As Rachel set up the camcorder to record she decided to keep it simple tonight and perform a song she'd already rehearsed several times already just a couple of weeks ago. It didn't hurt that it was also a song that expressed exactly how she was feeling after an evening filled with such an overwhelming combination of frustration and wonderment.
After finding the instrumental version of the song in her iTunes library she pressed the relevant buttons on both computer and camera. Stepping back onto her mark, she took a deep breath and began to sing:
"Don't know much about your life,
Don't know much about your world,
But I don't know want to be alone tonight
On this planet they call Earth . . ."
Satisfied with her very first take – either due to the late hour or all of the elation she was feeling – it only took her a matter of minutes in Windows Movie Maker to tweak the video to her liking and start uploading it to her MySpace account. She restlessly tapped her fingers on her desk afterwards, wondering what to do next. She should be getting ready for bed - it was nearly eleven now after all - but she couldn't even imagine laying down with the way her mind and body were still buzzing from her evening, let alone being able to sleep.
She opened her Facebook account just for something to read. With only nineteen friends – eight of which were family members while the rest had been forced into friending her because of the Glee community page – it didn't take her very long to read up on the current events in their lives.
Finn had not been doing his History homework in favor of unlocking a new level on Crash Tag Team Racing.
Brittany's cat had apparently re-tuned all of the pre-set channels on her TV and was refusing to tell her how to change them back again.
Mercedes had seen fit to inform the world that she, Kurt, Tina and Artie had gone to Breadstix for dinner.
Kurt had further added that he was never having the ravioli again.
Artie had posted a couple of pictures of the four of them scootched deep into the booth and grinning happily at the camera.
She had to admit it hurt not to have been invited. Team-Berry was clearly not developing the friendships with her fellow Glee Clubbers in the way she had hoped.
Then she remembered her own night and smiled. And had an idea.
Rachel Barbra Berry Has had the Best! Night! Ever!
That would show them!
She pulled up the chat box, just in case, but only her Grandma and Santana were online so she shut it down again.
She was carrying the pizza box and their empty soda cans downstairs when her Dad came through the front door.
"Ooh, save any for me?" he asked, making a playful grab for the box.
"There's a couple of slices left," she promised as she went up on tiptoes to give him a kiss hello on the cheek and then twirled with the box over her head to walk through to the kitchen.
"You ate nearly an entire large pizza by yourself?" he asked in disbelief, following her.
She blushed because, well it felt like a blushing moment. "No, of course not. I had a friend over."
He paused with his jacket dangling from one arm, clearly in shock. "Really?" At her timid grin his own, almost identical grin blossomed. "Sweetpea!"
He dropped his briefcase on the table and came forward to hug her, dangling jacket and all. He pulled back almost at once.
"Wait, it wasn't that Mike boy you told us about was it? Because I'm not happy about you being alone in the house with some kid we haven't even met yet."
"No, Dad! I think I know the rules well enough by now even if I've never had the chance to break them yet. It was . . ." she faltered, because there were certain female names that he could react just as negatively too and she wasn't sure if Quinn would want her informing anyone that she had visited. ". . . a female friend. From Glee."
He eyed her, sensing her reluctance. "Mercedes?"
Wow, she really did talk too much. She couldn't even remember mentioning either of them. "No."
He was racking his brains, trying to remember other names that had dropped into conversation over the course of the last month. "Help me out, Sweetpea?"
She took a breath and decided she had no real reason to lie. It wasn't like her Dad was going to start gossiping with the student body of William McKinley High School anytime soon.
"It was Quinn Fabray, and before you say anything, she came to return a scarf I loaned her last week and was perfectly cordial the entire time she was here."
"Russell Fabray's girl?"
"Huh." He finished removing his coat and hung it on his designated peg in the small anteroom by the back door. When he came back in he gave her a look she couldn't read, which was very rare and made her extremely curious. "So you two are friends now?"
"We're . . . not exactly friends but we've discovered a few areas of common interest." She turned her back, placing the pizza box on the kitchen island to hide another blush.
"Okay." He moved to put the tea-kettle on. "Well, she's welcome here, I guess – as long as she remains cordial. Would you like some tea?"
"Yes please. Herbal, though, I'm just going to get ready for bed."
He glanced at the clock and noticed how late it was. "Good idea. I'll bring it up when it's ready."
She accepted a kiss on the top of her head and was about to leave the kitchen when he called her back.
"But you had fun tonight, with Quinn?"
She nodded, a big grin taking over her face that she just couldn't help.
"I'm glad, Rachel."
She hesitated, "I thought you might be upset, because of . . . everything."
This wasn't just about the way Quinn had treated her in school, she knew. The Fabray name had been unpopular in the Berry home for as long as she could remember. It certainly predated the first lesson of eighth grade English, when assigned seating had allowed her to make the acquaintance of the new girl that everybody else was already talking about. Back then she'd only known that her dad and Quinn's worked for opposing companies on opposite sides of the law. That had changed with the Fabray's move to Lima; now they worked for the same company on opposites of the law. Rachel knew – from slips in conversation and random nuggets she'd eavesdropped – that tensions occasionally ran high between the reluctant colleagues so it wasn't impossible that LeRoy Berry might have a reaction to his daughter fraternizing with the 'enemy'.
"I'm . . . cautious of her intent, I'll admit," he said, but then smiled reassuringly, "but true friends often come in unexpected packages. If you're prepared to give her a second chance, I'm sure it's because you feel she's worthy of it."
She released a sub-conscious sigh of relief that her dad was so fair-minded. Now she just really hoped he was right to trust her judgement.
She really hoped she was right to trust it too.
Quinn was still smiling; she was also still berating herself pretty harshly as she shut herself into her bedroom for the night.
"I'm so stupid! Why am I so stupid?" She flicked her computer into life on the way to her bathroom. "I so shouldn't have gone over there."
She stripped for a shower.
"I can't believe I actually admitted stuff. Why did I admit to stuff?"
She'd just made life so much harder for herself. She'd never planned on coming clean, but . . . in hindsight her big stupid moment had had an air of inevitability as soon as she'd set foot in the door. Like everything from breaking down in Rachel's arms, to their argument about Mike and then the dancing together had all been stepping stones to that confession.
The big problem she had now was this: she may have reached a place where she could actually be honest with Rachel, but she'd stumbled there blind. She was no more ready to face this now than she had been yesterday, but when she'd thrown her feelings into the ring, she'd thrown any chance she had to ignore them out of the window.
Now she felt stranded in the middle of a raging river of fear and insecurity, balancing on a rock formed only out of Rachel's belief that they had a shot. It was a very flimsy rock, and it wobbled, and the only thing Quinn had to hand, the only thing that was stopping her from plunging into the rapids, being pulled under and completely drowning in all of that fear and insecurity, was this ridiculously wide smile on her face that wouldn't go away!
Shaking her head at her face's inability to appreciate just how serious a mess she'd made for herself, she turned the shower dial to cold, very cold, and then plunged into that instead.
She shivered throughout but at least it took her mind off of things for five minutes and made her finally lose that damn smile. Still shivering once she was in her bathrobe she rubbed her towel roughly over her legs as she hopped back into her bedroom, trying to dry off as quickly as possible to warm up.
Back at her computer desk ten minutes later she was feeling marginally more in control. That lasted until she checked her Facebook account. Snarling at the screen she added her own thoughts on the subject and then, without logging out, pulled up a fresh tab and checked MySpace for updates.
She wasn't disappointed, but as she watched the newly uploaded video . . . Oh, God; her lips twitched once, twice and then it was back, that smile, as bright and blind as before.
Total, empty, can of worms.
Rachel, showered and ready for bed, sat back down at her computer with her hot bedtime tea in one hand and refreshed her Facebook page with her other. A second later her eyes went wide.
Rachel Barbra Berry Has had the Best! Night! Ever!
Mike Chang Awesome. What did you do? Are we still on for tomorrow?
Quinn Fabray OMG Chang! Are you that desperate? Leave Manhands alone already! Have some respect for yourself!
She stared at the screen, not knowing how to take Quinn's reply to Mike's. Her first instinct was to recoil from it and never speak to her again but . . . but didn't she know better than to take Quinn's words at face value now?
Deciding to deal with it later, she logged out and checked her MySpace page. Three responses!
One was clearly from Santana: 'If you need any help I'll push you off of that edge.'
Another Cheerio was probably responsible for the second: 'U don't no much abt singing either, do U.'
The third was a username she'd never seen before and she smiled despite herself.
Quintruder: I've been trying to find this song for the past couple of weeks but I don't know who it's by.
The message had been left ten minutes ago but Rachel replied anyway, hoping it wasn't too late to start a dialogue.
Rachel Barbra Berry: Celine Dion. Why were you trying to find it?
A couple of minutes passed before a response came through.
Quintruder: Someone was singing it after a party recently. And I kind of liked it.
Rachel smiled. She couldn't remember spontaneously bursting into song after Puck's party but then she couldn't remember doing a few other things that Quinn had liked that night either (liked enough to drive her home and kiss her!).
Rachel Barbra Berry: I sang it for my audition. For the school musical.
Quintruder: Shouldn't you be asleep by now, Berry?
Rachel Barbra Berry: I'm not tired :)
Quintruder: Whatever. You know what to do.
After deleting the conversation she logged back into Facebook. A few seconds later her computer went blip and her chat-box popped into existence at the bottom of her screen.
Beneath the name, in an off-white speech bubble, was the sentence: "I'm not tired either."
Rachel wasted no time in typing back and hitting her enter key: "Why were you so mean to Mike?"
She preferred the delicate shade of blue of her own speech bubbles,she decided, over Quinn's almost grey. It would look even better pink. Was there a way to change it?
"He annoys me."
Mike Chang was probably in the top three in the least annoying people in the world category, if not number one. "Why?"
"Can we not talk about him?"
Rachel stared at the speech bubble wondering whether or not to push the subject. It really boiled down to whether or not it might benefit her to.
"What did you want to talk about instead?"
"I don't know." appeared, quickly followed by: "Why did you choose that song?"
The reason wasn't that interesting, so Rachel decided to try for a bit of mystery. "Why did you think I sang it? :)"
"I don't know, but the lyrics are kind of"
She frowned at the sentence that was just cut off mid-way, and then she smiled, "Kind of what? Suitable?"
"No. Maybe. I guess I don't know."
"I promise you I am just as confused."
She was about to type back an affirmative when more text appeared from Quinn's end. "You always strike me as someone who knows exactly what they want."
She smiled more. "Oh, I know exactly what I want. I just also know it's unrealistic to want it."
It was over a minute before the next message came through.
"What do you want?"
Rachel had typed out the Y and O before she thought better of it. "What do you want?"
"Life to be simpler."
"I remember you saying you relished a challenge."
There was another pause between answers.
"Maybe this is more of a challenge than I'm ready for."
What did she say to that? Yes you are, of course you are. Rachel didn't even know if she was ready for it. This thing with Quinn, whatever it could turn into, was terrifying on so many levels.
Chickening out but wanting to keep the conversation flowing, she settled for, "And by this . . . you mean?"
Quinn refused to settle for that. "If you don't know by now I don't know why we're having this conversation."
It was kind of an avoidance, but also kind of straight to the point, so all she typed back was: "Okay, I do. Sorry."
Quinn was quiet and Rachel hummed a few bars of 'Taking Chances' before deciding a change of topic was the safest way to go.
"Now that things are better between us we should probably find a way to end the Glee war. It's really not good for the club and with Sectionals coming up we need morale to be strong, not non-existent."
"What do you suggest? I can't wave a white flag." Quinn sent. "Not now. Santana was already suspicious and after today Brittany will be too. I really screwed up at lunch."
"You saved my life!" her fingers blurted out onto the screen.
"lol over-dramatic, much. Oh, wait, it's you ;)"
Rachel didn't see the funny side. "Santana was ready to pound me into sausage meat and while I can talk a good game I am in no way equipped in physical self-defense." Even just thinking about it gave her the wobblies. "I'm actually a little concerned as to what will happen the next time she catches me alone."
"I'm not going to let her hurt you if I can help it." Rachel smiled. "But as lame as I think they are, staying close to Team-Berry will help."
She lost her smile. "They all went out without me tonight."
"So I saw. Told you they weren't your friends."
Rachel nodded to herself.
"Your night wasn't so bad though, was it?"
"You saw my status update didn't you?"
Quinn just sent a: :)
Rachel was still basking in the smiley when Quinn typed something else. "Are you still hanging out with Mike tomorrow?"
She hadn't even thought about Mike since Quinn had sung to her; well, maybe for a moment or three while she'd been on Facebook, but it didn't feel like that counted when she'd been mostly focused on Quinn's reaction to it anyway.
"Not sure." Felt like the most honest answer she could give.
"What does that mean?"
Why was Quinn even asking? Why did she have such a massive problem with Mike anyway? It wasn't like Quinn wanted her. Or okay, maybe she kind of maybe sort of wanted her a little bit, but she wasn't making any claims to be her girlfriend or anything. In fact that seemed to be the exact opposite of what Quinn wanted from her. So why did she always seem to hate Mike so much? He wasn't her boyfriend or anything; sure they'd been on a date and held hands a few times but they'd never even kissed!
Quinn's behavior towards Mike was infuriating, especially considering she had her own very bonefide boyfriend.
"Are you seeing Finn after school tomorrow?"
Despite Rachel's deliberations, Quinn's response was instant. "I don't know. It'll depend on how I feel at the time."
The blase attitude just made her more annoyed. "Well, then, I guess who I hang out with tomorrow afternoon will depend on how I feel at the time."
There was a long pause, long enough for Rachel to start kicking herself. They'd been getting on so well again and she'd spoiled it with jealousy. And hadn't Quinn told her earlier that she wouldn't accept any jealousy directed at her and Finn's relationship? She dug her toes into her carpet in frustration and ran a hand through her damp hair as she wondered whether to apologize for her comment or just exit Facebook altogether and deal with it tomorrow.
A new message appeared before she could choose: "Are you asking me to hang out tomorrow after school?"
Okay then. That had to be the first time that the lack of appropriate inflection that cyber-conversing suffered from was actually a good thing. The computer was a social genius – it had taken her jealous snipe and turned it into flirting. But, um . . . Now what did she say?
Rachel stood up from her desk chair with her arms held out because it felt like a suitably dramatic move, but there was no audience, so feeling a little foolish, she sank back down again.
"Nowhere that *sniffing* might be viable though. Just as friends."
Rachel nodded, a lot.
No one could see that either.
She tried to think of an intelligent response, but Quinn had just agreed to a genuine social outing with her (not a date, but close enough!) so it was a little hard to think at all. Her fingers were poised over her keyboard for at least a minute before she could get it together to type anything at all.
She didn't think much of the restaurant really. To a genuine lover of Italian food prepared correctly, Breadstix was an insult; plus they only had two or three vegetarian options on the menu and the only vegan offering was the garden salad. It was still the most popular date venue in Lima for the under twenty-one's though, and Quinn would no doubt assume it was a given that they would go there. Rachel was more than prepared to suffer a few menu choices if it meant she was able to dine with Quinn.
"No, somewhere less public."
Rachel didn't even blink because she didn't even care. She'd meet Quinn on the far side of the moon if that was what she was most comfortable with.
Although she did have some limits.
"I'm not going to your horse-eating restaurant!"
"lol I wasn't asking you on a date, Berry. Not now that I know what you expect from a third date."
"How about the Movie Box?"
She'd never heard of it. "The what?"
"It's downtown. You pay ten bucks to sit in a booth and watch a movie of your choice. Popcorn's free."
Rachel smiled again. It sounded kind of like a date-type place.
"That sounds acceptable."
"Ok, it's almost twelve-thirty. We should probably at least try and sleep."
Rachel just sent a sad faced smiley.
"See you tomorrow, Rachel."
Okay, so this was really happening. She could have kept messaging all night, but she didn't want to come across as needy.
"Goodnight, Quinn. Sleep well."
"You too. x"
Despite the speediness of her fingers Quinn had already logged off before Rachel could send her own final message with a kiss attached.
She sighed, disappointed but hardly miserable as she shut down her computer for the night. At the very least she had another friend date scheduled for after school tomorrow.
When she finally fell asleep around 1:30am it was with a huge smile on her face and there were nothing but good dreams waiting for her . . .
. . . except for the one about the McRachel burgers being the seasonal special at McDonalds, but that one was recurring so probably had nothing to do with Quinn, right?
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