And here we are, the final chapter. I can't believe it took me nearly a year to finish, but I'm so glad that I did. And I know some of you are wondering whether this is going to be my last finchel story, and unfortunately, I really don't have an answer for that right now. Even before Cory's death my life was starting to get in the way of my fanfic writing, my updates were getting further apart, and now that he is gone writing finchel stories has become even harder, even though I thoroughly believe that their stories here are just as valid as they ever were. So yes, I will be taking a break, how long that will be remains to be seen, but if I never write another finchel story again, I just hope you know how much these last four years have meant to me, how much finchel has meant to me, how much these stories have meant to me, and above all, how much you guys, my readers have meant to me. Every word was for you. I love you guys!
"This is it" she thinks to herself as she darkens the black line around her big eyes, "The first day of the rest of my life." To tell the truth she's a lot less nervous than she expected, she's more excited than anything, and who wouldn't be excited about six whole months in Paris, the fashion capitol of the world? She was more worried about him than anyone, both of them really, the three of them had been together every day for 22 years, keeping each other strong through every obstacle life threw their way, now she was leaving, and she knew that it wasn't going to be easy on any of them.
"Look at you!" Rachel says excitedly in her singsong voice as she enters her bedroom. "So grown up, you're going to knock 'em all dead, I know it."
She smiles warmly and caps her kohl pencil as her mother wraps her thin arms around her from behind. "No attempts to keep me in New York today? I'm shocked," Cory says amusedly.
"Well," Rachel starts sadly, shrugging a little. "I suppose I can't succeed at everything, not even convincing my litle girl that Vogue with uncle Kurt is the perfect stepping stone for a fledgling but truly gifted young fashion photographer?"
"Mom," She says rolling her eyes and turning to face her mother. "We've been through this, nepotism can only get me so far, photographers have a hard enough time being taken seriously as it is. These days anyone who can point a cellphone camera thinks they're Annie Liebowitz. Besides, Kurt is the one who wrote me the recommendation, clearly he thinks this fellowship is a great opportunity."
"It is a great opportunity, you're right. I'm just going to miss you is all," Rachel says, shrugging, and she hopes more than anything that she doesn't cry, there's nothing she hates more than seeing her mother cry.
"It's just a few months, it'll fly by I promise," Cory assures her.
"Well, you know I want nothing more than for you to go after your dreams, it's your father who's still holding out hope that you'll leave this whole photography thing behind and become the first lesbian president of the united states."
"Yeah, he's not exactly subtle about it either," Cory says with a sigh. She gets it, all her dad has ever wanted for her was to prove that a gay girl with two mentally ill parents could be just as well adjusted as anyone, which was why he pushed law school so hard as she grew up, the day she said she wanted to be an artist was almost as hard as the day she came out. He learned to accept the latter, to the point where it didn't make a bit of difference anymore, but the former would still take him some getting used to.
"He'll come around sweetheart, deep down all your father really wants is for you to be happy. I just think he knows that the road you've chosen isn't going to be an easy one, he saw how hard it was for me, all of the tears and setbacks."
"But you still made it," Cory argues.
"Eventually, yes, but it wasn't easy," Rachel says, shrugging a little. And looking at her mother now she once again feels how strongly in awe of her she's been her whole life, the woman who pulled herself out of the darkest depths to succeed in ways that most people could only dream of, and she wants nothing more than to prove that she can be as strong and inspiring a woman as she is. "But, I'm guessing a cover photo on a what I'm sure is a soon to be bestselling memoir wont hurt," Rachel says, revealing the tablet from behind her back.
"Oh my god!" Cory says excitedly. "It finally posted?"
And her smile widens as she looks at the photo on the screen. She took it in the old apartment, the couple that resides there now were such big fans of Rachel's it didn't even require a bribe to use it. In the image she's sprawled out on the wooden floor, staring dreamily up at the ceiling, her dark hair a fan of curls around her head, the Company record clutched tightly to her chest with the rest of her collection strewn about, while Finn sits over to the side, absentmindedly strumming his quitar next to the window, the sunset catching the metal on his wire-rimmed glasses.
"Is it bad that I'm really really proud of this?" Cory says, beaming.
"You should be proud sweetheart," Rachel assures her. "Do you know why I wanted you to take this photo over all of the photographers that offered?"
"I know, you wanted it to have a more personal feel."
"No, because you are the best photographer in New York City, and don't you forget it."
She smiles again and pulls her mother in for a tight hug. "Okay," she says, breaking the embrace. "I have to go to the school, I have to show dad."
"Alright honey, I'll see you tonight," Rachel calls after her as she leaves.
She'd be lying if she said that her childhood was always easy, in fact it rarely ever was, but as she grew up she came to realize that tough was a lot better than boring, she wouldn't be half as strong as she is now had she not had to learn to stand up to the bullies who called her parents crazy, or as understanding of people who were different if she hadn't had to witness all of the times they became victims of their own madness, they didn't try to sheild her from any of it, they knew that if they were going to make it work with her they would have to be honest about their problems from the getgo, and in spite of those differences she couldn't ask for better parents, ones who loved or understood her more.
And there were good times too, like the day she came out for one, she cried the whole time, barely able to get the words out, but her mother simply hugged her tight and told her how much she loved her, and her dad, well he took her out for ice cream after, because that was always his solution for dealing with Cory tears, even at the age of 18. And she knew how absolutely scared shitless he was about the whole thing, but after a few weeks of deep reflection he was able to stop avoiding the issue and have an actual talk with her, and it was one of the best talks they'd ever had, one of the best talks she ever had with anyone.
But what she most fondly remembers are the little moments, like all of those times her dad let her stand on his feet as they danced to an old record, or the way her mom sang to her so gently as she brushed her thick black hair, even that year she cut it short and died it blue. she supposes she got the black hair from Grandma Shelby, and the green eyes from whoever her real grandfather was, but the rest was so clearly from her parents, her dads freckles, nose and height, her moms lips, smile, shapely legs and flat chest, she was the spitting image of both of them, maybe a little moreso her dad, and she's reminded of that as she finally steps into his office after the subway and three block trek to PS 42.
"Good afternoon principal Hudson," Cory greets him playfully, he never let her call him dad when she went here, it was his idea of being a hardass. He smiles at her, lighting up like always.
"Hey kiddo," he says, standing up to hug her.
"Hey," She says, hugging him back tight. He looks slightly older than his 46 years, with his glasses and prematurely gray hair, or perhaps he just had to grow up faster than normal.
"So, you all packed?" He says with a bit of a sigh.
"Yup," she answers.
"Good," he says, clearly trying his best to stay positive. "And you're going in that?"
"What's wrong with my outfit?" she says, looking down at her flowy rose printed dress and black tights.
"Nothing, it's a great outfit, very European," he says as sincerely as he can manage. "And you know, it looks comfortable and everything, for the plane, I mean it's a really long flight."
"Dad, I know you're trying your best to deal with all of this, and I really do appreciate it."
"Well, you're an adult, it's your life," he sighs again.
"I just wish that you were happier about this," she admits.
"I am happy, I mean no, I'm not happy that you're leaving and to tell the truth I'm a little terrified that you're going to bring home some French girl..."
she smirks and rolls her eyes a little at the statement.
"But I am proud of you," he says, seeming to mean it.
"I know dad."
It's silence for a few moments then, he's trying, and that's really the best she can hope for now, but she can tell by his face that if she weren't so 100 percent sure about this he'd still be slipping law school pamphlets under her door.
"I'd tell you to take lots of pictures but I guess that's a given."
"Definitely," she replies.
"Besides it's not like you're going to be able to keep us away the whole six months, as soon as Anything Goes finishes we're on the first flight down there."
"Just don't embarrass me in front of the French girls."
"I can't promise that," he fires back, making her chuckle.
"Oh, before I forget," she says, reaching into her satchel and pulling out the tablet. And as she turns on the screen and shows him, the look on his face is is enough to fill her with pride.
"This is beautiful Cor," he says, his voice cracking a bit.
"She is isn't she?" Cory says, looking over her dad's shoulder at the picture. "All those stories you used to tell me about her, about how you met. I always got it."
"Yeah," He says, thinking back on the first time he saw Rachel, they were so young then, so fragile, but as they grew up together he realized over and over again that she was what made him stronger, and that he would do whatever it took to do the same for her whenever she needed it, it seems impossible now, everytime he has to remind himself that they really made it, in spite of everything, and he supposes they still have a whole lot of living left to do, but for now it feels safe to say they did good.
"Hey hey hey," he says, broken out of his thoughtful moment by the sound of Cory's light sniffling. "What's the matter?"
"Crap," she says, quickly dabbing her eyes with the heel of her hand. "I should have known my makeup wouldn't stand a chance today."
"You're really going to miss us that much?" He says a little touched.
"Of course I am," she responds as if the question is ridiculous. "I love you guys."
"We love you too Kiddo," Finn says, taking the tall, crying girl into his arms for a hug and softly kissing her hair. "Hey, what do you say we make a run to The Coolhaus Shop before my five O'clock?"
"Dad, I'm 22, you really need to stop trying to cheer me up with ice cream," She says, shaking her head at him.
"It's not you I'm trying to cheer up baby girl," He responds. "Come on."
There was a lot more crying before she finally got on the plane, Rachel, Finn, Kurt, Blaine and even cousin Dylan, the tough guy in the family couldn't keep the big fat tears at bay, it would take Cory leaving to render him as emotional as his fathers. And somehow as they reenter the townhouse it already seems a whole lot bigger without her, but not in a good way.
"Do you think it's too early to call?" Rachel says sadly.
"I think her cellphone is probably off," Finn responds. "She's still on the plane remember?"
"I know," Rachel says. "She's still so close but she seems so far away already."
"Hey, it's going to be alright," he says, kissing her forehead, then her mouth. "She'll be back, she loves New York too much to stay away for long. And I think we're a close second," he jokes.
"What if she loves Paris even more?" Rachel cries. "What if she wants to stay?"
"She won't," Finn assures her. "And even if she does, we could always buy that townhouse."
"A second home in Paris? On A broadway actress and high school principal's salary?" She argues.
"Well, once your memoir sells a billion copies then gets made into an awesome movie I think we might have a shot. What do you say?"
"I say that Cory will probably die of embarrassment if her parents decide to buy a house in France to be closer to her," She replies. "But we should totally do it."
"I was hoping you'd say that," He says excitedly. "But until then, I think maybe we should take advantage of the house being empty."
"Whatever did you have in mind Mr. Hudson?" she says playfully, and without another word he sweeps her up into his arms to carry her into the bedroom, making her laugh the whole way.
That's all folks!