A/N Written for my friend, for her birthday.
Prompt: Rachel + the photogenic cheerleader who has a bad case of hero-worship, and Quinn quietly getting pissed off and/or jealous. Bonus points if Santana is somehow involved.
You're fifteen, and you're pretty sure her name is Rachel Berry.
You're definitely sure that she doesn't know your name. She may be the epitome of unpopular, but she's still a sophomore whereas you're just a lowly freshman—so until you make a name for yourself on the squad, she's cooler than you.
Or at least, she is until she starts recruiting for glee club.
You feel kind of bad, actually. Because in your opinion their performance of Push It was basically hilarious and awesome, but you know it's not going to get them any new members. Coach Sylvester has made her opinions on the New Directions very clear, and no one is going to be brave enough to sing in show choir if it means getting on her bad side. It makes you sort of happy for once that you're totally tone deaf, because if you could carry a tune, it would be… really tempting, you know? Not just to sing, but to spend time with those people. Because—because you think you might sort of have a bit of a girlcrush on Rachel.
(Brittany Pierce explained it to you, the day you tried out for Cheerios. How girls aren't allowed to have crushes on other girls, but they're totally allowed to have girlcrushes, and it didn't make that much sense to you but you think you understand why there has to be a difference.)
And yeah, Rachel is kind of weird, and crazy intense. You're in Geometry with her—you're ahead a year in math because your dad made you go to this academic camp last summer and it was totally lame, but whatever, you know that the Ohio public education system sucks and every little bit helps—and she's just… super aggressive about raising her hand, and actually asks questions when she doesn't understand something, and glares at people if Mr. Perkins calls on them instead of her and they know the answer.
She's also got the prettiest brown eyes you have ever seen, so it's basically an even toss-up. And you thought that that before you heard her sing.
See, look. You love music. You always have. The time that you were, um, gently advised by Mrs. Kaplan—the elementary school music teacher—that you probably shouldn't join the chorus because it "wasn't right for you" remains to this day one of your most scarring and upsetting memories. Your iTunes collection is so massive it practically crashes your computer every time you launch it. If the other Cheerios saw the kind of stuff you watch on YouTube every day, they'd never let you live it down.
Rachel Berry is music.
It's sort of like… it's like how your mom is obsessed with those fluffy paranormal shows where mediums help people reconnect with their loved ones on "the other side." You can't recall which one it was, but you remember on one of them one time, they talked about… there was this kid, and he had an all-consuming passion for guitars and guitarists, but he couldn't play at all. He just couldn't make it happen. But then he died, and when he talked to his mom via the medium, he told he told her that as a spirit he could play like Clapton.
You're not sure what you believe, but you think that's a pretty great idea of heaven. If you knew you'd be able to sing. But you also kind of think that listening to Rachel Berry sing instead might be the closest thing you'll get to it on Earth.
Heaven, you mean.
One time Quinn Fabray catches you staring, and gives you this look like she wants to skin you alive with nothing but a pair of toenail clippers. It's legit terrifying, and so you try to be a little more subtle from then on. Paying attention to the social leper is not how Cheerios are supposed to act, and you know better than to cross the captain.
You slushy Kurt Hummel to make up for it.
(You make your dad get his oil changed at Hummel Tire & Auto to make up for that, because you don't want any bad karma.)
You're sixteen, and you're pretty sure you're kind of… not… straight.
The first day of school confirms it, really. Rachel got bangs over the summer, and they're basically the most adorable things you've ever seen, and when Jake Benton asks you to go to the movies with him you tell him—without even thinking about it—that you can't because you have to wash your hair that night. Because apparently you live in an after-school special from 1955. Not your smoothest moment ever, but whatever. You're a Cheerio. Boys expect you to reject them; they think it's playing hard-to-get.
You plan to milk that for as long as you can.
And besides, it's easier to deal with it when you know you're not alone. Because Santana Lopez and Brittany Pierce? Not subtle. It's a big open secret that any time they hang back after practice to "help Quinn clean up," it means that they're going to screw in the showers.
It's just that one day—after the glee club does this sexy Britney Spears tribute that leaves you panting—it occurs to you that maybe you could… watch.
You're not doing it to be pervy! And, okay, that's a weak argument, but honestly. You know you like girls, but you have no idea how that's even supposed to… y'know. Work. And there are probably a bunch of videos you could find, but that skeeves you out like whoa. Besides, your parents totally check your browser history. But what's wrong with being curious? It's not like you'd ask to join in or anything; you just want to look. And why search for porn when you know exactly where to find something way more… realistic?
Even with all of your reasoning, it takes months to get up the courage to do it. After glee club Sectionals, Finn and Rachel have this massive, ugly public breakup in the middle of a hallway, and—you know it's not like you have a chance with her, but you figure that it couldn't hurt to try and figure out how girl on girl action even works. Just in case.
So one day you double back after practice and hide behind the lockers until Brittany and Santana come in. You cling to the wall, only barely peeking around the corner to see what's going on in the stalls. Just when things are starting to get steamy, however—in every sense of the word—someone clears their throat behind you.
"What do you think you're doing?"
You jump about three feet in the air, and when you turn around you see Quinn Fabray—left eyebrow cocked, hands on her hips. Judging you.
You totally panic, because oh my god, Quinn is going to kick you off the Cheerios because you're gay, but then you realize if she was going to do that to anyone, it would probably be, y'know, Brittany or Santana, not you, so you're safe. You think.
"Enjoying the show?" she asks coolly, and you're so red you probably match your uniform.
"No, I was just—I forgot my… water bottle. So I had to… find it?"
She gives you a hard look. Not the scary toenail clipper one, but like she's trying to figure you out. "You understand that everything you saw here is strictly confidential, right? Or else?"
It's not until that point that it hits you that maybe she doesn't think you're gay at all; maybe she thinks you were looking for blackmail fodder.
"Of course! I would never—what they do is nobody's business but—"
She scoffs, rolls her eyes, and turns to walk away. "God, why am I even asking? Look at you; you're harmless."
You should probably be insulted by that, because you know Cheerios are supposed to be intimidating, but honestly you're just glad she didn't murder you.
Three days later in practice, Santana drops you. Like, on purpose. It really pisses you off, but then she offers you a hand to help you up, and when she pulls you to your feet she leans in close and whispers in your ear, "Welcome to the Queerios."
Jury's out on whether it's a threat or a seal of approval, but you know better than to ask.
You're seventeen, and you're sure Rachel Berry still doesn't know your name.
Why should she? You're just another Cheerio in the background, one of a dozen interchangeable girls in identical uniforms. You must all look the same to her.
It's stopped bothering you so much. She and Finn are engaged now, and even though you think that's the most tragic thing to happen in the history of the world, it's not your place to do anything about it. Besides, she's going to be moving away, and you always knew she was never going to be the one for you. She's just your first crush, and maybe that's special enough in its own way.
That doesn't stop you from being super proud when you find out that they won Nationals.
It would be an exaggeration to say that the whole confetti-slushy thing was your idea, but it couldn't have happened without you, that's for sure. It was your idea to bribe Rick the Stick with a stack of Breadstix vouchers as tall as Brittany, and even though Quinn called you harmless, a Cheerios uniform and a glare still go a hell of a long way at this school. You made sure they'd be safe. They deserved to celebrate.
But then they're all walking down the hall and it's so dramatic it feels like everything's in slow motion, and you swear to god Rachel looks right at you. And she smiles.
You jump up and down and you smile back, because if this is the only moment you're ever going to get, you plan to savor it. Quinn catches you, just like always, and gives you a death glare from across the hall, just like always, but—but not the same as always. Or maybe you're only just starting to see it. The way that maybe the look you thought said stay the fuck away actually says back the fuck off, which are two very different things.
You end up losing sight of Rachel in the halls, but you find her again during lunch. Graduation is only a few days away, and frankly… it's now or never.
Time to be brave.
"Hey, Rachel?" you call to get her attention. She turns around and smiles, and you try to keep walking forward despite the sudden weakening of your knees. "Okay, I know this is going to sound weird, because we've never really talked, but I was hoping you could sign my yearbook? We have math together; I'm—"
"I know who you are," she interrupts with a giggle, and if your heart beats any faster you think you might pass out. "Sign mine, too?"
You trade yearbooks awkwardly, and even though it's maybe a little creepy, you take the time to flip through hers while she's writing in yours. It warms your heart, to see the length of the messages, and how many there are. You were there when she was just a sophomore nobody that the whole school hated, and now—
"Done," she announces, and you turn bright red. You haven't even uncapped your pen yet.
"Sorry, I got distracted," you mumble, and allow yourself thirty seconds to scribble something nonsensical on the last page about how you've always known she was going to be a star, and that she'll have at least one fan in Lima, no matter what. It probably doesn't make much sense, but you said it, and that's what matters.
It's not until she's halfway down the hall that you realize you forgot to sign your name. At first you freak out, but then you realize… it's okay.
She knows who you are.