there too." Santana looks up from the magazine.

"And maybe a certain artist? What 6'3", amber eyes? You two've been looking pretty chummy since the other day."

Rachel shakes her head at Santana, her smile innocent.

"Fine. Don't kiss and tell. See if I care." Rachel snorts and sips at her tea.

"So, this is yours." She tosses a pink envelope onto the counter between them. Rachel picks it up, opens it and squeals.

"Santana, these are passes to a spa! Haircut, nails, wow."

"Yes my lil hobbit, you're officially a college grad and the last of us to leave 21 behind. Yay."

She jumps up and wraps her hand around her best friend the same time the door opens. They turn their heads to see Kurt waltzing in with a shopping bag, his sunglasses perched on top of his head.

"Why, Kurt. Come on in." Santana glares. Kurt ignores her and pulls Rachel into his arms.

"Happy Birthday, my lil diva!" He laughs happily, kissing her hair. "Are you done? Showered and ready to go?"

"Ready to go where? What's in the bag?"

He pushes the bag towards Santana who takes it and drops it inside Rachel's bedroom door, then grabs both their coats and purses. Kurt drops her hat on her hair and pulls her out the door.

"Step one of your birthday celebration diva."

She's waxed and plucked and primped and pressed and squeezed and rubbed until her body is pliant in the chair, Santana on one side and Kurt on the other, cucumber slices over their eyes as their nails are painted. They bicker and argue about the silliest thing and she just ignores them, humming lightly to herself.

"What's the plan for the rest of today guys?" she shouts, trying to get their attention. She picks up one of the slices of cucumber and looks over towards Santana when she hears their hushed whispers.



She looks at Kurt. "What's with the whispering?"

"Noneya damn business." Santana says, laying back and covering her eyes.

Rachel pouts. "But it's my birthday."

"And I don't care. It's your birthday, you're not the queen."

She turns back to Kurt. "Kurt?"

He lays back too, copying Santana. "I agree with Satan. Be patient."

"I told you to stop calling me that." Santana snaps.

"Oh, but it suits you so well." Kurt replies.

It's way past four o'clock when they leave the spa, giddy and relaxed after a day of pampering. Kurt makes her change outfits before they left, insisting yoga pants and a t-shirt aren't fitting for Manhattan on birthdays. She doesn't have time to glare at him properly because suddenly her fathers are both rushing up to hug her.

"Now, go. We'll see you back at your apartment for stage three, missy!" Santana states, waving her off with her parents.

She and her dads have an early dinner and they take her to see a Broadway show, taking too many pictures then dropping her back at her apartment at 8pm sharp with cheek kisses and a promise to call her in the morning. Her daddy winks at her conspiratorially and tells her to have fun. The second she opens the door Kurt rushes her to change, there's an outfit laid out on her bed. He nods approvingly and Santana winks and whistles when she walks back out in the sheer calf-length dress.

"Goodbye knee-highs and animal sweaters! The diva is on the prowl. Rawr."

"Thank you, Santana." She laughs.

"Pretty sure my brother won't have any idea what to do with you tonight." Kurt winks.

"I can think of some." Santana laughs and Rachel throws her purse at her, blushing prettily.

"Come, come. Stage Three awaits!" Kurt holds out her jacket, takes her purse and slips an envelope in. "For stage four." He winks again, handing it back to her.

She expected them to go partying, just like they did for every birthday they celebrated together. So she's surprised when the taxi pulls up outside of Joe's bar and Finn's leaning against the wall by the door. He pushes away and hurries to open the door for her, his eyes wide when she puts one bare leg out and then the next.

"Wow." He clears his throat to utter. "You look amazing."

"Thanks. Kurt chose the dress."

Finn nods. "I've never been more proud of my brother's eye for fashion than right now. You are beautiful." He murmurs. They're still standing on the curb beside the taxi, her palm hot in his hand while he stares down at her, his eyes flickering to her lips and back to her eyes.

"I really want to kiss you."

She blushes and tilts her head to the side. "I really want you to kiss me."

He smiles and bends his head to hers, hips lips touching hers softly, sweetly, before pulling back to look down at her. She opens her eyes and smiles up at him.

"Happy Birthday beautiful."

She grins and he pulls her into his side then turns and leads her into Joe's. She's taken aback at the cheers of 'surprise!' that greet her when she enters and Joe winks at her, pointing over his head to the banner with her name covered in gold stars. For once, she's speechless.

She doesn't remember much of the birthday celebration itself even though it was packed with cast mates from Will's play, the few classmates she made friends with at Tisch, Will, Mercedes and Sam, Mike and Tina, Kurt, Blaine, Brittany and Santana, Puck and Quinn. Everyone had cheesy birthday hats on and sang Happy Birthday when she walked in with Finn.

She hid her face in his shoulder when the singing started and he kisses her hair and tugs her out, startled at the tears on her face. She squeezes his hand and tells him to not to worry and he holds her close until the singing stops and when she goes around the room greeting and thanking people, he stops to chat with Tina and Mike and she ends up standing to the side between Sam and Santana, her face wet and smile happy.

"Christ, please don't cry." Santana mutters.

Rachel smiles, brushing the wetness from her eyes and shakes her head.

"What, Rach?" Sam asks.

She looks around the room, her eyes lingering on Finn before looking back at her two best friends. "This time last year it was just the three of us and Brit, sharing a cupcake in a booth." She covers her mouth as she hiccups.

Sam wraps his arm around her shoulders.

"Just to think. All it took was getting plastered and giving it up to some guy you just met. Bad Rachel." Santana smirks, but she does wrap her arm around Rachel's waist, laughing when she tries to glare at her.

"I don't want to be so happy and then its all taken away."

"What do you mean?"

"This. Today. I have friends. And Finn." She smiles, her eyes automatically finding him in the throng of people standing around. She spies the Happy Birthday Rachel banner in the corner and fresh tears spring to her eyes. After so many birthdays alone or with her smattering of friends, today is kind of surreal.

"Well, look at it this way. People do like you. You're not a total troll. And you need to stop being so hard on yourself. You're getting old, and worry lines aren't very becoming on you."

She pushes Santana away and Sam wraps his arms around her.

"You know that's Santana's way of saying she loves you." Sam chuckles dropping a kiss onto her hair. Santana glares at him.

"But, you really need to stop thinking so hard about everything. You're awesome and cool, Rach. And the minute you stop doubting that, others will realize it too. We're here and we both know for a fact that they adore you." He nods towards Kurt and Finn, now laughing and joking with Tina, Mike, Artie and Puck. She's not sure about Quinn though.

"Point is, for tonight, no more worries, no what-ifs, just live in the now. It's your day."

"Really, with all these feelings tonight I'm starting to wonder where you keep your vagina Sam." Santana smirks.

Sam shakes his head and laughs. "You lost your virginity to me in my pool-house when you were fourteen San. I didn't have a vagina then and I don't have one now." Rachel snickers from under his arm.

Santana bites back a retort and shakes her finger at them. "That's not the story we're going with here."

Sam nods, his smile smug. "Alright. I'll remember that for the future."

Santana cuts her eyes at them and sips at her beer. "One of these days the both of you will come up missing. Watch." Rachel laughs louder, pressing her face into Sam's shoulder as he shakes with laughter too.

She loves the two clowns.

"Good to see you smiling again. It is your birthday after all. Which reminds me, why aren't we drunk yet?" Sam excuses himself and then Kurt comes over to the table and slides her purse over to her.

"Happy Birthday! Open it."

She does, and there's a Marriott key inside. She raises her eyes and looks at Santana and Kurt.

"Your dads helped. You have it until Monday morning to check out, but we," Santana motions between herself and Kurt, "figured you needed some unrestricted privacy for tonight."

She blushes crimson and opens her mouth to reply. Santana beats her to it. "Berry, don't even try and deny. I don't know how you haven't managed to spontaneously combust yet, even I get turned on watching Finn's dirty smirk. Shut up Kurt." She glares sideways.

"Brit's roommates are annoying and I do have work to pay attention to and well, Finn lives with three men, so take this as a blessing. You can get freak nasty with Big Sexy as loud as you want, and no one will give a damn."

She doesn't know why she's embarrassed. This is Santana after all. But her cheeks are tinted red when she looks at Finn standing at the bar with Joe and Brittany and joking. But he's not drinking.

And neither is she.

She remembers exactly how it happens this time.

She can't remember how and when her panties ended up in Finn's pocket but as they rode the elevator towards the room her friends had set them up in his palm was firmly planted on her ass. She rubs her thighs together every time his fingers brush over her backside and has to bite her tongue to tamp down on a moan when he squeezes her.

Heels gone, shirt tossed to the side, dressed hiked up, pants undone, she's grinding atop him as he attacks her neck with his kisses and she pulls away briefly to finally yank her dress off, pressing her naked chest against his, moaning when his hand palms her backside again, sweeping his tongue insider her mouth.

"Wait. Rach." He mumbles. "Listen. Shit." She has her teeth nibbling at his neck when he pauses to talk and his fingers dig deeper into her hair and he moans, curses and physically has to pull himself away from her.

"Babe. I don't want you to think we're here just for sex. I mean - crap - yes, I really want to have sex with you, but we don't have to. Tonight that is. It's your birthday, so we can just watch a movie or talk or cuddle. Or just, you, know... hang out and stuff. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do." He mutters lamely.

"Finn. That's adorable, really, but I'm sitting on top of you. Naked. You really think I want to just cuddle and talk with you right this very minute?"

His eyes drop to her flushed chest and he bites his lips, his head shaking slowly from side to side.

"Good." She purrs, dropping her lips to blow into his ear. "You said you liked it when I screamed." She bit his ear and his hips rocked up into hers. "Make me."

He growls and rolls them over so that she's under him, both of her hands locked in one of his, held above her head. Her breasts are pushed up and together and Finn watches her eyes as he bends to move his tongue over one breast, lightly nipping her nipple before he moves to the other. She squirms beneath him and he settles his other hand on her waist to still her and wraps his lips around her nipple, his teeth lightly grazing at her before his lips pull at her lightly.

"Finn. Finn. Shit."

He keeps her like that for a good while until she's practically keening beneath him and when he moves his lips and fingers down her body, swirling his tongue inside her belly button, she's about to explode. He spends his time pressing kisses to her hip and then down her thigh, behind her knee and running his tongue along her calves. She's pretty sure he's trying to kill her when his fingers follow her mouth up and over, doing the same thing to the other leg.

She grabs his chin when he settles his lips at the inside of her thigh and glares at him. "Quit playing around."

He chuckles and goes back to licking at her thigh.

"Finn." Rachel whines. She's just about soaked the sheets and he hasn't even touched her yet.


"Baby, please."

"Please, what?" His nose rubs between the curve of the leg.

She tries to buck her hips into him when his lips brush softly at her skin. He rests a palm on her belly and goes back to pressing soft kisses.

"Baby." She practically growls and then her mouth opens, his name frozen her lips and then a breathy moan as her hips lift off the bed when his tongue licks at her wetness. She tries to speak but he does it again and practically turns to putty when he curls his tongue inside her. She grips at the sheet on the bed and pushes her hips upwards, toes curled beneath Finn as his lips pulls at her skin and by the time he slips a finger inside her heat she's crying out softly as her body unravels under his tongue.

He doesn't stop and her body is heated and covered in sweat as he pushes her over twice more, his name on her lips and legs shaking.

He kisses his way up her body and she lifts shaky hands to touch his face, her chest heaving as he kisses her. "Happy Birthday to me." She mumbles shakily.

"Yes." He laughs, "But the night's still young."

Her eyes roll back into her head when he presses inside her, back arched off the bed up into his chest. He kisses her shoulder and touches her face. "Rachel, look at me."

Her eyes flutter open and he smiles, his hips pulling away before pushing into her again. She can't keep her eyes open and her body already feels wound up too tight at the delicious way he stretches her. Finn nibbles at her neck, his fingers plucking at her nipple as he moves inside her, her legs drawn up on either side of him.

"Baby, open your eyes." He whispers.

Her eyes snap to his, and the cocky smirk he used to wear is gone. There's something else there, something she can't name just yet but he smiles again and kisses the side of her mouth and her fingers clutch at his shoulder, crying out loudly as her orgasm surprises her, heat washing over her as he kisses her again, harder this time.

Finn has his hands tangled in her hair, one hand wrapped around her body as he presses into her from behind. They haven't actually left the hotel room since her birthday yesterday and good Lord! the man is skilled with his hands. He presses between her thighs as he moves slowly inside her.

"Finn." She whines.

He pulls her up onto her knees, her back pressed into his chest, his hand wrapped around her as he moves. She turns her head into his neck and he licks at her lips, one hand brushing over her chest, the other pinching between her legs.

She gasps as his teeth scrape her ear, his voice deep as he murmurs. "C'mon baby girl. Let go."

She reaches one hand behind her to grab his hair so she can fuse their lips together, moaning into his mouth as she falls over the edge again.

On the night of their last performance of Phoenix Rising she's backstage with some the other ladies in the cast when one of them sticks their head in the door and says her boyfriend is out there to see her. She shushes them as the tease her and she practically skips to the door but her smile falls when she sees Jesse pacing the floor nearby. She crosses her arms over her chest and frowns at him.

"What do you want Jesse?"

"Just came by to say break a leg tonight. I'm sure you'll do an exceptional performance and we can't wait to start rehearsals soon." He gives her a smile that's almost genuine.

"Er, thanks. Really."

He nods and steps closer to her, tugging one hand free - he's really itching to be slapped the way he likes to touch her - and rubs his thumb over her palm. "I was hoping," - cue fake smile - "that maybe you'd like to have dinner with me tomorrow? I mean, we'll be working together closely, and we did have chemistry together, and the past is in the past right? Why can't we be friends?"

She snorts quite unladylike and pulls her hand from his grasp. It'll be a cold day in hell before she ever considers Jesse St. James anything remotely close to a friend. He must be crazy if he thinks she wants to have anything to do with him besides the play they'll both be starring in. She watches the smile slip from his face and chuckles, enjoying his discomfort a bit too much.

"Rach? Sweetie? You alright?"

She smiles as she remembers Sam & Mercedes' party and she turns around to see Finn standing there with his cocky smirk, hands crossed over his chest and a blue orchid in his fist. She steps to him and he pulls her close, tipping her head back so he could kiss her properly and smiles against her lips when they both hear Jesse muttering expletives as he stomps away.

"I really don't like that guy." Finn scowls at Jesse's retreating back.

She laughs and puts both hands on his face, turning his eyes back to her. "You and me both. And you don't have to worry, it's just acting with him, it's just a job."

He nods, and twists his fingers in the skirt of her costume. "Finn."

His eyes meet hers and she smiles, waiting for him to give her her smile. His lips tug up at the corner and she giggles, pressing her face into his strong chest. "No matter how you may see me on that stage, no matter how happy I may look, or even when I'm kissing him, remember its just an act. I'm with you. And you're the only one who gives me butterflies and make me feel ridiculously happy and crazy inside."

She stops and bites her lips. "Well, Thor or Loki might." She laughs when he digs his fingers into her side.

"Crushing on a comic book hero, Rach? I thought that was Sam's forte?"

"No. I'm crushing on the actor. Have you seen Chris Hemsworth without his shirt on?"

Finn gives her a withering look and she snorts. She throws her arms around his neck and pushes herself up to kiss him. When she pulls away he smiles shyly and hands her the orchid.

"Break a leg."

She touches the flower to her nose and winks at him. Her I love you is whispered into the petals.

They all end up at Joe's bar the day after their respective Thanksgiving dinners. Brittany is practically living by her and Santana's now, and she's made an investment in earplugs, because, the blonde is loud. Kurt, Blaine and Finn had flown home to Ohio and only gotten back earlier today. She didn't even get five minutes with him when they showed up at Joe's because everyone was excited and noisy and loud and hadn't seen each other in forever, so yea.

Tina's still boasting about the rock Mike put on her finger over two weeks ago. Santana and Puck apparently have the same taste in motorcycles and made plans for them to visit the garage where Santana keeps her bike. Rachel's really glad that her two sets of friends have blended so well together but Mike, Blaine, Sam, Finn and Puck on one side of their booth yakking it up looks a bit suspect.

Mercedes is only sipping soda water and she and Sam keep giving each other these sly looks and she exchanges looks with Kurt and nods, because clearly there's a baby shower to be planned in the near future. Tina is entertaining them with the story of how Mike proposed and Brittany stops by, leaning onto the booth with stars in her eyes as she listens. Santana scowls.

Finn tips back his beer and catches her eyes, his own twinkling. "Don't get any ideas." She mouths to him, looking first at Tina and then Mike. She's joking, really, but the idea is kinda nice. The look in Finn's eyes changes and he nods towards the open floor, couples scattered around dancing. And Finn doesn't dance. She smacks Tina's elbow out of the way and slips out of the booth, Finn wrapping his arms around her as they start swaying on the dance floor. Except he's moving them towards the back, away from the crowd and towards the bathrooms. He has her in a stall, against the wall, their lips and tongues glued together.

"These fucking jeans. Are they painted on?" Finn grunts, her legs wrapped around her waist as he tries to tug them off.

She giggles and manouvers herself against the wall as she tries to pull her pants from off her hips. It's tricky for a little bit and then she's biting down on and moaning into his shoulder as he slips inside her.

She's very thankful for several things at the moment.

Santana catches them in the kitchen once.

She starts to scream in Spanish at the top of her voice and Rachel just hides her face in Finn's shoulder as she laughs. The number of times she's walked in to her and Brittany in the living room and kitchen with hands hiding in forbidden places is too much to name. It doesn't stop Santana from being extra vocal later that night in Brittany's room, right next to Rachel's. She glares at her best friend the next morning when she's having breakfast.

"You're horrible."

"We don't fuck in the common areas." Santana smiles at her.

"We weren't doing that!" Rachel says hotly.

Santana snickers. "I know the kitchen is the designated eating area, but don't you think Finn was talking that a bit too literally?"

Rachel drops her head onto the counter and groans. Really, she should know better than sparring verbally with Santana. The woman eats thorns as a snack. "I don't know what to do with you sometimes."

She looks up to the smirk on Santana's face and glares. "Just, no."

Brittany comes yawning out her room and kisses Santana before pouncing on the coffee pot. "Hey, I need help decorating the bar for Christmas, can you guys help?"

The twins opt to stay in the city for Christmas so the entire gang hang out as Joe's, drinking and making use of the karaoke machine set up. The days pass by quickly and they find themselves back at the bar as people flock to Times Square for the ball drop at New Years. Joe's promised free tequila shots from 10pm til New Year's so almost everyone around them is wasted. Plus he has a dicso ball overhead.

It's standing room only in the bar and she's with Kurt and Blaine as Santana and Puck try their hands at darts. Santana's winning. Tina and Mercedes are chatting, heads close together and Sam, Artie and Finn are on stage singing some strange song. Quinn's firmly planted at the bar chatting with Joe and Kurt nudges Rachel in the side when she stares at Joe blatantly flirting.

"You're going to catch flies."

"But it's Joe. Flirting with the princess." She gestures. She's amazed, really. She hadn't really had much interaction with Quinn, not that she wanted to, but it was just always awkward around her. She figures she must have known about Finn's drawings too since everyone now knows he kept drawing her and she can't help but think just maybe Quinn dislikes her for it. And Joe, well, he was the quiet, brooding type, supermodel gorgeous with beautiful eyes and a chiseled jaw and a head full of dreadlocks. He was also super smart and owned three other bars in and around Brooklyn. The man didn't need to work, he just liked to.

"Don't worry. I'm pretty sure she's in good hands. Joe's alright."

"It's not Quinn I'm worried about." She chuckles. She knows Joe, she's known him since her first days at Tisch; even though he owns a bar, the man's a saint, well-liked and genuinely nice, some women would take advantage of that. She's not sure she trusts Quinn. At all.

Finn appears behind them, dropping small kisses onto her shoulder. She giggles and turns her neck so he can wrap his arms around her and put more kisses there.

"Please, find a room. You two are like rabbits." Kurt arches an eyebrow at them, shaking his head. Finn's fingers tighten at her waist and she looks over her shoulder at him, then at the door leading off from the bar. They look back at each other and nod. No one is paying them any attention as they slowly inch their way towards the door, Finn tugging at her hand as he slips inside, flipping on a light.

"You really look good in this dress."

"Thanks. No ripping this time though. Your brother will kill me and then kill you." She says curling her fingers into his shirt and pulling him down to her.

He presses her up against a wall in the storage room then, both hands above her head clasped in one of his, lips insistent against hers. Her dress is hiked up around her waist, his pants around his legs and Joe would probably beat them both over the head if he came in here and found them like this but she doesn't really care because Finn's lips are working their magic over the skin at her neck.

He does this thing where he's staring in her eyes when he kisses her and it should freak her out but her entire body feel like jelly and she can't look away from his gaze.

She blinks and he rests his head against her forehead. She can hear and feel him breathing against her. He's still hard inside her, his hands wrapped around her body and she really wants him to start moving again. Why on earth he insists on torturing her like this, she'll never understand.

She rocks her hips and his breath hitches.

"Rachel." He whispers harshly. Her fingers pull hard at the hair at the back of his neck.

"Baby, I know this maybe the worst place and time to say this but I feel like I'll burst if I don't." Finn says in a rush, lifting his head to look in her eyes again. She'd probably let him do or say anything just as long as he moves again.

"I love you."

Well, except that.

His eyes bore into hers and she can see the doubt and fear? in the amber filled depths and she knows he's waiting for her to say something, anything. She's expecting the panic any time now, the sweaty palms and her overactive behaviour but none of that happens. It should surprise her, but it doesn't since she's pretty sure she's almost said it to him before. Instead, she rests her palm against his cheek and kisses him.

"I love you too baby."

She can't remember why exactly she tried to avoid him before, why she tried to run away from him when he feels so right, safe and like she's home anytime she's in his arms. He loves her and she loves him and she's not afraid to admit it, but can he please continue what they were doing before she-

He rocks his hips against hers – and God yes! and kisses her again. Her head falls back against the wall, her nails digging into his shoulder.

"You love me."

Her answer is partially his answer and partially a request for more her hips jerk. "Yes. Finn."

He snickers and moves her atop him again, pulling her harder onto his body, dropping his head onto her neck, his lips pressing hot and wet against her skin, especially when she moans.

"Baby, they're counting. Can you hear?" Finn mumbles.

"Uh huh." The countdown is at seven and for every count Finn moves his hips, the heated tingling starting from somewhere deep down inside her. He whispers her name into her skin, his body hard against hers as she shatters around him, her orgasm pulling her from this year into the next. His hands slide against her waist and he grunts into her chest as he follows her, muted singing from the crowd in the next room the soundtrack to his own release.

He steals another kiss before he lets her down slowly. Her legs wobble a little and she smacks his chest when he laughs. He pulls her dress back down, pulls his pants back up and pulls her close to him, tucking her head under his chin.

"Happy New Year babe. I love you." He repeats.

She blushes and smiles. Did he think she forgot? She pulls away and reaches up on her toes to kiss him softly. "I loved starting a new year with you. Again. And I love you too."

They try and sneak back into the celebration outside. Brittany's balloons and confetti still fall from the ceiling and people are still moving around and wishing each other Happy New Year. They're not three steps from the door they just left before they run into Santana, a beer in one hand and Brittany's palm wrapped around the other.

"Oh my God. Were you two fucking in the storage room?" Santana is loud and everyone in earshot turns around to look at them. Finn laughs and pulls Rachel closer to his body.

"Don't hate Lopez. Not because I got some and you didn't. But feel free to catch up on that." He winks and leads her back towards their table.

She gets mixed reviews for the start of her run in Bye Bye Birdie. She feels kind of down because Phoenix Rising was good and the critics loved that. So why is it now she's the star in a revival and not everyone likes her? She cries in her dressing room the night after the first reviews come out and not even Jesse approaches her. Will knocks on her door and tells her to chin up, the show must go on.

"Even if they think I'm 'a dwarfed wannabe whose nose surpasses her talent'?" She hiccups.

Will walks into the room and uses a piece of tissue to dab at her eyes. "Even if. There'll always be naysayers. But some critics really liked your performance, and didn't two of them mentioned a Tony nod if and when we move to Broadway?"

She smiles wetly and him and lifts her chin. "I might have read that once or twice."

"So why do you believe the others and not those? Not everyone is going to like you Rachel. As long as you do your best, that's what counts."

She nods again.

"Good. We're on in five." Will smiles at her and leaves, winking before he goes.

Later, when she's sitting at the table with Kurt and Finn, cutting out all the reviews for her scrapbook, which she only just started, she complains about the talentless hicks who claim to be fans of Broadway who seem to think remaking her personal appearance would better her for the stage. Why does what she look like adversely affect how she performs?

"I know you're worrying about what some of those critics say, but you were incredible on stage. And other people believe that." Kurt says.

"It's true. So what if a couple of them think you should change how you look when you sing? You're an amazing performer, just do what you do to keep blowing them away at every performance, babe. You're good."

"Finn, you're my boyfriend. You're supposed to say that to me." Her smile is gentle as she looks over at him.

He blinks in confusion and shrugs. "But its the truth. I thought you were a fantastic singer the night I met you. I may have forgotten what you looked like but never what you sounded like. You surprise me every time you sing. If you listen to every one of those critics who recommend you get a nose job - which for the record, Barbra Streisand? - and suggest you lose twenty-five pounds so you can perform better on stage, then you're an idiot. And don't look at me like I'm crazy."

"We all know you're crazy. You were drawing her face and music notes and didn't think she was real." Kurt mutters to himself.

She laughs quietly to herself the same time Finn says, "Shut up Kurt."

He rolls his eyes at his brother and flips another page in the magazine he's reading.

"Still, it hurts when you work so hard for something and people still don't like you." she says.

"Not everyone will like or love you Rachel. But you're unforgettable. You're good. You're talented, and pretty soon everyone will know it. Don't believe me?" He walks over to them and pulls out a drawing from his portfolio, placing it on the table between them.

"World, meet Rachel Berry." He taps the drawing and kisses her hair before he walks away.

Her eyes stare back at her from the paper. She's standing in front of a fireball with her hair flowing out behind her, she looks like she's on fire, even her eyes. She has a glittering mic in one hand and the other is pointing up as her mouth opens in song, music notes flying through the air around her and even they look like they can explode.

"He's good." Kurt murmurs.

"I told you you had a powerful voice!" Finn hollers from his room. She traces the outline of her face and looks up at Kurt to see the shit-eating grin on his face matches her own. She looks back to Finn's drawing and smiles. How can she possibly not love the man?

Fine, she may not ever be a Broadway beauty but she loves the way Finn looks at her like she just hung the stars in the sky. He makes her laugh and he can laugh with her, he calls her on her bullshit and he's almost as stubborn as she is. But every time he touches her, every time he touches his forehead to hers, every single time he kisses her, and even with just a look, something swells up inside her, an explosive force that burns away all her doubts and fears. He sees her like this; he looks at her like she can challenge the world, and win, one song at a time.

He's painted her doing it, so, why can't she?


A/N: Well, there you have it; I have no idea why they figured they could run from that tether! Reviews? I'm trying here!

For Real by Amel Larrieux