hello! this is a fic i've been working on for a while now and it's insanely long, so if you read all of it you'll be my favorite ;)

this fic is based on the movie 'life as we know it' and follows the plot of the movie pretty closely, although i did make some changes to make it my own. i know this plot line has been done before by other authors on here but this is simply my own take on it :)

for amalia, who requested it, and also for mary gael who is just a sweet angel snowflake princess :)

title from the song 'in my veins' by andrew belle


oh, you're in my veins

i.

Rachel should have known better than to take Quinn's advice and go out with this Finn guy she had previously never met.

This date is nothing short of a disaster.

"He's a friend of Puck's," Quinn had told her, and Rachel should have known then to take that as a bad sign. "He's really nice," Quinn added hastily, noticing Rachel's alarmed expression (because it was common knowledge that Quinn's fiancé Noah had been a bit of a womanizer before he met Quinn, and he could still be rather crude). "They've been best friends since forever."

She had looked at her so pleadingly, Rachel couldn't help but sigh and agree to go on one date with Puck's best friend.

"His name's Finn," Quinn said, smiling widely. "Finn Hudson. And oh, Rachel, this will be so wonderful! You'll be perfect for each other, you'll see!"

Rachel really wonders what Quinn ever thought she could have in common with Noah's best friend.

He shows up thirty minutes late to the restaurant, to start, his hair disheveled and telltale lipstick marks on the collar of his shirt.

"You're late," she points out, eyes narrowed.

He shrugs. "I got caught up. Did you wait long?"

"Thirty minutes," she replies, her voice curt.

"Not too long then," he says cheekily, having the audacity to wink at her as he sits down. "Ready to order, Rachel, is it?"

"Were you on another date before this?" Rachel asks suspiciously, folding her arms.

He shrugs. "Playing the field. I'm sure you understand."

"Actually, I don't," she snaps, huffing as she gathers her purse and jacket.

"Wait, are you leaving?" he asks incredulously. "But you just got here, sweetheart!"

"No, you just got here," she points out testily as she stands up, "and, yes, I'm leaving, because you have already proven to me that, friend of Noah and Quinn's or not, you are nothing more than a selfish, mysoginistic pig."

He stares at her blankly. "I don't even know what that means, but at least I'm not a tightass like you."

Rachel takes a measured breath in. "Goodbye, Finn. Hope to never see you again."

And without a backward glance, she leaves.


ii.

Being best friends with Puck hasn't really had any downsides until now, and that comes in the form of one Rachel Berry. She's a nag, she's obnoxious, and she happens to be best friends with Quinn. Go figure.

And with her as maid of honor and him as best man at Quinn and Puck's wedding, they end up walking down the aisle together.

He thinks he'd rather be shot in the face.

"Walk slower," she hisses from between clenched teeth, her fingernails digging into his arm as she smiles tightly.

"Walk faster," he counters, trying his best to smile as well, but it probably turns out to be more of a grimace.

Finally, they reach the end of the aisle, and she lets go of his arm as she goes to stand on the other side of the altar.

He glances over at her and notices that she actually looks quite beautiful, in her little red dress, her hair in a bun, a few dark strands loose and framing her face. Too bad her horrible personality cancels all that out.

The wedding march begins to play then, and he takes his gaze off Rachel and focuses it on the enamored look on Puck's face as he watches Quinn walk toward him instead. It is their big day, after all.

(*)

He moves over to sit next to Rachel when Quinn and Puck get up to talk to their various guests, and she looks less than thrilled when he sits down next to her.

"We don't have to act like we don't know each other, you know," he tells her lightly, resting a hand on her knee.

She glares at him, shifting so he's no longer touching her skin. "Well, I can't say I'm proud to say we know each other," she snaps, letting her dark hair out of its bun and flipping it over her shoulder.

He laughs. She doesn't seem to find this amusing.

"C'mon, can't we put the hostility aside for one day, Rach? It's our best friends' wedding for Christ's sake."

She sighs, rolling her eyes, but she stands up, offering him a hand. "Well?" she asks. "Are you going to dance with me or not?"

He hastily stands up, taking her dainty hand in his, and lets her lead him to the dance floor. She gives a huff of indignation before setting his hands firmly on her waist, gripping his shoulders, and she begins to sway.

"Beautiful wedding," he comments.

She raises her eyebrows. "We don't have to make small talk. I kind of picked dancing so we wouldn't have to talk."

"What if I want to talk to you?" he asks, an edge of defiance seeping into his voice.

"Do you really?" she fires back, her voice deadpan.

He shrugs. She's not quite so bad, he thinks, but he doesn't tell her that. He just sways some more.

"So… how did you meet Quinn?" he tries.

"College," she answers. "We were roommates. We didn't really mesh well at first – she didn't exactly appreciate me practicing songs to perform for my musical theater at all hours of the day – but eventually we became friends, and now I'm the maid of honor at her wedding." She seems to be struggling with something for a moment, then she asks, "What about you and Noah?"

It takes him a second to register that by Noah she means Puck, but then he smirks. "Been best friends for as long as I can remember. We've been through thick and thin, and he's – he's the one person in my life who's always been there, I guess, in his own Puck way."

He sees her gaze soften as she bites her lip.

"What?" he asks.

"Nothing," she says quickly. "Nothing at all."

The song ends then, and everyone claps. Rachel abruptly jumps away from Finn as if she's been electrocuted.

"I – I have to go," she squeaks, and before he can say anything, before he can even react, she's gone, her hair flowing out behind her.

He sighs, but then he reminds himself that Rachel Berry's a nag, hot or not, and this was clearly a onetime incident of kindness on her part.

He shouldn't care about her. She's gone now anyway, so he should really just push any thoughts about her from his mind. She's his best friend's wife's best friend, and that's it.

Nothing more.


iii.

It's surreal that she's in a hospital waiting to see Quinn and Noah's baby. Rachel's been waiting for a few hours, but Quinn's been in labor for twelve. She really respects her for being able to do this. She doesn't know if she would be able to go through it herself, somewhere down the road, after she's found the right person and decided to start a family.

"Hey, she have the thing yet?"

She looks up to see a breathless Finn Hudson, looking at her expectantly, his hands on his knees as he tries to catch his breath.

"No, Finn, she hasn't," she snaps. "And it's a baby, not a thing."

"Right, baby, whatever," he says, waving his hand as if to push her correction aside. "How long has she been in there?"

"Twelve hours," Rachel says, her voice deadpan.

He swallows, his Adam's apple visibly bobbing. "Oh."

Noah shows up behind him then, and Rachel hurriedly stands up. "Well?" she demands, nervously crossing her arms despite herself. She sees Finn shoot her an amused look, but she blatantly ignores him.

Noah's face breaks out into a grin. "It's a girl, six pounds, seven ounces, eighteen inches."

"Congrats!" Rachel squeals, throwing her arms around Noah's neck. He hugs her back briefly before clearing his throat. She laughs as she pulls away, wiping at a few tears escaping from her eyes.

"Yeah, congrats, man," Finn echoes, clapping his friend on the back. "What's her name?"

"Beth," Noah tells him. "Beth Celeste Puckerman." He shakes his head slightly, almost as if he can't believe that he has a daughter now, that he's a father. "She's – she's beautiful."

"I bet!" Rachel squeals, and she launches herself at him again.

When Noah finally breaks free, he casts his eyes downward briefly before studying both her and Finn. "Quinn and I – we were wondering if – if maybe you two would want to be the godparents."

Rachel stares at him, stunned, for a moment, before turning to look at an equally stunned Finn.

"Well?" Noah prods.

"Oh my God, of course we will!" Rachel shrieks. Her eyes widen a bit when she notices she's spoken for both Finn and herself, so she backtracks, saying, "I mean, of course I will. And – and Finn, I mean, I, um—"

"I'd be honored, bro," Finn breaks in, shaking Noah's hand. "You have, like, a kid now."

"I know," Noah says in shock. "It's pretty crazy." He swallows, blinking a few times. "Holy shit, I'm a dad!"

"Noah!" Rachel chastises, but Finn just laughs.

"I'll, uh, go check on Quinn, and I'll come get you when she's ready for visitors, alright?" Noah says, still wide-eyed.

Finn and Rachel both nod.

"We're godparents!" Finn exclaims once Noah's turned the corner. "Can you believe it?"

Before she knows what's happening, he's swept her up in a bone-crushing hug, his arms tightening around her. She inhales the smell of him practically by accident (she is being held quite tightly, after all), and he smiles like aftershave but also something else – something uniquely Finn. It's a good smell.

Finally, he seems to collect himself and realize where he's at and who he's hugging, and he abruptly lets Rachel go, taking a step back and uncomfortably rubbing the back of his neck.

She lets out a nervous giggle because the tension that has fallen over the room is incredibly awkward. "Godparents," she echoes. There's a slight pause, then she adds, "What were Quinn and Noah thinking?"

Finn looks offended, so she adds, "Not that you won't be a great godfather, just that… I mean… your lifestyle is kind of…"

"Kind of what?" he asks hotly.

"Well," she says slowly, because apparently he's going to make her say it, "you're a bit of a playboy."

"What, just because I'm interested in girls that makes me a manwhore?"

She laughs humorlessly. "Interested? You seem to be more than interested. And, frankly, yes, it does."

"Well, what about you? You think some Broadway singing control freak is a good choice for a godmother?"

Her jaw drops. "Excuse me?"

"At least I know how to have fun! You wouldn't know fun if it came in this room right now, dancing around you in just its birthday suit!"

"Just because I don't focus merely on activities that involve nudity doesn't mean I don't know how to have fun."

"Look, whatever, tell Puck I'll come to visit tomorrow, alright?" he snaps, shaking his head. "Have fun teaching our goddaughter how to be a prude!"

She opens her mouth to retort, but before she can say anything, he stalks off, and she's left to fume alone in the hospital waiting room.

Finn Hudson is the single most infuriating person she's ever met, and now she shares godparenting duties with him. Somehow, things just keep getting worse and worse in her sorry life.


iv.

It's three months after Beth's born when he sees Rachel again. It's Quinn's birthday, so he's at the Puckerman house, Beth in his lap, giggling as he blows raspberries on her cheeks, her green eyes bright. He's pressing another butterfly kiss to her cheek when Quinn comes in, Rachel right behind her.

"Hey, Finn, I'm assuming you remember Rachel," Quinn says offhandedly, leaning down to scoop Beth out of his lap and into her arms. "Bethy does, don't you?" she coos.

The baby gurgles happily, touching her mother's face.

Finn looks at her in disbelief. "Yeah, I remember." Really, how could he possibly forget?

"Oh, I think Beth has a bit of a dirty diaper," Quinn says, talking more to the baby than to either Rachel or Finn. "I guess we'll have to go take care of that, won't we, Bethy?"

She coos at the baby again, bouncing her in her arms as she leaves the room.

Finn sighs, glancing over at Rachel. She twists her hands around each other. No one talks. Everything is silent.

"Well, this isn't awkward," he deadpans, and Rachel manages to crack a smile.

"You – you're good with her, you know," Rachel says, hesitantly sitting beside him on the couch. "I – I really mean that."

He nods. "Thanks."

"I – I'm not really good with kids, myself. I – I never really was one, so…"

He turns to look at her in disbelief. "Oh, c'mon, Rach, everyone was a kid once."

"Well, of course I was one," she huffs, "I just never acted like one. My dads were always busy and I was always on the path to stardom, so I didn't really have time to simply be a kid."

"Dads?" he manages to ask.

She just nods. "I was raised by my two gay fathers, yes."

"Cool," he says, punctuating his statement with another nod. He sees her smile out of the corner of his eye.

Puck comes in the room then, quickly greeting both Rachel and Finn, clapping Finn on the back.

"What'd you do with my kid, Hudson?" he asks jokingly, his eyes sparkling as he smiles.

"Your wife took her," he remarks drily, "so hell if I know!"

Puck chuckles, sitting between him and Rachel on the couch, and he begins to tell them a story about Beth – something about spitup and three o'clock in the morning – and Finn can't help but wish that somehow, someday, he'd be so lucky to be as happy as Puck is. To have some sort of family.

He glances over at Rachel, and she's wearing a similar expression. He wonders if she's thinking the same thing as well.

He thinks about what she said – about not being good with kids – and he thinks that she's probably wrong. She just hasn't given herself the chance. She'll probably be a great mom someday.

"Hey, Hud, you okay?" Puck asks, nudging his shoulder.

"Wh – yeah," Finn says hastily.

Puck raises his eyebrows. "You sure?"

"Yeah," Finn reiterates. "When's dinner gonna be ready?"

He can't let Puck – or worse, Rachel – know that he's been having sentimental thoughts about the future. It's not him, and it's not how he wants to be perceived. Besides, he is twenty-six, still too young to be thinking about anything like this.

He's got time.


v.

She gets the phone call at 2:17 am. She blearily blinks in the darkness as she gropes around for her phone, and when she hears the news on the other line, she stops breathing.

No. This can't be happening. No.

She hears words like 'car crash' and 'critical condition' and oh God this can't be happening.

She squeezes her eyes shut and hot, wet tears roll down her cheeks.

Somehow she manages to find her way to the hospital, manages to crash through the double doors of the emergency room, running smack dab into Finn of all people.

He looks alarmed as he takes in her disheveled appearance, her tear-streaked cheeks, but he immediately hugs her to him, stroking her hair, shushing her and telling her it'll be okay.

(It won't be okay though. She knows it won't.)

He holds her for what seems like hours, until she's just sniffling into his shirt, and finally, she pulls away, wiping at her eyes.

"Thanks," she mutters.

He just nods. She can tell he's worried, too.

A doctor appears then, a doctor with a grave looking face and a clipboard, a doctor with a white coat and sad, sad eyes.

Rachel already knows what he'll say before he even opens his mouth, but he says it anyway.

"Miss Berry? Mr. Hudson?"

They both nod.

"I'm so sorry, but they're gone."

He voices what she already knew, deep, deep down, but the words still hurt, the knowledge of the truth cutting her skin like a knife. She tries to stay strong, but her lower lip is already trembling, and her legs are shaking, but before she can fall, Finn catches her, clutching her to his chest once again. She sobs even louder this time, because now it's real. Noah and Quinn are gone. Never coming back.

Sobs wrack her entire body, but Finn just holds her impossibly tighter, almost as if he can't let go. She doesn't want him to let go, even though she still doesn't really know him, now doesn't need to him, because the link between them is gone.

Their friends are gone.

And they are never coming back.


vi.

Finn's numb, so numb. Puck and Quinn are dead, and they live in this sick, fucked up world where somehow this is supposed to be okay. He glances at the chair to his left, where Rachel's sitting, staring ahead with blank eyes and tearstained cheeks.

He doesn't want to be in this tiny, dark office. He knows she doesn't either.

They shared a moment in the hallway, but he knows she probably doesn't want to talk about it. She probably wants to never see him again after this meeting, because seeing him just means remembering Puck and Quinn and nothing but pain, pain, pain.

He can't really blame her.

"I'm terribly sorry for your loss," the woman behind the desk says, her mouth set in a frown, and he bets she's fucking sorry, but there's nothing she can do to bring his friends back, so he doesn't say anything.

A muscle in his jaw twitches.

"As you may or may not know, Mr. and Mrs. Puckerman named you the godparents of their daughter, Beth."

He nods. He knows this, obviously.

"It was in their final will and testament that you raise Beth in the event that they would… pass."

He swallows thickly. "Which – which one of us?"

The woman looks surprised. "Why, both of you."

"Together?" Rachel sounds just as shocked as he feels.

"Yes," the woman says, crinkling her brow in confusion. "Aren't you two… together?"

"Oh no!" Rachel says quickly, waving her hand.

"Nope, not even close, I barely know her!" Finn adds. "I mean, we know each other, obviously—"

"But we're merely acquaintances!" Rachel breaks in.

Finn nods in agreement.

"We have no idea how to raise a child, least of all how to raise one together!"

He raises his eyebrows, but he doesn't say anything. Rachel's right. How are they supposed to raise a kid together when they can barely stand each other?

"Well," the woman says slowly, "it was Mr. and Mrs. Puckerman's specific wish that the both of you raise Beth. If you decline, other arrangements will be made for her, but since neither Mr. or Mrs. Puckerman's families were really in the picture, there's no telling where she'll end up."

Finn sees Rachel bite her lip, and his own heart swells as well. He doesn't want that life for Beth, and he doubts Rachel does either.

"We could…" She looks over at him, brown eyes wide, and he clears his throat. "We could do it, you know. Raise her. Raise Beth."

"You really think so?" Rachel asks, somewhat doubtfully, but he nods.

"Yeah, yeah, I think we could." He swallows nervously, but he sees her teeth pull her bottom lip into her mouth again.

"We'd have to move in together," she tells him finally. "We can't half-ass this, Finn. We would be raising this child. We'd have to – to seriously commit to doing this." She swallows, and he sees tears spring to her eyes. "For – for Noah and Quinn."

He takes her hand, squeezing it gently. "I know."

She looks at him for moment, then she nods. "Okay," she whispers.

He smiles for the first time since he heard the terrible, terrible news, his lips twitching up at the corners.

"So, you both agree to enter in the process to become Beth Puckerman's legal guardians?" the woman clarifies.

"Yes," Finn says, Rachel's voice joining his own.

The woman explains that Beth will be under their temporary care until their guardianship is officially approved, through visits and check-ins with one of their child protective agents, and he just nods, half listening, half wondering how his life could change so drastically so quickly.

He has to take care of a kid now, and his best friend's dead, and life is just really, really fucked up.

At least he has someone else in the same boat, someone to get him through.

He glances over at Rachel, and she's watching the woman intently, her nose scrunched in concentration. She glances over at him, giving him the trace of a smile before turning back to the woman.

He doesn't think this thing will be so bad after all.


vii.

They both agree to move into Quinn and Noah's house like Quinn and Noah's lawyer suggests so the transition will be easier for Beth. They still haven't seen her since they found out they would be her legal guardians; she's at the child protective services center, and they have to wait a certain number of days before picking her up.

Rachel is going crazy.

"She's probably scared, Finn!" she says, pacing as she bites her lip, watching the phone like it'll ring any second, letting them know they can go pick Beth up. "She's in a strange place with strange people, and she just lost her parents, and she's probably terrified, and we're all that she has." She takes in a deep, ragged breath. "We're all that she has and she doesn't even have us right now."

"Hey, hey, hey," Finn says gently, placing his hands on her shoulders to stop her pacing. "It's all gonna be okay, alright? We'll get the call saying we've passed the background checks so we can go pick Beth up any time now, and then we'll bring her home, and we'll do this together, okay?"

Rachel nods, biting her lip, looking up into his bright brown eyes.

"Good," he whispers.

She's aware of how close he is, how she could just reach up and brush her lips against his, and, for a moment, she's tempted. But then she remembers that it's Finn Hudson, and she snaps out of it.

He clears his throat somewhat awkwardly, taking a step back and rubbing the back of his neck. "Right, well, you can have the guest room…"

"Thanks," she mutters. "And – and you can have Quinn and – and Noah's room, if you…"

He shakes his head. "Nah, I…" He clears his throat and turns away, and she thinks he might be about to cry. "I'll just take the couch," he mutters.

"Finn—"

"It's fine, Rach," he says easily, wiping at his eyes. "I don't mind, really."

She hesitates, then she nods again. "I just… I hope Beth's okay."

"She is," Finn tells her, sounding way more confident than he feels. "So stop worrying, Rach, she'll be fine."

She rolls her eyes. How can she stop worrying? Beth is their responsibility now; how is he not worried at all?

"Everything will work out," he insists. "They'll call any minute now, you'll see."

She opens her mouth to retort when the phone begins to ring. He smirks.

"See?"

She rolls her eyes, answering the phone instead of replying. "Hello? Yes, this is she. … Okay. … Okay, yes, we'll be there. Thank you so much! … And thank you. …. Yes. Okay, bye."

She looks over at Finn after she hangs up, the ghost of a smile tugging at her lips. "We can go pick up Beth," she says, and his face breaks out into a grin. It's possibly one of the most beautiful things she's ever seen.

She shakes her head as she follows him out the door, pulling on her jacket. She can't possibly be thinking straight. Since when is anything about Finn Hudson beautiful?

She should just focus on the fact that they're bringing Beth home and not worry so much about Finn. It's for the best, in the long run, and she can't afford to have any distractions when it comes to raising Beth to the best of her ability.


viii.

His heart pounds in his chest as they finish up the paperwork, and he just wants to see Beth. He knows he put on a good show of staying calm about the situation when he was talking to Rachel, but he's nervous as hell. What if they decide they're not fit to have her after all? What if they don't let them have her, if they keep her here?

He swallows nervously.

"Miss Berry, you sign here," the man behind the desk says, sliding the paper across to Rachel, indicating where he means.

Finn notices Rachel's hand shakes a bit as she signs her name.

"And Mr. Hudson, here, if you'd please."

Finn puts the pen to the place on the paper the man indicates, his tongue poking out of the side of his mouth a bit as signs his name. A door opens then, and he looks up to see a woman walk in, holding an eight month old with soft, blonde curls.

"Beth," he breathes.

"Oh, there she is," Rachel whispers, and she gets up to cross the room, taking the baby from the woman. Beth's begun to cry, so Rachel makes shushing noises gently, bouncing her in her arms. "It's okay, Bethy, it's okay, I'm here now, shh…"

He stands up, simply watching her for a moment, how good she is with her already. He thinks back to their conversation where she said she wasn't good with kids, and he knows she doesn't know how good she is.

Beth's face is still scrunched up as she cries, and he walks over to Rachel, holding out his arms for the baby.

Rachel looks at him gratefully, giving him Beth, and the minute he holds her, pressed against his chest, her head on his shoulder, she quiets, her cries turning into soft whimpers. "Shh, baby girl," he soothes. "Shh…"

He looks up to see Rachel looking at him curiously, her head cocked a little to the side and her expression unreadable.

"Well, everything seems to be in order," the man who had them sign the papers says. "There'll be an official hearing to grant you custody in a few weeks, but you're free to take her home now."

"Thank you," Rachel says, picking up her purse and giving the man a curt nod.

Finn manages a small smile, following after Rachel, Beth's head still resting on his shoulder as he carries her in his arms.


ix.

Beth cries a lot. Once they get her home, she cries for about three hours straight, and all Rachel wants to do is put the baby to bed so that she can go to bed, but Beth's having none of it.

"What do we do?" she asks Finn in dismay, running a hand through her hair. Beth's cries persist.

"Maybe we should rock her or something?"

"No, no, Quinn said they were working on self-soothing," Rachel says frantically, (and, yeah, it does still hurt a bit, still causes this little pang in her chest when she mentions her best friend's name). "She told me months ago. She's supposed to cry herself out."

"Well, obviously that's not working," Finn snaps.

Rachel glares at him. "Well then, what do you suppose it is, almighty baby whisperer?"

"Maybe she's hungry," Finn suggests.

"Maybe," Rachel allows. She reaches into Beth's crib, hoisting the baby out. "I guess we can see."

She hears Finn mutter, "Wait, are we holding her now instead of letting her cry herself out?" but she chooses to ignore him, heading instead into the kitchen, a screaming Beth perched on her hip. She deposits the screaming six-month-old into her high chair (which takes longer than it should as she keeps thrashing about) before heading to the pantry, rifling about until she finds the baby food.

When she comes out, she's slightly surprised to see Finn leaning on the kitchen counter, watching her in amusement. She pointedly ignores him, holding the cans of baby food in her hands as she sits down next to the high chair at the table.

"What'll it be, Beth?" she asks, talking over the little girl's screams. "Peas and carrots? Or peaches?"

Beth continues to cry, the droplets streaming down her cheeks, and Rachel sighs. "Finn? Could you get me a wet paper towel, please?"

He chuckles, but he does as she requests, handing her the damp paper towel a few moments later. She wipes Beth's tears away, and the baby begins to slow her cries, watching her curiously as she undoes the lid of the peaches.

"Mmm," Rachel says, dipping the little spoon into the jar. "Yummy, don't you think so, Bethy?" She directs the spoonful of orange mush toward the baby's mouth. "Open up, pretty girl! C'mon, open up for Rachel!"

Beth just stares, and Rachel sighs. "Please?" she pleads.

"Make her laugh," Finn prods.

"Shut it, Hudson," Rachel snaps. "I don't see you trying to help."

"That was me trying to help."

She just rolls her eyes and goes back to ignoring him. "Okay, well, what if we sing a song? With that make you wanna eat?" She takes a deep breath and begins to sing, softly at first, "Just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down / the medicine go down / the medicine go down."

Beth just watches her with wide green eyes, and she's stopped crying altogether. Rachel inches the spoon closer to her mouth and continues to sing. "Just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down / in the most delightful way!"

Beth begins to giggle on the last note, and Rachel manages to slip the spoon inside the infant's mouth. She swallows, and then she claps her hands.

"We did it!" Rachel cheers, dipping the spoon back into the baby food jar. "What a good girl!" She glances back at Finn, who's still smirking.

"What?" she asks.

He stares at her dubiously. "Mary Poppins?"

"Well, it worked, didn't it?" she snaps, and to her chagrin, he laughs.

"It did," he muses.

Rachel huffs, turning back to Beth, spooning another helping of mashed peaches into her mouth. She hums in approval, and Rachel grins.

"You're actually good at this, you know," Finn says offhandedly, moving from the kitchen counter to sit beside her. "This parenting thing. You're better than you give yourself credit for."

Rachel blushes, looking down at the spoon in her hand. "Wanna try?" she asks, holding the jar out to him.

He smiles, and then he takes the jar from her. "How hard can it be, right?" he teases.

She shoves him lightly. "Just feed the baby, Hudson."

He obliges, and Beth giggles when he only gets half in her mouth, using her tiny fingers to smear the rest across her face.


x.

They have a gathering of sorts a few days later for the neighbors, a mourning for Puck and Quinn. Like almost the entire neighborhood shows up, he's pretty sure, and everyone's wearing black, and it's kind of awkward because they don't know these people.

"Well, we need to get to know these people," Rachel hisses when he tells her this in the kitchen, brushing past him with a bowl of punch. "What if something happens to us? What happens to Beth then?"

She makes a good point, so he sighs and sucks it up, making awkward small talk with various people.

He ends up in a thirty minute conversation with the Changs, Tina and Mike, who live next door with their three kids. They're only in their twenties – like Finn and Rachel – so he's kind of amazed at how they could already have a seven year old, a five year old, and a two year old.

"Oh, well, sometimes it's chaotic," Tina tells him with a little laugh, "but most of the time it's worth it, you know?"

He thinks back over the past few days and how he already loves Beth so much, would do anything for her, practically, and he thinks he does know.

"At the end of the day, they're worth it," Tina finishes with a small smile, leaning into Mike as he wraps his arm around her shoulder.

Finn's eyes somehow find Rachel across the room, bouncing Beth in her arms as she talks to Mrs. Myer from down the street, and he thinks he just might know exactly what Tina's talking about.


xi.

A week later, they're called in to court to see if they will be permitted full custody of Beth. Rachel wears her nice, blue dress and makes sure Finn dresses up as well, because she wants to make sure they get this. She doesn't want to make a bad impression, and first impressions really are everything.

They file into the courtroom, and it's empty except for them, Noah and Quinn's lawyer and the judge. Finn fiddles with his tie as she sifts Beth from one hip to the other. The judge glances down at the paperwork in front of her.

"Based on the testimonials given and the investigations done, we have come to the conclusion that Beth Celeste Puckerman is to be under the care of Rachel Barbra Berry and Finn Christopher Hudson, as previously requested by Beth's deceased parents, Lucy Quinn Fabray and Noah Joseph Puckerman. Custody is hereby granted to both Ms. Berry and Mr. Hudson by the state of New York."

Rachel squeals, bouncing Beth in her arms and kissing the little girl's cheek. She feels an arm wrap around her and looks up to see Finn beaming as well, drawing her to him.

"We did it," Rachel coos as the lawyer ushers them out, brushing her lips against the top of Beth's head. Finn's arm is still around her shoulders. "Didn't we, baby girl?"

Beth just yawns, patting the side of Rachel's face.


xii.

"Absolutely not," Finn says, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Finn," Rachel says, her tone insistent as she holds Beth out to him. "It's your turn. I've changed the last five dirty diapers."

"But – but she pooped, Rach."

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Yes, babies tend to do that. I think you'll find that you do that, too."

"Well, at least I can clean up after myself!"

"Finn, she's eight months old! Now stop whining and change her diaper!"

She's giving him a death glare, so he takes the less-than-happy baby, setting her down on the changing table. She squirms and her face threatens to crumple with tears soon enough, so he holds his breath as he undoes the diaper Velcro straps. The smell wafts over him, and he takes a step back, choking and coughing and sputtering.

He hears a giggle and he glares over in the direction of the door. Rachel's leaning against the doorframe, clearly taking some sort of pleasure in watching him attempt to get rid of the dirty diaper.

"You have to actually change it, you know," she teases.

He gives her a sarcastic smile before holding his breath once more, swooping in to lift Beth's legs high enough to grab the diaper. He gags as he hurtles it into the trashcan.

Rachel's laughter fills the room.

"Oh my God, Finn, it's just a diaper!" she wheezes in between bouts of laughter, her hand on her stomach and her eyes scrunched shut.

"You didn't get the full force of the smell," he protests as he gets a fresh diaper out, lifting Beth's legs again so he can place it underneath her. "That was some of the worst smelling shit I have ever smelled in the entire life."

Rachel stops laughing long enough to remind him to watch his language around the baby, but he just ignores her, hoisting Beth back up when the diaper is securely fastened, kissing her on the cheek.

"All clean, baby girl?"

Beth gurgles. He takes that for a yes.

"See, that wasn't so bad," Rachel says, taking Beth from him and heading out of the room.

He mutters under his breath as he follows her out, wondering if he has time to catch at least some of the game before Rachel makes him read Beth a bedtime story.


xiii.

Rachel's show that she's been doing (less and less frequently due to Beth, as it were) comes to a close, which means a cast party, and she offers to host it at (what was once) Quinn and Noah's house.

"It's more convenient for me because I don't have to worry about what to do with Beth," she tells Finn when he tries to protest. "It'll just be for a few hours, I promise. Nothing too crazy."

She's just put Beth down for the night when the doorbell rings. She opens it to find Santana (and a bottle of what looks suspiciously like chocolate wine) along with the ten or so other people that make up the cast.

"Berry," Santana acknowledges, pushing past her and into the house. Her gaze falls onto Finn, who's sitting on the couch, watching ESPN. "And hello, who might this be?"

She licks her lips, and even though Rachel knows Santana tends to be more of a 'ladies only' kind of girl, she frowns.

"That's Finn, my – my…" She doesn't quite know what Finn is, to be honest, so she settles for, "We're raising Beth together."

Santana nods, taking a swig from the bottle in her hand. "So I'm not allowed to fuck him?"

"Um, I'm right here," Finn says uncomfortably as Rachel shrieks, "Santana!"

"Just asking!" Santana says defensively, heading for the kitchen.

Rachel just sighs, letting everyone else into the house as well.

(*)

She manages to coax Finn into sitting around the rest of the table with them with the promise of a beer, so he's gulping that down when Santana says, "So you two are really raising a kid?"

Rachel nods. "We're doing our best, but it's certainly… challenging at times."

"Parenting always is," Sugar says knowingly.

Rachel stares at her in shock. Sugar is a little… well, spoiled and not-quite-so-bright, so she's surprised to say the least. "Sugar, you have kids?"

"Oh, sure," Sugar says easily. "Two of 'em, a boy and a girl." She smiles, setting her hands on her seemingly flat stomach. "I'm six months pregnant, as well."

Rachel looks over at Finn in disbelief, and he just raises his eyebrows. "No kidding," he mutters, taking another swig of his beer.

"You – you aren't even showing," Rachel says with difficulty.

"Oh, I'm lucky. I never do," Sugar says knowingly.

Rachel just raises her eyebrows, wondering if Sugar actually has any kids at all.

"The worst thing about this whole parenting thing is the kid shows," Blaine says meaningfully. Everyone laughs, so he adds, "Seriously, they are the most annoying things on this planet! If Dora was real, I would murder her. Straight up murder her. And don't even get me started on the trippy shit like Yo Gabba Gabba!"

Rachel just shakes her head, laughing lightly, and Finn smiles before downing some more beer.

"One thing about parenting is that you can't expect to be perfect," Mercedes says from further down the table. "I mean, I just have little Roxy, and she's two, and I've gotten better with time, but I'm nowhere near to being the perfect mom. I make mistakes with her, but we just have to learn from them. So, I know you, Rachel, and you're a perfectionist," (a chuckle goes around the table then, Finn snorting into his drink), "and you just have to know that you're going to screw up, and it's not the end of the world if you do."

Rachel sighs, but she nods. "I – I'm not so good at this parenting thing, but I'm trying, you know?" she says softly.

"Bullshit," Finn says suddenly.

"What?" She looks at him in surprise. "I am trying!"

"No, no, that you're not good at the parenting thing. You've been great so far, Rach. Beth adores you, and you know just what to do. You already know what all of her different cries mean, and you sing her to sleep every night. You're pretty damn good at this if you ask me."

He's looking at her intently, and so is everyone else at the table. She ducks her head, biting her lip.

Finally, Santana breaks the silence. "You sure I can't sleep with him?"

"You like girls, Santana," Rachel snaps, and Santana just shrugs.

"Most of the time," she allows. She winks at Finn.

Finn pointedly looks away.

Rachel stifles a giggle. Mercedes is right, she decides. She'll just take this parenting thing a day at a time. She doesn't have to be perfect.


xiv.

They end up making a schedule, because they both lead too hectic of lives to keep trying to juggle them and Beth. Rachel's working at the theater four days a week now, so they decide that she'll be responsible for Beth on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays (her days off) while he gets Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (the least busy days at his sports marketing office). They agree to switch off on Fridays.

"This is good," Rachel keeps saying. "It'll give Beth a sense of stability, and we'll both be able to have time to ourselves if needed. This is really good."

Finn just nods, mostly tuning her out. He hasn't had time with the guys in weeks, so he's really looking forward to the free Friday he'll have this week. (The first free Friday since Puck and Quinn died, which still hurts to think about. He wonders if it'll never not hurt.)

Rachel works on color-coding the entire chart, tongue poking somewhat adorably out the side of her mouth. He reminds himself that she's anally organizing a chart, and all those types of thoughts go out of his mind.

"Finished!" she finally beams, stepping back to admire her handiwork.

"Now what?" Finn deadpans.

Beth whimpers behind him, fidgeting in her highchair.

Rachel frowns. "Now," she says, "we give Beth a bath."


xv.

"Stick her in the sink," Rachel says, handing Finn the squirming, naked baby.

He looks at her like she just shot laser beams out of her eye sockets. "Um, what?"

"I already stuck the baby tub in the sink, so stick her in that," she explains impatiently, getting the bottle of soap for infants she picked up on her last trip to the drug store.

Finn makes a face, but he does what she says, putting Beth in the tub.

"Now," she says slowly, thumbing through the parenting book she also picked up at the drug store, "the book says to fill the tub with warm water. Not hot, warm!"

"I got it, I got it," Finn says hastily, turning the knobs on the sink, testing the water on the other side of the divider so it doesn't get on Beth until it's the right temperature. Rachel feels herself soften. He really is good at this whole parenting thing, much better than she is.

He seems to deem the water an appropriate temperature, and he looks back over at Rachel expectantly. "What now?"

"Well, we need to get a small cup, probably," Rachel says, going over to a cabinet on the wall. "We'll soap her up and then use the cup to rinse her off."

She finds a suitable cup and heads back to the sink. Beth's squirming around in the baby tub, looking up at them curiously.

"Ready for a bath, baby girl?" Rachel coos.

Beth says nothing, just stares.

She sighs. "Well, please don't hate me then," she mutters, taking the bottle of baby shampoo from Finn. She squirts a small amount in her hand (as advised on the back of the bottle), gently massaging it into Beth's blonde curls. She starts to fuss a bit, but Rachel just makes soothing noises, singing a bit as she continues to lather her hair.

"You're really good at that," Finn says after a while, his voice quiet.

She turns to look at him, Beth splashing some water as she does. He's not looking at Beth, though; he's just looking at her. "What, washing hair?" she asks with a laugh.

He chuckles, but he shakes his head. "No, singing."

She flushes with pleasure. "Well, it is what I do for a living."

"I know," he says quickly. "I just – I guess I didn't realize just how… good you are."

She smiles. "You know, I'm doing a week long show coming up. You should – you should come."

He nods. "Yeah, okay. I'd like that, I think."

She just smiles, handing him the cup. "You can rinse her."

His eyes widen. "But what if, like, I get soap in her eyes?"

"You won't," Rachel tells him confidently. "And even if you do, it's no sting, so she should be okay."

And in the end, Beth comes out scot free, and Rachel considers their first attempt at giving her a bath a success. "That wasn't so bad, was it, Bethy?" she coos as she dries her off, rubbing the warm, fluffy towel against her damp skin.

Beth just giggles, and Rachel kisses the tip of her nose. Once she's dry, she positions her on her shoulder, holding her as she gets ready to carry her into the nursery to get her ready for bed. Before she moves, though, she locks eyes with Finn, and she feels this little jolt, this sudden feeling of attraction.

Suddenly, she wants to kiss him, and she wants him to kiss her back. She wants to feel him, feels his heartbeat, his breath in her ear.

Then, as quickly as it came over her, the feeling fades. He looks away, and she drops her gaze, walking into the other room.

What the hell was that?


xvi.

Finn's gotten really good at this whole diapering thing. Like really good. In fact, he actually volunteers to change Beth's diapers now, because it just takes a few minutes using his lightning method.

"You actually want to change her diaper?" Rachel asks in disbelief the first time he offers.

He shrugs.

"Okay," she says. "I'm definitely not going to protest."

So she hands him the screaming baby, and he rocks her a bit to shush her as he takes her over to the changing table. Rachel watches him curiously as he puts Beth down on the table, his hands quickly undoing the smelly diaper.

He's gotten much better at being able to stand the smell, and he doesn't even gag – not once – as he deposits it into the trashcan. He quickly locates another diaper, lifting Beth's legs up and sliding it under, fastening it at securely as well as quickly.

"There!" he declares, lifting Beth up in the air, pressing a butterfly kiss against her cheek. "All changed."

He turns and smirks at the dumbfounded look on Rachel's face.

"Finn, that was amazing!"

"I know," he replies with a wink.

Needless to say, he changes most of the diapers from then on out.


xvii.

Finn actually does take her up on her offer and comes to show, and he brings Beth with him. She looks adorable in her little pink dress, and Finn doesn't look too bad either. He even brings her flowers backstage afterward, and his grin is so wide, it's practically contagious.

"You were amazing, Rach!" he says, and Beth reaches toward her, whining a bit, so she takes her from Finn's arms.

"You think?" she asks.

"Definitely," Finn assures her. "Like, literally mind blowing."

She bites her lip, pressing a kiss to the top of Beth's head in order to hide her blush. "Well, it's my last show for a while," Rachel sighs, her cheek still pressed against the downy blonde hair on top of the baby's head.

"What? Why?" Finn asks, eyes wide and concerned.

Rachel shrugs. "I – I kind of want to open my own theater, so I'm trying to focus on that, I guess. Plus, with Beth and all, I think I just need a little break, you know? Not forever," she assures him, taking in his expression. "Just for now."

He just looks at her for a second, but slowly, he nods his head, lips pursed. "I guess that makes sense. But, you have to know – when you're on that stage, you really are amazing, Rach. It's like – like you were meant to be there."

"Oh, I know," she tells him with a wink, handing Beth back to him as she turns to remove the last of her stage makeup. "It's what I was made to do."

"I think you're completely right about that," he tells her, and when she looks over at him, she can tell he's telling the truth.

She smiles. "Thanks, Finn," she says.

His brow wrinkles in confusion. "For what?"

"Just…" She licks her lips, eyes darting over his face. "Thanks."

He looks down awkwardly, pink tinting his cheeks as he shuffles his feet. "I'll just… um. We'll wait outside, okay?"

He's gone before she can nod, but she sighs, turning back to the mirror.

He thinks she was good. Really good, even.

She shouldn't care so much that he thinks so, but she does.


xviii.

It's a Tuesday which means Rachel has the night off, which means he's in charge of Beth. He's just settled her on the couch next to him, propped up by, like, a thousand pillows, and he's just switched the channel over to the game when she begins to fuss.

"Shh," he soothes, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "Don't you wanna watch the Knicks, Beth? Don't you wanna watch some basketball?"

Judging by the way she's still fussing, the answer is clearly no.

"C'mon, Beth," he mutters, picking her up and placing her in his lap. "Please be quiet so I can watch the game? This once?"

She only cries louder, the fussing turning into a full-blown sob fest.

"Shit," he mutters, and he's thankful Rachel isn't around to scold him. He sighs, picking up the remote and changing the channel. After a few clicks, he ends up on the Wiggles, and Beth immediately quiets.

He raises an eyebrow, watching her instead of the show. Her face lights up when the full-grown mean wearing bright colored t-shirts begin to sing some song about celery or something on the screen. She giggles, her mouth curling into a smile.

He glances up at the screen, where the guys are dancing around in what appears to be a candy forest. What the fuck?

He looks dubiously down at the baby in his lap. "You actually like this stuff?" he asks gruffly.

Beth giggles even more, and he sighs defeatedly, leaning his head back against the couch. Looks like he's not going to be watching the game after all.

This could be a long night.


xix.

Rachel's worried. She's home alone with Beth (who won't stop crying) and Finn's not answering his phone and she thinks there's something really wrong because she's warm and crying hysterically so she does the only thing she can think of doing: She drives to the ER.

Beth screams hysterically the whole time, and Rachel does her best to sing to try to calm her, but her voice is wobbly and she's really so scared, so it doesn't do much good. She barely breathes as she pulls into the parking lot, hastily pulling Beth out of her car seat and rushing inside, the screaming baby in her arms.

The nurse takes one look at her exhausted appearance and the shrieking child before taking the baby from her arms.

Rachel cries, because she hasn't let herself yet, and because she literally needs for this to be okay.

She's already lost Quinn and Noah. She can't lose Beth, too.

(*)

"Well?" Rachel demands once the doctor emerges, Beth on his hip. She's stopped crying, so that's a good sign, right?

He gives her a smile. She can't help but notice that his teeth are brilliantly white, and they contrast nicely with his blonde hair, his blue eyes.

"She has a slight fever," the doctor tells her – Dr. Evans according to the loopy font printed on his white lab coat. "Nothing too serious."

Rachel bites her lip. "I overreacted, didn't I?" she asks in a small voice.

Dr. Evans laughs, shaking his head. "Most new parents do, it's nothing to be ashamed of!"

"Oh, I…" She takes in a deep breath. She knows she probably shouldn't, but before she can stop herself, she finds herself saying, "I'm not actually her mother. She – she's my best friend's daughter, but she and her husband died in a c-car crash not to long ago." She sniffs, ashamed of the tears now gathering behind her eyes. "I – I don't know what I'm doing."

She tries to wipe away the tears, but they're coming steadily down her face now. She sees Dr. Evans frown, shifting Beth from one arm to the other.

"Hey, you're doing a fine job already," he tells her.

"You d-don't know that," she blubbers. "I'm t-terrible at p-parenting."

"Hey," he says soothingly, rubbing a hand down her back. "You brought her here – that's a good thing, for one!"

"Y-You think s-so?"

"Definitely," he assures her, flashing her another pearly white smile. He waits until she calms down a bit, still running his hand comfortingly up and down her back. It feels nice, she thinks. And he's cute.

Wait, what is she doing? She hasn't even thought about dating since Beth came along; why is she thinking about how cute this doctor is?

"Basically, take her home and wait for the fever to break. If it doesn't break within twenty-four hours, feel free to call me." He scribbles a number down on his prescription pad, ripping it off and handing it to her.

She glances down at it, biting her lip. "Thank you so much, Dr. Evans."

"Sam," he tells her quickly. "You can call me Sam."

"Rachel," she replies, holding out her hand so he can shake it. "Thank you so much, Sam."

"No problem," he says with a grin, passing Beth over to her. "Best of luck to you and Miss Beth! And seriously, feel free to call. For anything."

She blushes. "I will," she tells him.

And she just might. Maybe getting back into the dating world is something she needs, and who better than Sam to experiment with in that aspect?

A small voice in the back of her head nags, But what about Finn? but she quickly shuts it up. She doesn't owe anything to Finn. They wouldn't work out anyway.

They're polar opposites, water and oil, and they always have been. She and Sam could have something in common, though. They could have something special.

She's kind of tempted to find out if that could be the case.


xx.

Rachel was supposed to be home hours ago so he could go play Call of Duty with Mike next door, but she's still not home, so he buckles Beth into her car seat and drives to Santana's house, where he knows Rachel's attending one last post-show party.

He arrives at Santana's within fifteen minutes, and he quickly unbuckles Beth, hoisting her up and walking up the sidewalk. He knocks on the door, but there's no answer, just the sound of the bass pounding inside. He turns the knob and the door swings open.

Beth whimpers a little bit, pressing her tiny face against his shoulder, but he just takes a deep breath and heads inside.

"Finnocence!" Santana greets, throwing back a shot of tequila and stumbling toward him. "Hey, you brought the munchkin!" She smiles at Beth, but Beth just presses her face more tightly against his shoulder.

"Where's Rachel?" he asks, his voice loud in order to be heard over the pounding music.

Santana raises an eyebrow. "What, planning on giving her the kid so you and I can get a room?"

He doesn't even try to hide the roll of his eyes. "Funny," he comments drily. "But seriously, where is she?"

Santana just looks pointedly behind him.

"Finny!" he hears a slurred voice call out, and he turns to see Rachel beaming at him, a drink in her hand, clearly drunk off her ass.

"Oh, boy," he mutters.

"What are you doing here?" she asks, eyes wide. "This is Santana's house! And you brought Beth!" She reaches out to comb her fingers lightly over the baby's blonde curls. "Such an angel princess," she murmurs.

"Rachel," Finn says, somewhat forcefully, "can I talk to you outside for a moment?"

Rachel nods, and he takes her cup from her, setting it down on the coffee table, before gripping her wrist firmly and dragging her outside.

"What the hell, Rachel?" he asks once the door closes behind them, bouncing Beth a little bit so she won't start to fuss. "You were supposed to be home two hours ago, remember? I had plans? And now you're drunk and I'm gonna have to take you home because there's no way in hell I'm letting you drive—"

"But I'm having fun!" Rachel whines. "You told me to stop being a tightass, remember, Finn? On our first date? You said I needed to stop being a tightass, that I needed to let loose. This is me," she looks at him pointedly, her gaze hazy due to the alcohol, "letting loose."

He pales considerably, his heart sinking. "Rach…"

"That was my first date after Jesse broke my heart, you know. Or, well, you don't know." She looks pensive for a moment. "We dated for three years. Three. And then he – he dumped me, for some Tony-winning prima donna, and I was distraught. Like, devastated. But Quinn talked me into getting back out there, to go on a date with this awesome friend of Puck's." She smiles at him, but even in her inebriated state, it's sarcastic. "You."

Oh, shit. He really doesn't like where this is going. Beth whines, shifting in his grasp.

"She set me up with an asshole! I was crushed! My first step back into the dating world was with an asshole." She laughs, loud and drunk, so, so drunk, and he thinks he might be sick.

"Do you really think I'm an asshole?" he asks quietly, before he can stop himself. "Even now?"

"Sometimes," she tells him candidly, breezily almost.

"Even now," he says slowly, "when I'm the one taking care of the child our friends entrusted to our care while you're here getting drunk off your ass. Even now, when I'm trying to do the right thing for once, and you're just here letting loose?"

Rachel's brow furrows before her confused expression is temporarily replaced with one of fear. "Finn, I – I don't—"

"Get in the car, Rachel," he says lowly. "We're going home."

Beth begins to whimper more loudly, and he quickly shushes her, pressing a kiss against the shell of her ear.

"But the party—" Rachel protests weakly.

He glares at her. "You can't drive home, Rachel, so get in the fucking car."

Her eyes go wide, and he thinks that maybe she's not as drunk as he thought she was. He knows everything she said was true, though, and it doesn't make it hurt any less. In fact, it makes it hurt more. "Car," he repeats. "Now."

He turns on his heel and heads for the driveway, Rachel stumbling after him. He buckles Beth into her car seat before buckling Rachel into her own seat in the passenger side. She smiles vaguely up at him when he's done.

"Thanks, Finny," she murmurs, reaching out to brush her fingertips across his jaw. "You aren't always an asshole, you know."

He sighs before shutting her door and going around to get in the driver's seat. "Maybe I'm not an asshole at all, but you never thought of that," he mutters despite himself.

He misses Rachel's frown as he backs out of the driveway and pulls onto the street.


xxi.

Rachel's definitely hung over the next morning. She has a pounding headache, and she only remembers snippets from the night before: Something concerning Finn and Beth and calling him an asshole, she thinks.

She frowns, sitting up in her bed. Bad idea. Almost immediately, she covers her mouth, shooting out of bed and heading for the bathroom. She hurls into the toilet, and she wonders why she thought partying at Santana's had been a good idea.

"Morning, sunshine!" Finn calls from the kitchen. "Is that you I hear retching?"

She winces, muttering, "Loud noises," but she doesn't say anything back. She stays in the bathroom, the cool tile a nice contrast to her heated skin.

The doorbell rings, seemingly ten times louder in her hungover state, and Beth begins to cry.

Finn pokes his head in. "Hey, you get the door, I'll get the baby, okay?"

Before she can protest – because she still has bedhead and is in no way prepared to talk to someone or been seen in public – he's gone. She sighs, pushing herself off the bathroom floor and heading for the front door instead, her steps slow and meticulous, her eyes seemingly heavier.

The doorbell rings again, causing her to wince. "I'm coming," she mutters, finally reaching the door, and she swings it open.

A red-headed woman blinks in surprise on the other side, taking in Rachel's sure-to-be disheveled appearance. "Oh, um, hello!" she says, her voice cheery.

"Hi," Rachel says slowly, doing her best to smile.

"Oh, I'm Emma Pillsbury," the woman says quickly, holding her hand out so Rachel can shake it. "I'm your social worker, concerning Beth. They told you I'd be doing sporadic visits?"

Rachel's eyes widen. The case worker.

"Oh, yeah, of course!" Rachel says quickly. "Unfortunately, now's not that great of a time, I'm afraid…" She can still hear Beth screaming in the background, and she prays that Finn will be able to calm her. Her head is beginning to throb with the headache her hangover has induced.

Emma's smile tightens, and Rachel sees her grip tighten on the clipboard she's holding as well. "Well, see, that's the thing about sporadic visits," Emma says, sounding somewhat apologetic. "You don't get to choose when the time is convenient."

Rachel swallows, but she nods. "Sure, yeah, of course," she says quickly, opening the door a little wider. "Come on in."

She ushers Emma inside, calling, "Finn, the social worker's here!" Beth's cries can't be heard any more, so she assumes that's a good sign.

Finn's smiling when she leads Emma into the kitchen, feeding Beth a bottle, but she can tell it's forced. "What a… surprise!" he says, and Rachel shrugs helplessly from behind Emma when his eyes land on her.

"Yes, well, routine checkup, you know," Emma says, glancing down at her clipboard. "I'll need to see the house, the rooms, talk to you both, all that jazz."

Finn nods. "Yeah, yeah, sure. Rach, wanna take Beth while I give Emma the tour?"

Rachel lets out a sigh of relief, murmuring "thank you" when he hands her the baby.

"Well, isn't she precious," Emma coos. Beth giggles, and Rachel thinks that maybe this will be okay after all. They can pass this inspection, can't they? They have nothing to hide. Everything will be fine.

(*)

Fifteen minutes later, she's sitting down on the couch next to Finn, Beth over in her playpen, Emma on the couch on the other side of the coffee table.

"Well," Emma says, and Rachel leans forward slightly, almost without noticing it, "the house seems to be in good condition. Not the safest, but safe enough. You could always be safer," she adds knowingly. "No one is ever too safe, especially when there are children around."

Rachel nods, nudging Finn, who's covering his mouth with his hand in an effort not to laugh.

Emma, thankfully, doesn't seem to notice as she glances down at her clipboard. "Now," she says, her tone businesslike. "Are you two both single?"

Rachel doesn't know why, but she immediately thinks of Sam, her heart pounding a bit at the thought. Finn's voice brings her out of her blonde-haired, blue-eyed reverie, however, when he says, "Yeah," and she's quick to add that, yes, she is single as well.

Emma sighs. "Well, I've seen many cases like this one, and two single people in one house don't stay that way for long. The hormones start going crazy and soon they're going at it like teenagers, but then things don't work and the child is put in an uncomfortable position in lieu of a messy breakup." She eyes them carefully over the top of her clipboard. "You can assure me that's not going to happen to you, I assume."

"Oh, God, no," Rachel tells her quickly. "Finn and I – we aren't – we wouldn't—"

"Beth comes first," Finn breaks in, and when he glances back over at her, he has an unreadable expression on his face. "We wouldn't want anything to jeopardize our chance to raise her, together. She deserves stability."

Rachel nods, squeezing his hand gently. "Exactly," she says with a smile. He smiles back.

Emma clears her throat loudly, and Rachel looks to see what her issue is. She's staring at their linked hands as if they were a giant tarantula. Slowly, Rachel removes her hand from Finn's.

"Remember," Emma says, scribbling down on her clipboard, "no sexual relations. For Beth's sake. I can practically feel the sexual tension already." She shivers. "I need to go home and take a shower."

She stands up, and Rachel hurriedly stands up as well, walking her to the door.

"I'll be back sometime soon," Emma tells her. "Remember what I said!" she calls, loud enough so Finn can hear her as well.

Rachel waits until she's an acceptable distance away, then slams the door behind her. She sighs, leaning against the wood. Finn comes in, carrying Beth, a smirk on his face.

"Try not to jump me," he tells her teasingly, heading up the stairs.

"Ha, ha," she mutters. "Seriously, though," she adds, "I can't believe she'd say that! That – that there was some sort of… unresolved… sexual tension between us."

Finn turns around on the stairs. He laughs, but it's not quite genuine. "Imagine that," he says as he continues walking, and something about the way he says it leaves Rachel confused.

She just stares after him, wondering why she's having conflicting thoughts, thoughts concerning him.

Her headache is getting worse than ever. She groans, heading to the kitchen for a glass of water and some aspirin.


xxii.

"It's just for a few hours," Rachel says as she fixes her lipstick in the mirror, looking at him through the glass. "You'll be fine!"

"I have to work, Rach!" he protests. "What am I supposed to do with Beth?"

"Take her with you," Rachel suggests with a shrug.

He stares at her, openmouthed. "You can't be serious," he says. "I mean, I work at an office, Rach, and it's not exactly 'bring your kid to work day.'"

Her lips twitch into a smile. "Not my problem," she says in a sing-song voice, turning around to face him. "I've got a play to attend. Santana's been begging me to go see her in it, and today's the last day."

He tries to control the erratic beating of his heart and not let the blood rush south because he hates to admit it, but Rachel looks smokin' hot. His eyes flit over her face, her lips painted cherry red, her hair elegantly tied in a knot at the nape of her neck. Her dress stops right above her knees, and her legs seem to go on for miles, even for a woman so small.

He subconsciously licks his lips.

"Finn?"

He blinks at her. "Um, what?"

"So you're taking Beth to work with you, right?" She narrows her eyes, and he sighs, knowing there's no way he can win.

"Yeah," he mutters.

She beams. "Good. Now, I really have to go." She grabs her purse, standing on her tiptoes (even though she's taller in her high heels) to peck his cheek. "Bye! Be good!"

Then she's gone.

He raises his hand to trace the spot where her lips brushed his cheek with his fingers, his heart pounding out an unfamiliar beat in his chest. He's sure she left a lipstick smudge, but he doesn't even think he cares so much.

Beth whines behind him, and he looks over to see her standing in her playpen, her tiny fingers gripping at the edge as she looks up at him quizzically.

He sighs. "Come on, kiddo," he groans, hoisting her up. "Looks like you're coming to work with me."

(*)

This is the worst idea ever, and he entirely blames Rachel. She told him he had to take Beth to work with him, after all.

The baby hasn't stopped screaming since he set foot in the office.

His boss, Will, pokes his head in the room once again. "Everything all right in here?" he calls over the sound of Beth's shrieking.

Finn bounces the baby again, patting her back soothingly as she wails. He shouldn't be mad at Will, but he did insist Finn come in on a Saturday, so he's partially to blame as well.

"She'll be okay in a few minutes," Finn tells him, sounding more confident than he feels.

Will gives him a tight, fake smile. "Right. Well, let's hope that's true!" He leaves then, shutting the door behind him.

Finn groans, switching arms so Beth's leaning against his other shoulder.

"Please stop crying," he mutters. "Please, baby girl."

Her screaming doesn't cease.

He tries to think of how Rachel calms her down. She feeds her if she's hungry, but he fed her before he left, so that can't be it. He checks her diaper. She's clean.

His heart plummets as he realizes what Rachel would do: Sing.

"You're lucky I love you," he mutters against the little girl's hair. He really hopes no one walks in his office. He starts to hum, and she begins to soften her cries. He sings then, the words of the first song that pops into his head coming out of his mouth, soft and low, and he holds her, swaying lightly. "Baby, you light up my world like nobody else / The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed / And when you smile at the ground, it ain't hard to tell / You don't know, oh, oh / You don't know you're beautiful."

Beth finally stops crying, her eyelids slowly drooping closed, her breathing labored. He smiles despite himself, setting her gently down in the baby carrier.

He turns back toward the door to see an amused Rory, his office-neighbor, watching him with raised eyebrows. He feels his face go hot.

"One Direction?" Rory asks. "Really?"

"Fuck off," Finn mutters, but Rory just laughs.

When he's gone, Finn sighs, finally heading over to his desk. He has work to do, he knows, but he glances over at the little baby asleep in her carrier. She's so precious and tiny, and she looks more and more like Puck and Quinn every day.

He loves her so much, and she's not even his.

He hears Rachel's voice in his head, reminding him, "We're all she has now, Finn." He knows she's right, has always been right.

(He'll never tell her that, but hey, at least he knows.)


xxiii.

She goes out for drinks with Santana after the play, and then she has to drive Santana home because she gets a little more than tipsy, so she's pretty much exhausted when she gets home, even though it's only a little after nine.

She's surprised when the lights are all off downstairs, no television on, no anything. She frowns, making her way slowly up the stairs.

When she gets up the stairs, she sees Beth's door is slightly ajar, and she slowly looks in. Finn's sitting in the rocking chair in the corner of the room, the sleeping nine month old in his arms. He's rocking back and forth, and his lips are moving as he sings, his voice soft and low, his eyes never leaving Beth's face.

"I'll stand by you / I'll stand by you / Won't let nobody hurt you / I'll stand by you."

She feels tears spring to her eyes at the sight of him singing to the little girl (their little girl, she thinks before she can stop herself), and she covers her mouth with her hand. She doesn't know why, but she suddenly wants to kiss him, wants to walk over to the rocking chair, place her hand on his shoulder, and kiss him firmly on the mouth.

He looks over at her then, and he scowls. "Spying, are we?" he whispers, standing up and putting the now-sleeping Beth in her crib.

She wipes hastily at her eyes. "Not my fault you left the door open," she says cheekily. "Plus, you're actually really good. At singing," she clarifies when she notices his confused stare.

His cheeks turn pink, and she can tell even in the dim lighting coming from the tableside lamp.

"It's the only thing that calms her down," he mutters, rubbing the back of his neck uncomfortably.

"I'm being serious!" she insists. "You're really good, Finn. Definitely better than you give yourself credit for. And you singing to her was incredibly sweet."

His blush deepens.

"Don't worry, I won't tell anyone," she assures him, smiling at him as she leaves the room.

She doesn't look back to gauge his expression, because if she looks back, she might become overwhelmed with the need to kiss him again, and surely that can only end badly. She needs to control those urges, bury them down deep, and she thinks taking a nice, hot shower is a good start.


xxiv.

It hits him suddenly when the guys invite him out for drinks after work and he says he can't because he has to get home to Rachel and Beth. It hits him like a speeding train, the fact that this is his life now: Beth is his life now, and to a lesser degree, Rachel.

He hasn't slept with a girl in the two months he's been in the situation, and he's changing. He's not the same. And he doesn't know how he feels about that.

He's moody and irritable by the time he arrives home, and Rachel looks exhausted when he walks into the kitchen, trying to feed a fussy Beth.

"Can you help, please?" she asks tiredly, gesturing to the pile of dirty dishes in the sink.

He stares at her, and suddenly, he's angry. He's just angry at Puck and Quinn and Rachel and Beth and the fury courses through his veins, fury he can't control. He clenches and unclenches his hands.

"Finn?" Rachel tries.

"No," he says, his voice shaking slightly.

Rachel raises an eyebrow. "Finn, are you okay?"

"No, I'm not fucking okay!" He doesn't mean to shout, but suddenly he's yelling, all the white-hot rage just coming out. "How is any of this okay?"

"Finn," Rachel says quietly, putting down the jar of baby food, "you're scaring me." She stands up slowly, as if she's afraid he'll burst into flames at any given moment.

"I'm just so pissed at them, Rachel," he says, his voice breaking. "I'm so fucking pissed at Puck and Quinn for leaving us with this – this mess. We're supposed to fix everything, to – to come in and – and save the day, but it's impossible!"

"Well at least we're trying!" Rachel breaks in angrily.

"We shouldn't have to!" he shouts. "This shouldn't be our mess to clean up!"

"It's not a mess, Finn, it's a child," she snaps.

"It's not my kid!" he protests.

Rachel looks like he slapped her. She takes in a few deep breaths, then finally, she asks, "Then whose kid is she?"

He swallows thickly, his Adam's apple bobbing in his throat. He doesn't have a good answer for that.

Beth begins to cry, the sound feeling the silence hanging over the kitchen.

"I – I can't deal with this," he mutters, turning around, his hands gripping his hair.

"Finn, where are you going?" Rachel asks, and her voice cracks, and it almost breaks his heart.

"I need to clear my head," he says shortly, and then he pushes the door open, and he's gone. He doesn't turn around to see the tears spilling down Rachel's cheeks, doesn't turn around to see the Beth's distorted face as she screams and cries.

It's literally too much for him to handle.

(*)

He just goes to the park down the street, pulling into the empty parking lot and sitting in the back of his truck for a while. He just focuses on breathing, on thinking about what matters.

He comes to the conclusion that both Beth and Rachel are on that list. Yes, his life's different now, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. He's always been terrible with change, and he overreacted.

It may not be the ideal situation, but he has to accept the fact that he's responsible for another person now, for Beth. And, really, when it comes down to it, he doesn't regret being named her guardian. He misses Quinn and Puck every day, and he wishes they hadn't died, but he doesn't wish that he hadn't gotten Beth. That he and Rachel hadn't gotten Beth.

And Rachel. She's something else entirely. He thinks Puck and Quinn might have known what they were doing after all.

He sits in his truck for a few minutes before finally climbing back in the cab and driving home. He has some apologizing to do.


xxv.

He's sitting in the dark living room when she comes downstairs after putting Beth to bed. She hopes he can't tell how red her eyes are, how much she has been crying.

"Hi," he says quietly.

"Hi," she whispers back.

"I'm so sorry, Rachel," he says quickly, standing up and taking a few steps toward her. "I – I didn't mean what I said. I'm glad Beth came into our lives, and – and I'm glad that you're here, too. We can do this, together, and I'm really sorry I doubted that and made you doubt that." He's so close she could reach out and touch him now, trace the freckles on his cheek with her fingertips.

She shakes her head, and she thinks she might cry again, this time for a different reason. "I'm sorry, too," she whispers, and she wraps her arms around his neck, breathing in the scent of him as she hugs him tightly. She feels him hug her back, and for a few moments, they simply stay that way, locked in an embrace, her breathing evening out as she squeezes him tightly.

She feels okay now that he's home. She doesn't really want to think about what it means, so she doesn't, just focuses on the moment.

He's back, and he's sorry, and he's not leaving.

Everything will be okay.


xxvi.

Beth starts walking when she's ten months old, and suddenly it's incredibly hard to keep track of her. They have to make sure doors are shut and babygates are in place, and suddenly their job has become ten times harder.

Finn doesn't mind though, because she giggles as she puts one shaky leg in front of the other, and she's just adorable as she totters from place to place. It makes Rachel, on the other hand, extremely emotional.

"She's growing up so fast, Finn," she mumbles as Beth stands by the coffee table, her little fingers tightly gripping the edge.

Beth turns to grin at them, her four little teeth showing.

"And she's so smart, too!" Rachel adds, swiping under her eyes to get rid of any moisture.

Finn smiles, because she kind of is. She's walking kind of early for a baby, so that must mean her genes are like, super genes or something. Or maybe she's just learning how to be awesome from him and Rachel.

He tells Rachel this, and she rolls her eyes, but it's not in an annoyed way, because she's definitely trying not to smile.

Beth giggles then, tottering over to where he and Rachel are standing, her arms outstretched. He picks her up, because he knows that's what she wants, and he blows a raspberry on her cheek. Her shrieks of laughter fill the room, and he can feel Rachel's smile before he sees it.

"Maybe you're on to something with that whole 'learning how to be awesome' thing," she teases.

He drops a kiss on Beth's blonde curls. He knows he is, because Beth's already the most awesome little girl ever.


xxvii.

"I'm actually surprised you haven't used Beth to hit on girls," Rachel says offhandedly, picking up an apple and inspecting it. She sees Finn raise his eyebrows out of the corner of her eye.

"Who says I haven't?" he asks defiantly.

She turns to look at him. "You changed you know," she tells him. "I've noticed it."

He shakes his head. "Whatever. Who's to say this wasn't who I was all along?"

She doesn't have an answer for that, so she just makes a point of pushing the cart further along, ignoring both Finn and Beth's outstretched arms. The baby whimpers, her green eyes wide and pleading, and Rachel sighs before hoisting her up.

"Rachel!" She turns around at the sound of her name to see a beaming Sam standing by the vegetables. She feels Finn tense beside her, and she wonders briefly what his problem is.

"Sam!" she says instead, and she can't help but return his smile. "How are you?"

"Great," Sam says. "How's Beth doing?"

Beth gurgles in response, and Sam chuckles. She hears Finn clear his throat loudly beside her.

"Oh, Sam, this is Finn, he's… We're raising Beth together."

Sam looks over at Finn, swallowing noticeably, but he smiles at him as well. Rachel can't help but notice that Finn doesn't smile back, although he does grudgingly take the hand Sam offers him, shaking it slowly.

"Nice to meet you," Sam says.

Finn just grunts in reply.

"Sam's Beth's doctor," Rachel tries telling him, but he still doesn't say anything.

"Um, actually, Rachel, I was wondering if I could ask you something," Sam says, his usual confidence seemingly faltering. Rachel's heart pounds in her chest as she raises an eyebrow. She hands Beth over to Finn before letting Sam lead her a few feet away. She can feel Finn's gaze on the back of her head.

"Yes?" she asks.

Sam swallows nervously, wringing his hands slightly. Her heart continues to thump in her chest as he manages to ask, "Would you maybe want to go out to dinner with me? Tomorrow night?"

She wants to pinch herself. Surely no one as adorable as Sam could actually want to date a spastic girl like her. "Well, it is Finn's night to have Beth," she says carefully, trying not to show just how eager she is to say yes.

"So?" he asks, his voice laced with hopefulness.

"Yes, I would love to go out to dinner with you," Rachel beams, and then Sam leans over and kisses her on the cheek.

"Great! Yeah, awesome, I'll uh… I'll call you later to get your address, okay?" He's starting to back away now.

"Sounds perfect," she tells him, and he smiles at her one last time before she's gone.

She's still grinning from ear to ear when she turns back to Finn. "What?" she asks, noticing he's still glowering.

"Nothing," he grumbles. "You got a hot date or something?"

"Actually, I do," she tells him pristinely. "Tomorrow night." She takes Beth from his arms, cooing at her. "Isn't that great, Bethy?"

"Yeah, awesome," Finn says sarcastically. "Can we finish shopping please? I wanna be home in time for the Knicks game."

He doesn't wait for her to reply, just heads off in the direction of the cereal aisle with the cart. She wonders what's up his ass. Surely he should be happy for her, seeing as its less time he has to deal with her?

She really is starting to see just how much she doesn't understand Finn Hudson.


xxviii.

He doesn't know what's happening to him. Rachel's in the bathroom getting ready for her date with the pretentious douchebag doctor named Sam, and he's in the living room just staring at the blank television screen, a muscle twitching in his jaw. He doesn't know why he's so bothered by this, but he is. Just the thought of Rachel on a date with that asshole (a thought that will soon be a reality) makes him want to punch something.

He's never felt like this before, and he doesn't know what to do about it. He doesn't even know Sam, but he's convinced himself that he's some kind of asshat, and he's definitely not good enough for Rachel.

He clenches his jaw. Since when did he start caring so much?

Rachel comes out of the bathroom then, fluffing her hair. His jaw drops at the sight of her. She's wearing this tight, form-fitting black dress that hugs her curves just so, and her eyes look all smoky, her lips cherry red.

Then he remembers that's she's all dressed up to go out with Sam, and he scowls once more.

"Well, everything should be good to go," she says offhandedly, grabbing her purse. "Beth has a bottle in the fridge, and well, I shouldn't really need to tell you anything, should I?" She lets out this little giggle, and Finn feels his stomach drop. Rachel's never sounded so happy, and he hates himself for wishing she didn't.

"When's Stan gonna be here?" he asks instead.

"It's Sam," Rachel corrects with narrowed eyes, "and he should be here momentarily." As if on cue, the doorbell rings. "Or now, as it were!"

He hears Sam's sharp intake of breath as Rachel opens the door, hears her giggle again as he calls her beautiful.

"Don't you have somewhere to be?" Finn calls, and he knows he's being an asshole, knows that he should just be happy for her, but he can't.

"Bye, Finn." Rachel's voice is cold now, and he can hear her whisper something to Sam, and then she slams the door shut as they leave.

He sighs, picking up the remote and glancing down at Beth over in her playpen. "Well, looks like it's just you and me, kid."

Beth smiles. At least he can count on her.


xxix.

Sam reserves an entire restaurant just for her, and it's incredibly sweet, but she can't help but think it might be a little much. He's endearing though, with his ever-so-white smile and his bright blue eyes, so she just ducks her head and smiles. The date goes well enough, she thinks, but she's having trouble coming up with a topic of conversation besides Beth. He's already asked about her probably ten times, and she doesn't mind talking about Beth (quite the opposite, actually), but it's probably not good to base a potential relationship on the child in her care and nothing else.

"So what do you do?" Sam asks finally.

Rachel smiles, soft and slow. "I'm an actress. I just finished a run on Broadway, actually."

"Oh," Sam, forking some spaghetti into his mouth, and then her heart sinks, knowing that that's not something they'll be able to talk about, either. He's so nice, and she just wishes they were clicking more than they are. She can even talk to Finn more easily than she can Sam, which is surprising, seeing as she and Finn have virtually nothing in common besides being Beth's guardians.

She tries not to think about Finn, though, especially since he was being rather rude before she left. Actually, he'd been off since they got back from the grocery store the day previously. He'd been off ever since the encounter with Sam.

Wait a minute, could Finn be jealous? The thought is nearly laughable, and she has to cover her mouth with her napkin to keep a giggle from slipping out.

"Is everything alright?" Sam asks in concern.

She nods. "Fine," she tells him. "The pasta is delicious."

He smiles, and he tells her about how the head chef has three daughters, all of them patients of his, and she thinks once again just how nice and good he is. Surely, if she tries, really tries, she can learn to fall in love with him. He could be the stability she desperately needs.


xxx.

"You know you really are the prettiest little girl in the whole wide world," Finn says, lightly poking Beth on the nose. She giggles, clapping her hands.

He's actually watching The Wiggles with her, and he doesn't want to shoot himself. Maybe it's because it gives him an excuse to watch the clock to see when Rachel will be home, although he really doesn't even have the right.

He lets Beth stay up until nine (late for her) before he puts her to bed, singing her a lullaby to lull her to sleep.

Then he waits in the living room. Thankfully, he doesn't have to wait long before Rachel arrives home.

"Hey," she says gently, walking into the room, dropping her keys on the coffee table. "Beth asleep?"

He nods. Seeing her all dolled up again makes the anger return, and he's just so irrationally mad at her. "How was your date?" he asks flatly.

"Fine," Rachel says with an air of nonchalance. "I mean, it was… it was fine. He's really sweet. He reserved a whole restaurant just for the two of us, can you believe that!"

He resists the urge to roll his eyes. What a dick. "Amazing," he mutters drily.

Rachel narrows her eyes. "What is your problem, Finn Hudson?"

"I don't have a problem," he grumbles, but he knows he's just being difficult. "That jackass is the one with the problem."

"You don't even know Sam!" she says angrily.

"Just… whatever," he says, standing up. "I'm going to bed."

"No, you don't get to do that," Rachel says, taking a few steps toward him. "Tell me what the hell is up with you, Finn, because I honestly don't even know who you are right now."

"I don't like the guy, okay?" he spits, turning around before he realizes what he's doing. "I don't like him, and I don't like that you went out with him."

Rachel scoffs. "I cannot believe you! So I'm not supposed to be happy? I'm not supposed to have fun, to feel special?"

"Rachel," he sighs, "that's not—"

"That's exactly what you're saying," she says angrily, and to his horror, tears spring to her eyes. "So as long as I'm miserable, you're happy?"

"Rachel, no," he murmurs, and then she begins to cry in earnest. He hesitates, then crosses the distance between them, wrapping his arms around her. At first, she fights him, pressing against his chest, but then she gives in, dampening his shirt with her tears. "I'm sorry," he breathes against her hair. "I don't like seeing you miserable, really. I was just being a jackass."

She sniffs, her tears seemingly stopping, and then she looks up at him. "Yeah, you were."

"I'm sorry," he says again. "I guess… I don't know. I guess I was jealous."

"Of what?" she asks with a little laugh.

He shrugs. "Of how he clearly made you so happy, I guess. I mean… I don't know. I guess I just kind of wished that you were already that happy, with Beth, with… with me." He swallows thickly, and he's never felt so vulnerable in front of a girl before. As soon as the words slip out of his mouth, he knows they're true.

"Finn," she murmurs quietly, "I am happy."

"You are?" he asks.

"Yes," she insists. He loosens his hold on her so she can pull away slightly. "To tell you the truth, I didn't have as much fun tonight as I thought I would. I kept thinking about Beth, about – about you."

He feels all funny inside – warm, suddenly – his heart filling up with joy when she says that she was thinking about him on her date. He knows it's bad, that is possibly the worst thing to happen, but he can't bring himself to care because she was thinking about him.

"I'm sorry I was a jerk to you," he murmurs into her hair.

"It's okay," she breathes back.

For a moment, he can't look away from her face, her wide brown eyes. He feels like time has slowed as he imperceptibly points his face down towards hers, and he just has to kiss her, just once, to see what it feels like. He needs to. Before his lips can brush hers, she breaks away.

"I should, um… I should go to bed," she says. "Long day tomorrow, and you have to work…"

"Right," he says. He clears his throat. "You're right. I'm, uh, I'm gonna go to bed, too."

She smiles at him, her teeth bright and white. He wonders if she knows how pretty her smile is. "Good night, Finn," she says before heading up the stairs.

He whispers good night into the empty living room, and he wonders what he's supposed to do now that he's nearly positive he has romantic feelings for Rachel Berry.


xxxi.

Now that she's taking a break from the stage for a while, Rachel knows that she wants to achieve her dream of opening her own theater. The only problem is going about it. She doesn't have enough money to renovate the old building she's looking into, and she has no idea how to acquire it. Sure, she's been mildly successful on the stage, but not successful enough, apparently.

She sighs, putting her head in her hands, looking at all the various papers she has spread across the table. So much careful planning, years of ambition, and it seems like it will all come to naught.

"What's up?" Finn asks, carrying Beth into the room. "What's all this?"

Rachel sighs again. "Oh, just a fickle dream." When Finn raises an eyebrow, she adds, "I've always wanted to open my own theater, but it looks like I won't be able to, unless I suddenly inherit a bunch of money."

Finn watches her carefully for a moment, shifting Beth in his arms, and then he says, "Well, how much do you need?"

She frowns. "I've found a building, but to renovate it, it would roughly be…" She punches a few numbers into the calculator sitting next to her pile of set sketches. "Ten thousand dollars."

"Well, what if I helped you out a bit?"

She nearly breaks her neck craning it to look at him. "What? No, Finn, I couldn't—"

"Don't think of it as a loan," he breaks in. "Think of it as an investment."

Tears spring to her eyes. "You would invest in me?" she whispers.

He nods. "'Course I would, Rach. Now are you gonna let me help you?"

She thinks about it for a moment, her tongue darting out to wet her lips. He's looking at her in a way she's not used to, in a way that makes her feel like she could do anything. "Okay," she finds herself saying.

"Okay?"

She nods. He steps over to her, leaning down to give her what should be an awkward, one-armed hug, Beth between them, but somehow it's not awkward at all. She laughs a bit, pressing a kiss to Beth's cheek.

Maybe all of her dreams can come true, and maybe it'll be all because of Finn.


xxxii.

He proposes that they go out for dinner in celebration of their newly laid business plan that will pay for the work Rachel needs done for her theater, and she accepts.

"Is this like a date?" she asks him, biting her lip.

He swallows. He knows he should say no, of course not, but before he can get the words out, he says instead, "If you want it to be."

She smiles shyly. "I think I'd like that."

His stepbrother, Kurt, is in town for the week, so he volunteers to babysit Beth. (After berating Finn for not telling him about the baby and Rachel sooner, he tells him it's the least he can do.)

Rachel looks really pretty, with her hair falling in waves just past her shoulders, her eyes bright (not overly done up like on her previous date with Sam), a light gloss on her lips.

"You look… wow," he manages to get out.

She blushes, and Kurt rolls his eyes behind her. "My, what a way you have with words," he deadpans. He looks at Beth, who's currently in his arms. "I hope you don't pick up his language skills."

Finn just ignores him.

"You look quite 'wow' yourself," Rachel teases.

He adjusts his tie somewhat nervously. He's trying, and he doesn't know if he can honestly say he's done this before. He just wants – needs – for this to be perfect. He holds out his arm, and she takes it.

"Shall we?" he asks.

She grins in reply. She blows Beth a kiss, cooing at the baby until Kurt practically forces them out the door.

He really plans on making their second date better than the first.

(*)

They get home a little after midnight, Rachel laughing loudly as they walk in the door. She's still gripping his hand, has been since dinner, practically. Her hand fits pretty perfectly in his. He thinks he could hold her hand for the rest of his life.

Kurt's asleep on the couch, Beth on his chest, loud snores emanating from him. Rachel giggles again, picking up Beth, who stirs, but doesn't wake up.

"Dude," Finn says, giving Kurt a nudge. "Dude, wake up."

Kurt jumps as he comes to, blinking blearily up at them. "Home so soon?" he mumbles.

Finn laughs. "Go home, Kurt," he laughs, (and by home he means his parents' house, but close enough).

"Have fun?" Kurt asks, eyeing their still-linked hands.

"Yeah," he says, and Rachel agrees with an "Oh, yes!"

"I'll bet," Kurt mutters, then he catches Finn's eye and hastily gets up off the couch. He says his goodbyes and lets himself out.

"I'm gonna put the little princess to bed," Rachel whispers.

Finn nods. She goes up the stairs, and he reflects on the night so far. It's been perfect, and he knows that's cheesy, but it has. She's kind, passionate, and so great with Beth, and sure, she can be annoying sometimes, but in his heart, she knows she's right. About everything. And also right for him.

He smiles, stuffing his hands in his pockets as he heads up the stairs. The door to Beth's nursery is ajar, and he can hear the sound of soft singing coming from the room. He gently pushes the door open, watching Rachel as she tucks Beth in, her voice soft and calm.

"And the songbirds are singing like they know the score / And I love you, I love you, I love you / Like never before."

She leans over, dropping a kiss on Beth's forehead. "Good night, princess."

He smiles, and she turns around, raising her eyebrows when she sees him watching her. "What?" she whispers.

"You're too good, Rach," he murmurs. "Too, too good."

She smiles, but it's not a regular smile: There's something more there. She's looking at him in a new way, not just softness in her eyes, but lust. Then she's pushing him out into the hallway, shutting Beth's door behind her.

Her lips quickly attach themselves to his as he's pressed against the wall, and he's never had a first kiss quite like this. It's almost like she needs him, and he knows immediately that he needs her, too, and not just in a physical sense. He needs her on a much deeper level.

She pulls away, breathing heavily, and he uses her momentary distraction to trail his lips down her neck, pressing hot, open-mouthed kisses against her skin.

"F-Finn," she murmurs, and he doesn't think he's enjoyed the sound of his own name so much. "Oh, Finn."

She grips his chin, forcing his lips to find hers once more, and she pushes her tongue into his mouth, muscle moving against muscle, breath becoming breath. He's growing hard already, and he has to bite back a groan as she presses into him, her hands tangling in his hair.

"Rach," he murmurs around her eager lips. "Bedroom, we can't…"

She seems to understand, and slowly, she pulls away. Her lips are swollen, her hair is mussed, and her eyes are dark with lust. He doesn't think she's ever looked so beautiful. She grips his hand and tugs him firmly into her bedroom, pushing him in the direction of the bed. He laughs a bit at her eagerness, but then she's pulling on his tie and crushing his lips against hers and he's not laughing anymore.

She tastes heavenly, tastes like promises and the future and the rest of his life. He's never tasted something so good, so sweet.

Her small hands quickly slide down to fumble with his belt buckle, her neck craned back as he sucks at her pulse point. She lets out a breathy little moan as she finally gets his belt free, undoing his fly and slipping her hand inside his pants. He has to keep from groaning as her hand brushes his already prominent erection.

He moves his hands to cup her ass as the back of his knees hit the side of the bed, pulling her down onto it with him. She giggles, peppering kisses against his jaw line, and he wonders if this is really happening. Surely he must be dreaming.

She pulls back, her knees on either side of his lap as she straddles him, moving her hair off to one side so it cascades down one shoulder as she makes to undo her zipper. His breath catches and he swallows as he reaches around to help her, fingers trembling a little as he slides down the little piece of metal. The material pools around her waist, and he swallows as he realizes she's not wearing a bra.

She shivers as he cups one breast in his hand, a low moan escaping her throat as his thumb glides over her nipple. She says his name again, her voice all breathy, and he thinks he might want to live in this moment forever. He places his hand with his mouth, and she moans again, louder this time, hand raking through his hair as his tongue flits over her sensitive skin.

He glances up at her as he switches sides to see that her eyes are closed, her head thrown back, her wavy hair still over one shoulder. He doesn't think he's seen something so beautiful.

She digs her nails into the skin of his shoulder as he pays the other breast equal attention, whimpering a bit when he lifts her up so he can finish removing her dress. She quickly grabs the back of his neck and pulls him to her, kissing him deeply once the material has been thrown on the floor a few feet away. Her hands deftly undo his tie as she kisses him, her fingers somehow finding the buttons his shirt. He pulls away briefly to help her, because he needs her, needs this, now, and he doesn't want to wait longer than he has to.

She smiles at him when all the buttons are undone, pushing the shirt off and throwing it somewhere in the direction of her dress. She looks down at his undone pants, still half-off, and she gets rid of those as well. She's breathing heavily, but she's smiling as she looks at him.

He feels a little self-conscious in just his boxers, tented with the evidence of how turned on he is, but she's looking at him with such lust that he quickly pushes away his discomfort. Now they're both in their underwear, almost completely exposed.

"You're so beautiful," he murmurs, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. She blushes, and then he kisses her, this kiss different: Soft and sweet and slow.

His fingers brush the waistband of her red lace panties, and he smiles into the kiss as he feels her breath hitch.

"Finn," she whispers. "Please."

"What do you need, baby?" he asks her, his voice low and husky. "Tell me what you need."

"Y-You," she manages to gasp out as he slips one finger past the fabric and into her slick, wet folds. "I – I need you."

She rocks into his hand as he pumps his finger in and out, her moans getting louder and louder. He wants to watch her come undone, wants to see how much he's affecting her, but she grabs his wrist, breathing heavy, eyes dark.

"What?" he asks. "Is everything okay?"

She nods, her hand lightly caressing his cheek. "I want this," she whispers. "But I – I want… I want you inside of me."

He doesn't think he's heard anything so hot in his entire life. He swallows, murmuring okay as he presses a kiss against the hollow beneath her ear. Her tiny hands tug at his boxers, and he helps her shuck them off. He grabs a condom out of his wallet from the pocket of his pants as she shimmies out of her underwear, and she's completely naked when he turns back around, leaning against the pillows, her hair fanning out behind her, a look of want in her eyes.

"Hi," she whispers.

"Hi," he says in reply.

She giggles, and he crawls over to her, hovering over her, looking into her eyes. They're big and brown, sparkling in the dark.

"You know," she whispers, tangling her fingers with his, "you can kiss me if you want to."

He swallows, glancing down at her lips, already swollen from their heated kisses. "I want to," he murmurs, and then he does.

They just kiss for a moment, fingers interlocked, and he thinks he could kiss her forever. He feels like he's falling, falling into something bigger, something deep.

He pulls away because he's somehow become even harder, painfully hard, and she seems to notice. She says with a sly little grin, gesturing to his throbbing dick, "Need some help with that?"

He smiles, kissing her again on the nose, the mouth, the cheek. He makes to undo the foil packet, but her fingers on his wrist stop him.

"Can I?" she asks.

Wordlessly, he nods, and she opens the package. Her fingers tremble slightly as she sheathes him, but she manages. She takes a deep breath, looking into his eyes once more as he positions himself at her entrance.

"Okay," she whispers. "Okay, I'm ready."

That's all the permission he needs, and slowly, he pushes into her. She whimpers as he begins to move, and he doesn't think he's going to last long, not with her underneath him, eyes wide and bright, and around him, warm and tight and oh.

"More," she begs, and he obliges, picking up the pace. He watches her, focuses on her to get him through. He thinks working her up before was a good idea, because he thinks she's already close if the way she's moaning and scratching at his back as he moves in and out of her is any indication.

He drops his hand between them to press against her sensitive bundle of nerves, and then she loses it, crying out as she arches up into him. It's all he needs to fall over the edge himself, and she clings to him as she rides out her orgasm, her walls pulsating around him as he comes into the condom.

He tries to pull out after he's recovered, but she clings to him, keeping him close.

"I'm not going anywhere," he tells her, pressing a kiss against her sweaty forehead. "I promise."

Her eyes are already half-shut, but she nods, and he shifts so he's spooning her, his arm sliding around her waist. She nuzzles into him, her breathing already deep, and he slowly closes his eyes as well, slipping into the best sleep he's had in a long, long time.


xxxiii.

Rachel wakes up when the sunlight streams in through the window, rolling over only to roll into Finn's still sleeping body. She doesn't breathe for a moment, just watches his chest rise and fall with each breath, her eyes trailing up to fall on the stubble on his cheeks and his lips, his lips that seemed to be everywhere at once last time, the lips that made her tingle and sing.

She blushes at the thought. Finn stirs then, opening one eye. "Watching me sleep, hmm?" he asks.

She giggles. "Maybe a little bit."

He grins, leaning over to kiss her, and she lets him, his hand cupping her cheek as his lips press against hers. She pulls away after a moment, however, and she asks, "Wait, what does this all mean?"

Finn furrows his brow, his lips still puckered a bit. "What do you mean?"

Rachel takes a deep breath. "What does this mean for us?" She bites her lip, propping herself up on her elbow.

Finn sighs, and her heart drops for a second. Maybe what they shared didn't mean as much to him as it did to her. Maybe she made up the connection she thought they had entirely in her head.

"I – I feel things for you, Rachel," he says finally. He's playing with the sheets, his fingers twirling around the fabric. He doesn't look at her face. "Like, romantic things. I definitely don't regret last night," he assures her, and he looks up into her face. She can tell he means it. "You're – you're beautiful, Rachel, and awesome, and – and I would love to be able to show you that, every single day."

"You already do," she whispers, running her fingers over the skin of his cheek. She can feel the light stubble beneath her fingertips. "God, you do."

He smiles, turning his head so he's kissing her fingertips. "So what do you say, Rach? Are you willing to take a chance on me?"

She smiles, and she leans forward, pressing her lips against his. "Yes," she whispers. "And maybe this time, you won't screw it up."

"Me?" he asks incredulously, pulling away. "I'm not the one who—"

In order to shut him up, she mashes her mouth against his once more. He doesn't seem to mind.


xxxiv.

The past two days have been awesome. He totally gets to kiss Rachel whenever he wants, and he gets to see more of her than he ever has – both physically and emotionally. He thinks he might be falling in love with her, and that scares him more than he'd like to admit.

Beth's miraculously still asleep when he gets up and decides to make Rachel breakfast as a special treat. He's just poured the pancake mix onto the griddle when he feels her small arms wrap around his waist.

"Good morning," she mumbles, pressing a kiss against his bare back.

"Morning," he whispers in reply as he turns around. His arms easy slide around her waist as she stands on her tiptoes to kiss him. She squeals when he picks her up and sets her on the counter, but her shriek turns into a moan as he starts nipping at her neck. Her legs wrap around his waist, and he's pretty sure they could go for a morning round right in the kitchen – pancakes be damned – when the doorbell rings.

He sighs, but she maneuvers off the counter, squeezing his hand before heading out of the room. He realizes dazedly that she's wearing a pair of yoga pants and one of his t-shirts, and he has to focus really hard on the pancakes he's flipping so all the blood doesn't rush south.

"Finn!" he hears Rachel call. "You need to get in here!"

He frowns, but he heads into the living room. He freezes, then gulps.

Emma Pillsbury, the social worker, is standing in their living room. And she doesn't look very happy.


xxxv.

"So obviously you two are sleeping together when I expressly told you it was a terrible idea," Emma begins, eyeing them both disdainfully.

Rachel feels her cheek redden in shame, but she just grips Finn's hand even more tightly. He winces, but overall, he's a good sport.

"It just… happened," Finn says somewhat lamely, but she gives him an encouraging smile.

Emma, however, seems to find the situation grim. "I knew the sexual tension would be too much," she mutters, seemingly to herself. "Two attractive, single people living in one home never turns out well, it never does." She sighs. "I really hope you two are taking this seriously, because the effects it could have on Beth if things end badly are astronomical. You do realize that, don't you?"

Rachel nods. "Absolutely," she says, "and the last thing we want is for Beth to grow up in a hostile environment. Finn and I really care about each other, and we're determined to make this work." Granted, she hasn't exactly discussed their future plans with Finn in depth yet – after all, they just decided they should be together two days ago – but surely he feels the same way. The smile he's shooting her certainly says so.

Emma sighs. "I still don't like this, but what's done is done. You slept together, and there's no going back. I trust you both will actually try to make this work?"

Rachel nods again, and she feels Finn nod as well. "Beth is still our top priority," she assures her, "no matter how our feelings for each other have changed."

"We just want what's best for her," Finn adds, and Rachel feels her heart swell with adoration and, even though it's entirely too soon, love.

"Just remember that down the line," Emma tells them. "I'm not saying you guys aren't the real deal, but I've seen my fair share of cases like this," she tells them. "The odds of it ending badly are higher than the odds of it ending well. So just keep Beth in mind, alright?"

"Of course," Rachel murmurs, and Emma seems to think that answer enough. She begins to pack up her things, making to stand.

"I'll be back in a month to check up on you, see how you're doing," she says, pushing a few strands of her red hair behind her ear. She pauses before she makes for the door, adding, "I wish you both the best. Truly."

She nods a final time before letting herself out. Rachel lets out a sigh of relief, burying her face in Finn's shoulder.

"I'm so glad that's over," she mutters, and she feels his fingers comb through her hair. She peaks up at him. "We'll make it, right? We won't just be another statistic?"

"Sure we will," he says, but his voice is a little strained. She wonders if he's freaked out, too. "We will," he adds, more confidently this time. "I care about you, Rachel, and I care about Beth. I want this to work."

"Me, too," she whispers, and she leans her head against his shoulder once more. He presses a kiss against her hair, and they stay that way until Beth begins to cry, her wails carrying down the stairs.

They'll be okay, Rachel thinks as she goes to get the baby. They'll be okay. They have to be.


xxxvi.

Beth's growing up so fast. She's eleven months old now, almost a year, and she's looking more and more like Quinn and Puck every day.

He misses them, misses them at the most random times, but things are getting better. He thinks he has Rachel to thank for that, both her and Beth. She's always inspiring, smiling, laughing, giggling with Beth when he gets home from work. He thinks of them as his family, and he doesn't know how Rachel feels, but he definitely considers them his home.

He thinks that his home isn't a place; it's two people. It's Rachel and Beth.

As long as he has them, he'll be okay. He'll be happy.


xxxvii.

It's not something she's ever thought of before, but when Artie brings it up, she thinks it's a phenomenal idea. Definitely one to be considered.

"You really think I could start a theater in California?" she asks. It seems so far away, and she supposes it is.

"Sure," Artie says easily. He pushes his glasses farther up the bridge of his nose. "Theater's actually getting bigger out there. It would be a great opportunity for you. We've even secured a place out there for you and everything, if you're interested."

Rachel thanks him, saying she has to think about it. What about Finn? What about Beth? Will he want to move to California with her? If not, what happens to Beth?

She doesn't want to think about all that, because her dream of starting her own theater, her own company, is so close she can practically touch it, can practically breathe it in.

But there's Beth to consider, and Finn. Her dreams can't be the only thing she cares about anymore. She gave that right up when she agreed to take care of Beth.

She won't tell Finn until she's absolutely sure either way, because there's no use in worrying him over things that might not happen.

(She wants to be able to have it all, though. She wants to be able to have this opportunity and her little makeshift family. Sadly, she doesn't think it's possible.)


xxxiii.

He finds out about Rachel's plans by accident. He answers the phone when she's out at the grocery with Beth, and he takes a message for her from Artie.

"Just tell her that the theater is hers for the taking if she wants it," Artie says.

Finn knows she's looked at several theaters, so he asks, "Which one?"

"The one in LA," Artie replies.

Finn's heart stops. LA? She's never mentioned LA before, never even spoken about a desire to start her business there. He thought she wanted to stay here in New York. He thought her heart was here. He thought her heart was with him. He guesses he was wrong.

It's funny, the numbing sensation that takes over his entire body. He barely notices when Artie says he has to go, barely even notices when the line goes dead.

California. The word echoes over and over again in his head. Surely she knows he can't follow her there. And what about Beth? How would they raise a baby together when she's halfway across the country?

Suddenly he's angry, so, so angry, and he can't control the white hot rage seeping through his veins. She's being so selfish and so caught up in herself that she can't even see the bigger picture. She just wants to do what's best of her. Well, what about what's best for Beth? What about what's best for him?

He hears the front door open then, and he knows she's home. She comes into the kitchen, shooting him a smile, a couple of grocery bags on one arm and the other holding Beth, who is perched on her hip.

"Hey!" she greets. "I got you those crackers you like, and…" She takes in his expression. "What's wrong, Finn?"

"When the fuck were you going to tell me about California?"

Rachel frowns. "I – I don't—"

"Don't bullshit me, Artie called," he says, growing angrier by the second. "I thought…" He breaks off, his voice cracking. "I thought you wanted this to work, Rachel…"

"Who says I'm going to California?" Rachel asks defiantly, depositing Beth in her highchair.

"Come on, Rachel, we both know it's your dream." He sighs exasperatedly, standing up. "I just – I never thought you'd abandon us for your dream."

"Finn, will you listen to me for one second?" she asks loudly. He begrudgingly looks up at her. "I never said that I was abandoning you, and I certainly wouldn't abandon Beth. I'm not going to California, okay? Is that what you want to hear?"

"You just do whatever makes you happy, Rachel," he mumbles, making for the door.

"No," she says forcefully, and he stops. "You don't get to do that. You accuse me of wanting to bail, but I think that you're just blowing this way out of proportion because you're the one who's scared. We could be the real thing, Finn, and that scares you. So you're trying to find an out, like usual." She pauses, shaking her head. "I thought you'd changed, but I guess not."

"Maybe we were just stupid to think this could actually work between us," he finds himself saying. He wishes he could take it back, but the look on her face, the look like she's just been slapped, tells him he can't.

"Do you really feel that way?" she whispers, and, to his horror, tears are welling up in her eyes. She sounds so sad, so broken. He just wants to cross the room and hold her, tell her he's sorry, that he didn't mean it.

She's going to California, he remembers then. He swallows. "Yes."

A tear slips down her cheek. "Get out," she murmurs.

Beth begins to cry then, and Rachel goes over to the highchair. Finn can tell she's crying in earnest now, the way her shoulders crumple, but he doesn't hug her, doesn't do anything.

He just leaves. She doesn't want him here anyway.

His heart is breaking as he walks out the door, and he wonders if he really meant anything to her at all, because she may not realize it, but she meant a hell of a lot to him. She and Beth meant everything.

And now he's lost her.


xxxix.

It's been a week. Finn's moved all his stuff out, now renting an apartment not too far away, and they worked out a way to share custody of Beth.

It still hurts, though. She thought they were going to actually be a family, but apparently, she thought wrong. He was still commitment-phobe Finn, and here she thought he was changing, if not for her, then for Beth.

(And she actually thought she loved him – that part hurts the most.)

She takes Beth in for her monthly checkup, and she's forgotten all about Sam until he's coming in the door, chart in hand. He's still gorgeous, still amiable, and before she leaves the office, she's somehow agreed to go on another date with him.

She needs something to keep her mind off Finn. Who's to say Sam's not the perfect solution? He's nice, and cute, and great with Beth. Sure, they didn't click the first time around, but second chances exist for a reason, don't they?

She just needs the pain to go away, and Sam may not be the solution, but at least he provides an ample distraction.


xl.

To be fair, he's invited to Thanksgiving. Yeah, it stings that she includes Sam's name on the invitation – they've been dating all of two weeks and they're already having a join Thanksgiving – but he lets that go, because Mike told him he and Tina were going, and he knows Kurt's planning on going as well, and so are Rachel's friends, like Santana and Mercedes.

He needs to see Beth, too. He misses her so much. (He misses Rachel, too, but he usually just buries those feelings down deep, where he doesn't have to think about them. They don't do him any good anyway.)

Everyone seems pretty happy to see him, even Sam. Rachel even puts on a little smile when she greets him at the door.

(He's not as good at pretending to be happy as she is.)

He chats with Mike and Tina for a bit, and he even makes small talk with Santana for a while (blatantly ignoring her attempts to hit on him). He keeps an eye on Sam and Rachel. Sam's hand is on Rachel's waist, but her smile is forced. It doesn't reach her eyes.

She excuses herself for a moment, claiming she has to check on the turkey. Finn doesn't hesitate. He follows her.

She looks up when he walks in, but she doesn't tell him to get out. She doesn't even look mad. She just sighs, resigned, leaning against the sink.

"So… you and Sam?" he asks.

She nods. "He's – he's good for me, I think."

He's all wrong for her, but he doesn't say that. He supposes he doesn't have the right anymore.

There's a beat of silence, then Rachel says, "I – I'm selling the house, Finn."

His heart plummets. "What?"

"It's too big and frankly too expensive," she explains, looking at the counter instead of his face. "I can't afford to make payments, and Beth and I could both do with a change of scenery—"

"Like LA?" he breaks in. He doesn't mean to sound so bitter.

She looks up at him, hurt in her eyes. "I didn't take the offer, Finn," she says quietly.

He pauses. "You – you didn't?"

She shakes her head. "No. I found a place here in New York instead. And if you would've just listened to me, you would've known that—"

"I did listen to you!" he butts in. "I listened to you when you told me I wasn't ever going to change and that I was clearly not committed to you and to Beth!" His voice is getting louder, but he just needs her to hear him, just needs her to understand for once what he's feeling. "I listened to you accuse me of not wanting this life, but guess what, Rachel? I've never wanted anything more. I wanted the family, and the house, and – and all of it. Did it scare the hell out of me? Yes. But I thought that, as long as I had you, I could get through it." He shakes his head, and Rachel's crying silently, but he knows he has to push on. He has to get this out. "I – I was falling in love with you, Rachel. For some reason, I'm still in love with you. I was scared, yeah, but because of the feelings I have for you, I was going to push through it. You didn't give me the chance."

"Finn," Rachel whispers, her voice cracking, hands coming up to swipe the tears off her cheeks.

She's vulnerable, and he takes a few steps forward. "Please, Rachel," he breathes. "Please give me that chance. Take a chance on me. Please."

She bites her lip, and he thinks he might be getting through to her. Maybe she feels the same way. He leans forward, his lips inching closer and closer to hers, but suddenly her small hands are pressed against his chest, pushing him away.

"I'm sorry, Finn," she whispers. "I can't."

She maneuvers around him, crossing her arms as she crosses the room. Her hand rests on the doorknob.

He swallows, his heart breaking. "Rachel," he says.

She turns almost imperceptibly.

"I'm moving back home to Ohio."

She really does turn this time, her lower lip trembling again. "Wh-what?"

He shrugs. "I, uh, I applied for a transfer, and I got it. I leave on Monday. I just thought… I just thought you should know. I'll be back to visit Beth," he clarifies. "But I just… I can't stay here. I can't – I can't be around you without wanting to – to kiss her, or hold you, and I certainly can't watch you raise Beth with Sam." He clears his throat, blinking back the tears that threaten to fall. "So I'm leaving. I'll see you, or I won't, or…" He trails off. She's still frozen.

"Goodbye, Rach," he says finally, and he passes her on the way out of the room.

Everyone's staring when he walks into the living room, and he knows they probably heard them shouting. He goes over to where Mercedes is holding Beth, leaning down to press a kiss against her forehead. "Bye, baby girl," he whispers, and he really does get choked up, tears stinging his eyes. "Be good for Rachel, okay?"

He kisses the tip of her nose, then he stands up straight, doing his best to ignore her when she begins to cry, as if she knows exactly what's happening. He takes a deep breath, and he turns and walks away.

It's the hardest thing he's ever had to do.


xli.

After everyone leaves, Sam sits her down at the table. Her eyes are red and puffy from crying, and he surveys her carefully.

"You love him," he says finally.

"Wh-what?" she sputters. Honestly, it's the last thing she expected to here, especially from him.

"Finn," Sam clarifies. "You're in love with Finn."

She just looks down at the table. She knows he's right, but she doesn't want to admit it, and certainly not to him.

"How did you know?" she asks, her voice quiet.

"The way you fought today," he answers honestly. "No one fights like that, that hard, unless they care about each other deeply, unless they're in love. My only question is," and here she looks up at him, up into his kind blue eyes, "if you both clearly love each other, then why aren't you together?"

She just shakes her head, wiping away a few stray tears. "It's not that simple," she whispers.

"It can be," Sam offers. He pauses. "Look, I really like you, Rachel—"

"I like you, too—"

"But you're in love with him, and I would be an idiot to stand in the way of that."

She just sniffs, gaze fixed on the table rather than his face. "I blew it, Sam," she says softly. "He – he told me that he l-loved me, and I blew it." She takes in a deep, shuddering breath. "And now he's m-moving to Ohio!"

"You'll find a way to each other," Sam says confidently, comfortingly patting her hand. She really just wants him to hold her while she cries and tell her it'll be okay, but she knows that's not fair to him, so she settles for nodding. He leaves a few minutes later, and that's when she lets herself cry.

Regardless of what Sam says, she screwed up, and she doesn't think she can fix it.

(*)

She doesn't know why she's doing this to herself. She's staring at Finn's number, finger hovering over the call button, but she can't bring herself to press it. What will she says, anyways? Please don't go? It's selfish of me, but I really do love you? Sorry I was a bitch, but I need you?

She sighs, setting down the phone and looking at Beth, who's sitting on the bed beside her.

"I screwed up, Bethy," she whispers, running her hand through the soft, blonde curls on top of her head.

Beth's wide green eyes stare up at her. "Mama?"

Rachel freezes, her eyes wide as she looks at Beth. She's been saying little fragments of words and even a few phrases for a weeks now, but it's the first time she's uttered that particular word.

"No, I'm Rachel, sweetheart," she corrects throatily, tears welling up in her eyes. Beth just grips her fingers in her tiny little hands, calling her "Mama" over and over again.

Rachel scoops her up into her lap, and she cries as Beth chatters incessantly. She cries because Beth will never know her real mother. She cries because she never thought she'd be raising this beautiful baby girl, let alone essentially doing it by herself. And she cries because the only person she wants to share this moment with is Finn, and she has no idea how to fix everything between them.

She clutches Beth to her and she cries, her tears settling in the soft, downy curls, wishing there was magically some way to make everything okay.


xlii.

All of his stuff is packed, so the tiny apartment looks impossibly smaller. He doesn't even feel like this is was ever his home, anyway. His home was with Rachel and Beth, and he's already lost that.

He does one last sweep of the apartment to make sure he's gotten everything. He checks to make sure his ticket is in his jacket pocket. New York to Lima. 3 PM.

Everything seems to be in order, except really its completely out of order. He's leaving the girl (well, girls, counting Beth) he loves behind, and he doesn't think he's ever felt so shitty.

With a sigh, he picks up his suitcase, walking out the door, locking it behind him for the last time.

He just needs to put some distance between himself and Rachel. He just needs to forget, and Ohio is the place to do that. He know forgetting won't be easy, may even be impossible, but he at least has to try.


xliii.

"So I think I'm doing okay," Rachel concludes. Beth's playing on the floor, stacking blocks and knocking them back down, while Emma is across from her on the couch.

Emma frowns. "But Finn's no longer in Beth's life?" she asks.

Rachel plays with the hemline of a pillow. "Well, he'll – he's going back to Ohio today, but he plans to visit, and things. So he'll be a part of her life, just not as active of one."

"I see," Emma says with a nod, pursing her lips. She scribbles something down on her clipboard. "And you really think you can do this by yourself?"

Rachel says, looking up at her. "I don't really have a choice, do I?"

Emma's frown deepens, and she scribbles something else down. "Finn didn't want to be a part of this any longer?"

Rachel shakes her head. "No, no, he did, he really did. I just… I blew it. I thought he would want out so I…" She gulps, trying desperately to keep it together. "I just screwed it up," she finishes quietly.

"And Finn just went?" Emma asks, somewhat incredulously. "Not so much as a second word? A fight?"

"Wh-what?" Rachel asks, thrown off-guard.

"He just seems like the kind to fight for the things he loves," Emma says, "based on what I observed."

"He is," Rachel says quietly. "He fought for a while, but I think I… I think I broke him. And now he's gone."

"Well," Emma says carefully, adjusting her pencil skirt, "maybe it's your turn to fight for him."

Rachel stops for a second. Emma's right. Finn fought for her, but she never fought for him. She looks at the clock. Mike told her Finn's flight was at three. It's two o'clock. She can still make it.

"I have to go," Rachel says quickly. "I – I have to go."

Emma's eyes widen in alarm. "Go? Go where?"

"To the airport," Rachel says, gathering Beth and heading over to find her shoes. "You're right, I can't let Finn go without a fight."

Emma looks torn between pride and horror, and she quickly follows Rachel out of the house, calling after her, "But what about the rest of your inspection?"

"I'll have to reschedule!" Rachel shouts back, buckling Beth into her car seat. "I'm sure you understand!"

Emma discretely wipes at her eyes, giving a loud sniff. "Go get him!" she calls as Rachel hurries into the driver's seat.

Rachel smiles, putting the car in reverse. She plans on doing just that.

(*)

The traffic was terrible, and it's five til three when she pulls into the parking lot at the airport. She hurries out of the car, and she's halfway to the door when she remembers Oh God Beth, so she doubles back, grabs the baby, then races inside. She glances up at the sign to see that Flight 437 to Lima is in terminal A, and Beth bounces in her arms as she runs, her feet slapping against the floor in her race to get there in time.

"Wait!" she screams out desperately once she can see the attendant pulling the rope across the gateway. "No, please! I have to get back there!"

"Are you on this flight, ma'am?" the woman asks calmly. Beth fidgets in Rachel's arms.

"Well, no—"

"Then I'm afraid I can't allow you access beyond this point."

"Please," Rachel says, and her voice breaks. "Please, I have to see Finn, I have to tell him I don't want him to go!"

The woman just frowns at her sympathetically. "I'm very sorry ma'am, but I'm afraid it's too late. The plane is taking off now. There's no way to get beyond this point."

Rachel looks at the window in dismay, and sure enough, the plane has begun to pull away from the terminal.

"No!" she wails, and she goes to the window, looking out at the plane, at Finn, and the pain of him leaving hits her all over again. She thought that she would get here in time. She thought that she would convince him to stay.

Now he's flying to Ohio and he's not coming back. She begins to cry, and so does Beth. She does her best to rock her, to kiss her hair, but she knows it's no use.

Finn's gone, really gone.

(*)

She doesn't turn the radio on during the drive room. She just listens to the sound of silence, the sound of her own battered heart somehow still beating in her chest. She feels hollow. She feels numb. She's lost him all over again.

She's still quiet as she gets Beth out of her car seat and carries her into the house, still quiet as she flips on the light switch.

She missed him. She can't believe she missed him.

"Rachel."

She screams, turning toward the voice that uttered her name.

"Whoa, whoa, hey, it's just me."

She takes a second to stare at him, to soak him in. Finn's standing in the living room.


xliv.

"Wh-what… how…?" She's standing there, shocked, her mouth wide open, and part of him wants nothing more than to cross the room, grab her by the shoulders, and kiss her square on the mouth.

"I couldn't go, Rachel," he says quickly. "I – I came here to tell you that I couldn't be without you, but the house was empty. You left the front door unlocked – which is really unlike you, actually – so I just let myself in. I was stupid to let you go, so, so stupid."

"We were at the airport," she says faintly. "I – I went to the airport, to – to find you, to stop you, to tell you that…" She breaks off, and she's still looking at him like she's seen a ghost.

His heart pounds in his chest. He takes a step closer to her. "To tell me that…?" he prompts.

"To tell you that I love you," she says quietly. "That I never wanted you to go at all. Because I need you, Finn. We – we both need you." Tears are welling up in her eyes, but for once, he thinks they're the good kind of tears.

"You love me?" he breathes, and he takes another step toward her.

Feverishly, she nods. "I do, I do love you."

He grins, cupping her cheek with his hand, and then he kisses her, his lips first soft and sweet against hers, but she quickly moves the hand that's not holding Beth to the back of his neck, her tongue sliding into his mouth. He wonders if she's checking to see if he's real, just like he is with her. His thumb moves over the smooth skin of her cheek as he kisses her, and he feels Beth's hair against his chin.

Finally, they break away.

"Can we be a family again?" he asks quietly.

She nods. "I never want it to be any other way. You're - you're it for me, Finn. And I really do need you—"

He cuts her off by pressing his lips back against hers. They'll have plenty of time to talk. For now, he just wants to kiss her, just wants to remember this moment forever.

Finally, for the first time in a long time, he feels like he's home.


xlv.

"It's time for cake!" Rachel calls.

There's cheering as she bustles out of the kitchen with the large, pink cake she had specially made for the occasion, setting it down in front of the smiling one year old. She claps her hands excitedly, and Rachel catches Finn's eye as he shoots her a knowing grin.

Santana snaps a picture, Kurt squeals over how adorable the baby looks, and Beth nearly sticks her entire hand in the cake.

Beth doesn't really understand what's going on, but she still looks adorable in her little pink dress, her blonde curls, in a little bow on top of her head. She shrieks "Mama" and "Dada" at various moments, and it still warms Rachel's heart each time. She may not be hers and Finn's biologically, but it feels like she is. She thinks Noah and Quinn might have known what they were doing when they decided to have both of them be Beth's guardians after all.

Finally, after Beth is done playing with the wrapping paper and they've put her to bed, after all their friends have left, Finn and Rachel have a moment to themselves. Rachel's washing the dishes in the kitchen when Finn comes up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist.

"Hey, beautiful," he murmurs into her ear, and she grins, turning off the water and drying her hands. When she's done, he spins her around so she's facing him, peppering kisses across her face. She squeals, but she lets him kiss her nose, her cheek, her jaw, and finally, her mouth.

She sighs against his lips, and she groans at the loss of contact when he pulls away slightly, his forehead still pressed against hers. "I love you," he whispers.

She grins. She doesn't think she'll ever get tired of hearing him say it. "I love you, too," she replies.

"Then will you do something for me?" he murmurs.

"Anything," she promises.

"Will you marry me?"

She's speechless for a moment. She just blinks at the box he produces from his pocket, and her breath catches when he opens it, the little diamond ring nestled inside.

He's being serious. This is happening.

"Rachel?"

"Yes," she breathes. "Yes, of course, yes!"

He laughs, a little breathless laugh, and then he scoops her up into a hug, pressing a kiss against her hair. She reciprocates his hug before pulling away so she can kiss him on the mouth. He manages to slip the ring onto her finger, and then she tangles her hand with his, pressing him against the counter as she slips her tongue into his mouth, her hand sliding up his t-shirt until it rests over his heart. His beats in time with hers, strumming steadily beneath her fingers.

"You think they knew what they were doing, Puck and Quinn?" he murmurs against the skin of her neck, kissing her pulse point in between words. "When they made us Beth's guardians?"

"Oh – oh yes," she manages to get out. She sighs, her breathing becoming ragged. "I think they knew that we were supposed to be together all along."

"We're a family, right?" he asks.

She nods, kissing the tips of his fingers. "Always."

She feels him smile, and then he's lifting her onto the counter, his fingertips sliding up her thighs as she grabs the hemline of his shirt. She's so happy she somehow found a way to this moment in time.

There's no place else she'd rather be.


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