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“Viva Las Vegas!” Puck bellowed. “Vivvaaa... vivvvaaa... las vegaaasss!”

Will Schuester opened his mouth to reprimand New Directions’ badass-in-residence, but just wound up grinning instead. Hell, he was excited too. After placing so high in New York City, and guaranteeing themselves an increased budget, they were in Las Vegas burning to win first place in the nation.

“Simmer down, Puck,” Will laughed, turning to meet the concierge. “Excuse me, I’m Will Schuester. I have a group booking for William McKinley High School Glee club.”

The elegant black man - who may have been a glorified receptionist, but was wearing a suit that Kurt would later tell him was worth about half of Will’s yearly salary - raised an eyebrow and looked over the group. “New Directions, yes. I’ve been informed. Your group has been booked into the Marquee function room at seven thirty.”

Will frowned. “I’m sorry, there must be a mistake. I didn’t book any dining room for tonight – we only really have enough funding to hit the buffets.”

Even with the group booking and discount for show choirs, it had been hard enough raising the money to get into the Montecito as it was – Will had ended up blackmailing Sue to help cover some of the cost from the Cheerios budget, and that was certainly going to come back to bite him in the ass. But staying in the actual hotel/resort where Nationals was being held was too good a prospect to turn down.

The concierge looked even more disdainful. “The arrangements have been made by a third party. This evening’s function will be covered at no cost to your budget.”

Will blinked in confusion. “Um, I don’t suppose you could tell us who our mystery benefactor is?”

“That would be me.”

All of New Directions whirled around to see the woman who’d spoken. She was about the same age as Will, with olive skin, long dark hair, and a ruthlessly angled face, softened by full lips, sparkling dark eyes and an undoubtedly jewish nose. It kept her from being coldly beautiful, instead making her lovely in an interesting, exotic way. Even with her high-heeled ankle boots, she was short and willow-slim, wearing a bright red blouse with a golden bird – an owl? – blinking ruby eyes from her lapel, and a black mini-skirt that show-cased fantastic legs a mile long, even with her lack of height.

Will frowned. He could have sworn he’d never seen this woman before, but something about her seemed oddly familiar.

“After all,” she continued, “What kind of alumni would I be if I didn’t help out the new guard of McKinley glee club? Ms Lillian would haunt my dreams like Jacob Marley!”

Even as she spoke, Kurt’s eyes widened until he looked like a Kewpie doll, and he inhaled sharply. When he spoke, Will was almost sure that he heard Kurt hit that high F.

Rachel Berry! Oh, I’m a huge fan! I friended your Facebook and MySpace pages, and subscribe to your YouTube channel. Your performance in Wicked was absolutely revelatory! I have a playlist on my ipod solely of your original soundtrack.”

Rachel gave a blinding smile. “Well, thank you. It’s always nice to meet a fan! I’m glad that New Directions has at least one member properly educated in musical theatre traditions.”

Kurt then rounded on Will. “Mr Schue! How could you not tell us that a Broadway legend was a former member of New Directions! Especially one who has a year-long contract with the same Vegas hotel where Nationals are being held!”

Will shook his head in surprise. “I didn’t know about the performing contract, Kurt! Wow, Rachel, of course I knew about your success, but I never dreamed I’d run into you here.”

Rachel shrugged. “It’s a small world, I suppose. A year ago I ran into April Rhodes, of all people, trying to get an all-white version of The Wiz off the ground! That didn’t go anywhere for obvious reasons, but I managed to get her a tryout for an off-Broadway show, and she’s doing quite well.”

She turned back to Kurt, and toned her smile down to dazzling. “And as flattering as is it to be called a legend, I’m not quite there – yet!” She winked, and continued, “I can’t consider myself a legend until I’ve redefined at least one role made famous by Barbra Streisand.”

At a cough from the concierge, Will jumped. “Well, I think we need to finish getting checked in, so I guess we’ll see you at dinner tonight?”

“If you don’t mind if I join you?”

“Given that you’re treating us, it would be incredibly rude otherwise!” Will laughed.

“Hey Miz Berry,” Puck called out from the back, “You got any good stories about Mr Schue in high school?”

Rachel’s smile turned wicked, and she laughed, but this had a dark undertone to it. “Oh, you have no idea what I could tell you about Will Schuester in high school.”

Will grimaced. He’d just remembered that the small, driven girl with the huge voice had been a constant shadow to him from the time they met at glee club auditions freshman year. They hadn’t really been friends, but she’d been there for most of the good – and really bad – times of his high school career, at least until she’d left. There was no telling what she’d witnessed; he just prayed she hadn’t been there for the thing with the –

“Come to think of it, I do have a fairly vivid memory of an incident involving your beloved teacher, several bottles of tequila, and the football team’s goat mascot. While in the principal’s office.”

Oh, crap. She had been there.

A wave of gasps, laughter and catcalls rose from his kids, and Will raised his voice. “Okay, guys, there’s plenty of time for me to be embarrassed tonight! Let’s go get settled in and let Ms Berry go about her business, shall we? Please?”

Rachel laughed again. “I have the next couple of nights off, but I do have a rehearsal soon. I’ll see you all tonight, then?”

A chorus of agreement sent her on her way.

* * * * *

“Oh! And she won two Obies before her breakout role in Beauty and the Beast, leading to her first Tony at twenty-five, and her career defining role originating Elphaba in Wicked. She’s been performing here at the Montecito as an artist in residence since last May. She’ll be featured as one of the headliners for the American cabaret festival held here next month, before she heads back to New York for pre-production on a new show. She can’t name it on her website for legal reasons, apparently – do you think if we plied her with wine, she’ll let a hint slip?”

“Dude, breathe,” Finn laughed. So yeah, he was glad not to be sharing a room with Puck, because he’d just get kicked out so Puck and Quinn could screw all night – what was it about competitions that made her such a horndog? – and sharing with his step-brother was nice. But he hadn’t counted on Kurt meeting one of his heroes.

“Hey, you’re not going to fangirl all night, are you? Because I really do need to get at least some sleep tonight. Can’t screw up the big duet tomorrow!”

“Honestly, Finn,” Kurt sniffed. “I fail to see how properly appreciating an artist of such talent would keep you up at night, you philistine!”

“Phili-what?” Finn asked in confusion. “Does that have something to do with cream cheese?”

“Philistine – a primitive form of man who had no appreciation for anything artistic.”

“Hey, I appreciate lots of artistic things and people. Especially if they’re paying for dinner.”

Kurt sighed and rolled his eyes.

* * * * *

Willl stood up and raised his glass and everyone at the table did the same. “Guys, I just want to say right now how incredibly proud I am of all of you. New Directions certainly hasn’t had the easiest of journeys, and I know that a lot of you will be taking forks in the road away from us soon, after graduation. But one thing has always kept us together – our love for music, and determination to win. We’ve made huge strides in the past three years to get here – heck, four years ago McKinley couldn’t even make it past Sectionals, and here we are at Nationals! And I have faith that our talent and hard work together will win this thing!”

A chorus of cheers and cat-calls replied.

“So, everyone, here’s to New Directions!”

Another cheer, and everyone drank.

“And while we have our glasses up, let’s thank Ms Berry for providing us with this feast!”

Another chorus of ‘to Ms Berry!’ brought a pretty blush to the woman’s face.

“Rachel, please!” she laughed. “We’re all gleeks here, after all.”

After that, everyone eagerly dug into the sumptuous feast laid out before them. Will was no exception, but once he’d taken the edge off, he eagerly turned to Rachel, sitting next to him in the place of honor at the head of the table.

“So, what have you been doing here in Vegas?” Will asked. He noticed most of the kids nearby turn to hear her answer. Rachel must have noticed, too, because she pitched her voice to carry easily.

“I perform from nine until ten-thirty five nights a week, and the occasional exclusive for the high-rollers – nowhere near the scale of Celine over at Caesar’s, of course, but I’ve found I enjoy the more intimate and low-key aspect of cabaret performances. It lets me really connect to my audience, in a way that you can’t in the big auditoriums. I’ve also spent the last few months working on a solo album – I wanted to do all my favourites, so I recorded almost thirty songs! My producer’s trying to persuade me to release two separate albums, though, one for the Broadway standards and one for the ballads, blues and jazz.” Rachel grinned around the table, and asked, “What do you guys think? Votes?”

“Mix them up! Better musical education for everyone!” Kurt cried, with a pointed look at Finn, who rolled his eyes as he took a sip from his glass.

Finn swallowed carefully, and offered, “Spread the wealth. Most of the ballads are Broadway-type stuff, right?” At Rachel’s nod and enquiring look, he nodded to Kurt, “Most of his stuff is, anyway.” Kurt looked indignant, then suddenly thoughtful, and Will suppressed a chuckle at the byplay of the brothers Hudmel. “But blues and jazz are a separate genre all of their own, and they have very different fanbases, mostly. The Broadway and ballad stuff would be an automatic seller to your established fans, but a seperate blues and jazz album would basically go out to a bunch of people who’d normally not listen to your stuff.”

Rachel gave a nod of appreciation and a brilliant smile, “You make an excellent point – Finn, wasn’t it? I think I’ll take your suggestion.”

Finn blushed lightly and grinned, and Will gave Rachel a grateful smile. He was one of the few people who knew how insecure the tall quarterback could really be, and he was thankful to his former classmate for giving his male lead the confidence boost. Finn had been touchy and confused about his future for most of the year, and it had been made worse by that damn football scout. It was only Will’s persistent encouragement and Kurt’s sneaking in a few applications behind his back that had persuaded Finn to pursue his musical talent. The fact that he’d received more scholarship money for music than he would have been offered for football had been a kind of confirmation that Finn badly needed – and in Will’s opinion, deserved. The letter had come several weeks ago, and the timing couldn’t have been better; Will needed his leading man in top form for his final performance.

This would be the final performance for many of New Directions, as well. Out of the groups’ fifteen members, seven would be graduating in a little more than a month. Will had some promising freshman prospects who hadn’t been allowed to come on the trip, and a couple of sophomores had approached him about joining in order to pack the resume for college, but Will was a little worried. Their star soloist, Sunshine, still had another year, but they needed twelve members to compete. However, winning Nationals would give them the clout to at least keep glee club going for another school year, giving them a year’s grace to build up the club membership again. At least joining glee was no longer an open invitation to daily slushie facials, thanks partly to several Cheerios and sports stars joining the team – but mostly because Shannon Bieste, one of his best friends, was also the football team coach, and was obliging enough to whip the worst offenders into shape.

As Will polished off the rest of his main course, savoring the delicious food (the Montecito was getting high points all around in his view!) Rachel was chatting with Kurt and Sunshine about the Broadway songs she’d recorded.

Will automatically matched songs to musicals, and a fragment of memory made him frown. He waited for a pause in the conversation, trying to remember all the songs that Rachel had recorded, for various cast soundtracks and an occasional charity album – she’d done several for gay rights and the marriage equality movement, which was only natural given her fathers.

“Hey, how come you’ve never done Les Miserables?” Will asked. “I remember your audition for Glee, you sang On My Own. Man, that was incredible.”

Rachel shrugged. “It got me into Glee. Too bad I didn’t get a competition solo for the first two years.”

“Seriously?” Kurt asked. “How on earth did that blasphemy get committed?”

“Everyone was too busy worshipping the ground April Rhodes walked on.” Rachel looked pointedly at Will, and added, “Including you, as I recall. You spent two years drooling over her, right up until she dropped out. Then Terri Delmonico promptly snapped the leash on you.”

Will shifted in his seat, wondering a little at the sharp edge to her voice. This was not something he wanted to get into. “But you stopped the show at Sectionals and Nationals junior year! No telling what would have happened if you’d stuck around,” turning to the kids, he informed them, “Not only was she the only one in my glee club career to get into NYADA, she got accepted as an accelerated entrant. Skipped senior year altogether to go straight to college.”

Rachel’s bitter smirk would have done Bryan Ryan proud. “Not like it was a hard decision, after the junior prom.”

Will frowned. The only thing he remembered about Junior prom was that he and Terri had made love for the first time afterward. He’d thought he didn’t have a prayer, but she’d been tremendously excited about them winning Prom King and Queen and practically jumped him in the hall.

“Um... what happened?” Artie ventured.

“Ever see Carrie? Well, that happened to me, only with paint. Toxic paint, too; even after I showered my best friend and her date had to take me to the emergency room, because I was dizzy and coming out in a rash.”

Will sucked in his breath in shock – how had he missed something like that? Most of the members of New Directions murmured in sympathy; Kurt actually had tears in his eyes, and Finn looked stricken.

“Wait, you weren’t even on the prom court,” Will frowned. “Were you?”

“Well, your precious Terri persuaded the emcee to declare me Miss School Spirit first, so she could watch me go down before her triumph as prom queen.”

Will shook his head in denial. “No, Terri wouldn’t do that-“

Rachel laughed, but the normally musical tone was heart-breakingly off-key. “Terri was pathologically insecure about your relationship, Will, she spent the whole last two years of high school teaching you to roll over and play dead on command. She knew I was head-over-heels for you, and wanted to teach me my place, even though you wouldn’t have had me if I was the last girl in Glee club.” Her eyes glittered, as she added, “So, how did that work out for you?”

Will gulped, and looked down at his plate, looking for patterns in the remains of his steak diane sauce.

Thankfully, Puck broke the silence. “Wait, you had a thing for Mr Schue?”

Rachel laughed again. There was still something off about the sound, but it didn’t slash across the eardrums like before. “Oh yes. I was completely infatuated with him. Of course, back then I was convinced it was heart-stopping, written-in-the-stars true love, and would last forever. I eventually learned better, but for almost three years I would have jumped in front of a speeding bus if Will Schuester had asked me.”

Puck looked at Will, and Will knew exactly what he was thinking: ‘You had a chance to tap that, and you turned it down for the crazy bitch you divorced? Dick move.’

In retrospect, maybe Puck had a point. What was it about him and missed romantic chances? Rachel, Shelby, April, Emma – although at least he and Emma seemed to be on the verge of finally making it work...

Desperately casting around for a way to change the subject, Will had a brainwave. If there was one thing he remembered about Rachel Berry, it was that everything else fell by the wayside next to a chance to perform, and if what he’d heard of her since was any indication, a performance by her would blow his kids away – and no one would be worried about his love life.

“Well, what about a preview of your album? You’ve never performed On My Own live, have you?”

Kurt gasped in shock. “Mr Schue! We’re dining with a professional – we can’t ask her to sing for her supper!”

“Especially since she’s paying for it!” Mercedes added.

Rachel shook her head. “No, no, I’d be happy to. I’m a professional, yes – a woman has to make a living! But first and foremost, I’m an artist, and artists perform for the love of and celebration of their craft. Besides, it’ll be nice to sing to an audience who knows at least some of how it’s done! I found the recordings of your performances on the McKinley High website – it’s obvious that you’ve all worked hard to refine your natural talent. It would be my pleasure.”

Pushing back her chair, Rachel strolled to the small stage. “I’m not very knowledgeable about the sound equipment here – the techs guard their babies jealously! I hope an accapella performance is acceptable?”

Enthusiastic agreement from the table.

“Oh, I have that on my phone!” Sunshine ventured shyly. “Could we hook that up to one of the speakers?”

Artie wheeled himself out from the table and over to the soundboard, inspecting everything with a professional air. “I wouldn’t dare plug anything into here – I’d have to re-adjust all the settings.”

“Accapella it is, then,” Rachel said briskly. Taking another swallow from the water glass she’d brought from the table with her, she worked the water around her mouth and slowly gulped, in the same technique Will had taught the kids to use to ease a dry throat for singing.

Will bit back a grin, at the evidence that Ms Lillian’s influence still held sway. It was nice to see this tiny reminder of simpler, happier times – Ms Lillian had been immensely proud of her former student. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Sunshine putting her phone on the table, and turning up the volume enough that the others at the table could hear it, at least.

Then Rachel took a deep breath, and Will lost himself in the magic of her voice.

* * * * *

Rachel Berry’s voice was even more incredible in person. Kurt sighed in pure happiness as she sang the poignant lyrics, keeping in perfect time with the music coming from Sunshine’s phone even though she couldn’t possibly hear it from the stage. Her voice soared to the ceiling, longing for happiness that only her one-sided love could give her, and Kurt couldn’t help it; he had to blot away tears with his napkin.

He looked at his brother out of the corner of his eye, expecting a teasing grin, considering the way Finn had acted about his perfectly natural enthusiasm in their room. But Finn was staring at the stage, captivated. He was so still that Kurt had to resist the urge to shake him to see if he was still conscious. Was he even blinking?

The bridge ended, and Rachel’s voice pulled Kurt’s attention back.

Once the final, shimmering note died away, Kurt sighed in happiness, before turning to Finn. Who was still frozen, gazing at the small figure on the stage.

“Finn?”

Finn blinked dazedly, then asked, “Hey, Kurt, can I get a copy of that playlist?”

“The Wicked soundtrack?”

“Everything you have that Rachel sings.”

Kurt hid a smirk. Looked like Rachel Berry had won herself a fan. Maybe now Finn wouldn’t be so dismissive of his Broadway collection!

* * * * *

After dessert was finished, Artie had gone back to looking over the sound system, and found an iPod dock one of the staff must have stashed in there at some point. Brittany had jumped up and pulled Santana onto the parquet dance floor in front of the stage before anyone could even pull out a player. Once Artie had found his iPod in his jacket pocket, most of New Directions was up and moving in time to Michael Jackson, Mike giving a moonwalk demo in the middle.

Finn just hummed along as he stayed seated. He was in a really good mood, and didn’t want to ruin it with any comments about his dancing.

Mr Schue never could resist an opportunity to join in, and now he’d ended his conversation with Rachel (and how cool was it, an actual star letting them all call her by her first name like that?) and was doing some kind of dance-off with Mike.

“We seem to be the only ones left,” Finn looked up to see Rachel standing beside him. Finn took another look around the table, and she was right – even Artie was spinning and throwing the occasional wheelie at the edge of the dancers.

“Care to join me?”

Finn fought back a blush, looking at the lovely woman beside him, wearing a black and white dress with a halter-neck and short, swirly skirt that looked a little like something out of a WWII movie. It wasn’t the kind of thing any girl he knew would be seen dead wearing, but she looked really good in it.

Rachel held out her hand, and Finn took it in a kind of daze. He was pretty sure that if she asked him to sing ABBA with that smile on her face, he’d not only sing Dancing Queen but happily let Puck put it on youtube.

Her small hand just seemed to fit right in his larger one, and Finn sent up a quick prayer of thanks to Keith Moon that his palms weren’t sweating. His heart thumped when Rachel looked up at him and her smile widened, and it nearly stopped altogether when she gracefully guided his hand to her hip. Finn automatically kept her other hand clasped in his, and brought it to rest on his chest.

Sometime while they’d headed to the floor, the song had ticked over, and Finn recognised the opening bars of I just can’t stop loving you with a tiny sigh of relief, thankful it was at least a slow song.

“I’m the worst dancer in glee,” Finn confessed. “I can manage the choreography for the songs okay, better if Kurt helps me, but I can’t do this sort of dancing very well. So I guess I’d better say I’m sorry in advance.”

“That’s perfectly all right,” Rachel purred. “As a dear friend of mine once said, the instruction of inexperienced young men is one of life’s unrivalled pleasures.”

Finn couldn’t hold back his blush at that.

They talked quietly through the next couple of songs, and Finn felt his self-consciousness melting away in the face of his dance partner’s friendliness. Before he knew it, he’d told her all about life in New Directions, including the now-rare (thank God!) slushie facials, and how he’d be attending NYU in the fall. Rachel actually recommended a few places to visit near the campus that she remembered from her own student days, including a 24/7 all-you-can-eat restaurant that was apparently a favorite with a lot of Broadway up-and-comers. Finn made a mental note to try it as soon as he and Kurt hit the city – Kurt had been broken-hearted to be turned down by Rachel’s alma mater, but had managed a place at NYU Tisch.

But not even Finn was oblivious enough to ignore Kurt’s death glares for long, and when the music changed to Lady Gaga, he let Kurt claim Rachel for a dance of his own with a mixture of regret and relief. Regret because it almost physically hurt to let Rachel go, and relief because any longer and he probably wouldn’t have been able to keep his skyrocketing attraction for her at bay, and he’d embarrassed himself enough dancing without grossing out a gorgeous, famous and classy older woman with his teenage boner.

Back at the table with another drink, Finn chatted with Mercedes about her plans for LA, and watched Kurt’s glowing face as he danced with Rachel. Mr Schue cut in during song two, ignoring Kurt’s furious look (Finn quietly snickered), and after a song and a half gracefully surrendered her to Mike, who promptly pulled her into a simple version of the jive routine he and Brittany had performed at Sectionals last year. Rachel kept up with ease – she really must have seen the recordings of their previous performances! Finn wondered if he dared ask her if she’d liked the duet he and Sunshine had performed at last year’s Nationals; it had been his first successful attempt at song-writing. The lack of rehearsal time had shown, knocking them out of the top ten, but Finn was still really proud of the song.

It gave him the nerve to stand up and approach her again, just as the song ended, and Rachel made a laughing curtsey to Mike, who bowed theatrically in return.

“Last dance, everyone!” Mr Schue called out. “Big day tomorrow, and we all need our sleep!”

Puck started towards Rachel with a grin on his face, only to be yanked back by a death-grip on his bicep and a murderous look from Quinn.

Finn bit back a snicker – man, was he glad to be done with that! – and stepped up to Rachel’s side, glad that Kurt had been trapped in a bear-hug by Mercedes, who declared that Kurt owed her a dance, dammit!

“May I have this dance?” Finn asked, partly inspired by Rachel’s curtsey.

Was it just his imagination, or did her smile shine just a little brighter for him than it had for her other dance partners?

“I’d be delighted,” Rachel told him, and slipped into his arms.

They didn’t talk much, just moved in time to the music, and Finn was incredibly grateful it was a familiar Springsteen song.

About halfway through, Rachel bit her lip, and Finn wanted to kiss the dent her teeth made so badly it shocked him.

“May I ask you a personal question, Finn? Actually, more than one.”

Finn nodded. This woman could ask him anything she wanted! Emphasis on anything.

“How old are you?”

“Eighteen. I turn nineteen this summer.”

Rachel’s smile widened, “Next: do you have a girlfriend?”

Finn shook his head and gulped. Was he crazy, or did it sound like Rachel was, well... hitting on him?

“In that case, here’s the million-dollar question: would you like to join me in my suite tonight?”

Wait, what? Was he hallucinating, and Grilled Cheezus was about to appear? Stuff like this only happened to Puck – actually, stuff like this didn’t even happen to Puck!

“Um, Rachel, am I just fooling myself, or are you actually saying what I’m really hoping you’re saying?”

Rachel leaned forward enough that he could feel her boobs against his chest, and smiled. “I’m saying that if you’d like to spend the night in my bed, that would make me very happy.”

Finn never could remember if he said “Yes,” or just nodded like a bobble-head doll.

* * * * *

As the elevator dinged, Finn took a deep breath and rubbed his hands on the good khakis he’d worn to dinner.

He ran through his mental checklist once again, just like when he called a play on the field. He’d covered himself with Kurt, telling him he was going for a walk around the hotel to check out the pool, which was supposed to have a wave pool and half a dozen water-slides – he’d been wanting to try it out since he’d gone through the Montecito website. Kurt knew not to wait up for him, because given the murderous looks Quinn had been sending Puck as they left, Finn was probably going to have to drag him out of the casino at some point tonight. Kurt had laughed and gone off to Mercedes and Tina’s room.

Finn had stayed behind in their room just long enough to brush his teeth furiously, and grab a couple of the condoms Puck had passed out like party favors before they got on the plane. He was sure that Rachel would have her own, but it was polite and considerate and stuff, right?

Finn stepped out onto the plush carpet of a hallway that would make Kurt squeal and rush for his interior decorating magazines, and triple-checked he was on the twelfth floor of the East tower.

Rachel had murmured the directions to her suite, and made him repeat them back to her twice, to make sure he’d heard properly; she’d apologized for not giving him a key, but she only had one and she’d need to fill out a form to get another made. Actually, Finn really liked that she didn’t have a spare to give him; it meant that Rachel hadn’t originally meant to have ‘company’ that night. It sort of made him feel special, that he’d somehow managed to attract her enough while they danced that she’d changed her plans for him.

Finn strode down the hall as confidently as he could manage, reminding himself that he’d been invited here, and he had no reason to be nervous. Well, except for the fact he was going to have sex with a beautiful and experienced older woman.

Hell, he couldn’t mess it up any worse than he had with Santana, and he’d survived that. Rachel really didn’t seem like she could be cruel, and if the absolute worst happened at least he wouldn’t have to see her again, instead of spending the next two years flinching from unexpected biting comments.

Fidgeting from a combination of nerves and arousal, Finn knocked on the door of suite 1217.

* * * * *

Rachel took a deep breath, and smoothed her skirt with both hands. She cast an eye around her suite, satisfied that it was suitable for visitors. Silly of her, maybe, but one-night stands weren’t all that common for her. Much less younger men! She wondered what Martha would have to say about it, when they caught up over cocktails in a month or so upon her return to Manhattan. She’d probably cheer her at the top of her lungs – but then, Martha’s love life was somewhat infamous.

It had been a very long time since she’d felt this kind of chemistry with a man. She’d never felt this kind of connection so quickly with anyone before. Whatever was happening between her and Finn, it was real, and special. She knew that instinctively, as well as through her own experience.

In some ways, this was almost like something out of a bad sitcom. That truly outrageous line she’d let spill at the beginning of their first dance, for a start! But it wasn’t as if she was some kind of sexual predator, for goodness’ sake. She’d made a calm offer to another adult – both of them being completely sober - which that adult had accepted.

She was about to spend the night – and hopefully have some very good sex – with an incredibly sweet and absolutely gorgeous young man, and Rachel refused to feel ashamed.

When the soft knock came at the door, Rachel opened it with a welcoming smile. Finn smiled back, and it was like stepping onto the stage on opening night; all her nerves vanished, leaving her only with calm certainty that she was exactly where she was supposed to be and doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing.

As Finn came in, she asked, “Would you like a drink?”

“Um, sure. What are my choices?”

“I don’t keep much liquor on hand – most of it’s bad for the vocal chords – but I have red and white wine, some scotch, I think I could mix you a gin and tonic...” it finally occurred to her what teenage males usually drank, and she gave a rueful chuckle. “I’m sorry, you’d probably rather have a beer, right?”

“It’s fine... whatever you’re having,” Finn ventured.

Rachel realised that Finn wasn’t used to doing this sort of thing, either, and smiled. “Well, generally I stick to water during the week, actually.”

“That’s cool,” Finn replied hurriedly. He looked down at his feet, then up at her under his eyelashes, and added shyly, “Better to have a clear head, right?”

“Absolutely,” Rachel said, her voice sultry without even trying. She stepped closer, until their bodies almost touched, and suggested, “In fact, why don’t we skip the drinks?”

Finn suddenly looked nervous, and Rachel backtracked slightly. “How about another dance?”

Finn nodded, and eagerly reached out to take her in his arms. Rachel had left the stereo playing, and she laid her hands on his shoulders as they started to move gently. Feeling more relaxed than she had in months, she automatically hummed along to the music. When she realized that Finn was humming in harmony at the same time, she couldn’t help but laugh delightedly and smile.

“You have a weakness for eighties power ballads, too?”

Finn smirked. “Actually, a lot of eighties stuff in general – it was my idea to perform Journey in Glee club. But the Rock of Ages movie soundtrack? Yeah, we all know it. Mr Schue organised for all of us to go see it opening night in Lima as a Glee club field trip.”

“When I watched your performance recordings, I noticed that your voice is especially suited for rock songs,” Rachel remarked, and for a moment it was just like speaking to one of her Broadway contemporaries. “You’re very talented, Finn.”

“Me? Rachel, I’ve never heard anything like the way you sing,” Finn told her. “From the very first note, I could feel it inside me,” he put his hand on his chest, right over where his heart was pounding. “Right here.”

Rachel’s eyes widened, and her lips parted to let slip a tiny gasp. “Oh, Finn. I don’t think I’ve had such a magnificent compliment in years.”

Certainly not from any other man she’d taken to her bed.

* * * * *

If Finn had actually stopped to think about it, he would have done something clumsy or otherwise messed up, so it was a very good thing he’d already stopped thinking under the pressure of a rush of emotion and wanting, breaking loose inside him.

Caught up in the current, he simply bent his knees, and slid one arm under Rachel’s legs, sweeping her up in his arms. Carrying her bridal-style, he headed straight for the open doorway.

“I want to hear you say my name like that again,” he told her breathlessly. “I want to hear you say it like that while I’m moving inside you.”

Rachel gave a tiny moan that sent his blood rushing southward, and pressed a kiss to the side of his neck.

Finn gently placed her back on her feet, and sat on the bed so he could tilt his head up instead of down.

“Better take off my shoes now, or I’ll forget,” he confided. He’d forgotten with Santana, and when he’d pushed down his jeans and they’d stuck on his sneakers, the exasperated eyeroll she’d given had almost killed his erection.

Rachel smiled gently. “This isn’t your first time, is it?”

Finn was fairly sure that she wouldn’t laugh at him if he said yes, but... “No. But I wish it was.”

“Didn’t work out like you hoped? Believe me, it’s a common story, unfortunately.”

She gave him a sympathetic smile, and Finn had one of those odd, insightful flashes of intuition that came to him sometimes: this was the lover, and this was the night, by which all others in his life would be judged. No matter how many women he made love to or who they were, they would always be compared to Rachel Berry.

Dazed by the revelation, Finn kicked off his shoes absently, toeing off his socks. Rachel bent one leg and reached for her own shoe, but Finn reached out to place his hand on her arm. “Let me?”

Rachel smiled gently, and placed her foot in his lap. Finn wrapped one hand around her delicate little ankle, and carefully eased off the black open-toed slingback with the other. He noticed the cute little black and white bow, with a pattern that matched the one on her dress, as he placed it on the floor. Rachel took her foot out of his lap and replaced it with the other one, in an unconsciously graceful display that made Finn wonder just how good her balance was, and if it might come in handy later on.

Then Rachel’s dress dropped to the floor, and all Finn could say was, “Wow.”

Santana had worn lingerie, too, but this was on a whole different level. To his eyes, the Victoria’s Secret slip had looked trashy – which was only one of the things that should have tipped him off that he was doing something he’d regret later. Rachel’s ivory camisole and panties looked... richer, somehow, and they fit her like a glove. When he reached out and touched her camisole, just hard enough to feel the toned body beneath, it felt soft and smooth and the lace wasn’t scratchy.

“It’s one of my vices, I’m afraid,” Rachel giggled as he traced his fingertips along the lace border that seperated silk and skin. “Custom made lingerie, with real silk and satin.”

“It’s beautiful,” Finn told her honestly. “So are you.”

Rachel’s smile widened, and he was dazzled by her all over again. Then she leaned down to kiss him, and the world disappeared, lost to the taste of her lips, the feel of her skin and the way her body moved against his.

She said his name exactly the way he wanted her to, more than once.

Her beautiful, magical voice made his name sound like music.

* * * * *

As Rachel slid off his lap, Finn flopped back onto the pillows, his breath rasping in his throat as his heartbeat calmed down.

“Wow. That was just... awesome.”

Rachel rolled onto her side, then propped her head on her hand, and giggled. “You’re very welcome. But you don’t think the night’s over just yet, do you?”

Wait, he was going to get more of this? Finn’s head started to spin a little, and figured he’d better just spit it out before he became completely fixated on her boobs again.

“In case I forget later, I just want to say... well, thank you. For showing me what all the hype’s about.”

Rachel looked at him quizzically. “It was really that bad for you, before?” Something dark and dreadful started to creep over her face. “Finn, you weren’t... hurt, were you? By someone who had no business or right to touch you?”

Finn’s eyes widened. “Oh you mean – no, nothing like that! I wasn’t molested or anything. And I did, y’know, enjoy it I guess. But I was sixteen, and even now I’m eighteen and just looking at the socket wrenches when I work in my stepdad’s garage makes me wanna have sex.”

He’d never talked to anyone about this, even Puck or Kurt. Hell, no one had even known that Finn wasn’t a virgin until Santana, jealous that she hadn’t won the solo, had bragged about it to try and throw Sunshine off her game at Sectionals last year. It hadn’t worked, mainly because he and Sunshine hadn’t ever been in love, and they both knew it. Even after they broke up, they acted exactly the same around one another; they just didn’t kiss anymore.

Finn licked his lips and stared up at the beige ceiling, keeping his eyes just to the left of the chandelier. “I just... I didn’t feel anything. Afterwards, I mean. I thought I’d feel different, or that at least I’d feel like I’d accomplished something, but instead I felt nothing. I didn’t feel like a man, or even happy. I think I felt more clueless about sex after I swiped my v-card than I did before.”

Rachel placed her free hand gently on his chest, right over his heart, and sighed. “Oh, I know that feeling. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was nineteen. I kept waiting for the right person, but they never came along, so I just gave it up out of sheer frustration. I didn’t even have an orgasm with another person until my third lover, and that was mostly because we were role-playing as our characters most of the time.” Rachel chuckled quietly, and added, “You remember my line before, about instructing inexperienced young men? Well, the friend I was quoting was my first real mentor, and she mentored me in a lot more than stagecraft. I’m not sure I would ever have felt comfortable with my own sexuality without her straight-talking advice.”

Finn looked at her in genuine confusion. “But you’re so beautiful. You must have guys lining up to...” he struggled for the right image, “cast themselves at your feet.”

“Oh, Finn,” Rachel smiled ruefully, “You’d be amazed at the legion of men who have found me perfectly resistible. Will Schuester was only the first of a long line of unrequited affection for me.”

“Well, they were all idiots. Like, dumber than Brittany, and she thinks the square root of four is rainbows.”

Rachel’s smile turned happy, and she snuggled closer, planting a gentle kiss on his shoulder. Then her hand started to slowly trace down his chest, and she kissed him again, a little higher up, and again, leaving a trail of soft kisses along the front of his shoulder up to his collarbone. Finn could feel himself start to harden again, and gasped.

“More now? Please?”

Rachel raised her head, her eyes gleaming, and her hand was down below his bellybutton now.

“Definitely more. Right now.”

* * * * *

Even through his performance face, Kurt’s eyes narrowed as he watched his brother belt out the lines of his first solo verse. Finn had always been more comfortable on stage than off, but there was something different about him. As they all joined in the chorus, Kurt watched more closely.

Finn had always been tentative about the slightly provocative choreography, but he was really bringing it now, shaking his hips and grinning and even beckoning at the audience. Not to mention, the inherent self-assurance in his moves meant it came off as smoothly as Puck!

Kurt put two and two together; Finn’s new confidence with sexual overtones, his repeated dances with Rachel and their hushed conversation... and most importantly, his complete absence from their room last night.

The cheering of the crowd broke over them like a tidal wave, and Kurt knew they’d won Nationals at last. But it barely registered over the knowledge that he’d just deduced.

The second they were off the stage, Kurt snatched his brother’s arm and pulled him to the back of the group.

“You slept with my personal icon!”

“Kurt, Judy Garland’s been dead for years. I’m not into zombies or whatever, except to kill them on my Xbox.”

“Rachel Berry,” Kurt hissed. “You had sex with her!”

“Dude, what have you been smoking? ‘Cause you know Puck’s totally gonna want some.”

Finn shook off his arm and moved forward, catching up with Mr Schue. It was a surprisingly astute move on his part; Kurt wasn’t going to get his brother in trouble by mentioning his being out overnight within their teachers’ hearing, and decided to corner him about it later.

But in the thrill of winning and the subsequent victory party, Kurt completely forgot – until he woke up the next morning on a random couch, Mercedes’ head on his lap and a nearby Artie somehow upside down in his wheelchair. A few minutes later, Finn came strolling in with a room service cart full of coffee, juice, aspirin and breakfast pastries for those who weren’t too hungover to eat.

In the last-minute rush to get to the airport, Kurt made some careful inquiries – and discovered that no one had seen Finn after the ten pm round of pizza the night before.

* * * * *

Most of the members of New Directions looked the worse for wear as they filed onto the plane, the night of celebrations showing in pale faces and bleary or downright bloodshot eyes.

“Fuck, where’d my sunglasses go?” Puck grumbled as he slumped into his seat. “I think the sun’s gonna set my eyeballs on fire.”

Finn snickered as he slid into the seat beside him; with his height, he needed to be on the aisle whenever he could. It wasn’t much use for stretching his legs, but better than nothing.

“You should’ve chugged some water before going to sleep, man, it worked like a charm for me!”

In testament to his words, Finn looked more far more well and alert than anyone else in the glee club, and in a disgustingly good mood.

“So douchebag, how come you ran out on the victory party?” Puck accused. “Cause it seriously went off. I came this close to getting Santana to go down on Brittany in front of everyone!”

Finn shrugged. “I got a chance to do something else.”

“Like what?” Puck was completely unimpressed, and rolled his eyes. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that you haven’t stopped smiling all morning. Seriously, dude, at least tell me you got laid or something.”

Maybe it was Finn’s smile, or maybe it was a vague memory of Kurt’s complaining about Finn being MIA yesterday morning, but Puck started to grin. “You did! You totally got laid! Who?”

Finn actually smirked. “A gentlemen never tells. But man, you were totally right about older women.”

Kurt’s head popped up over the seat back like a horror movie killer lurching out of the bushes. “I knew it! You actually slept-”

Finn’s head whipped around and he snarled, “Shut the hell up, Kurt! I’m over eighteen and single, and so was she, and we used protection, and the rest is none of your fucking business!”

Kurt and Puck both blinked in shock at their normally incredibly easy-going brother/best friend.

Finn calmed down a little, but his voice was still laced with fury. “For God’s sake, can’t you just be happy for me? That I finally slept with someone who just liked me and wanted me? Considering that the only chick who’s ever dropped her panties for me just wanted to use the quarterback’s dick to springboard to the top of the Cheerio’s pyramid, and hasn’t stopped bitching about it whenever she’s in a bad mood since!"

Kurt gulped. “I-I’m sorry, Finn. I didn’t realise how badly you felt about that whole mess. I’m glad you’re happy, I really am, and I’ll drop the whole topic right now.”

His head disappeared, and Kurt didn’t say another word to Finn until they were unpacking back home.

Puck eyed Finn warily, then ventured, “So, was it good?”

Finn’s dreamy smile came back. “If there was a better word than awesome, I’d be using it. Hey, Puck?”

“Yeah?”

“You’ve had one-nighters. When she gives you her email address and phone number, that means she wants to see you again, right?”

Puck grinned, “Hell yeah!” and held up his fist.

Finn bumped him back, and settled back in his seat.

Behind them, Kurt’s ears perked up, and he started wondering about free Broadway tickets.

 

FINI

Bonus features: Playlist (you can also see the cover for this at the art post: at Acme Graphics

Opening credits - Viva Las Vegas! - Elvis Presley

On my own - Lea Michele

Selections from Artie's iPod – mentioned as playing during the party
Billie Jean - Michael Jackson (the moonwalk competition - Mike won!)
I just can't stop lovin' you - Michael Jackson
Just dance - Lady Gaga
I'm on fire - Bruce Springsteen (Playing when Rachel makes her offer to Finn.)

Crescendo
Waiting for a girl like you - Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough (Finn and Rachel's love theme. In my head!canon, all of New Directions went to see Rock of Ages the movie on opening weekend as an official Glee Club activity! Also, this is the only duet version I've ever heard of the song)

Paradise by the dashboard light - New Directions (winning Nationals! I never could figure out exactly what song to use for this; luckily, by the time I worked out how to finish the story, I had a canon answer)

Closing credits - Unexpected song - Bernadette Peters (song that inspired the title)