Disclaimer: Glee is not mine :(

An ordinary beginning, something that would have been forgotten had it been anyone but her. But as she took his hand and met those striking emerald eyes, he knew before he'd taken his next breath that she was the one he could spend the rest of his life looking for but never find again.

-Nicholas Sparks, "The Notebook"

The invitation comes on a Tuesday.

He sees the bright red envelope as soon as he walks into his office, since it's propped against the bobblehead Brittany had gotten him a few years ago. As congratulations for getting jobs, Brittany had gotten both him and Artie bobbleheads of themselves, designed to be business card holders. While Artie's was dressed in khakis, a white shirt and a sweater vest, his was much more casual in jeans, a t-shirt and a plaid shirt, although both had their arms out to hold the business cards. Bobblehead Finn is currently holding the business cards Kurt had insisted he needed, plus the bright red envelope bearing the word Finn on it, spelled out in stickers.

Curiosity getting the better of him, he flings his backpack on the floor and reaches for the envelope, examining the stickers. He turns the envelope over, startled to see a pair of wide paper eyes and a large orange nose on the flap and he quickly realizes he's holding an Elmo envelope, which can only mean one thing.

He's been invited to a kid's birthday party.

While Kurt would argue that Elmo was more mature then he was, playing pin the tail on the donkey was not high on his list of things that make a good party (ironically, that game of pin the boobs on the sorority girl back in college had certainly made his list). He's just about to open the envelope when he hears a voice behind him.

"Oh, you found it!"

Startled, he looks up to see Artie parked in his doorway, his face excited as he stares at the Elmo envelope in Finn's hand. He watches as Artie wheels a little closer, his own eyes trained on the envelope in his hand.


The Elmo envelope was obviously put there by Artie, which meant there was no way of getting out of going to the party. Artie had chosen him to be the godfather to his son Connor and he's not sure, but he thinks that means he's required to go to all birthday parties.

"Yeah. I was just about to open it." He quickly slides his finger under Elmo's nose, pulling the invitation out. As he'd suspected, the invitation is for a children's party, a fact made glaringly obvious by the Elmo invitation he's now holding. Elmo's arms are covering his eyes and Finn gently moves them to see read the words aloud. "Peek-a-boo! Connor's turning two and Elmo wants to see you!"

"Isn't it great?" Artie asks excitedly. "Brittany worked really hard on them."

"Really?" Finn stares, shocked that Brittany had made these invites and not a single word was misspelled, even more shocked that he'd actually received an invite. "Brittany?"

Artie nods proudly. "She spent all weekend on it, her and her friend from work."

Ah. That explains it. He loved Brittany like a sister, he really did, but she was not the sharpest tool in the shed. Fortunately, what she lacked in smarts, she made up for in dancing ability, earning her way up to assistant choreographer on the Broadway production of Guys and Dolls. He glances down at the invite again, noting the date and time. "Well that's cool. You know I'll be there."

"You better. You are the Godfather." Artie nods firmly, pointing to the invite in his long time best friend's hand. "They're really going all out with the Elmo theme, everything has been Elmo'd from the food to the games to the decorations. B's friend is a little scary with how intense she is, but she's helping Brittany, so I can't really complain."

"Oh." Unsure of what else to say, he turns on his computer and tacks the invitation to the bulletin board next to his desk.

"Yeah, it's going to be so great. Connor's really going to love it. They've even made signs for all the food that looks like the Sesame Street sign, although the focus will be on Elmo since he's Connor's favorite," Artie announces. "It's going to be an Elmopolooza."

"I'm sure Connor will love it," Finn replies, secretly wondering if the man sitting in front of him getting excited about an Elmo birthday party is the same guy who once rolled his wheelchair off the Frat house roof and into a pool of jello. "You jealous Brittany's not doing an Elmopolooza for you?"

"Shut up." Artie stares at him meaningfully. "You know, you could bring someone if you want."

Finn snorts at the implication. "Yeah. Who am I going to bring, Marge from Animation?"

Both Finn and Artie turn to look out the door to see a frumpy older lady seated at a desk nearby. Artie turns back to look at him, his tone serious. "You haven't dated anyone in a while and I've seen Lori checking you out every time she passes your office. Why don't you just ask her?"

He shakes his head. "Nah. I'm good."

"It'll be fun," Artie promises, holding up his hand. "Elmopalooza remember?"

"You sure this party's for Connor and not you?" Finn teases, trying to get the topic off his dating life. "I've never seen anyone get so excited over Elmo."

"You wait till you have a kid. I hope you have a girl, so you can be inundated with Dora."

Finn laughs. "Well before that can happen, I need to find a woman willing to have kids with me."

"So maybe Lori is that girl," Artie persuades. "And if she's not, you still get to have sex."

"I'm not dating anyone from work. My parents and Kurt are going to be at this party, so no way in hell am I bringing anyone new."

"Who said anything about dating? Come on, this is gonna be the party of the year."

He laughs again. "Party of the year?"


He sighs, deciding to placate Artie even though he had no intention of asking Lori. "I'll think about asking her."

"That's all I'm asking." Artie wheels his chair back to the door, pausing in the doorframe. "You know you're excited for Elmopolooza. It's brought to you by the letter C and the number 2, you know."

"That right?" Chuckling, Finn opens up his email. "This party of the year going to have beer? Or does Elmo not drink?"

"Oh there's beer. Brittany and Rachel were just making Elmo labels for the beer bottles last night."

"Great." He watches Artie wheel himself back to his own office. "I'm gonna need it to get through Elmopolooza."

Beer's not gonna cut it.

Brittany had greeted him at the door with Connor, each wearing an Elmo party hat and matching Elmo t-shirts. She'd handed him Connor so she could grab a party hat off the hall table, easily slipping it on Finn's head despite his protests. She'd also taken a moment to pin a large button in the shape of goldfish to his shirt, announcing that while everyone else got an Elmo button, he got a button in the shape of Elmo's pet goldfish Dorothy.

Connor still in his arms, he'd followed the famous Sesame Street signs out to the backyard, trying not to stare in amazement at all the Elmo decorations. Artie wasn't kidding when he'd said the place was Elmo'd out. Finn had expected some balloons and maybe some streamers, but considering Brittany had done the decorations he really shouldn't be surprised that it looked like Elmo exploded all over the house and yard (she did make the theme of their senior prom dinosaur after all, complete with a massive T-Rex that he still wasn't convinced she hadn't stolen from a museum). He'd spied much smaller Sesame Street signs sticking out of the various dishes of food and his mouth had started to water, hoping Kurt had made some of those awesome pastries for dessert. The brightly colored three tier cake Kurt had made is in the corner of the table, with various Sesame Street characters hanging off of it while Elmo sat proudly on top and his mouth watered even more, thanking God for the umpteenth time that he had a brother whose hobby was cake decorating.

The backyard is not exempt either, judging by the Elmo piñata hanging from the trees and the large Elmo shaped balloons tied to the deck he sees as he steps onto the deck. Connor immediately begins squirming in his arms and runs off towards the Elmo bouncy house in the corner of the yard once his feet are on the ground. Finn watches him go, figuring it was ok since Quinn's over there with Damian before he grabs a beer out of the cooler, shaking his head at the Elmo label that had been placed over the regular label.

He spies Artie and Puck over at a table nearby talking to his parents and Kurt so he heads that way, grabbing a few extra beers for the two of them and Burt.

Puck rips the beer from his hands as he kisses his mom hello. "It's about fucking time you got here. I can't suffer through Elmo without liquor."

"Damian's the same age, he's not into Elmo?" Kurt asks, slipping on his sunglasses.

"Fuck no. Tap dancing red muppets don't do it for him. He likes the badass Oscar. Q tried to get him into Grover, but Grover's a pushover."

"Yeah? Then why's he wearing an Elmo shirt like Connor and Brittany?" Finn retorts, reaching for the potato chips on the table and popping one in his mouth only to immediately spit the potato chip back out. "What the hell kind of potato chips are these?"

"They're not potato chips, they're banana chips," Artie explains between chuckles. "Bananas are Elmo's favorite fruit. Brittany and Rachel thought it would be a nice touch."

"So we all have to suffer?" Finn demands, taking a swig of beer to try and get rid of the banana taste in his mouth. Artie, he notices, is currently wearing an Elmo bowtie along with Elmo suspenders and he resists the urge to roll his eyes.

"You could stand to follow Elmo's diet, baby," Carole admonishes, taking a few banana chips for herself. "You need to start eating healthier. Perhaps if you had a girlfriend, you'd start eating better."

"Stay single, Finn," Burt interjects. "Otherwise your girlfriend will have you eating food that tastes like plywood."

Carole fixes her husband with a stern look. "That goes for you too, Burt. You need to eat healthier. Have some banana chips."

"See Finn? Single." Burt obediently pops a banana chip in his mouth, grimacing at the taste.

"Burt!" Carole chides. She focuses her attention on Finn and Kurt, both of whom immediately begin squirming under her gaze. "I want grandchildren and neither of my sons are doing anything to get me some."

Puck snorts. "It's not from lack of trying. Hudson needs better moves and Hummel needs something else entirely."

"There's a girl at our office that's been not so subtly checking Finn out," Artie offers. "I told him to invite her here, but he didn't."

"Really?" Carole's eyes light up at the news. "I have to admit, when you started working for a video game company as a designer, I was worried it would be all men and you'd never meet anyone. Why didn't you bring her here?"

"What about Kurt?" Finn huffs, annoyed that the attention is solely on his dating life. "He didn't bring anyone to Elmopolooza."

"Had you been on time to Elmopolooza, you would have heard me telling Dad and Carole about my promising date last night." The airiness of Kurt's reply annoys Finn and he frowns as Kurt continues. "What'd you do last night? Play video games?"

Damn him. He racks his brain for a retort, one that wouldn't reveal that he actually had been playing video games with Puck last night.

Fortunately for once, Puck comes to his aid. "Wanna check out the bouncy house, Finn? Q says there's a weight limit, but fuck that, I'm going in."

"Sure." Relieved, Finn follows Puck over to the bouncy house, where Brittany and Quinn are currently deep in conversation about the decorations while Connor and Damian bounce away.

"Hey, Finn," Quinn greets before turning sharply to her husband, who's bending dangerously close to the entrance. "Don't even think about it!"

"I just wanted to see the inside!"

"No, you wanted to bounce," she corrects, eyeing him suspiciously. "Your fat ass better not get anywhere near the inside. You'll deflate it."

"Fat ass?" Puck looks at Finn. "She's talking to you."

"I'm talking to you and you know it. I'm watching you." She glares at Puck before turning back to Brittany. "So you and Rachel made all the decorations?"

Brittany nods happily as she watches Connor bounce. "We've been working on it for the last week. I can't wait for her to see it."

"She's not here yet?"

"She'll be here soon. She's bringing- Connor! Stop that!" Brittany demands, peering into the bouncy house to see Connor pushing a little girl over.

Finn, bored of the conversation and the bouncy house, allows his eyes to wander over the yard. His parents are talking to Artie's parents, while Kurt is deep in conversation with a recently arrived Mike and Tina. The sound of the sliding door opening attracts his attention and he looks just in time to see a young woman come out.


He stares, admiring her smoking hot body as she strides confidently across the deck towards the cooler of beer, his eyes taking in her tiny shorts and the tank top showcasing her ample chest. He nudges Puck, a needless move since Puck is also blatantly staring at her. "Dude, who is that?"

Puck smirks. "Forget it, Hudson. Whoever she is, she's way out of your league."

"And you're married," Quinn reminds him, rolling her eyes. "So pick your jaw up off the floor."

Finn snickers, his eyes still watching the woman as she bent over to dig through the cooler. Her ass looks fantastic in those shorts and he found himself tracing the curve of her body with her eyes, Puck doing the same beside him.

"God, look at the two of them," Quinn comments to Brittany. "You'd think they've never seen a woman before."

Brittany follows their gaze. "Oh! Santana's here!"

Finn nods absently, his eyes still fixed on her, but Puck somehow manages to recover his facilities. "Where the fuck have you been keeping her? Hudson's about to blow his load."

"Santana just moved back from California. We went to college together," Brittany explains.

He continues to watch Santana, who's now straightened up and is standing near Kurt with a bored look on her face. He doesn't know why she looks so bored, but he knows one thing.

This party just got a whole lot better.

This party officially blows.

Thanks to Brittany and her unknown friend Rachel, he's become the official Elmo tattoo artist. Brittany had handed him a stack of Elmo and Sesame Street tattoos while he'd been distracted ogling Santana, asking him to start putting them on the kids. Apparently, that meant he had to have one too, since Brittany insisted she'd never seen a tattoo artist without tattoos.

As a result, he now had Elmo's portrait on his bicep, along with Cookie Monster. Word got out about his new job and he soon had kids lined up next to his chair. He'd dutifully got to work tattooing the kids while simultaneously cursing out Brittany and the mysterious Rachel in his head, keeping one eye on Santana at the same time, who'd been deep in conversation with Brittany's mom for a while over by the pool.

"Alright, little dudette, you're all set." He smiles as he watches Mike and Tina's daughter Emily stare wide eyed at the glittery tattoo he'd just placed on her hand for a moment before she runs off to show her father. He's pretty sure Emily was the last kid to be tattooed, so he gets up, stretching, mentally trying to figure out a way to talk to Santana, since he doubts she'd want an Elmo tattoo.

Brittany's mom has just left Santana alone by the pool and he's just about to make a move when Brittany corners him again.

"Finn guess what?" she chirps, still wearing her party hat at a jaunty angle.

"What?" he asks; hoping she's going to say Santana asked about him and wants to Brittany to introduce them.

No such luck.

"Rachel and I made a Pin the Fin on Dorothy game and since you're a Finn with an N you get to be in charge and show the kids how to play." She beams, clearly excited by the game. "Rachel thought it would be cute."

Really? He doesn't know who this Rachel is but she's really getting on his nerves and ruining his plans. Brittany takes his silence as an assent and grabs his hand leading him over to Artie, who's hanging a large poster of Dorothy on the fence, a bevy of kids excitedly dancing around his wheelchair.

"Ready to pin the fin, Finn?" Artie's grin is the last thing he sees before Brittany blindfolds him, tying the knot extra tight so he can't cheat. She quickly spins him around as she instructs all the kids to watch Finn. He doesn't know how he's going to do this since he saw how low Artie was hanging that poster and thanks to Brittany's impressive knot tying skills he can't even see the ground.

Fortunately, Brittany gives him a push forward and Artie's murmurs of "by your knees" helps him and he bends way down, about to place Dorothy's fin where he hopes the board is when he hears a new voice saying hello to Brittany.

A voice he likes.

He pauses, wondering if it's Santana, but somehow he doesn't think so. Santana looks like she'd have a sexy sultry voice and this voice is more feminine and sexy in a completely different way.

A way he likes better. Much better.

He haphazardly places the fin on the board, attempting to pull off the blindfold at the same time, but Brittany's tied it so tight he can't even slide it off. Frantic, he fumbles with the knot trying to see who the voice belongs to, since he doesn't hear it anymore.

What he does hear is Artie, his voice annoyed and somehow accusatory at the same time. "Uh oh. Brittany! You promised."

"Connor did it!"

"You expect me to believe that Connor invited her?"

Brittany's answer comes just as he finally managed to get the blindfold off. "He did! He mentioned the party yesterday when he saw her yelling at the mailman with her bullhorn. You know he likes that bullhorn!"

He looks around, trying to see who that voice could possibly belong to, but all he sees is a defensive Brittany and an annoyed Artie staring back at the house, plus a bedlam of kids waiting to pin the fin.

Connor attaches himself to his leg and he ruffles his hair as he follows Artie's gaze to the deck, where he notices a tall blonde woman in a track suit wielding a bullhorn.

"Wheels!" the woman barks into her bullhorn, which is currently aimed at Artie. "I've been here for a full minute and yet I still don't have a drink in my hand. Get me a Rob Roy stat!"

"Who is that?" Finn whispers to Artie, who's made no move to get the woman a Rob Roy. Connor abandons his leg, clapping his hands in excitement as Emily attempts to pin her fin on the board.

"That's our new neighbor, Sue," Artie whispers back. "She's insane."

Sue stalks off the deck and heads for them, bullhorn in hand and an expression of disgust on her face. "What's with the lame games, R2D2? I thought this was a party?"

"It's a kid's party, Sue," Artie explains calmly. "All the games are for them."

Connor helps his case by sticking his fin on Finn's knee, proudly announcing that he put his fin on Finn.

Sue smirks. "I'm not playing pin the tail on Gigantor. Lucky for you I prepared for a lame party."

Finn and Artie both follow Sue's pointing finger to see a young blonde girl wearing a track suit identical to Sue's busy setting up a volleyball net on the grass.

"Sue! You can't set that up here! We need that space for Duck Duck Goose!" Artie insists.

Sue ignores him, aiming her bullhorn at the party in general. "Attention party goers. Wheels has just realized how lame this party is. Fortunately for him, Sue Sylvester is here to save the day."


Sue ignores Artie, turning her bullhorn on Finn. "Doughboy! Front and center!"

Finn shifts uncomfortably as he glances at Artie, hoping she's not talking to him.

"Is this thing on?" Sue demands, tapping the bullhorn to check. "Did you hear me, Gigantor?"

Apparently she is talking to him.

He stares at her, unsure of why exactly she wants him and even more unsure of why she's calling him Gigantor since she's about the same size. "Me?"

"Well obviously I don't mean Orville Reddenbacher in the chair!" Sue barks into her bullhorn. "I've crapped bigger than him."

Resisting the urge to laugh, Finn concentrates on answering Sue. "Uh, what do you want?"

The bullhorn is once again aimed at Finn. "Congratulations! You have the honor of being the captain of the team that loses to Team Sylvester!"


This time the bullhorn is aimed at Artie. "Wheels! I don't speak Lard Ass! Explain to him what we're doing."

Artie sighs. "Sue's chosen you to play against her team in volleyball."

"Oh." His eyes dart around the yard wondering if Santana (or worse, the owner of that voice) heard Sue call him Lard Ass. "Um, let me get Puck and Mike and we'll play."

"No need." Sue aims her bullhorn at the Mike and Tina who are nearby. "Asians!"

"Are you talking to us?" Tina asks, exchanging glances with Mike.

"I don't want you," Sue barks. "I want the other Asian! And while I'm at it, I'll take Mr. T over there."

"Wait, who do I get then?" Finn demands. "You already took Mike and Puck."

"Not my problem, Grimace," Sue replies through her bullhorn. "You have five minutes to assemble a losing team."

She's totally serious about the five minutes, whipping out a stopwatch and he scrambles to assemble a team. At the end of the five minutes, his team consists of his mom, Kurt and Jacob Ben Israel, this incredibly annoying kid they'd gone to high school with and for reasons unknown to the rest of them, Brittany had stayed friends with.


Kurt's the same as having a stuffed animal on his team and considering the fact that Jacob just got tangled in the net standing still, he doesn't have high hopes for him either. He's hoping he got his sports prowess from his mom, but that's not looking too likely since she's standing next to Kurt discussing the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy rather than at the net like he told her to.

"Tubs! Get ready for a beat down, the likes of which have not been seen since Siskel and Ebert got into an argument over Ebert's raving review of Glitter!" Sue barks, grabbing the ball from Mike and serving it right at Kurt, who puts his hands over his head and ducks. "That's one!"

He sighs, attempting to rally his team but to no avail. Sue's team quickly scores six points before his team even has the chance to serve once. He serves the ball, racing to the net to cover for Kurt, who hasn't even noticed the game started again, since he's texting on his phone at the net. Puck hits the ball back over and his mom actually manages to hit the ball back to Sue's team.

He turns his head to congratulate his mom when he hears it.

"I'm sorry I was so late Artie, but my car died."

It's the same sexy voice from before and it's coming from the deck. He whirls his head around trying to see who the source of the voice is, but whoever it is, is not in view. He's craning his neck to see better when he hears a very unwelcome voice.

"Pay attention, Nancy! This Sylvester Spike's got your name on it!"

He turns his head back just in time to see Sue high in the air across the net from him, spiking the ball on a trajectory straight at him. He puts his hands up to block it at the last second (and also to avoid getting hit in the face) but the ball ricochets off his hands and heads straight for the deck.

"Heads up!" he calls out as he runs to the base of the deck ramp, hoping the ball doesn't hit anyone.

Too late.

He winces as the ball bounces off the back of a small girl who's bent over a cooler. Startled, she stands up straight, allowing him to see that it's not a girl, but is in fact a woman.

A way hot woman.

She's tiny, with long dark hair and dark brown eyes that are staring in surprise at him. His eyes roam over her red dress, noticing immediately that she's got long shapely legs underneath and he stares back at her, the fact that he just hit her with a volleyball completely forgotten.

Fortunately, he's got Burt to remind him. His stepdad picks up the ball and tosses it back to Finn, fully expecting him to catch it. Finn, completely mesmerized by this girl, once again fails to see the ball coming this way and it hits him in the face before rolling lazily back towards the game.

"Hey! Heads up yourself," Burt calls out teasingly. "You trying to make this poor girl feel better by getting hit yourself?"

She laughs at that and his mouth drops open in shock.

It's her. She's the voice he'd heard before, the one that had him so enchanted. He continues to stare at her just as Brittany comes up to him, a sleeping Connor in her arms. "Rachel, where did you put those Elmo hats we made?"

"Oh! I left them inside!" She beams, rushing over to the door and holding it open for Brittany to go through. "I'll show you where!"


He's wrapping his head around the fact that the unknown Rachel who's been a pain in his ass all afternoon is the same totally smoking girl with the sexy voice that he's just nailed with a volleyball when he hears that same unpleasant voice.

"Lurch! Contrary to what you think, the game is over here! And bring the guy who nailed you in the face. Not only did he do you a big favor by improving your looks, that hit earned him a spot on Team Sylvester," Sue barks, having procured her bullhorn from the side of the court.

His face flushes and he's about to head back to the game when Artie wheels down the ramp, coming to a stop next to him.

"Good news Finn," he announces as he brakes. "I did a little reconnaissance and Santana's single and looking for a good time. Brits says she's really sexually aggressive."

"Huh?" Finn asks, completely distracted by the fact that Rachel has come back out on the deck. "Who is?"

"Weren't you listening?" Artie demands. "Santana is. You'll be having a good night tonight."

"Santana who?" he asked blankly, suddenly jealous of Burt since he's talking to Rachel as he hands her a water out of the cooler. Rachel's laughing at something Burt's just said and he really hopes he's not telling her about the time Kurt dared him to eat some questionable meat and he threw up all over his mom.

"Santana! Quinn just told me you were drooling over her before?"

"Oh right, her. Yeah, she's hot," he replies absently, still wondering what the hell Burt was talking with Rachel about.

"I thought so. I'll make sure to introduce you later," Artie offers, nodding towards Santana on the deck. "Remember, she's sexually aggressive. You might even get some in the car."

"Yeah, that'd be great," he replies distractedly, still watching Burt and Rachel converse. He was so cornering Burt later. Burt totally owes him for all he burgers he's snuck in for him over the years so he better be talking him up.

"Wheels! Stop giving Herman Munster tips on how to be even more lame! He's got a game to lose!"

Finn sighs, sneaking one last look at the deck. "Gotta go."

His team loses handily, the one bright spot being Jacob falling in the pool as he ran to hit the ball. Finn himself spent the remainder of the game plotting out conversation starters in his head which meant they lost in under five minutes, a time Sue claimed was a World Record.

He waits until Sue storms off to call Guinness Book before he darts to the deck, hoping she's still with Burt since that would give him the perfect in.

Naturally, Rachel's nowhere to be found and Burt's now talking to Artie's dad. While he'd normally jump right into a conversation about the Yankees, he's kind of on a mission to find out more about Rachel.

He plops himself down next to Burt, hoping his presence will put an end to the current conversation and they can move on to much more important things, like Rachel.

After a few perfunctory comments by Finn about the Yankees, Artie's dad inadvertently gives him an opportunity to get information. "So Finn, enjoying the party?"

"Yeah," he says casually. "Brittany did a great job on the decorations."

"Well she had some help," Artie's dad tells him cheerfully.

"Oh did she?" he asks, as if he didn't know. He can see Burt looking at him out of the corner of his eye (probably wondering what's with Finn's sudden interest in decorating) and he squirms a little, suddenly wishing that Kurt was there to talk decorations.

"I stopped by the other day and they were busy making buttons and goody bags." Artie's dad takes a drink of his beer before he continues. "Brittany and her little friend Rachel even worked backstage on them during shows."

Finn's ears prick up at this tidbit and he tries his best to be casual. "That's convenient. I guess she's a dancer too?"

Artie's dad shrugs. "Not sure."

"She's not a dancer. She's the assistant stage manager but she's hoping to get her big break soon," Burt clarifies, a sly grin on his face as he stares at Finn. "She told me all about it when she introduced herself before."

"Oh really?" Finn comments, squirming under Burt's all knowing gaze. "Assistant stage manager, huh?"

"You considering a change of career, Finn?" Burt asks slyly. "I know how much you love Broadway."

Finn flushes, running a hand over his neck. "Uh no."

"Thats too bad," Burt quips. "I was gonna say you should talk to her and find out about the job. I'm sure you'd be more than willing to listen to what she had to say."

He flushes even more and looks out into the yard, his eyes scanning the yard for any sign of Rachel. Sue's stormed back into the yard and is terrorizing the bouncy house and he sees Artie talking to Santana on the lawn but Rachel is nowhere to be found. "I uh, do like Broadway. Kurt, uh, got me into it."

"Right. Your sudden interest in Broadway is because of Kurt," Burt teases.

"He did," Finn defends, noticing that Rachel has appeared over by the food table. He sits up a little straighter, watching her place various condiment bottles on the table. She arranges the bottles and steps back, eyeing her work critically for a moment and he stares, memorizing the way she tucks a lock of hair behind her ear as she contemplates.

"Uh huh, right," Burt teases, his eyes following Finn's gaze over to the food table. "Bet you're hungry now, right Finn?"

He glared at Burt, knowing that the tips of his ears were going pink. "Uh, yeah. I could eat."

Ignoring Burt's smirk, Finn stands, fully intending to offer his services at the food table. He heads over there, mentally thinking of something better to say to Rachel other than I'm the loser who hit you with the volleyball, but coming up empty.

Rachel's now attempting to light the sternos to heat the food and he's just about to open his mouth to offer help when Jacob Ben Israel totally cuts in front of him and breathlessly asks Rachel if she needs help.

Rachel straightens to stare at him. "Why thank you, Jacob, that's quite chivalrous of you."

He watches her hand the matches over to Jacob with a smile and he's not sure but he thinks her smile got a little wider when her eyes flickered past Jacob to him.

Still in disbelief that Jacob beat him to Rachel, he takes a step closer, planning to eliminate Jacob from the equation. Jacob's actually making it really easy for him, since he's accumulating a small pile of matches on the table in an attempt to get one match to light and he can tell Rachel's getting annoyed. Once again, he's just about to open his mouth, when someone else steps in front of him.

"Oh baby, there you are," Carole says as she looks up at him. "I need you to go to the store."

"Huh?" He stares past his mom to Rachel, pleased but embarrassed that Rachel is watching him and his mom while Jacob still tries to light a match next to her.

"Brittany's just told me that she forgot to get the Italian bread for the meatballs I made which means that we can't have heroes like she planned. I need you to go get me Italian bread."

"Now?" he cries. His eyes fall on Rachel again, who's now bent over the table arranging the Elmo plates and he can totally see down the front of her dress, which is awesome. To his annoyance, Jacob has noticed this also, the box of matches in his hand completely forgotten as he ogles Rachel and he's sorely tempted to take one of the ears of corn lying nearby and start hitting Jacob with it for even looking at Rachel like that.

"Yes, now," Carole admonishes.

"Why can't Kurt go?" he demands, frowning as a guy he doesn't know says something that he can't hear to Rachel, who smiles at him. His face falls as he watches her go inside with the guy, wondering if that's her boyfriend.

Jacob's evidently wondering the same thing because he puts the matches down and follows them inside, something Finn sorely wishes he could do, but instead he's got to listen to his mom's explanation as to why Kurt can't go, why it has to be him.

"Fine, I'll go," he mutters, dying to know who that guy is.

Carole beams. "Hurry baby, we're almost ready to eat."

He nods, hurrying out of the yard to his car, his mind analyzing every detail of Rachel's interactions with that guy.

The car ride to the supermarket has him convincing himself that that's her boyfriend (or worse, her husband) and he should just back off or let Jacob take the fall. The bread aisle of the supermarket somehow sees a reversal of this and he's much cheerier as he grabs the requested loaves, now believing that that guy was just another guest at the party, which meant he could totally make a move once he got back.

His mind flips back to Rachel having a boyfriend as he pays and drives back to the party. Someone as hot as her has to, it's like a rule. The thought runs through his head on an endless loop as he parks and walks back into the house.

"Here," he says glumly, handing his mom the bread. His mom nods, clearly distracted as she grabs a knife to start cutting.

Rachel, he notices, is in the kitchen too, pausing her salad tossing to smile shyly at him.

He smiles back, his eyes doing a quick ring check. He's relieved to see only bare hand and eliminates the husband theory although he supposes she could still have a boyfriend.

The fact that she smiled at him has to mean something but he's damned if he knows what. He debates saying something to her but chickens out at the last minute, instead giving her another smile before he goes back outside.

His mood gets a little better when he sees the guy she'd gone inside with kissing some girl in the pool which he thinks means he can totally make a move on Rachel (he refuses to consider Jacob serious competition, he just does) and he makes up his mind to talk to her.

At some point today.

He's going to talk to her, he is. He's just going to wait for the perfect opportunity.

And the courage.

Ok, so he hasn't gotten the nerve to talk to her yet, but he's totally been watching her every movement (which does not make him a stalker, no matter what Kurt says). Besides, he can't exactly move in before he knows her situation, guy wise. So far, he's watched her talk to a few different men (none of which he knew) and to his supreme annoyance, a tall guy with brownish-blond hair wearing a suit (seriously, who wears a suit to an Elmo party?) was usually near her.

He spies his chance when she's refilling the bowls of banana chips in the kitchen. He doesn't know where the douche in the suit is but he's not about to blow this opportunity. Dinner's over so his mom can't send him to the store and he's successfully distracted Jacob with a Victoria's Secret catalogue he'd found in Artie's den which means he's free to make a move.

Ever suave, he runs his fingers over his eyebrows and grabs a bowl of banana chips, dumping them on the floor before he attempts to smoothly sidle up next to her, a move which is totally blown when he trips over Connor's toy truck lying abandoned in the middle of the kitchen and practically slams into the fridge.

He's mortified but for once luck seems to be on his side since he manages to right himself before she turns around.

She's staring at him, clearly waiting for him to say something, which totally sucks since his tongue is tied in a million knots. He knows that this is the opportunity to turn on the charm, but his mind goes blank and he can only think of one thing to say. "Bananas! I...I mean... I need banana chips."

"Wow! I just filled these. I guess they're pretty popular!" She smiles at him, holding her hand out for the bowl just as he thrusts his hand forward. Their fingers graze in the transfer and the feeling of her fingers touching his sends a million sparks shooting through his body and he wonders if she feels it too.

He hopes she does.

His eyes are fixed on her as she refills the bowl, his fingers playing nervously with the hem of his t-shirt. "Um yeah...everyone should follow Elmo's diet."

Oh God.

He did not just say that. He couldn't have. There's just no way he was that lame, that he'd actually quote his mom when trying to pick up a girl. His face goes scarlet and he stares at the ground, too mortified to look at her.

The giggle that reaches his ears makes him feel slightly better and he dares to look up, relieved to see that Rachel looks amused and not repulsed. He smiles tentatively at her, his fingers still playing with his shirt. "I…I just wanted to apologize for hitting you. Sue spiked the ball at me and I wasn't ready."

"It's perfectly alright, Finn. These things happen." She laughs, placing a hand on his arm, her laugh sounding like the pealing of church bells to him.

"Still. You could have-wait. How do you know my name?"

He's momentarily panicked, wondering if his mom decided to try and party matchmake again. Last time, at his cousin Lauren's wedding, she'd worked her way from table to table, telling the single girls (and single waitresses) about her equally single son who'd come alone to the wedding. She'd lined up dances for him, which was a bad idea, since his dancing scared off most of the girls and the ones who weren't scared off were scary themselves.

She fingers the button he's forgotten he's wearing before her eyes drift up to stare at him. "You have Dorothy the goldfish on your button."

"Huh?" He has no idea what she's talking about, but he's more than happy to stare at her as she elaborates.

"When Brittany and I were making them, I decided that only you should have Dorothy since your name is also a fish part. I thought it would be cute, especially since you're Connor's Godfather. You know, something special just for you." She smiles at him, worrying her bottom lip in this way he finds so adorable (and sexy. Definitely sexy).

"Oh. Yeah…yeah I am." Relief flows through him at the thought that his mom was leaving his dating life alone (for now) and he stares at her, noticing how dark a shade of brown her eyes were. It reminds him of a Milky Way Dark candy bar, which is like his favorite candy bar ever and he finds himself staring at her even more. Her hair, he decides, isn't the quite the same color as a Milky Way Dark bar and instead likens it to a regular Milky Way (which is totally his second favorite candy bar and therefore just as awesome).

"I like you tattoo," she offers with a smile, gesturing to Elmo grinning happily at her from his bicep.

He flushes, having totally forgotten about that damn tattoo. "Um, I was putting tattoos on the kids and Brittany insisted I needed one too."

"Well I think it's cute." A blush appears on her face when she says this, in a way that he finds totally hot.

He lets his fingers play nervously with his hem as he stares. "So um..."

"Rachel! There you are!" The suit wearing douche he'd noticed hovering around her before comes up to them, placing his hand on her shoulder. "Are you ready to leave? I'm Elmo'd out and I need to be back in time for warm-ups."

"Oh of course. I'll be right there, Sebastian." She bites her lip as she stares at Finn, Sebastian tapping the floor impatiently next to her. Each tap makes Finn's annoyance level rise and he finds himself wanting to grab a volleyball and nail him with it. "I have to go but it was lovely to meet you."

"You're leaving?" he blurts out. "Connor hasn't even cut the cake yet. And it's a totally awesome cake. I should know, my brother made it and even though he wouldn't let me try any, his cakes are always incredible."

"We have to go," Sebastian says firmly, taking a hold of Rachel's elbow. Finn's eyes follow his hand, trying to determine if that was the move of a douchy boyfriend or a douchy friend.

"I think we can wait a few minutes." She smiles at Finn, shaking her elbow free from the guy Finn really hopes is just a friend. "After all, it would be rude to go before singing happy birthday."

"Rachel, we have to get back to the city," Sebastian insists. "I told you numerous times on the way here, Cipriani's at 8 remember?"

"Yes, I'm aware."

He's pleased to detect an iciness in her voice, the kind of iciness usually reserved for an annoying friend and not a boyfriend. He should know, he'd heard Quinn use it a hundred times on Puck before they started dating. He eyes the suit douche, who's now got a hand against Rachel's back but he can't tell if it's in the friend zone or the boyfriend zone. His neck cranes a little, trying to determine hand placement.

Rachel turns slightly, making the hand drop but he doesn't know if that's the simple friend don't touch me there or the more complicated girlfriend don't touch me I'm mad at you move.

"Then you're aware I need time to change since Connor got an Elmo cupcake on my sleeve," Sebastian insists, holding out his sleeve so Rachel can see the Elmo red frosting still residing there.

Finn resists the urge to snort but vows to slip Connor some candy or something as a thank you. "That sucks."

"Connor is asleep. I can't leave without saying goodbye to the birthday boy," Rachel insists, smiling at Finn. "He'll be up soon. We'll sing and then we can leave."

He smiles back, hoping Connor takes a long ass nap.

Suit Douche frowns, looking from Rachel to Finn. "Rachel. It's imperative to be at Cipriani's at 8."

"I know. I've been hearing about it for days," she replies, her smile fading a little. "And we'll leave after we sing. Didn't you promise Brittany you'd give a performance?"

Suit Douche mulls her words. "You're right, I did. A Broadway performance from Guys and Dolls own Skye Masterson will really make the party."

"You'd better go warm up then," Rachel urges, throwing another smile at Finn.

"Good thinking. I better go find an acoustically perfect room."

To Finn's relief, he hurries off, leaving him alone with Rachel once again. He smiles down at her, intending to start a conversation that doesn't involve the words Elmo or banana chips. "So you're-"


Damn. Frustrated at being interrupted again, he turns to see Suit Douche coming back their way.

"Rachel! I can't find an acceptable room but its ok since Connor is up," he announces. "We can sing and then leave."

Seriously? Could his luck get any worse? Forget giving Connor extra candy, he's totally gonna play with the drum set he got him for his birthday before Connor can since he just cockblocked him. He stares down at Rachel, wondering why she looks annoyed.

"Oh. I guess I better go help Brittany then." She gives him another smile before hurrying off, leaving him with Suit Douche.

Not about to stay and talk to him, Finn debates following Rachel, but before he can do anything, he sees Artie gesturing to him. Relieved that he doesn't have to talk to the suit douche, he hurries over, noticing for the first time that Artie's not alone.

"Finn, this is Brittany's friend Santana," Artie announces immediately. "I'll just leave you two to talk."

Mortified at Artie's obviousness, Finn blushes, looking past Santana into the dining room where Rachel is talking to Brittany about something. He smiles, not realizing that Artie has already wheeled off.

"So what's your deal?" Santana asks bluntly.

"Huh?" Startled, he tears his gaze from Rachel to look at Santana.

"What's your deal?" she repeats. "Artie says you're a video game geek too?"

"Oh. Um yeah," he replies, his gaze going back to Rachel after taking a quick peek at Santana's rack (one good thing about this party, he's seen a lot of boobs).

"In my experience, game geeks are pretty lame in bed, although good with their hands," she critiques.

"Yeah," he agrees absently, busy watching Rachel, who he notices has lifted her eyes to look in his direction. "You're totally right."

Santana snorts. "Smooth. But lucky for you, I'm in the mood to have a little fun."

He tears his gaze from Rachel when he feels Santana step closer to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "What?"

She runs a hand down his arm, giving his bicep a squeeze. "Hmm. Slightly firm, I can work with this."

He notices Rachel is staring at him out of the corner of his eye and he finally realizes what Santana is talking about. "Uh that's really nice of you but-"

She pulls his head down to his level, her tongue licking his ear once before she murmurs into it. "Why don't we get out of here?"

"Um, I need to be here to help Connor," he lies, trying to free himself.

"You're kidding me right?"

"No. I need to um...make sure he doesn't spit when he blows out the candles," he replies, noticing that Rachel has completely stopped arranging desserts and is staring in his direction.

"I think the Rugrat can handle a few candles," she decrees, running her hands up his shirt and over his chest.

"It's not just that. I have to um, test the candles to make sure they're working right." He closes his eyes, hardly believing he was that lame again. He glances over to the dining room, noticing that Rachel is no longer there. "Maybe some other time."

"Seriously?" Santana demands, arching an eyebrow. "Wait. Hold up. You a virgin or something?"

He ignores her, walking away and looking around for Rachel. Suit Douche is nowhere to be found either, which worries him. He's still not sure what their relationship is, but he knows one thing: he's determined to talk to her again.

And this time, he won't be lame.

He doesn't get to do it again.

The opportunity arises for him to be lame several more times that night (once including sitting on Burt's plate of desserts) but he never gets to talk to Rachel again, since apparently she's like a ninja and slipped out before Connor blew out his candles.

He asks Brittany but she just says that Rachel had to get back to the city and he spends the rest of the party wondering why she left when she seemed determined to wait to sing Happy Birthday.

Artie's no help at work on Monday, coming into Finn's office to discuss the party's success and Santana.

"So Mike told me that Tina wants Brittany to help her plan a Dora party for Emily since she did such an awesome job with the decorations," Artie enthuses, not even noticing Finn's funk.

He's about to respond with a standard response, when he realizes what Artie's just said. "Wait. I thought Rachel helped Brittany."

"Yeah, she did. Tina wants them both to help," Artie replies. He stares at Finn curiously. "So how was Santana?"

"Kind of slutty. So was Brittany mad Rachel left?" he asks, trying to sound casual.

"That's what makes it fun. So just how aggressive is she?" Artie demands.

"She comes on pretty strong but um, Brittany didn't say anything about why Rachel left?" he stammers, hoping Artie picks up on his hint.

"I have no idea. So did you sleep with her? Where'd you two do it?" Artie asks, eager for details. "Brittany told me she said you were doable."

"Who said that? Rachel?" Finn questions, the thought of a naked Rachel now burned into his brain. Blushing, he shifts his chair further under the desk, hoping Artie doesn't notice anything.

"Rachel?!" Artie cries. "You'd crush her! Besides, she's so scary and intense, I bet she's like that in bed too. She'd probably schedule everything out. I'm talking about Santana."

"Oh. No, I didn't sleep with her," he replies, seriously doubting that Rachel would be rigid in bed. The thought of her in his bed is making his pants tight and he's going to need a change of subject fast.

"No worries. Fourth of July is in a few weeks, you can try again then," Artie decides. "Brittany and Rachel already have plans to get together and make the decorations for our annual party."

"Really?" Finn perks up at this news, assuming that if Rachel is helping Brittany, that must mean she's invited. "That's awesome."

It really is. Brittany always throws a huge party for the Fourth of July and since all the games will be designed for adults, his chances of looking lame in front of Rachel are significantly decreased (and he'll totally be on the lookout for stray plates of food before he sits. He's sick of seeing Puck reenact it). Plus, he'll get to see her in a bathing suit, which will probably make the Fourth of July like his favorite holiday ever.

He grins at the thought of seeing Rachel again (hopefully in a bikini), completely forgetting about Artie in front of him.

"Excited about seeing her again?" Artie asks knowingly, taking in the glazed over look on his best friend's face.

"Hell yeah," he replies, his mind imagining Rachel in various bikinis while he planned out their next meeting. While he couldn't guarantee he wouldn't say or do anything lame in front of Rachel, he could guarantee that this time, not only would he say more than two words to her, he'd be getting her phone number.

No matter what.

A/N: So this is just going to be a three shot, possibly four, of the developing relationship between Finn and Rachel over the course of a few parties at Brittany's. I do have them written for the most part, so they'll be up soon, as well as updates to my other stories.

I got the idea for this while at an Elmo party for a cousin. Like Rachel, I was hit in the back with a volleyball while bending over a cooler, but unlike Rachel, it was a cousin who hit me :(