Thanks again for all of the support for this story. I truly appreciate it.
So this is the last chapter. If that disappoints you, just keep in mind that writing this has stalled any further progress on Every Time We Touch, which I look forward to getting back to working on, like, right now.
ALSO, there's always the chance that I'll eventually revisit this 'verse in a sequel of some kind, so no need to despair. ;-)
Two days later Finn and Rachel were in her bedroom for a change, taking advantage of her dads being out until very late at some lawyers' benefit. Finn rode his bike there to ease Rachel's concerns that someone would recognize his truck in her driveway and suspect something. With the minimized risk of getting caught, he was in no hurry to leave and they easily transitioned from doing each other to doing homework.
Of course, he was still thinking about something else.
"So I still don't get it," he said, closing his copy of Fahrenheit 451 and tossing it in the air so that it landed next to him on her bed. "You're so worried about what your friends will think of us, but you're clearly the leader of the music/drama/smart-kid crowds. So why does it matter?"
Rachel sighed, re-stacking her SAT vocabulary flashcards and crawling up towards the pillows (and him). "It's not that I'm worried about what they'll think, in-and-of itself. But in order to maintain my perch at the top of those groups I need to demonstrate to everyone that I'm taking my ambitions seriously. If I showed up to rehearsal wearing your letterman jacket, it would look like I'm just like any other high school student, distracted by relationships and other drama instead of focused on my performances and other responsibilities. The only way to get the best possible recommendation letters from Mr. Schue and Principal Figgins is to remain… distinct."
"You are 'distinct', that's for sure," Finn teased, quickly catching her off-guard and squeezing her side.
Rachel jumped in response to having been tickled, then rolled her eyes and smacked him with a pillow. "Seriously, though. My friends can't know about us because I compete against them for solo performances and roles in the musicals. If they smell weakness they'll go into full-on warfare every time. The system is a lot more fragile than your teams of sporting Neanderthals who just want to bash their heads together and win a game. Trust me."
Finn laughed, her cute self-assured statement distracting him from the fact that he should have been insulted by her comment about athletes.
Then, he thought of something she'd mentioned months before; something he'd been trying not to think about.
He must have winced or otherwise given his thoughts away because Rachel stared at him curiously. "What?" she asked.
He groaned. "Just, uh… you know how you said that your last boyfriend turned out to be a jerk?"
She nodded but looked away, and he took her hand so she'd turn back to him.
"Just… that's not me, okay? I'd never… I mean, I hope you realize…" He felt like an idiot groping for the words but he was running out of different ways to tell her how much he cared about her.
"I know, Finn." She kissed him softly, her hands on his face, barely breaking eye contact. "I know."
That night, Finn lay awake in bed, determination sending his brain into overdrive.
The way that Rachel had looked at him after he fumbled through his promise not to hurt her left him convinced that he was wearing her down. It seemed like all he needed was one final push to convince her that they should be a real couple. The only remaining question was what the hell he needed to say to her to make that happen.
He thought about asking his mom for advice, but he knew that she'd get all mushy about her little boy being all grown up and have a thousand questions about who the girl was and what she was like and all that. Plus, because he had such trouble lying to his mom he probably wouldn't be able to avoid telling her about their "enemies-with-benefits" relationship... and his mom just didn't need to know about those details, okay? (Once he and Rachel were a real couple, of course, he'd tell his mom about it right away. That's just how he'd always been.)
With his mom not an option, there was one other woman who Finn trusted almost as much.
The next day during lunch he rounded the corner of the locker room to the small office belonging to Beiste.
"Coach?" He knocked on the door, drawing the imposing woman's attention away from the barbecued chicken on her desk.
"Hud! What can I do for ya, Punkin'?" she asked warmly. "Drumstick? I know it's your favorite..." she offered, gesturing for him to sit down.
For someone who was tough as nails in the locker room and on the field, Coach Beiste promised her players that her office was a safe space where they could come to her with any problems or questions about life.
"Nah, that's all right, Coach," he declined politely while settling into a chair in front of her desk. "I just came by because I need a... girl's opinion on something."
Coach's eyes lit up and she squirmed a little in her seat. "This should be good," she said excitedly, wiping her mouth with a napkin.
Finn tried not to blush. "So, there's this girl, and she's not someone who I ever thought I'd be into because we're pretty... different."
Beiste nodded thoughtfully. "Well, they do say that opposites attract."
"Yeah, I feel like I know exactly what that means now," Finn agreed with a smile before he recalled his frustration with the situation and sighed. "The problem is that I've asked her out, but she's worried that it would be weird, because we're involved in totally different activities and have such separate groups of friends."
Beiste frowned a little. "Well, that shouldn't matter! The only important thing in a relationship is that two people care for one another. Everything else just falls into place after that."
"Right! So, I keep telling her that I really care about her and the other stuff doesn't bother me, that we'll figure it out, but she's being pretty stubborn about the whole thing."
"But you're pretty sure she likes you too? And it's just the other stuff that's getting in the way?" Beiste asked.
If the sex is any indication, yeah, Finn had to stop himself from saying out loud. Instead he just smiled across the desk. "Yeah, Coach. I wasn't absolutely sure until the other day but... yeah, she does."
Coach nodded, her lips pursed together in thought for a moment. "Well, Punkin', maybe you need to stop talking and start acting."
"Acting? Like, I should wear a costume and pretend to be someone else?" For a split second he wanted to panic, convinced that Beiste knew he was talking about a girl involved in theater and would figure the whole thing out.
"No, hun," Beiste said, shaking her head. "I mean... take action. Less talking, more doing."
"Ohhh." Finn felt like a complete idiot. Luckily Coach didn't seem to mind.
"Girls like to see evidence that a guy cares, instead of just hearing him say it over and over again," she explained. "Show that you're interested in things she likes. Be friendly towards her friends. It doesn't have to be anything big, just small gestures."
Finn nodded slowly, letting the coach's wisdom wash over him while the wheels started turning in his head.
"Oh, and if all else fails," she went on, "there's always candy or flowers," she added with a wink. "It's the right time of year for that, after all."
Finn laughed. "Thanks, Coach," he told her as he stood.
"Any time, darlin'. You know that."
For the next week, Finn didn't press the relationship issue with Rachel when they were alone. Their charade at school continued, fueled by their rival bake sales, which were each in full swing in anticipation of Valentine's Day the following Monday.
Finn thought the little stunt he pulled in putting up his signs was relatively harmless, but Rachel seemed intent on retaliating ten-fold. She had the drama club set up three separate bake sale tables in different parts of the school, with people sitting at them at seemingly every hour of the day. Before school and during lunch she stood in the lobby with a bullhorn proclaiming that the theater kids' bake sale offered vegan and organic options while the basketball team's baked goods were "laden with preservatives, high-fructose corn syrup, and trans-fats."
She also made sure to sneer at him when he walked by, but at least once he caught her gaze softening when she thought no one was looking.
Meanwhile, without her knowledge, Finn's plan was coming along quite nicely.
On Friday, he purchased a heart made of red velvet fudge from the drama club table and approached Rachel's locker.
"Ahhhem." He cleared his throat loudly so that she'd turn around.
"Yes, Hudson, can I help you with something?" she answered, still facing her locker.
"I, uh, have something for you." His answer came out totally awkward since he didn't want to use his usual at-school teasing voice but also didn't want to scare her way with the genuine, flirtatious tone he naturally seemed to slip into when they were by themselves.
Groaning a little, Rachel closed her locker and turned to face him.
"Oh!" she said, excitedly, when she saw the fudge. But then she pressed her lips into a straight line and exhaled. "The drama club thanks you for your support," she said calmly.
"Great," he said, warmly. "But really, I got it for you." He moved his hand forward in an effort to get her to take the item.
Rachel tensed and looked around. Satisfied that no one they knew was nearby, her posture relaxed and her eyes fluttered a little bit. "Finn," she said quietly, "I—"
"I also got tickets to a Barbra Streisand tribute concert, tomorrow night in Dayton. I thought maybe you'd want to go. With me. Like... a date." As nervous as he was about her reaction, he couldn't stop smiling because it just felt so good to be approaching her and taking action like Beiste suggested.
But after a few seconds of her still not saying anything he can't help but feel disappointed. "Please, Rachel. I just want this to be real. And as special as you are."
This time, she blushed and look down at the ground, but the silence was interrupted by the appearance of Fashion Kid (who Finn now knew to be named Kurt Hummel).
"Rachel I need to change my tabling assignment for the bake sale on Monday. The before-school time-slot is too early and will completely mess up my morning moisturizing routine," he said breezily before turning to Finn. "Hello, Finn. What's new?"
"Not much, I was just about to ask Rachel here to be my girlfriend. You?"
"Fi-Hudson, what are you talking about?!" Rachel stammered in exclamation, returning to her usual tough exterior in an attempt to dismiss his statement.
"Oh, come off it already," Kurt drawled with a liberal eye roll. "Your ridiculous outward rivalry aside, we all know that you two have been hooking up on the sly since the fall."
Rachel's face went white. "You all- you told them?!" she hissed at Finn.
"Easy, diva," Kurt scoffed. "Mercedes and I suspected something a while ago, but it was basically confirmed when Finn started talking to us during gym class."
Rachel looked at Finn quizzically.
He shrugged. "I figured that being in a relationship means being friends with each others' friends, and you were worried about how they'd react, so I figured I'd test it out on my own."
"You 'figured'," Rachel snickered as if to herself, looking off to the side and shaking her head in disbelief.
Finn's heart sank into his stomach.
She was mad. He'd blown it.
He'd tried and tried to convince her that he was a good guy and worth the supposed inconvenience of a real relationship but it was now clear that it wasn't enough, he would never-
Without warning, Rachel fisted the front of his polo shirt in her tiny hand and pulled him down for a kiss that made his knees weak. It was all he could do to hang onto the fudge heart in one hand and steady himself by placing his other arm on the wall behind Rachel.
"Oh God," he heard Kurt groan. "I'll see you two later if you ever come up for air," the other boy added before sauntering away.
They did break for air a moment later, and Finn was glad to see Rachel looking up at him with smiling doe-eyes, her hands still clutching his shirt like she didn't want to let him get away.
"Thank you," she said softly, a wide smile gracing her lips.
Finn didn't bother to ask if that meant she was saying yes to the concert date or being his girlfriend or anything. He quickly placed the fudge heart on the top shelf of her locker, freeing his hands so he could cradle her face and pull her back in to resume their addictive kissing.
"Yeah, Finnocence!" Puck yelled out as he passed by, smacking Finn on the back. "Love is in the air!"
I couldn't resist getting a little more mushy at the end, there. Hope you approve. :)