I'm Still the Same
Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Glee.
AN: My only excuse is- I couldn't sleep. And so this happened. I have split it into two because it got pretty long and the second part is MAJOR SMUT.
I would love to know what you think!
The bit in italics is a memory.
The hall was decorated with various large photos of New Directions and streamers of garishly bright colours.
It was so horribly cliché but maybe that was what made it so great.
They had always been cheesy, and no group had been quite like it since.
Back then his motto had always been to embrace the cheese, because really, what was the point in pretending that singing and dancing as a show choir wasn't about that?
And now, or so he had gathered, he was transported back to that time when New Directions had taken the journey with him through fake babies, and divorce, and unrequited love for a certain wife of a dentist, with this reunion.
It was more effort, when they graduated.
Singing Sensation took a lot more persuasion to gel as a group and work together as a musical team. It took most of his limited experience to push them to second place at Regionals two years running.
But he relished the opportunity to use excuses like 'I'm sorry, I have my commitments with my job and my glee club- I just can't pursue a serious relationship right now', at yet another nowhere date or hook up.
Rachel Berry- no- Puckerman, interrupted his mindless thoughts.
"Mr Schue? It's so good to see you!"
Her greeting was heartfelt, and his chest squeezed at the same time her hand squeezed his arm.
"You know you can call me Will now Rachel", he said with a grin. "It's been what- 4 years?"
Like he had to ask. He knew exactly how long it had been.
4 years and still no closer to knowing just what it was he felt like he was waiting for.
She seemed much more relaxed now, her smile was a lot less 'show smile' and a lot more -easy going and just happy- smile.
He was happy for her and squashed the pang of jealousy into a hard bitter lump inside him.
"I'm glad you got the invite alright… I was a little dubious about letting Noah phone round everybody but he insisted- said I'd done enough organising already to get the hall and…"
Will zoned out a bit, and this young woman before him had something that he had never experienced.
And she knew it was right, without unreasonable compromise or lack of trust.
The jealousy writhed in its confines.
"Is everyone here?" He asked quickly, moving into the hall out of the doorway slightly.
She nodded with a proud smile. "Everyone's here", she confirmed.
Noah Puckerman approached them, reaching a hand out from behind Rachel to shake Will's.
Will felt a surge of pride at that boyish arrogancy replaced with mature responsibility of the man he saw before him.
"Just in time dude", Puck informed him. "The guys were just about to uncover the food".
He went round and chatted to everyone with a plate piled high with every type of sandwich imaginable.
He smiled politely at the mentions of fiancés, girlfriends, boyfriends, tried not to act too surprised at the ring on Brittany's finger as her fingers laced with Artie's.
Something was missing. (Or someone?)
Finn was giving some kind of action replay of… whatever, and he slipped out the back of the hall to stand outside in the cool evening air, taking great lung fulls of it.
"It's a bit intense isn't it?"
His head whipped round, and just two feet away a girl stood in the shadow of the wall, leaning against it with model like casualness.
"Yeah", he breathed.
She regarded him curiously for a prolonged moment, and he took the opportunity to run his eyes slowly down her body, right down to the black high heels and back up to her silken chocolate hair.
As his gaze returned to her face, she met it with a gratuitous half-smile and the back of his neck prickled with heat.
"You don't recognise me do you?" She asked curiously, with a lilt of amusement in her voice.
His heart skipped a beat and his mind flashed through the various greetings he had already made that evening.
"It's Quinn", she prompted him gently. "Quinn Fabray".
The heat slipped right down his back and began spreading up again at her lyrical introduction, and he couldn't stop it, even though panic zipped through his body simultaneously.
"I'm-so-sorry", he rushed out, "I didn't- your hair… it used to be blonde".
He could have kicked himself.
Of course she knew it used to be blonde- it was her hair.
She laughed quietly.
"I've only had it done a couple of weeks, I'm still getting used to it myself", she admitted.
Then, after a mortified pause (on his part).
"I just needed a change you know… needed to move on from … stuff…"
She smiled up at him and he strained to stop himself looking at her lips.
"Why are you so sorry?" she asked him directly, and turned herself to be facing him fully.
He broke off, and scratched the back of his head nervously.
He blinked rapidly as a surge of sensation overwhelmed his senses.
She'd used his first name without prompt, and the way the single syllable rolled of her tongue past those full, pink lips.
"I shouldn't have looked at you like that I'm sorry", he rushed out, holding his breath at the end.
Her eyebrow twitched upwards.
"I liked it", she said, almost under her breath.
The air left him in a woosh.
"Why don't we head inside and grab a couple of drinks?" He suggested weakly. "We can catch up".
He genuinely wanted to know how she'd been, what she'd been doing.
And he knew he would be actually listening to her answers.
She nodded, and his hand gravitated to the small of her back as she brushed past him, so close the smell of her perfume lingered on his shirt sleeve.
She flashed him a cheeky smile over her shoulder that had him all hot and bothered again and he stumbled to keep up with her with his hand pressing more firmly against the material of her dress.
Quinn chose a table right in the corner, mostly hidden by a display of poster sized photobooth pictures of the New Directions members at nationals in senior year.
It wasn't that he didn't want to be there.
He was pleased to see everyone again, and wanted to be enthusiastic about their achievements and stories but found it so hard because he had nothing to show for himself in return.
Once they were all Lima Losers together.
Now he was the only one.
And he was craving Quinn's sympathy, craving her sweet voice to tell him that it would be alright.
He craved her company more than he knew why.
"So", she said, sitting down and sliding his plastic cup of punch across the table.
"So", he echoed, and she was 23, and her eyes still held that captivating wisdom from her teenage years.
"I took that music scholarship to Ohio State… well- you know that part".
He gulped and nodded, a tidal wave of memories brought to the forefront of his mind.
Her eager smile, as he agreed to help her with her audition pieces; sitting at the piano with her perched on the lid, their voices blending perfectly and filling every corner of the choir room with their beautiful harmonies.
Laughing as though he wasn't achingly lonely and she wasn't helplessly lost.
The way she had asked for dancing coaching despite the fact that she was a better dancer than he was, and the way she had 'only grasped' the concepts late in the afternoon, after a good couple of hours of practise.
Preferring to arrange extra sessions with Quinn rather than be outside in the best Spring weather since 1967.
The squeeze-you-so-tight-and-lift-you-off-the-ground hugs.
It started off because they had managed an impressively technical lift, and he had caught her with a laugh of triumph and her arms had slipped around him.
(The lift was nothing to do with her auditions, they had perfected those long ago).
The hugs filled something inside him.
She filled something inside him.
She graduated and cried and kissed his wet, salty cheek and he only realised how much of a friend she had become to him after she was gone.
"I majored in French…"
His eyes widened in surprise and she gave a half nod.
"I wanted to convert it to teaching… but my ex-boyfriend persuaded me to move in with him, and I missed the application deadline, and then he decided to reveal just how much of a complete jerk he was…"
She shrugged at the compassion in his eyes.
"I'd put everything on hold for him", she muttered. "I work in a café right now, and have done for well over a year- it's not what I want to be doing but I can't quite bring myself to do what I want to be doing".
She sighed heavily.
"It's as though I'm waiting for something- you know?"
He did know.
Her tone changed to false brightness. "So that's my sad little story- what about you?"
He gave a pained smile.
"I'm still the same", he said heavily.
She watched him down his drink and took his empty glass to go get him another.
He stopped her with a hand on her arm.
"No don't thanks… I don't want to drink any more".
"It's probably wise", she returned, sitting down again, "That punch is at least a third rum- if not more".
"Did Santana make it?" He asked, and she laughed as she nodded in confirmation.
"How old are you Will?" She asked suddenly, her eyes clear as she met his.
"Does it bother you?" He asked carefully, well aware that he was leering at her again.
"No", she said firmly. "It didn't affect our friendship and it shouldn't affect… anything else".
He shifted in his seat under the probing warmth of those hazel eyes.
"I missed being friends with you", he said quietly. "I wish we would have kept in contact".
"We're here now", she reminded him.
He didn't have to wait anymore.
"I'm 34- no- sorry- ha- I'm 35".
"When was your birthday?"
He squirmed a little.
He made a face and a light dawned across her expression.
"Is it your birthday today?"
He fidgeted again and gave a half twitch-half nod of affirmation.
She pouted and spoke fiercely.
"Okay then, as it's your birthday, you get to decide whether I drag you over to the microphone and tell everyone, and have them all sing for you… or, I drag you off and buy you a cake and candles because I just haven't eaten a week's worth of finger sandwiches already".
His knee knocked against hers under the table.
"Er… the second one".
She beamed at him, and it was infectious, and his birthday was readily improving already.
"I could do with one of your hugs anyway", she said decidedly, and he followed her closely, much more closely than was necessary as they slipped unnoticed out of the back of the hall.
"So where are you living now?" He asked.
He needed to see her more often, he could breathe again, she was the welcome break in reality, he relished in the chance to laugh freely again.
He could with her.
She pointed out her car.
"Um… well, I'm gunna stay with Mercedes and Kurt for a while, and their respective others… But before they go back they're staying in Columbus for a bit at Harry's aunt's place, so I guess…"
"You can stay with me", he offered quickly.
She paused in adjusting the wing mirror.
"For as long as you need", he clarified.
"Are you sure?"
He desperately wanted her to take up his offer, and was already planning a list of movies he wanted to watch with her, places he wanted to go in Lima that seemed so much less boring at the thought of not going there alone.
"Of course I'm sure!"
He grinned. "You can cook right? And clean bathrooms and stuff… oh and the kitchen floor needs a bit of a scrub…"
She laughed with him, and all he could think about was how it had been much much too long since they had done that.
"Thank you", she said sincerely, starting the car and catching his eye in the interior mirror. "I guess that means this cake I get you is going to have to be a pretty monster cake".
He wrinkled his nose.
He wanted to say that it was enough just her being there.
He was still good friends with Shannon Beiste, and there were a couple of guys in the languages department that he went out for the occasional beer with.
But they were nothing like Quinn Fabray.
He watched her grow up in high school, from the petty head cheerleader who cared about nothing but her own popularity, to the selfless young woman who became somewhat of an agony aunt for the glee club, and easily made friends once that haughty façade was dropped.
"Is chocolate alright?" She questioned, and he hadn't been watching where they were going, but he was more than happy to just let it happen.
He hummed in approval.
"I'm a bit of a chocolate addict", he informed her. "Diet starts tomorrow though eh!"
"You don't need to diet", she said. "You're in great shape".
It was suddenly hard to breathe at the flirty glance she gave him, before turning back to the road ahead.
And he suddenly wanted her more than he ever had done before.
Squashing that down was harder than it should have been.
The expanse of flawless creamy skin of her thigh called louder and louder to him as her dress hitched further and further up her leg.
She caught him staring again, but he didn't try to hide that he had been, instead smiling slowly and holding her wondering gaze until she had to look back to turn off at the store.
"I feel a bit overdressed to go shopping", she joked, parking deftly.
"You look amazing", he complimented, and his voice came out a lot deeper and hoarser than he had imagined, and she tucked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear and simply smiled at him.
"So there's no one special in your life right now?"
She found the candles on the shelf and turned around, looking up at him through her eyelashes.
There was definitely hopefulness in her voice.
And he was hopeful too.
A great friendship could just have been the precursor to something even greater.
Something he had been waiting for.
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