Title: The Moral of Her Story
Prompt: “Your Prince Charming isn’t coming to rescue you in a horse and carriage, that’s not who you are. You’re looking for a man to be your partner. To take on the world with you. You’ve gotta update your fairytale baby.” – PuckRachel Drabble Meme on LJ by sarcastic_fina.
By the beginning of her second year in Manhattan, early autumn had quickly become Rachel Berry’s favorite season in the city. It was still warm enough to dress comfortably in shorts and t-shirts; but had just enough of a breeze to battle the stifling heat and humidity that the concrete encased city tended to suffer through during the summer months.
Eight years later and she was still amazed that she could sit in Central Park in the second week of October and all she needed was to throw a long sleeved shirt on as protection from the very slight chill in the early evening air. The weather was so different from what she was used to in Ohio; normally, this time of year she’d have already taken out sweaters and jackets, readying them for snow within a week or two.
Nine years she had been in Manhattan and other then that first insanely hot Indian Summer, the year she moved into her freshmen dorm, she hadn’t experienced a fall in New York that hadn’t been perfect.
“Thinking deep thoughts Ray?”
She almost laughed at the familiar voice that broke into her solitude on top of the rocks that overlooked the Lake. Only two people knew where to find her when she disappeared like she had earlier that day and she wasn’t the least bit surprised at the one that had come looking. This was Rachel’s thinking spot, as the interloper had pointed out, and Santana Lopez was the only person brave enough to risk interrupting.
“How’re you doing?”
“Fine,” Rachel replied quietly, knowing it was a waste of her own time to even attempt to ignore her roommate. The other woman might have only be a junior associate at her law firm but she had the determination of a title partner and Rachel didn’t have the energy to even attempt to win an argument – verbal or otherwise.
“Yep,” Rachel quipped back. “Fine.”
“That’s why you took off from the apartment in tears at noon today. The one day your show is dark and you usually use to get chores and shopping done.” Rachel raised an eyebrow and glanced slightly behind her at the other woman in question. “Marcus told me when I got home early.”
“Ah, Marcus,” Rachel breathed out. “Has anyone ever told him he’s a doorman and not a hired gossip?”
“Hey, I get my best info from that man,” Santana joked back, but the laughter immediately left her face when Rachel didn’t react. “Alright, what’s wrong?”
“Finn,” Rachel admitted darkly. “Don’t even say it.”
“Say what? I told you so? Okay, I won’t,” the Latina replied without any malice. “I will however ask what happened exactly.”
Rachel sighed and shook her head, turning her gaze forward once more towards the Lake, trying to order her thoughts so she could explain why she was hiding out at her refuge. Part of her wished with every fiber of her being that she and Santana hadn’t run into each other, with their parents, at a restaurant in Lima during the break following her first semester at NYU. She wished that they hadn’t gotten to talking to each other out of sheer politeness, again due to the presence of their parents. She really wished that she hadn’t found out that Santana was transferring from OSU-Lima to NYU for the next semester and needed a roommate; leading to her father’s mentioning that Rachel was living with the stereotypical college roommate from hell and was currently friendless as Kurt hadn’t been able to afford the move to New York for college.
“Stop pretending that you’re pissed that we’re friends and spit it out,” Santana snapped, smirk firmly in place like she too was remembering that first semester of living together when they had decided to go with a ‘devil-you-know’ scenario and had ended up finding an ‘off-campus’ apartment together by the end of the school year. An apartment they were still living in together well into their twenties.
“There’s nothing to explain San,” Rachel finally admitted. “You know what happened. I descended into full-on Rachel Berry crazy when Finn moved to New York last year to work for the radio station.”
“Okay? And as much as I openly hate you being with Finn Hudson; I live with you and he hasn’t been nearly as douchey as he was when we were kids. So, what’s with the tears earlier?”
“He proposed,” Rachel responded, almost laughing at the shocked look on her best friend’s face.
“And, umm, this is cause for crying?”
“He proposed ’cause he got a station manager job in Columbus. He wants me to quit the show and move back to Ohio.”
“You mean he got a job offer right?”
“No, he applied for a job in Columbus,” Rachel corrected. “Accepted it when offered and said he’d be there next month.”
“The fucker came to New York, only to move back to Ohio? What the hell is wrong with him?”
“Focus San! Fuck his job, what the hell am I supposed to do?”
“Tell him no! You can not leave,” Santana almost shrieked and not for the first time Rachel took all her wishes back that they hadn’t ever become friends. The stark horror on the other woman’s face at the idea of Rachel leaving Manhattan told the actress more then any words could of how much her friend loved her. “You did tell him no right?”
“I told him I had to think about it,” Rachel admitted quietly.
“You don’t have to think about shit. You’re twenty-seven and you just made it to Broadway six months ago. You’re originating a role that you played off-Broadway for two years. There is Tony buzz for you for next June. You are not leaving.”
“He’s supposed to be the one San,” Rachel insisted. “I mean, I thought I was wrong when we got to college and Finn was totally gone from my life. But, no one else has ever come along since. Not really. So, maybe I was right. That’s why I took a chance when he moved here last fall. I mean, it wasn’t a horrible year. He’s grown up a lot.”
“Obviously not enough,” Santana shot back. “Rachel, he asked you to give up Broadway to move to Ohio. Fuck that actually, he didn’t even ask. Not really. You don’t date someone for a year at twenty-seven years old and then just accept a job in another state without telling them it’s even on the table. I mean, what the hell does he expect you to do in Columbus?”
“Apparently,” Rachel drawled out. “He’ll be making enough that I won’t have to work.”
“Oh…well, gee, that sounds like fun. Can I be in the room when you tell Hiram and Leroy that the approximately two-hundred-fifty thousand dollars they spent on your undergraduate and graduate degrees at NYU was not necessary?”
“I didn’t say yes Santana!”
“Obviously! There was crying and running to the Rocks. Not crying and sex.”
“I just don’t know what to do,” Rachel finally spoke, after a long silence had stretched between the two friends. “What if this is my only chance?”
“Rach, I love you. You know that, but some days I wonder if you’ve matured at all from the starry-eyed girl in the choir room who thought the sun rose and set out of Finn Hudson’s ass.”
“Nice San,” Rachel replied with a dark laugh. “I’m trying to be serious here. I mean, shit, Noah hasn’t even talked to me since Finn showed up in our lives again.”
“And whose fault is that?”
Rachel sighed and ran a hand over her face before stiffly replying, “Not all mine.”
“No, alright. I’ll give you that,” Santana said softly. “You can’t really blame him either.”
“I can’t?” Rachel almost snapped, the betrayal from a year earlier bubbling up once more. “You were the one who got all excited when Noah moved out here after college for grad school. You told me he had waited years for me in high school. Well, I waited for four years of college for him and he moves out here with a girlfriend. A girlfriend neither of us even knew existed.”
“And I called him out on that shit. Loudly.”
Rachel smirked, remembering the play-by-play her roommate had given her of that argument a few days after Noah’s arrival in the girl’s city.
“I told him he was an asshole for basically stringing you along for four years, telling you how much you meant to him and then showing up with some pre-law bimbo.”
“So sayeth the lawyer.”
“And I whooped her ass come graduation from Columbia thank you very much,” Santana muttered. “But Rachel, I told you, he was scared. They broke up six months after moving here and you just, you pushed him straight into the friend-zone. You guys were finally moving out of it and Finn shows up and I lose my puckleberry!”
“Sorry,” Rachel mumbled. “I forgot it was all about you.” She heard her friend sigh and reached over to squeeze the taller girl’s hand lightly in apology. “You know what I meant.”
“I know. Listen Rach,” Santana said, taking on a more serious tone. “You got back together with Finn because it was safe and, somewhat, dependable. That starry-eyed girl wanted the big fairy-tale she built up in her head at sixteen. But the thing is, you aren‘t her anymore even if you really want to be. Finn isn’t your Prince.”
“Then who am I? I’d love to know that since you apparently know. And why the hell can’t I have nice and safe and dependable?”
“Because you don’t want it.YourPrince Charming isn’t coming to rescue you in a horse and carriage, that’s not who you are. You’re looking for a man to be your partner. To take on the world withyou. You know all this already Rachel; that’s why none of your relationships have ever moved past date three. You don’t want the guy who’s going to take you away from all the ‘crazy’; you want the guy who’s in the thick of it. You don’t want the station manager of some rinky-dink radio station in Ohio; you want the sports editor of the New York Times.”
“Oh really? Getting a bit specific there huh San?”
“Yea well, Puck got promoted last month,” Santana dead-panned and laughed a bit at the surprised look on Rachel’s face. The laughter fell away and was once again replaced with a completely serious look as she continued, “You’ve gotta update your fairytale, baby.”
“Well, I would, except, the sports editor of the New York Times doesn’t want me.”
“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Santana whispered and nudged Rachel before pointing down to a bench facing the lake where Rachel saw a lone figure, a very familiar figure she had only seen in passing over the last year, sitting and staring out across the water. “Don’t get mad, but, I called him earlier.”
“Why?” Rachel asked in shock.
“Because, you both need each other and I need my best friends to be happy. I’m sick of being surrounded by miserable, whiny bitches. I get it enough at work.”
Rachel laughed and wiped away at the tears that had formed the second she recognized Noah’s silhouette. She thought she had cried herself out earlier; over leaving the city and her life and the people she had there, but mostly over the idea of finally, completely losing even the hope of Noah. She had felt like she was in a holding pattern that couldn’t be broken when it came to Noah Puckerman since she was eighteen and no matter what Santana had insisted over the last few years, before Finn (and during Finn), it wasn’t a breakable one.
The very idea of leaving two of the most important people in her life, the only people who knew her well enough to both be here at her refuge, had been most of the driving force behind her adamant refusal of Finn’s proposal earlier that day. But it had been the thought of saying no and still never having the love she felt for Noah, the love that she only really acknowledged to herself, reciprocated that had almost led her to say yes.
“What should I do?”
“Well, this is you we’re talking about so offering to fuck him on the park bench is probably not what I should suggest. How about you go over and say hi and see what happens.”
Rachel couldn’t help the eye roll that she cast in her friend’s direction as she stood up and carefully made her way down the steep rocks in her flip flops. The sun had finally begun it’s final descent and the early evening shadows were making her worry that her understudy had cast any type of wishes for Rachel to break her neck recently. When she was finally safely on flat ground Rachel glanced up again and chuckled at the shoo-ing motion Santana cast in her direction before doing as she was told and making her way towards Noah’s bench.
She paused slightly behind him and for a moment it felt like whatever constricting band she had been wearing around her chest for a year released. They had only seen each other in passing at parties or events for mutual friends since Finn and Rachel had begun seeing each other again; no matter how hard Rachel had tried to hold on to their friendship and despite her slight anger still at that situation all she wanted to do was throw her arms around his familiar form and beg forgiveness and offer her own.
That last part because there was no way in hell Noah Puckerman was getting away with not apologizing for behaving like a petulant toddler who had a toy taken away.
“Hey Rach,” his rough voice broke through her quiet contemplation and if she hadn’t known that he registered her presence the second she had stopped behind him she would have jumped.
“Hey Noah,” she whispered back and walked around the bench to sit beside him. “So, San thinks I should offer to fuck you into the bench.”
“I’m down with that,” he joked back and tilted his head slightly to catch her eyes, smiling softly. “How’ve you been?”
“Oh, you know,” Rachel replied wiggling her hand to indicate she was ‘so-so’.
“Heard Finn’s an ass.”
“Yea, well,” she replied. “I’m not that shocked.”
“Liar,” Noah responded, his mouth turning from a smirk to a bright smile when she socked him in the shoulder. “I am sorry that he fucked up like he did.”
“No you aren’t,” Rachel shot back.
“Well, I’m sorry you got hurt. He should have known that you weren’t going to give up Broadway for anything.”
Rachel frowned and looked at him in confusion, “How’d you even know?”
“Finn’s not only an ass but he’s kind of a moron. He called me at the office after you turned him down and proceeded to explain what had happened and then asked what he did wrong.”
Rachel’s eyes widened for a moment and she had to stop herself from slapping her own forehead at the explanation. The reaction was almost instinctive and she blamed the fact that she had been playing the lead in a musical comedy, that relied heavily on physical comedy, for almost three years.
“Wow,” she muttered instead. “That was dumb.”
“Yup,” Noah agreed. “On the plus side I finally got to tell him what I really thought about him now that I know you guys were done. Umm, you did split up right?”
“Yea,” Rachel whispered. “We’re done. We were done a long time ago; I just didn’t think I had any other options anymore.”
“I’ve been an option forever Rach.”
“You’ve got a funny way of showing it Noah,” she shot back and didn’t feel the least bit guilty when he flinched. They both knew where and when they had messed up along the way and she saw no point in sugar coating it.
“I know,” he admitted, nodding slightly. “I miss my friend most of all though.”
“She misses you too,” Rachel responded and reached over to take his hand, intertwining their fingers. “But, Noah?”
“Yea?” he asked, sounding truly nervous.
“I don’t want to be friends anymore. I think we’ll kill each other.”
“Are you being deliberately obtuse?”
“No?” he questioned, not even bothering to pretend like he didn’t know what the words meant like he would have a few years earlier.
Rachel simply rolled her eyes and decided to update her fairytale, though perhaps not as colorfully as Santana probably wished she had (living with a slight voyeur had been interesting), by leaning over and kissing him firmly and hopefully leaving no question in his mind about what she had meant.
She pulled away with a laugh when loud cat-calls sounded behind her from a very recognizable voice.
“Right, so not friends,” Noah half-stammered out, staring at her in shock.
“Not friends,” she assured. “But, we’ve still got shit to sort out.”
“Yea, I know,” he quickly agreed, nodding his head. “But, I’m ready to work on it. No bull-shit, no dancing around it. I love you Rach. Have for a while now.”
“I love you too Noah,” she replied softly. A second later she smirked, a mirror of the expression on the man whose hand she was holding, and shouted, “I love you too Santana!”
“You fucking better!”
Rachel and Noah both laughed at the return scream and settled back onto the bench, his arm quickly wrapping around her shoulders as her head settled onto one of his, so they could watch the sunset and enjoy the last few minutes they had alone together before the familiar form of their other best friend plopped herself down on Rachel’s other side and began voicing the, ‘I told you so’s’ she had been holding back for years.