Author's Note: This is based off of the novels Leaving Paradise and Return to Paradise by Simone Elkeles. I would definitely recommend reading her books, because they're all pretty good. I used a description of this story for the summary. This story title comes from the song "On the Way Down" by Ryan Cabrera.
Just a warning… this is pretty angsty. I'm actually kind of nervous about posting this, since it's pretty heavy. There are a few shockers. But you all know me. I'm a sucker for fluff and a happy ending, so you can count on that.
And if you have any questions, feel free to tweet me at myeverydayff. :)
Disclaimer: I don't own Glee or the novels Leaving Paradise or Return to Paradise.
"Are you ready, Finn?"
Finn Hudson looked up at the guard standing in front of him. He stared at his hands before he took a deep breath and nodded his head. Standing up, he followed the guard into a room that had six people sitting at one end, behind a long table. Finn took a seat in the lone chair in front of the table and balled up his sweaty hands.
The six people of the review committee stared at him with impassive faces. Finally, a man spoke. "Tell us about the night of the accident, Finn."
Finn took a deep breath before speaking. He had spent the past three hundred and twenty days trying to push the memory of that one night out of his mind, and now he was going to have to recite it.
"I was drinking at a party," Finn began. "I drove home and lost control of the car. When I realized that I had hit someone, I freaked out and drove back to the party." He tried to keep as much detail out of what had happened as possible.
A woman flipped through the papers in front of her. "You knew the girl that you hit?"
"Yes, ma'am." Finn swallowed hard before he said, "Rachel Berry."
"And how do you know her?"
"We went to school together. She lives next door to me." Once again, Finn was light on the details. They didn't need to know that she was his brother's best friend, too.
They asked him more questions. They wanted to know why he was drinking underage, why he didn't wait to see if Rachel was okay. Finn answered them as best he could, and the next ten minutes passed in a blur.
The guy in the middle asked the last question. "How do we know that you won't do this again?"
Finn shifted in his chair. "That is the one night of my life that I will regret forever. It's haunted me day and night since I've got here. It was the worst mistake I could have ever made and… I just want to go home." There was more truth in that answer then there had been in any of the other ones.
They sent him out into the hallway then, and another half an hour passed before they called him back in. They were talking, saying a lot of things, but only one statement registered in Finn's mind: he was being released.
They were letting him go home.
Rachel Berry truly believed that Mercedes Jones was put on this earth to torture her.
"Come on, Miss Berry," Mercedes encouraged. She nudged Rachel into the physical therapy room. She pointed to the mat, and Rachel knew that she had to lie down. As she had twice a week for the past year, Rachel put her foot on Mercedes's shoulder.
"Alright. Now I want you to put pressure on it," Mercedes instructed. Rachel managed a little push, and her physical therapist gave her a look. "Come on, Rachel. I know that you can push harder than that."
Rachel looked away and stared straight up at the ceiling. "I don't think I can."
"You thought that you wouldn't be able to walk after the accident, either," Mercedes pointed out. "And look where you are now!"
Mercedes's encouragement caused Rachel to push harder on her shoulder. Mercedes grinned and told Rachel to hold it before they repeated the exercise a few more times. After, they went about doing the rest of Rachel's physical therapy. When they were finished, Mercedes started scribbling notes down on her clipboard.
"You seem to be doing better," she noted. Rachel shrugged her shoulders but didn't say anything in response. Mercedes continued speaking, however. "You're going to college in New York, aren't you? Your fathers told me."
"That's the plan." Rachel was just going into her senior year of high school, but she had known her entire life that she was going to school in New York City. Despite the accident, that was still what she wanted.
But it also presented a problem. Rachel didn't know if her leg would ever get to the point where she could dance on it like she used to. Her dream had always been to be a star on Broadway, but she didn't know if that dream would ever come true now. And that hurt more than any injury to her leg did.
"We'll have to talk about what kind of exercises you'll be doing then," Mercedes said.
Rachel turned towards her with a furrowed brow. "That's a whole year from now! I'll still be in physical therapy?"
"You've already been in physical therapy for a year," Mercedes said with a pleasant smile. "And you're still here. You might still be in it next year, too. We'll have to see how it goes."
Before Rachel could think of a response to that, her best friend came sauntering into the room. Santana Lopez grinned at Mercedes and saluted her.
"Hello, Dr. Happy," she greeted.
Mercedes laughed and returned her greeting as Rachel turned towards her. "Santana, what are you doing here?"
Santana patted Rachel's right leg—the one that hadn't been destroyed in the accident. "I told your dads that I was going to pick you up today." She tossed Rachel her jacket and stood up. "So come on, Berry. Chop chop. We're going out."
Rachel blanched. "Out? What do you mean, out?"
"I mean, we're going to get something to eat. You've been a recluse for the past year, what with the private tutors and the never leaving your bed things. You're going back to school on Monday. It's about time you get out there and see the light of day again."
Rachel knew that she had no choice. There was no use in arguing, so she pulled her jacket on and limped after Santana. She kind of wished that she had brought her crutches, because she hadn't really planned on following Santana around town.
It took her another fifteen minutes to realize that something was very wrong. Santana was letting Rachel pick all of the places, and she wasn't even making any comments about her bulky sweater. Rachel put her fork down and leveled her friend with a look.
"Santana. Tell me what's going on."
The Latina sighed. She knew that there was no point in hiding it anymore. Not when Rachel had already realized that something was up. She pushed her plate away and took a deep breath.
"Rachel, Finn Hudson is being released tomorrow."
As soon as Finn stepped through the front door, he was engulfed in his mother's arms.
He patted her back as she started crying. Burt patted her back as he walked by and quietly encouraged her to give her son some space, but Finn didn't mind. He hadn't hugged his mother in nearly a year. He knew that both she and his stepfather were disappointed in him, but that didn't stop him from being happy to see them.
Carole pulled back and wiped at her eyes. She reached up and patted his cheek before she said, "Dinner is almost ready. Why don't you head upstairs and wash up?"
Finn nodded his head before he turned and climbed the familiar stairs. He walked down the hallway and saw the door to his room. Before he reached it, however, the door across from it was flung open.
Finn stared in surprise at his stepbrother. Kurt Hummel did not look anything like the person he had last seen a year ago. His hair was messy, his clothes were unkempt, and he had bags under his eyes. Finn had never seen him like this.
"Kurt," Finn began. Before he could say anything else, however, Kurt threw himself forward and hugged his brother tightly. He was crying, too. Finn had only been home for five minutes and he already had to deal with two people crying. Finn was pretty much done with crying at this point.
He patted Kurt's back awkwardly. After several long moments, Kurt pulled back and ran back into his room. He shut his door, and Finn stared at it for a long moment. With a sigh, Finn turned towards his own bedroom and walked in.
It still looked exactly the same. It was almost as if he had been there yesterday. Not a single thing was out of place, but it was still clean. As Finn looked around, he caught sight of the house next to his—the Berry's house.
But everything had changed. Nothing would ever be the same again.
Rachel let out a groan as her papa came to check on her once again. Ever since her fathers had heard about Finn's release from the juvenile detention center, they had been hovering over her non-stop. Rachel felt as if she hadn't had a moment to herself since the day before.
"I just wanted to know if you needed anything, princess," Leroy said.
Rachel managed a smile. "Papa, you asked me the same question five minutes ago. And I'm going to give you the same answer. I don't need anything, Papa. I'm perfectly alright."
Leroy just nodded his head, but he didn't leave her room. In fact, he stepped further in. "Are you excited to go back to school tomorrow?" he asked.
"Oh, very excited," Rachel deadpanned. When Leroy gave her a look, Rachel just shook her head. "Come on, Papa. What did you expect?"
"I think you're going to be just fine," Leroy said. "But you know that you can call either me or your daddy at any point tomorrow, right? We'll be right over to the school to get you if you need us."
"I'll be fine, Papa," Rachel said. But the truth was, she wasn't very sure about it. She had no idea what it was going to be like in school tomorrow, and she didn't know if she was going to be okay.
She had heard the gossip about Finn. Not only was he back from the juvenile detention center, but he was returning to school as well. There was a very good chance that Rachel could see him at any point the following day, and she didn't know what would happen if she did.
Rachel wanted to hate Finn Hudson for what he had done to her. And maybe part of her did. She certainly had right after the accident, when she had been stuck in a hospital bed and then later in a wheelchair. But she didn't even know what to feel anymore. Instead, Rachel was just… lost.
What she did know was that she had to get out of the house. She pulled herself to her feet and tugged her jacket on. "I'm going out for a little bit, Papa," she announced.
She held her hand up. "Papa, I am seventeen years old. I think I can go down to the park for a little bit. And I'll have my phone on me." She had no qualms with turning on the puppy dog eyes. "I just want some fresh air."
Leroy sighed before relenting. "Fine. But I want you back in an hour, Rachel."
That seemed fair. Rachel nodded her head and made her way out of the house. She walked down the quiet street and purposefully avoided looking at the Hudson-Hummel house as she passed it. Despite the fact that she had been over there nearly every week since she was nine, she hadn't even stepped near it since the accident.
Rachel walked through the park until she stopped by one of her favorite spots. The large tree provided a cool place to sit during the summer, and she loved sitting there with a book or some music. But she hadn't really been to visit. Not since the accident, anyway.
Rachel settled near the ground and leaned against the tree. She closed her eyes and let the cool breeze play over her skin. All was quiet for several long moments, and Rachel reveled in it.
The sound of rustling fabric caught her attention. When Rachel opened her eyes, she saw the one person she hadn't expected to see.
A gasp got stuck in Rachel's throat. She stared up at Finn with wide eyes. Was it somehow possible that he had gotten taller? And he had lost some weight, but gained more muscle. His hair was shorter, he had the shadow of stubble on his face, and his amber eyes were bright. It was hard to believe that Finn was about to turn eighteen.
Finn stared at Rachel in return. She was still as tiny as ever, and her hair was long and dark and her eyes were wide as she stared up at him. But they weren't as bright as he had remembered. Instead, they just looked… sad.
Finn cleared his throat. "Well…" he began, but he stopped. He didn't really know what to say. Finally, he just settled for, "Hi."
Another moment passed before Rachel suddenly shot to her feet. A searing pain coursed through her left leg and she bent to grab it. Her quick, jerky movements caused her to lose her footing. Acting on instinct, Finn stepped forward and caught her by the arm.
Rachel stared at his hand on her arm and then looked up at him. Her eyes flashed and she yanked herself out of his grip. "Don't touch me," she snapped.
Finn held his hands up. "You don't have to be afraid of me, Rachel," he said quietly. His eyes were soft but unreadable as he looked down at her.
Rachel's heart was pounding loudly in her ears. She was close to having a panic attack, and she needed to get out of there. "Yes I do," she whispered.
Something flashed across Finn's face, but it was only there for a split second. "Rachel, I'm sorry—"
She took another step back from him. "Don't, Finn. I don't want to hear it."
Finn lowered his hands and continued to watch her. He didn't say anything, and he didn't do anything. Rachel felt some strange urge to stay there and see if she could find out what he would do next, but she forced herself to turn away.
And she made sure that Finn could see her limp as she walked down the street.
Finn stared at his transition coach. Will Schuester stared back. He clicked the pen in his hand several times, and Finn sighed. This guy was supposed to monitor his "transition back into society." Which was really just a fancy way of saying that he was going to oversee Finn's community service and make sure that he stayed out of trouble.
"So, Finn." Will put his pen down. "How are you doing?"
Finn shrugged his shoulders. "I'm fine." He didn't have a problem with flat out lying to this guy. He would say whatever he needed to so he could get this over with as quickly as possible.
"My stepfather keeps giving me these looks of disappointment, my mom won't stop crying, and my stepbrother is acting fucking weird. Other than that, everything is just peachy."
"Give them a break, Finn," Will advised. "It's been a year since they've seen you. Things have changed. Maybe you should just give them a chance to adjust."
"I know," Finn said darkly. He didn't need to be reminded of that, either. "Maybe if—"
"Maybe if what?"
Finn stopped talking. The words had slipped out of his mouth before he could think about them, but he clamped his mouth shut. He glared down at his hands before he looked up again.
"Nothing. I'm just tired."
Will checked over a few of his notes. "You're scheduled to start your community service at the local hardware store in four days," he said. Finn nodded his head, and Will continued speaking. "Have you talked to anyone since returning?"
"Other than my family?"
"Other than your family."
"There was… one girl." Finn picked at the edge of his t-shirt and refused to look Will in the eye.
That didn't deter him from asking questions. "What happened?"
Finn's hands clenched into fists. "She ran away from me."
"Why do you think she ran away?"
"Because." Finn finally looked up. "She was the girl I went to jail for hitting with my car."
Finn couldn't stand all the people watching him. He had already had enough of that at the juvenile detention center. He was supposed to be free now. The staring was supposed to be over with, but that didn't seem to matter to anyone. It was a free for all as Finn walked down the hallway.
He had his old locker. And standing in front of it were his old friends. Noah Puckerman was the first to greet him as he walked up. He clapped Finn on the back and gave him a big grin. The look on his face made Finn smile a little bit as well.
"It's good to have you back, man," Puck said. "It's been a while."
Finn nodded his head. "I know. It's good to see you." He greeted Sam Evans, Mike Chang, and Artie Abrams as well. The bell rang for classes, and Finn had a free period, so he went to the library.
He immediately caught sight of Blaine Anderson, who was his brother's boyfriend. Finn sat in the chair across from him and knocked his knuckles on the table to get his attention. Blaine looked up in surprised and smiled when he saw Finn.
"Finn! I heard you were back. It's good to see you!"
"Thanks." Just as with Puck, Sam, Mike, and Artie, Blaine seemed truly happy to see him. They were looking at him as if he hadn't just spent a year in a juvenile detention center. "I know I've only been back for a couple of days, but I haven't really seen you around the house."
"Oh." Blaine looked away and bit his lip. "I guess you won't really see me around anymore."
"Why not?" Finn asked. Blaine had been almost a constant presence at the Hudson-Hummel house since high school had started.
"Kurt broke up with me," Blaine quietly revealed.
"Oh." Finn hadn't been expecting to hear that. The two had been practically inseparable ever since they had gotten together. "I'm… I'm sorry to hear that, Blaine."
Blaine shrugged his shoulders. "After the accident… after you left… things were different. Kurt was different. I haven't really seen him since then."
Finn didn't really know what to say to that, so he just nodded his head. After a long moment, he said, "Feel free to come over whenever you want, Blaine. I wouldn't mind hanging out."
Blaine gave him a small smile as he stood up and left. It was lunch then, so Finn met up with Puck and the rest of the guys in the cafeteria. He caught a glimpse of Rachel across the way. She was sitting next to Santana, and she had Tina Cohen-Chang and Brittany Pierce at her table as well.
"Are you okay?" Puck asked as he handed Finn a tray.
He nodded his head. "I'm fine." That seemed to be all he was saying to anyone lately, and it was a lie every time it came out of his mouth.
Puck knew it. "Look, man," he said. "We wanted to come visit. We tried to. But you told us not to. And that one time we came, you wouldn't come out to meet us."
"I know," Finn said before Puck could speak anymore. He had not wanted anyone to visit him while he was in the juvenile detention center. He had avoided everyone and didn't write back to them, didn't take any of their calls, and refused to meet them when they went to visit. It was just easier that way. "It's okay. It's over now."
Rachel looked down at the sheet of paper in front of her. In an effort to "get her out of her shell," her fathers had signed her up for a volunteer program. Twice a week, she would be going to a development on the other side of town and helping out a woman who lived there. Her name was Shannon Beiste, and she seemed nice enough.
She was the old football coach at McKinley High School, but she had retried. As part of the volunteer program, Rachel was going to help with whatever errands Beiste needed.
In the car on the way to the house, Rachel thought about her day at school. Her friends were wonderful throughout the whole day, and they tried to keep her as busy and distracted as possible. But that didn't stop her from seeing Finn a few times.
It was almost as if he hadn't spent the past year in a juvenile detention center. Finn's friends welcomed him back, and everyone still watched him as if he was still the quarterback of the football team. In fact, Rachel didn't doubt that he would be asked back. Finn Hudson was once again the king of McKinley High School.
She had been so caught up in her thoughts that she hadn't realized they had pulled up in front of the house. She said goodbye to her father and got out of the car to greet Beiste, who was already coming towards her.
"Miss Rachel Berry! It's good to see you again," Beiste exclaimed. Even though Rachel had never had her for a class or anything like that, Coach Beiste had always been one of Rachel's favorite teachers.
"It's good to see you too, Coach. How have you been?"
"I'm great, Rachel. Thanks for asking." She stepped aside and allowed Rachel to follow her into the house. She looked around at the homey place and then satin the seat that Beiste gestured to. "So I really want to get some gardening done while the weather is still nice out. What do you say?"
Rachel loved being outside, so that sounded okay to her. She smiled and nodded her head and then stretched her leg out, allowing it some relief. She noticed Beiste looking at it, and she nodded her head once again.
"I promise that it won't stop me from completing all of my work," Rachel said. "My leg is a lot better than it used to be."
Beiste nodded her head. "I know. I remember."
A somewhat awkward silence passed between them. Finn had been Beiste's star quarterback. Even though he had only been a sophomore, he had been the best one of the best players. And as far as Beiste knew, Finn had been the type of kid who wanted to help people. He hadn't been the kind of guy who would leave someone at the scene of an accident.
But Beiste didn't say anything. Instead, she just smiled at Rachel and patted her hand. Rachel managed a small smile in return.
Finn walked into the kitchen and found Kurt sitting at the table. He was reading a book, and he looked as if he had just rolled out of bed. He looked even worse than he had the day that Finn came home, if that was possible.
And Finn was already tired of it. He sat down across from Kurt and stared at him until he looked up. He looked a little surprised to see the look of anger on Finn's face, but he didn't say anything.
"This." Finn gestured to Kurt's appearance. "This needs to stop."
Kurt sighed and shut his book. "Finn—"
But Finn didn't let him speak. "You might be able to scare everyone else with this shit, but I'm tired of it. You need to knock it off now."
Finn spent a lot of his time fending off jerks that tried to scar him in the detention center. It had definitely changed him—more than he really wanted to admit. He was finally free, finally home, and he would be damned if he was going to let Kurt fall apart.
He waited for Kurt to say something, anything. Instead, Kurt just shot up from his chair and ran up to his room. Finn sighed and dragged his hand through his hair. He looked up and caught sight of the Berry's house through the kitchen window. He could see Rachel walking around in her own kitchen, and his throat tightened.
He stood up from his own chair as well. He just needed to get out of here.
"I think I need to give Hudson a talking to." Santana flopped down on Rachel's bed and watched as she searched through her closet for something to wear. They were going to the town fair—or, more accurately, Santana was making her go. "I need to make it clear that if he even thinks about talking to you, I'll kick his ass so hard he'll wish he was back in the detention center."
Rachel finally selected a pair of jeans and pulled them on. She looked at her reflection in the mirror, checking how her light sweater went with her pants. She didn't dare mention that she had already seen Finn. Even more than that, she had already talked to him. Santana would have gone ballistic. Honestly, she just wanted to forget that the encounter had ever happened.
Satisfied with her appearance, she turned to her friend. "Santana, just let it go. I don't want to talk about it. And I certainly don't want to talk about him."
"He already went to jail for what he did. It's over and done with." Rachel wished that it was as simple as that. The truth was, it wasn't at all.
Beiste's instincts had been right on. Rachel had lived next door to Finn her entire life. She had been hanging around him for as long as she could remember. She had never known Finn to be the kind of person who would hit someone with a car and then run away, let alone drink and drive.
And Rachel had always had a huge crush on him. Finn had always been brave and selfless and had wanted to help people. And Finn had never known had Rachel felt about him. He probably never would, at this point. Not that it mattered anymore.
After that one night, everything had changed. Because of that accident, she lost one of her closest friends. She lost a lot of the confidence in herself and she nearly lost the use of her leg.
Rachel shook her head slightly and pushed those thoughts away. She turned towards Santana and held her hands out, gesturing to her outfit. Her best friend nodded her head and stood up, straightening her tiny skirt and tank top.
"You could wear one of your old skirts," Santana pointed out. "I swear, I won't even make fun of you if you wear knee socks with it. You could even wear that plaid one."
Rachel shook her head and shut the door to her closet. "You know I can't." Rachel didn't want anyone to see the pink scars running up and down her leg. People already stared at her because she walked with a limp. She didn't want to give them anything else to stare at.
"Fine." Santana turned and walked out of the room. Rachel looked longingly at her crutches, but she shook her head and followed Santana out of her room. She had been in physical therapy for a year. She could walk around the park for an hour or two.
Finn leaned against a tree. He watched as his mother danced by with his stepfather, and a small smile came to his lips. Despite the fact that every time his mother looked at him he could see the sadness in her eyes, Finn knew that she was happy with Burt. At least most of the people in his family were doing well… on the surface, anyway.
He had seen his friends arrive earlier, but he also saw them hanging out with Rachel's friends. It seemed that Artie was going out with Brittany, if the way she was sitting on his lap and kissing his face was any indication. Puck was with Quinn (Finn always knew that that was going to happen), and Mike was with Tina. He didn't want to be the one to go over there and ruin the mood, so he just stayed on the outskirts of the party.
Just as Finn turned back towards the dance floor, he saw several people arrive on the other side of it. Santana Lopez was there, and she was with Rachel Berry. And no matter how hard Finn tried, he found that he couldn't look away from her.
She was wearing a pair of jeans and a pretty pink sweater, and her long, dark hair was flowing down past her shoulders. She was smiling as she and Santana made her way over to the rest of their friends. He guessed that was just another reason to not go over there.
He understood that what had happened to Rachel had been horrible. But did it matter that he couldn't be around his friends because she was around them? He just wanted everything to go back to the way it had been. He didn't want people to constantly stare at him, and he didn't want to deal with the intense flashes of guilt he felt every time he looked at Rachel.
Finn immediately put the lid on those thoughts and pushed them away. He wasn't about to start feeling sorry for himself now. He was out of the detention center, and now he was going to live the rest of his life as peacefully as possible. He just had to finish his senior year of high school, and then he was getting the hell out of Lima.
Rachel winced and paused in her planting of several different kinds of daffodils. She reached down and straightened her leg out, massaging the aching parts lightly. She sat back and observed her handiwork so far. A smile came onto her lips and she felt strangely proud of the several rows she had planted so far.
Beiste was working out in her garage. She came out to check on Rachel every now and then. When she came out this time however, she had a request for her.
"Rachel, I think that I heard the doorbell ring. Would you mind answering it for me?"
It took Rachel a moment to get to her feet, but she managed it. She wiped her hands on the apron that she had been wearing and pushed her sweaty hair back from her face as she made her way towards the door.
With the exception of that one moment when Rachel had first met Beiste, they had got along pretty well. Beiste didn't treat Rachel as if she had been in an accident that had nearly destroyed her left leg. She didn't treat her as she had a limp. Everything was normal, and Rachel was grateful to the former football coach for that.
Rachel quickly walked through the house and to the front door when she heard the doorbell ring once again. She opened the door but stumbled backwards as soon as she saw who was on the other side.
And for the second time since he had returned home, Finn Hudson reached out to steady her.
Finn couldn't believe that this was actually happening. As part of his community service, he was working at the local hardware store. He went and did jobs around town, like fixing fences or pipes in the kitchen and bathroom. So when he showed up to his old football coach's house, the last person he expected to see there was Rachel Berry.
Finn moved forward to catch her as she stumbled, but he was just a second too late. Rachel tripped and ended up sprawled out on the floor. Finn immediately crouched to help her stand back up again, and Rachel could almost pretend that he was the same boy she had known sophomore year. But then an intense pain shot up her leg, and she knew that they could never go back there.
"Get away from me," Rachel said before she could stop herself. Finn froze, but he didn't stand up. Rachel stared at him for a long moment before she said, "Why are you here?"
"Coach made a call to the Lima Hardware Store," Finn explained. "It's part of my community service, so…" He trailed off and watched Rachel as she shifted on the floor. Her leg was still sore from kneeling on it while gardening and she reached down to massage it again. Finn's eyes followed the movement, and his brow was furrowed. He looked Rachel in the eye then, his own amber eyes soft.
"Oh," Rachel said quietly.
Finn reached his hand forward as if he was going to help pull her up, but he stopped at the last second. Instead, he asked, "Rachel, what do you want me to do?"
"I want you to leave," Rachel whispered. She didn't think she could look him in the eye anymore. She looked down at her hands instead, clasped tightly in her lap. This was all just too much. She wasn't ready to face Finn again.
Finn sighed heavily. The horrible feelings coursing through him threatened to spill over as he watched Rachel curl into herself. "I can't," he said softly. "I'm sorry, Rachel. I have to be here—"
"Hudson. I didn't realize that they were sending you."
Finn looked up at his former coach but still didn't stand up. "You called and they sent me," he said with a shrug of his shoulders. Rachel suddenly struggled to her feet, holding her hands out to stop Finn from helping her. He stared at her for a long moment before he slowly stood as well.
Beiste looked between the two teenagers. "Well… this is certainly interesting, isn't it?"
Rachel had retreated to the backyard as soon as Beiste had explained why Finn was there. She wanted a gazebo built in her backyard, and Finn knew how to build one. So he was going to be there for a few weeks. He'd be there as long as Rachel was finishing out her volunteer time.
Rachel drew her knees up to her chest and hugged them. She may or may not have dramatically declared that she was going to quit if Finn was going to be working with them. And then she had performed one of her dramatic Rachel Berry storm outs (And it felt kind of good to have one. She hadn't done that since before the accident).
As far as she knew, Beiste was still in the house with Finn. She hadn't seen him leave yet, and she didn't know if he was going to. But then she saw the back door open. Her heart stopped for a moment when she thought that it was Finn, but it was actually Beiste.
"I didn't know if you were still here or not," Beiste said as she walked out into the backyard. She sat next to Rachel and looked over at her, but Rachel just looked down at her knees. She just shrugged her shoulders, so Beiste just took it as her cue to continue speaking.
"You know, Finn just wants to be free."
Rachel looked up sharply at the older woman. "I didn't ask for any of this to happen. I just want to be free, too. But I'm stuck here with a broken leg and a nightmare that won't leave me alone."
"Your leg doesn't look broken to me."
"You know what I mean, Coach."
Beiste sighed and patted Rachel's hand. "I'm not saying that what Finn did was okay, because it wasn't. And it never will be. But he knows that, and he's trying to change. He's just spent the past year in jail, and now he's just trying to finish his work so he can leave."
"You want me to agree with you," Rachel stated.
"I want Finn to build my gazebo," Beiste returned evenly. The truth was, she knew that all Finn wanted was a second chance. And she knew that boy. She knew that he was good. And she firmly believed that one mistake shouldn't define the rest of your life.
Rachel looked down at her leg. Finn had been drinking, and then he had lost control of the car and hit her. She knew that that had been an accident. She could forgive that… eventually.
But what she couldn't forgive was the fact that he had just left her there. There wasn't much she could recall from the accident, but she did remember waking up in the middle of the cold, dark road. And that was a feeling that she never wanted to have again.
Still. She remembered the look that Finn had given her when she had fallen on the floor. That was a look of someone who was truly sorry. Of someone who sincerely regretted what had happened to her.
Without saying anything else to Beiste, Rachel stood up and limped her way into the house. She found Finn sitting on the couch in the living room, and she stopped in front of him. He stared up at her and she crossed her arms as she studied him.
Finally, Rachel said, "You can stay. But don't talk to me."
And then she left.
"You're working with Rachel now?"
Finn rolled his eyes as he got in the car. Kurt had been sent to pick him up from Beiste's house, and he had seen Rachel getting into her father's car when he had arrived. Kurt had immediately started asking questions when he got in the car.
"I'm not really working with her," Finn answered. "It's more like I'm just working in the same general area as her."
"Oh." Kurt didn't make a move to start the car. Instead, he just watched Rachel's father's car pull away from the curb.
Finn sighed. "Kurt, it's not a big deal. Coach Beiste was just nice enough to give me a chance to finish out the rest of my community service. I'm there for a couple of weeks and then I'll be done."
"But…" Kurt finally turned towards his brother. "Finn—"
He knew what Kurt was going to say, and he didn't want to hear it. Finn held his hands up. "Stop, Kurt. I'm done. Let's just go home, okay?"
Kurt kind of looked like he was about to cry again. But he finally reached forward to start the car. The silence on the ride home was tense and heavy, and Finn wanted nothing more than to escape it.
Rachel was staring at Finn.
He could feel her eyes burning into his back. She was supposed to be gardening, and he was supposed to building the gazebo. He had been working in the backyard for the past three days, and he could feel her gaze on him. He was getting pretty tired of it, too. She had been the one who initiated the whole ignoring rule. He was following it. It was Rachel who seemed to have trouble with her own rule.
Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. He slammed his hammer down and whipped around to face Rachel, leveling a glare at her. "Would you quit staring at me?"
Rachel had jumped when Finn had turned around. She looked down at the flowers she was still planting, avoiding his gaze. "I wasn't staring at you," she denied. Except she totally had been. She couldn't help it.
"Yes, you were." Finn took a step closer. "And I get it, okay? Stare at the bad guy. Stare at the guy that just spent the past year in jail." Finn didn't know where all of this was coming from. He was just so tired and angry all of the time. "I'm sick of it. How do you feel when people stare at you for limping all the time?"
Rachel's eyes shot to Finn's then. They were big and wide and brown and quickly filling with tears. It took her a moment to scramble to her feet, but she managed it. Without another word, she bolted into the house and slammed the door behind her.
Beiste was unaware of what was going on, as she was in the garage working out once again. Finn stared at the closed back door as that horrible feeling of guilt slammed into him. He couldn't believe that he had just said that to her. As if he hadn't caused her enough problems already.
Finn rubbed his hand over the back of his neck before he followed Rachel into the house. He found her in the kitchen, leaning against the counter as she wiped at her eyes.
"You're crying," Finn said softly.
This time, she looked directly at him. "I'm not," she said, even though he could tell that she had been. He could see the tear tracks on her cheeks and the tears that were still gathering in her big brown eyes.
"Yes, you are." Finn took a hesitant step closer to Rachel, and he considered it progress when she didn't move away. "I'm sorry, Rachel. I shouldn't have said that."
"It's fine," Rachel whispered. But it wasn't. Not really. Rachel wasn't sure if it ever would be.
Finn ran a hand through his hair and exhaled slowly. He stared at Rachel until he caught her eye. She recognized that look in his eyes again—the one where he was utterly and completely regretful. Rachel held his gaze, and they just spent several long moments watching each other.
"No it wasn't," Finn finally said. "It wasn't fine, and I… I…"
Rachel turned to face him fully, one hand planted on her hip. "You're what, Finn? What are you? Sorry?" She already knew that. He didn't need to keep saying it.
"I am sorry," Finn repeated. "But I'm also…" He couldn't find the words he was searching for, so he just trailed off. "Never mind."
Rachel and Finn were both waiting outside of Beiste's house, waiting for their respective rides to come pick them up. Finn wasn't really sure how Rachel talked her fathers into letting her continue to work with Beiste, and he wasn't going to ask. But he did know that Kurt wasn't going to pick him up again.
Both of their rides were late on this particular day. It was even worse than usual, given Finn and Rachel's tense confrontation in the kitchen. They were each standing on either side of the walkway, pointedly not looking at one another.
Both Finn and Rachel's heads turned towards the voices. Rachel made a face when they realized who it was. It was Dave Karofsky and Azimio, two people that she really couldn't care for. They were both on the football team, and they pretty much took pleasure in bullying people.
Finn didn't look all that pleased to see them, either. He nodded politely but otherwise didn't say anything. Rachel meanwhile, tried to make herself invisible and willed her father to arrive faster. Unfortunately, luck wasn't working in her favor. Both Karofsky and Azimio caught sight of her.
"Hudson, what the hell are you doing with Berry?" Azimio demanded.
Finn shook his head. "Guys," he said firmly. "Knock it off."
"No, we really want to know." Karofsky leered at Rachel. "Is she your new girlfriend?"
Azimio laughed. "Does the limp turn you on, or something?"
"Maybe it's her nose," Karofsky said with a sneer. Rachel touched her nose in response, and she noticed Finn look at her. He shook his head, as if he was negating what Karofsky had said.
Finn stepped forward, his hands balling into fists. During his time in the juvenile detention center, he was taught to control his rage and redirect at other things, or just remove himself from the situation. He didn't really have anywhere to redirect at this point, and he wasn't just going to leave Rachel there. She didn't deserve it, and Finn felt a fierce need to protect her.
"I'm serious," Finn growled. He could sense Rachel watching them with wide eyes, but he didn't look at her again. Instead, he stepped in between the two boys and Rachel, making himself her shield. "Stop it and get out of here. Leave Rachel alone."
"Jeeze, Hudson. We had no idea that jail made you into such wet rag." Azimio nudged Karofsky, who laughed in agreement.
"Tell us, Berry," Karofsky said. "Do you limp around for Hudson often? Maybe you could do it for us a little bit—"
Before Karofsky could even finish his sentence, Finn launched himself forward and tackled him to the ground. Azimio tried to hit Finn, but he swung around and caught him by the jaw with his fist. That allowed Karofsky to get a hit in towards Finn, but he didn't have a problem retaliating.
Rachel could only stare in shock for a moment. She clutched her bag tightly to her chest as she watched Finn fight with the other guys. She was currently caught up on the fact that Finn had been defending her. He had stepped between them and pretty much used himself as a shield. That was more like the Finn Hudson she had known.
She couldn't just leave him.
Rachel launched herself into the fray, using her purse to hit Azimio over the head. He stumbled away, clutching at his forehead. Finn hit Karofsky and jumped up, grabbing Rachel and pulling her behind him. He couldn't believe that she had jumped into the fight to help him, but a strange feeling that he couldn't name spread through him.
It was then that Rachel's father's car pulled up to the curb. He got out of the car and stalked towards Finn, his eyes blazing.
"Hudson, get your hands off my daughter right this instant—"
"Papa, please stop!" Rachel exclaimed. Now Rachel was acting as a shield between Finn and her father. She held her hands up, looking at him with pleading eyes. "He was defending me. Those two were trying to start a fight, and Finn protected me."
Leroy stared at Finn for a long moment. Finn held his gaze until the older man finally turned towards Karofsky and Azimio. "Leave. Now," he ordered. He turned back towards his daughter. "Rachel, let's go."
But she didn't move. She looked up at Finn, her doe eyes wide. "Do you need a ride home, Finn?" she asked quietly.
Finn stared at her in shock. Leroy turned to look at her with an equally surprised look on his face when he heard Rachel ask her question. He stared between the two of them as he waited for Finn to respond. It kind of looked like Leroy's head was about to explode, but he stayed silent.
"Are you sure?" Finn finally asked.
Rachel bit her lip before she finally nodded her head. "Yes." She turned towards her father. "Papa?"
"Get in," Leroy said.
Rachel slid into the car. After another moment, Finn followed her in.
Something had changed. Neither nor Rachel were sure what it was, but… it was something. And it had happened between them.
Things were different now. Ever since the day Finn had defended Rachel, they had been taking their breaks at the same time. They would sit at the kitchen table, quietly eating their snack. They wouldn't say anything to each other, but they could now be in the same room without either of them feeling like they needed to run away.
Three days after the fight, that changed. Rachel picked at the cheese and crackers on her plate before she asked, "What was jail like?" The words were out of her mouth before she could stop herself.
To her surprise, Finn didn't look angry. Instead, he gave her a thoughtful look. "You know, you're the first person to ask me that question."
"Really? No one else wanted to know?"
"Everyone else just assumed." Finn shrugged his shoulders. "It wasn't exactly pleasant. I was always being watched. The only time I ever felt alone was when I found myself in solitary confinement, and even then I was sure that I was being watched."
"You were in solitary confinement?" Rachel stared at him with wide eyes. "For how long? What for?"
"Twenty four hours. I got into a fight." Finn popped a cracker into his mouth. "It only happened once, though." Since Rachel was asking questions, Finn figured that it was okay for her to ask her a question, too. "Do the doctors know if you'll ever walk without a limp?"
Rachel shrugged her shoulders. "They haven't told me. Hopefully, it will be a lot better before I go to New York City."
"Right." Finn nodded his head. "You want to be on Broadway. I have no doubt that you'll make it, Rach."
Rachel noticed the use of the nickname, but she didn't comment on it. Instead, she shook her head slowly. "I don't know if I will."
Rachel looked down at her leg. "My leg," she said quietly. "I don't know if I'll ever be able to dance on it again."
Finn looked surprised at Rachel's admission. "But I know you, Rachel." At least, he had known her. Once. "You wouldn't let something like that stop you. You've wanted to be on Broadway for as long as I can remember. You'll find a way to get there. You're one of the most determined people that I know."
"Not anymore," Rachel whispered. "The night of the accident changed me. I don't know if I'll ever be the same again."
"Alright, Miss Diva. Are you ready?"
Rachel nodded her head at Mercedes. "I'm ready to go."
Mercedes smiled, pleased with Rachel's change in demeanor. She normally wasn't this chipper during her physical therapy sessions, so this was a welcome change. "Put your legs in a V shape. Then I want you to reach over and try to touch your left foot. We're trying to keep your muscles loose."
Rachel nodded her head and took a deep breath before she reached over, stretching to touch her left foot. She felt the pain, but it didn't seem to bother her as much as before. With Finn's words from the previous day ringing in her ears, Rachel reached forward more. Her fingertips brushed her foot, and a smile lit up her face.
"Great job, Rachel!" Mercedes praised. "I'm impressed! What brought on this change?"
Rachel shrugged her shoulders and sat back before she took a deep breath and reached forward once again. Her fingers brushed the same spot, and she felt so proud of herself for being able to do it twice.
"Maybe you were right," Rachel finally admitted. Maybe everyone was right. "I wasn't exactly… trying."
Mercedes nodded her head but didn't say anything. It was important for Rachel to realize that she had been holding herself back. Her left leg was damaged, yes. But if she could push through it, she would be able to realize that she could get past it.
As they progressed through the rest of the exercises, Mercedes decided it was time to make a suggestion. "You know… Maybe you could try and start dancing again."
Rachel froze. She had been pressing her leg against Mercedes's hand, testing how much strength she had. Rachel had been pleasantly surprised to find that she had much more strength in her leg than she had realized. But Mercedes's question certainly threw her for a loop.
"Dancing?" Rachel repeated. "You want me to try dancing again?"
Nodding her head, Mercedes continued, "Obviously, nothing that would stress your leg too much. But it would greatly help to strengthen your muscles. And frankly, I think dancing would really help you in other ways, too."
"I, uh…" Rachel bit her lip and reached forward to touch her left foot again, just because she could. Finn's words came back to her once again.
"You wouldn't let something like that stop you… You'll find a way to get there."
Rachel looked down at her leg before she said, "I'll think about it."
Finn held the football tightly in his hands. He spun it once and smiled before tossing it in the air and catching it. It felt good to hold a football and be outside with it once again. It felt even better knowing that he was about to play a game with his friends.
Turning to Puck, he said, "Go long."
Puck grinned and ran down the field. "You got it, QB!" he called.
Finn ignored that and pulled his arm back, letting the ball fly. Puck called it and let a whoop as he ran back. Sam, Mike, and Artie applauded as well, and Finn grinned. It was nice to know that he hadn't lost his touch.
"Man, you have to join the football team again," Sam said. "We need you. We had a shit season last year."
Finn rubbed the back of his neck. "I don't know. I think I might sit this season out," Finn muttered. He caught the football when Puck tossed it back to him.
"We get that you… that you feel bad, Finn," Artie said carefully. "But that's over now."
Finn shook his head. "Did you know that Rachel may never be able to dance again?" He looked down at the football in his hands. "She wants to be on Broadway. She can't really be on Broadway if she can't dance."
Normally, at this point, someone would say that it wasn't his fault. But no one tried to speak, because they all knew that it was. Finn just nodded his head sadly and tossed the football to Mike.
"What is it with you and Berry?" Puck finally asked. "There's some weird… thing between the two of you. We can all see it. Even after everything that happened, you still look at her as if…"
"As if what?" Finn asked when Puck didn't finish. He knew what he was going to say, but he wanted to hear it anyway.
"As if you like her," Puck finished. "Really like her."
Finn sighed. "Maybe I do."
No one told him it was weird. No one told him that he should stay away from Rachel. They all knew Finn. They were his closest friends, and they knew that not everything was as it seemed. They didn't have the full story, and they were never sure if they really would.
Rachel stared at herself in the mirror. She was in the dance studio her fathers had made out of the guest bedroom when she was still in elementary school. She had changed into a leotard and tights, and she had pulled her hair back in a bun. She wanted to feel like a dancer, and looking like one helped her achieve that.
She had stretched out a little bit, but now it was time to really try and dance. She held onto the bar with one hand and went through some warm ups. Her left leg protested a little bit, but not enough for her to stop. A small smile was on her lips when she caught sight of her reflection in the mirror again.
She let go of the bar and stepped back, preparing to execute a turn. Her leg wasn't cooperating with her, however. It gave out from underneath her and she fell to the ground.
Rachel pressed her palms flat to the floor and squeezed her eyes shut as she tried not to cry. That was a simple turn. Any other day, she should have been able to do it. But today wasn't any other day.
Rachel was too upset to realize that she should have worked her way up to that. She wasn't really thinking at that moment. She pulled herself up off the ground and reached for her cellphone. She found herself dialing a number she had forgotten she had.
Rachel didn't say anything. She tried to get a hold on her emotions, because she didn't want to start crying. But a tear slipped down her cheek anyway, and she quickly brushed it away.
"Rachel, I know it's you. I have caller ID."
"Finn," Rachel finally said. She winced when she realized that her voice was full of tears.
Rachel could hear the concern in Finn's voice when he spoke again. "Rachel, are you okay? Did you fall? Are you hurt?"
"I did fall, but I'm not hurt," Rachel told him.
"Do you need me to come over?" Finn immediately asked. "I will if you need me."
"I just… I want to see you." And as soon as the words left Rachel's mouth, she knew that they were true. She did want to see Finn. She didn't understand it, but just hearing his voice made her feel better.
"Oh." Finn sounded just as surprised as Rachel felt. She wasn't sure where this was coming from. She just knew that she wanted to be around him.
"Will you meet me in the park?"
He didn't hesitate when he answered. "I'll be there in five minutes."
Finn was at the park when Rachel got there. He took one look at his face and pulled her into his arms, wrapping them tightly around her.
And before Rachel realized what was happening, she was crying into his shirt. She told him about trying to dance and how she wasn't sure if she ever could again. It felt like such a hard blow because she had been doing so well in physical therapy. Why shouldn't she be able to dance again? It just didn't seem fair.
Finn rubbed a warm, comforting hand over her back as she spoke. Eventually, her story was over and she just kept her cheek pressed against his chest, one hand curled into his shirt. They were sitting on the ground now, leaning against a tree.
The longer they sat there, the more Rachel realized she had never felt safer. She felt so at ease and comfortable wrapped up in Finn's arms. He lifted her free hand and played with her fingers, and she marveled over the fact that he was so much larger than her. But his touch was gentle, careful.
"Rachel, you have to know that it might not have worked on the first try," Finn said softly.
She sniffled. "I know that now." Now that she had calmed down a little bit, she was realizing that fact. "I just wish it wasn't so… hard. I wish that I could do better."
Finn flipped her hand over and pressed his palm to hers. "Didn't you say that you were doing better in physical therapy?"
"I am." Rachel slid her fingers along Finn's and kept her eyes focused on their hands.
"Then why don't you focus on that right now? Your leg will get stronger, and then you'll be able to try dancing again." He laced their fingers together and squeezed. "Can I see the scars?"
"What?" Rachel pulled away from Finn but not entirely out of his arms. Stared at him with wide eyes. "Excuse me?"
Finn looked her in the eye. "I haven't seen then and I just… I wanted to know."
Rachel shook her head. "No. No way."
"Rachel, please don't freak out."
"I'm not freaking out." But she kind of was. She didn't want anyone to see her scars, least of all Finn.
Finn's fingers tightened around hers and he sighed before looking her directly in the eyes. "Do you remember the night of the accident?" he asked suddenly.
"The accident. Do you remember it?"
She remembered the party that Santana and Tina had dragged her to. She remembered dancing with Finn. She remembered thinking that he might have kissed her, but he pulled away at the last second. She remembered leaving, taking a walk to clear her head. But she didn't remember getting hit by the car. She could only recall waking up in the middle of the street and being in an excruciating amount of pain.
"No," Rachel finally said. "I don't really remember much from that night. It's all kind of a blur." The night when Finn almost kissed her was just another confusing piece of the puzzle in how they felt about each other.
But Finn wasn't going to let it go. "We danced," he said. "I remember, because I don't like dancing. But I wanted to dance with you. And I almost kissed you."
"Why didn't you?" Rachel blurted before she stopped herself.
Finn looked down at their hands once again. Rachel twined their fingers together, and a half smile lifted Finn's lips at the motion. "I was too scared," he admitted. "But…" He looked up at her then and cupped Rachel's face with his free hand, tilting it up towards his. "I should have done this a year ago."
Then he kissed her.
Finn wasn't sorry. He knew that kissing Rachel was the exact opposite of what he should have done, but he didn't care. He wanted to kiss her. And from the way she responded, it seemed as if Rachel wanted it too.
Rachel was still clutching at his shirt when he pulled away. She looked up at him with her wide doe eyes. She was completely surprised, but she also looked as if she wanted to do it again. So while Finn stared down at her, Rachel tightened her fingers in his shirt and pulled him close again, bringing his mouth back down to hers.
This kiss was different from the first. Their previous one had been soft and gentle, very tentative. This one was deeper. Rachel sucked gently on his bottom lip and Finn slipped his tongue between her lips. She pressed closer to him and he settled his hands on her waist.
When they broke apart again, they were both breathing heavily. Rachel's arms had moved so that they were wrapped around his neck, and she didn't move to pull away. Finn brushed her hair back gently and watched as she turned into his touch. No, he didn't regret kissing Rachel Berry one bit.
"We shouldn't have done that," Rachel breathed.
Finn cupped her face again and brushed his thumb over her cheek. "No, we probably shouldn't have."
"But I don't…" She slid her hand over his. "It's okay."
"Is it really?" Finn held her tighter, and she actually snuggled further into his embrace. He wanted it to be okay.
Rachel nodded her head and finally smiled. It was a really, true Rachel Berry smile, and it caused Finn to smile as well. "It really is."
They didn't talk about what had happened in the park. Two days later, they sat in Beiste's kitchen sharing a snack. Instead of sitting across from him, Rachel had chosen the seat next to Finn's. The way they were sitting allowed their knees to touch, but Finn wanted more.
He couldn't explain it, but being around Rachel made everything calm again. He wasn't Finn, the quarterback, or Finn, the guy who was in jail. He was just Finn. And that was all he wanted to be.
So he inched his hand closer to Rachel's on the kitchen table. If she saw his hand moving, she didn't acknowledge it… but she also didn't pull her hand away.
When he was close enough, Finn slid his hand over Rachel's. She was still for a moment before she flipped her hand over and laced their fingers together. A grin broke out on Finn's face and he looked up to find her smiling as well.
Rachel was finally driving again. So she offered to give him a ride back home once their work was done. And when they pulled up in front of her house, Rachel asked Finn if he wanted to come in. Her fathers were away on a business trip, so she had the whole house to herself for the weekend.
"Really?" Finn asked. He couldn't hide the shock on his face. "Are you sure?"
Rachel nodded her head and smiled at him, even though her heart was pounding loudly in her ears. She was nervous, but not in the same why she had been when Finn had first returned to Lima. Things were different now… but different in a good way.
They settled on the couch in the living room, sitting close to each other but not touching. Finn looked at the pictures decorating the mantel. There were some from elementary and middle school that he remembered, but there were also several that had been taken in the hospital.
Rachel noticed Finn looking at them. "My fathers really spruced the hospital room up. And they always made sure that my friends were visiting so that I was never alone. They took a lot of pictures because they wanted me to remember the good times."
Finn turned away from the pictures. "I don't want to think about the accident anymore," he admitted quietly.
"Neither do I," Rachel said. She didn't want to think about it anymore. She didn't want to be stared at, and she didn't want people to whisper whenever she and Finn were in the same room.
Finn shifted closer to her on the couch. He took her hand and looked into her eyes. Rachel was shocked at the deep pain and sadness she found in the amber depths, and she found herself wanting to do everything she could to make it go away.
"Do you think that you could ever forgive me?" Finn whispered. He kind of sounded like he was about to cry, and Rachel's heart broke for him a little.
She turned on the couch and pulled her hand from his only to place them on either side of his face. "Finn… I already have forgiven you."
She wasn't sure when it happened. There were still so many things that she didn't know, still so many unanswered questions. There was definitely something that Finn wasn't telling her. She could see it in his eyes, hear it in the things he said to her. But in that moment, Rachel knew that she had forgiven him for whatever he had done.
But Finn didn't look relieved. Instead, he reached forward and kissed Rachel deeply, pulling her into his lap. His hands stroked up and down her sides and Rachel laced her fingers in his hair, holding him close.
Rachel didn't know how long she and Finn sat there, holding each other, kissing and touching as much as they could. The touches were gentle and curious, and she explored Finn's body just as much as he explored hers.
"We should stop," Finn whispered against her lips some time later. Rachel was laid out under him, her hair mused, cheeks flushed and her lips swollen. Finn didn't think he had seen anything more beautiful. But he didn't want to push her too far.
Rachel didn't want to stop, but she knew that they should. So she reached up to kiss Finn once again and nodded her head. She pulled him down and they shifted together until they were spooned on the couch. Finn's arms were tight around her, and the last thing she heard was his strong heartbeat before she fell asleep.
Finn said goodbye to Will as he left. Since his community service was almost over, Will had to come for an interview. Finn had told him about talking to Rachel, but he had left out the part where he was working with her. He also didn't say anything about how he was kind of with Rachel now.
Will had pinned him with a curious look, as if he didn't quite understand where Finn was coming from or what he was doing. Finn had tried his best not to be uncomfortable when Will asked more probing questions, but he was honestly surprised when he wasn't reprimanded for talking to Rachel.
Finn let out a sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. His interview with Will may have been over, but Finn had someone else that he needed to talk to, and he wasn't really looking forward to that conversation. The house was empty save for himself and Kurt, and Finn took a deep breath before he knocked on Kurt's door.
It was dark inside the room when Kurt opened the door. There were still Broadway posters and clippings from magazines hanging up on the walls, but the room wasn't as neat as it used to be and the curtains were pulled. Finn shook his head sadly and stepped into the room, pushing past Kurt.
He yanked open the curtains while Kurt just watched him blankly. Sunlight streamed in and Finn stood in it for a moment before turning to face Kurt.
He really wasn't sure how to say what needed to be said, but they needed to talk about it. Kurt seemed to know what Finn wanted to talk about, and he had a sort of resigned look on his face as he stood across the room from him.
"We need to talk," Finn finally said.
Kurt crossed his arms and curled into himself. "I know," he whispered. "I don't want to talk."
"Too bad," Finn said. "Because we're going to." It finally needed to be said out loud, so Finn just bit the bullet and spoke the words: "You're the one that hit Rachel with the car, Kurt."
Kurt didn't look at him. He just stared at the floor, and it suddenly hit Finn how sad and broken his brother looked. He wasn't even trying to live his life anymore.
"I took the fall for you," Finn continued. "I went to jail. But Kurt, I wouldn't have done it if I had known that you were going to act like this."
Kurt finally looked up at Finn. His face was blank before it suddenly crumpled and he started crying. "I couldn't handle it!" he exclaimed. He sank down on to his bed and put his face in his hands. "I still can't!"
Finn stood next to the bed as Kurt continued crying. He waited for his brother to get it all out. Finally, Kurt wiped at his face and looked up at Finn.
"I'm sorry, Finn. I'm so, so sorry. I didn't mean it."
Finn sat down next to Kurt. "I know you didn't," he said.
Kurt shook his head. "I could have killed Rachel."
"But you didn't."
"I just watched when they handcuffed you and took you away, Finn!" Kurt stood up and started pacing the room. "I let them take you away, and it was my fault!"
Finn had let them, too. He knew that Kurt wouldn't have been able to handle jail. So Finn had taken his place. He protected Kurt as much as he could, but he didn't know that it was going to turn out like this.
"You don't understand, Finn," Kurt continued. He was still pacing back and forth, gripping his unkempt hair in his hands. "You don't understand what it's like. I can't look at Rachel. I can't even look at you anymore!"
"It's over," Finn finally said. "It's over and done with."
Kurt shook his head vigorously. "It's not over, and it will never be over. Not for me, anyway. I'm going to carry this guilt around with me for the rest of my life. You don't know what it's like."
Kurt was right. Finn didn't know what it was like.
He sank down on the bed once again and pressed his hands to his face. When he finally looked up, Finn could see that Kurt was still crying. Finally, Kurt pleaded, "You won't tell anyone, right? You won't tell anyone what really happened?"
Finn watched his brother for several long moments. Kurt wasn't the same person that Finn had known a year ago. The accident and everything that had happened since had broken Kurt. Finn didn't know who he was anymore.
And he couldn't make that promise.
"Things are different."
It was something that Rachel had been thinking for over a year. It was what she had been hearing. But it finally felt as if different was a good thing. Everything was wonderful again. Rachel couldn't help but glance over his shoulder and caught sight of Finn working. He wasn't wearing a shirt today, and Rachel could see his muscles rippling under his skin. Her cheeks hit up and she bit her lip as she turned back towards Beiste.
"Things are different," Rachel agreed.
Beiste looked between Finn and Rachel and she smiled slightly. "Good different, right?" She wasn't stupid. She could see that the relationship had shifted between the two teenagers. It had unfolded right before her very eyes.
"Very good," Rachel said. "Things finally feel better again."
Beiste patted Rachel's shoulder before she stood up and made her way over to Finn. He set his hammer aside when he saw his old coach come up to him, and he knew that a serious conversation was about to take place.
"Are you with Rachel now?" Beiste asked.
Finn nodded his head. "I guess so." They hadn't really labeled what they were, but Finn and Rachel tried to spend time together whenever they could. And they spent a lot of that time together holding one another and kissing and talking about anything and everything.
Beiste studied Finn for a long moment. "Be careful, Finn," she said. "This is a difficult situation."
And then Beiste just decided to say it. "You weren't the one to hit Rachel, were you?"
Finn looked up at Beiste with wide eyes. He whipped around to make sure that Rachel hadn't heard her before he went over to the other side of the gazebo.
"How did you know?" Finn demanded.
Beiste gave him a sad smile. "It wasn't that hard to figure out. Not after how I saw Kurt was when you came back. And I know you, Finn. I know that you wouldn't have left Rachel in that street."
"Kurt didn't want to leave Rachel, either," Finn defended. "He just didn't know what to do and he was so scared…" He trailed off and tried to push back the memories from that terrible night. "He came back to the party that we were at and he was such a mess. He took me back to where Rachel had been hit, and I knew that I couldn't let him take the fall for it. He wouldn't have been able to handle jail."
"And you shouldn't have had to deal with it, either," Beiste stated firmly. She couldn't believe what was happening right now. "It wasn't your problem to try and solve. I understand that you were just trying to protect your brother, but…" She looked over at Rachel, who was busy finishing up with the planting of the flowers. "Are you going to tell Rachel?"
Finn ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know. Things with Kurt are just… bad, and I think someone should know what really happened, but…" He shook his head. "Things are finally better with Rachel. Kurt was one of her closest friends. I was just his brother. I don't want to bring back those feelings for her again."
"But you're not just Kurt's brother to Rachel anymore," Beiste pointed out. "And Rachel deserves to know what really happened."
It was another weekend where Rachel's fathers weren't home. Finn stood in her living and nervously waited for her to return from her shopping trip with her friends. He had spent the past hour setting up, and he wanted this to be as perfect as possible.
The front door opened and Rachel came in. She came up short, stopping in surprise when she realized that Finn was standing there. Her eyes widened further when she saw the white lights strung around the room, in addition to the candles lit all over the place.
"Finn," Rachel gasped. "What is all of this?"
Finn smiled at her and stepped forward to take her hands. "I just wanted to do something nice. You know, like a real date instead of just watching a movie and eating some pizza."
Rachel beamed and reached up to kiss him. "This is amazing, Finn. Thank you!"
Finn kissed her again before he walked over to the stereo and turned it on. Quiet music filled the room, and he held his hand out. "Dance with me, Rachel."
"I don't know," Rachel said quietly. Her physical therapy had been going even better than it had before, and her leg had strengthened greatly. But she hadn't tried to dance since the night Finn had first kissed her.
Finn grinned and took Rachel's hand, pulling her forward. He lifted her until her feet were resting on top of his. Despite the fact that Finn had no rhythm at all, he began to sway to the music. Rachel grinned and giggled as she rested her cheek against his chest, wrapping her arms around his neck.
They danced like that for a little bit. And then they were resting against the pillows Finn had set up. They were kissing, hands traveling over familiar paths. Suddenly, Finn's large, warm hand traced gently down her left leg.
"Can I see?" he asked softly.
Rachel stared at him for a long moment. This was it. The moment of truth. Did she trust Finn? Did she trust him with her body, to see all of her. More importantly, did she trust him with her heart?
Rachel took a deep breath before she unbuttoned her jeans and slowly pulled them off. She wasn't embarrassed that she was sitting in front of Finn in her underwear and shirt; she was more apprehensive of what was going to happen when he saw her scars.
Finn watched intently as the long, pink scars were revealed. He didn't know how many surgeries she had to go through, but the scars ran up and down her soft olive skin. Finn felt a stab a pain at the pain she had gone through, and he reached out to trace one of the scars with a single finger.
Rachel let him, watching with wide eyes. Finn knew that Rachel now trusted him fully. She had forgiven him, she trusted him… and from the look in her eyes, it seemed as if she might love him. He lifted her tiny foot in his hands, extending her leg slowly.
Finn brought his lips down and kissed the first scar, dragging his lips along it. Rachel closed her eyes and tilted her head back. She didn't feel like she had anything to hide anymore. Under Finn's gaze and with his touch, she felt beautiful. Finn's lips moved from one scar to the next, his fingers tracing over them as his lips left them.
Rachel couldn't take it anymore. Not because she didn't want him to touch her anymore, but because she needed to touch him. She wanted to be wrapped up in his arms, wanted to feel his touch everywhere. So Rachel tugged on his shirt until he was over her once again, and she kissed him deeply.
They tugged their clothes aside until they were just skin against skin. Finn's lips moved all over her body, worshiping her and making her feel loved and protected and safe. Rachel traced her hands over his body as he moved, feeling his muscles move underneath his skin.
And when Finn pressed into Rachel for the very first time, he kissed her tears away and held her hand. She laced their fingers together and moved with him, and they reached their peaks together.
After, with Rachel resting against Finn's chest, she whispered, "I love you," into his skin.
Finn smiled and kissed her forehead. "I love you, too," he said.
Puck and Finn were back in the park, tossing the football back and forth. "You seem happier," Puck noted.
Finn caught the ball. "I am," he said. He was still harboring his secret, and Kurt was still acting like a zombie, and Beiste was still trying to get him to tell the truth (in fact, he was pretty sure that Beiste was about to tell someone for him). But being with Rachel just made everything seem better. He finally felt truly happy again.
"It's because of Rachel Berry, isn't it?" Puck asked.
Finn wasn't very surprised that Puck had figured him out. The guy was smarter than he let on. "It is."
"I'm just going to state the obvious here. It's kind of weird, isn't it?"
"You think it would be, but it's not." Finn sighed. "It feels… right. Like it was supposed to be this way all along."
Puck studied him carefully. "We know that there's something that you're not telling us," he finally said. "And that's fine, or whatever. We're just glad that you're back and seem to be doing so well. We get that things weren't easy for you in jail. But you're still the Finn Hudson that I knew. It's almost like nothing has changed."
And it really did feel like that sometimes. Hanging out with his friends and being with Rachel made it feel as if he hadn't spent the past year covering for his brother in jail. Finn didn't regret taking the fall for Kurt. But he just wished that Kurt had taken advantage of the fact and had not let his life fall apart
"Thanks, man," Finn said instead. And he tossed the football back.
Santana stared at Rachel. Rachel stared at her.
It had been like this for the past ten minutes. Tina and Quinn were standing behind Santana, waiting to see who would speak first. Unsurprisingly, it was Santana.
"When were you going to tell us that you were hooking up with Hudson?" Santana demanded.
Rachel wasn't very sure how they figured it out, but she knew that there was no use in denying it. "I don't really know when I was planning on telling you—"
She didn't get to finish, since Tina decided that then would be an excellent time to freak out. "Rachel, are you insane? He hit you with his car!"
"It was an accident!" Rachel pointed out. She knew that. She knew it was an accident. And when she was with Finn, it truly didn't feel as if that night had happened. "And I forgive him. More than that, I love him."
"Oh my God." Santana shook her head. "Berry. I don't even know what to say."
"Say that you'll support me," Rachel said. "You three are my best friends. Say that you'll be there for me and Finn. Because this is the way that it is. He's helped me more than I know how to say. I don't know when it happened, or how it happened, but it did."
The three girls stared at Rachel and then shared a look. Then they slowly nodded their heads.
"We just want to make sure that you're safe, Rachel," Quinn said. "We're worried about you."
Rachel smiled at her friends. "I know you are. And I appreciate it. But I don't think you have to worry about me anymore. I'm finally taking my life back. Those feelings of hatred and betrayal I was carrying around… it hurt too much and took too much effort. It feels good just to let it all go."
"If Hudson hurts you again, Rachel—" Santana began.
"Don't, Santana," Rachel said quickly. "That part of my life is behind me now."
As they watched Rachel, Santana, Tina, and Quinn knew that what she had said was true. Rachel was finally taking her life back. Things were finally better for her. That point was proven even more when Rachel pulled the leg of her jeans up, displaying her scars.
"I'm not afraid of them anymore," Rachel said. She traced her fingers over them and closed her eyes as memories from the accident came flooding back. This time, instead of trying to push them away, Rachel just let them come.
The car was coming towards her, but the image of the driver became clearer. And the more Rachel focused, the more she realized that it wasn't Finn behind the wheel… It was Kurt.
Rachel opened her eyes with a gasp.
When Finn opened the front door, the last person he expected to see was Rachel. As soon as she saw him, she threw her arms around him and pressed her face into his chest. She held him tightly, and he wrapped his arms around her and held her through his confusion.
Rachel pulled away enough to look into his eyes. In that moment, Finn realized that Rachel knew. She knew everything. Even so, he had to hear her say it.
"You know," Finn whispered.
Rachel nodded her head. "I know," she confirmed. "I know everything. I remember the accident, I remember Kurt… It wasn't you, Finn. It was Kurt. How… Why…" She trailed off and buried her face in his chest again. She couldn't believe it. All this time, she had sensed something had been off about what had happened. And now she knew why.
She looked up to see Kurt standing at the foot of the stairs. He was staring at her with wide eyes, and he looked tired and broken and just sad. Rachel pulled herself out of Finn's arms and stepped towards Kurt.
She hadn't been lying when she had told Santana, Tina, and Quinn that she had let go of all of the pain and anger she had been feeling. It didn't help anyone to hold on to it anymore. After letting all of those feelings go, she felt stronger. She felt happier and whole again.
"It's okay, Kurt," Rachel said softly.
Kurt shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry, Rachel," he whispered. "I'm so, so sorry." The words started spilling from his lips. "I wish I could take it back. I wish I could take it all back. I wish none of it had ever happened, and I wish that I hadn't left you there. And I really wish I hadn't let Finn take the fall for me."
At the mention of Finn's name, Rachel turned to look at him. He was watching Kurt and Rachel interact, his own eyes shining. Rachel reached a hand out and Finn took it in one of his, holding it tightly.
"I have to turn myself in now, don't I?" Kurt whispered.
Finn swallowed hard. "That's up to you," he finally said after a long pause. He wasn't going to tell Kurt what to do. He wasn't going to make decisions for him anymore.
Kurt stared between Rachel and Finn before he resolutely nodded his head. "I want to turn myself in."
Finn hated having to watch his mom go through all of that pain once again. But now Kurt was determined to do the right thing. He couldn't go on letting Finn shoulder the responsibility for something that he had done, and Finn had realized that Kurt needed to handle this on his own.
They had called Will, and he had come over to advise them on what they needed to do. He had explained that it would be easiest for Kurt to go to the police station and make a sworn statement. He would then be processed into the system, and it would be up to the prosecutor as to what would happen next. And at the end of it all, Finn's record would be wiped clean.
Will said that Carole and Burt should write letters vouching for Kurt's character. Coach Beiste was there, too, and she had written a letter for Kurt (Finn had been so thankful for his old football coach. She had given him a second chance and then she had supported both him and Kurt). They would be handed in with his confession. Finn had written one for Kurt as well. Finn's friends and family had thought that he was still a good person after everything that had happened. Finn knew that Kurt was a good person, because it had just been an accident.
Before Kurt went in, Rachel stood up and handed over a letter of her own. Finn stared at her in amazement. She truly had the biggest heart. She was kind and forgiving and graceful and just amazing.
"I'm sorry, Rachel," Kurt repeated. "I'm so sorry, and I never meant to hurt you—"
Rachel cut Kurt off with a hug. "I know. I know you didn't, okay? I forgive you."
Kurt nodded his head and left the room to confess. Finn stood and his parents hugged him before he turned to Rachel. He pulled her close and buried his face in her hair, holding her tightly.
It was all said and done with. Kurt had confessed and was released on bail for the time being. Will was going to talk to the judge to get him a lighter sentence. Finn's record was clear. Everything had finally fallen into place.
Rachel laid curled up in Finn's bed with him. She was wearing one of his old t-shirts with her hair long and loose around her shoulders. Finn leaned over and kissed her shoulder, pulling her close so that she was spooned against him.
"I love you," he murmured.
Rachel turned so she could see his face. A soft, loving smile was on her lips, and she leaned up to kiss him. "I love you, too."
"I just… after everything that happened…" Finn's hold tightened around her and he closed his eyes. "I never thought that I would be here."
"But you are." Rachel reached up to stroke his face. "You're here, and I'm here, and everything is going to be okay." For once, she was the one saying it to someone else. Everything was whole again. They were all healing.
And looking into Rachel's eyes, Finn knew that everything was going to work out.
"Finn! Finn, I did it! I got the part!"
Rachel was barely through the door before she was yelling for her boyfriend. Finn came in from the kitchen, where he had been grading papers for his music theory class. He knew right away what Rachel was talking about, and he grinned as she jumped into his arms.
"You got the part?"
Rachel nodded her head and reached up to give him a kiss. "I'm the lead in Funny Girl, Finn! Funny Girl! On Broadway!"
Finn hugged her, picking her up and spinning her around. "I knew you could do it, baby!" He had always believed in her. Ever since that day during their senior year of college, Finn had never stopped believing in her. He supported her all throughout college and then while she was the lead in a few off-Broadway shows. And now she finally had her first lead.
Rachel kissed him again. "I love you," she said before she danced away from him, pulling her phone out to call her friends and family.
Finn grinned as he leaned against the wall and watched as she chattered away excitedly. When he came out of the juvenile detention center six years ago, he had never thought that he was going to end up in New York City, living with Rachel as a teacher while she was celebrating getting her first lead on Broadway.
It had taken his family a little while, but they had eventually healed. Kurt had served his punishment, and then he had gone on to become a counselor for troubled kids. He was the head of the music program, and he and Blaine had found each other once again. Everything had worked out, and things just kept getting better.
Finn grinned and reached into his pocket, feeling for the ring he had hidden there. Tonight, he was going to make it better forever.
Author's Note: Many thanks to firecracker1990, who encouraged me to write this. Thanks for reading, and I hope that you all enjoyed this!