A/N: A tumblr prompt by charmingfinchel and sandrafromparis, who asked for fluff and angst respectively. I hope this fulfills both requests
He slumps against his seat in their booth, glaring daggers at Santana who is currently working the entire dive bar like nobody's business. He doesn't know what he's doing here. Well, he knows why he's here, but he doesn't know why, you know? Scratch that, he totally knows why. It's because of Santana.
If his eyes could shoot out lasers, he'd shoot some her way because it's her fault he's even here in the first place. He should have known better than to have thought that the girl who made his life miserable all through high school would have his back now. Okay, fine. So he's exaggerating. She kind of does, have his back he means. To be honest, it kind of feels like she's the only one who does these days. She's a complete jerk about it though, but he's learned to filter past her bitch mode to get to the human in Santana, and well, she's not that bad. Plus, they're living together now (she says that it's to split the rent, but since she kind of blew most of her savings on new outfits for her auditions and the admittedly kind of awesome decorations in their otherwise crappy apartment and he's been paying their rent for the past four months, he's reevaluating that situation just a little bit. But he knows he won't even be here if it wasn't for her, so he lets it slide), so he really needs to learn to get through or ignore most of her bullshit, and she does the same thing with him.
But tonight though, tonight she's just being an ass.
He turns away from the offensive flirting happening right in front of his eyes, only for them to land on another unsavory sight. He stifles the urge to frown when he catches sight of Rachel pressing herself against the dude that's been flirting with her all night. They're on the dance floor, but that doesn't look much like dancing to him. The party hat on top of her head is skewed to the left, almost sliding down to her cheek, but she doesn't seem to notice it all as she giggles at something the dude is saying. He turns away quickly, looking down at his drink before he sees something he doesn't want to see.
Him and Rachel, they've been- well they've been talking. They're friends, like actual friends. Not friends who are secretly in love with each other or friends who are secretly hurt by each other or best friends or pretend friends or friends who are waiting for something more. They're just friends, friends. Strictly platonic. They talked about this about a month after he came out to New York, back when she was giving off the vibe like she didn't want him here. Granted, finding out that your ex has been living in the same city as you for weeks without telling you about it would have thrown anyone off, but that was exactly the reason why he didn't tell her, and made his mom and Burt promise not to tell Kurt. He didn't want things to be weird. He didn't want him being there to make things weird.
She was really pissed when he told her that though. She got mad at him for trying to 'control' her life again, and that pissed him off because since when did him trying not get in her way became the same thing as trying to control her? She told him that it was the principal of the matter, that she didn't need him to make these decisions for her, and he told her fine then, it was his decision not to get in her way, and maybe she should respect that, and that just made things worse. He's pretty sure they were screaming loud enough for the entire building to hear them, and they kept going at it until his downstairs neighbor started banging against his floor with something while screaming at them to shut the fuck up.
Yeah, so needless to say, him and Rachel being what they were, well it just wasn't working. So they decided to be friends. Just friends. It's been like three months, and it's a slow process but they're working on it. He's figured out the best way to approach a friendship with Rachel Berry. When the feelings come up, deny deny deny. He's getting to be a master at that these days. So they're friends, and it's not ideal, but he missed it, and he missed her, and if they couldn't be together, he'll take what he could get.
But that doesn't mean that he's fine with watching her flirt with other guys. It was hard enough when Brody was in the picture, and he wasn't even around then. But now that she's single and mingling, well it's just something he doesn't actually want to get used to. And that was exactly why he told Santana he didn't want to come tonight. He knew what 'Girls Night' was like. He's seen a few of those poor suckers stumbling out of Santana's room early in the mornings, and he was not interested in witnessing that first hand, thank you very much. Santana, Rachel and Kurt go out every Friday nights for drinks (the bar changes weekly since Santana stepped into Callbacks once, and stepped right out claiming that she's had enough of impromptu musical performances to last her a lifetime), and he'd always been handy with the excuses. It used to be because him and Rachel were at a weird place, but these days it's mostly because she's a friend he'd rather not see flirting with other men.
(He's aware that he probably should reevaluate this just friends thing with Rachel too, but he doesn't have time for that)
It helps that he works most Friday nights at the music store two blocks away from where he lives. They don't sell any new music and Myles, the owner is kind of a cranky old dude so they don't get that many customers other than the occasional hipster, and the only reason he even got the job in the first place was because the dude was getting old and he was the only one who asked, but he likes it there. He needs to save up before school starts, and he could have worked as a mechanic at the workshop downstairs, but he's had enough of grease for a while. There are some kick-ass music, and they're mostly on vinyl and on the occasions when he's not too pissed off at the world, Myles has a lot of stories about new York circa the 1970s which was like, his golden age for rock music or something. But he has this Friday off because Myles wasn't in the mood to keep the store open, and Santana totally jumped on that fact to guilt trip him into coming tonight.
Because it's Rachel's birthday, and Kurt can't be here because he needs to put in extra work for dance class, and Rachel's feeling blue because she misses her fathers. But if you ask him, blue is the last thing she's feeling right now. Her movements are a little jerky and her face is starting to turn into that red hue she gets whenever she's drunk (it didn't happen a lot when they were together, but he knows her well enough). He frowns, sitting up as he watches her move to the bar with her dance partner in tow. He's pretty sure that all she had tonight was like one Coke, because she has an early rehearsal tomorrow morning and Santana promised she wasn't going to get her drunk. And okay, Santana's a bitch but she's not a complete asshole, she wouldn't get Rachel drunk on purpose. He stares at the back of Rachel's head for a little while longer, frowning when he sees her taking a drink from the guy.
Finn stands abruptly, hesitating for a few seconds before he slips out of the booth. He finds Santana in the corner of the bar, shamelessly flirting with a pretty bartender with a badass skull tattoo in the middle of her chest, and moves purposefully towards her. He taps her on the shoulder once, then again when she ignores him.
"Santana," he calls out.
"Excuse me," she says sweetly to the pretty bartender before she turns towards him. "What, Lurch? You finally decide to stop moping and start having some fun?"
He rolls his eyes at her snappish behavior and shakes his head.
"It's Rachel," he tells her.
"What about her? She looks like she's having the ton of fun you're refusing to have."
"I think she's drunk."
He gives Santana a look that she ignores as she rolls her eyes at him.
"She's nineteen fucking years old Hudson. And in case your stupid is getting in the way of your vision, I am not her mother."
"Santana," he says, annoyed. "That ass is trying to get her drunk. Don't you think we should do something about it?"
"Oh God, I am here to have fun, not play babysitter while you two sit around being.. whatever the hell it is you two are these days. If you think she's in danger of being gang banged, then go do something about it."
He glares at her, making sure to look as judgmental as he can while he crosses his arms.
"Seriously?" he says wryly. Santana looks over his shoulder towards Rachel once again, and he catches the momentary look of concern that crosses her face before she turns back towards him.
"Look Finn, I get it," she tells him, and he braces himself for a storm of insults. "You're trying to save some of that caveman ego by pretending like you don't care that she's getting more play than you. But Berry is hot commodity these days, and since you're not going to do anything about that, then let her have her fun."
"That is so not the point-"
"No, the point is that even if Gel-Hair over there is getting her drunk, it's not like she doesn't know it. And you've been sitting in that stupid booth over there the whole time, pretty much repelling any woman that might have been interested tonight with that pathetic kicked puppy look on your face while you stare at her. Clearly, this is another one of those disgusting mating rituals the two of you are constantly in, and if you want to do something about that, I suggest you do it now because Gel Hair looks like he's about to score."
He turns too fast, cringing at the creak in his neck to see Rachel still sitting precariously on her stool and turns back to find Santana smirking knowingly at him. He scowls back at her, the back of his neck hitting up as she sniggers.
"Go after her," she tells him, perfectly serious.
"You know I can't," he says in a low voice. Santana looks at him inscrutably for a few seconds before she shrugs.
"Fine," she says, already turning her back towards him. "Just watch the guy get lucky then."
"You're a real bitch, you know that?" he complains, annoyed.
"That's why you love me," Santana says, waving him off. He stands like an idiot, staring at her back for a few seconds, his mind and heart battling with the urge to turn around.
The sudden sound of her laughter seems to have pierced the room, straight through to his brain and before he knows what he's doing, he turns.
She's still smiling up at Gel-Hair and he walks towards them slowly, vacillating between returning back to his seat and going towards her. She could actually be in trouble. How much could she possibly know about that guy after all? He seemed nice enough, but he could be a serial killer for all Finn knows, and that possibility is already one strike against him. Plus he's been plying her with drinks all night and that's like, a double strike. He sees Gel-Hair placing his hand on her waist, and he's not making this up when he sees her hand subtly pushing it away. That's strike three.
He tells himself that he's doing what any good friend would do in this situation (he really is) as he strides up towards them.
"Hey Rachel," he calls out casually when he reaches her. She turns at the sound of his voice, and when she sees him, a massive beam grows on her face.
"Finn!" she cries happily, like she's surprised that he's even there. Yeah. She's definitely wasted. She turns back towards Gel-Hair, who looks more than a little disgruntled at his appearance. She takes his hand suddenly and thrusts it towards Gel-Hair. "This is Ben. Ben, this is my Finn. Shake hands!"
"Hey," he mutters, obliging her. Ben smiles at him, and damn it, he can't tell if the dude is being sincere.
"I was just telling Ben that it's my birthday today," Rachel gushes, completely ignoring the tense silence between the two men. Finn smiles at her.
"I think he can tell that from your birthday hat," he says almost affectionately, reaching out to straighten the skewered hat back on to the top of her head.
"Oh yeah! Duh," Rachel says, rolling her eyes.
"I told her that we should celebrate," Ben speaks up. Finn turns to find him smiling at Rachel in amusement. He recognizes that look on Ben's face, and he can't say that he likes it. He looks charmed, and that means that Finn was probably wrong, and Santana was right. Rachel knows what she's doing, and he should know better than to think otherwise.
"That's the plan," Finn says ruefully. "We're supposed to be celebrating tonight, but it looks like you whisked her away. I just wanted to remind you that you have rehearsals at seven tomorrow Rach. But you know what, I guess you know that already so I'm just going to go."
Rachel is frowning up at him and he doesn't really know what the hell he's doing right now. Being a good friend he guesses, breaking his heart probably. He turns towards Ben who smiles at him.
"It was nice meeting you," he says lamely.
"You too man."
"Good luck tomorrow Rachel," he says quietly, forcing a smile on his face. He holds up his hand for a small wave, turning around before he hears her reply. He makes his way back to his seat to pick up his coat, looks for Santana and points towards the exit when he sees her. Santana frowns but she makes no move, turning back to her companion. It's been a long night, and really, all he wants right now is to just go home.
He's done for the night.
He steps out into the chilly air, shifting a little to the right to make room for the new customers. It still hasn't snowed yet, but New York is crazy cold this time of the year, and he turns up the collar of his coat, shoving his hands deep in his pockets as he takes in a deep breath. Christmas is coming soon. It'll be his first Christmas away from Lima, but his mom is flying in on Christmas Eve, and Santana and Kurt is staying too, so he won't feel too homesick. Rachel told them that her dads are coming too, but they're not big on Christmas, being Jewish and all, so they'll probably be doing something else. He remembers that Rachel used to be big on Christmas back when they were together, but that was probably for his benefit-
"Finn!" He turns in surprise, stalling mid walk when he sees Rachel stumbling towards him. "Stop!"
"Rachel? What are you doing? It's freezing out here, where's your scarf?"
He notices that her coat is still unbuttoned, and she's tipsy, almost falling over on her heels. Her birthday hat is gone, her hair slightly matted to her head. He turns and strides quickly towards her because clearly, she's about to fall over.
"I've been calling you and calling you," she grumbles once he reaches her. She holds her hands out towards him, gripping the lapels of his coat to steady herself. "Why are you always walking so fast? You know I can't keep up with you in these shoes."
"I didn't know you were following me," he murmurs, gripping her by the arms to steady her. Rachel lets out a huff as she looks up at him, pouting.
"What is it?" he asks. "What's wrong?"
She blinks up at him blankly for a moment, before her eyes clear up just a little.
"It's my birthday," she tells him.
"I know Rachel," he answers patiently. "We were just celebrating it."
"Where's my present?" she demands, holding out her hand expectantly. He looks at her, befuddled.
"My birthday present."
"You didn't get me one, did you?" she asks sadly.
He doesn't know how to answer that, because no, he didn't. But he thought about it. There's this Barbra vinyl, The Broadway Album, that he's had his eye on the moment he saw it like two months ago. She has virtually every Streisand album known to man, but he's pretty sure she doesn't have them on vinyl, and he almost did spend his last paycheck on it. But he didn't though, because Streisand just feels like it's more than just a platonic gift, and the idea of giving Rachel anything else just feels wrong somehow. So he settled for giving her nothing instead. You know, like what normal friends would do.
"I-" he starts, but she cuts him off by shaking her head, looking up at him in determination.
"I want my present Finn," she tells him stubbornly. "Right now."
There's really no talking sense when she gets this way, so he sighs and nods his head to humor her.
"Okay, I'll get you a present. What do you want?"
She actually thinks about this, making a show of tapping a finger against her jaw, before her eyes light up.
"I want a piggyback ride," she tells him with a grin.
His gaze is penetrating as he surveys her, but she smiles back at him, unaware.
"Where's Ben?" he asks carefully.
"Ben, the guy you were talking to."
"Oh. That Ben. He wanted to go for coffee, but I didn't want to."
"Because I wanted my present Finn, duh."
She gives him this look like he just asked the dumbest question in the world, and it makes him smile, because he forgets just how demanding she gets when she's drunk.
"I'm waiting," she tells him. Her face is red, her cheeks puffy from the cold and the drink, and she must have forgotten her scarf. She's shivering slightly but she stands her ground, her hands on her hips, her large brown eyes blinking up at him, slightly unfocused. It's easy to forget his place in her life when she's looking at him this way, and his hands move to the front of her coat of their own accord.
"We need to button you up first," he tells her softly. She allows him to button her coat up to her neck, and when his eyes move from her throat up to her eyes, she's smiling up at him.
"You're so chivalrous Finn," she tells him affectionately. He grins, the pang in his heart reminding him of the first time she ever told him that. He turns away from her smile, turns his back to her and squats down on the ground, patting his shoulder as a signal for her to get on. Her small fingers are freezing when they graze against this skin, reaching around him to circle his neck as her warm body presses against his back. He can barely feel her through the thick fabric of their jackets. Her legs come last, winding themselves carefully around his torso. He grips the backs of her calves as he stands, balancing them both.
"Where to, Birthday Girl?" he asks quietly. He realizes that it's late when he notices the thinning crowd. Rachel shifts restlessly on his back, looking for a comfortable position before she leans forwards and he feels her face pressing against the back of his neck.
"Home," she mumbles.
"I like being nineteen," she mutters. She has been talking his ear off the whole walk back to her apartment, and they're only halfway through. "Don't you like being nineteen Finn?"
"It's better than eighteen right, Finn?"
"Yeah, definitely better," he says, ignoring the way she tightens her arms around his neck.
"My eighteenth birthday sucked. Dad and daddy weren't here, and it was just Kurt and me. And you didn't get me a present."
"I'm sorry," he murmurs. She's silent, resting her jaw on his right shoulder, and they continue walking this way for about a minute before she speaks again.
"You didn't even call," she mumbles, her voice close to his ear. He thinks she might be too drunk to notice the way his body stiffens. "I waited all day."
"I wanted to," he confesses quietly.
"Then why didn't you?"
He doesn't answer her, a million red flags going up in his brain warning him to change the subject. Friends don't talk about things like these. But there's a chance she won't even remember this come tomorrow, and she asked, didn't she?
"I- I thought it'd be too hard. For me. And I guess- I didn't- I didn't want to make you feel obligated. You were with someone else and I-"
"I wanted to send you a Christmas card," she cuts in suddenly. "But I didn't know if you'd like it, so I didn't."
"I would have," he murmurs quietly.
"I wish you would have called," she mumbles.
"She's really pretty." He frowns, his brows furrowed in confusion.
"That girl you were with. At Mr. Schue's wedding."
"She made you smile. Did you know that was the first real smile I saw on your face since I moved to New York? You didn't smile like that once when you came here. But you smiled at her the way you used to smile at me, and she was really pretty."
She sounds so inconsolably sad and he tightens his hold on the back of her thighs, wondering just exactly what she means, forcing down the feelings that are bubbling just beneath his skin.
"It didn't work out," he finally says, his voice barely discernible. "It didn't work out with her."
"Because of New York?" she asks, and he's surprised that she even heard him.
"I guess you could say that."
"Because Santana convinced you to come here."
He makes a noncommittal sound at the back of his throat. She moves away from his shoulder, and he feels her settling her face against the back of his neck instead.
"I could never do that."
"Convince you to stay here."
He sucks in a deep breath, his steps slowing down to a stop at her words.
"Rachel," he whispers, his voice caught somewhere in his throat. She's shaking against him, and he frowns when he realizes that she's giggling.
"Isn't that funny?" Her voice squeaks at the last word. "That you came here because of Santana? You smiled because of that pretty girl, and you moved to New York because of Santana, and isn't that just the funniest thing ever?"
"You found your dream Finn," she whispers against his ear, her breath warm against his cold skin. "And I wasn't there at all. I always thought I would be. But even when I realized I wouldn't, I never thought Santana would be there instead of me."
He doesn't say a word, or move a muscle. He doesn't even breathe. She's quiet behind him, running out of steam while her fingers start to fiddle with the lapels of his coat absently.
"I guess I just thought I'd be the one you came for," she finally says, and it snaps him out of his stupor.
"Why do you think I'm here?" he whispers earnestly.
"For your dream," she says quietly. "Like I did."
He hesitates for a few seconds before he squats, his hands releasing their hold on her as she slides down. He makes sure that she's safely deposited on the ground before he stands and turns towards her. She looks like she's about to complain, but he takes her hand and it quiets her.
"I can make my dream come true anywhere," he tells her. "I can do what I want anywhere, Rachel."
"I know," she whispers, downcast as she starts to look away, and he shakes his head impatiently, nudging her jaw with his free hand.
"No you don't," he tells her gently. "There's only one thing that New York has that no other place in this world does. And that's why I'm here."
"What?" she murmurs, her eyes wide as she looks up at him. His heart is beating really hard against his chest to a beat that was only ever for her. He smiles at her then, gently pulling her closer with his hands on her waist. He knows there's always a possibility that she won't remember this, but it doesn't matter. He just wants to say it.
She blinks up at him rapidly.
"You mean me?" she whisper, shuffling closer towards him.
"What do you think?" His voice is low as he leans down towards her, and he catches the crinkle of her eyes in the moonlight.
"I think you mean me," she answers, a slow smile spreading across her features.
"I guess I do."
They're a breath away in the middle of the street, and he leans closer, his eyes falling to her slightly opened lips.
"Are you going to kiss me now?" she asks, her voice filled with wonder that makes him chuckle.
"Only if you want me to," he whispers. Rachel closes her eyes, and the way she turns her face towards him feels familiar.
"I want you to."
So he does.
A/N: It's been a while since I wrote anything canon, so feedback is always welcomed =)