Author: that would be me
Disclaimer: If I owned Glee, everything would be different.
Summary: You've got the point, Dara is Quinn, and I'm building off the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so if some things seem a little off then it's because it's supposed to be.
This is a longer chapter, and there is this one point where it may seem like it drags on, but I hope it's enjoyable to read anyway. This is pretty much Dara and Rachel centric. Quinn will be in the next chapter.
AN: And this whole story will vary between T and M, I'm just wondering which one I should change it to.
I'm sorry this took so long, but life sucks and I'm just really busy and UGH.
Rachel was actually very excited to go to Glee today. At any other time, this would have been the expected, being one to enjoy the spotlight and relish in her peers adoration, no matter how reluctant it may appear to be. But today her excitement was not for the club, nor was it for the stage. In fact, it had very little to do with singing at all. For once, it was for the small number of members inside her club.
Sure, she loved glee club. It just wasn't what everyone else loved it for, it wasn't a family or the community Mr. Schue had tried so hard to make it seem. It was for singing, it was for the spot light, it was for her voice. But, today, it was different.
She knew she wasn't the easiest person to get along with, some people simply couldn't handle the honesty she was brought up with, which was fine. Honesty was something you had to adapt to. She understood their frustrations, but never before did have an opportunity quite like this before, where she can finally prove - if even a little bit - that they are wrong. That her previous friendless status had been changed, she wasn't quite as unbearable as everyone believed her to be.
It probably sounded shallow, and while Rachel could deny any claim of being superficial, even she knew that her intentions were bordering on such thin lines. But today, she didn't mind very much, because she had something to brag about, something that wasn't a part of her or merely an extension of what she could do, she had someone to brag about. And by the name of Barbra, she was going to brag.
With a quiet breath, she gathered her bearings and walked through the choir room, leveling her eyes to the one seat in front of her. She forced herself not to look at the two gossipers in the back that sat across from each other, avidly chattering to themselves; but the moment she took the first few steps inside, their whispers fell into a quiet hush.
Rachel obviously wasn't very popular, that much was clear, but as she walked to her seat and forced herself to sift through her already determined sheet music, she could understand why all of those Cheerleaders worked so vigorously to keep their spots on top. It must feel heavenly to know that people are fascinated with you, to be the source of excited whispers everywhere.
She's never liked listening to people whisper about her, but as Kurt and Mercedes turn to each other and break out into a more excited conversation, it didn't sound like the cold and demeaning whispers she had heard many times before. As their quiet whispers got louder, she strained her eyes to the notes and key signatures of her sheet music, but her attention was all but on the little black designs; she was alert and awake and trained expertly to listen to their words and the quiet nuances in conversation.
But before she could hear anything, there was a quiet break in the conversation, the two stalling for time before slowly lifting to their feet, wandering quickly over to her and simultaneously settling down beside her. Her heart quickened to a near flutter and Rachel bit her lip to try a hide her smile.
"You have some fessing up to do, Hot Mama." Rachel's head snapped up and looked sharply between the two mirroring divas, feigning with surprise. She felt her heart pick up in rapid excitement, this having be the very first conversation she would actively be invited to, without so much a word on her part to force it.
Rachel tried to hide the small smile on her face as she flew through things to say. She thought of her possibilities: should she jump right out and say it? Or should she try to avoid it, be coy about it. But as she looked into the pair of eyes, she found exactly what she was going to say.
She forced herself to seem as nonchalant as possible, ducking her head down so her eyes could rove over her music again. "I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about." she said with just a hint of arrogance, just enough to make it sound like a lie.
It may seem sort of petty to try to drag out a conversation as long as possible, but Rachel was never one to be willingly included, so no one can really blame her for wanting to enjoy a new first, of sorts.
Mercedes rolled her eyes but Kurt used his friend's distraction to jump in. "We saw you yesterday. With that...girl." Kurt whispered, and though the inflection in his voice was clear, the distinction of being negative or not was somewhat muddy.
Rachel's eyes snapped up to look at his and her lips formed a small frown. "Yes...well," Rachel answered slowly, her eyes flickering across Kurt's expression, expecting to see one of his signature hanging lines, an insult baited and ready for her on the end. She hadn't quite expected that happening, but it really shouldn't have surprised her. "She is my friend."
Despite Kurt's expression, she still sounded prideful, her chin tilting up and her voice coloring with possession. Kurt raised an eyebrow and looked at her curiously, and it was just enough for Rachel to slip into her bragging rights. "We are rather close." Kurt's eyes narrowed and after another look-over, he smiled a thin, close-lipped smile.
"Right." Kurt said in that way that so was very him, clipped and self-assured. His eyes flickered over to his gossip twin and Rachel's head followed them, jerking to meet Kurt's mirrored expression. "I'm sure you are. But where did you find her?"
Rachel frowned and turned back to meet Kurt, very quickly becoming displeased with how this conversation was going. "How did I find her?" She said lowly, the confusion making her voice sound more strained than usual. This wasn't exactly the girl talk she was hoping for.
Kurt waved her confusion away, "You know, did you hire her, or something?" He said casually, crossing his legs at the ankles and cocking his head. He turned the rest of his conversation to Mercedes, "They have that now, you know. Friends for Hire. I know that kid from Caramel High, the one with the awful perm? He hired one of the girls to go to Junior Prom with him."
Mercedes shot him a look. "You mean a prostitute." She said flatly, her eyes flickering to Rachel with a distinct look. And though Rachel was at a complete loss, she knew that look, the one of accusation, the look that pinned something to her; and with that, blood burned in her cheeks, the realization all but booming in her head.
"Dara is not a prostitute!" Rachel exclaimed loudly, her voice booming across the room and leaving an even louder silence in its wake. Kurt raised his eyebrows, his eyes flickering up to Rachel's face, and as though she was frightened by her own voice, she lowered her volume to a quiet, angry whisper. "She is a friend, whom I got myself, believe it or not. Not everyone needs the help of bribes or payment to persuade someone to befriend them."
Kurt rolled his eyes, "Well obviously not. Not everyone has such disastrous personalities, and some of us actually co-exist with the rest of society." Kurt said, sounding almost indifferent to his words, as though they weren't structured to harm her; and had she been deaf, she might have actually been able to convince herself that he wasn't being meant, but - thankfully - with the full use of her hearing, the obvious hint of their cruelty was something she couldn't overlook.
Her heart already felt heavy, pounding painfully, fueling the angry spew of words from her mouth. "Well, I don't doubt that, Kurt. Should you see any of them, be sure to tell me about it." Rachel snapped, slapping her folder closed and standing up with every intention to storm out of the room. But her intention never made it past the second raising.
"Oh come on, Rachel, I was only teasing." She heard Kurt's voice, and though she was irritated and angry, she huffed and slowed herself to a near stop, still facing towards the door. She could still hear Kurt faintly, "I promise I'll be nice. I think we are due for some girl-chatting, don't you think?" He accompanied his voice with a smile, and if his intention was to confuse Rachel, than it worked.
Rachel faltered and after a moment of struggle, she lost the battle and hunched her shoulders, turning around to face Kurt. "Well, alright." Rachel said quietly, dropping her chin as she idly found her way back to her seat. "But I really didn't hire Dara from anywhere. She is my friend."
"Yes, alright." Kurt waved that away with his hand. "But can you really blame me for wondering? I mean, a girl like that just doesn't befriend a girl like you." He paused and tilted his head, his eyes flickering over to Rachel to analyze the mildly offended expression on Rachel's face before half-heartily amending it. "No offense."
Before Rachel could even utter a sound, Mercedes intervened. "Wait. Hold up." Rachel sighed and turned to the somewhat louder diva, arching an eyebrow, admittedly trying to parrot Dara, as she had done it many times before. "Just how long have you two been hanging out?"
The question made her wilt, if only a little. Nervously smoothing out her skirt, she tucked herself in to the seat between the two of them. While her schedule had left her without many opportunities, she still felt like the friendship she had built with Dara was sturdy, and growing more so, even without the comfort of seeing her. Not many people would believe such ideals, that absences made the heart grow fonder.
"Well..." She felt herself dragging out the letters, and with a quick tuck of her hair, she pushed out the rest. "I've only really hung out with her two other times," With Mercedes of courseexpression and Kurt's roll of his eyes, Rachel felt the rush of words in her throat and the tight squeeze in her chest with a near desperate desire to explain herself, to fight off their implications. "But I've known her for at least two weeks, if not a little bit more. She is a friend to me. I'm not just making this up."
"Of course you're not, sweetie." Kurt assured gently, leaning over to pat her hand, as though it was a matter of consolation, of comforting her; Rachel's throat tightened, and before his fingertips could brush against hers, she moved them away.
"Well, I'm not." Rachel reiterated clearly, jutting her chin out and looking them evenly in the eye. She just hoped her voice sounded a bit stronger. She knew Dara was a friend, and she had no reason to doubt her, but she couldn't help the small twinge of distress that always came with someone's doubt, finding a small chink in her armor and setting herself up for defeat. Her fingers curled into her skirt, becoming small fists. "I can prove it."
Kurt raised an eyebrow and his eyes flickered to Mercedes, and if it wasn't for that distinct look, shared between two familiar expressions, the wave of anger wouldn't have risen again. Her voice rose again and her eyes flashed hotly. "Yes, I'll prove it. Ask me a question."
Kurt's expression didn't even flicker. "Any question? Well, that could range from what's her favorite color to what's her most intimate memory." was the dry remark. "This is silly, why don't you just invite her over? Give us a chance to talk to her."
But as both Kurt and Mercedes turned to look at her expectantly, all Rachel could do was staring blankly at them, her voice failing her in a time of need. Kurt raised an eyebrow and motioned his hand again, bringing Rachel's eyes down to his raised palm which had lifted sometime in his speech.
After a while of helpless staring, Kurt sighed. "You do have her phone number, right?"
Rachel opened her mouth, her eyes widening as a hint of desperation entered her. She didn't even know the girl's middle name - the most important one in her opinion. She wouldn't be the person she was if she had any other name other than that Rachel Barbra Berry.
"Rachel?" Rachel shook her head, looking quickly away so that the two divas couldn't see the clear frustration in her eyes.
But her disappointment fell short only to her pride, which remained her only saving grace in times of awkwardness. "Of course I do, Kurt. As I said, I am her friend." With Kurt's expectant expression, Rachel took another breath and gathered her bearings, slipping from her seat and grabbing her forgotten folder. "I just so happened to have forgotten my phone today. Now, if you'll excuse me, I don't feel much up to singing today."
And with that, she picked herself up and walked through the door, ignoring both the confused muttering of Mr. Schuster and the curious glances of Tina and Artie as they followed behind him. She didn't even look up when Finn walked by her, his excited voice going right over her radar.
She was power walking to somewhere, though - admittedly - she had no idea where; all she really knew was that she was going to find Dara, reaffirm her friendship, and above all, get her damn number.
Quinn puckered her lips, leaning a little closer to her car's review mirror as the tip of her lipstick touched her bottom lip. Sliding it back and forth with measured carefulness, Quinn rubbed her lips together, spreading them with a dark and bloody red. Tentatively, she leaned back and reviewed her work.
"Oh, darn." Quinn muttered, quickly leaning forward again to remove the red mark from her tooth. She was never very good at these things, applying make up and such; and this time she didn't have an older sister or Santana to do it for her. The only tips she had were the tips that her mother gave her when she used to dress her up for family pictures.
Obviously being a little unprepared, she decided to get a little help. Quinn looked over to the paper again, absently straightening out the old crinkled edges. She had cut it out from her mother's old advice column, the one from her favorite magazine. Hopefully, her mother wouldn't notice, but if she did, who would expect it from her?
Apply the base, then carefully, the lipstick. Gently, with the tip of your finger, dab the gloss across the bottom and then spread.
"Check." Quinn smirked triumphantly and settled back into the car seat. "See Quinn? You can do this stuff without help." Her eyes roved slowly over her transforming features. She was always one to need a little encouragement when trying something new, and what's so wrong with providing it for herself? Tilting her mirror again, she gently dabbed her bottom lip with just the tip of her finger again. This wasn't so hard.
Oddly enough, she didn't have the sort of confidence that Dara had with jumping into something new; it still gave her the nervous squirming in her stomach and the looming feeling that her parents would disapprove. Especially now with the addition of the nose ring, adding the painful reopening of her nose hole to the change.
Her fingers would always tremble and she'd always end up waiting for the last minute to reopen it, somehow feeling stronger with the pink wig on. And this time was no exception. She waited for the last minute, feeling her courage build with every new layer of her second identity.
It wasn't until she was staring at Dara's darkly contrasting features did the smirk pull on her lips; she leaned forward again, reviewing the small hole as she blindly picked the needle from the passenger seat and brought it to her tender skin.
It hurt, of course, like any needle would. But the feeling of resolution that came afterward would always win over the frantic sparks of pain that fled elsewhere. Because with a little click and twist, the nose ring was set in place and Dara had officially settled in, smirking back at her.
With a hum, Dara absently roved her eyes over her 'Rachel Berry' schedule, though she already knew what sort of event occupied Rachel's time today. It was an easy day, by Rachel's standards at least, seeing as there was no extra class or recital after Glee, but it still left Dara with a large gap of time to try and fill. She would like to think that she wasn't so clingy as to wait outside the choir room for Rachel to finish, so instead, she drove to the parking lot of the Supermarket to wait out her time somewhere else. Because the location made all the difference.
Dara rolled her eyes. Honestly, if she was working to not look clingy, she probably shouldn't have made a Rachel Berry calendar to begin with, or Dara for that matter. But she was here now so, careful to lock the door, she slipped out of the car and walked out. She walked about ten feet before she decided it would be safer to stay in one place, cautiously eyeing the man barking at the corner of the street.
Carefully avoiding his attention, she found a broken down car in the parking lot and, a picture of LimaHeights. Coming to a stop in front of it, she hesitatingly placed the palm of her hand against the roof, the heat of metal instantly meeting her skin. In a humming purr, like a cat in the sun, she let herself slid over the hood and settled comfortably on hot metal, soaking up the warmth of the sun.
Fifteen minutes later and still not long enough, she was interrupted with a faint shuffling, but before Dara could recognize the sound as a motion, a voice brought her attention away to the boots on the ground. Her eyes made the long climb up the man's denim clad legs to the black Slipknot t-shirt, the stubble of a beard on his chin, to finally his pierced eyebrows, furrowed just above two calm grey eyes.
"Hey." He said, and though seemingly normal, a small instinct told her to move away. Despite this however, she remained impassive, only moving to tap her fingernails on the car's beat up roof, which stopped upon the man's quick eyes, lowered to gaze with amusement at her small act of retaliation. His smirk grew.
Dara's stomach squirmed again, but she waited, keeping her cool eyes locked on him; but after a few seconds, it was clear he wasn't going to make another move to interact, his gray eyes remaining nearly as dull as the color they attained.
She found herself very quickly loosing patience, or maybe her indifference, and only in a second's time, lost it all in a single exhale of breath. "Can I help you with something?" she said, her voice void of any interest or emotion, and though she knew it was a fake mask of her voice, it gave her strength anyway.
Slowly, the man's lips quirked, "That's my car." he said, nodding over to beat up thing they were both occupying. Dara raised an eyebrow and turned to stare at it, her fingers still poised against its buckled roof. She felt another instinct squirm inside, telling her to get up and walk away.
The man looked to be six feet, and very skinny, his arms appearing almost spider-like with the black tattoo winding around his pale skin; his short raven hair was spiked into a mow hawk and several piercings decorated his long face, aged accordingly, with deep hollow cheekbones and a thick short beard shaved only to his chin.
And though all these factors would have caused Quinn to move, she found herself rebelling against her influence.
Dara raised her head and met the man's eyes, her lips curling into a smirk. She had never been one to banter or tease the line of safety but Dara was someone completely different, and when the opportunity arose, she found herself taking it. "It looks like shit." she said through her smirk, watching as the man blinked, his eyebrows rising in surprise. But before Dara could wonder if she made a stupid mistake, his lips widened and the bored gray eyes glinted.
The man chuckled and shook his head, and with these movements, the car dipped down, registering his weight. "Yeah, it's kind of a wreck. Got a hole on the other side, too. It's a little rough but it promises a good ride." The man paused and seemed to think in the silence, raising a pierced eyebrow, and all at once, his smile became wicked. "And so do I, babe. Whenever you want it."
And for once, Quinn's impulse had proven to be golden, and the missed opportunity laid heavily in her mind. Her upper lip curled involuntarily. "That's supposed to impress me? You just compared yourself to a piece of shit on the road. Has that ever worked before?"
The man smirked. "Nope. But I've never seen a girl like you around here, and definitely not sitting on the hood of my car." His smile was small but it showed his small teeth and the long curves of his canines, a wolfish smirk. "And it is a good ride."
Shouldering the car, she pushed herself up. "Well, congrats. You got it back."
The man laughed. "Oh come on, you don't have to leave just yet. My car is just as good with conversation." His voice was a laugh, and while such a leer would only compel her to do the opposite, the moment she wanted to move away, the longer she stayed, her heel digging into the loose gravel as she battled with herself. It took a total of three seconds for Dara to gather herself and step away, moving slowly back to the car, a figure of sleekness, she settled against the door like an agitated cat.
"So do you often come here?"
Dara cocked an eyebrow but didn't answer.
"Do you like coming here?"
She hid a small smile. There was always a pleasure in being a bitch; dealing out punishment to people that didn't entirely deserve it. It was a trait she associated with Quinn, but maybe she could accept it as herself every once and a while.
"Are you always like this?"
"No." Dara smiled, a small smile, just barely lifting the corners of her lips. "I'm usually much worse."
Apparently, that was what the man wanted to hear, because with a laugh, settled more comfortably against the car. "So you don't want my company?" She sent a side glance at him and then slowly looked away, unwillingly smiling a little wider. He was confident and she always liked confidence; she even looked for it. It didn't mean she was going to be any nicer, just a little more truthful.
"Not unless you're really a girl of about 5'1 or 5'2, with brown hair and brown eyes" Dara was her non-committal rebuttal, a small sly smile on her lips as she trained her eyes on the lazy traffic curling around the bend. Patiently, she ignored the man's grunt, a sound torn between confusion and surprise.
"Um..." The man drifted off, scratching absently at his scruffy chin beard. "Like her?" Dara almost didn't catch the words, but when they registered in her head, she frowned and looked back at him, her eyes making a trail from his confused face to his outstretched arm, and finally to his finger.
Which pointed directly to one determined looking Rachel Berry.
Dara felt her spine stiffen, her body straightening out as though someone had yanked some string on the top of her head; shock made it all the way through her bones, rattling her more than she cared to admit. Her heart lurched and her fingers clenched, an ecstatic smile stretched out on her lips.
But when Rachel's eyes locked on hers, her enthusiasm was not returned. Her eyes swirled and though they brightened in recognition, no emotion warmed her eyes or lifted the corners of her lips. Determination settled on her face, her jaw setting and her eyes narrowing, her pace increasing as her arms pumped up and down, her legs mimicking her crazy animated motions.
Dara very quickly lost her smile. Her eyes averted and ran over the situation with a little clearer, becoming frantic when Rachel's mouth didn't relax and her pace didn't slow, she warily reviewed the girl before her. Swallowing heavily, she took a small step back and felt herself reel. Was she angry? What would she be angry about? If she was angry, there was really only one logical reason why.
Dara's heart fluttered madly and her head whirled with a painful thought: Oh god, does she know?
The world seemed to tilt sideways. Her stomach rolled violently, but before she could collapse like a house of cards, she managed to compose herself, or what she hoped may appear to be composure. Bracing herself against the car, she reconciled her expression. There was a rational explanation for this: Rachel could simply be so excited to see her that she skipped over the natural emotional responses.
"So..." Dara almost jumped, her head snapping to the man beside her. "That the girl you are waiting for, huh?" His voice held judgment and it made the cold hand of dread in her stomach tighten, and after a wheel of thinking, she nodded helplessly. The man parroted her absently, "Uh-huh...well, you know. It really looks like she wants you for herself." he smiled, but was already taking a step away.
Dara's eyes quickly bounced from Rachel to where the man was already slinking off to, and while he had been an irritating presence, she suddenly felt the urge to reach out and grab a hold of him, just so she wouldn't have to go through this alone. But he was already slinking out of her reach and her fingers curled around empty air.
She let out a grumbling whine and turned back to stare uneasily at Rachel, and fretted over the sudden lost of space. She watched her come to a smooth and calculated stop next to her, watched her chest heave a little heavier and the swallow of breath move down her throat.
"Hey, Shorty." she said uneasily and felt a sudden drop in her stomach when she didn't respond. "What are you doing here?"
Rachel took a deep breath and ran a hand through her wind-blown hair, seemingly preparing herself for a long-winded speech. But just as Dara was about to steel herself for the emotional onslaught that was seemingly inevitable, Rachel faltered and changed direction, coming at her in a different angle.
"Are we friends?" she blurted out and cringed, seemingly not expecting the sudden crack in her voice. But she made no move to take it back, her eyes lifting to stare widely into Dara's, biting nervously at her lower lip. Dara's lips parted, but no words came out, taking a breath to keep the quiet and confused whine from leaving her mouth.
She was asking if they were friends? Rachel didn't know who she really was, her cover wasn't blown, she was safe; she was so relieved, her heart started beating rapidly in reprieve, lodging itself somewhere in her throat. Though, as she thought more of it, she wondered why their friendship came into question in the first place. She sort of assumed being friends was obvious enough as it was.
She didn't expect any questioning on those terms, maybe when they started venturing into something more, but she figured the "friend zone" was still a pretty safe label to presume.
Apparently not for Rachel. "I wasn't just making it up, right? Because it sure felt like we were friends, with you giving me a ride home and all, and you seemed to really like me. And you call me Shorty, which while I clearly am not that short, I see it as a more endearing nickname rather than an insult, and I think you see it that way too. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would love to be your friend, and to possibly avoid any more confusion, or embarrassment like what I'm going through right now, I think it would be best to just give me the most honest, straight-forward answer you can manage. O-on whether or not you like me. And-"
"Rachel!" Dara exclaimed and made a grab for Rachel's arms, seeing them flail about into another wild gesticulation. "Rachel," she chuckled, finally catching hold of her elbow and gently coaxing her other arm, now motionless, into her hands. "of course I'm your friend."
Rachel faltered and her mouth dropped open, her wordless questions swirling on the tip of her tongue as she struggled to speak them. "You are?" she managed to choke out, unable to hide her underlying bewilderment.
Dara smiled, but it was a small one, dimming in the corners. "Yeah, I am." Then tentatively. "Why wouldn't I be?" The moment the words left her, she realized she really didn't want to know the answer, knowing what the answer may be. She was afraid of the long stream of words that may pour out, the memorized list of her inadequacy; she was afraid of Quinn's words falling out of her own.
Rachel opened her mouth, to no doubt answer her question just as she predicted, but before a single word could pass, Dara covered her mouth. Rachel's eyebrows raised and her breathing hitched, spreading her warm breaths across her palm; a brush of her lips sent a voltage shock across her skin.
"There's no right answer here, Berry." Dara warned, her eyebrow rising just to enunciate her point, her fingers tightening a little more than necessary around her mouth. It was probably inappropriate and definitely stupid, but she indulged in the moment anyway, lingering for a moment too long as her skin grew hot from Rachel's warm breath, the pad of her index finger grazing across her lip as she pulled away; she let her hand drop, her fingers feeling cold without the intimate touch of skin.
Rachel just stared up at her with a thousand questions in her eyes, her curiosity bubbling inside, and yet, with an expression that made her look she may just burst, all she had to say was a quiet and awe-inspired whisper. "So we're friends, now?"
Dara chuckled and shook her head. "Yeah, Shorty, we're friends now." Rachel nearly squealed, her eyes glittering happily and it became evident that the only thing keeping the enthusiastic words to herself was her tightly closed lips, pressing into a happy smile and suppressing her excited ramble.
"Can I have your phone number?" she said quietly, still wildly hopeful and happy with these new (but sort of old) revelations. She was staring up at her with such wide excited eyes that there was really no way she could say no, even though she hadn't really thought about this part - the exchanging of numbers - and she couldn't help but get that twisting feeling in her stomach when she nodded, unable to shake off the feeling that she was making another mistake.
Because as Rachel fished out her phone and gave it to Dara with shaky fingers, she started tapping out the letters of Dara's name underneath Quinn's given phone number, which unfortunately, was an easily identifiable number to half of the McKinley population. But what else could she do? She has only one phone.
But Rachel didn't know that and Dara couldn't bring herself to stop; she wouldn't dare make up another phone number, either, or put some weird phone number in it and just apologize for it later. Because those wide happy eyes were looking at her and it made lying that much harder and sticking her neck out that much easier. So with a small smile, she handed Rachel's weird bedazzled phone back with Quinn's phone number saved in her contacts.
Dara sighed, smiling a little as her shoulders sagged against the man's beat up car. "Well, now that we've got that all fixed up, do you mind telling me what went this afternoon?" Rachel was still smiling, but her dark eyes flashed and her head tilted a little in confusion. "I think we left on a pretty good note the last time we saw each other." Dara elaborated, raising a hand to brush through the air, as though to push her words to Rachel, but even as the question left her tongue, something clicked in place. Her lips pursed. "Did someone say something to you?"
She swore, if it was Santana...
Rachel's eyes widened with understanding and the evident giddiness in her expression started to dim. "Oh, that." Rachel gave a small self-depreciating smile before shrugging. "I think you'll find that I am often known for my dramatics. Some friends of mine simply thought to make fun of me. They thought I hired you as a friend, or-or something..."
Dara's lips pursed, pressing firmly into a line of disapproval. She felt a muscle in her jaw flex. "Who said that?" she tried to keep her voice light and easy-going, but even she could hear the tight strain of agitation.
Rachel bit her lip, but her smile grew from the corners, her eyes swelling up with happiness again. "They're just some teammates of mi-" Rachel broke off suddenly, her eyes going wide and her bottom jaw dropping. "I am missing Glee right now!" Her arm jerked up and she stared wide-eyed at a painfully tacky watch, her eyes only widening more. "I have missed a considerable amount of it, too!"
Dara bit the inside of her cheek, more than a little put off by the idea of having to wait another half hour just to be with Rachel again. But she smiled all the same, sending off a departing sigh. "Well, go on then, get back to them." she said, but with another breath, her chest heaved out the rest, "Just don't let them give you an opinion of me that isn't true. Alright?"
Rachel absorbed the words seriously. "I won't." she whispered, loyalty and determination swelling in her eyes as though she had been asked to keep the world spinning for the rest of the year. Dara's chest warmed and she decided to bite back the rest of her speech, the small spew about how she can always come with her and scare those ungrateful Glee kids back into their rightful place.
Instead, she watched Rachel go with a small smile, biting the bottom of her lip as the girl turned back every few steps to wave at her, or just to look back. Canting her head to the side, she watched her walk away, all the way until she turned the corner and disappeared.
Softly, she sighed. Well...that's it. Another half-hour to waste...
Dara frowned, her eyebrows pulling together as her butt vibrated. Pushing up from the car, she managed to wiggle her fingers into her pant's pocket and retrieve her phone, blindly flipping it open and answering with a lazy, "Hello?"
There was a tick of silence and heavy breathing before Rachel's excited voice answered. "I am so glad you're my friend, Dara."
Dara barked out a laugh and fell back against the car, pressing the phone a little closer to her ear, her hand falling absently against her stomach as it fluttered. She sighed, "Yeah, me too, Shorty."
Dara sighed and crossed her legs, her ankles brushing and her hands falling limply in her lap. Through the thick clad of her jeans, her muscles grew tight and an ache made its way to her bones. It hardly did her any good, but her fingers made an effort to reduce the strain, working gently into her jean clad calves to reach the muscles underneath.
Cheerio's practice was still just as painful as it had always been, but it was starting to wear her down like never before, the added pressure of balancing two different lives was starting to really weigh on her shoulders. Dara (or rather, Quinn) was pressing into the dividing line between being the perfect daughter and the rebel teen. She had a schedule written out and posted on the side of her computer, a market time for dates and important matters for both Dara and Quinn, and though it looked great on paper, it was becoming very difficult to follow them truthfully.
She was stuck trying to balance between cheerleading, a social life, and this.
This being something new and utterly inscrutable, something that, unlike the other two, she had no way of knowing if she was doing it right.
She was lying quietly on Rachel's bed with her jacket slung across a chair and her shoes tucked away underneath a computer desk. She must look so terribly out of place there, sitting squarely on a bed made up of stars and mismatched colors, a plush teddy bear in her lap and a bright pink comforter stretched out beneath her.
The image was probably more comedic than anything: a girl with pink hair, dressed in all black with a silver nose ring, sitting in the middle of a room made for a little princess.
She let her eyes roam again, her fingers tightening around the little teddy bear. She now knew why so many kids held on to such childish toys, they made you feel better, they made the flutter of your nerves lessen and whatever nonsensical fear you have seem silly. It was helpful, she wished she had one as a kid. Because she was sort of nervous. Rachel's parents didn't exactly welcome her with wide open arms, and if the way they both grabbed Rachel away from her was any indication, she'd guess they were pretty unhappy with her being here. She may be safer trying to jump out the window than staying any longer. If her legs didn't hurt so much, she might have done just that.
Dara was under no illusion that she was the type of girl parents wanted to see their daughters bring home. Had she known she would be entering the Berry residence today, she would have thought to bring something a little more appropriate for the occasion. Maybe not to the Quinn Fabray level, but at least a shirt that didn't expose so much skin, her sleeveless shirt having been cut down all the way to her ribcage.
But she had no intention of stepping inside and making conversation with Rachel's fathers, it was just something she threw on in hopes of pushing Rachel a little closer to some self-revelation, and maybe a kiss, but it had only pushed her through the doors of the Berry residence and into the arms of two very surprised fathers.
And then pushed quickly to the stairs where she was ushered up to wait in the bedroom while Rachel and her fathers squabbled.
She sighed softly and grazed her thumb over the many bejeweled rhinestones protecting Rachel's laptop, tapping her nail lightly against a brightly colored jewel; it was one of the many objects Rachel had victimized in her room and had littered them around the room like crime scenes.
It was eccentric and sort of crazy, and basically exactly how Quinn imagined it to be.
Dara chuckled quietly and was about to lean over to pick up Rachel's phone (which had been encased in a shiny bedazzled shield) when the door suddenly swung open and immobilized her. For a moment, she swore she saw Mr. Berry holding a shotgun.
But the light flickered and her heart calmed, a short sigh of relief coming out of her as Rachel and her small plate of cookies came into better view.
"God, Rachel..." she breathed out, her hand lifting to her chest, hoping to stop her own heart. She let out a low laugh, her voice returning to the low husky timber she had lost in the moment of surprise. "I thought your fathers were coming up to kill me off."
The small smile on Rachel's face slackened, but whatever she may have felt, she didn't dwell on it, because she was already moving across the floor, the floor boards creaking softly underneath her feet and placed the cookie platter on its white doily. Timidly, she straightened out the little crinkles, her fingertips erasing the bumps in the doily, the aurora of royalty increasing.
Rachel sighed and turned around. "Well, no matter, it's just a doily." As seemingly unimportant as the comment was, the small voice of Quinn disagreed, whispering that even a crinkle can make a room look different. "Oh Dara, your hair." Dara's eyebrows rose, and though the pause was small, a flutter of panic arose in her. Was blonde showing? But Rachel smiled sweetly and stepped closer, gingerly placing a hand to Dara's forehead. "There's just this one little piece."
The words continued, but she was stuck, the light pressure of her fingertips pressing against her temple, pushing forward and removing the stray of her cumbersome hair. The hand hesitated, but when Dara sighed a relaxed against the softness of Rachel's pillow, she followed down the curve of her skull. Timidly, and by an involuntary sound of encouragement, she retraced her hand back to Dara's forehead and revived the trail again.
The moment lasted, and it was only when small sparks started to register deep in her chest that she realized she was holding her breath. It all came out of her in a messy rush, her chest falling, her head sinking, and the pleasant feeling of the girl's fingers remaining.
Rachel cleared her throat softly, and Dara could only imagine the blush on her cheeks as the girl daintily sat at the corner of her bed, her hand still racking gently through pink hair. But through her small smile, it was evident that the irritation from downstairs had followed her up here. Becoming even clearer with her next words. "I'm sorry about my fathers." she sighed, her fingers still winding through Dara's hair. "I didn't expect them to react that way."
Her eyes fluttered open and dragged slowly from the soft pink lips above her to Rachel's eyes, her attention zeroing in on the swirl of emotion. She briefly wondered what it must feel like to be Rachel, for everything to have a feeling, and for that feeling to be so expressive that it could be seen through the diminutive window of her eyes at all times.
She was just about to explain how she had expected it, at the very least, but the girl suddenly frowned and her fingers tightened in her hair. "I just can't believe they - of all people - would start stereotyping people they hardly know. And you know what? They knew I was going to invite you in - I asked them if I could - so they hardly have the element of surprise on their side." The words became more clipped as her fingers started moving more quickly, raking her fingers through the pink hair without the gentle care she had before. She briefly worried herself, wondering if Rachel was going to start tugging too, which caused a spike of alarm in her chest. It would be hard to explain away the blonde hair underneath.
After a sharp tug and a moment of panic, Dara quickly caught one of Rachel's hands and held it cautiously away from her head. Looking up, she managed a sheepish smile that Rachel slowly parroted, coming to her own mistake with an even deeper blush. Gently, she tugged her hand from Dara's soft grip and let them fall limp into her lap.
"I just thought my parents knew better." Was the quickly whispered reply as Rachel tried to smile through her embarrassment.
"They're just trying to protect you." That's what fathers are for; it's in their chemistry, to protect. Even if it felt differently, their intentions are always for your benefit. They just want to protect. She propped herself on her elbows and caught those brown eyes and managed a small smile. "What did they accuse me of?"
Rachel sighed and her eyes flickered to the corner of her room, her fingers picking at the comforter beneath them, digging and pulling. Dara was just relieved it wasn't her hair. "They believe you have bad intentions. And sure, I don't have a good track record with friends, and had that been their point, in a sense, I could have understood their concern. But they took your image alone and constructed a consequence of our friendship. Apparently, you have designs to corrupt me."
Dara scoffed. "How can you be so sure that I don't?"
The roll of her eyes and the disbelieving scoff was almost offending. "Dara, you are about as threatening as my sixty year old neighbor, the one with seventeen cats in her backyard and knits day and night."
Her jaw fell slack and she fought back the small laugh, both bitter and amused, because if she only knew. "You don't know that. I can be pretty cruel."
"Yes, because you were so very clever when we first met." she retaliated with a smile, "Aisle five was a disaster site after you were done with it, wasn't it?"
Surprise darted across her heart, but delight was soon to follow, and it had the corners of her mouth lifting. "Well, you are hard to follow up, what with your constant terrorizing of that poor manager, demanding lower the shelves for 'normal' customers. Which, I still can't believe he didn't listen to you. Though, when we were leaving, I totally think I saw a 'height supremacist supporter' sticker on the back." She clucked her tongue. "For shame."
Rachel made a face at her and Dara laughed, jostling them together. It was sort of an awkward position, and with a sudden bout of playfulness, she stretched her arm around Rachel's stomach and applied some pressure, delighted when Rachel let out a low yelp and quickly moved to accommodate her. It wasn't long before they had made it to their sides, pressed comfortably into the soft cushioning of Rachel's bed sheets.
Rachel laughed, a nervous sound that made its way out of her throat as Dara readjusted themselves again. It was a sound that made Dara's fingers stall and a hesitance creep into her muscles. Being - unfortunately - unfamiliar with the whole "friendship" gig, she had never really done this before, and, she presumed, neither had Rachel. Which made its way for an awkward moment. Rachel's head bumped against Dara's forehead, and though she mumbled an embarrassed "sorry" she didn't move away and her skin still grazed against Dara's; and maybe it was an awkward moment, but it wasn't a bad one, because Rachel's breath smelt like mint and her skin smelled faintly of cucumber and melon and that's all that seemed to matter in the moment.
They finally seemed to settle, the soft sound of the ceiling fan falling between them; Dara's arm still wrapped around Rachel's stomach and every once and a while, Rachel's foot would brush against Dara's, their slow breathing filling the air and taking up whatever space the steady mechanics of the electric fan left in the silence.
And then faintly, Rachel turned her head, angling it a little closer to Dara - just enough for the faint scent of mint to fan across her face. "Tell me something." she said, not exactly loud, but with the silence around them, it seemed to amplify and become a break from the intimacy swirling between them.
Dara chuckled. "What do you want to hear?"
Rachel blushed and bit her lip. "I don't know." she admitted shyly, her dark eyes swirling as they quickly flickered away. "Something that you wouldn't tell just anybody. Something you would only tell a friend."
Dara nodded but felt her throat tighten. What was there to say? She didn't really talk to anyone, unless it was a direct command or an insult. Her conversations with Finn mostly consisted of dry, second hand gossip that she picked up just to fill the silence; that or him blabbing on about football or that stupid shooting game. When she talked with Santana, it was either about Dara or an old continuation of an argument that neither one of them really got angry about.
She cleared her throat and shifted a few inches away, just enough for her to think more clearly; cucumber and melon was a surprisingly concoctions combination. "I'm afraid I don't talk to very many people. I really wouldn't know what not to say, should I decide to say anything." she admitted with a small smile, even though it was a lie. She knew exactly what not to say: anything that mattered.
And what would she share, anyway? Dara was a figment of Quinn's imagination; she didn't have parents, a sister, good memories or even bad ones. Everything in that category belonged to Quinn.
Rachel pursed her lips and her eyes rolled to some point above her, as though trying to find a question from the white paint in the top right corner of her room. Which, evidently, she did, because not a second later, she brightened up and her eyes lit up excitedly. "Oh I know!" She beamed happily, "we could play Truth."
Dara suppressed a small smile and shifted her head more comfortably into the bed. Most people would ask what's your favorite color, or what's one of your hobbies? if they want to be particularly nosy. But only Rachel would skip the small talk to diverge into a game, probably due to her competitive streak.
When thinking it over, however, another thought came to mind. "Doesn't that game usually come with a Dare?"
Rachel had been expecting this question, as it would seem, because almost immediately, she fired off her response. "No, Truth andDare is an awful game that only encourages deceit and trickery, so with careful modification, it is now appropriate enough to be played safely with friends." Rachel said with disapproval already marking her voice, her deep brown eyes telling her not to argue and just go along with it, though Dara honestly just wanted to ask what sort of "careful modification" Truth and Dare had to go through to become Truth, she figured it would get her nowhere. So with a smile, she decided to just nod and let Rachel run with it.
Rachel brightened at the consent, and with a beam, she perked her head up on her hand. "Okay, so the rules are -"
"Tell the truth?" Dara questioned, a pronounced eyebrow rising. "Are there more rules than that?"
Rachel looked affronted. "Of course, Dara. There are many rules to the game of Truth. First, you cannot tell a lie." she pretty much assumed that part, but Rachel was being so adorable she decided not to interrupt again, biting back her smile. "and if you do, then its the other person's turn to ask the question."
Dara waited for more, assuming that the "many rules to Truth" would be more than just one, but after several minutes of staring blankly at Rachel's concentration, she sighed and idly drummed her fingers against Rachel's side. "Okay Smarty, while you start thinking us up some more rules, I'll ask a question, alright?"
Rachel's excited grin was nearly blinding as she quickly snuggled back into the bright pink blankets, her wide glittering eyes locking onto Dara with eager anticipation. Dara pulled her lips in and thought, her fingers still trailing Rachel's warm skin, hoping she would simply file it away as some absentminded antic.
"Alright. What is..." Dara trailed off, distantly groping for a question. She rolled her eyes when one came to mind. "a hobby of yours?"
And just as she predicted, Rachel answered in a flash, her wide eyes taking in the question as though every word had consequential importance. "Uploading my videos on MySpace every Wednesday. They are of me singing a variety of show tunes, classics and modern pop." she said with a sense of urgency, as though every word depended on the balance of winning or loosing, and she just had to get it right.
Dara almost laughed, but managed to suppress it since she really didn't want an argument, which surely Rachel would have found appropriate. She already knew about the videos, obviously, through Quinn, but every night, when she wasn't the Head Cheerleader, and no one was watching over her shoulder, she would click on her videos and watch them again. It's the sort of voice that if you closed your eyes, you could fall in love with her, just with the sound ringing in your ears.
She was slowly drifting into the comfortable warmth of her memory, of those bright brown eyes that seemed to stare at her through the screen, singing to her, the excitement sparkling in her eyes as she sang brightly into a hairbrush. It wasn't until a fresh whoosh of minty breath fanned against her cheek did she slowly pulling back, where those same brown eyes were narrowed into impatience.
"Oh." she breathed out, hiding her small smirk. Obviously, Rachel takes her bonding games very seriously. Which is fine, because so did she. Game on. "What are you most ashamed of?"
"Wha-" Rachel sputtered, her face leaning back. "That's only the second question, you can't ask something like that!"
Dara cocked an eyebrow. "Is that going to be another rule?"
"No." Rachel huffed, brushing away her hair. "I just wasn't prepared." She almost pouted, but the plump pink of her lips became straight again and then began to thin, an expression quickly becoming known as her thinking face. Dara bit the bottom of her lip to keep from laughing, or something equally stupid, like kissing.
After a few minutes, Rachel paused and apparently found a worthy memory, because her eyes widened and a blush reddened her cheeks. Quietly, softly, a small groan escaped her and she pressed her hand over her eyes and forehead, the blush deepening.
"What? What is it?" She tried to keep the eagerness out of her voice but it spiked in every articulated letter. She felt herself move closer.
Rachel groaned again, but removed the hand. "Okay, fine. Because I absolutely refuse to let you win, I will answer this question, but you must promise not to utter a word of it." She pronounced forcefully, even with the cute blush spreading to the back of her neck. Dara answered in a promising smile, egging her on with words in her eyes.
Rachel groaned again, but the words came out freely. "There is a boy..." A soft sigh. "That I sold my underwear to."
Surprise was an understatement. Dara could only stare, shock having rendered her dumb.
"Well, to say sold would be incorrect. It was more of a bargain." The laugh that came out of her tittered and then fell into her words, blurring them happily with embarrassment. "He said that a large variety of his followers had 'connections'. Yes he said connections, don't patronize me. But he promised me a good review, and I was young and naive and I thought it would make me a star."
Dara opened her mouth, lifted a finger to remove the tips of her hair from her lips and then closed it again, because there were nothing left but a building amusement and an urge to find Jacob Ben Israel and take back the underwear.
Rachel giggled, a small embarrassed sound that crinkled her skin and scrunched up her nose. "I think you will be glad to know that I learn from my mistakes."
"Well good, because that was my third question." Dara smiled and felt the pleasant breath of Rachel's light laughter on her skin. Her chest warmed until she felt gooey and disgustingly merciful. "Fine, I'll play nice. No more dark secrets, Rachel Berry. What is your..." She rolled her eyes. "short-term goal."
Though seemingly simple, she couldn't help but hope this would pull some meat out of Rachel's answer, whether she found an interest in dating, or if it indicated anything towards Finn Hudson, but apparently Rachel had regained her balance and was just as prepared as before. Though, the answer was a little more surprising. "To get you to meet my other friends." she said seriously, without a blink in her dark earnest eyes, or a crack of a smile.
Dara balked, her eyebrows raising and crinkling her expression into utter confusion.
"What?" she asked dumbly, her voice accidentally slipping up an octave to the dangerous tone of Quinn Fabray. Luckily, Rachel didn't seem to notice the sudden shift and instead mimicked her expression, as though she wasn't sure if this was another question she had to answer correctly of if Dara was actually questioning her answer.
She must have assumed the second because her eyes became cautious, slowly repeating what she said in a near painful deliberation. "To get you to meet my other friends." she trailed off, her voice shifting into a shape of a question.
"Oh." she breathed out. Her heart played tricks in her chest and pounded painfully against her chest. She felt herself grow shy, the clearness in Rachel's eyes never wavering, never doubting. Slowly, she pulled her lips in, hoping to hide that warm blush in her cheeks, feeling hope flower in her chest. "You really want me to meet them?"
"Of course." Rachel spoke fluent simplicity, the words ached with certainty.
There was a brief moment of silence, filled with the quiet mechanics of the electric ceiling fan and their shared breathing, eyes locked and a moment suspended in time, the smell of cucumber and melon returning to dull her sharp thinking.
Slowly, clearing her throat, she tried to remove the thickness inside. "Well." Dara bit her lip, and felt a light blush warm on her cheeks. Clearing her throat, she let her eyes find Rachel's again, forcing a small smirk to cover her smile. "Are you sure you wouldn't want to trade me in for some National's trophy?" She always did need something to fall back on when things got too emotional, sarcasm was always the easiest.
It was only a moment later that she realized that maybe she shouldn't have mentioned Nationals, since she was new entering this strange life of Rachel Berry, and surely she hadn't mentioned Glee club's upcoming competition to her, yet. But before she could feel anything akin to panic, or even a flutter of it, Rachel had shifted closer and smiled, a small warm smile, her cheek resting against the back of her hand.
"Dara" she said sweetly, the warmth of her breath fanning against her cheek and Dara almost closed her eyes, the smell of mint and warmth making an impossible promise she wished she could take. But Rachel's words brought her out of her head, along with another roll of her eyes." National's is hardly a short-term goal."
Dara felt her eyebrows raise, a choked laugh coming out of her throat, having gotten caught somewhere on her words. "Right, and why is that, Small Fry."
Rachel didn't look perturbed by the nickname. She only shook her head, raising herself on her elbow again as though to prepare for a grand presentation, plucking out the words from her mental rule book. "That wouldn't be plausible, seeing as my next competition is within four months, it can't be considered as a short-term goal." she replied earnestly, her voice retaining a near mechanical edge to it. When Dara only stared, Rachel sighed. "Dara, everyone knows that a short term goal should be completed by the end of the week, if not by the end of the day!"
Dara was lost on this one simple concept. "At...the end of a week?" she tried out slowly, feeling the words roll awkwardly off her tongue. How was she supposed to meet Rachel's friends by the end of the week? She hardly had time to be Dara at all, let alone be her within an unscheduled date. "A short term goal is not by the end of the week."
Rachel's dark eyes narrowed and Dara almost sighed; she should have known better than question the black and white logic of Rachel's rule book. "Yes it is." Rachel answered in a quiet, clipped voice, a note of authority rising up between her words.
"No, it isn't." she retorted, almost surprised that her response was as childish as it sounded. She had never been one of those children to bicker or complain, but when it became a matter of who was right or wrong, the responses tended to come out of her in a subconscious, childish revolt.
"Dara." Rachel warned, her dark eyes narrowing. "Yes it is."
"No, Rachel -"
"No, it reall-"
"Dara,you're going to meet my friends by the end of the week." Rachel finished the argument with narrowed eyes and a voice that hardly even rose. It wasn't overly demanding, and yet, it held an underlying finality to it that stole the spine from her back and the words from her mouth.
"Uh..." She tucked a smile away, behind her hand. Maybe she should have resisted more, or even stopped the argument a while back, but Quinn never backed down from an argument, even a silly one. But then again, even the HBIC was getting used to loosing with Rachel. "I guess I am, then." the corner of her lip tucked up and she rolled her eyes, "But if your long-term goal is to take out the garbage by Monday, I'll be disappointed."
"So would my parents, considering that trash is normally collected on Sunday, and for your information, my long-term goal is not so nonsensical." She raised her chin with a small, prideful smile. Her eyes gleamed. "It is to be awarded a Tony before my twenty-fifth birthday."
Maybe she hadn't given enough credit to Rachel, or maybe her imagination was just cruel to her, because with the answer clearer than before, she felt a small part of her relax, letting out a small breath. Rachel's dream was still under her expectations. It hadn't changed and it definitely didn't involve anyone else.
She let out a short breath, that mixed with a small laugh, a mistake she quickly amended when the corners of Rachel's mouth turned downward. "What is so funny?"
Her fingers moving idly through the soft silk of the sheets as she nestled her cheek more comfortably. "I only think you have a serious problem with math." When Rachel's brow crinkled, she raised an eyebrow. "You don't see the glaring gap between your short and long term goals? Nine years a little too far from now, don't you think?" a small smile made its way on her face. "Who made up these rules, Berry?"
Rachel raised her chin petulantly, but her eyes had started glittering again. "If you have a complaint, I highly recommend you put it up with the producers of Truth."
A smile threatened the corners of her mouth, her eyes glittering. She quirked her head. "I wonder who that might be." She played warmly, her arm shifting closer to Rachel, now linked to her skin by her fingertips. Tentatively, she bit her lip and suppressed a small giggle, a childishness grasping her heart and urging her into action; an impulse she hardly understood, but undertook anyway. Her fingers brushed lightly against her ribs, teasing the skin there.
Rachel squirmed a little and a small giggle escaped. Her grin widened when she sensed the intention of her fingers. "Well, I'll be sure to write it down." said Rachel through a wide-lipped smile, "But if I don't get back to you-" she broke off into a small giggle as Dara found a patch of tender skin in a more reserved area, the curve of her hip.
The girlish squeal that left Rachel drove Dara into a small frenzy, releasing a breathlessness in her chest, soft wings of butterflies, she pressed her laughter against the silk of sheets. Her hands pressed firmly against warm skin, spreading and roaming, the wild gust of laughter being directed warmly against her skin, lavishing her with thoughts and the scent of cucumber skin.
"Girls?" a soft voice interrupted and Dara almost thought - for a bizarre moment - that was Rachel, but very quickly with the stiffness underneath her and the sound of a knocking against the door did the peices click together. The knock was followed closely by the creaking sound of a door opening, and with a gasp and snap of her spine, Dara was on the other side of the bed in an instant.
Rachel sighed and called out a soft "Come on in, Daddy," she raised herself to a sitting position and her fingers worked to brush all of that wild hair to one side of her neck. She felt a hot flush of shame and victory as the pink marks of her lipstick showed against her neck, because even though it wasn't from a kiss, it still gave the impression of one. For the heart of Rachel's father, she was concerned, but for her own, she couldn't hide the small smirk.
The door creaked again and Mr. Berry popped his head in. "Hey girls, would you like something to eat?"
Rachel smiled, but it was short and lacking warmth. "No Daddy, we're fine."
The coldness wasn't subtle and it wasn't supposed to be. Mr. Berry's eyes, through the crack of the door and the thick glasses, flickered and the smile on his face slackened. "Well, do tell me if you do. I cook up a mean vegan lasagna if you girls want it."
Dara's eyes flickered to Rachel, who simply nodded, her figure never relaxing and her smile never warming. Though that was certainly supposed to be the end of his speech, Mr. Berry didn't leave. He was waiting for something, and evidently he wasn't going to leave without it, so with a little speculation, the man pushed the door open a little wider until Dara came into view.
He improvised. "So...it's Dara, right?"
Her attention perked and so did Rachel's, a brow arching and her eyes finding her fathers as though trying to read his intentions on the warm surface of his smiling face. She wasn't sure whether to say Mr. Berry or 'sir', so she remained quiet; answering with only a nod despite, Dara smiled, despite Quinn's old mannerisms wiggling in her brain, telling her she was doing something wrong.
Mr. Berry smiled and nodded, stepping closer and revealing his whole figure. He had flour coated on his skin and clothes, a thick batter like substance spotted on his acid faded jeans. "Well, I'd shake your hand, but I don't think you want any of this on you." He indicated to his flour-coated hands. "But I'll be sure to catch up with the pleasantries next time you come around here."
Dara smiled, even though she knew it wasn't for her. "Of course." she answered anyway. It was for his daughter, the implication of there being another stay, and it was just enough to make Rachel's smile genuine and her brown eyes sparkle again.
She liked Mr. Berry. It was evident he loved his daughter, from the smiles to the fact that he was willing to make a step he wasn't prepared for. Mr. Berry beamed and for a moment, though it was a well-known fact that Rachel was adopted, she could see bits and pieces of him that resembled his short and dorky daughter. It was like a puzzle of skin and hair, all broken down into the small quirks that tied them together; it was certainly endearing, and far better than what she could have acquired, like ignorance or a distinct liking for alcohol.
When Mr. Berry left, Dara found her attention turning to Rachel, again, raising an expected eyebrow. "You're fathers never say no to you, do they?"
Rachel pulled her lips in to suppress anything suspicious, her eyes glittering happily as they lowered to Dara's. "I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about." she said, but her voice was altered by a note of happiness and her smile was pulling on the edges of her lips.
The roll of her eyes was small and it didn't feel very sarcastic, so after a moment of thought, she found herself making the slow crawl back to Rachel again. The girl eyed her tentatively, watching her as she sunk a little deeper into the bed beside her.
Dara smiled and stretched herself out on the bed, her head knocking lightly against Rachel's knee. Brown eyes looked down at her, and she looked up. She simply couldn't resist. "You're a little spoiled, aren't you?"
Rachel feigned offense. "Of course not." she scoffed, but there was no bite to her words and the smile that soon followed made it clear that she knew it was a lie.
Dara giggled softly, but quickly turned her head to hide the sound, her smile pushing into the plush comforter beneath her. She was never one to giggle, and with how she was building up Dara to be, she couldn't see her being much of a giggler, too. But Rachel seemed to enjoy making unexpected changes in her.
"Dara?" Rachel asked softly, her breath accidentally brushing against the shell of her ear as she shifted down into the bed, settling a little too close, making shivers splinter quickly across her skin and then disappears in a flush of warmth. Dara bit her lip to keep the heavier breath from escaping her, keeping it locked inside, and yet she felt so breathless; swallowing thickly, she turned her head and found the girl's eyes again.
"Yes?" she asked and watched the small frown inbetween Rachel's eyebrows deepen.
"I know I'm sort of breaking the rules, so to speak, since I have yet to answer a single question incorrectly, but..." Rachel tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and Dara raised an eyebrow. "Do you think maybe I could ask the questions, now?" she asked this tentatively, as if the rules of the game really mattered to Dara, and the mere question of changing it up may offend her.
Dara really wanted to roll her eyes, but she forced down the impulse with a gentle smile, because Rachel is new to friendships and really, so is she, so what's the point in being course? "Of course."
Rachel beamed brightly and scooted closer, laying her head gently against the crook of her elbow. "Okay."
Dara waited for more, pressing one ear against her elbow as the other laid straight up, waiting for whatever word or question Rachel would come up with, but after the seconds turned into minutes, Dara raised her eyes to Rachel and smiled. The girl really couldn't let a game just be a game, it had to be perfect and her questions had to be scripted honestly from her own curiosity. She always said what she meant and meant what she said, and really, that's what made falling for Rachel so easy. While she hid behind lies and false smiles, Rachel forced her way through life with honesty and blunt emotion. She wasn't afraid to feel something, as long as it was real, and she wasn't afraid to act on it, even if it wasn't returned.
Rachel's dark eyes suddenly brightened and with a curve of her shy smile, she inched her head closer to Dara's, her eyes sliding to hers and melting warmly upon impact. "Okay I got one." she said, her voice barely reaching above a whisper as though the question itself was a secret not to be heard by others. "What was your hair color before it was pink?"
Dara's smile slipped off her face, her throat tightening in a sudden flare of panic. This wasn't a question that would determine her fate, but it still felt like a dangerous one, each word held its own gravity, weighing her head down but making it whirl all the same. Her heart trilled like a frantic bird, fluttering about nervously, rustling its feathers and clacking its short beak.
But she had to answer, because Rachel was looking at her quietly from her spot on the bed, her cheek resting against the back of her hand and her eyes watching her carefully, as though seeing right past her skin and bones to the thoughts underneath, the flare of panic and dread that came like a wave and crashed everywhere inbetween.
Dara forced out a smile just as she forced out her words. "Blonde." her voice cracked so she shook her head and swallowed down the scathing emotion on the tip of her tongue, aiming to try again. "My hair was blonde."
While Rachel seemed to absorb this, her dark eyes analyzed each particle of her skin, sliding from side to side from eye to eye. Dara's head whirled with loaded thoughts. Was this a bad idea? Should she have lied? Would that have passed? Does Rachel see her now? Does she see Quinn? Underneath the pink wig, red lipstick and happier eyes, does she see her tormentor?
"Huh." Rachel whispered softly, the words falling softly off those plump pink lips, her dark eyes narrowing slightly. She continued to study Dara's features and the pink haired girl was very quickly loosing her control, running in frantic circles, her nerves wish to tear her apart.
"What?" she asked, forcing a smile on her face as though her heart wasn't beating like a hammer in her chest, unable to help the note of anxiety that entered her voice.
Rachel tilted her head and the tip of her nose crinkled, obviously frustrated. "I can't picture it." she whispered, her eyes narrowing suspiciously as though this slight dysfunction was all her fault.
Dara blinked and her lips parted, hope fluttering eagerly inside her as the words flowed out just as quickly. "You...can't picture it?"
"No. I can't." She grumbled, clearly frustrated with her seemingly lack of imagination. Dara could feel her lips quirk up in a small smile, though she tried to smother it into the comfortable cushioning of Rachel's bed. The girl beside her sighed but let go of her disappointment, her dark eyes returning to its clinical study of Dara's face. "But I'm sure you looked just as lovely." she said evenly, without uncertainty, as though the words didn't bring a sudden lurch in Quinn's hidden heart and make Dara's throat dry.
Rachel smiled gently and brought her hand to Dara's face, her fingertips exploring the hollow of her cheekbone, moving with a soft and doting touch to the pink hair, pushing it gently behind her ear. The careful way in which she carried these actions out made a warm mush of her heart, melting inside of her like butter.
Dara breathed evenly out her nose, pressing her cheek more firmly against Rachel's cushioned bed sheets as the girl's fingers brushed against the shell of her ear again. She was so concentrated on breathing that she almost didn't hear Rachel's next question. "Why did you change your hair?"
The question was whispered softly into the air and the words were blown right back at her through the electric fan, the silence ringing around her as she tried to absorb another chaotic question. But before she could scratch up an answer, her lips had parted and released words far more genuine.
"I wanted something different..." she felt a small, embarrassed smile turn up her lips."Something that I couldn't get while being who I was..." the words left her easier now, almost without thought, almost like air, but they retained the weight of her world. Her eyes flickered to Rachel and watched for a moment, those dark brown eyes widen and latch onto her, absorbing and waiting. "I can't tell you I wanted to be different, because I didn't. And it's not some act to rebel or anything else so cliché." She felt herself smile, and it being returned. "I knew what I wanted, and I've known it for a while." her voice comes out softer now, quieter, higher, sweeter, so very like Quinn. "I could only really get that by changing what everyone saw of me. What everyone saw for me. I thought it would be worth it."
She tethered off with a small smile, a heart breaking inside herself. A part of her was making sense, being brave enough to get what she wanted, but the other didn't make sense at all, hiding behind her fear and pretty smile, how could she ever get what she wanted?
Rachel lay quietly beside her, her wide eyes devouring the words she had shared, probably giving them a deeper meaning then she had meant to give. The silence returned, but it wasn't uncomfortable or stifling as many silences can be, this was just there. It didn't separate them, in fact, it may have pushed them a little closer. It stayed between them, growing in seconds and minutes, until at last; it was broken in a quiet whisper.
"I'm really glad you're my friend."
She laughed softly, but felt herself scoot closer, her fingers finding Rachel's in the dim light, touching a quiet promise she couldn't have shared with words. "Me too."
"This is going to be so great." Rachel said excitably, squeezing the steering wheel while she cast a giddy side glance to Dara. The tight line of Dara's mouth turn up, but her head remained slack against her open hand, her fingers creating small distressed signals on her temple again. She was used to feeling this way, easily swayed by irritation, anger or fear. But that was Quinn's problem, always moving against a very delicate balance, her moods teetering from the smallest disturbance; people whisper 'bipolar' under their breath, and sometimes she wonders if it's true.
But as Dara, she very rarely felt Quinn's select emotional variation. She lived lighter and maybe a little happier, but Quinn's problem found a crack and was now wiggling itself into Dara's life. And that problem was the dopey lump of flesh standing outside his house, waiting for Rachel to drive by and pick him up; otherwise known as Finn Hudson, her boyfriend.
She should have known that the arrangements would end up like this; although, to her credit, she had not expected the entire Glee club to simply bail on Rachel. And so quickly, almost without warning, they all dropped like flies. Sure, she didn't know them very well, but whenever she walked past the choir room, often, she would linger a little longer in the hallways just to hear their voices intermingle. Though it only sharpened her critism, she always thought it was beautiful, it made her feel warm and then suddenly cold, the sense of longing always just a shadow behind.
She only figured that the people who made something so beautiful were able to stand each other for long enough to establish an efficient enough support system. But, she supposed, she of all people should know better than that.
Biting her lip, Dara watched Rachel through the hair in her eyes, solemn and quiet; she watched as the girl squeezed the steering wheel again and tapped it nervously with her fingers. She was nervous, and Dara was being glum, and only one made reasonable sense. She knew Rachel just wanted a nice evening between the two worlds she happened to bridge, but the selfish wanting part of her needed Rachel in only her own.
But Rachel was very quickly winning over her selfishness, tossing out nervous looks from the corner of her eye, it helped encourage the guilt already growing in her stomach. Eventually, with the amount of nervousness seeping out of her short brunette friends, the guilt won her over. It was enough to make anyone feel guilty.
And if it wasn't, this definitively was. "Are you excited?" Rachel asked tentatively, her grip tightening as her voice colored with a delicate hopefulness. It craved an immediate answer and Dara nearly stomped on the tail end of it, guilt and fear making her words fall out fast.
"Of course." It felt shaky, but she willed her self to smile, her eyes finding Rachel's again, hoping to silence whatever worries might be inside her. She tried to be comforting. She wanted this, she wanted to meet him, she wanted to make her happy, but only one of those were true, and it was hard making up for two-thirds of her enthusiasm.
But that one-third was enough for Rachel, because soon she was beaming again, returning to her old self with that wide childlike, hopeful smile and her fingers squeezed the steering wheel again, her eyes finding the road again.
Rachel smiled and said, "Oh, here it is." and Dara's heart started beating faster. Her fingers dug into her temple and Rachel's car bumped along the driveway, slowly pulling up. What if Finn noticed her? What if he saw Quinn? Dara swallowed and looked through the dark for the familiarly tall figure. After a few seconds of searching, she sighed and pressed her back against the seat. The best part was that Finn wasn't even waiting outside. The advantage of these black tinted windows was a loss for her. The car's low purr died down with a twist of the key. Rachel smiled eagerly and opened the door with a creak, shutting it with an even louder bang.
With a quick gathering breath, she unlocked the door and tipped her boots out, hearing the comforting crunch of gravel underneath. Admittedly, she had made deliberate efforts to seem overly different. But she was just beginning to sense just how bad of an idea that might have been. The more different she became, the more skin she showed, and it only just occurred to her that she was showing too much of Quinn's body. And it was a bit obvious.
Rachel stepped up to the door and shrugged that ridiculously puffy jacket closer to her snug little body. "Hey." she whispered, turning her head to glance at Dara before her hand found the little white box hiding the door bell in a clear plastic cover. "I'm really glad you're going out with me, today." she responded with a smile.
Dara pulled her lips in to hide the small smile. "Yes, well..." she drawled out, her heart fluttering softly like the tips of butterfly wings, her fingers finding the small detailed tiles of the house. "don't thank me just yet. I never promised to be nice to the boy." she only half-teased.
Rachel beamed up at her, never blinking and with utter certainty, responded warmly, "Yes, you will."
Dara rolled her eyes and managed a small scoff as though it wasn't true, but she knew that all those childish plans to make fun of Finn was vanishing underneath those warm loyal eyes, a determination setting in her chest not to disappoint, an instinct drilled into her from childbirth.
Rachel still had her finger pressed against the doorbell when Finn whipped the door open, a big goofy smile on his face, wearing his usual preppy-backwoods ensemble. "Hey, Rach," he exclaimed brightly, and it was just enough enthusiasm to make Dara look away, remembering in a sudden flash the reason why Quinn had chosen him in the first place. It wasn't out of affection, or anything silly like that, but for someone who played pretend in emotion, it felt natural to attached to someone who didn't fake it all the time.
It was a hollow throb in this body of hers, knowing that he was a boyfriend to someone who did fake it, with feelings for someone who didn't.
"Hello, Finn." Rachel responded happily, "I'm so glad you could join us!" Despite the situation, Dara felt herself smile at the word 'us'. "Unfortunately, the rest of our club could not make it. They all had business to attend to." She said evenly, her voice void of all the emotional turmoil it carried just a few days ago when the subject had fist been brought up, her words bleeding into swelling tears and insecurities.
"Yeah, that's cool." Finn said lightly, shrugging and shoving his large hands into his pocket with a smile. It must have been old news for him, because he didn't so much as blink or even turn to look around him. He must have gotten the headcount of who was attending before even Rachel did, but had seen no need to put action into his club's laziness. Before Dara could even bristle, a gentle pressure wrapped around her arm and softened her stance, like old wax in the sun, she felt herself melt and form into what standards had been set before her. Be nice.
Rachel smiled and took a breath. "Alright." she breathed out, her fingers curling around Dara's arm more tightly. "Finn, I would like you to meet my friend, Dara." Finn's eyes had already made the trail to Dara halfway between Rachel's first word and her last, but what had only been a glance became longer and stretched until Finn's mouth dropped and the blood drained from his face. She could pretty much assume Finn hadn't been expecting anyone like her to be standing here with Rachel. If his eyes were any indication, his imagination hadn't gotten very far.
"Holy shit." he mumbled, his eyes making a large circle to every distinct feature of both Dara and Quinn, the pink hair to the freckle on her wrist, two people combined into one. She was left wondering which one was more evident.
Rachel was clearly surprised by her friend's reaction, her eyes widening as the corners of her mouth tightened. "Finn," she mumbled, clearly embarrassed. Her eyes flickered to Dara's. "Don't just stare at her." The demand was left unanswered as Finn's eyes went back to her fringed pink hair, ghosting over what should have been familiar hazel eyes. When no recognition was made, Dara found herself relaxing. But no such consolation reached Rachel, her voice quickly growing irritated. "Finn.
Luckily, he heard that time, his head snapping as he found Rachel again. Despite making the connection, he connected it all wrong, because his next few words were far from an apology. "That's your friend?" Finn sputtered, clearly not believing his eyes or the skin and bone in front of him. Though she wasn't surprised of Finn's reaction, she was glad Rachel was, even if it didn't quite make sense.
The brunette's brown eyes narrowed, and it took a moment to recognize the hot flash of irritation in her eyes, but it was relieving to know it wasn't doubt. Rachel's fingers tightened around Dara's elbow. "Yes, Finn. She is." Her eyes narrowed. "Is there any particular reason why you find that surprising?"
Finn may be a little dense at times, but he wasn't dumb. He knew enough from Quinn to know when a line had been crossed and experience taught him how to fix it. The corner of his mouth loosened and his stiff figure sagged against the door. "No, no I was just wondering. I guess I was expecting one of those dancer girls at those recitals you were talking about."
Instantly, like a switch, Rachel brightened and the irritation vanished. "Oh, Jessica and Stephanie?" Finn grinned and bobbed his head up and down like an inflated balloon, and Rachel's fingers loosened on her arm. Dara felt her heart drop and the urge to grab her hand nearly overwhelmed her. And she probably would have, had the ghost of a previous conversations was not so wrongly squeezed between them.
Don't be bitter, it's unattractive, whispered Quinn, a phantom of herself reaching through the gap that was slowly separating them.
And though she hated it, she took Quinn's advice. Which was really her own, but does that even matter right now? Finn was talking to Rachel, laughing with her as he slipped into the front seat, and now he was bringing up Glee and all the things that made Rachel beam. She tried to keep up, but before she knew it, the conversation was over and they were sliding into a tacky red booth, squeezing together as a waiter waited on them.
"So..." Finn started over the loud wet ball of bread in his mouth. "How did you guys meet?
Dara's eyes never moved from the large ball in his mouth, working back and forth between his cheeks and wetting his lips. It was enough to make anyone sick, but Quinn already had such a weak stomach. "School." She answered, quietly enough to keep the nausea out of her words.
Finn's brow furrowed and with a mighty gulp, he managed to swallow the large ball in his mouth. "Wait...but," His voice was a little gurgled, so with a loud chocking sound and a thick clap to his chest, he cleared his throat and tried again. "You don't go to our school."
She hadn't heard him over the disgusting swallow of his bread, and as she took a small breath, she wondered whether or not the urge to roll her eyes belonged to Dara or Quinn. She quickly tossed that aside, wondering what difference that would make. It was only when Rachel quietly cleared her throat, and lightly tapped her thigh, did Finn's words finally click. She froze, and her eyebrows furrowed, her eyes quickly finding Finn's as her mind reeled back to that easy, little mistake.
School.It wasn't really a lie, because Quinn had met Rachel at school, in the corridors as she walked to her first class, clad in a red and white uniform with freshman spirit pounding in her ears. But that shouldn't have been Dara's answer. It should have been a quick line, aisle 5, the produce section, she should have laughed over Rachel's height and then let her take off from there.
She felt Rachel's eyes move to her face, heard the sound of skin brushing against cheap plastic and the confused touch of her fingers against the inside of her elbow, a wandering touch, playing gingerly with the neat cotton thread of her shirt. It was a question without words, are you joking? What do you mean?
Biting the inside of her cheek, she felt a small tug of guilt, but kept the answers to herself. Whether she was proud of it or not, she was a good liar. "Don't I? Maybe you just never saw me." She made sure the words sounded sly, not quick or eager, as she leaned forward, and smiled. She watched through the dark hoods of eyes. "Just imagine, I could've been there the whole time." She grew with the lie, a secret joke, as Finn's eyes widened and his lips turned down, suddenly uncertain.
She knew how he worked - how they all did. She knew it wouldn't be long before Finn grew too uncomfortable to sit still, and she only had to wait a few seconds, watched his eyes squint and become desperate to break the eye contact they had managed to hold. He seemed seconds away from turning toward someone else, but before he looked away, she made sure he heard her laugh.
Quietly, she leaned forward and whispered, "It's a joke.". She made it sound like a hint, like it really was sincere, like she was just teasing him from the very beginning.
Which was all she need to make him blush. His eyes widened and his discomfort quickly waned into irritation. His chest puffed up and he jerked his head away, his pride wounded. But what Dara would have told him - had it not depended on her cover - was that he shouldn't be embarrassed She fell for several lies along the way, and the thing about lies was that they were too easy to believe. And the most convincing lies do not rely on words.
She had long ago learned the art of silence, the pressure it induced and the mean spirit of it all. Cautiously, she cast an eye to Rachel, careful to read her expression, and she was relieved to see that she was neither reproached nor approved. Rachel was simply surprised, the conversation having wormed far from her expectations.
But with a small smile, that no one else saw, she shrugged to herself and moved on, looking back down to review her menu.
But Finn wasn't done. His face scrunched up and his eyes glinted, embarrassed. "That's not very funny." He huffed, the rosy blush still tinting his cheeks. She cocked an eyebrow. Embarrassment was easier with company, as she was told. She wouldn't really know, she never would have made it evident to anyone else had she been embarrassed.
But she played along. "I'm not known for my humor." After all, boys like their pride, and maybe she felt a little guilty for playing him in the first place.
Finn frowned and his eyes looked shiny. "Then what are you known for?" It was said quietly, like he didn't really want it to be heard, but he was, and irritation spiked through Quinn. She felt the edges of a smile come on, through the irritation that weaved through her bloodstream. She felt the edges ripple and her stomach tightened with anger.
Rachel, detecting tension, perked up. "My, these salads look good, don't they?" She hummed and flipped through the menu. "Apple Walnut Salad. That sounds appetizing. Now, I assume they will leave the meat in a side dish, but it's still in a far better shape than the last time I came in here. What, with the chicken tossed on every inch of my salad. And then, to have the audacity to claim the salad to be a Chicken Caesar." And onward.
While Rachel struggled past the moment, Dara managed to breathe again, regaining herself. She felt the quick beating of her heart and the anger of someone else, just underneath the skin, the curl of her fingernails. She wondered if this was what Dr. Jekyll felt during those awkward times of friction, where those two lines suddenly blurred.
If Dara was thinking rationally, she would have known that her situation was nothing like fiction, but a personal choice she made. She didn't take any potion, and her change wasn't permanent. It was a wig, sunglasses, and a different mentality.
But, still, the moments of friction existed, and oddly enough, the separation did too.
"What is it you are going to get, Finn?" Was the end of Rachel's rant, only slightly breathless.
Finn frowned and mumbled, "I don't know," and turned his eyes to the menu. But after a few minutes of pretending to read, he put it down and got up, leaving with a quickly muttered, "I have to go to the bathroom."
Rachel stared and then, slowly, sighed and let the menu drop from her hands. "Okay, what is going on with you?"
"Me?" Dara asked, feigning incredibility, "This was not my fault." She picked absently at the red cloth folded neatly in front of her, the silverware clinking together as she moved its placemat mindlessly. "And anyway, he definitely started it."
She didn't have to look at Rachel to know what was expected of her, so like a guilty kid, she conceded with only the hope of escaping responsibility. "Alright, so maybe I started it, but Finn definitely meant some harm with that question of his." This time, she peered curiously through her hair, wondering if she got away with it. She watched Rachel smile at her through the shades of pink, and with a sigh, Dara admitted defeat. "Fine. I'll try to be nicer."
"I knew you would." Rachel cooed and poked her affectionately on her nose. Dara rolled her eyes and jerked her head away, but she couldn't escape the small, happy smile.
"So what are you getting, Dara?" Rachel asked - seemingly innocent - as she shifted subtly closer. But nothing could be subtle in this restaurant, for with each motion, the cheap red plastic squeaked and everything was revealed. But Rachel didn't look embarrassed and Dara simply smiled.
Despite the sweetness of it, it didn't keep her from teasing. "Probably something that bled to death." With these words, Rachel's face fell slack and Dara fought back her laugh, nearly snorting as she tried to hide her face with her laminated menu. Briefly, she looked through the options, Rachel's face still in the corner of her eyes. "Oh, look! Bacon Grilled Burger, that sounds delicious."
Rachel slowly shook her head, "You heartless carnivore." She grabbed the menu away from her. "I will be deciding for you. You lost your eating rights."
"My eating rights?"
"Yes, your eating rights. They are mine now, and we are sharing a Caesar salad. You may eat the meat they have on it, and if that doesn't satisfy your carnal needs, than good." Rachel concluded with a nod and a closed menu.
She was about to respond with something along the lines of her 'carnal needs' when something caught her attention.
She let out a quick breath through her nose. There, settled comfortably into the booth right in front of them, were Kurt and Mercedes. They were both chatting excitably amongst themselves, sharing gossip with bread as they snuck glances at Rachel's seemingly unaware company.
Irritable, Dara waited to be acknowledged, her lips pulled back and her jaw tight. It took a few moments, but before long, one of their eyes wandered to her again and quickly, they alerted the other. Mercedes quickly snapped up her menu to hide herself, but Kurt was not so lucky, squeaking, he squabbled over what little space they had in efforts to cover himself.
Dara only rolled her eyes and looked away, even though, honestly, it would have been sort of amusing to watch. Though, the thought of Rachel finding them dashed any bubbling amusement, and suddenly, she felt herself hope that Finn would come back. At least he provided a good cover up. She would have to handle them on her own time, but until then, she could only hope that Finn would get his butt back over here.
Thankfully, she didn't have to wait very long. With a small, sheepish smile, Finn slid back into his seat and covered the two behind him, choosing carefully, another breadstick to munch on. And - whether she was thankful for it or not - whatever tension remained was swept away with the crunch of bread, the gross ball of saliva and wheat moving back and forth literally drowning out everything else in her mind.
What she was thankful for, however, was that the waiter handed her the check the moment she finished picking off Rachel's oddly delicious salad, helping to spur on this oddly eventful evening. Rachel was beaming happily as they all got up and moved to the automatic doors, so happy, in fact, that it became almost too easy to slip away. With just a gentle push in the car's direction, she slowed down and turned instead to the two sitting ducks behind her.
Sauntering over, Dara let her hands slide across the sleek table until she could grip the corners. "Hello." Dara smiled, a small catty thing, leveling her eyes to theirs. "I don't believe we've had the chance to introduce ourselves." Mercedes' eyes widened, maybe noticing the familiar sweetness in her voice, and with deliberate effort, she made sure it sounded dryer the next time. "But seeing as you have been watching me for the better part of an hour, I don't think that will be necessary."
Kurt's eyes widened and he quickly opened his mouth, a justification on the tip of his tongue, and if Dara was interested in bantering or catty insults, she would have allowed it.
But she really wasn't. That was Quinn's game. Now, she was just irritated. "Oh, no." She quickly interrupted, her lip curling in agitation. "I don't actually care about this part. I don't care whether you're innocent or not. In fact, you could not know a single Rachel Berry in your life and the only difference it would make for me is that when Rachel, a complete stranger to you or not, invites you somewhere, you will be there."
She waited, staring back at the wide-eyed, heavy breathing gleeks just below her, and after several awkward moments of silence, she let out a low, irritated sigh. She never thought she would miss getting a sharp response. "Do I make myself clear?"
Kurt quickly nodded, and Mercedes parroted him. Having made her point, Dara managed to turn away without rolling her eyes, sliding her hands from the table, she gave them a reason to watch her leave. Her father's lessons were pressed like flowers into the pages of her mind and in odd moments like this, she fell back into his knowledge; should you ever turn your back on an opponent, make sure they know where to look.
When she left the automatic doors, she tipped her gaze to her surroundings. Thankfully, she didn't have to look too long, it being fairly easy to spy an abnormally tall boy and an equally short girl. Together, nonetheless.
Smiling, she made the short jog to the parked car. There was a gap between Finn and Rachel, the conversation being sparse as Rachel's eyes were on the look out for her. Dara found herself happy again. With a quick smile, she joined their shrouded shoulders, slipping in between them, she added to their puffy breath as the cold air mixed between them.
The rest happened quickly, and it wasn't long before they had all filed into the car and the heater started to blast, the conversation warming up into a topic that nearly all of them could share. But still, she kept her words to herself, watching through hooded eyelids as Rachel talked. She took the opportunity to admire her, watching her hands twitch on the steering wheel and her eyes brighten with the passion of conversation. She doesn't think she ever noticed just how quickly Rachel's mouth moved.
It was sort of funny to watch; the girl was nearly bursting at the seams with words, composed entirely of letters waiting to be thought and feckless punctuation. Even so, she never tripped up, never faltered. The staccato beat of her side of the conversation never lacked, even when she exchanged words like "interminable" when all she meant to say was "boring".
It was eccentric and crazy and oddly charming.
Then suddenly, Rachel's quirky mouth closed and with a small hum, she turned into another road, the streets becoming unfamiliar. Or more unfamiliar. Admittedly, her eyes had been elsewhere since she entered the car, and she hadn't really paid close attention to the conversation, or at least the words. And looking into the streets didn't help if she had very little idea where they were going; with a quick peek to Finn's face, she was resolved. So nobody knew where they were going.
Rolling her eyes lightly and pressing her forehead against the window, she trained her eyes to the world outside, searching for a single familiar road, a street, or a person. When they passed a suspicious sign that appeared to say 'Now Leaving Lima' sign, Dara's mouth twitched.
"Rachel?" said Dara, smiling, warm in the sudden sliver of light. It was caught through the rearview mirror and Rachel hummed, her smile returned. "Where are we going?"
The girl's face brightened with realization, "Oh, yes. I forgot to mention to you that our next checkpoint may go a little out of Lima, but you can trust that it will be well worth the drive. Weaving Pallas is far worth any travel, in my opinion." Rachel smiled and found Dara in her rearview mirror "And the fun part is that palace is spelled p-a-l-l-a-s, after the mythical goddess Pallas for her talents in weaving."
Dara smiled and shook her head, pressing just her fingertips against her eyes.
"Weaving...Pallas?" Finn was obviously a little more skeptical. "Isn't that like, with needles and stuff?"
"Yes," Rachel nodded, "I, myself, was not the one to discover it, but my fathers and I have been enjoying its quaint services since my eleventh birthday and I have found it most enjoyable. I would say it's almost like Color Me Mine, only, instead of painting, you get to learn how to weave cute little patterns into fabric. You can write cute little phrases too, I made my fathers identical shirts for Fathers day, and they still wear it." Rachel beamed.
Finn's face pinched as the night become a dismal painting of thin, sharp needles and pricked fingers. "Oh." It's the word of the day and it was just the word needed to tilt the pique of Rachel's excitement. Through all her beams and excitement, her ears were searching for this tell-tale sigh and she just found it. Through her nose, Dara let out a hot, irritated sigh.
There was only a second of silence, but the car made an obvious change in speed, slowing down, preparing for whatever course. "It was just a thought, really." She answered, as though she hadn't driven a good twenty minutes into it. Tentatively, she added. "I could go anywhere."
Finn's expression subtly changed, his eyebrows raising and the dark glint of his eyes shining, like slim rings in the glance of light. He fiddled with his hands and his choice of words, waiting to get the order right. Before Dara could snap, he finally chose to speak. "Well, you could come back to my place? My mom's doing one of her night yoga classes, and she won't be back for a while. I have the home to myself." He added with a puff of pride.
Rachel took the words with absolute delight, her face breaking into a bright smile; Dara watched her silently, cautiously, nervous with the sudden brightness.
"I've never been invited to someone's house before. " Rachel exclaimed, loudly and with just a hint of longing, the sadness looking out of her brightly colored words. Unable to contain her relief that it was the invitation Rachel longed for, Dara felt the guilt for every muscle becoming slack. "If it's okay with Dara, I say absolutely."
Two pairs of eyes suddenly sought hers, one more happy than the other. Finn's tentatively bordered invitation was all but trampled by Rachel's enthusiasm. Briefly, she wondered if it was really up to her, if she put her foot down would they really not go? Would Rachel pick her over the other? But just as she thought it, she gave in, tossing the thought away.
"If I must." She smiled, stretching her arms out against the back seat. "I'm afraid its for the best, I would have beaten you all at weaving."
Rachel, finding a cue, quickly chimed in. "There is no beating, Dara, there is only more successful weaving."
The fact that it rhymed made her heart squirm and the smile a little easier. "I guess we'll never know." She watched tenderly as Rachel huffed and narrowed her eyes.
"No" was the emphasis. "We'll never know about our assumed knowledge of knowing." Rachel laid down the law, and since she was as stubborn as a mule, she couldn't guess if Rachel intended to make a joke or not. Either way, she loved bickering with the girl. As long as the words remained short and happy, she could do it all night. Though secretly, in some crevice of herself, she did find some enjoyment in those other fights, the ones where all eyes turned away, locked behind closed doors, she could exercise that hidden despair. That angry frustration.
They fell into a more advertising conversation, one that Dara even contributed to, mostly just to egg Rachel on. It felt nice, talking and listening, even when she didn't mean half of what was said - having never being a musical enthusiast - but she found it pleasant, and would have even called it fun had things gone differently. The car bumped along the road until it finally pulled away, the tires hitting the grit of the gravel, the sound leveling above words and conversation.
They sat in silence, if only for a moment. Maybe it was only a second. In fact, Dara might not have even breathed, maybe her heart didn't even beat. But, as normal as it seemed at the time, upon later reflection, it was clear that time had passed much slower than normal and lasted far longer, long enough for it to be considered monumental.
Rachel had not seen it coming, and though Dara had looked for every bad intent, neither had she; they only caught the tail end of it, only understanding when it was happening, when Finn leaned in too close. His proximity stunned her words, his breath hitting her lips, his target missed only by inches. Dara became a statue, internally frozen, she felt a calamity in the air. Quietly, she watched Rachel react.
"Wha-" The words quickly died off, cut off by lack of breath. Rachel's neck cramped as she canted back, avoiding those warm hovering lips. Dara couldn't breathe. She didn't feel anything outside the dull pain of fingernails, digging deeply into her hand. At a better distance, Rachel managed to speak. "Finn!"
Time moved normally then, and it seemed not even a second had passed because Dara let out the same breath she had been holding. But something must have stopped because her heart tripped over itself to catch up, making up for something.
Finn swallowed thickly and slowly backed away. His eyes regarded her distrustfully, as though she was the one that just tripped over the carefully drawn lines of friendship. He watched her cautiously, his throat bobbing up and down; those brown eyes now showcased their hesitation, previously so confident.
"Finn..." Rachel uttered quietly, at a complete loss to the situation. The proper way how to handle and to react fluttered from the open window, leaving them to their own devices. Rachel just stared deeply into unsteady eyes. Finn quickly dropped the gaze, his cheeks burning into a bright rosy red. He swallowed thickly again while a short gruntled sound got caught in his throat. White clear imprints were being pressed into Dara's skin, half moon shapes and hard fingernails.
"I'm sorry." Finn mumbled, barely getting the words out there. He shuffled closer to the door and his hand find the handle, just playing with it now, but the intention was still clear.
"Finn..." Rachel apparently was at a loss of words too, because it seemed his name was all she could manage. After a struggling minute, however, she managed to choke out the rest. "You have a girlfriend."
It was an eerie feeling, being mentioned when you're not there. Quinn peered out of her mind, shyly watching the scene with her. It was like whispering behind a friend's back with fear of them listening, only rearranged differently so it was backwards and suddenly you're the girl listening to your crush talk to her crush, chastising him about his crush because he had a girlfriend; you.
Finn's face grew grim, his mouth tucking down again. He must not have expected this result. Maybe he never expected to kiss Rachel at all. She should be able to understand that things go unexpectedly, but with Rachel's face in her mind and the distance of their lips tingling in her skin, she felt a hot flush of anger overrule her. There was a distant whirring in her gut, like she had created a storm inside and it was battling her skin with harsh winds.
"Finn." This time it was marked with a hint of impatience, the creep of anger making its way in. "Are you going to talk to me?"
Finn looked in pain, his eyes flickering quickly away. He couldn't make eye contact, and that, in the end, must have saddened Rachel the most. "Maybe I should just go."
"You can't ju-"
"It was a mistake, I don't know what I was doing." Finn quickly urged over Rachel's words, his eyes widening into the large wounded puppy look. His face pinched and for a moment, he looked angry. "Quinn is just so-" he suddenly cut off as though he knew the peril of his next words and forgot them altogether. With a few heavy breaths, he finally settled with a sigh. "I just thought you liked me."
Again, wordless, Rachel just uttered his name. The night was over, they both knew, but Rachel still winced when Finn opened the door, and when it closed; it didn't even slam. It just softly clicked, but it was loud enough for the only two girls in the car to feel it deep in their bones. It felt like something was changing, like a page was turning and everything was going to be different.
Inside, Dara reeled with words she wished she to say. She wanted to crush Finn, make him untouchable, make him unavailable. She wanted to make Rachel see only disgust for him. But the anger and the hard beating of Quinn's heart was separated by what she chose to respond, dividing them again.
"Are you okay?"
"I-" Rachel sighed and looked down at the steering wheel. A clear fingernail moved and tapped tentatively against the wood, testing out the silence. It must've been too much, because with a soft groan she laid a hand against her head, covering her eyes and forehead. She didn't speak, soft words left her in silence.
Quietly, tentatively, Dara slid from her seat and made her way to Rachel's side. She moved like a spider across the middle centerpiece and maneuvered around in the small crawl space the best she could. But finally, she managed to be right beside her, her legs squished into the same space as Rachel's, her feet resting against her own, the brake pedal pressed completely down.
She didn't know what to say, because honestly, jealousy wasn't the nicest companion. It didn't tread kindly in delicate moments and always made her stomach churn and come up with the worst of words. So with her fingers, she tried to press out what she meant to say, gently brushing back dark strands of hair behind a surprisingly small ear.
She looked down and felt a crushing hurt in her chest, watching Rachel's eyes fill up with tears. Her lower lip trembled and Dara had to bite back the urge to lean in and fix it, and end up ruining everything again. She was almost surprised to hear her fear out loud. "I ruin everything."
When she realized who said it, jealousy quickly whisked out and in its place was a sharp, hurting pain. "No you don't." The emphasised passed forcefully between them, but it didn't lift Rachel's eyes.
"But I did lead him on. I did." She shook her head and her eyes quickly darted away. "It wasn't to be mean, it wasn't even to hurt Quinn. She just goads me so much, and sometimes I can't help but want to show her that she's wrong." The contradiction frustrated Rachel and she quickly shook her head, a sigh of frustration already on her lips. And though Dara's hand fell out of reach, she went on reaching. "I don't know what I'm saying, it wasn't even about her."
There was a stifling moment of silence and Dara fought off that queer feeling again, trying again to brush Rachel's hair back. She was glad when Rachel let her start up again, allowing them fall back into a pattern. Thankfully, the words fell out again, the silence lessening with a sigh. "He was just so nice to me. He was my only friend."
"He still is." she was both surprised and glad to find those words come out of her, even more when she hoped it to be true. When Rachel didn't respond and the teary mistiness only grew, Dara felt a tortured panic start to arise in her chest. She searched desperately for something to say to fix everything.
When she found it, she tried it out tentatively in the silence, every word piqued in hesitance. "Do you want to go weaving?"
She guessed right. Rachel crumbled and tipped her head back. "Yes." Her eyes squinted close and the water in her eyes finally formed into tears, dotting her eyelashes. Dara thumbed them away, scooting a little closer, looking for the right way to say I'm driving. She ended up just tentatively padding Rachel's leg until she guessed it right. It took some more work getting the positions switched, Dara sliding into the drivers seat as Rachel clumsily crawled over her, but they did well enough.
Eventually they worked it out, and the silence wasn't so severe.
But it was still a relief to hear it break. "Dara?"
"Yes?" she asked, quietly trying to pull out of the street, spoiled in her efforts only by the weight of the tires, having sparked another argument with the ground.
Rachel didn't seem to mind, her voice raised clearer than before. "I'm really glad you're my friend."
Dara blinked and her hand fumbled with the turn indicator, the green blinking irritating her eye. When she managed to turn correctly, she laughed the small butterflies out of her chest, warmth melting her chest. "Me too."
This is so long and I don't even know why, this was supposed to be one of my shorter chapters, but it just came out this way. Next chapter is Quinn!
If you're curious as to why this took so long, talk to my therapist! No, I don't have a therapist. So just review instead!
(it was clever)
Edit: So I published this at midnight and I just realized I had published some problems, so I'm deleting it and putting it back up there. No probs if you're reading this now. Also, tell me if I'm too mean to Finn, because honstly, I don't like the boy - so I'm afraid my writing may come off a little biased.