A/N: In case you missed it in the summary, this is a Dollhouse crossover based on a prompt at the faberry-prompts tumblr.
The tai chi is multi-tasking, really. It's great for her core strength, but it's also been chosen as a method of quelling her anxiety.
It's working, for now.
Life, right now, is exactly what she expected. A Tony by twenty-five and another two years later, along with two Emmy nominations, not to mention the album that went platinum last November. She's made it, actually made it out of Lima and into the spotlight and onto the Billboard Top 100, and she still has plenty of room to grow because she's barely twenty-nine and sure, Barbra already had an Oscar by twenty-seven, but she's Barbra and as long as a role comes along that attracts the attention of the Academy before Rachel hits thirty-five, it's still well within her projected timeline.
Still, by thirty-two would be ideal.
For now, though, it's a series of cabaret shows to promote her latest album of standards until she heads up to Toronto for a preview engagement of The Hunger Games musical.
She prefers the more intimate venues to the larger ones, particularly those that are little more than piano bars, because it reminds her of where she started, where she learned to grow, where she built friendships and memories. Even the worst of the memories generate nostalgia, at this point. The bullying certainly wasn't a high point, but she's seen worse since then. Not often, just on occasion.
Walter, her manager, is always checking in on her, making sure she's comfortable, because stalkers don't ever seem like a reality until they are and, so far, they've only been in the form of overly amorous letters, both digital and handwritten.
What really unnerves her, though, are the groups of fans outside of venues, the ones who form a mob and make it impossible to breathe, who make her feel absolutely terrible if she doesn't stop to sign every sing Playbill or poster or napkin. She knows most of them probably don't hold it against her, but the feedback she sees, the reports that describe her as an uptight bitch, those bother her because she still, even now, doesn't want to be rude to anyone and if she had the energy, she would swipe the Sharpie over all of it, for everyone.
But she can't.
The smaller venues seem like they'd be better, and they usually are. But still, there are a few "superfans" who are just too enthusiastic, who make her nervous, who may or may not be the ones spamming her Twitter account. They're the ones, along with the paparazzi, who have had Walter hard at work locking down someone who'll put Rachel at ease, someone who will keep an eye from backstage, someone to escort her to the SUV, to the venue, to the apartment.
She's supposed to meet with someone today, a woman from Los Angeles, who will be her security detail tonight.
She's not, however, supposed to be thinking about any of that right now.
She's supposed to be carrying the tiger over the mountain, except she can't shake the feeling that she's being watched because she can't turn off her sixth sense, even in the middle of her tai chi form. One look over her shoulder finds Walter standing in the doorway to her workout room, the room that used to house the elliptical and the treadmill until she sent them down to basement storage and had a mural of a sunrise painted on the open wall. Mornings have always been the most relaxing part of the day for her and given her stress level, she hoped it would keep her inner chi balanced.
Walter isn't alone. There's a woman behind him and he's about to introduce her, but as she steps forward, Rachel trips over her own feet and the world shifts out from under her, if only momentarily.
The woman doesn't react to the name, but she does respond just a second more quickly than Walter, catching Rachel before she hits the floor. "We didn't mean to interrupt," she says, her hand on Rachel's arm as Rachel eases back upward and steadies her feet.
"This is Whitney Ryder, from the private security firm I was telling you about," Walter explains. On instinct, he moves for the pitcher of water that sits on the low bookshelf across the room.
Rachel blinks and slowly nods. This woman, this Whitney Ryder, looks just like Quinn Fabray. Older, sure, but it's been ten years. Her hair's different, grown back out from the cut above the shoulders she had senior year, but still blonde. The clothing is different, much more business chic than the fifties retro flair she used to sport back in high school, but body underneath it seems just about right.
She realizes she's staring.
"I'm sorry. I... When I meditate, it takes me a moment."
"Of course. Maybe you should sit." Quinn- or, Whitney, gestures to mat on the floor and offers her hand so Rachel can lower herself down until she sits, legs folded in front of her.
"Thank you," she nods to Walter as he hands her a glass of room temperature water. "I... you also just... you look a lot like someone I used to know."
"Grace Kelly," Walter says, waving a knowing finger in the air. "It's been bugging me since I met her at the airport." He joins Rachel on the mat and gestures for their guest to follow suit.
"Not the first time I've heard that. But thank you." Whitney's eyes are on Rachel. "You're sure you're all right?"
Rachel nods. "Yes, thank you. I suppose Walter would like to review the itinerary for this evening?"
"I would! I... just need to grab my iPad." Walter's up and out the door for the moment, leaving the women alone.
"Nice form, by the way. How long have you been practicing tai chi?"
Rachel squints one eye behind her glass, before she lowers it. "Three months? Walter insists I need more balance because he claims my life is chaotic."
"Well, I certainly hope I can keep the chaos to a minimum tonight."
"I know it's silly. People work their whole lives to be known, it's all I've wanted since I was three. And now I'm trying to keep my fans away from me."
"It's not silly, it's smart. It doesn't mean your unappreciative, it means you value your safety."
"And so do I," Walter says, stepping back into the room and dropping back onto the mat. "All right, the venue has her slated for nine, which means we need to be there around eight-thirty, the set's about an hour and a half, then a mix-and-mingle for VIPs in the back bar, which will be approved guest-listers only. The bouncer on site will work the door, so you can focus on Ms. Berry, here. She usually manages about an hour if the crowd is pleasantly chatty, but sometimes people get handsy and make her uncomfortable and then she's done."
"I feel like you're talking to my babysitter," Rachel says, her glass of water resting on one knee. "Is there a nap-time scheduled in there, too?"
"It's for your safety, Ms. Berry," Whitney insists, though she looks like she's a split second away from rolling her eyes at Walter.
It's such a Quinn-like expression, Rachel finds herself stumbling over her words. "I'm... you don't, um... you can call me Rachel."
"All right, Rachel. My priority is to make you feel secure and to keep you at ease so you're able to perform your set without worrying about anything, okay?"
"Okay." Rachel nods and gulps down the rest of her water. As weird as this is, as much as this woman who isn't Quinn sure seems like Quinn, it's kind of soothing to have a familiar face around, even if it's just the face and nothing else. Her free hand, the one not holding the now empty tumbler, pushes her sweaty bangs up off her forehead. "I need to take a shower."
The whole duration of the shower is spent wondering if it's a prank. Maybe Quinn Fabray really is sitting in her living room, leafing through the latest issue of Variety that Rachel keeps on the end table. But why?
It's been a long time, but they were friends before they drifted apart and Rachel Berry prided herself on being the kind of person who was welcoming to anyone who'd ever been a friend to her. As long as they had a way to get in contact with her.
Which, okay... all of her personal numbers are private, but that's why she has Walter and wasn't he the one who just brought this woman into her apartment?
When she finally emerges from the master bedroom, wrapped up in her bathrobe, she finds Whitney talking with Emile, her stylist. He's here to take care of hair and make-up, but right now, he's engaged in what appears to be a hilarious conversation about horseback riding. When Whitney laughs, it's with her whole body and it's something Rachel doesn't even think she's ever seen on Quinn Fabray.
The laughter dies down as they both turn to Rachel. Emile's on his feet as he follows Rachel back into the bedroom, where she sits at the lit dressing table in the corner. Whitney remains out in the living room until Rachel calls for her.
"Uh, Ms. Ryder? You're welcome to come in. I'd like to ask a few questions."
There's the sound of the magazine landing on the end table and then Whitney's in the room with them. Rachel waves a hand toward an armchair in the opposite corner, one she can see in the reflection of the mirror.
"What would you like to know?" is the reply. The reflected image of this woman who isn't Quinn looks so relaxed and at peace, unlike the ever-troubled girl Rachel knew in high school.
Or maybe Quinn's in the Witness Protection Program and this is an elaborate cover. She did go to Yale for drama, after all. Rachel realizes she has no idea if Quinn even graduated, because they fell out of touch somewhere during their sophomore year.
"I understand you run your own company. Was that a personal choice or a business decision?"
"Both, really." Whitney's hands fold across her lap as she leans back. "I enlisted in the army right out of high school and did a tour in Iraq. During my years on inactive duty, I was trying to figure out the best way to continue to serve and protect and personal security just right."
Emile makes some kind of grunting noise, to which Whitney responds with the same sound. He was an army ranger or something and suddenly all Rachel hears is military lingo being thrown back and forth, details about unit numbers and stories about dehydration monopolize the conversation until Emile's finished.
He cleans down to put his face next to Rachel's in the reflection. "You look fucking dynamite, honey." He always says that.
Rachel smiles back and him and pats the hand that rests on her shoulder. "You're the best, Em."
He nods at her and takes the cue that she wants him to leave. Whitney sits up, unsure if she's supposed to follow, but Rachel swivels around in her chair to face her. She's done trying to figure out this mystery, this puzzle that is Quinn Fabray's face on someone else. She needs to focus on her upcoming performance.
"I've had Walter on something of a hopeless mission," Rachel says. "I... get nervous. Uncomfortable, I guess. It's like living in suspense, all the time. I don't know if someone's going to grab me or rush the stage or pop out of the bushes with a camera."
"Has any of that happened to you?"
"Yes and no. Fans get excited and want to touch. Paparazzi appear out of what feels like nowhere. No one's ever actually attacked me, but..."
"... but you're always waiting for it," Whitney finishes.
Rachel nod. "Yeah. So, I've been looking for someone who can be the one to wait. But I also need someone who just... feels right."
"Security is all about feeling right, Rachel."
"Walter explained that this is a trial run?"
"And he reviewed all the non-disclosure agreements with you?"
"In the ride on the way over, yes."
"Then I suppose I should get dressed."
"I'll be right outside when you're ready to go."
Whitney rises from the armchair and moves, almost silently, out the door before she shuts it behind her. Rachel tries to remember if Quinn moved like that. She remembers Quinn being graceful and elegant. Whitney seems calculated, the way a soldier certainly would be, but then Quinn was always weighing each and every move she made, wasn't she?
The night is perfection.
A standing ovation, the sweetest fans, her favorite vegan wraps served at the after-party.
All night, she's felt relaxed, maybe because the bar was so small, she could see the faces of every single patron from the stage. "Lovely and intimate" would be words used to describe the performance in the Village Voice.
Lovely and intimate sounds about right.
Whitney's always in view, but not attached at the hip. She keeps a buffer between herself and Rachel, watching the approaching VIPs, though they all appear to be well behaved. There are a lot of people here Rachel already knows, so it's more like a party than a meet-and-greet. But Rachel can also tell she's being watched, that Whitney's reading her face for signs of anyone being invasive.
It's all fine.
Lovely and intimate.
Until they're ready to leave.
There's a small and respectful group of fans waiting outside the door, but Rachel's feeling good about the night and graciously stops to chat and sign autographs. These are the moments she loves, the opportunities to do for her fans what she would have wanted from her own idols.
"Rachel! Rachel, over here!"
She knows not to look up and the flashes have already started. Whitney moves without needing any kind of signal and puts herself between Rachel and the bank of photographers. The SUV's already waiting at the curb but two over-zealous photographers are standing between them and the Tahoe.
"You need to move," Whitney says. Even in this moment, Rachel picks up the tone of her voice, one that feels so familiar. "You need to move, or I will move you, sir."
"Back off, bitch. We're just doing our job."
"And I'm just doing mine," Whitney replies, using one arm to sweep the guys aside. Her other arm is protective wrapped around Rachel's back, but then the photographer lunches at her, so she needs both hands to grab him by the shoulders until he's shoved up against the SUV. "Back. Of-"
There's a buzz and Whitney drops the ground. The photographer she's just released makes a break for it and runs down the street. The others continue to shoot photos while the remainder of the crowd buzzes with concern.
Rachel drops to her knees. "Oh my god. Can you hear me?"
Whitney's eyes are scrunched tightly shut until she forces them open. Her mouth moves for a few seconds before words come out. "That son of a bitch just tazed me."
"Can you stand up?" Rachel asks. She just wants to get away from all of this.
"Just... okay, yeah." Whitney sits up and regains her bearings. "Get in the car. I'm okay. Shit."
"Do we need to call an am-"
"Get in the car!"
Rachel scrambles to her feet and climbs into the back of the SUV. Whitney's right behind her and as soon as the door's shut, the driver pulls away from the sidewalk.
"We can stop at the hospital if we need to," Rachel says. "St. Mark's might be the closest."
Whitney shakes her head. "It's okay. I've been hit with much worse. It was stupid of me to do that."
"You were doing your job."
"Yeah." Whitney rests her head against the window and stares out at the passing storefronts.
"Tonight went really well. You know, other than you getting electrocuted." Rachel's absolutely serious, but Whitney chuckles.
"Other than that, I think it was a success."
Her ride is waiting for her when she exits Rachel's apartment building. He's there to help her into the van, the same way he was there to help her out when he dropped her off.
"Did it go well?"
"Barring the electrocution, yeah."
He laughs, softly. "Good."
"You think she'll hire me on, full time?"
"I can't say."
She knows she needs these treatments. They're important. Maybe when she's done with this one, she can call Walter and get a heads-up on what to expect.
Maybe this is the job that can make her career.
Maybe Rachel Berry will be a great employer. Maybe even a friend.
"Hello, Lima. How are you feeling?"
"Did I fall asleep?"
"For a little while."
"Shall I go now?"
"If you like."
She's tired, so tired, and it's hard to keep her eyes open until she finds her bed, but she does and it feels nice once she's in it.
She breathes out a content sigh as the sleep pod closes around her. As she begins to drift off, there's a faint echo in her mind, a song she doesn't remember hearing before.
Beth, I hear you callin'
But I can't come home right now
Me and the boys are playin'
And we just can't find the sound.