Four months later...
New York is so beautiful in the spring, Rachel thought as she walked down the street, enjoying the trees in bloom and the late afternoon sun. She mentally hugged herself. Everything was going so well. She had a featured role in one of NYADA's spring shows, as did Kurt, she felt her classes were really stretching her abilities, and best of all she had Finn. A more mature Finn, actually. His struggles with his memory had brought him a better understanding of himself and had also given him a lot of practice in figuring things out, which was reflected both in their relationship and in his studies at City. And gradually over the last few months he'd been spending more and more time at the apartment, until now he used his dorm room more as an oversized locker for school stuff and an occasional place to crash, a situation which also made his dorm mate very happy. Last weekend they'd even painted their room, a soft green with yellow highlights that they both liked (steadfastly ignoring Kurt's opinion), and Finn was set to move in officially once his term ended.
Finn moving in had accelerated sharply after they'd had their first big fight. They'd been happy to have survived it, as well as strangely relieved that they were comfortable enough to have the fight, feeling back to normal. They'd also made it up spectacularly. Each had independently cancelled their incompatible extracurricular plans that had been the problem and bought takeout from the other's favorite restaurant. When they'd met at the apartment and discovered this they'd laughed, fallen into each others' arms, and spent the (now clear and well-supplied) weekend inseparable, walking hand-in-hand by the Lake, cuddling while not really watching movies, and passionately making love, mostly in the large bed that Finn had called hers but was now ready to admit was really his. They'd gotten to Sunday before either of them had wondered what had become of Kurt, each thinking the other knew; since they'd both separately confided in him, he'd decided to make an impromptu weekend trip to D.C. to see his dad, but he was never going to let them forget that he had been away for 40 hours before anyone texted him to find out where he'd gone. It hadn't been Finn and Rachel's last argument, but it had broken them out of the 'best behavior' mode that they'd been attempting since their reunion, reassuring them that they could be fully themselves together and survive the usual relationship storms as well as the more epic ones they'd already endured.
The people at NYADA had been surprised to meet Finn, many of them because they had written the tale off as either crazy gossip or a fiction Rachel had made up to keep guys away. Amanda and Megan had been happy to meet and get to know him, though Megan had teased that she'd thought he'd be taller and Amanda was threatening to use an exaggerated version of their story as basis for next fall's massively implausible and wildly histrionic freshman hazing song. Some of Rachel's friends had recently begun mocking them kindly about excessive public displays of affection, but Rachel secretly didn't mind the comments and certainly didn't agree that their PDA was at all excessive. She had Finn back, she could touch him and hug him and kiss him all she liked, and nothing was going to stop her from doing exactly that even if their friends were around. Some had wondered if she was really the same girl as the private and emotionally reserved one they'd first met in the fall, but her stunning audition for the spring show and intense focus during rehearsals killed all those doubts. Rachel was very happy, but she was still Rachel Berry.
And now Rachel felt that late spring was making the whole city feel like she'd felt since December, so alive again, and the bright weather and new growth around her fed her happy mood.
Her phone chirped and she checked it for a message. Finn. She always felt a little giddy at hearing from him. But her heart thudded as she read familiar words: Meet me at Bow Bridge.
She arrived by the Lake in Central Park to see Finn leaning on the bridge's railing, wearing a light suit, flowers in his hand. She paused to drink in the sight of him, and he turned, breaking into a beaming smile as he saw her.
She smiled back at him as she walked up. He handed her the bouquet of flowers, her favorite tulips, but not pink ones this time: vibrant red mixed with cream. Her heart thrummed again as she noted their meanings, sure that this choice couldn't be accidental, especially since he knew how much she liked pink. Red was for passion, romantic love. The cream, that meant forever.
And this was really happening... Rachel looked up into Finn's warm brown eyes that were so full of love, and felt his hand cup her cheek. He lowered his hand to her throat, lightly pulling at the chain she wore, fishing up the ring and taking it into his hand. He swallowed and started to speak.
"Rachel... when I gave this to you before, I promised I'd keep loving you for the rest of my life if you'd just say yes," Finn said, almost choking on his own rising happiness. They were young for this, yes, but each of them was so much a part of the other that this was simply recognizing what was already true. "And even when I couldn't remember you or even know how I felt, I still loved you. You said once that you didn't need the ring to remind you that I'm your guy, but it certainly helped me know how important you were and what I really needed in my life. I've felt how wonderful it is to be with you, and how empty it is to be without you, and this time you don't need to say anything to get me to love you forever because that's just the way it is." Finn let go of the ring and took her hand, sinking to one knee, his eyes still intent on hers. "Rachel, will you marry me?"
"Yes," Rachel smiled, her eyes filling with tears of happiness. She sank to join Finn, sitting on his knee, and put her arms around his neck. "Yes, Finn, oh yes. I love you and I will marry you." They kissed tenderly, and Finn lifted her back to her feet as he rose himself.
"Then let's put this back where it belongs," he said, taking the chain. He carefully opened it and slid the ring off. He met Rachel's eyes again for a moment, then took her left hand and slipped the ring onto her finger. He kissed the back of her hand, much as he had that day in her room when he'd been trying to remember their engagement, and then kissed her lips again.
Passersby who had witnessed the proposal gave them some scattered applause and a couple of wolf whistles, and they both laughed. Finn took Rachel's hand, intertwining their fingers, and led her into some of the woods that lined the park.
"Where are we going?" Rachel asked happily.
"Sardi's for dinner," Finn answered with a smile. "Where else?" Rachel giggled at this. "We have to keep going back, some day fans will be excited about seeing you there," he explained. "Not as excited as I am, though. I'll always be your number one fan. But we have a bit of time to walk around first."
As they threaded through the woods, Finn started to sing softly: (*)
Highway run, into the midnight sun
Wheels go round and round, you're on my mind
Rachel smiled and joined in:
Restless hearts, sleep alone tonight
Sending all my love down the wire
They continued to walk hand-in-hand, singing together, just for themselves:
They say that the road ain't no place to start a family
Right down the line it's been you and me
But loving a music man ain't always what it's supposed to be
Oh girl, you stand by me
I'm forever yours, faithfully
Their eyes found each other at that last word, and they shared a smile, as they always would.
* "Faithfully", as performed by Journey (or the Glee Cast), written by Jonathan Cain.
Please review! It's done, but I still want to know what you think.
Wow. Hard to believe I wrote all this!
I thank all of you very much for your continued interest, whether you've been following it chapter-by-chapter as it came out or are reading the whole thing now. Much thanks especially to all who reviewed as it was in progress, and those with whom I've had discussions. Your support, appreciation, and feedback has been wonderful.
I still don't own Glee or its characters, and I am grateful to those who do and the Glee cast and crew for the inspiration they have provided.
As noted, the story title and all chapter titles are quotes from Rush songs. The chapter was always planned first, with the quote chosen for it later, though sometimes the song bled into the chapter text a little; often the options I considered for a chapter all came from the same song. I did not reuse a song, except that "Vital Signs" provided both the overall title and the chapter 17 title, and I preferred songs that matched the chapter more generally when possible. All songs have lyrics by Neil Peart, except for 20 and 37 which have lyrics by Neil Peart and Pye Dubois. Serendipitously, the last chapter's title comes from the last song on the latest album, which was released after I started this fic. "The Garden" is indeed a beautiful song.
Chapter Title Sources:
1. driven to the edge of a deep dark hole: Driven
2. like a torn-up photograph: Half the World
3. life redirected in ways unexpected: The Big Wheel
4. a world so out of touch: Kid Gloves
5. time has passed me by: Xanadu
6. a certain measure of tolerance: One Little Victory
7. static on your frequency: The Pass
8. I wish that I could live it all again: Headlong Flight
9. broken contacts in emotional chemistry: The Weapon
10. washed away like footprints in the rain: Vapor Trail
11. never ever win without a fight: Resist
12. put aside the alienation: Limelight
13. a vague sensation quickens: The Analog Kid
14. it slips between your hands like water: Between the Wheels
15. the secret wells of emotion: Emotion Detector
16. the spark still flies: Chain Lightning
17. sometimes our circuits get shorted: Vital Signs
18. a smile on the edge of sadness: Out of the Cradle
19. shadows hide the play of light: Available Light
20. the lens between wishes and fact: Between Sun and Moon
21. from the way we thought we'd share it: Far Cry
22. it takes a little more persistence: The Enemy Within
23. in memories they resonate: Scars
24. set the wheels in motion: Prime Mover
25. even though you're going through hell: Wish Them Well
26. find the minds that made us strong: A Farewell to Kings
27. memory a flickering light: Dreamline
28. break the surface tension: Grand Designs
29. images conflicting into data overload: The Body Electric
30. where is the wave that will carry me: Spindrift
31. racing down a river from the past: Turn the Page
32. let your heart be the anchor: Something for Nothing
33. let the truth of love be lighted: Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres
34. hold the flame 'til the dream ignites: Mission
35. burns with a restless flame: Cut to the Chase
36. your love has shown me proof: Madrigal
37. love and life are deep: Tom Sawyer
38. it is what it is, and forever: The Garden
And... I think I'm going to take a little break now, though I do have some (much shorter!) fics in development that I hope to have ready soon.
Yours in Finchel,