A/N: Hey guys! Thanks for being patient with me, this part really didn't want to cooperate! But here it is- just for you! Shout-outs are always in order to my girls Gabi and Nenne for being so sweet and supportive. An extra-special mention is in order for my twin, who put up with my constant whining and pleads for checking over everything. You're the best, Brooke, and this part is dedicated to you! :) Stay tuned for the final part, and reviews are love!

You had me dim the lights;
You danced just like a child
The wine spilled on your dress

And all you did was smile
Yeah, it was perfect
I hold it in my mind

Yeah, we owned the night

"Santana, I am a grown woman and I do not need a chaperon at my own job!"

"Excuse me, diva, I think you do." Tossing her thick hair out of her face, Rachel was about to melt onto the cement of the New York City sidewalk as her roommate and best friend Santana Lopez strutted next to her. "You need an intervention."

Stopping, Rachel felt like a child as she stomped her foot and grunted in frustration.

"I told you, San, he's a perfect gentleman! And nothing is happening between us, anyway!"

It frustrated her even more when Santana threw a smirk over her shoulder, not breaking her stride.

"Then why have you been walking around like a zombie for weeks?" Turning around and walking backwards, she threw her hands out, shrugging as Rachel crossed her arms and glared at her. "You are in deep, mama. And as someone who loves you, I need to personally meet this 'knight in shining armor' for myself."

"Ugh!" Rushing to catch up, Rachel couldn't believe her luck. Or lack of it, in this case. If she'd known gushing to her best friend about Finn would lead to this, she would have kept her mouth shut.

It had been three weeks since they'd met, and Finn had been in every night she'd worked. It had been amazing- over-whelming and slightly bewildering, but amazing all the same.

For the whole day after Finn had first walked into the Finer Diner, Rachel walked around in a daze. When she was in class, all she could think about was his smile. Instead of fighting for a solo in show choir, she sat in the back and heard his laugh ringing through her head. It was the worst when she was in dance class- it was difficult to follow choreography when the tall boy with brown hair in the class reminded her of Finn and sent her tripping over her feet into the instructor.

Everything she did that day seemed to take forever, time moving at a sluggish pace- worse than it did when she was working, even. The whole day was spent in anticipation for her coming shift. What if he came by again?

What if he didn't?

It was almost too much for Rachel to take. At about 8 o'clock she sat by the phone, going back and forth with herself about calling out. She was sick, her roommate had been in an accident, there was a death in the family. Anything to remove her from the situation.

Just contemplating it made her feel pathetic.

Finally, after hours of agonizing over it, Rachel decided to put on her uniform and go in. The worse that could happen was that he didn't show up. She'd still be able to do some homework and prepare her monologue for class the next day. Maybe Lucy would finally cave and teach her how to make her special pancakes.

In fact, if Finn came by, he'd just be distracting her.

But as she found herself sitting at the counter at the diner later that night, nervously tapping her foot and completely ignoring her script, Rachel knew that not knowing what was going to happen was a way worse distraction.

It was after 2 am when the door of the diner opened, surprising Rachel so much that she turned quickly and knocked over a stack of plates, (having him hold the dust pan while she swept up the mess was definitely worth it, though).

After that, Rachel never worried that he wouldn't come because every night, without fail, he walked in, his hair disheveled and a half smile on his face, between 1 and 2. He'd walk up to the counter, order a cup of coffee and a slice of pie, and stay until her shift was over and the sun was shining.

Covered in a blanket of darkness, Rachel shared things with Finn that she'd never shared with anyone, not even Santana. Over a shared plate of pie, (it was pumpkin that night,) she told him how being dumped by Jesse had hurt her ego more than it had her heart. When he was helping her write a scene for her screenwriting class, she showed him a scar that was just above her elbow, a gift from a tree branch when she'd attempted climbing the oak in her parent's back yard. And after an hour of staring into each other's eyes and giggling, her hand inches from his, she told him about how she'd lost her virginity in Jesse's parent's station wagon, (something she wished she could erase from her memory entirely).

Rachel finally caught up with Santana, who was blazing towards the diner with an unflappable determination. With ever step she felt more and more anxious about her best friend meeting Finn. If Rachel knew Santana Lopez, (and she liked to think she did,) she knew she would think it was her place to ask him anything she wanted whilst throwing insults over his head.

She was a little scared for him, actually.

If only she had been a little more subtle about how she was feeling, including how confused she was- Santana was the one who was there listening to her rants and stories about how much she liked this guy, even though she had no idea what they were or where they were going.

On that particular day, Santana had obviously had enough of the whole thing.

Rachel reached up and tried to block the blows of a pillow as Santana went to town, hitting her repeatedly and chastising her between hits.

"Why. Would. You. Fall. For. Someone. You. Barely. Know?"

"Tana, stop! You're hurting me!"

Pulling back, Santana sat above her, breathing deeply and groaning in frustration.

"Have I taught you nothing? You can't fall in love with a complete stranger. Where's your brain, mujer?"

"I am not in love with him, Tana!"

"You sure about that?"

"I-Yes, I mean, no, I'm not in love with Finn!"

"That's not what I'm seeing in front of me right now!" Gesturing to her, Rachel watched from her spot on the bed as her friend started pacing. "I've never seen you like this! A few nights of him coming by and ordering coffee and you have fucking stars in your eyes, giving yourself up all carefree and naïve and not caring that you barely know him!"

"I can't help it, San! I just can't." Standing up, Rachel grasped for the words to explain what she was feeling, gesturing widely with her hands. "He- he is just so wonderful. Sweet and kind and funny and, Santana, I know you prefer women, but he has these dimples that make my legs shake and this amazing smile…" Santana stood in the doorway, her arms folded and her face skeptical. "I'm not in love with him. But, these last few weeks? Being with him and talking? It feels so natural; there's promise there. I've never had that before."

Walking over to her, Rachel clutched her roommate's shoulders and shook her slightly. "I know college is supposed to be about having fun and being young, but do you really want me to turn my back on this? To not find out why I feel this way?" Smiling, she pushed her slightly. "You're the one who's always telling me to take chances."

Sighing, Santana shook her head before pulling the small brunette into a hug.

"You know I'm just being over-protective, mama- I love you. I remember what a number that prick Jesse did on you and you didn't even love him." Pulling back, she saw that her gaze had softened. "I don't want you to get your heart trampled on, Rach. This guy hasn't asked you out- never even asked for your number. How do you know he isn't just screwing with you?"

"I don't."

And she didn't, which scared her to death. Three weeks didn't mean much in the grand scheme of things. Though she felt this connection between them, it didn't mean he did, too. There was a 90% chance she was fooling herself, getting her hopes up over this stranger- but, honestly, why not? She hadn't felt this excited or impulsive in a long time, if ever.

She knew that Finn Hudson was something special- wasn't it worth it to see if they could be special together?

Despite their heart-to-heart that day, which included the assurance she'd be careful, Santana had still been waiting at the door of their apartment as she emerged from her room, dressed in her uniform for work.

"Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"Nope." Rachel looked over her roommate's outfit- a pair of sweatpants and a NYU hoodie- and she knew that's where she'd just been.

"Ok… Then what are you doing?"

"It's not what I'm doing, it's what we're doing." Grabbing Rachel's bag, she opened the door and latched onto her arm, dragging her out the door. "And we are going to work and meeting your handsome stranger."

Entering the diner at 12 o'clock sharp, Rachel knew it was going to be an interesting night, to say the least.

xxxxxx

Staring up at the ceiling of his bedroom, Finn laid in bed, convincing himself that tonight was the night. Tonight was the night that he'd finally be able to close his eyes and drift off, catching some much needed sleep. Tonight he would be able to relax and wake up refreshed. Tonight he would get some shut eye before heading down to the Finer Diner to see Rachel.

Crap, thinking about Rachel wasn't gonna help him fall asleep.

Rachel.

Turning over, Finn smiled to himself, Rachel's face filling his head. Over the previous weeks, he'd memorized every inch of it- the curve of her nose, (which she hated but he thought was adorable,) the flush of her cheeks when she was excited or embarrassed, the way her eyes became a warm-carmel color when she looked at him.

Though he loved every part of her, Finn was fully convinced there was no better thing in the world than Rachel Berry's smile. The way it went from just a slight curve at the tips of her mouth to a blinding, toothy grin in seconds; how it wasn't just her lips that smiled, but whole self- she literally lit up when she decided to grace the world with one. When she decided to direct one at him he couldn't help but stare like an idiot.

It was amazing the effect she had on him.

Shifting again in the hope of finding a comfortable position, Finn closed his eyes and tried to let himself relax enough to drift off. Rubbing his eyes, he groaned as he discovered that the little brunette wouldn't leave his conscious.

Who was he kidding? She hadn't left his head once in the last three weeks.

Every night with Rachel had been awesome. The day after he first went in, all he thought about while he caught up on grading papers and sat through class was running back to the diner. After catching his usual hour of sleep in the afternoon, he practically paced his apartment until the time came to grab his bag and race down there.

He didn't care how pathetic it made him, being this strung out on a girl. If Rachel was a drug, he was definitely an addict. Just seeing her turn and grin at him when he entered the Finer Diner each night was enough to keep him going for days.

As if just being with her wasn't enough, they also had the best conversations. She told him all about her roommate and best friend, a firey latina named Santana, and about the roles she was going to get when she was on Broadway, (Evita, Funny Girl, and Laurey from Oklahoma- Finn was pretty proud of himself for remembering all of them). He learned about the one relationship she'd ever been in, with an asshole named Jesse. It made him mad just seeing her cringe at the mention of him dumping her on the way back from graduation practice during her senior year of high school.

When he told her he would've kicked his ass for her she had grabbed his hand and laughed, the cringe disappearing with his words.

Finn couldn't believe how much he'd shared with her, too. Just like she'd told him about her best friend, he told her about Puck, his best bud from back home. Rachel really loved the stories of their child-hood adventures; her favorite had been the one where they'd tried kidnapping the cat that belonged to the old lady next door and ended up getting chased down the street by said neighbor instead.

When she'd asked about his family one night as he helped her fill salt shakers, he surprisingly didn't feel uncomfortable telling her about them. He described his mom and the way she sent him care packages every few weeks, and how she smelled like cinnamon year-round, even though she never baked with it. Finn even told her about his step-father Burt, who had given him a job at his tire shop to make extra cash during high school.

Rachel loved it when he talked about his family- every night she asked for another story, or for another fact about them. And even though Finn hadn't said so, he knew that his mom would adore Rachel. Hell, Kurt already loved her and he hadn't even met her yet.

"She's perfect and you need to marry her immediately."

"Kurt, you don't even know her!" Finn had to laugh at his step-brother, who he met every Tuesday for lunch between his classes at NYU and Kurt's at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Rachel had become a regular topic of conversation in the last few weeks.

"So? I can tell how much you like her- and that never happens." Kurt gestured at him, adjusting his hippopotamus broach. "You get this look on your face anytime you talk about her- like when Nick Arnstein looks longingly at Fanny when she sings 'People' in Funny Girl."

"Hey- That's Rachel's favorite movie!"

Kurt chuckled as his step-brother proved his point. "You are totally smitten, Finn Hudson." Taking a delicate bite of his brownie, Kurt raised an eyebrow at him. "When are you going to introduce me to your new girlfriend?"

Finn ran a hand through his hair, shrugging as he contemplated Kurt's question. Not necessarily the question, but the term he used.

"She's not really my girlfriend."

"Then what is she?"

Finn had no idea, actually. Out of all the things they'd talked about, what they were hadn't been one of them. All he knew was that Rachel Berry was definitely stuck in his head. He also knew how much he liked her, which was a lot. Finn had never felt this way about anyone before, not even his high school girlfriend Quinn. But did spending nights with her at her job count as dates? They had never kissed or anything.

Not that he hadn't wanted to.

Finn sat up in bed, running his hands over his face. Thinking about Rachel and trying to sleep at the same time was never going to work. A glance at the clock showed it was 1 am, and with the knowledge that he'd be seeing Rachel soon, he threw off the covers and got out of bed.

He might not know what they were, but Finn knew it talking to Rachel about it was better than trying to figure it out himself.

A few minutes later Finn left his building, zipping his coat to protect against the fall chill. New York had finally decided to change seasons, leaving behind the hot, muggy summer days and putting on a coat of fallen leaves and shorter days. The air had a crispness to it that kept everyone on their toes, coffee in their hands, and scarves around their necks. This was Finn's favorite time of year, and it was even better when experienced at night.

He walked swiftly towards the diner, which was about a 15 minute walk from his apartment. Even though he'd never noticed it before that first night, Finn found himself passing the Finer Diner everyday at least once on his daily commute, smiling to himself at the sight of this now familiar place during the day.

Walking up to the diner, Finn squinted, hoping for a quick look at Rachel through the front window. It disappointed him when he saw another person sitting at the counter, talking animatedly while Rachel poured her a cup of coffee. He wasn't used to having to share Rachel with other customers- the only person who took up her time was Lucy, but she always stayed in the kitchen and only made the occasional snide comment. Being raised as an only child made him averse to sharing anything, and the idea of someone else taking up their time together irritated him.

Who was up this late during the week, anyway? Besides him, that is.

Taking a closer look in the window, Finn got the feeling Rachel knew this person. Woman. She was dressed in sweatpants and an NYU hoodie, one much like the one Finn had back in his closet. From where he was standing, Rachel was smiling and laughing easily with her, rolling her eyes at something she said. Starting to feel weird just standing and watching them, Finn leaned on the door, the usual ding signaling his entrance.

"Finn!"

Rachel instantly lit up as soon as she saw him, giving him a little wave as he worked his way over to her through the chair and tables. Finn smiled back, wanting nothing more than to pull her into his arms and tell her he missed her that day. Unfortunately, he was stuck on the other side of the counter, and the strange woman who was sitting there already was giving him a shrewd look, looking him up and down without any hint of subtly.

"So, you must be the Romeo I've been hearing about non-stop for the past three weeks."

"Santana!" Finn watched as Rachel dropped the warm expression she'd given him the moment before and instead adopted a look of panic, her forehead wrinkling. "Please don't."

"I told you diva, I need to make sure this guy is good enough for you." The latina, who he knew by now was her best friend Santana, leaned her elbows on the counter and winked at Rachel, who looked almost as embarrassed as she had the first night he'd met her.

So she'd been talking about him. Finn couldn't help but be insanely happy at that piece of information; it was nice to know that he was on her mind as much as she was on his.

Even if it did end up bringing this very loud person down here to grill him.

"I think I am perfectly capable of deciding that for myself." Rachel hissed at her friend through clenched teeth, blushing and averting her eyes away from Finn.

"Rach, I love you, but have you seen your dating history? You haven't picked a lot of winners."

"I've only dated Jesse, San!" Finn almost laughed at the sight of Rachel pleading with her friend, nostrils flared and hands gripping the counter top.

"All the more reason for me to give him the Mama Tana once-over."

With that, the woman twisted her chair in his direction, her eyes narrowing as she looked him straight in the eye. Despite himself, Finn swallowed thickly, trying to brace himself. He knew the only thing he could really do was stand there and take whatever she was gonna fling at him- she was Rachel's best friend, after all. There was definitely no way around it.

Besides, he could see Puck doing the same thing to Rachel if they ever did meet, if not something more humiliating.

"You must be Santana." Giving her his best smile, dimples and all, Finn reached out to shake her hand. "I'm Finn."

"That's me, Big Foot. Santana Lopez." Hooking her thumb in Rachel's direction, she ignored his out-stretched hand. "And I have been this one's best chica since 6th grade."

"Ever since you slipped and fell in front of your whole class and flashed your underwear. Right?" Finn saw Rachel beaming at him from the corner of his eye as he remembered the story. Sitting down, he motioned toward her. "Rachel was the only one who didn't laugh."

Finn chuckled at Santana's stunned face, her eyes darting back and forth between him and Rachel.

"You told him that?"

Rachel nodded eagerly, obviously much more relaxed now that Finn was handling himself well against her fierce best friend. "I did, and he remembered, too."

Finn grinned back as Rachel grabbed a plate and cut him a large slice of apple pie.

"Looks like Lucy made my favorite tonight."

"I asked her to last night. You did mention how much you loved it." Finn's whole body tingled when she smiled again, leaning on the counter top and brushing her hand lightly against his arm. "Except it was more like begging- you owe me big time."

"You went toe-to-toe with the Scary Southern Bell for me?" Leaning in, Finn was now inches from her face, her eyes teasing as she bit her bottom lip, (he really liked it when she did that).

"Don't be so cocky," Rachel winked at him. "I happen to like apple pie, too."

At that moment Santana cleared her throat very loudly, earning her a glare from Rachel as she sat up.

"I hate to interrupt this little love-fest, but I have a few questions for Hudson here."

"Santana!"

"Rach it's ok." Finn grabbed her hand and squeezed, feeling her body calm at his touch. Facing Santana, he sat up straight, keeping Rachel's hand in his own. "What do you want to know?"

Smirking, the latina nodded. "Good. First, why are you here every night?"

"I don't sleep at night." He answered easily, shrugging slightly. "Besides, I enjoy spending time with Rachel."

"And why don't you sleep at night like a normal person?" At Rachel's pointed look she added, "Besides those who have to work like this one over here. And when do you fit in sleep between spending time with someone you've only known for three weeks, anyway?"

Finn brushed over her first question, taking a bite of his pie instead.

Both girls noticed his silence- Santana raised her eyebrows at him, while Rachel gave him the same quizzical look she gave him every time the subject came up. Neither knew the reason he didn't sleep at night, and Finn wasn't sharing.

Swallowing, he addressed the second question. "I usually get about an hour or so after classes. And personally, hanging out with Rach is way better than sleep."

That earned him a wistful sigh as Rachel, forgetting about his lack of an answer moments before, leaned across the counter and kissed him on the cheek.

Santana looked anything but convinced.

"Hey, Tinkerbell!" A sudden yell from Lucy in the kitchen startled all three of them, almost causing Finn to slip off his seat. "Last time I checked, you're supposed to be working. And I need help peeling these potatoes."

Rachel's eyes widened, darting back and forth between them and the kitchen. The wrinkle returned to her forehead at the thought of leaving Finn alone with Santana.

"Well?"

Sighing, Rachel shot Finn a quick look of apology before retreating into the kitchen, her uniform skirt swishing and the door swinging closed behind her.

Santana tweaked her ponytail and cleared her throat, opening her mouth to, from the look on her face, really lay into him, but before she could Finn stopped her.

"You can stop with the interrogation, alright?"

Her eyes instantly narrowed into slits, her body rising off the chair. Now taller than him, the latina poked him in the chest.

"That girl."

Poke.

"Is my best friend."

Poke.

"And it's my job to."

Poke.

"Protect her."

Poke.

"Understand?"

Poke, poke.

"Hey!" Finn rose from his seat, now towering over the woman who was giving him such a hard time. "I get that you're protective of Rachel, believe me. She's someone special- she is sweet and beautiful and adorable and has a voice like I've never heard. She's amazing, and she's your family. I get it."

He stared down at the girl, her arms crossed and body tense. Thankfully, her face had softened the tiniest bit at the mention of Rachel as her family, and that gave Finn license to continue.

"I understand all of that. You love her. But you're just gonna have to trust that I'm not here to screw with her, or hurt her. I care about her." He looked around the diner, laughing as he made his point. "I know the whole situation is crazy, meeting each other every night at this place. But it wouldn't matter if she was working here or at Starbucks or something- I would still be there, spending time with her. Because she is special, and she's important to me."

Finn felt the words leave his mouth, knowing without a doubt that they were true. It had only been three weeks, and that wasn't a lot, really. It took him longer to get to his own laundry or to return phone calls to his aunts back home. But that time was all it took for him to start falling for this beautiful singing waitress, and he wasn't gonna question it, or run from it.

He guessed being questioned by the feisty best friend of said woman was what it took for him to admit it to himself how much he cared for her.

Santana kept her face expressionless, her arms still crossed defiantly. But Finn knew by the look in her eye that he'd won his case. Especially when she turned from him to snatch her bag off her chair, slinging it over her shoulder as she looked at him again.

"If you hurt her, I will hurt you. You want me to trust you with my best friend's heart, then you'll have to trust me when I say that."

Finn nodded solemnly, stuffing his hands in his pockets as Rachel's friend continued to glare at him.

"Got it."

"Good."

Turning on her heel, Santana headed for the front door, turning once to give Finn a quick nod before leaving, the bell ringing loudly as she did.

"Santana, what did you do to him?" Rachel's panicked voice rang out of the kitchen as she ran out the door, carrying a potato in her hand and a look of rage on her face. She almost dropped the potato when she saw Finn standing there alone.

"Oh! What are you still doing here?"

"I was just eating some pie, actually." He grinned at the tiny brunette, sitting back down on the stool. "Santana went back to your guy's place."

She hesitantly walked up to him, coming out from behind the counter. "And everything's…. ok?"

Leaning towards her, Finn reached out and tucked a loose piece of hair behind her ear, his hand grazing her cheek lightly. She leaned into his touch, raising her hand to cover his.

"Yeah, everything's great."

xxxxxx

Rachel had to remind herself to thank Santana when she got home. Well, it was either thank her or kill her- but right now she more inclined towards the thanking than the killing.

Because whatever she'd done or said while she'd been in the kitchen peeling potatoes, (she'd also tried eavesdropping, but Lucy wasn't having that,) it caused something to shift between her and Finn. She didn't know what it was, but before that night there was still a barrier between them, keeping them from going or even discussing what was next for them, or what they were. But as soon as Santana came in and started hurling questions and ultimatums at poor Finn, it kind of cut through everything and got to the root of their feelings. They liked each other, what was so wrong with admitting that?

And it wasn't as scary as she thought it would be.

It was the end of the night, and she and Finn had spent most of it in the back booth, sitting close to each other and just talking. The sun was starting to rise, and with Finn's fingers curled around hers, she wanted nothing more than to stay with him for the rest of the day. As if he read her mind, Finn nudged her chin up so she was looking at him.

"Hey you."

She giggled, brushing her hair out of her face. "Hi there."

"I wanted to ask you something."

Her heart rate instantly picked up. "And what's that?"

Finn ran a hand through his hair, suddenly looking nervous. She'd never seen him like that before, and though she had no idea what he was gonna ask, she'd probably say yes just because he looked so cute.

"As a part of my student teaching gig, I have to go out and teach a lesson to an actual class." At the mention of teaching, his face relaxed into a smile, his eyes bright with animation despite being awake all night. "Later today I'm gonna be teaching a group of third graders, and I was thinking maybe you could come and watch me? I want you to see me in my element, you know?"

Rachel's heart melted at the mention of him with kids, and even more at the thought of him wanting her to watch him teach. She was beyond touched.

"And, before you answer, I want you to know am I prepared to take you to dinner and a movie afterwards."

Rachel couldn't believe he was really that perfect.

"I would love that!"

"Really?"

"Of course! When and where?"

"It's gonna be at PS 182 on 13th Street at 4 o'clock. I know you have classes and stuff, but-"

Rachel squeezed his thigh to stop him. "I'll be there."

Just saying that she'd be there was obviously a big thing for Finn, and Rachel felt the air still as he leaned in, his hand coming up to cup her cheek.

"Thumbelina! I know you're a tad busy, so you probably haven't noticed that your shift's over!"

A look at the clock confirmed it was 7 o'clock.

"She's really good at the whole interrupting thing, isn't she?"

"That's what we get for being here every night." Patting his arm, she moved away as she scooted out of the booth. "This is her territory."

The pair laughed as they got up and strolled up to the counter, grabbing their bags and coats before heading for the door, waving at Lucy as she lurked in the kitchen window.

Stepping out onto the sidewalk, Finn faced her, smiling as he held on to her hand.

"I can't wait to see you later. And during daylight hours, too." Holding his gaze, her insides felt like jello as he leaned down, letting go of her hand to wrap his long arms around her body and pull her closer.

"So I guess you kinda like me, huh?"

Rachel blushed, taking her hands and placing them on his shoulders.

"Maybe I do. What are you gonna do about it?"

Smirking, he leaned down and finally he kissed her, New York silencing as their lips connected.

Eyes falling closed, Rachel let herself be pulled closer against Finn's body, her head swimming with his smell and his taste. His lips on hers were gentle and passionate, sweet yet hungry. The world around them disappeared, the people and the chaos melting away, leaving only the sound of her heart pounding loudly in her head.

Regretfully, they pulled away from each other moments later, breathing heavily and eyes locked.

Finn nuzzled her cheek, murmuring into her ear. "Hey, one more thing."

"Yes, you can kiss me again."

That got her a laugh and a quick kiss on the lips.

"Ok, two things." Pulling back, his face grew serious. "I just want you to know that I really like you."

Rachel felt herself redden, her eyes cast downwards.

"I like you, too." She murmured, lacing her fingers with his.

"Good- just checking." With a wink and a final lingering kiss, Finn pulled away, waving as he made his way home. Rachel felt rooted to the spot on the sidewalk. She'd never felt this way before- not with Jesse, not with anyone. It felt good, and it felt right.

When her body decided to start moving her back towards her apartment, a thought occurred to her that made her stop again.

What was she going to wear?

xxxxxx

It was 4 o'clock, and Rachel hurried up the steps of PS 182, running late to watch Finn teach. Stopping in front of the doors, she checked her phone again to read over his text, seeing he would be in room 204.

She took a deep breath, fixing her skirt before heading inside, the cool air of the air conditioning and sound of children's laughter welcoming her in.

She still couldn't believe that she was going to be seeing Finn during the day, and actually going out on a real date. It made what was happening between them seem more real, which in turn made her more excited. Excited and nervous. A lot nervous. So nervous that her palms hadn't stopped sweating since that morning and she had to force herself to pay attention to anyone who tried talking to her all day.

But mostly excited.

A swift glance down at her outfit confirmed she's picked the absolute right thing to wear for a change. Instead of the retro cream and mint colored uniform he was used to seeing her in, Rachel had instead put on her favorite sundress, which was a beautiful coral color with a white lace overlay and small straps. She and Santana, (who she had bullied into helping her get ready,) had decided it was the perfect first date look- not formal, but still pretty and girly. She finished the look off with her star necklace and her hair down and curled. Santana had dubbed her look, "fierce", so she considered herself ready.

Looking down the school hallway she'd just turned down, Rachel looked for the room marked 204, smiling as she took in the brightly colored bulletin boards and kid's art. The place reminded her of the school she's gone to in Colorado, which had been wonderful, despite all the mean-spirited kids. She'd first joined choir at that school, and that was the start of her love affair with music. That alone made the experience great.

Finally finding the right classroom, Rachel couldn't help but feel giddy. It was honestly scaring her how happy this guy was making her, and how much she anticipated being with him. Their date, their first date, was going to be wonderful, she just knew it.

Turning the door knob, Rachel walked into a flurry of activity, seeing kids run around in the mist of talking and laughing, obviously getting their energy out before their lesson with Finn. Looking around the room, she spotted the tall TA near the back of the room, talking with a tall red head. Rachel couldn't really see her face, but by the looks of it they knew each other really well.

Rachel lingered in the doorway, waiting for Finn to notice her instead of interrupting his conversation. The woman was saying something to him, placing her hand on his arm as she leaned in to whisper something in his ear.

Wait, what?

Rachel watched as Finn laughed at what the busty red-head had said, pulling her into a hug and kissing her near the corner of her mouth. Suddenly her blood ran cold, her hands shaking as their embrace lasted, neither pulling away. The woman was whispering something else in his ear now, her hands lightly running up and down his back.

So I guess you kinda like me, huh?

I just want you to know that I really like you.

Tears pricking her eyes, the children's laughter that surrounded her suddenly sounding mocking, reminding her of Santana's warnings and her own worst fears.

I don't want you to get your heart trampled on, Rach.

Choking back the tears she was too proud to admit were falling, Rachel turned and rushed out the door, wondering why in the hell she didn't just listen in the first place.