“Rachel,” Kurt hisses. “This is not going according to plan.” Rachel turns, meeting her best friend’s gaze over the rim of her third glass of horribly mediocre champagne.
“Really? I think it’s going wonderfully,” she comments. “Noah Puckerman tried to convince me to dance with him. It was quite satisfying to elegantly yet rudely refuse him.”
“Look over there,” Kurt says. He points to the other side of the gymnasium, where tables covered in various cookies and refreshments are set up. “See that guy Blaine is talking to? The really tall one with the blond crew cut?” Rachel follows Kurt’s arm and sees Blaine laughing, politely yet genuinely, at something the absolute giant standing next to him just said. The blond is at least six foot six, towering over Blaine almost comically.
“You know, I thought you and Blaine overcame the jealousy issue after the Sebastian fiasco,” Rachel says. Kurt rolls his eyes.
“It’s not jealousy,” he corrects. “That guy? That’s Eddie Karofsky.” Rachel frowns.
“I didn’t know that Dave had a brother,” she says. Kurt shakes his head.
“Not his brother,” he snaps. “His husband.”
“Exactly! After everything he put me through in high school, he came out and now he’s married and well-adjusted!”
“Well,” Rachel says, sipping her cheap champagne. “If it makes you feel any better, he married someone so freakishly tall that one could debate his status as part of the human species.”
“It doesn’t,” Kurt grumbles.
“Also, your husband is way hotter than his.” Kurt smirks at that, looking across the room at Blaine once more. Blaine glances up and grins at them, raising his glass.
“I’ll drink to that,” Kurt laughs, raising his own drink in return before taking a long sip.
“Glad to help,” Rachel quips. “Now, I’m off to flaunt my wealth in the face of my old classmates. Go reclaim your husband from Karofsky’s mutant partner.” With that, she strides away, fully planning to return to the dance floor and seek out Mike Chang (because, although they were never friends in high school, he had been kinder than the majority of his football teammates, and a chance to dance with a man who had toured with Beyonce is not one Rachel is willing to pass up).
However, she’s only pushing past the drinks table when a familiar voice from behind her says, “Rachel?” The woman in question freezes in place, instantly recognizing that lilting tone, with its careful enunciation and that slight rasp that Rachel had always found unfortunately attractive.
Not me, not me, Rachel chants to herself. Some other Rachel.
“Rachel Berry?” the voice clarifies. Yes, me, Rachel reluctantly admits. She turns slowly, suddenly feeling all too small and horribly inadequate in her four inch heels and designer dress.
“Hello, Quinn,” she mutters, barely keeping the half-bitter, half-nervous tremor from her voice.
“How long has it been?” Quinn asks, stepping forward and smiling. She looks so good that it makes Rachel’s chest ache a bit; her hair is as short as it was early in their senior year (although not pink, which Rachel is silently thankful for; she’s not entirely sure she would survive that), and she’s wrapped in a dress that would make her ninth-grade, abrasively Christian self blush (or, more probably, call her a slut; ninth-grade Quinn wasn’t particularly tactful, or kind, for that matter).
“Ten years, according to the banner out front,” Rachel says dryly. Quinn half-smiles, half-winces at that.
“Actually, about a year and a half,” she says. Rachel stares at her blankly. Quinn looks down, uncharacteristically bashful, and the shyness on her face makes the existing dull ache in Rachel’s chest turn to a sharp pain, like her ribs have turned sharp. “I saw you in West Side Story,” Quinn explains, answering the unspoken question on Rachel’s face.
“…oh,” Rachel murmurs.
“Yeah,” Quinn laughs a bit. “I was in New York and I saw your name on the program. You were amazing, Rachel. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Thank you,” Rachel says automatically. She’s on autopilot, her mouth being polite on its own while her mind whirls at a million miles an hour, screaming what is happening and how am I supposed to feel on repeat. “So where did you end up?”
“Connecticut still,” Quinn says. “I graduated from Yale, but…well. Plans changed. I’m in Hartford now. I got my teaching certificate. I teach second grade.”
“Second grade,” Rachel echoes, her mind still spinning. “Wow. I can’t say I ever pictured you as a teacher, let alone second grade.” Quinn shrugs.
“I didn’t either,” she says. “But I felt…I don’t know. Drawn to it, I suppose. As for why…you would know just as well as I do.” Rachel nods, and forces her mind to quiet for a moment, long enough to step forward and place a gentle hand on Quinn’s arm comfortingly. For half a second, it seems like the moment will end. Then Quinn lifts her other hand, gently taking Rachel’s hand from her arm and tangling their fingers together.
“I’m glad you made it, Rachel,” she says, squeezing her hand lightly. “You deserve to watch your dreams come true. More than anyone else here. You’ve earned every minute of it.” Before Rachel can even thank her, she lets their hands drop and walks away.
“Rachel?” It’s Kurt this time, walking up behind her, holding Blaine’s hand. “Was that Quinn?” Rachel turns slowly, still half in shock.
“Yeah,” she murmurs. “Yeah, it was. I, um…” She shakes her head disbelievingly. “I think she was flirting with me.” Blaine and Kurt exchange looks. “What?” Rachel says. Kurt looks away. “What’s going on?”
“Kurt didn’t want to tell you this,” Blaine says, ignoring Kurt’s hissed admonishment. “Quinn came out years ago.”
“…what?” is all Rachel can manage. Kurt sighs and looks away from glaring at Blaine to gaze at Rachel sympathetically.
“Senior year of college,” he says. “She told Brittany Pierce, and Brittany told Santana, and she told Sam Evans, and he told Finn, and–“
“And everyone knew except me,” Rachel interrupts. Kurt nods, shamefaced.
“I’m sorry,” he says, releasing Blaine’s hand to reach out and grip her arms. “ I–I knew it would hurt you to hear it, and I knew you would think you weren’t–“
“I get it,” Rachel says over him, cutting off his next words before her current thoughts come pouring out of his mouth. “I understand why you didn’t tell me. I just…I forgave her a long time ago, for everything she put me through in high school. But…”
“You still haven’t forgiven her for the rest,” Kurt completes. “The summer after senior year.” Rachel nods. “Maybe you should try,” he tells her gently. “We’ve all grown up since then. And aren’t you the one who’s always on about second chances?”
“We both know she reached her second thousandth chance ten years ago,” Rachel mutters. Kurt turns them towards the drinks table, throwing an arm around her shoulders.
“I know,” he agrees. “But last time I checked, for some unfathomable reason, you still thought she was worth it.”
“A high school reunion?” Kurt Hummel parrots his best friend’s words back to her with a distinct edge to his voice that may not quite qualify as mocking, but certainly falls on the derisive side of disbelief.
“Yes,” Rachel Berry confirms, crossing her arms stubbornly.
“A high school reunion,” Kurt repeats. “You want to return to Lima, not for a holiday or a birthday or any other reasonable purpose, but to go see all the people who made our lives hell at McKinley, ten years after the fact. Why? Didn’t they mock you enough for singing before you made a career out of it?”
“Didn’t they mock me enough for being gay before I became a fashion designer and, I don’t know, married a man!?”
“Rachel, what possible justification could you have for wanting to go back there?”
“It’ll be satisfying!”
“Satisfying,” Kurt deadpans.
“Yes, satisfying,” Rachel says. “Think about it, Kurt. We pull up in a limo, in clothing you designed, and rub it in every single bully’s face that we made it and they didn’t. We’re living out our dreams, and last I heard, Noah Puckerman cleans pools in L.A. for a living.” Kurt hesitates. Rachel sees her opportunity, and pushes once more, with the words she knows will convince him. “You remember Dave Karofsky?” Kurt nods, jaw tightening at the name. “Think about how utterly priceless his face will be when you walk in with Blaine on your arm.” A small, sly grin begins to form on Kurt’s face.
“Rachel,” he says. “Have I ever told you how delightfully petty you are?” Rachel smiles twice as wide back at him.
“I love you, too,” she chirps. “Now, I’ll pay for lunch. You go call your husband and inform him that we have some long overdue revenge to indulge in.” Kurt begins to stand, but turns and gives Rachel a piercing look.
“And this high school reunion scheme has nothing to do with seeing a certain individual we went to high school with again?” he questions. “And certainly nothing to do with subtly letting said individual know that you’re single?” Rachel frowns at him.
“That’s in the past, Kurt,” she reminds him. “It was lifetimes ago. I’m over it.” Kurt looks at her knowingly.
“And the fact that you’re over it is why not a single relationship of yours since high school has lasted more than six months,” he says. Rachel glares at him.
“It’s not my fault no one can truly appreciate my riveting conversational abilities and wide array of talents,” she says.
“Or the fact that you live with your gay best friend and his husband.”
“Or that,” she agrees. “Really, though, Kurt. I’m over it. I just want to show up, look fabulous, and make all of our old tormentors jealous.” Kurt nods, but he looks at her as if he can see right through her (which he probably can; you can only lie so well after being best friends with someone for twelve years).
“Hey!” Kurt ignores the angry-sounding shout. The voice is vaguely familiar, but so is every single other voice in the gymnasium of McKinley High. He assumes, reasonably so, that the shouting isn’t directed at him. “Hey! Lady Hummel!” Kurt stiffens at the nickname.
“Santana,” he drawls, turning. Santana is marching up behind him, Brittany in tow. “Still using petty insults to disguise your own issues and insecurities, I see.” Santana grins wickedly, holding up her and Brittany’s joined hands so that Kurt can see the wedding ring where it glints on her finger.
“Nope,” she says, as close to cheerful as Santana ever gets. “Now I’m just mean because it’s fun.”
“What do you want?” Kurt snaps. “I’m not in the mood to play catch up with the insults, Santana.”
“I think you’ll want to hear this,” Brittany tells him. Kurt glances at her. She does seem slightly more…stable than she ever had in high school, and she had always been far nicer to him than Santana had.
“What is it?” he asks, relenting. Santana smiles again, and perhaps if Kurt was even the slightest bit less gay, he might’ve found it attractive, but as it is, her close resemblance to some sort of predatory cat playing with its prey unnerves him.
“You’re Berry’s best friend,” she says. “She told you about the summer after senior year, right?” He nods. “Did you see her talking to Quinn?” Another nod. “Well, Britt and me want a repeat performance. You in?” Kurt arches an eyebrow at her.
“Did Quinn bother to tell you how that summer ended?” he sneers. Santana rolls her eyes and crosses her arms.
“Repressed lesbian drama, moving across the country, yeah, yeah, yeah,” she says dismissively. “I’ve got a question for you. Have you ever seen Berry as happy as she was that summer? Because I’ve never seen Quinn like that, not before and not since.” Kurt hesitates.
“I’ve barely seen you since graduation,” Kurt comments, sipping his iced coffee. Rachel blushes, though for the life of him, Kurt can’t figure out why.
“I know,” she half-says, half-giggles. “I’ve been…busy.”
“Okay, what is going on?” Kurt says, his demanding tone softened by his fond smile at the sight of his best friend so happy. “Seriously. I’ve never seen you like this.” Rachel smiles, and for a moment, Kurt is staggered, leaning back in his chair, at the sheer joy pouring off of her in waves. It’s as if there’s suddenly a sun inside of her, its light streaming through her skin.
“I know,” she murmurs, gazing down at the flower drawn in the foam of her latte. “I’m just…” She makes a vague gesture with her hands.
“Rachel Berry at a loss for words,” Kurt says. “I never thought I would see the day.” She wraps her fingers around her mug, gazing off over his shoulder at the afternoon sun outside the window.
“I don’t really have the words for it,” she begins. “It’s like…I feel like I’ve spent my entire life on the edge of falling asleep, just waiting to finally rest. And now I’m having the most wonderful dream.”
“You’re not making any sense,” Kurt tells her. Rachel laughs again, and Kurt silently marvels at how relaxed his normally uptight, high-strung best friend is. She seems…
“At peace,” Rachel says, finally finding the right words for her emotions. “For the first time in my life. Like my soul has settled. I feel at peace.”
“No,” Kurt finally answers Santana. “Never. That summer was different.”
“So you’re in?” Santana demands. He bites his lip. If Rachel ever learns about this, she’ll never forgive you, his conscience whispers.
“No,” he decides. “I can’t do that. They’re grown women. If they’re meant to find their way back to each other, they will.” Santana snorts.
“Because that worked so well during the four years Quinn spent disguising her massive lady boner for Berry with slushies,” she drawls. Kurt rolls his eyes.
“Rachel tore herself apart with Quinn last time,” he says, unsure of why he’s bothering to justify himself to Santana, of all people. “I can’t contribute to that happening again.” Santana shakes her head at him.
“Whatever,” she says dismissively. “But when they get married and make lady babies, you don’t get to take any of the credit.” Kurt snorts.
“As if,” he says with a roll of his eyes.
“More likely than you think,” Santana insists. “Take a look.” She gestures towards the far side of the gym, and Kurt turns just in time to see Rachel and Quinn disappearing out the doors.
“Have fun, Lady Hummel,” Santana practically cackles. “I have feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. Come on, Brittany, let’s go cockblock Q and the hobbit.” With that, Santana pulls her wife off into the crowd. Brittany waves and smiles at Kurt. He waves back automatically, stunned.
“Hey,” Blaine says, sliding up beside him and slipping an arm around his waist.
“Hi,” Kurt murmurs, still staring blankly ahead of him. Blaine frowns.
“What’s wrong?” he asks. Kurt shakes his head slowly.
“This is either going to turn out wonderfully,” he begins. “Or go horribly, horribly wrong.”