Title: America, She's Beautiful
Pairing: Rachel Berry/Quinn Fabray
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. Just having a little fun.
Summary: AU. She walked in with long curly blonde hair, hands clasped behind her back, and a red smile, and all Rachel wanted to know was why large, burly men were following her everywhere. | | She walked in to find an ordinary brunette to strike up an argument with, and all Quinn cared about was that Rachel hadn't the slightest clue who she was.
A/N: Some AU fluff, title is a play on the song America the Beautiful.
"Good afternoon, and welcome to Coffee Bean Café. My name is Rachel Berry. How may I help you?"
There were days when she honestly didn't mind standing on her feet for eight hours greeting customers and taking their orders.
"Coffee. Black. To go. And hurry it up, girlie."
And there were other days where she wished that the Earth would open up and swallow this place whole along with the rude customers that frequented here. Rachel loved New York with a burning passion of a hundred suns but some of the people here were notoriously rude, especially the smokers and the coffee drinkers, which were almost synonymous on bad days.
She gritted her teeth through a smile and informed the asshole on the other side of the counter in a faux-pleasant voice, "Actually, my name is Rachel Berry. Your coffee will be ready shortly." She swiveled around before the older man had a chance to reply and set about making his coffee.
She was great at her job. She had to be or her boss would throw her out on her ass with no remorse and she absolutely needed this job to help her fathers pay for her NYADA tuition which was 'nothing to sneeze at', as one of her fathers, Hiram, had delicately put it.
Her sophomore year was winding down, and the sooner she could graduate, the sooner she could really begin her career. College didn't really suit her, a free spirit who wanted to use the stage and a microphone to express herself more than anything, but she knew it was best to receive proper training if she wanted talent scouts and audition agencies to even begin to cough her way.
Cup of steaming coffee in hand, Rachel swiveled around from the coffee maker to the countertop and handed it over to the man after collecting his money. "You have a wonderful day," she demanded in a saccharine voice.
The next man in line stepped up to be served and Rachel grinned at the sight of him. She flung herself across the counter to wrap her arms around his neck. "Kurt, it's so good to see you!"
She and Kurt Hummel had been friends since high school, twin souls who could barely go a day without seeing or hearing from each other. Rachel had gone straight from her weekend dance rehearsal to work, having not contacted Kurt a single time all day. How she was going to make it on already worn feet for the next eight hours was beyond her, but she was hoping for strength.
After several seconds of holding the line up, Rachel released Kurt and returned to her side of the counter.
It was spring, but the dark, wintry scarf Kurt wore about his neck that clashed against the thin, tan button up shirt he was wearing had been on sale today at the mall, and he couldn't resist buying it and currently wearing it. He often went shopping with Rachel who was frugal with her money, only because she had to be, and was good at talking him out of a purchase—or into one.
"I came to wish you bountiful energy for your shift this evening," he sing-songed. "And also to order a double espresso—the way that I like it, you know."
Rachel shot him a dry look. He was a fellow coffee addict, the real reason he showed up to her job today; Rachel was the only person that he trusted to serve his coffee correctly.
She presented it to him with a smile once she was done and received his money. Her lips downturned into a pout when she handed him back change. "Enjoy your Saturday of freedom."
He reached out to smooth down her already fraying bangs, taking no pity on her because he was used to her pout by now after years of seeing it. Then he swiveled around with a wave. "Have a nice day at work!"
There was an aggravating stain that darkened the beige tabletop that Rachel had stopped in front of to wipe down in the last several minutes of work. Dark locks of hair fell into her face and she puffed out an annoyed huff of air at the thought of how badly her hair must look by now. But she ignored that as she tossed the damp rag in her hand back and forth with a determined frown on her face. She was sure if she scrubbed hard enough, put a little elbow grease in it, that the stain would soon be no more. Short nails dug into the tabletop as Rachel went to vigorous work, small circles being rubbed into the table. With a flick of the wrist of her unoccupied hand she gazed down at her watch. It caught the light to glare in her eye and Rachel frowned with a quiet grunt and shifted her wrist a little more to better read the time. She found that she had a half hour left—enough time to finish up with cleaning the tables, wipe the countertop clean, and turn off the appliances before leaving.
Just as she was internally doing a happy dance, the bell over the door to the coffee shop rang, alerting her to the fact that she had a new customer. Rachel's shoulders drooped and she buried her head deeper into her work, the current stain on the tabletop. She was tired; her feet were beyond sore; her feelings were a tad hurt because of the rude customers she had seen today, and more than anything all she wanted to do was close out and go home to rant to her roommate before Millie had the chance to dive into conversation about whatever latest amazing date she had been on.
Her shoulders pulled taut in barely contained frustration, but Rachel was nothing if not professional. Besides, it was probably just nurse Monica—a woman who worked the night shift at the local hospital and came in for coffee just before nine every night.
Rachel rolled her shoulders back in preparation for conversation, and took a second or two to contort her face into a wide smile before she spun around and cheerfully uttered, "Good evening, Monica!"
Only, the woman in front of her wasn't Monica. Where Monica was a short, pudgy brunette in her late thirties with a cheerful disposition, the woman who stood before Rachel looked every bit her own age, several inches taller with gorgeous blonde hair that tumbled down her shoulders. Her face was impassive at best, and antisocial at worst with lips firmly pressed together and a sharp nose that made her look severe and breathtakingly, scarily beautiful.
Rachel fretted with her hair self-consciously, smoothing down her bangs and tucking lock after lock behind her ear.
The woman was in a dark gray dress with a white, floral hem and a pair of black sandals that glided toward Rachel with grace. "Do you work here?" Her voice was low and raspy with an edge to it that Rachel couldn't tell whether natural or laced with annoyance. Once she had finally stopped moving and talking, Rachel was able to stop focusing solely on her and become aware of her surroundings.
Behind the blonde in front of her were four burly men in tight black shirts that showed off their rippling muscles that made Rachel cringe to think about. Their gazes were just as impassive as they stood on high alert, shoulders rolled forward as if they would lunge at Rachel if she moved in any direction.
Rachel cleared her throat, heart rate spiking as the worst case scenario popped into her head. She was going to die. Robin, who had next shift and would arrive within the next several minutes, would find Rachel in a pool of her own blood because some mobster's daughter or girlfriend or whoever this girl was that was so important, wanted to stop by for a cup of coffee.
"Well?" A perfectly manicured eyebrow shot up dauntingly, the only muscles to move on the woman's stone face in the past several seconds.
"Yes," Rachel croaked out, wringing the rag in her hands until droplets of liquid spilled out onto her fingertips and splashed her shoes. "I—yes, I work here. How may I serve you?"
Pink lips quirked up in amusement at the last of Rachel's statement, as if the woman was laughing inwardly at an inside joke that Rachel wasn't privy to. With her luck, she was probably the joke. The smile was gone in a flash as the woman pointedly told her, "I want coffee."
Rachel's eyebrows knitted at the request that seemed almost redundant considering the woman was standing in the middle of a coffee shop. Acid rose from her stomach onto the tip of her tongue—a side-effect of living in New York. She wasn't quick witted yet, but what New York taught her that Lima, Ohio didn't was that at the first signs of someone trying to trump you, you rip their throat out. Instead, she swallowed down a sardonic retort and forced her eyes not to roll inside her skull. "I see. What kind of coffee would you like?"
The woman before her sauntered over to the table Rachel had been scrubbing to death and slid into the booth with ease. The men behind her followed in silence, but were cut a sharp, fatal look. Her eyes were hazel, Rachel noted. They were currently slanted into a glare that could cut glass, and the men suddenly stopped moving. Upon realizing they weren't allowed to occupy the same booth as her, they split up, half occupying the booth at the table in front of the woman and half occupying the one at the table behind her.
Rachel watched the synchronized way in which they moved that hinted at the fact that they had been doing this for a while—watching whoever the uptight brat was that waltzed into her coffee shop this late at night.
Glancing at the woman who was already watching her expectantly, Rachel glanced down at her watch to find that she had twenty minutes left. With a sigh that she somehow managed to pass off as tired and not put-out, she gave the woman in the booth her undivided attention.
Hazel eyes had since widened to almost look as if the woman didn't mind actual human interaction. "You'll have to write this down."
Rachel's eyes narrowed against her will as she smelled the distinct stench of a challenge. She pointedly placed her hand on her hip while not reaching for the pen and pad in the pocket of her work khakis. "We'll just see about that."
Red lips were flicked against with a pink tongue before the woman smiled, feral and not at all friendly. She placed her elbow onto the table and her chin in her hand, eyelids lowered to stare at Rachel as if she were a bother. "I need an extra-large hot coffee—half coffee, half hot chocolate, with a shot of espresso, three pumps of mocha, three pumps of caramel swirl, six creams and four liquid sugars."
Rachel schooled her features to keep from openly gawking at the woman in front of her. Her mind swirled with the tail-end of the order, having completely missed the middle. Cheeks burning in mortification, she pulled out her pen and pad with reluctance, bangs covering her eyes as she muttered, "Can you repeat that?"
Hard eyes gazed unforgivingly at the blush on her cheeks before the woman repeated her order, slower as if Rachel was touched in the head.
Tail tucked between her legs, Rachel walked away toward the counter to prepare the woman's order. Apparently this woman had a real sweet tooth. Rachel casted a curious glance behind her halfway through preparing the order to find the woman consulting with one of the four men surrounding her in a hushed tone with narrowed eyes. She didn't appear too happy, and rebuffed the last of the man's statement with a firm crossing of her arms as she angled her body away. Rachel flushed when the woman looked directly at her from across the room, and turned her head to finish the coffee. She capped it with a lid and held the base of the cup as she walked back over to place it on the table. "I hope it is to your liking," Rachel murmured, much more demure than she had been minutes ago now that she had showed her ass in front of the challenging woman in front of her.
Lips pursed as the woman pulled the lid off her coffee and blew away the billowing steam that brushed pale cheeks. Rachel watched her face intently. It barely moved from moment to moment and amusedly reminded Rachel of botox, though it was obvious to her that the woman before her was a natural beauty. Born with an amazing set of genes, but there was something detached about her that led Rachel to believe the woman almost didn't care about how beautiful she was. Even as she sat staring at Rachel, she seemed disconnected from the world, nothing in her eyes that would give away what was going on behind them.
It was chilling to look at her, so Rachel dropped her gaze to smooth down her apron.
"What's your name?"
She shivered a little—the woman, asking such a mundane and perhaps, under different circumstances, cordial question, managed to sound threatening.
Still, Rachel's voice didn't waver as she met unwavering hazel eyes. "Rachel—Rachel Berry."
"Rachel Berry," the woman murmured, brow dipping in outward display of the gears churning in her head. She paused to draw a long sip of the scalding coffee in her grip, and licked her lips before meeting Rachel's eyes. "Well, Rachel Berry, this coffee is atrocious, downright offensive, really."
Rachel's jaw quivered as her brain stuttered to a halt and made even opening her mouth difficult. With effort, her lips parted wide in outrage, blood boiling at this woman's audacity— "With all due respect, ma'am, I highly doubt that any cup of coffee prepared by myself would in any way be atrocious. The coffee I prepare daily for patrons of this establishment is absolutely stellar at best and subpar at worst!"
A slow grin worked its way onto the woman's face throughout Rachel's tirade and the heavy breathing that lifted her modest chest thereafter. Unconcerned, she had the nerve to draw another leisurely sip from the very cup of coffee she shunned then slid it across the table to Rachel with a challenging eyebrow lift. "Try me."
Stomach curling in anger, Rachel swiped up the cup of now sloshing coffee that nearly spilled onto her hand and halted when searing steam wafted across her face. The woman before her was absolutely insane to be drinking coffee at this temperature so recklessly. Rachel's throat, specifically her vocal chords were her selling point, her ticket to fame. She rarely went out of the house without a jacket when the wind blew; there was no way she was going to scald the back of her throat just to prove a point to this insufferable woman staring at her in a way that made her face warm to look at.
She blew a cool stream of air over the coffee in effort to cool it. Her skin prickled in dread as the woman before her dropped her gaze down the length of her body, giving her a once over before meeting her gaze expectantly once more. This felt like high school all over again. "Well?"
Rachel drew the cup to her lips, noting the shine of lip gloss on the other side of it as she took a sip of the coffee. She sloshed it around her mouth briefly like it was a fine wine, then swallowed down relief. She placed the cup on the table with an audible thwack of arrogance as her nose tipped up until she was staring down at the annoying blonde from over it. "This is an exceptional cup of coffee, ma'am. I am sorry if you don't happen to enjoy it, but your lack of enjoyment does not in the slightest reflect poorly on the cup of coffee I made you."
The woman's grin quickly turned from mocking to amused, pleased with herself as she grabbed the cup and tugged it back. The glossy side was presented to Rachel as the woman boldly met her gaze with eyes crinkling in the corners at the wide-eyed look Rachel was giving her. She put her lips exactly where Rachel's had been and maintained eye contact for four seconds—Rachel had counted—as she took a sip.
Rachel swallowed hard and released a shaky breath as she wondered, not for the first time, just who was this woman.
"You're right," the woman told her, licking first her top then her bottom lip as she placed the cup back on the table. "It's good."
Rachel very nearly stomped her foot. "Were you just toying with m—"
"Shouldn't you be wearing a nametag?" The woman rudely interrupted.
Rachel glanced down to the pocket of her apron, where she normally attached her nametag, to find that she was in fact not wearing one. How odd. Maybe that was why that man saw fit to call her 'girlie' nearly eight hours ago. The thought of him dredged up an old grudge with a man that she would probably never see again, and she was quick to take offense now. "I already told you my na—"
"Do you spell your name with an a-e-l or just e-l?"
She blinked, unable to keep up with the abrupt subject changes and hard inflections of the woman's voice. "I—it's spelled with an e-l."
"Good, I abhor the other spelling." The blonde before her flicked her hair over her shoulder like a pretty, little princess and took another sip of the same coffee she had insulted. "And Berry's just Berry? No odd, unnecessary spelling to that?"
Rachel didn't know whether or not to be offended by the woman she had never seen before who had shown up to the coffee shop seemingly on a whim to insult whoever would be unfortunate enough to be there and put them on edge with the four, tall, large, bench pressing men who arrived with her.
Speaking of them…
Dark wisps of hair stood on end at Rachel's nape as she was suddenly reminded of the men surrounding her, the woman, them. She spied the two in front of her, behind the woman. One was staring back at her while another had a phone whipped out, typing away. The one who stared at her looked a little bored and a lot irritated, whether at her or the blonde before her, Rachel couldn't be sure.
She casted a glance out of the corner of her eye to the two behind her when the woman snapped a finger—actually snapped her finger at Rachel as if she were a dog.
Rachel turned back and narrowed her eyes. "Please refrain from snapping your fingers at me. I am not a pet."
In response the woman sat her arms on the table as if she were getting comfortable with that same insufferable gleam in her eyes, a cat toying with the mouse it caught by the tail.
"What is your name?" Rachel challenged when silence befell them.
The woman looked momentarily alarmed before her face smoothed over just as quickly. She leaned back in her seat and folded her arms across her chest. "Lucy Quinn."
"That's a pretty name," Rachel commented, rather flatly, not willing to extend the compliment of how her name was just as pretty as she was.
The now named Lucy Quinn ignored the compliment and gestured to the booth directly in front of her. "You should sit down."
Rachel propped a knee onto the booth, but remained standing, unwilling to give up what little edge she had in this newly formed dynamic between them. "And Lucy is spelled normally?" she shot back, oddly enough with a grin now that the spotlight was off her. "Not with two O's or anything abhorring?"
Lucy made a face, an actual facial expression. Her nose, cutely shaped, scrunched up in distaste and Rachel bit her lip to suppress a giggle. "That would be…hideous," Lucy decided.
"It would," Rachel agreed.
"And Quinn isn't spelled with just one N, is it? Because my OCD has just decided it wouldn't be able to deal."
Lucy glanced away, almost shyly as she smiled, genuinely. "Two N's."
Rachel stared at her then, at the smile that curved her full, pouty lips. It painted her face beautifully until Lucy Quinn looked absolutely radiant. Her smile accentuated her cheekbones, which were already accentuated by the faint blush on her cheeks. Lucy was a make-up enthusiast, Rachel realized when her eyes ticked upward to the mascara and eye liner that brought out what she felt were already alluring eyes. Lucy was gorgeous when she smiled happily, versus just being pretty—though the prettiest girl she had ever seen, Rachel was starting to realize—when she frowned. "You should smile more," Rachel instructed.
Lucy turned to look at her, blasé as she asked, "Are you going to be around to ensure that I do, doctor?"
Rachel did roll her eyes this time, because this particular customer deserved it. "Ha-ha, very funny, Lucy."
"I'm glad you enjoyed the joke, Berry."
Rachel gaped at her. "You can't last-name me!"
Lucy clucked her tongue. "Just did."
With a huff and a fold of her arms across her chest, Rachel glared at her. "Fine, Quinn."
The woman sat back in her seat after that with a pleased expression on her face. She tilted her head and sighed then ran a hand through her perfect hair. "Glad we can agree." Her voice hardened as she asked, "Now can we agree on getting your butt to sit?"
The question made Rachel blush for some unknown reason.
One of the men behind Lucy cleared his throat; the one who had looked irritated moments ago looked even more irritated now. Lucy held up a hand, looking like a queen quieting one of her subjects.
"…uh-huh. Uh-huh, yes, she's here." Rachel glanced behind her to find one of the men on the phone. He looked slightly alarmed and winced every few seconds. "Yes, sir. Yes, sir, right away, sir." When he hung up the phone his lips balled up. "Your father wishes to see you…Lucy."
Lucy's jaw tightened, eyes hardening as she looked away and sighed, "Whatever."
Just then the bell above the door jingled and Rachel jerked, alarmed by the secret phone calls, large, muscular men, Lucy Quinn. It was only Robin bouncing through the door, however, and Rachel's shoulders drooped in relief.
Lucy glanced behind her to the large-breasted strawberry blonde who just walked through the door. She rolled her eyes all the way back to her own table and stood abruptly. "I have to go."
Rachel startled. "M-me, too," she decided, not one to be outdone.
Lucy flashed a small, mocking grin of white, even teeth that alluded to the fact that she was quickly learning that. She smoothed down her dress daintily and stepped out of the booth. The men moved with her until they were surrounding Rachel and Lucy both. Lucy extended her hand. Then she smiled thinly. "It was nice meeting you, Berry."
Rachel took the offered hand, warm and soft with long fingers. She swallowed and met hazel eyes scrutinizing her as they had for the past twenty minutes. "It was nice meeting you, too, Quinn."
Lucy smiled, and Rachel got the impression she liked her latter name more so than her former.
Without another word, Lucy dropped a bill on the table and swiveled around to walk out of the coffee shop, hands clasped behind her back. Two of her bodyguards looked amusingly awkward as they hurried to walk ahead of her. One held open the door while the other walked out ahead of her and glanced both ways down the sidewalk in suspicion as Lucy stepped outside without hesitancy. The final two brought up the rear.
Rachel breathed a long sigh once the door finally closed again.
From across the café, Robin shot her a weird look. "What was that all about?"
Rachel could only shake her head. She grabbed the cup to throw away when she noticed the money Lucy had left her. It was a hundred dollar bill to pay for a five dollar cup of coffee. They weren't Starbucks in any way, and though Rachel knew that particular cup of coffee had been stellar, it wasn't worth a hundred dollars. This was one hell of a tip.
Robin walked closer, unused to seeing Rachel so quiet. She peeked over her shoulder to the money left on the table. "Holy shit! She gave you that?"
Rachel nodded once again, then lifted the bill to the ceiling to inspect its authenticity with one closed eye and a narrowed one.
It was real.
That was one hell of a tip.
Robin's tone was jokingly suggestive as she asked, "What happened in here before I arrived that got that girl to pay you a hundred dollars?"
Rachel mostly ignored the question, but spun around to engage Robin regardless.
"So this insanely gorgeous, outright infuriating blonde walks into the coffee shop during my shift…"