a/n: the much awaited first installment! enjoy! glee is not mine, as always, and as always dedicated to rachel, who listened to me complain about this for the better part of a month!
do you wanna dance with me, baby?
do you wanna take a chance on maybe finding some sweet romance with me, baby?
Rachel prides herself on many things: her unique looks (unforgettable, really, perhaps not beautiful, but memorable, surely), her perfect pitch, and her observational skills (some have called it a sixth sense, others nosiness).
She spends much of the summer before freshman year outside, back pressed against a spiraling oak tree in her front yard, novel spread in her lap. Her knees burn angry red from their daylong exposure, her shoulders freckle, her long dark hair lightens just a little. She watches as her elderly neighbor moves out and sells his house within a week, dark eyes wide in awe as a moving truck pulls forward and a family emerges, a balding man with his arm slung over presumably his wife's shoulders, a boy about her age or younger, most likely a few inches taller than her and dressed in a much nicer outfit than she's ever seen a boy wear in Lima, and finally, a very tall, lanky boy trailing behind. The tall one is broad, too, clearly transitioning from boyhood to manhood, and she guesses he must be a few years her senior.
Daddy encouraged her to befriend Mr. Peterson, and she'd enjoyed him well enough, liked listening to his stories and watching the fireflies light up like stars on earth, but she looks forward to his pushing her to befriend these new neighbors, with boys her age, and they'll surely be better company than a crotchety old man. So it doesn't really surprise her when Daddy hands her a plate of cookies and instructs her to bring them to the neighbors, a few days after they've moved in.
She wears a sundress with kittens printed all over it, her long hair pulled into a ponytail knotted with a ribbon, and confidently strides to their front door. It's humid, the air heavy with moisture that seems to seep into her body, collecting in perspiration at her neck. She hates feeling sweaty, feeling dirty, but she puts on a bright smile when she rings the doorbell. This is good practice, she figures, for her future acting career, this little exercise in pretending it isn't extremely hot outside.
Footsteps pad across what she remembers as a hardwood floor and the door swings open, revealing the tall boy, and getting a good look at him, now, she realizes: he is cute.
His brow pinches in confusion as he says, "Are you, like, a religious recruiter or something?"
"No!" (She's a bit surprised by how much she likes his voice.) "My name is Rachel Berry, I am your neighbor and on behalf of all of Lima, Ohio: welcome!"
"Oh." He looks at the cookies, then back at her, and his eyes drop a little and she wonders if one of the straps on this damn dress is falling, but with a quick roll of her shoulders all seems to be in place. He focuses his hazel eyes on her and she thinks she's probably never seen a prettier color. "D'you wanna come in?"
"Um." This doesn't usually happen. She glances behind her, at the inviting green grass in her front yard and back to him, this tall boy with his deep voice and freckles and dimples and dark brown hair and she says yes before she even comes to a complete decision.
"Cool." He widens the door, calls for his mom and someone named Kurt—that must be the other boy she saw, and within seconds, the two appear.
"Hello," she greets pleasantly.
"This is Rachel. She brought cookies. But she's just a neighbor, so."
"Hello, Rachel, I'm Mrs. Hudson-Hummel," the woman greets, smiling kindly and sticking her hand out for Rachel to shake. "This is Kurt," she indicates to the shorter boy, "and Finn. My husband Burt is at work today."
"Nice to meet you all." She feels shy, suddenly, under Kurt's scrutinizing eye.
"Excuse me, but are those cats on your dress?"
"What? There is nothing acceptable about wearing cat printed clothing after kindergarten. Nothing."
"Kurt, don't be rude!"
"I like it," Finn says, shrugging slightly. "It's, uh, cute."
"Finn, you cannot be serious. Well, maybe you are. You do wear a lot of flannel."
"I should really get going—"
"Take me with you," Kurt says, "and show me the rest of your wardrobe so I don't lose all faith in humanity."
She waves goodbye to Finn and his mother, and Kurt hooks arms with her and leads her away.
Rachel is certain that she has found her soul mate in Kurt Hummel—her platonic soul mate, of course, as she firmly believes in friendship at first sight. And after critiquing her wardrobe for an afternoon and deeming her animal themed sweaters as approaching ironic, they had watched Funny Girl and forged a friendship.
She's glad to have him, really. They sit and talk and talk and talk everyday, they even have sleepovers and she's ever looking forward to her first day of high school with Kurt by her side.
One bright July morning, she wakes up to the pervasive sound of a lawnmower outside her window. Surely, it's not her house—Papa and Daddy schedule landscaping for Thursday afternoons—so she slips out of bed and peeks out the window only to see Finn pushing the lawnmower back and forth in his front yard. She tugs her bottom lip into her mouth when she observes his distinct lack of a shirt, and she guesses he's normally fairly pale skinned as his shoulders are tinged red over his slight tan.
She turns away from the window, and when she gets dressed for her day, she doesn't close the blinds and feels just a little bit daring knowing that maybe, perhaps Finn can see her.
Kurt invites her over for dinner that night and maybe she's imagining it, but Finn's face nearly turns purple when he sees her in the foyer.
"Kurt, tell me about your family," she urges, folding her legs beneath her on his bed. Kurt glances up, lifts one irritated eyebrow, and continues prepping her cuticles for a manicure.
"What about my family?"
"We're always talking about me—not that I mind—and my drama. Tell me some of yours."
She knows the basics, of course, that Kurt's mom died when he was eight and his dad met Finn's mom and they just got married at the end of May, she knows that he's got one set of grandparents and a very distant uncle who lives in Cleveland. Kurt's just recently told his dad he's gay, and his dad's great and completely supportive, and Rachel tells him regardless, if he really wants or needs, he can talk to her dads. But she wants to know more than that, she wants the details, the nitty-gritty drama of the family.
The Finn of it all, if she's being honest.
Kurt's silent for a moment. "I don't know, Rachel. One day, it was me and my dad against the world and the next, we were moving here, with Carole and Finn, and it's not like I don't love them or anything, I do, I just miss it being me and my dad, sometimes."
"Understandable, of course. I can't imagine if I suddenly had siblings…"
"Don't get me wrong, Finn's a great brother, it's just…weird to suddenly have to divide my time with my dad in half, and now Dad doesn't have to force me to go to games with him and stuff since he's got Finn, but I miss going with him just to spend time with him," Kurt sighs. "Are you completely sure you want princess pink on your nails?"
In September, she gets locked out of her house after walking home from a midday private Pointe lesson. Her recital is at the end of the month and she needs to be perfect. Perfect.
What's perfect, of course, is her ambling up to her front door only to realize the doors are all locked and she's forgotten her key, and unfortunately for her, her garage is unattached to her house.
"Hey!" A familiar voice—Finn's—calls. She turns and waves, feels suddenly shy in her black leotard and dance tights. "You locked out, or looking for something?"
"Um—I'm—locked out. Forgot my keys."
He makes her nervous. They've been in school for about a month, now, and he's one of the popular kids, plays for the football team as quarterback, and he's friends with the very people who toss slushies at her in the halls, or draw pornographic pictures of her on bathroom stalls. She's most certain Finn does not act as his misogynist, extremist friends do, but it bothers her that he seemingly condones such anarchy, especially the cruelty they implement on his stepbrother!
Regardless, she can feel a thunderstorm brewing in the graying sky, so when he offers shelter in his house, she greatly accepts. Luckily, the sky opens just as she steps inside the house.
"Thanks, Finn. Is Kurt home?"
"Nope." He's walking into the kitchen, so she follows him precariously, mind jumping into a scenario where all his popular friends are waiting for her in the kitchen holding a giant slushie. So realistic is her imagination that when she steps into the familiar room, she squints her eyes just a bit, preparing for a cold sugary onslaught.
It doesn't come, though, and she relaxes for a moment.
"Where is Kurt, then?"
"Doctor, maybe? Dunno." His eyes look tired, pinched at the sides, and she guesses he probably just woke up. "So, you came from…dance?"
His eyes linger on the column of her throat, exposed from her bun tied at the nape of her neck. She wishes she had a sweater, but all that's in her bag with her are her Pointe shoes, a spare pair of tights, a hairbrush, and two water bottles. "Yes," she responds, fingers reaching to her unknot her bun, "we have our recital in a few weeks, so I scheduled a private lesson to ensure that all of my pirouettes and plies are tailored to perfection."
"Oh, that's…" He's distracted by something, and she glances up from her lap to see his eyes darting to the wall beside her. She turns and glances out the window to see the storm still raging. "Cool. Real cool, Rachel."
"Yes, I believe it is quite cool."
He has this funny little smirk on his face as he leans his elbows on the countertop. "I like the way you talk, all adult and stuff. You sound way smarter than…like, everyone."
"Thank you," she says graciously, and an awkward silence befalls them. She can barely stand it before, "So, you're on the football team?"
Finn smiles. "Yeah, I'm quarterback."
"Do you…like it?"
"Yeah, I mean, it's not like…I'm not super into it, or anything, like the guys on the team and stuff. But, I guess. It's cool, and being cheered for is really awesome, you know? Plus—" He looks away, cheeks pinking. "Never mind."
"You're very good at it." He glances up, face reddening further.
"Yes. I don't know much about football, unfortunately, but you seem to be able to throw the ball and run, so."
He laughs, and it's a nice sound, smooth like sea glass, and she imagines spinning it around in her head later, when she struggles to slip into sleep and all her thoughts invariably drift to him.
It's odd, because she barely knows him, but she likes him, and in a way, she kind of just understands that he's not laughing at her, but with her, and that resonates in her stomach and she tucks that away, that feeling of a boy—a popular boy nonetheless—sharing a laugh with her, files it beside the timbre of his laugh to thumb through later.
Kurt comes to her dance recital on the final night, but instead of bringing their friends Tina and Mercedes, he brings Finn, instead. It surprises her so much that she nearly cries, but she composes herself and graciously accepts the bouquet of lilies (stargazers) from Finn as well as their words of praise.
"You didn't have to come," she tells Finn as Kurt wraps his arm around her waist and squeezes her to his side, producing a surprised squeal from her lips when he pinches her there just slightly.
"How d'you stand on your toes like that?" Finn inquires, eyes bright with curiosity.
"Practice, duh, Finn," Kurt interjects with a liberal roll of his eyes.
"Very true. Also, I can't convey all my secrets just yet, can I?"
"I guess not," Finn finishes. His lips curl into a smile. "Rachel, honestly, you were so, so good."
"Really?" Kurt's glaring at her, at Finn, too, but she barely pays attention to him.
"Yeah. I mean, I don't know much about ballet, but you're very talented. Good at the spins and stuff."
"Okay," Kurt interrupts, "anyways. Do you want to come over? I just bought Mary Poppins and I was thinking we could watch it."
"Sounds great, Kurt." She bites her lip. "Finn, do you like Mary Poppins?"
"Is that the one with the nun?"
"No, Rachel, he does not." Kurt's being a little inconsiderate, considering Finn's driving them back to their house and everything in his brand new truck, but she guesses she understands that he wants all her attention.
And she loves Kurt, she does—adores him, really—but there's something so special about the way Finn smiles at her that makes her want to explore it—to explore him.
On her fifteenth birthday, Finn gives her a necklace and stops by before her (other) friends come over for a sleepover.
"Pink's your favorite color, right?" He inquires and she nods a little dumbly as he sweeps her hair off her shoulder to clasp the little heart necklace around her neck. "Turn."
"How do I look?"
"Cute," he responds, smiling a little. She wrinkles her nose. "Good day?"
"Yeah," she sighs, pressing her fingers on the tiny pink heart. "This is too much, Finn!"
"You are always so valiant and kind when it comes to me. It really makes me feel like—like, um…family."
Sometimes, Finn stares at her with this soft eyed gaze that she can't seem to decipher, but it permeates her heart, makes it thrum and sing and dance and jump, makes her feel so full, from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. And sometimes, she thinks that maybe that gaze means he likes her, because once in a while the gaze seems to slip into his voice, makes him sound like a different person but still completely, totally Finn.
Which confuses her. In November, he started dating this awful girl in his grade, which puzzles her, and perhaps she's presumptuous in assuming he likes her, but he's always staring, and he's given her this necklace and—well, regardless, he's two years her senior and her best friend's brother. He's completely off limits.
"Family, huh?" She nods. He purses his lips and looks outside. "I've gotta go. Aren't you having Kurt over later?"
She nods and walks him to the door, fingers squeezing the pendant he's given her. "Thank you very much for this necklace, Finn."
"S'from all of us," he answers shyly, brushing his hand over the back of his head. "Well, happy birthday, Rach."
She smiles and he puts his hand on her shoulder, and he's so big, now, somehow bigger than when she first met him. He still looms over her by a foot, but he's broader, now, less lanky and more muscled from football, but his hair is still messy, he's still got that spattering of freckles on his nose, still got those sweet dimples that always make her smile, too.
His hands are big, though, so big that he can just brush her collarbone with his thumb, and before she knows it, he leans down and presses his mouth soundly on her cheek. When he pulls away, he stares at her for one long second and he doesn't say anything, but she thinks she would very much like to press her mouth against his, just once, to get him out of her head. After all, she has a long journey to Broadway ahead of her and she will not be distracted.
"Um," she stutters a little breathlessly, "um—thank you."
He nods and pulls his hands off of her. "Happy birthday, Rachel."
And just as quickly as he came, he's already gone.
She thinks about kissing him a lot, and she wonders if he thinks about kissing her, too. He'll smile at her in the hallway one moment and be holding hands with his girlfriend the next. He's quite the conundrum.
Much of her time is spent at Kurt's, especially in the early days of spring, and one such afternoon, she passes by Finn's room to see him sitting at his desk, shoulders hunched.
"Finn?" She knocks on the door and leans on the white paneling of his doorway.
"Oh, hey." He turns in his chair and simpers, but his brow is pinched and he looks upset.
"We're friends, right?"
He licks his lips before answering tentatively, "Yeah—yeah, of course."
"Do you want to tell me what's wrong?"
Rachel takes initiative and sits on his bed, folding her legs beneath her. "Um."
"Do you mind if I sit here?" Internally, she berates herself for ignoring social etiquette. Papa always tells her she's much too rash, and she can't say she disagrees, really.
Finn shakes his head and spins in his chair so it's facing him. "Quinn's just riding my ass about this dumb prom stuff. Can I give you some advice?"
She nods aptly, widens her eyes to show him that yes, she is listening to what is surely to be his sage advice. "Yes."
"Don't get on prom court. All it'll do is—is stress you out."
"Sound advice." She bites her bottom lip. "My advice in return is: don't let Quinn ruin prom for you! Don't you like dancing?"
"What!" She is absolutely flabbergasted! "How can you not love dancing?"
"Rach, I like…suck and stuff."
Narrowing her eyes, she stares him down with a condescending look in her eyes. "Oh, Finn, I'm certain you have untapped potential and just need to be taught!"
He smiles good-naturedly, but shakes his head. "Nah, Rachel, I'm not good like you at all that performing stuff."
She's surprised. "You think I'm good?"
"Yeah. I mean, you didn't have, like a lead in the spring musical, but you definitely were the best dancer and you always looked real happy, so."
"I didn't know you saw the show." Why didn't you wait for me after, she wants to add, but his ears are just turning pink, so she lets the statement float between them.
"'Course I did—had to support my, um…my brother."
Perhaps if this were any other day—any other situation—she would stand between his parted knees and kiss him, thank him for coming to see her in her show (he really is a terrible liar), but she just clasps her fingers together and excuses herself from his bedroom.
Finn's outside when she comes home from a date with a boy from Carmel, his name's Jesse and he's a grade level above her and already has his license and she likes him, she really does, but she doesn't feel about him the way she does about Finn, who's standing in the dim light of his front porch, and she wonders if she's being paranoid but she thinks she can feel his eyes on her when she lets Jesse walk her to her door and kiss her.
She walks inside only to watch Jesse pull out of her driveway and head home. As soon as he disappears far down the road, she sneaks back outside. Her parents won't even notice, besides, she has an entire hour until curfew.
"Finn!" She calls. "What're you doing out here?"
He clears his throat, eyes firmly set ahead of him as she joins him on the front porch. "Watering Mom's garden."
"Oh." There's no hose.
"I finished, like, five minutes ago," he explains hastily, and his lips push out this little sigh after a moment's silence. "Who's the guy?"
Is it wrong of her to be enjoying this? He must think he's so hard to read, so sneaky, but he has clearly second guessed Rachel's superb perception. "You dating him?"
"No, no." She decides to throw him a bone, "He's not really my type. Too…ambitious."
"Yeah." She sits on the first step. "He spent much of our date detailing his desire to be on Broadway and then become an EGOT."
"What's an EGOT?" He sits on the second step so they're closer to being eye-level, and she thinks if it weren't so dark she'd be able to see his fair skin painted red.
It's not quite spring, not quite summer. It's warm with a sweater and cool without, and a breeze wafts through the leafy buckeye trees in Finn's front yard and the air is absolutely sweet with coming rain.
"It really just means you've won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. They're different awards," she elaborates. "Barbra is one, as well as Audrey Hepburn."
"Oh, yeah, okay." He's silent for a moment and doesn't look at her when he asks, "So what is your type?"
She could tell him you, Finn, and kiss him right here, bathed in silver moonlight, she could tell him she thinks she's fallen in love with him even though she's fifteen years old and should be playing the field, but instead, she puts her hand on his shoulder and squeezes.
"I guess you'll have to find that out yourself."
The first time he kisses her, really kisses her, that is, is in the back corner of Burt's tire shop.
Papa brings her with him to get the oil changed on the Mazda. She has dance rehearsal in three hours, and he tells her he'll drop her off after the car is serviced. Rachel may be extraordinarily talented, but she's just like other teenagers in that she doesn't exactly jump up and down when her parents suggest spending time with her at a tire shop.
But Finn's been spending his summer there, so she supposes it isn't too awful. A (not so) secret part of her wishes for Finn to be here today, and she decides it's high time to find out once Papa's opened his briefcase and begun looking through some work documents.
"I'll be right back, Papa," she tells him and disappears down the hallway. With a surreptitious glance behind her, she slips through the customer door and sets about finding Finn. He isn't hard to miss, as he's the only one working today, plus, he's standing right beside a blue car, lip of the engine popped up.
She's becoming quite stealthy. When she stands beside Finn, he doesn't even register her presence (though that could be due to his encompassing work) until she says, "Hi, Finn."
"Jesus!" He exclaims, jumping and nearly hitting his head on the top of the engine. "Rachel, you can't be back here without, like, a helmet and some protective padding on!"
"Oh, come on, Finn," she rolls her eyes, "it's not that dangerous."
He purses his lips and tightens the set of his jaw. "Can you please make a like a good customer and return to the waiting room?"
"Fine. If you insist on endangering your fragile life, the least you could do is help me out."
He instructs her to sit on this table beside the car and briefs her on the tools he'll need her to pass him. Finn is silent as he works, so she takes some time to appreciate the coveralls on his big frame, the grease on his fingers and nose.
"Do you have a radio?"
"Nope." He glances at her briefly, asks her to pass him some tool she doesn't even remember him teaching her about, and at her responding silence, reaches across her and grabs it. His body leaning on hers, even briefly, takes her aback and she can smell the clean aftershave he uses as well as grease, and she surmises it's very fitting: manly, strong, perfectly Finn.
"Can I sing for you?" He's never heard her sing before.
"Um. Sure, if you don't suck," he teases, cheeks dimpling.
"Finn Hudson! I assure you I do not suck."
"Fine." She sings him her latest favorite song, an old seventies song she's sure he's never really heard, but she manages to pull him from his work and he just stares at her as she sings, gaze growing ever sweeter as she draws out the final note, and then, they're bathed in silence.
"I know it was a little rough," she teases, "but I do believe that I do not suck."
"No, you don't suck at all, you're like the opposite of suck, Rach, I've never—I don't think I've ever heard such a pretty voice my entire life." He closes his eyes for a moment, places his hand over his heart. "I can really feel it, right here."
She blushes, not used to such fawning from someone other than her parents. "Thank you, Finn."
There's a cadence, a rhythm in his movements as he works that reminds her of the drum set in the corner of his bedroom she's never asked him about, rhythm in his words as he tells her a random story, and she finds herself drawn into it, drawn into him, swallowed by the lilt of his voice and the steady mechanical sound of tools at work.
He finishes work on the blue car and moves onto the next, Papa's silver Mazda, and he glances at her dubiously before grasping her firmly by the waist and lifting her off the table.
"Gotta work under the car," he explains and sets about doing so. She finds a suitable place and sits on the ground, toolbox opened beside her.
She feels somewhat out of place here, dressed in her dance tights and leotard, only covered by an oversized lilac sweater that exposes the very top of her right shoulder. Indulgently, she wonders if Finn thinks she looks pretty today, if he thinks she ever looks pretty. After all, it's summer, now, and she's technically a sophomore and while that means he is technically a senior, she doesn't let it throw her off. She's a whole year older than when she met him, and that means something.
He finishes the car and sits beside her, leans back so his shoulder brushes hers, and she doesn't want to leave, wants to stay with him and talk and laugh and smile and blush and she's certain this first love will be her only love.
She turns her head to say something to him, something along the lines of I have to go to dance, now but he kisses her before she can even say anything, no syllable escapes her lips, just a surprised oh! that barely makes it's way out of her lips before it's swallowed in Finn's mouth.
Kissing him it's different; it's nice. It's not like the movies, no sparkly fireworks just a slow, steady burn that's like coffee percolating on a gray, wintery morning, it's like the cool relief of the ocean on burned skin. Kissing Finn is everything and nothing at the same time, a sweet happy little dichotomy, and he smells overwhelmingly like grease, like his work, and she knows instinctively that the hand he rests on her cheek will leave a black smudge of grease on her cheekbone, but she can't bring herself to care.
He releases these little sighs when he kisses her, little groans that tell her he likes this, likes her, and he slips his tongue into her mouth, and she's a little caught off guard but she likes that he's spontaneous, that he's exciting, surprising.
After a moment, he pulls away, and his gaze is dizzying, and her heart feels like it could absolutely burst. He's breathing heavily, and she is, too, and she's surprised when he leans in and just kisses her right on the nose.
He doesn't say anything when he walks her to the front of the shop, explains to Papa that he caught her wandering around the store like she's a little girl, and they share this glance that makes her feel so, so small, and not good small like the way she feels when Finn stoops to hear her say something, or the way he bends to hug her sometimes. She's beginning to feel the seams of her heart tighten and unravel simultaneously, and this upheaval, it's so, so, so frightening to her, feeling this way, so she buries it in her afternoon at dance, focuses not on the dumb tall boy who has managed to completely enrapture her but on perfecting her pirouettes.
Rachel is infuriated, to say the least, when Finn completely dodges even saying hello to her in the following days. After a week of his lame excuses, she decides it is high time to get an explanation for his weird behavior and seeks him out one hazy afternoon in late June. She chooses this day in particular because Kurt is in Cleveland for a show with Burt and Carole, and Finn is left behind for the evening.
She finds him lying in a hammock in his backyard, asleep. Upon closer inspection, she notes the telltale signs of sunburn on his face and neck, and shakes her head at his carelessness.
"Finn," she says softly, pressing her fingers against his warm skin, "Finn."
He blinks sleepily and gazes up at her with eyes like whiskey, covers her hand on his face with his own hand, murmurs, "Hey, baby," in this sweet, throaty voice that makes her heartbeat quicken.
"You have sunburn," she tells him in a very matter-of-fact, stern voice that she hopes will convey her newfound hatred of him.
"I do?" He sits up suddenly, lets her hand drop from his face, and sighs, feeling the tightness in his skin. "Oh, fuck. I didn't mean to fall asleep."
"I do not appreciate your creative use of language."
"Whoops, sorry." He blinks a few times, shaking the lethargy from his mind, and quirks one half of his mouth into a semi-smile. "What did you need, Rachel?"
"You've been avoiding me."
"Yes, that! Finn, you kissed me, then treated me like a child, and then ignored me for a week and a half afterwards!"
"You make no sense Finn, I hope you know that. You spend an entire year flirting with me and pushing and pulling me in and out of platonic friendship and date other girls and get jealous when I go out with boys that I like and you hug me and listen to my rants, and act all angsty one moment and completely normal the next, and when you finally kiss me, you ruin it and I just—I want to know why," her voice has lifted into an astoundingly high decibel and she's worried momentarily about what the other neighbors may think.
"Why? Rachel, isn't it—isn't it completely obvious?" His voice is loud, kind of angry, but not quite yelling yet, for which she's grateful. "Don't you understand?"
"Rachel, I've got all these intense feelings for you, a girl who should be like a little sister to me, considering your age and friendship with Kurt!"
He shakes his head. "Like you don't know, Rachel. I'm completely in love with you and we can never be together properly."