Title: Til the Stars go Blue
Pairing: Rachel Berry/Quinn "Charlie" Fabray
Disclaimer: Glee: Wish it was, but it isn't. Only honorable intentions at work and play.
Summary: What would happen if post-Glee actress Rachel Berry and post high-school Quinn Fabray, now going by Charlie, were forced by circumstances to spend six long days in the wilderness together?
A/N: This is weirdly AU. Rachel is Rachel, but Quinn is a post-Quinn, Charlie. For purposes of this tale the days of Glee exist, but as separate experiences for each character. Glee kids will enter the picture, but not much back story for anyone in this given the time frame. Not my first writing rodeo, but my first fanfic. I am flying without an editor – mistakes totally owned and I should know better. Any and all comments would be most welcome.
Til the Stars Go Blue
"Berry, you're doing it again. Remember when you told me to make it a point to tell you when you're being difficult. Well, you're doing it right now and for no reason other than you can. This is one of those things we've talked about."
Rachel Berry sighed heavily into the cell phone she was holding. She'd lost count of how many times she'd asked this same question.
"First of all, I don't recall ever making any such request," she said pointedly. "Second of all, is it too much to ask that you call me either Rachel or Ms. Berry? I mean, really."
There was a throaty chuckle from the other end of the conversation. This was familiar territory.
"And finally, I am not trying to be difficult, certainly not for the sake of just being difficult or for any other reason. I am simply trying to understand. You know I need structure. I need framework. I need to know the whys and hows in order to properly embrace the experience. Now, if you would be so kind as to indulge me and explain why you feel I should be doing this?"
"Because," replied the disembodied voice on the other end of the conversation, "If you want to have any chance of getting this role you will need to be able to convince them, I mean really convince them that you can be this person and that you can do some of these things. And right at this moment, Rachel, you cannot do either."
"But I am supposed to be able to do that after spending a few days traipsing around in the wilderness with some Grizzly McAdams?" Rachel said sardonically.
"Of course not, but at least you'll have some vague idea what you're talking about and what you're getting yourself into. It will provide you with a framework that you can build upon. Structure, if you will." The satisfied smirk was evident, even if it wasn't visible.
Rachel pursed her lips and tossed her hair. This wasn't going her way and she wasn't pleased. She most definitely did not care for having her own words come back to hobble her.
"Have you ever even seen a horse before, Rachel? I mean, besides on television?"
"Don't be ridiculous," she huffed loudly, rolling her eyes. "Of course I have. Hello, I've been to Central Park. They have those awful horse-drawn carriages. Those poor horses, the way they're treated, oh, it's shameful. And don't get me started on race tracks. And I'm from the Midwest, I've been to fairs. So to answer your question, yes, I'm very familiar with horses."
"Well my apologies then, clearly you're just a regular Annie McOakley. What was I even thinking?" Again, the unseen smirk is readily apparent.
"As much as I love that musical, I really don't appreciate your sarcasm," she chided. "Yes, suffice to say, I know about horses. I think we've established that. They're lovely, gentle creatures, apart from the fact that they smell and spit and no doubt shed."
"First of all, Pico del Gaucho, horses don't spit. Camels spit. This is precisely what I'm talking about. This is a really choice part, a star-maker even. But it will be a long, complicated shoot," the speaker explained. "Better to know if you're even up to this before you step into the whole process. Plus, this kind of self-directed workshop thing impresses the hell out of casting directors."
"Granted that is a valid, even, excellent point," she laughed, eyes flashing with new interest, "I can certainly see how it would be a good indication of my willingness to go that extra mile. And it clearly shows my willingness to be a team player."
Rachel frowned as there came a sudden chortling, coughing and sputtering from the other end of the conversation.
"Are you alright?" she asked after a moment.
"Yes, something just went down the wrong way," the voice rasped out again. "So you were saying something about being a team player?" The last phrase came out a squeaked gasping wheeze and Rachel narrowed her eyes behind her sunglasses.
"I was merely stating... oh, never mind."
"Listen Berry," the voice softened. "Estrellita, all teasing aside, be a trooper here. Give this your all. Have a little fun with it. I know it only has one syllable, but even you must know about having fun," she urged sincerely. "Don't be..."
"I know, my usual self," Rachel muttered, she knew the speech well.
"Actually, I was gonna say don't be afraid," her agent/manager countered. "But yeah, now that you mention it, don't be your usual uptight, overly-analytical, hyper-critical, controlling, pain in the ass self. "
"Goodness knows, I love you, too," she replied with a faint smile and then she clicked off the call.
She stared at her phone as though seeing it for the first time. How was she going to be able to charge her phone? Her iPod? What on earth was she going to do with herself for six days in this wilderness? She stared out the window and watched the scenery roll by.
Please, she thought, please don't let this so-called expert be some Neanderthal. She didn't know which was worse: some hairy, smelly mountain man or some worn-out leathery old cowpoke convinced that women are only good for making biscuits and tending children.
Rachel sighed and leaned her head back against the seat, closing her eyes. Maybe this could be a good thing. She felt as though her career was spinning faster than ever, but nothing ever moved forward. She was high-centered and couldn't find any traction. She needed something to give her momentum again so she could make the changes she needed to make to get her career moving to the next level.
Once that was under way again then may she could work on the shambles of her personal life. She needed something to remind her that she could be special. She laughed mirthlessly, but she wasn't sure which idea she found to be the more absurd: that she was, in fact, still trying to feel special after all this time, or that she would find anything in this god-forsaken backwoods that could help her realize such a thing.
Charlie stared down and shuffled her feet, toeing the dirt and loose gravel into little scattered piles. Would it be too much to hope for that this one would be different? At this point, she'd even settle for someone with a natural affinity. At least then it wouldn't be the usual shriek, flail and cry episode over the slightest little thing? A bug, a raindrop, a poorly-worded off-hand remark.
Please, just this once, don't let it be some surgically-enhanced, god forbid chemically-addicted, cookie-cutter starlet without a single functioning brain cell. Was that really so much to ask for?
Pursing her lips, she plowed her toe through the silt walls she'd constructed, raking them smooth again.
The sleek black Town Car rolled up the long entry drive, its tires crunching over the loose gravel, and glided smoothly to a stop kicking up a feathery plum of dust. The driver jumped out and opened the door, offering his hand to Rachel so she could step down. She, of course, ignored it, but when her foot wobbled on the gravel she thought better of the decision and grabbed hold to get her balance.
"Thank you," she said with a slight smile.
"Yes, Miss." the driver replied, "I'll get your things for you."
He stepped to the opened trunk and pulled out her luggage. Behind the raised trunk lid, he chuckled quietly to himself. Her luggage alone told him that this little lady was in for a very rude awakening in very short order.
"Can you get those for me?" she called. It was more of a statement than a question.
"Of course, Miss," the driver replied.
"I'll take these," she remarked, picking up her purse, her messenger bag and grabbing the handle of her make-up bag. "Surely there's some desk or something where you check in?" she asked, eyes scanning the sparse crowd milling about.
"Yes, Miss, probably straight that way. Mind your step now," he cautioned.
She started off in the direction he indicated, tugging her designer suitcase behind her.
He watched her take a few wobbling steps, sighed, and then started after her. They'd be lucky if she didn't break a heel or, worse, an ankle right in the freaking parking lot.
Frankly, the sooner he could hand her off and make her someone else's problem, the better. She wasn't the worst passenger he'd ever dealt with, but she was definitely a solid contender.
Charlie brought her head up and swept her gaze across the parking lot. They were late, but that wasn't all that out of the ordinary what with travel conditions, flight schedules and things as they were. The first thing you learn when dealing with the public is patience makes your life a whole lot simpler. Their itinerary was pretty flexible, at least for the day.
She was just about to check her watch again when she found her. There was no mistaking her and it had nothing to do with the tall gentleman in the dark suit following along behind her. It was the way she carried herself.
Based on appearances, she certainly wasn't the standard issue as far as Hollywood ingenues went. Normally there were leggy, bottle blondes, all bust and no brains. Even with heels, it was obvious she was quite petite, probably not much over five foot. She was fit, too. Charlie might even go as far as to say athletic in build, ample in all the right places, but not overflowing. She was surprisingly leggy for someone so short and she worked that assert to its best advantage.
She wore over-sized sunglasses that covered much of her face, but Charlie could still tell she was pretty, strikingly so. Her lips alone were enough to launch a thousand fantasies. No, this was not your standard Hollywood issue and Charlie took that as a glimmer of hope.
Charlie's elation was dimmed slightly as she noticed her trailing one of those wheeled suitcases along behind her. It was gaudy and trendy, two things Charlie loathed. It wobbled and teetered precariously over the gravel. No doubt it was stuffed to the gills with more of those useless four-inch heels that she was wearing which caused her to teeter and wobble as well. She'd be lucky if she didn't twist an ankle right off the bat.
"Oh boy," Charlie thought to herself, rolling her eyes slightly as a bemused smile played over her lips. "This was going to be interesting."
Rachel stopped and scanned the crowd, not sure of what to do next. As a rule, she didn't do well with the unfamiliar and unplanned. She liked the security that came with rote and routine. It was one of the areas she was working on. To grow you had to step away from the familiar and make new experiences, explore new possibilities. She was ready for new experiences. Within reason, of course.
"Miss, I'm going to go see if I can locate your party for you," the driver offered.
"Oh yes, that would be fine, thank you," Rachel acknowledged dismissively.
He walked away quickly, but she didn't bother to see which direction he took. Instead she pulled her out her phone and immediately frowned noticing that there was no signal.
"Perfect, " she muttered under her breath. So much for new experiences. Just something else to hate about this place. Hoping it was just a temporary thing she reluctantly slipped the phone back into her purse. To pass the time, she scanned the people milling about her. Hidden behind her sunglasses, she let her eyes flickered across each face, ruling them out as possible candidates one by one. Her gaze flickered briefly on a lanky, willowy blonde leaning against the wall across the courtyard then moved on.
Something about the woman tugged at her and she pulled back for a closer look. Though she wore virtually no make up and her wardrobe looked like something out of a mail order hunting catalog, the girl was easily one of the most beautiful women Rachel had ever seen. Her blonde hair was swept back in a loosely braided pony tail. Rachel found herself imagining how lovely it would be spilling down loose around her shoulders. She flushed at the thought and her pulse quickened. She immediately turned away, lowering her eyes. This was not the first pretty girl to make Rachel blush and her heart flutter but it was also the last distraction she needed at the moment.
Though she tried to busy her attention elsewhere, Rachel was soon watching again, now out of the corner of her eye in a vague attempt at subtlety. Rachel Berry didn't do subtle. The woman was dressed in faded jeans and a khaki work shirt over a simple pastel t-shirt. It appeared she had a pair of work gloves stuffed in the back pocket of her jeans.
Rachel found herself wondering what on earth someone like could possibly be doing here in the middle of Hella Nowhere. There must be some flaw – maybe she only had one remaining tooth or a lazy eye that veer always to the right. Unable to make herself look away Rachel brushed her gaze lazily up the girl's torso again to her face.
She was too far away to tell but she decided that green eyes would be perfect for her coloring. What was she doing now, Rachel wondered? It looked like she was, was it, yes, she was smirking. Startled, Rachel's own eyes widened behind her glasses and she flushed deeply as she now realized the girl's stare was fixed in her direction. She had totally been caught staring. When the girl pushed herself off the wall and started toward her, Rachel felt her stomach free fall to her feet.
"Oh shit, shit," Rachel sputtered under her breath as she tried to act busy, no small feat given she was standing alone with absolutely nothing to feign interest in. She pretty much succeeded in turning a hand-wring spastic circle before she heard it.
"Hello," the blonde said warmly as she approached.
"Oh, hello," Rachel responded, trying to appear nonchalant though her face was blazing and her heart was pounding. She couldn't even begin to process any other areas that throbbed unexpectedly. She felt herself literally vibrating with sudden nervous energy.
"Can I help you with something?," the blonde asked. At this distance, Rachel could see that her eyes were, in fact, hazel and flawless and her teeth were sparkling and perfect.
" Do you... um, work here?," Rachel asked, somewhat confused. Her fingers plucked nervously at the hem of her shirt.
"Mmm, sort-of, " the blonde responded, cryptically.
Who sort-of works somewhere? Rachel wondered, her brow knitting anxiously. She took a half-step back, putting space between herself and the stranger. Beautiful or not, maybe this was just some random lunatic who had wandered in from the hills and was now scouting out her next victim.
"My driver, he went to find someone for me," Rachel volunteered, her finger absently pointing off over her shoulder. "He'll be right back." Good, now she knew that she would be missed if someone were to snatch her and carry her away into the hills. One could never be too careful, she reasoned.
"Oh, I see," the woman replied, the corners of her mouth twitching briefly.
Was she disappointed? She had a slight air of serial killer about her. Something in the eyes.
"I'm supposed to be meeting someone. Some...man, a trail boss or guide or something of that nature,." Rachel said, absently twirling a lock of hair around her index finger and trying not to make eye contact.
Charlie found herself thinking how much the stunning brunette looked like a shy schoolgirl in that moment.
"A guide, huh? I see, " Charlie said knowingly.
"Yes, it's for..." Rachel met her eyes again and stammered, finding herself at a loss to explain what the hell she was even doing there. It was something that didn't happen very often and she didn't care for it at all.
"Well, if you don't mind my saying," Charlie said, leaning in and lowering her voice as though sharing a secret. Rachel moved a little closer to hear her. "You don't really strike me as the type who would need a trail guide." Charlie winked quickly and stepped back again.
Was that a, did she just wink?
"I'm not... I mean, I just... really. I mean, it's just that, actually well, it's complicated," Rachel confessed, frustrated to find herself so completely inarticulate.
"The best things always are," Charlie suggested with a smile. She found the stammering to be immensely endearing.
"I...I don't want to be here," Rachel blurted out finally much to her horror.
Charlie's eyes widened, taken aback by the sudden confession.
"Okay," she remarked like it was a perfectly reasonable statement.
"I mean, they're making me," Rachel stammered by way of further explanation.
" I see," Charlie nodded sympathetically, brows furrowed in concern. This was probably the truth, but she was surprised to hear the girl actually admit it and to a complete stranger no less.
Rachel closed her eyes, cursing herself for her latest episode of word vomit. "Oh, fuck me," she muttered and then literally clapped her hand over her mouth realizing she'd spoken aloud.
Charlie looked away quickly, hand to her own mouth, stifling a laugh.
Rachel pursed her lips and frantically tried to collect her scattered thoughts. Where the hell had her driver vanished to because she definitely needed rescuing? She didn't know whether it was because she was a little bit psychic or a little bit psychotic, but whichever the case, when she finally opened her eyes, he was walking toward them.
"Oh great, here he is now, " she gushed excitedly, pretending as though the last few moments of awkward conversation never happened. "Hi..." It was then that Rachel realized that she had no idea what his name was. "Uh... what did they say? Did you find him?"
Charlie could tell from the look on the driver's face that she wasn't the only one puzzled by the girl's odd behavior. He glanced over in Charlie's direction and gave her a cursory once-over. She simply smiled and shrugged.
"Yes, they gave me a name, Miss," he said slowly, not certain of what her reaction might be or what to make of the lovely blonde now joining their conversation.
Oh for heaven's sake, had everyone lost their mind? Rachel was rapidly approaching the end of her wits and patience and found herself gritting her teeth to keep from snapping. Normally by this time, there would have been fireworks of the petulant tyrant kind, but for reasons unknown, she felt the need to be on her best behavior in front of this girl.
" Yes, and...?" she asked through clenched teeth, failing to fully stifle her annoyance.
The gentleman was clearly weighing his options, choosing his words carefully.
Charlie sighed and decided it was probably a good time to take control of the situation. "Excuse me," she interrupted, breaking the tension. "Hi, is there something I can help with?"
"Miss?" he implored and gratefully turned his attention to Charlie.
"You mentioned they gave you a name? Perhaps I can help you with it," she coaxed pleasantly.
"Oh, yes Miss. They said that Miss Berry's agency had made arrangements with, uh, Q. Fay...bray Outfitters and that I would need to ask after Charlie."
"Actually, it's pronounced Fuh...bray, short "a," then long "A," Charlie explained patiently, something she was quite used to doing. "The "Q" stands for Quinn. As for asking for Charlie, I guess you're supposed to be meeting me. I'm Charlie."
Mouth agape, Rachel actually looked as though someone had slapped her.
"But you're a, I mean, I was expecting...and but, you're a...and you're so...," she finally stammered.
"Yes, yes I know. It's true, I am. I am a girl," Charlie smiled and nodded. It certainly wasn't the first time someone had reacted this way and no doubt would not be the last.
After proper introductions were made, Charlie spent the better part of the next 10 minutes patiently running down her "resume" by way of assuring all parties that she was not only who she claimed to be, but that she was totally qualified for the task at hand.
Rachel offered very little in the way of comment. She opened her mouth to speak at one point, but then seemed to think better of it. Once the driver seemed satisfied that all everyone was on the level and, more importantly, that everyone was staying put, he excused himself. If she wasn't mistaken, Charlie sensed he seemed more than a little happy to be leaving one Miss Rachel Berry in her care.
"Come on," Charlie suggested to Rachel now that they were on their own. "Let's get you situated and I'll kind of explain where we go from here, okay?"
"Fine," Rachel stated flatly. She picked up her purse and was clearly waiting for Charlie to take the lead. It was obvious that Rachel had no intentions of carrying her own bags at this point so Charlie nodded her head to the nearest bellhop.
With Charlie leading the way they located the front desk and Rachel checked in. Charlie instructed the bellhop take Rachel's luggage on up to her suite. In the meanwhile, Charlie escorted Rachel out to the small cafe and secured a quiet corner table so they could have their discussion in relative peace.
Rachel slumped into the nearest chair, clearly disinterested in much of anything that Charlie had to offer. Nonplussed, Charlie sat down across the table from her. After a moment, she excused herself and returned with drinks – a large bottled water for Rachel and an extra large coffee for herself. She placed the water in front of Rachel, then also added a glass of ice and a small dish filled with assorted fruit slices next to it.
"Thank you," Rachel murmured, smiling slightly at the fruit garnishes. At least she's considerate, she noted to herself.
As she reclaimed her seat Charlie was extremely pleased to see that Rachel had finally removed her sunglasses and was now regarding her coolly through expressive chocolate-brown eyes. Her gaze, even in passing, was intense. She was also please to see that she had been right, the girl was stunning. Not what some would call a conventional beauty, but everything clicked – the full sensuous, pouting lips, the tumbling luxurious chestnut curls, the lithe physique, the attitude – it all worked. And her eyes, those exquisite soulful, bottomless dark brown doe eyes. Charlie couldn't help but think to herself that Ms. Berry, no, Rachel had save the best for last.
"Look Rachel, I know you don't really want to be here," Charlie said immediately, trying to ease the tension, "I'm sure none of this was your idea and this kind of stuff just isn't your... thing."
Rachel shifted in her seat and reached out to grab the water bottle, fingers anxiously fiddling with the cap.
"I totally get it and that's fine, really. But someone, your agent, your people, someone must have had a good reason for sending you here." Charlie watched her closely and could tell she was at least listening. "I know they're serious about all this. I mean, I don't come cheap, so they're pretty serious," Charlie added. Charlie laughed quickly so that Rachel would know that she wasn't just being arrogant, at least not entirely.
Rachel flickered her eyes up briefly and actually offered a smile. It was the first one that Charlie had seen since meeting the girl and it was another item to add to the checklist of things that just worked.
"Rachel, I promise you, we'll get through this," Charlie continued sincerely, "Everything will be fine and you can get back to your life. Okay?"
"Okay, " Rachel replied softly, nodding her head.
Charlie continued with her speech, explaining to Rachel what they would be doing and trying to prepare her for everything. At some point she noticed that the girl was still fidgeting with the cap of the water bottle and it dawned on Charlie that she was trying to open it and failing miserably. Without pause in the conversation, Charlie calmly reach across the table, twisted the cap off and placed the bottle and cap back on the table.
Rachel blinked rapidly, looked at the cap and smiled.
Nearly an hour later Charlie was tired of talking and clearly Rachel was tired of listening so she walked her up to her suite. Charlie waited patiently outside her door to make certain she could get inside. As it swung open, she could see the bellhop had placed her bags on the dressers for her.
"Look," Charlie said seriously, "I have no idea what you've got in those bags, but I'm willing to bet it's not anything you'll really want to wear for the next few days. I made a list of the things you'll need, okay?"
She held out a sheet of paper to Rachel who closed her hand over it without looking at it.
"You're going to need to have comfortable clothes. Comfortable clothes, practical shoes, and think layers, that's the only thing that's important for the next few days. Where we're going no one really cares how you look. Sorry to say, the only person who's going to be seeing it is, well, me. And think natural fibers, you know, like cotton – they dry quicker."
Rachel nodded, but Charlie could clearly tell that she was back to being overwhelmed.
The truth was that Rachel felt numb. She had been listening to Charlie talk pretty much non-stop for well over an hour and she just needed peace and quiet. She needed to be alone to process everything.
"Look do you want me to stay and help you sort through this?"
Rachel shook her head robotically.
|"Are you sure? Really, I'm happy to help."
Oh my god, please just go away, Rachel hissed inwardly. She realized if she didn't do or say something that Charlie was never going to leave.
"No," Rachel croaked out hoarsely and cleared her throat. "No, I assure you I will be fine. I can manage this quite well on my own, but thank you for the offer.."
"Alright then. If you're sure?" Charlie offered, reluctantly.
Rachel quickly nodded retreating back to her non-verbal fugue.
"I'll leave you to it then," Charlie said, still obviously concerned. "I'll see you in the morning, 6 AM. Have a good night, Rachel.."
Rachel offered her a wane smile. "Goodnight, Ms Fabray," she replied unenthusiastically.
Charlie turned and started down the hall and heard the door click softly closed behind her. She pushed the down arrow on the elevator and rocked back and forth on her heels waiting for the doors to open, lost in her own thoughts. She wasn't sure quite what to do with herself now. It seemed highly unlikely that this girl could well, get her shit together, literally. If she showed up six ways wrong tomorrow, then what?
The doors parted and Charlie stepped into the elevator. She really wanted to march right back up there and check the list off herself, but she knew that it was out of her hands. As the elevator started down, Charlie replayed their conversation from earlier and stuck on Rachel's remark, "And you're so..." She wondered where Rachel had been going with that thought before she stopped herself.