Rachel pulled up behind an unfamiliar car, shutting off her ignition and stepping into the blisteringly hot afternoon. She crinkled her nose immediately; just because she was going to enjoy the Hudmel “End of Summer” Barbeque didn’t mean she had to enjoy the stench of grilling animal flesh.
She was hardly to their backyard when Finn caught sight of her. He tore his attention from the (clearly uninteresting) conversation he was having with some unfamiliar woman and shot her a wide grin. Finn excused himself and jogged over to Rachel, lifting her up and spinning her around until her sundress fluttered around both of them. “Hey babe,” he breathed, setting her down. “You look really pretty today.”
“You look awfully handsome yourself, Finn,” she replied, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. “Sorry I couldn’t get here earlier. My dads are coming later with the potato salad.”
“That’s cool. I’m just glad you’re here now.” He leaned down and muttered in her ear, “I was getting really sick of Aunt Beth’s ferret stories.”
She patted his arm in mock-sympathy, cooing back, “You poor thing. I don’t know how you managed to be okay after being subjected to such terror as a few stories about ferrets.”
“She was talking about them for two hours, Rach! Two hours!”
She giggled and held his face, still close from whispering, pulling him in for a sweet kiss. “Your patience is a virtue, babe. Anyone else here yet?”
“Naw, just family. Blaine’s here, but I haven’t seen him and Kurt for awhile. I think most people our age are waiting until later tonight to show. You hungry?”
“I’m starving,” she nodded. “But I was planning on waiting for the potato salad to have something to eat.”
“Burt!!” Finn called, ignoring her commentary. “Do you have me and Rachel’s burgers done yet?” He pulled her over to the grill, Rachel staring hard at Finn’s bicep. It was a lot more interesting of a sight than the innocent hunks of cow sizzling just a few feet away.
“Sure do, kid, just now. Hey, Rachel. Good timing!”
She looked over at Burt, smiling back, “Hello, Mr. Hummel! Thank you for letting me come to your barbeque.”
“Aw, you would have come even if I’d forbid it, knowing Finn. Here, put some artificial-replacement-for-meat on your bones.” He handed a plate of two off-color patties on empty buns to Rachel, and she smiled back as Finn led her to the condiments. The second they were turned away from Burt, Rachel’s face turned to panic and her grip moved from Finn’s hand to his arm, tightening like a vice.
“Holy crap, Rach, I kind of need that arm!”
“Finn,” she hissed, staring down at the burgers as if they were going to bite her. “I can’t tell which is yours!”
“The burgers! The burgers, Finn! If I can’t tell which is yours and which is mine, I may end up accidentally eating yours. And while I trust I would be able to tell the difference the moment actual cow flesh touched my tongue, even with good intentions, I can’t promise that I won’t be haunted for weeks with dreams of cows, horrified that they misplaced their trust in me. And sometimes, committed vegans like myself have violent, physical reactions to ingesting meat. I don’t want to get sick, Finn! Not this close to the resuming show choir season! Or worst of all…what if I like it?!”
Finn tilted his head back and laughed, much to Rachel’s frustration. She dropped his arm and scolded, “This is no laughing matter, Finn Hudson.”
“It doesn’t matter, babe. They’re both fake-burgers. I want the bigger one, though.” He picked up the bigger burger and slapped on two slices of cheese before moving on to the vegetables.
“…wait, why are you eating a veggie-burger? I thought you said they tasted like ‘cat puke and depression’?”
“They’re not that bad,” he admitted, picking one of his onions off his burger and putting it on Rachel’s, since he had too many. “And I figure it’s going to cost us less if we don’t have to buy two kinds of meat all the time. So I might as well get used to it, y’know?” He finished topping his burger with the top bun, then looked over at Rachel. Her burger was still completely bare, except for the onions Finn gave her. “I’m serious,” he laughed, “you can make your burger. It’s not contaminated.”
“You’re eating veggie-burgers for me?” she whispered, clutching her plate. “For our future financial security?”
“I think you’re making this out to be something bigger than it is, babe. I’d do a hell of a lot more than eat veggie-burgers for you and our financial security or whatever.”
She smiled sweetly at him, swallowing the lump in her throat. It was so unfair that she could manage to fall more in love with Finn Hudson every single day. She took a deep breath, trying to move past her inner sap, and started to layer vegetables on her own burger. “Maybe you can start with taking that cheese off and just sharing my diet completely!”
Finn raised his eyebrows, a half-smile forming on his lips. “Now, let’s not get crazy. Maybe one day, but I need this cheese to get over the cat-puke taste of the burger.”
Giggling, Rachel finished up her burger and followed Finn to the chips. “I was only kidding.”
He chuckled back, but Rachel didn’t miss his hand hovering by habit over the Doritos, then moving decisively to the much more vegan-friendly Lay’s.