this fic is a belated birthday present for amalia, and i really hope i did her request justice!

also dedicated to mary gael since she laughed at lines i sent her and assured me i wasn't the only one who found them funny

title is from 'new york' by snow patrol


the curve of you is curved on me

1.

She's reading, he notices, the worn cover of a book underneath her fingertips, her hair whipping around her face in the salty breeze. He's never seen her around before, so she must be new to town. Her dark hair falls in a sheet around her face, her nose scrunched up in concentration as her dark brown eyes glide over the words on the page. Her mouth is set in a frown, and she doesn't even look up when he sits down beside her.

"You new around here?" he asks, stretching his legs out in the sand.

She doesn't look up, doesn't even acknowledge his presence.

"I just kind of know everyone," he continues. "Small town, you know?"

She still doesn't show any sign that she knows that he's there at all, but he won't be deterred.

"I'm Finn," he says. "Finn Hudson."

Finally, she turns to look at him, her eyes narrowed into slits. "I'm trying to read, if you don't mind. And I find I can concentrate a lot better if someone isn't prattling on beside me."

He just raises his eyebrows, raising his hands defensively. "Just trying to be friendly."

"Well, don't," she replies curtly. Then she promptly buries her nose in her book once more.

Finn's stunned for a moment, and he just watches her, his eyes still wide with shock.

She notices him still watching, and she looks back over at him. "Why are you still here?" she asks, her tone harsh.

"I was just leaving," he mutters, pushing himself off the sand.

She watches him leave, then she turns back to her book.

Instead of being put off, he's strangely attracted to her even more. He doesn't even know her name, but he's pretty sure he wants to.

It's not the last time he sees the peculiar girl that summer.


2.

His mom cleans people's houses for a living, and it may not be a glamorous job, but it pays the bills, kind of well actually. A lot of wealthy people live on the Maine coast it turns out, and they're willing to pay well for a clean home.

His mom's best paying employers are definitely the Berry's, Hiram and Leroy, who even let her and Finn rent a smaller cottage on their beachfront estate. They're really cool guys, Finn thinks, and sometimes they even let Finn, like, watch television in their living room while his mom works.

Their cottage is a two bedroom, and it's actually a lot nicer than any of the other places Finn has lived in his life, and he's lived in quite a few homes, to say the least. His mom has worked for the Berry's for about a year now, and this is the longest they've stayed in one place.

He likes Maine. It's nice, and he likes living by the ocean. He goes to the local community college so he's still around to help out his mom, but he's not really sure what he wants to do with his life anyway, so he doesn't feel, like, burdened or anything by it. He likes being able to be there for his mom.

His mom's already down the beach at the Fabray residence when there's a knock on the front door a few days later. Finn answers the door with just a pair of shorts on, his hair still in disarray from sleep, and he's shocked to see the surprised face of the girl from the beach staring back at him.

"Hi," he says slowly.

He can see her taking in his shirtless form, her eyes still wide, and she subconsciously licks her lips. A smirk crawls onto his face. "Can I help you?"

She snaps out of her trance-like state. "Does Carole Hudson live here?" she asks bluntly instead.

"Yeah," Finn says, "but she's out at the moment. Can I take a message?"

The girl purses her lips. "Just – just tell her Rachel Berry stopped by, alright?" She turns and heads back down the path then without so much as another word.

Finn leans against the doorframe, just watching her go. She's really tiny, but it's cute, he thinks. And now he knows her name – Rachel Berry.

Huh. He never knew the Berry's had a daughter. He'll have to ask his mom about her later.


3.

It turns out that Rachel Berry is the same age as him, according to his mom. She goes to school in New York City and rarely visits home during the school year, so that explains why he's never seen her before. It doesn't, on the other hand, explain why she seems to hate him when they've barely exchanged two words with each other.

He makes it his mission to run into her again, to find out more about her.

He just doesn't plan on literally running into her, which is what ends up happening. He's jogging on the beach fairly early one morning, as he tends to do sometimes, and he's not really paying attention to anything besides the sand beneath his feet and the music coming from his earphones.

He feels himself hit something smaller, and there's an oof as his earphones are knocked from his ears.

"Watch it!" the smaller figure snaps from the ground.

"I'm so sorry," Finn says quickly, leaning down to help the girl. A familiar pair of brown eyes are glaring up at him. "Oh, hey, Rachel."

"How did you literally not see me coming?" she says instead, her voice sharp.

"This is a two way street, figuratively speaking," he points out, one eyebrow raised in amusement. "You didn't seem to see me either. I mean, you're tiny at least. What's your excuse for not seeing me?"

She huffs in indignation, hauling herself up off the ground, ignoring Finn's outstretched hand. "Your shadow obscured my view," she tells him acidly, "it practically eclipsed the sun."

"I think you wanted to run into me," Finn tells her, his tone teasing.

"I assure you I most definitely did not, Neanderthal."

"It's Finn, actually."

"Whatever."

Finn stands there somewhat awkwardly as Rachel crosses her arms, staring him down. "Well, Finn, are you going to block my path all day, or are you going to step aside so I can continue my morning run?"

He licks his lips. "Can't you just go around me?"

"No," she insists defiantly. "I need consistency and routine, and currently you're standing in my way of that."

Finn laughs, but Rachel's face remains set in a glare. "Oh, you're not kidding." He steps aside, and she throws one final glare in his direction before taking off running once more.

"I'll see you around, Rachel Berry!" he calls after her.

She pretends to ignore him, but he knows that she heard. She glances back over her shoulder once last time before she disappears down the beach.

She looks back, and that makes his heart soar more than it should.


4.

Puckerman (who somehow weaseled his way into becoming Finn's best friend shortly after Finn moved to Maine) convinces him they should go to McKinley's, the local diner, for the evening.

"Quinn working tonight?" Finn asks knowingly as Puck climbs into his beat up pickup truck.

Puck feigns disinterest, scoffing, "Hell if I know."

Finn takes that as a yes, but he doesn't say anything, just pulls out of Puck's driveway and onto the road.

Everything in the small coastal town is located within ten minutes of each other tops, so it's not long before he and Puck are getting out of his truck and heading into McKinley's. Sure enough, Quinn's their waitress, and she pretends that she's disgusting by Puck's persistent come-ons, but her blush tells Finn she secretly doesn't mind. She's flattered, even, he thinks.

Quinn's really pretty, but she's not really his type. Plus, Puck would like, punch him if she were.

Finn's always liked brunettes, and particularly (as of lately), short brunettes with noses on the large side and wide, brown eyes.

Almost as if by fate, the door clangs open then, and Rachel Berry herself walks in, looking slightly uncomfortable and out of place. She glances around, pushing her hair self-consciously behind her ear as she settles on a bar stool at the counter.

"Who's that little mama?" Puck asks.

Finn tears his eyes away from Rachel, flitting his gaze back onto his best friend. "Hmm?"

Puck rolls his eyes. "The chick you were starin' at. Who is she?"

"Um, uh, Rachel. Her name's Rachel."

"Rachel Berry? I haven't seen her since high school!" He turns around to look at her once more, letting out a low whistle. "She got hot." He turns back to Finn, waggling his eyebrows. "She used to be kind of a freak in high school. Wore all these animal print sweaters and shit. Who knew she was hiding all that underneath?"

Finn rolls his eyes, getting up from the booth. Sometimes Puck's a little too crude for his taste.

"Yo, Hudson, where you going?"

Finn just ignores him, sitting down on the empty stool beside Rachel instead.

"Hi," he says easily.

Rachel turns to look at him, a frown already on her face. "Finn," she greets, slightly less cold than usual.

He smiles. "So you do know my name!"

She ignores this revelation, choosing instead to lean around him before asking with narrowed eyes, "Are you here with Noah Puckerman?"

Finn nods, not knowing what else to say.

She just purses her lips before glancing back down at the menu.

"They have great burgers here," he offers.

She doesn't look up as she says, "I'm a vegetarian."

"Oh," he says quietly.

She glances up at him with a small smirk on her lips. "Plus I used to come here all the time."

"Right," he mutters, "you grew up here."

She gives him a real, genuine smile then, and it's so beautiful, it practically blinds him. It's gone almost as quickly as it comes, but it still resonates with him.

"Can I get you anything?" Quinn's appeared before them, notepad in hand and pencil at the ready,

"Quinn," Rachel acknowledges, and suddenly her voice is cold again.

"Oh my God, Rachel?" Quinn breathes, a smile spreading across her face. "How are you?"

"Fine," Rachel answers, her voice still cold. "I'll take a chocolate milkshake, please."

Quinn looks surprised, but she just says, "Certainly, I'll have that right up for you," before hurrying back into the kitchen.

"What was that about?" Finn asks, chuckling a bit.

Rachel just gives him an icy stare. "Believe it or not, I didn't have the best high school experience," is all she says.

"Wh – because of Quinn?" Sure, Quinn can be a little icy at times, but he doesn't really think of her as vindictive or anything.

"Among others, yes," Rachel replies tersely. "She was often my main tormentor. Glad to know you and she are quite friendly." She sniffs, turning away.

Finn gapes at her for a second, and he's about to reply when an entirely new thought hits him: Rachel Berry is jealous of his possible connection to Quinn. She's been acting like he literally means nothing to her, and that she could care less, up until now. It seems she secretly cared all along.

"Are you jealous?" he asks, his tone teasing.

Rachel snorts, but her cheeks pink tellingly. "Wh – no! Frankly, I'm appalled you would even suggest such a thing! I don't even like you. How could I be jealous?"

Finn just grins, swiveling on the bar stool so he's facing her more than he was before. "Maybe you'd be jealous if you were only pretending to hate my guts to cover up your true feelings."

Rachel rolls her eyes. "Oh, you wish that were the reason," she says somewhat breezily.

Finn doesn't get a chance to reply because at that moment, Quinn returns with Rachel's milkshake, a smile still glued to her face, although Finn notices it looks a lot less comfortable and more forced than it did before.

"Thank you," Rachel says quietly, and Finn thinks it's kind of nice that she's still civil toward Quinn even though she apparently wronged her during her time in high school.

"Just let me know if you need anything else," Quinn replies, her voice full of false cheeriness, and Rachel just nods.

"So…" Finn says once Quinn's gone. "What did Quinn do to you, exactly?"

A pained look crosses Rachel's face, so he quickly backtracks, adding, "Not that you should feel like you have to tell me or anything – I mean, if it's like, too painful, or whatever…"

"No, it's fine," Rachel replies. She takes a deep breath in, then a sip of her milkshake, before turning to him. "I wasn't exactly popular in high school," she begins. "I was focused on what would happen after high school – where I would go, who I would be – instead of high school itself, which most of my classmates found odd. Weird. So I was labeled a freak." She gives Finn a small smile, but her eyes are sad. "It started out with little things, at first. Things I could brush off. Names, mostly. I was called names that attacked my physical appearance – Man Hands, Streisand, Stubbles – and I just let them bounce off of me. I was going places, after all, and they weren't. They'd all be sorry once I was a Broadway star."

She laughs a little bitterly, taking another drink of her milkshake. Finn just watches her, a slight frown on his face.

"It gradually got worse," she continues, looking at the counter rather than him. "They started throwing slushies at me in the hallways, staining my clothes for the day until I learned to bring two pairs, and the insults got worse, as did the teasing… And I tried to just keep my head high and remind myself that I would be getting out of this town, and that they wouldn't." She looks up at Finn now, her eyes shining. "One day, everything seemed to change. Quinn was being nice to me, for once, and she told me that she was setting me up with a prom date. And that prom date was Jesse St. James. He was a senior and I was a junior, so I couldn't help but feel completely enamored."

Finn feels a little sick to his stomach; he knows this can't end well.

Rachel laughs again, definitely bitter this time. "I should've known that it was all too good to be true. I mean, looking back, all the signs were there. But I was blinded by the possibility that I could have actual friends for once, and that I could get the guy, and – and that maybe they'd just realized how horrible they'd been to me." She blinks, and a single tear snakes down her cheek. Finn has to fight the urge to wipe it away.

"I got all dolled up in my prom dress," she whispers, "and I waited on my front porch just like they told me to."

"He didn't show up," Finn finds himself saying, guessing the end of the story.

Rachel shakes her head. "No, he did. He just brought something extra."

Finn crinkles his brow in confusion.

"Eggs," she supplies.

"They didn't…"

Rachel nods. "He, and Quinn, and all of the other popular kids drove by in their limo and egged me in my prom dress," she says, her voice a broken whisper.

"Rachel…" Finn says sympathetically, and he really just wants to hug her, but he thinks that might be overstepping his boundaries, so he just runs his hand soothingly up and down her back instead.

"That's why I don't come back here," she says shortly.

"Well, maybe Quinn's sorry for how she behaved in high school," Finn suggests.

Rachel scoffs, rolling her eyes.

"I mean, maybe if you'd give her a chance to explain—"

"Look, Finn," she snaps, "you don't know what I went through, okay? You didn't experience it firsthand. You didn't go home and cry yourself to sleep every night. So don't sit there and tell me that I should 'hear out' one of the girls that made my life a living hell. I'm sure she seems nice now, but you don't know the Quinn I do." She gets up then, storming out of the diner, leaving her milkshake abandoned on the table.

Finn sighs, running a hand through his hair.

"Where'd Berry go?" Quinn asks, coming back with a bill.

"She left."

"Without paying her bill?"

"I'll pay it," Finn offers quickly.

Quinn hands him the slip of paper, adding, "It's just weird, that's all. Rachel's always been organized and proper. She must've been really upset."

"She was," Finn mutters, fishing a five out of his pocket.

"Well, what did you do?"

Finn looks at her in disbelief. "Nothing!" he says defensively. "Actually, it was something you did."

"Me?" Quinn gasps.

"Yeah, back in high school."

"Oh, that." Quinn rolls her eyes. "I assumed we were past that."

"Yeah, well, she's not," Finn says. He pauses, then adds, "Maybe you should try apologizing."

"For things that happened in high school?" Quinn laughs. "We're both adults now. I don't think it really matters so much anymore."

"Look, you really hurt her, okay, and I just think that you should at least try to make amends," Finn snaps.

Quinn raises an eyebrow. "Why do you care so much, Finn?" she asks, her tone icy. "Do you care about her, or something? Finn, you barely even know her."

"I don't know, okay?" he says, frustration seeping into his voice. He throws the five down onto the table. "Just – keep the change, alright, and tell Puck that he needs to find a different ride home."

He ignores the shocked look on Quinn's face as he pushes open the door and hurriedly unlocks his truck. He doesn't know what to feel. He's so confused when it comes to Rachel and how she acts around him – how she can be so cold one minute and then just fine toward him the next. He thinks about her story with Quinn and about her jealousy and he thinks that Rachel Berry is an anomaly.

He thinks that she might just be getting under his skin, and all he wants is to get under hers as well. He wants to know, breathe her in, but he's unsure that she'll give him a chance.


5.

He doesn't see Rachel for a few days. He doesn't really see Quinn or Puck either, but he doesn't exactly seek them out. He finds himself missing Rachel more than he should, finds himself wishing he could just talk to her again, even if only for a few minutes.

He goes with his mom to the Berry's house the following Thursday on the pretense that he's missed watching reruns of Saved by the Bell on their big screen television, but he really goes because it's his best bet of running into Rachel. What better place to see her than in her own home?

His mom's off cleaning upstairs somewhere and he's perched on the couch, halfway through his third rerun of Saved by the Bell when she finally makes an appearance. She freezes in the doorway when she sees him, letting out a surprised squeak.

He turns to look at her, noting that she's in her pajamas decidedly: a pink tank top (no bra, of which she seems to be aware as she quickly crosses her arms over her chest) and tiny pink shorts, both of which are covered in gold stars. Her hair is up in a bun, and she's not wearing any makeup. He thinks she looks beautiful.

"Wh – what're you doing here?" she manages to squeak out.

"My mom's cleaning, and sometimes I come and watch tv…" he says slowly. He tries not to stare so much, but he can't help it – she's so beautiful.

She visibly swallows, and then she backs away slowly before turning and bolting back up the stairs.

He sighs, leaning back against the couch cushions. Well, that could've gone a lot better.


6.

He's back at home two hours later, debating on whether or not he should ask Puck to come over to play some videogames when there's a sharp knock at the door. He gets up to answer it since his mom is at the grocery store, and he's greeted by the sight of a seething Rachel Berry.

"You need to explain yourself," she demands, her breathing heavy and labored. Her eyes are narrowed into slits, and she pushes her way past him and into the home. "You need to explain yourself right now."

"What are you talking about?" Finn asks slowly.

"You were in my house because you knew I would be there, weren't you, you perv?"

"What?" Honestly, that's the last thing he was expecting to come out of her mouth. "Seriously, Rach, I was there to watch tv like I usually do when my mom cleans – your dads are cool with it—"

"Yes, well, my fathers weren't home. Only I was, a fact you were sure to exploit."

His raises his eyebrows disbelievingly. "Excuse me?"

"I thought you were annoying, sure, I but I didn't think you were one to – to prey on young women!"

"I'm not!" Finn insists in frustration. "I didn't know you were gonna be there, okay? I just went with my mom like I always do. And, like, I'm sorry you weren't warned beforehand or whatever, but maybe if I had your number or something I could, like, text you to give you a heads up?"

She surveys him for a moment, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. "How do I know you aren't just going to send me nasty texts?"

"Jesus Christ, I'm not a pervert!"

She purses her lips, seemingly considering something. "Alright," she says finally, "I believe you. Now give me your phone."

"Wh – what?" Honestly, Rachel seems bipolar or something sometimes, with all of her mood swings. Maybe it's just the way girls are.

"So I can put my number in there, silly. And I'll give you my phone so you can do the same, okay?"

Before he can agree, she's holding out her rhinestone-covered phone and pressing it into his hand. He takes it from her before fishing his own phone out of his pocket and handing it over. He watches her for a moment, watches the way her nose scrunches adorably as she starts to type in her name and number, the way her thumbs deftly move over the screen. He's so caught up in watching her that he nearly forgets he's supposed to be putting in his own information.

He does remember, though, and he adds himself as a new contact. She's done before him, so when he looks up, she's already holding his phone back out to him.

"Thanks," he murmurs as he trades her.

"Now I fully expect a warning text the next time you come into my home," she says in a business-like manner. "And if I don't get one, then I'll know that you really are a pervert."

He opens his mouth to refute her claims once more, but then he notices the smile tugging at the corner of her mouth, notices the sparkle in her eye.

"Deal," he says instead, holding out his hand. She shakes it, smiling despite herself.

"Well… good." She stands somewhat awkwardly in the entryway of his home, and he realizes his mother would probably call him rude if he didn't invite Rachel in.

"Do you wanna come in?"

She looks around hesitantly, biting her lip. "I'm already in, aren't I?"

He curses himself silently. Of course she is. "I just meant, um, do you wanna come in and sit down or – or something? Or I could get you something to drink?"

"I'd like that," Rachel says, smiling a real, wide smile, her eyes bright.

He grins in relief. "Awesome."


7.

Rachel's actually really easy to be around. It's not hard for him to talk to her, and she's probably, like, the coolest girl he's ever met.

She's really into Broadway and he learns that she's actually attending the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, which is cool because she's, like, actually going after her dream. Just like she said she would in high school.

(Not that he brings up high school again, knowing how painful it is for her.)

"What about you, Finn?" she asks one day about a week or so after they've exchanged numbers. They're sitting in her living room, some Julie Andrews musically playing the background, the volume on low. "What's your dream?"

Finn furrows his brow. He's not sure if anyone's ever asked him that question before. "My – my dream?"

Rachel nods. "I mean, I know you're going to community college here, but… what are you studying? What do you want to do, Finn?"

He frowns. "I guess… I mean, I don't really know." Noticing Rachel's puzzled expression, he adds, "I mean, I'm just studying, like, the basic stuff, I guess. All I took last year were those – those generic 101 classes, the introductory stuff."

Rachel scoots a little closer to him, her fingers grazing his thigh. "And?" she prompts. "Did any of those interest you?"

He shrugs. "I – not really, I guess."

Rachel frowns. "There has to be something you want to do with your life, Finn," she says quietly.

"Well, there's not, okay?" he snaps. He winces, glancing back over at her.

She's still frowning.

"Look, I didn't mean to, like, yell at you…"

"It's fine," Rachel says, "and it's fine that you aren't sure about what you want to do yet, Finn."

He sighs, because he knows it's not. Everyone thinks he should know by now, and he really doesn't know why nothing has piqued his interest.

"Just promise me that when you do find something you're passionate about, you'll pursue it," Rachel continues. Her hand finds his own, and she gives his fingers a gentle squeeze.

His heart pounds in his chest. Her skin is touching his, and her hands are so smooth, so small.

"Promise me," she insists, her voice still quiet, but insistent.

"I – I promise," he tells her, and he gives her hand a little squeeze back.

She smiles. "Good." Then, to his dismay, she lets go of his hand, turning back to the television. "Oh, Finn, this is the best part!" she squeals excitedly, and he forces himself to turn back to the television.

He tries to act like he's paying attention, but in reality, he's just reliving the fill of her hand in his.

And maybe Rachel's right – maybe he just needs to find his dream. He decides she'll be the first to know when he does.


8.

It's July now, but it doesn't get too hot. That's the great thing about living near the shore in Maine, Finn thinks – it's never too hot or muggy. It's usually nice and cool, the sea breeze engulfing the town and covering it completely.

Rachel texts him saying that she'll meet him down on the beach, so that's where he finds himself, drawing his hoodie more tightly around him as the breeze from the ocean moves the sand slightly beneath his feet.

"Hey!"

He turns around to see a giggling Rachel, her hair blowing in the breeze as she clutches her own jacket tightly around herself.

"Hey," he says easily in reply. "Fancy seeing you here."

She giggles again, and he's almost overcome with the urge to grab her and pull her flush against him and to kiss her firmly on the mouth. (Almost). He resists though, crossing his arms instead. "So what made you want to meet out here?"

Rachel shrugs. "Just felt like it," she replies breezily. She turns and begins walking then, and Finn hastily scrambles to follow her.

They walk side-by-side in comfortable silence for a few minutes before Rachel turns to him, a small smile on her face. "Remember the day we met? At the beginning of the summer?"

He grins. "Ah, yes, how could I forget? You weren't exactly thrilled to be talking to me," he teases.

"Yes, well, that still stands today," she replies, but there's a teasing glint in her eye.

"Yeah, right," he scoffs. "You don't know what you'd do without me."

She rolls her eyes, but he notices she's still smiling.

"I try to run along the beach around three times a week," Rachel says instead, her arms crossed across her chest as she walks.

"I remember," Finn says. "I literally ran into you one day," he reminds her with a chuckle.

She mock glares at him. "Knocked me over, more like!"

"Maybe if you had been paying attention to where you were going—"

"I could say the same for you!"

"Alright, alright, so we're both at fault," Finn says with a laugh.

Rachel laughs along with him, and he really thinks her laugh might be his favorite sound in the world. It's loud and clear and beautiful, and he'd do anything just to hear her laugh over and over and over again.

"So if you run so often, just how fast are you, Rachel Berry?"

She cocks an eyebrow. "Quite fast, I assure you." Finn laughs, so she adds, "Faster than you, that's for sure!"

"Oh, yeah?" he challenges.

"Yeah," she agrees, and before he can react further, she takes off running down the beach, turning to look back at him over her shoulder, her hair flowing in the breeze. Her laughter seems to bounce off the waves, traveling back to him.

He takes off after her, the sand flying beneath his feet as his sneakers pound against it. He catches up to her fairly easily (although she protests through her bouts of laughter that it's clearly because his legs are longer which is simply just not fair), and she squeals as he wraps his arms around her waist, dramatically collapsing onto the sand and pulling her down with him.

He positions himself so he's hovering over her, and she's still laughing, her chest heaving with each giggle that escapes from her lips. Her dark hair is fanned out against the sand, her cheeks tinged pink. Her lips are slightly parted as her laughter dies.

Her eyes grow wider, and he realizes he's subconsciously leaning closer and closer to her, every second, until his lips are mere millimeters from hers.

"What're you—"

"Shh," he whispers instead. "Just… please, Rachel, take a chance on me."

And before she can reply, he closes the infinitesimal distance between them, pressing his lips against hers. She's so soft and warm beneath him, and her lips move hesitantly under his. He could get lost in her – in the feel of her, and in the feelings she gives him – but before he has a chance, her palms are pressed flat against him, pushing him away.

"What?" he asks.

"I – I can't do this," she says softly, and he thinks he can feel his heart stop as she sits up, dusting the sand off her legs.

"Rachel," he tries to say, his voice breaking, but she hurries to stand up, brushing more sand off as she goes.

"I'm sorry, Finn," she murmurs, her eyes shining with unshed tears, "but I can't."

She wraps her arms around herself as she heads back up the beach, toward her house, and he just sits there in the sand, completely and utterly numb.

He doesn't know exactly what just happened, but he thinks everything about this summer just changed, and somehow it's all his fault.


9.

There's no doubt about it: Rachel's avoiding him. She won't answer any of his texts, and he's pretty sure she hasn't left her house in days for fear of running into him. He even tried ringing her doorbell when he knew her dads were out to try to get her to at least see him, but she must've looked out the window first, because she didn't answer.

He misses her. He misses her a lot. He wonders if she misses him, too.

He's pretty sure she was his best friend, and now, he doesn't even have that anymore.

He could've sworn she felt the chemistry between them as well, that she wanted to kiss him just like he wanted to kiss her.

Apparently he was wrong, and now he's somehow ruined everything.


10.

He meets Puck at McKinley's a few nights later, but even his crude jokes don't make him to crack a smile.

"What is with you, Hudson?" Puck asks, and Quinn sidles into the booth beside him, her hand resting on his thigh. Finn briefly wonders if that happened while he was hanging out with Rachel, and his heart gives a pang just thinking about her.

Finn just shrugs, stirring his straw around his drink aimlessly.

"We didn't see you for weeks, and when we finally do, you're in a depression, so obviously something happened."

Finn still doesn't say anything, just stares at his drink.

"Was it Rachel?" Quinn prompts quietly. "Did something happen with her?"

Finn meets her gaze, and her green eyes aren't unkind. Wordlessly, he nods.

"Did she break your heart, Finn?"

He sighs. "I don't even think she knew she had it in the first place."

"Did you love her, dude?" Puck asks, and Finn can tell there's disbelief coloring his tone.

"I still do," he admits quietly, "even though it's pretty clear she doesn't love me."

Quinn leans over and pats his shoulder comfortingly. "I – I know she told you about – about high school, and I know you said that maybe I should be remorseful, and just… I want you to know that – that I'm sorry."

Finn gives her a small smile. "Thanks, Quinn, but… I'm not the one you should be apologizing to, you know."

Quinn frowns, but she nods. "Yes, I suppose you're right."

Finn takes a final drink of his coke, then reaches into his pocket to fish out his wallet.

"Don't…" Puck clears his throat. "Don't worry about it, man. I'll get it."

"You sure?"

Puck nods.

Finn leaves then, hands in his pockets, heading out into the cool night air, the bell at the top of the door clanging as he makes his exit.


11.

You were my best friend, you know. And I'm sorry if I screwed that up, but I just want you to know that.

He looks over the text seven times before he presses the send button. He doesn't expect an answer, honestly; he just thinks she has a right to know. More importantly, he wants her to know.

It's been ten days since things changed between them (since he kissed her), and he misses her so much it hurts. She lives just a house away, but she seems so much farther away from him than that.

His phone buzzes then, and his heart races as he sees Rachel's name flash across the screen. He opens up her message, reads the words once, twice, three times.

You were my best friend, too, Finn.

That's it. That's all there is.

He was hoping this would somehow help heal the giant hole that seems to have sprung up in his chest, but it's only made it worse.


12.

It's raining. Pouring, more like. The afternoon light is waning, but he keeps walking along the beach, his hands in his pockets, his hood over his head. He's closer to the houses that line the beach than to the water, but he can still feel a slight spray from the waves that are crashing against the shore.

The rain comes down harder, more steadily, and he knows he should head back home, but he doesn't really care to. His mom's been picking up on his less-than-happy mood, and he really doesn't want any more questions from her about it, or how Mr. and Mr. Berry have been commenting on how Rachel seems to have a similar sullen way about her. His mom keeps telling him they should start hanging out again, that maybe it'll do them both good.

If only she knew.

He lets the rain soak him as he continues onward, not really sure of his destination, if he has one at all. He passes the Berry's house and he notices the lights are on, and not just in Rachel's room, indicating that her dads are home. His heart aches because he knows her so well that he's aware of trivial information like this, but he shouldn't be able to recall these things anymore. He should be able to forget about her altogether, but he can't.

His picks up his pace, walking further down the beach, in the direction of his own cottage. He's starting to feel a slight chill now, and he knows his mom will fuss if he's not in before dark.

"Finn!"

Great, now he's imagining he can hear Rachel call his name through the rainstorm. He sighs, pushing his hands deeper into his pockets as he continues onward through the downpour.

"Finn!"

He freezes. Maybe he's not making it all up in his head after all.

"Finn, please."

Her voice is definitely closer now, and he turns around, pinching himself to make sure he's not dreaming. Rachel Berry's running toward him, her hair drenched and sticking to her face as she runs toward him, gripping a hoodie tightly around herself.

"Rachel?" he asks bewilderedly. "What're you doing?" He has to yell just to be heard over the rain.

She stops about five feet from him, her breathing slightly labored. "I just… I saw you walking and – and I couldn't…."

He just stares at her. "I don't understand," he tells her honestly. "I thought… I thought you hated me."

"Oh, Finn, I could never hate you. You're – you're my best friend."

He scoffs, rolling his eyes. "Yeah, right."

"You are!" she insists. "I know I haven't been acting like it lately, but… do you know how hard it is for me to let people in, Finn?"

He just looks at her.

"Ever since high school, I've had trouble trusting, because of Quinn and Jesse and – and everyone else."

"She's sorry, by the way," Finn finds himself saying.

Rachel gives him a small smile, the ghost of one, a gentle tugging at the corners of her mouth. "I know," she says.

"You do?"

She nods. "She came to see me a few days ago, to apologize. And we may not be friends any time soon, but… we understand each other better now."

Finn just nods. He doesn't know what else to do, or to say.

"Anyway," Rachel goes on, shaking her head slightly, "It's just, it's really hard, to let people in, to – to trust them. And – and I was letting you in, and it scared me, okay? I was terrified!"

"You were scared?" He laughs bitterly. "Rachel, my life was fine before you came along! Like, sure, maybe I didn't really have any direction or whatever, but I didn't care until you came along!" Rachel's eyes are wide, but he presses on. "I didn't care about any of that, until – until you." He pulls at his hair in frustration. "You – you changed things, Rachel, you changed everything. I didn't feel this way about – about anyone until I met you!"

The rain is plastering Rachel's hair to her skin, rolling down in huge droplets, and he sees her shiver involuntarily as she grips her jacket more tightly around herself. "What are you talking about, Finn?" she shouts over the rain.

"How do you not get it, Rachel?" he asks, taking a few steps toward her, shortening the distance between them. "How can you possibly not see that I am completely and totally in love with you?"

Her eyes widen impossibly further, her mouth gaping. "I – I… Finn…"

"I asked you to take a chance on me, Rachel, and you couldn't. What did you think I was talking about?"

She doesn't say anything. Her lower lip trembles. He wishes she didn't look so beautiful in the rain.

"Look, I know you have these – these walls, or whatever, Rachel, that you've built around you, but I thought I was getting through some of them. So you can't stand there and tell me that you don't feel at least some of the things that I feel for you."

She bites her lip, and he can see her indecision in her eyes.

"Rachel," he says, closing the remaining distance between them, "for once in your life, don't think. Just feel."

"Oh, Finn," she whispers, and he takes a chance, cupping her cheek in his hand, feeling her smooth, wet skin beneath his fingertips.

"What are you feeling in this moment, Rachel Berry?"

In response, she throws her arms around him, pressing her mouth insistently against his. He's thrown for a second, but he quickly regains his balance, wrapping his arms around her and kissing her back. He combs his fingers through her soaking wet hair, slipping his tongue into her mouth and reveling in the taste of her, the feel of her in his arms.

After a few moments, he pulls away, gently brushing her hair off her forehead, studying her intently.

"You really love me?" she asks quietly.

He nods. "I really do."

"Well, that's good," she says with a smile, "because I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you, too."

He grins, picking her up and twirling her around. She laughs and the sound somehow mixes with the rain, and he knows that if there's ever been a perfect moment, it's this one. He kisses her again, kisses her until she suggest that they go inside before they both catch colds.

He follows her into the house, her hand firmly within his own, and he thinks for the first time that maybe, just maybe, everything will turn out to be fine.


13.

They spend the rest of their summer together, either in her room, down by the beach, or in his cottage (which Rachel says she likes best, because of its cozy feel). They even go to McKinley's a few times, and he appreciate that she and Quinn both make an effort to be civil to each other. She snaps a lot at Puck, though, but that's to be expected because Puck is Puck, and some things never change.

He even figures out what he wants to do with his life, and it doesn't involve any more of his mom's money going toward college (something he kind of really did just to make her happy in the first place, if he's being honest with himself).

"Firefighting?" Rachel asks with raised eyebrows, looking at him incredulously.

"Well, yeah," Finn says, and he really hopes this doesn't sound completely dumb and farfetched. "I mean, I wanna be able to help people, and I don't know, there's something that, like, just draws me to it, I guess. Like it feels… like I finally feel like I know what I wanna do."

Rachel face softens then, and she gives him a small smile. "I'm so proud of you, Finn," she says, placing her hands on either side of his face. "And if this is what you really, truly want, then I'm happy for you, and I'll support you."

He smiles, leaning forward to press kiss to the tip of her nose. "It is," he vows, and she grins. "And," he adds, "I've decided where I want to go now that I've found my dream."

Her brow furrows in confusion. "Where's that? You don't want to stay here, in Maine?"

He shakes his head. "I wanna be wherever you are, Rachel."

Realization sets in, and her eyes widen. "You mean…"

"I wanna go to New York City with you."

She squeals, peppering kisses across his face, squeezing him tightly. "You mean it?" she asks. "You're not joking? You really wanna go to New York City?"

He laughs, hugging her to him, dropping a few kisses onto her hair. "I mean it," he promises. "There's no place else I'd rather be."

"Oh, Finn," she sighs wistfully, pulling back so she can look him in the eyes, her thumb skating over his cheek, "we're going to be so, so happy, I promise."

"We already are, Rach," he says easily, pressing a kiss to the corner of her mouth. "We already are." She turns her head and kisses him full on the lips instead.

Now he knows where he wants to be, and he knows how to get there, and he really thinks he couldn't be happier if he tried.


14.

After he moves the last of their belongings into their shoebox apartment ("thank God I know longer have to deal with the completely inaqeuate dorm situation any longer," Rachel comments with an exasperated eyeroll), he collapses onto their new (well, hand-me-down) couch, slipping an arm around Rachel's shoulders.

"Hey, you," she says, pressing a kiss to his chin, placing her hand over his, her fingers running over the veins on the back of his hand.

"Hey," he grins in reply, kissing her cheek sweetly. "How's it feel, to be in New York?"

Rachel laughs. "It's not my first time. I should be asking you. Although, to answer your question anyway, it feels… different." She cranes her head to look at him. "It feels completely right, being here with you."

He just grins as she curls her legs under herself, leaning into him. Sure, they have about a billion boxes to unpack, and they'll have to go shopping for groceries sometime soon, but for now, he's completely content to sit on his couch in his new apartment with his favorite girl and trust that everything will work out.

It has so far, so why shouldn't he believe that it will continue to work out in the very near future?


15.

His life's kind of perfect. He's been working at the fire station for a year and a half, Rachel's wrapping up her junior year at NYADA, and he's planning on proposing to her tonight.

He has it all planned out, actually, down to every last detail. He really hopes everything goes to plan.

(Strangely enough, he's not worried that she'll say no; he's just worried he won't do this justice and give her the proposal she really, truly deserves.)

He has their meal all set up in their (albeit small) kitchen when she gets home from class at around six, a glass of wine next to both their plates. He made her favorite pasta, and she looks pleasantly surprised.

"What's all this for?" she asks.

He just shrugs. "I wanted to do something nice for you, that's all."

She gives him a knowing smile, but if she's figured out what's going, she plays along. Dinner goes smoothly (incredibly smoothly), and she even adores the vegan chocolate cake he picked up for her from this new bakery down the street.

He suggests that they watch her favorite musical after dinner – Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand – and her entire face lights up as she goes to get the DVD case, crouching down on the floor so she has better access to the DVD player.

"Oh, Finn, I'm so glad you're finally giving this film another chance!" (He may or may not have fallen asleep the first time, okay?) "It's really quite a masterpiece, you'll s—"

Her breath catches then, and he knows she's found the ring he taped to the inside of the box. He kneels beside her, taking her left hand in his own, studying her expression intently. She looks shocked, but not in a bad way. "Rachel Berry," he begins, "I fell in love with you the moment you blew me off on that beach in the beginning of June two years ago, and I keep falling in love with you more and more every day. You make my life so, so wonderful, and I know that it's going to just keep getting better as long as you're by my side. So I guess my question for you is this: Rachel Berry, will you spend the rest of forever with me as my wife?"

She's tearing up, her hand coming up to cover her mouth, and she nods, throwing her arms around him. "Yes," she whispers into his ear, "yes, of course, yes!"

He kisses her, the natural taste of her mixing with the salt of the tears sliding down her cheeks, before freeing the ring of the tape in the DVD box and sliding it onto her finger. She lets out a sound that's halfway between a sob and a laugh as she looks down at it, and then she launches herself at him, kissing him all over again.

Later, when they're watching the movie and she's curled into his side, he keeps glancing down at the ring on her finger. It looks like it was truly meant to be there, like she was meant to wear it. It makes him smile.

She catches him looking and she snuggles further into his side, resting her hand against his chest. "I'm so glad you kept trying to talk to me two summers ago," she whispers, pressing a kiss against his shoulder. "I'm so glad you broke down my walls."

He grins, kissing her forehead. "Me, too. I love you, Rach, so, so much."

"I love you, too," she replies, and then she kisses him soundly, her fingers running over his cheek as she slips her tongue into his mouth. Needless to say, they don't really watch the rest of the movie, not that either of them mind.

thanks so much for reading!