THANKS TO LAURA FOR THE PROMPT AND ALSO FOR BEING SO EXCITED AND DEDICATED TO MAKING ME WRITE THIS, DEDICATED TO LAURA AND SHANNA AND RACHEL. THX TO THE BEATLES, JANE AUSTEN, E.B. WHITE, PABLO NERUDA, AND THE REST. ENJOY YOUR STAY
The first time she lets a man love her, really love her, not just sloppy making out in the back of a movie theater, corners of parties, the first time she lets a man be intimate with her, he leaves her pregnant and alone. She's not a child anymore, doesn't need her papa and her daddy to get her out of every little mess. She loves them but she wants to do this, the baby thing, she wants to do it on her own.
And she does do it on her own, maintains her job at the library all through her pregnancy, but finds trouble finding a suitable apartment and resigns herself to living with her parents, just for now. She pays for her own hospital bills, most weeks, even her own groceries and vitamins, and it's almost like living on her own. She's never, ever lived alone and now that she's twenty-one and pregnant she supposes she'll never live alone again.
Really, really, she's trying to keep up this circle of positivity she heard on Dr. Phil. Or maybe she read it somewhere? Anyway. She's looking into the power of positive thinking and doing yoga to make sure she doesn't have anymore panic attacks – her doctor tells her that's bad for the baby – and she drinks so much herbal tea she wouldn't be surprised if the baby comes out green.
By the time she's eight months she feels huge and awful, a planet in her own right. Her doctor tells her she needs to go on bed rest which is so dumb because she loses so much time for work, saving for the baby, and she's in an all right place financially but she's a worrier and the baby's due date is so close and she just doesn't feel ready.
It's snowing the night she goes into labor, and really, it's at the most inopportune time, you see, because she's just gotten to the part in Pride and Prejudice where Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy –
Well, about a minute into being annoyed she's in a lot of pain, actually, horrible terrible pain and like, ten hours later, hours that grudge by and it feels like forty, ten hours later she's got her slightly pink but completely perfect Charlotte Elizabeth Berry. Lucky she wasn't a boy, or else her middle name could have been Darcy, or even Fitzwilliam, and anyway, Rachel's not very sure another baby quite so perfect exists on this earth.
That summer, cooped up with her dads and Charlotte, she starts to go a little stir-crazy, finds an apartment closer to work, and moves out, leaves a note in the morning for her dads, and they're going to be hurt she knows, she knows, but she'll never stand on her own two feet if she stays around with them for much longer.
Maybe she's lost the naïveté of her youth or maybe this is what growing up is, for her, her personalized Growing Up Story and she'll have a special on TLC someday, how this small Jewish girl rose to the top with her baby by her side, without any serious male partnership. While folding Charlotte's onesies and listening to her soft breathing in her crib, she imagines it, the TLC special, the little girls she will inspire – it will be very moving and very touching and perhaps it will be adapted for the stage and she'll portray herself, and, well.
It's safe to say Rachel's dreams are far bigger than the library she's resigned herself to, and until she can afford it, she won't bother auditioning for all those shows that light up the theaters on Broadway that sometimes she walks by when Charlotte's visiting her grandparents.
Someday, she thinks.
Regardless, she's not spending her time worrying about this grandiose future she's dreamed up. She's perfectly happy the way she is, working at the library, painting Charlotte's toenails to match hers. She lets her own hair grow long because it's never been long before, untamed, and she likes waking up with it over her shoulder in the morning, likes that when Charlotte's old enough to speak, when she's too, she pets Rachel's hair, says,
"Pretty Mama," and tugs at the long ponytail.
At night, it all sort of hits her, that she's spent the last two years raising a child all on her own, with minimal help from her fathers, and she'll start panicking because now she's got two lifetimes on her hands, two lives she has to take care of, her own and Charlotte's, two lives she can't escape, doesn't ever want to escape. And she knows, maybe, someday, she'll get married, someday a man could break the barrier she's put up around her heart, but there's no way she's hoping for it to happen. Or planning on it. She likes things just the way they are.
Charlotte's four when she gets this horrible cough and Rachel stays up most of the night with her, keeps her cuddled close in her bed, falls asleep for just a moment and then Charlotte's tugging at the straps of her tank top, eyes dark and wide and terrified.
It doesn't even take a moment to realize her baby can't breathe and she takes her outside, grabs a blanket to keep warm in the winter weather, and they sit on the fire escape, Rachel with Charlotte in her arms, gasping for breath.
"Charlotte, honey, are you okay?"
It's been awhile, and her toes are a little numb. Charlotte nods, a little lethargic, says, "I don't feel good, Mama," and presses her warm cheek against Rachel's cold neck.
"You're gonna be okay, I promise," she murmurs, kisses the tip of her head.
There is something so refreshing to her, rereading hardback copies of old novels, gray Saturday mornings, tea warm and steaming on the end table, and Charlotte tucked away in bed at Rachel's dads, a new tradition in this new year, this bald and clear year. She's honestly just getting drawn into the yellowing pages of Jane Eyre when she's distracted by these thumps, three of them, an annoyed grunting, a groan, another thump.
Annoyed thoroughly, she rises from her chair, walks to the door. Outside there is a couch, leather, and a man leaning against it. He looks like maybe he's given up, and automatically, her fingers begin to turn the knob. It is very unacceptable for this man to plan to live in her hallway.
"Excuse me," she says, stepping into the hallway. The floor is cold against her bare toes. "Do you need assistance?"
His cheeks are pink immediately and she wonders if she remembered to put a bra on this morning. Sometimes she forgets, honestly, when she's just lying around – she supposes this man is lucky she wasn't naked. "Um…are you strong?"
"Yes! Quite strong."
He's smiling a little, and, okay, she's not that strong. She is of normal strength despite her below-average size. "Okay. You wanna grab the other end of this and help me bring it in my apartment? It's just that one," he gestures to the one beside hers, "so, uh, nice to meet you, neighbor."
Rachel can't help but be nice to people. She supposes it's something about her mothering nature, now, so she tells him she's Rachel Berry and smiles at him, tells him it's a pleasure to make his acquaintance. The couch is very heavy and she tries to be discreet when she rubs her arms once the couch is in place in his apartment.
"It was too heavy for you, wasn't it?"
"Maybe," she says, being coy not to flirt, but because she – well. She doesn't want to embarrass herself in front of a really handsome man, with strong hands and arms, freckles, dimples.
"I'm Finn Hudson," he tells her, words stumbling a little, and he's like energy personified, already in his kitchen, boxes stacked next to a fridge. "You thirsty? Moving in is the worst, I'm telling you."
"I'm okay, I have tea in my apartment – "
"Very nice," he says, interrupting her, "tea's cool. Thanks so much for the help I really don't know what I'd do if you hadn't heard me struggling. Probably would have cut the couch in half like – "
"That episode of Friends," she finishes, laughing. "That'd be a bad idea."
The conversation lulls a bit, him, moving around his kitchen, unpacking and then pausing, drinking a bottle of water, putting more water in.
"You seem nervous," she observes. "Why's that?"
"It's like – the possibilities. You know? When you move into a new place…"
"I do," she says, surprised. That special energy of a new beginning. "It was great to meet you, Finn Hudson."
"See you around," he calls, smiling, waving. She closes the door behind her, tries to pretend her heart's not thrumming a little faster.
It scares Charlotte sometimes, the way the branches illuminated against the dim light of the moon and the bright lights of the city dance in the winter, the arid wind moving the trees like monsters on her walls. Some nights she'll cry out, terrified, others she'll quietly slip into bed with Rachel, barely wake her up, hide her face in her neck, afraid still of the way the light slants into the bedroom, moving shadows, cars driving, moving constantly. It's not the best place, sometimes, this city, for her baby, but she does well with what she has.
One afternoon, she's walking with Charlotte into the apartment, groceries in one arm, Charlotte's hand in hers, and she's talking about school, this boy who broke his arm and asked her to sign it, how he looked kinda funny, and honestly, boys already?"
"Can I get a cast?"
"No," Rachel says, struggling for her keys.
"Because, sugar, if you get a cast it means you have to hurt yourself, and I don't want you hurting yourself." She finally digs the keys out of her purse, sticks them in the lock, and then the groceries tumble from her arms. Cursing mildly in her head, of course, she turns to bend to pick them up but Finn from next door is there.
"Hiya," he says pleasantly, "need assistance?"
"Yes." He bends, picks up her groceries, follows her in. She's got Charlotte's backpack, too, sets it on the counter, directs Finn to place the groceries beside it. Charlotte is nervous, shy, hiding behind her legs. She certainly doesn't get her penchant for shyness from Rachel, but it's honestly so cute, so.
"Who's this?" Finn says, crouching so he's at Charlotte's level. He really is big, tall, broad. "What's your name?"
"Hi, Charlotte," Finn introduces, sticking his hand out for Charlotte to shake "I'm Finn. I like that puppy on your shirt. You know, I've got my own puppy."
"You do?" Her eyes pop open and she finally lets Rachel move away.
"Yup. His name's Graham, I think you'd like him. You can come meet him whenever you'd like."
"Mama can I go right now?"
Finn's straightened and Charlotte looks excited and she shouldn't trust Finn with her daughter but she says yes, accompanies them, keeps her hands on Charlotte's shoulders. Sometimes she really does worry too much. Finn's talking to Charlotte about something, she's a little tuned out she supposes, and Charlotte's responding like Finn's one of her friends in her kindergarten class. It's never been quite this easy for Charlotte to warm up to someone, and she's kind of proud of her baby, growing up and all. Or maybe it's just something about Finn that makes him likeable.
"Where are you comin' from?" Finn asks, his eyes on her, Charlotte petting Graham.
"Work, school." She tilts her head towards the dog. "Where and when did you get him?"
Finn purses his lips, one side curves upwards. It's a little endearing, that crooked little smile, like he's a little off balance but only in the best ways. "He was at this shelter, like, abused and stuff, a little puppy, so I took him home, and we've been pals ever since."
She feels her cheeks warm, her heart doing that stupid funny beating thing. She ignores it, pushes it to the back of her mind. "Charlie, sugar, I think it's time to get dinner ready."
Charlotte's pouting. "But Mama – "
"You can come play whenever, Charlotte," Finn tells her. "As long as I'm around, of course, and with your mother's permission. Besides, I've gotta do some work stuff. Can't have you two ladies around, distracting me."
"We'll see you soon," Rachel says, grabbing Charlotte's hand, going back to their apartment, entire body warm. There's just something about Finn that is so exceptionally intriguing.
She runs into him a lot, coming back from a jog early on cold Saturday mornings, him, behind her and Charlotte walking onto the elevator, nearly running into him near the storage in the basement of the building. She supposes it is safe to say they have managed to become friends, the two of them, in that neighborly unfamiliarity.
One cold afternoon she's in the elevator, pastry box in her hands, late from an early morning shift, tired, ready to hit the CLOSE button on the elevator when she hears,
"Hold it! Please!" And Finn rushes in, nearly squeezes himself between the doors sliding shut. "Hey, Rach," like he calls her that everyday. Maybe he does, in his mind. Rach.
"Hi," she says, hits the number for their floor, six. Some days, when she's ready for a challenge, she takes the stairs but it's been a long day, too many people at the library unfamiliar with the system of organization, begging for books been checked out, requesting literature that's in plain sight.
"Long day?" He's wearing a suit, patting his thighs, a rhythm.
"Yes," she sighs, leans her temple against the side of the elevator. After a moment, she second-guesses what else has pressed up against that same spot. It's a very clean building, yes, but you can never be too careful. "What about you? Why're you in a suit?"
"Oh, there was a performance this afternoon."
"It is growing rather late, isn't it?" She blinks. "What do you do? Performance?"
He opens his mouth to answer when she realizes, gasping.
"Finn, you don't own a strip club do you? Oh, wait, is there a PC term? Politically correct, I mean."
He's laughing, the doors slide open, and they're at their floor. "I don't own a strip club, and if I did, do you think I'd tell you?" She squints at him. "I compose, you know – "
"Music. For shows, commercials, et al. Tonight there was a performance, little theater, but well-done. And you're…hmm. Sweater, dress. Nice shoes. I'm gonna say realtor."
"Why would I be a realtor?"
"You look like you could sell a good house."
She's groping for her keys, laughs a little. "Thanks? And anyway, I'm a librarian."
"No, I'm lying, I'm a stripper." She rolls her eyes. The door is unlocked but she doesn't feel like going inside yet, wants to stay out here, talk to him. Be his friend. She's really only got one other friend, Santana, from college, and she sometimes talks to these people at the library but it's a quiet, echoing place. Sometimes talking feels too loud.
"Spending time at my friend Santana's." She sighs, fingers curving around the doorknob.
"D'you get very lonely? When she's gone?"
She's not sure what to do with her hands. She keeps one on the doorknob, clenches the other into a fist and out of a fist, rhythmically, over and over. "Yes, very lonely."
He looks shy, suddenly, rubs his hand over his neck. "You wanna do something? With me?"
She squints at him. "Such as?"
"I dunno," shrugging, "there's this cool Matisse exhibit at the Met, so."
For a moment, she wants to say no. To close the door behind her, to say no to him, never to speak again, because she thinks that this afternoon at a museum is the beginning of Something that she doesn't have a name for, something she can never return from and ever be the same. But she doesn't say no, this moment where two paths diverge, separating two possible lives.
"So?" Tapping his fingers against his own doorknob. Briefly she imagines his fingers tapping on her wrist.
"Yes, Finn," she decides, "I would really like that."
For being so young, Charlotte certainly is rather smart. One night, they're reading together, or rather, she's reading to Charlotte, who is nodding attentively. Tonight, it's A Wrinkle In Time, and sometimes she has to stop, explain things, but otherwise she follows the story.
Halfway through tonight's chapter, she's silent, for a moment, Rachel thinks she's fallen asleep, but she's just lying in bed, blankets to her chin, looking decidedly contemplative.
"Am I like Meg?"
Dog-earing the page, she sets the book in her lap. "How do you mean?"
She shrugs, looks a little sad, a little confused. "I dunno. No daddies."
"Maybe a little bit," because Rachel believes in honesty, "but I dunno, sweetie. I don't know if Meg's Mama loves her as much as yours does."
She taps Charlotte's nose with her index finger, the little button nose, not like hers, cuter, of course, she thinks. Sometimes she misses it, when Charlotte needed her all the time, when she was three and convinced monsters lived in her room and she spent every night crawling into Rachel's bed, cuddling close. At the time, it had bothered her, waking up with Charlotte crowding her bed, but now she'd give anything for her little girl to want to cuddle at night, already so self-sufficient but when it comes to thunder storms. Monsters, she says, die with her flashlight, which she keeps beside her bed.
"And," Charlotte says, "she doesn't have two grandpas."
"She does not."
"Except she has brothers. Mama...can I get a baby brother?"
"Not today, sweetie." She kisses Charlotte's forehead. "Now, can we continue on?"
She hums her assent, and within pages, she's already fast asleep.
Sometimes she thinks Finn might like her. He kind of looks at her sometimes, like – like she's more than she is. Like maybe at night he thinks about her in that space between consciousness and Dreamsville, in that pinpoint of the day's thoughts, she wonders if its her face that becomes clear, that surges to the surface, if he dreams about being with her. Sometimes she dreams about him, loving him, being loved by him. Sometimes the dreams are simple, what could happen in reality, drinking tea in her apartment, spending time at the park with Charlotte.
They have these plans, every Saturday, to just – do something. Sometimes they just hang out, reading, separate but in company, and usually, it's just – it's nice. Her friendship with Finn is so, so special, kindred spirits. She wouldn't trade it for the world. This Saturday, her dads are out of town so Charlotte's gonna be around, and they make plans to visit the zoo, because it's finally warm, this week, early spring, unusually warm, but she wakes up with a migraine and Charlotte's running around so excited and she can't bear to let the poor thing sit inside all day so she – she gets out of bed, holds onto the bed frame so she doesn't, like, fall over or something, and she manages to make tea for herself and breakfast for Charlotte without vomiting and she might just be lying on the couch in agony when Finn knocks at the door.
She's pretty sure she's physically incapable of getting off the couch and she hears Charlotte open it, her voice loud, "Hi, Finn, Mama's being weird."
The last word is hushed, and Finn's voice is quiet and she wants to lie in a cave somewhere, alone, and, like, die, in silence, if it'll make the pounding in her head go away.
"Rach?" She groans, a response, hears heavy footsteps and soft padding. Finn kneels beside the couch, murmurs, "Hey, are you feeling okay?"
Her brow is pinched and maybe if it didn't hurt to open her eyes she would glare at him because obviously she is not well. "What do you think?"
His face turns sort of…tender, she thinks, and she's squinting at him, his face illuminated, ethereal, sun shining all around him like a halo. He presses his hand onto her forehead, hums a little lowly, "I think you're sick."
"I think that would be a fine assessment, sir." She might pat his face. Things are kinda going hazy, now.
"Okay, sicky, hold on," he stands up, grabs her and suddenly she's in the air, and she thinks he might be holding her but she's sort of falling asleep, or something, falling into her unconscious, dimly hears Charlotte ask what's wrong with her and Finn just says she's sick but she'll be better soon.
She thinks he must take her into her bed and tuck her in, must have kissed her forehead because she dreams that he did, dreams that he's lying in bed with her, touching her, his hands under her clothes and his mouth at her neck. It's not frenzied, in her dream, not how it was in reality, the only time she'd been intimate in this way with a man. It's slow, careful, easy, his breath warm while it washes over her and when she's jolted awake by something heavy falling in the apartment, she blames it on the fever.
Sniffling slightly, wishing for maybe an entire bedroom full of tissues, tiptoes out of her room. Finn's coloring with Charlotte at the kitchen table, his tongue sticking out and he looks up when he hears the click of her bedroom door shutting.
"Hey," he says, scrambling to his feet, "you okay? You can go lie down, what do you need?"
He's being so, so attentive and she kind of just wants to kiss him right here, in her kitchen, wonders what would happen if she linked her fingers with his and lead him into her room but Charlotte, her baby, Charlotte's showing her this drawing and she barely manages to get out that's great, sugar before she's seeing double and needs to lie down again.
"I hate this," she huffs once Finn's guided her back into bed.
"Hmm?" He's sitting on the edge of her bed, absentmindedly runs his fingers down her arm. She wonders if he's even aware that he's doing it, touching her.
"I'd be rather wary if you liked being sick," he says and she burrows under the covers. "D'you, like, want some tea? Or medicine?"
She hums and closes her eyes and then he's putting his hand on her shoulder, waking her up, handing her two pills, a glass of water, she watches him watching her.
"You wanna try staying up more than ten minutes at a time?"
"Shut up," she whines, struggles to sit up, swallows the pills. "Where's Charlotte?"
"I convinced her to take a nap."
She leans back and Finn sits next to her, his back on the headboard beside hers. She wants to rest her body right against his. "I don't feel well at all."
"Looks like it." He puts his hand on her forehead, frowns a little. "I mean, you're not quite as hot as you were this morning."
Dimly, she realizes he means the fever, but, "You don't think I'm hot anymore?"
He splutters comically for a minute and her eyelids are so heavy, half moons, she leans her head against his arm. "I mean, I – um."
"S'okay," she mumbles, puts one of her arms around him, cuddles up. She's perhaps half-aware of what she's doing, snuggling with him like this, but in that moment, eyes, heavy, she's only concerned with the comfort of his body, his chest, warm against her face.
When she sees him, a few days later, coming out of his apartment in a suit, he smiles, says she looks like she feels better. She remembers how she wanted to kiss him, that night, when she'd woken up with him spooned around her, his body warm, the air in her room cold. It's March and it's spring and it's still winter at nights, but that night it was everything, the curve of her hip against the hard line of his body, how she'd considered it, one imperceptible moment, turning over, kissing him on the mouth. It would have woken him up, the kiss, and he wouldn't have stopped her, would have held her waist, kept her mouth close.
But she didn't, they didn't, didn't kiss, and won't kiss, shouldn't kiss.
She thinks he might be her best friend. And she doesn't want to ruin that by kissing him or loving him because love only leads to pain etc. etc. She likes being his friend. Likes ordering Chinese and eating it on the couch with him on Friday nights, likes taking Charlotte places with him.
One afternoon he's helping her with groceries. Charlotte's at a friend's house, and she was lonely, and Finn was home, so. Plus he's strong and can carry more bags than her. They're deciding between two pomegranates when she just tells him,
"You're really my best friend."
He looks surprised, pauses, fingers squeezing a little around the pomegranate in his hand. He smiles. "Hey, that's real sweet. I've – um. I dunno. I've never had a best friend before. Is that weird?"
"Yes," she teases, "but I like it about you. Because now I am special."
He's smiling, puts the pomegranate in her basket. He's looking down when he says, "you'd be special either way."
Finn works from home a lot, you know, and she likes that. When she needs someone to look after Charlotte when her dads are busy and Santana's working, Finn is always available and he loves Charlotte and Charlotte loves him.
It sort of warms her heart, the two of them. Finn's sort of silly, childlike in the most endearing way, and he's always making Charlotte (and Rachel) laugh. He does these silly readings of these books and sometimes she comes in right when he's reading her a chapter from whatever book they've started on.
She tries not to think of the implications of it all. That Finn is filling whatever hole is in Charlotte's heart, that he's filling her secret longing for a father, and Rachel's innermost yearning for a partner. She doesn't want to admit it all to herself. Because, she thinks, wanting Finn like that – it would ruin everything.
(Nonetheless, it's hard to stop her thoughts before she falls asleep at night from finding him.)
"You should come out with me," Finn says one Friday. "Like, I like hanging out here and stuff, you know that, movies are fun, but – but you never go out."
She's sort of – well, flabbergasted. "Out?"
"Just, like, to a bar. With some friends and me. Call Santana! C'mon, please?"
They're sitting on her couch and she might consider stretching her legs out, her feet in his lap. She doesn't, though. She thinks that might be too forward and she does not want to lead him on. "I don't know, Finn…"
"Come on. Live a little."
He's giving her this look she thinks he knows she can't say no to, his eyes all wide, warm, imploring, mouth in this little half smile. He says her name again, all slow, a little singsong, and she sighs. "Fine, fine, fine, fine!"
Okay, so, she gets sort of drunk sort of fast. Sort of really drunk. And Finn drinks too, and his cheeks get all rosy and his hands are all lazy and his eyes are all heavy-lidded. Things are sort of spinning and his hand is on her thigh like it belongs there.
"You look tired," he says and she leans on his shoulder, sips his beer. He's such a boy, with his mugs and pitchers and bar foods.
"I'm sleepy," she murmurs, closing her eyes a little. "You smell like everything in the world that is good."
"Wow," he responds, arm tight around her.
"Where did that come from?" She squints at him, notices this freckle on the underside of his jaw. "I feel amazing right now, you know, I feel as though anything I could conquer."
He just says wow again. Santana's dancing with some girl and Finn's friends are nice, hitting on the girls they're with. Finn had barely managed to introduce her to them before they'd curled together in their own world, the corner of the booth, already ordering drinks, tucked into their own Finn and Rachel world.
"I like you like this," he decides, his fingers warm at her waist, pressing against the thin fabric.
"I dunno. Like, loose. Free, or whatever, you're not all worrying. Plus your cheeks are all cute and red."
She wrinkles her nose and finishes his beer for him, ignores his little whine. The entire world is upside down and she has to hold onto Finn's shoulder when she gets up to get more from the bar.
"Wait, wait," he says, catching her around the waist. "No more."
"Finn," she whines, pressing her index finger against her lips, "shhh."
He's looking at her and she doesn't know if his eyes are glassy from alcohol or from emotion and he intertwines their fingers and says, "You wanna head back?"
"Yeah," he stands and suddenly she's outside and she's not sure how she got here so she asks him. He's holding her hand and he turns and says, "Well, we were in the bar, and now I'm walking back to my apartment and taking you with me."
"I don't need a man with me always, Finn Middle Name Hudson, I am a strong independent confident woman I could fight off any attacker because I took kickboxing and also stage fighting in college so yes I am small and delicate but I am a scrappy fighter." After a minute, she blinks. "What's your middle name?"
"Christopher," he says. They're in their building and all these moments feel so disconnected, living vignettes, one moment they're outside, the next she's standing close to him in the elevator, her head on his chest because it feels too heavy to hold up anymore. She keeps repeating over and over that he is Finn Christopher and her words feel loose on her lips, like anything could pour out without her knowledge. His brow is all furrowed and they're in her apartment, near the door of her bedroom, "Hey, Rach, you okay?"
It would feel better, she decides, if she were on the floor, so she brings herself to the ground very slowly and puts her head there and says, "No."
"C'mon," he murmurs ands he wonders how he's gotten so sober so fast because her entire world is spinning and vowels and consonants still feel heavy on her tongue, fighting to get loose. She thinks she might sing and he laughs and sits with her in the bathroom and then everything is suddenly so different because she's throwing up and crying.
He's rubbing her back and she leans her head against the cool porcelain toilet and his voice is quiet when he says, "What's wrong?"
"I'm a terrible mom!" She's wailing and she's never felt this disgusting in her life. "I'm horrible I am The Worst and you know, you know I didn't have a mom? I don't even – what am I – if Charlotte were here, do you know – she would be – horrified she wouldn't even – she's my baby Finn Hudson and look at me I'm – "
"Relax, relax, it's all right, you're okay," he murmurs, rubbing her back in an even more comforting pattern and she's literally gasping, needing to breathe better. "You are not a horrible mom, Rachel, you're the best mom. Charlotte adores you, you know that, right? There could be – there could be a million puppies in a room, but all you would have to do is walk into the room and all her attention would be on you."
She feels like he is everything in the world, every one of his facets something she desires, this perfect, beautiful man, and she's crying still she thinks and things feel a little less hazy, less spinning and she doesn't really need his hands to pull herself up to brush her teeth.
He stands, too, stares at her for a minute, not creepy, but curious, contemplative, and he puts his hands on her hips when she finishes. She thinks he might kiss her but he doesn't, he just hugs her real tight, and it's like coming home, stepping into his embrace. She releases this long breath, this pleased sigh, the world tips, she holds on tighter to him.
"Lemme, like, put you in bed, make sure you don't dissolve or something."
They're in her bedroom and she lies on the bed, curls onto her side to watch him as he sits on the edge of the bed beside her. She's not sure about the how, but she's suddenly kneeling on her bed, moving towards him, compelled by that strange look on his face, the purse of his mouth, the stubble on his chin that she wants to feel against her bare skin and he looks confused but she tells him with her eyeballs that she wants this because she does she wants him so badly she thinks she'll go mad if she doesn't –
All thoughts screech to a halt, trains slamming in Grand Central, his mouth pressed so urgently against hers, his hands holding her waist tight, she's glad, suddenly, that she brushed her teeth, and now she thinks the world is spinning at a faster orbital velocity from the pressure of his mouth, the feel of his thighs between hers, her body on his. It is everything in the entire world, this kiss, this man, this intimacy that she's never felt before in her life.
He moves so that he's hovering above her, her head on her pillows, his hips pressed against hers, his jeans a little rough against the fabric of her tights stretched over her thighs. He's kissing her like he's in love with her, like she's everything in the way that he is everything, like their hearts are in sync with their minds with their bodies, like he would maybe write a poem about her and about this moment, this warm kiss on her warm bed, everything in the world all at once warm and shining.
When he pulls his mouth away from hers to breathe, he brushes her bangs out of her hair. "You're not, like, completely out of it, are you?"
She sort of sinks into the pillows, sinks into the feeling, his eyes warm and tender on her face, his hand on her cheek and she looks at him like what do you think and she stretches up to kiss him, whispers, "Fuck me," into his ear and he makes this little groaning noise and he puts his hands on her thighs, moves them upwards, pulls the band of her tights down her legs, kisses this spot on her neck that makes her groan his name.
When they are naked for the first time together she does not feel scrutinized or judged or anything other than beautiful because the light on her night stand is on, dim, but enough to see him, for him to see her. The only other time she's been intimate with a man it was in the dark, it was fast, he didn't touch her like Finn is touching her, like she's precious, beautiful, rare, but it's not overwrought, no clawing screaming but that simple wonderful hands on backs on skin, kissing and kissing and limbs entangling and his hips moving against hers like it is so very new, something he wants to learn, planes he wishes to memorize, to map out in his mind to revisit again and again.
Being with him is so different from her first time, it's a slow and steady buildup and when she comes her nails dig into his shoulder a little bit and she breathes heavily for a long time afterward and the aftermath is a little awkward, his body still on top of hers, not unwelcome but a little too warm and she starts complaining, whining a little, pushing at his shoulders and she laughs a little and he pulls her right against him and his arms are so warm and big and comforting and she turns in the circle of his arms and kisses his chin lazily because, well. She can.
"I wanna tell you," she murmurs, putting her hands on his biceps, "I wanna tell you about Charlotte's father."
Her tongue feels heavy in her mouth, the words don't want to leave like they did earlier, before, and he stumbles over, "You don't have to," long enough for realize that, well. She has to.
"You deserve to know, Finn, you love Charlotte," and me she adds, inside, because he's sort of obvious in the cutest way, "anyway. I was…I was twenty-one and I met him, Brody was his name – is his name – I met him at school. I went to the top performing arts university in New York, did you know that? I had dreams," and maybe her voice is a little longing, "about Broadway and singing onstage."
His fingers dig a little into the skin of her hips, not hurting, just a little pressure, and he murmurs her name.
"I don't – I don't even know, really, what it was. What we were. Because he was older, out of school, in a graduate program, I think, he was a TA in my last dance class and it was so, so fast, what we got caught up in. The worst – the worst kind of relationship. I don't even think I liked him but I made myself believe that that was how it was in this city, that boys were rude and gross and could casually insult you because that's how it worked, works, and he wasn't – abusive or anything like that, he was just – he was a dick." Finn smiles a little at the word. "I let him fuck me and that's what he did, fucked me, but it wasn't – what you and I just did, Finn, that was everything and what happened with him was nothing but I let him in anyway because I had no one else, just my dads and him and sometimes Santana – and – and he left me and when I told him that he'd impregnated me he just called me a – a whore who'd let anyone between her legs, and god he's Charlotte's father he's my perfect baby's dad and he doesn't even give a shit."
She breathes out all slowly and he swipes his thumb over the apple of her cheek, brushes away the tears that fell during. "You – you are the most…the best person I have ever known. In my entire life."
Her body feels all flushed and pink with his words, with the way his thigh feels between hers. She thinks there is something, here, about how her heart wants to be nearest to his, how badly she wants him, how badly she knows he wants her. He falls asleep after he gives her one last kiss, like he knows maybe he won't get to kiss her for a long time, because she's trying to fall asleep when she realizes how completely terrified she is of everything that she feels for him.
When she wakes up the next morning she's alone. The bed is still warm, dull sun shining, and her head pounds and it takes her a moment to remember why her eyes feel so raw and why there's an unfamiliar ache between her thighs but then she's brushing her teeth and she sees a little purple mark at the base of her throat and she remembers.
She feels suddenly shy, tugs down the shirt she'd somehow tossed on last night, amidst the tears and the kisses and the deep, comfortable sleep she never wanted to leave. He's singing in her kitchen wearing his boxers and she feels this – this scared thing take root in her stomach.
"Morning," Finn says, not too cheerfully, but certainly not morosely. He doesn't seem scared like she is. He squints at her and his hair is messy and his cheeks are stubbly. "What's wrong?"
"I – " She's fiddling with the hem of her shirt feels her throat closing up and she takes a moment, counts back from twenty, breathes in through her nose, exhales through her mouth. "I don't know. What we are."
"We don't – " His brow is pinched and he steps close to her, puts his hands on his shoulders. "I want you so, so bad, Rachel, but we don't have to be anything other than friends, Rachel. If that's – if you want friendship, I'll give it to you, Rachel, I just want you to be happy."
She bites her lip and looks at him, the set of his brow, the way his hands completely curl over her shoulders. She could be with him. Could be his, he could be hers. But – but there's that thing inside her that's setting off alarms, telling her no good can come of this, ever, anything like this, that he is Scum capital S because he is Male capital M. "Finn, I'm – I'm so, so, so sorry," she whispers. "You terrify me."
He puts his hand on the juncture of her neck and shoulder, where his mouth had pressed insistently just the night before and she wants that, wants him, but her fear eclipses all of that. "Hey, I get it, I get it," he says, "I understand. Look, Rachel, I – I don't want this to change anything."
"It won't," she murmurs. "It won't. You are my best friend, no matter how many times we have sex. Okay?"
"Okay." He looks at the clock. "I should probably head home, shower and the like, and you probably should pick up Charlotte, huh?"
She nods and he steps into her bedroom for a second, comes out in his jeans and flannel from last night, nods at her. "That's right," she says, because life still goes on beyond last night.
Things with Finn don't really change at all and she is both parts glad and sad by that. She sort of wishes, you know, that he'd fight a little but she thinks he respects her too much to do that. He still comes over most afternoons and eats dinner with her and Charlotte, he still smiles at her like he used to, he just doesn't touch her. When they watch movies, he sits on a separate cushion, apart from her, and she used to sit right beside him, her thigh flush against him.
She supposes it's only natural, this slight distance, and she understands. But sometimes, when they're watching Anastasia for the billionth time with Charlotte and she gets tired, she leans her head on his shoulder and puts her arm through his.
He exhales and then relaxes a little into the couch, into her body pressed against his. Charlotte always, always, falls asleep stretched on her stomach on the floor on movie nights and Rachel always puts her to bed and kisses her forehead and says I love you even if Charlotte can't hear.
One night, Finn's watching her from the doorway of Charlotte's bedroom and it really feels too much like he's her husband, that after she tucks the purple star patterned blanket beneath Charlotte's chin he'll take her hand and they'll go in her room (their room), and his other hand would unzip her skirt, unbutton her blouse, that he'd let her take off his belt and his pants and his shirt and she would pull him onto her bed and they would kiss like married people do.
He doesn't take her hand and he goes home to his own bed and doesn't share hers.
He does, one night, share her bed, after watching some long film together she somehow wakes up curled right against his body, feels every inch of him, his fingers warm pressed against the skin of her stomach. For a moment she revels in the feeling of his body against hers. His skin is so hot and she imagines never needing heat with him warming her bed.
Once she's out of the circle of his embrace and dressed, ready for her day of meetings, she pauses near his still sleeping body and kisses the back of his head. She doesn't think he ever needs to know about that moment, that momentary closeness that had risen up in her body, and when she's steeping her tea she thinks about Finn, the steady, slow, all-at-once way he'd come into her life.
"Hey," he murmurs suddenly, speak of the devil, his hands curving over her shoulders from behind. She thinks he might know that she's thinking about how much she wants him in her life always, how at this point his life is bound into the pages of her own, steeped like black tea, she thinks she's going to kiss him when she hears Charlotte crying for her.
And then she gets, like, really stressed because Charlotte's got a fever and can barely talk and so obviously feels terribly sick and needs her but she calls in work and she can't be absent again and there are meetings and things and new orders and things she needs to do and she starts talking maybe a mile a minute and Finn's staring at her as she paces in the living with her phone in hand and she doesn't even notice he's stepping towards her until he's got his hands on her cheeks.
"Shhh," he murmurs, "relax, relax, baby, it's fine, it's gonna be fine." His hands are on her shoulders now, squeezing slightly and he tells her to breathe and she inhales and exhales heavily until everything feels clear. "You panic a lot, don't you?"
"What am I gonna do? You've got that big project, Santana's out of town – my – my dads are on that cruise, my regular sitter is eighteen she's in school, Finn, what – what – "
"I'll take care of her," he says, like it's no big deal, "really, I'm not – I can do the project from here, anyway, Rachel, let me take care of you – of this."
"Okay, okay, okay." She sits on the couch and pets Charlotte's hair and tells her Finn's going to take care of her and then Finn pulls her up and tells her she'll be late and she hugs him and says, "I love you," real fast right when she's walking out the door and doesn't even realize it until she's shoving a granola bar in her mouth that she told him that she loves him.
Finn's sitting at the kitchen table with these stacks of paper all around him when she gets back and he looks up and smiles at her and there's that stupid stirring in her stomach and he stands up, says, "Hey," and his hands clench and unclench and she wants them on her.
"Hi, how's – is Charlotte okay?"
"Oh, yeah, yeah, she's been, like, on and off sleeping tonight but her fever's broken, so I think she'll be fine soon." He steps kinda close to her and then she takes a step back and he takes a step forward and then she's' leaning against the wall beside Rachel's door. "How was work?"
One of his hands slips into hers and the other presses against her waist and she thinks he's going to kiss her but she says, "Good," instead, "um, I'm – gonna – I'm gonna check on Charlotte," and then she slips out of his arms but his hand is still in hers.
She can feel his eyes on her while she sits with Charlotte, whose cheeks are red and she's feverish and she wants Rachel to read her Where the Wild Things Are and Finn comes in the room and sits on the ground beside the bed and leans back and if her hand rests on his head it's just coincidence, just where her hand manages to fall. And later, when Charlotte's fallen asleep and Rachel wants to sleep in the chair in Charlotte's bedroom.
When he leaves to head home it's one in the morning and they've just been sitting together talking about nonsense things, these books she arranged at the library, the flow of this one note to the next in the piece he's composing. Eventually his eyes are so heavy she just wants him to stay with her but instead she tells him goodbye and he puts his hand on her face and tells her he loves her even though maybe she's three fourths asleep it repeats in her dreams, I love you I love you I love you on an endless loop.
He doesn't even do anything, really, just acts a little flirtier, touches her waist sometimes in the kitchen, and one afternoon when she comes in from lunch there are sunflowers on her desk. She doesn't need to read the note to know who they're from. Maybe this all sounds a little ridiculous, these circles they're running in, maybe it's unrealistic for you to get, but she's – honestly. He's the first boy man to ever make her second guess her firm stance on falling in love.
And, okay, she might be over halfway or completely in love with him, but that's not the point. She never intended to love him like this, to spend her nights sprawled out on her stomach, unable to sleep, heartsick. There's all this energy buzzing around, the kind when you know someone likes you and you like them back and you're just waiting for someone to make the first move.
Finn spends a lot of time at her apartment, which might seem intrusive, but she likes having him around when she's coloring with Charlotte or helping her with homework or cooking or sitting on the couch and reading.
"So, what, Pride and Prejudice is your favorite book?" She glances up from the well-worn page, the yellow, dog-eared novel rests face up on her lap.
No one's ever really asked her why and she can't quite articulate it, she doesn't think, but maybe, "I don't know. Something about – about the simplicity of it."
"Yes, like – I don't know. It's not set in some egregious society, it's just – extraordinarily ordinary."
He purses his lips and grabs the novel from her. "You know, I've never…" She's mostly reading it to pass the time right now, ignoring the stacks of other, more contemporary works in her bookcase, and he flips to the most outstandingly dog-eared spot, his voice is quiet, contemplative when he reads, "If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I – "
"Mama?" She feels like every one of her nerves is a live wire, burning with energy, star formations beneath her skin. She thinks if he were to continue any further she would faint or combust or something.
"Can you please help me?" She comes padding out of her bedroom where she had requested private reading time like she's a teenager or something, and she's holding her copy of Charlotte's Web, which Rachel has just begun reading to her this week.
She's had her feet in Finn's lap so she finally sits up straight, pulls Charlotte onto her lap. "What's up, sweet girl?"
Charlotte opens the book so that Rachel can see it and she's flipped towards the end. Her brow is all pinched and her eyes are a little glassy and she's so, so worried. "Mama…I thought…I thought they couldn't die?"
"Who do you mean?"
"Book people." Her bottom lip starts doing that wobbling thing and Rachel presses her hand against her back, murmurs it'll be okay even though Rachel herself isn't sure she'll ever be fully healed from the experience of reading Charlotte's Web, but she does her best.
She can feel Finn's eyes on her and he scoots close and puts his hand on Charlotte's cheek. "You'll be okay, Char, really," he murmurs, his voice low and soft and sweet and if he were anyone else, she thinks, it would be intrusive but it's – it's Finn. She thinks he loves Charlotte like she's his own child.
"When I first read Charlotte's Web," Rachel begins, shifting closer to Finn and patting Charlotte's hair, "and I got to this part, I didn't finish the book for about a year. Your grandpa tried to get me to finish, but I refused." She kisses Charlotte's forehead. "I know it's so sad, sweet pea, I know. But keep on reading, okay? There's a light at the end of the tunnel."
"Will you read it to me?"
She leans into Finn a little bit and Charlotte curls closer, her head nuzzling Rachel's neck. Her butt is going numb but other than that she is perfect, here, her little makeshift family, and she presses the book into Finn's hands, asks him to read.
"'Why did you do all this for me?' he asked. 'I don't deserve it. I've never done anything for you.' 'You have been my friend,' replied Charlotte. 'That in itself is a tremendous thing.'"
Rachel puts her head on Finn's shoulder and must doze off because the next thing she becomes aware of is Finn's hand on her shoulders, gently waking her.
"Hey," he murmurs. "I tucked Charlotte in, d'you mind?"
"What?" She blinks for several seconds. "No, of course – of course I don't mind." He's wearing his sweater and shoes. "W – are you leaving? Stay, a minute, let me get some tea…Unless you have to go home. I don't want to keep you."
"No, I, uh…thought you were gonna sleep."
"I will, but – after tea. Just have, like, one pot with me?"
"Sure," he says and toes off his shoes and walks, shoe-less, to the kitchen. He watches her brew tea for a minute silently, before asking, "So, um…what was she like, as a baby? Charlotte?"
Rachel smiles. "Happy. Really, really good, too, she liked hearing me sing a lot and she only got fussy when I put her down because, well, the books didn't say this, but I am three million percent positive that she got fussy because she thought I didn't love her." Finn's smiling and the kettle whistles. "Really, though, she was the happiest baby. When she was maybe one or two she got into this terrible phase, though, and she would whine and cry and she was very sensitive at times, but otherwise – "
She pauses, sees the way he's looking at her. "You're really, like. Incredible, you know? I dunno. Just, like…watching you talk about Charlotte. Something special."
Her entire body flushes and she thanks him quietly and almost burns herself on her mug of tea and pretends not to notice the way his shoulders knock into hers at the table.
The summer is difficult because there's no school for Charlotte to spend her days at and she cannot afford a nanny or daycare so she has to coerce Santana some days and her dads others, and every once in a while, she goes to her friend's house for the day. Those days Charlotte always comes home so, so exhausted she can barely manage to eat dinner before she's asleep on the couch.
The library's power goes out one storming afternoon and it gets so humid inside they get to go home early. She walks to work, likes to enjoy the exercise and summer air, but today, the walk is not so enjoyable and she comes home to find Finn sitting on her couch with Charlotte perched on his thigh, a guitar on her lap.
"Hi, you two," she says and she's soaking wet and she's wearing a white blouse that's now see through. Charlotte bounds off of Finn's lap and hugs her around her middle. "What's up, Char?"
"Finn is teaching me guitar! I'm playing a song by the bug band," she says, and she looks at Finn and pretends she doesn't see how his eyes zero in on her chest.
"Yeah," Finn says, bending and kissing her cheek. "Here Comes the Sun. She's crap at it, really, but…"
"Excuse you," Charlotte exclaims hotly. Rachel bends down and kisses her forehead.
"Here Comes the Sun was Charlotte's lullaby," Rachel says and steps into the living room, toeing off her heels near the door. "You remember, don't you?"
Charlotte shrugs, goes back to the guitar. "Maybe."
Finn is still watching Rachel. "How'd you get all…wet?"
"The rain, silly!"
"I wasn't, uh – uh – aware."
"Well." She crosses her arms, feels the air conditioning blasting cold. "I'm gonna – gonna change. I'm freezing."
She sort of wants him to follow her, to be tempted by her pulling the see through white blouse off her narrow shoulders and dropping it, wants to seduce him with every inch of skin on her back through the sliver of her door. The guitar starts, a plucky, awkward sound, Charlotte's thin fingers clumsy on the strings. Rachel may have the voice of a generation but she's a wretch with instruments.
Her room is becoming a bit of a mess, she supposes, when she reaches into her sweater drawer and finds one of Finn's instead. So many of his clothing has become mixed with hers, nights when her tea spilled over the edge of her mug and onto his khakis, one too many layers in the sweltering heat of the early summer, when she was too cheap to put on the air conditioning, ties strewn on the floor of her bedroom, under her bed, his things mixing with her things.
She's pulling on the sweater, his sweater, when the door pushes open.
"Oh, fuck, sorry, Rach – is that my sweater?"
"It might be," she says, looks at him from beneath her eyelids. "What's it mean to you?"
"I dunno," he responds, coming in closer. His hands reach out a little and she backs up a little. She thinks he might kiss her and she doesn't want that to happen here, in her messy bedroom, this muggy rainy afternoon when her hair is still damp, plastered to her head. His fingers curve around her waist. "I could – I could do it, you know."
"Do – do what?"
One of his hands leaves her waist, curves around her jaw. "Kiss you."
"So – so why don't you?"
She could do it, she thinks. Just lean up and kiss him, and he's searching her eyes and he pulls away a little, the hand on her cheek falling to her shoulder. "I'm waiting," he says, "for you to be ready. I want – I want you so badly, Rachel, and I want you to want me, too."
"I do," she murmurs, "I do."
"Show me," he whispers and leans down and kisses her hairline, runs his hand down her side. "My sweater looks nice on you."
He makes her dinner and she pretends she doesn't press her toes against his knees the entire night while she asks Charlotte about her friends and Charlotte launches into this story she's pretty certain is mostly made up. When the flying dragon comes in and steals her ice cream, she's certain it is, but Charlotte's got this imagination that is so incredibly amusing that she lets her continue on.
Rachel is mostly quiet through dinner, watches Finn interact with Charlotte, intertwine his own ideas into the narrative. At one point she's still watching him and his eyes manage to catch hers and his face goes pink. She thinks he's sort of shy and easily embarrassed for such a confident man, and rather than be thrown off by this, he is only made more endearing by it. He might be the best man in the world.
The next few days he's busy with work and she only sees him once when he's walking Graham and she stops and pets the dog because she misses seeing his big body curled on the edge of her sofa while she's reading.
"I miss you," she says, steps close, takes his hand. "Do you want to come over?"
"Oh, I was talking to Graham."
He narrows his eyes, laces their fingers together. "Is that so?"
"Yeah," she says, "you know how cute I find his…glorious…blonde…hair."
Finn hums, licks his lips. His face is close to hers. She thinks she might kiss him here, in the yellow light of the hallway, but Graham steps on her toe and breaks the moment and she goes into her own apartment and passes the time by singing and dancing around with Charlotte and painting her toenails red and then blue and then red again. At five she takes Charlotte to her dads for the weekly sleepover and they try to coerce her into dinner, because,
"We never get to see you these days, Starshine," but she tells them she has plans and can't.
"Finn is probably gonna come over," Charlotte supplies. Papa and Daddy know about Finn, of course, but her cheeks go red anyways.
"Oh," Papa says, stretching out is o's. "Finally giving into the poor boy, huh?"
She closes her eyes. "He gets it, Papa, about – he understands me and my…"
"It's different than that," she insists and Charlotte's tugging impatiently at his hand. "Okay, Charlotte, I'm gonna come get you tomorrow afternoon. Be good, yes?"
"Yes." She hugs Rachel tight around the neck, kisses her cheek. "Love you."
"Love you so much."
When she gets home she's not sure what – what to do, really. When you finally tell someone you love that you're in love with them. Does she wear her shortest dress, tempt him? Or does she tempt him another way, wear her frumpiest sweater, button it up so his thoughts still on the idea of unbuttoning her, exploring her skin, ever plane a previously discovered mystery, a new world. Instead she stays in the dress she's been wearing all day, brushes her hair, answers the door smiling.
He has a bottle of wine and she opens it and cooks pasta and feels so full after dinner that her eyelids are heavy, wine heavy, love heavy. Finn heavy. He takes her hand and sits with her on the couch and she's known for so long how much she loves him, but snuggling against him on her couch, listening to some record he brought over, it all sort of comes at once, love like lava, her mouth a volcano.
For a minute her insides twist with horrid anxiety but he nuzzles her head a little and when he asks if she wants to go to sleep even though it's seven, she looks tired, he says, she just blurts out, "I love you so much."
She expects his mouth to pop open, for him to leap off the couch, perform an embarrassing victory dance, to end the night impassioned on the floor, naked and heaving. Instead, he slides his hand from her shoulder to her neck, touch feather soft, murmurs I know, and he kisses her very, very slowly.
It's slow, like how tea steeps, how she's learned to love him, but once it starts it can't be stopped, the kissing, the loving, his mouth like something new on her own, something borrowed, something familiar. Something that's hers. He's kissing her and he tastes like wine and this dark chocolate he always eats after wine, and this night is so unlike the first, when his mouth was like beer and bar and smoke and now it's like home.
She pulls away for air and breathes in instead of kissing his neck like she wants to, like he is, she puts her hand on his shoulder and squeezes tight and she thinks she might burst into tears.
"Baby," he murmurs, "what's wrong?"
"I – I just – I feel everything."
His mouth is soft against her cheek, reassuring against her forehead, loving on her mouth. "I love you so much I don't know how to handle things sometimes."
She kisses him because he's absolute, the first time his words are concrete, three strands of ribbon in her apartment, I and love and you.
He presses her back against the couch, his body broad and big pressed against hers. She's not sure how it happens, how they get into her bedroom or how her dress is unzipped and lying on the ground, how his body is against her body. She remembers how his hands touch her, how they press against her stomach and slide up to her breasts, the look in his eyes when she touches him there, the steady, slow buildup to his body against hers.
Having sex with Finn is unlike any other experience, how his hand slides down her spine and how he touches her the right way and how he tells her he loves her. She bites his lip and whispers fuck like a prayer, he leaves a hickey on her neck, when she comes she digs her fingernails into his shoulder.
After, his body is heavy on hers, hips still pressed together. He rolls onto his back and she's so, so sweaty but she curls up against his side.
"I love you," she says, palms flat on his chest.
His body is warm and so is hers, entire body filled with cotton. "I think I might float away," he murmurs. She whines a little, starts kissing his chest and his collarbone and the plane of his stomach and then his hipbones and he groans.
"Don't float away," she murmurs, "please."
They do it again, fast, fucking, sheets sticking to their bodies and she wants him again in the shower but they just kiss for a very long time against the wall of her shower.
The gray light wakes her up the next morning. Too early, she thinks, sinking further into her blankets and Finn, eyes slipping closed. They pop open when she remembers. Finn. His body is curved around hers, warm and familiar, somehow. She's never really woken up with someone before and she turns in his arms and stares at him, the way his mouth pushes out slightly in sleep, the set of his brow, his collarbone peeking out from the blankets. She leans forward and presses the softest kiss there.
He groans a little and shifts. One of his eyes slides open. "Hi," she whispers, lips dry and cracked, kiss swollen.
His eyes flutter closed and he groans, rolling onto his back and taking her with him so that she's sprawled against his chest. "No," he mutters.
"Good morning." She kisses all along his chest, up his collarbone to his jaw, then his cheek. His eyes have already slipped shut. "Rise and shine!"
"Go back to sleep," he murmurs, presses his hand on her back.
"No, I wanna spend time with you."
"We can spend time together," he shifts, groans a little, hugs her tight against him. "We can sleep."
She pushes at his chest and slips out of his embrace. "You can keep sleeping," she says, even though he's already fast asleep.
Everything feels different, being in love, being someone's…being someone's someone. Showering is different, putting on underwear is different, blow-drying her hair has changed. She's brushing her teeth when he gets up, bed-eyed and rumpled, face creased from the pillowcase. He kisses her cheek and doesn't ask before he steps in the shower and turns it on. She doesn't need to, she thinks, tiptoeing out of the bathroom and into the kitchen. She thinks maybe he should have some privacy, and besides, she wants to make breakfast.
Midway through making waffles the water shuts off and then he's sweeping her hair over one shoulder and kissing her neck. "Did you mean it?"
His voice is soft, strangely vulnerable. She wants to lean into him, into his hands on her body, one curved over her shoulder, fingertips brushing against her clavicle, the other pressed on the curve of her waist. She turns, puts her hands on his cheeks.
One side of his mouth is curved slightly and his cheeks are rough with stubble. She likes him in the mornings. "Finn…" she slides her hands down to his shoulders and squeezes his biceps. "Of course I meant it. I'm – I'm so, so in love with you."
He moans softly, like all his love for her surges into his throat and produces that little sound. She decides that she likes it and he kisses her bottom lip. "I'm sorry, I just – I wanted to be positive."
She looks down and separates herself from him, back to the waffle maker. "I understand," she says, pouring batter. "I – I hope you don't think I meant to lead you on."
"No," he interjects and leans against the counter adjacent to the one she's working at, "I don't – I don't blame you, Rach. I understand and I'm so, so thankful you chose to – to let me love you."
She smiles and the waffles are done.
They don't really define what they are but he comes over and spends the night every night and he holds her hand during movie night and helps her vacuum and she walks his dog for him when he gets stressed out working through the music for something.
Hours after Charlotte's been tucked into bed she's kissing Finn on the couch, list for work left open on the edge of the cushion. She dimly hears it fall, hears Graham's nervous movement away from it, but she's too lost in the lazy way Finn's kissing her. Like they've got all the time in the world to kiss.
So encompassed in this kissing is she that she doesn't hear Charlotte's door open, doesn't hear the soft padding of the footsteps. Sometimes she thinks she won't ever be satisfied on Finn, that she'll always be wanting more.
"Mama? Mama – what – ?"
She freezes, glad she's fully dressed, that this time the kissing had been rather tame. Finn's gripping the hem of her shirt, and she straightens. "Hi, sweet pea, what – what do you need?"
Her eyes are huge and scared. "What're you doing?"
Rachel stands up, and kneels before Charlotte. "Are you okay, honey?"
"I had a bad dream," she explains, looks so, so sad, bottom lip sticking out, pouting. Like she's three years old again she hold her arms out for Rachel to pick her up. "What're you and Finn doing? Angela says kissing is bad for you, Mama!"
Rachel kisses her cheek. "You wanna bet?"
Charlotte giggles as Rachel tucks her into bed and snuggles into the space beside her. Her bed is too small or maybe Charlotte is getting too big. That – that thought kind of makes her insides feel like they're on fire or something. She doesn't want Charlotte to grow up.
"Is Finn gonna be my new daddy?"
"Oh, I can't answer that, Char," she whispers. "Why?"
She shrugs and her thin little fingers play with the loose thread on the edge of her quilt. "I dunno. Mamas and daddies kiss is all. When Sarah in my class got a new daddy they replaced her with a new baby and you're my mama, not Finn's."
Charlotte cuddles up against her and Rachel runs her fingers over her hair. It's getting long and knotty at the ends like it's in desperate need of a cut. "I love you, Charlotte," she says, leans and kisses her head. "And I always will, no matter what or where you go or what you do. You're always gonna be my baby. Understand? Boys – men – they may come in and out of our lives, and – and even if it feels right they're not certain. I'm certain, okay, sugar? I will never leave you."
Charlotte sighs softly and before her breath is completely even, she mumbles, "You're my best friend, Mama."
When Charlotte's finally completely asleep, she tiptoes out of the bedroom to find Finn sitting on the couch, still, reading over his music notebook. "Hey, baby," he says absently as she slides onto his lap. "Everything okay? I thought you'd fallen asleep for a second."
"Yeah, just…I dunno. I'm not, like…I'm not really ready for her to grow up just yet. I want her to stay my little baby."
Finn kisses her cheek. "I bet your dads felt the same way about you, but if you really want, we can make another one."
She's not sure if he even realizes what he's said because he's already kissing at her neck. "Whoa," she murmurs, fingers pressing hard against his shoulders, "slow down a second, you can defile me in my bedroom."
He slings her over his shoulder and she tries not to laugh too loudly and when he puts her on her back on the bed and starts kissing her she thinks her toes might actually curl as they brush against his calves. She tries not to think about it too often, how badly she wants him, not just in this moment when he's kissing down her stomach, but like how she wants him in her bed every night for the rest of her life, for his body always to be the one she curves into when she gets nervous at night or just needs someone to cuddle up with, for her name to carry his, for the names to balance themselves, his ring on her finger, their babies running through their house.
"Baby?" He brushes her hair out of her eyes. "You still with us?"
She shakes her head, pulls his mouth to hers, feels his hips press, insistent on her own, says, "yes, I'm here," kisses away the confusion.
"Okay, I have a question," Finn says. He's leaning against the headboard in his bed and she's beside him, stretched out on her stomach. "Why do you always lie like that?"
"What kind of stupid question is that?"
"Answer me," he whines, "I answered about the owl socks."
She laughs and sits up, rests on her elbows. "I don't even – my answer isn't even fun. I mean, it probably – most likely, it is due to being unable to sleep on my stomach for nine months of my life."
He stares at her as she rolls onto her back, keeps the sheets below her chin. He nudges the edge of them, tries to peek, but she swats him away. "Your turn."
"Okay…how…how old were you – when you decided you wanted to compose?"
She watches him furrow his brow and then purse his lips, the inhalation and exhalation of his breath before he answers, "High school. Junior year? Maybe that was, like, when I realized. I don't know, I always loved music, then I got into my school's glee club and the director needed someone to arrange music, and, well, here I am."
"You're so talented," she murmurs, puts her hand on his arm. He gives her this soft-eyed look that makes her heart pound even though it's autumn and she's seen that look every single day since the summer, the look he used to cover up before she was ready to be with him, the look that's indulgent in love for her.
She gives him a kiss and then rests her head on one of his pillows, still on her back. They aren't quite touching, the curve of her hip barely brushes against the hard line of his side, and if she weren't so comfortable lying here, she would cuddle up with him, but it doesn't really seem worthwhile, moving, even if it's to snuggle with Finn.
He yawns but says, "My turn," and then, "how long have you wanted to be on Broadway?"
"Oh!" She's never really explored this part of herself, the wanting part, the part that longs for more than books on shelves in a drafty building, the part of her that longs to sing onstage, just once, she's never explored this facet of herself with him. "Since forever."
He turns a little bit, puts his hand on her cheek. His thumb slides over the apple of her cheek. "Then why aren't you?"
She licks her lips, which suddenly feel dry. "I, um…I – I'm a mother."
"Moms are on Broadway all the time," he says. "I don't – I don't mean to, like, pry. Or anything, you know that, baby. But – but I think that you've got something really special."
"I know," she sighs softly, "It's just that for so long I've been supporting Charlotte and myself and it was hard at first, you know, just out of school, being pregnant, working, but I did that, and we're – I'm – in a good place, financially, emotionally…" He squeezes her hip. "Romantically. And I'm scared to change that, but – but I want to. I want to sing while I still can and – and maybe if I had another leg to stand on, then maybe I wouldn't be so scared."
"I don't wanna like…push you. Or anything."
"You aren't," she says. "I've, um, been meaning to talk about it, anyways, with someone. And I'm so glad it's you."
He leans down and he kisses her. "I love you so, so much."
She wants to keep playing, to keep talking, but his mouth becomes insistent, hers pliant against his. His thigh slips between hers and she wonders if she'll tire of having him like this.
A month later, after one too many days of an Indian summer and one too many sleepless nights spent on her fire escape alone, worrying, she auditions for Funny Girl, the revival for some up and coming director Finn doesn't know anything about and she's sort of glad, because even though he nudged her through the doorway, she's entering the room herself.
For the first time she's really excited about the future of her career and the closer she gets to her audition date she feels more anxious and spends more time up at night practicing and so when the director calls because she got the part she has to hold onto Finn so she doesn't black out.
"I feel like I never see you these days," Finn murmurs, half-asleep, curled in her sheets. She thinks they're living together because everyday she comes home to him and Charlotte. He watches her toe off her shoes and opens his arms for her. She slips in still wearing her jeans and sweater and his body is so warm as he holds her.
"I know," she says, unbuttoning her jeans and wriggling out of them. She pulls her sweater off and tosses it somewhere, curls close to him just wearing her tank top. She can't stop smiling. "I love it."
She can feel his smile, even with her face buried in his chest, feels his heartbeat steady against her cheek. "I knew you would, baby girl."
Rachel likes how gruff his voice is when he's sleeping or half asleep and she stretches to kiss his chin. "Charlotte didn't even wake up when I walked in to kiss her goodnight."
"We went to your gym with my pal Puck and his daughter, Beth." He yawns and snuggles close. "Played basketball. She's a horrible athlete."
Rachel giggles and Finn's eyelids are half open. "I'm afraid that's completely my fault."
"S'okay, we had fun." He licks his lips. "Missed you, though. Night. Love you."
She echoes the sentiment and feels strangely bone-tired.
The winter is long, tedious, rehearsal after rehearsal, events she has to drag Finn to, some nights they fight all night, other nights she can't stop fucking him, loving him. Some days it feels like her time with him is numbered, like they're speeding like a train with only one way out of the station and no way in. Other days it feels like they have forever, everyday its own lifetime, like two mayflies born into the world only to fuck and then die.
He's always there, though, through the winter, through some days when she feels like she can't even manage to get out of bed, exhausted and self conscious and some mornings she cries while she's showering and when she admits to Finn it's because she thinks she's going to fail he just gives her that love-long look and she's never going to love another person quite how she loves Finn.
Charlotte loves coming to rehearsals with Rachel, likes sitting with the director and watching, likes sitting in Rachel's dressing room and watching her get fitted for clothes. The days she takes Charlotte she's finished by six and they go home and make dinner, the two of them, and Finn comes home because he's been working more often, too, working on a score for something.
Opening night is in the spring, finally, the weather warm and comfortable, rehearsals aren't quite so often though she's performing five times a week. She misses tucking Charlotte in and curling up with Finn on the couch with novels and wine but she thinks she loves the stage just as much.
Charlotte comes with Santana to see her before curtain on opening night to give her flowers and she hugs Charlotte for a very long time because she is the best thing, Rachel thinks, the best thing she's ever done.
"Mom," she says, grown out of mama and mommy already, so soon, "are you scared?"
"I am now."
"Oh, stop," Santana dismisses. "You know you're going to be perfect up there. We all know how it's gonna work. Little Berry and I are gonna go out and sit in our free front row seats – thank you very much – and you're going to blow away this entire crowd and then – "
"Me and Finn and Santana are gonna see you after and you're gonna pretend you don't think you did good but we all know."
"Exactly." Santana hugs her again and Rachel kisses Charlotte's cheek. "Break a leg, right?"
Charlotte's eyes get all big. "W – what?"
"Just a saying, sugar," Rachel says, squeezes her hand, says goodbye.
She's ready. She's been waiting her entire life for this.
In May she and Finn take Charlotte and Graham the dog to Central Park for the afternoon because it's been raining for what's felt like an entire year but is really only about a week, and it's warm and sunny and Finn holds her hand all the way there.
When they arrive Finn spreads out this blanket beneath a tree and she sits against it and he lies on the blanket. His head is in her lap and Charlotte is playing with Graham a ways away, out of earshot but not out of eyeshot. Finn runs his fingers along her forearm while she reads and she can feel his eyes on her and she's too into this one poem to say anything until she turns the page.
Rachel shrugs. "It's not my fault you didn't bring anything to do."
"Rachel," he whines. "C'mon. Read to me."
She pretends to be annoyed by him and she must do a pretty good job because he starts to move but she grabs at his shoulder and keeps him there. "I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul."
Finn shifts and sits up, rests his back against the tree beside her. She can feel his body pressed against hers and she stutters a little on the next line and he continues for her, "I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body."
He moves closer so that she's nearly on his lap, book spread in front of them. She takes his hand and he continues reading, "I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way than this: where I does not exist, nor you, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep."
She hums, content, and he kisses her like those words are his own.
"You are everything," she says when they part. "I – Finn."
He's kissing her neck. "Hmm?"
"We're in public, you goon," she murmurs, pushing his head away. He laughs and kisses her cheek, real fast. "Anyway. I just – I want to say thank you. I don't know where I would be, where Charlotte would be, if not for you, and, well. Thank you. You mean the world to me."
He smiles. "Look at you, getting all emotional in public." She laughs and looks down and he puts his hand on her knee. "You know I would do anything for you."
"Me – me, too, Finn," because sometimes she thinks he might feel like she doesn't love him as much as he loves her and she does, she does.
"I know." He kisses her quickly.
"You know how you have that apartment next door to mine where you keep all your weird polo shirts and cargo pants?"
"Hey, that was one time, and what's wrong with cargo pants, anyway?"
"Nothing," she says, giggling, "if you're Kim Possible."
He squints at her. "Your horrible sass aside, yes, I know about my apartment, thank you."
"Well," she bites her lip and plays with the hem of her dress. "I mean, you spend most nights at my apartment and I know – I know Charlotte likes having you around."
"Charlotte does, huh?" He presses his hand on her shoulder and slips his thumb beneath the strap of her dress. "What about her mother?"
"Oh, she thinks…she thinks you're okay." Sometimes it is very hard to function when Finn gets like this, heavy-eyed and flirtatious, his thumb a little callous on the smooth skin of her collarbone.
"Move in with me, please," she says.
"If you'd like to make it official, then, yes, dear, I would love to."
It's just the two of them one rainy Saturday evening. It's muggy outside but cold in the apartment because this is how Finn likes it to be all the time, cold. She's adjusting.
Currently, though, she is bored out of her mind. Finn's starting a new project, writing his own musical. She's fairly certain he's working with one of his friend colleagues, but he's absolutely enthralled with the idea and she likes watching him work. When he likes something he does he gets this funny little smile on his face and when he doesn't like something he throws his pencil and glares at the notebook.
"What's up, babe?" He glances over at her from the kitchen table, smiles at her as she hops off the couch.
"I know what I'm going to do."
She disappears into the bedroom, searches for the book. "Hey, Finn?"
"Finn, where is Pride and Prejudice?"
"I, uh – I dunno? Did you leave it in the bathroom?"
"Um…look out here? I don't know what you do with that book."
She groans and stomps into the living room only to find it on the bookcase beside the television. "How'd you get out here?"
She curls onto the armchair with the book and Graham trots over to squeeze on the chair with her and flips to the middle of the book, easily gets into it. She doesn't even realize Finn's movement or the slight weight to the novel until she closes it to respond to one of Papa's text messages about brunch the next day.
"Feels weird," she murmurs, continues reading.
She gets to the part that reminds her of Finn when she realizes, cheeks flushing with private embarrassment at her lack of observational skills. There is a slight gap in the pages, as though she'd inserted some sort of mark, and she wonders idly if this is where her cat earrings escaped to.
But instead of an earring wedged between the pages, taped over the, "you have bewitched me body and soul and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on."
She is ninety-eight percent certain that she is not breathing and she can't really remember how to move her tongue to make words or how to do anything but stare at it, the ring, the post it note with MARRY ME written on it in Finn's writing.
"Rachel," he murmurs and suddenly he's kneeling in front of her, carefully pulling the tape away from the page, holding the ring in his hands. "I love you so, so much. What do you say? Marry me?"
She's not really sure what happens, but she thinks she's hurdling through the air and throwing herself at him because suddenly his body is warm and steady beneath hers and finally a sound bursts through, an exclamatory, "YES" capital letters and all.
"Yes," she says again, softly this time, leans down and kisses him, feels him blindly grasp her left hand and push the ring on her finger.
She pulls away to admire it, his ring. She never, ever thought she would be here, engaged to this man, kissing him on her floor with her mouth open, her heart open, her entire being open to him.
"I love you," she murmurs when he picks her up and carries her into their bedroom and kisses her on their bed.
It's kind of how he kissed her here earlier this afternoon, between lunch and dinner, his hands insistent like he thought time was running out, that desperate sort of fucking you do when you're seventeen and parents could round the corner, but now, here, engaged, he is slow when he pulls off her shirt and her jeans and her socks. Earlier, he may have kept them on, her socks with little flowers everywhere, but today he takes them off and she pushes him so she's on top of him, in control, pulling his shirt off and his jeans and his underwear. Dimly, she thinks about keeping his socks on for posterity's sake.
Tonight it's about feeling but it's also about how the city lights slant into the bedroom, how they light his face while he's above her, surrounding her, big and gentle and she thinks she feels every single thing in the world, every one of her nerves living and alive and buzzing. She opens to him like a flower, her mouth and her heart, loving him like the spring, tentative and slow but so, so beautiful and sure when it's developed.
She wants to write a sonnet about the way he looks at her afterward but she thinks words can't quite describe it. It's like mornings, the sun peeking through gray skies at dawn, sky misty and foggy and so, so lovely. She kisses his chin and curves her body against his.
"So, this is it, huh? Forever? You and me, all our adventures. The rest of our lives."
"I guess so." His arms are strong when they wrap around her and she falls asleep very, very quickly.
Her wedding is perfect, first day of spring. It's warm and there are rosebuds on the trees and New York City is alive and muted in the gray sunlight. There couldn't be a more perfect day.
It all goes by fast, the vows, the rings, the kisses, the Mr. and Mrs. Hudson, the dancing, the dinner.
After the wedding, she tells everyone the silly little things, the size of her bouquet, the color her ankles were when she finally kicked off her too high heels after dancing with Finn for the first time. She tells them about the song they selected, The Beatles, Finn's favorite, how Charlotte wanted to wear heels, too, but Rachel had forbidden.
What she remembers distinctly, though, is different. She recalls the exact shade of Finn's cheeks when she stepped onto the aisle. She remembers how his face had changed from awe to adoration, how there had been water in his eyes and how his skin had felt when she pressed her thumb there, remembers the salt on her own cheeks when he told her he could feel her always in his heart.
She doesn't tell them exactly how her heart had felt when it leapt out of her chest and soldered itself to Finn's somewhere between Greetings, beloved and Finn smashing the glass, his fingers interlaced with hers. She doesn't say that when Charlotte managed to play 'Here Comes the Sun' for the first time alone on the guitar, eight years old and already so, so talented, she doesn't tell anyone besides Finn that she cried against his neck.
When the party ends, much later than midnight, she feels tipsy on too much celebratory champagne and too many kisses. Her cheeks hurt and she puts her hands on Finn's cheeks in the hotel room to keep him from smiling because, she thinks, at least half of her smiles belong to him, now. Only half, though.
"Let's get married everyday," she says when he tugs her to the end of the bed, huge and king sized. "Would you divorce me in the morning and marry me in the afternoon?"
"If you asked me, I would do anything." He unzips her dress and she pushes his coat off his shoulders, struggles with his cufflinks, begins unbuttoning his shirt and steps out of her dress. "Why are you hanging it, baby? They never do it like that in the movies."
"This isn't a movie, silly, she says, hanging the dress in the hotel closet. "If Charlotte wants to use those scraps for her own wedding – "
He's staring at her, at her slip, her bare feet, sore from dancing, and he's kissing her before she can even continue that same breath.
He takes her to Paris. Paris, France. If he weren't her husband already, she would marry him after Paris. It's fabulous, full of lovely things like art and tourism and kissing everywhere. If she thought she couldn't get enough of him before, she's not sure if satisfaction can ever be reached for her Finn voracity.
(She doesn't think he minds.)
But she misses Charlotte so desperately, calls her every single day to make sure she's okay, her mature little girl growing up too fast. It feels like just yesterday she was sick with the croup and needed Rachel to hold her hand when walked into her school for the first time. Now she's learning how to play instruments and making her own play dates.
She cries when she sees her in the airport, standing beside Papa and Daddy, a sign that says THE HUDSONS and Finn just laughs a little, as she makes her way down the escalator and to her daughter. It is perhaps a bit of a reaction, crying this way, but she's so, so unbelievably happy.
And she doesn't pay attention to her body like she would if she weren't a newlywed trying to work on the threat of an eight-year-old knocking on the door or wondering about the noises in the room next door. She would realize that in the stress of the wedding planning she hadn't picked up her birth control for two whole weeks and hasn't gotten it since, always missing the pharmacist's calls.
It's not until she's being fitted for a new costume at work that she pays any attention to her body. "Rachel, did I get your size down wrong last time?"
"Huh?" She holds the front of the dress to her chest. "I don't – I don't think so, no."
"Sorry, sorry, it's just, well. Today's measurements are a little off, is all."
"What?" She looks at her own body, doesn't feel very different. "Must be, um, that time of the month, is all."
She sort of wipes it out of her mind, you know, the incident at work, until Finn asks how she feels about going to see some ballet next month, that he knows the director, and she opens her planner to see what she has going on so they can buy tickets now.
And looking through the months none of the days marked with P are marked off, in fact – she doesn't think one has been marked off for two and a half months.
"Finn, I'm – I'm going to the – to the store. Do you need anything?"
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, do you need anything?"
"Yes, we are out of," he looks at the list on the fridge, "well, you're out of that weird pomegranate juice, but I don't think you can get that at CVS and I'm out of shaving cream."
The teenager at the counter totally judges her, the men's shaving cream, four pregnancy tests, a bag of M&Ms, a huge bottle of water, which is not environmentally conscious of her, she knows, but – but it just feels necessary in the moment and she feels like every one of the thoughts running through her head are disjointed, like none of them connect and she doesn't even say anything when she gets home and goes straight into the bathroom.
Last time she took four pregnancy tests with a water bottle balanced on a bathroom counter, she couldn't stop crying. It's not much different, this time, the crying, the water bottle, but this time, this time her heart isn't heavy with being left, uncertainty.
This time, when she emerges from the bathroom, she plops right on Finn's lap, kisses him hard, knows he won't leave when she tells him, "Guess what?"
"Okay. You won the lottery?"
She giggles and kisses his cheek. "Better."
"You found a suitable place to move?"
"I wish," she says, kissing his nose. "Guess again."
"How long is this going to go on?"
"As long as I want!"
"Okay. Uh, let's see. You got an appointment with that hair stylist of yours whose name you can never remember?"
"Better than that."
"You found the perfect pair of jeans."
"I give up. This is my white flag." He grabs the white pillow on the couch beside him and holds it up.
"Okay, I'll give you a hint." She removes one of her hands from his shoulder and grabs his hand, holds his palm flat against her stomach. "Guess."
His breathing becomes deep and his eyes glassy. "Y-you're – pregnant?"
"We're pregnant," she breathes, kissing him again. "We're pregnant."
She's reading Pride and Prejudice the night her water breaks, right in the middle. It's early, she's alone, huge and planetary on the couch, the sun is just coming up. She hasn't been able to sleep, all of her organs feeling like they've been kicked this past week.
"I know," she murmurs after a certainly powerful kick. "I get it, you want out. I want you out, too."
Perhaps she's gone a bit insane.
Anyway. She doesn't even realize it right away when her water breaks but her eyes get all wide and she starts yelling for Finn. There's a thump upstairs and he comes stumbling downstairs, jeans not even buttoned and zipped and he's got a hoodie over his head.
"It's fine I've got everything the bag's in the car, let's go, come on, baby time," he's talking a mile a minute like he's still asleep and dreaming and he walks out the door without her and then runs back in to stare at her.
"Help me up," she exclaims and he pulls her up, apologies spilling from his lips.
The next few hours pass by painfully and colorfully and god it's not one of those things that will ever get better, child birth, she means, but it all sort of feels worth it when she holds her baby, their baby, in her arms.
His skin is pink and he's swaddled in blue, Christopher William Hudson. Finn squeezes onto the bed beside her, runs his finger down his cheek.
"God, he's beautiful," he whispers, soft, like he's afraid of waking the baby. "They don't say that about boy babies, but it's true, huh?"
"Yeah," she murmurs. She wants to kiss Finn because it feels like it's been too long but she doesn't want to look away from the baby, either, Christopher. There's a knock at the door and Charlotte comes in with Finn's mom and Papa and they help Charlotte onto the bed and it's perfect, this moment, her two babies, Finn, her husband. She's thinking about the way she got here, how the first time she let a man be in love with her, it got her this, her dreams, her family, this new happiness that will build, ever single day, the rest of her life.