So... I'm slowly getting back on the fanfic horse. I'm not sure about the eventual fate of "Knight to Queen Square"; I had originally planned it as a July-August blitz to get it done before S5 would give the official version of the reunion that we're now not going to get. And I can't immerse myself so deeply again, it's too painful. But I do have a story to tell, and I don't want to walk away from all the inspiration that Cory's portrayal of Finn has given me, so... we'll see. For now, here's the start of a much lighter AU fic that I've had on the drawing board for over a year.
Much love to Cory, Lea, and Finchelites everywhere. – Henrietta Line
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or any of its characters that I have co-opted for this fic, or Wright State University (fictionalized to add a football program).
"Don't Stop Believin'" was written by Jonathan Cain, Steve Perry and Neal Schon.
Just a small town girl, livin' in a lonely world
She took the midnight train going anywhere...
Finn Hudson, backup quarterback for the WSU Raiders, sang softly along to his iPod as he waited for the McKinley Hall dorm elevator. It was early, and he needed the music to get his heart rate up in preparation for his morning run, a regular part of his training regimen. Sprints today. The rest of the dorm floor seemed asleep, his teammates mostly getting a later start due to having later classes, though his roommate Mike was already on his way to the swimming pool.
It was quiet, as was usual this early – until another voice joined in.
Just a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit
He took the midnight train going anywhere
Finn started, surprised at the interruption, and he turned to look for the voice. A young woman's voice, beautiful. He looked over at the furniture in the floor lounge nearby, and saw a pair of dark brown eyes looking back at him, from the face of a small dark-haired girl.
"You have a nice voice," she said, which wasn't something he was used to hearing.
"Ah... thanks," he answered, mostly by reflex. "So do you." Which she really did, at least what he'd heard despite his headphones. The girl was lying on one of the couches, wearing a long sleeved shirt and with a blanket over her; it looked like she'd spent the night in the lounge. Which wasn't safe, especially not for a small girl like her, and anyway the lounge was supposed to be cleared out at night. "You really shouldn't be here though," he said, uncertain. "You can't just hang around like this, you should have gone home." But she didn't look like a football groupie, not that there were all that many but there were some, and some that wouldn't take no for an answer. She looked too good to be one of them though, she looked too real.
She laughed then, sounding sort of bitter, which was unexpected and didn't seem to suit her. She seemed nice otherwise, but guarded. "I'd be more than happy to have slept in my own bed for the night."
"Uh..." he moved a little closer. She seemed to have gotten ready for bed, sleep-shirt, pillows, blanket – and those were the dorm ones, too. "Even if you're stuck, you can't do this. We can get away with guests in the rooms, but not out here." Had she been stuck when someone had her over and kicked her out late? He hoped she wasn't an ex-one-night-stand of a teammate, she looked way too nice for that.
She sat up, giving him a small pout, cute but not deliberately so, and sighed. "I'm not a guest," she answered wearily. "This is as close to where I'm supposed to be that I can get."
Finn was puzzled. He knew everyone on the floor, many of them had been here the previous year too, and anyway this was a jock floor, with the football players down the guys' hall and the cheerleaders down the girls'. Except –
"Oh, you're Santana's new roommate," he said, the light dawning. He wouldn't normally be able to make any kind of connection between the sweet girl in front of him and Santana's description of the "ugly little shemale who dresses like an eight-year-old," but Santana insulted everybody except her best friend Brittany. And the new girl would be the only one he hadn't met. Santana had gotten rid of her old roommate a couple of weeks ago, she had been furious to get a replacement, and rumor had it that the girl was too scared of Santana to be around when she didn't have to be.
Finn chuckled at her apt comment, which at least didn't sound like she was anywhere near as scared as Santana had been claiming. Santana always made sure she got her space, though, which presumably was why she didn't room with Brittany. "Yeah, well, that's how she got rid of the last girl. She basically pretended she didn't have a roommate and soon enough it came true." He shook his head. "She was really pissed when a week later she was told she had a new one."
"I can tell."
"So she's been sexiling you, huh." This was also a safe guess, Santana often had guys over, she was known to be indiscriminate. She had tried her come-ons on Finn too, but he hadn't been interested, and she had even tried to get Mike at one point, despite Mike holding fast to his high school girlfriend Tina. Finn had lived it up more last fall, when he'd been a freshman, but even then he'd still known better than to add himself to Santana's extensive list, and by spring semester he had calmed down and gotten over the flattery of having girls throw themselves at him.
"Yes," the girl replied grimly. "I was informed in no uncertain terms about the signal and the protocol." Finn looked down the girls' hall, and sure enough there was a long sock hanging off the doorknob of Santana's room. Well, this girl's room too, at least when she was allowed in. The girl gestured at her blanket. "It's the third time already, so I've started to be prepared for when she shows up with whatever lowlife she picks up. It's bad enough that my apartment ceiling fell in, I don't know why there wasn't somewhere for me other than being forced to room with the queen of all the bitches and Neanderthals on this floor. And the RA is no help at all."
"You talked to the RA?" Finn was alarmed. Trying to get the RA to intervene in a roommate situation was usually a very bad idea, and their floor's RA was too involved with the athletics programs to want to make waves. "Look, complaining won't help, you don't want to piss off someone like Santana when she has access to your stuff and where you sleep at night." He saw her frown, again in a sort of sad pout that showed her frustration. And what she was talking about, it would suck, so he eased up. "Well, sometimes sleep at night, I guess," Finn joked tentatively, and he was relieved to see the girl's manner ease a little. She must be really tired, so he supposed he could let the 'Neanderthals' crack go, especially since it wasn't completely wrong when it came to some of his teammates. Clearly she hadn't made the connection between him living on this floor and who she knew lived there.
She yawned, stretching theatrically, then turned to the window. "What time is it?" she asked, looking at the grey sky.
She groaned, and flopped back down on the couch. "Last time the loser left at six so at least I could complete my morning ritual."
"Morning ritual?" Finn raised his eyebrows, skeptical.
She looked back at him, her face defensive. "Proper hygiene and hair and skin care is very important." She met his eyes again, then suddenly turned away, grabbing her pillow and facing the back of the couch. "As is proper rest."
Finn rolled his eyes, sensing the dismissal but not taking it personally. The girl was clearly very uncomfortable with what had been happening, and he couldn't really blame her. He went again to the elevator, then had an impulse and turned back. "How do you take your coffee?"
"Pardon?" She sat up again.
"Look, I have to go do my run, I'll be about forty minutes. But I always get coffee on the way back, can I get you some? I can make up a bit for waking you up, and give you a better welcome to the floor than you've gotten so far." It was kind of presumptuous, but he figured what the hell. He turned back to the elevator and pressed the down button again.
"That would be really nice of you, thank you," the girl said, sighing. "Soy milk, please." She got up from the couch and walked over to him. "And I'm so sorry, I didn't introduce myself." She put her hand out, and he took it to shake. "Rachel Berry, freshman theater arts major." She gave him a bright smile.
Theater arts, no wonder she was so obviously out of place on the jock and cheerleader floor. And she was theatrical, no way would that go over well with Santana. Now, though, she seemed very genuine, even relaxed despite it all. Someone worth getting to know better, maybe. The elevator arrived, and he gave her a nod and got in. "Finn Hudson, backup Neanderthal." She winced at his dig, but he smiled. "Hey, don't worry about it. See you in forty."
"It's the best way I've been woken up in the last two weeks," Rachel said to herself as she fell back onto the couch, pulling the blanket over her. Damn, why couldn't I have thought of that in time to have said it?
Still, I should have said something.
Don't be stupid. I'm overtired, surrounded by all these horrible people, one friendly face and I'm going gaga and thinking I should throw myself at him.
He still seems really nice. And cute. Well, handsome, just look at him... but a football player? Really?
It's Stockholm Syndrome. I've been taken prisoner by the jocks and I haven't had a good night's sleep since the ceiling caved in and I'm falling for the first guy who offers me coffee.
I am not falling for him. I have only exchanged a few words with him. And sung a little, all right, and he does have a nice voice. But I am not falling for him. No.
She turned back to her pillow, hoping to get a little more sleep before the floor became too noisy. A few minutes later another ping from the elevator jerked her back into wakefulness; a quick glance over showed that her roommate's lowlife-of-the-night was finally leaving, shooting her a leer as he did so. She sighed.
Hurriedly returning to her room, Rachel piled her pillow and blanket on her bed. She ignored Santana's lazy smirk, going instead for her toiletry bag – still apparently untampered – and heading to the shower. She would have to start taking her bag with her in future, she realized. And have a rape whistle, just in case one of Santana's "guests" or one of the less kind football players took advantage of her vulnerability sleeping in the lounge.
Once showered and moisturized, her hair washed and her legs shaved, she felt a lot more like herself. At least first thing there weren't many in the showers. She was drying her hair as Santana came in, apparently having enough self-respect to at least try to scrub the skank taint from her skin.
Back in her room alone, Rachel could finally relax. This didn't last long, though, when she noticed that her desk contents looked rearranged, the books and binders definitely not how she'd left them the night before. At least everything seemed to still be there, and her laptop was locked in her desk.
Deciding that it wouldn't hurt to know more about her obnoxious roommate, and anyway turnabout was fair play, she took a careful look at Santana's desk. The papers were strewn about in a way that suggested nobody would notice if a few were moved, but still Rachel lifted only a few pages, and very carefully too. She found some cheerleading stuff, and a few pages written by someone else in crayon, including a drawing of Santana herself that actually made the Latina look quite pretty. Under it she found a page of Brittany's name, written over and over in Santana's hand; this intrigued her, but also made her realize that she had better not be caught snooping, so she carefully put every page back the way it had been.
It was hard not to wonder about what she'd seen, and what it might mean about Santana, despite the girl's obvious promiscuity among men. Rachel was tempted to look again, but caught herself; Santana could be back at any time. So she determinedly turned her back on the tempting pile of papers, looking back at her own desk. To distract herself, and because also in the "it wouldn't hurt to know" category was a little more about the guy bringing her coffee, she took out her laptop and looked up information about the Wright State football team. And there in the team list: Finn Hudson, position QB. Quarterback. And she thought she'd had a hard time dealing with Santana and her sycophantic cheerleaders, she had now insulted the entire football team to its quarterback... well backup he said, and the stats reflected this, zero starts but some playing time, and a bunch of other columns that meant nothing to her. She hoped they were good.
At least the quarterbacks are supposed to be the smart ones, well smart-er anyway. And she was already pretty much at the mercy of the people on her floor, so she didn't think he would drug the coffee or anything like that.
A knock at the door broke into her musings, and she snapped her laptop closed to hide this last of her snooping. And yes, there at the door was Finn, his face flushed.
She returned his smile. "Hi."
"Good to see you got back in."
"Yes." She giggled a little, self-conscious. "I suppose even Santana can't stand those losers once she's sober."
"Probably not." He held out a tall paper cup. "Your coffee. Soy milk, and I added a little nutmeg. Not sure why."
Rachel took the cup and sipped, enjoying the flavor combination (and she had to admit also the attention). "It's good. And the nutmeg is a nice touch. Thank you." She sipped again, pleased that he was lingering. "How was your run?"
"Ah – good, good." He shrugged. "Same old same old, really." He took a gulp of his own coffee. "Guess I'd better go clean the sweat off."
Rachel forced her eyes up to meet his again, away from where she'd been noticing that sweat had made his grey tee cling to his chest. "Thank you again, and I hope to see you around. Even when I haven't been shut out of my room."
"Sure thing. Welcome to McKinley 11."
Rachel watched Finn go, her mind diverted from her roommate troubles. Maybe living in this dorm wasn't quite the disaster she had thought.