Something that should have been posted a long time ago... part 1/3
It's the same routine.
She's not ungrateful. Never. She's worked her ass off to get to where she is. Junior Account Executive at one of the most well respected advertising agencies in her city. In the world, really. It wasn't by luck or chance that the position fell into her lap. She charmed just about every person she crossed. She was voted Most Likely to Succeed for a reason. She still feels a sense of pride swell in her chest when she thinks about it. She covets the title. It feels almost as good as being crowned Prom Queen senior year.
She's proud of herself because she overcame just about everything she was worried about holding her back. She got over her insecurities, she refused to settle, and she became the person she wanted to be.
There's probably one person she could thank for that. She probably would, if she ever got the chance.
Quinn put Ohio in her rearview mirror the second she graduated from college. She didn't need it anymore. She had everything she could ever want in Los Angeles. Sure, she kept in touch with the people she needed to, but once her mother moved away from Lima, there was really nothing there for her.
She landed an internship, was offered a full time position, and has been working her way up ever since. She's good at what she does. She knows that she's damn lucky to be the youngest Junior Account Executive. She also knows that she's damn lucky to be given the opportunity that she's been given.
It doesn't mean that she's not empty inside.
She sits at the round table and smiles as her boss tells a story she's heard a thousand times. It's always the same story, she laughs just the same, and their company is none the wiser. The restaurant patrons are slowly starting to continue onto their next destinations as Manhattan starts to come alive for the night. It is, after all, a Saturday night. Quinn is wining and dining potential clients with a few of her colleagues, spirits are high and she has a good feeling about everything. She needs this to go well, it's her first real test.
If she lands this deal, she'll be promoted. Promotions are all she has right now.
She flew into New York earlier that morning and she's flying back to Los Angeles the following. She's only in the city for less than 24 hours but she finds herself wishing it could be longer. She loves it here. The atmosphere, especially.
She continues to laugh while she inserts her perfectly executed comment into her boss's story. The table roars to life, fists hit the dark mahogany wood, and a few glasses even rattle. Quinn sits back in her chair, swearing on her life that it's a true story, and flashes her dazzling smile.
She breathes a silent sigh of relief when the attention focuses on someone else at the table. She's starting to lose her grip on reality. She's been faking it for so long that she's not even sure who she really is anymore.
She's not sure what makes her glance over to the bar in the dimly lit restaurant. Maybe it was the laugh, or maybe it was the sudden movement that caught her eye, but she's intrigued. Her attention focuses more clearly as she tries to see through ten or so people as they crowd around someone. A flash or two going off every few seconds. She's vaguely listening to whoever is talking but she's been doing this long enough to know her cues. A smile here, a nod there, occasionally a chuckle…it's too easy for her.
She excuses herself from the table after a few minutes, providing the adequate excuse of freshening up in the ladies room, and she slowly walks towards the bar. Her curiosity is getting the best of her, the few cocktails she has in her system fueling the uncharacteristic act. She just needs to make sure. The fact that she daydreamed about a scenario similar to this on the plane earlier that morning is pretty much the only thing that lets her believe she's crazy. Things don't happen like that…not to her. It hasn't happened the five previous times she's been in the city, why should this time be any different?
She doesn't stay up every night thinking about Rachel. But there's the occasional memory that will come back to her and she'll find herself wondering what the girl is doing. Rachel's the only one she didn't keep in touch with after high school. Why would she? They were acquaintances at best. They gave each other an awkward hug goodbye at her going away party towards the end of the summer and that's the last time she saw her.
Sometimes she finds herself missing Rachel. It's rare just as much as it is random, but it's normally when she's having an emotional and nostalgic day.
She gets closer to the bar and she's not sure she can believe her eyes.
"You're such a sweetheart! Thank you for coming to see the show! Who would you like me to make this out to?"
No, she most certainly cannot believe her eyes because sitting on a barstool in front of her is Rachel Berry, living out her dream.
Quinn waits until the slightly intoxicated fan is done getting a bar napkin signed by Rachel and then waits some more. Her mouth is open, that's for sure, and she's pretty sure she's rooted to her spot a few feet away from the brunette. Rachel turns back around and ducks her head into the broad shoulder sitting next to her as she giggles about something. Quinn tries to focus her attention on the gesture, tries to read what it is. Professional? Friendly? Something more? It's none of her business but she wants to know.
"Excuse me?" Quinn manages after a few more seconds of silently staring. "Rachel Berry?"
Rachel knows that voice. How could she ever forget it?
She spins around on the barstool and nearly falls off. Thank god for her co-star, she almost just face-planted in front of dozens of people.
"God." Rachel's mouth is dropped open just as wide as Quinn's. She regains her composure. "I mean," she shakes her head. "You're here…in New York…standing in front of me." She shakes her head some more, "I mean, hi."
Quinn feels just as confused as Rachel sounds, "Hi."
The girls stare at each other, both sporting the same curious look in their eyes as they take in the sight of an old acquaintance that reminds them of their former selves. The air between them shifted the second Rachel turned around in the barstool. They can both feel it. How could they not?
Rachel's seen every single person from her core group of friends from high school at least once since she left Lima and it's always been polite pleasantries and small catching up. With Quinn, it's heavy. It feels heavy, at least.
They've managed to communicate just about everything they were thinking with one ten second look.
Rachel's the first to snap out of it and it's only because her co-star coughs uncomfortably to get their attention.
The brunette turns to her left and realizes that she's very much surrounded by a room full of people.
"I'm terribly sorry. Kyle, this is Quinn Fabray, we were- um," Rachel stutters and glances back at Quinn for help, "She's my—"
"We went to high school together."
"Yes," Rachel nearly shouts, "Yes, of course, we went to high school together. Quinn, this is my co-star Kyle."
Kyle reaches his hand out for Quinn to take and the blonde slips back into the professional that she is, "Pleasure."
His boyish smile catches her attention, he reminds her of someone.
"So...what are you doing here in the city? Last I heard, you were a big hotshot in Los Angeles…" Rachel trails off as if she's still in high school, as if she still thinks she's inferior to Quinn.
The blonde frowns, only for a second, at the tone. Rachel's eyes drift down to the floor.
"Yes well, I don't have my face on a billboard like some people. I believe the title of 'big hotshot' belongs to you."
Rachel lights up as if she's completely forgotten the name she's made for herself.
"Are you talking about the ad in Times Square? It's not my favorite but it will do," Rachel teases back, happy to find that her risky joke is well-received.
"How modest is she?" Kyle jokes as he grabs Rachel's shoulders and shakes them a bit.
"You should have seen her in high school."
They all notice the fondness behind Quinn's tone but forget it just as quickly.
"So you haven't told me what you're doing here…"
"Oh right!" Quinn shifts and points across the room, "I'm here on business. Potential clients."
"Ah," Rachel nods. "How long are you in town for?"
Her hopeful tone shows no matter how hard she tries to curb it. Kyle glances at her, and Quinn finds herself studying the man in order to get a read on Rachel.
She brings her attention back to the brunette and swallows thickly, "Tomorrow morning."
Rachel nods thoughtfully, a small frown tugging at her lips before she masks it by reaching for her martini glass.
Quinn clears her throat, and points her thumb over her shoulder as an explanation, "Well, I should get back…"
"Right, of course!"
Rachel hops down off her high-top bar stool and nearly spills her drink. Kyle nods in Quinn's direction while his co-star struggles to get a hold of herself. She can be so obvious sometimes.
"Excuse me," Kyle interrupts, "I'm going to run to the bathroom but it was nice meeting you, Quinn."
Quinn smiles softly, her eyes only leaving Rachel's for a second, "It was nice meeting you, too."
Kyle excuses himself and disappears behind the corner, he actually does have to go to the bathroom but he decides to take the long way around the restaurant in order to give the old friends time to catch up.
Rachel's not sure why she's finding words so hard right now, as she stands before Quinn. She knows what she wants to say and she knows what she should say, why couldn't they ever just be the same thing when it came to the blonde.
"Do you have plans tonight?" Quinn cuts in before Rachel can embarrass herself any further.
"No!" she nearly shouts before reeling herself back in, "I mean, yes, actually, I do."
"Oh, right, of course you do…it was silly of me to—"
"Oh no- that's not- I didn't mean—"
Quinn waves her hand in dismissal, "It's okay. Enjoy the rest of your night, Rachel." She takes a step forward, "It was really great seeing you again."
Rachel falters at the words because it's almost as if Quinn means them. She does mean them.
"You too, Quinn. Good luck."
Quinn smiles once more before she backs away and finds her way back to the table full of rowdy businessmen. She practically throws herself back into her seat, still dazed and still confused, tuning out the conversations happening around her.
Kyle notes the empty martini glass in front of Rachel and the desperate way she's trying to flag down the busy bartender.
"You okay, kiddo?"
Rachel doesn't take her attention away from her task at hand, "No."
"An old friend?"
"You could say that."
Kyle manages to tug her arm hard enough to get her to turn and look at him, "Who is Quinn Fabray and why does she have you so flustered?"
Rachel sighs and lifts herself onto the barstool with a slouch, "Quinn Fabray is- Well, she's Quinn Fabray. I'm sorry but there's just no other way to explain it."
Kyle nods before sliding the rest of his martini over to the brunette, "She's charming."
"You have no idea," Rachel replies over the rim of the glass before taking a healthy sip. "I can't believe we're in the same city. No… the same restaurant after all this time."
"And that's a bad thing because…?"
"It's a terrible thing! Quinn Fabray is- is- well, you know, she's Quinn Fabray!"
"She seems kind of great."
Rachel sighs, "She does, doesn't she?"
"Were you friends in high school?
"She showed promising signs of being a human during her rare and brief moments of compassion."
"We liked the same boy. What do you think it means?"
"Ah, one of those, huh? Love triangle for the ages?"
"And then some. Quinn and I, we led complicated and dramatic lives in high school. I never thought I'd see her again."
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you've always wanted to see her again."
Rachel contemplates it, "She's always intrigued me."
"Do you know what I think?"
"I'm not sure I want to know what you think."
"She's in the city for one night. One night."
"A lot can happen in one night."
"You're not suggesting what I think you're suggesting, are you?"
Kyle shrugs before throwing another twenty down on the bar top, "I'm suggesting that you catch up with an old friend…what did you think I was suggesting?"
Rachel shakes her head out of her thoughts, "Exactly that. You're right, I'll see what her plans are for this evening."
"Invite her to Terry's," Kyle suggests.
Rachel considers it, "You think that would be appropriate? I'm not sure she would like hanging out with a bunch of theater people all night."
"Sounds like you're making excuses," he sing-songs in reply.
Rachel gasps, "I am not!"
He leans in close, "Invite her then."
Rachel hops back down off her barstool and takes a few steps towards the direction of Quinn's table but turns around almost immediately and runs into Kyle's strong build, "I'm scared."
"Because it's Quinn Fabray! She doesn't want to hang out with me, and besides, she's entertaining potential clients. She's busy."
Kyle looks over the short brunette's head, "Look, she's leaving."
Rachel turns around quickly to see for herself, not loving the feeling in her stomach at the news of Quinn's departure from the restaurant.
She acts on pure instinct and hurriedly walks over to the coat check where Quinn is putting on her black peacoat and tipping the employee.
"Hmm?" Quinn turns around to face the person calling her name and is slightly thrown off when she finds Rachel before her, "Oh, sorry."
"I didn't mean to frighten you."
Quinn starts buttoning her jacket, "It's fine."
"You're leaving?" Rachel frowns towards the door, "Without saying goodbye?"
Quinn feels guilty at the look on Rachel's face, her world has just been thrown upside down but it would have been rude of her to leave without saying goodbye, even if it happened by mistake.
"I was going to walk over and say goodbye," Quinn lies.
Rachel brightens a bit, "I was wondering, tonight one of my cast members is having a birthday party at his loft, I know you're only here for one night but I was hoping that you might be interested in joining me, if you're not doing anything else. I'll understand if you already have plans, and we wouldn't have to stay long, I just thought…"
During Rachel's long proposal, Quinn debates in her head which road to take, and as she looks back and forth between her colleagues and Rachel, she decidesd to take the safe path.
"Sorry, I'm sort of responsible for showing the clients a good time tonight," she stalls a bit, both from Rachel's deflated features and from not knowing what else to say. Telling her that they'll do something some other time is a bold face lie, and keeping in touch doesn't seem likely, "Um, why don't you give me the address and maybe I can swing by?"
They both know that it's a lie, just something to placate themselves for the time being. Quinn's a hard ass at work, rejecting people all the time but this is the first instance where she actually feels terrible about it and she'll do or say anything to make the feeling go away. If she has to lie to Rachel in order to provide false hope, then so be it.
Rachel tells her the address, knowing damn well that she probably won't see Quinn again until their high school reunion. And even then, it's unlikely.
They share an awkward hug, they don't exchange numbers, and Quinn doesn't even bother saying see you later.
Both girls know that they want to see the other one again but neither really knows how to go about it even if it's right in front of them.
Quinn lags behind the rest of their party while they walk down a random side street in the city. She feels crummy because she turned down Rachel's offer, she can't even put in the effort to laugh when someone makes a joke.
"Are you alright?" someone asks.
"I'm feeling a little under the weather," she responds with a small wince to her face to emphasize it.
"Why don't you go back to the hotel? Get some rest." Her boss proposes.
She actually winces this time. If she goes back to the hotel, she'll be entirely free and then she'll feel really guilty for not showing up to Rachel's friend's birthday party.
"That's okay," She forces a smile.
Her phone buzzes in her pocket and for a fluttering moment, she believes it's Rachel calling her. Impossible. They didn't exchange numbers.
"Hey Britt," she smiles as she drops back some more, signaling to her boss that she'll be a minute. "I'm happy you called."
"You always say that," Brittany replies, "Are you busy?"
Quinn looks to the clients and her colleagues chatting as they continue to slowly walk, "Nah, what's up?"
"What type of sugar do you put in the cookies again?"
Quinn chuckles, "Where's Santana?"
"In her room," Quinn can tell it's a lie.
"You know she doesn't like you baking when she's not home."
"I know but I want to make her cookies."
"Brown sugar but please remember to set the timer."
"Brown sugar, got it. Thanks."
"Hey, you okay?"
"What? Oh, yeah."
Quinn goes against her better judgment, "I have a question…"
"Say you have two different roads you can go on…one is risky and not what you're used to but you want to go down that road but you're just scared and the other is safe but you'll always be wondering what if. What road would you go on?"
"Where are these roads?"
"They're not actual roads, it's a metaphor."
"Meta for what?"
"I'd pick the one you want to go on…wait, the risky road, is it like on a cliff? Can you die?"
"You think so?"
"Okay, thanks Britt, have fun making your cookies. Don't eat the raw dough."
"I won't," She replies with what sounds like a wad of dough in her mouth.
Quinn slips the phone back into her pocket and speeds up a bit to catch up with everyone.
"I'm actually not feeling well at all so I think I'm going to head back," She begins. They look disappointed but sympathetic at the same time. "I hope you all had a nice evening and I look forward to hearing from you when I get back to the office in Los Angeles."
Her boss brings her in for a hug, "Well done tonight, Fabray. We'll discuss your performance back in LA. Get some rest." He winks as he pulls back and with one final goodbye, she turns and walks in the opposite direction of where her colleagues are walking.
She walks a bit, hoping to clear her head enough to think consciously about the decision she's about to make. She needs another drink.
"Two shots of tequila," she tells the bartender.
What if it was a pity invite? What if Rachel was just being nice because Quinn was in town for one night? Of course, that's the case. Rachel doesn't actually want her to show up to this party, how embarrassing of her to believe Rachel wants her there. But then again, what if she does?
The bartender nudges two shots towards her and Quinn throws some money on the counter and downs the first shot. It stings her throat and nostrils, causing her eyes to water a bit but she refuses to cough. It makes her chest feel cold and the rush goes right to her head.
Does she risk it? What's the worst that could happen? Rachel and her hang out for a night, it's not like they'll ever see each other again anyway. Maybe Rachel didn't even give her the right address. She's a professional, she's charmed the best of them. She can handle a party of complete strangers.
What else is she going to do? Sit in this bar and drink tequila? Go back to her hotel and rent a movie for $10? Catch up with her boss and spend the rest of the night kissing ass?
She stares up at the sports game on the television. A Knicks game. She frowns. She's used to seeing the Lakers' gold on her TV screen and attempts to flag down the bartender to tell him to change the channel. It hits her, she's not in Los Angeles. She's in New York. She's in New York for one night. The city that Rachel lives in. Is she really going to waste another minute?
She downs the second shot and shakes her head with a wince as it goes down, the adrenaline is unlike anything she's ever felt.
She walks back out the bar and hails the first cab she sees.
"Where to, Miss?"
"33rd and 3rd."
She sits back in the seat and waits, good or bad, she's doing this.
"She's not going to come," Rachel repeats between them as they walk towards Kyle's car.
Kyle continues to stay silent. If there's one thing he's learned about his costar, it's to let her ramble and work everything out on her own when she gets like this. He tends to act as an older brother only when he needs to.
"There's no way she's going to come. Why would I invite her? She already said no, why would I go and give her the address? It just makes me look pathetic." She huffs. "I'm Rachel Berry, no one makes me look pathetic."
Kyle pulls out his phone and sees that it's his move in the game he was playing with another friend.
"God, this is just so like her. She purposely won't come just to make me look like a fool."
Kyle smirks to himself, retaining most of the hate Rachel is throwing around in the air, but mostly concentrating on his Scrabble game.
"You don't even know, you can't just assume and accuse her."
"Yes, I can. It's what we do."
"So, now there's a 'we'? A few seconds ago, you were claiming that you were natural enemies from the start."
She rolls her eyes, "I'm an actress, I get paid for my exaggerations."
"I'm sure she'll show up."
"She has no reason to. If she invited me to a party in her city with her friends, I wouldn't go."
Kyle laughs out loud, "Of course, you would."
"Okay fine, but I know she won't come tonight."
"She looked pretty wonderstruck when she saw you earlier, I'm sure she'll show up."
Kyle chuckles to himself as Rachel turns to him with curious eyes. He nods and she faces forward again, a new look of determination.
"She'll show up, she has to…"
Well, the good news, Rachel gave her the right address. Bad news, her hand is frozen inches away from the door. The paralyzing fear of what ifs are getting the best of her. What if Rachel isn't here yet? What if she's not happy to see me?
The buzz from her tequila adrenaline rush is wearing off and she's not sure she can do this anymore.
She didn't even think to stop and get some kind of birthday present or bottle of wine for the party. She's slipping.
"Breathe," she reminds herself.
With her eyes still closed she brings her hand up to the door and knocks a few times before she can convince herself not to.
The door opens a few seconds later, a man, mid laugh greets her and opens the door wider for her to step in. She stands near the entrance, taking in her surroundings and trying to get a read on the place. At least she's dressed for the occasion.
There are people in small groups scattered around the open floored loft, a few people sitting on the couch watching the basketball game and a few others near a bar on the side of the room. She doesn't see Rachel right away and the panic sets in.
"You made it," she turns to her right and recognizes the man she was introduced to earlier.
Her eyes meet the baby browns from across the room, as if by magnetic force, and she smiles to herself. Rachel's expression doesn't change but her eyes are piercing. Eventually Rachel's shy smile shows and Quinn finds herself ducking her head just the slightest bit, a reaction she never expected to have when sharing gazes with her past.
"When I starred in Grease in high school, my drama teacher told me, you'll be on Broadway one day."
Off Broadway, Rachel wants to comment but she smiles tightly and nods.
How she gets stuck in these types of conversations baffle her. It was like all her friends brought random people who only wanted to speak to her about their dreams and aspirations. She doesn't have any advice to give them. She got to where she was today buy her own drive and will to succeed. She refused to take no for an answer. She's positive that this kid has already been told any advice she could offer him.
She's not trying to be bitter or mean, but she's bumming. Earlier in the morning, when she woke up, she was under the impression that her day would be routine like all the others. She wasn't exactly expecting Quinn Fabray to show her face after six years. She wasn't exactly expecting to still have Quinn on her mind, either. Especially after being at the party for nearly 20 minutes. She's not quite sure what she was expecting, but she hates the feeling of uncertainty. She's nearly positive that Quinn isn't going to show up but that sliver of hope, that soft pause when Quinn was trying to let her down easy, that's what she's holding onto.
It was almost as if Quinn might have been seriously considering it.
"Did you star in your high school productions?" the boy asks before snorting a laugh, "Of course you did, what am I saying? You're Rachel Berry."
Her mind is completely elsewhere at the moment.
It's on blonde hair that somehow always falls perfectly back into place, it's on the spotlight smile that would almost always follow her soft laugh, and it's on her hazel eyes that tended to gleam with mirth and mystery. Hazel eyes that she was starting to see everywhere she looked.
"Oh my god," Rachel mumbles under her breath.
"What's wrong?" The boy asks and she rightfully ignores him. Everyone in the room falls to second place the moment she saw Quinn Fabray standing near the door way.
"I can't believe it."