A/N: AU where Rachel signs her son up for pee wee football and there they meet Coach Hudson. First entry in the Parker!verse.
Confession: I might watch American Football, but research only tells you so much, I may have my facts wrong. (Edit: I was corrected that Little League is baseball and Pee Wee is football. Story updated.)
Shoutouts to amberissmiling for giving me the idea of Finn as a pararescueman (sexiest and most dangerous job he could ever have), if you haven't read Into the Wild Blue Yonder yet, don't walk, sprint to my favourite stories, it tops the list. Written for Jo'hnellyn who I suspect wants to see Rachel and Finn get freaky on a football field, either when it rains or they turn the sprinklers on. Either way, I wrote it and it's really the first time I've ever written something like this, so I hope I did her proud :)
Disclaimer: Glee isn't mine.
the person happiness became
"PARKER LIAM St. JAMES! GET INSIDE HERE RIGHT NOW!"
Her seven-year-old son comes trudging into the kitchen and gives her a shamefaced look at the use of his full name. He stands just inside the kitchen door, shoulders hunched over as he sticks his hands in his pockets. He peeks over at his mother's best friend and then lowers his eyes to the floor.
"What did you just do?"
Parker doesn't respond. His toes find an interesting spot on the floor.
"Parker!" She snaps again.
"What just happened in there?"
He mumbles something unintelligible and keeps toeing the tile on the floor. She looks at Artie and he shrugs, tapping his fingers against the wheels of his chair as he stares at the little boy in front of them.
"Speak up young man. I can't hear you."
"I broke something." He looks up at her, bright blue eyes wet.
Her entire body sags and she pushes her hands through her hair. "What was it? What did you break?"
He hesitates, dropping his head again, his little shoulders shake as he takes a deep breath and meets her eyes again. "Dad's award."
She closes her eyes, controlling her breathing before turning back to the table. She drops onto the chair beside her and rests her head in her hands.
"Go to your room. Bring me your guitar. And your tablet."
She levels a look at him, stern brown eyes to his innocent blue ones.
He huffs and grumbles and trudges off to do as he's told. He hands them to her, looking longingly at them before she sends him back to his room.
"Good night Uncle Artie," he mumbles, dragging his feet as he slumps away.
"Night sport. Try to keep on your mom's good side, cool? I can't go trolling for chicks if my wingman isn't with me." Artie calls out, doing a wheelie in his chair. A reluctant grin pulls at Parker's face and he chances a look at his mother who's just looking between them, her eyebrows raised.
Parker nods obediently. "Sorry, Mom."
He slips out the door and she can hear the bathroom pipe running as he brushes his teeth.
"Seriously Artie, I have no idea what to do! He's usually so well-mannered and decent but lately, every other thing sets him off. He breaks things for no reason, he talks back to me. He's just so insolent and rude and my sweet little boy is gone."
"Maybe we should get him involved in something with other kids his age."
"He already does things with kids his age, Artie. He does tap, takes French classes and he practices at the synagogue on Broad Street. He's really well-rounded."
Artie smirks and rolls over to her kitchen closet, pulling out the mop and dustbin.
"Rachel, the kid needs to do a sport or something. Running, swimming, football. Hell, sign him up for Pee Wee. All that pent-up aggression needs to go somewhere besides breaking stuff in your house."
He rolls out and into the living room before rolling back in with Jesse's broken Tony award in his lap.
"I can get this fixed. It's just the base that's cracked and this thingymajiggy bent. Don't worry about it."
She stares sadly and the award then nods, shooting him a grateful smile. He grabs his bag and rolls to the front door, pulling it open. "Just, talk to Parker a little, maybe you'll figure out why he's acting out like this."
She sighs and follows him down the walkway, waiting until he spun around and got into his van. "I'll try, but you know how stubborn he is."
"Gee, I wonder where he got that from?"
She shoves his shoulder playfully, laughing. "Drive safe, dude."
"Always, home girl." He winks at her and pulls away.
Inside his bedroom, Parker's dutifully in bed, but he's not asleep. He's staring at the rotating music notes of the night light his father had given him. She knows he knows she's there, but he doesn't turn around. She sighs and pulls the door almost closed, and goes into her bedroom.
In the early hours of the morning, just around 3am, right on time, he crawls into bed with her. She pulls him close to her chest where he curls up beside her, his head right over her heart, the sound lulling him back to sleep.
"Pee Wee, Dad?"
She and Parker drive up to Connecticut that weekend with Tina so their children can partake in her parents' swimming pool. Her daddy is outside playing lifeguard with the three boys and she and Tina sip lemonade while they watch from inside.
"Hey, I played football. I wasn't very good, but it kept me active," her dad insists.
Tina laughs from behind her glass and Hiram playfully glares at her.
"I'm just saying, while both his parents were musical ingénues, there may be a strong possibility that even though Parker is musically gifted, he doesn't want to just do music. He's a smart kid, Rachel. And you've done your best. But get him involved in some other things too. It's the summer and I'm pretty sure my grandson does not want to be cooped up in a music room or a classroom playing the guitar." Her father snorts and shakes his head, stealing a cookie from her plate.
"Dad! No! You know you're not supposed to be eating those."
"It's just one cookie, Bug," Hiram insists, smiling widely.
"Bug?" Tina laughs out loud, dodging a piece of cookie Rachel throws at her.
"OK, Dad, first of all, that nickname was cute when I was Parker's age. And size." She glares at her still snickering friend. "And if you eat one more cookie, I'm telling Daddy."
Hiram's eyes widen in mock alarm before he snags another cookie and pops it in his mouth. "You wouldn't," he mumbles from around peanut butter chocolate chip goodness.
"Daddy!" She shouts.
Hiram reaches over and drops his hand over her mouth, both of them turning to look at Tina as she falls off her stool and onto the floor laughing like crazy. The Asian woman snorts gaily and a fresh round of laughter bursts from her. Her youngest son, Jeremy, runs inside, curiously peeking at his mother on the floor laughing.
"Whatsa funny Momma?"
Tina snorts and covers her face with her hand when her other son, Harry, and Parker runs in. LeRoy leans against the door smiling. "Do I need to ask?"
She shakes her head at her father, watching as Parker walks over to his aunt, peering down at her upside down. "You look silly, Auntie Tina."
Everyone was laughing now and she stares at her son, wondering how he could be two completely different people - a happy little boy who was full of life and laughter and then that surly child who perpetually scowls at the world.
She makes a note to ask Artie or Mike if they know of any Pee Wee teams in their neighbourhood.
She and Parker walk up to a beautiful blonde woman who's bouncing a giggly baby on her hip and watching a blonde-haired little girl throw a football to a gangly redhead boy a few feet away. The woman turns to her, a big smile on her face and freezes.
"You're Rachel Berry."
She sounds awed, which is not strange in itself. She's used to people coming up to her, asking for autographs or pictures. She's had success on Broadway before Parker and she went back to the stage briefly when he was a toddler. But the woman standing in front of her looks like she's stepped off the pages of some homemaker magazine and nothing like the people she's used to seeing at her shows.
Parker looks up at her with a raised eyebrow and she puts on her best show face, smiling widely as she holds her hand out for the woman to shake.
"Yes, hi. Nice to meet you."
The blonde shifts the baby to her other hip and grasps Rachel's palm warmly.
"Quinn Evans. My best friend took me to see your show earlier last year and you were amazing! You are a fantastic singer."
Parker snorts behind his hand, covering it up with a cough and she nudges him with her hip until his face is the picture of innocence, even though he's still trying to restrain his smirk.
"Thank you. Thanks so much. I'm not on stage anymore though. This lil man here keeps me too entertained."
Quinn turns her smile from Rachel to Parker and her mischievous son smiles politely, shaking Quinn's offered hand like a little gentleman. He surprises her sometimes.
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. Evans."
"Aren't you a gentleman?" Quinn coos and Rachel refrains from rolling her eyes. Quinn Evans was too blonde and too perky. Parker looks sidelong at her, and she's pretty sure he's thinking the same thing. She sticks her tongue out at him and he snickers again.
"I'm actually trying to find the coach? My best friend recommended I sign Parker up for Pee Wee and he says this was the best team around."
"Oh, it is! My Beth is on the team too, she's very quick on her feet. Her dad was a quarterback in high school and college." Quinn beams and points towards the blonde-haired girl in front. Really, she would have had no idea.
"A girl playing football," Parker muses quietly. "Neat."
Quinn's smile gets impossibly wider and she points to the bleachers where three men are seated eating sandwiches and bottles of Gatorade on the floor at their feet. "The one at the end."
Rachel turns to her and smiles. "Thanks."
Parker drags his feet as he walks behind her, hands stuck in his pockets, curly hair flopping over his forehead. She really needs to give him a haircut, but he refuses to let her touch his hair.
She walks up to the bleachers towards the men and clears her throat politely.
The large man wearing a baseball cap turned backwards turns around mid-laugh. He coughs a little and the blond behind him smacks his back several times until he pushes him away and gets to his feet.
He's tall, huge even, towering over her. She glances at Parker and he's staring up at the coach with wide eyes.
"Yea. Sorry. Yes, hi."
"Rachel. Rachel Berry. I called your office on Monday?"
Realization dawns on the coach's face and he holds a large hand out for her to shake. She takes it, and it's a lot softer than she thought it would be. His hand is warm in hers, a slight smile on his face as he stares down at her. Reluctantly, she pulls away, gripping Parker's shoulder and bringing him in front of her.
"This is Parker." Her voice sounds high and breathy and Parker cranes his head to look up at her with a frown on his face. She closes her eyes, rests her hand on her chest to compose herself. The man is attractive. Disarmingly so, and she's surprised at her reaction to him. She tries again.
"My son, Parker."
The hulking man looks down at the boy, a broad smile stretching his handsome face. He drops to his knees so that he was face to face with Parker and holds his hand out for the little guy to shake. Parker eyes the larger hand warily and looks back at her. She nods and he slowly reaches out to shake the Coach's hand.
"Finn Hudson. Nice grip there bud. You ever played before?"
"Not really. His father wasn't really a football fan," she murmurs.
Finn nods again and turns to one of the men behind him, clapping his hands for the football on the ground. He tosses it over and Finn twirls it in his hands and hands it to Parker. "Want to give it a go?"
Again, her son looks up at her and she nods in encouragement, urging him forward. He sighs and takes the ball, twisting it in his hands. He walks a little way off and turns around, juggling the ball from hand to hand as he stares expectantly at Finn.
"Let's just toss the ball around a little, get him comfortable with it and we can go from there, OK?"
She nods, keeping an eye on Parker as he listens to Finn. He shoots her curious looks every five seconds, almost like he's pleading for her to take him home. She nods again and he gives a big sigh, resigning to whatever punishment this is.
Finn jogs a little way off and claps his hands. "Alright, Parker! Give it your best shot!"
He does, letting the ball fly as far as it can go. She knows as little about football as Parker does, but he tosses it a couple feet beyond Finn's fingers, even though the tall man has to jump to catch it. The blond beside her whistles and other man claps heartily.
Finn looks back to her and winks. She's not sure if the blush spreading across her face is pride from Parker's throw or the wink Finn Hudson just tossed at her.
The early days of June sees Parker at football practice Tuesdays to Fridays from 3pm to 5pm. She's a paralegal at the district attorney's office nearby so she can pick him up from the synagogue after his guitar lessons and take him to the field at the middle school and then pick him up after work.
Initially, Parker is not too pleased that he has to do football. She doesn't want to saddle him with her friends during the day when she has to work, her fathers both still work and she's none too keen on leaving him home alone by himself. He may be pretty mature for his age, but he's only seven. And he could do with the exercise.
"Yes. Unless you want to stay by the synagogue until I get off from work. Not because you don't have school means I don't have to go to work."
He frowns at her from the backseat, then scowls at the scenery passing by as she drives him to practice. "But what about tap and French classes?"
Jesse was adamant in teaching Parker the arts from he was young. She was back on Broadway not soon after Parker was born, and since her husband wasn't actually working, he'd stayed home with their two-year-old. He signed Parker up for piano lessons and language classes, insistent that their son started learning from a young age so he would be more skilled the older he got. She didn't argue, because she was always too busy on stage, but now she had to admit to herself, maybe it was too soon.
"You don't have to go every day." She meets his eyes briefly. "And besides, football is just for a few months; if you don't want to do it again, you don't have to. You can try dance classes with Harry or baseball or something else."
Parker is quiet as they turn into the school parking lot, the group of boys and girls who were his new teammates running helter-skelter on the field. He stares at them once she's parked and nibbles at his bottom lip, but doesn't move. After a while, he gives a heavy sigh then hops out of the car. She walks with him towards the field then stops, dropping to the ground in front of him.
"I know it's a big change, but I really think you'll like this. You can have fun and I'm sure you'll be able to make new friends, I promise Harry and Jeremy won't mind."
Parker nods reluctantly and nudges the grass with his toes, hoisting his bag over his shoulder.
"Just give it a try. For me, Parker?"
His blue eyes bore into hers and she's reminded again how much he looks like his father. He's going to be tall though, like his grandfather.
"OK, Mom," he says in a soft voice. He gives her a shy smile and she kisses his forehead, combing his curly hair backwards. He makes a face and pulls away, hurrying over to Eli and Beth who shouts out to him.
"Have fun, sweetie!"
He barely tosses a wave back and she shakes her head, turning to back to her car when someone calls out to her.
"Miss Berry!" Finn's easy smile greets her when she turns back around.
"Coach Hudson." She smiles back. The man really was adorable up close. Warm amber-coloured eyes, a smattering of freckles over his nose, broad shoulders - there's a tattoo on his right bicep.
"Please, call me Finn."
"Then I'll have to insist you call me Rachel."
The side of his mouth lifts up and he inclines his head towards her. "Rachel."
They both look back towards the field where Parker and Eli are sitting, listening to a story Beth is telling them, her hands waving excitedly as she speaks and then they fall over laughing.
"Parker's a good kid. He's just - shy, sometimes. Ever since his father -," She turns back to Finn, pasting a smile on her face. He nods knowingly at her, eyes on her face.
"Hey, I'll take care of him. I'll even go easy on him, you know, make sure he has some fun."
She smiles as she nods, dipping her head down. "Thanks, Finn."
"Sure, no problem."
They stand like that for a while, Finn rocking on his feet, looking up at her from under his lashes, her hands wrapped around her as she tries to keep her eyes away from his. It's not awkward, and she could stay here with him awhile longer, but he's at work and she needs to get back to hers.
"I've got to get back, um, to the office."
"Sure. Ah, I'll see you after practice," he says nervously, rubbing the back of his neck.
She nods, smiling as she backs away. "See you later, Finn."
She turns and hurries back to her car, feeling like a schoolgirl as she does. She peeks back at Finn and he's watching her as she walks away. He's cute, and she could like him, but he's her son's football coach. So really, it's a bad idea.
Besides, that beautiful a man could not still be single.
"Berry's a doll, huh?"
He looks over at Puck and shakes his head. "She's nice, bro."
"Nice? You're doing that thing where your ears get red and you can't look away from her. It's like Quinn in high school all over again."
Laughing, he shoves his best friend, backing away when the other man shadowboxes towards him.
"I'm just saying dude, if you like her, ask her out. Something tells me she'll say yes." Puck's eyes are twinkling as he says this then he shrugs and jogs backwards to the kids, shouting at them to start warming up.
Unlike Puck, he has this thing where he doesn't date his students' or players' mothers - married or not. But Rachel, he actually wouldn't mind seeing her outside of the football field.
Out of his close group of friends, who he's known since middle school and through college, he's the only unmarried one, and without children. It's not that he doesn't want a family, he does, he loves kids - he's a teacher and a Pee Wee football coach, after all. It's just (before now), he's yet to meet the woman who he sees himself spending the rest of his life with. He doesn't believe in divorce, so he's determined when he finds that woman, he's into it for the long haul, a forever kind of love. Besides, he hadn't had much opportunity to settle down.
He just about broke his mother's heart when he enrolled in the Air Forces right after high school. It was a difficult decision, but it would pay for college. His parents had two teenagers going into college and his stepbrother was smart, he'd gotten accepted to NYU early admission, so the least Finn could do was help alleviate the situation even though they told him not to worry about it.
So, four years of being a pararescueman, then college for his bachelors and masters in early childhood education (plus reserve training) and here he was. His mother chastised both him and his brother for making her wait too long to be a grandmother.
("How do long do you two expect me to wait? It's no fun you know, hanging out with my book club a hearing them boasting about their grandbabies. I swear if Monica Gregson shows me one more picture of her twin granddaughters I'm going to smack her.")
His response to that is always the same, he kisses his mother on the head and pats her cheek, flashing her a smile. She tells him one day his charm will wear off.
Kurt's the lucky one. He's already married. And the only reason they don't have children is because they were waiting until Blaine finished his residency. And they only need to decide if they're going to adopt or use a surrogate. And Kurt's cheeky smile every time his mother mentions this isn't helping.
He loves being a teacher and he loves being a Pee Wee coach. It's fun, it's nice and it's good work. He loves his kids, and he just wants the best for them, and for them to be happy.
Parker's a nice kid. Smart, well-spoken with manners that'll rival Beth's any day. He has a helluva throwing arm, is quick on his feet, but doesn't know a thing about football.
And he always has this sad look on his face. He's seen it on Rachel's too, whenever she mentions Parker's father. She doesn't wear a ring, and Parker has never said anything about his dad being home; he doesn't talk about his father at all. It's kinda hard getting through to the kid though. Like, he listens to directions, does what he's told and even when he struggles with something, he won't stop until he gets it right. He doesn't talk to anyone besides Beth and Eli and sometimes Matt Jr, who doesn't really play, he just hangs around because his sister's on the team. He talks to Puck too, ever since the man showed up to practice with a guitar strapped on his back.
He notices something else too. Whenever Beth and her father are hanging out, or Puck and Eli, Parker was nowhere to be seen.
The first time it happens, he kinda freaks out, because he's responsible for the kid, you know? Practice was cut short early because of rain so he hurdles them inside the school until parents came by.
Puck's son halts to a stop in front of him, breathing hard. "Yea, Coach?"
"You seen Parker?"
Eli shrugs and takes off again.
He finally finds Parker behind the bleachers in the gym, looking at something in his wallet.
He looks up, an apologetic look on his face.
"You need to let me know when you want to go somewhere, OK?"
Parker nods. "Sorry Coach."
They pass Sam and Beth playing some hand game while Puck chases Eli around the gym. Parker looks like someone just kicked his puppy.
The next time it happens is after practice and Parker just folds his legs under him as he sits on the ground while he waits for his mother to come pick him up.
Finn's not sure what to do so he tosses the ball into Parker's lap. The little guy looks up at him then slowly gets to his feet, throwing the ball back. The distraction works well enough because Parker's actually smiling by the time Rachel comes by to pick him up. She shares a smile with Finn as she drives off.
A month into practice, he figures he understands Parker a little bit more. And he's gotten somewhat better at football.
Parker races by him on a play and tumbles to the ground. He hurries over to help him up, carefully taking his helmet off. There's a nasty cut on his cheek but Parker steels his features and nods his head when he asks him if he's OK.
"C'mon, let's go clean that before you get back in the game." He stands and holds a hand out to help Parker off the ground. The little guy stares at his hand and then back up at Finn before reaching out.
Parker keeps his eyes tightly closed as Sam cleans and puts a bandage on the cut. He murmurs a quick thank you and looks at Finn.
"Can I go back now, Coach?" He asks quietly.
"Sure, buddy. Be careful, alright?"
He nods at Finn then runs back to the huddle, yanking his helmet back on.
"He's not much of a talker, is he?" Sam asks.
"Nah. He only talks to your kid and Puckerman's. Bad idea."
Sam chuckles and packs away his first aid kit. He's still dressed in his hospital scrubs with a cigarette behind one ear and an earpiece behind the other. "He talks to you though."
"Yea, I'm his coach."
"Yes. But he actually talks to you. He responds to me and Puck. He looks you in the eye when words come out of his mouth and he stares at you with something akin to awe."
He furrows his brow and stares at Sam who nods, crossing his arm as he reclines on the bleachers. He shakes his head and walks back towards the kids. Eli and Beth are hovering around Parker, poking at his bandage.
"Knock it off you two. Parker needs to keep that clean."
Beth and Eli stand obediently beside Parker. He makes them form two lines to toss the ball at each other. The kid Parker tosses to groans when the ball goes over his fingers.
Sam wolf-whistles from the bleachers and Puck gives a shout from the other end of the field. It's him Parker looks to though, a shy smile on his face when he gives him a thumbs up.
Rachel texts him when practice one evening is almost over to tell him that she's running behind schedule and that her best friend, Artie, is coming by to pick up Parker from practice. He was actually looking forward to seeing her, but hey, she was busy. Another time. He doesn't mind waiting with Parker either, even if he's still not much of a talker.
At the end of practice when everyone starts running towards their parent's cars, he calls Parker over.
"So, ah, your mother won't be able to come pick you up. Artie's coming by to come get you. That alright?"
The little boy nods, pushing his hair back and sheds his practice uniform. He crawls up onto the bleachers and settles down to wait. After he packed the balls away and stacked the practice uniforms into a pile on the ground, he walks over to Parker. He still towers over him, so he sits a seat lower, so Parker's higher up than he is.
"My mom used to sing a lot."
He looks over at the little boy, staring behind him this guy picking up garbage off the field. He's humming as he works, a quiet melody.
Parker looks down at him with his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth and nods.
He grins and nudges the little boy with his shoulder. "She any good?"
Parker gives him that look that makes him feel even smaller than the seven-year-old and sighs, looking wistfully over at the man still humming merrily away. "The best ever."
He wants to ask him why she doesn't sing anymore, but it looks like Parker's not ready to talk about that just yet. So he just nods and spins a ball in his hands, staring at the curly mop of hair as Parker hangs his head. He seems so sad and he doesn't like seeing kids look so down, but he's not gonna push him to talk until he's ready. He's a big kid himself, his brother says that all the time, and he's patient enough to wait.
"That's awesome. I'd love to hear her sing sometimes."
It's very quiet, and he only hears it because he was actually listening for an answer.
A car horn beeps and he looks up towards a black SUV with a bespectacled man behind the wheel. He looks back at Parker nodding over to the van.
Parker looks up and nods, grabs his duffle bag and water bottle, climbing down from the bleachers. Finn walks with him over to the van, pulling the door open for him.
"Hey, Uncle Artie."
"Hey, champ. Good day?"
Parker shrugs and settles into his seat, dutifully buckling his seat belt.
"I'd hop out to greet you, but." The man shrugs and smiles broadly, blue eyes twinkling behind his glasses. The van is handicapable, decked out with plush leather seats and a gaming console behind the driver's and passenger seats. There's a NY Knicks banner hanging from the rear-view mirror. Finn still drives a beat-up old Ford, so he's rather impressed.
He leans through the window and shakes the man's hand. "Finn."
"Artie. Sorry, Rach got tied up with a case."
"Sure, no problem, she sent me a text. It's fine. Me and Parker were just hanging out."
"Parker and I," the little boy in the backseat corrects him. Artie snickers and turns around, grinning at Parker.
"What's on the menu for tonight? Chinese, Thai or Jamaican?"
Parker pretends to think, tapping his cheek. "Ox-tail and beans."
"Jamaican it is."
Finn chuckles and slides the van door closed, waving at Parker. "You guys have fun. See you on Thursday, sport."
He nods at Artie and turns to walk away as the van drives off.
He turns back to see Parker poking his head out the window, waving furiously. He waves back, chuckling.
See? Patience, he has it in bunches.
She's hurrying through the town hall with her arms full of folders of the cases she's helping with when she runs straight into a tall woman with a sharp bun in her hair.
Rachel bends down and starts grabbing papers, she's late and Parker came home with a bruised elbow from practice the day before.
She knows that football can be a rough sport but she doesn't like when her baby is in pain. Sam, he's a paediatrician at Mt. VH, tells her he'll be fine and that she should just keep his elbow iced. Parker insists he's fine, but she worries and when he was trying to bathe himself, he only made it worse. He slept with her in bed that night and she woke up every time he whimpered. She was kinda regretting sending him to Pee Wee.
She cranes her head to look up and recognizes one of the women from Parker's practice. She was married to a blonde woman who's even perkier than Quinn but she can't for the life of her remember her name.
The woman bends down to help. "Santana. Det. Santana Lopez. I'm Marcus' mom."
"Ah, yes. Sorry. I'm so sorry about this. I'm late for court and irritated and just-,"
She's unleashing the horror of her day on Santana she realizes. "Sorry."
"Don't worry about it," Santana smirks.
Together they finish getting her papers back together and stand.
"How's Parker? Finn told me he got hurt and was out today?"
She blushes at the mention of Finn, praying the woman doesn't realize. Glancing up at Santana, she's pretty sure that smirk on her face pretty much says she does.
Rachel gets even redder. "He's good, kept hitting his arm on things all last night. I don't like seeing him pain and he's bound to get more injuries if he stays in football."
"Well, he is a kid. And I'm sure he's gonna get hurt again. Marcus has gotten a broken arm already and I've lost count of his cuts and bruises. Brittany nearly went off on a nurse when she assumed we were abusing him."
The look of horror on her face morphs into laughter and she snorts, crushing the files to her chest as she covers her mouth.
"But, I can tell you, Parker looks like he's having fun and Finn says he's pretty good. So I'd reconsider pulling him out."
She manages to restrain herself from reacting at the mention of Finn again but Santana still looks at her with knowing eyes. Finn did say he grew up with Santana, Noah and Quinn. So she would know if he was single, right?
"I'm not going to pull him. I'm just going to live with my heart into my mouth until the season is done is all."
Santana laughs and shakes her head. "Tell you what. Some of the other mothers and I hang out sometimes, go for drinks and stuff. It's always good to have a friend who knows how to deal with the drama sometimes. But I assure you, Coach Hudson is more than capable of taking care of our kids. Parker's in excellent hands."
She's pretty sure Santana is just namedropping to get a reaction out of her about Finn. Still, they do exchange numbers and promise to meet up for drinks that weekend.
Looks like Parker isn't the only one making new friends. Besides, she should be able to find out about Finn from Santana. After all, she kept grinning every time she mentioned him.
Parker makes an epic throw in their third game of the season. The other boy who catches the ball runs into the end zone and points his finger in the air, ball secure under his arm and shouts out, "YEAH!"
There's an uproar on the field and she's sandwiched between her fathers and Tina and Artie as everyone starts jumping up and down and Parker runs off the field and makes a beeline straight to her.
"MOM!" He hollers catapulting himself into her arms. She falls back against her father as her son chatters excitedly, waving his arms around and all she can make out is "ball", "coach", "score" and if she saw him.
"I sure did, baby! It was amazing!" She laughs, hugging him in his helmet and shoulder pads. His grandfathers and godparents pat him on the back and he keeps on chattering.
Finn runs over and whistles to Parker. "Hey, buddy! The game's not over yet."
"Put me down Mom." He fights free of her arms and jumps into Finn's who puts him on the ground and he races off towards his still cheering teammates.
Finn gives her another one of his lopsided smiles and jogs back to the huddle.
"Coach is kinda cute, Rach." Tina nudges her knowingly.
"Oh, really?" She remarks, trying to remain impassive. Her best friend looks at her knowingly and rolls her eyes, tapping Artie on his shoulder.
"She used to be an actress, right?" Tina jabs her thumb towards her and Artie chuckles.
The referee blows his whistle again and the little boys and girls huddle on the field. She can barely make out Parker's #5 jersey in the mass of little bodies and he seems to be vibrating with excitement. She feels Artie's eyes on her and glances over to him. He widens his gloved hand and then gives her a thumbs up.
Was it really a couple months ago Parker was sullen and talking back to her? It seems so long ago, and for the first in a long time, the smile on Parker's face is genuine.
He's having fun.
So, they lose 14-16. Against a team called the Tasmanian Devils. He looks at his dejected team of McKinley Titans with sullen faces, digging up dirt and their bottom lips sticking out. It's only their third game, but their first loss and kids never really like losing.
He blows his whistle and they all turn to him with glum faces.
"Why the sad faces guys? We played a good game. That throw Eli caught from Parker, that was amazing! And Beth, you took down that girl like a bulldog." Sam's angelic eight-year-old beams when he points her out.
"So what if we lost? We won our first two games. And I know for our next game, we're gonna be great! Titans don't sulk. They're badasses!" Puck shouts and the kids giggle.
Parker covers his ears as he stares at the man, torn between shock and wanting to laugh. Giggles spill from his lips as Puck flexes his muscles and roars. He lifts his son into his arms and Parker's eyes take on a sad look and he drops his eyes, his hair falling over his forehead.
Finn frowns and makes to walk over towards him when someone whistles from behind. He turns to see Rachel standing at the back of her SUV with Artie leaning beside her and Quinn on her other side. She calls out to Santana and Brittany and they too hurry towards them. Flinging open the back of Rachel's van, they pull out boxes of pizza and two igloos.
"Win or lose, we're still gonna party!" Santana shouts, walking over with her wife with boxes of pizzas in their arms.
The kids start shrieking in glee and the other parents all walk over to the van pulling out paper plates and plastic cups. Artie tosses the bag of forks back in the van, shaking his head at Rachel.
People are lounging about on the field, eating pizza and laughing, kids turning cartwheels and Rachel is putting out garbage bags. Parker carries a plate of pizza over to his grandfathers and then comes over to him with a plate and napkins.
"Here you go, Coach."
"You're welcome." Parker grants him a small smile before turning away.
The little boy stops and turns around.
"You played good today. Real proud of you."
Parker grins, but his smile doesn't actually touch his eyes. He looks briefly to the side then back at Finn. "Thanks, Coach."
He holds his hand up for a high five and Parker jumps to smack his before hurrying back to his mother. He stares at Rachel as she fusses over her son, combing back his hair with her fingers. Parker pushes her hand away and ducks under her arms and plops down beside Artie with a piece of pizza on his lap. His mother chastises him to use a plate and he rolls his eyes, taking the plate she hands him.
Rachel looks over at him and smiles shyly, hiding behind her hair.
Beside him, Puck fights to wipe grease off Eli's face and gives up, tossing the napkin after his son as he speeds away to sit beside Parker.
"Ms. Berry is quite the little lady, huh? Cheering up a bunch of kids and managing to ensare you at the same time."
"Huh, what?" His ears turn pink as he glances over at his best friend.
Puck snickers and leans back on his elbows. "Ah, Huddy, if you could see your face now."
He smears pizza all over Puck's white t-shirt and grins, almost sure his face, whenever he looks at Rachel, is the same colour as the pizza sauce.
About a week or so after Parker's team lost their game, she gets a call from one of the other soccer moms, Mercedes Jones, inviting her to her twin's eighth birthday party. Just the girl, Melysah, is on Parker's team though, her son, Matt Jr. loves to dance, always moving on the sidelines at his sister's games.
Artie guffaws loudly when she tells him and doesn't manage to dodge the balled up wrapper she tosses at him.
"I'm sorry! But it's just, diva Rachel is a soccer mom. I never thought I'd see the day. So frickin' happy my lil man is getting into something besides piano and guitar. Y'all didn't make the kid have any fun."
She worries at her lip and stares at Artie. "Really?"
Artie gives her a look. "Rachel. The kid's seven. He's never been to a football game until I took him last year. He plays the piano and the guitar and he's fluent in Broadway, tap and French. He hasn't had the chance to even be a kid."
He pauses and stirs a french fry in his ketchup.
"Promise you won't get mad?"
"What are we, in high school?" She narrows her eyes at him and he laughs nervously.
"I just-," he stops and wipes his fingers on a napkin and meets her eyes, "I think Jesse was trying to mould your son into what he wanted to be. And now that he's gone, maybe you're trying too much to hold on to that."
She stares at him.
"I'm just saying. Jesse's been gone three years babe, I know Parker misses him, but maybe it's you that's holding back on letting go and your son doesn't know how to move on if you're still standing in one place."
Her hand goes to the small gold chain around her neck where her wedding rings rest. She doesn't want to think of that now, not when things have been going so good. It's the first time Parker's going to a birthday party that isn't with her small circle of friends.
He's having a play date with Tina and Mike's sons while Artie treats her to lunch. She checks the text from Tina and sees her son grinning with Harry and Jeremy in the front yard. He looks a lot happier now. She sighs and pushes herself up from the park bench and grabs their empty lunch wrappers. "Come on Yoda, let's go get birthday gifts for Mercedes' twins."
Artie perks up. "Hey, ah, is she single?"
She laughs and gets up. "Twins, Artie. Two kids."
He follows her, rolling quickly to keep up with her hurried stride. "But for real though, is she?"
Miraculously she doesn't have a heavy workload to get through today, so she takes a late lunch, leaving early for the day so she can watch Parker and his team practice. She's been working insane hours, but it isn't as crazy as her days on Broadway; this is a relief. She gets to make her son breakfast, hang out with him on weekends and she gets to take him to and from practice most days. She cooks him dinner, bakes him banana bread and generally gets to be in his life now.
She misses Jesse, and every time she looks at her son, a guilty pang grips her heart. Parker looks so much like his father it's ridiculous. Her husband has been gone three years now and every day she wishes he could be here, with his family. Still, she can't keep thinking like that. Maybe Artie was right.
Maybe she had to try and move on from her sadness, give herself a chance to be happy. Parker was a lot better now, even though he still crawled into her room at night. But just, maybe if she tried to move on, he could too.
She settles onto the bottom of the bleachers, waving at Santana on the other side. She's on her phone, still dressed in her work clothes as she watches the kids playing, keeping a watchful eye on Marcus.
Rachel spies the #5 jersey barrelling down the field, squealing erupting from the jumble of bodies when they all collapse to the ground. She should be nervous, a bunch of rambunctious seven to nine year olds; Parker's come home with a broken nose, a sprained ankle and enough cuts and bruises than she'd like to see on her own child, but he still doesn't complain, and Artie tells her not to worry, Parker echoing his sentiments. She does anyway, waiting with bated breath until he jumps to his feet again, clapping Beth and Eli on the shoulder as they take off again.
Finn appears beside her, smiling warmly in greeting. She grins at him and turns back to the field where Melysah just kicked the ball clear down the field and all the kids scramble towards it.
"Parker said you used to sing."
She looks over at him, pushing her hair behind her ear and nods. She shrugs lightly and gazes back towards the field. Parker and Eli are now standing on the sidelines as Noah hollers at the kids on the field, trying to get them to actually play the game and not goof around.
"Broadway," she says simply, her smile shy.
He stands beside her, tall and silent, staring ahead at the players. She peeks up at him, the side of her mouth lifting up. He really is beautiful; especially those three marks on his jaw. He doesn't wear a ring, and as far as Santana has gladly offered, he's very much single and unattached.
"Shouldn't you be like," she points over towards the sidelines where the other coach is screaming out plays, "over there?"
Finn blushes and rubs at the back of his head and nods sheepishly. "Yea. I'll ah," he chuckles and backs away, "see you later?"
His cheeks are pink when he looks at her again, winks and jogs back to the other side of the field. She watches him from the corner of her eyes and as he passes by Parker he ruffles her son's hair. Parker grins and ducks his head, pushing off Finn's heavy hand. The whistle blows and he and his teammates jump up from their seats, and he yanks his helmet on, rushing onto the field.
She catches a glimpse of the grin still on his face though, it matches her own.
He wants to ask Rachel out.
Like, he really, really likes seeing her and talking to her and all, but they're always surrounded by kids and other moms and dads, and really, he's turned down more than a few dates from those mothers (and some fathers). But Rachel is cool, and Parker's a great kid and he just wants to spend some time with her, both of them really, away from the football field and prying eyes.
But how to do it?
He'd ask Puck for advice but he's a single dad and his go-to move is just get the woman drunk, so no. Santana smirks every time he mentions Rachel and teases him that if she played for her team, she'd make the moves on her in a second. And Kurt – his brother doesn't know yet. He doesn't want his mother calling up for details on 'the new woman in his life' which is what is bound to happen when Kurt actually finds out. So he figures he'd just ask the next best person.
Parker's unlacing his sneakers when Finn sits on the ground beside him.
"So, I wanna ask you something."
He rubs the back of his neck while Parker looks up at him expectantly. This could go one of two ways, he's really hoping the little guy doesn't throw him under the bus.
"It's kind of strange, since I'm asking you, but what the he, - heck. I wanna take your mom out, like for coffee or dinner."
Parker stares at him for a full minute, his face pinched as he thinks. He lets out a sigh and crosses his legs, shaking out his shoulders.
"My mom's a vegan, no meat, at all. She doesn't like horseback rides, she wants to stop people from doing that, by the way. She loves old movies and chocolate chip soy ice cream." He ticks each point off on his fingers, biting his lip as he tries to remember. "She loves blue orchids, and has this thing for Barbra Streisand and there's a coffee shop on Sanford that makes her favourite cranberry muffins," he finishes, nodding to himself proudly as he bends to unlace his other shoe.
It wasn't exactly what he was going for, but he takes it as a win. "So, you're cool with me asking your mom out?"
Parker looks up at him and nods slowly.
"I like you. And you're cool. And I don't think you'll just leave," he says quietly.
Parker shrugs. "I think my mom likes you too. She's always staring at you when she's here and she kinda talks funny when Uncle Artie and Aunt Tina talk about you."
"She does, huh?" He can't help the smile pulling at his face when he thinks of why Rachel would be talking weird about him.
"So, you're gonna ask her?"
He winks at Parker. "Yeah. Our secret though, right?"
Parker grins back, waving at him when Artie blows his horn.
He bites the bullet and decides to ask his brother for advice on getting dressed on his date. And besides, maybe Kurt might have heard of her, he was a Broadway buff after all.
Blake's out when he goes upstairs to his brother's apartment.
His brother looks up at him from his magazine with his brow furrowed. Finn grins widely at him and crosses his hands on the table.
Kurt looks back down at his magazine and blows out a breath. "What you do want Finn?"
"I just have a question."
Kurt slowly lowers the magazine and stares curiously at him. "Why? What about Broadway?"
"You know someone named Rachel Berry?"
The look on his brother's face is almost comical as he drops the magazine and jumps to his feet. "What do you mean if I know!? Have you been listening to nothing I've been telling you for the past ten years?"
"Whoa, chill dude. You look like you're about to blow a gasket or something!" Finn waves his hands, laughing at Kurt's reaction.
His brother puts his hand on his chest and breathes calmly for a minute then strides off towards his bedroom. Finn watches him - he's been in his brother's room once, and Kurt's room is neater than a hospital's storage cabinet, labelled and all, he doesn't know how Blaine deals with it - until he comes back out with a bevvy of magazines and DVDs.
He spreads them on the table and flourishes. "Voila. Meet, Rachel Berry. Youngest ever Tony award winner for 1996 Les Misérables, also nominated for Ragtime in 1998 and Spring Awakening in 2007, her last play for which she won a Best Actress award in a musical. She left the stage after that show."
"Left? If she was that successful, why did she leave?"
He taps a playbill and pushes it over to Finn. "She was pregnant. Best kept secret of the decade. She went back to the stage a couple years after having her son, had a run in Memphis, did some directing and then left for good later that year."
Kurt was an encyclopaedia when it comes to details about musical theatre.
"Why did she leave for good?"
Kurt narrows his eyes at him. "Why so curious?"
"Can you just tell me, please?"
"Her husband was killed in a car accident. Drunk driver ran into him, head on."
It explains Parker's behaviour somewhat.
"Why're you asking Finn?"
"Her son is on my Pee Wee team."
He's kinda bummed hearing about Rachel losing her husband like that, but his brother is practically beside himself as he fans his cheek and stares at Finn. He doesn't even kiss his husband when Blaine walks in and Finn hurriedly makes his escape, snatching one of Kurt's DVDs as his brother excitedly tells his husband that Finn knows a celebrity.
She's having lunch one afternoon with Tina, going back and forth on whether or not she should ask Finn out or wait until he asks her.
"It's 2012 sweetie, if you like the man then ask him out."
"But what if he doesn't like me?"
Tina stares at her over her drink and says, "We're talking about the same person here, right? Your son's Pee Wee coach? Tall, built and handsome?"
Rachel sighs, twirling her fork in her tofu lasagne.
"That's another thing, Tina. He's Parker's coach, and he's great with Parker. What if we don't work out as a couple?"
"Rachel. You can't worry about if you and Finn won't work out if you don't ask him out. You two are friends, right? Both grown, responsible adults. You're both single, with good heads on your shoulder, well, I'm assuming Finn is, the jury is still out on you. If whatever you two attempt goes sour, I'm pretty sure you're both mature enough to get through this."
She stares at her best friend and worries at her bottom lip.
"Have you told him about Jesse?"
That's the other reason she's hesitant to ask Finn out. She's a widow at 28, not exactly something she likes to advertise.
"No. I mean, he knows Parker doesn't have a father in his life and I don't really talk about him otherwise. He probably just assumes he left me or something," she grumbles, stabbing her plate.
"Jeez, who crapped in your wine?" Tina chuckles. "Listen, you've been practically lusting after this man since the first time you saw him. I'm almost pretty sure he gets a hard on every time you go by the field. You only need to say jump and he'll ask you how high."
She looks at Tina, horrified and Tina just smirks at her, shrugging nonchalantly.
"Tell me I'm wrong. "If you don't ask him out, I'll ask him out for you."
"Watch me," Tina grins back.
He should have known telling Kurt he had met the Rachel Berry was a bad idea.
That's what Kurt calls her, stressing her name like that. It's ridiculous, really. Rachel doesn't act like how he sees some of Kurt's clients act.
She's only mentioned Broadway to him briefly. And she's good. Like amazing. That DVD he'd taken from Kurt was her performance in Spring Awakening. It was good, if you could look beyond her getting her top ripped off and practically violated on stage. But she was an excellent singer, mind-blowing really. He couldn't take his eyes off the entire time.
Maybe it said something that the guy she was acting with was Jesse St. James. And he was good too. Great even. But Rachel was ten times better.
Kurt tosses a balled up piece of paper at him and he turns around to glare at his brother.
"What?" He snarls.
"Are you going to ask her out or not?"
He looks over at Rachel sitting on the other side of the bleachers, laughing with Santana and Mercedes. She catches his eye and smiles, turning back to her conversation.
"Well?" Kurt hisses.
"Why are you here?"
"I want to meet her."
"So go talk to her." He tries to keep his attention on the practice in front of him. They've already played eight games already and only lost two. Their next game is a semi-final match and Puck's running them hard on defense.
"It's gonna be weird if I just go over there and talk to her, Finn. You have to introduce us."
He chuckles at his brother and grins evilly.
"You're the fan. Go say hi," he grins and walks onto the field.
Kurt actually leaves before practice is over, without going to talk to Rachel. She's still sitting at the bottom of the bleachers, a notepad in her lap and her phone at her ear. Parker is below her, wiping dirt from his face. He waits until she's wrapped up her phone call before he walks over to them.
He looks up at Rachel and she's watching them slyly.
"I was wondering if you were free this afternoon. There's this coffee shop on Stanford, I'm feeling for a cranberry muffin and a smoothie. Wanna come with? I mean, if it's cool with your mom, she can come too."
He peeks at Rachel from the corner of his eyes and she's fighting a blush, fiddling with Parker's duffle bag.
Parker grins at him and nods conspiratorially. "Mom, can we go?"
Rachel smiles and looks at him. "You sure it's no trouble?"
"Rachel, I just sent the past 3 hours running plays. I'd kill for a pineapple and passion fruit smoothie right now."
She giggles and shrugs. "Sure, why not?"
Finn's smile is broad as he winks at Parker.
"You want to follow me? It's not far from here."
"Yea. Sure. I think I know where that is."
Rachel nods and follows the two of them as they walk towards the parking lot. Finn takes Parker's duffle from her and gives it back to the boy who scowls up at his coach then settles the bag over his shoulder.
Her van is parked right beside Finn's truck and he waits until they're in before getting into his.
"Mom, you're blushing."
"Am not," she says indignantly, sliding the door closed and hurrying around to the driver's side.
"Mom. Your face is red," Parker giggles, pointing at her in the rear-view mirror. She meets his eyes and her cheeks are pink from her blush.
"Oh shut up, Parker," she grumbles. She drives out behind Finn's truck, steadfastly ignoring her son's happy giggles from behind her.
"You went out with Finn."
She's practically been grinning from ear to ear when she walks into the town hall Monday morning. Santana drops by her office while Artie is there and she's still grinning when Santana asks.
"You what?" Artie looks from Santana's smirk to Rachel's grinning face. He tosses a pencil at her. "You weren't going to tell me?"
"He took me and Parker out for smoothies and muffins. No big deal?" She insists.
"Smoothies and muffins? Really? Hudson? Wow. He must really like you. The last girl he took out was to a bar and he bought her one beer."
Artie snorts in laughter and Santana smacks him upside the head. "Ow."
"Stop it you two. Play nice."
Santana settles on the desk in front of her, pushing paper folders out of her way. "So when are you seeing him again? Outside of practice?"
"This Sunday. Oh, Artie! Can you babysit?"
"Hell yeah. Wait, is it OK if I bring Sugar with me?"
She nods at him and he grins. "Enjoy your tall and sexy on your date."
"Is Sugar a woman? What kinda name is that? You're taking a date to babysit, dude? No," Santana says.
He tosses a pencil at her too.
"Nah, Sugar's not just a date. He's been in love with her since high school he almost asked her to marry him their third year in college but she went away to France to study. And now she's back in town."
"And she's still giving you a chance? Dude, marry her. Since high school? Wow."
"Don't you people have work to do?"
"Wait, you need to tell us about your date," Artie insists.
"Dude, are you a girl?"
"You don't want to know?" He raises an eyebrow at the Latina.
She turns to back Rachel. "Details."
"We ate muffins and drank smoothies. That is all. Now," she smirks and taps the files on her desk, "both of you leave. I have work to do. And I assume you both do too."
They leave her office, grumbling that they were going to beat the details out of her.
Hanging out with Parker and Finn was incredible and fun. And Parker really liked his coach. But, she couldn't wait to go out with Finn again, alone this time.
So, after the fun he had with her and Parker last Thursday, and the date she asks him on Sunday and breakfast on the Wednesday after that, and the movies on Friday and then the dinner with Tina and Mike, he kinda thinks dating Rachel is amazing.
She's hilarious and smart and he kicks himself for taking this long to ask her out.
And they talk about everything; growing up with two dads, performing on Broadway since she was young, getting a practical degree because her dads wanted her to go to college - they're both lawyers so she did it to appease them, she held down Broadway and passed the Bar exam; she talks about Artie, knowing him from before his accident and him and Tina being there after Jesse's. He's glad she has people like this in her corner, she wasn't lonely, she was just sad.
He doesn't ask her about Parker's father but she tells him. Everything. She cries a lot through the story and he takes her hand while they lie in the back of his truck and watch the stars.
"I met him on stage, we fell in love, got married within a year and kept on working together. It was like a dream come true, I was happy. We weren't planning on children so soon, but then I got pregnant with Parker and Jesse was ecstatic. I'd gotten another lead so halfway through the show's run I pulled out, had my baby and stayed home."
She stops talking, just staring up at the sky, his fingers gently rubbing the skin over her knuckles.
"Parker was fussy that night, wouldn't fall asleep. He loved chocolate milk, he'd drink it hot and fall asleep right away. But we were out and Jesse ran to the 7-Eleven to get some. Some drunk guy just runs into him three blocks from our house. We heard the impact. And I just felt that something bad had happened. I knew he was gone before Mike came over in a squad car. Two men died that night. I lost my husband and Parker lost his father. Sometimes he blames himself. He was too young to realize it wasn't his fault."
She starts crying then, and he pulls her into his arms.
"He used to ask me, if he hadn't wanted chocolate milk that night, if his father would still be here. I tell him no, because how could he ever think that? But some part of me believes, if he hadn't, Jesse wouldn't have left and I'd still have him here and I hate myself for it."
He doesn't know to answer that, so he doesn't, he just holds her until she soaks his shirt with her tears and her cries taper off.
He tells her about growing up without a father until he was 15, never getting along with his new stepbrother for about a year, getting his heart broken sophomore year of high school, Santana taking his virginity.
Her eyes get wide when he tells her this and he chuckles. "Yea, she wasn't sure herself. We never actually dated, she's just like Puck, but a female version. The two of them, and Kurt, my stepbrother, are my best friends ever."
"Is Kurt anything like you?"
He scoffs. "No. Kurt calls me a Neanderthal; he never forgave me for joining the Air Force."
"What?" She sits up at this, her long hair falling over her shoulder.
"Yea. I'm a para-jumper in the Reserves."
"Which means you can get called away at any time?" She asks quietly.
"Hey," he cradles her cheek in his palm, "I've never been called back since I finished active duty. I only joined because they would help me with college and because my dad was a soldier."
She lays back beside him, laying her head on his chest. "He died in combat?"
When he doesn't answer she looks up at him, tracing his jaw with her fingertips.
"No. He was dishonourably discharged. Immediately after active duty, I applied for his status to be reversed. I gave my mother his medal and flag when it was," he chokes out.
Her fingers tap against his cheek and he looks down at her.
"I'm proud of you for doing that. But the army thing kinda creeps me out."
He grins. "Thanks. I promise I'll be a good boy and not try and get myself recalled."
She smiles up at him then buries her face into his side.
"How is it we've lived in the same neighbourhood all our lives and never met each other?"
He shrugs, his fingers in her hair as he stares at the sky. "Maybe fate didn't think we were ready for each other yet."
He looks down at her smiling up at him.
"Maybe fate has a better idea of what to do now."
She kisses him. She tastes like cherry limeade and tears and something sweet. Butterflies flutter around his stomach when she pulls away, her eyes searching his.
"I've wanted to do that for a long time," she breathes against his lips.
He kisses her again, his hands creeping under her t-shirt, pulling her soft, small body against his. She tastes like heaven and feels even better than that.
He steals a kiss when she goes to pick Parker up from the last practice of the season.
Parker rolls his eyes and sniggers until Finn tickles him in the backseat. He squeals for mercy and she's laughing almost as hard as Parker is, his face red, smile stretching his face as tears run down his eyes.
"Don't tease your mother." He tickles Parker again.
"Good. Now buckle up please." Parker snaps his seat belt in place then salutes him smartly. He gives Finn a high five before closing the door and going over to Rachel.
"Can I see you later?"
"You going to Quinn's party? I hear it's supposed to be the highlight of the season, with Beth being MVP and all."
She can see Parker roll his eyes from in the rear-view mirror and it's funny that Finn does the same thing. She snorts and covers her face, laughing at the both of them.
"Yea, we'll be there."
"Good. I look forward to it." His dimples peek out as he looks at her. "I gotta go, I have some ah, paperwork I need to finish up before I get home. Quinn likes everyone to be punctual."
She nods and smiles back, gripping the steering wheel as butterflies start fluttering in her stomach.
"So, later then." He leans over to kiss her quickly and Parker starts giggling from the backseat again. Finn pulls away to glare playfully at him.
"Do you want me to tell Beth what you said about her hair?"
"NO!" Parker's cheeks turn pink as he ducks his head.
"What did he say?" She asks, curious.
"Can't tell you," Finn winks at her. "Guy's code."
"Yeah. Guy's code," Parker pipes up.
"All that banana bread waiting in the oven at home, girl code. Me and Tina," she smirks at the two of them and Parker looks at her with horror on his face.
"Mom, that's mean!"
She shrugs lightly and Finn leans in to tickle her.
"Finn!" She squeals out. "If you keep doing that you're really not getting any of the banana bread!"
Finn finally relents and high fives Parker again.
Great. Now they're teaming up against her. She rolls her eyes and pushes him away from her window.
"I'll see you later, good?"
"Drive safe you guys." He kisses her cheek one more time before hurrying towards his office.
As they drive away, Parker starts chattering happily about football and next year and that he wants a football theme party for his next birthday. His face is happy as he talks, ticking off items they'll need for his party, six months away.
Kurt asks Rachel to dinner. He finds only out because his brother waltzes into his apartment while he's working out and announces he's taking her out. He practically gets whiplash and falls off the treadmill.
"You two have been dating for awhile now Finn. I've only spoken to her like twice."
"So? She's my girlfriend, not yours." It does funny things to his heart calling her his girlfriend. (He went grocery shopping with Rachel and Parker a few days ago and overheard her tell someone who offered to help her with her bags that her boyfriend was just inside.
She blushed when he came out behind her just then, and kissed her as proof.)
"Ew. Relax Finn. I'm not going to chase her away. If she's still here after hearing about the shower curtain fiasco and your less than spectacular cooking skills, maybe there's something more to her yet."
He glares at Kurt until he leaves.
Rachel is surprisingly eager to go out with his brother. What he calls a bad idea, she calls it genius.
"This way I can grill him about all your ex-girlfriends and what I should try and avoid in this relationship." She's joking, he knows, but his ears still get red.
"Finn," She laughs. "Why're you blushing?"
She comes over to sit on his lap and kisses him.
"The ex-girlfriend thing."
"Oh. I was just joking you know."
He nods, playing with the shorts she was wearing. Her legs are very distracting, toned and supple and he imagines how they would feel wrapped around him. They haven't gotten that far in their relationship and he's not about to push.
"Remember when I told you about getting my heart broken at 15?"
"It was Quinn."
She doesn't react the way he expects. She bursts out laughing, dropping her face onto his shoulder. The woman can be so surprising at times.
"Finn." She looks up at him from under her lashes. "I honestly can't see you with Barbie Quinn. She's beautiful yes, but she looks like everything needs to be perfect. I like you a little rough around the edges." She scratches the scruff on his cheek as proof.
He grins at her, covering her body with his on her couch, his lips moving all over her face and neck.
Her dinner with his brother seems to go off swimmingly. She texts him good night with a smiley face when she gets home, promising she'd see him tomorrow. His brother appears in his living room, right after he gets home, his husband grinning behind him.
"I'm assuming he had fun at his dinner with my girlfriend?" He asks Blaine.
"Seal of approval," Kurt winks, giving his brother a thumbs up.
"Well, that's nice. Thank you, Kurt," he remarks sarcastically.
"He can't stop gabbing about her, I'm almost jealous," Blaine says, rolling his eyes.
Kurt looks hurt, his hand over his heart as he stares at Blaine. Finn shakes his head, chuckling when Kurt tugs Blaine from the room.
His brother approves. Of course, he does. Maybe she can meet his parents one day.
He's already met Parker's grandparents, as his Coach. Not as the man who's now dating their daughter.
He drops his head onto the table in front him.
Her body is going crazy underneath Finn's. They're on the floor in front of her couch and Finn's shirt is long gone and her blouse in unbuttoned as his lips skilfully attack her lips, his hands roaming hotly over her skin.
She tries to lose herself in the sensation as his lips move to her neck. It feels good, like really good, until a flash of Jesse goes through her mind and her entire body tenses up. Finn pauses in his ministrations and she can feel his eyes on her face as he pulls away.
His voice is low and husky and something in her belly clenches the same time a spasm of heartache hits her. She covers her face in embarrassment and groans.
"Baby, what is it?"
She's never been with anyone besides her husband and she's beginning to worry that this might somehow become a potential problem.
"I can't do this."
"Rachel, it's fine. We don't have to do anything," Finn tries to reassure her, rubbing her arms lightly. "Baby, it's OK."
"No, Finn, it's not. I feel like I'm cheating on my husband! And he's not even alive!"
His face sort of crumbles and he reaches his hands out to her, to try and pull her onto his lap. She refuses, pulling away from him to curl her body against the pillows on the couch.
"No," she whispers, covering her face again.
"Baby -," Finn's fingers graze against her wrist.
"Finn, please don't touch me."
"No, Finn, just go please?" She pulls her hands away to look imploringly up at him, her big brown eyes sad and wet.
He stares at her before lunging to his feet, dragging his shirt on and striding through the door, closing it softly behind him.
She cries herself to sleep right there on the floor.
"You's a fool woman."
It's the only thing Artie says to her as he rolls through her front door that weekend. She's been avoiding Finn's calls since he left on Tuesday night and while neither of their friends know what happened, the general consensus is that she's being an idiot. Finn still texts her good morning and good night, and she never answers, just saves them in her phone. She's embarrassed at herself.
So, when her best friend decides to come over and brings Sugar with him so they can bake cookies with Parker, she uses their distraction to invite Finn out for coffee.
He pulls her chair out before going around to sit opposite her, his fingers curled around a hot chocolate. He doesn't say anything, just watches her with curious eyes as she fiddles with her cup of green tea.
"I feel like I need to apologize," she starts quietly.
She chances a look up at him and his brow is furrowed as he stares back at her.
"Look, Finn," she stops and sighs, trying to find the words she needs.
"I've only ever been with one man. He was ridiculously in love with me and I married him within a year after meeting him. We might have moved fast, but Jesse was the only man I've ever slept with."
Finn doesn't respond, he just waits patiently for her to continue.
"This intensity between us, it's scary. From the day I met you, it's like, I don't know-,"
"You're in my veins?"
She stares at him confused. "What?"
He points to the speakers behind him where Andrew Belle was crooning softly. A half smile pulls up the corner of his lips and she drops her head, blushing.
"Yeah," she murmurs softly.
"Rach, I don't want you to do anything you don't want to do. I care about you and Parker, a lot. And I'm not trying to replace anyone." He reaches across the table and strokes the top of her hand. "I'm sorry for putting you in that situation."
"You didn't-," she groans in frustration and drops her face in her hands. She takes a deep breath and looks up back at him.
"I love Jesse. And he'll always be Parker's father. But he's been dead three years now. I can't keep hiding myself away because I'm afraid of forgetting him. I want to be with you, I do. I just, I don't know how not to feel like I'm betraying his memory when I think I'm falling in love with someone else."
The smile that stretches across his face from ear to ear is blinding in its intensity and she finds herself blushing under his gaze.
"Falling, huh?" He smirks and covers her hand with his, his thumb stroking the skin at her wrist.
"Shut up, Finn." She drops her face in her hand again, the tips of her ears red.
"How about we figure that out together?" He murmurs quietly.
She bites her lip and nods as her blush deepens.
He gets tickets to see the Nets play in Jersey and usually, he'd take Puck but he figures he'd take Parker instead. Rachel had said Jesse wasn't a sports person and aside from TV and the occasional game with Artie, Parker hadn't had much experience with sports.
"I get pushed aside for a chick that you're not even boning. Wow, Hudson."
"Don't be a dick, Puckerman."
Puck laughs and tosses him a beer. "I'm not. I'm just glad you're going after something you really want. Who knows, maybe Berry will be good for you. Make an honest man out of you."
He stares at his best friend with a broad smile on his face. "You've either been hanging around my brother too much or you're hating that I'm still a bachelor."
From somewhere in the house there's a loud crash and Puck closes his eyes and swears lightly.
"I can fix that!" Eli hollers.
His godson is a riot, and always breaking shit. Puck glares at him before he gets up to check on his son.
"You coach and teach kids every day, so I don't need to warn you not to have any." Puck jabs his thumb over his shoulder before stomping off towards Eli.
Finn shakes his head in laughter and turns back to the game. Not all kids are terrors. Parker could be a lil badass, but he was an angel compared to Eli. There's this funny feeling in his heart when he realizes that he's already thinking of Parker as his own kid.
He decides to ask Rachel about the game over dinner the next night. It somehow turns into a boy's night out when Artie says he's been trying to get tickets and Mike said he was planning on taking his sons.
Parker chatters excitedly throughout dinner and is more than helpful afterwards when he helps to clear the dinner table, Harry and Jeremy dutifully following behind him and Parker.
After she's tucked Parker into bed and he's told the lil man goodbye, Rachel backs him up beside her front door, her hands pushed into his hair. He leaves with his lips swollen and his pants uncomfortably tight but that's all worth it at the radiant look on Parker's face at the game. Mike asks someone to snap a picture and it's not even a day before that picture is up on her mantlepiece, beside two Tony awards and a picture of Parker.
She calls Finn from work one afternoon after getting a particularly heartbreaking case coming across her desk.
She wants to call Parker instead but she had dropped him off at Noah and Eli's after picking him up from his guitar lesson and he'd asked her please not to call him every five minutes, his new phone was for emergencies only. Then promptly disappears with Eli.
She didn't want to call her fathers, or any of her girlfriends or even Tina. She wants to talk to Finn, he would help her feel better. He answers on the second ring.
"Hey, beautiful. You good?"
"No," she sniffs.
"Rachel, what's wrong?" He sounds panicked, so she tries to calm down, explaining the case file on her desk of an accident where the father and son had died when someone ran the red light and pushed them into a wall.
Finn stays on the phone and listens to her rant before promising he'd see her after work. She feels a little better after he hangs up but still texts Parker anyway. Her son texts back that he loves her too. She has lunch with Santana who asks her if she's alright, she was at court for arraignment and heard about the case. Her smile is genuine and they share small talk before they each hurry back back to work.
She is surprised though when Finn knocks on her office door when she's almost ready to clock out. She walks straight into his arms, and he wraps her up tight, holding her close to him, her head tucked under his chin.
He strokes her hair, standing just like that in the middle of her office, just holding her. After a long time, she pulls away, just a little, resting her chin on his chest as she looks up at him.
He smiles down at her. "For what?"
"Coming by," she says quietly.
"Yea, well. You sounded like you needed a hug. Figured I'd one up Parker this time."
She buries her face in his chest as her body shakes with quiet laughter. He threads his fingers through her hair and tilts her chin up to him.
"Almost done here?"
"Alright, come on. Kurt wants to make dinner for us. He's even going to attempt jerked chicken for Parker."
"Is he trying to butter up my son or something?"
She walks hand in hand towards her van and Finn holds his hands out for the keys, smiling cordially as he opens her door and ushers her in, hurrying around to the driver's side.
"Something about taking him shopping."
She groans, smacking Finn's shoulder when he laughs at her. He pulls her close to him, kissing her hair as he drives towards Noah's. She loves her boyfriend's brother, really. But Kurt and clothes, she'll never understand it.
He invites her to meet his parents. Well, actually, Kurt invites her and Parker to dinner the same weekend their parents just happen to be visiting.
Why his brother insists on fiddling with his love life he'll never understand.
Parker impresses Burt at the piano and Carole and Rachel seem to fall together like old friends seeing each other again after a long time. He stands and watches them laughing in the kitchen, looking over when Blaine saunters up beside him.
"She fits in nicely, doesn't she?"
He gives his brother-in-law a curious look and Blaine chuckles. Burt bursts out in laughter when Kurt messes up a note as he and Parker try and play together and he turns and looks at them, them back to his mother and girlfriend.
His family was all right here in the room, minus Puck, Eli, Marcus and Santana. But the people more important to him than everything else in the world were all hanging out together, seamlessly, like its something they'd been doing for ages. Parker and Burt teasing Kurt, Carole and Rachel in the kitchen discussing recipes and Broadway?
He grins back at Blaine. "We all do."
His mother squeezes his arm at dinner, her eyes flicking to Rachel and Parker briefly. "I'm proud of you baby, they're beautiful and you look so happy."
From the opposite side of the table, Rachel catches his eyes and smiles, smacking Parker's hand when he reaches his hand for more vegetables. She hisses at him to use a fork.
It's strange, what kid gets chastised for wanting more vegetables? He loves Parker, he does.
"I am, mom."
His mother beams happily and he bends over and kisses her cheek. "I guess your charm worked out for you yet."
After dinner, he takes Rachel out for a drive, his brother reassuring them that Parker was safe. He looks innocently at them before they leave, making a kissing face when his mother hugged him. Finn tweaks his nose, ruffles his curly hair and hoists him over his shoulder and into the guest room in Kurt's apartment, tucking him in.
"Behave," his mother whispers as she kisses his forehead.
"Mom. Uncle Kurt loves me. I'm an angel."
"So was Lucifer," Kurt pipes up from the doorway. He sniggers at his brother, kissing the pout from Rachel's face.
They somehow end up at the football field late in the evening after buying cherry limeades at the drive-thru. Her eyes are shining while she walks beside him and they somehow end up by the bleachers, his mouth on her skin and her hands under his shirt.
His name is just a quiet whisper in the dark, but she tugs his shirt off and tosses hers aside and he watches her eyes intently as her small hands drop to his pants.
He makes love to her for the first time on the grass where they first met, his jacket beneath her. He slips inside her on a sigh, her lips pressed against his and they rock together in the night, the stars behind their eyes brighter than the ones in the sky above them.
They go home with grass in their hair and soaking wet from the sprinklers that went on while they were still on the field. He washes the grass from her hair and presses her against the shower wall, steam rising around them as her fingers scrape against the wall.
Before he leaves to take his parents and Parker to breakfast and drops her off at work, he takes her again as she's getting dressed, her fingers pressing into his shoulders, her head thrown back, long hair brushing her back.
It's his name she calls out every time.
A week before the new school year starts and two weeks before his birthday, he gets a call for a recon mission in Qatar.
Rachel gets this look in her eyes that he always hated seeing on his mother's face and clutches onto Kurt when he tells them. Even though his brother is used to hearing this, it doesn't hurt any less when Kurt glares at him and demands he come back home in one piece or he will kill him if he doesn't.
He doesn't know the full spec of the mission and it's not like he could tell them anything if he could, but it boils down to him being out of the country for about five weeks tops.
Rachel walks over to him and cradles his face in her palms, her eyes searching his, pleading. "You have to be safe. OK baby? Please. You have to come back."
He kisses her softly. "I am coming back to you. I promise. You've been holding that almond banana muffin secret hostage and I want it."
She cracks a smile and he kisses her again, seeing his brother slipping out of the apartment from the corner of his eyes.
"And you promised to sing for me one day. I plan to collect on that promise."
He's never had to say goodbye to anyone he loves this much. He'll need to call his mother and Burt soon, but the thought of having to leave Rachel behind actually hurts and his heart feels too heavy.
She starts crying harder and he wraps his arms around her, then lifts her and walks them to his bedroom. She undresses him slowly, like her hands are memorizing skin, the feel of him. Her mouth and tongue follow her fingers and he squeezes the pillow beside him when she takes him in her mouth. He pulls her back up beside him, settling her underneath him, and when he slips inside her, he kisses the tears from her face, her fingers clenched tightly in his. She takes him over the edge with her, clutching him close and tells him she loves him, tears still spilling down her face.
"I love you too, baby girl."
She falls asleep in his arms after he promises he'll take her home after so they can go pick up Parker from Mercedes'.
And telling Parker is just as hard. He doesn't mince words, he tells the little guy exactly what's going on and Parker's smaller hands hold onto his in a death grip as he speaks. To his surprise, Parker doesn't cry once.
"Are you scared?" His voice wobbles as he looks up at Finn.
He always is. This time, he has even better reasons to make sure he comes home.
"Yea, little buddy."
"But you'll be safe right? You're a good soldier, but you have to be safe. Cuz you know how Mom worries sometimes."
He nods and ruffles Parker's hair. "Listen, when I'm gone, you're gonna have to take care of your mother for me. She's very strong, but she gets scared sometimes. And when she does, you're gonna hold her and tell her it'll be fine and even though she's pretty all the time, she's prettier when she doesn't cry. OK?"
Parker giggles and nods, yawning slightly.
He links their pinkie fingers together and leans forward to kiss Parker's forehead. "Get some sleep, OK buddy?"
Parker nods and dives under the covers, staring at him. "Can you stay til I fall asleep?"
His voice is small and scared when he speaks and now he looks like he's actually about to start crying.
He stretches his body out beside Parker's and the little guy curls up beside him, resting his head on Finn's chest, right above his heart.
The only reason she's of any use to anybody in the few weeks Finn is deployed is Artie and Parker.
Anytime she feels like she's about to combust from the anxiety, Parker miraculously appears and wraps his arms around her, his small body squeezing hers tight. He tells her it'll be fine and that Finn says she's not pretty anymore when she cries. She laughs and it makes him smile, and it passes and she can breathe better for a while.
Artie refuses to her wallow in despair and worry. He sets up her laptop at home with Skype and the one at her office and on her cellphone.
Finn only has scheduled days when he's allowed contact with his family and for some reason, as soon as her conversation with him ends she calls Carole. Finn's mother is a sweetheart, and she loves Parker. And she seems to understand this hollow feeling inside her the longer Finn stays in Qatar. She doesn't like the idea of Finn being a soldier any more than Rachel does, but they both understand his reasons for joining, and why he stays. She loves him a little more for it.
Three weeks into his deployment she gets a call right after Parker crawls into her bed. She hurries over to her laptop, clicking on Skype, tears pooling in her eyes as his blurry face comes on screen. His hair is shaven and he looks almost sunburnt and tired. But he's on her screen and he's alive and he's smiling.
"Hey, beautiful." His smile is tired but blinding even through the computer screen and she blushes just like every time he calls her that. The words in her throat gets all choked up and she presses her fingers to her lips, smiling back wetly.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you, but had some downtime and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it."
"I love you," she finally manages, and Finn's smile gets broader. He pulls a vase with a white tulip in water into the frame and winks.
"I love you too. This is for you."
Parker wakes up and crawls over to her, squealing out "Finn!" when he sees him on the screen. He starts chattering about school and the kids in his class and that he and Harry are in the same grade and he's thinking of soccer and does Finn play soccer? She smiles the entire conversation and when they call him away, she holds back her tears, answering him dutifully until he blows her a kiss and the call clicks off.
Parker holds her in his small arms as she cries herself to sleep.
The last time he spoke to her was via Skype and her blurry face and the choppy sound of her voice was the only thing that soothed his aching heart.
He misses his two-person tub, the icky green tea Rachel buys when he sips from her cup even though its the only thing she drinks. He misses the dirty, homely smell of his neighbourhood, his students, his friends, parents, brother and Parker. But most of all he misses Rachel.
He heads straight to the town hall, calling his parents the second his flight landed. He left his truck in long-term parking so he doesn't need to call anyone to come get him. He can't avoid Kurt and Blaine, but he just really needs to see Rachel. His scheduled five weeks actually turned into three months and it was three months too long.
He raps sharply at her door, a slow smile spreading across his face when her head jerks up. For a minute she just sits there and blinks then she just launches herself from clear across the room and into his arms.
"I'm not hallucinating, am I? You're really here?"
He kisses her as proof.
"I missed you," she whispers against his lips.
"I counted every second of today because I knew I'd be seeing you."
"Oh please, Berry. Please don't tell me you believe that schtick. The things you guys tell girls to get in their pants."
They turn around to see Santana standing in the doorway behind Finn with her arms crossed and a smirk on her face.
"Shut up, Santana," they say simultaneously. She walks away cackling and Rachel pushes her door closed, clicking the latch.
"I missed you," she repeats, tugging his shirt over his head.
They don't make it to the couch in her office.
Parker calls him at the crack of dawn on December first and begs him to take him Christmas tree shopping.
Still half asleep, he tries to explain that it's not yet 8am and wouldn't it be cooler to wait like a week or so before buying a tree. Parker, because his mother is the Rachel Berry provides a strong case as to why waiting too long to get something you want is always a bad idea.
He shows up an hour later and Parker immediately jumps on his back and points the way to a Christmas tree lot. Rachel tags along, wrapped up in a little red coat. He steals kisses under strategically placed mistletoe and dodges snowballs from Parker. They eventually find a tree and he lugs it back to his truck and while they're decorating it Parker hands him a helicopter Christmas bauble.
"We're supposed to add our own Christmas decorations," Parker explains, carefully hanging a little gold piano. Rachel hangs a silvery mic and a star and looks expectantly at him, a smile tugging at her lips.
A piece of mistletoe mysteriously appears when Parker excuses himself to the kitchen for chocolate milk.
Rachel's birthday just happens to fall a few days before Christmas, and she has to work.
Parker lets him in, rubbing sleepy eyes as he yawns and points to the den where his mother grumbled as she tries to arrange files in her briefcase for the day. Her scowl immediately falls away when she sees him in the doorway with Parker in his arms.
"Happy Birthday," he winks at her and she groans, walking over to wrap her hands around his waist.
"Thanks," she murmurs into his chest. "I don't want to go to work today."
He chuckles and waggles his eyes at Parker. "Then don't."
His plans today wouldn't be affected if she went to work or not, but it would be an added bonus to spend the entire day with her.
"I can't. I have a few cases to clear and there's a slight chance I may need to go to court," she pouts and fiddles at the button on his shirt.
"Well. The sooner you get there, the sooner you can get home to enjoy the festivities."
He hands her a cup of tea and a paper bag with her favourite muffin, ushering her out the door and he and Parker wave goodbye as she drives off.
"Operation Happy Birthday Rachel is in effect." He looks down at Parker. He salutes and turns back to hurry inside.
They hang out all day, and Tina briefly comes by to help him make lunch after he and Parker somehow manage to set the fire alarm off. Twice.
They bring her lunch and Parker hands her a blue orchid, blushing as he peeks up at Finn.
"What are you two up to?" She looks between them, her hand on her hip.
Their faces are pictures of innocence when they stare back at her. "Us? Nothing!"
He doesn't attempt dinner. He and Parker drive to Manhattan to pick up their order from her favourite restaurant, hurrying home to stash it in the oven. Parker high fives him and runs off to grab the shopping list Rachel has stuck to the fridge.
By the time they go to pick her up from work, the groceries are put away, the house is tidy - Parker's room is spotless when he shows her and the table is set for dinner.
"You like it, Mom?"
Rachel beams at him and ducks quickly to kiss his hair, well-groomed and freshly cut. She looks at Finn and grants him a kiss too.
"Thank you. I love it."
Parker disappears and then reappears with a cloth over his arm and winks at Finn. "M'lady, if you'll follow me."
He pulls out her chair for her, waits until she's seated and grunts as he pushes it towards the table. He uncovers the dishes in front of her and hands her a napkin as Finn pours wine into her glass.
"You two outdid yourself. I'm impressed."
Parker grins proudly, settling on the chair beside him. "Happy Birthday, mom!"
He winks at her and mouths happy birthday to her. She practically grins throughout dinner, moreso when she saw presents.
Rachel is still beaming when he leaves her in the living room and goes to load the dishes in the dishwasher. While he tidies the kitchen he can hear her sing. He pauses and creeps closer to the door, peeking at her curled up on the couch with Parker falling asleep in her arms.
Good evening, good night.
By angels watched,
Who show you in your dream
the Christ-child′s tree.
Sleep now peacefully and sweetly,
see the paradise in your dream.
She's stroking her son's hair, her voice soft and quiet.
"Want me to put him down?"
She looks up at him, gives him a soft smile and nods. He takes the little boy from her, smiling when her lips linger on her son's hair and walks Parker towards his bedroom. He wraps his arms around Finn's neck, burying his face in his chest, gentle snores coming from him.
"You know, if you want to marry my mom, it's cool."
He stares down at Parker, sleepy eyes blinking up at him, curled under the sheets.
"Why'd you say that?"
"You like her, right? Like a lot?"
"I love her, lil man. And I love you too," he nods, dropping to sit beside Parker. Parker yawns and pulls the sheet over his body, smiling.
"She likes you too. And you're kinda cool."
He stares at the boy who's already being pulled under by sleep and his grin is wide when he saunters back into the living room. Rachel looks over at him with a curious look as he stares at the TV screen where she had unpaused Funny Girl.
"What's with the look?"
"That the-cat-who-just-ate-the-canary-but-nobody-knows look. What gives?" She laughs, poking her fingers into his side.
He's never met any woman who he ever contemplated marrying. It's funny that the first time he saw her, he thought she was a wonderful mother and had made someone a very lucky man. But over the past few months, it wasn't that hard to see himself married to Rachel, Parker beside her, with a baby in her arms. And the more time he spends with her, the more he hopes that dream would come true.
He pulls her hands to his, kissing her knuckles as she crawls onto his lap.
She's not just asking for the night, he knows.
Her eyes shimmer with some unknown emotion as they search his. He touches the necklace she always wears around her neck, the tiny gold star he'd given her earlier that day now glittering from the chain. His eyes lift to hers and he pulls her closer to him, touching his lips briefly to hers, tasting her happiness.
"Yeah?" She smiles, kissing him as she stares into his eyes. He nods and she slowly wraps her arms around his neck, her face cradled in the space between his neck and his shoulder. He can feel her smile, her lips barely grazing his skin. He was definitely staying.
Forever, if he had to.
A/N: So, I took some liberties here; actual 1996 Best Actress Tony Award winners were Donna Murphy (musical, The King and I) and 2007's Christine Ebersole for (Grey Gardens). Hope y'all didn't hate me for killing Jesse and that it turns out a lot better than I expected!