Rachel glanced around the campus, recognizing spots, and remembering things. It felt good to be able to look at the world she was living in, and connect it to her past, even if it wasn’t exactly much of an accomplishment, considering these memories extended past that of which that had been lost. She looked up as he spoke, smiling shyly before looking down at her feet and tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. She wasn’t oblivious to his change of tone, but she couldn’t exactly say it was unwelcome. “Sounds like a plan,” she told him, glancing up at him for a moment before looking away again.
As Finn answered her question, Rachel nodded, somewhat relieved. It would be easier to not remember Finn’s parents if they actually liked her. She was still getting used to the fact that all of this was real, and that she wasn’t in some time warp sci-fi movie, but she was learning to accept that this was her life now, and she could take it or leave it. She laughed, knowing exactly the recipe he was referring to. “Well, if they ever come to visit, I’ll have to make some for her,” she told him.
Rachel stopped dead in her tracks as he pointed to the spot across the street. She dropped Finn’s hand, and took a few steps forward, studying the spot he’d indicated. She waited, and waited. And nothing happened. She stared at the tree for the longest time, but all she had was her imagination. She imagined the man standing behind her on one knee, she imagined her excitement. But none of it felt real. No matter how badly Rachel wanted it to be real, it just wasn’t. The ring on her finger felt a million tons heavier, a reminder that for whatever reason, her brain wasn’t letting her remember. She sighed, feeling empty and lost and defeated all at the same time. She turned to Finn, glancing up at him. “I…” she started, feeling ashamed, and holding back tears. “I’m sorry, Finn, but I…uh…can we go home? Please?” she asked,
The moment Rachel’s face fell Finn could feel his stomach drop in response. Despite everything in him that told him to feel otherwise, he had been hopeful. He’d been hoping for the tree to be the ultimate trigger, and for everything to come snapping back to Rachel all at once. Because he’d thought Rachel would be the exception. As if the fact that she was Rachel outweighed any mental barrier or medical opinion. His hand suddenly felt a whole lot colder and emptier without hers clasping it, and he stuffed both into his pockets, giving himself a moment to try and compose himself before he gave her a small nod. “Y-yeah,” he replied, trying to clear his now-tight throat. He kept his gaze on the ground, away from the tree and away from her. “We’ll walk back to the restaurant and take my car back. It’s fine.”
He felt like he should’ve said more, something comforting, but the words wouldn’t come to him easily like they usually did when Rachel was upset. He could read her just as well as always. Finn used to talk about the different types of crying Rachel would have whenever she was sad. This had to be the devastated, disappointment sort of sad that was the worst. And he couldn’t tell her it was alright when at the moment it felt like a lie. What he really wanted was to be alone with his thoughts and not have his wife-turned-best-friend look at him like he was supposed to do something. So Finn turned on his heel and started making his way back down the sidewalk, slowly enough so that she could keep up with him, but quickly enough to make it clear that he wasn’t up for talking.
Rachel felt more comfortable walking down the streets of New York than she had in the restaurant. This was her neighborhood, where she knew the streets and stores backwards and forwards. Sure, a few businesses had shut down, and new ones had opened up, but she felt like she had a place and didn’t feel as disoriented. Still, it was nice to have Finn there. His hand was strong, and warm, and it almost completely enveloped her own. She felt safe with him, and at this point, trusted him more than her own mind.
At his comment, she rolled her eyes playfully, shaking her head in disagreement. Finn was talented, regardless of what his credentials said. Rachel had always thought so, and she had a feeling that she always would. At his words, she nodded, looking up at him with a wide, bright, grin. “I would really like that,” she told him, genuinely interested to see Finn perform, even if it was in the living room of their apartment. Her thinking was that everyone needed an outlet every now and again, and Rachel would be happy to provide that for him.
As Finn lead her around the corner, Rachel immediately perked up, recognizing here the were almost immediately. It was exciting to her, being in a place that she could freely navigate on her own. She nodded as he explained to her, it making a lot of sense. She’d always thought her name belonged in magazines, that it was perfect name for the limelight, and she was happy that she’d stuck with it for her stage name. “What about your parents?” she asked. “Do they like me?” Rachel wasn’t quite sure how she’d feel if they didn’t. She was almost positive that her fathers would adore Finn – because really, what was there not to like?
Finn slowed his pace, giving Rachel a chance to take in her surroundings as opposed to rushing her through parts of the city she didn’t remember all too well. NYADA was familiar to him, too. He’d never attended classes, but as their friendship had grown, there had been countless times the two had met for lunch, just talking over coffee (or in Finn’s case, a hot chocolate, because coffee had never been his strong suit). “I’ll see what I can do. And if you want to take a spin, I wouldn’t mind teaching you a few things,” he said, letting the slightest hint of a flirty tone sneak into his voice. Rachel was good at almost everything and Finn had always thought it was completely endearing to have her bleary-eyed from whatever late hour they happened to be up at, tapping out a few tentative beats on any surface they had.
“Yeah, ‘course they like you,” Finn replied in mild surprise. “My mom really likes that vegan carrot cake recipe you do sometimes. And Burt… well, he’s Burt. I don’t think it’s possible for him to not like someone, unless they were… I don’t know. Super mean or something. But you’re not, and you’re never gonna be, so you’re golden in both their books.” He had told his mother and stepfather that Rachel had woken up and was back home with him, of course. They just weren’t aware of the fact that Rachel didn’t have all her memories. Another bridge Finn was planning on crossing whenever they got to it. He just had to hope that Carole wouldn’t drop by for a surprise visit, because she tended to worry about them no matter what.
He stopped his thoughts short, raising their linked hands to point across the street to NYADA’s main entrance, the oak tree flanking the building on its right. “There it is,” he said proudly. He couldn’t help but feel the hope rise in his chest — proposing to Rachel was the best moment of his life, second only to the first kiss they’d shared as a married couple. “It was the spring after you’d graduated, so the blossoms were out and it wasn’t Gloom June like it tends to be.”
Finn’s hand in hers felt nice. Reassuring, at the very lest. In that moment, as Finn intertwined their fingers, something hit her. It wasn’t a memory, exactly. A memory of a feeling, maybe? She felt undeniably safe as they walked down the block together, hand in hand, presumably how they used to. Rachel leaned into that feeling, hoping maybe an actual memory would come with it, but there was nothing. Just that warm, happy feeling that seemed to pulse through her veins. Rachel tried to not be disappointed. It was a start, but she didn’t say anything. A feeling was nothing to get excited about, and she didn’t want Finn getting his hopes up too high.
“You were not and are not a schmuck,” she argued, looking up at him, and nudging his side lightly. “And those beats are fantastic, if I do say so myself.” Finn had always been modest about his talents around her, and she was always quick to remind him that he was extremely talented in the arts. She knew he’d never believe her, but that was okay. Teaching was his passion, and she knew he was good at it.
At his question, she contemplated, but before she could answer, she began smiling at his story. She glanced over to the Starbucks he was referring to. It had been her favorite place to go and study when she was still at NYADA, so she supposed it made sense that she would’ve taken Finn there. She was never required to take many academic courses, but History of Broadway 101 was a lot more boring than the course description had made it out to be. “Latkes,” she reminded him. “And that sounds absolutely delicious. We’ll have to go there soon.” At the question, she sighed, trying to think of one. “Oh!” she said, as a question she’d been wondering a lot about lately popped into her head. “What do I go by? Did I keep my last name, or did I take yours?”
There weren’t many people out and about at this time of night, but Finn would’ve shot a smile at anyone he walked past. It was a step in the right direction, a tentative one but a step nonetheless. He had to keep reveling in the small victories. It didn’t feel exactly the same, walking down the road with Rachel in hand, but it was close. Close enough that he could allow himself to stare like he was prone to doing.
“Kind of a schmuck,” he replied, though more teasing than serious. He’d improved over the years, coming to terms with the fact that he was never going to perform professionally or get into an elite school. And Rachel was doing that thing again, sticking up for him even when the person attacking Finn was just himself. Hell if Finn was going to pretend he hadn’t missed that voice of support. “Maybe I can break out the drum pads at home and give you a Hudson unplugged performance.” One of the things he’d loved about Rachel was how she was always game to play along with him, at least in the musical sense. There wasn’t worrying about whether they were technically perfect (though she always was). It was always them bopping around in the kitchen to the sound of their morning playlist.
He turned the corner, the main NYADA campus only another couple blocks away. At her question, his gaze automatically shot down to his left hand and the ring on his finger. “Your certificate says Rachel Hudson, but everyone really knows you as Rachel Berry, ‘cause of the show and all,” he replied. He honestly didn’t mind that most of the general public didn’t see Rachel as a married Broadway actor. He’d gone to a few events as her plus one of course, but the public never called her a Hudson. And Finn was perfectly content to be the one who didn’t have any of the spotlight, just to be the man she came home to. “We thought ‘Hudson-Berry’ was too long, and the dash would’ve gotten weird with your signature,” he added with a smile.
Rachel really couldn’t wait to see NYADA again. In a world where everything felt unfamiliar, it would be nice to be somewhere that she recognized. Looking around, she wondered if she’d been to this restaurant before. If she’d seen the people sitting around them before. The world was all uncharted territory, and it felt like she was alien stepping onto the planet for the first time. “Probably,” Rachel agreed. Knowing Miss July, she wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest. Rachel dropped her fork and knife as she finished her dinner, and laughed as Finn continued. “You shouldn’t have taken it personally. She gave everyone that look, even me.” She shrugged, smiling at the memory.
Rachel was about to protest as he handed the waiter his credit card, wanting to insist that she help pay before she remembered once more that they were married. The saying “what’s mine is yours” ran through her mind, and she bit her lip as she watched Finn sign the check. She smiled as he offered his hand out to her, reaching down beside her for her purse, and took his hand to allow him to lead her out of the restaurant.
Once he had Rachel’s hand in his own, Finn could feel his stomach flip, softly lacing their fingers together and walking them back out to the sidewalk. “I really didn’t belong there,” he said with a small shrug. “Everyone was way too talented, and here I was, the schmuck who could pound out a beat on the drums,” he said with a little smile. It was true; Finn loved music but he wasn’t anywhere near the best. And he was okay with that. The world needed teachers as much as they needed performers. The school wasn’t too far from where they were now, so he just started walking, slowing his much wider strides to match pace with her smaller ones.
“So… was there anything else you wanted to ask me?” He said, a little more carefully than he had before. He was still adamant about keeping the Brody thing under wraps until he could figure out a proper way to break the news to her, but for the most part Finn wanted Rachel to see him as an open book. He was there for her. “Like… for example, that Starbucks across the street is the one we always met up at when you had finals. I’d help you make your flash cards and quiz you on your notes and stuff. And of course it was all color-coded and super neat. And uh, there’s a Jewish deli a few blocks back. Really good sandwiches, and those potato pancake things the applesauce.” He realized he was rambling, and looked back over at her. “So, yeah. Any ‘us’ stuff before we get to the legendary bus stop?”
Rachel smiled at his words, nodding. “That’s one way of putting it,” she said, shrugging slightly. She didn’t exactly know what he meant by his words, but she figured she wouldn’t ask. It didn’t feel like her business. At this point, she didn’t know much, but she knew Finn. And she knew he’d be there for her, because that’s who he was. She’d always believed in him, and he’d always believed in her. It was what had made their friendship work, and later, she supposed, their marriage.
“It’ll be nice to see some familiar territory,” she admitted, eyes widening as he mentioned Miss July. “She does?” she asked, not that she should’ve been surprised. Cassandra July was a living legend, and Rachel had her to thank for the dancer that she was today. Still, the woman was absolutely insane, and she’d be lying if she said the name didn’t strike a little fear into her heart. She laughed with him, finishing off her meal in a few more bites and taking a sip of her drink.
Now that they had a plan, sort of, Finn found himself eager to finish up dinner and head out to NYADA. He doubted anyone would actually be on the campus — it was dark out, after all — but maybe the landmarks, the familiar paths to the front of the school would be a good thing for Rachel to experience. Or re-experience, rather. “She’s probably still kicking freshman butt,” he affirmed with a nod, wiping off his mouth and signaling to their server for the check. “She’d always give me a little look whenever I hung around campus waiting for you. I probably gave off a ‘can’t dance, don’t bother’ kinda vibe for her.”
He handed over his card to their server, signing the receipt and handing it back to him before getting to his feet. Finn walked over to her side of the table. “You ready to head out?” After a moment of hesitation, he held out a hand to help her up, a hopeful smile playing on his lips. He’d tried to stay as platonic as he could when it came to their relationship, not wanting to scare her with being overzealous. That meant no kisses, no terms of endearment. But maybe she’d be alright with walking down 32nd Street hand in hand with him.
Rachel shrugged as Finn complimented her once more. “I don’t think there’s a point in wallowing in self-pity for something like this,” she said. It was true. She’d had her time to feel sorry for herself, but she’d realized that it wasn’t getting her anywhere. Normally, she’d let the theatrics play themselves out for a while, but this was serious business, and there was no room for being petty or immature. “Moping isn’t going to make my memory come back. I just have to be realistic, and hope for the best. That’s the only way I’m…we’re…going to get through this.” She smiled across the table at him, taking another bite of her food. She was still getting used to the idea that they were in this together, that it wasn’t just her against the world. That’s how it had been all her life, but she had to admit, that it was nice to finally have a teammate.
Rachel wasn’t blind to how he seemed to perk up at her words. It was almost cute the way he suddenly seemed that much more excited. She nodded enthusiastically, trying to reign in the hope that tonight would be the night that something would come back to her. She couldn’t get her hopes up, because she had a feeling that the accompanying disappointment might crush her. She’d expected the ring to feel weird on her finger, but it didn’t. It was a comfort, above all else. It was a constant reminder that she wasn’t alone in this. That Finn was there, and he always would be. Yes, it was terrifying, but it also helped her sleep at night. Rachel again started eating, suddenly more than eager to get out of the restaurant.
Finn drummed his free hand lightly on his knee as he spoke, squinting a little in thought. “Hmm. Well, I don’t think you’re a wallower at all,” he told her. “Maybe just… lost. I was like that for a long time.” ‘Before I met you’, was the second part of the sentence that he kept to himself. He was so used to seeing Rachel as the guiding light of his life, the one he could count on for support and advice and just about anything. She really was an extraordinary woman, and the fact that their situations were reversed now made him wonder if he could ever come close to being that for her. And knowing that there was no other option. He could say without a doubt that being with Rachel had made him into a better man; now, he supposed, was the test of that.
He couldn’t help but chuckle at Rachel’s matching enthusiasm, the both of them returning to their food. “NYADA should be good. I haven’t been on that campus in like, months. Cassie July? She’s still teaching there, I think. And… still pretty scary,” he added with a small laugh. It was a lot easier for Finn to talk about people and places now — NYADA was a safe topic, one that he knew wouldn’t be confusing or hard to remember.
Rachel pushed her food around her plate, chewing slowly before swallowing. She had to remember that it wasn’t just herself that was going through this. Finn had lost her just as much as she’d lost herself, and that was probably just as bad. She tried to find someone to compare it to, but was quickly reminded that she couldn’t remember being married, and therefore couldn’t possibly know how he was feeling. The word husband still dumbfounded her, but the more she heard it, the more she was able to put the pieces together, the more she was finding easy to hear. “It’s okay,” she told him, her tone sincere. “Whenever you’re ready, that’s when we’ll talk about it.” She was being selfish, expecting him to just open up like that. In many ways, he was a stranger to her, and she supposed it worked both ways. She was a different person than she’d been just weeks ago, and it couldn’t be just her that was confused. And Finn was so relentelessly supportive, she couldn’t blame him for having boundaries. Even if her curiosity was eating at her, she would patient. Answers would come with time, just like her memories.
Rachel relaxed as Finn laughed, glad that the atmosphere seemed to lighten. She smiled across the table at him, nodding as he confirmed that she wanted to know. As he spoke, she rested her elbow on the table, and her chin in her hand, unable to stop grinning. The story was sweet, and undeniably romantic, and she chuckled a few times at the things that were just so Finn. She was so happy that he hadn’t changed. He’d been her best friend, and she was so grateful that he was still here. As he talked, she looked down to her left hand, gazing once more at the ring on her finger. She closed her eyes, trying to remember. She recalled meeting Finn at the bus stop, she knew the exact tree he was talking about. The tree, the ring. She wasn’t sure if it was a memory, or just her recreating the scene in her mind, but it was a step. “I want to go there. The doctor says that things can be triggers…and I want to remember that. And you. And everything.” She sighed, again wishing that none of this had happened.
Finn let out a sigh before nodding his agreement. He still felt like he’d disappointed Rachel, but she was so understanding it was impossible to feel too bad about it. She always had a knack for making him feel good, and appreciated and important. ”Thanks. I appreciate that like, a lot. You’re really strong, you know that? I always loved that about you, how you could bounce back from anything. Even… the accident. Which was pretty bad.” He paused a little, remembering the complete drop in his stomach and the terror in his heart when he’d watched Rachel being wheeled into that ambulance. Whatever their situation was now, at least he hadn’t lost Rachel, not like that. She was there, alive, and eating dinner with him. “And I know that once everything’s out in the open it’ll be better.” He gave her a smile, tiny but still there, before taking a few more bites of his food.
The mention of the landmark spot being a trigger got Finn’s complete attention. The doctors had said something about that, the sight or touch or even taste of something from the past being able to jog one’s memory. And that was undeniably his priority, doing whatever he could to trigger some sort of reaction from Rachel’s brain. He checked the time, noticing her looking at the ring out of the corner of his eye. He wondered if she’d planned to ask about that. Because they were legally married. Just not… emotionally, he supposed. There was a line between best friend love and romantic love and he knew Rachel hadn’t crossed back over to having actual feelings for him. “You know …it’s not that late yet. If we finish up here we could go check it out.” He knew better than to get overly excited about it, but the hope inside him was still there. That wasn’t going to change.
Rachel was thrown for a loop, to say the least. She wasn’t sure what to think, or how she was supposed to feel. She’d been thrown into a world where everything in her life was different. Her relationships, her career, her feelings…everything. How was she supposed to keep up? Rachel knew she probably should’ve said something more, but she couldn’t think of anything she could possibly do to make this better, or to help her understand. Instead, she took a bite of her meal, only glancing up at him when he apologized. “No, don’t be sorry,” she said, meeting his eyes. “I told you that if you didn’t want to talk about something, that it was okay. I just…I’m really trying to make everything make sense, but I keep hitting a wall.” She shrugged, looking back down at her plate.
When Finn spoke again, Rachel looked up, contemplating his question. There was so much more that she wanted to know, an entire three years worth of information, but she didn’t know what she could handle right now. Maybe a happy memory, she supposed, trying to come up with something that he’d be happy to answer for her. “How did you propose to me?” she asked, a smile flickering across her features, hoping that the answer to this might come a little more freely.
Finn stilled his fork as he thought about how to best articulate himself. He considered himself an optimistic guy, really. It was just that the more questions he balked at answering, the obvious cues he kept missing, the more it was hitting him that all of this was real. Crazy science-fiction story, episode out of House, MD, real. “As your… husband,” he began hesitantly, the word sounding weird in his mouth. Then he reminded himself that it was probably weirder for her to hear. “Well, first and foremost as your friend, I should be able to give you what you want to know. So I am sorry. Really. Maybe we can talk more about that… topic later, when there’s not servers walking around every two minutes.” He wasn’t sure he’d keep that offer, but for now it stood.
He couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle, feeling some of the tension leave the air around them when she asked about his proposal. He loved telling her happy stories, because who didn’t like to hear those? “You wanna know?” Finn smiled to himself. “I should start with the where. Because for the longest time I wasn’t sure where I was going to make it happen. I thought maybe I would ask you at the Empire State building, top floor, when all the stars were out. And I thought it would be awesome, because stars, you’re a star, you know. The metaphor thing. And then I realized that I couldn’t do something like that,” he said with a small shrug. “Because when you’re a star, everyone knows that. It’s like a common knowledge thing. But you’re so much more than just a superstar, you know? I knew that, and I knew I could be a lot more personal than taking you up on a skyscraper. So… I got you to come revisit NYADA with me. And once we were out in the courtyard, out by that giant oak tree next to the bus stop where we first met, that’s where I did it.” He smiled a little wider, realizing that this was finally something Rachel would be able to remember with him, the two of them meeting for the first time. “Because it’s our tree, our stop, something we had that was private from the rest of the world. And I thought that was pretty epic in its own way. Maybe we could go there again sometime. ‘Cause I know you know the spot, too.”
Rachel didn’t know what to think about all of this. She just couldn’t believe it. The Brody that she knew…the talented, sweet, caring Brody, would never have done anything to hurt her. Would he? He’d never been late, or failed to call her when he’d said he would. Plus, he had near-perfect dental hygiene, which was something Rachel valued very highly in a person. He wasn’t always around, but he was a busy person with a budding Broadway career, much like Rachel herself. She couldn’t hold that against him. Regardless, she’d loved Brody, and Finn telling her this now felt like something dangerously close to heartbreak.
She opened her mouth to speak, but before she could ask those questions, he cut her off. She sighed, slightly defeated at his words. She nodded anyway, seeing how angry Finn was getting, and she really didn’t want to make a scene. Theatrics were right up Rachel’s alley, but only when they were fake. She fell silent, no longer knowing what she could say. She thanked the waiter as he set her plate down in front of her, glancing up at Finn for a short moment before digging into her food.
When he didn’t get any audible response from Rachel, Finn wondered if he’d been too harsh. Three years ago Rachel had been perfectly happy dating Brody. Maybe it wasn’t his right to put such a big damper on her happiness, not before she even got a chance to process anything about it. He knew Rachel had a gap, he knew that she was counting on him to be supportive. The execution was just off and Finn wasn’t a stranger to that feeling. He was just disappointed in himself that it’d been in relation to her, the most important person in his life; he didn’t like feeling lost around Rachel. “I’m sorry,” he said finally to break the silence, chewing a little nervously on his lower lip. He picked up his fork, slowly turning it in his hands before twisting himself a bite of pasta.
“Did you… did you have anything else you wanted to know about?” He inwardly winced at how hesitant he sounded. Tackling the details had been harder than he realized. He’d already fumbled once and he felt like he was walking on eggshells to prevent it from happening again. “I can answer those better, I think. Like.. the photos or the tapes and scrapbook stuff.”
Rachel’s smile widened even further at the comment, not being able to believe it. Rachel knew she was good at what she did. Great, even. But being compared to Barbra Streisand? It was everything she’d ever wanted. Everything she’d ever dreamed of. She gave him a fond smile from across the table. If she was honest, she could see herself loving him. She could see why she’d fallen for him. He was always kind, always so caring, and he looked at her like she was something special. A part of her longed to just pretend that nothing happened. To pretend that she’d always been in love with Finn, and that none of this was weird or confusing. But deep down, she knew that was an impossibility. She couldn’t forget. Not any more than she already had.
Rachel bit her lip, scrunching her eyebrows as she saw Finn tensing. What had happened? Why was he so angry? She looked down at his words. The words puzzled her. It had been a bad breakup? The last she recalled, she’d been so happy with him. Rachel had assumed that it had been mutual, maybe that they were still friends. She let out a breath, trying to comprehend. “What?” she asked, her voice soft. “Tell me what happened.”
Finn knew he should have seen this coming. He was the one with all the answers, at least regarding Rachel’s past, so it was natural that she want him to fill her in on everything. The thing was, he could’t always be helpful and objective. He could be downright nasty about some things. Regarding Brody Weston, for example. When he’d first met the guy Finn thought he was alright. Then the beginnings of jealousy grew in him, because at first sight Brody was the perfect man - goodlooking with a fantastic future ahead of him. And then… the truth came out about who he was, and Finn didn’t know if he was more angry at Brody or sorry for Rachel, who still didn’t know.
“He was a liar, Rach,” he said, dropping his voice even though the surrounding tables were empty. “He hid some big things from you, and you deserved a whole lot better than that.” He could almost predict the line of questioning that would follow this, and he spoke again before she could say anything, “And… I’d rather not talk about it right now, if that’s okay.” Finn didn’t trust himself to keep his cool, not in public, let alone about something like this. It took a lot to get him worked up, but once he did get angry it wasn’t something to be taken lightly. He gave an apologetic half-shrug, blowing out a sigh as their server came around with two plates. “It’s a long story, I guess.”