Author's Note: Number fourteen in the Don't Blink series, set between She Will Be Next To Me and My Life Before Me Undone.
Thanks and cyber-hugs to Skywarrior108 for being an awesome beta.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
Just A Little Bit Caught
I'm just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze and love is a riddle
I don't know where to go
I can't do it alone, I've tried
And I don't know why
~The Show, Lenka
It's a fabulous night—the most fabulous night of her life, more fabulous than any night that has ever come before it. She, Rachel Barbra Berry, is now truly and officially a Broadway star. Okay, so technically, one performance as a leading lady probably doesn't make her a star, per se, but it's only a matter of time now before newspapers and magazines are assigning her that most auspicious title. She's still high on the rush of adrenaline from her first performance as Maria in West Side Story, and she surely doesn't need any alcohol to amp up her euphoria, but almost the entire cast is currently jammed into Lillie's bar, celebrating a successful opening night. Rachel isn't of a mind to adhere to any self-imposed temperance on this historic occasion.
She feels like she's waited forever for this moment, and in a sense she has. This is the culmination of her lifelong dream. She's choosing to ignore that little hiccup during her senior year of high school when her dream was momentarily eclipsed by foolish schoolgirl fantasies of epic romance. She was created to perform, and after five years in New York, countless fruitless auditions during her years at NYADA, a myriad of small-minded, ill-tempered directors who'd lacked any degree of good taste whatsoever, and a rather monotonous stint in the ensemble of Wicked, during which she was subjected daily to the unpleasant experience of swaying in the background, Rachel is finally being given the recognition that she so richly deserves.
Her very best friends (and Santana) are celebrating with her, having been front and center to witness her momentous debut. Had anyone told sixteen-year-old Rachel that she'd be eagerly sharing her success with the likes of Kurt Hummel—who'd have once sooner stabbed her in the back to get her solo—not to mention Quinn Fabray and Santana Lopez—who'd have both rather just stabbed her—she'd have clicked her tongue disdainfully and insisted that one day she would, in fact, be rubbing their perfect little noses in her success. Deep down inside, of course, even her sixteen-year-old self had dreamed of this moment—success on a Broadway stage, and the love and support of a few amazing friends.
Right now, Rachel is doggedly weaving through the crowded bar to buy those friends another round of drinks in gratitude for their love and support. She knows that she hasn't always made it easy on any of them. She glances over her shoulder to the little corner table that their group had commandeered upon entering the bar, and her eyes automatically catch sight of Quinn, laughing at something Kurt is saying. Rachel's insides grow pleasantly warm—it must surely be the glass of wine she's had—as she thinks about Quinn's unwavering belief that Rachel would be a star. Even in those dark moments when Rachel had been discouraged and tempted to give up on her dream, Quinn had never given up on her.
There was a time when Rachel had believed that Quinn Fabray was the last person she'd ever be able to call her friend, and now she's her best friend. Rachel isn't certain exactly when Quinn had sneaked in and claimed that position from Kurt, but now Quinn is the first person that she thinks of telling when anything important happens in her life. She's the first person that Rachel had called, screaming like a lunatic, when she'd been officially offered the role of Maria, and Quinn had been nearly as excited, insisting on taking Rachel out to celebrate.
Tonight, there's a giant bouquet of yellow roses in Rachel's dressing room—symbolic of true friendship—courtesy of Quinn. They've come a long way since high school.
Strong arms wrap around Rachel from behind, and she's suddenly airborne, feet dangling above the floor. She screeches in surprise, even as a familiar tenor lilts against her ear, "Tonight, tonight, it all began tonight."
Rachel's squeal immediately turns into delighted laughter, and she weakly slaps at the hands around her waist. "Brian, you goof, put me down."
"But you're just so conveniently portable," he jokes, effortlessly swinging her back and forth as he dances his way closer to the bar.
Rachel laughingly shrieks again, gripping his forearms as the crowd of their costars part for them. She isn't afraid that he'll drop her—he's the most sure-footed leading man that she's had the pleasure to work with since she'd danced with Mike Chang back in high school—but she still has to make an effort to relax against him so that she doesn't end up throwing him off balance and landing them both on their asses.
Brian slides to a dramatic stop in front of the bar, delicately depositing Rachel onto the empty barstool in front of him before he dramatically slaps the countertop, brashly enunciating, "Two shots of your finest whiskey, barkeep. We are celebrating our marvelous debut that will undoubtedly earn raves in the Times tomorrow."
A loud roar of cheers sounds from around the room, and Brain raises his arms and waves them down like a king calming his subjects. Rachel shakes her head, gazing up at her costar in muted admiration. He's thirty-five, but he looks at least ten years younger, and the list of roles that he's already played reads like a catalog of Rachel's favorite musicals. "Do you really think they'll rave?" she asks excitedly.
He leans down close, blue eyes dancing with merriment, and stage whispers, "Either that, or roast us alive."
"Brian!" she chastises, shoving him playfully, only to have him capture her hand and clasp it between his own.
"Oh, don't be so serious, honey," he chastises her, bringing her hand up to his mouth and pressing a gentlemanly kiss to her knuckles before he lets go. "Enjoy the night surrounded by wonderfully talented people, good booze, and gorgeous men," he drawls with an appreciative grin. "By the by, I'm calling dibs on that Adonis over there," he says, pointing across the bar, and Rachel glances in that direction to see a cute guy in a sweater and khakis talking to one of the (male) dancers in the ensemble. "He looks like he could go either way, so don't you even think about flashing those big, irresistible, Bambi eyes at him," he scolds.
Rachel giggles. She's not looking for any bed-warmers tonight, or any night, really. She'd discovered a while back that she's not really made for one-nighters or no-strings-attached affairs. She may consider herself a sophisticated New Yorker these days, but deep down she's still an old-fashioned girl, hoping to find that one person who will seamlessly fit into all of her empty spaces and make her feel complete. Her gaze drifts beyond Brian's hapless prey, unconsciously seeking out an obscured table in the corner.
"He's all yours," she assures him.
"Hmm, I certainly hope he will be," Brian muses, reaching for one of the shots that the bartender has pushed in front of him and downing it in one swallow. He slams the glass back onto the counter, and then picks up the second, tilting his head and raising an eyebrow at Rachel. "What are you drinking, hon?"
Rachel stares at the glass in his hand and frowns. "Oh," she breathes, eyes widening, "drinks…yes. I'm supposed to be buying a round for my friends." She bounces on her stool, craning her neck in an attempt to see her waiting friends, but there are still too many bodies blocking her view.
"You're treating them on your big night? How adorable," he teases playfully.
"Well, they have supported me with varying degrees of encouragement as I've clawed my way to stardom," she informs him as she attempts to signal the bartender to come back over, "so buying a few drinks is the least that I can do."
Brian chuckles, placing a supportive hand on her shoulder. "Just don't let them get you too drunk, honey. Performing with a hangover is an absolute bitch."
Unbidden memories of an unfortunate high school assembly, not to mention one ill-advised NYADA class performance that immediately followed the night of her twenty-first birthday celebration, flash through her mind. "Tell me about it," she mutters with a grimace.
"Why, Rachel Berry?" he gasps, moving his hand from her shoulder to his own chest in mock outrage. "I never would have guessed that you have a secret wild side." He winks, and downs his second shot before snapping his fingers at the bartender, who has been ignoring Rachel, and signaling for two more.
"Lies and slander," Rachel denies with a grin that quickly slips when she sees the bartender pour Brian his shots before disappearing again. She growls under her breath, and Brian chuckles, picking up his drinks and pushing away from the bar.
"Have fun tonight, honey. You deserve it," he tells her.
"You too, Brian," she calls out, watching him strut across the room with his sights set on the guy in the sweater. Turning completely around to face the bar, Rachel lays her palms flat against the wood and directs her best glare at the wayward bartender. She's certain that if Quinn had accompanied her to the bar, this blatant inattention would not be an issue—or Santana, obviously, but Rachel only wants to order her drinks, not create a loud, unpleasant scene. "Excuse me, bartender," she repeats, narrowing her eyes when he only spares a momentary glance in her direction before returning to his conversation with a scantily clad blonde. "I said, excuse me," she shouts, slapping her palms on the bar. The man finally turns with an exasperated expression and makes his way over to her. Rachel grins sweetly up at him. "I'd like one Cosmopolitan, one glass of Zinfandel, one glass of Riesling, and one Corona with lime, please."
The bartender eyes her suspiciously. "Can I see your identification?"
"Really?" Rachel huffs, "I assure you that I am well over twenty-one." His expression doesn't change, and Rachel grudgingly digs into the tiny pocket in her designer jeans and shimmies her drivers license free before slapping it onto the bar. "There."
He has the audacity to chuckle at the (decidedly unflattering) photo before sliding it back to her. "Coming right up," he promises with a condescending smile. Rachel decides that he won't be getting a tip.
Fifteen minutes later—ten for the drinks and another five spent demanding a tray with which to carry them—Rachel begins her careful dance back to her table. She's barely taken six steps before encountering Kurt, who is practically standing on top of one of the male dancers from her show. She stops beside him with a frown. "Kurt?"
"Rachel," he squeals with a wide smile, "there you are. We thought you'd gotten lost in the sea of your costars," he remarks, stepping back from his new friend so that Rachel can actually see a little space between their bodies. "Did you know that literally everyone in your cast is taller than you?"
"I hadn't noticed," she drawls mildly.
Kurt reaches out for the tray. "Here, let me take that off your hands," he offers, lifting the Cosmopolitan and immediately taking a sip. Rachel quickly readjusts her grip to counter the sudden redistribution of weight.
"Thanks," she mutters in mild annoyance as she rebalances the tray.
"Have you met Sean?" Kurt asks, brushing a hand over the broad shoulder of the young man standing next to him.
Rachel rolls her eyes. "Every day for the past two months."
"Hi, Rachel," Sean says, giving her a little wave.
She would happily wave back if her hands weren't full, but as they are, she settles for a friendly smile and a nod of her head. Kurt's eyes widen in recognition. "Oh, of course," he exclaims, "in the show," and this is when Rachel finally realizes that perhaps Kurt has managed to sneak in another drink or two in the time she's been tied up at the bar. His eyes narrow, and he shakes his head at her. "I can't believe you didn't introduce us before tonight."
"I thought you were seeing that guy, Ben," she says, furrowing her brows in confusion.
"He's so two weeks ago," Kurt says dismissively, giving Rachel a pointed look before turning to Sean with a reassuring smile. "I'm completely single."
Rachel frowns—she's almost positive that Kurt mentioned having coffee with Ben just last week. She loves Kurt—she does—but he's become a bit of a player in the last few years. New York really is a city filled with endless opportunities. She shifts the tray in her arms, jangling the glasses a little. "This is getting kind of heavy, so…"
Kurt glances back at her with a grin. "Oh, yes, you mustn't keep Quinn and Santana waiting. They were getting downright competitive when I left them, reliving their glory days as minions of Sue Sylvester," he tells her with a roll of his eyes. "You know that never ends well."
"You're not coming back to the table?" she asks with a frown.
Kurt casts a surreptitious look at Sean, stepping closer to Rachel and ducking his head to speak as lowly as he can over the noise of the bar. "Rachel, I adore you. You are the only woman that I'll ever love, but Sean is so cute, and he's a dancer. Tell me you understand."
Rachel sighs, "Have fun, Kurt."
He flashes a boyish grin. "Thank you. I am forever in your debt," he says, dropping a quick kiss on her cheek. "You really were amazing tonight."
"Flatterer," she returns, shaking her head.
Kurt immediately turns all of his attention back to Sean, and Rachel sets about re-plotting her path to the table. She dodges left and spins right, but her steps falter when her eyes finally find Quinn and…not Santana. The chair where Santana had been sitting is now occupied by another woman, and even in the less than adequate lighting of the bar, Rachel can see a perfect ivory complexion, gorgeous red hair, and an appalling lack of personal space. The room suddenly seems very close, and her skin prickles with heat, enough to make her a little bit queasy. She's obviously been holding these damn drinks for too long.
The redhead looks vaguely familiar, but Rachel can't place her, and she thinks it might just be the familiarity of the situation. Quinn has a knack for attracting women of every type in almost every setting, and this isn't the first time that Rachel's Quinn-time has been interrupted by an overzealous admirer. Not that tonight is solely meant to be Quinn-time, but certainly Rachel's opening night celebration should automatically make her the center of Quinn's attention—well, everyone's attention, but Kurt obviously has other ideas, and apparently so does Santana. Rachel isn't about to allow all of her friends to abandon her, so when Quinn smiles at the far-too-touchy (hussy of a) redhead, she immediately determines that the smile seems a little thin, and Quinn must be in need of being rescued.
Rachel regains her footing and closes the distance to the table in less than ten steps, practically dropping the tray in front of the women and causing them both to jerk their gazes up to her. A look of relief—Rachel is completely certain that it's relief—passes over Quinn's features. "Rachel. There you are."
"I'm sorry," she apologizes, sliding into the chair across from Quinn. "I kept getting distracted."
Quinn opens her mouth, but the redhead leans forward with a sly grin. "Don't worry, I was more than happy to keep her company while you were otherwise occupied."
Rachel's eyes narrow on the woman, who really isn't all that attractive up close. Sure, she has nice skin and hair, but her nose is a little crooked, her teeth aren't straight at all, and she has to be at least thirty. "I don't believe we've met," Rachel prompts.
"Connie," the woman supplies with a faint touch of arrogance, as if Rachel should already know.
Rachel flashes one of her show smiles—she's fairly confident that she's gotten much better at making them seem genuine. "Well, it's lovely to make your acquaintance, Bonnie, but..."
"Connie ," she interrupts with a frown. "Connie Tremaine," she adds, glaring at Rachel.
Rachel freezes. "T-Tremaine?" she meekly repeats, instantly recognizing the surname as the one shared by the producer of her show. She suddenly recalls that Robert Tremaine has a daughter named Constance, and she realizes why the woman looks familiar. She's almost certain that she'd seen Connie at the theater several weeks ago. The queasiness in her stomach returns with a vengeance.
Connie's mouth curls into a mocking smile. "Yes. I was just telling Quinn, here," she says, trailing predatory fingers over Quinn's forearm, "how Daddy doesn't like cast parties, but when I heard everyone was heading out to celebrate opening night, I just had to swing by and offer my congratulations. You did very well tonight, Rachel," she offers insincerely. "I'm sure you'll get all those little kinks ironed out in no time."
"Kinks?" Rachel squeaks, offended.
Connie waves a manicured hand. "Don't worry about them. Hardly anyone has a flawless opening night."
"I think Rachel nailed it," Quinn says confidently, gifting Rachel with a sweet smile that makes her feel immediately better.
"Well, I suppose Rachel did turn in one of the stronger performances," Connie concedes with a distracted shrug as she glances from Quinn to the tray of drinks that Rachel had deposited. "Is that a Corona with lime?" she asks, already reaching for the bottle. "What an absolute doll. You must be psychic," she guesses, pushing the lime the rest of the way into the bottle.
"Actually, that's for," Rachel starts, but the bottle is already pressed against Connie's painted lips, and Rachel sighs, "you, apparently."
Quinn chuckles a little as she reaches for her own glass of wine. Rachel frowns, not entirely certain how to read Quinn's expression. Surely she's just humoring Connie. She can't actually like her—can she?
"So, Quinn was just telling me that the two of you went to high school together," Connie reveals, "in Lena, Ohio."
"Lima," Rachel automatically corrects, glancing over at Quinn and wondering exactly how long she and Connie had been chatting like old friends. Or new lovers? Rachel reaches for her drink, practically downing half of it in one gulp.
"And you're still friends? Color me impressed. I don't ever see anyone I went to high school with," Connie admits—and Rachel can't say that she's surprised by the confession—before she turns her full attention back to Quinn, "although, I'm sure if any of them had been as stunning as you are, I'd have made more of an effort to keep in touch."
Quinn's cheeks tint pink, and Rachel nearly bites into her lip. Setting her glass back on the table, she forces a smile. "Well, Connie, it was wonderful of you to drop by," she lies. "I'm sure that you'll want to make a point to congratulate Brian, as well. He's just across the bar," she says, glancing in the direction she'd last seen him. "I'm sure you can catch him."
"Oh, I'm in no hurry," Connie assures her dismissively. "So, Quinn, are you an actress as well?"
Quinn laughs lightly, shaking her head. "No. I dabbled a bit in college, but I decided to leave the stage to Rachel," she explains, grinning at Rachel with hazel eyes full of admiration. Rachel feels her own lips curve in response.
Connie only leans closer, stealing Quinn's gaze back with determination. "Where did you go to school? Here in New York?"
"Yale, actually," Quinn tells her before taking a sip of her wine.
"Wow, beauty and brains, too. Color me more impressed," Connie flirts. "So what exactly do you do for a living, Quinn?"
"I'm an assistant editor at HarperCollins."
"Boo, a boring desk job," Connie pouts. "It's such a waste for a woman like you to be locked in a stuffy office."
"Quinn is very good at what she does," Rachel interjects defensively.
"Oh, I'm sure you are," she drawls suggestively, sliding those black-painted fingertips over Quinn's arm again. "You know, if that acting bug ever bites you again, I'm absolutely certain that I can pull some strings for you."
Oh please, Rachel thinks vehemently, that's such a blatant pickup line. Surely Quinn has higher standards than this. Then she recalls some of the women that Quinn has dated since coming to New York, and her stomach sinks unpleasantly. She reaches for her drink again.
Quinn's tongue darts out to moisten her lips, and her eyes seek out Rachel. "That's…tempting," she acknowledges politely, "but I kind of fell in love with literature, so…"
"No sooner met but they looked, no sooner looked but they loved," Connie quotes huskily, taking Quinn's hand in her own. "No sooner loved but they sighed, no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason, no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy.¹ "
If Rachel were a more generous person, she'd concede that Connie's delivery was quite impressive, and she easily could have a career as an actress herself, but Rachel isn't in the mood to be charitable. Her hand tightens on her glass as she watches Quinn fall into Connie's hypnotic gaze—hypnotic like a snake. "Okay, that's…"
"Shakespeare," Quinn breathes. "I…I'm impressed."
Connie thankfully lets go of Quinn's hand and reaches for her bottle of beer. "I have a minor in literature from Columbia," she brags with a haughty smirk.
"You know," Rachel breaks in, unwilling to sit here one moment longer and watch this woman sink her claws into Quinn, "I think I see someone over at the bar that I need to say hello to."
Quinn's eyebrows furrow as she leans back, placing a little distance between herself and Connie. "Rach?"
"If you'll excuse me," she grits out, scraping her chair against the floor as she stands with purpose.
"Take your time. I'll keep Quinn entertained," Connie promises, subtly chasing after Quinn by shifting her chair closer.
Rachel purses her lips and spins on her heel, ignoring Quinn's questioning expression and Connie's smug grin as she mutters under her breath, "I just bet you will, you trollop." She marches away from the table, all the while searching for a familiar head of dark hair, and she sighs in relief when she sees her.
"Santana," she shouts, practically tackling her as she pushes between her and the woman that she's talking to, who just happens to be one of Rachel's costars. "Excuse me, Pauline," she says with an apologetic smile, "but I really must steal Santana away for a moment."
"Be my guest," Pauline gestures, looking a little relieved at the interruption.
"Thank you." Rachel doesn't even think twice as she tucks her hand into Santana's elbow and tugs, pulling her a few steps away from Pauline. As she turns, she accidentally bumps into another of her costars. "Oh, sorry Jessica," she murmurs distractedly, maneuvering Santana closer to the wall and away from curious ears.
"Hey," Santana growls, shaking off Rachel's hand in annoyance. "Damn it, Berry. Way to be a twat swat."
"A what?" she asks, finally noticing Santana's narrowed eyes and scowl. She glances back at Pauline, who seems much more relaxed now that she's chatting with Jessica. "Oh," she breathes, and then rolls her eyes, "really, Santana. You weren't getting lucky with Pauline Barrett. I already told you that she's very heterosexual."
"You never know," Santana argues. "Some women can get pretty adventurous when they've had a few."
Rachel frowns, crossing her arms. "First, it's highly inappropriate to be taking advantage of a woman in an inebriated state, and, frankly I'm disappointed that you'd even consider it," she chastises, ignoring Santana's amused snort. "Second, Pauline has a very nice, very masculine, fiancé."
"Damn shame, if you ask me," Santana muses before taking a pull of her Corona.
"I didn't," Rachel snaps, glaring at the bottle and wondering why she'd bothered to buy her friends a round of drinks if none of them were even willing to wait for her to deliver them.
"What's so important anyway?"
Rachel steps into Santana's personal space, dropping her voice. "Some woman-eating viper who won't take no for an answer is propositioning Quinn, and I need you to intervene."
Santana stares blankly at her for several moments before her eyes seek Quinn and Connie, still conversing at the table. She turns back to Rachel with a perplexed expression. "Are you serious?"
"No," Santana snaps.
"What do you mean, no?" Rachel demands.
"I mean no. En. Oh," Santana enunciates slowly. "It's a common negative response used to express denial. In other words, it ain't happening, hobbit."
"Listen Rachel," Santana cuts in sharply, "from where I'm standing, Quinn doesn't really look like she needs to be saved. I mean, damn, Ginger Spice is fine," she adds with a smirk.
"She's a predator," Rachel growls, glaring at the table. Connie is touching Quinn's arm again, and Rachel silently wills Quinn to spurn the advance. When she doesn't, Rachel digs her nails into her own bicep. "I'm certain that Quinn is only suffering her attention for my sake."
Santana's eyes snap back to Rachel. "How do you figure that?" she asks cautiously, an oddly pensive expression on her face.
Rachel huffs, stomping her foot—just a little because she doesn't really do that anymore. Well, much. "Because I know Quinn, okay! She's merely being polite," Rachel insists, completely unamused when Santana scoffs into her beer bottle. "That grabby redhead is Robert Tremaine's daughter," she explains with a frown.
Santana swallows her mouthful of beer, eyebrows inching up. "And I care why?"
Rachel takes a deep breath, silently counting to five before hissing out the air through her clenched teeth. "Robert is the producer of my show, Santana," she grumbles with dwindling patience.
"Yeah, and you've already got the part," Santana points out testily. "Still not seeing the problem."
Rachel glances back at the table. Connie is laughing, and Quinn is smiling, and Rachel is seriously considering the pros and cons of punching someone—possibly Santana, which admittedly wouldn't be one of her better ideas. "Please, just come meet Connie," she nearly begs. "Be your blatantly salacious self, and I can almost guarantee that you won't go home alone tonight."
Santana takes a deliberate drink as she studies Rachel, who shifts uncomfortably under the tangible weight of her dark gaze. "And if Quinn is actually into her?"
"She isn't," Rachel insists. She thinks. She hopes. Okay, she can't even begin to guess. Quinn has horrible taste in women. Rachel has never really liked any of them or felt that they were good enough for Quinn, but something about Connie Tremaine just puts her completely off, and she refuses to accept that Quinn is legitimately attracted to someone so pushy and arrogant.
"But if she is," Santana reiterates, "then I'm gonna need some other form of compensation."
Rachel eyes her warily. "What do you want?"
"My drinks are on you for the rest of the night."
"I already bought you a drink, which you would have in your hand if you'd stayed at the table," Rachel complains, but she's relieved that Santana isn't asking for something worse. She'd once made Rachel promise not to make any Broadway references or even hum any show tunes in her presence for an entire month in exchange for helping her scour the endless shelves of The Strand for a suitable book for Quinn's birthday. Perhaps paying three hundred dollars was a bit ridiculous for a rare illustrated copy of Treasure Island, but Quinn's delighted face upon seeing it had been well worth the price.
"You were taking forever. I got bored," Santana says with a shrug.
Rachel shakes her head. "I swear, you have the attention span of a hyperactive two-year-old."
Santana barks out a laugh. "Hello? Have you met you?" she asks, waving her hand down Rachel's body. "I'm a fucking sentry next to you."
"Language," Rachel admonishes.
"Seriously?" Santana snickers. "I can't say fucking when you're trying to pimp me out?"
Rachel gasps, feeling her face flush with heat. "I…I'm not doing that," she argues weakly, frowning. "Am I?"
"Ay dios," Santana mumbles, shaking her head, "just introduce me to the hot redhead before I change my mind."
A wave of relief rushes over Rachel, and she smiles, reaching out to squeeze Santana's shoulder in gratitude. "Thank you," she murmurs. Santana sighs dramatically, shrugging her off, but turns and heads for the table, leaving Rachel to scurry along behind her.
Whatever conversation Connie and Quinn are engaged in comes to an abrupt end when Santana grabs a chair and slides it around the table next to Connie before dropping into it. Rachel reclaims her own chair, offering an apologetic smile to Quinn. "Connie, I don't believe you've met our friend Santana."
Connie's eyes spark with interest as they rove over Santana in her tight, low cut dress. "No, I don't think I have."
Santana smiles seductively, holding out her hand in greeting as she blatantly returns the visual caress. "Santana Lopez, but don't let the name fool you. I'm far from saintly, unlike Quinnie here," she nods.
"Quinnie?" Connie repeats in amusement. "That's cute."
"Isn't it?" Santana asks sweetly.
"No," Quinn grumbles, crossing her arms and glaring at Santana. Rachel frowns, hoping that Quinn is only upset about the nickname.
"Rachel, you certainly have a surplus of attractive friends," Connie purrs, barely sparing a look at Rachel. "Where have you been hiding them?"
Santana smirks evilly. "Well, you know Rachel," she cuts in, "Work, work, work. I don't think she even knows the definition of the word fun. Neither does Quinnie, here. Did you know that she was president of the Celibacy Club back in high school?"
Connie laughs, glancing back at an unamused Quinn. "I never would have guessed that," she says.
"Oh, yeah. They can be so boring," Santana dismisses with a roll of her eyes. "I, on the other hand, know how to balance work and play, if you know what I mean," she husks suggestively, leaning closer to Connie.
Rachel can't even manage to be appropriately annoyed at Santana's tactics when she's somehow managed to snag Connie's interest with little to no effort. Personally, Rachel doesn't understand why any woman would choose Santana over Quinn Fabray, but she's unaccountably grateful for the phenomenon, especially when Connie all but turns her back on Quinn.
"And what is your line of work, Santana?"
"Oh, I'm currently a full time student at Columbia school of medicine. Top of my class, actually," Santana proudly exaggerates.
"Mmhmm. I'm especially good with...anatomy," Santana drawls, making the word sound more like an invitation than a statement of fact.
Connie's tongue pokes out to trace her lower lip. Rachel feels dirty just watching them. "You know, I graduated from Columbia, too."
"We're practically soul sisters," Santana purrs. "Can I buy you a drink, Connie?"
"I'd love that." Connie turns to Quinn with a smile. "You don't mind if Santana and I have a nice talk about Columbia, do you Quinnie?"
Quinn's jaw instantly tenses, and Santana stifles a snort of laughter. A completely insincere smile appears on Quinn's lips. "Not at all," she tells them, reaching for her glass of wine.
Santana grins and stands, holding out a hand to Connie. "Shall we?" Connie lets Santana help her up, grabbing her purse before she steps past Santana, brushing their bodies together in the process. Santana licks her lips and unabashedly checks out Connie's ass. She spares a brief glance at Rachel, offering a wink and an arrogant smirk as she falls into step behind Connie. "Later bitches," she calls back.
Rachel watches them go, making sure that they're out of earshot before she turns back to Quinn. "Well, that's a relief," she attempts, expecting Quinn to agree, but her lips are pursed, and she's still staring at the spot where Santana and Connie had disappeared. She doesn't look particularly relieved, but she doesn't look upset either. This is one of those increasingly rare instances where Rachel simply can't read Quinn's mood, and though it happens less and less these days, it bothers Rachel more and more every time that it does. "Isn't it?" she prods again.
"Hmm, I suppose," Quinn says mildly.
Rachel swallows down her disappointment, rubbing absently at the unpleasant tightness in her chest. "O-oh. Did you…were you…? I thought," she stutters out, increasingly upset with the idea that she'd knowingly 'twat-swatted' Quinn, but more upset that Quinn could have actually wanted that woman's attention, producer's daughter or not.
"It's okay, Rach. She's not really my type anyway," Quinn mutters with a shrug. Puffing out a breath, she seems to shake off her odd mood, smiling at Rachel. "Besides, we're supposed to be celebrating your big night. I can't believe Kurt and Santana both bailed on us."
Rachel releases the breath she's been holding at the sight of Quinn's smile, letting her discomfort melt away as she relaxes back against her chair. "Oh, that's okay," she easily brushes off the disappearance of their friends. As long as Quinn isn't upset with her, Rachel is perfectly content. "I'm sure we can have fun without them."
"We'll prove Santana wrong," Quinn decides with a nod.
"We certainly will," Rachel agrees. "We are far from boring. Maybe I'll even get a tattoo."
Quinn laughs, "Seriously?"
Well, Rachel hadn't really been serious, but Quinn's obvious disbelief immediately sparks Rachel's competitive nature. "You don't think I'll do it?"
"Not really," Quinn admits.
"Well, I might just have to prove you wrong."
Quinn's eyebrow arches up, and a familiar smirk turns her lips up. "We'll see."
"We will," Rachel determinedly insists. The more she thinks about it, the more appropriate it seems that she should do something permanent to mark the occasion of her first Broadway performance as a leading lady.
Quinn laughs lightly, lifting her nearly empty glass of wine into the air between them and gracing Rachel with a wide smile, eyes sparkling with pride. "Here's to you, Rach."
Rachel blushes, lifting her own glass. "Here's to us," she corrects, touching the lip of her glass to Quinn's.
Quinn nods. "To us," she repeats quietly before taking a sip.
Rachel grins into her glass, grateful to be sharing the evening with Quinn. It feels right. She can't really explain it any better than that, but after everything they've been through together in their often tumultuous past, there really isn't anyone else with whom she'd want to celebrate her success. And if the New York Times ends up tearing her performance to pieces tomorrow, Rachel knows exactly whose shoulder she'll be crying on—but that won't be happening. She's certain of it. She has a sixth sense about these things, and tonight, she knows in her soul that she's at the beginning of something wonderful. It really is a fabulous night.
¹As You Like It, William Shakespeare
A/N: Feedback is love.