Dancing Through Life

It was just coffee, Rachel told herself. It was just a work date. Brody had helped Rachel so much since her and her dreams arrived in New York City that treating her new friend to a cup of her newly-found treat was the least she could do. She didn't want to fall for Brody Weston, but it was difficult to resist. How could she, when everything Brody said and did made her tingle to the tips of her fingers (prettily manicured today in taupe)? Even the way he ate his pain au chocolate was perfect, polite nibbles and just the barest hint of the rich chocolate filling flecking the tip of his nose.

"I've been thinking, Rachel," he said, her name sounding as rich and dark and beautiful to Rachel as the pastry they'd just shared. "I know I said that I'd back off a little, and I have to respect Flynn's actions, but..."

"Brody!" Rachel giggled at the waggle of his eyebrows, knowing he was joking. "His name is Finn," she said, still laughing. She loved Brody's easy, affable sense of humour. "No, I know Finn's not coming back to me," she said, sadly. "I used to have nightmares he'd come back to me in a body bag, but now I have nightmares he won't be coming back at all. If he won't even talk to Kurt..." she continued, Brody's hand tilted under his chin in rapt attention.

"Rachel. It's been tearing me up. One of my friends from high school joined in the Army. Same branch as you told me Finn said he'd be in after basic, and I remember what it was like when she went through Basic. The dates don't add up. How when he did call you, you said it was quiet, in the background. Lorna said she couldn't get a word in over all the noise, and didn't Finn call you in the middle of the day? So I did a little detective work, and got Lorna to ask around at Finn's base. He was at Fort Benn, right?"

Rachel nodded. "Why would you do that?" her eyes started to sting, filling up with tears.

Brody placed a comforting palm on her arm. "Because someone needs to tell you the truth." His voice lowered. "Do you want to know the truth?"

"Yes," she said, defiantly, knowing it would hurt, but not knowing would be worse.

"Finn had an Entry Level Separation," he said, softly. "That means, for whatever reason, the Army didn't work out for him."

"Oh." Rachel's grief bubbled out a little, but she managed to keep it under control. "Thank you. For telling me the truth."

"You have to let him go," he said, tracing the outline of the pastry plate with his thumb. "He let you go the moment he sent you on that train."

Rachel didn't know what to say. Was she holding on to the way Finn had actually been, or a faded memory of the man she thought he could be? The fantasy and the reality had never matched up. How stupid she was, thinking all summer that he'd turn up without warning in his Army uniform, sun-kissed and lifting her up in the air for a sweet kiss? No, Finn Hudson wasn't going to do that at all. Suddenly, all the thoughts she'd had were replaced by how, in the end, all he had ever done was hurt her. Let her go. Kurt had been pushing her towards moving on with Brody from the moment he had met him; Kurt had said guys like Brody only had the right to exist in romantic comedies and told her daily she was crazy for passing up the chance to, "kiss that gorgeous face of his," but Rachel was stubborn. But just like that, the dream of her Finn had faded into dust. She couldn't hang on to that dream any more, as much as part of her tugged and pulled at wanting that still; the same part of her that looked at her old engagement ring, sat sadly on the dresser in its tiny dark box.

Feeling a little bolder, wanting to be a little happier, she smiled at Brody. "Did we come here for a date?"

Brody paused, his light blue eyes twinkling a little. Rachel stared down at the oak table, following the whirls in the wood with her eyes. "I'm..." her voice lowered to the barest simmer of a whisper. "I suppose I lost my own chance at happiness at the same time Finn lost his. I suppose I'm not enough. Maybe that was why he said he joined the Army; because he thought it was the kindest way to let go of me?"

"No," Brody told her firmly. His smile was bright and brilliant, lighting up his face like some sort of statue in a museum. There had to be a catch. Guys who looked like Brody, who could have had any of the fish in NYADA's pond, did not go for girls like her with mannish faces and flat chests. "Rachel, you are more than enough. You're everything. How could you think you were anything less?"

Again, Rachel thought back to Finn. The times he'd made love to her, quick and rushed and clumsy and it had never made her feel particularly loved or desired. It felt like he never quite wanted to connect with the real her. The parts of Rachel she had tried to erase when she was with him - her passion, her intensity, her talent - were the parts of her that seemed to have driven her former fiancé away. She took a deep breath. Brody loved how brazen she was, and how he spoke her mind. Or, at least, he said he did.

It was time for that Rachel to make a reappearance.

"Maybe," she said, twirling a lock of soft hair around her finger, chocolate brown mixed with ombre the colour of the sun. "You could tell me some more?"

Brody smiled at her from across the table. He reached out with his gorgeous hand and traced the swell of Rachel's lower lip with his large thumb. She was so glad she'd worn just lip chap that day, because she knew her full lips were soft and sweet. The contact trailed fire across her lips that made them tingle, the ghost of Brody's touch still ingrained in his sense memory as he swept his thumb upwards.

"Well. You're beautiful here," he said, Rachel shuddering to the tips of her toes as he moved his hand up to gently stroke her cheek. He cupped the back of her head, giving it a playful tap. "And here," he added, before moving in to capture her mouth in a searing kiss.

This, she realised. This was what fireworks felt like, an explosion of red, gold, and green flashing behind her eyes.

"Wow," she said with a little giggle as they broke away. "That was just..."

"Wow?" Brody echoed as he reached across the table to clasp her tiny hand in his. "You're pretty good at making me lost for words."

From behind her, there was a slow, but steady clap. Looking over her shoulder, Rachel flushed a little as she took in the kind eyes of an old woman in a sable-colored trench who looked like she knew a lot about love, and life. She reminded Rachel of Joni Mitchell, a little, and she flashed the woman a gentle smile.

"He's a keeper, honey," she told Rachel, and then returned to doing the New York Times crossword.

Rachel squeezed Brody's hand tighter in response, but in the back of her mind, things were a lot more complicated than the sweet touch of Brody's skilled lips on hers.

TBC