this is my post 4x04 fic! it probably contains some spoilers concerning the grease storyline, but other than that, it's just mostly spec/what i want to see happen! i haven't written canon in a while so i might be a little rusty!
DEDICATED TO MARY GAEL WHO'S AWESOME AND READ THE SNIPPETS I SENT HER AND AT LEAST PRETENDED THEY WERE GOOD SHE'S REALLY COOL I LOVE HER A LOT DEDICATED TO JONIMITCHELL MARY GAEL FOREVER AND ALWAYS
when you are my home
The flight back to New York seems even longer than the flight out, and Rachel feels a little empty. She knows she did the right thing by breaking up with Finn, because she can't try and force him to find his dream anymore, but it still hurts. She still loves him, and she still hates the thought of being without him.
Still, she has to try.
Maybe once he does some growing on his own, they can grow together. She likes the idea of that. New York with Finn was better than New York without Finn (well, until he found out about her and Brody and he left). She got a glimpse of the way things could be, and she wants that more than anything.
But, more importantly, she wants Finn to want that too. And until he can see himself the way she sees him, until he knows that he is worth something, she can't try to make him want the things she wants anymore.
She sighs, looking out the window and seeing nothing but her own reflection against the dark night sky. She knows she did the right thing, but it still hurts. She guesses that sometimes the right choice isn't the easy one. It just might be the hardest one instead.
He hates that he's back in Lima. He feels like everyone looks at him like he's a disappointment – like he was supposed to be better than this.
(He used to think that maybe he could be. Now he knows better.)
Mr. Schue's been really cool about Finn helping with glee club, though. He listened to him snivel and sob through the story of his summer and the story of New York, and he told Finn that everything will end up being okay, but in the meantime, he's welcome to stay here and help out if he wants. Finn's not so sure about the everything working out bit, but he's grateful all the same.
He's living at home again (obviously), due to the fact that he has no money and no job and also no dignity left. He tries not to cry when he tells his mom where he's been, but once she hugs him, saying it doesn't matter, he breaks down, telling her that he's so, so sorry.
She tells him he'll be fine, that he just needs to figure out what he needs to do with his life. He gives her a small smile because he doesn't know how to tell her that he's tried, and he still has no idea what he wants to do with his life or how to go about finding out.
Anyway, Mr. Schue tells him he can help out at glee club, and it certainly makes Finn feel like he was once good at something, even if it's singing show tunes and Journey medleys.
He helps Mr. Schue hold auditions for Grease, and Mr. Schue even names him this year's director, and Finn feels good for the first time in a long time. This is something he can do, something he's good at and passionate about.
Maybe Lima's actually the perfect place to find his footing, because when he's here, at least he doesn't feel so alone.
Rachel always belonged in New York, and maybe he always belonged here instead.
Rachel doesn't let herself dwell on the pain of giving up Finn (because that's what it was. She didn't lose him, and she didn't abandon him – she gave him up for him, and maybe even for them. She gave him up because it was what they both needed, as much as it hurt. Well, still hurts.) Yes, she misses him, but she can't let that consume her. So she doesn't.
If anything, she works even harder. She shines in Ms. July's dance class (although of course Ms. July won't admit to that), practices until her vocals are even more pitch-perfect than usual, and is even chosen to act out a scene with one of the upper classmen in her acting class.
Maybe she feels a need to do even better now that Finn isn't here, or maybe she's just trying to fill the void he left. She can't be sure.
She's practicing her pirouettes in her living room a week or so later when there's a knock on the door. Rachel sighs, brushing her hair behind her shoulder as she goes to answer it, wondering who it could be, knowing that Kurt's working late and won't be home until much later.
She slides the door open, and Brody's smiling face looks her up and down, his eyes lingering on her legs, clearly visible in her leotard.
Him noticing her doesn't feel as good as it did a few weeks, before Finn came, before she remembered what it was like to have someone look at her like she was his whole world, not just attractive.
"Hi," he says easily. "I was just on this side of town, so I decided to drop by. Is that okay?"
She swallows, finds herself nodding. He walks into the apartment, hands in his pockets. He looks around for a few seconds, then he turns back to her. "Finn around?"
His name hurts more than it should.
"No," Rachel says, her voice barely louder than a whisper. "He – he went home. Back to Ohio."
"Oh," Brody says. "Is he visiting again soon?"
Rachel shakes her head. "We – I broke up with him."
"I'm sorry," Brody says, but he doesn't really look or seem sorry at all. Actually, he's taking a few steps toward her, his fingers curling around her forearm. "If he can't see what he has, he's an idiot."
Rachel shakes her head, takes a step back, extracting her arm from Brody's grasp. "That's not it at all, actually." She takes a deep breath and wipes away the tear that streaks down her cheek. "I – I wanted to stay in Ohio actually, for him," she tells him, "but he wouldn't let me. And – and for a while, I hated him for that, because he sent me here all alone, and all I wanted was him with me. But then I realized that he did the best thing for me, so I had to do the best thing for him. He doesn't belong here, at least not yet, and I can't keep trying to make us work when he doesn't know what he wants or – or where he wants to be." She takes in another shuddering breath, but the tears come anyway, clogging up her throat. "So I gave him up. And it was the hardest thing I've ever had to do."
Brody looks a little uncomfortable now, shifting from foot to foot, and she's really crying now, and she thinks she just wants him to leave.
"Um, Rachel, I don't really know what you want from me here…" he says, rubbing the back of his neck.
"I don't want anything besides a friend to lean on!" Rachel says, determinedly wiping at her cheeks. Brody opens his mouth, his brow furrowed in confusion, so she adds, "Yes, I kissed you, but I shouldn't have, because you and I – we can't ever be anything, Brody, because my heart will always belong to Finn."
He closes his mouth then, and he looks at her differently than he's ever looked at her. There's no lust, no desire, and not exactly kindness, either. He looks angry, she thinks. And maybe he has a right to be.
"I tried to be honest with you about that, but I hadn't heard from Finn and I was feeling lost and – and you were there," she tries to explain, "and I know that sounds terrible, because it is, but – but it's also the truth."
He purses his lips, but he still doesn't say anything.
"I'm so sorry," she breathes.
He just laughs, somewhat humorlessly. "It's – whatever, Rachel. I mean, if that's how you feel…"
"It is," she says softly.
He rolls his eyes. "Yeah, fine." He heads across the apartment then, but he stops once his hand is on the door. "I could've been the guy you needed, Rachel."
She sighs, shaking her head. "I'm sorry," she says again.
He leaves then, the door slamming shut behind him.
Rachel goes over to her room, digging out her phone. She decides to punish herself, flipping through the pictures of Finn she has saved on there, including a few they took during the few days he was here.
She wonders how he's doing. She hopes he's doing okay, that he's stopped being so hard on himself. She really does just want Finn to be happy and comfortable in his own skin. She just always thought she'd be there to help him along the way, but maybe she wasn't meant to be after all.
This is something he has to do on his own, just like New York was something she had to do on her own. She just thought it wouldn't end up hurting this much.
Finn doesn't know if he's ever worked so hard in his entire life, but he just feels like this musical has to be the best thing ever. He has to do this for himself, to prove to himself that he doesn't suck at everything, that he's capable of doing something awesome and worthwhile.
He thinks about Rachel said when she broke things off, and he knows that he's kind of the only person who doesn't believe in himself, so he figures he needs to change that. And maybe doing this musical and doing it well will change that perception, or at least put him on the path to changing it. (Because honestly, he's kind of tired of hating himself, and he's tired of being stuck in this same old rut).
So, anyway, he works really hard on casting the right kids, even double-casting the leads so that everyone will have that sense of belonging that glee club is kind of all about, and he works on the arrangements for the numbers, and he even stays after to dig through McKinley's prop department to find out what they have available or what they'll need to buy or make.
He's kind of proud of himself for taking this job so seriously. And he really likes the work he's doing, too, helping these kids with their lines and the music and setting up the props or whatever. Like, maybe that's lame, but the best part of his day is quickly becoming play rehearsal, because seeing them nail the number or finally get down the blocking because of his instruction is kind of really awesome. It's this indescribable feeling, but it's definitely a good one. It makes him feel good, and it makes the gnawing sense of not being good enough that's been sitting in his stomach go away for a while.
When he's doing stuff for glee, he just doesn't feel as empty.
Rachel's put-together exterior is cracking. Brody's kind of stopped talking to her (for which she really can't blame him, because she kind of figured out he was only hanging out with her to potentially get into her pants), and Kurt's seemingly always busy with his internship, so she just goes to her classes and tries to do well and then she comes home and tries to keep herself busy, but it's hard when she just really feels like falling apart.
She's sitting on the couch, her feet curled under herself, eating some takeout when Kurt does manage to get home earlier than nine pm. It's a Wednesday, and the television is on, but mostly just so she's not just alone with her thoughts. She looks up when Kurt comes in, and she tries to give him a small smile.
"Well, I certainly hope your day was less exhausting," Kurt comments as he flops onto the couch next to her, a bottle of water from the fridge in his hand. "What is that, Chinese?" he asks, wrinkling his nose as he surveys the carton in her hand.
"You know that stuff is full of grease, right?"
Rachel just shrugs, forking more of it into her mouth.
Kurt sighs, crossing one leg over the other. "Rachel, you haven't been yourself for weeks. I mean, yes, Blaine and I broke up, and it hurts, but I'm still going about my life."
"So am I!" Rachel says defensively.
"But this isn't the Rachel I know," Kurt says gently, reaching over to pat her knee. "This isn't the confident, take-no-prisoners Rachel I was becoming accustomed to seeing."
Rachel doesn't answer; she just forks more noodles into her mouth.
"Rachel," Kurt says, a little more forceful this time, taking the carton from her hands and setting it down on the table. "You need to snap out of this."
"I can't!" Rachel snaps. "I can't just snap out of it because I don't have Finn, and I lost my only friend at NYADA, and maybe things in my life aren't going as well as I thought they were, alright?"
Kurt frowns. "You're the one who pushed Brody away—"
"I couldn't give him what he wanted, Kurt!"
"Because of Finn," Kurt clarifies.
Rachel sighs. "You know the answer to that."
"Rachel, you broke up with him," Kurt reminds her. "You need to move on."
She glares at him, a tear snaking down her cheek. "I didn't break up with him because I don't love him, Kurt, or because I want to be without him."
Kurt's brow furrows in confusion. "Then why did you break up with him, if you're still so in love with him?"
Rachel sighs, wiping underneath her eyes. "I can't find his dreams for him, Kurt, and I can't make him want the things I want." She glances over at him, giving him a small smile. "He has to find those things for himself, and I can't be weighing him down while he does." She takes in a deep breath; she feels like she's already explained this so many times, but she does it once more anyway. "I had to set him free."
"Isn't that what Finn said when he put you on that train to New York?"
Rachel nods. "I finally get it now, Kurt," she whispers, and she thinks she's going to cry again. "Sometimes… love just isn't enough."
She starts to cry in earnest then, bringing her hand up to cover her mouth, but it doesn't do her any good. The tears and sobs keep coming, and Kurt just wraps an arm around her, letting her cry into his designer jacket.
She wishes she could believe that someday everything will be okay, but honestly, she's not so sure anymore.
Mr. Schue invites Finn over for dinner at his and Ms. Pillsbury's place, and honestly, it would be rude of Finn to refuse, so he agrees. Plus he's never really been one to turn down a home cooked meal.
Ms. Pillsbury makes this awesome rotisserie chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans, and the conversation doesn't take an awkward turn like Finn has thought it might initially. They just talk about glee and the play, and Ms. Pillsbury doesn't ask about where Finn was or if he's talked to Rachel. Finn knows Mr. Schue probably told her everything, but still, he's grateful she doesn't ask or prod.
He feels better about everything now, but he still doesn't really want to talk about it. Thinking about Rachel still makes his heart ache and he kind of wants to cry, so he's glad Ms. Pillsbury leaves the subject alone, because he really doesn't want to start crying into her rotisserie chicken.
"You know," Ms. P says instead, "Will tells me that you're very apt for this directing business. You're very good with the kids."
Finn blushes, and it's a little weird for her to say that he's good with the 'kids' when he's only like a year older than most of them. He says this, but Ms. Pillsbury just keeps smiling.
"They look up to you," Mr. Schue says. "They did when you were the leader of the club, and they still do. You're a natural leader, Finn."
Finn's definitely blushing now, but he tries to cover it up by forking more chicken into his mouth. "'S really good, Ms. Pillsbury," he manages to say.
She beams. "Why, thank you, Finn! And please, feel free to call me Emma."
He nods, and he doesn't add that that's a little weird, and he can't just start calling her Emma and Mr. Schue Will. He doesn't think he's there yet, even if he's supposed to be their best man at their wedding.
He finishes up his meal and leaves shortly after, letting Mr. Schue walk him out.
"You know you're welcome here anytime," he says, clapping Finn on the back.
Finn gives him a small smile. "Thanks, Mr. Schue. It really means a lot."
Mr. Schue gives him a hug then, and Finn hugs him back, thankful that at least one person understands and doesn't pressure him to find himself. He thinks Mr. Schue knows better than anything that sometimes these things just take time.
Rachel manages to get an audition for an Off-Broadway production, and it kind of restores her vigor. She asks Cassandra to help her out with some of the more complicated choreography, and she practices her audition song about twenty times each die. Kurt says he's going to invest in sound proof walls, but she knows he realizes this is really important to her, so she just ignores him.
She kind of wants to call Finn and tell him about it, but she's not sure if she's supposed to in this situation. In a normal breakup, it wouldn't be allowed, but like usual, nothing is really normal about her and Finn.
In the end, she decides she better not, because she can't afford any distractions anyway. She can't let anything screw this up for her. She has to be absolutely perfect.
This is her shot, and she knows she has to make the most of it and be the best that she can be.
He really, really, really misses Rachel. Like, a lot.
He's still in touch with Kurt, and Kurt tells him that she's doing okay, but there's something else there that he's not saying, Finn knows.
"Finn, she's fine," Kurt insists. "She just…"
"She what, Kurt?" Finn asks, and he can't help the sharp edge his voice acquires.
He hears Kurt sigh. "She misses you, alright?"
The corner of Finn's mouth twitches. "I miss her, too," he says quietly. He pauses, swallows, then asks, "Should I… Do you think it would be okay if I called her?"
There's silence on Kurt's end for what seems like a long time, but finally, Kurt says, "I think – I think she'd like that, actually."
So a few days later, Finn calls her. The phone rings three times before she answers.
"Finn?" God, it feels so good just to hear her voice.
"Why – is everything okay…?"
"Yeah," he says quickly. "Yeah, of course." He swallows. "I just… I wanted to talk to you, I guess, because… I mean, you know you're my best friend, right? Like – like even if you're not my girl anymore, you're still my best friend."
In his mind's eye, he can see her smile. "You're my best friend, too, Finn," she whispers. "And I've really missed you."
He smiles, pressing the phone impossibly closer to his ear. "I've missed you, too, Rach." There's a beat, and then he clears his throat. "How – how have you been? How's NYADA?" Part of him wants to ask how Brody is, but he decides he doesn't want to know.
"I have an audition, actually!" He can feel how excited she is, can imagine the ways her eyes light up. "It's for an Off-Broadway production, but still…"
"That's really great, Rach," he says, and he means it. "You'll be great, I know it."
"Oh, I hope so," she says wistfully. "I just – I want this so badly."
"Rachel," he says, his voice deliberate, "you're seriously the most talented person I know. They'd be insane not to cast you."
Rachel laughs, and he wonders why he had to ruin everything about New York, why he couldn't have been with her like this then – carefree and lighthearted. He's really missed this side of her. (Actually, he's missed every side of her.)
They talk for about an hour. He tells her all about how he's helping out with glee (although he leaves out the part about them doing Grease, because it might be too soon to relieve the first duet they ever did in glee club), and she says she's really proud of him. For the first time, he's starting to believe it.
When they hang up, it's a little awkward, because he wants to tell her he loves her, but he knows he shouldn't. There's just a silence, and he knows they're both thinking it, and maybe, just maybe, that's enough.
"I'll talk to you soon," he promises.
"I'd like that," she says.
He hears the line go dead before he pulls the phone away from his ear, and he stares at the blank screen. He thinks that the ache in his chest has been dulled, if only for a little while.
She's nervous, but it's the good kind of nervous. She can use these nerves. She can go in there and blow this panel away.
She takes a deep breath, remembering that she's a shining gold star. Finn even told her she was the most talented person he knows (and her heart soars in the remembering). She's Rachel Berry, and this is her destiny. She can do this; she knows she can. She's practiced over and over again, run through her scales and her song and the dialogue, and she knows that she's ready. She can't imagine being more prepared than she is in this moment.
She looks up at the sound of her name, plastering a smile on her face. "That's me!"
"This way, if you please."
She follows the woman down a small, narrow hallway, and they stop outside a door. She takes a deep breath as its pushed open, before following the woman inside.
This is her moment.
Mr. Schue tells Finn that he has to go to some meeting after school, so Finn's in charge of play practice today. Not that he's not usually in charge, it's just that he's never been in charge, like, by himself before.
Thankfully, everything seems to go the way it usually does. Everyone respects him as a director and everything, plus they're his friends, so they don't try to like, undermine his authority or whatever. (Obviously, if Puck were still here, that would be a different story entirely).
Anyway, Finn calls a little cast meeting of sorts at the end of rehearsal, and it's just kind of surreal to be standing in the middle of a circle of kids, mostly ones he was performing alongside just a few months ago, and to say how proud he is of them. It's just weird, but he thinks it's a good weird.
And he really is proud of them.
"Well, we've had a good director," Artie says once he tells them this, and the rest of them all nod.
Finn knows it's lame, but he kind of feels like crying (in a good way, but still). He feels like he's actually making a difference here, and it's just… it's a really good feeling.
She doesn't get the role. The casting director said that her voice was good, but her nose was too big and her acting was mediocre.
She tries not to let it bother her, but she end up coming home and locking herself in her room, blasting Barbra Streisand. She figures that should let Kurt know how things went when he gets home.
She's been in her room for about an hour when her phone buzzes, and she looks over to see it's a text from Finn. Kurt must've told him her audition was today.
Hope everything went well!, it reads.
She just sobs, pushing her phone far away from her. She can't bear to answer him, can't bear for him to know that she's failed at her first big audition. She didn't even get a callback.
He sent her to New York to succeed, and she can't bear the thought of him knowing that she's doing quite the opposite. She wants him to feel proud of her, not sorry for her.
There's a light knock on her door then, and it's only a few moments before Kurt pushes it open.
"Hi," he says quietly, his eyes sympathetic. He holds out a box of tissues. "I would ask how your day went, but…"
Rachel half laughs, half sobs, and Kurt crosses the arm to sit next to her on her bed, wrapping one arm hesitantly around him. She cries into his cashmere sweater, and she tries to feel less like a failure.
It doesn't work.
Finn sighs, staring at his phone. Rachel still hasn't texted him back, and it's been hours. Maybe she's out celebrating with Kurt and Brody, he thinks (and he tries not to let his blood boil when he thinks of the second name).
Either way, she still hasn't texted him back, and he knows she has no obligation to or anything, but it still stings. He thought they were at least kind of friends now (even if they were friends who were in love with each other).
He hears a knocking on the side of his door frame, and he looks up to see his mom, a pile of his laundry in hand.
"Hey," she says gently, "can I come in?"
He nods, mutters, "Yeah, of course," and she sets his clothes down on his desk chair before perching on the end of the bed next to him.
"Finn," she says, setting her hand gently on her knee, "you have to know how proud I am of you."
He furrows his brow, because it's not that isn't, like, nice to hear or anything, he's just not sure where this is coming from all of a sudden.
"I just – I know you wanted to – to make your dad proud by following his footsteps and joining the army," (just the mention of the army and his failure to stay in for more than a few weeks makes him feel like he's going to throw up), "but honey," she adds, and she's looking at him earnestly now, tears welling up in her eyes, "you have to know that this – you – would already make him proud." She cups his cheek, her thumb gliding over his skin.
Finn sniffs, but he can already feel the tears gathering behind his eyelids. "How?" he finds himself asking. "I mean, I'm like… I'm nothing, Mom." His voice cracks, and she frowns. "I – I mean, I lost the girl of my dreams, I'm – I'm working for Burt in the shop – which I'm really grateful for but, like, it's not a career, and… and I just try to be good enough but the truth is I'm just not."
"Finn, don't say that," she says quietly. "You're more than good enough, Finn. So you're confused and a little lost – everyone is at some point; a lot of people are at your age. You'll find your way, and just because you don't think you have a sense of direction doesn't mean that you're not on the path you're meant to be on."
He frowns, and he doesn't think he really gets what his mom is trying to say.
"Look, Finn," she says, and her voice is gentle but firm, "you'll find what you're meant to do, and maybe you'll even find it was right in front of you all along. You just have to know where to look." She gives him a small smile then, and he tries to smile in return, but honestly, his brain is kind of reeling. He thinks he kind of gets it now: That what he's looking for might be what he least expected, kind of like with Rachel. He didn't expect for her to be the love of his life, but well, she turned out to be, so maybe his dream will be like that, too.
He tells his mom thanks, and she gently pats his cheek before she gets up.
She stops in the doorway, turning back to look at him.
He swallows, then asks, trying to make sure his voice doesn't crack, "Do you – do you honestly think Dad would be proud of me?"
She smiles, but her eyes fill with tears again. "Oh, honey," she breathes, "I really think he would."
He gives her a half smile then, and he keeps staring at the doorway long after she leaves. Maybe she's right, and his destiny is actually right in front of his eyes. He doesn't need to be some big hero in order to make his dad proud; maybe he can just focus on being a small, everyday hero instead.
She's throwing back her third martini at Callbacks, and she's so depressed, not even karaoke can cheer her up.
Kurt's just watching her drink, a frown on his face as she orders another martini, but he doesn't say anything. He just keeps sighing periodically, but Rachel's grateful he keeps whatever he's thinking to himself, because honestly, she thinks she has the right to feel a little sorry for herself. The feeling of not being good enough stings, honestly.
She had forgotten how much she hated rejection. She had forgotten how it feels, how it courses through her veins and mixes with the pounding of her heart, each beat seeming to agree with the fact that she just couldn't make the cut.
Kurt's phone beeps, and he takes it out to look at it. He smiles at whatever the message is, then looks back over at Rachel.
"What?" she asks suspiciously, because, by the look on his face, he's definitely up to something.
"How would you like to go back to Lima with me this weekend?" Kurt asks.
Honestly, Rachel thinks she might want to throw up. How can she possibly go back there and possibly see Finn when she's this epic failure?
Kurt seems to sense her discomfort, because he adds, "Tina just texted me, and McKinley's getting ready to do Grease, so it would just be kind of fun to go back, don't you think?"
Rachel's heart kind of stops. Grease. They're doing Grease. And Finn said he was helping out with glee club, which means he probably helped pick out the musical, and he knows how sentimental Grease is for them. The first song they ever sang in glee club was from Grease, and oh God, now she's going to start crying for different reasons.
Kurt seems to pick up on this, suddenly becoming alarmed, and he says, "Or not, we don't have to go!"
Rachel shakes her head, wiping at her eyes. "No, no, I – I want to go," she says.
"Are you sure, Rachel?" Kurt asks carefully.
Rachel nods, even managing a smile. "Yeah," she says, and she's grateful that she sounds more confident. "Yeah, it'll be fun."
"Great!" Kurt says exuberantly, his fingers quickly typing away on the keyboard of his phone. "I'll just tell Tina, and then I'll text Finn to let him know we're coming—"
"Could you not tell Finn?" Rachel asks.
Kurt looks up, his eyes wide. "Wh – what?"
"I mean, you can tell him that you're coming, but could you kind of leave out the part where I am, too?"
Kurt narrows his eyes suspiciously. "Did something happen between the two of you again?"
"No," Rachel says, "nothing like that. I just want to surprise him, that's all."
Kurt purses his lips, and she looks at him expectantly, pouting, and then he sighs. "Fine," he agrees, going back to his phone. "I won't tell Finn."
"Thanks, Kurt!" she squeals, and she beams, a real smile for the first time since the director insulted her nose. "You're the best friend ever."
"Oh, I know," he replies, but he smiles a bit as well.
Maybe a trip to Lima will help Rachel put this terrible experience behind her anyway. It could end up being exactly what she needs.
He's running late, and he knows it's kind of terrible because he's the director and it's the dress rehearsal so it's kind of a big deal, but Burt insisted he finish up the car he was working on at the shop, and then Mr. Hodges from down the road had wanted to chat, and he's kind of really old so Finn feels guilty blowing him off. Anyway, that conversation lasted for at least twenty minutes, making him even later, and rehearsal was supposed to start at five and it's now five thirty but at least he made it.
"Sorry I'm late guys," he says, glancing down at his clipboard as he walks into the auditorium through the stage door. "I just got a little…" He looks up then, and he nearly stops breathing. "Caught up."
He knew Kurt would be here today (and he is, standing off to the side – as far away from Blaine as possible – chatting with Artie), but he didn't say anything about Rachel coming as well. He also didn't mention that she would be in costume.
Her hair's all wavy, off to one side, her lips are painted cherry red, and she's in a familiar looking black, skintight catsuit. He swallows, and he has to briefly think of the mail.
"Rachel," he manages to choke out finally, and he really hopes his emotions aren't on display for everyone to see. "What – what're you doing here? And…" He swallows thickly, blinking several times. "And dressed like that."
Rachel gives him a small smile, twirling a piece of hair around her finger. "I thought we could show the kids how it's done," she says, and she bats her eyelashes a bit, and holy shit is this really happening. "'You're the One That I Want' is the first song we ever sang, you know."
"I know," he says quickly. He clears his throat. "I mean, I remember."
Rachel grins, reaching forward to wrap her thin fingers around his wrist. "Fantastic," she beams, and she turns to the guy at the piano – the guy who's always at the piano, it seems – requesting for him to play "You're the One That I Want" in b flat.
The guy sighs, but he obliges, his fingers gliding over the keys.
Finn panics for a moment, because he told Rachel when he saw her a month ago that he hadn't sung in months, and he hasn't sung since then, so he's not feeling really confident. His panic must show, because Rachel gives him a reassuring smile right before his cue. "You got this," she mouths.
He swallows. It's just singing with Rachel. He's done this thousands of times. It's familiar; he can do this.
So he opens his mouth and sings the opening lines, and Rachel just grins at him, looking at him like he's hung the moon, and God, he forgot how much he missed this. He feels confident for the first time in a long time, and he just feels really good about himself in this moment.
Rachel starts singing her part then, and she sounds amazing, like always, and his heart pounds against his ribcage, also as per usual, the pounding like the steady beat of a drum, one that beats only for her. She dances around him, sliding her fingers up and down his chest, her eyes bright as she sings, and he thinks that if they don't stop soon, he's going to end up losing control in front of everyone – his entire cast – and seeing as he and Rachel are broken up and everything, that's probably not a good thing.
Thankfully they don't do the whole song, just go up until the chorus once, and then the piano stops, and they're just kind of staring at each other, and he can hear everyone clapping but he's just looking at Rachel, and she's looking back at him, and he really wants nothing more than to throw her on the piano and have his way with her, but he knows that this isn't the time or place. Actually, they aren't even together anymore, so he shouldn't be thinking these thoughts at all.
"That was really great," Tina says, smiling as she claps, and Finn blushes.
"Yes, well, which ones of you are playing Danny and Sandy?" Rachel asks. Jake, Marley, Kitty, and this new kid he kind of took under his wing – Ryder – all raise their hands. "I hope you took notes," Rachel adds.
Finn laughs, wrapping an arm around her shoulders because he can't not. She curls comfortably into his side, smiles up at him, and he really, truly forgets why they even broke up in the first place, if being around her is this easy and feels so right.
Artie clears his throat, and Finn looks up, around at his cast. He gives Artie a grateful nod, then gestures down at Rachel. "For those of you who don't know, this is Rachel Berry," Finn says. "She's currently studying at the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, and she's, uh… she's a really good friend of mine." The words feel wrong in his mouth, because they don't even cover what Rachel means to him, what she is to him. He presses on. "She's really, really good, as I'm sure you noticed. I suggest you take advantage of her being here, because she could very well teach you a thing or two."
He winks at her, and a blush colors her cheeks.
He goes to stand with Kurt as the cast all gather around Rachel, most of them peppering her with questions about New York City and performing.
"Is she really doing okay, Kurt?" Finn asks. Rachel glances over at the two of them, giving him a small wave.
"Most days," Kurt replies softly. They stand in silence for a few minutes, then Kurt asks, "How about you, Finn? Are you finding out what you wanna be, where you wanna go?"
Finn doesn't take his eyes off of Rachel as he replies, "I'm starting to." And he really is. Things are finally beginning to click into place.
Rachel stays after, legs dangling off the side of the stage as she waits for Finn to finish tidying up. She told Kurt to go on out to dinner with the old gang, and that she'd catch up with them later.
Finn doesn't really seem surprised to see her sitting there, and he just sighs as he sits beside her, so close his thigh is brushing hers. She glances down at his hand that's resting on his kneecap, at his large fingers splayed out there. She swallows, remembering exactly what he's capable of doing with his hands.
"I wasn't really expecting you to show up here," Finn admits.
Rachel bites her lip. "Yeah, I – I decided to come along when Kurt said he was coming."
Finn nods. He doesn't really say anything else for a long moment, but it's a comfortable silence. She's missed just being able to sit with him, to feel his presence next to her.
"So," he says finally, "how did your audition go? I texted you, but I guess you never got it."
She swallows, and she feels guilty because she should've said something to him about it instead of just blowing him off. "Not well," she answers, and she just looks down at her feet, hidden inside her black flats. She can feel his gaze on her, but she doesn't look over at him. "I didn't get the role." She swallows. "I didn't even get a callback."
"Rach," he murmurs, and he gently places his hand on top of hers. It feels nice, to be this close to him again. It shouldn't, but it does.
She sniffs, and she knows it's stupid to be crying now, but she can't help it. "He said my voice was okay, but I didn't have the right look." She pauses, wipes at her eyes. "He said my nose was too big and that my dancing was atrocious."
Finn puts his arm around her then, his fingers brushing against her bare shoulder since she's still dressed as Sandy, pulling her into his side. She breathes in the smell of him – still the same old Finn, the same old cologne – and it's comforting. It helps her keep herself together.
"You're amazing, you know that, right?" Finn says quietly into her hair.
She nods against his chest. "I just wish other people could see it."
"They will," Finn says confidently, His fingers have somehow wound themselves into her hair, and she doesn't even mind. "I know they will."
She sighs contentedly. "I really hope you're right."
They sit there for a few moments in comfortable silence, then she says, "We're really bad at this."
"At what?" She can hear the confusion in his voice.
She cranes her neck to look up at him. "At being apart."
He sighs, ducking his head. "I know."
She studies him for a moment. He looks older, somehow. She thinks it suits him. He's still her Finn, the same boy she fell in love with, but he's also someone new. "You're changing," she notes quietly.
He meets her gaze then, his eyebrows furrowed, and she shakes her head, adding, "Not that it's a bad thing. You're still Finn… my Finn…. You're just more confident, more sure of yourself."
Finn smiles a bit at that, and he goes back to combing his fingers through her hair.
"I like it," she tells him.
"Yeah?" he asks, and she's aware that suddenly, his face is getting closer and closer to hers.
"Yeah," she whispers, and then she closes the distance between them, pressing her lips feverishly against his, her hands coming up to cup his cheeks.
Finn pulls away after a moment, mutters, "Rachel, we shouldn't," but she just shakes her head.
"I want to, Finn," she breathes against his lips. "Please, Finn? Please?"
He sighs then, but he kisses her again, this time more sure, his lips soft and familiar against hers. He leans farther over, pushing her backwards slightly, and she lets him lay her down on the stage floor, ignoring the fact that it's probably not exactly sanitary. Right now, she doesn't even care. She just cares about Finn and his mouth and the way he has this ability to make her feel like the only girl in the world, the only one who matters, anyway.
His fingers dig into her sides as his lips move to her neck, and she lets out a little groan, fisting his hair in her hand and tugging gently. She's missed this so much; she hadn't even let herself remember just how much. She missed the feel of his hands on her skin, of his lips on hers, of her breath becoming his.
"Finn," she manages to breathe out. He nips and sucks at her collar bone, determined to leave a love bite. "Finn," she says again, more insistently this time. "If – if someone comes in, they could see…"
He sighs, pulling away from her, albeit reluctantly.
She bites her lip to hold back her grin as she takes in his disheveled appearance: His hair is sticking up in the back where she grabbed it; his shirt is riding up his back; his lips already look slightly swollen. She feels like they're back in high school, sneaking into the auditorium for a forbidden make out session.
She needs more of him though, more than just kisses, fervent lips and tongue. She feels flushed, but she's already aching for him. So, swiftly, she stands up, grabbing his hand within her own, and dragging him backstage.
"Rachel," he says, "what—"
"Shh," she murmurs, and she pushes against his shoulders gently until he's sitting on the piano bench, eyes wide as he watches her. "We were on track to do this here at some point, if you think about it."
His eyes get impossibly wider as he takes in the meaning of his words, and she sits herself on his lap, kissing the spot just below his ear.
"Rachel," he manages to gasp out as her mouth leaves a fiery trail on his skin, "are – are you sure about this?"
She pulls away, sweeping her hair over one shoulder as she looks at him. "Finn, if there's one thing I'm always sure of, it's you."
"Yeah?" he asks, cupping her cheek with his hand.
"Yeah," she whispers.
They don't really talk much after that. Soon enough, she's peeling off his sweater, her nails scratching lightly against his skin, and he's struggling to get her out of her catsuit.
She giggles, prying his hands away (and his face falls a bit which makes her laugh even harder) before pulling down the straps and shimmying out of the top first, pulling it over her head. She sees his eyes widen as he takes in the fact that she's not wearing a bra, and his hands immediately attach themselves to her chest.
She bites her lip and rolls her head back as he begins to fondle her breasts, his lips attaching themselves to her neck. She lets out a small sigh as he kisses his way downward, her fingers raking through his hair. He nips and sucks his way down to one breast, taking her nipple in his mouth instead, and she missed this so much more than she thought she had, missed how warm and wet his mouth feels against her skin.
She pulls his face back up to meet hers, and she kisses him, kisses like she might never kiss him again (because after this, who's to say she won't? But she pushes that thought aside because it makes her stomach drop, and not in a good way).
His fingers loop into the waistband of her skintight pants, and he slowly slides them down her legs, kissing her newly exposed skin. Once he finally gets them off, Rachel impatiently tugs at his belt buckle, and he chuckles before shucking his jeans. She can see his arousal already through the thin material of his boxers, and she reaches inside the material to wrap her fingers around him, kissing him as she does, swallowing the gap he emits.
"God, Rach," he groans, and she just grins as he stands, picking her up and setting her on top of the piano.
"I always fantasized about this," she whispers against his mouth.
He pulls away, raising an eyebrow. "Kinky are we, Rach?"
"Just shut up," she whispers, a slight blush coloring her cheeks. She grips the back of his neck and kisses him again.
It's only a matter of minutes before she pushes his boxers down his legs and he's peeling off her underwear. He asks if she's still on the pill as he lines himself up, and she nods, gripping his hips and pulling him even closer to her. He whispers that he loves her before he pushes inside of her, just like he has every time since the first time. It makes her tear up because it feels like nothing has changed, just for that moment, even though everything has.
He starts move, the rhythm slow and intimate at first, but soon she's digging her heels into his backside, willing him to go faster, so he does. A few more tears streak down her cheeks, but he kisses them away, murmuring that he'll always love her no matter what. And she knows he means his words, so she believes them, whispering that she loves him, too.
He drops his head onto her shoulder as he comes inside of her, and she lets out a small cry as she does as well. He kisses the tip of her nose, cups her cheek, looks into her eyes, pressing his forehead against hers.
She knows that this is one of those moments she'll remember for the rest of her life, regardless of what happens to them in the future. In this moment, she loves him and he loves her, and in this moment, that's enough.
Rachel's gone within two days, and he honestly didn't expect anything to be different, so he tries not to let it bother him.
He thinks about sending her a text message, but what's he supposed to say? Thanks for the really hot sex? Somehow, he doesn't think that's the best thing he could do.
So he just goes on with his life. The play's a success, which is awesome, and all of the kids pitch in and give him this fucking huge bouquet of flowers after the show, and he's never gotten flowers before, but it's kind of nice. (And he might just cry a teensy bit when they do – it's really nice, okay?)
Anyway, now that the play's over, he kind of has nothing to look forward to. He works every day in the shop, and he likes the money but not really the work. He finds himself missing helping out with glee club and the play. It made him feel like he was good at something, like he could actually do something worthwhile.
One day, he's switching out a busted carburetor when it kind of just hits him: He wants to coach a glee club. Actually, more than that, he thinks he wants to be a teacher. A music teacher. (He thinks his mom was right when she said his dream could be right in front of his nose. He thinks she kind of knew all along.)
He really liked helping out with glee club, and who's to say he can't continue that as a career? He's good at it, at glee club stuff, and he's not too bad at the teaching thing either, as he learned from his Grease experience. He could actually do this, like for real.
He's so excited, he goes over to the bench and picks up his phone, calling his mom. He figures she should be the first to know.
He's legitimately excited for the first time in a long time.
She misses Finn even more since her trip to Lima. The memory of him is even stronger in her mind now, and she thought that would make things easier, but it doesn't. It makes it infinitely harder.
"And I thought you were mopey before," Kurt deadpans, flicking a piece of popcorn at her. They're both sitting on the couch, watching Dirty Dancing, but Rachel's actually scrolling through her saved text conversations instead. Most of them are from last year, and she just misses how they just figured they'd always be together. Obviously, that's not the case.
"Rachel, you're missing the best part!" Kurt says, reaching over to poke her shoulder.
Rachel glances up when she hears the beginning sounds of "(I've Had) The Time of My Life," sees Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey on the screen, and then she sighs, turning back to her phone.
"Well, fine," Kurt snaps. "Don't watch one of the most iconic scenes in movie history." He watches Rachel for a few more moments, and then he huffs, saying testily, "For the love of God, Rachel, if you miss him so much just call him for Christ's sake."
Rachel bites her lip, glancing over at Kurt. "Are – are you sure?"
"Yes," Kurt says, but his voice is curt and monotone.
She doesn't move, just gives him a side glance.
"Oh, honestly," Kurt sighs, "Rachel, seriously, just go call him. Please."
She smiles then, leaning over to peck Kurt's cheek, ignoring the face he makes before she skips off to her bedroom, shutting her door behind her. She perches precariously on the edge of her bed, her finger hovering over the '3' on her phone. (She put him on speed dial a long, long time ago, and she's never had the heart to take him off.)
Finally, she gets up the nerve to press the button, and then the dial tone is sounding in her ear.
Her heart is pounding by ring two. By the third ring, she thinks she might throw up. She considers hanging up after the fourth ring, but then she hears a "Hello?" and she thinks her heart stops. "Rachel?"
"Finn," she says, and her voice squeaks a bit (how does he still make her so nervous?), "hi, I was just, um…" She sighs, and she decides there's no use in pretenses, so she says in a small voice, "I really miss you."
She hears some rustling, a few footsteps and the closing of a door.
"I'm – I'm not interrupting anything am I?" she asks, and suddenly she's worried that he's with someone, someone being a girl (a woman), and she knows he technically has every right, but she doesn't think she can even bear the thought of him with someone else.
"No, no," he says quickly, his voice laced with static. "Just finishing up dinner. My mom made my favorite, that's all."
"Country fried steak?" Rachel asks with a smile laugh. (She's so relieved there's not a girl.) "I thought she only made that for you on special occasions, like your birthday and when you ace a math test."
He laughs as well, and God, she just really, really misses him, with every ounce of her being. "Well," he says then, "it kind of is a special occasion."
"Oh?" She doesn't know why, but she's suddenly nervous again.
"I, uh… you know how I've been helping out with glee club?"
"Yes," she breathes.
"Well, it's like, one of the things I'm good at, you know. Things related to glee club. And, like, helping out with Grease and stuff and having Mr. Schue take me under his wing just kind of… made me realize that that's what I wanna do."
Rachel furrows her brow. She doesn't think she completely follows. "You… wanna be in a glee club?"
He laughs. "Not exactly, no." He pauses, and she likes to think he's learned a thing or two from her and is building up the tension for dramatic effect. "I – I think I wanna be a teacher. A music one, preferably."
Rachel smiles, and she can feel it spread across her entire face. "Oh, Finn, that's perfect!" And it really is. It really makes sense, because Finn's a good leader, and he likes to help others, and he really gets music. More importantly, she's really happy he's finally found his dream.
"Yeah, it's really exciting," Finn agrees, and Rachel can tell by his voice that he's smiling as well.
"I'm so proud of you," she says softly.
There's a pause. She thinks she hears him swallow. "Thanks, Rach. I'm sort of proud of me, too."
She can feel tears building behind her eyes, but she refuses to cry while she's on the phone with him, especially when this is such an exciting time for him. "So what's the next step?" she asks instead. "Where do you go from here?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Finn admits. "I mean, I think I'll probably apply to some schools for the second semester, see if I can get in as long as the deadlines for applications haven't expired." He sighs. "And if that doesn't work out, I guess I'll just, um, apply next fall? And it's not, like, that a big of a deal if I have to wait, because I have the job working for Burt, but the sooner the better, ultimately, you know?"
Rachel nods, tells him she knows. He continues telling her about what he wants to do in the future, and she's never heard him so legitimately excited about something like this before. It makes her heart swell, and she thinks she falls that much more in love with him. Part of her wants to ask him if he'll be applying to any schools in New York, but she doesn't, because she doesn't want him to come here because she wants him to. She learned that the first time around, the hard way; he has to want to if they're ever going to work here. (But she wants him to so badly.)
For the moment, she lets herself get lost in the voice, and she focuses on the fact that Finn at least has a dream now, has future plans.
She just can't help but wonder if she'll still fit into them.
Thankfully, a lot of schools seem to have rolling deadlines, so as long as his transcript checks out and his application is deemed good enough, he has a fairly good shot at starting college in January. The question is just where he wants to go.
He applies to a few small schools in Ohio, and he even applies to a few schools in the surrounding states as well.
"What about New York?" his mom asks. "I mean, wouldn't you want to be where Kurt and Rachel are?"
And he supposes that's ultimately the question: Does he?
He loves Kurt (obviously), and he loves Rachel (and it seems like he always will). And New York was cool enough when he was there; he was just a little preoccupied with feeling sorry for himself to really enjoy the city in its entirety.
He closes his eyes, and he pictures himself in ten years; where he wants to be, what he wants to feel. And in that moment, he knows.
"Yeah," he tells his mom, "I'm applying to a few in New York as well."
Mr. Schue and Ms. Pillsbury invite the entire glee club (old and new members) over to their place for Thanksgiving dinner, so naturally, Rachel attends. It'll be the first time Rachel sees Finn in person since their heated encounter in the auditorium, although she has skyped him twice in the past week. The pixilated skype image definitely didn't do him justice; he looks impossibly better than she could've imagined.
Ms. Pillsbury's going on about how wonderful her and Mr. Schue's wedding is sure to be (they've picked a date – New Year's Eve – because Emma believes that their marriage will be blessed or something if it's the first occurrence of the new year.) She catches Finn eye as Ms. Pillsbury prattles. He gives her a small smile from across the table, and she tries her best to give him one in return. Seeing him makes her want to just stay by his side and never leave, but she knows that won't be the case, because his life is here now. His life isn't intertwined with hers anymore, and it very well may never be tied to hers again.
The thought makes her heart ache, so she pushes it to the back of her mind, choosing to focus on the fact that she's here with the people she loves most. She needs to make the most of this day.
He finds her sitting in the corner of the guest room a few hours later. Everyone else is down the hall in the living room, belting along to some karaoke game, but surprisingly, Rachel's in here, sitting by herself.
"Hey," Finn says.
Rachel looks up, gives him the same, small smile she gave him earlier. The smile she gives when something's bothering her but she doesn't want anyone to know. "Hey."
"You don't feel like blowing everyone away with your mad performance skills?" he asks, a teasing tone to his voice as he sits down beside her.
"Nah," she says, "I figured I'd sit this one out. I needed to get away and think anyway."
He swallows. "About what?" he asks.
"You," she admits. She sighs. "Us."
Finn's heart pounds. This is it. This is the moment to lay everything on the line. "Yeah, me too," he admits.
She looks at him expectantly, so he continues.
"I just don't understand why – why we broke up, if we obviously care so much about each other," he admits.
"Oh, Finn," she whispers, and she smiles, cupping his cheeks with her tiny hands, but there are tears in her eyes. "I needed you to see yourself the way I see you. You needed to believe in yourself the way that I believe in you. I couldn't find your dreams for you or determine your future; you had to do that yourself."
He gives her a small smile, places his hand on top of hers.
"And you did," she whispers, her thumb smoothing over his skin. "You're – you're finally where you need to be now." A tear slips down her cheek, and her smile fades. "And I'm so proud of you, Finn."
He stops smiling as well, because she's, like, really crying now, and he really has a bad feeling about what she's going to say next.
"You're going on to the next stage of your life, and – and I just have to accept that things are going to change, really, truly change." She leans over and presses her lips against her forehead. "I'm going to miss you, Finn, you know that right? I mean, I already do miss you, but this… this is really goodbye."
He just sits in confusion, because he doesn't understand what's happening, and how could she possibly think his future wouldn't involve her?
He set her free, and then she broke up with him, but they've never said goodbye until now. Why would she think she has to say goodbye?
By the time he's thought about all this though, by the time he finds the words, she's gone.
He gets up and goes out into the living room, but she's nowhere to be found. He hears the clicking of the door then, and he knows that she left. She just confused the hell out of him and made it seem like she's leaving him alone for good which is literally the last thing he wants, and now she's just gone.
He thinks this might just be the worst Thanksgiving ever.
She doesn't answer any of his calls or texts, and she knows she's kind of being a complete bitch about this, but she needs to completely set him free this time so he can come into his own. He needs to follow his dream and he doesn't need her or the hope of what they could be holding him back any longer.
She doesn't go back to Lima for Christmas in the off chance that she'll run into him, and Kurt offers to stay with her. She tries to insist that he go home, but he's having none of it, saying she can't possibly stay here alone.
(He tries to convince her to go to Mr. Schue and Ms. Pillsbury's wedding instead. She says she'll think about it. She doesn't have the heart to tell him that she doesn't think she can.)
So he helps her decorate the apartment, even agreeing to help set up her menorah and go through each night of Hanukkah with her. It doesn't really feel like the holiday season due to her heavy heart, but she greatly appreciates the effort.
She skypes with her dads on Christmas morning, and they say they miss her, but they don't pressure her as to why she didn't come home. She thinks they know, anyway, and she's grateful they don't bring it up.
It's one of the more miserable holiday seasons of her life, but she takes solace in the fact that Finn's life will be better because of it. He may not know it know, but he will one day.
She never thought she could be so unselfish.
Rachel doesn't come home for Christmas, and neither does Kurt, and now Kurt's stopped answering his phone calls as well, so he's really left with only one solution: He has to go to New York. Rachel can't just push him away like that and expect him to go quietly.
So he tells his mom he's going to New York, haphazardly throws some clothes in a bag, gets put on standby for the earliest flight out and miraculously gets a seat. The plane ride seems excruciatingly long, and of course, all of the movie choices suck, so he's stuck with his own thoughts.
Rachel said she hated when he sent her off on her own. So why did she do the same thing to him? Is it somehow different because they aren't technically together? It doesn't feel different; it still hurts, a sharp pain in his gut.
He's a lot more efficient at hailing a cab outside of JFK this time, and he also knows exactly where he's going, which is a plus. He hurriedly pays the driver when they pull up outside of Kurt and Rachel's apartment building before practically sprinting out of the cab and into the building.
Four flights of stairs later, he's face to face with her door. He takes a deep breath, and then he raises his fist and knocks.
He feels footsteps, light footsteps, approaching the door from the other side. He hears a click, then the door slowly slides open.
"Finn?" Kurt's bewildered face stares at him, his brow furrowed in confusion. "What are you doing here?"
"I need to talk to Rachel," he says quickly. He can see Kurt open his mouth to protest, so he says, "Please, Kurt. It's important."
His brother sighs, but he steps aside, letting Finn into the small living room.
It looks exactly the same as it did the last time he was here. It's a little messier this time around: a few sweaters are haphazardly dangling off the back of the couch; DVDs are strewn across the coffee table.
"She's in her room," Kurt tells his, clapping him on the back. "I'm actually on my way out, so I guess I'll just leave you to it. I sincerely hope you'll still be here when I get back."
"Yeah, me too," Finn mutters. He takes a deep breath, then sets off down the hall to Rachel's room.
He knocks against her door gently, rapping on it with his knuckles. He hears a sigh, and then the door is swinging open.
"I told you, Kurt, I don't want to go out tonight—" Her eyes widen when she sees Finn's face.
His heart pounds erratically in his chest.
"Hi, Rach," he says quietly.
"What are you doing here?" she asks bluntly, folding her arms over her chest.
He raises his eyebrows. "Well, hello to you, too."
"You shouldn't be here, Finn," she says, brushing past him and walking down the hallway.
He stands, bewildered for a second, before following her, his backpack still flung over his shoulder. "So you're still just gonna blow me off?"
She doesn't say anything, just goes and sits down on the couch. He assumes she's pretending like he isn't there.
"Rachel," he says, dumping his backpack on a chair before he sits down next to her, angling his body toward hers. "I don't even understand what's happening here. Like, we broke up, I get that part, but then we had sex, and then we were talking for a while, and suddenly you just cut off all ties and started pretending like I don't exist."
She still doesn't say anything, just bites her lip.
"Jesus, Rachel, just talk to me," he pleads.
"I don't know what you want me to say," she says, her voice barely louder than a whisper. She sounds like she might cry.
"Why are you trying so hard to push me away now?" he asks. "Why not when we first broke up? I mean, you can't really blame me for being confused here, Rach. I think I deserve to know what the fuck is going on."
Finally, Rachel sighs, wiping underneath her eyes. "I just – I can't hold you back, Finn."
He just stares at her for a moment. "Rachel, what are you talking about?"
"You can't focus on you and what you need to be doing in order to get your teaching degree if you're focusing on me," Rachel says with a shrug, and a tear streaks down her cheek. She lets out a long, slow breath. "We should've done a clean break in the first place," she mutters. "I – I was selfish. I couldn't let you go, not all the way." She gives him a small, sad smile. "I was trying to keep you with me even though I said I wasn't going to. You deserve the chance that you gave me." She shrugs, wiping at her eyes again.
"Rachel, I'm taking those steps," he says, frustration seeping into his voice. "I am figuring things out, I don't need you to figure things out for me, for the first time in my life. And I thought we were starting to figure us out as well. You needed to be here, Rachel. I can be anywhere, as long as I'm teaching, and the only place I want to be is with you."
Rachel really starts to cry then, the tears gushing down her face, and he sighs, reaching over and pulling her to him. She cries against his sweater, but he just rubs her back soothingly, pressing light kisses to the top of her head.
"I don't want to ever hold you back," she manages to get out between sobs.
"Rach," he says quietly, pulling her back so he can look in her eyes. He wipes away a few stray tears with his thumb. "You make me better, you know that, right? You make me want to be better."
"I love you," she whispers. "The only reason I shut you out is that I love you so much and I don't want you to sacrifice anything for me."
"I'm not," he insists quietly. "I already got in to a few schools, and I know where I'm going to be, Rachel. I just really like it if you'd be okay with it, and if we could possibly move forward, together. No more sacrifice plays."
Rachel nods, leaning forward to press her lips against his, and he can taste the tears on her skin as he kisses her back, his lips moving expertly against hers. She grips the back of his shirt, drawing him impossibly closer, and he cups the back of her head.
"Wait," she says suddenly, pulling away, her expression confused. "Wait, you said you knew where you were going to be." She studies him as she nods. "Finn, if you're going to be somewhere else and you're just playing with my emotions right now, I don't—"
"Do you honestly think I would do that?" he asks, brushing this thumb across her cheek.
She shakes her head. "Then…"
"I wanna be here in New York with you, Rachel," he says. "Honestly. Well, I mean, if you'll have me."
A slow smile spreads across Rachel's face. "Really?" she asks hesitantly. "You really mean it?"
Finn nods, and she squeals, throwing her arms around his neck. He laughs, pressing his hand against the small of her back, kissing her cheek. "I love you, Rachel," he murmurs, "and I never want to be without you."
"I never want to be without you, either," Rachel murmurs, sighing against his neck.
"Good," Finn mumbles, lightly pressing his lips to the shell of her ear, "because I'm not letting you go again."
He kisses her again, threading his fingers in her hair, and he feels her smile against his mouth. He can't imagine a life without her in it, and frankly, he doesn't want to. He just wants it to be her and him, happy and in love and together, and for the first time, he's thinking that they really can be, because he knows what he wants and she knows what she wants. For the first time, they're really, truly on the same page, and he knows beautiful things are meant to happen.
His mouth is warm against her already heated skin, his fingers pressing against the juncture of her thighs. She presses a kiss to his collar bone, curling her fingers into his shoulder blade as he moves inside her.
She doesn't know how she ever thought she could live without this, because it's clear to her now that she can't. She could pretend she and Finn could move on with their lives, but something would always be bringing them back together. It's just the way they are, and she's starting to finally see that.
Afterwards, he pulls her against him, curling his body around hers, and she intertwines their fingers. She doesn't remember the last time she felt so complete.
"I love you," he whispers, kissing the side of her neck.
"I love you, too," she breathes. She giggles, grinding her rear against him, and he growls, nipping at her shoulder.
She squeals as he flips her over, hovering on top of her, peppering her face with kisses.
"For the love of God, I was only gone for seven hours!" Kurt's voice wafts through the closed door. "I thought it would take longer for you guys to make up, and I really have a lot of work to do and I'd rather not listen to you two go at it like rabbits!"
"Use your earplugs!" Rachel shouts back, and then she leans up to give Finn a searing kiss.
"Disgusting!" they hear Kurt screech, but she blocks him out after that, because Finn's hands are seemingly everywhere at once and she can't be bothered to care about anything else at the moment.
"I missed you," Finn murmurs against her throat, and she grins.
"God, I missed you, too."
They go back to Lima, all three of them, for Mr. Schue and Ms. Pillsbury (well, Will and Emma, he supposes now) and their wedding. Finn kind of wouldn't mind missing it if it meant more time in bed with Rachel (because they kind of spent the last, like, three days there), but Kurt had glared at Finn's suggestion and said that he would literally never speak to either of them again if they went through with that notion.
Plus, Finn's kind of the best man and everything, so he should probably go.
So, anyway, he's sitting next to Rachel at the reception in a suit and tie, his hand on her bare knee, rubbing small circles. He already fumbled through his best man speech (although Rachel assured him it was very sweet and eloquent), so he's pretty much stress free for the remainder of the evening. She keeps smiling at him and leaning her head on his shoulder, so he feels pretty good about the whole thing. Mr. Schue (Will, God, he'll never get used to that) just shot them a knowing look when he saw them sitting together, but honestly, did anyone seriously think that they wouldn't be together? Sure, he's had his doubts, but part of him always knew it would be him and Rachel.
It's almost midnight, and Mercedes is currently at the microphone, announcing that she'll be singing a special song to ring in the New Year and Mr. Schue and Ms. P's love.
"Dance with me, Finny," Rachel says, and before he can either agree or protest, she's pulling him to his feet, dragging him onto the dance floor.
It's a slow song (thank God), so she wraps her arms around his neck, his own hands settling on her waist. She beams up at him, her fingers gently playing with the hairs on the nape of his neck as they sway back and forth to the music.
"You know," Rachel says softly, "there was a point in this last month where I doubted that we would get to this point, where we simply know that we're going to be together no matter what. I mean, I always hoped," she adds hastily, "but it's different knowing, you know?"
"I know," Finn agrees, and he can't help but smile at her.
"What?" she asks, but she giggles.
"I just really love you," he tells her.
She smirks. "You told me that at the last wedding we attended together, if I remember correctly."
"That's because it's true," he replies, pulling her body a little closer to his.
She laughs, leaning her forehead against his shoulder. "Even after all this time."
"Always," he promises, and he drops a kiss on the top of her head.
"Okay, everyone, it's almost midnight," Mercedes says over the band, "so find your special someone and we'll ring this one in together!"
The countdown starts at sixty, but instead of chanting along, Finn just looks down at Rachel, her head resting against his chest. He really doesn't know what force in the universe decided that they should be together, but he's really, really grateful. He can't imagine anything better.
Rachel cranes her head to look at him when the countdown reaches fifteen, beaming. She mouths that she loves him, and he doesn't care if it's not midnight yet: He leans down and kisses her. He feels her sigh into his mouth, her hold tightening around his neck. They're still kissing when it officially becomes the new year anyway, so he figures it still counts.
"We get it, you're back together and better than ever, blah blah blah," Santana deadpans as she walks past. "Just please stop sucking each other's faces in the middle of the dance floor. I think I might throw up."
He just gives Santana the finger, pulling Rachel more tightly against him. He feels her smile, the curve of her lips against his.
He's happy and she's happy and honestly, he doesn't care about anything else.
"Well, that's the last box," Finn says happily, setting it just outside the doorway of her (their) bedroom, looking quite pleased with himself. He has a slight sheen of sweat on his forehead, but she strangely finds it incredibly hot.
"We're officially roommates," Rachel says with a grin. She turns to Kurt, who's leaning against the doorframe. "We're a trio now, isn't that exciting!"
"Somehow I feel more like a third wheel," Kurt deadpans, but he's smiling, so Rachel knows he secretly loves this new arrangement as well.
Finn starts at the City College of New York next week, and Rachel can see that he's really excited about his new path, and that in turn makes her excited as well.
"Shall I pick us up some food to celebrate?" Kurt asks.
"Oh, yes please! What about that sandwich place just down the block?" Rachel suggests. "It's good, I promise," she adds, addressing Finn since she knows he's never eaten there before.
"I believe you," he laughs. She just can't wait to show him all the aspects of her New York, all the things he doesn't know about. She knows they have time, and that's the best feeling in the world.
"Okay, I'll go," Kurt says, "but if I come back and you two are having sex, I reserve the right to eat both of your sandwiches."
"Dude, I don't know if I can keep any promises," Finn says, waggling his eyebrows at Rachel, grabbing her hips from behind and loudly kissing the spot right below her ear.
"Seriously?" Kurt asks, but when Finn doesn't relent, he just huffs, leaving the room. "You better be watching television when I get back!"
The door slams, and they know he's gone.
"Well, let's get this started," Finn says, picking Rachel up and throwing her lightly onto the bed.
"Finn!" she squeals when he climbs on top of her, pressing kiss after kiss to the column of her throat. "We shouldn't…"
"I can be quick," he promises, nipping her earlobe, and she sighs, her eyes rolling back into her head.
"O – Okay," she breathes. "But we have to be quick."
"That can be arranged," her murmurs against her lips, looping his fingers into her the belt loops on her jeans and tugging.
She giggles, sliding her hands under the back of his shirt.
She never dreamed things would end up taking the path they did, but she's so grateful for everything that happened to lead to this moment, because this moment is pretty perfect. She can't imagine being anywhere else.
thanks so much for reading and feel free to leave your thoughts! :)