DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is set at Smith College in Northampton, MA. It's an all-woman's college, and though there's a very active trans community as well, I just don't mention it in this fic. There's a lot of Smith culture dropped into the story, so here is a link to explain terms that may seem unfamiliar.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To rsietz[at]gmail.com
One Genuine Turnpike Tollbooth
Rachel doesn't actually remember the first time she sees her. Smith is small, and the odds of people running into each other are fairly high.
What Rachel does remember is her asinine haircut: a half-shaved, asymmetrical up/down do. On a scale of 'one to pretty gay', it's beyond gay. And ridiculous. "How do people let themselves leave the house like that?" Rachel muttered to herself before taking a seat in the middle of the second row.
It doesn't get any better after that. Even though the girl isn't as loud or obnoxious as "That Girl"s tend to be, the cockiness rolls off her in waves. It's in her black combat boots, in her perfectly layered shirt-top-scarf-jackets, and - perhaps most irritating of all, the intelligence that comes out of her mouth sounding like it's been edited by JSTOR.
No one here is stupid, Rachel knows. They're all extremely driven and capable women (for the most part) and it drives her nuts knowing the dirty blonde at the end of the row behind her is spurring such quality conversation because it should be her.
Rachel Berry came to Smith College to exceed. To excel. To challenge herself in a mass of talented and intelligent women. She didn't work her ass off in Ohio double-booking extracurriculars and AP classes just so she could be competent in class. It should be Rachel saying those ideas first and it should be Rachel who starts the rest of the class engaging a particular line of thought but it's goddamn Quinn Fabray who steals it right from under her.
It leaves her fuming.
It wasn't hard to figure out who Quinn was. It's a small campus, after all, and if it's one thing that travels faster than Primal Scream, it's finding out who someone is.
Odds are someone in her house knows, and sure enough, Brittany sits on House Council with Quinn's old roommate. "Q? Yeah, I've met her a couple times. Super awesome, but not the chattiest. Used to be on the crew team but quit halfway through first year." Brittany's about to leave for her dance class, but not before asking, "You're coming to the house meeting tomorrow night, right?"
Rachel assures her she will before heading off to a Smiffenpoofs' rehearsal. She's running two minutes behind and it's in keeping with the day's theme- Irritating. She hopes that singing will knock off some of the stress.
She tries not to let it get to her.
One day she comes in later than her usual ten minutes early, and Quinn is slouched in her seat reading a worn copy of The Phantom Tollbooth and if the air of confidence she exudes isn't enough, there's a goddamn lollipop in her mouth.
Rachel pauses and take a deep breath before continuing to her seat. She tries to busy herself by looking through class notes while waiting for other students to trickle in and she's irritated to find herself glancing at Quinn. After flipping through the notebook uselessly, she looks over her shoulder and sees Quinn staring right back at her. She flushes immediately, and whips her head back to the front of the classroom, never before so grateful to see Professor Quashy walk in.
Despite the amount of time Rachel devotes to being hyper-aware of the incessant .ness that is Quinn Fabray, she never manages to see her outside of class. It's like Quinn disappears into a vacuum. She's never in the Campus Center, the paths around campus, any student groups or organizations, or at meals.
It seems that their entire lives overlap only in Seelye 206 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9-10:30am. Rachel's more than happy with that arrangement.
So when she walks downtown to enjoy her weekly Sunday morning coffee at Woodstar Cafe, she's both genuinely surprised and perturbed to see Quinn there as well. She's sitting at a corner table with a laptop and (Rachel rolls her eyes, of course) a chunky pair of headphones atop a baggy knit cap. Rachel skirts into line quickly, careful to appear as innocuous as possible without getting caught looking in Quinn's general direction.
She can't help but notice, though, that Quinn's tongue sticks out the corner of her mouth when she's concentrating or how she shakes her head to flick the bangs out of her eyes. It's unsettling, why Rachel notices this, so she instead focuses on choosing from the multitude of vegan desserts and baked goods in the display. She settles on a lemon poppyseed scone and grabs her coffee before heading back to campus.
Rachel's halfway up the stairs in Chapin before Tina, on her way down, grabs her. "Hey, listen. You owe me. Come to the Gardiner party this Friday night, WOZQ has me DJing." Rachel's mouth is halfway open to protest when Tina interrupts, "Nah ah. I came to the last two of your performances and even brought Amherst Mike with me, so between the two of us, it was four shows. Suck it up and be there."
Tina hops down the stairs while she stands in the stairwell, gaping. And just like that, Rachel Berry is stuck going to a Gardiner Party.
Rachel is not one for parties.
She finds them generally distasteful, and would much rather engage personality and intellect without taking a nosedive into a red plastic cup. It's frustrating, to say the least, that her generation seems to make debauchery and drunkenness a standard protocol of social interaction.
But it's absolutely mindboggling to her how people do it on a regular basis.
Going out is exhausting. The evening shouldn't start at 10:30, it should be winding down. Plus, yelling all night to make small talk combined with the alcohol and sleep deprivation just aren't good for her voice. She has no idea how her friends stay out until 2 or 3am and manage to wake up at 8 the next morning, perky and full of fucking sunshine.
But for Tina? Well, she did go out of her way to befriend her obnoxious self back in the beginning of first year. While she's mellowed considerably, Rachel admits her uptightness and general behavior were off-putting at best.
They'll be performing together in the Vagina Monologues later this year, so she needs to keep up the relationships in her life that are positive, supportive, and expose her to new things.
Even if they're slightly out of her comfort zone.
And right now, having waited in the line outside for almost an hour before making it into the party only to find she's completely alone, is far outside her comfort zone.
It's hard to not immediately resort back to feeling like the girl she used to be a few years ago. The insecurity of being a rather lonely, dorky individual for the bulk of her formative years comes flooding back and she grabs a drink to anchor herself to the moment. She's in college, for godsakes, not 12 years old anymore.
Downing the cup quickly, Rachel gets another before heading through the crowd to the DJ table. Sure enough, Tina's there, looking very much in her element, and she gives a little wave before going back to her laptop. Rachel waves back and tries not to look like she absolutely loathes being there.
Feigning a confidence she doesn't feel, she sweeps the room, looking to see if there's anyone here she could latch herself onto. A few faces seem familiar, but even as she walks around, there's no one she knows well enough to talk to. Mostly she tries to smile and bounce awkwardly to the beat, but three more drinks later, it's time to head to the bathroom.
Rachel may pack a lot of power into her small frame, but the alcohol in her system has officially brought her past tipsy. She's pretty well into drunk territory when she emerges and sees Quinn leaning against the wall, looking bored, or possibly just inebriated, waiting in the bathroom line.
Rachel snorts, "Of course you're here."
Quinn turns and looks surprised to see her. "Hey, Rach. What's up?"
"Nothing too much. Breaking the seal, apparently," she says pointing to the bathroom. "Clearly we have similar goals."
Quinn snorts, takes a sip of her drink and winks, "Nah, that ship sailed a long time ago."
Horrified at the double-entendre, Rachel's mouth opens in shock before irritation gets the better of her.
"What is with you," she snaps. "Why do you always have do be so ceaselessly arrogant. It's obnoxious."
If her words are making any sort of impact, Quinn doesn't appear to be bothered. She continues to stand there, looking so ..cool. It's disgusting how cool she looks. "Do you ever tire of yourself?"
Quinn smirks. She actually smirks. "Why, what's getting to you, Berry?"
"Just so you know," Rachel leans forward and jabs Quinn's chest, "I have perfectly intelligent things to say without you getting in the way."
She throws her hands in the air as if giving up. "Do you have to single-handedly own the English Department?"
Quinn leans back and folds her arms. "Actually, I'm an engineering major."
Rachel gapes for a moment. That was not what she was expecting at all, despite having learned at Smith first and foremost that appearances do not make a person and that most things in life are social constructs. She brightens a bit at her drunken revelation and gasps, "so that's why I never see you, you're always in Ford!" before realizing her mistake.
Quinn gives her a look. "You've been following me?"
Rachel fires back, "No, I most certainly have not. And by the very definition of your major, there'd be nowhere to even follow you to given that 90% of your time is spent locked in that building doing something vaguely science-y."
Before she can continue making a fool of herself, there comes a perky voice from behind. "Hi, Rachel! Looks like you found Q after all. Did you guys make out yet?"
Fuming, Rachel spins around. Brittany's linked arms with a hot Latina Rachel knows from Smithereens. The girl can sing. But if steam could blow from her ears, it would. "Brittany," she hisses, "what the ever-loving fuck?!"
Santana looks pissed. "Hey, watch it. I don't care if you're Carol fucking Christ, don't talk to Britt like that."
Brittany smiles, and pats Santana's arm. "Don't worry San, Rachel's nice, even if she's drunk and sexually frustrated."
Rachel is beyond horrified. "Excuse me?" she gapes.
Santana smirks while Brittany shrugs, "What? You've been asking about her a lot and I just think getting laid would be good for you, that's all." She gives Rachel a quick hug before pulling back, "C'mon, San, let's go dance."
She'd rather be dead. She'd rather die having never made it to her Senior Thesis performance than be alive right now. In front of Quinn. After that.
Rachel closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. Before she knows what's happening, suddenly there are hands on either side of her head and hot lips smashing against her own. Her eyes fly open, and she tries not to think too much about what it means that she's returning the kiss with fervor. Quinn's hands tangle in her hair as she pushes them back. Rachel collides with the wall and Quinn's mouth moves wetly down her neck.
Rachel's hands move, as if they can't grip anything fast enough, and she paws at Quinn's hips. When her hands kiss the skin between the bottom of Quinn's shirt and pants, there's a flutter in Rachel's heart she can't quite place. She's pulling Quinn's head back up to meet her own when she sees the tattoo and freezes. Right where her hand had been, on Quinn's hip, is another woman's name.
She sobers up quickly and pushes Quinn away. Shame and anger flood in, quickly quenching any fire that had run through her veins just moments before. "Jesus, Quinn, how could you!" she spits furiously, "I don't know what kind of game you're playing, but I'm not that kind of girl."
Quinn stands with her lips swollen, completely baffled, watching as Rachel storms away.
"Tina, I'm leaving," Rachel shouts as she speeds past the DJ table on her way to the door. She's met with a cold burst of air outside when someone grabs her arm.
She yanks her arm out of Quinn's grip, "I don't want to hear it, Quinn. I'm not someone's drunk, cheating mistake. So why don't you go back inside and find Beth."
Rachel's halfway between the Emerson arches when Quinn catches up to her again. "She's my daughter."
That stops her cold. "What?"
"Beth is my daughter."
The confusion is evident on her face. "Are .are you an Ada?"
Quinn barks a self-deprecating laugh and runs her hand through her hair. "No. I'm I'm your age."
"Then I'm not quite sure I understand."
Quinn squirms, looking uncomfortable. She lets out a sigh and asks gently, "look, is there maybe somewhere else we could talk about this?" Rachel nods, unsure of what to say exactly. Relief floods Quinn's face. "Ok, great. I live in Park, so let's just go there."
The walk is short, but it feels like forever before they make it up to her room on the second floor. Rachel sits on Quinn's bed, under a string of lights that gently glows.
Quinn sits down next to her and starts to talk.
Saturday morning Rachel wakes up with soft sunlight reflecting on crisp white sheets. It's warm, and she twists farther into the bed. On the dresser across the room is a tray with plates of food and some juice. A coffee maker is brewing in the corner and it smells divine.
On the floor beneath her, a mess of blonde hair sticks out of the covers on the air mattress.
"Hey," Rachel says softly, leaning her head on the edge of the bed. There's a shuffle, and Quinn turns to face her. "Hey, yourself."
"So, is this what an ex-pregnant cheerleader looks like in the morning?"
Quinn chuckles and props her head up on her arms, "If this is what one would look like after waking up early to go get you breakfast, then yes." She can just make out the tattoo under Quinn's arm, 'there are no wrong roads to anywhere.'
She grins stupidly, the smile blooms across her face and tickles her heart.
Quinn can't help but beam back. "Dig in," Quinn says, nodding towards the food. Her eyes twinkle.
Who would have ever thought.
Smith is small, and the odds of people running into each other are fairly high. Rachel doesn't actually remember the first time she sees her.
She remembers the first time she sees her.
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