"Breathe in for luck, breathe in so deep.
This air is blessed, you share with me.
This night is wild, so calm and dull.
These hearts, they race from self control.
Your legs are smooth as they graze mine.
We're doing fine, we're doing nothing at all. . . ."


His mom tries to explain sex to him when he's thirteen.

She sits him down with a plate of oatmeal cookies and he chokes on the first one when she announces it's time to talk.

It's the most awkward ten minutes of his life, hands down. She says a lot about growing up and hormones and being cautious, and she brings props ("This is called a condom, sweetie"). Then it all gets even worse as she starts going on about feelings and sharing something special and intimate ("When I first met your father, I was only a little older than you") and how you have to wait for the right one even if it feels like you can't wait and —

"Okay, Mom, I get it! I get it!"

They don't ever talk about it again, thank God, but when he confesses that Quinn is pregnant, he can see the disappointment in her eyes. It isn't until later that night when she kisses him on the forehead tenderly and says, "I'm so sorry, sweetheart," that he thinks maybe she's disappointed in herself.

That only makes him feel worse.


He can't even explain to himself why he's attracted to Rachel Berry.

She's really intense, and sort of freaky, but she can sing, and it's like nothing he's ever heard before. He finds all her videos on myspace, and they totally blow him away. People on the radio can sing that good, but not, like, real people who go to school with him and stuff.

And she's pretty, too. It's different than with Quinn, not so straightforward perfect. He kind of likes that. Plus, Rachel has all this confidence, like she knows she's sexy wearing argyle socks and a shirt with a big bow drawn on it, so it doesn't matter what other people think, and that's kind of really cool.

She makes him feel good, too. She thinks he's talented, and she looks at him like he's so awesome, and for a few days after he meets her, he tries to see that kind of look in Quinn's eyes. But he never does. When Rachel just comes right out and says he can kiss her, he's helpless to say no. Because she's being honest, going for what she wants, and it makes him want to be honest, too, and want to have the guts to go for he wants.

Of course, he totally messes it up. He didn't think just lying over her like that and kissing her, barely even really kissing her, could make him nearly lose it.

Maybe he's even more attracted to her than he realises.


It passes his mind, once, briefly. What would happen if he broke up with Quinn for Rachel?

But then Quinn tells him she's pregnant, and he hides thoughts of ever leaving her where not even he can find them.


So apparently Quinn does have a sex drive, just not where Finn is concerned. No, she just wants to get off with Puck. That sucks.

What's so wrong with him that his girlfriend wants to sleep with his best friend and not him? It makes him kind of sick to his stomach to think about all the reasons, the least of which is that he's big and lumbering and will probably be terrible in bed.

Rachel would never do that.

(Maybe she would. He doesn't want to find out.)


He's so bad at the physical stuff.

He has the early arrival problem, and he doesn't ever feel very comfortable in his own skin, and his whole fucked-up relationship with Quinn doesn't help. Being with Santana only makes him feel gross. He feels empty and messed-up and wonders how he always manages to get everything so wrong.

He wants to lie about it to himself, so he lies to Rachel.

He can't stand that she slept with Jesse. She lost her virginity to that asshole. That's so wrong, because no matter what else is going on in their lives, Rachel's just always felt like his, like Finn's. She's supposed to lose her virginity to Finn. So, yeah, he knows that kind of makes him a dick to say, even to think, but he can't help it.

And who the hell does Jesse think he is, just swooping in and stealing Rachel before Finn can even start to make up for his stupid mistake? She and Finn could have had their first time together, and it would have been right, but he totally screwed it up.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck!

He can never get anything right.


Her legs are really distracting.

He sits sprawled across her living room couch, the one that's really plushy and comfy, and she sits curled beside him. Her eyes are trained on the television and A Star is Born. He knows he should be paying attention to the movie, too, 'cause she'll want to talk about it afterward, but he really only likes the singing parts.

And her legs look really good.

He's always known she has good legs, what with all those short skirts and the knee socks and . . . he likes that he's allowed to stare at them now. It's totally cool to stare at your girlfriend's legs. It's, like, his right, and he can beat up anybody else who does. But he has to remind himself of that sometimes.

After so long pretending not to like her and then not realising what he had and then watching her with Jesse St. Asshole, it's hard to remember that she's his now, and he's allowed to stare and even to touch. He can touch, can't he? Feeling daring, he keeps his eyes on the screen and then slowly, cautiously, casually reaches out and brushes his hand over her calf. It's smooth and soft.

She doesn't react, so he rests his hand there. He slowly rubs his thumb along the skin. She glances at him for a moment, and he shyly meets her gaze. She smiles, and he sees pink crawl up her neck as she returns her attention to the screen.

Yeah, being her boyfriend is really awesome.


It's kind of a challenge to make out with Rachel.

He can stoop for a quick kiss, sure, but she really is short, and his neck starts to hurt if he stoops for too long. So, one day in July, when he's kissing her goodnight after a date, he, frustrated, simply grips her by the waist and hoists her up. She only weighs, like, a hundred pounds, so it's pretty easy. She's startled by the action, he knows, but she goes on kissing him, and as he pours himself into the kiss, he feels her melt into him.

It rocks. (He can so feel her boobs pressed against his chest.)

He's made out with Rachel before — and it's been the best part of his summer, 'cause the dating and other stuff is cool, sure, but making out is just so much cooler — but this blows him away. He angles his head and bites at her lip, and he feels himself go so hard when her tiny legs slowly wrap around his waist. Fuck yes, he thinks.

He's totally down with the height difference after that.


She talks about trying out a new look for weeks. He kind of gets sick of it, actually.

But he masters the art of nodding and saying, "Yeah, that sounds cool," without having to listen. It works really well, 'cause when she comes over and flips through girly magazines and fiddles with her hair, he can just play Halo and pretend he's listening.

Some part of him must be listening, though — the smart part, probably — because he nearly drops his controller when she says thoughtfully one afternoon, "Maybe I'll just cut it all off."

"What?" he says, looking out her with wide eyes. "Like, go bald?"

"Don't be ridiculous," she says. "Imagine an old-fashioned bob, something that bounces. I think if my hair were short enough it would have something of a curl to it. And I think a short haircut would really give me a more mature appearance, and that's always valuable —"

"No," he tells her.

She frowns at him.

"You can't cut off all your hair," he insists.

She crosses her arms over her chest. "Why not? Because I already have such a masculine appearance?" He can hear the rare note of vulnerability in her voice. He's heard it more often lately, and he thinks maybe that's a good thing — like, you know, she's allowing herself to be vulnerable around him. That's kind of cool, right? That's what you're supposed to do with the person you're dating.

But it means he has to work extra hard not to mess up.

"Finn," she says, a warning in her voice.

"It's not like that," he says hastily. "It's just . . . I like your hair. It's all smooth and shiny and it feels really soft and I don't want you to cut it all off." He finally shuts up.

She stares at him. "I will take your opinion into consideration," she says.

He nods. A few days later, when she calls to say she's just been to the hairdresser and she's coming over, he starts to grow nervous. She wouldn't really cut it all off, would she? He really does like her hair. He's started twisting it between his fingers at the movies and touching it when they're making out, and it's just . . . nice. He likes that it isn't always up in a stupid, high ponytail. He likes . . . he just likes it. Is that so bad?

He hears her footsteps on the stairs and he turns nervously to the door.

She walks in, and the breath leaves him in a rush. It's a few inches shorter, and she has bangs, but it's all still there. Relief washes over him. And the bangs are kind of cute, actually. "It looks good, doesn't it?" she says, patting it.

He grins. "It's great, Rach."


He knows she's nervous about school.

She's not nervous about classes or junior year being hard or even about starting Glee; actually, he's pretty sure she's really psyched for all of that. But she's nervous about them. He's really proud of himself that he notices the little stuff she does and knows it's 'cause she's worried. She asks him if he'll still spend free afternoons with her once he has football practice and she asks him oh-so-causally what he thinks so-and-so will say to find out they're dating.

She's testing the waters, right? Like, trying to figure out if he'll dump her once they get back to school?

He knows it. And he hates that she could think that. He should tell her that it's stupid to think that. Dude, he loves her. He can't leave her, even if he wanted to. Once you've got a taste of Rachel Berry, you can't just walk away. He knows that better than anybody. But he doesn't know how to say it, so he doesn't.

He'll just prove it to her by, you know, not breaking up with her, not even when school starts.

(Not ever.)


He got to second base with Quinn.

And he sort of did with Santana, if going straight for home plate while touching a couple of bases along the way counts. (But he likes not remembering that, so it shouldn't count.)

He decides he likes Rachel's boobs so much better. If he only gets three wishes with Grilled Cheesus, this is definitely a good choice. Of course, he's not sure how he'll ever be able to make out with her again without wanting to touch them, but maybe she won't mind if he cops a feel during make outs from here on out.

Maybe he'll even get under the shirt soon.

He can't wait.


It makes him feel all manly when she leans into him.

Standing in Glee, she leans her back against his chest sometimes, and as they walk through the halls, her body is usually titled slightly towards his, and he just likes it. He likes when she puts her head on his shoulder, or that one time when they were short a chair at their table in the cafeteria, and before Mike could drag a chair over from a nearby table, Rachel sat delicately in Finn's lap.

It makes him feel like he did when he took her to the doctor's because she'd lost her voice — like he can take care of her. He's always kind of had that protective take-care-of-my-woman feeling in him, and there's something about Rachel that really makes it comes out. Maybe it's 'cause she's so tiny, or maybe it's 'cause she just looks at him like she thinks he can do anything. Whatever it is about her, it makes him feel like a real man.

He can make his mom proud and he can be a leader and he can take care of his girl.


"So what are you singing today?" he asks, tossing his backpack on the ground and heading towards her closet, where she keeps her video camera. He's helped her film and post her myspace videos so many times now that he can probably do it in his sleep.

"Actually, I won't be posting a video today," she says.

He pauses. "But I thought you wanted me to come over to —"

"I have to be honest, Finn," she tells him, "I'm upset over what's happened these last few days."

"Mr. Schue cancelling the show?" he asks knowingly. "I know you wanted to do it in front of an audience, Rach, but we still got to do it, so that's cool, right?" He smiles encouragingly at her.

"You're sweet," she says, "but that's not what I mean. I was actually referring to your apparent self-esteem issues."

He flushes immediately. He knew he shouldn't have told her. "Rachel," he whines, "we really don't have to talk about this. It's cool. I know you're right."

"Lift up your arms," she instructs, ignoring his words.


"Lift up your arms," she repeats, and she uses that voice, the one that he knows he has to listen to or else bad things will happen. So he lifts them up, but he drops them again immediately when she steps forward and starts to take off his polo. "Finn," she says sternly. "Stop that."

"You can't just take off my shirt!" he protests.

She steps back. She purses her lips. "I'll take off mine," she offers.

He swallows thickly. Damn. And he pulls off his shirt. She nods at his undershirt. "That, too," she tells him. Obediently, he takes that off, too. She stares for a moment, and it takes all of his self-control not to pull the shirt back on. She meets his gaze again and murmurs something under her breath.

She clears her throat. "I can't believe you don't know how hot you are," she says.

He almost doesn't believe her, but then her eyes flicker back to his bare chest, and he recognises the look on her face with a sudden jolt. He feels a kind of confidence overtake him. Before he can say anything, though, she pulls off her sweater, and then the small tank-top thingie underneath, and she's standing before him in a pink bra with a little bow. He stares.

She comes over to him, and she nudges at his shoulders, and he sits back on the bed, and then lies across it, knowing what to do before she even says it. He think maybe his faith in God, in Grilled Cheesus, even, is suddenly and completely restored when she straddles his lap. She leans down and kisses his collarbone and . . . and she starts to trail kisses down his chest.

Mother. Fucker.

When she reaches his belly-button, she swirls her tongue in it and then starts the trek of kisses back up to his neck and then his face, and the moment her lips touch his, he crushes her to him. "My boyfriend is hot," she tells him in between kisses, "and nobody, not even him, is allowed to say otherwise."

"Mmm'k," he replies and his fingers greedily span across the smooth skin of her back.

The next day at school, Sam eyes the two beef sliders and load of fries on Finn's plate the moment Finn sits down. "Seriously, dude? You're gonna eat that?"

Finn glances at the food. It had looked so good earlier. He glances back at Sam, but before he can say anything, Rachel sets her lunch box down and sits beside him, kissing his cheek. He looks at the burgers, at Sam, and then at Rachel. He shrugs and picks one up. "Totally."


His hand starts creeping down, and she doesn't stop him. When he finally finds himself cupping her ass, however, he doesn't know what to do. He never thought she'd actually let him, yet here she is, stretched across him, kissing him hotly, and he's touching her butt.

He's been trying to go slow, 'cause they had a talk about all that stuff at the beginning of the summer and yeah, he knows feelings and emotional stuff are important. But, really, it's more 'cause he knows it only gets girls angry when guys try stuff. His entire relationship with Quinn is kind of the case and point. But, he reminds himself yet again, Rachel isn't like Quinn.

Rachel is so much cooler, and she just gets him, and she might stop him if he tries to feel her up, but she's not gonna yell at him. She's always saying things like "Never feel as if you can't be yourself around me, Finn," which has to apply to this, right?

Like, he shouldn't be scared to touch his girlfriend because his ex-girlfriend was kind of a bitch, right?

Breathing heavily into her kisses, his hands slide down to her thighs, and the skin there is so soft, and then he drags his hands back up until they're under her underwear (dude, it's lacy!) and holy shit. It. Is. Awesome.

She rocks into him and he lets out a low groan, and he's pretty sure he's gonna blow his wad any second now, but it's okay. Rachel doesn't mind when that happens. She gets him.


"So," Puck asks, taking another slice of pizza from the box, "have you and Berry done it yet?"

Finn just freezes, his own slice of pizza halfway to his mouth.

"No way," Sam says.

Puck looks at him with raised eyes. "How would you know?" There's a sharp edge to his voice, but Finn's not surprised. Puck hates Sam, and it isn't much of a secret. Puck looks accusingly at Finn, as if Finn's sold out and told everything to Sam and kept Puck in the dark.

"He knows because everyone knows," Kurt says, coming smoothly to Sam's defence. "There have never been two more asexual creatures in this school than Finn and Rachel." Puck and Sam both chuckle, and Finn's face blazes.

"Shut up," he mutters, and Mike moves the conversation to the big basketball game against Western High.


Rachel's not really big on PDA. Holding hands and leaning into him, maybe even the occasional hug, is all she wants to do on school grounds. But he's cool with that. He doesn't care if no one sees them making out, and it's better, actually — she's all his, and nobody else gets a part of her.

Yet the guys ribbing him kind of bothers him. But how does he say that to her? He would never want to make her feel uncomfortable or anything like that. Puck's a jerk, anyway. And Sam's a pretty boy. Who cares what he thinks?

He thinks maybe they have, like, a psychic connection when, the next day at Glee, Rachel walks swiftly into the room, actually climbs on top of Finn, and kisses him soundly on the lips. She's all over him, and his mind goes all mushy as he wraps his arms tightly around her. He blinks rapidly, trying to figure out what the hell just happened, as she straightens, smoothes her skirt, and then sits primly beside him.

Puck gives him a thumbs-up. Kurt looks a little disgusted. Sam frowns. Finn is kind of proud of himself. He takes Rachel's hand.

And then he realises she's staring with a kind of smug hatred at Santana.

Maybe her friends have been teasing her, too?

It occurs to him halfway through practice what it could be about. Dammit. He knew it'd come back to haunt him someday. So far, though, it's all going okay.


For the first time, Finn really thinks about making Rachel feel good.

Not good like moaning into his mouth and making him hard good, but good like you're the most fucking awesome, pretty girl in the world good. He wants her to know if there's one thing he could change about his past, it'd be sleeping with Santana. He wants her to know that she's so much better than Santana — so much hotter and better.

He starts to say it as often as he can — say that she's hot or that that skirt is hot or that he loves her or he loves how hot his girlfriend is — and it never fails to make her beam with pleasure, and then he feels pretty good about it all.


It kind of terrifies him how much he feels for her.

They get in a fight (she later blames the stress of regionals) but it freaks him out beyond belief. It's only two days of her turning her nose up at him and refusing even to look at him, but it's two days of utter hell. He's faced with the idea of losing her and he doesn't know what to do. It's not supposed to be like this, he thinks.

He should be tough, like Puck. He depends way too much on her, on creepy calendars and random baked goods and soft lips and the sound of her voice wrapping around him.

He didn't know it was possible to feel this way about someone, yet alone feel this much for someone. He loves her. He thinks about when they're out of school and living in New York, and what the hell? That's way too far into the future to think about. He thinks about her headboard banging against the wall, and sure, he's always had those thoughts, but now the want is eating away at him, and she's everything he sees and knows and wants in this world.

It's fucking terrifying.

What if it scares her away? What if it's too intense for her?

Then he remembers that it's Rachel, and intense is her middle name. (But does she think about her headboard banging against the wall? Maybe he'll just work extra hard to keep that part a secret.)


He swears to Mr. Schue that he's gonna study for the test, and he knows he has to — Mr. Schue already lets him slide by too much in Spanish. But he sucks at Spanish. He complains to Rachel, and she brightly volunteers to come over to help him study.

He's pretty sure Kurt is downstairs, but it just happens. One minute she's making him recite basic classroom vocabulary — "No, Finn, stapler in Spanish is not staplero!" — and the next she's underneath him and she's naked and before he knows what's going on she's murmuring words of encouragement and he just sort of nervously plunges in.

Then he freezes.

Her face is scrunched up in pain and she's tense and tight beneath him, and he doesn't know for sure, but he's, like, ninety five percent sure she lied to him.

She did not sleep with Jesse.

This is her first time. "Rach," he gasps, kind of hating himself.

"It's okay," she mutters, and he's never felt like more of a jackass than when he realises that she's crying. He made her cry. He tries to pull away, but her legs wrap up around him and trap him. "Just wait a second," she breathes. He fingers dig into his shoulders, and he can barely stand to stay still, but the guilt is powerful enough to overcome the warmth and wetness and perfectness.

He leans down on shaking arms and kisses sloppily at the tears. "Okay," she whispers into his cheek. "Keep going." It doesn't last very long, but when he turns to her afterward, her face is soft and she smiles adoringly at him. He so doesn't deserve that.

"Why didn't you tell me the truth?"

She shrugs a little, looking away guiltily. He pulls her to him. "It's cool," he assures. He catches her gaze again. "It's cool — I mean, we're cool, right?" Slowly, she nods, and relief rushes over him. They lie there for a moment in a kind of cocoon of happiness, 'cause yes, that really did happen.

He goes down on her for the first time, then, because he's determined to make this good for her, too. She's tender down there, and there's a little blood, but she makes the good kind of noises, so he thinks it works out pretty well.

And for the first time, Finn feels like he's good at the physical stuff.


He walks Rachel downstairs afterward, and he knows he's grinning like an idiot, but it's hard not to. His mom is in the kitchen, so he has to settle for a quick peck on the lips from Rachel rather than a real kiss goodbye. (Too bad he can't just hike her up over his shoulder and take her back to bed. Yeah, he hopes she knows he's gonna want to do that a lot from now on.)

He feels his mom's eyes on his back. "So stapler, that's grapedoor, right?"

"Grapadora," Rachel corrects, adding a cute little Spanish accent to the one word.

"Yeah, that," he says, and she bites her lip as she smiles at him.

"I'll see you tomorrow." She leaves. There's a strange step to her walk, it's just sort of funny, and he realises that she must be sore (if he remembers all the locker room talk right), and he thinks with a sort of he-man pride that kind of probably makes him a douche, I did that.

His mom touches his shoulder suddenly. "I didn't know Rachel was over," she says.

"She came over to help me with my Spanish," he replies quickly. She can't know, right, just by looking at him?

She kisses his cheek. "That's good, sweetheart. I'm glad you've been keeping up with your schoolwork." She goes back to making dinner, and he starts to leave. "Oh, and Finn?" she calls, and he glances back, trying to tamper his goofiness. He can't just stand around and grin all the time. "She's the right person."

He blushes furiously, mumbles something or other, and rushes out of the room.

But she's right.

She kind of was all along.


"My hopes are so high that your kiss might kill me.
So won't you kill me, so I die happy?
My heart is yours to fill or burst, to break or bury,
Or wear as jewelery, whichever you prefer. . . ."

A/N: Title and lyrics from Dashboard Confessional's "Hands Down"