A/N: I wrote this really quickly, so if there're typos and stuff… forgive me! It's based on the Surprise, Surprise prompt, from over at finchel-prompts (and also possibly the pictures of Cory/Lea in SoHo, and when I say possibly, I mean definitely). This is AU and if teacher/student isn't your cup of tea, I'd check out now. The title of the piece comes from the MGMT song, Kids. I don't own that, or Glee.

This is basically an odd smorgasbord of like… humor/drama/coming of age themes/sex/etc. I'm not sure if I totally accomplished what I set out to do, but hopefully it turned out okay, and I hope you all enjoy!

-x-

Rachel Berry graduated from (The) Ohio State University with a 3.9 GPA, glowing recommendations from her professors, and five extracurricular activities to her name; not to mention hundreds upon hundreds of community service hours, and a certificate from her boss stating that she did not miss one single day of work in the entirety of the four years that she worked at Miss Nancy's Dance Academy. She didn't even miss a dress rehearsal the year that she had mono, and could barely move more than an inch without falling sound asleep – she had to have Santana physically carry her from her bed, to her car, and then to the auditorium. If that's not outstanding dedication, she doesn't know what is.

(Granted, she did ironically end up falling asleep during a particularly rousing tap number set to Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat, but that does not change the fact that she went to the performance and was sitting in the front row, practically on her deathbed.)

With all of these exceptional accolades to her name, one would think that Rachel would have her pick of the crop when it came time to find a job. However, as it turns out, the American public apparently thinks that children are just going to educate themselves, and doesn't see the need to hire talented young ingénues to teach their children how to emote with believability and poise and vibrant passions, passions so uncontrolled that eventually the students have to push, push their emotions away because they're just that big!

But, she digresses.

Although majoring in music education was perhaps not one of the smartest decisions she's ever made, given the apparently rough times that the economy is going through, it was the most personal. Rachel always knew growing up that she was meant to be a star – to see her name in lights on Broadway, to win Tony Awards, to hold master acting classes with titles such as, 'How to Emulate Rachel Berry Properly'. However, it turns out that there is a large difference between wanting to be a star and being able to become a star. And while Rachel certainly has the raw talent to be on Broadway, the simple fact of the matter is that in the middle of her senior year of high school, her father had a heart attack, and she just… sort of lost her way.

It's nothing to be sad about now, of course. She's been through the mourning stage, and she's dealt with all the stages of grief, through the help of her highly supportive therapist and her ever present daddy. And she knows in her heart of hearts that if she truly wanted to be on Broadway, her daddy would support her and tell her to go ahead and follow her dreams. But dreams change after life altering moments such as the one Rachel went through. And, her dream shifted into wanting to help others become stars, versus becoming the star herself. Her father always used to tell her that her heart was bigger than she knew – maybe being a teacher is somehow, subconsciously, her way of trying to honor her father, in whatever way she can. And yes. Sometimes it does hurt, when she thinks about Broadway, her previous dreams, her previous life.

It hurts a lot, actually. She can't even really watch any Barbra Streisand movies without a part of her wanting to cry.

But she's moved on.

And now she's going to be a teacher.

Anyway, regardless of the underlying reason, she majored in music education, and while she succeeded and placed at the top of her class, that wasn't enough to ensure her a job at any place other than McKinley High, in Lima, Ohio – her alma mater. Her old principal, Mr. Figgins, is still there and he took pity on her when he realized that she couldn't find a job anywhere else in the entire state of Ohio.

And when Rachel says the entire state of Ohio, she means the entire state of Ohio. She applied to every single job opening for music and/or drama teachers. She got two interviews, one second interview, and no job offers. So, believe her full heartedly when she says that she tried.

Mr. Figgins had to let one of the janitors go, and Rachel had to promise that she would clean the auditorium herself once a week, but a job's a job, and Rachel's not in the position to be anything but appreciative. Mr. Figgins is even letting her start in May, the week after her graduation, so that she can get a 'feel' for the school in the spring, before the new school year starts in September. Rachel wanted to assure Mr. Figgins that she has a full understanding of how McKinley works (she went there for four years and was slushied every single day, rain or shine) but at the same time, she could really use the money, and she supposes that it wouldn't be such a bad idea to get into a rhythm this year so that she's all prepared and ready when September rolls around.

However, that does mean that the weekend of her graduation is the last weekend she has to spend as a college student, uninhibited and unrestrained by having to fulfill the role of a strict and completely put together teacher of the dramatic arts. Of course, unrestrained to Rachel Berry is restrained by most peoples standards – but, she does know how to drink and she certainly enjoys going to parties and dancing. For example, she and her best friend, Santana, are notorious for dancing quite sexually to slow songs, just to be obnoxious to all of the couples who are trying to work out their deep and heartfelt feelings and problems by shuffling through a couple rounds of James Blunt or John Mayer.

They're currently at their friend Tina's house, dancing on top of the coffee table to 'Slow Dancing in a Burning Room', Santana's arms wrapped around Rachel's waist, and one of Rachel's arms is slung around her friend's neck, the other arm by her side, hand holding on tightly to a red solo cup.

"It's a good thing we didn't gain the freshman fifteen," Santana slurs, her mouth close to Rachel's ear, "otherwise this coffee table would not still be standing." As if to cement her point, she jumps up and down just a little. The coffee table shudders a bit, but remains standing. Santana looks into Rachel's eyes, their faces so close that their noses are touching, and smiles.

Rachel giggles, tilting her head back and taking another sip of her wine cooler. "It tastes like pink," she tells Santana loudly over the music, smiling, and Santana looks into the cup.

"That's because it is pink, Rachel," Santana says, taking the cup from her and downing the rest of the drink. She lets the cup fall to the floor, and she takes Rachel's arms, wraps them both around her neck. "We haven't gotten nearly enough dirty stares yet. It's midnight, and not one girl has called us sluts or whores or homewreckers. Frankly… it's kind of disappointing."

"They're used to us by now," Rachel says, a little sadly. And yes, she is a bit upset because after all, what's the point of dancing provocatively with her lesbian best friend if no one is going to pay attention? Especially the couples who they're trying their absolute best to annoy?

(Rachel and Santana have been single since junior year. It's not that they're bitter, per se – it's more that they simply don't see the need for couples to act so in love at a drunken college party, where the classiest thing on the menu is pizza rolls, and the fanciest beer is Bud Light.)

"Well, we have been dancing like this for four years," Santana says in a resigned sort of tone. She glances at Rachel, her eyebrows slightly narrowed. She leans her face in, and Rachel quickly raises her hand, pointing her finger in Santana's face.

"No – bad Santana. No making out," she says, shaking her finger back and forth warningly.

"Just trying to breathe some new life into our shtick," Santana says, laughing, pulling Rachel closer and shimmying. "You're the one who thinks that people aren't paying enough attention to us."

Rachel laughs, presses a chaste kiss against Santana's cheek. "I can't believe we're graduating," she begins dramatically, and Santana shakes her head immediately.

"Oh, no – no, we are not doing this reminiscing, 'I'll love you forever', bull shit tonight." Santana shakes her head firmly, reaches down and grabs her bottle of beer off from the floor. She takes a drink, and continues, "Tonight, we are drinking, and dancing, and not thinking about how on Monday, you're going to be a teacher and I'm going to be slumming at my father's office as a fucking secretary before I sign my life away to law school." She takes another sip of her beer, her eyes never leaving Rachel's. "Got it?"

"Got it," Rachel says, smiling. Santana downs the rest of her beer, then holds the bottle in front of Rachel's face, a pout on her face. Sighing, Rachel takes the bottle and hops off from the coffee table. Santana throws her hands up in the air triumphantly, and then does a body roll that is probably worthy of being on Girls Gone Wild.

"Best girl I know," Santana says flirtatiously, and she leans down, presses a kiss on the top of Rachel's head. "Blue Light, okay? And," she puts her mouth right by Rachel's ear, says as quietly as she can while still being able to be heard over the booming music, "There's some freshman looking at you. He's over by the patio door – and I'm not trying to be crude or anything, Grandma, but if we made out, honestly, I think he might come in his pants."

Casually, Rachel looks over to the right, by the door that leads out to the patio. Santana was right; there is an abnormally tall guy standing over there, awkwardly holding a beer in one hand, his cell phone in the other. He looks as if he's observing a zoo or something, or perhaps observing this party for a case study.

He's not necessarily her type (less tortured artist, more captain of the football team), but he's cute. Kind of ridiculously so.

Rachel looks back at Santana, lets out a laugh. "He looks more uncomfortable than I used to at these things," she says, and Santana places both of her hands on Rachel's shoulders, shakes them back and forth a bit.

"You should go talk to him," Santana says, then pauses, frowns, and says, "after you get me another beer."

Rachel laughs, looks over at the boy again. He's still staring directly at her and when he sees that she's looking back at him, he quickly averts his gaze, starts rocking back and forth on his feet a little, and if Rachel's seeing things correctly, he's actually whistling.

She looks up at Santana, who's biting on her bottom lip and clearly trying not to start laughing hysterically. Santana looks at Rachel, shakes her head.

"No, no, I'm not laughing at him. I think it's adorable." They look back over at the guy, and he's now drinking his beer like it's his lifeline, and he won't even look anywhere near Rachel and Santana. He's keeping his eyes firmly trained on whatever's going on outside at the patio. Santana laughs, "He looks like he's five."

"Which would make me a pedophile, you idiot," Rachel says. With love, of course. She gives Santana a wave, then turns to head to the kitchen.

The problem with Tina's house is that it's small, and the fact that there are currently fifty drunken twenty-somethings milling about means that Rachel has to strategically make her way to the kitchen around the various throngs of people. She's almost taken out by Sam Evan's insane dance moves, which basically consist of him making Chewbacca noises as he does some very odd moonwalk, and Quinn Fabray almost spills an entire bottle of red wine on her. She's gesturing angrily at some boy with a Mohawk, something about women's rights and boys being assholes, and the boy actually tries to loop Rachel into the conversation to defend him. And while normally Rachel would just love to get in the middle of one of Quinn's arguments with an apparent one night stand -.

No. She can't even pretend to be sarcastic about that, actually. But she smiles sympathetically at the boy (or Puck, as Quinn keeps referring to him as), blows a little kiss to Quinn, and then finally makes her way into the kitchen.

She takes a deep breath once she's in there. The kitchen's towards the front of the house, and there aren't that many people in there; Sam moonwalked his way in there to grab another beer, and he smiles, waves at Rachel as he starts to moonwalk his way out. She giggles and she may do a Michael Jackson spin move, but that's only because she know Sam will appreciate it. And he does, grinning widely and giving her a thumbs up sign, before cracking open his beer and moonwalking around the corner and back towards the living room.

She's going to miss her friends once she graduates, that's for sure. Rachel wasn't necessarily what one would call 'popular' in school. She had a few friends but most of her time was spent in extracurricular activities, such as the Glee Club, or her plethora of dance classes. Her sixteen year old self thought that a minute spent doing something that wasn't geared towards Broadway or her future was a minute wasted. She doesn't regret feeling that way; her grades and extracurriculars are what got her into Ohio State, even if it turns out the whole stardom path wasn't the one she was meant to take.

Walking over to the kitchen table, she lifts up the cover of the massive cooler that's currently situated on top of it. Rooting around in the ice for a couple seconds, she quickly finds a beer for Santana. And she finds a wine cooler that promises to make the drinker feel as if he or she's being transported to Tahiti – and who wouldn't enjoy that?

The problem with this apparently magical drink though, is that unlike most of the other wine coolers Rachel's drank tonight; it's not a twist off, which means that Rachel has to root around Tina's kitchen to find a bottle opener. And, though Tina is a lovely girl and one of Rachel's absolute best friends in the entire world, she's also a slight – well. Slob.

Wrinkling her nose, Rachel starts to pull open random drawers at will, peering inside each one for a few seconds to see if she finds anything that resembles a bottle opener. She knows that someone out in the living room has to have a bottle opener, but it would just make her life so much easier if she could just open the bottle herself, without having Mike or Sam or whomever watch as she takes her first sip, and demand to know why she wasn't transported to Tahiti in that very instance.

The boys like to mock her and Tina's love of wine coolers. Rachel doesn't find it particularly funny – because how could they possibly think she would want to drink beer, which smells like something akin to sweaty gym socks, when she could be imbibing a delicious drink that tastes like pineapples, love and happiness?

Or she would be drinking that – if she could find a damn bottle opener.

"Looking for something?"

Rachel looks up from the cutlery drawer which she's currently tearing through. She's almost positive that she's never heard a more rhetorical question in her entire life, and she's about to retort with a rather sarcastic remark (because honestly, why else would she be rooting through this disgusting drawer? For fun?), when suddenly her voice catches in her throat. And she tries to smile naturally and look as if she wasn't just searching through the drawer like a feral cat searching for garbage in a dumpster.

Because Freshman Boy is standing in the doorway of the kitchen, smiling at her, and if it's at all possible, he is much, much cuter closer up than he is far away.

Rachel smiles, shuts the kitchen drawer quietly. She leans against it and the guy takes a few steps closer to her, places his empty bottle onto the mountain of empty bottles that's taking up residence in the sink.

"Bottle opener," Rachel says, smiling, pointing to the wine cooler that's resting on the kitchen table. He nods, walks over to the kitchen table and picks the drink up, reads the label over. Rachel can feel a blush spreading across her cheeks, but she forces herself to stand up tall and – and proud. She likes her pink wine coolers, no matter what anyone else says.

But Freshman Boy just turns, smiles widely at her. "This is like, my mom's favorite drink." Rachel's not quite sure what to say to that, because that's a rather sad statement, and Freshman Boy quickly adds, "Not that's she an alcoholic. I mean, she just likes them after work or whatever. Summer time, you know." Awkwardly, he places the drink back down on the table. He glances down at the ground for a second, then back up at Rachel. "Probably not the best line to open up with, huh?"

"What?" Rachel asks distractedly, as she pulls open another drawer and turns her back to him. Yes, Freshman Boy is quite cute, and it's not that she isn't enjoying this - stimulating conversation, but there is a wine cooler that needs to be drank and there is a best friend who is probably languishing on the coffee table and whining about how she needs a beer desperately. You know, important things that need to be attended to.

Immediately, because that wine cooler's probably getting cold and Santana's an emotional drunk. If Rachel leaves her alone out in the living room for too long, she'll probably insist on having an hour long conversation about the state of their friendship or something of the sort. Santana may be a very blunt and brisk person when sober, but it's as if the waterworks turn on the minute her blood level goes past .08.

She can hear Freshman Boy rustling around behind her, and after a minute, a triumphant, "It worked!"

Turning around, Rachel sees him holding the now open wine cooler in one hand, and a lighter in the other. He grins at her, holds the bottle out for her to see.

"I've always wanted to do that," he says jubilantly as Rachel approaches him and takes the drink out of his hand. She smiles graciously at him, then frowns.

"I hope you don't plan on smoking in here," she says, with a bit of an edge to her voice, as she looks at the lighter still clutched in his hand. "It was nice enough for Tina to throw this party and have everyone traipsing around and spilling beer everywhere. She doesn't need to find ashes behind the couch or stuck to the floor or anything of that nature."

He stares at her blankly for a second, a look of confusion written across his face, before he looks at the lighter quickly, then back at her. He shakes his head wildly, practically tosses the lighter onto the table.

"No!" he says, "No, no, that lighter's not mine. I found it on the table, and my friend does that trick all the time at parties and stuff, so I thought – I thought it would work." He looks guilty, his eyes wide, and he picks his own beer off from the table. He swallows thickly and looks down at the floor, picks at the label on his drink.

Rachel would feel a bit guiltier about approaching him so abrasively, but she's drunk, and it's her last weekend at college, and she doesn't need to feel bad about what she said. It's true, because it is nice of Tina to throw this party and people shouldn't just take advantage of that fact!

But still. This boy looks rather sad and she doesn't even know him – he probably thinks she's some girl who gets off on yelling at random boys at party. Like Quinn.

"I wasn't trying to be rude," Rachel says suddenly, leaning forward and placing a hand against the boy's arm. "I'm sorry, I just know how much work it takes to clean up after these parties. Really." She takes a sip of her wine cooler, and she smiles at him. "And this is delicious, so thank you."

He looks up from the ground, sees that she's being sincere, and offers her a small smile back. "No problem."

They stand in silence for a moment, drinking their respective drinks, when the boy says, "I saw you dancing out there. With your friend?"

He motions towards the living room, and Rachel blushes, tucks a piece of hair behind her ear. Even though she isn't entirely sober, she does still have the ability to act modest in front of a boy who doesn't know her, and doesn't know how she acts at these parties.

"That was – my friend and I, we like to act silly sometimes," Rachel says, trying to explain their behavior. "Couples act so – cutesy at parties like these. It's unnecessary." She stops talking, shakes her head at herself, laughing. "Though, I'm sure to people who don't know us, our behavior seems rather atrocious. And rude."

The boy just laughs, takes another drink of his beer. "Nah. It was kind of hot."

Rachel bursts out laughing at his forwardness, and he immediately blushes. "I'm sorry," he says, and he closes his eyes as if he's in pain, or just beyond embarrassed. "I'm – super drunk," he says, and he glances at his watch, "and I've been here for like, five minutes."

"Five minutes?" Rachel asks, and she takes another sip of her wine cooler, and honestly she's not sure if it's because she's slightly tipsy or what, but the more she looks at this boy, the more she thinks he's possibly the cutest boy she's ever met in her entire life. And he's tall – so tall, because she's wearing heels and she still barely comes up to his shoulder.

She takes a step closer to him, and she takes another sip of her drink.

"Yeah," the boy says, "I came here with Puck."

"The Mohawk boy," Rachel says. "Does he go to school here?"

"No, he, uh. He hooked up with Quinn the other night," the boy says, and it's clear from his demeanor that either he doesn't agree with one night stands, or he's just never had one before. He looks uncomfortable, or like he shouldn't be sharing this information with Rachel.

Which is rather sweet of him, to be concerned about Quinn's reputation and all, but Rachel's been friends with Quinn since she was eighteen years old. She's heard all of Quinn's sex stories, in vivid detail, and vice versa.

"Yeah, Quinn said he was fantastic," Rachel finds herself saying, and the boy raises his eyebrows practically past his hairline. Immediately, she giggles again, pressing a hand to her mouth. It's almost too easy to get a rise out of this freshman, and she says, "I'm sorry. I mean, no, I'm not sorry because that's the truth, she did say that. But I'm sorry if I'm talking too much. Or if you didn't want to know that your friend is apparently wonderful in bed."

"Yeah, that's something that I didn't really need to know," the boy says, laughing, taking another drink of his beer.

Rachel thinks that he looks too young to be drinking. He has a baby face and his hair is gelled in that cute little way that all high school boys gel their hair, and he's wearing this striped rugby shirt that looks like something a mom would pick out for a son. But he looks hot when he's drinking, and he's leaning up against the table, almost as if he's trying to appear suave or something – and it looks absolutely ridiculous, but that's adding to his charm, if that makes any sense at all.

"I could tell you more details, if you want," Rachel offers, because sometimes she likes to put people on the spot just a little and it works because the boy looks quite grossed out. "I was joking," Rachel says reassuringly, giggling, and the boy lets out a sigh of visible relief, and God, she feels very happy right now, very happy and light and almost like she could be transported to Tahiti without a care in the world.

"I mean, there's just – some things that I don't need to know about Puck," he says, "and I'm pretty sure how he is at sex is like, definitely one of the main ones."

"You're cute," Rachel says abruptly. She's not even staring at him when she says that; she's looking off at some picture that's hanging on the far wall. But she's thinking it, and she wants to say it, and she thinks that he should hear it.

She looks back at him and he's staring at her, his jaw going slack. She smiles and says it again. "You're very cute." And she adds the 'very' this time, because she's a truthful person. And he is very cute and for some reason she feels like he probably doesn't hear that enough.

Rachel Berry aims to please. Even when drunk.

"Thanks," he says, sounding a bit nervous. He takes a deep breath, and when he breathes out, his breath smells like beer and pretzels and normally, to be quite frank, this isn't a very appealing combination.

But Rachel's, again, intoxicated and she's positive that anything this boy does right now is going to just continue making him seem infinitely more attractive to her.

"You know – I didn't even need anything in here," the boy says, motioning around the kitchen. He's blushing a little but he looks more confident now, and he continues, "I came in here to talk to you."

"You're doing a marvelous job," Rachel says, and he grins, finishes off the rest of the beer. He puts the bottle down on the table, and Rachel follows suit with her wine cooler. She notices the beer that's still sitting on the tabletop – it's Santana's, and there's absolutely no doubt in her mind that her best friend is currently crying in the living room right now, which does make her feel a bit guilty. But Rachel saw Brittany milling around earlier and she figures that Santana's old hookup is more than capable of handling her tonight.

Rachel has some other things to do tonight, she thinks.

Because this boy is staring at her, and he's giving her another once over, and she's almost positive that she wants to kiss him and if she's being entirely honest with herself, she's sure that she wants to do more than kiss him.

She's twenty two years old and she's graduating from college, and she's extremely drunk and rather willing and she thinks that this is the very last opportunity for a drunken college hook up. And it looks like this boy wouldn't be totally opposed to – well, helping her take advantage of that opportunity.

There's only one way to truly tell though, so she stands up on her tip toes and grabs the sides of his shirt, presses her lips against his.

He kisses her back after a second, wraps an arm around her waist, pulls her closer. After a second, he stops kissing her, and he whispers,

"You taste like pineapples."

"Is that a good thing?" Rachel asks, not letting go of his shirt. She tilts her head back so she can look him straight in the eye, and he's just so tall that she thinks they either need to start sitting down or laying down, because this standing up thing is just not good for her back or posture.

"I think so," the boy says, and he kisses her bottom lip, as if he's testing this theory. He nods seriously. "Yeah. Good thing."

She smiles, and he continues, "Do you thank everyone like this?"

She wonders for a second if she should slap him in the face because that was highly offensive, but he's smiling at her, so she knows that he's just teasing. And she can tease, too, because she's Rachel Berry and truly, not to be a braggart or anything of the sort, but she's really capable of anything.

"Maybe."

He kisses her again, and he seems rather eager, because he slips his hands underneath her shirt. His fingertips are cold as they press into her waist, and his thumbs hook into the belt loops of her denim jean shorts.

(Well, they're Santana's jean shorts because Rachel would really never buy jean shorts, but that's neither here nor there at this exact moment in time.)

He's a very good kisser. Not too much tongue, and Rachel can appreciate that sort of thing; it's difficult to have a successful make out session when drunk, at times, and this freshman seems to be handling it just fine. His lips are very soft, too, not chapped at all.

She hears someone call out, "Get it, Berry!" from the other room, and she thinks it might be Mike, but she's choosing to ignore everyone right now besides the boy standing in front of her.

"You're a fantastic kisser," Rachel breathes a few minutes later, as he peppers her cheeks, her jaw, her neck with kisses. Open mouthed kisses, and his breath is hot against her skin, his tongue licking at her every so often. She pulls away from him, her arms now wrapped loosely around his neck, and he stares at her, breathing heavily, his lips slightly swollen.

"You – you're. I mean, you're eighteen, right?" she asks, slightly flustered and more than slightly embarrassed. But there's no way on God's green earth that he's anything but a freshman, and she's heard horror stories from Sam about almost hooking up with a freshman and then realizing at the last minute that she was a senior in high school.

And Rachel Berry is about to become a teacher, so it makes perfect sense that she wants to be absolutely sure that her inconsequential hookups are legal.

"Yeah," the boy says, nodding eagerly. "I'm totally eighteen."

Rachel looks at him, eyebrows narrowed.

"I just turned eighteen," he amends, patches of pink popping up on his cheeks. Good grief, he's adorable. "Last week. I can like, get my driver's license out to prove it."

She almost asks him to do just that, but she thinks that might seem more than a bit extreme, even for her. So, she just stands on her tip toes again to reach up and kiss him, but he says quickly, "I'm Finn."

Rachel looks at him, utterly confused, and he says, "I mean. I just – I figured you'd want to know my name."

Right now, she doesn't even want to have sex with him. She just wants to take him to the couch and hug him and kiss on him and tell him that he's possibly the most adorable boy she's ever seen or met and that he shouldn't be drinking because drinking is illegal and bad and he's too cute to be drinking at eighteen -.

But then he brushes his hands against the bare skin of her waist again, and yeah, okay, she most definitely does want to sleep with him.

"I'm Rachel," she says, smiling. "Rachel Berry."

He leans down to kiss her, but she pulls away from him, takes a step back. He looks disappointed, a puppy dog look on his face, and she giggles, grabs onto his wrist with her hand.

"Come on," she says, walking backwards out of the kitchen. He follows after her willingly, almost tripping over his own feet as they make their way down the hallway and into the spare bedroom that's across from the bathroom.

It's open, thank goodness, and Rachel shuts the door quietly behind them, locking it. When she turns around, Finn's sitting on the bed with his hands folded in his lap, looking like a little kid waiting for instructions.

She walks over to him and God, she's feeling rather amorous and extremely confident, because she places her hands on his shoulders and she sits on his lap. He smiles at her, wraps an arm around her waist, kisses her neck.

"I don't usually do this, you know," she says quietly, as he gently pushes her hair away from her neck, so that he can kiss her more easily. He just hums a noise of approval, kissing his way up to her earlobe. "It's just that I'm graduating this weekend, and so I am very drunk, and I just wanted to have a good night."

He bites at her earlobe lightly, then kisses it. "I don't really do this, either," he says, his voice soft. "And don't have to do this. We can just talk and stuff."

She turns her head so that she's looking at him and he smiles at her, a wide smile that seems to take up half of his face.

"No. I want to," she says, and someone pounds on the door at that moment rapidly. She jumps slightly, as a voice from the hallway yells,

"Yeah, Rachel!"

That voice definitely belongs to Santana, and she laughs loudly, as Finn pulls her closer to him, kisses her soundly. She grins into the kiss and she pushes at his chest lightly so that he falls down, lies back against the bed.

In a very impish way that is not very indicative of the way Rachel normally acts, she crawls over to him, straddles his hips, leans down so that her chest is pressed against his. He just smiles and wraps his arms around her waist.

And after a while, after kissing and touching and everything gets a little too boring and a little too old, they have sex, and it's probably the best sex that Rachel has ever had – besides the fact that every so often, Mike or Santana pounds on the door and congratulates Rachel for having a 'fucking awesome last casual college fuck weekend'.

(And also besides the fact that Finn ripped the condom when he was trying to roll it on; but he seemed quite embarrassed, so she forced herself to not giggle as he searched around the room for ten minutes before finally finding an extra one lying underneath the bed.)

Years later, she'll still be amazed at how her friends managed to come up with a tagline that complicated, when they were as drunk as they were.

-x-

Rachel's almost positive that she's still hung over when she arrives at work at 7:30 in the morning on Monday. Her head is pounding and she feels completely nauseous – and she doesn't think just it's from the nerves. But she reasons with herself that the school day's only eight hours long, and that for most of her classes, she'll simply be introducing herself and asking the students how much they know about drama, or what they hope to get out of the last few weeks of school.

She's well aware that she'll most likely be getting sarcastic answers or none at all, but it's worth a shot, and she thinks that forcing the class to perform work on her very first day won't endear her to many of them. And though she's certainly not trying to be friends with her students, she does want to build up a somewhat healthy rapport with them so that she can make sure she's able to recruit the absolute best talent for the musical next year.

They're going to be performing West Side Story in the fall. It was the first musical she was ever cast in during high school, and she think it's setting a good tone for her teaching career, to go back to her roots like that.

It's a bit strange, teaching at the school where she graduated. She recognizes almost all the teachers, and the cheerleading coach, Sue Sylvester, greets her with a rather hearty clap on the back, and a, "Welcome back, Yentl." Most of the teachers are nice to her, especially her old Glee club teacher, Mr. Schuester, who meets her in her classroom before first period.

"Think you're ready to be back in the McKinley grind?" Mr. Schuester asks, as she rearranges some picture frames on her desk. Rachel smiles briefly at the picture of her and Santana, before looking up at her old teacher, who's smiling familiarly at her.

"Yes. I think I'm well prepared for whatever the students throw my way," Rachel says, sitting down at her desk. "And besides, it's high time that McKinley hired a proper drama teacher. This school is desperately lacking in the arts department, and while Glee Club is certainly a wonderful outlet for musically inclined students, there needs to be a place for other creatively minded students to be able to foster their artistic sides."

Rachel lines her highlighters up perfectly on her desk, all in a neat row, and then restacks her computer paper for the fifth time. She wonders briefly if she went with the right choice of outfits today; she wanted to make an impression, but she didn't want to make it seem as if she was trying too hard to be hip. So, she went with her old, favorite student teacher standby of a pink polka dotted blouse, pencil skirt, and patent (faux) leather black heels.

Adorable, of course, but still – professional.

She smiles confidently at Mr. Schuester, who's looking like her like she's a baby bird or something of the sort, about to step out of the nest for the first time.

"You know, Rachel," he says softly, and Rachel can already feel a trademarked Mr. Schuester pep talk coming on, "I know how difficult your father's death was on you. And I know – I know that it must've been a big shock to your system, for you to just give up your Broadway dreams like you did."

Her face slowly drains of color and she quickly looks down at the desk, looking for something, anything out of place, so that she won't have to look back into Mr. Schuester's eyes.

"But you're going to be a fantastic teacher. If this – if this is the life you really want for yourself, then… I believe in you. These kids are going to be lucky to have you," he says warmly, and he reaches over and claps a hand on Rachel's arm.

She forces herself to look up at him, flashes him a smile. "Yes, well. They won't know what hit them," she says, finding her voice thankfully, because her mouth suddenly feels like it's been stuffed with about five hundred cotton balls.

The warning bell rings and Mr. Schuester glances up at the clock. He cracks another smile at Rachel, says, "Showtime," and heads out the door, giving her a wave before he leaves.

She takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, braces her hands against the edge of her desk. Briefly, she wonders if she has enough time for a quick phone call to her therapist, just to discuss a few extraneous matters that are suddenly popping up into her head, but – no. No. She is fine, this is fine, teaching is fine. This is what she's supposed to be doing. She's living in Lima, she found an apartment that's five minutes away from her daddy; it's a good thing that she chose this path in life.

It's just. She loves teaching, she does. But there's still this, this pang, this hurt that gets at her, every time she hears someone mention her previous dreams of Broadway.

But she doesn't have time to dwell on that, really, because the next minute, there are students milling into her classroom, sitting at the empty desks, talking about their previous classes, and about whether the track team is going to win their next meet, and questioning whether taco day is this Monday or next Monday.

Rachel feels a little thump in her heart because she's the person who's going to be helping to shape these children's lives. It's thrilling and terrifying, all at the same time.

The final warning bell rings a minute later, and she clears her throat. Confidently smiling at the class, she pushes her chair away from her desk, standing up and preparing to dive right into her explanation of who she is, why she suddenly came to the school at the end of the semester, and other interesting tidbits that make her who she is, when the door to her classroom suddenly slams open.

Startled, she jumps a little, looks over to the door with her forehead furrowed and her hand over her chest. But her hand slowly drops to her side when she sees who's at the door, because if her eyes aren't mistaking her (which they aren't, because she has 20/20 vision and an impeccable memory), that – that student who is standing in the doorway of her first period drama class is the boy that Quinn Fabray slept with over the weekend. The one with the Mohawk.

Puck.

She's going to faint. Right in front of all of these students, in the middle of this damn classroom, she is going to faint. Because if that's Puck, if that's the same Puck that slept with Quinn, who was at the party on Friday night, that means that his friend was Finn.

Finn. That freshman boy she slept with, who apparently isn't a freshman at all, but a student at McKinley High School.

She knew she should've checked his damn license.

A flash of recognition goes off in Puck's face, his eyes widening slightly as he takes the sight of her in. A slow smile creeps across his face, but he doesn't say anything; just meanders to the back of the classroom, takes a seat, smiling to himself the entire time.

Oh, she's going to faint. She's the Mary Kay Letourneau of Ohio, and she is going to faint. This is what she gets for attempting to have one last one night stand before she left college – she manages to pick a high school student, and a high school student who attends the school that she teaches at.

She wonders if it's too late to quit. Maybe Mr. Figgins can rehire the janitor that he let go. That poor janitor, fired so that a teacher could be hired – a teacher who sleeps with students.

"Are you okay?" a student asks, breaking through Rachel's horrifying reverie.

Wonderful. Along with sleeping with a high school senior, she's also having an apparent nervous breakdown in the middle of class.

Quickly, Rachel nods, smooths out the front of her skirt, nods again. "Yes, I am – I'm so sorry, I just. I just wanted to take this all in," she says, her voice cracking. She gulps, motions towards the class, tries to not look at that boy at the back of the room no matter what. "This is my first teaching job," she says. "I want to make sure I remember it all."

As if it would ever be possible to forget this moment. If only she were so lucky.

She risks a glance towards Puck. He's still smirking at the back of the classroom, leaning forward with his elbows on his desk, looking absolutely enthralled in what she's saying.

But he's not saying anything. And he's not jumping up and accusing her of – of being a pedophile, and he's not singing Hot for Teacher or anything ridiculous like that.

So, Rachel's not really sure what else to do in this situation, besides teach. After this class is over, then she can worry about what to do with Finn.

Her high school lover.

She wants to hurl. She wants to grab the garbage can and hurl, but the students are looking at her as if she's lost her mind again, so she pastes a smile on her face, clasps her hands in front of her, and says,

"Hello, class. I'm Ms. Berry -." Puck snorts at the back of the classroom, and Rachel shoots him the dirtiest possible look she can muster without acting inappropriate. He holds his hands up in an innocent gesture, and she says again,

"I'm Ms. Berry. And, as you are probably well aware, I'm the new drama teacher. Principal Figgins hired me, and he graciously allowed me to teach a sort of mini introduction to the class for the last couple months of the school year, so that I could get acclimated for September."

Puck looks like he's about to burst into laughter any second. Probably because his best friend saw her naked two days ago.

Well. That would do it.

Rachel continues briskly, "and I assume you all signed up for this last minute class because you either had a study hall during this time, or because you wanted to see how crazy the new drama teacher was." She smiles at them. "I had Mr. Ryerson when I was a teacher here, too."

The kids crack a smile at that, relax a little in their seats; like they think she's one of them or something, or like they realize that she's probably not as horrible of a teacher as that old crackpot was.

"Yeah," Puck says suddenly from the back of the classroom. "Mr. Ryerson was kind of a perv. He had a thing for students, if you know what I mean." He grins a particularly suggestive smile at Rachel, and the other kids' mouths immediately drop. Rachel purses her lips, and she says,

"That's rather disgusting to say, Mr…"

"Oh – Puckerman. Sorry, I guess I didn't introduce myself," he says, and he smiles again. "But to tell you the truth, Ms. Berry, I coulda sworn I've seen you before."

"Well, you haven't," Rachel says rather bluntly, then turns to the rest of the class. "Now, where was I?"

"I think we were talking about pervy teachers."

"Shut it, Puckerman!"

-x-

Finn finds her around fifth period. She's walking down the hallway towards the teacher lounge, and she was actually feeling quite confident about the way her day had been going. Puck stopped making inappropriate comments about halfway through that first class period and she had even managed to find some recruits for the fall musical within her second period class. And, Rachel started hoping against hope that maybe, yes, Puck was a senior, but Finn could still potentially be a freshman at some junior college around the area.

That thought flew out the window, though, when she saw Finn walking straight towards her down the hallway.

He didn't notice her at first, and Rachel thought that maybe if she looked at the floor, or the ceiling, or, you know, basically anywhere besides at him, that he wouldn't notice her; that maybe she could just magically blend into the wall like a chameleon or something of the sort.

But of course, since she's Rachel Berry, that doesn't happen. Finn smiles directly at her, calls out, "Hey, Ms. Berry!" And for a boy who seemed so shy and innocent at that party on Friday night, he seems remarkably more self-assured now that they're on his turf.

She smiles tightly at him, holds the stack of papers she's holding close to her chest. The hallway's deserted for the most part, and she says nervously, "Hello, Finn."

He comes to a stop right in front of her, smiles cheekily. He gives her a little once over, and honestly, she wishes that he wasn't so damn good looking. But he is, and she wants to just – oh, she wants to kick him in the shin or something, because this entire situation is his fault, because he's the one who opened the wine cooler and started their whole – interaction.

"How's your first day?" Finn asks quietly, as a few students mill around them. Rachel doesn't respond, just looks down at the ground for a second, stares at the tiles on the floor. She doesn't even know how to respond to that, and she doesn't even know what to say to him. Because how, exactly, does he think her first day is going?

She just found out that she slept with a high school student. She's had better mornings, to be perfectly honest.

But even though she doesn't see the direct need to answer that particular question, she does need to know, "Are you eighteen?"

He laughs, and she shoots him a serious look because this really isn't a joking matter. Finn quickly nods and affirms, "Yeah. Yes. I'm eighteen."

She sighs in relief because at least that's one thing she doesn't have to worry about. Rachel licks her bottom lip, and Finn scratches the back of his neck. He shifts on his feet a little, and she's a bit reassured to know that he's seemingly just as nervous as she is, even if he didn't seem like he was at the beginning of the conversation.

Rachel glances up at him. He's staring at her just as sweetly and just as innocently as he did the night of the party. Except now, instead of finding it irresistibly adorable, she finds herself thinking that she's just, oh, she's a child predator.

She's the new Mr. Ryerson for this generation.

Oh, God.

She presses a hand to her forehead, and she says faintly, "We need to discuss this. Now. In my room."

Finn doesn't say a word, just follows her straight to her classroom. He slides into a desk seat and she quickly shuts the door behind them then turns to face him. She places her papers on her desk, takes a deep breath, and says,

"I. I didn't know you went to school here," she says, fully embarrassed and one hundred percent ashamed. If her father could see her right now -.

"I didn't tell you," Finn says, and he looks down at his hands, looks like a kid who's about to get detention for a month or something. Rachel tilts her head back, looking at the ceiling, wishing that she could just close her eyes and magically be transported anywhere else in the entire world.

If only she had one of those damn wine coolers.

She sighs. "I should've asked. I just assumed that you were a college student, and -." She breaks off because suddenly she feels like she's going to cry or something, because honestly, why is it that the most amazing sex she's ever had was with a high school student? It's like some sort of cruel joke the universe is playing on her.

When she looks into Finn's eyes, he's staring at her. He shifts in his chair, and he looks just – sad.

"I mean, I didn't know you were going to be teaching here," Finn says, shaking his head a little remorsefully. "I didn't like, know you were a teacher at all."

"We didn't talk much," Rachel says, because it's the truth, and Finn smiles, that half smirk that drove her crazy Friday night. Rachel immediately shakes her head, pushing her hands through her hair, because no, no, no, she cannot be thinking about how Finn was in bed the other night, because that's inappropriate and wrong and.

He's smiling at her again.

(He's seen her naked. Completely and totally naked, and he complimented her frilly hot pink panties when he pulled them off her, and he said she had the hottest legs he'd ever seen, and that her skin tasted sweet like blueberries, and when she came, giggling like she always does in that situation, he'd kissed her and kissed her and kept going until she came again.)

She doesn't know whether to feel disgusted, exhilarated, or slightly, in the back of her mind, thrilled. Rachel wishes she could text Santana, because she can't think of any other person who would possibly know what to do in this situation except for her best friend.

"So," Finn says, leaning back in his chair, "how did your first few classes go?"

Rachel stares at him blankly for a second, to see if he's joking, or if he actually wants to hear about how her first few classes as a teacher went. But he's looking at her like he's truly interested, and maybe he doesn't want to talk about what occurred between them just yet. And that's fine. Rachel doesn't particularly want to get into the semantics, either, beyond the fact that she needs to tell him that under absolutely no circumstances can they ever, ever sleep together again.

Ever.

Well. Maybe not ever. Ever is an extremely long time.

She sits down at her desk chair and Finn shifts suddenly in his seat, sits up as if someone's pulling a marionette string out of his head. Rachel looks at him, confused, and he licks his bottom lip, and oh, he's so obvious when he's horny.

"Eyes on my face, Finn," she says, laughing, but then stops because she's his teacher and she's not supposed to find these things funny.

He smiles guiltily at her, and she answers his previous question, "My first few classes have been fine. But your friend, Puck-."

"He won't say anything," Finn immediately interrupts. "I talked to him about it during Gov. He said that it's totally cool and that uh, you know. He won't rat us out or anything." He smiles at her reassuringly, and it's odd, because he's so much younger than her that she shouldn't find this sweet; that he's acting protective over… over her, over them, over their situation.

He's acting more mature than she thought an eighteen year old boy possibly could, given the circumstances. It's endearing.

"Thank you," Rachel says, smiling at him. He smiles back and nods. "And besides," she continues, "you two are graduating in a month or so. It's not as if this is just going to be hanging over our heads like a big black cloud or something. It'll all be over soon."

He looks shell shocked almost, as if someone's just thrown cold water all down his back. Just for a moment, though, and then he's back to looking happy and carefree.

"Yeah," Finn says finally, after a moment's pause. "And it's not – you won't have to even worry about seeing me." He stands up, grabs his backpack off from where he'd left it on the floor. "I'm, uh, I'm going to New York after graduation."

And there it goes again, that pang of hurt right in the middle of her chest. Rachel asks him, "Oh? What are you going to New York for?"

Finn shoulders his backpack, holds onto the straps with his hands. "Um, acting, actually. I uh, I got into Pace, so. I'm heading there."

And as is happening so often lately - Rachel once again feels the blood drain out of her face. "Acting?" she questions, and Finn nods.

"That – that means you're most likely going to want to take a drama class," Rachel says, and her voice sounds hoarse and her head feels foggy, and no, he can't actually think that -.

"Yeah, I just signed up for your seventh period class," Finn says, and casually shrugs one shoulder. "I mean, it's just kind of an added bonus that you're the teacher."

"Added bonus?" Rachel questions, because while she's not trying to flirt with him, let's be honest here for a few moments. Obviously the fact that she's the teacher played a large part in the fact that he suddenly decided to sign up for a drama class that's only going to be running for a few weeks.

And Finn cracks this little smile, says, "Well, Mr. Schuester says you're the best drama teacher this school will ever see. Had to make sure that I get to experience you while I can."

Yes, she is the best drama teacher this school will ever see, but did he have to say it like that? She has to give Finn credit, though. He looks at her the entire time that he says that, doesn't waver from her gaze once.

"I think you've already experienced enough of me," Rachel says, and she looks down at her lap, and she mentally slaps the hell out of herself, because why, why did she feel the need to say that? She is a teacher, a licensed teacher, and he is her student, and this is so inappropriate, and wrong, and worthy of a dramatized Lifetime movie.

Finn just stares at her, his hands faltering slightly on his backpack straps, and he takes this deep shuddering breath, as if he's actually reliving Friday night or something of the sort.

Rachel thinks that maybe she's getting in over her head with all of this this. Her suspicions are confirmed about five seconds later when Finn's suddenly walking up to her, leaning down, and pressing a little kiss against her lips.

Just a kiss – a peck, really, his lips brushing hastily against hers.

He pulls away almost immediately and he closes his eyes tightly, shakes his head. "I'm sorry." He opens his eyes up, gives her this wry grin. "Had to do it one more time, you know?"

Rachel doesn't say anything as he walks out of the room, just sits in her chair, her hands folded in her lap and her lips still parted slightly.

After a moment, she touches her fingertips to her lips, wipes them harshly against the skin, wipes them until all her lip gloss is gone, wipes them until it feels like her skin's been rubbed raw.

-x-

When she can't sleep at night, which happens relatively often, she lies in her bed and she thinks about various things. Sometimes she thinks about her father, and she cries because she misses him so much that it hurts. And then she'll think about her job, and whether she likes it, whether it's fulfilling her creative needs.

She's not sure if it is.

Other times, she'll think about Finn. She'll think about him and how he acts so nice during class, how he always is the first volunteer to try acting out a new monologue. Then she thinks about him, and his skin, and his taste, and she wonders if there's seriously something wrong with her.

She asks Santana about it once, in supreme confidence. Her best friend replies,

"If he's eighteen, fair game."

Which, really, isn't very helpful advice at all.

-x-

It'd be easier to deal with Finn, Rachel thinks, if he was a horrible actor. That way, she could just stick him in the back of the classroom and ignore him, because he's a graduating senior and what's the point of wasting the last few weeks of school, really, of trying to fix something that's so clearly broken?

But he's not a horrible actor. It's quite the opposite, in fact. He's amazing. His ability at picking up on the little mannerisms and characteristics of the characters that he's trying to embody is so natural, a talent that obviously comes from within him. Rachel keeps throwing random assignments at him during class, prompting him to try out different accents, different styles of people, and he accomplishes every task she sets out for him every single time.

After a week or so, it's almost as if he's challenging her – give me something more. Try to stump me. Just try to make me fail. And it's a bit unnerving, because Rachel doesn't think that she could stump him. For someone as clumsy and uncoordinated as he is (he trips over a desk or a backpack at least once a class period), he's certainly able to transform completely into any of the characters she assigns to him.

He reminds her of her old self, actually – how she was during high school. That sort of, take no prisoners attitude. Of course, Finn's much more reserved about this side of himself; he's not nearly as outwardly vocal about his obvious talent as Rachel always was. But he's driven, just as driven as she was during high school. And it's clear to every person in the room that Finn Hudson is meant for New York City, that he's meant for Pace and for acting and for everything that world has to offer.

Just like every single person was sure that Rachel Berry was going to win a Tony by age twenty-five.

Even though she tries never to talk to him personally, one on one, she stops him after class one day.

"Yeah, Miss Berry?" he asks, and it's still weird, even after having him as a student for a few weeks, to hear him calling her Miss Berry.

She motions for him to sit at a desk though, and he complies slowly.

"I have English right now -."

"You can take a pass," Rachel interrupts, then motions towards the stack of hall passes that she has positioned on the corner of her desk. "A perk of being a teacher."

Finn smiles at her, but looks around hesitantly, like he's about to get in trouble or something. "Did I do bad in class or something?" he asks.

"No," Rachel quickly says, hopping onto her desk, crossing her legs. "It's just the opposite, really. You're – you're an absolutely fantastic actor, Finn."

He smiles a little more easily now. "Thanks," he says. Then, "Is that – uh, is that all?"

Rachel looks down at her lap, shakes her head, then looks back up at him. "I – I know that things might be slightly awkward for you in class. We still haven't really talked about what occurred between us, and I know that now isn't the proper time or place to do such a thing. But." She sighs, shakes her head again. "You just need to know that I believe in you. Absolutely, one hundred percent. I've seen a lot of horrible actors before, and you're not one of them. And I – I can't just say that to your during the middle of class. But I know how important it is to encourage kids, and to encourage their dreams, and I want you to know that you're going to make it," she says emphatically.

Finn doesn't say anything for a moment, just sort of scuffs his one shoe against the floor, scratches the back of his neck with his hand.

"Thanks," he says finally. "I mean, my mom really supports me and everything, and she's always said that I could, you know, do whatever I wanted. Besides like, be an astronaut or something that involves a lot of math and rulers and calculators and stuff."

(Rachel can understand that. Mr. Harper has mentioned Finn's atrocious math grades a couple of times, so at least his mother hasn't been filling him with some sort of false hope.)

Finn's quiet, then speaks up again. "I totally appreciate you talking to me about this, Miss Berry. But was that, uh. I mean, I just, why are you telling me this now?"

Rachel sighs, tries to think of the right way to put what she's feeling into words. She swings her legs back and forth slowly, and she sees Finn; she see the way he's watching the way her skirt is riding up slightly on her thighs, and she stops, pulls the skirt down a little.

He gives her a small, sheepish smile, aware that he's been caught. "Sorry."

"It's okay," she says, and she continues, "When I was in high school, I had a lot of people – too many people, probably – tell me how wonderful I was, how talented I was."

"You are, though. You're like, the best singer I've ever heard in my life," Finn says earnestly.

(He'd probably be a very supportive boyfriend, Rachel thinks fleetingly.)

"Yes, and while it was fantastic to hear all those compliments..." Rachel trails off, and she suddenly feels as if she's about to cry, because she's not sure why she's telling him all of this, why she feels this intense need.

She shakes her head self-deprecatingly. "I didn't trust people," she says. "When my – my father passed away, I was eighteen. And it broke me. It really changed my entire outlook on life, and I thought that teaching, that staying near my remaining parent would make me feel… whole." Rachel looks at Finn, nervous and unsure. "Does that make sense?"

He nods slowly, and she continues, "I thought that teaching would make me feel like I was doing something meaningful with my life. And I'm sure that it is. But I wish, I wish that all those people who told me I was so talented, who told me I was meant for so many wonderful things – I wish they had pushed me more. I wish they had told me that just because my father died, that I didn't have to let my dreams fall by the wayside, too."

Rachel takes a deep breath, lets it out. "I'm sorry. This is – so personal and I shouldn't just be throwing this all at you. But the point of this horribly off topic pep talk that I'm attempting to bestow upon you is that things are going to happen. Things are going to go wrong, you might not get to where you want right away, there are going to be obstacles that you're going to have to overcome somehow. And the people who always told you that you're so wonderful, so brilliant, sometimes those people won't know what to say when those… those events happen. They'll just keep telling you that you're wonderful and brilliant. They won't tell you what you need to hear, and that's that – that your brilliance and your talent, those don't go away just because things momentarily go wrong."

She swallows tightly and she clasps her hands tighter together because really, this conversation has gone ridiculously astray from where she originally meant it to go.

She'll need to get some tips from Mr. Schuester on how to give these pep talks more efficiently.

Finn doesn't say anything, he just sits there, apparently mulling this over. Rachel pulls at an imaginary loose thread on her skirt, and she tries to think of something to say, something that will make this conversation a bit lighter and possibly alleviate the complete wave of embarrassment that's washing over her.

Finn glances up at her, his eyes inquisitive. "Miss – Rachel. I'm kind of getting the feeling that, uh, that no one told you those things after your dad passed away." He says this gently, as if he's prodding her. But she doesn't say anything, just fiddles with the hem of her skirt some more.

"You're talented," Finn says quietly but firmly, and Rachel can feel tears pricking at the corners of her eyes. Finn continues, "You're beyond talented. And if you wanted to be – be on Broadway or on a theater or wherever, you'd do awesome at it. Seriously."

Rachel sniffs, blinks rapidly so that none of the tears fall. "This is so – I'm sorry," she says, hopping off from her desk. She wipes her hands on her skirt, readjusts her blouse; trying to regain control of the situation.

"I really just wanted to tell you that I believe in you," Rachel says finally. "Honestly. I didn't mean to just, dump all of my personal history on you, as well."

Finn smiles at her, and he stands up out of his desk. He's walking over towards her, and Rachel remembers a few weeks ago when he walked up to her, and he kissed her, and she doesn't want him to kiss her again but there's this small, small part of her that does.

(She thinks that he's one of the nicest boys she's ever met in her entire life, and he's always so open and funny during class, and he always laughs at her silly puns and classroom activities.)

"If you wanted to go to New York," Finn says, "you totally could. You'd like, kick Broadway's ass."

Rachel smiles to herself but doesn't say anything, just nods, as Finn grabs a hall pass and walks out of the room.

-x-

Santana calls her one night in June.

"How's the teaching going?"

"Oh, fine. I think I'm really connecting with some of the kids, so that's nice."

"Bored of it yet?"

Rachel doesn't know how to respond.

-x-

Mr. Schuester stops her after class one day, in the hallway right before the lunch period.

"How's it going?" he asks, smiling at her.

"Oh, fine. Very well. I think I'm really making some progress with some of the kids," she says, holding her clipboard full of notes closer to her chest.

Mr. Schuester nods, then pulls a piece of paper out from his back pocket, holds it out to her. Rachel takes it questioningly.

"I know – I know you're happy here," Mr. Schuester says, with a tone in his voice that suggests that he thinks otherwise. "But, I talked to April Rhodes the other day. She's an old classmate of mine, and she has this new show on Broadway. Anyway, she asked me if I knew of anyone who I thought could handle the part of the understudy, for the lead role."

Rachel stares at the piece of paper; there's a phone number on it, and she looks back up at Mr. Schue, her mouth slightly agape.

"I'm not trying to pressure you," he says gently. "But. She said she'd love to hear from you, see if you wanted to audition or anything. I told her that you're the most talented kid I've ever had."

Rachel nods, tucks the piece of paper into her clipboard. "Thank you," she says, and Mr. Schue gives her another small smile, before continuing to walk down the hallway.

Maybe people believe in her more than she thought.

-x-

The McKinley seniors graduate on a bright, sunny day in June. Rachel goes to the ceremony, even though she doesn't know all of the seniors that terribly well. But she plays the role of a doting teacher perfectly, takes pictures with a few of the students who say that they'll miss her, and that they wish they could've been in her class for the entire school year. It makes Rachel feel good, accomplished, like she's really doing something positive with her life.

But then she sees Finn in passing, messing around with his tassel, his mother hugging onto his arm, crying happy tears of joy, kissing his cheek. And she remembers their conversation, the one they had about hopes, and dreams, and fulfilling those things. It makes her feel like she hasn't really accomplished anything at all.

He comes up to her in the parking lot, just as she's about to get into her car.

"Did you see me?" Finn asks. He's still wearing his motor board cap, and the tassel is hanging down into his eyes. Rachel gently pushes it to the side, and he smiles at her.

"Yes, I did," she affirms. She opens up her car door, tosses her purse into the passenger seat. "You looked – very handsome," she adds, smiling up at him. She's wearing her dark aviator sunglasses, but the sun's still so bright, she has to squint so that she can see his face properly.

"For a second there, I thought you were going to say I looked very cute," Finn says, and it's like he has this permanent grin on his face. He looks so absolutely happy. It's kind of contagious.

Finn pulls at the sleeves of his graduation gown a little, because they're too short and his arms are too long. He keeps messing up the collar of his button up shirt though, and Rachel laughs, reaches out to stop him so that she can fix the situation herself.

"I'm not good at this whole wearing a dressing gown thing," Finn mumbles, as she adjusts his tie and smooths down the points of his collared shirt.

"I'd sort of hope you wouldn't be," Rachel says teasingly. She lets her hands linger on his shirt for just a second, before she takes a step back, closer to her car. Finn steps with her though, steps so close that their feet are practically touching.

"Finn," Rachel says softly. "I'm still a teacher."

Finn looks at her, and he looks so contemplative, so honest, but his tassel is suddenly swinging back towards his eyes again. He swats at it a couple of times before finally just taking the damn cap off, throwing it on the passenger seat so that it lands next to her purse.

He runs his hands over his hair, trying to make it a little less matted, and Rachel sighs, looking anywhere but at him.

"Look," Finn says suddenly. "I know that you don't like me or whatever. Okay? I'm not totally stupid. But – but I like you, and I thought that if I was in your class… I don't know, I guess I just thought that I would start to not like you, because I'd realize you're just a boring teacher and that you're some weird cat lady or something."

Rachel's not sure whether she should find that offensive or sweet.

"But you're not. You're awesome, and I don't know – I don't know why you started thinking you weren't. And I'm sorry your dad died, I am, but that doesn't mean that you should just… die, too." Finn sighs, and he looks up at the sky, wipes the little beads of sweat off his forehead. "So hot," he mumbles, and he starts messing with the sleeves of his graduation gown again.

"I haven't died," Rachel says, folding her arms across her chest.

"Obviously," Finn says, rolling his eyes. "I'm just saying that I feel like – I don't know, you think that you have to just stay in Lima and play it safe or something. Because I see you in drama class, I see how into it you get, how much you love it. And that's." He stops, shaking his head. "That's just wasted here. And it wouldn't be so bad if you actually wanted to be a teacher. But I don't think you do."

"You're very intuitive," Rachel says faintly. Finn gives her this dry smile, says,

"I'm not totally sure what that means."

(It's strange, isn't it? How people who know you, who have known you for years, can tell you the same thing over and over and over again – you're more than this, you can accomplish so many things with your life, you're meant to be on the stage, you're meant to be a star – but sometimes all it takes is one person, one person from the outside looking in, to tell you exactly what you need to hear. Which, essentially, is just the same thing that everyone else has been telling you. But it's different somehow, isn't it? To hear the words from someone who isn't expected to say it?)

"It means – it means that you said what I needed to hear," Rachel says softly. Finn smiles unsurely, and Rachel glances her car, then back at him. She opens her mouth to say something, and she's not sure exactly what's going to come out, but apparently Finn didn't need to hear a word.

He just walks over to the other side of the car, pulls open the door, puts her purse and his hat on the floor and then climbs inside.

She doesn't ask where his mother thinks he is, and he doesn't ask if she's going to quit teaching, or if she's going to try to get back into acting. She kind of prefers it that way, to be honest. She doesn't really want to think about the real world at this moment in time.

Rachel just wants to be with this very, very cute boy. She thinks that's okay. She doesn't think that's wrong.

He holds her hand over the console, and intertwines their fingers. She doesn't say anything about it, but after a second, she tightens her grip on his hand. Rachel glances over at him, and he's just staring out the window, his graduation gown fluttering lightly in the wind.

After a few minutes, they've reached her apartment. He takes his graduation gown off, leaves it in the car. She's glad that she didn't have to ask.

"I, um. I don't do this very often," Rachel says, harkening back to their first conversation, as she pushes the front door to her apartment open. Finn laughs, toes off his shoes by the welcome mat.

"I'm kinda glad. That'd be a little creepy," he says, and Rachel laughs, drops her purse off by the coatrack. She stares at him as he walks around the hallway, as he goes to check out the small living room and the even smaller kitchen. There are pictures of her, Santana, and Quinn up all over the place, and he grins at one in particular.

"Puck hooks up with her all the time, you know," he tells Rachel. "Like, just last night." He doesn't say anything else, but the meaning of his words is implied.

And Rachel walks down the hallway, into the living room, and she wraps her arms around Finn's neck, pulls him into a kiss. It's almost as if he was expecting that, because he quickly places his hands on her waist, pulls her closer, bends down so that she doesn't have to stand up on her tippy toes quite so much.

His breath is hot and heavy and his lips, his skin, it's exactly how she remembered. He cups her cheeks with his hands, brushes his thumbs underneath her eyes, brushes away tears that she didn't even know she was crying.

She runs her hands up and down his sides, pulls at his shirt, the buttons, tries to undo them as quickly as possible.

"I just want to feel you," she whispers, her lips moving against his as she speaks. "I want to feel you."

He acquiesces and he steps away from her, allows her to unbuttons his shirt, push at the shoulders so that it falls down by their feet. He glances over at her, and his lips are swollen and his breath is heavy, and Finn says,

"I've wanted this since like, the last time we had sex."

Rachel smiles, and he slides his fingers underneath the straps of her sundress, tugs at them gently until the straps untie and the dress is loose. Gently, he slides the dress down past her shoulders, her waist, her legs, until it's pooled at the bottom of her feet.

She holds onto his hand as she steps out of the dress, her legs shaking slightly. She feels more than a little silly now that she's standing in front him, just in her panties and a pair of high heeled wedges that she borrowed from Santana. But he smiles at her and he brushes his thumbs across her hip bones and he says,

"Is this okay?"

She thinks about it for a second, and then she nods, yes.

Finn kisses her again.

And when he's pressing inside her around an hour later, their skin sticky with sweat and her hair curled around her face, he says,

"I think you're the most beautiful girl I've ever seen." He kisses her cheek, and she lets out a little moan, and he kisses the sound right out of her mouth.

-x-

Rachel Berry moves to New York City the following August with essentially nothing to her name besides a teaching license that she never plans on using again, and six thousand dollars in her bank account. She moves into a tiny studio apartment in Brooklyn, adopts a stray cat that she names Annabelle, and furnishes her apartment with a used futon and two old chairs from the Salvation Army.

She doesn't try out for the understudy role in April Rhodes' musical; she's not quite sure that she's ready for Broadway just yet. But she does audition for some smaller theater pieces, and she manages to land a role in a very small production of West Side Story (she thinks it's fate) that gets rave reviews. Her daddy comes up to see her for the performance, and he cries the entire time that she's on stage, his hands pressed against his mouth.

"Dad would be so proud of you," he says, his voice catching in his throat. And Rachel thinks that Dad would – because maybe she isn't shaping kids' lives directly, but she has to be influencing someone with her work.

At first, she's not really sure what's going to happen with her and Finn; if they were just a hook up, if it was just a weird relationship in her life, or something along those lines. She doesn't want to force him to have a girlfriend, after all. He's just starting off in college, and maybe they're in two completely different spots in their lives. And that's okay. She doesn't want to burden him, make him be the only college freshman on campus who's dating a twenty two year old woman who also used to be his drama teacher.

They meet up on a Saturday morning in September, one of the last real hot days before the weather's going to turn cool. She's wearing the little sundress that she wore to their graduation; she appreciates the symbolism of things like that.

He smiles when he sees her, jogs over to where she's standing in the street. Without her even saying hello, he bends down and kisses her.

"It's kinda cool that I can do that now, without like, having to worry about you being my teacher and all," he says, grinning that same goofy smile that he always does.

She laughs, and says, "I thought we were going to talk."

"About what?" he asks, confused. He grabs onto her hand, starts leading her down the busy sidewalk.

"About us!" Rachel protests lightly. They stop at an intersection, and Finn turns to face her. He's still smiling, and he shrugs, slings an arm over her shoulders.

"I mean, don't we have forever to talk about that?" Finn asks. "Can't we just enjoy what's happening right now?"

"And what's happening right now?" Rachel asks, tilting her head up so that she can look into his eyes. Finn grins, drops a kiss onto the tip of her nose.

"This."

-x-

A/N2: Okay. Yeah, I don't know, I was really just trying to go for like, themes of growing up, and that emotion of graduating and not knowing exactly what happens next. Even if it was a little all over the place, I hope you guys enjoyed some part of it! Reviews are always appreciated.