Failure does not suit Rachel Berry.
She’s not Rachel Berry anymore, though. Not really. Which is kind of the whole problem. She’s no longer the bright-eyed, confident singer who was ready to take the world by storm, who refused to take ‘no’ for an answer.
Will takes in the sleeping form beside him, and, if he squints hard enough, he can almost see the determined look that used to be ever-present on her face. As Rachel Berry conquered the world, one step at a time.
Now she’s just Rachel, and far from conquering the world, she’s close to letting the world conquer her.
It’s been nearly a year since she left New York City and came home to Lima, and she still hasn’t flat-out told Will why. He knows she’s made all kinds of excuses to different people, but for him, she didn’t bother to spin a story. It’s not too hard to guess, though, what really did it; he thinks she just got tired of rejection, tired of being told ‘no’ and having to brush it off like it wasn’t a big deal.
She initially reached out to him because she’d figured, hey, she was in Lima—might as well see if the New Directions needed an assistant coach.
And unlike all those producers, Will said ‘yes.’ Will said ‘of course,’ even added a ‘please’ for good measure because that was what she deserved from the world, and he was determined to make sure someone gave it to her.
The kids were not quite so enthusiastic. One of the cheerleaders was the worst, making countless disrespectful comments about how Rachel was a failure—the most vitriolic of which she always threw out when she knew Rachel was within earshot.
So Rachel bowed out of New Directions, but she stayed in Will’s life. He wasn’t sure she would; he knew she likely felt embarrassed about it all, even though he wasn’t fazed.
Apparently, she was lonelier than she was embarrassed, because she broke down and called him after a week.
“Let’s hang out. Get drinks.”
Will couldn’t say what prompted them to start sleeping together, because it didn’t happen right away. They were both too sensible for it to happen right away. Rachel still smarted from the spectacle of her sophomore year crush, and Will…
Frankly – as bad as it was to say – Will was happy to have a friend around who also knew what it was like to have the Broadway dream knocked out of them.
Even that thought was enough to tell him that Rachel deserved better. She deserved better than moping around Lima with Will as they wallowed in their own self-pity together.
She kissed him one night when she’d had one too many. Will pushed her away, of course, but told her…
“Talk to me when we’re sober.”
He couldn’t have guessed what compelled him to qualify it. Rachel was lost enough. She didn’t need to lose herself in him.
But Rachel knocked on Will’s door the next morning when his eyes were still sparking and his ears were still ringing with his hangover and she kissed him and he lost himself in her, all in one go.
There were things that they both knew, that neither of them talked about, and not just that Rachel returned to Lima because New York had broken her.
They knew that Rachel never slept over because Will was her only friend in Lima, and she didn’t want her dads to wonder.
They knew that if this ended badly, it would ruin them both.
They knew that if it lasted, it would ruin any lingering plans of returning to Broadway that Rachel had.
And even so, Will rolled across his bed one night as Rachel retrieved her bra from the floor. He stilled her hands on the clasp, pressed a kiss to her stomach, and mumbled, “Stay.”
Will wonders, quite often, whether he’s being selfish.
No matter how much he tries not to, he also wonders whether this would have just been a phase if it hadn’t been for him. Perhaps Rachel Berry would be back in New York if it hadn’t been for him. Rested and ready for a fight.
“Will.” Rachel’s voice pours over him as the pads of her fingers graze his arm. “What’re you still doing awake?”
Her words are warm, slightly raspy from sleep, and it’s enough to make Will’s throat tight.
“Just thinking,” he whispers.
“Well go back to sleep. I can’t hear myself count Barbras over your mind shouting.”
Anything for her.
Well, almost anything. He isn’t sure he’ll ever bring himself to send her back to New York, even though that’s what she deserves most of all.