Bookends @mickeydubs
Chapter 3

Bookends

Chapter 3: Hunky Dory

Rachel walked out of the choir room slightly disheveled and entirely dissatisfied. Three weeks into the school year and she thought that the glee club might have made the slightest bit of progress.

However, with such a small group, the best they were able to pull together was a pitiful rendition of "Sit Down You're Rockin' the Boat," with all of the attention on a boy named Artie and his wheelchair. Rachel didn't find the irony nearly as amusing as Mr. Schuester seemed to. They danced around in a tight circle, waving gloved hands all over the place, and she supposed it could have been a good idea in theory, but it just wasn't what she had been hoping for.

When she had imagined joining the show choir in high school, she'd always envisioned large stages, bright spotlights, and herself in the middle of it, pouring her heart and soul into every last note, moving audiences to tears with nothing but her voice. She'd seen extravagant and beautiful sequined gowns. She wanted glamour. She expected glamour. Instead she got poorly formed puns and irrelevant jazz hands.

She huffed her way out to the parking lot to wait for her dads to come pick her up. It was relatively empty; only a few stragglers' cars littered the occasional spot. Most everyone had gone home for the day, eager to be anywhere other than school.

Rachel sat herself down on a bench on the outskirts of the expanse of pavement and let her gaze drift as her toe tapped along to the beat in her head. She went through her mental checklist of homework assignments that needed completing, too lazy to dig her daily planner out of her bag; she groaned internally when she realized that she would most likely have to stay up at least an hour past her usual bedtime in order to finish it all. Not that she had an official bedtime anymore. She simply knew her limits and had a particular time of night at which she retired in order to perform at her highest possible quality each day.

She was just about to pull out one of her quicker assignments to work on while she waited for her ride home, when she heard several loud voices coming toward her. She looked up to see a group of eight or nine football players as they meandered in her direction.

She couldn't say why, but she immediately panicked and did all she could to make herself as small and quiet as she could. Puck was sick, so there was no one around to protect her from such a collection of largely built boys. She shrank into herself and held her breath, praying to any greater being that may or may not have existed that she wouldn't be seen.

She cursed them all when one of the young men turned and walked directly at her. She started to brace herself for whatever torture was forthcoming, and then let out the biggest breath of relief when she realized who it was. The boy smiled his goofy smile and Rachel allowed her own grin to spread across her features.

The boy sidled up and sat on the bench next to her. "Hey Rachel. It's Rachel, right?" He asked the question, but she could tell he was only trying seem cool and aloof. Because apparently that always works.

Rachel nodded, confirming the obvious, then surprised herself with her own confidence. "That's me. Rachel Barbra Berry at your service. And you would be Finn Hudson, up and coming football star and Noah Puckerman's new best friend." He didn't seem to notice the slight bitterness in her voice or the accusatory look she was shooting him with.

His only response was, "Oh, I don't know about that." She wasn't sure whether he was referring to the bit about being a football star or Puck's best friend, but she decided to assume it was the former.

She allowed him his modest shrug and smile combo, followed by a moment of slightly awkward silence before she prompted, "So, is there something I can do for you?"

Finn sat up a bit straighter, looking like he'd just had his memory jogged. "Right. Um, no, actually. I just saw you sitting over here alone, and thought, y'know, I'd come over and keep you company." He looked down at his hands fidgeting in his lap as a light blush crept up the back of his neck.

Rachel felt her heart soften instantly. Her jealousy at her best friend having a new best friend slowly melted away. "Well… that was very thoughtful of you, Finn." He bobbed his head as if to agree, and Rachel felt the impending awkward silence begin to settle upon them again, so she moved preemptively to cut it off. "So. Since we're keeping each other company, why don't we get to know each other?"

"Oh. Yeah, okay. Good idea. So, um, I'm Finn, but, you know that already. Um, I'm really into sports; I play football in the fall and basketball in winter." He scratched his head, struggling to think of things to tell her. "I don't do too good at school stuff, but my step-dad runs a car garage, so if the whole college thing doesn't work out I have a place waiting for me there."

He nodded, looking proud of himself. Rachel's curiosity wasn't quite satisfied yet though, so she piped up with another question. "What kind of music do you like?"

"Oh, I love classic rock. I listen to it whenever I can. My girlfriend hates it, but it's probably my favorite thing."

Rachel's gaze dropped to her knees. "Oh, you have a girlfriend?"

Finn was completely oblivious to her sudden change in mood and tone. "Yeah, Quinn Fabray. She keeps telling me she's more into people like Taylor Swift. I think she secretly actually likes all of those weird alternative bands but won't say anything because she doesn't want to be associated with that group of kids. Flannel's not really her thing."

Finn kept rambling, completely unaware of the mildly shocked and disappointed look that had taken over the face of the girl sitting beside him. Rachel wasn't naïve enough to think that he might be referring to another girl with the same name. McKinley was not that big, and Quinn was not that popular of a name.

For some reason, Rachel had expected the cheerleader not to have a boyfriend. But no, of course someone in Quinn's position would need to have some kind of man-candy on her arm. And Finn Hudson was certainly a top candidate, when it came to attractive boys in their grade.

They made sense as a couple, really. Within a year, the two were bound to be named captain of the football team and head Cheerio. They were the perfect power couple to rule the halls of their high school; that cookie-cutter boyfriend and girlfriend to be figureheads of a public education facility such as McKinley. Not that Rachel could speak from tangible relationship experience, but she had seen enough teen movies to know what the popular couple should look like. They were a bit cliché, actually.

Still, even as she pictured them in her mind, the idea of the two of them didn't sit well in Rachel's stomach. They were the golden couple on paper, to be sure, but when it came down to it, something about Quinn and Finn together just didn't feel right to her. It struck Rachel how strange this was. She barely knew either Quinn or Finn, and yet she had no problem making these snap judgments on their relationship, which she didn't even know existed until a few moments ago.

But that was just Rachel. She'd always been a good judge of character. She knew it wasn't her place to pass judgment, but even from the short exchange she had had with Quinn on the first day of school, she could tell Finn would never be able to keep up with the blonde intellectually. It was something in those green eyes. She almost wanted to call it a hidden wisdom, but that was too poetic, and she was annoyed at herself for even thinking a phrase like that about someone she had barely encountered. Quinn struck Rachel as an old soul. Someone who kept things internalized and who was too complex for Finn to hope to understand unless she spelled everything out for him. Someone who wouldn't want to spell things out so would let every thought swirl about her mind without speaking up unless she had something important to say.

Rachel was the opposite. She was the type to wear her heart on her sleeve, because she couldn't bear it if anyone in her life were to allow her moods or opinions to go unnoticed. She was a very expressive individual.

Quinn seemed more the kind to remain quiet unless someone directly called her out. She might make chit chat with the people around her, but she probably wouldn't vocalize the inner feelings she held. And Rachel couldn't help but feel as if Finn would never be observant enough to realize when she was feeling a certain way.

He was the type to assume everything was hunky dory until something exploded.

But, she reminded herself, it really wasn't any of her business. She shouldn't be speculating like she was. Maybe Finn and Quinn actually had a great relationship. Maybe they'd figured out a way in which they communicated really well and totally understood each other and their respective needs. Maybe they were just that couple, the one with two people who absolutely should not work together but did anyway. It was certainly possible.

(Rachel doubted it.)

"So, I've been meaning to ask you something…"

Her ears perked and her eyes widened ever so slightly in expectation. She felt the tiniest of baby butterflies start to flutter their wings in the bottom of her stomach. "Yes?"

"Well, you're in the glee club, right?" She nodded. "What's it like?"

"Oh." Rachel let her shoulders relax a bit. "Why do you ask?"

"Um, I've been thinking I might want to join, but Quinn thinks it'll turn me into a Lima loser instead of the future prom king like she wants me to be, so if I'm going to go do it anyway and have to deal with scary Quinn, I want it to be worth it."

Suddenly Rachel found glee to be the most amazing musical experience William McKinley High had ever seen. "Oh, it's great! You would really love it. It's… boatloads of fun." She blinked away a flash in her mind of Mr. Schuester doing jazz hands. "The New Directions are all about breaking boundaries and giving everyone a voice. And I know your perspective would definitely add to the group. And I'm certain you would get a lot out of it, too."

Finn smiled and Rachel wondered briefly if anyone else ever spent time pondering over young Mr. Hudson's lips before she snapped her eyes back to his when he started speaking again. "Yeah, that sounds a lot like what Kurt told me. I just wanted a second opinion because I always lose my train of thought when he gets going about show tunes and I can never tell if he's being sarcastic or not when I ask questions."

Rachel smirked a little to herself. "That sounds like Kurt. How do you know him?"

"We're step-brothers." He nodded matter-of-factly. "My dad died at war when I was a baby, and his mom died when he was a kid, and our parents found each other a couple years back and fell in love and stuff." He just bobbed his head, the words tumbling out of his mouth with little emotion attached.

She could understand it, though. "So you never met your dad?" She spoke softly, empathy evident in her voice. He kept nodding his head, and Rachel could almost feel how he was suppressing the sadness inside himself. She reached out and placed a comforting hand on his arm. "I can sympathize. I've never met my mom. The circumstances are a bit different, but I know how you feel."

"Did she leave you and your dad or something?" he asked bluntly.

"Not exactly. I have two gay dads, and she was their only way of having a child. Me. She was gone pretty soon after I was born."

"Oh. I see. You have two dads." She nodded in confirmation, watching his reaction carefully. He bobbed his head yet again, something Rachel came to assume he did when he was feeling nervous or uncomfortable, and said awkwardly, almost as a side note, "Kurt's gay."

Rachel could have laughed that that was the only connection that the boy could make. "Trust me, I know. Kurt is the most fabulously flamboyant boy I have ever met. It's great."

She grinned and nudged Finn gently with her shoulder, hoping that the awkwardness had dissipated somewhat.

Whether it had or not, it made no difference; Rachel looked up to see her dads pull into the parking lot, and she jumped up with a simple, "oh," grabbed her bag, and ran to meet them. Before she got in the car, she turned back to the boy still seated on the bench and called to him, "You really should join glee! And tell Puckerman that if you do it, he definitely has to!"

She waited for that grin to appear on his face, gave him a last friendly wave, then climbed into the back seat and slammed the door behind her.

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