I wasn't sure what brought me here tonight; places like this have never much been my scene. Alas, Benjamin was adamant about it, he's been trying to get me out of my apartment for months, and after turning him down over and over again, I was practically forced out of the house and into this crowded bar. A gay bar, in the middle of The Village.
And now that I'm actually here, I feel completely out of place. Don't get me wrong, I love all people, I mean I grew up with two gay fathers, and I personally like to think of my own sexuality as it's own fluid entity.
I've lived and I've loved both men and women in my lifetime, and so I know that it isn't that which is making me shake in my heels. Perhaps it's the twenty something half naked women dancing on poles to my immediate left. Yes, that's it. While I can appreciate physical beauty – something about sexual exuberance knocks me on edge. And so here I am…sitting in a small booth in the corner, sipping on a tonic water and lime as I watch the shenanigans unfurling themselves on the dance floor.
"Rachellllll darlinggg… get your ass out here on this dance floor!"
Benjamin is yelling at me now from the adjacent table. He is wasted – I find it absolutely endearing and hilarious. But I doubt that I'll oblige him – and so I continue to sip on my drink as I play with the napkins at the table. And then the next sip from my straw draws bubbles and gurgling, and when I look down I frown – it's empty. And so, I get up and make my way up out of the booth and through the dance floor towards the bar. Benjamin grabs my hand quickly and asks me to grab him another Sex on the Beach. I nod and smile brightly as I untangle myself and approach the bartender.
The bar is crowded, hell it's close to 12am now. I laugh at the drunken couples around me, happy for their intoxicated happiness before catching sight of a tangle of blonde hair behind the counter. I yell out to flag her down for my drink order, and before she approaches I dig through my purse for a $20. It isn't until I look up – that I realize that my entire world has been turned completely on its axis.
She spots me at the same time, tumbler in hand, and she almost drops it in her shock. Her hazel eyes are exactly as I remember them – god, has it really been five years? She stares back at me intensely, I'm surprised to find that her countenance is simply that of surprise – she holds none of the maliciousness that I would have expected perhaps. It almost knocks me off of my feet at how gorgeous she is – photographs have simply never done Quinn Fabray justice. How could I have forgotten?
I all but stammer as my body is frozen to the spot; her mouth hangs open slightly and she finally blinks her now uncharacteristically warm eyes. And before she can respond a drunken guy with glitter on his face calls for a drink at the opposite end of the bar. She turns and smiles at him before turning wide eyes back on me again. I watch her as she shakes her head and steadies herself. I do the same. And when she finally meets my eyes again – her familiar Fabray wall is up and entering the fray.
"Rachel Berry…It's been a while. Long time no see."
I want to stammer in her face. Long time no see? For Barbra's sake, it's been five years. How she remains so calm and nonchalant, I can never know, but I simply nod like an idiot and open and close my mouth in return. She must still think I'm an idiot, surely.
"Rachel, I need your drink order."
Her eyes are shifting across the bar at all of the waiting customers and I finally blink through the shock, and nod my head. When I finally open my mouth again, I can barely recognize my own voice.
"Uh, um. A dirty martini would be most appreciated. And a sex on the whatever drink? One of those fruity things?"
Quinn smiles – and goodness gracious, if I had forgotten how gorgeous the blonde was, I had surely forgotten how jaw droppingly stunning she is when she really smiles. Perhaps I had never really known. Quinn Fabray wasn't known for her happy demeanor at McKinley no matter how hard she may have tried.
"You don't drink much do you Rachel?"
I nod my head, but I'm not exactly sure what she just said, I'm thoroughly distracted. But before I can snap out of it all, I feel a soft hand pushing something into my arm that is draped over the bar-top. I blink out of my thoughts and look down to find my two ordered drinks in front of me.
"We'll make it on the house Berry. For old times sake – good seeing you."
And if I weren't shocked off of my rocker before, I am even more so now. And I'm surprised at how saddened I am suddenly at the fact that she referred to me as 'Berry' again – I rather liked Rachel…but nonetheless, I can tell that she's busy and that she needs to get back to work, and so I smile tentatively at her and my cheeks must be burning scarlet at my embarrassment.
"Thank you Quinn."
She nods and smiles back - another one of those sun-blinding ones – goodness, if she keeps doing that I'm going to melt into a pool of strawberry jelly on this very dance floor. I tip her the $20 anyways and watch as she turns her attention onto another patron – silently wishing she was still focused on me. I stare after her for an un-allotted period of time before I feel a strong hand slapping me playfully on the butt from behind. I turn to yell into the perpetrators face but quiet my voice when I lay eyes on Benjamin. He's smiling at me and reaching for his drink – taking it and sipping on it leisurely as he lazily lays a hand across his boyfriend Oliver's slender waist.
"Rachel, babe – way to take a century. If I knew you'd be that long, I would have gotten drinks myself."
I'm a bit put off by his commentary, so I simply take another tentative sip of my martini. Blech – why did I order this? All I know is that it sounds thoroughly classy and appealing in TV shows like Mad Men. But now that I have it – I am completely disgusted. I should have known better, I detest hard alcohol – not excluding the fact that it's a killer on the vocal chords. But suddenly I'm thrown out of my pout as Benjamin downs the rest of his drink and heads back to the bar, dragging me and Oliver along with him.
"Bartender lady! Could you be a darling and head this way when you get a second?"
He trills loudly against the counter, and I could have died against the countertop at his crassness. Quinn turns and grins at him – she gives him a devilish smirk before settling her eyes back on me – it shocks me at how quickly they change – the swimming hazel turns softly to a cool green, and her irises settle on me warmly. I smile in return – sure that she's captured me in a single look. God, how was this all even real?
Benjamin turns from Quinn to me and back again, his grin growing wilder as he howls into the stuffy bar air. Oliver grips him tighter as he wolf whistles against his boyfriends shoulder.
"She's a stunner babe."
"Woooo…don't let me interfere darling!"
My cheeks are burning, because this isn't what that was at all – and I'm now mortified, but I'm rooted in place as I watch Quinn walk towards us unfazed. Well – not completely unfazed, her cheekbones give her away, but aside from the light blush there, she is cool and collected. Gorgeous, calculated, Quinn Fabray. She smiles at Benjamin and Oliver teasingly before asking them for their drink orders.
"What'll it be boys? Something to tantalize your taste buds?"
"Ohhhh, you're a feisty one– I like her, Olive!"
I watch as Oliver nods graciously, cooing after Quinn all in the while. I could have died right then and there, but before I'm even granted that single opportunity, Quinn is staring back at me, her hand brushing nonchalantly against mine as she reaches for a wet rag as we connect eyes.
"Need anything else Rachel?"
"Um..uh…I – don't think, maybe…but not exactly. I um, I have a show tomorrow evening."
When did I melt into a blubbering baboon? Quinn smiles at me and pours me a tonic water and lime, with a spritz of cranberry. I take it from her graciously and sip on it – it was absolutely divine. She is still looking at me when I look up again.
"Thank you again…I'm sorry – this is all so surreal."
"It's not everyday you run into your adolescent arch-enemy in a New York City gay bar – so I think surrealism aside, you're forgiven."
What? I nod and move my head frantically, but I'm still trying to comprehend everything that just flowed so eloquently from her mouth. She said it all so easily – as if none of it even mattered to her, which within itself is utterly baffling because the Quinn Fabray that I once knew would have never been as accepting.
Frankly, she would have never made it to New York. And so it is with a new conviction that I strike up the courage to ask my next question – now that we are here, and somehow we have become amicable – I can't help but theorize answers – and although we aren't really friends, my personality favors bluntness.
"Quinn I apologize in advance for this – but my curiosity is piqued, and timidity has never been one of my favored attributes…but why are you here? In New York? Hell, working at a gay bar as a bartender? I'm sorry if I seem blunt – but the last time we saw each other was at graduation, you were far from amicable. I'm just surprised, that's all."
I watch her as her shoulders fell in a shrug, she is still smiling, it's a closed lip smirk – but a warm gesture nonetheless, and it confuses me even further. But before I can gain a proper answer, she's being called to the other end of the bar. I watch her shoulders rise up in work mode, and she ticks her tongue in annoyance at the interruption.
However her body language tells me enough – she would have answered – she would have answered wholeheartedly. I shrug my shoulders in return, watching her turn to make her way back into the fray. And to my surprise just as she's walking away she turns on her feet and catches me with a look that I can't quite place. Worry, Awe, Fear, Happiness, Hope?
And before I can overthink it she's yelling at me from where she's rooted herself.
"I –Rachel. ..I'm off at 1:30…If you want to stick around…or talk… or whatever."
And before I can nod my very shocked "okay" in return, Oliver and Benjamin are surrounding me and pretending to dry hump the air around my torso, while singing "I Want To Sex You Up" by Color Me Badd. I bury my face in my hands and watch through parted fingers as Quinn laughs while turning her head – making her way toward a new customer at the bar, all the while shaking her head in time with the house music playing in the background. God, what have I just gotten myself into?
"Hey babe, me and Olive are heading home. It's been a wildddd night, and it's time for our beauty rest."
I laugh at Benjamin and Oliver, the two of them holding the other tightly by the waist. Ben's hair is a tangled mess as Oliver runs his hands through it in drunken daze – it's one of the cutest things I have ever seen. The two of them are clearly hammered, but I hail a cab for them all the same and wave goodbye as they make their way into the backseat and drive off down the street. I look at my cell phone, it is now 1:42am, and as I lean against the front wall of the bar I can't help but think, "what am I doing?"
And before I can even begin to acquiesce to the inevitable whirlpool of self-doubt, there is a blonde saddling up to me by my right side; nudging me softly against the shoulder- before laughing into the cold November air around us.
I look up at those anchoring hazel eyes and just get lost again. I smile back like a dork and nod my head as I lean off of the wall, and start to head down the street – I know she'll follow and so I keep a steady, even pace as my fingers curl up inside of my pea coat pockets.
"So – you were asking me a question earlier."
I'm still flabbergasted by just how different this Quinn Fabray is – it's as if I never knew her. And it's unsettling, not in a bad way – but simply in a way where you feel as though you're treading along shallow water – shallow water that you once thought was deep and vindictive, but somehow – it may have all just been an illusion.
"I did. You're actually going to answer?"
"Of course. Why wouldn't I?"
"I just – you aren't what I expected."
I watch as Quinn pulls out a pair of black rimmed glasses from her shoulder bag and place them over her eyes as if she's always worn glasses. Has she always worn those? I actually wouldn't know, but nonetheless it's just another thing to add to my ever-growing list of how much Quinn Fabray has really changed since we last saw each other.
"It's been five years Rachel – did you still expect me to be the same bitter, broken seventeen year old from McKinley? I like to think that I've changed since then – and I couldn't be happier with where I've ended up in my life."
"I'm happy for you Quinn. Really."
"Thanks Rachel – but I still haven't actually answered your question, I'd like to tell you if you still want to hear."
I nod – and scrunch my eyebrows, My fingertips are cold, and I have no idea where we are walking to at the moment, but I couldn't care less because I'm with Quinn, and she's about to really open up to me for the first time.
"Quinn I've always cared – and I'll never stop listening."
Quinn smiles warmly down into my eyes again – this time letting them soak me up completely – is it strange that I suddenly feel so naked? So vulnerable to her? As if she has my heart clenched between her slender fingertips, waiting to breathe life into whatever it is I'm offering, or simply waiting to watch it wither away.
"Well…let me start by saying that I'm openly gay now. It's something that I discovered about myself not long before graduation. And while I have your attention – my life in Lima, at McKinley is probably the most trying thing that I've ever overcome. I didn't know who I was – I wasn't sure about who or what to believe in, I had no one to confide in. And it took every ounce of me to make it out of that cesspoole of mediocrity.
I made it to the University of Rochester, and I just got lost in myself up there. I studied abroad in Peru for a year, and I met women who just loved. And I stopped caring about what other people thought about me. – there's a moment when you're floundering, where you have the option of either accepting your fate as is, or going for broke. I went for broke. And now – I'm in grad school at NYU for public relations – and this bartending job is just something to keep paychecks and tip money in my pockets. Aside from that – I'm still Quinn, I'm just five years wiser than I once was – and I've finally found my way back to a place where I can simply breathe."
She had just talked. And I simply listened with a swelling heart. This girl had endured so much – and I have no right to swoon over her or care for that matter. But there has always been a piece of my heart that belonged to Quinn Fabray. Our trials in high school were violent and vindictive and stinging – and yet, I always pined for the blonde, I attempted over and over again to be the one to save her. At the time I had no idea what propelled my motives – at sixteen I would have pegged it all on glee club success and friendship. But ever since leaving Lima – and essentially losing Quinn, I've known. I've always known.
"It's a lot I know… I'm sorry to just dump it all on you. But you're the first person from my past besides Santana and Brittany to know. And it feels like a heaviness has been lifted from my heart…I've been meaning to find you."
"Yea. Santana lives in DC you know – Johns Hopkins Medical School. She's a closet nerd that one. Anyway – she took B out here to see a play on Broadway for her birthday. And she doesn't know shit about Broadway and so she just picked the play by whatever name sounded the most interesting online…lo and behold – it was your play, just you."
"Santana and Brittany saw me!…on stage? I have to send out thank you letters to them first thing in the morning, why didn't they say anything!"
"Cool your balls Berry. I think San was just overwhelmed – I mean, five years is a long time, and you all never really got along … but back on track – she told me about it the next morning, and she said you were breathtaking. Ever since then, I've been on a mission to track you down – and to at least build some of the bridges I burned down a long time ago."
"Oh..wow, this is a lot Quinn."
"I'm sorry – but I just want you to know that Santana was right – you were breathtaking up there. It was like you were home."
I couldn't believe any of it – Quinn Fabray was melting my heart as I stood there on the concrete sidewalk staring into her red-frosty cheeks and gorgeous pristine face. Could this be real? Am I simply living within a dream?
"No, I don't mean that in a negative way – it's just a lot, and it means so much that you would even care to see me perform, or simply just care about me at all. And I knew you back then Quinn – I tried to get through to you, and I tried and I felt like such a failure because I watched you go…But you're here now, standing in front of me stronger and more beautiful than I've ever seen you before – and I simply don't know what to do with myself. I'm –"
She places a cold hand on my chin and pulls my gaze up then. She's looking at me so intensely I think I might combust under her hazel gaze. I watch her as she dusts a piece of hair out of my chilled face – and suddenly my heart catches in my throat. I can no longer form words as I got lost within her once again. How did this keep happening? How could I find myself so swept off of this earth by the blonde when we have barely rekindled any form of a friendship only a mere few hours ago?
Everything just seems so backwards, and strange, and uncharted – but oddly it's all so very right. As if every missing jigsaw puzzle piece of my life have suddenly all come into place at the exact same moment. And just when I didn't think that my brain could turn further into mush – there are cool, soft lips meeting mine so slowly I want to scream out in joy.
My brain cut off. And I just feel. The air keeps whipping my hair around my face – and all I can smell and taste is Quinn. She's gorgeous and soft, and rigid in all of the right places – and she's so feminine I want to swoon. It's a kiss that encumbers everything I thought it should be when I was sixteen and so confused about my feelings and intentions regarding the blonde. That confusion is gone now – it melted away a long time ago. And I can't help but fall apart in her arms. Her lips draw a pattern against my own and I'm all but lost at sea.
She finally breaks apart and I dip my forehead onto her shoulder. There is a wetness on my cheek – and as the cold air passes again it makes itself known. They are tears, but in my state I don't know whose they could possibly be, my own or hers. She wraps her slender arms around me tightly and we just sway together on the pavement – wrapped up in each other completely as if the world around us didn't matter.
"I'm sorry Rachel – for who I was."
"Don't apologize, because this is now – just hold me for a little bit longer."
We stand there in silence for a few more minutes before she separates an arm and hails a cab. I don't remember much as she helps me climb in, and before I can fathom the sequence of events we are at her apartment building, and she's dragging me inside by the hand – wrapping me up in her completely as we fall onto her bed. It smells so much like Quinn that I want to cry. And I simply crawl up and kiss her deeply as I fall into her. I lift my head and scan her face – trailing along her cheeks and nose, stopping myself to slowly take off her glasses.
"I love these."
I say as I place her black frames on the night table, now caressing her face intently as I stare deeply into the pools of hazel swirling beneath me.
"I hate my glasses – I only wear them when I'm in between contacts. I'm getting my new pair tomorrow in the mail."
"No, wear these all the time."
I croon as I move to cover her completely again. I feel her smile into my neck before trailing feather light kisses there. And I just fall into her, I fall into her so completely that I can't stop the impact of it all. And it's simply one of the best feelings I've had in a long time. Much too long – and she's unraveling me at the seams…god, what am I doing?