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Starlight and Gardenias

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 Disclaimer: I, by no means, claim to own anything remotely related to the Glee Universe. No copyright infringement intended.


Starlight and Gardenias


Wednesday

Dearest Rachel,

This is the way I see it. I could sit here and tell you all the ways you set my heart ablaze, or I could explain just why the idea of going to Glee and seeing you with him makes me physically ill.

I'm sure you'd prefer the former, but I'm feeling a little too charged for starlight and gardenias right now. I get that you probably deserve one of those romantic, earth-moving declarations, but I can't. It wouldn't be right, given the fact that, well, our lives are as they are.

So, here it is.

Rachel Berry, I love you.

I don't know when it started, if there was an actual moment, or if it was always there but, one day, I woke up and said 'oh, there you are' and my life has been severely fucked up ever since.

I know you've noticed something's been bothering me, and I've just now decided to admit it to you in this letter, because I'm terrified of the day you figure it out. Because I think you will. You're a little too in tune with my broody moods than I'm comfortable with. Lately, I've been unable to hide anything from you, and this specific secret is tearing my insides to shreds.

Also, I think it will do me some good to get it off my chest. Maybe, if I write it all down, I won't have the burning urge to blurt it out every time I see you. It's one of the reasons I've been avoiding you. It's too dangerous to be alone with you, but it fucking hurts when I'm not alone with you. Hence, all the avoiding.

I'm many things, but a masochist is not one of them.

Well, I'm trying not to be one anymore.

Believe me, the last thing I want is to mess things up for you. I don't want that. You're happy, and I respect that. I do.

Well, I try to.

Most of the time.

The thing is that it breaks my heart whenever he doesn't treat you right. I mean, I shouldn't be allowed to judge. Sam and I ended badly, and I suppose I wasn't all that great to him in the end, but there was no point in holding onto something that wouldn't ever work in the long run.

I knew that. And, if Sam ever read this letter, he would probably blame you for the end of our relationship. If I'm being completely honest, and I'm trying to be; I'll have to admit that I blame you too. You've done something to me; something irreversible, and you don't even know it.

Lucky you.

So, it breaks my heart when you feel that you have to apologise for everything. I mean, have your likes and dislikes, damn well disagree if you want to. Stop leading in with all that 'this is dumb but' and 'it's probably stupid but' rubbish. What you think and desire matters. It's always mattered.

Goodness knows you're one of the only reasons I'm even walking right now.

It breaks my heart when you think of something and turn to look at him to tell him, but he isn't even looking at you. It breaks my heart that you think you have to dumb yourself down for him. It breaks my heart that he can't seem to hear you when you speak; and even when you don't speak.

I want to tell you that I hear you, Rachel. Even when you're not talking; I hear every word you do and don't say, whether they're directed at me or not.

And that's really the crux of it all, isn't it? I see you, and you see me. It's always been that way. Every time I think I can go unnoticed, you see me. I can't hide from you - not that I've ever wanted to. You know who I am behind everything everyone else thinks about me, and you still deem me worthy. I can't even explain how it feels to have you looking at me, giving me your full attention. It's amazing and overwhelming, and, Rachel Berry, I am so irrevocably in love with you.

I have this theory about how I could have missed it. It sounds plausible in my head, but only you can truly be the judge. See, I've determined that the reason I caught on so late is because you were always… just… there, constantly fighting against me. Every step I took.

It's always been that way for us, hasn't it?

We've always clashed, and I think it's why every feeling I had for you - the excitement and thrill of being in your presence and the way my mouth goes dry whenever I lay eyes on you - was always… confusing. I've always felt a lot when it comes to you, and it's taken me a little while to figure out the reason why.

Rachel Berry, the little spitfire, who refuses to let me be. I fought your friendship for so long, and then I just... gave in. And, now, I'm seeing clearly for the first time since I arrived in sleepy Lima, Ohio all those years ago.

It feels like I'm seeing you for the very first time.

And, I love what I see.

I truly, truly do.

I love that you have no idea how utterly magnificent you are. I love that you fold the corners of pages only in books that aren't your own. I love that, as twisted and out of control the world seems to me; one touch from you rights everything. I love that, even though you don't care much for the sport - and, yes, cheerleading is a sport - you still come and support me, and us. I love that your hair smells like strawberries. I love that your idea of fun is spending the day holed up in the auditorium, singing endless songs and ruffling through sheet music. I love that you can't hold your liquor.

I love that you miss Shelby, even though you'll never admit it. I love that you care so much about other beings. I love that you've never judged me for my failures and shortcomings. I love that you're unafraid to give me a good talking to. I love that your eyes sparkle when you're talking about your family. I love that your favourite colour is yellow. I love that you're afraid of flying. I love that you're so dedicated to your goals and dreams.

I love that you came to find me after the whole blowup with Finn and Noah. I love that you have such a kind, forgiving heart, willingly handing out second and third chances to all those you deem worthy. I love that you've given so much of yourself, remaining honest and true. I love that you still get so worked up when people try to give you nicknames - I'm studiously trying to ignore the more hateful ones that I would have burned from my brain if I could. I love that you always notice when something is wrong with me. I love that you force me to talk about things, instead of internalising everything. I love that you have no patience for my tactics of procrastination. I love that you tell me you're proud of me.

I love that you're exactly who you are, nothing more, nothing less.

I love all that you are, Rachel, and I hope that's enough.

It would be enough for me.

Talk about starlight and gardenias.

Clearly, I decided on the former.

This is more than I could have ever said in spoken words, talking to you as if I could handle making such a confession in person.

So here it is again: I love you, Rachel.

I want it to be big and monumental, possibly rob you of breath and silence you. I want the earth to shake from my confession, lightning to strike the ground and the wind to whip wildly. But I know none of that will happen.

Because I'm merely stating a fact; a cold, hard fact; something the great big world already knows. Time won't stop. It won't even hesitate. It already knows what I feel.

And, now, so do you.

I'm not telling you all of this because I expect something from you. I don't. I'm telling you because I can't keep living like this. You have to know. I had to tell you, so that I can try to move on. It will be difficult, I know, but all I want is for you to be happy. And, if he's the one to make you happy, what right do I have to stand in the way?

I'm just your closest friend.

If I'm even that after this letter.

I'd like to tell you not to worry about responding. If there's even a chance you could feel anything for me, then, by all means, tell me. If not, well, let's never mention this letter, all right? We'll just pretend it doesn't even exist. Just don't hold it against me, will you? It's not my fault you're so damn irresistible.

Just know that, whatever happens, I spend my days imagining my future with you, living each day as if it's a brand new adventure, learning new things about each other and discovering new ways to love the way I know we both deserve.

I can't say that I know how long it will take for me to get over all of this - or if I even want to - but please be patient with me. It took me years to fall in love with you; I suspect it'll take just about the same time for the reverse to happen. If it even can.

So, there it is. I'll admit that I feel a little better, but I don't think it'll last. In a few hours, I have to put on a brave face and face you and everyone else in Glee. You'll ask me if I'm all right, and I'll lie. I'll tell you I'm fine, when all I really want to say is 'I love you. I want to be with you. Leave him, and let's run away together. I can make you happy.'

Starlight and gardenias, Rachel.

Love,
Quinn

The blonde reads over the letter a further two times before she lets out a long, painful groan. What on earth is she thinking? There's absolutely no way in hell she can send this letter. She may as well just write up a contract and have them all sign it; signifying the end of their friendships, effective immediately.

This is stupid.

She is being stupid.

Despite her growing desire to hide herself away for the rest of her life, Quinn Fabray folds the letter, places it in an envelope, seals it and addresses it. She stares at it for a long moment, almost willing it to burst into flames.

It doesn't, of course.

With a huff, Quinn swipes her hand over the desk and drops the letter into the bin. She glares at it as if it's insulted her in some way, and then she stands, and starts to leave her bedroom. She stops to look at the bin one last time, still contemplating whether she should send it.

No.

It would only cause more trouble than its worth.

As the blonde turns and leaves the room, she fails to notice the slightly-older Fabray with large, suddenly-not-so-innocent hazel eyes rushing into the room after and plucking her sister's letter out of the bin, its destination already in mind.


One Year, Three Months and Six Days Later

Rachel,

I get that you're refusing to see me, and I get that you're mad at me right now. You definitely have every right to be. I've been selfish, and I definitely wasn't thinking about you when I was with her, and I'm sorry. You deserved better from me. You deserve better than me.

Which is why I've enclosed a letter with my own. It's from Quinn. It was delivered to you more than a year ago. You were out at the time, and I just couldn't resist when I recognised her handwriting. I'm not proud of what I did but I won't apologise for it. I deserved my chance with you. I know now that I should have known that I could never be what you needed.

Quinn doesn't know you never read the letter. She also doesn't know I did. It's one of the reasons why I've been so okay with her pulling away from all of us. I wanted to be selfish with you, and I was angry with her for daring to tell you she could feel anything for you.

Hate me for what I did now, but don't hate me for what I did then. I made a choice that I thought was right at the time, and I'm making another one now.

Read the letter, Rachel. I suspect she's still waiting for your reply.

Finn

The Quarterback reads over the letter once more before sealing it and getting to his feet with the intention of delivering the pages to the Berry home, knowing that Rachel is home for the summer after her first year at NYADA.

Finn Hudson can't help the sinking feeling threatening to descend over him. The moment he delivers this letter; any chance of reconciling with Rachel will be over.

It's what he deserves, surely. After the way he's treated her; after the way they ended; she deserves to find happiness. God only knows it's not with him. And, somehow, he'll have to suck it up and accept it if that happiness happens to be with Quinn Fabray.

Again, somehow, Finn will have to accept the role he may or may not have played in helping or preventing them both from getting to that elusive happiness.


Two Hours and Fourteen Minutes Later

Quinn

I'm coming to visit you tonight. Please be there. We need to talk.

Rachel

The brunette doesn't bother to read over the text message before sending it off, her mind reeling. Just what has she just read? Besides the letter from Finn, which she, admittedly, was tempted to throw out without reading, there was also a letter from Quinn. She held the thick envelope over the bin, ready to drop it in, but something about it made her stop and open it.

It screamed important.

And, boy, is it.

It explains a lot, that's for sure.

She suspected something happened with Quinn; something that made her pull away, but she wasn't able to figure out just what that was.

Not until now, that is.

Rachel Berry can't say how she would have responded had she been given Quinn's letter back then. The truth is that she was somewhat happy with Finn. To a degree, at least. He wasn't the most attentive significant other, but she learned to deal with it.

Enough to agree to marry him, even.

It's the fact that Quinn all but disappeared from their lives that made the cracks in their romantic relationship shine through. She acted almost as a buffer for them, offering Rachel advice on how to be patient and aiding Finn with being attentive, and she was the reason many fights were thwarted. She was the reason Rachel could accept Finn and his shortcomings.

Finn.

It's one thing to learn he's actually a cheating bastard, and another thing entirely to learn that all of it could have been avoided if he had better sense. Or, if the idiot hadn't opened her mail. Surely that was illegal.

Rachel checks her clock on the wall. She has some time before she has to leave to see Quinn. She has time to see Finn. Rachel makes the decision and quickly gathers her things to leave. She has a certain Quarterback to talk to.


Three Hours and Nine Minutes Later

Shelby,

I won't be able to stop by tonight as planned. Something important seems to have come up and it can't be avoided. Please tell Beth I'm sorry, and I'll definitely make it up to the both of you as soon as I can.

Quinn

The blonde quickly searches for spelling errors, and then sends the text message off with a slight grimace. She and Shelby have done well since Quinn graduated from high school and Shelby decided to give her another chance at being in Beth's life. She hates cutting out on family dinner, but whatever Rachel wants to discuss sounds important.

Once the message is safely on its way, Quinn Fabray opens another thread, and the sight of it actually makes her heart stutter. The moment it arrived, she descended into a mild panic. Experience has taught her that 'We need to talk' is always bound to be dangerous and she better be wary.

It's worse because the message comes from Rachel.

Rachel, who she hasn't seen in the six weeks she's been home for the summer. Rachel, who she barely talks to these days. Rachel, who she refuses to be left alone with. Rachel, who she is still, painfully, in love with.

Quinn doesn't know what Rachel could possibly want to talk about, which, she supposes, is what is so troubling to her. Maybe she's going to scold her for not seeing her for six weeks. She'll probably storm in here and demand to know why she's been avoiding her. Quinn knows her immediate response would be to tell her that she has to, in fear of grabbing her by the cheeks and kissing the air right out of her lungs.

But, she can't do that.

So, then, she'll lie; she'll make up some bogus excuse about holiday schoolwork or just losing track of time. They've worked before.

Only, the moment Quinn spies the look on Rachel's face when she finally arrives; she just knows no excuse will work this time around. In all honesty, she's a little afraid of Rachel's heavy frown, somewhat cold glare and bloodshot eyes. Has she been crying?

Quinn's immediate response to the sight of her is to draw her into a tight hug, but she stops herself by digging her fingernails into her palms. Every terrible scenario flashes through her mind, but it isn't until she starts to speak that the blonde really starts to panic.

"Why didn't you just tell me?"

Quinn is confused, that's a given, but she has the wherewithal not to speak. Rachel doesn't sound angry, just determined and, she supposes, hurt.

But why?

Rachel steps further into Quinn's bedroom, her eyes never once drifting away from where Quinn is seated behind her desk. "I mean, wasn't it a little irresponsible to send something that important in a letter?"

That makes Quinn frown. "Hello to you too, Rachel," she says, rising to her feet and turning slightly to face her. She perches herself on the edge of her desk and folds her arms across her chest, waiting for the brunette's greeting.

"Hi," Rachel says impatiently.

"Now, tell me what on earth you're talking about?"

Rachel moves towards her while she fishes the all-important letter out of her pocket. "Explain this to me," she says tiredly.

Quinn, thinking nothing of it, takes the paper from her and proceeds to read. Slowly, somewhat dangerously, her face loses all colour and, desperately trying not to react, Quinn raises her gaze to look at her. "Where did you get this?" she asks seriously.

It's Rachel's turn to frown. "It was sent to me more than a year ago."

Quinn blinks. "What?"

"Quinn?"

"I never sent this letter," she says automatically.

Rachel takes a step back, suddenly confused. "You didn't? That isn't your letter?"

Quinn drops the letter onto the desk, not wanting to touch it anymore. She knows she can lie, but that won't get her any of her own answers. And, really, maybe they do need to talk about this. Nothing about her love for Rachel has diminished, and it's threatening to eat her alive.

"I wrote the letter," Quinn confesses; "but I didn't send it. You were never supposed to know." As she finishes speaking, she thinks of what might have happened, and her anger spikes. "Frannie!"

It takes a moment for the older Fabray daughter to show herself, sticking her head through Quinn's open door. Her own eyes widen at the sight of Rachel, and she flushes at Quinn's cold glare.

"Frannie, tell me the truth," Quinn says firmly as she points to the papers on her desk; "did you send this letter to Rachel?"

Frannie blinks innocently. "Which letter is that, Quinn?"

Quinn's eyes narrow dangerously. "You damn well know which letter I'm talking about," she hisses. "The one that I distinctly remember throwing away."

The older blonde visibly cringes.

"Did you or did you not send this letter?"

It looks as if it physically hurts her to admit to her indiscretion. "I did."

For a moment, Quinn doesn't react. It's one thing to guess at what happened, and an entirely different thing to have it confirmed. If Frannie sent this letter more than a year ago, then why is Rachel bringing it up only now? Is she trying to hurt her?

"You can go now," Quinn says curtly, and Frannie quickly disappears from sight, just knowing she's going to get an earful from her kid sister later. Quinn turns her attention to Rachel, who looks equally perplexed.

"You never meant to send it?" Rachel asks, her voice sounding small and confused.

Quinn nods. "It doesn't matter now," she says, just managing to keep the emotion out of her voice. "If you've had it all this time, then I can only assume that you didn't say anything for a reason, so I'm just trying to figure out why you're bringing this all up now."

Rachel blinks, trying to get a handle on her thoughts. "I didn't know," she finally says.

"You didn't know what?"

"How you felt."

"But, if you have the letter - "

"I received the letter today, Quinn," she explains, cutting her off. "Finn had it this entire time."

Quinn's eyes bulge at the sound of that.

Finn knows?

Well, that definitely explains the way he always made it clear to Quinn that Rachel was his and nobody else's whenever they were all together.

"But...? I don't understand." Quinn mumbles, frowning in confusion.

"And you would if you'd bothered to talk to me in the last six weeks," she says stiffly.

Quinn drops her gaze, suddenly embarrassed.

"But I finally understand why you avoid me so much," Rachel says, profound understanding in her tone of voice. "Not that I condone it or anything like that."

"What's happened?" she asks quietly, somewhat nervously.

"I broke up with Finn," Rachel says quickly. "It was complicated and messy, but it's over now. Officially. Which is why I think he sent me your letter. Some kind of penance for cheating on me, maybe."

Quinn's eyes snap towards her. "He cheated on you?" she croaks in disbelief. Then, after clearing her throat, she practically growls. "How fucking stupid can he get?"

Rachel shrugs slightly. "We weren't a good fit," she says; "you could see that better than anyone, couldn't you?"

"That doesn't detract from the fact that he's a lying bastard," Quinn says hotly. "My experience has taught me that relationships are sacred; important things. I mean, who in their right mind would give you up?"

"You did."

"That's different," she dismisses, automatically getting on the defensive.

Rachel takes a small step towards her. "I didn't know, Quinn," she says gently. "I can't say that I know what I would have said had I read the letter back then, but I do know what I'm going to say now."

Quinn just waits, not trusting herself to speak. Rachel is suddenly very close to her, and she automatically unfolds her arms.

"I do prefer the former," Rachel finally says, smiling slightly, which goes a long way towards confusing Quinn even further.

"Huh?" Quinn begins, but is silenced when Rachel presses her lips to hers in a brief, firm kiss. Her brain shuts down, and her eyes close, as she loses herself in the feel and taste of Rachel.

When Rachel pulls away, she can't help the slight giggle that escapes her at the sight of the dazed look on Quinn's face.

"I still don't understand," Quinn manages to say. "You prefer the former?"

Rachel tilts her head to kiss Quinn's lips again - once, twice - and then she smiles contently. "Starlight and gardenias, Quinn," she says softly, happily. "Definitely starlight and gardenias."


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