Much thanks to all my faithful readers and reviewers!
Try to visualize the opening scene, if you can. – HL
Finn awoke in early morning. He was lying on his back, as he usually slept, but one thing was definitely unusual: the small head that lay on his shoulder. Rachel had turned into him in her sleep, slipped under his arm, and was now using him as a pillow. He could feel her breath, soft against his throat, her lips tantalizingly close to his.
Wow. Hope this isn't a dream. But no, he remembered last night, his convincing Rachel to use his bed as refuge from sexiling, and her decision that he should share it with her. Which had led to this awesome way to wake up.
He looked down at her face, so close to his. Part of him wanted to kiss her. Okay, most of him wanted to kiss her. Parts of him – especially a certain part lower down – wanted to do a lot more.
Bad idea though. Really bad idea. Well... good idea but bad timing. Gotta let her set the pace.
He hadn't asked her into his room to take advantage, to turn it into that old version of Sleeping Beauty he'd studied in Children's Lit class. So he pushed aside his more lustful reactions and settled for simply enjoying her nearness, happy to have her stay just as she was.
Except – Finn looked across the room at Mike's clock. As usual, he had woken up a few minutes before his alarm, so he had only about two minutes left before his phone was to start playing "Back in Black," which would wake Rachel up for sure.
He carefully moved his arm from around Rachel's shoulders, reaching out for his phone. He needed to turn the alarm off.
But from his place at the far side of the bed, his phone was too far away. Shit.
He stretched his arm out carefully, Rachel's head effectively pinning his shoulder. Nope. His fingers closed over air.
Just another inch, if he could extend at his elbow, and he tried but – he felt the end of his phone as his fingers brushed it, but that was all. Not enough to pick it up or even to pull it closer.
One minute. Dammit, she looked so peaceful.
Maybe he could – he shifted towards her, but all that did was put his own weight on his shoulder too, and roll her onto his arm. She stirred a little at that, pulling closer against him, a small wordless sound escaping her lips.
Which was great, except that it made it even harder for him to reach his phone.
Ah, but – he brought his other arm over, sure it was further away but the shoulder was free, he could extend it more. He pulled her against him as he leaned, and finally –
The tick of the drum count came from his phone as he grabbed it, but he quickly thumbed it off as the riff started to blare.
"Mmmm..." Rachel buried her face into his chest. Finn dropped a kiss on her head.
"Shhh, baby. Sorry. Go back to sleep."
"'kay." She slipped her arm around him, and her breathing slowed again.
Feeling her face against his collarbone, her small taut body curled into his, the silk of her hair tickling the inside of his arm... it was perfect.
Except he had to get up soon to go for his run.
Five minutes, Finn promised himself. He could wait that long, enjoy the here-and-now of Rachel asleep in his arms. Or maybe ten. Ten.
Twelve minutes later he eased away from her, slowly, reluctantly. He was sure he could get used to this very quickly.
"Mmm... Finn." Rachel stretched as she woke, the lovely fuzzy feeling in her heart spreading down to her toes.
Her eyes blinked open. Was...? But no, she was alone. Alone, in Finn's bed. Her inner warmth turned into a full-on glow, and she snuggled deeper into the sheets, reveling at the scent surrounding her. A lot of Finn, some of her... it felt so right. As right as it could be without him there too, or without the heightened scent of having done something more.
So much for going slow, she thought. I decide to spend the night with him, just sleeping, and all I can think about is how much I want to jump him. And have him hold me forever.
Rachel checked the clock, wondering how long Finn had been gone, or more specifically when he would be back. Sweaty from his run... she blushed at her thoughts. She was head-over-heels for this man. It was so amazing – yet so fast, so dangerous. Wonderful, exhilarating, terrifying... She had no idea how she could deal with all she felt. Especially when so much of what she yearned for was still so theoretical.
It would be easier if he was here, she decided. I always feel better when he's here.
A loud knock at the door interrupted her reverie. Not Finn, surely.. but who? Should she answer? Technically they weren't supposed to be having sleepovers, but nobody official cared to check, dorm activities were open secrets as long as there wasn't trouble. She hesitated, her hand at the knob.
The knock came again. "I know you're in there, dwarf," the call came through, in the flat voice of her roommate.
Rachel rolled her eyes and opened the door. "Yes?"
Santana eyed Rachel up and down. "You can come home now," she stated.
"I'm doing fine here, thank you."
Santana sighed theatrically. "You should thank me," she said, giving Rachel an ingratiating smile. "Not only did I help you be all damsel-in-distress for your lump of a hero, but I'm here to give you the all clear. Halls are empty, so you'd better come now if you want to be spared the walk of shame."
"I'm not ashamed."
"Not yet. It's the walk that does it." She gestured at the desk, where Rachel had put her clothes and bedding. "Get your things, let's go."
Rachel considered it. Finn hadn't been gone long, she might as well head back to her room, clean up and have her shower, be all ready for when he came back. She picked up the pile from the desk and followed Santana out of the room.
Everything did appear to be quiet. Rachel walked quickly down the hall after her roommate.
Then the clapping started, a rhythmic slow clap.
The lounge was full of cheerleaders. Not all of them were clapping; a few whistled, and a couple of them held up their phones, clearly recording the whole thing.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Miss Rachel Berry!" Santana called out, sneering. "Making her latest fashion statement, bedhead and a guy's spare shirt."
Tears sprang to Rachel's eyes at the clear mockery. Some things never changed, it seemed. But she squared her shoulders defiantly. "My guy's spare shirt," she declared. "Not something any of you can copy."
All that brought was catcalls and laughter. "Like anyone would ever want to copy you," one called out; not one that she had even met.
Nobody wants you here, the cruel voice taunted her in her memories, loading past humiliation on top of the now.
Finn wants me, she responded as she continued down the hall to her room, away from the jeers of her current tormentors. She held the shirt, his shirt, close against her for comfort. Cheerleaders, it's always cheerleaders. But this time it's different because I have Finn.
"I've started seeing someone," Rachel blurted out that evening as she talked to her daddies. They had called mostly to find out how her show rehearsals were going, as far as she could tell, but she decided she needed to tell them about Finn, at least that Finn existed. Not that she expected they or anyone they knew to see the video from that morning, but who knows. If they found out later, as she hoped they would with things going well, they would be hurt if she'd kept it secret.
"Oh," Leroy said. "Hmm. Someone? A therapist, or a drama coach, or – "
"Leroy!" Hiram interrupted. "Our Little Star doesn't need that kind of help. You've found yourself a boyfriend, bumblebee?"
"Someone from your show?"
"No," Rachel answered. She was afraid they weren't going to like this. "Someone... someone from the dorms. His name is Finn, he lives down the hall."
She pursed her lips, waiting.
"Down the hall?" Hiram repeated.
"I thought everyone there was awful. All those athletes, just like the ones here that were so mean."
"Except for Finn. And his roommate Mike, he's nice too."
"Finn's studying to be a teacher."
"Oh." Hiram paused.
"But he's an athlete?" Leroy asked.
Rachel winced. "Football player. He's the backup quarterback."
"Oh. That's nice, I suppose."
"He is," she insisted. "He's really nice and I like him a lot."
There was a long pause. Rachel waited, unsure.
"Is he tall?" Hiram put in suddenly.
"No, seriously. A quarterback... he should be tall. Isn't he?"
"Yes, Daddy, Finn is tall." Rachel breathed more easily at this. "Not quite as tall as you, but still very tall."
"Ha! I win."
"No, Leroy, you can't gainsay this. Our pumpkin has found herself a tall man, like me. I win."
"Hiram, I think you'll find I understand being attracted to a tall man," Leroy said drily. "Most of the time."
"But he's studying to be a teacher?" Leroy went on. "He knows you're going to be a star, doesn't he?"
It seemed rather crass when they put it that way, though – "Yes, Papa," Rachel answered. "We've only started seeing each other recently but we've been friends for a little while."
"Good. It's just – a football player and a teacher, well, we haven't exactly seen the best examples, have we? It would be heartbreaking to see you dragged down like that nice Mrs. Tanaka. When you're really going to be a star."
"Finn is very supportive of my plans. And he's nothing like the players and coaches back in Lima, he's wonderful."
"Ah." Leroy stopped, biting back something more.
"Please understand, sweetie," Hiram said, "that your papa wasn't really expecting our little daffodil to be plucked by an athlete. Neither was I, not without pressing charges."
'Plucked'? "I... Daddy, Papa, I – " Rachel was at a loss for words with how intimate this had suddenly become. She did not want to have this conversation.
"Oh, you haven't yet? Well I'm sure it's just a matter of time, a big strapping nice wonderful boy that you like. Living down the hall. My. Just make sure you're safe."
Rachel really did not want to have this conversation. And 'just a matter of time'? Of course she was concerned with how fast things were moving with Finn, but it wasn't really a question of stages and time. It wasn't like after three dates they were supposed to sleep together. Or five dates, or two weeks, or anything like that. And sure he was just down the hall but... that didn't make it inevitable either.
Did it? No. It means we can, when we want to.
Though she admitted privately she already wanted to, it was just...
Rachel came out of her thoughts as her daddy prompted her again. "Ah, what was that again Daddy?"
"Your Papa asked how long you were coming for Thanksgiving."
"Ah – I'm not sure." Rachel did her best to cover her lapse. And it was true, she wasn't sure. Previously she would have jumped at a chance to spend four days back home with her dads, and four nights in a room she couldn't be kicked out of. But now... it would be four days – and nights – away from Finn. Of course he would be going home too, but for how long? She should talk about it with him, or at least find some way of broaching the subject without getting all serious about it. However quickly their relationship was being established, it was far too soon for any sort of coordinate-our-breaks kind of talk.
Rachel realized she'd been distracted again by her Finn thoughts. "There might be a rehearsal that weekend. I'll check the schedule, but it's subject to change." That was true; Ryan had said he could add further rehearsals or change who was needed when, as he saw what scenes needed more work. He hadn't mentioned Thanksgiving weekend, but he hadn't explicitly said it was excluded. And this gave her cover to sound out Finn about his plans.
"Even Thanksgiving?" Her Daddy protested. "But everyone knows that's for family."
"Not Thanksgiving itself, but after. We could need the time." Which might be true. A day of rehearsal, a night with Finn – maybe she could have both. And the possibility of the former could give her the opportunity to plan for the latter.
"Now Hiram, it's our Little Star's big stage debut," Leroy put in. "Her butterfly moment. No amount of preparation is unreasonable."
"I'm just saying that some planning and consideration for everyone involved would be more professional."
"Well – hmm. Yes. But she can hardly make waves. It's wise of you, sweetie, to accommodate the director even if it is awkward. Be the better person and it will pay off."
Rachel fervently hoped so, even if she was playing up the situation with the show as a stall tactic. She had suffered more than enough to deserve both chances she now had, her stage debut and Finn.
Rachel's night was restless.
She had completed her usual routine without incident, prepared her emergency sleep kit, visited Finn for a goodnight kiss, and then gone back to her room ignoring the attempts of others to annoy her. Some of the football team had definitely seen the video from that morning.
Santana had come in an hour later, alone, and gone straight to bed. Her stunt that morning seemed to have used up her venom, at least for now. Rachel wasn't worried... yet still somehow she stayed awake, every sleep position ineffective.
She didn't understand. Her bed was comfortable, her mind was quiet, her roommate was fast asleep. So why did sleep elude her? She had another date planned with Finn, and –
Nonsense. Everything was fine with Finn, progressing well; she was a little uncertain about how fast they should go, but it made sense to just do what suited. She wasn't that concerned, and their goodnight kiss had given her fuel for the dreams that she wanted but seemed to not be getting. Why, she did not know. She didn't have a pattern of interrupted sleep, which had sometimes made one night of sexiling lead to problems in subsequent nights; her last night of sleep had been very good, thanks to Finn.
Despite its blankets, her bed was cold without him, without the warmth of his large body. It felt too big, too empty; it smelled only of her and her light floral fabric softener; even with her arm underneath her ear, she missed the steady throb of his heartbeat.
Finn. She missed Finn.
The night before, she had wondered whether she would be able to get to sleep with Finn, being so used to sleeping alone. But she needn't have been concerned. Now, after only one night, it was apparently more a question of whether she could sleep without him.
She hadn't meant to get so attached, so soon. But she was.
Rachel's restlessness continued, her sleep fitful for the rest of the night.
"Hey there beautiful." Finn's voice came from behind her as she walked slowly into the coffee shop. She turned to meet him, finally finding ease in his presence and the warmth of his amber eyes.
She surged into his arms, easing further at the feel of him. "Good morning, handsome." But to her disappointment, Finn pulled back a little.
"Sorry, don't want to get my sweat all over you," he explained.
Not that I've been thinking about that all night or anything... She used to think athletes were messy, dirty, stinky. Maybe the rest still were. Maybe it was just that his messiness was his.
He placed their usual coffee order, and took her hand as they waited for it. "You're up early," he noted. "Everything okay?"
"Just – restless night," she admitted. "You?"
"Oh, I slept great," Finn answered, smiling again, and though his smile warmed her she was disappointed at his words. Yes he needed the sleep, but she wanted him to have missed her too. He shrugged. "Maybe a little cold –"
"Cold. Yes, I was cold too," Rachel interrupted eagerly.
"Oh. It wasn't that bad for me though, I mean it didn't cause any problems. Was yours bad? Maybe you need to talk to maintenance, get your room's heater checked out."
"Frank's really great about taking care of stuff, I can talk to him for you if you like."
That was so helpful but – her room's heater wasn't really the problem. "I'd better check with Santana first," she said by way of excuse.
"Yeah sure." They stood there quietly for a while. "Well, I can warm you up," Finn declared.
"Here." He presented her with her cup of coffee, newly deposited on the shelf by the barista.
Rachel suppressed a sigh. He was just too sweet, and his cluelessness was both frustrating and additionally endearing. She settled for giving him a lingering kiss of thanks.
Maybe they weren't as far ahead as she thought, certainly not as far ahead as her attachment had become. Maybe – maybe she needed to not put all of her happiness eggs in one basket, however promising and desirable that basket was.
Balance. I need balance.