Pairing: Glee, Rachel/Finn
Word Count: 2725
Summary: About halfway through the song it occurs to her she's grinning, and when she looks over at him she sees that he's grinning, too.
Finn's car dies, so he asks Rachel for a ride to school. "Just for this week," he tells her, leaning against her locker, his Spanish book clutched in one hand. Rachel tries not to notice the spine hasn't actually been cracked. "The transmission fell out."
"Can't Quinn take you?" she asks. It's not like anything would ever happen--Rachel's not looking for a boyfriend (no time) and if she were to help him, it would only because she's always thought the performing arts community has a responsibility to serve the population at large--but she doesn't need to give nasty Quinn Fabray one more reason to flame her on MySpace. All that negative feedback is totally messing with her rating.
But Finn tilts his head to the side, his mouth quirking into that little half-smile. "Cheerios have to be at school at 6:45. With football and Glee and everything, Mr. Schu said I should be getting all the rest I can."
"I think he meant vocal rest," Rachel says. She shudders to think about all the screaming they do on the football field. It's murder on your cords. She sighs. "All right, I can pick you up. But you'll need to be ready at seven-thirty sharp. I'm very punctual."
"I...do not doubt that." The smile blooms into a full-on grin and it does that thing to Rachel's stomach, like she drank too much Lite Frappuccino too fast. "Thanks, Rachel."
She pulls her little white Jetta (pink seat covers, lucky playbill from Once on this Island--her first show ever--tucked up in the visor) into his driveway at 7:29 the next morning, two neat beeps on the horn. Watching him cross the lawn feels like a teen movie, 10 Things or She's All That, and she's trying to figure out if she looks more like Rachel Leigh Cook or a dark-haired Larisa Oleynik when he knocks on the window. The doors are locked. Oops.
"You weren't kidding," Finn says, arranging his limbs in the passenger seat. He's wearing the same shirt he wore on Monday. It makes Rachel nuts how boys can do that. She's been listening to the hit music station as research for Glee, and Justin Timberlake breathes heavily over the airwaves. She wonders if Artie knows how to beatbox. "Right on time."
"Breakfast," she replies, handing him a Luna Bar out of the cupholder. "I brought this for you. It has fiber and Omega-3s."
"Thanks." Justin Timberlake gives way to Lady Gaga; Finn listens thoughtfully as he chews. "Don't you think this song kind of sounds like, 'poke her fa--'"
"Mm-hmm." Rachel cuts him off, slipping her Broadway's Broads CD into the player. "How do you feel about Patti LuPone?"
Rehearsal is going better than she'd hoped. They've got a couple of songs pretty well nailed--Don't Stop especially sounds better and better--though Tina's stutter continues to be a problem and the dancing is a nightmare with these kids. Mercedes got the idea to splice McKinley's Alma Mater together with Disturbia and Rachel has to admit she sounds kind of good: she may just have a career ahead of her as a character actress in regional theater.
Rachel's even kind of enjoying herself singing backup for once. Finn is standing next to her, and he keeps nudging her in the side during the "bum bum be dum bums," pushing against her shoulder so that if she's not paying attention she loses her balance and goes flying right into Tina. It's really not professional behavior on his part, but she thinks she can make an exception just this once. He smells like Abercrombie.
Mr. Schu is worried they're not adequately representing the American musical theater canon. "Rachel, Finn, one minute?" he calls as they all get ready to go, sticking their water bottles and sheet music into their backpacks. Rachel is pretty sure she's the only one of them who can read music, but it's important for everyone to feel like they're pulling the same amount of weight.
Finn jumps down off the stage and Rachel flinches, sure he's going to break a literal leg one of these days. One wheelchair-bound member makes New Directions sort of interesting in a human-interest sort of way; two would just inspire people to wonder what the other kids were doing to them. "What's up, Mr. Schu?"
"I'm trying to figure out one more duet for you guys," he says, running a hand over his floppy head. "Something kind of showtune-y. If you've got any ideas, I'd love to--"
"Light my Candle," Rachel says immediately. She's been waiting for him to ask her this exact question: singing "Light My Candle" with a handsome, vocally dextrous boy has been her dream since she saw the Broadway Across America tour of Rent in Cleveland in seventh grade and Papa had to explain to her about AZT in the car on the way home.
"Hmm." Mr. Schuester looks thoughtful. "That's not a bad idea, actually. Edgy. But I don't know if we can say ass." He looks at Ms. Pillsbury, who's been popping into rehearsals every once in awhile since Mr. Schu came back (Rachel doesn't mind; she's happy for the audience, and she thinks Ms. Pillsbury would make a really lovely Fantine). "Can we say ass?"
Ms. Pillsbury smiles kind of mischievously. "I think you just did."
"Okay then." Mr. Schu grins at her, then at the rest of them, like they're getting one over on somebody. "Well, let's try it, at least. Finn, we'll get you some lyrics--"
"I, uh, actually know it."
Rachel gapes at him, dropping her pink Jansport onto the floor. "You do?"
"Yeah." Finn looks embarrassed, his pale face getting a little blotchy as if he's admitting to perming his hair or liking the ballet. He clears his throat. "When I was a kid I had a babysitter who was really into musicals, so."
"Okay." Mr. Schu sits down at the piano, like why wouldn't Finn be familiar with the music from the 1996 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical? "Sweet. You want to give it a shot?"
So they sing: Rachel and Finn, Mimi and Roger, whatever, they sing. Rachel doesn't know how to explain it, how nice is is to work with a boy who knows what he's doing, who doesn't back off the high notes, doesn't shy away. He knows every single word. About halfway through the song it occurs to her she's grinning, and when she looks over at him she sees that he's grinning, too.
Then his voice cracks and it's all over, but still.
Singing with Finn is like jumping and having somebody else catch her. It's like for once she's not just grabbing at the air.
"That was...kind of fun," she ventures, as they leave the auditorium. Mr. Schuester and Ms. Pillsbury are still talking quietly at the front of the house; she's arranging his papers into neat, symmetrical piles on top of the piano.
"Yeah," Finn says, leaning on the pushbar and holding the door open for her. It's getting dark earlier and earlier; the sun is a skinny strip of pink behind the trees. "It was."
"Do you need a ride home?"
"Nah." Finn shakes his sandy head. "I have to meet Quinn at youth group. Tomorrow morning, though?"
"Seven-thirty," she reminds him.
"Seven-thirty," he replies.
She gets into her car, and it smells like clean boy. Rachel rolls down the windows and sings scales all the way home.
By the next morning her good mood has disappeared in a puff of smoke, Elphaba-style. She woke up early to do her YogaSing DVD, checked her MySpace, and found a dozen particularly hateful messages from Quinn's coven of cheerleaders. Most of them were pretty run of the mill: dance off a cliff, one of them said, and even Paula thinks u suck, which Rachel guesses is an American Idol reference (she doesn't watch; none of those contestants have any real training). But the one from Quinn herself might as well be spelled out in neon lights: don't think for one second that just because you're carting my boyfriend to your singalongs means you have a snowball's chance in h-e-double hockey sticks of anything ever happening between u guys. All we do is laugh at you.
Rachel takes a deep breath, trying to find her center, pretending she's on stage. She knows Papa is right--those girls are just jealous of her talent, and in ten years they'll all be morbidly obese and popping so much Prozac they won't even know they're alive. She can shrug it off. She will shrug it off. In ten years, she's going to be loved and adored.
But right now it's early, and she has a trig test second period and a zit and Finn of all people thinks she's a joke and Rachel doesn't want to shrug it off. She wants to give up. She leans on the horn for longer than is perhaps necessary.
"Easy, easy," he says, once they go through another ridiculous comedy routine over his inability to navigate the lock on the passenger door, her pressing the button over and over, motioning frantically for him to just let go of the handle already so it'll release. God. "So...the horn works."
"You're late," she snaps.
"It's seven thirty-two."
"I like to practice in the chorus room before the bell rings, and if I'm late the Irish step-dance girls get in there before me. Tomorrow I'm leaving without you."
"Geez. Sorry." He looks taken aback. Daddy and Papa are used to her passionate temperament, but she supposes her sudden irritation could be startling to the casual male observer. He's probably going to tell Quinn how crazy she is.
Rachel slams the car into reverse and peels out of his driveway. "Are you laughing at me behind my back?" She doesn't mean to, but she just blurts it out--the idea that he could sing that song with her one minute and make fun of her with his stupid girlfriend the next is driving her insane, like she wants to stick a mask on her face and start belting out songs from Phantom.
"No." Now he actually is looking at her like she's crazy, narrowing his eyes. "Why? Are you laughing at me behind my back?"
Huh. "No," Rachel says.
"Well. Glad we got that cleared up." He digs around in his backpack for a minute, finally pulling a half-crumbled Pop-Tart out of the front pocket. "I brought this for you," he says. The cellophane gleams in the sunlight. "It has...no nutritional value whatsoever."
"Oh." Rachel sighs, feeling small for a moment, but only until she remembers that this is a person who sucks face with Quinn Fabray. "Thanks."
Still, she lets him pick the radio station.
On Friday Kurt invites them all over to watch the DVD of Godspell, with Victor Garber, which he got for his birthday. Rachel's already seen it like a hundred times--she went through a serious Stephen Schwartz phase in middle school--but all her homework is done and she's three days ahead on her MySpace videos ("Don't let the bastards grind you down," Daddy said, and Rachel agreed). There's really no reason she couldn't take some time to relax.
Rachel knows there's a football party tonight--some of the Cheerios were talking about it in homeroom, loud enough that everyone could hear. She doesn't think there's any way Finn is going to show up to the Glee thing, so she doesn't bother reapplying her makeup before she drives over. Papa's perfecting his recipe for cinnamon-raisin bread, and he gives her a loaf to bring to Kurt's parents. It makes her car smell good, like home.
It's a myth that unpopular kids all like each other, so Rachel feels a little trepidation as she rings the doorbell--even if she is the obvious leader of these misfits, that doesn't mean they have to be any nicer to her than anyone else is. But she was invited, and half an hour in she finds she's actually having a pretty good time: Kurt's mom made Rice Krispie Treats, and Mercedes is chattering on about some girl in the new US Weekly. "I can sing better than her!" she declares, jabbing at the cover with one manicured nail. "Why is no one hiding in my bushes trying to take my picture?" Tina is popping wheelies in Artie's chair.
She's completely flabbergasted when Finn sidles into the family room. "Hey, you guys," he says easily, slapping Artie a high-five. Rachel already knows Finn is a born leading man but still it's surprising the way the whole room seems to orbit around him, like he's got a perpetual spotlight on him everywhere he goes. "What'd I miss?"
They stare at him, every one of them. Even Kurt. Oh, God, Rachel realizes. She's wearing an old pair of sweatpants that say "Star" across the tush. And yes, they are adorable sweatpants, but still. "Shouldn't you be somewhere standing upside down on a keg?" Mercedes asks finally, and Finn half-smiles.
"Probably," he replies. There's an empty space on the floor next to Rachel, and he plops right down, his hand landing on top of hers--just for a moment, but she feels it all up and down her arm. "So what's this movie about, anyway?"
Rachel looks over at him. She knows how beastly the football players have been to him lately--he hasn't said anything about it, but word trickles down--and she can't help but wonder if maybe he wasn't invited to that party, either. "Jesus," she replies, looking him dead in the eye. "But not in a Chastity Club kind of way."
For one fraction of a second, she thinks he looks impressed. "Well all right, then," he says, reaching for a Rice Krispie Treat. "Bring it on."
So the six of them sit there and watch it, Rachel and Kurt and even Artie singing along a little. Tina builds a complicated cereal and marshmallow sculpture. Finn doesn't say anything, his shoulder warm against hers, like he can't quite believe he's here. Rachel can't quite believe it, either. She always gets a little weepy at the end of Godspell, though it's not like she's religious at all: Papa is a lapsed Lutheran, and Daddy grew up a Reform Jew. She thinks maybe it has something to do with the kids in the movie, their weird clothes and seventies hair and mad, terrifying hope.
Mercedes and Tina leave together, and Artie's dad comes to pick him up in the van. Finn walks Rachel to the sidewalk. "You got your car back," she observes; his old, dented Ford is parked right behind her. Somehow she doesn't think that car goes over very well with the Cheerios. Quinn drives an Audi.
"Yeah," he says, shoving his hands deep into his pockets. "This afternoon."
"So I guess you won't need me to pick you up anymore."
"I guess not."
"Okay." Rachel nods. There's no reason why that should make her feel sad, really. She was only doing this to perform a service as a member of the theater community. Like Equity Fights AIDS, only on a smaller scale. "Well, have a good weekend."
"Yeah, you too. You know," he says, "I kind of owe you now." He nods, like he's trying to convince himself of something. "For the rides, I mean."
Rachel shakes her head. "It's fine. I was happy to help."
"No, I do. Maybe I should, uh, pick you up on Monday. You know. Drive you in a couple of days next week, to make it even."
"Oh!" Rachel thinks for a moment. Actually she'd much prefer to continue to drive--she hates riding in other people's cars--but somehow that doesn't seem to matter right now. "Okay. Seven-thirty."
Finn smiles. "Seven-thirty." He high-fives her goodbye before they get into their cars, marshmallow sticky on the palms of their hands.