Title: This City Is For Strangers
Rating: Boderline R
Summary: She tries so incredibly hard, and she wants so badly to grow up, but in this moment she's very, very sixteen.
Setting: After Like a Virgin in 'The Power of Madonna'
Author Notes: Well, I apologize in advance. I'm still getting the hang of the fandom and I have a feeling I should have attempted Rachel first. :) And, I should really start looking into the number of plot contrivances I seem to be able to fit in a single fic.
He opens the door and (yeah, well, hindsight is twenty-twenty).
"Rachel?" The thing is; he should have guessed. How many other people in his life would have tried developing a harmony through a repeated pattern on the doorbell?
He slumps against the frame, too tired to ask her how she got his new address. And he knew he'd partly opened the door because he'd thought it might be Emma again. Emma, who'd given him a stricken look, told him she couldn't do it, and had run away in the middle of their would-be lovemaking session. And now he's aching and aroused and Rachel Berry has the worst timing ever.
"Mr. Schue, I have something to say," she begins determinedly and his mind slips to another day, another time when she'd been inside his house and it strikes him with all the subtlety of Brittany trying to play a Beethoven symphony- this (whatever this is) is a really, really bad idea.
"Rachel, whatever you might have to say, I'm sure it can wait till the next Glee club meeting. I don't really think this is…"
"…appropriate," she ends, wryly, twisting her lips into the expression that's so familiar, he nearly smiles. Nearly. "Yes, Mr. Schue, I am aware you feel so. However, I was caught up in a dilemma and had it not concerned the Glee club, I wouldn't have come to you."
He glances over her head, at the blinding night outside, and common courtesy demands he call her in, but it's a self-preservation thing and he won't. "Right. Good. What is it?"
She stares at a fixed point, somewhere near his wall-clock, "Mr. Schue, I think this…thing…we have is disrupting my routine."
He stares at her blankly, "which thing who has is doing what?"
("Admit it Mr. Schue, you don't like me very much"). There are several things that annoy him about Rachel Berry. She makes him lose coherence, and mostly he's left standing as she walks out the door, like some badly made, straight-to-DVD-movie. And though she's his student and he's supposed to be the mature one in their mess of an almost-relationship (almost-friendship, almost-understanding, almost-sympathy, almost-a lot of things) there are times when he creates his set-lists just so she won't have the upper hand, and when he thinks about it (rarely) he hates the fact that she reduces him to high-school tactics.
"This," she points to herself, and then, almost reluctantly points her finger square at his chest, "I am extremely disappointed Mr. Schue, and as one professional to another, I think your behavior falls short of expected standards."
"Rachel," he doesn't laugh, and it's no mean feat because she tries incredibly hard and she wants so badly to grow-up, but in this moment, with her hair tied up, her face free of make-up, wearing one of her usual childlike dresses, she's very, very sixteen, "I apologize for my unprofessionalism, but under your expert guidance, I'm sure I shall soon see the light."
"You're being sarcastic, Mr. Schue," she says severely, "and frankly your ability to laugh off a matter which is surely going to affect our chances at Regionals is rather disturbing."
He schools his features into seriousness, and feels his insides clench in tenderness, but she'll never forgive him if he ruffles her hair, "I'm sorry, Rachel. But you're going to have to explain this one to me."
And because he's looking at her, he catches the sudden helplessness in her eyes which makes him realize that she'd been hoping for some sort of telepathic communion, "Mr. Schuester, as you are aware I had…feelings…for you a while ago. And I am aware I messed up and embarrassed both of us pretty badly," she's moving her hands a lot (and no, no this isn't good), "and I also know that as a teacher, it was your moral responsibility to…say the things you did. And that special mash-up you made to explain your tactical position on the subject-matter," ('temptation, frustration, so bad it makes him cry', which just goes to prove that on top of everything else, he's also a fucking idiot), "but I also don't think it's fair that you should keep punishing me for that…indiscretion, especially since it's affecting my performing skills, and I really think…" She's talking too fast and if there's anything he's known about her, it's that she has a knack for bringing into sharp focus those conversations which should only really be going on in parentheses.
"Rachel," and (oh god) it had to be this, right now, obviously, "I can assure you I'm not 'punishing' you or anything, you're completely overreacting. It was just a phase and it's passed, and you are exactly like all my other students to me," (it's true, she's just a lot more persistent, and infuriating and she sings and makes him feel...makes him feel, but she's almost exactly like all his other students and, well, he's started accepting the almosts).
She looks straight at him and swallows hard, "you don't touch me, Mr. Schue."
He laughs outright then, and it sounds a little odd, like he's trying something on for size but it doesn't quite fit, "that's insane, Rach, I touch you quite a lot." And he hopes she's still too young to get the various implications because that's not what he means. Although he doesn't need to justify, even in his mind, because the possibility of it meaning anything…other than what it means on the surface, is non-existent.
Before he can react, his hand is entwined with hers (he can think of thirty-three countries off the top of his head where it's probably illegal) and almost as part of a reflex action, he snatches his hand back, "What the hell are you…"
"See," she tells him, and she's never been able to establish her point without that tone of triumph (and how exactly is it that he mostly seems to end up on the losing end?) "Hence proved."
"Don't be ridiculous, Rachel," he's snapping, and maybe there's a professional code and written rules about how to deal with a situation like this but every conversation with Rachel Berry is a confrontation and if he's able to form sentences, he calls it a victory, "and I don't think this is the time or the place to discuss something that is nothing more than a figment of your imagination."
"Don't think I haven't noticed, Mr. Schue. You haven't chosen me as your partner to show a dance routine since I…since...that time. And as bizarre as your choices for the solo performers are, at least you make them with a view of neutralizing the edge that my training has given me over the other members, which admittedly is a lot. But how exactly would you like to be told, repeatedly, that you're so unattractive that even someone as asexual as a teacher is repulsed by you? Although admittedly, in pop culture teachers aren't really considered asexual, in fact movies like 'Notes on a Scandal' and songs like the Busted hit, What I go to School For, definitely serve to create an erotic dimension in the conventional student-teacher relationship. Not to mention that I myself felt an...attraction towards you, although I assure you it's completely gone, so... "
He interrupts. Because it'd be nice if he could manage to get through this endless night with his sanity intact. Only one person could have said that, paraphrased in Rachel-Berry-terms, "Puck is in permanent word-vomit mode, Rachel; he doesn't mean half the things he says."
"Well, Noah, whether intentionally or unintentionally has hurt me very much, and I think I deserve some sort of explanation." She crosses her arms over her chest and he blames Terri ("no, honey, you know what's immoral is me having to deal with the fact that my husband spends all day with young girls who are perkier and younger than I am") but he doesn't stare because he's asexual. And thirty-two. And her teacher. And in the middle of that there's probably a whole textbook on morality and ethics.
He's had to memorize each expression, each curve of her lip to know when exactly she was going to storm out and how he was going to convince her. So he knows this expression. And he knows that beneath the drama queen act, she's actually hurt. And she's sixtee…(wait, hasn't he already covered this?)
"I just want you to touch me once," she says bluntly, and it hits him hard in the gut, because she hides behind words a lot, and now she isn't, "Finn didn't want to touch me. And Jesse tried to, right now, but I…I could only think of you because…well, I suppose he looks a little like you. And I couldn't go through with it since I got so angry that you'd deliberately jeopardize our chances at Regionals for something as petty as a personal grudge. So I came here."
And she'd probably left Jesse somewhere, just as hard, just as aching as he was.
He grasps her bare shoulder tightly, (maybe her skin always feels just as impossibly soft as it does under his hands right now and maybe if…and in a wild moment there's an empty room, and that dress and he's not there, and she's not there; just her dress and his bed- stark, real, impossible), and closes his eyes, pushing her away.
She looks up at him, starry-eyed, with that wide smile which makes her look ten, (better run girl, you're much too young, girl) "see that wasn't so hard, was it, Mr. Schuester? I'm glad we've been able to put my unfortunate crush behind us. You seem to have no problems touching any of the other Glee members and as a firm believer in equal opportunities in the professional field, I think I'd have been compromising my principles had I not brought up your aversion to physical contact with me. See you at Glee practice thursday".
She's turned away, (and he hasn't compromised his principles either, so maybe that's something, unless the whole principle-compromising thing extends to the mind) but she's turning back towards him again and if he'd been staring he'd say her color is higher, but he isn't, obviously. Watching her or anything. "Is that Can't Get Enough Of Your Love", he curses himself for not shutting off the whole damn playlist that was going to be the soundtrack for the night before that never happened.
"Miss Pillsbury was here," and he doesn't need to explain, she probably doesn't want it, doesn't need it, but he still does because if there's anything he's learnt in this past hour, it's that when it comes to Rachel Berry, he never graduated high school.
"Oh," she considers this for a second, "it's a fairly conventional choice, of course, but I'd added it in as well." (oh, fuck, no, why the hell doesn't she just stop), "Along with How Deep Is Your Love. The 'No Doubt' version, because it sounds softer. And, Nine Inch Nails' Closer because I've heard it's a turn-on, although I don't see it myself, but Jesse might. And, well, Scarborough Fair. I know it's probably never been on any 'songs to make love to' list, and probably nobody has ever used it and the theme too doesn't fit traditionally, but...I don't know. I just, it's so..." she stops, with a pleading look, as if she's willing him to understand.
Then she shakes his hand, beaming, and he doesn't watch her walk away. ("I'm your teacher, Rachel, and I'm sorry, but that's all I'll ever be").
He closes the door and leans against it, just as Scarborough Fair starts playing on the recorder upstairs.
And it's only later when Emma calls him a slut in front of the entire staff-room that he realizes why. Why he'd jeopardized a real relationship for meaningless sort-of-flings. (Shelby and April remind him of someone. Almost.)