VII

i chase your love around a figure eight

i need you more than i can take

In December, Finn stops answering her phone calls and she changes her Facebook status to single.

He doesn't call on her birthday, doesn't send a happy birthday text message, doesn't even like her birthday Facebook status, and if it weren't for his twitter account, she'd think him dead. She calls him, one day, a few days after her birthday, because she knows he's coming home soon. He doesn't answer, but she leaves a voicemail, tired of not talking to him, even if he refuses to listen.

"Hi, Finn," she begins, and already she feels her throat closing up, "It's me. Me, um, Rachel. And – I don't know where you are, what you're doing, where you're at…where you're at in terms of our relationship."

Pausing, she takes a deep breath. She's getting a bit verklempt, you see, and she needs a moment to gather her thoughts.

"I loved you so, so much, Finn, we were – you were everything to me." She takes a steadying, centering breath. "And I miss you. And I hate you for doing this to us."

And then she inhales, hangs up, and leans back on her bed, a little numb.

She kind of feels like she's unraveling. Like her heart is coming undone like this sweater her uncle Pete bought her for her birthday last year. It had caught on something, started unraveling slowly, at first, and then every seam came undone until all she had left were sleeves and strands and that's kind of how she feels.

Finn doesn't call, doesn't even fight, and that, she supposes, is how she knows it's really over. She tries to be happy, to smile, to pretend it's not a big deal, but…

It sort of is a really big deal, breaking up with the first love of your life.


It makes her sad, watching his car pull into his driveway and knowing she's not the first person he'll want to see. Maybe she still is, but it doesn't feel like it. And just last month she was counting down the days 'til his homecoming, would send him a text message proclaiming the number and he'd respond with a heart or a smiley face and she thinks that the frequency of the smiley faces, those were the beginning of the end.

She wonders what it is about the winter that makes Finn love her less during it. Why he can't seem to be hers fully in the winters, what it is about the gray sky and dead earth that hardens his love for her, but she thinks that now, she'll never know.

Perhaps it's a bit creepy, the way she's watching him, his body still tall and broad but thinner, tanner, warmer, stepping out of the car, stretching, hugging Kurt and then his mother, and it breaks her heart, you know, how happy he looks.

She has to look away, crawls onto her bed, answers Sam and Tina's group message, lies on her back and puts on her Finn Sad play list and just – just lies there.

Daddy comes in, sits with her, lets her cry because she hasn't done much of that since the breakup, and it's all sort of coming at once, that she doesn't really know who to be without Finn, that she misses him, feels like part of her has been removed, and god, she misses him, misses being loved by him, and how horrible, she thinks, that she can't remember the last time her (ex) boyfriend made her feel loved.

She's trying not to blame him. She texts Tina SOS and she comes over with this ice cream Rachel likes now that she's not a vegan anymore and they watch funny movies trying not to remind her of the boy next door who fell out of love with her.

"I loved him," she says, in the midst of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. "So goddamn much."

Tina kind of pats at her hair, comforting, so unlike Kurt, so natural in her comforting, and she supposes Tina has become the best friend Kurt was, before Finn and before Blaine and before he became someone she disliked.


She was supposed to go to Finn's for Christmas dinner, but she doesn't have to ask to know that invitation is revoked. It's better, she thinks, watching The Princess Bride with Papa and Daddy, better than sitting next to Finn, his ankle hooking behind hers, flirting casually at the dinner table, apologizing a million times to Mrs. Hummel, sorry I don't eat meat, sorry sorry and her casual head shakes, pats on the arm, at one point in her life she thought his mom would someday be her mother-in-law, and now, that thought just makes her heart ache.

But, okay. She's not going to mope today. She is much stronger than that and she can get through these holidays. And not only can she, but she will. Besides, this will only help her future on Broadway, she can call on this pain to add a bit more emotional depth to her performances.

She goes to Kurt's, though, on Christmas day just to drop off his present – this fabulous scarf she found at this vintage store that cost her an arm and a leg – and she knocks on the door because it doesn't feel like her home anymore, and Finn opens the door.

"Um."

She swallows, feels her chest tight. "Hi."

"Hi."

Blinking, "hi."

"You – said that. Already."

"Oh." She won't look at him, not at his body, he's still wearing Christmas pajamas and she remembers how last year she'd come over in her own pajamas, remembers how they'd cuddled on his couch, flannel-clad legs so warm pressed against each other's. "Um. I'm here for Kurt."

"Okay." He opens the door wide and she steps in, can feel his eyes on her. "You wanna take your coat off?"

"No, I'll be but a minute."

"Oh."

It's too hard, she thinks, this horribly awkward tension, not talking even in conversation, and she hates how small she feels. "Is he – in his room?"

"Family room." The door is still wide open and he's grabbing the door knob real hard and she stares at her feet, and then he's bellowing, "Kurt! Rachel's here!"

She hears his footsteps and then Kurt arrives, shoos Finn away and she wants to cry but she won't cry here, not when he's in the house, and she tells Kurt merry Christmas quietly and scurries home because she can't bear to be in his house anymore, not when things with Finn are so estranged.

Kurt tells her she's still invited over for the New Year's Eve party even though they haven't really been talking much this break. She debates with Tina for an hour whether or not to go and she decides, ultimately, it will be worth it, ringing in the New Year with her friends, even if Finn may be lurking around, she's trying this new thing where she's positive.

It's not working so far, but she's tired of moping. Surely moping can only lead to wrinkles, which will invariably lead to a condensed stint on Broadway.

Positivity. A girl's best friend.

"Rachel, you can't wear leggings to a New Year's Eve party, even if you are single this year," Kurt gripes, standing from her vanity and pawing through her closet.

"I don't wanna go, Kurt," she bemoans, flopping onto her back on the bed. "Okay, no, I do. I wish to see Santana, you know that, but…"

"The thing with my brother, I know. And this," he pulls a black dress out, lays it on her vanity, turns back to her closet, "this precisely is why I didn't want you to date him."

"I thought you just – I don't know. Didn't think I was good enough."

He turns and shakes his head, "Look, Rachel, I know I'm – I know I'm really hard on you. And we don't get along that well and stuff, but you're like a sister to me, whether or not you're dating Finn, and I only didn't want you to date him because I knew this would happen, and you wouldn't listen and – " He stops, takes a breath. "Anyway. He's kind of a lost soul, Finn Hudson, a wanderer, if you will."

"Yeah," she hums. "Thanks, Kurt."

"Now, black is always fabulous for the occasion," he says, aptly changing the subject, and she could not be more pleased. "You're lucky you've got long legs."

She looks at her legs now, clad in leggings and socks and one of Finn's old shirts (she can't bear to get rid of all the parts of him), and she shrugs. "I do suppose they are rather long considering my small torso."

"So disproportionate," he clucks, "but – in a good way."

"Um, thanks."

She puts on the dress, wears black tights, feels glamorous if a little bit funeral chic, and Kurt tells her black is very slimming. She feels beautiful, really, and she puts on these boots and she's never dressed like this before, but if Finn's allowed to grow up, to change, well, then, so is she.


Santana gets her sort of drunk sort of fast. She barely even notices Finn, lurking in the corners, laughing with his friends, staring at her as she dances on the make shift dance floor with Sam and Kurt and Tina and Santana.

Maybe it gets a little dirty, Sam's hands a little high on her thighs, but she feels a little out of control in the very best way.

It gets hot, though, and it's not even midnight yet and she asks to go outside for a minute because she's suffocating. Santana takes her arm and they stand outside and she's a little too drunk to know better and she takes one of Santana's cigarettes and feels like choking at first, but it gets better, feels better, once she gets used to it.

"You and Finn?"

"Mhmm," she murmurs on an exhale, fascinated by the way the smoke climbs like church spires.

"Sad, or what? I mean…"

"Definitely sad," she says, and she puts her hand on Santana's wrist, "moping. Almost numb-sad."

"What happened?"

She licks her lips, flicks some ash off the end of her cigarette, shivers. It's cold, even being drunk, but at least she's not crying. "I dunno. He stopped answering my calls. He stopped loving me."

It's all kind of a blur, her words, and Santana hugs her real tight, takes her in, pours her a glass of pink champagne, her secret favorite, and she sort of wanders around, dances with Sam, looks at a clock, feels Finn's gaze, and he's sulking, off in the corner, and if she were a petty girl, she'd kiss Sam right here on the dance floor, even though she knows he still likes her.

She'd apologize to him, Sam, but he doesn't look like he minds very much, and it's almost midnight so they turn on the television in the basement and she detaches herself from Sam, stands mostly in a corner, watches the countdown dwindle to ten, and then five, and then Finn, and then one and she's too busy kissing Finn to shout happy New Year with everyone else.

She's too drunk too appreciate it, kissing him again, but she is aware enough to know that she wants it, wants him, his mouth, his tongue, all the world melting away.

"Finn," she murmurs when she pulls away, "Finn."

"I had – I needed – "

He's wearing one of his typical plaid shirts but this one is new, and he's not wearing it open, he's got it buttoned and that's different, something he never did before, and she grabs at his collar and yanks his mouth onto hers.

It's been too long since she last kissed him. His hands run over her body, from her waist to her hips, cupping her ass and pulling her body flush against his, in the corner of his basement.

"I want you," she says. "I need – I need you."

"Okay," he murmurs, leaning his forehead against hers, and he takes her hand tentatively, looking at her with eyes so sweet, and she wonders if he's drunk like she is, or drunk at all, wonders what's going to happen as he leads her upstairs, away from the party and the music and the drinks and whatever else everyone's doing down there, up to his room where she pushes him on the bed and climbs on top of them.

It isn't how she wants reunion sex with Finn to be, but she doesn't suppose it is reunion sex. She supposes it's broken up sex, sex just to have sex, and this is what men do, is it not? And women, too, and she wants to have sex with him, to fuck him, be fucked by him, and happy new year, really, and he's still so sweet to her, even when she's grabbing his shoulders, pulling him closer, he's still sweet and kisses her all over, makes her feel good, and it's so hard to coincide this Finn, who clearly loves her, with the person who's been ignoring her calls, who ignored her birthday, and she starts to cry before she comes, overwhelmed and drunk, and he tries to slow down but it ends, it ends, and she wants to cuddle up with him but she has to vomit first.


She wakes up, spooned against him, warm and sweating, bare skin sticking, her head aching and she thinks if things weren't so ruined, if she still believed in them, but she steals his shirt, tiptoes downstairs with her clothes and shoes in her arms, her first walk of shame in her life and she's thankful Papa and Daddy are visiting Nana in Florida, or else she'd be in serious trouble.

Anyway, she takes a shower and cries in the shower because her head hurts and she feels sick and she had sex with Finn even though she shouldn't have and she still loves him, adores him, and she hates herself because of it.

He broke her heart and she hates how easy it is for him to let himself back in without even apologizing, and she'll certainly never be abject to his kisses, or his hands or anything, but – but she just hates how she wants him, always.

She's moping on her bed, deciding that resolutions are for yuppies anyway, when there's a knock at her bedroom door. Assuming it's Kurt, dramatically, she calls,

"I think I'm dying," but it's not Kurt.

"Hi," and Finn's cheeks are red and he looks shy for the first time in a long time. "I, um…" He's holding a bag. "Your bra."

She could just die. "Oh."

"You stole my shirt," he says, indicates his shirt still on her body, and she folds her limbs close to her chest.

"Do you want it back?"

"No."

He comes into her room a bit, pauses. "Can I come in?"

Rachel nods, but scrambles to her feet, off the bed, moves so that the backs of her thighs press against her desk.

"I'm not gonna murder you or anything," he teases, but there's an edge to his voice like c'mon trust me and it makes her not trust him.

"Yes, you are."

His laugh is warm and sweet and he sits on the edge of her bed like he belongs there and she thinks it's sort of – it's like how he's written himself into her pages, how he's put himself in his corner, not forced but like he belongs there. She thinks he might have, for a long time, belonged with her. To her. And now he's – he's free.

"Would you come here?"

"No."

"Rachel…"

"I have a box of your things," she blurts out, "but you can't have your shirts back."

"Okay." He swallows. "Rach – why'd – why'd you leave?"

She licks her lips. He owes her an explanation before she says anything to him, but her mouth moves before her brain can stop her, "I can't be around you anymore."

"I – I suppose…I mean, I guess…I deserve that."

"Yes."

She doesn't think she's ever been this honest with him, and she takes little baby steps to him.

"I…" he sighs. "I wish you wouldn't have left."

"Me, too." She wonders if he knows she means she wishes he hadn't left, hadn't left her, hadn't ignored her, Her throat feels thick again, and she comes a little closer to him, her feet carrying her until she's right between his knees, her hands gingerly on his shoulders. "I hate you."

He kisses her.

She puts her hands on his face, and she hates him to her bones, to her core, and she thinks she really loves him more, that the love that thrums in her heart means more than the hate in her stomach, but it doesn't stop her from biting at his bottom lip so he groans a little, so he pulls her closer, his hands under her (his) shirt, his denim familiar against her hand as it brushes over his thigh, presses over him, his groans swallowed in her mouth, and she takes the time to appreciate the nuances.

His hand, big on her bare back, skin rough and warm, the flush of his skin while she's on top of him, pushed onto his back on her bed, and she pulls his tee shirt off, tosses it to the ground, kisses his clavicle and neck, his hands unclasping her bra, and it's slow and a little lazy and warm, so warm, his hand between her thighs, his mouth brushing her cheek when he asks,

"What do you want, baby?"

"You," she whispers, a little whine in her voice, "around me."

He shifts and he's on top, his hips pressing against hers and she helps him unbutton his jeans and then he's inside of her, and she's missed this, missed him, all of him, missed feeling close to him. She cries again, overwhelmed by it all and afterwards, once they've both come and they're lying awkwardly on top of her rumpled comforter, bodies close and he gets up, the messy part, her least favorite part, and she's breathless and heaving and she picks up his shirt off the floor, buttons it hastily, tiptoes to her drawers for underwear.

She doesn't feel used, and when she slips beneath her covers she wants to cry, because she still loves him so much, even in trying to hate him, and he comes out of the bathroom after a minute dressed again but he joins her beneath the covers, his thigh between hers, bodies like parentheses.

"Rachel," he breathes, his thumb brushing against the underside of her eye.

"I don't wanna talk."

"Okay." He puts his hand on her hip, pulls her closer. "Why?"

She narrows her eyes, but he's smiling just a little. She wants to fall asleep, she's so tired, so drained, but she wants to stare at him all the more. He never really used to let a beard grow, never used to let the scruff last past a few hours in the morning. Finn looks decidedly grown up, so adult, far from the boy she fell in love with.

"I don't know you anymore," she whispers, "and it scares me."

He doesn't respond.


They aren't back together, and Finn doesn't come home for summer, but he does call her, once, but she doesn't answer, busy with things, school, glee club, her friends, and she thinks she's dating Sam or something (sometimes they kiss) but Finn calls in April the night she goes to bed at eight in the evening, the night before glee goes to Nationals in Chicago.

She wakes up to his voicemail, his voice warm and sweet in her ear.

"Hey, um, it's me." He pauses, and she pictures him, sitting, perhaps lying, on his bed, his phone at his ear. "Finn. Anyway, I wanted you to know that I'm sorry, for leaving, for lying, for ignoring you, for ruining what we had, and you deserve an explanation. And I'm – I'm real sorry, you know, that this is late, that I didn't – over break – but you – we couldn't and I wanted to say that I'm really sorry. Um, I can't come home this summer, I've got a full time job this summer that I need to pay for school, but – but I miss you. And I still love you, even if I haven't made you feel that way. And I just thought you should know that everything that's happened between us – it's all me. You're perfect, I love you, and I want you to visit this summer, so call me back, and um – good luck, with your show choir thing. You'll totally be awesome up there."

She doesn't call him back.


It starts with a text message, a brief conversation the morning on the first day of her senior year of high school.

Hey good luck today x Finn

Rachel is very good at answering text messages, she'll have you know, and can even come up with droll responses to droll questions but this throws her off. Finn hasn't really talked to her since that message in April, and she hasn't talked to him since winter break last year and she misses him, she does, but she remembers what Santana said, about that girl Brittany, and she thinks that's right.

She will always love Finn Hudson. He was her first time, her first kiss, her first love, the first boy who paid her any real attention, the first boy who made her think about marriage, the first boy to break her heart, the first boy who had her heart, but her heart again lives in her ribcage, beats normally again, doesn't ache when she thinks of her boy in California turned man.

It's easy, now, and there are so many other things, there's Sam and Tina and Kurt and Blaine and Mercedes, all her friends, and senior year, and this year, she is certain that her glee club will win a national title.

But the text message, Finn's message, sits in her inbox until lunch when she discreetly responds.

Thanks

Perhaps it's not her most colloquial, but it'll have to do. She doesn't expect a response, but when she gets the time to check her phone again, after the first official glee meeting of the year, her first as co-captain and lead, there's one waiting,

You're welcome x

And, okay. That little x makes her heart pound a little, because she hasn't seen that in a long time, and she decides to respond,

Hi.

She's driving when she responds. Normally, Rachel Berry is not one to text and drive, however, she breaks the rules, just this once, at a stoplight, reads Finn's message, Hi, back.

That's sort of how it starts, the steady ascent into friendship. She doesn't think she's ever really been his friend, but it's easy. He still ends some of his text messages with that x but she doesn't think anything of it, and after a few months of text messaging, he's become her friend and she gets up the courage to call him, eager to hear a more detailed description of his life in California than his thumbs can make.

"Hey," he says, a little breathless, "sorry, I just had to run to my phone."

"Why's that?"

"I was making lunch and my phone was in my room," he explains. "You're lucky I have impeccable hearing."

"Lunch? Finn, it's nearly – oh, right. Time difference."

"Mhmm." She hears water running.

"What're you making?"

"This pasta thing. You'd probably like it, actually."

"Oh."

"What're you doing?"

"Um, sitting on my bed, talking to you. You know how I feel about multitasking."

His laugh is warm and familiar and she imagines taking that sound and turning it into something tangible, imagines that thing both beautiful and comfortable, but then again she thinks that describes Finn, beautiful, comfortable, and perhaps extraordinarily flawed (but that's why she adores him so).

"How's school? You, uh, doing all your homework and stuff? Staying safe."

"It's fine, thanks, Danny Tanner." He laughs again. "But, no, honestly, this year is going so well. I got invited to audition at NYADA, you know, and also at Juilliard."

"Wow, Rach, congratulations, that's – that's awesome. So, New York next year, huh?"

"Mhmm."

"Absolutely no interest in California?" She can hear his smile, even if it makes her heart feel heavy.

"Finn…"

"I know," he murmurs. "I just miss you. And home. It's been so long since I've been home and I'm totally booked with work, even during the holidays. But we'll see."

"I miss you, too," and she does she does she misses him so much. "Tell me a story."

"A story?"

"About California."

"Okay."


She's home alone on her birthday, just for the day, Papa and Daddy are coming home in the evening to make her dinner, and besides, Sam tells her he'll stop over sometime and Kurt already came for breakfast and Tina will be here eventually, too. She's not sure if she's dating Sam or not, they still kiss sometimes, but she sees him flirting with Tina, who broke up with Artie, like, four months ago, and he's already moved onto this new girl, Sugar, so.

But anyway she likes to walk around and sing her heart out when she's home alone, and she finds herself singing a Frank Sinatra song and she sings all the way to the door.

"Happy birthday," Finn says, and Finn's here.

She squeals and screams and tackles him, expects him to fall back, but he catches her because he's steady, strong, and she could cry she's so excited.

"You're here," she murmurs, sad she can't kiss him because she's not his anymore and he's not hers.

Smiling, "Surprise. And happy golden birthday!" He rubs the back of his neck. "Can I come in?"

He comes in and they don't have sex or anything but she kisses him, feels her heart heavy, laden, bittersweet because she can't have him forever but if he'll let her, she'll take him, now.

"You're my friend," she tells him, her hand on his shoulder, and then she kisses him.

He hums a little, puts his hand on her face, tugs her closer. "I love you," he says, and she doesn't answer, can't answer, won't answer.

"Thank you for making this birthday so special."

"I'm sorry I missed last year's."

"Finn," she murmurs, her fingers threading into his hair, "I don't want to talk about that."

"Not today," he decides. Again, he says he loves her. "I'm going back tonight."

"You came just for me?"

"I've got work tomorrow, and I needed to come home. See you, my mom, be home for a bit."

She kisses him again, kisses him and kisses him and he puts his hands under her shirt on her skin but he's not trying to touch her breasts (even though she'd let him), they're just kissing, and when he says goodbye, he says it a third time, the words staccato, raw, I Love You, punctuated by another kiss and Papa and Daddy don't ask questions when they pull into the driveway to find her kissing Finn still on the porch

But later that night, when Papa brings her tea, he sits on the side of her bed and runs his hand over her hair. "Are you back together with Finn?"

"Um, no," she says, looks up from her book, "he just came home today. For the day. For me."

"Sweet pea, you were kissing him."

"Because I – love him," she says hurriedly, "Papa, he's my first love."

"Okay, okay, darling girl. As long as you're being safe and that boy isn't breaking your heart."

"He breaks it and mends it everyday, Papa, but I love him, and it's worth it." He kisses her forehead, tells her not to stay up too late, shuts the door. She leans back and thinks about Finn, like always.

She's a little annoyed at herself, letting him back into her good graces and all, but he's been so sweet lately, so different from that person he was his senior year and beyond, and she thinks that someday he'll explain, perhaps when they're married or maybe when they're two friends, not married to each other, they'll laugh about how they'd run all over one another's hearts when they were teenagers, and he'll tell her he was sorry but aren't we much happier now and they'll clink champagne and think of their different, separate lives.

The thought of him marrying another girl makes her sick, but she's trying not to think like that.


"I'm coming," he says, voice excited and breathless on the phone, "to New York. For, like, six months."

"What for?"

"This teaching opportunity has been awarded to me," he explains, "and I was wondering if you had any space in your bed for me?"


tbc