The song threaded through this story is "I Wish You Christmas", a carol by John Rutter. No infringement or offense is intended by the inclusion of the lyrics, or in the use of the Glee characters.

Dear readers and Finchelites the world over, I wish you all the best for the season, whatever you may be celebrating.

December 2019.

One day in early December, Finn Hudson had returned to his L.A. apartment from the school where he worked, made himself dinner, and was just settling down to watch the game when he remembered that he still needed to talk to his mom about his annual visit home for Christmas. It had been a few weeks since he had spoken to her, as well, so he called and they talked for a while, catching up.

"Are you bringing anyone?" she asked once he had filled her in on his arrival date, December 23rd.

"Uh, no," Finn answered, his stomach sinking a little at what had, over the years, become an inevitable question with a just as inevitable answer. "No, Mom, it's just me."

"Oh. I thought maybe..." Carole trailed off. "I suppose I should be used to it by now, no girl makes it as far as Christmas. But you can't keep doing this, Finn."

Finn sighed. "Maybe not, Mom, but that's what happens. When it gets close, I just..." he sighed again. "I've only ever found one person I wanted to spend Christmas with," he admitted. "Other than you and the rest of the family, I mean."

"Oh Finn." He could hear the sympathy in his mom's voice. He hated hearing it, hated knowing that she was hurting for him. Somehow that was even worse than what her annual question reminded him of, that he was still no closer to loosening the hold that Rachel Berry had on his heart.

"Hey it's okay," he said. "It is what it is. Maybe someday, all right? But this year it's just me, hope I'm enough."

"You're always enough," she answered, her voice warming. "I love you, Finny. Take care of yourself and we'll see you on the twenty-third."

They hung up, but Finn was still left with the feeling that the question always gave him. It wasn't that he hadn't tried to move on, there had been a few times when he'd thought he had. He had a good life, friends, a job, decent career possibilities and plenty of options that looked great. He dated. But Christmas had always been special to him, his favorite holiday, and no matter how well he thought things were going with a girl, he had never managed to imagine any of them as part of his Christmas. Once the decorations started going up and the music filled the stores, and Christmas party organizers asked whether he was bringing a guest, he would know that she just didn't fit, and that was that.

Rachel was still the only girl he had ever been able to envision kneeling with him around the tree, exchanging presents on Christmas morning; her voice, the one he always wanted to hear with his when singing carols. Trying to think of any other girl in that role always brought his thoughts back to Rachel.

Two days later Finn had managed to file the issue back into the back of his head. He went about his classes in the morning at Forest Green, the private school where he currently worked as a replacement for Mrs. Fitzgerald, their permanent music teacher who was currently on family leave. Everything was going well at work, with the preparations well in hand for the Christmas concert, and as the morning finished he took his packed lunch from his desk and went down the hall to eat with the other teachers.

Finn turned into the teachers' lounge, then stopped dead as the sound coming from the TV hit him, the sound of a woman singing in the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice he could never mistake. That still shot straight to his heart just like it had the first time.

I wish you starlight on fields of snow,
The winter's morning light and evening's glow;
I wish you candles that shine from every tree,
So all the world can see
The light that there could be.

Usually the TV was on one of the daytime talk shows, and maybe it was but –

Finn forced himself to look over at the TV. Not that he didn't already know who it was, her voice clenching that grip on his heart even tighter.

I wish you music, I wish you song,
With voices echoing, joyous and strong;
I wish you church bells, ringing true and clear;
I wish you Christmas, a merry Christmas,
A merry Christmas to remember all the year.

He saw her. Rachel. Standing there, singing on a small stage, looking stunningly beautiful in a short red dress, giving a smile to the camera as she continued.

Old friends smiling,
Thinking of times gone by;
Young friends laughing:
Christmas is here,
Spirits are bright,
and hopes are high.

Times gone by... he couldn't escape thinking of those. But even the thoughts he'd been having about his lost love paled before how he felt seeing and hearing her there.

"Please turn it up," he managed to get out, needing to hear her more. Suddenly the sound stopped and the picture disappeared. "Up," he repeated, loudly, needing to hear her again. "Not off, up. Please."

"Sorry, didn't know you were listening," the reply came from one of the others. After a pause the TV came on again.

And damn, her song was over, the audience applauding – yes it was a talk show – and a woman saying they would be talking to Rachel Berry after the break. Then it cut to commercial.

To hear her speak, now... Finn couldn't manage to turn away. He had done his best to avoid her at first, which had turned into simply not seeking out what he knew would be out there, her rising success on Broadway. Deep down he had always known that any sight or sound of her – especially sound – would bring him to this state, unable to look away, craving more. Though of course he knew about her recent Tony win, best featured actress in a musical, and it had given him a strange mix of pride and heartbreak.

The others in the lounge had settled down, and he could hear a few of the older teachers talking about "what a beautiful voice", so he waited through the commercials without any of them registering, and then the show was back.

It was the New York-based "Jack and Jill" show, hosted by two women, the auburn-haired middle-aged and dry-witted Jacqueline and the dark-haired, slightly younger and more enthusiastic Angela. It was a frequent choice in the lounge at lunchtime, normally just part of the background noise for Finn, though Kurt had occasionally mentioned it when they talked. From what Kurt had said it figured that it would be the show Rachel would appear on, they were big Broadway enthusiasts.

The three women were sitting on stools now, the hosts together on the right and Rachel on the left, tilted inwards to face both each other and the audience. What they were saying didn't make sense to Finn at first, his brain having almost completely frozen at the sight of her, perched with her legs very much exposed, her short skirt covering hardly anything at all, her feet carefully placed on the stool's footrest. Any progress he ever thought he'd made in getting over her had vanished in the sound of her voice, the sight of her beautiful form and face and smile and – oh God help me I'm dying.

Finn took a couple of deep breaths, getting himself under control and snapping his mind back into some vague kind of usefulness. He couldn't zone out completely, he still had an afternoon band class to teach, and a big choir rehearsal for the Christmas concert.

The three women were talking about Rachel's Christmas album – she has a Christmas album – with Jack starting off on the details and Jill taking the lead with how wonderful she thought it was. Of course it's wonderful. Rachel, singing, Christmas, total no-brainer how great that would be.

"So why a Christmas album?" Jack asked as Jill's gushing finished. She laughed. "Other than the time of year, of course. You're riding high, with your Tony win and the Funny Girl revival coming next year –"

She's doing Funny Girl next year. That's so amazing, Rach, I always knew you could – and that combination of heart-swelling pride at her success and heart-rending ache at not being with her settled into Finn again.

"– it's a lovely album but I'm sure I'm not the first one to comment that it's an unusual choice, as a next step. We're talking all week to our guests about what makes Christmas special to them, and this certainly shows it's special to you. Is there something particularly meaningful for you, in making this?"

"Some special childhood Christmas memories tied to these songs?" Jill chimed in.

"Well," Rachel started to answer, gathering herself on her seat in a manner that suggested she had expected this sort of question. "I was raised Jewish, so I didn't have a lot of exposure to Christmas, not a real family Christmas. Just the public kind of Christmas, which is wonderful, though it's not the same. But a dear friend who did grow up with Christmas always loved it, and taught me to love it too."

"That's beautiful. So when you made a Christmas album you thought of this person," Jill commented.

"It was the other way around, actually." Rachel looked a bit self-conscious at this admission. "I know what it looks like to some people, a Jewish girl doing a Christmas album right away, sort of mercenary. But I always knew who I wanted to dedicate my first album to, and because of that it made sense that it be a Christmas album, so when the suggestion arose I jumped at the chance. I also love all of the songs on it, and I hope everyone else will too."

"Oh. Okay," Jill nodded. "And how are you spending your holidays?"

"Well, for the next two weeks I have some appearances and signings for the album, here in New York and L.A., San Francisco, Boston and Chicago," Rachel said. "And I'm also trying to celebrate Hanukkah with my dads as much as I can during that."

"And Christmas?"

"I enjoy New York at Christmas, the city is so beautiful at this time of year, and so lively."

"Any people in that?" Jack pushed, needling a little while still staying light.

"Nobody specific." Rachel paused. "With all due apologies to the other people in my life – I've only ever really found one person I wanted to spend Christmas with."

"Wow. And we're out of time, of course, just when you drop something like that we run out of time." Jack shot Rachel a rueful smile, then both of the hosts turned to face the front, and a close-up camera cut in. "The album is 'I Wish You Christmas', from Rachel Berry, Broadway's darling and apparently also woman of mystery. Thank you for coming on the show, Rachel."

"My pleasure."

The women said something about the next day's guests, and then the show's closing credits rolled, but Finn just sat there, stunned. What Rachel had said, it had been almost exactly what he'd said to his mom two nights ago. He'd meant her then, did she mean him now?

That talk about the 'dear friend' who introduced her to a real Christmas, doesn't that have to be me? And then her album – that's why she made it? I'm why she made it?

They'd been talking about some dedication on the album. He had to get it, had to see for sure.

But first – band class, and the choral rehearsal. Even with all this, he had to give the kids his full attention, they had all worked so hard on everything and been so willing to try the new things he'd had them do. He'd even put together some arrangements himself to show off their unusual strengths, and it always gave him such a charge to hear how well it had worked out. Still, he couldn't help but be preoccupied.

That night, as soon as he got back to his apartment, Finn fired up his computer to buy and download Rachel's Christmas album. As he waited he noticed it already had some excellent reviews, good to see even though not actually surprising. He'd always known she was a star, now finally the rest of the world knew it too.

The download finished, and Finn braced himself to hear her again. He started with the title track, wanting to hear what he'd missed. He didn't know the song though he had heard of the composer; it was a modern choral number but must have been rearranged for a soloist, he figured. The part he had heard on the show played, with a choir backing her up this time, and then it went on, with her voice shooting straight into him the way it always did.

I wish you loved ones around your fire;
May Christmas bring you all your heart's desire.
I wish you children to make the season new,
With dreams you help come true,
Just like it was for you.

But how could he have any of that without her? He couldn't manage to even bring a girlfriend home for Christmas, it never felt right with anyone else.

I wish you blessings, I wish you love,
The sound of angel choirs from high above;
I wish you laughter, happiness and cheer:
I wish you Christmas, a merry Christmas,
And may its joy and peace be with you through the year.

I wish you love... was this goodbye? The "wish you all the best in your life" that they'd never done, even as they'd gone their separate ways?

He stopped the playback. It was too hard to listen to more.

He sat there for a while, then finally mustered the courage to look through the digital "booklet" that came with the album. Seeing her picture was hard too, but not as hard as hearing her voice. Finally he turned to the inside of the front page, unable to put it off any longer, he had to see the dedication. And there it was.

for F.H.
for sharing love
of Christmas

Even the way she'd broken that second line, like she wanted to stop right there. Finn swallowed, tears spilling from his eyes. She remembered him too, thought of him at this time of year, even said the same thing about him that he'd said about her only two days ago. He wasn't really over her, deep down he knew he couldn't be, and from this it looked like she wasn't really over him either.

Signings, she'd said, she was doing appearances and signings, and one of them was here in L.A. He needed to see her.

He checked online, the search quickly leading him to her website – she has a website, I should have known but I never dared look – and the tour itinerary. He checked for the L.A. signing and cursed, he knew that date too well. It was the same afternoon as the school concert, he was running most of it so he wouldn't be free until that night, and by then she'd be gone.

But he needed to see her. And he couldn't let himself be annoyed by the concert, even if its timing sucked, the kids deserved so much better than that, and he'd put so much of himself into it too... But he needed to see her, and he didn't know what he could do.

He browsed aimlessly on the website, seeing more pictures of her, a lot of them the same as the ones in the album booklet, but also others, of her in various Broadway shows, including the one she'd won the Tony for, with friends, with her dads, one of her with Kurt – he'd always figured they were still close friends, despite Kurt keeping quiet for all the years in between, poor guy caught in the middle – but none of her with anyone that looked to be a 'significant other'. Arms wrapped around her costar from the show, sure, but he was gay, out and proud.

There was a page about her best featured actress Tony win, including a note of thanks. She hadn't been at the ceremony, some sort of flight trouble while getting there from appearing in the London production, reports had said. He had flipped to the awards show briefly on the night, unable to stay away entirely; he had wondered what she might have said if she had been there to accept, and then told himself it was better to not know. Here it was, apparently. He skimmed it, unable to bring himself to look too closely.

... Sorry I was unable to attend... glad I can thank the many people who have contributed to my success, without being constrained by time...

Even with his emotions high, Finn chuckled a little at this, it sounded so much like her. He had no idea how Rachel would have been able to keep her acceptance speech down to the 20 seconds or however long they were given, even considering how fast she could talk, and it looked like she didn't know either.

He read on, through mentions of costars and producers and backstage personnel, agent, teachers that included Mr. Schue, a mentor who helped her with her first role, friends, her dads... and then he saw one last.

And to the one who always told me to take my moment, thank you. I have and I will.

And Finn remembered, heard his own words in that, what he'd said to her before her first solo in their Glee competitions and also before her last.

A space, below, then centered near the bottom: Thank you all.

And under that: I mean every word.

Finn's heart thudded. He could still hear her tell him that before her song, Regionals junior year, still see the look on her face. He had to see her. With all that... he couldn't not see her.

Finn went back to the tour itinerary and checked the other dates, looked at his own schedule again, and within ten minutes had booked himself a flight to Chicago.

The Chicago signing was halfway through Rachel's promotional tour, after L.A. and San Francisco, but before Boston and New York. She was elated to see how well her album was being received; whether they came especially to see her or were simply shoppers gathered in once she sang, there was always a considerable line of people waiting for an autographed and personalized copy of her album, mostly for gifts, and she did her best to make each of them happy.

"And who is this for?" Rachel asked yet again, still looking down at the table as she changed her drying gold marker for a new one. She had a few versions of that question, but that was the most common. She took the CD booklet from her assistant Sarah, ready to sign.

"Carole," the man said, and she froze at the sound of that long-missed voice. She looked up, her eyes wide, and saw him smiling down at her. Finn. "It's for my mom."

She beamed back at him, the most genuine smile she'd given in the entire tour. "Hello Finn." She felt Sarah nudge her, and she quickly signed the booklet: For Carole – wishing you the best Christmases always – Love, Rachel Berry *. The message was an amped-up version of one of her usual ones, the "love" part was added especially for Carole. She could barely think. "It's so wonderful to see you." Part of her brain was spinning, repeating ohgodit'sFinnohgodit'sFinnohgod... over and over again. Even though she'd hoped she might see him again, that he'd hear about the album and the tour and come to find her, she was still staggered by it happening, his presence impacting her like none other could.

He took the booklet from her, their fingers grazing, and she sat there stunned at the contact. He, in turn, looked back at her, the corner of his mouth quirking up in that same half-smile that had always made her knees weak. He came, she thought. Oh Finn, you came.

"Keep it moving," a loud voice interrupted, and she looked over, flustered, to see one of the security guards detailed to manage the holiday crowds and the autograph line.

"But –" Finn protested, stepping away as another guard came up next to him, then turned his head back to her. "Rachel, I –"

"Finn –" Rachel dropped her signing pen and rose to her feet, protesting in turn, as well as she could with the shock of the whole situation. She wanted to talk to Finn, couldn't they see that? But the guards were insistent on moving him along. "No, wait –" she called out as security shepherded Finn away. "Stay, please, will you stop!" But the guards either hadn't heard her or didn't listen, and a moment later Finn was gone.

"Please," she cried out, in shock about the whole thing, her voice faltering and her body sinking back into her chair as the event registered. She had had her chance to see Finn, he had come to see her, and then he was gone and they had missed whatever chance they could have...

Sarah leaned over, concerned. "Are you all right? What did he say to you?"

"Nothing, I... he's an old friend, I wanted to talk to him." She drew on her reserves of strength and turned to Sarah. "Could you go after them, please?"

Sarah looked sceptical. "You look like you need help here, especially with that crowd. Are you sure you're all right?"

"I –" Rachel cast a look out, seeing the line that still waited, all people come to see her. "Yes, I'm fine. Please, go." She picked up her pen and nodded aside at Sarah, that she should go. She painted on a bright smile as she reached for the next booklet, and looked at the next person who had stepped forward to meet her. "Who is this for?"

Finn had been floored to see Rachel, to have her smile at him again and feel the touch of her hand. Too floored, unfortunately, to do anything when the security guards came up to move him off. He protested, and he thought behind him he heard Rachel protest too, but the guards were unresponsive and well-trained, and in seconds they had steered him away from the area in the store where Rachel's signing was taking place. Even with his height, he was sandwiched between the two burly men and had no choice but to go where they went, whether he wanted to listen to their orders or not.

"Look, I'll wait until she's done," Finn said, giving it a last try. "I'm an old friend, she'll want to talk to me, just ask her."

"Sure, and you're F.H., right?" the guard on his right commented sarcastically.

"You got your autograph," the one on his left, an older man, said. "You should leave now."

They walked him past the window, and he could see her sitting there, signing autographs again. He didn't know what he expected, it's not like she could really have run after him, but to see that – she didn't seem affected by what happened.

Maybe this is goodbye, he thought as he left the building. She did seem really happy to see me, but – maybe she meant goodbye. I wish you a happy life, thank you, goodbye.

He wondered how he could give the CD to his mom now, she would know he'd met up with Rachel when she saw the signature, and she'd get that sad look for him. He sighed.

Or maybe this could be closure for him like he guessed it was for her. He'd always figured the whole idea of closure was crap though. He'd certainly never seen any sign of it.

Mid-afternoon Christmas Eve, Finn was sitting at home in Lima, catching up on his email to various friends. He was on his own, Burt and his mom having gone down to Dayton to finish a little last-minute shopping and pick Kurt up from the airport.

The doorbell rang, and he went to answer it, figuring it was a neighbor dropping by to see his mom, like they usually did on Christmas Eve.

"I'm sorry, she's not –" Finn froze as he finished opening the door and saw the small brunette that stood there.

"Hello Finn." Rachel's smile was bright, but her eyes held a tentativeness that he knew well. She swallowed. "I'm so sorry about the security guards," she rattled off, clearly diving into what she had prepared to say. "They had no idea, they saw me react and assumed the worst, and by the time my assistant caught up with them you were gone –"

"It's okay," Finn managed to get out.

"After you came to see me, and it was so good to see you, I couldn't just leave it at that, let you think I was turning you away..." her voice trailed off, and she stopped, just looking at him.

"No, it was okay, I got it," Finn said, managing some bravado, even though at the time it had been anything but okay.

"Oh." She stood there, looking at him, as Finn just looked back at her, unable to get past the fact that Rachel was there, standing on his family's doorstep, there to see him.

The awkward silence continued, and her face fell. "I'm sorry, this was a bad idea," she said quietly, almost talking to herself as she turned away. "Maybe all of it."

"No." Finn put his hand on her arm, holding it in place, feeling her freeze at his touch. He couldn't let her leave, not now she was here. "No it wasn't," he continued, desperate. "Please stay."

Rachel turned back, and slowly raised her head to meet his eyes. He saw the trepidation and hope in them, and hoped that she could see the emotion in his. Her lips curved slightly. "All right."

Finn showed her inside. "Mom and Burt have gone to the airport to pick up Kurt, so we won't be interrupted." He paused, hoping she didn't think he meant something else. "So we can talk."

"Okay." her smile widened, and she let him take her coat. "I have to admit I did know when Kurt was arriving," she told him as he hung her coat in the hall closet. "I didn't talk to him about my coming, or say anything about you, but he mentioned some things about his flight in passing and I paid attention."

"So you wanted to be able to talk."

"Yes. I didn't know who would be going to get him, but – yes. I hoped we would have a chance to talk."

"Good." Finn concentrated on breathing, not daring to think about where this might be going. "Do you want some tea? I could make some," he offered.

"That would be nice," Rachel answered, and Finn excused himself for a moment to put on the kettle.

"So... how long have you been living in Chicago?" she asked as he returned, a standard icebreaker type of question.

"I don't."

"You... oh. Where do you live, then?"

And that was a big revelation, he'd have to admit what he'd done, how big a deal it had been for him to be able to see her. But she had gone so far out on that limb herself, the least he could do was join her. "I live in L.A.," he answered. "At least right now."

"You – L.A.?" Rachel was obviously confused. "I had a signing there too, a few days before. What brought you to Chicago?"

"A plane," Finn joked, but he sobered quickly. "I couldn't go to your L.A. signing, I had a commitment with the school I work for."

"So... you flew to Chicago? To – to see me?" She sounded hesitant, wondering, as if she didn't dare believe it.

"Yeah." He took a deep breath. "Hey, you came all the way here to see me," he said, trying to make light of it.

"You did yours first."

He met her eyes. "You made a whole album for me."

She blushed. "So I did." She paused, biting her lip, both of them just looking at the other. "Did you like it?" she asked.

"Your album? Yes I did. Do. But, you know, you could sing the phone book and I'd listen to it."

She smiled. "It might not sell so well with everyone else."

"Hard to believe." He smiled at her again, then mustered his courage. He had to ask, had to find out what he'd been wondering. "Did you mean goodbye?" he asked, then saw her puzzlement. He swallowed, his eyes looking down. "Were you saying goodbye with it," he explained, his voice shaking slightly. "All that 'I wish you...', did you mean...?" She was silent at first, and he raised his eyes again, unable to hide the longing he felt as he looked into her face.

"Not unless I had to," she replied, her own gaze flickering, her voice soft and emotional. "Do I have to?"

"No," he breathed. "You don't."

"Good." A smile curved her lips as she met his eyes. "Did you think I would come all this way just to say goodbye? If I could ever say that to you?"

"Well..." he thought of previous partings, but not as he had before, now without pain.

"That was different," she said, her expression rueful. "And I never said goodbye."

"Neither did I." They stood there looking at each other, the tension easing away.

"That song, the title track – it made me think so much of you," she said. "Of course I was doing the album already, but when I heard it, especially the ending, I had to sing it for you."

Finn reddened. "I didn't finish listening to it," he admitted. "It was too hard, hearing you."

"Oh. Then you should," she said. "If you'd heard that, you would know I didn't want it to be goodbye."

"I will," he replied. "Later. Or tomorrow, Mom's going to want to listen to her copy as soon as I give it to her."

"So that was real? You are going to give it to your mom?"

"Yes." Finn nodded. "I wasn't sure, after..." he let his words hang, not wanting to explain his frame of mind as he'd left Chicago. "But I meant to, originally, and now I will."

"Again, I'm so sorry about how the security guards acted," Rachel said. "They explained to me afterwards that they had to be careful, there have been some people claiming to be you."

Finn was puzzled. "Claiming to be me?"

"Claiming to be the person I dedicated the album to. A few out-and-out liars, the rest were delusional, but all potentially dangerous. Cryptic dedications are apparently not that good an idea."

"I'm glad you did it."

"So am I."

The kettle boiled then, and they took a break while Finn made the tea and brought some in for each of them.

"Do you still sing?" Rachel asked as she accepted the cup.

"Oh, yes." Finn smiled at Rachel's priorities, of course that's what she would want to know. "I made that mistake once, that was more than enough." He took a deep breath and let loose with a solid C, holding the note to make his point that yes, he had even improved since she had heard him last.

And then he was rocked as she joined in, first with a C the octave above his, then dropping down to the G to harmonize. The feeling... God, how he'd missed that, their voices together. Their notes died off and they looked at each other, just breathing.

"You have kept your voice up," Rachel murmured.

"Yeah, I... I've been singing with choirs, mostly. Got into it in college with the school's classical chorus, and there's always a choir looking for more men. These days I sing with a men's choir, second tenor. And I sing a little with a band I drum for, but we're pretty casual. I still perform, though."

"I'm so glad. You sound wonderful, better than ever."

"Thanks. So do you, you were always amazing, but now even more."

She smiled. "Thank you." They both paused. "So, you work for a school?" Rachel asked after a moment, sipping her tea. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be asking all the questions, but well I suppose you know what I'm doing."

"Yeah. No, it's okay. Right now I'm a music teacher at a private school in L.A., working with the chorus and the band. It's funny, after not knowing at all what I wanted to do before, I ended up doing a double degree, music and education, so I can do both, it's really flexible and it gives me an edge, being a specialist. My current job's a fill-in for a teacher who's been on family leave. She comes back after Spring Break, so I'll have to find something else after that, but I've really enjoyed working with the kids there, and the school gives me a lot of room to be creative in what we do."

"Well I'm sure they're very lucky to have you," she said. "I'm sorry to hear that it's just temporary."

"No, it's fine," he said quickly. "I have a lot of options, and I like it. The future's kind of wide open. And they've given me great references, so I already have a few offers."

"Wise people," she commented. "Any of particular interest?"

"Well, there's one I've been thinking about pretty seriously, a music charity for inner-city youth, they're looking for an assistant creative director," Finn admitted. "After a year at a private school it would be an interesting change, and Hit This does great work." He paused, waiting for what he'd said to sink in.

"They do," she responded. "I didn't know they had a program in L.A."

"They don't." He paused again. "As far as I know there's just the one."

"But –" Rachel blinked. "That's in New York, Broadway Outreach does some work with them. You – you were thinking of moving to New York?" her voice grew quieter, almost disbelieving.

"Yes. I wasn't sure though, I mean the job looks great, and I could start as soon as I'm done at Forest, but..." he exhaled. "I didn't want to get in your way." Their tea finished, he stood to take her cup.

"You wouldn't be in my way," she answered, standing too. "Not in a bad way, that is. And I would hate to be in your way, for you to not do what's best for you because of me."

There it was, that simple statement of what had pushed them apart.

Silence descended, each looking at the other.

"Whoa," Finn said eventually. "I guess the universe is better than I gave it credit for."

Rachel smiled. "It seems so. Though we should give it as much help as we can."

"You already did," Finn stated, thinking of her Christmas album, her message to him.

"So did you."

"Yeah." He paused, bending to put both of their cups down. "Well it is a really great offer," he said. "I'd get to have a lot of creative input, and the people there seem like they'd be awesome to work with."

"If it's the right fit for you then you should take it," she offered, pursing her lips as she finished, the tension between them starting to build again. But it was in a good way this time, the maybe-this-is-really-happening sort of way.

Finn could feel his heart beating, fast, faster still. "I should," he breathed, his head still lowered, and he knew he didn't just mean the job in thinking about what was the right fit. Then he straightened but bumped his head against something, realizing after a couple of seconds what it was, the mistletoe Burt had hung. Rachel looked up and noticed it too, then gave a slight smile.

"We don't have to," Finn said sheepishly, though he wanted to. They were going in that direction, but it might be jumping the gun.

"You always said it was the rule." She turned her face up to his, helping him close the distance. Finn lowered his head and gave her a light kiss, lips only, but even so –

Oh, God. Electricity. Rachel.

He raised his head enough to see into her eyes, seeing the same response in her that he felt in himself. Passion, longing, and utter terror. He leaned down again, wanting more, but found her lean away.

"Wait." Rachel's face and voice were serious. "If we do this..." she bit her lip, that old habit he found so endearing. "The stakes are so high, Finn."

"I know." He breathed, slowly, and yes he knew what she meant, "this" wasn't kissing, or whatever more might happen today, "this" was them, giving themselves another chance to be all they could be to each other. The chance that might be their last one, the one they had saved by not trying again when they were both still too hurt to make it work. "The best things are always like that. And this is like the definition of the best thing."

"Yes." She went up on her toes, holding him tightly as she pressed her lips to his again, this time with mouth open, allowing the kiss to deepen and their passion to escalate.

Finn wrapped his arms around her as they kissed, losing himself in the feel and taste of her, feeling joy and passion and home.

"Wow," Rachel breathed as their mouths finally parted. "We've still got it, huh."

"We do." He looked down at her, seeing her soft smile, hoping that this time, finally, they would get it right. "How long are you staying in Lima?" he asked.

"My flight's tomorrow..."


"But I'll change it. I just didn't want to take things for granted."

Finn smiled. "Do you want to come tomorrow? For Christmas?"

Rachel beamed. "I'd love to, Finn."

"I don't know about the food though, for you. There's a lot of meat."

"It's okay. I've relaxed my vegetarianism a little, I still try to keep it most of the time but I make exceptions."

"You'd make an exception for this?"

"Well it is a special occasion. And I do remember someone telling me that Christmas isn't the same without having at least some turkey and stuffing."

Finn grinned. "Now who was that, huh."

"Does your mom still make her famous green bean casserole?"

"Yep. It's not a festive meal at our place without it."

"I look forward to it."

It was too soon for I-love-you, or anything like that, but they both hoped those things would come out from where they hovered beneath the surface, in time. At least they had a chance to happen, each of them already knew that nobody else could ever fill that place in their hearts.

The next day Carole was delighted when the visitor Finn had hinted at turned out to be Rachel, and she cooed appreciatively over the CD. It immediately occupied the key spot in her collection of Christmas CDs, a special place it kept in future. Carole always insisted it was too precious to lose and that only she should put it on, and even many years later she still relished each time that her grandchildren came to her on Christmas Day and asked her to play it, knowing that it had helped their parents reunite and brought about their own existence.

Carole agreed that those were indeed the best Christmases, Rachel's wish brought to life.

I wish you music, I wish you song;
I wish you harmony your whole life long;
The warmth of memories that long remain;
I wish you Christmas, a merry Christmas,
And may God bless you till we all shall meet again.