Author's Note: We'll call this ten and a half in the Don't Blink series. Set after That Smile That Has Me Sold.
Just a little look at the fall out of Rachel's antics. Feedback is always appreciated.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
Shuffling the Cards Of Your Game
I'm taking it slow, feeding my flame
Shuffling the cards of your game
And just in time, in the right place
Suddenly I will play my ace
~Eyes On Fire, Blue Foundation
She's watching the clock more than she's watching her customers, but it's four seventeen on a Wednesday afternoon, and she's only got another forty-five minutes left on her shift before she's out of here for the night. She hates the crowd that trickles in for happy hour, even if the tips are usually better. She much prefers the mix of grad students, hipsters and artists that frequent the bar in the mid-afternoons. Occasionally, she even sees a few familiar faces from the billboards that grace Times Square.
She drags a rag over the polished bar top, cleaning away the rings left by bottles and mugs and tumblers and flutes, and the salt from peanuts and Margarita glasses. Tending bar here isn't a bad gig. It pays the bills, and gives her enough free hours to put paint to canvas when she's inspired, or catch an occasional matinee performance of the latest Broadway hit. She's certainly met some interesting characters, and heard quite a few sob stories, and more than enough pick-up lines to last her two lifetimes.
Teresa is mid-stroke on the remnants of a whiskey on the rocks, spilled over from her three o'clock former fireman, when she notices the blonde. She's the kind of woman that you can't help noticing, and it isn't so much that she's beautiful—because honestly, Teresa has seen women who are far more flawlessly gorgeous—but there's something in the way this woman carries herself that commands attention. Maybe it's the set of her strong jaw, or maybe it's her perfect posture, but whatever it is, she's managed to capture every pair of eyes in the bar. She doesn't seem to notice, though, or maybe she just doesn't care.
The blonde doesn't look all that impressed with the place as her eyes scan the room, and Teresa smiles to herself, because she sees that look a lot, especially on the faces of the first-timers that stumble in from somewhere uptown (and she can tell that the blonde is an uptown girl by the fitted business suit.) The place isn't much to look at, but the staff is friendly, the food is good, and the drinks are even better.
The woman's gaze finally settles in her direction, and Teresa experiences a weird shiver of awareness. It's not purely sexual, although she wouldn't mind having that lean, graceful body pressed against hers, but she has the strange feeling that she's being silently judged. It's very unnerving, especially when the blonde bypasses all the tables and heads for a stool at the end of the bar.
Teresa tosses her rag, and unconsciously wipes her hands across her denim covered hips; her gaze roving over flawless, pale skin and pouty, pink lips. Licking her own in appreciation, she smiles at the blonde as she inches over. "What can I get you?" she asks, taking the opportunity to admire the woman's face up close. Her nose is a little crooked, but she's certainly very pretty, and her eyes are an intense golden brown, glittering with little flecks of green.
One perfectly sculpted eyebrow arches a little higher, but other than that, the woman's bored expression doesn't change. "I've heard this place has a decent sangria," she finally says, and her voice is huskier than Teresa expected, but laced with cool disdain that instantly sparks her competitive nature.
"Well, you heard wrong," Teresa informs her, leaning a little closer and flashing a bold smile. "My sangrias are so much more than merely decent. They're the best in Manhattan." It's hardly bragging if it's true. Mixing drinks might not be her life's calling, but her recipes have gotten accolades from more than one critic in this city.
The blonde's pretty lips curl just a fraction, but Teresa can't quite tell if it's the shadow of a smile or a sneer. "I'll decide that for myself, if you don't mind."
Damn, that voice could inspire some bedroom fantasies. Teresa has always been attracted to the oddest things about people; sometimes it's a voice, sometimes it's the eyes, sometimes it's a smile. She hasn't seen the blonde smile yet, but the rest of the package is pretty appealing. She doesn't actually flirt with many of the patrons here. She joyfully shoots most of them down because she's not interested in being a notch on anyone's bedpost, but every once in awhile, someone will walk in that piques her interest, and she figures—what the hell?
"I don't mind at all. I love a challenge," she purrs with a flirty grin, baiting the hook and hoping for a bite. She can't say with certainty that the woman screams power lesbian, but the short fingernails are a good sign, as is the tiny rainbow charm dangling from the zipper of her briefcase.
Those assessing eyes drop briefly, taking a quick survey of Teresa's body, and that eyebrow twitches again. "I'm sure you do," she says with only the barest hint of inflection.
It isn't exactly an encouraging response, so Teresa decides to focus on business, and her business entails keeping the alcohol flowing and the customers happy and coming back for more. "Our sangrias can be served with white, red, or rose wine," she looks the blonde over, thinking her dry personality deserves a complementary flavor, "You seem like a red wine girl."
"Do I?" the blonde asks, crossing her arms and leaning forward on the bar, "Because I prefer white."
Teresa huffs out a humorless laugh and shakes her head good-naturedly; she's zero for two with this one. "The customer is always right," she concedes, turning away from the blonde and getting to work.
She mixes the fruit blend and Bacardi in the mornings, keeping it refrigerated behind the bar, and making more as needed. She's proud of the fact that they use real fruits in their drinks, and that they have one hell of a wine selection. This isn't just a place to grab a quick beer, although they have a few on tap, if you like a little Sweet Action or some Blue Moon. New York City thrives on diversity and variety, and getting drunk is no exception.
She reaches for a goblet and quickly wipes it out, setting it aside before she opens the refrigerator and ducks down to grab what she's after. She feels a prickle on the back of her neck as she works; it's not a new sensation. She's gotten used to being watched by men and women who like to pretend she won't notice them looking when her back is turned. They forget how many mirrors are positioned around the bar, and how many other reflective surfaces betray their gazes following her every movement, but Teresa doesn't really need to see their eyes anymore to know that they're watching. The blonde is hard to get a read on, though, so she does glance up at the nearby mirror, and she grins a little when her 'perv' detector proves, once again, to be accurate; even though the blonde isn't actually leering. Truthfully, she looks like she's studying a piece of art that she doesn't quite understand, but is trying to figure out anyway.
Teresa shakes off the odd notion, and turns her full attention back to preparing the blonde's drink, adding in the white wine with a little extra ice, and garnishing the glass with a mint leaf and a single, perfect strawberry. She's an artist, after all, and presentation is paramount. Strolling back to the end of the bar, she places the glass in front of the blonde with a smile, "One sangria with white wine."
There isn't a thank you spoken, or a grateful smile given, or any indication that Teresa's service is appreciated, and she cattily thinks that the extra ice was probably appropriate for this woman. It's kind of a shame.
Golden eyes narrow slightly (and Teresa has this weird notion that that the blonde somehow knows exactly what she's thinking) as she lifts the glass and takes an experimental sip. The muscles along her ivory throat work imperceptibly as she swallows, and the glass is gently placed back onto the bar in front of her.
"Well, what's the verdict?" Teresa asks amiably when it becomes clear that the blonde is content to just silently sit and stare at her.
That eyebrow arches again, and she shrugs. "It's not bad, but I'd hardly call it the best I've ever had."
Teresa is hardly surprised by the unenthusiastic response. "Ouch, I guess I can't win them all," she concedes.
The blonde smiles for the first time, and maybe it's a little too saccharine to be completely sincere, but Teresa's breath still catches just a little at the way it transforms the woman's cool beauty into something absolutely stunning. "No, you really can't," she agrees, and her voice lilts with humor, a little bit huskier than before, like she's enjoying some secret joke.
So maybe she's a sucker, or just stupidly optimistic, but she figures you only regret the opportunities that you choose not to take, so she leans down on the bar, crosses her arms, and grins, "Can I offer you something else more to your tastes?"
The blonde laughs, crossing her own arms to mirror Teresa. The smile drops away in a heartbeat, and her eyes flash. "You really don't have anything that I want."
Okay, then. That's a definite no if she's ever heard one. It's not like it really matters to her, but maybe she's a little peeved at the attitude this woman has had since she walked into the bar—like she's looking to find fault with everything and everyone. Teresa straightens off the bar, flashing her own insincere smile. "Sorry to hear that. I hate for anyone to walk out of here unsatisfied, so that one's on the house," she nods to the glass. It's eleven dollars out of her own pocket, but worth it if she gets to be the better bitch in this scenario. Unfortunately, the blonde isn't having it.
"Thank you, but no. I prefer to pay for my own drink. Otherwise, people tend to expect things in return."
The only thing Teresa expects is a little common courtesy, but she bites back the nasty retort on the tip of her tongue. One of the disadvantages to a job in the service industry is having to take this kind of shit from prickly customers. She tosses her hands up in surrender, "I only like to keep my customers happy."
"So I've been told," the blonde drawls irritably.
Teresa is about to forget her better nature and ask what the hell this woman's problem with her is exactly, but the answer presents itself pretty clearly when a very familiar voice rings out through the bar.
"What the hell, Q! I told you to wait for me outside, but no, you have to go all head bitch on me and jump the gun."
The blonde sighs, glancing over her shoulder, just as Teresa looks up to see one of her weekly stalkers swagger up to the blonde, wearing yet another short, tight dress that clings to every curve of her body. She braces her palms against the edge of the bar and takes a deep breath, watching the brunette—Santana—glide to a stop beside the blonde, who shrugs and says, "I was thirsty."
"Yeah, for blood," Santana mutters, sliding onto the bar stool.
"I should have known," Teresa growls, glaring at the both of them. This isn't the first time she's had a jealous lover come in here and accuse her of trying to steal their significant other, but it's the first time one has been so calculated in their method. Both women turn their attention back to her, Santana with her familiar, irritating smirk, and the blonde with a scowl. "Look," she addresses the blonde, "I don't know what Don Juanita here has been telling you, but she's the one who keeps coming on to me. I'm so not interested."
Santana frowns, resting one arm on the bar top, "Your loss, chica. Everyone who's anyone wants a piece of this. I'm a fucking catch."
"With an ego bigger than your boobs," Teresa quips, attempting to convey just how much she is not impressed with Santana. And okay, they are some nice boobs, Teresa has to admit. Probably fake, but that doesn't make them any less appealing. She may think Santana is kind of sexy, but she just can't deal with the woman's over-confidence, so she enjoys shooting down her shitty pick-up lines a little more than she should.
The blonde laughs—unreserved and genuine—and yeah, Teresa was right about that other smile being insincere, because this one isn't, and it chases away the hard edge around her eyes, making her absolutely breathtaking.
"I'm so glad you're enjoying yourself, Quinn," Santana snaps, and Teresa finally has a name to associate with the bitchy blonde.
"It was funny," Quinn admits with a smirk of her own, and Teresa can tell that the two have some weird competitive chemistry going on that she really doesn't want any part of. She uncharitably wonders what their bedroom dynamic must be like, because just from her very brief exposure to the both of them, she can't imagine either of them ever willingly giving up control.
"I don't know what your deal is," she tells Quinn, "but I'd actually be grateful if you kept a leash on your girlfriend."
"I'm not a damn dog," Santana growls, crossing her arms under those ample breasts, obviously offended.
"You are a bitch, though," Quinn adds conversationally, tracing her fingers along the stem of her glass while she ignores the irritated woman to her left.
"And she's not my girlfriend," Quinn tells Teresa with a level gaze.
Teresa is a little confused by this confession—because why the hell else is this woman in here treating her like some kind of predatory, woman-stealing pariah?—but then she remembers the last time Santana was in here, and she gets a little angry that the woman keeps dragging her lesbian drama into Teresa's bar. "Well, good for you," she tells Quinn, "since she was in here getting awfully cozy with another woman just last week."
She still can't quite figure out what a seemingly nice, undeniably talented, woman like Rachel Berry, of the endearingly wide smile and adorably innocent nature, could possibly see in someone like Santana. Then again, she recalls with a fond grin, Rachel did take her phone number, so maybe she wasn't as enamored with Santana as she seemed.
Teresa's musings are interrupted by the scene that plays out in front of her. Quinn's eyes narrow dangerously, her jaw tenses, and her head whips to the left, while Santana pales, which is a neat trick with her complexion. "Shit," Santana hisses under her breath, and Teresa wonders if maybe Quinn was lying about them not being girlfriends.
"Cozy?" Quinn bites out.
"Oh, come on," Santana defends. "You know how shorty gets when she's had a few."
"Yeah, I do, but you shouldn't," Quinn stresses, "Ever, ever again."
"Santana! We are not having that conversation again," Quinn commands.
Santana actually slumps a little in her seat, looking dully chastised, "Yeah, yeah. Never again," she appeases, and Teresa figures she just got her answer about which of them is the one in control.
"Speaking of that, Teresa, is it?" Quinn questions with a disarmingly pleasant smile, "You might want to be careful who you try to pick up in the future, because not everyone is going to be as understanding as I am." She reaches down into her briefcase and pulls something out of the side pocket. "So I'm just going to return this to you," she unfolds the scrap of paper in her hand and sets in on the bar, gently pushing it across the surface until it's directly under Teresa, "because Rachel is never going to use it." Teresa recognizes the napkin immediately, and the puzzle pieces click instantly into place.
"She did develop an odd fondness for this place, though I don't have a clue why," Quinn confesses as she glances around the bar with a critical eye, "so it's possible that we might come back in the future. Next time, just mix the drink, keep your innuendos to yourself, and walk away," she instructs sharply. "Do we understand one another?"
Teresa meets those flashing eyes, and knows that Quinn isn't just talking shit. She can't even blame the woman, because Teresa was hitting on Rachel Berry—partially to annoy Santana, but mostly because Rachel was cute, and Teresa has seen the revival of West Side Story, and Rachel's voice had appealed to her in a way that few things did these days. She figures Quinn has the right to be a little pissy, so she takes a breath and nods her head in understanding. "Perfectly."
Quinn smiles again, pressing her palms to the bar. "Great. I'm so glad we had this little chat," she says sweetly, standing up from her stool and shouldering her bag. "You can put my drink on Santana's tab."
"Hey," Santana protests.
Quinn grins at her, before she turns back to Teresa, "Oh, and incidentally, you'd have been lucky to have Santana. Her heart is even bigger than her ego."
Santana slaps a hand on the bar, "Damn it, Quinn. Are you trying to kill my rep?"
Quinn's brow furrows as she gazes down at Santana, "I'm sorry, which rep is that? Perky cheerleader, serious med student, or closet Broadway nerd?"
"I hate you," Santana grumbles.
"Yeah, you've been saying that for the last nine years," Quinn says breezily, but then her eyes grow soft, and she lays a hand on Santana's shoulder, giving it a squeeze. "Thanks for always having my back, but I have to go. I'm meeting Rachel before her show."
Santana's annoyance melts into an interested leer. "Dressing room sex?"
Quinn rolls her eyes and turns for the exit, "Goodbye, Santana."
"Don't make her scream too loud. She has to sing tonight, you know," she calls out to Quinn's back, and the blonde lifts a hand and brushes her off with an irritated wave. Teresa has the odd impression of a queen dismissing one of her subjects. It doesn't stop her from admiring the sway of a very nice ass as Quinn walks away. Santana chuckles and spins back around on her stool, leaning on the bar and leveling a challenging gaze on Teresa, silently daring her to say something about Quinn.
"So...Mojito?" she asks, deciding to ignore everything that just happened. She's down to fifteen minutes left on her shift, and she really, really just wants today to be over.
Santana's lips curve into an almost grateful smile, "Bring it."
Teresa smiles back, shaking her head. She's still not into becoming a notch on the woman's bedpost, but maybe she'll let the next shitty pick-up line slide. If nothing else, Santana is one hell of a tipper, and Teresa feels likes she's earned it today.