Title: The Wanting Comes in Waves
Rating: M (in later chapters)
Summary: Rachel Berry finds herself in a ship built in honor to the hundredth anniversary of the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. Will history repeat itself, or not?
Spoilers: none. This is entirely AU.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters, nor am I in any way affiliated to Glee. Everything you'll find here is the product of my imagination. The title is the same as a song by The Decemberists, which I obviously do not own.
A/N: This story is dedicated to Alyssa. Inspiration came from luckypressure's drawing, and this is just my attempt to tell the entire story. All inconsistencies and mistakes are mine, since this is not beta'd.
Rachel Berry had always been aware of her size. She knew that she was short by almost everyone's standards -and the endless teasing she had to put up with during her high school years was proof enough of that. She knew that she had a tiny frame -to accompany her tiny stature-, and she knew that her size made it much easier for whomever was her dancing partner of the moment to lift her up. She also knew that, the first time people heard her sing, they had trouble comprehending how a voice like hers could carry so well through a body so small.
However, despite how long it had taken her to be comfortable with her size, Rachel Berry had never felt insignificant anywhere or in comparison to anything -until now. She stood frozen in awe next to her limousine as she stared at the ship before her. Her eyes scanned the massive structure from bow to stern, absorbing every single detail of the polished façade. And as she contemplated the massive size of the ship, she couldn't help but feel entirely irrelevant to its existence.
It was a funny feeling, she thought. She could walk among some of the tallest buildings in the world when in New York, and yet she never felt like this. Quite the contrary, actually. She felt like, no matter how tall the buildings, or how big the population, she was larger-than-life and nothing could stop her. And yet... yet here, in front of this ship, she felt as pointless as a single snowflake in Antarctica. Then again, said snowflake was probably trapped in that deserted continent, never to escape the cold, windy life. She suddenly empathized with the lifeless, icy substance: this ship was her own Antarctica.
She suddenly wondered if the passengers of the Titanic had felt the same way before the supposedly unsinkable ship as she felt now. But then she laughed at the irony and mentally scolded herself for even thinking of that. Not that she didn't marvel at this ship in particular -because she totally did-, it's just-it's just that there was a certain trepidation that came along with the fact that this ship had been built as a tribute to every drowned soul of the Titanic on the hundredth anniversary of its sinking.
With a huff, she straightened up, shouldered her bag, and strode towards the ship, a few members of her staff trailing behind her.
While growing up, Rachel Berry had never thought that her dreams of Broadway, and New York, and stardom would bring along any of this. Had she been told that her manager and her agent (and her publicist, and basically every single other person in her staff) would hold the reins of her personal life so much more than she did, she would have probably (against all professional advice) tried to make it out there on her own as an independent artist.
But alas, she hadn't been that wise, so now she was stuck in this situation that threatened to suffocate her any day now. She had to endure a transatlantic trip trapped on a ship with her agent (one fabulous, yet slightly too overbearing Kurt Hummel), the rest of her staff, and the young man they all expected her to be engaged to once the ship landed back in New York: Finn Hudson.
She huffed exasperatedly against the railing of the upper deck of the ship as she stared out at the vastness of the deceitful ocean in a rare moment of solitude her closest bodyguard, Noah, had granted her. Why couldn't anyone understand her and leave her personal affairs alone? She didn't want to marry that Finn guy. He was awkward, and dim-witted, and whenever she was with him, she had the feeling that he wasn't really aware of the concealed insults he would send her way. Actually, now that she thought about it, she didn't want to marry any guy. At all.
She was a Broadway star, with eight shows a week, and tours, and contracts. She did not have time to tend to the petty desires of an immature man-child that couldn't tell the difference between the sea and the ocean. She sighed. She needed to delay the decision-making process and enjoy this trip instead. It wasn't every day that a busy star like herself had the opportunity to sit around on a ship for four days rather than take a plane.
Loosening up was exactly what she was trying to do as she looked at her surroundings when she noticed a blonde head delicately bobbing up and down on the deck below. She tilted her head —after all, she wasn't sure why the young woman had caught her attention— and stared at the oblivious blonde for a moment. She then realized that there were two other girls with her: a really sweet looking blonde -all limbs and grace, and grins from ear to ear-; and a dark haired girl who seemed far more earnest as she talked to one blonde -though she smiled tenderly as she played with the sweet looking blonde's hands. Rachel watched as the blonde she had originally noticed was indeed talking to the other brunette, though she clearly remained focused on whatever she was doing on her lap even as her lips moved.
Why had this stranger caught her attention, though? Why this blonde who seemed so immersed in whatever she was doing rather than in the conversation around her? Why not someone else?
She was so lost in her thoughts, that she didn't realize that she had kept her gaze nestled atop the blonde head below all that time. And by the time she came to this realization and focused on the girl again, she found the stranger's face tilted towards her own. She could feel the blonde's eyes on her, examining her face, and —even from such a distance— she felt the most pleasant tingle course through her spine as their eyes connected.
"Miss Corcoran is requesting your presence, Miss Berry," Noah Puckerman's voice startled her.
Thoughts now interrupted, she turned around to find him standing behind her, hands clasped behind his back as he stood stiff in his suit. She couldn't really be mad at him for breaking her connection with the blonde stranger. After all, even though he wasn't the only person that kept her company, Noah was the only person she could talk to, and who didn't make her feel alone even in the most crowded of places.
"Noah," she began, giving him a small, genuine smile, "I've already told you. Call me Rachel, okay?" she insisted -for what she thought was the hundredth time-, placing a tiny hand on his firm shoulder.
Despite all the time they spent together, and how pleasantly loose he could become whenever they were alone -and away from the judgmental eyes of the rest of her staff-, she thought she saw a faint blush tint his cheeks. His expression softened the slightest bit, and he cracked a charming smile, "Of course, Miss B-Rachel."
She liked Noah. And she trusted him. He was the one person around whom she could be herself entirely. He was sweet and charming, and he would sometimes throw rather lewd comments in her presence whenever he was relaxed enough and sure that Miss Corcoran wouldn't scold him. They had fun together most of the time, and he was the only one who knew her little secret and took her seriously. Actually, truth be told, Rachel believed that -if it weren't for said secret about her being a lesbian- she would have probably at least tried to date him.
"See? That's better," she dazzled him with a patented Rachel Berry smile. "Now, tell Miss Corcoran I'll be there in a minute, alright?"
He turned around after a polite nod, and left her alone with her thoughts once again. Instantly, the blonde that had been at the back of her mind during her brief exchange with Noah was the center of her attention one more time, so Rachel turned towards the railing to watch her for a moment before heading inside.
However, to her disappointment, the young woman was no longer sitting on the lower deck. In fact, as Rachel's eyes scanned the expanse of the open space, she couldn't spot the blonde anywhere -or her two companions, for that matter. For some reason, that fact disheartened her. She didn't know why, exactly, but she felt like one last look from the blonde stranger would have given her the strength and patience to deal with her manager once she wandered back inside.
She let her shoulders slump with a sigh as she closed her eyes, briefly thinking that she needed to see the other girl again. Realizing that she still had another three days to do so, she straightened her back and spun on her heels swiftly to face one of the control-freak monsters.
Tea was a condescending game of epic proportions to her -and she hadn't even talked so far. She couldn't honestly understand why she had even been invited to this tea party, when Shelby kept feeding her coffee instead. She rolled her eyes as Shelby and Kurt kept throwing overtly flattering comments towards the architect and the owner of the ship, and she had to stop herself from scoffing out loud at their obvious ass-kissing. The architect, Mr. Chang, didn't seem to care much for compliments as he simply thanked them politely and tried to carry on talking about anything else. He was a brilliant young man -a mathematical whiz, really-, with an incredibly bright future ahead of him. Rachel liked him. Despite all the fame this ship had brought along for him, he remained humble and approachable. The owner of the ship, however, was an entirely different story.
Mr. Abrams had been boasting the prowess they had accomplished with this ship for the past twenty minutes -going on and on about its luxury and star quality, and what not. He was a physically impaired young man, quite tragic if Rachel thought so herself -and she knew tragedy, she often thought of her life as a tragedy. He was smart, she couldn't deny that, but it was obvious to any level-headed person that the prominence of this nautical achievement had got to his head.
She was on the process of turning everything Mr. Abrams said into a joke in her head, when she realized that Finn was thrusting a jug of milk in her direction with a dopey smile. She turned to stare at him disbelievingly with a frown. Milk? Milk? For the love of God, she had told him several times that she was vegan! Couldn't he retain information for longer than three seconds in that pea-sized brain of his? She was just about to tell him those exact words, when she was saved by Miss Jones.
"Whoa, there, Finn. Put that milk back, Rachel doesn't drink it," she commented with a smile, which only garnered an incredibly confused look from his part, so she elaborated, "She can't consume milk. You're not going to start forcing her to do that, now, are you?"
He blinked at her dumbly for a few seconds, and then Rachel saw his large hand retreat and set the jug back on the table. She smiled at Miss Jones gratefully and went on poking at her scones, even as Shelby's eyes raked up and down the poor woman's frame dismissively.
Mercedes Jones was a young woman of undeniable talent who had blown the world away with a single that amassed hoards of fans when it came out of nowhere on YouTube. She had been an overnight success without any real publicity -something that Shelby Corcoran condemned, apparently, if her looks and comments were anything to go by. She was a nice girl, Rachel thought as she smiled at her. She was polite to everyone -unlike those diva rumors Rachel had read about said-, and she listened to everyone attentively, commenting every now and then. Even more, she seemed to get along with Rachel's assistant, Tina Cohen-Chang, better than Rachel herself did -and definitely better than Shelby did. Seriously, Rachel thought there was no need for the woman to treat the poor girl like a simpleton servant when, in fact, her silent support meant much more to Rachel than Shelby's concealed insults did. Who cared what Shelby Corcoran wanted and liked, anyway?
Out of boredom -and because she knew it would bother Shelby to no end-, Rachel lit a hand-rolled cigarette -she was well aware of the addictive effects that the nicotine in the filter of traditional cigarettes could cause, so she avoided those. Either way, the moment the tip of the cigarette burned, Shelby turned to her incredulously with a warning look. "You know very well that you shouldn't be doing that," she hissed at Rachel.
Somehow sensing both women's discomfort -Rachel didn't really know how he could ever be that perceptive-, Finn plucked the barely lit cigarette out from Rachel's mouth and stubbed it into the ashtray that lay somewhere about the table. Rachel glared at him -which, of course, he didn't even notice-, and her gaze then connected with Mercedes' apologetic half-smile. Out of things to distract herself with, Rachel tuned into the conversation around her -a conversation that Mr. Abrams seemed to be monopolizing.
"The idea was to emulate the design and luxury of the RMS Titanic, merely to demonstrate that its unfortunate fate was nothing more than human error, rather than malfunction or failure of the ship. But at the same time, I also wanted to make her larger than the original, you know? I wanted its size to be imposing, powerful, and intimidating like a grown man, almost border-lining on monstrous," Mr. Abrams elaborated as a response to some question that Rachel hadn't paid attention to.
She found his commentary on size rather amusing. She didn't really know why, whether it be just sheer annoyance at her whole situation, at this context that surrounded her, or at the fact that she found it rather insulting that he talked about size in such a way when she herself was so tiny. So she couldn't really stop herself from giving her input on the matter, "Perhaps it should do you some good to get yourself acquainted with Freud's theories on man's obsession with size, Mr. Abrams. Maybe even with theories on misogyny, as well, don't you think?"
Shelby cast a look of horror in her direction -Kurt's wasn't much different from that either-, and muttered unintelligibly under her breath. Not bearing to look at the woman for a second longer, Rachel rose from her seat gracefully and smiled at the other people on the table, "If you'll excuse me. This was lovely," she offered right before walking out of the room.
On her way out, the last thing she heard was Finn's innocuous retort, "Was Freud like a priest, or something?"