“No. Absolutely not.”
“Quinn, honey, I think you’re being a little unreasonable. You know Santana’s not a threat.” Rachel shifts on the bed so the phone isn’t pressing painfully against her ear. From her new angle, she’s able to see the most recent picture of them together – framed, in gold, with red Sharpie hearts drawn all along the borders. Seeing Quinn’s smile helps center her during these frustrating conversations. “It’s a friend helping a friend, nothing more.”
“It’s A DATE.”
(Three hours earlier)
Rachel hears the door shut even louder than usual as Santana announces her entrance. Followed immediately by the even-louder-than-usual slamming of kitchen cabinets and the fridge door.
“Where the hell are my pudding cups?”
Rachel murmurs a hushed curse to herself and quickly grabs the 2 empty cups off her desk, burying them in the trash can under some wrappers. Apparently she’d been wrong to think the mysterious appearance of vegan pudding cups from the little bakery six blocks over was a peace offering from Santana. All Rachel had asked was that her roommate not treat the bathroom like her own personal closet or laundry room, leaving her soiled delicates all over the floor, because she’s tired of having to be the one to pick them up. But no, that sparked yet another of their heated “discussions” about shared domestic life, one that hasn’t yet been resolved. And after slipping on Santana’s green bra like a banana peel this morning, Rachel doesn’t feel as bad about eating her roommate’s food as she probably should.
“You’re home early,” she calls, as innocently as possible. It was barely seven, and Santana had dinner plans at six. Rachel remembers because Santana bragged about it incessantly all week.
“Yeah, well, she was lame.” Rachel hears the footsteps coming closer, and then Santana is flopping down on the bed next to her, shoes and all. “I mean, it’s not my fault the waiter was a complete, incompetent douchebag. You can’t work in public service if you cry that easily.”
“You made him cry?”
Santana shrugs. “Some people just cannot take criticism.”
Knowing her friend as she does, Rachel doubts it was just a passing comment on the poor man’s hairstyle. She probably eviscerated him.
“He’ll find a new job,” she then adds, and grabs a magazine off the nightstand.
Rachel gasps. “You got him fired? Santana! It’s a difficult world out there! You can’t just mess with someone’s livelihood like that! What if he has a family or children to feed?”
“Please. He was, like, 19.”
“Then I bet he was working hard to pay for an education.”
“Which he desperately needs,” she mumbles, closing her eyes.
Rachel shakes her head and grabs the magazine out of Santana’s hands, putting it out of reach. “You should be nicer to people.”
“You sound like Bethany.”
Rachel furrows her brow. “I thought her name was Stephanie.”
“Are you gonna see her again?”
Santana sits up and turns toward Rachel’s face of judgment, pointedly avoiding eye contact. “She didn’t even stay until dessert. Who misses dessert? It’s, like, the point of going on the date. Dessert, and then sex.”
It’s taking all of Rachel’s self-control not to roll up the magazine and smack her friend on the head with it. She rolls her eyes quickly, stifles her comments, and moves onward. “So, what, she just walked out? After you yelled at the waiter?”
“They brought me mashed potatoes. I didn’t order mashed potatoes. I didn’t WANT mashed potatoes. Ew. Please. I wanted my baked potato mashed, which is completely different, and he messed it up, so I simply informed him of his mistake. I mean, why is this so hard to understand? So I said, ‘You clearly need to go back to kindergarten, dude, because I’m pretty fucking sure you'll learn about potatoes and words.’ And she was all,” – Santana’s voice goes into a whiny mimic – “‘If you’re going to keep talking to him like that, then maybe I should leave.’ Um, whoa? You have the nerve to embarrass me in front of this lowlife? So I said, ‘Yeah, clearly you should,’ and I told her to give the waiter her number because they’re obviously perfect for each other.” Santana falls back down onto the pillow with a soft thud and crosses her arms.
Rachel lets all that sink in, and she doesn’t even know where to begin with a response. This is the third bad date Santana’s been on in two weeks. The common factor? Santana.
“I think,” she finally says, “now that you have some perspective on the situation, we can look at your last few dates and start to figure out where things went wrong. So we can keep it from happening again.” This is really as nicely and vaguely as she can put it. It’s crystal clear what the problem is. At least, it is to Rachel. And the rest of New York.
“What, keep people from being assmonkeys?”
“Well,” Rachel begins delicately. Now she’s the one sitting up to get a better view of her friend. Repositioning at the foot of the bed, she tucks her feet criss-cross and takes a deep breath. “I think…maybe…you might be the…assmonkey.” She flinches slightly at the word, having never uttered it before.
“Excuse me?” Santana sits up and leers squint-eyed at Rachel, ready to attack at any moment. “Let's try that again.”
“Sweetie, you’re my friend and I love you, but you have to realize…you’re kind of terrible with women.”
“Excuse me?” she repeats, even angrier now. “I am goddamn amazing in bed, I’ll have you know. Bitches line up around the block to get with this.”
Rachel shakes her head, waving her hands to start over. “Yes, yes I know, I’ve heard. Through the walls. Many, many times. Believe me. I’m just saying, on the date part, before that, you…could use some work.”
“Dates are stupid. It’s just a bunch of pointless small talk that nobody actually listens to or cares about, because you were gonna put out anyway, otherwise, why did you say you’d go?”
Rachel raises an eyebrow. “And yet, I can’t help but notice, you and Ms. Stephanie aren’t rounding second base right now. I wonder why that is?”
Santana narrows her eyes.
“What was the name of the girl from last week? The one who dropped you off because you had about five too many margaritas at Taco Tuesday?”
“SHE was fucking boring,” Santana says, pointing. “I’m sorry, but if your most interesting quality is that you named your nine hamsters after soap opera characters and watch them” – she does air quotes – “’act out scenes’, then I’m going to have to be hammered to sit within ten feet of you. What the hell is ‘slash’, anyway?”
“What about the bartender from that sleazy club? What was her name?”
“Sky? Or Cloud, or some hippie shit? She had all this weird stuff in her bag like a screwdriver and an AARP application and goldfish food and orange Tic Tacs. Nobody likes the orange ones.”
“You went through her bag when she was in the bathroom!” Rachel says, as if this concept is lost on Santana. “You can’t just do that!”
“Why not? She left it there. I was bored. And how else am I supposed to learn if someone is crazy? I have my methods.”
“Or Naomi,” Rachel redirects. “That was…not your finest hour and very much your fault.”
Santana reaches over to grab Rachel’s water glass and drinks about half of it as she shakes her head, mumbling a ‘nuh uh.’
“You literally said to her, ‘Nice shoes, wanna fuck?’”
Santana crosses her arms again. “Your point?”
Rachel laughs. “What are you, fifteen? You can’t say that to women!”
“Why not?” Santana shrugs. “I meant every word.”
Rachel’s face falls into her hands, then with another deep breath, she looks back and re-centers, gathering strength to take on this new project. “Okay. This is clearly more serious than I realized. But I’m going to help you with this, because, judging from the fact that I’m in a happy, loving, two-year relationship and you’re unable to complete a single meal with a girl, I think we can safely say that I’m the expert here when it comes to pleasing women.”
Santana’s eyes go wide as her face contorts into a terrible expression of rage Rachel’s never seen before, somehow, so she quickly continues to not give her roommate a chance to speak. Or yell. Or eat her alive.
“And so, I’m going to offer you my assistance and teach you what I know. Your happiness is important to me –“
But Santana’s already getting off the bed and walking out.
The slamming door seems a fitting bookend to the conversation.
Two hours later, as Rachel is brushing her teeth, Santana barges in and grabs the pair of panties Rachel didn’t realize she was standing on until her leg was pulled out from under her.
Santana doesn’t apologize. Nor does she pick up the bra by the bathtub. Or the one on the back of the toilet.
Rachel finishes and spits and rinses, then realizes Santana’s still standing there in the doorway. Setting down her toothbrush, Rachel turns and leans against the sink. “I just want to say, if I offended you earlier, I’m very—“
“Save it,” Santana says, cutting her off. “Most of the time I find you and Q’s levels of sappiness absolutely nauseating.” It’s a statement, and Rachel doesn’t know if that’s all she has to say or if this is going somewhere, but then Santana continues. “And there’s something kind of inherently fucked up about me taking lesbian advice from the girl who came out after me and chased Finn Hudson for three years—“
“While you slept with him,” Rachel adds with a touch of amusement.
“But I guess it’s true that a part of me kind of wants what you have, or whatever. I mean, not literally. No offense to Q.”
“I got it,” Rachel nods. The idea that Santana could steal Quinn away from her if she wanted to is pretty hilarious, but Rachel keeps that to herself.
“The not-having-to-date-random-people-anymore thing. And the constant sex part. I guess I wouldn’t mind,” Santana shrugs.
A smile creeps across Rachel’s face. “Well, then. My recommendation is a practice date.”
Santana looks confused. “With who?”
“Ugh, yeah, bye,” Santana says, holding up a hand as she turns to walk out.
“With me!” Rachel says as a plea to get her to stay. “You should go on a practice date with me.”
Santana’s still there, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better. “Did you sprinkle toilet cleaner on your salad again?”
“I’m serious,” Rachel says cheerfully. “Take me out to dinner, and I’ll tell you all the things you’re doing wrong.”
“Yeah, as fun as that sounds, I think I’ll go get my wisdom teeth removed instead.”
“Look, you want my advice, and I’ll gladly give it, but I need to actually be in the situation before I can comment effectively. It’s just like how running lines feels so much more real when you’re on stage compared to sitting in your room. You see new things about the scene, you feel new things, and you truly act the part. If I’m going to understand why your dates keep walking out on you, I need to experience what they do.”
“Whatever. But you’re paying.”
“I am not! You’re taking me out, so you’ll treat me like any other girl you date.”
Santana doesn’t seem to get the difference. “Right, so you’re paying. Santana Lopez does not buy her own food.”
Rachel’s forehead falls into her hand. Again.
Quinn’s certainly taking this latest development well.
“It’s A DATE.”
“Not a real date! Quinn, please. Give me a little credit. Even if we weren’t together, Santana has no game. I would never go out with her.”
Quinn laughs and doesn’t disagree.
“This is simply for science,” Rachel continues. “Because I am a very good friend.”
“Well, just don’t be too good of a friend. No hanky-panky”
“Congratulations on being the first person in fifty years to use that phrase,” Rachel chides.
“You’d better tell me everything that happens on this non-date. Everything.”
“I will spare you no details. But are you sure you want to know how good of a kisser she is?”
“That is not even a little bit funny,” Quinn says.
“But it’s my job to teach her proper dating etiquette, and if she manages to make it through the date successfully, the final step in many cases is to give a parting goodnight kiss. In which case, as her companion, I will be obligated to comply.” She feels a little bad for messing with Quinn like this, but she just can’t help herself.
Quinn’s quiet for a moment, then says, “If she manages to make it through?”
“Yes, if,” Rachel confirms.
Quinn’s voice is still a bit shaky and uncertain when she asks, “And do you think she’ll—“
“Oh, not a chance.” They both laugh, and Rachel can hear Quinn relax on the other end of the line. “Hey,” Rachel says. “I love you.”
“Love you, too. Good luck.”
Two nights later, Rachel’s putting the finishing touches on her makeup when Santana peeks her head into Rachel’s bedroom and says, agitated, “Are you ready to go or what?”
“You can’t be in here!” Rachel shouts, holding her hands in front of her face to shield it from view. She can’t cover her black dress, so, alas, that ship has sailed. “Go outside!”
“No, go into the hall,” Rachel says, frustrated that she can’t use her hands as she’s speaking.
Santana, however, is probably using her hand to deliver a choice gesture right about now. “I live here.”
“No, your date lives here, and you need to knock on her door. On time. So, go away so I can finish, and pick me up at seven like we agreed.”
Rachel can’t see Santana roll her eyes, but she thinks she can hear it over the frustrated mutterings in Spanish.
Ten minutes later, as Rachel’s clock shows 7:01, there is a knock at the door. She waits for a moment, counting slowly to thirty before going to answer it.
Santana’s wearing a stylish leather jacket and skirt, a red top that displays her best assets, and a scowl. “Took you long enough.”
“I was making it realistic. It’s not like we sit on the other side of the door like a puppy waiting for its owner to come home. Maybe I was looking for my other shoe.”
“I gave you those shoes to wear. An hour ago.”
“THE POINT IS,” Rachel says, holding her hands up, “I’m trying to make this as authentic as possible for the sake of your education. Do you want my help or not?”
“Not really, no,” Santana replies with her trademark fake-pleasant smarm.
“Well, that’s too bad, because you’re getting it. Let’s try this again.”
Rachel slides the door shut and waits on the other side, hands together in front of her, clutching her purse. It’s really such a cute bag; she picked it up at a new place uptown she discovered a few weeks ago but hasn’t had a chance to use it until now. It’s just the right size to hold her phone AND wallet without being bulky, and it doesn’t go with too many of her outfits, but it does go with enough, and, wait, why is she still standing here?
“You can knock on the door now.”
“Why? You already know I’m here, so open it already. I’m starving.”
Rachel sighs and says, “This only works if you really try, okay? Just, humor me? Pretty please?”
A few seconds later, three dull, unenthusiastic thuds sound from the door, and Rachel collects herself, getting into character, and takes a deep breath, putting on a smile.
Santana, meanwhile, couldn’t look more bored. “Can we please go?”
“Hi, you must be Santana,” Rachel says, extending a hand. “I’m Rachel. It’s nice to finally meet you after all of our online correspondence.”
“Sure, whatever,” Santana says and turns to walk toward the stairs.
“No! Come back. You’re going to do this right.”
“Look, we’ve already been standing here for like, three hours, and I wants to be getting my hot wings on, so just shut the damn door and let’s go.”
Rachel’s mouth falls open. “You’re taking me for hot wings?”
“It’s Super Wing Sunday,” Santana says, like it’s obvious.
Yet again, Rachel doesn’t know where to begin. “Okay, first of all, way too messy for a first date. You want to have an air of mystery, and that’s very hard to maintain when you’re licking hot sauce off your thumb.”
Santana starts to disagree but can’t get her first word out before--
“Secondly,” Rachel says, “I’m a vegan, which, if you didn’t already learn in our online correspondence, is your responsibility to learn now. It’s not rude to ask a few basic questions about diet. A little courtesy can go a long way. You should ask a girl where she’d like to eat, but already have a few places in mind if she says she doesn’t care. She does, but she wants to see what kind of places you like, and she’ll probably feel more comfortable choosing from your short list because then anything she selects is a winner. Or, she’ll have a short list of her own to choose from, if she’s the picky type, but then you’re safe choosing anything she suggests.”
“Wow, you really have a lot of time on your hands to think about this crap.”
“Yes, I have hours each weekend to think about courtship etiquette while Quinn is pleasuring me ora—“
“Hey, hey!” Santana waves her hands. “I’m supposed to be able to eat food after this, okay? Assuming we ever get out of this goddamn hallway. I’m starting to forget what food even looks like.”
“Then say ‘hello’ and tell me I look nice and ask where I want to go for dinner.”
Santana’s eyebrows go up, but Rachel gives her a look that makes it clear she’s not moving until Santana plays along. With an exaggerated sigh, Santana says, “Fine. Hey, I’m the hot piece of ass you ordered online. And judging from those heels and that whorish shade of lipstick, you must be mine. And I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling especially lesbian tonight, so, tacos?”
Rachel stares in disbelief. It’s going to be a very, very long night.
They’re sitting at a cozy little Italian place about twelve blocks away, which, thankfully, has candles on the table to help warm Rachel from the rain. Santana didn’t have an umbrella, or a raincoat, or even a newspaper she could hold over her head, so Rachel was glad at least she owned an umbrella they could use. But then, before they could actually get anywhere, she had to explain why it was polite for Santana to walk on the outside, nearer the cars, in case they sprayed water.
“Oh, so it’s okay for my outfit to get tsunamied, because, what, I’m the boy? Did my fantastic rack somehow escape your poor hobbit vision?”
Rachel closed her eyes and took a deep breath, remembering that she had a friend buried under the layers of spite and defensiveness. “There is no boy here, obviously, but it’s still your responsibility.”
“Because I’m taller?”
“Because I’m a woman of color?” Santana said, shocked.
“No!” Rachel gasped. “Why would –“
“Relax, Rachel. I’m fucking with you.”
Rachel’s eyes shrunk back down to their normal size as she took a steadying breath. “Oh. Good. It’s simply a sign of protectiveness of the girl you asked out. Chivalry’s not dead, just…evolved.”
But then, near the end of the first block, a taxi sprayed a perfect wave of brown water across Santana’s midsection, sending her into a full-blown, blackout rage. She couldn’t chase after it very well in her boots, but Rachel’s sure the driver of cab #0148 heard everything Santana had to say. Along with the rest of Bushwick.
Santana had to go change clothes, cursing and fuming the whole way, and Rachel called a cab in the meantime, so as to avoid a repeat performance if they tried walking again. They had barely left for dinner, and the night was already a disaster. Rachel had a sinking feeling she’d be coughing up the funds for their stagecoach, though it shouldn’t be much if they could agree on a place nearby.
But then the cab that arrived to get them was #0148, and Santana almost managed to break the windshield with Rachel’s purse. Rachel dragged her back inside and apologized profusely to the driver with a strong recommendation that he find a new part of town to work. It was ten more minutes before another cab came by, and they circled the neighborhood twice arguing about where to go before Rachel just asked to be let out on the next corner. She only had $14 cash on her for cab fare, so, $10 for travel plus a tip for the poor driver who’d endured their arguing. Which meant they were dropped in front of the smoke shop and the check cashing place, at least five blocks from the nearest restaurant.
And that’s why it took them an hour to reach Little Tony’s.
So far, Santana has done absolutely none of the things on Rachel’s list: compliment her dress, hold open doors, offer to help with her coat and chair, or initiate pleasant small talk as they wait for their drink order. Santana’s barely meeting the requirements of an outing with a friend, much less a date – things like ‘smiling’ and ‘acting like you wouldn’t rather be dead.’ Rachel’s prompting and correcting at each turn, but it’s becoming so much that even she feels it’s obnoxious.
When the waiter arrives to take their orders, Santana doesn’t check to see if Rachel’s even finished perusing the menu, just launches into a very terse lecture about how ‘Fettuccine alfredo really isn’t that difficult, so see if Tony Soprano back there can manage to not screw it up.’
“Dating tip number eighty-nine,” Rachel says after the waiter’s left, “If you want to impress a girl, try being a little less racist.”
“What? The place is called Tony’s.”
“Never mind,” Rachel shakes her head. “Okay, so. I’ve taken the liberty of preparing some note cards with possible topics you might want to discuss on a date with a stranger. I, of course, already know all these things about you, which is why I was able to list them in the first place, but it could be good for you to practice with me here so I can let you know if you say the wrong thing or take it in a dangerous direction. Or lie.”
Santana looks as if she’s contemplating Rachel’s offer, then begrudgingly extends an open hand. So pleased that Santana is finally warming up to her advice, Rachel gives the cards over with a smile and says, “I think you’ll find the topics strike a nice balance between being personal without overshar—“
But Santana’s holding a corner of the cards over the candle, lighting them on fire.
“Stop that!” Rachel shouts, and the other scattered patrons turn to look at her, but Santana doesn’t flinch. “I’m serious!” she whispers angrily.
Santana coolly raises the cards, now boasting a bright orange flame, and blows it out in a manner that she seems to think is attractive? A few ashes sprinkle into Rachel’s glass of ice water. Not attractive.
“What are you doing?” Rachel asks, irritated.
“I’m being sexy, Rachel, which is the entire point of a date.”
“No, the point is to get to know each other and see if you have a connection. Thankfully, you didn’t burn far enough to reach the words, so, if you would please start with card 1A and tell me about—“
Her words are interrupted by the sound of Santana ripping the cards into halves, then fourths. She tosses the pieces up in the air behind her and crosses her arms pointedly, looking very smug with a look that says ‘NOW what are you gonna do?’
“Hey!” calls the man at the table behind them. “Excuse me!”
“I’m SO sorry,” Rachel says, getting up to pick the pieces off the floor. And out of his wife’s hair. And lasagna. “My…friend has some self-control issues. Her doctor says she’s doing much better, we just need to adjust her medication as soon as possible. But we had to cancel our Friday appointment, and he can’t see us again until next Wednesday, so in the meantime we just—“
“RACHEL.” Santana’s glare is sharper than their provided utensils.
“Excuse me, I’m so sorry,” Rachel says politely to the couple and returns to her seat. She stuffs the little bits of paper into her purse. “I don’t know why you insist on making this so difficult.”
“And I don’t know why you think I’m going to play along with your little Knight in Shining Armor fantasy. Does Quinn really do all this crap?”
Rachel gives a small smile at the mention of her girlfriend’s name. “She does, actually. Not at first, but she learned quickly. It was one of the ways I knew she really liked me. She was really willing to try. She made the effort. It’s very appealing, you know.”
Santana takes a sip of water and gives Rachel a knowing look. “Mmm, sex appeal? Not exactly my problem.”
“Then what is?”
For a moment, all the surrounding noise in the restaurant comes into sharp focus as the question hangs in the air. Santana flinches and steels her expression as her defensive walls come back up. But then, in her way, she leaves a door open, shrugging and crossing her arms as she stares at the table.
Rachel doesn’t say anything, just waits to catch her eye and then prompts for her to say more.
“I don’t know, okay? It was easy with Brittany and after that it’s just…I don’t know. All the things she liked don’t seem to work on other girls. Everyone sucks.”
The waiter brings their food before Rachel can give a reply, so she politely thanks him instead on both of their behalves, as Santana is already stabbing angrily at her fettuccine.
“Okay, so,” Rachel says between bites of penne pesto, “You just need to learn what other girls like, and that’s why I’m here. If I were a complete stranger, what would you be doing right now?”
“Yes, and what else?”
Santana shovels another spoonful of pasta into her mouth and chews, saying, “Checking out her rack. Maybe trying to get her drunk.”
“Is that all these girls are to you?” Rachel asks, pointing with her fork. “Don’t you want to know who they are as people? Where they’re from? What they do with their spare time? What makes them happy? What they like?”
“Oh, I know what they like,” Santana says with a smirk.
“I’m serious. If you aren’t willing to get to know these girls, then I don’t blame them for not sticking around. You aren’t giving them any reason to.”
Santana’s face drops, but she quickly recovers and hides her hurt by refocusing on her dinner. After a minute or so of very awkward silence, Rachel starts thinking about her visit with Quinn next weekend. They’d had to skip this time so Quinn could focus on her portfolio due tomorrow, but Rachel’s heading up to New Haven Friday night right after—
“I’m from Ohio. You?”
Rachel snaps back into reality at the sound of Santana’s voice. It couldn’t sound less interested, but it’s a step in the right direction. This cause might not be as hopeless as Rachel thought, after all.
“She made you pay for the cab and dinner?”
Quinn’s got this mixed tone of anger and shock on the other end of the call, but Rachel’s laughing enough to keep her girlfriend from spiraling out of orbit.
“No! No, I made her pay for dinner. I felt like the cab was kind of my fault, since I told her to walk there, but dinner was completely her responsibility. I consider it the cost of the training course.”
“Well, it sounds like she still has a long way to go, but I don’t want you going on more dates with her. Alone, I mean."
"Someone's got to help her, Quinn. It's really bad."
"No, I know. Maybe she could spend more time with us together instead. We could all go to dinner and a movie or something. She could learn a thing or two. Watching, I mean. From far away.”
Santana pokes her head into Rachel’s room, looking like she needs to ask her something, but Rachel holds a ‘shh’ finger to her mouth and points at the phone. Her roommate simply leans against the doorframe looking unimpressed that she has to wait.
Rachel refocuses on her girlfriend and smiles, pulling the blanket higher over her as she curls her legs into a ball. “Quinn Fabray, are you asking me out on a date?”
“That depends,” comes the smooth reply. “Did—“
But Quinn’s cut off by Santana’s voice, yelling loudly from the doorway, “You should hit that, Q. She’s a damn good kisser.”
Rachel gasps and shouts, “Excuse you! You have no way of knowing that!” She lets Santana sneak away and immediately begins the damage control instead, reassuring her seething girlfriend that the faux date ended innocently enough, but it’s too late. Quinn’s blaring “I’M GOING TO FUCKING KILL YOU, SANTANA” is drowned out only by the raucous laughter coming from the hallway as Santana heads to bed.
Rachel runs a hand through her hair, tries to focus on all the progress made tonight, and then spends the next hour talking her precious, jealous girlfriend off the ledge. It’s well past midnight before she gets to sleep, which throws off her Monday morning significantly, and Rachel curses Santana’s name all the way to Starbucks. She would never promote violence, but she isn’t at all opposed to the idea of revenge.
It’s two full weeks before Santana finds the sizeable collection of abandoned delicates in the freezer.