When I'm With You
A/U: Finn Hudson was a recently retired Marine Colonel working as a clinical psychologist. He had slowly started adjusting to his pending divorce and his new career when he met a gorgeous, but engaged computer analyst. Could he fight his growing feelings for his new but unavailable best friend?
A/N: Finn and Rachel are slightly OOC. This story came to me after seeing a commercial (ha!ha). Story title comes from the lyrics of "Songbird" by Fleetwood Mac which Rachel sings to Finn. As always, love Finchel, love Finn/Cory. He will always be in my heart.
Rachel Berry (soon to be Swicegood) was running late for work. As she pulled her red mini coupe onto the expressway, she took in a deep breath, trying to calm her anxiousness about being thrown off schedule. Her finance', Steven, had to remind her of his Friday morning routine just as she was ready to step out of the door. His damn Friday morning pancake breakfast.
She and Steven had just celebrated their engagement a few weeks ago. Their parents had thrown them an engagement party in their hometown, inviting their high school and college friends as well as several relatives. It had been a huge affair in their small hometown. After the party, they had gone to the beach for a weekend, a weekend that turned out to be not so far removed from their activities at home. Scheduled dinners, scheduled movie time, scheduled conversation, scheduled sex. Rachel laughed at that last thought. She wouldn't have been too surprised if Steven hadn't posted their schedule on the bathroom wall in their hotel room. That's wasn't nice, Rachel. Stop it!
Rachel Berry met Steven James Swicegood when they were both sophomores in at Roxboro High in Roxboro, North Carolina. They fell in love that year and remained high school sweethearts. It seemed, at the time, that their blooming relationship was a natural progression because they were in the same clubs, had the same friends, went to both proms together, graduated high school together. Everybody knew that Rachel and Steven was endgame. Destined to marry, settle down, have 2.5 children after well established careers had taken off.
They both attended NC State University together. He received his BS in Biology, moving on to finally obtaining his Masters in Education and now taught Biology at Cary High School in their new hometown of Cary, NC. This coming spring he would get his PhEd and had already started applying at their Alma mater for a professorship.
She was surprised by Steven asking her to marry him on his 28th birthday. She thought that wouldn't happen at least until he got his PhD and was working at NC State. He really shocked her her veering off his Path to Success, so much so that she said 'YES' without even thinking about what she really wanted at the time.
Rachel got her undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and her graduate degree in Computer Science. As she turned into the Research Triangle Park (RTP), she headed for the research tower where her employer, EPA Computer Center, was located, where she worked as a computer analyst. She loved her job. She could work most of her 8 hours per day in solitude, working with EPA research facts, figures, and numbers and turning them into readable, understandable graphs and charts.
She quickly pulled into her assigned slot in the parking deck, reaching for the strap to her attache case while exiting her car. Damn her husband for wanting to stick to his Friday morning routine! She was at least 15 minutes late. She usually liked to arrive early, unrushed so that she could mentally go over her schedule for the day and get her thoughts organized as she relaxed with a fresh cup of coffee. Rachel had been working so hard lately, volunteering at the Senior Center on Thursday nights, that she even forgot that it was Friday when she woke this morning. She taught a Basic Computer class and Beginners' Email class at the center. Also, she had formed a small string quartet with some of her other friends and they had been preparing a concert in the park for visitors to the Center.
She entered the large glass double doors at the tower and turned the corner toward the elevators. She tried to adjust the straps of her briefcase onto her shoulders and most of her files spilled out onto the polished tiled floor. Shit! This was going to make her miss that set of elevators. As she looked around at the remaining 5 set of elevators, none where coming down, they all were going up.
She noticed a very tall, brown-haired man in a business suit approach the elevators, punching the 'UP' buttons on several of them across from her. She then turned and started gathering her files from the floor. Just as she was reaching for the last of them, she noticed a shiny pair of men's black tasseled shoes standing next to her folder. She retrieved the folder and standing, she craned her neck to look up and up some more, noticing that the black shiny shoes belonged to the man she had noticed at the opposite elevators, the one with the dark grey business suit and the messy brown hair. Looking up even further, straining her 5'2" frame, their eyes met and Rachel was taken aback at how handsome he was. He had the most gorgeous, penetrating amber eyes she had ever seen.
Then he spoke, "Um, you missed this one."
Rachel was frozen, staring at this man. She then noticed that her mouth was hanging open like a drooling silly teenager. "Oh," she answered, gathering her thoughts. "Thank you."
She reached for the file, accidentally brushing her hand against his fingertips. A tingling sensation went from her hand, up her arm and down her spine, making Rachel shiver. What the hell was that?! She almost dropped the file again, grasping it tighter this time and placing it in her bag.
Shaking her head, trying to come out of her stupor, she looked around to see the doors opening to the elevator opposite where they were standing. She sprinted toward the opening door just as he stood to the other side to allow a lady exiting the elevator the chance to leave. He then opened his hand out, pointing toward Rachel and stated, "after you."
They walked onto the elevator as Rachel continued looking up at the man. "Thanks, thanks, again," she stumbled out. "Uh, for the help with my files."
He smiled at her and Rachel almost lost it. He had the deepest, cutest dimples in his cheeks and the smile made his amber eyes sparkle. There ought to be a law!
"Oh, you're welcome. No problem. What floor?" he questioned.
"Huh?" Rachel didn't even know what her name was at this time.
"What floor are you going to?" he asked.
Rachel turned her eyes away from this handsome man, trying to refocus. "Oh, uhmm, 18th. I'm on the 18th floor. Thanks." What is wrong with you, Rachel? Get it together! You are married. You can't be ogling another man! No matter how sexy he looked.
Rachel stood facing the front, focusing on the elevator doors like they held some type of cryptic message. She could feel his eyes on her making her blush.
She noticed earlier that the gorgeous stranger had pushed the button next to the 26th floor, the top floor of the tower. Rachel knew from cafeteria gossip that the VA had leased the entire top floor of office suites for veterans services. Hmm, so he must work for the federal government. A veteran, perhaps. Just then, she heard the elevator bell ping.
As the doors opened to her floor, Rachel stepped out. She then turned as the door started to close. "See you around! And thanks again!" she yelled back to the stranger. He waved as the doors closed, a half-smile on his face.
Rachel took a deep breath and headed down to her department. As she entered her office suite, Clarice, the office's main receptionist (and Rachel's best friend) greeted her, handing Rachel her coffee. "Oh, thanks Clarice. Sorry I'm a little late. Had to fix Steven his breakfast this morning, his 'special Friday morning' breakfast, which I totally forgot about."
Clarice laughed. "Oh, for goodness sake. Mr. Steven can't miss those pancakes, can he?" Clarice replied, sarcastically.
Rachel rolled her eyes, laughing with Clarice. "Well, let me get started. It's Friday, no meetings, no conferences, just me and my computer today. See ya for 10:00 break?" she asked Clarice.
"I'll be here. Have a good morning, Rachel."
Rachel then entered her office, closing the door behind her. She sat her coffee on her desk and then reached behind her and turned her radio on that was usually set to soft or pop rock, depending on her mood. She quickly decided she wanted to listen to something on her own playlist. She turned off her radio and tuned into her Pandora station on her computer. "Glitter In The Air" by P!nk was playing.
Rachel started on her work as her mind drifted back to the stranger she saw on the elevator as she listened to the words of the song, "Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?" Shaking her head, she tried to focus again on her computer screen, her thoughts returning back to her work.
That lasted all of three minutes before her mind again drifted off. Why was she thinking about the Stranger (that's her name for him now) so much? She didn't know anything about him. She knew that he was tall, very tall, about 6'4, muscular (from what she could briefly see from the way his suit coat fit), thick brown sexy 'bedroom hair', amber almond-shaped eyes, strong model-like jawline, big and long fingers, big feet. (Ummm, what is that saying about big feet, big hands?) Rachel! Finish that graph you are working on!
Rachel took another long swig of her coffee and, sitting back in her desk chair, started twirling her engagement ring. Unlike the Stranger, she knew everything about her soon-to-be-husband. All his habits, his likes, dislikes. Like his strongest pet peeve-people that gave up on their goals. As he called it, "lazy ass people that give up at the first little obstacle. Drives me insane, Rachel!" It also disturbed him when his students weren't organized, prepared. He would automatically grade those students harsher than the others whom met his approval.
But Steven had many good points. He does. She and Steven had gravitated towards each other because of those good things. And they had so much in common. They both loved to read; he loved non-fiction especially biographies, she loved romance novels, especially Nicholas Sparks. They both had a strong appreciation of music; he played the piano and she played the cello. They loved old classic movies; he preferred old Lon Chaney horrors, she like Betty Davis and Joan Crawford. They liked late night snack; she loved popcorn with M&M's mixed in, he always wanted his mustard and onion pretzels. They were also well choreographed in bed during their weekly Saturday night lovemaking. He was gentle, loving and tried to please her each and every time since they started being intimate. Sometimes he brought her to the heights of pleasure. Sometimes.
Well, she thinks she was about to marry the only person on this earth who loved discipline, structure and organization more than her. Every, she meant every Monday evening Steven met with his Biology focus group. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening he met with his buddies to go to the gym. Friday nights were his poker nights. Saturday was their "date" night, when he was in town. Sundays were devoted to watching his beloved Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens. He usually ended up falling asleep on the couch watching whatever Sunday night game was on.
Rachel had her own "schedule" that they had worked out, also. She went to the gym on Monday and Wed evenings, volunteered at the Senior Center on Thur evenings, and every Tuesday she went to the spa to have her hair and nails done and her weekly massage. When Steven had his Friday poker nights, she usually took a long hot bath and crawled into her bed with a good book and read herself to sleep.
Which came back to what had made her late this morning. Steven had Fridays off since he had no scheduled classes. He used this day every week as his day to work on his dissertation. He always had pancakes with strawberries on top, sausage links, 2 scrabbled eggs, tall glass of his favorite orange juice, and fresh brewed coffee. Then he would disappear into their office area which that had set aside a corner of their den as to work on his papers the rest of the day.
Sometimes he would meet Rachel for lunch as a break from his work but that was rare since it "broke his concentration" to dress and meet her. Rachel sighed as she turned her attention back to her computer. How had her life become so mundane at the age of 28?
That's why Clarice was always telling her that Steven "stifles your personality. He's too regimental. I just don't think you two have that certain something." Rachel had to admit that sometimes Clarice had a point. Rachel use to wait for the fireworks, the flashes of light. But after a few years, she convinced herself that that only happened in those romance novels that she read. What does Clarice know anyway? She dated a different guy every other week. Rachel knew that she and Steven were destiny, meant to be together since she was 15 years old.
Finn walked into his office suite with a little smirk on his face. What a gorgeous little tiny thing she was. When she looked up at him with those big, dark brown eyes, his heart skipped a beat. Then as they walked into that elevator, he couldn't help but notice her super long legs and that nice little body of hers.
He opened the door to his private office, sitting his brief case on his desk as he looked at the clock on the opposite wall. 8:50am. He had a some time before his first patient of the day was due. He poured a cup of coffee and turned in his chair to look out across the skyline.
Finn took a deep breath and then blew it out slowly. He was starting to adjust to his new life. Starting fresh at the age of 34 took some adjusting. He never thought he would be in this position. Never in a million years. Where did it all go wrong? How had this all crept up on him?
After he had graduated from UNC with a degree in psychology, he had joined the Marines and entered their Officers' Training School, finishing as a Second Lieutenant. He had immediately been transferred to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC for further training before his deployment to Iraq.
There he had met Carla. She was a native of Jacksonville, having moved back there after she had gotten her degree in Laboratory Science. She worked at the local hospital as a Medical Technologist. They dated for all of 6 months before marrying, she at the age of 25 and he was 24. They bought a small house outside of Jacksonville and celebrated their honeymoon over the weekend in Wilmington before he left for Iraq.
Over the next 9 years, he would see his wife a total of 10 months. 10 months to try to hold together a marriage was not going to work. After a few years, the resentment built up. The missed holidays, missed birthdays and anniversaries finally took their toll.
He finally finished his time with the Marines 6 months ago, but it was too late to salvage his marriage. They had fallen out of love, the distance too much between them to repair. They tried another 'honeymoon' vacation together to Hawaii for a week but it ended up with him sitting out on the beach most evenings alone, reflecting on his time in the military and how he ended up married to someone that felt like a stranger to him. Someone that he no longer loved, no matter how hard he tried.
They came back to Jacksonville and decided to try counseling. Each session ended with both of them in tears, knowing that it was hopeless. He moved into the guest bedroom until they could figure out their next step. They no longer had conversations, no longer laughed together, no longer held each other. Time and distance had destroyed their relationship. So, three months ago, Carla filed for divorce and Finn moved out.
Finn had left the Marines with 10 years of services and had ended up with PhD in Psychology. He specialized in counseling veterans with PTSD, something he also had gone through after each deployment. After he moved out of his home he had shared with Carla, he had found a small, one bedroom apartment in the city and started a practice in Jacksonville through the VA's placement services.
He still visited Carla weekly to make sure she was adjusting okay, only to meet her new boyfriend on his last visit. It hurt him to see her move on so fast. But he knew he had been a lousy husband and that Carla needed to be happy in her life for a change. So, wishing her happiness, he left for the final time.
Finn heard that the VA had leased a large suite of offices in the RTP near Raleigh, NC. After inquiring about moving his practice into one of the available suites, he had transferred his office a week ago, acquiring a large caseload of referrals from the Raleigh area VA. Finn decided to concentrate on his patients, putting his failed marriage behind it. He didn't have time for romance, love or dating due to his busy schedule. At least he thought he had until he had laid eyes on a certain little brunette that he couldn't get out of head.