Hey guys! This is one of the one-shots I had in my head for a long time. I sort of forgot about it until New Years Eve night when I was watching some of my friends illegally set off fireworks in a public park. I started it a couple of different ways until I found a style that I liked, which is definitely more lighthearted than usual. :) The only lyric was thrown in last minute and it's from the very song that's named this chapter, but there are a couple of other Easter Eggs just for fun. Enjoy!
Happy New Year
Taking shots at the mention of the word "New York" on New Year's Eve was certainly a foolish idea, Rachel thought to herself. She should have stopped her parents when she first heard the idea.
"You're really pretty," Rachel suddenly heard in her ear. She turned her head only to see Shelby leaning towards her, staring. Her eyes seemed oddly big as they scanned over her, highlighted by the faint dark makeup she wore, and they weren't blinking much. Shelby never stared like this; it was both flattering and unnerving. Rachel tried not to react as Shelby reached forward to tuck a hair behind her ear affectionately.
It had been her dad's idea to invite Shelby over for the holiday. Since she lived on the opposite side of town, it had been agreed that she should just stay the night, and because she had gone along with the idea of sleeping over one of her daddies convinced her to join them on a bottle of wine. Shelby, in spite of Rachel's dads' theories of her drinking habits, refused to drink if she had to care for baby Beth, which is how Rachel ended up with babysitting her unofficial little sister. It's also how she came to have the attention of a rather inebriated Shelby.
Admittedly, Rachel was partially responsible for her bio mom's current level of drunkenness. After a couple glasses of wine, Rachel started noticing how she didn't seem so uptight, how her laughing became louder and how her stories became longer. Wanting to hear everything about Shelby's Broadway experiences, Rachel was more than happy to keep her glass full, even when they ran out of wine and went for the liquor cabinet.
A few drinks in, Rachel started comparing what her mother was like with and without alcohol. Sober Shelby would only ever scratch the surface of her disappointing Broadway career. Drunk Shelby told colorful tales of chit-chatting and bumping shoulders with future Tony Award winners in the stiff chairs outside of auditions, of making out with casting directors (even after failed auditions) and of years of food poisoning from some of the best-tasting food she had ever had. She described every minute detail of passing Bernadette Peters on the street when they were only a couple theatres away from each other for a short, two-week run, she told of being mugged while camping-out for the last tickets to a sold-out show, of living with four struggling artists in a tiny two-bedroom apartment, and how lonely she would get in the city that never sleeps.
Sober Shelby had to be coerced in to singing around other people. Drunk Shelby burst into song whenever a new one entered her head or played on TV. Sober Shelby would rather eat her own hand than casually talk about her feelings. Drunk Shelby didn't even realize she was doing it. And it's not like Sober Shelby would ever be sitting against Rachel on the couch, petting her head and cooing, "So beautiful. I just love looking at you."
And really, what self-respecting diva-in-the-making wouldn't love hearing that?
"I'm like you," Rachel smiled, reminding her.
"No," Shelby said candidly with a shake of her head while sitting back in the couch cushions and sipping her bourbon (she had insisted on bourbon when the tequila ran out.). "People don't like looking at me. They get nervous. But you don't scare anyone because you're just so pretty and open and happy. Don't ever change, okay? Because you're perfect."
A half an hour ago she wasn't feeling particularly beautiful in her kid's-size cupcake PJs, her hair in a low-slung ponytail and without even a smudge of foundation on her face. But now, even with the hot blush on her cheeks and her estranged mother's creepy eye contact, she couldn't help but feel good about herself. "Thanks Shelby."
Shelby seemed content and went back to watching the countdown on TV. Even after a couple of hours of growing demonstrativeness, Rachel was still speechless by the rush of compliments sent her way and she felt warm inside. Sober Shelby always bottled herself up and Rachel could see her resist saying things she wanted to say for whatever reason – it was always so disappointing – but Drunk Shelby was just so open.
Perhaps it was why she avoided drinking?
When Rachel and Shelby first started spending time together earlier that summer and fall, things were rocky and for good reason: Shelby was downright confusing and rather frustrating to boot. It exhausted Rachel to no end. But her therapist had insisted that she do her best to look at things from Shelby's point of view as often as possible – and with Shelby it was almost always impossible, she was so closed-off – and so she remained patient. Rachel knew her patience paid off halfway through her dads' tequila.
In the morning, Shelby would probably be humiliated and hide again in her figurative reinforced fortress behind her figurative wall, especially if she remembered all of the personal things she shared. Like that sometimes, when she was drifting off out of consciousness with baby Beth in her arms, she would forget where she was and imagine that she was 24 years old again and the baby was Rachel. She let slip that sometimes when she feels sad she looks down at her phone and in hopes that Rachel had texted her that day. She admitted that she constantly struggles to find her role in Rachel's life, that she never really knew whether she should act like a mother, a friend, a sister or just a teacher.
Rachel didn't really feel bad for tricking Shelby into letting go her stubborn inhibitions; sometimes to get what one wants, one has to manipulate the variables. It was just a little liquor. It's not like she was sending someone to a crack house or anything. (She coughed at the memory.)
Beth whined in her arms, reminding Rachel that she was supposed to be trying to feed her. Because of Shelby, she had almost forgotten about the still slightly warm bottle in her hand and she brought it up for Beth to take. Rachel really did like baby Beth. That seemed to come to a surprise to everyone, but really, even though the baby had been Rachel's ex-boyfriend's love child with her arch-nemesis who had tricked the boy she was in love with into thinking that it had been his thus keeping him from pursuing a relationship with her, Beth just adored her. All she had to do was open her mouth and Beth's blue eyes were on her like a gold-star sticker to paper. As a future star, it was all Rachel could ask for in a pseudo sister. Also, she could pass on all her of knowledge to the child so that one day she and Beth could take on the world ala Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly—well, without murdering anyone, of course.
Truth be told, the baby was rather boring most of the time. By the time Rachel was her age, she was already winning singing competitions, but at eight or so months Beth was proving to be rather ordinary (no surprise considering the source). Once again Rachel told herself to be patient. She was a hard act to follow. Given that she was already falling behind, Rachel did her best to not compare the two of them lest Beth be doomed to fail from the start. Instead, she simply dedicated herself to helping Beth catch up. The oversaturation of various musical-theatre scores she constantly provided was groundwork for that.
When she had first offered to babysit, she had it all planned out: She'd sing a lullaby, put Beth down for the night and go watch the countdown with everyone else. Turned out having tons of excitement on the big-screen television and three escalating drunks weren't very soothing to the baby, two of whom were currently arguing about Carson Daly like he was a presidential candidate.
"What's got their panties in a bunch?" Shelby asked, pointing her hummus-covered pita (Rachel was in charge of the snacks this year, otherwise her dads would provide nothing but cocktail weenies and cheese cubes to eat) at the gay couple – spaced a couple feet apart from one another – on the other sofa. It was the first point Shelby had even noticed that her dads were acting rather frosty with one another. Rachel shrugged; they had been bickering all day. Shelby rolled her eyes, clearly unsatisfied with Rachel's response, and startled her when she called out to her dads loudly, "Hey! What's got your panties in a bunch?"
The men stopped squabbling and both turned to glare at her for interrupting them as she did.
Shelby's face was all-business. "So? What is it? Did you finally figure out that reality TV is annoying?"
"No!" Daddy pushed his glasses up his nose and sat up straight in his chair to face her properly. "Despite your strong opinions Shelby, there's nothing wrong with enjoying a few episodes of Say Yes to the Dress or some Millionaire Matchmaker—"
"Yes there is," Shelby responded bluntly.
"—but regardless, that's not what's upsetting me."
Rachel, suddenly more interested now that Drunk Shelby was involved, watched her dad slump back into the couch cushion with arms crossed and give her papa a dirty look. Papa simply lifted his chin and waved one of his long hands in Daddy's direction as if he were being ridiculous.
Shelby appeared to be bored.
"You're really going to make me ask, aren't you?" she said, raising one of her neat eyebrows as her eyes moved between them. She put her half-eaten pita back down on her paper plate and slapped her hands together a couple times as if to rid them of crumbs. "Fine. What, dear Ephraim, is annoying you?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
That seemed pretty resolute, so Rachel turned her focus back on the TV's countdown – which was less than ten minutes away from ringing in the New Year – until she heard Shelby say, "That's okay. I'll just ask him then. Thomas, what's eating your boyfriend?"
"You know what? No," Daddy said, shooting forward to the end of his seat with his arms out wide as if he intended on blocking any words between the other two adults. "Let me tell you. Earlier today we were talking about when they have a Lifetime movie about us—"
"If," Papa's deep voice interrupted.
"—who would play us," Daddy finished, his voice tight as he glared at Papa.
"Well, I said that guy from Law and Order: Criminal Intent, the one who replaced that other one…"
"Wait, which one? The guy from Independence Day? And Jurassic Park?"
"Yup, that's the one," Papa said with a boorish chuckle.
Rachel was lost; she didn't watch any of these things. Clearly whoever this guy was had never been on Broadway, for none of them were saying so. Rachel was finding herself disappointed in her daddy's choice.
"What's the big deal?"
"Ha, she said 'big deal'," Papa laughed heartily, pointing a derisive finger at his partner from the hand wrapped around his glass tumbler. Rachel saw some of the amber liquid slosh over the rim onto his hand but he didn't seem to notice.
"This is why I'm mad!" Daddy said. "He says the actor is too tall to play me! I'm sure that's just his way of saying he's too handsome—"
"I keep telling him he's cute, but he thinks this is all about his looks," Papa told Shelby, who was becoming noticeably more entertained by the minute.
"I hate it when you call me 'cute'! I'm a man, dammit!"
"A very short man," Shelby reminded him in a straightforward manner. Daddy flushed angrily at this. "Hey, don't get mad, I'm just saying Tom has a point about the height thing. Get Matty Broderick to play you or something."
"'Matty'?" Rachel quoted, intrigued. She loved The Producers!
"We had drinks once," Shelby said hastily, before getting back on point. "Think about it— who cooler than Ferris Bueller? He's cute—"
Her mother went on a date with Matthew Broderick and didn't seem to want to brag about it? Would she talk about it if she drank some more? Rachel slid the bourbon bottle closer to Shelby's glass with her foot.
"I should have known you'd take his side," Daddy said huffily. "I'm done talking about this."
Shelby grinned over her shoulder to Rachel. "They get sassy when mixed with whiskey— I love it!"
"Just be quiet and drink, Shelby. They've said 'New York' six times in the amount of time it took you to rudely point out how short and cute I am."
"Bottoms up then," she said, holding up her glass in salute before draining it completely. She grimaced before dropping the cup gracelessly on the coffee table.
Rachel, noticing her daddy's genuine unhappiness, couldn't help but feel bad for him. He was clearly distressed by this whole thing. If it were her, she'd care greatly who would fill her shoes to tell her story in her on-screen biography. In fact, she had already decided that no such girl currently existed in Hollywood worthy of the role, but one day when a young, incredibly talented ingénue with a Barbra-esque nose would come forth looking to prove herself, Rachel knew she'd still be just as careful in choosing as her dad obviously had for this alien- and dinosaur-movie guy.
She didn't even notice Shelby staring at her again until she glanced up to see the countdown pass the two-minute point.
"You okay?" she asked, surprisingly gentle, just before her dad turned up the volume to hear the roaring, excited crowds on screen.
Rachel took a moment to try and articulate what she was thinking. "He just seems really upset by this," she said, looking up at her daddy, who was staring at the screen with a deep frown on his face and his arms crossed tightly against his chest. Her papa was ignoring him too. She occupied herself brushing over Beth's soft curls rather than looking up at her mother's patient face as she muttered, "I just realized I don't want them to fight anymore, not when we're about to start a new year."
The room was silent as they all watched the final minute tick away, but with only ten seconds left, Shelby stood up from her seat, taking a moment to establish her balance, and rounded the coffee table in the direction of her fathers' sofa. Rachel watched in confusion, then in horror, as Shelby unexpectedly dropped herself down on her papa's lap, a wide grin spread across her face, and leaned forward to catch his mouth with her own right as Times Square erupted with a deafening din.
Was she seeing this wrong? Was Shelby Corcoran straddling her papa and making out with him on her living room couch? And was he actually kissing her back? Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!
She wasn't saying that out loud, was she?
"What the hell are you doing?" Daddy exclaimed, reaching forward and shoving Shelby's shoulder with enough force to cause himself to fall backward. She merely twisted to look at him, a sly smirk pulling at her lips. Papa looked dazed, clearly still recovering from the surprise smooch, but not revolted at all like he should have been.
"You're supposed to kiss someone at midnight," she said to Daddy casually. She tossed some hair away from her face, her other hand playfully lingering around the back of Papa's head. "Don't be jealous, you get one too."
And before Rachel even processed what had only just happened, Shelby climbed off of Papa and crawled on top of Daddy, her head dipping down to attack his parted mouth eagerly. Rachel was sure Daddy was going to push her away but then, to make matters so much worse, he also responded willingly. His arms snaked up around her torso to pulled her closer as the kiss became more vigorous and Rachel became more nauseous.
Oh my god. Rachel covered Beth's eyes with her fingers. No child should witness this; Rachel included, but it was like watching a dreadful audition in that it just was impossible to turn away. The baby seemed to take the hint and curled her head against Rachel's chest, whining slightly as she gripped handfuls of Rachel's top.
"Get your ass off of my man!" Papa growled, knocking the woman off of Daddy so she dropped off the sofa with a "thump" and a winded grunt. Papa, his expression oddly intense, was now the one who hovered over Daddy.
Daddy's breathing was heavy through his exhilarated grin. "Your man, huh?" he said wickedly, grabbing the taller man by his knit lapels and yanking him downward to where Shelby had just been between his legs. They both seemed eager to pick up where she had left them off.
As the two men were hungrily kissing in front of them, the woman in question stood up, straightening her sweater that was pushed disturbingly high up her lean abdomen, and inspected the scene in front of her with an astonishing calmness in the same way Rachel had seen her watch Vocal Adrenaline rehearse. She wiped a finger under her bottom lip to rid herself of any smeared lipstick and seemed satisfied with her work.
Oh my god, was she seeing tongue? Rachel crammed her eyes shut, unwilling to witness any more combinations of her parents making out tonight. Just because she was 16 years old didn't mean she was ready to be privy to this.
"Looks like it's time for bed," Shelby's quiet voice said in front of her, the smell of fermented wheat still lingering on her breath. Beth was suddenly lifted from her lap and Rachel looked up to see Shelby bouncing her baby with a sweet smile. "Come on Rachel, you too."
She held out a hand and pulled Rachel to her feet. Rachel made the mistake of glancing over at her dads who, despite being fully clothed and in front of their daughter, were moving against one another in a way that was entirely too improper for a family room couch. Rachel felt Shelby's hand touch her chin and push it upward, closing the mouth she had no idea had been hanging open.
The teen looked up at her stupidly. "How did—why did—what's—?"
"Gay men are my specialty. Do yourself a favor and fall asleep to some music tonight. Trust me on this one," Shelby said with a wink. "It's going to be a happy new year!"
"Oh gross," Rachel mumbled, stomping her slippered feet slightly as she stormed out behind Shelby and Beth toward the stairs. Even when they arrived at her bedroom doorway, Rachel found she was unable to stop gaping at her mother. "Did you do that all on purpose?"
"You thought it was an accident?" Shelby teased.
"No, I mean, did you actually know what you were doing?"
"Oh sweetie," she said in a way that was meant to make Rachel feel naive. She leaned forward and pressed her still slightly reddened lips to her daughter's forehead (was that supposed to be her own New Year's kiss?) in a silent "good night" before she pulled away and made her away across the hall to the guestroom. Rachel stared after her in befuddled amazement. Shelby turned her head in the doorway, her gaze impressively lucid, and chuckled, "I'm not that drunk."
Better late than never, right? :)