For You I'd Burn the Length and Breadth of Sky - yumi_michiyo (2024)

Chapter Text

So come to me my love
I'll tap into your strength and drain it dry
Can never have enough
For you I'd burn the length and breadth of sky

My Medea- Vienna Teng

Well, she had every intention of getting on the next plane off paradise and back to New York. Unfortunately, reality (in every sense of the word), worked otherwise.

“What do you mean, there are no flights scheduled today ?”

“Exactly that, Ms. Berry; even for you,” said the manager apologetically, and she wished that she didn’t have such a reputation for diva tantrums. “Certainly, we can book you on the next flight from Barbados to the States, but there are no flights from Mustique today because it’s a public holiday.”

“I understand, but it’s very important that I return to New York as soon as possible. Is there a ferry I could take, or…?”

“There is, but the next ferry is in three days’ time.”

“Three days.” Rachel struggled to calm herself. “Okay,” she said, very calmly (though the man still flinched), “then what would you suggest that would be my best option for getting off this island, ASAP?”

“There might be some private yacht owners who are willing to take you. I could make a few calls,” volunteered the manager.

“That would be great; thank you… David,” said Rachel, eyes flicking to the brass nametag on his shirt. “Your help is very much appreciated.”

“Don’t mention it, Ms. Berry.”

Santana was in the middle of something (Rachel knew exactly what that something was, judging from how out of breath her friend sounded, but chose not to comment) but still managed to answer her phone halfway through the second call. “Jeez, midget; some of us have better things to do.”

“I can’t make it back tonight,” she blurted out.

“No sh*t? What, we’re not going ahead with the dinner?” Santana’s voice became muffled. Rachel could still hear her say, “It’s Rachel, Britt; she can’t make it tonight.”

“I’m putting you on speaker,” said Santana, and Brittany’s voice filtered down the line.

“Hi, Rachel.”

“Hi, Brittany. I’m sorry to ruin your plans like this. It’s a holiday here on Mustique, apparently, and there are no flights today, and the next ferry leaves in three days. The manager said he could try and find some yacht owners who would be willing to give me a ride to Barbados, and then – Santana Lopez , are you laughing at me?”

“Babe, stop laughing at Rachel,” said Brittany reproachfully, amidst the snickers in the background.

“Sorry. I can’t help it, I’m only human. This is like some big romantic comedy. Streisand, are we starring in your next hit movie? Make sure they get our good sides, okay?”

“This isn’t funny,” huffed Rachel. “I understand that this might be a source of amusem*nt to you, Santana, but I am taking this very seriously, and I’m doing my best not to panic.”

“You’re doing great, Rachel,” said Brittany soothingly. “Don’t worry; us bicorns are designed to be awesome under pressure. It’s like, we have two horns, so it makes sense we always have two plans too.”

“... as you say, Brittany.”

“Yeah, listen to Brittany. That totally made sense; my girl’s a genius,” said Santana. “So what? Should I summon the Gay Council? Postpone Operation Squeeze Berry’s Juice?”

Rachel heaved a long-suffering sigh, although she was definitely smiling. “There’s no need for that, Santana; I’ll talk to Blaine and Kurt myself after this to inform them of my change in plans. Thank you for volunteering, though.”


“Good luck, Rachel,” chimed in Brittany, and then they ended the call. Immediately, she dialled Kurt’s number (she had to scroll through her contacts to find him because he wasn't on her list of recent contacts) and waited.


“Hi, Kurt. It’s… been a while.”

“It has, but I’m always glad to hear from you,” he said warmly. Rachel clutched her phone tightly, wondering what she’d done to deserve people like Santana and Kurt as her friends. “Would this have anything to do with that weird text Santana sent me last night about berry juice…?”

“Ignore her, you know how she is.”

“I did,” laughed Kurt. “Besides, it’s not like Blaine and I have a spare moment to entertain Santana these days. Livy’s learning to walk and it’s driving Blaine crazy. He’s baby-proofed our entire house, and he’s taken to following her with his camera.”

“Yes, I think I’ve seen the Facebook albums – all twenty-seven of them,” said Rachel, laughing when Kurt groaned. “... God, I’ve missed this. I miss you, and Blaine, and even Livy – though I did not miss the pregnancy hormones.”

“You know we’ve been waiting for you to come talk to us,” said Kurt. “You’ve been really distant lately, and not just because of Quinn.”

“I know. I’ve been – I met some people here who helped me see that. I’ve lost my focus, lost sight of what’s really important.” She took a deep breath. “I’m finally seeing what I’ve become, and I don’t like that woman, Kurt.”

“Rachel, we’ll talk more when you come home, alright? Not meaning to cut you off like this, but this isn’t the best thing to talk about on the phone, and anyway I think you need a hug first.”

“Sure. Thanks, Kurt.”

“No problem. Now, about Santana…?”

“Oh, yes.” She blushed – she’d completely forgotten about her reason for calling Kurt in the first place. “I can’t make it back to New York tonight. There aren’t any flights out of Mustique.”


“I might just need to swim back to Barbados,” joked Rachel.

“Don’t even joke about that. Seawater would destroy your hair, but more importantly, you wouldn't even make it halfway; we both know you haven't an athletic bone in your body. Unless you're counting the time you dated that Olympic gymnast...” said Kurt.

“Kurt! That was terrible. Also, you dated the gymnast.”

“... Oh, right. I stand corrected.”

“Kurt, focus. I've already gotten sidetracked once.”

“Yes, okay. So. Stuck in Mustique… You can't arrange alternative transport?”

“The manager is asking around as we speak. I've got my fingers crossed, but the wait is killing me. I've wasted so much time, Kurt, and I've been so stupid and blind.”

“At least you're making it up for it now,” he said tactfully.

Rachel sighed; there was a time he would have never let her forget she had screwed up, and she told him so. Kurt just laughed.

“You've mellowed.”

“Being a dad does that to you.” There was thumping on Kurt’s end, and then an earsplitting screech of Daddyyyy, as though Livy needed to remind him of that fact. “Damn. Sorry, Rachel; Livy’s woken up from her nap and she doesn't sound happy. I've got to go.”

“Of course,” said Rachel. “Send her – and Blaine – my love. I’ll keep you posted regarding my flight arrangements. Love you.”

“Always, Rachel Berry,” he said before hanging up.

The time ticked on. She certainly wasn't going to sit in the hotel bar all day. She was Rachel Berry, and she had plans for the most important thing – no; person, not thing – in her life, and she would swim to Barbados if she had to, her hair be damned.

When her phone rang, she practically flew to the reception desk – only for her heart to sink when she saw an apologetic-looking David waiting for her. “I'm really sorry, Ms. Berry. We’ve checked with all the yacht owners we could reach and they're either occupied or not going that way.”

She sighed. “... I see. Thank you anyway for your help, David.” It clicked then why she was finding him so familiar; Rachel smiled weakly, recalling the incident a week ago when he had been the one to break the news that her suite was not yet ready. With a rueful laugh, she added: “I promise I'm not going to throw my phone at you again, if that's what you're afraid of.”

He laughed but the tension went out of his shoulders. Rachel sighed, and made a mental note to tip him generously when she checked out.

Back in her room, Rachel got out her planner and started calling people.

Cara was informed that there would be changes to her duties starting from when Rachel got back to New York – which, she hoped, was within the next few days. Hugh, her agent, was briefed that apart from the two musicals she’d already signed on for, she wouldn't be interested in new projects until further notice (“If they really want Rachel Berry, they can wait for her to be good and ready,” she said tersely. “After all, I’ve got a reputation for being a diva already; we wouldn’t want to disappoint them.”). Her publicist, Emily, was told to start cutting back on her appearances.

She’d just gotten off the phone with Kurt again (she’d actually spent most of it listening to Livy’s happy babbling) when there was a knock at her door. “About time,” said Rachel, sliding off her bed, “I ordered from room service an hour ago – ”

“Hello, Rachel,” said a very familiar man. “Room service it is, though not the edible kind – unless you’re desperate, of course. I’ll let myself in, don't worry about it.”

“It’s too early,” said Rachel dumbly, even as she stepped to the side to let him in, following after to the chaise lounge. He took the very centre of the lounge, sprawling over the seat like he belonged there.

“Nonsense. I'm doing you a favour. You want to go home tonight, don't you?” he purred, and it struck her.

“The flights. The ferry... You did this. You're keeping me here.”

He looked surprised. “Flights? What are you talking about? You’re making me sound like some eldritch being, with the power to make an entire island conveniently forget that the flights are running as per normal, that the ferries are due daily as they have been for the past 10 years, that every private operator has his yacht docked for the entire day...” The man trailed off, smirking.

It was a sign that she had completely resigned herself to playing along with his games when Rachel didn’t explode in outrage. She merely sighed. “Why?”

“Three wishes, sweetheart. You’ve got one more.” She hated how he dominated his surroundings, making himself completely at ease – even in her safe space. It unnerved her.

“Don’t call me that.”

“Ms. Berry then. What is your last wish?” He nodded at the chair to his left; Rachel was standing behind it, her hand white-knuckled on the back rest. “For goodness’ sake, sit down. You’re not the hired help.”

Rachel ignored him. “Can I – ”

“In your own terms, it’s a package deal,” he said, “and there’s no cancellation policy.”

She frowned. “I can just… wish for something else, can't I?”

"Of course you can.” The man turned his attention to his cuticles, examining them meticulously until the long silence drew Rachel’s full attention. “But I have a feeling that you don't want to,” he said slyly.

“What I want and what I do aren’t always the same thing.” This was an important part of Rachel’s life; she had known what she’d wanted in life, and she’d understood what she needed to do to get it. It wasn't easy, of course; Rachel was a teenager, not a miniature adult. Of course she would rather be hanging out in the Lima Bean with her friends, chatting the lazy summer’s day away, but instead she was in the dance studio or vocal class. She was on her elliptical at 6AM instead of catching an extra hour’s sleep. She was slushied for taking school seriously, for unnerving her peers with her self-discipline and focus.

“True,” he responded – even though Rachel was certain he had read what was on her mind, and was replying to that. “But frankly – as a woman who seizes opportunities with both hands – would you throw this final chance away?”

She folded. “I wouldn’t.”


“But… I don’t think I can live another of those lives,” she croaked.

“That depends on what you wish for, doesn’t it?” There was an altogether-too-smug note in his voice that set Rachel on edge, but she decided not to push it.

Instead, Rachel was silent for a moment. “I never imagined – I can’t believe she would do that. I never wished for that to happen.”

“You never specified.”

“I’ll be sure to bear that in mind; thank you for the advice. Let’s not waste any more time. So, my last wish.”

“Finally.” He got to his feet, brushing the creases out of his pants.

Rachel nodded absently. She stood up, squaring her shoulders, and ran through her vocal exercises as though she was preparing to go onstage.

(“You can't be serious,” grunted the man, shoving his hands into his pockets.)

She turned her attention back to him, offering her hand for a firm shake.

The Third Night

She honestly didn't understand why she had been brought to this point in her life. Rachel had wished she would “get it right this time”, but had been expecting to be taken back exactly nine days ago. The farthest stretch would have been two years ago, after she and Jesse had gotten divorced, and she’d only just rekindled her friendship with Quinn.

But instead, Rachel found herself getting ready for what her worried fathers reminded her was her first day of high school. Ever.

The blue argyle sweater vest, button-up white ruffled blouse, and black checked skirt (god, no wonder she’d gotten slushied so much as a freshman) she remembered wearing on her first (real first) day years ago hangs over the back of the chair in her room. Rachel spends a good five minutes standing and contemplating the outfit, still in her underwear.

In the end, she decides to heck with it, I'm here to get it right after all and tosses the outfit back, pulling out a more normal teenage ensemble of jeans, plain blouse, and neutral-coloured cardigan (she forgoes the skirt because it’ll make her look like a librarian; so not the look she is going for).

(She does pack a slushie kit in case history decides to repeat itself.)

Her daddy, Hiram, is waiting for her downstairs. “Good morning, princess. You look beautiful.”

Rachel smiles. “Thank you, Daddy.”

“Your breakfast is ready.” He nods at the tofu scramble on the table opposite from him, going back to his toast and coffee. “Dad had to leave early for his shift but he sends his love, and asked me to ask you to be ready to give us a blow-by-blow account of your first day of high school.”

“Daddy!” she says laughingly. “It’s only high school. Besides, it’s not like I haven’t done this since kindergarten. I’m not a baby anymore.”

“You’ll always be our baby girl.” He grins at her. “Finish that up; we’ll have to leave soon, if I want to drop you off on my way to the office.”

Rachel nods. She quickly finishes her food and clears the breakfast table, leaving the plates in the sink to soak. Shouldering her bag, she follows Hiram out the door and into the neat Fiesta parked outside. It’s nice, seeing the old car again; after Hiram retired in her first life, he sold it off for scrap. It was still around in her last life; she’d seen it when she’d gone back to Lima for the funeral.

“Baby girl?”

She realises she has yet to close the passenger door, just staring straight ahead. Hiram is halfway into the driver’s seat. “Rachel? Is everything alright?”

Rachel shakes her head. “I’m fine, Daddy,” she lies, “I just spaced out for a moment, wondering what to do for tonight’s MySpace cover. I was thinking of arranging a medley from Pippin .”

The worry on his face eases. “That sounds lovely,” he says as she shuts the door and puts on her seatbelt. Hiram starts the ignition and pulls out into the street. “I’m sure it’ll sound amazing, as always.”

The ride to school is silent, apart from the easy listening music from the radio; Hiram’s choice. Rachel always lets him choose the music when she’s riding in his car – one of their family rules, unchanged in each one of her lives. Though he does shoot her a last worried look as he kisses her cheek and bids her a good first day, Hiram drops her off at school without further comment.

McKinley High looks as shabby as she remembers it to be, and Rachel steels herself as she walks through the front doors.

The corridors buzz with gangly teenage versions of people she hasn't seen in years, and people she doesn't even remember. Rachel is pleasantly surprised to see people she vaguely remembers from middle school wave at her and mouth ‘hello’s. Brittany actually comes over to talk excitedly about how happy she is to see Rachel hasn’t gone away to be with her own kind (“The Habits with hairy feet, from that show with wizards and elves that Santana likes to watch but says I can’t tell anyone else that she does”). There are no slushies, even; she remembers being slushied on her first day by a pack of grinning jocks, a gawky Noah Puckerman trailing in their wake, shooting her an apologetic glance as he goes…

(She remembers they were friends, kind of, in middle school; united over awkward compulsory interactions outside school at Temple, being the same age and thus stuck keeping each other company.)

Then the jocks round the corner, laughing and talking, and she braces herself.

They ignore her completely.

Rachel cracks open one eye, then the other, just in time to see Noah give her a strange look. “Hello, Noah,” she says, and he nods at her, quickening his pace to catch up with the older boys.

She can almost feel the universe groaning as it shifts gears, setting a new sequence of events into motion. Or perhaps that was a line from one of the shows she’s done? It’s certainly cliche enough. There was this phase she went through where she was hell bent on snagging that Best Actress Tony, and so she had snapped up each and every show that would have her as the lead; Rachel was doing two or three shows a day, fueled by green smoothies and protein bars.

Only the combined efforts of Santana and Quinn (and every last drop of Cheerio bitchiness they possessed) had snapped her out of her suicide by show; just like old times.

By the time she comes back fully to the present, she’s getting some very weird looks from the students left in the hallway.

The next part is new. Rachel remembers spending the rest of her morning frantically scrubbing blue ice out of her clothes and crying, distraught by the shocking orientation to the high school social hierarchy. This time, however, Rachel continues to her locker to find the books for her first class. She exchanges a few more greetings with other friends she has known since middle school; Mike Chang (she’d forgotten he used to wear glasses until he started playing football and didn't want to look like a nerd). Artie Abrams. Even a very quiet Kurt Hummel smiles nervously at her (she greets him warmly, knowing that he’s still struggling with his sexuality at this point and could use her silent support).

She even spies Tina, skulking around the corner, as she ducks into what looks like her first class of the year. Rachel makes a mental note to find a moment to talk to her, determined to cement a friendship that she cherished greatly in the last life.

Everything is as she remembers it to be – except for one minor detail.

Santana and Brittany are leaning up against the lockers, chatting. She throws caution to the wind and goes up to them. “Hello, Santana, Brittany. Have you seen Quinn?”

Santana stares blankly at her. “First of all, Tiny, I wonder where you got it into that thick skull of yours that you're allowed to talk to me. Secondly, who the hell is Quinn?”

“Finn’s over there,” chirps Brittany, pointing down the hallway; he’s still indistinct from the crowd of students, a growth spurt or two away from his adult height, but still very much Finn Hudson.

Rachel opens her mouth, and then closes it. She has to tread carefully. “Not Finn. Quinn Fabray. Pretty blonde girl?” she says, growing steadily less confident with every word.

“Brittany’s the prettiest blonde I know.” Santana slams her locker shut, narrowly missing Rachel’s face, and then pushes past her. “Come on, Britt. We’ll be late. I swear, everytime I think Berry can't get any crazier, she surprises me,” Rachel hears her mutter as she disappears into the crowd.

Rachel takes a deep breath, and then another. This can't be happening.

“We have no transfer freshman students from Belleville Middle School this year, sweetie.” The kindly administrative assistant looks up from her computer. “Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No, thank you; you've been very helpful.” She adjusts her grip on her binder, hoping the movement hides her little involuntary gasp. “Excuse me, I need to go to my next class.”

Well, that tears it. Quinn was taken from her too soon in the most recent life, and it looks like she’s got a way to go before she’ll see Quinn again. The prospect of high school, college, and the rest of her life stretches before her. Rachel wants to scream.

Her freshman year passes quickly enough, with minimal changes. She fills it with activities and friends (some of the time; Rachel forgot how mean and defensive younger Kurt was, how cutting younger Mercedes was). Her plans and dreams remain unchanged, as do the MySpace videos and the elliptical workouts.

She’s surprisingly okay with living her life again; Rachel’s always been somewhat of a control freak, and the opportunity to go back and do things over again doesn't come every day.

And so she takes each day as it comes. She finds out that she shares an AP Algebra class with Matt Rutherford, and that he tells the best lame jokes about their teacher’s hair. She learns that Tina dresses the way she does so she doesn't get stereotyped like every other Asian kid. She learns that while music is her life, she’s also perfectly okay with spending an afternoon sitting in Breadstix and doing nothing with her friends instead of hurrying home to prepare her daily video upload.

(Her MySpace page remains free of Cheerio-driven verbal abuse. She’s relieved, of course, but she can’t help but be impressed by the lengths teenage Quinn went to show the world that she absolutely, positively, hated Rachel Berry.)

By the time her sophom*ore year arrives, she’s grown accustomed to both being a normal teenager, and these younger versions of her friends. Matt moves away because of his father’s job, but she has weekly three-way MSN Messenger conversations with him and Mike, mostly so they can send each other things for their dumb Facebook multiplayer games.

Rachel does get Sandy Ryerson out of McKinley and Glee club in, and Mr. Schue works his magic to get the newly-appointed football team quarterback Finn Hudson to join. He’s dating Cheerios captain Santana Lopez (the youngest Cheerios captain in McKinley’s history), a power couple Rachel isn’t too interested in breaking up.

(She’s rocking the single life, and anyway, teenage Finn wasn't at his best.)

Finn brings Santana (and Brittany, by extension) into the club, but only because Santana likes to sing and she doesn’t care if anyone knows, and Brittany’s only too happy to follow her best friend.

Under Santana’s rule, slushies are reserved exclusively for Jacob Ben Israel (because he’s the only one who annoys her weekly and doesn’t seem to be deterred by her threats of violence), but Noah Puckerman still insists on pretending to throw one at Rachel every now and then “to keep her on her toes”. One afternoon, she loses her patience with him and smacks the bottom of the cup, getting half of the contents on him. Puck stomps off, but much later he confesses that he was impressed by her nerve, and buys her a smoothie as an apology.

Sometimes Rachel pushes too hard in Glee, and Santana retaliates with threats of bodily violence and insults, but eventually even those stop as both she and Santana get accustomed to each other, especially since Rachel’s newfound chill earns her support from her clubmates.

A world without Quinn Fabray certainly isn’t dull, though Rachel feels the girl’s absence keenly each day. Santana dumps Finn (with a Kelly Clarkson power ballad, no less; Rachel is impressed) in Glee to hook up with Puck, seemingly not caring about her cheerleading-captain-dating-the-quarterback status like Quinn did. Finn kicks over a few chairs but gets over it quickly enough with a string of Cheerio girls.

The Cheerios, as a whole, are open-minded but responsible when it comes to sex, under Santana and Brittany’s leadership. Puck gets shoved out of a room, pants around his ankles, after Santana catches him attempting to persuade Brittany to “love without a glove”, and that is the end of that relationship.

(They're still friends, but it takes Rachel quite a while to forgive Puck for that stunt.)

Rachel doesn't know whether to be relieved or sad that Beth won't exist in this world. On one hand, Quinn’s pregnancy stirred up a whole mess of issue that wouldn’t be out of place in a television drama, but she saw how good Beth was for Shelby. She and Shelby had actually rekindled an acquaintanceship of sorts in later years – mainly out of Quinn’s desire to reconnect with the child she’d never known, and Rachel had wanted to be there for her closest friend.

(The odd dynamic that had normally-strict Shelby pandering to Rachel’s whims over long-standing guilt didn’t hurt either. Rachel mostly used her powers to get Quinn more time with Beth, anyway.)

In any case, things are out of her hands. She sits in Glee to watch Mercedes and Kurt perform a hilarious version of Anything You Can Do , opening her mouth for the first time since the club meeting started to compliment them on their breath control and technique. It warms her heart to hear them thank her enthusiastically without a hint of sarcasm.

She strolls down the hallway, chatting merrily with Tina about hair care (Tina’s been trying to get her to try coloured hair extensions for a week now, but Rachel’s still paranoid about doing anything to her hair) when they spot the person milling around Rachel’s locker.

“Finn. Hi,” says Rachel.

“Hey, Rach.”

Tina’s eyes slide between them, and then she says, “Uh, I’ve g-got a class now so… I’ll t-talk to you later, R-Rachel?”

“See you later, Tina,” calls Rachel, then focuses her attention on Finn. “Can I help you, Finn?”

“Um – I guess? I don’t know, I just wanted to ask you if, uh, you had plans for Friday night?”

The corners of her mouth lifted into a smile. She’d almost forgotten how adorable Finn could be – had been – when they were teenagers, and she had practically worshipped the ground he walked on.

God, that had been an embarrassing phase.

“No, I don’t have anything planned for Friday night,” she says. Finn relaxed a little.

“Oh. Okay, great. Uh, not that it’s great that you’re not doing anything, because I was wondering if you’d like to go out with me?” He pauses to grin at her, and then presses on: “There’s this awesome spy movie opening and I thought we could go catch that, or if you don’t like movies we could go bowling – I remember you said the other day in Glee that you wanted to learn how to bowl.”

“Finn, I’d love to go out with you,” laughs Rachel, “though I am a little concerned that you seem to have picked up my habit of rambling.”

He laughs awkwardly, running a hand through his hair; the familiar gesture sends a pang of nostalgia through Rachel’s body. “I guess… so, I’ll pick you up at six?”

“I’m looking forward to it. See you in Glee later?”

“Yeah, later. Uh – you’ve got Spanish with Mr. Schue now, right? Can I walk you there? It’s on my way to my math class.”

“Certainly.” He falls in step with her and starts telling her all about his football practice.

Dating Finn again is strange. She enjoys spending time with him (she always has, in every single lifetime) but the spark – or at least her determination to win him over – is absent. Thankfully, he doesn’t seem too put out when Rachel suggests they remain friends because there’re other girls that have caught his eye; he doesn’t say this, of course, but she comes to that conclusion when she sees him smiling his goofy smile at Jenn Waterton in the hallway three days after they break up, a smile that used to be directed at her.

(She can only postulate that she’s less interesting to him now that he isn’t being fought over by the head Cheerio, and the reigning Slushie Queen and Glee club loser.)

Boyfriend or friend, he’s still an excellent leading man, and that’s all she cares to know as she sings a haunting duet version of Vienna Teng’s Harbour with Finn.

Although they take a while to shape up into a competitive show choir thanks to her newfound relaxed attitude to practice, New Directions still manages to qualify for Sectionals in her sophom*ore year, bringing Shelby Corcoran and Jesse St. James back into her orbit.

She greatly enjoys her spontaneous duet with Jesse, and she now knows better than to leap headfirst into his (unsubtle, with the benefit of hindsight) advances, and thus avoids the egg bath. In her reality, it took years – and significant growth on Jesse’s part – for her to forgive him for that to the point of marrying him.

Right now, she has better things to do with her time than carrying on a secret romance with Jesse St. James. Like giggling over magazines with Tina. Or letting Mike beat her at Dance Dance Revolution (and then Artie wipes the floor with them both, playing with his hands). Helping Brittany pass her English class so she doesn’t have to attend summer school (which also earns her points in Santana’s good books).

But strictly speaking, she’s never really forgiven Jesse for everything he’s done – in her real life, at least. Despite being one if the very few genuinely straight men on Broadway, Jesse wasn't in love with her, and she with him. She’d only married him out of a lingering despair over Finn, and the fear that she was going to die alone because the only person in her life that ever truly loved her was dead (or so she thought, as it turned out).

Jesse was – well, Jesse – and he understood that Rachel, for all her self-confidence and ambitions, needed someone to love her because no matter how much of herself she poured into her music, her music couldn’t love her back.

Sometimes, Rachel really, really hates how she makes everything so complicated.

(On the day Quinn is supposed to tell her she’ll never get it right, Rachel spends the afternoon sitting by the auditorium’s piano in the dark.

“I'm still trying,” she whispers.)

She keeps her nose because Quinn’s not here to tell her to, and anyway she knows she’ll succeed in spite of it (suck on that , Cassandra July). Tina sings the mashup with her, and although it’s lovely (vocally, Tina is a better singer than Quinn), it’s not quite the same.

But singing with Tina is fun, and they work well together.

Much to everyone’s surprise (especially hers), she starts dating Puck after he admits he’s had a soft spot for her ever since the last time he attempted to slushie her. It’s fun – working out this little niggling crush she’s had for him for as long as she can remember – but it’s uncomplicated. She likes him, he likes her, and they’re too young and immature for things like being in love and forever anyway.

Rachel doesn’t understand (she’s starting to think she’s not quite as smart as she thinks she is, seeing that this is the third time she’s living her life and she’s no closer to understanding why she does the things she does).


He stirs. “Yeah, babe?”

“We’ve been dating for most of our senior year, and…” She pushes up a little out of his arms to look at him properly. “... what’s going to happen to us?”

Noah starts to laugh, stopping and clearing his throat when Rachel glares at him. “Sorry, Rachel, but… seriously? You’re asking me this, like now?” The arm he has around her waist tightens, his fingers stroking over her (clothed) hip. “I thought it was kinda obvious, and y’know the Puckster isn’t the smartest nerd around.”

“I do wish you’d stop referring to yourself in the third person, and with such horrendous nicknames,” she sighs, but snuggles back into his side. “We’re dating, yes, and doing a lot more than just dating – ” (“The horizontal tango,” says Puck, waggling his eyebrows, and is smacked for his trouble) “ – but we’re graduating in a few months. I’ll be headed to New York for college.”

He sighs. “I’m not – I know what you’re asking, but I’m a small town kinda guy, babe. I care about you, way more than any other girl I’ve been with.”

“I’m not asking you to follow me.”

“I know you’re not. You’re really annoying in the sense you want me to be happy, pursuing my dreams, and all that bullsh*t, but I told you; I can make it anywhere.”

She cups his cheek. “Noah…”

“Y’know… before we got together, I knew I was never gonna amount to anything,” he says softly. “I hate my old man for leaving us, but deep down I hated myself too ‘cause I knew I was gonna end up just like him. Knocking up some chick from school, marrying her, getting drunk because we were fighting every night, watching her hate me more with every passing day until I walk out on them or she throws me out.” Puck laughs awkwardly. “But you’re different, Berry. You make me feel like I could be a real decent guy, like I could pick myself up and make something outta my life, away from this cow town.”

Rachel shakes her head. “You always could have, with or without me around to tell you that.”

“Shh. I’m making that dramatic speech those dudes in your dumb romcoms always do. You dig that sh*t, right?”

She giggles in spite of herself; he’s right, but she won’t give him the satisfaction of being proven so. “Fine. Continue.”

He glances at her and smirks. “I’m not gonna follow you to New York like a lovesick puppy just because it’s romantic and sh*t; that isn’t Puckzilla’s style. I’m not gonna stay and die in this hick town either. I’m taking each day as it comes, and then after we get that diploma, I’ll decide what I’m gonna do with my life.” Puck’s arm tightens around her waist. “And if New York’s where I’m supposed to be, that’s where I’ll go.”

Rachel sighs. “Okay,” she says, resting her chin on his chest. “I was afraid that you’d abandon your dreams to follow me.”

“You think too much of yourself, babe,” he drawls, and grunts when she presses her chin down, hard .

“You’re an idiot, Noah Puckerman.”

He laughs. “And what does that make you, Berry?”

“A bigger idiot.” She stares at him until he chuckles awkwardly.


“You were always so commitment-phobic, for almost as long as I’ve known you. And look at you; planning for what you’re going to do after graduation,” teases Rachel. “Clearly, I’ve been a huge influence on you.”

Puck shrugs. “Yeah, okay. No need to make a big deal out of it.”

“No need to make a big deal?” she repeats incredulously. “Do you even know me, Noah?”

“Hey, I do; that’s why I’m telling you not to make a big deal.” He laughs when she rolls her eyes at him, and kisses her pout away.

As expected, she aces her NYADA audition and gets her acceptance letter in the mail. Puck does some research and concludes Los Angeles is where it’s at, if he wants to seriously pursue his pool-cleaning business (and by research, it’s a quick Google search instigated by Rachel). He chooses not to go to college, but decides on taking a few distance-learning business management courses (also at Rachel’s instigation).

He sees her off at the airport, one hand shoved into the pockets of his jeans, the other holding out an envelope. “You forgot to pack this,” says Puck, his mouth curving into a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

“What is it?”

“Open it and find out.”

She quickly slits it open and pulls out a slightly rumpled sheet of ruled notebook paper. New York Bucket List, says the heading in her neat cursive.

(They'd spent most of the summer before senior year writing it, together with a Graduation Bucket List for Puck, “so we won’t lose sight of the important things in life,” he’d told her.)


“You’ll take New York by storm,” he says. “You’ll be so famous that I’ll hear all about you all the way on the west coast, and I’ll tell everyone I know that I totally tapped that in high school.”

“... is this your incredibly crude way of telling me we’re over?” asks Rachel, laughing a little through her tears.

He shrugs. “Think of it as being on a break. If we’re truly meant to be, we’ll find each other again, like the people in your sappy-ass movies do. sh*t, Berry, don’t cry.” Puck pulls her into him. “You gotta do this. You’ll make a fresh start in your city without anyone tying you down.”

“It’s not too late to change my mind,” she says, half-joking, “I’ll go to LA with you, I’ll even stay here and make it work.”

“Yeah, ‘kay. I know you don't mean that at all. Broadway and New York’s been a part of you for so long, Rach; you ignoring it is like cutting your insides out. You’ll end up resenting me after a coupla years, and we’ll be that dead-end couple we said we’d never be.”

She has to laugh. “How is it that you’ve become the sensible one?”

“Don’t have a choice when Rachel Berry starts talking crazy sh*t like not wanting New York .” He kisses her forehead. “Call me when you land. Take care, babe.”

She hasn't been abandoned. Definitely not. She's just been reminded of what her dreams are, and the difficult decisions along the way have been made for her.

Rachel turns her thoughts towards her present, andcan’t stop the grin that spreads over her face the minute she sets foot in LaGuardia. The people in her lives may vary, but her love affair with New York remains unchanged.

She isn't allowed to room with Kurt (he was accepted on the basis of his audition, something she’d always suspected was a close decision) so they go ahead with the Bushwick loft. She pays the rent out of her own pocket, lying to Kurt that her dads are generously supporting them (what’s the point of going back in time repeatedly if she’s not going to take advantage of the stock market? Rachel’s investment broker practically worships the ground she walks on, and she’ll be lying if she says it isn't flattering at all).

Santana follows them to New York from the start, tight-lipped and watery-eyed after breaking up with Brittany after graduation, but refusing to say a word about her ex to either of them.

She does meet Brody, but it’s not while she’s grudgingly inhabiting NYADA’s dorms; it’s when he approaches her after the Freshman Reaping to tell her she’s easily the most talented student in her cohort, and wow I can’t believe I haven’t introduced myself, how rude of me; hi I’m Brody Weston .

He’s fun to be around; so much so that she doesn't bother asking what an upperclassman like him is doing at a freshman event where he clearly knows no one else. He keeps up an endless stream of compliments, and it’s a massive ego boost to have someone as attractive as Brody lavish her with attention. Finn was never the sort who was good at sweet-talking, and neither was Quinn or Noah or (the very idea makes her laugh) Cassie. Now she knows better than to eat up every single word, and she can play at his game.

So, there should be some sort of law wherein she doesn’t have to spend a torturous year under Cassandra July’s tutelage because that’s one of the few events that hasn’t varied for each of her three lives; not even counting her first time as a genuinely distraught freshman. Because okay, she’s definitely got the experience and knowledge and flexibility to sail through the class. She’s faced down Cassie’s insults with a smile on her face and a song in her heart. She doesn’t need to prove herself time and again.

This time, she’s got a very interested TA in the form of Brody Weston who’s actively trying to win her over, and Cassie is not pleased that it’s happening in front of her.

Hence her current situation; Rachel is – against her better judgement – agreeing to be Brody’s partner so she can get through the class. He’s an excellent dancer, and she’s fantastic, and she just really needs to survive her fourth round with Crazy Cassandra July.

(There’s also the minor factor that she was dating this woman for close to five years before her accident in that past life, and she still has feelings for her despite knowing this isn’t her Cassie.)

Brody’s smooth compliments and strong broad chest helps her take her mind off it.

Brody asks her out after they jointly wow Cassie’s socks off (not that she was wearing socks, or if she even let on that she was wowed) and Rachel accepts. It’s nothing special, she tells herself; he’s fun and familiar, and it doesn’t have to be serious. She’s only killing time.

“Where have you been all my life?” says Brody, waggling his eyebrows at her until she laughs and smacks at his shoulder.

“Going through puberty and making sure you wouldn’t be arrested for pedophilia,” she retorts.

“I’m not that old.”

“You could’ve fooled me; your pickup lines are.”

He grins, exposing even and perfect white teeth, and takes a sip of his gin and tonic. “Touché. I’ve gotta say, Rachel, you’re the most amazing woman I’ve ever met. You’re beautiful, and smart, an amazing dancer, and that voice…” He shakes his head. “I’ve never heard anyone sing like that. You’re funny, fascinating, confident… I could go on.”

“And you’re being ridiculous.”

“No, no!” He touches her arm. “I mean every word of it. I’ve dated a lot of women, but none of them have been as incredible as you. It’s hard to believe you’re single.”

Rachel gazes at him. “So what do you want, Brody? A relationship? Sex?”

“Another thing I love about you,” he says with a wry smile. “Direct. Yes, Rachel. I want you, and I’m guessing you want me too. I see that potential that we have. I want to see how we’ll go from here.”

She smirks. “Well, I think we can reach an agreement. My place or yours?”

They end up in Bushwick after quick phone calls reveal that Kurt’s in class and Santana’s at work. She finds that Brody is a fantastic lover – now that she’s gotten enough experience to adequately compare and reciprocate.

“That was amazing,” he gasps. “Are you sure you’re nineteen? Because I’ve never done that before. Never even imagined it was a thing, you naughty girl.”

Rachel rolls her eyes. “Are you sure you're twenty-two? You suck at post-coital talk.”

“Sorry,” says Brody, not sounding sorry at all. “Post-coital talk? First time I heard it put that way. Who knew talking like a thesaurus is sexy. What time is it?”

She clambers over him to grab her phone. “Four-thirty.”

“sh*t. I’ve got to go.” Brody climbs out of bed and starts pulling his clothes back on. “I totally forgot that I’m taking Cassie’s class this afternoon.”

“How many of her classes are you taking?”

“Just two. It’s already a handful, with my regular classes, and my audition circuit.” He rolls up his shirt sleeves and pauses at the curtain. “So… I’ll see you around?”

Rachel looks up at him from checking her messages on her phone, now wearing an oversized flannel that she stole from Puck, and panties. “What?”

“We’ll still see each other, yeah?” asks Brody again, walking over to her. “If you… that is, if you’re okay with that.”

She contemplates him. “I don’t know. I just got out of a relationship, and I’m not looking for anything right now. I’m just a college freshman and it’s my first time in New York,” she says honestly, and waits for the backlash.

To her surprise, Brody nods. “I get it. We don’t have to rush into anything.” He bends to kiss her forehead. “I’ll see you when I see you? We can take things slow, or not at all; you’ve got my number, call me if you wanna have a drink or something more.” He smirks at her.

Rachel nods. “I can do that. Thanks for understanding.”

“Anytime, Rachel.”

After he leaves, the weight of what she’s done sinks in. She had no idea that it was this easy to do this – physical gratification – without real feelings involved.

When Cassie tries to hit back at her for flirting unabashedly with Brody, Rachel confronts her in her studio and ends up, five hours later, naked and panting in Cassie’s plush bedroom. It’s familiar; Cassie isn’t afraid to be rough. The f*cking – because that's all it is – lacks any warmth or emotion; exactly like how it was in the early stages of their relationship.

There’s just physical attraction. It’s fun, and that’s all Rachel is capable of right now.

When they're done, Cassie sits up in bed, frowning. “That's weird.”

“Come on, I'm sure I'm not the first male or female student you've slept with,” replies Rachel. She props herself up on an elbow to smirk at her.

“No, not that. f*ck you for insulting my intelligence, Ohio. I meant that I know that this is the first time I've found you acceptably attractive enough to sleep with, and that you're a freshman; this is your first time in New York, let alone NYADA…”

A spike of panic flares in Rachel’s chest. “Hurry up and get to the point.”

“Have we… slept together before? I don't know – I'm probably still hallucinating after that last Green Fairy we had at the bar, but I could’ve sworn that you knew exactly what I wanted before I could tell you, and then afterwards, you told me…” Cassie waves a hand dismissively. “Forget it. I'm hungover.”

“Yes, probably,” agrees Rachel, slowly releasing the breath she’s been holding. “... I have to go.”

“Whatever. See yourself out, I’m not leaving this f*cking bed until tomorrow. And wipe that smirk off your face, Schwimmer; you're not that good.”

“Fine. See you around,” says Rachel smugly, adding an extra sashay to her walk, knowing Cassie’s watching her go.

Puck picks up on the third ring. “Hi, babe.”

“Hi, Noah.”

“What’s up?”

“Nothing much. I missed you.”

“Me too. Did something happen?”

“No. What makes you think something happened?”

“Just a hunch.”

“... I don’t really want to talk about it. Can we talk about something else? How’s Los Angeles?”

“Yeah, sure. It’s great. Hot as balls, but that means great business for me. I’ve hired a kid. He has to call me Boss Man and he drives the truck. It’s great. You should come see on your next break.”

“I’d love to. It sounds great.”

So she’s sleeping with both Brody and Cassie (and the occasional one-night fling), and Rachel wonders if she’s doing the right thing. She remembers this period of her sexual awakening, when she was hell-bent on shedding her old image in pursuit of big-city glamour. This… is an awakening of sorts, she supposes. She just thinks that it shouldn’t feel this empty.

Rachel tells herself that she’s young and reckless, and she’s just passing time until she gets to see Quinn again.

She actually contemplated shortening the wait. She went to the top of the highest building she could find, and stood at the edge. It terrified her, and she’d stumbled back to safety, promptly throwing up on the ground.

She can’t.

Kurt calls an intervention. “We’re worried about you, Rachel,” he says with a frown. “You stay out all night and then do the walk of shame in here, several days a week.”

“Yeah, it totally grosses me out.”

Santana .”

“What? Like you aren't dry-heaving behind that flimsy curtain of yours, knowing that Berry’s got more dick than you have ever gotten in your life, even counting Bland’s because we all know that’s tiny.”

“And how do you know that? On second thought, don't answer that.” He shudders exaggeratedly.

“I wouldn't touch Cody Gaypants if I had cancer and his dick was the cure. I'm just saying that all that polished Ken grooming is definitely overcompensating for something.”

Kurt glares at her, his hands on his hips; Rachel quickly averts the bloodbath with a loud, “Focus, guys. My intervention? For my deplorable, slu*tty ways?”

He sends one last death glare at Santana before continuing: “Adam and Lewis say you don’t pay attention in class, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you study, but somehow you seem to know everything.” He pauses, and adds, with a touch of envy: “You're pretty near the top of the class, actually.”

Rachel squirms a little in her seat. She appreciates what Kurt and Santana are doing for her, she really does, but they’ve picked the wrong night for it; she’s a little sore and very filthy after Cassie decided to introduce some toys from her online shopping spree into the bedroom. “I’m sorry, but could we do this another night? I would really like to take a shower and get some sleep.”

“And then what? You’ll continue avoiding us?” barks Santana. “I’ve known you long enough not to fall for that, hobbit.”

She flushes despite herself. “I'm not avoiding you guys. I promise.”

Santana snorts, crossing her arms over her chest. She exchanges a look with Kurt, who nods, and then sighs. “Fine. I don’t have to be at work until seven tomorrow. Kurt?”

“I can be back here by two.”

“I've got the day off tomorrow,” says Rachel. “I’ll be here. I promise.”

By two-thirty in the afternoon, they've all reconvened in the living room, sitting comfortably. For some reason, Santana has brought snacks and beer. “What?” she says to Kurt and Rachel’s incredulous stares. “This could take a while.”

“Fine, alright. Rachel, we’re concerned.”

“Hummel is. I couldn't care less about who you're boinking, but Hobie is probably a drug dealer – which would totally explain why you keep calling that booty.”

“In Santana-speak, that means she’s concerned too.”

“Brody and I aren't dating,” says Rachel. “What we have is a friends-with-benefits arrangement.”

“Rachel… that's not…”

“Not what?”

Kurt sighs. “You went from dating Finn, to a semi-serious relationship with Puck, to this – arrangement .”

Rachel decides this would be a good time to disclose further things to her roommates. “Actually, Brody’s not the only one I’m seeing.”

Kurt’s jaw drops; Santana whoops. “Get it, Berry,” she cackles, toasting Rachel with her beer. “Who knew there was a freak underneath all that argyle and granny sweaters, waiting to be unleashed on New York.”

“No one else we know?”

She shrugs one shoulder. “Cassie…”

“Cassie who?”

Cassandra July ?!” Kurt screeches. “Rachel, you could be expelled for that!”

“Hey, is Cassandra July that smoking blonde who Colby Gaypants TA’s for? Your f*cking teacher ?” Santana laughs uproariously when Rachel nods. “Dayum, Rachel. You’re fulfilling a lot of p*rn fantasies.”

“I apologise for telling you both this suddenly, but I didn't want to keep secrets from you any longer,” explains Rachel, putting her hands in her lap neatly. “You're my best friends – yes, even you, Santana – and I appreciate that you're worried about me. I assure you that there is nothing to worry about. Yes, I might be uncharacteristically sexually promiscuous right now, but I'm careful with protection. This is just a period of self-exploration for me. My partners are fully aware of each other’s place in my life, and they understand that I'm not looking to pursue a committed relationship with any of them.”

(Santana snorts. “Well duh. Cassandra f*cking July’s your teacher , and I'm pretty sure that’s violating a hell lot of rules; although you gotta share the deets on how you bagged that , Rachel. Hawt .”)

Kurt, who’s been looking a little green ever since Rachel mentioned sleeping with Cassie, nods, looking reluctant. “If you're sure.”

“I am sure,” she smiles. Rachel rises from the couch to enfold each in a hug. “Thank you for listening, and caring enough to do this.”

“Sure, sure. Details, Berry. I wants them.” Santana follows her into her room, and then flops on her bed uninvited. “Okay, now Lady Hummel is gone, let’s have the real juicy gossip, woman to hobbit.”

“You know, Santana, you would be more successful at getting information from me if you didn't actually preface it with an insult,” says Rachel teasingly. She sits at the head of the bed, hugging a pillow.

“So I'm impatient. Bite me.”


“Bitch.” Santana hurls a pillow at a giggling Rachel, then rolls over on her stomach to stare at her. “Look, Berry; I know we haven't exactly been buddy-buddy BFFs in school, but you know I don't completely hate you, right?”

“Of course, Santana.”

“We’ve had our differences; mainly those paint-bombed disasters you called a wardrobe, and that iron fist with which you ruled Glee. Which is totally cool, if you didn't tell me I was flat at times.”

“There’s nothing wrong with demanding perfection from you when you're certainly capable of it,” says Rachel. Santana grins at her.

“So… what's really going on? I'm sure you're not hung up on Puck or, god forbid, Finnocence . I didn’t even know you played a few pickup games for the other team.”

“I’m not harbouring feelings for either of them. As for my sexuality, I’m just keeping my options open; a myriad of sexual encounters is practically required for my major, and I’m not ready to commit to anything serious at this point in my life.” She shrugs. “I don’t see anything wrong as long as I take the appropriate precautions to prevent any unintended consequences.” Rachel has her pregnancy scare lurking in the back of her mind as she says this.

Santana shrugs. “Whatever you say, Rachel.” She tosses another pillow at her fondly, and stands up. “Anytime you wanna talk, I’ll pretend to listen, okay?”

Rachel can't help the eye roll that follows, nor the grin. “Thank you, Santana.”

(She dreams about Quinn. Not her Quinn, God forbid; but the Quinn she said goodbye to with her hand resting on a smooth wooden casket, the Quinn she brought home to Lima to bury.

She’s in New York, on a small street that she recognises instantly; it’s the theater where she got her big break. For the entire four months of the show’s run, Quinn had waited outside the cast entrance every night to take her out for hot cocoa.

And at the cast entrance, as always, Quinn is waiting for her in her chair.

Quinn looks up, in her direction. Before Rachel can react, Quinn slowly gets up from the chair. She takes one shaky step, and then another; looking down at her feet, bearing her weight without a tremor. The smile on her face when she looks at Rachel is heartbreakingly beautiful.

“Quinn,” says Rachel, and then she is running .

Quinn catches her as Rachel throws herself into her arms. Rachel inhales the scent of sunshine and strawberries, of warmth. There is familiar laughter that she feels rather than hears. “Hi, Rachel.”

She responds by tightening her grip around Quinn’s neck, burrowing her face closer so she can kiss smooth skin made wet by her tears. “I’ve missed you so much,” she mutters.

“I’ve missed you too.”

Rachel pulls away so she can look up – look up – into warm hazel eyes. “You left me.”

Quinn looks ashamed. “I’m sorry.”

“You can’t just – you can’t say sorry and be done with it. You killed yourself, Quinn. Do you know what it was like when I opened that door and found you – ” Rachel cuts herself off with a violent sob. “You ruined bathrooms for me forever. They were our thing, and I couldn’t – everything after that hurt so much.”

“I’m sorry,” repeats Quinn. Her hand caresses the side of Rachel’s face, thumb brushing away tears and loose strands of hair. “I was hurting too.”

“I know. I realised after, when Santana found the envelope.” Rachel closes a hand over Quinn’s, holding it in place. “I’m sorry I didn’t realise sooner.”

“Rachel, it’s not your fault,” says Quinn firmly. “None of the things that happened was your fault. I made mistakes; that's my cross to bear.”

“I could've stopped you!” burst out Rachel. “I could have been there to make sure you didn't – ”

“And you would have hovered at my side for the rest of our lives?”

“I would've gotten you the help you needed,” she stubbornly insists. “I would have done everything you needed me to do.”

Quinn sighs. “It’s done, Rachel. I’ve made my mistakes, and I've accepted their consequences. You shouldn't still be carrying this with you.” Her other hand comes up to cradle Rachel’s face; the other woman’s eyes flutter shut as she relishes the touch. “You said you read the contents of my envelope. Didn't you take anything away from it?”

“Yes. You said you needed to be free to make your own choices, Quinn, and I understand, but you – it hurt, knowing that it wasn't enough.”

Quinn shakes her head. “Nothing would ever have been enough. I was in a dark place, Rachel, and I was too far gone to realise it was happening.”

“I’ve wished every day that you weren’t hurting,” whispers Rachel. Her fingertips tremble as they rest on Quinn’s face, tentative as though she’s touching fragile porcelain. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Quinn rests her forehead against Rachel’s.

“Your writing was so beautiful.” Rachel’s hand drops to the small of Quinn’s back, holding her as close as physically possible, her fingers gripping the fabric of Quinn’s coat as though Quinn will disappear any moment. “I really wanted you there after I finished reading it, so I could slap you and then kiss you, you idiot. I can’t believe you were working on that instead of your novel, and you didn’t intend to let me read it.”

“But you read it anyway,” Quinn tells her, smiling gently, “and now I’m glad you did.”

“I still hate you for doing that.”

“I know.”

Quinn pulls away – chuckling when Rachel whines in protest – and starts stroking her hair. “I listened to that album you wrote. It was beautiful. You were right; I loved it, and I loved that you didn’t give up just because I was gone. I loved that you made something so wonderful out of something terrible, and that you helped so many other people through their pain.”

“You’ve been watching over me?”

“Yeah. As much as I could.”

“Oh god,” says Rachel, embarrassment colouring her face. “You totally saw…”

“You could have done worse than your dance teacher,” says Quinn. Rachel groans, her head dropping onto Quinn’s shoulder. “She was good for you. I’m glad she helped you move on.”

“Please stop talking.” She presses her nose to Quinn’s skin, closing her eyes. She doesn’t want to think about anyone else, not when she’s standing here in Quinn’s arms. Rachel can feel the heat radiating from Quinn’s skin underneath the fabric. If it’s a dream, she doesn't want to wake up.

“Am I still dreaming? Is it really you?” she wonders aloud.

She feels a kiss being dropped on the top of her head. “Rachel?”

“I’m dreaming,” says Rachel bluntly. “This is my subconscious making you up, making you say all the things I want to hear, as a way of coping with all the guilt.”

Quinn smiles. “You’re dreaming, yes,” she agrees, “but I’m as real as I ever can be; that is to say, this is the me that you loved in that lifetime, but I was never real .”

Rachel jerks away to gape at her.

“As adorable as that fish-out-of-water expression is, it doesn’t become you, Rachel,” comments Quinn, smiling faintly. “Also, it’s not as weird as you’re thinking it is. Everything’s in your subconscious, darling; the wishes, the other lives… everything. I’m a part of your subconscious too. Give me some credit,” she adds with a smirk, “I went to Yale.”

“You know?”


Rachel presses a hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I’ve wanted to see you again after you – died – and say all these things that I wanted you to know, that I’ve been hiding from you for all the years we were together. I love you, but you’re not – ”

“I know,” interrupts Quinn quietly.

Rachel drops her gaze. “... I’m sorry.”

“For what? You’re in love with her, not me. If there’s one thing I can say that’s truly mine; when it comes to love, there’s nothing to apologise for. All of this, all of me… it all exists, because of her.”

“No, I'm not sorry for that. I’m sorry for not being in love with you. Knowing you , Quinn Fabray – this you,” Rachel clarifies, stroking Quinn’s cheek, “ – has been an honour and privilege I will carry with me to the end of my days. You deserve more than you got and I did honestly love you for the short time that we were together, but – ”

“ – I’m not real, and I’m not your Quinn,” finishes Quinn for her. “I understand.” Quinn presses her lips to Rachel’s forehead, until Rachel tugs her down for a proper kiss.

“I love you,” she whispers against Quinn’s lips.

“My feelings haven’t yet changed from about fifteen minutes ago, but I love you too,” replies Quinn, smiling widely. “But, Rachel?”


“It’s time for you to go now.”

Rachel nods. Somehow, she can hear the stage manager announcing that it’s five minutes to curtain, and she needs to be there. She’s a professional, after all. “You’ll be here when I get back, won’t you?”

“Rachel,” says Quinn, half-exasperated – the way she always says her name when Rachel was being deliberately stubborn and difficult – “I’ve always been here.”

She grins. That’s true. “Kiss for luck?” says Rachel, turning towards the cast entrance.

Quinn does.)

Rachel thinks she should get some kind of award for patience. She’s waited – what? – more than a f*cking century to get back to Quinn. Granted, she didn't actually decide to get back to Quinn until just after the 100-year mark, but semantics.

But she can't shorten her time here. She’s been back to that deserted rooftop at least four times in the week after that dream, and spent hours just sitting on the ledge and looking down. She’s not made that way; especially not after what Quinn put her through. It doesn't matter that they weren't real, that none of this is real; she can’t .

Knowing that red-haired bastard, though, Rachel’s certain she’ll live to be more than a hundred.


Puck picks her up from Los Angeles International in a brand-new pickup truck. “The kid’s off for spring break too,” he informs her, “trying to pick up girls. I’ve taught him well.”

She snorts. “You’re a horrible influence.”

“No, I’m the greatest thing that ever happened to him. I wish I had someone to teach me how to be a badass too, but luckily it came naturally.” He’s tanned and bulky-looking, and a tattoo peeks out from under his shirt sleeve. Puck’s in his element here, and she’s glad he didn’t blindly follow her to New York.

Rachel spends the next few days in a perpetual state of undress, talking about everything and nothing at all, and kisses Puck’s cheek when he drops her off at the airport.

Santana takes to spending more time with her (and by spending more time, it means that she shows up frequently around Rachel; at work, in school, in Rachel’s room). Rachel takes the gesture of support for what it is, buying the odd mochaccino for her.

One day, Rachel dares to ask about Brittany.

Santana stirs her drink for a long, long time. “I can't – make her wait for me. She can’t wait for me,” says Santana without looking up. “She’s got to focus on school, and be done with it. Britt isn't cut out for college, we all know that, so high school’s the last thing stopping her from taking the world by storm.”

Rachel nods, smiling faintly.

“I love Britt, but we’re not long-distance kinda people. She knows that, I know that. If we were truly meant to be and all that, we’d end up together eventually.”

It’s said with the same quiet determination that Puck carried with him the day she left Lima, and she wonders what happened to these tough-as-nails people, that they burn with such conviction. Their eyes shine the same way; Rachel wonders at which point along the way she lost her own luster. “You will,” says Rachel earnestly, leaning forward; she isn't sure if Santana is comfortable enough to let her touch her, but she wants to convey her support. “She makes you happy. I know things have been hard for you, with your abuela and all, but it’ll get better, I promise – ”

“Wait a minute, Berry,” interrupts Santana. “How’d you know about my abuela?”

“I…” sh*t sh*t sh*t .

“I didn't tell anyone, only Britt…” She trails off, narrowing her eyes at Rachel. “Have you been spying on me?”

“Certainly not!”

“You have! Otherwise how would you have known?”

Rachel is caught like a deer in headlights. She knows she’s an unappealing sight right now, but she can't think. “Santana, I… it’s a long story.”

“Fine, whatever. It’s totally cool if you don't feel like telling me anything.” She storms off, deaf to Rachel’s calls.

Rachel grits her teeth. She throws some money on the table and rushes after her. “Santana, wait,” she says, catching her friend’s arm. “I'm sorry.”

“What are you sorry for? Not telling me you found out, or for not telling me how?”

“Both. I'm sorry it seemed like I didn't want to tell you, because I do. I meant it when I said you're one of my best friends, Santana, but it really is a long story, and… I’m not ready to share everything yet.” She drops her gaze. “I’m sorry. I do trust you, and I will tell you everything someday, when I'm ready. I promise.”

Santana visibly softens. “It’s okay, midget. You don't have to tell me if it’s difficult.” Looking into Santana’s eyes, Rachel remembers that this is the scared girl who struggled with her sexuality for most of high school, and knows that she truly understands.

Rachel smiles at her. “I'm going to hug you now, okay?”

“Ugh. Whatever for? Please don't tell me it’s ‘cause we had a ‘moment’ or whatever.” But Santana lets Rachel throw her arms around her, even hugging back briefly. “Alright. Alright. Getting uncomfortable here, Berry.”

She knows Brittany dates Sam while she’s repeating her senior year, away from Santana. But Sam, and then Finn ? This twist in events has her shaking her head. If not herself and Quinn, caught up with Puck, Finn, and Sam; now it’s Santana.

She doesn’t really care – she and Finn parted on pretty good terms. Brittany and Finn make a good couple; they are on the same intellectual level and they just seem to get each other. But as Santana’s roommate and current best female friend, Rachel is firmly on the opposing camp. She spends Will’s wedding holding onto Santana’s arm and shooting sad looks at Finn from across the floor.

“I’m sorry,” she says, squeezing Santana’s hand.

“I’m not.” Her friend hasn’t taken her eyes off the stage, and their Glee club friends who have been taking it in turns to perform. “She’s happy, and that’s all that matters. He makes her happy. They’re both so good for each other. I can’t believe it hasn’t happened earlier.”

Santana’s eyes are glassy – whether from the alcohol or from tears, Rachel can’t tell – and she decides not to pursue the topic further. She knows Santana hasn't quite gotten over her high school love, and she knows how that feels. “C’mon, you promised me you’d show me your Lima Heights moves the next time we found a dance floor,” she says just as Blaine takes the stage with some kids she vaguely remembers from their mentorship stint over Thanksgiving.

Santana rolls her eyes at her. “Nice try, Berry. I’m not that drunk.”

“Since when does Santana Lopez need to be drunk to boogie?”

Her friend laughs, loud and uproariously. “Oh my god, Berry. I’ll dance, on the condition that you never use that word again.”

“Show me your best caterpillar and we have a deal.”

“Don’t push your luck.”

That night, she sleeps with Santana.

She sleeps with Santana.

She sleeps with Santana.

Granted, Santana is attractive and a ridiculously good lover, but Rachel didn't intend for things to turn out that way.

Santana rolls over to look at her, grinning smugly. “Wow. No wonder they all wanted a piece of your ass. Your mouth really is good for something other showtunes,” she says, and waggles her tongue.

Rachel scowls at her.

“Oh, relax, Rachel. I was just kidding.” She rolls back to ransack the bedside drawer, producing a room service menu. “I’m starving. What about you?”

She’s spared from answering by the chiming of her and Santana’s phones; they go to check. “Breakfast at IHOP in an hour,” reads Rachel.

“Screw them, I’ve got another kind of breakfast in mind.” Santana waggles her eyebrows as she slides a hand up Rachel’s belly.

She rolls her eyes. “Must you be so filthy?”

“No, but it’s fun. Besides, I don't remember you complaining last night.”

Rachel climbs out of bed, peeling Santana’s hands off her body. “Get dressed.”

“I don't feel like getting dressed. Not yet, if you catch my drift.”

“We need to eat. Our flight back to New York’s in the afternoon, we won’t have time if we don’t have something now, so we might as well join our friends.”

“You can eat me out, then.”

“Don’t be disgusting.” Rachel tosses Santana’s dress at her head, and goes back to gathering her clothes.

“I’m keeping it real.” Santana grunts again when her panties sail across the room to land on her head. “You have no sense of humour. Cassie July and Bobby Gaypants must have sucked it all out of you.”


“What, Rachel?”

“We need to talk about this.” She gestures between them.

“... I know. Not right now. Okay?”

“... okay.” Rachel disappears into the bathroom.

The hot water cascades over Rachel’s body; she sighs. It’s a fine mess she's found herself in. She’s complicated her friendship with Santana against her better judgment, and she isn't sure how she’ll proceed from here – or even if there will be proceeding.

Rachel shrieks when Santana slides open the shower door. “I’m not done yet!”

“Yeah, that’s the whole point,” she says with a smirk, shutting the door behind her. “I’ll help you finish.”

“You have a one track mind,” replies Rachel even as she scoots over to make room for Santana, body already thrumming with desire.

It’s a motley crew of Glee clubbers, old and new; she supposes Puck must have mass-texted every number he has – and being the main party organizer, he has a lot. He springs up from his place in the middle of the breakfast chaos when he spots her.

“My Jewbabe,” says Puck. They didn’t have a chance to talk at all last night; what with her keeping Santana company. “Looking hot as always.”

“It’s good to see you, Noah.” Rachel’s greeting is pitched a little lower than usual; his eyes darken briefly – as does Santana’s. Her roommate looks away to resume her animated conversation with Mercedes a moment later. “You look great.”

“The Puckster always looks great,” he retorts. Rachel laughs and follows him to the table. He playfully shoves aside a few people to make room for her; Rachel gladly squeezes between Sam and Marley and takes the menu that is passed to her.

“You and Santana are breakfast buddies?” asks Puck, waggling his eyebrows at her.

“It’s really none of your business, Noah,” says Rachel. She keeps her eyes trained on her menu.

“Two hot babes together is always my business, sweetheart.”

The blonde girl sitting on his right scowls. “Dick back in, Puckerman, before I clip off it for you.”

“Aw babe.”

It’s clear that the blonde is Kitty, that underclassman that she heard that Puck’s currently hooking up with. She’s a poor imitation of Quinn but Rachel supposes he could do worse.

Like her.

Rachel steals a glance at Santana ( who is now studiously avoiding looking at her and Brittany).

“We should talk about last night.”

Santana stares at her. “What’s there to talk about? It was just some fun between two drunk friends. You of all people should be familiar with the concept of casual sex, Rachel.”

“Yes, but… you’re my best friend, Santana.” Rachel clasps her hands together in her lap. “I don’t want to betray that friendship.”

“You didn’t. We knew exactly what we were doing. I was drunk because seeing Brittany with someone else still hurts even though we haven’t been together for ages, and you were just trying to make me feel better with loads of org*sms. Plus, we’re sober now, so that’s not happening again, yeah?”

Rachel forces a smile. “Yeah.”

Rachel hasn’t had many opportunities to get to know Santana. It’s only been until after high school in her real life, and then the most recent wish, that she has had the chance to maintain a friendship. Rachel knows how good a friend Santana can be, but…

A romantic relationship with her? The possibility blows her mind. She’s never been able to see Santana in that way, mostly because she thought she was straight, and because of Santana and Brittany were one of those couples that were meant to be.

But what if she wants to be selfish? What if she takes Santana for herself, because this isn’t real and she’ll go back to her real life afterwards? No. She can't do that. Not to Brittany, especially not to Santana. She isn't able to give herself fully in a relationship like Santana deserves, like Brittany or practically anyone else can.

Not after seeing Quinn again.

“Seriously, stop overthinking, Berry. I can see your brain working from here,” Santana says, rolling her eyes. “I don’t like you that way, and I’m pretty sure you don’t like me either. Plus, you've got your hands full with your side pieces and Snix doesn't share.”

Rachel blushes.


“Yeah, Cassie?”

Cassie looks up from her phone. “You don't have to go.”

She stills. The conversation sounds familiar. “What?”

“You could stay here, instead of having to travel all the way to your miserable artist hole.”

Rachel doesn't laugh this time. She sets down her bag and goes back to the bed. “Cassie, are you asking me to move in?”

She scowls. “f*ck, no. I meant that you could just hang around a little longer instead of skulking around like a teenager after curfew. God, you're – what? – twenty-one? Twenty-two?”

“Twenty,” says Rachel quietly, trying not to let her relief show.

“Whatever. Too damn young for an old hag like me.”

“Cassie… you know what we have… it isn't a relationship. It can't be. I'm still a student.”

Cassie rolls her eyes. “I may be twice your age but I'm not senile yet. God, I know. I just have an itch to scratch with someone I know isn't going to give me crabs, you have a brain injury that keeps bringing you back here… what we have works, Ohio, and I'm grand with keeping it that way.”

“Good. Just so we’re on the same page.” Rachel kisses her softly, then kicks off her shoes. “Since you're not that eager on getting rid of me, I’ll take full advantage of your hospitality,” she says, getting back under the covers and resting her head in Cassie’s lap.

“Lazy brat,” mutters Cassie, absently stroking her fingers through Rachel’s hair.

Brody shows up fashionably late, his collar popped and his hair artfully tousled. “Hi, Rachel,” he says, kissing her cheek. “I've missed you.”

“Hello, Brody.” She hopes her lack of response to the second part is conspicuous, so that she can ease into her agenda. “Do you want anything to drink?”

“Yeah, I'm dying for a frappe. I just came from Cassie’s Intro to Dance class.” He pulls a face, and laughs. “Be right back.” In the span of time within which he buys his coffee and a bagel, Rachel loses her nerve and finds it again at least seven times.

When Brody sits back down, she says without preamble: “Brody, we’ve been seeing each other for nearly two years now.”

“Yeah, about there.” He looks panicked. “Have I missed an important date or something?”

“What? No, no. I was simply making a statement.”

“Wait, are you breaking up with me?”

Rachel frowns. “Can you just let me finish?”


“As I was saying, we’ve been seeing each other for close to two years now.” She clasps her hands together in front of her. “We agreed to stay casual and see what develops, but… my feelings for you haven't changed. I need to know what you feel for me so I can do us both a favour, so to speak.”

He gapes at her. “Rachel, are you being serious right now? I'm pretty sure what I feel for you hasn't changed since the first time I saw you. You're attractive and amazing and talented. I would love nothing more than to be in a relationship with you, and the only reason I agreed to this casual relationship thing of yours is ‘cause I understand what it’s like, being in NY for the first time. It’s nothing like the cow towns we grew up in, and you wanna do it all. I get that you want to explore your options.”

“I have explored my options.”

“But you don't feel anything for me.”

“I'm sorry.” She meets his eyes for the first time since she initiated the conversation. “It’s not you…”

“It’s me,” he finishes. “I've heard it plenty of times, Rach, don't bother. God. Who’d’ve thought that I got played by a girl fresh out of Hicksville?” He looks away, jaw clenching. “I guess that's what I get for being a nice guy and waiting for you.”

“You're being unfair.”

“Yeah? Really? You're the one who f*cked me whenever you got an itch, and now you've f*cked me over. You didn't want anything serious. I can live with that, ‘cause – seriously Rachel? What guy doesn't want free sex? And yeah, now some hotter piece of candy comes along and you're dumping me on my ass because I've already put out like a cheap whor*.”

“You are,” says Rachel quietly.

“Excuse me?”

“You left your pager at my place the other day. You had clients in it, and – Santana thought you were selling drugs.” Brody isn't meeting her eyes anymore. “You're sleeping with people for money.”

“So? What? f*cking grow up , Rachel. Not all of us go to school on daddy’s f*cking money. I do what I need to get by.” He has both hands flat on the table, his face twisted into a snarl. Rachel wants to be gentle with him, because – god, he didn’t even do anything wrong – but the way Brody turns on her makes something furious rise from its slumber; something dark she’s been keeping for the past two lifetimes.

“I never said there was anything wrong with prostitution ,” she snaps. “I only have with an issue with your sleeping with other people and not telling me, especially when I’m sleeping with you . Are you clean?”

“Of course.” Brody stares incredulously. “Are you actually – ? f*ck this sh*t. Rachel… what happened to you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You didn’t use to be this angry and bitter.” He actually looks sorry for her, and damn it all – she doesn’t need his pity, she doesn’t need to let anyone down again. Guilt quickly dampens the anger that’s sprung to life, leaving smouldering embers. Rachel leans back in her chair, trying to show him she’s relaxed.

“It’s over, Brody.”

And his expression is hardening again; she’s thankful he never was particularly perceptive. “Fine. Thanks for nothing,” Brody practically growls as he leaves.

She crawls back into the loft not long afterwards. The lights are off, and she’s glad her housemates have decided to call it a night.

“And what time do you call this, Berry?” A light gets flicked on to reveal Santana, sitting on the couch.

Rachel jumps. “Santana?”

“Who else? Someone’s gots to stay up to make sure you don’t fall and hurt yourself.” She softens visibly. “Oh sh*t. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

“f*ck off. I can see it written all over your face. Did you get dumped? Did you dump someone? Dump everyone?”

Rachel shakes her head. “Most people would be more upset if they were dumped than doing the dumping,” she says, walking briskly into her room to put away her purse. Santana – unconcerned by trivial things such as personal space – follows her.

“I know you, Rachel. You feel equally guilty either way. C’mon, talk to Aunty Tana.”

“I broke up with Brody. We weren't in a relationship, therefore there’s nothing to talk about,” responds Rachel brusquely. She rummages through her wardrobe for a tank top and shorts to change into, scowling when she finds Santana still waiting. “Do you mind? I’d like to get changed.”

“You didn’t use to care if I was here or not,” observes Santana.

“Yes, before we slept together.”

“So? What’s changed?”

Rachel’s teeth press into the flesh of her lower lip, gently at first, and then harder. “Everything. I… look, Santana; it’s been a long day, and I’m exhausted. Can we… talk another day?”

Santana’s eyes flash. “Whatever, Midget.”

Santana starts dating a girl from her cafe – Bailey or something. Rachel tells herself she’s fine with that, because Bailey is cute and nice and comes with no f*cking emotional baggage whatsoever. And she comes with an entire Orient Express baggage car’s worth, vintage carpetbags and all.

She’s still got Cassie anyway. She doesn’t deserve anything real.

Rachel comes home, tired and disheveled. She’s been running on caffeine and trail mix since this morning, but all she wants now is a hot shower and her bed.

Santana is sprawled on the couch, popcorn tucked under one arm, watching television. “Hey.”

“Hello, Santana.” She smiles at her roommate. “Where’s Kurt?”

“Went to bed ages ago mumbling about beauty sleep,” mumbles Santana, not taking her eyes off the screen. “It’s a lost cause, actually.”

“Be nice,” replies Rachel, though her mouth twitches – and judging from the snide grin Santana wears, it didn't go unnoticed. “How was work?” calls Rachel from the kitchen as she rummages in the fridge.

“It was good. Your class?”

“Good.” She uncaps the yoghurt smoothie and gulps down half. “I need a shower. I reek of blood, sweat, and tears. Don't wait up.”

“Yeah, okay.”

Rachel finishes her smoothie and disappears into the bathroom. The hot water is heaven on her aching muscles, and she sighs happily. Not all of her muscle aches are from dancing her heart out; she’d cornered Cassie sometime in between classes because she was pissed at her classmates and Cassie was frustrated with the senior production’s cast’s inability to take direction.

The sex had been quick, rough, and dirty; in other words, spectacular. Rachel hisses as the water cascades over the angry scratches on her back.

She goes through a light version of her regular skincare routine because it’s late and she knows she’ll be completely wiped out once she’s clean and comfortable. Rachel pulls on a baggy T-shirt and shorts, frowning; she can still hear the TV, and smell… is that tofu ?

Outside, Santana is busy with the stove. She has a wooden spatula in her hand, occasionally giving the contents of her pan and stir. The TV is off, but she has her phone plugged into the charging dock in the kitchen, singing along to the music.

“Santana? What are you doing?”

“Oh, Rachel.” She reaches out to turn off the music. “Sit down, gimme a minute.”

Rachel complies, still staring. Her roommate puts a plate full of steaming something in front of her. “Here. I bet you ate nothing but trail mix the whole day, right?”

“I – had a smoothie too,” she says automatically, then cringes when Santana smirks.

“Yeah, so not helping your case. Eat. It’s tofu stir fry, made with love and whatever leftover veggies Kurt and I saved from dinner.”

“... Thank you.”

“Thank me later. Eat before it gets cold, or Snix will go Lima Heights on your skinny ass.” Santana smiles at her, and there’s a trace of the old warmth that was there, before it’s gone. “I’m off to bed. Night.”

“Good night, Santana. Thank you.” Rachel pokes at her food, appetite gone. She can’t blame Santana for being distant, not after she’s been shutting her friend out since the wedding. But Rachel’s not willing to entertain the possibility that she might have feelings for Santana, and might never be.

Finn dies in this life, just like he did in her real life.

Funnily enough, the shock of her breaking up with him in the past life pushed him to succeed in the army, and they managed to rekindle a friendship through Kurt, after the awkward conversation at her opening night. She remembers seeing him at Quinn’s funeral, handsome in his dress uniform, his wife beside him.

They’d spoken briefly then; she’d been introduced to his wife, Andrea, and they had caught up on each other’s lives. The Hudsons had extended an open invitation for her should she ever visit Washington (another big surprise, considering how much of a small town boy Finn was).

Here, he is forever young. She considers herself privileged to have, at least, to have been given two chances to see the man Finn could have become, both with and without her.

She needs fresh air.

It was hard enough having to relive his funeral. But to see Brittany heartbroken beside the casket… it brings up too many memories, and she barely manages to excuse herself before bursting into loud, angry sobs outside.

Warm arms encircle her. “Noah,” she mumbles.

“We’re okay,” he says. He’s never been an elegant crier, and the words are barely audible, but Rachel’s fluent in the language of loss. “We’ll get through this.”

“It’s not fair.”

“I know, babe. He’d gone to college because he f*cking finally knew what he wanted to do, and he planned on marrying her after graduation ‘cause he’d be able to support a family then.” Puck’s voice cracks a little. “He called me the day before it happened, all excited, because she said yes.”

Rachel’s blood runs cold. “What?”

Puck drags his entire sleeve across his face. “He proposed, that big f*cking idiot.”

She’s composed enough to go back inside, Puck holding her hand. Brittany’s sitting with Carole, staring dazedly at the casket; Santana has her arm around her oldest friend’s shoulders.

Santana shouldn’t need to be working out stuff with her now; not when Brittany needs her more than she does. Rachel goes to a distraught Kurt, wrapping her arms around his neck and letting him cry into her shoulder.

(“Do you think she’s at peace now?”

Rachel looked up. Santana wasstaring straight ahead, jaw clenched.

“She’s not in pain anymore, that’s for sure.”

“But we are.” Santana dropped her gaze, lip trembling. “And yet, I’m sure she was hurting more than we are now, and she never said a word. Typical Q.”

“I choose not to think about that.” Rachel reached for Santana’s hand, smiling faintly when Santana tangled their fingers together and squeezed back. “I choose to believe she’s not suffering anymore, and that’s all that matters.”)

On the first day of the memorial week, Rachel sings Angel. She doesn’t finish the song note-perfect, but she finishes it anyway, in memory of the first Finn she lost, the second Finn she loved, the third Finn she left, and the fourth Finn she briefly knew.

The performances go on until the last day, when the door to the choir room opens. Brittany enters, followed closely by Santana. They sit in the front row of seats.

Brittany’s chosen to sing So Far Away by Carole King which she performs very quietly, her voice raw with emotion. There isn’t a dry eye in the room when she’s done and back in her seat.

Then Santana gets up to sing. Her voice cracks a few times, but her eyes don’t leave Brittany’s.

Rachel looks out the window.

“How is she?”

Santana shrugs one shoulder. “Not good.” The fact that she hasn't bothered with a sarcastic answer speaks volumes. “And you?”

“San, I dated Finn for a few months, as did you. I hadn't spoken to him since we graduated. I'm devastated, of course, but Brittany…”

“She was in love with him,” finishes Santana flatly, her expression dull.

“Noah told me he proposed.”

“Yeah. Big dumb idiot. Always too nice and doing the right thing.” Santana scrubs at her face furiously. “I've never seen Britt like this. She’s totally heartbroken.”

“I miss him.” Rachel scoots closer to rest her head on Santana’s shoulder.

Santana’s smile looks tired. “Me too.”

She screws up her eyes. “God, there was this time he texted me to meet him in the carpark in five, that it was an emergency. It turned out that the emergency was Breadstix’s all-you-can-eat buffet.”

Santana chuckles. “He thought that dressing up for a date meant a fresh polo shirt and jeans that weren't grease-stained.”

“He thought a half-empty box of chocolates was an adequate Valentine’s Day present because he needed to sample the contents to make sure it was good.”

“He bought mince pies for Christmas and was disappointed it wasn’t real meat.”

They’re laughing now, through the tears streaming down their faces.

“I’m sorry I broke us, Santana.” She inches closer.

“And that was completely out of the blue.”

“Sorry. It just… seemed appropriate, after we had a moment. I’m sorry I’ve been acting strange – well, stranger than normal.”

Santana doesn’t say anything, but she leans into Rachel. She interprets it as an acceptance of sorts.

Rachel and Kurt have to go back to New York once the week’s over, but Santana’s opted to stay with Brittany.

“Take care of her,” says Kurt, hugging Santana.

“Of course, Hummel.”

Rachel doesn't wait for Santana’s permission; she throws herself at her friend. She feels Santana hugging her back tightly. “Be okay,” says Rachel as they part.

“You too.”

(Rachel’s almost forgotten about Quinn, until a Metro pass arrives in the mail, pristine and white, and she immediately frames it to hang on her wall so she won’t forget again.)

Something has definitely shifted between her and Santana when she returns from Lima, but Rachel can’t quite put her finger on it. The tension has disappeared, but the atmosphere doesn’t have the same comfortable feel to it as before.

Rachel doesn’t really have time to puzzle over it (even if she had the inclination to). She’s finished her exams, and even though she’s only a sophom*ore, she’s started her audition circuit. Kurt was saying something about a callback for the revival of Newsies when she called him earlier; he’s excited even just to be a dancer or an ensemble member.

Things are looking up. She starts humming No Good Deed absently as she pulls the loft door open.

She sees a dark head in the living room. “Santana?”

“Rachel.” Santana’s voice is momentarily thick, then she’s scrambling off the couch. “You're home early.”

“Yeah, I was done earlier than expected.” She does her best to ignore Santana’s slightly rumpled appearance, and the puffy red eyes. “Santana, is everything alright?”


Rachel stares.

Santana throws up her hands. “I broke up with Bailey, okay. Happy now?”

“I’m sorry,” says Rachel, ignoring the challenging, belligerent tone of the last part.

“Yeah? That makes one of us.”

“I…” Rachel swallows hard, and continues: “I'm here, and so is Kurt, if you want to talk.” She knows she shouldn't be glossing over the newfound tension in their friendship, but she’s too emotionally drained.

“Okay.” The word is flat, emotionless. Rachel doesn't miss how Santana goes from angry to dispassionate in a heartbeat. She walks towards her room, guilt prickling at her insides.

And she remembers that she’s Rachel Berry, and that she’s a star – even if most of her luster is gone, and she’s close to burning out.

“No, it’s not okay,” she says suddenly, flopping down on the couch beside Santana; the other girl starts. “We need to talk.”

“I didn't break up with you.”

“I know, but – I'm sorry. This is all my fault. I know I've been distant, and that's not fair.”

“Not fair?” Santana laughs sourly. “You know what’s not fair? You broke up with Brody that night, and you didn't want to tell me. I had to press you – much like just now. I thought we were friends.”

Her heart sinks. “I… I'm sorry.”

“You being distant is the biggest f*cking understatement of the year. I gave you space, especially after…” She trails off. “You barely even talked to me before that. We agreed that sleeping together wouldn't change a thing, except it totally f*cking did and I have no idea why.” Santana’s expression hardens. “Then Bailey dumps me and now you're my best friend again? You're so f*cking hot and cold, Berry.”

Rachel bites on her lower lip. Santana’s right; she has been distant. She has a very good reason for that, of course; she just wants to protect Santana from her, but she can't come out and say that. “I'm sorry.”

“Is that all you can say? f*ck you, Rachel.” Santana doesn't seem angry now, just tired. “Look. We were in high school together, and we share an apartment now. Decide how much more or less you want us to be, and stop changing your f*cking mind without letting me know.” Santana stands. “I’ll be here, if you want to talk,” she calls acidly over her shoulder as she disappears into her room.

(“You wouldn't understand,” whispers Rachel, standing alone in the living room.”)

The tension between them that she had thought gone escalates into something viscous and choking. Kurt hovers in the kitchen, torn between his friends, as they sit silently at the table.

“I'm done,” snaps Santana abruptly. Her chair screeches on the floor, and she snatches up her bag. “I’ll be late tonight.”

“Santana, wait – ”

His words are cut off by the slamming of the door. Rachel doesn't look up from the mug in her hands until she feels eyes on her. “What happened?” sighs Kurt.

“I hurt her.”

He sighs again. “Rachel, I love you, but that's been going on for a while.”

“I know,” she mutters. She hates this. Third time around, and she’s screwing everything up, turning everything she touches to poison. “Kurt, you know you can be completely honest with me, right?”

“I've always been honest with you, if you recall; my opinion of your high school wardrobe has never been quiet or peaceful.”

The weak joke elicits a smile from her, which Kurt returns with a squeeze of her shoulder. She draws courage from the touch. “Does Santana have feelings for me?”

He stiffens. “Rachel…”

“I need to know. It’s Santana, and we’ve got a lot of history, and I… I need to know that it’s not all in my head, that this isn't the me who’s in love with the idea of love and chasing after anybody who could love me, even fighting over them.”

Kurt shoots her a funny look. “You fought over someone? Who?”

“In a manner of speaking,” Rachel backpedals. She feels her cheeks heat. “I meant that I haven't always been the best at noticing others’ feelings. I'm quite self-centered in that regard.”

Kurt snorts. “Oh, you are? I couldn't tell. Rachel…”

She glances at him.

“I’ve known you for close to seven years now. If you need to ask about Santana, I think you already know the answer.” He kisses her cheek. “I really do need to go. I'm sorry.”

“Thanks, Kurt. See you later.”

So, now what? She doesn’t have that many options.

The doorbell rings, startling her out of her thoughts. “Kurt?” calls Rachel as she goes to answer it. “Did you forget your keys?” She yanks the door open to see Puck.

“Hi, Rach.”

“Noah?” She lets him step forward and hug her before she reacts. “What’re you doing here?”

“I got your address from Britt, and decided to take a little vacation.” Puck hauls his duffel bag over his shoulder and follows her in. “I hope you don’t mind me crashing here for a coupla days.”

“You’ll have to check with Santana and Kurt.” Rachel knows she’s being cold, but she’s still a little shocked by his sudden presence – especially now, when she’s got plenty of her own issues to sift through. “I hope you like the couch.”

He laughs. “It’s better than the floor, anytime.” Dutifully, he sits down where she pointed, shucking his jacket on the neighbouring chair (and getting up to put it away properly, under Rachel’s glare). “Come over here, you’re too far away,” says Puck, patting the seat beside him.

Rachel rolls her eyes. “Using the same lines you’ve had since high school? What does Kitty even see in you, anyway?”

“Not much, which is why she’s called it quits and gone after Artie.”

“Oh.” She goes to sit beside him. “I’m sorry.”

“Nah, it’s good. It wasn’t gonna work out between us in the long run, and blonde bitchy cheerleaders are hot.” He leans back into the cushions. “I’m not here because of Kitty. I’m here because I needed some breathing space away from home, and...” Puck’s expression loses some of its co*ckiness. “I missed you.”


“Not in that way, babe. Give me some credit.”

“I’m sorry. It’s a habit when it comes to you,” says Rachel abashedly, and he chuckles.

“Eh, it’s true. Puckasaurus has a reputation.”

She chooses to ignore him. “How long will you be staying, Noah?”

“I have a job next Tuesday, so I’m taking the Greyhound Monday night. I expect you guys to keep me fed, entertained, and boozed in the meantime. Like, there’s a reason why you all are so hung up on the Big Apple that you don’t even come home anymore, right?”

Rachel laughs. “Then what are we waiting for?” she exclaims, grabbing his hand and pulling him up.

What started out as lunch and a tour quickly becomes an epic journey through New York. When she’s with Puck, the stress seems to melt away. Rachel forgets about Santana, about school – even Quinn – when he makes tasteless jokes that they both know he doesn’t mean, but does it to get a rise out of Rachel.

It’s easy for her to lose herself in the moment when they’re goofing around in FAO Schwarz ( not on the floor piano, because it’s overdone to the point of being tacky. Puck shrugs and goes to check out the toy trucks on the same floor).

She can't exactly keep blaming Puck for how she’s behaving; not after they've joined a band busking in Central Park because he was aghast that she hadn't completed more than half the items on her New York Bucket List. The applause they get when they’ve finished performing, plus the genuine smile Puck sends her way, ignites something deep inside her that she had thought had died, long ago.

(Rachel’s ashamed that she’s forgotten what it’s like to dream.)

“Are you okay, babe?”

She glances over at him. “Define okay.”

Puck shrugs. “Not okay, then, if you’re asking me stuff like that.”

“Honestly? I haven’t been okay for awhile now.” Rachel can feel him staring. “I’ll be fine. Just… I’ve got a lot on my plate right now, and I need time.”

“Okay.” He scoots over; just as she’s bracing herself for his hand on her shoulder, Puck takes a playful bite out of the rest of her ice cream, and she shrieks in outrage.

They collapse on the couch (“Careful, babe, don’t squash my bed”) Monday evening, exhausted and flushed. Santana’s taking a late shift, and Kurt’s staying over at Adam’s, so Rachel doesn’t bother to keep their noise down.

“Told you we should’ve stayed for another drink,” slurs Puck. “We got the whole place to ourselves now.”

Rachel pulls herself up a little so she can swat at him; she misses. “You're heading back later tonight, Noah. We came back early so you can organise yourself before you leave. I suggest you take a shower before you leave.”

“I'd just get dirty again. Those buses are nasty.”

“It’s completely up to you if you want to neglect your personal hygiene, but don’t expect me to come anywhere near you,” huffs Rachel. “Speaking of which, I’m going to shower. I’m disgusting.” She stands, a little unsteady on her feet, and attempts to climb over Puck’s sprawled legs to get to the bathroom. Rachel makes it a few steps before wobbling and going down. She lands in Puck’s arms after he’d moved forward to catch her.

They are nose-to-nose, and all coherent thought has fled her mind. He’s familiar, and he’s uncomplicated, and he’s close enough for her to remember that her feelings for him have never really gone away…

Rachel kisses him first. Puck’s arms wrap securely around her waist, pulling her closer until she can straddle his lap, hands on his shoulders. She doesn’t break the kiss the entire time, until his fingers brush over a sensitive spot on her side and she gasps; he smirks against her mouth, and kisses her again.

Her nails scrape over the base of his neck, something she knows he likes. Puck grunts and moves to suck on her neck. His teeth press briefly to the pulse point; Rachel inhales sharply. Like a well-practiced musician with a beloved instrument, Puck’s hands and mouth move in tandem over her sensitive areas, eliciting sensation after sensation. “Noah,” she moans when his tongue darts over the shell of her ear and he squeezes her right breast.

“What the f*ck?”

Rachel pushes him off her. Santana, looking unamused, has her hands on her hips. “Puckerman? Is that you, or did Berry pick up some new boy toy?” Rachel winces at the acerbic tone.

“Hey, Lopez.” He doesn’t look at Rachel, and she can’t look at him. Her hands are smoothing over her clothing compulsively. “You're back early.”

“I traded a favour with a colleague to get off a little earlier.” Rachel notices – too late – that there are a few bags of Chinese takeout on the floor beside her. “I guess you guys are busy, I can leave this here and come back later.”

“No, wait,” says Rachel, just as Puck says: “Thanks, Santana.” They stop short, turning to stare at each other.


There’s a muscle going in his jaw; it’s a habit of his, when he’s frustrated, angry, or both. She pleads with him silently for his understanding, then breaks eye contact to chase after Santana.

“Santana, wait.” Rachel can see her roommate curse and jab at the lift buttons.

“What are you doing here, Rachel? I’m sorry I interrupted, you can go back and continue whatever you had going on.”

She thinks it will be a bad idea to touch Santana when she’s mad, so Rachel blocks the lift with her body. “Can we talk? Please?”

“There’s nothing to talk about.” Santana’s eyes are dark with emotion, her mouth set in a tight line. She attempts to squeeze past Rachel into the lift; Rachel stubbornly plants herself in the way. Santana curses again when the lift doors shut and it descends.

“What do you want from me?” explodes Santana.

“I'm sorry.”

“For what?”

“Hurting you,” she whispers.

Something flickers in Santana’s eyes. “And why would I be hurt by you and Puckerman getting it on? We’re not dating.”

“But that doesn't mean you don't want to, Santana.”

“f*ck off.” She starts for the stairs; Rachel darts in front of her again.

“Please, just… hear me out. Please.”

Santana crosses her arms over her chest. “One minute. Against my better judgement.”

“I didn't know exactly how much I've been hurting you before,” continues Rachel. “I talked to Kurt. He didn't say anything,” she says quickly, before Santana can interject, “but he helped me realise why things between us have been so weird recently.”

Rachel chews on her lower lip. “I… I care about you, Santana; more than friends should. I think I might even love you. But you deserve better than someone like me. I'm a mess, who hasn't had a real relationship since Noah, and even then I've gone and messed that up too…”

“Messed that up? You two looked pretty fine to me, glued together on the couch, with his hands all over you.”

“We got caught up in the moment. I’m not in love with him anymore. He was familiar, and we’d been drinking.”

Santana scowls. “You don’t have to justify sh*t to me. I don’t care. Okay?” The lift dings again; she pushes past Rachel, and is gone.

Rachel swears. She turns on her heel and heads back for the apartment. Inside, Puck is throwing things into his rucksack.


His head jerks in her direction; his lip curls. “What do you want? Lopez dumped you, you wanna get back to fooling around with me?”

“There’s nothing between Santana and myself.”

“Just how stupid do you think I am, Rachel?” He marches over to her. Puck’s fists are clenched at his sides. “She was upset ‘cause we were making out. You left me to go after her. Doesn’t take a genius to put two and two together.”

“It’s complicated.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet it is.” He turns away angrily. “f*ck this sh*t. I’m not getting myself in the middle of whatever bullsh*t’s between you two. I got standards; ironically, you taught me that.” Puck slings his bag over one shoulder, pushing past Rachel. “I’ll see you around.”

She doesn’t go after him. Rachel’s knees give way; she slides bonelessly to the floor. The broken pieces of her life slide through her fingers, and she has no idea where to start to fix things; not when she has no clue where it all went wrong in the first place.

Rachel has to get away from all this.

(She’d been exasperated at Quinn’s tendency to run from her problems, but she’s increasingly guilty of the same thing.

Kurt calls her bright and early, clearly anticipating she’d be awake. Rachel fumbles for her phone as Cassie hurls mumbled curse after mumbled curse at the noise. “H’lo?”

“Rachel? Did I wake you?” says Kurt incredulously. “Where are you? Are you okay?”

“Yes.” She’s in no mood to be verbose, not after the night she’s had. “I’m at Cassie’s. I’m fine. What is it?”

“What did you do to Santana?”

She bristles. “What do you mean, what’d I do? I didn't do anything to her.”

“She wouldn't be hiding in her room and insisting she’s not crying as she’s crying for no reason at all, Rachel. Did something happen last night?”

Rachel sighs; there went her hopes of ending the call quickly and going back to bed. She gets up – Cassie grunts when cold air comes in – and pads over to the window. “... She came home unexpectedly early last night and walked in on Noah and I kissing.”

“... what.”

“You’re making that face, aren’t you?”

“Rachel… what do you want me to say?”

She pinches the bridge of her nose. “Please. My life is a mess right now and it’s all my fault. I know there’s a lot you want to say to me that I deserve, but right now’s not the time, Kurt.”

“I know,” he says gently, and she feels guilty for snapping at him.


“It’s fine. When will you be home?”

When Rachel doesn't answer immediately, he mutters, “Rachel, running away won’t fix anything.”

“I’m not running away,” she says defensively, and he snorts. “Okay, I’m running away a bit, but I need to take a step back. I screwed up, and I need to re-evaluate things before I can fix this.”

“... Alright.” Kurt’s tone softens. “As long as I know you’re safe. I know Santana’s worried about you too, even if she’s mad at you right now.”

“I don’t deserve you guys.”

“Maybe not right now,” he says, and she rolls her eyes with a scoff. “I’m joking, Rachel. We all make mistakes, and I know you’ll get your act together. Love you. Take care of yourself, okay?”

“I love you too, Kurt. Take care of Santana for me, please?”

“Of course. Oh, that reminds me… The anniversary of – you know – is in two months.”

Her heart sinks to the pit of her stomach. “... So fast?”

“Yeah. I’m headed back home to be with Dad and Carole. Have you got any plans?”

“Not for the time being, no. I wasn’t supposed to visit my dads until Thanksgiving.”

“Okay. I’ve got to go, Rachel. I’ll talk to you soon?”

“Sure. Bye, Kurt. I love you.” She ends the call, but she doesn’t move from the window. Rachel continues to stare absently outside until warm arms slip around her waist.

“So when were you planning on telling me you’ll be a semi-permanent fixture in my bed, Ohio?” comes Cassie’s sleepy voice in her ear.

Rachel turns in Cassie’s embrace. “I’m sorry, Cass. I have a lot going on – I messed up with Santana, and I just needed to go somewhere I could catch my breath.” She lets her forehead fall forward to rest against Cassie’s collarbone. “You don’t mind, do you?”

“Lucky for you, I don’t.” An insistent pressure on Rachel’s hip makes her look up. “Hey, Schwimmer. Take it from me: running away from sh*t isn’t the best idea. You tend to run into bigger problems that aren’t easy to shake, like alcohol and viral career-ruining YouTube videos.”

She lets out a surprised laugh. “It’s too early for you to be this self-aware and sensible.”

“No, it’s too late for me. That’s why I’m not gonna be anything more to you than that warm body in bed and that notch on your bedpost of sexual experiences. I’m telling you that you need to fix whatever mess you made with that girl.”

“Are you breaking up with me?”

“Relax, Berry. No one’s breaking up with anyone.” She backs away, and goes to snag a bathrobe from her closet, shrugging it on as she heads for the kitchen. “And on that note, I need coffee. You’re making it; you owe me for waking me up at this ungodly hour.”

In retrospect, this had probably been a bad idea, Rachel finds herself thinking. He’s not – he wasn’t – her Finn. They’d shared a sweet high school romance that had fizzled because he wasn’t interested in her, and she’s been in love with someone else for a long, long time.

But she’s booked a flight home to Lima after talking to Kurt, and she’s buried herself in auditions and workshops until then.

There were rumours that Will’s planning something to mark the first year, but Kurt hasn’t heard anything, and she’s not sure she wants to be anywhere near Santana right now.

After a quiet breakfast with her dads, she stops by the florist to buy a simple bouquet, then the music store for a pair of drumsticks to stick inside. The drive to the cemetery is quiet, as is the walk up the gravel path to a stone yet unweathered.

“Hi,” she starts. The granite doesn’t reply, naturally. The wind picks up a little; Rachel lays the bouquet she’s carrying down, and shoves her hands into the pockets of her coat. “I missed you.”

“I… it’s no point asking you how you are, I suppose.” She smiles at her own joke. “I’m… good. I think. I don’t even know if you saw everything, or you completely ceased to exist as you did before, but – I don’t want to think about it. You wouldn’t have bothered.”

“It was hard, being with you,” she confesses, “because you reminded me of Finn… my Finn. He’s not you, of course, but there were things you shared, things that are so… Finn . I know I'm not making much sense, but don't ask me to describe what Finn things are.”

Her shoes are killing her. She should have listened to her Dad and wore boots today. Rachel kicks off her pumps and sits beside the headstone, legs folded gracefully underneath her. “Sometimes, I think about him. He used to fill in crossword puzzles with his own letters and try to make them spell entire messages for me. He loved bacon cheeseburgers – the greasier, the better – and he bought me a pig as a Valentine’s present. He named a star after himself, because he said I was going to be a star anyway, and he wanted to be with me always.”

“I loved him,” continues Rachel. “I still love him. He was my Finn… I miss him so much.” She brushes hair from her face. “I love you too, wherever you are. I’m sort of hoping that you can actually hear me, like Quinn said she could – you don’t know her. I made a stupid wish, and she doesn’t exist here. If she had, you’d probably have dated her, she would have been head cheerleader.”

“That’s pretty cool.”

Rachel’s eyes fly open. She sees Brittany sitting opposite her, on the other side of the grave. “Brittany.”

“Hi, Rachel.”

Never in all her lives has she seen Brittany look tired. Her bright blue eyes seem a little dimmer, but the megawatt smile remains identical no matter how matter Brittanys she meets. “It’s good to see you.”

“Me too.” She springs to her feet, extending her hand to help Rachel up. “I knew you’d be here, so I came straight from the airport. Lord Tubbington is gonna be so mad at me, but I’m sure he’ll understand.” Brittany smiles down at the headstone. “I’m due for a visit anyways.”

The smile that Rachel was wearing diminishes a little. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be,” says Brittany, waving her off. “He’s fine. We’ll all be fine eventually.”


“Hi, Finn.” Brittany’s attention is completely focused on the headstone, and Rachel falls silent. “We were talking about chocolate fondue the other day after class, and it totally reminded me of that time you burnt your tongue even though I told you the strawberry was really, really hot.”

“I should give you some privacy,” interjects Rachel gently. Brittany catches her sleeve before she can walk away.

“It’s okay, Rachel. I’ll be visiting a few more times anyway. The cemetery’s way better than a hospital ‘cause there’s no visiting hours and rules about noise and what to bring.”

Rachel’s smile widens. “That’s true.”

Brittany returns her smile, and then turns back to Finn. “For a while, chocolate fondue and a whole lot of other stuff made me sad, because it reminded me that you’re not around to do all that stuff with me anymore, but I told the guys about you and the chocolate strawberry – I’m sorry, I promised I’d never tell but it’s not like you can come back and kill me – and it didn’t hurt as much as it used to.” She rests her hand on the smooth marble. “I think you’d be proud of me for getting stronger. I know I am. It hurt way more than bicep curls, and we got those down pat.”

“I’m gonna go catch up with Rachel now, and I’ll be back later, okay? Bye, Finn.” She turns – with a lingering glance at the stone – and then takes Rachel’s elbow. “Thanks for waiting,” says Brittany. “Let’s go to the Lima Bean. I miss their frappuccinos.”

“Me too,” admits Rachel as they leave the cemetery. She’s had infinitely better coffee in a variety of places over the years, but there’s something nostalgic about the Lima Bean. “When are you going back to Boston?”

“Next Monday.” They take Rachel’s car (she borrowed the old Fiesta for her stay in Lima) downtown. Brittany laughs when she hears her own voice coming from the car stereo. “You recorded our songs?”

“Most of my allowance went towards paying Lauren for her services and the rental of the AV equipment, but it was worth it.” Rachel realises she hasn’t stopped smiling since meeting Brittany; she welcomes it. She hasn’t smiled this much in a long time. “I videoed our competition performances as well.”

“Awesome. You should upload them to Youtube. Or Facebook, then you can tag us all.”

“I will, when I find the time.” She pulls into the parking lot outside the Lima Bean. “How are you managing your double degree when the rest of us are dying with a normal college workload?”

“It’s actually really easy,” says Brittany brightly. “My body takes over with the dancing, and the voice in my head that sounds a lot like Lord Tubbington tells me which numbers are the right ones, and how they all fit together. My job is being Brittany, which is really easy ‘cause I’m already good at being that.”

Rachel laughs. “Well, I certainly couldn’t cope, but I’ll take your word for it.”

“You should,” says Brittany very seriously. “Those guys at the maths faculty do.” Her whole demeanour changes as she spots the fall menu, and she starts enthusing about the new drinks on sale.

Rachel finds herself at a rare loss for words as she waits in line with Brittany. She’s rarely spent time with Brittany in any capacity, whether in groups or alone, and she isn’t sure how she should interact with her. Complicating matters is Finn; even though Brittany is outwardly cheerful, Rachel knows from Santana that the blonde was completely devastated by his passing, and she doesn't want to upset Brittany by mentioning him.

She remembers the first few months after Finn’s passing, when Kurt and Santana handled her with kid gloves. She knows how painful it can be to briefly forget, and then be rudely reminded that he’s gone forever.

When they reach the counter, Brittany pays for their drinks without batting an eye. They take their drinks to the corner table the Glee kids favoured during their high school days. “Tell me about New York,” says Brittany. “Are there, like, hordes of video cameras everywhere? Do people start singing and dancing in Central Park and everybody automatically knows the words?”

“Not really. It’s pretty normal. But it’s still a wonderful place to live, even if it can be a little noisy and crowded.”

“I’ll come visit you and Kurt and San during my next break,” declares Brittany.

“We’d be happy to have you.” She omits the fact that she’s not even staying at the loft at the moment.

Brittany nods. “That’s great. Rachel? Can I ask you something?”

“Of course, Britt.”

“Why are you so sad?”

Rachel nearly chokes on her coffee. “I – what?”

“You’re sad. Finn told me,” remarks the blonde, oblivious to the look Rachel is shooting her way. “You don’t have to feel bad about that, by the way. There are plenty of other Finns that didn’t die, and I’m glad that you had a Finn of your own for you to love.”

She doesn’t know what it is that she’s doing wrong in this universe, that everyone guesses her secret. “Um, Brittany, I’m not sure what you’re trying to say…”

“No one told me, if that’s what you’re worried about. Which I don’t know why you'd worry, it’s so cool to know multiple versions of the same people. Multiple Santanas are pretty cool, but kinda scary if they're all really smart. I’m pretty sure she’d know, even if she doesn't have a Finn or Lord Tubbington to give her hints.” Brittany beams at her. “Lord Tubbington helped San figure out she was a unicorn back when we were in school.”

Rachel’s long given up on trying how to understand how Brittany’s mind works (then again, she should just take it as a sign she’s not a genius). She simply sighs, and stirs her coffee. “You’re not weirded out?”

“Nah. It’s awesome, isn’t it? I’m working on a paper about parallel universes, so now I’ve got proof that I can totally write about.” Brittany leans forward on her elbows. “But that’s not the biggest thing making you sad right now. What is? Is it San? Is she being dumb again?”

“That’s difficult to answer.” She takes a deep breath, wondering where to start. “It’s related to Santana, yes, but it’s not her fault. It’s mine.”

“So you’re being dumb.”

Rachel laughs. “I suppose so.”

“You shouldn’t be dumb about love. We don’t always get all our chances at it.” Here Brittany’s expression turns wistful. “You’re sad ‘cause your cake is right there, but you’re telling yourself that you can’t have it.”

“My Santanas have always been with their Brittanys,” blurts out Rachel. “I’ve never… that hasn’t changed, in the last two lives, and in my real life.”

“That doesn’t mean that Santana and Brittany will always be Brittana,” counters Brittany. “What?” she adds, in response to Rachel’s baffled look. “I’ve always thought that would be San’s and mine power couple name if San ever wanted to come out in school. We’d be the hottest couple, so we needed to have a power couple name. It just means that we’re very compatible, but that doesn’t guarantee we’d be together. Things happen. Circ*mstances change. The whole world would be different if I got a banana milkshake instead of a chocolate. It’s called the Flying Margarine effect or something like that.”

Rachel rests her head in her hand. “... I don’t know. I’m tired. It’s been a long, long time; all I want to do is go back to my reality. I care about Santana, but I don’t want to hurt her because I can’t love her the way she deserves.”

“You’re proving that you do by saying that.” Their eyes meet; anguished brown and calm blue. Rachel breaks the spell when she looks out the window, pressing a hand to her mouth.

“Rachel, you're not loving her any less by being with someone else now.”

“Am I?” Rachel says bitterly. This is something that has only been starting to bother her; has she been cheating by spending dream lifetimes with other people? With a variation of the same person? It makes her head hurt.

“... Can I ask you something?”


Brittany looks at her very seriously. “If you choose not to be with Santana, would you regret it?”

She bites her lower lip. Rachel’s asked herself the same question for a long time; the answer lies, thick and heavy on her tongue, yet fully-formed. “... Yes.”

“I can't tell you what’s the right or wrong answer,” says Brittany, “I can only tell you that you should be happy, even if it doesn't last forever.”

“Oh, Britt.”

“I don’t regret loving Finn,” continues Brittany, very quietly. “It hurt to lose him. It hurts to think about spending the rest of my life with someone that isn’t him, even if I know that’s dumb. But I’d never give up the time we shared, because it’s even more precious. And I know I’ll be okay someday, that I can remember the good bits without the sad bits hurting so much. Like a Band-Aid that’s not ready to come off yet, but it will when the time is right.”

“I’m… not brave enough.”

“Yes, you are. You wouldn’t have done all this living for someone you didn’t care for.” Brittany pats her hand. “She’ll forgive you. She already forgave you, I think, but she’s just waiting for you to realise that you made a mistake in the first place.”

Rachel gives her a watery smile. “I’m not even going to ask how you knew that.”

“Lord Tubbington told me. He’s better at feelings and discerning layers of reality than I am.” Brittany squeezes Rachel’s hand, and lets go. “But she can wait. She is waiting, and there’s a decision you need to make right now.”

“I know,” responds Rachel, nodding. The lump in her throat tightens.

Brittany beams at her. “Just so you know, I'll be happy for you guys, even if you don't choose each other, because you're smart enough to be happy either way.”

“Thank you, Brittany.”

“Anytime. Now, tell me much about this Quinn of yours. What’s she like? I’m sure she’s a pretty remarkable person if you made all this for her.”

Rachel smiles. “She is.”

She’s lost in thought for the entire trip back. Rachel was momentarily distracted by the florist while on her way to the airport (it’s a pity she doesn’t need them right now, because the gardenias are beautiful today) but otherwise, she’s pretty clear on what she has to do.

Rachel stops by Cassie’s place to shower and get a change of clothes. The older woman is sitting on the couch with a book, glancing up at Rachel. “You’re back.”

“Hi, Cassie.”

“I wasn’t planning on going out tonight. We can order takeout. Either Thai or Chinese, you pick. Youre not allowed to order, though; it took me ages to get the taste of plant out of my mouth.”

“Actually… I was going to go home.” She gives a little awkward laugh. “I’ve been imposing on you for too long.”

“Oh. Okay. Whatever. Are you staying for dinner, at least?”

Rachel takes a moment to just look at the woman seated on the couch – who hasn't taken her eyes off the book the entire time. She has reading glasses perched on the bridge of her nose (Rachel would be horribly murdered if she ever told anyone), her hair up in a messy bun. Rachel realises Cassie picked up the habit from her.


The older woman looks up, sensing the seriousness of the situation. “What is it, Rachel?”

“Don't. Don't be so nice to me. I've been using you, and I – ”

“First of all: shut up, Ohio. God, you never did know how to do that. Second, we agreed what this is, and has to be,” she says, then adds: “Was.”

“Cassie, I'm sorry.”

“Sure you are. The one doing the dumping is always sorry. I know, I've done plenty of it in my day.” She tosses her book on the coffee table and walks over to Rachel. “I've gotta say, though, I never expected you to be the one doing the dumping; especially after you practically moved in with me – but I guess I really should have seen it coming especially after that little talk we had before you left.”

She feels like her heart’s full of ice splinters, the searing cold vying with pain in her chest. The tears won't come, though. “I'm sorry.”

“I get that. And believe it or not, I do understand. You finally know what you want in life, and it sure as hell isn't Crazy Cassandra July.” Rachel was expecting Cassie to be hurt and angry, to lash out at her; this defeated tone is unsettling. “Now f*ck off. I've got to go find myself a piece of fresh meat that won't dump me on my ass.”

And there it is.

They haven't changed the locks, thankfully. Rachel slips into the loft and inhales the scent of home . She’s surprised to see her room is impeccably neat as it has been since the night she left, almost three months ago. The bathroom holds her share of toiletries; even the bottle of herbal shampoo she remembers was running low has been replaced.

She’s curious. She opens the fridge to find her favourite brand of soymilk, the expiry date set for next week. A fresh carton of her favourite Greek yoghurt. There’s even a bottle of the white wine she likes to indulge in on weekends, tucked in the back.

Rachel’s still standing in a daze, absent smile on her face, when the door slams. “Kurt, did you forget to lock the damn door again? Because it’s not fair that you nag me for letting Bailey in that one time and then you – Rachel?”

She whirls around. “Santana.”

“You’re back.”

“I’m home,” corrects Rachel, aware the stupid grin’s still on her face. “I’ve missed you so much. I’m sorry for everything.”

“Uh, whatever.” Santana puts the brown paper bag on the kitchen table and retreats to her room.



“... Thank you.”

There’s a grunt, and then: “Just don’t mention it again, and we’re cool.”

Kurt comes home ecstatic, laden down with Thai takeout (mostly Santana’s favourites, at Rachel’s specific request) to celebrate Rachel’s homecoming. He waves the bag of fried fish cakes outside Santana’s room, letting the aroma waft in until she emerges, grumbling. She snatches the bag out of his hand as she goes.

“Santana’s been keeping your room tidy,” he informs Rachel after his fourth glass of wine, and then grunts when Santana drives an elbow into his side. “Ow! That hurt!”

“You should have thought about that before you opened your fat mouth,” remarks Santana, stuffing food into her mouth.

“Thank you, Santana,” says Rachel.

“I said not to mention it, hobbit.”

“She’s so modest,” laughs Kurt, and then hastily scoots out of the way, wine glass clutched tightly in his hand. “Don’t hit me again. I’m shutting up now. Promise.”

“For someone who values his designer wardrobe more than his life, you’re coming dangerously close to unleashing Snix on the Armani.”

Kurt squeaks. “Not the Armani! Do you know how much that cost?”

“About the same as keeping your mouth shut.” Santana grins ferociously at him. "I kept razor blades in my hair through high school. Wanna try me?"

And maybe things are finally, finally looking up, for once since she found herself going through high school all over again. She’s found an ensemble role in the off-off-Broadway revival of If/Then that neatly fits into her school schedule. It’s not for the money – she’s made quite a few good investments that mean she can live very comfortably between roles – but for something to do with herself.

Something meaningful, that doesn’t involve her bed being full and her heart empty. And Rachel thinks: This is what I should have done with Quinn, instead of running off to Mustique in the first place.

She digs out her New York Bucket List. With every item she crosses off, she rediscovers another missing piece of Rachel Berry, and lovingly fits it back within herself. It’s a heady feeling that she hasn’t experienced since her first dream-life.

Perhaps – just, perhaps – the love of her life isn’t Broadway. Perhaps it could be more meaningful that that.

After If/Then ends its run, she books a flight to Los Angeles. The cab takes her to a tidy little suburb just outside of the metropolis, a place so distant from the hustle of New York that she spends a few minutes standing on the sidewalk, soaking up the atmosphere.

The address she got from Brittany points to a small house to her right. She wonders if she’s intruding, or if he’s not home, then she’ll have come all this way for nothing.

Footsteps resound from inside, and the door unlocks before she can lose her nerve.

“Rachel?” Puck blinks at her. “Is that you? What’re you doing here?”

She swallows hard. “Hello, Noah. Am I interrupting anything? I’m sorry for showing up out of the blue, but there are some things I’ve been meaning to say to you for a long time, and I know it’s long overdue. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and reflecting, and I owe you quite a few apologies. I couldn’t just deliver them over the phone or in an email, that’s very impersonal, especially given the sensitive nature of what I need to say – ”

“Stop rambling, and come on in,” interjects Puck. He steps aside to let her in, and shuts the door behind her. Rachel follows him through the house to the kitchen, where he motions for her to sit at the counter. “Here,” he says, handing her a Corona, “I know it’s too early to be drinking, and you never liked beer, but we both could use something a bit stronger.” Puck stuffs a wedge of lemon into his own drink, and does the same for her.

She takes a sip. It burns on its way down, but she’s glad for something to do that fills up the silence that falls, aside from stealing glances at Puck.

He hasn’t changed much since the last time she saw him. He’s tanned, he's let his hair grow out, and she can see more tattoos peeking out from under the sleeves of his shirt. But the face is unmistakably the boyish Noah Puckerman that she loved.

“How’d you get this address?” he asks huskily.

“I asked Brittany for it, the last time she visited New York.”

He nods. “Okay. I thought you’d developed stalker skills, or something.” Puck tips back the bottle, drinking half the contents, before setting the bottle back with a clunk. “Now I’m a little more functional, maybe you could repeat that speech from earlier, but with less words and slower.”

“I’m sorry, Noah.”

“Yeah, I got that, but what are you sorry for?”

“Everything,” she says around the lump in her throat. “For breaking your heart, for making you think that you aren’t important to me. You’ve done so much for me, Noah, and I’ve repaid you by treating you like dirt.”

He rests his chin in his hand, leaning over the table to regard her silently. “Uh-huh.”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you. I was a mess, and you were someone familiar that I’ve never been able to forget, but that doesn’t excuse the abominable way I behaved.”

He doesn’t say anything, but continues to stare at her.

“I should have apologised sooner. I should have gone after you, but I didn’t, because I was scared. I didn’t know what I was doing anymore, and it scared me so much, and I just – I shut down.” She swallows hard, and then continues: “You were everything to me once, Noah. I care about you, but – ”

“But you’re not in love with me,” says Puck.

“I’m sorry.”

“It took you a while to figure that out, Rachel. It’s a good thing I wasn’t waiting.”

She bows her head. Guilty tears prick at her eyes.

“Guess we weren’t meant to be, then.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Stop apologising, Rachel. It’s not gonna make everything magically better, and that’s the only thing you’ll end up saying.” She feels a warm and gentle pressure on her chin, and lets him lift her head up. “Hey,” says Puck softly, “babe, chill. I’m not mad at you.”

“You should be,” she says, voice clear despite her tears.

“You know me better than that.”

Rachel pulls away from his touch to wipe at her eyes. “You’re going to forgive me, just like that?”

He shrugs. “Well, I was still a little mad at you for working me up and then running off,” says Puck, and she lets out a little scandalised laugh, “but yeah. You’ve forgiven me for worse things, Rachel, and I’ve been a bigger screw-up at life.”

“I hurt you.”

“And I was mad at you for that, but I’ve gotten over it now,” he says. “We were together for nearly two years, babe. I know you don’t have a single mean bone in your body, that you weren’t being intentionally cruel.”

“And what about the six monthsI took to apologise?”

He laughs. “Okay, that was a little harder to forgive. Maybe I grew up a bit. Mellowed in my old age.” Puck clears his throat. “I know you. You probably had your reasons. Though I think that if you’d dragged your feet a little longer, I’d have gone back to New York to demand my apology. Jumped onstage or somethin’. You’d have loved it.”

“I would have,” she admits. “But you’re right, Noah. I had a good reason.” Rachel reaches into her purse, pulls a tattered piece of paper out. She lays it on the table between them, smoothing out the creases with the flat of her hand. “I finished the list.”

He whistles lowly. “Everything?”


Puck grins at her. “I’m proud of you.”

She takes her time to meet his eyes. “I am, too. Now.”

He spreads his hands out, palms-up; she places her hands in his, and smiles when he squeezes her fingers.

She lets Puck drive her to the airport the next morning so she can catch the next flight back into New York, on the condition he come visit for Hanukkah. Puck just laughs. “Face it, Jewbabe; you just like me showing up on your doorstep,” he says, waggling his eyebrows, and receives a smack to his chest for his pains.

The banter dies away when she’s waiting in the departure lounge. Her flight is due to leave in half an hour, and Rachel’s still standing with him outside the gates.

“I loved you,” he says abruptly.

She closes her eyes, and leans into him. She feels an arm wrap comfortably around her shoulders, holding her tight as a kiss is dropped on her hair.

“Be happy, Rachel.”

(“Noah? Do you think, in another time, another life, we could have…?”

“... Yeah. I do.”)

Back in New York, she and Santana – for lack of a better word – grow together. She wants nothing more than to confront Santana with everything she has to say, to put it all out in one dramatic conversation. It’s happened plenty of times in her life (lives).

But she doesn’t.

Instead, she waits.

After approximately a year of thankless work since coming to New York, Santana had enrolled in some business courses at community college while she figured out what she wanted to do with her life. She’s good at her work – or so Rachel has heard – but seems rather indifferent to it.

Therefore, it’s a surprise when Rachel comes home to find her bent over a guitar, tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth in concentration as she plinks out chords following a YouTube tutorial.

“I didn’t know you were interested in guitar,” she says.

Santana looks up at her, and then leans over to hit the pause button. “I learned the basics from Puck,” she says, “but I never really got into it until recently.” adds Santana, patting the neck of the guitar.

“That’s nice,” says Rachel, and means it. She can feel Santana watching her carefully, waiting for a reaction; she pretends she doesn’t notice, continuing to smile at her roommate. “We’re having bolognese tonight, okay? I bought cheesecake for dessert, from that place you like.”

“Uh – thanks.”

She and Kurt meet up for coffee before they head back to the loft. “How was it?” asks Rachel.

He pulls a face. “Fifty guys, all triple threats, crammed into a studio to learn a song and dance routine. What do you think?”

“I think you nailed it.”

Kurt laughs at her. “I did, but so did half the room. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. It wasn’t a complete waste, though; I got a few phone numbers,” he adds with a wink.

Rachel snorts into her coffee. “Trust you to always come out on top.”

“Count on it, darling; and in more ways than one.” He takes advantage of her scandalised gasp to steal a cookie from her plate. “And you? How did yours go?”

“Pretty good. I think I’ve got a decent chance at a callback.”

“Of course you’ve got a decent chance. You’ve been in a show already. Rachel Berry’s star is on the rise.”

“Off-off-Broadway; and as a character with a number in her name,” says Rachel with a smile. “Still a long, long way to go.”

“But nevertheless, there is motion.” He toasts her with his coffee. “Here’s to us, and our dreams, as humble as they may be.”

Rachel gives him an amused look. “Kurt, your dream is to be the first countertenor to play the Phantom.”

“Relatively humble,” he amends.

The guitar disappears after a few weeks; Rachel doesn't have the courage to ask what happened to it. Santana now sports a bulky pair of headphones and her laptop screen has lots of squiggly lines over it.

“My professor gave me the license for some mixing software,” says Santana, when she catches Rachel peeping.

“Your professor?” She’s heard stories about the cranky old man; she can't imagine him producing music.

Santana catches the look on her face and cackles. “Not Dr. Dillamond, Rachel,” she says, sounding amused, “that old goat wouldn't be able to drop a beat if it slipped through his fingers. I signed up for a class in music production, just for the sh*ts and giggles.”

Santana looks so excited, Rachel can't help but catch her enthusiasm. “That's great, Santana. You've always been a talented musician, and I'm glad that you're pursuing that area.”

“Uh, yeah,” replies her roommate, looking slightly bemused.

“As in,” hastily adds Rachel, “I'm happy that you're happy with what you choose to study. You never gave me the impression that you loved or hated studying business, only that it was a practical skill to have.” Her expression softens. “But you light up when you're working with music. It’s nice.”

“I do?”

“Yes.” She’s made vaguely uncomfortable by Santana’s perplexed scrutiny, and starts racking her brains for a subtle change in topic. “Are you hungry? Shall we order takeout?”

She thinks she sees a hint of a smirk on Santana’s face. “I'm starved. I wants cheeseburgers and fries, and I wants them yesterday.”

Rachel wrinkles her nose. “I will never understand your insistence on perpetuating animal cruelty.”

“I can't help that they taste so damn good.” Rachel shakes her head, and makes for the stack of takeout menus on their coffee table outside. “Rachel! Get me the extra bacon double with chili fries and I promise I will do my own laundry tonight!”

Kurt sticks his head in, looking vaguely amused. “Don't make promises you can't keep.”

“No one asked for your coiffed and primped input, Hummel.”

He turns to Rachel, who is smirking at him. “Was that a compliment from Santana Diabla Lopez? I'm taking that as a compliment. Rachel, you're my witness.”

She isn't home very often, not after scoring the role of Dawn in the NYADA production of Waitress . Kurt, similarly, is just as busy; adding schoolwork into the mix means that they don't see each other very often in the house.

But Rachel can't help but notice that she’s seeing Santana more frequently, with her headphones on and working at her laptop. She doesn't have the time to talk, though; their interactions consist mostly of packages of food with little notes attached, and the “hi” and “bye”s exchanged while multi-tasking, or while someone’s on the way out the door.

One afternoon, she receives a text from Santana asking what time she’ll be home. Rachel’s glad to reply that she’ll be back in time for dinner, with dinner, because the director – overbearing asshole that he is – decided they won't need to stay late to get the sequence just right .

“I bought Mexican tonight, if that's okay with you,” calls Rachel into the house.

“That's more than okay,” she hears Santana call back. Her roommate yanks off the chunky headphones and takes the bags from her, unpacking the food on the kitchen table. “No extra salsa?”

“They charge extra.”

“Ugh. Asses. You should've flashed some cleavage. It takes you places.”

“Bite me.”

Santana cackles. “Been there, done that.” She pours them both the last of the cheap red wine. Rachel takes the glass from her gratefully.

“So, what's on your mind?”

“Oh. Yeah.” She hasn't seen Santana look uncertain in such a long time, and automatically some of Rachel’s playfulness fades away. “I need a favour.”


“You haven't even heard what I'm gonna ask!”

Rachel shrugs. “I'd do it anyway.”

Santana turns a little pink. “Thanks. But, uh… I'm putting together a portfolio for my application to NYU's music production diploma, and I want you to record something for it.”

“Anything that involves me singing, I'm always gonna say yes.” Rachel is equally as casual as Santana, though inside she’s squealing in excitement.

Her roommate grins. “Yeah, okay. I should've known.”

“Why so hesitant, Santana?”

“It’s, uhm, something I wrote.”

Rachel gasps. “You wrote a song? That's amazing!” Trouty Mouth drifts to the front of her mind; Rachel tries not to giggle. “Santana, I'm honoured that you want me to record a song you wrote, but I confess that I don't understand why you're not singing it yourself. You have a lovely voice, after all.”

Santana squirms a little in her seat. “Yeah, I thought about it but my voice really isn't suited to the song.”

“Your songwriting skills are better than your singing? Is that what you're trying to tell me?”

Santana flips her off. “Very funny, Streisand. Had your fun?”

“More or less.” She rests her elbows on the table as she leans forward. “Let me finish my dinner, and then you’re gonna play this amazing song for me.”

She loves it. It’s steeped with feelings and beautiful imagery, although she doesn't understand why Santana insists she can't sing it; it’s well within the other girl’s vocal range, and her smoky, sensual voice wraps around the words so well.

But who is she to question artistic decisions? Mostly, Rachel’s happy that Santana’s opening up to her again.

Rachel insists on going the extra mile for her. She calls in a few favours and gets Hannah (a senior music major and one of her former drunken hook-ups) to record the backing music for Santana’s song.

They rent a small but professional studio to record. Santana runs her hand over the mixboard, looking overwhelmed.

“You okay?”

Santana nods. “A little stunned that this is really happening.”

“It is,” says Rachel briskly. She pats Santana’s hand and goes into the recording room, hoisting the headphones around her neck. “Anytime you're ready,” she says, flashing Santana a thumbs-up and a cheesy grin.

“I am having soooo many second thoughts about this right now,” mutters Santana over the intercom, and she hits the play button.

For all the anal-retentiveness that Rachel displays when it comes to music, Santana is just as bad, if not worse. They go ten minutes over their allotted time – the irate manager glaring daggers at them through the door – until Santana proclaims herself satisfied with the vocals.

“I’ll have Hannah give me the raw audio files as soon as she can,” says Rachel. She’s sitting on the counter, watching as Santana packs her things, tucking their session’s work away carefully.

“Thanks, Rach.” She hoists her bag over her shoulder. “I really appreciate all of this.”

“You don't have to thank me,” responds Rachel brightly, interrupting herself with a scandalised noise when Santana flips off the manager as they leave the studio (“Santana! Burning bridges this early in your fledgling musical career is not advisable!”). “I'm so glad to be a part of this project. I love your song.”

“Oh. Thanks.” Santana’s gone a little pink; Rachel grins and does her best not to comment on it.

Santana won't let her listen to the final song, but she does accept Rachel’s help in putting the rest of her portfolio together, and even gives Rachel free reign in selecting what goes inside “that showcases her range, versatility, and talent”.

“You should submit a vocal performance,” says Rachel.

Santana looks up at her from the foot of her bed, scowling. “I’m applying to Steinhardt, not Tisch.”

“I know, but you have a lovely voice. Don’t hold back anything, you know?” She sits up.

“My portfolio’s varied enough. I shouldn't be losing the focus, which is bitches, don't miss out on the next greatest thing to hit music ,” says Santana, making airquotes with her fingers.

Rachel’s mouth falls open in her outrage. “Santana Lopez, I did not say that. Certainly not in those exact words.”

“Close enough,” smirks Santana.

She’s about to return the playful banter when she detects an undercurrent to Santana’s words. “You’ll get in. You've nothing to worry about.”

“I wasn't worrying about that.”

Rachel scoffs. “It’s okay to be worried; NYU is one of the best schools in the country, and Steinhart produces some of the finest in the music industry. But I wouldn't be worried about your chances of getting in; there’s a difference.”

“Don't you ever get tired of being so optimistic, Pollyanna?” Santana’s blushing; Rachel recognises the deflection but chooses to go along with it. She’s gotten her point across loud and clear.

She laughs. “Only when talking to Debbie Downers like you.”

It’s a rare fall day in which they have no classes or work, so Kurt and Rachel had planned to spend the day doing absolutely nothing.

She wakes early out of habit and finds herself unable to go back to sleep. Rachel decides to get breakfast for her housemates; based on the schedule stuck to their fridge, Santana has the day off as well.

Much to her surprise, Santana is nursing a coffee when she comes out of her room, surrounded by brown paper bags. “Good morning, Santana,” says Rachel brightly. “It’s nice to see you; it feels like it’s been ages since we last saw each other.”

“God, midget, one day I swear you will learn how to say ‘good morning’ like a normal person,” says Santana fondly with a shake of her head.

“And one day you will be able to say anything without an insult,” responds Rachel, “but I guess today isn't our day.”

“Accept these cronuts in lieu of an apology.” She pushes the box over, just as Kurt pads out of his room.

“I love you,” he says, grabbing one of the paper bags and pulling a bagel out.

“I hope you were saying that to me, and not the bagel.”

“It’s too early to clarify anything.”

Rachel smirks, hiding it behind her coffee. “Which reminds me… what is the felicitous occasion that merits your getting up before the crack of noon to buy us breakfast?”

Santana matches her smirk. “Bitches, you are looking at NYU’s newest student.” She pulls out a fat envelope, the end looking like it was ripped off.

“Oh my god!” Rachel rockets out of her seat, flinging her arms around Santana.

“That’s amazing, Santana!” shrieks Kurt, joining the group hug. “I knew you could do it!”

So they’re all students together again, and Rachel couldn't be happier that Santana’s finally found her way.

(She would have been equally as happy if Santana wanted to keep drifting through life as a perpetually pissed-off diner waitress, but maybe she’s just biased.)

Santana was able to transfer her business credits from community college to fulfil her general requirements, something she’s immensely happy about; now that she’s gotten her purpose, she doesn't want to waste any more time.

“You could write songs about your time as a waitress,” points out Rachel, “Billy Joel did it.”

Santana snorts. “Yeah, because people want to hear me sing about wrong orders and back-to-back shifts.”

“I know I'd want to,” Rachel grins.

“You're weird.”

“Hey, weird people are interesting people.”

Santana rolls her eyes. “Yeah, you keep telling yourself that and maybe people’ll start to believe it sometime this century.” Laughing, she pushes off the couch and heads to the fridge.

The night before graduation, Rachel is making her way home from the theatre when she hears music.

It grows louder the closer she gets to home, so she guesses that Santana is composing on the fire escape as she’s started doing in recent months. It’s such an artist cliche, but Rachel doesn’t have the heart to point it out. In any case, Santana is someone who marches to the beat of her own drum and she wouldn’t give a sh*t if she’s following any trend.

Eventually, she gathers some things and climbs outside.

“Oh, hey, Rachel.”

Rachel holds up the bottle of wine in greeting. “I thought you might appreciate this. The weatherman said it might be a little chilly tonight.”

“Hell yes.” Santana scoots over to make room for Rachel on the blanket. Rachel settles down, leaning back on her elbows, taking in the night view of her city. It’s been her city for close to four years now, and she has yet to tire of it.

There’s no further conversation. Santana is occupied with the guitar in her lap, twanging out plaintive melodies and strumming chords. Rachel tilts her head to one side to watch her out of the corner of her eye. Santana’s tongue pokes out of the corner of her mouth as she concentrates. Occasionally, she mutters something under her breath as she adjusts her fingers on the fretboard, testing harmonies. Her hair falls into her eyes but Santana is too preoccupied to notice.

In the glow of city lights, she is beautiful. She has always been beautiful.

Rachel can’t remember the last time she felt so safe and like she belongs, being out here on a ledge, but the pieces seems to click together the longer she stares at Santana, and she knows she doesn’t have to make things so complicated.

Santana starts to sing, her voice slow and smoky:

I'm not scared of you now
Or so I say
There's no reason to run
Although I may
I'm not as sure as I seem
This much I know
What does it mean you leave and I follow

I could try to forget what you do when I let you get
Through to me but then you do it over again
I could rage like a fire and you'd bring rain I desire
Til you get to me on my morningside

Keep my distance I tried
No use
But no matter the miles
I'm back to you

Rachel holds her tongue until the song ends. “... That’s your song…?” Again, she wonders why Santana had to ask her to sing it for her portfolio; Santana’s jazzy, acoustic rendition sends a pang through her heart.

“I wrote it for you.”


“I couldn't sing something so personal and put it out there for other people.” She sets down the guitar. “I don’t… I’m not sure what you do to me, Rachel,” whispers Santana. “I’ve never felt this way about anyone before – not even Brittany. I wasn’t even looking, and somehow, you’ve become this part of me.”

“I want you,” Rachel tells her seriously. “I’ve known that for a long time now.”

“How long?”

“Since Mr. Schuester’s wedding.”

Santana closes her eyes. “Jesus, Rachel.”

“I thought it would be the same with you, like it was for the others. I was scared that I’d destroyed our friendship. But you… you were my best friend before that. And as time passed, I wanted more. I didn’t just want you as my best friend.”

“But I was a mess,” continues Rachel. “I knew that much. I would just mess us up, and I’d lose you if I tried anything back then. The night you walked in on Noah and me… that was rock-bottom. I knew I had to do something, or I’d lose you for good.”

“You never said anything.”

“I can’t make you love me, Santana. I don’t even think I deserved that, the way I was. I’d lost myself somewhere along the way, but it wasn’t fair for me to hope that being with you would help me find what I was missing. I had to do it on my own and become someone that deserved to be with you.”

Santana sets aside her guitar. “And I was waiting for you. I thought whatever we’d shared had passed, and I tried to get over you.”

Whatever Rachel wants to say next is lost when Santana kisses her hard. She whimpers when a tongue swipes across her lower lip and a hand rests in her lap. “God,” she pants, letting Santana press her back onto the blanket, “not out here – ”

Then Santana’s mouth is on her neck, and she loses all coherent thought. “Do you know,” whispers Santana, “how long I’ve been wanting to do this again?”

Rachel whimpers. Her fingers tangle in Santana’s long dark hair, undoing her ponytail. “About as long as I have?”

“Possibly.” A hand slides up Rachel’s shirt as she’s being lowered to the blanket. Santana’s just as impatient as she remembers – and also very, very good at what she does. “We can’t – outside – neighbours !” Rachel tries again between increasingly filthy kisses, torn between awareness of their surroundings and having this gorgeously infuriating woman right now .

Santana smirks. “You’ll have to be quiet then,” she says, voice muffled as she slides lower down Rachel’s body.

f*ck .”

“That’s the idea.”

“Santana,” she hisses, “wait, wait. Stop.”

“What? I'm sorry, did I hurt you?”

“No, you didn't. Just – are you sure? About this?” asks Rachel timidly.

Santana sighs. “Honestly? You want to talk, now ?”

“Look what happened the last time we postponed that.”

“Fine, point taken.” She crawls backward off Rachel and sits up, Indian-style. “So, talking. I want you, Rachel. I think I've wanted you since we were in high school.”

“But I don't remember exactly when I started loving you,” she says before Rachel can open her mouth. “It was – you were so f*cking infuriating, and you were either pissing me off, or being so damned adorable. There was no middle ground.”

“I love Brittany. I always will. But you… I'm in love with you , Rachel f*cking Berry.”

“I don't deserve you,” repeats Rachel.

“That's what you think. Yeah, you've said and done stupid things, and you've hurt me, but – you also sit with me at the end of a crappy day with my favourite ice cream. You understand that I say horrible things I don't even mean. You do that f*cking creepy mind reading thing and know what I need before I do.”

Santana comes closer as she speaks, until she’s close enough that Rachel can move forward an inch or two to kiss her.

“There are a lot of things I need you to know first,” breathes Rachel. “I can't keep secrets from you, anymore.”

“So, tell me.”

And she does.

Brittany makes the trip up to New York as promised. She doesn’t seem too surprised to be offered what technically still is Santana’s room (because Rachel’s room is now Rachel and Santana’s).

“I’m so happy for you guys,” she tells them over dinner.

Kurt groans. “I’m not. They go at it like rabbits.” He fixes them with a mock glare. “You owe me a new pair of earplugs, preferably industrial-grade.”


Gallantly, Santana reaches over to muss Kurt’s hair in defence of her girlfriend’s virtue. “You’re just jealous you’re not getting any action, Hummel.”

“No, I miss uninterrupted sleep without earplugs,” he says mournfully, scowling as he flattens his hair back into place.

“I told her.”

Brittany smiles. “How did she take it?”

“Surprisingly calmly.” Santana had stopped her halfway to drain the rest of the wine as she digested what Rachel was saying – and downed another bottle at the end of it all. “She said it explained a lot about how weird I was being, how I always seemed to know what was going on.” Rachel smiles wistfully at the memory of the look on Santana’s face.

“Told you she’s smart.”

“I should know better than to ever doubt you, Brittany.”

“Exactly,” she replies with a smug smile. “I don't think I need to ask, but are you happy?”

“I am,” she admits. Rachel leans forward, resting her elbows on the railing of the fire escape. “I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.” An involuntary grin lights up her face at the thought of Santana.

Brittany smiles. "I haven't seen San this happy in a long time. You're good for her."

"She's the one who's good for me. I've done... so many things I'm not proud of. Both here and otherwise. She seems to understand."

"Love's amazing like that. Like apple slices and cheese; they're pretty awesome on their own, but together they create a whole new brand of awesomeness that no one ever thought could exist."

Rachel chuckles. "Exactly."

(She loves the adrenaline rush of a good show. Her cast and crew were magical, her performance flawless, the audience was spellbound.

Rachel’s not in a hurry to leave. She walks up the now-quiet aisle, finding a seat from which to contemplate the darkened stage.

“You were wonderful.”

Rachel hums. “Tonight was magical. That's all.”

“Unusually modest, Ms. Berry,” says Quinn teasingly. She approaches the row of seats where Rachel is sitting, taking the one next to her. “Don't doubt the potency of my good-luck kisses.”

“I never have.” Rachel reaches for Quinn’s hand,which is on the armrest. Her fingers surreptitiously stroke the underside of the pale wrist – searching for the scars – and she smiles wider when she finds none. She brings Quinn’s hand to her lips. “Thank you.”

“I should be thanking you, too.”

“What have I done to deserve that?”

“For being brave. For forgiving yourself. For accepting that it’s okay to want things, and letting yourself have them.” Quinn leans over. “I was with you on the ledge that night,” she whispers, her voice soothing.

Rachel closes her eyes. “Can you even do that? No, forget I said that. I don't know how this works anymore.” She feels no shame or guilt, surprisingly enough. “I'm sorry.”

“I'm proud of you.”

Rachel opens her eyes, turns her head slightly so she can press her forehead to Quinn’s. “You always say that.”

“Because I always am.” Quinn lets Rachel drop her head to her shoulder, wrapping an arm around Rachel’s shoulders to hold her close. “I'm happy that you're happy.”

Rachel kisses her neck in response.

Just when Rachel’s dozing off, lulled by the soft sounds of their breathing in the empty theatre, Quinn stirs. “Rachel?” says Quinn, brushing her cheek, “it’s time to go.”

“Go? Where?”

“Home, of course,” says Quinn, sounding amused. “The show’s over tonight. Doesn't mean there’s no show tomorrow, or the day after that.”

“Oh,” she replies. “With you?”

“... Not exactly.”

Rachel understands. She kisses Quinn, and kisses her again, slowly, as though trying to imprint the sensation into her memory. “Okay. I love you.”

Quinn merely beams. Rachel’s grip grows slack, and she watches Quinn walk away.)

Rachel opens her eyes, blinking them rapidly to clear her mind. She’s not in the Gielgud, she’s in bed. It’s late afternoon, judging from the sun streaming through the window. She’s not alone, judging from the arm around her waist and the soft breathing on the back of her neck.

She shuts her eyes again to lose herself in the moment. Eventually, she turns in Santana’s arms to kiss the sleeping woman softly, tuck her head in the crook of her neck, and go back to sleep.

Jesse breezes back into her life with a bouquet of flowers and a wide grin.

“Rachel. You look as beautiful as ever, perhaps more so.”

“Jesse,” she returns. “To what do I owe this displeasure?”

He presses a hand to his heart, fluttering his eyelashes. “You wound me. I'm only here to say hello; we haven't spoken in what, over ten years?”

“Then the flowers?”

“To congratulate you on your recent Tony win for A Single Gardenia ,” says Jesse, presenting her the bouquet.

Santana, seemingly sensing her girlfriend’s distress, glides over to wrap a possessive arm around Rachel’s waist. Rachel tries not to laugh when she sees Jesse’s face fall a little. “If it isn’t Jesse St. Who Cares,” exclaims Santana in fake excitement, “it’s nice to see you looking well. Losing that Best Leading Actor Tony for the third year running must have been so hard on you.” She glances at the bouquet. “You really shouldn't have. This looks like your entire month’s salary, and we shouldn't be taking that from you.”

“Santana Lezpez,” he returns coolly. “It’s good to see you too. You’re looking well, but I suppose that’s to be expected; the golden opportunity to ride on Rachel’s coattails doesn’t come around every day.” He examines his fingernails idly. “Not to demean your talent – which I'm certain you have no shortage of – but when your friend practically carries you to a Grammy with her vocal prowess, one would be a fool not to take it.”

“Santana is my fiancée, Jesse,” says Rachel firmly, cutting through the honeyed barbs. “And yes, she is incredibly talented; it’s so kind of you to say so. I mean, she has an Academy Award for Best Original Song.” She glares at Santana. Be nice, she mentally commands, he’s not worth it .

Santana shot her a quick sideways glance as if to say really, Rach? before sighing and offering her hand to Jesse. “It’s nice to see you again,” intones Santana in a calculatedly flat tone she knows drives Rachel insane – and not in a good way.

“I'm afraid I can't say the same for you.”

Santana shoots Rachel a look that clearly says, See! He started it! Rachel sighs. She wonders why she ever dated – and is dating – these children. “ Jesse . If you can't be civil, I'm afraid we’ll have to end this conversation here.”

Jesse smiles, honey-sweet, at them both. “Please don't trouble yourselves on my account. I just wanted to wish you all the best in life, especially on this felicitous day that we reconnected by chance. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I believe I'm overdue for Patti. I’ll see you around, Rachel. Santana.”

“I can't believe I was married to you,” mutters Rachel under her breath as he walks away. She’d completely forgotten how much of an asshole Jesse could be.

“Sorry, did you say something, Rachel?”

“Nothing. Just that Jesse’s a jerk.” She kisses Santana’s cheek. “Thank you for trying to be nice, by the way.”

Santana laughs. “You’re welcome,” she says, sliding her hand into Rachel’s.

(“You know, forever’s just something that looks good on greeting cards and Hallmark shows.” Quinn shook her head as she took another sip of her martini. “You get – what? – fifty years with the love of your life, then someone dies. Nothing to show for it at the end, just a cold grave.”

Rachel turned her head to grin lazily at Quinn. “You're maudlin when you're drunk.”

“And you're still wordier than a thesaurus, even when sh*t-faced.” Quinn lifted her glass in a mock toast. “You should be celebrating your return to the single life.”

“I wasn't actually in love with Jesse. There’s not much to celebrate.”

“Well, you must have liked him enough to marry him. That counts for something, right?”

Rachel glanced at her. “Is Noah someone you can see yourself being with forever?”

“This isn't about me. This is about you, Rachel.”

“No, this is me attempting to carry on a conversation with you despite your being very drunk. You talked about forever just now. Is he the love of your life?”

Quinn smiled, all teeth. “I probably won't remember any of this tomorrow morning, so I’ll humour you and answer that. Honestly? I don't think I've ever been in love with anyone.”

“Forever’s an awfully long time to be with someone you're not in love with.”

Quinn chuckled. “Forever’s not actually forever. It’s only about fifty years.”

“Fifty years can seem like forever if you're not happy.”

“Yes, but the memory of happiness? That’s forever.”

Rachel grinned. “Very poetic, Quinn Fabray. I'll drink to that,” she said, clinking her glass to Quinn’s.)

Rachel opened her eyes and found herself back on her couch. She blinked and stretched, letting out a soft sigh as her muscles moved, body no longer old and worn.

Her companion barely looked up from the drink in his hand. “Welcome back,” he said, raising the glass to her.

She grimaced. “For once, I’m glad to be back. Chemotherapy was not fun.”

“How delightful. Poisoning everything to kill the rogue cells.”

Rachel chose to ignore him. “My three wishes are done. What are you still doing here?”

“Finishing my drink. I’m not in a hurry.” He took another leisurely sip, Adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed. “You’re an interesting one, Rachel Berry.”

“I’ve been told I’m many things.” She adjusted her seating position so she has a leg curled underneath herself. “Interesting isn’t usually one of them.”

“Most humans would ask for something more – lasting ,” he said as though she hadn't spoken, earning himself a scowl, “like money, or earthly power, the undivided lust of another human. Things that seem to bring happiness.” The man examined his glass. “It was harder taking what I needed, but you’d be glad to hear I managed it regardless.”

Rachel rolled her eyes. “Yes. Completely thrilled.”

“So sarcastic. Didn't you enjoy yourself? Didn't you get the answers you wanted?” He gestures expansively with a hand. “Very few get the opportunity to do things all over again.”

“... Yes.” She looked down at her lap. “It was hard at times, but… illuminating . Nothing about Quinn Fabray is easy but she was worth it. Each and every one of those lives was worth it.” A lump formed in her throat. “I've learned… so much.”

He shrugged, distinctly unimpressed. “So I've gathered. Even the complete removal of Quinn Fabray couldn't shake your single-mindedness.”

She laughed. “That was your doing? Really?”

“I refrained from commenting on your petty human failings. Surely you could return the courtesy,” he shot back.

“I don't care,” she said with a snort.

“A surprisingly lacklustre performance from someone the humans are quite adamant is a talented actress.”

“Yes,” sneered Rachel, “I’m sure you’d know all about wearing a mask.”

That prompted a smile from him which was quickly masked by his glass. “In any case, I’m glad my time hasn’t been wasted.” He vanished the glass with a gesture, getting to his feet. “Goodbye, Rachel Berry.”

“I hope we won’t meet again.”

For the first time, she saw a hint of his true demonic nature beneath the facade, and it set all her hairs on end. “Mmm, I hope so too.”

When he leaves, the perpetual dread that seemed to have settled on her heart dissipated. Rachel sat in silence, unfamiliar with the lack of tension –

A knock on the door startled her out of her thoughts.

Rachel approached the door tentatively. She unlocked it, and flung it open.

The smiling bellhop nodded at her. “Room service, Ms. Berry.”

“Oh. Yes. Thank you.” She directed him to leave the trolley just inside the door, and tipped him generously. Once the door was locked behind the bellhop, Rachel reached for the decanter of water, gulping down glass after glass of water to soothe her parched throat, stopping only when the decanter is empty.

The First Morning

She slowly opened her eyes, blinking rapidly. Rachel felt dislocated, awkward; her limbs were stiff and heavy, her head swirling and the ringing in her ears hadn’t stopped –

“sh*t,” she muttered, scrambling to answer the landline phone. “Hello?”

“Ms. Berry?”

“Yes, speaking.”

“It’s David here. I have good news for you; we’ve managed to find a seaplane owner whose schedule just freed up, and would be willing to take you to Barbados today. Would you still be interested?”

Rachel swallowed the urge to snap at him for asking pointless questions. “Yes, of course! What time, and where should I go?”

“Nine o’clock at Endeavour Bay. It’s a green seaplane. The pilot’s name is Turner.” She heard clicking sounds in the background. “I’ve taken the liberty of booking you a connecting flight to New York from Barbados; I’ll pass you the flight itinerary later.”

“Thank you so much, David,” she said. She definitely didn’t regret throwing her credit card at him last week and telling him to charge everything there (although she now regretted the entire throwing part). Rachel made another mental note to triple his tip.

David was waiting with her credit card, her receipts from her hotel stay, and a neat packet containing all the additional details she needed when she arrived at the bay. A green seaplane was parked near the jetty, bobbing with the currents.

“Thank you for everything, David,” said Rachel, pressing a wad of bills into his hand, smiling at the muffled intake of breath. “I’m sorry for having been so horrible earlier.”

“It’s alright.” He smiled, warm and genuine. “It was truly a pleasure having you here, Ms. Berry.”

She waved goodbye and climbed into the plane, watching as Mustique got smaller and smaller.

Somewhere from the beach, a man raised a glass to the plane in a toast.

She had just the right amount of time before boarding her first class flight back to New York, and so Rachel made a phone call.

“Quinn, it’s me,” she said when the call goes straight to voicemail, just as she knew it would. “I’m sorry for disturbing you. Please don’t hang up, please, just listen to me this once. Just – I need you – no, no, I’m sorry. We talked about this before, and I’m working on it, I promise. I – sorry. I shouldn’t – ” Rachel cut herself off, exhaled, and continued, “I – I left Mustique. I don’t know if you knew I went there, I just needed space away after what happened and I – I’m sorry for everything, Quinn. I’m sorry I didn’t try. I'm sorry it seemed like I didn't care. I’m sorry I said all those things which I didn’t even mean, and I – ”

She had to stop talking because she’s crying so hard. Rachel sniffled, trying to bring herself under control because the recording had a time limit. “I know you don’t want to talk to me, and you never want to see me again, and I respect your decision, but I can’t – I need to tell you that I’m sorry. And then I’ll leave you alone. Please, Quinn. I need you to know that I realise now that I was stupid and foolish and that I threw away the best thing that ever happened to me. I – please.”

“I'm not – this isn't me begging for a second chance. I can't – I don't deserve that. I've known you for so long, and I never really listened.”

Rachel disconnected the call. She dropped her phone beside her, suddenly exhausted, covering her face with a shaky hand.

For You I'd Burn the Length and Breadth of Sky - yumi_michiyo (2024)
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